Titan Beneath the Heavens
Chapter 102: Twelfth Episode: Chapter 2
Chapter 102: Twelfth Episode: Chapter 2
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
"Church’s year 797, the 20th day of the 1st month. Here is the North of the Empire, Zolas Province, Aidemon Valley. Gosh, seriously! I never had the habit of writing a diary, but the Sun has already set in this awful place by four thirty in the afternoon! Camping out in this world of snow and ice is the dullest thing ever. Aside from writing a diary, I actually cannot find anything else to do here! May the weather of the coming day takes a turn for the better, otherwise, I may very well be the very first Prince in the history of Titan to freeze to death! It’s ridiculous just thinking about it, but when the time comes, what should be carved onto my epitaph?"
"Church’s year 797, the 25th day of the 1st month, another blasted day! Initially, it was planned for us to make it to Grizzly Fortress within one week, but now? My Red Tigers and I didn’t even make it through the huge mountains. The small team of scouts was trapped at the other side of the valley due to the sudden heavy snow. The rescue party that Murat organized spent two days before finally locating them. During this period, the huge army again lost their way. In other words, I am unfortunate beyond words, but who can be blamed for this?"
"Church’s Year 797, the 28th day of the 1st month. Thank heavens! We finally caught a glimpse of the Sukhoi Family’s harp flag at the open space of the valley’s exit! I really cannot make sense of why the Sukhoi Family, who originated from the blacksmiths, would use an intricate musical instrument as the family totem. And thus, I inquired the Marquis of the Sukhoi Family assigned to fetch us regarding that matter. However, surprisingly, he was not too sure himself; it seems that only the heaven knows!"
"Church’s year 797, the 1st day of the 2nd month. There is nothing much to be said about today. When Marquis Sukhoi saw me, he was like a huge wolfdog of Deiss, wagging his tail, flattering and also being cunning, not charming in the least. But, why am I bringing him up? Perhaps, I just want to purposely overlook another incident, that which happened on the 29th day of the 1st month! The Red Tigers became a member less that day! They lost a member without even engaging in war. That pitiful Second Lieutenant had stepped into an enormous trap for a catching game when they were organizing manpower to clear up the road ahead for the troops. By the time Percy and the few medical officers of the Red Tigers rushed to the scene, the Second Lieutenant’s left leg was already frozen together with the trap. The people could only resort to amputate his limb and, after tossing and turning up until two or three in the early hours of the morning, he finally breathed his last. I actually do not wish to bring up that incident, but Murat has requested me to sign a casualty report today. I signed it and also know the Second Lieutenant’s name, which was, Fiennes. According to Murat, Fiennes was the best expert on traps among the Red Tigers. This made me feel… Forget about it! One of my knights have sacrificed himself; perhaps, this is only the beginning!"
"Your Highness," The prince’s messenger, Major Wellington Steinberger appeared in Oscar’s tent on the dot at nine.
"Your Highness, you should stop writing. The knights on night duty are about to extinguish the lights."
Oscar took a glance at his diary and felt that it was indeed enough to stop here for today.
"Wellington, since when did you become my army orderly?" Oscar placed his quill pen onto the penholder at the corner of the table. After that, he clicked a delicate little copper lock into place at the front of the thick diary’s leather cover.
"Your Highness, I am not an army orderly; I am a messenger."
Oscar shrugged, "But the jobs you undertake makes me misunderstand."
"Your Highness, you did not misunderstand, I am a messenger in charge of passing on the orders of superiors and also notifying the desires of the subordinates. All your knights hope that you can rest earlier."
Oscar glanced at his diary and then at Wellington and finally heaved a heavy sigh.
"My messenger, go bid goodnight to my adorable knights for me."
"As you wish, Your Highness."
The lights in the tent extinguished not long after. The young prince lied down on the camp bed with fur spread over it. He then tugged the knitted cotton quilt up to his neckline then placed a bearskin coat over the quilt. In order to reduce the harmful gases in the tent, the coals were burning low and Oscar stared at his exhaled air, lost in thought. His heart was in a mess as one image kept flashing in his mind, a knight caught in a trap deep in the snowy grounds. He was screaming because of the excruciating pain and was struggling because of despair. A shadow formed from a huge pool of blood appeared on the white snow, the trace of life having met its demise.
"Just sleep, just sleep! This is no one’s fault! It does not signify anything!" Oscar consoled himself.
