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Loyal to the Position

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"And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my dying day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!"
The Vicar of Bray

Suppose that we live in The Good Kingdom. Our wise king hires a treasurer — to mint coins, balance the Kingdom's budget, raise revenue, borrow funds cheaply, and all of the other Boring, but Practical essentials of keeping the Kingdom running. Our treasurer does an exemplary job.

Then The Usurper comes, murders the king, and converts our kingdom into The Empire, with the requisite torture chambers, Gladiator Games, and all that. The Usurper realizes, though, that in addition to torturers, he still needs a treasurer — and no one has proven himself more capable than the old treasurer from his predecessor's days, so the treasurer stays on, and continues minting coins, accounting for funds, and all that.

Eventually, La Résistance overthrows The Empire, and introducing democracy and creating The Federation. Elections are held, delegates are sent to the parliament, a president is elected — and someone still needs to run the treasury. Who is better qualified to handle the shaky finances of the newborn federation than the experienced elder statesman who served the old king and the usurper, our old treasurer? The treasurer holds onto his job, as always, and continues doing an excellent job of keeping finances in order.

A character who is Loyal to the Position is adept at surviving Regime Change with position intact. It is possible that he is simply very adaptable, or possible that he has Ultimate Job Security or Vetinari Job Security. This character is not necessarily The Quisling, or lacking principles. It is possible that the Position Loyalist regards himself as above the fray of factionalism, and would describe himself as "loyal to the kingdom, not the king." He might regard keeping the practical aspects of the state functioning as far more constructive and beneficial to the populace than involving himself with factional loyalties — and he could be right.

Then again, it could be that he's just an opportunist or The Quisling who fights for what he perceives to be the strongest side, and even if he doesn't start out that way, it's possible that the character Loyal To The Position will cross serious moral boundaries — if not a Moral Event Horizon — thanks to loyalty. If being a dutiful treasurer means signing the checks to cover the costs of building death camps, however, then a character Loyal to the Position who does that can easily become Obliviously Evil.

The lower in the hierarchy of government you go, the more likely members of the old regime are to continue into the new regime. At the bottom, an ordinary postal worker or accountant will almost always hold onto the old job. At the top, the head of government pretty much must change by definition for it to be a regime change. The question lies in the middle and near-top of the hierarchy — the directors, assistant secretaries, deputy ministers, colonels, and other fairly high-ranking personnel. These usually change, but the Position Loyalist is distinguished by his ability to hold on to these positions in spite of such changes.

Such a character will often (but not always) be Lawful Neutral.

Compare Professional Butt-Kisser. Related to I Fight for the Strongest Side!, Just Following Orders, and My Country, Right or Wrong.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Inverted in K - Clansmen seem to be loyal to their Kings specifically, not to the position. In the prequel novels, when Reisi Munakata Awakened as the Blue King, several members of the old Blue King's Clan didn't want to follow him and ended up causing him trouble. Likewise, when the Gold King dies, his Clan disbands.
    • Inverted the most with Kuroh Yatogami, a Clansman to the late Colorless King, who sent Kuroh to find and kill his successor, should the successor turn out to be evil.
    • Played somewhat straight with the Red Clan, who follow their new King after their old one dies - more of an aversion, though since Anna had been one of the previous King's closest Clansmen.

