chapter 3: Return of the prince?

In the hallways of the holy academy, a student was running with a pale complexion. He paid no attention to the other students who laughed and jeered at him as he ran on by.

He ran through the halls, up the stairs, and down the corridor with all his might before slamming the door open

“Eve!” he shouted

“I know, we are already packing as fast as we can” the slander maid replied as she directed the other maids.

“Tch…” he clicked his tongue but not at Eve and the other maids but at the paper, he held in his hand. It was a news article that the holy kingdom issues on special occasions

“Just what were those three idiots thinking? Didn’t they know what would happen in Highland if they did such a foolish thing?”

What Eve was referring to was the news that was spreading throughout the continent. After appearing a year ago the hero Hans Varma Saifuddien became the symbol of the alliance against the Demon forces. With his charm, good looks, and charisma he quickly gained the support of warriors, commanders, and generals on the battlefield. 

For the first time since the war broke out, the alliance was truly united under the banner of the hero and they began to push back the once invisible demonic force.

Over time his exploits as High Orc and Noble vampire slayer spread throughout the continent and as one could imagine, it was not long before rumors of potential marriage candidates came about.

Everyone wanted to have a blood tie to the new hero. It was even rumored that the two empires were sending their two heavenly beauties to hero.

Today all those rumors were put to rest when it was announced that the hero had taken twelve women as his brides.

Edwin had predicated this up to a point. He knew that the heroes would marry daughters of royals and dukedoms that had fallen in the east as well as some in the west and central but that was on the basis that his achievements would be minor.

However, the hero surpassed all expectations including Edwin’s very own. His achievements were slowly becoming on par with those of past heroes further cementing the Holy Nations' influence on the continent as well as his political value to other royal and noble families.

It’s because of this that rather than some minor daughter of a high-ranking noble or royal in the west he was wedded to high-ranking daughters.

Of the twelve wives, four were from fallen Kingdoms and Dukedoms. Anyone would expect such a marriage. What shocked some was the fact that he had not only married the two heavenly beauties but also the saint of the holy kingdom.

Low-ranking nobles across the continent were surprised at this. A saint of the holy kingdom has not been wedded for the past 1200 years. They couldn’t believe that such a thing happened in their lifetime.

On the other hand, high-ranking nobles already knew this would happen. They like Edwin knew that the holy kingdom will not allow the empires to monopolize the current hero through marriage and had sent the saint to the battlefronts where a hasty marriage was carried out.

Nobles and Royals across the continent thought and thought about how these unions would turn out. In political marriages where one or more wives were present, it was often the official wife who held the most power but in this marriage, there were three who could be said to be the official wife and indeed the two empires and the holy kingdom where each claiming that their bride to the hero was the official wife.

The hero himself never answered when pressed for whom he considered the official wife.

“I love everyone the same” was the reply he would give. The innocent look he gave each time made it seem real but some believed he was pulling the strings of the empires and holy kingdom while playboy nobles believed he was simply acting like a playboy; neither confirming nor denying his favorite woman.

Whatever his reason was, it was no concern of Edwin. His concern was the names of three brides of brides. There were the names of two princesses and a lady. Princess Louise Messalina Jarodor, Princess Siraye Inastina Everwood, and Lady Rania Euphemia Vidfamne.

His fiancés' names appeared as brides of the Hero. The news about the wedding had the backing of the holy kingdom, there was little chance that it was some baseless rumor, and with that being the case.

“Those nobles won’t let a chance like this pass them by. How did we not hear about this beforehand?”

Indeed it was a puzzle to Edwin that this information did not reach him ahead of time. If the Kingdoms of Jarodor and Everwwod wanted to break off the engagement, they, needed to send a minimum of 5-month notice before it was officially recognized by either family. Such was commonly practiced. Even though his engagement with them was not officially announced their engagement was still a well-known affair. Not the following procedure would greatly affect the image of both royal families.

Vidfamne was the exception on this point but only because Highland has had experienced this type of breakup from them before and such an event was uncommon on the continent when the duchy of Vidfamne was involved.

But it was unthinkable that Jarodor and Everwwod would do the same thing especially since they were kingdoms with royalty and not a dukedom.

Edwin's head raced like it had never raced before and he could only think of one possible solution

Did they elope with the Hero without telling their families?

Even in this situation, Edwin had come to the right conclusion. The three of them have found out that the hero would be holding a hasty wedding, all approached the hero, and offered their own hands in marriage.

