* * *
He couldn’t forget her cold blue eyes filled with anger and hatred towards him. Now that he knew the reason, he felt very hurt. The Iandrus from the present was not the one future Diana was talking about.
He wasn’t the person who hurt her, allowing himself to be consumed by his own pain.
No, he wouldn’t let it turn out like that. He’d rather choose his own death than hurt Diana. Iandrus thought about it countless times until eventually he grabbed his own head.
How did this even happen?
It was like he was in a happy fairy tale mere moments ago, but was then suddenly pulled into reality all at once. He wasn’t ready, but that didn’t matter. He was already being thrown onto the road to adulthood.
Again he remembered her eyes like glass marbles. They were filled with tears as they looked at him.
Diana seemed to hate Iandrus, but wasn’t that only possible if she had feelings for him in the first place? Iandrus of the future was the one that ruined it. He felt a fierce jealousy of his future self burn brightly before quickly subsiding.
“I’m so pathetic,” Iandrus criticized himself, sitting on the sofa.
It was nighttime at the villa and a relaxing stillness was falling over the room. However, in the landscape of the idyllic estates, ferocity was sleeping. And he would soon be swept up in that same ferocity.
* * *
The king pushed his food around with a languid expression on his face. His health made it so that he couldn’t comfortably eat anything and it was getting worse. With every passing day, he was moving closer to death.
Such was the case ever since he was young, having been born sickly.
If he hadn’t been an only child, he likely would not have inherited the throne. So the entire royal family supported him. Growing up like that, it was only natural for him to be accustomed to his subordinates handling royal affairs while he lived his own life.
The only affairs that the king showed any interest in were ones relating to Branneux and Philadelphia. As someone who was weak and sick, he felt the situation more sensitively. He instinctively knew that Branneux would inevitably interfere with the peaceful rest of his life.
And that the best sword to keep them at bay was Philadelphia.
It was for this reason that the king ordered the marriage arrangement between Iandrus and the daughter of Philadelphia. When Iandrus decided to head down to the royal villa after the daughter of Philadelphia went down to their territories, it didn’t seem unrelated.
That was satisfying. So during their joint mealtime, given once a week, he decided to tolerate the name of his second child after a very long time.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Did you know that Iandrus was staying at the villa?”
Jaymus smiled. It was a gentle and professional smile. It was he who was taking care of all state affairs on behalf of the selfish king who only thought of himself. He was heavily venerated by his servants as well as the people. But despite how everything seemed to go his way, he stayed humble and kind.
He was a prince worthy of love.
And with his generous heart, he even welcomed the king’s illegitimate son with open arms.
“So I heard. He went to cool down his head,” Jaymus replied.
“Cool down his head? He’s just being selfish again,” The queen criticized him without hesitation. “He’s done this more than once before. Any time something doesn’t go his way, this is what he does. Always expecting people to give him things.”
“I don’t think so, mother. Ian’s grown up a lot as well. He’s already fifteen years old and he’ll be getting married soon.”
“Philadelphia…….” The queen muttered the family name with an unhappy expression. “My king, how long are you going to allow Philadelphia’s arrogance?”
“Why must I listen to such accusations on a good day? Iandrus is doing his duty. And I know the two Philadelphia children are staying in the territory as well. Do you understand why we’ve picked Philadelphia in the first place?” The king cut back, throwing a cold gaze at the queen.
There wasn’t even a single emotion left between the couple.
“Before, Philadelphia refused to marry their daughter to Jaymus and then they ended up choosing Iandrus. What do you think the reason is? They want to pair her up with someone they can mold to their tastes.”
“Queen. Stop saying such baseless things. This goes beyond accusations, it’s slander!”
“What do you mean, slander?!”
“Lady Diana was too young to take a seat next to Jaymus so of course Iandrus would be a good choice for them.”
As the tense atmosphere persisted, Jaymus thought to himself, This meal is ruined too, I suppose. But thanks to this, he learned something interesting. There was a reason why Iandrus left so suddenly, leaving only one letter behind.
