Third person POV.
The castle where the king resides in is surrounded by a thick city walls with a population exceeding 40,000 people. This city is the imperial capital of the Kingdom of Sandra, Sandoria.
On that day, the guards who were stationed on the city walls spotted a military unit approaching from a distance.
“It’s the Red Dragon Knights! The Red Dragon Knights have returned from south!” The guard shouted.
The guards who were waiting for the return of the Red Dragon Knights eagerly dispatched a messenger on a fast horse to spread the news.
The news was then immediately spread all over the imperial capital. It was due to the fact that before the departure of this expedition, the Red Dragon Knights had been the main topic for gossip.
Under the pretext of ‘the beastmen have gathered at the south and impertinently built a town, so by the King’s virtue and authority, the Order of the Red Dragon Knights had been sent out to subjugate them’ or so the rumours have said.
This is an era with few entertainments. The triumph victory of one’s own nation army strongly stimulates the pride of it people, it had become a pleasure that excel above everything else. That was why a great number of citizens flocked to the street that runs through straight from the citadel’s entrance to the castle, Cainbeth Street, in hopes of seeing the battle trophies won by the honoured Red Dragon Knights.
The citizens crowded both sides of the street, and there was not a single house from which people did not look out from.
The opponents were simply beastmen after all. It was an expedition where their victory had been decided from beginning. That was why people gathered without any hesitation. But, they did not know why the Red Dragon Knights did not send a messenger on a fast horse to inform all the residents.
Before long, the Red Dragon Knights made their appearance. The citizens welcomed the Red Dragon Knights with a shower of applause and shouts of joy.
“You’ve finally returned, Red Dragon Knights! Now then, please tell us about the results of the expedition!”
“Cheers! To the Red Dragon Knights, the best on this continent!”
The words of praise came from the people like a waterfall. It was only early afternoon, and the sun has sunk from the zenith a little, yet Cainbeth street was in an uproar, as if holding its own festival.
However, the state of the knights was a little strange when faced with the cheers of the citizens. The soldiers advancing through the street had long faces and an air of depression.
When the citizens noticed it, some stopped their applause, while others clamped their mouths shut, ending the shower of praises. Naturally, the cheers stopped, and the people whispered to each other of their suspicions.
“O-Oi, by any chance... Did they lose?”
“No, that can’t be true, right? After all, the opponents were just beastmen. Besides, look at the soldier's armor.”
From what the citizens could see, there were no traces of battle on the soldier's armor. Furthermore, the number of soldiers didn’t seem to have decreased.
In other words, the expedition was a big success. The beastmen must have lost their fighting spirits in front of the Red Dragon Knights’ strong army, hanging their heads low while wagging their tails.
However, what was with this current situation? Everyone tilted their heads in confusion.
Then, one soldier broke off from the formation and shouted loudly to the citizens who have gathered.
“I feel grateful to the people who have gathered here! But, there is disappointing news! The expedition failed!”
For the citizens, it was such a surprising announcement that made them doubt their ears. The voices of the people began to create a cacophony of sounds, with the main shouts being why and how.
“Silence! We were not defeated by the beastmen! Our commander-in-chief, Garland, suffered from illness due to the long expedition! In addition, several people died from the disease as well! We believe that it was a disease local to the South! In fear that the disease will spread from commander Garland himself, he had ordered a retreat, and unfortunately passed away immediately after that!” The soldier declared loudly, pausing slightly before continuing. “When he died, the commander had said so in his last breath! ‘Abandon myself who is the cause of the disease!’ Everyone, can you please give your condolences to our brave Commander Garland!”
The spreading of disease, the death of the commander, and their retreat...
“Oh... Something like that..!”
The joy suddenly turned into grief when they heard that Garland, a famous military man died from an illness. No matter how much he excelled in martial arts, one could not win against disease.
From the sadness of losing the nation’s hero, the citizen grieved over the fleeting lives of humanity. The soldier’s theatrical actions immediately caught the hearts of the people gathered there.
