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The throne room looked much the same as it had a thousand years ago. The ceiling was still vaulted, and the red carpet stretched in a straight line across the marble floor.
The vast space was lined vertically with white chalk pillars occupying both sides of it. Standing to fill the gaps were influential nobles. While exposed to their curious gazes, you can have an audience with the Emperor, who is sitting on his throne once you reach the far end.
In front of the Emperor, Hiro dropped to one knee and bowed his head. Liz, who was next to him, did the same, bowing as a vassal. The Emperor remained silent and slowly raised his hand.
Then, Prime Minister Gils, who was standing next to him, stepped forward.
“We will now begin the conferral of honors.”
His imposing voice spread to every corner of the hall, where silence reigned. The leading nobles straightened their postures and looked at Prime Minister Gils.
“The Fourth Prince Hiro Schwartz, the Sixth Princess Celia Estrella, raise your heads.”
Hiro and Liz look up together. In front of their gazes was Prime Minister Gils, dressed in a nobleman’s uniform richly decorated with gold and silver threads. In his hand was a piece of parchment, which he raised to his chest and began to speak heartily.
“First of all, Major General Celia Estrella. In the battle against the Principality of Lichtine, you overcame General Kylo’s mistakes and united the Fourth Imperial Army. In recognition of your achievements, I officially appoint you as the commander of the Fourth Imperial Army and grant you command of the Knight Order of the Rose.”
“I humbly accept.”
Liz bowed her head, and as if to throw a stone in the quiet waters, a large ripple spread across the throne room.
“…… What, she has been given a Knight’s Order?”
“More importantly, what about Great General Loing? Originally, he was supposed to be the commander.”
“It doesn’t really matter. If this continues, the Sixth Princess’s influence will grow stronger in the south.”
The voices of the nobles and lords were in a panic. Hiro was listening comfortably, but inwardly he was a little surprised.
The Rose Knight is one of the most elite units in the Great Grantz Empire, specializing in agility. The Second Imperial Army, led by the Third Prince, is composed of light cavalry, just as its elite, the Imperial Black Knights, are composed of heavy cavalry.
However, even Kylo, who was a general, was not given the command of it, and the Rose Knights did not participate in the battle against the Principality of Lichtine. It would be a bold move for a major general to be given such a command.
But this is fortuitous. There is no doubt that Liz will become an invaluable asset.
“Next, Hiro Schwartz, a third-class military officer. I’ve heard of your success in leading us to victory in the battle against the Principality of Lichtine. However, due to the oath made between His Majesty Altius, the First Emperor, and Princess Shrine Maiden, this is not possible. Therefore, as a special exception, you will be promoted to the second rank, made a first-class military officer, and given one hundred gold Grantz.”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
It started with someone… then, the clapping hands began. It started out sparsely but gradually became louder and louder, filling the hall with overflowing momentum.
Perhaps he felt that it was wrong to stop it, but Prime Minister Gils kept silent and closed his eyes. The Emperor was also silent for a while, watching the proceedings. However, after a while, he raised his hand as if he felt that it would not go any further if it continued.
There was an overwhelming sense of dominance, authority, and glory, and even though the windows were not open, a cold wind blew through the room. In an instant, the hall was silent; the heat was crushed ― instead, a thread of tension ran through it. Then the Emperor looked at Prime Minister Gils.
Realizing what was happening, Prime Minister Gils hurriedly took out a new piece of parchment.
“W-we will now begin our review. The agenda is the Felzen region.”
With that, Hiro and Liz stood up. When the discussion was over, they would normally stand aside like the other noble lords.
When Hiro asked Liz in a whisper, she made a difficult face.
“I don’t like the atmosphere here. I feel like I can’t breathe.”
The throne room was a whirlpool of jealousy, hatred, envy, and many other things. Although she was a woman, she was favored by the “Flame Emperor” and was selected as the commander of the Fourth Imperial Army.
There must be a lot of people who spew out their resentment and bitterness towards her. That’s why the applause was so unexpected.
“Fufu, you two were quite the sight.”
As they made their way through the nobles and lords, they saw a woman sitting in a chair. Besides, the Eastern nobility is surrounding her as if to protect her.
“It’s Anee-sama, isn’t it? You were the first one to clap hands.”
When Liz said this with her mouth agape, Rosa closed one eye and put a finger to her lips.
