Duke Neville's POV
What could have happened?
Why was I summoned so suddenly?
Did it have anything to do with Mother?
I was thinking about these things as I quicken my pace through the palace's corridors. My destination is the throne room. There lies await the current King of Estrir, His Majesty, King Albert Leicester. The king is my 1st-degree cousin, his father(the late king), and my mother were twins.
I reached the main entrance, by the door of the throne room and stood to wait as the herald announce my arrival without pausing.
"Hear ye, hear ye! Announcing the arrival of His Grace. Lord of the House of Neville, Son of the Grand Duchess Dowager of Straussen, Duke of Iscania, Commander General of the Royal Knights, heir apparent to the Grand Dukedom of Straussen, heir apparent to the Crown of Estrir, nephew of the Queen Dowager of Estrir, first cousin of the King of Estrir, His Grace, Duke Leonard Nevilleee!!!
The herald squealed the last part of my name as he was nearly out of breath. He was gasping so much that I threw an apologetic look at the herald, but it comes off as a scowl, so the herald visibly expresses his fear and acknowledges his blunder. I never intended to appear angry; it's just that I inherited my mother's looks, stern, and strict.
For quite a while, I kneeled in front of the King, awaiting his words.
"I'm sorry for summoning you in an inopportune time, Leon." The king unexpectedly said after a long silence.
"I'm not bothered by it at all, Your Majesty," I said as I continue bowing my head.
"You are as formal as ever, Cous'. Loosen up a bit, will you? I want to discuss a few things with you later on, but first of all, do you have it?" He bemusedly said.
"Yes, of course, Your Majesty," I said as I signaled my butler to give the item to the right-hand man of the king.
When he opens the parcel, it revealed two portraits of my daughters, Irina's and Nicolette's. What did he want it for? Don't tell me—
"Are these my nieces? They looked beautiful, just like their mother. Good thing they didn't inherit your scowl. Hahah."
I nervously laugh, but as usual, my mouth turns out as a nasty grin.
"Hahah, that's what I'm talking about. You never changed, I'm saying it positively." He said while pointing at me.
"Thank you, Your Majesty. You're too kind." I can't say anything else.
"Well then, let's proceed to the hall, shall we? We have a lot of things to discuss." He stands on his feet with grace and slowly walks on the other side of the throne that leads to the main hall. I immediately followed him and trailing by one step behind.
The palace hall was as big as the throne room. There lies at the center a big oval shape table with its furnished chairs.
The king sat at the big chair just like in the throne room, and I immediately followed suit by sitting at his right side. By this time, the right-hand man of His Majesty is glaring at me, silently furious that I stole his seat, but I don't care as I was feeling anxious and wanted to get to the bottom of this.
"Your Majesty, is something the matter?" I hastily asked as I stared at the king. We had the same shade of golden brown hair and also had the same gray eyes. We looked like twins and considered as such, just like each of our parents.
"You are all dismissed, except for Duke Neville." He avoided my question.
"It is as I said now be gone!" He roared. I've never seen him like this, not in public at least, but I've known him since before and that he's calm and easy-going. What happened to him? Is it because of that?
"As you wish, Your Majesty."
After a long time, neither of us tends to speak first. I was waiting for him to answer my question. I need to ask him again.
"You already understood by now, right, Leon? You already knew why I summoned you." It is what he accused me of but honestly, I am not certain.
"Of course, of course, because you are also in line for the throne, so you knew what's happening to me." His voice was trailing like he doesn't have any strength.
"Do you think that I would agree to this? Of course, I don't!" His hands were all over the air.
Oh for heaven's sake! Let me finish you dunce!
"Your Majesty, please calm down!" I grabbed his shoulders and shook him a bit. I nearly slapped him to calm him down.
He stared at me and grabbed at my arms that was still holding his shoulders. We were at this position when the Queen suddenly appeared by the door.
