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Volume 3: Intermission – Friend, from Far Away (2/3)
Within the halls of the magnificent royal palace, a voice called out to Elbert. It was the month of Horus and with it came damp winds from the north. As the winds blew out from the halls, the garden outside was – as one would expect from Elrain, which possessed a nearby rich water vein – filled with green trees and dazzlingly thick leaves born from luxuriously drinking water.
“Dordias? What is it?”
“What do you mean what? I’m greeting you.”
With a pale countenance and a slender stature, Elbert looked just like a scholar. Contrast to him, the man called Dordias was a large muscular man. He did not look like a civil official at all. If one were to look only at his sunburned face and his beard, one could easily mistake him for a bandit. But he too was a fully-fledged civil official. As proof of that, the clothes he wore were that of the uniform of the lowest level civil official.
“So what business do you have with me?”
“Oh, nothing special. How about tonight?”
Dordias said as he made a gesture of tilting a mug. Elbert made a troubled face but nodded nevertheless.
“I don’t mind.”
“Ooh. Great. Then let’s do it at the Evening Moon Pavilion.”
After seeing off the broadly smiling man, Elbert went to his own office.
Elbert, who has achieved an extraordinary rise from imperial court official to imperial court chief, has more than 100 imperial court official as his subordinates. The job of the imperial court chief was – roughly speaking – the management of the imperial court.
If the king were to form the inner palace (reserved for women), its maintenance fees, the extension and structural alteration of the palace, the wages of the waiting maids that serve the inner palace, and the money for the clothes… All of that would be handled by the imperial court chief.
Because the authority the position entailed was enormous and because in the past it was the shortest route to getting on the good side of the royal family, there were many who vied for it. But now the attraction of that position grew less by the day.
And the reason for that was none other than the new king himself.
The king of monsters, who with each passing day, grew more and more likely to rule the entire southern region. Moreover, an intellectual, an existence who was the furthest thing from the things humans have come to call ‘monster’.
He showed no interest in the inner palace nor in the construction of a new palace. He did not even show interest in lavishing himself with food. In that case, what should they focus on? The answer was the processing of government affairs that have stagnated and the strengthening of the army.
No king was more fitting to rebuild the country, but to the people who longed to muster the power of the imperial court chief, there was no king more ill at ease than he, for the position of imperial court chief was one that grew in power according to the desires of the king.
Ever since, complaints from the inner palace have been pouring like flood water to the appointed Imperial court chief of the Monster King. After all, the money that they once were free to use lessened by the day. It would’ve been stranger had they not complained.
The servants of the king’s concubines, the civil officials, and in worse cases, even a person from the nobles would try to get Elbert to use discretion. They employed a variety of methods from intimidation to bribery, and even women.
Despite that Elbert never agreed to their demands. And in the end, the forces of the inner palace even laid their hands on his daughter, but thankfully, the elven warrior, Felbi, managed to save her just in the nick of time.
Since then, the elven man, Felbi, would see her frequently to protect her. Thanks to that, it was now impossible for him to betray the king, Elbert thought to himself as he wryly smiled at the pile of documents.
To any other government official, the working conditions he dealt with could only be described as ‘strange’. No matter what manner of disturbance visited him, Elbert wouldn’t falter, and would instead, faithfully clear the documents before him as quickly as he could. It was truly a ghastly sight.
He would defeat the servants and nobles that visited him in arguments, refuse to compromise in any way, and if needed, he himself would go out to speak with other government officials. He would keep that up until the dead of the night, but the next morning, he would rise earlier than anyone else and begin his work anew.
“Ohh, Elbert. I was waiting for you.”
Elbert ended his work for the day. When he showed his face at the Evening Moon Pavilion, Dordias’ face was already red, having helped himself at the back seat to some liquor.
“It seems I was late.”
“Don’t worry about it. I was enjoying myself. As someone from the countryside, the wine here at the imperial capital is truly to die for.”
As Dordias heartily laughed, he ordered more grape wine while finishing the remaining beer.
“…So what business do you have with me?”
“You’re the same as ever. At the very least, order something.”
“Alright. In that case…”
Seeing Elbert frown, Dordias wryly smiled while he called for a waitress and ordered. When the barmaid brought their food and grape wine, they toasted.
“To our motherland.”
“To my unchanging friend.”
As they knocked their cups, they drank a mouthful of grape wine.
“But my unchanging friend sure says some happy things.”
Dordias licked his cup, separated his mouth from it, and then turned to Elbert with a red face.
“…So, what are you really planning?”
From his red face, the only thing that didn’t appear intoxicated was his gaze. Dordias asked Elbert seriously.
“What do you mean?”
Elbert wore a face that looked as if he were analyzing the taste of the liquor as he drank and asked Dordias that back.
“Why would Seidian’s brilliant pupil so willingly throw mud on his name? Is it for Rishan’s sake? If you’re having a hard time getting by, you could just talk to me, couldn’t you?”
Elbert and Dordias were both students of the private school, Seidian, within Elrain Kingdom, and saw each other as rivals. The largehearted Dordias and the seemingly sensitive Elbert. For some reason, these two people with exact opposite personalities were able to get along.
“It has nothing to do with Rishan. Well, I won’t say that Rishan is completely unrelated, but at most, it only serves to bolster my resolve to work for his highness.”
“That’s the king of monsters, you’re talking about. If you walk around, you’ll hear all sorts of terrible rumors. In the past, you were the imperial court chief, but now, do you know what the people call you? They call you the demon king’s hound.”
Though Dordias spoke in hushed voices, with every word uttered, so did the anger in his voice became apparent.
“Are you angry, Dordias?”
“Am I angry? Of course, I am. What man wouldn’t become angry when he hears people talking ill of his friend!?”
Dorias took a handful of roasted beans and crushed them in his mouth.
Elbert wryly smiled at that.
“What’s so funny? I’m being serious here.”
“My friend, it’s such a joy to see you come from so far away.”
“…Are you making fun of me!?”
That was the first sentence they learned at Seidian. At the time, Elbert and Dordias had their desks lined up as they read aloud those words. As Dordias recalled those times, he gradually regained his calm.
Elbert asked him.
“Dordias, my friend, what is a country?”