There are not many things I know.
What the Count and Miredei have researched, what His Highness and Lilia have told me, and what I have thought about myself again.
Those gaps are being filled in with imaginations that would be too embarrassing to call them deductions.
It’s also full of holes.
There’s no evidence to begin with, and it’s not like I’m still looking for the killer. I don’t even know where the end is.
Still, I’m probably the only one who can get there.
It was a baseless confidence, but I stood up straighter. A flutter is sometimes necessary.
His Majesty said and turned his body towards me, sitting across the aisle on the left side of the not-so-wide aisle, diagonally behind me in his seat.
I remained seated and turned towards His Majesty.
The fact that we are across the aisle, not next to each other or back and forth, is a gesture for the noblewoman.
His Majesty does not forget to treat me as a married lady, even when I am young.
His Eminence Shion didn’t have an ounce of that in his head, perhaps.
Either he was too preoccupied with Lilia, or I was too young to be thought of as such an person at all…Maybe it was both.
“Well, where to begin…I always thought a day like this would come, but it’s kind of strange when it actually happens.”
His Majesty seemed to be in a very good mood. He was a manic-depressive person, but considering the tone of his voice, he seemed to be in a somewhat manic state at the moment.
“Did you make a prediction?”
“No, not a prediction, but a hope. I thought it was time for me to end it.”
With an unnatural cheerfulness, His Majesty says,
“I just didn’t expect it to be you who pulled back the curtain. That would make sense to me if it were you now, but since it was impossible for you in the past…I thought only the Crown Prince would be able to do that.”
Indeed, I fully agree that it would have been impossible for me to do in the past.
“Yulia would never do anything against my will, and the Divisional Commander (***Second Prince Alfred) didn’t even notice. Alienor…would turn a blind eye to that, and the Archbishop (***His Eminence Shion) ran away.”
I suppose it means that no other person could have given an opinion to His Majesty.
“The Crown Prince…is the a man who could kill me if he wanted to defend his country.”
I knew that it was true, but I didn’t show my agreement. His Highness Nigel is a very kind man to me. As an egoist, that’s all I need to forgive him for anything.
I don’t need the kindness that’s given to anyone.
“That’s why I was waiting for the day when he would hand me over and become king.”
His Majesty smiles softly.
I had never seen this man make such an expression.
“His Highness never wanted to do that. He didn’t even want to be the Crown Prince…”
“Maybe so…but people do change, Thia.”
“But His Highness’ own happiness is not on the throne.”
I was a little disgusted, so I stated it once and for all.
“…Oh. So where is the happiness in that one then?”
It would be great if I could say, ‘next to me,’ but I don’t have a thick enough skin to say such a thing unabashedly.
“……It’s a library.”
My answer blew His Majesty’s mind.
“Maybe that’s true. After all, he was a bookworm from an early age… The tutors who were attached to him all said that he would go down in history as a scholar. And that was fine, both me and Yulia thought so.”
“…That was His Highness’ dream.”
His Highness loves history.
His subjects of research are “Ruins of the Lost Civilization” and “Arsei Ney.
Even that one intelligence agent, Lilia, doesn’t seem to know about it, but His Highness knows quite a bit about Ney.
It was partly because of Dardinia’s close ties to Ney, but most of all, it was the Lost Civilization, which was far more advanced than the present before the Unified Empire, that grabbed His Highness’s attention. Recent research seemed to suggest that Ney was the heir to that lost civilization, but His Highness took the hypothesis a step further.
The royal palace in Dardinia was not only designed and directed by Ney, but is also a rare building built using technology from a lost civilization, and there are many traces of Ney left in the country, making it easy to study.
For those who study Ney, this Dardinia is a sacred place, and it must be a sacred place for His Highness as well.
Before he graduated from university, His Royal Highness was in charge of the research team for the Royal Palace and studied its construction techniques.
His Highness speaks very eloquently when he talks about this kind of thing. He was very eloquent when he talked about this kind of thing, though in a completely different way than he usually does.
His talk was interesting, but I was more than happy to be in the company of His Highness, whose eyes were sparkling with lively enthusiasm.
His Highness dreamed of becoming a researcher at the university…and once dreamed of having my mother next to him, if allowed.
His Majesty took a small gasp.
It was the first time I had ever seen His Majesty upset.
Somewhat laid-back and unworldly, His Majesty is not often surprised by anything.
“…That’s an impossible story, isn’t it?”
A bittersweet smile.
I choose my words carefully and cut in further.
“…The Duke of Elzevert had a woman he had been with for many years and already had several children. I heard that it was a terrible scandal at the time. There were those who said that the princess was not a suitable bride for him.”
“The first thing that comes to mind is that there is a concubine. It’s not a big deal for a nobleman like that to have a side concubine or two. But the Duke didn’t even show any signs of separating to marry the princess, and gave the concubine a detached mansion on the property without a care in the world.”
