Settling the Affairs of an Atrocious Noble - 20
Settling the Affairs of an Atrocious Noble
It took me a fair amount of time to get to Angelica’s residence before, but the Royal Palace was even farther. I figured I’d lose consciousness at least once in the middle of the tedious carriage ride, since I hadn’t been sleeping well lately, but contrary to my expectations, my eyes were surprisingly wide awake.
After spending a day and a half in the carriage without any sleep, we finally arrived at the royal capital.
We were able to freely pass through the gates, mostly due being recognized. As we headed for the palace through the town, I looked out the window.
It might have been surprising for a town that was under the direct control of an extraordinary tyrant, but the people who lived in here were vibrant in their own way. Naturally, those who disagreed with Eberhardt’s will were executed without mercy. But basically, the town was populated mainly by wealthy nobles and merchants, and the wealthy ones were living there in peace. It was a distorted place built on many sacrifices, but you could see smiles everywhere.
I was observing them with somewhat complicated feelings, when… I happened to see someone in blue robes peeking out from the shadows of a dark alley. They immediately retreated back into the depths and were no longer visible, but wasn’t that…
The scenery kept changing one after another while I was thinking about it. After passing through the town, we ran past a slightly clear slope and went through the palace gate beyond. The soldiers of the palace greeted me and stopped the carriage. The coachman and the escorts I brought with me were put on standby, leaving only Craig to accompany me and we followed the guiding officer. We didn’t talk about anything and just went on, only stopping abruptly when we came to a forked road.
To the right was the throne room, and… to the left was a temporary residence for the nobles who were working at the Royal Palace. I believe Craig’s family were living in it as well. They were living here under the pretext of working here, as they should be, but… in fact, it was more of a hostage situation to Craig. He serves under me, so for the sake of his family here, he couldn’t go against me. Likewise, his family couldn’t move as they please since I was holding Craig hostage.
They weren’t being restrained, but their actions were naturally limited.
I thought that they haven’t seen each other in a long time, and felt sorry for them, so I talked to Craig.
However, I had to be careful not to imbue my voice with kindness.
“…You are within His Majesty’s territory, and your family must be even more exhausted than usual. Why don’t you go and see them?”
It would’ve been perfect if I had laughed, but as expected, I just couldn’t seem to get that right. Well, it probably didn’t matter since those lines still came from this mouth.
My suggestion, however, was abruptly turned down by Craig.
“It’s fine… I… have no face to show.”
He was perhaps concerned about his current situation of serving Heinreid. He didn’t have to worry about that. After all, I only had myself to blame for everything.
I thought about giving him another push, but the guide cleared his throat, ending our conversation. I turned on my heels and went towards the path to the right.
“Craig Bauer. That is as far as you go.”
When we got to the door at the far end, the chancellor of the palace who was waiting, had stopped Craig.
Although Craig had been called by his name, he didn’t take the chancellor’s words in stride.
“I am Lord Heinreid’s escort. No matter how many words come from the chancellor, I cannot listen to them.”
“I hope you consider my words to be equal to His Majesty’s. Or perhaps, you mean to say that you will listen to the Duke’s orders on top of that? Your loyalty is admirable. You have really trained this rebellious brat well, didn’t you, Duke Rodvelia?”
He uttered those words to me while stroking his moustache. It seemed like a backhanded compliment, a sarcastic way of telling me that Craig should be disciplined, so that he wouldn’t be able to express his own opinions as he pleased.
I didn’t feel particularly pleased about it, even if what he said was true. Craig was right to get smart with him.
Be that as it may, I couldn’t really back him up here, so I gave him an order as his lord.
“…Craig. Don’t embarrass me by being selfish.”
“Just wait here.”
He probably wanted to listen in on the conversation between me and Eberhardt to gather information, but the chancellor mentioned that I should go in alone. It was most likely Eberhardt’s words, so I couldn’t go against him.
