Chapter 188: Twenty-first Episode: Chapter 7
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

There was another episode of rain last night, as the sound of raindrop could be heard the entire night. It would take some time of listening for the force of the heavy rain and the screams of the Shawob River to be distinguished. Oscar had gotten up really early from his camp bed. He did not get much sleep that night.

At five o'clock in the early morning, the young Prince of the Empire and the entourage of his battalion left the ferry and went ashore at one of the small riverside towns called Limusk at the Weisner Province, before moving south along the provincial road outside the town. The soldiers started having second thoughts not long after setting out. Didn't His Imperial Highness want to hurry back to Dulin?

Yet, this current road would never lead there.

The small town had not awakened. The marks after the party were still vaguely visible. On the arched door outside the town's church, an iron nail as thick as one's finger was pressing down against a piece of leather. Printed on the leather was the victory announcement that the supreme governor, Her Imperial Highness the Princess Alanis Alfa Morisette, issued to all of Titan's military and population.

A soldier was guarding the bright notice. He dozed off with his spear in his hands until the sharp and clear galloping of horses' hooves roused him.

Oscar came to a stop and the soldier hurriedly saluted him. This Corporal of the Guards tried his best to perk up and make himself appear exceptionally tall and handsome. He cast a glance at the procession of this prominent figure before him and was shocked. Seriously, to think the lowest military rank in the procession was a Captain!

Where had this group of military officers come from for their ranks to be so high?

"Sir, do you have any instructions?" the soldier grasped the reins of the prominent figure cautiously, this resulted in the enormous black horse shooting a glare at him.

Oscar stroked little Oslu's neck. Now, everyone in the procession knew that this little fella hated sitting in a boat because the cargo bay on the ship was almost completely destroyed by his hooves.

"How far is it to Srimoya Village from here?" Oscar said while looking at the intersection in the distance.

"There's still more than ten kilometers. Furthermore, you still have to go through a mountain. However… the Srimoya area is a prohibited area to the military. Even us local garrisons are unable to enter."

Oscar didn't say anything more and only beamed at the soldier.

The procession set off in the silence of dawn and came out from the small town. Gazing at the dark blue sky, one could still find a few lonely stars, twinkling in the morning breeze of summer.

After just a short walk, the unique, local landforms appeared. The vast wetland was linked with the magnificent primitive forest. Horanji Mountain was to the left of the forest while the Moyana Lakes were to the right. In the depth of the wetland were a few swamps. The morning mist was faintly discernible. The surface of the swamps was so clear that it appeared like a mirror. Even after shooing away the mist with his hands, the timid would let out a cry as the place they were standing on was actually a rippling dark green.

The Moyana Lakes' wetland was the most well-known wetland within the Titan's borders. Compared to the deserted Zorangash, Moyana Lakes became world famous due to its fine scenery and the abundance of natural resources.

Along the way, Oscar had witnessed many remnants of war, including the victims who had no home to return to, keeping close to the barracks, waiting to be relocated, as well as the various street ramparts and temporary pillboxes that the Guards which had set up to impede the advance of the enemies. On the river surface, the scene was not looking optimistic. The cessation of war was already close to a month, yet there were still ships that transported the wounded, going back and forth and weaving around the river channel.

To be frank, once they had arrived at Moyana Lakes, Oscar's heart felt at ease. There was no dust produced by horse hooves and no anguished wailings of the captives, only stillness. The surrounding was so still that the azure sky forever parted with the moving clouds, so still that there were no ripples on the shallow, crystal-clear jade water. Walking along the little trail beneath the spruce, passing through the burial grove, searching for the radiance of the heavens only to realize after a good while that he could not find any moving light and shadow.

The knights were going through the edges of the wetland, following a narrow roadbed. The front horses opened up the grass and a platoon came next. The weapons and armor of the knights floated on the shallow pond. The indifferent green waters reflected their faces, but its resolution was completely contrasting with the supple beauty of the lake waters. Looking at the inverted images, the knights had all become bodies with hideous faces, wearing on their faces twisted mouths and slanting eyes.

A crocodile was lying in the pond. The sound of horse hooves startled it. It opened its eyelids and used its greyish brown eyes to assess the cavalry that was going through the shore. The crocodile swished its tail and straightened its back, revealing its spine above the surface of the water. The concentrated green of the pond was very similar to the color of its body. Those with weaker vision would simply be unable to notice its arrival.

