Chapter 26: There are Snakes in the Bushes Even if You Don’t Poke Them
The punitive force sent to the Theanabe Union has been destroyed.
This news filled the palace with confusion.
Rumour had it that they had sent nearly three times as many troops but they were destroyed.
And most of the lords had returned to their own fiefs to strengthen their defences.
My surveillance has become more relaxed thanks to this.
However, that didn’t mean that the factional strife has lessened, rather, it intensified.
A lot of blame was being placed on each faction for this defeat.
The Regent and George V have become annoying.
I don’t care who was to blame.
To sum up the arguments from both sides:
Raul’s army was farther back than planned when Aquicurl’s army arrived at the frontlines.
Then, the Aquicurl Army was attacked by the rapidly advancing enemy and retreated, but they didn’t inform the Raul army about this.
Therefore, the advancing Raul army was attacked and defeated.
The Aquicurl’s supplies were also plundered.
After that, the reorganised Aquicurl army was attacked again and destroyed.
The Raul Army, which was slowed down because of their plundering, caught up to the Aquicurl army and was destroyed.
This seemed to be the general flow of the expedition.
Are they idiots?
Both Lord Raul and Lord Aquicurl left their main forces to defend their fiefs and only dispatched mercenaries.
If they had won like that then all was well, but losing while preserving your main force… Well, only heroes can lose like that with pride.
The Theanabe Union showed no sign of wanting to invade the Empire, so there was no use fighting about this.
The problem is the counterintelligence situation in the palace.
“I’ve been instructed by Count Palatine to report to you.”
Normally, Count Palatine would give me his report directly, but Timona will be giving me his report today.
Count Palatine has decided that Timona can be trusted.
First of all, Count Palatine has been aware of the foreign spies in the palace for a long time.
And as it turns out… it’s impossible to eradicate them.”
Hmm, so there’s a lot of them.
But I learnt two shocking facts from Timona.
“Lord Raul is connected to the Aplada Kingdom and Lord Aquicurl is connected to the Republic of Ghafur.”
The Aplada Kingdom was a nation bordering the southwest of the Empire, and they had acquired a vast amount of land from the Empire just before I was born (from the Chancellor and the Chief of the Ministry of Ceremonies’ political rival), and the Republic of Ghafur… Oh, come on, you’re a fucking traitor.
Is there not much time till their ruin? It’s really strenuous to restore an Empire after you escape from the imperial capital.
… Hmm? Wait.
Those who are connected to other nations went together on a joint punitive?
“So, those two nations aren’t involved in this campaign…?”
Tomis Ashinaqui is the only nation that is helping the Theanabe Union.”
So, Lord Raul, Lord Aquicurl and the surrounding nations lost a battle that they thought the Imperial Army would win…?
“I have another report from Count Palatine.
The people connected to the maid are the ‘Golden Fleece’.
Count Palatine commented, “Their ‘reach’ extends further than I expected’.”
The ‘Golden Fleece’ Association… was the late Emperor’s ‘go-to’ association during his reign, and they simply vanished after the late Emperor died… Their representative, Ireel Fechner, is believed to be the ringleader behind the Theanabe Union’s rebellion.
That association is connected to Nadine’s maid? Nadine… Or rather, Lord Warung’s family are aristocrats from the southern part of the Empire, but the Theanabe Union is in the northwest part of the Empire.
I see why Count Palatine ignored them.
Normally, one would assume that they are connected to the southern nations since they’re a southern aristocratic family.
Speed is important when it comes to information.
The possibility of a connection between a southern aristocratic house and the Theanabe Union would be pushed aside.
But Nadine is in the capital right now.
It’s not surprising that the Theanabe Union would reach out to her…
No, it is surprising.
If someone is twisting information about me and passing it onto Lord Warung, then it would happen in his fief in the south.
“So, that maid is a member of the ‘Golden Fleece’ or she’s helping them?”
According to the investigation, she’s innocent, but the Warung House messenger who she’s reporting to is a member of the ‘Golden Fleece’.”
“Hmm, and that person’s background check?”
“The background check on them isn’t completed… but they were apparently born, raised and still live in Lord Warung’s fief.”
