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“Fuh… pretending to be drunk is also a bit tiring, you know?”
Rosa gave a sigh of exhaustion.
Then, without showing any hesitation, she stood in front of Hiro with good posture.
“Did you really need to put on an act?”
“I just want to be a strong sister in front of Liz.”
She sat down on a nearby chair, rested her back against it, and looked up at the ceiling.
“The emperor got the jump on us…”
It was obvious that she was also disappointed that she had missed her chance to win. Although she acted bravely in front of Liz, she herself may have felt the most responsible.
That’s why Hiro noticed it on the way and pulled Liz and Aura away from Rosa by giving Skaaha a look.
“If I had realized the emperor’s intentions earlier, the flow would have been all in our favor.”
Muttering in frustration, Rosa clenched her fists tightly on the armrest. There is no point in offering words of comfort when the emotions are unstable like this.
The words of denial are sure to come back. But if he tried to sympathize with her, he would be burdened with the same negative emotions as her. Then he would be stuck in a quagmire, and the whole thing would fall apart.
So what to do? People feel better when they express their dissatisfaction. By speaking out, they feel mentally relieved. Therefore, it is best to say something comforting.
“It’s nobody’s fault. Stobel’s movements were unreadable.”
“But I still think I could have done something for Liz.”
“But it’s no fun to win all the time, you know. You have to have something to look forward to. You’ll get tired of things going your way.”
“That’s true too…”
“And it’s not like we’ve lost yet. It’s still early in the game, the board is getting more complicated, but the flow is not bad.”
Hiro’s smile deepened; he stroked his eye patch and opened his mouth.
“Let’s enjoy both failures and successes. If you don’t, you won’t be able to sustain yourself until the end.”
“…Even if it’s life or death, can you enjoy it?”
Hiro nodded happily and then said.
――He was taken aback.
He stroked his lips with trembling fingertips, thinking back to what he was about to say.
(What am I…)
A chill ran through him as he remembered the meaning of the words that were stuck in his throat, the rage that fueled his struggle.
(What was I going to say…?)
The pleasure welling up from the bottom of his heart ― he clutched his chest and struggled to hold it in.
Perhaps reading such conflicts from Hiro, Rosa had a worried expression on her face.
It’s nothing ― Hiro shakes his head with a face so pale it’s hard to believe.
Rosa had one of her eyebrows raised suspiciously, but she didn’t pursue it and changed the subject as if she was concerned in her own way.
“Well, it’s true that we can’t move forward if we’re depressed. Let’s think about the central nobility for now.”
It would not be possible to separate the two ― perhaps her pride as the acting head of the Kelheit family would not allow her to complain any further, but her eyes changed color as if she were abandoning her indulgence.
“It is the central nobility that has suffered the most this time. It’s not only that they’ve lost their supporters because Stobel abandoned the right to inherit the throne, but the Krone family, who they look up to as their masters, have even had their territory taken away.”
Rosa was thirsty and reached over to a nearby desk to pick up a glass bottle of water. She also grabbed a glass with her free hand and started pouring water into it.
“If the Krone family continues to sit on their hands, the central nobility will fall apart. And the Mark family will rise in their place, that’s for sure.”
After slurping down a glass of water, Rosa moistened her lips with her tongue and became more talkative.
“If the Krone family remains silent, it is likely that they will take extreme measures, but unfortunately, the emperor has seen through their intentions.”
The noble lords, including Rosa, are gathering in the great imperial capital with their military forces. It’s the Krone family that will suffer the consequences if they turn against the emperor. However, if they remained silent, they would be scorned by the nobility and ridiculed by the people.
“Either way, it’s not going to be an easy road for the Krone family, is it?”
Hiro sat down on the bed and replied to Rosa in a matter-of-fact manner.
The instinct is still raging in his mind like a storm. But the bottom line is that the anxiety about the future is what brings on the strange feelings he forced himself to say.
“I didn’t think Stobel would give up his right to the throne, though.”
As Rosa said, who would have thought that Stobel would be the first to be eliminated at that moment? No one who was there would have thought it, except for the emperor…
“I was surprised too, but he’s going to have a hard time moving on. He has done something that will make it hard for him to move on.”
If you lose your position, you lose your power. Losing power means not being able to live in an aristocratic society where evil demons are rampant.
“What do you think the First Prince Stobel is up to?”
Hiro asked Rosa; she sighs and then shrugged her shoulders.
“Who knows… It’s rare to find someone as unpredictable as him. It’s a big deal because even if you send a spy on him, you won’t even be able to catch his tail. The only thing we can do now is not to show our backs to him.”
Then, as if suddenly remembering something, Rosa showed signs of thinking.
“There was one piece of information that caught my attention, by the way.”
“I’ve heard that former General Loing, who was always working with Stobel, is nowhere to be found.”
“…Former General Loing? He’s not a general anymore?”
Rosa nodded and began to explain.
