A great commotion had spread throughout the imperial court.
The prime minister traveled to the room Linus resided in.
“Your Highness Linus, do you know what you just did?!”
The prince was looking out through the window.
His reflection shown on the glass was smiling.
“Prime minister, I know you have a high opinion of Count Banfield, but such favouritism means nothing to me.”
“Your Highness… could it be that you did this just because he didn’t join your faction?!”
The prime minister held a considerable amount of power within the Empire.
However, certain factions didn’t like that.
One of them was Linus’.
“The Banfield house has built up quite a lot of bad blood among the nobility. They need to be punished a bit. It’s nothing big, all we’re doing is refusing to buy their rare metals.”
The thing is, it wasn’t just the Empire, but all the companies involved with Linus were involved in the boycott.
Piggybacking on this opportunity, Calvin’s faction and many others were also participating in this chance to cut down an arrogant newcomer.
The prime minister realised nothing would change no matter what he said, and promptly gave up.
“–Your Highness, in every era you’ll find those who seem to be chosen by fate, born with immeasurable luck. Unless fate decides to abandon these individuals, it isn’t a wise decision to fight them.”
Linus turned to the prime minister.
“I’m lucky enough to be a prince born into the royal family, second in influence only to that of my older brother. Are you seriously saying that I’d lose to some hick noble that grew up in the countryside?”
The prime minister shook his head.
“You’ve already made your choice, so I won’t say anything more, but Your Highness, have you already forgotten what will happen if you lose this faction war?”
“How could I? Nevertheless, I’m still alive, aren’t I?”
In the struggle for succession, Linus’ life has been at risk more than a few times, yet he’s always come out on top.
He was confident in his chances.
“If he’s really that strong, then I’ll forgive him after he bows down to me.”
“…don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
After leaving the room, the prime minister immediately went to contact Serena– the maid currently working undercover in the Banfield house.
◇ ◇ ◇
The day I was to meet with His Highness Cleo.
Dressed in ceremonial attire and surrounded by knights, I had arrived at a visitor’s facility located near the inner palace.
Men who weren’t affiliated with the royal family weren’t allowed to enter this place, so any business needed was taken care of in a supervised environment.
As we waited there, Klaus seemed to be silently panicking.
This man was a knight recommended to me by Amagi.
As a grounded and humane individual with a modest work ethic, she rated him very highly.
As expected, I couldn’t go against her wishes and placed a good person like him by my side.
But to compensate for that, I assigned Chengshi– a knight chosen for her appearance, as his deputy.
A beautiful female knight was a must.
Balance was important.
Having only old men as my guards was a turn off.
“Lord Liam, we’ve received an urgent message from the Banfield territory.”
“An urgent message?”
As I was currently trying to relax while drinking tea, Klaus’ report was nothing but an annoyance.
“Yes. There are rumours spreading throughout the imperial court that economic sanctions will soon be placed on the Banfield house. It’s already been confirmed to be true.”
“–and what do these sanctions entail?”
“They’ll be restricting the rare metals sold by the Banfield house.”
In summary, they were practically saying, ‘We’re no longer going to be doing business with you!’
Even if I conduct sales through my contracted merchants, it looks like they’ll be heavily taxed.
This meant that I couldn’t sell rare metals anywhere in the Empire.
“I see… who’s behind this?”
“That would be His Highness Linus.”
“Ah, that person. I believe he was the prince second in line to the throne? I guess he’s taking revenge after I refused to enter his faction.”
Klaus looked nervous.
But I wasn’t worried.
As long as I had the guide watching over me, I would never lose, and in the first place, something on this level was nothing to me.
“What should we do?”
“Right now my first priority is to meet with His Highness Cleo. I’ll come up with countermeasures after I return… well, can you summon my merchants for a meeting?”
His Highness Linus has done it now.
If he thinks he can try to kick me down and just get away with it, he’s in for a bad time.
With this, I’ve officially recognised the prince as my enemy.
“Are you seriously going to pick a fight against His Highness Linus?”
“That statement is wrong, Klaus. He’s the one who picked a fight with me.”
“N-no, aren’t we the ones that started this? Afterall, we’re the ones who refused his invitation in the first place.”
Klaus seemed to be misunderstanding something.
Seeing as there were eyes everywhere, I motioned for him to move closer before speaking in a quiet voice.
“I don’t like how he summoned me while demanding that I bow my head to him. Though I wouldn’t have any problem doing so if he was already confirmed to be the next Emperor.”
“…he’s one of the stronger candidates though.”
“Precisely, a candidate. It still isn’t locked in stone. Klaus, I didn’t refuse the invitation of the next Emperor because the person I choose will succeed the throne. Don’t make that mistake again.”
If somebody wanted my help, it was easy enough.
All they had to do was bow down and plead for me to join them.
And that was it.
As my puppet, it seems like His Highness Cleo would be the best choice.
I would be the biggest ally among his faction.
He wouldn’t be able to do anything that would piss me off.
