Chapter 3: Pocket Watch, Earl, and Puppet III
Soleil, King of the Greisis Kingdom, left his room while holding his son.
The inside of the castle was already bustling with the start of the morning preparation. The mornings of the officials and servants of the inner palace, and the maids were especially early. In a country where members of the royal family living all over the place, the inner palace has the highest number of aristocrats living there. As such, the workers cannot have a single moment of negligence.
On this morning, none of the workers turned around to stop the king from walking. Of course, there was no one who could stop the king. The only one who could stop the king’s walk was no longer in this world: Herscherik’s mother, the king’s favorite mistress.
“Ara? Is my husband going to ignore his wife?”
She was the kind of woman to say that while giving a sweet smile. There were famous stories within the inner palace of how she would unreasonably pull the king away from his piles of work every day and force him to take a break. This was seen as nothing more than a selfish whim from his favorite mistress, but no one could find fault with her when they saw how it always improved the king’s complexion from unwell to excited. Instead, all the workers would applaud her in secret.
Soleil suddenly recalled those memories with a bitter smile.
(I remembered such a nostalgic thing…..maybe it’s because I’m with Hershe.)
The king looked at his precious child in his arms; Herscherik was at the moment burying his face in his father’s shoulders and stifling his cries.
The king stroked his head to calm him down and quickened his pace.
The king continued that pace, leaving the inner palace and heading towards the stables. There, a caretaker was already fixing a saddle on a chestnut mare and stood on standby. His tactful butler, who has been with the king for such a long time, had probably sent a message.
The king’s precious child had begun to calm down, so the king placed him up on the saddle first. He then gallantly straddled his beloved horse and took the reins.
“Hersche, hold on tightly so you don’t fall.”
Herscherik nodded and checked that his hands were firmly on the saddle. The king wrapped one arm around his son’s waist and took the reins with the other.
His beloved horse had been with him as long as the butler, and it slowly started to exit the stable from the back at the same time as its passengers finished their preparations.
“I’m going to speed up a bit, ok?”
The king said as he put some strength into the arm around his son and increased the pace of his beloved horse.
When they left the back gate of the royal castle, there were no private houses around.
The reason for such was that the imperial city encompassing the royal castle was located in the southern area of the country. Further south was a large span of nature that belonged to the royal family. In that span, there were meadows, dense forests, and a tall mountain that has looked down on the Greisis Kingdom since its founding.
This place was a special land where only the king, the royal family, and those allowed by the king could enter.
The king’s horse galloped to the top of a grass-covered hill where one can see the cityscape of the royal castle and imperial city in one glance. The sun had begun to rise and smoke rose up from chimneys all over the place, probably from citizens preparing their breakfast.
“This place is my favorite place. You’re the second person I’ve brought here.”
The king said as he dismounted the horse and picked Herscherik up from the horse’s back.
It was the first time Herscherik rode on a horse, so his body moved up and down even more than expected and his butt was injured with each impact. If he was on the horse for another 10 minutes, he would have been crying for a totally different reason than his previous one.
The horse had no riders anymore so it walked a little bit away and started to eat the grass.
The king looked to his side, checking his beloved horse’s situation. He sat on the ground while holding his son before placing him on his knee.
“Wait a bit.”
The way Soleil said that was as if he was singing a song. Herscherik couldn’t follow his words, but the wind blew around them, as if responding to the words. The grass around them waved like a whirlwind and at the same time the king’s song ended, the wind blew outwards and left them.
Herscherik didn’t understand what just happened. But he understood that something did happen.
“….The first person I brought here was your mom. What do you think your mom said when she first came here? She said, ‘I’m hungry! I should have packed some food!’ ”
Herscherik, at first, couldn’t catch up with everything that was happening, but his father smiled at him while he reminisced.
His father somewhat felt different from usual. His usual father would give a gentle smile that had a shadow somewhere and was wrapped in sorrow. However, now he had a natural smile on his face, without any shadow.
Herscherik didn’t know what to say so he was silent. Therefore, the king let out a bitter laugh and looked over at the royal castle being cast over by the morning sun. Then he slowly began to tell his story. His tone seemed like he was reading a picture book out loud.
“…..A certain king, you see, is a puppet. He appeared to be honored by many people, but in truth, he is nothing more than a puppet controlled by an invisible thread.”
