Chapter 75: “Baptism!”
You’re a calm and beautiful girl… The Baiens, I believe they’re the dukes of the South…
The dukes rule a large area bordering the Duchy of Oath, and they must have been a very powerful house in the Kingdom of Prois.
I remember at least the major houses. Of course I don’t remember all the houses, not even the countless vassals. That’s the job of the herald, and a lord of a great house doesn’t have time to memorize the names and sigils of the noblest of the nobles.
This is not an excuse or a lack of confidence in your memorization. A man’s time is finite and a lord has many things to do. If you have time to memorize the names and sigils of people you may never have anything to do with in your life, you have many other things to do.
So there are probably very few nobles who don’t know about the Carruthers, but there are probably very few who know about the Khans. Unless they’ve been involved in something, or caused an incident, or had something noteworthy happen to them, they usually don’t know anything about the knight barons.
“Oh, Helene-sama, you’re so nice…”
As expected of a person who’s said to be the most likely fiancee of His Highness Prince Ludwig.
Hmm? Ludwig’s fiancee? Is that so?
“Oh, no? Don’t you know? His Highness Ludwig’s fiancee is already engaged.
“Don’t you know? His supposed fiancee, the Countess Carruthers, has not lived in King’s Landing since the engagement was finalized and has only met Prince Ludwig a few times. His Highness Ludwig didn’t mean what he said but since many people would come on to him when his fiancee wasn’t around, he only made a token effort to avoid such people.”
Hmm… I didn’t know that. I see.
Well, if you put it that way. If Ludwig and I were truly engaged, I’d have been moved to King’s Landing and sent to live near him. It’s true that we’ve only met a few times.
“Why would His Highness Ludwig marry a country bumpkin from the middle of nowhere? Without a fiancée, more and more families would come to woo him, so of course he got engaged just for the sake of it.”
“And you’ve been seeing your true love, Helene, in secret.”
“The daughter of the Carruthers frontier countess is miserable… She doesn’t even know she’s being treated like that, and now she’s taking advantage of the fact that she’s Her Highness Prince Ludwig’s fiance.”
What? Did I? I’ve been so arrogant. I didn’t know…
“Shh! We don’t know where the Carruthers frontier girl is so you’d better not say anything. I’m a countryman, but no, you’re a countryman and the frontier counts are savages who use force to get what they want!”
I agree. You shouldn’t talk so much about other people in a place like this. Especially if you don’t even know their faces. They could be listening right in front of you.
And Katherina, stop staring at them like that. I don’t blame them. I’m just thanking them for giving us some great information.
Helene and Ludwig. That’s good to hear. There’s a lot that’s funny. I’ve only seen Ludwig a few times since I became his wife. If you ask me, normally I’d have been moved to King’s Landing to be with Ludwig when the engagement was finalized.
And yet there’s never been anything like that, nothing between the two of us. There was no ceremony of marriage in the Japanese way. There was no discussion about the future between the two families. That’s strange if you think about it.
With a family as large as the Caruthers you’d think they’d have some sort of meeting to discuss the future of the two families. There’s a lot of things that need to be discussed, such as how the two families will cooperate with each other and how they’ll share profits in the future. Nothing practical like that was decided, only some vague engagement or marriage license was decided and left alone. It is convincing that this is because they were dummies.
If I’m just a dummy fiancée to keep people from coming after me, that makes sense. There’s no need to discuss it with the Caruthers. They have no intention of marrying me.
I see… This might be an easier way to break off the engagement than I thought. I’m sure she’ll break it off when the time’s right.
But I can’t have it be my fault if it is. I’ll have to ensure that the engagement was broken without my having caused it. The king and Ludwig may try to make it look like I’m responsible. I’ll have to do something about that…
“His Majesty King Wilhelm, who has graced us with his presence this year as he did last year, would like to say a few words. Please give him a round of applause.”
While I was thinking, Helene’s speech was over. And out comes the king. Why is there a king here? I won’t say.
Last year was Ludwig’s first year at school, so it’s no surprise he’s here for the ceremony. And this year he’s here because Helene is Ludwig’s bride-to-be. There’s nothing strange about that.
“I come here today on a personal matter, so do not be so formal. This year’s new students are of great importance to me, to Ludwig, and to the future of the Kingdom of Plois. That is why I have come to see you.”
King Wilhelm turned to look near me as he said this.
“Bollocks. You can’t be…
“Yes. It’s Lady Helene, isn’t it?”
The three guys who just gave me important information are talking about something amusing. They’re really funny. They’d make a great comic trio… The world isn’t as easy as it seems. If they actually become professional comedians, they’ll probably get asked for their money back by the audience. You’re funny, but you’ll never make it as a professional comedian.
And if you follow their gaze you can see Helene von Baien who has just given a speech as the representative of the new students. I have a feeling the king’s eyes are looking in that direction too. I guess she’s Ludwig’s bride-to-be after all. Then I’d better behave appropriately and be ready to fade out at any moment.
Helene seems to be responding to the king with a faint smile. I’m sure they have an arrangement behind the scenes. Lords scare me. I don’t believe in nobility anymore. I just want to go back to my lands and settle down…
As I was thinking that, the king’s speech was over before I knew it. I didn’t hear the last half of it, but that’s okay. I don’t think he said anything important…
The entrance ceremony is over and the new students are leaving the main auditorium in droves. I was about to follow the wave of new students, but they stopped me, and when I turned around, I saw all these troublesome-looking people.
