It was freezing cold.
It was so cold that you could see my breath fall on the snow-covered ground.
Although my hands had been warm earlier despite the wet blood, the cold weather took the warmth away.
When I sniffed, the cold, dried up nosebleed cracked, and I noticed that my joints had been in pain for a while now. Although I’m being cursed at, just opening my mouth is already too tiresome.
Around us, black trees silently stood, and snow covered the ground. The scenery looked monochromatic, like a sketch drawn with charcoal, exactly like me. Black hair and grey eyes, just like my mother. This appearance of mine is the only connection I have with my mother.
Though I do wonder about that. The painful red color spreading from the man beneath my feet was the most unpleasant of all.
“This is good for your first time!”
The hidden Luke-sensei showed himself as he pushed his way through the snow.
The reason for the awfully loud noise was because stomping on the snow was fun. He’s childish like that.
Luke-sensei, my non-blood-related uncle, was secretly sent over to become my tutor.
‘I came here to protect you, who’s being targeted from all sides, and to teach you for when you’re all by yourself,’ he said, verbatim. He normally pretends to be a boring man whose only redeeming feature is his knowledge, but is actually a ridiculously strong, ruthless person.
Of course, I also know his real name is Lucas Marco Rottger and that he’s my mother’s younger stepbrother, which makes him my uncle. While that may be the case, I also don’t call him uncle in public.
As long as I’m a Brunsmeier, a day when I can call him uncle probably won’t come.
“I’ll clean this up later.”
He skillfully turned over the man’s body with the tip of his shoes and carefully poked him with them to make sure he was dead.
The guy, whose face had already frozen over, was sent to kill me. He looks cold. Ah, but since he’s already dead, he can’t feel cold, much less anything else.
“How do you feel?”
His pitch black eyes peaked through his bird nest of a purple hair, carefully observing me.
But unfortunately, I didn’t feel anything. Fear, regret, joy — nothing.
Just a little bit though, I, who was unwanted, felt apologetic for taking the life of someone who may have been wanted.
“I am fine.”
“I see. You got your toughness from Emilia, maybe?”
He often talks about my mother. A commendable person for how he relentlessly declares his love for her.
He suddenly lost his cheerfulness and quietly called me.
“You know that someday, I’ll have you do far worse things. But you must live. That’s what Emilia would have wanted.”
I only know my mother’s face from his drawings. There’s not even a portrait of her in the estate.
Despite telling me that such a mother wanted me to live, I could only say, ‘Is that so?’
Able to see what was really inside my heart, he gave a bitter smile and went down on one knee to look at me while saying,
“Life goes by quickly when you’re having fun, but that doesn’t mean that when painful things occur, it’s permanent. But see, if there’s one thing in this world that you can have without needing anything else, it would be love. If you have just that, you’ll be able to overcome anything, no matter how painful it is. In the very least, that’s what I think… You may not believe it, but I really hope you meet someone like that.”
“Have you also encountered such a love, sensei?”
“…Yeah. More than enough for this heart of mine.”
My uncle is a romantic, seeing as his main job is an artist.
Not having yet reached ten years old, I vaguely thought so and didn’t particularly believe him.
As we entered May, social season has finally begun.
Winter in the North is cold and long, especially with this country’s cold climate. Because of that, the social season happens from May until August. Every five years around the end of August is also the time when people become aware of and celebrate Thanksgiving. Similarly, this year is when that fifth year just so happens to occur, so there’s no mistaking that the current season would be more exciting than usual.
Most nobles who live in far away territories have finished moving to their villas near the Royal Capital, and nobles who originally lived nearby are busy preparing tea and evening parties.
Without exception, the Brunsmeier house also planned a party in order to show off a spectacular beginning to this season. Which would be happening tonight.
When the eldest son turns thirteen, it’s celebrated by the presentation of his fiancée.
For me who was that eldest son, it’s extremely troublesome.
However, I had no right to refuse to participate, and I headed towards Marquis Rietberg’s estate to welcome my fiancée* who will be quietly presented tonight.
Marquis Rietberg’s rank was definitely a marquis, but his view of society is neither good nor bad. As for his daughter, she’s someone who’s bad with conflict.
