Only select individuals could enter the Royal Palace of Gabelin. Located in the heart of the world, yet isolated at the same time. No ordinary guards were posted at the palace—only the Arc Royale. And the Royal Palace had now turned into a fierce battlefield.
“Stop them! Do not let them get to the Emperor!”
“I will not let you pass while I still breathe!”
Inspiring awe, authority, and fear with their fanaticism, the Arc Royale was truly fit to be the Royal Family’s sword. Enraged by the sudden ambush, they roared and began a counterattack. But they all fell before they could utilize their powerful swordsmanship.
“Emperor, you must leave this place!”
The Hall of Eternity, where the previous Emperors once sat and discussed new policies with his advisors. The Emperor had visited this now-unused hall out of nostalgia for the days of old glory, now that the development of communication technology had made it obsolete. He sat, drinking wine alone.
And just as the Emperor sat on its ancestral throne and looked back at the past was when the event occurred.
Silently, the enemy assassinated all the Arc Royale that were guarding the Emperor’s family.
By the time everyone realised what had happened, all the members of the Royal Family except the Emperor had already fallen into the enemy’s hands.
The Arc Royale called out in alarm and rallied the surviving members, but it wasn’t enough.
The strange weapons these ambushers used slaughtered members of Arc Royale, leaving most to empty, pathetic deaths before they could demonstrate the fruits of their training—a training so brutal that many were injured or killed in the process.
The Arc Royale were pushed back until they made their final line of defence in the Hall of Eternity. They pleaded with the Emperor, who sat still on its throne.
But even before the Emperor could make his decision, a loud explosion blew away the barricaded door. The ambushers revealed themselves and bombarded the Arc Royale with arrows as they struggled to regroup from the blast.
The captain of Arc Royale bit his lip and drew his sword, shouting,
“We will die with you, Emperor!”
Just as the Emperor looked apathetically at the captain’s sword swinging down on the Emperor’s heart, a shadow snuck up at the captain’s side and kicked away the sword. The shadow then grabbed the arm and vaulted over him, twisting his arm.
“Kuack! You trai…”
The captain screamed as his shoulder blade shattered. Before he could cry out and curse, a rain of arrows quickly turned him into a pincushion.
“Phew! That was close.”
Reisha let out a sigh of relief, and the Emperor spoke to her.
“Is that the crossbow that used Isaac’s prototype as a reference?”
“Pretty good right? After using this, we didn’t see the point in pursuing firearms so stubbornly. It’s still not enough for long range sniping, but it’s very effective in close and mid-quarters combat, just as you saw.”
“I dread at the notion of even thinking about the cost of these arrows..”
“I was told that it will only be marginally more expensive than bullets once we begin mass production.”
“That’s a relief. Where is the Director of Surveillance?”
“She’ll be here soon.”
Just as Reisha finished, the Surveillance agents who were cleaning up the hall quickly righted their postures and moved away from the door, where the Director of Surveillance entered.
The Emperor asked a question the moment she appeared.
“How is my family?”
“Everyone is safe.”
“And the Arc Royale?”
“Everyone on the list is dead. We’ve also eliminated everyone not on the list who were suspected to be a part. Those hidden by Arc Royale are currently being searched for.”
“Have we finally undone the shackle? It’s been too long.”
The Emperor let out a sigh of relief and relaxed the tension in his body. He then looked down and frowned at the corpse of the captain, who had tried to kill him.
“Why did he try to kill me? Wasn’t I the only one left if my entire family is in Surveillance’s hands?”
“Because there’s still Ismael.”
The Emperor clicked his tongue at the Director of Surveillance’s answer.
“They really have no answer. Rather than be disgraced by losing a member of the Royal Family to the enemy, they’d defend their honour through death instead? I guess this is just the kind of gimmick that the undying witch would come up with.”
-Oh dear, that’s disappointing for me to hear then, especially when I’ve put so much thought into that.
A voice echoed in the hall as if answering the Emperor’s mumbling. The Emperor and Director of Surveillance flinched and quickly turned to their surroundings, while Reisha and agents quickly formed a protective circle around the two.
Then one of the hall’s walls opened up, revealing a giant monitor and the Queen.
“Shit! Just what did you do to the Royal Palace?”
The Emperor complained, and the Queen smiled as she answered.
-Because I am that undying old witch that took part in the construction of this palace from the beginning.
“And an old spinster.”
A blood vessel popped on the Queen’s forehead at the Director’s comment, but she maintained her smile.
-Hohoho. I see you’ve grown a lot?
“But I’m still much younger than you. Although everything else is much bigger.”
The Director of Surveillance posed, highlighting her breasts, waist, and hips. The smile on the Queen’s face grew more menacing.
-… Hmph! We can talk about that another time. But why did you kill all the Arc Royale? Weren’t they supposed to be the last shield protecting the Emperor?
“What a joke. They were not shields but daggers hanging right by my throat. Ready to kill me at a moment’s notice.”
-Hm, was it too obvious? But I didn’t do it on purpose. The Arc Royale were my earliest creations and I’ve just left them to be because I was too busy. Although, I did ignore how they changed because I thought it’ll be useful.
