Ascendance of a Bookworm (LN) - Volume 3.3 - Chapter SS1

Hint: To Play after pausing the player, use this button

Winter Debut and the Playroom 

Winter society began with the winter baptism ceremonies and debuts. 

I was serving Lord Wilfried, whose father, Aub Ehrenfest, had threatened to disinherit him unless he learned the alphabet, basic math, and a harspiel song before his debut. My master’s life had changed dramatically from that point onward, and after spending each day working his hardest, he managed to grasp that which he had previously run away from. 

And now, he was playing the harspiel while singing a song on stage, showing all the gathered nobles that he was worthy to be called the archduke’s son. 

“Lord Wilfried, how wonderfully you’ve grown...” came an awed voice. It was Oswald, his head attendant, moved almost to tears as he gazed up at the stage. 

I could understand how he felt. Lord Wilfried’s retainers had all been working themselves to the bone to ensure he completed the aub’s tasks within the month and a bit they had been given. And while his master spent his days studying to secure his inheritance, Oswald had been struggling with an increasing shortage of staff. I personally had less to do, since we guard knights no longer had to chase after Lord Wilfried each and every day, but Oswald had dramatically more work. 

Which makes sense. Most of the retainers had been assigned to him by Lady Veronica, and now more than half of them have been let go. 

But of all the retainers forced to quit, none had been replaced. Lady Florencia had wanted to assign replacements, but this was something Oswald had pleaded against. Were Lord Wilfried to fail his tasks and be disinherited, then his new retainers would have their honor stained forever after only a month of service. As such, it was decided that his new retainers would not be assigned until after his winter debut. 

...In reality, Oswald just didn’t want Lord Wilfried to become distracted adjusting to his new retainers, especially since he was exhausted enough as it was. 

To all the retainers who had done their best to support their lord since the news he could be disinherited, seeing him successfully play the harspiel for his debut brought them more joy and pride than anything. 

“Pretty moving to see how much Lord Wilfried has grown, eh, Oswald?” I said. 

Up until recently, I had spent my days as Lord Wilfried’s guard knight chasing after him whenever he ran away or was off playing pranks, so seeing him change his lifestyle and make his debut as a proper member of the archduke’s family warmed my heart, too. He really had worked hard, so much so that surely nobody would have any problem with him becoming the archduke—not the aub, not the other nobles, and not Rozemyne. 

Whenever Rozemyne had dropped by to check up on Lord Wilfried during her sparing castle visits, she would always taunt him one way or another while critiquing his attendants. She would say, for example, that they weren’t working hard enough, that they were slacking due to having made a little progress, and that they were being too soft on him before firing them on the spot. Then, she would look at how much progress Lord Wilfried had made and ask whether that was really the best he could do. 

Although she had Lady Florencia’s permission to do so, Rozemyne was speaking completely out of turn for a child, and it had been pretty terrifying to see the building resentment toward her from the nobles she had gotten fired. 

That said, when I warned Cornelius about it, he said it was no big deal... 

“Today, of all days, I imagine we can praise Lord Wilfried without Rozemyne complaining about it.” 

“Indeed, Lamprecht. I know that our days of vigilance must continue, but I imagine Rihyarda will not look daggers at us for rejoicing on this fine day.” 

As Oswald and I exchanged looks and a quiet chuckle, Lord Wilfried finished his performance and descended from the stage with his music instructor. 

“Congratulations, Lord Wilfried. Your debut was a complete success,” Oswald began. “The sight of your regal behavior upon the stage warmed my very heart. Lamprecht was moved as well.” 

The other retainers quickly followed suit, each proudly offering him their heartfelt praise. 

Surrounded by his retainers, Lord Wilfried lowered his voice and asked a quiet question. “I messed up a few notes, though. Was it really a success?” 

“Both the archduke and archduchess looked very proud,” answered Linhardt, one of his attendants. “Your hard work has undoubtedly been rewarded, Lord Wilfried.” 

