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  • Writer's pictureRina

Chapter 65


Prince Joseph and Hans Button decide their next move, while Tara gets an update from the Capital.


This chapter is dedicated to Cle-montresor! Thank you so much for your generous donation, we greatly appreciate it!


Disclaimer:

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Episode 65. 72kg (2)


The Imperial Palace drawing room. 


"Greetings, Your Highness Prince Joseph, the future of the Empire."


"Haha, enough of this formality. You've already agreed to be my person, are you going to do this every time you see me?"


"Sorry, I'm still in disbelief, Your Highness."


He was a man who had framed his brothers for corruption so he could take over the family name.


And then he killed his father. Now, he was pretending to be eminently humble. He was also going to be the mastermind whispering in Joseph's ear.


[More than a quarter of the farmland in the western plains is state-owned land. Arrange to sell around 30 percent of it].


[And?]


[And arrange for trustworthy families to acquire it. But, you must never take any of the profits].


[Why shouldn’t I? My people are the ones who are financing this, why should I let go of so much profit?]


[You must gain favour with the nobles by giving them the profits and use it as an opportunity to appear generous. The First Prince has not yet been confirmed as the heir, so you must gradually show them that you will be a good monarch, worthy of their loyalty. Not to mention...]


[Not to mention?]


[... As long as I am by your side, Your Highness, you will gain whatever it is that you desire.]


He had identified Joseph's consuming desires so easily. But had also warned him to hide his greed for the time being.


Hans Button had spoken those words the very first time they'd met from inside a ramshackle prison cell.


He'd been captured by Security Forces, a humble prisoner, and had sent a letter to one of Joseph's vassals, one of the less recognizable members of his entourage. That letter was what had summoned Joseph to his cell.


The letter had contained only a single sentence.


[Your Highness, I, Hans Button, am the man who will increase your power 50-fold.]


Such impressive confidence.


And that single line had sent a shiver down Joseph's spine. This was the same lowly man who had killed his own family without the slightest hesitation.


Joseph was pleased with him. He'd needed a talented thinker, not a weak-minded, moralizing idiot.


Nevertheless, he also liked Hans' feigned humility. Morality was just a veneer to impress others. It was something you used when the situation called for it. They understood each other's true intentions, but they would never reveal their cruel motives. They respected one another with affirmations and pretend morality.


Thus, they covered themselves with grand acts of humility and modesty. Like eagles hiding their talons so they could soar effortlessly into the sky.


"How humble. Please sit, I have something to ask."


After hearing his explanation, Hans Button drank his tea and pondered.


The way Hans looked at him made him force his gently smiling expression into a sharp frown.


"Gather evidence, but divulge only small amounts of information. Do so only as long as you do not lose the trust of the Empress. When you have solid evidence, keep it hidden. The best hand is always the one you play last. But we're late to the party. There's a good chance that the Second Prince has a much more valuable piece of evidence on hand, so you should try to conceal what you have as best you can. Don't reveal it until we know what the 2nd Prince has. However, before that...."


"Before...?"


"I need a decision from Your Highness."


"What?"


"Can you secure Her Majesty the Empress's support, which is currently focused on the First Prince?"


"...Ha..."


Joseph couldn't help but burst into laughter. That was something he had tried to do countless times before. But the Empress would never value him above his brother, the First Prince. He was expected to perpetually act as his brother's shadow, his footstool. He had once believed that, one day, his Mother would grace him with her attention, but now he realized it was a futile wish.


"Maybe. But not unless my brother dies."


"Any chance the First Prince will die before his coronation?"


"...!"


Hans asked the question in the same casual matter-of-fact tone as someone discussing a dinner menu.


This time, Joseph didn't even bother to prevent his lips from curling.


"Forgive me for being so crude, Your Highness, but I must know. As far as I am aware, such a thing will not happen. However, I have only been in the Palace for two months now. My perspective is bound to be different than yours, since you have known the First Prince your whole life."


"Do you believe it should be done?"


"It is possible, but the risks are great, and if you want to take care of the First Prince, you should also deal with the Second Prince."


Joseph laughed, an icy chuckle. It had been a long time since he had laughed so hard.


The idea of getting rid of the man who had been a thorn in his side his entire life was a refreshing one. When he stopped laughing, Joseph turned serious and answered Hans’ question.


"Yes, I suppose so. Indeed, as long as my brother is alive, my mother's heart will never change. There's no way she would support me over him."


"Then this must reach the Emperor's ears."


Joseph stopped dead, midway through lifting his teacup.


"Why?"


"Even if the Emperor learned of it, he would never raise the issue without evidence. And even if he had proof, he wouldn't be able to punish anyone for it. Assuming he was capable of getting that far, the punishment wouldn't be as severe as it should be. There is too much support in favour of House Toulouse. Besides, it happened so long ago, and making an issue of it now would be openly antagonising the Toulouse family. The Emperor would never be so reckless as to do that if he thought there would be consequences."


"If nothing can be done about it, what is the point of making it known?"


"Instead, this can be used for a deeper goal. The most likely heir is the First Prince, but the final word rests with the Emperor. This power is untouchable, which is why the House of Toulouse hasn't defied the Emperor's policies over the past five years. This is also why the Emperor hasn't named a Crown Prince. His Majesty is using what individual power he has to his political advantage."


