Ashes and Kingdoms v2 2-6

<A Message from the translator:> Sorry for the delay. I’m recovering from a recent surgery and it’s hard to stay in front of the computer for too long. I was tempted to translate the chapter title as “Shadow Operating in the Shadows”, but it seemed a bit redundant. Still, that one fit betters, don’t you think?

2-6: Shadow Operating in Secret

“Salute the Commander!”

A guard raised his voice, and the row of soldiers clicked their heels together and straightened their backs. The line of their uniform spearheads glittered in the sunlight as the metal fittings of their armor clinked.

Grause scanned each of their faces in satisfaction and occasionally nodded to show his trust and favor in them. Just that gesture alone made the soldiers he exchanged glances with have their eyes twinkle. But then again, even without that, their faces glittered from the beads of sweat on their faces.

“Wonderful, gentlemen.”

After his review, Grause expressed his acknowledgment and praise of them.

“The army corps stationed here in Costom has always been tense since the beginning of history. This place is the junction where the powers from all four directions cross swords. Even now, the turbulence brewing in the north, as well as the west, will be surging towards us. Depending on the situation, we’ll have to deal with both sides entirely by ourselves.”

The probability of this occurring wasn’t low. But, Grause didn’t show a sliver of unease. Rather, he puffed out his chest, brimming with confidence.

“However, my comrades in arms, I know that your fight will not shame your ancestors and our emperor! I know that you will never abandon your comrades or betray them. You will fight for your friends, for our empire!”

“OH!” Cheers resounded in response. Grause further appealed to the soldiers’ self-esteem, made them proud, and finished his speech by having them remember that the emperor would be watching them.

Grause returned to the commander’s office with the cheers behind him. He removed his formal armor and entrusted it to his attendant before sitting in his seat with a sigh.

“Looks like I can persuade them like this.”

He mumbled to himself and gulped the entire contents of his glass of water. Soldiers were good things. They can endure difficult circumstances through their camaraderie and solidarity. They can bring forth the strength to obediently clean up even the vilest of orders. The subordinates who have forged bonds in battle will tread thorny paths together without him dangling any rewards, empty promises, or flattery.

Naturally, this wasn’t a problem unique to the army corps. But, at the very least to Grause, the army was a comfortable community where he could freely demonstrate his abilities.

This was the exact opposite for his friend and superior, Valis.

When Grause looked outside the window, he saw birds flying over the capital and through the cirrus clouds in the sky.

(I wonder if Valis is enduring his war of attrition in the council chambers right now.)

Was his noble face distorted in tedium as he patiently continued his persuasions and negotiations? Or was he ridiculed by the foolish council members and rushing outside of the council chambers to cool his head? Grause involuntarily snickered when he imagined the emperor kicking pebbles in the plaza.

Soon after, he suddenly caught sight of a shadow from the corner of his eye. He cleared his throat to cover up his embarrassment of laughing by himself. Then…


Startled, he turned around. No one was supposed to be there. The attendant was performing maintenance on his armor in another room, and there shouldn’t have been anyone in the room waiting for him. Of course, no one entered behind him either.

“Who’s there?”

He asked in a harsh and deep tone while quickly reaching over for his sword. There appeared to be a person cloaked in a robe of darkness standing in the shadowy corner, deep in the room. Nothing about them, from their physique to their facial features, could be clearly made out.

Grause was covered in goosebumps. He felt damp chills crawling over his back. Despair and anxiety spread their wings and cast a shadow over his soul. His instincts yelled that this wasn’t anything good. At the same time, he knew that this wasn’t someone whom he could drive away with intimidation.

Should he call a soldier over or should cut them down as soon as possible? While Grause pondered these choices, the shadow spoke.

“Do you not want to know Cenate’s whereabouts?”

“…What did you say?”

Grause frowned and answered with a question. It wasn’t just that this subject matter was unexpected. The other party’s voice echoed strangely and was hard to follow. Were they male or female? Even their age couldn’t be determined. No, this strange, grating voice felt more like the overlapping echo of various voices.

The shadow slightly wavered as if it was sneering at Grause’s vigilance. It seemed like they could laugh.

“Cenate Aedius Nenais. You desire this trump card, no?”

“What are your demands?”

Grause growled. He highly doubted that such a suspicious person would fulfill his desire without demanding compensation. And his instincts were telling him that he shouldn’t accept a deal with this thing no matter what the compensation was.


The hollow voice repeated his words. Even though there wasn’t any change in their tone or attitude, Grause shivered as he was suddenly assaulted by a chill. The shadow remained stationary and continued to speak in a monotone voice.

“Your desire is what’s important. What will you do once you have Cenate in your grasp? Which do you need? A living Cenate or a dead Cenate?”

(Don’t answer.)

Grause reflexively held his tongue. He would be killed if he said something thoughtless. His intuition shut his mouth and pushed the words down his throat.

