Side Story of Charles.
While Joshua finally became the Emperor of Avalon, Charles was also getting ready to become the head of the Pontier Family. She couldn’t stay as the substitute head forever.
“A re-rebellion started!”
Charles’s eyes widened. Her worst nightmare came true. The only reason Charles hadn’t inherited the position of Duke Pontier yet was the resistance of the nobles in the south. The Ducal Family of Pontier was the symbol of the southern nobles because the Pontiers had been leading them for generations. Charles hadn’t expected these southern nobles to take action as soon as she began her preparation to officially become the Duchess of Pontier.
“…Who started it?” Charles asked with her eyes closed.
“Count Valder was the first one to mobilize his troops!” Aere reported.
“Hmm? Count Valder was the one? Not Dargo rane Suspen?”
“From what I’ve heard, it’s Count Valder.”
Charles frowned upon hearing their names. Those two people had been consistently criticizing everything Charles did. Count Valder and Count Suspen both were highly renowned figures in the south and very influential within the area. Count Valder managed the grain warehouses in the southwest; Count Suspen was in charge of protecting the south border of the Avalon Empire, meaning he was the key figure in the military.
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However, these two counts hadn’t been aware of the Pontier Family’s situation when Count Crombell attacked the entire Pontier family. Count Valder had been on a business trip to the Fulldran Kingdom, which was at the edge of the continent, while Count Suspen couldn’t leave the area due to his position as a government official.
They had eventually found out what had happened to Charles’s father, but when they had, they had made public declarations to terminate their relationships with the Pontier Family. They must have seen the chance to become the new leader in the southern region of the Avalon Empire and gotten greedy.
“…That is unexpected. Count Suspen was the one that looked more like the greedy type,” Charles muttered to herself.
“Ma-Maybe he’s trying to see how the situation will turn out?”
“What are the other nobles’ responses?” Charles asked.
“Most of them have joined in on their rebellion, especially the ones who took Marquess Crombell’s side in the past.”
“This is why I shouldn’t give people second chances.”
Charles let out a long-suffering sigh. She believed she had proven her ability a long time ago; it was, after all, Charles who had dragged the Pontier Merchant Group out of its decline so that it could rise and become one of the top five merchant groups in the continent.
‘…Well, I received a lot of help from Joshua,’ Charles thought.
Joshua had told her that a Continental War was going to break out soon, so she had bought up horses and all sorts of materiel, including weapons, helping her and her merchant group greatly in the future. Of course, her decision to invest all the assets and the funds she’d gathered to restore her land into buying up war material based on Joshua’s prediction alone was also great.
“If they know what I’ve done for them, they really shouldn’t do this. Those ungrateful people must be getting greedy now that their bellies are full.” Charles smiled coldly.
The young, immature Charles was gone now. Ever since Charles had decided that she wasn’t going to repeat the past, she had been making preparations.
“Let’s go, Aere.”
Charles shook her head. “It’s ‘Your Grace’.”
Aere’s eyes went wide like a bunny’s as she chased after Charles.
“Why are you surprised? They’re basically saying that they would rather die than let a girl who is younger than them become the head of the Pontier Family, so I should shove it into their face.” Charles grinned coldly.
“Yo-you’re scary, Your Grace.”
“It’s said that the way to deal with a crazy dog is with a bat. Watch and learn, Aere. You’re also about to inherit your father’s position and become a viscount yourself, right? Get ready and assemble all the troops,” Charles said with confidence. She decided to show her ability for sure this time. “I, Charles di Pontier, am going to go to the battlefield myself.”
* * *
Three days later at Count Valder’s land, located in the south of the Avalon Empire…
“Lady Charles is on the move.”
The middle-aged man known as the Great Lord Valder smiled coldly. “That wretched woman moved already?”
“Yes, my lord. The news of the Steel Empress leading the troops herself has already spread throughout the entire southern region.”
“Hmph. That little bitch must have done it on purpose. She doesn’t know her place. Does she think we’ll become frightened by the news?” Valder snorted.
“A total of fifty thousand soldiers have assembled, including the soldiers from the nearby noble families.”
“That’s good.” Valder’s smile deepened.
An army of fifty thousand soldiers was certainly big for one noble lord. Even the Pontier family would have less than thirty thousand soldiers, but…
“…Is there any chance of other lords interfering in our fight?” Valder asked.
“It seems they won’t take anyone’s side nor interfere in the fight.”
“Cowards.” Valder clicked his tongue.
The nobles in the southern region had been laying low recently after Marquess Crombell had been made an example of—they were terrified of Joshua Sanders. However, there was no way that Joshua would visit the site of a single feudal conflict when he had become the emperor.
“…His Majesty won’t interfere in our fight, right? I heard he’s close with Lady Charles…” Valder’s aide mumbled in a worried voice. He had the same thought as Valder.
“That gives him more reason to stay out of this fight,” Valder said with certainty.
