Akuyaku Reijou ni Koi Wo Shite:
“A Belated Remorse.”
Ariel was detained by the investigation branch inquisitors. That left Crown Prince Arnold and his peers standing still in blank amazement at this unexpected turn of events.
But one person in the group did not fully appreciate the situation – Maria.
「One problem taken care of at last.」
And she offered another inappropriate statement. The gaze of the surrounding people all of a sudden focused on Maria and it was not just the Crown Prince’s group, all of the students present were suddenly looking at her.
And all of those looks were far from favorable too, clearly, there were numerous individuals glaring at her with hostility.
「…Did I say something bad?」
Maria was puzzled why everyone was looking at her like that. After all, this was a predetermined event concluding with an expected outcome.
「Do you not realize what you just said? Are you kidding?」
Charlotte exploded in anger at Maria’s attitude. This was not because she was angry at her, but because of anxiety towards the situation that she made.
「I… Am not really…」
「I… What could have made you so angry Charlotte-san?」
「…Enough. I don’t want to speak with a person like you anymore.」
Screaming seemed to have no impact on Maria. Due to this, she could not serve as a good outlet for anger. Charlotte decided to vent on an inanimate object instead, aggressively sitting down on a chair in a completely unladylike manner. After that, she turned her back on Maria held her head in her hands.
「Maria, it is likely now that those two will receive capital punishment.」
Lancelot explained in place of Charlotte. Just like usual.
「Death penalty? That will never happen.」
At the very least that would not be Ariel’s sentence. Maria was certain of that.
「The investigator called her crimes high treason. The law has only one penalty for that.」
「But once they look into the situation, they will know it’s just a misunderstanding.」
Maria thought this should have never been called treason, but the reality was not so nice.
「Why would they do that?」
「She said that everything in the complaint letter was true. She admitted to all of it. So this is the truth, she and her brother will be charged based on it.」
「Lancelot, what are you saying? The content of that complaint was…」
「Based on the results of our investigation. Pure facts.」
Erwin interrupted Maria mid-sentence. They could not afford any careless remarks with other students around.
Maria was not stupid. She quickly understood his intentions.
「…So, those two will receive capital punishment?」
「It is likely.」
Ending the conversation with no qualms showed Maria’s heartlessness. To her, people of this world were no more than NPCs. If the siblings were to die, then that’s just how it had to be. She was unable to think about this situation in any other way.
「And is your highness really fine with this!?」
Charlotte was not. Even though prompted by her feelings towards the Crown Prince, she acted to vilify Ariel, deep down she was a good person. Now she felt a crushing weight of guilt.
「Nobody but father can interfere with the Royal Guard Investigation Branch affairs.」
「Then, let’s ask His Majesty.」
「What should I ask of father?」
「Clemency, of course.」
「Let’s say that is granted, what then? Loss of peerage and banishment? Hmm… But if that’s the case maybe life internment in a prison tower would be better…」
Charlotte regained herself due to the awareness of the wrong they had committed together. But that did not mean others did too. Some of them, by averting their eyes from the truth, lost a part of themselves in return.
「… Your …Highness?」
「…But then, the procedures at the prison tower are troublesome, it would be hard to visit them even if I wanted. It might be best if they were sentenced to slavery instead…」
Arnold drifted out of the conversation and, looking troubled, started to mumble to himself. Charlotte noticed the spark of sanity fading from his eyes.
「…She cannot be banished. Were that to happen she’s sure to join that pest, wherever he is. I’ll never let that come to pass.」
He was afraid of the consequences and he ran from that fear into the convenient distraction of jealousy. And he wasn’t, of course, aware he was doing it.
「That couldn’t be…」
The goal of this World was to achieve its intended shape. Therefore it cared little for the future fate of anyone not necessary for that goal.
For the World, its inhabitants were just puppets to be used for furthering its aims.
Lancelot, one of those responsible for vilification of Ariel, did not, in the end, put any effort into resolving the situation, to protect himself from the fallout. Neither did he know any details of what exactly was the Crown Prince busying himself with these days.
