SETP Vol. 3 Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – Blood of the Empire

Several minutes afterwards.

Obeying Stenn’s orders to join him for breakfast, I changed, and, with Feli as an escort, left for the royal palace.

Our destination was the nobles’ district: a luxurious residential area complete with shops catering to the nobles’ needs.

Security was stricter now, but Feli allowed Stenn, who could not walk properly, to leave without an extensive escort because of the relative safety of our destination.

“Sorry for making you bear with my request. In the palace, you never know who could be listening.”

We finally arrived at a certain restaurant.

The private room reserved for us was luxurious and gorgeous enough to deserve the title of a suite. After a while, Stenn started speaking.

“Hey, Fay.”

Stenn called me from the other side of the table.

“You understand why I’m going out of my way to do this, right?”

The reason why Stenn, still recovering from his sickness, had planned this abrupt meeting.

I was already told why in my room.

So I wondered why he would ask again and couldn’t help but frown.

“Because the empire is involved? That’s what you said.”

“Yeah, that’s right too. But things are looking worse than you’d expect.”

Stenn looked at Feli, the look in his eyes suggesting that she should know.

Feli, however, awkwardly looked away.

Stenn probably expected such a reaction: his lips twisted in a grin as he emitted his usual laugh.

“In simple terms, the core issue here is our bloodline.”

Stenn’s words probably identified the heart of the problem.

Despite that, however, I could not grasp what he meant.

“Our bloodline…?”

I looked for a possible answer in my memories, but could not find anything no matter how much I racked my brains. In the end, I voiced my doubts.

Stenn eventually continued with a simpler explanation.

“That’s right. The biggest issue is the empire’s blood running in our veins.”

He spelled it out.

“Hey, Fay.”

Stenn called me again.

“What’s your current stance? *Just a trash prince*? That’s not it, right?”

Stenn’s words forced me to realize that my position was now of a “Hero”, whether I liked it or not.

The “Trash Prince” actually being a “Hero” was just a rumor at first. But as the truth behind the Afillis war gradually came to light, and the rumors became more and more realistic.

There was also various evidence supporting the theory, such as a group of soldiers suddenly treating me in a very different manner.

“……”

“In the hopefully remote situation where our father dies, what would happen to this country? What do you think would become of Diestburg?”

“In that case, Grerial will— ”

“Wrong, Fay.”

Grerial will become Diestburg’s new ruler.

Before I could finish my sentence, however, Stenn interrupted me.

“First, there’s no chance his crowning ceremony would go well. Because we’ll see the rise of a faction supporting you.”

“…me?”

“The empire is expanding its territories year by year. For other countries, it’s a threat. And the blood of that empire flows in us. It hasn’t happened yet, but you bet your head we’ll see nobles coming out of the woodwork to form a faction to support you, convinced by the empire with the promise of a stable position in their ranks once Diestburg is under their control. Who knows how they’d react to such a proposal? Humans are cheap like that, and you know it.”

…mother was a princess in the empire. I knew very little about the woman that gave birth to me.

I didn’t even know she hailed from the empire until today.

“You don’t want to be forced into a bloody dispute with Grerial, do you?”

“Obviously not.”

“Hence I planned this meeting. I don’t want to see my idiot, unbalanced little brother and my idiot, serious to a fault older brother kill each other either. They were kind enough to even worry about me and visit sometimes, after all.”

Stenn faintly smiled, probably recalling the past.

“There are two things for you to do, Fay.”

Stenn almost shoved his index and middle finger in my face, then continued.

“First, once this incident is taken care of, express your stance as a faithful vassal of our father and Grerial.”

In order to show to the other countries that you have no ambitions at all and to keep the nobles in check.

Or…

“Well, things change drastically if you plan on becoming king, though.”

Stenn flashed a devilish grin and looked at me to prompt an answer about any such ambitions.

“Just in case, I thought I should bring up the option here. Wanna be the king, Fay?”

I glanced at the documents Stenn took out of his breast pocket, then vigorously shook my head to deny that option.

“I’m not suited to be king, nor do I want to be one. If I can live in peace, that’s all I need. If I can protect the people I want to protect, I don’t need anything else.”

“Right. That’s the kind of guy you are.”

Stenn then pushed the slightly thick pile of documents on the table towards me.

“That letter came from King Leric of Afillis. There’s a letter from the princess too.”

I took the letter in my hands and flipped it to check the sender.

.

Dear Fay Hanse Diestburg

From Leric Zwai Afillis

.

The name signed on the letter was indeed one I knew.

“It arrived after the war in Afillis, about the day after you left for Rinchelle.”

Stenn planted his elbows on the table and looked at me, a satisfied look on his face.

“It’s packed with love, I bet?”

I put the letters in my pocket, as I wouldn’t read them then and there, and Stenn smiled at me.

