To the east of the Baroque Imperial Palace was an amphitheater.
Horse racing and Gigant fights were often conducted for the emperor’s leisure time.
The riders who participated in the Gigant fights were Knights of Guard. They show off their skills while at the same time providing pleasure to the emperor.
The sun was shining warmly, and two Gigants of knight class, painted red and blue, were duking it out.
Emperor Rudolf was watching the game with a grim expression.
In the midst of the fierce competition, fragments of the Gigant glows and swords flew. However, unlike the maids around him, he didn’t even blink.
There was a powerful barrier magic that was placed in the stands, and such fragments could be avoided even when flying in their direction.
“Who are the ones competing now?”
The emperor picked up a handful of almonds from the golden tableware on the table and asked Count Ferrero, the vice-captain of the Knights of Guard, who immediately got up and answered, “Juan de Maghreb of the Silver Knights of Guard and Dias de Galvara of the Iron.”
“Members from famous nobles. Then why are their skills like that? Expert grade riders? Don’t you think that it’s very embarrassing to even see them?”
Count Ferrero didn’t respond to the Emperor’s words.
Not because he didn’t have anything else to say but because there were a lot of things he wanted to say but couldn’t pick one.
Originally, the Knights of Guard were supposed to be composed of the best knights of the empire. However, the principles weren’t properly followed.
One had good skills but wasn’t famous. A few had the ability to improve their fencing skills but not a great personality.
But now, there were other problems much serious than those.
It was because there were quite a few who entered using their connections with powerful nobles or bribing the leaders.
It wasn’t like they had no skill at all, but the ones who entered the guard in such a manner usually neglect their training.
It was obvious that their skills and ability would get stagnant if they keep doing that.
With all the lazy eating and playing they were doing every day, their sense of fencing would fall apart.
In addition, the Knights of Guard were currently only in the capital. Important practical skills and the ability to cope with the enemy was much lower than the knights at the regional forces.
At the same time, the Gold Knights of Guard were the closest to the emperor’s nobles. However, it was the silver and iron guards who acted much seriously.
‘The most irritating thing is that the inexperienced nobles are jealous of the hard-working gems.’
Philip was one of the missing figures in the Knights of Guard.
It was said that he had already reached the top level of Expert and had become the Knight General of Rakan territory.
Such talented people were being driven away by the nobles, and the Emperor acted like he didn’t know.
In any case, Count Ferrero had spent several years trying to fix that problem.
But the higher-ups were busy fighting for power and staying in their allotted positions, so they didn’t bother thinking about it, and the other captains of the guards thought that it was above their work.
No, it would have been lucky if even one noble thought of it as their problem. Rather, the families, which were backing a few young knights, were powerful nobles.
Each time he tried to stop something, the nobles placed a lot of pressure on him.
‘If the Knights of Guard are in this situation, the Majesty who is acting all bitter should realize that he was responsible for it…’
Emperor Rudolf had retired capable Knights of Guard. He used to take them off duty and sent them to faraway regions.
Most of them were either favored by the former emperor or were supporters of the 3rd prince Reichard, who never returned.
There were a lot of skilled ones in them, but instead of re-employing the ones that returned, the emperor got them involved in minor accidents and had them executed right away.
Not just that, the emperor tried his very best to provide great services to his nobles.
In fact, the nobles always rebelled when they saw such actions—the emperor taking care of only his men.
Count Ferrero, who was neutral, would have been kicked out of the Knights of Guard if he wasn’t a Sword Master.
“Train them properly. Is there any dignity if the Knights of Guard stand like this?”
“Yes, I will keep it in mind, Majesty.”
The emperor, who was constantly nagging Ferrero during the fights, got up from his seat and went into the palace.
The moment the emperor entered the throne room in the palace, he called for Count Voltas.
With light steps, Voltas ran to meet the emperor and greeted him with an exemplified face upon reaching there.
“You seem to have some good news.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Duke Ferrierd has started to act.”
“Oh, really? That really is good news!”
