“You’re well acquainted with my father? Wow. Really?”
“Of course. I get along quite well with your father. I even sent you gifts for your birthday celebrations before.”
As we walked together in the brightly lit hallway towards the school dining hall, I had a conversation with the person I finally found after all this time, Margrave Molton’s son, Zephyr Molton.
He has beautiful silver hair, and his eyes are a deeper emerald green compared to his father’s – I’m still confused about how I could have missed him, seeing him up close now. Maybe the crown prince just stood out way too much, causing me to miss him.
“……Ah, do you mean those baked confectioneries?”
“Yep. You have a good memory.”
“Every year, when they arrive, father will be so pleased, acting like it’s from one of his best friends. I always thought that it was from a noble in the royal capital though……”
“My domain doesn’t produce any local specialties. That’s why I buy sweets in the royal capital and send them over.”
“Ah, got it,” Zephyr smiled softly in response. Comparing his expressions with his father, they’re not alike at all. His gentle smile makes him seem like someone you can easily approach. It seems that while they look alike, many personality traits are different.
As we got closer to the large dining hall, the number of students in the hallway increased. Zephyr didn’t seem to mind, but for him to be seen associating with me and my bad reputation, I could sense everyone’s curious and distasteful stares.
“……Ahh, come to think of it, I’m sorry, but I have to do something in the library before lunch. See you later!”
As we turned around a corner, I took this chance to come up with an excuse to leave. If we’re seen entering the dining hall together, it’ll attract too much attention.
The Molton family isn’t one that has a particularly strong influence or reputation in the royal capital. The Molton domain is geographically located too far away from the royal capital, and Margrave Molton only spends a limited amount of time here.
However, the Molton domain is one of the biggest producers of jewelry thanks to extensive gem mines, so they often earn money by trading in the royal capital. I’m sure that they would like to avoid causing any trouble in the royal capital if at all possible.
Even if the merchants here already know what type of person Margrave Molton is, the school is an isolated environment and it’s difficult for me to calculate how much of a negative influence associating with me will be for Zephyr.
“Is that so? Ah, er…… mm. Then, see you later, Earl Kaldia…… er, Einsbark.”
Zephyr tilted his head slightly as he said goodbye, which I’m sure the other students noticed. I accepted this, and waved goodbye to him.
“You can just call me Kaldia, Molton. Otherwise it’s a bit easy to get confused with the other Earl Einsbark.”
“Ahh, that’s right. Hm…… you can just call me Zephyr as well. Molton sounds too much like my father.”
“Let’s do that then.”
He nodded as he left. It seems that his father and him are both similarly chatty. Even though he’s just as welcoming as his father, it gives me a strange feeling. So are their atmospheres similar after all, or am I just feeling nostalgia because of their similar welcoming chattiness?
I heard a voice from behind me, and I reflexively turned around while holding my coat so that it wouldn’t get in my way. While turning around I also jumped back two steps, and I smacked away the hand that was reaching for my hair.
I heard a small moan of pain from the hand’s owner. Because I couldn’t see him coming, he probably thought that this was a good chance to attack me.
“……Excuse me, Baron Dovadain. My apologies if I scared you – it’s a habit from the battlefield.”
I barely managed to refrain from pulling out my sword, and I informed Eric about my habit In a steely voice. Honestly, if I hadn’t controlled my reaction a little, I probably could have sliced him in half. Gunther drilled my reflexes against ambushes deep into my bones.
At any rate, I’m someone who was on the battlefield. Eric should at least take that into consideration. I can’t just kill the members of the archduke’s family however I like, though.
“And, did you need something from me?”
“……Where are you going. Isn’t it lunchtime right now? Just what are you planning to do, going in the opposite direction of the dining hall, away from where everyone is? Are you planning to slice someone’s servant into little pieces?”
I tilted my head at his voice filled with enmity and sarcasm. Just what does he mean, saying I plan to slice someone’s servant into little pieces? It’s such an unexpected comment, that I can’t tell if it’s a dark joke meant as some sort of greeting or if he seriously thought that was what I was planning.
“I’m headed for the library. I thought that I’d see if they had any books on irrigation.”
“……Irrigation? What is that?”
“There’s lots of undeveloped land in my domain. Preventing floods, and creating a water transport system near rivers and lakes so that people can live there is what irrigation is.”
“Oh. Aren’t you the hard worker.”
Even though I answered his question, Eric was still quite brusque and seemed frustrated. It’s bothersome to deal with him, so I decided to leave, when he stopped me again.
“I’m not done talking with you yet!”
“……What else is there?”
“Alfred seems to have a high opinion of you, but Grays and I don’t trust you yet! Know your place and don’t get too close to Alfred, you upstart lesser earl!”
Know your place, doesn’t this kind of not apply to me? I know better than anyone the distrust and loathing that many nobles have towards me. I’m the one who’s confused on why Crown Prince Alfred is taking an interest in me.
“As for whatever deep thoughts His Royal Highness may be thinking, I wouldn’t know, as I’m merely a lesser earl. However, since His Royal Highness can think for himself, and as he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, I’m sure he’ll soon learn more about social statuses just by spending time at this school.”
“Huh? What does that mean?”
While Eric was still tilting his head in confusion, I merely said “sorry, excuse me now since I really need to go to the library,” left him there just like that.
What does it mean? It means that I know full well the difference in status between the crown prince and myself. Sigh…… in order to put some more distance between the crown prince and myself, should I find an excuse to go back to Kaldia some time? I’m the head of the household anyway, so I can give myself permission any time I feel like it.