At that time, I thought something was wrong with my ears.
“…Could you please say that again?”
It’s because the words that came out of Nigel’s mouth were impossible.
“I’m going to pick up Arthirea, so you sit here instead.”
My brother gets up from his chair in the office and puts on a cloak that the temple knights wear, which he had procured from somewhere.
…No, no, no. What is this guy talking about? Huh? Is this really you, brother? Is it Shion in my older brother’s skin?
The white ground trimmed in gold suited my brother the best, but I wasn’t given an ounce of time to admire it. After all, my brother in front of me was about to leave at once.
“Well, even if you say substitute, I…no, I can’t take the place of my brother’s work!!!”
I can bet. There is no one in the world who can do my brother’s job for him.
“I’m well aware of that. All you have to do is sit right there…You don’t have to do work for me. Rather, just stay out of it…And if anything goes wrong, you have Phil and Ray to deal with it. If all of you can’t get things done together, then do something with Rada.”
“Okay, I understand.”
If I’m just going to sit down, I don’t have to be in front of the office desk—what kind of a contingency is that? The reason I didn’t say sorry that I couldn’t help, is because my brother was already out of sight.
He was in a hurry, which was unusual for my brother, who was not an impatient person.
That’s how worried he is about my sister-in-law.
My sister-in-law who is still young…I think of Princess Arthirea Luciane, the Princess of the Crown Prince.
Golden hair that reflects light, clear snow-like skin…A girl with a lovely and fragile appearance, but once I exchanged words with her, I could understand the strength of her core.
She’s not yet an adult, but she is more thoughtful and intelligent than her actual age, full of a brilliance can’t help but draw others in.
I was convinced that it was natural for my brother to have his heart set on her, and that it’s probably why he’s so worried about her.
Maybe he’s being a bit overprotective…
In the meantime, I look at the paperwork box in front of me, wondering if there’s anything I can do to help, and then look at the pile of them again with determination after I look away. Of course, there’s no way to reduce the number.
“…I’ll at least organize…”
I sighed deeply.
The basics of paperwork have at least been drilled into me.
“…I’m not good at this kind of thing at all, though.”
I do the minimum amount of paperwork myself, and I look over the ones that require my signature, but most of the paperwork I have will be prepared by my adjutant, Stan. The amount of paperwork I’m handling is just a margin of error, considering the amount of work my brother has to do to begin with.
“…So where are you going to pick up sister-in-law?”
Of course, I know about the attack on the Duchess of Grachie, too.
I also know that my sister-in-law’s—Princess Arthirea’s whereabouts are unknown because of the attack. Only the duchess, who had been missing together with her, has now returned to her residence.
And the truth of the matter is still unclear.
Because most of the attackers are already dead and their route of entry is not known, my brother has ruled that the punishment will be withheld until the details are clarified. Disposition of this kind of case is often complicated and not decided immediately.
However, it all depends on my brother’s wishes.
Our country has a strong royal authority due to the circumstances of it’s establishment.
Although not absolute authority, the king’s intentions seem to take precedence over everything else.
I don’t know if it’s to curry favor with my brother, but it’s been less than half a day since the attack on the duchess was revealed, and I don’t know who or what was behind it, but I’m told that there was already a proposal to make me the commander of the Kings Guard Division.
That’s coming from a guy who doesn’t understand the military framework.
There are six armies in the national army.
The King, or the Crown Prince acting as his deputy, stands at the top of the Six Armies of the National Army, with the Near Eastern, Central, Eastern, Western, Southern, and Northern divisions.
In the chain of command, all the heads of the Sixth Army Division are equal in rank under the king or his deputy, the Crown Prince. However, they still have to have their own order of seating, which is based on the order of the number of years they have served as divisional commanders.
If it is in the army only, My seating order is the third in line after the Western Division Commander and the Commander of the Kings Guard Division, and if I’m attending as a soldier, I follow that order of seating.
At this point in time, I’m almost at the highest rank as a military officer, and I don’t expect to rise any higher.
However, for some reason, many people in the aristocratic class think that the Kings Guard is the highest. There are many people who think they are flattered by the idea that they will eventually become General of the Kings Guard.
Every time this happens, my deputy, Stan, takes a mental note of it in his ‘list of the people he will beat to hell,’ but I don’t listen to it deeply. If I get a chance, I might talk to my brother about it and make the list useful, but for now I’m leaving it in limbo.
Well, I wouldn’t dare to be a divisional commander of the Kings Guard.
As the commander of the Central Division, I would never be appointed as the commander of the Kings Guard Division unless there was a serious problem. This is because each division has an unspoken agreement to choose its own commander from within its own division.
The reason I don’t say never is because being the head of a Kings Guard Division sometimes takes on the tinge of an honorary position and can be used as a foil for the royal family.
