Akuyaku Reijou ni Koi Wo Shite:
“The Value of What was Lost.”
Among all the audience rooms within the castle, this particular one could be used for unofficial meetings where the protocol was a hindrance. It was not strange for the King and the Queen to be here, it was unusual for the other party to be Royal Guard Commander, though.
Normal briefings the Commander took part in happened in his office, an audience room was usually not required. The official reason why they met in one this time, was that the King was about to grant audience to someone and the three of them had matters to discuss beforehand.
But that was actually an excuse, the meeting place was chosen with discretion in mind, neither of them wished for outsiders to hear the particulars of their discussion. Regardless of how trusted they were considered to be otherwise.
「To summarize, both Vincent Woodville and Ariel Woodville are completely innocent.」
「That much is obvious. Those high treason charges strained credulity from the start. Tell me what did they actually do before things got to that point.」
「That was not a figure of speech, they are completely innocent.」
The King thought that, even though the high treason was an exaggeration, they must have committed some sort of crime. But now the Commander said that they were completely innocent, which meant they had done nothing.
「I’ll start by explaining how we ended up with high treason.」
「Please, do so.」
「It started with persistent minor harassment, so-called chastisements, of the Royal Academy student named Maria Theodore. A girl rumored to be the missing princess as you both surely know.」
Both the Commander and the King looked at the Queen inquisitively. But she only shook her head lightly. Maria Theodore was not her daughter, she was sure of that much without the need of detailed investigation.
「…The complaint letter that triggered the case treated those rumors as facts and, with this, framed the treatment she suffered as a disrespect towards the royal family.」
「That’s a very crude stitch-up.」
「Weren’t you aware from the start that the whole thing is a made-up pile of nonsense?」
「I… Yes, I was.」
The Commander was unexpectedly strict with the King. His sense of duty to nurture him into a good ruler was as strong now as it had been when they were children.
「Anyway, even if Miss Theodore was of royal blood, the Woodville siblings were completely unrelated to her ordeal. The only connection was from some of the actual perpetrators selfishly borrowing Ariel Woodville’s name and authority in the beginning.」
「…Alright. That makes me understand why they got charged even less. So?」
「There was a person who made Ariel Woodville into a scapegoat.」
「Do we know who?」
「We have yet to find out for certain. This information comes from that thing, but the identity of the mastermind was not divulged.」
「…In that case, we should probably assume it’s completely unreliable.」
The testimony came from Rion. It would not be strange to see him protect Ariel, rather it was safe to assume he would definitely do so.
The King shared that opinion, however, it was immediately discounted by the Commander.
「There is evidence that was gathered when that thing noticed that Ariel Woodville Windhill… That’s a mouthful to say all the time, I’ll shorten it to Ariel from now on. So, when it noticed someone was attempting to implicate Ariel in a crime, it started gathering counter evidence to use at future date.」
「Have you verified that evidence?」
「No, I was politely informed not to waste my time on things that would now change nothing. There also seemed to be some sort of personal debt in play and the thing was unwilling to reveal the culprit as a result.」
The first sentence was clearly scathing sarcasm. It was obvious that the thing had no intentions of clarifying what really happened.
「This didn’t stop me from speculating, though.」
「The mastermind is either Maria Theodore or Charlotte Lanchester. Both were deeply involved.」
「So the perpetrator acted out the main role in her own little play?」
「One can certainly feel that from this whole story. After all, she never fought back while under harassment, no matter how harsh it got. However, I believe the real culprit is Charlotte Lanchester.」
「That thing clearly loathes Miss Theodore, it was obvious during the execution. It would never protect her like this.」
「I see. What would be Lady Charlotte’s aim assuming you’re right? 」
「Dissolution of your son’s engagement most likely. As for her motives…」
The Commander did not finish his thought out of consideration.
「….Ah, youth. There are no other ladies of marriageable age in any of the three houses after all.」
If the engagement with Ariel was called off, the only other fitting unmarried lady would be Charlotte. However, presently the King decided to overlook her candidacy as punishment.
「That is all we know about the circumstances of the high treason accusation. Now we need to broach the supposed disrespect towards the Crown Prince. A rather delicate subject」
「What makes it so sensitive?」
「All that is required for this accusation to be true is that your son considers it so.」
「Now that is just…」
All the King had to shield himself from the Commander’s severe sarcasm was a bitter smile. It was not hard to decipher the implied meaning of those words, this strife was entirely induced by Arnold.
「But just in case I investigated the rumors about insurrection brewing in the Academy. What I found was not rebels, but a bunch of hard-working students from poor backgrounds passionate about the future of the Kingdom.」
「Are you certain?」
「That is how I see it.」
「…I’ll have those captured during the attempted raid on the execution grounds released.」
However you looked at his words, the Commander clearly wanted this to happen. So the King met his expectations.
