Chapter 563: End of Ambition
Sitting on the throne, I rest my chin on the hand that is propped up on the armrest and move my eyes across the people in line.
The reason I groaned occasionally was not because I’m unhappy, it’s because the extravagant throne made of gold and silver and embedded with jewels was hard and hurt my butt. The cushion sewn for me by Maria was rejected by Tristan, Adolph and Nonna, so I couldn’t use it.
The fluffy pink cushion with a cat embroidered on it would diminish the majesty of the throne or something.
If I end up getting hemorrhoids and bleeding from the recent overuse of my ass, majesty is the least of your concern.
A grin appears on my face as I imagine the bloody sight, which causes a serious-looking bureaucrat in front of me to turn pale, making me shift my gaze to the side.
For me, I’m just looking around trying to kill time, but because my innocently wandering eyes landed on the poor guy, I had to look elsewhere.
「Your Majesty. I have confirmed that all persons summoned are present.」
Celia reports, bending at the waist as she addresses me formally.
Although the distant treatment in public situations makes me a bit sad, having the cute Celia call me king turns me on in a strange way.
I should try this play in bed once.
I stand up from the throne, picturing a half-naked Celia repeatedly crying out ‘Your Majesty’ in my mind.
As pressure eases off my ass, a smile naturally forms on my face as well.
「Everyone, you did well to respond to the summons made not long after the coronation. There was a bit of a mixup, but it’s wonderful no one is absent.」
Filling the vast throne room are individuals from the capital and other regions who are all above a certain rank.
It seems those with lower standing could not fit and are lined up in the corridor.
Goldonia’s nobles, feudal lords, bureaucrats, ministers, knights……literally everyone who supports the nation has gathered.
The number likely surpasses the attendance during the coronation.
「Honestly, I was a little worried. Because I’m somewhat hated, I thought people might not show up.」
The man whose eyes met with mine starts sweating and furiously shakes his head.
「Anyhow, I’ve kept you waiting. I had to check if anybody was missing after all.」
The person at the very front row trembles.
Is he imagining what would happen if he didn’t choose to attend?
That might be due to the effect of crushing five disobeying houses at the coronation.
Some of the participants are injured with their arm in a sling and some are too old to stand up straight.
They probably came fearing the worst if they skipped.
I don’t know whether they are admirable or just cowardly.
「Alright then, err let’s begin the what was it again……ah, the appointment ceremony.」
I flutter my new black cape, allowing for the blood red clothes to peek out in the gaps.
My Dual Crater is left leaning next to the throne out of its sheath.
Celia and the others suggested this setup to increase the intimidation, but if only the throne was made of bone and the high-quality carpet on the floor was an animal pelt, I would be a barbarian king.
「As written in the invitation letter, I thought it was about time to officially decide positions. Keeping them the same is also fine if there are no inconveniences, but I figured why not since the leader changed. So――」
Everyone’s tension heightens at the sudden break in my sentence.
I’m not purposely delaying, it’s that I don’t know where Celia’s third cue card went.
I silently turn to Celia.
「All hail King Hardlett!!」
Celia raises her voice, as if she understood my predicament.
No, that’s not it.
「「「Long live King Hardlett! Long live the Kingdom!」」」
Myla, Irijina, and Tristan, whose toes were stepped on by Celia, also cheer.
「「「「Long live King Hardlett! Long live the Kingdom!」」」」
Everyone else joins in.
Of course they are not praising me from the bottom of their hearts.
They simply don’t want to incur my wrath if they don’t yell loud enough.
To prove my point, those who seem timid are straining themselves, while those who have a braver appearance are matching the tone of others out of courtesy.
This is a pretty good method to measure courage.
Okay let’s move, it’s starting to get annoying.
To be polite, I first lazily introduce Gildress, who has yet to go home, and then proceed to the main topic.
On a side note, the girl accompanying him is a naughty daughter of a merchant family he hooked up with at a bar a few days ago.
