The afternoon the day after we establishe a secret alliance with the Grand Chaos Empire, Jeanne, Julius, and I were once again gathered in the audience chamber. Everyone was standing (only I was sitting on the throne), and Hakuya who stood diagonally in front of me stepped up to Julius’ party, carrying a document containing what we had decided the night before.
“The Royal Army will leave Vannes and return to the Kingdom of Elfrieden”
The moment Hakuya made the declaration, Julius had a victorious look on his face, but then Hakuya continued.
“In return for that, The Principality of Amidonia will pay indemnities to the Kingdom of Elfrieden. This will be considered separately from the exchange of prisoners of war”
Hearing the sentence, Julius turned pale. He then approached Jeanne.
“Lady Jeanne! What is the meaning of this!?”
“It means what it means … the Empire has returned the territory as promised”
Jeanne shrugged. Julius could not accept it.
“Do you take me for a fool! To pay indemnities, it’s as if we were defeated!”
“You were defeated. Have you no realization of it?”
“We were not! We have not been defeated. We have lost but merely a single city!”
“… Then do as you like. The Empire will no longer involve ourselves in this fight. Have a ceasefire or keep fighting as you want”
Hearing that from Jeanne, Julius groaned. Seeing him do so, Jeanne sighed.
“To begin with, that single city … well, I doubt the propriety of calling the capital a mere city, but you came crying to us because you were unable to take back the capital you lost, didn’t you? Then you have lost this war. As the head of the Humanity Declaration, the Empire will restore the borders that had been changed to its original state. We can not do anything more than that”
“But, indemnities …”
“Lord Julius. My Elder Sister Maria is terribly distressed with regards to the current situation”
Jeanne turned a cold look of rejection at Julius.
“You have committed an act of agression, making use of a loophole in the Humanity Declaration meant to unify all of humanity under the looming threat of the Demon King Territory. As its head, we cannot let this matter be”
“That is … the previous King Gaius …”
“Even so, you did nothing to stop it, and you also have a responsibility to the citizens of the Principality. Either way, in order to prevent any other agressors from among the signatories of the Humanity Declaration, we have decided that harsh punishment is necessary. We will have the matter of your country set as a precedent”
Uwaah … she was polite but she was actually saying “we’re making an example of you to tighten the noose around the necks of the Humanity Declaration signatories”. Julius made an angry, or maybe distressed face. He tightened his fist and said.
“… what if we don’t want to”
“Then like I said before, you may do as you like. The Empire will stay our hand from this fight, and we shall have the Principality of Amidonia leave the Humanity Declaration”
“P, please wait a moment! If you do that then our country …”
“Yes, if you’re not a member country, then an attack on you will not be in violation of the Declaration. You … excuse me, your Lord Father also had the same opinion on the matter, did he not?”
The Principality of Amidonia was surrounded by other countries on all sides. On the west side, there’s the permanently neutral “Mercenary Nation of Zem” who seeks the best situation for itself. On the south, there’s the “Republic of Torgis” who also didn’t sign the Humanity Declaration and had northernly expansionist policies. On the north, there’s the “Lunaria Orthodox Empire”, that was signatory to the declaration, but had different sense of values compared to other countries. And lastly, there’s the Kingdom of Elfrieden on the east. Now, if they lost the protection of the Humanity Declaration, they were going to be eaten up by those tigers (ah, but not us, though).
The previous Prince Gaius VIII maintained his country by allying with the Empire, contracting the Zemish, outpowering Elfrieden under the weak rule of the previous King, and a display of military strength against the south, achieving a balanced diplomacy. Does Julius have the capability for that? Even if he did, does the young Julius have enough influence to wield for it? Influence is normally gained gradually while under the previous ruler, but Gaius was no longer here.
Julius would henceforth have to handle the difficult problems of external threats and internal leadership of his subordinates. If during that crucial time he were to leave the Humanity Declaration, he would be unable to borrow the Empire’s influence and quickly fall into a ‘checkmate’. Julius understood that, too, and thus he bitterly bowed his head to Jeanne.
