The central city of the Carmine Duchy, [Randell].
In the meeting hall of the Army General Georg Carmine’s castle located further inside it, right now, the Three Dukes leading this country’s Army, Navy, and Air Force, were gathered.
Now sitting in the seat of honor is the lord of this castle Duke Georg Carmine, as the General of the Army. He was a beastman with a muscular, burly body visible from over his military uniform and the head of a lion, and looks to be a prime example of a long serving military man. His age had gone past fifty¹ but he does not show signs of weakening at all. During this meeting he displays a firm posture without moving a single eyebrow.
¹ A beastman’s lifespan is no different to a human’s
Sitting at Georg’s right was the admiral of the navy, Duchess Ecksel Walter. She was a beautiful mizuchi woman wearing garments similar to Japanese clothes, and had small deer horns peeking out of her blue hair. Mizuchi are a race that live for over a thousand years and she too was over 500 years in age. Nevertheless, her appearance is that of a twenty year old. She was a woman with both wisdom and beauty but she seemed right now rather irate.
Sitting opposite her is the Marshall of the Air Force Duke Castor Vargas. He looks to be a gallant young man, but he was a dragonewt with two demonlike horns growing out of his red hair and two membrane wings growing from his back. He was 100 years old but because dragonewts live up to 500 years old he was treated as a youngster. It is said about long-lived races that one’s mental age is proportional to one’s appearance. Nevertheless, the all-too-young Ecksel was an exception among exceptions. Also, he was visibly pouting. Watching the two’s attitude, Ecksel sighed.
“……. I thought that this meeting was about avoiding a pointless fight?”
“What granny? You’re getting scared now?”
Castor snapped at Ecksel
“A mizuchi being scared of a normal human, Duchess Walter, are you going senile?”
“……. Ara, I wonder who was the old woman maniac who was making passes at me fifty years ago?”
“Also, if you want to call me it’s ‘mother-in-law’, not granny, right?”
Being talked to so playfully, Castor became dejected. In truth, Ecksel was the target of Castor’s puppy love, and perhaps because he never forgot his magnificent defeat, he fell in love and married her daughter Accella who was close to his age he met later. Which means because Castor was Ecksel’s son-in-law, she was an opponent he could never win against due to his position.
“Castor, Are you going to defy the king?”
“Of course I am! I don’t care if he’s a hero or whatever, that false king usurped the crown, compelled Princess Liecia to marriage, and took over the country! That’s plenty of reason to defy him!”
“The ones who said that were only the nobles who ran from being questioned for injustice. Abdicating the throne was by Alberto-dono’s own will, and his relations with Princess Liecia is harmonious”
“Even so, where’s the reason he has to be king! If he wants to rebuild the country he can do it as a vassal! Was there a problem with the previous king’s rule?”
“……. (There were no problems but the fact that there was nothing good about it was itself a problem)”
So Ecksel thought, but because it was too irreverent towards the previous king, she didn’t say it out loud. Ecksel felt dubious towards Alberto’s sudden abdication, but seeing the changes afterwards, she could call it decisive judgement. The King Alberto in Ecksel’s memory was not a lord capable of such judgement but he had experienced some growth of his own.
“To begin with, I don’t like how he’s looking down on us Three Dukes who’s been protecting the country through the long years. He sent a letter saying [choose whether to obey me or not] didn’t he?”
“Though he did say [If you cooperate with my reforms I will give food aid and lay roads into your territory] …”
In truth, it was an attractive proposal. Because the Three Duchies had fewer population than the royal domains and held stores for maintaining troops, their food problems weren’t so severe. But even though there were few deaths from starvation, economic losses were more terrible than the royal domains. On the verge of the food crisis, the Three Duchies opened the military stores and rationed them, but because of that the food sellers who lost demand were first to go bankrupt. Then because employment went down, shops who couldn’t sell their goods became bankrupt, and the chain continues with workshops that provide those shops with goods also going bankrupt.
At that point, Soma weathered the storm by only handing out aid to the poor, not giving more rations than neccessary², and promoting the eating of foods heretofore not customarily eaten, thereby reducing the scale of the economic downturn as small as possible. Also, because only the Walter Duchy among the Three Duchies possessed their own maritime trade routes they were able to stop the chain just barely by selling the unsold goods abroad.
² He does not have much reserves to do that to begin with.
