Overlord Light Novel Volume 14 Chapter 2 Part 2

Overlord Light Novel Volumr 14 Chapter 2 Part 2

 

The throne room used for audiences with envoys (there were multiple throne rooms each for separate purposes) wasn’t too large, but to prepare it so that it was adequate enough for dignitaries was still a sizable time commitment. However, since the guide they had sent was quite slow — this wasn’t a deliberate move by them to buy them more time — they had just enough time to prepare the room and gather the courtiers who were now clothed in ceremonious attire before the Prime Minister of the Sorcerous Kingdom, Albedo, arrived.

The smell of the freshly cut flowers began to permeate the room.

To Zanac, it all just smelled grassy, but Renner would probably put it as, “Onii-sama probably just has a stuffy nose.” or something similar.

He felt that fresh flowers were unnecessary given that everybody was wearing some sort of perfume, but he understood that there was a certain beauty to the sight of blooming flowers. If that was the case though, why couldn’t they just use fake flowers? Well, since there was no precedent for that, the use of fake flowers could give envoys the wrong impression that they weren’t welcomed there, that would be troublesome.

Every race had comparable acts of etiquette, yet the same action could be interpreted differently by different races. So how did the Council State, which was home to various non-human races, manage this issue?

The reason why this thought came across his mind out of nowhere was because of the horns and wings on the Prime Minister of the Sorcerous Kingdom, Albedo, who had just walked in.

As the Prime Minister of the Sorcerous Kingdom, the seductive beauty had a dark air of allure about her, unchanged from the last time he had seen her. Her beauty was such that it could almost make them forget that she was a high ranking official of the despicable Sorcerous Kingdom. He wasn’t sure if she had been spoken for, but she was bewitching enough that countries would go to war over her.

That was the Prime Minister of the Sorcerous Kingdom, Albedo.

The sound of men who had become instantly love-stricken could be heard throughout the room, the sound they made as they sighed, “ooooh.” The nobles who had made those sounds were also obvious in their enraptured ogles.

The beauty who was able to instantly hold them captive gradually let out a smile that was like that of a loving mother’s. Perhaps no one else in this world could produce such a charming smile.

Though Zanac’s sister was also considered a beauty, he thought Albedo’s beauty could even outshine hers.

The only odd aspect about her was her gown.

If they were at a ball, nothing would be more appropriate than that light-peach coloured gown, but given their current situation, it wasn’t proper at all.

She couldn’t have worn it by mistake. It had to be on purpose. What is the hidden meaning behind all of this?

Zanac had no ideas regarding the implications of the different types of gowns worn by women. Perhaps his sister would be able to figure it out, but she wasn’t exactly normal compared to the other women of the aristocracy. With that said, her decision to not spend too much on herself out of disinterest in sprucing herself up had earned Zanac’s respect.

Zanac stole a glance at his sister.

She wasn’t wearing her usual gown, but the one she had worn for ceremonies. She couldn’t be wearing the same clothes as she had the last time they welcomed Albedo, right?

Though he wanted to tell Renner not to wear that outfit as people would look down on her, her gown wasn’t too out of the ordinary compared to what Albedo wore.

A few of the courtiers had also noticed that Renner was wearing the same gown she had the last time and had on them bothered expressions, but those expressions only surfaced for a mere moment before subsiding.

“Long time no see, Albedo-kakka.”

Upon hearing Rampossa’s voice, the nobles who had been enthralled by Albedo’s beauty finally snapped back to reality.

“Not at all, it’s my fault for not visiting Your Majesty in such a long time.”

Albedo replied with a strikingly appealing voice that matched her appearance. Her back remained straight and the vertical position of her head remained unchanged, just like she had done the last time around. This was in direct contrast to her gentle demeanour, it made clear her belief that humans were too insignificant for her to bow down to.

“You do not appear to have changed much, that is a relief.”

“The same to you, Your majesty.”

The way the two smiled and looked at each other could lead one to believe that it was just a warm gathering of friends, and nothing more.

“You appear to be busy, so I will be direct, why have you come here today?”

“Indeed. I’m here regarding our previous affair — that being how my country’s grain caravan, which was intended to be humanitarian aid to the Holy Kingdom, had been robbed by one of your own.”

Though this was no laughing matter, Albedo’s smile remained steadfast from before.

In contrast, his father had stood up from his throne to say,

“I see, you are here for that. Then allow me to firstly, apologize for my citizen’s actions.”

His father lowered his head and bowed deeply. The king of a kingdom was accepting the words of the other party at face value. In diplomacy, that was something that should not have been done for any reason. In the world of diplomacy, where not even the shrewd were safe from deceit (TL’s note: 生き馬の目を抜く), to confirm the faults of one’s country was a major blunder.

Nevermind the fact that it was unwise for the head of state to directly apologize for something, because that would be akin to the entire country admitting guilt.

To have done so would be to damn their country to the Sorcerous Kingdom’s every whim and fancy. No—

Considering that we are trying to avoid an all-out war, this might not have been the worst idea. But if the Sorcerous Kingdom was to demand the head of that noble now, aren’t they bound to do so?

He couldn’t imagine that things would turn out this way given what his father had said earlier. If he intended to refuse the Sorcerous Kingdom’s demands at this point, the one to have apologized should have been someone like Zanac instead of him. After all, the difference in the weight of a head of state’s words and his son’s was worlds apart.

But just as Zanac’s train of thought reached that point, his father’s subsequent words put him at a loss for words.

“Now then…would the offering of my own head allow for the Kingdom to receive forgiveness from the Sorcerous Kingdom?”

The moment those words came out of his father’s mouth, it felt as though the entire room had frozen over.

After his shock had waned, Zanac couldn’t help but feel ashamed of himself from the bottom of his heart.

This was undoubtedly, his father’s trump card.