The Grizzly Fortress had its back against Pinehill peak of the Sui Mountain Range and so people were used to calling it "The huge Grizzly of Pinehill Peak". As of today, it had a three-hundred-year history. Since Pinehill Peak had been a vicious volcano prior to this, the volcanic rocks became the body of the walls and cornerstone of the ancient Grizzly Fortress building. Following the passing of time and weathering through the elements, the volcanic rocks started to fuse with one another, resulting in the precipitation and the assemblage of a lot of metal elements within the body of the rock. And, because of this family-like bond, the distinguishingly pale appearance of Grizzly Fortress was more solid than that of people’s imagination.
The Fort was about five hundred kilometers from the Northern Border in a direct line. Here was the Sukhoi Family’s base of operations and headquarters. The metal minerals from all over the Empire were refined in the Grizzly Fortress and had undergone the last processing to produce weapons in the secret labs and varying sized workshops of the Sukhoi Family found throughout Zolas Province.
"To be honest, I have always thought... The main fort of the noble’s leader will be a place filled with smokestacks that constantly spewed fire and thick smoke. And not… And not…" Oscar admitted while gesturing his hands towards the ancient castle at the edge of the cliff not far away.
"Hehe, that’s right Your Highness, those who have never visited Pinehill Peak will have that perception. This is because, in their eyes, the Sukhoi Family’s headquarters must be a place where blacksmiths and all sorts of furnaces assembled... Not this spotless, sturdy white castle before you that emanates the ancient glory and the brilliance of time."
Oscar turned to face Marquis Sukhoi and grinned, completely agreeing with the description of Grizzly Fortress by this son of Sukhoi.
The carriages tottered forward on the trail of the precipitous foothills and turning around the countless sharp corners formed by the mountain road, Grizzly Fortress appeared occasionally on the left and occasionally on the right. This massive volcanic rock pillbox was like a ferocious beast, made up of innumerable granules. It had forty-six siege towers and twenty-one trebuchet embrasures that overlooked the whole mountain pass. If that wasn’t enough, there were still sluice gates made of iron, steel, copper, and wood at one side of the fort.
The midday Sunrays managed to make its way through the rare slits among the dark clouds filling the sky. The great pillar of light was cast onto the walls of the Fortress, and the glaring greyish white color appeared dazzling and cold. The other places in the ancient castle towered resiliently under the shadows. Its majestic body was like a hero defending the precipice, silent, brave and with the eyes of a falcon, it swept its gaze over every living creature that crosses in front of it.
The procession of the Red Tigers fanned out on the mountain path. Sometimes the horses would tread on a loose part of the road at the edge of the cliff and pieces of rocks would roll down, causing the knights to anxiously glance beneath their feet. The cold air of the ravine and the altitude that provoked one's ears and vision hit all at once as even the bravest of knights would choose to avert their gaze at this moment.
On the mountain road that could only accommodate five horses, the Red Tiger Assault Division so happened to send out five flag bearers at the front of the formation. They held the symbol of the Empire’s supreme rulers – The Imperial Flag of Morisette; the symbol of the God-chosen warriors – The Narcissus Knights’ Military Flag, the ancestral tablet of the Andrew Family, the commander flag that stood for His Imperial Highness Prince O’Neil Andrew Morisette and the war flag that represented the heroic army of the Red Tiger Assault Division.
As soon as the five flag bearers entered the field of vision of the Fortress, it was as if the massive Grizzly had suddenly awakened. The castle was suddenly decorated with numerous pennants with harps engraved on them. At each watchtower and siege tower, an ear-splitting noise rang out. The knights were familiar with this sound; this was the sound of spears clashing against shields, this was an etiquette that was a must for a brother unit welcoming their comrade-in-arms.
The five flag bearers stood still before the tightly closed portcullis of the Fortress and soon after, the whole procession came to a halt. Only the Sukhoi Family’s totem fluttered in the mountain breeze and following the resounding cry of a mountain eagle, everything else had quieted down.
Oscar watched the scene unfolding before him from the carriage calmly. He saw a communications official step out from his procession. The communications official fished out a document; it was the Imperial Envoy certificate signed by Titan Empire’s supreme Majesty the Emperor. The communications official shot a whistling arrow into the main watchtower above the portcullis of the Fortress. Soon, the portcullis that was made of iron slowly rose up and waves of cheer came from the guards of the fortress. Not long after that, after the rumble of metal, the four gates of the fortress were finally opened and the cheers at the moment reverberated to the heavens. Under the baptism of swirling snowflakes, the Red Tigers entered the embrace of the Grizzly.