「By your will.」
Hearing the words he wanted to hear, the Commander was satisfied.
「How about the other students? I have heard some of them boldly rebuked Arnold in public.」
「The antipathy towards your son has been growing for quite some time now, that much is true. However, its root cause was his obvious and public mistreatment of Ariel.」
「…Alright. What kind of aftereffects will this event bring?」
「The worst kind. Vincent and Ariel Woodville enjoyed an overwhelming support from the students of lower social status. And we had both of them charged. Furthermore the whole student body is aware that the accusations were a sham.」
The results were worse than the King expected. Because of this incident, the royal family lost the trust of many excelling commoner students. It was now an open question whether any of them would devote their strength to the realm in the future.
「To be blunt, this incident was a catastrophe.」
And on top of that, the Commander delivered the finishing blow to the King.
「No, you actually don’t. If you truly grasped the scale of the disaster, you would be crushed right now. Do you really not see what the crown lost this time?」
The Commander was nowhere close the end of his lecture, he was just warming up.
「What else could there be?」
「What else? Firstly, you lost the prospect of having the most popular and loved Queen in the history of the kingdom. I’m sure you know better than most what effects would that have.」
The support of the people. This was the strength of the royal family. No matter how much power the nobles had, that power was based on the population of their own fiefs. As long as those commoners were supportive of the royal family, the aristocrats would never be able to use their strength against the crown. Not just militarily but even on the political arena.
The royal family lost the opportunity to gain that popular support. By extension, it lost a chance to increase the authority of the King.
「Secondly, you just executed a future lord marquess that was loyal to the crown even when facing death. If my memory doesn’t fail me, the last time there was someone like that was during the founding days of the nation, correct?」
「That… Is probably true.」
Although the three marquess-rank Houses could be rightly called the pillars of the kingdom, it would be as valid to call them a thorn in its side. They, like all nobles of influence, acted with interest of their House above all else. And naturally, whenever a noble family gained power the authority of the royals waned.
The concept of noble Houses offering all their loyalty and support to the King had a reflection in reality only in the very early years of the country. Afterward, it turned into little more than a window-dressing.
「And like this the crown, willingly, threw away something it will not be able to obtain on its own even with decades of effort. Reflect on this, please.」
The responsibility for allowing this to happen lied not only with Arnold, but also with the King who indulgently allowed the events to develop in the manner desired by two marquess Houses, without trying to understand the situation. In the Commander’s eyes, this was tantamount to dereliction of authority in the face of crisis.
「Now you have the full picture, more or less. What do you wish to do? 」
「Before that, a final question.」
「That thing’s power, how did you feel fighting it?」
「That was not a fight. I fully exploited the fact that it was preoccupied with the Crown Prince and his group. Showing an opening like that is a clear sign of inexperience.」
「Something made me think that I had to make use of that opening right then. That thing had yet to take an offensive action. I struggle to imagine what would happen had it been allowed to do so.」
「…I think I understand.」
A person having an affinity with more than one attribute was something mentioned only in legends. However, Rion had demonstrated such a prowess. Even if all he displayed was just multiple small, dragon-shaped flames and human-shaped water of unknown capabilities.
「Well then, shall we hold an audience?」
「Yes. Bring that Rion here.」
Some time later, Rion was dragged into the audience room, with “dragged” being a very apt word. Like in Vincent’s case, there were manacles on both his hands and feet. In such an uncomfortable state, he was carried into the room by two guards on his flanks.
The Queen looked heartbroken by this sight.
「Good work. Now withdraw.」
「My presence is enough. There will be no problems.」
Seeing the knights hesitate, the Commander pressured them to withdraw. He wanted the upcoming audience kept as confidential as possible.
「Raise your head, boy.」
But Rion, slumped on his knees and looking downcast, did not respond to the Commander’s request. His face stubbornly kept facing the floor.
「Raise. Your. Head. Do not make this any more unpleasant than it has to be.」
Finally, responding to the implied threat, Rion raised his head. He had no eye-patch on. The red and blue eyes were on full display and were clearly seen by the royal couple.
The King groaned inadvertently. Not because of the heterochromia. It was due to seeing Rion’s face up close for the first time.
The Queen, observing from her husband’s side was not even surprised by Rion’s eyes. Just from one glance, one could easily see that the resemblance between her and Rion was uncanny. His well-proportioned, androgynous face was something he clearly inherited from his mother who was said to be the most beautiful in the kingdom.
