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Chapter 12: In the Basement
Built around 400 years ago, the Asbal family’s mansion boasted of an expansive basement, and from then on the mansion was known as the “The Prime Minister’s House.” The treasury under the mansion hid the vast fortune the Asbal family had amassed over many generations. Moreover, the wealth was all in the form of gold bars that were both easy to carry and did not depreciate in value.
In the game’s original story, the heroine received Thomas’s help, and, accompanied by Sigurd, opened the gates to the treasury… There was even a scene showing their dumbstruck reaction upon seeing the golden light emitted from the overflowing wealth included in the game.
And now, that very basement was the one I was leading them to.
“Sigurd. This mansion was built 400 years ago. Do you know what was happening in the Palcemith Kingdom at the time?”
As I went down the stairs leading to the basement with a candlestick in hand, I asked Sigurd a question. He thought for a moment and then answered, “The Langede war.. His answer was completely correct.
“You’re right. The Palcemith Kingdom is protected by His Grace Kharis’ blessings. Blessed with a mild climate, we never get plagues and our harvests are abundant too. However, our neighbors who did not get the same blessings could not stomach that. The kingdom of Langede to the west of Palcemith was in particularly dire straits.”
“Four hundred years ago, it was hit by a severe snap. Crops throughout the continent were damaged by the chill, and food supplies ran short. Records state that around a third of Langede’s population died at that time.”
.Jolga continued from where I left off, and I nodded.
“The impoverished Langede was left with no options. Of course, after the damage to their crops, Langede received aid from Palcemith. But as Jolga said, that year, all of the Yugena continent had been hit by the massive cold spell. Langede wasn’t the only impoverished nation, other countries were affected as well. We couldn’t show Legande any favor. As a result, Langede was driven to the point where they had no way to survive other than taking over Palcemith.”
“And so they waged war against the Palcemith Kingdom. It’s a famous tale. Even I know of it.”
“In terms of national power, Palcemith was superior in all aspects. We predicted the war would be a walk in the park. But as the war waged, the results weren’t what we expected.”
“…For the enemy, it was life or death.”
Jolga muttered under his breath.
“That’s right. They had no means other than that to survive… the soldiers of Langede, driven to such a point, were frighteningly powerful. Eventually, the superior Palcemith did emerge victorious, and we expanded our territory by annexing Langede. But the scars from the battle ran deep.”
This history was something every child in Palcemith knew. In the thousand-year history of Palcemith, this war had been the hardest fought. Though Palcemith has had constant disputes with countries other than Langede, this was the only one to shake the country.
While conversing, we reached the basement.
I took the master key from Thomas and handed the candlestick to Jolga. I flipped the lock over so Sigurd could see the way I unlocked the door, teaching him the order in which to insert the key into the three keyholes as I showed him the angle each needed to be turned to.
“This lock is of a special make. If one attempts to open it with anything other than the master key, the keyholes themselves will close. It’s the same if you mess up the sequence. Thomas, Sigurd, watch carefully.”
“As you will.”
After receiving an affirmation from the pair, I opened the doors to the basement.
“…This is…the basement.”
The first thing to greet their sight was a space that could be called the entrance to the basement. It was a square room furnished with a two-seater sofa and a table. Other than the door that led us in, there was a door each on the other three walls. I urged Sigurd to open the doors in a counterclockwise direction one by one, starting with the one on my right, and check inside each one.
Behind the first door was a wide, open space with three double beds covered in white sheets.
“It’s a bedroom that can be used as a temporary resting place in case of emergencies. If you head further inside that room, you’ll find a path that connects to the underground passage of the royal family that runs under the capital. It’s to be used should we ever need to shelter the royal family.”
“…Has it ever been really used?”
“Not in my generation. It has happened many times in the past though.”
Next was the one on its left, opposite the door we entered through. It was an office with a colonial-style desk and a shelf on one wall filled with documents.
“This place stores nearly all records of the Asbal family ever since we took residence in this place. Needless to say, that includes the current generation. Even if the mansion above were to burn to the ground, it wouldn’t affect anything here. …Thomas.”
I immediately turned my focus to a specific section of documents and called out to Thomas. I removed a document from the shelf and handed it over to Thomas.
“Master, this is…?”
“An external evaluation of all the employees currently working at the Asbal mansion and their work ethic. The evaluation was given by a mediator acting as a guest. Using this, calculate the severance pay for all employees. In addition, gather the requests of all who wish to work at other residences. I will write letters of recommendation for them.
“That’s right. I have already resigned as the Prime Minister and will leave the residence before long. I’m truly sorry, but the employees will have to be dismissed temporarily. Depending on the views of Sigurd and Prime Minister Morino, they might be able to continue their work. Please convey this to them.
Inside, I had also nonchalantly left records of my injustices— heavily taxing the citizens and squeezing every last pie out of them. Morino would surely search for the records. The problem was what lay beyond the final door.
“Sigurd, the last door.”
Pushing Sigurd’s back, I made him open the last door to the left of the office.
Each of the three expressed their shock differently.
The luster of gold shone before their eyes. In a nearly 160 square foot room, a mountain of gold bars filled nearly half the room. Though they were all speechless, Jolga was clumsily glaring at me, arms crossed, while I gazed about the room. As expected of the Knight Commander, despite his turmoil, he still managed to take action.
“Lord Anderheim… could you please explain what this is?”
It was plain to see the amount was something a person could possess using legal means.
No matter how many generations of Prime Ministers served the kingdom, building up such a fortune was a Herculean task.
That is, even if one engages in malpractices. As long as one stayed within the bounds of the law, of course.
“It is just as you see, Knight Commander.”
That was why I smirked.
In the midst of their confusion, it was time to crush their belief that their victory was close at hand.
…Did they really think the conversation we’d had along the way was pointless?
“Father, what is this? Such fortune has never been recorded by the family.”
At Sigurd’s persistence, I shrugged my shoulders and replied.
“…What, so shamelessly…?”
Turning to Sigurd, who was raising his voice in anger, I sighed.
“I’m saying that it’s obvious that there are no records, my stupid son… Well, you won’t get it even if I explain it.”
In a corner of the room buried in gold bars, I stood in front of a small safe. I bit my fingertip and then placed my hand on the dial-style key. The door used a lock that opened by identifying blood, a technique lost to the ages. Only those who possessed the blood of the Asbal family could open it.
…Sigurd could not possibly open this.
From inside the safe, I took out a signed sheet, carefully placed in a faded holder.
The leather holder preserving the paper was made using cordovan1 and had the feel of an ancient relic. I handed over the holder without opening it to Jolga. As he suspiciously ran his eyes over what was written within, his face changed color.
“…You understand, right, Knight Commander?”
The meaning of the contract written in it.
“None of the gold here belongs to my… the Asbal family. It is of the Royal Family.”
I gave an additional blow to the shocked Sigurd and Thomas.
I continued to speak.
“Everything was decided four hundred years ago. The Asbal family—the descendants of Sage Asbal, besides containing the curse in their bodies, also were obligated to serve as the Palcemith Kingdom’s [shadow]. These were the orders of the then-king, Migliore Gakach Palcemith.”
The best lies were the ones that had a grain of truth in them.
Hasr: Some foreshadowing here, let’s see if you know what I’m talking about~
I’d really appreciate it if you could leave some positive reviews for this series. We’re quickly reaching the point where things get dark…
P.S. You can also check out my other novel When She Becomes a Witch. It’s a lighthearted fantasy thall help pick you up after this dark plot~