“Why should I take something that I don’t need.”
Said Hart, with a very salutary face.
“The Prince saved me from bad people like Aunt Judy and Uncle Sandy. Hanelope’s a good girl. I listen and work accordingly. But if I didn’t come out of the closet, I always end up being scolded.”
I reminiscenced as I spoke.
‘Is there a good girl like me? Why did they taunt me all the time?’
They even usurped the money Mum gave them to take me to Hart. They always act like this!
“But the Prince saved Hanelope’s life, that’s why I like you.”
So let’s be friends.
I’m sure you’ll find me useful.
I’ll do a lot of good things for you.
I’ll protect you.
I’ll make sure you don’t die, I’ll make sure you don’t get hurt. Okay?
‘I’m not going to do anything to bother. I’m going to grow up on my own. I like you, so… please accept me.’
I looked at him with a sorrowful face, and he looked down at me with a subtle expression.
“The child seems to be obsessed with you, Your Highness.”
“What is it about that you like about that fierce elder brother of mine?”
Hansen and Patrick said, watching me stare at Hart.
“I don’t like children.”
The corners of Hart’s mouth twitched upward in a strange way as he answered.
It was then.
“Your Excellency the Duke, you cannot come here without an appointment!”
“Get out of the way! Do you not know who I am?”
There was a commotion outside, and the door burst open.
“There you are!”
The man who had been berating his hireling grinned as he spotted the Princes.
“Duke, what’s the matter?”
Hart asked coldly, not hiding his disdain.
“I’ve found the man who tried to poison the Saint!”
At that moment, I realized that the man was the one I had been waiting for.
‘Duke Magnus Eisen.’
A member of the temple faction, and Saint Asta’s appointed guardian.
‘And, until recently, the prime suspect in Asta’s poisoning.’
Despite his guardianship, he ignored Asta, because she came from a small household.
As the head of a prestigious family, he was unhappy that he had to clean up after Asta.
Instead of acting as a guardian, he neglected Asta.
As a result, he fell into Asta’s trap to tame him.
When the princes were dismayed to learn that the culprit had been caught, Duke Eisen roughly pulled a boy from behind his back.
“This is the culprit!”
The boy dragged out was adorable as a fairy, with black hair and silver eyes.
He was sobbing, his face red with fear.
I recognized him immediately.
The biggest victim in this case.
The expressions of the adults in the room dimmed.
Brantley was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Eisen.
“Poison was found in his room! It must be a relic of his birth mother. You all know that his birth mother was a witch, don’t you?”
Hart’s eyes narrowed.
Now that the truth was out, he seemed to be trying to gauge the Duke of Eisen’s motives.
“Duke’s son is slightly over nine years old. How could someone this little poison Asta?”
“The other day I got in trouble with the Saint for being rude and I was regretting my actions. He did something terrible to the cookies I was going to give the Saint. This is why I shouldn’t have brought my illegitimate child home!”
It was an outrageous lie.
I clenched my little fists and glared at the Duke of Eisen.
I remembered the original story in which he appeared.
“I tried to kill a Saint? It’s a frame-up by Asta! She’s getting back at me for looking down on her!”
The Duke of Eisen was enraged.
Seeing this, the Duchess smiled meaningfully.
“On the contrary,” she said, “This is a chance to deal with Brantley.”
“What do you mean by a chance?”
“Well, since Brantley’s birth mother is a witch, we can say that the child did this in cahoots with her. It’s a well-known fact that witches like to use poison, right?”
“But his birth mother is…”
“Honey, we’ll think about that later. Right now we should think of our little Yakov. Are you really going to hand over the family name to an illegitimate child?”
The Duchess whispered.
The Duke of Eisen was a promiscuous man, but he had been childless for a long time.
In the end, he had no choice but to make his illegitimate son, Brantley, his heir.
As fate would have it, some time later, the Duchess became pregnant.
Now that Yakov was born, Brantley, his illegitimate son was an eyesore.
“It’s a good idea. He’s been recognized by the Emperor as the heir, so we can’t just throw him out.”
“Even if he is an heir, it’s easy to cut off his tail when we pressurize on the fact that he’s an illegitimate child.”
“The people’s anger is directed easily at the witches who roam the slums. Let’s scapegoat Brantley and the witches and get out of this issue.”
“Did you really do this?”
Hart asked calmly.
The boy, his eyes sunken and his face puffy, could only shake and sob.
He looked terrified.
‘You’re not hurt where it’s visible, but your body must be a mess.’
He had been abused by the Duke and Duchess on a regular basis. How much could they have bullied him into a false confession?
The boy was too frightened to answer, even though his eyes were full of resentment.
“Won’t you confess what you have done!”
The Duke of Eisen flung up his hand. Brantley didn’t bother to raise his arm to block it, just squeezed his wet eyes shut.
‘You bastard, I’ve had enough!’
I came forward and wrapped my arms around Brantley.
