Chapter 68: Eighth Episode: Chapter 4
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

The history of the Bragg Fortress could be traced back to the ages of mythology. In that era, Bragg was the forefront for the Romans in resisting the Northern Yarans. The battle surrounding the city of Bragg lasted for about a century, which finally it resulted in a loss for the Aryans.

The never-ending renovation and construction contributed by the Titan in the efforts of expanding the Bragg Fortress had successfully changed it from a small fort into a big city. It was situated in the central provincial area, sandwiched between the Rylie Province and the Bandaray Province. In other words, one could enter the hinterland from the south gate and exit from the north. Besides, Bragg was the ultimate resistant position of three of the principal military zones in the southern region. Hypothetically, if the enemies managed to break through the lofty mountains of the south, they would either have to pass through Bragg in the north or Vielonna in the west in order to arrive at their destined location: Titan.

The troop belonging to the Prince and the Princess was made up of two complete divisions, namely the Cavalry Division and the Mountain Division. Upon his arrival in Rylie Province, Imperial Highness The Prince Oscar was informed by the Imperial Diplomatic Department that Marquis Dimitri Lemus the Minister of Foreign Affairs was waiting to meet him in Bragg.

A message delivered to the prince from Bragg had caused the Prince’s procession to slow down. It concerned the possibility that the tiny Bragg Fortress might not be able to accommodate two complete divisions in such a short notice. Apparently, the whole troop consisted of six thousand soldiers! Moreover, they still needed much more time in order to perfect their preparation to receive the two members of the imperial family.

The southern, mountainous region still looked exactly the same as was in the Prince’s memory, but perhaps the level of combat preparation had been decreased a little because many merchants and tourists could be seen traveling around the area.

On every sunset, the soldiers would set up their campsites following the orders of the Commander of the Mountain Division Lieutenant Colonel, Hyatt Brandy. The Cavalry Division would normally establish their camp in the vast mountain land, while the Mountain Division, on the other hand, could make anywhere their resting place. The soldiers who were in the Mountain Division were mostly the ones that had endured a lot of hardship in the early times, hence they were quick to adapt to all sorts of circumstances that came their way.

"That’s right," Hyatt nodded at Murat. "Many of the most capable soldiers used to be farmers, craftsmen, hunters, fishermen. These hard labors gave them enlightenment, and this kind of enlightenment, in turn, can also have an effect on their performance on the battlefield."

"Have you ever sent your Snow Lion to the battlefield? I’m sorry to have asked this question," Oscar felt a little embarrassed. "But to my knowledge, the imperial has not provoked any war in many years, am I right?"

"Yes, Your Highness. However, the Faran would never give us a moment of peace. They would send in groups of horse-mounted bandits and robbers to break the peace at the border. Although they looked like bandits, the reports from Secret Service Department showed that they are actually no different from any regular army."

"The Persians are the same," Murat also joined in the conversation. "They can’t defeat us justly and honorably so they have to fight us in the dark. In fact, we have encountered many regular armies that had camouflaged themselves as bandits to attack us."

"Ola! Hyatt, you mentioning about the Secret Service Department reminds me of someone," Oscar fell deep in his own thoughts, "The minister in charge of the Secret Service Department based in Rylie Province is called… Baron…"

"Baron Messier De Quixote, Your Highness," reminded Hyatt, "I’ve worked with this Action Officer of Secret Service more than once."

"Ola! You’re right. How is he doing, this Messier guy?"

Hyatt could only force out a smile. "In fact, Your Highness, I’ve never heard from Baron Quixote again after the hearing."

"Is that so?" Oscar was disappointed, "Messier was a sharp-witted officer."

"Oscar, oh! Both the division commanders are also present." Annie entered the tent with a half-knitted wool scarf, "Come! Try this on."

The young man appeared a little awkward, he kept avoiding Annie who was trying to wrap the scarf around his neck.

"Be good!" Annie managed to put on the scarf around him as if he was a little boy, "Hmm…it’s still quite short for you. Oh, Oscar, you have grown again! It seems like I will have to make some further arrangement on this little thing." Annie did her own thing regardless of the strange looks the men were giving her.

