A great commotion swept through the inner palace after Liam’s letter arrived at Cleo’s residence.
Among Cleo’s servants was a spy who reported the news to Crown Prince Calvin, and countermeasures were immediately made in response.
The nobles who supported Calvin had gathered for a meeting.
They couldn’t understand this development.
“The declining Banfield house somehow managed to bounce back a little, and now they’re acting so full of themselves.”
“A little? Are you blind? The Banfield house of today is stronger than how they were during their golden years. Their present head is hailed as a hero of this era.”
“But declining an invitation from the crown prince is just too much.”
All of noble society was watching in anticipation for which side Count Banfield would choose among Calvin or Linus.
However, he ended up declaring that he would back Cleo instead.
The aristocrats were sent into a frenzy at this.
“–I’m concerned about how the families allied with the Banfield house will react to this.”
“Fortunately, the majority of them are composed of people who try to stay away from the court battles. I don’t think they’ll step in this time either.”
“Do you think Cleo’s faction will become a third power? The timing couldn’t be worse.”
Silently looking over this meeting was a handsome young man sporting a beard– the Crown Prince Calvin himself.
He listened to the conversation of the nobles with a smile.
“Well, this is puzzling. Why would he ally with Cleo of all people? Is this due to Wallace’s influence? My younger brother should’ve been aware of Cleo’s circumstances though.
Wallace’s name was suddenly brought up in the meeting, which was then followed by Cedric’s.
“I’ve heard that Prince Wallace was close to Prince Cedric of the military.”
“Wasn’t His Highness Cedric a Major General? Another prince with the backing of Count Banfield?”
“Then, could that mean that they’re conspiring with each other to make a new faction? It would be troublesome if other members of the royal family began consolidating their power.”
It’d be problematic for the nobles to see other royals moving to support Cleo.
Calvin let out a sigh.
“I don’t want to kill too many of my siblings.”
The nobles began complaining about Calvin’s reaction.
“As the crown prince, mercy will only allow your enemies to come back with vengeance!”
“If you’re too forgiving, your life will be forfeit, Your Highness!”
“We need to purge the filth from the royal family once again!”
If something was inconvenient for them, the aristocrats wouldn’t hesitate to eliminate the problem in a heartbeat.
The nobles were desperate to make Calvin the emperor.
After all, if their chosen prince became the country’s ruler, all those here would be given important positions as a reward.
But on the other hand–if Calvin were to lose, they had no idea what the next emperor would do to them as punishment for their choices.
“His Highness Linus won’t miss this chance. Your Highness, we need to move quickly!”
Although the Empire wasn’t without its own problems, when considering the current state of the neighboring countries this could the ideal time to push for succession.
Calvin nodded at this statement.
“It’s such a shame. If Linus were just a bit less ambitious, then he wouldn’t have forced my hand. I’ll leave the details regarding this matter to you all.”
◇ ◇ ◇
In a different area of the inner palace, the second prince’s faction was gathering.
Giving off more of an uptight impression when compared to his older brother– Linus was also the person with the second highest rights to inherit the throne.
His ambitions were intense even among the royal family.
“A report from the spy stationed to Cleo says that Count Banfield has refused to swear fealty to me.”
The nobles were outraged when they heard this.
“He had the audacity to refuse the invitation of His Highness Linus?!”
“–Your Highness, how should we respond to this?”
Linus was an ambitious individual with a face akin to a fox.
His eyes opened wide as his thoughts drifted to the Banfield house.
“He chose to back not my older brother nor myself, but Cleo of all people? What are his intentions? Does this mean he thinks Cleo will win the succession war?”
The aristocrats fell silent at his words.
Linus’s faction consisted mainly of nobles that weren’t accepted into the Calvin’s.
While some of them chose Linus with actual hopes of overturning the situation, others were simply trying to parasitize off of the prince on chance he became emperor.
So while he had the numbers, Linus’s subordinates lacked the quality of Calvin’s faction.
That’s one of the reason’s why he reached out to the powerful Liam.
“He rudely refused my invitation and chose my younger brother with poor prospects to succeed the throne instead… this impertinence can’t be forgiven.”
The nobility understood how Linus felt, but still tried to dissuade him.
“We’re currently in conflict with the crown prince’s faction. If we start fighting with the Banfield house as well, the only one to benefit would be your older brother. There’s also the movements of the neighboring countries to consider. It’d be stupid to move rashly.”
“And let my enemies consolidate their power? Never. We need to move quickly.”
“Please heed our council, this is a turning point in the succession war!”
For Linus, the Banfield house wasn’t his only problem.
The movements of neighboring countries had grown chaotic, and this was his chance to exploit their moment of weakness.
Not to mention the many other things he had planned.
“I know what you’re saying, but he needs to pay for what he’s done. He refused my invitation and committed an act akin to spitting in my face. I can’t just let this slide.”
The nobles looked away.
Linus seemed to be thinking about how severe the sanctions he should enforce in retaliation should be.
“In that case, how are we going to punish them?”
Linus smiled at this query.
