Sunday, January 6, 2019

025 Complication

Much thanks to King of the End and Deathadders for editing! Enjoy!

EDIT: changed empire to kingdom as pointed out by cancel.
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TL: yAmi
Editor: King of the End and Deathnadders



    “Alright, alright…...”

    “M-14 to M-22. Confirmed measurement error. According to the blueprints, those stones should be 5 centimeters more to the right.”

    “M-22, affirmative. I will correct the behaviour of the golems. Over.”

    Rapid progress was made at the lighting-cum-dungeon facility, which was located at the mountain summit, directly above the lab. A large crystal (manufactured from quartz mined from the mountains) and optical fibres (function to change refractive index to adjust light output is provided) were installed to bring light underground. All that was left was the construction of the outer section to repel intruders.

    All these were thanks to the influx of mass produced slaves. I made Laubert procure slaves to work at the mines but when it comes to him, he would negotiate the price as much as possible. That’s how we increased the manpower by 52 people, much more than expected. And this is despite procuring a few ‘high quality’ slaves advertised as virgins, which I couldn’t care less about. Laubert, please have some self-respect. No, wait, since it is for my sake, maybe he doesn’t need to do that?
   
    And so, I spent day after day messing with the slaves’ brains but I suppose it is a good thing since it had a good outcome. It resulted in all of these mass produced slaves working together. We would greatly shorten the expected construction time.

    If one were to shift his line of sight to the foot of the mountains, a thick and dense forest would come into view. This was the accomplishment of the Treants, a forest type monster, who planted trees that were from areas that were similar in climate to Marlan. And the Treants were also enthusiastically taken care of by the E-series, elves who were brain-altered, and grew rapidly. Altogether, this allowed the completion of the sea of trees. In addition, Drei also released monsters captured from different places. With this, it won’t be possible for half-assed adventurers to reach the lighting facility. Ignoring the incident with the elves, she really did a good job for me.

    Since winter, the project to construct my new lab has truly been progressing.

    Governance is not an issue either. The land reforms early this year were successful and we forecast a bumper yield. As for public safety, Due, who has pent up frustrations, has been going around destroying crime syndicates to release stress. Peace is the greatest. The slave miners were sent to the mines to first start on the preparation work. It shouldn’t be too long for the real mining to begin.

    That’s right. Everything is going smoothly…...or so it should be.

    “What is wrong, master?”

    Uni, who accompanies me at all times, sensed my uncertainness and asked.

    “No, it isn’t anything. It’s just that everything is going too smoothly. That worries me, on the contrary. Just simply a hallucination.”

    I replied to explain to myself rather than to her.

    I should have nothing to worry about but somehow, I can feel my chest stirring. I do know I am overly sensitive to things though.
   
    As I formed my thoughts, Uni unexpectedly said.

    “With much respect, I do not think that everything is going smoothly.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Master has been focusing on the development of the lab and the governance of the land, so I had purposely not presented my suggestion. I know that it is disrespectful to even guess master’s mind, but I believe that might be the source of master’s unconscious anxiety?”

    Hmm. Carefully pondering over what she had said, there were certainly a few things I had left completely untouched. Frankly speaking, it is just troublesome and it is a field that I am much unfamiliar with, so it isn’t something that I can assertively tackle right now.

    “Intelligence collection of the outside world, isn’t it.”

    “Yes. Master is now preparing against his elder brother and is taking a defensive stance. It is sufficient for the moment but that may not be the case forever.”

    It is as Uni says. We now have the large scale three-layered dungeon as an evacuation shelter to prepare for the worse, but it is ultimately just a lab and an evacuation shelter. My experimenting potential would be massively reduced if I make a mistake politically, lose my social standing and confine myself here. I would need an appropriate social standing if I wish to procure slaves as experimental subjects. To make sure that I can continue doing that, I am constantly countering against my elder brother’s plans but, if his plans aren’t producing results, his next strategy will become stronger, cleverer, and subtler eventually. And to do something about it, I might have to increase the reach of my tactics.

