“Your Highness, the Northern Division and other district troops made up of the Northern Lord’s Army are heading to the border with Esalkar. I don’t think it’s necessary to move the Central Division. And there is no need to ask His Highness Alfred to run. I don’t think…”
I suddenly realized that the conversation had already progressed a lot.
“Duke, this battle isn’t just about Esalkar. I’d like you to think that it will be a prelude to a war with the two nations that are behind it, and the source of this turmoil, Ishtra and the Empire.”
There’s a hint of a gasp here and there. Everyone suspects that this is the case, but they are once again confronted with a fact they’ve been trying not to think about.
“Your Highness says that the Empire and the Ishtra have joined forces?”
“Now…I’m not sure, but it’s easier to assume so from the start, right?”
It’s Nigel’s habit to always assume the worst.
But whether it’s the worst for him is another story.
In Nigel’s case, it’s likely that he thinks it’s easier to get rid of them all at once if they come together than if they come separately.
“But to have both countries invade at the same time…”
“To prevent that from happening, this Esalkar problem must be resolved quickly.”
“Our borders are between us and Ishtra, with Esalkar between us and the Ishtra, and with the Empire, with either Reefid or Lesange. A direct invasion will take time.”
Everyone nodded at those words.
“I’ll have Alfred go to Lagash, close to the borders of both Reefid and Lesange, as an exercise against the empire.
“…Isn’t it shabby to have exercises at this time of year?”
Giggling, His Eminence Shion laughed. A smile that was disproportionate to the place. A gentle smile of the same kind as His Majesty.
Nigel and His Eminence Shion are very similar. As I recall, Princess Alienor, who married the Count of Diha, is also similar.
Delicate features and gorgeous…I never thought of Nigel as a beauty, but I think His Eminence Shion and Princess Alienor have beautiful looks. I’m not very familiar with the two of them, though, so I can’t recall their faces clearly unless I’m right in front of them.
Only His Highness Alfred is somewhat different, with a strength and ruggedness much like His Majesty the previous King. He is very much like a military man.
“It’s fine to be transparent. It’s just a matter of finding a reason for the army to move. I’m sure they know what we’re preparing for and why we’re doing this exercise.”
“…Is that how it works?”
“That’s just the way it is.”
I nodded as if it were obvious.
“That should dissuade them, and if it doesn’t dissuade them…”
Nigel said with a smile.
“…We can beat the hell out of them”
For a horrifying moment, that cold voice sent a shiver down my spine.
A smile that is somehow awesome…a testament to His Highness’ insanity.
I always feel like I’ve come a long way from both me and Nigel at times like this.
To tell you the truth, I don’t want this guy to smile like this. I don’t like that saintly smile, but I don’t like this expression either.
Mildly and softly, His Eminence Shion also laughed…Really, this man is a lot like Nigel.
“I don’t like fighting. I’m sure everyone else feels the same…But if the enemy wants warfare, I will not hesitate to cross swords.”
Nigel said once and for all, and then looked around at us.
“If it’s going to be a battle, then so be it…We’ll just have to hit them hard enough to make sure they don’t get the urge to do so again.”
“…I feel sorry for Esalkar.”
“It can’t be helped. I suppose it’s only fitting for having such a foolish little brother.”
A cold profile. We all know this guy isn’t just a kind person.
And that it’s an acquired trait.
But I feel like we’ve gotten so used to being Nigel now that we almost forget that sometimes.
“It is fortunate that our country is not like that. My goal is to run the Cathedral, and Al doesn’t have the guts or such brains to take the throne from his brother, nor does he have as much popularity as his brother, and…”
His Highness Al sighs.
This doesn’t mean that His Highness Al doesn’t have any popularity, it’s just that Nigel is believed in with some fervor, like a god, and is considered special.
Normally, His Highness Al, His Eminence Shion, and the Princess Alienor who has already married, are above average as royalty.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure about the lower twin highnesses. Many of the rumors that I hear from time to time are just like that.
“It’s fine to stage a coup d’état. But if it fails, you shouldn’t have tried it in the first place. It’s a nuisance to the people around you…This one foolish affair involving the country is going to be expensive for Esalkar.”
