“Excuse me. Can you please help me for a while?”
At the moment, the recent incident at Solia was mostly wrapped up. To be precise, the Iphalleta House’s successorship competition was coming to an end at the moment. Riley and Nainiae were heading back to the mansion, and Priesia pleaded.
“Please. Due to a circumstance, I cannot show myself to the public. Also, with the Holy Temple collapsed… There is nothing I can do even if I went back.”
Priesia gathered her hands together and showed sparkles in her eyes. Riley dug his ear with his pinky as if he thought all this was such a bother. He blew his pinky and refused her request.
“I don’t want to?”
It was because it was such a bother for him. However… It was also because Riley had such a terrible history with an existence called Priestess in his past life. He didn’t want to get tangled up with another Priestess.
“I won’t cause troubles to you. I’m just seeking shelter from the rain… If you help me just this once, I’ll definitely return the favor to you later.”
Priesia was showing brilliant shine in her eyes. Nara and the mercenaries who were packing their luggage had look of sympathies on their faces. They started to side with Priesia.
“Young Master, why don’t you take her with you just this once?”
“Can’t you just think of it as taking home a beautiful woman?”
“Don’t say such a ridiculous stuff.”
Riley waved his palm around and refused, and Priesia looked disappointed.
“Young Master really is something.”
“You know he is stubborn.”
“Hm. With a beautiful woman like the Priestess, Isen would have begged and asked her to follow him.”
“It’s not exactly a lie, isn’t it? You were staring at the Priestess’s face like a fool earlier. I saw it all. You think I wouldn’t notice?”
“Hey! D… Do you have proof? I asked, you got proof!”
“Could you two stop doing embarrassing shit? Priestess is watching.”
When the mercenary group’s Isen and Rorona bickered with each aother, Priesia was watching them and breaking cold sweat. Embarrassed, she lowered her head and sighed.
“Ugh. It’s all my fault. If I was just a little more alert, this would not have happened.”
“That’s right. You still didn’t quite grow up yet.”
“You grew up in the Holy Temple while being pampered by a bunch of yes-men. You probably thought I’ll listen no matter what just because you asked. You need to fix that attitude.”
“Y… Young Master… Please be gentle with your words.”
“Why? It is not like I said anything wrong…”
Riley was excited and belittling Priesia to his heart’s content. Nainiae pulled his sleeve from the side, so he turned his head and flinched his shoulders.
Priesia was biting hard on to her lower lips and shedding tears as she glared at Riley. This was why.
‘W… What is this? Why is she crying?’
Riley panicked and checked other people’s faces. It seemed like everyone was not thinking too kindly of what Riley had done.
“I am so sorry. Because I was just a brat, the Holy Temple collapsed, and I didn’t even get to protect the people of the temple.”
Priesia was wearing a rag on her head. She tightly held the rag and spoke. Meanwhile, Riley floated a question mark, wondering why she was crying, and looked at Priesia.
“If you helped me just a little as the divine message foretold, I would not have… I would not have been cornered like this…”
“I really agonized over things a lot! Every night, I couldn’t even sleep. All alone, I tried to do something! Huk… Huhup!”
Riley put his hand out and had a dumbfounded look on the face. Nainiae checked Riley and then went next to Priesia to console her.
“It’s all right. Please don’t cry. Young Master didn’t mean anything ill by what he said. You know that, right?”
It seemed everyone’s heart was shaken up from seeing a gorgeous woman’s tears. The three mercenaries including Nara and even Ian narrowed their eyes and glared at Riley.
“Ugh. Young Master, you have gone a little too far just now.”
“Young Master, I know well that you are not interested in religion. However… Priestess is a dignitary of high status. She is treated like the monarchs of the Solia Castle. To the people of the Holy Temple, she is even more important than the monarchs. How you spoke to her just now was not becoming of a gentleman.”
“The thing is…”
Having heard Ian’s advice, Riley crumpled his face. He looked at Priesia who was crying in Nainiae’s chest.
Riley knew very well that this Priestess, a young and naïve girl named Priesia, was a different person. She was not the scheming, sly Priestess that he faced in his past life.
As if he was sick of watching her, Riley quickly turned his body around. He got on the carriage that was getting ready to go. He was trying to hide away. Ian was about to reach for Riley’s back with his hand, but he withdrew his arm.
Riley wondered if something happened to Ian after they went their separate ways at the Right Solia. Lately, Riley felt that Ian was occasionally showing vacant looks or suddenly bust into anger. It made Riley concerned.
Along with Riley’s voice, something hard was tossed at Ian. Ian tumbled and raised his hand to the front to catch the object that Riley threw.
It was a mask.
“What is this for?”
“If you are going to bring her with us, have her wear that.”
With those as his last words, Riley went into the carriage. Ian thought Riley just cannot help himself after all. Ian tilted up the tip of his mouth.
“As usual, he cannot be honest with himself."
* * *
They returned to the mansion. While the carriages were being parked, Riley came to Nara’s group that followed his carriage. Riley massaged his stiffened neck and asked Nara,
“You did as I asked, right?”
“Yes. I did as you asked, but…”
Riley asked something important for Nara to do while they were in Solia. Having heard the response, Riley nodded and turned around.
“In that case, that’s enough.”
Priesia was wearing the mask that Riley tossed at Ian for her to wear. She was pretending to be a mercenary. Riley gave a quick glance at Priesia and sighed briefly as he walked toward the main entrance of the mansion.
‘Well, I’m sure Father will make the decision.’