    As my territory, Marlan can withstand most attacks. However, in the end, it is only a defensive battle on an isolated stronghold. If the opponent attacks us seriously, one day, we will lose. After all, the opponent lies at the centre of authority, the capital. I wouldn’t know what kind of contraption they would come at us with given enough time. Battles are like this, there will come a time when it is crucial to make an attack. I definitely have not made enough preparations for that. What comes after setting up a defense is not defending, but aggressively crushing the enemy. Another way to put it is that currently, even after fortifying the defences here, I have no measures to deal the enemy a blow.

    That is the seed of my worry and also what Uni is pointing out as ‘not going smoothly’.

    “I see, it is exactly as you’ve said. We are almost done with fortifying our defences. It is about time to make preparations for an attack, right?”

    “I am very grateful for the consideration.”

    She said as she lowered her head deeply. I should be the one doing that. I might have ignored this problem and treated it as just my imagination if she did not point that out specifically.

    “Alright, now that I have decided, let’s take action. I suppose I should consult Victor on this?”

    “Yes. For such a matter, it would be good to consult an expert.”

    After all, he was originally a spy after me. Regarding this matter, he would be most familiar with my influence. He should be able to offer some good advice.










    ――it should have, though.

    “Intelligence gathering to understand the situation in the capital? …...It will be difficult with the current circumstances.”

    Victor appeared sullen as he said.

    Victor was both the illegitimate son of a Count and also the illegitimate son of a Marquis. He was my number one person to go to regarding the complicated intricacies of aristocracy. And this is the Victor who is claiming it will be difficult. This is wholly out of my initial expectations.

    “Is it really that difficult? For example, you could brainwash the nobles you have befriended and establish a spy network―”

    “The opponent is Marquis Lavallée, you know? He must have considered the possibility of me turning coat when he sent me to you. He is the kind of man who even considers that even if you have failed to persuade me over, I may go against him by taking over power. I’m afraid even if I contact my acquaintances, the outcome might be him taking advantage to frame us as rebels.”

    The idea he brought out was in vain as he flatly rejected it immediately. Nevertheless, he  certainly did not hold back against his biological father. Well, I am not in a position to say anything about it since I, myself, am being targeted by my biological brother.

    “That would mean, a sloppy attack would backfire on us huh…… I do think it is a good time to start work in this area though.”

    “I am impressed that Your Excellency is finally thinking about something befitting a noble. Unfortunately, it would be tough to extend our intelligence to the capital in one go right now.”

    Sigh, then there is no helping it.
    Instinctively, I gazed at the ceiling.

    “Victor, you really have a bad personality, huh?”

    The person who cut into the conversation was Jean Jack Laubert, a wicked person who would do anything for money, and also my domestic affairs official.
   
    “What do you mean, Laubert?”

    “Your Excellency, Victor is saying that conducting investigations in the the capital is difficult currently, but he is not objecting to conducting intelligence operations. Do you understand?”

    He fluently proclaimed.
    Err, in short?

    “Uh…, do you mean something like, if you want to shoot the commander, first shoot his horse?”
   
    “Indeed. It is too reckless to plant contacts in the capital all of a sudden. That’s why we should go for the lords in our surroundings first. And then, all his Excellency would have to do is to make use of their influence. That is your plan from the beginning, right?
   
    Laubert winked playfully.

    I’m sorry to say I have no interest in a man’s wink. I’m sure Victor feels the same.

    He let out a huge sigh.

    “Laubert, please do not look too down on his Excellency. Wouldn’t it be troublesome for us as subjects if we do not let his Excellency learn how to survive in the aristocratic world?”

    “If it is regarding other topics, I would do the same too. But, the matter at hand is of great urgency. If his Excellency does not respond quickly, it might result in an inconvenient situation.”

    It seems that Victor wishes to teach me kingcraft.

    I have been in this world for twenty years already, frankly speaking, it is too late now, but even then,

    “It is better than not trying at all.”

    “If his Excellency stays the same as he was during the banquet for the completion of his residence, his flaws will be exposed.”
   
    He bluntly said.

    Uni who had remained silent till now, tried to offer her thoughts on the matter,

    “As a maid, I am unable to make a conclusion on this matter.”

    Saying so and so to show that she would not intervene. What in the world, even Uni is turning against me!

