Wortenia Senki (LN) - Volume 20 - Chapter Pr1

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One hour later, Adam finished his report and left Viscount Gelhart alone in his tent. Gelhart sat on the sofa with a cup of amber-colored liquor in his glass and sipped on it, lost in thought. Right now, he stood at the greatest crossroads of his life. The decision he was about to make here would affect the future of his authority and likely influence the conclusion of the comedy that was the subjugation of the north.

In a sense, one could call him the final weight that would tip the scales in favor of the subjugation of the north. Whichever side he aligned himself with, the scales would tip toward them.

My choice will decide the fate of that young lad as well as that unpleasant queen and her insufferable servant...

He spoke of Ryoma Mikoshiba, Queen Lupis, and Meltina Lecter. To Viscount Gelhart, this trio of people were his hated enemies who dashed his hopes of ruling over Rhoadseria. He had lost the previous civil war and had to shamefully pledge allegiance to Queen Lupis, whom he deemed a foolish idealist. And the one at fault for that was undoubtedly Ryoma Mikoshiba.

What’s more, he had a great grudge against the queen herself. She had taken away his domain in Heraklion, one of Rhoadseria’s richest agricultural lands, and demanded he pay sizable reparations. He had every reason to hate her to the bone as her actions were all for the sake of weakening his power and influence. The fact that Heraklion, the domain his family had devoted great effort and funds to developing since the country’s founding, was taken from him was the most painful outcome of all.

But the most disgusting and hateful of all was Meltina Lecter. She was subordinate to the foolishly idealistic Queen Lupis and was the one who truly tried to make that incompetent woman the kingdom’s ruler. To do that, she applied great pressure on the nobles’ faction at every turn.

Meltina had ordered the special taxation to revitalize the kingdom’s economy after it had been ravaged by the civil war, relegating those funds to the military under the pretense of maintaining appearances. However, she did not truly care about that one bit. Her scheming also forced many nobles to distance themselves from their class faction.

Many unfavorable events had transpired under Queen Lupis’s regime—like the dispatching of reinforcements to the Kingdom of Xarooda and the civil unrest and destabilization caused by the revolt in the rural areas. Had it not been for Meltina and her poor handling of said situations, the nobles’ faction would have disappeared from Rhoadseria long ago.

How ironically amusing.

Viscount Gelhart laughed out loud, after which he took a sip from his glass. Until now, he had presented himself as an ally to Queen Lupis with a submissive attitude. Even Meltina acknowledged his supportive nature despite her negative feelings toward him.

Of course, that attitude didn’t reflect his true feelings; he had made a secret deal with Ryoma Mikoshiba that he couldn’t afford to have discovered. With the covert nature of the pact, he risked it being an empty promise. If one side were to decide not to live up to their end of the bargain, the other side would be powerless to object. And as the one who proposed the deal, Viscount Gelhart knew this very well.

But that night, I saw what Ryoma Mikoshiba was truly capable of.

At the evening party Ryoma hosted, Viscount Gelhart saw wealth and prosperity greater than anything he was capable of at the height of his power or what even royalty could provide. The event occurred at Count Salzberg’s estate on the outskirts of Epirus shortly before the massacre in the House of Lords.

Viscount Gelhart obviously couldn’t attend a party that Baron Mikoshiba was hosting because of his position within the court. But just looking at the party from a separate room allowed him to see the vast financial wealth the Mikoshiba barony boasted.

The main dishes used such fresh seafood, and all those wines were brought in from the central continent. Even the capital would require more than just money to prepare such a feast.

These displays were why Viscount Gelhart remained in contact with Baron Mikoshiba behind the scenes despite openly supporting Queen Lupis in the northern subjugation. He carefully watched the ongoing conflict, seeking to discern who held the advantage before selling his services to the highest bidder.

The question is, who do I choose to throw in my lot with?

Since the northern subjugation began, Viscount Gelhart had gathered information through bribery, extortion, persuasion, and other means. He mobilized all the resources and skills he had fostered for years as the leader of the nobles’ faction to learn about Queen Lupis and Baron Mikoshiba. And Adam had delivered the last bit of information he needed to make his final decision.

The report Adam gave him matched his expectations... No, it actually exceeded them to an extent.

Adam Fuhrer. He’s proven quite useful despite being a mere upstart commoner knight. If nothing else, his choice to side with me was commendable. 

Thinking back to Adam’s face, Viscount Gelhart smiled in scorn and disdain, which contrasted with the friendly way he had greeted him just moments ago. It was the same cold arrogance typical of nobles that Adam expected before speaking to him. If he were to see Viscount Gelhart now, he would have reconsidered turning his back on Queen Lupis, choosing to retain a businesslike relationship with her.