“… we will, comply to your wishes”
“That is a good decision, Lord Julius”
Since the discussion had come to a canclusion, we proceeded with the essential payment amount. We presented an amount that equaled to three years of Amidonia’s national income, to be paid in yearly installments over ten years. Also, we requested that it be paid in Imperial gold coins. In other words, we were asking to almost a third of their national income for the next ten years. Julius naturally objected, but Jeanne persuaded (coerced?) him to agree. For Amidonia, who spends half its national income on military, this had the implication of robbing them of this military power. They would be able to pay the amount by downsizing the military, but I’m not sure if Amidonia would be able to do that.
“Lady Jeanne. What if the payment is delayed”
“Very well. Then the Empire will authorize Vannes’ transfer to Elfrieden”
Julius was mortified, but said no more. Having concluded that, I made Jeanne a proposal.
“But Lady Jeanne. It’s possible that they would delay the payments while hardening the defense of Vannes. Even if the Empire is involved, it would be a lot of trouble to take a capital that had been released. Therefore, we would like to have a collateral for the payments”
“Something for us to hold on to until the payments are made. If they become unable to pay, the collateral will become ours. We will of course return it once the payments are made”
“I see … so what do you want?”
“Their Royal Broadcast orb”
“What! Our country only has one of those!”
Julius was indignant. Well, the Royal Broadcast was a treasure that could not be made with current technology. It would likely be worth about two years of Aminodia’s annual income.
“You’re not using it anyway, are you? Is there any problem with giving it to us?”
“Foolishness! Are you trying to solicit our citizens!”
“You can simply change the frequencies on the receivers, right? That way you won’t be receiving any broadcast from Elfrieden”
“Ugh … but still …”
Julius’ face was anguished, but unexpectedly, complied without resistance. He only used it for scheduled broadcasts at the start of each year, even though it’s so useful. Julius who adopted a military first doctrine wouldn’t understand its value. I think he might even only be considering it as a huge ornament.
As I was thinking that, Hakuya whispered, “Your highness, if I may?”
I raised my eyebrow.
“Uh … isn’t that just your hobby?”
“What are you saying? … it’s the crystallization of wisdom”
“Humm … well, listen up, Lord Julius”
“… what is it?”
“To make up for the deficit in collateral 1, we would like custody of all the books in this castle”
This was what Hakuya proposed. The custody of the books gathering dust in the Amidonian archives. Paper is still precious in this world and books aren’t widely circulated. It’s very possible that Amidonia had books that Elfrieden didn’t have. Also, when it comes to books, there’s the possibility of copying them while they’re under our supervision. Julius snorted.
“Fine, I suppose. But don’t you touch anything else. Especially the weapons and armor. I won’t forgive you if you took them”
“We sold some out for raising funds”
“Gh, then don’t touch anything more!”
So weapons are more important than books? Considering the era, that might’ve been the dominant line of thinking, but he didn’t understand the gravity of letting such a crystallization of the country’s knowledge outside. Looking at Jeanne, she seemed to be thinking the same thing and wryly smiled. Now that the discussion on indemnities is done, we could start on discussing everything else.
“We want Elfrieden to return the soldiers taken prisoner by the Elfrieden Army”
“Alright, but anyone ranked noble or knight or higher will have to be ransomed”
“However, we have conducted investigations on war criminals who attacked villages and plundered towns while in our countries, and drew up a list of them. Those among the prisoners who are on the list will be judged by our country and could not be returned. Also, there are names on the list who are in your country, we would like you to hand them over. The return of prisoners won’t begin until that happens”
“Guh … very well. … by the way”
While receiving the list of criminals from Hakuya, Julius said:
“Is Roroa among the prisoners you will be returning?”
Roroa? who’s that?
“I don’t know. Who is that?”
