Part 56: Star Door 8: Return to the Empire-Primal Grounds-
Olivier and Mueller were meant to be together...to get this door open.
One month after the collapse of the Liber Ark...
The banquet to celebrate the crisis' successful resolution was over, with Estelle and her friends having largely left the capital to go elsewhere...
One of them, however--Prince Olivert Reise Arnor--sat rather comfortably in the ambassador's office in Grancel's Erebonian embassy, his work in the country not quite settled.
Man's Voice: I-I can't believe that you... I mean, my deepest apologies for not noticing that you were His Highness Prince Olivert sooner!
-Under the Moonlight-
Oh, I'm not surprised you never realized. I may be a prince, but my mother was a commoner. What point is there in bothering to remember my face? It's not as though I often showed myself in the palace or attended high society gatherings.
Knowing me certainly isn't going to help you in moving up the ranks, my friend.
Haha...ha...hm... There's no need to be so humble, Your Highness...
Besides, I'm actually rather grateful to you, ambassador.
You gave me all kinds of useful advice during my stay here at the embassy that I'm sure will be to my benefit in the future.
Well-meant words such as, 'Act like a man of the Empire for once in your life!' and, 'Stop idling here, go home, and try doing some damned work!'
Y-Your Highness, I was only... I mean, I...
Your Highness, I think you've tormented him enough for one day.
The ambassador behaved in the same way any other sane man would in his position. If anything, I'd say he has every right to be angry at US for keeping the truth from him for so long.
Ahh, I suppose you're right. I'll spare him any more teasing for now.
I actually wasn't joking about being grateful to you, though. You truly have done admirable work over the past month.
Acting as a pipeline with the Empire, checking the safety of Erebonians residing in Liberl, helping the international liner service to resume... And those are only the tip of the iceberg! You've done so much more.
You have my deepest thanks as a prince of the Empire.
I-I am not worthy of such praise, Your Highness...
You, however, deserve the utmost for braving the danger you did flying up to the Liber Ark. All of what happened seems to have caused quite the commotion in our homeland. So the people seem to be rather relieved now that they know the danger has passed.
It's all thanks to your courage that they are able to rest easy.
Oh, there's no point in flattering me, ambassador.
I just did what I could. Nothing more, nothing less. And I couldn't have done anything alone. All I was able to accomplish was thanks to the help of those around me.
I'm fairly removed from the stereotype of Erebonians as stern, strong, and self-sufficient, if I do say so myself.
Haha... As rude as it may be to agree, perhaps you're correct.
And yet I believe your willingness to be flexible most definitely helped rather than hindered you here. I believe people like you are exactly what the Empire is going to need in the future.
Regardless of how I may feel about His Excellency the Chancellor's approach...
Well, this is a surprise. I was under the impression that you supported the chancellor.
Then again you are a noble... Does that lead you to oppose his reformist policies, perhaps?
I may be a noble on paper, but I'm only a baron. All in all, I generally fall in favor of his reformist policies.
Be that as it may, while this may just be the result of being in Liberl for so long and being influenced by the ways of its people... I do sometimes find myself becoming frightened by his hardline approach.
I can't help but wonder exactly what direction he's trying to take our old nation.
...Oh, I was just thinking that I'm quite glad to have taken the chance to engage in such fruitful talk with you just before departing the country.
I pray you will continue doing all you can to ensure the peace of Liberl and its surrounding nations while I'm gone.
Preferably in cooperation with Ambassador Cochrane.
Hmm... Yes. Let's not forget her, I suppose.
Still, it's true that since the Non-Aggression Pact was signed, there has been some progress with regards to the Crossbell Problem. And given that it was Liberl who proposed said pact, that makes my role in future negotiations very important indeed...
I presume that is what you are trying to say?
Heh. You're a sharp one, my good man! Excellent.
Now I can return to the capital with my mind at ease.
Leave everything here to me, Your Highness.
I will be looking forward to hearing what you achieve back in our homeland.
This truly is a country like no other. I never thought the day would come when I would hear things like that from a noble of the Empire.
Indeed. He's apparently somewhat less of an obstinate man than I thought he was.
Perhaps this nation's very air has the power to genuinely change people.
It seems to have had an effect on you, too.