But, there was one person who was observing the condition of the knights and citizens from a building’s shadow disinterestedly.
“...Did they lose?” A tall scholar with golden hair muttered softly.
It was Frost. He had seen through the Red Dragon Knights’ lie about their defeat to protect their reputation.
The beastmen had left for the south two years ago. Within a short time, there was a human man who made a town rivaling that of the Imperial Capital there. Just by looking at one of the buildings that he created, one could see that he came from a place of advanced civilization. Above everything else, with only himself, he was able to make a large number of beastmen follow him, which was certainly abnormal.
“I wonder what will happen in the future..?” Frost muttered to himself again.
There were almost no resources in the southern lands. But this time, the kingdom knew of the power of the town of the beastmen that was not to be made light of.
Since the church had prohibited fights between nations now, a group of soldiers would definitely try to gain from this unexpected military expedition. They will try to persuade people of the danger of the beastmen in the south, and propose to conquer the south again.
Even so, taking into consideration of the costs of the expedition, the domestic affairs officials would certainly object to it. Frost had heard that the kingdom was responsible for supplying the food of the soldiers who went to the south this time.
Five hundred cavalrymen and several thousand infantrymen. A considerable amount of food was spent without getting anything in return.
The domestic affairs officials surely would not permit selling the skin before catching the bear happening a second time.
[TLC: For this part here, I think it might be talking of an idiom here, will need the editor to check for the english version of the phrase. Or just leave it as it is.]
[ED: ‘Don’t sell the skin before catching the bear’ is an idiom that is similar to don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, or basically expecting to get something although you’re not sure if you can get it. There are many variations on how to phrase that, but the above one seems to be relatively common.]
Thinking up to here, Frost shook his head.
“But, was there really no results?”
Frost was merely a scholar. Even if he racked his brains over it, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.
But, Frost was concerned about one thing. It was his former pupil who had served as a guide this time.
“I hope that he isn’t going to be killed in revenge for their defeat.” Frost sighed.
The secret information was sold for money, and Frost had already announced his expulsion.
But, a person’s feelings are something troublesome. Even though he had cut their ties, it wasn’t easy to abandon the anxiety inside his heart.
As the Red Dragon Knights marched on Cainbeth street towards the castle, Vice Deputy Thomas went to the Imperial Court to have an audience with the King of Sandra.
Currently, Vice Deputy Thomas was in the middle of reporting in the throne room.
The king was seated on the throne while Thomas knelt down on one knee in front of him on the red carpet that extended from the throne. Furthermore, flanking Thomas were various military and civil officers facing each other outside the red carpet.
“Hmm, did you say that the Red Dragon Knights were defeated?” The king asked.
Upon hearing that Commander Garland and 5 other people under him had died in the battle against the enemy, the king groaned heavily.
“Yes! The five and Commander Garland were killed by strange magic from a distant place where arrows couldn’t reach.” Thomas confirmed his report.
The King groaned again.
“Let me present this.”
What Thomas took out from his chest pocket was a small lump of metal that lied quietly on his palm. One of the retainers picked it up and carried it to the king.
“What on earth is this?” The king inquired as he picked up the piece of metal and observed it at all possible angles.
“This metal lump flies like an arrowhead and cuts through our body and armor like they’re made of paper.” Thomas stated.
After penetrating through the body of someone wearing armor, this metallic lump only stopped after digging itself into the armour plate of the person behind them.
[TL: I didn’t know if the author is fck up with the dialogue “ ” or it is really as it is]
“What...” The king gasped.
“Before this strange magic is fully understood, I think we had better not march into the south again.” Thomas suggested.
The detailed report from Thomas was something he did to preserve the reputation of the Red Dragon Knights. If another Knight Order was victorious in an attack against the beastmen town, it would be inevitable for the Red Dragon Knights who bore the name ‘Dragon’ to receive criticism due to the disgrace.
However, if the unknown magic was already fully researched later on, there would be no problems for other Knight Orders to attack again.
In this case, they would be excused from losing because of the mysterious magic, and when the next expedition was successful, it could be said to be the result of the analysation of the strange magic.