The cavalry passed through countless ponds and ran into more than ten crocodiles. It was only when they approached the swamp that there were no more signs of these fierce creatures. The knight on the leading horse was extremely cautious. He was the local guide. From the way his eyebrows gathered together, one could tell that it was not easy crossing this swamp.

Oscar thought about the gold panners. This was because he saw that the swamp was dotted with the wooden houses of a few gold panners. These wooden houses had all already been abandoned, just like the sole trace of a lost city that remained in the world. It was surprisingly similar to the aftermath of a war. Oscar thought once again, just how many people in the world were greedily seeking for wealth and power, not knowing that their efforts would linger in nature? Moreover, after wandering in the mountains, blue lakes, and marshes, would they obtain sufficient happiness? Just like himself, Oscar had already forgotten that… he was the child of a father, the husband of two wives, the lover of quite a few women. When he was charging onto the battlefield, when he was in the soldier's formation, when he was repeatedly deliberating on the method of striking the enemies, his children, his wife, his women, had all left him. Until finally, by chance, he called it to mind and only ended up being covered all over by ice-cold dewdrops and a hint of melancholic silence drifting across the sea of his heart.

The marsh before Oscar was not exactly what he imagined it to be. Beneath the dark green that was covered by the floating plants, active Gelaspidas only had to slightly swish its tail to stir up a ripple. The ripples were like beads of resplendent gems, like pieces of the sky that were so blue that they were shining. It smeared a layer of mysterious flavor onto the calm and pure jade ripple. It was just like a young lady waiting for her lover. Upon seeing her lover emerge from the lush forest afar, she would break into a smile that included within it a strong bond.

The facts were just as had been described. Oscar and his officer group had emerged from a land of lakes and marshes. The scenery of the woodland suddenly became much brighter. Beneath a tall and strong Scull tree, an arrow stronghold with spikes sticking out could be seen. Following that, when the sounds of bowstrings being drawn came from within the arrow stronghold, a female rider emerged from the forest.

The knight on the leading horse raised his hand abruptly and the entire ranks came to a halt immediately.

Oscar sorted out his feelings and lowered his head to inspect his outfit. before saying to the nearby woods in a loud voice, "Marshal of the Guards, Prince of the Empire, O'Neil Andrew Morisette brings orders from the Military Affairs Chancellor, Marshal Alan, to inspect the Guard's Fifth experimental base."

As soon as His Imperial Highness Prince said that, countless ropes suddenly dangled down from the skies of the woodland. A group of soldiers draped in leaves and with a completely indiscernible form, descended from heaven. The person who was in the lead extended his palm that was like black charcoal towards the Marshal sitting high up on the horse.

"Please take out your valid documents and passbook."

Oscar handed over the various documents he had prepared earlier. After a few minutes, the officer, who was somewhat excessive in his disguise, finally returned the documents to the Marshal before performing a military salute to the Empire's prince who had suddenly come to visit.

"Your Imperial Highness Prince O'Neil is welcome to inspect the experimental base that my troops are affiliated with.

Oscar nodded and returned the salute to the other, "Now can my followers and I enter?"

"Yes Your Highness!" the officer saluted once again, but he suddenly grinned. The smile revealed a mouthful of brilliant white teeth, "Just saying sir, your battle at Buzaberg ferry crossing is truly too beautiful!"

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

Oscar gazed embarrassedly at the soldier that was at the great rear. He did not know whether the other was complimenting him or making a snide remark about him. From how Oscar saw it, the military campaign of the fields of the river bend had absolutely nothing to do with him. Even the "Tailor and Scissors" was also planned by Marshal Alan as well as those operations officer under him... while he himself could only be considered as coinciding with their plans.

The female rider slowly strolled over on her red-date-colored stallion. She deftly removed the hood of her cloak and immediately revealed brilliant and dazzling blonde hair. Her blue eyes were as bright as the sky. They were fixed on the prince of the Empire before her, blinking every now and then.

Oscar was made a little dizzy by the pair of bright halos. He immediately moved forwards.

"Vij… how have you been?"

Madam Vijdeline gave a shallow laugh, "Good, just thinking about you!"

The officers nearby subconsciously averted their heads. They were not prepared to see a scene such as this.

Oscar glanced left and right awkwardly. Finally, he had to cast his eyes on the woman that was smiling slightly.

He was overjoyed that Vij still appeared just as she did before. Her behavior could always force a smile out of him.

