At the port city of Galest, the imperial army was preparing to sail through the route in the Red Sea that Grenhal had left behind. Earl Baget was moving among the bustling soldiers. “Only three flour bags? You pathetic bastards! Can you call yourselves soldiers of the empire?! Can you defend your country with this much strength and passion? Stop talking nonsense! It must be hard for your parents!”
Earl Baget had long been famous for his military discipline, but there were no cases when he had cursed at soldiers who were doing well. Now he even mentioned their parents? The soldiers suffered great shock and hurt. Those soldiers—who were working hard to prepare for the journey—lost their motivation as Earl Baget’s words continued, and their overall work efficiency was lowered. Marquis Fulbas ran after hearing the news and tried to stop Earl Baget. “I understand that your heart is impatient, but do it moderately. Why are you cursing the soldiers who are doing well instead of praising them?”
“It is funny they are reacting like this from being yelled at! Do you think it makes sense that those who swore to sacrifice themselves for their country can’t take a bit of cursing?! Marquis Fulbas, you are the problem! People are always talking behind the scenes that you are sensitive to public sentiment and don’t have a backbone! There is a rumor that it is the aftereffects of a domestic violence incident when you were young!”
“W-What?” Marquis Fulbas’ gaze sank. The fact that Earl Baget raised his voice to the marquis was a secondary issue. The family of Marquis Fulbas was famous for being kind and generous. There was no such thing as domestic violence. Yet there was a rumor going around that he was a victim of domestic violence...? It insulted his parents and his entire family.
“You dare...! You dare say that?!” Marquis Fulbas, who had always shown a gracious appearance in front of his men, was enraged. He shouted while stomping his feet, “Who dares to spread such rumors?”
“...I can’t tell you. I will never speak about who it is, even if there is a blade against my neck. I’m not an unscrupulous person who will sell out my colleagues. However, the act of insulting one’s superiors and destroying your position is no different from treason. I will give you a hint out of loyalty. It was one of the earls.”
“Earl...? Earl!! I...! I have been doing so well that now they want to hit me in the back of the head?!” Marquis Fulbas’ neck was red from anger as he stumbled away from his position.
A soldier approached Earl Baget, who looked 10 years older. The man was called Serun, and he had the Disguise skill. “How come you don’t even miss a day? It is really great.”
“...I don’t feel too comfortable. I have to do it because of my duty.”
“You seem to be enjoying it...”
“...” Earl Baget looked restlessly at Serun. In other words, Huroi wanted to say something, but he refrained from doing so. The duration of the Disguise skill was three days. Without Serun’s active help, Huroi wouldn’t have progressed so far in this infiltration mission.
Serun was smiling. “In any case, it is thrilling and fun. I want this to be a real adventure. I’m glad I listened to Euphemina and followed you.”
“...” Huroi was dying of nervousness. He had dreamed of being captured and executed at least 10 times, but it was a risk he took for Grid’s sake.
‘I need to get the route as soon as possible... Marquis Fulbas isn’t giving me a gap.’
“It feels bad when I think about it.”
Three days had passed since the imperial army retreated without looking back.
The Overgeared members praised the soldiers who suffered during the war, comforted the people, and devoted themselves to Reidan’s restoration. They had to join in the exploration of the Ruins of the War God, but could they afford to intrude on the empire? They had to do it. The empire couldn’t be allowed to monopolize the ruins. However, they didn’t have the route. It wasn’t simple to find the Ruins of the War God. They had to concentrate on saving their energy while the empire was in the process of exploring the ruins.
The Overgeared members, who had been exchanging information while running around for three days, suddenly became enraged. They had risked their lives in the war against the empire. They put everything into the war. Yet for the empire, the war with them was just a game. The moment they discovered the ruins, they left without looking back.
There was now an empty desert. The vacant spot left by the imperial army was a great disgrace.
“These XX dogs.” Blood Warrior Katz—a Japanese player—cursed in a Korean style. None of the curse words he knew in Japanese fit better than the Korean word.
“I’m really furious.” Katz slammed a fist against the table.
