Having heard the contents of the test from Fol, and after confirming that my lady had already left the school, I returned to the capital city’s Rosenberg estate.
Though for some reason, Rouché was on standby in front of my room, and the moment she spotted me, she said, “the mistress is waiting for you.” In a business-like voice without emotion.
“Should I go to the mistress’ room then?”
I asked that while feeling a vague sense of déjà vu, and as expected, she shook her head and replied–
“The mistress is waiting for you here.”
After opening the door, Rouché then mimicked her past movements and pushed me through it. I was expecting it this time though, and silently went with the flow without stumbling over myself. Having confirmed that the exit behind me was now closed, I turned my consciousness to my front and found my lady standing there.
“…Cyril, where were you?”
“I was getting a briefing from Fol on what her test would be in the student council room.”
“Were you alone together?”
“You mean like how the two of us are right now, my lady? Then no, we weren’t.”
When I made that statement, my lady’s cheeks flushed slightly red. Although her posture was confrontational, she didn’t seem that angry.
In the first place, she should’ve known that Fol hadn’t issued her test until now… was she pretending to get mad like last time as an excuse to be alone with me?
“…I haven’t said anything yet.”
So this is what it all comes to.
Basically, the daughter of a Marquis can never be left alone with a member of the opposite sex. Usually, there would be other servants like Rouché in the vicinity.
I can’t say I completely understand a maiden’s mind… but being manipulated like this was somewhat unpleasant. Let’s tease her a bit.
“Lady Sophia, if I catch you attempting this kind of scheme again–”
I placed my hand on her cheek, and leaned in close.
“–I’ll have to punish you.”
Whispering that into her ear.
My lady practically jumped away from me in surprise, and after confirming her reaction, I called out in normal tone, “Rouché, you can come in now. We’re done.”
And as if she was waiting for that moment, the maid immediately entered the room.
After giving my lady’s accomplice a light glare, I turned back to the noble girl in question.
“My lady, can we now return to the more important topic at hand? …my lady?”
Even after I called out to her, Lady Sophia didn’t respond, she had gone rigid, her face having flushed completely scarlet.
Hmm… I’d be able to understand this if I whispered sweet nothings to her, but was the prospect of ‘punishment’ really that effective? Hopefully I haven’t opened some kind of weird door for her…
Rouché then turned to me and asked, “What did you do?” with an exasperated tone, but this wasn’t my fault! I didn’t think a reaction like this would occur just by using the word ‘punish’!
–but I digress.
After being frozen for a couple dozen seconds, Lady Sophia finally broke out of her trance and cleared her throat to get my attention.
“Cyril, what did you talk to Fol about?”
She was acting as if her previous behaviour didn’t even happen. However, her cheeks were still slightly flushed… how could someone be this cute?
With that said, my lady was trying her best to play this situation off, so it was my job as her butler to act deceived.
“Actually, she wanted me to dissuade you from joining the student council.”
“I see… so what kind of test did she issue?”
My lady went straight on to confirming the contents of the test without ascertaining my answer. In other words, she trusted that I didn’t agree to Fol’s request.
I unintentionally felt myself smiling at this thought.
“Hmm? Is there something wrong?”
“Please excuse me, I’ll now share with you the details of the test. Currently, His Highness Alforth’s position is quite unstable, and Fol wants us to improve his situation.”
“…that’s the test?”
My lady’s eyes opened wide in surprise– but it was only natural she’d react that way.
In terms of contents, it’s the simple request of restoring the honour of a boy who lost his place due to a blunder, but the person in question was the second prince of this country. This wasn’t something you entrusted to someone whose ability you doubted.
“It seems she has some connections among the royal officials.”
In truth, Fol was actually a member of the royal family, but she was trying to keep that fact hidden. As it didn’t have much of an impact on the test, I decided it was fine to keep quiet about this.
Needless to say, this act wasn’t something to be smiled upon. I might be scolded by Lady Sophia in the future for this, but this wasn’t my secret to share.
