Auguste, the silver Princess
Editors: Darkdhaos, Ice Phantom
After the youth Regis who was a soldier as well as someone who’s bad at swordsmanship and horsemanship was sent to the borders of the Empire, a lot of things happened and he became a strategist.
The commander of the Border Regiment was the Fourth Princess Altina, whose goal was becoming Empress, and changed the Empire that was at a perpetual never ending war. In order to be good enough to assist her, Regis was working hard on reading his books today too.
“Ughh… My eyes are turning dry…”
He read the entire night and burned several candles, but had yet to finish half of the mountain of books.
It was almost dawn.
I really want coffee.
Only officers could eat at the officer’s mess. Although Regis was a non-commissioned officer, he received special permission to eat there because he was Altina’s strategist. This wasn’t an extraordinary privilege, but the men would hate seeing a staff eating in the normal mess.
That might be so, but most of the officers were nobles, so Regis who was a commoner felt uneasy there.
In the end, he tried his best to avoid eating there at the same time as the others.
Breakfast time was already over and the kitchen started preparing for lunch. There were no signs of any officers there.
Altina was drinking tea alone.
“Ara, good morning Regis.”
“Ahh… Good morning Altina.”
He would use honorifics in front of others, when the two of them were alone, he would address her in a close way since she wished for it.
“Your face looks terrible.”
“Well, I did try to groom myself…”
“I don’t mean that, you stayed up all night again?”
“There’s a lot of work to do.”
“You have to rest properly.”
“I know, I will rest before I pass out…”
“Don’t use passing out as a standard.”
“It’s fine, I didn’t mix up the names of the book, and could tell them apart.”
“That’s not the problem.”
Regis tilted his head.
“Well, it should be fine… Are you still reading that?”
Altina was holding the letter from the Second Prince Latreille.
They had different mothers, but he was still her brother, the man who appointed her as the commander of the Border Regiment.
There wasn’t any good news on the letter, or rather, the content was depressing.
“... He was a gentle person in the past.”
“When we were young… We used to drink tea and spar with swords occasionally.”
“Is that so? Well, the royal family is still a family.”
“I played with the Third Prince Bastian too. That guy likes to play pranks and annoy others.”
“Ehh… That’s the first time I heard that. What did he do?”
“He turned all the statues in the courtyard upside down and carried a cow to the rooftop. But that’s just things he did as a kid.”
“Ehh…? No, that’s… normally impossible right? Was it done by a group of people?”
“It was just him! Surprised!? Bastian is really strong, he was stronger than Latreille who was 8 years older.”
“Erm… I don’t think it’s a question of age. Humans can’t do things like lifting statues or cows.”
“Ehhh? Is that so?”
Did the children of the Belgaria royal family eat and train in a different manner?
Regis couldn’t think of anything.
But now that he thought about it, just seeing Altina wielding a sword taller than herself was an amazing sight.
“Everyone was strong, so it didn’t feel strange… Ah, Auguste is an exception.”
“The First Prince huh. I heard he is frail.”
“Well, I never spoke to him much, he spent most of the time in his bed.”
“If he is healthy, he would probably be the Emperor now.”
That would avoid unnecessary power struggles, and the Empire would be governed and developed much more smoothly.
As long as Auguste isn’t a fool, but…
“Regis, you knew about Auguste?”
“As a commoner, do you think I would know better than Altina who lived in the palace?”
“Not really. Just like how I didn’t know why I was given that nickname.”
“Ahh… The ‘Arrow-Sparrow Princess’.”
Altina frowned at this point.
After seeing the duel between Altina and Jerome, the soldiers of Fort Sierck no longer called her that, but the name was still circulating in the capital.
“Enough about me, let’s talk about Auguste.”
“Alright… Actually, I don’t really know about the courts either...”
Carlos Liam Auguste de Belgaria, the first in the line of succession was frail from birth, and couldn’t handle daily works. On top of that, his mother was the Second Imperial Consort.
He might be the successor of the Emperor in name, but there were many doubts about him in the populace.
His strongest competitor was Latreille, the son of the Empress. He also had the support of many nobles, and held the highest office in the military.
“... There are rumours about him being assassinated.”
“Yes. I saw him being carried away, there was a lot of blood.”
That happened last summer.
After dinner, Auguste suddenly vomited blood on his way back to his room, and became delirious.
He might be frail, but such a sudden deterioration in health was unexpected, so there were rumours about him being poisoned spreading in the streets.
“... The official word is that he fell ill because of his health… But the poison rumours persisted. Anyway… It is rare to see Prince Auguste after that incident.”
“Yeah. I would see him at festivals in the past, but he spends most of the time in bed now.”
“There is another rumour…”
“What is it?”
“... Is Auguste actually dead? Some people said that.”
Altina tilted her head.
“No matter how bad his health is, that’s impossible. I met him several times after his illness too.”
“Ahh, I see. All rumours are baseless anyway… Well, had Prince Auguste been dead, the Second Consort would have taken action.”
“A Consort that couldn’t give birth to a successor would be in an awkward position. She isn’t young anymore, so she might have to leave the palace… Which would make it even harder for her to meet the Emperor.”
“I see. My mother was also sent away from the palace.”
Altina was a girl, and her mother who was a commoner without any backing from nobles slowly lost her place in the palace.
She pondered deeply:
“Hmm… That might be so… but there is something that bothers me.”
“What is it?”
“I did meet Auguste, but I didn’t get to talk to him much. He still had red eyes and beautiful silver hair… But he was always sitting or lying in bed, and they stopped me from getting close to him. Maybe he had a contagious disease.”
“... Contagious disease huh.”
“I don’t really understand, I heard his sister had the same illness.”
“The fifth Princess Felicia… I heard she is recuperating in her hometown.”
These were the reasons why doubts about the Second Consort not having children who could succeed the throne arose.
“Felicia was born half a year after me, she is a bit strange.”
“... For example?”
“She can’t even wield a sword. She is quiet and likes reading and singing. She is not arrogant and doesn’t have an imposing aura.”
“Altina… I think that is normal for girls.”
At this point, Regis was situated in the northern borders, far away from the capital.
He had been exiled.
So he didn’t know about the dark currents of the palace and the assassination plan of the First Prince.
The Imperial capital Versailles had no walls.
