༺ The North ༻
After exactly 20 days of leaving the capital, Ferzen admired the slowly changing scenery and caught sight of the large castle wall through the window.
There was no need to ask who the owner of the territory was.
The flag atop the wall, bearing the image of a falcon, proved the territory belonged to the current leader of the northern part—the Asran family.
“After passing through, keep going. We will not spend a night in this territory.” Ferzen said.
Ferzen gave some directions to the coachman and leaned back comfortably.
“…It looks quite livable for a place I’ve only heard of.”
“Because it’s a place worth living in.”
The north was vast but relatively sparsely populated.
Only a handful of places were habitable, and the northern region was home to a total of 12 families, including the Louerg family. The scarcity of inhabitants made the area prone to stagnation and decay.
The analogy of a fox becoming a king in a den with no tigers accurately described the condition of the north.
“Euphemia, are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m perfectly fine.”
Ferzen had been worried that the long carriage ride might burden her body, so he had instructed the coachmen to increase their speed. However, Euphemia’s current complexion looked good.
‘It seems like she’s kind of excited. Is it because she’s glad to return to Louerg after a long time?’
It had been quite a while since she left, and she would likely be surprised by the changes in Louerg. Even though she received periodic reports about Louerg through correspondence, seeing it in person would make a significant difference.
Unfortunately for Ferzen, the reason for Euphemia’s joy was different from what he had guessed.
Of course, she was excited about returning to Louerg after being away for so long.
But the core source of her joy was the fact that she had finally entered her 12th week of pregnancy and would be able to have intimate moments with Ferzen again.
Though extreme activities were still to be avoided, the fact that they could connect in such a way brought her great happiness.
…If she had to express a concern amidst all the joy,
It was the fact that Yuriel still hadn’t gotten her menstruation even as July was coming to an end.
Even though there was a chance that the reason for her missed menstruation was the exhausting life of the long carriage ride, and it might come later when they finally arrived……
The possibility of Yuriel being pregnant made Euphemia wary of her more than usual.
“Unexpectedly, the Asran family showed no reaction.”
Even though Ferzen’s procession had entered their territory less than 10 minutes ago, the Asran family remained eerily quiet.
However, Ferzen didn’t mind that eeriness. After all, nothing significant was likely to happen at this very moment.
It was the birthday of the daughter of the Asran family who was nominated to become the Empress.
Ferzen had hurriedly come to the North to prepare in advance for that day.
The words he had spoken back then, about wanting to treat Ferzen to dinner…
Whatever his intentions were, whatever image it might project, it seemed like he could finally make good on that promise.
Even in the summer, the cold northern wind breezed through the wagon. Feeling the coolness on his skin, Ferzen’s lips slightly curled upwards.
* * * * *
As the sun slowly began to set, Euphemia, Yuriel, and Laura, despite the lack of fatigue on their faces, started to doze off.
The tension that had built up during their journey began to ease as they entered the North, their destination. Their heads rested against the window as fatigue washed over their bodies.
Obsessed with symmetry, Ferzen couldn’t help but follow suit and leaned his head against the window, gazing at the passing scenery outside…
‘We have arrived.’
After confirming that they had indeed reached Baron Roberson’s estate, where they planned to stay for the night, Ferzen lightly knocked on the window.
The three women adjusted their postures one by one, blinking their sleepy eyes.
“We have arrived. Get ready to disembark.”
After a quick inspection, Ferzen’s entourage entered Baron Roberson’s estate and made their way straight to the mansion where they would be staying.
As he stepped out of the carriage and entered the mansion, Ferzen found Baron Roberson standing there, smiling awkwardly with a mixture of welcome and tension on his face.
Ferzen recalled that he had thrown and broken a pair of vases that were behind where Baron Roberson now stood. However, new vases were now in their place.
Back then, Ferzen had instructed him to charge the fee to the Brutein family. Did he actually do it?
As Ferzen had suspected, Baron Roberson had not charged them. He wouldn’t dare to attempt anything against the Brutein family.
After all, by aristocratic standards, the vases were not considered particularly expensive. So, it was only natural that Baron Roberson chose not to charge them to avoid being labeled as greedy.
…Of course, even though they might not be considered expensive in the realm of aristocratic luxury goods, they still represented a significant sum of money for Baron Roberson.
“Can we move somewhere quieter? I want to speak to you alone.”
“If that’s the case, I will take care of your wives and the beautiful young lady who came with you.”
Baron Roberson’s wife, standing gracefully by his side, bowed politely as if offering to look after the women in his entourage.
Seeing that, Ferzen turned his head to the side.
“It won’t take long. Once I am finished, let’s have dinner together.”
“Please follow me.”
“I’ll be waiting for you.”
Entering Baron Roberson’s office, Ferzen glanced at the shabby scene laid all around before sitting down on one of the chairs. He covered his lap with the blanket provided by Baron Roberson.
