Chapter 242: Twenty-sixth Episode: Chapter 6
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

If one would like to know the soul of the city, find a place with a long history and a dense population. Dulin would best fit this description.

Dulin was the capital of the Empire of Titan. The total number of parks in the entire empire added together was less than the total number of parks in the capital. Similarly, the total number of nobles in the entire empire added together was less than the total number of nobles in the capital. There were numerous other examples as such but only a few within the circle were told about them. Dulin was different. It was different from any other city in the world.

Since it was the capital of the empire, the buildings and architecture within the area should be solemn and magnificent. Indeed, that was the case with Dulin.

From the world-famous Hamilton Palace to the small cafe on the street, it was as if all these buildings were a test about magnificence, luxurious and elegance.

Excluding royal estates, government offices, and the city residents' buildings, the architecture most worth looking at in Dulin was the churches that stood in great numbers. The style and spirit of literature and art displayed in these religious buildings could go along the history of the city until today, all the while continuously attracting many believers.

Every Sunday, beginning with those in Dulin Scott Cathedral, all church bells in the capital city of Titan would be rung consecutively. Nonetheless, there were some exceptions.

Since the outbreak of war, letters from the front line flew into Dulin like swirling of snowflakes. They were mainly letters wrote by soldiers for home. However, only a minority of ordinary soldiers were willing to spend money on the imperial postal system. It was mostly the military officers who could afford to write letters and send them home. Apart from public correspondence, most of the fast mails shuttled back and forth to the empire frequently belonged to the Imperial Army department. These military correspondences were delivered to the capital by a special long-distance carriage, then relevant departments of the capital's military department would categorize them accordingly.

In War Dead Register, confirmation letters concerning the roll of honor from the front line piled up like a hill. Each letter contained the names, origins and all sorts of details of the martyrs' lives before death.

The citizens of the capital were always the first to learn about such news. Fathers and brothers died fighting in the distant frontier. These people who lost their loved ones were not necessarily all commoners. Among the funeral processions, there were also many nobles who dressed well and cried their eyes out on the streets.

Perhaps funerals could summarize the central life of Dulin City during the Second Defending War period. Churches were always full of people. Even Sundays were booked to receive the relatives of sacrificed soldiers. When the candles and songs of mass filled the air, the churches would ring the bronze bells on the tower.

The bells in the city rung in a chaotic and disorganized manner without order. Similarly, the funeral procession team in the streets would sometimes be interrupted by the sudden arrival of another procession team.

Some commoners at home who did not have relatives or loved ones enlisted in the army were terribly upset by the ringing bells that sounded from morning to night. They grumbled that "the more officials die, the better." Those with slightly more patriotism would cover their ears when the bells rang as they tried to focus in reading the newspapers filled with full report of military results.

"Marshal Alan has lost!" To the citizens of the capital, this news was like a huge carriage bomb which suddenly exploded in their hearts.

The commoners who did not know about the inside story began fleeing the moment they learned about the news. They fled to the countryside, to the mountains, and to Narcissus County. The reactions of the nobles were even more exaggerated. Every eminent household started sorting out their property – small-sized valuables were stuffed into the carriage whereas heavy objects, antiques and all the big-sized valuables were buried under the ground. The poor gardeners in the capital were kept occupied managing these nobles' yard incessantly. The idea had been rooted in the minds of people so deeply that no one believed the joint document issued by the palace and military department. In short, the document claimed that the "Northern Army employed evasion strategy, and Marshal Alan presided over the defense in-depth."

Thus, the magnificent and orderly Dulin City fell into a turmoil overnight. Citizens flocked to escape while rogue looted. Sensible nobles sat back in the palace and waited for further news while insensible nobles rushed to their traveling carriages and headed eastward toward Narcissus County.

Her Majesty the Empress Alanis I repeatedly reaffirmed the importance of capital's social stability and daily security. However, both Capital Security Division and Ministry of Justice were at a loss of what to do regarding this chaos. Unexpectedly, the result of the joint consultation between military and government only urged the public to travel specifically at night so that they would not irritate Her Majesty's eyes during the day.

