Chapter 8: Prince, Butler, and Trap II
The “modest banquet” Count Grimm had prepared for Herscherik looked more like an “extremely extravagant banquet” to its intended guests.
The dishes lined up in front of their eyes were prepared from the highest quality ingredients, and their quantity was so great that even Herscherik wouldn’t be able to eat them all.
Herscherik sat opposite of Grimm on the long table, thankful of the distance placed between the them.
Simply looking at the way Grimm vigorously stuffed the presented food into his stomach, Herscherik felt his belly too was soon full. The man was also eating with his mouth open, causing anyone beside him to certainly lose their appetite.
And even without that happening, the fatty dishes were more damaging to the tired Herscherik’s stomach than delicious. He had actually brought some of it to Kuro’s mouth to test for poison, but as expected, Kuro couldn’t stomach it and quickly gave up on eating.
After the meal was done, Herscherik and the others were greeted and lead to their individually prepared rooms in the villa.
The villa was composed of three floors with the most extravagant room on the 3rd floor. The 2nd and bottom floor would be used by the Imperial Guards while the 3rd floor would be only for the prince and his butler. It was also decided that the Imperial Guards would take turns as bodyguards throughout the night.
Although it was mid-autumn, it was still chilly, so a fire was prepared in the fireplace, making the inside of the room toasty.
The instant Herscherik looked at the pocket watch, it had just turned to 11 o’clock, and the local lord’s mansion could be seen from the window. Almost all of the lights in that mansion were out.
After confirming this, Herscherik vigorously got up and stood in front of the fireplace.
“Well then, I’m heading out.”
“No, wait there. Where do you think you’re going?”
Herscherik put on his coat so naturally that Kuro had to retort without a moment to lose.
“Eh? You know, like evidence gathering?”
He tilted his head in a cute manner, causing Kuro to look up at the sky.
It went without saying that Kuro strongly wanted to pressure Herscherik with questions, wondering how the prince possibly came up with the thought of needing to go out alone without a single consideration to Kuro’s presence here with him
“Why do you think I’m here? Just wait here patiently.”
Although Kuro thought that he could see traces of dissatisfaction on Herscherik’s face, he silently placed his hand on the boy’s head.
“Do not, under any circumstances, leave. In fact, just go to sleep.”
Kuro gripped Herscherik’s skull so painfully that once the prince was released, he crouched down, holding his head.
“You know I’m more or less your boss right now, sheesh.”
Kuro gave a sarcastic laugh to the prince’s muttering, and after a flawless bow, exited the room. Naturally, he did so without making a single noise with his footsteps or from closing the door.
(I guess it’ll be fine since he’s Kuro….)
He was a former master spy after all. Herscherik believed that everything would work out fine. But there was still some unease.
Herscherik was told to get some rest, but he decided to wait until Kuro returned as he took the blanket from his bed. Even though the room was somewhat warm from the fire, it was still chilly.
(I don’t wanna catch a cold.)
With the blanket wrapped around him, Herscherik sat on the sofa and watched the flames flickering in the fireplace. But he couldn’t stay awake.
Herscherik was tired from the journey and dozed off after only a few minutes.
“Ryouko, you’ll catch a cold if you fall asleep in the kotatsu!”
Her head…wasn’t slapped. Instead she was kicked awake.
It appeared that she somehow returned to her parent’s home, got inside the kotatsu while playing her mobile game, and then fell asleep. After kicking her eldest daughter’s head, Ryouko’s mother headed to the kitchen, spouting complaints.
It was fortunate that today was Ryouko’s birthday, so she wasn’t told to help out. That was also why even though her family saw Ryouko’s lazy behavior after coming home just past noon as problematic, no one pointed it out.
When she restarted the game at the point where her phone went to sleep, the handsome capture target she was aiming for this time appeared on screen.
The muffled laughter coming out of Ryouko’s mouth would make anyone who heard it cringe.
(I was right to buy this otome game!)
Ryouko checked the protagonist’s stats on the game screen. It displayed the player-insert protagonist’s status and the current progress towards the capture target.
Today’s otome game had a plethora of routes to take, so as a gamer, Ryouko felt a bit annoyed.
(Well, this would be just right for those who only want to replenish their fill of moe.)
As such, this otome game was a perfect match for the unsatisfied Ryouko.
After choosing and raising one of the three heroines as the protagonist, you work to grow intimate with the capture target. If your stats aren’t enough, you can’t trigger events and same for if you make the wrong choices.
There were 20 capture targets. The voice actors ranged from bigwigs to up-and-coming newbies in the otome gaming world. Moreover, there were three possible endings for each and every one of the capture targets. Looking at these features, you could catch a glimpse of the sincerity of the otome game’s production company.
Ryouko had heard that a secret capture target would appear after capturing all the others, so she would play the game whenever she had time.
“…..Big sis, gross.”
“Ah, welcome home~.”
The middle sister looked down at Ryouko, fed up with her older sister just simmering inside the kotatsu.
Ryouko’s niece, still in elementary school, popped her head out from behind her mother and waved her hand.
The sister’s husband was also behind her and gave a quick bow. In response, Ryouko quickly fixed her seated posture and returned a bow back.
“Even though we came here to congratulate you, why are you flattening into a sea lion….”
“Huh, is it already time?”
When she looked at the clock on the wall, it was already past 3:30. The plan was to have an early dinner and start the party at 4 o’clock.
At that moment, a voice calling out, “I’m home~” echoed out from the entranceway.
Her mother’s voice replying, “You guys. It’s not ‘I’m home,’ but ‘Hello’! You’ve already gone and married out!” could be heard. Apparently the youngest daughter had also arrived.