"Oh yes!" the Countess suddenly thought of something. "Why are the both of you still here? Since the Red Tigers and Snow Lions are fighting again, don’t you have to rush over?"

"Really?" Hyatt said while standing up. He had already heard about that ‘earth-shattering fight’ that happened a few days ago, he understood that the Prince’s woman was hinting them to leave.

"Alright, we should go give it a check." Murat followed suit.

"Hold on!" Oscar forcefully removed the scarf wrapped around his neck, "Wait for me, we will go together!" He dashed off immediately after blurted out those words.

Oscar had always felt uneasy when he pondered about his real feelings toward Annie. Things would have been much easier if she was not by his side, just like the past month when they had not seen each other, it was so much easier for the young man to forget about his lover. However, the moment the woman who played both the roles of a wife and a mother entered his life once again, Oscar found himself feeling gratified. He felt safe. Hence, Oscar could not sort out his mixed feelings toward Annie, especially after that night that he consumed some Guacka Twix Liquor. One night of intimate closeness could not mean anything, he thought to himself, it could only explain that Annie still loved the young man as much as before.

Oscar had confirmed that feeling again when he found himself rushing out of the tent. He knew clearly that he could not provide Annie with anything more. The young man decided he would leave the complicated relationship to stand the test of time.

"Division Commander! Here you are!" the soldiers of the Mountain Division pulled their commander in the moment they saw him. "Our archer fiercely deflated the arrogance of the enemy!"

"Division Commander you are finally here!" Murat’s subordinates were all obviously irritated.

"What’s the matter?"

"Those arrogant bunch sent out an amazingly talented archer to compete with us, but two of our strongest archer had failed miserably!" Lieutenant Colonel Shaw Shorenstein from the Red Tiger Cavalry Division impatiently pointed at a tall man who stood in the short distance. The man was from the Mountain Division.

Murat spotted the infamous man, which had massive muscles in his arms like some strong beast. "Are you sure you sent out our best archers?"

Shaw Shorenstein spat on the ground in disdain, "Our best archers have been transferred to other division, otherwise we would not have suffered this humiliation!"

Murat became crossed as well when he noticed Hyatt Brandy being surrounded by the Mountain Division soldiers like a big hero. They were both Division Commander of the same rank, he would not let his people look down on him!

"What’s the matter?" Oscar paced to the scene, "I noticed that everyone seems to be in a bad mood."

"Your Highness, we are competing in archery with the Snow Lions, but as you see, we are falling so back behind!" Shaw Shorenstein spat on the ground once again. Red Tiger’s best archer was in the Rangers, but he could not think of a better idea.

Oscar looked at the empty space between the two camps. There stood a warhorse, and a fake knight made out of hay was tied on the back of it. On the fake knight wore an armor that had numerous circles drawn on it, which had now been pierced by arrows. The young man was beginning to understand something.

"And the victory is decided based on the targets?"

"Exactly!" Shaw Shorenstein continued as though he had an unlimited supply of saliva. "We chase the horse up to the mountain, and everyone shoots three times within the range of hundred meters to fifty meters. A full score is given if the arrow hit right at the fatal point, and other parts of the body are counted respectively. Anyway, that Mountain Lion landed all three shots right at the fatal point, sharp and clean!"

Oscar had a clear sight of it, on the fatal point of that hay-made knight was inserted with white feathered arrows which were representative of the Snow Lion.

"We can’t let this go on!" Murat felt his people had lost their faces. "We won free boxing two days ago, cross-country mountain races a day ago, and even the arm wrestling from last week was our victory. Archery is our traditional mastery, we can’t be losing on this one! Definitely not!"

"But Division Commander, I honestly don’t have anyone to send for the contest anymore!" Shaw Shorenstein admitted.

As if wanting to show off their prowess, the Regimental Commander of an archer from the Snow Lion division cried out his challenge from afar, "Hey! Brothers from Red Tiger! Are you still up for the challenge?"

"What the…" Shaw Shorenstein muttered to himself. The other Red Tiger soldiers gathered behind him was beginning to express their dissatisfaction as well.

