4 (3) – 14
The blade’s edge touched Klaus’ defenceless neck.
If its wielder wanted it to, it could take Klaus’ head in an instant.
The vigilante holding his blade against Klaus’ neck wasn’t alone. In addition to those who were already there in the first place, Lucas had brought in several more men.
Unlike Franz, it didn’t seem as if Lucas had any interest in dealing with Klaus personally. He flanked himself with vigilante men and kept a distance from Klaus that he couldn’t hope to bridge before being cut down.
No, in fact it wouldn’t do to use the word ‘vigilante’ anymore, these were Lucas’ private soldiers. The men who didn’t seem to fit at all into this town of secret mirth were not originally from Blume, but were in Lucas’ personal employ.
“…You finally showed yourself, uncle. I was wondering if you were just going to cower in your room until the show was over.”
“If I didn’t intervene, you might have pulled the wool over Franz’s eyes. That boy is honest, so he might fall for your swindles. You’re just like Gerda, in a way.”
“I’d rather you put it down to my natural charm.”
Klaus smiled as he let his mouth run. That being said, it seemed as if Lucas had been waiting in the wings, just in case Franz failed. If Franz has killed Klaus without any complications, then Lucas wouldn’t have shown himself at all.
Lucas’ prudence was one of his few good points. The control of the vigilante militia and Klaus’ demise, he had intended for all of it to reflect on Franz, not himself. Even if it was an open secret that he was pulling the strings, he didn’t leave any trace of evidence to that fact.
But, since he seemed to be enjoying such an overwhelming advantage now, he looked to be enjoying himself a little bit. Klaus’ life was entirely in Lucas’ hands. With one command, he could bring everything to an end.
“Did you manage to coax Duke Montchat with that silver tongue of yours? Gracious, you pretend to be so unselfish, but you really are a glutton aren’t you? Did you want to become the successor so badly?”
“Aren’t you talking about yourself, uncle? You want control of the House of Lörrich so badly that you’re going to murder me for it?”
Although the Lörrich family were proud and held great influence over Blume, they were still subservient to the Montchat dukes. In effect, they were nothing more than low ranking nobility in a remote region, without any real territorial claims of their own.
Although Franz’s desire didn’t extend beyond becoming the successor to the Lörrich family, for the ambitious Lucas, that was far from enough to satisfy him.
“Besides, you know that I have Alois in the palm of my hand, don’t you? If you kill me, you’ll basically be declaring open rebellion against the House of Montchat.
When Klaus said that, Lucas merely scoffed. Klaus couldn’t see the expression on Lucas’ face with his back turned, but it wasn’t difficult to imagine. Surely, he was sneering down haughtily at Klaus, something he had been wanting to do for quite some time.
“The House of Montchat is nothing to me.”
“…Even though your opponent would be a Duke?”
“And, so what? Duke or no, I’ll swallow him whole. That dullard they call the ‘Toad of the Swamp’, he would be easy to control. If even Gerda can do it, then why can’t I?”
The sword touching Klaus’ neck twitched. Was it because Klaus moved slightly, or the sword’s owner?
In order to see Lucas, Klaus twisted his neck ever so slightly.
“You sure are talkative today, aren’t youuncle? Do you even realize just what nonsense you’re spouting?
Lucas glared as Klaus looked at him angrily. But, soon a bold grin crept back to his face. There was no way he could do anything about the situation he found himself in, after all. Klaus’ head could be cut clean off whenever Lucas pleased.
There was still a lot of noise coming from the main street. In the first place, the ruckus out on the boulevard was intended to keep anyone from checking back here. There was no one who would come to save Klaus and there were men outside with strict orders to stop anyone foolish enough to try.
“Why shouldn’t I be talkative? Today is a memorable day, after all. My poor nephew Klaus died in a tragic accident and Franz was confirmed as the next head of the House of Lörrich.”
“So, what do you intend to do about the Duke that’s still in town? It’s not going to go as easily as you think. Alois isn’t stupid enough to fall for that.”
“To get what you want, you have to have the power to seize it. That’s why I gathered these soldiers. And if I need to have them kill a frog… I don’t think there’ll be a problem.”
Lucas laughed again at Klaus’ words.
“The Montchat family is merely a stepping stone to me, anyways. I won’t be confined to a dreary duchy such as this. Eventually, I’ll even own the royal palace itself.”
“…Well, I suppose it’s admirable to have big dreams.”
Klaus frowned at his uncle’s arrogance.
Then, just like his uncle before him… That frown turned into a grin.
“But, dreams are just that, right? Dreams. Besides, going by that, uncle… You’re a traitor.”
