Chapter 3: Pocket Watch, Earl, and Puppet II
On the other side of the iron bars, Herscherik was about to raise his voice in delight when he heard the answer from the jail, but he covered his mouth in a panic. If he raised his voice and was noticed by the surrounding soldiers, then all of his work till now would have been for naught.
Herscherik bent forward, carefully drew closer to the barred window, and peered inside. When he did, there was the Earl of Luzeria inside the prison with his coat removed. The earl looked up to the window where Herscherik peered down to see the inside; their gazes met.
As the earl wasn’t expecting anyone to appear, he opened his eyes wide and stood still. Herscherik observed the frozen Earl of Luzeria’s condition. Numerous places on his clothes were covered with dirty spots and conspicuous tears.
The first thing that caught Herscherik’s attention was the injury on the earl’s forehead that most likely came from when he was arrested. He probably didn’t receive any treatment in the prison as there were traces of blood running down.
“Is the injury on your forehead alright?”
The first thing that was on his mind escaped Herscherik’s mouth.
There’s no way that he’s alright. He reconsidered and immediately regretted. This person who holds the rank of earl suffered violent treatment and ended up in such a place.
The earl was still shocked, so Herscherik extended his hand and presented the pocket watch. His initial purpose for coming here was to return this to the earl.
“I came here to return this to you. It’s important to you, right?”
“…..Yes, it’s very important.”
“I’m glad I could deliver it to you.”
The Earl of Luzeria accepted the pocket watch from Herscherik. He closed his eyes in a nostalgic look and stroked the pocket watch. Then he gripped it tightly, closed his eyes, and made a pained expression like he was holding back the bitterness.
The moment Herscherik sensed the trouble in his expression and was about to ask about it, the earl returned his gaze to the prince. The earl’s gaze was so straightforward that the question couldn’t leave Herscherik’s throat.
The earl knelt down on one knee there and lowered his head towards the prince, which Herscherik later learned that it was a sign of respect as his retainer.
“Your Highness Herscherik, I apologize for spoiling your long-awaited banquet last night.”
Herscherik shook his head at the Earl of Luzeria’s words.
“Do not worry. It’s fine. More importantly, Earl, please tell me about yourself.”
The earl rose up from his humble position and casually repeated the prince’s words. His voice had astonishment mixed in.
“I am a traitor who tried to deceive the minister and was arrested instead. My being here is the unquestionable proof of that fact.”
The Earl of Luzeria’s words were mixed with scorn in no way directed towards Herscherik but towards himself. Herscherik sensed the emotions contained in his tone and opened his mouth, thinking that it can’t go on like this.
“Earl of Luzeria, I don’t want to know the facts swirling around the air, but your truth.”
Herscherik stared straight at him and continued to speak without averting his eyes.
“I came out this far because I wanted to hear the earl’s story from the earl’s mouth, not from the words of other people. No matter what others say, I want to hear what you have to say.”
There is only one fact. Because that is the reality of what happened.
When one truth is fulfilled, people react, feel, and think about the truth through their own thoughts and perspective. But there are as many truths as there are people. Herscherik didn’t want to become like those people who easily and arbitrarily decide that if someone says it’s a fact, then it’s the fact.
Herscherik continued to speak without averting his gaze…..He was only a child who just yesterday was celebrating his 3rd birthday. He had a mature tone, and his unclouded eyes were fixed on the earl as he gulped.
(Within these past years, I wondered if there were people who would speak to me like this….)
The answer was no. He was never spoken to like a prince by anyone during his time in this world. Even if he was spoken to like that, the words could only be interpreted as nothing more than excessive gossip or judgmental feelings. However, this prince’s words were like water as they seeped into this dried-out man’s heart.
As Herscherik kept pressing, the Earl of Luzeria began to tell his tale.
“…..I was, caught in a trap.”
He paused for several beats before continuing his story in a grave tone.
The beginning was 3 years ago when he noticed a certain noble’s corruption. He learned that that noble, a viscount, took part in an illegal fraud, so he reported it to the Bureau of Legal Affairs. Normally, the corruption would warrant a revocation of his title, but the viscount got away with just a stern warning.
