Bringing the Incident to a Close — Part 1
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
It was late at night. The ball was over; the moon was already in the midst of its journey through the sky and most of Alshir’s residents were tucked away in bed. Those that were up consisted mainly of the duty-bound, such as the holy knights that marched briskly through the halls of their headquarters. Each step taken was accompanied by the clanging of armour. Because it was not administrative work that they were in the midst of, but rather, work that was prone to requiring the use of force.
At the head of the group stood one Carlotta De Maya, commander of the Faldien Order. Despite having only recently finished a series of battles, she showed no sign of fatigue; her advance continued at full speed until she reached the door that led to her destination. Once her men got into formation, she wrenched it open without so much as a knock.
“W-what is going on!?” The man inside, whose pot belly was visible even beneath his loose, priestly robes, sat up from his bed as the noise wrenched him from his slumber. “C-Carlotta!? Why are you here? You are not permitted to enter my quarters! Leave imme—”
“I apologize for visiting you at such a late hour, but it couldn’t be avoided.” The knight cut off the high-ranking official with a smile. “Cardinal Afdol Dollmorral Lane, I hereby place you under arrest on grounds of treason.”
“Treason? That’s ridiculous!”
The cardinal appeared unable to grasp the situation. He found himself apprehended by a pair of paladins before he found his next words.
“T-there has to be some sort of mistake!” He shouted, before turning to the knights at his desk. “And stop that! Do not make a mess of my quarters, and stop looking through my documents! They are highly confidential!” Once he was done screaming at them, he turned to the troop’s commander and shot her a glare. “Do you think you can get away with this!? This is injustice, blasphemy! Once the other cardinals hear of this, they will have you removed from your position immediately!”
“You’ve grown far too senile, Afdol,” sighed Carlotta. “Do you truly think that I would’ve done something this drastic of my own accord?”
The paladin produced a sheet of parchment and held it just close enough for the man she’d arrested to read it, all while twisting her lips into a ridiculing sneer.
“I suggest you go over this carefully.”
“What…? No…!” His eyes widened. “It can’t be! Why have so many of them chosen to sign it!?”
It was an official letter, one informing him of his excommunication. And it was signed by every cardinal but Afdol and one of his closest friends.
“You are no longer considered a true man of the cloth, Afdol, and the church will no longer offer you any protection from the state.”
“T-this can’t be happening…!”
“It is, Cardinal, Former Cardinal. It is happening. Your time is over,” said the paladin. “Take him away, boys!”
A satisfied Carlotta watched as her men escorted the fresh retiree. She was thrilled to know that he would soon be placed in the cell that would become his new bedroom. Another individual came marching down the hallway before the cardinal vanished from her sight, an individual that she recognized as competent. Her vice commander. Upon arriving at the doorway, the veteran greeted her with a salute.
“Commander, I’m here to report that we’ve succeeded in detaining Cardinal Elgar.”
“Excellent work. What of the order that works under him? Have they made any moves?”
“No, ma’am. They’re willing to cooperate and obey all our orders.”
“How strange…” the over-competent paladin furrowed her brow. “I was expecting there to at least have been some resistance.”
“It certainly was a possibility, ma’am, but I’m fairly certain I know why,” he said. “It’s because we underlings don’t get to choose our higher ups.”
“I suppose that means I’ll have to put more effort into bolstering my efficacy as a commander if I wish to retain your loyalty,” chuckled Carlotta.
“If you did that, then you would be robbing every member of the nobility of the ability to sleep soundly, ma’am,” said the vice-commander.
“Same goes for the military’s brass,” added another paladin.
“Don’t forget the monsters. Everything in the area will end up running off with its tail between its legs,” added a third.
“If you think that’s bad, then just wait until the slumlords hear the news. They’d turn paler than a pile of sheets,” laughed a fourth.
Their comments got the whole squad going. Before long, every knight in the room was cracking up with laughter.
“If you boys really want that much more work, then I’m more than happy to comply,” said Carlotta with a bold smile. “You should’ve said something earlier. I’ve been wanting to work you to the bone for years.”
Every man in the room, vice-commander aside, immediately scattered as would a group of startled cats. They picked up various objects and documents, staring at each intently in order to make themselves seem as busy as could be. This prompted Carlotta to force a bit of a smile, but she soon let it fade in favour of a more serious expression.
“We’d best get back to work. There are still many things on the agenda, and I would be far too ashamed to face the man that set this picture perfect meal for us by failing to consume it.”
“You must mean the meister. Just who is he? The prince’s uprising was the first I’ve heard of him.”
“To be honest, I don’t know. But I’m convinced that a continued relationship with him is to our benefit. He’s shown himself to be not only incredibly capable, but also more than willing to work with us. Most importantly, I know for a fact that Nell both trusts and loves him from the bottom of her heart. And as far as I am concerned, that is all that matters.”
“You always have been sweet on Nell,” said the vice commander. “Though I suppose that I, or rather we, feel the same way.” He directed his gaze around the room as he switched to referring to his coworkers as a collective. It wasn’t just the members of their order that held Nell in high regards. Almost every paladin did.