Though the scale of an incident would affect the response, if the gift of repentance was the head of the head of state, the other party had to accept it no matter who they were, right? No, if they were to make further requests beyond what was offered, their lack of magnanimity would surely draw condemnations from everyone.

His father did not consider himself unfortunate to have to offer up his life, not because he wanted to die, but because to sacrifice oneself for one’s own Kingdom was for a king to insist on.

His father was a true king.

Though it was a fact that his father’s weakness was in how he had dealt with matters, it appears as though Zanac had been underestimating his father for a long time.

“Of course, the Kingdom will take responsibility for the Sorcerous Kingdom’s grain loss, we could even reimburse twice the amount of grain should you desire it. That is in addition to the offer of my head. What is your opinion on this offer? Albedo-kakka.”

“Hmph…”

Albedo’s facial expression grew heavy. Though she was still a smiling beauty, it was oddly terrifying.

“…Hehehe, looks like you’ve made a slightly wrong prediction, Rampossa the third?”

Albedo shifted her gaze, apparently to his sister.

“Was it because you lost that man? Or was it because of something else? Did you find out about the brilliance—” Albedo then looked at Zanac, “—of your child, and so decided to have a change of heart?”

“I do not believe that I have had a change of heart…”

“Oh, but you did. If this was the past you, you would not have made that decision…perhaps it was a combination of a multitude of factors that had influenced you, but your basis as a person had not changed much? Whatever, that doesn’t matter. In any case, we will not change our policies towards this matter.”

Due to how sudden and peculiar Albedo’s shift in aura had occurred, no one noticed it at first. She had completely forgone the etiquette expected of an envoy during an audience with a head of state. Even if she was a foreigner, this was not an acceptable attitude to display towards a king who was actively leading his nation. Surprisingly, this attitude of hers felt more natural to Zanac, perhaps because the difference in power between the Kingdom’s King and the Sorcerous Kingdom’s Prime Minister was warped to begin with.

Human and fiend.

From that perspective, her attitude felt the most natural.

Perhaps that was why. There was an invisible pressure emanating from Albedo that stopped everyone from voicing their displeasure.

That was only temporary, as the fiend quickly put back on her sheep’s clothing, the Sorcerous Kingdom’s envoy.

Albedo surveyed the courtiers who were standing on opposite sides of the aisle and proclaimed loudly,

“This is a formal declaration of war from the Sorcerous Kingdom. We will deploy our troops a month from this day at noon! However, if you were to march troops towards E-Rantel — to cross into the Sorcerous Kingdom’s borders, then we will no longer follow that timeline.”

“Please wait!”

“I have no intention of tarrying any longer. Alright, with that my work here is done. The last thing I was meant to convey from His Majesty was—”

“—You planned for things to turn out this way all along, didn’t you?!”

Said a rage-filled courtier. Albedo squinted her eyes at him. The message conveyed through those eyes was probably menace.

“You dare interrupt His Majesty the Sorcerer King’s message—human. Can you not wait to die a month from now?”

The colors instantly drained from the courtier who had spoken out even though Albedo hadn’t raised her voice by much and hadn’t done anything unusual. Still, the expressions of the courtier, who had been threatened by some feudal lord with soldiers before, changed dramatically due to a stare from a beauty.

“…Hmph. Now then, allow me to convey His Majesty the Sorcerer King’s message. ‘I have no intention of using grand magic as I had last time, let us enjoy the process. That’s all.’” After saying so, Albedo had a confused expression on her for the first time ever. “Even if you say that this was a scheme that we had planned out, to be completely honest, what had occurred was completely out of our expectations. We also wanted to find out how things had turned out this way.”

Albedo appeared to be telling the truth judging from her expression and voice, one wouldn’t believe that she was lying. Of course, the possibility that this was all an act was also incredibly high.

“If you wish to treat this incident as our nation’s scheme, that is fine by me. History is written by the victors. All of your false accusations will soon be erased.”

Zanac understood the stance the Sorcerous Kingdom had adopted for this incident.

The idea that they could avoid a war was futile.

The Sorcerous Kingdom had not been seeking to expand its territories through conquest, but rather the complete destruction of the Kingdom. It was safe to say that war was inevitable. In a month, the Sorcerous Kingdom’s undead will surely be marching into the Kingdom’s borders.

“There’s no need to escort me, I do not wish to take up any more of your precious, limited time.”

After Albedo exhibited the attitude that told them that she had said all that she had wanted to, she turned her back on the rest of them and walked out the door.

Was it truly advantageous for the Kingdom to let her go without laying their hands on her at all?

If they killed this woman who held the office of a Prime Minister, would it plunge the politics of the Sorcerous Kingdom into chaos temporarily and make them unable to start a war?

However, one look upon the back of her dignified figure made him hesitate.

As Zanac pondered the possibilities, no one dared to stop Albedo from leaving the room.

The giant doors were shut just as Albedo’s silhouette disappeared over the side of the doorframe. Zanac said to his father,

“What should we do? If we chase her…”

“Do not do anything of that sort. If we were to do something like kill the envoy of another nation, the blame for this entire situation will fall on our shoulders. Then no other nations would ever come to our aid.”

His father replied with a feeble voice as he placed his hand onto his forehead, as if he’s having a headache. Zanac felt as though his father had just rapidly aged somewhat compared to just a few moments ago.

“Your Majesty. Your servant wishes to spread the news that you had offered your head as a gift of repentance to every nation.”

“…Yea, I will leave that to you, Minister of Foreign Affairs. If you did that…in the worst-case scenario…”

“Please, do not speak of the worst-case scenario. Will we not be fine as long as we manage to defeat the Sorcerer King’s army?”

“Yea, yea. You are correct.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs’ words restored some color to his father’s face, but the smile he had was still one filled with grief.

“Zanac, Renner. I have something to tell you. Could you come to my room later? Now then, I do apologize to everyone gathered here, but we will have to convene in another hour to discuss what will happen in a month.”

The courtiers all lowered their heads and bowed.