I feel like I'm seeing a lot more smiles from you these days than I used to.
Heh. I'm loath to admit it, but that may well be true.
I still find myself wishing that you would learn from Liberlians' dignity and sense of restraint, however...
Two qualities you don't particularly possess in any measure. In fact, you have far too much of their opposites.
You SAY that, but these qualities are the only weapon that I have.
I don't have much that will allow me to compete against the chancellor. I need to use what little happens to be tucked in my corner as best I can.
Prince Olivert in a nutshell: his infatuations are a weapon.
Have there been any changes to our plans?
None. We should be able to proceed as arranged.
Two days ago, the chancellor left the capital on a tour of eastern Erebonia. Tomorrow, you will be returning there aboard the Arseille while he's still out in the east. All those who need to be made aware of our return have been given proper notice.
Your arrival in Erebonia will make a real impact--of that I am certain.
What potential obstructions to the plan are there at present?
Nothing major. There have been some movements in the Intelligence Division's 4th subdivision, but not much.
There's a chance that everyone is being cautious because the Arseille is involved...
...but I'd put greater odds on the idea that everyone is just treating this as a pompous performance by you and not taking it seriously.
Well, they'd be right to! It is.
I've no choice but to start here, even if this means I have to use Liberl.
And if I'm going to put on a show, why not put on the finest one the skies have ever seen?
...I suppose I can't argue that.
Young Man's Voice: I'm sorry to trouble you at this late hour, Your Highness. A message has arrived for you from Heimdallr. What would you have me do?
Really? All right. Come in.
Young Man's Voice: ...Pardon me.
Well, if it isn't Lechter.
I was wondering where you'd been. I haven't seen you all day.
I'd hoped to be able to come and see you earlier since you will be leaving tomorrow... I'm terribly sorry for not being able to.
Heh. Oh, never mind that.
If that work of yours is done, we could always enjoy some...sensual quality time together for the remainder of the night...
So, what was the message from the capital, Secretary?
They've acknowledged receipt of His Highness' message.
However, they didn't anticipate that you may be able to arrive all the way from Grancel in less than half a day... As such, they're currently in a minor panic trying to ensure everything's ready for the ceremony tomorrow.
That doesn't come as a surprise. There's nothing like the Arseille when it comes to speed at home.
*whine* How cruel you both are for so deftly ignoring my proposal!
Although, it sounds as though the stage will be set in time.
Now I need to decide on an outfit that will leave everyone's jaws on the floor to sweeten my arrival.
Perhaps a glistening coat and white loincloth will do the trick.
Haha. That'd make a grand impact, all right. I almost wish I could go along and see it for myself.
Please don't encourage him...
Heh. You show remarkable promise for one so young.
What do you say to coming back on the Arseille with me? I'd welcome your company. Your work here in Liberl is just about done as it is, isn't it?
Your offer's certainly tempting, but I'm afraid I have another job to take care of soon.
The thought is appreciated, of course.
Really? Well, that is a shame.
Good luck with that 'next job' of yours.
Thank you. Well, if you'll excuse me...
So, that is Second Secretary Lechter Arundel?
Is it safe to assume he's one of the chancellor's?
Almost definitely, yes.
He came through Haken Gate on foot and took up his new position at the embassy a month ago. And right around the same time we headed to the Liber Ark aboard the Arseille, at that.
There's no way that could possibly be coincidence.
...No, it couldn't.
The most likely possibility seems to be that he's part of the Intelligence Division. ...Are you sure not doing anything regarding him all this time was a good idea?
Oh, absolutely. We needed some way to find out what the chancellor was up to, after all.
We'll probably get some kind of reaction from the chancellor through his reports at some point.
Probably in about two weeks when the chancellor's tour has finished.
You'd planned that far ahead all along, had you?
Well, in that case, I'll be sure that we're ready.
I'll be counting on you, love.
Something the matter?
Not really. It's just that the moon has come out.
And what a beautiful full moon it is.
It's strange to think that this will be the last time we'll see the moon from here... Truth be told, I'm going to miss it.
Well, well! It looks like putting a smile on your face a little more often isn't the only thing Liberl's done for you--it's opened up your eyes to life's natural beauty as well.