Thanks to my cute little brother, this boring place has become a little more enjoyable, Jaymus thought, laughing inwardly. All this time, he pretended he didn’t care.
Anyone with eyes could tell he cared about Diana, but he would always deny it whenever Jaymus asked him about it. He was just curious about the engagement, but this was how he was finding it out. Now he was thinking about teasing Iandrus the next time they met.
“Isn’t this a good thing? Iandrus is bringing in Philadelphia, so what’s the difference if Jaymus didn’t?”
“Your standard is too strict with Jaymus. Why must Jaymus marry after Iandrus?”
“To keep Branneux in check, now is the time for us to show the solidarity between the royal family and Philadelphia. I’m sure you must know that.”
But the queen kept arguing her case. “Then push ahead with Jaymus’ marriage as well.”
“Queen. The kingdom does not have the energy to handle two weddings at once. Stop being so stubborn,” The king replied, not hiding the irritation in his tone.
“Mother, it’s fine. Catherine isn’t in any rush to get married either.”
“Absolutely not! Catherine is at the perfect age to be wedded!” Still, the queen spoke stubbornly.
“A small delay isn’t going to make Catherine leave, mother. What’s more important right now is solidifying the alliance between the royal family and Philadelphia. As Branneux keeps their eyes on Leonid, we need to show them that we are not to be trifled with. As someone born into the royal family, mother, we all must be prepared to make sacrifices.”
Jaymus spoke gently, trying to placate the queen.
The queen looked at Jaymus’ faint smile. Sometimes her son looked so aloof and relaxed that she didn’t even recognize him. The queen swallowed a sigh. At times, Jaymus seemed like a young man who carried no greed or ambition. Though she didn’t like it, when she saw that smile, she had no choice but to let it go.
“Then is this meal over now? I’d like to leave now, father,” Jaymus said, making eye contact with the king.
Jaymus was taking care of state affairs instead of his father, who had nearly no hand in them. The king nodded lightly, and Jaymus stood up from his seat with a professional stance.
As he left, Preston, who was waiting for him, lifted up his head. Like a twin, he was always seen by Jaymus’ side. Jaymus approached Preston.
“What did you all talk about?” Preston asked.
Instead of answering, Jaymus just shrugged his shoulders, only saying, “Did Iandrus take Cullen with him?”
“Yes, Your Highness. The second prince has been trying to access information about Branneux, as well. Should I leave him be?”
“You worry too much, Preston. My mother says the same thing.”
“I have cause to worry. The second prince is greedy.”
“But he’s honest. Let Iandrus do whatever he wants. He’s a good kid, so I know he’d never do anything that would harm Leonid.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Jaymus walked forward without hesitation. He had never dreamed of a life where he did not become king. That was the path that was set before him, and there was no doubt in his mind that it would come to fruition. As such, he didn’t view his brother to be a threat in the slightest.
Iandrus definitely had a strong character, but that was only because he also knew that Jaymus was the only one who could become king in their lifetime.
“…….And I think it would be nice if we could help Iandrus.”
“The second prince?”
“Help him access information about Branneux. Since we’re in such a hurry to tie Philadelphia to us, we may as well show him all of Leonid’s shortcomings. Isn’t he all grown up, thinking like that?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Staring down the empty corridor, Jaymus looked off into the distance.
And Leonid’s underwhelming defenses.
It was difficult for the power of the royal family to strengthen the national defenses right now. In fact, it’s been like that for the past ten years. That was why the royal family needed Philadelphia. Philadelphia was the only family with the right to enlist a private army, and so their military strength has been building for a long time now.
The union between the royal family and the Philadelphia family would allow the royal family to absorb some of their weaponry and soldiers. That was what the royal family was aiming for now. Strengthening the national defenses through Philadelphia.
The new weapons being developed by Philadelphia were coveted by many other nations, including Branneux. It was because of Philadelphia that they could not surpass the Kingdom of Leonid despite their declining military. In other words, this marriage was one that took all of that into consideration.
A marriage between the royal family and Philadelphia.
Is Iandrus thinking about all of that, James wondered, light shining in his widened eyes.
* * *