“Fufu, when people around clap their hands, it happens naturally. The nobility is a calculating creature. No matter how hostile they are, they can’t choose to be stubborn about it ― it would make them look bad. So I created a situation where they had no choice but to applaud.”
Rosa’s throat quivered, and she gave a small laugh.
“Wasn’t that pleasant? They are the ones who have been making fun of Liz all this time. Those who have made fun of my lovely sister. I’m not going to let them get away with this alone.”
“Geez, you’ll be in trouble later if you keep making more enemies.”
When she said that, then Liz is quite a bit better than that… The line was muttered in his heart. If Hiro says it, it is certain to come back to him.
“Don’t worry. We have more allies now. Well, when the time comes, the prince will help us.”
Rosa threw an enthusiastic glance at him. Hiro nodded straightforwardly. Here, he does not know what will happen if he hesitates. Perhaps it was the stagnant air in the hall that gave him a strange sense of elation.
Anyway, Hiro turned his attention to the throne.
“I’m going to remind you of this once and for all. They’re coming at us because we’re trying to make things easy for them!”
“What are you talking about? If we devote more forces to Felzen, it may cause unnecessary irritation to neighboring countries. We should make peace with the remnants of Felzen and share the territory with them.”
Some of them are belligerent, some are cautious, and some of them, of course, express their opinions based on profit and loss.
“There are already no survivors of the royal family in Felzen. We don’t need to share our territory with the Felzen remnants, who are no better than bandits without a master to look up to.”
“That’ s right. Originally, that land belonged to the Grantz Empire. They took it in the confusion of the past dark period.”
There are many opinions about the Felzen region, but none are conclusive.
(If you destroy it by force alone, of course, this will happen. It became complicated because we didn’t prepare an escape route for them.)
If there are any survivors of the Felzen royal family, we can change the current situation. However, all of the royal family was executed in the recent invasion.
There are only three ways left for the Grantz Empire. It can either overrun the remnant army with its overwhelming force, temporarily retreat and polarize the remnant army, destroy them all at once, or completely retreat and use agents to incite the people to cut down the remnant army.
(It is difficult to make peace… and above all, the Emperor has no intention of letting go of Felzen.)
If he let it go at this point, the west’s stability would be shattered, which could affect the Grantz Empire. If that happens, the Emperor’s ambition ― the unification of the central continent ― will vanish into thin air.
(I believe he will be sixty-seven this year… Not that he has much time left.)
Even for the Emperor of the Grantz Empire, his life is limited, and death is inevitable. This is why he went into battle himself to destroy Felzen and create a foothold from which he could expand to the west.
Just as Hiro was thinking this, the door to the hall was opened. A civil official entered. He quickly walked past the noble lords’ impudent gazes, went underneath Prime Minister Gils, and put his mouth to his ear and whispered something to him.
“…All right. Now you can step back.”
As the Prime Minister said with a mysterious look on his face, the civil servant bowed and then stepped back. Then he turned around and approached the Emperor, exchanging a few words with him. The Emperor’s expression turned grim. Is it an illusion that his anger seems to have swelled?
After receiving the Emperor’s words, Prime Minister Gils gave a slight nod and turned his body to the nobles, but his face showed signs of distress.
“I’ve just received word that the Grand Duchy of Dral is gathering troops.”
There is no telling who said it, but the words caused an uproar.
“Didn’t they just sign an armistice with the Steichen Republic the other day?”
“I doubt they have that much power, but isn’t this an opportunity? If they invade the west, it will give us a good reason. We can just destroy them.”
“Don’t be absurd. There’s no way the west can afford to do that when they’re concentrating on Felzen.”
“If that’s the case, sending troops from outside the west will be sufficient.”
“But who will send the troops?”
“The central nobility, of course. They have always been reluctant to send troops, so this is the time they should do so.”
“Don’t be silly. If you’re talking about that, then so are the Eastern nobles!”
“Don’t make us the same as you. Indeed, we do not have troops, but that is unavoidable due to the distance. That’s why we bear the cost of warfare and support food. In contrast, what about the central nobility? They are not even providing money.”
There was a sudden sound of air bursting in the throne room. The sudden burst of sound caused the hall to become silent, and a strange atmosphere enveloped the room.