After the chief of the guards escorted his father out of the room, Zanac and Renner left together.

Though Climb and Brain waited outside the room as Renner’s guards, Renner told them to wait in her room so they just watched as Zanac and Renner left.

The two walked shoulder to shoulder through the corridors.

“So, sister. Do you know why father has summoned us?”

“Yes, I believe it’s for the same reason as the one onii-sama has in mind right now.”

“Is that so? Is father about to show us the delicious desserts that Albedo-kakka had brought over?”

“Yes! As expected of onii-sama, I believe that to be the case too!”

Zanac stared at Renner with his eyes wide open for a second, to which Renner responded with a smile as if nothing had just happened. This woman’s such a pain to deal with.

“What do you plan to do?”

“Um—”

Renner placed her index finger below her chin and tilted her head towards the side. Zanac saw what she was doing and intentionally sighed heavily.

“What do you get out of acting cute in front of your own brother? Go act for Climb instead, he’s the one who’s gullible.”

“Onii-sama, that was really rude of you. I’ll try this with Climb next — though I did not plan to do so. Isn’t onii-sama’s the one who should be asked about what he’s planning to do?”

“Me, I want to run away. But, that wouldn’t be possible. The Sorcerous Kingdom would surely hunt us down.”

“I was thinking the same thing you know?”

For a woman who wished to marry a man whose social status was far from hers and had intentionally partnered up with Zanac, that reply was too straight. Zanac had thought that Renner would be the type to value her survival more and would have planned to leave the palace by tomorrow or something. Perhaps she too understood how impossible it was for them to escape from the grasps of the Sorcerous Kingdom, and thus snuffed her desires to do so.

Zanac stole a glance at Renner but could not tell her feelings on that matter through her expressions alone.

After the both of them had entered the room, the first words from their father’s mouth was just as he had expected.

“Zanac, Renner. Leave this place at once. You are only just the prince and princess of this country, there is no need for the two of you to die alongside it.”

The two of them looked at each other and answered in unison that—

They did not intend to do so.

The expression on their father’s face was bittersweet.

“Is that so…but, there is still time. If you two change your minds, tell me immediately.”

Though he did not believe that his intentions would change, a man’s mind was most prone to falter.

Zanac gently nodded his head towards his father.

Renner, who was beside him, did the same.

2

The children, upon seeing that Brain had returned, ran towards him.

“Os-san, you’re back!”

“Os-san, os-san!”

(TL’s note: an informal form of oji-san, a weird middle ground between ‘old man’, ‘sir’, ‘uncle’, etc. so there is no direct English analogue)

The ten children surrounded Brain, nine boys and a girl. They were all orphans. Brain had taken those who he had believed to have some sort of potential, allowed them to live with him, and were training them in the art of swordsmanship.

Because they grew up in a rough environment, they fully understood the importance of violent force and were able to keep up with his harsh training regimen. Having said that, they were still just children so Brain was still unsure if they could meet his expectations. Surely if they continued to train like this, they would be able to, at the very least, reach Climb’s level.

The children stunk of sweat but it wasn’t offensive to Brain. After all, he would be the same after training, this was proof that the children had been working hard.

“Oy oy, you guys. Are you done with practice?”

“Break—”

“I’ve practiced so much—”

“My hand—”

Because they all responded at once, it was hard to fully understand what they were trying to say, but they had completed their practice, that much he did understand.

“Now then, go take a break. Remember, I told you guys that breaks are part of training too, right?”

The children agreed in a cacophony of noises.

“I’ll practice with you guys after a while, do not tell me that you’re too tired to practice by then, do you understand?”

The children, once again, agreed in a cacophony of noises.

“Good! Remember to also fill up on water. Also, don’t forget to fill up on salt just because you have been sweating so much!”

A few of the children said “We get it already” or “Os-san’s so naggy” but the majority of them replied that they understood.

“Good, now go. Oh, right. Before you go, where are those two?”

The oldest of the bunch, their representative, told him, “in the backyard.”

Brain responded with an “oh”, bid goodbye to the children, and walked towards the backyard.

The children returned to the house to dine on the food and drinks they had received from the elderly couple who had been expecting them and to probably take a nap afterwards.

Good exercise, good diet, and good sleep. That was how excellent muscles were built.

Brain nodded his head in satisfaction.

“You made me wait for so long.”

A woman’s voice called out as Brain entered the backyard.

“Ah, I’m sorry. I had to prepare in advance to accompany Her Highness the Princess on her meetings with the nobility, merchants, and so on, so I was a bit late.”

There was a man and a woman there, who had been instructing the children before he arrived.

The woman who was speaking to Brain curled up her hair into the shape of a bun, apparently a hairstyle that was called ‘Magay’ in the South.

(TL’s note: incomplete pronunciation of ‘Marumage’)

Her appearance, rather than being what one would usually consider beautiful, gave off the impression that she was icy and acute. She wasn’t too tall, perhaps a bit shorter than most women her age.

The other person there, the man, remained silent.

Though he had an indifferent attitude which could make one think that he was unhappy, that was not the case. He raised a hand as his form of greeting to Brain.

He was just not apt at expressing himself. Brain had actually heard him talk quite a few times in the past, but his voice was as quiet as an ant’s.

The man wasn’t too tall either. He had short legs but was otherwise physically fit, but if a rumour was to spread that he had dwarven heritage, he wouldn’t have much in the way of a proof against it.

The two were both counted in the Six Great Disciples of the dojo of the swordsman known as Vesture Croff di Leoghain.

Brain had his reservations on how they taught, in his mind, his practical swordsmanship training was more useful than their performative swordsmanship practice.

Compared to waving air around for a few hundred times, training with a real sword — even if it was a mock sword — was much more effective. Brain believed that his method would allow one to gain more muscle memory than simply exercising one’s body.

However, this was a good way to allow them to learn the techniques first and build up a foundation solid enough that they would be less likely to die in actual combat.