Although with time, some of the damage had healed and the atmosphere in their group was no longer tense, the impact of recent events was just too strong and trying to discuss them with Arnold made Lancelot feel like he was prodding a festering wound.
So he did nothing, simply spending days waiting for time to pass.
In contrast, there was a person that wouldn’t let himself be stuck in a deadlock like that. Someone who would act vigorously and do anything to save Vincent and Ariel.
「Long time no see, Lady Charlotte. Or am I, perhaps, being over-familiar now?」
「…No, you’re not. You look fine too, Rion.」
Rion showed up before her out of the blue. His objective was painfully easy to understand and Charlotte was not able to stay calm.
「Did your eyesight get worse while I was gone?」
「I look fine? Like hell I do. How could I with how things are?」
「You… You’re right.」
「But milady looks rather pale too. That’s a shame, lady Charlotte has quite a beautiful face usually.」
Although his tone was polite, the current Rion is not the one that Charlotte thought she knew. Just by facing his impolite cold glare she felt rising dread. He carried an aura of ruthlessness around him and compounded by her feelings of guilt that made him look like a completely different person in her eyes.
「…What brings you to me?」
「I would have your assistance in saving the lives of lord Vincent and lady Ariel.」
「Wouldn’t it be unfair for someone like you, a person from the esteemed House Fatillas, to just do nothing even though you are the mastermind behind the downfall of the siblings?」
「The mastermind… That would be Lancelot, he more than the others, drove that plan on.」
Charlotte calmly pushed the responsibility on Lancelot and the others, the friendship between them was already dead.
「But the matters raised in the complaint, those you were directly involved in.」
「Was I now?」
「Hmm, I was certain that… Ah, right, I see, that was supposed to be a secret.」
Charlotte understood what Rion was implying. All the blood drained from her face again leaving it ghastly pale.
「All those things lady Charlotte did, wasn’t that disgrace to the Royal Family and high treason?」
「…Why do you know this?」
「Know what exactly? That two people will die due to false charges? Or that you were the instigator behind Maria’s harassment?」
「… All of it.」
Charlotte stopped playing dumb. Faced with Rion’s attitude, she didn’t have the confidence to carry on with the act.
「I had someone tell me everything about the former in detail. As for the latter, I knew for a long time now. After all, that issue was putting lady Ariel in bad light, it was my duty to investigate.」
「But, as a result…」
「These false charges can be lifted. Milady can make it happen.」
「I do not have that kind of power.」
「Ah? Shall I help you out with evidence of my own?」
「I am no longer tied to House Windhill, I can and will use any means necessary to help my former masters.」
The mood surrounding Rion was steadily getting more and more nasty. He now looked the part of someone controlling the underside of the society from the slums.
「…What are you planning?」
「I will… Approach every female student you incited to pester Maria and… Get them to recall everything they might know regarding this matter.」
Rion said it in a roundabout way but his point was clear. He would even go as far as kidnapping witnesses and forcing them to confess.
「Hmm? There are so many ways to make a girl talk, you know. 」
「… That is a crime.」
It’s too late for her to say that now, after all, what Rion was doing to Charlotte, was clearly coercion. Rion was already performing a criminal act even before she said so.
「Haven’t you heard me? Any. Means. Necessary. If need arises, I would even hear the words directly from your lips.」
They were now in a little diner in an indistinct back alley. There were many customers present when they entered the shop but now there was no one left. Charlotte cursed her own foolishness for obediently following him when he asked to talk somewhere discreet.
「Kidding. I still have something for you to do. It would be inconvenient to render you useless.」
Even though he said it was a joke, that did not ease Charlotte’s anxiety. On the contrary, her shoulders trembled when she considered the meaning behind his last words.
「Besides, I already obtained evidence that you would not be able to refute.」
Rion was certain that, with this much, she would fall for it but…
「… All you have is useless.」
Charlotte’s heart was stronger than what Rion expected. Even though he picked the easiest target by his estimation, she was still an aristocrat from a Marquess lineage. Rion secretly admired her conduct.
Even so, he had no intention of letting things finish like this.
