It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (116/125), enjoy~
The Great Grantz Empire ― Muzuk territory, Sunspear.
The golden palace was bathed in the evening sun, emitting a seven-colored glow that illuminated the city.
In one of the rooms, two men were drinking together.
They were Vetu, the head of the Muzuk family, and his right-hand man, the beautiful young man Rozl.
“Now, how do you think Her Highness Celia Estrella is going to overcome her difficulties?”
Vetu leaned on his chair, making it squeak with his weight. His gaze was fixed on Rozl, who sat opposite him, his calm face deepening into a smile as he sipped his wine.
“Right. I have a certain idea about her personality to some extent.”
“Oh, what did you find out?”
When Vetu asked with interest, Rozl looked out the window and squinted at the beautiful sunset.
“I guess you could say she’s straight as an arrow, clumsy…”
After saying this, Rozl shook his head as if to deny his own words.
“No, she’s still a very intelligent person. She has a keen intuition and is not slow-witted. To some extent, she seemed to understand all of my ideas when I let her read them to me, and above all, I could see that she is still trying to grow. It’s frightening that she still has room to grow.”
“She certainly grew up beautifully. I was amazed at how she looked like a “Long-Eared Race.” That’s why it’s a pity. If she had been brought up as an imperial princess, she could have been exchanged for a country or two.”
“Pfft, I didn’t mean it that way…”
“I know. I’m only joking ― after all; it’s her appearance that proves she’s the real deal.”
“Over the course of a thousand years, the Grantz imperial family has mixed many different kinds of blood, so it is rare that someone like her is born who is so beautiful that she stands out from the rest.”
Once he broke off, Rozl’s mouth teared open as he smelled the aroma of the wine.
“Still, no one would have guessed that she would be born with red hair.”
“The only ones who were aware of it were His late Majesty Greyheit and the other five great nobles.”
“No, there were others.”
At Rozl’s response, Vetu frowned and placed the silver cup on the desk.
“The First Empress?”
“You are half right and half wrong. She was just a poor woman who was used. Thanks to her, our country no longer has an empress.”
A pause is often created when indicated that this was an incorrect answer.
Eventually, ah ― and Vetu spoke up.
“――The Black Death Village.”
As if satisfied with the answer Vetu had arrived at, Rozl’s mouth dropped open in delight.
“Yes. And it is also the reason why His Majesty Greyheit started invading other countries. It is a matter of fate that the “Black Death Village” is always involved in the disturbances of the Grantz imperial family. We will have to deal with it sooner or later.”
“But first, we need to see if Her Highness Celia Estrella can overcome this problem.”
“As I said earlier, she has grown tremendously. Moreover, she is not complacent about it and is still aiming higher. I think we are at a crossroads, whether she will be able to stave off the problems that are occurring in the Steichen Republic this time or whether she will break down.”
That’s something to look forward to. As if to say so, Rozl downed the wine in one gulp.
Seeing him, Vetu, who had a scowl on his face as if he had suffered from heartburn, held his own silver cup filled with wine away from him.
“It looks like you’ve laid a few traps. Will they work?”
“Well… I wonder about that?”
“As expected, I can’t let the fox of Kelheit have her way any longer. If we don’t kick her out, our Muzuk family will end up second best.”
Pouring the wine into Rozl’s empty silver cup, Vetu expressed his concern.
“That can be done at another time. It is not yet time to rush. This time, more than any other, is meant to be a test for Her Highness Celia Estrella.”
As question marks appear on Vetu’s face, a silver cup filled with wine is vigorously thrust into his hand.
“Yes. Whether or not she is capable of solving the problem on her own. Looking at her history, it seems that she has had some of the best men with her, and this is no way to know how good she really is.”
Perhaps sobering, Rozl leaned his elbows on the desk and picked up a plate of fruit.
“Well, if all else fails, just drag Rosa-dono down from her position as prime minister.”
With a hint of madness in his eyes, Rozl bit into the apple in his hand.
“Whether the Jotunheim faction or the Nidavellir faction wins, it will benefit us either way. The winner has been decided from the start, so all we have to do is suck on the sweet nectar and look on from a high place.”
Then Rozl slammed his apple on the desk as if to say that his amusement had cooled and looked at Vetu with a grim look on his brow.
