It was a long, long time ago.
“This is my son. Do you remember him?”
Archduke Hillard brought forward a dark-haired nine-year-old boy and presented him before Ian.
“Of course I remember, Uncle. How can I forget my only cousin, Simon Hillard?”
Duke Hillard smiled at Ian’s reply. For a moment Simon gave his father a startled look but no one noticed.
“He has stayed in the duchy so far, but starting from today we will be staying in the capital.”
“I hope you will be happy, Uncle.”
At Ian’s words, Archduke Hillard replied,
“In the future, Simon will be joining you in all of your lessons.”
Then the Archduke looked down at his son with a stern expression. At his father’s glare, Simon hurried towards Ian and introduced himself.
Ian wasn’t too pleased with his rather exaggerated greeting.
“Lord Hillard, you don’t have to be so formal.”
The Archduke was quick to protest at Ian’s remarks. How could that be?
“The sacredness that you have inherited does not flow to this child at all. So please, Your Highness, accept the respect you deserve.”
This was not something a nine-year-old boy would enjoy. However, Ian couldn’t think of a way to oppose and nodded.
Since that day, Simon went to the palace every day. That was not to say that Ian and Simon were close. Simon arrived just before the lessons began and went back as soon as it was over. Several times Ian suggested they take a walk or go horseback riding, but after only receiving silence as a reply he soon gave up the endeavor.
The two boys had lessons on a multitude of topics, but nothing was more important than learning the law. As expected, it was a boring class compared to riding or fencing classes.
“And thus the law of succession was drawn to decide the legitimate heir to the throne. Do you two know the great premise of the law of succession?”
Ian nodded at the professor’s question, but Simon shook his head. Ian glanced towards Simon. There was nothing on his face–curiosity, desire. Ian sensed that Simon shook his head even though he knew the answer to the question. Why?
“Then will you tell me?”
Ian answered calmly at the professor’s request.
“Only those who prove to have the blood of Crond can become heirs. This is the absolute condition.”
“Do you know how to prove your lineage? “
Again, Simon shook his head, so Ian continued.
“Through the treasure of Matap. The treasure only shines when the right person places their hands on it.”
“Excellent, Your Highness.”
The professor praised the prince, while Simon underlined the word ‘proof’ in his notes. The professor watched him and added something else.
“The young lord has legitimate lineage, so you could pass the test too.”
The professor drew a smile on his old face. It was a very casual remark with no political intention, but Simon looked up in surprise and answered hurriedly.
“Well, I don’t have to prove it!”
The boy’s face was full of fear.
“Of course…you’re right.”
The professor was a little surprised that the young boy knew what it meant if the occasion came to prove his lineage. It meant that Ian would be dead. Of course, the professor did not intend to bring this up, only wanting to say something to Simon after he so seriously underlined the word “proof.” Before the atmosphere could become too awkward, the professor quickly moved to the next part of the explanation.
“The heir also has a duty to have a appropriate spouse.”
It was followed by an explanation of what “appropriate” meant.
“We should not deny the existence of God and the royal authority that was placed here, and so there should be a proper culture. With all respect, the succession of Archduke Hillard has been cut off when he married a foreign noblewoman of another religion.”
Ian underlined the God, royal authority, and culture, and then wrote down some notes. Simon, on the other hand, did not underline anything. The professor proceeded to explain the various laws and financial backgrounds related to the succession of the royal family. The class only ended after another tedious hour, and the professor left homework to read today’s lesson again.
After they were dismissed, the boys went outside to practice archery. It was autumn today, so the weather was fair and there was hardly a breeze. Simon touched the callous on his hand and smiled faintly so no one noticed. The words of the old Count Freya came to mind, who was their teacher in archery, spears, and swords.
“Even on days where you don’t have my lessons, practice a little archery every day. It’s the perfect season to practice.”
