Akuyaku Reijou ni Koi Wo Shite
“The New Target of Malice.”
The turmoil at the ball had left Rion greatly perplexed.
He thought that things had certainly been heading in a good direction. Vincent was now followed by many people, even if all of them were students of low social status. The distance between Ariel and Arnold had shrunk so much that Rion himself was surprised.
That gave their circumstances enough resilience to avoid the bad ending, he felt certain of that.
However, due to the incident at the ball, all that resilience seemed to vanish in an instant. And on top of that, things seemed to head into worst possible direction.
On the day of the ball, the Crown Prince offered Ariel a very harsh look with a palpable undertone of hatred. He gave Vincent the same kind of stare.
Rion was entirely without a clue as to why things developed like that.
He had heard of what happened in the ballroom from Vincent. How Arnold took Maria as his partner for the first dance. Although this made Rion considerably angry, it was clear that when Arnold stormed into their banquet he was gripped by rage on a completely different scale.
That wrath was surely focused on Rion. To the point that the prince even drew his sword against him. However, why that was the case, Rion did not know.
When he inquired Ariel about it, she only told him not to mind it. When he asked Vincent, he got no answer, although his lord looked like he wanted to say something for a moment. From this Rion understood that the subject was something that was difficult to talk about.
That left him with no obvious person he could discuss it with but as one could expect it was hard for him to give up on this matter. Trying to find a way forward, after considering all possible individuals he could approach, he settled on Charlotte.
The idea was that she would definitely know the Crown Princes feelings, but for her the question was unbearable.
「….Why was the Crown Prince so angry, eh? 」
Charlotte, hearing that, couldn’t help but show unhappiness on her face.
「I am sorry lady Charlotte. I know it is not proper to ask you that, but I need to know the reason and, by now, I have no other way of finding out.」
The truth is there were many others to ask. He could, for example, go to the students present at the location of the incident, they would assuredly tell him the reason. The reason why Rion couldn’t think of that was because Rion never considered himself to be the cause of the problem.
「Are you truly that clueless?」
「So it seems lady.」
「And that is the reason.」
「It stirs anger even in me.」
The answer that Rion was seeking, involved the feelings of the Crown Prince towards Ariel. And he expected Charlotte, who had fallen in love with Arnold, to explain the details. It was natural for her to be angry.
「…Did I perhaps do something bad?」
These words had rubbed Charlotte the wrong way even more.
「To describe it in one word… Insensitivity, obliviousness, impudence, thoughtlessness…」
「Lady… That is more than one word…」
「And that is still not enough to describe my irritation.」
「…My deepest apologies.」
Charlotte suspected that Rion was aware of her feelings for Arnold and that was exactly why he came to her for the explanation expecting her to have the full understanding of the circumstances.
Actually behaving like that revealed Rion to be very callous. He didn’t know that this disregard for anyone that wasn’t Vincent or Ariel was the exact reason for the current failure.
「After all, the truth is certain to upset you. Do you still wish to hear it?」
She was giving him a choice even though she was angry with him, that was Charlotte’s kindness.
「I do lady. I must know the reason.」
「I see. Let me enlighten you then.」
「You have my full attention.」
Unable to understand the meaning behind Charlotte’s answer, Rion was just standing there with his mouth wide open. Charlotte, seeing that, broke into a bitter smile. She realized that he was not playing dumb and really was this thick-headed. This dampened her anger and left her in a state of wonder.
「You heard right. Prince Arnold was jealous of you.」
「I am sorry, but I do not understand your question. Anyone looking at you and Ariel Windhill together would be jealous, it would be strange for Arnold not to.」
「I am just a servant in lady Ariel’s household, ours is not a relationship that should earn jealousy of his highness.」
「I do not disagree. Frankly, you do seem to have the same bond with your lord – a deep connection between two parties sharing strong faith in each other.」
Charlotte thought that she was a person that shared a similar relationship with him, one of friendship. Now, however, she knew she misunderstood.
「This is how I saw it myself, lady.」
「However, while it is not odd between you and Vincent, Ariel is a woman.」
「But there is nothing more to relationship between milady Ariel and me.」
「Facts matter little. It… Appears that his highness’ fiancée harbors special feelings for another man. Would you, in his place, turn a blind eye to that?」
「…Does the Crown Prince wish to be the only special existence in milady’s life?」
Rather than answering Charlotte’s question, he replied with a question of his own. It was because he felt that something was stopping him from offering an answer.