「I do not plan to put it before courts of justice. It will be of much more use in the hands of Lord Marquess Windhill.」
「… Then saving the two would be…」
「At the very least, you will get to keep them company. Furthermore, just because you said it would not save them doesn’t mean I would just give up. But how about you, being dragged into this, do you have someone that would even try to aid you?」
Charlotte could not answer. Lancelot could no longer be relied on. Her parents would certainly act, but if it looked like the family was to be damaged, they were as likely to cut her off as to help. Good of the House trumped any individual. Charlotte, an aristocrat through and through, knew that perfectly well.
「Well, are you convinced yet?」
「… It’s impossible.」
「That’s a no then, huh?」
「That’s not it! It’s just impossible!」
These words of Charlotte, unlike the ones up to now, felt authentic. Rion could sense that and it gave him a bad feeling.
「… Why is it impossible?」
「The petition for clemency is already in motion, with or without my involvement. But even if it succeeds, its impact will be negligible.」
「Can you elaborate?」
「I underestimated my parents. No, I underestimated the marquess houses.」
「They… Are using this case for political gain, aren’t they?」
This was a unique chance to bring down House Windhill. It wouldn’t be odd for other two major Houses to think that.
「No, this is not a political struggle. This matter arose from a nonsensical letter of complaint. They cannot afford this to become public knowledge. If they did so, the blame would rebound onto all three of them.」
The Royal Guard Investigation Branch acted on a spurious complaint. But it acted with full awareness of that fact, only intending to snare the instigators once the charges were exposed for the worthless slander they were.
In reality, the only ones who wanted the complaint to be made public were those on the side of the accused.
「…So they stubbornly want to legitimize this complaint.」
「The full force of all marquess rank Houses is maneuvering in the shadows. No one can stop them, not even me, a daughter of one of those families.」
Explanations wouldn’t be heard. In reality, if all the major Houses engaged in intrigue at the same time, the only force capable of stopping that would be the King. And even he would hesitate before attempting that. That’s why the answer to a question “Who was able to go to such lengths to save the siblings?” was – nobody.
And on top of that, there was a significant chance the King would help the other two Houses in order to make them indebted to him.
Thus Rion realized his own failure. Because the treatment of the siblings improved greatly, he underestimated the World thinking himself perfectly prepared for the arrival of this day. But the World, as if sneering at him, displayed far greater power than Rion anticipated.
Just to strike Vincent and Ariel into the depth of misery.
Rion bit on his lip strongly enough to draw blood while tears were streaming from his eyes. The person that was, until just now, threatening Charlotte now stood in front of her trembling with fear and crying.
Charlotte’s eyes witnessed a sad figure of someone who gave everything to protect what was precious to them and yet still ended up stricken with despair as all his effort proved to just not be enough
「Still… I can’t give up.」
「I understand your feelings, but nothing will change, whatever you do.」
「Even if that is so, I will do what I can.」
No matter what was said, Rion’s determination would not change. Even in such a situation, Charlotte envied Ariel.
「In the end, I only have one thing to ask of you.」
Again, Charlotte’s heart filled with wariness.
「The punishment facing those two, please tell me everything you learn about it. I don’t care how trivial it is.」
「…If you wish. But how to find you?」
「Please come to this place again. When you do so, someone will approach you. Tell him everything.」
「Rion, are you…」
Charlotte was surprised to find out that someone else was helping Rion from the shadows but didn’t yet realize that Rion took control of a considerable share of the capital’s pleasure quarters and was a bigwig of the underground society.
But then she hadn’t ever got a chance to know either, because Rion’s existence was a top secret that only a few uninvolved in the organized crime knew of.
As promised, after a while Charlotte came back bringing news about the siblings impending punishment.
Vincent was to be publicly executed for the crime of high treason. Ariel would not only be stripped of her noble birth but also sold into slavery. Charlotte came to pass on that information but she found the punishment so cruel that she could hardly put it into words.
Quite a distance from the main street, there was a certain building. It was fairly large but otherwise unremarkable, with nothing indicating its purpose. There was a muscular man at the entrance checking all the visitors strictly. No doubt, this was a special place.
Hardly anyone knew what went on inside apart from those involved in running it, wealthy merchants and nobles.
