Passing by Julian was Hertrude, coming over to the dungeon. The jailer left the scene upon receiving something from Hertrude.
During that period, he glanced at me and walked out.
“Quite the predicament you’re in.”
“And I’m sure you know who exactly is to blame for this. Actually, are you even allowed to roam around the royal palace?”
“That is irrelevant. I’ve gotten permission. Also, I’m not the one who got you arrested. Indeed, I requested that you be restricted, but the rough treatment you’ve gotten is the result of the kingdom’s nobles.”
I’m guessing you had a hand in that. As I made a sour expression, she leaned in towards the iron bars. Choosing to specifically approach someone when they’re down on their luck──what a crooked trick.
“Do you want me to let you out? Rather than serving a country like this, you could serve the Principality of Fanoss. I promise you will receive a proper treatment. I can let you live the peaceful life that you’ve always wanted.”
I felt a twitch inside me.
It seems that this person has been investigating what I wanted.
In comparison, the kingdom doesn’t even try to understand me at all──how sad.
“How foolish. I can’t help but see the nobles of this country as people who scorn the principality and only use you for a factional dispute. They wanted to use me and crush you.”
Despite being in similar ranks, she was vastly different from Julian.
It seems that she’s more capable.
“Down on your knees in front of me. I can make you my knight. Instead of devoting yourself to a corrupt kingdom, you should follow your desires. I can promise you a peaceful life without status or honor.”
Hertrude faced me with a smile.
Hertrude, whose smile now showed some irritation, seemed curious about why I would refuse.
“Is the kingdom that important to you? You’re a feudal lord noble, right? I can even allow your entire family to come to our side as well.”
“It’s a tempting offer, but I’m not planning to do business with someone I don’t trust.”
In first place, the principality isn’t fond of me.
Speaking of which, you’re the one with a grudge against me.
Luxon, who had been hiding, showed up and joined the conversation.
[Are you the ones who arrested Master in fear? How cliche of you to offer a hand to him now that he’s weakened. Do you think that he’s lost his judgement?]
Hertrude shifted her gaze to Luxon.
“How uncouth of a familiar to eavesdrop.”
[If you really did plan to take in Master──if you did plan to keep your promise, I would have helped persuade him.]
“What an uncouth familiar indeed. Spouting all that while not believing I would take him in.”
In the end, what she said so far was a lie.
──How sad. It was an attractive offer, so it stirred some reaction within me.
Hertrude stepped away from the iron bars and spoke in a cold voice.
“You can stand proud. You’ve been judged as an obstacle to us.”
I sat down on a bed, watching as Hertrude left the dungeon.
“She hates me quite a bit.”
Perhaps it was my imagination, but did I see a hint of loneliness from Hertrude?
[She doesn’t seriously hate you.]
[If she had a grudge against you and nothing else, there would be no need for her to speak with you. So I believe that if you follow through with her offer, she will at least guarantee your life.]
“──That’s a shame, I would’ve accepted if she had been more serious about it.”
[That’s a lie. Even if Hertrude had been serious, you wouldn’t betray the kingdom, Master.]
“You never know. It depends on the conditions.”
[──Is that so? By the way, the perpetrator who planted the false evidence in your room was Meole.]
“Isn’t he my sister’s exclusive servant?”
[You’ve incurred their enmity, Master. Do you want to deal with them immediately?]
“You’re a dangerous thing, aren’t you. Though──”
[Oh, the jailer is back.]
The returning jailer spoke to me. Luxon took the opportunity to disappear.
“Viscount, which do you prefer, coffee or black tea?”
“Black tea. I’d like some good tea leaves as well.”
“No can do, you won’t find high quality tea leaves in here.”
“All things considered, I’ve gone from the leader of some bodyguards to a prisoner. What is going on with my life?”
“I was surprised as well. This might be the first time this has happened in the kingdom.”
I’m not pleased at all though.
The jailer headed out once more to prepare some tea. As I yawned, Luxon reappeared.
Once my handcuffs were removed, I toyed around with them using my finger.
[Aren’t you too relaxed for being in a dungeon? You should be a bit more tense.]
“No thanks, I’m tired. At any rate, it’s a relief that I was able to get close with Milaine. It would be no laughing matter if I was sent to torture right after being arrested.”
[If that were to happen, I would promptly rescue you and sink this continent. Or I would, with the exception of those close to you, purge the──]
“Stop. I’m not a fan of massacres.”
I forgot to mention this, but this thing said stuff like “exterminate the new humans” when I first found it.
Truthfully, this thing is the most dangerous being in this world.
However, even Luxon can’t beat the final boss.