"Your Highness, Division Commander, and Regimental Commander," a small voice came from behind the crowd. "Perhaps…could I try?"

The crowd was stunned for a moment. Who was this lean, blushing young boy?

"Boy, how old are you?" Shaw Shorenstein could not help but doubt if this young boy lied about his age when he signed up for the army. The regular army of Narcissus Knights had to reach the grown age of eighteen years old to be eligible. Due to the constant strong offense from Persians, Andrew had stopped recruiting underage boys since then.

"Eighteen this year!"

"Hey boy! What do you think you’re doing?" Colonel Kamille Rayen rushed to the scene as he recognized the young boy was the new recruit in his own Battle Group.

"Battle Commander, with all sincerity I would like to give it a try!" the young boy insisted.

"As far as I remember you joined the group with a pair of double blades, so you mean you are good with bow and arrows too?" Kamille was suspicious of his new recruit.

"Yes, Battle Commander! I signed up to be part of the Rangers initially in the forms, but I was assigned to the Battle Group when the officer from Military Recruitment spotted my double blade." The fresh soldier said with a voice full of grievance.

Murat began sizing up the young soldier standing in front of him, "A ranger archer that uses double blades?" This sounded really familiar, but he just could not recall the idea!

"Hey boy! Watch what you say! Do you mean the Battle Group is not good enough for you?" Kamille was a little upset.

"Let’s not talk about this first!" the Prince stepped in between them, "Since you are good with bow and arrows, I will allow you to take the chance. But do you understand the real meaning of my intention?"

"I understand very well, Your Highness!" the eighteen-year-old young boy nodded in affirmation. "The Red Tiger Battle Group combat the enemy with their claws, the Red Tiger Rangers fight the enemy fiercely, and the Red Tiger Heavy Cavalry tear down the enemy into pieces. I’m a part of the Red Tiger, and the Red Tiger never loses!"

The young prince glanced toward Murat, "We can trust this boy. Give him a chance!"

Murat nodded.

The excited young soldier almost jumped off the ground, "Peter! Peter! Hand over my bow and arrows! I can finally use them at last!"

A brawny man sprinted from the Red Tiger campsite. The knights all moved to the side to give way to the servant, "Young master! Here are your gears!"

Now, even Oscar was suspicious of the boy, "Who is this young boy? Someone from the noble family? He even brought along his servant with him to the army!"

An idea suddenly lightened up in Murat’s mind! "Boy, tell me, are you a Steinberger?"

The young boy was caught by surprise, and he smiled shyly and awkwardly to his Division Commander, "Heh… heh heh! You got it right, but please keep this between us, if you can. Please don’t inform my family that I’ve joined the army under a false name."

Murat nodded lightly. "Win the match and we’ll decide. However, let me tell you this ahead of time, I’ll personally kick you out of my division if you lose later, then I’ll write to your father and ask him to come over to kick your ass!"

The young soldier glanced over to the archer representing the opponent team, and he already knew for sure he had the upper hand in this match. "Rest assured, Division Commander. I will leave myself if I ever lose."

They finally had a representative! The moment the young soldier entered the temporarily-built competition ring, a loud roar soared over from the side of the Red Tiger Division.

"Steinberger?" the Prince asked his division commander. "Is it a renowned family? How come I’ve not heard of that?"

Murat answered the question with yet another question, "Your Highness, how much do you know about the Northwest Border of the Empire?"

"Northwest of Empire? I’ve heard that disputes and conflicts always break out there with the Deiss."

"Exactly, but those were already the old stories. At the moment, the Deiss occupied themselves with the war with their northern enemy Ollier, and there have not been any conflicts between us and them in the Northwest Border ever since."

"Does this have anything to do with the Steinberger?"

"Of course, the Hausen Province in the Northwest Border is the freehold estate of the Steinberger family. Similar to Andrew, their territory is at the forefront of the empire’s resistance effort to the Deiss. The family’s emblem is a double blade with bow and arrow, and they also have a long history of fighting for the empire. However, they have not been in action for a while now, hence the recent generations of their family have come to join us in the Narcissus Knights."

