The Flower Dances and the Wind Sings - 26
Through the tense silence, a man who had been watching the situation for a long time opened his mouth.
“… So, you want to loosen the limit on the number of private soldiers that a noble can possess, correct?”
“Private soldiers, as if! I’m just suggesting that we increase the number of patrols.”
“Aren’t you implying that the patrols in your estate are private soldiers, Count Pantetz?”
Count Pantetz’s expression crumpled by the man’s gentle speech. But the Count soon regained his composure and opened his mouth with a feeble look on his face.
“My niece has gone missing.”
“Yes, in your fief.”
Caron’s lips curled gently as the Count spoke quietly.
“I also have a nephew. Do you think I cannot empathize with your grief? But still, the Count’s demands are excessively hasty. Besides, you only want to increase the number of private soldiers for such a matter. How disappointed would His Majesty be when he finds out about this?”
The Count tightly closed his mouth at the tone that was as if chastising a child. The Count was forty-five years old, so he had a hard time being treated like that by a much younger person.
“Moreover, what if you are misunderstood to harbor traitorous thoughts? How will you handle that?”
“Traitorous thoughts?! That’s absurd. How dare I?”
“I know. That’s why I’m saying this.”
Caron smiled calmly once again as if to appease the Count. Count Pantetz could do nothing but to back down when Caron’s face showed a warm expression.
“… I was being hasty due to the sorrow of losing my niece.”
“I fully understand how the Count feels.”
Several nobles that were gathered there shut their mouths in unison. Looking at each of them, Caron opened his mouth.
“This will not reach His Majesty’s ears. So rest assured.”
“Shall we call it a day, then?”
“… As you wish, Your Grace.”
When the Count’s words ended, Caron rose from his seat without hesitation. Some of the nobles frowned at him. Their eyes were speaking in unison.
Young Bastard. But, of course, they couldn’t say it out loud. For he was now the only relative of the royal family and the king’s closest aide.
Caron smiled back at them and went away. His gentle smile quickly disappeared because of the man who appeared before him. His head bent slowly.
“I greet Your Excellency, the Duke-”
“That does not suit you, cut it out.”
A cold voice struck him.
“Then, without reserve.”
Caron looked up and smiled again.
“I have a question to ask Your Excellency.”
Caron asked half-heartedly but Harsen remained silent. His dark black eyes were glum, but Caron didn’t care much. Caron talked first.
“Can you believe the Count pulled a clever little trick? With that cute face of his.”
“The Pantetz are neutral. You don’t need to fret over anything. You just need to loosen up a little.”
“That man can sell his niece for more private soldiers.”
“If you can’t say that without uncertainty, then watch what you say.”
“As you say, Your Excellency.”
Caron shut his mouth. He didn’t smile anymore. Harsen’s eyes, which contained nothing, looked at Caron.
Seemingly indifferent, but clearly conscious of each other, the two eyes intertwined. This time, Harsen spoke first.
“You’ll make enemies over nothing. It will ruin you one day.”
“It’s not nothing. As a matter of fact, the Count’s argument was unreasonable. You know very well that even if it’s unofficial, it’s ridiculous to convene a meeting of nobles over this.”
Caron wryly pointed out the loopholes in Count Pantetz’s argument. He was insinuating that the Count planned to slowly overturn the throne because it overpowered the church.
It’s starting with these insignificant meetings of nobles. Case in point, convening a meeting to instigate the measly case of a missing person. Harsen passed Caron as if he had nothing more to say.
“And isn’t this all because I trust His Excellency?”
The man’s footsteps stopped at the laughless voice heard from behind.
“I know that Lord Bernhardt cherishes my sister.”
“So, I have no choice but to trust His Excellency.”
The man slowly turned around. At that, his eyes and the green eyes already watching him intertwined. Harsen’s mouth twisted and soon he gave a cold indifferent smile.
“Just as they say, it seems you value your younger sister a lot.”
“I’m sure you know what position you’re in right now.”
Caron grinned, “I’m not denying it.”
Caron shivered and shrugged his shoulders. “Oh, did you know Ercella is visiting me today?”
“I guess, you didn’t know.”
“I don’t need to know.”
“Why, don’t you cherish her?”
Harsen stepped without answering. His green eyes, glowing softly, soon watched his back without showing any emotion. Scratching his chin, Caron murmured to himself.
“… I guess, he knew.”
* * *
When their carriage stopped, the gold-plated iron doors opened with the sound of hinges. The carriage calmly passed the door and ran for a long time.