It’s an insult to the royal family, and the sound of his voice, which he spat out, was laced with a chilling…hatred.
The bluish-white flame which burns at the bottom of the eyes.
It’s a fire that never goes out and continues to burn your heart.
His Majesty the King has not forgotten.
What His Highness Nigel had was anger.
It’s been twelve years since my mother died, and yet the anger that still lingers is something that seems to fade away a little by talking to me, His Highness said. I’m glad to hear that. I felt like I was being of service to His Highness.
However, the hatred of His Majesty the King will never fade.
My existence does not help to soften it.
It’s a never-ending hatred…a small shiver ran down my spine.
It is something that can be directed at me from a different angle.
“Then why did you approve of the engagement as it was?”
Count Stassen, who had told me many stories, said, with the annotation, ‘In my opinion,’ that he thought the engagement would naturally be broken. For this reason, the Count had also told His Majesty that His Royal Highness Nigel had taken a liking to her.
‘I did not want the Princess to marry into Elzevert,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t do anything myself, so I lobbied His Highness from behind the scenes… and the result worked against what I thought it would,’ he said so with an expression that was too bitter to be called a bitter smile.
Yes. It worked, but in the other way around.
His Royal Highness Nigel doesn’t know about it, so he seems to think that the Count was forced out of his tutorship for something else, but I predict that it was because the Count told this gentleman of His Highness’s fondness.
“I have never admitted it.”
The sound of a hateful voice. Its expression distorted as much as possible.
But it was natural.
On the occasion of the princess’s betrothal, it was only natural to arrange her affairs, even if it was a matter of course. And yet, the Duke neglected to do so. Moreover, having a concubine living on the same property as him is a gross violation of the rules.
There’s no way His Majesty would allow that to happen.
That’s the hubris of Elzevert.
In those days, there were very many people who opposed the marriage.
Moreover, my mother was so much loved by His Majesty that there were even strange rumors about her.
She would have been much happier with a faithful husband of lesser status than the Duke, living comfortably in the hands of His Majesty, rather than going to a man who everyone could see was unfaithful to her.
Besides, my mother had only just come of age. Unlike the duke, there was no reason at all to rush into marriage.
“…I couldn’t do it, you know. I just had to.
His Majesty spun the words out of his throat as if to squeeze them out of the back of his throat.
“I have always wondered why His Majesty, who cares for my mother more than anyone else, would send her away to the misfortune I had known so well.”
“You call it a known misfortune?”
“How can a man seriously think that a girl who has only just come of age can be happy with a man who is fifteen years older and who already has a mistress who is as good as his wife who has already been with him for years?”
His Majesty becomes terribly bitter at my question.
It was an answer that was more eloquent than anything else.
“If it’s someone like His Highness, but just from what I’ve heard in my talk, I think the Duke’s laziness is terrible.”
A 15 year age differences was the same thing for me. So I was going to say something that is somewhat of a follow-up.
“…The only person who didn’t doubt that she could be happy was Ephinya, who knew nothing about it.”
A tired voice.
His Majesty often looked younger than his actual age, but now he looked terribly old.
Here’s another contradiction.
His Majesty loved Efinia, my mother.
And because I was Efinia’s child, he was obsessed with me, which led to his overly generous treatment of me now.
But then why didn’t he stop my mother’s tragedy?
I don’t think he didn’t understand.
And I don’t think he couldn’t have stopped it.
I wondered how this person could have missed the misfortune of his sister, the princess, whom he loved more than anyone else, without doing anything about it.
I’ve heard many stories…There were only a few that I was able to hear firsthand, and even fewer that I knew firsthand about at the time. They were all just second-hand accounts of someone else.
Still, not a few of them wondered why my mother’s marriage wasn’t rescinded as a result.
But I could not understand why His Majesty, who cared so much for my mother Efinia, approved of her marriage to a Duke who was visibly unhappy.
His Highness Nigel’s voice came back to me behind my ears when he told me about my mother.
‘I thought His Majesty would call off her marriage,’ he said. ‘I did not expect him to allow his sister, whom he doted on so much, to give her to a man who cared for another woman. Even if she was a half-sister.’
So even at that moment when she left the palace for the marriage, he thought, somewhere in his heart, that it was only a formality and that she would be back soon.
“His Highness Nigel said that my mother might have been his first love. And that it may have been egotism, but perhaps she wasn’t hated.”
His Majesty let out a sigh at my words, seeming to look up to the heavens.
“His Highness and my mother are not very far apart in age. They are not badly balanced in terms of bloodline and age, and in terms of various conditions, they seem to be more suitable than the Duke.”
If that had happened, though, I would definitely not be here now.