What they were seeking here was slaves, this was the Kingdom’s official slave market.
A young man, obviously ill-fitting here, arrived at the entrance. The veil covering half of his face failed to mask his attractive features.
As he was thinking whether to go in or not an elegantly dressed man came out of the building to greet him. This implied that the youth had rather high a social standing because the manager wasn’t in habit of personally receiving ordinary nobles. Not that the nobles wanted that in the first place, they preferred not to bring attention to the fact they were buying slaves.
Today, an incredible item that everyone wanted to get their hands on, for purposes both good and ill, was announced to the crowd. The slave market, at this moment, was much more lively than usual.
「Manager, is this place always like this?」
The young man asked in astonishment.
「No, normally we don’t have so many customers. It is because today is special.」
「This means all of them are aiming for the same thing, huh?」
「That is so. Such an event is not even once-a-decade, it’s once-in-a-century occurrence for our establishment.」
「But it is not unheard of, huh?」
「According to the records, something like this most recently happened nearly one hundred years ago.That was the sale of the wicked, country-ruining beauty, Françoise. Your highness… Ah, I’m sorry, surely milord knows the details?」
The manager changed the way he was referring to the man in a panic, just in case he was traveling incognito, but it seemed to be a useless precaution here.
Every noble should, and probably would, know the face of their own country’s Crown Prince. It was not something that you could conceal just by keeping your mouth shut.
「She who tricked the two princes and caused a fierce fight for succession?」
This was the Crown Prince Arnold. He even knew a story from a hundred years ago.
「To be exact, she was leading the princes by the noses and having them fight each other but… The official records are just like milord says. 」
The conflict between the two princes that was fierce enough to divide the whole country, When Prince Arnold heard that it was caused by a spat over a woman, he was stunned.
「She was said to be that beautiful, and with her peerless beauty being on sale that time, it seemed to cause quite a commotion.」
「As expected, today won’t match up to that time but this is the most lively sale ever since I became the manager. I am a little excited to host the bidding that will come.」
All slaves were purchased in an open auction, the more competitors for a particular one were present, the more intense the bidding would become, and the more the final price would rise. Because this was an opportunity for a new sales record, probably the highest the manager would ever experience, he could not hide his own excitement.
「What will the final price be, manager?」
「It would be unfair for me to disclose such a thing…」
「A rough estimate is fine.」
「Well, a little guess won’t hurt. I heard that the slave has a reserve price of two thousand gold coins.」
「Wha?! Two thousand?!」
It was a price that even the Prince found surprising. With two thousand gold, a commoner could live in luxury for the rest of his life. Or it was enough to support two thousand commoners for a lifetime. On the scale of a kingdom, it would, unsurprisingly, not be enough to support the whole chivalric order but it would equal a yearly budget of the royal guards.
「I was also surprised when I heard the price, but the vendor probably judged that if one paid that much, they would earn what they paid for.」
「… Are there customers present with that kind of money?」
「Not many, more than half of those present are here just to marvel at the prices. Furthermore, when the remainder hear the opening bid, most of them will turn into mere spectators.」
Arnold might have looked somewhat relieved that there would be scant competition, but that did not make two thousand gold coins any less outrageous of a price. In the end, regardless of actual value, the situation was that the final bid was expected to be twice his budget. What troubled him was simply how to make up for the shortfall.
It did not matter how unreasonable the eventual price was to be, Arnold would still win this auction. He would make Ariel kneel in front of him to repent for not paying him any attention. And then he would make her dedicate everything to him as a slave for the rest of her life.
Keeping that twisted desire in his heart, Arnold was waiting for Ariel to show up on the stage.
But Arnold’s wish wouldn’t come true. Ariel, who should have been the greatest merchandise of the slave market, did not appear that day.
HnM TL Corner:
I might have not mentioned this but I suffered an eye infection last week, I got it checked and it seems there are still some scars left by the past infection-or so the ophthalmologist said and as such 90% of this was translated by Deus, I only TL-Checked.
The next chapter will have it’s title on the bottom of the post as to avoid spoiling what is about to happen before you even begin reading.
Note: If you are planning to read ahead, the next chapter is an explosive one, be warned.