Chapter Twenty-Nine: The True Cause and Effect
What’s with this cloth?
When I turned to look at Nolan for an explanation, he was also looking back at me with a calm expression. After our momentary silence, Nolan began to speak very carefully.
“I hope you keep everything I’m going to talk about from now locked in your heart. Forever.”
I nodded as I stared at his face with a firm expression.
Thereupon, Nolan put his hand in the wooden box and flipped the cloth with his finger. Then, he pulled out a white envelope from between the clothes. He didn’t speak for a while, and everything around him looked tense.
“The day my little brother Aaron was killed… He had come to visit me in the morning of that day.”
I was surprised, never had I thought the topic of the fifth prince would ever come out once again between us. I quietly waited for him to continue.
“He said he had something to talk about with me, his expression looking more gloomy than ever, and he seemed to be brooding about something. I didn’t pay attention then, thinking he might just be nervous about his marriage or something, and welcomed him.”
He came to meet his older brother expressly in the early morning with a serious expression, while Nolan took everything as usual. I can easily imagine the two.
I urged him to continue without saying anything.
“Aaron drove out everyone after entering my room and, with a perpetual gloomy expression, showed me a white envelope.”
Nolan took out one sheet of paper from inside the envelope and handed it to me.
It was just a commonplace paper, with nothing special to mention, but looking at the graceful black handwriting on the paper, subconsciously made me think that it was written by a woman.
I couldn’t be any more nervous facing the letter that the fifth prince had shown to Nolan on the morning of his death. I began to read it, almost holding back my breath.
“From the distant past, my memories could lead to till this day. I had envisioned my future only with you.
I believe that the child’s father inside my belly is you.
But I don’t regret it.
What happened that day would always remain a secret I will take to my grave… However, I know it was the happiest moment of my life.
I don’t care if God forgives me for my foolhardy actions or not. The only one who will ever have my heart is only you.”
I could almost feel the world moving on its axis as soon as I finished reading it.
—What’s all this about?
“Errr… Is this… Then that means?”
I looked at Nolan to seek an explanation.
The letter was without the name of the addressee and the sender. However, judging based on the facts… The receiver should be the fifth prince. Then that meant the woman who wrote this letter might be pregnant with his child? This…
“The fifth prince’s… Ill… illegitimate child…?”
I was struck with a faint dizziness, feeling a whole ‘nother sense of deja vu.
To begin, the preparation for the fifth prince’s marriage to the princess of the neighborhood kingdom should have been ongoing at that time. And yet, did he really consummate with another woman? Given his social standing? I could only say it would turn into an explosive scandal if it were true.
As Nolan gently took back the letter still in my grasp, his glum gaze fell over the rows of letters. Then he continued after taking a stifling sigh.
“It’s not Aaron’s, but he isn’t completely unrelated to this letter, either. Aaron said he received this letter from a certain man.”
My eyebrows wrinkled as the situation looked even more and more confusing. With a deep and dispassionate tone, he continued explaining the letter.
“He actually said something nonsensical, looking pale while showing me the letter. That he might not be the child of our father.”
“Not the child of… His Majesty?”
Nolan once again showed me the front row of the letter.
“According to Aaron, that man came to show him this letter and going by that man’s word. It was apparently a letter written for him by mother—in other words, that man was mother’s secret lover.”
The secret lover of his mother…?
So that meant the queen unexpectedly had a man she loved other than her husband, His Majesty? What might be the emotions of Nolan, who was speaking about it in matter-of-fact tone, as the son of the concerned parties?
A headache assailed me from the confusion and chaos brought by the earth-shattering information and the appearance of Nolan, who didn’t seem upset.
After all, if we really took the words written on the letter by their face value, then…
“So… So, the queen had an affair and then was pregnant with the child of someone whose father wasn’t His Majesty?”
Nolan dumped even more outrageous information on me as if what he said prior wasn’t enough.
“The child from the adultery of those two people was… Aaron.”
This time, I was assailed with an even more violent dizziness, making me take deep breaths repeatedly.
I recalled the queen I saw in the Royal Palace. I still couldn’t believe my ears that the queen I met in the Royal Palace would ever betray the king. A woman with a doll-like graceful beauty.