Herscherik intentionally didn’t ask who the story’s king was, because he easily grasped that the king was the one right in front of him: his own father.
“The king wasn’t really expected to become the king. He dreamed of researching and learning about such things as agriculture. He was constantly thinking of how he could be helpful to his father, the king, as well as his older brothers. But one day, his father and brothers passed away due to sickness, and with that, the people who would become king disappeared.”
The young king of only 10 years of age didn’t even know the basics of politics. The villains used the decorated king and took control of the kingdom’s political situation. Even when the king became an adult, the villains continued to control the puppet king as much as they liked.
“In the beginning, the king planned to fight the villains for the sake of the country, the royal family, and the citizens…..but the villains were better.”
Soleil’s face completely changed from his previous smile to an expressionless one in an instant. He probably did that to avoid feeling the pain of remembering what he was going to be talking about.
“To tell you the truth, Herscherik, your eldest sibling isn’t your brother, but your sister. However, she passed away when her younger brother was still inside his mother’s stomach. The same disease that took away my father and brothers, also took your older sister to the Garden in Heaven.”
“Yes, the same one. A sickness that only affects the royal family. We don’t know the cause. When I was a child, there were no previous outbreaks of this disease, so in the end, they couldn’t find a cure. There was no time to treat my daughter…..”
The king firmly made a fist with the hand that wasn’t supporting Herscherik.
“After that child passed away, the villains said, ‘That’s a shame. I hope this doesn’t happen to the next one’.”
His expressionless face took a complete change into one of anger and bitterness. Herscherik was surprised by how his father, who only knew through gentle expressions, would reveal such negative feelings. Moreover, the contents of his story was already enough to surprise him.
If one were to just look at the surface, then those were consoling words from a retainer to the king. But, if one digs deeper, then he was saying that the same thing might occur. No, even a perceptive person could notice.
Could notice that from the shadows, someone was pulling the strings, killing the king’s father, brothers, and even his first-born child.
When Hersherik noticed that detail, he was surprised. At the same time, his temperature dropped and he felt his blood drained out of him.
(There are humans who could do such a thing….)
There was no proof. But, Herscherik wouldn’t even consider that his father had spout out lies. Furthermore, the story he heard before from the Earl of Luzeria also played a big part.
The first time he met the minister, the minister had the eyes and expression that he looked down and despised people. His own intuition reflexively judged the man to be unpleasant, and it wasn’t wrong.
(It’s cruel, too cruel….)
Why did he do such a thing? Herscherik couldn’t wrap his head around it.
In his past life, Ryouko had a niece. The first time she met her niece, she decided to unconditionally love and protect the girl. Even if she was another child, the distance between the two wouldn’t change.
He couldn’t think of why the minister would kill, nor did he want to think of such.
“….And then, the king stopped fighting. He decided that his family was more important than the country, and its people.”
His father concluded with a weak laugh. It seemed to Herscherik that rather than laughing, his father was crying.
(That’s why he decided at that moment to become a puppet.)
There was no other option left for Soleil. To protect his family, he had no choice but to listen to the minister’s words.
The villain was cunning.
To prevent the king from escaping, he let the king meet his concubines so the minister could increase the number of people he could use as hostages. The princesses and young ladies who became his concubines had no idea what was happening in the background and only entered the inner palace with the hope of supporting the king. As a result, the king couldn’t refuse, and the villains planned for such and chose the concubines.
The women weren’t idiots either. They entered the inner palace, learned of its situation, and couldn’t move either. The women became just like the king. As the king wanted to protect his family, the women wanted to protect theirs. They mutually wanted to protect each other, so they became unable to move.
With the exception of just one person.
“Herscherik, truthfully, I didn’t want to be with your mother.”
Just one, only one woman was different. Only she laughed at the situation and said to the puzzled Soleil.
‘Does there need to be a reason for me to be with the person I love? I’ll beat up those third-rate bad guys that come from some third-rate drama!’
The woman boasted and adapted into the inner palace; she supported the consorts who fell into depression as well as loving their children like her own.
She paid no mind to the taunts of the minister and aristocrats and talked down to them with her words instead. She was a noble and kind woman who was scared of nothing.
However, such a woman could not go against Heaven’s will. She left her child behind and went on ahead first to the Garden in Heaven. Her only grace was that she didn’t die at the hands of the villains.
