TL: First of all, I humbly apologize for the delay. The reason is below, if you’re really interested. You can expect the next chapter in a day.
Chapter 90 – The Gathering Storm (4)
“He’s showing us goodwill.” Makarov concluded simply.
“Are you sure he’s not trying to make us his shield,” Fleetwood frowned and disagreed, “offering us evidence of Count Randner’s wrongdoing and his territory? If we become allies of this youth, we’re forcing Count Randner to join hands with Duke Arreck.”
Gryphine creased her brows.
Count Randner was not a reliable ally to the Royal Faction and was more like a knife to their backs if he joined them. But it was also true that he had not stated where his support would be, and it would be foolish for her to force him to join her older brother instead.
“Hmph. That scheming Count.” She said a little irritably.
“The situation’s a little interesting.” Count Barre laughed once.
That youth was daring enough to take the city but his action could hardly be seen as impulsive. By delivering his letter at this particular time……
It was truly an excellent timing and definitely not a coincidence.
Brendel’s move was thrilling and dangerous as though he was walking on a thin wire.
Count Barre glanced at Makarov.
[I’m sure the Cunning Fox of the previous generation has already noticed this fact. But what does the youth want from us exactly? If he wants actual support from us with this letter that’s not even a loyalty pledge to our faction, isn’t he a little too naive? No, he can’t be this foolish if he sent out this letter. Then…… he just wants to be acknowledged by the Royal Faction? But even if we do so, how is he going to handle the aftermath when Count Randner marches in with his army?]
Mere accusation from this letter would not prevent Count Randner from sending his men to attack Firburh—
Count Barre was extremely curious about this matter. If the youth were to succeed in defeating Count Randner’s army…… He found that he was unable to imagine how things would end up if this scenario happened.
Makarov spoke after he thought for a while: “I believe that young man understands our position on Count Randner.”
“You mean……” Gryphine pondered for a moment before her eyes turned to the letter again.
“Why did he send this letter?” Makarov nodded, “No, it’s not to insult our intelligence—”
His joking words made Count Barre and Gryphine chuckle, though Fleetwood lightly tutted.
“He’s really showing us goodwill,” Makarov repeated his conclusion again.
“I agree with Makarov’s words. The youth is showing us goodwill, but he does not intend to join us. He also knows clearly what position he is in.” Count Barre said.
“Then what does he want?” Fleetwood’s silver eyebrows knitted in slight confusion. Even though he had been in the royal court for years, he had spent his whole life on Magic techniques, and still lacked an understanding fights between the nobles.
“Isn’t it clearly stated in the letter?”
His dislike for that youth was not as important as the Royal Faction’s interest, so he considered the possibilities carefully. If the Royal Faction were to acknowledge his words and put pressure on Count Randner…… Even though he did not have a good impression of the youth, this transaction seemed like it was still very much in favor for them.
“He wants us to denounce Count Randner openly?” He said after a while.
“No, there’s no need to do so. The Royal Faction’s silence on this matter is enough. The youth’s target is clearly Count Randner, and only him. We need not get involved in this.”
“But his actions have challenged all the nobles. No one dares to openly occupy a legitimate territory awarded by the king to a noble. This is no precedent—”
“Which is why he’s trying to avoid the situation where everyone attacks him by sending us this letter. Did he not state that he’s just temporarily taking over the territory until the princess appoints someone?” Count Barre shook his head with a smile.
Makarov glanced at Count Barre, wondering why he was biased to that youth when he known to be mostly neutral.
“Unfortunately, this excuse would only work if people are truly convinced of it. An excuse and a false accusation are two entirely different things. Your Highness, have you watched the contents of the Recording Crystal?” He said.
“I did. There’s indeed an army of Madara’s undead, and it’s certainly not a small one,” Gryphine scoffed lightly, “I don’t want to ask about the dirty acts between Count Randner and Madara’s undead, but just how effective is this letter with the Recording Crystal?”
It was clear how disgusted she was when she spoke about Count Randner.
“It’s strong evidence, at least enough to question Count Randner on the failure to detect Madara’s invasion.” Count Barre said, his admiration for the youth continuing to increase.
“So let us see what advantages we can gain from this. I believe that youth knows that we cannot give up Count Randner as an ally, but there’s one point that made me very surprised.” Makarov said gravely, causing everyone to pay attention and wait for his words.
“He’s probably trying to become a chess piece.”
“A chess piece?” Fleetwood was confused.