The city was built on flat plains, and the beautiful sights of the city could be seen from afar.
And situated in the center of the city was the palace ‘Le Brane’.
If one could see it from the sky, they will see that it was a large cross shaped building, with four smaller courtyards and one large courtyard right in front, divided into zones of various sizes.
The palace was where the royals reside, and the place where the Empire made all political and military decisions.
The residence of the grand nobles was built around it. Not just the houses of nobles living near the capital, but also the villas of nobles from territories far away.
The zones were segregated by walls and doors, watched over carefully by guards. A commoner would be stopped ten steps into the area, and would be surrounded by soldiers if they had a weapon.
To the north of Le Brane with its white walls and blue roof was the residence of the First Prince.
It was a domed shape building that was known as a bird cage, a four storey building.
A tower like structure with the top having the shape of a hemisphere.
There were paintings drawn on the curved walls and a luxurious chandelier hanging from the dome shaped roof.
All four of its windows were covered by thick curtains, making it as dim as the evening in the middle of the day.
On the cushion made from animal skin was a golden container.
The clear water in it had a deep blue light about it.
The master of the house stood before it.
Pale fingers dipped a silk cloth into the water.
And gently wiped a slender neck.
It then wiped a pale white face, thin shoulders and tender arms.
After that, the wet silk was used to clean the bulging chest that was becoming harder to hide every passing day.
After touching the cold water, the tips slightly hardened.
It was possible to cover it with cloth for the time being, but it would be troublesome to conceal it completely.
There were two sets of door in the room, and the servants used the smaller one.
Adults would need to bend before they could enter, but the one who entered clumsily was a child like maid. Her name was Lilim, she had brown skin and her black hair was tied up into twin tails.
“Ara, Prince Auguste, as you bathing with cold water again!?”
“... I just started.”
Her soft voice was as clear as a girl, her body that she was wiping was as slender as a woman. The First Prince August was actually a lady.
She turned her back to Lilim.
“... Help me wash my back.”
“It’s an honour.”
The maid approached with a sigh of admiration, and started to gently wipe Auguste’s pristine body with wet silk.
“Prince Auguste, if we don’t hurry, it will be terrible if someone else see this. If Prince Latreille saw this, he will hang us.”
Lilim lifted Auguste’s silver hair and wiped her neck.
“Is it cold?”
“Of course… I prepared hot water, but it’s cold now, what’s with you?”
Auguste glanced at the side table besides the bed.
There was a book there.
“Fairy tales again? I know you are bored, but please take care of your body!”
“... That itches.”
When Lilim wiped her butt, Auguste’s body trembled slightly.
“The skin will turn red if I wipe too hard.”
“... It’s fine… no one will see anyway.”
“Erm, it might be fine for now… But the Consort will scold me later.”
All the maids in this cage like courtyard were employed by Auguste’s mother, the Second Imperial Consort.
She did this with the excuse of giving the best care possible to the Prince. She also ordered the girl to take on the role of Auguste.
It would trouble Auguste if the maids get scolded.
Truthfully speaking, the maids didn’t even know the girl’s real name.
“... I will do the rest myself.”
“I understand. I will fetch your clothes.”
After Auguste cleaned her legs, she put on her pants and wrapped her chest with thick clothes. She couldn’t wear female clothing outside, so all her attires were for men.
She wore her clothes with Lilim’s assistance.
It was a military uniform with a blue colour base.
As it was decorated with gold and silver accessories, it was rather heavy.
It’s just like shackles, she thought.
“... I want to take it off so much.”
“In the afternoon, the new guard commander assigned by the War Administration Ministry will be here, so be ready for the meeting.”
“... Another one… Trying to persuade me to give up my succession rights in a roundabout way.”
“I will intrude and say the doctor is here to check on your health at the appropriate time. It won’t take long, so please bear with it.”
“... Alright… Thank you.”
Auguste squatted down.
As this was a room for men, there was no dressing table.
Lilim needed to do the make up for the tender face of the girl. She had to look the part of a frail patient.
If the real Auguste was alive, he would be 24 years old. No matter how frail a man was, it would be troublesome if he looked like a young girl. After all, the girl was just 14.
“... The same as usual.”
How long would she need to live like this? Could she keep this up forever? Until she is exposed and executed for Lèse-majesté?
“What’s the matter?”
Lilim asked with her head tilted while she brushed her hair.
The girl pretending to be Auguste covered her lips lightly. Even if she said the things on her mind, it would just trouble the loyal maid serving her.
After she could pass easily for a sick patient, she lied back onto her bed.
—— I will read some books before the new commander comes.
She loved stories.
Especially heroic tales about princes.
It’s fine even if others laughed at her childish dreams.
The girl really likes stories of princes rescuing imprisoned princesses.
Baudouin was 45 years old.
As the head of an Earl house, his life had been relatively smooth. He didn’t participate in battles that were beyond his capabilities, and performed his duties well.
Although he didn’t have outstanding war merits, he was complimented for being reliable. He received a recommendation from his predecessor who was retiring and Field Marshal Latreille. Also, he was appointed as the commander of the Imperial Capital Guards.
Assuming that nothing goes wrong in the next five or ten years during his appointment, he would be able to retire officially with a considerable bonus and territory.
The secret to a long life is to not attempt to do anything beyond my own limits, Baudouin thought.
Because of his personality, he was careful in collecting intelligence related to the capital, but won’t pay much attention to anything that happens outside.
Even if the nobles hosting parties in the palace snubbed him, Baudouin will remain unmoved.
At this moment, an anxious person arrived.
“So you are here, Lord Earl.”
“Isn’t this… my Empress, I hope you are feeling well.”
Even her extravagant clothes and thick make up couldn’t conceal the intimidating air about her, like a predatory carnivore. Baudouin didn’t have powerful prowess, but he was still a soldier. Even so, he couldn’t help trembling.
The Empress opened her fan and covered her lips.
“There are times when I feel moody too.”
“The people in the party are always talking about that wench who was exiled. Mentioning the name of that filthy girl will only result in bringing down the taste of the entire palace.”
“You are absolutely right.”
The Empress was infuriated by the bard who sang praises of the Fourth Princess Marie Quatre Argentina de Belgaria, so she exiled the bard and chased the Princess out of the palace. This all happened last autumn.