His Imperial Highness Prince O’Neil’s carriage stopped at the open space inside the huge gates of the Fortress and a Colonel dressed in the Sukhoi family’s military apparel opened the door for the respected guest. The band instantly started playing "Advance, guards!". When Oscar poked his head out of the carriage, he was indeed stunned by the scene before him.
Beneath his feet was a red carpet extending towards the highest point of the Fortress and placed on him were pure white petals emitting a characteristic fragrance of the snowfield plateau. The camouflaged armors were like the ocean, dancing to the unified, distinct and ear-piercing melodies while the Sukhoi military officers approached, one after another, clothed in silver armor with a bearskin cloak draped over their shoulders.
"Respected Imperial Highness Prince O’Neil Andrew Morisette, I represent all the Sukhoi Family members, the family’s military strength and the general public of Zolas Province to welcome your arrival, the Imperial Envoy of Titan Empire’s Alfa III."
"You must be the Sukhoi family’s most senior member – Duke Roleighanc."
The young prince gave a slight bow to the Sukhoi Family’s head, "Thank you for everything that you and your family have done for the Empire and the Imperial Household. I bring Alfa III’s sincerest greetings."
Duke Roleighanc Van Sukhoi got down on one knee as per the court etiquette, then, with his most humble demeanor and sincerest attitude, he clasped His Imperial Highness’ right hand that was extended toward him.
"Long live His Majesty Emperor!" Once blessing the Emperor, the Duke planted a heavy kiss on the back of the prince’s hand.
The prince grinned; he helped the head of the Sukhoi Family up and when he was embracing the not so old high official of Titan, he whispered in his ear.
"Torry says that you’re a person not so particular about elaborate etiquettes, how long are you going to leave me freezing here?"
Duke Sukhoi took the opportunity to pull himself up using the youngster’s arm and spoke to him under his breath.
"My Imperial Highness, Torry, this rascal is not like my son at all, despite knowing me so well. So, I will advise you to distance yourself from that little troublemaker."
After that, the Duke led Oscar to walk on the stone steps with the red carpet spread out over it. The young prince was rather quite thrilled; he already knew that this elder of the Sukhoi Family was indeed the top noble that could make others feel pleased. Oscar felt that the members of this family, which stayed on the Gold Mountain, did not worship gold and was not as depraved as the rumors say. At least this elder was one who was wary about the ways of the world and had an interesting character. Of course, there was also Torry in the family, the flawless scoundrel.
The structure of Grizzly Fortress was built completely in accordance with the topography of the terrain’s layout. If a mesa rose up on the peak, the Grizzly would have a building that towered high, occupying an area and having a foundation that complemented that of the mesa. When a dip appeared on the peak, the Grizzly would follow this dip’s geographical location, building trebuchet embrasures and architectural landscapes by the cliff that were more for its aesthetic value. When the slope of the peak started to level out, the Grizzly would have densely packed houses and markets lined up over it. If volcanic rocks started to protrude out of the peak, the Grizzly would chisel out these solid boulders, then cave houses and tunnels for soldiers to hide would be built.
Along the way, Oscar had noticed that all the buildings within the fortress maintained the same color tone. From afar, the crowd milling about in the Fortress appeared as if they were going in and out of an enormous cave with snow and lime dust dancing about. If it weren’t for the fresh flowers and the cheers of the people along the streets transmitting a realistic feel, Oscar would definitely have thought he was in an ancient city of a fairy tale world.
Just when His Imperial Highness started gasping for breath after climbing an unknown number of flights of stairs, the huge crowd surrounding him finally let off a simultaneous sigh as if they had been holding it in all the while.
Passing through an arched doorway, the scene opened up into a wide clearing. The crowd had arrived at Grizzly Fortress’ highest point. On the one side was an immense public square that could accommodate more than a thousand people. On the other side of the square, close to the mountain wall, was the Sukhoi Family’s main house. Oscar stood firmly on a platform that jutted out of the cliff; he gazed up at the sky and looked down beneath his feet; the whole Fortress seemed to have turned into a toy, as if it were a building block of toys built by children. At the sharp snowy peak that was against the back of the main house, the sky suddenly became ethereal; even the people were mesmerized by it.
Oscar swayed, he felt a little dizzy.
Duke Sukhoi quickly steadied the respected youngster, "My Imperial Highness, you should not stand so high up and gaze so far out when you haven’t adapted to the altitude. Let us go the Harp Palace to rest a while."
The Harp Palace should be a name that held a rich poetic quality. However, aside from that gigantic sculpture of a harp in the lobby of the Sukhoi Family’s main house, the remaining furnishings had nothing much to do with music. To describe it more precisely, this palace with the Harp as its name was more like a weapons museum, and not forgetting that this was the livelihood of the Sukhoi Family.
