The Kingdom’s Most Maverick Eccentric
Anne-Sophia’s request couldn’t be accepted or rejected right then and there. Orfans informed them that he would be discussing the matter with various individuals involved, and dismissed Anne-Sophia and Euphilia for the evening.
“You’re staying at the royal palace tonight, right? Miss Euphilia?”
“Y-Yes… I would return home, but it’s already so late…”
“Then, do you want to stay in my room?”
The moment Anne-Sophia asked her that, Euphilia stepped back and wrapped her arms around herself in protection. As Euphilia looked as wary as she could possibly be, even Anne-Sophia was slightly taken aback.
Well, it was an understandable reaction. If you’re asked that question, after hearing what you just had, then there were some rather immodest implications.
“So, the rumours really were true…?”
“That Princess Anne-Sophia… um… prefers the same-sex…”
“Ahh, that’s true, that’s true. Well, it’s not as if I find men disgusting, but when it comes to marrying someone, there’s no way it could be a man! If I’m going to fall in love, it has to be a beautiful mature lady or a cute girl, right?!”
Just what was she saying with such a pure smile? Euphilia thought to herself that her title as the Kingdom’s Top Problem Child really wasn’t for show.
Despite being Algard’s fiancee, Euphilia didn’t have much prior contact with Anne-Sophia. In fact, the two of them were intentionally kept apart.
It wasn’t as if she wasn’t completely ignorant of her, though, and even if she wasn’t one to gossip, if rumours are repeated enough she’ll eventually hear them whether or not she wants to.
“But, what about your principles as a member of royalty…?”
“I left that sort of thing in Mother’s stomach when I moved out!”
“Don’t you feel sorry for Her Majesty?!”
“…Well, I guess if you put it that way…”
“Then don’t you think you ought to do something about it?!”
Euphilia began to feel her own headache coming on. Pinching the bridge of her nose in exasperation, she realized she was far too exhausted to warrant continuing this conversation. She couldn’t understand the Princess’ thought process at all.
She wanted to turn on her heel and never look back, having such a strange person look at them in such a strange way, but she knew full well that in doing so she’d be turning her back on her own future.
The prediction that Anne-Sophia shared with Orfans back in the study wasn’t off the mark, Euphilia herself could see that was the most likely outcome.
Likewise, Anne-Sophia’s suggestion of earning credit to rebuild her reputation wasn’t a bad one, either. The problem is that the one giving out the credit here would be none other than that Anne-Sophia.
“Now, now, instead of thinking about me, let’s think more about your future, Miss Euphilia. It’s our royal family that’s wronged you after all, right? If we don’t do something about this soon, then Lord Grantz is going to take my Father on a date to the Festival of Blood.”
“…I don’t think Father would do something like that. If anything, he’ll just scold me…”
For the sake of the nation’s future, she was to become someone worthy enough to become its next Queen. And the one who had guided her on the path was none other than her great father, Grantz Magneta. Just how could she face him now? Euphilia’s gaze dropped to her feet as her thoughts grew dark.
Euphilia truly had no idea about the details of the crimes she supposedly committed, but what she could understand is that they were probably fabricated to suit the desires of certain people. The House of Magneta is a very powerful ducal family, this may have all been part of a scheme to curb their power.
Just what on earth turned Algard from the path of reason, though, was another headache-inducing problem entirely. Just what could she have done to prevent it? Euphilia wondered about that to herself.
“You’re looking really down!”
As Euphilia was deep in thought, suddenly both her cheeks were pinched and squeezed. Then, they were sandwiched between Anne-Sophia’s hands.
“Like I thought, I really can’t afford to leave you alone right now, can I, Miss Euphilia?! Well, then, let’s go! To my room!”
“Eh, wait, hold on just a moment, Princess Anne-Sophia?!”
“I won’t take no for an answer!”