Therefore, the night scene in Dulin City was a wonder. The streets and alleys were full of people and light reflected from oil lamps. The lamps were assembled in a way that resembled a battlefront, slowly and gradually heading for the wilderness in the East.

Alanis did not understand why the temporary setback of Northern Front would lead to such consequences. Her military was not yet defeated, and her dynasty was certainly not yet destroyed! Why did people leave her? Even some government departments were forced to stop working due to a serious shortage of staff. All sorts of circumstances seemed to tell Her Majesty the Empress that Deiss was going to take down Dulin City tomorrow even though that was not the case.

"According to the situation of the Northern Army after the defeat of border defense on the 8th day of the 11th month, the Northern Defensive Line can at least persist to fight until next spring!" the duty personnel set an estimated time for Her Majesty the Empress.

"Next spring..." Alanis held the side of the table with her eyes widened. The thick makeup on her face was efficient in covering up her tiredness and powerlessness.

"What about next summer? What will happen next summer?" Her Majesty the First scanned across the room of soldiers and ministers of the Empire who had turned completely silent.

"No one?" Her Majesty the Empress' impatience showed clearly in her speech and manner. She hated these incompetent idiots, even more so at Alan who had been completely defeated! If the outside world knew her Imperial Guards Commander was so severely sick to the point where he had urination incontinence…forget it! Maybe it was true that the end of Dulin was near.

The duty personnel feigned a cough. Speaking on behalf of the Military Department at this time was definitely a thankless job but he had to convey the views of Chief of Staff, Marshal Robin, on the progress of the war to Her Majesty the Empress.

"Your Majesty..." the duty personnel's pretense caught the attention of Her Majesty. "Marshal Robin, the Chief of Staff of Imperial Guards, and his colleagues in the Combat Department unanimously agreed that the purpose of Deiss' attack on Northern Front was not a showdown. The Deiss is not that powerful. Apart from Titan, they have to guard against the Olliers who might launch an offense. Therefore, the battle on the Northern Front was mainly to compete for advance dominance in the battlefield. After breaking through Northern Army border defense line, the Deiss have the upper hand both in offense or defense and will not be left at a loss if the Narcissus Knights came as reinforcements."

"Who says to deploy Narcissus Knights as reinforcements on the Northern front?" Alanis frowned subconsciously. This meant she had to plead her young husband who was having the easy life?

"It's only an assumption! It's only an assumption…the Deiss cannot afford to not prepare for this possibility. Once the northern in depth defense line has fallen into a dangerous situation, our country will have no choice but to reinforce Narcissus Knights to join in our battle sequence."

"Aren't they already attacking in Faran?" Alanis turned her head away in annoyance. Oscar's Red-haired Tiger never complied with the regulations of the Titan Codex. They roamed around as they wished as if they were not part of the Narcissus Knights.

"Narcissus Knights Red Tiger Front's attack on Faran is not going well. Faran Kingdom Army has been chasing around their tails, hence Red Tiger's range of movement is very limited," the duty personnel explained everything as a matter of fact.

Alanis's expression finally eased after hearing Red Tigers' suffering, "Tell me about Deiss!"

The duty personnel quickly pointed to the map hanging in the room, "So, the Deiss is not going to be too harsh on the offense. The Narcissus Knights usually fight against those who really show off. Deiss has experienced it once and it's believed that they will not make the same mistake again."

"In this way..." the duty personnel's gaze fell on the 500,000 soldiers located outside the western border of the empire, "Faran accomplish nothing in the South and Deiss is believed to not launch a new large-scale offense any time soon. Therefore, the focus point of the Defending War will naturally fall on the Western Front."

"500,000..." Alanis moaned almost instinctively. She could not imagine how it would look when 500,000 people gathered to fight.

"Yes! 500,000 people!" the duty personnel nodded, "From northern border in East of Riel and south to Rolin Province of Faran Kingdom, there is a total of 190 kilometers long frontline. Hoilland and Leblese have twenty-four corps gathered in the central front line, Weden gathered seventeen corps in the north of central camp, and Faran gathered nine corps in the south--"

"Enough! I can read!" the Imperial Empress raised the newly written battlefield analysis report in her hand. She knew that Marshal Robin's Western Army Group had less than 300,000 army forces. Even though the empire had been throwing in reinforcements at the east-central frontline, it was impossible for a line of defense that was put together at the last minute to resist the attack by three camps at the same time. Alanis was not literate in military affairs but at the very least, she still had her common sense.

