Circumstances of a Fallen Lord - Chapter 17
Meanwhile, this rumor was also passed on to the other southern lords. Everyone had paid close attention to any news from the duke’s castle; several nobles had even probed the area with their information connections. As soon as the official letter was sent to the nearest village in the duchy, they too learned of the plague.
The news threw the nobles deep into disarray.
‘Is this real?’
If it were true, then the whole of the community had a crisis on their hands. Even if the locust clouds were to pass over their skies and skip their fields, the nobles had to decrease the overall pest population as much as possible.
However, the nobles were all caught on one specific detail: the Duke of Anies had been coiled up in that complicated, unstable situation with Carlton. ‘The entire household has been isolated…how would they know if a swarm will arrive or not? Couldn’t this be a trap?’
The Duke of Anies could be helping Carlton, whether willingly or unwillingly. Nevertheless, no proud southerner could freely ignore this possible disaster.
‘Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.’ The lords ruminated on this matter to the point of stress-induced hair loss and gaunt cheeks. They eventually concluded, ‘Alright, let’s just trust the duke one last time!’
He was still the guardian of this region, a man of the family that reigned this land for ages. Currently, he may have been infamous for his reputation as trash, but he was still a proud duke. All of his other family members were competent men.
The southern lords shared similar concerns, and they had all reached the same conclusion. They rushed to dispatch envoys to the Anies region. Thus one day the tightly locked gates to the castle were visited by various flags from all sorts of households throughout the southern region.
“How does this make any sense?” Carlton, who was looking for a chance to wield his sword, was emotionally assailed by the news.
He couldn’t decide if he was speechless or despondent. It was good that things ended so well, but it simultaneously hurt his pride. Carlton was a man who lived a turbulent life, experiencing many hardships and tumultuous moods. But this was the first time he’d ever felt this strange combination of emotions.
Carlton had set up temporary barracks outside the wall and met the messengers there. He was paranoid that these messengers would have ulterior motives and did not allow them to step foot in the castle.
However, the other lords’ envoys seemed rather relieved that they were not invited inside. Though they still carried an air of importance, they handled their affairs with Carlton professionally, without agitating the mercenary.
The messages they conveyed were all similar:
“We pledge allegiance to Prince Ellion. We can provide XXX in war reparations. Nothing more can be given, so please accept this and don’t come to our territory.”
The letters were longer, with unnecessarily long greetings and fancy roundabouts at every discourse point. The above was a short summary of the most important parts of the messages.
‘They’re not even bargaining?’
Although the marketplace may come to mind when imagining ‘bargaining,’ no one else risked their lives to bargain as much as the nobles. They would ask the common folk to donate their own money to pay for development while spending riches earned by others. They would argue to discount one more coin off a ransom even if a knife was held to their necks.
‘There’s no way this is possible. These folks weren’t the type to offer their fortunes quietly.’ Carlton, full of doubt and distrust of the aristocracy, had made some mental calculations.
The amounts proposed by the envoys were just appropriate enough to be taken as a war trophy. Of course, more could be negotiated, but he would have to throw away his dignity to argue with some nobles.
Although Carlton was still wary of the situation, he accepted the offers. All the messengers left quickly without delay.
Carlton stood on the castle walls and looked over the scattered envoys. In the end, everyone judged a bunch of insects to be more important and more dangerous than his armies?
“I feel like the south is playing around with me,” he said.
Carlton’s men all nodded sympathetically with their commander. ‘…It really worked out just the way the Duke of Anies said it would…’
He couldn’t have imagined this result–not when a lone envoy carrying Luisen’s official letter had set out from the duchy. He had accepted the duke’s proposal because it wouldn’t result in further loss to his army…and it would be a pain in the neck if Luisen had complained to the capital court that he had been treated poorly.
Far from wasting money, Luisen’s advice led to greater gains. Like flies to honey, he sat still and reaped the benefits of a silent war–a battle without the consequences of combat.
What would have happened if Carlton had been forced to fight? He was confident in achieving victory, but he likely wouldn’t have been able to gain so many advantages.
‘I just can’t understand. At all.’ Carlton returned inside and immediately started walking towards Luisen’s room. When he stepped into the castle, he’d had no intent to visit. Even seeing Luisen’s face made his stomach turn over; why should he want to visit? But somehow his feet traveled to Luisen’s door while his consciousness wandered absentmindedly.
Ruger, who was guarding the door, wrinkled his face distastefully at Carlton. Though he pretended to greet him courteously, anyone could tell Ruger was cursing inside. The servant wanted to give him a piece of his mind, but Ruger reigned in his temper.
Luisen was in his room.
