‘Do I need to go to the throne room and talk directly…’
As he pondered, someone caught up with him. It was a chief attendant sent by Isilis.
“Greetings to the Regent of Hillenton.”
“Yes. What’s the matter?”
“Her Majesty wishes to see you.”
He wanted to ask what was going on, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask, seeing the chief attendant’s urgent footsteps. The gazes that gathered as he followed were strange. He had received attention before, but today, it felt particularly intense.
Standing in front of the throne room, the chief attendant shouted.
“Her Majesty. Berthas Hillenton is here.”
“Let him in.”
Entering through the opened door, he saw Isilis seated on the throne, surrounded by her attendants. It was a familiar sight, though it was enough to feel the overwhelming presence.
She had grown into a beautiful woman, radiating grace and majesty. He had cherished thoughts for such a woman and proposed to be with her. How foolish that thought seemed now. Isilis might have secretly ridiculed him for it inside.
As he knelt, she gestured for him to rise.
“Stand. You are the one who will become my consort now.”
Even though some of the attendants protested, Isilis silenced them with a single word.
“Then anyone who brings a territory similar in size to Hillenton. I will give the place as my consort.”
“Larchen and Hillenton have too many cultural differences, Your Majesty.”
She turned her head at the words of Count Sicilia, who stepped forward.
“What specific aspects are you referring to?”
“They divide what men and women can and cannot do based on gender.”
That was true. Hillenton and Larchen had significantly different cultures, not just Hillenton alone. The Khalifa Empire, a desert empire, and the distant pirate kingdom also had cultures distinct from Larchen.
While Larchen allowed women to ascend to the throne and many noblewomen held positions in the bureaucracy, other empires did not follow suit. Inheritance rights were limited to males, and the passing down of property was also restricted.
Despite the facade of accommodating the powerful Larchen, Berthas knew that they often belittled Larchen’s leader as a woman behind their backs.
Changing such ingrained beliefs would not happen overnight.
The Count’s current concern was precisely that.
“Is there a reason to forcibly unify such nations? It could even implant impure ideologies among our imperial citizens.”
While Larchen’s culture revolved around the imperial family, Hillenton’s diverse and chaotic culture worried the Count.
Berthas addressed the Count.
“I think trying to absorb Hillenton without even dealing with that level of issue is a groundless assumption.”
All eyes turned to him.
“Isn’t it obvious? Without shedding a drop of blood to absorb a piece of land smaller than Larchen but still comparable. In that case, it’s only right to consider the opposing forces that emerge.
Everyone knows that if it’s not now, there won’t be another chance. I don’t understand why there’s hesitation. If it is a problem arising from cultural differences, then it can be addressed through education.
Right now, that statement sounds like an excuse, claiming that you’re afraid of a small task, so you can’t tackle a big one.”
Everyone nodded at Berthas’s words.
Observing the Count’s reddened face, appearing somewhat angered, Berthas left a mocking smile. Anyone attempting to hinder his path would not be forgiven. If someone tried to stand in the way of him standing by Isilis’s side, he was willing to make them quietly disappear.
“The difference in customs was something I considered as well, Count. You expressed it well.”
She, who had been lost in thought for a moment, continued, “Then, what about doing it like this? Change Hillenton’s name to Larchen and, before opening the borders, send wizards there for education.”
“Among the wizards of Larchen, there are many who are enthusiastic. Send them to Hillenton to change its traditions. Allure!”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Allure appeared from the side and knelt in front of Isilis.
“Dispatch three battalions of wizards. Take all except the rookies.”
“In that case, only two battalions will remain in Larchen.”
“Anyway, what they do is mostly develop magical armaments, isn’t it? It would be good to reduce the quantity of magical armaments.”
The mention of reducing the number of magical armaments, a crucial part of Larchen’s exports, implied that they would stop exporting magical armaments if pressures from other empires intensified.
The nobles quickly grasped the meaning and erupted in cheers.
“You indeed have a brilliant idea.”
“That’s just lip service. I thought the adjustment of quantities was necessary, but there were more requests than I expected, making it challenging to find excuses.”
“Then how long…”
“I can’t know that either. I don’t know when Hillenton will accept Larchen’s culture.”
It was an outright statement that they wouldn’t export magical armaments.
Berthas inwardly admired Isilis’s judgment. In his opinion, her political sense was excellent. How happy would the imperial citizens of Larchen be to have such a ruler? He couldn’t help feeling a bit envious.
If his father were still alive, and Berthas himself became the emperor, could he unfold a reign like hers? Could he become an emperor who, instead of a heart filled with revenge, prioritized compassion and always thought of Hillenton first?
To dispel the suddenly arisen thought, he vigorously shook his head. He couldn’t immediately correct his stiff expression, even though Isilis looked at him with a puzzled face.
“If that’s the case, everyone seems to approve of welcoming Berthas Hillenton as a consort.”
At her final words, everyone bowed their heads.
She couldn’t hide the tightly clenched fist, unable to conceal the emotion in those words. After observing Berthas for a while, she ordered the subjects to leave, and when they all went out, she gestured towards him.
Following her gesture, Berthas stood right in front of Isilis, and she lifted his chin.
“What’s the matter?”
“No, I just had a moment of thought.”
“Thoughts? What thoughts?”
“About the time when my father hadn’t died, and I was the crown prince of Hillenton.”
Isilis’s face stiffened.
“In that case, we might not have become what we are now.”
Berthas faintly smiled as she said so.
“I guess so.”
“Do you regret it?”
Isilis asked, examining his complexion. Berthas covered her hand, which was clenching his cheek, with his own.
“There’s no way.”
Regret was an impossibility.
If he hadn’t met Isilis, she couldn’t have saved his life. There wouldn’t have been that one night with her. His daughter wouldn’t exist in this world.
“Regret, huh? You say scary things.”
Berthas laughed again at Isilis’ words. He looked at her with a sense of relief, lovingly gazing at her, who had given her heart to him.
It was almost over.
After handing over the seal of Hillenton and subjugating Hillenton to Larchen, he and the child would lead both countries well. Once that happened, his long journey of revenge would come to an end—revenge against Hillenton, which had abandoned him and his father.
His desperate struggle since childhood was now coming to an end.
“Are you satisfied with this?”
“Even though all you’ll have is the title of consort to the Empress of Larchen?”
“It’s the best thing to have.”