~ Chapter 56: Insanity at the court (Part 2) ~
“I'm curious though, how did you manage to do it?” I asked him.
“Erm... I lied to the maid that brought the tea and told her the Ryumarry root dust had to be added to it afterwards. Of course, she had no idea what the dust actually was, and I made up a pompous explanation, which she was unable to understand but which gave me credibility. I did this several times until she gave up on trying to listen to the long and boring explanation. Because it was a weird talk, the passing guards had no idea what I was doing either and didn't bother to investigate...” he explained.
“Good job.” I showed him a smile.
It was actually a good plan, although, a bit risky. I would have simply changed the contents of a bottle or mixed it in with a similarly colored ingredient. Although, with my current [Bartender] skill, I could have also just turned it into a concentrated drop which I could add with ease in anything I wanted.
Still, the fact that a Viscount said and did this removed any possible suspicion from the maid. After all, she couldn't just ignore his words. Although, it still wasn't alright to just accept it like that, but maybe this was the reason behind the need to offer her an explanation. Because the Viscount didn't try to act suspicious and just came right up at her, she found it easy to trust him.
“What if it didn't work?” I asked.
“Then... that was going to be it for me, but any other method would have failed either way. If I visited the healers too many times, I would have been found suspicious. This way, I just got the bad rumor that I'm trying to charm the King's maids.” he replied.
“Hm, I see. I see.” I nodded in understanding.
Looking back at the remaining bunch, I saw that there weren't that many nobles left standing on the King's side, but they were all furious with the betrayal of the others. The balance was strangely tipped in the human faction's favor. But I had to admit, it was a well thought up plan, making connections with so many different dragons of high status and separately as well, giving them their own little missions, everything working together like one big complex machine aimed at destroying the kingdom from within.
Whoever was the mastermind behind this was good. He was very good.
“What now?” asked one of the nobles who willing gave themselves up as being part of the human-siding faction.
To be honest, I felt like this went a bit too easy, but maybe I simply just underestimated the authority of important figures like Brekkar, Kataryna, and Feryumstark. To me, they were just a bunch of dragons among many others, but with whom I got along quite well. That was why, something told me this wasn't going to be over just yet.
It was highly likely that the mastermind had yet to reveal himself or herself. This made me a bit worried.
If I couldn't find the actual cause of this whole mess, then they could end up undoing what I worked hard to achieve today. Either that or replace these fellows with other pawns.
But how can I lure them out into the opening? I wondered and closed my eyes for a moment.
Analyzing the situation, there were several things that didn't go as I had initially planned: 1) Draejan didn't make a single move and quietly obeyed the King's order; 2) there were way too many traitors of high noble ranks, among which even a Duke; 3) the one who poisoned the Queen did it in a way even I hadn't thought about because it was too... suspicious in my point of view; 4) there was proof of the existence of a mastermind behind all of this, yet no proof of them making a move or even being in this room at the moment.
With the first three, I could live, but the last one was difficult to solve. If I asked these nobles for a name or evidence of this claim, they could simply rebuff it as being nonsense or that they were the actual mastermind. At the same time, it would prove that I am not who I claimed I was, or rather who they on their own misunderstood I was.
Maybe I'm thinking too much into this, and the truth is actually right in front of my eyes? I wondered as I scanned the crowd.
Kataryna, Elleyzabelle, Seryanna, Kleo, Iolaus, and Brekkar were out of the question, but not because I was their friend, but because they had proven time and time again where their loyalty stood. I mean, Seryanna nearly gave up on me for her loyalty, and if she did that, it would have been bye bye Awakening for her.
Draejan was a suspect as well, but his aim seemed more towards gathering an army that...
Wait a moment! An army? I stopped and thought a bit about how this army presented itself and then compared it with the basic ideal of noble pride dragons had. I also took note of the black hooded fellow in the back who felt familiar for some reason, and the many seemingly normal retainers. These guys are trained, armed, and judging by their status, all over level 500. I thought and gulped.
They weren't actually a threat to me, maybe just to a bunch of no-good bandits. They weren't even a threat to any of my friends, especially the King, so a coup d'etat was most definitely impossible to achieve with them. Some were even starting to worry about the current situation, proving that they had no idea their masters were traitors to the Kingdom.
This left me only with the Brekkar Army, once one of the strongest and most disciplined of the Albeyater Kingdom, now only a mere shadow of its former self. The number of soldiers had increased exponentially, but their strength paled in comparison to the original ones. Discipline and order were strange notions for them, but they all shared a common ideology... they followed Draejan first over anyone else.
Even so, this wasn't enough to prove he was the mastermind behind this. A good tactic would have been to increase the number of soldiers in the Brekkar Army and attract supporters among the nobility. Once he was promoted to General, he could trim down the unneeded soldiers and properly organize it into a powerful army.
