Returning to the royal capital, I left the custody of the bandits, who I had brought with me, to the military knight order who was in charge of public safety, and headed to Earl Thelesia’s mansion on foot. I was going there to exchange information with him such as what had happened at the fief and what had happened at the royal capital while I was away.
“I heard that two Neza Village girls fell victim to the bandits, this isn’t wrong, right?”
“Yes, they are the only two who were directly affected by the bandits. Using the Sill Tribe warriors to search for the bandits had some impact.”
It seemed that the Earl still wasn’t feeling very well, and our meeting occurred in his bedroom.
When I looked at the Earl, who was in bed with his pyjamas on, his cheeks seemed skinnier than what I remember. I suppose it was partly because I have grown, but when I looked down at the Earl, who used to look so big, he now seemed thin and small… and fragile.
“How is your health…?”
“It’s just fatigue, that’s all… As expected, I can’t beat old age.”
Normally, when people talk to each other, they would first ask about how the other person is, but when the Earl and I talk, as we are doing now, we talk about business, so personal matters usually were put off.
That was probably why this old man was driven to the point of fainting. ――― Well, we’re both working. I don’t know whether he sees me as a subordinate or his employer, but either way, the Earl’s physical condition, and how he works, is not something that I have a say in.
“Did anything happen at the royal capital?”
I stopped talking about the Earl’s physical condition and got down to business. As soon as I asked this, the Earl’s already stern face, scrunched up more and went grimmer. It seemed like something had happened, so I straightened up my back.
“The royal family hosted the Descending Festival the other day.”
“I know. I would have joined if the bandits hadn’t showed up…”
“You’ve missed an important social occasion on that one. The Descending Festival is the biggest event of the year. Back to what I was saying, His Majesty made an announcement then.”
I found myself blinking involuntarily at this surprising story.
The words that came directly from the King’s mouth, to an unspecified number of his subjects, can have an impact on the kingdom. However, the King rarely decided on policies.
The King of Arxia has full authority over the management and governance of the kingdom. However, there is a limit to what one person can do, and in this kingdom, the King formed a governing body by giving his power of representation to the nobles.
I’m certain that there are no recent agendas in the House of Lords that required a direct declaration from the King.
“It was about the Prince.”
“… Oh, I see. The affairs of the royal family weren’t included in the House of Lord discussions, were they?”
I finally understood and replied to him. I’m currently learning about the royal family and the church, so it’s taking me a long time to draw out information from the conversation.
According to Lady Marechan’s lecture the other day, there are two matters that the House of Lords is not in charge of.
The first involves diplomacy and the second is the royal family. Diplomacy was decided by the King, Archduke and the Upper House of Lords, while royal matters were decided by the royal family, the church and the Upper House of Lords.
“There are several boys in the royal family at the moment, but do you know how many of them are direct descendants of the King?”
“Yes, Queen Dionysia’s son, Prince Albert, and Empress Evelis’s son, Prince Alfred.”
When I said that in confirmation, Earl Thelesia nodded in affirmation.
“Are you currently learning about the royal family right now?”
“Simply put, Queen Dionysia was a princess of Planates Dukedom, and the Empress Evelis was a princess of the royal Merleart House. There is no difference in status between the Queen and the Empress and it’s impossible to know which of the two princes would become the crown prince.”
I had learnt what the Earl had just explained in the last lecture. I could finally see where this was leading when he explained that much.
“Then, the King announced which of the two will be the Crown Prince at the Descending Festival?”
“That’s right. The Empress’s son, the second prince, Alfred, has been named as the Crown Prince.”
“Prince Alfred? Not Prince Albert?”
I couldn’t help but ask him for confirmation when he said the name that I wasn’t expecting. The Earl nodded. It seemed like I hadn’t misheard him.
I quickly dug up any relevant information that I had learnt from my lecturers from the depths of my mind. Within the Arxian laws, there was certainly no difference in status between the Queen and the Empress. But there was currently a clear difference between them.
The Empress, Elelis, is from the Merleart House, which is part of the royal family. The Merleart House, along with the Tyuru House, the current rulers of the dynasty, are direct descendants of St. Ahar, and have continuously inherited the royal line; and though they are treated no differently from the Archduke, they have no status other than being a member of the royal family.
On the other hand, Queen Dionysia, who married into the royal family from Planates, did not renounce her status in Planates when she married. So, she is both Queen of Arxia and Princess of Planates.
The princes were also born at different times. The eldest son is usually the heir apparent, although Arxia doesn’t have a law that states that the eldest son inherits.
I’m sure I heard during my lectures that Prince Albert was considered as the next Crown Prince, since his mother has a higher position and he is the eldest son.