    Comic Books 
  • Gladiator of the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard in Marvel Comics. He serves the ruler of the Shi'ar Empire, whether that's D'Ken, Lilandra or Deathbird. Eventually, Vulcan proves too much for him, and following Vulcan's death, he reluctantly takes the role of Emperor himself.
  • Tintin: The San Theodoros's military officers from Tintin and the Picaros seem content to serve whoever is the head of the state. After remorselessly trying to kill Alcazar, Tintin and the others on Tapioca's orders in the first half of the book, they cheer and congratulate Alcazar after the latter deposes Tapioca and is more than happy to follow Alcazar's orders and help the others stop Thompson and Thomson's execution and free Castafiore from the life imprisonment decided during Tapioca's regime.
  • Gateway, an Aborigine who appeared in X-Men. He spent most of his time in quiet meditation, but he also had the power to open portals, and would do so for anyone who requested it, no questions asked.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Demolition Man, Dr. Cocteau's assistant blindly serves whoever's in charge.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Thor, Heimdall says he's this, but when Loki takes command momentarily, he shows he is actually loyal to Asgard, not just to whoever is in charge (although he sticks to the letter of his new ruler's orders until the betrayals become unsubtle).
      • He does this against the true king Odin in the sequel too. Odin instructs Heimdall to warn Odin of any attempts at treason that he uncovers, as he can see everything. He's well aware of Thor's plans to disobey Odin and confronts the gang on the matter and they explain. Heimdall then goes to Odin to alert Odin of the plot of treason, specifically his own... which is enough to distract Odin while the heroes get away.
    • In Black Panther, the Dora Milaje are sworn to serve the king of Wakanda, whoever that may be. As a result, they agree to follow Killmonger after he seems to have killed T'Challa in ritual combat. However, when T'Challa is revealed to still be alive, thereby leaving the challenge for the throne unresolved, Killmonger's refusal to finish the fight honorably causes them to reassert their loyalty to T'Challa.