The duty personnel withdrew in embarrassment. There was no need for him to be there if the Empress could read herself.

The rest of the ministers and high-ranking officers successively withdrew from the study of the Imperial monarch. All of them appeared dejected and dispirited.

Although these poor-looking capital nobles had turned down evening banquets and card games that they never once missed, these wise men had already thought about their own backup plans.

There were only four people left in the Empress' study room. How strange it was that none among the four capital officials was a soldier.

The considerate head of secret service served the Empress a new cup of tea. On the other hand, the palace chief Marquis Jevonah Wesarcia who was a man of few words opened the windows in the study room of Her Majesty the Empress.

The cool autumn breeze filled the room. Alanis pressed her hands down on the documents and immediately Marquise Cameron handed her a paper holder made of gold. The Empress lifted her hands contentedly, but she quickly noticed the cabinet chancellor who had taken out the cigar was fumbling for a fire.

"Here, a gift for you! It's left behind by my Father the Emperor!"

Duke Rashel Titus was overwhelmed to receive the kerosene igniter. Although it was not a precious thing, it was, after all, something that once belonged to Her Majesty the Empress.

Duke Rashel was the current Cabinet Chancellor. His political skills were not as good as that of Kachev, he was not as cunning as Sea Monster, and he was definitely not a rival to Rudolf when it comes to being wicked and merciless. Even the lowest-ranking employee in the government department was better in flattering master than he was! However, such a worthless man more than half a century old was sitting down next to Her Majesty the Empress, being her right-hand man in the field of government affairs.

Most people did not fully comprehend this arrangement at first. A majority thought this new appointment was way out of expectation. However, according to Her Majesty, Duke Rashel's best strength was his loyalty (young people called him an old antique) followed closely by his steadiness (those familiar with him knew it was a trait he obtained out of fear). Whereas his third strength…

Alanis had not thought about his third strength. However, Duke Rashel Titus was indeed unique in his own ways. It was not difficult to understand by comparing him to the other famous figures aforementioned.

Kachev was crowned as a national traitor. The Engels sent his head to the Empress and was later hung up high on the Titan Gate of Light. Sea Monster was the worst out of all – his lifetime of "hard work" was confiscated while himself had been swallowed in whole. It was rumored that his fat layers dropped off his body by pounds. Rudolf Hoss...the people of Dulin said that the former head of secret was stuffed to death by shit. There was no need to mention the guy whose stomach had been squashed by a spade.

All these famous figures had fallen from the stage. Even the Imperial Guards Marshal was suspected to have Alzheimer's disease. Only Duke Rashel Titus was still healthy and alive. The intelligence to attain such bliss was one of the old man's biggest wealth.

"Your Majesty..." the Cabinet Chancellor spoke in between puffs, occasionally even took a few sips of drink, "Do you know why the war has only begun to progress now?"

Alanis shook her head, "Sorry, my lord. It's not my empire that progressed but our enemy!"

"Let me rephrase it!" the eyes of Duke Rashel flashed with brilliance only a shrewd old man could obtain, "For example, Faran first invaded our country and taking a pause at Vielonna to wait for Deiss. Deiss who had obtained the first victory is also slowing down while waiting for Hoilland, Weden and Leblese to catch up! My Lady should be proud! The Empire is under siege by a military force of million soldiers and we've persisted until now!"

"No! No!" Alanis shook her head again and again, "It's not a siege! It's not possible that Titan can endure a siege of million soldiers!"

"What is it then if it's not a siege?" the old man continued to pester.

Alanis became silent. What else could it be when all three lines of defense were the enemies? The enemy's one million military force was enough to completely rout the defense line in the first round of attack. However, this situation had not occurred in the war that had been going on for several months. What was the problem?

"Fear!" Palace Chief Marquis Jevonah Wesarcia suddenly uttered a single syllable.