Marquis Rietberg’s only daughter, Lizia, was someone who I met at Prince Edwin’s tea party when he was looking for a fiancée.
My first impression of her was simple, quiet, and docile.
In fact, her personality isn’t that simple, which confuses me whether that’s good or bad, but that’s what I’m seeing so far.
I didn’t know what her personality deep down is, probably because she’s different from her parents, but she strangely has little interest in improving her social standing or in love, different from that of other ladies. At the same time, her house is a Marquis that holds no political power. If that’s the case, Stepmother, who extremely hates that I’m getting stronger, can’t publicly antagonize me.
Right now, her appearance isn’t much of a problem. On the contrary, it’d be troublesome if she was a beautiful girl instead.
She was a favorable girl who appeared just when I thought of wanting a fine fiancée.
I immediately got Father’s approval and proposed an engagement.
Father thought of getting me engaged with a daughter from a more powerful house but quieted down when I hinted at Stepmother. In short, he has no interest in me.
Because of this, Lizia became my fiancée.
But it seems that she’s a little displeased that my excuse was that stupid prince.
Marquis Rietberg’s estate isn’t gaudy, with a really classic look. If I were to bluntly say it, it’s somewhat shabby.
As I absentmindedly waited in the parlor the butler lead me to, Lizia came before long.
“I apologize for making you wait.”
Her navy blue, silver embroidered dress was simple yet refined, matching mine. It’s not that I don’t particularly like girls’ appearances, but I was a little worried what I would do if she looked so much like a pile of frills that you wouldn’t realize she’s actually a person, which I often see at evening parties, but it seems that my apprehensions were groundless.
“I just got here a while back. It’s fine.”
Seeing as tonight was her debut into high society, Lizia was already nervous.
When I looked at her beautifully braided, chestnut hair and the slight pale blush on her face, I felt charmed at how hard she must have prepared herself.
“Th-thank you very much.”
It was amusing how awkwardly she gave her thanks, and I unintentionally smiled.
“Katerina-sama and I thought of the design together.”
My fiancée* waved her decorated, fluffy sleeves as she proudly smiled, completely won over by Katerina.
She sometimes does things contrary to my expectations.
Thanks to her, Katerina, who I’ve been prohibited from contacting, and I have been finally interacting. Both my parents favor her on the surface, as she was Katerina’s first friend.
She’s doing better than I thought.
Marquis and Marquess Rietberg will be coming later in their own carriage, so I brought Lizia ahead with me towards the Brunsmeier estate.
We never liked to chat to begin with, so the only noise you could hear inside the carriage was the systematic turning of the wheels.
I don’t think it’s particularly unpleasant, but when I racked my brain for something to talk about, I remembered that there was something important I hadn’t told her yet.
“Oh yeah, should we just have our first dance with each other?”
Lizia was at a loss for words, gaping with her mouth open in surprise, as if she had been thinking about something.
It’s a little cute how she looks like a catfish.
She immediately got herself together, but this time, her face quickly paled.
I can pretty much guess why. I sensed it when I taught her horse riding, but moving her body isn’t exactly her forte. Seems that the person herself is also aware of this.
“Wh-what should I do…”
Despite being a noble lady, how is it that you’re bad at dancing?
As long as it’s not at catastrophic levels. As I prayed for that, she vaguely looked pitifully flustered that I had to console her. With those thoughts, I said,
“You’ll be fine. Dancing is my forte, so I’ll lead you properly.”
“Uuu… I’ll leave myself in your care.”
With a pitifully apologetic look, she bowed, so she definitely wasn’t able to see the complex expression I had on.
I was considerably surprised at the words I had said.
I don’t usually think of troubled people as pitiful. That’s because I’m a person who’s unable to sympathize.
I can understand when others are in a pitiful situation. But I don’t feel sad or bitter when I see others suffering, even though I can understand it.
I did look after Lizia when I first met her at the tea party, but it’s not because I was particularly worried that she was going to fall any time soon. It’s because I thought it was an opportunity to get close to someone who would be a good choice as my fiancée. If the other wasn’t someone of benefit to me, I wouldn’t particularly look after them.
But recently, it’s been really different.