  • In the Discworld series:
    • In Pyramids, High Priest Dios has always served whoever is currently the Pharaoh. Always. Played with in that he's been doing it so long he knows what orders the Pharaoh is "supposed" to give, and follows those "orders" regardless of what the guy behind the golden mask has to say about it. He's loyal to his own idea of the Pharaoh.
    • In Night Watch:
      • A number of people are mentioned as being turned out on the replacement of Lord Winder with Lord Snapcase (including the food taster), but the change affects the servants very little, as someone is always needed who knows where the brooms are kept.
      • Mr. Slant the zombie lawyer, who is in some cases an antagonist and more helpful in others (having been a lawyer for so long, he is closer to True Neutral than most others).
    • In Jingo, Commander Vimes (aided by a prompt from Vetinari) copes with a temporary regime change that elevates Lord Rust to Patrician, when he realises his oath of loyalty as a Watchman is not to any named ruler - but to the abstract concept of maintaining the peace. This gives him freedom of action and enables him to maintain and protect the Peace on a big scale - by arresting an entire battlefield for Breach Of The Peace and averting a war.
  • In Dragon Bones Oreg is this, though not by choice. He is bound by magic to serve whoever holds the title of "Hurogmeten" at the time. The title is inherited, but for heirs, Klingon Promotion is a valid means of inheriting it earlier. The ring that signifies who "owns" Oreg at the time is subject only to its own magic, political decisions made by other people have nothing to do with it - and it cannot be taken off, which is why Ward gets it even though his uncle will rule in his place until he is of age.
  • Valharik, the captain of the guard in Melnibone, upon Yyrkoon's taking of power in the first novel of The Elric Saga, betrayed his mistress Cymoril, Elric's Love Interest, and took her to her tower. He cut down one of his own men who tried to defend her against Yyrkoon, and on Yyrkoon's orders, he fed the poor guy to Cymoril's slaves. When Elric takes back the Ruby Throne from Yyrkoon, Valharik explains that he serves the Ruby Throne, no matter who sits upon it. Needless to say, Elric doesn't buy this, and in a truly ruthless move, he sentences Valharik to execution, with his flesh to be fed to Yyrkoon at the feast that Elric plans to hold.
  • Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter books. First she very thoroughly implements the policies of a Minister of Magic who is in utter denial regarding the resurrection of Voldemort. When we meet her again a few books later, she works for Voldemort! A less clear-cut example than most on this page, however, since she's so sadistic that it's highly likely she's in it more for the abuse of power than the job in itself. Also Voldemort set up a puppet regime rather than outright announce his conquest, giving Umbridge some degree of plausible deniability. Either way, once Voldemort's been killed and overthrown, the resistance aren't very understanding of the crimes she committed under the regime. Word of God says they threw the book at her but good.
  • Judge Dee: Judges are moved to a different position in a different province every few years, to avoid complacency and corruption settling in.
  • Darkness Series: The Jelgavan tort... Enhanced Interrogation Specialist is an example. He shows up working for the puppet Algarven government when Talsu is tricked into admitting to wanting to start an underground movement to free Jelgava from Algarven control. Asked how he could side with his country's enemies, the interrogator simply replied that he's just doing the job he's always done and serving the kingdom. Later, when Jelgava is freed and the rightful king restored, Talsu is again arrested and meets THE SAME interrogator who smugly points out that just because the regime changed didn't mean his job was any less necessary to protect the kingdom. Ironically, when Talsu's connections cause the nation of Kuusan to demand his release, the interrogator finds this despicable and derisively wishes Talsu a "happy life" in exile.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Order of Maesters are prime examples. A Maester, a kind of scholar-monk trained in several academic skills and disciplines, is assigned to the household of a majority of the Seven Kingdoms' nobility to serve as advisors. This they do with extreme devotion. Even if a castle should be taken over by a new ruler, the Maester will continue to serve that new ruler as competently as the old. This provides them a measure of safety, as attackers will almost always ignore the Maester while purging the household. There are instances where nobles will play their cards close to the chest around their Maesters when they descend from a current enemy, but within the series no Maester has betrayed their assigned house in favor of blood ties.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Yes, Minister:
    • In the show, and Real Life in the United Kingdom, this is the designated role of the Permanent Secretary.
    • Sir Humphrey says that he (and the entire civil service) is loyal to his minister regardless of party or competence. Although in practice he is loyal more to the civil service than anything else.
      Sir Humphrey: My job is to carry out government policy.
      Jim Hacker: Even if you think it is wrong?
      Sir Humphrey: Well, almost all government policy is wrong, but... frightfully well carried out.
    • In fact, it's almost an inversion, where the partisan elected officials end up doing whatever the nonpartisan civil service wants them to.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Odo served the Cardassians and the Bajorans, not necessarily out of a loyalty to them but out of a desire to keep order. This actually made Starfleet Command uncomfortable and they sent Eddington to run security alongside Odo, something Odo enjoys rubbing in their face.
    • There's also a minor, subverted example early on when Gul Dukat shows up in the employ of the new and theoretically democratic Cardassian government despite being a rather notorious figure in the previous regime. He claims he is a loyal officer of the armed forces and took an oath to serve the legitimate Cardassian government, whoever that government might happen to be, but it's patently obvious that his motives were rather more self-serving.
  • Leverage: In the season 1 finale the entire plan depended on Sterling being one of these. Sterling always fell somewhere between Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist and Punch-Clock Villain, unlike his boss, Ian, who was a Corrupt Corporate Executive. Once the team jeopardized Ian's position in the company, Sterling betrayed him in a heartbeat. STERLING NEVER LOSES.
  • Doctor Who, "The Invasion of Time": On Gallifrey, the Vardans invade and take over. Castellan Kelner serves the Vardans. The Vardans are replaced by the Sontarans. Kelner obeys the Sontarans without missing a beat.
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, there was Finster, Rita's alchemist who was in charge of creating monsters. Although he seemed to have more loyalty to Rita than to anyone else, he seemed willing to take orders from almost any of the villains, including Lord Zedd, Master Vile, and even Goldar; the only one he refused to obey was Rita's brother Rito when Rita put him in charge for a day, informing him that he served only Zedd and Rita. (Finster didn't even seem to be truly evil, really; he was more like a Punch-Clock Villain. The Soul of the Dragon comic eventually revealed he was purified by Zordon's wave at the end of "In Space" and became an ally of the Rangers afterward.)
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Varys is probably the best example, holding his position as Master of Whispers (i.e. The Spymaster) under the Targaryens, the Baratheons, the Lannisters, and then the Targaryens—well, a Targaryen, not that there are many left—again. This last one is a break from the usual pattern, as Danaerys is not the "official" regime (not yet, anyway), although from his perspective he was always acting according to what he understands to be the "good of the Realm"—and, given that he knows everything from his spy network, he has a good sense of what's good for the Realm.
    • Petyr Baelish also sticks through the transitions, serving as Master of Coin (i.e. the royal treasurer) under multiple regimes, until he decides it's prudent to get the hell out of Dodge, but in his case, it's more naked self-serving ambition than loyalty to anything.
    • The Maesters are assigned to a castle and are sworn to offer loyal service to their lords, even when the castle changes hands. When Theon seizes control of Winterfell, Maester Luwin insists that he'll continue to loyally serve the new regime, and does (if not especially enthusiastically). Grand Maester Pycelle counseled Aerys Targaryen, then Robert Baratheon, then Joffrey, then Tommen, even through the wildest excesses of Cersei's regency.
    • The Kingsguard is expected to guard the king, no matter who he is or how he came to the throne. After King Aerys the Mad had the throne taken from him by Robert in a bloody civil war, Jaime Lannister is reviled as an oathbreaker, while Barristan Selmy is respected as a good and honorable knight. The reason being that Jaime sided with Robert's rebellion by killing Aerys (a truly horrific king), while Barristan stayed loyal to Aerys until the end. Despite this, both of them remain in their positions under the new regime. Ironically, Selmy eventually wonders if Jaime had been right all along.
    • Aeron Greyjoy doesn't seem to favor any of the candidates in the Kingsmoot. Be it before or afterwards, he is only there to conduct the election and serve whoever is elected.
  • In Servant of the People, Vasiliy inherits two employees from the outgoing president who simply keep doing their job: a secretary and a bodyguard. The latter is in fact so loyal to his job, that when Vasiliy fires him, he loses all sense of purpose in life, and once hired back, resumes doing his job as if nothing happened.
  • House of the Dragon: After the death of King Viserys, Otto Hightower begins the motions to put his grandson Aegon in power and commands the Kingsguard's leader Harrold Westerling to murder Rhaenyra and her family to avoid potential rivals to the throne. A disgusted Westerling reminds him that his duty is to follow and guard the king, not the wannabe kingmakers on the Small Council, so please call him when a king is crowned.