“No one doubted that. Prince Albert is known as one of the brightest men in the castle. No one would object to him being the Crown Prince.”
“… Then why?”
“I don’t know. And because there’s no answer, there’s a great deal of unrest and tension at the royal capital right now.”
I see. I nodded and sorted through the information.
The second prince has become the crown prince, instead of the first prince who people were sure was going to be the crown prince, and the nobles who thought that first prince would be the next king were disturbed… No, that’s not enough to make them nervous.
Thinking for a moment, I realised that it was because of the first prince’s mother’s origin.
“The nobles think that our vigilance against Rindarl will provoke Planates…”
“That’s right. It’s not good to provoke Planates right now.”
Everyone thought so. It was impossible for the King to be oblivious to this, and the Upper House of Lords must have taken this into account when they had selected the crown prince.
“Well, it’s no use talking about it. Nobles like us can only just wait and see.”
I was certainly confused, but what Earl Thelesia said was also plausible. The affairs of the royal family and the court are out of my reach.
“Then, may I tell you what I found out from the bandits we captured?”
The priority is more direct matters; matters related to the fief. With that in mind, I quickly changed the topic.
“Let’s hear it.”
“In conclusion, they were decoys who were tasked with attracting the attention of the three fiefs around Jugfena, so that the other troops could safely infiltrate from the neighbouring kingdom. After their capture, I discovered that there was another unit deployed almost at the same time they were, through interrogation. We searched the northern parts of the fief and found traces of more than a dozen people passing through. This has been reported to Lord Einsbark through a knight of the Jugfena royal fief, Ergnard.”
Their footprints showed that the party had passed through the north and continued along Bandishia Plateau. They trudged through Amon Nohl, which was somewhat more bearable now with the summer heat, and invaded Arxia. Since the land that the Sill Tribe had inhabited was now uninhabited, the forces of Densel may have taken it under control and developed the land around Amon Nohl.
“The troops have passed through the northern part of the fief, and have crossed the fief line. We abandoned our pursuit of them since they had entered Valeria fief. We have already contacted Valeria through the royal fief, but it might be hard to find the troops since most of the fiefs along Amon Nohl don’t have armies.”
The Earl nodded with a sigh.
“I won’t make it public, but I will let the right people know that they may aim to enter Nordsterm’s sphere of influence.”
“Please,” I nodded in return. I couldn’t communicate between nobles, since I held no connections. No, is the Earl my connection in this case…? Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that I have to increase my connections with the nobles on my own.
I strongly felt as I watched the old man lean back limply onto the cushions.
As foretold by Earl Thelesia, there was turmoil caused by the announcement of the crown prince. That was all people spoke about no matter where one went in the royal capital. Of course, it was also an agenda in the House of Lords.
“What does the court think of the impact on Planates?”
“Why are we provoking the friendly Planates when the situation with Rindarl is unstable right now?”
“But if the Rindarl Union Dukedom is established then they would most likely be hostile towards us because of Densel.”
“Then wouldn’t it be dangerous to focus on a prince whose mother has not abandoned her position as princess?”
“There’s no need to announce a crown prince right now. Prince Albert won’t reach late adolescence for another four years.”
The meeting was in chaos as soon as the discussion began. The House of Lords can’t get directly involved in the succession of the royal family, but they can get involved indirectly through the Upper House of Lords. When the pointless heated debate was over, the nobles turned their attention to Earl Eidner, who had a position in the Upper House of Lords.
How and why was the crown prince decided? Lord Eidner answered with a little confusion in his voice.
“We received notice from the royal family about investiture of the crown prince less than two months ago. All the councillors, and the prime minister, were against this, but all the members of the royal family, with the exception of the Queen, and the church were in favour of Prince Alfred’s investiture as the crown prince.”
“Nonsense. The royal family are the ones who recognise Prince Albert’s abilities the most. Even if the Merleart House didn’t favour this, it’s hard to believe that everyone in the Tyuru House approves of Prince Alfred…”
“Unbelievable,” Margrave Junas raised his voice. As a lord who ruled over the most fiefs in the kingdom, his voice held a lot more influence than that of a lowly Upper House of Lords member.
When flatly objected, Lord Eidner cowered up like a frog being stared at by a snake.
The one who tried to pacify them was Earl Einsbark. Like Margrave Junas, he was in charge of Jugfena royal fief and Jugfena fortress, which were key locations for border defence, but his influence over the royal family wasn’t that high, since he held no hereditary rights. His role was to naturally be a bridge between the royal capital and local nobles.