Even I’m extremely amazed, but I would sometimes think of Lizia as cute, and when it comes to her, I think that I had to save her before I could even consider the advantages and disadvantages.
But it’s different if I was asked if I think she’s really pitiful. I haven’t changed from being a person who can’t feel sympathy.
For instance, if Lizia were to trip in front of me. I may be able to guess her pain and shame, but I can’t share those feelings. Instead, I may be impressed at her tripping over nothing. But even as I think that, I’ll immediately check if she was injured and give her my hand. It may just be consolation. If I’m already worrying about these things, I’m definitely worried about her. That’s what I think. I don’t really get it but…
Why is that?
I might be going mad, because I’ve never been near anybody who’s like this.
In the world that I live in, there is malice, murderous intent, and indifference. My only allies are my uncle, my grandfather, and finally, my dead mother, whom I have never discovered affection from. I’m puzzled as to how Lizia’s slightly strange existence ranks within that. If she was just someone I only used, I didn’t have to account for her.
This is absurd even if I do say so myself, but has a desire to protect someone unreliable and helpless possibly awoken within me? Or is it because I’m still a child…?
Thoughts of what would happen if my uncle were to become aware of this flashed through my mind for a moment, but I fell into slight melancholy. If I had to say what he’d think of her, he’d find her okay, but it’s true that there’d be moments he’d be annoyed at her.
Even now, Lizia’s muttering while watching her step.
When I saw her in serious thought as she tried not to make herself look like an idiot, I stopped thinking for the time being. Let’s assume that even I have something as human as a heart.
In the meantime, Lizia should practice and instill the movements in her body before watching her step.
“Congratulations on your birthday and engagement, onii-sama.”
As always, Katerina proudly said that with a standoffish attitude, her nose up in the air.
I thought that she’d be a little friendly this year since she became friends with Lizia, but seems not. Speaking of Lizia, her knees gave way, as if she safely got over something with the first dance. It might be that appearing before others isn’t her forte either.
By the way, I have no comment about her dancing skills.
“Lizia too, congrats. That dress really suits you. As expected, my choice wasn’t wrong!”
“Yes. Thank you, Katerina-sama.”
Embarrassed at how honestly pleased Lizia was, Katerina hid half her face behind her fan and slightly blushed. When I see a scene like this, I’m impressed that my arrogant younger sister also has cute side.
For a while, Katerina talked to Lizia about whose dress was pretty and who was attractive. I, who was a boy, was completely kept out of the loop. As always.
“We’ve been talking for a slightly long time. We shall talk later, Lizia.”
Seeing the men and women waiting to talk to her, Katerina reluctantly left. However, she turned over again, came back, and looked at me with an extremely nervous expression.
Just what on earth happened?
“Onii-sama, uhm, would you be able to dance with me later…?”
Unusually having said that in an inarticulate way, Katerina looked at me with a terrifying expression as if she was unsure if she really wanted to dance with me.
“I do not mind however…”
“I shall see you later then!”
Her expression lit up for a moment and immediately returned to a terrifying expression. Just like that, she disappeared into a crowd of people.
Lizia had been grinning from beginning to end, so the both of them probably had a meeting beforehand.
I had thought for sure that Katerina had no interest in me, but unexpectedly, that wasn’t the case. Finding out that someone who you never thought of was interested in you was an extremely mysterious feeling.
Lizia gave a carefree smile.
I wonder if it’s fine since Katerina’s expression looked that terrifying… Well, whatever.
After that, I received words of congratulations from numerous people, ranging from people I remember to those I don’t.
I wasn’t really interested, so I suitably avoided them. Of course, with the behavior of a Duke’s son.
“You do not seem that happy.”
“That’s not true. I’m just not sure why they’re that happy about my birthday.”
When I raised one eyebrow at her, she made a slightly troubled face as she discerned that I wasn’t amused at her formal language. However, she sufficiently began to talk in a carefree tone, understanding my thoughts.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it? Your birthday’s the day we give thanks for your birth.”
It’s not like there’s anyone who’s grateful that I was born.
“In the very least, I’m thankful you were.”
When I politely smiled at kind Lizia’s compliment, she looked offended.
Don’t tell me she’s angry?