"They fear Titan and they fear the army and the people of Titan! They fear that the Titans will carry out the war of anti-aggression until the last moment. If they are really planning to challenge the Titans with all their hearts...in the end, there will be nothing left in their one million military force. Our comprehensive national strength, geographical depth, and reserve base of the Imperial Guards are laid out there on the tables! If Your Majesty issue the order of a national mobilization for the nation's young men aged fifteen to forty-five to put on their armor and pick up their swords and spears--"

"We will have an army of two million forces or more!" the cabinet chancellor completed the palace chief's sentence.

"Not only are they fearful of Titans who might order for national mobilization, they also fear that their allied forces would become even stronger in this war!" Marquis Jevonah Wesarcia looked firmly at the Empress. He was extremely confident about his own assumption.

"This was not apparent during the First Defending War..." Duke Rashel distinguished the cigar, "Because barbaric Deiss did not participate, and each country from the Anti-Titan Alliance also did not put in all their effort. However, now…Deiss Kingdom that comes prepared has defeated Alan in the first round. I believe the other four nations involved in the war are more worried than we are!"

Alanis nodded slowly. She was the monarch of the country hence it was not difficult to understand the mystery. The dominance of Deiss caused the entire Anti-Titan Alliance to be vigilant while Faran and Hoilland failed to see eye to eye regarding the force deployment and offensive cooperation. Although the Kingdom of Weden sent out a force of 170,000 people, King Leoliam I did not cut off diplomatic relations with Titan. The Weden Embassy was still working...

"They may intend to remove you from the throne, but they absolutely have no courage to defeat the military in our country..." Cabinet Chancellor voiced out his opinion, "Because there are too many concerns to be considered. Not one country wants to weaken its own strength while fighting against us!"

"Besides..." the head of secret service stopped mid-sentence. It was Marquise Wesarcia who was standing beside the Empress began whispering into her best friend's ear.

"The southern nobles are getting more inclined to be at odds with the monarchy…" Marquise Wesarcia lowered her voice until it was almost inaudible, "And Secret Service has doubts about the real cause behind Northern Front defeat…"

"You mean..." a chill went down Alanis's spine, "Someone is trying to mess with fire?"

The Empire's cabinet chancellor who always played by the book smiled as he waved his hand, "Your Highness, no one would believe this even if the secret service has mastered the evidence? We will never bring down the mastermind behind this! Just like the suspicious case of the Finance Minister." Alanis was feeling at her worst. She was getting more impatient than she ever has, "Then why did you brought this up if there's nothing we can do?"

Duke Rashel Titus scanned the room. It seemed that he was the best candidate to speak about the following matter.

"Your Majesty! Since you are already clear of the doubts Western Alliance had about the war, don't you think we can prevent the huge loss that might follow after?"

"What...what do you mean?" the Imperial Empress did not understand but she realized about the risk and uncertainty hidden in the following answer.

"Sue for peace!"

"Sue for peace?" Her Majesty the Empress Alanis I stared at her cabinet chancellor, "Is it possible? They are trying to push me down the throne! Whether it is Faran or Hoilland, all they want to is--"

"Your Majesty..." Marquise Wesarcia placed her palm on the shoulder of Imperial Empress. She had long noticed that her friend, the ruler of the empire, was frightened by the enemy's one million military forces.

"You don't have to worry about this anymore! No matter what the starting point is for His Highness the Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette, the blacklist established by him and the military authorities did us a great favor! First, it was the Queen of Holland, then the former Queen who took refuge in Weden. All the excuses that can interfere with the transition of Titan's imperial power have been eradicated and the Anti-Tian Alliance has no reason to use force again for this matter! Perhaps, you may consider this again – is it possible for them to push Titan' Empress out of the throne?"

Alanis was feeling uneasy. Titan was under siege by a military troop of a million soldiers. What were the odds?

"Your Majesty..." the Secretary of State stood up. He must instill some confidence in his Empress. "Marquise Wesarcia is not wrong. If the Westland Kingdom Alliance wants to push you down the throne, they must first defeat the 800,000 Imperial Guards protecting you as well as all of Titan's young and strong reserved soldiers. If it's not enough, East Border Andrew that has completed their historic mission could deploy their Narcissus Knights into either battlefield whenever you are threatened."