“That should be a given,” said Carlotta. “Unlike you lot, she’s actually quite adorable. And she’s always been something along the lines of a younger sister to us all.”
“The first part of that comment was entirely uncalled for.”
The vice-commander twisted his face in mock surprise, but Carlotta indifferently shrugged it off. With their appetite for humour now sated, both officers promptly returned to their work.
Several days had passed since the grand finale that was the ball. There was little that hadn’t gone according to plan. Argus had been relocated to a dungeon, and Jaynor had been put under house arrest in order to prevent him from taking any further action. He had yet to be deprived of his title, but I was fairly confident that it would only be a matter of time before he was.
The only issue was that we had yet to discern the minister’s true intentions. Neither the king nor I had been able to figure him out, so we had, after some discussion, arrived at a solution in which we intentionally loosened up security just enough to make it possible for him to attempt some more wire pulling. We even went as far as to ensure he was informed of the fact that both the king’s men and Carlotta’s were going around capturing Argus’ close associates, that the faction he’d spent so much effort building was going to be rapidly deconstructed if he failed to react. We were sure that he would do something, despite being aware that it was all just a trap. But he didn’t. He simply sat around and let it happen. We could have always loosened the reins even further, but there was no point. Hearing the horse’s intentions directly from his mouth was a much better choice.
That was the line of thought that led me to my present situation. I was situated outside the manor that the minister was confined to. Many of the king’s men were positioned along the property’s perimeter. This naturally drew a great deal of attention, but all the curious onlookers that approached were shooed away before they could perform any sort of detailed investigation. One would have expected the whole property to be littered with members of the royal guard, but that was far from the case. They were not allowed to enter the premises because they had already completed their initial investigations. Any more of an intrusion on the minister’s privacy would have been a breach of etiquette given that he had remained an authoritative figure.
To reiterate, he was sure to be stripped of his title in due time, but that had yet to happen. He had far too many sympathizers, and failing to provide an indisputable statement when issuing his punishment was grounds for the last thing the king needed: another potential coup. That said, I was planning on breaking and entering regardless. There were no downsides to be had if I didn’t end up getting caught, and I’d even gone ahead and asked for the king’s permission before heading out. He’d given the thumbs up under the condition that I was to avoid going overboard. Still don’t get why he seemed so worried. Everything’ll be totally fine. Totally.
After moving out of sight to pop stealth, I stepped onto the property and began trespassing to my heart’s content. I waltzed right in both the front gate and the front door whilst ignoring all the guards, butlers, maids, and other workers I encountered en route. Unlike me, they were going about their regular duties, albeit a bit anxiously. But as that wasn’t my problem, I paid them no mind and headed straight for Jaynor’s current location. All the scouting I did had already ingrained the building’s layout in my mind, so I proceeded through his residence with firm, confident steps.
I knew full well that there was no point keeping my face hidden any longer. I’d already revealed it to Jaynor—and just about everyone else while I was at it. Still, I made sure to wear my mask for nothing beyond the purpose of style. I’d taken quite a liking to the vizard, so I saw my current activity as the perfect excuse to take it for another spin.
Upon arriving at my destination, the old crow’s study, I deactivated the spell that kept me hidden from sight and entered. The only warning that informed him of my advent was the creak that accompanied the opening of the door.
“I was expecting you, Meister,” he said in a quiet, calm voice. “Give me a moment to wrap something up.”
The aging man sat alone at his desk, which, like the king’s was covered in all sorts of documents. When he said he had been expecting me, he had evidently been telling the truth. His actions contained not even the slightest hint of surprise. In fact, he didn’t even look up. He did nothing but continue examining the papers in his hands as he spoke.
“Fine,” I said. “Then I’ll just make myself at home while you’re at it.”
I plopped myself down on one of his couches and crossed my arms. After a minute or two, he finally set everything down and looked my way. His face was the spitting image of calm; he wasn’t even the slightest bit panicked or on guard despite the fact that his faction had already been effectively dismantled. And it wasn’t just a front. My superpowered hearing informed me that his heartbeat was slow and steady.
“Thank you for waiting so patiently,” he said. “So why have you come to see me?” His tone was one akin to that of a kind, older gentleman’s.
“You seemed awfully laid back for a guy whose men are getting picked off.” By contrast, my voice was filled with a cocky arrogance. “So I decided to stop by and check if you were still right in the head.”
“Oh, why thank you. That was rather thoughtful of you.”
His response to my blatant display of hostility was an aloof smile. I couldn’t get a read on him, no matter what I tried. He didn’t seem to be plotting anything or looking to aggress on me. Damned crafty old fox.
“Alright, fuck it. I’m just going to get to the point,” I said, looking him right in the eyes. “What the hell is going through your head right now?”
“Hmmm… You want to know what I’m thinking?” He paused briefly before continuing. “Very well. I see no reason not to comply.” The old man leaned forward as he clasped his hands together “I’ve called off all my plans because they are no longer necessary.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I’ve already decided to leave everything in both His Majesty’s hands and yours,” he said, in a casual tone. “Demon lord as you may be, I’ve come to understand that trusting you is what’s best for this country, Yuki.”