Chapter 0385.1 Intermission – Empire Unrest Part 3.1
At that point, the Empire was completely divided.
The current Emperor Helmut VIII held the Imperial capital and controlled the majority of the Imperial Army.
Sigismund, Duke of Alant, killed the commander of the 3rd Army and rebelled against the Empire.
Konrad Bornemisza, Duke of Stein in the northwest, escaped from the Imperial Castle and returned to his territory to strengthen its defenses.
The three sons of the former emperor were fighting within the Empire.
Within that mess…
Linus Warner, Viscount Kruger, started a rebellion in the north.
Rolf, the orphaned son of Duke Moorgrund, started a rebellion in the southwest.
Many Imperial aristocrats remained on the fence and watched the situation closely.
To put it more bluntly, they couldn’t act.
Emperor Helmut VIII did not demand anything from the aristocrats.
Since he was the Emperor, naturally the loyalty of the aristocrats was to him… presumably.
The only way to solve the problem was through military force, and the Empire’s largest military forces, the Imperial Army, the Magic Army, and the Imperial Knight Guards, were basically under his command.
Therefore, there was no need for the help of the aristocrats.
That’s why he didn’t demand anything from the Imperial aristocrats.
If that was the case, the Imperial aristocrats couldn’t do anything.
After Sigismund, Duke of Alant, killed General Ivo, the commander of the Empire’s 3rd Army, he strengthened the defense of his territory, but other than that he had not moved at all.
No statement had been issued.
In that case, the Imperial aristocrats couldn’t do anything.
Finally, there was Duke Konrad Bornemisza of Stein, but… he returned to his territory after escaping from the Prisoner’s Tower of the Imperial Castle.
That amounted to disobeying the Emperor’s orders and could lead to charges of high treason.
However, no concrete action was taken.
Konrad’s reputation within the Empire was extremely high.
In addition, he is well known to be very capable, his subordinates are also excellent, and the Stein Duchy’s army is famous for its strength… so it may be natural that many aristocrats were keeping a close eye on his movements.
If he clearly raised the flag of rebellion against Helmut VIII, a considerable number of forces would gather behind him.
But he still had not made a move.
Therefore, the Imperial aristocrats were still unable to act.
Linus’ rebel army had now swelled to 4,000 people.
However, they faced the Empire’s 2nd Army and 2nd Magic Army dispatched from the Imperial Capital, resulting in a stalemate.
Linus occupied Saqqara Fort, which is known as a stronghold, so even the Imperial army couldn’t suppress him easily.
And then there was Rolf from Moorgrund…
No action was taken against him.
Previously, the Empire’s 9th Army was dispatched.
However, the 9th Army disappeared.
Since then, Helmut had lost faith in the Imperial Army.
He was the supreme commander of the Imperial Army, but the supreme commander could not trust the army.
However, there were people Helmut could trust.
They were the Empire’s 1st Army and the 1st Magic Army.
These troops were organized around Helmut’s troops that he had since he was crown prince, so they could be called his personal troops.
Those 15,000 + 2,000 people were truly trustworthy subordinates, many of whom Helmut knew personally by look.
They were the only ones he trusted.
Therefore, the protection of the Imperial Castle had been carried out by the 1st Army along with the Imperial Knight Guards ever since his accession to the throne.
Helmut was even starting to think about ending things with just the 1st Army and the 1st Magic Army if he had to.
If he mobilized unreliable soldiers and was betrayed during a mission, defeat was inevitable.
If that was the case, he thought it should be done only by a small number of elite who could be completely trusted.
However, the problem was, if the 1st Army and 1st Magic Army set off, who would protect the Imperial Castle?
The Imperial Knight Guards will remain… but their number is 200.
While each one of them is indeed strong, they are few in number.
In the current situation where he faced many enemies, it was possible that while he was attacking one enemy, another enemy would attack the Imperial Castle.
“Is it best for me to lead the army myself?”
Helmut was by no means a coward.
He’s not good at magic, but his sword skills were well above average, even against a member of the Imperial Knight Guards.
Therefore, he had concluded that it would be best for him to take the lead and lead the 1st Army and 1st Magic Army to annihilate the enemy.
If he did so, frankly speaking, there would be no need to protect the Imperial Castle.
Because he would not be in the Imperial Castle.
In a room of the Duke of Alant’s administrative office, Duke Sigismund of Alant was holding his head in his hands.
“Why did this happen…?”
Since then, he had muttered those words hundreds, no, thousands of times.
