Translated by Tianic, edited by Grammarly
The news of Luhrmann's coronation quickly spread to the entire continent. Every empire, noble house, and even every alien chief learned the much expected, but also disturbing news at the earliest.
Given all the above, each Asmodian allied empires were also watching the development of Swabia, which turned out to be quite a rare drama.
As for the Protoss allied empires, all the kings have sensed the upper race's attitude towards the Swabian civil war judged by the personnel changes of the high temple positions. Therefore the empires have seized taking sides.
Likewise, most of the noble houses and alien chiefs smelled something bad from all the army withdrawals and transportation restrictions. They have later decided to not act upon because they weren't able to tell the upper race's take on Swabia.
Now everybody knew there were only 2 parties left in Swabia, fighting each other: one was Luhrmann who has recently ascended the throne despite all the difficulties; the other was the Khedas. Between them were countless small clouts who carried favors with both sides.
No one can tell which party would have the ultimate victory and nobody could bump his chest to vouch for anyone.
Especially after the new king's court members have been assassinated one by one, a bloody threat has proven to be more fearful than any sort of war or diplomatic method to those pleasure-driven nobilities.
The fate of Swabia was indeed exceptionally changeful.
Cohen Kheda has been creeping through the few provinces near the capital in order to gather the most accurate intelligence, including Luhrmann's ascending.
But Cohen simply ignored his rival, scraped the newspaper, and told his subordinate to unscroll a map.
"After ascending the throne, he's definitely gonna attack Dark City to boost morale. Before that, he's gonna prep the supply." Cohen said to the map, "Tell Amart to locate Luhrmann's logistical base and maintain necessary contact with Dark City."
"Sir, we're less than 100 pairs of hands, we can't do anything even if we find it…"
"Do as I said." Cohen stood up, "No more questions."
Cohen turned away, leaving several of his captains gazing at each other.
Malphite delivered the order anyway.
"What is he doing?" One of the captains whispered a question, "Don't tell me he wants us to assault Luhrmann's base."
"Do not make a meaningless guess." Said Diana, "We just do our best to follow his order."
"So when do we…" A captain first glanced Cohen from a distance, then lowered his voice, "wrap him and take him back home?"
"We'll see. His fury is getting worse and there's only so much I can do with my magic." Diana replied, "As I said, we'll see. Once this operation is over, we can…"
As his colleagues were discussing how to knock Cohen unconscious and take him back, Malphite kept silent. Like everyone else, the leader of Cohen's guarding troop had the same idea, but duty forbade him from taking the lead.
The watch post on a tree sent a gesture. Not long after, a messenger arrived.
He briefed everyone about the latest news from the capital.
As the foreign forces withdrew, Luhrmann's army finally went ahead: tens of thousands of well-equipped soldiers marched from all the provinces' train grounds. Some bandits located in other empires also arrived at DC to get kitted.
Not all foreign forces went home, a percentage of them were preserved by heavy paychecks, mounting Luhrmann's total armed-forces to 300, 000.
Most importantly, intel showed Luhrmann's had long saved an army for Darkmoon and it's approaching Visual Kheda's territory along the border.
One can't underestimate Luhrmann's power once it's revealed. A 300, 000-force was a sizeable army.
"Sir, should we warn Dark City?" The messenger breathed heavily.
"Commander, things might turn ugly if they sandwich Darkmoon. However, it takes at least 10 days for the news to arrive, not counting the transfer time." Said Malphite, "I'm afraid…"
Cohen's finger slid smoothly on the map then stopped at the capital.
"If we hit, we hit him hard." Cohen declared, "We're going to DC."
"It's impossible to stop that army anyhow, neither can we alert home." Cohen tightened his belt, "But there's still one way to turn it around: we mess up their plan."
"But we don't have enough hands to achieve any substantial outcomes." One of the captains said, "Sir, you told us to not act out of impulse."
"This is not impulse," Cohen offered his subordinate a praising look, then began explaining the tangibility of the operation, "Our objective is to send our enemy information that we're aware of their plan."
"Then Luhrmann will think that we know everything, therefore he's going to do something in react, maybe alter his plan to attack. Let the enemies defeat themselves. Let's move."
That afternoon saw Cohen and his men traced a transportation fleet to a rebel's foodstuff warehouse located outside Divine City.
It was the largest food storage base amongst all 5 rebel warehouses. Before the war, all foodstuffs were tightly guarded underground.
But now, in order to supply the rebel's operation at hand, all food has been moved in batches to the surface waiting to be loaded and transported.
Cohen was stunned to watch the mountain-like food at a distance. He was able to deduct the size of the coming attack judging by the heigh of the hill he saw.
"Listen, they must have other bases for weapons, armors, logs, horses…" Cohen told Malphite, "Tell Marfa and Amart to gather their men and report in, leave only necessary agents."
