Stahlia, Ten Years Old, Eighth Month of 947
I stood at the entrance to the meeting room in trepidation. Waiting for me inside was the grandfather of Asten, the boy I had consigned to death. Along with him was Count Francois, the father of my Fiancée, and Prince Rupert von Drakas, third prince of the realm.
At my side, I had my Fiancée Dominic, who I had just learned was, in fact, most likely controlling me. Or at least influencing me to some extent. Frankly, that knowledge was as relieving as it was frightening. On one hand, I knew for sure that my conflicted and confusing feelings were, in all likelihood, not entirely mine.
On the other hand, that meant that I was dealing with thoughts that stemmed from an outside source. In a way, I guess it’s sort of similar to how Pet and Claire are with each other…. No, that was just rambling on my part. There were only the shallowest of similarities there.
Still, knowing exactly how low he was made for cold comfort when he was at my side like he was. I took his hand while forcing my own to not twitch and allowed myself to be escorted into the room. I have to keep up appearances. I felt like that was becoming my mantra, but it was true. I needed to blend in while training myself up.
Though I had been getting distracted from that. Part of me wanted to blame the boy standing on my left, but deep down I knew it was also me. Despite having thought I had acknowledged that this world wasn’t a game, I hadn’t done anything to really change how I was “playing” it.
I entered the room, and gave my greeting as stiffly and as formally as possible. After all, one of the Princes was in attendance. I still wasn’t sure how I should feel about that, probably glad? It will at least help contain Percius. On the other hand, this Prince in particular was the one who introduced me to Dominic. It’s only logical to wonder how much he knows about him.
For now, I marked the Prince as a “potential enemy”. He was of course a very real enemy in the grand scheme of my goals, but for now, I was willing to play nice if he was.
“A pleasure to meet you again, Lady Stahlia. I am glad to see you are doing well, all things considered.” The prince gave me a seated half-bow, to which I responded with a proper full curtsy and gave my own personal greeting, “Indeed, I am most honored to find myself in your presence once again.”
At that, I took my seat in the indicated place, and Percius cleared his throat, signaling the commencement of the meeting, “Lord Dominic, Lady Stahlia, Tell… Please share with those present what happened.” His voice sounded tired and empty. He really did love his grandson.
I took a deep breath and began recounting the events that had happened in Ang. Dominic occasionally supplemented something I missed, at least until I got to the part where he was knocked unconscious. For this, I told the same fabricated fight that I had already shared. It was a minor concern that Dominic would learn that these events were a fabrication by question Jacqueline, however, there was little I could do about that until I had time to come up with an answer to that problem.
In this case, however, he was either biting his tongue or was not aware of the ruse. Either way, I was able to speak uninterrupted. It was a bit difficult for me to portray things properly given my Remorse was still off, so I adopted a hesitating tone of voice, hoping to make it seem like my delivery was dry because I found the events so horrifying.
By the time I had finished, Count Francois had begun tapping his gloved fingers on the arm of his chair, while Percius was trying to discreetly wipe tears from the corner of his eyes. The prince didn’t say anything, merely held his hands clasped in front of his face, appearing deep in thought.
After a while, it was Percius who finally broke the silence, “Well, Lord Francois, Your Majesty, I can confirm that the demon encountered was indeed at least a high demon. The fact that they managed to wound it at all is exceptionally impressive.”
Then, turning to me, Percius did something rather unexpected. Rather than blame me for Asten’s death, he thanked me, “Lady Stahlia, thank you for recounting my grandson’s final moments. I am sure that was difficult for you.”
All I could do in response was briefly nod. I had prepared a few excuses under the assumption that he would be angry or upset, but I hadn’t thought of anything to say if he was grateful. I mean, you’re welcome? It wasn’t hard to recount at all though…
From there, things moved along swiftly. It was quickly established that I should be granted early leave from this school year, and would be able to return to spend it in my home village. That’s an unexpected boon. Getting away from everybody for a few months should give me some time to reevaluate what I should be doing, and hopefully come up with countermeasures to Dominic.
The fact that it’s my home village as well means I should be able to level up a few times at least, it might be that I can find a skill or two that will help with my issues. I can also speak with Sieg about Jacqueline’s arm… though there’s no way that such a small remote shop will be able to provide a restorative for that.
We were let out of the meeting after another hour, and Dominic escorted me out of the building and down towards the street, where he helped me into the carriage. It was strange, but now that I knew that it wasn’t my own influence that was leading to my conflicted feelings, it was like some sort of veil had been lifted from over my eyes.
Rather than set my heart aflutter when he squeezed my hand, all I felt now was a bit annoyed. Even when he kissed my hand after letting me on the carriage, instead of being at a loss for words, I was just annoyed. I still found myself blushing, it was embarrassing after all. But I was able to look past my own embarrassment and see what was really going on.
I have a lot of planning to do for the next few months. Considering everything I need to do, two years until I graduate might not actually be enough time. I had a lot of work to do, but the future was at least hopeful, as long as I kept my eyes forwards.