Chapter 1: Prince, New Year Banquet, and Surprise Attack I
Winter greeted the Greisis Kingdom at the start of the new year. In the castle in the imperial capital was a great hall with walls whiter than the snow. This was where the royal family, aristocrats, and high-ranking officials had gathered today for a banquet.
Many families were invited to this magnificent banquet, one which occurred at the start of every new year. Everyone was dressed up, chatting, and enjoying the food from the buffet. Ladies and gentlemen were dancing to the songs played by top-class musicians in the area set aside for dancing.
A child sat obediently in his chair and watched the room from a corner of the flourishing hall. The strands of his blond hair looked like rays from the spring sun and his green eyes like fresh leaves. His skin was fair and almost transparent. His beauty was such that one could mistake him for a girl.
In a few months, this child will turn seven. He had a smile on his face, but he was bored. Occasionally, aristocrats and high-ranking officials would come to greet him when they remembered his existence. He would deal with them and their children appropriately as he continued to observe the hall.
How many times had he muttered this in his mind? But, he knew from his life experiences that not showing it on his face was the secret to success.
His name was Herscherik Greisis. He was the seventh prince of the great nation of Greisis Kingdom. Those close to him called him Hershe.
But, he had another name before that. He was once a ‘she.’ An office lady at a certain listed company and an ordinary, normal otaku. Her name was Hayakawa Ryouko. On the day before her 35th birthday, she lost her life in a traffic accident. This was Herscherik’s previous life.
While retaining her memories, Hayakawa Ryouko reincarnated into a world of swords and magic as this blond-haired, blue-eyed prince with the mind of a disappointing, otaku woman in her late 30s.
Another lower-class aristocratic family came to greet him in hopes of getting closer to the royal family. Herscherik put on a business smile to deal with them while grumbling in his mind.
(Well, this is still better than having the boss pour me drinks.)
Herscherik recalled a memory from his past life.
This boss preferred pouring drinks than having his drink poured for him. Whether it was a year’s end party, new year’s party, welcoming or send-off party, he would go around to his subordinates and pour alcohol for those who could drink and non-alcoholic drinks for the rest. While the newcomers felt ashamed that this was happening, the boss felt it normal1. The man thought of himself as a boss who poured for others before being poured for. This was quite an awkward memory from Herscherik’s past life. Compared to that awkwardness, dismissing those approaching with a smile was much easier.
Lost in his nostalgic memories, Herscherik unintentionally giggled. The person obediently waiting by his side peered into his face.
“Hersche, what is it?”
The person whispered to Herscherik in a low voice inaudible to others.
The first thing that caught Herscherik’s eye was the man’s vibrant hair that resembled a bright sunset, orange with streaks of gold, and shoulder-length. He would usually tie it into a casual ponytail at the back of his head, but today, he made sure to neatly tie it with a ribbon. The drooping, sapphire eyes on the young man’s balanced face exuded a gentle air.
His name was Octavian Ordis. He was the third son of the man who represented the Greisis Kingdom in battle and feared by other countries as the Blazing General, the former general Roland Ordis. Octavian became Herscherik’s personal knight and was nicknamed ‘Oranju’ or ‘Oran’ by his master.
“It’s nothing, Oran. I just remembered something and laughed.”
“Then, that’s fine…If there’s anything, tell me, okay?”
Oran said and straightened up beside Herscherik. Today, Oran was wearing the same kind of outfit as the rest of the aristocrats and high-ranking officials. Though he wasn’t as gaudy in them. The embroidered navy blue outfit made him look tall and while he seemed thinner than other knights, it fit his trained body well. However, the unadorned sword at his waist didn’t match his outfit. This was his beloved weapon that he had had for many years. As a personal knight serving as guard for his master, he was given the privilege of carrying a weapon during such an event.
“I know. More importantly, is that the end of all the people who want to greet me?”
Herscherik asked and looked around. Several aristocrats and high-ranking officials were observing him, but as soon as their eyes met, they panicked and looked away. Seeing this, Herscherik grinned in satisfaction.
“Ah, as usual.”
Oran nodded and surveyed their surroundings. As with Herscherik, those who hated Oran diverted their gazes when he met theirs. Suddenly, a shadow appeared behind the two.
“Welcome back, Kuro.”
A voice called out from behind Herscherik. If they were anyone else, hearing the voice coming out of nowhere would have made them jump in surprise. However, the prince and his knight were accustomed to this and greeted this person—Herscherik’s chief butler, Schwartz aka Kuro, without trembling or even turning around.
The young man Herscherik addressed as Kuro was a shadowy person with glossy black hair and dark ruby eyes. His flexible body gave off a different feeling from the trained Oran. He was wearing his proper, black butler outfit today, but Herscherik assumed that there were several pieces of shadowy equipment underneath them. He was a former master spy, so it would be normal for him to stash a weapon in his button. Because of his shadowy appearance, he was popular among women for being “mysterious.”
By the way, Oran’s kind aura and gentlemanly demeanor as a knight also made him quite popular. These two people contrasted like the sun and moon.
“You’re late, black dog.”
“Shut your mouth, delinquent knight.”
The two exchanged barbed comments, causing Herscherik to let out a wry laugh. It had been a year and a half since they met and yet this kind of exchange was a daily occurrence between the two, so he was used to this being their way of conversing. They may seem to be on bad terms with each other, but in actuality, they acknowledged and trusted the other’s abilities. But, they probably would never ever let the other know.
“Good work, Kuro. How was it?”
Herscherik butted in, sensing the beginning of a quarrel if he didn’t.
“I did a brief check. Everyone appears to have kept their promise.”
“Alright. That’s good.”
