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Although an invitation for this celebration had been sent, Lord Asran couldn’t be sure whether Ferzen would truly attend or not.
Therefore, the Lord of the North had no choice but to be baffled by Ferzen’s audacity to actually attend.
Moreover, the two envelopes neatly placed on the dining table hinted at it’s contents.
Could it be that he had 7 invitations?
Or it’s just a trick to sow discord?
Feeling his throat parched, Lord Asran absentmindedly rubbed his neck.
As his daughter and the other aristocrats gazed at him, the Lord of the North felt the need to resolve the situation.
So, he approached Ferzen.
“Lord Louerg, let us discuss something in private.”
“……You seem to be anxious.”
Ferzen smiled as he calmly sliced the meat on his plate, before savoring it.
“Can’t you even grant your guests the opportunity to enjoy this banquet?”
Gently placing both the fork and knife symmetrically beside the plate, Ferzen clicked his tongue.
Lord Asran’s eyes twitched at Ferzen’s arrogance, but even then, his voice remained regal.
“If you fill your stomach too early you won’t be able to savor the Rivera.”
“Is that so……”
Armand Di Rivera.
The most expansive wine in the Empire.
Despite the value of such wine, Ferzen had no intentions of indulging in it, as the upcoming discussion was something that required his focus.
“Well, since we have already started discussing matters, let us have this private talk then.”
“And what of your belongings?”
“Since I’ll be getting back, there’s no need to bother.”
The Lord of The North raised an eyebrow at Ferzen’s words.
Even then, with a light chuckle, Lord Asran left the banquet hall.
He didn’t consider Ferzen’s actions of any significance, as he believed that Geralt wasn’t so lacking as to be unable to handle things in his absence.
As the pair left the banquet hall, the Northern aristocrats who had been watching the scene closely now shifted their focus to the pair of envelopes Ferzen had left on the table.
As Ferzen and Lord Asran walked through the hallways of the fortress, not a word was exchanged between them.
However, that silence was also something unpleasant.
Especially for the Head of the North.
Eventually, as they reached the doors of Lord Asran’s study, they entered it.
Sitting down, Lord Asran held a new bottle of Rivera in his grasp as he looked at Ferzen.
“Did you have fun with that charade?”
Without answering his question, Ferzen simply took a sip of his newly poured wine.
The word ‘charade’ didn’t carry any hidden meaning.
Two envelopes were left in the banquet hall.
Lord Asran speculated that those envelopes weren’t invitations to the Brutein auction, but rather a simple charade.
The publicly known number of invitations for that event was five.
But if those two were genuine, that would increase the number to seven.
However, the Head of the North reasoned that if Ferzen had wanted to convert more nobles, then he should have come with ten invitations from the start.
“Do you, and the other aristocrats from the North, think I’m blind to the power struggle?”
At his question, Ferzen chuckled as he set down his glass.
“If that was the case, I wouldn’t have chosen Louerg as the place to start my plans.”
As he pointed out the flaw in Lord Asran’s assumptions, Ferzen clasped his hands as if dismissing that line of thought.
“Then……Why are you using Brutein as a shield?”
Could it be that Lord Asran’s question was brought by the threat of a rival to his position as the Head of The North?
“You should know that if I truly wanted your crumbling throne, I would have brought ten invitations with me.”
“And I also know that five invitations are the limit your brother Jeremiah, the current head of Brutein could grant to you.”
“Didn’t you also spread exaggerated rumors about a large-scale project being carried in the barren northern land?”
“You are quite well informed, I see. Even though I never contracted any laborers from your lands.”
With each word spoken in his condescending tone, Lord Asran’s face furrowed with irritation.
“I see that you enjoy chess.”
Looking at the neatly arranged chessboard by the window, Ferzen reached out towards it.
Ferzen then grabbed a pawn piece - the representation of a foot soldier.
“If you enjoy chess, then you must know that pawns are not allowed to retreat.”
“It’s a simple rule.”
To look down on someone, you are dismissing them.
But by facing each other, you treat them as your equals.
Naturally, on the battlefield, the only choice a soldier has is to face his enemies.
They can only look up to their king, or dare make a retreat from the battlefield when he has received the permission to do so.
Even for humans that is an established fact, as no one would look up to the sun for long, and if someone tried, they would lower their head before long.
