The Elislaw palace in Marden was a building symbolize the wealth of Marden Kingdom.
It was started by the command of the King Fushtar of Marden from the current generation, he had used famous engineer, expensive material, and abundant capital from the gold mine without hesitation. Everyone had thought it would be the most magnificent palace in history.
However, unfortunately, in this place where first-class people, material and funds were gathered, mixed among them a third-class king.
It was said every human had one talent. It was not clear what was the redeeming feature of the current King Fushtar, but it was, without a doubt, not the art. With the absolute power of the King, he had incorporated his meager knowledge and narrow-minded sense of beauty toward the architect who draws the blueprint while raising his nose.
It would be then the architect routine to make an excuse by using technical terms to change the blueprints and to not hurt the King’s mood. Though it didn’t show much, their prowess was definitely genuine.
However, no matter how well the craftsman was, there was a limit to certain thing Due to the King frequent intervention during the design, many architects come and go, resulting the inconsistency in design, even lack of unity in furniture could be seen, making the building instead of becoming a beautiful one, it became a third-class building.
The only salvation to all of that was that King Fushtar was a person with a narrow view, and the people of the palace was smart enough to not point out the building flaw. Thus, the King happily return to the throne of the perfect palace he had created.
However, such peaceful spectacle disappeared from the palace in the last few days.
“I need to report this fast…”
A middle-aged man walked past on the west corridor of the Elislaw palace, which was known to be meaninglessly long.
Round. Anyway, he was round. His legs were short, and his arms also short, his face and torso were round, making him if he was being kicked he might actually roll on the floor.
His name was Ziva. He was one of Marden’s diplomats, though now he was part of the minority group.
“Fast, I need to report this as soon as possible…”
Ziva muttered those words repeatedly with a pale expression. Before long he arrived at the hall. It was the most luxurious room in the palace, from the corner of the walls to the shadows of the pillars.
Since it was the favorite room of the King, therefore recently meeting was done exclusively here, and today’s extraordinary meeting was also being done here.
“What is the meaning of this!”
As soon as he arrived, an angry voice entered his ears.
“For the Girat Gold Mine being taken by those Natra insects!”
There was a long table placed in the center of the room. Among the Marden’s senior statesmen, King Fushtar was the person who talks with an angry voice.
King Fushtar was someone with an obese body. Although Ziva body could be said as something natural in his family lineage, the King body was the result of removing abstinence from his dictionary.
For him right now, everything he sees would become an object of anger. Ziva proceeded in the shadow of the pillars with agility, then he kneeled behind one person who was sitting in the seat of the long table.
(Midan-sama, I’m sorry for being late…!)
The old man, called Midan, was the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Marden. Which make him Ziva’s boss.
(To be late in this kind of situation, just where did you loiter around, Ziva.)
(I’m very sorry. The meeting with the ambassador took more time than I had expected…)
(Fuuh, then you’ve heard the story?)
(Then fine. Stay back for now.)
Ordered by Midan, Ziva bowed and went to the corner of the hall.
At that time, a different voice than that of Fushtar echoed in the hall.
“My King, your wrath is justified.”
The name of the man who sits near King Fushtar was, Horonie.
He was the finance minister of the Marden Kingdom, though it was hard to imagine a skinny man with an eerie distorted smile like him to be one.
(Cih, you damn traitor…)
Ziva clicked his tongue inside his mind. Those who felt discomfort was not only Ziva, most of the people who were present there distorted their face when they heard the man words.
“The situation will get worse as time goes on… We must take action immediately…”
“You sure selfish…”
It was Midan who opened his mouth.
“Horonie-dono, you’re supposedly the one who in charge of the gold mine, including the responsibility to defend it. You easily lost one of the most important assets this country had, are you trying to escape from responsibility?”
Midan eyes’ light intimidated the surrounding people. It was easy to tell that he didn’t permit any excuse.
However, Horonie received that gaze without much distraught.
“How easy of you blaming the mistake to another person, Midan-dono. According to the report, every defender had defended bravely against Natra army, and they had fulfilled their duties.”
“So then, why did you lost control of the mine?”
“That is of course, due to the defeat at Porta Wilderness.”
Saying that Horonie floats a creepy smile.
“As you could see, if General Urgio weren’t easily defeated in that fight, the result would’ve been different.”
Horonie expression changed completely.
“Come to think of it, it was the people of Mardia faction who pushed General Urgio to take command, isn’t it? Geez, to think you’re going to throw your failure to another person. That is bad, don’t you think so, Midan-dono?”
The subjects who served the Marden Kingdom were roughly divided into two factions.
One of them was Mardia faction which Ziva was belongs to. Born in Marden, raised in Marden, and chose to serve Marden, it was a faction made of native Marden people. Though there were many factions within the camp, their loyalty toward Marden as a whole was high.
On the other side was Stella faction. It was a faction consisted of those from foreign countries, who had the high capability and were allowed to take an important job. Their loyalty toward the nation as a whole was low, and it was the high salary that brings them to the country.
