Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
The northern part of the Great Grantz Empire was ruled by the northern nobility, led by the Sharm family, one of the five great noble families. While the northern part suffered from the severe cold due to extremely low temperatures, the southern part was comparatively warmer, and people mainly settled here, supporting the wealth of the Sharm family against the backdrop of the fertile black soil that spread across the southern part.
Its headquarters was the “White Silver Castle,” located in the center of the northern region.
Even though summer had arrived, it was midwinter all year round in the North.
No one liked to go out at this time of night. The only sound in the city was the sound of windows shaken by the strong winds.
The gates leading to the castle were ice cold. Soldiers in their winter gear came and went on the ramparts, sometimes shimmering their lights as they gazed down from the breastworks.
Inside the snow-covered castle, many soldiers were patrolling, and a tight security system was in place. Although the current situation was peaceful, the surrounding circumstances could be described as wartime. Perhaps that was why every soldier’s expression was serious and filled with a sense of tension as if they were determined not to let even a single rat pass through.
There was a section of “White Silver Castle” where no soldiers were to be found.
This was the place where the second prince Selene had his room.
Currently, he was on his sickbed. Two years ago, bandits attacked the imperial palace, and the second prince Selene was seriously wounded, losing one of his eyes. The attack also resulted in the loss of his uncle, Prime Minister Gils ― or so it was ostensibly announced.
But the truth was different.
“We found the corpse of Gils-sama in the basement of his room.”
It was one of his aides, Helma, one of the twin wolf generals of which the second prince Selene was proud, who said regretfully. He was a thin man who turned 30 years old this year, but under his armor, he hid a perfect body that was as well-trained as steel, completely devoid of any extravagant flab. His eyes were as keen as a hawk’s but now contorted with regret.
A small exhale escaped from a disappointed Helma as he lowered his head.
“So… my uncle was killed after all…”
The second prince Selene said. Half of his face was wrapped in bandages, and his appearance was quite pitiful.
He did not hide his disappointment and let out his sadness with a sigh.
“How was his condition?”
“From the way he was bleached white, I’d say a great deal of time had passed.”
Ten thousand years is winter in the North. It takes a long time for flesh to rot and become bone.
In other words, it would take more than a year or two.
“When was the last time my uncle came back to the White Silver Castle?”
“When His Majesty Greyheit was on his way to conquer Felzen, he had some free time, so he must have stopped by here about three years ago.”
“It would have been a great opportunity to get away from the watchful eye of my father… the Wind Emperor, but I can’t believe that such a thing could have taken place in broad daylight inside the White Silver Castle ― No, it could have been on the way here.”
Still, doubts remain. Prime Minister Gils was a very cautious man. He seemed to have a lot of openings, but he must have set dozens of traps and taken great care to guard his personal safety. Even so, he fell into the hands of the enemy. It was hard to believe, but since the body of Prime Minister Gils was actually found, it was a fact that they had no choice but to accept.
“If my uncle was murdered in the “White Silver Castle” and the contents were replaced, does that mean there was a traitor inside…?”
Selene’s words, mixed with anger and sadness, caused Helma to gasp.
His face was incredulous.
Not surprisingly, the northern regions were linked by iron ties, led by Prime Minister Gils and the second prince Selene.
The northern nobles also admired them and were united in their belief that Selene was the right choice for the next emperor.
“Even if you don’t want to believe it, there are always traitors. You can see it in our current situation, can’t you?”
The enemy had been preparing for years, decades even. They must have been watching for an opportunity under the radar so that Selene and Gils would not be aware of it. This was evident in the movements of the northern nobles today.
“As soon as they found out that I had been defeated by the bandits and that my uncle was dead, this is what they did. Everyone is moving to pursue their own interests. Righteousness and humanity are secondary; that’s how things are now.”
Selene’s dismissive tone made Helma look as if chewing on a bitter bug.
“That may be so… but you can’t cross the world by abandoning righteousness. Gils-sama said that everyone in the North was his son and daughter. Every nobleman from the North must have been taken care of by Gils-sama at one time or another, yet they forget that debt of gratitude and turn on their lord.”
Helma’s back teeth chattered as if chewing on a stone, perhaps unable to contain his anger.
Selene struggled with his loyal aide and could only come up with a few bland words.
“Helma… don’t misunderstand it. The Sharm family is only entrusted with the North, but the main family is the Grantz family. And the northern nobles are only indebted to the Grantz and to my uncle, but I myself have done nothing for them.”
