I know that I am helpless.
Even when I was living as Maya Izumi, and even after I woke up as Arthirea.
The current state of Arthirea may be more likely to bite the feeling of helplessness.
The crown princess, a high position that would be the envy of anyone, is in fact a strained birdcage, unable to meet her husband of twelve years of marriage when she wants to.
“When did you notice it?”
It was a quiet, quiet voice.
The lights must have been blinding because he came out of the dark. He ran a hand over his forehead and squinted his eyes.
He looks calm, but he looks very different from the person I met when I returned here.
No, I suppose this is another aspect of him. People have different appearances.
It depends on the person you’re talking to, and the way you look at them at different times.
“I’m not sure how long it has been since it began, but it seems to have been a long time ago. I can’t remember. I’m only sure of that since I’ve been back here…”
I choose my words as I answer.
There are various meanings in them.
Arthirea probably knew.
I don’t remember now, but somehow I knew it.
I knew somehow that this person was at the center of all the complex entanglement—that there could be no one else other than him.
There were many events, from which new events were derived, and they interacted with each other like overlapping ripples to create the present.
Like the surface of a garden pond on a thunderous rainy day…
No one knows now what color the pond was.
I look at the one in front of me.
He was dressed in a simple outfit completely different from his usual opulence.
There was little embroidery or decoration. A white shirt, black leather pants, black soldier-like boots, and a black cloak lined with fur…When you dress in such a mundane outfit, you won’t recognize this person like you normally do.
In the style of a mystery novel, he’s the mastermind…
I had expected this, but it was still hard to think about it in a way that is beyond astonishing when I see it, directly in front of me like this.
To be honest, there’s nothing I can do.
If there is no law to judge him, and if the sin is on all those involved, then there is no one to punish and no one to know what to punish.
Just…I just wanted to know.
I don’t know what it was intended to be, but the resulting loneliness and despair that was created was the blade that pierced Arthirea on that winter lake.
That’s why I’m here…
Thinking about it always gives me a strange feeling…that my consciousness seems to be sucked away somewhere.
“That’s not what I meant. No, I don’t mind if that’s what you mean…”
He stared at me and I met his gaze straight away.
I was strangely calm.
I was calm, or rather, my emotions were very flat. I feel like I wouldn’t be swayed by anything he said now.
“…If your Majesty is here, then it’s been from the middle of a conversation with Her Majesty.”
“I thought I was out of sight.”
He let out a murmur, ‘I didn’t know you had noticed.’
I slowly stood up and made my bow to His Majesty.
In a normal cathedral congregational seat, there is not much space between the chairs lined up, so I can’t bow on the spot, but this is the cathedral of the Royal Crown Prrince, and this seat, which is supposed to be the seat of the Crown Prince and his Princess, is a special seat. Although it is not fashionable now, the old ceremonial gowns have a dome-shaped skirt in a pannier, and the space is spacious so that it is okay even in such a case. Therefore, there is no inconvenience at all in doing a ritual now.
“Don’t you find the rituals of this place ludicrous, Thia?
The name “Thia” has a somewhat mellow, sweet sound to it, and for some reason, every time I hear it, a shiver runs down my spine. I always felt terribly restless.
Because that’s what he called her…
And perhaps it was because Arthirea knew of his feelings about that nickname.
“Yes, Your Majesty. But there’s no good reason not to be grateful.”
“No need to thank me. Make yourself comfortable.”
At those words, I look up.
I understand that he was the source of all the incidents, but I didn’t feel so scared, even though we were alone and confronting each other like this. I wasn’t even trembling.
But I think it might actually be paralyzing.
“How did you know I was here?”
“I was told that the cathedral is Ney’s architecture up to this seat and two more rows back…I know a lot about Ney’s workings.”
There is a hidden passage way in and out of this cathedral. To be more specific, it is behind the altar. His Majesty must have used it.
With the way he talked, His Eminence Shion might have known about it. The reason I was impressed earlier was because His Eminence knew details that even a servant of the Western Palace would not know.
