Sungchul looked at each item in the tent one by one. Decorative Sword, simple bookshelf holding rows of thick books, fur of white bear laid over the floor, and the like were in the room. But the thing that most grabbed his attention was a large map that depicted the whole world placed on top of a table at the center of the tent.
Schnellmerker stood off to the side close to the map and gazed at the map with eyes sparkling with intelligence. He must be thinking of something. Deliberating several times before saying anything was Schnellmerker’s good and bad habit. It wasn’t a problem when there was plenty of time, but hesitating during moments of life and death was frustrating beyond belief. Luckily, they had plenty of time granted to them for the moment.
Schnellmerker slowly organized his thoughts before he broke the prolonged silence. He fiddled with a wooden marker laid on top of the map at the center of the tent as he began to speak.
“I knew that you would be coming here, Brigade Leader.”
Sungchul watched his former subordinate without showing any emotions.
“I was told that you sought out Tower of Recluse in the past as well. Probably after resolving the first Calamity. I believe you ran into miss Sarasa and Altugius Xero at that time.”
“That is true.”
Sungchul thought back to the last time he had that unexpected encounter as he asked about them.
“So where are Sarasa and Professor Altugius?”
“They are in La Grange. They are doing important work there.”
“I suppose you can call it missionary work. But even if they were free, I was planning on coming here. I wanted to meet you in person, you see.”
Schnellmerker put the marker down on a particular spot of the map. It was then that Sungchul noticed that it had the likeness of a lion. Schnellmerker had placed the lion on top of the map labeled Tower of Recluse.
“So, you went out of your way to meet me?”
Sungchul asked calmly in reply. Schnellmerker nodded.
“Yes, I have.”
“Tell me the reason.”
Sungchul leaned against his seat and crossed his legs as he gazed in Schnellmerker’s direction. Schnellmerker began to orbit around the table that held the map.
“Do you know what Order of Extinction is doing?”
He began with a question.
“I’ve heard that it is an organization that made me a subject of worship.”
Sungchul replied, and then added,
“Fritz. I have heard a rumor that you played a substantial role in the creation of this organization.”
It was spoken without emotion but it contained weight. Fritz’s eyes showed his surprise.
“It appears that you have been doing at least a little bit of research about us.”
“It’s a group that’s taking advantage of my name. Of course I need to find out who they are.”
Sungchul fixed his posture as he answered.
Another moment of silence.
Schnellmerker wore a thin smile as he looked towards the map to organize his thoughts again. It wasn’t until much later that he spoke again.
“It’s true that I was instrumental to the formation of the Order of Extinction. Especially in the financial aspects, I have contributed a significant amount. Of course, all of this was out of my loyalty to you, Brigade Leader.”
“Tell me the reason, abridge it.”
Sungchul looked completely unshaken. Knowing better than anyone else that Sungchul disliked long drawn out explanations, Fritz took a deep breath before speaking.
“Our former boss, William Quinton Marlboro, is not someone fit to be Emperor.”
A shocking declaration. Sungchul felt strong curiosity grow within him, but he didn’t reveal it and instead threw a question calmly.
“And the reason?”
“He doesn’t amount to anything more than a puppet of the Ruteginean Kingdom.”
Sungchul recalled the Emperor’s dark expression when he suddenly gave an explanation back when they last met.
“The reign of Ruteginea has not yet ended.”
But Sungchul put those words aside and replied to Schnellmerker while glaring at him.
“And the evidence?”
“I don’t have any.”
Schnellmerker replied confidently. Sungchul laughed out loud. It was a rare moment where he showed his emotions. Even Bertelgia in his pocket was surprised by this. With a grin on his face, Sungchul addressed Schnellmerker.
“You haven’t changed at all.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
After a short laugh, Schnellmerker continued the conversation.
“What I mean is, there is no definitive evidence. But there are plenty of small reasons for suspicion.”
“There is a rumor that the off-limited old district of La Grange is full of Ruteginea’s convicted criminals. The late Admiral and Commander of Capital Defense Arquebus who died on the last day of last year was rumored to be from the infamous Ghadarva family.”
“Ghadarva family? Those disgusting animals are still…?”
