The first time I saw the child, she was crying and burying something in the yard.
She was completely expressionless, but to me it looked like the child was crying.
After she was gone, I sneaked up to it.
Brand new soil dug up…A shabby cross made of wood was adorned with a wreath of small white clover.
I turned at the voice. The black dress and blue cufflinks…Although she looked very young, this woman in front of me was a formal lady-in-waiting.
The golden sparrow of the princess had died.
That was the Princess…
‘Ah,’ I thought.
Golden hair that repels the light…Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Arthirea, whose hair is the same hair as Princess Efinia, who was called the Golden Rose of Dardinia.
She was the one who would be my Master.
“Are you, Millidiana Renate Donna Adila?”
“I am Liliana Elleana Lana Hartley. I am the lady-in-waiting of Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess. I will be your superior officer.”
“Please excuse me. I’m sorry, I took the liberty of going out into the yard without permission…”
“No, I don’t mind…Don’t tell anyone what you just saw.”
If you are ‘Lana,’ then this woman is a legitimate noblewoman. She is also the daughter of a hereditary nobleman, not a court nobleman.
The Dardinian aristocracy can be divided into hereditary nobles and court nobles based on the circumstances of their formation, but hereditary nobles have a far higher rank than the court nobles, because hereditary nobles are independent lords, while the court nobles are vassals.
A simple way to distinguish them is that hereditary nobles have a title attached to their fiefdom and the name of their fiefdom is the name of their title. The hereditary nobles are those who have been given a title and a stipend by the royal family for their achievements and whose family name is their title name.
There are people who are both of them, but the titles that take precedence are the ones that have a fief attached to them, and the ones that are older than the age at which they were knighted.
Well, it’s no surprise if you’re a lady-in-waiting to Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess…
The maidservants who serve near the royal family must be at least daughters of knights or higher.
My family is also a barony. Although my family has a slightly higher status than a knight, the fact is that I’m merely the caretaker of a farm and ranch owned by the royal family.
However, the family that serves as the caretaker of a royal ranch is a wealthy one, even if their status is not high.
Due to the nature of the duties, there are various surpluses even if we do not get hungry, and boasts a wealth that is not inferior to a poor count family.
All of my sisters were engaged to be married before the age of fifteen, and they all married in their twenties, the legal age for a noblewoman, and I myself was engaged to the second son of an earl who had territories in the north.
I had risen to the royal court as a maid as a sort of a foil. As a noblewoman, you are considered to have received the best bridal education when you have served as a maid at the royal court.
It was a thoughtful move by my father, who wanted to ensure that I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable marrying into a high-ranking earl’s family.
“I can’t blame anyone for keeping it a secret, so I’m going to tell you first, there is a lot of unsettling rumors around the princess. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of things going on. But since this is a royal palace, you can’t blame me for a few things.”
“Is there any risk of death for some of them?”
“…In its own way.”
She told me plainly.
Did I mention my sister had a lot going on too?
Alida, my sister, who was five years older than me, served Her Majesty the Second Queen for three years from the age of 16. She was literally thrown into the middle of women’s quarrels in the palace’s rear courts, and had a lot of trouble day and night.
But in truth, it was not such a simple matter of women’s quarrels that I was involved in.
I don’t mean to make fun of women’s quarrels. I know that at times and in some cases it can be quite harsh too.
But…the darker part of the dimly lit royal family and the great aristocracy that clings to the surroundings of Her Highness Princess Arthirea were even more frightening to me.
“Are you the daughter of the Adila family?”
“Yes, that’s right. I am a handmaiden to Her Highness Princess Arthirea.”
I bow in front of the armor-clad knights in attendance with a sleek, maid-like gesture.
After four years of living in the palace, I’ve learned the manners of the palace, and my body moves smoothly without being conscious of it.
Apparently, that was enough to get through to them. The somewhat tense atmosphere in the tent eased just a little.
“What brings Her Highness’ maidservant to this place?”
It was a natural question.
