Speculations

I was staying in my study while having my morning tea. I inhaled the aroma and took a sip. Haaa.. This is perfect. I already incorporated having tea while working, so I am energized after having some.

I flipped the pages of the reports submitted to me and write down something when I notice some important details.

I suddenly stopped. I heavily sighed. I remember what happened last week, and I swore to myself not to get caught by Auguste next time. I didn't get all the feedback that I need to strengthen some reforms. That's because he's too protective of me.

I was so deep in my thoughts that I didn't notice someone in front of me.

When I saw her, she curtsied and started to talk. "I already finished the task you had given me, your highness." Erin reported.

I stirred my tea using my silver spoon and take a sip again. After I finished, I looked at her. "So, what did you find out?"

"The Houses of Rsyzard, Gustav, Mannes, Terell, Perry and Meinhard, the allies of her majesty, are doing quite well."

"That's good to hear."

"But, your highness, I found out that these houses don't usually go to other Houses even it's the season for the nobles to get acquainted. "

"Of course. I previously told them not to."

I saw her dubious expression. I gently smiled.

"Erin... Those houses... I am glad that they honor my order. They knew that I am slowly climbing up for power and gave their support. I want to know if they really meant it. So, I asked a little favor."

"But to ask that favor to them, their influence suffered tremendously. Your majesty, are not bothered? "

"I already thought of that. Don't worry."

Parties held by each houses are not just parties. In this kind of event, when other houses go to your house, it will increase your influence even in the court. But this also depends on what rank of the house is your guest.

And with regard to my allies, I really intend to decrease their influence in court. I want to test their sworn loyalty whatever happens to their houses.

I also have another purpose for my order. My allies have great influence that many aristocrats envy them. Now that their influence decreased, many houses want to replace their standing in court.

I am assuming that those Houses craving for much attention will splendidly penetrate the court. I want to know those greedy houses and make sure that I'll crush them when I become Queen.

"I really can't comprehend with what you want, Princess Elliethyia."

Her tone is very serious. She seemed suspicious with what I am planning.

I trust Erin. But I can't tell her what are my specific plans. I want it to be confidential between me and Auguste.

I shifted the conversation in order not to raise her suspicion.

"I'm sure you gathered many information. After all, I have given you a year for that."

"Well, yes. I am well-prepared that you'll ask. I discovered many information about all the Houses that you're not acquainted with."

I nodded in response. "Continue..."

"In case of the Duke Houses, there are three of them that seem quite suspicious. Though these are wealthy houses, I personally saw some of their illegal trade."

My eyes widened. "Illegal trade?"

"Yes. Although they are not on hands with it, I know that they are the leaders of the syndicate of slave trade, your majesty."

I leaned on the chair. I sighed heavily. "Slave trade? Didn't the king abolish the slave status before I was born? And besides, there should be no slave existing right now because they are already free men."

"It's one of the reforms of the king, your father. But I think, many still don't abide to his edict."

"This is treason!" I angrily exclaimed.

"Please calm down. Someone might hear us." Her voice is close to whisper. I tried to hold back my anger. After a few minutes, I got calm.

I decided to go towards the secret chamber of my room. Erin followed. This room is specifically designed to cater meetings secretly.

I forgot that I was in the study. Information about that must not be leaked.

"Let's continue it here."

"Princess, do you have any orders?"

"Orders will be later. Tell me everything first."

"Yes."

She told me that those dukes not only violated the my father's order, but also sold drugs that cause serious addiction to the persons taking it. Along with these dukes, they have also accomplices in the counts, barons and even knights.

"Erin, since they still haven't penetrated the capital city, we need to conduct a raid in order to punish them. Gather all the sufficient evidence and present them to me. I am giving you a month. After that, we'll plan on the catching them."

"I shall comply. Well then, your highness."

"You may go. Just promise me to come back alive."

"Of course. I will." She curtsied and left the room.

*****************

I decided to have my walk in the garden together with my ladies-in-waiting to release my stress. It's been months that I can't sleep properly because of nightmares that haunt me.