The Harp Palace was the main house of the Sukhoi Family and also the temporary residence of the Imperial Household members. A palace that had a double status was scarce in Titan Empire because only the bluebloods that the Emperor relied heavily upon and trusted could have the rights as an Imperial Household temporary residence.
The guest room of the Harp Palace was close to one another, like all palaces in Titan. When the huge doors of the differently-sized guest rooms with different layouts and interior designs opened up towards a common direction, the sense of depth and distance it exuded fully reflected the palace’s extravagance.
In an immense guest room filled with sofas and Faran ottomans, the Sukhoi Family had assembled all their eminent members. These people included the head of state of Zolas Province, the various high-ranking military officers of the family’s military system, and the few people in charge of the Sukhoi manufacturing, smelting, production, and marketing bureau. Oscar gazed around the room and realized that there were many Madams and ladies present as well. The Sukhoi females completely imitated Dulin’s trendiest fashion in dressing and makeup. Paying attention to the way the men treated the ladies, the prince was sharp enough to realize that the Sukhoi females received just as much respect within this family. This was unimaginable, as within Titan’s large powerful families, usually only the voices of men would be heard, while in the Sukhoi Family, he noticed that when the ladies spoke, the men would listen attentively.
About half an hour later after passing through the music hallway lined with a hundred person band, the members of Sukhoi accompanied the most prominent figure they had ever welcomed over the past few hundred years to enter the dining hall. It took another ten minutes before the gentlemen and ladies settled into each of the forty-six seats along the long dining table, based on their status and family standing.
Oscar was seated to the right of the master seat at the dining table. Apparently, they had set up a system for themselves as the few of his military leaders were seated on his right while the women and ladies were seated on the left. Oscar was a little curious, as the master seat at the women’s side was vacant. However, according to the structure of most large powerful families, there must be a mistress that managed the family’s internal affairs. Moreover, cutlery and a chair were already arranged at the master seat of the women’s side, meaning to say that there would definitely be someone taking that seat.
"I’m curious, Torry is your second son, why didn’t he attend today’s…"
"Your Highness! Do not take offense!" Duke Sukhoi interrupted the prince; he knew that His Highness chose Grizzly Fortress as the first stop for his visit to the north because of his second son, who failed to live up to his expectations.
"Torry is managing a testing ground and he will only have the chance to return home next week."
Oscar nodded; Torry had mentioned this in his letters. "So… Can I go visit him? You know, I do not have ample time here, my communications official has already been in contact with the infantry division that is rushing over to join the Red Tigers. It is highly likely that I cannot wait until next week."
"I understand your situation and can sympathize with your desire of wanting to see a friend, but… I cannot allow you to meet Torry."
Oscar was stunned; he did not expect to be rejected.
However, it was evident that Duke Roleighanc was not too eager to talk about that matter.
"Your Distinguished Duke, you know? I need to be on the road soon. I apologize for saying this, but I cannot just stay at Grizzly Fortress for the whole of winter; I need to make it to Bron Fortress before the first snowstorm…"
Looking at the Duke’s face that had yet to ease up, Oscar suddenly came to an apprehension of the existing problem.
"Ola… Could it be? Your Distinguished Duke, is the testing ground Torry in charged of facing problems?"
Duke Roleighanc heaved a sigh, His Highness was, sure enough, a bright young lad and being able to consider what was best for him.
"Precisely, Your Highness. It goes without saying that I should not speak about anything related to the testing ground, but since you are representing His Majesty Emperor in inspecting the Sukhois, I will give you a brief explanation. That testing ground does not have a clear-cut classified grade because aside from the members of my family and a few military-related leaders, no one else knows of its existence. If you wish to enter it, you need to have successive signatures of the Military Affairs Chancellor, Marshal Alan, and the Empire’s Confidential Department Chief.
Oscar shook his head, "I apologize, I do not have that!"
Duke Roleighanc also shook his head and made an apologetic gesture towards the prince.
Oscar let out a heavy sigh. He had a rough understanding of the Sukhoi Family’s Secret military business. Since even the elder of the family put it that way, it indicated that there really wasn’t much that could be done and it seemed that he would have to delay the meet up with his old friend to an indefinable date.
"So… Gentlemen, ladies, shall we begin?" Oscar queried while unfolding his wide napkin.
