Chapter 5 Episode 12
One man looked up at the ceiling of his office while expressing his anguish.
No one knew how long he had spent in this state without moving since he had come home.
10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes. Or was it already 1 hour ?
Inside the man’s chest, were full of indescribable conflicts and regrets.
This was the first time he felt a sense of weakness and emptiness.
(I wonder, where did I go wrong… We should still have had a little bit more time… Did we make a mistake somewhere ? Or was there no way to save this country from the beginning ?)
When his father-in-law lost in the struggle for power against Duke Gerhardt, he never felt this hopeless even compared to his younger days when he had to stay indoor within his territory all the time.
“Please excuse me… Zeref-sama has come. Shall I let him in ?”
The knockings of the old butler brought back the Earl Bergston’s consciousness to reality.
“Let him in… ”
Inside his heart, the feeling of wanting to meet and not wanting to meet intersected.
He directed his sight at the bundle of paper placed on the desk.
A few hours ago, that was the last trump card that could change the Rozeria Kingdom, but now, it was a garbage that had no purpose anymore. Just how much efforts and sacrifices did one had to make this mountain of papers that turned into uselessness, no one know the answer…
When he thought of that, the man didn’t have the courage to look straight at the face of his brother-in-law who had trusted him sincerely.
Even when he knew that his relative was not someone who easily blamed others.
“Such a gloomy face you have there… Brother-in-law…”
Opening the door, Earl Zeref frowned his eyebrows the moment he saw his brother-in-law Earl Bergston.
“Well, I guess it can’t be helped… Especially in this kind of situation…”
Earl Bergston replied with a deep sigh towards Earl Zeref who said those words while sitting down his obese body on the sofa.
“I heard it on my way here, that Her Majesty had collapsed after an urgent news arrived.”
Feeling surprised, Earl Zeref stared at his brother-in-law.
“That’s right, she collapsed after she heard that a rebellion happened. Right now she’s resting in her bedroom. For her, she also has a lot to worry about after all… But still, you’re impressive to know about this matter, how did you know? There should’ve been a gag order for those who attended the meeting…”
In response to that question, Earl Zeref shrugged his shoulders.
It was easy to order people to keep quiet, but it was very difficult to execute such order. And such things were obvious for Earl Zeref who was good when it comes to gathering intelligence.
“There’s no meaning on placing a gag order if, in the end, it would spread you know ? After all, even for a God, it was hard for him to keep someone’s mouth shut. Especially now, when everybody was anxious about the country’s future…”
In the first place,humans were a creature who liked rumors.
They would spread gossips like a ripple, from one person to another.
While in the same time interweaving truth and lies.
It was difficult to suppress such instincts with power.
“Something inevitable is it ?”
Earl Zeref replied to Earl Bergston with affirmation.
The two people stared at each other for a while.
After a long silence, Earl Bergston slowly opened his mouth. Right now, for him, it was not the time to worry about Lupis’ health.
“I’ve wasted your good effort…. I’m very sorry…”
Earl Bergston deeply lowered his head toward Earl Zeref.
However, Earl Zeref only smiled at him calmly like usual.
“Don’t worry too much, brother-in-law.”
“It couldn’t be helped. Since originally it was something with a low chance of a success…”
Earl Zeref expression didn’t show any hint of indignation. From the bottom of his heart, this time’s result was something that could not be helped.
(This guy… Or was it because I’m still too naive ?)
Seeing such attitude from his brother-in-law, Earl Bergston directed his eyes on his desk once again.
This bundle of papers placed on the desk was packed with information on tax collection being done within the Rozeria Kingdom.
Who, when, where, how much money, and what kind of means was used to gather them.
And among that money, how much did they put into their own pocket and how much was handed over to the government. Everything was written in those bundle of papers.
Based on that information, Earl Bergston planned to purge the people who were part of the noble’s faction.
Many of the country problems were caused by nobles gathered under Gerhardt.
They were fanning up dissatisfaction toward Lupis, intervening in national defense, and pressuring the bureaucrats to delay state affairs.
Such actions taken separately might not cause a fatal injury, but those were things that could not be ignored either.
And malicious non-cooperative attitude was far worse than being blatantly hostile because it was much harder to deal with.
Not to mention, Lupis’ position and personality also makes it hard to respond.
The easiest solution to overcome this conundrum was to purge two or three non-cooperative houses with a low political power to make an example.
Having one’s household being crushed was something that the nobles most feared, but such fear was necessary to bind their heart and blunt their hostility.
Afterwards, one can use the soft method to bring the other nobles closer.
There was not much difficulty when it comes to the reasons for the purging either.
When one carries a government on their shoulders, it was natural that lip service was not enough. Every house had one or two dark secrets behind it, where it was natural to call those hidden secrets criminal.
More or less if Lupis had the patience of bearing some pains with her absolute authority, doing the purging was not impossible.
But, Lupis tends to choose the calm and moderate responses, being unable to exercise her state power caused her to fail to achieve anything.
Thus Earl Bergston had only kept an eye while not taking any measures.
Until the day the other nobles loosened their vigilance and exposed their violent fangs and ugly nature under the bright daylight.
“To be honest, I would be very lucky if all of that had gone well. After all, that plan was very difficult to do…”
Earl Zeref cuts his words and breathed out lightly.
The plan he was talking about was to eliminate the nobles after grasping their hidden crimes. Under the state law, it was a legitimate move. But the timing was very difficult to execute.
The biggest problem was that those nobles had used Lupis name for their own gains, and caused dissatisfaction amongst the citizenry.
The aim of those nobles was a rebellion.
No matter how weak they were, the oppressed people cannot be under one’s mercy forever.
It was not necessary for the ruler to love the people, but one would be disqualified as a ruler if the people raised a rebellion.
