Chapter 2: Duel under the moon
Editors: Skythewood, Darkdhaos, Ravenslither, Chris S
The imperial Capital Versailles was a city without walls.
Positioned at a slightly elevated basin were vast and beautiful streets. Looking down from the top of the hill, one could see the entire beautiful scenery unobstructed.
At the heart of the city was the Imperial Palace Le Brane.
From the top view, the simple palace layout was portrayed by a large cross with well organised pathways, dividing it into four corners with four small courtyards to the North, South, East and West and a garden in the middle.
The palace was not only the residence for royalty, but was also the headquarters where military and domestic affairs were handled.
Surrounding the palace were the private estates of the nobles, regardless of those holding territories nearby or those situated far away.
As there were no walls or gates to separate the district, sentries could be seen everywhere. If any commoners were to be within 10 steps of the boundaries, they would be restrained by the armed guards and questioned.
On the road way in front of the palace, the Knights of the White Wolves were slowly advancing along a street.
The streets were filled with people.
The capital was filled with a festivity as tomorrow would be the Empire’s anniversary since its founding. The festival started since morning as stores were set up along the streets
Nevertheless, there were way too many people.
Regis looked around.
“…Why are there so many people?”
“They gathered because they wanted to have a glimpse of Princess Marie Quatre, some also gathered to look at Latreille. After all, today is a special day.”
“Yes, as the princess left the capital last year on this date.”
“While that is true, the main reason is because the young princess took the famous impregnable Volk Fortress, which obviously piqued the people’s interests.”
“Ahhh… I see.”
In the capital, there were many wealthy families, but the number of people that came due to admiration of the royalty or nobles were not in the minority.
With the young and beautiful princess becoming a hero, it was not strange that people gathered.
Seeing the situation, Regis understood why Latreille would want to pull Altina to his side.
Regis stuck his head out the window, looking at Altina who was in front.
Altina who was slowly advancing while riding the horse kept a straight face as she was surrounded by supporters of her political enemies.
Due to this, the people could feel a majestic aura around her.
However, along the way, there were some children that kept shouting “Princess Marie Quatre” while waving their hands.
Regis was afraid that Altina would display her displeasure openly or make unpleasant remarks, but that fear appeared to be unwarranted.
As the civilians gathered, the atmosphere increased in tension.
All of a sudden, Altina who was keeping a straight face smiled and waved to the civilians.
Seeing this, the crowd started cheering.
“Long live Marie Quatre!”
Someone started playing music and the crowd began singing songs praising the Empire.
Seeing Altina’s smile, Regis felt that this was the first time seeing her like this.
As they traveled, a feminine voice reached Regis’ ears.
Regis turned back and looked
Although the carriage was advancing slowly, but he was still able to feel the speed, Regis turned back and looked at the crowd
Among the people, he saw a familiar woman.
Although he wanted to call out her name,
But the carriage already moved on, causing Regis to miss her.
There was no helping it, Regis turned and looked behind.
-- It has been so long since we last saw each other, you look great, Carol.
At this point of time, Regis felt that he had really returned to the capital.
The magnificent gate was opened, allowing the carriage to advance into the palace Le Brane
The Knights of the White Wolves that followed the carriage did not pass through the gate.
Similarly, Abidal Evra and the rest that travelled together from Volk fortress stopped at the gate. Eric was the only guard that accompanied Altina in.
The carriage slowly advanced to the palace’s square and stopped there.
On Latreille’s side, Latreille, Germain and the knights totaled to 6, while on Altina’s side, there were 4 people, Regis, Altina, Clarisse and Eric.
This was the first time Regis saw the inside of the palace. He felt it was a wondrous place and looked around him.
The cream coloured tiles of the square were engraved with exquisite details.
The details of the tiles were actually Imperial Guards holding muskets using a single hand.
Regis had only heard of them in stories; this was the first time he actually saw them.
“Haa~ He finally arrived.”
Altina, who was born and raised here, was more relaxed than when she was surrounded by people.
Putting aside Altina’s attire, just the way she dismounted was enough to even cause the horse to shudder.
“I should be thanking you, Latreille… Be it the horse or the welcoming.”
“Indeed, if you were still riding the stagecoach, it might be impossible to advance under the eyes of the public, we might even be a laughing stock and be infamous for such reason.”
Latreille then dismounted from his horse.
“Well, I am happy that you are satisfied with this.”
Altina glared at Latrille.
“—I don’t trust you.”
“Oh, is that so? Guess there is no helping to it, although I did some things, I know that a horse is not enough as a compensation. Then, I will see you later during dinner.”
Latreille was waving and displayed a lonely smile while moving towards the stairs, when he turned his head back, he revealed a look of contempt.
“There is definitely something wrong.”
“…Are you alright, Your Highness?”
“Those eyes, he is definitely up to something.”
“That’s apparent, he can stand against strong political enemies, so the way he acts is normal.”
“Be more courageous, Regis, you absolutely need to do something.”
“Starting tomorrow is the 3 day long Empire’s founding Anniversary, if nothing happens during this period of time, my role will be just enjoying these 3 days.”
"Why does it look as though you have found a frog in my bag?"
“...If there’s really a frog, I hope it’s alive.”
The palace’s staff appeared and proceeded to remove the luggage from the carriage.
Finally, they could take a break.
Altina, who was given the cold shoulder in the palace, went to her room to rest after preparing.
Following Altina who passed through the entrance was Clarisse, even Eric, as expected of Blanchard’s son, had a honest look.
Yet Regis felt as though he was not supposed to be here, carefully following behind.
The palace was like an art museum as there were many art pieces, even the palace itself looked like an art piece. Moreover, there were many scenes which appeared only in stories that could be seen here.