“I’m home, sister. Came to celebrate your Arafou1! ”
The youngest sister laughed. Her husband could also be seen hurrying in behind her .
The youngest sister, whose age was quite far from Ryouko’s, had gotten married two years ago. Her husband was only one year younger than Ryouko. This age-gap couple hadn’t really come to grips with their marriage, and this was a bit worrying.
“You two, help out! Son-in-laws, make yourselves at home.”
At the mother’s call, everyone simultaneously began to move.
With only the niece left, Ryouko beckoned her with her hand. The child obediently followed and entered the kotatsu.
“….So, have you been getting along with your dad and mom?”
The niece answered her with silence.
Ryouko produced a bitter smile at her niece’s behavior. It appeared that the rebellious years have coming earlier in this generation. When Ryouko was around that age, she was a momma’s girl, sticking close behind her mother like a puppy.
When her middle sister was born, she had followed her mother’s words, “The big sister has to protect the younger one, okay?”
But in fact, it was the thought of ’Big sister’…Ah, that has nice ring to it! that she recalled getting excited about.
“….Mom gets angry right away. And Dad’s annoying.”
“Oh my, oh my.”
Ryouko shrugged her shoulders. Was this how the children of today talked?
“Hey, you know, your mom gets upset because she loves you. If she didn’t love you, she wouldn’t even bother. Of course, you know this more than I do, right? Also, it’s not good to call you dad annoying. Your dad’s working really hard for you so you can eat food, wear nice clothes, and go to school.”
When Ryouko persuaded her, the niece knit her eyebrows. Even if she did realize all of this, she was still at a rebellious age.
Ryouko waved her hand quickly, beckoning the child closer. When the girl approached, Ryouko held her face between her hands. She looked directly at her niece, face-to-face, to prevent her from turning away.
“Your mom and dad are humans, so there are things they don’t like. There will be times when these things will strongly affect you too. That’s why be more mature, and I’ll help you with those two. Hey, promise Auntie. Don’t go calling your dad and mom annoying, okay?”
Because Ryouko sandwiched the girl’s face between her hands, she couldn’t run away. Finally, the niece resigned and nodded after pondering for a bit.
“Uh huh, such a good kid. As expected of my wonderful niece.”
Ryouko said as she released her.
“….I wish Auntie was my mom…”
“Oh no no, it’s because I’m your aunt I can say such things. Aunts have the special privilege that they can dote on their nieces. But it’s different for parents. They have a duty to raise their children. If you were my child, I would worry, get angry every day, and nag.”
No responsibility laid on her.
What her niece will become in the future laid entirely on the parents’ shoulders. That was why the only thing she could do was dote. Rather, if she went any further, she would be butting her nose where it shouldn’t be. The preaching words she just gave may also be considered butting in.
“Go ahead and ask your mom. Ask her how Auntie was when she was little. I’m sure she’d say I was really naggy.”
It was Ryouko’s duty to lecture her sisters on every little thing they did.
Their parents would scold them, but the existence of an older sister who would repeatedly lecture them for hours on end was more likely to be bothersome for the younger sisters.
Additionally, this older sister would mix in her own experiences, repeat the story over and over again, then unknowingly stray away from the topic of the lecture, and in the end, break down crying.
Recalling that now, she was very annoying. Or more precisely, this was a worrisome dark history of hers she wished to be sealed.
“Alright, I’m going to the bathroom for a sec.”
Leaving her niece behind in the kotatsu, Ryouko stood up and entered the corridor. There, her brothers-in-law were eavesdropping. When their eyes met, the two men gave a bitter laugh.
“….Sorry ’bout my kid.”
“Raising a child is hard work, huh? If anything happens, let me know. She’s my cute niece, and since you guys are family and my younger brothers now, feel free to rely on me.”
The middle sister’s husband looked at her apologetically, so Ryouko slapped him on his shoulders. Beside him, the youngest sister’s husband opened his mouth.
“We’re gonna have a kid soon. We don’t know the gender yet, but….um, I’m in your care.”
“Oh hoh, congrats! Now isn’t the time to be celebrating my Arafou then, right!”
While this conversation was happening, they were called from the living room. It appeared that the preparations were complete. The niece shut off the power to the kotatsu and turning the corner of the corridor, she bumped into her father and made an awkward face. However, Ryouko patted her niece’s head and hurried her ahead. Her brothers-in-law followed as she tried to make herself the last one to enter the room. There, her father was waiting with a glass of wine in his hand.
“Aaha, this is paradise.”
Ryouko muttered exactly how she felt.
She didn’t have any relationships, but she was blessed with a growing family and being able to quietly spend each day. She thought, ‘Surely this calming time would never end’.
When she incidentally looked at the garden, her beloved dog Kuro was wagging his tail. She would have to take him out on a walk later on.
However, Kuro’s body transformed into that of a young man in a second. A young man with eyes dark red like rubies.
With that, Ryouko realized that this was a dream.
This was the future she had wanted before reincarnating into this world when she died.
“I know, Kuro.”
She looked at herself.
Her body was no longer that of Hayakawa Ryouko, but Herscherik Greisis, 7th prince of the Greisis Kingdom.
Herscherik headed towards the entranceway, directly passing the living room.
That was because he was waiting.
When Herscherik opened the door, the man was there waiting for him, smiling. He gave Herscherik an elegant bow.
“I’m heading out.”
Just before Herscherik left the entranceway, he turned around.
Ryouko’s entire family was there and they saw him off with a smile.