    I had a taste of what Caesar felt when Brutus betrayed him or how Nobunaga felt when Akechi Mitsuhide attacked Honnoji Temple. Have I ever put my useless knowledge from my past life to practical use as much as I am now?

    “Chief Maid was the one who made it possible.”

    “Well, thanks to that, Victor and I were brainwashed though.”

    “......Thank you very much.”

    “Ah―, yes. Let’s forget about how I don’t behave like a noble. And so, specifically, how shall we proceed? To get to the point, my popularity with the lords nearby are low across the board, isn’t it?”

    I forcefully brought the topic back on track.

    Winning over the nobles around us as Laubert has mentioned, would be a considerable challenge. After all, when it comes to my reputation, it is the lowest. I am pretty sure that any nobles who would want to associate with me are long gone.

    “If you are thinking about that, please try thinking harder.”

    As always, he sounded annoying.

    “As I have said, make that a topic for next time…...so, what exactly are your proposing, Laubert?”

    “How about systematically brainwashing all of them?”

    …...This guy just said something really outrageous.

    I attempted to figure out his true intent by staring hard at Laubert’s expression. What exactly is he thinking to have suggested something so brazen? Is he trying to do something like Victor, to steer my thoughts in the right direction? Then, what is Laubert’s correct answer?

    “Reading further into what he said is useless. This man is probably being serious.”

    Victor said to me.

    What? Really?

    My eyes blinked.

    I wouldn’t think that he would have put forward something so violent and lacking in common sense, no matter how vulgar he is, how fond he is of cheating and how he loves to strike on people’s weaknesses. Speaking of which, it is incredible that Victor has not rebuked Laubert at all.

    “I forgot to mention that I am for it too. After all, Your Excellency is a man who would not entrust a job to simply any noble acquaintance.”

    “Ohh, I see. That’s what you mean.”

    Considering my reputation as of now, employing ordinary tactics would be futile. If so, our first move would have to be extraordinary. That’s what he is suggesting.

    “Please don’t come to an understanding so easily…...Well, that being the case, we have to promptly make use of Miss Dark Elf’s demon eye or the ominous gas and mess with the nobles’ brains. As you know, Your Excellency wouldn’t trust subordinates if they have not had their brain altered, yes?”

    That is indeed true. I absolutely cannot use people who might have the slightest chance of disobeying me, especially at crucial moments.

    Laubert continued.

    “Also, wasting time now would give more time for the Marquis or your elder brother to plot against us. We ought to establish the external intelligence network before that happens. As you know, we are dealing with the Centralist faction itself, led by the Marquis. If we form our own faction, they cannot easily oppose us.”

    I agree too. Now that brother has won favour with the other party, I doubt he would care about his appearance to end me. The sounds of clashing swords we have had up till now are nothing but early skirmishes. If he does not know what cards I can play, maybe he would go all out the next time and mobilise the entire capability of the faction. It is within the realm of possibility for it to happen today or tomorrow.

    If that is the case, then my only option is to create my own faction and resist.

    What? Which faction would want me? Of course not. There are no factions who want somebody as uncouth as me, and I would definitely be made an underling and be used. There is the option of usurping control of the faction from within, but gathering faction-less lords in the vicinity would be faster and safer.

    “However, won’t doing this give the Centralists a reason to intervene? I think there is also a possibility that it would be reported as a blatant attempt at rebellion to the throne.”

    “A good question.”

    Victor somehow appeared delighted. Maybe he is happy that I asked a question he had expected.

    “Your worry is unnecessary. Charging us for rebellion is their final move. There wouldn’t be a need to hesitate if it just a single county, Marlan, but if we can gather several lords in the vicinity, what do you think would happen?”

    “Ah, I see.”

    I was convinced.

    “If multiple nobles are convicted, it is quite possible for a civil war to break out. No, if I have that suspicion of that happening, without a doubt, it would happen. When it comes to the crime of rebellion, the sentence is almost always the noose. Rather than being killed, it would be much better to go out and kill them back.”