The Earl was terrified by the childish arrogance of the Empress.
For this crazy woman, the palace was like a toy box. Baudouin and the others were like a toy in the box and would be thrown away mercilessly if they angered her.
Speaking of which, Marie Quatre who was thrown into the rubbish bin appeared to have accomplished a lot of war merits at the borders. She was just a 14 years old girl, there was no way her appointment as commander would change the war. Even though everyone felt the same, the nobles were still interested in talking about her.
It wasn’t accurate to say that Baudouin had completely no idea about what was happening in the boondocks 100 Li (444km) away.
“... They probably… won’t be talking about it tomorrow. There are just intrigued by news from a faraway land. Please don’t mind it, Your Majesty. The chirping of the sparrow won’t reach Le Brane.”
Referring to Marie Quatre in such a way was dangerous, but he could get on the good side of the Empress if he said it at such a time.
The Empress covered her face with her fan, so her expression was hidden.
She then folded the fan silently, placed her right hand before her face and then pointed to the door at the far end.
Follow me into that room —— That was probably what she meant.
Baudouin nodded silently.
Signing with a fan was a method that young aristocratic ladies would use occasionally, so they could move away from the eyes of the public with a man they favour.
Or in other words, a code used by flirtatious women.
However, this was the Empress and it was impossible for such intimate things to happen.
They walked to the room next door.
It was a dim room where the sunlight couldn’t reach.
Akin to a cage to lock ferocious beasts.
Like a venomous snake stirring, the Empress spoke:
“When will that man die?”
It was only natural that the Empress wanted her son, Second Prince Latreille to take the throne.
Even though they received support from many influential nobles, the First Prince Auguste still refuses to relinquish his succession rights. But he didn’t attend to his official duties either, so his health became a topic of his suitability to retain his succession rights.
Although the Emperor agreed to the proposals submitted by Prince Latreille, he kept dragging on the issue of succeeding the throne.
If Auguste took the throne, Latreille would lose his succession rights forever. It would be unwise to force the Emperor to make his decision without knowing how he truly felt.
The best way about this was to wait for Auguste to die from his illness. But that would be up to God.
“... But ever since that incident, the First Prince locked himself in the annex and refused to come out… Even his meals are prepared by a designated chef.”
The explanation was to prepare food that won’t worsen his illness and is easy to swallow.
Even the maids were people brought from the Second Consort’s home territory.
“They are splurging their money for the sake of achieving their goal.”
“Well… All the maids are related to their house, so it isn’t that much trouble for them. If we are not careful, our plans would be exposed…”
If the assassination plot was made public, they would be charged with the attempted murder of royalty. They would definitely lose their heads.
Even the Queen who was could swallow the entire palace like a loup gris would not be an exception.
“Then send some men to kill him.”
Baudouin’s heart pounded hard.
Since the security of the palace was under his purview, this method was plausible.
“Please have mercy… I won’t be able to shirk the responsibility…”
No matter how the Empress tries to push the blame for the assassination away from Latreille, the suspicion would always linger.
The Empress unfolded her fan to conceal her expression.
Although there wasn’t anyone else except for Baudouin in the room, this has become a habit when she devises her schemes.
“If the rules for the access control of security personnel laxes, you would definitely be questioned about that… But what if it is a situation beyond your control? Maybe I will arrange for a small scale movement of personnel.”
“Ugh… if you can set up a proper reassignment of security personnel that won’t be criticized…”
It wasn’t impossible, a demotion could be arranged if a grand noble wishes for it.
After all, Latreille held authority of the military.
The venomous snake whispered from behind the fan.
“Earl Baudouin, you only get to come back to the capital because of your merits in suppressing a rebellion. But in the end, the commander of the guards is just a watchdog… Don’t you want a place in the palace?”
The palace was a place where the government executive offices such as the War Administration Ministry and Ceremonial Ministry were located. If he could join these ministries, promotion to a Marquis would no longer be a dream.
Baudouin clenched his fists and his palms sweated.
“... However, if someone managed to break in despite the heavy security, there would be an uproar in the palace. And I am not the only one responsible for security, the commander of the First Army, Prince Latreille would be implicated too.”
“Find a way.”
The snake that bewitched the immaculate children of god to eat the fruit of knowledge couldn’t hold a candle to her.
“Don’t you want the position of a Marquis, Earl Baudouin?”
The Earl started sweating profusely.
He found it hard to even breathe.
“... There is such a man… He has a distinguished reputation… But his ability doesn’t match his fame. The new head of the famous noble house renowned for being the deputy of the L’Empereur Flamme and incredible martial prowess. However, he didn’t achieve much merits on the battlefield.”
They could avoid criticism by appointing a reputable knight to take on the security. And if he wasn’t capable, they could avoid any problems in the assassination plan.
The Empress narrowed her eyes.
She kept her fan and said:
“Alright. Use that fellow.”
“I will start preparing at once.”
Baudouin bowed deeply.
Southwest of Belgaria Empire.
The rebellion of Earl Trosa resulted in a civil war.
Even though he had plenty of resources, the Earl didn’t have the army to match, so everyone thought the rebellion would be put down in no time.
However, the commander of the Sixth Army dispatched here was rather incompetent and together with the news that the Earl employed an excellent band of mercenary, both sides came to a stalemate. A campaign that should have ended in half a month had now dragged on for half a year.
The soldiers thought they could return by autumn, but it was almost year’s end, and morale in the regular army was at its lowest point.
The soldiers spent all day drinking and gambling, even the mansion which was converted into a temporary headquarters stunk of alcohol.
Angry shouts erupted from the headquarters.
“This happened again, Eddie!”
“Yes yes… it happened again…”
The bald general yelling his head off was the commander of the Sixth Army.
The youth with the messy head of hair, Eddie, had a troubled face.
He was about 19 years old.
His dressing was more extravagant than the soldiers around him, but his feathered cape was in tatters, his clothes were a little dirty and his sword was wrapped in by a piece of cloth.
“When will you start thinking about achieving war merits!? Don’t you have any drive at all!? You lazy knight!”
“I do have some motivation… But it’s such a hassle…”
“Aren’t you from a prestigious sword family!? Wouldn’t it be a shame to your Duke house if you don’t earn proper war merits!? How many battles do you think it has been!?”