Looking a little embarrassed yet overwhelmingly happy that his efforts had been recognized, Lord Wilfried returned a smile. It was a smile brimming with the satisfaction of having achieved victory through hard work, and one that he hadn’t ever given while being protected and spoiled by Lady Veronica. 

“I pray that your success and vigor continue long into the future, Lord Wilfried.” 

“Right. I shall do what the son of an archduke must do,” he said, puffing out his chest with regal determination. I felt an abundance of pride at this gesture, but also relief that my position as his retainer was safe. 

Unfortunately, this special moment we attendants shared was soon smashed to pieces by none other than my own little sister. 

“Rozemyne,” called Ferdinand, the High Priest. 

And there she was. My little sister, the newly adopted daughter of the archduke, gracefully advanced up onto the stage, her hair that was like the night sky adorned with a unique flower-decorated ornament. 

The aub introduced her as the Saint of Ehrenfest, a noble girl born with a miraculous amount of mana and a merciful heart who had already worked to save orphans and establish entire new industries. But I wasn’t so sure this was a wise move; the nobles were clearly suspicious of the story and Rozemyne in general, as anyone would be, and it seemed to me that such a grand title would serve as nothing but a heavy burden. 

Regardless, Rozemyne remained calm during the introduction, wearing a refined smile that made it clear she never expected anything less. I knew her from the temple well enough to guess that she was actually panicking on the inside, but that didn’t show on her face. 

Eckhart had always said there was no point in comparing someone trained by Lord Ferdinand to a kid spoiled by Lady Veronica, but the difference between them was as clear as day. The way Rozemyne had warned me about spoiling Lord Wilfried despite him making steady progress just went to show how hard she was being worked by Ferdinand, which made me feel a little sympathetic. 

A high-pitched note resounded through the hall; Rozemyne had begun playing the harspiel handed to her by her instructor. The rhythm with which her youthful hand strummed the strings produced notes so beautiful that they were on an entirely different level from the children before her, and she was playing one of her original songs that I had only ever heard while she was practicing. To top it all off, her young singing voice perfectly rounded out the performance. 

“Now consider me impressed,” said one noble. “This song is complex enough that it could be taught in the Royal Academy.” 

“It seems that she is as impressive as the aub said,” replied another. 

Keep it up, Rozemyne. You can do this. 

My little sister had given both Lord Wilfried and myself a second chance, and now it was time for her debut. I hadn’t spent as much time with her as Cornelius had given that he served her as a guard knight, but she and I still shared a familial bond. 

I watched on, thinking that my little sister was incredible even when it came to playing harspiel, when suddenly... 


Out of nowhere, Rozemyne’s hand began to shine with blue light. It seemed to be coming from the ring that Father had given her during her baptism. But why, when those rings were basically only used for blessing someone during a first meeting? There was only one answer—she was performing a blessing. 

The blue light flowed out with each note played on the harspiel, spreading through the large hall. I hadn’t seen such a large-scale blessing since Rozemyne’s baptism, and while it had been surprising enough to see her bless all two hundred of the visitors who had been invited then, she was now blessing every single noble in Ehrenfest. 

...But why would she do this? 

My awe was soon followed by a wave of anxiety, and I quickly went from thinking how incredible this was to worrying what was about to happen. 

“Her baptism blessing was pretty impressive, but this is something else...” Lord Wilfried said, looking up at the blue light, impressed. 

But we, his retainers, were anything but happy. The winter debut was supposed to secure Lord Wilfried’s right to be the next aub. That had been the agreement. But now, it appeared that his role had merely been to make Rozemyne look better—a development that made his other retainers visibly worried and annoyed. 

At the baptism, Rozemyne had apparently been instructed by Father, Lord Ferdinand, and the aub to bless all those attending the ceremony. Had they instructed her to do the same again? We had spent the winter doing our utmost to ensure Lord Wilfried did not fall behind Rozemyne, and yet it had happened anyway. It was as though both our and his hard work had been trampled on. 

