He had two subordinates with him.
Shulicia was the kind of man who would bring a guard with him even when he was just reporting a situation to Draco. Draco didn’t think much of this.
He just thought it was a virtue that should be developed if one was careful and cautious.
Lana, who had helped him fix his armour, was still by his side wiping the sweat from his forehead. Shulicia gazed at her for a moment.
“Are you feeling alright, Draco-sama?”
“Yeah, sorry to worry you, Shulicia.”
“No, I was only doing my job. But it is alright for you to be up and about?”
“I’m fine since I was only feigning illness.”
Shulicia’s long vertical pupils seemed to have dilated a little. Lizardmen’s expressions were very difficult to read if one wasn’t a lizardmen. They were very expressive in their own words, but Draco couldn’t read what Shulicia was thinking at the moment.
“You were feigning illness? But…”
“I wanted people to know that I was poisoned. Palmyra tried to kill me with poison.”
“You mean, you pretended to fall for her trap?”
Draco’s eyes narrowed at that question. No, that wasn’t what happened.
“It’s Palmyra. She doesn’t believe that she can trick me with this kind of trick. She was, as it were, knocking at my door.”
Palmyra was saying, “I’m going to start now,” and Draco responded with, “Come. I’ll welcome it.”
“Then, how did the poison reach you?”
“Lana here brought it with her.”
“Then why isn’t she being punished? It would be high treason if she had intended to kill you, Draco-sama.”
Shulicia had the right to be angry. Not only was the assassin not punished but she was even invited into his bedroom. This was no way to maintain law and order.
“She is the messenger who has delivered the challenge letter, so I can’t treat her badly. Or does Shulicia want me to be stigmatized as a person who kills the messenger?”
Draco countered with a wry smile on his face. Shulicia shrunk back and fell silent.
Palmyra had nowhere to go. She used poisons, tricks and assassins, and she may have more pieces to manipulate but her time was running out.
She had allied herself with Ri Gudang and also betrayed him, but when that goblin shaman takes the <Barbarian King> throne, she will be forced into a lower position. For Palmyra, who freely manipulated and schemed things, it was as if her drawing board had reduced greatly.
This would be the last time.
She would have to submit no matter who wins between Draco and Ri Gudang. He wasn’t at an advantage, but he wasn’t at an overwhelming disadvantage either. He was putting his own force and life at stake, but Palmyra was even wagering Ri Gudang. The stakes were higher, but she wasn’t prepared to bet it all.
“Come Shulicia, let’s talk about the battle. How much have you prepared? I’m sure you’ve done a lot.”
“Y-yes. I’ve done everything I can to prepare for a small battle. And…”
“What else do I need to authorise?”
“How should we deal with those who have gathered around La Banan.”
Shulicia’s tone was cold.
His eyes were saying that they must get rid of their internal troubles so that they can face external troubles, i.e., Palmyra and Ri Gudang.
La Banan. The chief of internal affairs who has stopped his duties due to illness, has been reportedly gathering goblins at his residence since he wanted to inherit the <Barbarian King> title.
Some of them had even been invited to join forces with Ri Gudang.
Draco was about to order the capture and explusion of the rebels who tried to elevate La Banan, but ―――.
“There’s no need to bother with them.”
He looked towards the voice. La Banan was standing there dressed in his military uniform.
He looked somewhat tired, but it was to the same degree as before he had started his leave of absence.
“All those who had gathered to support me have been thrown out of the city.”
La Banan reported clearly. It was all a deception; a plan devised by Draco and La Banan.
Draco had set up a huge trap by having La Banan, his loyal subject, pretend to be two-faced to round up all the rebels nestled in Alunaha. Apart from Draco and La Banan, only the dark elf Chunon knew of this plan. It was kept from even Shulicia, his trusted confidant.
Alunaha was a castle city ruled by La Banan’s father, Benan, so there were still a few people who weren’t pleased with Draco’s rule. Draco had tried his best to take as many of them on as retainers, but that had reached its limits.
Shulicia was flustered by La Banan’s report.
“But the rebels, or rather, some of the expelled goblins must have been your close relatives. If you…”
“I’ll incur their resentment? What does it matter? I’m in my current position because Draco-sama discovered me after he defeated my father. My loyalty towards him will not bend for relatives who don’t respect that.”
La Banan kneeled before Draco after he said that.
“I, La Banan, have returned, Draco-sama. Will you forgive me?”
I was mistaken, Draco thought.
How was he the same as before his leave? La Banan had truly returned as a loyal subject. The time he spent away from his busy work and the time he spent reflecting on himself must have sublimated the still young and dangerous mind of this capable official.
“I forgive you La Banan. Now, tell me what you think as my head official.”
“As you wish.”
The messenger carried a letter in Draco’s handwriting.
It was on his way back to Alunaha. Lu Gun, who had received news of Draco’s illness from Shulicia, was moving swiftly southward along the road through the forest.
