Tales of the Reincarnated Lord - Chapter 418 - Plotting
"In summer I plot and plan
in autumn I plow the land
in winter I move the groove
in spring I drench my wench."
~ A poem from the emperor's diary
Charade left right away. Since Lorist had already given his okay, he had to start preparing the rest. He refused Lorist's request to dine with him and left in a hurry. As the chief administrator, there was much of which he was left in charge so he couldn't just rest right after a decision was made like Lorist could.
Lorist didn't expect Sylvia would return with an angry look right after Charade left. He was quite surprised. He had initially thought Sylvia would return late. At the very least, she should've had dinner with her godmother, Xanthi, instead of rushing over in a bad mood.
She dug herself into his arms and teared up soundlessly like a lost child, distressing him greatly. Sylvia didn't have much mental fortitude, so he was very worried she might develop some kind of mental disorder at some point. After consoling her for a while, he came to know what happened. Xanthi had told Sylvia that after she took the king as her disciple and aided with his breakthrough, she wanted to find a good husband for her. She thought considered the king was a very good candidate, given his high status, impressive reputation, reputable family background, good personal combat skills, and rank as king. If she had wedded him, House Fisablen could've shed the reputation of traitor and even be one of the kingdom's top noble houses, perhaps even get out of their current predicament.
But when the king was at the crucial point of his breakthrough, Xanthi received word of Sylvia's marriage. The news concerned the breakout of war between House Fisablen and the alliance and Iblia's extermination. Xanthi had been really believed her goddaughter would finally be over the Norton kid. So, it really made her wonder what was going on when she heard about their wedding. She couldn't write it off as a joke either; the wedding invitation arrived along with the news. No matter how much she thought about it, she still couldn't remotely guess what was happening. She decided that Lorist must have forced the house to make Sylvia marry him. Unfortunately, she couldn't leave the capital, or she would have slaughtered her way into the Northlands to save Sylvia. The biggest loss was that Sylvia would lose her chance to become queen. She really wondered why the house couldn't delay it for another year.
Counter to the picture Xanthi had in her mind of the situation, Sylvia couldn't be happier. She didn't care for the position queen and was more than satisfied that she could be with the man she loved. After finally meeting the godmother she had relied on from her childhood, she had told her everything about how she felt, including the harsh treatment she had received from the house and how hollow she had felt after she was abandoned and sent to Lorist as a gift. She also told Xanthi about what Lorist had done to nurse her back to health and the effort he had put in to make her his lawfully wedded wife.
Xanthi grew more furious the more she listened. Everything was the duke's fault! She dragged Sylvia over to her grandfather to settle the matter. The girl didn't want to meet the duke but she didn't have much of a say, not with a blademaster dragging her along.
The old woman and the old man argued incessantly and Sylvia became a potted plant watching the affair. She couldn't bear to listen to their fight and tried to move as far away as she possibly could. Unfortunately, she encountered her cousin, Cacanne, touring Rose Palace with a few others, as she tried to escape. Cacanne greeted her as the queen and even sneered at her in front of everyone. The girl couldn't endure the humiliation and slapped her before running away. On the way, she started to feel more and more anxious about what she had just done and came to Lorist to tell him about it.
Lorist laughed heartily when the story finished.
"Dear, it's fine as long as you didn't come out worse for wear. In fact, it was worth it if you gave that queen a slap."
"But... But my cousin is the queen!"
"So what? Slap her if you want."
Lorist wasn't taking it seriously at all. If Auguslo really wanted the alliance's support in the coming war, he couldn't bother with blame games now. He was too cold-blooded to care about the queen's face as long as it didn't affect him anyway. He wasn't the kind of king that would draw his sword for a beauty. Even if he did, he'd still have to consider whether a mere rank 1 blademaster could afford to do so against Lorist.
"Your Grace, His Majesty has arrived," reported Jinolio.
He informed the two that the king seemed rather angered, though he had only brought two guards with him.
Well, I suppose it's only to be expected. He'd lose quite a bit of face if his wife was slapped without any recourse. No matter how bad their relationship, a husband has to stand up for his wife. Since it isn't appropriate to go after Sylvia, he has to come to me.
Lorist let Auguslo in. He gave Sylvia's rear a light slap as he waited.
"Go hide this out. I'll deal with this for you. I hope you last longer tonight."
Sylvia gave him an embarrassed glance before leaving. He heard the king's loud footsteps as he entered. He didn't bother to stand up. Instead, he remained laid back in his chair as he stretched out his hand.
"Forget this matter and I'll give you 50 catapults. What do you say?"
"Ah," Auguslo mused, "One hundred, and I'll treat it as if it never happened."
"Hehe," Lorist laughed, shaking his head, "Fifty. That queen of yours ain't worth a hundred."
"No way, she is my wife and the kingdom's queen. Don't you think it's a slight on my reputation without at least a hundred catapults?"
The second highness's insistence was already clear.
Lorist withdrew his hand.
"Fine, if you don't want fifty, then you'll get none. Do whatever you want, I'll take it all. Just tell me if you want to end our friendship."
Auguslo was stunned.
"Locke, what's the meaning of this?! Why aren't you following the script?!" he cried.
"Script? What script?"
"Shouldn't we bargain a little more and settle in the middle? With that, we can both step down with our reputations intact. How could you end it all like this?"