“Doesn’t the majority of his profit come from selling rare metals? The Empire has already secured the supplies we need, so lets halt all transactions with the Banfield house immediately. The merchants need to be sternly warned of this as well.”
“Wait! The Banfield house’s Liam currently has the Clave and Newlands companies as contracted purveyors! They have plenty of other channels to sell off their rare metals.”
But Linus was aware of this as well.
He wasn’t worried.
“He’s not contracted with the companies themselves, but with Elliot and Patrice– two high ranking members within their respective businesses. The organizations themselves don’t support the Banfield house. What’s important is that others among their boards of directors see them as eyesores.”
In other words, they were going to have an injunction filed on them as the last nail in the coffin.
After hearing that much, the nobles had no choice but to accept.
A direct fight would hinder their struggle against Calvin’s faction. However–
“We’ll move if we have the leeway too, but it’s best to save our strength for when we fight the crown prince. His Highness Calvin is unlikely to reach out to Count Banfield again after his invitation was rejected, but leaving them alone could give them a chance to work together and corner us.”
The nobles explained their point in a way Linus could accept.
“Anything is fine as long as he regrets going against me. The Count needs a reminder as to who he just picked a fight with.”
◇ ◇ ◇
We were currently at a bar.
University students often gathered here and partied every night.
The tavern was built with the youth in mind, so the majority of the customers were students.
As such, many of the gatherings here were actually mixers.
–And yet… and yet!
“Wallace, what the hell is this?!”
Seeing as how the two of us were drinking alone at the counter, I couldn’t help but complain.
Wallace was practically drowning himself in alcohol.
“Didn’t you say there’d be girls?!”
When I grabbed his clothes and shook him, Wallace let out a deflated laugh.
“It’s over… I’m done for… My name has been popping up in my brother’s meetings, and I’ve been dragged into the succession war…”
Wallace was broken.
Even though he said there’d be girls here, we were now drinking on our own in a noisy bar.
“You canceled our mixer with girls for that?”
I tightened my grip on Wallace’s clothes, but he just gave me an empty laugh in response.
When I finally let him go, he went right back to drinking again.
“As if you could understand me, Liam! Both my name and Cedric’s were mentioned during my brother’s faction meetings! At this rate, I’ll be killed no matter who wins!”
The struggle for the throne was a matter of life or death.
If you made the wrong choice on who to side with, you’d be killed after you lost.
And depending on the next emperor, the way they’d kill you would change.
But even then, execution would be a mercy.
No matter how scary actually dying was during the succession wars, the worst part was the torture that came afterwards.
In fear of this, Wallace has been doing everything he could to avoid getting involved in this matter.
And yet here he was– involved in it.
He looked kind of pitiful, so I poured him a drink.
“Calm down, I wouldn’t have chosen to support the third prince if I didn’t think I had a chance of winning.”
“How so?! Choosing Cleo was practically a death sentence! He doesn’t have a chance at all!”
“…what are you saying?”
When I asked that, Wallace took another swig of his drink before answering.
“Cleo… was originally a girl.”
“I’m saying that he was born a girl, but his mother declared him a man!”
I couldn’t help but ponder this statement.
This was a universe with highly advanced science and technology.
There was even magic here.
In such a place, did people seriously still struggle with determining a child’s birth gender?
“Wouldn’t the truth be easy to reveal if that were the case?”
“–it’s because of my father’s sick whims. Cleo’s mother came from a family that originally supported a hostile faction. They were forgiven in the end, but were left struggling for quite a while.”
The family Cleo’s mother came from was once a powerful house.
Although the emperor had eventually pardoned them, the scars from that time were never truly forgotten.
And so, an insidious plan for revenge began.
“There’s laws in place that make it illegal to change the gender of minors, let alone babies that can’t even choose for themselves, but the family had the doctor swear an oath of secrecy to hide the sexes of the children born there. Cleo’s mother ended up bearing three children, but they were all girls. The third one was her last chance, and if it didn’t work out, then that was the end for her.”
“She would’ve lost her position in the inner palace. The other mothers had already given birth to boys, and with her only having daughters, Cleo’s mother was losing standing among them.”
How bad it got couldn’t be said.
But in any case, the hierarchy among the women that couldn’t leave the inner palace was important.
“So Cleo is actually a girl?”
“No, he had his gender artificially changed to male. When my father learned the truth, he laughed and said, ‘I’ll make him third in line to inherit the throne.’”
“So what’s the problem then?”
So people can change their sex that easily? This universe is amazing.
“It’s a big problem! If this became a viable strategy to increase one’s standing, then all of my sisters would end up becoming my brothers! To stop this, my father made Cleo into a laughing stock, turning him into an example as to what would happen to those who falsified the genders of their children.”
He was third in line for the throne in name only, Cleo’s actual position and standing were far worse than his title. Nobody respected him.
I fell into thought at this revelation.
–this was a chance.
“Huh?! Haven’t you been listening to me?! There’s no future to siding with Cleo!”
“How so? As long as he’s willing to accept his position then there’s no problem. Rather, I’ve been looking for a guy like him.”