Duke Roleighanc grinned and rang the table bell by his hand enthusiastically. A door opened to one side of the dining hall and more than forty waiters filed in, each supporting silver dishes on their hands and taking their positions behind a respective chair. After that, the cuisines were arranged onto the dinner plates that were set earlier. After everything was ready, as the host, Duke Sukhoi clinked his dinner fork on the wine glass. The initially quiet dining hall had immediately erupted with noise. This was the sign of a feast; the men screamed that the good wine should be served while the women engaged in animated conversations. Oscar did not feel out of place in the situation but instead even managed to strike up a conversation with the women at a distance from him.
When the procession of waiters was serving the second round of dishes for each guest, the gigantic screen that partitioned the dining hall suddenly burst open and those seated there watched in astonishment as the room doors banged open one after another.
A fiery red silhouette approached them with quick strides from the end of the hallway. Oscar trained all his focus to distinguish this exceptionally vivid and intriguing character attentively.
That was a mature, stunning girl brimming with the elegance of the North. Her long, light golden hair was gathered up tightly behind her head and a golden veil studded with tiny diamonds covered her face. With the women at the dining table taking the lead, men, women, the young and old of the Sukhoi Family stood up and lastly, even the Duke rose from his seat. Oscar glanced to the left and right and hurriedly followed suit. But why didn’t anyone tell him who this girl clothed in red that was late, was?
"My apologies! Truly, I apologize!" The girl had already made her way to the prince and while saying this, she tore away the diamond veil. Then after lifting her skirt to bow at the prince, she extended her hand smoothly.
Oscar clasped this set of snowy white, delicate hand. Although it felt a little rough to touch, the other details of the hand could only be described as perfect.
Oscar flitted through his memory in search of the full lips, the set of eyes that spoke to him and the breathtaking, flawless face before him.
"Although no one has introduced you to me, I am certain I have met you somewhere before! Beautiful lady, may I have some time to recall?" Oscar said while planting a kiss on the girl’s hand.
Lady VIjdeline Van Sukhoi burst into laughter; the youngster kept holding onto her hand.
"Your Imperial Highness Prince," Duke Roleighanc got out of his seat, "Please allow me to introduce you our family’s mistress, Vijdeline."
Oscar released Lady Vij’s hand awkwardly; she was actually the mistress of the Sukhoi Family! Both the old and young at the table were suppressing laughs; it seemed that his actions were extremely humiliating a while ago.
"Ola… That means that… This is your Madam?"
As soon as he finished saying that, Oscar realized that he seemed to have made a mistake because the few youngest sons of the Sukhois were convulsing with laughter.
"No, no, no!" Sure enough, Duke Roleighanc shook his head furiously and took the hand of the girl dressed in red, "Vij is my eldest daughter, also my most prized treasure; she isn’t even married yet."
Oscar slapped his forehead; he once again lifted the lady’s hand and gave it a heavy kiss.
"Beautiful and noble Lady Sukhoi, please forgive my ignorance and impertinence. I hope that my actions will not become a joke!"
Vijdeline broke into a joyous smile, "Your Imperial Highness Prince, it is unnecessary for you to be so terrified. My father has always regarded introducing my identity as the most difficult matter. This is because half of the people find it unbelievable and another half of them see me as unreasonable. You are the first to have apologized so sincerely, and I feel greatly honored."
Oscar tilted his head, satisfied. He once again sized up the lady who was so easy-going in her speech. However, the way he looked at her had changed; initially, it was with admiration for her charm and now, he was completely mesmerized. Having a Lady who was single take up the role as family mistress and moreover, as a renowned person in charged of the Sukhoi’s weaponry Designing Bureau, possibly reflected the boldness of the Sukhoi Family in putting people to full use. However, one of the more important points was that this Lady definitely possessed the wisdom and capabilities that tallied with her status. Oscar could tell that the respect the Sukhoi members had for this young mistress was not merely superficial, but came genuinely from their hearts.
"So… We may proceed! I am truly sorry for holding up so much of everyone’s time." Vijdeline turned and strode towards the master seat on the left of the dining table.
Oscar took his seat first, followed by Duke Sukhoi and later, followed by the young, family mistress. And only then did the crowd take their seats in succession.
"Lady Vijdeline, may I know what matters have held you up?" Over the long dining table, Oscar’s voice traveled out crisply. This was because after the mistress took her seat, the Sukhoi females conversed in markedly lowered voices.
"It was the problem with an experimental product," Vijdeline replaced the crystal glass stained with lipstick, "The experts from Dulin actually have no idea on how to resolve it, so I was forced to personally step in. However, I must admit that that did not take up much time, just that the little explosion messed up my hair and clothes. I had to change and tidy myself up and this is what caused…"
"Gunpowder!" Oscar leaned forwards, cutting off Mistress Sukhoi, "If it were an explosion, then it means that you are researching gunpowder?"