The messenger was able to cross paths with Lu Gun. It was fortunate since they could have easily missed each other. The letter was brief as if Draco had calculated that the letter may be stolen by the enemy.
“I order Lu Gun to assemble his troops and quickly return to Alunaha.”
As expected, something had happened. Lu Gun smiled with half his face. It was quite a menacing smile from his subordinate’s point of view. Even Lu Gun didn’t know why he had smiled, perhaps it was his instinct as a warrior.
Lu Gun defined himself as a traitor. He betrayed the Goblin Demon King, Benan, and served Draco, the <Dethroned Crown Prince>. This crime won’t disappear no matter how hard he worked, so why did he betray Benan? Wasn’t it to make a name for himself as a warrior? If it was, then now was the time.
Lu Gun thought, who is the enemy?
Was it La Banan who had shown interest in the <Barbarian King> position? Or was it Ri Gudang? Either way, it was plausible that Palmyra was working behind the scenes.
He must hurry. He would normally pay attention to the condition of the soldiers, but he prioritised speed right now. He must first get his troops to Alunaha rather than have soldiers who arrive late without fatigue.
Lu Gun had 500 men with him, and <Blue> Dadda had 200.
There are 1,500 soldiers in Alunaha, but it was better to have as many men as possible whether it was a siege or an open battle.
There weren’t enough boats to carry all 500 troops. Lu Gun had his soldiers carry only the baggage they would need for the time being and the rest of the food and supplies would be carried by boat. This would lighten the soldiers’ load and allow them to run for longer and faster than usual.
“Call someone who is fast.”
The <Half-Faced> Lu Gun selected 10 men who could march long distance while continuing his march. Everyone had grown up in the forest and they were all familiar with the land. He didn’t care about their race or lineage as long as they met his requirements.
“You all will rush ahead of the group to the villages along the way.”
“What should we do there?”
The youngest goblin asked. He still looked young and had good eyes.
“Ask the chiefs to open the warehouse and have them make rice balls out of rice.”
“Rice balls, sir?”
Lu Gun’s troops had already brought most of their food by boat. The food they were carrying with them were dried provisions. The rice which was dried in the sun must be rehydrated with water before they eat it.
Lu Gun had no time to spare on rehydrating rice. He was sending his fastest men to the village first to save time on cooking the rice.
“If they’re reluctant to do this, then tell them that it’s a loan to the <Half-Faced> Lu Gun. Now go!”
That was unlikely to happen. The people around Alunaha have become friendly towards Draco’s forces, especially Lu Gun, since they have been subjugating bandits around the nearby villages. The villagers would be willing, if not delighted, to provide them with food.
“Now, let’s hurry up troops! No one should lag behind!”
Lu Gun’s order spurred the troops to speed up again. They were almost sprinting. It was hard to get a firm footing in the forest path, but everyone was accustomed to walking it after fighting bandits here for so long.
In this case, the small number of soldiers was a blessing in disguise. They would have been stuck on the forest’s narrow path if he had led a larger force. Even if they were able to march in an orderly fashion, their movements would have been much slower than now. The more troops he had, the harder it would be for them to move in a unified manner.
As he had expected, the villages along the way were willing to open their warehouses to them. They offered the soldiers food and some young men even volunteered to take up arms and join Lu Gun’s unit. Lu Gun accepted them and placed them in the middle of the unit, since they would slow down the unit if they were placed in the front and they would fall behind if they were placed at the back.
Surprisingly, Lu Gun had no trouble devising this. Until now, he had only done what Benan had instructed him to do. He wasn’t allowed to protest even if something bothered him, or he wanted to do something new.
It was different now. He could fight his own battles the way he wanted to. Lu Gun was grateful to Draco for giving him this much discretion.
The scout spotted the group just a short distance from Alunaha. A group of about 50 goblins who weren’t even armed were leaving the city.
It was strange. If they were fleeing from the battle then there would have been more people, but there were only 50 of them. Those who flee without their family fortune must be those who have a guilty conscience or those who have been chased out of the city.
Lu Gun’s suspicions were confirmed when the scout reported seeing Ryu Giroku among the group. Ryu Giroku was the Demon King Benan’s brother and Ri Gudang’s father. In other words, he was La Banan’s uncle. He was also the boss of the goblins who had approached La Banan when he was ill.
“… Does this mean something has already happened in Alunaha?”
Did La Banan oppose them and was defeated, or did he throw out his cronies?
Either way, they were enemies, Lu Gun concluded with his warrior intuition.
“The front ranks must drive that group away! Don’t pursue them too far. Just pursue them for a short while!”
He ridiculed himself for giving such bad instructions.
He wasn’t going to be satisfied by tormenting the Demon King Benan’s relatives. He was just following around to satisfy himself.
Lu Gun made a triumphant return to Alunaha after beheading five goblins.