It was a place where Grid and the 10 meritorious retainers were gathered. No one could stop Katz as he forgot his manners and recklessly expressed his anger. The number of enemies Katz had killed during the war was 4,891. He had fought the opponents advancing to Reidan and given his life three times. He was able to gain a bigger achievement than anyone else by demonstrating his strength in large-scale battles.
In the Overgeared Kingdom, he felt a sense of belonging for the first time, and it was the best organization in the world for him. He was also proud. He didn’t want to make sacrifices.
“The XX guys weren't serious? How ridiculous and insignificant would our desperate fighting seem? Eh? Kuso! Kuso! Kusoo!!!” (Shit)
Katz punched the round table again and again. He couldn’t control his anger until the round table half-collapsed.
The others in the 10 meritorious retainers felt the same as Katz. Thus, no one could stop Katz.
“I’m sorry.” Grid stopped Katz. Then he deeply bowed to all his companions. “I was incompetent. I was lacking, and the Overgeared Kingdom ended up like this. That’s why the empire arbitrarily came and left. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
There were no pretenses. The 10 meritorious retainers knew everything about him. They were true friends he shared many memories and mental rapport with. They weren’t people he needed pretenses with. Therefore, he apologized sincerely.
“On the day I was invited by the empire, I should’ve shown a more powerful look to the empire. Maybe these things wouldn’t have happened.”
The players held Grid up as the peak, but he was actually lacking. He was too lacking. He was weak. Grid was daunted by the spirit of the Seven Dukes. That’s why he looked easy.
“The moment the empire declared war, I should’ve discussed things with you and prepared for all the variables. If I did, we could’ve avoided a lot of damage. But I didn’t do that.”
He should’ve checked the soldiers’ armed condition and made more weapons. However, he hadn’t understood the concept of war and made only swords and armor, which was the worst mistake. In large-scale combat, the armed status of the soldiers wasn’t the most important factor. It would’ve been better to concentrate on strengthening the equipment of the 10 meritorious retainers, who had the ability to kill thousands of enemies.
Yet Grid had been greedy. While he was at the smithy, he thought it would be better to make himself stronger and sometimes turned a blind eye to his colleagues. This was the result. His colleagues who believed in him and chose production materials as the reward for the National Competition—most of them had remained stagnant and made great sacrifices during the war with the empire.
“...It’s all my fault.”
“What are you saying all of a sudden? Did you receive an arrow in the head?”
It happened while everyone was confused by Grid, who couldn’t lift his head.
“Why is it your fault? It’s our fault we aren’t as strong as you,” Jishuka sprang up and spat out coldly. “The bastards who think Grid was wrong, come out. I’ll kill them.”
The words weren’t based on her feelings.
Jishuka was able to grasp the situation more soberly than anyone else and accept it.
“In particular, those from the Tzedakah Guild. You should apologize to Grid. I thought I gathered a group of geniuses. Ever since being with Grid, have we ever helped Grid? We’ve always been helped!”
Jishuka was different from Katz. Rather than the table, she struck the more expensive and easily broken glass window. It wasn’t just one. Every step she took, she broke a window and repeated this over and over. Finally, a wind swept through the meeting room.
“Look. No one can say a word. Grid, it isn’t your fault. It is our problem that we are more incompetent than you expected.” Jishuka broke the last remaining window before smiling and sweeping back her hair. Her brilliant hair blazed like the sun as it fell on her beautiful collarbone and chest bone.
“...” Jishuka was more imposing than anyone else.
Yura was envious of Jishuka, who could scold everyone and comfort Grid. Unlike Jishuka, Yura was late in joining the Overgeared Guild. She couldn’t actively defend Grid like Jishuka. The period of time in which Yura had been a member was too short for her to rebuke her colleagues. Yura clenched her hands into fists, and her eyes shook as she alternated before the proud Jishuka and the blank looking Grid.
‘Did Youngwoo-ssi delay the answer to my confession because...’
