“That was surely a sight, wasn’t it? I wanted to be with you as well.” (Daniel)
Did he imagine the situation in his mind? Daniel smiled happily. He is giving off an attractive aura independent of time and place, much less to say about the various, good-looking appearances flooding the multicoloured capital. Akseli considered himself to be slightly pitiful. I have been loosing weight in comparison to the time when I was still good with both, sword and spear. His daily worries became very intense.
“I’m aware that I followed out of interest, too… At the time Earl Helrevi took both hands of Marko, half of me was amused and the other half was frightened. Although I hid my face, I felt the chilly gazes.” (Akseli)
Once Akseli said that, Daniel burst into loud laughter unable to stand it any longer. And they drunk sake together. It is a full set of an expensive shop, expensive sake and expensive dishes, but they are able to compensate this much with money. The quality of the conversation and the partner to talk with is what’s always hard to get.
The conversation topic of the two, located in a room of a high-class bar in the capital, is the details of Marco’s recent public acknowledgement in the Earldom Helrevi.
Did he become emotionally unstable in the enacted crisis? Earl Mathias Helrevi displayed excessive behaviour towards the person who was to be commended. He, who should honor formality, stepped up next to Marco on the platform and requested something like a handshake, while not stopping to highly praise him. The surroundings were taken aback and it resulted in a taste of wanting to run away due to the bizarreness.
Akseli went too far. It was an over-production.
There wasn’t even any specification of a 「Handshaking with the Feudal Lord」 in Marko’s plans. Producing an auspicious event by using a child from a village in a remote region, it’s for saving the feudal lord’s reputation and position… the purpose was to increase the influential voice of Akseli by using such a suggestion. Shake up Mathias, throw him into confusion and then show him hope. It would raise his spiritual dependence on Akseli.
They prepared several alternatives for the course of events afterwards, but by Marko choosing Paulina, they have established her royal guard unit. Akseli induced Mathias so that it would turn out like that.
Everything progressed as Marco had imagined it… no, it should have progressed. Shouldn’t it be mostly as planned? The executioner of the plan has been affected by the changes in the expected on that occasion.
It’s Akseli. He ended up thinking. It will be truly regrettable for Marko to merely become famous as nothing but a simple, virtuous villager. Isn’t it possible to make it even grander? Isn’t it fine to obtain even bigger benefits? It’s a settled future that Marko will lead an army, but can’t something be done to make that army bigger by even a single soldier or to enrich it by a single spear?
It’s a family name. Using the kingdom’s authority, namely Earl Helrevi, Akseli wanted for Marko to obtain a family name. He will be limited in many things with his origins as a commoner, who doesn’t have a surname. For example, it will be impossible to inaugurate Marko as the leader of the royal guard unit. Although such a thing won’t have any meaning in the future, he wanted Marko to exhibit his own capability for the sake of advancing towards that future in a stronger organization.
Concretely, he thoroughly praised Marko in front of Earl Helrevi. “Understand, that boy’s uprightness and clean-handedness doesn’t wish for a reward, he has a keen mind to plan measures against the cold-weather damage in Kikomaru, his assiduousness towards the state of paying the taxes in Kikomaru. Not to mention his devotion and courage. Certainly that kind of boy is the fruit of Your Excellency’s good government.”
Having such back and forth, it’s Akseli, who sympathized with the hardships of Earl Helrevi so far and who pointed out the imaginary danger. It’s my mission to raise Earl Helrevi’s dependency towards myself… on ground of such pretext, he continued to distort his own plan.
And, it has resulted in the middle-aged Earl taking the hand of the boy, while overcome with emotions, becoming a part of the plan. Earl Helrevi declared that he wants to adopt the commoner Marko into the branch family of the Earl household. If only Marko accepted it, it would likely result in the nobles within the kingdom increasing by one more. He will obtain a family name.
However, Marko refused that.
His figure of politely, but firmly, refusing while abasing himself might reach the quality of a moving tale. It seems that Earl Helrevi was also savouring the far stronger deep emotion. Akseli perceived that as kind of self-glorification though.
“Marko is well aware of the usefulness of a noble.” (Daniel)
Akseli lifted his gaze due to due to Daniel’s suddenly audible voice. Apparently he was staring at the surface of the sake cup before he realized it.
“At least he grasps it better than me. Their nature too. The days in the capital are, even for me, a study of nobles. I have fully realized my days of ignorance, where I lived passively.” (Daniel)
Daniel, who says that while gulping down his sake, observed Akseli with a quiet gaze.
“I intend to comprehend what were your thoughts by going beyond your instructions. Moreover, let me tell you, it’s premature for Marko to appear on the public stage of political strife.” (Daniel)
It was the statement of a man, who struggles with what actions to precisely take, being truly deep within the whirlpool of political strife right now. It isn’t a tone of reproach. However, the absence of any hesitation made an impression on Akseli.