--Oh~ Was this not the pillar that “Love Thief of the Imperial Court” described? That corridor should be where the “one-to-one fight” mentioned in the “Legend of the hero Alfred” happened.
“...How wondrous… Could this be paradise?”
Inside the palace, other than some staffs, the majority were nobles.
The nobles raised their brow when they saw Altina.
Altina thought that the nobles would say something unpleasant to her, but it seems that no one dared to do so.
What made them speechless was not just the Grand Tonnerre Quatre, which Altina was carrying without any trouble.
Rather, not only was this princess rumoured to have defeated the hero Jerome, she had also pacified the barbarians and captured the impregnable fortress. She was the commander that accomplished these impossible feats.
Aside from all of these rumors...
The nobles in the imperial capital recognised that they were not able to look down on the soldiers.
“Looks like there is another thing to thank Latreille for.”
“What happened, Your Highness?”
“After I joined the military, the palace became quieter.”
However, this caused the malicious thoughts directed at her to increase.
Even without any words, Regis could tell that the nobles looked at them as if they were demons. Regis stretched his back a little and thought..
--So this was the environment that Altina grew up in.
When he first heard of this from Altina, Regis thought it was unbelievable. However, after seeing this, he understood what Altina meant.
As royalty, Altina was unsatisfied about the Belgaria’s current system. Being concerned about the people was a good thing, but did this feeling only come about because of her mother was a commoner? Regis could not help but think of this from time to time.
But now, Regis understood what Altina thought.
This sentiment that the nobles bear towards the civilians- strong and blatant, unreasonable, insulting, and hatred, was the best reflection of what the nobles currently were today.
“Don’t they feel that something is wrong?” While harboring this feeling, Altina began doubting the nobility system. She also showed an interest in politics and began sympathising with the civilians that had suffered. This must be how Altina’s goal was formed, Regis thought.
Noticing something weird with Regis, Altina asked,
“Did you see anything interesting?”
“... … Eh, erm… So this was where the Princess grew up.”
“... If I asked around in the palace, perhaps I might find out things related to the princess.”
Altina suddenly blushed.
“What are you talking about, really… but this is fine too.”
Suddenly, she whispered into the ears of Regis
“That… I, I should introduce you to my father.”
“Calm down, Altina. Although I don’t understand, but if I, a civilian, accidentally offend the Emperor, I could be dismissed.”
Regis’ voice was only loud enough for Altina to hear.
Altina’s room was located at the centre of the north side.
The room beside Altina was supposed to be Clarisse’s room...
“It will be inconvenient if the distance is too far, Regis and Eric, you shall stay in the room next to this. Clarisse, you don’t mind staying in my room right?”
“As you wish, Your Highness.”
“As your bodyguard, I am very thankful for this decision of yours.”
Eric also approved of this idea.
During the trip, Regis and Eric were sleeping together with Abidal Evra. If they were to share a room, there was no need to worry about a lack of blanket, hence they had no reason to object.
The sky was still bright when Altina and the rest reached the house--
Regis and the rest arrived at the dining room, the staff then told them that they were preparing their meals.
However, Altina suggested going to the streets.
“Let’s go and take a look at the steam locomotive!”
While Regis and Eric were out, Clarisse used the time to clean the room that had not been used for a long time.
Altina used a cloth to cover her hair and went out.
This year, the Belgaria Empire was constructing their first railway. The steam locomotive was from High Britannia, the rail started from the capital to the nearby Sanc Juhel city, a short distance as a preliminary trial.
High Britannia was a nation ruled by a Queen. In the past, it was famous for its tea and culture. In recent years, they have begun focusing on technological advancement
With the large purchase of tea leaves, the two countries cooperated in developing new technologies that came from the east.
High Britannia, a nation far smaller than Belgaria, sounded the warning bells of the wise residing within the empire.
In order to learn more about technological advancement, scholars from Belgaria have been going to High Britannia as exchange students. Even so, was it possible to even catch up?
Regis also felt that one must be wary of High Britannia, this feeling intensified after they saw the steam locomotive.
Altina had an innocent look as usual.
“How wonderful, Regis, this huge black locomotive makes such a loud sound!”
“I want to try riding it once.”
“...Maybe next time, after you return, you can sit for as many trips as you want.”
This never-seen before locomotive made the anniversary an unprecedented one.
After this, Regis went to the bookshop he used to patronise and greeted the shop owner Carol.
Later that evening, Regis and the rest went to dine at the La Taverne which Regis frequented in the past. However, the place was actually where politics were heavily discussed.
Entrepreneurs, teachers, scholars gathered here to discuss recent news.
“The national reserves have gone beyond the bottom line, let’s not talk about the money required to conduct the marriage for the 6th concubines! Before that was the birthday party of a concubine and there is still the anniversary tomorrow, what a waste of money.”
“The tax dollars of the commoners are used to pay for the banquets of the nobles! How can we allow this!?!?”
“This should be a nation free and equal for all!”
The energetic youth yelled as he brandished his fist.
Seeing this, it took all of Regis and the rest effort to just stand at the shop’s entrance. Altina, who was using a cloth to cover her hair, revealed a look of unease.
It would be troublesome if Altina’s identity was to be revealed here.
“Although there’s a nice shop ahead… I think it’s better to eat at the palace.”
Regis told Altina and Eric to return to the palace.
As the sun slowly set, they returned to the palace.
At the Northeast of the palace, the scene in which the staff preparing for dinner and the banquet tomorrow were as if it was a battlefield.
Even though the guards at the door saw the robed Altina, they did not stop them as Regis and Eric were wearing their military uniform.
Leaving the rowdy streets, they passed by the courtyard and the patio as they advanced towards the hall.
Soon, they reached a house in the northern side.