As I thought, Cleo was the most appropriate one to be Emperor according to my goals.
While the current Emperor, Prince Calvin, and Prince Linus– the three candidates with the highest chance of being my true enemy needed to disappear.
Otherwise, I’d never be able to live in peace.
For that reason, I’ll crush them all.
Two of them will die as collateral damage without any connection to my true enemy, but I didn’t care.
Anyone who threatens my peace is an enemy!
As we continued to pass time like that, the knights who guarded the inner palace had appeared.
“Count Banfield, His Highness Cleo gives his greetings. Please leave your weapons here before passing through the gate.”
They were vigilant, but that wasn’t unusual considering the royal family was involved.
The knights in my guard looked nervous.
This was because while rare, sneak attacks in the inner palace have been known to happen.
“So I’ll finally get to meet with His Highness Cleo.”
With those thoughts in mind, I left my weapon with the guards after being checked, and passed through the gates to meet with the prince.
◇ ◇ ◇
The waiting room that Liam had just left.
Surrounded by the guards of the inner palace, Liam’s knights couldn’t help but be nervous.
That was especially true for Captain Klaus.
(He just declared treason in front of the inner palace. Is he a big shot or just another fool? I honestly can’t tell.)
According to the things Klaus has experienced thus far, Liam was definitely no small fry.
Many knights had sworn themselves to him for this very reason.
However, there was one knight among the group smiling gleefully at these developments.
It was Chengshi.
“–this is good. It looks like things will be getting fun soon!”
Excitedly blushing, Chenshi had been itching for a fight ever since she was given her position.
If handled poorly, she might’ve even attacked Liam right here.
That was the kind of knight Liam had stationed by his side.
(Lord Liam, give me a break! Why would you bring this person on such an important occasion?!)
Klaus straightened his back, fixing his appearance on the surface as his stomach ached all the while.
◇ ◇ ◇
For Cleo, his first encounter with Liam could only be described as eye-opening.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness.”
“…I feel the same way, Count.”
As an individual who has met numerous members of the imperial royal family, Cleo had momentarily lost his voice after witnessing the atmosphere and aura exuded by Liam.
These people occasionally appeared every era or so.
Chosen ones blessed with talent, luck, and a certain aspect to them that couldn’t be comprehended by ordinary people.
If somebody had even one of these traits, they’d be guaranteed to succeed in life, but the person in front of Cleo had everything.
The instincts he had sharpened throughout his training instinctively knew this.
(Even though he’s been deprived of his sword, it still feels like he could kill me in an instant.)
Currently acting as his guard– Lysithea’s expression had sharpened into one full of vigilance.
Liam sat down in a chair and began talking, but the attitude he took wasn’t one that should be used when speaking to a member of the royal family.
“I had planned to give my greetings and enjoy a discussion with you, but unfortunately something’s come up. So let’s cut this short– what do you want?”
Having suddenly been asked such a question, Cleo felt shame and frustration rise up in him as the one in the inferior position.
But he immediately pushed down those feelings.
(I’m practically a beggar. I don’t have any leverage to give the Count at the moment.)
Once Cleo sat down as well, his eldest sister– [Cecillia Noah Albalate], stepped in as a waitress to serve tea.
Liam drank it with no hesitation.
“You sure have guts, Count. What if it were poisoned?”
Upon hearing that, Liam broke out in laughter.
“Is this much really that surprising to you?”
A statement was made that implied he wasn’t afraid of Cleo in the slightest.
But it was the truth.
Lysithea’s impression of him seemed to be dropping, but she didn’t break into the conversation.
“Since you’re short on time I’ll be straight, join my faction and support my rise to the throne. In return, once I become Emperor, I’ll give you anything you desire. However, I can’t guarantee I won’t back out of this deal.”
Both Cecillia and Lysithea were surprised by Cleo’s attitude.
But Liam’s expression didn’t change.
(Now then, how will he respond? Even if he lost his temper, it would still be fine.)
Cleo didn’t know what Liam wanted from him.
That was the scariest thing about this situation.
But contrary to his expectations, Liam seemed… intrigued by Cleo’s candidness.
“Not bad. I don’t hate such attitudes. Don’t worry, I knew you wouldn’t be able to reward me with how powerless you are now, Your Highness.”
He passive aggressively returned the conversation back to Cleo.
But Cleo wasn’t going to blame Liam for his rudeness.
“It’s true, I have no power. That’s why I’m asking you what you want in return for your support.”
“The answer is simple, I want you to become Emperor.”
Was he being serious? Cleo couldn’t help but be surprised at Liam’s humourless expression.
His bearing was steadfast and filled with confidence.
“Are you insane? Do you not know of my circumstances?”
“Oh I know of them, and that’s exactly why I chose to support you. Let me make this clear, you didn’t choose me, I chose you. Remember that.”
His arrogance was beyond shocking, to the point that it was even almost respectable.
“That’s quite the bullish attitude you have there.”