Among all three brothers, it seemed Riley was the one who was most late. At the Iphalleta’s garden, there were Ryan and Lloyd standing to greet Riley’s arrival.
“Welcome back, Riley… I hope the results of the successorship competition are fair and square.”
“Yes, Big Brother.”
Ryan crossed his arms and greeted first. Riley nodded and responded.
“You think so too, right? Lloyd?”
“Pardon? Ah, yes!”
Lloyd had been standing there with a vacant look on his face. Having heard his older brother’s voice calling him, Lloyd tumbled and responded half a tempo late.
“Ah, of course. Father will be deciding it, so it certainly will be fair.”
Lloyd also lowered his head a little and responded to show respect to his older brother.
“Well, Riley… considering your growth rate… I’m guessing you had Ian do everything to play out your schemes, but…”
“B… Big Brother…”
“Ah, right! When I came back to the mansion and heard the maids talk, I heard your maid came back to mansion as well… You must be happy. I am glad she is all right, so I would like to congratulate her too.”
“Yes, thank you.”
Flinching the facial muscles around his cheek, Ryan had been trying to get on Riley’s nerves. Ryan shrugged his shoulder and turned around. Lloyd glanced around and then tumbled to follow Ryan’s back.
“Excuse me, Big Brother.”
“The thing is…”
Lloyd was walking toward Stein’s office where Stein was most likely there and waiting. Lloyd was about to tell Ryan what he saw, but then he shook his head.
“Ah, no. It… It’s nothing.”
Lloyd was not able to tell him.
He couldn’t tell Ryan about how Riley suddenly went to Solia.
He couldn’t tell Ryan that he lost track of Riley around the middle and instead witnessed the disaster that struck Solia. He couldn’t tell about how he drew sword during the Solia disaster because the mercenaries asked him to.
* * *
They were at the Iphalleta mansion’s office.
“… I see.”
Stein had his three sons in front of him. It seemed he became conscious of his cutoff arm. He massaged the shoulder and said,
“All three of you, good work. Thanks to your efforts, I think a sense of vitality was brought back to some extent to Solia when they were shaken up.”
Stein heard of their exploits from the butlers who served Ryan, Lloyd and Riley. Stein looked at a piece of paper on the desk and said,
It seemed Stein was going to talk to his eldest son first. Stein called Ryan’s name, and Ryan opened up his chest wide and responded energetically.
“I’ve heard that you saved many villages.”
It was the truth.
He was not trying to show it off. Ryan actually diligently had been going to places to save the villages that Stein asked him to go help. After having visited all of the villages mentioned, he even went to places that Stein didn’t mention and helped them as well.
“I see. You did magnificent work.”
Stein lowered his gaze and looked at the paper on the desk. It was as if he was trying to say Ryan could step back now. Stein called his second born son.
It seemed he was nervous. Lloyd shriveled and stuttered. He carefully walked to the front.
For a while, without saying anything, Stein just stared at Lloyd as if he was going to burn a hole through Lloyd with the gaze. All of sudden, he peeked a smile, tilted the tip of his mouth up, and said one simple sentence.
“… Well done.”
Having heard the response, Lloyd’s face turned red. It seemed he didn’t know how to stand still. He promptly lowered his head and expressed gratitude.
“Oh, it was nothing.”
Noticing Lloyd’s response, Ryan, who was standing next to him, blinked and wondered what it was about.
Ryan’s response seemed to indicate that he was too focused in the successorship competition that he didn’t know anything about what transpired in Solia recently.
Riley was looking at Ryan. Having heard Stein calling his name, he quietly came forward without saying anything in response.
Stein gave a blank stare at his youngest son. Stein was going to say something, but he shut his mouth as if something was getting in his way of saying it. Stein started to massage the temple on his head instead.
Meanwhile, Riley only waited for his father to speak. Riley could not look more leisurely than now.
Ryan checked their responses back and forth. Ryan slowly tilted the tip of his mouth. He felt certain about the result now.
‘It is done!’
Ryan was certain that he won the successorship competition.
Stein waved his hand to tell Riley that he could step back now. It seemed Stein didn’t want to talk anymore. Riley lightly nodded and took back steps to stand along his two brothers.
“As for the result of the successorship competition, I’ll announce it in two days, two days from today. Three of you… Be careful and keep yourselves in check until then. That is all.”
With that as his last words, Stein spun his chair around. The three brothers bowed and left the office.
After leaving the office, Riley was trying to move away from the brothers. Riley was walking toward the garden with heavy steps. Lloyd called Riley and stopped him.
“Um? What is it?”
Having heard his older brother’s voice coming from the back, Riley quickly turned his head. He looked at Lloyd and tilted his head side to side.
Lloyd stared at Riley as he crumpled his face. Ryan, who had been glancing at his brothers, watched the situation with a question mark floated up on his face, wondering what was happening here.
“… If you have nothing to say, can I go now?”
Silence continued for a while. Riley was just standing there. He carefully started to walk again and asked.
Lloyd noticed Ryan glancing at them from the side. Lloyd apologized to Riley for holding him up for the moment. He added that Riley can go.
Having heard what Lloyd said, Riley promptly lowered his head. He started to walk toward the garden.
“Lloyd… It seems you changed a little.”
“Do you… think so?”
Lloyd was acting a little different from the usual. Ryan was finding his little brother’s behavior suspicious. Ryan tilted his head side to side.
Meanwhile, Lloyd tightly held on to the ‘something’ that he had in his side pocket and just smiled awkwardly.