“… Is the branch family of Earl Helrevi saddled with more burdens than benefits?” (Akseli)
“Quite so.” (Daniel)
Because of his assertive tone, he was able to understand the dimensions of the troubles anticipated by Daniel.
“Currently the First Princess stands at the top of political power. The four Marquis’ and six Earls are in the process of loosing their unity just like before. The factional conflicts are fierce. They are more or less staying peaceful due to having two points of attack, outside and inside, do you understand?” (Daniel)
“Hmm. For outside there is no other choice but the Eberia Empire. For inside it is…” (Akseli)
Akseli deliberates. His smile vanished when he discovered one possibility. He was aware about her being isolated and being hated among the nobles. However, with that stemming from the individual feelings of a single influential person, he believed that the surroundings conformed to that out of a kind of sycophancy and similar emotions.
“You don’t mean…” (Akseli)
Even as a joke, persecuting a royal member, as sacrifice, for the sake of maintaining the political unity within the kingdom? Is that even possible? That’s an utterly two-edged sword! If the king’s authority was damaged and plummeted due to that, the nobility would rise in power. Can’t that be even regarded as a civil war in the coming in the kingdom…? Akseli cannot avoid being perplexed.
However, Daniel only lowers his chin silently.
“It’s just as you imagined. To be exact, not only her, but the entire household from her mother’s side are “sheep”, but… there are traitors among the former Earl Hiltoora’s family. It’s a common practice of the capital to criticize them as disgrace of nobles. Otherwise, they probably cannot resist feeling uneasy. After all is said and done, the country was once close to destruction after all.” (Daniel)
Daniel’s eyes are sorrowfully peeking into the sake cup. What are you seeing in there…? His mouth has warped gracefully.
“All of the Asuria Kingdom nobles are upstarts, after all. The soil of their ancestors has been stolen by dispossession. At that time they had been cornered to the places, where only the forest of a demonic domain lies beyond… That’s why they relied on the hero. They should have implored to the church through the hero? I have no doubt that they desperately wanted the church’s power and the military force of the Holy Knights as support. In fact, the kingdom recovered by obtaining that assistance. What rose the hero, in desperation, was that war. It cannot possibly be something desired by the noble’s dignity. The truth of the capital, is that they are mutually observing each other’s countenance.” (Daniel)
Akseli sees Daniel’s weakly, laughing face as owed to his tragic memories. It seems that the capital’s darkness runs deeper than I imagined. Although it’s upon Marko’s instructions, how much anxiety does Daniel, who has been forced into this lone battle, possess?
“Good grief… I think I understood the reason why nobles frequently hold banquets. All of them want to cling to a dream. The hero’s tragedy, the evil man’s burning at the stake and even the heroic tale of my father and elder brother, just about anything is shrouded in a mist of illusions. The shape of the truth is definitely pitiful and reeking of blood.” (Daniel)
He took a long, painful sigh.
“The talk got off track. In other words, the establishment of a royal guard unit at this time was a far more dangerous move than you are thinking, Sir. It’s the excellence of Marko’s plan, which was able to certainly accomplish that, but… there is a reason why he chose and used Earl Helrevi for that. Do you understand it?” (Daniel)
“It’s his sincerity in not flattering those in the shadows of the First Princess and the princess herself. If one says it impudently, though.” (Akseli)
“Right. That man, for better or worse, doesn’t move for anything but his own narrow motives. He followed the plan this time because it was was consistent with those. No matter how his surroundings react to that, it will be fine as long as it concurs with the reasoning within that man. That’s because he believes the people, who don’t understand that reasoning, to be evil.” (Daniel)
“Quite the awkward personage.” (Akseli)
The two smiled wryly together. It’s a person both of them know well.
“However, if that’s the case, then it won’t rise much of a discord to be named as the Earl’s branch family, will it? They have been considered a troublesome household to begin with… well, it will also be difficult to secure allies though.” (Akseli)
“That’s true. I’m certain he will be able to deal with the various noble affairs adequately. It will likely turn into a journey similar of having 100 victories by having 100 battles, however… even if it takes time, I can’t imagine Marko losing.” (Daniel)
Both of them nod in regards to that. Both of them deeply trust their master. “However”, Daniel continued,
“the church will be a problem.” (Daniel)
He said that as if tasting something disgusting on his tongue.