Vijdeline shrugged, "It was not gunpowder but rather, ammunition that can be stuffed into hand cannons and…"
"Vij!" The mistress’ words were once again cut off, but this time, by Duke Sukhoi. The father glared at his daughter. "I say Vij, you have gotten a little carried away! The firearm research is the top classified information of the Empire and you should consider the setting in bringing up this matter."
The family mistress shot a look of disdain back at her father clearly.
"I don’t think that this is any secret. In the field of firearm research, the Engels Kingdom and the Hoilland Kingdom have already surpassed Titan and our Sukhoi Designing Bureau. Especially the Engels, reliable intelligence indicates that the Fortress cannon they have modified has been moved onto warships! The Engelish call these light firearms as canna! Your Imperial Highness Prince, do you know what this implies?" Vijdeline queried while fiddling with the food on her dinner plate uneasily.
The prince and a few of his high-ranking military officers exchanged looks of dismay and in the end, Oscar had no choice but to spread out his hands helplessly.
"Lady Vijdeline, to be honest, I have no answer to this question, because I do not even know… What kind of a thing is the cannon that you mentioned!"
"Everyone here calls me Vij, you may do so as well!" Mistress Sukhoi raised her wine glass towards His Imperial Highness The Prince who was as young as herself. She glanced at her father, and the Duke did not appear to have any intentions to stop her from continuing on.
Lady Vij clinked her wine glass for a toast and wiped her mouth with a napkin, "Allow me to explain it to you! I believe you have not forgotten about the hand cannon that Torry brought back to the Designing Bureau. It can be seen that the Easterners’ manufacturing industry is flourishing, but at least in terms of firearms, we have started to surpass them! Artilleries are proof of that! This is a formidable and strong gunpowder weapon. It uses gunpowder and a fuse to trigger the artillery shell and the explosion of the artillery shell will inflict death and injury within a specified radius. Putting it this way… Do you have a basic concept of it?"
Oscar nodded, "I have never seen the real thing, so I cannot comment, but at least I know that… The cannon that you are referring to is far larger than the fire gun."
"That’s right! Generally, the explosive radius of an artillery is five to six times that of a fire gun. And, if it were a Fortress cannon, it can reach up to nine to ten times. Its firing range is even more amazing! I have personally organized the task to restore the fire gun and its firing range is between about forty to sixty meters while the firing range of cannon can reach up to three hundred to four hundred meters. The larger Fortress cannon has an attack range that covers anything within two kilometers.
"This… This isn’t a folklore… Or… Or a legend story, is it?" Major General Murat Bedoya could no longer hold it in; he was a professional military personnel and was more sensitive to matters such as these than anyone else.
"Of course not! Hoilland Kingdom is throwing in a tremendous amount of financial resources to set up a new army, one made up of gunners, grenadiers, and artilleryman."
Murat was at a loss for words; gunners, grenadiers and artilleryman! What did these military names that were never heard of before, signify? What did the Engelish’s gunship imply?
The valiant military officer of the Narcissus knights subconsciously gripped the General's sword that had been with him for many years, tightly. Although he was reluctant to admit, or perhaps even feared to admit it, Murat still edged closer to His Imperial Highness Prince’s ear.
"Your Highness, this trip has not been a waste, at least we know… The era of knights and swords is about to come to an end!"
Oscar did not appear to have heard anything he was gazing intently at Vijdeline who was speaking frankly with assurance, "This young woman being the mistress of the Sukhoi Family, just what kind of ability and intelligence must she possess?"
Just when Oscar’s imagination had taken flight, Murat again leaned in towards the prince.
Under the clamor of the party, Prince O’Neil Andrew Morisette carefully distinguished General Murat’s faint voice.
"My Imperial Highness, if you can succeed as the commander-in-chief of the family and knights, then the first thing you should do once you have taken office will be to take the Lady of the Sukhoi Family as your proper wife."
"What did you say?" Oscar’s eyes widened.
"The era has changed! Assuming that the Narcissus knights will still be as invincible as before, then possessing just half of the Sukhoi’s Designing Bureau is the requirement of this assumption; without this prerequisite, the assumption will not come to be!" Murat made a stand of his point.
Oscar nodded lightly. Oh, God of Light! The young prince, who was used to praising romance, actually nodded despite him still having his doubts and fears! The era had indeed changed! The age of swords was about to be replaced by firearms! This change came too suddenly, leaving him caught unprepared!