“That was from the heart, you know. If Bern isn’t here, then who else will dance with me when I’m this bad at dancing?”
Her impish smile looked strangely adult-like and startled me despite her being two years younger.
I did think that she’ll have to practice if she was aware she’s bad at dancing, but it’s a little insensitive of me to say it like that. Besides, even if she’s bad at dancing, she needed me.
That’s why—– What did I just say?
I couldn’t even believe my own thoughts and was shocked.
Did I want to be needed by Lizia?
It was as if someone slapped me.
That kind of emotion should have disappeared from me a long time ago.
She was worried at my weird state, asking if her joke had been rude.
In the meantime, I gave her a weird smile to tell her that I was okay. Even though I hadn’t planned on showing her such a weird smile no matter how shaken I was.
Ah, this is troublesome.
Even though I deliberately picked a docile, plain girl who strangely wasn’t going along with me.
“Are you really okay? Should I bring you some water?”
As I harbored complicated feelings towards someone who earnestly worried about me, which was probably rare even in this world, I sighed on the inside.
This is the first time this has happened, only with Lizia.
Even holding hands with someone, being kind to them for no reason, and wanting to be needed by them. And finally, not wanting to be hated by them.
For some reason, it feels fuzzy around my chest.
Do normal people worry about things like this? It’s so troublesome.
But when I looked at Lizia comically reaching out and withdrawing her hand, unsure whether she should rub my slightly hunched back or not, for some reason, I didn’t think it was that bad. The person herself looked deadly serious, so of course I didn’t say that.
But this is really troublesome.
This sharp girl looked easygoing and particularly like a burden.
One day, in the not-so-far future, she’ll realize that I’m not the person she thinks I am. And then she’ll be disappointed or maybe reject me.
If possible, I don’t want her to know I’m a heartless person who’s unable to sympathize, and even more so, I don’t want her to know that my hands are stained with blood.
As I thought, from those thoughts of mine, I want to be a person needed by Lizia and am a little scared at that desire of mine.
No, that’s wrong. What I’m scared of is changing because of her.
It’s because I know that my thoughts of wanting to be needed by someone is just me asking for trouble.
I have to be careful to keep a proper distance. So I can leave her someday. So I can go back to being myself.
A long time ago, someone said,
‘Instead of feeling alone in a group, it’s better to have real solitude all by yourself.‘
“I’m really fine. Leaving that aside, wouldn’t it be better if we practice dancing instead of horse riding?”
As if to cover it up, I maliciously teased and grinned at her.
I shouldn’t have done anything out-of-place. And yet, Lizia made another weird face.
I felt complicated, mixed with fear and slight hope, at her look.
After two light knocks, a voice quickly replied, ‘Come in.’
I pushed open the uselessly decorated, heavy door and entered the room.
“What did you wish to speak to me about?”
Despite having told a servant to tell me to come to the study after breakfast, Father continued to look at the documents in his hands without looking up from his excessively large table.
By the way, ever since I’ve been born, my father has never eaten with me except on special occasions.
“Pick a suitable one from these right here.”
He handed over a thin bundle from the top of the mountain of documents, and I flipped through them one by one. On them were each of the ladies’ names, physical characteristics, relatives, and status. Their ages ranged from as low as six years old, to as high as 20 years old, but what they all had in common was that they were daughters of the key noble families of the country.
Understanding why Father had called me here, I unconsciously gave an empty smile. Of course, I’m actually not smiling.
I pretended to not understand, and asked what these meant.
“Your new fiancée candidates.”
Father answered with disinterest without raising his head.
“I had planned on having Katerina succeed the Dukedom, but seeing that she’s become Edwin’s official fiancée, there’s no other person aside from you that can become the next Duke.”
In other words, it’s better if Katerina becomes the prince’s fiancée.
Despite skillfully stealing the country’s money, as well as accepting bribes, nothing is more important than that.
I believe, without a doubt, that this man granted my sister’s wish because of her ‘love’, and when my stepmother told her that she was born to become the future queen, they may have had her undergo the training, which was practically brainwashing. For better or for worse, even my obedient sister came to believe that she wanted to become the queen because she loves the prince, so the reality is even worse.
