Ponsonia Imperial Council
A high-ranking official working in Ponsonia’s internal affairs scurried towards the council room. It was almost 10am.The regular meeting that the king himself attended would start soon. Most of the agendas discussed during this meeting were on a kingdom-wide scale, and as such one couldn’t miss even a day.
9:30am. The official arrived at the council room.
The seats – five rows in total – were installed in a semi-circle, facing the king’s seat at the center. He was half an hour early, yet the fifty seats were almost full. Those who couldn’t secure a seat had to stand at a distance.
「May I take this seat?」he asked.
「Uh, my friend is—」
「Thank you. I might miss something if I’m standing over there.」
The official shamelessly took the seat. He didn’t even care that the man he was talking to was someone from financial affairs. One of his cousins was a Marquis anyway, so the man couldn’t do anything to him.
If one were not seated, they might not hear the things that the Grand Chamberlain whispered to the king, or the murmurs of the higher nobles.
You have to be here by nine, I suppose. Everyone’s on edge these days, he thought.
The Imperial Council attracted increasing attention like never before. So the official thought about gathering information for the one he worked for – Princess Kudyastoria. He wasn’t doing so out of loyalty. Right now, he was too far from the next king, the Crown Prince. Climbing the ranks through a backdoor was his best bet at the moment.
「His Majesty has arrived.」
The king arrived at precisely ten o’ clock. There were already plenty of people standing. The high-ranking nobles – the Crown Prince, Duke, Marquis, sat at the back in their reserved seats. The Captain of the Knights was in one corner.
「Thank you for all your hard work.」
A man with glaring eyes entered the room. His cheekbones were sharp, the luster fading from his almost entirely gray hair. It was as though he quickly aged ten years. His extravagant, red clothes almost seemed to crush him under their weight. Up until a while ago, he was enjoying himself, surrounded by women.
The man standing next to the King was neither the head of internal affairs, nor the Prime Minister. It was the Grand Chamberlain. Having won the favor of the King, he was now the one presiding over the meeting.
「First on our agenda is Gafrasti N. Valves’s movements.」
The King grabbed the armrests of his chair and leaned forward.
「He’s been stripped of his noble rights a long time ago!」
「Yes, Your Highness. You are right. I want to discuss about the movements of the traitor Gafrasti.」
Despite knowing that he would anger the King, the Chamberlain mentioned Gafrasti’s initial “N” – something given only to Viscounts. He must’ve done it on purpose, the official thought. The chamberlain wanted to show that the king held great interest in this case and anyone who sided with Gafrasti would be deemed an enemy.
「After claiming that he had right to the throne, he fled to Mount Elka.」
The official quickly took notes, recalling the reason why Ponsonia stopped its advance through the Quinbland Empire and retreated. Gafrasti claimed he was a descendant of the King of Poelnxinia in this council. He presented conjectures and proofs. Overwhelmed, no one could speak for a while.
Not until the king declared to kill Gafrasti. Everyone started moving all at once. But Margrave Grugschilt stood up and shouted “Don’t move!” The knights standing guard in the conference room froze, intimidated by the leader of a military faction.
「This is quite interesting.」the Margrave said.「We should investigate this.」
「Mount Elka? That’s Grugschilt’s territory!」
「So they were working together!」
「We don’t know that yet.」
The place Gafrasti fled to was part of Margrave Grugschilt’s territory. By questioning the legitimacy of the current ruler, the historian could’ve been arrested and charged with treason. Grugschilt backing him up gave him time to escape the Royal Capital safely.
His whereabouts were unknown after that, but most people assumed he was under the Margrave’s protection. As a noble who had his domain in the borders, Grugschilt possessed a powerful army. His men weren’t part of the force that invaded Quinbland. They were ordered to be on standby in case of a counterattack.
Due to a shortage of troops in the Royal Capital, they couldn’t suppress the Margrave. By the time the kingdom’s forces, including Captain Lawrence, returned, Grugschilt was already back in his place.
「Who else is siding with Gafrasti?」
「One Count, three Viscounts, and eleven Barons.」the Grand Chamberlain answered.