(But that is only possible because my territory had port towns. Both Carmine’s and Vargas’ territories are inland and neither have trade routes. The Carmine Duchy in particular has a large army and is sheltering the fled nobles and their personal armies, so they should have the heaviest economic problems. So I wonder why does Georg so obstinately resist the king)
While she was thinking that, Castor roared.
“So he says [I’ll feed you so obey me]!? He’s looking down on us!”
“If it’s for the people … it can’t be helped, no?”
“I don’t like it! He thinks he can get us in line with bait!”
“Even the king won’t be needing a pet who only has pride, though”
As Ecksel said that, BAM, Castor hit the table.
“…… What are you on about! It’s like you’re actually supporting the king! Didn’t you reject his appeal because you didn’t like that king as well!?”
“Don’t paint us with the same brush. What we Mizuchi value the most is the peace of our beloved [Lagoon City]. We’re prepared to obey if that is guaranteed”
The mizuchi’s sense of value, including Ecksel, was rather peculiar.
The Mizuchi gave priority to thinking of the [Lagoon City] above all else. The ancestors of the Mizuchi once lived in one of the Nine Head Dragon Islands, but they were defeated in a war for hegemony over the islands and were cast out to sea, wandering around as pirates. The base that the ancestors finally built at the end of their long wanderings was what later became [Lagoon City]. The Mizuchi had pride in the land they finally obtained, they loved the land, and they steadfastly protected it. One of the reasons they participated in the wars of the founding of this multiethnic nation Elfrieden was in order to protect [Lagoon City].
“For the sake of [Lagoon City] we would wag our tails to anyone, if anyone were to threaten [Lagoon City] we would destroy them no matter who they are. This is the pride of the Mizuchi”
“Hmph, wagging your tails is pride?”
“Yes. We will fight for the sake of the things we must protect. We’re not children who would throw a tantrum just because we don’t like something. If we can settle it by talking, then it is better to do just that. It’s already foolish as it is to have an internal war now when the neighboring countries are aiming for their chance.”
“……. The Principality of Amidonia, is it?”
The Principality of Amidonia, the country right to the west of Elfrieden.
Having lost almost half of its territory on the receiving end of the antepenultimate³ king of Elfrieden’s expansion policy, the Principality of Amidonia bided their time to regain their lost territory. Fully intent on intervening with the current confrontation between Soma and the Three Dukes, they already sent missives to the Three Dukes that [they are prepared to send reinforcements should they want to subjugate the false king].
³ «TN: previous of previous, i.e. the Queen’s father, the king before Alberto»
“Sheesh, what an obstinate bunch. It’s completely obvious what they want”
“I’m sure they’ve sent the same thing to the king as well. I don’t think the king will accept it either but they might send the “reinforcements” in anyway. You understand right? The folly of this war?”
“Keh. Then shouldn’t you hurry up and wag your tail at the king?”
“I’ll do that once I made sure of certain things. About the king, and about you, too”
Ecksel turned her eyes towards Georg Carmine who was still silent. He has been having his eyes closed ever since they came into this room and exchanged a light greeting, not saying a single word. Was he listening to Ecksel and Walter’s complaining, or was he having some thoughts of his own? He couldn’t possibly be sleeping … Ecksel was feeling irritated because of his attitude.
“Georg, what are you thinking?”
“… About what?”
“Ara, so you were awake. Of course, I’m talking about the reason why you who should have been the most patriotic and loyal out of all of us here, are acting hostile towards the new king”
“General Georg doesn’t like that false king either, doesn’t he?”
“I’m not asking you Castor. Answer me Georg. Regardless of him being a false king or whatever, his rule was peaceful. Why did you deliberately shake things up?”
Put under Ecksel’s questioning, Georg solemnly opened his mouth.
“Because I have judged that the king will not rule this country peacefully. That is all”
“Why? Do you have a problem with the abilities of the king who is even now overcoming the food and economic difficulties ravaging the country?”
“To that end, the king unhesitantly rejects a lot of things”
Georg opened his eyes. Just that was enough to cause the air to become prickly. That atmosphere made Ecksel and Castor gulp. Georg was the youngest out of everyone here but in appearance and mind he was the most mature. He had the presence of the country’s number one military man.
“I hear that the king was summoned from another world. Thus for having no attachment to those things to begin with, he unhesitantly throws them away. He throws anything inefficient away, be it history, traditions, soldiers, or vassals. Am I wrong, Lady Ecksel?”
