SETP Vol. 3 Chapter 2
Chapter 2 – The Great Decoy Plan
“….hey now, you could have at least thought a little before refusing…your big bro is hurt…”
Stenn’s voice was tinged with sadness, but I cut down his words without mercy.
“What….!? This masterfully crafted expression of grief…you don’t believe it anymore, Fay…? So this is the cruelty of time everyone talks about…”
Because he had been sick in bed for long periods, Stenn was very proficient at creating sad or pained expressions. It was more than a special skill, more like a hobby or quirk. One of the few pastimes he could partake in.
After being tricked by him in such ways for 30 or so times, I stopped trusting him and took this cold stance.
“Oh please, I know you’re lying.”
I looked directly in Stenn’s gleaming eyes and laughed a little.
I felt that Stenn enjoyed seeing people’s reactions like that in order to hide his actual feelings.
He focused the attention on people’s emotions to shift it away from his own…it was only my imagination, but I felt that he and I were rather similar.
So even if he teased me, I ended up laughing instead of getting angry.
“You say that but you humor me all the same…that’s one thing I like a lot. Grerial won’t put up with me anymore now, though…such a difference between my brothers.”
I thought a bit about whether to say that it was all his fault, but if saying that would have helped, his personality would already have changed a long time ago. I realized it would have been pointless and kept quiet.
“By the way, Fay, you have nothing to do, right? Care to give me a hand in a little business I have?”
“…unfortunately, my schedule is full until six in the afternoon.”
“I see, I see, so you really have nothing to do. That’s perfect. So you see— ”
“You asked a question, so listen!!!”
I shouted at Stenn for completely ignoring what I said, then noticed Feli was looking at me with a hopeless air about her, so I looked away.
I looked away because her expression was clearly telling me she strongly doubted the existence of the “full schedule” I talked about.
A tactical retreat could be a viable option.
So I couldn’t help it. Yes, I really couldn’t.
“Oh no, this is a very serious topic, you see. It won’t hurt you to listen, so please do that.”
Stenn’s tone changed and was more polite and serious, so I decided to accommodate him.
Okay then, I thought and was about to sit down—
“Though, unless you listen I’m not letting you go anywhere.”
“I’ll be in my room.”
The “serious” atmosphere lasted mere seconds.
As usual, I went to open the window, but Ratifah stopped me, saying “this is your room, Your Highness”. I very much wished to throw out the intruder interrupting my sleep instead of stating the obvious but judging from their conversation, Stenn had already bought her.
Strangely enough, despite being my personal maid she very rarely, if ever, took my side.
“Wait, wait. What I’m going to talk about regards you too, Fay. You heard that our father was assaulted, yes?”
It happened one month before.
While we were on our way back from Rinchelle to Diestburg.
A messenger from Diestburg hurriedly approached our carriage and handed some documents to Grerial. Documents that reported the event that Stenn just mentioned. King Philippe Hanse Diestburg had been attacked.
“Of course I do. But our father is perfectly healthy, isn’t he?”
We hurried back and rushed to see our father, who despite the alleged attack was busily taking care of the paperwork, a frown on his face.
We worried that he might be hurt and unable to even stand, so we were completely taken aback.
“Hyahaha, that’s right…he lost his touch now, but he was quite the warrior in his prime. I know that Grerial is a worrywart, but the documents didn’t mention any injuries, right?”
Indeed, that was true.
I recalled the contents of the documents and, as Stenn said, there was no mention of any injury.
“Father was probably worried about you guys and sent the letter on purpose in order to make you come back early. A father’s concerns, I guess. Don’t you hold it against him, for that is a shape of love too.”
Yes, yes, go on, I replied.
My reaction might seem cold, but everyone in Diestburg knew that when Stenn started talking about love he could go on forever.
“Unfortunately, however, the ruffian that assaulted our father was not apprehended. I suspect that they’re still here in Diestburg.”
“Well, if they planned to attack father, they wouldn’t give up after failing once, I suppose…”
“Exactly. And the reason that comes to mind is your and my presence.”
Stenn flashed a knowing smile.
In response, my head filled with question marks.
“…I was in Rinchelle when father was attacked though.”
I implied that I couldn’t have anything to do with the incident and had no idea why my name would be associated with it, but Stenn looked back at me with a gleeful expression.
“It’s true that you have nothing to do with the initial reason. But you know, *we* are worth more than expected, surprisingly.”