It wouldn’t lose, but──it wouldn’t win either.
The saint’s power, Livia’s power, and “love” are needed for the finale.
One might wonder what in the world I’m doing here.
There’s a reason for all of this, starting from the day I was captured.
──It was during the day I was arrested.
I was taken to the royal palace and faced two people inside a room.
“Well Gilbert, they got me.”
I still had the composure to speak in jest──want to know why? I already knew that I was going to be arrested at some point.
However, the two in front of me didn’t laugh at my banter.
One of them was Anjie’s older brother and the heir of the Redgrave household, “Gilbert Fou Redgrave.”
Gilbert had a relieved expression.
“You’re certainly calm. It seems that the nobles who judged you as a threat weren’t wrong. I commend your courage to joke around under these circumstances.”
Courage? That’s not it. I already knew about this in advance, so I was able to prepare myself to a certain extent.
The other person there, Milaine, began speaking about the main issue at hand.
“Leon, the head the current largest faction, Marquis Frampton, is making his move.”
──Those who stick out too much tend to be dealt with.
There are a lot of people who didn’t like the fact that a youth like me happened to be promoted, an unprecedented matter.
The principality took advantage of their envy.
“The royal palace is no longer unified. Many factions are bustling about, each with their own motives. Do you understand the meaning of that?”
“Do the marquis and principality have common interests?”
“Indeed. With his Highness losing his position, the Redgrave household’s faction weakened. As a result, Marquis Frampton grew in power──so in a sense, you’re the cause of this.”
Milaine spoke about the lost item I had──Luxon.
“Let’s say that many are wary about the single airship that drove away the principality’s fleet. The marquis who’s wary of you and the principality that bears a grudge against you then decide to join forces. It’s a likely story, don’t you agree?”
The marquis’ faction gained power because of me?
I thought that was supposed to sarcastic, but Milaine said otherwise.
“Leon, you’re a bigger threat to them than the principality. Marquis Frampton is particularly cautious about you.”
“Huh? Err, but──”
Gilbert was shocked at me being surprised.
“Think about it. The fact that you beat dozens of airships means that you alone carry the strength of a military. I know that you don’t plan on starting a rebellion against the kingdom. However, do you think that everyone trusts you? Even if they do trust you, can they really tell themselves that you’ll never oppose them?”
Perhaps I’m──err, Luxon is more frightening than the principality?
That isn’t wrong, but aren’t they pretty stupid for joining hands with the principality?
“Could it be that they’re underestimating the principality since their troops lost to me?”
“There are indeed people who will make jokes about it, but those who’ve experienced war understand how big the threat is. They haven’t spoken their thoughts out loud, but they’ve probably been in a panic.”
I wish they had been more wary of Marie and the principality.
“So now I’m under arrest for false charges?”
“Sorry, but you’ll have to enter the dungeon. It’s safer this way.”
So basically, with me being under arrest, the marquis’ faction will feel safe and will want to take action.
It seems that the Redgrave household, whose faction has weakened, is having a rough time.
It also seems that Milaine is struggling as well.
“The situation is different than it was a few months ago. Leon, it wouldn’t be strange if you were to be assassinated.”
This is no laughing matter. Hearing that made me break out in a cold sweat.
“I felt that the knights who arrested me seemed enthusiastic, or that they had a grudge──could it be?”
“It’s not your imagination. It’s a relief that we picked you up along the way.”
Gilbert’s words made me feel a chill run down my spine. It seems that the situation was more dangerous than I expected.
“You’re safe in the royal palace. This is the best we can do for now. It’s not just the faction opposing the duke household. There are many nobles who think you’re a danger. There are many nobles who want to take your lost item and use it for power.”
Milaine explained it as if speaking to a small child.
Milaine as a mother──gives me a weird feeling, but I’ll leave it at that.
Gilbert spoke while seeming tense.
“Marquis Frampton, perhaps relieved that you’ve been arrested, is now beginning to pull out all the stops in order to seize power. We’re going to be quite busy.”
Milaine spoke of something eerie.
“I’m hesitant to be in the royal palace since the atmosphere is ominous. We may have a rebellion on our hands if we aren’t careful, I suppose. If her Highness Hertrude makes a move as well, then the principality will be there with her, which could get dreadful.”
Is there really a rebellion in the making?
Now that I’ve been dealt with, they’re focusing on the power struggle now──it seems that Marquis Frampton will be a pain.
If they didn’t involve me in this, I would have just left this all alone though.
Well, there’s also the matter of Marie, and if I were to look carefully at the situation──
“This isn’t a case of a rebellion.”
Milaine then spoke.