“I pressed him to tell me the name of the person who handed him this letter, but Aaron stubbornly refused to say anything—I suspect that Aaron may have already confirmed that the man was his biological father. I believed this letter was a lie, and was quite angry on why he was protecting that man.”
In the dimly lit basement shrouded in an oppressive atmosphere, I silently listened to Nolan. The story began with the sudden visit of the fifth prince and everything that happened until his death.
According to Nolan, the fifth prince was perplexed and overwhelmed at the sudden appearance of a man who called himself his biological father and the letter he brought with him as evidence to support his revelation.
And at the end of his early visit to him, he even hesitantly remarked how he, who was apparently a fake prince, no longer qualified to marry Sevesta’s princess.
While Nolan, on the other hand, didn’t believe the slightest bit of whatever scandalous information that man had revealed to the fifth prince. Nolan suspected that the letter was fabricated and that the fifth prince was being deceived.
Most likely by someone who wasn’t in favor of the fifth prince becoming the next king. That’s why Nolan confiscated the letter from the fifth prince and said directly, you should instead ask mother now than believe in any of this nonsense.
The fifth prince, in response to his statement, showed his unwillingness.
But Nolan somehow convinced the fifth prince that if he didn’t dare go to the queen alone, then he will also accompany him.
Both had planned to meet with the queen as soon as she returned to the Royal Palace that evening.
However, the fifth prince’s visit to the opera, and suddenly meeting with his friends, significantly delayed the time he had promised to meet with Nolan.
—So that’s why the fifth prince was hasty in his actions and opted for a horse rather than a carriage, going through the area with the wrong public order for the shortcut.
And then… And then the fifth prince was…
Nolan cut his words there and tightly clenched his fist. So strongly that I could feel the tip of his nails seemingly digging on his flesh.
“I had said this to Aaron… That if he’s seized with fear, I will go alone to my mother to confirm the truth. Because of the threat I had uttered due to my emotions… He was forced to hurry. And that was… It was my words that became the reason for his haste.”
“But Nolan-sama, I think… These matters just connected, that’s all.”
“We immediately rushed to scene of the incident when Aaron’s attendant came up to us to seek help. But it was already too late by then. Aaron was lying on the road in a pool of his own blood, just at his death’s door. I immediately asked the Imperial guards to quickly search the surroundings while I tuned to look after him—all I could do was just try to cover his bleeding wound…”
Nolan took deep breaths repeatedly for a long time.
“Aaron, while on his death’s door, tightly grabbed my hand. And then, he just looked at me and strongly shook his head. He must have wanted to say, ‘Don’t tell mother about that.'”
The Imperial guards must have been nearby. That’s why the fifth prince wasn’t able to talk.
“The incident naturally became a huge matter in the blink of an eye, and I hid the letter’s existence.”
I didn’t even notice when Ricardo, who was listening to Nolan from a distance, keeping his silence, had come beside us and began to speak, “Nolan-sama and I began searching for that scoundrel who secretly handed this letter to His Highness Aaron. We screened every man who had or has been in a friendship with the queen from her childhood to the person who recently comes to meet with His Highness Aaron.”
I couldn’t imagine how much hard work it must have been for Nolan.
“Ultimately, the only person who remained on our suspected list was Jean Dortrek, the former finance minister in charge of the education of Their Highnesses.”
“Going by the statement of His Highness Aaron’s attendant, Jean had personally come to meet him when the marriage talks with Sevesta’s princess was getting up to speed.”
Nolan began speaking as he squinted his eyes, seemingly going through the lanes of his memories.
According to the fifth prince’s attendant, it was from the visit of Jean Dortrek that the fifth prince looked to be brooding about something.
“It’s just we didn’t have the means to confirm it from the person himself,” said Nolan as he stared at the letter in his palm.
“Shortly after Aaron was killed, Jean also left this world—he had a heart illness, apparently.”
Can there really be such a coincidence? I wondered as I tilted my neck.
“—Mother’s partner in her adultery… It was Jean.”
Things seemed a bit too hasty, seeing as how he reached such a conclusion. I expressed my doubt to Nolan, thinking, what about going in a different direction?
“Please wait. Before that… Can you really believe the letter? Can you believe the queen really had an affair? Because I’m sure, it wouldn’t be too difficult to copy the handwriting.”
“If possible, I also wanted to deny it. However, the more I thought about it, the more I was able to see the connection here and there. Our mother has always doted upon Aaron, and only Aaron had brown eyes among us siblings.”