The beautiful bed frame, the artistic carvings on the wall and the chandelier with jewel like accessory hanging off it.
Seeing this impressed them.
Even if this room was the most modest room in the palace.
Altina removed the robe, revealing the dress underneath and her hair that was covered by the cloth. Even with her attire earlier, the guards would not have stopped her.
Walking out of the corridor filled with artworks, they headed towards the centre of the palace.
“My apologies, Your Highness, because of me showing you around, things became this way…”
“It’s fine, this often happens when I go outside. Eric, you should more or less be used to it.”
“O,of course. Still, I’m a bit nervous.”
Remembering about the scene earlier, Eric could not help but shiver.
“Eh? That is?...”
Looking in front of the corridor, Altina’s hand reached to her waist, but there was nothing there.
The Grand Tonnerre Quatre was too huge, so a long sword was usually equipped instead. However, it would be too striking if she wore it to the streets, hence Altina did not have anything with her.
Seeing Altina stop her action, Eric gripped the hilt of his sword, stepping forward to cover Regis and Altina with his body.
“Eh? That guy is?...”
Approaching from the other side was a silver-haired male.
His body was slender enough to make people feel that he was a woman.
His height was about the same as Regis.
He wore a sewed military uniform without any decorative medals, with him was a decent long sword with a jewel at its hilt.
Hearing his name, the black-haired youth beside the silver-haired youth reacted first.
“Isn’t this princess Argentina?”
“Ah, Eddie is there too? It’s fine if you call me like you used to.”
“That will be great, I’m not used to formal conversations.”
Wearing a full black military uniform, at the waist was a red longsword with Eddie’s full name engraved on the hilt. Thus, Regis knew who he was.
-- Duke Eddie Fabio de Balzac
The Balzac house was known for its swordsmanship, the first generation family head was the Flame Emperor’s right-hand man. As proof of his prestige, one of the seven sword was bestowed to the clan.
There was no mistake, the sword at his waist was the Defendre Sept.
His grandfather Baltasar was Altina’s mentor in swordsmanship. Eddie wanted to ease the mood, but he could not change the fact that the two were political enemies.
Even knowing that Altina and Auguste were political enemies, for what reason did Eddie and Auguste have to be moving together.
Altina put her hand on Regis’ shoulder and said,
“Let me introduce, this is Regis, my strategist.”
“Ah… Nice to meet you, I’m Regis Auric, 5th grade admin officer.”
“Ahhh, I have heard of you! Nice to meet you, Regis, you can call me Eddie.”
Finishing his words, he stretched his hand out for a handshake.
-- A duke and a civilian shaking hand?
There was a rumour that the Duke was easygoing, seems like it was the true.
Hence, they shook hands. Their clasped hands trembled for a bit.
“... Pleased to meet you.”
“Ah, don’t tell me that you are wary of me?”
The silver-haired male elbowed Eddie lightly.
“Of course, stupid.”
“Alright, I’m sorry.”
“Altina… It’s been awhile.”
“Erm, are you Auguste?”
“Of course I am.”
The first prince, Carlos liam Auguste de Belgaria, replied unhappily.
Altina did not show any remorse at all.
“Haven't you become smaller?”
“H,how is that even possible! How unreasonable.”
“Also, your voice seems higher pitched.”
Eddie answered this for Auguste.
“That, Argentina… After Auguste had fallen sick, a lot of things happened.”
“Ah, is that so? Never mind, I will ask him next time, but why are you together with him?”
Altina pointed at Eddie’s chest with her finger and said.
Eddie averted his eyes uncomfortably.
“I’m currently working as Auguste’s guard, do you not know?”
“Never heard of this.”
This was also the first time Regis heard of it too. There was a lack of information as they were at the borders, however news regarding the burning of the estate did reach them.
“... That reminds me, you got attacked by bandits?”
Regis asked and changed the topic.
Auguste replied without any hesitation,
“Nn, those guys were hired by Latreille. The mastermind was Major general Baudouin, but unfortunately, no evidence was found.”
Eddie was stunned when Auguste said that with confidence.
It seemed that the news was true.
Eddie revealed an intrigued face and said.
“Latreille too, stirring up so much trouble really worries me. Don’t worry though, I never once thought of sending an assassin after you, Argentina.”
“I feel that this would not happen as long as we are in the palace, so don’t worry about it. Instead, Eddie, are you able to strike someone down? Have you overcome your fear of blood?”
“Ahh, that, no, killing someone isn’t my forte… Isn’t it the same for you too, Argentina?”
“I, I will do it if it’s necessary.”
Regis observed the surrounding.
The nobles that passed by have a curious look as they looked here.
On one hand was the shut-in Auguste, and on other side was Altina who came back from the borders. The conversation between the two was a strange sight to them.
If such extreme words were to be used, it could be troublesome. If someone used the words that Auguste said against him, things could get ugly.
“Your Highness… Dinner is almost ready.”
“Nn, indeed, I shall excuse myself first then.”
Altina was also aware of the situation.
“Elder brother, see you later during dinner.”
“Nn, be careful.”
Auguste nodded his head.
The two sides walked pass each other.
Eric looked at the back of Auguste for awhile before he chased after Regis and Altina.
“...Did anything happen?”
“Ah, no, just… Nothing at all.”
Altina then went for dinner.
As the banquet has not started yet, the nobles were still wearing their usual outfit, which was a flowing robe with a sash tied at the waist.
Regis, Clarisse and Eric’s dinner was brought into the room by the staff, they were intending to finish their meal before Altina came back.
Regis was stunned as even the appetizers that were served was deluxe meat.
“This… It’s okay to eat this, right?”
“Regis aside, you are a noble, Eric, why are you saying that?”
