Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 18: The Making of a King
I found that this appearance, extolled as handsome and ageless, had many uses. The fact that it allowed me to be loved to my heart’s content by my mate, Jolga, was a valuable part of it. But, more useful than that was the fact that my good-looking features invited carelessness in my opponents. Though when dealing with someone who held such impressive titles as the former patriotic Prime Minister and the Last Sage, one should probably remain vigilant.
When my opponent saw me cuddling up to Jolga, they chuckled to themselves, saying “I see.” They tended to believe my two names were exaggerated titles meant to match with Jolga’s moniker of Palcemith’s Shield. Of course, I would never be so tactless as to go out of my way to correct this misunderstanding. In the end, when my opponent came to know my true character, as they found themselves in a swamp of deceit, it would be too late.
And, what was strange about this carelessness of theirs was that it extended to others. Even those who had experienced another coming to ruin right before their very eyes. Exactly like this man quivering in despair before me.
“You bastard… how, how dare you!”
“Kuku, is there a problem? That is the criminal who has been serving the young Princess poison. Now that he’s been handed over to me, I can do with him as I please.”
I gently stroked Princess Shirayuki’s head in front of Fukugawa who was grinding his teeth.
“Well then, Princess Shirayuki.”
I knelt on one knee before the Princess, who had glanced up at the sound of his name. I met the eyes of the next candidate for the Hinoen throne and showed him a leisurely smile.
For the young Princess to understand it correctly, I chose my words carefully, thoroughly warning him of the consequences of the choice that had been placed in his hands.
“That person over there is your brother. It is your kind brother who had cared for you, who had protected you, and who had come with you on this journey to support you. But… at the same time, that person is, without a doubt… someone who will become your enemy.”
I smiled once again at Princess Shirayuki whose body had gone stiff.
The person I was pointing at was Tsurara, who stood next to the bewildered Seiji, looking in this direction, the whistle still in his mouth.
“You are the chief candidate to the throne. You cannot pardon someone who has threatened you, even if it’s only once. Even if it had been a mistake, you have to condemn them.”
“But, if it’s you … only you. You can give meaning to that ending.”
Princess Shirayuki gasped at my words. Those wavering eyes were proof that the Princess fully understood the meaning behind my words.
… That’s right, though it was inevitable to lack experience at such a young age, Shirayuki was indeed a worthy candidate for the throne. Very different from Palcemith’s pushover King.
“Well then, please choose, Princess Shirayuki. Which path would you like to go down?”
If sensibilities in the small country of Hinoe were similar to ancient Japan, it would be an honorable death to risk one’s life in an attempt to eliminate those who might become enemies to the sovereign.
“Older brother Seiji,” Princess Shirayuki’s voice trembled.
Seiji – Hinoe’s second prince. Though he is the son of a concubine, he seemed to have been especially favored by Lord Motonari. This was because Tomoe, Seiji’s mother and one of the consorts, had studied under the same scholar Motonari looked up to as a mentor and the two had been close childhood friends. Their relationship continued to be good even after she became Motonari’s consort and I heard she often accompanied him on foreign trips and domestic inspections while Motonari’s legal wife, Hirugao, was left behind.
Still, as long as the first Prince Susanoi was still alive and well, there was no dispute about who was next in line to the throne. Both Seiji and Tokiwa adored Susanoi and the consorts as well approved only of him. But, because Susanoi had failed to suppress Orochi and had lost his life, this balance was destroyed.
The consorts, planning on making their own child the next ruler, began moving their pawns. Someone like Seiji, who Fukugawa was trying to support, was a prime example of such a pawn.
Even though he was a kind older brother to Princess Shirayuki, Seiji was still the second prince. If he were to be used as a symbol of the rebellion, the opposition would intensify on its own, without him being able to do much about it. Even more so, when Princess Shirayuki, who had been thought to have successfully pushed the responsibility of elimination elsewhere, triumphantly returned home together with powerful reinforcements. He would inevitably receive animosity from Tomoe’s faction.
Which is why there was only one right option for Princess Shirayuki to choose from.
“Yes, I am here.”
For now, I would play the role of a close aide serving under Princess Shirayuki.
Princess Shirayuki spoke to me, as I had lowered my head next to him, in an almost inaudible voice. But, even then, he said his words with certainty.
“Signal… signal Tsurara to blow the whistle.”
“I have received your order.”
An astonished Fukugawa behind me, I bowed to Princess Shirayuki and loudly snapped my fingers at Tsurara.
Seeing my signal, Tsurara slowly closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“—–!!” He blew the silent whistle.
A series of tremors erupted from near the outer city walls. It pushed up through the cobbled pavement, running up the castle steeple and, without hesitation, devoured the “bait” that had been left there.
“Master Seijiiii!!” Fukugawa shrieked, crying and shouting.
Princess Shirayuki crouched down, covering his face with both hands.
Though Asagi’s face was pale, he still tried to protect princess Shirayuki by covering his small body. Yoimachi looked up at the tower, his hands together in silent prayer, an expression of anguish on his face.