But in all seriousness, we'll just have to do all we can to be able to come back and see it again one day. While we're both still alive.
The next morning...
Your Majesty, Your Highness, I humbly thank you both for your generous hospitality during my stay in your fine kingdom.
You were even gracious enough to humor my brazen request of escorting me back to Heimdallr aboard the Arseille.
This debt I owe you will be repaid many times over in the future. Rest assured of that.
Haha. Oh, you needn't think of this as anything we went out of our way for.
Escorting an honored state guest back home is a matter of course. Particularly a guest to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude.
If you ever have the opportunity, please do come back to Liberl again in the future. I imagine Estelle and Joshua will be back by then, too. So we'll all be able to give you a nice, warm welcome.
Haha. I'm already excited for my next visit.
Have they left the country yet, by the way?
They're busy getting ready to leave over in Rolent at the moment, I believe.
I'm planning to see them off when the time comes.
Incidentally, while the ruins of Hamel are currently sealed off, I'll do what I can on my end to ensure they are allowed inside. Could I trouble you to pass that along to them?
Certainly. Thank you very much, Your Highness.
Oh, think nothing of it. It's the least I could do after all they've done for me.
I owe you a great deal, too, Cassius. If not for your assistance, stopping that armored division from crossing into Liberl wouldn't have been as simple as it was.
Haha... I could say the same to you.
Still, as I'm sure you're aware, that outcome will have been well within the realm of possibility for the chancellor.
I doubt he was even surprised by the incident.
Most likely not...
Erebonia had nothing to gain from using that situation to occupy Liberl. Certainly not to the extent that it would be worth going out of their way to develop inefficient steam tanks.
The only reason I can see for him doing what he did...
...was as a show of power to surrounding nations. A statement that even without orbal power, Erebonia's army could still act.
I indeed suspect that was his true aim all along.
So you did notice.
The Orbal Shutdown Phenomenon was a complete unknown to the rest of the continent. Perhaps it might never occur again--but there's always the chance it might, whether it's here or somewhere else entirely.
I hear the Empire only built a relatively small number of those tanks in all, too. Certainly not enough to launch a full-scale invasion.
By the sounds of it, they were just put together in Reinford's factories using parts intended for standard orbal tanks.
But as it stands, the knowhow to put together tanks like that only exists in the Empire. And in these unpredictable times, no other nation has the time or resources to try and develop extremely inefficient steam-powered weaponry.
In a sense, because of what just happened, the Imperial Army's effect as a deterrent is even greater than ever.
He's using war as a diplomatic tool...and very effectively at that.
None of this had even occurred to me...
I have a long way to go before I'm fit to be the ruler of this country...
Don't beat yourself up too much about it. He's no ordinary foe to even the most hardened veterans.
The chancellor always seems to be thinking several steps ahead of the rest of the world. It's impressive, no matter what we may think of his actual ideas.
Heh. I'm quite the reckless fool to be trying to challenge him, if I do say so myself.
Don't be silly, Your Highness...
How you can say that with a smile on your face is utterly beyond me...
You should focus on building yourself a strong foothold to begin with.
I do hope you'll be careful. No matter what may occur, be sure not to lose sight of exactly where you stand.
...Of course, Your Majesty.
If I were to go and bring shame upon myself now, I'd be wasting all the effort involved in escorting me back home. I'll be sure to take what you said to heart.
Woman's Voice: E-Excuse me, Your Majesty!
Whatever is the matter? It's not often I see you so flustered.
My apologies, Your Majesty. It's just that a guest for you arrived all of a sudden at the castle...
Ordinarily, I would not have rushed in while you were meeting with others, but the visitor is so irregular that I thought you should know at once.
Irregular? How so?
Hmm... It sounds like it's about time I take my leave, then.
...the visitor said he would like to greet you as well, and not just Her Majesty.
Hilda. Just who is this visitor?
...he introduced himself as Chancellor Giliath Osborne of the Erebonian Empire.
-A Lurking Shadow in the Wilderness-
Ahh, it's an honor to be granted a personal audience. I am Giliath Osborne, representative of the Imperial government. My apologies for the abrupt intrusion.
This fellow's got an honest face. I like the cut of his jib.
So you are Chancellor Osborne...
And it's a pleasure to see you again as well, Your Highness.