They might have prolonged their stay in the country because their target suddenly changed.
That’s the possibility Stenn was alluding at.
I recalled something that happened in Rinchelle.
Because of the Saldance kingdom’s interference, rumors about me being a “Hero” started spreading.
If the delinquent that attacked father planned not to target father himself, but to damage the Diestburg kingdom as a whole…
It was more than likely that I, who had acquired the position of “Hero”, could be targeted too.
Stenn’s words made me finally realize it, so I just replied somewhat lamely.
“Now this is just a prediction, but— ”
After this preamble, Stenn continued.
“I feel like the empire’s involved in this affair.”
Those words were immediately followed by a reaction from an unexpected source.
“That’s….!! That just…cannot be…!!”
“Hey, strange for you to be so interested.”
I looked over my shoulder towards the said source.
It was none other than the head maid — Feli von Yugstine.
“…the empire has formed a peace treaty with the former king. The late queen was also a princess from the empire. So that possibility simply cannot exist.”
“Oh yeah, you’ve been serving Diestburg since grandpa’s generation, right? Feli von Yugstine.”
Our mother, the queen, died soon after I was born. She died before I could even recognize her as my mother, so I didn’t know much about her.
“In that case, you should well know that no treaty lasts forever.”
“You don’t want to believe it…trust me, I know how that feels. I heard that the treaty was finally sealed with great effort by grandpa, the former king. Now we’re still looking into it while sharing intel with our esteemed father, but I estimate that the empire’s involved. Odds are about 7:3.”
Stenn’s behavior made it clear that the empire being involved was the “7”.
The atmosphere in the room became heavy and tense.
After a few seconds of silence, as if to break through the tension, a completely lighthearted voice could be heard.
“I’ve heard some rumors about the empire too! Basically, since Diestburg is gaining power recently, they thought they might as well assassinate the king to throw a wrench in their momentum! Right!?”
“Bingo! But our father still needs to work hard for the kingdom. Or else the burden is going on our shoulders. And so I got the brilliant idea of taking care of the brazen ruffian who escaped after the assault on father. Which leads me here today.”
Ratifah puffed her chest as if flaunting her speedy understanding of the situation, but she was more irritating than ever, so I barely acknowledged her and moved on.
Stenn turned towards me again.
Wait just a second…
You don’t mean…
…that’s going to happen again…?
I had a terrible hunch and, slowly but surely, started retreating.
While muttering curses under my breath about the new crisis befalling the slumber paradise I had finally obtained again, I approached my trusted window.
“In order to get rid of them together with me— ”
In order to act before Stenn could finish talking, I shut down my thoughts to not spend resources unnecessarily.
It took 0.5 seconds.
Then, 0.7 seconds to turn around and put a hand on the window.
And, 0.3 seconds to open the lock.
I put my hands on the windowsill and lifted a leg on it, in order to jump out—
And I heard a familiar sound.
The sound of the maid locking my body in an inescapable hold, taking only 0.1 second.
“…what are you doing.”
The deep, menacing tone of my voice surprised even me.
The sense of deja-vu that filled me was accompanied by anger seething in the pit of my stomach.
“M-my deepest apologies!! B-but…!!”
Ratifah looked terribly sorry for what she did, yet nothing but excuses came out of her mouth.
My body was locked in a hold that allowed no room for escape. She was incredibly strong.
This doesn’t make sense…doesn’t make sense at all…
“They say that even dogs repay their debts of gratitude…those who cannot uphold their honor are not fit to be called humans!! I simply cannot turn my back to the gratitude I owe…!!”
Ratifah held a hand over their eyes as if she was the victim in this situation. While her words sounded noble, what I understood was that this shitty maid valued Stenn’s pulling strings for her more than serving her actual master.
It takes guts to talk of “honor” after that…I thought as I lost the will to speak.
Maybe because her excuse was completely absurd, or because she betrayed me once again, I was so angry I couldn’t say anything.
“The name is ‘The Great Decoy Plan’! Of course, the lure is me and you, Fay!”
Stenn spoke happily to the captured yours truly. A closer look revealed that Stenn and Ratifah gave each other a thumbs up. Realizing that they were in cahoots all along somehow wiped away my anger and cleared my head.
I sighed and looked at the ceiling.
Then he had some sort of revelation.
“I should make a secret door somewhere…”
It was an earnest, honest wish.