Titan Beneath the Heavens
Chapter 134: Fifteenth Episode: Chapter 7
Chapter 134: Fifteenth Episode: Chapter 7
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
"Zoera from the Dog Biting Club?"
"You're right, that's her!"
General Figg Andrew Tibotty gathered the woman's red hair to the back of her head, "Oh God! Zoera! It has only been one night and I already couldn't recognize you!"
Unexpectedly, Zoera had returned with a weak smile. Her attractive features were crumpled together like an old rag stained with blood. Her tall nose was crooked to one side, her left eye bulged forward, and her right eye had gotten so swollen that it appeared nothing wider than a tiny slit.
"Messier, do you really have to do this?" Figg turned to the head of Military Intelligence. It wasn't that he was sorry for the woman, he just felt there wasn't a need for such troubles.
Baron Messier shrugged nonchalantly, "I don't see anything wrong with this. The interrogation has been going on for nineteen hours, but our lady boss here still didn't want to say a word. I think we've wasted our energy in the wrong place!"
Figg let go of the woman, and immediately Zoera's head dropped to one side weakly, "Seems like you have the intention to continue on?"
"Of course!" Messier nodded and motioned to the hatchet man responsible for extorting confessions out of the criminal.
From the moist and muggy underground sounded several thunderous slashes of leather crops hitting against human flesh. Men shouted and scolded, while a woman's voice cried out miserably in pain. The burning flames in the fireplace made the hatchet man, who had his head covered, sweat profusely, yet it didn't weaken his strength in torturing the woman.
This prison cell built underneath the Military Court had a long history. Its dark underground had once imprisoned numerous high ranking military officers with eminent backgrounds, and this interrogation cell had also been accumulating its collection of instruments of torture and experiences of torturing.
"Hold on!" Figg grew impatient. He wasn't an abuser, and he couldn't bring himself to accept this sort of actions.
"Zoera, I beg of you, please say something at least!"
With much reluctant and difficulty, Zoera raised her head, and only then was it realized that her sight had been completely destroyed by the beatings.
"I… I'm innocent! I… I want to see the commander!"
Figg shook his head and let out a long sigh, "Zoera, I can't help you if you don't help yourself! The commander is not going to see you unless you fully confess your crimes, and point out the person from our House who bought you off!"
"Like I've said earlier, I… am innocent!"
"If you're acting like this then I really have no ways of helping you!" Figg was slightly annoyed, he had never encountered another woman more stubborn than Zoera. In fact, they already had sufficient and concrete proofs for her crime, and right now they were just trying to force her into confessing her relations with the Ferdinand House.
"I want to see the commander!"
"Alright, alright!" Figg retrieved his own handkerchief to wipe off the blood oozing out of her mouth. "Answer my question and I'll arrange for you a meeting with the commander, alright?"
Zoera didn't say a word. A full day and night of abuse had left her exhausted down to her bones.
"Where were you, and what were you doing, on the morning of the 20th day of 11th month, the day when Chief of Military Investigation Bureau Berkley Andrew Nedgabel was murdered?"
"I… I'm in the club!"
"Please, think properly before you answer my question!" Figg was rolling himself a cigarette to kill time.
"It's pointless!" Baron Messier walked forward. He had asked the same question countless times but it had yielded no result. "We need to give her something more…"
"More exciting!" a person covered in a cloak suddenly appeared at the side of the door.
Messier focused his attention on this peculiar looking man in white gloves. Soon enough the man's name came to mind.
"Is that Sir Edward the diener?"
"Yes, though more precisely, I'm a doctor now," the diener's chill and husky voice made the temperature in the room drop drastically. Like a ghostly figure, he moved silently into the terrifying cell.
"It's great to see you in back to Dulin safely. How was your journey? How are Baron Erbe and Godot? It's unbelievable! You have traveled more than two thousand kilometers over the sea to return to the empire."
"You should visit them yourself if you want to know that! Why did you call me over? Is it for some exciting fun?" Diener Edward showed indifference to the insincere smile plastered on Baron Messier's face.
"Uh… seems like now is the perfect time for some exciting fun! But please ensure the prisoner is always clear-headed and conscious!"
Edward nodded understandingly. To him, this level of request was as easy as breathing.
