Year 1241 in Manegia
“Mother,” Alicia asked. “You said that grandfather was very strict with Fichs in his city, right?”
“Yes, dear,” Irene nodded. “Why?”
“Then how was Van able to dress up his men as Fichs soldiers and had them enter grandfather’s city?” Alicia asked.
“Ah, Van didn’t have his men wear Fichs clothing,” Ronald explained. “He only…”
Comforted by his family, Allister loudly slumped into the couch, looking tired despite minutes ago. “How could this be…” he cried.
“This here is what miss Evelyn recovered of note from the bodies of the arsonists Ronald and Joshua killed to get into your mansion,” Isaac presented a tray over a table. On it was a badge of some sort, lacquered with a distinct insignia. “Do you recognize this?”
Taking a glance at it, Allister instantly knew what it was and answered, “Why this is the Fichs’ emblem! But the attackers could not have been from the empire.”
“True, sending assassins carrying your nation’s crest to another country is simply the height of foolishness,” Isaac remarked. “But you do have an idea how they procure it, do you not?”
“I believe they came from Fichs officers slain or captured during the invasion,” Allister recalled, rubbing his chin. “Which I happened to claim a lot that I presented to the king…”
“And so they used your past achievement against you,” Isaac pinched the bridge of his nose, though he already suspected that for long. “A plausible reason to shift the blame on the Fichs and an excuse to declare war on them by martyring you, two birds in one stone.”
“Hah… this is very unexpected,” Allister sighed before realizing, “wait, what do you mean ‘they’?” and turn at the older duke.
“Oh, you will see with the next exhibits,” Isaac shrugged.
“Huh?” Allister raised his eyebrow.
“We did not just spend the entire week after your rescue idle,” the Ice Guardian explained.
“Yeah, we totally got caught off guard with the king waking up and double-teaming with Van,” Joshua remarked. “Didn’t know your dad is so chummy with your little half-brother,” he said to Albert, first prince of Kirash.
“You did not know?” Albert bewildered, looking completely confused with such a simple fact.
“No, we don’t,” Ronald shook his head.
“But that totally explains the Van faction in the first place,” Joshua remarked.
“You should have told us that,” Isaac narrowed his eyes. “Just the simple fact that the monarch showed favoritism to the spare heir alters our plans significantly!”
‘I do hope Ronald and his Court Wizards can help us with that.’
Allister gulped, seeing how they really failed in simple communication. “I thought you knew?”
“Yes, it is an open secret that father loved Van over me,” Albert added. “Even though the nobles do not talk about it.”
“You overestimate us,” Isaac sighed. “We have many worlds to watch over, we cannot possibly keep track of every event. Furthermore, our sources in your world only come from a merchant with no connections to aristocrats until you.”
“Could you not have sent a spy to infiltrate the palace?” Albert asked. “Surely that is within your discretion.”
“You said it yourself, prince Albert,” Isaac retorted. “As with my previous statement, we would have only been able to send one not long before meeting all of you. A bedridden king and quite nobles would not be able to divulge such information.”
Just before, Isaac presented photographs of plans, item reports, and other orders obtained by Daisuke Fujiwara, forced out of retirement, to the duke of Illyer. They were numerous but they all showed one thing: the king of Kirash collaborated with his younger son to kill the duke and his own eldest son.
At first, Allister refused to believe it, but after more and more evidence was piled up, he was forced to accept a hard truth: he was betrayed by his king who he swore allegiance to and best friend.
Especially when he was shown the rough floor plans of the Illyer mansion’s escape tunnels.
“Hah… We used to play in those tunnels when we were little. Playing hide and seek or just explore every nook and cranny,” Allister sighed. “To think my king would use them against me.”
During the fire, the Illyers weren’t able to escape the burning mansion. Normally, they would have fled through the secret tunnels hidden in the mansion but they were all mysteriously sealed, every single one of them as if the arsonists knew their locations.
The staff couldn’t have sold the map for it as it was safely hidden by the duke and if they did, they would have not been inside the mansion knowing what would happen to it. All of the surviving staff were accounted for, the Court Wizards had asked Allister their list without elaborating further, so that was the case.
As for the knights who were left behind, it couldn’t have been them either, Allister guaranteed it. Their loyalty was assured thanks to the duke’s merit and charisma, as absurd as it was to the Court Wizards. Then again, they wouldn’t know it anyway.
Former workers of the duke couldn’t have remembered every tunnel they have never seen either after a long time so really, there was only one person left who could do the contrary the duke could think of who would divulge such secrets.
In fact, Allister immediately came to that conclusion the moment he saw the sketches.
“Hm? You seem to take this well, prince Albert,” Ronald remarked, looking at the prince who was faring much better than the duke.
“Do I?” Albert raised an eyebrow. With his fiancee looking at him with concern, he eventually sighed, “well, my father’s marriage with my mother was… tumultuous. It was not a political marriage nor was it to appease anyone, but out of the sense that he needed a queen and an heir.”
“Ah, that is true,” Allister mooted. “He was the only heir to the throne. Should he die without an heir of his own, the crown would have to be handed over to our house which I do not intend to let pass.
“Normally, it would have been from our family, but I am an only child and so he simply married from one of the other houses.”
“Hm, that is quite a tightrope you both walk there,” Isaac noted. “One unfortunate accident and both of your lineages could very well end.”
“Yes, it was,” Allister slacked his eyelids.
“And because father was the king,” Albert continued. “When my mother died few years after my birth, he eventually took a mistress and you know the rest.”