“Roroa Amidonia. My younger sister who had gone missing. She should’ve been in Vannes during the battle”
“Sister? When Vannes capitulated, we let everyone who want to leave do so. The only noble or knight ranked people who remained was only Margarita. We received no information on whether we had captured a royal”
“… fine then”
Like that, Julius stopped the discussion as if he had no interest in it. His sister’s missing, right? But he’s really acting nonchalant about it. Isn’t he worried?
“Do you need us to look for eyewitnesses?”
“No need …?”
Hakuya then whispered into my ear.
“(It is likely that he is wary against a struggle for family headship. Based on what I’ve investigated, Lady Roroa is a supporter of civil affairs, a rare personage in Amidonia. As a military patron, Lord Julius isn’t popular among civil officials. He must be afraid that they would reject him and support Roroa)”
“(Isn’t she his only family now that Gaius is gone?)”
“(Royals are often like that)”
“(… I suppose so)”
Even looking through Earth’s history, family struggles aren’t rare among royals. Similarly in Elfrieden, when Liscia’s mother inherited the throne, the family was close to annihilation due to family struggles. But still … as someone who knew the loneliness of not having family, I thought he would’ve at least cherish his one and only sister. I guess I just can’t see eye to eye with Julius after all.
“Ah, that’s right. Speaking of Margarita, the Kingdom would like to have her. Since she cooperated with the pacifying of Vannes, you’d be troubled how to treat her, right?”
“Margarita Wanda? … hmph, I will agree on the condition that you release five of the noble prisoners in your custody”
Saying that, Julius made a sort-of unpleasant look as if he’s sizing up for an advantage. Rather than a general he’d find hard to manage, he finds the ransom of his obedient subordinates more beneficial.
“Hmph, to want a general of that level, the Kingdom must be running short on leaders”
I caught myself wanting to tell him ‘the reason you lost is because you only evaluate people’s worth on their military strength like that!’, but since there’s no need for me to give help to my enemy, I held myself back.
Once the major talks had concluded, I declared the end of the negotiations. The conclusion was that “The Kingdom of Elfrieden will return Vannes, in return for a sum of indemnities paid”, “Amidonia will regain Vannes in return for paying those indemnities”, and that “The Empire will make itself known as the arbitrator of this dispute”, which was satisfactory. Amidonia was the only losing party, as the Empire shouldered no losses and the Kingdom gained decent, even though not great, profits.
After the discussions had concluded, Julius made to turn around as if saying that he had nothing more to say to me, but I called him out.
“A Political Thinker of my world (Machiavelli) said this: ‘Those who by valorous ways become princes acquire a principality with difficulty but they keep it with ease 2. Those who solely by good fortune become princes have little trouble in rising but much in keeping atop’ 3”
“Hm? What do you mean?”
Julius turned around and glared straight at me.
“I have gained Vannes through a fight against you all. I chased away almost all the nobles and knights, eliminating anyone that might become my political opponents. Thus if I were to continue governing Vannes there would not be any significant trouble. But can you say the same?”
“What are you saying? This is my country to begin with”
“But it was Elfrieden’s territory until just now. Then, you relied on the ‘Empire’s Dignity’, that is to say the strength of another, to take it back. This is what Machiavelli refers to by ‘solely by good fortune becoming princes'”
In history, there are those who gained lordship through familial authority or the backing of powerful states. However,those who quickly rose in the world with such a backing would lose their fortunes the moment the backing disappears. The ideal ruler Machiavelli envisioned, the Italian condottiero Cesare Borgia, fell from grace when the backing that was his father, the Pope of Rome, Alexander, died. Or maybe like when during the war between Xiang Yu and Gaozu, the latter installed the King Of Chu from a peasant, only to kill him once he judged his usefulness was over.
Julius, who borrowed the Empire’s authority to take back his own capital would surely be made light of by the lords and peasants of Amidonia alike, and Gaius VIII who struck fear through force of arms was no longer here. So there’s wondering if Julius who had been destroyed so impactfully could control the lords, if he could befriend the masses of Vannes better than me and gain their trust.
