“…Are you feeling unwell, milady? Please take a rest…”
The one who approached Liselotte with concern was an elegant woman in her mid-twenties, the commander of the chivalric order under Duke Althea, named Ryza. Liselotte had heard rumors that Ryza was older than her appearance suggested, but she never disclosed her actual age.
For Liselotte, Ryza was not only a commander but also her master in martial arts. Being able to work alongside her was another reason why Liselotte took on the role of escorting her father.
“No, I’m fine. Thank you,” Liselotte replied with a smile, then turned her attention back to the debate. King Charleas and Prince Wayne did not seem to advocate for war, but Liselotte was unsure whether their stance could quell the opinions of the eastern lords.
In fact, it was only the voices in agreement with Prime Minister Rigriff that were being heard.
“…No, I’m against the war,” declared Duke Althea, as though dousing the fiery excitement with cold water.
The conference room fell into a hush as Duke Althea broke his silence, causing all to focus on him.
“Duke Althea! Being on the western end, you may think this matter is none of your concern, but the invasion has left real scars in our territories! The Venefics must be shown their place!” Prime Minister Rigriff glared at Duke Althea.
“That’s right, Duke Althea!”
“Are you saying you don’t wish to fund the war effort and send your men to aid your eastern brethren? That would be inhumane!”
The eastern lords voiced their support for Prime Minister Rigriff.
“I do not expect your men from Shealot to fight our battles! The Knights of my house will form the core of this army! All I ask is for the Imperial Guards and the Holy Knights to support our cause!”
Despite the majority opposition, Duke Althea remained composed as he responded.
“The damage over the eastern territories you’ve mentioned was caused by Prisma, not Venefique. The assault on the royal capital was Venefique’s doing, yes, but the capital falls under the jurisdiction of the royal family. How Venefique should be judged is for His Majesty the King and His Highness Prince Wayne to decide, don’t you think?”
“Nngh…?! So you’re suggesting we should just lick our wounds and rest?”
“I said no such thing. Moreover, your recent attitudes have been nothing short of insolent.”
“““How dare you, Duke Althea!”””
“Before you demand retribution against Venefique, perhaps you should express more regret for failing to prevent the Venefian army from crossing your territories. It was your negligence that allowed the enemy to approach the royal capital. A single misstep could have cost His Majesty his life. Do not underestimate the gravity of endangering our sovereign.”
““It’s true, but…”””
The eastern lords, initially fervent, were suddenly taken aback.
““Indeed… What Duke Althea says is right.””
““Even considering the Prisma… that was a national crisis in its own right.””
Many lords from outside the eastern regions found themselves aligning with Duke Althea’s perspective.
“Enough. What’s done is done… and here I stand before you all. Let us speak no more of this matter.”
“…On behalf of your subjects, I offer our deepest gratitude. Thank you for your magnanimity.”
Duke Althea gave a deep bow to King Charleas.
“…Don’t presume to speak for me! Your Majesty, my deepest apologies for my incompetence!”
“““Our deepest apologies!”””
Duke Rigriff and the other eastern lords followed suit.
“Enough, I say. Let’s not dwell on the past, but focus on the future,” King Charleas stated magnanimously, accepting everyone’s apology. Ready to continue the discussion on policy towards Venefique, the atmosphere had changed significantly after Duke Althea’s intervention.
Liselotte was awed and filled with pride to witness her father’s deft handling of the conference. She didn’t want the war to happen and was glad her house stood against it.
“I would not be in favor of deploying troops at a time ripe for reconstruction to repair our country’s damages. However, before that, I would like to hear Marquis Wilford’s opinion. Suppose we waged war with Venefique; even if Duke Rigriff’s personal Knights were to form the main force, our participation would be essential, especially those involved in the recent Prisma battle. We cannot waste such potential. A majority of that force belongs to the Marquis’ family.”
“Hm, indeed. Raphael, Lady Rafinha, and Lady Inglis are all family of the Marquis. We would appreciate your input,” Prince Wayne added, inviting Marquis Wilford to contribute.
“Y-yes, sire…!” Marquis Wilford appeared slightly flustered, perhaps not expecting to be spotlighted so suddenly. He seemed more akin to Rafinha than to Raphael. Having met him briefly before the conference, Liselotte found him to be quite affable.
“We of Ymir are loyal servants to the crown. Should His Majesty and the Prince so command, we will join the battle against Venefique, true to our word. However, as a parent, my concern is that while they are always ready to slay Magic Stone Beasts, they have not been trained to fight enemy soldiers and conquer lands. This is particularly true for my daughter and niece, aside from Raphael…”
Hearing the Marquis’ response, Liselotte had a thought. It was indeed concerning whether Rafinha could fit in an army, but she felt Inglis would be in her element. Then, Liselotte realized the dual meaning of ‘concern.’ After all, one word could have multiple interpretations.
Indeed, would Rafinha support the idea of invading Venefique, or would she be harmed in the battle? That was a concern any father would have. Liselotte shared these worries. Conversely, there was also concern that Inglis might overdo it and cause havoc on the battlefield.
Both were concerning, albeit in different ways. Liselotte wasn’t sure which concern the Marquis prioritized, but she knew neither was unfounded. The complexity of language truly is profound.
“And most importantly, our own Knights are still exhausted from risking their lives in the Prisma battle. Whatever the outcome of this conference, it would be best to let our men rest.”
“Hm… I see your point, Marquis. This isn’t a sudden outbreak of Magic Stone Beasts, nor is it to fend off imminent enemy soldiers. We control the timing, so we must consider our next steps carefully.”
Prince Wayne acknowledged Marquis Wilford’s points with a nod. This acknowledgment caused Prime Minister Rigriff to clench his teeth in frustration.
“…However, it’s also true that the people of the eastern territories have endured much suffering. We must give them hope…or at least, it’s not unreasonable for a lord to desire his people to live without fear of the Venefique threat. Not to mention, they may also seek to redeem themselves for the dishonor of allowing an enemy troop to pass through. That would be a sign of loyalty, and I’m glad they feel that way.”
“You are absolutely correct, Your Highness! We plead with you, allow us to demonstrate our loyalty!”
Prime Minister Rigriff gained some momentum back with Prince Wayne’s considerate comment.
“…What do you think, Father? If you permit, may I share my thoughts?”
Prince Wayne requested the King’s permission.
“Proceed,” the King allowed.
“First, we will have Prime Minister Rigriff organize a punitive force against Venefique.”
The eastern lords vocalized their support.
“Don’t rush. The preparations will be done gradually, with maneuvers to make the force seem larger than it is.”
“Meanwhile, we’ll initiate negotiations with Venefique, aiming for at least a fixed-term mutual non-aggression pact and encouraging their participation in the joint defense strategy planned with Alucard.”
“If Venefique does not agree, we may have to consider attacking…”
“If we can guarantee the safety and peace of the eastern citizens without warfare, that’s the ideal. If not… then Prime Minister Rigriff’s suggestion has merit. I plan to collaborate closely with Special Envoy Theodore on negotiations with Venefique. Your approval to proceed would be greatly valued.”
Prince Wayne’s proposal was a balanced compromise, maintaining the potential for both offense and peace. It seemed the most diplomatic approach, given Prime Minister Rigriff’s and the eastern nobles’ intentions. By allowing preparations for war while striving to make them unnecessary, Wayne’s efforts could potentially ease the negotiation process by using the military buildup as leverage.
“…I understand. Well, it is late. Let’s take Wayne’s proposal home and ponder it overnight. If anyone has other brilliant suggestions, do bring them forward tomorrow.”
King Charleas called for a temporary recess, concluding that day’s meeting.