He understood why the Marquis manor was located a little far from the center of the capital. I assume they receive protection from the royal family. It was a huge land compared to other families in the capital.
When he looked out of the window, he saw a pleasant harmony of greenery and pretty wildflowers. Chirping birds scattered throughout the sky completed the beautiful harmony.
No wonder he felt peaceful as he kept listening and watching. Vicente saw Ercella sitting opposite him. Ercella had both her arms on the window and her eyes glued to it. A fresh smile covered her lips. Just before she was caught up in the strange mood, Ercella turned her eyes towards Vicente and kindly spoke to him.
“Shall we get off?”
Before they knew it, the carriage was stopped. The door slowly opened and saw a burly old man. The gray-haired old man greeted them politely.
“It is an honor to have the Duchess of Bernhardt and the Young Lord visit us and brighten our family. I am Marquis Visaride’s head butler…”
Ercella interrupted his greeting. The old man, who hadn’t finished his words yet, sighed deeply as if he was used to this.
“Madam Ercella, please address me properly. It’s not Cal, it’s Callon.”
“It’s your nickname.”
“If the Lord found out, it will be my neck flying, not Madam’s. And the Young Lord is watching. It’s not good to be too friendly with your subordinates. Madam Ercella is now married…”
Ercella freaked out and corrected his name immediately when his nagging began. Callon’s nagging doesn’t end once it starts. But of course, when asked to shut up, Callon was amazing enough to shut up right away.
But apart from that, she was too tired to deal with it, so she stopped him at once. Callon gracefully reached out to Ercella. Ercella put her hand on his arm and got out of the carriage. Vicente got off after he confirmed that Ercella’s feet had completely touched the ground. Suddenly, a pale hand was extended to him. His mother was smiling playfully.
“Hold it, son.”
“No, thank you.”
Vicente frowned and refused at once. With a sharp refusal, Ercella looked distastefully at Vicente, and said.
“He hasn’t returned yet. He’ll be here soon, so why don’t you take a look at the mansion with the Young Lord?”
She was about to show Vicente around the house. Originally, she planned to do that after meeting Caron, but it doesn’t matter if the order changed a little.
“Alright. Can you show us around?”
Vicente and Ercella, accompanied by several servants, went on as Callon led them. On their way, they occasionally heard Callon tell some news.
“Madam was looking forward to your visit. However, she is waiting because the Duchess wished to meet the Lord first. I believe she’s preparing for tea time right now. The Young Lord and Lady will come after their lessons, so how about having a chat and drinking a cup of tea with Madam?”
“The Marquess has already prepared for the tea time, how can I refuse?”
As Ercella answered slyly, Callon smiled awkwardly and avoided eye contact. Ercella, who had been laughing at Callon for a while, asked Vicente.
“How about you? Do you want to have tea together? Your cousins will be there too.”
“I don’t mind.”
Vicente replied as usual and thought. Cousins. Come to think of it, I heard Marquis Visaride has two children. He wondered what kind of people they were because Vicente had never met them before.
Around the corner, Callon pointed to a painting hanging on the wall. This was the fifth time.
“It’s a painting by the court painter Thione Christian of Ludelsia. The painting was personally gifted by the King of Ludelsia to the eighth princess, Beatrice Avetrina Christie Visaride, the Duchess’ mother when she married the Marquis.”
Ercella yawned in secret. She’s been hearing that since childhood. You’re not going to explain every piece of art in this house, are you? She looked askance at Callon, but unfortunately, he was.
Good Lord! His eyes were sparkling with some kind of pride. Ercella didn’t want to waste time, so she decided to send Callon back.
“I’ll explain it myself, so you may leave now, Callon.”
“… Y-yes, Madam.”
Callon’s reply came back a little late. Perhaps, he felt bad that he could no longer explain the honorable history of Visaride.
She felt sorry, but Ercella never wanted to go through it again. Suffering as a kid was enough.
Anyway, as Ercella wished, he resigned with the servants, leaving Vicente and Ercella alone.
“Are you bored? Callon talks a lot despite his look.”
“Not at all.”
Shaking his head, Vicente remembered Callon. He felt similar to Clifton. His pride in his family was high, and his loyalty to his superiors’ commands was admirable.
If anything, it was the difference in Ercella’s treatment of them. Ercella was more comfortable with Callon than Clifton, perhaps because she grew up here. Also, her awkwardness with Vicente strangely disappeared.
Is the Marquis friendly, too? Also, I’ve felt this before too, she is more of a Visaride than a Bernhardt. She’s like a person who’ll leave at any time.
