BBYW Vol. 2 Chapter 1 (WN)
CHAPTER 1 – Every Country has its Fools
【POV: Lars Baal, first prince of the Baal empire】
How could this be happening?
I was supposed to walk on a path of triumph and glory.
I was supposed to inherit my father’s throne, to see the empire’s flags wave all over the continent, to be remembered in the history books a thousand years from now, as the unifier emperor.
In these last 10 years, however, my life has turned upside down.
Ten years ago, my father issued a certain decree.
『The seat of the next emperor shall be inherited by who, among my sons, annihilates one enemy country first.』
After the decree, I set out to conquer the Lamperouge kingdom, located to the west of the empire. Three war campaigns of wide scope — all ended in failure.
Seven years ago, we attacked the mountainous area to the north of Lamperouge. The mountain corps serving Margrave Utgard succeeded in separating our troops and forced us to retreat.
Five years ago, we attacked the eastern border with Lamperouge. Our ambush strategy was discovered by the enemy, the forces of Margrave Maxwell, which even took the lives of my closest retainers, the “Twin Wings”.
Two years ago, we commanded a fleet of 100 vessels to attack the kingdom from the south, but before we could even reach our destination, Draco Omari, infamous pirate commander of the southern seas, sank more than half of our ships.
Failure after failure occurred, as if the gods themselves had abandoned us. The military power at my command greatly diminished, as the nobles and merchants supporting me left as well.
A life destined to be bathed in glory, thrown into the mud. Not one day passes in court without someone pointing fingers and laughing.
As custom dictates, the imperial seat should go to the emperor’s firstborn — to me. So I pleaded, time and time again, but my aging father would not listen to my just arguments.
Then, just as I started harboring the desire to kill a father deaf to my pleas…
That same father, Emperor Baal XV, departed from this world.
“I am the true legitimate successor to the throne! It is the firstborn’s duty to follow in the father’s footsteps!!”
“You must be joking, dear brother. Wasn’t your mother a concubine? The successor should be born from the first wife — as I am!”
The imperial round table conference.
In theory, an official meeting attended by the emperor and dozens of his retainers, to discuss the empire’s policies and prospects. That time, however, only six people were present: the three imperial princes and three retainers. The emperor, normally the fulcrum of the conference, was nowhere to be seen.
Which was simply natural: the conference had been held in order to decide the deceased emperor’s successor.
“Nonsense! How could a spineless wretch like you ever be emperor!?”
I slammed my fists on the round table and shouted at my shameless younger brother.
Grett Baal, the second imperial prince.
In stark contrast with me, shaped by the martial training I received, Grett had the flimsy appearance of a tree twig, about to snap at any time. His sunken, dark eyes expressed clearly his despicable, twisted personality. Just having to talk to him made me sick to my stomach.
The empire was founded on military prowess: traditionally, the emperor was always someone who excelled in the art of war. In no way could a spineless toad like Grett have any chance of becoming emperor, but his position as firstborn son of the late emperor’s first wife threatened my rights of succession.
“Oh my, that is certainly not what I expected to hear from you dear brother, commander of three failed invasions on that puny kingdom of Lamperouge. I believe “spineless” is an adjective that describes you better, is it not?”
“What did you say!?”
“That I have never failed so spectacularly as you, dear brother. As you surely recall, I have successfully thwarted the incursions of the nomad tribes from the north, have I not? My service to the empire clearly shows I am more than fitting to ascend to the throne.”
My anger was reaching a boiling point. How exhilarating would it have been to snap his neck, there and then?
“Hey, you two fight all you want, but aren’t you forgetting I’m here too?”
The clownish tone of the interjection came from the last candidate to the throne.
The third imperial prince, Cerros Baal.
My youngest brother, who just turned 20 years old, was for some reason wearing a “chang pao”, a type of clothing worn by the tribes of the east.
His attitude, and even more so his feet on the table, showed that he did not have a shred of respect for his older brothers, or even his late father.
“Where do you think you are, Cerros!? It is the sacred imperial round table you are sullying with your feet! Stop at once!!”
