Interlude: Bystanders of the Upheaval
A woman, wearing long-sleeved shirt, and cardigan that reached all the way to her knees, walked the halls. It was rare for women to wear tight pants in this world. Only a select few did – those in the army or engaged in manual labor – so they could move a lot easier.
But this lady donned tight pants because she was fond of them. Over a hundred and seventy centimeters tall, she wore high-heeled shoes simply because she liked doing so. She didn’t care if her ample chest pushed her shirt outward, or that her big buttocks were further emphasized by her tight pants.
Her bluish-gray thick hair, tied up on top of her head, fluttered in the wind as she walked. Each step of her heel made a sound on the polished tiles. Officials and servants bowed their heads deeply in respect as she passed by. Soldiers, donning leather armor – if Ponsonian knights who were heavily equipped saw them, they’d most likely laugh – greeted her with a salute.
「Hey there. Is Her Majesty inside?」
Her lighthearted manner of speaking made her easy to talk to, but the two bodyguards only blushed. Hidden behind her glasses were almond eyes the same color as her hair, undeniable seductiveness in them. She didn’t put on lipstick, but her naturally red lips were more than enough to bring out her beauty. She was oblivious to it all, however.
「I’m going in.」she said, raising her hand slightly.
「Yes, Ma’am! Zofira Van Houtens has arrived!」The soldiers opened the wooden door.
The woman entered. Beyond it was the office of the ruler of the Allied Nations of Forestia.
While it was still early summer, being located north of Ponsonia meant it was chilly when under the shade of the sun.
Pillars were cut from large wood. The table and chairs for entertaining guests, as well as the office desk were all made of wood – specifically the kiwi tree, its beautiful wood-graining earning it the moniker “lines drawn by the gods”.
Eight people were inside the room, seven standing and one seated. The one sitting behind the desk was a small girl. She would be around ten years old – if she was human.
Beautiful blonde hair was not a rarity in these areas. Her red eyes, sparkling like jewels, indicated she was a member of a certain clan.
「I am glad to see you well, Queen Marquedo, ruler of the Allied Nations of Forestia and representative of the Spirit Elves.」
The queen, Marquedo, looked greatly irked as she watched Zofira kneeling down on one knee. On the other hand, the seven people in the room seemed pleased.
「No need for formalities. Rise. The rest of you may leave.」Marquedo ordered.
They smiled. That meant a “no”. They were all from different nations; four of them looked like they’d fit in in Ponsonia. One had the same red eyes as Marquedo. There was a large, hairy man and then one with pale skin. They all wore what looked like native clothes with different designs; there was no uniformity at all.
「Your Majesty, we’re delegates from the seven nations loved by the gods, and we’re here to protect you…」
「Did you hear me? I said leave. Does my voice not reach your ears dangling with earrings?」
Indeed, the man who spoke had countless rings on his ears. He looked extremely displeased.
「I don’t think you have the power to protect me when you let someone from another country so easily sneak into this room.」
「…I hope you don’t regret this.」
All seven of them trailed out of the room, glaring at Zofira who was still on her knees, her head hung low. Perhaps she knew, but she didn’t pay them any heed.
As soon as the door was closed, Marquedo walked from behind the desk to the visitors’ chair. Although it looked simple, her dress was made from high-grade fabric. Her plain-looking bracelet and necklace were imbued with magic to protect herself, though she didn’t see it.
「What do you think? Every year those people seem to make light of me. Even my fellow countryman from Kirihal.」the queen said.
「Well the fact that they get replaced every year and they all still act the same means the problem is with you.」
「You’re too young.」
Zofira stood up, her tone suddenly informal, then prepared some tea and sat in front of Marquedo.
「Whaaat? I’m older than you, you know!」
「See, that’s what I’m talking about. You act like a child. You want some?」
「Yeah. Put lots of sugar in it.」
Zofira simply shrugged her shoulders as if saying “there you go again, acting all childish”. Marquedo didn’t notice, however.
She might act like a child, and she might be belittled, but she was the legitimate queen of the Allied Nations. Zofira, on the other hand, took her seat as a cabinet minister, the highest rank among state officials when she was only twenty-two years old. There were many circumstances as to how things ended up this way, but there was basically one deciding factor.