For that reason, one had to have the knowledge to properly maintain one’s territory.
With that being the case, there were two ways to deal with the current situation, the first one was to use state power and purge them while bearing the stigma that comes with it, or alternatively grasp the opponents’ aim and judge them under the law before their goal becomes reality.
However, both measures were now already turned into bubbles.
All of that ended, when the tax collector who visited a certain village died.
“Being a minister to the Rozeria Kingdom aside. I also have loyalty to the Queen. That was why I accepted my brother-in-law’s request to create a measure, despite being not very useful, at least I could help, but everything is for naught now…”
Earl Bergston unintentionally held his breath due to Zeref words filled with sympathy.
“Brother-in-law-dono… You should’ve noticed it right ?”
The gentle smile that was always on Earl Zeref’s face disappeared.
His words had a pressure that felt like something out of the blue.
“Zeref, that’s enough… We’re her subjects…”
It was obvious what he was trying to say. From here, Zeref’s words would run counter against Earl Bergston’s beliefs. It was not because Earl Bergston didn’t understand the reason.
However, Earl Bergston didn’t want to hear the continuation of his brother-in-law words whom he trusted the most.
Because if he listens to it, he would need to make a decision whether to share the path together or take a different one opposing him.
However, this time Zeref was very serious regarding the situation.
Even though he understands Bergston’s feelings, Zeref kept continuing to speak.
“Oh Brother-in-law, let us see the reality… We’ve fulfilled our loyalty to the country more than enough. Should we not explore the way for our future’s survival now ?”
“But… That is…”
‘Do you mean, we’re going to forsake Lupis ?’ Bergston ponders as if asking that question.
However, Zeref didn’t pull back. It was visible that a great disaster would befall him and his family if he pulled out here.
The worst case scenario, his relationship with his brother-in-law would be destroyed. But up until there, even Zeref had prepared to accept everything.
“Either way, there’s no more way for her majesty to stand… If we cannot suppress the revolt, even the commoners won’t keep Her Majesty alive due to their grudge…”
“Which means, Gerhardt will be using princess Ladine and push Lupis out ? Their legitimate reason would be, washing out the incompetent ruler…”
In response to Bergston’s words, Zeref slowly nods.
There was no such things as legitimacy the moment the ruler’s ability was being questioned.
Sometimes, the question regarding legitimacy might become one’s strongest weapon.
In the last civil war, such reason was the greatest asset in Lupis’ hand. However, now it was all reversed.
“Then we will need to negotiate with the commoners…”
Peaceful settlement through negotiation, not suppression with an armed force. That way, Lupis might take less damage. However, Zeref disagreed on Bergston’s proposal without even looking deep into the topic.
“That would be a waste. In this situation, people won’t trust our words, and aristocrats won’t easily concede to the commoners either…”
No matter which worlds, the secret of national stability was limited to how much fear towards the government one can maintain.
Either by using financial strength, the power of law, or military power. People followed the state because the state was strong and fearsome.
For better or worse, security by using power was absolutely needed to achieve stability.
And right now, Lupis had no such power. And because she had none, she held no credibility, wich meant her words were meaningless…
“The cause aside, many people now questioned Her Majesty Lupis ability to govern. And this revolt would be a fatal injury for her. All the aristocrats would then support Gerhardt…”
“Is it really impossible for us to do something ?”
“It’s impossible. In the first place, Gerhardt’s influence extends to nearly 40% of the entire nobility of this country. And there is also the current situation. Neutral nobles would flow under Gerhardt unless they held very high resentments towards him.”
Legitimacy was Lupis strongest weapon.
However, in the present situation, just cause would be hazy if Gerhardt would say he wants to get rid of the foolish ruler. Furthermore, if he used Ladine as the figurehead, he could also declare legitimacy.
“Nothing can be done, is it ?”
“At least, if we managed to do something to Ladine-sama, then there might be some way but…”
Without Ladine, no matter how much Gerhardt glosses it over, it won’t change the fact that he usurped the throne from Lupis.
Some aristocrats didn’t like those prospects, therefore people then might choose to obey Lupis and listen to Bergston, but with the current situation, such thing was impossible.
“I guess everything is too late ? In the end, the judgment at that time ended up as a fatal one, doesn’t it ?”
Bergston looked up at the ceiling and sighed.
(As expected, it would have been better to purge Gerhardt the moment the civil war was over…)
Although he understands that there was no point in talking about the past, it can’t be helped if he felt regretful.
Because the dawn of the bright Rozeria Kingdom was over in that moment.
(But now everything is too late. The brilliant future fell from our palm. And with this revolt, her majesty rule is over. If that is the case, then…)
Should he perish together with Lupis, or should he explore a way for survival ?
The sense of obligation as the minister of the Rozeria Kingdom, and his responsibility as the ruler of his territory. Both were large things that could not easily be abandoned.
But right now, he must choose one among the two.
Long silence dominates the room. Zeref was quietly waiting for Bergston’s decision.
Then, come the time where he needed to speak out his decision.
“Very well… Let me hear your opinion. How can we protect our household ?”
Lupis’ judgment. As a human being, her decision was never wrong. And, she also was never wrong as someone responsible for national affairs. However, that was it.
She’s not suitable to be a ruler because she was not wrong. To put it more precisely, she chooses the right option as a person, not a ruler.
(Your Majesty… Please forgive me…)
Bergston shed blood tears in his heart. He never hated Lupis.
Although Lupis occasionally made a stupid and childish judgment, her personality was that of a kind one.
At least, in the previous civil war, Earl Bergston served Lupis sincerely.
However, in the current situation, not much choice was available.
Because Bergston also had family and vassals whom he needed to protect.
“That is sensible judgment. Brother-in-law-dono.”
In response to Zeref words, Bergston nodded while biting his lips.