    I do not believe one bit that the lords, suspected of rebellion, would be given a fair trial since we are talking about the bunch of people who control the court of justice at the capital. With that in mind, once they have suspicions of rebellion, we have to really raise an army. Either we make the Centralists compromise by showing our military might or we simply go with the flow and destroy them. Or we make the capital crumble from within, choose an appropriate royal to take the throne and dye the capital with our faction. If there are idiots who are not aware of the predatory eyes of foreign countries, there is also the fear that the throne would be usurped that way.

    Either way, Marquis Lavallée would want to avoid that kind of outcome. If they try to subjugate us, it would lead to a meritless internal conflict that would seriously damage the kingdom’s power. We can be glad for the imaginary enemy, St. Gallen or Molbaehr. Certainly they could demote the lords as much as they want, but before they are able to reorganise themselves, other countries can take advantage of the situation. Of course, other countries would not conquer the entire country but there is no way to avoid an intervention in the civil war. At best, foreign countries would offer a token reinforcement to receive some easy benefits for the future. At worse, they would support the rebellion by the side and install a puppet government when it is over.

    We would end up inviting looters after accidentally starting a fire when only trying to create smoke. Putting the cart before the horse could be a good thing too.

    Also, even if the intervention of foreign nations is prevented, next would be the need to reward nobles who distinguished themselves by suppressing the rebels. Probably, the lands destroyed by war would be given to these nobles. And that gives rise to the next feudal lord. That being said, be stingy with the rewards and the unhappiness of the lords would become the seeds of a new civil war. It was one of the reasons for the demise of the Kamakura Shogunate. That is something that I learned in my student days in my previous life.

    “That is how it is. That tactician would prioritise keeping the kingdom in one piece. It would be unthinkable for him to eliminate us by military power if we succeed in creating a faction. As that would be the start of breaking up the kingdom.”

    “It is highly likely that he would resort to negotiation and coercion to break apart the faction. Though with the lords’ brains altered, there is zero chance of anybody betraying us no matter what kind of maneuvers he uses.”

    “I see. I have fully understood.”

    Uni seemed to have understood and backed down.
   
    The more I listened on, the more attractive the idea of turning nobles into my subordinates, by brainwashing, was becoming.

    Nevertheless, there is a glaring problem I cannot overlook.

    “Wait a moment. …...I can understand that we have to bring the nearby lords into our control to compete strategically with the capital. However, establishing a large faction would bring my status up to a feudal lord and would affect the power balance between Centralists and Decentralists conflict, won’t it?”

    “Yes, that is correct.”

    Victor nodded blatantly. Is there any problem? He seemed to be saying.

    “That would pose a problem for me. I have my hands full with governing and alchemy research. I would have to say sorry to being part of a large-scale political strife.”

    That’s right.
   
    My core business is being an alchemist. My goal is to achieve immortality. An eternal life. I have once stood in that dark and cold death, a place where I couldn’t even feel fear. I absolutely find no joy in bickering and fighting over power with those corrupt nobles. Have they forgotten about that?

    Just as expected, Laubert shook his head with a troubled look.

    “Your Excellency. At this juncture, this is our only option. It is impossible to maintain the same scale and environment for research without your position as the governor. And, as long as you are a governor, you will forever be at odds with Marquises who plan to increase the land owned by royalty. We can only fight.”

    Victor added on.

    “It is as Laubert has said. As we are biding our time to build up our strength, we have kept such ambitions to ourselves. However, with Your Excellency’s efforts, this land has rapidly prospered. It is the best time to get the jump on our enemies and secure even more power.”

    “......Our conversation has become much bigger. We were supposed to be discussing how to setup intelligence networks inside the capital.”

    “Isn’t it thanks to you that the conversation has become bigger. In order to achieve your mad objective of immortality, you had so easily turned us, your enemies, into your pieces. Speaking of which, Your Excellency’s very existence is like poison to the world……, no, an enemy of the world. Would Your Excellency realise your objective or would Your Excellency sacrifice many more lives to get as close as possible to the objective.”

    It was as if he was talking about a Demon King. I think there is no logic to that metaphor though.
   
    “In the first place, wasn’t Your Excellency’s brother the first to show hostility? And also, won’t Marquis Lavallée be unable to target you had you brainwashed and turned your brother into a puppet when you were in the capital?”