The two didn’t move an inch as the long silence continued. Then…

“…I see.”

The dark shadow was the first to speak.

“If this was unnecessary, this is the end.”

The shadow wavered and returned to the darkness though it didn’t show any signs of disappointment or any real intention to appeal any further.


Grause immediately drew his sword, but he could neither slash with it nor throw it. By that time, the darkness in the corner of the room vanished only to leave a dim gloom behind.

Soon after, the attendant in the adjacent room had heard the cry and rushed over.

“Is something the matter, Lord Grause?”

His eyes were wide in surprise, and he was prepared for some strange person or happening. When the attendant realized that Grause had his sword drawn, he quickly pulled out his own dagger while quickly surveying the room for the enemy.

Grause exhaled deeply, put down his sword, and shook his head.

“Sorry for surprising you. I’m fine. The danger’s gone…for now.”

“Did something happen? Was a suspicious person lurking here?”

“I don’t know.”

The attendant asked in unease as the commander made a complicated face. He was probably thinking that if possible, he didn’t want to assume that his commander had pulled a sword against and yelled at a hallucination. Grause bitterly smiled back and looked over at the room’s corner again.

“Some kind of unknown figure was standing over there. Provoking me with some unsettling bait. That might have been…a sorcerer.”

“That can’t be.”

“I said don’t know. Now that Dragon Lords have appeared, it wouldn’t be strange for sorcerers, spirits, and even gods to start showing up. I’ve even heard stories of the Beasts of Darkness ravaging through human settlements. Really, one cannot relax in these times. Though saying that, how can one even be cautious when dealing with the occult? Sigh.”

After his complaint, Grause ordered his attendant to arrange for a fast horse to the capital. He needed to write a letter to the emperor to inform him that young Cenate was certainly alive and his whereabouts could be discovered by a sorcerer.

(They had offered a living Cenate or a dead Cenate. If that was an option, then the boy was at least alive. Dead people cannot come back to life. However, it’ll be a different story if they were going to kill me if I answered that I required a living Cenate.)

Ah, how troublesome. This was a complete mess.

Grause frowned, opened the inkwell, and spread out a sheet of parchment.

Frankly speaking, he didn’t care if young Cenate was alive or dead. He didn’t hold any particular grudge against the child, so he wouldn’t consider killing him found. But in any case, it would be difficult to make the 4th Corps Commander and Dragon Lord Cenate behave themselves.

If the child was alive, Grause could have him welcomed as Valis’ adopted son and the next heir to the throne, and this would, naturally, avert the war. But, it was highly likely that his position as heir would be abused by his blood relatives to garner power and that he would be pulled away from Grause and the emperor. On the contrary, they might even demand the current emperor to hurry up and relinquish his seat.

If the child was dead, would they quietly give up…?


Grause’s mouth twisted into a bitter smirk as he quietly muttered. He knew of the extent of Dragon Lord Cenate’s pride and his speed to anger. In the first place, if that man was an elder who knew when to resign, Grause wouldn’t have to gather all these troops at this time.

Then, he suddenly thought of this detestable possibility.

(It can’t be.)

What if that suspicious person before offers the same trade to none other than Dragon Lord Cenate?

If young Cenate were to return to Nakte, the perfect excuse would have just landed on their laps. To abide by the previous emperor’s will. To drive the usurper off of the throne.

The other side hadn’t made their move yet out of fear of the possibility that young Cenate had already fallen into the hands of the emperor. But…

“Damn it!”

He clicked his tongue and slammed his fist on the desk. He should’ve inquired about Cenate’s whereabouts no matter how ominous that body was.

His pen was a flutter as he proposed in his letter to use any means to uncover Cenate’s whereabouts. He then quickly sealed the letter and handed it over to the attendant who just returned.

“Once you entrust this to the messenger, convene the centurions here.”

The attendant sensed his master’s restlessness, nodded, and ran off without any questions asked. As Grause watched him leave, he furrowed his brows and stood there.

He could vividly imagine his solemn figure as he gave the order and the astonished faces of the captains listening.

‘Scout around the nearby towns and villages and bring out every person that you suspect to be a sorcerer!’

The captains might be bewildered and exchange looks. Some might even ask idiotic questions. Even if they complied, they would leave the room worrying about their commander’s sanity.

But, even so, he only had this card to play.

For the first time, he felt something personal towards young Cenate.

(You problematic brat, your game of hide-and-seek is over!)

Because the boy still hadn’t revealed himself, things have gotten bothersome. As soon as Grause got his hands on him, he’ll spank his butt and scold him.

As he distracted his impatience with these foolish delusions, he paced back and forth in his room in irritation while waiting for the captains to gather.

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2 responses to “Ashes and Kingdoms v2 2-6”

  1. Thanks for the chapter


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