“Even the birds who fly in the sky know their place and never attempt to fly too close to the sun.”
“In that sense, you are more worthless than those birds.”
“Know your place!”
As Lord Asran’s fist hit the table, the expansive wine was knocked over, spilling its contents.
But what irked Ferzen was not Asran’s enraged tone, nor the slipping of the wine, but the spit that had been sprayed onto his hand.
“What an utterly undignified act.”
Ferzen took a handkerchief from his pocket and slowly wiped his hand.
Lord Asran’s behavior was irritating, but the fact that his spit landed only on his left hand was even more irksome.
Still, it wasn’t as if he could ask Lord Asran to spit on his right hand as well. So, Ferzen suppressed his OCD as he stared at him.
The red moon appeared, illuminating the window, as its moonlight seemed to almost embrace Ferzen’s figure.
At first, this seemed like a majestic sight, but Ferzen’s threatening red eyes, mixed with the red moon only exuded an eerie feeling.
“As you said, I only have five invitations in my possession.”
“And right now, in the banquet hall, one of those envelopes contains one invitation while the other is a blank sheet of paper.”
“Are you really that foolish to come here in my territory and try to challenge me?”
There were indeed only five invitations.
And one of them was here.
With this, Ferzen could sway one noble to his banner, while alienating another.
But why would he go to such lengths to achieve that?
“I told you. I have no interest in your crumbling throne.”
Discarding the soiled handkerchief, Ferzen stood up.
“Even when one climbs the highest mountain in the world, he wouldn’t be able to reach the sun.”
“That is a fundamental truth in this world, and yet, you have forgotten it. Maybe your shoddy throne built in this frozen mountain was the reason.”
One with an invitation.
And one with a blank sheet of paper.
Both would be left in a situation where they wouldn’t be able to fit in, forcing them to become a neutral party in the North.
Indeed, from the beginning, Ferzen had planned to divide the North not into two factions, but into three.
The Northern aristocrats should be too busy fighting among themselves, to bother pressuring the central power as they could, if they were united.
Thinking back on it, in Seo-Jin’s world, there was a myth about something like this.The myth of the Babel Tower.
Those who tried to build the tower received the divine punishment of not being able to communicate due to their different languages, causing the collapse of the tower.
In this case, however, the dismantling of the power structure would be a fine punishment.
“Maybe because you have been enjoying your throne so much, you’ve forgotten how to fly.”
“That’s why, Lord Asran.”
Let it crumble.
Let it shatter.
Then chase those pitiful fragments of your power that have been scattered through the land.
And perhaps with time, you will remember how you fly in the sky once more.
Even then, should you still forget this world’s most basic principle……Then I shall remind you.
“Never raise your head to look at the sun, while you’re too busy squabbling over some pitiful prey.”
And once more……
“Like a good pawn, Do not look up toward your betters without permission.”
Hawks are creatures who descend to the ground in order to snatch their prey.
So, what was there to gain by coveting the higher skies?
“If you feel that the North has become unsuitable for you, then take this opportunity to look further.”
A vastness that doesn’t befit your prowess.
And there’s no need to worry about the Emperor.
Instead, you should worry about those who follow you.
As he finished whispering those words, Ferzen placed the chess piece, the pawn, back onto the wine-stained table and left.
And, as Ferzen left the room, Lord Asran roughly threw the wine bottle onto the wall.
With the smashing of the bottle, the room was filled with a unique fruity scent.
But the one in the room didn’t become intoxicated by such a heavy aroma.
Except perhaps the moon rising about the northern night sky.
That seemed to be flushed by such an expansive scent.
“……Do not rise.”
When both, his Lord Father and Ferzen left the banquet hall, Geralt tried to assert his dominance over the nobles in the banquet hall.
But his warning was not enough to hold them back, as two nobles rose from their seats, grabbed the envelopes, and left the banquet.
His face flushed with anger at such blatant disrespect.
With the banquet now in disarray, and with his sister suffering in silence, Geralt dashed out of the room, seeking those who grabbed the envelopes in order to give them one final warning.
But it didn’t take long for him to hear the distinct sound of echoing footsteps.
Had their conversation already concluded?
As usual, Ferzen walked proudly, exuding his natural arrogance in his steps.