With great curiosity, Figg inspected the man in the cloak. He discovered ferocious looking scars on his face, and also that a faint greenish color shone from those pair of eyes. He inferred that if Sir Edward the diener wasn't a blind person, then he must be an emotionless, cold-blooded mad murderer.
"Are you not intending on using those instruments?" Baron Messier asked and gestured to the equipment hanging on the side wall when he noticed Edward's empty hands.
"Those are for children!" Edward skimmed through the rows of instruments. He retrieved from his arms an iron needle almost nine inches in length and then revealed another glass bottle containing yellowish liquid from a leather bag.
Zoera pursed her lips tightly. No one knew what was going on in her mind at this moment. She had been disarmed, and her body and flesh were going to receive the most brutal torment. Perhaps she was determined to give up her life today, but it wasn't really her will to do so. If she was someone that could be easily contented, then maybe she wouldn't have betrayed the House.
"Her clothing gets in the way, and you all didn't secure her properly in position," Diener Edward calmly voiced out his opinion.
Messier motioned to his hatchet men. These tall and strong guys with dense chest hair quickly tighten the straps on the woman. Not only that, one particularly lewd man even torn off the rest of Zoera's blouse, interlining, and corset from her body. All the men in the room held their breath at the sight of two full breasts hanging in front of their eyes. Feeling the men's gazes cast on her naked body, Zoera grew nervous, and her exposed skin also began to redden under influence of fear and shame.
Edward appeared all set and ready to perform. He revealed a skinny arm from within the cloak and placed his palm on the woman's belly. It moved upward slowly, as if to locate something hidden underneath the soft skin, and finally! Diener stopped one of his fingers on somewhere underneath the prisoner's right breast.
The stranger's touch didn't arouse any sexual excitement yet Zoera let out a low, weak moan as the other person traced his hand over her body. The noise was made out of terror and pain. She had no idea what he was going to do to her, and she didn't know if herself could endure this torture any longer.
The iron needle was raised high in the air, and suddenly it was stabbed into her body!
In the prison cell rose another wave of hysterical, ear-splitting scream of agony. Zoera's body hurled violently due to uncontainable intense pain. Tears, mucus and even urine gushed forth simultaneously. The sharp needle entered the woman's body with crushing force, and quickly, it pierced through the exterior of her liver.
Edward released his grip on the needle and watched in satisfaction as the poor wench's body trembled vigorously in pain.
The initial suffering was soon over. Zoera couldn't stop puffing and panting for air. She stared down at the iron needle that went inside her body, at the same time observing the diener preparing his next cruel action.
"Does this help to stimulate your memory?" Messier stepped forward and asked. His body obstructed the light and immediately the prisoner's wrecked body was overshadowed by darkness.
"I'm innocent… You've got the wrong person!"
Messier gave a weak smile as he retreated backward. Edward took the Baron's place with a bottle in hand, which he then slowly opened in front of the lady. In that instant, a highly acidic stench attacked everyone's nostrils.
"Trust me, you will not like this!" Baron warned his prisoner once more, but he noticed the stubborn lady had already clenched her teeth, waiting to brave whatever that was coming her way. The baron shook his head helplessly. He couldn't fathom what was going on Zoera's mind. Did she think that other people wouldn't take her life if she didn't confess her crimes? She worked as a secret agent, so she must've expected that a day like this would happen.
Diener attached the end of the needle to the brim of the bottle in his hand. Apparently, that the iron needle was hollow, and it looked like a badly designed and poorly produced hypodermic syringe. One drop of acid entered the mouth of the hollow needle, and the concentrated liquid rolled slowly down the needle, heading for its destination. Edward motioned for the hatchet men to press down the woman's body and limbs, in order to avoid the needle injuring her liver when she struggled later.
Once again, deafening cries of agony echoed off the four walls. In comparison to leather straps drenched in salt water and the fists of hatchet men, one drop of concentrated acid which continually eroded and burned a prisoner's organ naturally saved more labor and trouble. Beyond expectations, the screaming lasted for two full minutes, and she even managed to struggle out of the men's grasp. The hatchet men were surprised as to where this severely injured woman got her strength and endurance from.
The prison cell finally quieted down. Everyone was slightly trembling from the uproarious shouts moments before. Messier's lips quivered with fear at the sight of Zoera's twisted features.