“… I find myself pathetic that I can’t even get mad hearing this.”
The Emperor sighed deeply. It was the Emperor’s ancestors who willingly gave away their lives to someone else. Although Arc Royale served the royal family with their lives, there was a technicality.
The object of the Arc Royale’s loyalty was to the Royal Family, not the Emperor.
Therefore, if there was a simultaneous attack on the Royal Family and the Emperor, the Arc Royale would move to assist whoever had a higher chance of survival.
‘Who becomes the Emperor is of no concern. Our objective is the survival and protection of the Royal Family.’ That was Arc Royale’s ultimate goal. Therefore, the Emperor was in greater danger by being under their protection.
A simultaneous attack on the Emperor and Royal Family. But, the attack on the Royal Family was a feint, and the main attack was on the Emperor. But the Arc Royale cared not about such a tactical situation and only considered who had a higher chance of survival from the attack.
So reinforcements would concentrate on the Royal Family. The opposite is also true.
The Arc Royale’s captain had drawn his sword against the Emperor without a moment of hesitation, all so he would not suffer disgrace.
Anyone who knew Arc Royale well could pull their strings with a little effort.
And it was the Queen who controlled the mental state of Arc Royale.
This was the most significant reason as to why the Emperor couldn’t act boldly—why he forfeited many of his rights to the Queen, why he resorted to petty schemes and blackmail to topple her.
The opportunity to change the situation was, funnily enough, provided by the Queen herself when she forced the reveal of many technologies.
The Queen insisted on the reveal despite a large pushback from the Grand Council, weakening their formerly close relations.
While the Emperor was thinking about how he could use this to his advantage, the Directorate of Surveillance approached him with an offer to assist in ending the Arc Royale. The Emperor accepted without a moment’s hesitation.
Whatever the Directorate of Surveillance had in mind, undoing the shackle on his neck was the Emperor’s first priority.
So the Emperor handed over a register of all Arc Royale members, their patrol schedules, security protocols, and even departed far away from his family, waiting for Surveillance to move in the Hall of Eternity.
The result was great success. Although the single moment of peril chilled his spine, he was at least alive. And the Arc Royale was no more. Without this shackle, the Emperor no longer had to think twice about acting against the Queen.
-But why did the Directorate of Surveillance join in? Didn’t we agree that we needed that final method to shackle the Emperor?
“Because we grew concerned that the final method might be used without our approval.”
Crocodile tears crawled down the Queen’s face.
-That’s harsh. I did plan to kill him, but only on the last stage—not at this moment.
“So you were going to kill me!”
The Emperor shouted out, and the Queen answered, greatly annoyed.
-But you’re alive now, so it’s fine. If you’re a man, don’t be so petty about small things.
The Emperor gulped, stupefied by the sheer audacity. The Queen ignored him and continued complaining.
-But honestly, isn’t this a bit extreme? Even if my adamacy did create a rift between our relations, how could you act without a word to me when I’m doing this for our benefit? Tsk! Maybe I should just tell everything.
The Director of Surveillance flinched, and the Queen snickered at the adorable naivety.
-But you know. Do you really think eliminating Arc Royale was so important that leaving the Mr. Isaac that you care so much about alone was okay?
“What do you mean by that?”
-What do I mean? I don’t have a habit of taking complete losses. It’s a trade. I need Mr. Isaac to do his part from now.
“… What have you done!”
The Director of Surveillance demanded, and the Queen waved her hands, feigning total innocence.
-I swear, I didn’t plan this myself. I did help, but it was very, very small stuff. Like helping avoid the Directorate of Surveillance’s eyes, disrupting information chains, delaying incoming orders, and delaying an urgent report that needed to go to the Director of Surveillance for a brief moment… Small stuff like that.
The Director of Surveillance looked back furiously at the Queen’s sarcastic deflection. From the way she talked, she obviously had full control of the situation; not even the Directorate of Surveillance was free from the Queen’s influence.
-Thanks to the Directorate of Surveillance making such a top secret operation within the palace, both the Strategy and Analysis are already on their way here. It’ll be a while before you finish cleaning up. So why don’t we sit and admire the monster as he lets loose its fury. I doubt you’ll be able to calm him so easily like last time. I can just see how angry Mr. Isaac is. If anything, I’ll see you then in the next regular meeting at the Grand Council. And please do attend. How could a Director be absent so many times; that is severe negligence on your part.
The Queen waved and disappeared from the screen, and the Director of Surveillance’s face crumbled.
She was toyed with from start to finish. Everything was happening within the palm of her hands.
The Director of Surveillance’s fists quivered, her eyes shining like lights. The Emperor and agents of Surveillance slowly retreated from the Hall of Eternity.
With a fearsome roar, mana crystallized directly upwards to stab at the sky, shattering the Hall’s roof.
“No, the Hall of Eternity, its history and traditions…”
The Emperor, who hastened his escape the moment he left the hall, arrived at the gardens just in time to witness the roof of the Hall of Eternity crumble.. He squirmed painfully with his hands around his head.
“Aha! Now this is what you call collateral damage!”
“No that’s not!”
The Emperor shouted at the agents of Surveillance, who formed small groups in the gardens as they laughed.