A prince hostile to my potential foe– the emperor.
Even if their relationship wasn’t belligerent, it was a fact that they didn’t get along well.
In conclusion, it was highly unlikely that Cleo had anything to do with my ‘true enemy.’
On the contrary, as he resented his father– we had a common adversary.
That was all assuming the emperor was an enemy, though.
This would still be a lucky find either way.
Cleo was someone that I could use in the future.
“Wallace, today we celebrate! Drink as much as you want!”
After I asked the bar master to bring more alcohol, Wallace started drinking again.
“Even if you didn’t say that, I was planning to anyways!”
◇ ◇ ◇
The luxury hotel in the imperial capital where Liam was currently residing.
There was currently a knight stationed there.
His name was [Klaus Sera Monto]– he was over three hundred years old, and had the appearance of someone in their thirties.
He looked older than he should’ve because he got easily stressed, but he was still a knight that served the Banfield house for several decades.
With that said, he wasn’t someone that was tortured by pirates or petrified in stone.
He wasn’t a knight who loved combat either, he was just a normal person.
Before eventually pledging himself to Liam, he served another noble house.
However, that family was driven to ruin, and it was only on his journey to find a new liege that he discovered the Banfield house.
For this reason, he wasn’t as excessively loyal as some of the other knights were.
He was fine as long as he could fulfill his duties, but he was still just a normal guy.
Nevertheless, he was now the commander of Liam’s personal guard.
“How did this happen?”
He sighed as he said this. Recently he’s been sighing more often, and while he’s been doing his best to keep it in check, he just couldn’t stop.
The reason was simple.
All he wanted was a stable life. Rising up the ranks didn’t interest him at all.
The reason why Klaus was assigned so close to Liam was because Tia and Marie were stripped of their positions as the head and deputy knights.
Currently, those two had returned to Liam’s territory to hunt pirates and earn money.
And Klaus was sent here in their place.
Among Liam’s knights, he had a modest work ethic.
He preferred following other’s orders and didn’t mind giving up credit on the battlefield.
Don’t get him wrong, he liked his job, but he’d only put in a normal amount of effort into it.
Being evaluated highly did make him happy, but only to a certain point.
As Klaus was making his way down one of the hotel’s corridors, he passed by some of his men.
“Captain Klaus! Do we have any orders to sortie?!”
“We should hunt down the pirates near the imperial capital!”
“Let’s go pick a fight with someone!”
They were bloodthirsty subordinates hungry for a fight, no matter who the opponent was.
(Why are all of my subordinates battle junkies?)
The people whose lives were saved by Liam were loyal to the point of fanaticism.
Serving Liam also guaranteed the officers that they would get to fight as much as they wanted.
They were people who didn’t really think about anything else– that’s the kind of subordinates they were.
“Be prepared to receive Lord Liam’s orders at any moment.”
The men crisply saluted to Klaus, who answered their queries calmly.
As his men left, Klaus dropped his shoulders.
“I want to return to a normal knight squad…”
His subordinates were excellent, but they were too bloodthirsty.
As he thought about that, Klaus’s deputy had approached him.
“Oh? Klaus, you look like hell.”
Not even bothering to address her boss appropriately was a female knight, one wearing a uniform based off of Chinese clothing.
Her long black hair was tied up like dumplings on both sides, which then fell into twin tails down her back.
She was tall, and her supple limbs didn’t seem like those a woman familiar with combat would have.
But she was definitely a knight, and one on par with heroes like Tia and Marie at that.
Her name was [Chengshi Sera Tourei].
The edges of her eyes were decorated with red eye shadow.
She was definitely beautiful, but the air around her felt like that of a savage.
“Do you know when Lord Liam is returning?”
Klaus couldn’t help but feel that she was the most unstable of the knights he knew.
(Why does Lord Liam continue to keep such dangerous people by his side?)
“Lord Liam is still out, but even when he returns you should keep your distance, Chengshi.”
Klaus was always on guard around her.
The reason was obvious.
“That’s too bad, and here I thought I’d get a chance to challenge the rumoured ‘School of the One-Flash’.”
She was aiming to fight with Liam.
There were many among Liam’s knights that were quick to jump to violence.
They were barbaric knights who only thought about fighting the strong.
But even among them, Chengshi was an individual with outstanding talents and capability.
“I’ve already told you this many times, but turning your blade towards Lord Liam is a death sentence!”
“–I’ve been constantly proclaiming that I wanted to see his strength for some time now, so isn’t me being assigned here the same as him accepting my challenge?”
Liam was the one who selected his guards.
Therefore, that was the only way she could interpret his choices.
(Just why are my subordinates so bloodthirsty?!)
Klaus cried this out in his heart.
Brian:(；゛゜’ω゜’): “NOOOO!!! THIS IS PAINFUL!!! Lord Liam wasn’t trying to pick a fight with his choices! The stomach ache this Brian here is feeling now is unbearably painful!”
Written by Mishima Yomu/Wai (三嶋 与夢)
Translated by KuroInfinity at slothtranslationsblog.com