“That’s why, Hersche, I will protect you. I’ve always thought so since you were born.”
(….So that’s how it was.)
In his previous life, he had enjoyed many fantasy stories, manga, and games. Carrying such memories, Herscherik felt that this world was uncomfortable.
Even though he was a prince, there was only his nanny, Meria, to take care of him.
In any story, there are usually attendants, servants, employees, and maids surrounding the prince. He had originally thought that because he was the 7th prince and thus on the bottom of the list of many princes, his position was a bit difficult, so his one servant was the result of reducing labor costs. But, the king had placed Meria near his son, as she was the only nanny he could trust. If anyone else was placed near his child, he would have to be vigilant. This was a very efficient method.
Furthermore, the fact that the father goes to meet his son without any set time was to check his well-being. Even if the servants of the inner palace were bribed, and the king could go meet him at any time, then it would be difficult for them to get closer to his son. He had done this thoroughly to prevent the possibility of the aristocrats approaching his son.
Besides, the youngest prince, unlike his older siblings, had no more relatives left to support him. If the king gets threatened again and they had to use someone, the possibility that it would be Herscherik is high, especially since the risk of using him is low.
“The moment he appeared in yesterday’s banquet, I thought that he could defeat the villains for me.”
However, that was only a fleeting dream. He too was already a puppet, dancing on the palm of the villains’ hands.
“…..Herscherik, you probably hate this selfish, disgusting king, right?”
Herscherik shook his head after thinking for a moment about those words.
(If I was in the same position as him, I think I probably would’ve done the same.)
He would put the protection of his precious family over those whose faces he doesn’t even know.
As a king, he probably was the worst. Even Herscherik understood that.
The existence known as a king must be selfless and stand alone in superiority.
An excellent king is selfless, placing his priority on the nation and citizens over his beloved wife and children who share his own blood. He may even use his family for the sake of the country. That is his responsibility and duty as the king.
If one looks at those qualities, then Soleil was definitely a failure of a king.
But as a person, could someone call him the worst?
He killed “himself” and endured humiliation for the sake of those precious to him. If it was a normal family, then no one could find fault in him.
However, he was the king.
He continues to bear the responsibility of a throne that he didn’t want, even to this day. There’s no doubt that this father was too kind, suffering every day and night under this responsibility.
To Herscherik, his father looked like a very kind and splendid person. But to the citizens, he probably looked like a very feeble king.
Herscherik just realized it now, for his father’s clothes were the same one he wore for yesterday’s banquet. He probably sat in front of the fireplace, unable to sleep all night as he thought about his troubles. He was most likely wondering what he could possibly do to save everyone.
“….In that case, the king just needs to defeat the villains, right?”
Just send the puppeteer to the gallows. The one who can do that is the king who holds that power. Hercherik knew that this was the wrong answer to his father’s question, but he couldn’t help but ask.
The father gave a sad smile and stroked his youngest son’s head.
“The one who will do such a thing isn’t a king, but a dictator. I would rather be called a feeble king than a dictator…..I don’t want to be the same as them. I really am a no-good king, you know.”
But that was his only pride Soleil had as a person, and as a king.
Although he was following what they told him, it’s not like he followed everything. Even if he was a king that was looked down upon.
Even while he was at his wit’s end, he continued to walk this tightrope to protect the citizens from the minister and his faction, even for a little. That was all Soleil could do.
As his father calmly told his story, Herscherik didn’t move, as if time itself had stopped.
King and dictator.
There were parts where the two resembled each other, but there was also a wall that needed to be crossed over. For a dictator, even if he was to use his power and execute the puppet master without any proof, another one would be born. If he forcibly used his power just once, the same thing will just occur again. And then he will have to use his power again. His unrestrained power would no longer become efficient and this will cause the country to decay, inviting demise to befall. There were plenty of countries that had disappeared like that in his past life’s world.
Herscherik could understand. But he couldn’t agree.
(The earl will die!)
Herscherik tried to stop his tears, but they overflowed. Helplessness engulfed Herscherik—the reality that his father had on the largest shackles and his own reality where he couldn’t do anything no matter how much he thought about it.
Herscherik jumped into his father’s chest. He couldn’t help but cry, feeling very pitiful and helpless.
The beloved horse looked at the parent and child from afar.