Overlord (LN) - Volume 14: Prologue (Part 4)

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Volume 14: Prologue (Part 4)



The diplomatic mission sent from the Kingdom had the same questions in mind as Zanac concerning the Faceless One, so they asked her followers. It did not matter who they asked, each and every one of their answers were vague at best, as if they would be breaking some form of taboo should they have answered truthfully.


It was incredibly suspicious.


By hiding her face, is she not creating the impression that she had done something unspeakable in the past?


“Her parents were apparently renowned warriors. If she had revealed her face and preached out in the open, it would probably have raised her reputation by a fair amount. Is it possible that she’s hiding her appearance because she’s been lying about her heritage? “Why would someone spread such a boring lie? I don’t think any of the benefits of hiding one’s appearance would apply to her if that’s the case.


“That’s true…or perhaps she’s not human, but undead or something similar?” “-you mean she’s serving under the Sorcerer King?”


“I just thought that if that were the case, things would start to make a lot more sense, wouldn’t they?”


“It could explain a lot of things, but why would someone like that risk arousing further suspicion from others by hiding their appearance?”


“That’s also true……but what other acceptable reasons are there to hide one’s appearance?”


It’s also possible that she had received some form of facial disfigurement during Jaldabaoth’s invasion, but then again it should have been treatable with magic. Unless wounds inflicted by a fiend as strong as Jaldabaoth cannot be healed with magic or something similar?


“Well, that’s more believable than your previous theory, especially since she’s female”


Exposing a facial scar could be beneficial in the sense that people would sympathize with you more, but that’s largely dependent on how severe the wound was.


“In any case, our first order was to gather detailed information on the inner workings of the Holy Kingdom. Let’s plan our operations out in a way where we could immediately aid in the south should that become necessary.”


“That would be best.”


“To our south is the Holy Kingdom, where half of the country is friendly to the Sorcerous Kingdom and to our east is the Empire, a vassal state of the Sorcerous Kingdom. This will be hard to deal with.”


“Yeah”


Zanac’s gaze remained affixed on Renner, who had been replying ever so nonchalantly.


“......You make it sound so simple.”


“Eh? But what more could be said about this? The situation is undeniably worse if you consider the current state of its neighboring countries. Other than what onii-sama has said so far, there’s also the matter of the persisting and prospering underground organizations in the Kingdom.”


“You’re talking about the Eight Fingers, correct? Recently there has been a number of people making a mess all over the place due to narcotics withdrawal. So have they really become active again? If it wasn’t for that archfiend (Jaldabaoth) appearing out of nowhere, we could’ve knocked the Eight Fingers down another peg or two for sure.” Zanac sighed.


With the loss of Gazef Stronoff, the strongest warrior in the Kingdom, the government had shifted its policy to avoid direct confrontation with the Eight Fingers. They simply lacked the necessary amount of strong individuals to deal with the issue.


Except one.


The man employed by Renner, Brain Unglaus, had a lot of potential.


But, that man was only loyal to Renner, so there’s probably no chance at all that he’d be willing to serve Zanac. He had already attempted to gain favour with him, but it did not seem to have an effect on him at all.


{......I don’t plan on taking on the role of Warrior Captain myself, so it’s probably better to promote someone who’s talented enough for the job. Should we train him to become someone who’s worthy of the position of Warrior Captain? I wanted to at least give him the sword that’s part of the Kingdom\'s treasures, but father would never allow it.} To his father, the king, Gazef Stronoff’s existence was far too important.


It’s lonely at the top as they say.


Knowing that soon it’ll be his turn to bear this burden, Zanac, unbeknownst to himself, is gradually grasping the true meaning of that proverb.


As a person, Gazef Stronoff’s existence was like that of a comforting bonfire to his lonely father. Despite the significant age difference between the two, one could say that they were closer than friends in some respects.


For his father to have someone like that in his life, Zanac couldn’t help but feel envious. As the second prince, Zanac had never experienced that level of friendship before. His older brother was the heir apparent for the longest time, so no one would bother forming that deep of a connection with someone who was simply a spare. They probably judged that it was not worth the risk getting on Marquis Boullope’s radar by befriending a future Archduke.


The only one who’d keep in touch with him was Marquis Raeven, presumably out of his concern for the Kingdom’s future. Even then their relationship was closer to that of mutual supporters than friends; as a result, Zanac had had to suppress quite a bit of the resulting depression.


Will he remain lonely for the rest of his life?


Zanac shook his head, pushing his negative emotions aside. Renner looked back at him as if she was looking at a cryptid.


