26th, Instant Death Card

“We have increased the number of troops to maintain security and established a foothold in the surrounding area.
We can’t do anything about food, but we’ve laid the groundwork.”

“Yes, your excellency.”

 The time has passed since the spring and the summer of the second year has come.

 Since the harvest in the territory is no longer enough to feed the family, they dig up new territories and trade houses that can be sold if this year’s harvest is as good as usual.

 They have taken care of some minor political matters, but that’s about all they have been able to do.

“The Marquise of Laguna hasn’t made any moves, and I’ve replenished my wealth and my army.”

On the surface, it’s peaceful, which is a good thing.”

 He has lived a long life without dying for the 26th round, and his army is growing steadily.

 Everything was going well in Asgard territory, as the devastated northern region was rebuilt after three years of almost no taxes.

“Then, next, I would like to keep pace with His Highness the Prince… How is the royal capital doing?”

 Klein’s territory now has a population of about 80,000 and a maximum force of 8,000.

 The Marquise of Laguna, however, has an estimated maximum strength of 200,000.

 The army they have sent in the past alone is as large as 30,000.

 Klein was hoping that the prince would be able to gather allies since he would not stand a chance if he fought alone.

“The results are not good.”

“…That’s right.
Few people are willing to go head to head with the Marquise of Laguna, who controls the Kingdom’s center.”

 Not only Trek and his friends but also the merchants who had been coming and going from Asgard for a long time had started to regularly bring black rumors about the Marquise of Laguna.

 Klein could guess that most of them would try to maintain neutrality since they did not know what would happen if they turned against each other.

 But when he said this, Brynhildr looked at him strangely.

“Your excellency immediately became his highness’ ally.
Why is that?”

 It had been a year since they became allies, so it was a little late to ask that.

 But surely, this was a reasonable question.

 The prince says he will forgive even if he is neutral, and the fact that he was almost assassinated is assumed to have never happened.

 Klein’s lack of interest in the center is already known, so there is no advantage in becoming a full-fledged ally.

 ―He can’t tell them about the loop situation, so he quickly comes up with a plausible excuse.

“Well… if the Marquises continue to expand, who are the opposing forces?”

“First, the nearby Count of the North, and then the Count of the West, whose territories are adjacent to the Marquise’s.”

 All of them are well-known nobles, but if the Marquise of Laguna were to rebel, they would not be able to mount serious resistance.

 The gap between them is as wide as it is now, and it will be even wider the year after next.

“But they won’t suddenly start messing with the big boys.
Neighboring countries border the east, west, and northern counties, so there is no problem if they leave them alone.”

 The counts in each direction are frontier counts.

 Information on the east is scarce, but Klein hears it is constantly struggling against a foreign tribe.

 The west and north are more settled.
Even so, they cannot make any moves since foreign nations will invade them if anything should happen.

 The Southern Counts have territories as far as the sea coast, and they trade with foreign countries across the sea.

 In other words, all the frontier counts except the Count of the South has enemies behind them.

“The marquises are slightly inside the counts.
Then the easiest place to get at them is the west or the east.
With such an arrangement, they can take advantage of foreign powers when the time comes.

 The Northern Count goes without saying.
Expanding too far to the west would bring them into contact with foreign powers, which would not be a good idea.

 Even if Klein were the Marquis of Laguna, he would not squeeze the Count of the West but leave it as a bulwark.

 Then the only way is east, and there are roughly two ways to the east.

 Either through the steep mountain range in the north of the kingdom.

 The other is to take the road that runs east from the capital and pass through some territory.

“There are several routes to the east.
We have the best roads and the most convenient place for a large army to pass through.”

 After checking the situation, Klein said tediously.

“You mean there was a possibility of being noticed in the future?”

“If we control Asgard and the eastern barons’ territories, we can block the forces in the east.
If we seize the key points in the north, west, and east, we can do whatever we want in the center, can’t we?”

 In fact, that is what the future holds.