Just when Murat was explaining the background of Steinberger’s family to the Prince, the young boy of the respective family had already opened his leather sack to arrange his personal, good-quality arrows. Initially, the Mountain division archer looked down on his young opponent, but he knew this boy had some real deal when he peaked at what was inside of the sack.

"I’m Sergeant Wellington from Red Tiger Assault Division. I’m humbled by your guidance." the young soldier performed a military salute.

The heavily-built man from Snow Lion returned the salute but did not say anything more, and jumped up to the horse in one swift move. "Start!"

A soldier forced out a hard kick at the back of the horse which was tied to the fake knight, and the poor horse galloped into the woods after releasing a painful neigh.

"Are you not riding?" asked the curious Snow Lion archer when the young soldier was still rooted to the ground, unmoved.

"Please, you can go first."

The representative of Snow Lion charged forward, following the horse. Loud cheers broke out among his supporters watching from their site of the camp.

Wellington Steinberger ignored the discussion growing from the campsite of Red Tiger. Inside of his leather sack, four bows were arranged neatly, and from there he picked out the biggest and densest one out of the four.

The young master of Steinberger family threw a silk handkerchief up in the air in order to test the direction of the wind.

"Slight east-west wind, but because of the mountains there will be some interruption and rapid reciprocation." The soldier made up his mind.

The war horse galloped wildly across the woods. The crowd at the foot of the mountain could only spot its silhouette from time to time. They all voiced out their surprise when the young soldier of Red Tiger pulled on his bow and arrow on the spot from where he stood.

Murat could not help but laugh lightly. That boy was so confident!

"Wind! Your servant Wellington Steinberger is asking for your assistance. Please let my arrow travel by your wings, and return itself with honor and victory!" the young soldier prayed silently to himself, and suddenly the horse appeared in the distant like a flash of light. Simultaneously, an arrow had been let off from the bow, forming a beautiful arc in the air like a massive rainbow. In just an instant, the arrow had gone off into the direction of the woods, and everyone was anxious to know the outcome.

Several knights rushed into the woods to bring back the warhorse out in the vast land. And everyone could see clearly, that Wellington Steinberger’s thin arrow pierced through the tiny slit between the hay-made knight’s uncovered throat!

"You just did the impossible! I surrender!" Even though the Snow Lion archer was not fully convinced that a young boy this age could have such unbelievable archery skills, the results had shown itself. He had no choice but to surrender.

The Knights of the Red Tiger hurried to the vast land and did their traditional celebratory action. They carried the young soldier up high and throw him in the air while cheering loudly non-stop. That was an absolutely wonderful performance! He managed to lock down his moving target hidden among the dense woods and hit right on its fatal point from four hundred meters away under the disturbance of the speed and force of the wind. No one would ever believe such a tale if they had not seen it with their own eyes!

"Hey, Kamille! Let’s have a chat." Regimental Commander of Red Tiger Rangers, Lieutenant Colonel Shaw Shorenstein said, drooling so much it could make a puddle on the ground.

"No, absolutely not!" Kamille already knew what that fellow was going to propose. "The Military Recruitment Officer has assigned him to my division, and he’s here to stay."

"How can you be so stubborn?" Shaw Shorenstein was irritated. "That child is born to be a ranger, he can’t fully express his potential if he stays in your division!"

"No! You should have seen how good he is with his double blade, that is his destiny. Moreover, my Battle Group is in need of an archer!"

"Look at you! Even you agree that he has talent in archery, I will not relent! He is born to be a ranger!"

"No! He belongs to the Battle Group!"

"No way! He should be in the Rangers! Even the child said so himself!"

"I will not let that happen! He was assigned to the Battle Group and he accepted his fate!"

Finally…

"Sergeant! Come to my tent, you have won yourself a glass of ale and a new mission. Would you like to be my messenger?" the Prince said to the winner.

In the end, both the Battle Commander and Ranger Commander did not win home the ace prize.

***************

It was the 17th day of 9th month in Holy Empire of Titan Light's 791st year. The biggest blockhouse in the southern territory of Titan Empire – the Bragg Fortress, had sprinkled onto itself the beautiful rainbow colors of festive and merry.

