Book 7, Chapter 23

Fairness

“Miranes is using you, my Lord,” one of Kimbaye’s aides whispered to him, but the young earl waved his hand to indicate it didn’t matter. Anyone who thought they could use the Millennial Empire’s name freely was being naive, but he had no plans to raise an objection here.

After all, Miranes wasn’t really being naive. He was trying to use the might of the two empires to fight for their best interests, and it was clear that he planned for the profits to be distributed evenly. This was a greater victory for the Millennial Empire than they had originally planned for.  Miranes was acting desperate, even suicidal, but his kind of determination was quite rare in negotiations where the possibility of war was minuscule.

Richard was keenly aware of this anomaly as well. He remained in his seat as Miranes and Duke Orleans argued back and forth, all of the information he had on the two envoys rapidly flowing through his mind.

Marquess Miranes was someone born into a mediocre noble family, with his future restricted to a viscounty at most. Struggle, conspiracy, blackmail… he was someone who had taken every opportunity in front of him to advance. This was the greatest opportunity of his life; his marquessate wasn’t hereditary, and he didn’t have children who displayed the same potential as him; the only way to preserve his legacy was to expand his territory as much as possible.

On the other hand, Earl Kimbaye was someone born into glory who belonged at the top of the ladder. Succeeding in this mission would just be another achievement in a long list; to him, extra success in these negotiations wouldn’t be worth much. As such, he could remain calm and restrained, even acting kind to the Sacred Alliance if he wished to; that was the difference in their origins.

However, Miranes was keenly aware of the disparity. That was why he fought so hard, giving Kimbaye a good reason to side with him. It had obviously worked; the two empires were now loosely allied at this table. However, looking at the young earl’s quiet and calm, Richard felt like he had another card up his sleeve.

Duke Orleans continued to argue, “If this is your bottom line, then I have to choose war. These conditions have no precedent in hundreds of years.”

“Ever since the Sacred Alliance was founded by Emperor Charles the Great, there hasn’t been a single occasion where any of the three empires lacks an epic being,” Miranes countered calmly.

Orleans was frustrated, but he continued in a low voice, “We still have Her Excellency Sharon.”

Sharon had yet to prove that she was an epic being, having never fought the other epic beings of Norland, but upon hearing her name the Marquess who didn’t even bat an eye at Rundstedt turned solemn, “But Her Excellency… She isn’t a part of the Sacred Alliance? If she is willing to take responsibility, even with a single sentence, I will modify the plan immediately.”

Richard was left quite surprised, as it seemed to be the norm when things involved his teacher. The woman who left him with a radiant trauma and trusted in him was highly regarded even by the other empires, even if she had never once proved that she was an epic being.

However, Duke Orleans just sighed in frustration; getting any confirmation from a sleeping Sharon was obviously impossible. With both sides having played their cards, the Sacred Alliance didn’t have any epic beings to force a tempered approach. Miranes did mark a new dividing line, not as aggressive as the first one, but it still took more than 1.5 million square kilometres away.

Earl Kimbaye stepped up as well, giving up an equal amount of territory, but now a lot of the area he took away was what had overlapped in the original demand. In the end, the Sacred Alliance stood to lose a little under 2.5 million square kilometres of territory, a total of an eighth of the entire empire.

Duke Orleans looked at the two lines and walked over to the map, crossing out some important areas and offering others instead. Some of the areas he crossed out were strategically important, while others had important mineral resources or were core territories of some large families. This caused the others to grow awkward; this meant he had acknowledged the boundaries and was now starting to bargain on the details.

Richard didn’t speak once during the negotiations, just listening and observing. He was a newcomer to these political confrontations, and didn’t have the experience or education in the field to help. Every sentence had to be considered carefully; a tiny movement in someone’s finger was a change of thousands of square kilometres or greater. This was a battle he didn’t qualify to join.

Seeing the exalted Ironblood Duke now personally negotiating with mere envoys of the other empires, Richard couldn’t suppress a twinge of sorrow. Although he had fought tooth and nail to establish the Crimson Dukedom back in Faelor, this was the first time he had felt the sheer pressure of being a leader of a country. Emperor Philip’s silent support had allowed them all to grow and even conspire against each other, but now that the pillar had broken the world was crashing down around them.

For a moment, he thought back to Rundstedt. The former marshal was a controversial figure, but he was still a pure soldier who didn’t care for his own profits. Even after being deprived of his military command and most of his territory, he was still willing to stand guard in the City of the Unsetting Sun until he was killed. But just as Miranes had said, he wasn’t the one to bear the consequences. If not for his stubbornness, Philip wouldn’t have been forced to challenge two epic beings.

Family, country, plane… everything came with a heavy responsibility, one that only increased with status. The fourteen giants of Faust seemed to be tyrants, but they were minor in the eyes of the other two empires. Both the Sacred Tree Empire and the Millennial Empire could destroy the Alliance all on their own, it was just that they would exhaust their resources to do so. The other three empires of Norland would then become a threat, while the high elves in Lithgalen also had hopes of a return.

…

Eventually, the negotiations were nearing completion. However, all three parties were abnormally persistent on the last area, and even Miranes and Kimbaye who had never argued before weren’t willing to give way. Duke Orleans was the same, and the argument started to drag out for minutes on end.

Richard, who had entered meditation halfway through, was awakened by the dispute and looked at the map. His eyes were instantly pulled by a symbol of a volcano that was the subject of the argument. Having been prepared for this, his expression didn’t waver even as all three men glanced at him, but his heart almost froze.

They wanted the Azan Peninsula. They wanted Blackrose Castle.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA