Episode 43

The Princesses Of The Orphanage (1)
4 months ago
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About a month had passed since the agreement at Gibraltar Gorge.

Mother was nearing childbirth.

Noir ran in the training ground again today.

Leta often went to watch the training ground, spending time watching Ethan run alongside Noir.

It was just another repetition of daily life.

If there were two peculiarities, one was that Father sometimes personally participated in physical training.

I had urged my father to “get in shape.”

-“I’ll strip Father and take a photo. Then, I’ll sell it.”

I argued that to succeed in our rebellion or treason, we must be willing to sell our bodies if necessary.

-“At first, we’ll take ordinary photos. For the ‘big hands,’ we plan to take pictures with only pants on, topless.”

Father seemed reluctant, but I managed to persuade him.

-“When the King sees the photo album of Father’s photoshoot, he’ll be furious. Especially the last page, where you pose with Mother.”

-“I’ll give it a try.”

Father’s motivation for treason was deeply fueled by anger and hatred towards the incompetent King.

-“I must include the photo with Mother, no matter what.”

Some might call it a petty and mean act.

But it would be strange to remain idle until the day of the rebellion.

-“There’s nothing better to show we’re still living happily.”

I decided to sell the idea of Father’s happiness through a photoshoot.

To show that the two beauties were still living well.

It would spread not only in the Kingdom but also throughout the Empire.

While some in the Empire might harbor long-standing hatred towards Gibraltar, others who were not stakeholders might come to admire it.

This could significantly impact future relations between the Kingdom and the Empire.

Currently, Queen Carmen and the Emperor of the Empire were preparing a ceasefire behind the scenes.

“Young Master. The newspaper arrived today as well.”

“Hmm.”

I opened ‘yesterday’s’ issue of [Imperial Daily] that Sir Robert had placed on the table.

It was a paper published the day before.

But it was not crumpled, neatly packaged in an envelope, and completely dry.

“Oh my. The Empire, really. So many young girls going missing. Tsk, tsk.”

“…Do you recognize any of these girls, Sir?”

“No?”

On the back of the newspaper were ‘Missing Child’ notices featuring frontal photos and personal details of several girls.

“It’s a pity, Sir Robert. But have you seen the front page?”

“No, I was only instructed to bring the envelope.”

“Look at this.”

I showed him the front page of the newspaper, highlighting the large print.

“You don’t understand the Imperial language, Robert.”

“With so many Imperial prisoners in your hometown, do you think I wouldn’t learn? Knowing the Imperial language is hardly treason.”

“In the capital, it would be.”

“We’re in Gibraltar.”

“…[Navy Captain Hailerdin , ‘My body moved first. I will accept the punishment willingly.’]”

“Correct. You read that accurately.”

I flipped the first page.

Though it was packed more with text than images, the smell of ink ‘printed’ by magic tools assaulted my nose.

“Can you read all of that?”

“Roughly.”

“What are you talking about? Who is Hailerdin?”

“He’s the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Navy, also referred to as a Navy Captain.”

Born a commoner, 44 years old.

“His combat skills are on par with a mid-ranking knight, but his command over the navy is exceptional, hence his promotion to general.”

“What does such a person taking responsibility imply…?”

“He rescued someone from the Kingdom. He jumped into the sea from a ship that was under pirate attack.”

“Oh, um…”

“Yes. An Imperial person rescued a Kingdom citizen. This news is from three days ago.”

I opened a booklet to a page scrapped from the newspaper.

“The Kingdom’s merchant ship was seized by pirates, and the Imperial navy eradicated them. In their final moments, the pirates opted to self-destruct, and Captain Hailerdin himself dove into the sea to save a noblewoman from the Kingdom.”

“…….”

“At first glance, it looks like mere coincidence, but I’m fond of conspiracy theories.”

I flipped through the crumpled newspaper.

“[The war with the Kingdom, how long must it continue?]. [About the benefits of black tea. Is the best from the Kingdom?]. [We must not hand down bloodied swords to future generations].”

“…What is this?”

“These are columns from the newspapers that were delivered over the past month. They represent the opinions left by commentators.”

“……??”

Sir Robert tilted his head in confusion.

“Young Master, I apologize, but the answer, please.”

“I thought you, Sir, could discern the answer.”

“No, well, I roughly understand the flow. I have been observing and listening by your side!”

Sir Robert seemed slightly irritated.

“I understand that the Empire has been fostering this atmosphere for a month to reconcile and cease fire with the Kingdom. But this maritime accident was just a coincidence, wasn’t it?”

“Sir, you are still too naive.”

“…Is this a staged act? Creating an atmosphere for reconciliation and then such a dramatic incident?”

“The parties involved may not be aware. In such a play, the leads not knowing the script makes for a more convincing performance.”

Sir Robert’s face twisted into a grimace of shock, horror, and disillusionment with humanity.

“Sir Robert, this is just my speculation, so don’t mention it to anyone else.”

“Of course.”

“The pirates in the southern straits? They’re the Empire’s Second Fleet.”