    Since we are talking about this, I have to mention that I established a method to safely brainwash people who hold murderous hostility only after coming to Marlan. Had I carelessly performed the operation during those days, he may have developed unnatural behaviours that would appear as abnormalities to the surrounding people or in the worst case, he might turn into an invalid and cause a big scandal.

    “You must have been too naive about blood ties. For me, I do not plan to ever forgive that old geezer no matter how much I advance in rank. …...If I could, I would want to strangle him to death with my own hands.”

     He bragged. This was a man who was cast aside by his father and is using his grudge as a motivator. Is it something like that? Don’t you think it is foolish to put one’s life on the line for a reason like that? Well, everybody has something that they have to do or they could never live happily. Even for me, I can quickly decide to trade a happy, cultured life in order to attain immortality.

    Anyways, Victor has a surprisingly warped personality. His original political ideology is the same as the Marquis ― centralism. Could he hate somebody, who is both blood related and share the same way of thinking, that much? Well, this might have been some side effect from altering his mind.

    “Since we are in a rush, shall we begin?”

    Uni proposed abruptly. Both Victor and Laubert started with their eyes widen.

    “W-What are you saying, Chief Maid? No matter how you look at it, that is…...”

    “Marquis Lavallée and Count Linus Oubeniel. It would suffice to erase the two of them, won’t it?”

    “......Is it possible?”

    “With the combat capabilities of the Opus series, it is possible.”

    Uni declared without so much as a blink.

    Certainly my masterpieces were unparalleled in their fighting abilities. An outrageous attempt to gain control of the royal palace and usurp the throne is difficult but for something like breaking into the security of a noble and taking the single head of the owner is no trouble at all.

    But that is no good.

    “Rejected. The only people to die from that would only be the Marquis and his Excellency’s brother. The remaining lords in the Centralist faction would gladly start putting pressure on us as revenge. After all, that would mean the death of the faction leader and the death of a Count too, though he is a new one. They will either see it as work of the Decentralists, or as something that I did as somebody who opposes Linus. In that scenario, the only change would be our enemy and exacerbate the situation.”

    Just like we have reiterated over and over again, our enemies do not consist of solely those two. We are fighting against the faction itself, where numerous other nobles belong to. That is why Victor and Laubert have started pestering me to create a faction. The deaths of two of them would not ease the distress I carry.

    There was a person from the world in my previous life who said, “Death solves all problems”, but the main reason he was able to solve problems was that he had the authority of a big country. It totally does not apply to me who only has the control of a single region.

    Uni lowered her gaze apologetically.

    “......I have made an impertinent remark. Please forgive me.”


    “Do not worry. Actively giving your opinion is being loyal, isn’t it?”

    “Your Excellency…...Although you can think so far ahead, why can’t you behave anything like a noble?”

    “I won’t die from the lack of etiquette, but I would die if I cannot think this much.”

    I replied to Victor, who had a dumbfounded look.
   
    That was besides the point.

    “In any case, it is clear that is our most sensible option currently.”

    “I express my gratitude.”

    “Using that plan is our only option…...ahh, I hate this. It is not okay to do simple brainwashing operations on people like nobles since they stand out, right? Doesn’t that mean I have to do a mountain of these bothersome operations again...”

    I remember not too long ago when I was brainwashing many elves. Their main duty was to hunt intruders who step into the forest, so they needed to have a high-degree of self-control. Thus, I had to perform the same level of operation as I did on Drei and the others to them individually. To even imagine that I have to repeat the same thing again is depressing.

    “Please persevere. Normal means of forming a faction would be tens of times more tedious. No, in fact, for a viscount, trying to make a faction would end up as a failure.”

    Laubert spoke as though he was rebuking a child. Indeed, what I said contained the selfishness of a child. Because it is troublesome, so I don’t want to do it. That kind of logic does not apply in the adult’s world. Is it uncool to push the troublesome work away from myself and rant about how unfair it is?

    “I got it, I got it. I will do it. …...Uni, are you done with the list of nobles’ names that came during the banquet?”

    “Yes, of course. Master.”

    “Pass that to Drei and mobilise her. The reason to invite…...Hmm, let’s just have it as, if you are free, please visit Marlan. We shall brainwash them one by one without rest.”