“And that wasn’t the only thing I wondered about. Why did the Duke know that his own misbehavior would not break off the engagement? I wonder what could have made the duke so aggravated.”
While everyone thought it was only natural for the engagement to be broken off, only the man himself did not intend to do so at all, but rather seemed to make things worse.
My mother married my father when she was fifteen years old, after the end of the mourning of the previous Duke.
At the time when my grandfather, the prior duke, was there, my father was not so prominent, but about two months after my grandfather duke died, he took the older children into the main castle, and furthermore, at the time he was about to marry my mother, he sent Luciella and the younger children to live in a separate mansion on the estate.
Under Dardinian law, Luciella’s children had no inheritance rights. But they can be given an education as the son of the Duke.
But that is an unheard-of thing, even for Dardinia, which is rather tolerant of having a concubine on its side.
“Efinia herself was willing to do it. Efinia admired her fiancé, who appeared to be an older, more mature man…In the first place, Efinia’s engagement was ordained by her father the king. Moreover, Elzevert is the ‘House of the Queen.’ It is inseparable from the royal family.”
‘The House of the Queen’…It was originally the first Duke of Elzevert, the younger brother of the Founding King’s Queen, who went on to produce the first of three successive queens.
It is the first of the four dukes. The rank is so exceptional in many ways that it is said that ‘there is no king who does not have Elzevert as his wife and mother,’ and in many ways it is exceptional.
“So you’re saying His Majesty couldn’t stop him?”
“…Oh…I couldn’t stop it, anyway. I didn’t admit it…I gave up.”
It was painful. While you say you don’t care about your own children, you are so distressed when it comes to my mother, Efinia.
“And why is that?”
There was a reason. A reason why he had to marry Efinia and the Duke, even though he knew it would make her unhappy.
His Majesty looked at the floor as he nodded and refused to open his mouth.
Well, I didn’t expect him to answer me so readily…
I took another deep breath. I clenched my fists tightly.
In a case like this, it would be better to ask a completely different question.
It’s a roundabout way, but it’s okay to cut into the conviction little by little.
However, I am prepared to say this.
I summoned up the courage to say it.
The faces of various people flashed through the corners of my brain.
“…Why would His Majesty go after me?”
I’ve said it…
His Majesty looked up as if he had been bursting at the seams.
His eyes are wide open in astonishment.
Inwardly, I’m surprised that His Majesty reveals such astonishment, even though he said it himself.
But as if to fold it up, I asked the question again and again.
“Why is it that while you cherished and cared for me, you also attempted to kill me?”
When I said that, I felt heartbroken and wanted to cry badly.
I wanted to see His Highness.
I wanted him to call my name in that slightly blunt tone of voice, like he always did.
He didn’t have to say anything. I just wanted him to be there.
I can’t pretend it didn’t happen again.
Words are said to have a spirit of speech.
Just as it is said that a word has a soul the moment it is uttered, so does the question become a powerful one the moment it is uttered.
“Why does Your Majesty hate me so much?”
It sounded unexpectedly loud in the silence of the night.
A chuckle and a stifled laugh escaped.
His Majesty was laughing.
Or maybe he was crying
His shoulders trembled and his voice was stifled in the back of his throat.
Then he looked up.
“Wow, Thia. Really amazing. You noticed it yourself, didn’t you? The Crown Prince wouldn’t talk to you about that.”
His eyes have a somewhat dangerous light in them.
The feverish gaze makes His Majesty look like a different person.
Was he always like this?
He was laughing heartily and ludicrously.
Somehow, every time I looked at him, he seemed like different person.
“Yes, you are indeed a different person.”
‘Not my doll princess,’ he muttered as if singing.
“Doll princess.’ The word ‘doll princess’ doesn’t make my heart surge anymore.
“How did you come notice?”
His Majesty, who had gotten up from his seat, was standing in front of me before I knew it.
I rushed to stand up, but he put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me straight back to my seat. He peeked at me from above as if to cover me, and I reflexively pulled away.
But I couldn’t pull away, and I looked into those eyes from a surprisingly close distance.
“When did I screw up so badly that you’d notice me?”
The silvery blue-ice colored eyes, tinged with silver, reflected me and yet they didn’t look at me.
Even though it’s so soft…
It was terribly empty. I thought I could see that void.
“I told you earlier…It’s been a long time now.”
I’m inwardly relieved that I could answer without my voice quivering.
“Oh, that’s going to cost us here too?”
Hahahahaha. His Majesty laughs high and leaves me.
His laughter was somewhat pensive, and was sucked high into the ceiling.
I didn’t laugh, and I didn’t feel like I could laugh.
My chest hurt because he didn’t deny it.
Would you doubt me if you could? And I wanted you to laugh it off.
Nope. I didn’t mind being offended by what he was saying if he could deny it.