“I was on my way to my fiancé’s parents’ house for a vacation and to discuss the breakup of the engagement, which was not going well.
I would utter the answer I had prepared in advance.
There was indeed some complications about the breakup of the engagement, but in reality, I was just using it as an excuse to leave for the research that Her Highness had asked me to do.
But the knight who asked looked a little perturbed. That’s true. You would be surprised to hear that the engagement is suddenly broken off.
Moreover, it is uncommon for me to think that I myself am going to visit the other party’s house in person.
I had a plan to visit his house, but I just wanted to say hello. Because things were already out of my control.
“The parents have decided to talk to each other, but the discussion was a bit complicated and I thought I’d take a shortcut to visit the other party…”
My family is in charge of the Royal Ranch in the Royal Palace. There is another ranch near here, and my family knows the geography of this area well. Of course, we know the roads that are not on the map, but that was our downfall this time.
I didn’t know the military would use this road for transportation!
Normally, the military doesn’t pass through such an intervening road.
It is indeed a “road”. Generally speaking, the road is wide enough for a small carriage to pass all the way through, and although it can be quite rough in places, there are places where it is reasonably well maintained.
However, it is not a highway.
As long as it wasn’t a highway, you couldn’t rest or resupply along the way, and of course, large wagons carrying supplies couldn’t get through.
Therefore, I assumed that ‘the army does not march on such roads.’
But if you are going to ride through with only a squad of light horsemen…taking a different route for supplies only, that’s no problem at all, and it’s a lot faster than going through the highways.
If you look closely, they set out with a squad of about ten men, staggering their time a little bit. The small group of cavalry will meet somewhere beyond this interroad, probably somewhere around Tula, where we are headed, or the Echidna Plains beyond.
To the border, we could shorten that by at least a day.
A shiver ran down my spine when I realized that.
‘Amazing,’ I simply thought.
To the uninitiated, it must feel like our troops are reaching the border with frightening rapidity, as well as the fact that we’ve put together a small cavalry to use this road. At least a day shorter than two days if you are able to get on horseback for at least a day.
And at the same time, it was easy to predict that we wouldn’t be liberated any time soon.
Probably a military secret, right?
Normally, you can’t be blamed for being in the company of an army march. It would be enough to stop them until the army finished passing through.
But with the current situation, I have a feeling that I’m going to be detained.
I sighed at the thought of it.
What can I say…I feel like I’m not so lucky when things go wrong.
It all began at the beginning of last month with a letter from my father.
That long, long letter was, to put it bluntly, ‘Viscount Mare insists that he will not break off his engagement with you. The Count says he wants you to persuade him.’
The Viscount Mare is Arthur Ludovia Dis Radovic, to whom I was engaged.
Frankly, I was disgusted.
Mostly because I think it’s to good to break off the engagement.
When Arthur and I got engaged, he was the second son of the Count Tilvia.
The second son meant that he would not inherit the family but would be a branch of it. The Count has a legitimate heir, Lord Raymond, who until three months ago was Viscount Mare.
In the Count Tilvia’s house, the legitimate son is the Viscount Mare. Arthur came to be known as such because Lord Raymond ran off with his mother’s maid and was abolished.
He was betrothed to me because he was the second son and would be a branch of the family, and the former thought that his status was not balanced between Arthur and I, who had become the heir to the Earl’s family.
And, as a matter of course, he asked to break off the engagement.
My family could have sued them for breach of engagement, but I stopped them.
Nothing good came of it.
The fact is that I didn’t originally have that much of an attachment to the engagement decided by my parents, and I can understand that it’s not appropriate for the daughter of an associate baron to want the position of a future countess.
Most of all, I told my father that I had talked about becoming a lady-in-waiting, so I told him that I was willing to break the engagement if he would make it clear that I was not at all at fault.
As a result, the engagement was annulled by my father as a favor of the Count.
I was fine with that.
It’s a political marriage, so I don’t want to be opposed to it and push my way through the rut.
Arthur, the other party to the engagement, refused to do so.
