21: His Highness’ Scheme and Fiance’s Plan (Part One)
It was a slightly chilly and rainy day.
I didn’t know why I thought of going to this place. It was just it was the place that held important memories for me, and I wondered if I turned to this place because I had a kind of premonition.
The flower garden inside the deepest part of the royal castle, which only a limited number of visitors, should have been devoid of people in the late autumn season when the flowering season was still far away. However, my eyes opened wide when I saw a shadow of someone in the elegant Arbour in the corner of a flower garden.
Although I said it was Arbour, it was a small but neat building with walls and windows on all four sides. Inside there were chairs and tables where people could relax while enjoying the flowers. It was not unusual for someone to come here to clear it regularly, but it somehow didn’t look like it.
I approached while feeling my heart beating restlessly and opened the door silently.
The figure of the person staring outside sitting near the window jumped and turned to look.
Even in the gloomy weather, I could see magnificent blonde hair, porcelain-like white skin, and a pair of ice-blue eyes that looked calm and intelligent. Even though she was wearing a modest dark green dress suitable for a married woman to wear this season, she could not hide her glowing beauty.
It was out of my expectation, but I muttered the name in dumbfoundedness that I had found somewhere in my heart.
That was the name of my first love, whom I had never stopped loving ever since I met her for the first time in this garden, in the season of flower blossoming twenty years ago.
Philia modestly lowered her eyes and made a beautiful, flowing bow. It was the magnificent conduct devoid of any flattery, conduct befitting for her, now a Duchess.
“Why are you here?”
“N-No, I’m not criticizing you. I’m just asking you why.”
When I asked her with an arrogant behavior that had become my second nature in front of her, Philia eye’s, who usually fend off my inquiry with a calm smile, dropped. I flustered and corrected myself.
“The Queen has invited me for tea. Before returning, I suddenly wanted to see the garden, so I requested it.”
“Even though the flowers haven’t bloomed yet?”
“Yes, but I can easily remember the sight of the abundance of flowers here.”
I stood beside Philia, who turned to look outside the windows with distant eyes and gazed in the same direction.
“Well… That’s right.”
“I often encounter Your Highness here, right? That time was really a blissful time.”
What she was looking at wasn’t a garden with withered flowers but probably, the garden overflowing with colorful flowers blossoming.
At that time, there were me, my parents, His Majesties the Emperor and Empress, you and your father. It had been nearly two years since the previous Duke and Philia’s father passed away. For Philia, that should have been when her blissful time ended.
“Are you happy now?”
“I remember that was something Your Highness had asked me once. It should be, will you be happy?”
“Ah, I remember it. To which you replied that you will be happy. That’s why I will ask you once more… Philia, are you happy now?”
Philia smiled with a tearful face that seemed to burst at any moment. When I looked at her, I realized just how cruel the question I had asked her was.
No one in high society didn’t know about the cold relationship between the Duchess and her husband. The passage of time was a cruel thing. Ever since the previous Duke passed, the two who had been getting along so well began to drift apart due to their busy schedules. I had heard that their relationship had almost reached the point of living apart.
Since her husband had handled all the business of the Duke’s house, she couldn’t even divorce because of her strong sense of responsibility. Hence, she’d been now living every day while bearing the curious high society’s cruel eyes.
I was so ashamed of myself for making the only woman I loved so wholeheartedly so bitter. Even though I had hurt her, I couldn’t even reach out to console her, who was about to burst into tears at any moment.
When I hugged her shoulder, thinking she had become a bit skinny, she looked at me as her ice-blue eyes turned round and widened. Perhaps because of surprise, I kissed her lips which seemed to have parted slightly as if asking me to partake in them.
For a moment, Philia’s arm filled with power to resist, but when I intertwined and sucked on her tongue, her resisting power slipped away as if she were charmed. She leaned on me, I hugged her dainty and soft body, and we both got absorbed in intense kissing and devouring each other greedily.
Her taste, whom I had been thinking about always in the past twenty years, deeply intoxicated me.
We fell on the soft couch while being entangled. Philia’s cheeks were flushed, her eyes were moist, and she had a lustrous woman’s face. But the sensible her spat out the words of rejection from her lips wet with the remnants of an intense kiss.
“You shouldn’t, Your Highness. I have a husband. And Your Highness, you too…”
“Don’t say that. Don’t say it now.”
I once again kissed her and interrupted her words.