"Do you think that…it would be Faran that will take this risk...or Hoillanders that provoke such a disaster?"

Her Majesty the Empress I nodded eventually. Manuel Dynasty was terrified of the Narcissus Knights so much that the Italian hurriedly married her husband the Prince upon his arrival at Roman. The troops that let Deiss suffered was not even Narcissus Knights regular army. The previous Duke of Andrew had easily destroyed Deiss Kingdom Army's Eastern Principal Army Group using Narcissus County independent nobles armed forces. As for unfortunate Slovenia, this degenerate kingdom should be enough to make an example to the people who came from the west. To violate Andrew would only invite troubles! Any invasion against Titan would eventually encounter with the God chosen warriors who were assigned to protect this empire. If O'Neil Andrew Morisette who was known as the war maniac was also involved...

"You're right...my worries seem to not make any sense. They will not and absolutely dare not overly infringe on Titan! It's too late for me to understand this only now!"

"It's not too late!" the Cabinet Chancellor grinned slyly and laid down a proposal plan on the desk of the Empress, "Your Majesty, take this opportunity...when Deiss is not attempting to go beyond the frontier, when Faran is standing still, when Hoilland and Weden are being indecisive, we could step down into the weaker position, promise them huge profits or tempt them with attractive conditions. As long as we give them a proper step-down, they will withdraw their troops sooner or later! The various crises that might arise due to the Second Defending War will also vanish into thin air."

"In the meantime!" the Marquise Wesarcia took over the topic of the Cabinet Chancellor, "Once you reach an understanding with the Westland Kingdom Alliance, we can begin to rectify the internal affairs of the empire. How much longer do you want to give free reign to the southern nobles? Wait until they establish a new capital in Vielonna?"

Alanis once again widened her eyes, "The Southerners are planning to establish a new capital in Vielonna? Is this just some frightening rumor to cause alarms?"

"I'm not completely certain about that as there is no evidence..." this time the Head of Secret Service spoke. He used the shadow of his body to block the expectations of Her Majesty, "I just think everyone's view on the Defending War is too optimistic! I believe when Dulin seeks help from Narcissus County, there will only be two possible reactions from Andrew. Firstly, let the Westerners fight! It's best for them if the Morisette Dynasty is destroyed! Secondly, they will agree to rescue the capital but only when the imperial family is already struggling to continue!"

"Your Majesty, guess which will be the voice of His Highness the Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette? It's best not to look at this issue without considering His Highness deep relationship with the southern nobles," Federick Roxes Morisette said nonchalantly while flipping over the pages of the proposal submitted by the cabinet chancellor.

Alanis tried to calm herself down. She knew it was not the time for her to get swayed by her own sentiments or emotions. Her closest subordinates were being reasonable. However, it was what the Head of Secret Service said that hit home.

When Dulin and the Morisette Imperial Family were in real danger, who could guarantee the position of East Border Andrew? They could definitely hit the imperial family when they were down. The southern nobles behind the back of her husband were desperate to get rid of the imperial family's control. They were more willing to see Morisette Dynasty subverted by the invaders.

"Sue for peace...how practical is it?" Alanis seized the proposal from her nephew's hands.

Cabinet chancellor nodded in affirmation, "Your Majesty...this is of paramount importance if we want to avoid the war! Her Majesty the Queen Roulexberg of Deiss Kingdom will be more than delighted to see Titan return the two provinces taken away from them decades ago. Weden and Hoilland will be easily satisfied with war reparations and the territory we obtained in Riel Kingdom. The biggest issue is the Farans! The Farans are very dissatisfied with Prince O'Neil's actions and is concurrently terrified by him! Narcissus Knights' Red Tiger Front is running freely in Faran Kingdom's northwest provinces. Their relationship with West Percian is also tensed due to the Slovenian war that happened previously! As for Faran…we have to provide them with enough sense of security!"

Alanis waved her hand, "Sense of security? Who will provide me with a sense of security? Do I have to deal with Oscar like how I did to Marshal Alan? I can't do it! Moreover, it has turned out to be a stupid move."