I could not understand why at all.
He is a member of the Northern Knights as a squire, and I am a maid at the royal court, so I don’t have the opportunity to see him even once a year.
Even if I add up all the times we’ve met, it’s more than I can handle.
I don’t know why he refused to break off his engagement with me.
It wasn’t anything in particular…
I immediately wrote a letter.
That I would be the princess’ lady-in-waiting, as per the scenario decided between my father and the count. And because I was to be a lady-in-waiting, I couldn’t do anything halfway, and that I wanted to break off the engagement.
Arthur’s response to it was a single word on his letterhead,
No one would be able to hold me back if I unintentionally tore it in half when I saw it.
What’s wrong with you, you little shit!
I almost cursed him for that, but I didn’t say it. That is where a ladylike educated daughter is held back.
And no matter how many words I said on the letter, the letter from Arthur was one of ‘I don’t like it’.
So I gave up trying to persuade him. In the first place, they were the ones who said they were breaking off the engagement, and I did all I could.
After that, I wanted the rest to be discussed between parent and child.
In the meantime, Lady Lilia and Her Highness asked me to investigate.
“I want you to follow Ellucia’s footsteps.”
It was a good reason to leave, to resolve a complicated engagement issue.
I mean, I’d be angry if I didn’t use it as an excuse…
It would be a rumor, but I was going to be a lady-in-waiting, so I didn’t have to worry about it.
I had heard on my travels that the King’s family of Esalkar had been imprisoned.
Everyone was talking about a war coming, and with so little information compared to the royal palace, I was getting all kinds of jealousy.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I’m so frustrated, but in the end I couldn’t do anything more than continue the investigation I was ordered to do.
I sighed, and a knight with a somewhat grim expression, perhaps over thirty, asked me.
“Miss Millidiana, even though it’s a shortcut, why did you choose a path that isn’t even on the map?”
“The reason is that it’s fast. I know the locals, and because my house is home to the management of the Royal Ranch, I pride myself on knowing every inch of the distribution channels between the farms I manage. If I have to hurry, or if I’m confident in my skills or in my horsemanship, I’ll choose this path.
This road is reasonably wide for a back road, and even a small carriage can pass through. And yet it doesn’t even appear on the map, and the reason it doesn’t get much use is because part of it passes through a forest that’s inhabited by gray wolves, and there’s hardly any watering holes.
“With women in there?”
“I’m used to traveling and I’ve used it many times.”
I smile. There may be some exaggeration, but I know I’ve used it.
The knight in opposition averts his gaze, as if troubled by my smile. The bluntness of my speaking tone could be due to the fact that he’s not used to talking to women.
“I never thought I’d meet the troops marching in a place like this. Of course, I wouldn’t have chosen it if I’d known.”
I just wanted to get home in a hurry. If I was going to meet up with the army, I wouldn’t have chosen this path.
I’ve heard various rumors that they have already gone into battle, or are about to go into battle, but who would have thought that they would have encountered a unit that was already in battle, and even more so, that they had gone into battle.
Of course, the movement routes of the troops would be classified as military secrets and would not be revealed, but I think this road is a bit of a blind spot.
It’s not paved, so it’s hard to get to if you’re not confident in your horsemanship…
“I’m surprised too. I’m amazed that the military would use this road…”
“…There are some local people in the military, too.”
A voice came from behind me.
A voice that I was afraid to say I was familiar with, but had heard it a lot lately.
The knight in charge of my interrogation, or rather questioning, stands up and salutes.
His Royal Highness raised his hand lightly to stop it, as if to say he didn’t want to be bothered.
I was startled and stood up unconsciously. I was a little embarrassed to notice the ungraceful behavior.
Then I take the bow to royalty, as I often do in the palace.
With my left hand lightly clasped in front of my chest and my right hand lightly pinching the hem of my skirt, I pull my feet back and bow my head in sincere respect. Remember to try to make the movement look as graceful as possible.
When this gesture can be performed with grace and beauty, the bride’s training is generally considered to be over.