My stepmother’s next aim after installing my beautiful sister as the Crown Prince’s fiancée is adopting one of her male relatives and seating them as the next duke after killing me. Even if their flimsy plans were to become successful, it’s too funny that it makes me laugh.
“But I have Lizia.”
“That’s because I didn’t want to pass it on to you. It’s different now. It’d be troublesome if your engagement doesn’t further benefit our house. When you get the chance to meet with Rietberg’s daughter, cancel the engagement. That girl’s family is powerless, and her appearance doesn’t leave an impression either. It’s not that difficult for you to do that.”
He even talked badly about Lizzy.
For a minute, my heart was in turmoil, but I pretended to think for a minute with an innocent expression.
Like this, I pretended that I abided by his words, so I wouldn’t stand out. Certainly, Father thinks I’m mediocre. Never in his wildest dreams would he think that I’d go against him.
Although it’s troublesome how he wants to discard my engagement with Lizzy. I’ve taken an interest in her ever since the Thanksgiving incident.
I’ve predicted that he’d talk to me about her, so I’m in no rush. If I were to say what I planned on saying and pick at the weak points, he might immediately stop talking about it.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to refuse.”
Father glared my way with obvious displeasure. Glaring with his stern blue eyes is an action he does to scare others.
He doesn’t live his life scaring others with just a tiny bit of intimidation, but I can’t really say that he’s good at calmly antagonizing them. It’s slightly annoying, but I pretended to be scared of his pointed gaze. This is really troublesome.
“Because of Katerina’s engagement, we have a connection to the Royal Family, and right now, there are even a few within the Queen Faction fighting over power. Anymore than this will incite jealousy from other families. In particular, I’ve heard that the Prime Minister, Marquis Freudenberg, is secretly aiming to become their maternal relative.”
“Even I know that. That’s why it’s necessary to join forces with other families with power.”
“Is that so? As for my engagement with Lizia, other families understand enough that our family doesn’t benefit from it. If so, wouldn’t it be better for us if we maintain my engagement with her on the surface until Katerina becomes the Crown Princess as we identify and negotiate the most favorable family to join with?”
“In other words, you’d like to say that it’s still too early to break off the engagement?”
One more push, huh?
“The marriage will be, in the very least, after six years. Even if we don’t choose right now, there will still be various families to choose from. With that, even Marquis Freudenberg…”
When I faintly gave a smile that closely resembled my deceased mother’s, Father showed a slightly bitter expression and averted his gaze.
I feel that for some unknown reason, Father is indebted to my real mother. Which is his next weak point after Katerina.
It tears down his perfect superiority, but even so, he looks like he’s saying, ‘I’m still plenty dignified.’ The truth is that he’s been lured into thinking that his son follows whatever he says and is quiet.
I don’t particularly dwell on what this man thinks of me, but regardless, I don’t care. I’m more thankful if he could think indifferently of me as he does right now.
Anyhow, what’s important right now is to keep Lizia as my fiancée,and stopping him from worrying and taking in a different one.
“You can retreat now.”
“Please excuse me.”
I left the room as I felt father’s pointed gaze on my back.
He may be my true father, but it’s extremely unlikely I’ll ever get along with him my entire life. But I plan on never seeing him ever again when I endure for a few more years.
Thinking of that, you could say that my father’s loathsome face had a bit of charm to it.
Father is a person who thinks of peoples’ benefits, so after this, he’ll put in effort to guard me and won’t be able to interfere with Lizzy for a while.
The problem now is my stepmother.
I quickly left the corridor, and head towards the backdoor.
On the way there, I passed by Katerina.
She, on the other hand, had been busy with the newly added queen training. The necessary training had long ended; very different from me, who no one cares about whether I’m in the estate or not.
As she seemed to realize that I was going out, my sister silently protested in my direction. When I looked at her face, it seems to say, ‘You’re going to Lizia’s place no matter what, aren’t you?! Even though I wanna go as well!’
Nonetheless, because Stepmother has eyes everywhere in the estate, she can’t directly complain, so I didn’t particularly mind her. It’s just that because she wants to meet Lizzy too, she kept up with the queen training and wants to quickly finish it.
