Huge thanks to Sammikinns for the kofis! (1/2)
One by one, the hastily convened vassals took their seats and filled the conference room. Beneath the brightly lit chandelier, gloomy expressions that didn’t match it faced each other, and faintly revealed the situation’s urgency.
Nevertheless, no one spoke first. It’s because everyone was aware that once the topic was brought up, the atmosphere would darken even further. Amidst the odd silence, the only indication of their presence were the sound of sighs and chairs being dragged.
“What on earth caused him to collapse?”
The first person to open his mouth was Viscount Dittern.
He kept stroking his gray beard, which made him seem more nervous than usual. Count Newett, who was watching him with a tired gaze, rubbed the corners of his eyes and responded.
“Apparently, he sprained his foot while approaching the fireplace and hit his head on the chair’s backrest.”
“Who’s the one that said so?”
“The Little Duke said so. Fortunately, he was around, so he was able to administer first aid.”
Haaa, the sighs that erupted out were scattered on the table. As it was an unprecedented situation, the vassals had no idea on how they should continue the topic.
Although it has already been two days since he’d collapsed, the duke was still in an unconscious state. As he originally was a healthy person, none of them expected him to be bedridden in such a manner. After leaving behind his opinion of a brain concussion, the head physician said that as for when he will awaken, it will be up to the will of God.
The dreary atmosphere spreaded to a great extent. The sound of the opening door cut through the bitter silence drew the vassals’ attention.
“I’m a little late.”
Max entered the conference room with a haggard face.
Unlike his mournful expression, his clothes were quite extravagant. As he looked around, Max brushed his hand against the corner of his mouth and naturally moved to the seat at the head of the table.
Count Newett, who was watching him quietly, let out a sigh and pointed to the seat next to him. But Max disregarded him and seated himself on the Duke’s seat.
Viscount Dittern, who looked at him with irritated eyes, ignored him while clearing his throat. Despite the negative reaction, Max recited what he had to say with a composed face.
“As the Sirs are already aware, His Grace is currently in critical condition. Until he is able to take this seat again, as his successor, I will represent the ducal family.”
There wasn’t anyone that expressed their disapproval. They just gave him dissatisfied gazes.
As Max finished his statement, the vassal thought that ‘This is the end,’ and returned to the point as they recalled the immediate work in hand with grave expressions.
“I’m quite worried about how we should proceed, as there aren’t just one or two items on the agenda that require authorisation.”
Viscount Dittern held his forehead and the words flowed out like a groan. At his signal, similar grumbling appeared here and there.
“There are more than six official events just next week alone. Even if the trifling matters are muddled through by us, the important events…”
“Is it really alright to carry out the construction of irrigation canals as it is? A final review still remains, as far as I’m aware.”
“The same goes for the issue of expanding the port. Although it’s an approved item on the agenda, the exact design or site hasn’t been produced yet, but our timing…”
“No matter what, those are still considered trivial.”
Count Newett raised his hand and attracted the attention of everyone present.
“It’ll be fine as long as we settle our internal affairs accordingly. However…it’s concerning how His Grace’s absence will affect the Privy Council.”
The rather sombre voice echoed through the air murkily. The word ‘Privy Council’ caused troubled looks to appear on the vassals’ faces.
“I’ve heard that the external pressure that the Privy Council is under is severe these days. I’d never thought that he’d be bedridden at a time like this…”
“Isn’t the current chairperson a Geraktal, of all things? I’m worried about how they’d find fault with us.”
“…Speaking of which, there are frequent disputes in the areas bordering the Eastern region. While regionalism is also a problem, I’m quite troubled by the smuggled goods that are leaking from there.”
“But we can’t take issue with that first. Everyone present knows how foxy those Geraktals are.”
The Privy Council, which the 22 High Lords are a part of, was an extremely strict institution that functioned as an advisory role to the central government. Unlike the elegant appearance of noble people gathering to strengthen unity, it was no different from a battlefield that’s filled with envy and jealousy, as well as the exchange of secret plots and slander.
Amongst them, two families that had a particularly poor relationship were the Marquisate of Geraktal and the Duchy of Eufgenschult.
Oakland, which is located in the east, and Helman, which was located above it, couldn’t be described as on good terms with each other even with empty words due to the long-standing regionalism. Just as if it was representative of that, the Lord of Oakland, the Marquisate of Geraktal, as well as the Duchy of Eufgenschult, who ruled Helman, were notorious for being like cats and dogs in the Privy Council.
However, it was difficult to predict what would happen if the duke’s absence became known when their nemesis, Geraktal, was chairing the Privy Council. As Viscount Dittern pressed on the deep wrinkles between his brows, he opened his mouth.
“If smuggling was brought up, they’ll retaliate with the issue of land infringement. He isn’t an easy target to deal with. In His Grace’ absence, hold your tongue for the time being.”
“With all due respect, Lord Viscount, I don’t think it’s a problem that can be solved by covering it up. Everyone present here is already aware of His Grace’s collapse. In order words, not just us, but also the aides are all in the know.”
