037 The burning capital? (3) p.1


Translator: yAmi and Olcivv

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The Northern Royal Garden of Broussonne was shrouded in an unusual atmosphere.

Bonfires blazed all along the bank of the river, illuminating the entire area as if it was fully midday. With a blinding luminescence, the glare reflected in the polished armor and the swords turned towards the heavens by those standing in line.

These were the Knights of the Royal Guard, lauded as the finest in the kingdom. With the exception of the Second Order, which had left the capital for a bandit extermination, the full war potential of the First through Sixth Orders was assembled. They numbered no less than five hundred.

Dressed in their beautiful armor, the band of powerful knights stood in formation, illuminated by the sickly light of burning turpentine—a magnificent sight to see in the dead of night, and dazzling to the eyes of the beholder.

However, that sight would have inspired different emotions in the districts where the city folk were closest to the impending threat.

Was there time to wait like this?

“…Now, may the ceremonial parade of his Majesty’s forces begin!”

So announced the haughty aristocrat in jarringly out-of-place civilian finery.

The Parade—or as many thought of it, an overly pompous inspection of the knights as the king watched.

One might ask why even though the flames grew steadily in height, the process was so ponderously slow. Unfortunately, the kingdom’s ruling forces were plenty busy. Only through their exhaustive efforts was the current situation possible.

The Kingdom of Arquell was a typical feudal state in which powerful local nobles propped up a shaky monarchy. In compensation for the bestowal of the right to rule by the king, these nobles would defend the king’s lands from foreign invaders and monstrous beasts. However, from time to time these duties would be forgotten, overwhelmed by the heady rush of power. In accordance with the ways of kings, it was easier to exploit the lowborn people of the land than to combat powerful enemies or defend far-flung territories. In addition, over time nobles forgot that their land and status was ‘the king’s gift’ and began to believe that it was ‘the family’s right’. Over the course of the past five hundred years to the present, the king’s authority had dwindled to little more than a thorn in the side of the nobles.

At best, His Majesty the King should be little more than a fancy decoration. Out of the way, and no longer attempting to unreasonably curtail the powers of the nobles—that was the general sentiment of the aristocracy. Because of this, in the eyes of the elites who served to defend the royal family from all threats, at any cost, these nobles were worth less than the dirt beneath their boots. If even the slightest whisper of rebellion against the royal family were heard, those same knights would rise up in military force to conduct a political purge, sparing not even the most influential of nobility. As such, whenever the royal guardsmen attempted to mobilize, the bureaucracy would mire them in unending, fictitious ceremonies and red tape.

Applications needed to be filled out for the removal of even a single sword, oaths to serve the king were required to be reaffirmed, and ceremonial farewells to the ladies of the court……there was no limit to the innumerable banalities. This time, the process had been limited to only a single parade for the king. Sacrifices were made, and compromises found.

The reason the Royal Guards were still waiting was the Centralist and Decentralist factions.

“Kneel! His Majesty the King has arrived!”

At the facilitating noble’s signal, the knights fell to a single knee in perfect unison, thrusting their swords point-first into the earth, and resting their foreheads against the bellies of their blades. This act was meant to symbolize the peaceful intent of the men, and to remind themselves of their oath of service.

Viewed from the front, the kneeling knights’ expressions were hidden behind their swords. However, it was entirely possible that resentment over the delay lurked in their hearts.

Even a single word with a Royal Guardsman would quickly reveal their diverse origins. The First Order, the primary bodyguards of the imperial court, were dominated by the children of aristocrats, in stark contrast to the absent Second Order, which recruited regardless of social standing. The Third Order and below were said to be comprised of an even split between nobles and commoners.

For those knights of common stock, the impending plight of the citizens of Broussonne was theirs as well. On their rest days, they often shopped at the same stores, ate in the same restaurants, and drank in the same bars as the rest of the city. For some, their families and homes were in direct danger. For those who thought that way, it was incredibly difficult for them to stand there.