Was what Clarisse replied.
Hm? Regis felt that Clarisse’s mood had changed.
When there were others around, Clarisse tends to stay silent...
Perhaps due to working together for quite some time, Clarisse seemed to have opened up to Eric.
Eric, who had been admonished, went red in the face
“The Blanchard Baron house holds little power in the palace.”
“... As the princess’ subordinate, how can you act like this? For people with lower status, they won’t be served such deluxe dishes.”
Speaking of which, these dishes were obviously fine cuisines.
As marine technologies advanced in recent years, pepper which was a luxury good was generously used.
After that, they silently enjoyed their meal.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
“Who is there? Don’t tell me that there is still more?”
At the same time as Regis was speaking, Clarisse went to open the door, while Eric grasped the hilt of his sword.
Altina rushed in after the door was opened.
“Eh, Your Highness?!”
“It’s fine if you address me as always!”
Regis almost fell off his chair as Altina lightly bumped his shoulder.
Altina then proceeded to sit on the empty part of the seat.
And so, Regis and Altina was sharing one chair.
“Ah~ What, you don’t like it?”
“Erm, let’s not do this… … Your Highness”
“Isn’t it fine! Didn’t you do it with Eric too? So why can’t you do it with me??”
Eric was confused when his name was mentioned. He did nothing wrong, so there must be some reason for this.
It seems that trying to hide his relation with Altina was impossible.
“Ha… That… The fact is, Eric, I’ll be troubled if you were to misunderstand…”
“I’m not used to formal conversation! Hence you should call me as usual, Regis.”
“... It will affect the morale of the army if rumours of this spreads, hence there is a need to be formal. It is also my duty as a strategist to be formal when speaking to Your Highness.”
“Really! I order you to address me like before~!~!”
“Argh… That… Al,Altina.”
Altina’s face blushed in an instant.
Eric’s expression instantly changed and revealed a shocked look.
“Th,that means… Regis and the princess… So this is what they call love that transcends social status.”
“It’s not that.”
Regis replied without any hesitation, Altina then slowly squeezed Regis out of the chair with her butt.
“... What’s wrong, Altina?”
“I feel that the chair is very comfortable, why don’t you go sit at the balcony and enjoy the cooling wind instead?”
“... If possible, I will like to finish my meal in the house. The weather is still cold, I’m not interested in noble-like hobbies.”
Why did she suddenly get angry? Regis racked his brain for the reason.
Regis had no choice but to find another chair to sit.
Clarisse proceeded to clear the utensils used by Regis and prepared a new set of utensils for Altina.
“Your Highness, this is inevitable as we are talking about Regis here”
“You’re right! Really, all because of Regis!”
“...Erm, did I do anything wrong?...”
Eric was secretly laughing at one side. His expression was different from before as if he saw hell, now his face showed a genuine smile.
“This feels like a siblings’ relationship, I’m relieved.”
“The relation between Altina and I can only be that of a Commander and strategist… In any case, it will be troublesome if rumours were to spread, so I hope you can keep this a secret.”
“Nn, I understand. I swear it on my honor.”
Eric drawn his sword as he said that, and sheathe it afterwards. This was a knight’s oath.
“Thanks-- Back to the topic, Altina, why are you back so fast? You did not have dinner?”
It was supposed to be a reunion dinner for the royalty.
“That’s right! Listen to me, Regis!”
“Did you hear any news?”
“Father married another concubine!!”
“... Seems like the wedding ceremony was when we were sieging Volk fortress… I heard that the 6th concubine is just 15 year old.”
It meant that the 6th concubine, disregarding the First prince and Second prince, was younger than the Third Prince Bastian and was about the same age as Altina.
Wives that were younger than sons were common among nobility and royalty.
“That 6th concubine was sitting right beside Father during dinner! She is acting as if she is the main wife.”
“Th,this is troublesome… That, the 6th concubine is a princess from Estaburg, which means she is the princess of the neighbouring country. With status like that, she may be more conceited than the noble’s daughter.”
“Rumours that the new concubine is very cold towards others! The relation between the Queen and her doesn’t seems good.”
“This really seems serious…”
“That’s why! Before the aperitif, I came out with an excuse of wanting to drink juice, thus sneaking out.”
“Nonono! I absolutely will not return to there, I don’t want to witness that situation.”
“... Can’t help it… However, you must attend the banquet tomorrow.”
“... Altina, Abidal Evra and the rest finished their job as your guards. Now, you should also do your duty.”
“Ah,nn, I understand, I was only joking just now… I will be responsible for my things till the end, but not today!”
“... The show starts tomorrow, so rest well for tonight. After all, the long trip has taken a toll on the body.”
Altina reached for the utensils.
“Ha~, I don’t know why but I feel hungry after feeling relieved. Ah~ The food looks tasty.”
“... Let’s eat together then.”
Clarisse and Eric nodded in agreement with Regis.
After dinner, Altina and Clarisse returned to their room.
Although it was still too early to sleep, but they felt tired after the long journey.
After some time--
Someone knocked the door.
Seems like there were many guests tonight.
This time. it was Eric that went to open the door.
“May I ask who is it?”
“I’m Clarisse, the tea is ready.”
“Ahh, pardon me.”
Eric opened the door, allowing Clarisse in. Clarisse then put the tea on the table.
Regis was reading in sleepwear. When he saw Clarisse bring the tea to him, he nodded his head to thank her.
“Thank you, Clarisse, I happened to feel thirsty.”
“You’re welcome, tea tastes better when everyone is around.”
“I see… Where’s Altina? Will she be coming later or has she gone to sleep?”
“Her Highness isn’t in the room.”
“Eh? What happened?”
“Just now, Latreille sent a message to Altina. After reading it, she went out in a rush after tidying up her clothes.”