“That’s true… Attacking a territory that didn’t have any large defensive fort with three times the forces, but we fought so many battles…”
“W-Why you! Are you doubting my commanding ability!?”
“Ah, no, I’m not… doubting anything…”
I am sure of it — Eddie swallowed these words back. He could criticize the problem with Trosa’s strategic approach, but it was true that he didn’t carry out his mission properly.
The top of the commander’s bald head reddened.
“Don’t get cocky!”
“After inheriting the head of a Duke house at such a young age, you must be letting it get to your head! But I am your boss in the army! Stop it with your rebellious attitude!”
The commander was a viscount with the rank of Brigadier General, while Duke Eddie was a First Grade Combat Officer. But it was a fact that the commander held the highest authority in a unit.
But he didn’t say anything nasty or felt rebellious.
It’s just that Eddie didn’t have any kills in the battle a few days ago.
Such cases weren’t limited to the recent battle though. Many of Eddie’s forebears didn’t achieve merits in battle despite being hailing from a prestigious family and bestowed with the treasured sword.
The commander showed an annoyed expression.
“Is the treasured sword of L’Empereur Flamme hanging on your waist just a decoration!?”
“Well… It will be great if it is just a decoration…”
The sword wrapped inside the cloth was ‘Defendre Sept’.
In the warring era where the Empire was founded, the founding Emperor bestowed this treasured sword to the head of the Balzac house that accomplished outstanding results as his right hand man.
From then on, the treasured sword was passed down the generations.
“... This thing is heavy.”
“Are you in cahoots in the enemy!?”
“No, how could that be!?”
There was a sudden knocking on the door.
“Who is it!?”
The commander yelled with the same tone he used on Eddie.
The door opened.
An officer of medium built stood there. He was in an elegant uniform decorated with medals. He didn’t look like someone participating in a civil war in such a rural place. Four lightly armour knights guarded his sides.
“... My apologies for interrupting when you are busy… I am Lieutenant General Baudouin from the Imperial Guards.”
The commander of the Sixth Army turned green and saluted flusteredly.
“N-Not at all! Lieutenant General Baudouin… from the capital!? Ugh… But… Eddie, don’t say anything rude!”
Did the commander who was yelling just now mix up his memory?
Leaving that aside — What is a high ranking general from the Imperial Guards doing in this boondocks — Eddie was surprised, but still saluted quickly.
Baudouin returned the salute properly.
“Duke Eddie Fabio de Balzac, can you come over here?”
“Huh? Yes Sir.”
Seemed like Baudouin was here for him.
He couldn’t run away, so Eddie nodded.
Baudouin said in a sincere tone:
“I am responsible for the security of the capital, and have a request that I must ask of you. Please lend me your aid.”
“A war of attrition at the frontlines can’t bring out the full potential of your powers, lord Duke. No one other than you can save the Empire, so please…!”
“Wait, wait! There are many things I want to retort but… I am not that capable.”
After working under the Sixth Army commander for half a year, this was the first time they agreed on something.
What a touching scene.
However, Baudouin didn’t back down.
“I got the approval from the War Administration Ministry, please let me finish.”
He took out a document, an official appointment letter from the War Administration Ministry.
The approval for transfer of personnel.
Oh right, Baudouin said and took out another document.
“The First Imperial Army will despatch 300 armoured knights from the capital to support the Sixth Army to cover the duties of the Duke, so please…”
The commander’s face changed immediately.
He leaned over with astonishing speed and placed his hand heavily onto Eddie’s shoulder.
“Lord Duke! For the sake of the Empire, I am saddened that a valuable combat asset such as yourself is transferred away, but I am filled with joy at the same time! Long live the Empire!!”
His words didn’t make sense anymore.
Just a reinforcement of 300 knights, did he need to be so excited… Well, that was normal, compared to the duke with just an empty title, the knights would have a real chance of turning the tide of battle.
Eddie knew where he stood, so he didn’t protest about what the commander said.
Baudouin’s eyes closed a little and nodded.
And so, Eddie got on a wobbly carriage and headed for the capital that very day.
It was a special carriage painted emerald green.
Eddie sat on the couch that was as soft as the clouds and enjoyed his journey.
Or rather, he was worried about dirtying the velvet on the couch.
He was wearing a feathered cloak that looked tattered, black uniform the colour of coal, but didn’t have any armour.
His black hair that stood out had not been groomed, drooping down messily over his eyes.
He was tall with broad shoulders and had a good physique. But he was always saying depressing things, giving others a weak impression.
Eddie, Baudouin and two young servants were seated on the carriage. The other knights were posted around the carriages as guards.
Eddie was told about his new place of work during the journey.
“— You want me to be Prince Auguste’s guard?”
Baudouin was a Lieutenant General while Eddie was a First Grade Combat Officer. Peerage wise, they were a Marquis and a Duke, although Baudouin held a higher rank in the army, he had to use a respectful tone.
“... His Highness’ health is frail, in order for him to recover as soon as possible, the place can’t be too noisy. It will be best to have a small and elite group.”
“I heard about this before. His body isn’t doing too well.”
“Has the Duke met His Highness before?”
“I haven’t seen him in the last six months…”
He came from a Duke house, and was close to the royals. He would meet them several times a year during festivals.
Eddie didn’t meet Auguste after he fell ill because of his deployment to the frontlines.
“But speaking of which, being a guard in the palace… That’s a first for me…”
“No, I am looking forward to it since I never tried it before. But can I live up to your expectations…?”
“The work itself isn’t too hard. The First Imperial Army is stationed outside the capital, the area outside the palace is also heavily guarded. You won’t need to worry about that.”
Eddie tilted his head.
“Am I really needed?”
“Instead of soldiers he doesn’t know, His Highness will feel more at ease with Lord Eddie whom he is acquainted with.”
“I see… It’s true that it would be harder to relax in the presence of a stranger… And being around the people in the palace is already stressful.”
Baudouin smiled wryly.
Noticing that he had misspoke, Eddie covered his mouth.
“Well… House Balzac is the number one swordsmanship clan in the Empire. If the young head of the House could be his guard, I am sure His Highness can rest easy.”