Lucas crossed his arms, looking at the smiling Klaus. The eyes that looked at Klaus almost looked as if they had a shred of pity in them,
“So, do you have anything else left to say? Do you really think that you’re going to survive this? Well, because of certain soft reputations, I guess why you might think that. The people in this town really are adverse to even cutting someone, much less killing them.”
As he said that, Lucas raised a hand. The soldiers watched his movement. It was like a conductor raising his baton. As soon as that hand fell, the soldiers would move.
“But, I’m not so sweet. I can’t have anyone revealing my secrets, so I’ll have you die here, Klaus.”
Every movement. Lucas stared hard at Klaus, making sure he didn’t move suspiciously.
Making sure he definitely wasn’t hiding anything. That he had no way of fighting back. That there was nothing stopping him from having Klaus’ slender neck cleaved through.
“Do not bother begging for your life. I did you the kindness of letting you have a final exchange with your family before your death, but this is the end.”
And with those merciless words, Lucas lowered his hand.
Lucas pointed at Klaus.
In response to that, the sword held against Klaus’ neck moved. The soldier laid a second hand on that blade.
He had expected that this festival would settle everything.
The traitor acted according to expectations. All that remained was to remove the biggest obstacle to Lucas’ ambition. He would absolutely kill Klaus.
He couldn’t give him even the slightest chance to escape. Klaus had a glib tongue. If Lucas completely entrusted this task to an incompetent, there was every chance they could be coaxed into his palm.
In order not to let that happen, Lucas made sure to oversee this personally.
So, Lucas had to be there. If only to make certain of Klaus’ death.
After Klaus had been killed, then the rest would all fall into place.
The setting for this ending had been of Klaus’ own design.
After letting him take the first move, he had made every move since to bring it to this end.
Everything had gone according to plan.
Then, suddenly, the soldier sheathed his blade as if it were only the most natural thing in the world.
In response, Klaus finally stood up, looking at Lucas who blinked in surprise.
“…What is the meaning of this?”
Lucas muttered, barely believing the situation in front of his eyes. Klaus shrugged with a snide grin, as he smacked the shoulder of the soldier who had been holding a sword to his neck only a minute ago.
“It’s something like this.”
The soldier breathed out, as if at Klaus’ signal. At the same time, a huge amount of magical energy flowed through the lot. Even Lucas, who didn’t have particularly strong magic, could feel the energy intensely on his skin. He only knew one person who had this kind of power.
“…As expected, it took quite a lot to endure changing my face for half a day.”
“No no, that’s only to be expected of you. You managed to look perfect and didn’t even let any mana leak out, you’re really a monster when it comes to magic, aren’t ya?”
“Thanks to that, I barely have any magical power left. It would’ve been dangerous if that went on any longer, Klaus.”
The man who stood there with an exhausted looking face wasn’t one of Lucas’ soldiers. But, it was definitely a man Lucas knew.
Silver hair. Red eyes. Lucas was stunned by the sudden presence of a man with such royal features.
“Lucas, I am sorry, but I cannot ignore what I just heard.”
As he looked at Lucas, Alois exhaled deeply. Alois was a forgiving sort of lord, but not even he was forgiving enough to let someone who sought to bring harm to Mohnton off so easily.
“Why… No, I… No… Noo…”
Lucas seemed lost for words. Every time he tried to come up with an excuse, it wouldn’t make its way past his lips. But, that didn’t last long either. As soon as he regained his composure, he quickly looked around at his men.
“No… I care not. I’d have to do this sooner or later, anyways. Kill both of them at once!”
Lucas screamed as he thrust his finger towards Alois and Klaus.
But, not one of his men moved. They just silently looked at Lucas.
“Why!? Did you not hear what I said!? I gave you an order! Kill them at once!”
Lucas’ voice merely echoed through the lot. As the shouts and yells from the main street began to die down, it echoed time and time again off those walls.
The soldier still didn’t move. Instead, Klaus’ mouth did.
“You’re a fool, uncle. You put far too much faith in the loyalty of those you’ve bought with gold.”
The mercenaries Lucas had hired were not men who flocked to his banner after sympathizing with his ideals.
It was after his encounter with the vigilantes at the florist that Alois had noticed this. When opposed by Alois, those men abandoned the orders supposedly given to them by Franz and escaped. They didn’t believe in the ideals of what they were doing enough to stand up to Alois, instead choosing to bow and scrape before him instead as they fled.
They weren’t fighting for any ideals. They followed Lucas out of opportunism, and if a more valuable patron were to reveal themselves, they weren’t going to miss the opportunity.
So, what was the value in fighting for Lucas?
Money, or the promise of a position. It was easy to surmise that those who were hired from outside of Blume were in it solely for the money, as well.
