It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (114/125), enjoy~
4th of June, 1026th year of the imperial calendar.
The Great Grantz Empire ― everyone mentions the name of Sunspear when it comes to large cities in the south.
If the great imperial capital is a glamorous city, then Sunspear can be said to be a cheerful city.
However, it is not the ruling Muzuk family that had given birth to such a free and open-minded disposition. It was because Sunspear was a stopover point for merchants from many countries and a place where various exotic goods flowed in, so much so that it was called a port on land.
The region was connected to the Great Imperial Capital to the north, the Principality of Lichtine and the Steichen Republic to the south, the Third Imperial Capital to the west, and the Iron Eagle Castle to the east. The region was also a gold-producing area, so those who dreamt of making a fortune came to this region. Above all, it was a land where the wealthy of the Great Grantz Empire were concentrated.
Therefore, a cheerful atmosphere was always in the air.
“This is the fifth time I have visited Sunspear, and it is as lively as ever.”
An old soldier on horseback stroked his white-bearded chin and muttered.
“Yes, that’s right. Maybe it’s because of the presence of merchants from other countries… but it’s brighter than the great imperial capital.”
The red-haired Princess, Liz, who was riding alongside him, gazed dazzlingly at the cheerful people from her horse.
Following her were two thousand elite “Knights of the Rose,” the elites of the Fourth Imperial Army, which was in charge of protecting the south.
The crowd waved their hands as if flanking them as they occupied the street, sometimes scattering confetti, while dancers performed dances to Liz and the others with the sounds of musical instruments. Each time, the crowd cheered, and the name Liz was praised by the people.
“The crowd was overwhelmed by this enthusiastic welcome, but what I fear is the underlying financial power of the Muzuk family.”
Liz nodded in agreement with Tris’ words. Everything in politics is based on money.
But exceptions also existed. Even with wealth, if it did not rain, it could destroy itself, as it did in the Principality of Lichtine. Although human beings are powerless in the face of the forces of nature, there are still many who believe that wealth could make everything come true.
“Yes, that’s true. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I don’t deny it, but if you lose money, everything disappears in an instant.”
The point is that if you make the wrong judgment, even if you have enormous assets, they will melt away and disappear in an instant.
“If used for nothing, it will end up wasted. But if you spend it beneficially, it will not necessarily increase.”
Rosa, Liz’s older sister, also used the financial power of the Kelheit family to unite the central and western nobility and quickly rose to the position of prime minister. However, it was also heard that she sacrificed half of the assets that had been accumulated so far. Moreover, even with such sacrifices, the center and the west can hardly be said to have stabilized, and it is still some time before she can recover the money she invested ― until then, the Kelheit family’s assets would continue to decline in the near future.
“The Muzuk family has used their money well. Sometimes, the pageantry can be a pressure point to intimidate your opponents.”
The welcome by the entire city was a warning to Liz.
One was to show off the financial power of the Muzuk family. The second was to show that the Muzuk family is the ruler of the South. Three, it was intended to intimidate by using cheers without malice.
“And so they are waiting for us. In that golden, shining palace ― that makes it seem like an abyss.”
Tris’s words were aptly phrased.
Liz turned her gaze forward and saw her destination ― Grythnir, a tasteless palace built entirely of gold. At its entrance, Vetu was waiting for her with a big smile on his face, and next to him stood a beautiful man she had never seen before.
Liz dismounted right in front of them, and they bowed to her together with the soldiers escorting them.
“Thank you, Your Highness Celia Estrella, for your visit. We have been expecting you.”
“Thank you for welcoming me.”
As he raised his head, Vetu smiled affectionately and placed his hand on the shoulder of the beautiful boy next to him.
“Let me first introduce him to you. He has been away from the area for many years but has just recently returned.”
“I have served Vetu-sama since I was a child. My name is Rozl Frey von Ingnal.”
He is a slender man who does not look suited for battle.
However, his behavior is refined, and each graceful gesture is no less than that of the ladies-in-waiting who work in the imperial palace. Unlike the dark-skinned people of the south, his skin is dazzlingly white ― or rather, pale. It is almost to the point of morbidity. Perhaps because of this, his presence stands out more than the others. This may be partly due to the high spirits that seem larger and more powerful than those of his master, Vetu.
“I have heard of Your Highness Celia Estrella’s great fame. Wherever I was, all I heard was talk of the now-deceased Fourth Prince.”
Rozl looked up at the sky, created a sad expression, and continued to speak.
“Everyone was talking about it. That the two of you are the second coming of the Twin Spirit Kings and that you will bring more prosperity to the Great Grantz Empire… We have truly lost someone who will be greatly missed. I am deeply sorry for your loss.”