By default, this didn't require Draejan to be a traitor to the crown, just an overzealous noble who desperately wanted the title of a General. Besides, he had nothing to gain through the death of the Queen. She was his grandmother. Thus, his nobility and rank in the country was assured.
But let us presume he wanted to become the King. What would he need to do in order to achieve this? I wondered.
The answer was simple: slay all the current Royal Family members or force them into declaring officially that they willingly gave up on all of their rights to the crown. But the King's family was quite numerous, and there were probably many among his children who wouldn't mind giving it a shot. There were some among them who also had the backing of outside dragon forces, like Embryger, Solustia, and Merganus.
There was also a matter of the loyalty of all the dragons who achieved an Awakened Breakthrough. Last I remember, there were a total of 16 in this Kingdom, not counting myself. Indeed, there was no way for him to become a King...
But what if... that was never his aim? What if... war was the aim? Weakening the Kingdom enough for a powerful force like Embryger to see it just to step in and correct things. I thought.
In this case, an alliance with the humans would have been the way to go. A war, as Pallause said, was something both sides desired it more or less. In other words, the nobility who could profit from it.
After all, a large and powerful army had no use in times of peace.
Even so, this whole thing was just my presumption. I did wish for things to eventually reach a peaceful end and for matters to be settled, but in what way or how it could be possible was not something I could control. The more freedom I allowed for a wish to manifest itself, the faster and easier it would. On the other hand, precise control was only needed when I didn't want certain possible bad events to take place. But even then it wasn't 100% guaranteed because sometimes in order for the wish to come true, bad things had to happen.
It was like the saying went: if you want a new car, then sell the old one and make room for the new one. Your garage can only hold so many, but it's up to you if you cling to the old or are willing to let it go and accept the new.
I guess it's all about taking a chance now. The traitors are already marked, and with this the King and his court will pay more attention to such schemes, but discovering the mastermind will have to be left for another day... I let out a sigh and scratched the back of my head.
Up until now, I remained silent, so most people here had no idea what I was going to do or say next. I also had a big fireball above my head, which was ready to explode as soon as I gave it the order to do so.
“I guess so... Well, any of you heard from the boss yet?” I asked as I looked back at the nobles.
Their confused expression told me that they were unaware of the existence of a mastermind. None of the other nobles, including Draejan reacted in a suspicious manner.
“You in the back with the hood... Show yourself.” I told him.
He didn't reply nor comply.
“Sir Draejan, tell your man to reveal his face.” ordered the King in a low growl.
“Yes, your Majesty.” the dragon replied and then nodded back to the hooded fellow.
The man pulled back the hood and revealed his face. He had dark-brown slit eyes and scales on his cheeks.
“Hm, was I mistaken?” I wondered.
“I ordered him to use the hood and hide his identity in order to be able to easily spy on the troublemakers in the Brekkar Army. I am aware that there are some... problems, and he is the solution I am currently employing.” he replied in a calm tone of voice, but the gaze in his eyes betrayed his satisfaction for something.
“Is that so? Although, the army shouldn't have had any sort of problem if you simply followed Brekkar's rules, right?” I asked him with a raised eyebrow.
“Even if it holds his name, it will soon hold mine, so I saw no reason in just blindly following the laws and rules established by my predecessor. If I were to reach the same conclusion, then so be it, but learning and understanding the way things work is more valuable than copying the knowledge from another and claiming it as yours.” he declared.
His words were wise, but also slightly foolish.
“There's no shame in copying what others achieved through hard work as long as you admit it and they permit it. If you try hard to improve them afterwards or come up with a brand new solution, it will be your own merit. Starting from zero is... a bit irresponsible.” I said.
Draejan shot me a glare when he heard what I had to say, while Brekkar smirked.
“Alkelios Yatagai, you have proven to this court that there are traitors among it, what do you plan on doing now? Are you going to kill us all?” the King asked squinting his eyes at me.
I guess this is my cue to wrap things up... I thought.
After clearing my throat, I spoke in a loud and clear tone of voice “I, Alkelios Yatagai, wish the following matters to be approved by this court. One is that my previous duel against Sir Draejan Andrakaryus Doesya to be considered null and it's result void.”
“Consider it done.” the King nodded.
“But, your Majesty!” Draejan tried to object.
“It's just a childish duel. It had always been unimportant in my eyes.” declared the King before tossing him a glare. “Any objections?” he then asked as he looked at the remaining nobles standing on his side.
“None, your Majesty.” one replied.
They all agreed and one even went so far as to consider that all duels between dragons and humans unless approved by the King were to be considered void as it involved members of two species currently at war.
“Second, I wish for the court to return the command of the Brekkar army to Sir Brekkar Draketerus.” I declared.
Murmurs and whispered flowed throughout the court, while those set aside as traitors looked confused.
“Why should we accept an old dragon unable to fight as a general?” asked one of the nobles who up until now had been quiet.
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