“That might be so… But I just happen to possess a good sword…”
Baudouin composed himself and changed the topic.
“By the way, Lord Eddie… Most Dukes would lead their own army and wouldn’t take the field themselves. Why didn’t you bring any troops with you, and instead fight in the frontlines alone?”
It was only natural for him to ask.
How should he put it in a way that will make Baudouin understand? Eddie shook his head.
“Well… The soldiers will die if you send them to the battlefield right?”
“Yes, that’s true.”
Baudouin seemed to be wondering what Eddie was talking about.
As expected, he won’t understand just from that —— Eddie thought as he continued trying his best to explain.
“I don’t like to see gory scenes.”
“That is really…”
“It might not sound right for a knight to say that, but I think it is better to not fight at all.”
“Even though House Balzac is famous for its swordsmanship?”
“I hate killing the most, followed by swords. Because this is an instrument to kill right? I would prefer it if this thing doesn’t exist.”
Baudouin looked at the sword on Eddie’s waist.
The sword wrapped in cloth was the one he hated the most.
“Father is gone. He said ‘an opponent I must defeat appeared’, pushed L’Empereur Flamme’s sword and the title of Duke to me… then left on a journey of swordsmanship.”
From Baudouin’s reaction, he didn’t really accept what Eddie said.
It couldn’t be helped, he was already used such gazes from others.
Eddie shrugged again.
“Speaking of which, the capital huh. It’s been six months, I hope grandfather’s health is okay…”
“Lord Baltasar is doing well.”
“I see… In that case, I should visit him, even if I can only bring a duck.”
It was a journey that took half a month by carriage ——
On a clear afternoon, they finally saw the beautiful city.
When the carriage arrived at the capital, it was already noon.
Baudouin who alighted first bowed his head deeply.
“My apologies, Lord Eddie. We arrived later than expected.”
“Please don’t worry about it.”
Instead of disturbing the peace of the palace by arriving at night, the original plan was to rest at a checkpoint nearby, then enter the capital in the morning. They were slightly behind schedule.
Eddie entered into the capital after being away for half a year.
The two carriages passed through an arch gate slowly and headed into the palace.
It was the back gate for the staff working inside, instead of the front gate. But this gate was grand too.
The walls and pillars were carved with beautiful pictures, and the floor was as smooth as a mirror.
“This is the first time I am entering through here. So that’s what it’s like.”
“I beg your pardon… After all, it would be better to meet Prince Auguste earlier.”
Baudouin walked beside him.
The four knights and other servants followed behind.
The palace was where government executive bodies such as the War Administration Ministry and the Ceremonial Ministry were based. To attend to the needs of the staff living here, many servants stayed here too.
And so, large kitchens and bathhouses were built inside the palace, and countless servants busied themselves.
“My apologies to show you such a disorderly sight.”
“It’s fine, I like this. I can feel that the people are alive this way… Ah, I don’t mean the contrary is bad…”
Maybe Eddie’s words were counterproductive.
But it wasn’t an excuse, and he didn’t mean to criticize the nobles.
He was just bad with his words.
He didn’t understand why gems and silk dresses needed to exist, and how it was different from the leaves lodged onto the fur of a cat rummaging through the grass.
If there were clothes to cover oneself, food to satiate hunger and houses to shelter from the elements, that would be enough, Eddie thought.
Even though he was a Duke, he felt the sword of L’Empereur Flamme on his waist was an unnecessary burden.
But even if he discards these responsibilities, he would still need to shoulder the consequences for abandoning his duty. After all, he had the obligation to take over the House. From such a perspective, instead of responsibilities, it was more like a shackle.
They were walking on a path that the servants couldn’t use. Several soldiers were patrolling it.
A sight that didn’t surprise Eddie.
Those were the palace security. A lounge was located inside, and the officers of the First Army frequent this place.
But Eddie felt something was different.
“... What’s the matter?”
It wasn’t a problem with their dressing, they were wearing the uniform of the regular army properly.
The air about them felt wrong. Their upbringing and experience felt different from the soldiers he had usually seen the palace.
Soldiers from the frontlines?
No, Eddie shook his head.
They were like mercenaries.
The soldiers inside the palace would walk and speak with their companions in a relaxed manner. It was the safest place in the Empire after all. But these men were guarded as if they were on enemy grounds, gawking around like freshly hired mercenaries.
It was a group of six.
Walking before them was a man who stood out among the group.
He had narrow eyes and thin lips. A man whose face bore a scar from a knife wound.
Eddie felt a sudden chill.
It was instinct.
The reason wasn’t clear.
—— This person is really strong.
If this was the battlefield, he would probably not hesitate to yell at the comrades around him to run.
The man with narrow eyes stopped about three paces away.
He placed his right fist to his chest in a salute.
The other men were a step slower in giving a stiff salute.
Baudouin showed a sour expression.
“What are you all doing? Didn’t I tell you not to go outside… In the day…”
“We had too much of a drink.”
The narrow eyed man answered as he appraised Eddie. Their eyes met.
He placed his right hand on top of his sword.
Eddie took a step back with his left leg at the same time. He thought about how he should defend against a slash from the opponent.
Baudouin didn’t seem to notice the instant of tension and sighed in resignation and said begrudgingly.
“Ask the maid if you need a drink. I will be troubled if you return to the palace after drinking those cheap wine outside.”
“I get it… But it was more boring than expected, but things seem to be getting interesting.”
The narrow eyed man led his group away.
Eddie could feel the cold sweat on his back.
After the soldiers were gone, Baudouin took out his handkerchief to wipe the sweat on his forehead, and said with an awkward smile.
“Sorry about that, Lord Duke.”
“W-Who were those people?”
“Ah, they are not people you need to be concerned with.”
“They don’t look like soldiers garrisoned in the palace… It’s rare to see men like them even in the frontlines.”
Baudouin looked surprised.
After thinking for a moment, he said:
“... Guess I can’t muddle through it… They are men recommended by a noble who hired former mercenaries as regular soldiers. But even if they are capable, they are not suited for guard duties in the capital.”
“We are looking for a unit that can take them in.”
Eddie was still uneasy, but there was no reason to refute this as a lie. Since Baudouin had his own plans to about it, Eddie didn’t dwell over the matter.
Eddie was led to an annex building with the nickname of ‘Panier’ (Birdcage).