I recalled all the princes I met in the Royal Palace. Indeed, I didn’t see anyone with brown eyes. However, that was as far as suspicions could lead someone.
“Jean and my mother were childhood friends in the past… And I could see a strange tension between them from time to time. I thought their relationship was just that bad from the start, but now…”
Should I deny it immediately? But there’s no way of me knowing how it was in actuality. But if it’s really true, how cruel it was…
“Jean most likely wanted to stop Aaron’s marriage with Sevesta’s princess. Even if he had to show himself and the confidential letter, maybe he was anxious that Aaron would be engulfed in the rivalry for the throne, and someone may put him in danger. The plausible guess was that he may have known about the ongoing assassination plan.”
Was that why the finance minister revealed the letter? To help the prince who might be his child? However, that judgment backfired in contrast to his supposed intentions.
“Or maybe, he feared his son from adultery might become the king and had wanted to avoid it.”
“But wouldn’t that mean that the finance minister chose the wrong person to appeal to? He should have said so to the queen herself instead of the fifth prince…”
“Jean possibly couldn’t achieve the result he wanted even after consulting with mother. Rather, it’s not impossible for mother to want Aaron, whom she loved so much, to become the next king.”
I felt goosebumps all over my body.
On the floor of the basement, Nolan and I looked at each other’s eyes without making the slightest movement. Nolan spoke as he continued to stare at me.
“I can’t even imagine what kind of emotions were in his heart when he died that day. My little brother just watched me with trembling lips.”
My heart ached as if someone had squeezed it.
And then, how painful it must have been for Nolan, who could do nothing except helplessly witness his brother dying.
—But… But… The queen…
I can’t imagine that the queen would do such an outrageous act. But I conclude that it was nonsense, either.
Because that was just how serious an expression Nolan had when he spoke.
“You couldn’t believe it, right? I was also like you… To be honest, I hated my mother. I even wanted to throw this letter at her face and question her. I even had the urge to grab her by the collar and curse at her.”
“Nolan-sama!” Ricardo raised his voice almost as if reprimanding him.
Then Nolan gave a self-deprecating smile. “Relax. I haven’t done any of that in reality… It was why Aaron was hurrying up that day. After all, he didn’t want me to do anything of that sort—not to say there’s no meaning behind verifying the truth. Revealing the secret will only leave someone injured in its wake… That’s all that will happen.”
He apparently wanted to protect the honor of the fifth prince and, most likely, his mother’s, too.
Above all, I believe he must have wanted to give a farewell as a prince to his little brother, who met a tragic and violent end, with only pure sorrow in everyone’s heart.
“I fear Jean was murdered… He most likely had an idea of who the mastermind is. Maybe he even went to question that person, too. That’s why he was silenced.”
“So you’re saying the finance minister knew who killed His Highness Aaron?”
The only one I could think of profiting the most from all this would be none other than the first prince and the second prince, who were contending for the throne.
I asked Nolan while going through the cycle of suspecting his relatives I know of.
“Whoever targeted His Highness Aaron could be His Highness Ethan or His Highness Shefan?”
However, Nolan unhesitatingly shook his head almost instantly. “I don’t think out two older brothers would be so careless as to leak out their schemes to Jean. I think Jean had gotten his information from someone closer to him. And if we believe our theory that Jean was murdered, there’s no doubt it would be the work of someone close to him, too.”
Ricardo kneeled beside me when Nolan finished speaking. The three of us were now covered by the lamp’s brightness, with the light being the center of the hazy scenery. The tone of his voice lowered more and more in our small circle. “Jean Dortrek probably realized his brother had killed the fifth prince. Thus, he was killed to seal his mouth forever.”
“His brother? But what might be the reason behind his brother orchestrating all this?”
Ricardo explained in a quiet tone in response to my loud voice. The surprising realization that Marquis Dortrek was the finance minister’s brother.
“Marquis Dortrek is the father of the second prince’s partner, Rosie.”
The image of the cute and beautiful Rosie was revived in my mind. Her father killed the fifth prince? I felt everything clicking in place for me.
—Rosie’s father would have wanted his son-in-law to take the throne…!
“Everything is only our imagination for now. We aren’t at the stage to openly blame Marquis Dortrek.”
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