{Just Ignore her Zanac.}


Speaking of Brain, the moment Zanac is crowned king, his first action would likely be to retrieve the four treasures of the Kingdom from his father.


Though he was uncertain if his father would hand them over so easily, it’s imperative for him to entrust the treasures to Brain, otherwise it would be an insult to the sacrifices he’s made.


He wasn’t the Kingdom’s Warrior Captain, he was just Renner’s subordinate, a peasant with no fealty to speak of. If the Kingdom\'s treasures were to be given to him, there would be no doubt the nobles would have dissenting opinions against it.


Even so.


“How about we just declare that we intend to become a vassal state of the Sorcerous Kingdom?”


Renner’s goal was to live out her life in a small manor with Climb, which would still be achievable even if they became a vassal state. No, it’s safe to say that if the value of royalty fell, it would have an inverse effect on their personal safety. Perhaps Renner’s suggestion would create the best outcome for her.


“Hmph!” Zanac scoffed at Renner’s proposal, “the state of the internal affairs of our country and that of the Empire’s is completely different. Civil disorder would occur the moment we suggest it.”


Under the leadership of the Bloody Emperor, the Empire was as solid as a rock. Dissenting nobles had been purged long ago, which is why when they chose to become a vassal state, there was no opposition whatsoever. Nevermind the fact that the Empire hadn’t had a taste of the Sorcerous Kingdom’s wrath. Even if they were disgusted by the agreement on the inside, it’s not as though they had the desire to seek retribution. The Empire had a clear cut understanding of exactly how terrifying the Sorcerous Kingdom could be. The Kingdom, however, was in a different situation.


As of now, the Kingdom was split between the Royal Faction, the Noble Faction, independents, and a new faction that was formed after that battle. The distribution of power between the four factions was roughly 3:3:2:2.


The most troublesome of them all was the new faction. It was composed mostly of “spare men” from noble families that had lost both their head and successor, men who obtained power not meant for them. The other members lacked the common sensibilities that were expected of the aristocracy and had no respect for the unspoken rules. As a result, many of them lacked integrity and manners. Spy reports showed that more than a few of them were drunk on power.


They were the cancer of this nation.


However, since they had autonomy in their own lands, nothing could be done about them unless they broke the law of the Kingdom. Even if they did, there was no guarantee on how the other factions would react when the royal powers were exercised. This was no longer the pre-war era when the royal faction held the upper hand in political power.


Still, Renner’s suggestion of vassalization was not totally out of the question. It could be considered if the situation was to change drastically.


“No, that will not happen. There will not be any civil disorder, onii-sama.”


Renner naturally followed with a counter.


{Don’t lie to me}, Zanac thought.


Although he could tell that she wasn’t being serious, it would not have been a problem even if Zanac was stupid enough to fall for it. Zanac had learned to see through her facades long ago.


It was precisely because of this reason that women like her should not be trusted.


{If only Elias had returned.}


Zanac suddenly felt a sense of loneliness deep down in his heart. Though he couldn’t call Marquis Raeven a friend, he was still someone who shared Zanac\'s concerns for the Kingdom. Zanac was concerned by the fact that it may no longer be possible for them to work side by side with each other, as the marquis’ replacements at hand were all terrifyingly talented but also uncontrollable wildcards.


Zanac turned to face Renner in a pretentious manner, as if doing so would rid him of his sorrows.


“Still, I find it hard to believe that the Empire would actually import goods from the Sorcerous Kingdom.”


“...Well that was an awkward way to change the topic, not that I mind…hm, those things aren’t that bad for a vassal state like the Empire, right?”


The most exported goods from the Sorcerous Kingdom to the Empire in terms of the revenue they generated were undead creatures. Apparently they were distinguished by categories such as menial labor, military service, cargo transportation, and so on.


“Oy oy, we’re talking about the undead remember? The enemy of the living?”


“But they don’t require sustenance and don’t get tired. Frankly speaking, they’re the best kind of worker you could hope for. You’re correct in thinking that importing the Sorcerer King’s undead into our country would be risky since it would essentially be us allowing another nation’s soldiers onto our own soil. But on the other hand, it’s also a gesture to the Sorcerous Kingdom that its vassal does not have anything to hide from them. They’re basically handing the other end of the leash they’ve placed on themselves over to the Sorcerous Kingdom.”


Renner raised her head towards the ceiling.


“In some ways, this is an admirable attitude that we could learn from. It is a good way to show that they can easily threaten us.”


“That’s true, if a superior cannot trust their inferior, it’s definitely more reassuring to have a firm grasp on their weaknesses. I can somewhat understand the Empire’s actions if I look at it from that perspective. It looks as though E-Rantel and the dwarven nation in the Azerlisia mountains have initiated trade relations. They’re exchanging undead miners and fresh ingredients for ores and high-quality, dwarven-made farming equipment.”