A conical building shaped like a tower.
There were soldiers patrolling the courtyard, but no guards could be found inside.
After informing her master about the visitors request for an audience, the maid opened the door.
The stairs inside the tower spiralled upwards, Eddie and Baudouin were led up slowly by a child like maid.
Baudouin said as they walked.
“The first floor is the kitchen used by the exclusive chef of Prince Auguste, and the place to store things related to food.”
Did they strengthen security because of the news of poison assassination? Eddie thought, but didn’t say it out loud.
“The second floor is the Prince’s wardrobe and military wear.”
“Military wear huh.”
As the door was shut, he couldn’t see inside. It was probably stocked with armours and swords. Auguste always had a weak constitution and never took such things to the field before, but was he such a vain person?
“The third floor is where the maids are on standby. They can respond immediately when the bell rings on the fourth floor.”
“Lord Eddie’s room would be on the third floor. But I can arrange a room for you in the main building if…”
“No need for that, since I’m a bodyguard, I should stay as close to my master as possible.”
“I understand. Do tell the maids if you need anything, or you can ask me too.”
“Thank you very much.”
There was a white door right in front of the stairs leading to the 4th level. A maid that came from another passageway opened the door with a key and they finally reached the 4th floor.
At the end of the stairs was Auguste’s room.
It was a half spherical room that looked like an inverted bowl.
In the middle of the room was a canopy bed, with thin lacy curtains hanging from it.
Eddie could see a silver haired man lying inside.
He felt that something was wrong.
—— Did Auguste’s body become smaller?
It had been a year since they last met. Auguste was thin back then, but he had gotten thinner still.
Was it because of his illness? Or his posture that made him seem smaller when looking through the curtains?
Baudouin bowed deeply.
“Your Highness, it has been a while. I am Lieutenant General Baudouin from the Imperial Guards. This is an old acquaintance of yours, Duke Eddie Fabio de Balzac.”
“... Yes, I know that of course.”
A strangely muffled voice.
Cough cough, Auguste cleared his throat several times.
Seems that his illness was affecting his throat.
He then informed the child-like maid:
“It will be terrible if they catch my disease. Please don’t come near me.”
“Your Highness isn’t feeling well, so I will keep it short. Please pardon me if I am too forward. I think having too many soldiers access the Annex building would be detrimental to Your Highness’ health. That’s why I would like the head of House Balzac who inherited the sword of L’Empereur Flamme to be your bodyguard. If the Duke is here, we will just need a hundred guards to secure the building.”
“Hmm… that’s great. You have my thanks.”
Eddie lowered his head without a word.
Baudouin took out a file and placed it on the table before Auguste’s bed.
“The details are written inside, this concludes my report.”
“... Very well.”
“Yes. If there is no other issue, I will take my leave.”
Baudouin bowed deeply once again.
After some brief words with Eddie, he followed the maid who led him here down the stairs.
Only Eddie and Auguste who was lying on the bed were left in the room.
“... Sir Eddie… If you require anything, you can just approach Lilim.”
“Ahh, that maid just now?”
Eddie tilted his head.
“What’s the matter, why are you calling me so formally… You always called me Eddie in the past.”
“Didn’t you say we can converse like friends when no one else is around? Well, we aren’t kids anymore, so acting in a way befitting our stations is to be expected.”
“Haha… We haven’t met for a year after all. But I did visit you when you fell sick, Auguste. But the doctors stopped me because your condition was really bad.”
“... I see, my apologies.”
“Ara, that’s not like you. I thought you would say ‘you should have come to visit me even if you needed to blow the doctors away’. I didn’t do that though.”
“... Ugh… Cough cough!”
“Ah, are you alright, Auguste!?”
“... Ugh, yeah.”
He must be feeling unwell, Eddie thought worryingly.
“Speaking of which, making me the bodyguard… I thought Auguste would definitely reject that.”
“... Why would I do that?”
“Why… Because you know I don’t like hitting people.”
Eddie thought he heard the voice of a girl for an instance and was baffled.
Auguste started coughing behind the curtains again.
It must have been his imagination. Auguste was sick, so it was better not to ask too many questions.
“I went onto the battlefield a few times recently… But it is still no good. Even though Auguste said ‘the enemies are just like wolves’... I still can’t do it. People die when they are killed. I really hate killing people.”
“... How kind.”
“But Latreille said ‘those who run from their duties are despicable’.”
Auguste who was behind the curtains inhaled sharply.
Eddie asked in confusion.
“What’s the matter?”
“... Latreille is the despicable one.”
“Huh, you are not holding back at all.”
“... I was targeted by that fellow before… I don’t know when he will assassinate me again.”
“So that incident half a year ago was really an assassination attempt?”
“... That’s right.”
How ruthless — Eddie thought.
When Auguste and Latreille were on good terms and played together when they were young, Eddie already knew the two of them.
Because they were about the same age and bore the same duty, the brothers had to fight each other, which was regrettable.
“Auguste, do you still want to be Emperor?”
“... If I give up my succession rights, Latreille will become Emperor. This is the only thing I won’t allow.
He sounded gloomy.
Eddie could sense his intense hatred.
After leaving the capital for half a year, Eddie could feel that the relationships between the brothers have deteriorated further.
At this moment, the maid who sent Baudouin away returned.
This must be Lilim.
“Sorry for the wait, Duke Balzac.”
“Just call me Eddie. I will be in your care.”
“Yes, please take care of me! Well then, allow me to lead you to your room, Sir Eddie.”
“Understood — I will be going now, Auguste.”
Eddie’s room was in one of the rooms on the 3rd level.
It was too small for a Duke, but just right for a First Grade Combat Officer.
This was the lodging given to a bodyguard, so Eddie moved in for now.
There seemed to be a story behind this.
—— The Second Consort insisted that the guards must be from her own territorial army.
However, guarding the royals was the duty of the Imperial Army. This was an important job, and would be a slap to the face for the Army even if the replacement was the noble house army from the First Prince’s mother.
In the end, they compromised with the Imperial guards securing the outside of the Annex building, without posting any soldiers inside, and that was the situation now.
The Second Consort knew Eddie, so she probably trusted him more.