Satisfied with Kuro’s answer, Herscherik looked like a child who was just given the finest sweets. While that smile may look like an innocent one to those who didn’t know what was going on, it was a malicious one to those who did.
“I don’t need to do anything painful.”
Herscherik whispered and made an exaggerated sigh of relief.
He recalled the event from a year and a half ago.
After the incident with the drugs and the orphanage, everything was quiet. This silence felt deeply ominous. There was no contact from the minister’s factor or the Church, who was believed to have been deeply involved with the drug incident.
(I can’t help but think that this is the calm before the storm.)
After a month of nothing, Herscherik began to move.
(‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ right?)
“You two… Sorry for getting you involved.”
Herscherik had said to his aides as he began his move.
He rushed with his aides to the west to lend a helping hand to the citizens in need and to the east with a smiling face to wave proof of corruption at the corrupt aristocrats. With his beautiful, old, silver pocket watch instead of an inrou hanging from his side, he was accompanied by his two aides when he met with his older brother and his knight’s family. He had begun his reformation of the world as though he was in a historical drama from a certain time period in his past life, one from a certain time period2.
“It’s been a while since our opponents had made their move. In that case, let’s become so much of an eyesore to them that they have to move again.”
Herscherik told his aides with a dastardly smile. Although what he was doing was by no means evil, his aides thought that he looked like a villain, although they wouldn’t say it out loud.
“We can help people too, so it’s killing two birds with one stone. And…”
The one who bore the brunt of the scrutiny for the drug incident was the first prince, Marcus. This meant that to the parties involved, Marcus was publicly their greatest threat. The man himself knew what kind of danger he was putting himself by taking this position. However, he was the first prince backed by powerful supporters, so the risk to him was much lower than it would have been to Herscherik. And yet, even though it was lower, the threat he faced wasn’t zero. So Herscherik put himself in the public eye in hopes of distributing this danger.
He was even scolded by Marcus for these actions.
“Brother Mark, I also treasure my family. Even if you say you have enough support, what would happen once the enemy stops caring about that? Besides, Brother is the first prince. You can’t move around as freely as I can, right?”
This backfired and Marcus ended up being warned by Herscherik instead.
Although the youngest prince had a mild appearance, he was reforming the world with his allies in the background. Although he didn’t show his true colors, he refused to be beaten down. He threatened the aristocrats with their weaknesses so they wouldn’t oppose him, and forced them to do their jobs properly while keeping silent about his interference. He also reminded the citizens he saved not to reveal his true colors. Even if the enemies who know of Herscherik were to see his actions, they would find them baffling. This was Herscherik’s “Nothing ventured, Nothing gained Strategy,” shortened to “Venture Strategy”. The Venture Strategy continued in secret.
And today, with all the threatened aristocrats and high-ranking officials present, it was a terrible position for them to be in while being the best opportunity for Herscherik. He could confirm the effect of his threats while adding another one on top. While calling it a threat might make Hershe seem evil, it was a fine threat for those on the receiving end.
With just a simple, “How are you?” and a cultivated business smile, they would be frightened half to death by the pressure alone. Because so many of them were too scared to even approach the prince, he had to send Kuro after them instead. Kuro easily passed through the crowd and came back after confirmations. Probably because of who he was, he was able to stealthily apply pressure on them.
Herscherik looked at the two standing by his side.
They made his Venture Strategy perfect.
(Kuro and Oran really are too good for me.)
While Herscherik was grateful for the reliability of these two pros, he could only secretly sigh at his own pitifulness.
Kuro was an excellent master spy who had earned the nickname ‘Shadow Fang.’ His combat abilities and information gathering abilities were top-notch.
Oran stood above everyone with his martial arts. As expected of the son of a former general, his talent with the sword, spear, and other weapons was excellent, and his horsemanship and tactics could not be overlooked either.
The master of these two overflowing with talent was Herscherik. He could be described as ordinary, perhaps even lacking.
All the benefits one might get as a protagonist in a reincarnation novel were nonexistent in him. His physical abilities were lower than average. His combat abilities were catastrophic. Magic was out of the question because he didn’t possess any mana. He didn’t have any special abilities either. These defined the seventh prince, and the only things he had were the knowledge and experience he gained from his past life and his slightly above average looks. But even the redeeming quality of his looks was overshadowed by the looks of his siblings.
“Hersche? Are you feeling unwell?”
Herscherik had suddenly turned quiet, so Kuro called out to him, worried. Herscherik returned to his senses and shook his head in response.
“No, it’s nothing. Well, since everything is done and it’s late, let’s go back.”
He took out his pocket watch and saw that it was already past 8 at night. He would usually be in bed at this time since he was still a child, but because today was a banquet and he had work to do threatening under the guise of greeting, he ended up staying up for quite some time.
“It’s time for the children to sleep, you know.”
Herscherik said so playfully that his aides burst into smiles. They knew that Herscherik wasn’t a helpless child despite his looks. But, they did know that Herscherik pretended to be one whenever it benefited him.
“Kuro, sorry to ask you of this, but can you inform Mr. Luke? If I suddenly disappear, Father would be worried. It should be fine if Luke knows.”
Herscherik said and got up from his chair, when a shadow approached.
“Your Highness! Your Highness Herscherik!”
Just as Herscherik was about to return to his room, an aristocratic man rushed over calling his name.
- In Japan, it’s common knowledge that the junior workers serve the senior workers. As such, it’s unthinkable that a boss would serve anyone lower than them.
- An inrou is a wooden medicine holder which used to double as a form of ID in Japan in the past. Here, Hershe is alluding to the Edo period, which happened after the Sengoku Jidai.