SETP Vol. 2 Chapter 20

Chapter 20 – Peaceful Days

 

The days of dull, clouded skies finally cleared, leaving room for the bright sunlight to shine.

The sea reflected the sunlight to form a scenery of countless gems, as far as the eye could see.

Three men were sitting on the embankment.

They were talking while casually moving their fishing poles, cast into the sea.

“Are you really sure you don’t want to go?”

The first one to talk was a man clad in a white lab coat — Rowle Zwelg, the “Hero” nicknamed “Immortal”.

His hair was ruffled as usual, as if he had just got out of bed; he didn’t have the slightest aura one would expect from a “Hero”. Anyone who didn’t know his actual identity would surely think he was just a middle-aged man.

“Sure. Events like that aren’t for me.”

I replied without any second thoughts.

Rowle was referring to a party.

The birthday party of the third prince of the Rinchelle kingdom, Welles’ younger brother.

“I thought that Your Highness came to Rinchelle specifically for that party, though…”

The completely unnecessary remark that interrupted the conversation came from a man in his thirties, a Diestburg knight that introduced himself as a platoon captain. For some reason, I met him rather often in Rinchelle.

“…I don’t feel well. I can’t help it…I guess?”

I then put a hand on the bandages covering my body. After the battle against Velnar, I was treated when we passed through the kingdom of Saldance.

At first, the plan was to have Feli cure me, but, according to her, curing everything with magic would weaken the body’s natural healing capabilities, so it was better to heal while relying on magic as little as possible. And so I became a sort of bandaged mass.

I looked like I was going through terrible pain, but I had already recovered enough to engage in normal daily activities without problems, thanks to my “Spada” and my innate recovery abilities.

So my “not feeling well” was a blatant lie.

“I’m supposed to believe you when you’re fishing dressed all casually like that, Your Highness…?”

The breeze blowing by the sea was rather chilly, but what I was wearing was not a prince-like gorgeous robe, but very simple, casual attire.

The reason was that formal attire would just get in the way and if I wore something that stood out too much, my fake “sick leave” would be found out immediately and I’d be dragged back to the party.

The knight sighed while giving me the side-eye, but I just spat a “shut it!” in response.

“…leaving the party aside, it’s still better for me not to be there right now. It’s all too troublesome to deal with.”

“Aah…hahaha…”

Rowle laughed wryly.

The knight, who couldn’t know what I was referring to, looked confused.

“I am really sorry about that, honestly.”

“It would have happened sooner or later, I guess. But I realized that you guys and Saldance really have a terrible relationship.”

One week had passed since my duel to the death against Velnar. We returned through the kingdom of Saldance, the safest route, but it was a bad move.

The Saldance side was apparently convinced that Welles’ party would be exterminated, so they were shocked at their return and interrogated them about what happened.

There they found a young man covered in wounds, someone they had not authorized to go to the remote island. Together with an unknown ship, which clearly experienced attacks by the sea beasts.

Such circumstances gave birth to a certain theory on the Saldance side. A theory corroborated by the fact that the “Hero” Zerum Barbatos clearly avoided me. Eventually, a certain rumor started spreading.

Fay Hanse Diestburg, the third prince of the Diestburg kingdom, was actually a “Hero” in disguise. He had joined the expedition to assist the prince of a country Diestburg was on good terms with and his older brother, the first prince Grerial. That’s the rumor they started.

Rowle and Welles had been saved by my intervention, but bowed their heads to me many times, apologizing for involving me in the whole affair.

“I understand that they feel guilty for involving Grerial and this whole business. But that was really…wrong.”

I recalled a conversation from a few days ago.

Grerial, Welles, Rowle and I discussed a certain issue.

 

◆◆◆

 

<<Listen, Grerial’s little brother.>>

It all started with Welles.

<<What do you think of Lychaine?>>

I already had a terrible feeling about it.

I wanted to leave that very instant, but Rowle was standing in front of the door, blocking the way.

I resented the past me for not asking him why he didn’t sit down, even though I found it strange.

<<What could I think? Princess Lychaine and I barely even spoke. I wouldn’t know how to answer.>>

Yes, that was it.

A non-committal reply would not create any problems. Now I just needed to wait.

<<Then, let me go straight to the point. Would you take her as your wife?>>

There it is. I couldn’t help but sigh.