 If they expand their power to that level, they would be more powerful than the royal family, but once they reach that level, the power of the southern counts and the southern princes alone will not be enough.

 In short, it would be a considerable blow if the Asgard family fell into the hands of the Marquise of Laguna.

 The first prince, or rather the royal family, would be almost finished.

“In other words, if we want to prevent the Marquise of Laguna’s ascendancy, you can’t fall.
His Highness must have understood that, and that’s why he asked me to help you.”

“That’s right.
I think that’s one of the reasons.”

 In fact.

 An up-and-coming baron with a silver mine would be a nuisance if he became an enemy.

 Klein knew he was being probed for this reason but also understood that he was in a very important geopolitical position.

“I could have had a sweet deal with the Marquise, but I don’t like their way of doing things.
The truth is that it was the only time to do something about it.”

 The only way to deal with the Marquises was when the first prince made a secret deal with them.

 It is true, and Klein thought it was the best way to protect his lands.

 He made a lot of excuses, but most of them were true and sincere.

 Brynhildr seemed to have understood and nodded quietly.

 But although he has joined the prince’s side, it is not enough.

 If he does not have the right forces on his side, he will only be viewed as a hostile enemy by the Marquises.

“So, I will send support to His Highness.
Human resources… we’re still short of civil servants.
I’ll bring in the money.
I have Marius’ men ready, so we can do it immediately.”

“Yes, sir.
I’ll get right on it.”

 Even if he does not trust allies who will fall for money, it costs money to engage in maneuvering and socializing.

 If we send Brynhildr out with the money, the prince will take care of the rest.

 With these thoughts in mind, the hands are still in motion.

 Klein wrote up an order to Marius, who was behind the scenes, to contribute the back taxes, and handed it to Brynhildr.

“This is a confidential matter, and you should go directly… to report on what’s going on,”

“Yes, sir.
I’ll leave here as soon as I’m finished.”

 As Brynhildr walked off to prepare for the transport, Klein blurted out.

“Our communication with the Count of the South is getting closer, and I’d like to get the Count of the East on our side this time.
But what should we do if the Hermes Trading Company is reaching out to them too?”

 Despite the headaches, he was temporarily relieved of Brynhildr’s pressure.

 Klein slept more soundly and soundly than usual for the next few days.

* * *

 The merchants’ association, which works as the Marquise of Laguna, is an obstacle, but there must be a way to get out of it.

 After a few days of internal administration, thinking about how to get out of this situation.

 For Klein, it was a traumatic event.

 The story came in exactly as it was supposed to.

“Viscount Asgard, it’s been a while.”

“Yes, it’s been a long time.
What’s so important that you had to come here in person?”

“Well, before we begin.
Let me start by telling you what’s going on.”

 The man who came with the merchants was a civil official of the family of Count Jotun, also known as the Southern Count.

 He is an important figure who has served the Count family for three generations and can be called a right-hand man.

 He is able to buy more food because this year’s harvest is as good as usual.

 He told them that he could import wheat and other crops from abroad and use them as well.

 Of course, this is great news.

 Klein was already nervous when he heard something important was waiting for him.

 He was not expecting that.

“Count Jotun would like to continue our good relationship.”

“Uh, yes.
I’m sure it’s the same for us.”

“No, thank you.
Well, I have very good news for you today.”

 There are a lot of advantages that can come from a relationship.

 Everything he had said so far is a preamble to show the benefits.

 The man smiles――

“What do you say, Viscount Asgard? You should make a pact with our lady.”

 Klein was alarmed.

 He played the instant death card that Klein had always been wary of.

 If he accepts, there will be an all-out war with the Eastern Count.

 If he doesn’t, he’ll incur the displeasure of the Southern Count.

“Huh, ah, ahaha…”

 It would have been a different story not so long ago.
But now that they have a starving region in the north, they will be in serious trouble if they break off relations with Southern Count.

 Klein’s heart was starting to beat fast at the huge problem that had just arisen.

AN : 

 Accept → the Count attacks

 Refuse → Food crisis

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