With that kind of meaning firmly rooted in my mind, I helped Katerina.
When I stepped into the prepared carriage out the backdoor, the inside was dim because of the tightly closed curtains. Closing the door, the inside was completely dark, like it turned into night. Because it was sudden, the darkness looked darker than it should have been, but when my eyes adjusted, I gradually began to see the contours of a vague shadow sitting across from me.
The wall was knocked on, signaling the coachman to start moving.
My usual mode of transportation is using a horse by myself, but because I wanted to meet him, I specifically prepared a carriage. We’ve been exchanging letters back and forth, but it’s been years since last we’ve met in person.
“Thank you for coming to meet with me, Uncle.”
The shadow crept up and stifled a laugh.
He seems to have guessed what I wanted to talk to him about just with me calling him ‘uncle’.
“From that, it sounds like your thoughts have completely changed.”
The curtain swayed, and a streak of light shone on my uncle’s face. As usual, his smile makes it look like he eats people, and he was once again shrouded in darkness.
“So what’s this important matter of yours?”
Uncle is bad with needless talk, so he went straight to the point.
“I don’t want to become king anymore.”
“Heeh… That’s kinda unfortunate.”
Uncle shrugged his shoulders in a way that didn’t seem unfortunate at all. The one who would really feel it was unfortunate isn’t him, but my grandfather.
I, myself, did not want to be king.
It’s just that an aimless life is boring, I just wanted to get back at those that I couldn’t stomach. When I suggested that to my grandfather, he just nodded.
“I have something that I want even more. I just wanted to apologize to both Grandfather and Uncle.”
“Is it something that you can’t get if you became king?”
“Won’t you tell me what it is then?”
When he’s right on the mark about things, my uncle personality changes for the worse.
“I just would like to have a normal kind of happiness.”
“Normal, huh? …And that’s not by being king but beside Lizia Rietberg?”
Despite not seeing him, I can easily guess that my uncle is grinning, seemingly making fun of me, which is a little boring, to be quite honest.
‘Do you think a person like you can even wish for normal happiness?‘
Another side of me laughs. So annoying. Just shut up.
I waited for my uncle’s reply with those embarrassing thoughts, and he suddenly bursts into laughter.
“I see, I see! I’m extremely happy now that you’ve realized it earlier than I expected!”
For a minute, I was confused at his unexpected reaction. I’ve often never understood how he thinks. Why are you so happy…?
Speaking of Lizzy, it seems that she can’t comprehend my way of thinking either. Which is regrettable.
“Did you forget? The one and only love!”
Oh yeah, he’s mentioned something like that a long time ago.
I shivered, unaccustomed to the word, ‘love’, but as soon as I thought about it, I finally realized.
That day during Thanksgiving that Lizzy was attacked.
Despite shivering in fear, she held my blood-covered hands, and when she cried thinking of how I’ve lived all this time, it felt like she was frantically telling me to live despite not having had one emotion beat in my heart all this time. It felt like she was forgiving me and telling me I’m allowed to live.
The feeling was like I had resurfaced from underwater after so long, and took a huge gulp of breath.
From then on, Lizzy became a special girl for me.
Laughing at useless things, casually talking about the future, and just having fun together.
When I hold out my hand, a warm hand reaches out and holds mine.
Despite knowing that I’m someone that doesn’t deserve that kind of happiness, she was the one who gave me all of that.
For a while, I was terrified that I would change and be hated by her, so I got cold feet and kept my distance, but now, I can see that I was really stupid.
Whenever someone just brings up the word, ‘love’, I just tilt my head, thinking ‘Is that so?’
It’s because I’ve never thought of things like romantic love or selfless love*.
“Does Miss Lizia know about this?”
Uncle had been nodding his head while saying, ‘That’s good,’ and said this nonchalantly. However, he was pretty much looking my way very seriously. As if he’s saying ‘Do you intend on forgetting the things you’ve done?’
It’s not like I could.
I recalled the pure white snow soaked in blood.
I understood plenty that my deeds can’t be forgiven, but even so, I chose to do that so I could live. I don’t regret it. Instead, from here on out, I won’t hesitate to stain these hands of mine to do what’s necessary.