“……Really?”

“Speculation, I said. Just speculation.”

Speculation, yet it read like a spoiler.

They were the Empire’s regular army, the Second Fleet, masquerading as pirates.

“Shall I make a prediction? What will the front page of the Imperial Daily say tomorrow?”

“Just say it. Have your predictions ever been incorrect? With these devious plots of the Empire… Ahem.”

Sir Robert glanced around warily.

He looked at me, then at Dame Mente, who was quietly sipping tea at the table beside us.

“Dame Mente, please weigh in.”

“What should I contribute? I merely delivered the newspaper. Besides, that’s not my role.”

Dame Mente shrugged her shoulders, pointing at the various weapons on the wall.

“My role is to teach the Young Master the use of any weapon he wants to learn. Nothing more than that.”

“Ugh…”

Dame Mente had officially joined the Gibraltar Knights.

As my martial arts instructor.

“Such complicated political maneuvers should be left to Sir Robert. Sir Robert is the Young Master’s right-hand man, isn’t he?”

“Well, yes, but…”

“Sir. If you guess it right once, I’ll give you a day off tomorrow.”

“!!”

Sir Robert’s expression changed as he clutched his head, thinking hard.

“…Perhaps.”

His response was:

“Is that lady from the southern coastal nobility?”

“Are you asking for a hint? Correct.”

“Then, we’ll formally invite her and host a party.”

“Indeed, Sir. But you are wrong.”

“……Ah.”

“That story will emerge at least a week later.”

He had a spoiler-like knack for accurately predicting future events.

“The words of the Emperor of the Empire will be included. There will be a minimal reprimand for General Hailerdin’s actions, showing benevolent mercy while extending friendship to the Kingdom.”

And the party would follow, after the Kingdom formally invited General Hailerdin.

“All of this is a preliminary step for the ‘Great Agreement’ next month.”

The Great Agreement.

“The Emperor himself will come to the Kingdom to establish friendly relations.”


Midnight.

It was a dark day with thick clouds concealing even the moon.

“The weather is really nice.”

I had arrived at the first gate of Gibraltar Gorge with a man in a black robe, his hood pulled deep over his head.

“As I mentioned earlier, all eyes are on the south.”

International agreements don’t materialize overnight.

“The romance between Captain Hailerdin and Lady Serene, followed by the Emperor’s visit to the Kingdom. The blueprint for the future of both countries, through a ceasefire, is already being drawn.”

Negotiations were completed in secret, and, as if meeting for the first time, they shook hands and talked, declaring decisions as if made magnanimously on the spot.

“The Serene Territory will be opened. Authorized citizens of the Empire, whether for tourism or business, will start crossing the sea in ships.”

But no one knew.

That Gibraltar would open its gorge gates and welcome people from the Empire, they were unaware even in their dreams.

While everyone’s attention was on the southern strait, the real negotiations happened here at Gibraltar Gorge.

“I’ll open it.”

Creeeak.

The gorge gate opened.

The first gate opened, and a group of people waiting right outside entered.

“Hello~~~~!!”

With a cheerful voice that shook the night, a woman with white hair – Chairman Erwin – entered.

“An honor to meet you again, Chairman Iperia.”

“Oh my. You’re being quite formal, aren’t you?”

“Well, I am the interpreter after all.”

The minimum number of people were present.

I brought one man in a robe, and Chairman Erwin only brought two men behind her.

“I can speak the language of the Kingdom, you know?”

“It’s to convey intentions clearly, please understand. Besides, you brought an interpreter too, didn’t you?”

“True. Here’s our interpreter. Just so you know, it won’t be fun if you play tricks.”

“Yes.”

Beside the chairman, a young man with brown hair and glasses looked down at the ground, seemingly displeased.

Probably someone who had crossed over from the Kingdom to the Empire.

‘He intentionally left his insignia behind, but his walk gives away that he’s a trained soldier.’

Smart but hindered by status, unable to advance, and now working as a civil officer in the Imperial army?

“Ugh. Can I really trust that child?”

Beside the chairman, a burly man stepped forward.

“He’s just a kid.”

“They say he’s a genius.”

“I don’t believe in that.”

“Think of him as similar to ‘that person’?”

“…Ugh. Damn. He’s going to be terribly difficult to deal with.”

The man, dressed in an Imperial-style black suit, looked as though his muscles might burst at any moment.

“Duke Claydol, I am at your service.”

“You know me?”

“Three years ago, you shouted in the middle of the night at the castle. I didn’t recognize you then because you were wearing a helmet.”

“Really? The guy in the robe behind you didn’t tell you?”

Duke Claydol growled fiercely, glaring at the man in the robe standing behind me.

“No use hiding it, Chairman. Step aside. This man is—”

“Bald.”

“!!”

The man revealed himself, along with the Imperial language, as he removed his robe.

“Please convey my greetings, Grey.”

My father spoke in the language of the Kingdom, not Imperial.

“I apologize. That’s all the Imperial language my father knows.”

“……Ha, haha.”