He didn’t have to be so uptight about it, since I would’ve let him know when it’s over anyway… If I make it out alive, that is.
Craig was a bit reluctant, but he must have realized that the situation was out of his control. He raised his right hand to his chest in a knight’s salute.
“…If something happens, please call me, even if you have to shout.”
You’re a good actor. You’re really someone who can get things done, aren’t you?
The two soldiers who had been standing aside, opened the large door and I stepped inside. There was no one there but the head of the castle, and it was surprisingly quiet. I looked ahead, listening to the sound of the door being closed once more.
At the end of my gaze, I saw a man sitting on a throne, his azure and golden eyes narrowed in a bewitching smile.
“It has been a while, Heinreid. What’s the matter, stopping at such a distance? Come closer.”
As prompted, I approached the throne.
I wondered if I should kneel again, but he didn’t say anything else this time, so I just stood in place, looking up at Eberhardt from the foot of the steps.
“You know why you have been summoned, don’t you?”
“Who knows. You always come up with a lot of reasons, not just this time, but every time, really.”
I replied to him in an insolent manner. He didn’t seem particularly offended and laughed, saying that was also true.
“Heh. But I’ve always been lenient towards you, haven’t I? Hm?”
It greatly contradicted my memories. I felt a twinge of pain that had been carved into my flesh, and clenched my fist. It wasn’t that I had been allowed to do everything unconditionally.
“…Is that how it was? I feel like I’ve already lost a few fingernails.”
“Don’t take it personally. In the first place, that kind of punishment for all the insolence you have committed would have been something of a jest.”
He wasn’t wrong. But that was only if we were under a decent reign.
He looked at me with amusement, as I was probably wearing a displeased expression, when he encouraged me to recount my atrocities.
“Was that… punishment for when I tried to kill every father and mother?”
“No, not really. That was for when you set fire to the farmland just right before the harvest, and ruined the entire grounds.”
“Oh, there’s that too. That was a mess. It was amusing, but it also made me feel irritated since I had a hard time cleaning up after myself. Forgive me.”
“…For the other things as well.”
I recited several of the atrocities I had committed with my own hands. As if I were confessing to God.
But the man who was listening, was beautiful enough to be called a god, if only in appearance; but deep inside, he was no different from Heinreid… from me. He was just an accomplice.
There was no way he could judge me, so he just received my confession; sometimes nostalgically, sometimes with a childish giggle.
“I thought I had done all kinds of evil for eight years, but, hah. I guess memories never fade. Just thinking back on it excites me… You, on the other hand, don’t seem happy with it in the slightest.”
The words he added made me feel uneasy. My heart swelled, wrapped and concealed in Heinreid’s wickedness.
“…I mean, there’s nothing fascinating about it.”
Ah. By the time I realized it, something had already broken down. But, even so, I couldn’t stop.
I don’t look happy, you say? Of course not!
“Say, where’s the fun in that? How can you and Heinreid, smile and laugh so happily at others, who are more helpless than you, trampling on their lives and listening to their screams?”
Eberhardt stood up from his throne. He slowly approached me, but I had no time to bother with that.
“You know it’s wrong, don’t you? If so, why can’t you suppress it with reason? Look at the state of this country right now. Your reign is on the verge of collapse. If you aren’t a fool, you should’ve known that this would happen sooner or later, and yet…!”
With a loud sound of a hard strike, heat flashed across my right cheek. Eberhardt had swung the back of his hand as hard as he could.
I staggered from the blow, and shortly thereafter, I was swept by my leg and fell to the ground. Before I could raise my body, a foot came down from above, stepped on my head and pinned me to the ground.
“Don’t make a fool of yourself. How unsightly.”
He spoke with the coldest, most monotonous voice I had ever heard. The pressure of a ruler had deprived me of my right to speak.
I heard a single exhale above me.
“You are no longer Heinreid… or so I’ve heard. I thought those reports were absurd, but now that I’ve actually seen it in person, I certainly felt something strange about you. But if there’s even a shred of his atrocity left in you, I thought… it might be amusing to love you for it, and yet…”
The weight on my head increased.