“Aw, come on, why so serious? His Majesty the Emperor isn’t with us anyway, kind of removes the whole point of the conference, no?”
“How sad for such a man to draw, even in part, the emperor’s blood…in the end, there is no one more fitting than I to inherit the throne.”
Cerros laughed irreverently, as Grett again voiced his brazen disrespect. My irritation at my younger brothers’ behavior grew more and more.
I was going to shout them back in line, but Cerros spoke first.
“Aaanyway, big bro Lars, you did lose to Lamperouge three times, didn’t you? And Grett too has all those civil riots happening in his domain. Neither of you sounds like emperor material, if ya ask me. But hey, I haven’t fought against anyone in these ten years, so it’s not like I’m too different!”
Cerros followed his criticism of us with self-deprecation, then cackled lazily.
“Hmph, I have to admit that Cerros has a point. Someone who cannot even quell a riot in their own territory cannot possibly be fit to be emperor!”
Grett had conducted the military campaigns against the Samel nomads of the north without committing any grave mistakes, and had even built a 1000 km long wall to prevent further aggression from the north. In order to accomplish such a large-scale endeavor, however, the people of his territories had been subject to heavy taxation, which had led to multiple civil insurrections.
“Oh goodness, are you talking about the peons’ riots? As soon as the rebels are caught and hanged, the riots will be quelled. Just like weeds in the garden, I can either burn it or feed it to the cattle, that is all there is to it.”
“The people are the very foundation of the empire! Our father said so, too!”
“Hah! You have some nerve to say that, after all the deaths your failed campaigns caused!”
I continued arguing with Grett. Cerros showed little to no interest towards the throne, so Grett was my only true rival.
(If only I could get rid of him, I would become the emperor…!)
Our discussion grew more and more heated — until Cerros uttered the words “the more you two fight, the better my position gets, y’know?”.
In the end, the imperial round table conference was adjourned without any clear decision concerning the successor.
“Infuriating, the whole lot of them!!”
After leaving the conference chambers, I walked across the imperial palace, brimming with indignation. How could they not realize who they should truly serve? Who is truly fitting to be the next emperor?
The foolishness of my two younger brothers is nothing new: what I could not comprehend is the reason why their subordinates chose to continue to serve them.
“I will be the next emperor! Those who stand in my way will…!!”
I could not say the words out loud, but my resolve was firm.
(I will be the emperor…anyone who dares stand in my way will die…!!)
As I once again steeled my resolve, one of my retainers approached me.
“Lord Lars, may I have a word?”
“…what is it, Snowe?”
The man who had come closer and whispered into my ear was Snowe Halphas, younger brother of one of my past retainers, Eis Halphas.
“I believe the only way for Milord to become emperor is to fulfill the late emperor’s words, to conquer Lamperouge. If you succeed, most if not all nobles and vassals will see you in a new light and come back, begging for your forgiveness.”
“Hmph, I know that well enough…”
It was painful to admit, but after failing thrice against Lamperouge, I had also lost any concrete vision of conquering that kingdom. I did not have the slightest idea of what plan or strategy could lead me to victory.
“I have a plan, Milord. As you may have heard, Dyngir Maxwell, firstborn of Margrave Maxwell of the eastern provinces, recently had his fiancee snatched away by a member of the royal family…”
Snowe uttered the name of my fated rival, a man I loathed as much as Grett.
“I have, I have, what of it?”
“Please, allow me to explain further. Actually…”
Snowe whispered the rest of the plan. I was enlightened: it sounded like a masterfully crafted strategy to my ears.
“I see, I see, to use Rossellia, hmm…that is a good idea.”
“It is, is it not, Milord?”
“Have it put into action immediately! But do make sure Grett learns nothing of it!!”
“As you wish, Milord!!”
For the first time in a while, I felt my mood soar. I could already picture Grett’s expression, twisted by humiliation, when he hears of my plan’s success…
“If my little sister has to be sacrificed for me to become emperor… then so be it.”