Marquedo was a descendant of the Kirihal royal family that ruled a small nation in Forestia. The allied nation ruler was chosen by rotation and by the time it was Kirihal’s turn, Marquedo had the highest magical prowess within the royal family. That was all. She still had four years left in her office.
Zofira was born from a family of government officials. She was extremely competent in her job – no one came close to her in this country. When the Allied Nations were under financial trouble, she launched tax reforms that turned everything around.
Both women took their positions around the same time. What awaited them were the seven delegates, one from each nation. Officially, they were “advisers”, but in essence they were there for surveillance. The Allied Nations’ existence hung in a precarious balance.
The two ladies were the object of jealousy and envy, so their paths inevitably intertwined.
「This tea is so good! Your tea is the best!」
「There’s no government official better than me at brewing tea.」
Marquedo chuckled, her pointy ears – a feature of the Spirit Elves, a species of elves – twitching. It was a habit of hers when she was in a relaxed mood.
「So, did news about Ponsonia’s current situation reach you?」Marquedo asked.
「It’s basically chaos, and that’s putting it lightly. Which is understandable. After all, the legitimacy of the current royalty is being challenged.」
「I doubted Sir Valves when he contacted us five years ago. I thought he was a delusional old man. The fact that he took all your advice means he’s quite the character.」
「I agree. He probably wouldn’t have made a move unless he found the lost city.」
「History known only to a few select family members…」
Marquedo squinted, recalling the only time she met Gafrasti. Back then, she had only been in office for a year. Exhausted from all the unfamiliar government affairs, Zofira told her that Aglaia insisted for the queen to meet the old man. Sometimes Aglaia’s hunch led to incredible events.
『There’s a document in the dungeon that shows the king’s legitimate bloodline. If we find that, we can overthrow the current king, the impostor.』
Gafrasti asked for Marquedo’s support.
For the ladies, Gafrasti’s plan to overthrow the king wouldn’t pose much of a problem. There wasn’t any risk to them either. The present king was planning to invade foreign nations. His first target was most likely the Quinbland Empire. If he lost, he would no doubt march his legions towards the Allied Nations of Forestia next.
So Zofira gave Gafrasti advice.
First he would request funds from the king to explore the dungeon. He would need to entice the king by promising the lost technology of the fallen dynasty. Even if they couldn’t obtain it, there would surely be treasures to take. Gafrasti’s family was in dire financial straits to be able to explore the dungeon on his own.
Next he was to take Aglaia with him. Gafrasti’s family was pretty much isolated and he didn’t have any supporter or bodyguards. Aglaia would help him a lot. She also acted as insurance, to kill the old man in case he misused the super technology from the dungeon and turned on Forestia.
Last was the means of contact. The king of Ponsonia was a greedy and corrupt man, but he was also extremely distrustful. If Gafrasti suggested exploring the dungeon, the king’s eyes would be on him. Being in contact with Forestia would be extremely dangerous. The best way to do it was to send messages through dozens of people. Aglaia would be in charge of that.
Gafrasti followed every last bit of advice he was given and his efforts bore fruit. Although, it was all really just a case of good luck.
The historian did the best thing by getting the Adventurers Guild involved in the dungeon exploration. The Ponsonia Royal Family Relics Research Society, an organization approved by the king, acknowledged that the Underground City of the Ancient Gods had something to do with the ancient Poelnxinia dynasty. Even if the king denied Gafrasti’s claim, the scroll from the dungeon containing the royal family bloodline would then still be checked by the Adventurers Guild, an independent organization.
The Adventurers Guild should be aware by now that they got dragged into the kingdom’s insurrection. Was the guild official in charge of the dungeon entrance aware that the king resented him because of the report he submitted?
「Quinbland must be relieved. This will prevent Ponsonia from making any moves for a while.」
「I just hope Sir Valves doesn’t get killed.」
「Your cousin Aglaia is there to prevent that.」
「There’s no guarantee she can handle things alone. After all, Ponsonia has that boy…」
「Ah, yes. Him…」
Silence fell. They recalled the time a boy, wearing a Sun God mask and a black cloak, appeared in this very room.