"One more thing, send my order, tell them to completely sabotage all transportations routes towards Dark City and Darkmoon." Cohen wiped his forehead, "I want all bridges, passes, valleys to be destroyed, dig them up, flood them, make landslides…"
Malphite noted as he reminded Cohen, "We have information your father has men who carry the same mission…"
"Let them destroy all local supply depots." Said Cohen, "We'll stop assassinating Luhrmann's courtiers. Focus on the depots and supply fleets."
"Roger." Said Malphite, "Then what do we do?"
"We're going to bring damage to the enemy's operation as much as possible. We're understaffed so let's spread out." Cohen said, "I'll give you an outline of your mission in the coming weeks. Later you'll find me in DC."
"Commander, that's the last place you should be given the current situation."
"There's something I must do, however hard it is. I heard the new hand of the king is someone who matters to Luhrmann. I should pay him a visit." Cohen tapped Malphite's shoulder, "Trust me, I'll get something ready for him. After that, we'll come home."
Three days later in the capital palace.
The new hand of the king entered King Luhrmann's study with a pile of missives before he discovered several generals standing in a line talking army affairs with the king.
"Bonjour, Your Grace." He left the papers on the desk, "I need your signatures."
Luhrmann hence picked up a pen. Then he asked the hand about the logistical progress.
"All are going smoothly. Your plan is very effective." The hand humbly replied, "All assassinations have been suppressed by us. We haven't received a single case in the past days."
"Good, I'm tired of it." Luhrmann exhaled, "But be vigilant. Keep our hunters alerted and be really for more."
"As you wish."
"Our troops are marching to the frontline, but the New Year's rain has made the route muddier." The king stood up, started pacing in the room, "I want the soldiers to maintain marching speed. One more thing, pay extra attention to my court members in the capital. Once we make it through the next period of time, the problem will be gone quickly.
Only at this very same moment did Cohen give his subordinates their assignments before these intelligence agents disguised themselves and spread out in various routes towards their targets.
These were a bunch of young men who had once served in Dark City's military academy. The moment they heard they were going back to do their old job and the leader would be 'boss', all burst out cheers.
The plan was very well drawn. Before the go time, Cohen had required them to mark all timestamps, assault methods, retreat routes, convergence locations, and hiding points in their hearts.
Cohen has also disassembled his guarding troops and placed the parts into each squadron, for fear of the lack of power.
"I won't be with you this time. Meet me in DC when you're done." Said Cohen when Malphite expressed his security concerns.
"What's your business there, sir?"
"I'm going to watch how the rebels' gonna react once your mission is done." Said Cohen, "I know they've reassigned a sizeable of courtiers and reformed the bureaucratic structure. I have to see for myself or I won't be certain of the coming war."
"Take some guards."
"No. Your job concerns the safety of 2 provinces. The more men, the more success." Cohen whispered, "If you failed, our army will suffer, big time. Mark this in your heart, you won't fail!"
"BUT YOUR MOTHER FUCKER!" Cohen cursed, "WHAT DO YOU KNOW! FUCK OFF!"
Malphite quit continuing before Cohen made a bigger scene.
Later on, Cohen casually invited himself into the gate of the capital in a suit of daily wear.
Walking on the street of DC reminded Cohen of everything familiar. The shops, the passerby, all inevitably recalled him of the joyful days he had spent with Fischer. Now, the city has become the head of the rebels.
At the thought of the usurpers, Cohen grew crazy rage like wildfires from within.
However, as a supreme commander of an army, he's also retained the least sense of reason that prevented him from acting anything less of ration. Although he delivered all hands around the capital, it was still not enough for them to fulfill his tasks. Even if they were lucky to finish the jobs, they won't be getting out without losing a limb.
The only thing Cohen can do to help was to divert his enemy's attention by making himself the easy target and firmly containing the capital's police force in the city. Only in this way could he buy some time for his subordinates.
Cohen has made his own safety the last priority because his time was limited, and also he was too ignorant to consider being alive due to his friend's tragic death.
To this day, it was still a mystery even to Cohen himself as to why his world suddenly turned dark the moment Fischer died.
What a world, a world's existence that was cut from himself, a world of that could never bring Cohen any emotion, happiness or detest.
To be more precise, when Fischer died, Cohen's heart was only left with the past instead of the present or the future.
His eyes cannot sense any colors other than the color of blood. His brain can never sense any emotions other than the furious urge of killing.
From that very moment, this man has lost his life, his life should have been long gone much like his enemy's.
Cohen bought a bottle of poorly brewed wine and washed it down. It didn't offer much taste other than the coldness of the liquid.
Afterward, he found himself into several alleys, went in and out before he got lost of a team of his guards that have been trailing behind.
At dusk, the hand of the king excused himself from the royal palace after the whole day's work. Luhrmann offered his personally guarding troops to escort this empire's finest to his mansion.
