Chapter Thirteen: Exercise Prudence Upon the Signing of Contracts
“I want to make something clear, though: I have no interest in the throne.”
The job candidate himself seems to be unenthusiastic.
“I intend to be at the service of His Highness for the rest of my life. However, I would also prefer to continue working for Lord Gilbert as a Prince rather than a King. It’s just that after hearing Lady Randall’s story, new possibilities and considerations came to mind.”
“Glenn, I really don’t have it in me.”
The job applicant doubled down on his claim that he doesn’t want the throne. Even if I succeed in putting someone on the throne, it’s not a job to be taken lightly, and if the person himself is not willing to do the job, it would make a lot of people unhappy… On top of the unwilling job applicant himself. Given that Gilbert is the third in line at the moment anyway… Shouldn’t his intentions be the deciding factor on whether to make a push for his claim to the throne?
“If so, why don’t you just renounce your claim to the throne altogether?”
“I have wanted to do that for years, but my father and big brother are quite insistent.”
Question! I raised my hand as if I were an attentive pupil in a mere classroom.
“I know that Lord Gilbert is His Majesty’s the King, but when you say brother, do you mean your half-brother, Lord Jerik, who is also vying for the leading position in the line of succession?”
How come he made it sound as if they were on friendly terms with each other? When at the same time, the story that I was told, made it sound like they were bitter rivals locked in mortal conflict from which only one person may emerge victoriously?
“That’s right, but my brother is an overall pretty good person, and we are lax with each other. The problem is his mother, Lady Trianna.”
Huh, so it’s that pattern where the overachieving parents are more enthusiastic and eager for their children moving up in the world in comparison to the children themselves. Yes, yes, I’ve seen this all before.
“Oh, a disturbing thought just crossed my mind, but could that attempt on Lord Gilbert’s life have been orchestrated by…”
“Well, it’s not like we haven’t suspected for a while that their faction would try to pull off something like this… So yes, we think it’s most likely someone in their faction who was behind it.”
Just my luck.
So, in the heart of things, I agreed to become Lord Gilbert’s personal human security alarm, but it should have occurred to me that this would be more dangerous than I thought. Now, it’s all but confirmed that I’d gotten myself into something much dicier than I had bargained for. At first, Sir Glenn’s terms and compensation sounded exceptionally generous. But, of course, he didn’t tell me about this power struggle between factions and the positively deadly perils they entail before I signed up for this… I just realized I drew the short end of the stick yet again!
I will work hard so that I’ll be able to earn a lot of performance bonuses and bring back home a big reward! Such was my mood when my pen came in contact with that contract; brimming with enthusiasm. But let’s slow down a little bit… Moderation! Moderation in everything, including in sticking out my neck for my Royal Lord, Mister Candela Man.
“Don’t worry too much. That attack was not an attempt on my life. It was intended as some kind of threat. There have been other threats in the past, and I can only think there will be more in the future. This time the message they wanted to convey must be: Refrain from taking a fiancée.”
You don’t know that! I could have died, you know! And as if finding Gilbert’s explanation unconvincing had reflected on my facial expression, Glenn started to explain more in detail.
“Lady Randall, you won’t be in danger anymore. These people aren’t that stupid. If they were to try a genuine assassination attempt, the Third Prince’s faction wouldn’t remain silent. The opinion in the Royal Court would tilt towards His Highness Gilbert, and the Third Prince’s faction would gain support that would threaten to remove Lady Trianna’s sons from the line of succession altogether.”
“Glenn is correct. The Esvalti Royal Family also has uncles and cousins who could claim the throne if I were assassinated. They would replace me in the line of succession against Trianna’s children.”
I’m a little uncomfortable. These talks about replacements in case I die is not very reassuring.
“But regardless, one thing is certain, and it is that I must choose a fiancée soon. And whenever I think about how the House from which I will choose my fiancée would determine whether I’d need to give up my claim to the throne, or fight against Lady Trianna for it… The decision weighs heavily on me.”
Gilbert is really tired, isn’t he? From his voice, I can feel that he has been wary of all these intrigues and power plays for a long time now.
Marrying Merlia from the Third Prince faction’s House Ordis would result in the conflict intensifying. On the other hand, although matching Alisa from the Queen faction’s Eusera House would result in appeasement and a deflation of tensions, Prince Gilbert would be kept out of power and be left with nothing to do for the rest of his life. One of the two same things will eventually happen with Laila of the neutral Bashle family and Maribel of the private sector Richmond family. The scuffle would only be delayed.
No matter where he falls, the Prince will not have peace… Being born as a Royal suddenly seems like a raw deal.
While thinking, although it came to me a bit late in the game, my brain struck upon a crucial implication.
