Wortenia Senki (LN) - Volume 11 - Chapter 2

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Chapter 2: The Ten Houses of the North

Beyond the highway leading south from Sirius, the citadel city of Epirus towered over the land. It was the crux of northern Rhoadseria’s defenses and the castle of a powerful man leading the ten houses ruling over the region. Deep moats and ramparts standing a dozen meters tall protected it from intruders. It was an impregnable fortress. Generals praised as heroes had led large armies against it, shutting the city off and laying siege with starvation tactics, but since the founding of House Salzberg, the fortress had never been breached. Not once did it permit their enemies to invade the north. Fathers and sons had perished on this battlefield, laying down their lives to protect Rhoadseria.

The counts of House Salzberg were called demons of national defense, and their reputation was well-earned. That applied to the current Count Salzberg as well. He had taken to the battlefield for the first time during his teens and had fought through multiple wars alongside his father, the former Count Salzberg. His combat experience matched and possibly exceeded that of all other counts in House Salzberg’s history. But this was precisely why no one noticed the madness brooding within Count Salzberg.

That day, several days after Ryoma had given Kevin’s group their covert mission, the Countess Yulia Salzberg approached her husband’s study to deliver a letter. The sounds of a woman’s coquettish moans reverberated against the corridor walls and reached her ears—a disturbing but common occurrence.

In the middle of the day? Why does he have to be so...

Lady Yulia let out a sigh. The woman her husband toyed with right now wasn’t a prostitute. Count Salzberg had an obnoxious taste for bedding inexperienced women. It had caused Yulia trouble more times than she cared to count. He’d only recently taken to sleeping with women so conspicuously, though. It was as if something had loosened his restraint.

Well, I suppose it’s too late to mention it at this point.

Truth be told, she didn’t approve of this situation in the slightest. But no matter what, Yulia couldn’t openly oppose Count Salzberg.

More importantly, I have to deliver this letter.

Lady Yulia hurried through the corridor. She didn’t particularly care for this task; she had to visit her husband while he was having his way with another woman. Under most circumstances, she would have had someone else deliver the letter. But this letter she’d just received couldn’t be entrusted to one of the servants.

She’d already guessed at what the contents might be once the messenger had said the sender’s name. It was from Meltina Lecter, one of Queen Lupis’s most trusted aides—standing shoulder to shoulder with Mikhail Vanash, the strongest swordsman of Rhoadseria.

It was no wonder she could guess so easily at the contents of the letter. Meltina had sent the same letter countless times already. But Meltina was Queen Lupis’s right hand woman, so they couldn’t very well disregard it. The contents could be different this time, and if they were to discard the letter without reading it, it would lead to very unfortunate developments.

As Lady Yulia advanced through the hallways, she could hear the woman’s moans growing louder. Submerged in her thoughts, she found herself at the door to her room before she knew it. But she simply stood there for a few moments.

I swear, no matter how much time passes, hearing another woman moaning like that is so unpleasant. I just hope he won’t get angry that I got in the way of his merrymaking...

A wife calling upon her husband while he was sleeping with another woman would indeed douse a man’s interest. She would very much be walking in on an act of adultery. Few things could be as unpleasant. Yulia knew this and wasn’t keen on interrupting his tryst because of that. Still, she came here because this was urgent business. She couldn’t put it off any longer.

Yulia took a deep breath. “Beloved, may I come in?” she asked, knocking gently on the study’s door.

The moment she did, the lewd moans from inside the room grew louder. They were followed by the sound of labored breathing and the creaking wood. She couldn’t tell just how long she’d been standing there, but after hearing what felt like the shrillest screech yet, the cacophony finally died down. The merrymaking, it seemed, had reached its end.

She heard the shuffling of fabric and then her husband—Thomas Salzberg—answered her from behind the door.

“Yulia... Yes, it’s fine. Come in.”

The room would reek with the distinctive scent of the act, and she might see something she’d rather not have to witness, but Yulia didn’t have the right to refuse. Readying herself, she turned the doorknob.