The Queen couldn’t hold her emotions any longer and had tears flowing down her cheeks. At this point, the royal couple was certain that Rion was their child. Nevertheless, neither the King nor the Queen would name him such.
In this world, it was widely acknowledged that heterochromia brings misfortune. Not even the King could laugh it away as a foolish superstition. There were many tales from the past reinforcing this view and now everyone believed it to be a fact. Also, the population of this world viewed science with suspicion and hostility.
And finally, the lord Rion was serving ended up executed. This alone would lead many to believe that it was a misfortune brought by his heterochromia.
The crown cannot recognize as royal someone that would be expected to bring great misfortune to the nation. If that was possible, Rion wouldn’t have been cast out of the castle in the first place.
He was not abducted. He was abandoned by his mother, the Queen, after she had learned she had given birth to a child with the sinister heterochromia. This was solely her secret at first. The King became aware of this much later after nearly a decade passed.
「Rion. Is this a real name?」
The King and the Queen were already confident that Rion was their child. But the Commander, despite being aware of that, was in mind to find some more clear-cut evidence. He considered that his duty as the third party present.
「…I don’t understand what are you asking about.」
「Wasn’t this name something given to you later in life?」
「…Yes, by Lady Ariel.」
「In other words, you had another name before that. That name was?」
「Irrelevant. Those names and the people they belonged to passed away already. I am Rion.」
Flay had already died in the slums. Ryou had already died in a traffic accident on his former world. Even if their consciousness was still with him, somehow, the fact that they died was the truth. Rion was a mix of their personalities in one body, even if his personality had arisen from theirs, he was neither of them.
Rion was honestly telling an implausible truth, unsurprisingly he was not understood.
「…Regardless, I will have the names of the dead.」
The Commander simply took Rion’s answer at face value and matched his next question accordingly. There was no specific reason for this. He just thought that asking in that way would make Rion reveal more.
「Because I need to know.」
And so Rion spoke the name of Flay. It was because he knew that the name “Ryou” would not be conveyed properly. As a result, he said what the King and Queen wanted to hear.
「Is it now…」
With this, the Commander was also certain. The name of the abandoned prince was something only the Queen and the midwife that was entrusted with taking the baby out of the castle knew. She and the King decided to name the child Frey had it been a boy and Fia if it was a girl. But to mislead the search effort, the King was told a princess was born.
Thus, whenever someone appeared claiming to be the missing princess, the Queen immediately knew that that person was a fake. She was not actually wounded by the fakes claiming to be her child but rather she was tormented by the guilt of abandoning her son.
「Fine. The King, in his mercy, decided to commute your punishment to a short-term imprisonment. You shall be released today.」
Even after being told by this, Rion’s face showed no signs of happiness. He just kept listening. silent and expressionless.
「Now, We shall hold a discussion about your future.」
The King took the reins of the conversation from the Commander. This would probably be the first and the last time in his life he would speak with a criminal.
「Lord Marquess Windhill asks for you to be returned to his House. What do you think of this?」
「…All my ties to that place have been long severed. I have no reason or duty to accede to his wish.」
Hearing this the King now knew that Windhill’s request was just for the sake of form.
「Have you thought about joining the Royal Guard? You certainly have the power required.」
「…It would be best for you not to do that.」
「Why is that?」
「Because your precious Crown Prince would die as a result.」
「Not a word more, you insolent fool!」
The Commander shouted in anger before the King even got to say anything. Rion clearly stated his intent of killing the Crown Prince given the chance. That was something the Commander could not forgive.
「Then run me through with your sword! Don’t just let your prince be disrespected unless your loyalty is all talk!」
…But Rion shouted back with a vigor not losing to the Commander’s. The older man was surprised and overpowered by the force of the spirit carried by that voice. Perhaps that was because he already knew Rion was of royal blood. But whatever the reason, he was rendered speechless.
So was The King. The monarch also became anxious about releasing Rion, he was no longer sure it was a good idea.
Seeing her husband’s unease the Queen decided to act.
「Do not say things like that.」
「…I wish to find atonement.」
「And how will you do that in death? I was there on the execution day, I heard your precious lord, he did not want this.」
The Queen was present at Vincent’s execution. She didn’t want to attend and watch the proceedings at first, but for some reason, she started to feel she had to be there after a while. And as if being led by fate, Rion had appeared. It was her who asked the King to spare Rion’s life.
「…I swore to protect him even if it was to cost my life.」
「Is that person not important to you?」
Due to the Queen’s words, the expression on Rion’s face turned into anguish. He was at a loss as to what he should do and conflicting desires tormented his mind.