“Rather, may I ask what the story was about two years ago? I heard that the position of chief of staff for the conquest of the Six Kingdoms was given to the daughter of the Bunadhara family, so what were the other members of the entourage, including you, Vetu-sama, doing?”
Vetu’s complexion changed just as the main topic arrived. He looked embarrassed and turned his face away from Rozl’s sharp gaze. But Rozl relentlessly cut to the chase.
“No, that’s not all. Why didn’t you call me back when you and Rosa-dono fought over the prime minister’s position?”
It had been about three years, but Rozl had plotted various schemes in the Steichen Republic.
He hastened the death of the supreme chancellor, assassinated candidates on both sides, and divided the Steichen Republic. He also lobbied the Nidavellir faction to dam the Zahle River and accelerated the famine in the Principality of Lichtine. After witnessing the success of these long-standing schemes, Rozl returned to Sunspear, where he was told of Vetu’s many blunders.
“You were a little bit lenient.”
“I can honestly admit that I was overconfident, so…?”
With a slight tremor in his voice from humiliation, Vetu answers with pride and dignity.
“Right, I overestimated my own abilities. I thought I could handle the Kelheit family on my own, even without you.”
“It’s appalling. You finally realized that after being deprived of real power in the center and the west, and not even being able to obtain the position of prime minister?”
“Yes. I am defeated beyond excuse. I am sorry.”
In response to the harsh words, Vetu bowed his head honestly and without rebuttal. Perhaps this was a sign of lowered blood pressure, and the anger faded slightly from Rozl’s face.
“What has happened can’t be helped. It seems that you have honestly admitted defeat and are sorry for your loss, so I will not pursue this matter any further. Now that you have become the Secretary of the Ministry of Military Affairs, it would be interesting to see how you can turn things around from here.”
The seeds for this have already been sown.
“I look forward to seeing what role the necklace of the first emperor will play.”
Rozl cleared his throat. Vetu’s face, which had been clouded for a moment, brightened as if he was in a better mood, and he lifted his head vigorously.
“Yes, isn’t that right? Besides, haven’t we always been used to adversity?”
“I didn’t say I forgive you. I am asking you to refrain from bragging in the future. Besides, there are still blunders that remain. Why did you make your wife the Acting Secretary? If the role were to keep her in the imperial palace as a hostage, it would be understandable, but she travels back and forth between Sunspear and the great imperial capital. That doesn’t make sense.”
Vetu’s face paled as if he had been hit in a sore spot again and had run out of juice.
“…She wanted to be a deputy. As you can imagine, I can’t resist her.”
For Vetu, always a confident person, his words were weak, and his voice was tinged with melancholy.
Whenever this kind of talk comes up, Vetu always minces no words.
“Is this what you call being weak due to love?”
Rozl’s mouth twitched in exasperation, and Vetu let out a disappointed sigh and slumped her shoulders.
“How good it would have been if that had been the case…”
Vetu looked at the window with eyes that seemed to dwell on the distant past. The sun had already set, and the darkness covered the world.
The night air trembled with the howling of wild dogs. After the sun had set, the air in the land had a different quality than in the daytime.
Disturbing noises that incite uneasiness, the darkness that fosters fear, and the smells have changed to something more distinctive. But on this day, there was a different kind of uneasiness mixed in.
There was a group of people walking along the moonlit road.
It was an army of 5,000 men led by the sixth princess Celia Estrella of the Grantz Empire.
Accompanying the vanguard of the group was a red-haired princess with an old soldier and a white wolf nearby.
“Princess, it seems we have finally arrived.”
An old soldier, Tris, spoke to Liz from his horse.
In the darkness, the torchlight cast a dancing shadow over Liz’s beauty.
“Yes, the sun is setting, and it is getting cold, so once we cross the border, we will contact the Jotunheim faction and ask them to let us rest in the fortress.”
Liz looked ahead.
Ahead of her gaze, lights were floating in the air.
There were several of them floating side by side evenly, shimmering in the wind.
“It was too dark to see, but considering the height of the torches, they were quite large.”
It connects the two countries of the Steichen Republic and the Great Grantz Empire. It was the first time Liz visited the border fortress built there.
“The Steichen Republic is a country of many races. As there are many “Dwarves” in the country, the buildings are solid, and the fortifications are said to be impregnable.”
“So this is why the other countries are using the aid method instead of invading.”