“I appreciate your concern. I am sure his soul will be healed from his fall along the way.”
Liz had no choice but to accept his words with some subtlety, knowing that one half, the second coming of the Twin Spirit King, was still alive. However, she couldn’t let her attitude show, so she thanked him with a pained air on the surface and turned to face Vetu once again.”
“Let’s have dinner first. Then I would like to know more about the Steichen Republic.”
Vetu nodded and continued to speak happily.
“My wife is very excited to hear that Your Highness is here. She has prepared some of the dishes herself, and I hope you will enjoy them.”
“I’m looking forward to it. I have had Madam Muzuk’s cooking several times in the Imperial Capital, and it was all delicious.”
“…Oh, in the Imperial Capital?”
“Yes, together with Prime Minister Rosa.”
Liz nodded, then turned around and signaled to the carriage that was following ― to the gentleman driving. Vetu put his hand on his chin and narrowed his eyes as he watched her back.
“I see… that’s good.”
There was something contained in his words, but the skillfully painted atmosphere prevented Liz from noticing his change. Then Vetu uttered the question with a smile that was propped.
“…Is there anyone else with you?”
“Yes, she doesn’t like the heat, so I let her stay in my carriage.”
As Liz said this, a white body descended from the carriage. She runs down to Liz with great force.
Vetu’s eyes caught sight of a white-furred wolf that radiated a noble atmosphere.
Liz smiles as she strokes the head of the white wolf ― Cerberus ― that has rubbed up against her leg.
“Lord Vetu, may I have this child with me?”
“Of course… we’ll have a meal ready for her right away.”
Vetu, having been caught unprepared, turned away and began to walk away with a stunned expression on his face.
Liz and the others followed his back and stepped into the palace.
“We are honored to welcome Your Highness Celia Estrella for the second time in Grythnir.”
Vetu’s wife ― Serpina Sephone von Muzuk ― appeared from the end of the corridor and greeted her with a bow.
“The food is ready. Please come this way.”
And without her husband’s approval, she turned on her heel and moved her feet.
Vetu looked on in dismay as she watched their backs, and his aide, Rozl, was taken aback by the sight of the two of them.
Liz and the others followed Serpina without saying a word. Liz then took the honorary seat in the dining room, with Cerberus sitting down neatly by her side.
On the long table, a sumptuous meal was lined up in a narrow space. Liz noticed that there was an overabundance of fruit on the table.
“Women love fruit, after all. I would like Your Highness Celia Estrella to try the date palm, which is very popular in Sunspear.”
Serpina’s mouth breaks into a happy smile as she puts her hand on her cheek. Unable to say no, Liz gave a small gesture of approval with her chin.
“Then let’s skip the formal greetings and eat it before it gets cold, shall we?”
Serpina clapped her hands happily and said, and the servants began to move in unison.
The mead was poured into silver cups, and everyone began to help themselves to the meal.
“Speaking of which, I see that Lady Aura is not with you.”
And the first voice was from Vetu.
“Yes, she is in the west.”
The Great Grantz Empire was planning to recapture Felzen in the near future, and Aura was on assignment in the west for that purpose. For her own safety, Aura is accompanied by Skaaha.
“I see, so Aura-dono has gone to serve Lord Bunadhara ― her father?”
“Yes. To retake Felzen.”
Aura’s father became one of the five great nobles for his achievements in the war against the Six Kingdoms that took place two years ago.
The Munster family lost its centripetal force after the death of the third prince Blutar, and the western nobility is now led by the Bunadhara family, of which Aura’s father was the head. For this reason, the plan to recapture Felzen is proceeding smoothly.
“There seems to be an increase in skirmishes near the border with Felzen. If Aura-dono goes there, it will be a little less of a burden for Lord Bunadhara.”
“But what will Your Highness Celia Estrella do after retaking Felzen?”
It was Rozl who submitted the question.
“It is, of course, the rebirth of the Felzen Kingdom.”
In order to check the Six Kingdoms’ growing dominance in Felzen, the Great Grantz Empire announced last year that they were protecting Skaaha, the survivor of the royal family of Felzen.
However, the Six Kingdoms criticized the Grantz Empire for using Skaaha. From there, both sides began a war of criticism, and the feelings of the people of Felzen were left behind.
According to Skaaha’s second-in-command, who is working to liberate Felzen, the people of Felzen want Skaaha to return, but they do not want to invite the Great Grantz Empire back.
However, even after two years had passed, the Six Kingdoms were still quarreling over who would rule their lands, and under their leadership, reconstruction was not possible, and some say the people want them to be kicked out.
“It’s a rough road. It is not easy to rebuild a country that was once destroyed. Three years is far too short a time for a collapsed city, an exhausted people, and oppressed hatred to disappear.”
