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Prologue: Hero’s Strategy

Hero's Strategy

Translator: Empress

The Second Prince, Cedric Jeanne Elmeier, who was walking down the corridor decorated with portraits of the previous Emperors, stopped at the sound of footsteps coming from his front. 

The interior part of the wide and long corridor where the sunlight shone through the large windows lined up at equal intervals appeared to be obscured. However, only the royal family members were allowed to come and go to this part of the Imperial Palace. In this corridor, where neither his beloved fiancee nor friends were allowed to step in, only a limited number of people could walk through it. 

「――Cedric?」

The sound of the steady footsteps stopped at two windows away from him.

「…Brother. It’s rare to see you here」

He sarcastically said to lift his somber mood forcibly.

There were only four people who could walk around this Imperial Family’s Residential area. Cedric himself, his father, the Emperor, his Grandmother, the Empress Dowager, and his half-brother. But his brother refused to live in this area and spent his time in the dilapidated castle in the forest even after he was reinstated as the Crown Prince. His Father was terribly concerned about that.    

He wondered whether or not his brother could ever forgive their family. 

(How stupid)

Cedric hated his Father. His father, the Emperor, lamented that he could neither hide nor protect his half-brother since he was the Demon King despite being so excellent. His father eventually abandoned the said brother after being swept away by his surroundings and Empress Dowager. His selfish Father used Cedric’s birth as a reason to abandon his brother but sighed secretly at the fact that he was not as good as his brother. 

That Father of his didn’t even realize that it wasn’t him who abandoned his brother, but it was actually the other way around.

「Did you finally feel like leaving behind that dilapidated castle in the forest and coming back here?」

「No, I was summoned by the Empress Dowager」

「By our Grandmother? My oh my, I bet she probably managed to get a hold of a new poison」

He also hated his Grandmother.

This concubine will make you the Emperor, so please rest assured. There was only one reason behind her demon-like whispers: Cedric was not his half-brother. That was all there’s to it. Cedric was just a doll, and yet he was obsessed with his brother. The fight between women is as unsightly as that hateful woman’s child.        

「My condolences. Please try your best not to be killed, brother」

「Sorry. All I ever do is to make you worry」

「Worry? You’re as laid back as ever. We’re in the middle of fighting over the throne, you know?」

「But we’re not the ones who are in conflict, aren’t we?」

――His brother was… Cedric’s half-brother was from a different mother. 

Cedric gently lowered his gaze then spat out. 

「No, it’s between you and me, brother. I will be the Emperor 」

「Is it for your fiance?」

「 That’s right」

No one saw him for him. They were just pushing him to play the part of Crown Prince instead of his brother. But, he always played the “good Crown Prince” role, thinking that if he worked hard and produced good results, they’d understand him someday. All the while burning his real self down.  

The one who lifted him up was Lilia. So, if that’s what Lilia wished for, then…

「Brother, you too, will be the Emperor because Irene wishes you to be」

Irene, his ex-fiance, was a woman who wanted to be the Empress. That’s why this time, she moved on to his brother. That’s all there was to it. There was no point for her to say words of love if all of those words were just empty.

His brother steadily approached Cedric, who was biting his lips. Claude’s inhuman beauty was exposed under the sunlight. His brother’s hardly made any facial expressions because they would affect the weather around them. People who didn’t know what was going on might think that his brother had no feelings.  

But if you looked at him closely, you’d see the faintest yet gentle smile that adorned his lips.

「You are truly an obstinate person. You should just talk to me if you don’t know what to do. I’m your brother」

「…Can you stop looking strangely happy? What’s with that attitude now」

「Then, I’ll give you a piece of advice. A man, who is at the mercy of a woman, will be getting rid of easily」

Cedric looked up at his brother’s words that seemed to have seen through everything, but a shadow of a big palm blocked his vision.

Cedric waved his brother’s hand away after staring at his brother in wonder when he lightly patted his head once gently. And this time, his brother let out a burst of laughter when Cedric glared at him silently. 

「 I’ll bring Irene to the evening party hosted by Empress Dowager tomorrow. So try not to make any mischief」

At that moment, Lilia’s words flashed across his mind. 

 ――Cedric, you actually like Irene-sama, don’t you?

「――Brother! Lilia is up to something」

Claude turned around when he was just about three steps away from Cedric.

「So you better be careful…… That’s all I want to say」

Unable to stand his brother’s gaze, Cedric walked away hurriedly while clenching his teeth to fight the urge to look back.  

His childhood friend Max was waiting for Cedric as soon as he left the Imperial Family Residential area.

「How was your audience with the Empress Dowager?」

「She still supports me to be the Emperor. It seems like she was angry that Father reinstated brother as the Crown Prince as he pleases and done with the process. She also said she’d give a dress to Lilia later」

「 That’s a relief. Now the only influential noble family that’s on Demon King’s side is the D’Autriche Ducal Family. Well, they’re troublesome, but…」

「…If I had been married to Irene, I would have easily become Emperor 」

「 Don’t tell me you still have a lingering affection to Irene?」

Cedric calmly looked at Max, who was frowning. 

「 I’m just telling the truth. We made a wrong move by turning the D’Autriche Ducal House into an enemy」

「What are you saying? We’re both tired of cleaning up after Irene’s mess, aren’t we? There’s a limit even though we’re childhood friends. She’s saying and doing whatever she pleased without thinking about others…」

He was right. Both Cedric and Max were sick of Irene’s arrogant attitude that she didn’t seem to want to reflect on. They were also concerned that the mighty influence of the D’Autriche Ducal House would expand further.    

No doubt that there was also a time when they had indulged Irene’s behavior since she was like a little sister to them. 

「 It’s okay for you to say that in front of me, but if you do it in front of others, they’ll misunderstand you. And above all, you’ll make Lilia anxious. Weren’t you suspected of liking Irene just a little while ago?」

「…Yeah, you’re right」

Max went ahead after telling him to get his act together. It seemed that Lilia and the others were waiting for him. 

The number of people around Lilia has increased recently. If Cedric, as her fiance, didn’t get his act together, Lilia would be snatched away by someone in no time. And Max was worried about that.  

(…He said I’m making Lilia anxious?)

At first, Cedric thought that perhaps he had made Lilia feel uneasy when she asked him if he liked Irene. So, he tried to get rid of her anxiety by saying, “what on earth are you talking about?” to her.

But, Lilia looked disappointed. 

She sneered in response after looking at Cedric with eyes that seemed to ridicule him.  

――A man who is at the mercy of a woman will be getting rid of easily.

Cedric slowly hid his clenched fist then looked at his beloved fiancee’s face.

「Cedric, welcome back. How is Empress Dowager-sama?」

She said while smiling.

Just like always, she continued to scornfully smile at the men, who were at her mercy. 


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