It's been a year since we last met, has it not? I hope these passing months have seen you well.
...Yes, a year sounds about right.
Still, while I hope you'll forgive me for asking... just what did prompt someone of your stature to appear at the castle without warning? I'd very much like to hear your side of the story.
My apologies, Your Highness.
You see, these past few days, I've been touring eastern Erebonia on routine inspections.
It's been going very smoothly--more so than I had initially anticipated. I had enough free time in my schedule to pay a cordial visit.
Oh, my... Is that so?
Naturally, I would have preferred to come here while the crisis was still unfolding like you yourself did, Your Highness... Unfortunately, the confusion in southern Erebonia was simply too pressing a matter, and I have no choice but to deal with that first.
This was the first chance that presented itself to come here and meet directly with Her Majesty, so I acted with the utmost expediency. I hope you'll forgive my lack of decorum in failing to give advance notice of my arrival.
...That does make sense, at least.
Regardless, please don't concern yourself with me. No doubt you wish to offer your greetings to Her Majesty.
My thanks, Your Highness.
Well, then... Allow me to extend my most heartfelt greetings to both of you, Queen Alicia and Princess Klaudia.
It's abundantly clear that the crisis that unfolded here has been quite the ordeal for yourselves and for your nation's people.
You have my deepest sympathies for the hardships you have endured, as well as my commendation for bringing the situation under control.
I thank you for your kind words, Your Excellency.
If anything, we should be apologizing to you for the fact that the southern side of your nation was caught up in what should have been our problem. We should be the ones going to you, rather than having you trouble yourself to come all the way to Liberl.
I beg you to accept our apologies together with my deepest thanks for coming here today.
I would never ask for apologies; I've heard what happened was the work of a shadowy organization stirring up trouble within your borders. While I meant well by sending a military force to aid you, I wouldn't have done something so careless had I known the truth of the matter.
My actions were rash. Foolish, even, and I was rightfully reprimanded by His Imperial Majesty for them.
Fortunately, His Highness the Prince was able to act with all due haste to put right my misstep before even greater harm was done...
I owe you a great debt of gratitude for that, Your Highness.
And congratulations besides, for your part in bringing an end to the crisis.
Oh, I did nothing out of the ordinary.
I had a lot of help from Her Majesty, Her Highness, and Brigadier General Bright here, too.
Bright, you say?
...It's a pleasure to meet you, Your Excellency.
I am Cassius Bright, a brigadier general in the Liberlian Royal Army.
Haha. The pleasure is all mine, I assure you.
Your name is rather well known even in the Empire.
Not as much as yours is known here in Liberl, I would imagine. It's an honor to be able to speak with you in person.
It's certainly a surprise to be able to, though. Coming here on a whim can't have been easy for a man as busy as yourself.
It sounds as though I may have underestimated just how capable you truly are.
Not at all. I was greatly impressed to see the Royal Army's effectiveness in dealing with the tumult here. Your forces have proven powerful yet flexible, capable of dealing with emergencies ably and decisively.
I might go so far as to say it embodies an ideal that the Imperial Army, with its swollen ranks, could never hope to realize.
You flatter us, Your Excellency.
For your part, I hear you were responsible for the establishment of the Imperial Army's famed Intelligence Division. Our army is in desperate need of a new one of its own, so I find myself quite envious.
Haha... It sounds as though the two of us each want what the other has.
Haha. So it does!
...May I ask, Your Excellency, what will you be doing now?
For my part, I'm intending to leave Liberl today, so I'm afraid I won't be around much longer.
Yes, so I've been told.
I believe you're intending to make your grand arrival in Heimdallr aboard the famous Arseille?
I'm impressed you're already aware.
I almost wish I could return to Erebonia on board it alongside you...
...but alas, I'm afraid I have other business demanding my attention after I'm finished here. I'll be leaving Liberl separately this afternoon.
That is a shame... I would very much have liked to invite you to this evening's banquet.
Please, you need not trouble yourselves on my account. I feel as though I've put you out enough showing up unannounced as I did, to say nothing of dining with such esteemed company.
Still, I do have some time before the airship I'll be leaving on is due to depart... That being the case, might I ask for a little of your time, Your Highness?
