A gathering of the late Emperor’s allies was quickly decided upon. With Ophelia in control of the Imperial Palace, Carlisle had to return to his position as quickly as possible. The time for them to fight back had to happen soon, and the situation would change drastically depending on whether Carlisle could gain control of the Imperial Palace, or if Ophelia was able to install Redfield as emperor first.
Several of Carlisle’s key allies began to arrive at the prepared meeting place. The gathering was of utmost secrecy, and information was kept on tight lockdown to prevent any leaks.
Finally, everyone arrived. Carlisle stepped into the room, followed by Elena at his side, her long golden hair flowing behind her.
“Hail to the Crown Prince. Eternal glory to the Ruford Empire.”
The voices of the nobles rang together in a quiet but strong chorus. Carlisle made his way to the front of the room with his usual stately gait. Ever since the death of Emperor Sullivan, he was now in the highest position of the Ruford Empire, and had to carry himself as such. Lord Smith from the Casey family spoke first.
“We are relieved to see that you are safe, Your Highness. You had been missing, and we worried that—”
But Smith’s words did not last long. He stopped speaking when he saw someone else enter the room right after Carlisle and Elena. The crowd’s eyes widened at the newcomer and they began to murmur amongst themselves.
The man who entered was Evans, the head of the Krauss family. He was not wearing a robe like everyone else, and his white hair was completely on display. Anyone could recognize him at a glance.
“Why is Count Krauss here…?”
“Has he decided to support the Crown Prince?”
There was a great range of opinions among the nobles about Evans’ intentions at the meeting. Carlisle lifted his hand in the air, and the curious murmuring died down.
“The Krauss family has decided to lend their strength to me.”
The faces of all the nobles suddenly turned into a mixture of surprise and glee. Never had anyone been able to secure the support of the Krauss family. If it was true that he would lend his power to Carlisle, the chances of winning the throne had grown exponentially. All the nobles began to speak out at the same time.
“Congratulations, Your Majesty.”
If Krauss was on their side, they were more than happy to prematurely celebrated Carlisle’s ascension to the throne.
Meanwhile, Elena watched the scene in satisfaction as morale amongst their allies increased. Although she had bet on Evans, she had doubts that he would throw his support to them. To her incredible surprise, however, Evans contacted her after their meeting, stating his endorsement for Carlisle. She didn’t know what caused him to make the decision, but she would not question the result.
Elena’s and Evans’ eyes met in midair, and Elena gave a slight nod of approval. Lord Smith of the Casey family spoke again.
“We have nothing to worry about now, Your Highness. If we gather the soldiers we have and combine it with the strength of the Krauss family, we’ll be free to invade the palace.”
Presently, all the Imperial Palace soldiers were under the control of Empress Ophelia. Even with Carlisle’s leadership, it would not be easy to break through the palace. With Krauss’ support, however, the task was more than possible.The other nobles did not know it, but Elena also had a sizable amount of funds to hire a mercenary army.
Carlisle spoke in reply.
“I have given much thought to it.”
There were sure to be many casualties if Carlisle attempted to return to the palace and Ophelia’s forces confronted him directly. However, inside the Crown Prince’s palace were Carlisle’s people. They only listened to Ophelia’s orders because she was in charge, but they would side with Carlisle once they knew he was there. If after all that Carlisle ended up being overwhelmed by Ophelia’s forces, however, then it would be a devastating loss.
Carlisle and Elena had numerous conversations on how to tackle the problem, and they finally decided on a plan. Carlisle glanced at her, and she unfolded a large sheet paper in her hands.
The paper was long enough to reach the ground when it was fully unfolded. Elena turned to addressed the room.
“This is a map of the Crown Prince’s palace.”
With a practiced gesture, she hung the map on a pole and spoke to the room in a commanding voice.
“The sections I’ve marked here with a red cross are the channels that run into the Imperial Palace grounds.”
The palace had a water system that flowed into several rivers, and some were deep enough for humans to dive in. They were the perfect passages to sneak inside. It would be difficult to go unnoticed, but about a dozen men could infiltrate the passages, provided that the Imperial soldiers were sufficiently distracted by a battle.
“While the main troops fight at the entrance to the Imperial Palace, a select few elite soldiers will infiltrate the palace via the water system. The aim is to release the soldiers inside the Crown Prince’s palace.”
A noble who had been silently listening spoke up.
“If we fail, won’t there be many casualties? We should use this strategy in a battle where we have a better chance of winning.”
“He’s right. It may be better to just focus all our best forces to penetrate the entrance from the front.”
Elena had been anticipating this question, and she gave the answer she prepared beforehand.
“Of course. But how we win is just as important. If we lose too many soldiers in the process of reclaiming the throne, we would be at a great disadvantage.”
Ophelia may only be thinking of crowning Redfield as emperor, but if the fight became so big that both sides lose…Paveluc was waiting in the wings to strike. Elena’s red eyes darkened.
‘If at any time Caril’s forces are vulnerable, Paveluc would swoop in at the opportunity.’
Elena had already lived one lifetime, and knew Paveluc’s ambitions for the throne better than anyone else. Carlisle was also on heightened alert after hearing of Elena’s previous life. While it was urgent to defeat Ophelia in front of them, they also had to take Paveluc’s involvement into consideration.
“There are more soldiers in the Crown Prince’s palace than you think. If we free them, it will save us more time and lives than simply focusing on breaking through the outside.”
The doubt began to fade from the nobles’ expressions and they began to nod their agreement to the plan. There was nothing incorrect about what Elena said.
“I am in favor of Her Highness.”
Surprisingly, the first to offer Elena their words of support was Evans. He continued on in a decisive tone.
“I didn’t expect this kind of operation, but it’s well-conceived. If we succeed, it will be a great victory.”
Bolstered by Evans’ endorsement, the nobles began to murmur their approval of Elena’s plan. Carlisle missed his moment when he was supposed to speak, but his eyes shone with pride for his wife.
With the approval of the majority, it was decided that they would attempt to infiltrate the Crown Prince’s palace. Elena began to lay out the details of the mission.
“Let’s begin by the number of troops each family can contribute.”
And so, Elena began leading the strategic meeting with the Ruford nobles. She did not realize it, but she had slipped easily into the same role as a knight in her last life. Despite her slight, unintimidating appearance, the nobles watched in respectable awe of Elena’s presence.