The one who was confirmed to be the successor was not Ryan, who had accomplished numerous exploits, or Riley, who received medal of honor from Solia Castle recently and had a skilled maid by his side.
“Lloyd, come forward.”
Of all people gathered at the garden, Stein looked directly at where Lloyd was standing. Stein peeked a smile and gestured toward him to call him to the stage.
Having heard his father, Lloyd look around and hesitated, not knowing what to do. Iris looked at Lloyd and nodded with bright smile.
“That is, how could… I…”
Although Iris looked at him and nodded, Lloyd was not able to start walking. When he was being hesitant like that, he could hear someone clapping slowly.
Clap, clap, clap…
It started at a corner of the garden. Smiling in response, Iris also raised her hands and clapped.
Sound of claps, which started with just one person, became two, and it spread as if it was infecting others. The number of people clapping grew to four, five and continued to grow.
“No, I… I don’t…”
Overwhelmed by the applause, Lloyd looked left and right, not knowing what to do. Someone came behind him and pushed his back lightly to make him move forward.
Wondering who it was, Lloyd turned his head around to see his back, but there was nobody there. He turned to look at the platform again.
“Come on up.”
Stein was telling Lloyd to come up. Lloyd looked at Stein’s eyes and then redirected his gaze again to a group of people at the garden.
There were Ryan, his fiancée Anabel, and other nobilities who were supporting him. They had look of disbelief. Lloyd, feeling awkward about it, turned his gaze away.
Lloyd could not find Riley at the garden. Lloyd was still just standing there vacantly. As if Stein couldn’t stand to wait anymore, he extended his arm and called his second born son.
“How long are you going to make us wait?”
Having heard his father, Lloyd tumbled and started to walk. He finally got up to the stage.
With many people’s gazes directed at him, Lloyd stood on the stage. He shriveled after running into Ryan’s glaring eyes. However, Stein wrapped his arm around Lloyd’s shoulder and said,
“There might be many people who are not able to accept this result, so I would like to tell you this.”
Stein looked around at the people gathered at the garden. He put his hand inside the pocket and brought out a medal to show to people.
“This is the medal of honor that Lloyd brought home.”
Looking at the medal, the nobilities gathered at the garden started to mumble.
It seemed some already figured out how Lloyd got the medal. Some nobilities were talking quietly to each other with their mouths covered.
“A while ago, the unsavory incident that happened at the Solia Castle… I’m sure most of you are aware of them. This medal of honor is what Lloyd earned for his active part in subduing that incident.”
Lloyd merely kept his mouth closed while Stein talked. The people at the garden, who were looking up at the platform, started to mumble amongst themselves again.
“Now that I think about it, I think I’ve heard about this…”
“The riot by the holy temple’s fanatics was subdued by a brave nobleman and mercenaries, so Prince Daniel bestowed him a medal of honor. I heard about this.”
“The situation was in such a disarray at the time, so it was not told in detail… So, that was Young Master Lloyd?”
People were talking about it, and Stein was making a speech about how proud he was of Lloyd. Meanwhile, Ryan, who was standing quietly and looking at the stage, just tightened his fist.
* * *
“Young Master, will you be all right?”
At the mansion’s corridor, having heard that Lloyd became the successor, Ian came to ask Riley. Having heard Ian’s voice from his back, Riley nodded and asked,
“What about you? You had been up in arms and saying I should be the one to become the successor. It’s not like you? You look rather calm?”
“I’m just pretending to be calm.”
“Is that so?”
“The medal of honor that Young Master Lloyd received… It should’ve been you that received it.”
It was Riley who asked Nara’s group to divert Lloyd, who was tailing Riley, to the Solia Castle during the day of the incident at Solia.
“Is there a need to put it like that? Nara said it too, didn’t he? Lloyd ran around all over the place to save people.”
“… That is…”
“Ian, I’m going to say this again, but I’m not interested in inheriting the position of the successor. I can actually say I hate the idea.”
It was because it was going to bring him even more annoying things to deal with if he was seated at the successorship.
To start with, there were things he had to learn as the successor. Also, there was the problem of mountain of paperworks. He would be summoned often by the Solia Castle. Finally, he even had to keep up the appearances and formalities with other nobilities.
It was impossible for Riley.
“My mother knew that as she clapped.”
“Wasn’t it you that clapped first?”
“I’m saying that my mother agreed. Are you going to nitpick on everything?”
It seemed Ian was telling the truth when he said he was just pretending to be calm. He kept on nitpicking at everything Riley said. Riley growled at Ian, but he stopped walking after hearing a voice coming from over the corner.
Because Riley stopped, Ian also stopped walking. Also having noticed the voice, Ian tilted his head.
“I think that’s Young Master Ryan’s voice?”
Ian whispered quietly so only Riley could hear it. Riley killed his presence and got close to the end of the corner. He stuck close to the wall and started to listen in to the conversation.
“Why did Lloyd get it instead of me?!”
“Lower your voice, Ryan. There are guests still at the mansion.”
“Please tell me!”
It seemed Ryan was not the only one over there. Stein’s voice could be also heard.
“Why did Lloyd become the successor instead of me? I… I cannot accept this.”
“As I said earlier, he received a medal…”
Stein was about to talk about the medal. Ryan interrupted his words in the middle and raised the voice.
