Chapter 3: Pocket watch, Earl, and Puppet I
Herscherik let out a muffled voice as he rolled over inside his first-class futon.
At the end of the terrible banquet, Herscherik returned to his room with his father. Meria, who felt more regret than he did, comforted him as she bathed him. Then he changed his clothes to pajamas and crawled into his bed. Normally it would only take him 3 minutes before he drifted off into dreamland, but today, he was unable to sleep and it felt like the journey to dreamland was far.
When Herscherik turned over again, the beautiful, old, silver pocket watch left on the side table came into view.
It was the object that came tumbling towards his feet by chance when the abused traitor, the Earl of Luzeria, was arrested. At that moment, his line of sight was attracted to it like a magnet and before he knew it, it was in his hands. Now, the beautiful, old, silver pocket watch was giving off a dull shine from the moonlight that entered through the gap in the curtains.
Rather than saying that no one is to be blamed, the surrounding people were nothing like that and because of them being in a fluster, he carried the thing unnoticed when his father brought him to his own room.
Herscherik crawled out from his futon and picked up the pocket watch.
It was one of those types with a button to open and close it, and when you press it, the lid opens up to reveal the clock face. He had already sort of sensed it with his body, but it appears that a day in this world was also 24 hours and just like in the previous world, there were 12 numbers lined up in the same way. He understood by looking at the position of the needle that it was a little past 10 o’clock at night.
(….Why did Father have such a sad face when he was told that the Earl of Luzeria was a traitor?)
The memory of his father’s sad expression was burned in the inside of his mind. As a king, the scene should have been one of exposed anger at his retainer who betrayed him. His father was kind, so he might have felt sadness, but if Herscherik had to say, then his expression was more befitting to be called disappointment.
(Besides, the earl didn’t look like a bad person…..)
To Herscherik, the Earl of Luzeria seemed to be sincerely troubled at the country. At the same time, it also felt like he was being cornered.
(Something is wrong.)
That unease he felt at that place disturbed Herscherik’s sleep.
It called forth insecurity in Herscherik’s heart and stirred up impatience. He desperately tried to uncover the truth of this unease, reaching deep inside his mind to recall that incident.
The documents the Earl of Luzeria pulled out
His father’s expression of shock
The secret message Marquis Barbasse pulled out
Marquis Barbasse who was filled with confidence compared to the Earl of Luzeria who had a hopeless expression
He tried to recall the details that he didn’t notice at that time and repeatedly reproduced the scene in his head.
The moment he noticed after several recollections, the impatience inside of Herscherik vanished. He unconsciously relaxed his hand and the pocket watch fell, but he couldn’t be bothered to notice.
(The Marquis’ proof and the Earl’s actions aren’t consistent!)
The evidence that the Marquis had could certainly be definitive proof. However, a person sending a secret message to a foreign country to seek asylum wouldn’t report to the king as if to rub his nose in the face of danger.
If he was Herscherik, he would have escaped right away. That way, rather than rubbing his sins in the face, he would have a higher chance of easily escaping. No thief would purposely turn themselves into the police while holding onto evidence.
When he reconsidered the minister’s actions as well, they were also strange. How could he determine the earl’s document to be a counterfeit without checking it and knowing its contents?
(….Perhaps he knew something beforehand about the document handed over?)
When he noticed this one inconsistency, other parts here and there became questionable.
Additionally, Herscherik couldn’t forget Minister Barbasse’s last expression. That expression that completely looked down on people, just like the evil magistrate in historical dramas, made Herscherik’s chest rise with discomfort.
‘…..Was the first move, taken?’
The last words whispered by the Earl of Luzeria wouldn’t leave his head.
He picked up the pocket watch that had fallen off the bed. Whether it was from the recoil of the drop, the lip of the clock was open and when he looked at it, Herscherik’s eyes grew wide. What was there wasn’t the clock face that he had seen before, but a small portrait fitted inside. It appears that this pocket watch had a two-fold structure. A structure where if you lightly press the open-and-close button, it will be the clock face; and if you open it after you pressed the button twice to close it, the portrait will appear.
The portrait had a young and healthy Earl of Luzeria, a woman who is probably the earl’s wife, and a baby held in her arms. The three of them as a family were smiling happily.
‘The earl will probably get the death penalty…..’
