Chapter 72 is here!
For the Patrons, chapter 73, Chapter 74, chapter 75 (Easy mode) and chapter 76 (normal mode) are all available on the Patreon page.
Sorry for the long delay, took a bit of a vacation to study some stuff for my coming-up exams, work on some projects, go see some of my family, and deal with my awful flu/toothache. Believe me, I wouldn’t take a break in December if I didn’t reaaaally need it, as anyone earning money on the internet will tell you.
Anyway, here’s chapter 72, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
【”Ugh! This is infuriating! How did this plebeian nobody rise so far up the echelons!”】
Albert furiously threw the glass in his hand towards the floor. The fancy piece of glass-work, that could sell for a high price anywhere in the continent loudly shattered into many, small, shiny fragments.
Albert heavily sank into his sofa and let out a deep sigh.
( ―― I’ve made a terrible mistake.)
He couldn’t help feeling both astonished and violently angry at the same time.
While it was true that the princess Frigga that came to the kingdom was the real deal and that he had been wrong about her, Albert usually wouldn’t have allowed himself to get this upset over such a matter.
He had let his conviction of being victorious blind his judgement.
In any case, Albert’s status had now fallen to ground-zero.
Worst of all, he had gotten on the bad side of the king.
The nobles of his faction, who used to flatter him all the time, had all unanimously refused to cooperate with him.
Even the prime minister, who was relatively close to him, had given him a look of disappointment. The sting of that humiliation was still hurting.
【”Damn it! The way things are going, even Asgard is going to abandon me!”】
Albert had anticipated very early-on that the Jormungand kingdom would be conquered by Asgard.
That was why he planned to contribute to Asgard’s invasion, to make them indebted to him, so that his sovereignty over Jormungand would be recognized by the empire.
To that end, it was absolutely necessary to make the Asgard empire realize that Albert was the true successor of the throne, and that they’d benefit more from taking him to their side rather than being hostile to him.
However, as things stood now, Albert was nothing more than a noble who had switched sides to Asgard, and who did not deserve any special treatment.
If so, then his betrayal of his country was utterly pointless.
Albert was born in one of the most prestigious families of the kingdom. He was tied to the prime minister, and he was a leading figure in the kingdom, with the first princess as his wife.
His pride would never allow him to accept receiving the same treatment as any random regional noble.
If that had been his aim, he would have obediently accepted to stay in the political world as a regular, prominent noble, aiming to become a prime minister only.
【”…Maybe I should just reconcile myself with… No! There is absolutely no way that’s going to happen!!”】
Albert also had the option of letting bygones be bygones and trying to make a comeback in Jermungand’s royal court.
However, that would mean he’d have to openly accept and show that he was below that commoner, Kurats.
And that was something Albert could never bear to do. That humiliation would be more than he could take.
After all, the person who had taken his right to the throne from right under his nose to begin with was none other than Kurats.
(――What should I do, then?)
Until just a few days ago, Albert was expecting about 20% of the country’s nobles to follow him and turn their backs on the government in case of an invasion by the Asgard empire.
But now, he’d probably only get the support of a few relatives and maybe some petty nobility who shared borders with his territory.
The marquis of Strasbourg’s household was a distinguished noble family, but when it came to pure military power, they weren’t anything special.
Taking all this into account, Albert obviously no longer had enough in his arsenal to catch the Asgard empire’s attention.
If so, then maybe taking the front line of a revolt right away would get him some points? No, then he’d just be destroying himself at the king’s hands and be forever branded as a traitor.
Rosberg’s face crossed Albert’s mind. From his perspective, Rosberg was more like a monster than a human being.
And considering things logically, Albert’s forces were far too lacking for him to even dream of defeating Rosberg anyway.
【”…Damn it. If it wasn’t for that mage…”】
If not for that Kurats Hans Almadianos Von Gaura…
Princess Lunaria would be long dead, Lapland would have been destroyed, and their destruction would have greatly pacified Jormungand’s nobles.
