It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (111/120), enjoy~
Cladius was the capital of the Great Empire of Grants ― commonly known as the Great Imperial Capital.
It has been the capital for a thousand years since the first emperor moved the capital to this place when he began his imperial reign a thousand years ago. Therefore, the history of the Imperial Palace Venetian, which overlooks the city, is also old.
However, even if things are treated with care, they would eventually decay.
The Imperial Palace Venetian is no exception to this rule, and while parts that had deteriorated over the years were repaired, areas deemed dangerous were demolished, and new spaces were added each time.
The exterior of the Imperial Palace Venetian had not changed much from a thousand years ago. However, the interior structure has become more complex as successive emperors have repeatedly remodeled it to keep up with the times.
Rooms lined with traps in case of intruders, large baths where only the emperor was allowed to bathe, labyrinthine corridors, and large halls for enclosing prostitutes were all crammed with objects that matched the colors of the times. Among all these places, there is only one that has never been touched by successive emperors.
That place is an endless corridor with no rooms, no decorations, and few lights.
If anyone should wander into the place, they would no doubt turn back with the impression that it was just a dead-end or in the process of being enlarged.
However, this was a “passageway of nothingness” that only a limited number of people could visit, and it was a path that led to a place sacred to those belonging to the Grantz Imperial Family ― the cemetery where emperors of the past rested.
“According to the diary kept by the chief grave keeper, the last person to visit the cemetery was the Lord.”
Two women were walking down such a corridor.
“But why was Hiro in the emperor’s cemetery?”
The red-haired princess ― Liz, stopped and turned to her sister.
“I heard that when Stobel revolted, someone took advantage of the chaos and broke into the emperor’s cemetery. Father was killed at that time. It seems they chose the Lord to be the one to make the decision, but… according to the diary, the most likely reason is that the tomb of the second emperor was vandalized.”
Rosa answered her sister’s question as she rolled up the book in her hand.
“The second emperor?”
Rosa nodded to Liz, who asked back.
“Yeah, somehow only the tomb of the second emperor was destroyed and his body taken away, the chief grave keeper wrote in his diary. But the rest of the tombs were untouched, apparently.”
Strange story. There is no reason whatsoever that comes to mind why they would want the body rather than the treasure.
“But I suppose we can proceed with our investigation now.”
“Yeah, I guess we’ll find out what condition he was in this journal.”
The emperor’s cemetery had been ransacked once during the rebellion of the first prince Stobel. The chief of the grave keepers reviewed the security system, but just then ― two years ago ― the emperor’s cemetery was attacked again by bandits. However, only the family members of the grave keepers and the emperor were allowed to enter the cemetery, so it was impossible to ascertain the extent of the damage.
Moreover, his family, including the chief grave keeper, had been annihilated in the two attacks. So, until today, the investigation had been carried out by hand, but just a few days ago, they found a diary left by the chief grave keeper, and they were finally able to grasp the whole picture of the emperor’s cemetery.
“Anyway, let’s go downstairs.”
Rosa said, and after putting away the book, she lit the western-style lamp on her waist, took out a map, and started walking ahead of Liz.
The hallway ahead was dark. There was light from a western-style lamp hanging on the wall, but it did not completely dispel the darkness that was spreading underfoot. She was anxious that they might fall, but they could not move along the walls. This was because the day after the attack by the bandits, when the soldiers investigated, the trap that had been set was triggered, and a number of people were injured.
“But it is a corridor designed to protect the emperor’s cemetery. We couldn’t just remove the traps for future use. It took two months just to investigate the suspicious places, with the help of Skaaha-dono.”
After the injuries were reported, Liz led a survey of the trap locations, focusing on the entrance leading to the emperor’s cemetery. The map in Rosa’s hand marked the location of the traps.
If the trap is triggered, the “Flame Emperor ” will protect Liz, and she would be safe, but if Rosa is caught in the trap, she would not be safe. So, relying on the map Rosa had made, Liz had no choice but to follow her back silently toward the entrance.