Duke Ferrierd was a high prince of the Holy Arthenia Empire, and he had a long history of being closely acquainted with Archbishop Michael, whose existence was currently unknown.
Naturally, he was dissatisfied with the new pope and the coup of Constantine. That made him furious as the communication with his friend had gone silent for the past two years.
However, Duke of Ferrierd was finally deciding to act.
“Hu hu hu! This is something that I have waited for a long time.”
“Because of Benedict III’s death, there is no one who can mediate between the two groups,” said Voltas.
For a very long time, the Baroque Empire had kept a close eye on the Holy Arthenia Empire. That was why they were able to know well about the dynamics and the groups the pope candidates had around them and tried to make contact, and the result of such acts was Duke Ferrierd.
“Let’s not miss the opportunity and support him with all the combat force that we have got and send as many mercenaries as we can. Since I am a king, better send some good ones,” ordered the emperor.
“Would you like us to send some experienced ones?”
“Uhm, yes. Someone like the Gigant riders from the Knights of Guard.”
Rudolf intended to send the Imperial Forces by disguising them as mercenaries to the Holy Empire.
With strong support, even the smallest fire wouldn’t fade away, and the knights had to taste some experience on the field. He thought that if that happened the dumb Knights of Guards would at least learn something.
“Ah, and I found that it wasn’t just our empire, but the northern bandits tried to contact the main figures of the Holy Empire as well.”
“Are you talking about the Volga?”
The complexion of Rudolf went dark after hearing about the Volga.
He always had his eyes on the Volga Republic. Even though he didn’t want to, he was forced to do that.
Therefore, the fact that they were trying to get into the matters that Baroque had already intervened with was much more unpleasant for Rudolf.
“But, they’re working with the lower nobles and the lower priests who represent them, not the high nobles of the high priests,” informed Voltas
“Huh, obviously they are. It is their goal to stir up foolish lowly people and create a world with no balance.”
The Volga Republic was a nation, which advertised the importance of power over pedigree, and the will of the people over the monarchy system.
Of course, there were no rules or special bonds, and the government was often influenced by the words of the president.
Nevertheless, it was a very tempting idea for the underprivileged people who were always being crushed by the feudal class society that had long ruled them.
“The problem comes from the fact that the downfall of those things always works pretty well.”
No matter how illiterate the general public was, they had eyes, ears, and head to think with.
That was they had no choice but to look at the power struggles of high nobles and involve themselves in a phase causing the chaos in their nation which they thought would lead to a ‘New World’.
“Fortunately, it isn’t such a serious matter to deal with right away.”
The Volga seemed to be interested in other matters than incitement.
“Any other problems?” Asked the Emperor.
“The new pope has been introduced. Investigations have shown that it is possible for the pope to be Princess Reina, who has disappeared 2 years ago.”
“Uhm, Princess Reina…”
The disappearance of Princess Reina had been a hot topic in the southern empire.
That was one thing, but the sudden disappearance of a lady of the brilliantly developed Rakan territory was gone.
Most people thought that the Volga Intelligence might have kidnapped her, but no one knew of the exact reason or cause of her disappearance.
Meanwhile, a new pope, resembling Reina, appeared in the other nation.
“Is it really Princess Reina?”
“It seems likely seeing that the Volga has reached there.”
“Well, what could have happened for her to become a pope? Oh, have you checked in with Luke?”
Rudolf knew very well about the relationship between Luke and Reina.
So, if it was true that Veronica III was indeed Reina, Luke would never stay still.
“According to the information from our spies, he is currently in the estates, and he hasn’t been seen leaving the estates,” reported Voltas.
“Hmm, is that so.”
Although the words seemed advantageous, Rudolf’s expression didn’t seem that glad.
Although Voltas’ words made sense, Luke didn’t seem to be an easy guy to deal with.
Luke was unlike the other Rakans before him who weren’t knowledgeable, bold and had clear weaknesses.
‘He isn’t just another man. The one who should have already been dead and lying in a coffin has grown into a big…’
While Rudolf’s thoughts were drifting, he suddenly started to get angry.