And in any case–
“So she knew of our talents, but still denied our applications to the student council in spite of that?”
Lady Sophia made that conclusion.
Building off of that, this was a test issued with the authority of the royal family. If we failed to restore the honour of His Highness Alforth, the responsibility for the aftermath will fall to Fol as the person who issued the request.
In short, Fol did this knowing that we were capable of completing this challenge, while still holding the power to reject us regardless of the results.
“Whether we succeed in this test of hers doesn’t matter in the end.”
“She issued the test, and yet she could still fail us even if we succeed. Whether we can join the student council or not depends solely on how she feels about us.”
“Does that mean you want to give up?”
To partake in this test even in spite of this information could be said to be very foolish.
“Oh? Do you think that it’s impossible for us to win this, Cyril?”
“No, it might be difficult, but there are many ways for us to succeed.”
“Then isn’t it fine?”
The edges of her mouth raising into a smirk, my lady’s face twisted into an evil expression.
“My lady, that’s unbecoming of you.”
“Really? Sorry about that, but I was just copying you, you know?”
“You weren’t aware of it? Cyril, that’s the kind of face you make whenever you’re thinking about doing bad things. You were just doing it a little while ago as well.”
“…I wasn’t thinking of doing anything bad, per say.”
All I was doing was contemplating the loop holes in the rules. They weren’t ‘bad things’ because they didn’t break the agreement in any form. I was only chuckling to myself because those ideas were amusing.
I thought that I kept up a pretty good poker face, but it looks like my intentions could still be read by my lady.
“I’ll thank you for your advice, but I’m not going to give up here. If it’s feasible, I’d like to get the achievement of restoring His Highness Alforth’s status.”
This may be something necessary for my lady’s goals. I can only guess what those goals were, but when looking at the actions she’s taken ever since she started going to the school, a few ideas came to mind.
And as expected—
“Can I leave the matters regarding the student council’s test to you, Cyril? Of course, I’ll move as well if it’s necessary, but I want you to be the one leading this operation if possible.”
“If that’s what you wish for, my lady.”
As long as it’s my lady’s desire, I will move as her faithful aide. However, there was a difference between moving under her command and moving of my own volition.
She was leaving this to me because this was somehow necessary to achieve her goals. If this is what she wanted of me, then I had no reason to refuse.
And that’s why I immediately bowed before her.
“Lady Sophia, I swear under your name that I’ll improve His Highness Alforth’s position and pass the student council’s test.”
After school the next day, I requested His Highness Alforth for a meeting.
With that said, there was no way a mere servant could actually be given an audience with a prince, so instead I was just going to pass a message to him through the servant he’d send– or that’s what I thought would happen before he actually came himself.
…I couldn’t understand this.
“Cyril, I heard you needed something from me?”
And even then, he was talking to me really casually. My thoughts were temporarily sent into disarray over this for a moment before I snapped out of it.
“Your Highness Alforth, I’d like to apologise for calling you out so suddenly.”
“What are you talking about? Cyril, you don’t need to worry about things like that!”
I thought I was just hearing things wrong, but I guess I was right after all. His Highness Alforth was truly talking to me as if I were his equal.
But I wasn’t going to forget my position as a servant. His decision on how he spoke to me wasn’t something I would question, so I just parried that statement with a “Thank you for your consideration” before moving on to my original objective.
“The student council has requested our aid in improving your position, Your Highness.”
I went ahead and stated my purpose outright.
I was prepared to answer any questions he had, but he responded with, “I see… well, that’s convenient.”
“In truth, I still haven’t been able to find a replacement educator since my last one was dismissed. When I asked my mother about what to do, she told me that I should turn to you for help.”
“…the queen really said that?”
“Yup. She said you were trustworthy, and that I should treat you as if you were my older brother.”
“I-is that so?”
For the first time in a while, I felt shivers run up my spine.
It wasn’t hard to imagine that Lady Sophia’s ability was highly regarded with the recent incident, so it was only natural that the royal family would start making moves to take her in.