Like knowing how it happened will help me. I need to think of how we are going to stop those greedy nobles from doing something reckless.

“This is bad Nya!” Hitomi entered the room out of breath. She looked like she had just come battle

“Hitomi! Why do you look like that?”

“Ran into members of the assassin’s guild. Look like there were targeting you Edwin”

“Tch…Did the news already reach the Kingdom? No, if I had to guess this must be the work of count Gunnleifus Varma. That fat bastard was always too good at conniving.”

“What do you mean Nya?”

“He probably put a request to kill me with assassin’s guild under the condition that they do it at a time that will benefit his faction the most.”

“Eh…can he have made such a thing?”

“The assassin guild it tight-lipped about their clients like a dead man and who better to understand the perfect time to assassinate someone other than an assassin.”

“This is troublesome Nya. Most of the members of the assassin’s guild are probably in the front lines of the war and this is the holy kingdom so only the desperate or foolish assassins will try and kill you Nya. Leave your safety to me and the other members of ghosting Nya, but it will harden when we leave the holy kingdom Nya”

“Thanks, Hitomi, and I will be counting on you.”

Hitomi gave a light bow before vanishing like a ninja before Edwin’s eyes.

“We have completed all the preparations Edwin-sama. Should we start?”

“Yes”

“Where are we headed?”

“It will take the knights 3 months to return from the front lines. Until then we will head west to the royal territory of Kamonas.”

“Ha!? Where the high chair is?”

“Yes. Father should be evacuating the citizens therefrom castle town as well as the other cities that are part of the royal faction to there.”

“Did you agree to this in advance?”

“No, but it’s the best move given the situation”

Kamonas was in the west of the Highland kingdom and was under the direct control of the royal family. It was a mountainous region with active volcanoes that spilled magma from the earth.

Because of this, it was easy to form a defensive line against invaders should it ever come to that. When the war against the demon forces started. Edwin and his father started to make preparations to use it as a last line of defense against the demonic forces.

Neither one could have ever imagined that they would be using it to defend themselves against nobles of the kingdom that had once sworn loyalty to the royal family.

***

“What is the meaning of this!? What do you mean they married the Hero?”

In the castle town of Highland, an elderly man was sitting on a throne. With a golden crown on his head and dressed in fine clothing this man projects the aura of royalty despite the frown on his face.

He was Edwin’s father and King of Highland. The question he had just asked was directed at the prime minister.

“It is just as you have heard it. I have already confirmed it with the ambassadors. They all gave a troubled look when I pressed for answers. Perhaps this was truly out of their control”

“Like that will stop the Noble and Neutral factions. I can practically hear their armies marching out of their territories in the east from here.”

“That why my King I must recommend we evacuate the castle town for Kamonas.”

“I cannot do that”

“Eh…”

“I will have the citizens evacuate at once but I will remain here”

“You cannot do that”

“I have to. Edwin will no doubt head to Kamonas. I must buy him as much time as possible. As long as I am here the Noble and Neutral factions cannot ignore me.”

“Your majesty!”

“Prime Minister Herman Clark here obey your, Kings, last command. Evacuate my loyal citizens and allies to Kamonas and await your new King's arrival. This is a royal command”

The middle-aged prime minister bit his lip in frustration. His eyes were moist but not a single tear fell. He could see the sheer will of the King he served with all his might and he knew he couldn’t change his King's mind.

He lowered his head; lower than he had ever done, and replied, “As you command your majesty. I will obey”

That was the last time Prime Minister Herman Clark ever saw his beloved King.

***

Edwin and his retainers moved in the darkness. Having successfully returned to Highland thanks in large to the sills of the members of ghosting they moved as quickly as possible to Kamonas.

It had been a month since the events began to unfold. As it stood the royal knights should be returning within two months if they moved as fast as Edwin predicated.

If they could hold off the Nobles and Neutral factions for those two months then they would in a good position to counter-attack in a pincer maneuver with the Knights in the east and the forces under his father in the west.

Before the war on the demons, the forces of the royal faction were 1/3 that of the Noble and Neutral nobles.

Some Knights died on the battlefield against the demonic forces and as it stood right now, their forces were 1/5 of that of the Noble and Neutral factions.

However, Edwin had faith in the pincer maneuver. He remembered how an army in his old world overcame a huge difference in numbers using the same maneuver.

Secondly, this whole situation came about because Princess Louise Messalina Jarodor, Princess Siraye Inastina Everwood, and Lady Rania Euphemia Vidfamne broke off their engagement to him without following due procedure.