It seemed that the harvest of this trip to the north… was rather significant! Perhaps… He would have to properly talk about it with his father in his letters. Titan could fall behind people, but the Andrews who existed to fight, could not! Since there was already someone in the Western Kingdoms setting up a new military group, the Andrews should also take some actions! Otherwise, when the day came where the knights really faced gunpowder weapons, the loyalty, bravery and military accomplishments of four hundred years that the Andrews took pride in would fall apart in a battlefield of flying shrapnel! This was something that absolutely would not be allowed to happen! The Andrews and Narcissus Knights would forever be the strongest armed force in all Westland! Just like what Murat said, even if they abandon their swords and bows, the Knights of Andrew would not be defeated! And they must not be defeated!
Thinking about this, Oscar’s gaze inadvertently shifted onto Lady Vijeline who was engrossed in handling her food. Perhaps, she would make a good wife... Oscar smirked and shook his head; this was something that was simply uncertain! But there was one thing that he was certain of, possessing Vijdeline equaled to possessing half of the Sukhoi’s designing Bureau, which also meant fulfilling the requirement of this assumption!
"Church’s year 797, the 5th day of the 2nd month, this is the first day of our arrival at Grizzly Fortress. The diary is getting progressively thicker and I feel like leaving it aside, but I’ve realized that this has become a part of my life. A while ago I almost lost my way in Harp Palace, but thanks to one of the Madams of the Sukhoi Family, I managed to make my way back to my room. However, among the Sukhoi females in this huge family, only Vijdeline Van Sukhoi was that sophisticated. I believe that I will forever remember this name after today. It is she who allowed me to witness a segment of history and I really don’t know if this is a good or bad thing."
"Many of Lady Vijdeline’s past achievements are circulating here. It is said that at the age of four, she started fiddling with gunpowder and at the age of fifteen she had already produced her own firearm that was about the size of a dagger, using gunpowder. And so, some referred to her as a genius and others, a devil! However, whatever is said, to any military force in Westland, having Vijdeline is a very fortunate thing! The knowledge she possessed was sufficient to equip the new army and this was the fundamental reason Murat voiced out that suggestion. But… I only admire, I think… I haven’t fallen for her… But… Oh gosh! What am I thinking, this segment should be torn off!"
"I am a little frightened, not of the change in the era but of the thought of marrying Lady Vij. This idea makes a lot of sense as if it were meant to be! But… This is for… my family’s benefit… Seriously! How can I have brought it up again?"
"Thank heavens! Someone knocked! That’s it for today…"
Oscar opened his bedroom door and saw a huge bundle of bedding. Paul, who was standing outside in attendance gestured with his lips to the prince, "This is Lady Vijdeline."
"Oh, goodness!" The Prince promptly took the quilts from the lady’s hands. "Vij, what are you thinking? How can you do something like this? You have scared me!"
Lady Vijdeline dusted her hands gently, "The castle is aged and cannot effectively shield against the cold air. These beddings are a must. Moreover, as one of the heads of the Sukhoi, I must personally see to certain matters."
Oscar flung the quilts onto the bed, then took Lady Vij’s hand and strode out of the bedroom. Outside the bedroom was a suite, with a huge living room and a small bar. The prince led the tall VIjdeline to settle on the sofa’s recliner inside the bar. The mistress of Sukhoi was like a genuine noblewoman, kicking her shoes away contentedly and reclining her whole body on the sofa. After that, she exposed the pair of snowy white legs from under her skirts and swung them over the burning fireplace.
Through the thick fur draped over the Duchess, Oscar’s gaze was slowly moving downwards from the neck. This was a fine work of art. Those towering breasts appeared as if they were about to burst out from the corset; the tiny waist and the round buttocks reflected the northern women’s stunning figure. Although the pomegranate-red skirt added with cotton linings had completely covered those well-rounded thighs, the loose skirt still traced the beautiful curves of them faithfully.
"… Your Highness… Your Highness!"
"Huh?" Oscar startled, "Ola! Forgive me… It is… very…. Very difficult for me to focus! My sincerest apologies!"
Vijdeline gave a slight smile; it had been ages since she last flirted with men. To her, men who were worthy of her acting that way were dwindling. However, if she occasionally encountered them… For example, this dazed Imperial Highness Prince, then that would be a target she must grab hold of.
"Have you seen enough? Your Highness?"
"No! Uhhh… What? What did you just say?" Aware that he was babbling nonsense, Oscar quickly put on an appearance as if he had not heard.