Knowing that, the answer was easy.
“Do you really think you’re that valuable of a boss? A Duke’s house is always going to be better off than a Baron’s.”
“…Klaus. Why are you the one acting so proud about this?”
As Alois looked at him dubiously, Klaus just shrugged.
Only Lucas seemed to be stupefied. The soldiers that surrounded him were not his anymore. The men’s gazes hadn’t been waiting for his orders, but instead keeping watch on him.
It was Lucas who had been cornered since the very beginning. When the sword had been thrust at his neck, when Lucas appeared, when he had confessed his ambitions… Throughout it all… Klaus had kept smiling.
Lucas’ face turned red in anger. He shook with uncontrollable rage. But more than anger, he was humiliated by the situation he found himself in.
“Damn iiiit! Ahh, so be it, I’ll pay two times whatever he’s offering you!”
Lucas yelled, enraged. He said that before even thinking it. Pointing at Alois and Klaus he continued to cry out.
“Kill them! If you want money, then earn it! What’s wrong!? Kill those men right now!!”
None of the soldiers moved. Klaus sighed at his uncle who was losing himself to his anger.
“Uncle, you’re pretty slow for a Lörrich, aren’t you?”
Klaus tilted up his chin, as if provoking him even more.
“You know you don’t have anything close to enough money to do that. All you have right now is the long rest that’s awaiting you. Rest easy for a while, uncle, and let go of that ambition of yours.”
Lucas groaned. “SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!” Biting his lip, he screamed up into the sky as he sank to his knees.
The soldiers took Lucas and Franz, their former employers, out of that empty lot.
For the time being, they were to be kept at the mansion, afterwards it could be decided what to do with them.
Before he left, Franz softly called out to Klaus.
“The words that you said to me, they were all part of your plan, weren’t they brother?”
He couldn’t read Franz’s expression. It didn’t seem like he regretted what had happened, but there was still anger there. Those jealous eyes that he had looked at Klaus with before were still there, but they seemed slightly sadder now.
“That’s the truth, isn’t it? You just needed me to shut up, so you said something like that?”
“I never once lied to you.”
Receiving Franz’s stare, Klaus answered him honestly.
“I know how much effort you’ve put in, and I know your weaknesses and strengths. I seriously do hope that you can follow me, some day.”
Franz silently looked at Klaus.
When Klaus wasn’t wearing that frivolous grin of his, his features were eerily similar to Franz’s. Even if he had a bit of a twisted personality, even if they had a troubled past, the two were definitely brothers.
“Even if you don’t believe me, at least give it a try. Give it a go for a year and then tell me again if you think I was lying. You’ve been doing uncle’s bidding for about, what, twenty years now? Surely you can at least spare me one?”
“…I’ll think about it.”
After saying that with a small voice, Franz was escorted by the soldiers out of the back alley.
With Lucas and Franz gone, only Alois, Klaus and a few of the soldiers remained in the lot.
The noise on the main boulevard had already settled down. After the ruckus had died away, there was only a serene stillness.
Klaus broke it by calling out to Alois with a sigh.
“I’m sorry I got you wrapped up in all this. As expected, I wouldn’t have been fine to trust just anyone to hold a sword to my neck.”
“No, this was for the sake of Mohnton as well.”
As he said that, Alois looked down the back alley, like he was worried about what was going on in the main street.
No, it probably wasn’t the state of the street he was worried about. He was worried about whether or not Camilla was safe amidst the mess.
Well, there weren’t many people brave or stupid enough to try something on the Lord’s marriage candidate. Camilla herself wasn’t naïve enough to try and break up a fracas like that by herself, and if she joined Victor and the others then she should have been perfectly safe.
But even if he knew that, Alois was still deeply worried.
“…You’ve changed, huh.”
Muttering softly, Klaus sent a sidelong glance at Alois. Behind that glance that seemed full of dissatisfaction and irreverence was a slight hint of friendship.
The moment Klaus realized that himself, he frowned disgustedly. Then, he called out to Alois again.
“Hey, put out your hand. Lift it a little higher as well.”
Alois blinked, puzzled. But, he obeyed Klaus’ request. It was like a child obeying their parent.
– I guess this guy’s never had a friend before.
Klaus kept that rude remark about the still confused looking Alois as he raised his own hand. He had hated this cold man who martyred himself for the sake of the territory.
But, now, maybe not so much.
Klaus chuckled to himself mockingly as he raised his hand up to Alois’ own.
Then, slapped his palm against Alois’ hand.
That dry sound echoed through the lot.
As the echoes bounced against the walls and up into the nascent spring sky, it signaled an end to all the uproar.