“What is it, Yulia? Did something happen?”

As soon as she opened the door, Yulia was assaulted by the particular stench of body odor mingled with aphrodisiac. The bed in the corner of the room was occupied by a naked woman, still gasping for air on the jumbled sheets. It seemed they had gotten rather wild. The woman was breathing heavily, a pink blush on her skin. This was clearly the aftermath of an intense affair.

Count Salzberg stood in the center of the room and directed his gaze at Yulia as he composedly adjusted his shirt cuffs.

Yulia stood still, remaining silent. “Beloved...” she finally managed to breathe out. She’d expected this, but seeing the vivid reality of it still came as a shock.

What am I to you...? That doubt shook Yulia’s heart.

Yulia had entered House Salzberg through a political marriage. She wasn’t from a noble family, but a merchant one. Someone of her station normally wouldn’t have been allowed to marry a noble. Despite that, Yulia had married into House Salzberg as the count’s legal wife. Though rumors and whispers called her a vile woman, Yulia ignored it all. Instead, she improved Epirus’s economy with her shrewd business skills.

Even though Yulia was a devoted wife, Count Salzberg didn’t show a hint of remorse as he invited her into his room immediately after lying with another woman. Of course, Yulia couldn’t say she loved Count Salzberg from the bottom of her heart either. Besides, they hadn’t married for love; they’d married because both House Salzberg and the Mistel Company stood to profit from their union. It was simply a marriage of calculated interest.

Even matrimony borne of such calculation could blossom into affection and understanding, but there was no such sweet idealism between the two of them. On the surface, Count Salzberg played the part of a loving husband who favored his wife, and Yulia appeared to be a devoted woman who supported her husband’s endeavors. But the reality of their relationship couldn’t have been more different. In their hearts, they didn’t see each other as spouses. They didn’t even regard one another as friends. Some couples were said to be shallow, only ever going through the motions of marriage. Yulia and Count Salzberg were even less than that. If anything, their relationship was that of master and servant.

“Hey, how long are you going to sleep there? Go on, out!” Count Salzberg barked, tearing the sheets off the woman on his bed. He forced the girl to her feet and shouted at her to leave, as if to say he was done with her. This was a daily occurrence in this estate, though. The woman knew to hurriedly pick up the fallen sheets, cover her body, and vacate the room.

Fixedly glaring at the woman as she left, Count Salzberg once again spoke to Yulia, who stood rooted in place. Apparently he’d driven the girl out of the room for Yulia’s sake, since she hadn’t stated her business.

“Well, what is it? Why are you so quiet? You came here for a reason, right?” There was a hint of irritation in his tone.

Seeing his attitude take a turn for the worse, Yulia hurriedly handed over the letter. “I’m sorry, beloved. A messenger came from the capital.”

“Oh? The capital, you say?” Count Salzberg’s eyes narrowed as he looked down at the letter. “I see. Yes, this is the royal seal.”

The count then clicked his tongue and broke the seal. He opened the letter and quickly skimmed through the contents...and then started chuckling.

“Heh heh heh! Ah ha ha ha! I’m surprised they never get tired of this!”

Yulia realized her guess as to the contents of the letter had been right from her husband’s response.

“Go on, read it yourself!” He handed her the letter.

Yulia accepted it and read through it quickly. As she confirmed its contents, her brows furrowed. It said exactly what she thought it would. After receiving the same letter repeatedly for over a year, one couldn’t help but feel exasperated.

Ugh... That woman really is persistent. Is she really that wary of Ryoma Mikoshiba?

Normally, Yulia would feel inclined to ignore the letters. But for all Meltina’s faults, she was still Queen Lupis’s closest aide. Even if they were to refuse, they’d have to do so carefully.

“So, what should we do?” Count Salzberg asked. He spoke in his usual pleasant voice, but Yulia could feel the sneering behind it, as if he were mocking a fool.

“Yes, well, I’ll admit that I have no desire to do this. But we should answer Lady Meltina’s request, superficially at least.”