But, there was a person attempting to ruin Thomas’ plan.
“You can’t do that!” From the military officers’ side, a large, muscular man with a splendid, bristly moustache raised his voice.
“Hmm, what is it, Barbarodem?” The king asked.
[TL: the author has fck up naming sense....]
The man named Barbarodem was the leader of the Yellow Dragon Knights.
Barbarodem left the row, knelt next to Thomas, and protested.
“You can’t do that, Your Majesty! This will affect your honor!”
“What honor you are speaking of, Barbarodem?” The king questioned.
“I mean the prestige of the kingdom. Along with it is Your Majesty’s reputation.” Barbarodem replied sternly.
“Hmm... The king’s prestige, huh..?” When the king’s prestige was mentioned, the king groaned; no, it would be more accurate to say that he grunted, because the current king was a man who wasn’t very particular about his reputation.
After all, he was the 4th prince of the royal family. The seat of king only fell into his lap because his elder brothers died from war and disease. He became king by a stroke of luck, so he was someone who didn’t hold ambitions for others. The king hoped that he would be able to spend the rest of his life peacefully and uneventfully.
However, he couldn’t reveal these trains of thoughts to his retainers. For that purpose, in an attempt to maintain his appearance as a king, he was constantly in distress.
[TL: Funny that he's a King in distress, not a damsel in distress]
“Sir Barbarodem, didn’t you hear my story?” Thomas asked, dissatisfaction colouring his voice.
“Huh, what a greenhorn. According to your story, the opponent’s magic seemed to be a personal magic. On top of that, it was only magic of that level. There should only be one person who could use it. The enemy is someone we would be able to easily beat if surrounded by numbers.” On the contrary, Barbarodem retorted sharply with beast-like eyes, making Thomas draw back.
Thomas was lost for words.
Barbarodem was right. In that battle, they could have cooperated with the infantry and attacked. However, Thomas was scared of unknown magic, and thought that there were multiple magicians of similar ability. Furthermore, aside from the metal shot at high speed, he had feared the potential casting of large-scale magic, and ordered the retreat.
When he thought of it again, there couldn’t be many people who were able to use such magic as there were no reasons to hold back their magic in front of 500 cavalrymen. The withdrawal was Thomas’ blunder that resulted from losing his composure when the Commander was shot.
“Your Majesty, please give the Yellow Dragon Knights an order to march to the South!” Barbarodem requested.
“Wait.” The one who stopped Barbarodem was one of the people from the civil officers’ side.
Barbarodem glared on the civil servant, but the person himself continued advising the king nonchalantly.
“The expenditure for this expedition is something that simply can’t be ignored. Moreover, the South is a distant land, and there aren’t any resources that are worthy of such an expense. For now, it would be best to only monitor the beastmen.” The civil officer proposed.
“You bastard! Do you understand what it means for a Knight Order of our glorious kingdom to be defeated by the beastmen?!” Barbarodem shouted furiously.
“Oh? Didn’t I hear that the army retreated because of a plague?” The shrewd civil servant dodged his excuse with a cool face.
“...That was what was announced to the public.” Barbarodem confirmed glumly.
"Why was that even declared? You could have just revealed it. The fact that we’ve been defeated by mere beastmen... Not even those from other countries would believe it." The officer scoffed.
“What about the troops?” Barbarodem tried for another angle.
“Isn’t this a good chance? In this peaceful time, a sly enemy has appeared. It would be an opportunity for them to concentrate on training. Everyone became careless recently. The soldiers who know the truth would be ashamed by their own incompetence.” The officer smiled.
“Hmph, you are only skilful with your mouth.” Barbarodem grunted after realising that he couldn’t win the verbal battle.
With the king’s permission, he returned back to his original position.
“Alright. We will suspend the capture of the beastmen town for time being. For now, we will monitor them, but do not neglect preparations so that we will be able to move immediately if anything happens.” The king decreed.
“““Yes!””” Everyone present chorused.