But it was hard to know how she really thought… If she didn’t trust Eddie as a bodyguard, it would be equivalent to saying that the Duke House is part of the assassins, so she couldn’t refuse.
By the way, powerful nobles would form their own house troops, and these nobles would be given the rank of officers and become commanders.
Eddie was the only person who took up a posting as a normal officer in the army despite the status of a Duke.
Auguste’s life changed a little after Eddie moved in.
First of all, she couldn’t take hot baths when she wants to. After all, she had to hide the fact that she was a girl from another person living under the same roof.
Actually, the girl saw Eddie a few times when they were young.
The girl was still a girl then, and the people around called her by her real name ——
Back then, the princes Auguste, Latreille and Bastian played together.
As she was a girl, she could only look on from afar…
Speaking of which, there was another girl who was slightly older than her, Argentina who played with swords and horses with her brothers. She felt that girl was strange, because women from royalty and nobility were usually raised on the standard of being virtuous and quiet.
She was the only one who didn’t play with them.
Just watching them quietly from afar.
But there were times when they spoke. When Eddie was practicing with his sword alone in the courtyard, she didn’t think too much before approaching and talking to him.
She was eight and he was thirteen then.
Maybe he forgot about that already.
—— Do you like swords? I think they are scary.
She told him that… If she thought about it carefully, she was disrupting his training. So she would prefer for him to forget about it.
But no matter what, their positions were different now.
She couldn’t let him know she was a girl.
The next day ——
Eddie visited Auguste again.
“... What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, just bored. Let’s play cards. The weather is nice today, a good day for hunting, but you don’t really like going outside.”
“... If you are bored, you can go out and play by yourself.”
“You might say that now, but you will get angry later if I really went out to play by myself.”
—— Speaking of which, that’s how Auguste was.
Auguste sighed when she recalled how her brother was.
“... But we can’t play cards. You will catch my disease if you come too near.”
“It’s fine! I heard from the other maids, they all started working here half a year ago, and no one resigned yet. Which meant that your illness is not contagious even when they worked close to your side.”
All the maids in the building had been carefully taught by Auguste’s mother, the Second Consort, in order to not reveal Auguste’s secret.
So if they were asked about Auguste’s illness —— they would answer such questions properly.
But if the maids were asked about themselves, they wouldn’t be that guarded.
Auguste shifted the topic back.
“... Alright, I will play cards with you. What do you want to play?”
“Isn’t August great at poker? Let’s play that.”
“... No, t-that isn’t good.”
Poker and the likes were games played by boys.
Auguste didn’t even know the rules.
Eddie tilted his head.
“Ughhh… Let’s play Seven Bridge.”
“That’s not a two player game. Want to call for the other maids?”
No matter how well the maids had been taught, they might still slip something during a long game. Lilim was probably the only one that would be fine.
“Well, the maids have many things to attend to… Let’s play old maid.”
She answered in her original voice, then tried to cover it up with a cough.
That even surprised herself.
She didn’t really like card games, so why was she so happy?
Spending everyday lying on a bed, living her life as if she had been cursed by a witch.
Eddie’s suggestion let her catch a glimpse of light.
“I will deal the cards then.”
Eddie distributed the cards with a practiced hand.
“... You are skilled at this.”
“What are you saying, aren’t you the one that taught me?”
“Don’t go too far with the sick act, in the past, you kept using the excuse that you are feeling unwell to skip on your studies and sword training. But you were actually practicing cards and throwing knives…”
—— Was brother such a person!
A shocking truth.
Eddie dealt the cards, then picked up one pile and placed it on the table in front of the bed, right beside a book.
“Hmm? ‘The blue prince and princess of thorns’...? Isn’t this a woman’s book?”
She lost her composure for an instance.
She forgot to keep it after reading it last night.
“T-This is… Erm… Lilim’s book.”
“Why is it in Auguste’s room?”
“She just forgot and left it in her master’s room. What a clumsy maid, she’s still a child.”
She apologized to her maid in her heart.
Eddie seemed to have accepted this answer.
“Well, it happens —— Alright, let’s start the game.”
Auguste reached her hand out of the curtain.
It had been so long since she took something without the maid being an intermediary. Why did she feel so happy over such a trivial matter!?
The cards opened up in her hands like a treasure.
“... This one.”
She paired the cards and placed them on the table.
Seemed like the old maid is in Eddie’s hand. He spread the cards in his hand and offered it to her.
She suppressed her pounding heart and drew a card from her opponent’s hand.
It was a two spades.
She had a two clubs, so she put the pair onto the pile at the side.
To let Eddie draw her cards, she held the cards in both hands and offered them to him.
“Hmm, I pick this one.”
Since it was just the two of them playing, they could make a pair if they didn’t pick the old maid. Eddie removed a pair from his hand.
It was Auguste’s turn again.
Of the two cards before her, she had to avoid one of them.
—— The opponent wants the old maid to be drawn, so he will put it in a place that is easy to draw. Auguste thought.
“Hahaha, you picked that one!?”
She drew the old maid.
She was tricked.
Should she use the same trick on him —— No. He will see through it.
Auguste wasn’t that dumb.
But as she thought about such things, she was completely engrossed in the game of cards.
They played old maid until it was afternoon, and she was taught how to play Rummy, in which Eddie strutted his skills…
Eddie only went back to his room before dinner.
It was like a dream.
During dinner, Lilim asked:
“Erm… Prince Auguste… I heard the screams and laughter of a girl, did something happen?”
She only realized how she had acted when the maid reminded her
Getting into the bed because of shock and fear, she was really going to sleep this time.
But it was still a fun day.
Eddie was troubled.
“... Oh no. This is bad… It will be terrible if this goes on.”
He had worked as Auguste’s escort for a week.
Something that might cause the demise of House Balzac happened.
—— He thought Auguste was really cute!!
Auguste’s interest in games enamoured Eddie’s heart for some reason.
Simply put, he was very cute.
Be it his smile when he wins.
Or his sad voice in defeat that even made Eddie feel sad.
But most of all, his eyes that looked forward to the next game and his happy smile when a game begins lingered in Eddie’s mind.
Eddie dreamt about him three days in a row now.
“... Oh no… Auguste is a man! He is a royal that is older than me, how can I say that he is cute!?”