“In the letter King Leric sent to father, he said that if there is any trouble about the empire’s blood in your veins, he’ll welcome you to Afillis any time.”

“…that man is just…”

I recalled the face of the man I saw as an uncle. He sure never minds his own business…

“You’re looking pretty happy to me, though?”

“…just your imagination.”

“Hyahaha, no need to hide it, just admit it that it made you happy.”

The atmosphere lightened.

Stenn seemed to regret going off-topic a little, but he soon returned to the main point of our discussion.

“But in that case, my first concern about you would be a moot one.”

“Your *first*?”

I couldn’t help but ask. How many did he have?

“Well, the second is probably a needless worry too, but if I don’t ask I might end up regretting it…”

Stenn stared pointedly at me, with an unusually serious expression.

“Fay, can you kill?”

And said that.

“Prince Stenn!!!!”

He said it like killing was a prerequisite for his plan.

Stenn’s words provoked an immediate and vehement reaction. Feli shouted violently.

Stenn knew that I hated the sword.

He wasn’t supposed to know the reason why.

His question was probably because of his uncertainty about the origin of my loathing of the sword.

He predicted that I was very likely to face a situation in which I was forced to kill.

For Feli, however, that was something completely inadmissible. She knew that I carried extremely different emotions towards “death” than the average person.

Hence her anger.

“Quiet, Feli von Yugstine. I asked Fay, not you. If this commotion was really caused by the empire, Fay will have to deal with the culprit himself. He’ll have to show the ruffian’s head as proof that his heart is wholly with Diestburg. You can understand that, can’t you?”

“Yes, but Your Highness— !!”

A man that professed to hate the sword was being forced to wield it and even use it to kill.

Considering the future, it was true that such a thing would become eventually necessary.

Wasn’t it enough to consider it when actually facing such a situation however? Feli’s wide-eyed glare seemed to ask such a question.

“If it will spare Grerial of trouble, I will gladly kill. It’s nothing new. I’ve killed plenty in Afillis too.”

I interrupted their standoff and had Feli step down.

Besides— 

“Stenn might be a bit of a clown, but I know that he treasures his family more than anyone else. Let me guess, the reason why you said all this is ‘love’, right?”

“Hyahaha, don’t talk like you get it. You’re still too green to talk about love.”

…this guy just can’t say things straight, can he?

I sighed internally.

“Then, what’s the other thing I have to do?”

“The other thing is…something you’ve already put into practice, I can tell by looking. So I guess it’ll be fine.”

“Wha?”

Stenn looked at me and Feli in turn, then showed a relieved expression.

“You see, one of the empire’s policies is to eradicate all other races.”

The words “other races” made me realize it.

“Fearing that one day the empire blood in our veins could trigger a conflict, our father decided to assign Feli von Yugstine to you to act as protection…”

And it looks like the effects were greater than expected, continued Stenn while laughing.

Thinking about it, it was the same in Afillis too.

Even if Feli was a proven warrior, there were surely other people more suited than her to be my escort. Other guards joined the mission too after all.

Nevertheless, both in Afillis and Rinchelle, Feli was always at my side.

I thought that it was just a coincidence, but after hearing that it was on purpose, I agreed that it had to be true.

“Let me add that this is our father and grandpa’s will. Feli von Yugstine herself had no say in the matter.”

I found myself thinking that this fact didn’t need to be revealed to me, though. Knowing this could have possibly made things awkward between me and Feli — a disadvantage, without a doubt — providing no advantages.

So the reason why Stenn chose to say that— 

“Grerial asked me to. There should be as little secrets as possible within the family, he said.”

That’s where it began.

Grerial, who told me how skilled Feli was, definitely had a hand in us going to Rinchelle. I merely imagined it before, but now I was sure of it.

“He’s a serious guy for sure…”

Stenn mumbled under his breath.

He was probably alluding to the Rinchelle events.

It was probably the way Grerial chose to apologize to me for dragging me into the Rinchelle mission and ending up in a situation that forced me to use the “Spada” I had kept hidden until then.

I couldn’t help but think that he was too serious for his own good.

Or he might have decided to reveal this because he thought the relationship between me and Feli was already too solid to crumble.

Both were likely to be true, I concluded.

I smiled to myself, thinking how hopeless that other brother of mine was.

“Incidentally. Do you dislike Feli von Yugstine?”

“Of course I don’t.”

“Keep her at your side then. It’ll be an act of defiance to the empire because they show no mercy for other species. You’re a ‘Hero’, right? You can protect one vassal or two, I bet.”

If only he didn’t like teasing people so much, this brother of mine would be really admirable.

I looked at Stenn with affection in my expression.

“No need to tell me that.”

Stenn was satisfied with my answer, I guess.

He took the restaurant menu, saying “business talk” was over, and then it happened.

.

The deafening blast of an explosion, followed shortly by a tremor.


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