Hoisting Euphilia back over her shoulder, Anne-Sophia raced down the hall. As she was being royally abducted again, Euphilia couldn’t help but scream out in panic.
“S-Somebooody! Someone please stop Her Highness, someboooody!!”
Euphilia’s screams didn’t tail off, they only grew louder. But, the people they raced past in the halls could only offer wryly sympathetic grimaces in response to her desperate appeals.
It’s as if they were telling her it was futile. Then, pretending that they saw nothing, those knights and servants returned to their business.
＊ ＊ ＊
I return, my dear room!
After carrying her all the way here, I arrived at my room in the Royal Villa. Putting Miss Euphilia down, I cleared through the mountain range of documents that marked the spot where my desk stood until I found a chair for her.
“It’s a little messy, but make yourself at home. I’ll get a cup of tea prepared for you, so just wait a second.”
“…I believe I understand now. There’s no way I could stop you with words alone.”
I beamed at Miss Euphilia, whose shoulders sagged as if she’d given up.
My personal room was full to the rafters with research material and all sorts of other books and documents. I mainly use this room for brainstorming and theory crafting, whilst I do the more practical stuff in my workshop.
This Royal Villa itself is on the edge of the royal palace’s grounds. I used to have my own private room back in the royal palace, of course, but this villa was built partly because I’d conceded my right to be in line for the throne, and because I caused too many problems back at the main palace.
I was actually quite happy about it, but Father seemed like he was at his wit’s end when he ordered this place built. I really am a bad person, you say? Well, what’s done is done, right?
“Please excuse me, Your Highness.”
“Illya! Please serve some tea to help Miss Euphilia relax!”
After knocking once, my personal maid, Illya, entered the room. Having been with me for over ten years, she curtseyed once as if this was all par for the course, then set about readying the tea.
There’s a complete tea set already in my room, so it can be prepared straight away. Using a magical tool that took the shape of a tea kettle, Illya briskly set to work boiling the water and preparing leaves.
Miss Euphilia seemed somewhat impressed as she watched intently. It wasn’t just Illya’s skill either, she was also gazing at some of the magical tools I had in my room.
“There are so many magical tools, I’ve never seen some of these before, either…”
“Ah, that’s because I have a few prototypes laying around here that I haven’t released to the public, yet.”
“If anything, this place is full of terrifying traps. Once you get used to these tools, the thought of working anywhere else is…”
Illya muttered to herself, her eyes glazed over. How can she keep her face so expressionless? That’s scary.
Though, I guess it is true that there’s a lot of prototypes here that I tried to model after furniture and appliances that were commonplace in my previous life. I suppose Illya was the one who benefited from it the most.
“But, they’re convenient, so it’s fine, right?”
“The problem is that they’re too convenient. So, just how inconvenient must the wider world seem now by comparison? Truly an ominous thought, wouldn’t you say, Your Highness?”
“Well, it’s fine, since I really love the Illya who wants to stay with me forever!”
“Ha ha ha, and just who was the person who made sure that the outer moat of the palace was filled, simply so that I couldn’t escape?”
“Just who would do something so dreadful?! Hmmm, it was Father, wasn’t it? Just call me a detective!”
“Incorrect. The true culprit is the devil in front of me.”
“But I’m a human, Illya. Should we get your eyes checked?”
My banter with Illya was the same as ever, today. Well, we’ve been together for such a long time now and she was my crush back then, not to mention she got caught up in a few of my nostalgic experiments from when I was younger, so as a result Father assigned her the job of being my overseer.
But, even so, I take pride in the fact that I’ve made Illya’s day to day life quite a bit more convenient!
Miss Euphilia looked pretty shocked at our conversation. Hmm, well, I guess it makes sense? Even if she’s been a maid for the royal family for years now, she must be surprised to see us having a light chat, considering the difference in status.
“So, Your Highness. Just why is Prince Algard’s fiancee, Lady Euphilia, here?”
