A Vassal of the Crown Prince and the Count

Kelara eh? I wanted her to serve me. She would be different compared to my other subjects.

“Kelara Helara. If it is possible, I would like you to serve me. After all, I was but the lord of a small area in the countryside only a few years ago. I still have much to learn. I do not know what traditions I must observe as a Count. It would not mean much if I alone were to be shamed, but I cannot allow my blunders to besmirch the Crown Prince.”

It was better to inject at least some honesty with these kinds of requests. There was much value in having a servant who knew the old customs and traditions.

“If you will have me.”

Splendid. Well done, Fleur. She had a great eye. It would not do for me to handle future ceremonies in a careless fashion as I became more important in the world.

It would hardly be an advantage for me to be perceived as a country bumpkin who knew how to war and war alone. That would not help earn the trust of the royalty and nobility once I entered the capital.

Barbaric generals have ruled the capital several times throughout history, but they would eventually earn the ire of the nobility and neighboring lords due to their reckless insults to their traditions, and it ultimately led to their ruin.

–I do not like her. This woman.

Oda Nobunaga did not seem to be pleased. Though I couldn’t actually see his face.

–She smells in the same way that Mitsuhide did. He was also educated and very intelligent, but in the end, he chose the former general and betrayed me. Of course, Mitsuhide was very old by then and was not a young woman.

Oh? So she reminds you of someone who betrayed you?

–That would be an understatement. Mitsuhide killed me at Honouji.

Honouji? Was that the name of a place? Well, I did have the impression that Oda Nobunaga did as he pleased without restraint. It was not surprising that people would eventually betray him.

–Be careful. People who strongly observe ancient traditions tend to be of a conservative variety. Conservatives are not likely to see eye to eye with a revolutionary like you.

I do understand that and will be cautious. Someone who offers prayers to the temple without fail is not likely to destroy everything the dynasty has built and create anew.

“Well then, Kelera. I too shall offer you lands. But I will not ask you to serve me and me alone. Do not worry on that account.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

She thanked me very politely, but there was no smile there.

But it was not unthinkable for one person to serve multiple people, so it should not be an issue. Though, if she happened to be the Crown Prince’s lover, then that could be troublesome.

I should confirm the truth of it. It would be foolish if the Crown Prince were to hate me over such a thing.

“There is one thing that I would like to ask you. Is it possible that the Crown Prince may misunderstand the situation if you were to serve under me? I will be careful to not get close to you, if you and the Crown Prince have a deep relationship.”

“There is no need to worry on that account. The Crown Prince would not lay hands on a dwarf. The royal family has maintained that elves and dwarves shall not give birth to any of their children. It has been so for many generations.”

“I see. Forgive me for asking such a boorish question.”

With that suspicion gone, things would carry on much more smoothly.

After that, Kelera taught me whatever she could about manners and customs whenever I had the time.

I did feel like I had the minimum required education up until now, but that was only within the bounds of what was expected of a lord in the countryside.

But Kelera had the highest level of learning possible at the royal capital beaten into her, and she had been with scholars even when in exile. It was likely that she had enough knowledge to become a scholar herself.

Of course, our studies together were for when I had time.

I was still focused on planning for the invasion.

First, my arms would reach out toward the prefecture of Ikuto to the east.

There were no great lords there. Some of the smaller lords here paid their respects to Hasse, and I could use his authority to control them.

The problem was the lords who hadn’t come to bow before Hasse. I would need to crush them one by one.

On the other hand, House Antoini ruled nearly two-thirds of Shara prefecture towards the east coast.

He was a powerful Count in his own right, but not one I could be threatened by. The reason for this, was that there were many viscounts there who held power independently. People like the count could be dealt with by having them step out of line a little.

My expedition to Ikuto prefecture was a slow affair.

This was because I needed time to reshape Naguri prefecture into a part of my own territories.

If you hurried the process of spreading your lands too much, then you risk throwing the governing system into disarray.

I had to think about the future and continue to rule the port town. By having all of the port towns under my control, I could gather all the wealth. And with that wealth, I would increase the number of my bodyguards and build a stronger army.

I spent a year after the birth of Hasse as the official Crown Prince, to have all of Ikuto prefecture under my control.

It was all calculated to bring me one step closer to the royal capital.

I and Raviara had a talk about the coming march.

Because–

“I would like to return to the battlefield soon!”

Because Raviara had a passionate hope.

Yes, for this past year Raviara had filled the role of being a mother to her daughter and the wet nurse to Serafina’s son. She understood that this matter was of the utmost priority and so she had done her duty.

However, her main occupation was that of an archer. She never gave up the idea of returning to the battlefield.

“I have continued to practice with the bow whenever I had time. If it comes to it, I will be a great help to you in battle!”

“I have never doubted your abilities. But, if you were to go and fight, then you would be separated from the children…”

It was not reasonable to bring two children who were barely a year old with them.

“That… For just that period, I will have someone else take care of them…”

“I do not like the idea of taking my own wife out to battle, but… Such is the nature of a fighter…”

I had no right to stop her as someone who had continued on through dangerous strategies myself.

Yet, I was also not one to be swayed so easily. I thought of one good idea then.

“Very well. You may join the next battle. It will be in Olbia prefecture. The enemy will not be too strong there.”

“Oh? Were you not going to attack the coast to the east?”

“We will attack Shara prefecture eventually, but first, I will ensure that Brando Naham owes me a debt. Apparently, several lords have formed an alliance and are going to rebel.”

I would solidify my footing in the south before attacking the east.

“And I intend to use use the dwarf woman, Kelera as a commander in the battle.”

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