“But we also can’t just remain here like this. Even if we endure Geraktal’s provocation, if an official document is sent down in the name of the Privy Council, who will be able to represent His Grace? Aren’t we all just his vassals?”
“……if it’s the Lord Viscount and the Lord Count.”
“That’s impossible! We have always been but men of humble stations belonging under Eufgenschult’s name. It seems that everyone present must have thought of Geraktal as the name of the neighbour’s dog.”
Tsk, Viscount Dittern clicked his tongue and stopped talking.
As he’d mentioned, while they’d been regarded as easy, Geraktal was one of the 22 great bloodlines of the Republic. Considering the position that they were currently seated in. They were a family that could stand shoulder to shoulder with Eufgenschult, which all the vassals admired.
In addition, the other Lords of the Privy Council were also different from ordinary nobles. This meant that they weren’t people that vassals like them could dare to have conversations with on equal footing.
All the vassals fell silent and were busy reading each other’s faces. The only person that displayed emotion in a place filled with sceptical gazes was Max, who occupied the Duke’s seat.
“What sort of nonsense are you talking about in front of me? The successor is undeniably standing firm, but you Sirs have quite a number of worries.”
Although he had said those words confidently with his legs crossed, the vassals merely looked at him with gazes of dissatisfaction. Max, who had expected a response, continued speaking with his lips in a distorted shape.
“What’s there to worry about when it hasn’t even happened? Also, the saying ‘being like cats and dogs’ is so outdated. When I was in public school, you didn’t know how I was with Young Lord Geraktal…”
“Little Duke. If regionalism was something that could be easily resolved, His Grace would have settled it already. With all due respect, the Little Duke had never handled administrative work before.”
Count Newett cut Max off with a firm voice. He spoke in a polite tone, but his disdain for Max was laid bare completely.
Max’s hands that were on the table slowly curled into fists. A wave of anger rose within his eyes at the insults. To Max, who had constantly been treated like an emperor in public school, such insults were absolutely unacceptable.
Nevertheless, the thought that he’ll lose his dignity as the successor if he treated the count disrespectfully at the vassals’ gathering barely stopped Max.
Max let out a long exhale and swallowed down his anger. Just as he was trying his best to exercise his patience and putting on a natural expression.
“I apologise for my tardiness.”
Isaac, who entered the conference room belatedly, bowed his head in greeting.
His simple attire that consisted of a shirt and pants, his flushed expression and panting breathing, as if he had just rushed over, contrasted glaringly with Max, who was dressed in extravagant clothing, and this made Isaac seem more pitiful. Max clicked his tongue internally and vented his waning anger on his stepbrother.
“Even if it’s just in name, you’re His Grace’s aide. You’re definitely informed about the urgent meeting, so what useless things were you up to that made you late?”
“…That’s. My apologies, but that’s confidential.”
Max raised an eyebrow and rapped the table.
‘What does he mean by confidential. Additionally, even if it was classified, he should have reported all of it to me first, so it’s preposterous that he’d dared to say that it’s confidential in front of me. ‘
“Do you mean that I’m included with the outsiders? I am the Little Duke and the territory’s Young Lord. Are you mocking me?”
“Or do you think that the conference is a joke?”
“Don’t even think about changing the subject and explain why you’re late, Lord Sergeant.”
At Max’s sneer, the vassals frowned before turning their gazes away. Isaac looked at Max with an indifferent face, and when he realised that Max didn’t have much patience, he opened his mouth like he was confessing.
“…As soon as I heard the terrible news that His Grace had collapsed, I readjusted the priorities of the items on the agenda that needed to be handled. I’ve arranged it so that the things that a proxy could settle are in front, and behind that are the most important issues from the list.”
Isaac, who was standing in front of the door, stepped aside gracefully. With his movements as a signal, the attendants that were waiting outside the door, filed in and began arranging a bunch of documents in front of the vassals.
Unlike Max, who didn’t know where to look with a difficult face, all the vassals poured over the documents with serious looks. The previous appearance of a heated argument disappeared, and only the sound of papers being flipped and throats being cleared echoed in the conference room occasionally.
‘What’s so great about these documents, that everyone’s pretending to be serious?’
……No. What did Isaac just say? Wasn’t it a list of the most important issues?
Max, who observed the vassals’ appearance absentmindedly, belatedly comprehended Isaac’s words and hurriedly moved his gaze to the document. However, there were only multiple rows of incomprehensible sentences listed from the first page onwards.
It was clearly written in Heidven, but he couldn’t understand its meaning. Amidst the flood of letters and numbers, Max could only grasp the paragraph’s title and some simple sentences.
[T/N: Heidven is the Republic’s language]
As soon as he raised his head, which had become confused as a result, his eyes met Isaac’s, who was standing a distance away. His face was the same as usual, and even seemed indifferent and neat, but a faint smile appeared as soon as he met Max’s gaze.
“If there’s anything you’re curious about, Little Duke, please stoop to inquire at any time.”
Isaac’s tone, which seemed to contain friendly teasing, made him feel like he was being mocked. As Max uttered numerous curses, he crumpled up the documents in front of him.
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