Nonna heard a scream in the guest room on that night, and when I stepped inside to check, Gildress was fucking her from behind in a weird savage half-twist position.
That was all it took for the girl to completely fall for him and she ended up becoming his attendant.
He came buckets inside of her without contraception so she will probably be taken home, pregnant.
It feels bad knowing he took away a potential woman of mine.
「Dammit, I forgot what I was going to say.」
Oops, I directed it at someone unrelated.
「The official announcement of appointments, Your Majesty.」
Celia reminds me.
「Right, first is Tristan. I appoint you as the Military Commissioner.」
Tristan’s sigh contrasts with the surprise that spread among the crowd.
「Military Commissioner……? The position created by the previous king will be taken over as is?」
「I don’t know if he’s bold or insensitive. Not to mention that person succeeding Lord Radhalde, his benefactor and someone he himself cut down, is an average-looking……」
Tristan slumps his shoulders at the unwelcome gazes.
「Yes, I agree. Why don’t you pick a different――oww!!」
Celia stomps her steel boot on Tristan’s cloth shoe.
「I humbly receive the position. I don’t have a single complaint!」
After Tristan is forced to accept out of desperation, he then ends with an oath of allegiance.
「Next, the Government Affairs Commissioner will be you, Adolph.」
「Yes Your Majesty. I will do my utmost for the sake of the people and the kingdom.」
Adolph knows he’s the only one who can do the job and I don’t have anyone else to leave the job to.
「This position will also be kept? Doesn’t Your Majesty reject the previous king’s way of doing things?」
I only became king because I wanted to, not because the former king did anything wrong.
「Tristan-dono and Adolph-dono……we don’t have any common acquaintances so it’s unknown what kind of characters they are. This is a problem.」
「If the nature of the positions don’t change, then they will be the two wheels that support the nation. In that case, a struggle for dominance is inevitable. Who is better for us to join……and who is the superior one?」
Unlike Erich and Kenneth, I don’t think these two will fight each other.
Furthermore, Adolph has times where he sticks to his opinions till the end, meanwhile I can only see Tristan yielding midway.
If anything is said, Tristan will just go “Okay, then take responsibility. I’m resigning.” and run.
Of course, if that happens, Celia and Irijina will chase after him and drag him back.
「Myla, you will be the captain of the Royal Guard. You will defend my surroundings and the capital area.」
「I will do so even if it costs my life!」
What a satisfying response.
There’s no comparing it to Tristan’s sigh.
Position-wise, the captain of the Royal Guard doesn’t have as much authority as the Military Commissioner who overlooks the entire army, but having a role that protects the capital, she and her unit can act more independently as a separate entity of the military.
「Royal Guard captain……I see, Myla-dono will be His Majesty’s……」
「W-well, Myla-dono is also recognized for her talent and isn’t someone who snatched the position purely with her body……」
And because Myla is turning red, I’ll lop off your head if you say anymore.
I lift up Celia, who is making a face like it’s the end of the world beside me.
「Celia will be the captain of my escort unit and lead follower. She will be protecting me rather than the capital or the palace and acting as my assistant.」
Celia’s smile returns and I give her a kiss.
I call Marta over, assign her as my secretary, and also give her a kiss.
「……this is easy to understand.」
「She is his lover. Does His Majesty even need bodyguards?」
「Her and the secretary girl must service him together. As for me, I’d be jealous if she was ten years younger.」
I kiss Celia a few more times and then let her go as she writhes from the comments of the onlookers.
I feel a pressuring gaze from Irijina next.
「I appoint Irijina as the captain of the capital’s independent mobile strike force. She will patrol the capital’s perimeter and exterminate any threats.」
「Understood! I will protect the capital’s peace!!」
I hear Tristan and Myla whisper to each other.