In fact, behind the big event of Liz becoming a prisoner of war, there was a major event happening in the Grantz Empire. As soon as the news of Liz’s capture in Felzen reached the Great Imperial Capital, a letter was sent from Loing to the emperor, stating that he would give up his position as general.
“His Majesty accepted, but in a fit of anger at his selfish behavior, he demoted General Loing to the rank of a soldier.”
His son banished him from the family in order to avoid being held accountable.
“In those days, there was a lot of speculation in the Great Imperial Capital due to the confusion of information regarding Liz’s case. It was hard to know what was true and what was false.”
Above all, because of the Krone family, Loing’s case naturally became a lower priority.
“I apologize for bringing this to your attention now.”
Rosa bowed her head. Hiro shook his head and replied that there was no need to apologize.
“It was inevitable. You don’t have to worry about it.”
At the time, Hiro was so preoccupied with Liz that he didn’t know if he had time to even think about Loing… Above all, giving information that may or may not be true will only cause confusion.
“Your judgment is not wrong.”
The only thing he could say about Loing was that he was stupid. He wondered if it was necessary for him to give up the rank of general at the cost of losing his home.
(I guess I can’t blame him for his personal preferences…)
Hiro is more worried about the unpredictability of Stobel’s movements than anything else.
“I’m glad you said that.”
Rosa put on a relieved expression. Hiro responded with a smile and then tilted his head.
“…So, when did he disappear?”
“After Stobel disappeared from the Great Imperial Capital, the former General Loing disappeared as well, you know?”
“The one you wrote in the letter your man gave me before I left for the Grand Duchy of Dral.”
“It was only the other day that Stobel returned to the Great Imperial Capital, and there was no sign of General Loing. Now there are rumors that the two have fallen out. That was roughly over a month ago.”
“With that much time, I think they could prepare a lot of things.”
“Of course, they must be up to something. Unfortunately, I’m still trying to find out what they’re up to, but I haven’t been able to get a lead.”
Hiro could have sent Munin and Hugin to look into it, but they couldn’t get any information, even though Rosa’s spy was supposed to be excellent. In light of that, there was no way to send them on a dangerous mission.
If they fail and lose their lives, there will be no room for regret.
“Anyway, let’s put together a plan for the future. I think we should continue to give priority to the Krone family.”
“I agree with you. If the situation is turned upside down from here, it will all be for nothing.”
Next, the emperor ― as for his apology to Felzen, there is no choice but to spread rumors in the city and let the people know about Felzen’s current situation. If Hiro can stir up public opinion to sympathize with Felzen, even the emperor will have no choice but to act. As for Stobel and others, he could not read their movements, and if he decided on his own, it might hurt himself, so he had to leave them alone.
Hiro let out a dark cloud of sighs and pulled himself up to the window.
“But, we still have to do what we can. If Stobel can’t get a hold of his tail, we’ll sneak a spy into his entourage, his close nobles, and his favorite people. And while we are at it, can you look around the Second Prince Selene?”
“Understood. I will give strict orders not to overlook even the slightest thing.”
When Rosa nodded, Hiro felt the presence of people in the hallway.
As soon as he glanced at the door, the handle made a metallic sound.
“Hiro, that was nice hot water.”
It was Liz who opened the door and walked in. At her feet, Cerberus was with her.
“You should come in too…”
She was about to say this when she realized the heavy atmosphere in the room and not only shut her mouth but stopped. A strange atmosphere fills the room, and a stunned Liz looks at them.
“Eh… what’s wrong with no lights on? And you’re awake, Anee-sama?”
“Y-yeah! My beloved sister is gone, and I’ve sobered up. Your Anee-sama almost died of loneliness!”
Rosa, raising her voice exceptionally, got up from her chair and hugged Liz.
Hiro rolled his eyes at Rosa’s strange behavior.
It’s not that she doesn’t want Liz to know about the conversation they just had… it’s just that Rosa was afraid of being blamed, or perhaps she felt guilty and tried to hide it as much as she could.
Anyway, to appreciate Rosa’s unusual appearance for a while, Hiro decided to tell Liz the details later.
“…Anee-sama, are you still drunk?”
“No, I don’t know why I acted like this. Oh, my beloved sister, I don’t really know either. Could it be that I am really drunk?”
“Anee-sama, you are definitely drunk.”
Hiro watched the friendly exchange between the two of them with a smile on his face. He couldn’t help but think that he wished they could stay like this forever.
Even if the future is bleak, Hiro hopes that the sisters will be able to overcome the rough seas together, hand in hand, and build a country where they can laugh together forever.
(In that future, will I be living the same days like them, laughing with them?)
Hiro smiled self-mockingly and suddenly cast his gaze to the night sky. The stars twinkling in the sky were covered by clouds.
The moonlight was hidden in the sky as if to conceal its malice, and its gentle light would never reach the earth.
(No, by that time… I won’t be here.)
The next thing he knew, it had started to rain.