In my case, it doesn’t matter…
As long as I can serve my brother as a soldier, that’s all that matters to me, and I leave it up to him to decide whether or not to advance. My lieutenant is annoyed by that and is always nagging me about it, but I really don’t care. As long as I can listen to my brother’s orders and be useful, I’m fine.
Shucks, I wonder where the root of this whole mess lies?
Whether it was some idiot’s bedtime story about me as a Kings Guard or not, the attack was too baffling to be a mystery to me.
Going after a helpless old lady with high status, I don’t get it.
With not much to do, I decided to gather my thoughts while looking through the report on the attack that was just at the top of the page.
This, the shooter ain’t a military guy…
That was the first thing I noticed.
The bow had been taken away, but the arrows were left behind. The arrows left behind were for long range. It would be impossible for a professional soldier to choose this arrow at that distance.
It’s not impossible that he deliberately missed them, but if he planned to miss them from the start, he wouldn’t have placed them in this position.
The shape of the remaining arrows and the number of arrows left…the place where the archers were thought to have been lurking…The arrows are shot so that multiple shooters intersect. The fact that they didn’t snatch any of them is probably due to poor skill.
Or did it not matter if they lived or died in the first place?
However, the total number of arrows fired was too large to be considered a mere threat, and the estimated number of attackers also seemed too large.
And while the number of shooters estimated from the footprints left at the scene was the same, the number of arrows shot on the east side and the west side was significantly different.
…or it’s possible that the shooter on the west side hesitated because of the involvement of my sister-in-law.
Sister-in-law—Princess Arthirea is petite compared to other kids her age. From a distance, she could be mistaken for a tremendous toddler. Someone might have been afraid to involve the child, even if they didn’t know her face well.
If so, it’s likely that at least one of the shooters had a personal grudge against the Duchess.
There are people who didn’t involve the others because they have a grudge against the duchess alone. And there are those who chased her and her friend underground, knowing that children were involved.
Many things can be gleaned from the report. There may be cases where my reasoning is wrong, but it’s important to look at it from various perspectives.
“But hey, at the end of the day, the raid was just a means to an end…no, or was this one of the goals?”
A question comes out of my mouth.
“Ah, if you don’t mind me asking, can you tell me what the purpose is or something?”
I heard a familiar voice.
Before I knew it, there was my brother’s foster brother…or rather my brother’s right hand man, Phil-Lynn, in the room.
Although he is an heir of the Count Altheidel Exanidium, he is well known among his subordinates because he appears everywhere. Perhaps they don’t think of him as a nobleman.
The attitude of my subordinates towards me is also much more casual, but not as casual as the attitude towards Phil.
“It’s been a long time. Good to see you again, Your Highness Alfred.”
“Has it been that long?”
“It’s been about a month, hasn’t it?”
“What? Didn’t we see each other that much?”
“Yes. The last time we met was when His Highness Prince Alfred was going to exercise…”
“Exercise? The practice from earlier last month? With the Western Division?”
“…Then it’s certainly been almost a month.”
Phil and my brother have always been a set in my mind. I guess it was because I saw my brother every week. I don’t feel like I’ve seen Phil all that much.
“…Hey Phil, how far did my brother go to pick up my sister-in-law?”
Phil let out a distracted, ‘agh,’ and then, told me in a rambling tone
“…to pick up the Princess, he went from the basement to downtown.”
In a formal sitting room, he speaks in awe and reverence, of course, but if no one is around like this, the tone is quite casual.
Some people don’t know him well, but with that kind of openness, he can talk to people without worrying about it. I’ve never seen anyone with such a wide range of friendships as Phil.
That’s why I don’t have any foster brothers or sisters.
That said, my brother’s concern for me was a major factor in shaping me into the person I am today.
The three-year age gap between us when we were children was quite large. And that’s not all. When I was a child, I was frail and so weak in ways I can’t even imagine now. It would have been a hassle to do anything with me, but my brother and the rest of his aides never neglected or left me to fend for myself.
Of course, since my brother was a busy man from that time, Phil-Lynn seemed to be the one who gave me the most direct attention. That’s why I have a special familiarity with Phil-Lynn, even though he’s not a foster brother or anything.
“Downtown? Why is she downtown?”
“When they were attacked, the princess and the Duchess escaped into the basement. They got lost in the basement and ended up there.”
“I’m so glad she’s okay.”
I know that my sister-in-law, who is registered, will never be harmed in the underground. But I don’t know why the Duchess is safe.
“That’s right…Once upon a time, the Duchess was said to have played the role of the ‘princess’ at the founding festival, so apparently she was registered at that time.”
In Dardinia, the Founding Festival is the biggest national event.