Earl Thelesia quietly explained the situation outside of the Kingdom while ignoring the chaos. My knowledge was overwhelmingly lacking compared to the adult nobles, so the Earl often gave me small lectures like this when I attended the House of Lords.
“It can be said that the situation in Rindarl is currently at its most important stage. Under pressure from the Four Dukedoms to establish Rindarl Union Dukedom, Rindarl Kingdom is losing its function as a nation. The end of the Kingdom means the establishment of the Union Dukedom.”
“Since they’re surrounded by the four Dukedoms on all sides. Does this mean the Union Dukedom must seize it as its centre?”
“That’s not all. There is no difference in national power between the four Dukedoms. The biggest obstacle to establishing the union is which kingdom will control the centre.”
“You mean to capture the kingdom and install a figure head without any political power?”
That would be a rather interesting system. Unlike in my previous world, it’s a given that a king has power to influence politics in this world. In Rindarl’s case, they needed someone at the top since the four Dukedoms are unifying, and the person at the top would almost certainly not be given any other role except for a symbolic one.
“I wonder what will happen once it’s established.”
“Who knows… What about using the structure of Prince-elector and Emperors?”
“It’s a flexible concept, but the power struggle within the central court will only intensify.”
“The succession of the crown of the kingdom is something that bothers every kingdom, isn’t it?”
“It’s exactly like the current Arxia,” the Earl added and laughed abruptly. His complexion was still pale. He seemed to have recovered enough to get out of bed, but he still wasn’t well. Did he force himself to get out of bed just to attend today’s regular meeting?
“Wouldn’t it be a bad idea to provoke Planates if Rindarl Union Dukedom is nearly established?”
“It’s difficult. It’s true that out of the Four Dukedoms, only Planates has signed a treaty of friendship and commerce with us. However, Densel is our enemy and we have little contact with Giograd and Parmigran. If our relations with Planates gets worse, then it would inevitably lead to a bad relationship.”
It wasn’t difficult to understand to that extent. That was what the nobles were most worried about, if Prince Alfred became the crown prince. Margrave Junas couldn’t help but be nervous about this matter since his fief bordered Planates.
“But, as someone mentioned earlier, there’s also a problem with the Queen retaining her status as Princess in Planates.”
However, I couldn’t understand why it would be a problem if Prince Albert became the next King, probably because I hadn’t studied enough. I racked my brains to find a reason for the Earl’s concern, but I just couldn’t understand it, so I asked him why. Not knowing the reason was a lifetime of shame, since I’m a feudal lord whose fief faced Junas and is part of the eastern border defence line.
“… Why is that?”
“Hmm. Well… The Duke of Planates’s right of succession isn’t only granted to those of the immediate bloodline, but to all the males in that bloodline. Although, the heir has priority.”
As always, I was given a direct answer, but one where I could derive my own conclusion. Earl Thelesia put a lot of emphasis on training my thinking abilities.
I guess this means that… if the Queen hasn’t abandoned her position as Princess, then she hasn’t renounced any of her rights in Planates. So, her son, Prince Albert, would be entitled to those rights in Planates as well…?
“Since the Queen hasn’t renounced her status as Princess, does that mean that Prince Albert is entitled to the right to succeed the Duke of Planates?”
“According to the Planates laws, yes.”
“I see. That’s a problem.”
If Prince Albert becomes the Crown Prince, then Planates would be too much for Arxia. Even if Planates doesn’t try to use the Prince.
There weren’t any problems when the Queen married into Arxia. But now, the Rindarl Union Dukedom exists. It’s quite dangerous for someone to inherit the blood of the ruler of a kingdom that had enough national power to rival Arxia in the Arxian royal family.
It finally made sense and my head felt clear. When there were no more doubts and I had my own opinions, I felt motivated to listen seriously to the boring arguments of the nobles.
My opinion is that the royal family considered announcing the crown prince in light of the situation in Rindarl. At least, as someone had said at the beginning, they should have waited until Prince Albert reached late adolescence.
Suddenly a memory emerged from my sea of thoughts, like a flashback.
It was a fragment of memory from my previous life that didn’t feel real at all, like a story depicted in a book.
(Emilia, the Archduchess of Rindarl Union Dukedom, wanted to marry into the neighbouring Kingdom, Arxia, and entered the academy where the nobles of Arxia studied to find her own husband…)
――― That’s right. I’m certain the prologue of that otome game began with this sentence.
But that didn’t mean that I believed that it would certainly happen in the future. For some reason, I couldn’t help but feel vaguely convinced that Prince Alfred’s investiture would not be overturned, no matter how much turmoil was in the House of Lords.