But His Majesty only smiled.
“It was Your Majesty’s intention that I was dropped into the lake, wasn’t it?”
A personal danger that could be piled on top of each other over and over again. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had real life threatening experiences, but in less than two months since I woke up, I can’t tell you how many crazy things I’ve already done.
“Thinking about it…how much do you know? Thia.”
I’m not sure about that either. I don’t really understand my own danger.
“There isn’t much that I know about…”
“But you have a real way with words.”
‘Excellent!’ His Majesty extends his hands in an exaggerated manner.
It was a somewhat contrived, puppet-like motion.
I didn’t know what to say.
I was expecting it.
But expectation is completely different from witnessing the facts.
Because His Majesty is my greatest protector.
To see with my own eyes that such a person was actually the mastermind was much harder than I had imagined.
“I’m very interested in why you thought it was me.” he said. “Because I love you with all sincerity, and I have never once done anything in front of you that would make you sad or hurt you. I may have gone a little too far in some areas, but I have always been very protective of you. So why did you think it was me?”
‘Tell me about it,’ His Majesty smiles.
That smile was gentle and full of compassion, never seeming to be just for show.
But on the other hand, it is also His Majesty who is after me.
Contradictory emotions…love and hatred line up together.
“You didn’t say it was me or that I told him to kill you.”
I never thought of His Majesty as being the executor, etc.
High royalty is made to be almost impossible to be alone, and even if you are physically free, the fact of the matter is that you are always in a state of bondage, so it is almost impossible to do anything in secret.
And His Majesty would not have been able to order me to be ‘killed.’
For His Majesty is ‘the King’ and I am the presumptive heir of Elzevert…
On the surface, the only known reason why Elzevert is so special is because it is the first of the four dukes.
But that’s not the only reason.
That’s not enough of a reason.
I look at His Majesty in front of me with a reformed mind.
He knows the answer.
“You’re right. I have never done anything to hurt you. I confess that I love you more than anyone else.”
An expression that looks like he’s even proud of it.
As if he seems to be in the best of moods.
“You know that I have never ordered you to be killed, and yet you say I’m trying to kill you.”
“…It may not be that you are aiming for life, but I think that you were willing to do so as a result.”
When had Arthirea found out about it?
And how horrible it must have been.
Arthirea was not so young that she did not understand what it meant to have her life threatened by His Majesty the King.
Arthirea was a wise child…
In a way, it could be said that her intelligence had killed her.
Surely, if she hadn’t noticed, she could have remained as she was.
But then she noticed.
Because she kept learning to be worthy of His Highness Nigel.
The irony of this is heartbreaking.
If I could just be a child who knew nothing, I wouldn’t have despaired.
How heartbreaking it must have been to be alone, unable to tell anyone.
But I must have been unable to talk to anyone about it.
For fear of bringing misfortune upon the person I talked to.
Maybe there are people who have died in the past that Arthirea has consulted with.
For example, a professor who was a tutor, or a nanny…or…
If that was the case, the professor was sick and died, but Arthirea might have thought it was her fault.
As for the nanny, she might have thought she was killed more directly because of her, due in part to the fact that she defended her.
…To His Highness…
I’m sure I couldn’t say it.
His Highness would have been the one I would have wanted to rely on the most…
But to accuse his father of being the culprit, Arthirea couldn’t do it.
That’s how much she felt for His Highness.
That feeling is in me.
I gently press my chest.
“I believe that’s something only Your Majesty knows.”
At least I don’t know.
“Oh, yes…Yeah, that’s right.”
A giggle and a sly smile.
“Then I’ll tell you as a reward for some pretty good analysis.”
With that smile plastered on his mouth, His Majesty continues.
“…I wanted to make a bet.”
I tilted my head at a word that was too inappropriate to come out right now.
“Yes. Well, if you don’t know what ‘bet’ is, you can call it a ‘game.’
His Majesty continued to speak in a very calm tone.
For some reason, a shiver ran down my spine.
Something is ringing warning bells in the back of my head.
It’s the kind of thing I shouldn’t be listening to.
“The opponent of the game is the Crown Prince. And the prize is you, Thia. This country you’ll have.”
I felt as if my eyes were shaking.
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4 thoughts on “Chapter 39: Secret Game”
What the hell….? It’s so creepy…. both the king and the queen….. it’s scary too
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I know, right? Didn’t expect a story about 12 year old baking princess to become so dark -_-
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Wait. Nigel actually liked Efinia?? …And he actually was upfront to her about it? And that conversation was never even mentioned!! OK. I do like this story, but, seriously, the author’s choices of what’s important enough to narrate and what only is mentioned in the background almost as an afterthought is…terrible.
Tell me about it! I had to double take when I was translating because I couldn’t believe it!! 😫
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