Who could have thought that a single man could take on and defeat Asgard’s forces with his power alone?
At that moment, Albert was hit by a flash of insight.
(That’s it! That man’s the key to it all!)
Kurats was able to use a type of magic that was completely different from the magic saint Arthurius’ system that was spread throughout the world.
He also had the strength to lift up a massive rock the size of a hill with a single hand and to easily throw it at his enemies.
It was said that that he killed hundreds of Asgardian soldiers using that method.
Moreover, those who happened to survived his attacks would feel such fear when faced with his absolute power that they could not even get themselves put in any effort to help their comrades.
On a battlefield, soldiers who could not overcome their fear were useless.
There was no way the Asgard empire could ignore such a dangerous man. They definitely had to use some kind of a maneuver to get rid of the threat, either by assassinating him or by making him an ally.
Given princess Lunaria’s current circumstances, it was very unlikely that Kurats would switch sides.
That being the case, the Asgard empire would probably soon come to understand that stopping Kurats was the most important step to capturing the Jormungand kingdom.
And so, killing Kurats would be a sufficient achievement for Albert to strengthen his standing in Asgard’s eyes.
However, what would be even better would be to kill him once his political worth would reach even greater heights.
【”I need someone here!”】
【”Master, you called?”】
As a butler who had been working here for many years gracefully stepped forward, Albert gave him an order without trying to hide his excitement.
【”Go gather information about that man! Where he comes from, his family, what he likes, any women, or any weaknesses! Check everything! I don’t care how much it ends up costing!”】
At this point in time, common weaknesses would probably not be enough to bring Kurats’ downfall… But, in the end, he was still just an upstart with no backers.
It wouldn’t be hard to sabotage him. And if Albert could successfully make him yield, then perhaps he’d even be able to use him as his chess piece afterwards.
In any case, Albert was finally recognizing Kurats as not just a mere commoner, but as a political rival.
◆ ◆ ◆
【”Hmm, that’s some good tea.”】
In a VIP room for nobles at a certain coffee shop in a street corner of Jormungand’s capital.
Kurats was acting completely carefree while Frigga and Lunaria were making preparations for moving to Bashtar.
【”…That’s not enough retainers, we need way more!”】
【”Can’t we hire people on-site?”】
【”You think there is anyone who was sent to the Bashtar territory who’s crazy enough to be staying there by choice?! They’ll all escape at the first chance they find!”】
【”But they’d be getting the opportunity of being direct retainers of a count’s household…”】
The truth was that Kurats and Cornelia did not have much preparations to make before going.
The only preparations needed were for Lunaria’s sake, as she was the princess of a country, and for the very same reason, Frigga―― Well, Frigga was used to being on battlefields, so this was mostly about Lunaria.
【”Hey! This whole operations is about you, how come you’re leisurely drinking your tea?!”】
【”What am I supposed to do? I was still just a commoner until recently, don’t make absurd requests.”】
【”That’s not absurd. But having to deal with Bashtar’s development? Now that’s absurd!”】
Kurats dismissed Lunaria’s complaints with a ferocious smile.
【”It’s not absurd to me.”】
This was a monster territory, nothing more. Even though a monster aristocrat ruled over the area, Kurats could very easily slaughter that type of enemy.
Rather than being afraid, he was hoping he’d find an opponent with some substance.
When it came to combat, not even the infamous Bashtar territory could make Kurats feel any sense of danger.
【”I think we should first get the fighting aspects of things done with. We can take care of gathering people to the territory and whatnot afterwards, can’t we?”】
Normally, for this sort of operation, the first step would be to gather retainers, soldiers and mercenaries, then to organize an army, and then to take care of everything from supplies to military tactics.
However, maintaining an army without sufficient funds was far too difficult to begin with.
The king did grant Kurats some capital when he accepted to take care of Bashtar, but it was only a small sum.
【”…I forgot that you’re an actual one-man army.”】
By himself, Kurats had bested an army of more than 40.000 Asgardians.