In other words, it was as if a blade of air coated with murderous intent was being thrust at them ― an uncanny sense of pressure, as if a thin needle were painlessly penetrating their bodies. As Hiro soothed the raging “Black Princess Camellia,” he looked around and saw the noblemen and lords cowering, their faces scrunched up.
(As expected of an emperor… But he’s still not as good as Altius.)
When Hiro turned his attention to the throne, the Emperor was standing up.
“Let’s hear what you have to say. If anyone has anything to say, please step forward.”
The Emperor’s voice reverberated through the throne room uncomfortably. Everyone was forced to listen.
(Just one more push, I guess.)
At this point, he’d like to see someone more forceful to push the Emperor’s back. Whether his prayers were answered or not, the First Prince Stobel stepped forward.
“I would like to ask you for your opinion.”
A large, muscular man. He wears a loose-fitting nobleman’s uniform, but even though it hides his body, it can’t hide his overflowing, mischievous presence, and whenever he takes a step, the air creaks. But the Emperor took it coldly, without moving an eyebrow.
“The other day, the remnants of Felzen’s army became active, and at the same time, the Grand Duchy of Dral and the Steichen Republic signed an armistice, and now they are showing disturbing movements. It is obvious that they are responding. The situation is such that there may be other countries that are in agreement. We should completely destroy the Felzen remnants to show the neighboring countries what will happen if they go against the Grantz Empire.”
Stobel, who was on one knee, bowed his head.
“Your Majesty, make your decision.”
The Emperor closed his eyes thoughtfully and leaned back on his throne.
“Is there no one else who has an opinion?”
“Then, Your Majesty. I have a suggestion.”
In the tense air, Hiro stepped forward and said. The Emperor’s mouth twisted in amusement ― but it happened so fast that no one noticed.
“I allow it. Speak.”
“It would be premature to assume that just because the Grand Duchy of Dral is preparing for war, they will attack us.”
The Emperor nodded. It may be that he is urging him to continue. Hiro spun his words.
“But that doesn’t mean we can ignore them. If so, it doesn’t matter if it’s a small number of troops; if we can check them by sending out troops, they won’t move carelessly.”
“Fumu… so what about the Felzen remnant army?”
Hiro smiled and said to the Emperor, who frowned a little.
“Send a new army to work with the Second Imperial Army. I think we should attack from two sides. If Felzen’s remnant army seems to be hiding, it will take some time to recruit those who are cooperating with them.”
The Emperor remained silent for a while and then opened his mouth.
“…..I understand. I shall adopt the opinion of Hiro Schwartz, the Fourth Prince.”
The decision was made. There was no more room for objection. If someone is going to bend what the Emperor has decided, they need to be prepared to do so. If he failed to persuade him, he would be humiliated for generations to come.
(Now, all that’s left is to recommend Liz as the commander.)
As he pondered his next move, Prime Minister Gils looked around and moved his mouth.
“Now then, about the commander of the strike force――.”
Hiro tried to speak, but
“I would recommend Celia Estrella, the Sixth Princess.”
Surprisingly, Stobel gave the answer that Hiro wanted.
What are you up to…? Hiiro frowned and looked at Stobel. Perhaps noticing his gaze, Stobel turned his eyes to Hiro, but his smile deepened, and he turned his gaze back to the Emperor again.
“The recent growth of Celia Estrella, the Sixth Princess, has been remarkable. Let’s leave this one to her. There are probably some nobles and lords who are unhappy with her.”
“The First Prince Stobel is right. It would be a good idea to leave it to Her Highness Celia Estrella.”
“However, she does not have much experience in leading an army. It seems like a risky move to leave her in charge, don’t you think?”
“However, Her Highness Celia Estrella has shown remarkable growth lately.”
In the midst of the noble lords whispering to each other in hushed tones, Stobel spoke up.
“And I will go to the Grand Duchy of Dral. If you relieve me of my house arrest, I believe we can achieve a satisfactory result.”
Hiro decided that he should intervene in this regard. Although he did not yet know what Stobel was thinking, he could cause unnecessary confusion if he became the commander.
“I believe it’s impossible to lift your house arrest. No matter what the reason, we can’t entrust such an important task to someone who would violate the Emperor’s decision.”
Hiro smiled coldly at Stobel.
“There is no guarantee that we won’t end up with a repeat of Felzen.”
“Kid… don’t tell me.”
A piercing gaze shot out from Stobel.