They were people who, after the incident, didn’t answer the summons to the Royal Capital, saying they were sick or that there was trouble in their domain.
They might actually be telling the truth. Yet they’re still labelled as enemies, huh.
The official’s mood turned gloomy. It felt like the king was a bit too sensitive about this case.
「Are you here, Lawrence?」
「Yes, Your Majesty.」
「I want you to take the Order and bring me back Grugschilt’s head. Can you do that?」
The King’s straightforwardness shocked the people present.
Wait, is he serious? Dispatching troops internally? They will be up against the Margrave. Even the Master Swordsman can’t fight the kingdom’s own powerful army.
But Lawrence wasn’t in the least bit perturbed.
A voice rang out. It came from a young man with condescending eyes, wearing an indifferent expression.
「What is it, Austin?」
「You have every right to be furious. Grugschilt and Gafrasti are both fools trying to oppose your rule. But there’s no need for the Master Swordsman to go himself.」
「You sound like you have a plan.」
「I do. Grugschilt foolishly suggested to verify Gafrasti’s claim. So we’ll just tell them to come so we can do that.」
「Ridiculous! Clearly he didn’t mean what he said. There is no way he will come.」
「If they don’t, that’s fine. They want to verify the legitimacy of your rule. I’m sure their claims are all nonsense anyway, but we’re going to tell them that we’ll oblige. As you said, Grugschilt won’t come, which will expose him as a liar. It is said that he’s popular among our forces because of his honesty. If we impugn his reputation, we can prevent chaos after he’s subdued.」
Oh… not a bad idea, the official thought. He might’ve gotten a hint from someone, but he’s on to something. No one loses anything with his plan. We should go with this…
「I beg your pardon, Your Majesty?」
「I said we’re not doing any foolish verifications. No petty tricks whatsoever.」
Mouth gaping, the prince couldn’t say anything. The official didn’t expect the king’s answer either. No one believed Gafrasti’s words. In fact, it came as a surprise that Grugschilt trusted the historian. Which is why the Prince’s suggestion was great. It was also a chance to show the king’s magnanimity. Yet he rejected the idea.
Is he really that angry? Is it because he lost the chance to crush the empire?
The official didn’t know that Gafrasti’s claims were true. That the current king was not a legitimate descendant of Poelnxinia. That the king was the only one who was aware of this and that he was scared of even a simple verification.
「You will depart today and kill Grugschilt!」
「F-Father! How about we gather some information first? I believe there are people among the special forces who excel at gathering intel. Ruining Grugschilt’s reputation would do us good in the future—」
「No. I’m not redirecting the special forces over there!」
「As you wish.」
After saluting, Lawrence left the room. The conference room was in an uproar. And it was understandable. There hadn’t been a civil war – calling it as such was surely appropriate – as big as this in decades.
Wait a minute.
The official looked puzzled. The prince was right. The king’s special forces should be free right now. It would be best to send them to gather intel. Dispatching Lawrence would be too risky.
What did he mean by redirecting? Strange… The special forces would’ve been an indispensable asset in the invasion of Quinbland, yet they weren’t deployed. Are they on a different mission?
He couldn’t recall any case that would require the deployment of the special forces. Among the recent big news were the invasion of Quinbland and the murder of Count Morgstad.
I thought the culprit was the daughter and she was kidnapped. Hmm, I did hear something about the special forces being sent after her. But they couldn’t possibly still be on that case until now.
The Grand Chamberlain continued the proceedings like things were of no concern to him.
「Next on our agenda is the increase in monster activity during summer. Every year in the Great Forest of Un el Portan, where our kingdom, Quinbland, and Forestia meet, monsters multiply rapidly starting from spring and this year is no exception. We’ve been sending troops every year—」
「We’re not sending any this year. Let the adventurers do it.」
「Yes, Your Majesty.」
Culling monsters. The army would usually take on the job as part of their training. But right now they were at war. The king wanted his forces to stay in the Royal Capital. As such, this job would be passed on to the Adventurers Guild.
With that, the meeting ended. A civil war would engulf Ponsonia soon.