Before I knew it, Neuschler and his King’s Guard, who had finished their hunt on the balcony, had surrounded Fukugawa and the black-clad figures. The figures in black abandoned Fukugawa, who had lost his strength, and tried to run away, but they were killed one by one by the King’s Guard who were lying in wait.
“… Is it over?”
Using his cane, Neuschler steadily walked towards princess Shirayuki. He turned his head to me, a satisfied smile on his face.
“You’ve piqued my interest, Lord Sage. It would have been an unpleasant choice for a young child. It was a decision that focused on the bigger picture — well done.”
“Quite so. I, Anderheim, have also been able to witness Princess Shirayuki’s excellent decision-making.”
“I am grateful for Lord Sage’s discerning eye. … Now, princess Shirayuki, stand up.”
Neuschler’s palm gently supported princess Shirayuki’s back as his sobs continued to spill out.
“A King is a human too. It’s ok to cry when you are sad. The path that the Princess will walk from now on will be full of blood. However, if you continue crying, you cannot move forward.”
There had probably been days when Neuschler too had been unable to move forward as he cried. And the one that had saved him from that was most likely general Taiga.
“Don’t be so eager to take your brother’s place. Inheriting the will of the deceased is merely self-deceit. In the future, there is only one way for the Princess to repay your brother with your own hands — to be accepted by those who remain.”
“To be… accepted?”
“That’s right,” said Neuschler, easily lifting Princess Shirayuki who had slightly raised his head, and turning his eyes, devoid of light, towards him.
“If one wants to be the leader of a nation, one must demonstrate to all that one is worthy of such a position. The qualities of a King are not limited to military strength alone. Both Lord Sage and I have noticed these qualities inside of you, Princess. Which is precisely why we have extended our hands to you.”
“… Inside. Of me…”
“That’s right, young Princess. This time around, I will become the shield that protects the Princess’s back. You can go ahead and fight without any worries.”
“Is this for real, Your Majesty?!”
The person who let out a surprised voice at the same time as Princess Shirayuki was the Princess’s guard, Yoimachi.
For Princess Shirayuki, there could be no greater support than if Neuschler, King of the great country of Lidsalessaloth, personally backed him. He had succeeded in receiving the cooperation of the Commander of the Knights of Palcemith Kingdom, and the King of Lidsalessaloth had promised his support. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Princess Shirayuki’s value to Hinoe had increased by leaps and bounds during the course of this journey.
“… Now, Princess Shirayuki. The finishing touches.”
Neuschler pointed at where Fukugawa was slumped over, a hollow expression on his face, his head hanging down. He was a pitiful man who had not only failed to complete his secret orders, but had also lost his beloved master, and probably his friend Tsurara, in one fell swoop.
Fukagawa reacted slightly when Princess Shirayuki called his name. His eyes were clouded with resignation. In that state, Fukugawa, with a smile that reached only his lips, lowered his head until it almost reached the ground and waited earnestly for his judgment.
“Give this. To Fukugawa.”
Stepping down from Neuschler’s arms, Princess Shirayuki took a small-sized tanto out of her breast pocket. In other words, a dagger-like object.
“To give Tsunashi-no-maru to… is that alright?
“I borrowed it from older brother Seiji before we left on our journey, so… Fukagawa.”
Princess Shirayuki smiled calmly at Fukugawa who had slowly raised his head once again.
“Will you protect brother Seiji on his path to the afterlife? I’m sure that if you are with him, brother too will feel relieved.”
Shirayuki entrusted him with a way to bring this all to a close by his own hand. It was an ideal death for someone like Fukugawa, who belonged to a samurai family while carrying out secret orders. There were, however, only a few who could follow such a path. In respect for his honor, Princess Shirayuki forgave Fukugawa who had aimed at Shirayuki’s life.
“As I, Shirayuki, will fall to hell after I die, I will never again be able to meet my brother who has passed on to the Pure Land. Still, I promise that while I still have this life, I shall continue to walk down the path of Asura1”
“… Your determination is worthy of praise.”
Satisfied, Fukugawa took the dagger Yoimachi gave him in hand and laughed, a bright expression on his face.
“I will make sure to pass Princess Shirayuki’s message to master Seiji.”
“… Thank you.”
“Yoimachi, I have been under your care.”
“Hm… We’ll see each other in hell someday, anyway.”
“Haha, you’re not wrong. Once I safely escort master Seiji to the Pure Land … I’ll wait for you in hell.”
Straightening his seating posture, Fukugawa held the dagger with a backhanded grip and smiled at Princess Shirayuki.
“May you be victorious… Prince2 Shirayuki.”
The dagger Seiji had entrusted to Shirayuki was thrust into Fukugawa’s stomach. With a “gh”, he shut his lips tight before blood could spill out.
Brandishing his sword, Neuschler sliced off Fukugawa’s head in one stroke.
By neglecting the signs of disorder, one sooner or later invites chaos. Order is the act of harvesting without leaving a grudge.