Ecksel was at loss for words. King Soma’s rule can certainly be seen that way.
“The king threw away the vassals who long served the country”
“Did he not do that because they were corrupt?”
“So much as to even antagonize them? Lady Ecksel, you yourself said just now that it is folly to put the country at risk. It was the king that sowed the seeds of that”
“Even though it’s you who’s sheltering those nobles?”
“Those who bear grudges against the king are the perfect pawns to use against him. Of course, I don’t intend to let them back after the war”
Georg’s face contorted into a smile as he said that, making Ecksel shudder.
(This man is planning to use the corrupt nobles to death in this war!?)
Defeat the king, use the corrupt nobles to death, and if they still don’t die, find faults and punish them for it. They were people with lots of faults. Thus, the capital will be cleared of the king faction and corrupt nobles. What remains then will only be an empty lot that he can do whatever he pleases with. He could reinstate King Alberto as a puppet, or even put himself up as king.
Ecksel stood up
“Do you have ambitions for the throne, Georg!”
“O, oi. Calm down. This is the deeply loyal Lord Carmine we’re talking about. He can’t be thinking about usurping the throne, right?”
With Castor mediating between them, Georg silently nodded.
“Of course, after expelling King Soma I will restore King Alberto, we will be supporting him”
“I wonder about that”
Ecksel sat back down. She was pretending to be calm but inside, she was perplexed.
(This is worse than I thought. The worst case scenario … I suppose I have to work with the assumption that Lord Carmine and Amidonia are colluding behind the scenes. Kuh, if only Castor had proper judgment the two of us could rein him in …)
Ecksel felt bitter towards her son-in-law’s imprudence. She had her daughter Accella and the granddaughter born from her Carla with him. She was uneasy at letting Lord Carmine win, but she was the only one in the king faction here. If King Soma won what would happen to the traitor Castor’s wife and daughter, Accella and Carla? By this country’s law the kinsmen of the criminal up to the third degree would be considered guilty of the same crime. By cutting familial ties with Castor she could avoid her entire family being implicated, but what about Accella and Carla …
“Cut your ties with Accela and Carla”
“!? You think I’m going to lose against that youngling!”
“Just in case. You have to be prepared for that if you’re going against the country”
Ecksel gave Georg a fleeting glance but he only silently closed his eyes as if to say he won’t intervene. Even though they were talking about him getting defeated … could this be self confidence?
On the other hand, Castor who was told to divorce his wife and daughter looked troubled.
“Accella aside … it wouldn’t be possible with Carla”
“…. She won’t listen even if I told her to”
That moment, the hall’s doors opened with a bang.
The one who threw the door open and entered was a young girl with a deeply impressive beauty, fiery red hair, and golden pupils. She looked to be 16 or 17 years of age. She was wearing a set of metallic-red heavy armor, and had a pair of dragon wings and a tail on her back and behind. Seeing her imposing form, Ecksel received a headache.
She was Castor’s daughter, Carla. Her appearance was that of a fair maiden, much like Ecksel and Accella, but her character was that of one that would succeed Castor’s bloodline, which is in a word, “rough”. Despite being of marriagable age there was no femininity to her at all. She was a stubborn manly woman who spends time with naught but practice with the Air Force Castor leads. There were many noble and knightly sons who courted her but she would bluster them that “I have no interest in someone weaker than me”
In truth, her personal combat ability was second in the Air Force to Castor, and all the men who courted her had the tables turned on them. It was complex for Castor; as a “male parent” he was relieved but as a “father” he was worried whether or not it was too late for her.
It can’t be helped that Ecksel had a bad feeling when that Carla appeared here. Then just as she thought, what came out from Carla’s mouth was…
“Grandmother! If father decides to fight, then I’ll fight as well!”
She declared. Ecksel popped a vein and yelled.
“You will do no such thing! Are you planning to become a traitor at your age!”
“I won’t forgive him for deposing King Alberto and trying to rape my dear friend Liecia! I will punish him myself for this insolence!”
“You are mistaken! King Soma …”
“Ah— … It’s no use, mother-in-law. Carla’s stubborn when she’s like this”
Castor shrugged his shoulders,
“Both of you … Good grief …”
Ecksel made a sour face, but even now, Georg kept his silence to the end.