The Great Grantz Empire―the southern metropolis of Sunspear.
To the north is the Great Imperial Capital; to the south is the Principality of Lichtine, derided as a slave state, and the Steichen Republic, made up of a diversity of tribes. To the west is the Third Imperial Capital, and to the east is the Iron Eagle Castle.
Sunspear, a stopover point for merchants from all over the world, was also known as a port on land, where various exotic goods flow in.
Blessed with such a location, Sanspear had become so prosperous that it was said to rival the Great Imperial Capital.
Although Sunspear was often thought to be built on trade, it was also the largest gold-producing region in the Grantz Empire, and because of the concentration of wealthy people in the region, the city’s finances had become plentiful and continue to develop even now.
Furthermore, thanks to the free and open-minded spirit of the cheerful capital, there was little discrimination, and the city had become so attractive that various tribes visited Sunspear and considered moving there.
Sunspear was governed by the Muzuk family, one of the five great noble families of the Grantz.
They lived in Grythnir, a palace in the center of the city.
It was also called the “Golden Palace” because of the abundant use of gold, and it was a gaudy structure that symbolized the wealth of Sunspear, but it was often accused of being vain and vulgar.
However, if one looked around Sunspear as a whole, there was a lot of gold everywhere.
Perhaps because of this, the Grythnir Palace blended in as a part of the city and did not seem to stand out from the landscape at all.
For these and many other reasons, the reputation of Grythnir Palace differs from person to person.
It was also a fact that many people visit the city to dream of getting rich, and one of the targets of their admiration was the head of the Muzuk family, Vetu Rueger von Muzuk.
He took over the reins of the family at the young age of 27 after the previous head of the family passed away due to illness.
Over the next four years or so, he disposed of the corrupt nobility and contributed to the development of Sunspear by working hard to attract merchants from neighboring countries to establish trade routes.
Although he was a young man, he was quite a shrewd man, and his close associates, led by Rozl, were also excellent, and he had become the second most powerful voice after the Kelheit family in the Great Grantz Empire.
He was currently locked up in his room in Grythnir. Looking at a sheet of parchment, he was groaning with a difficult expression on his face.
“Ara, is that a letter from Rozl?”
Serpina Sephone von Muszuk, Vetu’s wife, came into the room.
She was dressed so thin that her underwear was almost visible through her clothes. However, due to the tropical climate, she did not give an indecent impression, and because the lines of her body were clearly visible, she was also artistically beautiful.
When asked by his wife, Vetu coughed lightly and then nodded.
“Yeah, I hear that the recapture of Felzen is progressing without a hitch.”
“Is that so? Well, that’s good.”
“Even so, it is unusual for you to come to this room, isn’t it?”
“Is that so? I was wondering if you would like some tea…”
Then Serpina put the tray on the desk. The sweets were piled up neatly and beautifully. The tea bowl was filled with tea, and the steam was shimmering from the bowl.
Vetu put his finger on the handle, took a sip, nodded his head in satisfaction, and looked at his wife.
“So, you wanted to see me about something?”
“No, I’m not at ease in the palace, so I’ve come running to you.”
Saying this, Serpina approached the window and looked down at the city spread out below.
There were several encampments around the city. None of the heraldic flags fluttering in the wind belonged to the southern nobility.
“Everywhere you look, there are soldiers from the Eastern nobility, and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”
The Kelheit family, concerned about the decline in the south’s strength since Vetu’s close aide Rozl had led his troops to Felzen, had sent a private army of eastern nobles to the city.
“It would be a kind of surveillance. It’s because of the decline in our strength.”
He could have refused, but he accepted the Eastern nobles in consideration of the future.
Grantz Prime Minister Rosa probably understood this. The stability of the south could not be allowed to collapse now that the north was in disarray. However, it was extremely difficult to support the building blocks once they were on the verge of collapse.
“The main force of Grantz is out to the west. We can’t count on them in the event of an emergency. Then we must overcome the situation with our remaining strength.”
There was no way they could send troops to the west where the wounds of three years ago had not yet healed, and with the fall of the Krone family, which was one of the five great noble families, the central region was in the process of decline.
This was because when Rosa took the position of prime minister, she punished the noblemen and lords who had committed injustice. By taking away some of their property, confiscating their territories, and returning their titles, the prime minister was able to gain the support of the people and fatten her faction.
But the cost was a weakened central government, and it was not cheap.
“The next step was the recapture of Felzen before we had time to recover. Prime Minister Rosa seems to have forgotten that there is a finite number of soldiers.”
“Forgotten, you say?”
“In the history of Grantz, wars have never been fought so many times in such a short period. Even during the reign of His Majesty Greyheit, there was a “five-year spring” in which nothing happened. In retrospect, the current era can even be called an anomaly.”
“It may indeed be an anomaly. I have also heard strange rumors. Among the people, it is said that everything began in the Principality of Lichtine.”
At Serpina’s words, Vetu involuntarily gulped down some fresh saliva.
Serpina looked down at him with a somewhat cold expression.
When Vetu saw the eyes that did not light up with emotion, he quietly exhaled and opened his mouth.