“Good. I did not expect to see your face here.”
“Yes. Me as well, Your Highness.”
A lot of things are running through my head…I must not tell His Highness that I was investigating Ellucia at Her Highness’s request, even if it was obvious that I was doing so.
“I am ashamed to say that I am reluctant to do so.”
As for the investigation requested by Her Highness, it actually didn’t take much effort.
It wasn’t so difficult to follow Ellucia’s footsteps before entering the royal palace, and I’ve already sent the report of the investigation I did in Elzevert to the royal palace.
The reason I’m on the outskirts of this far from the royal capital is because since I used it as an excuse to leave, I have to visit the Count’s mansion in Tilvia to greet him, otherwise I won’t have an excuse if I’m investigated later or something.
“Reluctance? To be my princess’ lady-in-waiting?”
“No, of course not. It would be a great honor for me and my family to be Her Highness’ lady-in-waiting. It gives me great pleasure to serve Her Highness Princess Arthirea officially.”
His Highness nods with satisfaction at my answer.
I have been selected to become Her Highness’ official lady-in-waiting
I am currently an apprentice lady-in-waiting, and if I can pass the exam in six months, I will be officially hired.
In fact, there is a martial arts section in the exam for female ladies-in-waiting, but I’m actually good at that.
I had a wish, but perhaps it was Lilia-sama’s arrangement. In response to my wish, the royal family approached my family about me becoming a lady-in-waiting.
It was a great honor for my family to do so.
If I was only a maid, she was the official lady-in-waiting of Her Highness. To put it in terms of the male status, it would be like being desired as the Prince’s entourage.
Moreover, Her Highness Arthirea is the one who will be the queen when His Highness the Crown Prince ascends to the throne, and the one who will be the mother of the country. There is no greater honor than to be born a daughter of a nobleman who has the trust and serves closely to their side.
“It’s a shame that I broke off the engagement to serve Her Highness without a care in the world, but he has not agreed to it, even though both families agree on it.”
…Really, I wonder what he’s up to.
Viscount Mare, Arthur Ludovia, is three years younger than me, seventeen years old.
The person I remember was at the feast when he joined the Northern Knights, so it was already three years ago.
He was a quiet, meek kid with soft golden curly hair and beautiful green eyes.
I remembered him three years ago, and he must have been quite mature by now, but I couldn’t imagine him growing up. What I remember is the profile of a boy who was always somewhat young.
“Are you breaking off the engagement?”
“Yes. I don’t like social life very much, and I’m not very good at staying at home in the first place. I have no background in music or embroidery, which is a favorite pastime of women, and I would have failed as a woman of nobility…But there is something I can do, too, if I am allowed to serve beside Her Highness.”
I used to help my grandfather and father draft various official documents and so on, so the Imperial Farm has a lot of reports…paperwork is not hard to do. Also, the martial arts that I learned from an early age are skills that cannot be said in a loud voice as a child of an ordinary aristocrat, but if you are a lady-in-waiting, it will be recognized as one of those special skills.
“You are doing well.”
At His Highness’ words, I reverently thank him.
The unexpected compliment makes me a little nervous.
It’s not my favorite, but maybe it’s nice to be complimented.
His Royal Highness the Crown Prince is certainly a wonderfully handsome man, but I prefer a stocky type of man like His Royal Highness the Second Prince.
I think he is cute like a bear, His Royal Highness Alfred.
“If it gets too complicated, you can tell me.”
I am very grateful for those words.
If it was His Highness’ words, Arthur would not be able to disobey. We will escort you.”
“…I have to go now. You may continue to return to the palace.”
I was relieved when His Highness apparently let me go soon.
“No, I can’t bother His Highness with…”
“There’s no need to thank me. I’m not just here to escort you. It includes watching over you as you make your way straight back to the palace.”
“I’m worried that there aren’t that many people beside her.”
Or, he’s overprotective…
I had always known this.