But Count Barre’s eyes immediately widened with delight, even he did not manage to see what Brendel was trying to do: “Impressive! This is indeed a chess piece that forces Count Randner into a bad position!”
“Yes,” Makarov nodded, but contrary to Count Barre’s delight, he was feeling dread.
Leaving aside the part where Brendel clearly knew what the Royal Faction currently needed, his knowledge of the current state of the entire kingdom had left Makarov highly alert.
“Count Randner will soon find out that we will be keeping our silence on this matter, and that this Brendel had seemingly cast his lot with us…… The scheming Count will then ponder about the situation if he chooses to side with Duke Arreck during this time—”
Makarov paused for a moment.
“And he will realize that he’s surrounded by his enemies.”
Count Barre quietly listened to Makarov’s thoughts. He could not help but check out the man’s white sideburns. The latter was certainly living up as someone who once led the Royal Faction. He could not help but admire the experience Makarov had.
“Is there anything that the youth can get by becoming a chess piece?” Gryphine acknowledged Makarov’s words by nodding: “We can throw him away at any given time if Count Randner pledges his loyalty to us. Surely he understands this point.”
Fleetwood was taking everything in. He found that the youth was not as irksome as before when Makarov explained his thoughts and said after some hesitation:
“It does seem like he’s standing on the Royal Faction’s side. Perhaps he’s willing to join us. But, the only thing that we can do right now is to conceal this thing—”
Count Barre shook his head inwardly and glanced at the old Archmage. A scholar was indeed just a scholar; they could never participate in politics.
“What the youth wants is very simple. He wants to play a game of balance. He’s a neutral party who believes that Count Randner will not cast his lot with us—”
“An admirable gambler.” A voice rang out from outside the office. The knights outside opened the door and allowed a noble wearing a mink coat to walk in.
The familiar face made Makarov pause slightly.
[This is…… Oberbeck? I remember him as a pretty capable youth when I was leading the Royal Faction.]
The youthful innocence of Oberbeck was gone, replaced by a sharp and firm air. He even had a new nickname, the Wolf Lord.
Oberbeck glanced at Makarov, then bowed slightly to the princess.
“Your Highness,” he greeted Gryphine, then turned to Makarov, “Lord Makarov, it has been a while.”
Oberbeck’s position within the Royal Faction was currently considered higher than Makarov, but his humble attitude made him feel pleased.
Makarov nodded back with a smile: “Lord Oberbeck.”
Oberbeck continued to exchange short greetings with the other men and caught up to the discussion that had happened so far.
“Let’s continue with the discussion. I believe that Makarov and Barre’s analysis is logical, but I have another thought as to what the youth wants—” He said
The room fell into a silence.
Everyone’s eyes were on him. Gryphine was the only person who knew that Oberbeck understood Brendel best amongst them.
“The people who do not even have the value as chess pieces are worthless, the people who become chess pieces without even knowing are fools, but people who are like this young man and become chess pieces on their own will, they are chess players.”
“Yes. Even if they only control a single chess piece, they are chess players. And on this chessboard, he’s now standing on a place high enough to meet us. If he’s a chess piece, then we are chess pieces. The only advantage we have over him is possessing more resources than he does.”
The others in the room were speechless.
“Oberbeck, you mean to say that he wants to get involved in this game as a player?” Even Gryphine felt disbelief. She drew in a light breath: “If this is true, his real goals are to take advantage of us? This is certainly quite displeasing.”
“Yes, and yet the only option we have is to accept it. His suggestion is still the most advantageous option for us.”
“This sly fellow,” Fleetwood suddenly felt he should not participate this discussion as he listened to all the complicated analysis on the letter. He rubbed his temples and asked tiredly: “Then what should we do now?”
“We can choose any option as long as it doesn’t directly interfere with the parties involved in this matter,” the Wolf Lord concluded mysteriously, “and after that, all that’s left for us to do is to watch that youth’s brilliant performance against Count Randner.”
The group of men looked at Oberbeck with disbelief. Even Eke who was confident in Brendel’s abilities became worried.
One was a youth who had no resources, the other was an experienced Count who had a large force.
Count Barre momentarily thought about the Silver Elves, but they stated they would not interfere with Aouine’s internal politics. He did not understand where the youth’s confidence came from to participate in this game.
But Gryphine knew why Oberbeck spoke in that manner. The report that came in almost at the same time as the letter had a simple line:
‘Trentheim, Lord Macsen’s utter defeat.’