“People don’t stage a coup with the intention of failing, brother.”
“……Because they’re swept away by emotions.”
Nigel murmured softly.
I don’t know what he was referring to, but since Nigel was a close friend of the King’s family of Esalkar, he may have known something.
He bit down on his bitter expression and looked around.
“There’s no need to worry about supplies. I’ve allowed you to temporarily open your disaster stockpile. Also, I’ve already made arrangements with the various merchant families and unions.”
Fortunately, since three months ago, our country has begun to control the supply of wheat and salt to stabilize the price, and since we just raised the tariffs on major crops and salt, necessities like wheat and salt are in abundance.
This time around, they’ve reduced the amount of distribution accordingly since the fiasco, and that’s just fine, because the amount is being kept in the treasury. Perhaps even that was part of Nigel’s calculations.
Everyone wins the battle…
Suddenly, Nigel cut off his words as if he remembered something there, and quietly restated it.
“…Keep in mind that you don’t fight to win the battle, you are fighting to protect what is important to you.”
“Your Highness the Crown Prince…”
Count Diha’s eyes widened in amazement.
“This is a battle to protect, Count. Each of us will have different things to protect. Our country, our fiefdom, our family name and our family. But there is no substitute for the fact that it is something that can never be lost. I am no different than anyone else. I hope you will keep that in mind as you go into battle.”
“Will His Highness be joining us?”
This is what watery silence is supposed to mean. In an instant, the room froze.
“…We invite His Highness Prince Alfred to run, but even more, His Highness the Crown Prince…”
The Duke of Radeld shows reluctance with a slightly trembling voice.
Well, that would be natural.
Until now, Nigel, the first in line of succession, and His Highness Al, the second in line of succession, had never both been on the battlefield at the same time.
Nigel had always been on the battlefield since he was twelve years old when he was crowned crown prince until His Highness Al came of age and became the divisional commander of the Central Division, but after that, he had never been on the battlefield at all.
“It is necessary, Duke.”
Nigel said quietly.
Then he smiled.
A smile so strong that makes everyone relieved…A smile that makes everyone believe that if Nigel smiled like this, it would be okay.
When you smile at me like this, it’s hard for me to utter any further objections.
But I can actually be relieved. Because Nigel is someone who doesn’t say “bluff” very often.
…Is it already calculated, or…?
Dardinia had once lost the heir to the throne in quick succession. That memory has not yet fully healed.
But, knowing the risks, Nigel has decided that it is necessary.
Whether or not everything goes according to Nigel’s calculations is another matter, but for the most part, nothing happens that causes this guy to miss his calculations.
His words would be even heavier when he considered that it was because he was planning to go into battle.
“I’m sorry, but we’ll have to have the Kings Guard on the front lines as well.”
Normally, the Kings Guard are rarely seen on the actual battlefield. As in any country, it is because the Kings Guard has a strong meaning of protecting the royal family.
Therefore, the appearance of the Kings Guard is always the final phase of any case.
“I hope…Let it be known that we are not just the keepers of the royal court.”
There seemed to be something else he wanted to say, but perhaps he thought it wasn’t the right place to say it, and Duke Radeld just nodded vigorously.
“The ‘Royal Guard’ is a cryptic term used by people from other divisions when they make fun of the Kings Guard.
But as a matter of fact, it could be said that the Dardinia’s Kings Guard Division was quite rich in actual battle experience.
Other divisions only intervene in the war in their respective regions, but the Kings Guard often follow Nigel on the battlefield at all times.
In the over ten years since he was formally crowned Prince, Nigel has led several battles and has never lost a battle, big or small.
This is not a joke or an exaggeration, it is a fact.
Nigel does not fight losing battles.
In Nigel’s opinion, when he stands on the battlefield, the winner of that battle is already decided.
And if he thinks there is a high probability that he will lose, he will do whatever he can to pretend the battle never happened before it was called off.
