Now, it's been already a year when the funeral happened. I returned to the castle a week after and claimed the ownership of the duchy since I was the one who had the oldest title of the fief.
Erin drafted a final will that all of her assets be transferred to my name so that no one in the nobility will take interest in her fortune. This is because Erin is on the top spot of the wealthiest nobles, so an impostor might appear claiming that they are one of the lost family members, in fact, they are not.
When the physician delivered the news that father's health is improving, I decided to return to the fief and managed it. In this way, the nobles may thought that I mourn and secluded myself from the society. But it is the other way around, this is where I will build my power.
"You seemed distress, Auguste." I smiled at his expression while walking along the town of Antoweif.
"Why do we need to walk anyway? We have a carriage,your hi..."
I widened my eyes so he can stop. Did he just nearly say 'your highness'?
"I am sorry... My..lady."
Fufufu... I chuckled because of his facial expression. Both of us were in disguise right now to inspect the town and other parts of the duchy. He caught me sneaking out of the castle a while ago. When I told him that I was going to inspect the town alone, he opposed to my idea of walking around without companion, so he insisted in coming with me.
Good thing that I dyed my hair in deep golden color when I went to Lutrania. It is because everyone knows that a royal has this platinum blonde hair and green eyes, so I decided to dye it with the same color of Erin's hair. I still maintained that hair color for months when I returned to the fief. It is because it's good for disguise.
When my hair got longer a bit, I'll cut it off so that it will be the same again.
"I always inspect the town as a commoner and experience the developments here. Erin is so good in managing this fief when I left. She even improved it more than I did." I was totally amazed when I saw the reports Erin gave me when I returned.
As expected of a merchant's daughter, she built many business establishments here that offered jobs to the townspeople; improving their lives little by little. It's a win-win situation rather - she's not only expanding her business empire, the people who don't have jobs are also benefiting from it.
She also taught me how to handle a business since I appointed her to be my eyes on the nobles.
Erin is a highly intelligent spy. She was also trained in a close combat training under my grandfather's house, who was the leader of the Knight Order for years before retiring. She volunteered to undergo all those vigorous and strict training in order to protect and serve me.
This is because she owe her life to me. We are not that close when we were young even when both of our mothers are closest of friends. My mother is a very persistent person, and she required me to visit Erin on their villa every after two days to play with the only child of her best friend. I cannot refuse mother's request and I just obeyed her. After all, my brother was busy at that time, so he can't play with me whenever I wanted.
And in one of my visits, something terrible happened. When I arrived at their gate, the villa was on fire. I acted on my own accord, and proceeded to our play room, where I found her crying. I didn't even realize that I saved her. I just wanted to make sure at that time that she was safe. Her parents died and we took her to the palace as my companion.
Although she was saddened by her parents' death, she was thankful that she was alive because of me. In return, she vowed to serve me at all cost.
Now, back to where I was saying....
She will be very busy on the following months so I will be the one left in the management of her empire.
The only thing for me to improve is the fief's advancement since Erin made sure that the people's lives be in good condition whatever happens to the kingdom. I developed such reforms to lessen the people's taxes so they can enjoy what they earn.
In order to assess if I made a good decision, I decided to inspect the towns incognito, disguised myself and conversed with the commoners for the feedback. I thought that once will be enough,but I got addicted going to the town whenever I have the time.
“Good morning lady Letty.” When I looked at my side, I didn't notice that it was Ruth. Ruth is an old woman who sells fresh apples in here. She have this huge stall and was accompanied by her daughter Rineah.
“Oh. A good morning to you too, Ruth.” I smiled at her sweetly. Ruth is the one closest to me in here. When it was my first time, she helped me when I got lost and guided me to places that I wanted to go. And in return for the help, I buy apples in bulk and she was happy. In that way, I can also help her in gaining profits.
“Every time I see you, you're getting prettier in my eyes.” Her daughter, Rineah, praised me.
“Thank you. But I'm not that pretty, you know.” I shyly told them. I really have no confidence in my appearance. My hair color and eyes were the only features that I can be proud with. Since no one has seen my face, it's really hard to believe on their good remarks.
And comparing to my mother, the Queen, I am no match for her beauty.
“Well, we should just ask your companion. What do you think young lord?” Ruth asked.