Why are they having her do this when it’s both her and Lord Wilfried’s debut?! 

I reflexively shot an angry look at Father, Lord Ferdinand, and the aub. But there I saw that everyone—the archduke, the archduchess, my parents, and my brothers—were looking at the blue light with surprise. This apparently hadn’t been planned. Instead, it was happening suddenly and without warning. 

What are you doing, Rozemyne?! 

I watched on, holding back the urge to shout at her to stop, until she eventually finished playing her song. A few scattered claps could be heard throughout the hall as the nobles hesitated, unsure how to react to such a large-scale blessing. 

“Behold, the Saint of Ehrenfest!” Lord Ferdinand declared, speaking in his authoritative knight tone while holding a worried-looking Rozemyne high into the air. “May she be blessed for the wealth she brings to our home!” 

The nobles who previously hadn’t known how to react took out their schtappes and gave blessings themselves, doing as Lord Ferdinand had instructed. 

For a moment, the suspicion struck me that Lord Ferdinand might have ordered the large-scale blessing in secret, since he alone seemed icy calm. But judging by how he quickly strode out of the hall as Rozemyne waved to the crowd, I could guess that he hadn’t expected it either. 

With Rozemyne gone, the aub stepped onto the stage to quiet the stirring nobles. 

“I imagine it is clear to everyone that Rozemyne is rich with mana and beloved by the gods. She is the Saint of Ehrenfest, and she shall bring new industries and much wealth to our duchy,” he said. 

But despite this being nothing more than a quick cover-up for the impromptu blessing, the aub’s words appeared to have shifted the attitude among the nobles; they had quickly gone from seeing the title as an exaggeration to believing it was quite fitting indeed. 

“Splendid! I would expect nothing less of my granddaughter!” 

“Indeed, Lord Bonifatius. I, too, am overjoyed from the bottom of my heart that an archduke candidate with Leisegang blood has been born. I shall have to direct my house to provide her support.” 

Rozemyne’s blessing had been a surprise to all of her caretakers, but that wasn’t how the nobles were viewing the event. House Leisegang and its affiliates had been treated coldly by Lady Veronica for decades, and now they were rejoicing over the birth of an archduke candidate who carried their name. Mother and Eckhart were constantly reminding them that Rozemyne had no intention of ever becoming the aub, but few showed any sign of actually accepting that. 

“We’ve prepared many new recipes today, which I imagine many of you have been looking forward to most of all,” the aub began. “This food will soon prove to be a significant weapon in Ehrenfest’s favor, so enjoy it to your heart’s content. The Gifting Ceremony shall be performed after lunch.” 

The schedule was thus changed, and it was easy to imagine that all sorts of meetings and adjustments to plans were about to happen. 

My anger toward Rozemyne’s caretakers faded, replaced with unease over how the nobles were reacting. Father and Aub Ehrenfest had both made it clear that they had absolutely no intention of making Rozemyne the next aub, but now that Lady Veronica had been removed from power, noble society was shifting into an era of Leisegang control. 

Would they really allow Lord Wilfried to become the next aub? It was clear for all to see that Rozemyne’s mana capacity far surpassed his, and she had all the dignity and grace of an archduke’s daughter. Whether she herself wanted it or not, I could see no future in which people did not rise to support her taking the position. 

I could tell by the unhappy, anxious, and betrayed looks on the faces of my fellow retainers that they were all thinking the same thing. And in the midst of all that, Lord Wilfried alone wore a grin as he walked to the dining hall for lunch. 

“My debut going so well has really made me hungry. Maybe it’s the relief?” Lord Wilfried mused aloud. “Anyway, I’m glad lunch was moved forward; they’re serving some new recipes that Rozemyne just came up with. You like her food too, don’t you, Lamprecht?” 

His words made the tension drain from my body. He was right. His debut had been a success, and all that disinheritance talk was now a thing of the past. It was best to just celebrate that and think of ways to further support Lord Wilfried. 