Paul who was standing guard to one side, rolled his eyes. It was time for him to make his move! Otherwise, the young lad, Oscar would definitely be scalded to death by the heat on his face.
"Pardon me, but will you both like something to drink?"
Oscar shot a grateful glance at the King of Assassins who was standing respectfully to one side.
"Uhhh… Bring me a cup of Sabac coffee, "Oscar turned towards Vijdeline, "How about you Duchess?"
"Banana daiquiri, thank you!"
Soon, Paul set two completely different beverages before the Prince and Duchess and then retreated into the shadows.
In silence, Vijdeline savored the fragrant and sweet cocktail and lifted her head, a teasing expression on her face.
"You know? During… About a year ago, Her Majesty Empress Rolyn Kate brought her second son and put forward a marriage proposal."
Oscar shook his head, yet he was perfectly clear that if the significance of the Sukhoi’s Designing Bureau was known, then probably all the young, unmarried nobles would surge through the family’s huge doors.
"It seems that… You did not oblige."
"That’s right! I rejected Her Majesty Empress’ good intentions, most firmly."
Oscar noticed that when Vijdeline mentioned "good intentions", she appeared to be fuming with rage between gritted teeth.
"His Second Highness is without a doubt an idiot; I apologize for describing a member of the Imperial Household this way, but you must have quite a deep understanding of this Highness when you were pursuing your studies in University Town. So… You should understand why I rejected Her Majesty Empress. This request was actually not irreverent, but I am really unable to give myself over to a… a…"
"Forget about it!" Oscar suddenly waved his hands, "Do not bring up the foolish second son; I believe he will remain that way all his life. On the contrary… Speaking of a marriage partner, what do you think of me?"
Vijdeline laughed lightly and placed down her wine glass, "Your Highness, you have to admit that you are not qualified to propose to me. Don’t forget that you are already Her Highness Princess Alanis’ fiancé! Unless… You can inherit the Andrew Family’s title and the position of the Narcissus Knights’ Commander-in-chief."
Oscar nodded; he was no longer that dazed, foolish lad.
"That’s right unless I can inherit Andrew Family’s title and the position of the Narcissus Knights’ Commander-in-chief, I can only go in accordance with the Church’s doctrine and marry one wife." Oscar paused and bored into the Duchess’ eyes. "But… If I can inherit everything in my family, will you then consider my proposal?"
"Hehehe!" Lady VIjdeline laughed without restraint, "Your Highness, at that moment, you will be the head of the Andrew Family, the commander-in-chief of the Narcissus Knights and the Prince of the Empire’s Imperial household! As far as I know, there is a rumor going around Dulin that you will be in charge of a completely new power department and this has a high possibility of becoming a reality! So think about it yourself, when the single ladies are faced with such a supreme aristocrat who can marry four wives, what will they think?"
Oscar shrugged, "They will be like bees which found nectar, swarming over viciously! But… I do not care about this, I only care what you… Vijdeline, will think at that moment."
Vijdeline avoided the youngster’s overbearing gaze and averted her gaze towards the crystal-clear wine glass.
After a protracted period, the mistress of Sukhoi family beamed and finished the orange-yellow cocktail in one swig.
"I think, the unity of Titan Empire’s largest arms franchisee and greatest warlord will definitely spark an earth-shattering effect on this ancient nation."
Oscar also broke into a laugh, "Duchess, I must say that you are indeed intelligent, but politics aren’t as simple as what you may imagine. In short, do you agree or disagree?"
Vijdeline finally felt a little unbearable. This was not a discussion, but a forced marriage! Although this matter was worth careful consideration, she just really detested His Imperial Highness’ attitude.
"All this can only be discussed when you really possess the criteria you mentioned earlier; before then, I will not give you an answer for I may also… Choose another. So, It’s best if you do not have any expectations because I do not dare give empty promises!"
"Very well, Your Highness!" After saying this, Lady Vijdeline left the sofa, "Good night! Forget about our conversation a while ago!"
While looking on at the closed door, Snowstorm plopped down onto the prince’s sofa.
"Do you think… Is she a sage? Or perhaps... a prostitute?"
Oscar added a sugar cube to his coffee and while he was stirring, his head suddenly jerked up.
"We should rejoice because this Lady is both a sage and a prostitute!"
"That’s right!" Snowstorm snapped his fingers. "Five Ti coins and I will bet that Lady Vijdeline has definitely made countless empty promises before."
Oscar waved his hand, "You win! I won't get involved!"
They exchanged glances and burst into laughter.
1. Engelish refers to the people of Engels Kingdom