“…..Why do you think so?”
“I had heard from someone I know well that when the Principality of Lichtine invaded the south, Hiro-sama, Liz-sama, and Stobel-sama were there.”
“I know that story well. It happened in the south, after all… On that day, Her Highness Celia Estrella and Stobel-sama were in the middle of a factional war.”
But the power of the two sides was not so competitive that they could fight.
Stobel had established a large faction, and Princess Celia Estrella, the sixth princess, had no support from anyone and was on her own. The result was, of course, a complete resignation of the sixth princess.
“She was on her way to her uncle, Margrave Grinda, on the border.”
However, the sixth princess Celia Estrella, fearing that she would encounter a hostile faction, chose to cross over to Margrave Grinda’s territory via the small country of Baum. Along the way, the girls witnessed the invasion of the Principality of Lichtine and began fighting.
“I heard that Stobel-sama appeared on the spot afterward, but I also heard that it was because he rushed to the south in response to the crisis there. Is it any wonder that the two of them were there?”
“Why did Stobel-sama go all the way to the south? He was on his way to conquer Felzen with His Majesty Greyheit, you know. I don’t understand why he would come all the way to the south, if not to the central, from the far west.”
“As I said, that’s because of the crisis in the south――”
Vetu’s explanation was interrupted by Serpina’s strong tone.
“How did Stobel-sama know about this crisis?”
“Margrave Grinda also sent a messenger to the south. He may have heard it from that person, or from the refugees, or from any number of other sources.”
“Are you saying that after Liz-sama was transferred to the frontier and he had just returned from the conquest of Felzen, a messenger or a refugee informed him of the crisis in the Grinda territory, and he appeared on the battlefield after briefly organizing the Fourth Imperial Army?”
“…You, what are you trying to say?”
Vetu sighed, holding his brows.
“No, it just seemed to proceed too smoothly.”
“Then are you trying to tell me that Stobel-sama was orchestrating today’s Grantz crisis?”
“To that extent… however, he has a bit of a reputation for being a bit of a mystery, and he’s still out of sight and out of mind.”
“Ridiculous. The current situation results from a combination of evil intentions on the part of various countries. It is not something that can be easily manipulated. If he could do that, he wouldn’t just rule the central continent; he’d rule the world.”
After strongly denying it, he looked at her in dismay, and Serpina honestly lowered her head.
“That’s also… true. I told you a boring story. Please forget it.”
Ashamed of himself for having become unintentionally heated at the sight of her, Vetu softened his steepness and sat deeper in his chair.
“No, that was quite a meaningful talk. Would you like to tour the battlefield as my military strategist now?”
Serpina put the back of her hand over her mouth and laughed in a funny way.
“Fufu, that sounds like fun, but we still have a young daughter, so I will concentrate on raising her.”
Serpina said teasingly, and Vetu showed his disappointment with an exaggerated slump of his shoulders.
Vetu drank his tea, which had cooled down, in one gulp and put the cup down on the desk.
Serpina’s hand stopped as she reached out to lower the dishes.
Vetu noticed and looked up at his wife, who was standing next to him suspiciously.
“Is something wrong?”
“No, I saw a map of the north and wondered if the situation was that tense.”
Spread out on the desk were the map of the west and the map of the north that Vetu had used earlier.
Nearby was a heaped bundle of parchment.
“According to the spy, the centripetal force of the Scharm family is declining, and the Bromel family seems to be gaining ground. The previous head of the family was not a man of prominence, but his son seems to have been blessed with talent.”
Serpina moves her body closer and places her hand on Vetu’s shoulder.
“Then he seems to be a lot like you.”
Vetu frowned at the somewhat implied remark but quickly mended his expression and nodded.
“…..You may be right. I think our circumstances may be similar.”
“If you need me for anything else, I’ll be in the next room; please call me.”
The feeling of Serpina’s hand on his shoulder, which had moved away from him, never left him. A strange sensation took over Vetu’s body as if something hot was pressed against it. Vetu gave a single cough as he stroked his throat to expel the strange sensation and replied to Serpina.
“Yeah… got it.”
Serpina, who had retrieved the tray with the dishes on it, turned around with a gasp just before opening the door.
“What is it?”
“No, I noticed something in what you just said.”
“What did you notice?”
Serpina put her hand over her mouth with a bewitching light in her eyes as Vetu tilted his head.
“If there is only one goal, it should be easy to manipulate the scenarios, even if it has many different agendas.”
Serpina, looking at her silent husband with amusement and holding up her index finger, spun her voice.
“The purpose of the destruction of the Grantz―if it is all to be consolidated into ‘one.'”
With these final words, Serpina left the room.
Vetu stared at the door for a moment, then patted his shoulder and formed a self-deprecating smile.
“You’ve caught the changing situation well… and above all, you’ve got a frighteningly good head on your shoulders.”
He praised Serpina and sighed loudly at the same time.
“That keen intuition―after all, Serpina has a lot of your blood in her veins.”
Vetu gazed at the portraits of the previous heads of the family displayed in the room with a cold expression on his face.