This was according to the intel they had received from their spy in E-Rantel, who had met with some dwarves.


“Cargo hauling within the Azerlisia mountain range can simply be handled by the undead. Apparently the shipping and labor costs are basically negligible, so much so that it’s cheaper for them to buy from the dwarves than from us.”


“That’s right.”


“-are we abandoning the plans to form an alliance with the Council State?”


“Ah yes, that’s currently in progress, but the situation isn’t great. Though a Dragon Lord has agreed to it, we still need more time to convince the representatives of the other races. Though even if this falls through, the prospect of an alliance would not be completely ruled out, that much was said.”


That was only partly true.


The anti-Sorcerous Kingdom alliance was forming at a snail’s pace, but progress was smooth nonetheless. They were at the stage of relying on the generosity and solidarity of other countries to hopefully get them to sign the mutual reinforcement pact at all costs, in other words, it was an unreliable relationship without written agreements. Something like that could not be publicly announced as an alliance.


There were simply too many things to do to form a tight alliance, they would need at least a few months to sort it out.


“Is that so?... It would be great if we could form a military alliance as soon as possible. Now then, onii-sama, when do you plan to take the throne? I feel like it’s about time for you to fulfill your promise.”


The promise in question was that Renner would work alongside Zanac in exchange for a manor to live in secret with Climb, as well as the permission to do so.


“About that, just wait for a while. Surely you already knew of how the unofficial proposals are being dealt with soon? I’ve spoken to our father and we’ve decided to wait for him to put forward his last major policy before making any moves.”


If the king commits a fatal mistake in managing the state, he will bear the responsibility and abdicate.


If he made no mistakes, he would just propose more and more policies that are designed to upset the nobility, to allow the prince the opportunity to propose alleviating measures in order to reduce their dissatisfaction. The king would then be abdicating in a fashion that would gain him favour with the nobles. Although a stigma could be left on the elderly king’s reign, the benefits to the royal family far outweighed the detriments.


“Speaking of which, how’s the orphanage going? Are you planning to cook something for them again? Do you need any financial support?”


“That’s not necessary, my allowance is enough for its operations.”


There should be somewhere around 50 of them by now.


This was a significant figure, perhaps the greatest among all the orphanages in the Kingdom. Despite that, Renner had not sought external support in running the orphanage’s operations, which were funded entirely through her privy purse. Although as the third princess her allowance did not amount to much, it did substantially increase once her two older sisters were married off. It’s certainly not impossible for her to fund the orphanage on her own, but big cuts in the number of maids tending to her must’ve been made to allow for that.


Now that he thought about it, his sister seemed to only wear one set of clothes.


The royalty should never do something that’ll make the nobility look down on them. Zanac felt somewhat irritated but also proud that Renner knew how to spend her funds wisely.


“Hmm, do you want me to split some of my allowances with you? After all, the orphanage is an impressive feat in the eyes of the citizens.”


“I cannot allow that.”


Her rejection was uncharacteristically staunch.


“If there are outstanding children in the orphanage, I intend to take them with me to the manor. I will not allow you to take any of my prospective labor force~”


“Aah, so that’s your plan?……”


“Exactly, I’ve requested Brain-san to help train them in swordsmanship. They should also start schooling soon. My efforts to nurture them have just begun.”


“Then what about the children who are not so exceptional?”


“Even if they could only do simple calculations or write, there will be a job waiting for them somewhere. Everything will work out just fine.”


“So you would be fine with it if I take the rest of them?”


“If you would do that it would make me very happy. I won’t have to worry that some of the children will be left behi-”


Renner’s voice was interrupted by the sound of someone violently knocking on the door.


“-what, what’s going on? What’s with the commotion!”


Just as Zanac raised his voice, the door was suddenly opened.


“Your Highness! Emergency!”


A noble dressed in familiar court attire ran into the room. He was one of the officials in charge of internal affairs. Tightly gripped in his hand was a piece of parchment.


“What happened!”


Zanac took one look at the parchment presented to him and a surprised expression could be seen on his face. It was as though he could not comprehend its contents. No, it was more like he was in disbelief.


“What’s wrong?”


Zanac did not have the strength to reply, instead, he just passed the parchment paper to Renner in silence. And then-


“Hah?”


The sound that she made was uncharacteristic for her, it sounded like she was absolutely dumbfounded.


{Oh look, she’s exposing her human side again.} Zanac grinned in a way as if he had just given in to his despair.


End of Prologue


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