"I don't like what's going on right now. El, hold your horses, you are going with us."
With how the initial route that all three of us along with our respective escort would have to take, there was no point in separating right away. Yet despite that, prompted by the direness of the situation that could be concluded from the content of the letter, El was actually willing to murder his horses only to get back to his destination a few moments earlier than if he were to travel with us!
"What do you mean, you don't like it? As if anyone actually liked the war…"
Looking to the side where Elia was sitting, I could see how my words made her quite agitated. Yet it seemed that she misunderstood what I really meant with them.
"Dear… I didn't mean war. It's obvious that I don't like it… What I meant with my previous sentence, is how we are basing our actions on just a single shred of paper alone. What if that messenger was bogus just like the one that warned us about Ropian being attacked? What are the chances that a major family like Ostros would go out of their way to attack such a small town only to be branded as traitors and be squashed with the combined might of the rest of the country?"
In the end, I decided to ignore the warning of that dubious messenger. Even if my actions could influence the way in which the history would play out, I couldn't believe that easily that such a huge regional power would decide to bet its entire strength and influence only for the sake of conquering a single or two cities!
"So that's what you meant… Well, to be quite honest, I'm both surprised and not with that war. It was given that sooner or later the conflict would start, but I thought that they would rather vie for the throne as soon as it would be confirmed to be vacant rather than trying to take it by force. I guess they didn't learn their history lesson."
Shrugging her arms, Elia looked away, focusing her sight at the east, as if in an attempt to pry through the vast distance that separated us from the potential front lines.
"As for that… I can't be as sure as it didn't really happen. In the end, it gives us a great opportunity. Considering how Jan of Sandomir changed his behaviour when I announced that I was going to build up my own force, now I have the legitimate reason to do it. As for whether this war is real or not, it doesn't change the fact that we will be left with the most powerful units in the entire world. So even if both the invasion of Ostros and the Russian is nothing more than a ploy to put us in some kind of disadvantageous position by making us overreact, by the time it will all be unraveled back to the normal situation, we will end up stronger than ever before, while our enemies will be left in the dust that our movements will create!"
As I spoke, I got fired up more and more, quickly turning my words into nothing more than a passionate, motivational speech worthy of the team coach firing up his team before the football game.
"I truly hope that will be the case, but please, do not underestimate others. The fact that you are one of a kind type of genius doesn't make everyone else stupid."
For the first time since we got married, I could see Elia sending me a look of disapproval. Maybe it was because I got too emotional, or maybe because of the stress of the current situation weighed down on her, or maybe even because she was worried about her hometown of Pilzno. Either way, all my motivation instantly went down the drain, as I approached her and brought her into my arms.
"I'm sorry, I won't act carelessly. That was just my silly attempt to push the worried out of my head for a moment."
As my words entered Elia's ear, I could feel her body relaxing for a moment, before a shout from the shore broke this tranquil moment.
"MIKE! FINALLY FOUND YOU!"
Pushing Elia to the side in worry that this shout was just a stupid act of one of my enemies who couldn't hold themselves back from announcing their attack before actually executing it, I turned my head to the direction where the voice came from.
"Wait… Is that… Kalen?!"
Along the shore of the river that our paddler was using, I saw a man on a horse with two more mounts following behind him. Just this alone was enough to put me on edge, so when I saw him actually jump off the horse directly to the water as he started swimming desperately towards the boat, I didn't dare to hold myself back.
"Reverse the engines! We have a new passenger!"
In a few moments, the ship came to a complete halt, only for the sailors to reconnect the paddlers to the engines in the opposite drive in order to fight against the current and allow Kalen to reach the side of the boat.
"Pull him in!"
Seeing this failed inquisitor so desperate to reach me, I couldn't help but feel a tingle of great worry being born deep in my guts. Not only he wasted a lot of time looking for me with how I was constantly changing my position on the map, he even brought three horses with him, only reinforcing my worries with how great his haste had to be!
"Mike… They attacked… We sent the messengers, but no help came…"
Not wasting any time, as soon as my men pulled Kalen out of the water, he dropped to his knees and fought about his own need to take a proper breath only to give me this insane report.
"Don't tell me… Are Ostros that stupid?!"
So far, I couldn't believe that such a huge family would dare to take this step. Yet if that was really the case, then I had to reevaluate everything that I took for granted in this timeline! If even such a great noble household could drop all sense of reason and go at war with me only for the sake of getting their hands on some minor cities, then this Russian invasion suddenly turned far more real!
"They took the town of Ropian… We fought, but they brought some kind of strange cannons… We sent the call for help, but no one from Tarnow came… During your absence, Al managed to pull out the troops and loyal people from Pilzno and headed for Tarnow with me, only to find it besieged as well! We don't have much time before it will fall!"