「This… Is not something I presume to know.」
Once again Charlotte evaded Rion’s question. She gave an impression of not wanting to put her knowledge into words. That in itself was an answer of sorts.
「Is that so…」
The Crown Prince Arnold favored Ariel. That was exactly the situation that Rion desired. However, it shocked him to learn that he was the one hindering further progress the most.
He understood he was naive. He now saw that while he deluded himself pretending to work for Ariel’s happiness he was actually moving according to his own desires. And the Crown Prince saw through all this.
Even though he had sworn to abandon everything in order to protect the siblings, in the end, he was not able to abandon his feelings. He yielded to the temptation of more enjoyable moments with Ariel.
What should he do now that he realized that? It was as Charlotte said. The answer upset him.
For Ariel and Arnold to start to get along again, he must disappear from the picture. With that being obvious, he had resolved himself. The time for them to part ways would come earlier than expected.
When exactly? He would be the one to decide, no matter how much pain that would bring him.
「…I thank you very much, lady Charlotte.」
「Are you really being grateful, I wonder?」
Rion’s expression, far from being grateful, looked depressed and melancholic.
「Your words made me realize I was avoiding confronting the truth.」
Rion’s words allowed Charlotte to realize something too. Rion was now thinking of Ariel as a woman, not just his mistress. And he would choose the hard way forward.
「What will you do now?」
「It is clear to me what needs to be done. However… I am not yet sure how to go about it.」
「…There is no need to hurry, I think. Take your time, consider the options carefully, pick the best method once you are certain.」
「Your advice is wise and appreciated, lady. Sadly there is no time for careful planning, I must decide soon.」
「I see… Well, if this is what you want…」
However, the World wouldn’t even give Rion time to make a decision. That’s because the World itself was out of time. The conclusion of the Academy arc was drawing near.
Erwin had no memory of having a father in his childhood.
Once he became aware of the world around him, he naturally came to think that his father must have already died. His mother and, to an even greater extent, the lady who attended to his needs – that was all of the family he had as far as he was concerned.
He never thought much of it, until the day he learned the truth.
Erwin’s father was alive. He was even living close by. He had two siblings and a stepmother that gave birth to those children. However, his new family was treating him coldly.
Initially, Erwin didn’t know the reason why he was hated by his step mother and her children. Even when he was told that it was because her mother was a concubine of the Lord, there was no one able to explain to the child Erwin what a concubine was.
Erwin didn’t know how much antagonism he and his mother would earn just by living within the manor of the marquess, nor how much suffering it would cause to Vincent and Ariel who were caught in the situation. To the siblings, Erwin and his mother were the cause of discord in their family.
But then even if he knew all that he probably still wouldn’t agree with their assessment. Erwin thought that he was living in hardship while in reality he actually had quite a sheltered upbringing.
His mother was doting on him. Even the manor servants treated Erwin, a member of the marquess lineage, as their lord even though he was a son of a concubine and he lived without inconvenience.
Erwin’s self-consciousness developed in that kind of environment.
And like that the opportunity for Erwin’s hubris to grow arrived. It was the 『Ceremony of Trials』
His good results and the huge failure of Vincent the year before resulted in the people’s evaluation of Erwin growing higher. The servants around him flattered him and kept saying that he should be the next marquess. The story had also spread outside even reaching the influential head of the vassal families.
With this, Erwin arrived at the impression that him becoming the next marquess was the natural thing.
The only obstacles were the present Lord and the three people hostile to Erwin. But even for that problem, Erwin found a hint of a solution.
His meeting with Maria, the connections obtained by getting to know Lancelot Aqusmea and Charlotte Fatillas and more than anything his new relationship with the Crown Prince Arnold would strengthen his position.
Or so he thought, but then the day came when his favorable academy life had suddenly turned into a strange direction.
Arnold, who had always tried to avoid Ariel, had suddenly closed the distance between them. The effects of that move had instantly reached even Erwin.
One of them was the party that the Crown Prince held in order to introduce Ariel to his inner circle. The person invited for that was not Erwin, but Vincent.
Although Arnold’s real intention was was, in fact, to show Rion the social position of Ariel and make him discard his feelings towards a person beyond his standing, Erwin had no way of knowing that.
