Alfred wandered into his office just as the clear autumn sky was beginning to turn into dusk.
“Brother, may I have a moment of your time?”
“…What is it? Did the chef run away again?”
It’s rare for Alfred to come to Nigel like this.
I think us siblings are good friends, but we have never spent much private time together.
After all, Nigel is too busy.
And the royal palace is too big of a place to meet casually.
Most importantly, our lifestyles don’t really mesh well together.
As a military man, Alfred’s life is completely different from Nigel’s, who is busy with his duties as the crown prince. Their daily routines are fundamentally different.
Unless there is an event that he is required to attend as a member of the royal family, they rarely see each other.
Perhaps because of this, Alfred looked somewhat reformed. He was a little nervous, which is unusual, but he shook his head immediately when asked if the cook had run away.
Then he adds with a smile.
“The cook from brother’s place is quite a sight to behold.”
This younger brother, who is three years younger, is a man of many talents in spite of his rugged appearance. Unlike Nigel, who does not have much of a talent for the arts, he has a keen sense for that side of things.
One of Alfred’s specialties is cooking. Originally, he was just hungry, but as he grew up and joined the army, he somehow came to cook for himself as he interacted with civilian soldiers.
Well, the military does a lot of camp training.
Nigel also knows this because he has been in the military for a while, but whether one is a prince or the son of a great nobleman, they start out as a mere squire in the army. Still, they are much more privileged than ordinary soldiers, but the job and role of a squire is hard to accept for someone who has been spoiled as a child of a nobleman.
Alfred enlisted in the Central Division, not the Kings Guard, and since he had been hiding his status for a while, he was made to do things like cooking as a matter of course.
Well, he seemed to enjoy it.
As he has always said that the life of a soldier suits him better than the life of a prince, Alfred has adapted to such a life very quickly.
It was in the course of this life that he became interested in cooking and learned that the first thing he needed to do in order to control the growing number of men under his command as he rose through the ranks was to appease their stomachs.
Nowadays, it is said that he is so skilled that no ordinary cook can compete with him. However, the one person that Alfred raves about is Nigel’s young princess, who is also very knowledgeable about cooking.
Well, the same goes for Shion as well.
Nigel’s brothers are fascinated by the sweets and snacks that his princess produces.
“Brother, I believe this evening, the dinner has been cancelled due to the sudden illness of the ambassador of Lesange, right?”
“Yes…He was about to be late for his audience and rushed to the embassy, but fell down the steps of the stairs and hit his hip.”
“…He’s bit of a careless ambassador, isn’t he?”
“Well, I don’t care about the ambassador…But that means brother’s schedule will be somewhat free tonight, right?”
“…I wouldn’t have to be.”
I have some work I want to get done, but I can be flexible enough to accommodate Alfred if he wants to join me for dinner.
“Then I would love to join you for dinner at that time! With Her Royal Highness!”
“Dinner is fine, but with Luthia? Doesn’t she have plans?”
I was tempted to ask him why he was so confident about my princess’ plans, but then I reminded myself that it would be better to ask her in person than to ask Alfred.
“Let’s have dinner outside today.”
“Outside? Are you going to take Luthia out?”
I know that I must at least allow her to go out, but even so, I still feel a strong sense of reluctance at taking Arthirea out to a place that is filled with an unspecified number of people.
“The actuality of this is that even if she has moved to the rear palace, you haven’t removed her bodyguards anyway, right? Then I don’t see any particular problem with it.”
“That’s true, but…”
“If anything goes wrong, I’ll stop it.”
“I have some skill with this,” said Alfred modestly, but his skill with the sword is worthy of special mention without regard to his favoritism as a prince. There is no doubt that he is one of the best swordsmen in the country.
With that Alfred, and even Nigel, there’s little that can’t be handled. Furthermore, there are also the escorts that are attached to them.
Still, it must be Nigel’s overprotective nature that made him unwilling to take Arthirea out so casually.
“…I know she is locked up…I know she must be living a very cramped and suffocating life, even if she moved to the rear palace.”