“Hmm? Oh, that’s because Allie broke off his engagement with Miss Euphilia at the graduation party. I saw that she was being backed into a corner, so I kidnapped her and brought her back to the palace.”
“…Amazing. I honestly don’t even know where I should start? First of all, just what on earth were you doing there? Secondly, breaking off an engagement in public like that? With Lady Euphilia? If this is a joke, it’s in quite poor taste.”
“Unfortunately, it’s the truth. You know what they say, truth is stranger than fiction, right?”
“I see, but that phrase has less persuasive power coming from the clinically insane.”
Well, I might say she’s being impudent, but this is how Illya and I have always been. It’s just how we show our love.
As we went back and forth, Miss Euphilia stayed quiet, and looked a little restless. Noticing this, Illya coughed as if to get the conversation back on track.
“And, so? Just why is Lady Euphilia here?”
“She’s here to be my test subj- AHEM… I was thinking that if she worked under me as an assistant, she might be able to earn some credit and help wipe away some of the rumours from the engagement being broken…?”
“…Are you serious?”
As Illya stared at me with dead-looking eyes, I nodded.
I don’t know why, but Illya turned to look at Miss Euphilia with a truly sympathetic expression on her face. It was like she was looking at a cow about to be sold off to the abattoir.
Miss Euphilia could only return Illya’s look with a puzzled expression, though. Sighing, Illya returned to look at me.
“…So, you’ve finally lost your mind, haven’t you? This truly is unfortunate, Your Highness. All this time I thought you making people unhappy was simply an unfortunate byproduct of your behaviour, but now you’re beginning to take real strides in entrapping people in misery, aren’t you?”
Wait wait wait, isn’t that actually a little too mean?!
＊ ＊ ＊
After Illya revealed her innermost thoughts, she sighed deeply as she ignored her master’s aghast expression, and returned to the matter at hand.
“Are you intending to ruin Lady Euphilia’s life?”
“I’m trying to do the opposite, actually?!”
“Uwah, she’s even saying she’s doing it for a good reason? The road to hell truly is paved with good intentions, isn’t it? What a devil.”
“Princess! I’m a princess, Illya!”
“Are you listening? I know better than anyone just what this means, since I can’t escape anymore. So, please take note of what I’m saying now; Have you truly gone mad? No, I suppose you’ve been mad since the beginning?”
Is she angry? Or bawling? Ignoring Anne-Sophia who beat ineffectually at her dress like a crying child, Illya turned to Euphilia once again.
There was something unsettling hidden in the depths of those eyes, but they were also overflowing with empathy. Euphilia found herself shrinking away from them involuntarily.
“Lady Euphilia, you shouldn’t be too hasty to accept. Please don’t listen to this devil whispering in your ear.”
“By no means should you make a deal with the devil. Understand? The moment you do, she’ll take your soul and drag you down to hell, you know?”
“D-Does she really want to do such awful things to me…?”
“No. The issue is the tendency to become ‘collateral damage’, and even if you get angry, ‘the ends will always justify the means’, Lady Euphilia.”
As she finished speaking, a shudder ran up Illya’s body, as if in telling Euphilia that she recalled some terrible memory.
Not quite understanding the meaning of the phrases she spoke, Euphilia looked at her in askance. Nearby, Anne-Sophia had given up on stopping Illya, and had resigned herself to sulking next to the desk.
“Lady Euphilia, no matter what, I can assure you that the Princess’ intentions no doubt come from a good place. Although I’m sure that some of her own personal desires played a part, she was thinking of you first and foremost.”
“Y-Yes… Well, I understood at least that much, somehow…”
“But, that isn’t the issue at hand. To phrase it one way, the Princess is like a strong drug.”
“A strong drug…? Ah, yes. I think I understand what you mean.”
“…I’m not sure if I should feel sad for the Princess that you didn’t deny or it, or pleased that you agree with me. At any rate, it’s fortunate that we’ve reached some form of understanding. However, I have to wonder if you understand just what I truly mean, Lady Euphilia.”