When I thought of that, what next came to mind was Lizzy who wished for me to live as she wrapped both her hands over my blood-covered ones.
I’m pretty sure that even if she knew every crime I’ve committed, and every thing I’ve stolen — no matter how many — she’d get hurt.
I don’t want to make her sad, but on the other hand, I find myself happy that she’s hurt for my sake. Which is low, even for me. If it was a normal person, they’d immediately hate me.
But she’s different.
Even though Lizzy’s definitely wary of me, in the end, she still doesn’t hate me.
She’s someone who can’t hate others, not just me. That kindness of hers is her weakness as well. For me to thoroughly take advantage of that, I’m definitely the lowest.
Even though I’m falling into self-hatred right now, I started talking.
“…She knows. Then she forgave me and scolded me. Just that I still don’t know just how much of me she can accept. Though it looks like she’s making an effort to not hate it.”
Recently, she’s been desperately saying that I can’t oppose ethics and morals, so I plan on just doing as much as her request lets me. Despite saying this and that, her hating me is an extreme matter of life or death for me.
It’s just as I said earlier, for whatever is necessary, like let’s say she was injured while I’m getting attacked, I plan on doing whatever it takes.
“That’s excellent… By the way, don’t tell me you called me just to say that you don’t need the throne anymore?”
Finally, the main question.
Looking at him, it looks very doubtful, but he’s sitting straight.
“Although the queen didn’t take the chance to assassinate a pregnant concubine, it does not change the fact that I have royal blood flowing through me. Sooner or later, a problem regarding the succession to the throne will arise, and I’ll be dragged into it. If given the chance, my stepmother will aim to get rid of me. Which will lead to my death at once.”
I was inspired by Lizzy’s words when she said, ‘It’d be nice if you could stop being a noble.’
To that, I replied, ‘That’ll be hard to do,’ but when I actually considered it, it’s not as if it’s impossible. However, if I were to do that, it would force Lizzy, who’s lived her life as a noble’s daughter, to live an inconvenienced life. I don’t particularly want to do that to her.
I don’t plan on giving up on marrying her, so backing out isn’t an option anymore.
When it comes to being a noble, isn’t there a way to escape various complicated problems?
Surprisingly, I immediately thought of a way to solve that problem. To stop being a noble, I have to stop being Bernhardt.
Or rather, Bernhardt has to die, be adopted into a suitable noble family, and marry into the Rietberg house. The happy Rietberg couple are pleased with me, so it’s possible for me to tell them about the circumstances and convince them.
“But that brings up the problem of the succession for the Dukedom. Your father wouldn’t wish for that.”
“I’ll destroy Katerina’s engagement with the Crown Prince.”
“Can you even persuade her?”
“That’s unnecessary. Regardless of whether the concubine’s child is a boy or a girl, the Wehner house will definitely make a move. Moreso than the old man holding down the Freudenberg house, wouldn’t it be easier if we have Prince Edwin overthrown by having the Wehner house cut down the Queen faction? If that happens, Father would have to cancel Katerina’s engagement with him.”
“That seems very plausible, but for that to happen, it’ll depend on how large Count Wehner’s actions turn out to be. For sure though, you can definitely expect that they’re fairly ambitious.”
In proportion to the way he was negating my ideas, Uncle was saying it in casual way. Just what is he thinking, I wonder…
“In the future, Count Donitz will have a beautiful fortune teller.”
I tilt my head, asking what he meant by that.
Divination is something I don’t believe in.
“It’s just that, she doesn’t really show herself in public much, so of course I don’t know much about her.”
If so, I haven’t heard of it.
“Either way, I heard that she even predicted the concubine’s pregnancy, and because it was extremely interesting, I had someone go in disguise. When that happened, they reported this time around that a certain Viscount’s daughter will become the future Queen. I don’t particularly believe in divinations, but doesn’t this feel like an interesting indication of trouble waiting to happen?”
I groaned when his reason was that it was interesting, but it seems that Uncle and Grandfather had already come up with a new plan.
Somehow, trying to get their cooperation makes me experience just a tiny bit of lethargy. No, it’s more apt to say that uncle looks excited and happy in contrast to me who’s feigning ignorance when looking at him.
