Let’s Hear The Story!
“Eh? Finne…!? You’re wearing such a beautiful dress, and why does your skin look so glossy!? Weren’t you being bullied by the Riefenstahls’ young lady!?”
“Lady Liselotte let me wear her dresses that she had kept from when she was around my height, and she’s also letting me eat lots of good food every day. And there’s no way a kind person like Lady Liselotte would bully me, since we’re friends!”
As Finne approached her mother like that, she had an angry expression on her face.
『Liselotte looks really happy at those woooooooooooooords!』
『Lately, it seems like she’s really happy that she’s become such good friends with Finne-chan. Good on you, Rize-tan! By the way, it seems like she kept the caveat that eight of the ten dresses she gave Finne weren’t hand-me-downs, but in fact, custom tailored orders she had prepared.』
As I struggled to keep a straight face whilst hearing the Gods’ words about Liselotte, I suddenly noticed the Marquis approaching Finne with an earnest look on his face.
He wasn’t looking at me, or anyone else around me either. The Marquis’ eyes were fixed squarely on Finne, as he nervously opened his mouth to speak.
“…Please forgive my rudeness, but, may I ask how old you are?”
“Umm… I’m fifteen, but, why…?”
Finne replied just as nervously.
“Is that so? Is that… so… So it really is the case, after all. Ah, your eyes truly are similar. Just like the colour of the sky. It is a pleasure to finally meet you, young lady. My name is Bruno Riefenstahl. I am Liselotte’s father, as well as your father…’s brother.”
The Marquis said that with a trembling smile, though it looked like he was about to burst into tears again at any moment.
『Finne-chan’s father was the late August Riefenstahl, the older brother of the Marquis who passed away 16 years ago. As for her mother… Well, the woman who was going on a rampage until just a moment ago, her name is Elizabeth (ex) Marschner. She was once called the Fairy Princess of the Duchy of Marschner.』
Whilst I didn’t want to doubt the veracity of Coebayashay’s testament, I couldn’t help but impulsively think that it was completely impossible.
When one says the words ‘Fairy Princess’, the only thing that came to mind was the tragic love story between the handsome August Riefenstahl and a fragile ephemeral beauty that was still such a popular story amongst the gossiping circles of high society.
As I stared at her in disbelief, it was like she instinctively noticed my gaze as she locked eyes with me.
Then, curtseying elegantly, she smiled so gently it was like a flower coming into bloom. With such beauty and grace, she truly did reflect the stories I had heard of the Fairy Princess, but when I considered just how she had been behaving up until now, I was perfectly confused.
The Marquis, Finne, Elizabeth and myself.
For some reason, the four of us were left to try and untangle this situation, and we were set up in the Riefenstahl Castle parlour.
The reason why there were only four of us now was that Artur had asked Liselotte’s younger sisters to give him a tour of the castle. Of course, Liselotte followed along to keep Art under close surveillance. I had wanted to go along with her as well, but since Liselotte asked me to hear the story on her behalf, I had no choice but to stay, no matter how unwilling I was.
“I believed that my daughter, Finne, had been kidnapped by the Riefenstahl family, so I rushed here with all haste.”
Despite wearing a plain and simple dress that common women favoured because it was easy to move around in, Elizabeth both sat and spoke elegantly.
“Sister-in-Law, please don’t try and act innocent now. If you were to tell the whole truth, you scaled my castle’s walls in an attempt to recapture Finne, did you not?”
She really wasn’t an elegant person at all. Seemingly giving up acting like the ‘Fairy Princess’ when she saw how the Marquis looked at her, Elizabeth shrugged and sunk back into her armchair indifferently.
“As I came home, my daughters and I noticed that someone had broken in, so we set out to subdue what I assumed to be a lone thief. By the time I realized that said intruder was, in fact, you, Sister-In-Law, the situation had already gotten out of hand. To show His Highness such an unsightly display, I truly cannot express how deep my regret is…”
As he said that, the Marquis bowed his head in apology to me. No, I really just came here to play with my fiancée, you don’t need to apologize to me. If anything, you should save that for Finne, who has shrunk so far back into her seat it’s like she isn’t even there as she hid her embarrassed expression behind her hands. It looks like she can barely follow what’s happening, either.
“Ah… Well, Finne, your father, although he didn’t inherit the title of Marquis, was my wonderful elder brother. Although if you add up all my sisters and brothers our family had five siblings, amongst them all, my older brother and your father was always the kindest person to me.”
As the Marquis gently called out to Finne, she listened quietly as she watched him through the gaps between her fingers.
“But since he was so sickly, he was never truly considered for the inheritance of the Rifenstahl lands… In fact, they said he wasn’t even going to see his adult years, didn’t they…?”
The Marquis’ shoulders drooped despondently.
They must have been very close as brothers… Actually, I heard from my father that the Marquis had been something of a brocon. In fact, if I remember correctly, the main reason why the Marquis became so skilled in combat is that he honed his swordsmanship to protect his brother.