The Head of Secret Service rolled his eyes, "Your Majesty! It's not fair for you to say this. If we had taken the opportunity then, there would have been earth-shattering changes inside internal Andrew. After all, Marshal Figg was focused in the East, which was so far away from the Empire and the royal family. Unlike now! We are responsible for the war waged by Prince O'Neil, cleaning up the mess he created by acting arbitrarily."

"Shut up!" Her Majesty the First glared her eyes at Federick who liked to stretch the truth. She was upset just by the mentioning of this.

The Head of Secret Service who wanted to argue further was being pulled aside by the cabinet chancellor. Then, the old man turned to the angry young woman.

"Your Majesty, we definitely can't treat Prince O'Neil the way we did to Marshal Alan. It's not going to work! The Defending War has everyone's attention focused on the royal family. If Prince O'Neil was encountered by any mishaps during this time…considering the imperial family current unfavorable situation, I believe Andrew will rise in the strongest revolt in history! Mainly because Andrew already knows we can no longer control their massive army."

"There is a way!" whispered Marquise Wesarcia into Her Majesty's ear, "Do as he did to the King of Slovenia! Remove him from his posts in the capital and order him by law to retreat back to Narcissus County and never step out of Andrew Haila ever again!"

"This is just another form of house arrest!" Alanis turned her nose at her female subordinate, "What's the difference between putting him under house arrest in Andrew Haila and freeing tigers back into the forests? All of you don't understand Oscar. He doesn't care about laws, he doesn't even care about me!"

"Isn't it better like this?" the Head of Secret Service lowered his voice, "When the news of ceasefire between the empire and the Westerners breaks out, Prince O'Neil will return and argue with you like a madman. He will not bring his own troops because of the short notice, hence you can directly put him under house arrest and announce the orders against him upon his arrival in the capital. Then he can be escorted back to Narcissus County by the Imperial Paladins. If he does not accept it, we will consider other countermeasures by then."

"No! No!" Alanis shook her head vigorously. Rationality told her that the decision was too dangerous. Each time she thought of her husband, the old memory of him gauging out somebody's eyes flashed across her mind.

"Only people with no eyes will think of challenging Oscar! He'll not compromise!" Her Majesty the Empress shivered at the thought.

"Yes, His Highness the Prince will not compromise!" the Head of Secret Service confirmed the statement of Her Majesty unexpectedly, "Andrew's mistress is pregnant. His Highness the Prince has even named his unborn son! There is a rumor in Italia. They said that Prince O'Neil personally announced his Sinelli will be the future ruler of Faran!"

"Sinelli?" Alanis frowned.

"That's the name of His Highness' son!"

Her Majesty did not say anything after that. Or maybe there was nothing left for her to say. However, everyone noticed her tight fist was scrunching up the pages of the peace proposal.

"The priority right now is to hold peace talks..." the cabinet chancellor murmured as if he paid no heed to the empress' anger.

It was the 9th day of the 12th month in Church's year 801. Under the night sky of Dulin was dotted with sparse light. The streets were empty. Even those who were planning to flee had retired for the night. The bustling urban nightlife in the past was now left with patrolling soldiers. These restless men liked to pick troubles at the commoners. They claimed to be arresting spies with orders from their superiors but actually aiming to extort money from the people at their houses.

Both Westerners and the patrolmen would not stop harassing them! The citizens of Dulin were desperate to leave this unpleasant place although they had no idea this would please the local bullies and patrolmen even more.

It was said that some people in the lair specialized in robbing graves. Under the protection of the patrolmen, they made some fortune by digging up treasures that the nobles had buried underneath their official residence.

It was not easy to live in Dulin these days! The patrolmen wanted to get more money, similarly for the hooligans in the streets. The peasants must learn to behave themselves to be safe. It was said that the inferior people who came from the West were like the Deiss devils. They had not seen big cities like Dulin nor Titan women who dressed so beautifully. At least the great lords who liked picking troubles at them were not as outrageous as these wolves. The citizens would be like beasts if the Deiss devils captured all the capital's great lords and masters! They would steal the wealth piled up in their house and humiliate those snobbish noble ladies who thought they were greater than everyone else.