Even if Gilbert’s Princess selection process came to an end without any further altercations, the conflict around the succession line will remain hot, so my services will not be rendered unnecessary. On the contrary, if the Crown Prince were to continue being unable to have a child and should Gilbert’s wife give birth to a boy… The Queen’s faction may finally feel cornered, and at that time, they might really aim for his life, right?
If anything, instead of freeing me, the Princess selection process’ conclusion will only render my ability even more necessary than it is right now. As I realized that, I became pretty anxious.
“So, we’re still on the same page about how I can return home when I’m no longer a princess candidate, right…? Right!?”
“…You are shrewder than I gave you credit for.”
That’s not an answer! Sir Glenn’s aura now looked as creepy as his smile. I’m feeling like I’m being taken for a ride here. So, you have no intentions of letting me go home… Was that it!?
“A-are you going to question my loyalty… Or rather, are you going to use threats like before? I don’t want to go through that again! I didn’t know the situation was this complicated… I don’t want this. I refuse. I demand the immediate cancellation of our contract! If you’re going to put pressure on my parents’ House, go ahead, feel free to do so! We are already at rock bottom, so what difference would that make!”
Yes, yes. Suppose it comes down to that, open defiance for the win! If I don’t accelerate my velocity to reach an escape right here, right now, I’ll be stuck in this place for the rest of my life! So, I planted my feet on the ground and raised the banner of rebellion, with fire breathing out of my nostrils. However, Glenn seemed to not have been moved by it. Not even one bit.
“Let’s calm down for the time being, and take a closer look at the contract. Your copy must be in your room, so please take a look at mine.”
I browsed through the piece of paper that he handed me.
Regarding the Contract Between Gilbert Trace Elvasti (G) and Lina Randall (L).
Firstly, (G) will dispatch personnel to provide the labor and expertise considered necessary to rebuild House Randall’s finances. Her lineage (L) belongs to and will also bear the monetary burden incurred in doing so.
Secondly, (G) will, to the utmost degree of perfection possible, guarantee (L)’s safety, livelihood, and all other necessities and expenses deemed necessary to carry out the contract.
Thirdly, if (L) confirms any presence of ill will or harmful intent towards (G), (L) will have to report it immediately. However, if communication is rendered hazardous, (L) may give priority to her safety.
Fourthly, special bonuses shall be awarded upon recognition of remarkable achievements on (L)’s part.
Fifthly, if either Party (G) or Party (L) violates this contract’s contents, or requests the contract’s cancellation due to any circumstance… Any money and goods exchanged to pursue this Contract’s fulfillment shall be returned to the rightful owner, and the contract shall be rendered null and void.
Sixthly, this contract shall continue for the duration of (L)’s stay in the Royal Palace and shall expire upon (L)’s departure from the Royal Palace.
“I don’t see any problems here. I read it carefully. Please cancel the contract right now!”
If I were to repeal the contract right now, there won’t be any “money or goods” to return because the assistance to my parents’ House hasn’t even begun, so nothing can be lost from it! After reading the contract and feeling confident that I was in the clear, I said those words to Glenn directly, brimming with bluster and confidence, my chin held high and my flat chest sticking out. However, instead of a crushing defeat, Glenn simply started writing down on a piece of paper… As if my powerful whirlwind of rebellion hadn’t even grazed him.
“Let’s see… This should be accurate. It’s the amount of money that was spent on your stay during the three days, up to now. That signifies the days after signing the contract. Please pay it in full at the Treasury.”
I indignantly took the piece of paper out of Sir Glenn’s hand. I had to do a double-take because I couldn’t believe my eyes. On that paper was a number that was only slightly different from the sum my entire House spends in a year.
“Wha… What… What is this!? Is this a joke!?”
“No. Since signing this contract, we upgraded your status to a state guest’s level, so that’s the amount. Daily meal expenses, labor costs for care, as well as your maid, and the secret service detachment assigned to your protection behind the scenes. Other daily expenses are also included… Oh, and the books that were given by His Highness also falls in the exchanged goods category, so they are eligible for return.”
What kind of scam is this! Unbelievable! This whole thing was set up so that with each day that I spent here, the amount I owe shoots up into the sky!
Even if they grabbed me by the ankles and turned me upside down, I still won’t nearly have enough to pay for all this, regardless of how hard they try to shook me. It seems like I have no choice but to do my best until Gilbert decides on who he’s going to marry.
“And Lady Randall, please take a closer look on the duration of the contract again.”
“…Well, let me see, so it says that it is in effect for the duration of my stay here as a Princess candidate, doesn’t it? You said that would take at most a year, didn’t you, Sir Glenn?”
