Emperor Chapter 63: And the Stage was Set
There are two places which are called ‘prisons’ within the palace.
One was a prison for aristocrats and knights who were captured while we were at war with other nations. Life in these prisons wasn’t comfortable but a certain amount of ‘human rights’ was guaranteed.
After all, they were bargaining chips for ‘ransoms’. The prisons were very secure to ensure that the prisoners wouldn’t escape, but the aristocrats treat aristocrat and knight prisoners of war in a certain way since the ransom amount may be lowered if they are injured or become ill, and they also want to be treated accordingly if they were to become prisoners of war themselves.
Incidentally, no one has been here for a few years. There haven’t been any major battles, and the number of battles that the Empire has won can be counted on one hand.
But the other prison… the so-called ‘dungeon’ was a different story.
It was a place for tormenting prisoners. The inmates are traitors and people who are the scums of the earth. Therefore, they won’t get ‘released’. The only time they can get out of the dungeon is when they go to the gallows.
A certain Emperor threw a lot of people into the dungeons but most of them never made it out alive.
The dungeon was, of course, unkempt and no light reached inside. Nadine du van Warung was held in this rotting prison.
――― Pishan, pishan!
A spy, who was working as a dungeon guard… walked in front of me and stepped into a puddle of water, which made a splashing noise… I don’t know if that was water or not. The floor seemed to be paved with stones instead of concrete and obviously had poor drainage.
There were no windows or even a good ventilation system. There was almost no light and the only source of light was coming from a lamp held by the spy walking in front of me.
This place gave off a stench. I covered myself with Alex since I couldn’t get caught by this stench when I returned to my room… but even the spy who was working here was holding his nose. The stench was unbearable.
I was walking on Christel, so that I wouldn’t step on the floor as well. I couldn’t let anyone know that I was here.
This dungeon would be unbearable for a girl who has just reached her teens, but the aristocrats were adamant that she be imprisoned here because she was a traitor’s daughter. Apparently, the spy had managed to deliver her meals to her under their watchful eye but…
Count Palatine Vedett hadn’t accompanied me here. He said it would be better for him not to come since he had captured her himself.
It wouldn’t be odd for her to hate the person who threw her in here… but I’m the one who gave him that order.
The footsteps of the spy walking in front of me stopped. The girl on the other side of the bars slowly looked up. She squinted at the light that had suddenly appeared in the darkness.
The clothes she was wearing were dirty. Her cheeks also looked slightly thinner.
Nadine replied weakly as if she recognised my voice.
“Are you… okay?”
I don’t know what she was talking about.
“… That’s what I should be asking you since you’ve been in jail for a few days.”
“Guandeleo. You look like you were in pain.”
“Ah,” I finally understood what she was asking. She might have heard this from Lord Warung.
“I’m sorry, that was an act. I had to do it… I’ve actually never smoked it once.”
“… I see… I’m glad…”
Nadine finally looked me in the eyes when she got used to the light.
“I couldn’t do anything even though I was by your side.”
Her voice was incredibly weak. She sounded like she was about to cry and as if she had lost confidence in herself.
She was a shadow of her old self. She wasn’t the same lively Nadine who made fun of me and corrected me. This was… heart-breaking. I don’t think I can ask her to do anything in this condition.
But she didn’t seem to be in despair from what I can see.
I thought for a moment and decided to speak as myself and not as the Emperor.
“Maybe so, but I don’t believe you’re someone who can’t do anything, Nadine.”
I have learnt some things about Nadine after spending time with her for a few years. She was a girl typical of her age and had many shortcomings. It might be unfair to compare her to Rosalia or Timona.
But she was a person of action. She came to the palace to correct my behaviour and even overcame her weakness of horseback riding. She also preserved and stayed in the palace despite receiving constant hostility from the Chancellor and Regent factions.
She won’t give up or despair just because of a single setback. She was that kind of girl.
“I have something to ask of you. I need you to do something for me.”
“… To set me free?”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not that good of a person. This is something only you can do. That’s why I came here to speak to you.”
I’m not a good person. I’m the one who put her in here.
“This task isn’t to set you free. I’m setting you free for my own sake. You will die if you fail, and they might kill me too, so I can’t afford to have you act half-heartedly.”
Nadine might resent me if she knew the truth, but I don’t care.
“It’s a deadly mission… The fate of this nation is at stake. I’m going to ask you again. Will you do this for me?”
I felt the light return to her eyes.
“Do you need me?”
“Yes. You’re the only one who can do this.”
“I’ll do it.”
She said clearly in a strong tone.
… Good. I believe she can handle it now.
“The allied forces under the command of Count Chamneaux will leave the capital as soon as dawn breaks. The capital will be in chaos. I want you to leave the capital at that time and deliver my letter to Lord Warung.”
There was no guarantee that there wasn’t someone in Lord Warung’s army, or more precisely, among his direct vassals, who are connected to the Chancellor or Regent faction, so I didn’t want anyone to see my letter to him, but Nadine should be able to meet Lord Warung directly as his daughter.
“You will be questioned if you get caught by the allied forces in the capital and I cannot guarantee your safety if you get caught by a wicked mercenary.”
“I will assign a spy to you. She’s spoken to you several times, so you remember her voice, right? The both of you will go to Lord Warung.”
The spy will be her escort and watchdog. She will be in charge of disposing of the letter if need be.
“I got it.”
“I have prepared horses and a change of clothes for you. You can clean yourself up at the well and wait for daybreak.”
I don’t know how much time I can buy before her escape is discovered and whether the spies will be discovered, but Count Palatine Vedett told me to leave it to him, so I will.