But I never thought that they would try to take me in as a stepping stone to get to her.
Certainly, I currently hold a great deal of trust from Lady Sophia, so if they were able to reel me in, it’d become far easier to gain her confidence.
With that said, one wouldn’t usually consider targeting a noble girl’s exclusive butler as a means to the end of getting the girl herself. Nobody would consider the servant to be an important existence under normal circumstances.
In other words, the royal family’s information network was that thorough. I didn’t know who was pulling the strings here, but they seemed to be quite clever.
Nevertheless, as Lady Sophia is the daughter of a Marquis, and His Highness Alforth is the second prince. Regardless of how their relationship develops, they’ll undoubtedly be involved with one another in the future due to their positions.
The fact remains that training the prince might make things easier for my lady in the long run.
“I understand your request. My first priority at all times is my lady, but she herself told me to improve your position, so I accept. If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to say them.”
“Really?! Thanks, you have no idea how much this means to me.”
To His Highness Alforth’s shining eyes, I bowed to him as his subject. In this way, I had temporarily gained the status as the prince’s advisor.
I immediately suggested we relocate to discuss his current situation.
The place we arrived at was the terrace that my lady occasionally used to host tea parties. His Highness took a seat at a table, while I stayed standing opposite to him.
“Now then, Your Highness, what can you tell me about your current state of affairs?”
“Well, I used to be seen as the leader of the elitist faction, right?”
“No, that isn’t in past-tense. You’re still publicly known as an elitist at the moment.”
‘As a result of Lady Sophia’s hostility towards His Highness and the elitists, she removed his followers from the school.’ Some of the students in the same class might see they don’t actually hate each other, but anyone else would likely think that was the case.
“Then, can’t we just publicly announce that I’m not an elitist?”
“No, things aren’t that simple.”
The fact that His Highness Alforth surrounded himself with members of the elitist faction can’t be denied, so there are two possible outcomes that may occur if he publicly announced that he was never an elitist himself.
“Your Highness, if you make such an announcement, you’ll be the one rumoured to have cut off your two followers. It’s either that, or you’ll be seen as an unreliable prince that’s been manipulated by them this entire time.”
We can try to alter these rumours ourselves, but we can’t erase the truth that the prince surrounded himself with elitists. Maybe he had just realised that none of his problems had actually been solved, but His Highness was growing pale.
“I know that I messed up, but why is it so hard to fix everything?”
“That’s because trust is something you need to build up over time.”
“So then… what am I supposed to do?”
“You need to choose. You can either stay silent or publicly disclose the truth.”
His Highness Alforth shook his head. The possibility that he’d be gossiped about as a villain who’d be willing to sacrifice his friends, or an incompetent prince that was manipulated by others was undoubtedly a heavy burden on him.
That’s why he could also choose to not address the issue, and just focus on his future actions instead. Those were my thoughts on the matter, but after closing his eyes for a moment, the prince muttered, “These problems are the result of my own choices, so it can’t be helped.”
“Publicise the truth.”
“…are you sure about this?”
“The longer the elitists can use me as a figurehead for their ideals, the more commoners will suffer as a result. Cyril, you might think that its a stupid decision, but I’m not going to sacrifice my people just to protect my image.”
His Highness Alforth spoke those words with conviction. While it was true that he was currently unreliable, this decision of his showed that he was undoubtedly the capture target of the game’s main route.
If His Highness had only proposed the exposure of the truth behind his follower’s disappearance, then it’d be difficult to change his image.
But the prince had chosen to expose everything, and with this, we can dissolve his current notoriety.
And that’s why–
“Understood. After publishing the facts of the situation, let’s continue moving to improve your reputation, Your Highness.”
Maybe he thought that his situation couldn’t be fixed after sabotaging it himself, but His Highness opened his eyes wide at my words.
I then proposed my plan to him.
Written by Scarlet Rain (緋色の雨)
Translated by KuroInfinity at slothtranslationsblog.com