It was hard to say definitively which side was right or wrong.

Though they all had gained strength, they had completely different ways of living.

It would be troublesome for Brain if the children die in combat before they even had the chance to fully realise their talents. That was why he opted to have the children train with the two, while passing down his own experiences; as a result, the children’s training regimen had become harsher.

“Were their accommodations finalized?”

“Yup, they were finally finalized. They’re scheduled to travel northwest — with a group of merchants operating in a city close to Council State.”

The woman frowned a little.

“It’s been two weeks since the Sorcerous Kingdom declared war on us, but there hasn’t been news of either country’s armies mobilizing. According to some rumours I’ve heard, the Sorcerous Kingdom only wants to force the Kingdom to back down in some negotiation and does not actually want to fight a full-on war? If that was true, wouldn’t that render Mr. Unglaus’ efforts in vain?”

“Would that Sorcerer King really do such a thing?”

If Brain had not met the Sorcerer King in person, he would have believed that this was just a negotiation tactic too. But as a witness to that tragic battle, it was hard for him not to doubt that the Sorcerer King was plotting something. Perhaps he was preparing to cast that spell again.

Had Brain’s uneasiness spread to her? The woman spoke in a hushed tone,

“…Mr. Unglaus had met with that Sorcerer King?”

“Not only have I met him, I bore witness to his duel with Gazef…hmmm, I still don’t know what happened to Gazef till this day.”

Her gaze shifted towards Brain’s waist.

Sheathed by his side was one of the treasures of the Kingdom, the Razor Edge.

This was something that was granted to him when the war was declared, even though he had turned it down on numerous occasions. To Brain, this sword was too heavy of a burden for him to bear so he treated it as something that was entrusted to him for safekeeping only. He did not intend to unsheathe the sword.

Though this sword was like a hot potato that he would rather pass on to someone else, if that person could not match Gazef Stronoff’s abilities, he did not intend to just give it away so easily.

“A duel with Mr. Stronoff? I…”

She stopped herself before she could complete that sentence.

Perhaps she wanted to say something along the lines of, “I wish I was there to witness it too.” Brain did not think too much of it, after all she was a warrior too. To wish to bear witness to Gazef’s duel was natural for them.

No, it was more appropriate to say that he wanted her to witness it too. He had just said that he still could not figure out what had happened during that duel, so if someone else could explain it to him that would be best.

“I think the Sorcerer King is plotting something, but I’m not sure what exactly he is plotting, I don’t have a basis for that thought after all. My instincts are blaring alarms right now, and I tend to trust my instincts without question.”

“If it’s the warrior instincts of someone like Mr. Unglaus, then it just might be true…”

“I’m not too sure on the specifics…anyways, we have to get these brats out of this place as soon as possible. Even if I die, they could still make a living for themselves with the swordsmanship I’ve taught them — even if it’s not that significant of a skill.”

“…actually, our sensei had told us the same thing as Mr. Unglaus, that the Sorcerous Kingdom is plotting something in the dark. So when the children are to be sent away—” the woman looked towards the silent man next to her, “—could you request that he go along with them?”

“What? Would he do that?”

He glanced at the man who gave him a silent nod. He appeared to be annoyed, but that was probably not the case.

It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that this man was patient with children.

Though all of the Six Great Disciples had been here at some point, the one the children liked the most out of them all was him.

“Yes, sensei appeared to have given it some consideration already. As long as he lives, our swordsmanship could continue being passed down through the generations.”

In other words, they had the same thought as Brain.

If that was the case, he had no reason to reject their request.

“I do not mind as long as your end is fine with it. Having said that, I am grateful for you all. I’ll go speak to the merchants who will be taking them away.”

Brain heard the man say something in his tiny voice, probably something like, “please take good care of him” or something.

Brain raised his hand as a response, to which the man responded in kind by deeply nodding his head.

“Now then, after the brats have rested up it’ll be my turn to train them. Sorry to have troubled the both of you to train them while I was away.”

Gratitude was the only thing that flowed out of his mouth. Even though he hadn’t paid them much, they still took the time to teach the children.

Their sensei Vesture had probably considered the fact that Brain was one who wielded outstanding swordsmanship and so wanted to introduce his Six Great Disciples to him, perhaps making Brain owe him a favour in the process, so Brain’s gratitude was not that great. The Six Great Disciples were different on the other hand, perhaps they had their interests piqued at the prospect of being able to train children that someone who could beat them handily, Brain, had judged had potential, or perhaps they were just interested in passing down skills to the children that they could use to survive? In any case, they were motivated to help the children without any ulterior motives from the start.

Because he had been acting as the personal bodyguard of the princess, he had to come into contact with those annoying nobles. This was why people as straightforward as the Six Great Disciples shone even brighter in his eyes.

“…I do have to say that I was quite impressed by how magnanimous Mr. Unglaus really was. To have adopted these children and teach them skills so that they could survive…”

Brain’s expression darkened.

He hadn’t done any charity that was worthy of such praise.

“Stop flattering me. I’m not that nice of a guy. While it’s true that I picked these children up from the slums, it was for a purpose. There were ones that were on the verge of death yet I still walked past them without lifting a finger to help. If you want to praise someone for their charity, do it to someone who actually deserves it — like the princess for example.”

He could see that the woman had a perplexed expression, but he wasn’t sure what had caused it.

“Are you talking about Princess Renner-sama? About how she had funded her orphanage? It’s true that the princess had done something extraordinary, but I believe that Mr. Brain had also accomplished what no other person could. Aren’t you both equally worthy of praise?”

“Doesn’t look like I could get through to you. Think whatever you want to, but don’t do it in front of me. I’d have heartaches from the guilt alone.”

“Then I do apologize.”

“…No, don’t think too much about it, it was a joke. I’m not innocent enough to feel guilt from something so small.”

Brain shifted his gaze away from the shocked expression on her face and looked towards Gazef Stronoff’s, now Brain’s, residence.

