The Otome Game's Bad Ending - Chapter 63
“Has there been any ransom demand for the missing noble ladies from aristocratic families?”
“Not that I know of.”
“…These days, money can buy almost anything, but it’s strange that ‘eloping in the night’ is popular among commoners. If there is no difference in social rank, there is no reason to flee without informing anyone.”
TL: Because fleeing without telling anyone implies what they did is shameful, they decided not to tell anyone.
Alston agreed with a nod.
“For the ladies of the nobility… if they are of the same social standing, it makes more sense to arrange a marriage than to flee and live a hard life. And are such courageous men so common to boldly seduce a lady without regard for the judgment of noble families and elope with her?”
Alston was motionless for a minute, as if contemplating, before speaking.
“They’re not common, but they haven’t never happened before. It’s not a great deal to trick innocent and sheltered ladies. And these events were thought to occur primarily among weaker families that were unable to hunt for missing members successfully.”
Everyone claimed not to know, yet such instances were hardly unheard of.
That is why judging this case is so challenging.
“Wealthy commoners may even consider marrying into a weaker noble family. The fact that they all vanished at the same time…”
“Some believe it was planned for a long time, and they chose the busy social season to disguise it as a trend and complicate the investigation. Most people appear to believe it is nothing serious. There’s even a well-known novel about it…”
“It’s about lovers who meet overnight and elope to escape arranged marriages and family obligations.”
“…Bring it to me.”
“What? Are you going to look into it as well? That seems excessive.”
Alston expressed his displeasure, and Raretis responded by admonishing him.
“Have you already forgotten the tactics of the Skeptics?”
Alston, who had been jokingly pretending to be unable, tightened up as soon as these words were stated.
Those who deny the existence of God.
A tragedy that struck the kingdom some 20 years ago forced numerous rulers to evacuate their territories.
They fled their homelands, which had devolved into a living nightmare, resulting in a vast number of refugees.
Some of these exiles began to follow an old goddess abandoned by the state and began to take radical measures.
They became outlaws with their military force, robbing adjacent fields, causing fires, and deceiving people with false teachings.
Their reasoning was straightforward: God had already abandoned the country.
The disaster demonstrated this.
The gods that the country is currently worshiping are bogus.
Our god is no longer alive.
The royal dynasty has deserted its subjects.
Those who are willing and able to assist us should do so.
The country labeled them as near-traitors and pursued them.
However, it was difficult to eliminate them because they hid in the harsh mountainous borders and mingled with the population without disclosing their identities.
Although Raretis led the Glamis Knights on a campaign, it was not without hardship.
The most horrifying element of the ‘Skeptics’ was when they were scattered rather than together.
It was unknown where the remnants of simple folks who lived on slash-and-burn farming may be hiding.
Someone would emerge and set fire to their camp if they camped overnight.
Food was poisoned if they exchanged it.
They made no distinctions between kids, the old, men, or women.
They all died saying the same thing.
You are the ones who are unaware of the truth. This country has no prospects. The current monarchy is cursed.
Although Raretis, who had sworn allegiance to the monarch, would not be shaken by this alone, it was a formidable sight to behold, mainly because even the kids displayed naive confidence.
Alston spoke forward cautiously.
“…Do you believe this is their fault?”
“Do you remember the method of offering sacrifices to the remnants of the old goddess they worship?”
Despite their barbarism, they made sacrifices.
Animals alone were insufficient.
The deity, who had already left the country, was said to reject male sacrifices.
She would only accept ladies.
Women who are neither too youthful nor too old.
Alston’s face became pallid.
“…Do you think this is their way of kidnapping plausible female sacrifices?”
Raretis reacted to the deputy, who now talked without the enjoyment he had previously displayed.
“Even if it isn’t them, what about a plausible man who appears out of nowhere, whispers sweet words, and insists on running away with you? Could it be done with good intentions?”
“It might be related to some criminal organization in one way or another.”
“It would be easiest for people to believe rumors about a love affair between young men and women. In such a crowded period, it’s difficult to capture a tail.”
“What about formally reporting to the royal family and forming an investigation team?”
“…For the time being, let us just follow up on this ourselves. When there isn’t any trouble, it could be a good idea to have young knights in disguise patrolling the streets.”
Alston recognized Raretis’ decision.
The royal family, of course, would make a cautious decision.
They’re not going to make a big deal out of it.
It’s been six months since whispers of the King’s illness began circulating.
The King hasn’t been seen in public in a long time.
Grand Duke Franz cultivates open contacts with the nobility, and the Queen hosts debutante balls for the Prince and Princess.
This year marks Princess Aloysia’s formal social debut.
It’s challenging to bring up unpleasant situations that occurred at the exact moment.
Alternatively, one may be compelled to silence by accusations of uttering gibberish.