Perhaps His Highness the Crown Prince would no longer be able to treat everyone ‘equally’ and ‘kindly’ as he used to.
Because, you know, something special has been created.
Only one special existence—Her Royal Highness Princess Arthirea.
I think it’s lovely.
“And don’t tell anyone that you met me here.”
His Highness gives a small smile. For His Highness, it may not be something as important as a secret.
“…Is it also for Her Highness as well?”
“By the time you get to the royal palace, our presence here won’t matter much. It doesn’t matter who you talk to.”
I’m sure Her Highness will be pleased to hear that you are safe and sound.
“Take care and return.”
“…Yes. Thank you for your concern.”
I bent at the waist as gracefully as I could and curtsied.
His Highness nodded lightly and left the tent.
Huh? Don’t you think it would be bad if I went home like this?
I was going to go say hello to the Count because I used it as a reason to leave.
I guess that means it’s obvious…
I smiled bitterly.
His Royal Highness is so well versed in all sorts of matters that there’s nothing he doesn’t know.
And perhaps he must know my situation as well.
I turn my feet to the carriage.
“What’s the matter?”
The coachman, Heinz, looks troubled.
“Oh, Miss. No, um…”
The cause of the confusion was immediately apparent.
A young man appeared with his horse and called my name somewhat familiarly.
But I had no recollection of him at all.
There are certain men who can come and go in and out of the Crown Prince’s palace, and they are not from the princess’s guards.
“…May I ask who’s calling?”
He is more than a head taller than me. I felt déjà vu with that gold curly hair…a thin body that felt more like a heap than a sleek.
I think…something grazed my memory.
I took another good look at the young man with my mouth open.
He was wearing a dark blue Northern Knights’ squire’s uniform. His arms and legs were easily long, and he had grown up quite nicely, despite what I said.
His father, the Count, was stocky and stout, yet quite tall, which is probably due to his mother, the Countess’ blood. Tall for a woman, the Countess is taller than me, slightly taller than the average height of a woman.
“Arthur? Arthur, as in the Count of Tilvia, Arthur?”
I was surprised to see a soft smile on his face.
The meek and shy boy had somehow grown up enough to look up and become a completely different…man.
Are the Northern Knights mobilized too…?
In my mind’s eye, I’m thinking about something else entirely, as an escape from reality.
The border with Esalkar is from the west to the north. It’s not surprising that the Northern Knights have been mobilized. It’s not, but it’s natural to wonder why they are here…
“Yes. I’m the real, genuine fiancé of yours.”
I think I broke off the engagement.
“The engagement certificate hasn’t been broken yet…and therefore the engagement has not been broken!”
Arthur said flatly, as if he could hear my heart.
“No, that’s true, but…”
It’s true that it’s ‘not yet’ on paper or officially, but since the patriarchs of each other’s families are aware of it, I think it’s as good as established.
Arthur is about to open his mouth again when he hears a voice from someone who is probably Arthur’s knight.
“Hey, Arthur, what’s the point of talking here? We have plenty of time to get to the palace anyway. Later. We’re leaving.”
Arthur’s expression tightened at his words and he nodded.
You look good…I can’t call you that little boy anymore.
Then he straightened his posture and gave a flattering, crisp salute.
For a moment I was in awe…just a little bit.
“Donna Millidiana…I will send you to the royal palace by order of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince.”
There’s no way I could have responded any other way to the order of the Crown Prince.
…It kind of feels like I’ve been done in…
It is true that there was no need to be thankful to him.
Depending on how you think about it, it might be easier to talk to the person in question face-to-face, but I have a feeling that we are past that stage.
“Miss Millidiana, shall we go?”
Arthur smiles and reaches out to me for an escort.
When he smiled, he looked somewhat childish and matched the boy in my memory.
To be honest, I’m not sure how I should treat him.
It’s surprising that he appeared so grown up all of a sudden, but the situation is quite complicated…
I just wanted to get back early…
The journey to the royal palace seemed endlessly far away.
|♡| Table of Contents |♡| Support me! |♡|