Harsh words escaped Sungchul’s lips. It was because Sungchul personally experienced just how cruel the Ghadarva family were. When he was a gladiator, he nearly lost his life many times because of one-sided spectacles arranged by the Ghadarva family, pitting him against countless monsters and swordsmen.
Even the final duel against Kreigfreid had been organized by the Ghadarva family. Sungchul had almost been sacrificed to tell the cliche narrative of the hero of Ruteginea stabbing through the heart of the despicable rebels.
“Unidentifiable monsters are roaming the sewers of the capital. According to magic historians, it resembles the damned Corpse Golems used by Ruteginea during their conquests in the past.”
Sungchul stroked his chin and let out a soft groan. He had witnessed the powerful Soldiers of Salvation with his own two eyes. But that was insufficient to serve as proof for Schnellmerker’s claims. And this, Sungchul pointed out.
“What a compelling story. But evidence is still lacking.”
To this, contrary to expectation, Schnellmerker made a confident grin as he began to fiddle with the wooden markers on the map once more. The one he picked now had the shape of a crown. The map marker that was picked up by delicate hands was placed on the south western portion of the continent, where the capital of the Human Empire, La Grange, was located.
“There is something that the Emperor is secretly pursuing. Do you know what that is?”
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t have come here.”
“As you might know, the Emperor claimed to be the protector of all common people and their individual happiness, justice and order, rule of law, and legitimate religion.”
“Is that so?”
It was slightly different from what Sungchul knew, but he kept quiet because it wasn’t all that important.
“The important thing here is the part where he claims to be the protector of legitimate religion. As you might know, the two religions with the most followers on the continent have their headquarters in La Grange. They are the Horasan Sect and the Mura Sect.”
“What a nostalgic name.”
The two sects mentioned had a long history with Sungchul. They excommunicated Sungchul together and their curse was firmly recorded in Sungchul’s Status Screen.
“But can you believe it? Despite the full support of those two sects, he’s been collecting heretical symbols and relics behind their back?”
The humans of the Empire worship the God of Order most among the five primary gods. But worshipping other gods wasn’t necessarily a heresy. That was because those other gods, too, oversaw the world and fully deserve to be the subject of worship.
Heresy in this case refers to the worship in a being that wasn’t a god. The most representative were the beings called the Lesser Gods. Sungchul intimately experienced with his own skin and bones the result of worshiping a Lesser God, back in Ixion.
“So you’re saying the Emperor has extended his hands to the heretics?”
Sungchul asked with a difference in tone. Schnellmerker’s reply carried certainty.
“That is the case. Already within the Floating Palace are the profane altars to the Lesser Gods. And even at this very moment, Emperor’s Sword, which can be considered the extension of the Emperor’s hands and feet, is roaming the continent in search of artifacts with connections to Lesser Gods.”
“That’s terrible news.”
The all-important five gods were so far removed from humans that they rarely responded to even the most sincerest of prayers. Lesser Gods, which are neither mortals or gods, gave immediate result upon paying the cost. Wealth, fulfillment of love, impossibly long extension of life, disease, cataclysms, and even death of a hated enemy, and so on.
“The fact that the Emperor is seeking out the power of the Lesser Gods in spite of the mighty Imperial Air Fleet is proof that he’s being driven to the corner. By the ghosts of Ruteginea.”
There wasn’t anything Sungchul wanted to say at this point. What he said seemed possible. But it was not something he should be deciding impulsively. Sungchul felt fatigue coming on, so he massaged his shoulders as he replied.
“So what’s the conclusion?”
It looked like Schnellmerker was waiting for Sungchul to say this. The man who was weaving a long winded explanation suddenly had color in his face, and he finally spoke the words he had long kept locked away in his chest until now.
“It’s simple. The Emperor never had the qualifications to become one, and now he’s gone and thrown away his last bit of dignity. Meanwhile, Brigade Leader, you have confronted the Calamities alone like a hero and already overcame two of them. Now let’s think about this. Turncoat Emperor, or the savior of the world. Who is more fit to be king?”
Sungchul felt a dangerous premonition. It was because the faint light of Schnelmerker’s madness could be seen in his blue eyes despite Sungchul being unfocused and distracted.
The former Subordinate continued to speak the next words excitedly.
“My esteemed Brigade Leader. Please become our king. To become a single ray of light in this dying world, to lead us as the true king.”
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