In a sense, it’s like a con, but once he challenged the enemy commander to a single battle, defeated him, took the commander as a hostage and forced him to leave the army, and now he’s been able to negotiate a peace deal at home, forcing the expeditionary force to pull out before it becomes a war. Of course they did a lot of things to get the nod in the peace talks.
So we never lost.
I think the people who know this best are the Imperial Army.
The imperial prince who was defeated by Nigel was said to have been touted as the next crown prince, but he was stripped of his right to the throne after he was defeated and taken hostage.
Furthermore, he fought in two major battles, both of which he lost badly. Especially during the invasion of Reefid seven years ago, he was hurt quite badly. Many of the soldiers must have that memory.
At 50,000 vs. 18,000…
The Bard’s Song states that the Imperial Army was 100,000, versus a mere 10,000 for the Reefid Dardinia Confederacy, but in reality, the difference was not that great.
The 50,000 Imperial forces were defeated before 8,000 of the Leefid army and 10,000 of the relief force led by Nigel, and we also hear that the Prince, who was the commander-in-chief of the Empire at the time, was blamed for the failure and was executed after his return to his home country.
That country has a large number of princes, but I’m sure that hostility to Nigel has reduced their numbers by five or six.
Nigel gives one order after another, and one by one everyone leaves.
Before I knew it, the only ones left were me, the Duke, Nigel and the other brothers.
“Your Highness, are you really going to come out…?”
Apparently the duke wanted to question it, and stayed behind.
“My run is just a pose, Duke. I’m not supposed to be standing on an actual battlefield.”
Nigel tells me with a very serious expression. From the way he talks, it’s really a 50-50 split.
“If they retreat by the fact I am coming, that’s good, and even if it comes down to a single battle, my army will not lose.”
Duke Radeld nodded vigorously. All the people who were here earlier are young, so the Duke, who is in his late thirties, is the oldest. He is also a royal family member, and the his wife is Princess Radia, a cousin to Nigel and the others.
“…I still oppose my brother’s decision. If my brother were to come, the Kings Guard would move out…the palace will be empty.”
His Highness Al opens his mouth hesitantly.
“I’ll leave half of the Kings Guard behind. I can’t leave the palace empty.”
“…If that divisional commander, the Duke, serves his brother accordingly, then the function is expected to be discounted to less than half. Mostly because of his father’s parade to the detached palace, there are just not many people there. If anything happens in that state, you can go to…”
His Highness Al is a very nice man.
Everyone here is aware of this fact. However, even though he knows this, I think it is the goodness of his character and his naivety that he says it.
“Al, our brother is aware of such things. Nevertheless, brother has decided that it is best for him to make a move…
“Shion, to you…”
“I’ll return to the palace while brother is away. Will you not be satisfied with that?”
It is a definite matter that Nigel will follow him.
And it’s only natural that the Kings Guard will follow Nigel…Already, this battle isn’t just against Esalkar. It is believed to be a prelude to Ishtra, who would be behind it, and…the Empire will also make some moves, as Nigel has read.
“…When it comes to fighting the empire, I can’t afford not to be there.”
The Empire is just called the Empire.
‘Where there is warfare, there is an empire,’ they say. One of the continent’s five great powers.
“As long as they claim to be descendants of the former unified empire and aim to reunite the continent, they probably won’t give up. But that doesn’t mean they can’t give up on their invasion within the span of a decade or two…But perhaps it’s because their heads change constantly, and they can’t afford to forget the memory of their defeats so quickly.”
“…Neither the problems of the Empire nor the problems of Esalkar will have anything to do with the Princess, brother.”
Unbridled sarcasm oozes out of those words.
Really, His Highness Al has such a good character.
“…I can’t miss this opportunity just for her.”
Nigel said with a wry smile.
That unwavering judgment is what Nigel is.
“She understands and even tolerates a lot more than we think she does….She’s wise.”
The slight smile that suddenly leaked out left everyone there speechless.
What a smile it was.
I think even I might have seen it for the first time.
…A happy smile.
Yes. There was a sense of happiness there.
Suddenly, there is a small knock on the door.
I let out a breath of relief.
“…Oh, you’re welcome to come in, Lilia.”