A young boy suddenly poked his head out from behind the woman. Almost immediately, Oscar's entire attention was captured.

"Ola, young one! What is your name?" the Prince of the Empire extended both his hands to the young boy. However, they were immediately slapped away by Vijdeline, whose eyebrows were knitted. This Madam, still dressed in fiery red riding clothes lifted her chin fiercely at the Prince, which indicated something along the lines of "this is your son! You still have the nerve to ask?"

Oscar giggled. How could he have forgotten his child's name!

"Come, Micath! Let me hug you!" Oscar lifted his son off the mother's horseback into his arms.

"Oh gosh! How can a young boy aged three and a half be this heavy?"

Vij used loving eyes to assess little Cath, but she suddenly fell silent, "Yes, already three and a half… it's this heavy!"

Without needing the woman's reminder, Oscar was clearer than anyone else that his former lusty days were gradually getting further away. He had been separated from Vijdeline for three years. Thinking about the stories that took place within that interval – it felt like a lifetime.

The young boy quietly watched the… the uncle that was embracing him. For the time being, he would call him that. He knew that this uncle was fond of him and he liked the scent of gun oil on the uncle. Although it was lighter as compared to that smell on his mother's body, it was indeed a good smell of gun oil.

"Tell me, my child, what do you like? I want to give you a present!"

Micath turned towards his mother. Vijdeline could only shake her head helplessly at Oscar, "I'm sorry, Cath is about to disappoint you. He still cannot speak."

"Cannot speak?" Oscar's eyes widened, "He's three and a half years old! Cannot speak?"

VIj avoided the man's gaze. "He just doesn't talk. What can I do?"

Oscar pondered. He felt that there was no need to lose his temper over the child's slowness. Some children are just late speakers, in the future… his son might be a genius celebrity, one could not say for sure!

"Ola! Since it's like this… then let us see just what is up with Micath!" Oscar said while shaking out the reins. The Raytheon reared up, followed with a resonant neigh. The tall and strong gigantic horse stepped over the shallows, stirring up a splash that filled the skies. Oscar tightened his embrace on his son and flitted through the forest like a soaring eagle.

Vijdeline gazed at the spot where the man had disappeared. She could only hear Oscar's cheerful talking coming from deep within the forest, but she could not make out clearly just what her lover was saying.

**********

The specific position of the Fifth Experimental Base of the Guards was not certain. This experimental unit that shuttled through the deep mountains and ancient forests all year round was like a nomadic nationality, settling down at a selected place and fishing when they came across the water.

The primitive forest extended towards the tableland of Horanji Mountain. There was a monastery that was concealed by dark green, climbing plants during the fourth or fifth century of the God of Light's doctrine. Saint Horanji Mozeur monastery had once been a place where the religious members in ascetic practice and the prominent figures of Titan's bishop group retreated to for vacation. However, after 800 years, it was already desolate and uninhabited here. Beasts and birds occupied this place and built their nests.

Clear sounds of explosions suddenly came from the edge of the forest. The fierce smoke and loudness of the sound startled the birds and beasts within the forest, sending them scattering in all directions. The artillery fire whistled past above the tableland at the base of the mountain. Its trajectory could not be seen clearly, but the hot blast igniting the hot air was visible. Following closely for about three to five seconds, an earth-shaking explosion sounded from the outer wall of Saint Horanji Mozeur monastery. The previous holy church collapsed. Clouds of smoke and light rose terrifyingly among the green world.

Once the artillery fire had ceased, the sound of applause could be heard from the picnic camp at the mountainside. Titan Empire's major Military Weapons Manufacturing Agency and the family representatives of respective major arms resellers lifted their wine glasses to Madam VIjdeline Van Sukhoi one after another. The men all said, "Respect to the Empire's most brilliant and intelligent great firearms master!"

Vijdeline laughed as she rocked back and forth. However, she did not dare take up this address so she said to the men, "Or respects to the most brilliant and intelligent Majesty Empress Alanis I!"

How could anyone dare interrupt such a suggestion? Only O'Neil Andrew Morisette shook his head, "Alanis has not been crowned yet. If you want to pay your respects, pay it to my most brilliant and intelligent wife!"

The people agreed loudly. The picnic party's first glass of wine was finally swallowed into their tummies.

