Chapter 75: End Him or Make Use of Him? (2)

Translator: Blushy
Editor: delishnoodles

“It is a little different from a goal… but there is something I would like to ask from you, Your Majesty.”

Charles de Aquicurl bowed his head reverently in response to my question.

“I would like to ask you to spare the lives of a steward and maid, who are still in custody at one of my residences, and an assurance that they will not be regarded as a member of Duke Aquicurl’s House since they serve me and keep their distance from Duke Aquicurl’s House.”

His words came as a bit of a surprise. I had expected him to ask me to spare his life or the life of his wife.

“You have a wife, do you not? You don’t care about what happens to her?”

“I would never let someone with the blood of the Aquicurl House live if I were in your position. You would not let my wife live since you do not know if she is carrying my child or not.”

… I felt somewhat uncomfortable. It was as if he had concluded that I would kill her.

Charles de Aquicurl continued, perhaps sensing this.

“Of course, I do not know what you are going to do, Your Majesty. But that Lord Vedett is by your side.”

Those words bothered me a little. It was as if… Count Palatine Vedett would act even if I didn’t command him to. Or did Count Palatine Vedett do something similar in the past?

… This bothered me a little… But I wasn’t going to take this man at his word, so I decided not to ask about this now.

“I will consider sparing their life and stating that they are not a member of Duke Aquicurl’s House. My decision will be based on your attitude from now on.”

I said and he bowed again.

Well, this was my plan all along.

… That steward may seek revenge if I kill this man. I don’t know how much he adores this man, but it’s a possibility.

But if I want to get rid of this possibility then I would have to kill everyone involved.

That was out of the question since… it would just be a massacre… so I intend to let them live. This wasn’t limited to commoners but also aristocrats below the rank of viscount as well.

“Speaking of which…”

Charles de Aquicurl looked up suddenly and started speaking as if he was trying to make small talk.

“I heard a rumour that… he’s being kept alive. I believe he’s going to be made into Augusto’s rival. This is a very effective and clever move to divide Aquicurl. Very impressive.”

The former Duke Aquicurl had three sons. The third son, Charles de Aquicurl, was in front of me. The second son, Augusto, Marquis Aquicurl-Diederich, who had proclaimed his succession to Duke Aquicurl and had raised an army, and the eldest son, Freed, Marquis Aquicurl-Nove who I had recently executed. And as for Freed’s eldest son, Phillippe de Aquicurl (who, to complicate matters, has the same name as the former Duke Aquicurl) has been imprisoned for life. Publicly, there was nothing wrong with this.

… I was going to use him to divide the Aquicurl army. During his transfer, a spy is supposed to appear and escape with him while claiming that this was the last will and testament of the former Duke Aquicurl. The spy is also supposed to retrieve the body of the former Duke Aquicurl and have Phillipe raise an army in Marquis Aquicurl-Nove’s fief as ‘the rightful heir to Duke Aquicurl’.

Of course, I would never allow that.

But at the very least, the vassals of Marquis Aquicurl-Nove were likely to support Phillipe. That alone would buy me enough time, and while the two ‘Duke Aquicurls’ are fighting, I would focus on the Raul army and crush each one of them. That was the strategy I am currently drawing up.

I need to make sure that Phillipe would not realise that I am involved in his escape to get this plan to work. I am the man who had killed his father and grandfather. I have to make him believe… that the Emperor has been outsmarted by a surviving vassal.

A spy pretending to be the former Duke Aquicurl’s vassal must have contacted him several times and convinced him that he was looking for an opportunity to escape.

This was actually a top-secret plan which hadn’t been told to Lord Warung and the other lords. The only people who knew about this plan is Lord Palatine Vedett, several spies who were executing the plan, Timona, Balthazar and a small group of Imperial Guards who would be helping them.

Charles de Aquicurl had been put into jail fairly early on, so he should not have been told about who was sentenced and what kind of sentence they received.

The only people who have access to the aristocrat prison apart from me are the surveillance spies and the Imperial Guards.

It was hard to believe that a spy would leak this information even if we were short-handed and had to mobilise everyone. Count Palatine Vedett would have killed them if they had. Which means an Imperial Guard had told him all this information.

I looked at Balthazar.

“It seems we have a very talkative Imperial Guard.”

Balthazar looked pale. He hadn’t put two and two together. He wasn’t originally the commander of the Imperial Guards, so he might have a lot on his shoulders right now.

But that doesn’t mean I should give that position to someone else… Balthazar had helped the Emperor even before the coronation ceremony, so the factional strife within the Imperial Guard had not been publicised yet.

… It might be better… To dismantle the Imperial Guards and create a new group from scratch.

I thought about this as I looked back at the prisoner… And saw that he was bowing his head as if he was apologising for something.

… Apologise? For what…? For what he had just said?

… Wait a minute, what information does this guy know that is funny? First of all, he knew that the former Duke Aquicurl had died when he was detained, and it would make sense that he knew that Marquis Freed Aquicurl-Nove and his son, Phillipe, were arrested since it happened at the same time. He also knew that Augusto wasn’t present at the coronation ceremony, and he had expected him to raise his army because of the purge.

I thought about why I am still alive… I wondered why they didn’t have me assassinated and make it look like I had died by accident. It was possible that I was being kept alive as Freed’s rival.

Was I the first choice for being his ‘rival’ or was someone else in the Aquicurl House being kept alive to be his ‘rival’ and I was the spare? I will never know the answer to that… What he just said…

“So, there is someone else who is an Aquicurl ‘pawn’.”

He was leading me on!!