His thoughts were of the children who had just had their fill and were probably sleeping right now.

——–

Mini-FAQ:
Q: “Schadenfreude”?
A: It was the most succinct word for that concept, the direct English analogue “Epicaricacy” has questionable etymological roots. I’ll probably switch out that word for its literal meaning in the final product.
Q: What’s with these new characters’ names?
A: Treat them all as placeholders until I find the rhyme and reason behind Maruyama’s naming scheme, which appears to be non-existent for the time being.
Q: Tripcode?
A: Yes, by popular demand, there you go. Though I will say that I don’t really trust them having witnessed a few of them being breached in the past. At least this will stop clop anon, though I do have to admit that it was quite funny the first few times around.
Q: Where are we at?
A: As of this part: page 189/568

Overlord Light Novel Volume 14 Chapter 2 Part 1

Overlord Light Novel Volume 14 Chapter 2 Part 1

note: if you have yet to read Chapter 1 Part 8, go here

Chapter 2: Countdown to Extinction   – Part 1

In the capital city of the Kingdom of Re-Estize, in the Valencia Palace.

One of the rooms had a kind of heat typical of the number of people gathered inside. Though that number was not high by any means, the room wasn’t spacious either. The point was, the people in that room were so serious and occupied with their tasks that they had begun to raise the temperature of the room bit by bit.

In the center of the room sat a rectangular meeting table and situated on the most important seat in the room was Rampossa III. Sat to his right was the second prince, Zanac, and the rest of the seats had been filled by the Kingdom’s courtiers and ministers. Due to the fact that they were all advanced in years, if you were to take a look around the room, all you would see were white hair on white heads and shiny bald heads.

If this was a normal situation, everyone except the king would have stood up to pay their respects and then properly initiate the meeting — this was the protocol after all — but that was not what had happened. Each one of them had a cup filled with tea in front of them, signifying the potential length of this meeting.

After confirming that everybody had received the materials they had prepared, Zanac said loudly,

“Let’s start the court meeting then. The topic of this meeting will be the declaration of war we have received from the Sorcerous Kingdom.” He had used a term as intense as ‘declaration of war’ in hopes that everyone would treat this meeting with the gravity it deserves.

The truth was, the white-haired interior minister, who was around the age of his father, had the most displeased expression out of them all. It seemed that he was deeply anxious about the emergency.

Zanac took a stealthy glance at the side of his father’s face. He was worried the most about his father’s judgment. Was his father still capable of fully understanding how dangerous this situation could be and take appropriate actions against it?

He probably has some convictions against the Sorcerer King who had killed ‘that guy’…

He had heard that after his father received news of the Warrior Captain Gazef Stronoff’s death, he was shaken to his core and couldn’t think straight. After it was explained to him how resurrection was not possible, he flew into a rage that had never been seen before. Zanac bore witness to it all as he was there with his father when it occurred.

Since then, his father appeared to have aged quite significantly. He had lost all motivation and was as lifeless as a mannequin constructed out of flesh and bone.

Would his father, who had been traumatized this much, be able to make a calm judgment against his sworn enemy, the Sorcerous Kingdom?

It’ll be up to me then—

Zanac felt uneasy so he took a peek at the ministers.

The topic of this meeting was something that was delivered to them days ago by an envoy from the Sorcerous Kingdom, an official document that bore the royal seal of the Sorcerous Kingdom. The content of the document reads, “A grain convoy meant to serve as humanitarian aid from the Sorcerous Kingdom to the Holy Kingdom had been taken by force by a citizen of the Kingdom. We deem it a hostile action against the Sorcerous Kingdom and hereby declare war on your country.”

The document also bore the seals of other countries that approved of the Sorcerous Kingdom’s actions.

As of now, the envoy was staying within the capital, waiting to deliver the Kingdom’s response letter back. Given that this was an official communication between countries through documents, it would not have been unusual to give the other side a week or two to respond. Even then, for them to reach consensus on a response, finish their preparations, complete investigations, et cetera would probably take them more time than they have on hand, even if they were to rush through every process.

“I’m terribly sorry, because we have had to investigate two of the six seals on the document from the envoy, it took us quite a bit of time.”

The one who had lowered his head was the minister of foreign affairs, who was also the minister of seals and was in charge of the investigation over the seals approving of the Sorcerous Kingdom’s decision.

“The ones we were certain of before were the four from the Sorcerous Kingdom, the Empire, the Draconic Kingdom, and the Holy Kingdom, correct?”

The minister of foreign affairs nodded in response to the minister of finance’s question.

“That is correct. Of the two remaining — one was from the Dwarven Nation. Though we had identified the design as Dwarven, the seal still had some variations compared to the ones on the documents we’ve had from them from two centuries ago. After we received the assistance from Re-Blumrusher with the investigation, we found a similar seal, so we judged that it was probably a remake of the original after a certain era. The other seal, the one that was next to the Holy Kingdom’s, appeared to be the seal of the one they call the ‘Faceless One’.”

“They placed an individual’s stamp alongside the seals of state?”

The minister of military affairs was in total disbelief.

He was the youngest of the ministers. Both him and Zanac lowered the average age of the room by quite a lot. With that said, he was already over 40.

His appearance did not do his rank of the minister of military affairs justice; he was skinny, weak, and had a face that suggested he was neurotic. He seemed more of a financial personnel than a military one.

His relationship with Gazef had not been great – or rather, he had deliberately flaunted his dislike of him – so he was not heavily relied upon by Rampossa and had been absent from court meetings quite frequently. The lack of contact between them made Zanac unaware of his capabilities.

However, since Marquis Raeven had praised his abilities to Zanac, he should be someone who could earn his keep at the very least. No matter what he was like as a person, he should at least be competent, right? No, if he wasn’t at least competent he wouldn’t have made it as a minister.