Diener Edward waited for a while, and it seemed like no one was going to ask any question. Slowly and steadily, this sadistic man with an extreme psychopathic personality refilled another drop of acid into the iron needle. As it had already been lubricated before, this time the acid swiftly flowed into the prisoner, further eroding her liver surface. Zoera roared like a beast!
The stench of incontinence filled the entire cell, and General Figg turned his head away at the disgusting scene. He covered his nose and mouth with his hand and tried his best to restrain the urge to vomit. Although the bloody sea of death of the battlefield could emit a more "wonderful" smell than this, this general of rich warfare experience felt the current scenario was more unbearable than anything else in the world.
Diener looked as if he was about to inject into her another drop of acid, and Zoera gave up. She didn't want the crowd to wait for any longer.
"Alright! Ask away! Ask me anything! What is it that you want to know? Quick! End this cruelty already!"
With slight disappointment, Edward glared at the woman. He thought this stubborn prisoner would at least endure three to five drips before she gave up, he thought she was full of potential! The irritated diener stepped aside to indulge in his reminiscence of that fella whose liver had burst completely. He had had ten drips of acids before he'd eventually corporated.
"That's the right choice, Zoera. Let's have a conversation now, shall we? When did you start betraying your House?" with the back of his hand, Messier wiped off the beads of perspiration formed on his forehead. He was rather frightened by the terrifying screams heard earlier.
"When the House betrayed me!"
Figg's brows knitted closely together, "Are you kidding? Our House has never done anything that wronged you before!"
The pain caused by the needle and acid continued to wrack through her body. Sweat flowed out of her pores, and her body trembled with convulsions.
"Haha! So… Isn't it right that the fate of a woman that had been violated by Persians can only be a whore?"
Figg had no words to answer. He was reminded of Zoera's misfortune in Narcissus County.
"I was already completely desperate long before the Military Investigation Bureau assigned me to Dog Biting Club!" Zoera's features twisted together. She seemed to hold bitter enmity towards the club.
"How could you send a woman that has suffered tortuously to manage a bloody place that abuses women! God of Light! Even in my dreams, I yearn to tear that bastard who established Dog Biting Club into pieces, and roast his flesh on the post of the burning stakes! It must smell so delicious!"
"You could explain your conditions to the superiors, I believe the military department will not…"
"Forget about it!" Zoera interrupted General Figg, "Do you think you're any different from the others? You're just the same as the upper managerial of the House! Up to this time I've already applied for my transfer for more than ten times, and each time they dismissed me with lame excuses like the interest of the House remains their top priorities! I could only leave this shit hole with my own power! That's why I choose to stand with the ones that could assist me in escaping the hands of the secret departments!"
"And that's the reason you approach Kachev Drakas Ferdinand?" Messier stated his estimation.
"Haha! That's not true! It was Lord Almodovar Godzilla who found me!"
"Sea Monster!" General Figg and the Head of Intelligence Department shouted the name at once. It was completely beyond their expectations!
"Hmm… it seems like we need more of Doctor Edward's assistance!" Messier extended his hand to the sadistic man beside him. He thought Zoera was still trying to trick him.
"Stop that nonsense! You can just kill me if you don't believe me! That's going to be my final answer no matter what!" Zoera forced a bitter smile. She knew her answer wouldn't satisfy these men in front of her, but she didn't want to bear other people's crimes now that she was put at death's door. That would be too convenient for the damn bastard!
"How do you prove yourself to be telling the truth?" Figg had already calmed down. The capital noble circles produced a variety of sly foxes and unknown monsters. Since Zoera was determined to betray the House, then indeed it seemed possible for her to lean toward someone with this power.
"There's someone called Sanjio in Almodovar Godzilla's residence. This person specializes in collecting various kinds of information for Sea Monster, and he is well known in Dulin field of information traffickers. It was him who had been my one contact, but Sea Monster sometimes visits the club to meet me directly."
"Sanjio?" the image of a short and plump man with a mustache appeared in Baron Messier's mind, "Sanjio who is also nicknamed Fat Otter?"
"That's the one."
Messier held Zoera's face in his hand so she was staring directly into his own eyes, "You know, it's not difficult to manipulate Fat Otter, and if he proves that you are only lying…"
"Why don't you just bring him back for a round of interrogation?"
The intelligence chief stared at the woman for a while as he digested what she had just revealed. He didn't want to waste any more time! The Baron called out to one of his men from outside the cell and whispered something to his ears without forgetting to mention the name of Fat Otter Sanjio.