“…What do you mean by that?”
Euphilia’s eyebrows narrowed at Illya’s words. The idea that Anne-Sophia is a powerful drug was a simple enough idea for Euphilia to understand. What she had created had inherently changed and strengthened the power of the Kingdom of Palletia. She truly had many remarkable achievements to her name, even if she happened to also be the most infamous eccentric in the Kingdom.
What’s more, she also had the power to change her life, so she just didn’t understand what Illya’s problem was. Illya, meanwhile, correctly guessed that was how Euphilia interpreted it, so she continued to speak.
“The Princess’ inventions are wonderful. Just looking at the room around you, I’m sure you can already tell how incredible some of them really are.”
“Yes, I’m sure that if these spread to the world, everyone’s daily lives will improve.”
“And therein lies the problem.”
“Once you’ve entered this world of hers, there’s no going back. This needs to be made crystal clear; once you choose to go down this path, you’ll never be able to turn away from it.”
“Don’t you think that’s overstating it…?”
Illya raised her voice slightly, wondering if Anne-Sophia herself would have any objections. But, she remained slumped over the desk, barely moving at all.
Seeing that there was no rebuttal coming, Illya shook her head at Euphilia’s words.
“Imagine, for instance, if you took away fire from a civilization that had come to rely on it?”
“…Ah, I understand. So that’s how it is?”
“Yes. That’s why I’m telling you all this now. This place is far too ‘convenient’. The way that the Princess sees the world is too difficult for me to understand, but, once you’ve tasted the forbidden fruit, there’s no going back. Once you come to know that devilish convenience.”
Anne-Sophia’s inventions are truly amazing. But, because they’re so amazing, it’s hard to live without them once you’ve come to know them.
Once they’ve grown used to it, humans are loathe to give up the benefits of a convenient life. So, that’s why she compared Anne-Sophia to a powerful drug.
“Certainly, with the situation the way it is, to an observer it ‘looks like’ the royal family broke off their engagement with you. In that sense, gathering credit could be a way to fix things. Since Lady Euphilia is so talented, I’m sure it won’t be long before word of your achievements spread.”
“But, if I become immersed in the cutting edge… I see, it might be hard to leave once this is all over, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes. I’m sure that you can understand without me spelling it out, but to put it literally, “the way you see the world will totally change”. However… are you willing to still go along with this, despite knowing the risks? I have to ask you once more; are you serious? Do you understand what you’re getting into?”
“Why does it sound like your assessment of me is getting worse and worse? Actually, this feels less like personal evaluation, and more like you’re treating me as a dangerous substance?!”
“I see you’re up, Your Highness.”
Euphilia thought to herself as she began to understand. That, in truth, there was more to Anne-Sophia’s ‘strangeness’ than she first realized.
Anne-Sophia was someone that could transform the world around her. As for the person herself, the way she saw and interacted with the world was completely unique to anyone else she had ever met.
This was a point of no return. Once she crossed that line, there would be no going back. She couldn’t return to life the way it was before. In essence, that was Illya’s warning.
“I don’t quite know why you would be willing to go so far for me, but…”
“It’s because I like you as a woman.”
“Ah, right… I don’t know if I can agree with that part, but I understand. Instead, Your Highness, just why do you pursue magical research like this? What end are you trying to achieve in all this?”
Just what is Magicology in the first place?
It brought benefits that could transform the world as she knew it, but it could also serve as a truly addictive vice for humanity.
The two girls saw the world through a different lens and the two girls approached life in different ways. So, just where was the Princess’ path leading?
Euphilia didn’t have the answer to that question. When she tried to fathom the answer, she felt like she was staring into an abyss.
And, after mulling it over a bit, the abyss known as Anne-Sophia stared back and answered Euphilia’s question.
“You know that I can’t use normal magic, right?”
