The conference hall was huge, and it had several elaborate golden chandeliers dangling from the ceiling. If one were to remove the high-class desks where everyone was gathered, then this hall would make an excellent place for dancing.
The House of Lords is located in one of the royal palace, the Alectoria Castle, and I was standing with my mouth wide agape at seeing how high the ceilings were. There were stained glass windows with religious drawings and silver frames, giving the sunlight various colours as they hit the hall. This castle was only used for political matters, so a lot of nobles, other than the royal family, used this castle a lot, and even the conference hall was gorgeous.
“Is it unusual?”
Earl Thelesia’s voice sounded from beside me and brought me back to my senses. We’re not here for sightseeing, I quickly refocused myself.
“Marquis Rettalgau has arrived. It will begin soon.”
The Earl pointed at the innermost desk with his chin. On the most esteemed seat was an old man who resembled Earl Thelesia so much that their differences couldn’t be understood with a glance. It’s normal for them to resemble each other; Marquis Rettalgau is Earl Thelesia’s older brother and the head of the Thelesia House. I was introduced to him during my birthday celebrations, but I was so surprised at that time that I thought my heart was going to pop out of my mouth. After all, Marquis Rettalgau is the Prime Minister of this kingdom. I knew that the Thelesia House was a mighty family in the royal capital, but I never imagined that the Earl was a direct relative of the family head. He did come to Kaldia fief, a remote area on the verge of destruction, after all. I thought he was a part of a branch family.
On the table where Marquis Rettalgau was about to sit down was the commanding general, Marquis Lorenzorell, the highest-ranking noble, Archduke Dorvadine, and various economic ministers and priests, all the ‘Seniors of the House of Lords’, and prominent leading figures. Margrave Junas and the person in charge of Jugfena Fortress, Earl Einsbark, were among them.
I wasn’t sure how nervous I was, but my palms were becoming damp with sweat. Even though I had known that it would happen, I had always felt it as a concept, and only now was reality rapidly setting in. It was like participating in congress in my previous world. So, it was impossible not to be nervous about this.
The meeting hadn’t started yet, and the hall was filled with a quiet buzz. A lot of people were looking at me curiously as I sat covered by Earl Thelesia, and most of them seemed to be curious that there was a child at the House of Lords. I thought they would stare at me in disrespect, but they couldn’t take such a vulgar attitude at the House of Lords.
The nobles finally quietened down, and the clanging sound of a bell was heard from the centre. It was like ocean waves had settled down and became a still sea. Perhaps because the stained glass was mostly blue, so that was why I recalled the sea when I saw this scene.
They must have already decided on the official, because a man announced the start of today’s meeting from his centre seat, and stated the two agendas for the day.
“The first item is with regards to the refugees from the former Artolas Kingdom that are under temporary protection in Jugfena royal fief, and what we should do with them. The second item is about going on military alert against the conflict between the Sill tribe and Densel Dukedom’s army. Senior Earl Einsbark, please inform everyone about the refugees who are currently under protection.”
“――― There are nearly 1200 Artolas farmers and Cellion residents under our protection at Jugfena Fortress. We’ve loaned them 100 tents to camp on the outer plains, and provided them with supplies from our reserves, but Jugfena Fortress doesn’t have enough food in our reserves to keep this up for long. We can probably hold out until autumn if the refugees don’t increase by that much, but according to the refugees, the women and children of the Sill tribe are on their way to Jugfena Fortress. We don’t know their numbers, but if another thousand people arrive, then our food stockpiles will be completely exhausted by summer. The people keep coming, and it’s already to the point where some have to sleep outside, exposed to the elements.”
Earl Einsbark is a tall, sturdy build man in the prime of his life, and his deep voice resounded well throughout the entire hall, and even I, who was sitting at the back, could hear him clearly.
“… That many people? As expected, we shouldn’t have offered them our protection, to begin with…”
Someone in the conference room commented. After that, a commotion began in the hall.
“No, they also believe in the same religion as us. We can’t abandon them.”
“But, that was in the era of the Ar Xia Holy Kingdom! Arxia is no longer a coalition of small kingdoms dedicated to Misorua.”
“When Zereulterziwizia converted to the Ar Xia church, weren’t they recognised as independent fiefdoms?”
“That was more than 50 years ago.”
“While it was indeed from more than 50 years ago, Arxia Kingdom was established more than 600 years ago, and we’ve never forsaken those who believe in the same religion as us.”
“But, we’ll create a breeding ground for future troubles with Rindarl if we intervene in Densel’s civil war.”
Without looking around the conference hall which had heated up with debate at once, Earl Thelesia asked me quietly, “Do you understand?” I glanced at the arguing nobles and somewhat noticed the meaning behind his words.
“It’s a dispute between the borders and the inner nobles, isn’t it?”
The inner areas are fiefs that are located between the borders and are sandwiched between at least two other fiefs.