The arrival of two of the much-respected imperial family members lightened up the atmosphere of the fortress which was usually calm and quiet. The Princess had the king’s scepter in her hands, which its presence was equivalent to the presence of His Majesty the Emperor himself.

The Commander of the Northern Army Group, General Eugene Mir Bradley, spent about a week’s time refurbishing and decorating all of the famous attractions of the fortress, which included the twenty-one meters high God of Light sculpture and the Midally Palace that was built to receive the imperial family members.

The Princess and the Prince arrived at the south gate of the fortress right on the dot at 10 in the morning. General Eugene led several high-ranking officers of the southern military region to participate in the welcoming ceremony. The whole ceremony was impeccable, but somehow the sensitive Princess still sensed a peculiar atmosphere when she met with the high-ranking officers of the southern military region. She understood that her father’s thorough cleansing plan had successfully cleared off any suspicious subjects of the whole southern mountainous region, and she believed that more than half of the officers present at the ceremony had been called on to those frequent regular meetings regarding that aforementioned subject matter.

However, those did not concern the Princess very much. She was offended by the Italian mercenary group, was that not enough for the officers to feel ashamed of themselves? The Princess thought these officers in charge of the southern region naturally had to pay the price for their incompetence, and perhaps the best idea would be to lock them all up in Damorga prison.

The Prince himself was rather explicit in showing his interest in General Eugene Mir Bradley. He followed beside the general obediently like a child, constantly asking him for his military advice.

Although General Eugene was initially suspicious about the young man’s immense adoration for himself, he simply waved it off as he thought it might be the Prince’s father’s idea. Eugene Mir Bradley had complete respect toward the Andrew family. Not only had he participated in Narcissus Knights during his younger days, he had also received a Cavalry Warrior Medal that time which was now preciously kept by the general in his study like a priceless treasure. Even if he had continuously received several other medals by the Imperial Military later in his life, he felt that only the medal awarded by Andrew was enough to affirm the value and meaning of being a true military man.

What followed suit was a magnificent welcoming party, but an interesting interlude happened between them. The Division Commander of District Seven of the Snow Lion participated in the party, despite his initial reluctance, as he knew that apart from himself, all the other guests that frequented Midally Palace were either nobly ranked or held the last name of an ancient aristocrat family. However, the Prince thought otherwise. Not only had he invited the Division Commander of the Snow Lion and his wife to take part in the party, he also specifically requested him to be the special guest of the night.

The wife of Hyatt Brandy was a local from Bragg. She did not have a shred of regret for marrying a commoner; on the contrary, she was extremely proud of her husband. Hence, she immediately accepted the Prince’s invitation without hesitation. She thought that she could use this chance to show her husband that those so-called gentlemen that frequented high-class parties in palaces were not any nobler than himself.

General Eugene Mir Bradley was getting more confused. He could not guess if this excessive display of enthusiasm was a suggestion by the adults of Andrew or the young man’s own idea. It did not bother him much if the child truly admired him as a person, but he could not help to doubt the young man’s ulterior motive behind his affections.

Naturally, the Princess became the spotlight of the party. At times, she was dignified in manner and elegant in style; in other times she decided to let down her hair as well. Her eyes shone with shy yet prudent light, and her body moved along the music in an unusually classy way which made the audience awed in admiration.

The young men went head over heels over the beautiful Princess. They straightened and perfected their uniform that was filled with shiny medal awards whenever the Princess was in sight, sincerely hoping they would be rewarded a chance to dance with her.

On the other hand, the old military men gathered in a side. The fast-paced dance music was not suitable for them anymore. Moreover, in their eyes, the Princess was only showing off. Each princess across the globe had been molded into the same style using a uniform education system, from their behaviors and manners to the way they think and their living experiences.

Imperial Highness The Prince left Alanis alone to handle the dance floor. He could see that she was enjoying herself. She was a princess, after all, and that was what the Princess was supposed to do. He, on the hand, had his own matters to deal with. He had to protect little Sasha from being harassed by the unruly rude men, and also to shield Annie from being disturbed by shameless young men.