Somehow, Selene had forgotten even that and continued to focus only on the North.
He assumed, with a feeling akin to arrogance, that their feelings were the same for him.
Perhaps he was now reaping the rewards of that thinking, and the corners of Selene’s eyes twisted up.
However, perhaps unconvinced, Helma slammed his fist on the floor.
“If that is the case, isn’t the second prince, Selene-sama, the main family? It’s as if those who have been seduced by the Bromell family have turned their fangs against the royal family!”
“Liz is also a member of the Grantz family, and who can blame them for supporting her?”
The sixth princess, who has achieved more in the Steichen Republic than the second prince, who was defeated by bandits, was seen by everyone as a more suitable candidate to be the next emperor.
Above all, although it was ostensibly believed that Liz was taking orders from the emperor, who is on his sickbed, the fact was that she and her close associates around her were running the current Great Grantz Empire.
The aged nobles, who knew the glory and the setbacks, the prosperity and the decline, the sour and the sweet, would not overlook the slightest change that occurred at the center of the empire.
“It is true that we underestimated the situation. Imagine if this all connected to the idea that only the North is safe.”
“What’s wrong with focusing on the place where you were born and raised? What’s more, we have the “Spirit Wall” in the North, so our situation is always more tense than others.”
Helma was not wrong.
It was no exaggeration to say that the stability of the North led to the stability of the Great Grantz Empire.
If the barbarians were to cross the “Spirit Wall,” Grantz would quickly repeat the tragedy of five hundred years ago. There was no one in the Grantz Empire who had the power to possess three of the Five Emperors of the Spirit Swords like the 22nd Emperor at that time.
The current Grantz has only one of the five spirit swords, the “Flame Emperor,” that Liz possesses.
“Father is dead. My uncle is gone. The West is exhausted, and the Central is in disarray. The East and the South are still alive and well. In the North, I don’t know when the flames will spread.”
Selene sat up on his bed and looked out the window.
Even though summer had arrived, snow still fell in the North. The freezing air made his lost right eye tingle.
Still, with the passage of time, he was able to move his body.
“Soon, my wounds will heal. Then I will be able to appease the rebellious northern nobles. I just don’t know if I’ll have the time until then…”
“The Bromell family has been holding feasts day after day and night, gathering the leading northern nobles and cajoling them. It is certain that they have defected.”
“Still, perhaps we should have a talk with the Bromell family.”
“The former head of the family would have been willing to talk about it, but the current head of the family is not the kind of person who listens to talk. He is a man of ambition, and he intends to make you his puppet.”
“Still, the former head of the family took good care of me. Even if we clash, we need to talk deeply at least once… so that we may find some compromise.”
Even now, Selene had no ambition to become emperor. Even if it would foster dissatisfaction among the northern nobles, he understood that he, who could not even maintain the stability of the North, was not fit to be an emperor.
“I am not qualified to be an emperor. I will not be chosen as one of the Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword like Liz, and it is doubtful that I am legitimate like her.”
“Again, there are several emperors who were not chosen as one of the Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword in the past… with such worldly rumors. There is no need to be misled by public rumors.”
“Then, do you know what the 28th, 30th, and 36th emperors who were not chosen have in common?”
“I have heard that they did not even know how to use a sword.”
Unable to understand Selene’s question, Helma mumbled the words that came to him as he thought of them.
But when Helma’s body stiffened under the penetrating gaze from Selene, he realized that the answer was a mistake.
“Not knowing how to handle a sword ― that’s the only thing that attracts attention, but the fact is that emperors who were not chosen as one of the Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword began to appear three hundred years ago.”
One hypothesis had become a rumor among many nobles.
It is whispered that the current Grantz imperial family was not from the lineage of the first emperor.
This story had only recently begun to surface, but in fact, it had been a rumor for a long time.
An assassination attempt on the emperor occurred 300 years ago, and it is said that the line of the first emperor had been extinct ever since. The rumors were spurred by the death of the Grantz imperial family members two years ago. The “Spirit King” was angered by the fact that a man who was not of the lineage of the first emperor was sitting on the throne, and the Grantz were now facing an unprecedented crisis.
It was also called the darkness of the Grantz family, and now it was beginning to permeate the general public.
“So, you think the Rose Princess is worthy of the throne because of a trivial rumor like that?”