“It might have been different before he became the Emperor, but what do you think would happen if rumors spread that the Emperor favored one noble in particular? The nobles of the Avalon Empire already look at him in a bad light, so it’s obvious how they’d react.”
“…Umm…” The aide hesitated. Valder gave him a questioning look. “Do you think His Majesty is the type of person to care about that kind of stuff?”
Valder was silent for a moment, then he frowned. “Why do you keep killing the mood?”
“I-I’m sorry. I was just worried…”
“It’s meaningless. There is no way the Emperor and that bitch are close. If it was true, he would have already taken her hand and gotten married,” Valder sneered.
“D-do you think so?”
“A man and a woman can never become true friends. Besides, the rumor of Lady Charles getting dumped by the Emperor has spread across all of Arcadia.”
“Mmmm…” The aide grunted quietly.
The end of Valder’s mouth curled up. “On top of that, Lady Charles won’t be able to start a war.”
“Huh? But she already mobilized her troops.”
“That is because we did it first—but we aren’t trying to start a war, right? The other heads of the noble families are on the same page too.”
“You mean…?” The aide trailed off cautiously.
“We’re asking for only one thing in this fight. Once she hands over the Pontier Merchant Group, one of the top five merchant groups in the continent, I don’t care whether or not she becomes the next head of the Pontiers.” Valder scoffed.
The aide’s eyes popped wide open as he finally understood what Valder’s ultimate goal was. “The real goal is the merchant group!”
“Of course; the Pontiers didn’t make the merchant group flourish on their own. We southern nobles paved roads and supplied the group with good merchandise. It was a group effort.”
“Do you think Lady Charles will take the deal?” the aide asked.
“That bitch better take it if she doesn’t want to see a war break out in the south again,” Valder said.
“It’s indeed a great plan, my lord!”
“Hehehe, the merchant group will become the Southern Avalon Merchant Group, not the Pontier Merchant Group. Of course, I’ll be perfect for the position of the first Southern Avalon Merchant Group’s leader.” Valder grinned.
While they were exchanging conversation, a loud shout came from outside the castle walls.
Valder and his aide locked eyes.
“Do you think she’s here?”
The aide nodded. “It’ll only take a day and a half to get here from the Pontier Duchy… so it’s about time.”
“Let’s go.” Valder strolled toward the castle wall with confidence.
* * *
Charles stood in the Golden Plain of Valder, looking sternly at Valder’s castle.
She wore, unusually, a suit of silver full-plate armor, and numerous soldiers stood at her back.
“Count Valder!” Charles shouted, using an artifact.
She received a response right away.
“Long time no see, Lady Charles!” Valder shouted back.
“Did you really have to go this far?” Charles asked, scowling.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Have I done something?”
“You mobilized fifty thousand soldiers right in my front yard, but you have the guts to act like that?” Charles shook her head. “You really have thick skin.”
“Shouldn’t you have managed your house better, then? If you had, your father wouldn’t have ended up in such a state. Poor Duke Pontier.” Valder shook his head back mockingly.
“…What?” Charles’s eyes turned cold.
“Let’s stop the silly talk and save our voices. Why don’t we start talking business?”
“Business…?” Charles blankly repeated.
“We southern nobles want to become the ‘co-owners’ of the Pontier Merchant Group.”
“Wh-what?” Charles asked, baffled.
Just then, four more people appeared on either side of Valder. They were all influential noble lords from the southern region.
“You don’t want to start a war, do you, Lady Charles?” Valder smirked at Charles.
“…I’ll do my job if it comes to it. There is no telling when you all will come up with another scheme,” Charles replied.
“Gosh, this is why you aren’t capable of becoming the next duke.”
“I won’t allow this to go any further.” Charles raised her hand to order her troops to advance.
“Think carefully about this, Lady Charles. Everyone in Avalon is finally recovering after the end of the civil war, so if another big feudal conflict breaks out in the southern region… won’t the people in the palace feel uncomfortable about it? From what I heard, you and His Majesty are close… so His Majesty would be in quite a pickle. People are already doubting his ability to govern the Empire, but if his nobles are fighting…”
Charles’s raised hand trembled. Although she was doing this for the Pontier family, she didn’t want to bring Joshua into this mess.
“Hehehe,” Valder chuckled. “Now we’re talking.”
“Count Valder…!” Charles clenched her fists so tight that her fingernails dug into her flesh.
That was when two people fell from the sky and landed with an audible thump.
“…Didn’t you say you were certain you could do this, Iceline?”
“I-I’m sorry. It’s my first time teleporting several people at once. I set the coordinates correctly, but the distance was shortened due to my lack of mana.”
Charles’s eyes slowly widened as she recognized the man and woman who had dropped out of the sky.
“Ic-Iceline? And Joshua…?” Charles stuttered.
Joshua and Iceline turned to look back at Charles with sparkling eyes.
1. It’s a Korean idiom about dealing with madness. It’s a bit similar to the English saying ‘knocking some sense into someone.’ ☜