Four Party Talks Concerning the Duke’s Daughter (Part 2)
“Your Majesty, I’m sure that you still mean to have words with Prince Algard about this situation, but no matter what the result of that may be, I would request that you make the annulment of his engagement with Euphie official.”
“I will make it so, so please raise your head, Grantz.”
Once Euphilia had calmed down, Grantz had turned to bow down low to Orfans.
Once Grantz raised his head, Orfans looked on with a bitter expression.
“…Algard has certainly caused no end of trouble. Truth be told, I do not know if there’s anything I can say to make this right. The only thing I can do now is to do the same myself. I’m sorry about all of this, Grantz, Euphilia.”
“Your Majesty! Even if it’s just us here, you mustn’t lower your head…!”
“That’s right, Orfans. Could you please not trouble Euphie like that?”
“Sometimes, I need to act as a person, not as a King. Honestly though, being a father, is it really worth it? Really, it’s tough. Daughters especially.”
Orfans and Grantz shared a laugh, as Anne-Sophia rubbed her sore neck.
Euphilia couldn’t help but stare in surprise as her father laughed, it was as if she were seeing an entirely new side of him today, or at the very least, a side she hadn’t seen in a long time.
“So, Princess Anne-Sophia. I have no qualms with leaving Euphilia in your care. That is, if Euphilia agrees of course, and you also agree to my conditions.”
“Yes! …Yes? Conditions?”
The smile that had spread to her lips as she heard those first magic words quickly faded as she mulled over the word ‘conditions’, tilting her head.
Putting back on a face more befitting of a Duke, Grantz sat upright. That warm expression he had share with Euphilia just moments ago had returned to that ice-cold mask as he looked at Anne-Sophia.
“If you want me to agree to leaving Euphilia under your care, then I would ask that Her Highness reasserts her claim to the throne.”
Anne-Sophia cried out in shock at Grantz’s words. Her mouth hung open, looking at Grantz as if she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
Sitting next to her, Orfans raised an eyebrow.
“What are your intentions behind this, Grantz?”
“If things continue as is, there is a chance that Prince Algard may not succeed the throne.”
Anne-Sophia blurted that out at Grantz, who didn’t seem to be fazed by her shout at all.
“I have doubts about his credentials as a ruler, whilst I have no doubts about your competency, Your Highness. If you were properly reeducated, then you could certainly be a proper royal.”
“No way no way, it’s impossible! Did you suddenly go blind, Lord Grantz?!”
“Certainly, as you are now, your behaviour and mannerisms leave much to be desired for a member of the royal family, Princess Anne-Sophia. However, that’s if one only views that through the lens of the country’s current system.”
“Just what are you after, Grantz?”
“Orfans, don’t you think it would be interesting to see what this strange daughter of yours would do as Queen?”
A second full-blown scream. Anne-Sophia stared bug-eyed at Grantz, as if he’d gone mad. Even Euphilia couldn’t help but stare as she heard a proposal she’d never have expected her father to make.
“Are you serious? Did you lose your mind? Why? Why? Lord Grantz, what did I ever do to you?! Why are you trying to subject me to this kind of cruel and unusual punishment?!”
“I merely have the country’s best interests at heart.”
“If you put me in charge, then the country will be ruined, you know?! No no no, this is totally and completely a huge no!”
“That’s why I will put Euphilia by your side. By staying by Princess Anne-Sophia’s side, Euphilia will come to understand Magicology, whilst Euphilia can manage affairs of state by utilizing the education she received as a potential future Queen.”
“What you’re saying is totally crazy?!”
It really was crazy. Even Anne-Sophia, who was the definition of crazy for a lot of people, couldn’t help but think what Grantz was saying was absurd. But, Grantz didn’t seem perturbed.
“Well, that’s only a hypothetical, of course.”
“…Ah. So, you meant that I should act like a stalking horse for Allie?”
Anne-Sophia slapped a fist into her palm as if she suddenly realized, whilst Grantz nodded to a much more appeased looking Princess.
“Even if Your Highness were to reassert her right to succession, you would still be second in line to the throne. As the eldest son, Prince Algard would still hold primogeniture.”
“Well, yeah, that’s true? If you follow the law, that’s how it is.”
“However, Princess Anne-Sophia, you’re hardly one known for following the law.”
“No, no, no, don’t act like it’s a foregone conclusion?! I told you, it’s impossible!”
“However, if Prince Algard is disinherited, then there truly will need to be someone in reserve? If the Prince is deemed to be unworthy, then the throne will naturally pass along to you, Your Highness.”