「Independent mobile……whose command is she under?」
「Basically, she will be running as she pleases everyday, capturing any suspicious individual she sees. It sounds closer to a hobby than a job in the military.」
Alright, next is……
「The intelligence officer system will be abolished. In its place, I will establish a new domestic intelligence minister who will monitor the behavior of the nobles and bureaucrats as well as the rule of the feudal lords. The intelligence officers will be switched to public bureaucrats and the minister position will be given to Rebecca.」
The announcement causes a stir to ripple at a different wavelength than before.
「Intelligence officers……those people who used to be in the king’s shadow will now be bureaucrats.」
「The one acting as secret informant will be a minister? Is it a matter of grace……no, maybe it was past due.」
「But wait. It’s irritating that those eavesdroppers have gained status, but they’re less scary. At the very least, it doesn’t have the same bad feeling of not knowing whether an informant reported when the previous king is wavering on a decision.」
Rebecca, who already has an idea of what this implies, is calm.
「So you’re saying we are to investigate in the open?」
「That’s right. And in return, they will be given the authority to prevent any number of people from interfering with the investigation. You can enter the bedroom of a wicked governor, the vault of a feudal lord accepting bribes, and the hidden room of a negligent Military Commissioner. If they resist, it is tantamount to defying me.」
I say the last part loud enough that it echoes throughout the whole room.
Then I follow it up with a voice soft enough that only Rebecca can hear.
「You are still hated, but at least your existence is public. If you produce results, you will stack up many rewards. And obviously you will be favored more than others. I have an ulterior motive after all.」
The downward-facing Rebecca smiles.
She bends down to thank me and slips something in my shoe.
That is the key to her office.
Of course since I’m the king, I can enter any room at any time.
Deliberately handing me the key must be a sign for ‘that’.
「Is something the matter, Your Majesty?」
「You’re slightly leaning forward.」
Honestly, everyone’s reaction to positions other than Rebecca’s is within expectations.
It’s well-understood that an usurper like me will promote my own followers to important posts.
「There are other various positions too……but they actually haven’t been decided yet.」
I walk in between the people tightly packing the room.
I stop in front of a man who has a nervous look on his face.
「Do you have a special skill?」
「I manage the family’s rural demesne so my expertise in agriculture is above average……」
Satisfied, I nod.
「Then you will be the minister of agriculture.」
The man unconsciously expresses his disbelief, then realizes his rudeness, and immediately tries to rephrase.
「B-but I am a frontier baron. And I don’t have experience working in the cap――」
I hold up a hand to interrupt him.
「I’m not interested in your history. Will you do it? Or not?」
He closes his eyes for half a second and then reopens them.
「Please let me do it.」
「Good. Work out the details with Adolph――and tell me your name. It doesn’t look good if the king doesn’t know the names of his ministers.」
There was no commotion.
The others were all frozen solid.
「What do you have?」
「Errr, there is a small mine in my territory so I have craftsman……」
Then engineering minister it is.
「My father left me with an outstanding debt of 20 years so I have to work two jobs at once to repay……」
I guess I need a minister of commerce.
「I actually evaded the eyes of the kingdom and conducted various businesses with the barbarians in the remote regions……」
What a hopeless guy.
But if he can win over savage tribes without protection from the kingdom, he might be able to be minister of foreign affairs.
「I like flashy things so I spent all my fortune to have a giant copper statue erected, which I personally oversaw……」
30 meters tall? So that ugly thing that I saw from the balcony was yours?
He’s foolish, but his zeal and ability are impressive. Let’s have him try being the minister of construction.
Adolph and Tristan watch as I appoint new positions one after the other.
The two of them nod their heads with tired expressions.
I do not know who is best suited to be minister aside from those close to me.
I’m just avoiding the initial chaos from picking those who already had that position or those who have experience as ministers, even though I know problems will emerge later.
Since I don’t have the knowledge to begin with, it’s practically the same as choosing at random.
What’s important is checking whether they are motivated. I can’t have anybody who lacks the drive.
I scowl at Tristan, who looks as if he wants to say something.