  • The song "The Vicar of Bray," about an English priest who switches denomination to match that of the current king during the turmoil of the seventeenth century. While no real figure quite fits the song, it is representative of how Britain's church establishment reacted to changes in the monarch's religion.
    Religion & Mythology 
  • The second of the Books of Samuel brings us Ahithophel, a man so renowned for his counsel that it was as if someone sought the advice of God himself. He was Counselor to David but when Absalom usurped David and forced him to flee, Ahithophel remained behind to act as counselor to Absalom. David prayed to God to bring Ahithophel's counsel to ruin. Eventually Absalom ignores a single piece of advice from Ahithophel and this alone pushes Ahithophel over the edge.
    Video Games 
  • In the Heroes of Might and Magic series, Castle Stewards are this by definition - they swear allegiance to the castle, not the lord, so if the castle gets conquered, they'll fight to protect it from the next would-be conqueror who comes along - even if it's the guy who originally hired him.
  • Charon, the ghoul bodyguard from Fallout 3, is brainwashed to loyally serve whomever holds his contract. When you first encounter him, his current boss is Ahzrukhal, but if you do a certain job for Ahzrukhal, he'll give you the contract as payment. When you inform Charon that he works for you now, he politely excuses himself for a moment to go blast Ahzrukhal in two with his shotgun. Most likely the only reason he hadn't done so already is that his brainwashing made him incapable of deliberately harming the holder of his contract, no matter how much he might want to.
  • Discussed and taken to the logical conclusion in Metal Gear Solid 3. The Boss lectures Snake on needing to be loyal to the President, no matter who the President is or who the enemy is. He assures her of his loyalty, which is great because it turns out the Boss has turned traitor and he has to kill her. By the end of the game, we learn that the Boss was actually so loyal to her country, she was willing to give up her child, her husband, her heroic reputation, and her very life in order to serve her country.
  • Pikmin: Captain Olimar believes that the Pikmin that they will loyally follow anyone who pulls them out of the ground.
  • Dragon Age: The games have a few examples:
    • In Dragon Age II, Hawke encounters Seneschal Bran, an Obstructive Bureaucrat who works for the Viscount of Kirkwall. It doesn't matter who that happens to be or even if that person exists at all, he is loyal to the Viscount of Kirkwall — and something of a Jerkass to almost everyone else.
    • A sidequest in Dragon Age: Inquisition has the Inquisitor encounter a group called the Blades of Hessarian and learn of the rules by which anyone may challenge the current leader for his position in a Duel to the Death. As it turns out, the current leader has been making the Blades — normally a sort of religious militia — raid the Storm Coast like bandits, and most of the Blades hate the guy, but they keep following him because nobody has succeeded in ousting him through a formal challenge. The Inquisitor can do so and become the new leader, whereupon the Blades promptly swear their loyalty.
  • In the backstory of Bioshock, this was Suchong's whole deal. Originally he worked with Frank Fontaine to engineer plasmids and experiment with ADAM. But once Andrew Ryan killed Fontaine and assimilated his business empire into his own, Suchong had no qualms whatsoever with jumping ship to Ryan's company to do exactly the same thing he did for Frank. In his backstory, he was a Korean doctor who dealt opium on the side. When the Japanese forces killed every member of his village, he was left alive because he happily offered to extend his services to the new occupying force.
    "Fontaine is dead. Bad for Fontaine. Good for Suchong."
  • In City of Heroes, Ghost Widow is bound to the material plane by her loyalty to Arachnos as an organization. As long as the organization exists in some form, she cannot be permanently banished. This doesn't mean she's loyal to anyone specific in the organization. In fact, she's often treated as a borderline Anti-Villain who openly dislikes her Co-Dragons Captain Mako and Black Scorpion and only pays lip service to Lord Recluse himself.
  • Yes, Your Grace: According to one of the dialog options that shows up during a discussion about Eryk's heir, Audry is expected to be the advisor to whoever sits on the Davern throne. It doesn't keep him from wanting to see Eryk's family line continue.
  • In Mortal Kombat X, Ermac was created by magic to be the bodyguard of whoever holds the title of Kahn of Outworld. This was originally Shao, then later Kitana, Kotal, and Mileena.
  • In the fantasy game Nocturne In Yellow, one of the bosses you fight in the haunted mansion is Domovoi, a household spirit. He's not really a bad guy, and in fact he hates the current residents of the mansion for killing the previous owners—but since he must serve the master of the mansion, he has no choice but to fight you.
  • In King of the Castle, it doesn't matter if the King lives out their reign in peace or tyranny, or if they are toppled by a usurper from one of the other regions; if you continue a Dynasty, the Chancellor, Marshal, Spymaster, and Treasurer will act in the same capacities for the new King as they did for the old one. And again after the new King's reign ends, and again, and...