Flora! Come on!
“… Herr Ludwig, please don’t call me that loud…”
It was Ludwig who called me. I couldn’t just ignore him now that I’d been summoned. I’ve just greeted King Wilhelm, Duke Dietrich, Lutger, my parents, Victoria, and all the other people I don’t like are around Ludwig.
It’s a bit of a misnomer to say I’m not good at this. They’re people I can’t be bothered to pay attention to, or ignore, because they’re always there for me. It’s not that I don’t like them, or that I’m not good at them, but there are many people who are important to me.
Well, I don’t owe the King or Ludwig or Lutger anything… I’m only marginally indebted to Duke Dietrich. He’s helped me in many ways.
I owe my parents and Victoria a debt of gratitude. I’ll have to do more to repay them.
“Finally… I’ll be with you every day this year!”
“Is that what you’ve called me here to talk about? The new students have to head to their classrooms now, don’t they?”
Don’t call me here to talk about such trivial matters… You can tell that to Helene, Ludwig’s beloved. Tell it to me, your dummy fiancée. Or is this another one of your poses?
No, you’re right. Calling me here to talk to me in such a public place would stand out. You’ve called me here to make me stand out so you can make the best use of me as a dummy wall. Nice work, Ludwig.
“Well, don’t say that. Ludwig was looking forward to this day.”
King, that’s none of my business. You’re just thinking about making out with Helene at the academy, aren’t you?
“Whoo! Hey! Country girl! His Highness Ludwig deserves better! You should know your place!
Oh, I see. Lutger knew about Ludwig and Helene long before. That’s why he’s been telling me this for so long. Now I understand why. Don’t worry, I have no intention of marrying Ludwig either. I’ll just have to make sure I don’t look bad.
“Oh? Prince Lutger? You don’t think Flora is worthy of Prince Ludwig? Oh, dear? Did I mishear you?
“Rutger! Watch your mouth! I’m sorry for my son, Lady Maria.
Mother… Shouldn’t you be trying to intimidate Lutger with your murderous temper… Even Duke Dietrich is frightened. For one who knows my mother’s true nature, it’s frightening.
“I’ve never been so close to His Majesty the King or His Royal Highness…”
“Where’s the daughter of…?”
Oh, no… People around here are starting to whisper. It’s too conspicuous to talk to these people casually.
I have to get to class now, so if you’ll excuse me. Good day.
I greeted him rather quickly and I hurried out of there. I’m sure word’s getting out…
No valet is allowed in the classroom, so I’m on my own. The classifications are based on family rank and my class is made up of the top students of the year. Naturally Helene is at the top of the class, and the Carruthers are at best in the middle of the class.
This year, there are two dukes, and most of the others are marquises, but there are two counts in one family. Two of them are marquises, three and four are counts.
This shows that the frontier counts are ranked much higher than the marquises. Not only the Carruthers, but also the other counts of the frontier are a pair, so they are probably higher than most of the marquises.
Of course, there are some marquises that are higher than the Counts of the Frontier, so it’s hard to say, but there’s no doubt that the kings have placed importance on the Counts of the Frontier.
And by the way, I don’t mean I know your faces or your names. I just saw a list of names and the order in which you were seated. The list is posted in order of rank, and that number is my seat number. I’m number 14 out of 25. The other Count of the Frontier is number 22.
The maximum number of students per class is twenty-five, and only one hundred students are allowed in each of the four classes. But it’s not every year that 100 students are admitted, and it’s not uncommon for the number of students to fall short of the limit if there are too many students from too few families to be admitted. Classes three and four are for counts and the rest are assigned to classes one and two.
I’m waiting for my seat and I can’t help but feel that I’m being watched and gossiped about. I wonder if they’re interested in me because I’m the Carruthers’ daughter after all.
“You’re the daughter of the Carruthers frontier count? Have some sense!”
“What are you doing? Do you really think you’re going to be taken seriously by His Highness Ludwig?”
Oh, my God! I don’t know what’s going on but I’m surrounded by girls. I can’t put a name to the faces, but from the way they were sitting earlier, they’re probably higher ranking members of the Marquise family than me. Is this bullying?
This academy doesn’t have separate classes for boys and girls so there are boys in the same classroom but they’re all pretending they don’t know about it. It seems the nobles higher up than these girls are also determined to keep their heads down.
Stop it! What are you doing?
When one of the girls stood in front of me… the girls around me ran away. You’re not the top of the pecking order, are you?
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, sir. Nothing has been done to you, so there’s nothing to worry about. Thank you for your help, Miss Helene.
I thank Helene for intervening and rescuing me. The Carruthers are the highest-ranking house in the Count’s Domain, but not the highest in the whole of the Kingdom of Prois. The next three years will be hard to predict.
“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Don’t hesitate to talk to me if you need anything.”
And this beautiful girl. She’s so graceful and natural. It reminds me what a real princess is like. I’m sure Katharina would’ve felt differently if she’d seen Helene instead of me first.
And so my school life began.
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