“D,do you know where she went?”
Not just Regis, even Eric was appalled after hearing this.
“She wore outerwear, so I suppose she went to the palace.”
“Why did you..!!
The agitated Eric swallowed the words that almost came out.
Clarisse was neither an adjutant nor a guard, but just a maid. Yet she told her master’s secret to others. This should be a disgrace as a maid, but she still came here.
Regis put down his book on the table and stood up.
“Thank you, Clarisse.”
“There’s no need for thanks, the princess didn’t say that I couldn’t tell others about it.”
Originally, one should have kept quiet about it, Clarisse was just using an excuse to tell us.
Eric walked towards the door after listening.
“In any case, I shall go ahead and check first.”
His strong sense of responsibility made him show a determined face.
“Calm down, Eric. Although finding Altina is important, but you can’t be reckless in the palace. If you cause trouble here, the Princess’ standing will be affected.”
“Ah… I understand.”
He tidied his clothes and went out after saluting.
Regis also quickly changed into his military uniform.
Although there was a female in the room, but he didn’t have the luxury to care about it during such a situation.
“... Did Altina bring her sword along?”
“If that’s the case, she should stand out… Unless she went somewhere before people noticed her... and that place is deserted.”
“Do you know such a place, Regis?”
"... Well, out of the many records of events in the palace, one of them deviated widely from the actual layout of the place and was widely criticised. There were many details of the palace written in books, authored by nobles who visited the palace numerous times”
“I’m very troubled now…”
“I roughly have an idea what is happening. Be at ease, You didn't betray Altina. She didn’t stop you from telling others.”
“I’m actually very worried.”
“... That’s true, despite Latreille acting as a gentleman, Altina could be in danger without any guards.”
“No, there is no need to worry about the princess.”
“I’m worried that she won’t be able to protect you if you went to search for her.”
“...Ah, erm, it should be fine if I shout for help.”
“That’s right, in that case, the princess will able to go save you.”
“Ha,haha… I’m relieved.”
Due to Regis panicking, his mind was not working. However, thanks to Clarisse, he managed to calm down.
Unlike Eric who was trained, Regis would only be a burden if he panicked.
Hence, it was a must for him to calm down.
Regis searched through the bookcase in his brain.
“... A similar situation was written in “A kiss in the darkness”, written by Baron Vigeville.
“What a lewd book.”
“I,i,it isn’t what you think it is!?”
Regis just blurted out the words without realising that it was a bit shameful.
In fact, the book contained lots of tryst scenes, but the genre was of mystery.
If not for the last scene of the palace floating to the sky, it would had been a masterpiece. That was what Regis thought when he read it.
“I’m going now”
“Regis, the princess won’t lose to anyone while holding her sword. However, she is naive and innocent, so she is easily fooled. Unless the malicious thoughts are obvious, the princess will not notice.”
“... That’s true.”
“That’s why it’s fine to lie to her occasionally.”
“I’m joking, but someone out there might do that, so you need to protect her.”
“...Nn… Perhaps the first person to be wary of is you.”
“Hehe, I’m looking forward to it.”
“You’re really hard to handle.”
Regis exited the house after waving to Clarisse.
The palace was larger than the streets, so the chance of finding Altina was low if he searched randomly.
Latreille would select somewhere that was deserted carefully. If that is so, the entertaining literature works depicting life in the palace would be a good reference.
Regis quietly opened a small gap of the door of Prometheus room.
The layout of the palace was a number of buildings extending in all four directions, forming a shape of a cross. Altina’s room was located at the northern central while Auguste’s annex was near the front of the northern palace. The door to the outside was the common exit used in the day located at the northeast part of the palace.
The room was located at the northern part, but it faced the courtyard in the northwest.
There was a patio in courtyard, which was shaded by a forest. Hence, it was deserted during winter due to the cold temperature, only during summer would someone use it. Right now was still the chilly start of spring, people would not come here normally, hence it was the best place for the secretive meeting.
The large window of the patio was opened.
The lace curtains were swaying in the wind.
A red-haired girl wearing a green uniform and carrying a huge sword was standing there.
Regis thanked from the bottom of his heart
--I’m very grateful to you, Baron Vigeville!! I will definitely buy your next work, even if the capital were to float into the sky! No, I’ll buy it no matter what floats into the sky.
In any case, it would be troublesome if the guards patrolling caught me eavesdropping while standing on this corridor.
Regis sneaked into the house without attracting any attention.
I am quite agile for a bookworm who reads in bed all day, Regis thought.
Regis stuck close to the wall in the dark room, straining his ears to listen to the conversation.
It would be nice if it was just idle chat...
Regis eavesdropped on the conversation between Altina and Latreille.
“Well… There’s this kind of thing too.”
“Well… Looks like you have changed.”
“In that case, you too… For example, what you just said sounds like an old man.”
“Old man??!... To become next emperor, I painstaking trained…”
“It doesn’t sounds like it! Back to the topic, what do you want to talk about using the excuse of reminiscing our past?”
“Nn, you’re about age to understand such affairs…”
“Of course, I will be fifteen soon.”
“My goal isn’t just to obtain this nation. Right now, will our nation obtain victory should a war break out? The civilians that are oppressed are about to collapse, if that happens, the war front will be affected.”
Altina squealed in surprise.
“Is there anything wrong?”
“For Latreille to understand the pains of the citizens, that surprised me.”
“I’m not that dumb, if I’m to just support the nobles, more and more people will want to rebel. Eventually, this nation will collapse. Although we have hundreds of thousands of soldiers, the civilians far outnumber that.”
“That’s right! The civilians’ patience are limited, we must stop the nobles’ oppression.”
“Wastage is strictly prohibited.”