“Rozemyne’s food certainly is good. I am looking forward to it as well,” Oswald intoned.

There was one order that we retainers all needed to carry out during the feast: gather information. So that was what we did. Then, once Lord Wilfried had been put to bed later that night, we prepared to gather and discuss what we had learned. 

Among the remaining retainers, I was the only one who was a member of the Leisegang faction, and I was Rozemyne’s older brother. As a result, it fell to me to ask my parents about Rozemyne’s plans and inform the others about House Leisegang’s future intentions. 

Leaving the night guards to watch over Lord Wilfried, the other retainers and I all went to Oswald in his room. As we waited in the darkness, he was the one to break the silence. 

“We have managed to avoid Lord Wilfried being disinherited. All we can do now is believe in the aub’s word and continue as we have been.” 

“Indeed. We should focus on doing what we must to prepare him for becoming the true next aub,” another retainer replied. 

“Those Leisegangs are all excited to have Lady Rozemyne take the role, but it is still possible for Lord Wilfried to get Lady Veronica’s faction on his side.” 

“Exactly. Lady Veronica’s faction will surely support Lord Wilfried until the end of their days, and they still outnumber the Leisegang faction. They’ll be strong allies.” 

Different retainers had different opinions, but since most of them had been scouted for their jobs by Lady Veronica in the first place, they all found themselves acting as though she was still around. I went ahead and put a stop to that. 

“Hold on a moment. Clinging to such assumptions is dangerous.” 

“Explain yourself, Lamprecht.” 

“Right now, only Lady Veronica and her retainers have been arrested, but no decision has been made regarding how her followers at large will be handled. If we rush things and carelessly bring former members of her faction into our own, we would hardly be providing Lord Wilfried with a stable foundation to build upon. I think we should keep our distance and play it safe, instead starting with neutral nobles.” 

Oswald fell into thought for a bit, then nodded in agreement. “Lamprecht’s correct. It should not be an issue for us to reach out to members of Lady Veronica’s faction, but only after their potential punishment—or lack thereof—has been decided. For now, we should focus on raising Lord Wilfried to be the next aub, and our priority should be getting him as many gifted retainers from the children’s playroom as possible.” 

He was choosing to let the adult circumstances play themselves out as we dedicated our attention to getting Lord Wilfried trustworthy friends to have by his side at the Royal Academy. 

“Lady Charlotte’s baptism ceremony will be held next year, and it is expected that the three of them will be competing for retainers. Rozemyne will likely be attempting to bring as many gifted female retainers as possible under her fold, so we should do the same with male retainers for Lord Wilfried.” 

As boys and girls were segregated into separate dorms at the Royal Academy, nobles seeking retainers would customarily prioritize those who were the same gender as themselves. This did not apply to scholars and knights, but attendants were so closely engaged in their master’s private life that this was a necessity. 

“Lord Wilfried must do everything he can to ensure he does not appear inferior to Lady Rozemyne within the playroom,” Oswald said. 

While I could see his point, I knew it would be a hopeless effort; Lord Wilfried had almost been disinherited due to his incompetence, and it was Rozemyne who had written up a study plan to set him straight. She had even praised and taunted him to bring out his motivation—something that she was far better at doing than any of us, since we weren’t used to doing anything but complimenting him. If she kept up that momentum and took control of the playroom, it was hard to imagine Lord Wilfried being able to do anything against her. 

“I understand your point, Oswald, but there is no way for us to avoid Lord Wilfried looking inferior to Rozemyne. The children will undoubtedly be flooding the playroom, hoping to hear her harspiel song and see her blessings.” 

The retainers all faltered. They probably knew that their expectations were unreasonable. 

“While that is true, there must be something we can do to support Lord Wilfried,” Oswald replied. “Do you have any better ideas? At this rate, Lady Rozemyne will steal the position of aub without fail.” 