    I feel somewhat ashamed of pushing Drei too hard but she is a subject that is full of enthusiasm to work. She would definitely do her best this time too.

    And then, Laubert cut into the conversation.

    “Please wait. How about sending a person from your retainer group as your messenger instead? Naturally, the messenger brings along the usual brainwashing gas. It would appear more natural to promote this retainer in case somebody scrutinises this maneuver.”

    I see, that is extremely important.

    “True. Let’s add that to the plan. The first wave will be sending a messenger from the retainer group and if the other party does not bite, Drei will be sent as the second wave. Let’s go with that. Good?”

    “Very well.”

    “Then, Uni. I’ll leave the arrangements to you.”

    “Yes, certainly. I will instruct the mass produced types and prepare the materials immediately.”

    Her figure disappeared without a trace. Simultaneously, I started my own preparations.

    “Also, Laubert.”

    “What is the matter?”

    “Could you help pick out nobles with especially terrible characters while we are at it? As much as possible, somebody who is hated by the populace would be nice.”

    He blinked his eyes in curiosity at my instructions.

    “I do not mind but…...why? As apology to brainwashing them, are you going to spend the time needed to fix up the bad governance of their territory?”

    “By all means, no. Is there any gain for me in doing so?”

    If there are any gains at all, it would be the small improvement in reputation of the faction and the strength of the territory. However, for me to move based on that miniscule degree of return is ludicrous. Firstly, managing my own domain was troublesome already, so I have zero intention to butt into other people’s affairs.

    “If that’s the case, then Your Excellency intention is…...hmm, somehow I have an immensely terrible premonition about it.”

    “I concur. Surely it is something good-for-nothing again.”

    Laubert did a facepalm as he said while Victor gravely nodded.

    These two together are disrespectful retainers.

    “What, it is nothing that significant. I just wanted to do some rehearsal before gathering all the lords together to make a faction cum intelligence gathering organisation.”

    “Rehearsal?”

    “Right. A rehearsal. These are no longer slaves used for experiment nor elves used for repelling intruders, but an organisation of conspicuous nobles. Before actually starting up the faction and making our moves, I need to have some experiments done in advance, right?”

    Experiments. That’s right, experiments.

    By stepping onto unfamiliar grounds, problems will definitely arise. Before that, it is obvious that I have to washout all those problems beforehand.

    “While we on this topic, it is also for the plan to stop the Centralists’ conspiracy.”

    “Your Excellency’s experiments and the plan, is it?”

    “As expected, I only have bad premonitions about this…...”

    Victor let out a deep sigh. This was typical of a human who has experienced it with his own body, a sigh that holds back his true emotions.



※ ※ ※


    ――One month later. The Capital, Broussonne.

    Under the refreshing summer sun, overlooking the landscape of the capital is the terrace at the Oubeniel Residence. It was an exclusive meeting room for Linus Streinn Oubeniel and Marquis Lavallée. From the first time the Marquis came to visit, it became an unspoken agreement between them. He did not know that perhaps he was insinuating that he preferred the scenery of the city, brimming with the authority of the royal family rather than a garden that boasted the luxury of an aristocrat.

    “―Your younger brother seems to have gotten busier these days.”

    As usual, the Marquis got his tea from Linus and spoke whatever was on his mind.

    “Yes, I heard about it too. That he has been interacting with the low and medium rank lords in the area or something.”

    It was something hard to fathom from Linus’ point of view. That his alchemy-crazed and lacking in common sense younger brother could be acquaintances with other families. It was utterly unthinkable that his brother, with his disposition and aristocrat capabilities, could do something like that.

    He did not even consider the possibility that after giving Tullius the territory, Marlan, he would enthusiastically interact with the lords nearby. Nobles are creatures that move because of prestige and to put on appearances. Otherwise, it has to do with money. Marlan is a remote area within the Kingdom and its lands are barren. It seems that Tullius has gotten involved with operating the copper mine but it would take awhile before it turns a good profit. It is unlikely for other nobles to properly socialise with him with his current financial standing.

    “From what I have heard, the other party has been quite passionate about it. I did hear that he was a self-centred boy, but he does have his way with people, huh? Hoho, even this old bones would love to learn a trick or two from him.”