“That is true. No matter how chaotic Steichen is, it is difficult to attack. The city is surrounded by high walls, and the fortifications are so solid that it is impossible to defeat them without a large force. I have heard that the border wall between Steichen and the Principality of Lichtine is particularly impressive.”
“Has Tris ever visited the Steichen Republic?”
“Once, with Dios.”
Tris mentioned the name of a young man who had died in a battle with the Principality of Lichtine. His torch-lit face was sorrowful, and he looked nostalgically toward the fortress.
“I returned to Grantz immediately, so I don’t know the details…”
“Is that so…”
Liz did not inquire further into the matter than a brief reply. She did not ask any more questions because the atmosphere around Tris was very fragile.
No topic of conversation came and went between the two, and only silence coiled up between them.
The sound of horses’ hoof beats shook the night air, and the scraping of armor made the air tremble.
The torchlight that was visible in front of them gradually became brighter and brighter as they went on their way, letting the noisy sounds take over their lives. The fortress, which had been submerged in darkness, was also revealed by the moonlight.
After halting their march, they were greeted by
“Welcome to the territory of Jotunheim in the Steichen Republic. I apologize for your fatigue, but where is your superior officer? I’d like to say a few words.”
She was a strong-looking woman in a revealing ― and ethnic ― outfit.
Around her waist hung a sharp-looking axe, a bow, and a rabbit that had been drained of its blood. Following behind the wild woman were muscular warriors in animal pelts.
They were a bizarre group that gave the impression of bandits, perhaps because of their rough atmosphere.
“The Great Grantz Empire, Celia Estrella Elizabeth von Grantz!”
As Liz dismounted and advanced on the woman, the woman’s face, illuminated by the torchlight, was startled.
“What a beautiful woman. You must be the princess of the Great Grantz Empire, isn’t that right?”
She looked at Liz from the top of her head to her toes with curiosity.
Liz tilted her head with a puzzled look on her face at the woman who approached her in a familiar manner.
“Who are you?”
“Me? My name is Skadi Vestra Mikhael. I am in charge of Jotunheim territory in the Steichen Republic.”
Skadi says while sniffing at Liz.
“…I take it you represent the Jotunheim faction?”
Liz took a step back from Skadi, who did not stop sniffing her.
“Oh, feel free to call me Skadi.”
She closed the distance again and sniffed her up close. Liz looked at her suspiciously as she made a somewhat animal-like gesture, and then Skadi seemed to notice her gaze and turned her attention to Liz.
Liz looked into her eyes and realized what the discomfort was. Her sclera was black, not white. And upon closer inspection, she spotted what looked like goat horns on top of her head.
“Are you… a ‘Beastman,’ by any chance?”
At Liz’s question, Skadi nodded with a dazzling smile.
“Yes, you’re right, princess; I am a Beastman.”
Before the founding of the Steichen Republic, the country was divided into nine nations.
“It is said that there was a country of “Beastman,” a country of “Humans,” and a country of “Dwarves.”
The most powerful of these nine countries were Lichtine, the country of “Humans,” Jotunheim, the country of “Beastman,” and Nidavellir, the country of “Dwarves.” The three countries formed an alliance to oppose the Great Grantz Empire, which was the beginning of the Steichen Republic.
It is said that the distribution of races in each country has changed over the generations, but many still choose areas with many of their own kind, and the original races seem to be in the majority in each power.
“I appreciate your cooperation. The Nidavellir are persistent, you know. We were just about to have a hard time with them.”
Skadi reaches out to shake Liz’s hand.
“No, I don’t know if I can help you, but――”
Liz tried to shake Skadi’s hand but failed because she crouched down and looked at Liz’s waist.
“Oh, so this is the “Flame Emperor” I’ve heard so much about… but this is the first time I’ve seen one in person.”
“…I guess you never listen to me.”
“Maybe it’s because of my Beastman blood. I’ve been told I’m impatient and restless.”
That being said, all Liz could say was, ” Oh, I see.”
“Well, we can’t stay here forever, so why don’t you come with me?”
Without waiting for a reply, she puts her hands on her head and starts walking. But she stopped immediately.
“Oh, yes ― I wanted to ask you something.”
Skadi turned around.
“Hey, how did my brother Dios die?”
A cold wind blew. The flame of the torch flickered wildly, and its light flickered away from Skadi.
This made it impossible to see her expression, and Liz could only stand there with a stunned look on her face. Behind her, Tris was also shaking in astonishment at Skadi’s words.