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Five hundred years ago, Rudolf von Goldenbaum united the disparate governments of humankind and established a mighty human empire, a tribute to his own greatness that stretched across the galaxy. Demanding loyalty and discipline, Rudolf created an order designed to long outlast his own rule; but all human works fade in time. Today, the decaying empire faces the threat of the Free Planets Alliance, and military leaders on both sides jockey for power in the face of a seemingly inevitable conflict. On the side of the empire, the young general Reinhard von Lohengramm sees war as opportunity, and the empire as soft clay ready for his own sculpting. On the side of the alliance, would-be historian Yang Wen-li would like nothing better than to live out his days in peace - but times of war have little use for men who waste their days studying the mistakes of the past. Circumstances will make heroes and villains of both these men, as they write new history one blood-splattered page at a time.