“Hm, yes.” Count Salzberg nodded, fiddling with his beard. “That would be wise.”




The count knew that Queen Lupis and her aide regarded Ryoma Mikoshiba with an exaggerated degree of caution. Soon after she’d granted Ryoma the Wortenia Peninsula, she had sent Count Salzberg a letter asking him to keep a watchful eye over him. Unfortunately, none of the spies he’d sent into Wortenia had returned, so he was effectively blind as to what was going on in the peninsula. And truthfully, Count Salzberg would have preferred to avoid any more losses over this matter.

Still, this letter was sent in the name of the country’s ruler, so as pointless as it might be, he had to at least give the appearance that he was looking into the matter, even if the attempt yielded no information whatsoever.

“But that man truly is unfortunate. Don’t you think so, Yulia?”

Yulia nodded. Ryoma was indeed an unlucky man. He’d put his life on the line to install Queen Lupis on the throne, but she was a fool unworthy of the title. Her aides, Meltina and Mikhail, were meatheads that blindly adhered to her whims. In the end, the only thing he’d gotten for his troubles was the Wortenia Peninsula—an undeveloped no-man’s-land. And when the O’ltormea Empire invaded Xarooda, she’d sent him on the expedition with Helena.

Queen Lupis used him repeatedly, yet she remained wary of him at the same time. Had Yulia been in Ryoma’s position, she didn’t know if she’d be able to bear it.

“Then like last time, I’ll contact the ten houses,” Yulia said. “Regardless of whether we gain any information, it should make them leave us alone.”

“Yes, do that,” Count Salzberg said. “I’ll leave it to you.” Then he reached for a bell on the table to call the girl he’d just kicked out back into the room.

That same day, Yulia received permission from her husband, Count Salzberg, to visit her family home at the Mistel Company. She’d arrived earlier that afternoon, but it was already past eight in the evening now. She’d been waiting for five hours to see her father.

This is quite the wait. Did something happen? Yulia pondered, glancing at the clock on her father’s office wall as it ticked away. The shop’s staff said he took off without saying anything, but...

Once or twice a month, Yulia would pay her father a courtesy call, like this visit. Normally, a woman visiting her family this often was unusual. After all, when a woman married into a noble family, it placed all sorts of limitations on her as a wife. She couldn’t return to her maiden family often. But since Yulia’s mother had passed away when she was young, her father, Zack Mistel, remained her sole relative. He was also the owner of the Mistel Company and the leader of the trade union that controlled business within Epirus. Given all that, Count Salzberg had had no choice but to grant Yulia’s request.

Yulia wasn’t just visiting her family home, though. She also wanted to discuss Epirus’s developing economy with her father, so she hadn’t made this request on a whim.

But even though Yulia had received permission to visit her father, the hour was late and staying the night would be inappropriate. Of course, since Count Salzberg and Yulia’s relationship was as terrible as it was, the count could very well ignore the fact that she’d spent the night away. But Yulia did have a reputation to maintain. Even so, Yulia had a reason to visit her father that night. If she were to return without discussing things with him, she would have to wait until her next courtesy call. Since she handled much of Epirus’s internal affairs in her husband’s stead, she was a busy person. Missing this chance to discuss the matter with him now meant pushing it off for two weeks, if not longer.

And this can’t wait...

Because of Meltina’s letter, Count Salzberg had ordered the ten houses of the north to resume their investigations into the Wortenia Peninsula. Yulia also felt that another civil war was on the horizon, due to the tumultuous atmosphere that hung over Rhoadseria as of late. It was very likely that the citadel city of Epirus would get caught up in the fighting.

No, not caught up, but rather...

Yulia suspected that Rhoadseria’s current state of unrest had been caused intentionally. But that was only her own personal speculation; she didn’t have any proof to back it up. However, that was the impression she got from Epirus’s current economic state and Rhoadseria’s public order as a whole.

Lupis Rhoadserians is a foolish sovereign. There’s no doubting that, but...