“Yes, and I opposed it actually,” Allister added, earning gazes from others. “Rather, the mistress he took. I had a feeling she was questionable at best and well, my fears were true…”
“I see,” Albert nodded in understanding. “Well, suffice to say, we only really talk during ceremonial occasions, and other than that, I feel indifferent towards my father. But, it was not all that bad, because I eventually met my fiancee.”
“Oh, Albert!” Elaine, Albert’s fiancee, went over to him and hugged his back, earning a comforting smile from him. Perhaps that’s why the duke so easily transferred the engagement.
Then, the duke turned to Isaac. “I should have seen it coming when prince Albert’s engagement with my daughter was not intended for her to be his queen a long time ago, but you have made your point, duke Brzask. With my king betraying me, there really is nothing I can do if I return.”
It was a shared sentiment among the Illyers. They had lost and betrayed, there was nothing left for them in their homeworld. It was time to move on.
“However, I sense a ‘but’ in that statement,” Isaac said. “Though I know what it is.”
“Very astute of you, duke Brzask,” Allister praised. “After all, by doing this, I will be abandoning my people in my territory. Not only that, all of the workers and knights here will also leave behind their families too…”
It was a valid argument, one that every refugee transferred into the Court knew too well once they realized they cannot return. They can bring as many as they can, fundamentally, they will always leave something or someone behind.
This was why it was something Court Wizards must always prepare for.
“Well, in the Eleven-Century War,” Isaac iterated. “Maneg Users were more often than not taken away from their personal lives in the name of duty. Forced to fight a war that was not theirs, they never get to return to their families and home.
“And the First Guardians do not want to repeat that. Thus, while Court Wizards subtly guide worlds to the right path, they must also not shirk the lives they lead back home. This is enshrined as our rule, as contradictory to our goal as it is.”
“Is that so?” Allister smiled wryly, understanding what the Ice Guardian meant by his distantly related explanation.
“But, I know your sentiment, duke Illyer,” Isaac continued. “As nobles, we are entrusted by our lords with a piece of their land to govern, develop, and protect in their stead. Should anything happen to it, we are to be the first to be on the chopping block – our privileges are meant to compensate for that.
“However, you and I know it is not so simple as that,” he sighed.
“Yes,” Allister also sighed. “Politics is exhausting.”
After all, even the Illyers built escape tunnels in their mansion. What purpose do they have other than what their name suggested?
“But, there is no shame in surviving either, if not to save those close to you from being dragged down with you,” Isaac said, eyeing the rest of the Illyers who could have been dealt with a grimmer fate.
“Yes,” Allister smiled, looking at his family warmly and received warmth in return.
“Right,” Isaac continued. “We will make sure that your territory will be taken care of in your absence, duke Illyer. That I will personally make sure of it.”
“I see,” Allister closed his eyes and smiled. “That will be reassuring.”
“We will have to pull some strings in the Kirash palace to ensure they send a magistrate to oversee the territory fairly to avoid it being divided,” Isaac immediately planned. He then turned to Ronald, “mister Ronald, you will also have to prepare for the fallout of the Bell Branch being in the losing faction.”
“Right… I need to tell the manager to start buttering up to the new king now…” Ronald grumbled.
“But.” Isaac turned to the rest of the Illyers. Not the family, but the rest of the Illyers. “As for the servants and knights, it is true they will have to abandon their families.”
It was the expected outcome. Knowing where the direction was going, the workers and knights knew they will have to leave behind their families and lives back in their homeworld. Their ‘deaths’ at least will give their abandoned loved ones closure.
Of course, not all of them will be okay with this, but they will have to endure it, and it was especially for one maid Joshua knew in particular.
“Don’t worry, duke Illyer,” Oswald, the head knight of Illyer’s knights, the ones here anyway, gave a salute to his chest. “Wherever we are, we will be with you.”
It was brief, it was corny, but it did get the group together as the other knights followed suit and the workers showing their gusto. The duke himself seemed reassured by this display.
“However, the spirits get to return,” and then Isaac made himself known again and declared such.
“Do not ‘what’ me,” Isaac narrowed his eyes at the spirits and namers doing a spit-take upon hearing what he said previously. “I do not even need to spell out how the spirits have been faring in this world,” he waved his hand at the spirits.
Taking a good look at them, Layla and Neptune, their namers, Irene and Allister, realized the state the spirits they named were in. There was no need to describe it in detail with words, it was obvious the spirits were in an abnormality in this world.
“”Layla/Neptune, you are!”” Both namers gasped.
“Eeugh…!” Neptune groaned laughingly, however that worked.
“To be fair, I didn’t notice ’till now,” Layla rolled her eyes. It was clear they were hiding it.
“You should have,” Isaac scowled. “I will keep it brief, this world does not support the existence of you body-less…” he paused to decide against further questioning by calling them the Court version, “spirits. Right now, I believe the world loosely corrects both of you into the existence of Maneg Amalgamations, rabid beasts of this world! And we do not know what other ‘abilities’ you might gain!”
Understandably, the spirits got spooked even just hearing two words. They must have already felt aggressive feelings suddenly appearing within them.
“I see…” Allister drooped his eyelids. “Then they have to return immediately, lest it gets worse.”
“Oh…” Irene muttered. After going through all of that, now she has to say goodbye to the spirit she named, it was understandable what she felt.
“Yes,” Isaac nodded and then, smiled wryly. “But speaking of spirits, we ironically still need you to return for one final thing, duke Illyer.”
In the Module model that Amelia Rickens devised, the effectiveness of a Fantasy entity/spell/technique in a foreign refers to how much its original effect in its homeworld is retained. She has yet to include what new effects it gains as a result of being integrated into foreign Modules due to its seemingly unpredictable results she needs to investigate further.