“Are you trying to do Allie in?! Actually, wait, are you trying to form a faction to do Allie in, is that it?! No way, you want me to be the figurehead for your faction as well?! Has that been your goal all along?!”
All Anne-Sophia wanted to do was study Magicology and enjoy the fruits of her research. The main reason she had chosen to stay in the royal family was that it was a good way to prevent the results of her studies from being misused. If there hadn’t been any danger, she’d always thought it would’ve been nice to leave the palace and settle down in the countryside.
Well, she probably wouldn’t do that anyway, since it would’ve upset her parents too much. So, in order not to agitate Algard she’d always made a big song and dance about how she wasn’t interested in the throne. But, whilst she considered her accomplishments molehills in regards to the successorship, Algard had seen them as mountains.
“…Hmm, so that’s your aim. I don’t think it’s a poor plan at all, Anise.”
“Ha? Father, are you finally going senile? Please, don’t say such desperate things! You’re the most important pillar of the country! If something happens to you, who would the people look to?!!”
“Kahh! Were you just born to test my fist’s patience?! Can you reflect on yourself just once?!”
Anne-Sophia’s panic deepened as Orfans began to raise his hand, but smacking her upside the head right now wouldn’t solve anything.
Trying to settle himself, he reached out instead and rang the small bell on the table, calling in a maid to serve fresh tea. After the tea was served and the maid left the room, Orfans turned again to talk to Anne-Sophia.
“Oh, Anise, you certainly are the Kingdom’s most problematic child, and the chief agitator of the Royal Solar Plexus.”
“What an awful set of titles? Well, I’m fine with them, though. Please, go on.”
“However, deep down in your being, I know you have a good heart and keen sense… To tell you the honest truth, amongst the retainers, you are more popular than Algard is, Anise.”
Anne-Sophia’s eyes widened like a rabbit suddenly hit by a crossbow bolt.
Whilst staring at his stunned looking daughter, Orfans suppressed a sigh as he rubbed his forehead and continued.
“You certainly have your… problematic qualities. However, it is believed that you would also have the necessary pluck and spirit to properly deal with a crisis situation, should one arise. There’s also a certain view that you aren’t truly out to hurt anyone, and that the goal for your research has always been to improve the lives of the people. In short, you’re a problem child, but one that should be evaluated further.”
“No, I’m really just doing whatever I want, though… It’s not as if I’m doing it for anyone e- Uh, yes, sure, right. And?”
Orfans’ eyes grew stern as he held his tongue for a moment. Anne-Sophia shifted backwards slightly, trying to read his mood. After a cough, Orfans continued.
“If you become serious about competing for the throne, you’ll find that there are people ready to take up your banner.”
“Huh… HUH?! Wait, then you’re serious about making me Allie’s stalking horse, Father?!”
“If having a true rival inspires Algard to steady and cultivate himself, then all is well. If not, then I shall endeavour instead to finally tie a rope around your neck and rein you in. The two worst-case scenarios, either Algard becoming an incompetent king or the Kingdom being left with no successor, I will not allow either to happen.”
“Tie a rope around my neck, doesn’t that sound like you’re gonna kill me?! Ah, wait, you wanna keep me like a pet?! Like livestock, is that it?!”
Orfans stared seriously at his daughter, whilst Anne-Sophia, on the other hand, showed a rare look of genuine terror.
“No way, no way no waaaaaaaaaaaaay! Me, A Queen?! Seriously?! My apologies, I’m not interested in what you’re selling. Well then, please have a lovely day, I’ll be going.”
“We are not finished talking.”
“Pah! Well, whatever, so long as Miss Euphilia refuses then none of this matters, right?!”
“Oho? You were talking of what you wished to do for my daughter before, but now that push has come to shove, you’re going to abandon Euphie so easily…?”
“Et tu, Lord Grantz…?!”
Grantz’s eyes were dead serious. Anne-Sophia, who had faced down the killing intent of monsters many times before, flinched as she saw a vision of death in his eyes.
“Whilst I wish for Euphie’s happiness, of course, I am still a Duke. If Prince Algard is proven to be an unsalvageable option, then I won’t hesitate to take the next necessary step.”
“That’s it! If Father just has another baby…!”
“You expect your mother to give birth at her age?”
“Ah, no, I mean… no. Anyways, no matter what, I hate it. I unconditionally refuse. There’s absolutely no chance! There’s no way that I can be a Queen!”
“That’s what Euphie is there for, no matter what you do, there won’t be a problem.”
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! So this is what Illya felt when I had the moat filled! I’ve never felt like this before and I haaaaaaate it!!”