<<…how is it possible to jump to a conclusion like that…?>>

<<You already know about our misstep in Saldance. Rinchelle has to reward you for your assistance and take responsibility for that misstep. If we returned Grerial’s party to Diestburg with punishment instead, Rinchelle would be shamed as a kingdom of ungrateful louts for generations.>>

<<And the union between Princess Lychaine and I would repay such a debt of gratitude?>>

I took the words literally and replied with some irritation in my tone.

And what do you know? Welles laughed heartily at me.

I expressed my anger at Welles’ talking of people as if they were things, but Welles, Rowle, and Grerial, all started laughing. Saying it was a misunderstanding.

<<That’s not it. Welles is just worried about you, Fay.>>

A bit perplexed by my lack of understanding, Grerial started to explain.

<<You’re not the firstborn son and you don’t have a fiancee either, right? In this day and age, “Heroes” are seen as extremely important. If Fay, the prince rumored as a “Hero”, is married off somewhere…what will happen is rather clear. You don’t want to wield your sword, if it’s possible, right? So we thought that it’d be better for you to marry Welles’ little sister then. In Rinchelle your intentions would be respected more, at least. I’m sorry for Welles, since he feels guilty towards us, but I was the one to propose it.>>

So that’s how it was, I thought.

<<And Prince Welles accepted such a proposal.>>

Though I was sure he didn’t actually want to.

Which made things simple.

<<I shall have to refuse then. Princess Lychaine is a very special existence, is she not? She is definitely not suited to a political marriage. She should seek a partner herself.>>

After I finished talking, I heard laughing. Again.

They probably talked among themselves before bringing up the topic with me. That’s the only reason I could come up with.

<<I’m glad that you think about Lychaine that way, but I wasn’t opposed at all to Grerial’s proposal. Let me tell you, I raised both hands in approval instead.>>

<<………>>

Welles’ words made my mind go blank.

What did it mean? My train of thought stopped in its tracks. I couldn’t even answer properly.

<<Wha?>>

After a few seconds, when I finally managed to fully understand what Welles said, my eyes and mouth were wide open in shock.

<<B-but, for both Grerial and I to marry a princess from the same kingdom would be…>>

<<There are no diplomatic concerns. Grerial just needs to pick up a concubine.>>

<<However…>>

<<If Maevia opposes the idea of Grerial having concubines, I’ll convince her. I talked about it with Lychaine already. Are there still problems?>>

Welles stated that he would convince Maevia May Lychaine, Welles’ fiancee.

I had no more room for objection.

Even so, I— 

<<…can I have some time?>>

<<Yes, of course. You don’t have to decide right away. We have to obtain permission from your king too. Being worried means that you’re earnestly thinking about Lychaine and the future, right? That’s fine. As long as you give your answer before leaving Rinchelle.>>

 

◆◆◆

 

“I think you would make a nice couple though. Prince Fay and Princess Lychaine.”

Rowle recalled the conversation too and laughed breezily.

“A nice couple, huh…”.

A vast sky, an endless blue expanse.

I met a lot of people.

I spent time with all sorts of people.

I knew how frail life could be.

I knew my own way of thinking.

Then I imagined who would be at my side in the future — 

“…no, it won’t work after all.”

I shook my head.

“I think that’s what makes you two suited for each other.”

“You sure say the weirdest things.”

“Do I, really?”

Rowle opened the lure box, then cast his line into the water again and continued.

“I spent a good chunk of my life close to the royal family, you see. So I know well what kind of person Princess Lychaine needs at her side.”

“And you say that’s me?”

“She doesn’t need a purely innocent person or someone immune to her special sight. But a person that understands her situation and can help her with it. No one would be more fitting than you, Prince Fay.”

Those words made me understand.

“You could hear my conversation with Princess Lychaine? From that distance?”

“I have some particular abilities too, you see.”

I suppose Rowle meant that his five senses were enhanced too.

That explains a lot, I thought.

“First the Dvorg business and now this…I sure caught the attention of an unfathomable chemist…”

After returning to Rinchelle, I went to visit the merchant Dvorg Tsarrich.

I went to the office in the back alley, saw the boy in charge of the store again, was told to follow him, and could meet Dvorg right away at that time.

I meant to apologize for the damage caused to the ship and carry out my part of the promise.