It seemed only logical that Queen Lupis’s reforms would go poorly, but every single one of her plans had failed. It was easy to assume that some political faction was trying to disrupt her efforts.

Viscount Gelhart is the most obvious candidate, along with his nobles’ faction. Furio Gelhart dropped in noble status by three ranks, and his domain was moved from the farm lands of Heraklion to a frontier region. He would definitely hold a grudge against the queen. But could he really cause something like this?

Even during their golden age, the nobles’ faction had struggled to have such far-reaching influence over the entirety of Rhoadseria. And now that their power had been greatly diminished, Yulia couldn’t see how they could manage this.

Which leaves...a foreign country?

The O’ltormea Empire, the ruler at the center of the western continent, would be the most suspect. When O’ltormea launched an invasion on Xarooda, Rhoadseria’s expedition, led by Helena Steiner and Ryoma Mikoshiba, had crushed their ambitions. Because of this, O’ltormea might be trying to strike back at Rhoadseria.

But I can’t imagine the empire would directly manipulate Rhoadseria like this.

Based on their prior tactics against Xarooda, O’ltormea’s fundamental strategy revolved around creating spies within the enemy country and manipulating them. They would bribe people native to the land and gather information on internal affairs. But since O’ltormea was surrounded by enemies in every direction, they needed spies in every region. This made it harder for them to deploy their own agents in large numbers. With that in mind, it was hard to believe O’ltormea would directly try to bribe people within Rhoadseria.

Which leaves... Yes, him.

Yulia thought of the young man who looked much older than his actual age. That scoundrel had quickly discovered that they had been mining a salt vein within Wortenia and had shamelessly forced them to negotiate over it. Since Queen Lupis had forced the Wortenia Peninsula on him, he most certainly had an ax to grind with her.

Count Salzberg and the others had sent upwards of a hundred men to scout out the Wortenia Peninsula, but none of them had returned. That implied he had very skilled adventurers and spies on his side. In addition, despite having no residents in his domain, he had bought countless slaves and trained them to be his soldiers.

He was creative, plucky, and decisive. He had proven to be a dangerous man. Still, it was hard to believe he was the source of all the political unrest in Rhoadseria.

He seems to be greatly profiting with Simone’s help, but I’m not sure he could influence all of Rhoadseria like this.

As Yulia continued to think, the clock rang out nine times, marking that another hour had passed.

It’s already so late. Should I just leave? It had become late enough that she had to consider returning home. Yulia was perplexed. I suppose I’ll have to come another time.

But just as she got up to leave, she heard a sudden knock on the door.

“Come in, the door is open,” she said.

The door swung open, and her father peered into the room. “Oh, you’re still here. Good, good,” Zack said, swiftly slipping into the room. He closed the door behind him and locked it. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief and sank into the sofa.

Yulia directed a questioning glance at him, noticing his nervous attitude. “Father, the shopkeeper said you left without saying anything. Where were you?”

One would naturally suspect that he’d been to see a woman, but thankfully, unlike her husband, Yulia’s father was quite indifferent to women. That implied he had been out on business, but if that was the case, why wouldn’t he tell the store’s staff about it?

Zack Mistel, however, wasn’t willing to answer her question. “No, you go first. The shopkeeper told me that I’ve kept you waiting for quite a while. Did something bad happen?”

Yulia shook her head. “I wouldn’t call it bad. There’s just something I thought I should inform you of.”

Yulia went on to tell him about the letter Meltina had sent them.

“So we’ve decided to order the ten houses of the north to dispatch more spies, like before.”

Zack nodded, crossing his arms. He then fell into a short silence. Whatever was on his mind, it was probably quite the difficult matter. But just when Yulia began to think that his silence had been dragging on for too long, he finally seemed to steel himself to speak.

“I see. So that’s what happened. There’s something I should probably tell you, then. You see, a messenger from the Mikoshiba barony came to see me today!”

Yulia gasped, looking at her father questioningly.

That entire night, the light in Zack Mistel’s room remained lit.

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