“Brother cares very much for the princess, doesn’t he?”
“…It’s natural. Luthia is my princess.”
“No, I know that. I meant in a more personal way.”
“Private or public, she’s still my wife.”
“…Thank you for your incomprehensible love affair.”
“It’s not a love affair. It’s just a fact.”
“Yeah, you are right.”
“…But brother, what will you do if you have to divorce the princess?”
“There is no reason to divorce.”
“…As Shion said before, if the Duke dies now, wouldn’t brother and the princess get a divorce? Aside from the other titles, you can’t make the Duke of Elzevert a vacant title, can you?”
“For reasons that are not obvious to you, there cannot be a divorce between me and Luthia…If that happens…well, you will be ruling the Elzevert territory by proxy until we have a child between us.”
Nigel whispers that there are other ways to do things.
I am familiar with loopholes in national law. The problem is not the law.
“Yes. Then you’ll have a daughter of Elzevert’s blood.”
“No one else is suitable…and you wouldn’t try to take the dignity for yourself.”
“Yes…Honestly, I’ve never wanted something like that…and either way, my title is a duke eventually.”
The duke’s rank, which is the highest except for the royal family, is special.
Among them, of course, the four great dukes, the Dukes of the Four Directions, are special, but I guess they are just the same dukes to Alfred.
If three children are born between Nigel and Arthirea, Alfred will be able to resign and become a subject.
For one generation, Alfred would have both the Grand Duke and the Royal Duchy, and his children would be able to succeed to the Royal Duchy.
Since there is currently only one owner of the royal dukedom, there is a surplus of lands and titles to grant.
Alfred seems to think that a mere royal duke is better than being the Duke of Elzevert, which comes with various obligations. But there are many people in the world who don’t think so.
“Then, brother, after the sixth bell of the evening, in the bower at Dravelle.”
“All right…Let’s go with Luthia.”
Dravelle is the spirit of the forest.
In one corner of the palace courtyard, there is a pavilion decorated with statues of the forest spirits. That is the bower of Dravelle.
It is one of the entrances to the underground passageway that leads directly to the Central Division’s checkpoint in the central city of the Utoria district.
Nigel had rarely used that route, as it would cause a commotion if he went to the Central Division’s checkpoint alone. But it wouldn’t be too noticeable if he kept his hood on deeply and stayed behind Alfred, the divisional commander.
“Then I’ll see you later.”
“We’ll be expecting you.”
Nigel gave a small tilt of his head at the fact that Alfred was in a terribly good mood as he bowed his head reverently with excitement.
What caught my eye was golden hair that bursts with light.
Its brilliance, dazzling even in the dimness of dusk, makes Arthirea shine brighter than any ornament.
Her graceful countenance has recently become even more beautiful.
She resembles her grandmother and her mother, who were praised for their unsurpassed beauty, but there is definitely a difference between them.
Is it my husband’s favouritism that makes her look so special?
As soon as she catches sight of Nigel, she smiles softly.
An obvious outpouring of fondness.
My cheeks loosen up at the fact.
“Thank you for inviting me.”
Contrary to Luthia, who has a big smile on her face, Lana Hartley…Lilia’s expression is grim as she follows along.
“No…I’m sorry this is so sudden. You probably had plans.”
“That’s what I call ‘no problem.’”
With a laugh, Luthia utters Nigel’s quip with an amused expression.
She wears simple clothes that a young girl would wear, with a hooded spring cloak on top that is not at all flamboyant, wherever she got it from. Even with such clothing, her beauty is obvious.
And yet, there is nothing in it that makes her look unflattering. She was raised as if she had grown up surrounded by nothing but the finest silk since she was a child, and yet there was no sense of discomfort in her.
“Well then, Lana Hartley, when we’re done eating, I’ll make sure to send Luthia home for you.”
She seemed to want to say something, but in the end, she did not say it.
She probably thought about the downside of nagging and complaining against Nigel, who was the highest-ranking person in the country, along with his name and reality, ahead of his accession to the throne. Lilia is quick to make such calculations.