He recalled the aristocrats’ conversation on his way back to his own room.
‘Is he in jail right now? It would’ve been nice if he had been obedient.’
Hersherik closed the pocket watch and returned it to the table. He then went to bed and pulled the futon over himself.
(I probably can’t meet the earl right now.)
He easily came to the prediction that an investigation was surely underway right around now.
(Tomorrow, I’m gonna wake up early and go meet him.)
The reason being is that he felt like he must meet him.
Herscherik wasn’t sleepy but he still closed his eyes.
It was a quick two years since he reincarnated to this world. Herscherik has come to live the life of royalty, something unthinkable in his past life.
He is fed without saying anything. All his clothes are custom made with the highest grade. Even though he lost his mother, his wet nurse Meria was kind to him. His father is the king as well as a kind, handsome young man.
Compared to his life before he reincarnated, this world is an unthinkable dream-like world without inconveniences. Almost like he had hit jackpot in a lottery.
However, this world surrounding him may not be that sweet of a dream after all. Thinking back, there were many unnatural occurrences. But he had turned a blind eye to them. He felt like if he did look at them straight in the eye, then he would have given up and forgotten everything about his past life.
And he may no longer want to admit the reality of Ryoko’s death and her family whom she will never see again, and drown in the indulgent life as an aristocrat in this world.
The righteous heart that tells him that he mustn’t forget and the fearful heart that wants him to look away from reality clashed inside of Herscherik.
At 4 AM, Herscherik got up from his bed in the middle of his still dim room and finished changing clothes as quickly as he could. It was still the beginning of spring and cold, so he put on a coat. After he opened the door and poked his head out the door, he checked that no one was outside and ran out to the hallway.
(I’m glad that I got Meria to show me a sketch of the castle.)
He always did his normal walks with Meria. Although he wasn’t allowed to leave the inner palace nor garden for any reason, Meria thoroughly taught him which paths to take to get where.
Roughly speaking the castle is composed of: the king’s residence as the inner palace to the north, the imperial castle that acts as the governmental facility to the south, the research institutions to the east, and military facility for the soldiers and knights to the west. Specifically speaking, the little details are different, but to Herscherik who doesn’t go out, as long as he knew the path to his destination, the western castle with the prison, it was enough.
He left the empty hallway and entered the courtyard. This courtyard was a place where only those living in the inner palace can enter. In the daytime, the princess consorts gazed at the flowers and their chatter caused the flowers to bloom. But in this time of no daylight, there wasn’t a single person here. He left the passageway that was next to that garden. He passed through the gate that faced the imperial castle and turned towards the west. He headed west in that direction and saw his destination come into view.
Herscherik barely managed to reach his destination while avoiding the eyes of the soldiers on night shift patrol.
When he left the passageway that connected the imperial castle to the military facility, the training grounds were right in front of him. During the daytime, the place would have been filled with soldiers and knights. However, the military facilities stood towering among the surrounding empty training grounds.
This is the first time he has been outside of the inner palace. Normally, Herscherik would frolic around, but he didn’t have the luxury to do so now.
(The prison is further west…..)
He recalled the sketch from inside of his memory and began walking. He went past the soldiers in the middle of their patrol several times and reached the backside of the military facility.
Probably due to the lack of maintenance, the surrounding garden between the castle walls and the facility was overgrown with weeds, and the grass was free to grow as tall as it could. It was lucky for him that a child’s body could easily be hidden just by bending down.
On the wall of the building, there was a window that was close to the floor and had bars covering it. There was no glass inserted in the space and only the bars were attached to it. The small windows that may have been made to prevent escaping, acted as a substitute light source for the prisoners below in the basement.
(I hope the earl is in here….)
He gripped the beautiful, old, silver pocket watch as a good luck charm and approached the bars.
“Earl of Luzeria, are you there?”
He called out in a small voice so he wouldn’t be caught, but there was no answer. He continued to do that for each window, but even so, there was no response.
(The next one is the last……)
“Earl, if you’re there, please answer.”
If I don’t see him here, then the possibility of meeting him will be lost. Herscherik prayed as he put some strength into the hand holding the pocket watch.
Without a doubt, that voice was the one he heard in the banquet hall—the voice belonging to the man with the light blonde hair.