The prince... He was the cause of these sleepless nights lately. To dream of the person who caused my wounded feelings and destroyed my hopes of marriage, it is really a nightmare.

I got stress because of that. No matter how I tried to forget that person, that he is nonexistent, that man always appear to my dreams.

And a while ago, my stress level went higher when Erin reported.

In order to relax, I toured all the gardens in here and l stayed in the pavilion near the lake. It was a tranquil place for the types of me who doesn't want to get disturbed on my quality time with myself.

I stayed there for hours. I just stared at the lake and the scenery.

"Too occupied?"

When I heard that voice, it soothed me. I turned my head and my younger brother Edmund was leaning to one of the posts. I smiled at him. He sat beside me and gently squeezed my right hand.

"Are you okay? You look very tired."

" Am I?"

"Yes. Is there something bothering you?"

"Nothing. I just wanted to relax for a while. Work is very tiring."

"Even though I am not quite convinced, it is what you say then. But if you want to talk about anything, I'm here."

I was pleased. Edmund is such a gentleman. Many ladies admired him because of his character and very charismatic appeal. Too bad that he'll be a priest soon, and their chance of marrying him will be gone. I'm pretty sure they were devastated when he decided to join Fierron religion.

"Of course I will, little brother." My sweet response made him smile. He hugged me lightly. He is a very caring and a real gentleman. Compared to my older brother that is so loud and naughty, he is very mannered.

He accompanied me watch the scenery. To have this special time with my brother, I felt refreshed. It is rare for us to have this quality time,so I am happy that he's here.

Out of the blue, I asked him a question. "Edmund... Although I asked this one before, I will ask again... Do you want to be king?"

I looked at him. He sighed. "Older sister... To ask that again... The answer is always no. I renounced my claim because of you. You deserve it more than me. "

"Everyone deserves the throne. But the title of the king, of course, is not for everyone. What you are saying is a vague statement. I'm either of what I just said."

"You overthink too much. You deserve both. And I swear to God, what"I say to you is the truth."

"Okay, okay. I'm sorry for asking many times."

"It's okay. The burden of being a leader is really stressful."

"Indeed. More than you'll ever know." I chuckled.

"You'll get old early if you always think so much. Relax for a bit. You need that. "

"Thank you for reminding me."

When our conversation ended, one of my maids just arrived to fetch me. When she saw Edmund, her cheeks hardly blushed that she even stutter in speaking. I just rolled my eyes.These pheromones that my brother have, it is really irritating sometimes.

We got out of the pavilion and proceeded to the castle to have our dinner. After, we went to my drawing room and talked about various things and laugh about some foolish memories when we were kids.

"Little brother, which reminds me, why are you here anyway?" I nearly forgot to ask. I just remembered when we had a topic about his life in the church.

"I... well, Merylla gave us vacation, she said we need to relax for a bit."

"Is that so? For how long?"

"Hmmm... A week or two, actually, she'll send a letter to us when it's time."

I nodded to look convinced. BUT...You cannot fool me, Edmund. It is rare for Merylla to give vacations especially for the trainees like you. Besides, it still not the season for vacations because of official functions that needed the assistance of the Fierron church.

He also looked unsettled to me. I know him more than anyone else because I am his sister. I know when he lies.

I just let it slip by and didn't ask anymore questions. He will eventually come to me and say it, but maybe it's not the right time, yet.

"Older sister, since it's my vacation right now, can I stay here for awhile?"

"Well, it's my brother's request, how can I refuse?"

"Thank you for your kindness."

After our conversation, my maid, Charlotte, came in and said that Auguste just arrived. I looked at Edmund. He's grinning at me.

"What?"

"A visitor at this late night? Hmmmmmm... Too suspicious."

"Oh please... Don't ever think that we're something like that, Edmund." I rolled my eyes.

"Older sister, don't be defensive. It's okay for a man to woo a woman he desires." He teased me.

I was about to respond when the door opened. I looked at Auguste's direction. He was surprised that Edmund is here.

He bowed and greeted us. "Good evening, your highnesses."