Looking at each of the bigshots on the scene, pairing them up was indeed meaningful. The person in charge of the Military Equipment Department from Dulin escorted the prince to sit down on the master seat facing the sun. Those men and Vijdeline, whose skills were at the highest peak, occupied the entire square table. Then to one side, two square tables were spread out facing the sun. The representatives of the arms family, the Artemisrae family, sat at one table while the other comprised the resellers and representatives of the raw material production grounds from various regions.

As the military representative of the most distinguished status, Prince O'Neil led the whole meeting or perhaps we could say that he would preside over the new round of war resource production on behalf of the military.

"Please take note… it is a large-scale production!" Oscar clanged his wine glass. "The report from the Military Equipment Department indicates that as of now… our country's war resource reserves are already facing an extremely grim form…"

"My apologies Your Highness… let me interrupt a while!" General Benjamin Sandler suddenly voiced out.

Oscar immediately swallowed the words that he was about to blurt out. He turned towards the white-haired old General. Benjamin Sandler was the head of the equipment department who had just been named by the Guard's Chief of Staff, Marshal Robin before the war. Oscar respected this old Marquis who had experienced numerous military posts very much.

"Please, go ahead…"

General Benjamin Sandler stiffened his kidney-shaped face and bowed slightly to the Prince in order to express his apologies for interrupting him. Only then did he squeamishly show his dentures

"My Lord, how can the Empire's war resource reserves look very grim? You should say… fairly grim!" the old General placed emphasis on the word "fairly".

"Ola…" Oscar shook his head without a choice. "Only these?"

The old general did not say anything more and made a gesture toward the prince of the Empire to continue.

Oscar again clanged his wine glass. Titan's arms merchants once again perked up.

"Everyone, although the warehouse of the Empire's Guards is heaped with endless iron-made weapons… I nevertheless believe that everyone has already read the internally distributed reference news of the Shawob River's river bend military campaign. So, I can say with certainty that in the next large-scale military campaign that may erupt, especially the possible sudden military incident, gunpowder weapons will become the main war resources for both sides in the war! In other words, our country's military production is in urgent need of transformation!"

Looking at the expression of the military bigshots, Oscar bowed slightly with satisfaction. He saw that most of the people were not too surprised.

"May I know… is this the intention of the Imperial Army?" asked Viscount Artemisrae, who sat at another table, was the first to speak.

Oscar smiled. Actually, he and the Viscount were old acquaintances. He remembered when he was just released from prison... the Prince had forgotten the exact time. In short... the master of this aristocratic family had ridden on a tall, gigantic horse and barged into the flea market of Dulin City to look for trouble. In the end, Sasha E gave him a slap. The matter was then left like that.

"My distinguished Viscount, I am the representative of the military. What are you still feeling doubtful about?"

Viscount Artemisrae hurriedly waved his hand "Your Highness, I'm not doubtful, but worried! Despite our country's firearms manufacturing technology being completely developed, the quality of gunpowder weapons is still unstable and the varieties are relatively monotonous. It is still unable to adapt to a large-scale war. It is even more difficult to adjust to the entire country's military industry in a short period of time."

Oscar nodded, "Please, go on!"

Viscount Artemisrae swept a glance over the bigshots around him. Everyone had on unreadable expressions.

"Ordnance production is a complete industrial chain. It includes the mining of iron ore, the smelting of heavy metals, and then a graded production. The country redistributes the iron products formed, through the accepted acquisition law and hands them over to the major weapons manufacturers. Once the manufacturers have produced and released qualified weapons, the country will redeem the purchases..."

"Will this be a huge difference compared to the production of firearms?" Oscar frowned.

Without waiting for Viscount Artemisrae to speak, old General Benjamin Sandler, who loved to interrupt, had already snatched over the topic.

"Your Highness, it's not a huge difference! It should be said that… it is fairly different!"

Oscar swallowed. He was indeed an amateur in the production and marketing of ordnance.

Viscount Artermisrae bowed slightly towards the Head of Military Equipment, "As General Benjamin said, the manufacturing of gunpowder weapons is much more complicated than the traditional industrial chain of iron weapons! First and foremost, and also the most pressing issue, our country's firearms manufacturing requires more sophisticated technical support!" Artemisrae said while casting a glance over at Vijdeline who was only interested in teasing the child. The bigshots present were considered ordnance experts, yet all of them combined still could not compare to a single Vijdeline.