…He was more drawn to Jishuka than Yura? It wasn’t because of the difference in breast size but the difference in heart. She was a woman, but she also thought Jishuka was cool. How radiant would Jishuka be in the eyes of Grid, who had been with her since the days of the Tzedakah Guild?
Lauel, who had been silent throughout the meeting, suddenly muttered to himself, “Kukukuk... This, this. Things are turning out very well.”
Everyone’s eyes focused on him, and he raised his chin to the fullest extent, revealing white teeth as he grinned. “I got the route to the Ruins of the War God from Huroi. Since we are all here, let’s set up an expedition.”
Lauel didn’t care about the aftermath of the war or the empire’s arrogant attitude. He was only interested in the historical ruins. If the 10 meritorious retainers’ trust in Lauel hadn’t been so deep, they would’ve misunderstood that he didn’t understand their position since he didn’t fight directly in the war or make sacrifices.
However, the 10 meritorious retainers trusted Lauel. They also knew that he struggled more than anyone else behind the scenes. Thus, everyone waited for Lauel’s next words. What did the genius who raised and led the Overgeared Kingdom with Grid have in mind now?
In the silence, Lauel brought out words that revived everyone’s expectations, “Once the ruins emerged, the empire withdrew the army without any hesitation. This suggests something big. In the first place, the empire didn’t want to fight against the Overgeared Kingdom.”
“What...? The empire doesn’t want to go to war against us?”
“Yes. We have to interpret that as the reason for the empire leaving without stationing any troops behind the moment a plausible excuse popped up.”
Lauel’s gaze turned to Mercedes, who was guarding Grid. “Maybe... From the time the emperor sent Mercedes away...”
The emperor’s heart was projected into Lauel’s violently spinning mind. “The emperor probably wants to be allies rather than enemies with the Overgeared Kingdom. This war wasn’t the result of the emperor’s desire.”
The listening Vantner scratched his bald head. “So what? The emperor wants to be on the same side as us?”
“Yes, to be precise, they covet Grid. The emperor seems to be looking at a bigger world rather than unifying the West Continent and being a frog in a well.”
“A bigger world? You mean advancing to the East Continent?”
“Probably. However, many nobles demanded that we be punished for the evil eyes incident, forcing the emperor to declare war.”
The room was silent. The emperor’s favor...
This was good news. In fact, a war with the empire wasn’t beneficial to the Overgeared Kingdom. Due to the huge power gap, the longer the war lasted, the more likely it was that the Overgeared Kingdom would have its resources consumed first. There would be a loss, even if the Overgeared Kingdom won. If they took away the empire’s land, it was unrealistic to place troops to defend the land. Moreover, there was still the most important thing...
‘Grid never said he wants to be emperor.’
That’s right. Grid didn’t covet the emperor’s throne. It was natural. How could he be emperor when he couldn’t even digest the role of king properly? There was an order to everything, and the status of an emperor was currently something that Grid couldn’t handle. There was no room for the desire to fight and win against the empire.
“The expedition should be a small number of elites. Due to the nature of the ruins, the level of the monsters will be very high and mid-ranked people won’t be able to help,” Lauel kept talking. “We also have to prepare for an empty house, so we need to leave enough power behind in the Overgeared Kingdom.”
“Then who are you going to send?”
“King Grid and the 10 meritorious retainers.”
“All of us?”
“Yes. Let’s respond with sending the best. Additionally, there will be Hurent.”
Peak Sword, who had been absent-minded for three days after failing to adjust to the rapidly changing situation, suddenly rose. “Then let's go!”
This was exciting. It had been a long time since Grid and the 10 meritorious retainers formed a party together, and the presence of the Aura Master was also reassuring.
“If we take this opportunity to get rid of the dukes and gain the treasures, it will be killing two birds with one stone,” Faker muttered.
“Imperial bastards, I will kill you,” Katz responded.
Lauel calmed them down, “Let’s go and see the situation.”
Simultaneously, in Reidan’s fields...
“Why me…” Hurent, who had been called during the field work, sighed.
Why did Grid want to take a weak person like himself to a historical site with a high difficulty? He guessed Lauel’s intelligence had decreased.