“One of my earliest memories is when I thought to myself ‘I wonder if I can fly using magic?’.”
People weren’t meant to fly in the sky. Nature intended them to walk the earth with their two feet planted on solid ground. That was obvious, since people don’t have wings.
So, Euphilia couldn’t understand why Anne-Sophia would have such thoughts.
“But, even if I talk about flying in the sky, it’s not quite that simple since there’s lots of things that fly, right? For example, birds and insects fly in different ways, and you even have things like flower seedlings that float on the air. And, if I decided that I wanted to float indefinitely in the air, then that would require a completely different line of thinking.”
“Ahh, how do I put this… I honestly thought that people should be able to do much more with magic. Especially since I can’t use it myself. It just feels like a huge waste, you know?”
“Yeah. A waste.”
“…And, that’s the reason…?”
Because she felt like it was a waste. Euphilia could feel that headache creeping back into her skull.
That’s all that she had to say? With just that simple motivation, she started to change the world? Ah, but, if one considers that she was looking at a completely different world to Euphilia, it begins to make sense.
Perhaps it’s something that Anne-Sophia could see, plain as day. When you’re dealing with someone so different, it’s useless to assume that anything seems impossible or ludicrous in their eyes.
“It’s a waste not to use what’s there, right? And it just so happens that I knew a method that could make things work my way. Ah, you probably already know, but I should mention that my innate magical power is top class! Just because I can’t use my magic the normal way like everyone else, it’s only normal to figure out a way to imitate and surpass it in a way that I can use, right? So, because I could do it, I did.”
Ahh, finally, Euphilia understood the true depths of her eccentricity.
It’s because this was all natural to her. Simply changing and shaping the world around her into an image she saw fit, that was all as natural as waking up and getting dressed in the morning. What a terrifying way of viewing the world. But, she understood that, in effect, it had turned out to benefit many people.
“That’s all there is to it. I wanted to do it, so I did, that’s just the way I am.”
“…You really are a frightening person, aren’t you, Princess Anne-Sophia?”
“You’re much more scary to me though, Miss Euphilia? Unless you think that being armed with a super powerful family, genius-level academics, mastery of all magical elements and excellent martial arts skills is normal? You’re like some kind of noble lady Einstein.”
“Eins…? I don’t quite understand what you mean by that last part, but I suppose I understand what you mean by the rest of it…?”
Ominous, isn’t that what Illya said earlier? Euphilia smiled to herself. The way this person looked at the world, she felt like she’d never quite be able to understand it.
She began to empathize with Algard a little bit, when he had mentioned to her how much he hated Anne-Sophia. If Anne-Sophia had been like this since the beginning, just what could Algard have thought, having to grow up alongside her?
She was sure that he must have felt the same way. That is, a feeling of fear, a feeling that one should run far away. The idea of being sucked into her world was terrifying. A world that she could change to her whims just as easily as she drew breath.
“To be honest, I’d be super glad if you help me out, Miss Euphilia. If you can lend me your aptitude for all the forms of magic, then I’ll be able to expand the range of my experiments. Without you, I don’t know if I can make it work.”
“You… really do need my help?”
“It could help out the country as well. Or, rather, it will. That’s part of why I can do what I like, after all. I can do whatever I want, so long as it can change the country.”
Right? Anne-Sophia seemed to say with a smile. She said that innocently, just like she was talking about normal future plans.
“So, Miss Euphilia, if you ever want to join me I’ll welcome you with open arms. Why don’t we change the world together? As for the future where we don’t, let’s kick it to the curb!”
She spoke with the voice of an angel, but Euphilia felt a chill run up her spine all the same, as if the devil had whispered in her ear.
The strangest, most eccentric person in the Kingdom. The pioneer of Magicology, and a person who was changing the world.
On that day, even if she would rather have been a hundred miles away, Euphilia Magneta came to understand the type of person Anne-Sophia von Palletia truly was.