“It reads for the duration of (L)’s stay in the Royal Palace until (L)’s departure from the Royal Palace. It doesn’t say anything about the Princess selection process. Even if you object on the grounds of a previous verbal agreement consisting of my statement on the prospective duration of the Princess selection process… I only said, from the standpoint of the ongoing princess selection process, it will be probably about a year at the longest. Therefore, that applies only to your Princess candidate status. Not to the Contract contents, which only says that it remains in effect during your stay at the Palace, regardless of your status as a guest, be it as a Princess candidate, or any other position.
Lord Gilbert! I know what you’re thinking even if I can’t see your face! Right now, you’re looking at me with pity… Like a poor maiden in dire need of rescue, isn’t that right, Lord Gilbert!?
“You were too careless. Well, I guess it was checkmate for you the moment Glenn made his first move, though.”
So said Gilbert as he patted my shoulder. I could only stand there stunned and speechless.
“How daring! Lord Gilbert! Isn’t this your signature here on the contract!?”
“Ah, about that. I often need Glenn to take care of matters for me. So, to avoid any hassle, I just give him a few blank sheets with my signature already on them.”
Is he for real!? And he talks to me about being careless! Glenn could abuse the power of a blank sheet of paper with the Royal Prince’s signature on it. Are they so close that they trust each other completely? Two young men with their spirits so tightly entwined usually means… Wait, this is no time to wonder about that!
“Then that’s even more invalid! The contract has been a fraudulent document from the moment it was penned!”
Take that! This argument cannot be overlooked! Speaking like Glenn, oh, please take a closer look at the part… Where I beat you!
“Lady Randall, do you remember that there are three copies of this document? One is here. The other one is in your possession. Then, pray tell where the remaining copy is?”
Like I should know. Glenn’s grin speaks to his total confidence in his victory.
“I have submitted it to His Majesty, the King. I thought it would be a good idea to keep him informed of our arrangement, considering possible future developments.”
What the…! You put me in a position where if I wanted to argue that it’s a fraudulent document, then I’d have to argue with the King!?
“By possible future developments, you mean hedging your bets in case I wanted to get out of the contract!?”
“That is an unjust suspicion. It’s an action taken to prevent any possible misunderstandings with His Royal Highness regarding your increased presence around the Prince.”
“That’s an absolute lie! You conniving, black-hearted, double-crossing, scheming… Snake!”
I can’t handle this anymore! However, Gilbert’s hand came from behind and covered my mouth to put an end to my verbal rampage.
“Lina, just let it go. Glenn is the type that never forgets the words you throw at him.”
So, you’re saying he’s a total snake… Got it. But I still can’t help myself. My feelings of outrage won’t die down. I struggled to take Gilbert’s hand off my face, but it didn’t budge. He makes it seem like certain things might escalate further if I continued.
“I think the terms in the contract are generous enough for both you and your House. Even if there are some dangers involved, which should not amount to any significant threat… You and your family’s livelihood will be assured for life. Why don’t you think about it as being offered a significant and permanent full-time position at the Royal Palace in the service of His Royal Highness? Ah, yes, that’s a great way to put it. Of course, if you are selected as the Third Princess, we will be able to dispense with disguises and fake identities.”
Who does this guy think he is, fooling around with legalese and fancy speech? He is just basking in the euphoria of his victory and being smug about it. What nerve!
“Lord Gilbert, please use your right to speak the final word on this matter… Or, at least, just do something… Please!”
I finally peeled off the hand holding my mouth shut, and implored him while squeezing his hand with all of my lady strength. Even with my face cast down, I couldn’t solely count on the persuasive power of my genuine distraught and the pleading look in my eyes, so I put all of my heart into my grip. However, Gilbert’s answer was…
“…I’d rather have you on my side for the time being. I don’t want to let you go for now.”
“No… No way…”
How mean of him! Not only did he include me in the final candidate’s group as some sort of exotic creature for his curiosity, but now, just because he’s learned that I have a little functional ability, he won’t let me go anymore!
“Furthermore, Lina. Far be it from me to add insult to injury, but my advice would be to learn every detail you can about what you’re getting into and not leave anything to chance. Or, to be blunt, did you even really read the contract?”
What! Was there something else that I missed!?
“If you cancel this contract, the only one who has something to lose is you. To cancel the contract, the money and physical goods were the only thing stipulated… Which is to say… Your ability, and the services provided by it, are not mentioned at all.”
I can’t hear anything anymore.
If you ever find yourself in such a situation, you have no other choice, but to simply let go, and reach a spiritual state of selflessness. But when I got there, the first thing that came to my mind was…
I’m sorry, dad.
I guess I really am a chip off the old block.