“So, my parents, the Duke and Duchess of Marschner, wouldn’t allow me to get engaged to August, rather they wanted to make sure that I would marry whoever would become the Head of the Riefenstahl house, so they pushed towards me marrying Bruno. Even when Bruno was married to Josefine instead, they still didn’t give up, they tried to separate me from August even when I wanted to have his child… Ah, maybe this isn’t the kind of thing I should go into when my daughter is here. Anyways, I became a single mother. Well, I only realized I was pregnant after August passed away, to be honest. When the Duke and Duchess of Marschner found out, they were so angry I was certain they would try and kill me, even though I was with child, so I stole a lot of gold and jewellery from my parent’s home and escaped. That’s why I told you that I ‘angered some of the high ranking nobles in the capital’.”
Elizabeth told Finne that as if it weren’t any big deal.
Although the Marquis has been treating Elizabeth as his Sister-in-Law, I had definitely heard the story about how the Duke of Marschner had barred the marriage between herself and August. The sad tale of the tragic lovers who were torn apart by their family circumstances, with one of them eventually dying, was such a popular tragedy that people still talked about it today.
“Why…? Why did you run away!? Making enemies of my brother, as well as his wife and child, I could have rallied the entirety of the Rifenstahl house to kill them!!”
“That’s exactly why! An all-out bloody feud between the Duke’s house and the Marquis’ house wouldn’t have been a good thing at all!”
Even though the Marquis looked furious, Elizabeth rebutted him straight away.
“Ahh, jeez, think about it, will you? What would have happened to Finne if you made her the catalyst of such a war? Or me? Or even August? Would you have been able to keep everyone in your house safe as well? Your little daughter… Or should I say daughters now, they grew up so well, why would you want to put them at risk? And, look, of course Josefine wouldn’t want to fight either, right? Speaking of which, where is Josefine?”
After finishing admonishing her brother-in-law, it was as if Elizabeth only just realized the absence of her sister-in-law as she looked around, puzzled.
“…My wife is currently staying in her atelier up in the mountains.”
The Marquis replied with a slightly displeased look.
The Marquis’ wife, Josefine Riefenstahl, was a painter.
She was a venerated artist who made her art under a false name when she was still merely a viscount’s daughter, so even after becoming a Duchess, she leaves behind her work as a Marquess to Liselotte and her father and retreats into the mountains to paint. But, well, considering what I’ve heard about her, there wasn’t much much they could do to stop her.
“Oh, did she get heated up about some new inspiration again?”
“No, if anything, it’s because this place itself has gotten too hot. I wonder if she’ll even come back down until autumn?”
“Ah… Well… well… Anyways, putting that aside! At least until she’s fully grown, I don’t think this child’s history should become known! That’s why I was hiding her in the first place!”
Miss Elizabeth suddenly turned the topic of discussion on its head. Apparently, she’s going to pretend she hadn’t even asked.
“But, last year, the people from the House finally found us. They tried to kill me together with Finne, but Finne is strong, you know? She barely needed my help to beat them all up.”
I suppose that means that the incident that caused the discovery of a strange common-born girl who could use magic wasn’t instigated by some random thugs, then?
“Finne can take care of herself. If anything, I was the one endangering her by staying close. That’s what I thought, so I decided to let her be protected at the school. That academy, not even the Duke’s family could interfere with it so easily.”
Well, the academy is isolated and guarded against the outside world to such a degree that even I am permitted to walk around its grounds without an escort, so it really is quite safe for its students. Miss Elizabeth was completely right.
“Also, I was thinking that it would be really great if Finne could catch some good strong lad who could help protect her as well when she’s at school.”
As her mother continued on, Finne nearly choked in surprise.
After turning to look at her daughter, Elizabeth kept going after a quiet sigh.
“That house that tried to kill Finne and me, I don’t think they will ever forget about us, and should worst come to worst, they might even try to use her. As a pawn in some political marriage, for example. But if she falls in love and gets married before something like that happens, she’ll have a way to refuse them and an ally to stand by her side. Well, that’s just my selfish desire, though.”
『Ohhh? When she talks about having a boy protect her, I feel like that might be closer to reality than she thinks!』
『Someone whose name starts with B and ends in R, if her relationship with that unlucky lover goes well, then it’s a perfect fit, right? Well, of course, it doesn’t have to be him, but I personally give him my seal of approval!』
Endow and Coebayashay’s voices descended from the heavens.
And for some reason, they sounded like parents trying to nudge their daughter into a relationship.
“Well then, Finne. For the time being, I suppose that makes you my sister, doesn’t it?”
As she said that, Liselotte gracefully entered the parlour. As she passed into the room, I saw Art holding the door open for her as she passed through.
Did someone beat him up and then heal him? Although Art’s face seemed normal enough, when I looked down I could see that his clothes were in tatters. What’s more, he was behaving like Liselotte’s servant.
Simply put, did he receive some sort of severe educational guidance from her?
I couldn’t resist double releasing. I’m sure you’ll understand why when you read on.