Chapter 117 Dean’s soliloquy
“…Rudy, I’m finished.”
Watching me put down my quill, Rudy smiled softly.
“Thank you for your hard work. I’ll send these to the corresponding departments.”
“If it’s not too much work.”
After saying that, I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. We finally finished taking care of all the cases we needed to take care of.
Now even if we went to the Armenia territory things would be fine…that’s what I couldn’t help but think.
“Finally, we could go and visit there without issue.”
I wasn’t supposed to say it, but he saw right through me.
“Well, I think we’re just about done here. All the work that is urgent and important is done. Plus, why are these cases under my jurisdiction anyways? What is the financial office doing?”
“It’s because there aren’t enough people in the palace.”
At the moment, we didn’t just have to arrange for spies to prevent political errors in other nations or various territories, but also within our own palace.
It was because all the big players were still duking it out, while underneath them others were trying to gain the upper hand by competing amongst themselves. Of course, if they were using more moral methods of competition then things would be fine. But all of them were cheating, whether through bribing or connections, and anyone who tried to take the high way was treated as an idiot. In this kind of atmosphere, many talented individuals ended up leaving the palace early because they couldn’t see a future there.
Although I had hired many of them back to work under me…
“We’re also lacking in staff, but the Armenia territory isn’t doing so badly. The truly awful situation is over here, where we have people but are powerless to do anything about anything.”
Everyone drags each other down, and no one ends up getting work done. Under these circumstances, just thinking about how many actual capable civil servants remain makes my head hurt.
“Let’s take a bit of a break. Wake me up in an hour.”
After taking a deep breath, I told Rudy.
“Shall I prepare the bedroom for you?”
After Rudy left, I sighed and closed my eyes. Slowly, I relaxed my consciousness.
Maybe it was because I was so tired…
…I dreamt of some nostalgic memories!
Usually I never dreamed about my childhood memories…it was a pity that they weren’t very happy.
My earliest memory is being surrounded by adults every unchanging day. Being born as the first prince meant that as soon as I was born I was shuttled off to be taken care by a dedicated wetnurse.
…I always felt like I had a rather cool temperament as a child, but that never felt like something bad to me.
People who only wanted to serve me, people who served me for their own good…with so many subjects to observe surrounding me every day, I analyzed their actions and picked out the truths and antagonism in their words. There was no better environment when it came to practicing how to analyze others.
Jealousy, greed, conceit, pride, laziness…depending on what kind of provocation others received, it was easy to guess what kind of negative emotion they would show, how they would react. Everyone treated me as a child, so they would all act exactly as I wanted them to. It was very amusing.
After I told Rudy about this, he only laughed rather helplessly. “Normal three-year-olds would never do anything like that,” he said.
But after Edward was born, everything became more complicated. Queen Ellia’s power within the palace immediately started to rise, and many of those around me also gathered around her instead.
My mother had already held a lowly position within the palace. After all this, it felt like she barely had any kind of authority to speak of.
…I didn’t really have that many clear memories of my mother.
One reason was that we had never interacted much in the first place.
But the most crucial one was that she passed away so early.
From my current fuzzy memories, I can recall that my mother was weak but strong-willed, quite an extraordinary figure.
She was physically feeble and was gentle, never one to compete for favors. Her innermost nature was completely incompatible with the desire-heavy atmosphere of the palace.
But she remained there, even though she could have used her feebleness as an excuse to move to the palace where the queen dowagers lived.
No, perhaps she couldn’t have. My father had such a stubborn streak when it came to my mother.
Back then I had asked, carelessly, why she stayed.
“Why do you stay here?” “This place doesn’t suit you, Mother.”
At the time I was only worried for her. I wanted her to relax her mind.
After all, every day she faced unimaginable ill will from others.
But thinking of it now, my directness could only have sprinkled more salt into her wounds.
Even so, she had smiled gently in response.
“Because I love him.”
I couldn’t understand it at all. I really wanted to just laugh it off or something.
But I couldn’t.
Her response conjured up a strange sense of respect within me.
In the end, that was all she could get.
The love of a king, deep within the palace…nothing more.
From my mother’s perspective, I understood that she really only stayed because of that.
I thought that she was amazing.
It wasn’t about being smart, or right. There was something powerful within her.
But at the same time, I couldn’t help but blame my father.
While the king is a person, he is also a mechanism, a symbolic mechanism ensures the gigantic existence of a nation continues to move on.
Of course he would have things that he was personally powerless about.
Like being forced to take Ellia as one of his wives, being unable to give my mother thorough protection because of his busyness…
But if this were the case, then he should never have strayed from his role as mechanism in the first place.
Marrying my mother out of his own will was already putting his own feelings first, resulting in negative consequences that my mother ended up having to shoulder alone.
If only he had never fallen in love with her.
Or if she had fallen in love with anyone else.
She would have lived a steady, warm life, with none of the sadness, and none of the dangers. Although it would be mundane, she wouldn’t have to smile with such melancholy.
After giving birth to Leticia, my mother’s health began to decline significantly.
At the same time, the king’s feelings toward my mother only grew stronger.
Of course Queen Ellia was unhappy about that. So she took action to bury my mother once and for all.
Through meetings with other wives, she had grasped relevant methods and talent to put her plan into motion.
I don’t know how aware my mother was of this situation, but I’m sure she must have at least felt that something was off.
When the king wasn’t around, she would tell me quietly to “take care of Leticia”.
…I never turned her down.
Of course it was because we were family. But more importantly, it was because even when she spoke such fragile words, the determination in my mother’s eyes still hadn’t vanished.
To realize the promise with my mother, I immediately began to act.