Anne-Sophia cried into her hands. The right to contest the throne that she thought that she’d abandoned in the woods long ago had suddenly just knocked on her door to say hello. Along with a whole load of baggage. Ahh, how could this happen?! God is dead! Anne-Sophia seethed to herself as she thought that.
Euphilia could barely keep up, so she just watched on silently. Anne-Sophia moaned and murmured to herself for a while, then suddenly took her face out of her hands and sat up bolt straight.
Euphilia couldn’t help but be surprised by the sudden switch, since when she stared at Anne-Sophia now, it was as if she was a different person to how she was a few seconds beforehand.
“And, so, how long will the grace period be?”
“By a grace period, I assume you mean in regards to Prince Algard?”
“Yes. Father, Lord Grantz, I would like to know how long a period of time you are allowing Algard to correct himself.”
“…Two years. However, if something serious happens again within the next year, I will not hesitate to take away his right of succession.”
“In other words, we should know where we stand after roughly one year, is that it? Judging by that amount of time, I’m guessing that you don’t want to be seen as too aggressively breaking old customs, correct?”
“Of course. And until such a time that we can figure out whether Algard will stand or fall, I want you to remain quiet and out of the spotlight.”
“I understand completely. I don’t want the country to become full of strife either, of course. But, if I think it’s necessary, then I’ll be the one to drive Algard out myself. Is that fine with you? I’ll have to become a despot. Otherwise, nobody will accept the old customs being broken. I’m not a charitable person, if someone will stand in my way, then I’m prepared to sit on a throne made from coffins. Humans can be demons if they need to be.”
Euphilia recoiled in shock when she saw Anne-Sophia’s eyes, which were completely expressionless, as if they’d been replaced by glass balls.
Sitting beside the slightly trembling Euphilia, Grantz laughed heartily.
“It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen that face.”
“Lord Grantz, you must be jesting.”
“You’re always like this when the blood goes to your head, still a problem child, but in a very different way. Argh, but why did you have to flip this switch in this situation of all times…?! Just why are you… so unbalanced like this?!”
“Haaaaaaaaaa?! This is why I told you that I don’t wanna do it, because I’ll end up like that! No waaay! And you want to put me in a cage and keep me quiet?! Caged up like that, for a whole year?! Fine, I’ll put up with this pain in the ass situation for a year, but afterwards, you have to give me a budget!”
Immediately switching back into acting like a child throwing a tantrum, Anne-Sophia’s rigid posture broke down and she yelled back at her father. Opening her legs and sinking back into her chair, she covered her face with her hands.
“If we’re to hit you with the stick, I suppose it does make sense to hold out a carrot as well.”
“Don’t worry, Euphie. Princess Anne-Sophia doesn’t usually throw tantrums like this. However, when she does throw tantrums, she becomes a singularly useless double-edged sword, as you can thusly see. You would do well to keep this in mind from now on.”
“At any rate, this budget. You say that she never asks for any jewellery, dresses or anything of the like. Compared to the princesses of the past, wouldn’t you say that she’s a lot cheaper, Orfans?”
“She’s the most expensive Princess in history when it comes to her father’s stress levels! Ah, she has such a kind heart, however… It would be nice if she could learn to care a bit more about my poor stoma- NOWAH?!”
“What did you say just now, you Father who has torn his daughter’s hopes and dreams to shreds?!”
“As if you can talk, you idiot daughter!”
Euphilia felt her mouth twitching as she watched the Princess and the King fighting on the sofa.
“Princess Anne-Sophia, asking merely to be allocated a budget, don’t you think that you’re asking for too little?”
As the royal pair pinched each other’s cheeks whilst they tumbled, Grantz asked her that question with a straight face. Anne-Sophia stopped fighting her father and regained her composure, as she shook her head at Grantz’s question.
“Lord Grantz, the royal budget is the blood, sweat and tears of the people. It ought to be seen as the fertilizer that nourishes the country. It isn’t something that should be spent or thought of frivolously.”
“In that case, why not ask for something other than an allocation of the budget?”
“Other than the budget? Ehh, then, materials? But, I can just go hunting for those myself…”
Anne-Sophia thought of what she could possibly want other than money, especially since she was the kind of person who preferred to personally collect the things that she needed herself.
She didn’t have anything in particular that she could ask of the country, she concluded. Well, other than being excused from this whole ‘right to succession’, thing. But she didn’t even bother saying it, since she knew that it wasn’t going to happen.
“Relatedly, is that rumour true?”
“That you only love those of the same-sex.”