"What's the meaning of this?! It can't be… I knew it! I had a hunch, but now it's true! I'm such a fool! Huuuu!"...without warning, she appeared as quickly as she went off, like a whirlwind.
What was that all about?!
"Oh, don't worry about her. She always misunderstood." He said with a sad expression.
What's wrong with these people? Is the Kingdom of Estrir going to be alright?! I really do hope so!
"You know I'm going to die, right? So it's either you became a temporary king or make one of your daughters a crown princess, you choose." I'm about to smack my head on the table when I was interrupted again, but I abruptly stopped midair.
He said it so quickly that I nearly missed it. I was so shocked; I swung my head at breakneck speed to glare at him.
"Your Maje—Don't you dare interrupt me this time!" I breathlessly exclaimed as he was about to open his mouth. It was quite rude of me to yell at the king, it's even punishable by whipping, but he left me no choice.
He closes his mouth immediately, pauses to behave, and ready to hear me out. Good!
"Your Majesty, you are not going to die, I will not let you. Also, I don't have the desire to be a king. I already have my hands full on my responsibilities. In the case of my daughters, if it's an order, then I will abide by your words, but I'll have you know that I will not agree to it." I solemnly swear. I'll do my best not to let him die, and I also will not hand over my daughters willingly.
I abhor Albert's method, but I can understand as to why he's so desperately trying to pair up my daughters with his only heir. Because whether the king dies now, I will ascend the throne, and nothing will be left of his heir. After that, if I die after I've become king, Lian will ascend the throne.
His Highness, Prince Alexander is only ten years old, he doesn't have a fiancee yet, which means he is still not the Crown Prince, which means he will not ascend the throne if the king dies.
Albert has a congenital illness like all other past kings of Estrir. They practice inbreeding or relatively known as incest. To preserve the royal blood, they're willing to take risks and limit their lifespan. Albert is a child born from sibling-parents, my uncle(the previous king) and half-aunt(half-sister of my uncle).
But this time, Albert didn't marry a close relative like my mother did. She married the General who is my father, not her twin brother who is the previous king. Both broke the tradition of inbreeding.
Unfortunately, Albert can't escape his circumstance as he was a product of inbreeding; he has a short lifespan. There's only one way left to do.
Albert raises his hand akin to a student in the classroom that raises a hand when he has a question.
"Yes, you may speak, Your Majesty." I calmly said. Our roles are reversed like I was the king and Albert was the subject.
"I'm grateful that you've said that, Leon. I truly trust you. After all, we're like brothers—no, we are brothers! You know, you are just like your father, steadfast, determined, and strong, and I mean it physically too. It's too bad you didn't inherit his title, the Great Destroyer."
Holy mother of God and Goddess.
That is the only name that I will not add up to my multitude of titles! Spare the herald of dyspnea; he might be done for!
I guess I'll just have to give that title to Lian once he became the Duke. He's pretty strong himself. Maybe even stronger than me, I observed him when he was still young that he's also on par with Father. I don't know why, but he's not putting his strength to good use.
"I am humbled by your praise, Your Majesty. I am not fit as your brother, but I acknowledge you as one." I sincerely said.
"Also, there might be war…" Albert revealed a shocking news.
Aaaah! How many times do you have to shock me to make you satisfied?!
"What?! Your Majesty! This is not the time to jest. Please, you're not kidding??" I begged. I begged for Lian; he's still not ready for a dukedom. How will he managed if I die—though I don't have the intention to die but still… I wonder what's he doing now? Is he slacking again? Or is he in a spending spree? My wife! I need to see my wife! My children!!!
"Hey, calm down!"
I was panicking when all of a sudden, Albert grabbed my shoulders, shook me fiercely and slapped my face. I was flabbergasted! There's a clear and tremendous difference between us brothers. He can slap my face!
Herald is the one who announces the arrival of a person in the throne room, he's also considered a messenger.
Dowager is a widow with a title or property derived from her late husband.
Heir apparent is the next in line for the throne.
Dyspnea is breathlessness, an act of shortness of breath.