I returned to the village before I had fully calmed down from the excitement. But I did not tell anyone that I had met General Hannibal.
Part of it was that I wanted it to be my secret, but it was also because I didn’t think that Jeanne or Toshizou would know who Hannibal was.
Jeanne was an uneducated daughter of a farmer, and Toshizou was from Japan, and wouldn’t know of Hannibal’s achievements.
The elder really was an amazing person, but only I needed to know about it, and about the worth of the book.
And so as soon as I got back, I began to read the book obsessively.
When eating breakfast, when leaving the village, even when riding the horse.
He wrote about the strategies he tested in the Iberian Peninsula and in Rome.
General Hannibal was fighting with an overwhelming disadvantage when it came to the number of soldiers, and he was fighting against the army of Rome, which was considered to be the strongest at the time.
With brilliant enemy generals in front of him, and useless ally politicians behind, he achieved victories that history would remember.
The very idea that the secrets of those victories were written in the book made it difficult to stop turning the pages. But when I was not just reading on the horse, but tried to read while bathing at an inn that we stopped at, Jeanne had something to say.
“You read too much, Demon King. If this continues, your negotiations with Count Ismalia will fail.”
It was pretty bad if Jeanne was the one to scold you. And she was right. Spending too much time with the book could negatively affect everything else.
And so I used magic to call an eagle, and then I attached the book to its foot.
Sending it back to Ashtaroth castle seemed like the best way to overcome the temptation.
Upon seeing this, Jeanne said, ‘How graceful. That is why I like you, Demon King.’
Toshizou agreed, saying it was impressive to see me let go of ‘a lover’ like that.
Now that Hannibal’s book was in my castle library, I could focus on the issue at hand. Count Ismalia.
“Now, we’re already in his lands. So we should reach the castle soon.”
“From where will we enter?”
“Boldy, through the front gate.”
“And be arrested on sight.”
“Indeed. And that will be enough reason to declare war.”
“Yes, but they might try to kill us at the same time.”
I said. Jeanne looked alarmed.
“And so it will only be me and Toshizou who enter the castle.”
“You will leave me here? How cruel.”
“It would not do if they killed all three of us. If we are defeated, you can avenge us.”
I said jokingly. But Jeanne was in no mood to laugh.
And so I bowed my head and apologized.
“It was a joke. I very much doubt they will attack us immediately. I think Count Ismalia will take us as hostages so that he can exchange us for lands. That would be the best way to do it.”
“Yes. However, we will be captured for some time. And so I want someone who is still able to move freely in the meantime. Jeanne, you must work with Fuma Kotara and help us escape.”
I said gently, and then Jeanne replied in what was her attempt at Kotaro’s voice.
She chuckled. And then we parted ways.
Once we were alone, Toshizou asked me,
“That wasn’t much of a goodbye. Considering you may actually die here.”
“All the more reason to leave it casual.”
“Well, I suppose you will sleep better knowing that she is safe.”
Toshizou said, without much concern. And like that, we rode into the town ruled by Count Ismalia.
There were no gatekeepers, but guards moved towards us in no time.
Perhaps a Sorcerer and an eastern samurai were a combination that reminded them of their duty.
The guards questioned us with nervous expressions, but we calmly introduced ourselves.
“I am Demon King Ashtaroth. And this is my subordinate, Toshizou Hijikata. We were invited here as guests by Count Ismalia. Now, can you escort us to the castle?”
Their attitude changed as soon as I mentioned the count. They became peaceful. They must have been informed about us in advance.
And so the guards took us to the castle. But when we arrived, we suddenly fell silent.
This was because the count’s castle was much more grand than we were expecting.
“Phew. Now that is a castle worth storming.”
“I had heard that a lot of the human castles were impressive, but Count Ismalia’s looks especially great.”
“Your castle looks very small in comparison.”
“I think old is a better world. It has an antique quality, but good defenses.”
Still, I continued.
“When we do attack, we’ll need siege engines. However, the walls surrounding the town were also thick.”
So catapults and battering rams would be necessary. But after making some calculations in my head, I realized that I was counting my chickens before they hatched.
We hadn’t even escaped, let alone been captured yet. And my army wasn’t here either. It was not the time to be thinking of such things.
First, I had to meet the count and be captured.
I thought as I adjusted my collar. Eve had prepared some formal clothing for me to wear during the audience. It was starched perfectly. However, as I had been the one to put it on, it might be off somewhat.
Eve would have fixed such things if she were here. I could have asked Toshizou, but that seemed like a bad idea.
We looked at each other for a while, and then entered the count’s castle.