“It appears as though the minister of military affairs is not too familiar with this matter. Usually, when the Holy Kingdom applies their national seal on a document, their high priestess would also stamp on the seal of their temple. This must be something similar to that.”

“…so they’re trying to send the message that the ‘Faceless One’ had already overtaken the authority of their religious institutions, or that she has authority above that of their current religious institutions?”

“Your servant believes that to be the case, your Majesty. The document we received for the current Holy King’s coronation still had the seal of their temple, so it appears that she had begun rapidly consolidating power right after that event. So even though we had never seen the stamp of this ‘Faceless One’ and could not confirm its validity, since it was stamped next to the national seal of the Holy Kingdom, we could only assume that to be the case.”

“Other than the Council State and the Theocracy, most countries have approved of and joined the Sorcerous Kingdom’s condemnation of the Kingdom. This wasn’t subterfuge by the Sorcerous Kingdom, but the truth.”

“Yes, your Majesty.”

His father let out a tired sigh.

“Has the Draconic Kingdom also bent their knees to the Sorcerous Kingdom?”

“We can’t be certain, your Majesty, because we have yet to receive intel on what had happened in the Draconic Kingdom. Perhaps they had fallen prey to some honeyed words or perhaps they simply felt that there was more to gain by siding with the Sorcerous Kingdom than siding with us.”

The Dragonic Kingdom was probably only endorsing the Sorcerous Kingdom’s actions and was not participating in the war itself.

“Is that so? I understand, minister of foreign affairs. Thank you for your hard work. Now then…interior minister, how many of those within the Kingdom believe in the contents of this document?

“Yes. Though we’re not too sure about the entirety of the Kingdom, about seven-tenths of those within the court believe this to be a ploy of the Sorcerous Kingdom. About a tenth of us believe that it was done by highwaymen — that part of the peasantry that would be boorish and foolish enough to do such a thing. The remaining two-tenths believe that this could be the plot of a third nation.”

“Hmm, if it was a plot, their goal would most likely be to weaken the Kingdom and the Sorcerous Kingdom or to simply disrupt the peace between the Sorcerous Kingdom and the Kingdom. If that was the case, it has to be the Council State and the Theocracy.”

“Your Majesty, I believe that conclusion to be too rash. There’s also the possibility that the Empire is plotting to overturn its status as a vassal state. After all, if it was the knights of the Empire, they could probably easily charge and overwhelm a convoy.”

“—that would not be possible. The incident happened on Kingdom soil. Did our investigations not reveal that there were tens of men? Even if it was the Empire or the Council State and the Theocracy, there would be no way they could bring so many soldiers onto our soil behind our backs. Or maybe, they had help from within. Perhaps they had hired bandits within the Kingdom, mercenaries would also be an option — the specifics does not matter, what matters is that we as a nation had committed a mistake.”

The minister of military affairs asserted that it was impossible for this to have been a plot that had been executed by soldiers foreign to the Kingdom.

Everyone knew how hard he had worked to maintain the public order which had almost collapsed within the Kingdom after that battle. He had proven his aptitude through the debacle, perhaps that was why he was so confident in his own judgment.

“It would have been hard with bandits, but I still hope that we could absorb some mercenaries into our ranks, but we simply do not have the capital to do so.”

“Are you saying that our finances are not in order?”

“I did not say that at all.”

“But you implied it—”

“Minister of finance, minister of military affairs, please stop arguing. We do not have time for that.”

The two lowered their heads upon hearing the king speak.

The minister of military affairs continued to speak to a now silent room.

“But, I have no doubt that this is some sort of a plot by someone. I have testimony from the guards at the gates that the caravan was flying the Sorcerous Kingdom’s flag and had a pretty impressive security detail when they left the capital.”

Most of the Kingdom’s people knew of the massacre the Sorcerous Kingdom had committed on the Katze plains, so no one within the Kingdom would dare to provoke such a terrifying country.

If they had to deduce who was behind all of this, there was only one country that checked all the boxes.

—The Sorcerous Kingdom.

Everything made sense once they considered it as a self-orchestrated, self-performed plot.

They probably had ordered the caravan to burn or dispose of its cargo — or maybe they plainly did not load those wagons up in the first place — and made up the excuse that they were attacked by some non-existent entity. It was hard to imagine a more plausible explanation.

“Zanac, though not much time has passed, how much progress have you made on your investigations?”

“Actually…your son I had already found out who had started this incident.”

The courtiers all had shocked expressions.

“…It’s just that, that was what made it difficult. We had doubts about it being a conspiracy precisely because it was so easy to find the culprit. Would you be so kind as to give me a bit more time?”

“Of course, we have to investigate the exact details of this incident, but given the situation any amount of intel would be helpful. Can you report on what you have figured out — what you are absolutely certain of?”

“As you wish, my king. What we are certain of, is that the criminals in question include the one known as Baron Philip Dayton L’Eyre Montserrat and his serfs.”

The courtiers began to speak, “Montserrat?” “Have you heard of that name?” “A baron and his serfs attacked the convoy?” “Were they trying to avenge someone who died in the battle?” “Perhaps he’s one of those that does not put much thought into their actions?” “Emotions could lead one to go on unexpected rampages, couldn’t they?”

In the midst of this, the one to speak up was the minister of justice who appeared to be pretty miffed,

“Your Majesty, this…this has to be a scheme of the Sorcerous Kingdom, correct? Your servant could not fathom why a noble of the Kingdom would mastermind something like this.

“I concur. Is the Sorcerous Kingdom not a country that would nonchalantly use [Charm Person] in their courts? It is entirely possible that they couldn’t care less about using equally sleazy methods on a national level. For example — was that baron being controlled using [Charm Person]?”

The phrase “I see” could be heard throughout the room. Zanac couldn’t help but feel regret for leaking that information after hearing the accusations the minister made in the second half of rhetoric.

