“… What have you done?”
Before Baldoir’s sigh, I fidgeted.
“W-was that no good?”
Baldoir’s work room was narrower than my office. This also owed to the many items lain around, but my office had been made special from the start, I’m sure. I proceeded talks of Alette-san’s marriage interview, and when I called over to Baldoir, he seemed fed up.
“No, my apologies. If it’s an engagement proposed by you, I cannot decline it. Anyways, the other party is the vice-captain of Lorphys, correct? To speak to status, the Randbergh House is a retainer house to the Walts. I don’t think that quite matches.”
“Eh? You can’t decline?”
While I was surprised, I heard voices from the Jewel. The Third spoke to me.
『My time was the same, declining an engagement from your lord is quite a task. Though precepts like those of the Walt House were taken into account by the house I vassaled to. In my case, it was a huge help the Second searched out a bride for me, though.』
The Seventh said something similar.
『You need a considerably adequate reason to decline. But at his age, I think it’s strange if he didn’t have a girl he liked. Lyle, try asking.』
Following the Seventh’s suggestion, I tried asking.
“Do you have anyone else? Someone you like?”
Baldoir’s eyes moved a bit, but focusing on me, he opened his mouth as if he had given up.
“You were under house arrest at the time. You probably heard it, in knowledge alone. I do have someone I like. But she’s a girl of a village I stopped by when suppressing bandits. Marriage wouldn’t really work out.”
Hearing that from Baldoir, I recalled that before the bonds between houses, freedom of love was meaningless. In my case I was engaged to Novem, but it seems Baldoir has someone separate in status.
“So what do you plan to do?”
“I plan to accept. Sure enough, we cannot ignore the problems of Lorphys. If Lorphys withdraws from the alliance, we will need to put in sanctions. If we mistake the adjustments and go too far, the other nations will become nervous. If we’re too light on them, frustration will build up. I’m sure the reactions will vary by country, and it’s a problem we can’t leave be.”
Right. In the case Lorphys withdrew, there was the possibility of sanctions. If the other countries couldn’t accept it, we couldn’t leave it be.
In the worst case, before we settled things with Bahnseim, I’d have to keep the crumbling of the alliance in sight. But what would the other countries think of that? I wasn’t going to lose. That’s how much power I had at the moment. However, even if I won, it would be a victory for that passing moment alone.
While I waited for my fight with Bahnseim, I didn’t want to have to carry some strange explosives.
“… I’m sorry. I remember. My time as an adventurer was so thick, I was on the verge of forgetting my noble life.”
“There’s no helping it. Knowing something and experiencing it are different things. As a condition, I did lay hands on her after the bandit subjugation, so I’d like to consider taking her on as a maid. At the very least, I’ll have to recognize our relationship.”
The Seventh, in a bit of a low voice.
『He really does treasure her. Rather, he does what needs be. If only Lyle had that sort of leisure.』
There, the Third spoke to the Seventh.
『It’s because you made the territory’s scale too large, you rarely ever dealt with bandits personally, did you? Even if you did, you were surrounded by retainers? For a village rid of its bandits, it’s a common tale for the best girl in the village to be offered. For someone with territory on Baldoir’s level, he should be getting those offers quite often, but… from how it sounds, it just one?』
I asked the Third’s question.
“One woman? Or all the women you’ve had relations with?”
Baldoir stared at me.
“… Lyle-sama, please don’t think everyone is surrounded by women like you. It’s one girl. One. I was in her care when I was subjugating bandits a few years ago. At the time, I too had knowledge alone, and got through with excitement after that. But after that, I tried my best not to stay at that village.”
The Third gave a serious voice.
『From the other side’s point of view, that’s just trouble. When they gave thanks for defeating the bandits, it’s as if he refused it. Well, I’m sure Baldoir-kun has his own logic on it.』
Was he so particular because it was his first woman? I couldn’t really understand. Baldoir let out a sigh.
“Well I have feelings, and we had some relations after that. I at least want to look after her a bit. So I apologize, but… in the case that I die, if you could prepare some assets for her…”
… I suddenly had a bad feeling about this. But before Baldoir’s serious face, it was an air I couldn’t joke, so I decided to confirm the girl’s location.
