Settling the Affairs of an Atrocious Noble - 24
Settling the Affairs of an Atrocious Noble
My naïve thinking that I could sneak out of the room without getting caught, was completely shattered, so I stayed in my room until morning. I had no choice. Even if I had no plans of saving my life, I wanted to at least save my chastity.
Nevertheless, I didn’t really plan on sleeping, so I passed the time by counting the stars that lined up in the night sky. Though I was only able to see a small portion of it from the inside, it wouldn’t be a laughing matter if Craig came in the moment I opened the window.
Still, I couldn’t finish counting the stars in one night, and the sky began to lighten before I was even halfway through. Just when I couldn’t see a single, tiny twinkle anymore, I heard a subdued sound coming from the doorway.
…At least knock, even if it’s just for formality’s sake, damn it.
The man who had crept into the room, blinked in surprise when he saw my face with what must have been a dumbfounded expression.
“Good morning… You’re up early today.”
“Morning. I could say the same for you.”
“I always wake up at this time.”
Hmm, it must be tough being a knight. I walked to the glass cabinet by the wall, and searched inside.
I took out what I was looking for and grabbed two small glasses, placing them on the furnished table at once.
I stuck a screw into the cork sealing the bottle of liquor… which I removed, twisting the bottle open.
I poured amber liquid into both glasses until it was half full and offered one to Craig, who was watching the whole sequence.
“It’s a restorative alcohol, to take away drowsiness. You should drink some, too.”
He said he usually woke up around this time, but I knew that he had not slept either. He had to be on the lookout, to make sure I didn’t run away; and given the circumstances, he had to be prepared for anything.
“It’s not something that will make you intoxicated, so you don’t have to worry. …Well, it may taste a little strong for a child, though?”
I waved my glass to flaunt at the hesitant Craig, who probably felt like he was being ridiculed since he gave me a pissed off response.
“I’m an adult. And in the first place, you’re only two years older than me.”
“I meant men-tal-ly.”
I told him, “If you don’t want it, then I’ll just drink by myself.” I was about to tip the glass into my mouth, when it was forcibly taken away from me.
I watched as Craig drank the contents of the glass in one go.
Well, if you were being provoked by someone older than you, whom you wanted to look good for… you would definitely get worked up. I could understand that well… After all, I used to be like one too.
Craig wiped his wet lips with his fingers, and frowned.
“It’s something like medicine, after all.”
I took the other glass in my hand, and this time, I was the one to drink from it. I downed its lukewarm and bitter contents without savoring it.
The moment I swallowed every drop and put the glass on the desk, I felt an inexplicable feeling that I couldn’t put into words. And, I had an irresistible urge to see a… red rose.
“……I want to go to the garden.”
Once I thought about it, my strong desire escaped from my mouth.
“It’s still early in the day. Come on, please.”
I knew that I didn’t have the time for this, and that Craig had the right to feel reluctant.
None of this meant anything. It was just my selfishness.
There was a moment of silence, but Craig didn’t turn down my request.
“I will come with you.”
In the early morning, the garden was tranquil and pleasant.
It would probably be a beautiful day. Under the pale blue sky, the roses in the hedges, wet with morning dew, glistened like candies.
“I guess I’ll never see these roses again.”
I thought about touching the flowers as I said those words, but… I felt like I was going to be pricked by the thorns again, so I stopped.
I withdrew my hand quietly, and simply looked.
“If you will keep on living, you will see it again.”
“I don’t know. I might not come back to this place when all this is over.”
It was impossible for me to continue ruling this land as the head of the house, and as the feudal lord. No one would ever accept that, nor do I have any motivation to do so.
Craig must have known that too, as he was at loss for words, and changed the subject somewhat forcibly.
“…You like roses, don’t you?”
“Well… I like its fragrance, more than its appearance. I have fond memories of it. Of all sorts.”
In this world, in this estate, and in this body. The power of these roses was the main reason I was able to make it this far.
It gave me a slight reminder of the past that I had left behind.
It gave me such an illusion.
I was feeling nostalgic, when I heard a voice call out to me from behind, as if they were hesitating… as if they were searching for the right words.
“Just… who are you, after all?”
Who, he says. I’ve already told you that before, haven’t I?
I took my eyes off the rose and faced Craig. I looked straight at his deep, emerald eyes.
I simply told him the truth.
“Heinreid von Rodvelia. The one you know so well… An atrocious noble.”
I wondered if I had been faster to finish saying my words, or Craig falling to his knees.
I didn’t know. I suddenly lost all my strength too, and fell back against the hedge.
“…Haha, it’s taking effect.”
I fell on my rear, while disfiguring the hedge and the roses.
A number of small branches were snapped off, and the red flowers that I had brushed against recklessly, scattered like tears.
“You’re hopeless, Craig… You shouldn’t be taking a drink offered by a man like me.”
I thought I heard Craig gasp for air.
“There’s… poison, in the drink?”
“It’s like a mild sedative… Give it half a day, and it’ll go away on its own.”
There was even a poisonous alcohol that could kill him if I wanted to, but my objective was to incapacitate Craig. I gave him a mild poison that was non-lethal and had no side effects… It simply weakened one’s power to resist.
I never thought I would ever use it, but I guess collections exist just in case of situations like these in the first place.
“Why are you doing this…!”
The voice that was trying to question me, was cut off mid-sentence.
Sounds of footsteps and metal scraping could be heard from across the garden, where no one was supposed to be in.
It came closer and closer, as if they knew we were here. And with no intention of keeping us waiting, they soon revealed themselves.
“We have come to pick you up, Lord Heinreid.”
A familiar tailcoat appeared from the other side of the hedge. He had a straight posture, and gray eyes behind his glasses that didn’t let anyone read his emotions.
The soldiers behind him were admirers of Heinreid, whom I had thrown into Prison One a while back. They were glaring at me with eyes full of anger.
Well, that was pretty much what I had expected, but… for this butler to even be able to get the timing of these things perfectly…
In response to Craig calling out his name, Karl glanced in his direction.
Instead of standing up and blocking his way, I quickly interjected my voice.
“Don’t touch him. If… something happens…”
However, before I could finish what I was saying, Karl looked away from him with a blank expression and faced me.
“You need not tell me. His Majesty only wishes for you. We were told that as long as we could “bring you back alive,” we can leave the rest alone, so you do not have to worry.”
“…How merciful of him.”
…I was somehow concerned that he went out of his way to say that they could leave the rest alone, but I just shrugged it off since it was convenient.
I dismissively said, “Then, suit yourself.” Karl ordered two of the soldiers with him, and they approached me in a hurry.
“Sorry about that, Craig.”
As they roughly pulled my arms up, I managed to lift my neck that wasn’t moving as I wanted it to, and looked back at Craig. The corners of my mouth that had stubbornly remained still when I was playing the role of a villain, finally lifted.
“I’m a detestable man.”
His emerald eyes appeared as a clear circle.
His stunned look was quickly replaced by a glare of burning anger.
—Aah. His color is the most beautiful, after all.
My head was filled with thoughts that didn’t contain any falsehood.
…See? No matter how much I don’t want to admit it… No matter how much I deceive myself… This is just who I am.
As I was being dragged away from the garden, a trembling voice pierced my back, feeling as if I had heard it before.