Whether he knew because he was a prince or because he was a cardinal…
I was informed of this by His Highness Nigel. As the owner of the palace, His Highness must have known about it. In the first place, since His Highness is also a researcher of the remains of this royal palace, he probably knows more about it than anyone else.
I pretended to be ignorant in front of His Eminence Shion because I was afraid that if I mentioned it, he would smile lukewarmly at me, but I know quite a bit about Ney.
Mainly because of His Highness…
It was a stroke of luck that I brought up the subject at morning tea.
Perhaps it would be daylight if I talked about it.
To put it simply, the basement of the royal palace of Dardinia is a labyrinth. And it is the ruins of a unified empire.
This palace is not only built on top of the ruins, but it is said that there are many devices that incorporate the ruins, although the full extent of the building is not yet clear. It is said to be a unique and rare structure on the continent.
Somehow, Arsei Ney knew a lot about the ruins as well. Rather than the ruins themselves, he knew a great deal about the technology used for the ruins.
After Ney, it is said that the imperial technology had been lost again.
“Besides, it smelled like your favorite paper cigarette rolls.”
The unique sweet and bitter fragrance is that of a cigarette, a favorite of His Majesty.
It is an original blend that is often given as a gift because it is always on hand and is not too expensive, so it can be handed down easily as a reward.
When I think about it, I think that when I woke up as ‘me,’ I also had a faint scent of it.
It’s not that there was any scent lingering in the place. It’s just that the impression of the scent I smelled just before was very strong.
…Probably because the perpetrator had always had that scent.
So, every time I woke up, every time I noticed this scent, my body gave up…I couldn’t help but feel threatened by a physical cowering for no reason every time I noticed it.
This is one of the things I didn’t really understand the reason for at first, but with each little bit of information I learned about Arthirea, I came to understand.
Although, I don’t think His Majesty himself had a hand in it, though.
“Even if it wasn’t me, it wouldn’t be surprising if the people around me had used it.”
His Majesty says with a slightly strange expression.
“Yes. It’s not difficult for those in the main palace to obtain them. But I wouldn’t think it would be a good idea to set fire to an item that was given by His Majesty, and in a place like this.”
Even if His Majesty the King given them the cigarette, one wouldn’t normally sneak it in while hiding in the darkness of the cathedral. Moreover, it has a distinctive scent.
To begin with, this is a cathedral, and it was in a secret passage.
Normally, one would keep it safe and smoke it for some special occasion.
“So you think so because I’m here?”
“Only His Majesty, the original owner, could smoke carelessly like that.”
“What is it?”
“It’s not strange to pass the time with cigarettes. It is not strange to pass the time with tobacco, and it is an important part of a nobleman’s life. There are many more expensive ones, even if they are a gift, just because I like the way they are formulated, and they don’t taste any better…What’s the reason for that?”
His Majesty can’t understand why.
“Because it was a gift given to His Majesty the King.”
That one thing makes it special.
There was once a case with grandfather, who retired as an officer and lived in the neighborhood a long time ago.
At a time when terms like “no smoking” and “health hazards of smoking” weren’t as widespread, a cigarette with a chrysanthemum crest on it was one of the gifts of the royal family. My grandfather, who had been an officer, said that he had once stood guard at one of His Majesty’s parades and that he had been given a pack of cigarettes on that occasion.
I don’t know how old he was when he did that guard. But at that time, long after he had retired, there was still more than half a pack of cigarettes left.
They were in a rice cracker tin with a lot of desiccant, and they had been on the altar for a long time.
The first time he opened it was when his daughter got married, and then it was carefully consumed one by one on special occasions for grandpa, such as the birth of his grandchildren and his wedding anniversary.
“…I’m just a king in name only?”
The smoke of cigarettes in my memory sways in the white breath that is exhaled in the middle of the night.
Now it is terribly distant.
“Your Majesty says some strange things.”
“You say it’s all in name only, but His Majesty the King is none other than His Majesty the King.”
“Is that true?”
“Your Majesty is His Majesty the King…His Highness Nigel said that the burden of the king’s office is not his own.”