“Your Highness, please excuse me.”
The person who entered was Mainz, Sigismund’s chief butler.
He had been following Sigismund ever since he was a child.
Perhaps that was why his honorific title for Sigismund was still ‘Your Highness’.
Following his manner of addressing him, everyone around him addressed him that way too…
Mainz was already approaching 70 years old, an age at which he would normally have retired.
He was supposed to retire next year… but something like this happened this time…
“Mainz… what have I done…”
Sigismund’s voice was weak.
He is usually a bright and cheerful young man who treats everyone without discrimination.
“It’s all General Ivo’s fault. It’s not Your Highness’s fault…”
“However, the fact that I killed the general is an undeniable fact…”
Sigismund shook his head and lamented after hearing Mainz’s words.
Indeed, General Ivo made fun of art.
He ridiculed what was the use of something like art.
Moreover, he demanded that they provide the 3rd Army not only food, but also money and women.
How was that possible?
A general of the glorious Imperial regular army made such a request?
Moreover, Sigismund is actually the Emperor’s younger brother.
Although he is the child of the third Empress of the former Emperor, he is the younger brother of the current Emperor, recognized as a ‘prince’ by Former Emperor Rupert, and is actually a Duke!
Demanding food, money, and women… from a Duke?
Of course, he refused.
Food was fine.
But what did he need money for?
Operating expenses are paid to the regular army through official channels.
There is no need to ask nobles for money.
It was just for the executives to line their pockets.
Provide women too?
Was that necessary for the military?
There were many such facilities in the city. They could just use those.
They had probably always done that.
Originally, there was no need for even food to come from the duchy.
But he made a concession there.
General Ivo and his men left with a huff.
However, they caused another commotion in the first-floor lobby of the government building.
Sigismund went down to the first floor too.
In front of him, he laughed and tore up the picture on the wall.
He said things like, ‘This would make the picture a little better’.
It was the masterpiece ‘Dancing Trees’ by the master painter Manunti!
At that moment, Sigismund lost it.
General Ivo’s subordinates hurriedly put up a <Magic Barrier>, but it was completely pointless.
Easily torn to pieces, General Ivo and his four men were cut into pieces by the invisible wind.
Sigismund lost consciousness then.
He probably ran out of magic.
He was taken to the duke’s private room in the government office… and by the time he woke up, it was all too late.
Since then, he had remained holed up in the government office.
“As expected, that’s the only option.”
Sigismund muttered and stood up.
“I will go, Mainz, to the Imperial capital and present myself to His Majesty the Emperor.”
Sigismund’s words brought tears to Mainz’s eyes.
But even he understood that there was no other way.
“If I submit myself and ask for mercy, he may forgive my people and subordinates. I hope that the new lord will be someone with a heart that understands art…”
After saying that, Sigismund noticed that it was noisy outside.
Outside the window was a balcony.
There was a plaza below.
Sigismund opened the window and exited onto the balcony.
For just a moment, the noise disappeared.
On the other side of the balcony, thousands or tens of thousands of people were in the plaza…
They saw someone come out onto the balcony and started calling out.
“It’s the duke!”
“Lord Sigismund has appeared!”
The people had gathered because they were worried about Sigismund.
Sigismund couldn’t help but whisper.
Someone knelt beside him.
Theo Byrne, Viscount Kirnach.
Theo is the supreme consul who is in charge of all affairs of the Duchy of Alant under Sigismund.
He is in his mid-40s, and along with Mainz, the chief butler, has been by Sigismund’s side for 20 years, supporting him among his loyal subjects.
His administrative abilities were highly praised by Count Hans Kirchhoff, the right-hand man of Former Emperor Rupert.
Sigismund was able to survive because of Theo Byrne… ever since he was the second prince, that had been said behind Sigismund’s back.
But Theo knew best. That was not the case.
He was one of the people who knew the height of Sigismund’s abilities the most.
“Your Highness. All the people are gathered here because they were worried about Your Highness.”
“Worried… about me?”
Sigismund tilted his head and asked after hearing Theo’s words.
“The people know what happened at the government office. There were many people in the lobby.”
“Then, it spread through word of mouth, and it became like this…”
“I see. I guess I made everyone worry.”
Sigismund smiled a little.
“A while ago, a proclamation was issued from the Imperial Capital. Duke Sigismund of Alant should come to the palace as soon as possible and explain the situation. It was a proclamation, so the people know about it.”
