I am Ladd, first son and heir to House Efreeta, a small noble family of the eastern province.
Our family has served House Maxwell for generations — although House Efreeta was bestowed the title of “Viscount” from the Lamperouge royal family, we are officially a vassal of the royal family.
House Maxwell and Efreeta, however, have been fighting as a united front against the empire since before the foundation of the Lamperouge Kingdom.
It is the same for me, personally: rather than the royal family, always looking down at us from the capital, without sparing a coin to support us, I feel more loyalty to House Maxwell, our long-standing ally.
“…get over yourself already, man.”
I was sitting deep on the sofa of my living room, when I spat out such words in an annoyed tone.
“…Please, do not talk to me.”
From the other sofa across the table came a rather dry reply.
Sitting there was Luc Efreeta, my younger brother by 3 years, and a student at the capital’s academy.
He was hugging his knees, hiding his pouting face from me, restlessly picking on the sofa’s hairs.
He must have been at it for a good while: the bear fur, our father had the sofa’s blanket made of, had gone almost fully bald on the elbow rest area.
Luc’s mood had been like this ever since he came back home for the summer holidays.
“Was it really so shocking that you couldn’t participate in the battle against the empire?”
That was the reason for my brother’s sulking.
Some time ago, a battle over the eastern province’s Fort Bryden broke out.
I led the Efreeta forces in that instance, but Luc was not among our troops.
“Of course it was!! Please do not ask questions when you already know the answer!!”
Luc glared at me, though I could see he was fighting to hold back tears.
Being a warrior myself, I could easily understand how frustrating it could be to miss a chance to stand on the battlefield. Would a 15 years old boy cry over something like that, though?
“I can’t accept it!! There’s finally a battle, the empire finally attacked, and I couldn’t be on the battlefield with Lord Dyngir…!!”
“Eh? The young master? You’re sulking because of something like that?”
“Something like that!? For me it is something extremely important!!!”
Luc pounded his fist on the table.
I hurriedly saved the glass on the table from certain destruction and downed the liquor inside.
“Lord Dyngir is the hero of our times. He defeated Bjorc Zagann and the empire forces at the age of 12!! That is the kind of person I lost a chance to be on the battlefield with!! Can you possibly understand how dishonorable that is, brother!?”
“Sorry, but no…I was with the young master in the last battle, and his first battle too, after all. Is that really so important?”
“AAAAARRRRGGH!! I’m so envious!!”
Luc started twisting and turning on the floor, out of frustration.
My dear little brother…what is so special about the young master?
You speak of him like he was a legendary hero already, but that guy is always thinking about doing women, you know?
I licked the last drops of drink in my glass, then kicked Luc’s back to stop his writhing.
“Alright already…I’ll tell you about the young master’s exploits on the battlefield, so get over it, will you.”
“L-Lord Dyngir’s exploits…!? P-Please!!!”
Luc immediately came up close to me, eyes sparkling and pleading.
I stepped backwards the same distance he closed in, then asked something I had to know first.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll talk…but I want to hear your report about things at the capital first. Have you forgotten your duty?”
First the crown prince Sullivan loses his mind, then the king dies and the all too young second crown prince ascends the throne. The series of events had plunged the royal capital into chaos.
The academy was not exempt either: one third of the students had handed in their resignation and returned to their home provinces.
One of the reasons why my little brother was still enrolled at the academy was to gather information in the capital.
“I have to report everything to House Maxwell, so get on with it.”
“Report to House Maxwell…to Lord Dyngir…!! Indeed, I must fulfill my duty!!”
When the young master left the academy, he apparently asked Luc to keep him informed about the situation there.
Being the die-hard fan he was, Luc viewed it as a mission to carry out no matter what.
“…there is not much new to report, however. The central province is in the same state of confusion as before. Duke Rosais is always running left and right, trying to contain the situation. Some of the central nobles are apparently trying to take his position, which contributes to the chaos.”
“Fighting among themselves at a time like this? When will they ever learn…? That’s why I hate those people…”
Unlike the noble houses of the four outer provinces, the central nobles did not have any particular foreign enemies.
They were not exposed to the constant, life-threatening presence of foreign enemies, and had grown accustomed to peace as a result. Little did they know that their kingdom was actually on the brink of collapse.
All their hostility and antagonism were directed at their fellow nobles, serving only to destabilize the central government even further.
“No wonder the young master’s so fed up with them. Looks like our springtime of youth is closer than expected!”
Thanks to the peace treaty with the Baal empire, the eastern province did not need to spare as much military strength as before to protect the border: we thus had more leeway to target the central province.
(The young master is planning to make House Maxwell independent, but…at this rate, couldn’t we take over the whole country?)
I felt that a new era was coming and couldn’t help but grin.
“Oh, yes, there is one piece of new information.”
Luc mentioned it in a casual tone, so I thought it couldn’t be something too important.
His reply, however, was completely unexpected.
“Marianne, the daughter of Duke Rosais, apparently turned into a ‘villainess’ and made herself a harem of men.”
“What the hell!?”