In the last few years, the confrontation between the two factions had intensified, that was also because the number of Stella who was previously only small in numbers had risen, enough to make their own factions.
As to what the reason that makes Stella populace risen, it was due to the discovery of the Gold Mine.
When the mine was discovered, the royal palace was in utter chaos. After all, Marden was a poor country with not much hope. Even though they were accustomed to managing a small amount of money, they never thought that the goddess of luck would fall into their lap.
At that time, it was the foreign bureaucrats headed by Horonie that took the stage. They make King Fushtar hire them by showing that they had the experience of handling many political affairs in another country, and they promised that they could handle the good luck the country had got. It was easy for sly old dogs like them to coax the countryside King who was restless just because he found a gold mine.
They were then being appointed by the King, and one after another demonstrated their ability. The profit from the gold mine by using their precise trade was enormous, and King Fushtar become more dependent on the foreigners.
Of course, such turn of event was something the Mardian faction could not accept. The hatred toward Stella people who increased their authority day by day was only growing. For the Stella people too, the Mardian who tried to become the big guy just because they were the local people were hateful. Thus the conflict between the two factions had reached an area that it cannot be stopped anymore.
“At that time, why did you let the Mardian move? If we left the command to General Drawood, this problem wouldn’t happen. As fellow loyal countrymen, I’m ashamed of the result.”
“You bastard, do you really have loyalty in you…”
“Of course, in this country, no one respected this country and the King more than I do.”
When it was decided that they were going to sent the army to invade Natra, the two groups had fierce argument whether they would entrust the command of the military to the pure Mardian Urgio, or the Stella Drawood, by the end of the debate, the pure Mardian Urgio took the post, but the result was as one could see…
(This is absurd…)
Ziva spat inside his mind.
Although he was a native Mardia, he had stayed away from political strife. For him, the two factions who were willing to undermine the national interest for the benefit of the faction was totally disgusting.
“No need for a useless argument!”
As if to break the argument between Horonie and Midan, Fushtar shouted again…
“Those who shamelessly fled and returned should be torn from limbs to limbs. However, the problem is the gold mine right now. Horonie, you have a plan, right?”
“Of course. Though to begin with, there’s not much plan to play… The defeat and the situation was caused by General Urgio blunder. If that is the case, then please leave it to General Drawood this time…”
Midan immediately intervene…
“There’s certainly General Urgio mistake to underestimate Natra. However, isn’t that a bit inconsiderate to blame it all to the General? If they holed up inside the mines then, you would need more than the usual force.”
“So let us prepare triple the number of soldiers compared than the last one. Then we would be able to crush them.”
“If you move that amount of soldiers, the protection of the border would disappear! And you don’t know what our neighborhood, Cbarine, would do!”
“That is why you know? That gold mine is a key part of our country. If we took our time to get it back, our national strength would sink over time, and we would become an easy target by the Cabarine and others. The only way to get around that is to take the mine back as soon as possible. … Or does Midan-dono have a plan?”
Horonie showed a distorted smile.
Midan cut his gaze and advised King Fushtar.
“Your Majesty, I think we should meet with Natra side.”
“… Why do you want me to sit with the one who invaded our country?”
Fushtar expression turns grim. But Midan continued without feeling frightened.
“First of all, it took time to prepare a major force. By the time we have enough force, I’m not sure if we could re-capture the mine immediately. If the Natra Army persisted, it would consume a lot of goods, which may cause us another crisis. If so, it would be faster and safer to negotiate with Natra and request the return of the mine…”
“That’s stupid, isn’t it?”
“If you know the value of that mine, then it is more of the reason why they won’t just let it go.”
“… If you have the gold mine, you will be targeted by the other countries, and for a nation with limited human resource, the gold mine is just too much. You should know that as well, no?”
Horonie was slightly shaken, but he immediately shook his head.
“But if they are willing to return the mine, they would ask a lot of money, right?”
“But still, there must be some room for negotiation. … Please, Your Majesty, let me negotiate with Natra.”
Fushtar closed his eyes and fell into a deep thought thinking of the two men recommendation.
Before long, he opened his eyes, he immediately looked at Horonie.
“… Horonie, call General Darwood. We’re going to prepare for the troops.”
Fushtar then cut Midan who was about to say something…
“If you say you want to negotiate with them, then try it. … If you can get satisfying result before the soldiers gathered then…”
“… Yes, sir!”
After some more detailed discussion, the meeting was over.
As retainers left the hall one after another, Ziva kneeled behind Midan.
“You know the situation right, Ziva.”
“Gather information for now… Whatever we do, we need to make sure they handed over the gold mine. We must not let those Stella take more credit than this…”
“… Yes, sir. I’ve received your orders…”
He had his opinion, but such was his work. Ziva also agreed on the risk if they raised an army now…
(But, how much can we do in this short amount of time…)
While aware of the anxiety inside his heart, Ziva started to act.