“Thanks to the diary left by the chief grave keeper, we now have a general idea of where the traps are located. From now on, I’d like to conduct a large-scale investigation using soldiers…”
It is a sacred place where past emperors have been laid to rest. They do not want an unspecified number of people to know their whereabouts.
Even now, the existence of the emperor’s cemetery is only rumored among the nobility. Even Liz was not convinced of the existence of the cemetery until after the attack by the bandits.
“I suppose we’ll just have to take our time and find out.”
Rosa raises the western-style lamp high and stops in front of the destroyed wall.
The light beneath her feet reveals a staircase leading downwards. She descended down the stairs, lighting the torches that were evenly distributed on the wall.
“This is my third time here, but Liz has been here several times, hasn’t she?”
“Yes, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone to… to check out the tomb of the second emperor.”
She could feel over her back that Rosa was smiling bitterly. But no words of reprimand came out. It was probably because of Liz’s repeated visits to this place that they were able to locate the traps.
“Well, Liz always liked the ‘God of War,’… so what did you get out of it?”
“Nothing… but empty space, as if it had been empty, to begin with.”
“If only the bodies hadn’t been stolen. We would have felt differently…”
Not so ― and before Liz could say anything, the staircase came to an end.
From here, there is one long passageway ― a lot of blood is left on the floor.
The walls are covered with countless slashes and splattered blood, probably from the battle between the tomb guard and the intruder.
Passing through the passageway where the scent of blood still lingers, they are greeted by vast space.
Deep, deep darkness pervades the imperial cemetery. Even if they looked up above their heads, they would not be able to see anything beyond the darkness.
The light from the western-style lamps illuminates the surroundings with a faint glow, driving away the darkness that creeps up under their feet.
“So, what is it that you want me to see?”
Rosa turned around, and the darkness covering Liz’s face was dispelled.
“There’s one thing I’m really curious about.”
Accepting the western-style lamp from Rosa, who tilts her head, Liz begins to walk in front of her.
“I’ve been around a few times and found a few oddities ― one of which I couldn’t figure out.”
A number of gently sloping mountains were built around it. In each and every one of them, emperors of the past have been laid to rest. They were arranged in a circle in a vast space, with a huge rock placed in the center.
“The rest of the site is neatly landscaped, but such a large rock is left here, strange, isn’t it?”
Liz tapped the large rock that appeared in front of her with the back of her hand and turned back to Rosa.
“…So you brought me here because of… ― Or did you need the diary written by the chief grave keeper?”
Liz nodded in response to Rosa’s reply and headed to the other side of the large rock.
“There’s an entrance. I don’t know for what purpose it was built, but there is a space created in the rock where something was placed.”
“…So you’re saying it’s a tomb?”
“Yes, and I believe it is the tomb of the first emperor.”
Behind her back, she felt Rosa gasping for air.
“Why, oh why, did they build a tomb here, in the middle of a huge rock? I want to know why.”
Since discovering this place, Liz had visited the emperor’s cemetery many times, but she could not find the tomb of the first emperor alone. However, she felt something strange about the huge rock placed in the center of the tomb, and while investigating, she found what looked like an entrance.
“But the interior had been ransacked and destroyed in spectacular fashion. Perhaps this is what the bandits were after?”
As she said this, Liz stepped into the rocks.
A field of withered flowers spread out all around. Fishbones littered the small, dried-up spring.
In the center, what appeared to be a pedestal, perhaps a coffin, lay in rubble.
Every time they stepped out, the sound of dead leaves echoed hollowly, and on the brownish ground, something occasionally shone in the light of the western-style lamps. Rosa noticed it and crouched down on the ground.
“Red jade and… yellow jade, or is that a ring falling over here ― hmm, that is…?”
Liz could shine a light on her hand.
“Looks like the remains of a book. It’s burned up, but was there a book on it?”
Rosa snorted with difficulty and stood up.
“If these were intended for the dead, there should have been a coffin…”
“There is no such thing. Not even a coffin, let alone a body. So I want you to see if there are any references to this place in the diary left by the chief grave keeper.”