“‘Those who without dificulty gain their princehood must expend great efforts afterwards’. Rather than nursing your grudge, I think you should rather govern for the sake of the people first”
“That’s none of your business!”
Summarily rejecting my insincere advice, Julius left the premises. Left behind, Jeanne shrugged and said, “oh well”. Istepped up to her and shook hands.
“Then I shall take my leave”
“It was a most beneficial discussion. Please send my regards to Lady Maria”
“Certainly. Lord Hakuya, as well, may you be healthy. Let us share our gripes against our lieges over some drinks sometime 4”
“Very well. I shall prepare a cask of wine to bring over”
The hell? They have enough complaints to prepare a wine barrel over? When I glared at him he so obviously looked away. Seeing that, Jeanne chuckled.
“Let us meet as equals next time. I will look forward to the day Elder Sister and King Soma stand side by side against the Demon King”
“… As do I. I will look forward to it as well”
We grasped hands tightly. My response was late, because for a moment the words ‘stand side by side’ caught in my mind. How far could I advance Elfrieden’s ‘era’ untily that time comes? I want to at least make it so that the vehicle that carries the King to the battlefield to ‘not be a horse’ by then.
◇ ◇ ◇
Once the withdrawal was decided, the Elfriedenian Army quickly moved. Now that Vannes’ return was decided, it would be a waste of war funds to stay any more. The Elfriedenian Army pulled their troops back just as grandly as they did when they came in. The number of Amidonian troops near Vannes were so small and were still under watch by the Imperial army, there was no need to worry about being pursued.
Just like when we came, I was in the middle of the procession, riding side by side with Liscia, on a horse with Aisha guiding the reins. The eyes of the citizens of Vannes were full of fear when we came in, but now the atmosphere had changed somewhat. Without there even being any proclamation, the masses gathered along the procession route, with somewhat anxious attitudes. Liscia was looking dubious.
“I wonder why everyone’s looking like that? I’d understand if they were happy being released or relieved that we finally left …”
“They’re probably worried. They’re coming back under Amidonia after all”
“Worried? They’re just going back to how they were, right?”
“That’s exactly why. The fact that they’re going back to how they were is worrying them”
I said as I looked straight ahead.
“Vannes was ruled under the tyranny of the Amidonian Royal Family. They never questioned it when it was a matter of course, but now they found out under the occupation of the Royal Army that it’s not the natural course of things. That’s because unlike the Prince, I allowed them certain freedoms like expression. That’s why now that we’re leaving, they become anxious that they would return to a life under oppression again”
Well … that’s probably how it is. Once Julius entered Vannes, I’m sure he would strangle this lax atmosphere. Liscia looked at the people along the procession with pity.
“To not be able to return to their former lives because of knowing freedom … it’s like an addiction”
“I think that’s a strange way of putting it … can’t you have worded it a little better?”
“That’s the truth, right? But it’s their own country, isn’t it? Is it so easy to switch their identities just like that?”
“There’s a saying in my world, ‘tyrrany is more dreadful than a tiger’. In this case, ‘despotism is more hateful than a conqueror’, I suppose. The masses don’t care much for duty and honor. If their own country benefits themselves they will defend it, and if another country benefits them they will open the gates willingly”
As I said that, Liscia sighed, “fuuh”
“It’s always about the dirty side of the world when I’m walking with you”
“You hate it?”
“” That’s exactly not it! “”
“Why is Aisha answering too!?”
“I’ve never felt it a misery to walk by Your Highness!”
She’s too loyal to me. At this rate, it wouldn’t be weird if she gets the nickname ‘The King’s Dog’ soon. Seeing Aisha like that, Liscia giggled.
“I feel the same way. I’m willing to accept reality if it’s with you, no matter how it is.
“… I see”
Now then, let us return. To our Kingdom.