The average ordinary citizen of the kingdom loved the Count—Kirchner was young, handsome, polite, and a war hero.
Even with overwhelming favour, he was prudent in his conduct —and exceedingly so for his age— and was not reckless.
At first glance, his seemingly humble deeds earned him a similarly humble following until it steadily increased and his reputation grew formidable.
However, the Marquis had a premonition from the moment he first laid eyes on the Count at the victory ceremony.
He was a beast that feigned his meekness. There was not even a grain of sincerity toward his fiancée, the Princess.
Such an incongruent feeling was sensed even amid the presence of the King, to whom the Count was always obedient and loyal to.
Indeed, the Marquis did not like Count Kirchner, even if he made a hundred concessions and his loyalty to the King made him wear rose-colored sunglasses.
It was a conviction that came with meeting one’s destined enemy.
Naturally wary, Huey did not bow his head or try to please Marquis Baylem.
The King and Princess may have not felt the need for such a strong courtesy, but it goes without saying that the Marquis despised the Count who did not send a friendly signal.
“By the way, have you come to squash my disloyalty?”
Huey asked for an explanation for his visit with a lighthearted attitude.
Marquis Baylem chuckled.
“Of course not. I came out of concern. I was worried about the Count.”
Huey laughed with his eyes.
“Besides, we’re still in a new reign, aren’t we? It would be reassuring to have a strong knight like you by His Majesty’s side as he is fighting the Republicans.“
“You were worried for nothing. I am too incompetent, I wouldn’t be able to stand by His Majesty’s side.”
“Of course you will. What could a young man like you be afraid of? Haha. I’ve just heard an interesting rumor. I know it’s slanderous gossip.”
“I wonder what the rumors are.”
In fact, Huey had a good idea of what he was referring to but he pretended to be ignorant. It was because of the Marquis’ sharp gaze that followed his every move.
“Why didn’t you tell me if you were short-staffed? I’d like to introduce you to a good maid.”
“Ah, that’s the story.”
As Cedric said, rumors circulated about Count Kirchner and the maid. Although it did not spread much and faded due to the influence of various powers and the spotless reputation of the Count.
The Marquis studied the serene countenance of the Count.
“How troublesome. I didn’t expect it to be this complicated because of one act of pity.”
“I have no reason to explain. And the loyal Marquis of Baylem [the Count is referring to his allegiance to the royal family], could hardly be interested in such gossip, right?”
Huey, who smiled softly, elegantly turned his opponent into a gossip-addled old man and drank his tea.
The Marquis of Baylem agreed, and stepped down—but his eyes grew colder, though.
“The Founding Festival is an important event. As you know, it was the day King Aleph and I drove out the Republican lunatics and re-established the foundations of the country.”
The country had a brief republican period of about 50 years. The country was turned upside down by a coup d’etat by the intellectuals, industrialists, trade unions and guilds in the capital.
There were rumors that it was foreign intervention, such as scholars and politicians infiltrating from the distant neighboring country of the Nylan Republic, but no one knew for sure.
The new history burned briefly and then faded away.
Some reformist historians expressed opinions about the establishment of the republic being too early. It was too early for the citizens to become accustomed to such a new form of politics, and the backlash against the royal family had not ripened.
It was before its time.
In any case, the Republicans pushed a group of aristocrats who had been driven all the way to the South and besieged and occupied the capital, killing and annihilating all key figures.
It was said that on that bloody day, every street in the capital was not found without corpses and blood. This is because there were a lot of innocent people who were victims of the Republican resistance and a large massacre of aristocrats.
Nevertheless, the reason why people like the Marquis and royal loyalists still hated the Republicans was the suspicion that some leaders of the republic remained.
Such suspicions had grounds. Now and then there were advocates of republicanism and ideas spread like wildfire just by the presence of a leader with exceptional and outstanding direction.
Regardless, that was all in the past.
Huey tilted his tea nonchalantly, wondering if Shada had woken up by now.
At the right time, he declared the end of the conversation by getting up from his seat, asserting that if he didn’t get proper exercise with horseback riding, his health would deteriorate. [t1v: ha!]
“I heard that the Marquis is also busy preparing for the Founding Festival. I made the person who was in trouble with the construction work hard because I wasn’t enough.”
“Heh heh heh, no. Then take good care of yourself. I’m just being a silly old man.”
They exchanged well wishes and parted in front of the front door.
As soon as Marquis Baylem alighted his wagon, he gave careful orders to his henchmen.
Keep a closer eye on the Count.
“Has Count Kirchner been to the club recently?”
“Yes. He smokes and talks to gentlemen including professors, scholars, and journalists for a long time.”
“Hmm—” a henchman, who was carefully examining the troubled Marquis, opened his mouth carefully.
“Of course the Count is one to be wary of, but what exactly do you suspect? Eventually, he will marry Princess Julia. Isn’t he the one who will further solidify the kingship? You will benefit from it too.”
Each of the Count’s personnel was carefully selected for their loyalty and were tight-lipped so even if Count Kirchner moved away from his realm, there was almost no way to confiscate information.
Above all else, he is the future groom of the king.
Truely, it was better to embrace him and assure their cooperation than to quarrel.
The Marquis, in a subdued manner, agreed with the opinion of his henchmen.
“Surely, if you are a man, of course, you’d have that kind of ambition.”
Indeed, there was nothing special about the Count except for the minor flaws that all nobles had.
But there was some aspect of him that kept provoking his nerves. It was as if a viper was passing by under his feet, while he was unawares.
Even the Marquis sometimes wondered if he was being overly vigilant, but that man was somewhat reluctant to admit it.
He felt the Count an indescribable nuisance, as felt doomed to dislike and collide against.
Said the Marquis, after thinking deeply,
“Tell me everything. Ah, right—”
For example, the Princess’s maid he took.