Although originated from the same empire, the southerners from Titan regarded the situation differently from the citizens in the capital. The information transmitted to their ears was also not the same. In Bragg, the city of the fortresses controlled by the military, a majority of the local citizens thought the invaders would soon be defeated. This was because the famous Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette finally returned to the south. He and his entourage were estimated to arrive at the army group headquarters by night. Then...

People allowed their imagination to run wild. The Farans who had stayed put in Vielonna for two months must be alarmed at the news. They would be frightened by the tens of thousands of Southern troops and flee to the west immediately with their tails tucked firmly between their legs. Next shall be the turn of the Hoillander, Leblesian, and Weden that came from the west. How could these small kingdoms that only occupied the size of a grain on the map be compared to sacred Titan? Prince O'Neil and his army could send them into the west sea by merely flicking their fingers.

As for Marshal Alan's defeat, Alan was old enough to be the grandfather of the young soldiers. It was understandable that he could not do anything about the arrogant Deiss devils! To defeat the Deiss devils was the responsibility of the young people. Who else could be a better candidate than Prince O'Neil Morisette who made those Deiss suffered miserably in Saijo Mountain?

Based on these, it seemed that victory was indeed not far away! By tomorrow!

The soldiers and citizens of Bragg Fortress could not sleep well at night. Without any planning or organization, the soldiers and citizens who turned deaf ears to the orders of superiors and martial law rushed out into the streets. On the evening of the 9th day of the 12th month, the streets of Bragg were brightly lit. Even the sky above flushed with redness.

With torches and candles in hands, soldiers and citizens gathered on both sides of the street, leaving only a stone road in the middle. The men craned their necks as they engaged in heated discussion while women tipped their toes, repeatedly shouting the name of that national hero.

The women said their Oscar had lost some weight in Italia and had become a handsome man of slender, strong build. Men argued back! They said that Prince O'Neil was destined to be the most handsome man in Titan since he was born. Otherwise, how could he win over the hearts of the beauties like Her Majesty the Empress, Narcissus Corolla, a foreign princess, and Pearl of Italia?

The soldiers said their Marshal O'Neil had launched an attack on Faran when he was still in Italia, and that the Red Tigers might soon attack Paris. By then, they could finally be able to visit the magnificent Vanier Palace. The officers argued back! They said that Prince O'Neil only ordered the Red Tigers to attack the enemy from the back. The marshal was definitely relying on the southerners to attack the capital of Faran!

The interior of the Southern Army Group Command Center was much quieter compared to the jubilant atmosphere outside the door. This fortress-like, three-tiered masonry building was not decorated with countless banners as they normally did for receiving important guests. Only the soldiers stationed outside the gate were asked to change into formal attire. According to the chief of staff of the army group, Prince O'Neil was originally from here, hence it was not necessary to mobilize the masses for his return.

Military commanders for army group units and above gathered in the spacious combat meeting room of the Southern Army. They ignored the tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians gathered in the city but were whispering around a huge sand table.

The military's supreme commander, General Eugene Mir Bradley was staring blankly at the tactical map.

Their chief of staff, Lieutenant General Tantalus Piche, was smoking on the balcony. In the eyes of the officers or in the eyes of an ordinary soldier of the Southern Army, the experienced and steady General Eugene was highly respected by the soldiers but to them, he was only a senior. On the other hand, Lieutenant General Tantalus who was always coming up with new ideas was lacking something although he had led the Southern Army through a series of victories.

"Everybody, listen to this..." the chief of staff opened the door to the balcony.

"Long live Titan!" "Long live Marshal O'Neil!"

Bragg seemed to have suddenly become a huge microphone. Uproars erupted in every corner of the city! Soldiers sang the battle song of the Imperial Guards while citizens continued to cheer passionately. These waves of noise seemed to come and go but it was moving toward the center of the city.

The officers and men in the war room rushed to the balcony. Through the opened floor-to-ceiling windows, all that entered their sight was soldiers and citizens. They were all extending their arms in one direction.

The crowd centered on one point as they moved. They continued leaning toward the center of the circle and raised their hands in that direction. They wanted to touch the heart of a saint, the armor of a hero! Men chanted slogans whereas women screamed hysterically. With many people lending their hands, the soldiers propped the grinning Marshal on their shoulders and moved forward into the sea of people just like that.