    The Marquis lips were inclined but his eyes hardly quivered.

    He wanted to know his trick. It means he thinks that there is a catch about Tullius’ movements.

    Linus had the same thoughts. Tullius Shernan Oubeniel would be interested in other nobles? Impossible. He lacks class, dignity and above all, he sheds needless blood. There is no noble who would rate that coarse man highly.

    So, how did he do it? This was where he was completely clueless.

    “With regards to that, does the Marquis have an idea as to his trick?”

    That is why he will quietly listen to what he has to say. He might be an old monster that he dislikes but his wisdom is still useful. Furthermore, this was the old geezer who made him join a faction which had an opposing ideology from him. If he does not draw out one bit of his wisdom, it wouldn’t be a fair trade.

    “Well, then. If you insist, perhaps it is something to do with what he spends all his time and money on. There might be a clue from that front.”

    Alchemy. If there is anything unique about Tullius from the other nobles, it would be that. Is he saying that he has a bargaining chip from alchemy that gives him an edge when negotiating with other families?

    “If I had acquired more information, I would come closer to the truth. However, I tried to take a bite of him, a few years ago when your younger brother was reorganising his group of retainers, but the people I sent over somehow became overwhelmingly pleased with him. They are so preoccupied in their work that they have not written a single letter back. It has been this lonely forever.”

    In short, even the spies are not sending replies. In the worse case, Tullius might have won them over.

    “Your younger brother has exceeded my expectations.”

    “......”

    He hates to admit it, but that is the only way to see it. Tullius has been handling things far too competently. He is smoothly managing his territory, reinvigorating the barren fields and getting involved in copper mining. Furthermore, he has evaded all the moves they have made from here. The adventurers he sent during early spring when his residence was built had returned with useless information too. He sent many other spies for other reasons, but it is a remote place where few come and go in the first place. Strangers to the land weren’t able to do investigations that were too conspicuous and most of them yielded nothing impressive.

    And now you say he is doing a good job interacting with other nobles. This is like the painting of a young noble performing brilliantly.

    (...No, I will not admit it!)

    Linus lightly shook his head sideways.

    Tullius couldn’t possibly be fulfilling his duties as a lord with normal means. That heretic who fed drugs to the slaves, who gouged the organs of humans, who burned the corpses of dead slaves in the garden. That is a brilliant noble?

    It is not even a joke. What does that make his life then? He had put in much more work than others. The infamy of his foolish brother negated all his efforts. Not only has he not been rewarded for his effort, but he has also fallen to being the hunting dog of this old and ugly villain.

    It cannot be that he, who has taken the righteous path, is inferior to Tullius, who took the unorthodox path.

    That should have been the case.

    “Stay calm, Count.”

    “......Haah.”

    Having the Marquis point that out, Linus released his hands which he had unconsciously grasped tightly.

    It appears that he was too hot-headed. Marquis Lavallée took another sip of tea as he grinned.

    “We cannot allow this, Count. How can you show your face to your faraway brother with your heart this disturbed.”

    “......As you say.”

    Linus desperately ignored the old man’s provocations. The Marquis always does this. He would freely stir up his emotions and smoothly sneak in his plans. He had been done in by this move a countless number of times.

    There was no mistake that he would once again, whisper an evil scheme to him. As Linus considered that, he adjusted his seating posture.

    Sure enough, the Marquis abruptly asked.

    “By the way, Count. How old are you?”

    “26, why?”

    Why this question now? Linus was stunned. There was no way this apparition of a geezer could not remember the age of whoever he was talking to. Let alone not knowing when their birthdays are. These celebratory events that happen occasionally are considered important socialising events for nobles and even more so for this old man who was scheming.

    “A fine age. Is it not about time to welcome a wife?”

    “Marriage? As ashamed as I can be, ever since my engagement broke off, I have not been blessed with another suitable match.”

    He feigned a bitter smile as much as he could to hold back his frown.

    (What is he saying, this damn geezer!  Ever since that dumb brother of mine damaged our family’s reputation, there was never another talk about marriage!)