“Are you not Lady Rozemyne’s older brother, Lamprecht? Surely you know of some weakness she possesses,” Linhardt added, visibly hostile toward the thought of the aub seat being taken. 

I smiled. This is how it’s supposed to be. We were the ones at fault for standing idly by when Lord Wilfried was decreed to be the next aub. 

“There’s no need for us to view Rozemyne as an enemy. We need only emphasize the attributes Lord Wilfried has that Rozemyne does not,” I said. 

The retainers all grimaced, clearly finding it hard to believe there was any area in which Lord Wilfried prevailed. It seemed they had been so focused on Rozemyne’s strengths that they hadn’t noticed how terribly unfit she was to be an aub; she had a clear weakness that there was no doing anything about. 

“And the one attribute that immediately comes to mind,” I continued, “is a strong and healthy body. How could Rozemyne ever become the aub when she’s so weak and sickly that she collapses simply from walking too fast down the hall, and can’t even participate in the entirety of dinner before having to leave early to rest? I spoke to my parents and Lord Ferdinand during the feast, and it seems that none of her guardians intend to make her the next aub, no matter how skilled she is. She was adopted to support Lord Wilfried, not replace him.” 

The retainers gasped and exchanged looks, both relieved and unsettled at the fact Rozemyne couldn’t be the next aub despite her enormous talents. In their hearts, they wanted their liege, Lord Wilfried, to be the aub, but in truth, they knew that Ehrenfest needed a talented leader with plentiful mana. 

“If that’s what they think as Lady Rozemyne’s guardians, then Lady Charlotte might prove to be a greater threat,” Oswald said. “After all, she was raised by Lady Florencia to oppose Lady Veronica.” 

His words took me by surprise; I had never thought of it like that. I had of course expected Lady Charlotte to compete with Rozemyne for retainers, but not once had I considered that she might also be a possible aub. 

“Lady Veronica never would have allowed this while she was in power, but while Lady Rozemyne certainly is an overwhelmingly stronger archduke candidate on the female side, if she is not named as the next potential aub, an opening will be created.” 

“But as you just said, Lady Charlotte is a female archduke candidate. That gives Lord Wilfried an advantage, doesn’t it?” 

The retainers were nodding among themselves. So long as Lord Wilfried continued working in a manner befitting an archduke candidate, it would be increasingly difficult for Lady Charlotte to bridge the gap between them. Sylvester defeating his older sisters in their battle for succession had made that more than clear. 

This also meant, in other words, that Rozemyne was such an overwhelming figure that she could easily overcome the gender barrier. 

“In that case, we shall guide Lord Wilfried to working alongside Lady Rozemyne rather than opposing her. If we can establish a good rapport now, then it should be possible for us to easily secure the Leisegangs’ support in the future by having Lady Rozemyne and Lord Wilfried marry,” Oswald declared, clenching his fists. 

Nobody disagreed with him on that matter. There would be nothing better than the Leisegang faction gathering beneath Rozemyne, and Lord Wilfried directly inheriting the political base that Lady Veronica had constructed in the past. 

...This is more realistic than sickly Rozemyne becoming the next aub. If she truly was adopted just to support Lord Wilfried, then Father and the others are undoubtedly planning for her to marry him, if possible. 

The next day, the playroom was due to be held. During breakfast, we explained to Lord Wilfried what would happen there. As our priority had been ensuring that his debut was a success, we hadn’t spoken much of what came after. 

“So, there are going to be introductions on the first day. I just need to sit in a chair and listen to people introduce themselves to me, right? And then I need to watch the other kids and pick the best retainers.” 

“That is correct. You do not have to choose today, however. There is much time to consider this matter over the next three years leading up to your enrollment in the Royal Academy.” 

“These retainers will spend time with you throughout the entirety of winter while you are a student. They must be gifted, of course, but on top of that, you will want to pick individuals cut from the same cloth as yourself. Both parties will have nothing but a bad time if you disagree on too fundamental of a level.” 