    Web Original 
  • In Kickassia, Fritz Von Baugh, Minister of Keeping Things Orderly, appears to be this way as first, but it soon becomes clear he's trying to stir up resentment towards The Nostalgia Critic so he'll be overthrown.
  • Invoked in Fen Quest: The oath of a Field Marshal entails loyalty not to the gold noble who appointed them, but to the gold title, which implies not just succession but also the right and duties of the gold noble.
    I, (name), swear to serve the gold title of (region). I will enforce the will of the gold title on all lesser kobolds, nobles or commoners, throughout the region, by all available means.

    Western Animation 
  • Obsidian and Strika in Beast Machines don't particularly care what Megatron is up to; they simply serve whoever rules Cybertron, and when Megatron is apparently destroyed, they seriously consider siding with the Maximals. Thrust calls them out on this, arguing that if they're loyal to everybody, can they truly be loyal to anybody?
    • This comes up a decent amount among the baddies of the Transformers franchise. Should The Starscream succeed in taking over, there will be many who will then unquestioningly follow their orders. Should their old boss come back, they will go back to serving them. An example would be Soundwave from Transformers: Prime.
  • A curious inversion happens in the original ThunderCats. Mumm-Ra is a servant of four evil entities called the Ancient Spirits of Evil and gains his powers from them. However, as Snarf discovered, these four beings will grant the same powers to anyone who enters the burial chamber and requests it. (Possibly they have a weird sense of humor or are capable of outright betrayal, but then, they are evil.)
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch, set during the transition from the Republic to the Empire, portrays most (but not all) Clone Troopers as this. They have a Restraining Bolt, of course, but some of them (not just the Bad Batch, whose Restraining Bolts don't work right) have disobeyed when ordered to opress the people they'd previously been ordered to protect, which suggests that the ones who don't have never even thought of doing so.