The southern military generals on the balcony laughed happily as they were infected with the delightful atmosphere, all while whispering in their hearts. There will be bread! There will be achievements! There will be moments of fame to bring glory to the ancestors! Fortunately, Prince O'Neil returned in time. Otherwise, who knew how long General Eugene was planning to put off the war!

"Attention..." the command from the door suddenly awakened the minds of the soldiers. "The Prince of the Empire, Marshal of the Imperial Guards, and Chief of Military Intelligence Department – His Highness Prince O'Neil Andrew Morisette is here!"

Simultaneously, all the soldiers in the combat meeting room put away reveries and smiling faces. They held the sword with their left hand, their right arm pressed tightly against their uniforms, their right fists clenched and pressed down their chest…

"Salute..." O'Neil Andrew Morisette stood by the door as he swept his eyes across the room of "statues."

"Ola...don't be so serious!" the Prince of Empire could not help spreading his hand after casually returning the salute. "Look at me! Those who didn't know would have thought I was being kept in a bedroom with a dozen bold girls!"

The soldiers roared with laughter. The prince's uniform was ripped apart by the enthusiasm of the soldiers and the citizens. The usually shining plait behind his back was also a mess.

The officers get a clearer view as the Marshal approached the lights. On the prince's bare chest, neck, and face were covered with lipstick marks, one above another.

"Ola…what an enriching experience..." Oscar took over the handkerchief from Tantalus as he murmured and began to rub his face. In the meantime, he walked straight and headed for the high chair which was placed in the most prominent area of the room.

The Prince of the Empire took a cigar from General Eugene and got it lighted from another man. He puffed out a cloud of smoke and looked out to the window. The cheers outside the window were still going on! Tens of thousands of officers and citizens of Bragg could not bear to tear themselves away from the square outside of the building of the command center building.

Oscar requested for his orderly, Lieutenant Colonel Kirk and yelled at the other party. "Ask them to return home! Tell them that I'll mobilize my whole army to fight against Faran who attacked Vielonna the first thing tomorrow morning!"

Oscar called him back again just as Kirk Douglas was planning to leave and execute the order given. Perhaps the young Marshal of Imperial Guards had not had enough of the limelight, or perhaps he suddenly found the balcony of the war room to be a good venue for speech. O'Neil Andrew Morisette waved his hand at Kirk and began walking to the floor-to-ceiling window, "I'll do it myself..."

"Please wait for a second..." the chief of staff of Southern Army Group Lieutenant Colonel Tantalus quietly grabbed His Highness's arm.

Including Oscar, all the officers threw confused glances at Madman Tantalus.

"Your Highness! Now that you have arrived, I have to announce to everyone the speculations formed by the Staff Department of the army group regarding the current situation!"

Oscar returned to his seat once more.

Tantalus tapped on the tactical map hung on the wall, "Faran is unable to attack the Southern Front. The enemies in Western Front only keep gathering forces but are not making any move. Deiss in Northern Front had won the first battle but Bron Fortress with their high walls poses as a threat for these devils! Therefore, what will the decision makers in the capital do now?"

The war room went completely silent.

"Apart from surrender without fighting, I don't know what other good ideas would come from the capital nobles who are accustomed to a comfortable life!"

"Surrender without fighting?" O'Neil Andrew Morisette repeated through his gritted teeth. It was not because he was disgusted by the idea but he did not fully understand what it meant to "surrender without fighting."

"Sue for peace!" Tantalus confirmed with an affirmative nod, "Since Anti-Titan Alliance has not been paying full effort in treating the war, the noble circles in the capital have no reason to entrust hopes on the soldiers! They are all experienced politicians--"

"No...no..." O'Neil Andrew Morisette shook his head vigorously. Although he did not want to believe it but the spirits built about winning had completely collapsed.

"Alanis will not betray the empire! She will not betray the army of the Empire! She will not betray me..."

All of the Southern military officers bowed their heads down at the Imperial Prince's piercing gaze as if trying to tell their marshal something.

"Who knows what Her Majesty the Empress will do?"

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