Even Lieutenant Colonel Hyatt Brandy was restless that night. Seated beside the Prince, he and his wife occupied themselves with introducing the Prince to the important and outstanding high-ranking officers of the southern military region. The arrogant ones busied themselves with the elegant princess and did not even pay slight attention to the Prince.

Time appeared to pass faster when one was having a good time. At the end of the party, the high-ranking officers of the southern military region marched out the palace in a straight line under the order of the commander-in-chief. Imperial Highness The Prince was a little taken back by the discipline of the soldiers. Weren’t they dancing like crazy fools just moments before? From here, Oscar confirmed the prestige of General Eugene Mir Bradley and the control he had over the southern military region.

Now that the party was over, it was time for some formal business. The Imperial Highness The Prince was directed into a large meeting room with four other officers, which included the commander-in-chief of southern military region General Eugene, the chief of staff of Southern Army Group General Dario Gonzalez, the empire’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Marquis Dimitri Lemus, and finally Viscount Gerf from the Imperial Secretariat. Even though this officer was not officially high-ranking, but he was appointed to be present in order to deliver a message from His Majesty the Emperor.

Oscar greeted Minister of Foreign Affairs Marquis Dimitri Lemus with loving care. He was told that the old officer that had just celebrated his 60 years old birthday recently did not attend the party earlier due to his serious enteric infection.

When all the hosts and guests were finally seated, they did not beat around the bush and went right straight into the main discussion topic. Oscar was astonished that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Southern Military Region were planning together a military action toward the Italia Kingdom.

"Exactly! His Majesty the Emperor has approved of this action plan. Besides, just a reminder that this is a secret order." Viscount Gerf from the Imperial Secretariat revealed a piece of paper which was an official document from his pocket and passed it to General Eugene.

General Eugene read its content in a flat tone without any expression, "The military action proposed by the Southern Army Group toward the Italia Kingdom is approved, and the control for any decision or operation regarding the relevant matters is assigned over to both the Imperial army and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a coalition. The aforementioned matters are to be carried out as soon as the Southern Army Group receive a code name from the Military Affairs. Signed by Empire Titan’s Emperor, Osli Alfa Morisette the Third."

The secret order document was then passed on to the chief of staff.

"Hold on a second!" the young man was completely baffled. "Your Excellency General, pardon my rudeness, can you please clear my doubts regarding the aforementioned military action and code name? What do they mean?"

Eugene glanced over at the Minister of Foreign Affairs who nodded slightly back at him. Obviously, there was no need to hide anything back from the Prince.

"Before we officially launch any military action, we would need to formulate a detailed operational plan for the Imperial Army to review. It would later be submitted to His Majesty the Emperor and after he made the final decision, he would then return an order to the Imperial Army informing them to launch or to abandon the plan. The Imperial Army would send back a code name to the respective Regions. We could only send out our troops once we receive the resolution from the Emperor and the code name. Without either of them, the plan would still be illegitimate. Hence…"

"No! No!" Oscar shook his head vigorously. "Your Excellency General, you have misunderstood me. I was informed that the reason for my being here was to welcome the visiting Italia Royal Family, so apparently, it was only a cover for your aforementioned military attack?"

"Yes, Your Imperial Highness Prince." General Eugene confirmed his doubt with a firm nod.

The prince was enraged, "If you already have the military action planned out, why do you still need me to be the imperial envoy for this mission?"

Minister of Foreign Affairs Marquis Dimitri Lemus pressed his hand over his upset stomach, "Your Highness, even though this is the Majesty’s arrangement, I… I don’t mind explaining it to you in detail."

The young man looked at the old marquis with his sorrow eyes. He felt that he had been made a fool!

"You are too young to know about the relationship between Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Military. Since the era of mythology, politicians had already come up with the incisive view that states one could only achieve their aims in foreign affairs when they obtain the military victory beforehand. If we do not make a move, the Italian will not yield down to us."

Of course, Oscar knew how these things work. He was infuriated because he felt like a pawn in a chess game played by the emperor and his men.

"Does that mean we will have to further pressure the Italian using our military forces?" Oscar calmed himself slightly and asked General Eugene.

"That’s right. I have already deployed an army specifically for this action."