Even if His Highness the Crown Prince did most of the practical work, and most of the authority resided with him, still, His Highness was not His Majesty the King.
“Are you sick?”
His Majesty hung up the corners of his mouth in a huff. It was an expression that seemed somewhat mocking.
What was said was so far outside the scope of prediction that I couldn’t understand it for a moment, exposing a goofy and dumb face for a moment.
“…No, His Majesty doesn’t know about His Highness, does he?”
Like His Majesty, I don’t think Her Royal Majesty seemed to understand her child either.
If His Highness was the one who felt that way, he would be able to live a little easier.
No, I’m not so sure I know him so well, but at least I know more than His and Her Majesty. I am even motivated.
I would like to know and understand His Highness…
A small, but grandiose wish.
But it will come true as long as I don’t give up.
Because I am the Crown Princess.
I am glad that I have the right to live close to His Highness.
So I smiled and told him, knowing that the conversation would shift as a conversation.
“His Highness and His Majesty are very much alike.”
His Majesty shook his eyes many times when he saw me.
The facade of the doll princess has long since been taken off.
I’ve gotten used to this kind of expression on someone else’s face.
“Yes. Like the look on your face when you laugh at yourself and the tone of your voice when you say things coldly and deviously.”
I nod clearly.
“That’s not like me, though. He’s a kid with a talent for everything.”
He laughed bitterly, saying that for a long time, he was often ridiculed that a kite gave birth to a hawk.
“That’s the effort on His Highness’ part. It would be disrespectful to His Highness if we were to dismiss it in a single word like ‘talent.’”
Everyone praises His Highness for being a ‘genius’.
But I think that’s a terrible thing.
It’s a good thing to be a genius, but if you are treated as if it’s only natural to succeed at whatever you do…isn’t that unreasonable?
I’m sure he had talent.
But it is His Highness who honed it.
I’m sure he’s been called a prodigy as a child, but growing up now, he’s just a man.
It is the result of His Highness’ tireless efforts that he is still considered a genius.
His Majesty was about to say something more, but he swallowed the words.
“Am I that different?”
“Honestly, I can’t believe my eyes.”
“As I told Her Majesty, I’m a different person”
His Majesty’s expression deepens in confusion.
“I didn’t remember anything about it.”
“You may not remember, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re Thia.”
“Is that so?”
I tilt my head.
I suddenly look at my little hand.
However, that alone makes me feel uncomfortable.
Still, it’s much smaller than before.
This is the cathedral of the Crown Prince’s palace, and even though His Majesty the King is right in front of me, I feel as if I don’t know where I am for a moment.
What a place I’ve come to…
It’s somewhat active to say that I ‘came,’ but to be accurate, it’s more correct to say that I was here when I found myself, and it’s a fitting image to say that I was swept away.
I may have just been swept away, but it’s my decision to live here.
I stopped being a doll and lived as an ‘me’ that was not the same as the memories that were once left behind.
It’s like a dream, I think, but I shake off the fluffy feeling of being like of a dream, with a small shake of my head.
I’m not living in a fairy tale, I’m living ‘here.’
A slight irritation mixed in with the end of His Majesty’s words.
“I believe that memory is an important element that shapes a person. I lost my memory in the castle of Elzevert, and having lost it, I have become the ‘me’ I am today.”
I don’t know if memories are directly connected to a person.
But I’m not sure that I can say that I would be that person without it.
“…His Highness once told me that I had forgotten everything. No matter how different I was, I am the Princess of His Highness. That is not something that is changed by the presence or absence of memory.”
Those words calmed me down.
His Highness Nigel affirmed that “I” had forgotten that I was Arthirea.
I am sure His Highness has no idea how happy that made me.
I look straight at His Majesty and continue to speak.
“It is not necessary to remember. From now on, as we accumulate memories, they will become irreplaceable memories.”
His Majesty’s eyes wavered.
I gently press down on my chest.
The bulky texture of the thin paper supports me.
The scent of the sweet and bitter paper rolls supported Her Royal Highness Queen Yulia, just as it supported her.
“…That’s the kind of man you can say such clever things about, isn’t it?”