My reaction wasn’t one caused by someone finding out who I was going to use. I had assumed he was talking about Phillipe de Aquicurl.

Why did I think that he has a lot on his shoulders? It was my mistake. I was too careless.

“Now I may have a reason to kill you.”

This guy is dangerous. It’s better to kill him now than to deal with something troublesome in the future.

… No, calm down.

Can I really conclude that someone from the Aquicurl House was being kept alive to be Augusto’s rival just from the little information I had? I could see why this could be a possibility, but this man was speaking as if he was sure of it.

Or perhaps someone in the Imperial Guard was really leaking information to this man and he was just trying to trick me. Think about it, maybe an Imperial Guard had helped him… Or turned a blind eye when he gave Count Copardwall, who was in the cell next to him, that advice.

… Damn. I get more confused the more I think about it. I should kill him.

“I must inform you of one thing. The relationship between Freed and Augusto was extremely strained, and their relationship not only affected their children, but also their vassals as well.”

… Well, even if he was trying to trick me, by process of elimination, I know the person he mentioned is Marquis Freed Aquicurl-Nove or his child.

“And the vassals of the former Duke Aquicurl are split about… 50/50 between both sides. Aquicurl will be split into two.”

He was taking control of the conversation… I asked him something that had been bothering me.

“Doesn’t the older son have precedence when it comes to inheritance?”

There are two succession laws in this nation: the tribal succession law and the imperial succession law. But the older son has the higher priority in both cases. Of course, there are exceptions.

“It’s the name, Your Majesty.”

… I don’t know what he’s scheming, but I’ll listen to him a little longer.

“Duke Aquicurl, Phillipe du Garde-Aquicurl, passed on his titles to each of his children. He gave the Marquis Aquicurl-Nove title to Freed Hud Aquicurl and the Marquis Aquicurl-Diederich title to Augusto de Aquicurl, but that man did not allow them to have the ‘van’ family name.”

The ‘Garde’ in a person’s name indicated that they were a direct descendant of the main branch of the Garde tribe… that is, the Bungdalto royal family. The former Duke Aquicurl was allowed to use that name because he was the child of the 5th Emperor. He didn’t have to be given that name, but his children would be regarded as the second generation of a branch family, so they cannot take the name ‘Garde’ and must take the name ‘van’ to indicate that they are from a Garde branch family.

The man who is raising his army under the name of Duke Raul calls himself Sigmund du van Raul and the former Duke Raul was Karl du van Raul since he was from the second generation.

“The oldest son inherits the title… but there is an exception to this which is when the oldest son becomes the head of another House. In other words, you relinquish your right to succeed your own family if you become the adopted son of another family or the head of a branch family.”

This was a law to prevent so-called ‘take-overs’.

“So, he wanted them to be independent.”

They were in a situation where they were both on equal footing, so their vassals perceived this as a delicate balance. Both marquises were fiercely confronting each other over the future duke position.

“Yes, they weren’t fully independent since they still introduced themselves as ‘Aquicurl’ instead of ‘Aquicurl-Nove’ or ‘Aquicurl-Diederich’… but if he had intended to let either of them succeed him then he would have given up one more title to that person. That man still has the Marquis Sagon, Count Vigne and Count Aquicurl-Sei titles.”

… Even a branch family can take the name ‘van’. Rosalia is a good example of this. Her ‘van Chalonge Cruveilheir’ name indicated that she was a branch family of the Chalonge family which was already a branch of another family.

Despite this, it was unusual that they were separated from the ‘Garde’ branch family and weren’t allowed to use the ‘van’ name.

“It sounds as if… he intended to pass the duke title onto you. You haven’t received a title and legally speaking, you should be known as Charles de van Aquicurl.”

Yes. Only this man hasn’t received his title. He states that he cannot assume the name before his older brother and introduces himself as Charles de Aquicurl.

The man in front of me replied, “That idea has never crossed that man’s mind.”

His tone was somewhat scornful, but I don’t think it was directed at me.

“He was strongly opposed to his daughter getting involved with politics and drove his sons away early because he did not want to hand his interests to ‘other people’. He was still clinging to power even though he should have retired. That man, who abandoned even the aristocratic duty of passing his titles onto the next generation, was a monster capable of nothing but selfishness.”

… Unfathomable hatred was oozing from Charles de Aquicurl’s words.

Well, it could be an act.

“But the vassals did not realise that that man had a crucial flaw as an aristocrat.”

Charles de Aquicurl paused and looked me straight in the eye.

“Let me answer your question, Your Majesty… that is correct. The people in the Aquicurl House believe that I will be the next Duke. In other words, I would be the one to bear the banner of rebellion next… if I were to survive.”

This man must have been talking with this in mind from the very beginning.

“Your Majesty, there is a proverb that says, ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered down’, but in Aquicurl, we say, ‘the bent nail gets pulled out’, and I am, so to speak, a nail that has been bent from the start. I will be pulled out eventually… So, I thought it might be better to be hammered down instead. But I wanted to prolong the time it takes for me to get hammered down… I will be a nail that can be hammered down at any time; this is the only way I can think of to survive.”

I had asked him what he wanted, and this is his answer?

“You will surely pacify Aquicurl, but ruling there will not be easy. The Aquicurl aristocrats may revolt again. If the Aquicurl House is wiped out, then their rebellion will become a tiny bud, but it will scatter countlessly. It would require a lot of effort to keep them under surveillance and would put you a step behind. But if one person survives, then they will bear the banner of rebellion, so you will only need to keep them and their surroundings under surveillance. So, I sincerely pray for your victory, Your Majesty.”

… This man hadn’t given up on surviving; he had already found a way to survive.