And even if the minister is incapable of doing anything, Tristan heads the military and Adolph heads the government, so everything won’t collapse right away.
Once we discover the person is useless, we just have to replace them.
It’s like a lottery with endless draws, so one of them will eventually be a hit.
And we just have to repeat the process for each minister until we assemble all the pieces of the puzzle.
「In exchange, we’ll be fatigued though.」
Tristan heaves a sigh and something drifts from Adolph’s head.
Overworking someone like Tristan, who slacks off anytime he can, is just right.
And for Adolph, it’s cooler to be completely smooth rather than have half-grown fuzz.
As I progress with the appointment of ministers, the high-ranking nobles especially watch with their jaws hanging.
「Y-you’re appointing positions haphazardly! And you’re doing it for the positions that should normally be the foundations of the country like agriculture and foreign affairs!」
「It’s ridiculous! It’s foolish no matter how you look at it! The issue isn’t even with social standing or status! The country will fall!」
At the same time, others voice their opinion unusually quietly.
「It truly is senseless. Lineage and accomplishments don’t matter. Are you really choosing at random!?」
「Wait, but if that’s the case and we perform better than expected, then perhaps even us low-ranking nobles can……」
The eyes of the low-ranking nobles sparkle at the prospect of becoming ministers, which to them is a hard enough chance to come by, let alone working for the kingdom.
「Their hearts were not stirred even when I or Myla-san was appointed to important posts. After all, we’re connected with the new king. It’s natural for us to be given big responsibilities, unlike them.」
Adolph scratches his head lightly and continues.
「But with such a reckless way of appointing, nobody knows what kind of appealing role will come their way next.」
Humans don’t always live by reason or righteousness.
Plenty of people are happier to live under an usurper king at a higher rank than under a rightful king at a lower class.
「Submit them with violence and win them over with lures of profit……」
Tristan continues from where Adolph trailed off.
「Then bind them with the law――right? We will need to build a system they can trust. It’s not my job though.」
I’ll leave that to you two.
It’s a bit late at this point, but there’s a lot of hair on your shoulder, Adolph.
Are you alright? It’s not normal.
After the commotion which was the nonsensical appointment, a different whisper began to circulate.
「I guess most of the notable jobs have run out……」
「How strange. Isn’t that man not appointed?」
Everyone’s gazes start to focus on the silent, sculpture-like Leopolt.
I haven’t given Leopolt a position yet.
「I thought he would be the Military Commissioner for sure.」
「Rumor has it that his discord with His Majesty is connected with the plot to usurp the throne. He is undoubtedly His Majesty’s most trusted vassal……it’s impossible for him to jobless.」
「Isn’t he creating a new position? Honestly, I am not fond of him. I hope he gets a position which doesn’t interact with me.」
I turn to Leopolt like I only just realized I missed him.
「Oh right. I forgot about you, Leopolt.」
As Leopolt steps forward, I inform him before he kneels.
「I appoint you as the Commander of Border Defense.」
The surprised one was Celia.
「I thought you planned for Leopolt-san to be appointed as Supreme Commander and for the post to be rotated between him and Tristan every ye――」
I close Celia’s mouth with my hand while keeping my eyes on Leopolt.
「W-what is going on?」
Myla asks Tristan, who shakes his head seriously for once like he doesn’t know the answer.
「Would that be the border with the Empire?」
I reply to Leopolt’s question with a grin.
「No, the north one. I’ll have you guard the border with the Federation.」
After an audible silence, someone murmurs.
「A-a demotion……it’s essentially a banishment! An invasion by the Federation is impossible. Protection is not needed in the north!」
「What does this mean!? Wasn’t he one who achieved the most distinguished service!? The usurpation……ahem. I mean, I heard he played a large role in the changing of kings.」
「I even heard it was his suggestion to begin with. It wouldn’t be odd if he received the highest rank……no, it would we weird if he wasn’t at least promoted to prime minister, so why!?」
Everyone mutters in confusion, while those close to me are speechless.