    Linus thought as he seethed in anger. There wouldn’t be a woman who would like to come to a ‘Slave Murderer’ family. Neither would parents send their daughter here. His first fiancée left for that reason too. There are people who are eyeing the Count family status, but Linus wasn’t 30 yet. Unmistakably, they were waiting to for him to grow older to see him panic to find a bride.

    The Marquis smiled. In all likelihood, he knew that.

    “Hohoho. That is such a waste. There are not many gentlemen with a status as high as yours. So much so that I cannot bear watching that manliness rot unmarried. What do you say? Would you rather I try taking care of that for you?”

    It arrived, huh. Linus killed a groan that was about to emerge from his throat. Was he plotting to pull him in further by marriage?

    (......Like I will take that bait)

    As soon as this old geezer bites the dust, the foundations of the Centralist faction will waver. Considering that, there is a good chance he can re-establish his independence then. By deepening their relationship through marriage, even that possibility will disappear.

    As he was about to show reserve to that,

    “Moreover, with the elder brother’s marriage ceremony, won’t the younger brother have to return to the capital? I do think it would be a good opportunity to have a private chat between brothers.”

    Linus’s motion stopped.
   
    Make Tullius come to the capital? What is the purpose of that? What is he thinking?

    Linus frantically searched for the answer in his head and realised.

    It is a good opportunity to cut Tullius from his territory by calling him over, using the marriage ceremony as a pretext. Not only does he need to put a pause on gathering nearby lords into his faction, there is also a high chance that there might be an opening to spy on Marlan. Furthermore, if he can come up with some kind of an excuse, he could imprison him here and destroy the lords he had gathered in the meantime. It is also possible for internal turmoil to erupt among his retainers in Marlan.

    Above all, if he makes a single blunder while in the capital, he can use that as a reason to execute him. And when that happens, there will be many people who are willing to be witnesses.

    Up till now, Tullius was able to evade all his tactics because he was laying traps on his stronghold from all the way here. If he was able to turn that around? …...This time round, maybe he could control the life and death of that demon.

    The Marquis deepened his smile. He had an expression that says he had long predicted this.

    “How about it? Not a bad deal, is it?”

    “......Indeed.”

    Linus walked into his trap. Walked right into his trap.

    A plan to kill his brother, the shame of the family. For that purpose, he is making use of something as sacred as a marriage. He has made his decision.

    “If the Marquis has somebody to introduce…...surely it will be a good match.”

    “Hohoho! To meet your expectations, I shall put in my best effort!”

    The Marquis’ loud laughter got onto his nerves.

    From the start, he did not carry the fantasy that marriage is about love and romance. Though, he did not approve of using boorish tactics like this to murder his kin.

    Probably, the date for the marriage would be two to three months away. Wait, it is this schemer we are talking about. It is quite likely that it would take a month at most. This was a plan to seal off Tullius’ movements and if they do not hurry, they might lose the opportune timing. If so, he would have married somebody he had never seen for the sake of killing his brother and that he would surely hold negative thoughts while building his family.

    Not to mention with the additional bond formed through marriage, he would be one more step closer to becoming the old geezer’s puppet. He felt like tearing out his heart.

    (I am willing to go this far, Tullius……!)

    He had degenerated to becoming this nauseating old monster’s piece because he chose to kill him, who holds the blood of their ancestors.

    He had already shown how much he was willing to sacrifice.

    So,

    ―Please let me kill you.

    Beneath the bright midsummer Sun, Linus Streinn Oubeniel prayed deeply into the dark.

   

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14 comments

  1. Thanks for the chapter, the depth of political manuever in this novel never stop to amaze me, wondering how will Tullius counter this, I am sure he will end up brainwashing his brother.

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  2. THANKS FOR THE CHAPTER ! You are the best!

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  3. Thanks for the chapter :)

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  4. Really beautifull to read, thank god you guys pick up this gem

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  5. Mistake found:
    "If his Excellency does respond quickly, it might result in a troublesome situation.”"
    It should be "If his Excellency *doesn't* respond quickly..."

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  6. Thank you very much for the chapter!

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  7. Wonder when will he send his vampire opus..4 (i think) to wreck havok xD since no one know he can create monster yet

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  8. i was expecting him to use hos alchemic expertise to heal people and gain support that way, but i guess thats not amusing enough

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