He has been gradually discarding the spies he has all over the place, but it seems he intends to discard them all this time. Apparently he had concluded that now was the moment to do this. There’s no need for spies to lurk around the palace once I seize power.
I said some final words to Nadine who was let out of her cell by a spy.
“Take care and accomplish this task.”
“You too… take care of yourself, Your Majesty.”
… Well, I guess she can tell what I want to do from our conversation.
“I will… I’m counting on you.”
I left the dungeon.
When I returned to my room, we had a final conversation about what would happen at the coronation ceremony.
I won’t have any free time the day before the coronation. The Regent would be on me all day about the details of my clothes and accessories.
“Welcome back, Your Majesty.”
“Thanks. Things with Nadine went according to plan. Report back to me as soon as possible.”
Timona, Balthazar, Count Palatine Vedett, Salomon… and the ‘Storyteller’ Daniel were all present.
“The Imperial Guards have been assigned their duties for the coronation… and everything is going as we had hoped it would.”
I nodded at Balthazar’s report and turned to Daniel.
“I have finished with all my arrangements as well.”
The plan was to have the Western Church, which was almost under Daniel’s control, completely suppressed during the coronation and then having them disclose information to the public.
Some of the clergy attending the coronation ceremony will also be asked to take up positions by the entrances to the venues. They will stop the aristocrats who are trying to escape with their bodies until the armed Imperial Guards who are led by Balthazar arrive. The aristocrats won’t be armed. The clergy should be able to hold them off for a few seconds.
The next person who spoke was Count Palatine Vedett.
“I have a report to make as well. I have received permission from Count Newnbal regarding the garrison. All the gates will be closed as soon as the coronation ceremony begins, and we will deploy some guards to patrol the area.”
The garrison… was an organisation made up of mostly commoners whose authority was somewhere between the police and guards of modern times. They were also gatekeepers during peacetime, so their cooperation was necessary to lockdown the capital. The lockdown would go well with their cooperation.
As to why it was necessary to talk to the Lord Treasurer in order to obtain their cooperation, well that was a little complicated.
The garrison was under the jurisdiction of ‘Major Cardinal’ according to Lothar law, but there has never been a ‘Major Cardinal’ in the Bungdalto Empire, because one of the reasons why the capital Odunau fell was because the ‘Major Cardinal’ defected.
Until now, the ‘mayor of the capital’ was the Emperor himself or someone appointed directly by the Emperor (a temporary position with limited authority given to a person during times when the Emperor goes on a military expedition).
In other words, they were directly under my jurisdiction, but the Emperor is too young to manage them… so the Chancellor tried to manage them like any other organisation.
But the garrison hated Lord Raul, so they proudly refused his orders claiming that he was overstepping his authority. The Chancellor has repeatedly tried to abolish the garrison but the Lord Treasurer considered them necessary and has continued to budget for them (despite the budget deficit).
And now they were following Count Newnbal, who pays their salary.
“Good work. So, you told Count Newnbal everything?”
“I did not. I only told him what he needs to know.”
… It would be obvious that something is going to happen at the coronation ceremony if the garrison is moved. I thought that he would have told the Lord Treasurer about the plan at this stage… but it seems that Count Palatine was still very cautious.
“I don’t want him to panic on the day.”
“Please do not worry about that, since I will be by his side.”
Count Newnbal, the Lord Treasurer, was a neutral aristocrat, so he would cooperate if he was told of the plan.
But Count Palatine Vedett was being careful. This didn’t mean that he was suspicious of Count Newnbal. In fact, Count Palatine confirmed that Count Newnbal was completely neutral.
The people around Count Newnbal were the problem. Count Palatine was suspicious of those who were close to the Lord Treasurer. According to him, it was possible that they were connected to the Chancellor or Regent faction.
The secret service was well informed on everything, but there was a time when the information they had was inaccurate; that was when Count Palatine became the head of the secret service after the assassination of the previous Emperor… in other words, when his predecessor committed suicide.
During that period, Count Palatine said that the previous Emperor’s private funds (money which the Lord Treasurer had no control over) had somehow gone missing.
Neither the culprit nor the money has been found to this date. Both the Chancellor and Regent factors place the blame on each other, and the Lord Treasurer was suffering from financial difficulties. Count Palatine hasn’t been able to collect information on this matter, since this happened while the secret service was in chaos.
Count Palatine suspects that the culprit was a close associate of the Lord Treasurer. If it really is a close associate of the Lord Treasurer, then the previous Emperor’s private funds would have flowed to either the Chancellor or Regent faction.
Though, it was highly unlikely. But he was still taking precautionary measures. In fact, most of the Lord Treasurer’s connections were made through Count Palatine.
“… Alright, I’ll leave it to you since I understand your concerns. How’s everything else?”
“Everything else is going fine.”
I nodded. I received Timona’s report before this meeting. Finally, I turned to Salomon de Valverde.
“I need you and the mages of the Belbe Kingdom to be resourceful on the day.”
“I have already shared the strategy with the mages. The rest will depend on how the Chancellor and the Chief of the Ministry of Ceremonies act on the day.”
There were still a lot of variables even though I had made a lot of plans for the coronation. I don’t know what the Chancellor and the Chief of the Ministry of Ceremonies will do.
So, we made several assumptions and created a strategy for each of those assumptions. The role of the Belbe Kingdom mages was similar to that of a ranger.
“I know it’s a lot of work, but I’m counting on you.”
“… It is not much work compared to what you have to do, Your Majesty, but are you sure you want to do this?”
“Of course, I am.”
What I will do is simple. I will crown the emperor with my own hands no matter what happens.
This wasn’t a burden. I have endured everything for this day.
… Even if I have to kill my relatives with my own hands…
“This is only the beginning… Do you understand?”
――― The stage is set.