"Then, what would you have me do?" Leguna asked a little defensively, "stand with Geoffrey? Or deal with Alissanda immediately?"
Even though she could hear the mocking in Leguna's voice, she didn't take it to heart, knowing that he was feeling agitated. Sighing, she said, "No, you don't need to do anything."
He gave her a furtive look.
"I... I didn't intend to strain your relationship with Alissanda. However, there are some things that I must say no matter what to feel relieved. They're just my guesses. Perhaps it really doesn't have anything to do with him. If you think one step further, it could be a ploy by Geoffrey to incite conflict between you and Alissanda."
"That can't be possible..." He shook his head with a pained smile. "If that idiot can come up with such a far-reaching plan, there's no way I could've survived for so long with status and brains on his side."
"You do have a point. However, have to be careful of Alfreid, nevertheless."
"That old fox..." He gave it some thought and said, "Even now, i still haven't figured him out."
"He wouldn't be Alfreid if he was so easily dealt with." Annelotte sighed.
"There's that too. Back then when he was still the strategist, he put a lot of pressure of General Manhattan as he climbed his way to the position of premier. And now..."
After working in the bureau for half a year, Leguna understood some things about the founding of Hocke. The founding war made the whole incident sound rather antiquated, but it actually took place quite recently two decades ago.
The founding emperor of Hocke was Hector Hocke. He used to be a northern Stokian noble, Duke Mellin. Even though he was a noble, the difference in culture between the south and the north of the empire caused a strained relationship between Duke Mellin and his compatriots in the millennium capital. Hector, ambitious by nature, wasn't willing to forever be regarded as second rate and secretly gathered his forces and launched his rebellion when the time was right.
When internal turmoil struck the empire, Hector Mellin raised his own banner of rebellion and founded the Empire of Hocke.
General Manhattan had already gained his reputation as a magnificent general back when Hector was still Duke Mellin. He only had one son named Akrelis, despite his age. Though he was born in a military family, Akrelis much pressured working as an official rather than a soldier.
But because of his father's position, his duties ended up being related to military affairs. Back then, he was the aide of Alfreid, the military strategist.
What Alfreid had in mind was a mystery to most, but according to the records of what happened, Leguna and Annelotte theorized that Alfreid began to see Akrelis as a threat to himself.
Though Akrelis was just a measly young aide, he showed astonishing talent. Many believed that Akrelis would eventually become the prime minister if he continued to work hard.
But that was destined not to happen, because his superior was equally gifted as he, but far more ruthless. The incident played out quite simply. Alfreid sent Akrelis to transport resources to the frontlines, and the unit was ambushed on the way by Stokian troops. They were cut down by the southerners, leaving his old father and infant daughter behind in the mortal realm.
It was said that Manhattan had the dark blonde hair of Lamir back then, but his hair turned white in one night upon hearing the news. The general, a strong and vigorous man despite his age, had seemed to grow old in an instant.
Nobody could say for certain how much Alfreid had to do with Akrelis's death. But ever since then, a seed of discord had been sowed between the general and the premier. For the past decade or so, the two had gotten into much conflict. What surprised Leguna was that both Hector and Larwin often stood on Alfreid's side during such disputes.
After being prompted by Gahrona, he snapped into realization about a terrifying fact.
[Do you think Alfreid would really dare to touch the son of the most influential general in the empire without approval from the top?] Gahrona suggested.
[The top? What top? Hocke wasn't even founded yet. I don't recall that the position of premier even existed back then.]
[What is above the premier?]
Leguna was shocked by the logical conclusion. [You mean to say that the late emperor, Hector, allowed the assassination to be carried out?]
[It can't be possible! You taught me that people always did something for a motive. I don't see how assassinating General Manhattan's son can be beneficial for the imperial family at all!]
[Ley...] she said in a perplexed voice, [that's because you're too near-sighted.]
[What do you mean?]
[Think about it!] Though only a spirit in form, she still sighed. [If Akrelis continues to be allowed to develop, what'll happen next?]
[He'll have contributed to the empire a lot?]
[That's right. What should his position be then?]
[Strategist... But if he does well, I suppose premier isn't out of the question.]
[And that's where the problem lies! If his father is the commander-in-chief of the empire's army and he is the premier, what does that make House Rodelas? They'll have the most important posts in the empire! Would you let something like that pass if you were emperor? Can you sit back and do nothing?]
[Just because of a fleeting reason like that? It doesn't make sense...] Leguna refused to believe it. Akrelis was Manhattan's only son! How could Hector plot against him for some uncertain possibility?
[That's more than enough reason! Don't think everyone's as kind as Eirinn! When I still roamed the continent, you humans would be as savage as us orcs when it comes to struggles for the ruling throne! So what if he's the only son of the general?]
It was then when it truly dawned on Leguna what kind of nefarious game he was involved in. There was no flash of a sword, no impetus or magic, but rather, a far more dangerous and sinister thing: the human heart.
After that, Leguna humbly inquired why Alfreid would be regarded so highly by Hector.
[The reason for that is rather complicated,] she said after much consideration, [First, even though the plot was carried out almost flawlessly without any evidence that points to Alfreid, the empire still had to prepare for the possibility of Manhattan making any irrational moves. Hector supported Alfreid probably to balance out Manhattan's influence. In other words, he's redirecting Manhattan's hate at Alfreid.]
[And the premier would agree to such a thing? Given how sharp he is, doesn't he know the imperial family's intentions?]
[That's where Alfreid's talent really shines! He knows perfectly well what the imperial family was planning, but he's willing to go along with it. Have you seen Alfreid suffering any consequences as a result of what he did?]
Leguna couldn't think of anything to say.
[Also, if you pay attention to this, you'll find that even though Alfreid is a premier and reports to nobody else but the emperor, he has been completely loyal to both Hector and Larwin. He hasn't done anything that would go against the favor of the imperial family,] she said in a mocking tone, [He's a loyal dog! Why wouldn't the imperial family like him?]
[I see... so that's the case...]
[But I only hope that Larwin doesn't forget that this dog is a little too obedient. He doesn't even bark as much as other dogs... There's a saying you humans have... 'all bark but no bite', wasn't it? Well, this is the exact opposite!]
His conversation with Gahrona played back in his head. When he snapped out of it, Annelotte had already fallen asleep at the desk.
Her beautiful blue hair rose and fell with his breathing and only accentuated her cuteness. Even now, he was still taken aback by her beauty. The sight of her sleeping in a normal position evoked such an appreciation of beauty in Leguna.
[This girl really is too worn out! Take her to get some rest, quick!] Gahrona added out of nowhere.
He approached her and lifted her as gently as possible, but he underestimated her guardedness. The moment her legs left the ground, she opened her eyes and saw Leguna's awkward expression.
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