I have a few things I'd like to discuss with you personally.
I have some matters I would actually like to discuss personally with you as well.
What a fortuitous coincidence.
Allow me to have a room arranged for the two of you to have your discussion, then.
Hilda, if you would?
Certainly, Your Majesty.
-The Castle At Dusk-
Ahh... It's obvious that Her Majesty is quite the tea fancier, if this blend is anything to go by. The fragrance, the temperature, the taste... I'd be hard-pressed to find fault with any of it.
I've always been more of a coffee man myself, but I have no doubt that I'd be content with a cup of this at my desk each morning.
...As much as I agree with you, I don't believe we're here to talk about beverages.
So, shall we get right to the point? What did you want to discuss with me?
I see your sojourn in Liberl has proven most fruitful.
When we last spoke, you struck me as a bright, flexible young man... and no doubt, you still are. But now, I see in you a resilient inner strength girding those aspects.
I'm sure His Majesty will be most delighted with your personal development.
Heh. Meanwhile, I see you're the same fearless man I've always known you to be.
More so, even. That crushing aura about you seems to have only grown with time.
It's as if you feed on the resentment of those who live in the territories you annex.
Haha. Such harsh words, Your Highness.
Personally, I prefer the term 'political unification.' 'Annex' can carry such...negative connotations, you know. Since the end of the Hundred Days War, our army hasn't committed a single act of aggression. All our unifications have been entirely peaceful.
Oh, you're quite right about that.
...On the surface.
It's amazing how similar the annexation process is every single time it happens.
It starts with a small nation or independent state with an array of problems beyond repair. Those problems start to worsen, after which jaegers and other dangerous elements enter, plunging public order to an all-time low...
Desperate for a solution, the local government requests the help of the Imperial Army. Before they know it, they're part of the Empire.
Well, it's not as though I can deny what you're saying. Each instance does share certain commonalities.
Still, it's to be expected--an inevitable consequence of the age of unchecked growth and progress in which we live. The Imperial Army is simply acting in the Empire's best interests, helping to stabilize our neighbors for the good of the Empire.
And it's understandable that they would.
I do find myself rather curious why Intelligence Division members are going to such nations with such peculiar frequency... Well before the problems I described worsen, no less.
Haha. I won't press as to where you came by such information, as curious as I am...
...but I will say this: at its most basic level, these actions are about risk management. It's because we've been acting to minimize such risks beforehand that the army has been able to successfully quell each problem in turn.
With the small price of earning the disdain of the people in those nations and an increased risk of terrorism in exchange.
To tell you the truth, I'm rather astounded that you had the courage to come here to Liberl all on your own to begin with. After all, you've earned yourself the biggest target for terrorists in all of Erebonia.
Haha. Your concern is touching, Your Highness.
I would ask that you not trouble yourself with my safety. I employ some very skilled subordinates tasked primarily with eliminating the risk of terrorist attacks against me.
That Lechter is one of those, I assume?
Haha. A rather peculiar fellow, isn't he? But a very useful one all the same. Working out the scheduling for this trip and taking all the necessary precautions to ward off terrorist threats were both his doing.
And thanks to his commendable efforts, I can depart for Crossbell free from worries as soon as I've finished my business here.
Are you surprised? I'll be participating in a top-secret discussion with a representative of the Crossbell government. Recently, a large amount of funding has been flowing into the country through Republican channels, putting our allies on the defensive.
I'd always meant to visit at some point, and this seemed the perfect opportunity.
A-Are you out of your mind?!
Crossbell is full of enemies and different factions at each other's throats! I hear it's now even a hotbed for terrorists and criminal organizations because of its position as a buffer state...
Does that really sound like a place the Erebonian chancellor should be going even on an unofficial visit?!
I'm surprised to hear you advocating caution in the face of potential danger, Your Highness. After all, it was you who flew onto an ancient city--at great risk to your own safety--and returned unharmed after surveying it.
Compared to such rousing risk-taking, my visit to Crossbell will be child's play.
As I'm sure you're aware, you're regarded as something of a hero back in Erebonia now. Ah, to see a hero make a grand return befitting his newly-minted legend...and aboard the famous Arseille, no less. Naturally, our hero has also taken the time to ensure that every well-known newspaper and magazine are aware of his homecoming, too...