The “princess” is the daughter of the fairy king, also known as the “maiden” or “queen,” who gives the king the sword of kingship in the garden of beginnings deep within the palace during the Founding rituals.
It is tacitly understood that the daughter of an unmarried high-ranking nobleman is to do this, but if there is a princess in Elzevert’s direct line, she is chosen as that princess, if not, the princess is chosen from the other three duke’s or from a lineage connected to the royal family.
This ritual directly recreates the meeting between the founding king and the first queen.
It is said that only the princess of Elzevert can unseal the royal treasure sword Rufanazak. It is said that the king of Dardinia is born when the sword is unsealed and dedicated to the pedestal in the Garden of Beginnings.
“Does it always register if you’ve been a maiden before?”
“No, not necessarily, but for some reason the Duchess was registered…Ah, I’d like to ask His Highness for more details. I don’t know so much about it either.”
By the way, this registration is actually something we can’t do anything about for our convenience.
Currently, the only people who are officially allowed to step into the underground are the Department’s scholars, but they had written suicide notes and are hiding underground. Even though the underground investigation is making some progress, the unregistered are not guaranteed life, as they don’t know when or where they will come in contact with the wrath of the watchmen. Accidents happen a few times a year, but that doesn’t stop scholars from venturing underground. Apparently, their overflowing curiosity and thirst for knowledge have left them helpless.
“…Does he know about it?”
If you didn’t know and went underground, I think it’s a very brave thing to do. Maybe it was only because dhr didn’t know it at all that she was able to do it.
“Will all those who were ‘maidens’ be registered?”
“No.… The ‘maiden’ of the Founding Festival was invented to find the Princess of the Keys, the inheritor of the heritage. Perhaps the fact that the Duchess was registered is special in itself. Actually, I think Ally…Her Highness Alienor played ‘The Maiden’ but was not registered at all.”
Phil reiterated my sister’s childhood name by mentioning it.
“…Isn’t that because we only have Elzevert blood from His Majesty the Deceased Prior King?”
For a moment, I remembered the face of His Majesty the King, now deceased.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve rarely called my father “father” to his face. I’ve always called him “Your Majesty.”
Perhaps it was because that’s what my brother had called him. Perhaps the same was true of Alienor and Shion. The only people who genuinely called His Majesty father were my half-brothers and sisters.
To be honest, I don’t really understand family. That’s partly why I’m still single, even at this age.
“I’m sure that’s true. Nigel said the same thing.”
“Wait a minute, Phil…Isn’t my brother just roaming around freely?”
“…Ah, that’s not a problem at all…maybe. Nigel has a ring, you know.”
“It’s the Crown Prince’s seal ring of proof…It’s like a pass for the ruins, apparently.”
It is said to be one of the betrothal gifts from the Princess of the Fairy King, who was once the consort of the Founding King. It is made of an unknown material, and although it is not very large, it is surprisingly elaborate.
It is said to be the only one of its kind that can never be duplicated.
“‘Apparently’…what if it isn’t?”
“It was fine. I’ve tried it myself.”
“What? Have you tried it?”
“Oh…I used to walk underground with that ring once. I’ve always been able to plow through an area where there are too many guards, but it was nothing.”
“…What are you experimenting with?”
“It’s not an experiment, it’s more like…I had quietly escorted a princess behind her back and she gave me one of those items.
“An escort in the shadows is…”
I didn’t understand the situation at all, but I did understand this.
Phil had been loaned the Crown Prince’s seal ring and had roamed the basement at will himself.
—Maybe not just once or twice.
If it was to protect my sister-in-law, it couldn’t have been a straightforward act.
There is no way that my brother would make a bet with regards to my sister-in-law.
“I’m not interested in that, but I’d like to know what the means and purpose were of what you said just now.”
Phil-Lynn forced the conversation back. I said it in a rather light tone, but my eyes were serious in return.
So I took up residence for a moment.
“Ah, that’s not what I mean…I’ve heard that the victim of Neve was the culprit…but doesn’t it seem too abrupt?”
“I’m not saying that those guys from Neve are fake. The fact that they were victims is probably true too. But this is not usually the case. Their resentment and sadness and all that stuff was supposed to slowly fade away in the course of time…In fact, nothing happened for two years.”
I cut off his words there and looked at Phil.
“So how did they end up here?”
“I think there was someone who encouraged them to do it…And that may have been the reason with for Neve case from the very beginning.”
When I put that idea in my mouth, it felt like the right thing.
Someone faceless had twisted the information from the very beginning and set fire to the people of Neve, who were smoldering with grief and resentment.
“What do you mean ‘from the very beginning?’”
“…Even our adjutant, who is often ridiculed as an ‘informer,’ thought that the good intentions of the Duchess had caused more damage in that decision. Maybe it means that someone led them on that way?”