"This includes sophisticated technologies, sophisticated mechanics, and sophisticated manufacturing sites. But now... aside from Gizzly Fortess, we can't find another place in the whole of Titan that can produce firearms."

Vijdeline did not seem to have heard anything at all. Artemisrae felt like he was losing over nothing.

"Secondly..." The young master of the family turned towards the seats of the Imperial Army. "In the former industrial chain, the country was responsible for the purchase of the raw materials, distributions, and the final sales! But if it were to change to gunpowder weapons..."

The Viscount pointed toward the artillery team at the edge of the forest. "How much are those worth? I don't think the Imperial Army or the authoritative department of a certain financial system has the ability to allocate expenditures for a large-scale procurement of gunpowder weapons. "

"Lastly!" Young master Artemisrae once again swept a glance over the munitions bigshots on the scene. "Production transformation takes time. We have to wait for technology, funding, the agreed national standards for firearms, and for those blacksmiths to become outstanding skilled workers... so... Your Highness..."

The Viscount seemed to spread his hands rather reluctantly, "We need at least a century to completely transform the country's war resources into advanced military products manufacturing."

Oscar and the Guard's Head of Military Material nodded simultaneously, but the Prince was still slower than General Benjamin Sandler in voicing his thoughts.

The old general said, "Viscount Artemisrae's point of view is very... oh no! It's fairly brilliant!"

Oscar rolled his eyes. "Do you have a... constructive proposal?"

General Benjamin Sandler smiled a little. He spread out the documents in his hands. There were 7 detailed lists of figures in every consultation aspects of the Hetto Plains Military Campaign.

"Everyone, listen..." The old general took one of the data. "7.15 Battle of Hetto Plain! The Anti-Titan Alliance invested twenty-nine corps in the plane battlefield set up by my side, which was estimated to be more than three hundred thousand people. On our side, the combined force of the First Attacking Army Group led by Marshal Alan and the Second Attacking Army Group led by Prince O'Neil is approximately three hundred and ninety troops, but on the Hetto Plains battlefield dominated by Marshal Alan, the final confirmed number of annihilated enemies by the Guards was more than eighty-one thousand men. However, Prince O'Neil only mobilized a platoon from the Second Attacking Army Group and has already caused a death toll of more than forty thousand people. The vast majority of this figure has perished in the artillery barrage on the riverbank at the opposite shore of the ferry crossing.

Oscar quickly waved his hand, "The figures can't explain the problem. It was Marshal Alan's victory on the main battlefield that led to the Second Attacking Army Group to have the opportunity to annihilate a great number of enemies."

"His Highness is really 'fair…ly' modest!"

The old general took up another sheet of data, "This is the battle report which the Division Commander of the First Artillery Soldier, Major General Tove Van Sukhoi, handed over to the military. Written on it is that the First Artillery Soldier Division lost a warship, more than two hundred members, and nineteen cannons. Countless cannon spare parts were consumed. However, as compared to the number of enemies annihilated, we can completely overlook it." the old general said as he tossed the report aside.

"This all proves that future wars are an era of gunpowder weapons dominated by cannons since my Titan Guards have already made a precedent of releasing a large-scale concentration of artilleries on the battlefield. So the Westland Kingdom Alliance will later also get down to a huge amount of work. Not to mention, the manufacturing technologies of the Hoillanders still possess a certain advantage."

"So..." The Head of Military Materials pondered for a while. "Based on this, even if the things that Viscount Artemisrae stated are all facts, we must still carry this mission from this day on. It's like a race, a military race! Whoever uses firearm-equipped armies will get a sliver of a chance for survival on the future battlefields!"

"Another question!" Viscount Artemisrae again spoke, "Your Highness, General, I have just mentioned that our country's artillery manufacturing technology is ahead of all countries in the world. However, among all the many problems that restrict our country's firearms manufacturing, or perhaps say, the most practical problem is that our firearms varieties are too monotonous!"

"Just as General Benjamin mentioned in his statement…" The younger child of the aristocratic family turned towards a munitions bigshot beside him. "The family business of the Baron Boolean involves many dealings of firearm products related to the Hoillanders and the Baron can prove it, or rather, provide a reference for everyone, on what a true modern army should look like!"