    Real Life 
  • This is standard practice in any functioning democracy. Leaders, and even the political party in control, change regularly, and every government employee (including the entire bureaucracy and the military) are expected to serve the new administration loyally and professionally, even if it's a leader they don't happen to like. Were it not so, the entire government would have to be rebuilt after every election - which actually happens in the United States, the only major country which doesn't have such a system.
    • To an extent. The new President generally replaces all of the Cabinet secretaries and a couple ranks below them, but the rest of the government bureaucracy stays in place. Before the civil service reforms of the late 19th century, it was common for government positions (especially those with a good opportunity for bribery, like tax collectors or customs inspectors) to be handed out to party loyalists, who would be abruptly replaced whenever the Presidency changed parties. Since this caused the federal government to partially shut down after each election, it was decided that such positions should be filled by career professionals selected for aptitude and competency, without loyalty to any particular president, though some people don't quite understand that. That being said, it is true that there are more political appointees in American government than in its peer countries; American political appointments can go four or five levels down into the hierarchy, while in other countries all but the top layer or two are typically career civil servants.
    • The so-called "Deep state" conspiracy theory alleges that this is not the case: That thousands of government bureaucrats and officials at all levels are ideologically loyal and will actively work against the interests of the government of the day. Or for their interests beyond all legal bounds, depending on who is telling the story.
  • A good Real Life example was the French statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord. He was a bishop under Louis XVI, held various posts in the governments of the French revolutionary period from 1789, was Napoléon Bonaparte's Foreign Minister, and was then brought back to be Foreign Minister after 1815 when Napoleon had been defeated and the Bourbon monarchs had returned. He is famously quoted as saying: "Regimes may fall and fail, but I do not." He achieved this by making sure he always backed the stronger side, even when this involved blatantly betraying his current employer. Napoleon once called him "shit in silk stockings," probably after they had a political split over the Peninsular War. He wasn't as bad as all that, and he was quite talented, which just as much as his flexible principles is why everybody kept hiring him as senior staff. He got a worsened rap in England through no fault of his own after The Scarlet Pimpernel got popular—the series has a really nasty villain based on him. He was, however, responsible for his reputation for deviousness in the United States after making some offensively tall demands (including one for a particularly hefty bribe for him personally) of some top American diplomats in what became known as the XYZ Affair.
  • Anastas Mikoyan,note  a Soviet public servant and politician who started his career under Lenin, survived Stalinism from beginning to end, went through Khruschev's reforms and survived a coup against him and finished his career under Leonid Brezhnev. There was even a saying about him: From Ilyich (Lenin) to Ilyich (Brezhnev) without cardiac arrest and paralysis (От Ильича до Ильича без инфаркта и паралича) (Ot Ilyicha do Ilyicha bez infarkta i paralicha). It helps that he was always more of a technocrat working the essential state functions (and focusing on delivering quality-of-life improvements to Soviet citizensnote ), leaving the politicking to the others, and, being an Armenian, he was a display case of the Soviet Union's self-professed internationalism and multiculturalism.
  • In China's Three Kingdoms period, Chen Deng was known for serving Tao Qian, then Liu Bei, then Lu Bu, then Cao Cao. Yes, some people think that four unrelated rulers indicates Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. But there's another way of looking at it: he first served Governor Tao Qian of Xu, then his successor Governor Liu Bei of Xu, then the unreliable Lu Bu (who had seized control of Xu), and finally Cao Cao, who ruled multiple provinces (and conquered Xu). As a bonus, his father Chen Gui also served with him — and, before the four, Chen Gui served the Han Empire (which, naturally, included Xu!).
  • This is one of the reasons that the Varangian Guard were so effective. Unlike the Praetorian Guards of the Roman Empire (who were historically responsible for far more than one Bodyguard Betrayal), their loyalty lay to the throne of the Emperor, not the Emperor themselves, helped by the fact that they were foreign and thus had no political allegiances within the Empire. They would kill anyone who attempted to assassinate him, but if an assassin did manage to kill the Emperor they would immediately kneel before the assassin and declare them Emperor. They also assisted in at least one coup while the Emperor was away, cementing that their loyalty lay to the position of the Emperor, not the person who held office.

Alternative Title(s): Position Loyalist, Eternal Civil Servant