So, that’s why he didn’t think that they are connected to the ‘Golden Fleece’… which means that the Golden Fleece’s intelligence network extends throughout the Empire.
The Golden Fleece is an association that not only outwitted the Empire, but also foreign nations… where are they getting their funds?
The important question was why the association helped the Theanabe Union gain independence.
It must have cost them a lot of money to help the Theanabe Union become independent and defend them against the Imperial Army.
But merchants take action to make money.
Thus, it was safe to assume that the merchants are convinced that the profits generated from the independence of the Theanabe Union will exceed the funds they invested.
“Did Count Palatine say anything about the ‘Golden Fleece’s’ motive?”
“No, I think he’s still investigating that.”
Well, this isn’t good.
If traps are being set all over the Empire, then I would like to at least understand why they were set.
Even so, in a world where ‘capitalism’ hasn’t spread, a large business association is on par with a nation… The association is doing quite well even though they weren’t completely self-reliant.
They’re like an East Indian Company.
… Oh yeah.
“Say, is the ‘Golden Fleece’ a shipping company?”
“I’m not sure.
But I’m sure they have a department like that as well since they’re a large association.
Transport is faster by sea than by land.”
Oh, I see.
The sea is the fastest way to travel until ‘railroads’ and ‘automobiles’ are invented.
That’s the ‘common sense’ of this world.
I have to adapt properly.
“Did you realise something?”
Timona asked emotionlessly.
Well, he has gained Count Palatine’s trust, so I guess that’s fine.
“The ‘Golden Fleece’ is probably funded by the ‘Intercontinental Trade’.
Everything would make a lot of sense if they are.”
Why was the ‘Golden Fleece’ the ‘go-to’ merchants during the previous Emperor’s reign? There must have been a reason for this.
If the Golden Fleece is trading with another continent, then they must have goods that aren’t found on this continent.
That would have been more than enough reason for the late Emperor to use them exclusively.
It would make sense that they have spies in Lord Warung’s fief if they use ships.
The dukedom itself doesn’t face the sea, but the river that runs through the dukedom connects to the sea… Incidentally, the capital also has a river that flows out to the sea.
They definitely have spies here.
It also answers the question of why they helped the Theanabe Union go independent.
Which was also the birthplace of the Holy One Church, is located west of the ‘Eastern Continent’.
The Theanabe Union is in the north-western part of the Empire.
It has an ocean to the west. But until now, the seas of the Empire have been controlled by Lord Aquicurl.
He could intervene with the seas since he was in control of them.
But they wouldn’t stand a chance against the Empire if they wanted to take over a single port town, so they made a new nation that would do what they wanted.
That is the true reason for the independence of the Theanabe Union.
That wasn’t just a rebellion.
It is the base of a global merchant organisation.
Even if we succeed in defeating and reannexing the Theanabe Union, there will still be a second or third Theanabe Union as long as the ‘Golden Fleece Association’ survives.
Timona spoke while I was pondering
“Are the profits really that enormous?”
Is that what people of this world think? I see.
So, Ireel Fechner, the representative of the ‘Golden Fleece Association’ is someone who is thinking outside of the box.
Brilliant enemies are annoying…
They could build a nation with those profits or even destroy it.”
The Age of Discovery on Earth began with the ‘quest for the unknown’, that’s why nations supported it.
As a result, the immense wealth that came from it became property of the nation.
In this world, however, it was the ‘rediscovery of the known’.
That’s why the ‘Golden Fleece Association’ has been able to amass enormous wealth on its own without the support of a nation.
It would be even worse if they have a monopoly of this.
Even Spain, the country where the sun never sets  competed with Portugal, England, France and the Netherlands.
If all that is monopolised by a single company then…
If we don’t do something about them now, then we’ll never recover…”
I’d like to get some information on the situation of the sea and the different continents to the west.
“I’d like to get some information from the Belbe Kingdom but…”
I’m not sure if I can ask Rosalia.
Is it still too risky to trust her that much?
I want to know more about the western continent and the current state of intercontinental trade.
Tell Count Palatine that this is top priority.
You can use Rosalia or Fabio if you’re short on manpower.
But be very careful if you rely on Rosalia.”
I hope that we still have options…
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