“I’ve already picked a fight with His Highness Linus, so I’m far past the point to be having doubts now.”
With those words, the room fell into silence.
“…with my older brother?”
“I really am here to support you. Your Highness Cleo, please don’t hesitate to name anything you need, and I will give you the seat of Emperor.”
Cleo had heard rumours about Liam being a child prodigy, but the person in front of him was far more.
For the first time in a long while, Cleo felt his heart beating in excitement.
(What an interesting person. Although I’ve seen plenty of confident people during my time in the court, I’ve never seen anyone so unshakable in their beliefs. Even Linus has his doubts about becoming Emperor.)
At that moment, Cleo decided to bet his life on Liam.
“As I said earlier, Count. I want everything. Funds, human resources, martial power, everything you can spare.”
To increase his standing, Cleo didn’t just need a large amount of money, but also the personnel required to enact his plans.
But more than anything else, he needed the Banfield house’s military might on his side.
Liam answered while sipping at his tea.
“I have three thousand ships waiting on standby at a nearby planet while I’m here at the imperial capital. That’s the most I can move at the moment.”
Lysithea’s eyes opened wide as she heard this.
Bringing three thousand ships under Cleo’s immediate command would be an amazing boon for his current circumstances.
“Three thousand?! N-no, please excuse me.”
Liam couldn’t help but smirk after seeing Lysithea hurriedly move to control herself.
“Oh, is that not enough? In that case, I’ll call in twelve thousand more. Please use them to show the true strength of His Highness Cleo.”
Hearing those numbers, Lysithea couldn’t help but fall silent in shock.
Cleo was the same.
“…I appreciate it, but I don’t think I can manage that many.”
“Really? Well, that’s troubling… Oh, I know! I currently have a knight whose talents are being wasted on standby. I’ll station them by your side, and they can double as my liaison.”
As Liam uttered those words, a holographic image materialised into the air.
The faces of two knights were shown, but Liam gestured to one of them.
“Her name is Christiana. Putting her personality aside, she’s an excellent subordinate of mine, so use her as you please.”
After hearing the knight’s name, Lysithea couldn’t help but exclaim.
“Christiana? As in… Brigadier General Christiana?!”
Cleo had to lightly glare at his sister before she calmed down in shame.
“…is she famous?”
With the conversation already interrupted, Cleo addressed his sibling.
Though Liam didn’t seem to mind.
Rather, he looked amused.
“Y-yeah. She’s a female knight who graduated from the officers academy with exemplary grades. Highly regarded as an official, she’s even worked directly under the imperial prime minister multiple times.”
To be able to assign such an individual to Cleo’s side that easily…
It seems that Liam had a multitude of talented subordinates at his call.
“Can you really afford to let go of such a knight?”
When Cleo asked him that, Liam responded with an interesting offer.
“I don’t mind. Do you need more?”
Almost inexhaustible funds.
An excellent array of human resources.
Incredible military power– and the personnel required to make use of it to the fullest.
Cleo felt a shudder run down his spine.
(They call him a child prodigy, but that’s only scratching the surface. Even if I really became the Emperor, what could he possibly want from me?)
“I don’t like making assumptions about the future, but how do you want me to pay you for this, Count?”
Liam smiled at Cleo’s words.
To provide this much support, he must surely be looking for something.
An important position within the Empire?
“I want free reign over my territory. If you can accept that, then I’ll make you the Emperor.”
–Cleo tilted his head.
“Is that it? You’ll really lend me your support for just that?”
“Of course. Though naturally, I’m going to make the most of this transaction. I’m looking forward to our mutually beneficial relationship in the future, so let’s get along, yeah?”
He was evading the question.
Cleo couldn’t help but feel anxious about the future when he realised this.
(Does he intend to take control of the Empire from behind the scenes? Though… that doesn’t actually seem that bad. If it was such a person, he’d surely do much better than me.)
Even after only a brief investigation, Liam’s name was found to be widely associated with being a virtuous ruler.
He wouldn’t know the truth unless it actually happened, but Cleo was sure that Liam would be a better monarch.
“…before anything else, my top priority is my survival. Count, let’s finish the rest of this conversation at a later date.”
(No matter what happens, this guy will only get what he wants if I live. There’s no point in finalising the rewards at this stage.)
Having finished his tea, Liam briskly stood up.
“That sounds perfectly fine. Your Highness Cleo, I hope to see you again soon.”
Watching Liam’s receding back, Cleo couldn’t help but shudder.
(–I was afraid of my older brothers and desperately reached out to him for help, but I might’ve just brought a ridiculous individual into the succession war.)
Brian(*´ω｀*) “I got a new stomach ache friend. This Brian here is glad he’s not alone.”
Klaus:(；゛゜’ω゜’): “My stomach ache is PAINFUL!!!”
Written by Mishima Yomu/Wai (三嶋 与夢)
Translated by KuroInfinity at slothtranslationsblog.com