"What did Sea Monster offered you for this sweet deal?" Figg was resolute this time around. No matter what, Zoera had already confessed to selling out their House.
"That I could have a whole new identity, and finally a chance to live on the bright side!"
Figg gave out a deep meaningful sigh. He couldn't understand Zoera's choice. Betrayal was equivalent to extermination; didn't she know that?
"Alright! Here comes the most crucial question! Was it you who revealed the confidential information regarding the rescue plan of His Imperial Highness O'Neil Andrew Morisette?"
Zoera remained silent for a long while. She felt too embarrassed to speak out until diener Edward appeared in front of her once again.
"Yes! Yes! Starting from the 12th day of 7th month of year 797, I sent out five pieces of information regarding the aforementioned event, four out of five times they were received by Sanjio, and one time Almodovar Godzilla personally accepted the intelligence!"
"And so… about the murder of Chief of Military Investigation Bureau…"
"That's none of my business!" Zoera interrupted the man abruptly, "God! I've made myself clear numerous times for the past day and night that I have nothing to do with that! I… I had a date on that day!"
"A date? With whom?" Messier asked in astonishment. If Zoera was indeed proved to not be at the scene when that incident happened, it meant that all his estimations and investigations were on the wrong track.
"It's someone you know - Baron Thomas Aulet from the lair. We had stayed inside of a rented apartment for that whole day!"
"Doing what?" the Head of Intelligence still not willing to give up.
"Are you an idiot or what? What else can a man and woman do when left alone in a room? Of course, we made love!" Zoera stared at Messier in a mocking manner.
"Why didn't you mention this earlier? It could have saved you so much trouble!"
Zoera lowered her head slowly, "I didn't want to bring Thomas into this turmoil! He had nothing to do with the secret service department!"
"I wouldn't have thought that you would be protecting another person when you're stuck in the prison cell," Messier had the urge to applause for the woman in front of him. "I have to tell Thomas that he's a man of vision. He will be delighted to learn he has fallen in love with a whore that treasures relationships but betrayed her nurturer!"
Zoera took in a deep breath but didn't defend any further.
"Let's change our topic!" Baron Messier began the interrogation again from another direction, "In other words, you have no association with Duke Kachev Drakas Ferdinand at all?"
"Of course not!" the exhausted woman nodded with all her force. "I've only heard of Lord Chancellor from Sea Monster, other than that I simply don't know him, not to mention having met him!"
"But how can I trust you on this??
"Never mind!" Zoera gave up and turned her head away. "Just give me quick death! I've had enough of your arrogant face!"
The woman's response awarded her a heavy blow in the face. Looking at the woman prisoner who had fallen into unconsciousness, the chief of military intelligence could hardly conceal his frustration. He could confirm within two hours whether Zoera's confession was true or otherwise. Capturing Fat Otter Sajio shouldn't be too much of a trouble, but to demand answers from Baron Thomas Aulet would be a little more troublesome. However, Baron Thomas would have no reason to sell out his Highness Prince and if he did, the retaliation from "Underworld" would definitely wreck vengeance on him. Thomas was a wise man and also a man of faith and honor, he would never slide into madness like his lunatic lover.
Putting pieces together, he realized that Zoera's confession was most likely the truth! Even so, it was one Messier found it difficult to accept.
"Are we too high or down on luck?"
Figg Andrew Tibotty replied to the Head of Intelligence's grumble with a scratch of his head. Indeed, they'd discovered the traitor who had betrayed the House, but this traitor wasn't serving the enemy that they had expected.
"I'm not too sure, I just know that my younger brother has gotten his feet into numerous troubles in Dulin. It's as if all the nobles in the capital want to take his life!"
"No!" Messier shook his head, "I'm going to investigate this matter to the root of it. His Highness Prince once mentioned something about the empire finance minister's dirty dealings to me, though without revealing many details. Perhaps Sea Monster is indeed plotting a murder on the Highness Prince!"
"Don't digress the discussion in the wrong direction!" General Figg suddenly commented and shot an unfriendly look at the Head of intelligence.
"Why did you say so?" Messier glared back in vigilance.
"Messier, do you remember how your analysis came about to those five traits of the traitor?"
"Of course, I was the one who suggested it! Is there any problem with that?"
