Welcome to a new chapter of Imperial Struggle, the story of the young Emperor Marco, and the struggles he has with his new imperial position. Imperial Struggle is my first web novel, so any feedback is welcomed. This is chapter 20, so if you want to read from the beginning please click here
It was evening.
Even though this was a long and eventful day, the day was not over. Somewhere in the palace, in a small courtyard Marco and Argento were face to face within a small ring. Both of them were wearing black clothes, barefoot on the ground and they were holding swords in their hands. On the sidelines, Qat and Escarte were having a small bet, while Scilla was supervising the fight.
This was an usual practice in the Seven Hills group. Each day, the mercenaries would hold friendly duels, to hone their skills against the more experienced members. This was an activity thought by Marco and Arthur, an activity that their were doing since before the inception of the group, since when they were kids.
“You were very brave today, Argento” Marco teased. “Did you enjoy smashing the guard's face? Couldn’t you be a little more gentle? You know, those are my Imperial Guards you were facing.”
“Oh, so you were rooting for them? He, he, little Marco, you became cheeky since you became Emperor. It’s time for a lesson!” Argento laughed and launched an attack.
“Teaching me a lesson? Are you sure I’m the one who’s cheeky, Argento?” Marco easily avoided the sword of Argento. “When was the last time you defeated me?”
“Ten moves” on the sidelines Qat placed his bet.
“Eight” Escarte said and placed his money.
“Put me in for five” Scilla voice could be heard as well.
Hearing these numbers, Argento immediately complained.
“You bastards, that much trust you have in me? And Scilla, only five, seriously?”
Argento know what these numbers mean. The numbers of moves that Marco would make to defeat him. In the whole Seven Hills, only Arthur, Scilla and the first two Swords would be able to put up a good fight against him.
“Argento be careful, I’m starting to attack” Marco warned.
As soon as he said these words he used a quick footwork move to approach Argento, who immediately raised his word to block the hit. But contrary to his expectation, Marco changed his direction and instead of attacking from the right, the sword slashed from the left.
Argento had little time to block the hit, only to feel a strong pain on the right side, directly in the liver. Marco used his left hand to hold the sword, while giving a strong punch with the right. Argento couldn’t withhold the pain and took a knee while holding his right side with the hand.
Three moves, that’s what it took to make one of the Seven Swords to kneel. Three moves.
“You improved, once again, Your Majesty.” Argento mumbled through pain.
“Come on Argento, don’t hold a grudge. Since we were kids, you were never able to defeat me.” Marco laughed while helping Argento to rise up.
Both of them went to a small table, where some refreshments were placed. Argento took a seat down, massaging his right side, while Marco took a cup of wine, looking at the other three Swords.
“Who’s next?” he asked.
But before someone could answer, a servant entered the courtyard.
“Your Highness, pardon my intrusion, prince Gustavo is asking for a private audience.”
Marco looked surprised and the servant. Then, with a big smile on his face, he said:
“Invite him here, please”
The servant bowed and left the courtyard.
“What do you think he wants?” Scilla asked.
“He will probably want to throw his weight around, thinking he will force me to name him Prime Minister or Commander of the Imperial Army.” Marco said.
Soon Gustavo entered the small training courtyard, with a visible disgusted look on his face. Not saying a word, he took a seat and helped himself with a cup of wine.
“Not greeting your Emperor, you sure are bold. ” Scilla said with a fierce look in his eye.
“Shut up, you damn peasant!” Gustavo barked at him.”I normal circumstances, you wouldn’t have the right to sit next to me. Hmpf!”
“Wherever he was the right to talk or sit next to you right now, it’s not your choice, my dear brother.” Marco intervened. “Can you tell me the reason of this late night visit? I don’t think it’s a social visit.”
“I want to talk about the position of the Prime Minister.” Gustavo open the subject. “You know that nobody is more deserving than me to get that position. Tomorrow de Sar will make the proposal and I want you to choose me”.
“But I don’t want you as my Prime Minister. Let’s not forget that our relationship is not that great Gustavo. Deserving? You thought that as well about the Emperor seat, and father chose me for it. I need a Prime Minister that I could trust. And I can’t say that I can trust you” Marco replied.
“Marco, be a good little boy and don’t make trouble. How would you pick as a Prime Minister? Armando? He is weak. He lived in father’s shadow for so many years that he doesn’t have any power. You don’t have any power. Do you think the Emperor can do anything in this Empire without the help of the nobles? If you don’t have the nobles at your side, you will fall down.”
Marco looked at his brother, thinking about something. He rose up from his seat and said.
“Let’s spar a little bit. You interrupted my sparring session and I want it to continue. Scilla give him your sword.”
“What? I didn’t come here for games” Gustavo said irritated by the proposal.
“Oh, but this isn’t a game. Come one. It was your favorite activity to do when I was a kid. You used to beat the hell out of me and Mario in this kind of sparring sessions. It was your idea of fun back in the day.” Marco said. “If you want to even consider your proposal, you will get in the ring. Show me what you got after all these years”.
As he said this Marco entered in the ring. Scilla extended his training sword to Gustavo, who entered the ring as well after a few moments.
“You know, I never understood why did you hate us so much. Me, Mario and Maria” Marco said while taking his stance. “Was it because our mother was not a noble?”
“I never hated you, but you needed to be thought your place. You were always too arrogant. Especially you. Since you were a kid, you were always trouble. And father never punished you all the stupid things you were doing. So I took your punishment in my own hands.” Gustavo took his stance as well.
Short exchanges started between them, both of them testing the waters.
“Why do you listen so much do that de Sar guy?” Marco asked. “Can’t you see that he is trouble for the Empire and the Imperial family? Do you really think he wants your wellbeing? He wants only power. Look at what he is doing in the south.”
“The Marquis is a good friend. He only wants the best for the Empire. The south needs a strong hand to lead it and he is the man that can do it.The de Sar family was always loyal to the Empire.” Gustavo replied while parrying an attack from Marco.
“You are only blinded by your own greed to power. If you don’t see it, then I think you are already lost in Marquis de Sar schemes.” Marco said with an angry tone.
On the sidelines, the four Swords were debating how long this bout will take, making their usual bets. Marco hears them and said to them:
“Put me up for one”
After he said this he gripped the hilt of the sword with both hands and launched an attack over Gustavo.
Gustavo raised his sword to protect himself, but the sword flew from his hands from the power of the blow.
“You lose” Marco said. “Now get lost from my sight. Never try suppress me, my dear brother. I will not be a puppet Emperor for nobody. Go and said that to de Sar as well.I play only by my rules. Now go!”
Gustavo rose from the dirt and left the courtyard with an ugly look on his face.
“Wasn’t that a little bit too much?” Scilla asked “This could mean trouble in the Council”.
“Let it be. It would happen eventually. Now let’s continue. Qat, you’re next”. Marco said while taking his stance.
It was quite some time since i've posted a chapter for **Imperial Struggle**. But the vacation is over so we are back on track with the goal of at least three chapters a week. Things are starting to develop in the story and soon the snowball effect will be in place. Please let me know what do you think about this chapter.
Imperial Struggle is an original story written directly on Steemit. Follow @sstefan for the next chapter.