“Ah… Hmm, how should I put it? Certainly, when it comes to getting friendly and falling in love with someone, I’d much prefer a woman. As for men, hmm, I suppose it’s fine if they just want to be friends, but… It’s hard to explain, but I feel my skin crawl just thinking about having a man as my partner? Like, it’s physically impossible for me, it feels like. So, I suppose I avoid them just in case they say something weird or try to touch me, I guess you could say…?”
“Just listening to this is giving me a headache…”
As Anne-Sophia awkwardly tried to explain her preferences, Orfans rubbed his temples in exasperation.
Hearing what she had to say, Grantz meanwhile tapped his chin and closed his eyes.
“Quite… I see… In that case, there’s no need to rush. It would be a good idea to submit a request once you’ve had some time to think about what you would like.”
“I think that’s a good idea as well. Father, are you fine with that?”
“It matters not to me. Anise… My apologies. Despite what I said, I know that this really is something you truly dislike.”
“The one I’m mad at is… Allie! Ahh, I hate thiiiis! Ohh, I really hope nothing bad happens, pleaaaase!!”
This side of the royal family made Euphilia’s eyes glaze over slightly, as if her ideal of the monarchy she’d formed in her mind was crumbling before her eyes.
“Euphie, you as well. Are you happy to study magicology under Princess Anne-Sophia?”
“Eh? Ah, yes. I’ve actually been interested in Anne-Sophia’s research since I saw some of the results of it yesterday.”
“So long as nothing drastic happens, Princess Anne-Sophia will be recusing herself from the spotlight for an entire year. This will be a good opportunity for you to rest for a while as well.”
“Yes. Thank you very much for your considerate words.”
Despite the formal language, Euphilia smiled happily at her father as she thanked him. Watching Euphilia, Grantz’s cold and business-like mask softened just a bit.
＊ ＊ ＊
Once the meeting was over, Euphilia and Grantz sat in the carriage, returning back to their estate.
Now that she’d already talked to her father, Euphilia smiled at the thought of talking to her mother, who had always warmly taken care of her. Somehow, the way that Princess Anne-Sophia had fussed and worried over her had reminded her of her mother.
“…Euphie, Please listen carefully.”
“Yes? What is it, Father?”
“What do you think of Princess Anne-Sophia? You may answer as honestly as you like. If you have any criticisms of her, I promise to keep them in confidence.”
“…If I have to describe her in a word, it would be ‘unique’. But, I don’t think she’s a bad person. She may be troublesome, it’s true, but I also think that…”
“Is it possible for you to come to enjoy her company? I wouldn’t want to force you into spending a year with someone you despise.”
“That’s… yes. She may have somewhat… strange sensibilities, but in a situation where no one would help me, she was the one who reached out a hand to me. I can’t exactly say I can relax completely around her, but…”
It was only yesterday that Euphilia and Anne-Sophia had properly made a connection, after all. But, although she was wary of her behaviour and inclinations, it wasn’t as if she disliked her either. In fact, the feelings she held towards Anne-Sophia, who had saved her in her most desperate moment, were far from those of dislike.
“She really hasn’t changed much at all, that Princess.”
Grantz swallowed back his smile and coughed as if he were clearing his throat. Meanwhile, Euphilia tilted her head in confusion s she looked at her father.
“Father, are you close with Princess Anne-Sophia?”
“As Duke Magneta, we’ve had no official relationship. However, anyone involved in His Majesty’s inner circle of advisors will have had some sort of contact with her, whether they want to or not. She’s always been pure, innocent and wild, that hasn’t changed much at all since she was a young girl. Like a hurricane that doesn’t know how to keep still.”
Hearing that troublesome-sounding comparison from a man such as her father, Euphilia began to feel a little uneasy about what her future held.
“Euphie, please just listen to me, and consider everything I say past this point simply as possibilities.”
“Yes? What is it?”
“Standing beside Princess Anne-Sophia, is that something you can imagine for yourself at any point?”
“…? I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand the question…?”
“She may have the power of a tornado, but she is also a power that is fleeting, and could melt away into the wind on a whim. Other than her exclusive maid, she doesn’t have anyone she can truly rely on. She doesn’t even truly open up her heart to her parents.”
“…Princess Anne-Sophia is… fleeting…?”
With her impression of the Princess up until now, it wasn’t an analogy Euphilia could truly understand. To her, Anne-Sophia seemed wild and unrestrained, able to push forward and devastate anything foolish enough to get in her way, whether she meant to or not.
Seeing that Euphilia didn’t quite grasp his meaning, Grantz shook his head and continued.
“When the winds inside of her die down, Princess Anne-Sophia loses her lustre. You saw it yourself, didn’t you? When the Princess said that she would become a despot if necessary to remove Prince Algard. That’s also another side of her. It doesn’t show up very often, but…”
“…To be honest, it scared me.”