"Yes, His Majesty always says he has no power, but he somehow manages to use quite a bit. Go on."


"Yes. So, what will His Majesty the Emperor do when he learns of this incident? He can't question it openly, but that won't prevent him from being resentful. The object of his loathing would be the Empress, and who is the Empress's favourite person?"


"Hah, my brother, the First Prince."


"So, naturally, the First Prince will lose His Majesty's favour."


"Ha, but then.... Wouldn't it be a problem if his favour went to the Second Prince, Kyle?"


"It's not something he would easily decide based on his feelings. It's ostensibly an unquestioned right, but it's only unquestioned when it's a legitimate child being elevated to the throne. That's why you have to limit the impact to Her Majesty the Empress only. His Majesty cannot risk his ties with House Toulouse. Not to mention the nobles who support him. The Second Prince is the head of the Ministry of Security and the Military, but he has no external political power, let alone the support of the nobility. Besides, he's a bastard. The Second Prince is not second in line, and cannot succeed the First Prince. There are no other legitimate children other than you who can ascend to the throne unopposed and unchallenged."


Joseph nodded wordlessly. It was true. He would ascend to the throne unopposed and unchallenged. He was that person.


"Therefore, this matter must reach the ears of the Emperor, but it must not leak out beyond him. We don't want to arouse the Empress's suspicions. Your move should be limited."


“… Are you saying not to use the evidence?"


"Yes, Your Highness, just keep it to yourself. That way, the Empress's trust will be maintained and the Emperor's favour will fall upon you. It must be the Second Prince who makes the Empress aware of it, so that her hatred will be directed even more towards him."


Joseph drank his tea and smiled slowly.


"That's good, the Empress's hatred will be directed towards the Second Prince, the Emperor's hatred will be directed towards the Empress, and the Second Prince will have the perfect target for revenge...."


"This will lay the groundwork for when the First Prince's seat becomes vacant, and present you as an ideal legitimate alternative. It will be your first opportunity to introduce yourself into the Emperor's favour."


***


Durben Tripoint, Hellarion Province, late June.


Durben Tripoint was a disputed border region at the western end of the Empire, under the steep Hellarion mountain range, ten days away from the Capital.


It was located where the borders of three countries converged; The Ocerian Empire, the Principality of Ga'an and the Kingdom of Barron.*


The positions of the three countries were all reasonable, but in international relations, the word 'reasonable' was meaningless. The priority of each was their own country's position.


As a result, the three countries had been deadlocked in a constant state of confrontation for more than 20 years as they each tried to fiercely expand their territories.


However, as time went on, the three countries reached the point where they tacitly respected each other's territorial boundaries to a certain extent, but did not accurately document them on maps, leaving them as disputed areas on paper.


***


Tara's room. The Ocerian Imperial Consulate. Durben Tripoint.


I had lost five kilograms in two months. I started my new job as soon as I arrived, and as Bernard increased the intensity of my training, my body grew lighter and lighter. But, on the other hand, the circles under my eyes were growing darker by the day.**


It had been two months since my arrival in Durben, and I was getting a little nervous, so I went downstairs to read the letters I'd received from the Capital.


[Master Jason's house arrest ended after only one month. He has been instructed to stay out of all Elias family business until otherwise directed by the Count. He's since gone straight to working in the Palace.


Master Logan has been busy working at the Ministry of Security and managing Elias Knights, and I've overheard the butler and Viscount Dylan speak of him highly.


Lady Chloe is often at the Palace, but she's busier with her duties at the family business. She doesn't seem to enjoy going to the Palace, and her expression isn't very pleasant every morning when she leaves for work.


The maids say that her relationship with Princess Margaret is not very good, but that's just a rumour.


Lady Aria has been learning horseback riding lately. Horseback riding and picnics are all the rage in the Capital these days, and I've heard the maids say that she’s planning to make her social debut soon and is beginning to make connections.


In addition to that, Lady Aria has been surprising everyone in the household lately by always having a book in hand.


The Count is mostly in the office or travelling around the Empire on business. He thanked me this Monday and graciously asked if my studies were going well.


Peter seems to be in training. Sir Mark Grant said he'd like to test his potential in 6 months or so. Oh yes, and Peter wanted to send his regards to Sir Bernard.


Lady Isabelle has been taking tea with the Lord quite often lately. From what I've seen, since being posted to the main hall, they are together at least once every two weeks.


Last but not least, I borrow books from the library at least three times a week, if the circumstances allow. Thank you, my Lady.


By the way, how are you? Please take care of yourself, and if you have any further questions, please let me know.


Sincerely, 

Niels.]


___

Editor’s Notes -


* In the manhwa these countries are called the Duchy of Khan and the Kingdom of Baron, but we’re already committed to the name the Principality of Ga’an and would rather stay internally consistent. If you’re curious about the difference between a Duchy and a Principality here’s a quick comparison of the two terms. We also decided to change the manhwa name of ‘Baron’ to ‘Barron’ because otherwise the name of the country might get confusingly muddled with the noble title of ‘Baron’. This is a case where we don’t necessarily agree with the manhwa’s translation choices.


** 5kg is roughly 11lb


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