The frail old Baron Boolean coughed violently without opening his mouth. The important figures and the Baron's companions on the scene waited patiently. Everyone on the scene knew how this old man had gained respect. As the Titan Empire's merchant that specialized in munitions, Baron Boolean had been held captive by the Hoillanders for ten years for being involved in an espionage. However, the problem was that... the Titan's Military Intelligence Bureau and also perhaps the Imperial Secret Service Department did not know this old gentleman; Baron Boolean only had a self-interest in firearms.

The Baron said, "According to the theory of the Hoillanders, a division should be the basic unit of a modernized military organizational structure. Three divisions make up a corps. A corps will be composed of two Grenadier Divisions that uses a single-shot, firearm filled with an agent; a cavalry division that uses a single-shot carbine and equipped with sabers. On this basis, the military has three artillery companies. Each division is equipped with one. Each company's cardinal number for their cannons shall be Damien and the cardinal number for every cannon's ammunition shall be Alpha!"

Oscar knitted his eyebrows and nodded to the Head of Military Materials. "If the Hoillanders really intend to do this, then they are very brilliant!"

General Benjamin waved his hand, "Your Highness, you are wrong! The Hoillanders aren't very brilliant, rather, fair…ly brilliant!"

Oscar laughed and revealed an expression that implied he knew he was going to say that.

The Baron once again issued another violent fit of coughing, and then slowly began to say, "So now the problem is that our technology is ahead of others, but our firearms varieties still stay on the basis of sustainable development. We don't have any of the small and medium-sized firearms the Hoillanders have!"

"Says who?" Madam Vijdeline finally put her little darling on the ground. Micath looked around and finally chose the uncle who had the scent of gun oil. This uncle was the only one who would not let Micath feel strange over here.

"Who said that we don't have small and medium-sized firearms?" Vijdeline put her hands on her hips like a shrew and stomped her feet. The munitions bigshots immediately shrank their heads like secondary school students that were reprimanded.

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

"The show isn't over yet!" the mistress of the Sukhoi Family pointed toward the forest in the distance.

Oscar smiled slightly as he motioned to Captain Kirk, who was sitting next to him, and the great swordsman immediately waved the command flag in his hand. The soldiers and bigshots of the field stood up with their eyes fixed on the experimental field.

A group of cavalry galloped over from the edge of the tableland. Although their armors were distinct, the crowd still kept their eyes on the straw that was sticking out from the armor.

As the knights passed through the edge of the forest one after another, a short, crisp whistle suddenly traveled out of the woodlands. The shot of gunfire brought along with it wisps of white smoke. The scarecrow knights on the horses fell one after another. The horses were startled and dragged the severely damaged scarecrows as they galloped madly.

"Step forth!" a drawled out command traveled out from the forest.

The First Grenadier Company in the history of Titan's Imperial Guards sprinted out of the forest. From afar, people could only see that the grenadiers were carrying shiny black iron tubes and then only them fill its bore with a substance under the orders of their commander.

"How... How much do you have?" Baron Boolean turned toward Mistress Sukhoi who was extremely pleased with her achievements. However, Vijdeline's evidently became distressed when she heard the what was said. She shrugged toward the experimental site in the distance.

"One hundred single-shot grenades and gunpowder guns. That's all. We had to gather them from here and there to be able to make the conference today."

Baron Boolean shook his head subconsciously, "No other varieties?"

Vijdeline finally felt a little embarrassed, "You'll... laugh at the other ones if they were presented!"

"Still..." The old Baron resumed his seat. "The Hoillanders are still ahead of our country in the development and manufacturing of small and medium-sized hand cannons. Although they only deployed a limited number of artillery units into this war, they indeed possess a well-formed modernized unit. This can't be concealed from me, and I believe this can't be concealed from the Imperial Secret Service Department. However, it goes without saying that His Imperial Highness Prince O'Neil's Military Intelligence Bureau may have an even better grasp on it."

Oscar nodded, "It's true! The Military Intelligence Bureau has long since verified this matter in the Kingdom of Hoilland's intelligence agency."

Vijdeline was a little uneasy. She instructed the messenger to invite several grenadiers to the camp and then snatched a gun of the latest type from the hands of another soldier.

"Compare them! Look and decide whose weapons are better?" Mistress Sukhoi said as she used her boot to kick open a redwood trunk.

"This mini hand cannon was seized by our soldiers on the Hetto battlefield. It is said to be a personal article of the King of Hoilland." Vijdeline said as she lifted the mini hand cannon she had developed. She examined it again. The condition of the mini hand cannon was very stable. Both the gunpowder and the projectile were compacted against the excitation component.