I nearly forgot that I have someone with me. I turned my head up and our eyes met. After a matter of seconds, he drifted his eyes away.
“Yes. What you said is true, madam.”
Both mother and daughter chuckled happily. Haaaa... People these days... They thought that he was my lover.
I shifted the conversation and bought some apples. After that, we started to tour the town again. Whenever I see interesting stores, I go inside and check their products. Shopping is quite my stress reliever and bought things that pleased my eyes.
I didn't notice that my hands were already full. Auguste lent a hand, so I gave him the bags I am holding.
I noticed that he seemed irritated because of the stares of those men that they are giving me. I was not comfortable with it at first, but in time I got used to it, so I already don't mind at all. When we were young, he's like that. He doesn't like the people who were staring at me. I told him before that it was fine, but he rebutted that staring at a royal is really rude.
I sighed. He's too good mannered to the extremes.
When we got a little hungry, we entered into a restaurant. I was surprised by the volume of customers inside. I can see that this restaurant is one of the luxurious one in town. To be nearly fully occupied by the commoners, I was astonished. Many people can now afford such luxury in life.
I am quite contented seeing the people get what they need and wanted. I know that there are still parts of the duchy where there are people who can't afford such things in life and I was thinking to allocate government funds to help them.
I was so deep in my thoughts that I didn't notice that I was standing for a long time.
Stares were thrown at me again. One of the waiters approached us to ask which seat we wanted to dine. I was about to answer when Auguste spoke.
“If there is a VIP area, lead us there immediately. Me and my companion want to dine privately.”
The waiter immediately walked before us and said that the VIP area is located at the second floor. When we reached our destination, he left us momentarily to get the menu.
“You are getting exaggerated, Auguste.”
“You know me. I had been very patient to hold back. And this time, I will not listen to your complaints.”
“You will never let me do all the things that I want, how strict.” I said sharply.
“Well,it's the duty of the future prime minister to oppose royals when they do something outrageous. That means that I should not always side with your doings, your majesty.”
I sighed because of retreat. He's right after all.
“And please, I hope this will be the last time that you'll sneak outside without companion. Consider your position more. You are now the crown heir. Your brother will kill me if I can't protect you.”
I smiled bitterly. Yeah. If he's alive,he'll probably be in panic right now because his precious little sister is missing. Those were the days.....
The waiter arrived and gave the menu. We immediately placed our orders and left.
A very long silence prevailed.
He returned to his usual self again – a man of few words. I know him very well because he's my brother's best friend when he studied at the academy. He usually does not display his emotions to anyone. But when brother died, it was my first time seeing him cry. We both comforted each other and we got closer after that.
“Haaaa... I can see myself wandering after a period of time.” I blurted out.
“Well. I just need to strengthen the country in terms of economy and military so the other kingdom can't invade us. When I achieved that goal and the kingdom is safe, I will abdicate and give the position to Edmund.”
“Why are you thinking of such thing?'' He seemed shocked to my statement.
“Because I never wanted to be Queen. Older brother knew that very well.”
He doesn't seem convinced.
I continued. “ It's because I hate politics. That's the very reason why. In a society where you need to play the role of the angel and the demon at the same time, it's scary. I am scared to a point that I didn't know what will I become.”
“But that role, I know her majesty was doing it for the best benefit of the kingdom. You don't need to be scared, you have good intentions to start with. You are already a good princess, what more if you're already the Queen?”
Somehow, with what he had said, I find it comforting. I remembered what my brother told me about him. “If it's Auguste, he really has good sense. He's a person you can rely in the future, Elle. He will never ever bring us down.”
I saw his smile. It was so genuine that I was fascinated for a moment. It's because, for so many years that he has been my brother's companion, it's my first time appreciating his handsome face when he displayed that kind of beautiful expression.
When our eyes met, his sapphire eyes were penetrating my soul. It was gentle and very calming. I stared at him for awhile.
I heard the door open and my senses came back. The waiter came in to serve our meals.
I got embarrassed. Did I just... No, pull yourself together Elleithyia. Focus.
He doesn't mind at all. When the waiter left us alone again, he started eating and converse with me like nothing happened.
Yeah. It's nothing. I am just overthinking things.
Gosh! Sorry for the very late update! I was very busy that I forgot to update last Sunday. But I'm sure I'll be able to this weekend. So, what do you think? ;)