And Viscount Gelhart knew it. People don’t change at their core that easily, and just as Adam initially suspected, the viscount was an arrogant, overbearing man at heart. Knowing full well what kind of person he was, Viscount Gelhart could hide his true nature when the need called for it.

If asked for his honest opinion, he would have liked to level a complaint or two at Adam for coming unannounced in the middle of the night. But doing so would yield him no profit, save for maybe easing his displeasure. And this was why Viscount Gelhart put on his mask of amicability.

A man’s face surfaced in the viscount’s mind—Kael Iruna. He was once a skilled swordsman who was Mikhail Vanash’s equal and rival, a man brimming with promise and ambition. In the end, that man betrayed Viscount Gelhart and joined General Albrecht’s side instead.

I was a fool back then. Just remembering that man’s name made my blood boil.

When Ryoma Mikoshiba led his armies to attack Heraklion during the civil war, Kael intercepted him at the banks of the River Thebes. And there, he suffered a crushing defeat that also wiped out the private knight order Viscount Gelhart had invested plenty of funds into training and equipping.

Even Viscount Gelhart knew luck had played a major factor in the war, but he couldn’t overlook those losses. So, he hurled insults and abuse at Kael for his failings. Still, this was a grave mistake that could have cost Kael his life. Letting him get away with nothing but a scolding and a slap on the wrist could seem like very magnanimous treatment. At least, this was how Viscount Gelhart saw it at the time.

But looking back at it now, it wasn’t kindness. All I did was vent my frustrations on him.

Deep down, he hoped that a day would come when he would cast Kael aside and expected the knight to thank him for his decision. If he wanted to scold him for his defeat, he’d have been better off having Kael take responsibility for it by killing him right there and then. Additionally, Viscount Gelhart wouldn’t have reprimanded Kael so harshly to satisfy his anger if kindness were what truly drove him.

Execute him or show him pity. Which was the better choice? It was hard to tell, but if Gelhart had settled on one option, there wouldn’t have been such far-reaching consequences. But he chose a half measure, trying to pick both, making Kael feel like his dignity had been wounded. That blemish to his ego made him turn his back on the viscount and was fundamental in him switching to General Albrecht’s side.

It only makes sense that he would betray me. I was too overbearing toward others for no reason, which created enemies I could have avoided.

In the end, Viscount Gelhart hadn’t kept his emotions in check and had realized this was his greatest flaw and the source of his problems. It was truly a foolish blunder to have made.

And that woman is about to make the same mistake.

Since he’d once made this error, Viscount Gelhart could tell that Meltina Lecter was about to do the same. He certainly hated Lupis Rhoadserians because she was aware of the problem and was powerless to do anything to change it. Both women had a critical misunderstanding of the qualities necessary to rule over a country and lead its people.

But that man does see it. Despite this vast numerical disadvantage, he chose to take the northern subjugation army head-on.

On the surface, it seemed clear that Ryoma’s strategy was to sever the northern subjugation supply line. He drove the citizens of Epirus and the surrounding northern Rhoadserian villages from their homes, forcing them to come to the northern subjugation for help. And that tactic proved effective.

It stood to reason that sheltering the refugees meant the soldiers’ rations would temporarily shrink, as discovered in Viscount Gelhart’s investigations. With the worthy cause of helping their unfortunate countrymen being the stated reason, the soldiers couldn’t verbally object. The issue was that the rations given to the nobles commanding the military units remained unchanged.

It’s only natural the soldiers would become disgruntled from seeing that.

With the siege of Fort Tilt being at a stalemate, the soldiers’ morale was plummeting. But for the time being, it only amounted to them silently complaining. The problem was that, if left unchecked, their discontent would escalate further.

Of course, those women realize that Mikoshiba’s aim here is to defeat the army using starvation tactics. That’s why they sent Mikhail back to the capital, even if it’s a painfully predictable countermeasure. Mikoshiba isn’t going to sit idly by and let them get away with that... He must have some plan.

Viscount Gelhart wasn’t privy to Ryoma’s plans, nor did he have the tactical mind to predict them. He may have somehow inferred the boy’s intentions, but held no definitive proof. Even so, as an influential aristocrat who spent many years in politics, his keen instincts warned him of a ploy.

How vexing...

The thought that he was inferior to a lowly commoner made his blood boil. During the civil war, Ryoma completely swept the rug from under Viscount Gelhart’s feet, and that taught him the painful lesson that he was no match for that upstart boy.

But that was fine. All that mattered now was that he had learned from that lesson and used it to secure his own profits.

“Which makes it clear who I should side with,” Viscount Gelhart whispered, picking up the liquor bottle on his table.

After refilling his empty glass, he held it to eye level and sipped on the drink. He pulled a key dangling from his chest to open the side table’s drawer. Then, the viscount took a letter from inside it and smirked, believing this was the trump card that would promise him the restoration of his rights and power.

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