“Red hair is as sacred as the black hair. It is also the characteristic of the “God of Military Arts,” the 22nd emperor.”
With a glance at Helma, who choked on a word, Selene turned his attention to the window, which was rattling in the strong wind.
“It is also said that my father welcomed Liz’s mother, who has “red hair,” into the Grantzs family because of this. What’s more, Liz was chosen as the “Flame Emperor,” which was only possessed by the first emperor. All the conditions are there for anyone to believe the rumors.”
“Still, it lacks credibility. The people of this country are overreacting to the fourth prince Hiro.”
Whether unwilling to believe or stubborn, Helma’s tone grew stronger, and he denied it with a loud gesture.
“Even if it is true that the line of the first emperor was cut off three hundred years ago! Even so, wasn’t it the current members of the imperial family who have supported the Grantz until today!”
“It’s not something that can be easily divided. The fact that we live in a country ruled by the descendants of the Twelve Great Gods of Grantz is the pride of the Grantz people. People value history and are especially attracted to bloodlines.”
Selene removed his gaze from the window and turned his serious gaze on Helma again.
“If it was the current imperial family that caused the assassination of the emperor three hundred years ago, what do you think the people would do?”
“Everyone would try to give the throne back to the rightful sovereign. No, perhaps they would even turn away from the truth.”
There was even a possibility that the people, ruled by suspicion and instigated by the enemy, will be inspired to rise up in various places.
“I don’t want the throne if it would bring down the Great Grantz Empire. In fact, if I were Liz, I would have given up.”
Three years ago, when the first prince Stobel and the third prince Blutar were still alive, there would not have been many people who would have followed Liz. The country would have been divided in two, but now, with Liz on the throne, no one would complain.
“The darkness of the Grantz imperial family is something that must never be brought to light.”
Selene’s words were so powerful that Helma, unable to deny them, was unable to continue. Selene gave him a small smile and opened his mouth again.
“How is Proditos doing?”
He mentioned the name of another of the twin wolf generals who supported him.
Proditos was Helma’s younger sister, but she was a woman of character who loved the battlefield because of her bloodthirsty personality.
“She has been probing the movements of the Levering Kingdom, but she has completed most of her investigations and is scheduled to return tomorrow.”
There was no sign from Helma that he was happy about his sister’s return. Rather, he looked discouraged and slumped his shoulders heavily. Selene smiled at him with an air of consolation.
“The results of the investigation were not good.
“It seems that many of the northern nobles in the western part of the region are flirting with the Levering Kingdom. The influence of the small country of Baum may also be at play…”
Selene’s mouth curved back in self-mockery at the way Helma said it as if he had something stuck in his back teeth.
“It means that they are fed up with me letting the Bromell family do whatever they want.”
Since Claudia became queen, the Levering Kingdom has gained tremendous momentum.
As a race that once dominated the central continent, it was only natural that this would be the result if only they had a decent ruler.
Conversely, the instability in the northern part of the Grantz must have caused the northern nobles, especially those with fiefdoms close to the Levering Kingdom, to spend sleepless nights worrying about something that was not their concern. It was no wonder that they were so afraid of the “demon race” now that they were rushing to protect themselves.
“…I intend to make them pay for what they’ve done.”
“But first, let’s fortify our defenses. As soon as Proditos returns, I’ll have her take care of the area around the “White Silver Castle.” The Bromell family’s movements are one thing, but I also want you to pay close attention to the Levering Kingdom. This is a sensitive time, and if we provoke them, war will break out.”
“Understood. I will make the necessary arrangements immediately.”
Helma bowed deeply, glanced at Selene anxiously, and left the room.
After seeing him off, Selene looked at the window again with a melancholy expression on his face.
“Demiurgos…, or the ‘faceless king’ possessed by a dream… Ugh.”
Selene touched his aching right eye with his hand and frowned, trying to hold back the intense pain.
“You knew about this, didn’t you?”
He remembered the fourth prince whom he had parted from two years ago.
He was ready for it, and he knew something, that’s for sure.
Whether it was this time or something else, it was not certain…
In any case, Selene, the one who gave him the advice, ended up with such an unceremonious result.
“Sorry ― Hiro…”
An icy wind shook the windows.
As if to add to the unease, fear was spreading throughout the world.
As dark clouds hung in the air, the raging snow made it impossible to see anything of the landscape.