Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 8: A Coming Storm
When tea was served, the conversation between the three was interrupted and what remained of the once lively room was the sound of water echoing quietly from the teapot as it was poured into their cups. After the butler and other attendants left, Augustus paused briefly to make sure there were no others in their vicinity before speaking again.
“What is it?” Augustus asked, well aware of the fact that there must have been a reason as to why his guests, who were well known to be busy, had arrived earlier than all the rest.
Brandt and Vinter, who were previously occupied with thoughts of Leorino, suddenly turned stern after being reminded of their purpose for coming to Brungwurth.
“Yes, there’s something we’d like to discuss with you, Augustus,” Vinter said.
“I see. I had presumed that to be the case; there must be something that’s going on again there, right?” Augustus asked, obviously well aware of the matter Vinter was referring to.
Vinter looked at Augustus, seemingly amused by his quick response. “As expected of you, Augustus, you’re always quick to catch on. I’d really like it if you could tell me who your source is.”
“That’s no secret. With commercial exchanges resuming after the ceasefire treaty was signed, we here in Brungwurth have always conducted a thorough examination of anyone who wishes to cross the border gates of Zwölink. And Lev,1” Augustus spoke of the chief of the local autonomous army who was commanded by the count of Brungwurth, “buys information from the merchants that come and go.”
“Thank you for your abrupt compliance, Count. In order to cross-check your intel with ours, may I ask what sort of information Lev has acquired?” Vinter asked, trying to gauge how much Augustus already knew of the matter before they discussed it openly.
“Mm, apparently, the merchants from Zwölf who came in through Zwölink have been saying: ‘Zwölf’s iron is no longer available on the market.’ From what he said, Lev heard it from some merchants at a local tavern. He’s good at finding things like that,” Augustus explained.
“Yes, that is true. Even though we haven’t heard of Zwölf’s mineral veins being depleted, iron from Zwölf suddenly stopped appearing in markets six months ago, which means Zwölf is purposely restricting their exports for some reason,” Brandt added.
“Furthermore, these merchants also said: ‘The nobles of Zwölf are getting rid of their gold and jewels.’ And there’s been talk of some nobles seeking land outside of Zwölf circulating throughout the grapevine.” August said all of this with a look of concern.
“Is there anything you find suspicious about those merchants? Do you perhaps suspect that they’re a part of the other party’s spies?” Vinter questioned.
“According to Lev, these merchants are known to have done business within the border even before war broke out. If I may say as much, it seems more likely that the information is inadvertently being passed on because Lev just happened to hear about it in passing conversation. For now, I see no reason to doubt it,” Augustus deduced.
“Understood.” Vinter repositioned himself into a pose that made it seem like he was praying. With his hands tented together in the shape of a triangle against his lips, a habit he unconsciously did when thinking deeply, he said, “Stockpiling iron, raising taxes, nobles liquidating their assets into movable properties, it’s almost as if they want to flee their own country…”
“It seems like Zwölf’s preparing for another war,” Augustus remarked matter-of-factly.
Vinter’s expression hardened. “Your information is nearly identical to what we have received. Although I can’t go into detail, we’ve been informed that many high-ranking dignitaries from the cooperative faction were forced to leave and some personnel, especially those in the military, were changed. There is no doubt that something will happen soon, a civil conflict, or even worse, a war.”
Augustus, who had kept his gaze downcast as he recalled the bitter events that took place in Brungwurth twelve years before, sighed heavily. “Does Zwölf even have the strength to wage war with our country or any other country?” Augustus asked. He didn’t even wish to think of that same ominous outcome looming over Brungwurth once more.
When the invasion of Zwölink had failed, Zwölf gradually lost ground to Fanoren. After the citadel was reclaimed, Fanoren, which had previously only been on the defensive, launched a fierce attack against the country of Zwölf and ultimately gained the upper hand, thus ending the war. Had Fanoren continued fighting back, however, Zwölf would have been the one invaded and destroyed instead. But when it became clear there was no winning, Zwölf sent an envoy to Fanoren and called for a ceasefire out of self-preservation.
Because the war was not waged of Fanoren’s own accord and the country’s climate was poor due to the disastrous wave of cold still ravaging the continent, Fanoren had no choice but to accept Zwölf’s surrender on the condition that it comply with Fanoren’s demands.
The conditions were this: the king would be deposed, and the crown prince would be disinherited and exiled from Zwölf. The six-year-old son of the second-born prince would nominally be crowned king, and a capable civil service official, who was willing to cooperate with other surrounding countries, would be appointed as his acting chief executive aide. All high-ranking officials of Zwölf’s army were to be executed, and those outside the military who were involved in starting the war would be tried and dealt with according to the severity of their crimes.
In exchange for meeting these terms, Fanoren would provide food and aid to the people of Zwölf for the next three years as the country’s reserves were exhausted from both war and inclimate weather. This was the way Fanoren forced the Zwölf royal family and military to take responsibility for their actions in waging an unwanted war while still saving the people of Zwölf from ruin and starvation.
“The king who ascended the throne at that time will be turning eighteen this year. He’s now considered an adult,” Augustus said.
“Yes, and this time the chief executive aide who oversaw his kingdom will become the prime minister,” Vinter added.
“I’ve heard that the current king has a good personality and had a splendid upbringing. He’s also been able to maintain positive relationships with other countries as he’s grown. However, the acting chief executive, who’s still in good health, remains in control of the country for now,” Augustus commented levelly.
“That’s right,” Vinter spoke solemnly. “It has also been said that the generals from the Zwölf army still remain as part of a neutral faction. But, if there’s one thing that’s out of the ordinary, it would be the report of an existing colonels’ sudden death and his position being replaced ever so discreetly. I was informed that the new colonel’s name is Zverev2.”
Brandt, who had been quietly listening to their conversation thus far, suddenly asked, “What about news of the exiled prince’s current movement?”
“I was informed that there’s been no significant activity at the asylum.” Vinter shook his head in response and then asked, “What about it?”
“Do you remember my cousin who married a member of the royal family related to Zwölf’s crown princess? He said that there was a problem in court during that time,” Brandt offered candidly.
“Right, I remember that well since it caused you and yours so much trouble then,” Vinter replied, reminiscing on how Brandt had been suspected of being a spy during the war because of his family’s ties to the country of Zwölf.
“At that time, I had washed my hands of any connection with Zwölf’s crown princess and any of her other associates. But her mother, wife of the Duke of Khachanov3 and the Duchess of Khachanov, is descended from the Marquis of Sabine4. However, she was only an adopted child of the Marquis’ distant relatives, and the fact that she is not biologically related to them has not been made known to the public in Zwölf,” Brandt explained, hinting of another possible complication that might yet have arisen to the other two in his company.
Impatient, Vinter urged the deputy general to get to the point. “My, Lucas, what are you trying to get at?”
“The crown princess’ mother was born in Zverev,” Augustus concluded on his own.
With that now out in the open, they all looked at one another and said “It’s a coup d’etat!” in unison.