"Oh. Maybe I need to go now, older sister. Seems like the lover boy is here."

"Edmund..." I gave him my warning tone. He just winked at me and stood up. He approached Auguste and tap his left shoulder.

"I will retire for tonight. Have a good evening, Lord Auguste."

"I will, your highness." After saying those words, he left us alone. I pressed my head lightly. This brother of mine, he also has this naughty side just like my older brother. He embarrassed me.

"Let's go to the secret room."

Upon arriving at the room, Auguste immediately gave me some envelopes that have a stamp of the crests of different houses.

"Letters for me? You shouldn't have deliver it yourself."

"About that, they asked favor to deliver the letters through me."

"Really?? To burden the Duke of Schmidt, they have the guts." I noted with sarcasm.

I scanned the envelopes. These are the Houses that I secretly asked to be my allies. To keep me waiting for awhile, they really thought about it. I opened one and read its contents.

I smiled wickedly. They really are replies about the alliance. I finished one and opened another, until I got to the last one.

"So? What do the letters say."

And just like a villain, I laughed. Auguste was shocked.

"Auguste, I'm sorry to burst out like that. They had sworn their allegiance with me. I am just glad that our plans were doing well."

"That's good news to hear."

"Hmmm. Since they are now my allies, I want you to do something." "What is it?"

"I want to know all about their houses. Their activities, what kind of leadership they have, what are their strengths and weaknesses - all of it. I want to know it secretly."

"Your highness, isn't it too much?"

"I want to make sure. Erin came here a while ago and reported her findings. There are houses that have good reputation in court, but their activities... It's inhumane. I don't want to be associated with a house that will bring destruction to my plans."

"You have a point. Our efforts will be a waste if that happens."

"So I'm thinking of penetrating their house. I want to send people in their houses that will watch and report everything to me."

"And where will you get those people?"

I smiled. "Will you contact the Commerce Guild for me?"

He also smiled at the thought. "In order not to raise suspicion that someone else is watching them, you will use the guild?"

"Yes. You are right. They are the ones who employs people at every house. It's  good to put them to use."

"How clever."

"Not so much. I just used a little common sense to that."

"Don't be so modest,your majesty. You really are."

"Please. Don't flatter my pride. It's unhealthy." It really is unhealthy. I don't want to be arrogant because of this praises.

He was taken aback. "I am sorry."

"It's fine. With what you will do, make it sure that the guild won't be suspicious. Tell them that I want to help their employees and ask their profiles. In those profiles, pick at least five recommendations for each houses. I will be the one to make judgment after that."

"Yes. I will do it immediately."

"No, Auguste. Not right now, we need to make them believe that we're not having a move."

"Uhuh. You're right... So, are there any orders left?"

"Stay here for awhile and accompany brother. He seemed troubled. He won't open to me, maybe if it's you... "

" You want me to know what makes him troubled?"

"No... I just want him to have a companion. I am also busy lately. I don't want him to be bored."

"Okay. If that's what her highness wants."

"Elle, Auguste. No formalities when we're alone. I am getting irritated with honorifics."

"But..."

"It's an order."

He lost. He didn't complain anymore.

"Okay, Elliethyia. It is what you want."

“Well. We're settled then. And it's already late... I'll have the room prepared for you. Let's call it a night.”

“ Yes. And thank you again, Elliethyia.”

“Thank you? For what?”

“Let's just say... that I want to be thankful that you're alive.” And he showed me a smile.

I was confused by what he just said. But his smile... It was the one that captivated me a week ago. I was lost for a moment... again. Our eyes were glued to each other, examining what will be the move of the one in front of them.

This is not good. Those smiles, it signaled me that it's dangerous. I decided to look away.It feels like a trap that I will never get out when I let myself in. I already learned my lesson. And I will never repeat the same mistake again.

I cleared my throat. “I need to go. Good night.”

Without waiting for his response, I immediately flee away from him.

****************************-*********************

Author's Note: YEEEEEEYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Long chapter!!!! I'll update when I get in the mood. =)

The End

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