There’s no accurate map of the assorted southern countries. Countries’ borders change daily, along with the appearance or disappearance of new and old countries, it’s impossible to map completely.
Margrave Freche handed me a current version map on what he knew about the southern countries, with some of the main countries marked.
“This is the information that I’ve personally collected on the southern countries, but I’ve only shared it with Earl Ruktoferd and the Upper House of Lords so far……”
There were only four labeled countries. Jenhans, Nazric, Epadena, and Pactoshiki.
……Seven years ago, Kamil shared with me that he was from Pactoshiki, a country which is in the southwest. Jenhans is a country directly south of eastern Arxia, Epadena was the largest of the southern countries, and occupies the southeastern portion of the continent. Also, Nazric had no land of its own on the map.
“Recently at the end of this spring, Nazric lost a war with Epadena, and the country was subjugated. Using its momentum, Epadena’s swallowed up several small countries around it and has been expanding rapidly.”
Epadena’s current leader seems to be a conqueror fixed on expanding by military might. It’s said that as for the countries adjacent to Epadena, without caring about cultural differences or ethnicities, they’ve been conquering all their neighbors and incorporating their land into Epadena through force.
Since several small countries on Rindarl’s southeast border have become their vassal states, does this mean that Epadena has been receiving aid from Rindarl? However, I need to make sure.
“However, isn’t something of this degree common in the south?”
Otherwise, countries wouldn’t come into existence and fall so quickly in the south. Conflict is endless there, borders keep getting redrawn, countries expand or contract, or a new country becomes independent and causes more strife. I need to find proof that Rindarl was involved, either directly or indirectly.
“Indeed. But, something changed recently about Epadena’s strategy when invading other countries. ……Epadena had been fighting their war with Nazric for four years, at a stalemate.”
Four years. ……Four years, eh.
Claudia next to me whispered something to Bellway, and he got up. The two of them are some of the only literate people around me, and while they take care of a narrower range of responsibilities, they often deal with numbers. Maintaining our combat strength, daily operations and administration, the flow of money necessary for all this.
It takes a strong country to declare war. If you want to supply combat lines far away from your country, you need even more resources. For example, human resources for leading the army and its soldiers, logistics, a source of weapon production, other combat materials and food sources, and you also need a stockpile in the national treasury that can maintain the state of any newly conquered country and help in assimilating them in an orderly fashion.
For countries that are constantly in danger of invasion from one another, to the extent where the map is constantly changing, they shouldn’t have the ability to come up with such national strength.
“So, has Rindarl intervened?”
“Oh, you’re quite perceptive. Rindarl…… or rather I should say, the Giograd Dukedom from Rindarl, they were trading weapons and resources to both Nazric and Epadena during the war. Perhaps I should say instead that Giograd was selling to both sides.”
So, due to the intense, long war, Giograd was able to make an enormous profit by selling weapons and resources to both sides.
“How was Epadena paying for all this?”
There’s still a huge gap between the economic strengths of Giograd and Epadena, to the extent where they couldn’t possibly be trading equally with each other. In fact, Epadena’s war with Nazric was at a stalemate for four years. Judging by Epadena’s size on the map, it shouldn’t be a country like Arxia that still has the strength to develop economically while remaining at war for so long.
So just what has Epadena been using to pay their debts? Just as I had a bad premonition, Margrave Freche smiled sardonically.
“……By the way, Lady Kaldia, I don’t think that you’re as bad of a person as rumors in the royal capital are making you out to be.”
Just what is this sudden topic, I was completely surprised, while the margrave shook his head.
“Your strategy in that one battle doesn’t seem like it’s capable of being conceptualized unless you know what true evil is. Judging you to be overly cruel, that’s just the incompetent inland know-nothing nobles that have experienced nothing but peace for too long.”
“……Ignorance in nobles is unforgivable.”
“I know very well that they’ll cry just about anything. Anyhow, back to the main point. What Epadena is paying to Giograd, is humans.”
Humans…… My premonition came true, and I couldn’t help looking away from Margrave Freche for a moment.
However, this makes it clear. Giograd’s objective for intervening in the south is slaves…… in other words, they view the southern countries as a manpower resource.
Buying and selling humans, this is considered a great evil according to the teachings of the Ar Xia church, and it’s a serious crime in Arxia. As for my late father, after ruining the economy in Kaldia with his despotic laws, he sent the unemployed citizens to other domains as “laborers,” which he also used as a bribe to avoid paying national taxes.
Although he managed to make it look on paper like it was just for labor, in actuality it was no different from him being a slave merchant. For this and all his other crimes, I would have ended up executed along with him when they were discovered, if I had never stopped him.
Epadena’s basically doing what my father did. If they have nothing else to sell, sell humans.
“Right now in Rindarl, the place that requires manpower the most would be Densel……”
When I muttered that, Margrave Freche’s gaze became even sharper as he looked at me, and his expression also contained pity.
But right now, I don’t have the time to care about what his emotions are. I need to consider what will happen on our currently stalemated eastern border, if Giograd supplies Densel with their recently acquired slaves.
“……Is it something like that?”
Although it’s in quite a roundabout manner, it seems that there’s a connection between the southern countries’ situation and our current eastern border defense problem.
Currently the royal army is in charge of the battle against Densel. ……Without any prior knowledge, I doubt that they’d be able to handle the inhumane tactic of using slave soldiers. The knights in the royal army care too much about chivalry, it’s a weakness for them on the battlefield.
“Twenty days ago, an envoy from Pactoshiki came to the southern border of my domain for the first time in eleven years, and gave me detailed information about the southern countries’ situation. Epadena is now in the process of conquering Jenhans. It seems that even in the countries that have allowed Epadena’s military to pass through, quite a large number of people are disappearing.”
“Pactoshiki…… that’s one of the few countries with permission to trade with Arxia. Considering that they even sent an envoy to inform us, does this mean that we have a friendly relationship with Pactoshiki?”
“That’s correct. A little over ten years ago, an Arxian merchant group seems to have visited Pactoshiki, and contributed greatly to its economic development. They also helped spread the teachings of the Ar Xia church there, and although I don’t know what will happen since Pactoshiki is so far away, Pactoshiki has also sent us an official request for protection, as a fellow country that believes in the Ar Xia church.”
It seems that Pactoshiki’s main goal must be their official request, they must really view the development in the southern countries as dangerous if they’re requesting our aid when we’re so far away from them.
……A merchant group that visited Pactoshiki a little over ten years ago, this can only mean that the merchant who was executed for my crimes must have been among them. Meaning…… Kamil’s father.