“Earl Mathias Helrevi is making light of the church’s authority. “Priests don’t meddle in politics”, is his attitude. He doesn’t hesitate to criticize its current power of influence as something improper. In regards to this, all of the kingdom’s nobles are feeling more or less in the same way, therefore it’s no exaggeration to say that the fame of that man among the nobles has been supported by that instead, but…” (Daniel)
“The First Princess isn’t amused, I guess. She once had a love relationship with the hero of true holiness and her current husband is a former Holy Knight.” (Akseli)
“Just like you said. The influence on the kingdom by the church was established during the war, but currently there’s also the aspect that it’s a result desired by her. Do you also know about the case with the maid officer, Sir?” (Daniel)
“The story about the treasured swords.” (Akseli)
Among the maid officers, who had been assigned to serve each of the 3 princesses, only Wilma, who serves the Third Princess Paulina, wasn’t bestowed a treasured sword by the church. That’s a fact.
“I thought the First Princess inspired the church for the sake of harassment, but… after listening to the conversation this far, it seems to be different.” (Akseli)
“Yes, I believe the matter with the treasured swords is similar to proof that the church is helping with the persecution. And, that has changed into conviction, after hearing about today’s acknowledgement ceremony.” (Daniel)
Acknowledgement ceremony. There is a reason for Akseli to be here, in the capital, this evening. The establishment of Third Princess Paulina’s royal guard unit has been a success. Although most of its work was finished in the Earldom Helrevi, a ceremony to acknowledge the unit was held by the royal castle. Originally the unit’s establishment would be acknowledged by a blessing from the archbishop and a speech from the princess, after that the entire unit would be reviewed by the king. However, it was decided to finish it informally because of the circumstances.
Due to the reason that the princess safety isn’t guaranteed during the journey, she hasn’t left the Earldom Helrevi’s castle and thus the royal guard unit, whose task is to protect her, was still detained in the territorial capital as well. Only the unit’s leader, Akseli, quickly travelled to the royal capital by himself, but only the king’s words of acknowledgement were passed on by a governmental official as proxy and not a single priest, not even to mention the archbishop, was dispatched by the church.
Akseli didn’t mind it thinking “Such is life, I guess”, however after hearing the story from Daniel, he sees things he couldn’t see before. Suffering such treatment in the capital with the First Princess absent and the meaning behind it.
“The church’s influence is considerable. The authority of the four Marquis’ and six Earls is sufficiently able to oppose it, but currently it’s not a situation where one can hope for their unity. Thus, if the church finds fault in Marko’s adoption, what will happen?” (Daniel)
Akseli was currently given information he didn’t know. Once he connected it one by one, a scenery came into view. Unintentionally a cold shiver travels along Akseli’s spine. Daniel continues his words.
“Earl Helrevi is critical towards the church. Such a person purposely gave a villager an exceptional promotion, going even as far as welcoming him as adopted child. That boy, who is widely known to have great loyalty towards the king, is made into a member of the royal guard unit of the Third Princess, who is persecuted by the church. According to his family status, he has to become the unit’s leader. The result of that is…” (Daniel)
“… He will be regarded as an enemy by the First Princess as well as the church. Even without him having created a faction, this personnel affair will become similar to a declaration of war against the church.” (Akseli)
“That’s right. Because it would be pointless for Marko to just stay Marko, this plan would produce an unforeseen disaster. It would become a matter of severing the excellent balance of this time’s royal guard unit establishment.” (Daniel)
Finishing to say that, Daniel slowly topped up his sake and started to drink it slowly again. While observing his appearance without seeing it, Akseli strongly gripped both his knees. He is furious at his own thoughtlessness. Akseli believes it was a rash act after meeting a person, who believes and sees all of his abilities, a person, who was familiar with opponents taking measure.
How far ahead is one able to look? How much into the distance can one see? … when all is said and done, that will turn into the power of a strategy. Akseli imagined Marko in his mind. It’s for the sake of watching and correcting his own appearance. He, who got conceited in front of that Earl, wanted to reform himself by being aware of his lord’s blue eyes. He didn’t want to remain foolish as is.
“I have… still a long way to go.” (Akseli)
“What, me too. I will lament my own powerlessness for much longer still.” (Daniel)
He silently filled up the sake. And Daniel says,
“Akseli, do you remember the story of the white wolf-kun?” (Daniel)
“Yes… there was such a thing. It’s a story, which is painful for the current me to listen to.” (Akseli)
“That’s not so. Let’s both play our role and wait for our chance. It’s alright to take the role of the white wolf-kun, it’s also alright to snarl together and then again it’s also alright to win by forestalling… there are countless things we ought to do.” (Daniel)
Daniel smiled. Akseli’s belief is that he understands its meaning. During the small motion of gulping down the sake cup in one go, his expression took the shape of a smile. This time he ended up being over-eager, but Akseli’s conviction is that he isn’t so inexperienced and soft to get disheartened because of that. My lord has said it, there is a me, who will become a general. A lot of power wells up within him.
The two have talked well and about many things… and each of them will head to their own battlefield.
In either eyes burned the fighting spirit to make them act with all their souls.