It was dangerous to take on a retainer who had no intention to serve you; it not only heightened the threat of betrayal, but also risked destroying the future of a retainer if they were relieved from duty. There was no way to avoid this besides successfully flocking with birds of a feather. 

“The other nobles will judge your ability to lead the playroom to see if you have the skills required to become the next aub. In this regard, please work together with Lady Rozemyne,” Oswald said. 

Lord Wilfried responded with a slightly worried look. 

“Oh, there is no cause for concern—as long as you actively move around the room and display your strength, everything will go smoothly,” said one retainer. 

“In fact, that is something that will be hard for Lady Rozemyne to do,” added another. 

Lord Wilfried crossed arms in thought, then nodded. “Right. Rozemyne is weak enough that she even needs to practice walking. I’ll take charge when it comes to moving around.”

The playroom was packed with students, and everyone’s eyes were on Rozemyne and Lord Wilfried. There were long lines of those waiting to introduce themselves, while the students who had already done so were busy speaking to the kids who weren’t old enough to go to school yet. 

In a normal year, the archnobles would be flexing their status to the laynobles, and the children who had just finished their baptism would be rushing to mingle with their factions as soon as possible. But none of that was happening here. Instead, the students were teaching the younger kids about the academy, showing off their academic excellence and loudly discussing their lessons in overbearing voices while shooting brief, occasional glances at Rozemyne and Lord Wilfried. 

What had used to be a time for mednobles and laynobles to search out archnobles to protect them had become something much more peaceful. 

“Seems like this year’s students are on the softer side,” I observed. 

“Of course they are. There are archduke candidates in attendance, and the fastest way up in the world is to become one of their retainers,” Linhardt replied. “The kids here need to be cautious until they’ve learned more about the candidates’ personalities and what they like. The playroom will undoubtedly be quiet for a number of days, at the very least.” 

He was right; it would be beyond foolish to suddenly start bullying others right in front of an archduke candidate, especially one known as a saint who showed mercy even to orphans. As such, everyone here shared the same wise idea that it was best to hold back on wielding their status like tyrannical clubs, at least for the time being. I wasn’t seeing anyone being openly antagonistic about factions, either. It undoubtedly helped that not even a full year had passed since Lady Veronica’s arrest, and that the shifting power balance between the adult factions hadn’t yet calmed down. 

I looked across the kids in the room, quietly observing the children who would be going to the Royal Academy at the same time as Lord Wilfried. Oswald had asked me to form as many bridges as I could with nobles of the Leisegang faction. 

...I suppose I should try reaching out to Alexis and Hartmut once the Royal Academy sends out grades. Or, no, it’s likely that Cornelius will be approaching them for Lady Rozemyne’s sake. He’s so overprotective of his sickly little sister that he’s probably already vetting her retainers, and if I wait too long the two of them will be snatched up before I can secure them for Lord Wilfried. 

The day before Cornelius departed for the Royal Academy, I returned home and visited his room as he was packing his things. 

“Cornelius, do you have any plans for Rozemyne’s attendants?” I asked. 

But despite all the rumors about how overprotective he was, all Cornelius did was blink in confusion. “Not really. She’s in a weird position where she visits the temple a lot, and despite being adopted by the archduke, she won’t necessarily be in the running for the position of aub. It’ll be hard for her to secure any retainers unless they have some reason to be completely stricken with adoration.” 

Cornelius apparently had no intention of actively scouting any retainers for Rozemyne. I began to wonder whether I had been getting a little overprotective myself, having thought about reaching out to find retainers for Lord Wilfried, but after a pause, Cornelius continued. 

“And, well... both Mother and Father told me not to, so...” 

It seemed that our parents had instructed Cornelius not to get involved in Rozemyne’s selection process, under the assumption that he did not intend to continue serving as her retainer or arbitrate between their recommendations. 

“You’re planning to quit, Cornelius? You won’t stay her guard knight?” 