“If that’s the case, that makes me unable to accept the outcome even more! That medal has nothing to do with this successorship competition! I… I save more villages than anyone!”
Hearing Ryan’s shouting, Riley, who was hiding behind the corner, also became certain Ryan was unfit to be the successor.
At the same time, Stein called his son’s name in deadly tone of voice.
“While I was going over the results of the work I have given you all, what I looked most closely was the differences. What do you think is the difference between you and Lloyd that made me decided to choose Lloyd as the successor?”
Ryan could tell his father’s voice was agitated. Ryan slowly bit his lips. He cautiously said,
“Is it the medal?”
“In that case, is it the difference in swordsmanship?”
Stein said no to both answers. With serious look on his eyes, Stein explained the biggest difference.
“It’s the heart.”
Ryan’s shoulder flinched.
Stein glared at his eldest son and said,
“There is a saying that states one should become a human being before wielding a sword. Ryan, I’ll ask you this. I am not asking this to a son. I am asking this to you as a man to man.”
“Why did you do what you did during the successorship competition?”
In light of his father’s gaze, Ryan was petrified. He was not able to answer right away. Ryan merely moved his lips around without words.
“Did you swing your swords just to get the successorship or did you do it to save people and villages?”
Stein was asking what came first as his motivation.
Stunned, Ryan was not able to say anything.
“I know you are brilliant. Your swordsmanship is superior to Lloyd and Riley, and I also know you had been working several times harder than them.”
“However, your sword… You had been wielding them for the sake of obtaining the successorship instead of the people, isn’t that right?”
“I had told Lloyd before the announcement.”
Surprised, Ryan dithered around. Stein continued.
“Last night, I asked him to come to the office. I told him I needed to have a long discussion with him. It was about the successorship.”
Riley and Ian were both new this. They perked up their ears and listened in to what Stein said.
“I told Lloyd that I’ll be giving him the successorship. When I told him this, do you know what Lloyd said?”
Lloyd’s response today during the announcement was that of someone who was not expecting it. Riley was finding this to be contradictory, so he listened carefully to what Stein said next.
“Lloyd said that the medal should be given to Riley instead of himself.”
“Lloyd said he came to Solia in middle of the successorship competition because of Riley. Lloyd said Riley would be better suited for the position than himself. That’s what Lloyd said.”
Riley ground his teeth big time and also face palmed with one hand. Ian killed his breathing and started to snicker.
“Lloyd… said that?”
Ryan’s face crumpled out of feeling betrayed. Stein steadily glared at Ryan’s face and nodded.
“Lloyd recommended Riley instead of himself, but I still choose Lloyd as the successor. Why do you think I did that?”
“This was also because… As I said earlier, his mindset was different. He had the desire to save people. Also, he understood well what it meant to be humble and courteous.”
Stein looked at Ryan and said with cold voice,
“Look at your own face now. You… you are resenting Lloyd right now, are you not?”
Having heard Stein’s question, Ryan fell to silence.
“Why are you resenting your own younger brother? Had he not been supporting you and wishing you to become the successor all this time?”
“In that case, I must tell you even more clearly that I cannot give you the position of the successor.”
Stein added that a person who lacks the heart and righteousness cannot inherit the Iphalleta name. As if he had no further business with Ryan, Stein just quickly turned around.
Riley had only been listening in. Now, he slightly peeked his face beyond the corner to look at Ryan who was flinching his shoulders.
“… I cannot accept this.”
Despite Ryan’s mumbling, Stein didn’t stop walking away. Ryan was breathing heavy in anger, and his eyes started to show deadly intent.
Ryan’s fingers moved once. He slowly brought his hand toward his waist. Ian followed Riley and peeked out of the corner, and Ian opened his eyes big.
Ryan’s right hand grabbed on to the handle of the sword he was carrying. Having noticed this, Ian opened his eyes big, and Stein, who was walking away, casually turned his head to look back, wondering what all the noise was about.
Sound of a sword being pulled from the sheath could be heard. Stein opened his eyes wide just like Ian.
It looked like he never expected that his own son would draw sword against him.
If it was like his usual self in the past, Stein would have been able to easily subdue his first born son regardless of how skilled Ryan was. However… this was no longer the case.
It was because he was missing an arm at the moment.
“Count! Look out…!”
With a shocking development happening in front of him, Ian quickly came out of the corner and tried to charge at Ryan. At that moment, Riley, who was still sticking close to the corner’s wall, said in a low voice,
“Ian. I’ll borrow this for a moment.”
Ian’s waist felt lighter after Riley’s voice was heard. Ian was charging toward Ryan, but he looked down at his waist and was shocked.
Before he realized, the sword that was on his waist was gone.
“.. I cannot accept this!”
For the sake of obtaining the Iphalleta house’s successorship, Ryan had been diligent and even abandoned his own mother. Now, as if he was letting everything he had been holding down finally explode, Ryan screamed out loudly and swung the sword.
Looking at the sword raised up high, Stein resigned himself to the fate. However, he could hear something flying in from the back.
The something that came flying made a sound. Stein looked at the sword that Ryan raised up and blinked.
Only a moment ago, Ryan’s sword, which was drawn from his sheath, was exuding light from its edge. For some reason, now, it had its sheath on it again.