Shaking his head in deliberate lamentation, Rozl continues.
“If we are to recapture it from the Six Kingdoms, the people will be drawn into another war. Resentment will only grow, and even if we succeed in rebuilding the country, there will be nothing but ruin awaiting Skaaha-sama.”
“We’re making preparations right now to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
“I see. Well, then, let me help you in my own small way.”
When Rozl suddenly stepped forward next to her, Liz stopped her meal, revealing her disgust.
Rozl smiled at her. It was a chilly smile with a hint of calculation.
(This guy… gives me the creeps.)
His eyes are not smiling. Yet, the hot gaze caught Liz’s and did not let go. Liz feels a terrible chill run down her spine. Rozl wears an eerie, serpent-like atmosphere as if he is waiting for his prey to weaken in resistance.
“How do you like it, Your Highness Celia Estrella? May I be of some assistance?”
Rozl asked again. The cunning that lurks on his handsome face, which does not seem to kill any insects, reveals a hint of intrigue.
Liz instantly raised her guard to the utmost. She must not give up her progress to this man. Her heart was beating fast, warning her of danger.
“I may eventually ask Lord Rozl for help. But that is still a long way off, and many other problems remain for now. We will discuss them again at a later date.”
Liz smiled back at Rozl, trying not to let him know, and then changed her target.
“I would like to ask you about the Principality of Lichtine, which is closing in on Margrave Grinda’s territory, Lord Vetu. Why aren’t you making a move?”
Although the question was sudden, Vetu was in no hurry and stopped eating to look at Liz.
“We have collected about 40,000 so that we can move at any time. But if we cause any unnecessary provocation, we could end up in an entanglement with the Principality of Lichtine. So I was in a situation where I couldn’t move…”
Shaking his head with an exaggerated gesture, Vetu continued.
“Just the other day, we received word that the Principality of Lichtine had retreated.”
“…Are you sure about that?”
“Yes, I don’t know why they retreated… but I’m sure they did. I guess we can say that they backed off.”
The entity that would eliminate the southern obstacle, Margrave Grinda, had suddenly withdrawn. All the various calculations that had been made must have been in vain.
Vetu’s voice was laced with a disappointment that he could not hide.
“The news must have reached Prime Minister Rosa in the capital. I am sure that a quick horse will be sent from the Imperial Capital to Your Highness Celia Estrella later on.”
“Is that so… the Principality of Lichtine retreated…”
Liz is unintentionally relieved, but there is a hint of uneasiness, perhaps because it is unclear.
Vetu lied. The possibility that this is the case will have to be investigated later. However, if it were true, her worries would disappear, and she could concentrate on the problems of the Steichen Republic.
(The rest should be well handled by Rosa-aneesama… then what I can do is…)
Liz decided to cut to the chase.
“Then the next question is about the Steichen Republic.”
“Let me explain that to you. Vetu-sama, may I?”
When Rozl asked for his approval, Vetu made a gesture of raising his hand to say he would leave it to him.
“Is Your Highness Celia Estrella aware of the current situation in the Steichen Republic?”
Rozl gives her a tangled look.
Liz answered the question without losing her guard.
“I’ve heard that there are two factions: the Jotunheim faction, which is mainly composed of Beastman, and the Nidavellir faction, which is mainly composed of Dwarves.”
“Yes. Until recently, the Jotunheim faction had the upper hand, but now the Nidavellir faction has come back to the scene, and we are in trouble.”
What was said in a light tone did not seem very urgent. As if toying with the other party, Rozl’s words are difficult to grasp the subtleties of his emotions. Liz was puzzled because she could not read what he was thinking at all.
“What do you mean?”
“The Grantz Empire had supported the Jotunheim faction with a view to the future, but our plans were misguided. Simply put, all the investment that had been made could now be for naught.”
“But why did the Nidavellir faction suddenly come to the scene?”
“It’s a very strange story, because this year, word began to circulate that Utgarde, the leader of the Nidavellir faction, is a descendant of the first emperor.”
“You mean the bloodline of the first emperor… of Grantz? But I’ve never heard of such a story.”
“I find that hard to believe, but according to him, he also has proof of this, and from his own research, it was certainly an article of the first emperor.”
“…Then I guess I’d better cooperate with the Nidavellir faction, wouldn’t you agree?”
Liz said so, and Rozl snorted with difficulty.
“Utgarde is not very qualified to serve as supreme president of the senate. He is not popular with the people at all, and if he were to win over the Jotunheim faction, it would plunge the Steichen Republic into a multi-party war, as it once was.”
This trend will likely affect the southern part of Grantz ― and eventually all of Grantz.