Although her sweet tongue was clearly responding to my kiss, I was annoyed by her, who hadn’t entrusted herself yet to me. I gave a bite on her smooth neck and the collarbone.
“Ah, you can’t…”
“Don’t reject me, Philia.”
“Ah… Your Highness…”
“Call me Al. I have always wanted for you to call me that.”
Pushed by Philia’s seductive voice, I spilled out the words I couldn’t say all these years.
“I love you, Philia.”
Tears pooled up in her ice-blue gaze and overflowed from the outer corner of her eyes like a melted crystal.
“We both have fetters on us, but I have the means to accompany you publicly. I promise to make you happy without fail. That’s why you shouldn’t reject me.”
“Yes, Al. I have been waiting for you… for a long time.”
As tears spilled out of her eyes, Philia said so with a sparkling smile.
I could not endure anymore and tore off her dress, burying my face in her soft and tender breasts, indulging in her sweet skin. Her lower parts were also moist and open as if waiting for me…
“Hmmn… that feels incredible, Philia… I wanted that so much…”
A dull sound echoed as heavy document binds fell on Alfonso’s head, who was sprawled on the table.
“W-What!? Something fell on my head…”
“Oops, my bad. My hands slipped, and the document fell.”
Laurenz apologized frivolously when Alfonso suddenly raised his face.
Alfonso’s bloodshot eyes that didn’t seem like he was awakened from sleep glared at his retainer, who lacked respect for him as usual.
“It’s you, Lau! What do you think you’re doing, harming your Lord?”
“I don’t know. I just feel really pissed off.”
“Dammit! You interrupted me at the best part… However, it was really a wonderful dream. I will definitely have to write it in my diary.”
Laurenz looked down at his Lord creepily, whose expression immediately seemed like he was recalling something.
“What’s a diary? That shameless fictional diary made up of 20% reality and 80% wild delusions?”
“What… You, did you read that!?”
“Rather than saying I read it, I just skimmed it when you slept with it open. Ah, but I didn’t read much. It was so far removed from reality that it made me feel sad.”
“Is that so? I don’t think any of this is impossible.”
“Your head is filled with happiness. It’s impossible, and since you stepped down like a man for Philia’s happiness, why don’t you drop your lingering attachment too?”
“No, I recognized Philia’s marriage, but this and that is different.”
Laurenz shrugged his shoulders, exasperated. In short, my Lord was still making his first love complicated. I knew it would be futile even if I said something, so I dropped my gaze to the desk and changed the topic.
“What have been you been trying to do so diligently since last night? Why don’t you sleep at night instead of snoozing? There’s no urgent matter at the moment.”
Laurenz picked up a page from the documents spread on the office desk, and his expression turned suspicious.
“Advantage of Reviving the System, and Points to be Improved On and Significance of Official Mistress System? Al, what are you even thinking? I know there was the custom of having official mistresses in place of concubines in our country, but it was abolished a long time ago. All of it was abolished with the one shout of the Queen, wasn’t it?”
Alfonso nodded stiffly to his aide, who fluttered the legislative bill that was done to an astonishingly high completion degree regardless of it was jesting content.
“Of course, I’m also against having too many mistresses. But just like the earlier dream… No, leaving aside that, even if I was tied to shackles of responsibility in the future, it’s the system where I can put my hand on Philia in case something happened to Philia…”
“Just now, I feel like I heard my fiance’s name being called.”
At the beautiful voice that reduced the room’s temperature in one breath, Laurenz muttered, “Ah, darn it!” and Alfonso was startled.
“L-Luca d’la Love!? Why are you here?”
Luca’s body was hidden from view by Laurenz’s tall body, but he politely refrained from the position a bit separated from the desk in courtesy. He looked at Alfonso with an expressionless face, his emerald green eyes frozen.
“Thank you for your extraordinary greeting. I had the additional report regarding the investigation of the aforementioned Marika De Dyural. The first report didn’t have enough information about what happened before she was taken in.”
“Marika… Ah, that lady.”
Right after the engagement announcement, I had been given the information Luca had come into contact with her.
The pretext was to be cautious against her as she seemed like a suspicious person aiming for the crown princess position. Naturally, Luca hadn’t said it out of kindness, but he was offering information in exchange. It seemed that he had come to deliver a follow-up report that had been put on hold because the information was not yet sufficient at the time.
“As expected of d’la Love, despite the difficulty of collecting the information about the city and past days.”
“There are people who are good at this sort of thing.”
“I really don’t want to make enemies, honestly… What happened to Fifth Division has reached my ear.”