… Alette hung her head in the waiting room.
“… I should’ve brought something besides knight clothes. Why didn’t I prepare a dress? I’m such an idiot!”
The one looking at her was the knight who’d guided her corps through the castle. Rather than fed-up, he tried to sooth her.
“It’s not as if Baldoir-dono has such a selection of clothing either. You only have whatever you came here with. At the very least, as long as your appearance is in order, it shouldn’t be a problem. It it’s something that was decided so suddenly, after all.”
The fresh recruits looked anxiously at that knight.
“Um, is this fine? Our original objective was to…”
The knight shook his head.
“I know. But you all… if we let this chance slip by, then who’s going to marry the vice-captain? Men are a rare commodity. Even if she searches for someone outside of rank, a majority are already married. If this chance slips by, she’s already in dangerous waters as it is.”
Originally, Alette’s platoon’s objective, or at least its official stance was to elevate Lorphys’ status. In truth, they had been sent to establish an engagement between Lyle and Princess Annerinne.
Because if they didn’t do that, their country’s influence would be lowest within the alliance. When the other three countries had relations with Lyle, Lorphys alone… what’s more, they couldn’t even pull out at this point.
Because the moment the succeeded, they would be surrounded by enemies.
The knight looked at the ceiling, before turning to Alette.
“Vice-captain, do you have your marriage form with you?”
Alette raised her face and nodded.
“Eh? Yeah, I have it?”
The new recruits stood dumbfounded. The knight sent a look across them.
“Do you get it? That’s the sort of person she is. She doesn’t have another chance. The princess is still young. But our vice-captain is… she’s a good person, but she has that side of her so… as a knight of Lorphys, I’d rather proceed talks of Lyle-dono and the princess. But as an individual, I want to support our vice-captain. And…”
Alette was quietly simulating things to herself. It seems she was preparing answers beforehand to whatever would be asked in the interview.
“If he asks what I do in my free time, I can’t just say train my body, drink and sleep. Last one got mad at that one. Then here, I should cutely say I knit or something domestic… t-that’s no good! I’ve never learned knitting, I’ve never knit a thing in my life! If that’s how it’s going to be, I can just play it off with something vague like admiring flowers and…”
She was so desperate that the male knights around were taken aback.
“… And. This isn’t such a bad talk. He’s one of the leader candidate who’ll be hard to get at later. Right now, he’s just a retainer, but if Lyle-dono wins, he’ll at least make Count. There’s no doubt he’ll stay close as an imperial noble. For Lorphys… for the country, it isn’t so bad, right?”
If it was just for their official stance, it would be a success. Or so the knight explained to the recruits…
A few hours later.
With all the preparations in place, at a round table set up in the palace courtyard, I sat across Ludmilla-san. Perpendicular, the main cast of Baldoir and Alette-san sat across from one another.
There were guards around, but they were kept to a minimum.
What’s more, only female knights. Monica prepared tea and such, but Alette-san hadn’t touched it out of nervousness.
As a few minutes passed without anyone saying anything, Ludmilla-san put down her cup. A tink sound rang out as ceramic cup touched plate. It was quiet enough for it to ring out beautifully.
But with the equilibrium broken, Alette-san spoke.
“U-um! What are your hobbies!”
There, Baldoir seemed level-headed.
“I do a little horse riding. Other than that, I’ve dabbled in a little painting and music, but I’m not at a level where I could call myself any good. And if I could ask something.”
The two weren’t so far apart in age, but it seems Alette-san’s nervousness was terrible. Like she would make a slip of the tongue any time soon. The Third was exhilarated.
『You think her marriage forms will be coming out soon? If her name’s already filled in, I think even Baldoir-kun will be surprised.』
The Seventh evaluated Baldoir’s level-headedness.