Duke Claydol ran his hand through his hair.

His beard was thick, but his head shone even in the darkness.

“Can’t just do something about it.”

“Bald Claydol.”

“Hey. Son of Gibraltar. Does your father know no manners?”

“Bald Claydol.”

“…Haa.”

Chairman Erwin sighed and pulled something out of her pocket.

“Sorry. This seems better than an interpreter.”

“A translation magic device?”

“Oh my, was that in the newspaper too?”

“Not everything is heard from newspapers.”

A half-spherical magic stone, perfect to fit in two palms, started to glow.

“Can you hear me, Margrave of Gibraltar?”

As Chairman Erwin spoke, the magic stone sparkled, translating her words fluently into the language of the Kingdom.

“From now on, everything we say will be translated into the language of the Kingdom. Any issues?”

“No… issues.”

My father nodded calmly.

“Ha! The rustic Margrave seems amazed by our Empire’s technology.”

“Bald.”

“…Hey. Should I explain that when you speak in the language of the Kingdom, we hear it in Imperial?”

“Bald.”

“……You’ll lose your hair too when you get old.”

“Sorry, but no one in Gibraltar has ever been bald, starting from our ancestor.”

My father smirked and stepped beside me.

“That’s enough for introductions; let’s get to the main point.”

My father took a deep breath and began.

“As Queen Carmen has decided on peace with the Empire, Gibraltar too must change. We will open the gates of the gorge.”

“Wow!”

Chairman Erwin raised both arms in triumph.

“I opened the gates of the gorge! See? You can’t open someone’s heart by fighting and shedding blood!”

“Ahem. That’s not quite it, but…”

“Thank you, Margrave!”

Chairman Erwin beamed with a bright smile, eyeing my father up and down.

“For our healthy, bright, and peaceful future, I look forward to working together!”

“…Grey. Is this being translated correctly?”

My father asked me, ignoring Chairman Erwin.

“Did I hear that wrong?”

“It’s a merchant’s way of speaking. Starting with selling my father’s photo album across the Empire, it means to strengthen the relationship between Gibraltar and Iperia.”

“Eh, if you say it outright like that.”

Chairman Erwin pouted, making a somewhat disappointed face.

“Saying it outright would ruin my plan to charm and then strike a cheaper deal!”

“Sorry. I’m planning to sell my father’s good looks, but not his heart.”

Actually, I did plan to sell it.

But who would Father let himself be sold by?

“Really? So, do I win the bet? You said you would fall for your father at first sight.”

“But you did fall for him, right?”

“Could you tell my father that it wasn’t a romantic attraction, but as a model and a product?”

“Anyway, you did fall for him, right?”

“Haa. Yeah. So irresistible that if he were Imperial, he would’ve been our company’s face long ago. His face and upper body labels would be on every product packaging.”

“…….”

My father fell silent.

He seemed not quite to understand what was said.

‘He’ll understand soon.’

Once Imperial factory goods arrived and he saw his own photo on the labels of tomato sauce bottles.

“So, you mean to increase the value of products by sticking my face on them?”

“That’s right. Don’t worry, Father. At worst, someone might curse you, stab your photo with a knife, or burn it.”

“Kahahahahaha———!!”

Duke Claydol burst into raucous laughter, the sound echoing through the gorge.

“Well done, Margrave of Gibraltar!!”

“……Unfortunately, whether I’ve succeeded or failed in raising my child will be shown by the outcome.”

My father patted my shoulder with one hand.

“At least my son won’t end up bald.”

“You little…”

“Haa. Grey. It would be faster to talk with you.”

Chairman Erwin, looking halfway resigned, shook her head and then turned to me.

“Did you get the letter? I included it with the newspapers.”

“Yes. I’ve secured it and reviewed it. Morgania has also completed their review.”

“Great, then…”

Chairman Erwin clapped her hands together, looking delighted.

“About the trial operation of the Empire’s academy education method at the Gibraltar Margrave’s orphanage and support plans for it, shall we have a serious discussion?”

“Before that, I have a question.”

“Oh, what is it?”

“Thank you for the budget support, but…”

I pointed to the back page of a newspaper scrap I had brought.

“…For the so-called ‘branch school’ disguised as an orphanage in Gibraltar Gorge, did you have to send the list of children like this?”

“Security reasons. I thought you, Grey, would notice.”

“Did you get permission from the parties involved?”

“Well, I am their guardian, aren’t I?”

‘Missing Children.’

There must be some truly missing, but also those under Iperia’s care.

“Why only girls, then?”

“…….”

“And.”

I pulled out the last piece that had arrived that morning.

“Who is this girl who strikingly resembles you, Chairman?”

I pointed to a girl with white hair and eyes mixed with blue and purple.

“That girl, well.”

Chairman Erwin answered with a broad smile.

“All those children are beautiful princesses born in our Empire~”

The look in her eyes as she gazed at me.

“How about it? Aren’t they adorable? Don’t you want to take care of them? Huh?”

Her gaze held a hint of desperation.

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