Figg shook his head in denial, "Not at all! Your analysis is extremely incisive, but I feel that the murderer could be a man too, for instance… someone like you! In all ways, I feel that your identity and characteristics match that five traits of the traitor too!"
Messier forced a smile and nodded understandingly, "I know what you're trying to say! But haven't you started to investigate on me since long? From the moment you entered Andrew Military Capital Special Region, some secret agents have started to monitor me. You should just wait until you obtain some concrete evidence before telling me these!"
Figg held back the Head of Intelligence that was heading for the door.
"Messier, your future is still uncertain, so maintain a firm stance to follow the right path!"
"The right path?" Messier looked into the general's eyes with disdain. "There is no path in this world, not to mention the right or wrong path! Don't intimidate me with the future, isn't it effective enough that you're controlling me with my family? I know my wife and two sons are in your hands!"
Figg nodded slightly, "Messier, perhaps we all don't have that much of a choice. When this is over and the result proves that you're innocent, I'll apologize to you personally!"
"Apologize? What good will that do to the matters that have passed?" Lady Vijdeline replied with a smile to conceal her anger.
Oscar didn't know what to say. The awkwardness and miseries unfolded today were results of his past irresponsibilities.
"I truly regret my inability to bring up little Micath together with you! But Vij, you have to trust me! This is not the end, I'll carry out my promise to you!"
Vijdeline nodded understandingly, "Of course, I believe you will, if not I wouldn't have insisted to deliver this child! Although this put us in the unprecedented defensive position, I have faith in you! You know that!"
Oscar placed his arm around the woman's shoulder. She found herself a comfortable position and rested her head on the man's arm. A fresh and sweet fragrance attacked Oscar's nostrils, perhaps even intermingled with a slight smell of gunpowder.
The young prince projected his gaze beyond the woman's head through the window penetrated by weak sunlight.
Greyish dust danced in the winter sunlight silhouetting the Harp Palace. The symmetrical garden was built leaning on the hillside, but at this time there were no flowers and only some peculiar shaped withered trees stood under the sun. Inside the rectangular pond, pieces of ice had formed, although the fountain still released water in an unrestrained manner. Water was no longer only a basic decorative element of the Harp Palace. It flowed slowly and steadily, sometimes without producing any sound.
Sunlight was refracted on the tesselated flagstones in Sukhoi House, but the initial shine on those stones was gradually toning down. A couple of bronze statues which appeared to be masterpieces of renowned artists were being stabilized in place with some of these stones. On it gathered some of yesterday's melting snow and those which melted and evaporated left behind several light green rust patches on the statues.
All these seemingly displayed desolation and abjection, which was in line with the current mentality of the Sukhoi people. Like His Imperial Highness Prince had said, Colonel Don Carlos the officer of Northern Region Army Group General Armament Department was not easily offended. He returned a whole batch of ordnance, a project consisted of about ten thousand shields, to Sukhoi House. The person in charge of this incident fled, and the first successor to the family had sought out assistance from high levels officials from the capital army. However, it was already exposed to the public regarding the degeneration of Sukhoi House. Rational people noticed that like their family house, the current situation of Sukhoi hung on the edge of the cliff, where a mere wind from the north could easily push them into the endless abyss. Therefore, it didn't seem possible that anyone would render them timely help. On the other hand, many people would seize this opportunity to drive them to the decline.
"Tell me, what did Marshal Alan ask you to do?" Vijdeline had long since retreated from the man's embrace. It was about time for them to lay cards on the table.
"Cleanse Sukhoi's sins! Disarm Sukhoi's armed forces! Strip Sukhoi off their wealth!" Oscar mumbled the terrifying fact in almost a whisper.
"Is there still room for negotiation?"
"There is!" His Highness Prince glanced at the woman's face who had grown pale. He didn't like to carry out this kind of conversation with Vij because he felt like he was talking to a stranger.
"Haha! Don't tell me that Silver Fox also wants to steal those technique reserves!"
"He's Silver Fox, you know he will never spit out the fat meat already hanging in his mouth," Oscar sighed helplessly. Compared to Silver Fox, his own mindset and intellect only resembled those of a newborn baby.
"Will he at least retain Sukhoi's current production capability?" Vij still held a slight faint of hope but was disappointed to see the man replying with a shake of his head.
