Episode 44

The Princesses Of The Orphanage (2)
3 weeks ago
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The body of a young child was inconvenient in many ways.

Not only because they were young, but also because, as children, they could not freely enter the world of adults.

That was the case right now.

“There’s a lot you can’t say to a child.”

Chairman Erwin saw me as just a slightly intelligent child, but I knew all the truths.

“Regarding the true nature of these children, it’s not something that can be discussed carelessly, both politically and ethically.”

The children Chairman Erwin wanted to send to the pilot project academy in Gibraltar were all ‘candidates.’

If you asked what kind of candidates—

‘Royal family candidates.’

They were half-sisters.

Not just one or two, but dozens—perhaps even more that I was not aware of.

-Spreading one’s superior talents is a natural thing.

The Emperor once mentioned this.

-I am more superior than anyone else, and passing on my talents to just one person is an insult to the empire and the world.

Those with superior talents had a duty to spread them.

-Aren’t you curious? Whose child will be the most superior? Whether it’s a princess yearning for my love, or a woman only chasing power. Or perhaps women who rose from commoners to the ruling class of the empire?

The Emperor sowed his seeds here and there.

In satisfying and desirable wombs.

-Just because they inherited the blood doesn’t mean they can all be royals. Only the most superior and talented will become the Emperor. The competition starts from birth.

Among those born, only the most exceptional one will become the true Emperor of the empire.

-I did that. I killed all my siblings and became the Crown Prince.

Perhaps that’s a deep-rooted history and tradition of the empire.

-Isn’t it obvious that too many heirs to the throne will lead to a power struggle? Without competition, one is weeded out. The one who survives is the strongest.

Thus, the future Emperor made his children compete.

Even at this moment, he must be making the children compete for the position of the Crown Prince.

-Male children will master the empire’s martial arts. Those who don’t become masters before 20 have no right to be the Emperor.

Male children must be learning imperial education somewhere underground. As a prerequisite, they should be able to sense mana by the age of 7.

-Female children should be raised well, to be used in marriage alliances.

Female children were growing up, each being groomed as a beautiful young lady.

Someday, to be sent off in marriage as prime commodities.

-Listen well, Grey. If there’s a problem with having many illegitimate children, it’s because such a person should not have acted that way in the first place.

The Emperor thoroughly viewed his children as tools.

-They’re not children born out of love, so there’s no need to give them love.

Everything was for the empire.

-I am the father of all people, the Emperor of the empire.

Everything was for the world he ruled.

The reason why the Emperor, who had many princesses - now granddaughters, designated Erwin’s daughter, her only ‘official child’ with the current Crown Prince, as the true heir was simple.

-That child was of no use anywhere, but she brought you to open the gates of Gibraltar Gorge. That alone proved her worth of being born.

Among the empire’s numerous illegitimate children, only she managed to open the gates of Gibraltar Gorge.

Well, this was a result-oriented story, omitting the process.

So, I was perplexed.

Even though the Emperor saw his children as tools and didn’t care much about his daughters.

‘Does he hope that by sending them abroad, the illegitimate children will grow up normally?’

I never dreamed that Erwin would openly scheme to smuggle these children into the kingdom.

And.

‘It’s sad that I can’t talk about this right now.’

Had I stepped out as an adult, as the Margrave of Gibraltar, instead of in a child’s body, would Erwin have hinted at something to me?

That these children, carrying the royal bloodline, were born merely as tools.

Rather than growing up as the ‘spares’ of a princess, unloved by the empire, she hoped they would find new love in the kingdom.

That plan fell apart with her death, but it seemed Chairman Erwin had actively worked for the children’s welfare until then.

Therefore, I had to move as much as I could within my current capabilities.

“Chairman Erwin, are you planning to entrust these children to the Gibraltar orphanage?”

“Yes.”

However.

“These children have nowhere else to go in the empire. If Gibraltar takes them in, we will provide ample funding.”

“Funding?”

It wasn’t out of pity for the children.

“I see. Money is important, but…”

For my fundamental purpose.

“If they pose a risk to Gibraltar, we cannot accept anyone.”

I couldn’t ruin the bigger picture because of cheap sympathy.

“Can we know who the parents of these children are?”

“No. They are orphans, so we don’t know.”

“Is there zero possibility that among these children, there could be spies from the empire pretending to be orphans?”

“Um… No, I can’t deny that.”

Chairman Erwin responded candidly to my sharp question.

“I can’t go into details. But if you take these children in, Gibraltar could face danger later.”

Her expression was somewhat apologetic and regretful.

“Still, I would like Gibraltar to take them in.”

“…….”