It was all because of the Lich Arsene, who always did something to the Rakan Family and hadn’t shown any dominance in recent years.
Nothing had changed even though he had definitely checked and tried to take action on Luke.
Maybe it was because of the Battle of Magic Towers, but Arsene had no intention of getting involved with Luke, or maybe he was trying to do something else.
‘That boney monster! Oh my, he feels that he can play me around.’
The emperor ground his teeth. He sent away Voltas and called for the head of the Imperial Warlock Meishin.
“You called for me, your majesty?”
“How is the battle of magic towers going?”
When asked by the emperor, Meishin hit the room’s floor with his black cane.
It was almost like the floor had welcomed that beating.
A map of the continent appeared.
The map looked very meticulous, and it showed what was happening on the continent.
“As you can see, the Reformists are on the defensive. The most fiercely resisted one, Rokid Magic Tower, has lost most of its vested interest in not only its home but the foreign nations too,” Meishin explained.
“Tch, I guess they aren’t that great.”
Rudolf, who was playing on both sides of the war, knew very well about the capabilities and power of the Veritas Magic Tower.
In fact, he was helping the Reformists in secret, hoping that they would last for a few more years.
However, the Veritas Magic Tower and Arsene, which were behind the Magic Federation, never faltered.
“The whereabouts of Rokid’s Meister are currently unknown. The Reformists’ side is trying to meet with the Arthenia Royal Magic Tower in hopes that things might somehow turn around for them,” reported Meishin.
“Well, the Arthenia Royal Magic Tower…”
“As you might have already known, it is one of the magic towers that were fighting against the Veritas Magic Tower for the 1st and 2nd spots on the continent.”
The Arthenia Royal Magic Tower was old enough to share its history with the Holy Empire.
Some priests started learning magic because they thought it was a quest given to them by God; that it would lead them to the path of peace. That was why the Arthenia Royal Magic Tower was good with theology.
In addition to Magic Engineering, they had a high level of magic knowledge in general, such as medicine magic, life magic, and such aspects had a strong influence on the continent.
However, they didn’t took part in the Battle of Magic Towers.
Their reason was that they couldn’t let others’ private matters disrupt their peace.
As a result, the influence of the foreign matters wasn’t allowed, and the Holy Empire, which had a huge domestic market, didn’t really care much for the others.
“Are those men finally trying to move?”
“The Marquis Meister Reas of Arthenia Royal Magic Tower has long been acquainted with the Reformists, and there were also complaints about high-level holy empire nobles in the power struggle,” explained Meishin.
“So, they are acting neutral with domestic matters and are intervening in the Battle of Magic Tower?”
“Yes, Your Majesty, but there is still a lot to do.”
At the words of Meishin, the emperor pondered over something and opened his mouth.
“Can’t we know how they act?”
If the Arthenia Magic Tower entered the Battle of Magic Towers, the Baroque Empire would be hitting two birds with one stone.
One would be to reduce the strength of their rival, the Holy Empire, and the other would be to block the moves of Arsene.
At those words, Meishin’s face changed.
“I plead to you, Your Majesty. It is hard for us to work in the Holy Empire, and even if we do manage to infiltrate them, if we’re found out, it can be a huge blow to the Imperial Family…”
“I know that the Holy Empire is filled with priests and paladins everywhere. I will talk about any problems with the Intelligence. You can head back.”
It was time for Meishin to step back from the throne room. When he was about to exit the room, Rudolf urgently called for him.
“Wait a second, come here.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Go visit the south and check the Rakan Estate and Marquis Luke. Something there is bothering me.”
Over the past two years, the emperor had been worried about Luke’s growth, and it was more suspicious that he wasn’t doing anything even after hearing the news about the new pope.
“Even if it is something which might be trivial, please investigate it carefully,” ordered the emperor.
“Understood, Your Majesty.”
With those words, Meishin disappeared from Rudolf’s eyes.
Rudolf, who got up from the throne, summoned the Intelligence Officers.
He had no time to waste. He had to check what was happening with the Veritas Magic Tower, who had an upper hand in the Battle of Magic Towers.