Sigismund answered and went to the very front of the balcony.
The people all kept quiet.
They waited for Sigismund’s words.
“I made you all worried. But as you can see, I’m fine. Thank you.”
After a moment…
A roar of cheers went up.
Many, many cheers.
Sigismund raised his hand.
Immediately the people quieted down.
“I heard that a decree has been issued from the Imperial Capital. But there’s nothing to worry about. I’ll go to the Imperial Capital and account for it. If I do that, the Empire won’t hold you accountable. I promise.”
This time, the voices of the people were hardly heard.
But little by little, unspoken voices begin to be heard.
“They’re the ones at fault.”
“The Duke didn’t do anything wrong.”
“It’s the Emperor’s fault for sending those guys.”
“Our only lord is Lord Sigismund.”
“If you go to the Imperial capital, you’ll be killed. Don’t go!”
Such voices undulated like waves, spreading throughout the plaza, and then throughout the city…
The one who was most surprised was Sigismund.
“What is the meaning of this…?”
He couldn’t help but groan at the phenomenon he couldn’t understand.
“Your Highness, the people are telling you not to go to the Imperial Capital.”
“No, but if I do that, the Imperial Army will…”
Sigismund was flustered by Theo’s explanation.
He was well aware of the strength of the regular Imperial Army.
After all, he was the second prince.
“Everyone, if I don’t go, the Emperor will send the Imperial Army. If that happens, the city will be burnt down.”
Hearing Sigismund’s words, the people were silent for a moment.
However, voices soon spread.
“We will fight!”
“We will show them the power of 50 million people from the west.”
“Defeat the Emperor!”
“Defeat the Emperor!”
“Defeat the Emperor!”
“Defeat the Emperor!”
“Defeat the Emperor!”
Sigismund was speechless.
But he just couldn’t agree.
The Imperial Army was powerful.
In comparison, the Alant Duchy’s army could not be described as strong.
There were 20,000 people, which was quite a number, but that was only the minimum number necessary to maintain public order throughout the territory…
They were not skilled enough to fight the regular army.
“Your Highness… for the people, Your Highness is the only lord.”
Theo said it succinctly.
Sigismund couldn’t help but look at him.
But Sigismund also saw it in Theo’s eyes. His resolve.
“For me, the only person I will risk my life to serve is Your Highness.”
The moment Theo said that.
Everyone on the balcony knelt.
Sigismund, the only one standing, closed his eyes.
The voices of the people could be heard.
“Defeat the Emperor!”
Even without looking, he could see the determined eyes of those who were kneeling.
Sigismund slowly opened his eyes.
His life was not just his.
The lives of those at the top also belonged to those below.
They were not even allowed to die on their own volition.
If he dies, his house will be demolished and his subordinates will be homeless on the streets.
If he dies, another lord will take his place and the people will be oppressed.
He was not in a position to decide his own life or death.
There was no hesitation in Sigismund’s expression.
Then, he nodded and spoke just one word.
“Your Majesty, a letter has arrived from the Duke of Alant.”
Helmut VIII asked in response to Consul Martina Doner’s words.
Then he read the letter.
“Since he’s not feeling well and can’t get up, he can’t make amends in the Imperial capital… hm? After cutting up General Ivo, Sigismund collapsed?”
“Yes. That’s what was reported.”
Helmut asked and Martina answered.
“Martina, what do you think we should do?”
“I think we should send someone… Ideally, we should send the 1st army and get an explanation.”
“No, the 1st army is out of the question. I want to keep them on hand.”
“Understood. In that case, the 10th Army would be fine.”
“10th Army… Flora’s Army?”
“Yes. I heard that Flora Leisenheimer previously learned military strategy from Duke Alant’s right-hand man, Theo Byrne, Viscount Kirnach. She is also acquainted with the Duke of Alant, so it is more likely that she will get an audience to talk to him than others…”
Martina’s head contained a lot of personnel information about Imperial Army executives.
“I see. Then send the 10th Army. At the same time, the 1st Army and the 1st Magic Army are to complete preparations to march into the Stein Duchy. We will defeat Konrad.”
“This… is troublesome.”
“It’s an Imperial order. There’s nothing we can do.”
Elmer, the 10th Army advisor, sighed as he read the order, and Commander Flora shook her head as she answered.
“If I were the commander of the Duchy of Alant army, wouldn’t I be setting up a trap?”
“Sigismund-sama is a person who doesn’t like fighting by nature. I don’t think something like that will suddenly happen…”
Flora refuted Elmer’s words.