Latreille nodded in agreement under the moonlight.
Altina’s face brightened upon seeing this situation.
There was nothing better than if Latreille ideals were aligned with her.
If not for that poisoning incident, Latreille will be the one closest to becoming the emperor.
“I think so too! The nobles should stop their extravagant behaviours and stop the war by protecting places that are vulnerable to attacks.”
“It’s impossible to stop the war.”
“Do you know how many people will be left jobless if the war stops?...It won’t be just soldiers, instructors, transportation officer, weapons makers, as well as handymen… It's necessary to maintain the scale of war in the whole empire uniformly. That's why more war fronts will be made.”
“H,how can this be!”
The agitated Altina shouted.
Latreille surveyed the surrounding.
On the night before the anniversary, the streets and the palace were filled with laughter and music, hence no one will care about this small commotion.
“Latreille, don’t you find this strange?”
“This nation’s economy and war is inseparable. If the nobles stop their extravagant behaviour now, the civilians will begin to slack. That will mean that the fund for war will be limited, but the war will not stop, do you understand?”
“But war will cause many people to die!”
“Then it’s fine to have over 300 thousand unemployed people?”
“How can this be…”
“Listen to me, Altina, our nation cannot survive for long like this. At this critical time, we need to work together. I’m not able to restraint the nobles, although I have the control of the military, I lost support of the Emperor’s vassal. Very soon, I might be replaced.”
“Father’s closest confidant? The prime minister?”
“That's right. The grand chamberlain would be next, especially those senile big nobles friends of him with no position but frequently appear on the events. My supporters said that if the emperor changes his mind, I would easily lose my position.”
“Even Father won’t do this kind of thing? Moreover, Latreille, aren’t you the Commander of the army? Who will replace you to lead the army?”
“There are many who covet my position. If they obtained the position of commander in chief, they can obtain the inheritance rights via marriage.”
“Eh? Is that so?”
Regis also knew about this.
If the royal family only bore princesses, other than being empress...
Normally, the most outstanding male was chosen -- the highest ranking in the military as their son-in-law, there were cases where they become the emperor too.
The first army commander who was not the commander in chief was chosen that time.
After that, when his son was fifteen and received the inheritance rights. Having royal lineage injected into his family with the coming of age of his son, the son-in-law ruled the nation as regent in the emperor’s stead.
No matter what, Auguste was easily sick. If that person replaces Latreille as the commander, he has a high chance of inheriting the throne.
“In the end, my authority to command the army is just that much.”
How is the authority to command an army that is in hundred thousand not enough? Regis thought… However, it was true that just commanding the army was not enough to restrain the nobles nor was it enough to change the nation.
The only one who could do this was the emperor.
Altina seemed to understand something and spoke.
“Then, who is the one to be married off? It’s… me?!”
“Of course, you are the eldest daughter of the emperor after all, Altina.”
Even as the queen, with someone that was militaristic and power-hungry as emperor, it will be impossible to stop the war. In the end, the future that Altina did not want would happen.
“Auguste’s sister might be joining this game of thrones later. She has a weaker constitution than elder brother, and seems to be under medical treatment in her parent's villa.”
“Felicia? Somehow, I don't quite remember her at all, because I didn't play or associate that much with her.”
“... ...That's because by then she had the strength of a normal child. For her to play in something like riding cows would be impossible.”
“If that is the criteria, only Bastian could join this game. I can chase the “bulls” into its pen without any problem then.
Suddenly, Altina went deep in thoughts.
“Felicia… Felicia… Silver hair… It can’t be?!”
Latreille suddenly narrowed his eyes.
“This nation, if we want to change the direction it’s heading, I need to become the emperor.”
“Well, older brother, I can understand your thinking.”
“Hm? What’s wrong?”
“Ah, no, nothing at all. It’s just that it’s been very long since you last addressed me that way.”
“Hmm? Oh, are we not reminiscing the past? It became that way without me realising it. Calling you Latreille is enough, yes, Latreille is enough.”
Bleh~ Altina stuck her tongue out.
Only Altina was bold enough to have this kind of attitude towards this nation's second prince who was also the army commander.
“Ahh… The words are to be said to Princess Argentina… The situation now is different from half a year ago. There are two factions right now, one supporting Auguste while the other supporting me, do you know this?”
“To decide the new emperor with this, how is that even possible?”
“You are thinking of letting someone without support become the emperor?”
“Both side aren’t reliable anyway.”
Latreille heard that and nodded his head.
Altina seemed to not fully understand about the factions, but Regis understood it. However, he was not sure about the recent situation..
“Be it in the military or the among the nobles, there are some who are neutral. Among them, they are beginning to form the third faction that support you, just that they haven’t declared it yet.”
“Auguste is sickly while there are unflattering rumours about me… Other than those, there are no news about another faction.”
“What about Bastian?”
“About three month ago, around the new year, he went to High Britannia as an exchange student.”
“Arg… He escaped.”
“Because the fight for the inheritance can be scary. He’s afraid of being embroiled. That wild and ignorant brother, does being in a neighbouring nation that is strict on etiquette not cause him any unease?”
“I think he feels that he will be safe as long as he is not involved in the power struggle. That way, he believes he can come back alive.”
“... Is that so?”
“He used to say he will try to avoid things like this.”
People would usually take that as a joke.
It can be used for idle talks.
With a serious look, Latreille said.
“In any case, your third faction cannot be ignored, Argentina, if added together with my supporters, it should be enough to decide who to inherit the throne. After all, I have most of the emperor’s followers on my side.”
“Be my consort, Argentina.”
“... … … … Huh?!?!”
Altina maintained a surprised look after hearing it.
Even Regis almost wanted to shout out in surprise, but he used his hand to cover his mouth tightly.