When Hiro took it head-on, he spun his voice as if to caress Stobel’s emotions.
“Oh, you want to play ‘surprise’ again?”
A moment later, the two men’s murderous spirits collide.
The air in the area was crushed by the heavy pressure of their mixed murderous intent. The thunderbolts from Stobel’s body crawled across the floor, gouging, grinding, crushing, and rampaging.
Hiro, on the other hand, was a natural. He is just standing there. However, the space around them ― cracking, cracking, cracking ― emitted an eerie sound, and cracks began to appear one after another, and even though there was no wind, the “Black Princess Camellia” began to spread dense darkness fluttering its hem.
Most of the people were clearly intimidated by the supreme energy that both of them released. However, some of them were transfixed by the inexplicable phenomenon that was happening around Hiro.
When the glow flooded out in all directions of Hiro…
The majestic voice of the Emperor interrupted them. The deadly atmosphere that had dominated the hall instantly dissipated.
“I will not tolerate any more violence in my presence. You two need to cool down.”
“I think I got a little carried away.”
Hiro stroked his eye patch and dropped to one knee. Stobel was also in the same position nearby.
“But this time, Hiro Schwartz, the Fourth Prince, has the right idea.”
Therefore, the Emperor declares.
“Celia Estrella will be in charge of the new troops to be sent to Felzen, and Bakish, one of the five generals entrusted with the western defense, will be in charge of controlling the Grand Duchy of Dral.”
Hiro’s smile deepens as he keeps his face down, having been able to pull the current together.
(Now I’ve made one more advance to where I want to be)
There were probably many more excellent commanders than just Liz. The Grantz Empire is not that short of human resources. However, in this situation, it was best to give the command to the Sixth Princess, who ostensibly had no backing or support from anywhere ― above all, she had not only defeated the Principality of Lichtine, but had also forced them to surrender, so there would be no complaints.
The stage is now set. Now all that was left was to win and aim for the next level.
“Hiro Schwartz. I have a new mission for you as well.”
“There will be a coming of age ceremony for Princess Claudia in the Kingdom of Levering. You will go there as an envoy.”
Hiro looked up in surprise.
“What’s wrong? Are you dissatisfied?”
“N-no… I respectfully accept.”
He had expected to be assigned as Liz’s assistant. Hiro, whose plan had failed, gnashed his teeth.
(Did I overdo it…?)
Since coming to this world, Hiro has been steadily accumulating achievements. He was the same in the previous battle with the Principality of Lichtine. Now he has the support of the eastern nobility, and the situation is becoming completely uninteresting for the nobility of the rival faction. With so many fires smoldering outside the country, the Grantz Empire will continue to fall apart if there are more dissenters inside the country.
If they were to think about the future, it was only natural that they would separate Liz and Hiro.
(No problem. All I had to do was return immediately and join up with Liz.)
Organizing things in his mind, he turned his gaze to the Emperor. Then the Emperor spoke loosely.
“The Kingdom of Levering was founded by one of the Five Generals of the Black Heaven, who gathered under your ancestor, the God of War. The bond between them is inseparable. That’s why I want to leave everything to you.”
Hiro felt uncomfortable with the Emperor’s words. But he did not show it on his face and hung his head.
The Emperor nodded in satisfaction when he heard Hiro’s reply.
“And as for Zuik, it will be under my direct control for the time being. If you have any complaints, please let me know.”
There was no way he could complain. If Viscount Wurst’s crimes were to become public knowledge, it is inevitable that a lot of central nobility would lose their positions and that this would lead to a backlash. This is the time when the nobles and lords, including the Emperor, have no choice but to remain silent. From now on, nothing will happen on the surface, but behind the scenes, the ugly political battles between factions will begin.
“There’s nothing, huh? Then, this is the end of the review.”
The Emperor announced, and Prime Minister Gils took over.
“Then Hiro Schwartz, the Fourth Prince, and Celia Estrella, the Sixth Princess, will receive official imperial orders from the Emperor later. In the meantime, enjoy the banquet at your leisure.”
With that, Prime Minister Gils brought the discussion and evaluation to an end. The rest of the day was spent celebrating the victory over the Principality of Lichtine.
The Emperor and Prime Minister Gils left the throne room. The nobles and lords who had been waiting for his departure seemed to have loosened their tensions, and the hall suddenly became noisy.