For a single moment, Geralt lowered his head in his presence.
But at the same time, he clenched his fists, summoned his anger, and looked at the figure approaching him.
Slowly but surely, the distance between the two men was closed, and the air was filled with a faint scent of perfume , mixed with the savor of wine.
However, Ferzen treated Geralt like a common pebble on the streets as he walked by him, without even giving him a glance.
Deeply humiliated by such a dismissal, Geralt chewed on his lips, making them bleed as he glared at Ferzen’s retreating back.
But this seemed to ignite something inside him, as Geralt rushed forward and blocked Ferzen’s path.
“Do you really think your little intrusion will last forever?”
“When war breaks out and a state of emergency is declared, the Imperial Family will appoint us as the chief over military matters. Given the prestige and location of our family, this is already certain.”
“When that time comes when you are taken out of the scene, do you think Louerg will last? I shall personally trample over it.”
“Your courage is admirable.”
As if praising Geralt, Ferzen lightly patted his shoulder and whistled.
Then a white horse, galloped over, forcefully whipping Geralt’s face with its tail.
With a powerful neigh, the horse stayed peaceful, waiting for Ferzen to mount it.
Smirking, Ferzen patted the horse’s mane, as he looked down on Geralt from atop the saddle.
“When the enemy advances towards the North, the first ones to bleed will be the 11 families, including Louerg.”
“Despite this simple fact, you act as if you could easily handle the military duties.”
Well, they could handle it over.
When all 11 families were swept aside by the invading force.
When only Asran remained, that should be an honorable death for them.
“In wartime, soldiers are not allowed to turn their backs or retreat.”
That’s why they stand in the front, trusting their backs to the ruler who led them.
“There’s no need to wait too much for this. If you dislike me that much, then challenge me for my territory. Any sort of pretext you make up, will be acceptable.”
After saying his piece, Ferzen seized the reins of his horse and galloped away into the night.
Although the northern cold became truly unbearable during the night, the lingering intoxication helped him push through it.
The journey would be tiresome, his fatigue was building up, but……
Armand Di Rivera.
Just the fact he could taste such wine already made this journey worth it in Ferzen’s mind.
The journey was neither short nor long.
But after some time, Baron Macklen made up his mind as he carefully opened the envelope.
However, what greeted him was not an invitation with the Brutein crest stamped on the paper.
No, what he saw was a simple sheet of paper, devoid of any writing.
For a moment, Baron Macklen was so utterly flabbergasted by this that his mind became blank, just like the paper.
But then, he couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.
He couldn’t crawl back to Lord Asran now, not after committing such disrespect.
Even if he bowed and pleaded with all of his might, he wouldn’t be well received.
So, with a sudden surge of anger and desperation, caused by Ferzen, Baron Macklen tried to assess the situation.
In the North, there were a total of 12 noble families.
And the power struggle was as vicious and intense as it was in the Center.
Yes, with his cool-headedness, Baron Macklen quickly grasped Ferzen’s intention.
No, to be precise, in order for his hypothesis to be correct……
‘Among the nobles who flocked to Louerg, there must be one who will fall behind.’
Ferzen Von Schweig Louerg.
Perhaps he is trying to create a neutral faction within the North.
And, even if Ferzen himself does not benefit from this.
‘The Imperial Family certainly will.’
Of course, it was also possible that Ferzen just handed out all blank invitations just to stir up some kind of conflict.
If his assumptions were correct, even if his surname is now changed, the bloodline of Brutein, will always be the bloodline of Brutein.
There was a common joke between the Ernes Empire, that said that the Brutein was more likely to fall because of the Imperial Family’s corruption and poor management than because of a mistake they made.
“The North will surely become a busy place now……”
Baron Macklen heaved a tired sigh.
At a certain’s guard captain birthday party.
The main character of such a lively event in Louerg wished nothing more than to flee at any moment.
While Yuriel took to the situation like a fish in water, constantly handling the nobles, in Ferzen’s place, poor Roem could only stand there like a scarecrow.
Looking at the stupid amount of high-profile people congratulating him, it was almost like he could have an aneurysm at any moment.
After all, wasn’t this situation a clear reimagination of applauding a pig because someone put a pearl necklace on it?
Had poor Roem been a pig…
Then all he would have to do was to oink his problems away.
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