But that’s not to say that I was feared for my position.
She just didn’t open her mouth now that she could concede because she thought about using it most effectively when she needed to.
“Bye, Lilia. I’m off.”
“Goodbye, Your Highness. Please take care of yourself.”
“Yes. I’ll be fine because Nigel-sama is there.”
Nigel gently picks up Arthirea, who laughs.
Nigel could not find any other words to say.
It was impossible to betray the straight eyes of this young princess who had great faith in him.
In the end, I have a vain desire to look good, don’t I?
There was no way I could say that I couldn’t do something in front of this gaze.
“Nigel-sama, I can walk.”
“I know, but you’re not strong enough.”
I mentioned a plausible reason why it would be best not to expend her energy here.
Nigel would often pick up Arthirea, always with a plausible reason, like because she was walking too slowly or because he didn’t want her to get lost.
Because if she’s in my arms, I can feel assured.
Surprisingly, I’m more of a coward than I thought.
The loss of this warmth in my arms—that’s the most frightening thing of all right now.
“Thank you for inviting me today, Nigel-sama.”
At Nigel’s words, Arthirea seemed to agree and settled into his arms calmly as usual.
The thinness of the cloak made the unreliable thinness of her body even more apparent.
“…No, it was Alfred who was in charge…”
“Yes, but I am glad that you are willing to take up your valuable time. I have heard that you are very busy.”
The sound of a quiet voice. Sometimes, Arthirea exhibits a calmness that does not match her age.
“…I’m worried if you’re pushing yourself.”
I was warmed in my heart by her concern for my own safety.
“I’m not pushing myself.”
“…You may be doing it without even realizing it yourself.”
“You’re just a worrier, that’s all.”
“No, that’s not the case.”
Nigel’s eyes narrowed at the complaints.
“His Highness is trying too hard.”
“I’m not trying too hard. It’s the same as always.”
“That ‘always’ isn’t good.”
The two of us had an uncomplicated conversation, as we both went to the appointed place.
“Ah, sorry to interrupt your pleasantries. Brother and sister-in-law.”
Alfred caught sight of the two and gave a small cough and then opened his mouth.
“No…Did I keep you waiting?”
“No. I’ve only just arrived.”
“Good evening, Your Highness, Al.”
“I’m glad to see my sister-in-law is in such a good mood.”
“Because I’m going outside with Nigel.”
Gently clasping her hands together with her mouth, Arthirea smiled in the most delightful way possible.
Nigel’s eyes were drawn to each and every one of those gestures and expressions.
“I’m glad you are pleased…Brother, what is the matter with you? You’re making a funny face.”
“…Since when do you call Luthia your sister-in-law?”
“Oh…Shion calls her that way, so it has been for a long time.”
Alfred says simply.
I thought in my heart that he should not use such a vague term as ‘long time,’ but I did not say it.
I have a reason to not say it.
“…Nigel-sama. I’m Nigel-sama’s princess, so it’s not strange for me to be their sisters-in-law.”
Arthirea is very adorable as she tells me with a giggle.
“I’m a lot younger, so it’s a little strange for me, but… but I’m a little happy.”
“You mean, being called sister-in-law?”
“Yes…I don’t have any brothers or sisters.”
To tell the truth, there are some who can be called half-brothers.
But from the perspective of Dardinian national law, they would not be recognized as Arthirea’s siblings, and Arthirea, who has never lived with them, would not be able to recognize them as siblings.
“So I’m a little happy when His Eminence Shion and His Highness Al call me sister-in-law…”
I didn’t like the fact that she nicknamed Alfred ‘Al,’ but I can’t blame him if Arthirea is happy about it. (***Lmao, Nigel is jealous of Al!)
I do think that, but I can’t help but not like it anymore.
As far as Arthirea was concerned, I felt that tolerance was not a word that could be applied to me.
“Well, let’s go…It’s presumptuousness, but I’ll lead the way, brother.”
“Please do, Your Highness Al.”
The cool voice, bouncing with anticipation, signaled the beginning of an unforgettable evening.
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