“If you’re the duke’s son, are you the Young Master?”
At the sound of the innocent child’s voice, Duke Eisen’s hand stopped in midair.
Brantley opened his wet eyes and gaped in surprise at the girl who held him.
“So you’re going to be a duke when you grow up? That’s so cool!”
“What is this about being a duke? As he’s a criminal he’ll be stripped of his right to succeed.”
Duke Eisen snarled. I turned around and looked at the Duke of Eisen.
“The Young Master is not a criminal!”
I glared, and the Duke of Eisen flinched for a moment.
“He’s a sinner because he harmed the Saint. What do you think is keeping the Saint from waking up?”
“I cured the Saint. So stop bothrring the Young Master.”
“Huh! Who let this into the room? Get it out of here…!”
“I let her in.”
It was then that Hart’s long shadow fell over my head.
He stood protectively in front of me.
“The child is right, Asta is already awake.”
“What? I hadn’t heard about that. But… have you found the antidote?”
“No. Asta just took the wrong amount of sleeping pills and didn’t wake up.”
A look of despair crossed the Duke of Eisen’s face.
“Unfortunately the Duke’s son did not harm Asta.”
A cold faced Hart, a sneering Patrick, and Hansen shaking his head.
The Duke of Eisen’s face turned bright red as he realized his intentions was evident.
“What! There must have been a mistake. How did this all happen…”
“I’ll explain it instead of my petulant brother…”
Taking advantage of the gap in the adults’ conversation, I took Brantley to a corner.
His cold hand shivered in mine.
I quickly pressed a small glass vial into his hand.
“This is a gift.”
It was a potion that healed wounds quickly. It was simple and easy to make, and I’d made it before making Asta’s nutrients.
‘I knew I’d find you here.’
Brantley’s wet eyes widened.
“It’s a potion that heals quickly if you put it on the injured part. Hide it quickly so the bad man can’t take it away.”
“Why are you giving this to me, to me?”
Brantley whispered in a small voice.
“Because you’re injured, Young Master.”
“Oh, Even if I’m sick no one cares about me.”
“Hanelope cares about you.”
I cupped our hands together and whispered into Brantley’s ear.
“Because you’re cool, Young Master!”
I grinned, and Brantley’s eyes shook like an earthquake. He looked embarrassed.
‘He’s so cute.’
Feeling like a shy puppy, I stroked Brantley’s head.
The puppy blinked, never having been touched so affectionately in his life.
Suddenly, I realized that I wanted to keep taking care of him instead of sending back to the Duke of Eisen.
‘Just wait a little longer. I’ll save you too.’
‘How did it come to this?’
Asta’s long, beautiful hands clutched at the quilt.
Her perfect plan to create a mental debt to Hart had failed.
All because of a small child.
‘It should have worked!’
Especially for Hart von Reinhardt. He was the key to the plan.
His sacrifice was necessary to exploit Duke Moltke’s weakness!
The Duke and Duchess of Moltke were representatives of the Imperial faction, and would be a great power to Yenna in the future.
He was another person Asta needed to get rid of beforehand.
‘I must oust them once and for all before Yenna appears.’
Moreover, Princess Sofi, the Duchess of Moltke and the Emperor’s only sister, was openly suspicious of Asta’s divine prowess.
It was the Duke of Eisen, head of the Temple, who was supposed to help Asta in this situation.
‘I was waiting for him to fall into a steep, where he has no choice but to kneel in front of me.’
Asta was more than happy to oblige.
She accused the Duke of Eisen of poisoning her.
‘When the Duke begged in front me, I would have pulled him dragging the collar.’
It would be a bonus to leave a mark on Sofi, who had been doubting her powers.
‘I would like to imagine her arrogant face contorting into a grimace.’
Besides, there was a real purpose.
Unbeknownst to Sofi, Duke Moltke was secretly developing an iron ore mine.
Iron is a weapon material.
As such, it could not be developed by individuals.
But Duke Moltke, blinded by money, was breaking the law and selling the iron ore for a huge profit.
‘Eventually, Yenna will mediate between the Emperor and Duke Moltke, and permission will be granted. But until then, it is a secret that must be kept.’
A very deadly secret.
Not just any secret, but one that could be mistaken for treason.
‘Someone like me could deliberately frame you.’
Asta planned to accuse the Duke of Moltke of developing an iron ore mine in order to commit treason.
To do this, she needed to go to Mount Paros, where the mine was located, and bring back evidence.
The problem was the demons guarding the mountain.
‘If it was Hart, he could fight and get the evidence. He’ll probably get hurt, but I have to make him do it, if I wanted to live.’
I was going to risk my life to do this, and make Hart owe me.
‘But I never thought it would turn out like this!’
Asta glared irritably at Philen, the only other person in the room.
“Sniff. My hair….”
Having lost all of his luscious brown locks, Philen was now sporting a shiny, bare head, and tears were streaming down his face.