“If she were to become Queen, those winds would inevitably come to a halt. As a Queen, for the sake of the people and the country, she would use her talents and the land would develop quickly. You may say that’s what royalty is supposed to be, and I wouldn’t disagree. However, Princess Anne-Sophia is also the type who doesn’t forgive easily. What’s more, Orfans has myself, your mother and Her Majesty as close-confidants. But, Princess Anne-Sophia wouldn’t have such things as a Queen.”
“…She would be isolated as a ruler, you mean?”
“It’s because she understands herself completely that she exaggerated a threat of becoming a despot. She doesn’t want to become the monstrous sort of Queen she knows she’s capable of being. But, it’s also true that she has the makings of an excellent ruler. I’m sure you can understand Orfans’ headache a bit, now.”
“So, you’re telling me to support Princess Anne-Sophia, as someone she can confide in?”
“I will never tell you what to be or what to do ever again. But, the truth is that the Princess is very unstable. I believe the behaviour you saw before was a reaction to being thrust into a troublesome situation she couldn’t escape the usual way.”
Unstable. It’s true that, after seeing a glimpse of Anne-Sophia acting like a propped up doll, Euphilia couldn’t deny it.
The Anne-Sophia who always wore a bright smile and rushed from one thing to another, and that cold-faced Anne-Sophia who seemed ready to sacrifice everything that stood in her way. It was as if she were flitting between two extremes. If that wasn’t unstable, then what was?
“It would be nice if she could be somewhat less of a problem child as well… No, perhaps that’s just how her personality is. In any case, I’ve long since talked with Orfans about this, and we’ve agreed that she needs someone in her life to act as her foil, her supporter, and her anchor. And, as you can see, she adamantly refuses to take a husband or be married off somewhere.”
“Just why does she go so far in refusing…?”
“That’s not something that Orfans, or even her mother the Queen, can truly pry into. I’m sure that her personal maid would have more insight into her feelings, though. And that leads me to my point, Euphie. I will be straight-forward with you. If you decide that you would like to act in tandem with the rumours surrounding Princess Anne-Sophia, I will not rebuke you in any way.”
Just what did her father say? Euphilia tried to make sense of the words she just heard.
“If Prince Algard manages to right himself, then a child is unnecessary. In fact, even were it to become necessary for Princess Anne-Sophia to become Queen, then adopting a child of Prince Algard would allow the royal line to be continued without problems.”
“Just… what are you saying…?”
“We’re merely discussing possibilities, remember? I’m not telling you to fall in love with Princess Anne-Sophia.”
“That’s! I…! Right, wasn’t she herself unclear when confirming those rumours in the first place?!”
“Forgive me for being blunt, Euphie. But, there’s a part of me that’s also deeply worried about you, since a man has so badly hurt you.”
Grantz couldn’t meet her eyes as he looked troubled. Euphilia almost forgot what they were talking about as she stared at her father, since this was the first time she had ever seen him show weakness like that.
“No matter what happens, so long as you’re happy, then that’s all that matters. I’m sure that both I and the House will manage in your absence. Just for a year, try and stay by her side, not as the daughter of Duke Magneta, but simply as Euphie. Be that as a friend, or something else, either way, it’s fine. I’m certain that she will treat you well.”
“…Thank you for your concern. I can’t deny that, um, I’d rather not be around a man right now… And when it comes to something like friendship or… um, love… I’ve always put my duty of becoming a Queen first, so I’ve never really thought about it…”
“That’s the reason I brought it up. I’m sure that, right now, you’re also feeling unstable. So, like I said, I’m worried.”
“…And that’s why you’d like me to become close with Princess Anne-Sophia?”
“That Princess, do you think she’s the kind of person to be two-faced?”
Whilst Euphilia was certain that Anne-Sophia didn’t have any malicious thoughts towards her, she couldn’t shake her impression of the Princess as a raging wind.
She couldn’t see what the future could hold. Just what would become of the two of them, and so on. And, just what did Anne-Sophia want of her?
But, no matter what happens, she was certain it wouldn’t be peaceful. Even if she didn’t like it, she had to admit that the destination Anne-Sophia was hurtling towards every day of her life was not a quiet one.
＊ ＊ ＊
“Ah… ACHOOOOOO!! …Ugh… Someone’s talking about me, aren’t they?”
“Why are you making such a serious pose when you’re meant to be taking off your dress?! Please, hurry up and get changed, Your Highness!”
“Owowowow! Don’t phull on miee cheeekhhh?!”
Dad ships it.