Oh, I have no doubts that your triumphant arrival will be every bit as glorious as it has played out in your imaginings, Your Highness.
Haha. Do be sure to capitalize on this chance as best you can to build yourself a firm foothold.
I expect great things from you, after all.
You haven't changed a bit, huh?
Scree scree scree. Screeeee. Scree scree.
Really? Sounds like a ton's happened, huh?
But it's nice to see you and your master are doing all right.
Girl's Voice: ...Lechter?
Well, well. Good day to you, Your Highness.
I pray I'm not causing any trouble by taking a tour of the castle like this.
The view from this terrace certainly is beautiful, isn't it?
What happened to you, Lechter?
How did you end up working for Chancellor Osborne?
Hmm? I'm sorry. I haven't the faintest idea what you mean.
Are you perchance mistaking me for someone else?
Your name is Lechter Arundel. You were the Student Council President at Jenis Royal Academy, which you attended before leaving suddenly two years ago.
So no. I am not mistaking you for someone else.
Ah, but that's where you're wrong! Because my name is actually Lech Terarundel.
I can certainly see how our names could become mixed up, however. They ARE scarily close.
Still, now you know. Please, just call me Lech.
Don't try and joke around with me, Lechter!
Do you have any idea how worried all of us were when you just disappeared without a word?! You submitted your notice to leave the academy and then were never seen again!
Even the otherwise calm Leo let out a cry of anger when he found out! And all Lucy could do was give a sad smile and say, 'This is just like him,' the whole time with tears in her eyes!
They'd finally crafted a foolproof plan to kill him, and he ups and vanishes from under their noses.
Jill and Hans were heartbroken. And so was I! Yet after all that...
After all this time, you finally show yourself, knowing full well that I'm here, and THIS is how you act? By pretending you're someone else?
Sorry, sorry. No need for the scary glare.
You're still taking things way too seriously. Looks like it'll take more than stepping up as crown princess to change that part of you.
But you know? Seeing you makes me feel kinda relieved.
I always figured if someone like you became crown princess, you'd have virtually no freedom to do anything other than work. But from all that's reached my ears, it sounds like you're actually doing all right for yourself.
And you even made some great new friends after I left the academy, didn't you? Nice!
I sure did.
Nonetheless, it's thanks to you that I was able to change at all. You were the one who gave me the first push in the right direction. I never got the chance to thank you properly after you left... but all this time, I've always been grateful to you.
Well, consider me honored.
Do I get a kiss in return?
You do not.
I may feel respect towards you, but nothing romantic.
Aww. That's a bummer.
There was me, all taken in by how pretty you'd become, wondering if this could be the start of something downright magical...
...and what happens instead? My dreams of romance and sweet smooches are crushed to nothing before they can even begin.
Heehee. I know you don't mean a word of that, you know.
You're looking very sharp yourself, though. It's surprising to see. Every time I've seen you before today, it was in that heavily-frayed uniform worn in the most sloppy way imaginable.
I think you'll find I was merely making a fashion statement!
That wasn't laziness or slobbishness! Every part of it was carefully calculated and considered to have maximum effect.
...The scary thing is, I actually believe you. You always seemed as if you cared for nothing but having fun and causing trouble, yet when it came down to it, you were wise beyond your years.
And I've finally seen part of the reason behind that today.
I'll ask you again, Lechter...
How did you end up working for Chancellor Osborne like this? Just what happened to you between you submitting your notice to leave the academy and now?
-The Castle At Dusk-
Do you, now?
Haha. I have to admit, I never imagined that would be the case.
On the contrary, I was expecting you to tell me to back off.
Oh, Aidios forbid. What reason would I have to suggest such a thing?
After all, at the end of the day, our positions are functionally the same.
I'm not sure I understand.
Do you not think so? Personally, I find it difficult to believe that you would not harbor some hatred toward Erebonia as it is today. A grand empire clinging to the glories of a bygone era--ruled by the nobility and shackled by meaningless conventions.
Am I wrong?
People call me the Blood and Iron Chancellor as though I hold the whole of Erebonia in the palm of my hand... but in reality, my position is far more tenuous.