I contacted Duke Anderson through Rudy, hoping to meet with the queen dowager, all while eliminating suspicious individuals who lingered around Leticia.
When it came to the day we had agreed upon, I fled the palace and pleaded with my grandmother, whom I was meeting for the first time, to protect Letty. In return, my grandmother would be able to limit my freedom.
As a grandmother, she was genuinely worried for my mother, me, and Letty.
But at the same time, she maintained her role as ruler.
If I stayed in the palace as the first prince, the battle for the throne would only grow more and more fierce. My power would be manipulated by others, and I would be pushed onto a public front at a young age as a puppet rather than by my own will. That was the situation that the queen dowager was most worried about.
But even if we remained under her protection, we could never completely avoid the inevitable battle for the throne.
Even if I gave up my rights to inherit the throne, my royal blood and my identity as first prince would not vanish. That meant Queen Ellia would not spare me.
So I had to store up strength, couldn’t let myself go with the flow. I needed to make my own decisions and be my own protection in solidifying my position.
“The king is the symbol of power, so he can never allow gaps in his plans that others might interfere in. To the greedy nobles, kingship is the ultimate prize. So if any flaws are discovered, they will move in, take advantage of the weakness, and cause harm to the nation…as per our current situation, Edward cannot become king. If he does, the nobles will come to the conclusion that no matter who is first prince, they will be able to affect the next round of selection for the throne. If that thought takes root in their minds, the corruption in the palace will be unstoppable.”
The queen dowager sighed, seeming troubled.
The battle for the throne must be a huge bother for her as well.
“So you must never stop gathering up power and resources to stop the Maeria family from continuing to rise. That is my condition.”
These were more wishes of my own than her conditions.
Considering my situation after protecting Letty, the course of action suggested by my grandmother is the most effective one.
With the possibility of assassins, increasing our strength too aggressively is absolutely too dangerous.
Even if we played dumb the whole time, however, we’d still be exiled for various made-up reasons.
So to be able to ensure our safety with the queen dowager in her territory while learning how to make our own was really the best option.
That was why I didn’t put any more thought into the matter and expressed my agreement right away. Seeing my reaction, the queen dowager narrowed her eyes in what looked like a very satisfied expression.
“I am quite strict, you know.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that.
The moment I arrived here that had been clear to me.
“I will work hard…at least enough to not make my own grandmother want to abandon me.”
The queen dowager laughed out loud.
It seemed like my sarcasm hadn’t made her think less of me.
“You’re a smart child…quite amusing too. Well then, work hard and become a person of excellence that I would never think of abandoning.”
Perhaps I should say that she was even encouraging my sarcasm.
“Still, please don’t pick on an old lady like me too much, hm?”
Although she said this with a smile and seemed quite excited on the surface…she probably wasn’t projecting unreasonably high expectations onto me.
In other words, she was saying, “I see. I do want you as first prince to become king.”
But also that if I grew up to be someone who wasn’t qualified to join the battle for the throne, then I should quickly admit my failure. Under those circumstances, even if I managed to take the throne by force somehow, to think that I could solve all the issues within the country was simply ridiculous.
If that ever happened, then the queen dowager would most definitely use her power to crush me, then help the second prince become king.
And then, of course, she would eliminate all the officials responsible for helping us become king, probably planning to weaponize this and take control over the second prince’s faction. Eventually she would turn the second prince into a puppet and exercise power from behind the scenes.
“All right, all right, Grandmother. I’ll work hard so that you can have a peaceful, eventless old age.”
And then Letty moved to her palace, as did I.
Soon after that, my mother was killed.
Of course the killer was someone under Queen Ellia.
Although I didn’t know this until later, my mother’s doctor had always been loyal to Queen Ellia.
He must have been the one who slowly poisoned her.
I didn’t want to use my youth as an excuse. It could only be because I was so powerless.
Even if I had known that he was loyal to Queen Ellia, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it. I didn’t have the right of speech to change her doctor, nor the ability to ensure that the next one wouldn’t also be a puppet for Ellia.
To me at the time, protecting Letty was already exerting all of my effort.
That was the first time I experienced my own powerlessness.
Even when attending my mother’s funeral, I had to stay hidden.
After the funeral, the king looked more feeble than before.
But even after seeing him like that, I didn’t have any thoughts.
On the other hand, I was more interested in Queen Ellia’s crazy antics.
When her dream that when my mother disappeared the king would look at her and only her was shattered by reality…something broke inside of Queen Ellia.
It wasn’t much to wonder at. She was just another tragic woman who went mad for a love she could never have.
Of course I would never sympathize with her, but knowing her motivations made the moment a bit more satisfying.
“…Thinking of it now, my favorite wife seemed to have given birth to a princess.”
I don’t remember which day it was, but that was the first line of the summons that I received from the king.
The fact that he only remembered something like that now filled my chest with rage and blame.
When my mother gave birth, he had never cared for the child.
Hearing this, all the passions that had built up in my chest became cold. My whole body felt strangely numb.
It was the sense of danger that encompassed me, swallowed me up.
If he saw Letty and how much she looked like her mother, he would undoubtedly start spoiling her to fill the hole in his heart that had formed after my mother’s death.
If that happened, then Letty would become the next target of Queen Ellia.
Even if she were a princess who had inherited the royal blood, the sight of the king spoiling a girl so similar to her mother would no doubt make Queen Ellia, that pitiable, irrational woman, do something, anything to prevent it.
“Leticia dwells with the queen dowager, who adores her because she looks so much like her father.”
Thankfully, after hearing that she looked nothing like her mother, the king lost interest immediately. After that, he never once mentioned seeing Letty again.
Translator’s note: Yes, this is the actual end of the chapter. The next chapter is a continuation.