“I can only offer money, but…”

“This is difficult.”

I firmly refused, despite Chairman Erwin’s pleading tone.

“The Gibraltar orphanage accepts only children with confirmed identities. Accepting empire children of unknown origin through such methods is risky.”

“…….”

“Moreover, these children here…”

I couldn’t say it in detail.

But I asked with my eyes, my expression, and my actions.

“Isn’t it so?”

This thirteen-year-old child.

With white hair, looking too much like Erwin.

“Chairman, I know not only a month’s worth of empire newspapers but also all the newspapers Duke Claydol sent in the past three years.”

“Cough!”

“I recognize some faces. Are you really planning to send them to Gibraltar?”

Weren’t they supposed to be in the imperial palace now?

Weren’t they the children growing up as imperial granddaughters, chosen by the current emperor?

“Are you suggesting we accept empire children in this situation? Without a formal agreement, while still at war, and without any humanitarian pact?”

To send such children to Gibraltar now?

Not in four years when the academy was built, but right now?

“Gibraltar may be a good place, but it’s not suitable for these children to live in for various reasons—”

“I’ll allow it.”

“…….”

I turned my head involuntarily at the voice that came from beside me.

“Father.”

“Grey Gibraltar. It is the Margrave’s order.”

“…Yes.”

I nodded in response to my father’s command.

“Ho-ho. If it were my son, he would have screamed ‘Why!’ instead of just answering.”

Duke Claydol fiddled with his beard, amused, but I couldn’t help but agree.

“But your eyes are shouting loudly, Margrave. Why not explain the reason for your son’s sake? Unless you want to be accused of parental disrespect and lose your title.”

“There are various reasons, but it’s not appropriate to discuss them here.”

My father glared at Duke Claydol, then gently patted my shoulder again.

“Let’s talk in the study. But let me tell you one thing in advance.”

Father pointed his thumb down and wrote small letters on my back.

-I’ll protect you from danger.

“Father.”

“As a father, it’s only right.”

Could he have realized?

“Chairman Erwin. Though I’m still learning about the empire’s corporate culture, I believe the basics of buying and selling are similar.”

My father turned to Chairman Erwin.

“Children are not commodities. However, my son’s concerns are valid. Accepting these children might bring a significant crisis to Gibraltar.”

Father smirked, lifting the corner of his mouth.

“The greater the risk, the better the outcome after the investment.”

“Margrave.”

“Bring them. As many as you want. Whatever fingers point at Gibraltar now, it doesn’t concern me anymore.”

“…Thank you, truly.”

Chairman Erwin turned away, briefly covering her eyes with her hand.

“If there’s anything you need, just tell me. I’ll prepare whatever I can.”

“Then, I have two requests right now.”

“Yes?”

“Nothing big.”

Father continued calmly.

“A device called a camera. And…”

He spoke calmly, but with a hint of embarrassment.

“…I heard seaweed from the empire’s coast is very good for mothers. I’d like some. It’s not available in the kingdom.”


Boom, boom, boom.

The first gate of Gibraltar Gorge closed.

The Margrave of Gibraltar and his son received an item and headed back to their mansion.

“…Chairman Erwin.”

Duke Claydol loosened the top button of his suit and pulled at his tie.

“Are you really sure about this? The Margrave might not know, but that kid, he seems to have realized she’s the granddaughter of the Emperor.”

“No. He wouldn’t know. In the past three years, there haven’t been any photos of the granddaughter in the empire newspapers.”

“Then…?”

“He might think of her as my daughter.”

Duke Claydol scratched his head.

“Do you think the Emperor will accept it? Even though she’s his favorite?”

“He’ll send her eagerly because he cherishes her. It’s earlier than planned, but because he cherishes her.”

Chairman Erwin smiled bitterly and tapped the floor with her foot.

“At least Gibraltar, Nostrum, is safer than the current imperial palace.”

“…….”

“Duke Claydol. Who do you pledge your loyalty to? His Majesty the Emperor?”

“I am loyal to the empire, not to any specific individual.”

“What about when the current Crown Prince ascends to the throne?”

“Whoever becomes the Emperor, my duty as a soldier and a duke is to remain loyal to the empire.”

Duke Claydol clenched his right fist and thumped it against his left chest.

“If His Majesty commands me to conquer Nostrum, I will do so. If he tells me to wield my spear for Nostrum, I will fight for them.”

“You are a soldier through and through.”

“Didn’t you know? I was born holding a spear. Haha.”

“What about your third daughter’s granddaughter?”

“……Well.”

Duke Claydol raised his head to look at the night sky.

“I wonder how she would grow up if she ended up in Gibraltar with the Chairman’s daughter.”