I have supporters and allies in the capital, certainly, but outside its walls, the nobility holds far more sway than any of them. And while it IS true I hold a great amount of power in the form of the Imperial Army, even then, I only truly command about 70% of it. The remainder is loyal to the nobility, who also maintain their own private armies. With those factored in, my 'advantage' shrinks substantially.
So you see, I'm still very much in the midst of a battle to truly exert control.
Which is why you're building railways all over the country to expand your area of influence... and you've been annexing new territory to that same end.
As I've long thought, you clearly understand me better than anyone else.
That is why I'll say this once again: work with me, Your Highness. With your support, our nation will be able to bring about real reform faster than ever. The Noble Faction, bloated with its centuries of decadence, can be stopped before they even have the chance to unify against us.
Surely that's what you desire more than anything.
Let me just ask a simple question, Chancellor. What connection do you have with Ouroboros?
Hmm... I'm afraid I'm not quite sure what you're asking.
I WILL say this, however: I'm a firm believer in using every resource at my disposal in the name of achieving reform. That's the way I believe in handling politics.
I see... Well, it certainly does seem as though we would see eye to eye in many ways.
And that's all the more reason why I am afraid I must refuse your offer.
Is that so?
Yes, I find it difficult to like the rotten Noble Faction that exists in the Empire... Or...perhaps you're right that 'hate' is the more appropriate word.
But my feelings of fear towards your methods are far greater than my feelings of hatred towards the nobles.
What you seem to be doing is trying to compel Erebonians with a delusive utopia--to whip them into an enthusiastic frenzy. No doubt by successfully convincing the people, the old guard will fall into the metaphorical firestorm created...
...and yet by then, the gears will have already begun turning; there will be no satisfying a roused populace with a thirst for revolution. The storm will just keep growing larger and more ravenous, engulfing anything and everything in its wake...
You know this, don't you, Chancellor?
But of course!
After all, that's what I intend to happen. It's the first stage of my reforms.
I'd be more than happy to share further details with you if you decide to work with me, Your Highness.
In the meantime, I wish you well in strengthening your foothold back in the Empire. Of course, if that's your intention, you'll find it a necessity to work with those nobles you so despise.
Heh. You truly do see through everything, don't you?
Well, that sounds like the noon bell. The airship should be arriving shortly.
Which means it's time for me to take my leave, I'm afraid.
I look forward to seeing you again in the capital in two weeks' time.
I take it the discussion is over, then?
What's wrong? You look awfully tired...
I'm just feeling awed anew at what a monster I decided to pick a fight with.
Oopsie. I think it's probably about time for the airship to arrive.
I'm gonna have to stop you there and get going.
See ya, Sieg.
Next time I see you, I'll bring you some Erebonian salami as a souvenir, okay?
W-Wait! Are you planning to just disappear without telling me anything a second time?!
Oh. Got an important question for you. Did you fall in love with someone while I was away?
Hit the nail on the head, huh?
Aww! That's so cute! First love, right? How's that feel? Heart all aflutter one minute, end of the world the next?
Don't you dare start teasing me!
But you're right, though. I did.
He rejected me in this very spot not that long ago.
Wait. You're joking, right? There's a coincidence I DIDN'T see coming!
Heehee. I'm not so sure about that.
It feels like you know everything sometimes.
Heh. I'm not some kind of all-knowing, all-seeing divinity.
That's what makes the world so interesting to me.
...I'm happy for you, Kloe. Knowing the pain of lost love's what makes a girl blossom, in my humble opinion.
Do you feel like the whole experience let you get a step closer to the person you want to be?
What about you? Do you feel you're getting closer to becoming the person that you want to be? By being at the chancellor's side?
Kinda hard to do that when I don't have a 'person I want to be' to begin with. I'm just stickin' with him because it feels like it'll be fun. That's all.
I've been doing it since before I joined the academy, in fact.
That prince is proving surprisingly capable, but he still isn't a match for the chancellor.
Tell him to watch his back, all right?
So that he doesn't get swallowed up by that monster after he gets tired of dancing.
Woman's Voice: Thank you all for waiting. The Calabria international airliner, bound for the Principality of Remiferia, will be departing momentarily. Please mind your footing when boarding.
S-So that was the Blood and Iron Chancellor...