The hand of the king entered his garden with several servants after he's settled trifles in the front patio. An exquisite dinner has been set in a pavilion built at the center of an etange. He usually spent his dinner there.
"My lord, the etiquette minister's butler found his way here this morning." The mansion-keeper thoughtfully helped his master with a sky-blue tippet, "He intended to have you for dinner at his mansion tomorrow night."
"Do me a favor, decline it." The hand's gentle voice said, "I do not want to see his face."
"As you wish. Several generals also paid visits here…"
"Do the same." The hand's voice showed a strong hint of dissatisfaction, "What a group of boorish human beings."
Once he said that, a mistress-looking female who had been sitting by the dining table stood up and approached. She cannot help but be amused, "I have not been seeing you laugh since you were here in the capital."
"You would not if you were me." The hand of the king explained in spite of revealing his feelings, "A long time ago, I was told Divine City was a beautiful city. But too pity I found it to be a filthy place much like the human beings who took it."
"So you have said. Isn't there a man in this empire who you find interesting?" The mistress girl chuckled, she tidied her man's belt, "Your king, for example."
"The king? Luhrmann?" The hand of the king said like he didn't know it was extremely offensive and rebellious, "That is a crazy man whose days are numbered."
"Touché! I'll tell the king you said that." The mistress toured behind the hand then circled her arms gently around her man's neck, "O, my poor lord, you'll be so punished."
"Oftentimes I found his punishment so tedious that I'd rather look forward to your punishment." The hand sat down with a soft smile, "I would kill for a meal made by you."
The good-looking mistress blushed but she was overjoyed. She sat by the hand, forked a piece of delicacy into the man's mouth.
"Light, soft, delicious…" The praise was sincere, the hand of the king said, "Your meal is the only reward for me to come here."
"Thank you." The mistress tilted her head, "Now, you can tell me what gave you that smile today."
"Well, your powers of observing is impressive." The hand made a shy smile before a hint of yearning climbed on his face, "My pets told me our friend has found his way to the capital this morning."
"You mean him? Cohen Kheda, the Protoss Knight?" The mistress' silver fork froze in the midair.
The hand implicitly nodded.
"If he is here, then what we have done is not for nothing." The hand took over the fork and fed himself, "But I was curious about the deeds he pulled in the past months. If I hadn't sent a troop for Darkmoon, I wonder when he'd going to postpone his visit to the capital."
"How reckless. You were telling his vengeance like it was on the spur of the moment." The mistress pinched her man's shoulder, "If he knew, he might need to take your head for saying that…"
"Emm, if he did, will you revenge me?" The hand of the king grinned, he gently lifted her jaw with a finger.
"Stop it." The mistress flapped away from the finger, blushed, "Don't act up again."
"To be honest, I am worried that he is coming after Luhrmann this time…" The hand stood up by the enclosure rail, "He has recently doubled his royal guards. I would not say it is any easier than before. Although I also did some works on my part, I cannot see through Cohen Kheda's actions. If he goes straight to Luhrmann, our plan might be compromised."
While they were talking, a pair of reddened eyes were targeting Luhrmann's hand of the king through layers of trees and leaves from rockwork not far from the pavilion. The owner of the eyes was holding a loaded crossbow.
Cohen Kheda has sneaked into the hand's mansion and set several traps in the garden this afternoon. He has also set up a safe extracting route for himself. Now the only thing left was patiently wait until dark.
"Rest assured, Luhrmann is his ultimate foe, the archenemy. He will not let Luhrmann die easily." The mistress turned to her man, "I think Cohen Kheda is going after you first."
Just as the hand was about to reply, his smile paused for half a second.
"I wonder. Hey darling, bring me a bottle of good red." The hand said, "The rest of you may go."
"I thought you hated wine."
The hand didn't move nor comment, but his tone unnoticeably erased the hint of joking voice from before, "Everything has an exception."
"I see. I will let you be." The mistress stood up. She received the wine from the mansion-keeper and left.
The hand of the king turn his body and faced the rockwork. He poured the lightly-scented liquid into 2 exquisite pieces of glass, said with a smile, "I am tremendously honored for your visit, my precious guest."
Cohen's heartbeat was still normal. What the hand said and did earlier have been a shock for him, therefore he didn't feel any differently by the words he said seconds ago.
"I know, DC is a changed city. I can feel your agony. But however depressed you are, you do not need to drink that hobo's lousy liquid." The hand carefully finished pouring the wine, "What is noble will stay noble. A king will act like a king. Am I correct, the rightful empire of Swabia, King Cohen Kheda?"
Cohen still didn't make a move. The arrowhead from his crossbow was still aiming the hand's face.
The hand of the king peacefully faced the rockwork with a gentle smile. Under the dashing eyebrows were his clear yet elusive eyes.