"The Northern Army Group will take over one-third of iron weapon production, the military will take another fraction, and the last portion will be assigned equally to the rest of the weaponry merchants."
"Ahh..." Vij's tensed muscles finally relaxed.
"Vij!" Oscar seated himself opposite the woman. Honestly, he didn't think it was a bad thing. "I believe the Sukhoi already have the ability to produce and further improve those structures, so maybe you and your researchers will be given a new position."
"To manufacture gunpowder weaponry?" Vij glanced at the man. "Hah! Those are Alan's tricks! Taking over the technology of manufacturing gunpowder weapons to state-owned assets is only a temporary measure of confidentiality. After the events of Saijo Mountain, I believe all the monarchies in the Westland have started to research into the study of new weapons. All we have is only the advantage of time. Therefore, Alan will naturally preserve Sukhoi's perfect system of firearm production. In fact, I doubt he actually wants those techniques at all. My guess is that he just wants to get rid of the deeply-rooted Big Three power from Imperial Military forces. As long as the Big Three houses no longer own armed forces or are responsible for the northern defense, Silver Fox Alan wouldn't bat an eyelid even if all northerners die!"
"Seems like that's indeed the case!" Oscar nodded slightly. "The basis for forcing the three Houses to surrender your armed forces is to unify the northern battle strategy layout. As for the rest… I also think that he has little or no concern about that."
"But does Alan have the guts to go against the difficult Karl Arnold House? Their current generation has produced an Empress and one religious leader, Alan's strategy..."
"No! No!" Oscar shook his head rapidly, "I believe His Majesty the Emperor will personally coordinate from the capital regarding tactics against Karl Arnold House. Empress Rolyn Kate is a smart person, and she will withdraw voluntarily when she realizes nothing can be done. Besides, the Big Three's personal soldiers do nothing other than stand guards and assume sentry duty. Anyone with any sense can easily see that keeping them is just a waste of money!"
"Beware of Alan!" Vij warned suddenly and held his face in her palms. "Although I've never met this man before, my body shivers whenever I think of what he's capable of doing."
"Honestly, I feel the same!" Oscar smiled helplessly. "But don't you worry, I'll take precautions against him! Moreover, I'm no longer the young lad who creates trouble everywhere I go. I think Alan will soon completely change his attitude toward me, especially when I get married to Princess Alanis. By then I shouldn't have too much to worry on my plate!"
"You… you are getting married to Her Imperial Highness Princess?" Vij let go of the man. All of a sudden, she felt an insignificant interest towards this man in front of her.
"That's right," Oscar heaved a sigh, "I've been thinking about this a lot. Getting married to the Princess as soon as possible will grant me a few more years of stability in Dulin, as for that I'll truly be positioned under the Emperor's protection. Therefore, my returning to Dulin this time… is actually to confirm a day for the wedding."
"You're right..." Vij felt an inexplicable bitterness filling every inch of her mouth, but she chose to strengthen the man's vision. "I believe you can do anything!"
"Yes, Vij! Nothing can hold us back! Anyway, I think the time has come for us to kiss goodbye!" Oscar replied and stood from his seat.
"Haha," Vij smiled helplessly, "your knights must be anxious! They have been waiting for you since morning!"
"I think so," Oscar planted a light kiss on the lips of his lover, but he didn't dare to linger a second longer on those soft, supple lips.
At this moment, a nanny stepped forward with a baby in her hand. Oscar didn't take the child in his arms, instead, he only tapped his finger lightly on the child's nose. The smell of tobacco on his father's finger made the little nose scrunch up.
"I should really get going!" Oscar announced but hesitated by the door.
Beneath the heaven, lofty mountains covered with snow and ice stood proudly. A pale mountain road meandered forward, turning around the mountain pass, and soon disappeared in the boundless horizon.
O'Neil Andrew Morisette was situated in the middle of the troop. He wondered if his own fate was going to be as bleak and vague as the ending destination beyond his eyes.
"My lord, we've arrived at the destination!" an Imperial Guards officer announced as he opened the door to an ordinary, travel-style carriage.
Marshal Stanbein adjusted his appearance as he supported his weight on a walking cane decorated with an eagle head. Just as news about the kingdom's southern corps main force being mostly annihilated arrived at Supreme High Command, this old man who had recently been promoted to Marshal had been attacked by arthritis. He knew he was probably not able to spend the rest of his life without this cane granted by His Highness Prince Regent.