I can't believe he actually went out of his way to use a civilian airship when he probably has a private one of his own.
I'd heard rumors about how out of the ordinary he is, but he lives up to all of them.
Haha... He keeps me on my toes, to put it playfully enough.
Him aside, thanks for coming all this way to see me off, Schera.
I was lucky I just happened to have business here at the right time.
It feels like this is going to be the last chance we get to see one another for a while, after all.
Rather unfortunate, as my dream is and always was to live away my days in the lap of luxury surrounded by women as beautiful as you.
*sigh* Well, good luck with that.
Changing the subject, though...who was the young man at the chancellor's side? He didn't strike me as your ordinary guy...
Oh? You could tell?
But of course.
I'd say I'm used to running into people who are out of the ordinary at this point. We've sure fought enough of them.
His name's Lechter Arundel. He's a secretary who was sent here by the Imperial government.
Apparently, he was the one who planned out all the details of the chancellor's visit to Liberl.
I can't pretend to know much regarding his background, but he's exceptionally skilled at what he does.
...I know a little.
Is that true?
Klaudia explained that Lechter once attended the same academy as her and had served as its Student Council president. She also mentioned about his sudden disappearance after the academy festival two years ago.
Someone connected to the chancellor had visited Liberl first?
Then he's very likely to have had his own veritable information network established here long before I even came up with the idea.
I think it's safe for us to assume that's the case.
Which also means that it's safe for us to assume he knows every detail about all that's happened here since.
From the coup d'etat to the crisis regarding the Aureole... All of it.
This man gets more unbelievable by the minute...
He actually gave me a message to pass on to you earlier, too.
'Watch your back, so you don't get swallowed up by that monster when you get tired of dancing.'
He sure knows how to sting where it hurts, doesn't he?
Haha. I feel like I can see a whole new world of pleasure opening up before my eyes.
He should know better. Getting outdone at every turn like this is really not my style.
What do you mean?
I have a little favor I'd like to ask for when we're in the air...
-The Final Choice-
Yet another of The 3rd's very best tracks(there's kind of a lot).
Haha. I'm rather impressed with how Prince Olivert has come along.
No matter how he chooses to act from here on, he will have his uses, to be certain.
...You would say that, given that you think of everyone as your pawns.
There's me, the prince, that society...
Indeed. And I am much the same.
We are but pawns on the vast game board that is the Empire, where a thrill like no other will take place.
But it's because you, too, wish to see how that game plays out that you've chosen to stand with me, is it not?
Well, hey. What can I say?
Just don't forget that this piece right here might not be loyal forever.
And such a betrayal would be perfectly fine by me.
Or did you honestly think I'd never considered the possibility it may happen?
Just thought I'd come out and say it.
How're the other Ironbloods doing, by the way?
They're all doing very well, by the sound of it. At the rate things are going, there's a chance all of the prince's efforts will be for naught.
Perhaps I ought to hold back on him a little.
Ugh. You don't pull any punches, do you?
...You know something?
I wouldn't write him off so easily if I were in your shoes.
These look like...
Woman's Voice: If you look out the windows on the right-hand side of the ship, you will be able to see the famous high-speed cruiser, the Arseille. We've been informed that it is on its way to the Imperial capital with Prince Olivert of the Erebonian Empire on board... but he has also given us a message to relay to all of the passengers on board today. 'I give thanks to Aidios for the good fortune to have been able to meet you today. May your journey be filled with beautiful roses and Her blessings... And, of course, may your journey to your homes be a safe and pleasant one.' That marks the end of his message.
I never thought there was a bigger dumbass in this world than me...and yet here we are.
Very well then, debaucherous prince!
I look forward to seeing what you can do!
Show me how long you can hold out against me!
Side Story [Return to the Empire] finished!
Received Divine Eye.
Received 7,000 mira.
And to top off that excellent door, you get the best quartz in the game.
Just look at all that! Damn! It does carry the Scent penalty--it's a stink eye--but you've suddenly got a bajillion slots you can more easily spare for Haze or Yin-Yang.
Divine Eye also makes it much, much easier to unlock the new AoE space arts, so it's a godsend for the fifth plane in particular. I put this door off a bit because plot was happening, but you can and should knock it out the second you reach it.