Perhaps because he had come deeper into the north, there was a cool energy hovering around the room that was incomparable to the coldness he felt when he first arrived.
Thankfully, it was currently summer, so it was bearable. Ferzen doubted that a blanket would suffice to keep his body warm if it were winter.
“You are supporting His Highness the Second Prince, aren’t you?”
“Nominally, that was indeed the case.”
As for who would support whom, the Aslan family was the one who decided.
Baron Roberson didn’t forget to mention it to Ferzen.
Ferzen appreciated Baron Roberson’s honesty quite a bit.
“By the way, about the vase I broke back then… Did you charge it to the Brutein Family?”
“No, I did not.”
With a small smile, Ferzen took out an envelope from his inner pocket and held it forward.
“What is this?”
Baron Roberson, who politely received it with both hands, looked at Ferzen with a puzzled face.
Ferzen’s current appearance was so different from back then when he invited him for a drink and went on a rampage.
Now, there was only a gentle and observant demeanor as he sat in front of him, carefully assessing the situation.
“Tear it open. If you’re curious, you should look at the contents.”
“Then, please excuse me.”
Baron Roberson opened the letter with trembling hands and read its contents. His eyes widened as soon as he realized what was written inside.
It was an invitation to the Brutein auction held in October!
Due to the geographical characteristics, the nobles of the northern region have mostly missed out on such events held in Brutein.
Now, an opportunity to attend such an event was given to him unexpectedly.
Especially since Ferzen was right in front of him, Baron Roberson’s whole body couldn’t help but tremble with excitement.
Baron Roberson was well aware of the standards of women the Brutein family heads would take as wives. They preferred young ladies with weak power and little greed.
And here he was, standing in the frontier of the frontiers, where such women could be found. Coincidentally, he had a daughter of marrying age…
‘It can’t be…’
His chest throbbed, and he struggled to maintain a calm expression on his face.
There had to be a catch. Nothing in this world came without strings attached. Why would Ferzen provide this opportunity for the vases he broke? There must have been something he wanted in return.
“W-what should I do… to get my hands on this opportunity?”
A strange rumor had been circulating among the northern nobles recently. It suggested that Ferzen, the legitimate son of Brutein, was aiming to rule the North using Louerg’s as a proxy.
While many doubted the rumor, the fact that Ferzen was offering him this chance made Baron Roberson wonder if it meant he wanted him to ally with Louerg and turn his back on the Aslan family.
‘In the end, he’s also supporting the Second Prince… If I align myself with him, he won’t even notice.’
Swallowing nervously, Baron Roberson patiently waited for Ferzen’s answer.
“What should you do, huh? If I remember correctly, you liked alcohol quite a bit, didn’t you?”
“All you have to do is have a drink with all the people you know and talk to them. By the way, there are four more invitations left.”
Four invitations… That meant he was offering five in total, including his own!
‘Is he telling me to spread this fact to all those who support the Second Prince?’
Since Ferzen mentioned telling all the people he knew, Baron Roberson contemplated whether he should inform all the noble families in the North.
Suddenly, he remembered that the Aslan family’s daughter would be celebrating her birthday in a few days, and he had already received the invitation in advance.
If that was the case, then Ferzen’s ultimate goal must be to disrupt the Aslan family’s banquet using the invitation.
‘But if that is really what he wants to do… why did he prepare only five invitations?’
Baron Roberson couldn’t help but wonder. As tasty as the bait may be, limiting the invitations to just five meant that some people would be unable to attend. There would undoubtedly be those who would stay by the side of the Aslan family after carefully considering the offer.
‘…… Forget it. That’s not something I should worry about.’
Regardless, if Ferzen successfully completed the task, the opportunity would be entirely his.
“Have you finished thinking about it?”
“Yes… I apologize. I’ll tell the maid to prepare dinner right away, so please wait a moment.”
Baron Roberson carefully placed the invitation from Ferzen into his inner pocket and stood up excitedly.
“You’re not coming, Count?”
“I’ll leave in a little while. I have something to think about.”
Although a little puzzled, Baron Roberson still bowed his head and left Ferzen’s office, thinking that Ferzen might have more complex thoughts than he let on.
As the door closed, Ferzen lifted the blanket from his lap and looked around the office. Despite thinking about it throughout the meeting, he once again noticed that his office was an utter mess.
Had the maids even done their job?
His severe obsessive-compulsive disorder had been bothering him the entire time he was talking with Baron Roberson. Now, it was time for him to finally attend to it.
TL note: Blame BG for the delays Im innocent.
TL note: I may have gone to the deep end of music this time, from dwarfen metal, to MetalOrian (kewk) then to 505 to WASTE to Lightbringer to Major Crimes to Final Ascent to S.T.A.Y. to Middle of the Night, to Deep Stone Lulaby to Bios-LaZaRuS, to Bury the Light to A Way of Life, Somnus, to In This Shirt, fucking Simple Plan….wtf
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