Lorist laughed for a moment before his face sunk into a resting bastard face.
"My offer is final, 50 catapults and not one more. You should understand better than anyone that I offered you 50 catapults just because it's you. Do you think I would bother making it up to anyone else?"
"Fine, 50 it is."
Though Auguslo knew that it was already Lorist's baseline, he was still not satisfied.
"Why don't you go slap her again and give me a hundred catapults instead?"
Lorist laughed so hard he lost his breath.
"Those 50 and your Whitelion should be more than enough to take down quite a few walled cities and forts. You shouldn't be too greedy. Also, I can't be bothered to slap your wife. Come to think of it, I think you owe me an explanation for why you broke up with my cousin."
Auguslo sighed and took a seat.
"A cup of wine."
Jinolio served some wine and immediately left again, closing the door to the study behind him. Lorist got the wine bottle and poured himself a cup as well, which he downed in one gulp, before handing the rest to Auguslo. The latter didn't bother with the cup. Instead, he emptied the bottle directly into his mouth. After a loud burp and a sigh he began.
"I have wronged Glacia..."
"Of course you have. She joined you when she was 18 and has been by your side for 20 years. She charged into battle for you, fought wars for you, and served you in the night. She gave you all the time she had in the prime of her youth. Even if you're wary of us, you of all people should understand how loyal she was. I didn't think you'd abandon her so easily and let her leave. I really look down on you, 'Your Majesty'. This just confirmed I was right not to cooperate with you. If this is how you treat a woman so loyal to you, how much easier would you throw us away once you had no further use for us?" mocked Lorist coldly.
"You can't blame me," argued Auguslo.
Since Lorist was being forthright, he didn't bother with false pretenses.
"Your forces are strong enough to exterminate nations like it was a mere stroll in the park, yet you're unwilling to help me reunite the empire. Do you really think I can not worry about you? I'm afraid your methods would be far worse if you were in my position. I'm already really tolerant of you. Tell me. Do you think I could really take Glacia as my queen?"
"But, Your Majesty, you know we aren't the least bit interested in the throne. Our house's centuries-long legacy should be ample proof. We pledged allegiance to you because you were the legitimate heir to the royal family. You know I don't have much ambition either. All I want is to develop my dominion and spend my days in peace. It's really unfair for you to be so wary of us."
"No, no..." the second highness said as he shook his head, "Locke, I know you don't have much ambition. I have no choice. If I took Glacia as my wife, as the kingdom's strongest duke, you would influence its affairs one way or another. Given that Glacia is a Norton, you will always back her. Even if you pledge your allegiance to the kingdom, you can't promise that your descendants will do the same. I have to consider the future beyond those currently heading the houses."
"So you're saying you're taking a woman from House Fisablen so they can be our foil? You're willing to give up on Glacia, who has followed you for over two decades, just for that?"
Auguslo laughed bitterly.
"I won't deny I did hold the thought at one point. The real reason is to take House Fisablen back into the kingdom including the old empire's two border provinces they control and use them to attack the four duchies. Locke, you know my dream is to rebuild the empire. Through reuniting it, my name will be recorded and remembered in the annals of history.
"Blademaster Xanthi asked that I marry someone from the house. She said Duke Fisablen wouldn't be persuaded otherwise. At first, Princess Sylvia was supposed to be the one I married, but you'd already taken her as your wife. So, I simply chose another. I don't love her. I made it very clear to Glacia that I was doing this for the empire, nothing more. If she were willing I would have taken her as my second wife, but she would have none of it.
"Do you think I don't feel bad? I really don't have a choice. Since you were unwilling to help me, I had no choice but to ask House Fisablen. There's no way I can defeat the duchies with just three legions and 150 thousand men. I need to borrow the strength of others. House Fisablen has deployed two legions. Coupled with the four houses, we have more than enough to wipe out the duchies now. After reclaiming the eleven provinces and recuperating for a few years, we can finally take back the empire's land the Union now holds."
Lorist sighed deeply. He felt great pity for the king all of a sudden. For the sake of reuniting the empire, he was willing to take any step necessary like he was possessed by a demon. He didn't hesitate to slaughter the traitorous nobles. He was also ready to sacrifice his love to gain House Fisablen's support. But people couldn't come to agreements if they weren't on the same page. Had it not been for his allies, Lorist wouldn't have bothered to help with the upcoming war.
Fine, let's just consider this the last time.
"Alright, I'll join the war this time to sate your desire for revenge. I won't let you command our forces, though. We will decide how and when to attack. I guarantee we won't miss the opportunity should it present itself, so I hope you won't hold me back."
Auguslo cracked a smile and gave Lorist a high five.
The king was quite happy with the results of his visit and refused Lorist's cordial invitation to having dinner together. He said he had to go back to Rose Palace and calm the slapped queen down.
"Do you really think you can handle the scheming old fox?" Lorist couldn't help but ask as Auguslo was leaving.
The king smiled brightly.
"What do I have to worry about with House Norton around?"
Lorist shook his head, a bitter smile on his face, as he watched the king leave.
Why, aren't you the real schemer here? You know the one I'm most wary of is Duke Fisablen. So you let them do what they please without much consideration. You understand that if House Fisablen regains their strength, they would slap me down hard first. You're letting them clutch your leg for a chance of surviving and rebuilding. I have been unconsciously made a weapon with which you threaten that old fox...