Currently, the Great Grantz Empire is going through a delicate period. It is not stable, but it is not as if there is an opening for other countries to take advantage of.
In the meantime, with Liz at the helm, Rosa is managing the situation well.
However, if the Steichen Republic were to once again enter a period of warfare, the nobles, who have been forced to suffer under Rosa, would be inspired to overthrow her.
(Then, the southern nobles will lend a helping hand, and Rosa-aneesama will lose her position…)
Although it is a matter of conjecture, if the Steichen Republic were to break up in earnest, there would be no need for the South to worry about retrospect. They would be able to attack the Central with all their forces.
If Rosa is defeated, Liz will lose the ability to oppose Vetu and his men. Then she would eventually be forced to marry a man of their choosing and live as the emperor’s consort.
(That’s the one thing I must avoid…)
Even as Liz pondered, Rozl’s words did not stop.
“In comparison, despite her difficult personality, Skadi of the Jotunheim faction is highly regarded by the people and has a good reputation in the Senate. In order to prevent the collapse of the Steichen Republic, I thought it would be better for the future if she were to be installed as the supreme president… and with the approval of His Majesty Greyheit, I had been supporting her.”
“I understand why, but does it necessarily have to be me?”
It seems to Liz that it doesn’t have to be her who reaches out; it could be Vetu or Rozl, either way, it doesn’t matter.
In fact, it would be more convenient for them. It would be up to them to win or lose.
However, Rozl shook his head and denied it.
“It is certainly a matter that Your Highness Celia Estrella does not need to go out of her way for. But please understand that the greater the favor, the greater the return.”
In other words, if the Jotunheim faction wins, they should gain an advantage over the other nations. That must be Rozl’s true intention. Liz could understand a little of what he was up to here.
(So he wants to ensure that they will be in a better position no matter which way it goes.)
If the Jotunheim faction wins, there will be enormous profits for Vetu and the others who have supported them.
If the Nidavellir faction wins, Vetu and his followers intend to take control of the Grantz by forceful means.
(We’re not going to let them do whatever they want…)
For this to happen, the Jotunheim faction must be allowed to win. If they go for support and lose, Liz’s position will be bad anyway.
(First of all, I must seize victory, and after that, I must reduce the power of the Muzuk family.)
Liz had made a new resolution, but then she suddenly mentioned something that bothered her.
“I understand why I’m going. But… But what about Utgarde? If he really is of the lineage of the first emperor, I would not want to punish him, despite his character.”
“The story has not yet spread to the Grantz. It is not yet a rumor, so I will leave it to the judgment of Your Highness, who is the legitimate head of the family, to decide whether to let him live or die. If they are to be protected, they should be given a fiefdom on the frontier of Grantz.”
Perhaps that was part of the reason why they chose Liz.
Even if Utgarde were to be executed, there would be no problem with Liz, who was considered to be the next emperor.
“So… I’ll leave the matter to you.”
“That’s fine. I look forward to working with you.”
Finally, sparks flew between the two parties, and the conversation came to an end.
Vetu, who had been watching the conversation, opened his mouth happily.
“How would you like to spend the evening? I have a room ready for you?”
“I’ll take that as a sign of goodwill. We’ll leave as soon as we’re ready, and I’ll rest outside in the encampment tonight.”
“I will be happy to help you. And please bring with you 3,000 Grantz Cavalrymen, even if it is only a small force. Not as many as the Knights of the Rose, but I have gathered the best of them.”
Then ― muttered Vetu, handing the letter to a servant, which was then carried down to Liz.
Vetu opened his mouth again to Liz, who was handed a plain white envelope and a question mark on her face.
“The name of the person who has infiltrated the Jotunheim faction is written on it. Please join them there. They will be of some help to you. If you are in need of any help, please ask them.”
“Thank you for your cooperation.”
“No, no, no. Whatever you wish us to do, we will do it.”
Here a hand clapped. All eyes are on the source of the sound ― Serpina, Vetu’s wife.
“Now that the difficult talk is over, let us resume our meal. We have prepared this meal for Your Highness Celia Estrella, and if we don’t eat it while it’s still warm, the ingredients will weep.”
“We shall do that, Madam Muzuk, and can you tell me what you recommend most?”
“I would say date palms, but I think stewed palms are best.”
The two of them repeat their idle conversation. The atmosphere is calm, a far cry from the atmosphere they were in earlier.
However, there was someone watching them with cold eyes.
It was Rozl.
He looked at the two of them with a wary gaze, but no one noticed it. It was because, like a snake deftly vanishing its presence, the killing spirit that had been slowly aiming at its prey vanished in an instant.
“…It’s not always as easy as it seems.”
Only one person, the old soldier Tris, sensed something was wrong.