Vicente saw Ercella. She was grinning widely at something she found pleasant.
“Then, shall I escort you?”
A shallow crease appeared on Vicente’s forehead from her inappropriate teasing tone. What a mischievous personality! The gap between this new behavior and how he remembered her, gave him a headache.
“Is there anything you want to see?”
“… Not really.”
Vicente rubbed his temples and looked at the interior of the mansion. The mood may vary from family to family, but one can sense it. It showed the family’s extensive history, such as their lineage, valuable artistic pieces, and portraits of previous owners and their wives.
Vicente wasn’t interested in the mansion because his real purpose was to know what Marquis Visaride was really like with his own eyes.
Ercella was also thinking about what to do. One of the servants approached them a little hurriedly.
“I greet the Duchess of Bernhardt.”
“Yes. What’s the matter?”
“The Lord has just returned. I’ll bring you to the reception room.”
Ercella’s complexion brightened up. Caron was back.
“Really? That’s great. Let’s go, Vicente.”
Ercella called Vicente. Vicente followed Ercella’s call but stopped at some point. Ercella tilted her head at his sudden stop.
“… Please go ahead. I’ll take a quick look around.”
Was he interested in a mansion after all? He is usually expressionless, so it was hard to grasp his thoughts too, just like Harsen’s.
Ercella agreed and headed to the reception room guided by the servant. Vicente began walking down the corridor.
His steps stopped at the end of the hall. A portrait was hung on a white wall. Vicente stared at the woman with blonde hair and green eyes in the picture. Even though it was just a painting, an elegance that others can’t easily imitate exuded from the woman. Vicente knew who she was.
“You look like Ercella.”
The only woman who said that I look like Mother when everyone said that I look like Father. A woman who looked at me with a wistful look in her eyes.
A baritone voice came from behind. Vicente turned around in the direction of the sound. Like the woman in the picture, a man with green eyes smiled faintly with a longing face.
“She was my sister.”
The man narrowed the distance one step at a time towards Vicente.
“You must be…”
His voice was somewhat mysterious.
Soon the man stopped in front of Vicente, a short distance away. Vicente had never met that stranger but had a rough idea of who he was. Vicente bowed his head immediately.
“Greetings to Your Grace, the Marquis.”
His mouth went up smoothly as if his answer was correct.
“You don’t have to be so stiff with me. You can call me uncle comfortably.”
“… Yes, uncle.” [T/N: Vicente here uses ‘nim’ with uncle which in this context for English readers would be Lord or Sir.]
“It’s annoying like that. I don’t want to be honored so highly by my sister’s son.”
“Then, I’ll do so.”
“I’m glad it didn’t take too long.”
His attitude was strangely natural. Obviously, the Marquis had never seen Vicente before, but he was treating Vicente so casually.
“Mother went to the reception room first.”
“You must have been lost. Why isn’t my nephew with her?”
“… I was drawn to the familiar face.”
Caron brushed his chin as if he understood.
“My older sister was very fond of you.”
“If she could, she would’ve taken you as her own child.”
Vicente did not answer. It’s a well-known story about how much Queen Eshahilde wanted to have children. After three miscarriages, she finally became pregnant for the fourth time but died after giving birth to the prince. Leaving behind the child she dearly wanted.
Sometimes Vicente couldn’t exactly understand what the sad look in her eyes looking at him meant, but it’s probably not unrelated to her situation.
“How old are you this year?”
“Fifteen. Yes, it’s been a while.”
Time flies. Caron murmured, sweeping down his chin.
“How’s the Duke?”
The Marquis’ questions were constantly pouring in. However, since he is such a high-ranking ruler, his questions are as natural as flowing water, making him not even realize that he was asked many questions in the first place.
Vicente felt strange hearing about his father from the Marquis’ mouth. Harsen never mentioned the Marquis in front of Vicente.
He assumed that they were not close, but Caron’s tone of asking about his father would make someone misunderstand that they were close.
Moreover, as there was a meeting of nobles today, it was highly likely that those two encountered each other. Thinking it was difficult to understand Marquis’s intention to ask him this question, Vicente answered tactfully.
“He’s the same.”
The Marquis clicked his tongue lightly as if it were a pity.
“He must be anxious by now.”
The rambling remark was hard for Vicente to understand. Anxious? My father? I don’t know what he’s saying, but that’s a bunch of crap. Vicente muttered lightly. And he thought something. His uncle was as mysterious as his mother.
* * *
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