Settling the Affairs of an Atrocious Noble - 18
Settling the Affairs of an Atrocious Noble
After greeting my fiancé (although it’s just for formality’s sake) and returning to the estate, I finally decided to carry out the plan of releasing the hostages in earnest.
Several days had passed since my encounter with Sieg. They should already be starting to move around this time too, so this period I would call the ‘calm before the storm’ was a turning point. If the full-blown rebellion starts, it would be hard to move in the opposite direction.
I sent all the letters I had written to various places and selected a person from Karl’s list of traitors that he had thoroughly combed through, to take and drop them off . In doing so, I made sure that I assigned someone whose hometown was close to the hostage’s. I didn’t know if it would have any significance, but it should be useful for spreading information about the rebellion that would occur in various places in the future.
The number of prisoners in Prison One was also becoming considerably smaller.
The number of people in this mansion was steadily decreasing.
Then, it was just a matter of question on how to get rid of the evil people (in here). I couldn’t find any good reason to dismiss them since they were so fascinated with Heinreid.
Well, as far as these guys were concerned, even if they didn’t reach the level of Heinreid, they were generally heretics; so at worst, they might have to share their fate with me. However, if they were to poorly fight for me, it could end up in civilian casualties… Hmmm.
As I was pondering over the various documents, thinking if I should do it like this or like that, I heard a knock on the door of my office.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Craig Bauer.”
“Don’t come in.”
“Pardon my intrusion.”
Craig opened the door unreservedly and entered the room.
What. The. Heck. If you’re going to barge in anyway, there’s no point in knocking. Damn it, he’s belittling me.
I let out a sigh and threw the documents onto the desk facing down.
“What do you want? I’m working.”
“You mean, for the release of the hostages?”
He asserted with a firm voice.
I noticed that Craig had an unusual air about him and I looked up at his face from across the desk where I was seated.
After having our eyes meet, we kept silent for a while; but he started to talk not long after.
“You’re not the lord of this house, are you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Please stop feigning ignorance.”
He said those assertive words with conviction. There was not a single hint of hesitation in his emerald eyes.
After reviewing everything thoroughly, I propped my elbows on the desk and laced my hands together, resting my chin on it.
“What led you to that idea?”
“It was after returning from the Pieira River where I felt that something was definitely different about you… When you allowed me to approach you in the garden.”
The garden. I glanced at the rose on the desk from the corner of my eye. It was replaced every day, and it was blooming bright red even today.
“The lord approaches people himself. Even if he touches the others, they aren’t allowed to do the same to him. Not to mention, if they extended their hand to his neck… his vital points or so, his whip is bound to fly off at them at once. That should’ve been the case, yet you just accepted it without putting up a fight. Even after that, no matter how disrespectful I was, you never once took out your whip. Even your shouts of abuse were simply jests. It’s strange how I’m still standing here safe and sound after all of that.”
I listened quietly to his voice as he spoke, without interrupting him.
I wouldn’t argue with that. If Craig says so, then it must’ve been true. And I was sure that was the case in retrospect of Heinreid’s past.
“You don’t torture nor execute your own people. On the contrary, you have been releasing more hostages after Elmer Kisch lately. I thought you didn’t even want to hide it anymore at this point.”
Well, he was right. There was also circumstantial evidence around here. I would admit that I made a pretty bold move since it was something I couldn’t hide.
“I’ll ask once more. You’re not the ‘lord’… right?”
He repeated his assertive words again.
‘Well done!’… was probably a strange thing to say. Craig was right, there would’ve been plenty of unnatural scenarios. It was obvious that I didn’t do any of the actions at all, even though I often imitated the words and motions of a villain.
And after taking a closer look, Craig had concluded that I ‘wasn’t Heinreid’.
Certainly, strictly speaking… Strictly speaking, I never thought that I was Heinreid himself.
“You dance just the way I wanted you to. How delightful.”
That was why I didn’t know what he was talking about.
“It’s an experiment, Craig.”
I narrowed my eyes as I looked up at Craig, who was frowning as if he had been attacked unguarded.
I just had to look like I was mocking him, even for a little bit. For some reason, the corners of my mouth wouldn’t go up, so… I just used the rest of my muscles and my tone of voice as best as I could.
“Is it really so strange that you’re still standing there safe and sound? You should’ve learned that lesson eight years ago. Your punishment and torture were never meant to be inflicted on yourself in the first place. The punishment was showing you how even the smallest things that had nothing to do with you, were torn down.”
I thought about it as I spun those awful words.
For instance… if I had woken up before Heinreid committed his wrongdoings. Or, if I hadn’t inherited any of his memories at all, then the circumstances and feelings might’ve been different. I would’ve resented how unreasonable it was that I had to die, no longer bound by any sense of duty. I might’ve clung to Craig’s words, believing them to be the truth.
“So, ‘I’m not the lord’, was it? The answer is no. Isn’t that unfortunate? I am certainly Heinreid von Rodvelia. I’m not some kind of double, but the person himself.”
I had spent a lot of time getting my affairs in order up to this point, so I was sure of it. Even if it wasn’t pure. Even if it was mixed with something else. I was definitely ‘as such’.
Say, Craig. If I looked like him, but were a different person, you might’ve been able to kill your resentment.
But even you couldn’t forgive ‘him’… can you?
“…Lies. Then, why?”
“If you don’t believe me, should I prove it to you?”
I took out all my playing cards for atrocity. As if a geyser were gushing out, several appalling memories popped out.
Yes, I… remember it all.
“Where should I begin… Should I tell you about how I kicked a miserable child to death, who rudely stepped into my sight? Or when I ordered to set fire to a tavern in the middle of the night and cut open the stomach of the landlady who escaped? Or… when I ordered you to finish off the man whose limbs you tore off in the dungeons?
“Ah, come to think of it, that was the first time I ordered you to do something like that. That man was already confirmed to die, and yet the look on your face when you were doing it…!”
The chair I was sitting on fell backwards.
It was because he grabbed me by my collar and pulled my upper body forward. My toes were barely touching the floor, but I hit my foot hard against the desk and groaned a bit.
My face contorted slightly for an instant… However, I didn’t care about it anymore after a second.
“I told you to stop!”
…See, I knew it. This body gets excited in response to hatred. It’s so easy to brush off ‘my’ guilt.
How could such a person exist?
I was transfixed by Craig’s eyes while feeling my blood rush.
“…It’s those eyes of yours, Craig. I wanted to see those eyes again, hence the ‘experiment’.”
Just as I told His Highness, doing things slow and steady is important. Lately, you’ve been so comfortable with your submissive demeanor, and it was boring.
Those words came out of my mouth on their own.
In addition to that, I stretched out my arms, pulled his head towards me and… told him what I wanted to say.
“Don’t turn away from reality, from sins, Craig Bauer. I’m your… enemy.”
Silence filled the room.
Craig looked like he was about to kill me, but… eventually, he let go of my collar, pushing me away and left the room with heavy footsteps.
The door closed with a sound so loud that the room shook.
I stood in place and stared at it blankly, but… the sound of heavy footsteps never resounded far from the room.
Even with all that being said, Craig would still be waiting at the door as an escort, while biting his lips, letting his hatred rage inside him.
I clicked my tongue at the inner evil that cheered and rejoiced, and strongly wished that I could also release myself from him as soon as possible.