When the soldiers had set up target armors in the center of the camp, Vijdeline raised the muzzle of her hand cannon. Taking aim at the target, she finally touched the trigger lightly. After a loud boom and a thick, white smoke dissipating, left on the chest of the target armor was a distinct bullet hole. Moreover, it had penetrated straight through the vest.

"Now watch this..." Vijdeline nimbly dropped the "Delin Mini Cannon" into the hands of a soldier, and then took out the private collection of the King of Hoilland.

Gunfire and smoke once again rolled away, but the bullet did not penetrate the iron armor, merely embedded deeply in the iron sheet. All around the metal sheet were scars.

"The initial firing velocity is slow, there are a lot of impurities on the body of the bullet, the base blast is highly inadequate and the recoil is ridiculously robust! What is this thing? Well?" Mistress Sukhoi dismissed the local specialty of the Hoillanders in disgust.

"Frankly, if the Hoillanders really plan to equip their military with such a thing, then forget about it! I'm guessing the sole reason they did not deploy their grenadiers into this war is that this thing will never be able to kill beyond a distance of 30 meters!"

The crowd of military bigshots once again hung their heads like primary school children being reprimanded. Madam Vijdeline Van Sukhoi had the right to speak in the field of research and development and the manufacturing of firearms over the entire Westland. The people on the scene absolutely could not find a foothold to refute her.

However, Oscar still waved his hand in the end. He was a soldier. He was more concerned about actual benefits, not the production and marketing sector that arms dealers valued. The production and marketing would undoubtedly bring huge profits to the specialized merchants present. However, such profits must be accepted for the military. In fact, the purpose of the Imperial Army hosting this industry conference was precisely this. Although the transformation of the military industry faced numerous thorny problems. Even if there was a successful transformation, it would take another fifty to a hundred years. However, the military had already proven the actual value of firearms in the huge, desperate, decisive battle. This required the Titan Empire's entire military industry to make corresponding changes to this end.

"Of course, my fellow present gentlemen, this is just heresy!" Oscar stood up from the master seat. "First of all, just as Viscount Artemisrae's analysis, there are countless challenges before us. The problems that require us to solve will be more severe than the other. Secondly, Baron Boolean has already been doing business for many years with the Kingdom of Hoilland. All that he said are facts. International competition and strategies are increasing the demands for firearms. Our country's leading position in certain fields will not last long. What's more is that the Hoillanders have already established a modern army's structure and have long since put it into practice. Finally, we must return to the origin of the problem. The country's war resources reservation! This is the only topic of this meeting. On behalf of the Empire's Supreme Governor, the Imperial and the Army of the Guards to earnestly request all the gentlemen and ladies to cooperate with good faith, and contribute your utmost for the country's national defense and military manufacturing."

Vijdeline suddenly raised the rifle she had developed, "I believe that His Highness Prince O'Neil has already expressed it very clearly, no?"

The Guard's Head of Military Materials, General Benjamin Sandler also stood up, "Yes, His Highness Prince O'Neil has clarified the gist of this meeting 'fairly' clear!"

Vijdeline lowered the hand cannon and took out a thick sheepskin scroll. "This is the detailed casting blueprint of all the current firearms products at the Sukhoi Designing Bureau! Now with the identity of the Mistress of Sukhoi, I recruit cooperative partners from all of Titan's Military Crafts Department. The Sukhois will conduct a comprehensive sharing of technology with all the cooperating partners and strive our beset to establish a new army fully equipped with firearms in three to five years time!"

Oscar raised his wine glass and stepped out from his seat, "Ladies and gentlemen, do not doubt the resolution of the Empire in developing the military industry. More so, do not doubt the sincerity of the Sukhoi Family in collaborative matters. Although our generation can no longer witness the arrival of the firearms era, we can lay down a solid foundation for the defense of the Empire, the independent research and development of firearms and the expansion of production. I believe... there will definitely come a day the Imperial soldiers will abandon the cold swords and spears and use cannons and bullets to continue to defend the dignity of our motherland!"

"Cheers!"

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

"Cheers!"

The two crystal cups gently made contact with each other and produced a crisp sound like a copper bell. The glass was filled with the brim with red grape wine. Starlight and moonlight spilled onto the wine, presenting a mesmerizing reflection.