"Simply because the Princess and myself have been attacked by them?"

"Exactly," General Eugene nodded once more.

"Maybe you still have not fully grasped the idea behind all this," the old man said while pouring several differently colored medicines into his mouth, "The rulers of Titan should never be offended. Not only that it lowers the dignity of the Morisette imperial family, it also gravely affects the national benefits of the Titan Empire."

"Yes, I understand, but what I meant was, apart from regaining the lost dignity of the Morisette imperial family, in what other ways would the attack on the Italia Kingdom benefit us? More concrete benefits like territory, war reparations, things like these."

"Of course, Your Highness!" Dimitri Lemus reassured him, "Throughout the history, wars happened as a result of people competing for benefits. As long as you obtain the victory, whatever benefits that Your Highness mentioned earlier would not be a problem."

"However, I still have some misgivings about this. The attacks launched toward the Princess and myself have already been proved to be the act of conspiracy, but as far as I understand the Secret Service Department has not yet come up with any further results from their investigation. I suggest that we should not make any hasty moves at the moment, any careless moves will land us all into the enemy’s traps." Oscar finally voiced out his concern.

Marquis Dimitri Lemus and the other high-ranking military officers exchanged glances among them. They had never expected the young prince to think about the matters in such depth.

"My apologies, Your Highness. Although your assumption was fairly reasonable and logical… you should understand, I’m only in charge of the foreign affairs, and the other two generals’ control is limited to the Southern Army. The Secret Service Department is the one that deals with conspiracy, but before they deliver to us any concrete intelligence as a reference, we have no choice but to take the matters into our own hands."

Oscar remained silent for a long moment. Eventually, he came to the realization that the operation of various departments had rules to follow too. Apparently, they could only intervene with other departments’ affairs under explicit permission. The investigation carried out by the Secret Service Department were facing a deadlock, which suggested the military was charging forward even when they were aware of the probability of traps lying ahead of them.

This was the first time the young man realized the importance of the Military Intelligence Bureau. He was even getting excited about working together with that particular department!

Oscar decided to put his doubts at the back of his mind. After all, the Emperor had already made the final call, so it was not as if his own suggestions or protests could make any differences anyway. "Alright then! I will go and meet the Italia royal family to decide for myself if they are worth my concern."

"Haha! Don’t worry, Your Highness, I will be with you the whole time!" Dimitri Lemus laughed. In his opinion, the young man was still quite naïve. Why would the Titan Empire decide to send a small child with zero experience as their diplomacy minister?

"Oh? Is that so? That’s great!" Oscar was genuinely delighted, "I’m so much more relaxed after hearing this. From what I’ve heard, Your Excellency Marquis is the most outstanding Minister of Foreign Affairs in our empire. I’m happy to be learning from you."

Although the young man’s flattery made Dimitri Lemus felt good about himself, nonetheless the compliments had come from a Prince, so the marquis said his thanks and smiled lightly in all modesty.

"Your Highness, you’re too polite. Hopefully, this old man would not bring you too much trouble. I have so much to learn from you as well."

Oscar bowed lightly toward the old marquis. Actually, he had already regarded this old fellow as one of those diplomacy liars Ricky had mentioned to him before. People like him would smile and show others his friendliest side, while simultaneously planning a detailed military action behind their backs. However, people would change as time passed. It would not be a surprise that many years later O’Neil Andrew Morisette would become one of these diplomacy liars himself. He would definitely not remember that once in a meeting room in Bragg Fortress, he was so angry toward people that behaved this way.

"General Eugene, could you please inform me as soon as possible when the military returns to you with the code name of this military conduct? You know, I’m extremely curious!"

General Eugene returned him a warm smile. This prince was definitely still a child, he was only asking about the trivial matters that did not contribute any significance to the meeting.

The Chief of Staff of Southern Army Group, Dario Gonzalez, took out a document from the inside of his clothes and presented it to the curious child. "Your Highness, the express delivery from the military has actually arrived two days earlier than Viscount Gerf. You can take a look at it, but please do not read it out loud, as this code name represents a military secret of the highest confidential."

Oscar took over the document with excitement. It was as if he was about to go onto the battlefield.