Eddie was 19, and Auguste was 24. Something must be wrong since Eddie thought Auguste looked younger than him.
As the head of the Duke House, Eddie had the duty to ensure his lineage lived on.
His spouse had to be a woman!
After Eddie finished his dinner consisting of chicken meat, he began his daily swordsmanship training.
He couldn’t swing his sword in the house, so he had to wield his sword at the entrance of the Annex.
He kept swinging as if he was trying to clear his mind.
He didn’t bring his treasured sword as this was training, and used a heavy training sword instead.
After sweating it out, he felt a bit more relaxed.
Someone flew out from the shadows of the building.
That person stabbed at Eddie with a sword!
Eddie dodged the sword in the nick of time.
He countered at the same time. Being hit by the heavy training sword was no joke.
His opponent pulled back his sword in an instant to parry Eddie’s strike.
He then kicked at Eddie.
Eddie kicked too.
Their feet collided and both of them flew backwards.
The face of the opponent appeared before the dim evening sun——
That was Eddie’s grandfather Baltasar Basil de Balzac.
The old man with a wrinkled face smiled.
“Want to continue!?”
“You already came back to the capital a week ago! And you didn’t even visit me, you stupid grandson!”
His grandfather might be saying that, but his face was all smiles.
Eddie parried an attack, countered, and was blocked.
“I have work as a bodyguard and can’t make time!”
“Then write a letter!”
“I was thinking about bringing you some duck meat!”
“I see, I look forward to that… How’s your work, can you handle it!?”
“Ughh… Of course!”
They exchanged blows more often than they spoke, and the two of them finally pulled apart.
Huff, huff, Baltasar regulated his breathing.
“I’m getting old… losing my breath just from that…”
“That’s normal for twenty rounds of exchanges.”
Eddie said without any difficulty in breathing, and greeted.
“—— You look well, grandfather.”
“Yes. So you… are now a guard of a royal… uuughhh…”
“W-Why are you crying!?”
“You said in the past that you don’t like to kill people and didn’t achieve much in the battlefield, so I thought that’s it for House Balzac… But hearing consecutive good news made me feel blissed.”
“Did something happened?”
“Yes. You remember Princess Argentina?”
“Of course. I have never seen anyone stronger than her… But I haven’t seen her after we grew up. I am not sure how she is doing right now.”
The nobles in the Empire will start preparing for their debut in the social world at the age of ten. Girls would need to learn a lot more things, and would be taught not to meet with men freely.
Eddie hasn’t met Altina much since she was ten.
As the only girl that played with him in his childhood, he remembered her well. But he hasn’t seen her much since then —— he lamented.
“Shortly after you set off on your campaign, Princess Argentina was appointed the commander of Fort Sierck on Prince Latreille’s recommendation.”
Eddie then learned of the details of the incident from Baltasar.
“—— And so, I heard happy news of victory.”
“That girl is really amazing.”
“Maybe she got a great strategist.”
“No… Just her winning a duel against the Black Knight Jerome was enough to shock me…”
“Why don’t you head over there and challenge them?”
“I don’t want to win either of them.”
“Ughh… How shameful! All the sword skills you learned are crying right now!”
“Aren’t they all skills for killing people? Wouldn’t it be better if the problem is solved without needing to use them?”
“These are the techniques our forebears took 850 years to perfect!”
“Ah… This topic is going to take a long time so let’s stop here.”
Eddie waved his hand.
They have repeated this several times already, so Baltasar was used to this.
“I see. Well, no matter what, you are fulfilling your duties and Princess Argentina is doing great… I am really happy. What a fortunate life. I won’t have any regrets even if I die now. Or rather, it is great that my life will come to an end without any troubles.”
“For example, you losing your job. You will keep working here, right?”
Baltasar narrowed his eyes.
“And… Hmm? Will you let me see my great grandson? If that is the case, I will live until I’m a hundred if need be.”
“Ah, eh… No erm… When the time comes.”
He was 19 after all, a normal age for marriage.
Some people in Belgaria got married at fifteen, twenty was already rather late.
It wouldn’t be strange to see people with two or three children at Eddie’s age.
“You left the capital for half a year, so at least bring back a bride!”
“I’m there to fight a civil war! And things like getting married and h-having kids, I will do that!”
Of course he will get married.
And have children.
If he doesn’t do that, the Balzac family line will end. Eddie didn’t have any brothers.
He needed to leave behind a successor to inherit the sword skills.
How well that successor learns them would be dependent on the child…
As he was thinking about what to do, he should respect the will of his father, grandfather and forebears.
That might be so…
When the topic of wife and kids were mentioned, the first thing that came to his mind was Auguste’s face.
That was a huge problem.
“What’s the matter? Is it an immoral love? Lusting after a married woman is no good, but a commoner is fine.”
“I don’t need you to worry about such unnecessary things.”
As expected of an elder who lived for so long.
Immoral love huh.
That seemed right.
“... Grandfather… Must I marry someone who can bear a child?”
Waahhhh… Eddie grabbed his head.
Baltasar face became serious.
“By the way, grandson.”
“What is it, grandfather.”
“Do you know about the Le Dragon du Fer?”
“Ahh, I heard they are powerful mercenaries.”
This mercenary band was involved in the civil war that was still ongoing after half a year, so Eddie was familiar with them.
“They are really skilled, and are good at abductions and assassinations… Not only are they strong, there are rumours that they undertake dirty jobs.”
“Well, they are mercenaries, and will do anything for money.”
“... They seem to be here.”
“They are in the capital.”
“What!? Why are they…!? Who hired them!?”
“I don’t know. But my source is reliable… Not just hired, they will probably do something illegal.”
“That might be so… But this is the capital.”
“Aren’t you concerned?”
“I’m a bodyguard for the Prince, so it’s fine. After all, it is impossible for mercenaries to attack inside the palace.”
“That’s why I’m telling you about this. Now that you it is dangerous here, you can avoid it right?”
“... That’s true.”
Or rather, did grandfather state this name because it might affect Eddie?
“... Grandfather… Do you know the name of their captain?”
“His name is Damian. I heard that all the soldiers in Le Dragon du Fer put poison on their swords.”
“Poison huh… Instead of dragons, they are more like venomous snakes.”
Eddie thought about the narrow eyed man he met a few days ago.
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