Today was Count Freya’s day off from practice. It was natural for Simon’s heart to beat secretly, as he was free to practice however he wanted. He was good at archery. He loved every moment of the action, from the tension and sensitivity of pulling the string. Looking at where the bow from his hand flew. The satisfying sound of the arrow hitting the target.
Soon the two boys arrived at the training ground, which was empty save for a few servants. The boys pulled on their gloves and picked up a small bow. Simon’s face gradually became more lively as he pulled on the string. He slowly began to aim his arrow at the center. Perhaps he was talented. For the first time he called himself that, and he may have forgotten his senses in his state of bliss.
To his surprise, his arrow landed dead in the center of the target. Simon stood stock still and stared at it. It was the first time he had put in effort and was rewarded for it. His heart thudded in his ears. Maybe this was a sense of accomplishment. It was a feeling he had only read in books, and it pleasantly coursed through his body.
“Wow, that was incredible!”
Right beside him, Ian opened his eyes wide and clapped his hands. Despite Ian’s broad smile, Simon simply shrugged.
He was modest out of habit, but he knew it wasn’t true. Simon Hillard believed he had done a great job.
“How come it’s nothing? It’s even hard for me to reach the target.”
Ian had a servant retrieve the arrow.
“Now I know what my cousin likes. I’ve always wondered.”
Ian handed Simon the arrow that the servant had brought.
“I’d love to have it, but it will mean more to you.”
“You can take what you want. You don’t have to give things to me.”
“This honor belongs to you.”
Simon gingerly took the arrow from Ian’s hand. From his effort he was awarded glory in the form of this slender arrow.
“And I want you to surprise Count Freya with your honor.”
Simon nodded happily while Ian turned to pick up his bow. The two boys practiced together, watching each other’s posture. Of course Ian didn’t improve much. Whenever Ian’s arrow landed in the wrong place, Simon laughed, and Ian played along with sour face. It continued like this even when the servants brought snacks and they took a break in the shade.
“I wish we had talked like this other day.”
Ian finished the last of his apple, and Simon bowed his head.
Ian sighed once again at Simon’s excessively polite attitude.
“…I don’t want to hear that.”
Around that time the Archduke’s carriage came to pick up Simon. After Simon left, Ian practiced his archery a little longer, then washed himself briefly then prepared to go out. He would stop by the Sweeney family’s greenhouse for a little while.
There were three questions he wanted to ask Louise. Do you believe in God? Do you deny the royal authority? Are we building the right culture? Louise, of course, believed in God and was well educated. She was smart and sincere. But he worried that the royal authority could be very easily denied. It had to be, since Louise dared to hold him firmly with her fists and boss him.
“Don’t you think you come to the greenhouse too often, Your Highness?”
“Don’t bring your homework here!”
“Yuck, don’t say fiancée. Someone will hear you!”
She was a child who had a lot of disrespect. How dare she scowl when making reference to the Queen’s promise. He loved to make Louise’s brow wrinkle though. However, from now on, he was going to tell her to at least pretend to respect royal authority, but it might be difficult for Louise to do that.
Ian was pulling on his gloves and thinking about Louise when a servant approached him. The servant was holding a box with an arrow in it. It was a normal arrow, but Ian easily recognized what it was.
“Did Simon forget?”
The servant nodded.
“My cousin left in such a hurry and left behind his honor.”
Ian smiled and picked up the box with the arrow.
“Maybe he was too much in a hurry to show it to the Archduke.”
He hoped Simon would be praised. Perhaps in the future he may win a hunting competition, and then they would have a great dinner. Thought’s how Mr. and Mrs. Sweeney encouraged Louise whenever she accomplished something.
“Tell the Archduke that I will stop by. I’ll bring myself the glory my cousin left behind.”
A swift messenger was sent from the palace, and Ian stepped into a carriage and touched the box with the arrow. Come to think of it, this was his first time going to the Archduke’s office since Simon arrived. It sounded like fun. Maybe it was because he and Simon had become to close today. Still, Simon’s words of “I’m sorry” echoed in his mind.