“I only became her guard knight under the condition that I could quit when it was time for Rozemyne to pick her retainers. But the truth is, I still haven’t decided whether or not I want to stop serving her. She’s not a bad mistress, but...” 

Cornelius trailed off, pausing for a moment before voicing his concerns. 

“Damuel came to serve her as punishment, while Brigitte does so for the sake of her home province, Illgner. Angelica didn’t even think about declining when Father summoned her to discuss the matter—well, I don’t think she thought about anything at all, really—but my point is that I still don’t really understand what it feels like to want to serve one person for your entire life.” 

Continuing to serve Rozemyne wasn’t too bad of an option, but that wasn’t a good enough reason for Cornelius to make such a life-changing decision. I had once gone through similar fears, so I could empathize with the unrest that he was feeling. 

...Yeah, this is no state in which to be thinking about Rozemyne’s retainers. 

“Lamprecht, why did you choose to continue serving Lord Wilfried? You could have left at any time.” 

While Lord Wilfried’s retainers were being fired one after another, Oswald had said that I was free to quit of my own volition. Lady Veronica was no longer around to force Mother’s hand, and now that my little sister had been adopted by the archduke, there was no need for me to continue serving Lord Wilfried if I didn’t want to. 

I looked down at Cornelius, who was wearing a worried, brooding expression. Perhaps I had made the same face back when I’d had this same discussion with Mother. 

“If I had to give a reason, I’d say that I stayed because Lord Wilfried needed me. Plus, I saw no reason to try to serve anyone else when I hadn’t even been acting like a proper retainer. In that regard, I thought that Lord Wilfried and I could grow together. But you don’t need to hear all that; these things never have clear answers. You’ll just have to come to your own conclusions,” I said, patting Cornelius on the head. 

He looked up at me, now looking more uncertain. “You chose to serve him because you weren’t doing a good enough job...? That’s a lot different from Eckhart’s reasoning.” 

“Eckhart is abnormal; he won’t be a good role model to learn from. You won’t find anyone to serve with standards like that.” 

The look in my eyes became distant as I thought about how Eckhart always prioritized his master far above himself. There weren’t many people who would be so stricken for a certain individual that they would continue to follow them even after being relieved of duty. It was standard to change who you served based on trends and circumstances. 

“Father serves the aub as the knight commander, and Eckhart will risk his life for Lord Ferdinand while remaining unwilling to serve anyone else. I’m sure that living around them has warped your perception of how things should be, but nobody expects unwavering loyalty at the start; it’s up to the masters to prove whether they’re worth it.” 

“Eckhart is abnormal...? I had assumed that one would need feelings that strong to pick a master, so I’m glad you disagree. I’ll try thinking this over some more in an attempt to find my own reason to stay with Rozemyne,” Cornelius said as he turned, the unease having vanished from his expression. 

In my eyes, Cornelius had made his decision the moment he started actively looking for reasons to continue serving Rozemyne. But I didn’t need to point that out to him.

The students headed for the Royal Academy gradually vanished from the playroom until, eventually, only those who would be spending the entire winter there remained. It was then that Rozemyne abruptly took out a deck of karuta and suggested that everyone play together. 

The kids quickly divided themselves into groups based on their future school years, and the experienced players mingled with the older kids. Needless to say, the two experienced players dominated. 

“Lamprecht! Linhardt! I couldn’t win against Rozemyne, but I beat everyone older than me!” Lord Wilfried declared. 

His confidence was recovering fast, but the older kids had likely been told by their parents to accommodate him. This theory was further supported by the fact that they didn’t seem frustrated to have lost—rather, they were looking at the cheerful Lord Wilfried with kind eyes. It was clear as day that they had let him win. 

Rozemyne noticed this as well, and after briefly allowing just the slightest trace of annoyance to slip onto her face, she smiled brightly and looked around the kids. “We will be at an advantage for some time thanks to our experience, but each of you will need to have won at least once by the end of winter. Otherwise, we could never consider trusting you to be our retainers. Isn’t that right, Wilfried?” 