At His Eminence Shion’s words, the door opens.
As usual, His Eminence Shion’s divine acuteness when he detects Viscount daughter Hartley is astonishing.
“Excuse me. I was told that you were in a meeting, so I was waiting in the corridor.”
She picks up the hem of her dresser skirt and bows lightly.
This young lady, who was raised in the palace since childhood, is extremely elegant.
“…I don’t mind. Do you need something with Shion?”
“No. This is delivered to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince by Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess.”
The young lady smiled and held out a wisteria basket.
A sweet smell wafted softly into the room and the air seemed to change color. The bleakness of the air was being painted over with a faint sweetness.
“Since it’s something Your Highness will be talking about, I felt I had to give it to you in person.”
“Thank you…Oh, Lana Hartley, wait. (***another name for Lilia, I believe)
Nigel receives the basket and stops the young lady who was about to leave.
I see, as expected of an lady-in-waiting. They don’t try to stay in a place like this for too long.
But then she turns around with a smile, as if she knew she would be stopped beforehand.
Nigel stood up and wrote something on a square card that was always on the writing desk in the corner of the room, sealed it, and handed it to the young lady.
The young lady takes it reverently.
“…What is she doing?”
He didn’t dare to mention the name. But it was obvious who he was referring to.
“His Highness is not there, and she seems to be a little bored at the palace.”
He listens to it with a soft expression.
I should have changed my perception, after all.
Elzevert’s princess definitely occupies Nigel’s heart.
And it’s a pretty large amount.
“…And I have received a report from the Count…from Neve.”
His expression turned into a wry smile. But it was even somewhat proud.
“After all, did you notice that child?”
“If possible she would want to have a word with you before you leave.”
“…Unfortunately, I can’t take the time to do that.”
But there, the Duke of Radeld interjected Nigel’s words.
Probably more than half of the conversation must have been lost on the duke, though.
“Don’t say that, it’s okay to take some time before you leave. With all due respect, I’m sorry to say that I have only just figured out what Your Highness wants to protect.”
“……? What are you talking about?”
Nigel bends his head.
…I’d bet that he doesn’t really notice it, this guy.
He’s too good at being perceptive and always seems to read a hundred moves ahead of others, but he’s instantly dull when it comes to himself.
“No, no, there’s no need to hide it. It’s a matter of your marriage.”
The duke smiled at him.
The duke was mistaken, but the difficulty and amusement lies in the fact that he couldn’t say it was all a misunderstanding.
“…And I don’t think she’ll ever leave the palace, but take care of her.”
Nigel probably didn’t want to waste his time. He turns to the Viscount’s daughter and gives her some attention without pursuing the Duke, who is laughing at something meaningful, any further.
Nigel doesn’t realize that his eagerness is giving the duke new assurances.
“And more guards than usual…Oh, and by the way, there was a son of Elzevert, too.”
“…Are you speaking of Her Highness’s half-brother?”
“Yes…I don’t know which one it was. If he’s trustworthy, keep him near her side.”
“…Her Highness doesn’t seem to be evasive in particular. She just doesn’t seem to think of him as her brother.”
His mouth is slightly distorted.
“Her Highness doesn’t say many words, but she is thinking about her parents’ home as well. Please don’t neglect it too much.”
“If Luthia insists, then I’ll think about it.”
The sound of his voice calling that name took on a slight sweetness.
That name, called in an important way, was a nickname that probably only Nigel would call her, and that was the deciding factor.
…Think about it.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes.
It’s just me and and Nigel’s habit of closing my eyes when I’m thinking deeply. I feel like I’d be better off shutting my eyes and blocking out my senses to get a better idea somehow.
“Then this will surely go to Her Highness…She will be pleased.”
I hear a daughter’s voice in the distance and I ask myself.
“Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”
It was a momentary flash…rather, it was an idea.
But when I realized it, I couldn’t get it out of my head.
I raise my hand for a statement.
I’m glad to see you’re in a better mood.
“…You know, I’m running for court marshal* of Her Highness’ palace.” (***court marshal is like a house order, household commander, householder, steward, etc.)
