Act 1, Part 2
Several chandeliers crafted of exquisite gold dangled from the ceiling of the great hall, even though it was crowded right now, looking at their luxuriousness, if there were fewer people here, this place would make a fine place for dancing.
The House of Lords is located in one of the royal palace’s castles, the Arktoria Castle, and my mouth was wide agape at seeing how high the ceilings were. There were also stained glass windows with religious drawings and silver frames, giving various colors to the sunlight hitting the hall. This castle was only meant for national politics, and so because nobles are the ones who use this place the most, even the conference hall had such sparkling beauty and extravagance.
“Is it that unusual?”
“Well, a little.”
Earl Terejia’s voice from next to me brought me back to my senses. We’re not here to take in the sights, and I hurriedly refocused myself.
“Marquis Rittergau has arrived. It will begin soon.”
The earl pointed at the innermost desk. When I looked over there, besides Marquis Rittergau who was just about to sit down, there was also the commander-in-chief of the kingdom’s armies, Marquis Rolentsor, the highest ranking noble, Archduke Dovadain, and various other high-ranking economic ministers and priests, all the prominent leading figures from the royal palace were there. Also among them were Margrave Genas, and the one in charge of Fort Jugfena, Earl Einsbark.
I’m not sure exactly just how nervous I was, but my palms were becoming damp with sweat. Even though I had known it could happen, I had always felt it was only a concept, only now was reality rapidly setting in. Even after living in this world for six years, I still hadn’t gotten rid of my impression that “this is an otome game’s world.”
There was a quiet buzz around the hall before the meeting started. To me who was seated almost completely in Earl Terejia’s shadow, as expected, many curious looks were cast my way, it seems that “a child being in the House of Lords” was quite the news. It was different from the clearly disrespectful looks I had gotten at my birthday celebration.
Finally the nobles quieted down, and the clanging sound of a bell was heard from the center. It was as if ocean waves had calmed down and become like a still pond. Maybe it’s because most of the stained glass was blue, so that’s why the sea was the first image I thought of. Maybe he’s an official of some sort, a man rose up from the seats in the center and announced the beginning of today’s meeting, and that there were two items on today’s agenda.
“The first item, is with regards to refugees from the former Artolas Kingdom that are under temporary protection in the Jugfena royal domain, and what we should do with them. The second item, is going on military alert with regards to the conflict between the Shiru tribe and the Densel Dukedom’s army. Senior Earl Einsbark, please let us know about the refugees currently under your protection.”
“- At Fort Jugfena, there are approximately twelve hundred former residents of Artolas that are under our protection. We’ve loaned them tents to camp outside of Fort Jugfena with, and provided them with supplies from our stockpiles, but Fort Jugfena does not have enough food in reserve to keep this up for long. The number of people will probably keep increasing until autumn, and according to the refugees the women and children of the Shiru tribe are behind them and on their way. If another one thousand people arrive, our food stockpiles will be completely exhausted by the end of summer. We also don’t have enough tents. It’s already a situation where people are sleeping outside, exposed to the elements.”
Earl Einsbark was a tall, stocky figure in the prime of life, and his deep voice resounded throughout the entire hall, such as even I who was sitting in the back could hear him clearly.
“……That many people? As expected, it would have been better to expel them without offering our protection to begin with……”
Someone in the conference hall made the first comment. After that, a commotion began in the hall.
“No, they’re also people that believe in the same religion as us. We can’t just abandon them.”
“Even so, that’s back when we were the Ar Xia Holy Kingdom! Arxia is no longer a coalition of smaller countries united by the Xia sect!”
“When the Ar Xia church became the official state church, weren’t there independent noble lords incorporated into our territory at the time as well?”
“That’s all from more than fifty years ago.”
“While that is indeed from more than fifty years ago, the Arxia Kingdom was established more than six hundred years ago, and we’ve never forsaken those that believe in the same religion as us.”
“But, if we intervene in Densel’s civil war, Rindarl will have a cause to go to war with us.”
At once, debates flew around the conference hall as I listened, while Earl Terejia looked around, and shook his head at me. I understood it to mean that he was disappointed in the arguing nobles.
“It’s a dispute between the border nobles and the inner area nobles, is it?”
“The inland nobles lack a sense of danger. However, with regards to Rindarl, it won’t only be the borders that are in danger.”
Indeed, it’s mostly Jugfena and Genas that would be affected first if war was to break out with Rindarl, while their neighboring domains would hardly be affected. Of course, we’d also be in Jugfena and Genas’s situation.
“The ones that are watching out for our eastern neighbor Rindarl are mostly the northern domain lords, eh.”
The northern domain lords that I was referring to, were mostly the domain lords with territories bordering the northern sea. The northern nobles had paler skin as their characteristic, and even the children there sing that you shouldn’t provoke Rindarl.
“Without having to cross the Bandishia Plateau, it would be easier for Rindarl to face the less steep Amon Nor Mountains. With their troops already camped in Remeshu, they could cross the mountains by land and invade us by sea, pincering us. Although Densel isn’t known for its ships, Parmigran is known to trade with its southern neighbors for ships.”
“Does this mean that there’s no way to guard against Rindarl?”
“Defense spending has only been there in name for many years now.”
At the last piece of information that the earl had just mentioned, I nodded reflexively in understanding. With this, I finally understand the relations between the eastern Arxian nobles.
The lords of the smaller domains surrounding the royal capital, which I’ll call the inland domains faction, have very little army strength, and they severely lack a sense of impending crisis. They were mostly former priest nobles that had their own small inner domains, since they have plenty of money, they believe that if we accept refugees all they have to do is help spend some money. They can’t even imagine that the entire country would be embroiled in war because of helping people. Unlike the royal capital and the border domains that have more foreigners gather there, the inland domains are as if time has stopped and they’ve stagnated. Almost everyone among them were clamoring for accepting the refugees.
The border domains and the northern domains by the sea consider the influence of Rindarl uniting as their number one priority. Almost none of them agreed to accepting the refugees, if their own domains became a battleground, it would become necessary to invest all their surplus funds into land warfare or naval defense, they hoped that we could maintain a policy of non-intervention in the east. So of course, all of them would reject the refugees.
At the midst of this issue were the Jugfena royal domain, the Genas domain, the border domains faction and the inland domains faction, but most were silent and waiting for the decision of the House of Lords. Of course the Kaldia domain was among those waiting. There were both merits and demerits to accepting the refugees, and since the House of Lords is the most critical location for making defense decisions, it’s a rule here to not speak up irresponsibly.
The southern border domain lords have to maintain a different line of defense, so they’re the ones impacted the least. Because of this, they seemed almost indifferent to this issue, and remained silent while seeming to admire the conference hall.
“In the first place, we’re not in the era of fifty years ago. The refugees have no land or money, and they speak a different language. Even if we decide to take them in, which domain would accept them!”
One of the nobles got really heated up about the debate, and raised his voice in frustration. Everyone fell silent at his statement. Earl Terejia and I looked at each other, and he nodded quietly at me.
I held in my trembling the best I could, and took a deep breath.
“If it’s decided that the refugees will be accepted, then my domain can take them in.”
The voice I summoned wasn’t quite that loud, but it resounded clearly throughout the conference hall that had just fallen silent.