He was under the impression that it was Ariel who instructed the prince to keep him away.
So he had to do something. He had to do something in order to separate Arnold from Ariel, so he could dislodge Vincent, who appeared to depend on that relationship, from the seat of the heir.
And now the time to achieve that had finally come.
「A way to separate Rion from sister?」
「Yeah. I think he is not a fitting person to be beside Ariel.」
「Why is that?」
From Erwin’s perspective, Rion was the thorn in the relationship of Arnold and Ariel, his existence was necessary. He couldn’t just simply accept the words of Maria.
「Rion continuing in his role is not good for Arnold-sama.」
「That may be the case indeed, but… Just because of that…」
He couldn’t tell her that doing so wouldn’t be good for his aims. He had to somehow refuse while evading the issue.
「I think that the Crown Prince is taking this too seriously.」
「What do you mean?」
「Making someone who doesn’t want to look at you glance your way is, in my opinion, impossible.」
「…So you think that when Rion is gone, his highness’ interest in my sister will wane?」
「… I didn’t say that much. This might be bad for your sister, but Arnold-sama is precious to me as well, so I want him to realize his true feelings.」
Although that was a rather cryptic answer, Erwin was able to infer some things. Maria was saying that she was actually the object of Arnold’s true feelings. Erwin didn’t know what did she base that assumption on. But certainly, during the ball, Arnold had shown signs of keeping his distance from Ariel. Although it was certain that something had happened, Erwin couldn’t decide whether that change was definite or temporary.
「Crown Prince Arnold also desires this outcome.」
Because Erwin was still behaving indecisively, Maria stepped up the pressure. She started to imply that Arnold ended her relationship with Ariel and wanted to build a new one with Maria. And now they were asking for his cooperation to make that a reality.
「The Crown Prince…」
But still, Erwin felt unable to follow along. He was not only in different Academy year than Arnold, he had also always maintained a fixed distance from the Crown Prince. He was not able to just suddenly start a conversation with him and he didn’t know whether Maria was saying the truth or merely making up a convenient story.
「This wouldn’t be bad for you either Erwin. That person is… How should I put it… He is very good at nudging people.」
Another difficult to understand statement coming from Maria. But here Erwin was also able to figure out what she was talking about. It didn’t even need saying, really. The one who was supporting Vincent from behind was unmistakably Rion. That being the case, and leaving aside the matter of Ariel, it would be beneficial for Erwin to separate Rion from Vincent.
「I do not know many things, but that Rion is unworthy of being a valet is indeed true.」
For the time being, he decided to follow Maria’s plans. At the very least, he judged that it would be an opportunity to change the current situation.
He finally took the bait. A smile has emerged on Maria’s face. If one looked carefully, it was an ugly smile full of avarice, but there was no one in this world that could see that clearly.
「He comes from the slums and he has blood on his hands after all.」
「So he was that kind of person? 」
Although Maria displayed an exaggerated expression, in fact, she really was surprised. For Maria, a murderer was nothing but a low-life. Well, Rion was indeed rather wicked so she was not entirely wrong here.
「But even so, because he was a special existence to brother, I kept my lips sealed.」
「I know how you feel, but that can’t continue. It would be problematic for that kind of person to be standing beside the Crown Prince’s fiancée.」
「You’re right. 」
Although she was trying to put an end to that marriage, she still used that as a reason to remove an enemy. Erwin felt like he grasped the true character of Maria. Although he was also one of her capture targets, in reality, Erwin was not really engrossed with her. He was only getting along with her because it seemed to him that it would prove beneficial to his relationship with the Crown Prince and the other marquess houses.
That situation arose because of her neglect to strengthen her relationships with her numerous capture targets as the World began to focus on the main events. And Maria failed to notice that.
Even if she did become aware of it now, the World would proceed in the direction it desired anyway. It was already disregarding the will of it’s protagonist.
「Then, will you tell Arnold-sama about it?」
「Should I do it myself?」
「It would be better for the news to come from the person that knows the circumstances after all.」
「That does seem right, but… 」
Maria’s intention was clear. She didn’t want to be seen by Arnold as tattling on someone. If he was to tell Arnold himself though, Erwin decided it would be fine to just pretend to be worried about his sister.
With that, the Crown Prince became aware of Rion’s history.
The World was moving. It was now trying to dispose of Rion who had been hindering its plans.