I was pierced by the gazes of His Eminence Shion, His Highness Al, the Duke of Radeld, and…Viscount’s daughter Hartley.
I knew that there was no House Order in the Crown Prince’s Palace.
They hadn’t been able to find a replacement since the previous family order was sacked by Nigel.
This was highly unusual, but the lack of a person in charge of running the palace was usually unthinkable given the current situation of the Crown Princess, and people around her accepted it as a matter of course.
It’s not only that, but it’s also that the Crown Princess rarely goes out of the house, and her ladies-in-waiting are so well-behaved that she was able to get by without it.
However, a house without an official charge of the household was unthinkable.
“There is no House Order in the princess’ palace. Someone should be appointed…and it will be needed in the future.”
“That’s true, but…”
Nigel puts his clenched fist to his mouth in the habit of thinking.
“Ah, Count Altheidel Exanidium, it may be a bit of a problem that there isn’t a house order in the palace of Her Royal Highness, but even if you were to become a steward, you would not be a household commander…”
First, His Eminence Shion opened his mouth. Oh, I’m impressed. To be able to say my last name without making a mistake.
“I’m not saying I’ll do this all the time. I’m not going to be a soldier this time. So I need a reason to get in and out of that palace just for that time.”
That palace has the tightest security in the country.
However, that just shows how important the princess is.
But that’s not enough to protect her, and that’s the biggest problem right now.
So, for example, even if I wanted to keep an eye out for Nigel while he’s away, if I can’t get into the palace, and I can’t do anything about it.
Nigel nodded and said.
“Then I’ll leave it to you, the householder’s apprentice.
Nigel’s decision was quick. And I’m secretly glad he has faith in me.
“Why, an ‘apprentice?’”
His Eminence Shion asks involuntarily. That’s what I think, too.
“Wouldn’t it hurt the reputation to change it right after he’s officially appointed?”
“…It’s too late for that.”
I was staring at him.
But, you know, I think it’s too late for that when it comes to the nickname Doll Princess.
“…It’s up to Her Highness to decide whether or not to adopt Count Altheidel Exanidium as an apprentice to the householder.”
The Viscount’s daughter opens her mouth.
“Is Phil-Lynn no good?”
“Her Royal Highness does not say what she likes or dislikes. However, there are a few people who she unconsciously avoids…”
That doesn’t seem to be the same as liking or disliking it, but rather choosing her words carefully. That carefulness is probably her greatest virtue.
I would be reminded of this many times later.
“Her Highness says that she doesn’t remember enough to say what she likes or dislikes, so I guess that means she’s avoiding subconsciously. I still don’t know why.”
“Who are they?”
“Some of the knights of the escort, and a few in His Royal Highness’s palace…Please forgive me about the names. I can’t tell you because it seems that Her Royal Highness herself is unaware.”
“…I understand. In the meantime, I’ll send you out to say hello soon.”
“Very well. I’ll leave you to it.”
The Viscount’s daughter bows gracefully.
I don’t know how she felt about my appointment as an apprentice to the house order, but she seemed amused, so I’m sure I’ll be fine. I was a little relieved, since nothing good ever happens when you make an enemy of a lady-in-waiting.
“Oh, I won’t say anything to Her Highness because she will be disappointed if you can’t take the time to talk to her.”
I’m once again impressed by the fact that a woman who’s good at what she does is different. It’s not just a matter of how much time you have left, it’s special to be careful.
In addition, I thought I’d probably never be able to compete with this woman…
Well, when you have such a firm grip on Highness Shion, you can stand a chance against most people.
“Ragphil Eridian Il Regzelsnowdill Iltik Altheidel Exanidium.”
As always, you don’t bite off more than you can chew, do you?
I nod with a serious face. Well, even I have a sense of propriety.
“I officially appoint you as the Apprentice Householder of the West Palace of the Crown Prince and Princess.”
“Thank you very much.”
I bowed reverently.
Thus, I became an apprentice steward to the Princess’s Palace.
The appointment was in Ray’s handwriting, with my full name on it, of course.
…It had Nigel’s corrections in red ink, though.
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