“If that’s the case, we need to offer protection to that baron as soon as possible. Though I’m not too versed on the matter, I have heard that the spell called [Charm Person] leaves the victim with the memory of what happened when the spell was cast on them. Therefore he would not remain silent.”

Zanac wasn’t as knowledgeable in magic as the minister, so he had made a rookie mistake.

“Summon that baron. Investigate what had happened. At the same time, protect him.”

“—my king,” Zanac did not want to say so, but after steeling himself he said, “after we find out what had happened, could we offer the head of that baron as an apology to the Sorcerous Kingdom?”

“What are you talking about?”

His father’s gaze was sharp enough that it felt as though it was piercing right through him. Even when he was reduced to a skinny old man, the man who had borne the title of king for the longest time still had an aura that was worthy of praise.

I doubt I have the same level of majesty, but, I won’t back down so easily.

Even if this was a scheme by the Sorcerous Kingdom, was it really worth fighting a battle on the battlefield the enemy had specially prepared for themselves? He was terrified of the prospect that they would be continually arguing back and forth about whether ‘it’s a scheme’ or ‘it’s not a scheme’ up to the point when they will be engaged in a full-scale war.

Rather than wait for things to get to that point, it would be better to just give up the head of the noble who had started it all sooner than later and hope that it would de-escalate the situation.

It would be absolutely foolish to fight an opponent who had already demonstrated their superior powers in their previous battle. If a war was to occur, it was hard for him to imagine that the nobles who knew about that tragedy would still send their levies.

Even if they were willing to send their own soldiers, they would just be endangering themselves.

“My king, I believe that we should avoid a war with the Sorcerous Kingdom.”

“And so you would be willing to offer an innocent noble as a sacrifice? Is that something the heir to the throne should say? My son, think before you speak.”

Zanac licked his lips and replied,

“My answer remains the same regardless of what the others may say. I believe that it’s imperative for us to avoid a large loss of life with a small sacrifice.”

“If we were to do that, should we just hand over the head of another loyal servant every time the Sorcerous Kingdom comes knocking on our door? Do you understand that simple logic?”

“I understand…but father should have seen the tragedy of the Katze plains which I had not. Would you still risk conflict with the Sorcerous Kingdom with that in mind?”

His father let out a sigh and curled his lips into a straight line. Zanac pressed home his advantage by following up with, “I am against the idea. Allow me to repeat myself, I believe that a war with that kind of country should be avoided at all costs, even if we have to sacrifice an innocent noble.”

His speech was hardly fit for the heir to the throne. He might get called weak behind his back and lose the loyalty of a few courtiers because of this, but Zanac believed that this was the only path through which the Kingdom would survive.

“…Your Majesty. Your servant supports his Highness’ proposal too.”

The one to agree with him was the minister of internal affairs, but he was about to add on to Zanac’s proposal,

“Your Majesty, your servant understands your desire to protect all citizens. So how about we just — become a vassal state of the Sorcerous Kingdom?”

The courtiers began shouting “What are you talking about!?”, “Have you lost your sense of honor!?”, and so one upon hearing what the minister of internal affairs had to say. The minister ignored them all with his gaze affixed towards Zanac’s father.

Faced with a suggestion that had branded the suggester a traitor, his father gradually let out a smile.

“That, I especially cannot do. That would be akin to betraying the loyalty of generations of people who had served this Kingdom. How will we be able to face them then? I apologize to you, earl. Thank you for your suggestion.”

“Your servant did not deserve that apology.”

Zanac saw that they were communicating on the deeper level through their gazes.

Would he be able to have courtiers who were this loyal?

His father was a merciful man, but nothing more. No — perhaps it was because of this that talented people were willing to serve him. His father was exceptionally talented in recruiting people more talented than him, like the Warrior Captain Gazef Stronoff.

Zanac felt that it was better for him to become king than his brother, who was more likely to become a puppet of the Eight Fingers or the Noble Faction and doom the country than not. That was why he had worked together with Marquis Raeven to become king or a powerful grand duke to prepare for the future.

But now — Zanac couldn’t help but feel inadequate compared to his sister’s genius and his father’s charisma. Even if he became the king, it wasn’t likely that he would have made the Kingdom a better place.

The only thing he could do was to improve himself, but it wasn’t such an easy task given his age and personality, plus he never wanted to self-improve anyways. He would probably keep his personality until death.

“—minister of military affairs, I want to propose a hypothetical. What could we do to win a war against the Sorcerous Kingdom?”

“Could we form an alliance with another country before then? Are we to face them alone?”

Zanac, Rampossa III, and the minister of foreign affairs exchanged gazes. Zanac, as their representative, answered with,

“We have not been successful in forging an alliance with the Council State. We had begun negotiations with them way back — just after that battle had ended. We were not able to form an agreeable alliance back then. If they knew our relationship with the Sorcerous Kingdom has worsened, the chance of rejection would only go up.”

“Is that so…then your Majesty, though this question may be out of line. What would you consider as the victory condition of this war? Do we have to drive the enemy off in battle? Or do we have to kill — or rather, destroy the Sorcerer King? If it’s the latter, I do not believe that we have any chance at a victory at all.”

“…minister of military affairs, that would not be the case. What if we only had to force the enemy to withdraw their forces?”

“Let me think about it…” the minister of the military tilted his head as he contemplated. He came up with the answer, “luck would have to be on our side, but if we were to march an army the long way around and occupy E-Rantel while their troops are still marching from E-Rantel towards the capital, we might have a chance to turn the tide of battle.”

“We would have to break through their three layers of fortifications?”

“Yes, your Majesty. It would be something that could only be accomplished if we were able to sneak an army that is as large we can possibly muster past their defenses — which was why I said that luck had to be on our side. Of course, if the Sorcerous King, the one who was capable of casting that terrifying spell without breaking a sweat, was to stay in E-Rantel then this plan would undoubtedly fail.”

Another way to put this was that if luck was not on their side, they had no chance of victory at all. Zanac wasn’t sure if his father understood the full implications of the minister’s words.