The classified document was actually only a normal kraft paper with a few words written on it.

"Spring Time in Bragg."

"To be honest, I love the name!" Oscar’s hands trembled a little as he held onto the military secret a little too tightly. The thin paper felt so thin and light between his fingertips, perhaps… he thought war was supposed to be as simple as this.

***************

The tower located at the north city wall of the Bragg Fortress was the highest look-out point of the whole city. Due to the peace in this calm little city, this tower that used to be the spot for making reconnaissances of the enemy’s situations had been turned into an elegant guest room. The arch windows surrounded the tower were renovated and extended to become a spacious balcony. After the games of cards this afternoon, the young Prince successfully won himself the tower as his temporary residence from the Bragg city defense commander.

Looking out from the balcony one could take in the amazingly picturesque panoramic view of the whole Bragg city. The old streets were still filled with traditional decorations, narrow slab stone pathways were cut into thousand tiny pieces.

The sun burned furiously as it set, its golden light reflected on the clouds hovering above the city. The mountains of the southern regions stood upright in the distance, the peaks shyly hiding behind the white clouds, and soon enough the cloudy sky turned into bright red color as if it had been covered by the Red Tiger’s flag. Flocks of hawk eagles circled in the air, chasing off any other tinier flying creatures besides themselves.

The guards patrolling the paved path of the inner of the city wall tied on their spears the small banners representing the defense garrison of Bragg city, which they only do when receiving especially distinguished guests. The banners fluttered in the wind above their heads as the wind blew gently. The guards stood at their position obediently, only looking out occasionally for any glimpse of rain.

The people who lived in the city did not appear to be extremely excited about the arrival of the Princess and the Prince. Some were not even aware of the breaking news at all. Most of them were occupied with earning enough money for livelihood, they had no privilege of time to spend on the imperial family.

The commoners were easily satisfied by just the simple blissful acts of making dinner together with their family. It was true, the streets of Bragg at night constantly smelled of food and spices.

On the other hand, the lifestyles of important people were extremely distinct. A short moment after those strong-built officers ignited the warm lights, well-dressed ladies gathered around to compare each other’s jewelry and gossip about the good-looking newcomers to the town; while gentlemen quenched their thirst with liquor as they talked about women. Of course, the men would occasionally talk about political issues. For instance, some baron would brag about marrying their daughter off to some high-ranking old man of rich family background. The women were even more ridiculous. They would complain about their husbands being unfaithful with the tarts available out there, and the other ladies would raise their voices in agreement, but as soon as they turned their back they let out sighs of satisfaction as some handsome young man snuck their hands up underneath the long dresses.

The Prince stood alone on the balcony, enjoying the warm breezes. He was not surrounded by his usual followers, as they were all out in town enjoying themselves. He wished them a great night and prayed that they would not end up with attractive whores infected with sexual diseases.

The Princess was, of course, at the party organized by Administrative Officer of Southern Three Provinces. The Prince had received the same invitation, but he could not be bothered and threw it into the toilet bowl at first glance. The young lady and Annie appeared to have gone to the residence of an unusually honorable lady. Sasha had asked her brother to tag along but she was told that the ladies had a women-only policy to the small gathering.

Only Paul defended his position. He was sitting comfortably on a sofa set somewhere ten steps away from the Prince.

"Young Oscar!" Snowstorm waved the small book in his hands, "This is a torn and incomplete manuscript which was given to me by Murat. Apparently, it has been passed down since the era of mythology, and is filled with a detailed description of war and battle strategies."

Oscar regained his mindfulness and requested the man to read the manuscript out loud.

The King of Assassins cleared his throat exaggeratedly.

"War is a form of violence that forces the enemy to obey our will. It is the way in which mankind expands violence to their maximum extent possible, and such violence is neglected by the laws and regulations. It is always created under some kind of political situation that can only be caused by political motives. When a country or an interest group cannot attain their aims by ordinary means, war will ultimately ascend to the stage of history. As the violence of war spreads, the human world becomes a society without philosophy. The heart of mankind will continue to expand as the desire grows, until it overcomes the enemy, or is itself defeated by the enemy."

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