Additionally, the earl felt doubtful and with his sense of justice, he began to investigate by himself the events related to this corruption. In the end, he discovered that Minister Barbasse and his faction were behind the corruption, and the minister was doing this for his own gains.
“I thought that at this rate, the country will decline and be destroyed.”
In order for the nobles to line their pockets, they acted as dictators and raised the taxes. Citizens who couldn’t pay their taxes were worried about the necessities to live and wandered out in the streets. Life had become difficult for them, so they turned to a life of crime, causing public order to deteriorate. The taxes had to be raised again to control them.
It was clear that this cycle of negatives would cause this country to decay.
“It was right around that time when I was planning on recruiting like-minded comrades to return the government to the status quo. My wife and child died in an accident…..my son was only 3 years old, just like Your Highness.”
While he was in the middle of being heartbroken, thinking it was an accident, a secret letter was delivered to him. The contents were a warning, telling him to not pry any further.
“There is no proof, but they were the ones who stole the life of my wife and child by covering it as an accident to set an example to me and those that shared my concerns for the country. After that, my comrades were struck by bad luck one by one, and our group fell apart.”
Despite all that, the Earl of Luzeria didn’t give up. The hatred he had for having his beloved family stolen from him drove him onwards. In consequence the earl thought that without those feelings, he wouldn’t have lived this far as he gripped the pocket watch tightly.
“That is why I decided to fight despite being alone. I gathered as much evidence as I could within these 3 years and reported them to His Majesty. However, the result was what played out yesterday.”
The secret letter that he knew nothing about along with the imperial seal were probably forged. If one searches for a document, one can easily imitate the author’s handwriting and create a forged secret letter in a blink of an eye. That, or it could also be that the evidence he was holding was bait to lure him out.
As a result of surrendering himself to anger, he was caught in their trap just as planned.
“This country was a powerful country in the continent for many years. It had vast land and military strength. And the connection between the royal family and the foreign countries brought about a perpetual peace.”
What was currently protecting the Greisis Kingdom was: the continued 500 years of history, its vast territory, the relations between fellow royalty, and its military strength. All of those manage to protect it from foreign countries.
However, that was only on the surface. The long-lasting peace was slowly beginning to decay from the inside.
Furthermore, a great number of countries that have begun to gather power appeared. If word of turmoil in the internal affairs of Greisis Kingdom, a country whose name was known throughout the whole continent as a great power, was ever be leaked to other countries, then it would create an opening for them to take advantage of the kingdom’s state.
“It was before Your Highness was born, between the time His Majesty was born and when he took the throne. A most violent time when royalty and the nobles opposed each other.”
At that time, the Earl of Luzeria was still young and he uncovered these facts by connecting the information he gathered like a puzzle.
According to Herscherik, the king who reigned during his grandfather’s time was a man with keen eyes. He kept a watchful eye on the aristocrats’ corruptions. Yet he was unable to strip them of the ranks or dismiss them as they cleverly hid the proof of their corruption.
“It was at that moment. Misfortune fell upon the country. Members of the royal family, one by one, were falling all over the place due to sickness.”
Now that he thought back to it, was it really because of disease?
The keen-eyed king passed away due to sickness and the first and second prince followed. The only one left was the third prince who had no influential backing. As he was only 10 years old, Barbasse became his guardian and was bestowed the position of regent.
By the time the young king became an adult and Barbasse was returned to the position of minister, the factions that opposed the minister and the royal family faction of influential aristocrats were all practically purged. Those left alive had their influence significantly lessened, and they could no longer oppose the minister. And before anyone had realized it, the minister’s faction was seizing control of the government.
“I was still young and had no interest in the country’s government. I was only the son of a regional lord, so by the time I realized it, it was too late…..Your Highness, I apologize.”
The Earl of Luzeria concluded and bowed his head. He was knocked down with a sense of helplessness and looked like he would disappear at any moment. Herscherik saw him quite small despite being an adult.
Everything was stolen and the “hope” he had turned out to be fake. The Earl of Luzeria had nothing left for him.
The words that spilled out of Herscherik were an apology. The Earl of Luzeria wasn’t expecting such words, so he looked upwards and saw Herscherik, whose eyes were welling up with tears as he tried to keep back from crying.