His Majesty gives a little smile.
His Majesty looked at me, and then looked off into the distance, as if tracing something, and opened his mouth.
“…I know that he is my child, but somehow I have always had no interest in children. I wondered if my child would be different, but the Crown Prince was more than the original, and so was the divisional commander and the cardinal. My daughter…Alienor was a little different, but that didn’t interest me much either.”
The name Alienor.
I think this is the first time the name of His Majesty child has ever come out of his mouth.
Whether it came out of his own mouth because of himself or not…
It’s a secret that I had a suspicion that he might not remember my name because he didn’t call me by name too much. That would be too terrible in so many ways.
“That’s what passes for a royal family. There are other people to take care of the child. The child will grow up without the parents having anything to do with it.”
I think it’s wrong to say that a child can be brought up as long as he or she doesn’t lack food, clothing and shelter. That’s not the point.
“That’s how I was raised, and I was a little taken aback when I realized that my father was the same, who I thought would never be like at that time.”
His Majesty’s expression of self-mockery overlaps with that of His Highness.
No matter how much they say they don’t resemble each other, there is still a resemblance.
“But I had no intention of doing anything about it. I’m not interested in it, so I can’t help it. So I know very little about the other siblings, leaving it up to Yulia.”
I thought it was a terribly cruel statement, but I suppose it’s also true.
I listen intently as His Majesty speaks without embellishing his words.
“Still, when they were young, they still lived in the same mansion, so there was a certain amount of events, and there are things I can recall…I had very little connection to the twins that were born after I became king. There’s a lack of recognition of them as my children.”
‘I’m probably not very compassionate,’ His Majesty says as if it’s nothing.
I wonder if it’s better to be unrecognizable…No, no, that’s not the case. I pout to myself in my mind.
My chest jolts as the memory of Nadi’s face crosses my mind.
Well, it’s definitely a broken parent-child relationship.
The Duke of Elzevert and I are most likely to be the same, but I think His Majesty and the others are most likely to be as such.
It wasn’t so much so with siblings, but when it is a parent and child, an insurmountable wall, or even a frighteningly deep rift, appears.
To be honest, I don’t think this is something I can do anything about. No, it’s not something I’m presumptuous to think I can do anything about.
My rule of thumb is that delicate problems between family members can become even more complicated when other people get in the way.
I wonder if His Majesty is aware of this?
Since a while ago, He’s been using “I” in the first person. Maybe “I” is the real thing.
Are you relaxing…?
For now, he didn’t seem too defensive, if not relaxed.
On the contrary, I’m somewhat nervous.
And I’ve heard that he can get angry all of a sudden.
I don’t know much about it, as I’ve never faced it, but I’ve heard that His Majesty has a terrible temper, often with sudden outbursts of anger, and that the royal officials are very careful.
However, as His Majesty is not a man of violence, it is said that he has never raised his hand.
Though I don’t think His Majesty would do anything to me here.
However, I’m still keeping us far enough apart so that he can’t reach.
In fact, I want to leave everything all behind and hide in my bed. I don’t want to hear the unpleasant stories, and I want to turn away from it.
But if I did, I’d be left in the dark. ‘That’s okay,’ I’m sure His Highness would say.
His Majesty smiled wanly.
He seemed to be enjoying himself somewhat, but something about it made me feel bad and I couldn’t help but take a step back, but the benches prevented me from doing so.
Don’t run away…
I am a caged bird, and His majesty is also a prisoner of the throne. It’s not often that we have the opportunity to talk to each other without others present.
You can’t get anything done without following a few tedious steps, because the royal family is not very open. And even if you do, there are things you can’t do about it.
If I run away, no one will blame me. Most people won’t know about it, and they won’t get blamed for it in any way.
But His Highness would understand.
If I run away here, I feel like I won’t be able to stand proudly next to His Highness.
So I take in a deep breath.
I’ll be fine.
I tell myself.
Why was Arthirea lost?
Knowing that will help me draw a line.
So I’m not going to run away.
I’ll reach the end of it.
I decided that.
And maybe I’m the only one who can say that.
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