'Gino Bordelli... He was in charge of this place at the time.'
Imperial forces divided the great empire into two main sections, the South and the North. The southern and northern armies were traditionally rivals, and in many ways, the discipline and atmosphere were different, but they had one thing in common.
The General, whether South or North, must be a Swordmaster. It was a factor that allowed the empire to show off its strong force among other nations, and those who took up the position of General became the core forces of the empire, becoming the Emperor's closest servant and sword.
And Gino Bordelli, a Confederate General, was famous for being an upright fighter who had been serving as a General for nearly 40 years with little gossip.
Born as a Count and holding a sword even before he walked, he didn't join the Imperial Knights or any other famous knighthood like other nobles. Instead, he wandered around the world and devoted himself to sword training, becoming a swordmaster at the age of 30.
Usually, after becoming a General, he would pursue more power without stopping there, but Gino Bordelli didn't want anything and only worked hard to protect the empire as a general. He was an idol of all swordsmen, and it didn't change after those Awakened by the power of Red Stone appeared.
A general who only followed the Emperor's orders and strove to defend the empire silently like a huge rock. However, he retired a few years after Yuder became a commander, and his subordinate succeeded him as General.'I kept thinking he might have helped me back then.'
After identifying the signs of disaster, Yuder visited several people and asked for advice and support. Gino Bordelli was also one of those he was trying to find. But after retiring, he went nowhere and his whereabouts couldn't be found.'I didn't know him very well before. If possible, I wish we could make some connections from this opportunity.'
Retiring in a few years didn't change Gino Bordelli's status. He was still the most respected swordmaster on all continents. If that was what he said, it would be worth more than a hundred words from Yuder.
'I wonder if he's been here for two years? Or is he here ahead of the retrieval operation? Either way, he moved because of the Emperor's orders.'
The Emperor sent his only brother and the Commander of the Cavalry, Kishiar, here himself to bring the Red Stone, and in addition to that, General Gino. What that meant was clear.'The Emperor considers the stone to be very important.'
If true, it was quite a different direction from what Yuder had previously speculated.
Because the only thing the Emperor did was to retrieve the Red Stone and leave it to the Pearl Tower, where he wondered how much he knew about, and put it in the sanctuary with only a plausible name, "World Sphere."
He'd even heard that the Emperor never visited until he died.
So Yuder assumed that the current Emperor had only curiosity about the stone.
But what if that wasn't the case.
"Long time no see, Gino. I'm glad you look healthy."
Kishiar took off the hood he was wearing and showed his face. Seeing the solid blonde hair and red eyes, the soldiers gasped in unison. It would be surprising to see that such a man had really come, even if it lasted a lifetime.
Yuder, along with the rest of the group, got off the Misty Winds. Kishiar was the first to greet them and shook hands lightly with General Gino.
"It seems like you've had a hard time keeping your guard." (Kishiar)
"I don't deserve your praise. Of course I just did what I had to do."
"Is everything all right?"
"We didn't have much to worry about except for the people nearby trying to sneak a peak out of curiosity."
As the two naturally entered the entrance of the barrier while talking, the soldiers widened the path in unison so that the rest of the group could enter.
Yuder grabbed the reins of the Misty Wind and followed suit, listening and trying not to miss Kishiar and General Gino's conversation.
"What's the total number of people here right now?" (Kishiar)
"About 300 people."
"That's more than I thought."
"We had to watch the whole mountain, and the number got higher. It took more eyes over abilities."
"Eyes over abilities?"
Kishiar burst into a light laugh. General Gino was also a tall man over normal physique like a swordmaster, but Kishiar was noticeably bigger than him.
The sight of the two walking together seemed to be a scene of a different world. As much as the soldiers were amazed by the presence of the Duke and the General together, Yuder noticed that they were also interested in the Peletta Knights and the Cavalry members who followed them.
The existence of the Cavalry had yet to be officially announced in the world. So very few people knew about it. It was understandable to think it was strange because men and women were wearing uniforms but not as knights, and had different vibes than the mages from the Pearl Tower.
But if nothing happened here, the soldiers would move on without knowing who they were.
"Please come on in."
General Gino led them to the building in the middle of the base. Originally, the small building, supposed to be a mountain cabin where hunters stayed, was fixed and extended in its own way and had a plausible appearance.
"We've got all the status reports and in command here. You must've had a hard time coming here, but I have an order to finish the work as soon as possible, so I shall report the situation here as soon as you unpack. Would that be alright?"
After listening to General Gino, Kishiar's eyes turned toward Peletta knights and the Cavalry.
"Are any of you tired?"
"The same goes for us, sir."
Peletta knights shouted out, and Gacaine responded sternly. Kishiar nodded and turned his eyes back at General Gino.
"So let's get started."
"All right, will you be the only one to hear about the report and the Red Stone? Or......."
"I'll listen to it with the Cavalry. And Sir Brugg."
The knight in charge of guiding at the front stepped forward.
"With you, too."
With four Peletta knights left, the rest followed General Gino into the room further inside. The room had a map almost the size of a wall and several old chairs with no uniform design were scattered randomly around it.
"My apologies. We don't have the facilities to greet the high-ranking person. It won't break, so please sit back."
"Isn't a chair enough to sit down?"
Kishiar sat down with no sign of displeasure, pulling a chair close by.
"Everyone, sit down."
At his words, Hinn and Finn were the first to sit quickly, followed by others carefully putting their hips together in a clumsy manner. Yuder sat in the backmost chair where he could see everyone well for the last time.
General Gino approached the map after everyone sat down, pointing a black dot in the middle of the map with his finger.
"This is where we are right now. It's a mountain range in Airic across the middle of the Empire. Among them, it's exactly in the northwest."
The military map itself was different from the one used by the upper or nobles. What General Gino showed was part of the military map.
The map, painted green to show that it was a mountain range and marked with contours according to height, was marked in detail enough to quickly tell the surrounding geography even if it was the first time he saw it.
In addition, a simple picture of where troops scattered around the mountain range were stationed was displayed on top. The Cavalry, who had never seen a military map before, opened their eyes wide.
"The Red Stone fell on this part two years ago. It's a mountain valley a few hours up from where we are."
The General moved his hand a little further down from where he pointed out his current position. There was a red dot on it.
"But, you know, since it fell, the surroundings have been devastated, and it's become a place where no one can access."
A place where no one could access recklessly. Yuder read a double meaning in the words. It might be a place where no one could access because the army was guarding it, but it might also mean that the power of Red Stone made it difficult for the troops to access.
Yuder recalled a memory related to the Red Stone that he had seen for a short time before. Before returning back in time, Kishiar, who just returned from the Red Stone Retrieval Mission, was seen from a distance with other members.
He didn't remember the condition of the Cavalry he took at the time, but he remembered no one was noticeable, so it was probably enough for everyone to walk on their own.
Back then, Kishiar was holding the Red Stone with a rare look on his face. To be exact, it would be correct to say that the stone he was carrying was a bundle wrapped in several layers of thick cloth.