Latreille’s proposal was really unexpected.
Prior to this, Regis once thought of having Altina marry the sickly Auguste to achieve her goal and change the nation, but the idea was thrown aside.
Hence he should not be surprised as he once thought of this.
-- So the reason for pulling Altina to his side was for this.
That meant to obtain the third faction’s power via Altina
Altina being famous was also due to Latreille’s faction doing.
Altina’s popularity should not rise that fast even considering that she took the impregnable Volk Fortress. Regis now knew the reason for the dissonance he felt.
Besides, Volk Fortress was not that important to Belgaria strategically. If Volk Fortress was a strategic point for the enemies that might endanger the nation, Belgaria would use 100 to 200 thousand to capture it.
This whole incident is to let the neutral people gather under Altina’s banner so that Latreille can make use of her, there is no mistake about it.
Was what Regis thought--
Bastian going abroad as an exchange student is to escape.
Altina was supposed to fall in a failed attempt to capture Volk Fortress.
That will result in the neutrals not having any other option but him.
The first prince did not have any standing in the first place… No matter how indecisive the Emperor was, he would still pass the throne to Latreille without any hesitation.
However, he miscalculated as both Auguste and Altina did not leave the stage.
Perhaps Latreille was very anxious right now.
There was not enough time to eliminate his political enemies. If the Emperor were to die before he was able to get the inheritance rights, Auguste will be crowned as the next Emperor according to the order of succession.
However, the current emperor was still healthy enough to marry another concubine. Normally, it would not be strange if he was to succumb to his old age.
Latreille’s side did not take Altina’s unexpected results as a failure, instead they turned it into an opportunity for them.
If Argentina was to accept this proposal, all will be over.
Regis wanted to step in when a laughter stopped him from doing so.
“Ahahahahaha! What are you saying, Latreille?”
“... … Huh?”
“Ahaha, it sounds just like Clarisse’s joke.”
“Although I do not know who is Clarisse… But what I said was not a joke. Both of us stand to gain from this proposal.”
“Win-win situation? Is this what should be said for a marriage proposal?”
“Although it’s uncommon to have a marriage between siblings, there will be no problems if we have the Church’s consent.”
“That means you are serious?”
“It is even more dubious if it is true.”
Altina stood up from the bed and approached Latreille for a moment.
At the same time, she reached for her Grand Tonnerre Quatre.
Removing her sword from the hook, Altina slowly removed the sword from the scabbard and held it in front of her vertically.
After the sword was fully drawn, she threw away the scabbard and pointed her sword at Latreille.
“What are you doing?”
“I don’t believe you! Saying that the war is essential, that’s contradicting what Regis said.”
“You trust that strategist more than me?... … As a prince, your brother and a commander, I’m even lower than a mere civilian officer? Is that so? What you picked isn’t a smart choice…”
“Well, even if Regis doesn’t seems reliable…”
Hearing this, Regis felt relief and gratitude towards her.
Altina’s tone gradually intensified.
“-- but he will never lie to me! Nor will he say that waging war is for the nation!”
This was something that Regis told Altina when they were still in the horse carriage.
So you have always trusted me...
Latreille lowered his volume and adopted a tone used for children and said,
“He does not know the situation we are in because he is not involved in the management of the economy, otherwise, his opinion will change.”
“Do not take me as a fool! If you become the emperor, no matter what I have in mind, I will not be able to carry it out! I always trusted Regis, if not for him, I would still be confined in Fort Sierck, no, I could even have fallen while attacking Volk Fortress!”
“That was my mistake, I apologise… However, for the nation, will you support me?”
“If you swear that you will not wage any war.”
“I won’t wage any war that is without benefits.”
“Can’t you just pull back the front lines to more defensible positions?”
“... That is possible, but I will need time.”
“Then, at tomorrow’s banquet, will you swear that in front of the Emperor and the nobles? I’ll only trust you if you can do that.”
Altina looked at him in doubt.
Latreille seemed to be deep in thought.
“... … There are plenty of chance to do that, my dear sister, it doesn’t have to be tomorrow.”
Altina slowly lowered her sword.
“... … From the beginning, you have been looking at me as a child... You always, always take me as a fool!”
Altina’s sword suddenly thrust out.
I didn’t expect you to attack for real! Regis was so shocked his heart almost stopped.
Latreille was prepared, his expression remained the same as when he was still talking.
In Regis’ point of view, Latreille’s figure seemed to loom under the moonlight. His speed was not something that humans could obtain.
Even faster than Altina, he also accurately grasped the opportunity.
“You really did it… Don’t you feel that you are a bit too reckless, Argentina?”
“Let’s end everything here! It’s still too early for those kind of words!!”
“Even so, if you, who will not stop the war even if people die, don’t you feel anything at all?! If you become the emperor, you will not stop the war at all, you murderer!!!”
“This is to protect the nation… You need to understand this, Argentina.”
“You should just fall here, I’ll protect the nation in your stead.”
Altina swung her sword after finishing her words.
The sharp sword not only smashed the rocks, but also the railing of the balcony.
It was taking all of Altina’s effort to hold her sword due to her left wrist being fractured.
Altina’s strikes were even faster and heavier compared to the duel with Jerome. Latreille retreated to the point where his back almost touched the railing.
This was the second floor -- compared to normal buildings, its height was about three stories, it was possible to escape by jumping down.
“ Don’t be unreasonable…”
Latreille said softly.
Against the next attack, Latreille unsheathed his sword.
Sounds of metal colliding could be heard.
Latreille was able to stop Altina’s attack using his sword.
Was that sword Arme Victoire Volonte?
No, he did not just stop it, but also reflected it.
“You became stronger, Argentina.”
