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Adapting to Darkness
Ever since it’s founding 600 years prior, the Kingdom of Placemith had never encountered such a terrible crisis, and the Langrede war 400 years ago had cast a shadow over the country’s governance. Truth be told, the long-lasting peace had driven the Kingdom of Placemith into complacency.
The aftermath of the war was far more disastrous than anyone could have anticipated.
The roads that connected farmlands to various cities were destroyed, delaying the distribution of goods and leading to widespread looting. The country’s military was barely able to maintain domestic peace, let alone finish disposing of the trenches and temporary bases of enemy troops. Selfish merchants withheld provisions, pushing the price of a single bag of wheat within the capital to nearly 10 times the pre-war price. The royal family was unable to determine their priorities for the reconstruction, leading to haphazard efforts that proceeded based on the whims of the nobility. Despite nearly emptying the national treasury, their efforts at recovery brought no relief to the suffering citizens.
Understanding the severity of the situation, the reigning King, Migliore Gakach Palcemith. and his close friend, Prime Minister Okha Semz Asbal, engaged in a heated discussion for three days and three nights on the future management of the nation.
They concluded that a government relying on the assumption of good intentions should never have existed.
Such a country would have been beautiful— an ideal nation, but it was nothing more than an illusion the blessing of the dragon had shown. If the country was allowed to continue on such a course, in the near future, they would be brought to ruin.
Information was necessary. An understanding of the deep darkness that must exist in this peaceful kingdom was necessary.
…Thus, the two of them exchanged a secret pact.
…Thus, the pair made a secret vow.
[The children of Asbal shall carve loyalty into their hearts— unafraid of staining their pure hands red, they shall support Palcemith from within the shadows.
The children of Palcemith shall understand the pain that shackles the children of Asbal, and shall not question their devotion, only praising them in their hearts.
The children of Asbal shall be prepared for any situation. They shall keep enough gold in reserve to support both the royal family and citizens through four seasons.
The children of Palcemith shall rely on the Asbal family in times of emergency, and request aid from the family Head who serves as Prime Minister.
He who swears to stand in the darkness to protect the future of the kingdom, my dearest, closest friend,
Okha Semz Asbal, to you, I swear my eternal friendship.
Milliore Gakach Palcemith]
. “That’s… assuming this secret vow is even true.”
After Jolga reluctantly spoke, I answered in a flat tone.
“It’s the truth…The Asbal clan has heeded this pact for generations. We became familiar with the darkness of the country, always preferring the muddied water..”
This contract was actually something passed down within the Asbal family. It was secretly given by the king to the then-Prime Minister, who had decided to throw himself into the underbelly of society for the sake of the kingdom. It was prepared for the eventuality that the descendants of Asbal would one day need to proclaim their innocence.
That was how the Asbal family began to control the underworld after the Langrede war. In other words, about half of my actions were due to promises made by my ancestors. Of course, I believe some descendants simply preferred the darkness.
And regarding this contract—
In actuality, it had endured some editing of its “contents”.
The third and fourth lines of the contract had been added by His Grace Kharis at my request.
This parchment was signed using a method based on the [Atrizia] that Malacia showed Morino the other day as a base, and written as it was, in a mix of blood and magic, it was impossible to change the words.
In Morino’s route, there was also a case of forging a contract. It had happened when Nasha stepped down as Sacrificial Priestess on His Highness’s orders. Malacia had dispatched the temple knights to Nasha’s family, requesting the immediate return of the gold they had earned from selling Nasha. Through this, Nasha learned she had been sold by her own parents, and that when she was no longer the Sacrificial Priestess, her family was threatened to repay the money.
Morino had consoled the grieving Nasha and requested that His Grace Kharis help by altering the contract between Nasha’s parents and Head Priest Malacia.
…Even if the holy maiden steps down as Sacrificial Priestess, there is no obligation to repay any monetary offerings made to the priestess’s family…
With that single sentence added to the contract, they escaped from their predicament. This time, that demand for repayment was being conducted under the table, so as not to stand out. There hadn’t been any results as of yet, but I was looking forward to hearing about it in the future.
And with the addition of the third and fourth lines in this contract… I successfully created a plausible reason for all the money that had been illegally accumulated over the past generations.
Jolga understood the true meaning of that line, and his expression grew stiff.
“All in order to protect the citizens, as well as the royal family… Did you know, Knight Commander? The one who gave His Highness his name was not His Late Majesty, but rather myself. The night His Highness was born, His Late Majesty summoned me in secret to the castle, and allowed me to hold the newborn Highness.”
I lowered my gaze to look at my hands.
As if I was remembering what had been there— whom I had held in my arms.
“I was asked to name the prince, and so I named him Vikram, a name that means ‘bonds.’ However, no matter what, I couldn’t tell people that I had given His Highness his name. Even so, whenever the citizens extol His Highness’s name and look forward to his reign, my heart fills with pride.”
“Now, none of that matters anymore.”
I took the holder from Jolga’s hands, put the contract back in its place, and then closed the cover and handed it back to Jolga. Assuming my intentions, Jolga looked me in the eyes, as if to confirm his reasoning.
“…Is this alright?”
“I don’t mind, take it with you. If you pass it to the new Prime Minister or his aides, they can confirm its legitimacy.”
“Did you not think that there’s a possibility I might somehow dispose of such important evidence?”
“…Hah. I’ve never once thought the irreproachable, personification of virtue, the great Knight Commander, would engage in such foolish behavior.”
“You have my thanks.”
I tried provoking him with arms wide, but he just obediently bowed his head. How uninteresting.
“I shall return to the castle first, and have the contract I have borrowed from His Excellency looked over. Sigurd, as planned, you will assume your position as Lady Julieta’s guard.”
“Oh, Knight Commander. Wait one moment.”
I returned to the office next door and took the stack of documents left on the desk. When I returned to the center room, I handed it over to the waiting Jolga.
“According to my predictions, the situation will become volatile soon .”
“Didn’t you just read the contract, Knight Commander? The Asbal family stood within the darkness, and using its influence, pacified those who lived in the underworld.”
“In other words, we had served as a stopper. Now that the knowledge that I’m no longer in power has spread, I’ve made some rough predictions about how they will move. You’ll need to take more specific measures; you should activate the knights immediately.”
The “rough predictions” were on the documents I handed over.
Now, if only they would rampage well.
“…You have my gratitude. Please excuse me.”
“You don’t need to speak like that anymore.”
I protested the formal address, but Jolga simply replied with a slight smile and headed swiftly to the stairs leading above ground, carrying the documents and the leather case.
“Sigurd, Julieta will awake soon.”
When I raised my voice, Sigurd, who had been looking down, slowly raised his head and bit his lips when our gazes met.
His gaze was full of distress and hesitation, sincerely requesting answers to countless questions.
“…We’ll talk more later. For now, concentrate on protecting Julieta, Sigurd.”
I patted Sigurd’s shoulder gently while he hung his hand, and left the basement after urging Thomas ahead of me.
That’s right, we should continue our conversation next time.
When regaling such a mockery of a tale.
It was only interesting if there was a large audience, after all.