As the defeated party, Marshal Stanbein was genuinely grateful for Silver Fox's ingenious arrangement. It was beyond his expectations that the highest-ranking commander of Titan empire's armed forces didn't arrange cumbersome arrangements for the signing of the armistice in accordance with international practice. Alan didn't even invite witnesses from a third country to attend this meeting that would soon be recorded in history.
To be exact, Marshal Alan had only set up a simple meeting. According to the letter he had written to the highest ruler of Deiss Kingdom, only two representatives of Deiss military and himself would attend this meeting, which was to be carried out in a small town located in the heart of the forward position of Imperial Guards.
Wakinra was the name of this small town. Marshal Stanebin had heard of this place before, as it was the hometown of the greatest architect in the history of Deiss. Although this Count Wakinra didn't spend much of his time back in hometown, those native to this place renamed the town with his last name. It was a special honor, especially in this kingdom where the sovereignty of King rested above all. Places named with the surname of prominent people were rare to come by.
The architectural style of Count Wakinra varied with complicated designs. He was involved in the construction of various kinds of building, and his work included religious houses, public squares, worship buildings, and residential neighborhoods. The invaders from Titan arranged for the commander of Imperial Guards to stay temporarily in the former residence of Count Wakinra. If this great architect knew that a Deiss marshal was going to sign a treaty of national betrayal and humiliation in his own dining room, he would probably be so enraged that he would spring out from his deathbed.
Wakinra Villa was a quintessential Deiss-style building that emphasized on precise lines and practical building layouts. The villa was made up of four symmetrical geometric figures, which made it appeared like a castle that has been cut off one side. Situated in front of the villa were the inevitable sculptures and fountain. When Marshal Stanbein, the chief representative for Deiss Kingdom Military, stepped foot on the paved path leading to the building, Marshal Vann Hewitt Alan, the chief representative for Titan Empire Imperial Guards was already waiting by the door to receive him.
The silver-haired soldier stood on the steps performed an immaculate salute, and in accordance with the convention, Stanbein routinely declared to the victor his identity and intention. Despite the silence that engulfed the villa, the Marshal from Deiss felt an embarrassment no words could explain. His face was flushed red like a ripe tomato, and his fleshy palm tightly gripped the hilt.
Alan didn't wait too long before welcoming the arrival of the opposition and cordially escorted Stanbein up the steps.
At his entrance to the villa, Stanbein was once again humiliated when a Second Lieutenant guard wanted to confiscate his marshal sword. Even though Alan immediately stopped this absurdity, but it seemed to Stanbein that all of these were just acts for show.
Looking up at the sky, the Deiss Marshal guessed he had already missed lunch time. Perhaps for the reason that the visitor was an elderly, Alan didn't directly venture into the main topic, instead, he gave Stanbein a tour of the Wakinra Villa. The marshal was most impressed at one mural art dated back to year 542. It was a painting of magnificent style which portrayed the Deiss victory scene of the third Deiss-Titan war. Stanbein sighed silently in his heart. They were currently living in year 798, and up until now, these two great military powers had already fought against each other in six different wars. However, this time, Deiss had been completely defeated. From the beginning where they opened fire in the Saijo Mountain Battle, the kingdom's army had lost four integrated Corps forever. The grave loss was unprecedented in the history of Deiss Kingdom!
The excited Alan finally stopped outside of a guest room and Stanbein felt slightly relieved, but then Silver Fox requested his orderly to bring them some afternoon tea. The Deiss marshal grew impatient. However, as a representative of the defeated nation, he knew that he was not qualified to speak of the matter.
Their afternoon tea was very simple, in line with soldiers' personality. The orderly prepared for the two Marshals thin pancakes, yogurt cheesecake, as well as hot coffee and lemon tea.
Stanbein opted for the hot coffee and finally found an opportunity to thoroughly size up and down the kingdom's biggest rival as Alan indulged in his cake. Silvered hair, thick white beard, spotless uniform, with an old Titan Warrior Medal pinned on his collar, how on earth did this old man that could only chew with one side of his mouth defeat their kingdom's most valiant warriors?!
"With only this…" Alan placed a document gently on the table, "with only this, Deiss and Titan can enjoy an armistice for a duration of hundred years."