He might indeed be able to easily annihilate the monsters occupying Bashtar.
【”…Still, you can never be too careful. I heard that the man who was once asked by Rosberg to take him under his tutelage was one of the people who were present in Bashtar’s grand invasion 70 years ago. Apparently, it was a close fight even for him.”】
Oho, Kurats showed a wide smile.
If that demon aristocrat, Triastera, was as strong as Rosberg, then the fight against him was probably not going to be one-sided.
【”Why do you look so happy about that? You really have muscles for brains!”】
【”….Hmm, excuse me…”】
The group heard a small, timid voice from the side.
【”Just now, I heard that you’re recruiting retainers…”】
The voice came from a woman who looked like a cute, small animal that you just couldn’t help teasing.
Two pink-blonde twintails were moving along with her on top of her small head.
She did not look at all like someone who’d fit in a group of retainers going to Bashtar.
【”Did I hear that wrong? I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I’m sorry for being born! Please show mercy to my foolish self!”】
【”No no no, you did not hear that wrong, okay?! For now, just stop prostrating!”】
Not wanting to look like vicious bullies, the group hurriedly helped the girl up before she could rub her head on the floor any further.
【”I didn’t hear it wrong? Aaah, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Forgive me for coming to a misunderstanding on my own!”】
【”You did nothing wrong, you shouldn’t blame yourself!”】
It was a wonder what made this girl become so quick to blame herself for everything.
Once the girl finally calmed down, the group presented her with a cup of tea, which helped her loosen up. She seemed to find it delicious.
It was only after all that she started talking at last.
【”My name is Colette Denier. I am a tax collector at the service of the kingdom―― Or rather, I used to be.”】
【”You used to be? Why so?”】
【”To be honest with you, I discovered that a superior was committing fraud, and when I confronted my superior with my findings, he twisted the facts to make it seem like I was the guilty party, and I was let go yesterday.”】
Colette was becoming teary-eyed as she spoke
【”Unforgivable. Your boss, and that other superior who conspired with him–! They’re both unforgivable!”】
As Cornelia put her hands on her hips in indignation, Colette shook her head from side to side.
【”Other superior? No, it was the same person actually…”】
【”What?! Who reports a fraud case to the person committing it?!!”】
When she saw the face of Lunaria, who put all her exasperation into her retort, Colette broke down crying and clung to Kurats’ arm.
Lunaria’s sudden reaction was perfectly justified, but for some reason, the exchange made her look like an adult bullying a child.
【”There there, no need to be scared anymore. Apart from that, is there more to that story of fraud?”】
When Kurats brushed her head, Colette chuckled like she was feeling ticklish.
(What are you, a child?!)
【”I was checking the poll taxes of a noble’s territory, when I found out that the amount of taxes we were supposed to receive from them and the amount that reached us were quite different.”】
【”Why didn’t you find that out even before?”】
【”The territory was supposed to receive preferential treatment on their tax rates because they were burdened with alleged expenses for infrastructure projects and military matters… That’s why their tax rates were low. But I couldn’t find any proof anywhere of those so-called expenses.”】
【”I see, in short, their tax rates were illegally modified.”】
【”Yes, and I ultimately found out that the one who had approved of that lowered tax rate was none other than my superior, the executive officer, Serge Debary.”】
Lunaria was taken aback.
【”Are you from the tax collection office number 3?!”】
【”Were your ranked high in that office, Colette?”】
Cornelia kindly followed up with a question.
【”Yes, I’m actually a second-class executive officer of the office’s inspection department… I mean, that’s what I used to be.”】
As she recalled the fact that she was unemployed now, Colette once again failed to hold back her tears.
When Kurats gently and furtively hit the table, Colette shrieked and clung to his arm again.
―― Bam! Bam!
【”Stop playing around!”】
Kurats kept messing around with Colette until Cornelia put an end to it with an admirably well-executed karate chop on his forehead.