A groan escaped me as the pain was too much, I thought my head would be crushed and stepped through just like this.
“Asking me how and why. So annoying. I do not know anything about Heinreid. He was a poison beyond my understanding, and that was why I was drawn to him. I wished to see things through with my own eyes, even if it would ruin everything in my hands. Do you need a reason for this intoxication? …I don’t know what, or why it happened, but…”
‘I wonder who drank up the deadliest poison I loved.’
The murmured words sounded like they were accompanied by loneliness somewhere.
However, the voice didn’t resonate with me. I wondered if it reached the Heinreid inside me. I had no idea, since my cells didn’t react the way they did when I was committing atrocities. I… didn’t want to know.
“I’ll give you three days. Spend your remaining days as you please.”
With those words, the foot that had pinned my head was withdrawn.
I sluggishly got up. Before I did, I lifted my head and saw two eyes of different colors looking down at me coldly.
“…May I return to the estate for now?”
“Fine, suit yourself. That’s right, I’m going to send someone to pick you up on the scheduled date. You may escape, but in return, I will lay waste to your lands beyond recognition.”
…I wonder if ‘escape’ in this case also included suicide.
Does it matter either way? He did mention my ‘remaining days’. We’re still all going to end up in the same place.
I stood up, turned my back on the tyrant, and left the throne room. I opened the door myself and stepped out into the corridor, where Craig was standing by and greeted me with a startled look on his face.
Oh… He did hit me pretty hard. It might’ve already bruised.
“My lord, what happened?”
I walked past Craig, disregarding his question. I didn’t really have anything substantial to say to him… or, did I? The disappearance of the poison called Heinreid, would probably be the greatest news for this country.
I felt Craig following me, but I still headed straight towards the exit of the palace. I reached the carriage and gave instructions to the coachman and the escorts.
“I won’t be taking the carriage. It’ll take too long. I’ll ride home by horse, so you can all go wherever you want.”
“I don’t need escorts. It’s too much trouble… For the horse, well. I’ll ride the one Craig used.”
I waved off the perplexed coachman and escorts, and when I was about to mount the horse, I was grabbed by the arm.
“What are you talking about? Please explain. What happened with His Majesty?”
About time. Finally, I can settle the last of my affairs.
I placed all my strength into glaring at the insolent man (Craig) who had touched his lord.
Craig faltered for an instant, and I took that gap as an opportunity to swing his arm away as hard as I could.
“I have reached my limit for your disrespect. Today, as of this moment… you are dismissed.”
“Well, you won’t exactly be free as long as you’re under a count serving His Majesty. Hmm, as far as I’m concerned, that’s not really relieving.”
It was an abrupt and confusing dismissal notice… with a reason that didn’t even make sense.
But this wasn’t something new, being Heinreid for a long time now, blaming the people for things that didn’t happen.
The accumulation was important. Even the unreasonableness of the thought wasn’t unnatural, because it happened all the time.
However, Craig looked unconvinced, even though this was a good chance for him to get away from Heinreid. It wasn’t as if I was trying to scheme something… Oh, that’s right.
Since this was going to be the last time, I decided to give him one piece of information that he couldn’t ignore.
“…This is my final order. Go to the tavern at the end of Sixth Avenue… now.”
The end of Sixth Avenue. It was where I saw the shadow of a person wearing blue robes back in the town. And a small tavern where they had retreated into to hide.
Craig’s eyes slightly widened in response to what I had whispered to him.
…This isn’t good. Any more than this and I’ll have my cover blown.
“I’m leaving. Don’t follow me… Understood?”
I left him with that, mounted the horse and left the castle.
I pretended not to hear the man calling me from behind, as he came to his senses.
Happy New Year everyone! I apologize for my slow updates, but hopefully I’ll get less busy this year and finish translating this novel soon. Anyway, stay safe!