“I’m sorry for not knowing anything. I, didn’t notice anything, even though, you worked so hard for us. I’m sorry…..”
Herscherik’s sentences were disconnected as he tried to hold back the tears.
(In spite of losing everything, he was still fighting….all by himself.)
He lost his family and parted with his comrades; even though he was alone, the earl fought.
Ryouko also parted with her family. As soon as he remembered his past life’s family, he would want to cry. He wondered how his father, mother, and sisters were doing in Japan. His own sentiments on top of his empathy towards the Earl of Luzeria caused Herscherik’s brimming eyes to overflow.
I miss Japan. I want to go home.
Herscherik pushed down those feelings to the depths of his heart to preserve himself, but the seal broke and they spilled out.
(I always deceive my own feelings.)
Even if he did it unconsciously, this was the only way for him to lessen the pain by preserving himself. But it was different for the Earl of Luzeria, for he accepted it before confronting everything.
Herscherik believed that this was his reality.
“…..Will you believe me? I may be spewing out convenient facts to you, deceiving you.”
“People who try to deceive people won’t ever confess such a thing themselves.”
Hersherik declared to the earl and stood up.
“I will speak to Father to release you immediately. If you have any other pieces of evidence, they should be able to stop the minister’s conspiracy right away. Please wait!”
Herscherik said and started running without waiting for a reply.
(I can’t lose him…..to the death penalty!)
Herscherik returned to the path, making sure that he wouldn’t be caught by anyone. Soon those who work in the castle will be waking up. There were several dangerous encounters, but Hersherik managed to finally arrive at the inner palace, and he headed towards his father’s private room.
He had heard about the room from his father, but this would be the first time he has ever visited it. He thought that there might be the chance that someone was in the room, but a light shone through the gap in the door of the king’s private room, despite how early it was.
Herscherik didn’t knock on the door and opened it without any hesitation.
His father was sitting by himself on the sofa in front of the fireplace. The fire in the fireplace had already burned out, but the nearby lighting gave off a warm light.
“This early in the morning, what’s wrong? Are you no good in the morning? And those clothes…..”
Herscherik checked his own appearance; his coat, pants, and shoes were covered with dirt and several leaves were stuck on him. One could easily see right away from his outfit that he went out somewhere.
However, Herscherik drew closer without caring about that and pulled on his father’s clothes with his tiny and dirty hands.
“Father, please listen!”
Herscherik’s angry look did not belong to that of a 3 year old. He would usually pretend to be a 3 year old child, but he couldn’t afford to keep up the façade now.
Since someone’s life depended on this.
No, perhaps there were even more people’s lives at stake.
Thinking that, Herscherik didn’t care about keeping up the act that he was a 3 year old.
“The Earl of Luzeria isn’t a traitor! He isn’t, bad. He was…..de…c…ei….ved…..”
He was crying in the end to the point where even he himself couldn’t understand what he was saying. He tried his hardest to look upwards at his father, but the tears overflowed and blurred his vision, making it very hard to see his father’s beautiful face.
Feelings such as regret, longing, and sadness….they all swelled up inside him.
The wave of numerous feelings, for the first time since being reincarnated, surged forth like a tidal wave, and the tears and cries burst forth.
“Death penalty, and such, no good…..”
Unless he could speak in a more logical order, he wouldn’t be understood. He realized this, but all that came out of his mouth was simple words.
He managed to not break down crying by grabbing onto his father’s clothes. However, he was supposed to be looking up, but before he realized it, his gaze was on the carpet.
The father gently stroked his son’s head, picked him up, and stood up. He always held his son, but the child felt somewhat heavy today. Rather than it being his weight, the king thought that it was his presence that increased.
And then, he suddenly called out to his butler who was awaiting orders.
“I’ll be going outside. I’ll be back for breakfast. ”
“As you wish.”
The king nodded at the short reply and turned his face towards Herscherik. The youngest prince showed an emotion he hadn’t done so far. His white cheeks as well as his eyes were swollen and red.
“Want to go for a little walk with your dad?”
TL note: In this chapter, the author switches between 事実, 真実, and 現実 a lot. Their meanings overlap, so I’ve decided to translate them as follows: fact, truth, and reality.