After that, I began to discuss various plans with Uncle while the carriage made its way to its destination.
“As for me, I’ve repeatedly said that I’d like you to do whatever you’d like, but is this really okay? If you go ahead with the plan, not just being king, you won’t even be able to become Duke. You’ll be throwing away a lot of options. Furthermore, even if Bernhardt dies, you still won’t be able to avoid running into trouble. Despite all that, you’re really okay with it?”
The carriage door opens, and a dazzling light floods in.
I squinted against the light, and in front of me stands the usually, slightly run-down Rietberg estate.
I remembered Lizzy boasting about how this run-down appearance is a good thing, and my mouth eases up.
I had never been interested in status and honor from the very beginning.
If trouble befalls me, I’ll mow it down.
Moreso than the probability of being alone in the future, I’d rather choose a slightly inconvenient future with someone.
I’m not going back to being alone after all this time. As if I could.
An emotion seethes within me, similar to a simmering fighting spirit.
That’s right, I have no desire to let go of Lizzy’s hand anymore.
“Is there anything more important than the one and only love?”
Although I had said that exactly as he had said it all those years ago as I looked at him, I haven’t completely changed. Instead, I feel relieved the more honest I am.
Despite saying something weird, my mood lifts up.
For a moment, my uncle is taken aback by my reply, and afterwards, he let out a huge smile as if to say, ‘As expected of my nephew.’ Not a single ounce of blood between us is related, but… that’s fine.
“To even go as far as to say that, there’s no helping it. I’ll have to tell Dad about this.”
Uncle is the youngest of the male siblings in his family, but he’s probably the most influential out of all his siblings. Since that uncle of mine will be telling Grandfather, he’ll probably grant my request. I’ll have to cooperate with Grandfather’s plan, but that’ll make us even.
If it had been a while back, I wouldn’t have thought to consult my uncle.
But recently, I’ve honestly accepted that Uncle may be taking great care of me in his own way.
This too may be thanks to Lizzy.
“Thank you very much.”
I gave my thanks as I descended the steps, and he winked in reply.
He was obviously teasing me.
I take back what I said. I’m pretty sure that this person thinks of me as a fun way to kill time.
When I asked the maid who came to greet me of Lizzy’s whereabouts, I was told she was in the courtyard.
For some reason, this maid, who’s Lizzy’s foster sister, imparted some advice saying, ‘It’s cold today, so it’s your chance to hug her!’ and appropriately dismissed herself.
With some familiarity, my feet headed towards the courtyard, gradually quickening into a quick jog, and before I knew it, I was running.
‘I wanna quickly see Lizzy,’ I thought in my heart as I hurriedly ran.
When I came out the corridor, my field of vision expanded all at once. With the beautifully, and uniformly cut bushes in the backdrop, something white fluttered down that hadn’t fallen earlier.
The lightly dressed Lizzy looked up at this year’s first snowfall with great interest. She let out a white breath with her half-open mouth, and it vanished into the cold air.
Noticing me, Lizzy optimistically smiled as she said, ‘Welcome.’
Because she had been inappropriately dressed for a snow day, her nose was red. I thought, ‘What an idiot’ but then that’s one of the things that’s cute about her; I might be an idiot as well.
I don’t really understand much about romantic love or selfless love*.
But if ever a day comes where I became aware of those, I’m sure that it would be with her.
Well, I don’t need to worry about that right now.
In the meantime, taking heed of someone’s advice to hug her, I ran straight to her side.
*A little heads up because Japanese is so annoying when it comes to honorifics: In these sentences, Bern uses –dono to refer to Lizia as his fiancee. His speech in this whole chapter (most of it anyways) has him distancing himself from others, even Lizia (though not all the time seeing as he talks to her in casual speech).
*Some of you might already know, but there are different characters for love, and they all have different meanings/depth behind them. In these, Bern uses the kanji 恋 and 愛. I translated koi (恋) as romantic love, because that’s what it’s supposed to imply. As for ai (愛), this is much, much deeper than koi, or romantic love. It’s meaning is closer to selfless love that doesn’t expect anything in return. In English, they could both be translated as love, but because the meaning/implication isn’t there, chose to translate it as these instead.