Luisen had been stretched out on his bed like melted butter, expressing joy in laziness with his entire body. Carlton had not called for him again after his retainers had returned to their posts; the duke couldn’t help but to revel in these peaceful days.
‘Hurk, what?’ Luisen got up in a hurry, fixed his appearance, and roughly brushed his hand through his hair. By the time Carlton came into the room, Luisen had managed to regain his aloof, fine appearance thanks to his quick movements. His upright posture made him look reverent.
Although his heart was pounding in his chest, Luisen responded to Carlton with a calm demeanor.
“Sir Carlton, is there something wrong?”
“I’ve come here after meeting the envoys at the outer wall.”
“Ah, is that so?” Luisen could not leave the castle, so he was ignorant of the outside situation. Suddenly, Luisen’s face lit up brightly. “Which families sent envoys? Did everyone send one? They all brought news of surrender, right?”
“No. Three places have yet to declare surrender.”
‘What crazy idiots. Do they take locusts lightly?’ Luisen’s expression soured. “Which households?”
“Sete, Vinard, and Holga. Do you know anything about these families?”
“Urm……” Luisen struggled.
He had no idea!
From the gaps in his knowledge, Luisen could only guess that these were landed nobles of small and medium-sized estates far away from his own. Carlton, while waiting for his answer, saw Luisen’s hesitation. This time, Carlton did not misunderstand and knew exactly what was on his mind.
“You have no idea? Their territories are quite close to your estate too, aren’t they? As far as I know, Sete still has trade agreements with the duchy,” Carlton said.
“….Maybe I’ll remember….It’s on the tip of my tongue….”
That was a complete lie. Luisen couldn’t remember anything.
Luisen had just blurted out whatever was on his mind, and Carlton saw through his transparent struggles.
‘…So he really doesn’t know,’ Carlton thought. Luisen had caught him off guard twice. Seeing everything go Luisen’s way, it was clear that the man wasn’t all that stupid. His insight that could sometimes foretell the future was quite shocking.
But that just confused Carlton more. How could such an intelligent person know absolutely nothing? Didn’t a person need to know the basic layout of the situation to garner such insight? With such a sharp eye, why did Luisen allow himself to be caught in the crossfire of the princes’ succession fight? Why did he put himself in such jeopardy?
‘I had heard you were nothing more than foolish trash….’ Looking at his calm and quiet face now, Carlton couldn’t see the traces of a man who was rumored to spend his days drinking and playing around with women.
Rather than drinking or vulgar entertainment, Carlton thought Luisen suited walking gracefully through art exhibitions or sitting, just like a portrait, and listening to music.
Carlton’s close scrutiny burned holes into Luisen’s mouth. ‘What?’ Luisen thought. ‘What’s wrong? Did I do something wrong again? Did he discover that I raided the kitchen last night? Or did he realize that I hid a bejewelled ring because I thought it would look beautiful on the saint? Why is he looking at me like that?’
Luisen inwardly trembled.
Then Carlton, who had been silent for a while, said something out of the blue. “The town below the castle has been very quiet. Aren’t you curious about the situation there?”
The village he was referring to lay between the inner and outer walls of the duchy’s fortress. Since it was the closest town to the castle, the village was actually more like a city: rich and secure.
Why, all of a sudden, did he bring that up?
“Is there an issue with that town?”
Carlton smirked at Luisen’s question. He smiled as if wind was escaping him–an expression of derision and pity; that expression somehow bothered Luisen. When Luisen had gotten a job as a manual laborer, he saw that expression leveled at him after he’d been inflicted with bone disease half a day after beginning work.
It was as if Carlton’s gaze was saying, “Of course, it’s you.”
Luisen was annoyed enough to question what his expression meant, but his timing was off. When he opened his mouth, the door to the room opened as well. Carlton’s men and Ruger piled into his guest bedroom and shouted simultaneously, “Duke! There’s been an incident!”
“A swarm of locusts is flying in!”
Carlton and Luisen both got up from their seats in surprise. Luisen forgot the unpleasant atmosphere from a while ago and inwardly cheered.
If something went wrong and the swarm didn’t appear, the duchy would be seen as unreliable.
“A swarm of locusts has really appeared?” Carlton asked.
“Yes. A scouting group discovered black clouds flocking from across the river,” his guard responded.
“Are you sure it’s really locusts?” Carlton found everything so hard to believe. He had expected that the locusts were an excuse to garner the lords’ surrender…It was ridiculous to imagine but…could Luisen somehow predict natural disasters?
TL: Carlton: How can someone so smart be so dumb.
Luisen: No thoughts, head empty. (Jk, I don’t think Luisen is unintelligent. I do think, however, he had a lackluster upbringing. I wonder what others think, though.)