Leopolt is composed as usual, like he’s wearing a mask, and simply fixates his eyes at my feet.
「May I ask you to tell me the reason?」
「Sure, why not. I can’t trust you so I don’t want you by my side. Traitors are repeat offenders. I’m not one to talk though.」
I spit out cheerfully.
「You think that I will betray Your Majesty?」
「I do. If you don’t like me or the way I do things, you will do it again. I should be cutting you down……but you’re the reason I’m sitting on the throne. If I kill you, my luck will decrease.」
A deafening silence dominates the room.
Even the thousand people filling this room don’t seem to present and only the words and breathing of Leopolt can be heard.
「I am loyal――」
「No need to sing your praises. Gather 200 troops and depart tomorrow morning. I’ve seen the northern border once and it’s a nice place with lush forests. You can enjoy yourself counting trees――oh yes. I guess I’ll add the supply of firewood to your mission.」
Leopolt stares into my eyes for a few seconds, though it feels like time slowed down, then bows and turns on his heel.
He proceeds to exit the hall as he was ordered to.
That is when the silence breaks and the whispering voices resume.
「Apparently there is more to the situation than we know.」
「His Majesty is by nature a military man. He doesn’t like strategists.」
「He looks like a shady and unlikeable guy to me. Both the previous king and His Majesty ―― they’ve had it. He’s out of luck.」
Now they’re starting to talk as they please.
As I thought, nobody that sees Leopolt likes him.
Celia is teary-eyed.
Myla and Irijina are dejected.
But I deliberately ignore it all.
「Fumu. It’s been a long relationship. I can give him a farewell.」
I retrieve a bottle of alcohol from behind the throne and chase after Leopolt.
「To repay someone who’s been through thick and thin, a single bottle……is nothing.」
I feel reassured when I hear Tristan.
This is going well.
I grab Leopolt’s shoulder, shove the bottle into his chest and mutter emotionlessly.
「How is it?」
「Even excluding the turmoil of regime change, the ratio of forces between the two sides is so great that if we fight 100 battles, we will lose 100 times.」
Of course, I’m referring to none other than myself and the Olga Federation.
「We will prepare our military while waiting for the right opportunity. Whether that be political conflict, local rebellions, or major natural disasters……」
「Will 200 scouts be enough?」
Leopolt looks down at the bottle given to him――and, while pretending to have a shaky hand, answers.
「It is enough to grasp the characteristics of the terrain. In fact, spies are what I need more than scouts.」
That’s the reason the intelligence officer system was abolished.
When they are reorganized under the minister of intelligence, it will allow promising individuals to be moved secretly.
No one will realize if the number of intelligence officers going public has lowered slightly.
「Then I will deploy only a few scouts and a small punitive force as planned. That will make the banishment seem more realistic.」
I glance at a certain man.
The man, who sneers despite being nervous, has a strong bond with the nobles of the Federation.
There are many others who similarly share strong ties to the Federation.
If I publicly say that I’m sending Leopolt to the northern border, word will get out immediately.
But with the act, he is merely a former vassal who has been demoted.
「Anything you do is fine as long as you don’t get discovered, so do your best. Let me know when the opportunity presents itself. You won’t betray me as long as I’m aiming for the chance, right?」
Leopolt’s thin eyes seem to open one millimeter more than usual.
「How far do you envision going?」
I’ve been having many conversations without subjects lately.
「Well, as far as possible, of course. Once I go as far as I can――」
I hit Leopolt on the head with a bonk.
「Next I’ll demote you to the south.」
Now it’s time for me to ask one more question.
「Although it’s a ruse, I did say a lot. Did I offend you?」
「No, not really.」
I didn’t think so. He’s not that sensitive.
「I also don’t feel anything when I badmouth you. It’s good that you are who you are.」
Leopolt’s eyes seem to widen another one millimeter.