But when I said that Dvorg laughed.

<<The nasty chemist already provided payment. So there is nothing you need to do for me.>>

That’s what she said.

But— 

<<But if that doesn’t sit right with you, we can agree that you *owe* me one favor. Tell Warrick that I thought he had already died in a ditch somewhere.>>

The nasty chemist Dvorg mentioned was surely Rowle.

I visited her office as soon as I returned to Rinchelle. It meant that Rowle had already made preparations before leaving for the Rainbow Flower island. I sighed, wondering what went through his head, but also felt something mysterious in him, something similar to my mentor and the others.

“That goes for me too. In my eyes, you’re the unfathomable one, Prince Fay.”

“And this unfathomable prince would be the perfect fiance? I just don’t understand you.”

I then scattered the lure in the water, as Rowle had done.

“In any case, now I just can’t think about something like that.”

.

<<I like you a lot, ***.>>

.

I repeated to myself, while recalling a nostalgic voice.

“I am truly grateful for the proposal, but I plan to turn it down.”

The “Trash Prince” moniker helped get rid of any marriage talks coming my way, but if I became a “Hero” in the eyes of society things would change. Some might even be so uncouth as to bring back marriage proposals that they once turned down themselves.

Such a thing would burden both Grerial and my father. That was why I was grateful for this proposal.

Even so, I did not even consider accepting it.

I kept it vague, but I thought that I would never do so in the future either.

“Is that so….”

“…I’m sorry.”

Rowle probably expected me to answer like that. He looked at his fishing pole and chuckled.

“Then…”

He continued as if he had an alternative ready from the start.

“Could you at least keep an eye out for her?”

Those sudden words surprised me quite a bit. A moment later, I laughed.

“Please.”

Since I knew of someone similar to Lychaine…

Since I knew how that person with the same “sight” ended, my answer could be only one.

“I would have done so even without you asking.”

*That man* died in a really dreadful way. I would never refuse to keep an eye on Lychaine, so she wouldn’t meet the same end. She was also going to become Grerial’s sister-in-law. There were more and more reasons for me to look out for her.

“If you’re really fine with me, though.”

“Yes, of course. Please.”

Our conversation thus wrapped up neatly. Just then…

“Woooohhhhh!!!”

The knight had been listening to us talk, a bored expression on his face, when his fishing pole suddenly bent forcefully, causing him to shout in surprise.

“Gotcha!!! Finally!!”

We had been there for a fairly long time but had barely caught anything, so the knight couldn’t hide his excitement. Honestly, I couldn’t either.

“Oooohh!! T-this one is huge!!”

Rowle, on the other hand, was as composed as before.

“Oooooohhhhhhh!!!!”

The knight was holding on the bent fishing pole for dear life. Rowle addressed him in a calming tone.

“I’m afraid it’s just stuck…”

It was too late, however.

The fishing pole couldn’t endure the knight’s herculean strength and, with a sharp crack, neatly snapped in half before our eyes.

“……….”

Half of the snapped fishing pole fell into the water with a splash, followed by an indescribable silence.

After a few seconds, the knight finally grasped what happened.

“Nnnnnuuuoooooohhhh!!!”

I pretended not to know the man screaming to the sky next to me. Misfortune, however, comes in droves. I was dragged into it soon enough.

“Ah! There! The prince is fishing!!”

“Shit!! They found me!! Rowle, take care of my pole!!”

I could hear Feli’s voice from a distance.

I tried running as soon as I noticed it, but my body was locked in an inescapable hold.

I remembered the sensation. It was like a deja vu.

“He-hey….um….Rowle…?”

“I am still a chemist, you know.”

The grin on Rowle’s mouth was shining bright…despite its evil nature.

I struggled as much as I could, but for some reason could not break free.

“W-wait, let’s talk about this. We’re fishing buddies, aren’t we? They say it’s a bond even stronger than friendship among men…!”

I tried to reason with my opponent, but…

“Stay quiet, you have to recover.”

The reply I received was nothing but damning.

“Damn youuuuuu..!!!”

On that day, the screams of two people shook the air of the coast.

 

◆◆◆

 

A few days later, a messenger arrived from Diestburg, carrying the news that my father, Philippe Hanse Diestburg, had been attacked by an unknown assailant. We received the message on our way back from Rinchelle.

 


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