Lord Wilfried merely looked at her in confusion, but the other kids all tensed up. 

“I look forward to playing with you all again. Starting tomorrow, I shall give sweets to the best player.” 

It seemed that Rozemyne had no intention of allowing the other children to accommodate her and Lord Wilfried, and to this end, she would be bringing sweets made by her personal chefs. The kids would normally have to wait for such confections to be handed down to them, but now they were right there, within their reach. 

In an instant, the mednobles and laynobles all became deadly serious, staring hard at the karuta. This development also meant that the archnobles wouldn’t be able to keep half-heartedly accommodating them; their very worth would be called into question if they lost to mednobles and laynobles. 

In a single day, Rozemyne had forced all the kids to take the games seriously. 

“Not bad at all...” Linhardt murmured. 

I nodded in agreement. She had manipulated them with such skill that all we could do was sit back and watch it play out beautifully. It was really hard to believe that the youngest-looking child in the playroom had accomplished such a feat so deftly, but this wasn’t the first time that Rozemyne had acted well above her age. 

After rousing the children with karuta and playing cards, Rozemyne worked with Professor Moritz to teach the kids, granting each one as much time as an archduke candidate would receive. Just watching from Lord Wilfried’s side, I could see them becoming more capable by the day. 

While everyone was studying under Professor Moritz, Rozemyne would spend her time quietly reading thick, complicated-looking books she had borrowed from the castle’s book room and writing stories to print in the future. She had apparently advanced far enough under Lord Ferdinand’s instruction that she was already prepared to enter the Royal Academy, so there was no need for her to relearn the same material alongside everyone else. 

Among other things, Rozemyne was usually busy writing down the stories told to her by Philine, reading aloud from the picture book, and occasionally dominating in karuta tournaments to keep Lord Wilfried motivated. It was clear for all to see that she was no student, but an instructor just like Professor Moritz. 

...Forget about Lord Wilfried looking inferior; it’s like Rozemyne’s on a completely different level from everyone else. 

But, either due to her being so overwhelmingly out of the ordinary or the fact that she was constantly reading thick books despite her poor health, the more energetic boys kept their distance. It seemed they were unsure how to interact with her. 

Seeing this, Lord Wilfried deftly took the lead. “Let’s hone our skills while we can and beat Rozemyne by any means necessary!” he declared, holding a strategy meeting when Rozemyne returned to the temple for the Dedication Ritual. 

Rozemyne’s absence always led to the boys becoming more active. The girls, on the other hand, became a lot shyer and more docile, largely refraining from playing karuta and playing cards at all. They kept their distance from Lord Wilfried and watched his group with caution. 

Both Rozemyne and Lord Wilfried tended to befriend those of the same gender as themselves. Considering the retainer selection process, it was actually good for them to separate at times, but the girls seemed a bit stifled without Rozemyne there to offer her support. In the end, both she and Lord Wilfried were necessary. 

“Lady Rozemyne is really good, though. How can we beat her...?” one boy asked. 

There was Ignaz from the neutral faction, Traugott from the Leisegang faction, and Isidore, Laurentius, and Roderick from the former Veronica faction, all gathered together in a group that transcended the wars between their respective factions. It was heartwarming to see them huddle up and hash out strategies. By now they had long forgotten all about accommodating the archduke candidates, and they were more than ready to beat Lord Wilfried at karuta to win the sweets. 

The playroom’s atmosphere was just perfect, and as I watched Lord Wilfried take charge over the kids, I felt that I could see a future leader of nobles within him. 

Hopefully he can at least secure Ignaz and Traugott as retainers. 

As his retainer, I wanted to do as much as I could for Lord Wilfried, and thoughts of ways to help passed through my mind as I watched him talk excitedly with his future school friends. 

Share This :


No Comments Yet

Post a new comment

Register or Login