“You want to know if it really was the first emperor’s tomb, and if so, was the place broken from the start, or did someone take the body of the first emperor for some purpose?”
Liz nodded strongly in affirmation of Rosa’s reasoning. Rosa, however, made a bitter expression.
“I’m afraid I’m not going to live up to your expectations on that one. I have read through the diary written by the chief grave keeper since I discovered it, and I have found no mention of this great rock. Moreover, there was only one sentence that mentions the first emperor.”
“Only one sentence?”
“The first emperor’s tomb ― only the next emperor could enter, that’s all it said.”
“Does that mean this is not the first emperor’s tomb?”
“No, it is too early to draw that conclusion. We have no proof of what this place was.”
Rosa looked around, but she shrugged her shoulders when she looked back at Liz.
“I guess what I’m saying is that we’re out of options right now. There may still be some sort of hidden room somewhere in this room. We won’t know for sure until we look into this.”
“Then let’s find out.”
Liz held the western-style lamp high in the air, and Rosa grabbed her by the shoulder.
“No, it’s too late today, so let’s not do this.”
“But since we’re here, we can at least do a little bit…”
“Leave the rest to me… you’ll be leaving for Sunspear tomorrow. You shouldn’t put any extra burden on yourself right now.”
Liz is scheduled to leave the Great Imperial Capital tomorrow to go to Sunspear. On the way, she is scheduled to meet up with the elite “Knights of the Rose” of the Fourth Imperial Army. After that, she will meet with Vetu, the head of the Muzuk family, one of the five great noble families, in Sunspear, and then depart for the Steichen Republic.
“I understand why you are in such a hurry. But seeking answers when you don’t know what you are looking for will only lead to unnecessary confusion. Let’s be cautious and resolve everything first, one thing at a time.”
The Muzuk family, the five great noble families, who are vigilantly seeking the position of the prime minister; a rival faction that is active behind the scenes; a fire that continues to smolder in Felzen; an unstable center; and the west, where the wounds of war have not yet healed, a variety of problems and speculations are enveloping the Great Grantz Empire.
The matter of the emperor’s cemetery is not a problem that can be overlooked, but at this stage, it is not a high priority. At present, it was a small matter that Liz, the acting emperor, would not have to deal with.
“If so, I’ll leave the rest to you, Rosa-aneesama.”
Two years ago, Liz would not have nodded her head because of her stubborn nature.
But in the past two years, she had developed flexibility that bordered on senility.
With the death of the previous emperor and the successive deaths of the heirs to the throne, Liz was put in the firing line and thrown into the devil’s domain of political strife without any advance preparation. With no time to feel busy, dealing with the problems that arose one after another led her to grow by leaps and bounds.
“Yeah, leave it to me. I’ll start looking into it in earnest tomorrow. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out anything.”
Rosa responded strongly, puffing out her chest, and Liz gave a wry smile.
“I don’t mind doing the research later. Even Rosa-aneesama has a lot of problems to deal with, right?”
“Oh… the Principality of Lichtine. Why would they move at a time like this at all?”
Yesterday, a fast horse came in from Margrave Grinda’s territory.
He told them that the Principality of Lichtine was gathering troops on the border of the northern part of the country, which had been handed over to the Grantz Empire. Lichtine, which is suffering from famine, is probably trying to use the last resort. They would have liked to assemble an army immediately, but the south is under the jurisdiction of the five great noble families, the Muzuk family. Therefore, they could not move without a formal request for reinforcements from them. If Liz and her army moved on their own initiative, it would give the Muzuk family an unwanted pretext and might give them an opportunity to cut off Liz’s camp.
“When I arrive in Sunspear, I will try to get Vetu to promise to move the army. But in case I can’t get there in time… I’ll probably get an army from the Eastern nobility.”
“No problem. I have instructed the Eastern nobility to gather their troops so that they can move at any time. Don’t worry about us. If Vetu comes within a footstep of us, give him a good beating. We’ll take care of it, and you can go to the meeting without any worries.”
“I’ll be fine. I’m not going to give in.”
Liz brushed her hair to the side, and her confident eyes sparkled.