When Andrea and I finally arrived at the meeting, it was already half an hour later.
As soon as we entered the tent, the people inside looked at us with unkind and hostile expressions. It was pretty normal considering the fact that we made them wait for half an hour without an explanation.
Surprisingly, the general’s expression was rather calm. Of course, that was just outwardly. I was sure he was cursing me in ten thousand ways inside his mind.
I did not mind the hostile gazes directed towards us and walked straight towards my seat. Andrea, on the other hand, was completely red, although I was unsure if it was due to the embarrassment or the game we just went through.
She stood behind me and lowered her gaze, unable to meet the gazes of the generals of the shame she was feeling.
As soon as I sat down, the general looked at me and opened his mouth.
“Prince Claus, you are half an hour later, you know?”
“Sorry about that. I was a bit busy with something.”
“Is it so? Can I ask you what you were busy with?”
I grinned brilliantly with the sunniest smile I could do and opened my mouth.
The general’s eyebrows twitched, however, he managed to stop himself from showing his anger.
As someone experienced in politics, he could see I was messing with him. And in all honesty, he would have done the same if he was in my place.
After all, we were enemies in completely different factions, and he was even thinking about ways to kill me. In the current situation, finding ways to mess with each other was normal.
Seeing that the general managed to keep his calm, I decided to stop messing with him. After all, the quicker I deal with this situation the faster I can leave this place.
Understanding my intentions, the general stopped finding fault with me and opened his mouth.
“Now that everybody is finally here, let’s start the meeting.
“As you know, we were attacked by daemons last night. The attack left us with very serious casualties, and two-fifths of our forces are unable to continue fighting. To be honest, it was a very serious blow.”
The people around the general frowned silently. Each one of them was either an important noble or someone with a high and powerful position in the army. Each one of them knew the meaning of losing four thousand soldiers in just a battle.
That result could only be considered disastrous.
“General, how in the hell did the daemons ambush us? We are still deep inside the empire’s territory. I can’t believe the daemons managed to reach here undetected!” One of the people in the tent spoke up at that moment.
“… They were a team of elites. I think they avoided the cities, towns, and villages and killed each human they met. That was most likely how they managed to enter the empire without being detected.”
“Even so, it’s too unbelievable. Could it be we have a traitor in the empire?”
Intentionally or not, that person looked at me after saying that.
I was a bit amused. Is he suggesting I am a traitor?
I could not help but chuckle.
“Actually, I think so too. Fortunately, my teacher killed that daemon powerhouse, our losses would have been much worse.”
That person shut up immediately, unable to continue speaking.
In fact, none of them thought I was the traitor. No matter what, I was still a prince of the empire.
Moreover, my people had killed many daemons on several occasions, including two beyond-twelfth-layer practitioners. No king or emperor would be so stupid as to sacrifice two powerhouses like those just to create a cover for a traitor.
As for the reason that man hinted that I could be a traitor? Well, just like I did before, he was just messing with me, trying to irritate me.
Perhaps it was payback for making them wait half an hour.
Understanding that, the general frowned and tapped the table.
“Now is not the time to be pointing fingers. Instead, let’s focus on our duty. I already communicated the details of last night’s attack to the capital, and just one hour ago, we received a reply.”
“Are we going to retreat?” One of the people in the tent suggested the most likely course of action.
But to his surprise, the general shook his head.
“No, we have orders to continue. We will leave the injured behind and continue towards Fort Mist.”
“We are going to continue!?” The people on the table were shocked, looking at each other in surprise. “But General, we are not in conditions to go to the frontlines. The men’s morale is at an all-time low, and a big part of our food and water was burnt during the attack. At the very least, we need to replenish the supplies if we want to continue!”
“I know that. However, it was not my choice, and I can’t defy it.”
The people inside the tent fell silent.
Just like the general, they knew the orders of the capital were absolute unless they wanted to be branded as traitors.
Seeing that, the general sighed.
“I heard some news about the situation in the frontlines, and it is not very good. That is the reason they are asking us to continue despite our situation. They need to receive reinforcements as soon as possible. Especially Fort Mist. According to the information I got, they are defending the fort with less than one thousand soldiers. The only reason they have managed to endure until now is thanks to the efforts of the general defending the fort.”
“… The situation in the frontlines is that bad? It’s worse than we thought.” Someone could not help but blurt that out.
“It is. Thus, we don’t have more options but press forward.”
The people in the tent could only nod in acceptance.
Seeing that everybody understood the situation, the general once more turned towards me.
“Prince Claus, I’m aware that your caravan is transporting crucial supplies including food. I know that it’s impolite of me, but I hope you can give them to us.”
All the people in the tent looked at me at that moment.
I narrowed my eyes. Finally, I understood the reason the general invited me to this meeting.
So that was his intention since the start, huh…
Is he planning to use the information he just said and the gazes of the people in the tent to pressure me to give away my supplies?
Hahaha, good idea. Look, even Andrea is fidgeting uneasily behind me.
However, that is not enough.
Ignoring the glared directed towards me, I looked calmly towards the general.
“Is that an order of the emperor?”
The general frowned. “It’s not, but–”
“Then, I will not,” I said without waiting for the general to finish. “These supplies are crucial for the development of the empire’s territory. I can’t give them away just because you said so, general.”
That is bullshit. That supplies are not important for me.
I can burn them if I want, and I will feel nothing. However, there is no way I will give them to my enemy.
Most probably, if I give these supplies to him now, he will use them to feed the soldiers he will use against me later.
Plus, I still need them to hide the true purpose of our travel. Of course, I can find another excuse if I want, but it’s better not to complicate things.
And as expected, the general did not receive my words kindly.
“Prince Claus, do you know how many soldiers will die due to lack of supplies? Are you going to ignore their wellbeing just for petty personal gains?”
“General, please stop that. That will not work with me. You and I are aware of my position in this army, so do you think I will truly give it to you? As for the soldiers’ life and death? They are not my men anyway.”
“… Prince, I hope you remember I’m a general in wartime. You should know that I have the right to confiscate resources from merchants if I consider it’s necessary for the war.”
“And I hope you remember I’m a prince. If you dare to slight my authority, I don’t mind asking my teacher to make you a head shorter. I’m sure nobody will find fault with me for a dead general.”
The general grunted and glared at me with an ice-cold expression. I could feel his powerful killing intent locking on me.
In the end, though, he did not continue pressing on.
He knew that if he gave me a good excuse, I could easily order his death and nobody could say anything.
Plus, today was just an attempt to see if he could pressure me. To test my limits. Now that he failed, he did not plan to continue.
“… I understand. If Prince Claus did not want to help us, I will not insist. Let’s end this meeting here.”
“Perfect. I did not want to spend another second here.”
With these words, I grabbed Andrea’s hand and left the tent.
Let’s see how much you can entertain me, general.
Current schedule: 10 Chapters/week