“I understand that. However, knowing Marquis Frampton, he may see this as a chance. A chance to suppress the Redgrave household and gain power in the kingdom. This may be a tight situation. In this case, you’ve become a victim, Leon.”
──How awful can this get? I’d rather not get involved in a power struggle.
To make matters worse, it’s especially awful that they joined hands with our opponents, the principality, for the sake of this power struggle.
Though vexed, Gilbert seemed to understand Marquis Frampton’s behavior.
“By joining forces with the principality, he wants to seize power, even if it means suffering some losses.”
“Not a pleasant topic.”
“Indeed. Not a pleasant thing to talk about.”
Blaming Gilbert for this situation won’t do anything, so I asked a question.
“Do Anjie and the others know that I’m being protected?”
“They don’t. Or rather, we can’t tell them. Your safety is a top-secret matter that only a few people know about. Due to that, I had to send a complaint to her Highness Hertrude by myself.”
“──Is that alright?”
“You’ll be released soon, so don’t worry. Are you concerned?”
They’re one of few ideal girls in the school.
Furthermore──these are my friends that we’re talking about. Of course I’d be worried.
Milaine placed her hand over her mouth and smiled. Is she having another misunderstanding now?
Good grief──what a cute person.
Gilbert spoke while seeming a bit happier.
“Well then, there’s something I have to ask you.”
“Something you want to ask me?”
──That’s how it went.
I’m trapped in a dungeon, acting like bait.
And the ones I’ve been able to lure are people like Julian and Hertrude.
They’re looking for people who’ll make contact with me.
“Are they going to go through with it?”
[──Recently, there have been people investigating your surroundings, Master. Do you think their aim was for intelligence gathering or assassination?]
“Huh? Could it be that you knew? You should have told me then!”
[Be relieved. I won’t let you be assassinated, Master.]
No, tell me. Doesn’t this make me look like an idiot whose been wasting time without caring about it?
“Tell me about these kinds of things from now on.”
[On a different note──the kingdom is quite weak.]
“Changing the subject, are we? Though, I do agree that the kingdom is weak.”
After all, there’s a factional dispute in the royal palace, the principality’s gotten involved, and now I’ve been tossed into a dungeon.
I’m also concerned about Hetrude’s actions. It’s strange that she isn’t returning the magic flute to the principality, isn’t it?
“Hertrude’s is persistent too. No wait, perhaps it’s the principality that’s persistent? They’re using the kingdom’s power struggle to tear it down from the inside out──whatever happened to that otome game’s trivial setting? Isn’t this setting too muddy? There sure are a lot of power struggles.”
[──Master, Holfault Kingdom’s strange system of government is not something to consider from a normal perspective.]
[They’re raising the dissatisfaction of rural feudal lords on purpose. It wouldn’t be strange for a rebellion to occur.]
“Oh really? So things weren’t just because of my household having a lot of debt.”
[Don’t use your household as a basis, Master.]
“So, what are your thoughts?”
[I think that the kingdom might have some kind of secret weapon, just like how the principality has one.]
A trump card, is it?
Assuming that it might exist, could it be that?
“Could it likely be that?”
[──If there’s something you’re thinking about, I’d prefer if you talked with me about it.]
“My bad. However, it shouldn’t work without Livia. ──Well then, what should we do now?”
[First, we destroy the new humans──]
“Rejected. Give me a serious answer.”
[I was being serious though.]
“You really are frightening sometimes. What I’m asking is what will happen at the rate things are going. Which do you think will win──the Redgrave household or the Frampton household?”
[Such a thing has already been decided. ──It depends on your feelings, Master.]
Anjie, after being released, immediately headed towards the duke household’s residence.
Anjie’s father, Vince, was waiting for her at that residence within the royal capital.
She was about to report the matter regarding Hertrude until something occurred.
“Could it be revenge? How petty. Nevertheless, the kingdom has many traitors.”
“Father, please release Leon. Leon has done nothing wrong!”
Vince’s eyes narrowed.
“Don’t be so spoiled. These kinds of things are a daily occurrence in the royal palace. Even if I could release him with my authority, neither his important airship nor the armor will return to him.”
Vince’s words shocked Anjie.
“──Are you saying that Leon is worthless without the lost item? Leon has been through so much for my sake up until now.”
Vince spoke coldly to Anjie.
“And what of it? His promotions were no doubt due to the power of his lost item. I’ll admit that he has courage. However, what worth does he have without the lost item?”
Anjie clenched her fist and cast her eyes downward while seeming frustrated.
“B, benefactor. Leon is my benefactor!”
“I already repaid him for what he did. Return to the academy.”
Anjie stormed out of the room.