“Even if Claydol can’t protect her, she won’t stay as she is now.”

“Are you saying it might be better to live with the pain of being abandoned by parents, unaware of one’s roots?”

“Exactly. What life is better varies from person to person, but…”

“But?”

“At least in Gibraltar, there seems to be some humane relationship between parents and children, so they’ll take good care of her to some extent.”

“Is that so?”

Duke Claydol tilted his head, but Chairman Erwin chuckled, tapping a jewel-like bracelet on her wrist.

“Then please consider my proposal. Getting support from Iperia might not be so bad for you, Duke Claydol.”

“Alright… Wait. Are you going alone?”

“Yes. Oh, did you think you could give me a ride?”

Vroom.

“Sorry, but I prefer to ride alone.”

Something with two wheels stopped in front of Chairman Erwin.

“I’ll schedule an appointment at the Claydol factory. We’ll meet separately then.”

“No, this woman. Alone at this late hour…!”

“Oh my. I appreciate your concern~”

Chairman Erwin grabbed the handlebar with one hand and mounted it like a horse.

“Duke, can you beat me?”

“…….”

“It’s not just because of Iperia’s capital that this woman can’t replace me, the granddaughter, with her own daughter, right? Then, I must hurry back to make a new camera, so I’ll leave for tonight!”

The moment Chairman Erwin pulled the handlebar.

Vrooooooom!!

Chairman Erwin vanished with a rough sound, like an arrow shot from a bow.

She left only deep wheel tracks on the ground.


Clip-clop, clip-clop.

I rode in a carriage on the way back to the mansion.

“Are you angry because I made a unilateral decision without consulting you?”

My father pulled the reins, bringing the carriage to a halt.

“No. It’s not that.”

“You seem angry.”

“How dare I object to the Margrave’s decision.”

“You’re openly showing your displeasure.”

Father laughed softly.

“Right now, without Dame Mente or Robert present, speak frankly.”

“There’s something I want to say.”

“Isn’t that what a beast unable to speak does?”

“Are you in a particularly good mood? Making such jokes.”

“Of course. It’s nothing else but…”

My father turned to me, a sly smile on his face.

“Because you trusted me, you didn’t stop me there and then.”

“…….”

“It’s dangerous, but you knew I could handle it, right? If you really thought it was impossible, you would have stopped me on the spot.”

“Well, that’s true.”

Whether it was the chairman or Duke Claydol, if I had thought it wouldn’t work, I would have immediately argued with my father.

“There are many advantages. I suppose I’ll have to give another long speech in the study. But…”

“What’s the greatest risk?”

“Even Chairman Erwin might not know, but among the orphans sent here, there could be children with royal blood.”

“…….”

“Now, do you understand why I was worried?”

“Yes. That’s reassuring.”

My father was still smiling.

“Sending a girl with royal blood from the empire to Gibraltar implies they’re considering a marriage alliance with us.”

“It’s not that simple, Father.”

“Yes. I know. There could be spies, kidnappers, assassins with poison, or seductresses who could bewitch Gibraltar.”

Father was already aware of the potential dangers.

“My son.”

If Father had accepted Chairman Erwin’s proposal and agreed to welcome the empire’s female orphans, there must be a reason.

“Don’t forget that I am willing to join hands with the empire to strike at Saint Gio if necessary.”

“Yes.”

Because he too was a Gibraltar.

“It’s good timing. The girls, from what I saw, all look like they will steal many a man’s heart when they grow up.”

“That’s exactly what I am worried about.”

“Why? Are you afraid all the girls coming to the orphanage will try to steal your heart?”

“I detest such troubles.”

Truly.

“They’ll all be after me; what then?”

“My son.”

Father was still smiling.

“With my looks passed on to you, you were destined to be troubled by women from birth.”

“…….”

“When you’re an adult, you’ll receive the love of many women. Think of it as gaining experience.”

Did Father know?

“Is this a prophecy or a curse?”

“It’s fate.”

“Sigh.”

That I had already been tormented to death.

“Since it’s going to happen anyway, you might as well find and raise your future wife from a young age.”

“What kind of absurd idea is that?”

“I’m serious.”

“…….”

“Since I’ve decided to be a traitor, I don’t mind if you marry an imperial-born daughter, as long as you love her.”

“Father.”

With a sigh, I expressed my true feelings.

“No matter how many princesses overflow the orphanage, there’s only one princess I will love for my entire life.”

“Ha.”

Father chuckled.

“That’s my son.”

The next day.

A vacant lot near the orphanage.

Under the Margrave’s orders, construction began on a wooden building similar in size to the orphanage.

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