Stanbein took a closer look at the document. It was a document signed by the emperor of Titan Empire, in which a detailed account of the victory of Titan Imperial Guards at the battle with Deiss as well as Northern Army Group's deployment of troops in the front line was given. The document continued with an elaboration of the armistice agreement and a memorandum of understanding. Minister of Supreme High Command of Deiss felt rather relieved. There seemed to be no outrageous conditions requested by the golden lion, and only the war reparations needed some negotiation.
"Henceforth, on behalf of the highest ruler of Deiss Kingdom Her Majesty Opareal Roulexberg, I would like to exercise the right of complaint."
"Bein, I'm sorry!" Silver Fox Alan set down the teacup. "As the representative of Titan Imperial Family, I reject your request."
Stanbein didn't bargain like a petty street vendor. Instead, he waited silently for Alan's defense.
"As you can see, His Majesty Alfa the Third from my empire had already signed this agreement. In other words, no matter how your country understands the content of this document, I will only insist on this legal and official agreement document signed by His Majesty of my empire."
The Deiss marshal smiled with indifference as he had expected this to be the outcome.
"However, my Kingdom insist on requesting to argue our defense."
Hehe! Stanbein smiled for a fraction of a second. Although there wasn't any obvious change of expression on Alan's face, his gaze grew a little irritated.
"Sorry, I'll make myself clear again. My empire rejects your kingdom's request to complain. The content of this agreement remains the same!"
An awkward atmosphere filled the room, and two marshals had an intimidating staring contest with each other in silence. All of a sudden, Stanbein picked up a slice of pancake, and Alam immediately raised his teacup, as if the both of them had planned on this all along.
"Alright! Let's put a halt to this unnecessary argument!" Silver Fox smiled naturally.
"I agree! I haven't had the right opportunity to mention this, but I'm really honored to have born in the same era as you. It is a blessing for a soldier."
"I'm greatly honored too!" Alan also replied with a kind tone.
"If so… I withdraw the request to complain. However, I wish that you can answer my one question!" Stanbein stared hard into the opponent's eyes.
"For how long can this armistice stay in effect?"
Alan sneered in his heart. Stanbein was exactly like he had imagined - sensitive, sly, treacherous!
"As I have mentioned earlier, it'll stay effective for the next hundred years!"
"But not one offer in the agreement embodies this idea!" Deiss marshal didn't plan to surrender so quickly.
Silver Fox scoffed, and indeed his thin face frame and sharp jawline resembled that of a fox, "Bein! We've known each other for so long, and our nations are neighbors to each other. Do you think the truce will last for a hundred year?"
Stanbein didn't expect Alan to act shamelessly like this, but it had helped him to come to a conclusion. Deiss and Titan were indeed old acquaintances, and both had started to understand each other better only through battles in the field. In other words, to question about peace was simply mere nonsense.
"I genuinely hope so!"
"Of course!" Alan nodded. "So… are you going to put an end to this page of the history?"
"Certainly!" the Deiss marshal retrieved a quill from his arm. First, he moistened the writing end of it with some saliva, before dipping it into the black ink. He tested a few tries on a draft paper, and without hesitation, he finally put down his own identity and signature at the bottom of the document. Underneath his name and sign was written year 798, 15th day of 2nd month, on the date column.
"To peace!" Alan raised his cup.
"To peace!" Stanbein also followed suit.
After that, two top-notch soldiers born in the same era exchanged a pleasant conversation. They discovered that they had many things in common. For instance, both of them enjoyed landscape painting, to spend their holidays in spring, and found excitement in exercising imaginary warfare in their mind or sand table. They also talked about each other's understanding of religion and exchanged views on some important events affecting the Westland's political structure.
It was said that when Marshal Stanbein passed away, he still remembered vividly this conversation with Silver Fox Alan. He even described in detail in his personal memoirs on every word said by the Imperial Guards commander. Although in his life he had confronted Alan in just two battles, which resulted in one victory and one defeat, he still had an impressively high evaluation for Alan. But, of course, Stanbein had some regrets, such as Alan's tragic death in his late life, and his defeat at O'Neil Andrew Morisette's hands in a fierce battle that had happened later.
For now, however, Stanbein had only one regret – this document, which later in the history was referred to as the "Treaty of Afternoon Tea," had lasted for only 74 days.