『I can’t tell what he’s thinking inside at all. But… this serenity, as I thought, it must be because he knows women. Lyle, you should seriously consider it. A large battle is near. It may not be a bad idea to know women yourself.』
… With the two of you watching from the Jewel, there’s no way I’d even think of laying hands on anyone. Rather, learning Baldoir wasn’t someone on my side was a shock. I thought I’d be able to have an enjoyable talk with him like with Damien and Maksim-san…
Baldoir stuck his elbows into the table, folding his arms as he looked at Alette-san with a serious expression.
“I understand that this marriage is important. But even though my house owns a town, it’s just a small territory. Baronet scale. What’s more, it’s a retainer house. For heirs to a feudal noble territory, if we marry, you will have to be marrying into my house. And I’m the eldest son of a feudal noble. Even if I come to love you alone, I cannot say I’ll never lay hands on another.”
The receptions of saved villages, is what he meant. I saved villages in Beim, but such spicy stories never came up once. This must be a difference in custom.
“I-in Bahnseim terms, I would be from imperial noble lineage. Based on what I’ve heard…”
“That would be troublesome.”
Baldoir’s voice grew a little strong. His face was the epitome of seriousness.
“My home, the Randbergh House pledged loyalty to the Walt House since we became retainer knights. We’re a house that is already entering its sixth generation. My greatest desire in life is for me to fulfill that role.”
Alette-san looked serious.
“I-I understand that. I have experience in battle as well! M-my resolve isn’t…”
“I see. Even as a woman, you do have the status as vice-captain. Then you understand my meaning, right? You could do better. And I cannot prioritize Lorphys. I already have a woman with whom I have relations. Yet her status is too low for me to marry her. I plan on inviting her to the mansion as a maid. If you’re sill fine with that, I will take you as legal wife.”
Without even thinking about it, Alette-san…
“U-understood! The maid part was outside of my expectations, but I hear about those sorts of things a lot. If I let this chance slip by, I…”
… Ended up agreeing.
I thought she would definitely be reluctant, but maids… she even approved of mistresses.
“A maid or two, if I got angry because he laid hands on them, I wouldn’t be able to get married anymore! I’m serious here, please pipe down! I had imagined even worst conditions… and I’ve heard worse offers a number of times…”
It sounded painfully heartrending. Ludmilla-san, on the other hand.
“For a feudal noble, that’s about the standard fare. If you step onto the battlefield, death is always a possibility. For the sake of leaving successors, having a few women is a common tale. Though there are plenty of tales of failure.”
I looked at Alette, noticing her produce a form from her breast pocket. I snatched it away from her. Why does this person always panic and set herself up for failure?
“G-give it back! B-but I still have more.”
“You’re making me draw back, please stop. I’ll prepare some proper forms on a later date. Now hand over your spares too. Hurry up!”
“No, but… I’ll get anxious if I don’t have them filled out soon, won’t I!?”
“It’s stranger that you’re always carrying them around, notice that already! I seriously worry for you!”
Ludmilla-san turned an eye to the document in my hand. Her expression warped a bit.
“You’re always carrying around something like that? You’ll repel all the men like that.”
I’m pretty sure Ludmilla-san naturally repelled her share of men as well. As I thought such a thing, Baldoir took the form from me.
“Pardon me. I see… it’s a little different from Bahnseim’s form. But I’d better fill out one for Lorphys as well.”
Saying that, he took out a pen, and wrote his name into the form where Alette-san’s was already written in.
The Seventh spoke.
『He’s surprisingly unperturbed.』
The Third sounded a little bored.
『Hah, it’s kinda that, you know. I’m happy it’s working out, but I’d like some more ups and downs.』
I looked at Baldoir.
“Oy, are you sure you shouldn’t consider it a bit more? It’s that. Alette-san… becomes really hyper in her post-Growth and gets out of hand.”
Alette-san stood and grabbed my shoulders.
“Could you stop getting in the way of my happiness!? I’m begging you!”
Seeing her desperately petition, I stayed in my seat, but inched a little away from her. Ludmilla-san looked a little disappointed.
“Cartaffs was aiming for Baldoir-dono as well, but… well, with this, I’m sure Lorphys will quiet down a bit.”
Baldoir stopped his pen, and looking at my face…
“… Lyle-sama, please look in a mirror already.”
… He said.