“The nobles that live in the inner areas lack a sense of crisis. However, it won’t just be the border fiefs that are in danger when it comes to the issue with Rindarl.”
Indeed, Jugfena and Junas, and their neighbouring fiefs, who would be affected first if war were to break out with the eastern kingdom, were silent, and we were probably included in that as well.
“The people who say the word ‘Rindarl’ are mainly the northern feudal lords.”
They were people who had fiefs along the northern sea. They had pale skin and were saying that they didn’t want to provoke Rindarl with bitter faces.
“Without having to cross Bandishia Plateau, it’s easier for Rindarl to cross Amon Nohl which is directly in front of them, since it isn’t that steep. If they set their troops in Lemesh, then they can cross the mountains by land and invade us by sea. Densel isn’t known for their ships, but Parmigran is known for its sea trade with their southern neighbours.”
“Does that mean that there’s no way to guard against Rindarl?”
“There’s also the matter of them lining their pockets in the name of defence.”
Earl Thelesia added, and I agreed with him, “I see.” I finally understand the relations between the eastern Arxian nobles with this.
The feudal lords of the smaller fiefs which surround the royal capital, also called the inner areas, and they don’t possess a decent army; they also lack a sense of crisis. They were former priest nobles who received a portion of the inner area. They have plenty of money and believe that others only think that money would be shifted if we accept refugees. Some may believe that the kingdom might be revitalised if war were to take place. Unlike the royal capital, where people gather, and the remote fiefs, which border foreign countries, it was easier for the inner areas to become stagnated. Probably because of their lack of crisis, most of them insist on accepting the refugees.
On the other hand, the northern fiefs, which face the sea, and the outer fiefs consider the influence of Rindarl uniting as their number one priority. They probably won’t become places which will accept refugees, and if their own fiefs become a battlefield, then they would need to invest all their surplus funds into naval defence; they hope that we would remain neutral against the problems in the east. So, of course, all of them rejected the refugees. The fiefs along Amon Nohl are also reluctant to accept refugees because they were aware that they were on the outer edge, even though their fiefs were natural fortresses.
Jugfena royal fief, Junas fief and their neighbouring fiefs, who were at the vortex of this issue, were mostly silent, since they were going to follow the decision of the House of Lords. There were benefits and disadvantages to accepting the refugees, and they were the greatest at defence in Arxian, thus what they said held significant weight in the House of Lords, so they couldn’t speak up irresponsibly.
The southern border feudal lords had to maintain a different line of defence, so this issue had the least impact on them. Therefore, most of them were acting indifferently as they watched the conference hall in silence.
“To begin with, this is different from the time of Zereulterziwizia. The refugees have no land nor money, and they speak a different language. Even if we take them all in, which fief would accept them?!”
One of the nobles got heated up by the debate and raised his voice in frustration. Everyone went silent at once.
Oh, this seems like the best time. Earl Thelesia and I looked at each other, then he nodded quietly.
I stopped my shoulders from trembling with nervousness and took a deep breath.
“If you accept the refugees, then my fief can take them in.”
The voice I had mustered up wasn’t that loud, but it resounded clearly throughout the silent conference hall.
Everyone’s eyes were focused on me at once. My heart was beating so fast that it became painful.
“… What did you say, Viscount Kaldia?”
The first person to speak was Marquis Rettalgau. He didn’t hide his harsh tone. I managed to stop myself from flinching at his threatening attitude.
“I said, we can accept the refugees into Kaldia if it’s necessary.”
I said clearer than before. After all, it would be Kaldia who would most likely accept them. I had discussed with Earl Thelesia in advance about being able to draw out favourable conditions if I said we would take them first.
“I don’t think that’s a very clever idea.”
The first person to spat out that remark with a cynical sneer was Marquis Nordsterm, a central figure of the northern nobles. He had a slightly cruel smile on his face, and his comment also told me not to say anything unnecessary. The northern nobles don’t want to accept the refugees at all.
“I only stated that my fief can accept them, not that it’s my idea. As you know, my fief had a serious shortage of human resources due to the disasters the previous feudal lord caused. If we can afford them, then I don’t mind if they’re not born and raised in Arxia.”
I saw Margrave Junas quietly averting his gaze from the corner of my eyes. He secretly knew that Kaldia needed the refugees.
“Even for an instant, what your father said…”
“My father was the previous feudal lord, and he did evil things that made him inferior to beasts, but what does that have to do with this?”
I heard stifled laughs in the conference hall, but I don’t know if it was because I had inflicted damage to myself with my words or if my retort was good. Marquis Nordsterm glared at me with eyes that could kill, but he didn’t say anything else.
“… But how would Kaldia look after a thousand people when it’s small and poor? You also wouldn’t have enough stock. If you pour tea into a cup once then, it will spill if it’s not a very deep cup. If the heat from the tea breaks the cup, then it would be horrible to look at.”
The next person to speak was Marquis Rettalgau. Some nobles took advantage of his relentless question.