「Do you not need to protect that person? Wasn’t that the last wish your lord entrusted to you?」
「…I do not know how to face her. I let someone important to her die.」
「You don’t want to face her?」
「Well, you should go anyway. If you want to meet her with a smile, then smile, if you want to cry, then it’s fine to do so. Be honest with your feelings, wouldn’t that be the best way to show sincerity to that person?」
For some reason, his heart answered honestly to the Queen’s words. Whether it was brought about by their connection as mother and child, Rion had no way of knowing.
「We want you to give your utmost searching for Ariel Woodville starting now. You are to inform Us immediately upon locating her.」
The King ordered with no more hesitation on his face. Seeing the heartfelt conversation between Rion and his wife, he couldn’t make himself consider killing him any longer.
「…I know where she is.」
The King was confused. How could Rion know the location of a girl that couldn’t be found by a combined effort of the army sent to search for her.
「Once I obtained the information she would be sold into slavery, there were many ways available to handle the situation.」
Being able to pull the strings required a certain amount of power. Rion was able to obtain that power despite his young age and meager position of a valet. That was surprising. And made the King afraid of him again.
「Lord husband, wasn’t there another way to move forward you had in mind?」
Again, the Queen with a great timing acted in order to stop her husband’s train of thought from going in that direction. Something she was able to do because of how long have they been married together.
「…Yes, dear. The truth is, We have an idea for your future, boy.」
「There is a territory belonging to the crown on the eastern border of the kingdom. Can We leave that in your care?」
「You will not be a castellan. We shall grant you the rank of a baron with the territory as your fief. You lack meritorious deeds for anything more. It would be best if you did not expect much, though. That location is strategically important and requires high military expenditure. Thus, there is no investment, the land doesn’t flourish and living standards are low leading to low tax yields. Poor, yet expensive to maintain, that kind of fief.」
Hearing the King explain this much forced Rion to pause for a while to comprehend and organize the monarch’s words. That was not the sort of proposal usually directed at freshly released criminals.
「…Is this serious?」
「Even though I have no achievements to justify it?」
「…That’s…. We have Our reasons.」
A truly royal behavior. Rion decided that was the King’s way of compensating for the false charges levied on Vincent and Ariel. However, in reality, with the King not being able to recognize Rion as his child, he wanted to at least give him a fief to support his future. It was his way of showing parental love.
The King never lied about his reasons. Rion just misunderstood it on his own.
「I think you should accept it.」
The Queen also wanted Rion to take the land regardless of whether it may be right or wrong to do so. She thought that this was the only way to keep her connection to Rion from being severed.
「Why is that?」
「Can your precious person cope with the life of a commoner?」
Her words accurately touched the sore point of Rion’s worries. There was no way that Ariel, who lived all her life as an aristocrat, would be able to bear the life of a commoner. After all, she even needed the help of maids to change clothes.
As a result, Rion had accepted the King’s offer. He would do anything to be released and he thought to himself that if he got sick of the barony, he could always run away.
Having chosen to live, he wanted to meet Ariel as soon as possible.
The Queen left right after Rion as she secretly wanted to see her child off.
「It appears I can’t stop telling you off, sire.」
「What do you mean?」
「I feel like this is a very bad outcome.」
「…Bad outcome, eh?」
The King knew what the Commander was trying to say. He also felt the same.
「Yes. Somehow, I feel it would have been better to kill him no matter how much it would wound the Queen.」
「I know how you feel. But this is not an order I can issue, even if I am the King. He is still my own child. And my own feelings aside, just seeing my wife making that kind of face…」
「…I feel the same.」
There was one more thing that was lost. The two men no longer saw a chance for Arnold to grow into a wise ruler they expected him to become until now.
Once they arrived at that conclusion, it was natural to consider erasing Rion’s existence but they felt unable to proceed with that train of thought.
The World now needed Rion even if just a little bit.
Reading the mother-and-son talk was quite touching. With this chapter, the origin of Rion is now revealed. Two princes have again fought over a woman, just like during Francois’ time.
Anyway, Kung Hei Fat Choi to our Chinese readers.
*We can’t be really sure which form did author intend to use, both write the same way in JP.
*We liked Flay for early chapters, it did fit.
*We kinda like Frey more from now on, it fits better.
*We do not want to retconn all the early chapters now.
*We can rationalize this as Rion forgetting the proper form of his name at early age and that’s what we decided to go with.
The author might have made a mistake on this part. Originally it says “でも俺は大切な人を命に変えても守ると誓っていて” which translates to “I swore to protect that important person even if I have to change my life ” which doesn’t make sense. It must’ve been “でも俺は大切な人を命に賭けても守ると誓っていて” which roughly translates to “I swore to protect that important person even with my life on the line.”. Anyway that’s how I took it.