If Raretis had been favored by the King, he could have acted more openly, but the situation was different today.
A Prince existed, although he was only eight years old.
His maternal family might have been a strong supporter if the Queen had come from an influential aristocratic family in the city.
Still, she was a princess from a duchy, almost married off in a hurry.
Things would be easier if Grand Duke Franz, who was not ambitious but rather kind-hearted, offered to be the young Prince’s guardian, but he seemed to have no such plans.
The Queen wanted to entice the noble families into marrying the young Prince and Princess.
Everyone, however, was simply watching the situation.
The Queen had a reason, but no real power.
“Oh well, I thought I could relax upon returning to the capital, but that’s not the case.”
“Is that what scares you?”
“What’s frightening is being on guard against the enemy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At the very least, we knew who the enemy was. Well, now…”
“Sir Alston, I want to ask you honestly.”
“Yes? You can ask me anything. Between us…”
“How likely do you think a civil war could happen?”
Alston’s brow furrowed.
It was a risky subject.
If it had been brought up by anyone other than Raretis, especially outside, they might have taken swift action.
But Alston quickly regained his cool.
“…The late king placed far too much trust in Grand Duke Franz. It would have been preferable if the Prince had been at least 5 years older. If not…”
Raretis’ Glamis Knights could swear fealty to the young Prince.
Even if Franz, the great lord, would not dare to defy the royal power that ruled the capital and the adjacent military strength.
But there has to be a reason why Raretis isn’t taking that route.
One explanation is that they cannot serve two masters because the king to whom they first swore their swords is still alive.
“If we don’t want to turn all the country’s nobles against us for the time being… maybe something will happen after the social season? There would very definitely be some backroom dealings. Especially because the King hasn’t died yet.”
Raretis expressed himself cynically.
“That’s correct. Everyone is looking on and waiting.”
The royal family’s most private information was the King’s health.
Only that the King was too unwell to entertain visitors was known both internally and internationally.
Everyone expected the King to die soon, but everyone had various ideas about when that would happen.
Raretis explained quietly.
“If I swear allegiance to His Highness the Prince, that very moment we will turn our swords to attack Grand Duke Franz.”
Alston shut his mouth.
In name, the knightly order was an order, but in practice, it was a sword wielded at the whim of its lord.
The Queen couldn’t openly issue the order.
However, things would be different after swearing allegiance to the young Prince.
They would look for any cause to accuse Franz, the Grand Duke, of treason.
In a similar case, Franz would not spare his young nephew if he claimed the throne.
Anyone who wanted to claim the throne would have to battle ruthlessly.
“If he’s innocent, he’d come to the capital and willingly face investigation, but everyone knows that’s a ruse. Franz must make a decision. Either assemble his personal army and rebel now, or submit peacefully and spare his neck. And, like any aspirant to the throne, he’d probably go with the former. Even if we have the best sword in the kingdom, excessive use dulls and rusts it. Franz’s deception should not be overlooked.”
They’d triumph but at a high price for the Glamis Knights.
This is why Raretis maintains a delicate balance of neutrality in this circumstance, not firmly siding with the Queen.
They couldn’t side with Franz because he hadn’t behaved yet.
The Glamis Knights are loyal to the current king, and the young Prince is the lawful heir.
Franz is most likely racing his brain for a means to injure the young Prince without arousing suspicion.
“It’s a conundrum in either case. Succession battles are often difficult.”
“The most frightening thing is the unnecessary shedding of blood.”
“Normally, high society news is just that, but this year, even the most minor news is too important to ignore. I’m getting a headache from that.”
This was nearly a sigh from Alston.
“Just look at what’s in the newspapers. ‘The iron wall of Raretis, unbroken by the frigid winds of the frontier. A single lily, blooming like a miracle, takes down the Marquis’s house and the hero,’ or something along those lines.”
“‘Three anomalies of this year’s debutante ball: the silver lily, the purple lily, and the lone black tulip withering away.’”
Alston quietly regarded Raretis, whose normally calm demeanor had become concerned.
The silver lily symbolized Lady Elodie, who had made a successful debut.
The purple lily represents Princess Aloysia, who received little attention despite her noble (by birth) purple tint.
Lady Emilia, who danced on the first day but was unfortunately embarrassed and did not attend the following days, was represented by the black tulip.
It was unclear if the black tulip was named for her hair color or as an ominous warning.
Black flowers are well-known to be extremely rare in nature.
Tulips are available in four colors: red, purple, white, and yellow, each with symbolism.
However, if someone decides to refer to a ‘black tulip’ with such a negative connotation on purpose, the motive is unlikely to be positive.
Regardless, Lady Elodie was often complimented.
She was the only one who was referred to as a silver lily.
Even the princess was mocked, with comments such as, ‘What’s the point of being purple if you’re just a lily?’ Despite this, Raretis’ expression was unusual…