They wanted to move quickly, and as quickly as possible.

To these knights of rare caliber, the king began to speak.

“Ah… ah… n-now, be-because of…”

With a bland, dull expression, the king began to stammer as he made his entrance.

Continuing from the royal palace into the North Garden, a red carpet was hurriedly spread before him down the stairs. At this sight, a soft sigh rippled amongst the arrayed courtiers and guards. Of course, that sigh stemmed in no way from respect or admiration. In fact, it clearly carried an air of contempt and scorn.

Charles the Eighth, third of his line, king of Arquell. Fifty-eight years of age. Beleaguered and exhausted, he looked far older than he truly was. Over the course of his reign of thirty-five years, he had yet to father a successor after the untimely, consecutive deaths of the First and Second princes. As he aged, his ability to handle political affairs had decayed.

Although political gossip often claimed that the king was nothing more than a puppet for Marquis Lavallee, the Marquis himself would deny it by exclaiming “if that were the case, I would have chosen a better one”.

The crudely constructed puppet in question stood awkwardly in front of the knights. Upon further inspection, he was visibly shaking. In recent years the king had begun to show signs of extreme paranoia, and Charles the Eighth had grown afraid of the swords meant to protect him. As he dallied, the disaster in Broussonne spiraled further out of control.

With a burst of nervous energy, the king, beginning to sweat, finally mustered a shout.

“K-Knights! Raise your heads!”

Truthfully, it resembled more of a shrill scream than a shout, entirely unbefitting of the ruler of a country. Nevertheless, it was an order. As he commanded, the knights complied without a hint of disrespect. Perhaps too sharply, as the king froze up in fear.

Finally, the king withdrew from his pocket a crisp piece of parchment containing a royal edict hurriedly drafted by an etiquette official.

“M-My honored subjects who have p-p-performed admirably. A-As long as you are here with me, t-there shall be no reason to be a-afraid!”

It was hardly an inspiring speech.

The address was likely intended to rouse the spirits of the knights before their departure, but the author had neglected to account for the character of the one reading it aloud. Instead, the knight’s morale had visibly fallen.

“H-However! A-A-As has been relayed to me, t-there are rebels in Broussonne, our Kingdom’s capital of five hundred years! As much as I regret parting with you all, the k-k-knights are also supposed to protect the Kingdom and it’s King. A-As such…”

With his warbling voice and sheen of sweat painfully apparent, the King’s speech was seemingly over.

“M-Message! Message!”

An officer, face fully flushed, ran into the garden and interrupted the proceedings.

“I-I-Insolent fool! By what authority do you dare interrupt your king?!”

The king grew suddenly furious, veins swelling on his temples. As an unparalleled coward, he would go to any length to maintain his last bastion of safety—his authority as a king—and despised those who threatened it.

“I humbly beg your forgiveness! It is indeed this one’s fault for intruding upon your grand speech! H-However—”

“S-Silence! I will not suffer the excuses of a traitor!”

“No! This is an emergency; I cannot stay silent!”

The knights looked around amongst themselves, trading glances. To risk being charged with lèse-majesté, as well as the wrath of the king, he nonetheless persisted in his attempts to deliver his message. All those assembled wondered privately what the message was about.

However, there was an obvious exception.

“Then you shall be executed! Die and hold your tongue! S-Somebody, kill him right away!”

Out of all those there, the King alone failed to understand the gravity of the situation.

Charles the Eighth was livid. A mere ant had dared to interrupt him and disobey his commands. Much like a man surprised by a cockroach crawling down his neck, he was blinded by an instinctual fury.

If unchecked, he would not stop. Knowing this, the Captain of the Third Order steeled his resolve, and stood.

“My King! Please excuse any discourtesy on my part!”

As though drenched by a bucket of cold water, the king jumped and swiveled to look at him.

“Eek! W-what is it?”

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