Oscar sat opposite his 'Gunslinger Girl'. They watched the color of the sky fade and watched the setting sun burn out the afterglow. Their young son was playing quietly on the floor of the promenade, playing with the hand cannon that his mother had given his father and in which his father had thrown over to him.

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

The towering rear view of Horanji Mountain rose up into the clouds. Srimoya Village at the foot of the mountains was brightly lit. The small village of once-upon-a-time had been cut off from the world, but the Guards' experimental troops had rudely and unreasonably driven out the inhabitants here. Although the Imperial Army gave the villagers generous compensation, the people who had lived there for ages were not happy to leave as the place was extraordinarily breathtaking.

The village was close to a dark green lake, surrounded by dense forests and thriving flowers. Sitting under the eaves, enjoying dinner and tasting fine wine, listening to the sound of blooming flowers, enjoying the singing of nocturnal birds, and distinguishing the noisy summer bugs were all very satisfying to people, like being in the paradise that the gods ran.

"On the way, as I passed through Dulin and saw the Empress who has yet to be crowned…" Vijdeline suddenly said. However… she seemed to regret it as soon as she started talking. She rubbed her forehead as if she was covering up her awkwardness. From the start, she had planned to find a relaxing and humorous topic and keep the conversation going. However... she was not sure if the man before her was still the person who had solemnly vowed to love her for a lifetime.

"You saw Alenis?" Oscar's eyelids shot up.

"Yes!"

"Then?"

Vijdeline smiled bitterly, "Then what else can it be? We chatted about irrelevant things and courteously flattered each other. Here, does my necklace look good?" Vij said while stroking her snowy white neck.

Oscar looked at it, "It's beautiful!"

Mistress Sukhoi laughed even harder. "Your wife gave it to me!"

Oscar's eyes widened, "Alanis?"

"Yeah..." Vijdeline muttered to herself irresolutely, "like a wife trying to send away her husband's mistress."

Oscar was suddenly speechless, but he still apologized to the woman. "Did... Alanis embarrass you?"

Vij shook her head. "No... the matter of having an audience with Alanis was the thing that was difficult for me to take! What I want to say is that… Your wife gave me such a fright for no reason!"

"Hehe..." Oscar laughed. "Don't you mind. I can only say that Alanis is becoming more and more like an Empress!"

Vij continued to shake her head, "This isn't a good thing!"

Then she whispered to the Prince, "Do you know why I must declare my position in today's meeting? Do you know just how important that blueprint is to my family and me? Do you know that my doing that is actually handing over the Sukhoi's last bargaining chip to the Empire?"

"Why?" Oscar was indeed baffled. He had always thought that Vijdeline would give that thing over to the Andrews.

"Because... as you said, Alanis is becoming more and more like an Empress!"

Oscar hung his forehead. "This... isn't a good thing?"

Vij nodded firmly, "This is definitely not a good thing!"

Oscar fell silent. He gazed at his young son. Oh, God of Light! His young son had already disassembled the hand cannon into components.

"Ola... you're really a little genius!" Oscar, took his son into his embrace, overjoyed at the unexpected good news. Being faced with a little rascal whose face was similar to his was truly a peculiar feeling.

Vij gave a faint smile, "Our child is a genius, but his father is as ignorant as he was before."

Oscar gazed at the woman, "Why do you say that?"

Vijdeline finished the wine in the glass, then wiped the corners of her mouth with a napkin, "Because you still don't have a clear ambition in life! It's just continuous encounters and continuous response. Think about it, Oscar, three years! Have you ever taken the initiative to do anything meaningful for Micath and I? I admit that you are busy, so much that you almost lost your life in the south. However, is the south what you want? After the attaining the south, what else do you plan to do? Are you not have any clear purpose in your life?"

Vij did not receive an answer form the man. She could only turn to her young son.

"Come on Cath! Let your mother carry you back to your room to sleep!"

The woman took the child from the man's arms and then walked back to the room without a backward glance.

Oscar pursed his lips and clenched the wine glass with all his might. "Ambitions of life? A clear purpose?" the Prince of the Empire mulled over it repeatedly. He found that he really did live a little absurdly because he couldn't find his future direction at all... Or rather, the exact place in the journey of life! If another layer of meaning was to be derived, it would be that O'Neil Andrew Morisette only lived to survive, he did not clearly know the method to present this existence to this world.

Perhaps... he was not a person with wild ambitions, neither was he a person with aspirations. However, people were bound to change. Very possibly… tomorrow.

iFiction

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