“I wonder what you’re talking about. Unfortunately, our military connections are weak.”
Laurenz laughed merrily, and Luca replied in a matter-of-fact tone without changing his expression.
Alfonso coughed to interrupt Laurenz and Luca, who had neglected the room owner, as threatening signs began to bubble in between them.
“So, you have gone out of your way to come here personally. Did something come up?”
When Alfonso returned to his bearing as Crown Prince, Laurenz corrected his posture, and Luca turned back his gaze to the Crown Prince. Though saying that, his gaze didn’t have a shred of sincerity, and instead, he held up the documents to the Crown Prince in a condescending manner.
“As a result of the investigation, a fascinating name came out… I’m sure you would be interested in it.”
“Interesting name? Who is it?”
“It’s not an easy question to answer. This information required a considerable compensation.”
“I have told you already. What are the conditions?”
Luca shrugged and gave Laurenz a fleeting glance, who muttered that it would be about Phily anyway.
“Yeah, Phi… I had been thinking a lot about Philia but changed my mind.”
“What? You say you changed your mind about Phily?”
“I had wanted to say to change your disgusting way of calling her once again, but I will give up this time and instead—”
Luca extended his hand covered in black gloves.
“I request the diary of Your Highness Cesari had just talked about earlier.”
“Right now. I’ll give you this information if you give me all of it without making copies.”
“I will take upon your words. All three books are there.”
“Lau!? How did you know about my secret place?”
When Alfonso saw the three beautiful gold tooling and leather-bound books in Laurenz’s hands, his voice turned upside down as he shouted.
It was the collection of his love poems that he had begun to write to release his overflowing adolescent imagination. These diaries should have been safeguarded in his secret place.
From the age peculiar embarrassing poem filled with narcissism to the wild delusion leaking out his sexual fetishes, these three diaries were filled with Alfonso’s love for Philia.
Naturally, they should have been safeguarded strictly so that no one should be able to see them, but it seemed like Laurenz knew not only about their existence but also the hidden place.
“A good retainer is the one who understands everything about his Lord. Besides, it’s about time for Al to graduate from his barren first love. This is a good opportunity to get rid of it.”
Although he seemed to be saying something reasonable, Laurenz’s fine face definitely was amused. Taking the diaries, Laurenz handed them to Luca, who flipped through them to check. A deep crease immediately appeared between his eyebrows.
His well-featured face soon turned pale. It looked even more artificial and cold.
“Now that I have them, here’s the information as a substitute.”
Luca held out his hand and, ignoring Laurenz, walked up to Alfonso’s office desk. He put down the thick document in the form of a report and instead picked up a piece of paper scattered on the desk.
“The official mistress… the system created to allow married women to be officially recognized as the king’s concubines.”
Luca’s black-gloved hands tore through the documents at once.
Alfonso’s eyes almost popped out as he looked at the documents ripped in half with a loud screeching sound.
“What! The fruits of my labor from last night!”
“Seems like Your Highness has always been fond of other people’s wives, it doesn’t matter how many mistresses you take, but I don’t have the slightest intention to share my wife with another man. Your worry for Philia after her marriage is unfounded.”
“H-However, who even knows what the future holds. You’re still young, and someday, your feelings may change…”
“Impossible. My feelings may grow even more, but they will never disappear. I don’t think this obsession will vanish even if I die.”
Luca gave a thin smile as he asserted it firmly and without wavering. His green eyes were flickering suspiciously, concealing something just as they had when he was fifteen, but even more unfathomable.
“That person is mine. I will definitely not let her go… If you make any funny move, the next that I will rip apart will not be the legislation bill but sometimes else, did you understand?”
Alfonso’s feelings towards Philia weren’t inferior to Luca’s. It would damage his pride if he stepped back from being threatened by a junior, so he couldn’t pull back easily.
Probably knowing this, Luca didn’t press on this topic further. Silently, he turned on his heels. But before he left the room, he looked back.
“One thing before reading the report. The aforementioned woman has been in contact with a man named Bart ever since she was in the city and is still in contact with him. Publicly, he’s an illegitimate child, but his real father is royalty, and in all likelihood, his father is the previous king, Orlando I.”
“An illegitimate royal child and illegitimate child of the previous king joining together… What in the world do they intend to do? I’m sure if you investigate further, you will not have spare time to fantasize about illicit love affairs with someone else’s fiance.”
Leaving a bomb and a sarcastic remark behind, Luca left the room.