“If that was the case, then if the Sorcerous Kingdom had invaded us without a formal declaration of war, everything would have been over. A surprise attack would have rendered us unable to gather enough troops in time, in which case we wouldn’t even be able to carry out the plan.”

It was the tradition for formal declarations of war to be passed between nations, a sort of gentleman’s agreement or etiquette.

To send a formal declaration of war was to send the message that ‘our country respects etiquette’ to the other nations. If they did not do so, they would have been viewed as a barbaric nation, which would have had a seriously negative impact on their diplomatic efforts.

Between nations of different races, this tradition was not often observed. However, even when nations of different races were involved, it depended on the age, history, diplomatic relations with their neighbouring countries, and so on.

So given this context, how would a nation ruled by the undead, which hates the living, conduct itself? Would they provide a formal declaration of war?

“—My king. As I had expected, we would only have the slimmest chance of victory if we were to go to war. If that is the case, should we not try our best to avoid that outcome, by sacrificing a little?”

“Sacrificing a little…?”

“Yes, my king. We should summon that baron at once and put him on trial. Afterwards, we will have him take responsibility for his actions regardless of the outcome, and off with his head.”

“…We can’t do that, Zanac. To summon that baron and put him on trial would be fine, but if he was innocent or if we could declare his innocence, I will not do such a thing. I have a better plan in mind.”

“A better plan…? What is it?”

His father fell silent and shook his head.

After witnessing that, Zanac concluded that his father was probably lying. If there really was a better plan then he should say it out loud. If there wasn’t, he was probably lying to cover for the fact that he had not thought of a good reason on why they should spare that nobleman.

Zanac felt disappointed by his father and contemplated what he should do next.

No matter how I look at it, the future of the Kingdom seems grim…Looks like I will have to do it by force.

First of all, it was a necessity for them to pin all responsibilities on that baron.

Though the probability is slim, that baron may have been the source of all of their troubles anyways. In any case, if they could make that the truth, then their problems would be solved.

However, Zanac couldn’t think of a way to pin all responsibilities on him. What if he was to kill the baron on his way to the capital and then pin the responsibilities on him? His father wouldn’t be able to say otherwise if that was the case.

Even if his father objects to the plan, as long as he could pull it off on his own, everything would be fine. He had considered whether things would turn out this way the moment he had heard of the incident. He had already arrived at a conclusion back then.

The grave crime of usurping the throne.

He was so close to inheriting the throne, he didn’t even have to do anything but wait. The number of disadvantages of doing what he was about to do was too many to count. The only advantage of this plan was that it solved the problem at hand.

If that was to be the case then usurpation might be a stupid idea on paper, but if he was to allow the status quo to remain as is, there would not be a Kingdom to speak of soon.

Zanac had hoped that he could at the very least receive approval from the courtiers present. There was also a need for him to request the services of that man from his sister. Brain Unglaus was an indispensable part of his plan. If Brain was there, they would definitely have the upper hand in terms of strength.

—ah—how frustrating! Why do I have to plan this out in the first place! If only the Sorcerous Kingdom did not exist! If only that freakishly powerful undead being did not exist!

If not for the Sorcerous Kingdom, if not for its intervention with their annual battle with the Empire, though his brother may have become king already, the Kingdom would still not be forced into the corner as it had been now.

Zanac cursed in his heart.

And then, the sound of door knocks could be heard.

Zanac had a premonition.

To interrupt a meeting this important, it must be an emergency. To be honest, the way they were knocking on the door was quite violent too.

Issues of such importance were usually — no, they were definitely bad news. That was Zanac’s premonition.

Zanac, as their representative, gave his approval to let them in. A knight panickedly entered the room, just as he had expected.

“A forerunner from the Sorcerous Kingdom has just notified us that their Prime Minister, Albedo, will arrive at the capital in less than two hours!”

In their previous communications, the title of Guardian Overseer did not make much sense to them so they had apparently switched her title to that of the easily understandable Prime Minister. Did the arrival of a person of such calibre confirm his apprehension?

—-no, wait.

His premonition was off the mark. This wasn’t bad news — but the worst news.

So — for what purpose has she come for?

The envoy who had brought the official document was not inside this palace. Though he had wanted it to linger within the capital, they did not have the courage to let an undead creature stay with them. This was why it was currently staying within a mansion in the nobility’s portion of the city.

They had stationed guards around the mansion under the guise of protection, the perimeter was so tightly guarded that not even a slime could make it out without them noticing, but the envoy had apparently yet to contact the Sorcerous Kingdom.

Could they have been communicating through magical means? Or did they plan to visit the Kingdom even if the envoy had not returned?

Also, they had not sent the forerunner before they had departed, but rather this late into their journey. What for?

With that said — it doesn’t seem as though they’re here to declare war.

If they were here to declare war, they would not be sending their second-most powerful official into territories where they were uncertain of what could happen.

As an envoy from a foreign nation, the Kingdom would not dare harm her — though she might have that naive idea. However, from Zanac’s perspective, she did not appear to be the kind of person to wander into territories she knew would be dangerous to her.

“Grant her an audience. Prepare the throne room for an appropriate reception immediately.”

“Yes, your Majesty!”

The knight left the room upon hearing his father’s orders.

Usually, even if a foreign dignitary was to come to the capital, it wasn’t as though they would be granted an audience with the King on the same day. But, given their current situation, they couldn’t just tell the Prime Minister of the Sorcerous Kingdom things like, “you will be granted an audience in a few days.”

“Everyone, I apologize but can you all switch to more formal attire and gather in the throne room?”

Upon hearing their king’s request, the courtiers including Zanac, lowered their heads.

——–

Mini-FAQ:
Q: What are the titles of the chapter again?
A:
Chapter 1: An Unexpected Move
Chapter 2: Countdown to Extinction
Chapter 3: The Last King
Chapter 4: Well-Prepared Traps