“But… whatever the reason, they killed the commander of the Imperial army sent by His Majesty the Emperor. According to Imperial law, no matter how high-ranking a noble he is, he would be sentenced to death…”
“Hmm, that’s true.”
“In that case, Sigismund-sama will be sentenced to death…”
“What should those who want to prevent this do?”
“Yes… I understand what Elmer is trying to say. I understand, but… I hope he doesn’t act rashly…”
Flora frowned and squeezed out the words.
She was an acquaintance of Sigismund and they had even talked about art many times.
In addition, Theo Byrne, Viscount Kirnach, the supreme consul who oversees the Duchy of Alant as his right-hand man, was also Flora’s mentor.
Flora was one of the people most aware of Theo’s surprisingly high capabilities.
“Theo-dono… I don’t want to make him an enemy.”
“Ah… the supreme consul of the Duchy of Alant. They say because of him, the Duchy of Alant does not go bankrupt.”
Elmer reacted to Flora’s murmur.
“That’s not right.”
“Lord Sigismund himself is an extremely talented person.”
Flora shook her head slightly, denying the popular opinion.
Theo Byrne has only been serving Sigismund for twenty years.
Whereas Sigismund had been doing it since he was a child.
The Duke of Alant’s house was opened two years ago, but Sigismund had owned the territory even before that.
In the Empire, a prince always owns territory and learns how to govern it from a young age.
If they wanted, the princesses could have a fief and learn to govern… although none of Rupert’s daughters wanted it.
The territory given to Sigismund by Emperor Rupert VI on his tenth birthday was the center of the present Duchy of Alant.
For the next 15 years, Sigismund traveled back and forth between his territory and the Imperial capital.
The territory was managed mainly by Theo Byrne, but Sigismund was not satisfied with just that.
Sigismund had a dream.
He didn’t know how many generations in the future, but he had a dream that his territory would be known as the greatest artistic capital in the Central Countries… that was his dream.
Therefore, Sigismund worked hard to promote culture and art.
But Theo understood.
Sigismund has an amazing sense of balance.
And that he prefers to do things in a planned manner, rather than focusing on immediate results.
Sigismund promoted the arts within the budget allocated to him by Theo.
In other words, he spent money on governance that should be done, such as building infrastructure and promoting commerce… he didn’t cut back on that. Sigismund also understood that if he cut the budget, it would hinder the development of the territory.
On top of that, the surplus funds would be used to promote the arts.
That was also in anticipation of what would happen 10 or 20 years from then. All planned out.
That, combined with Theo’s promotion of commerce, made the territory extremely wealthy.
Many merchants gathered.
When people gather, things also gather.
When people and things gather, money gathers.
When money is raised, artists gather… in search of patrons.
Art in Sigismund’s domain was, of course, not exclusive to the nobility.
He loved the talent and work of artists.
Naturally, origin had nothing to do with it.
It was attractive to the people in the neighborhood who aspired to be artists.
When so many artists and aspiring artists gathered in a city, artistic momentum naturally began to sprout throughout the city.
Moreover, the Lord Sigismund loves art.
That feudal lord often went out on the town.
Naturally, there was art everywhere in the city.
The distance between the people and their lord became closer.
Sigismund intended that ‘Dancing Trees’, a masterpiece by the master painter Manunti, was displayed on the first floor of the government building, a place that was visited by many people.
A painting displayed in a bar catches the eye of the feudal lord who talks about it with the owner.
The feudal lord calls out to a shopkeeper who was displaying a painting that he had left in exchange for food in front of the eaves.
The feudal lord donates to a painter who is busy painting in the square.
It was a common sight in Sigismund’s territory.
As a result, the territory that Sigismund desired was gradually being created.
Furthermore, once the Duke House of Alant was established, its growth increased exponentially.
Then this happened.
Theo hated it.
He hated General Ivo.
He hated the Emperor who had sent him.
He hated everything that trampled upon Sigismund’s pure desires.
He decided to protect Sigismund with all his might.
For that purpose, he didn’t mind making the Emperor, the Imperial Army, or the entire Empire his enemy.
Fortunately, the current Empire was surprisingly disorganized.
A month ago, that would have been unimaginable.
That was fortunate in a sense.
When a situation is this complicated, there are always ‘complications’.
Normally, he would have taken measures to complicate the situation and seek cover using it, but this time the situation was already complicated.
He just had to make use of it.