“Looks like you inherited Baltasar’s skills, however… This era has its own skilled swordsmen, that man has barely adequate skills to be the southern palace instructor.”
“In a fight, the most important thing is to grasp your opponent’s flaw!”
Finishing her words, Altina gave a kick after pressing in with the sword.
On the other hand, Latreille used his knee to block the kick.
Latreille then walked towards Altina who had lost her balance.
“It’s not that I intend to insult the Balzac house that have contributed the most to the nation… However, swordsmanship progresses with time. Giving a kick so soon might be a bad move in these days.”
“There’s an opening!!”
Even when Altina lost her balance, she still gave a kick.
Totally caught off guard, Latreille got kicked in the abdomen.
However, the military uniform for senior officers and generals have leather reinforcing areas that covered the vital parts. The kick that was made while losing balance did not have the effect that Altina hoped for.
While her opponent was still off-guard, Altina repositioned herself.
“I’m not done yet!”
“What a troublesome sister.”
In between Altina’s attacks, Latreille grasped the opportunity and disappeared before her.
“Hmph… never seen this kind of footwork before, right?”
He swung his sword while saying his words.
The sword was swung so fast that the eyes could not even follow.
Sounds of metal colliding could be heard again.
Altina waved her sword upwards to block the blow, but her eyes couldn’t keep up. The next moment, she felt a strike around her lower body.
Her dress was damaged.
“ This should be over when you received the blow by swinging your sword upwards… When an attack was aimed at the head, one will react quickly to it. However, their vision will be blocked by their hands and sword, hence they will be unable to determine the opponents next move.”
Altina continued to swing her sword.
Once again, Latreille managed to avoid it.
“The Balzac house’s swordsmanship was originally intended to be used with heavy armour to receive blows. However, because of that, the legs aren’t that agile.
Latreille jumped on top of the railing of the balcony.
The slate creaked.
Following that, he began a series of intense attacks. Altina barely managed to block those.
This time, the same attack came from behind. By the time Altina noticed it, it was too late to swing her sword.
Altina used the hilt of the sword to block the attack.
“Hmph… Did you learn this from Baltasar too?”
Altina used all her strength to swing her sword. However, Latreille thrust his sword, rendering the attack ineffective.
“If you want to hit someone, there’s no need for such big movements...Observe your enemies movements, strike at the place where your opponent intends to attack. That way, you will be able to injure them and cause them to bleed, once they bleed long enough, they will die due to blood loss.”
Regis gulped, his back filled with cold sweat.
--So this is the strength of the commander in charge of hundreds of thousands of soldiers?
Regis was feeling a choking tension
However, now was not the time to be idle.
Regis walked towards them with loud footsteps.
“...... Y,your Highness.”
Altina opened her eyes and mouth in shock.
On the other hand, Latreille did not look surprised at all.
How much did Regis hear or was aware of... those were not revealed in his expression.
“I have been looking for you, Your Highness… The wind is freezing tonight, Prince Latreille, is your conversation over?”
“Erm, That, I…”
“My apologise, Prince Latreille, pardon me for saying, but the princess is tired due to the long journey. Tomorrow is the important anniversary… Let’s end things here, as it’s not good if the princess doesn’t rest well.”
Latreille twitched his mouth for a moment and he sheathed his sword
“Hmm, So be it, our conversation has dragged a little too long.”
Regis then silently saluted.
Altina also picked up the scabbard which was at the balcony.
Biting her lips with her eyes tearing up.
Latreille then returned to the room.
“Although it’s impossible now, but I will consider your request and give you a suitable answer, Argentina.”
“Hmph… Don’t think you have won, Latreille.”
These words came out of Altina’s mouth.
When escorting Altina back, Altina had said over 30 times “how vexing”.
As I suspected, Latreille did not know that Altina was injured.
Regis slammed the table when Altina was seated.
“Do you understand? Courage and reckless is not the same! The you right now is willful and impatient!
“B,but he reacted…”
“... It’s not wrong to cross swords, however, you reacted to his provocation first. Should Latreille want to pursue this, you might be in prison now.”
“Your popularity as the 4th princess which could be used as a political means shows how masterful of Latreille… However, I do not have a measure against him now. Altina, in the palace, there are many things that the sword cannot solve, please remember that… Please be more aware of your position.”
“You mean that I’m weak?”
“No, but let’s say that you successfully killed Latreille, we will be hunted down by the guards.”.
“W,will that really happens?”
“... Listen to me, swinging your sword just because of justice make you no different from bandits. Is your goal, your hopes to murder your brother? Or is it to be someone that save the people?”
Altina clenched her hands which were on her knee.
“I… want to be the civilians’ shield.”
“... I believe in your words, if you are aware of it, no matter what kind of opponents you face, you will not fail. If it’s not for national interests, do not draw your sword. A ruler that ignores public opinion is the beginning of a tyrannical rule.”
This prideful 14 year old girl was shouldering the heavy political struggle.
Is it even possible for her to think before acting? That frank character of hers was starting to show some flaws.
“It’s also my fault on this issue, I’m sorry.”
“Eh!? You never do anything wrong!”
“... There’s more things I can do right now due to the situation… I need to work harder, you too, Altina, as the princess, you need to be careful of your action.”
“Please keep in mind.”
“... Sorry for making you worry.”
“A,aah… You should say this to Eric instead of me.”
After some time, the pale Eric returned drenched in sweat. Altina then thanked him.
Seeing Altina unharmed, Eric felt relieved.
The red tea that was prepared by Clarisse was served.
The low-esteem Regis made up his mind after seeing the two people who wanted to protect Altina.
Gradually, the moon could be seen rising through the window.
This time was a defeat, however...
“... It’s about time to strike back.”