“You think this was intentional?”
‘I can’t be sure,’ he showed me a shrug of his shoulders.
“What do you think was the impetus is for this case?”
“His Majesty’s death. Or that his death officially confirmed my brother’s accession to the throne.”
I answered easily.
It was almost a year ago that the first letter arrived to the Duchess. I was convinced by the records here that it was right after His Majesty’s funeral.
Phil gave a small nod, as if to say that it was probably true.
“Maybe it’s all just that…but I think he’d like to eventually discredit my brother. Not much room for success, though.”
Phil doesn’t deny what I said. Perhaps he guessed as much.
“What made you think that?”
“Stan…I talked a lot with my lieutenant. We’re not as well-informed as you are. But we do have military-related information, so we’re guessing the result by taking that into account.”
I thought that despite being the crown prince, my brother had been involved in most of the governmental work as a deputy to the king, so his position was solid.
He is capable of doing the job, is popular among the commoners, and has the support of the major aristocrats.
He’s the kind of person who is impeccable, even from my younger brother’s point of view. No matter how hard I try, I don’t think I can catch up with him, and it will be impossible to replace him. Or rather, I thought there was no one I’d want to replace him with after thinking about it.
“So you don’t think this case is an attempt on the life of the Duchess?”
“No, not really. Anyway, for now, just go through step-by-step.”
I take a breath and open my mouth.
“First of all, the Duchess of Grachie’s case is aimed at stirring up the Grachies…hopefully a mess of family turmoil.”
“You can’t do that normally, can you?”
“So they do it with those intentions, but it doesn’t necessarily produce the results they intended.”
“I mean, Lord North is a staunch Nigel supporter. For example, if something happens to the duchess, or if she goes into hiding for any other reason, her son is a hard-core believer, and her child Claude is a former lieutenant and his wife is Princess Alienor. Whoever succeeds him, that house won’t be overturned from supporting Nigel, will it?”
“But it is possible to reduce the power…Actually, this mess has caused delays in preparations for the Founding Festival celebration. I’ve heard that they have already transferred some of the responsibilities that are usually handled by the North family to other families.”
The Dardinian nobility is a servant. They serve their king and their country, which in turn is the force that sustains the nation.
At national events like the Founding Festival, most noble families have an appointment that has been handed down from generation to generation. It is the highest honor and a sign of trust for the Dardinias to be called upon by the royal family to serve. Therefore, failure to fulfill the required service is the most shameful thing and may be a reason for disqualification as a nobleman.
“Even if Grachie were to lose face, it wouldn’t be enough to weaken Nigel’s support base, would it?”
In the first place, my brother has no overt opposition.
This meant that almost all the noble families ostensibly supported his accession to the throne.
“Well, I don’t think that’s going to happen right away. But what if they overlap? You’re talking about bringing in or not bringing in someone from Alhane in the south, aren’t you? I’m not familiar with it at all, but it’s another sensitive issue to handle. One mistake in handling it and the relationship with Alhane, with whom we currently have a good relationship, could be estranged.”
“…It seems like we’re still sort of exploring each other with the replaced Feldie.”
“As for the rest…Elzevert has a lot of things, but his support for your brother is not reversed. Not to mention, no matter how much the current Duke of the East announces his disapproval, your sister-in-law, who is the presumed heir, is the only queen of your brother.”
“The Easterners aren’t going to express their disapproval…I’m not an idiot.”
Although he and Duke Elzevert are overtly at odds with each other, when you get right down to it, it’s not politics or anything else, it’s just the emotional part of each other’s lives.
“There is only one thing that Elzevert can do…The Duke of the East can choose not to support my brother.”
“…Is there such a thing?”
Phil-Lynn nodded his head with a straight face.
“It’s your sister-in-law…If your sister-in-law is no longer your brother’s wife…or, more to the point, if she is another man’s wife, then Elzevert can easily turn over.”
“That’s not possible. Nigel would never allow it.”
“But if it was your sister-in-law’s choice, what could he do about it? Well, the two of them are so close together that it probably wouldn’t be by their own choice.”
“That’s right… Nigel will never allow someone to forcibly bend the Princess’s will…Rather, I don’t know what he’d do if someone touches her.”
Phil-Lynn was serious. He was seriously frightened.
“Yes. I know that from what I’m seeing now. But maybe…I think this all started with my sister-in-law in the first place.”
Phil made an even weirder face.
“Well, I’ll tell you in order. Um, so where was I?”
“Relationship with the four dukes.”
“Oh, I see…By the way, what I’m about to tell you isn’t like I have any proof or anything, so keep it in your heart.”
“I get it.”
I gave a small cough and began to share my own reasoning.
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