Even if their engagement was never publically made, changes nothing. It was an agreement between royalties that they would wed, except for Vidfamne which was notorious for this type of thing; the other parties had no excuses especially Jarodor whose princess was going to be the official Queen of Highland.

Edward imagined that the prime minister was leaning on them for support in return for us not making a fuss over their daughters’ actions.

 It would be best if they would send a small force along with the knights but that would be wishful thinking. At best they should rally the neighboring kingdoms in condemning the actions of the nobles. That is the best we can hope for. If some of the nobles change sides to ours out of fear of what the other kingdoms might do that would be the best outcome.

“Edwin-sama it’s the Kamonas mountain range”

Edwin looked out of the carriage that moved fast on the dirt road. He saw the mountain range the Eve pointed to. That mountain range was the natural barrier that protected Kamonas.

There were only three routes through the mountain range. One in the south, one in the east, and one in the north. Each passage was heavily guarded. Even a force ten times would find it hard to break down the defense that protected the passage.

Edwin was headed to the north passage. This was the safest of the three given their current situation.

The Noble and Neutral faction should have already made moves to control the south and east of Kamonas the leaving the North as the only option available to him.

Edwin’s thoughts proved to be true when they successfully passed through the gate in the North.

“Your majesty” a knight guard called out

“What is the situation,” Edwin asked from with the carriage

“The South Gate is under attack from the Noble forces and the East gate is under attack from the Neutral forces”

“And the citizens of castle town?”

“They as well as other citizens have been successfully evacuated, your majesty.”

Edwin sighed relief at the knight guard’s words.

“Then I take it the King is at high command?”

High Command was the name of the castle that lay in the center of the peak city. Peak city was carved into the side of the largest mountain in Highland and the fourth largest on the continent. The Peak Mountain.

With strong, tall, thick walls that surrounded the north, east, and south of the city and the mountain that formed a natural barrier in the west. Peak city was said to be able to survive an attack from two black dragons.

It had underground caves the citizens could flee into in case of emergencies and wide roads to allow knights on horseback easy access to every corner of the city one could argue that trying to invade this city was a waste of time and money.

But money is something the Noble and Neutral had. They have been avoiding paying taxes to the royal families for centuries. Despite the best efforts of the royal family, it proved either too difficult or impossible to introduce a tax system that the Nobles couldn’t avoid.

Well, not until Edwin arrived that is. His introduction of a sales tax from his homeworld began to trickle away at the pockets of the Nobles. This would turn out to be one of the major reasons the Nobles and Neutral factions wanted to get rid of him

“The only capable king Highlands needs is a dead capable king”

These words would become the secret greetings of the Noble and Neutral faction members that planned the overthrow of the royal family.

Edwin of course didn’t know this and was simply trying to improve his Kingdom. His father who did know this paid it no mind as he knew that the benefits for the kingdom were too large to ignore

Edwin’s father’s deepest wish was to solve the problem of the Noble and Neutral factions before his son took to the throne. While his leadership in battle and politics were excellent, only Edwin himself could think of a way to improve the Kingdom.

His retainers agreed.

They tried to copy the empire or other developed Kingdom but they would often fail.

Edwin knew that much like the duchess of Vidfamne, he needs a unique way to develop the kingdom.

It was when Edwin started to propose all these reforms at the tender age of 10 that he realized that his son had a talent for developing a kingdom.

Even it cost me my life, I will clear a path for you son

These were the thought Edwin’s father had. These are the thoughts of a proud King and father.

The Knight guard did not reply to Edwin’s question. His face turned pale and that gave Edwin a chill in his spine. He looked at the other Knight guard but despite being well trained they did not meet the eyes of the prince but instead looked away

Edwin went pale when he realized what this would mean.

“Edwin-sama?” Eve called out in a soft voice

“To Peak city! Move as fast as you can” Edwin barked an order to the coachman.

The coachman responded immediately. Whipping the horsed he drove the carriage. The horsed were already tired from the journey. The coachman knew this. He loved the horses very much as he had raised them in the knight stables but he forced this emotion he was feeling down.

Right now getting to peak city was the most important thing. The coachman loved his horses but he loved his duty as a knight even more and right now his princes need to be at peak city as soon as possible and with that in mind he drew out all of the horses' strength. He drowned any uncomfortable thoughts with these words.

For the King, For the Prince, for Highland

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