Chapter Thirty-Two: Regent
The king’s condition remained unchanged, and we continued to stay at the palace out of concern. Nolan hardly touched the meal that was brought to him. There was no denying that his father was on his mind, but the issue of appointing a regent likely added to it.
The king continued to be bedridden the following day. Although he was already out of his daze and his fever was slowly subsiding, he was still in no position to return to his duties. However, the king’s role could not remain vacant any longer, so the time had finally come for a regent to be chosen. The queen assembled the princes and firmly declared before them, “His Majesty shall appoint a regent. Gather everyone in the throne room.”
The throne room was a hall constructed entirely of wood. Surrounding all four sides were wooden walls with rich amber finishes and lights numbering into the hundreds illuminating the high ceiling. The back of the hall was elevated, with four handrailed steps leading up to the throne. The wood forming the throne was of the same rich amber as the walls, and its polished surface spoke of a storied history.
At the queen’s beckoning call, the princes and their wives gathered. We stood in line accordingly, waiting for the king to arrive. The first and second princes were surrounded by the numerous officials who had rushed into the throne room, turning the ordinarily spacious hall into a narrow, stifling place.
“Prince Stefan, there’s no doubt your name will be called…!”
Hearing the sound of a sweet whisper, I looked over to see Rosie leaning against the second prince and looking up into his face. The second prince did not answer Rosie, simply embracing her shoulder. Rosie leaned even closer to the second prince in response. Watching the prodigal Rosie from the corner of my eye, I had a sudden thought. Rosie would probably give any man a loving glance and gesture, whether he was the first prince or the sixth prince, as long as he was a man who might wear the crimson mantle, the symbol of the king. It was visible from her rosy cheeks, which were a light crimson, that she was excited by this situation.
I looked up at Nolan, and my eyes met his. He reached out and pulled me close, holding me with one arm. Both his arm and expression were a bit stiffer than usual.
“…Prince Nolan, are you nervous?”
Nolan let out a breath and softly laughed.
“Oddly enough, I feel less nervous this way.”
It made me glad that I was able to be of some use. I gathered my courage, put my arms modestly around Nolan’s back, and gently embraced him… To me, even without the crimson mantle or wealth befitting a count, Nolan’s still the most wonderful man in the world.
—Perhaps, Rosie is the woman to be pitied.
That was the sudden feeling I got.
Our attention turned when the door to the throne room flung open. The king, pushed in his wheelchair by his chamberlain, descended onto the scene. Positioned in front of the wheelchair was a young official who entered first and loudly announced the king’s entrance. His legs moved strangely and awkwardly under the heightened attention as he walked to the back of the throne room. It was a sorry sight; fumbling along, his voice cracked upon his first words.
“There is word f-from His Majesty!”
The official’s face turned bright red from his voice breaking. Graciously, the queen thanked him for his service. The official lined his heels and bowed his head. The official’s shoulders, though not small, shook almost nervously. The king, who now needed the a wheelchair, should still be seated on the throne, but instead of doing so, he stopped before the throne, glanced at all the people lined against the throne, and opened his mouth.
“I shall appoint the following person to act on my behalf. For the role of regent, I appoint…”
The king cut off his words, leaving a light pause. Despite the density of people, it was frighteningly quiet. The pause seemed to signal a faint hesitation by the king.
“…I appoint Second Prince Stefan.”
A quiet high-pitched exclamation of delight came from Rosie. Gradually, the murmur grew louder, and one by one, people near the second prince bowed to him like the sight of a ripple. In contrast, the third prince who stood next to me was grumbling incredulously.
“So, in the end, this is how it’s going to be?”
Two middle-aged men advanced from among the people to stand before the king. One of them carried a beautifully decorated wooden box under their arms. Puzzled, the chamberlain, who was standing behind the king, questioned them.
“What is it, Marquis Dortrek? You have not been called.”
In question was the man holding the wooden box.
—Marquis Dortrek…! In other words, Rosie’s father?
Remembering what Nolan had spoken to me about in the barn basement, my eyes centered on the man the chamberlain was addressing. With his small face and narrow features, there was undoubtedly a level of resemblance between him and Rosie. His features were well-defined for his age, and his appearance lacked any sense of evil.
Marquis Dortrek bowed low with a smile.
“With me is a mantle. I would like to ask His Highness Stefan to wear it to symbolize his role as regent.”
As the king did not answer, the chamberlain annoyingly motioned his hand at Marquis Dortrek. The marquis then smiled, raised his head, and made his way toward the second prince. Again, he bowed and began speaking to the second prince.
“Your Highness, Stefan. Your Majesty has given me the honor of presenting you with the symbol of your duty as regent.”
Marquis Dortrek presented the wooden box before the second prince. Inside the box was a crimson mantle. With a big smile, Marquis Dortrek turned to address the man next to him.
“Now, Minister of War. Please place the mantle onto His Highness…”
The man referred to as the Minister of War pulled out a crimson mantle from the wooden box held by Marquis Dortrek and unfolded it reverently. Compared to the one worn by the king, it was a bit shorter. He rushed to the second prince and began to drape it over his shoulders. Standing next to the second prince, Rosie gazed at him, looking elated.
“Prince Stefan! Oh, it suits you so well.”
Rosie’s voice was high-pitched as she fell to her knees. A smile could be seen spreading across her pretty lips. Perhaps this was the moment her long-held dream came true. Marquis Dortrek stood in front of the second prince and spoke, “Your Highness Stefan. As regent, please give us your commands.”
The Minister of War followed with, “Your Highness, the troops of the Tigaro Kingdom are at your disposal.”
Everyone in the room dropped to one knee and bowed before the regent. Glancing back ahead, the queen, too, was on one knee. Though Nolan followed in their example, his expression displayed not an ounce of emotion.
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