“Hey, Peanut.”


Kassel saw Aika and snapped his finger, telling her to come down.


“Grandpa, Uncle keeps calling me Peanut.”




Aika whispered to Duke Valliot, thinking it was time to do that.


“It’s all because our Aika is pretty.
Kassel, when you’re done, go bring Aika back.
She must be sleepy, we can’t keep her in this noisy place.”


“I will, anyway.
Peanut, come down.”


It was then.


Aika looked troubled for a moment, then she suddenly had a twinkle in her eyes.


It was unusual for her to glance at Kassel.


“Grandpa, I’m going to the Imperial Palace next week.”


“The Imperial Palace?”


“Yes! I’m going to go out to play and make friends.
His Imperial Majesty the Emperor also asked me to come.”


“Oho, I see.
Then, make sure to go see this old man.”


Then Aika excitedly spread her arms and swayed.


“My friend’s name is Russphe.
He’s nice and kind, and knows the way to the palace.
He even brought me flowers!”


“Flowers too? What a nice guy.”


“Russphe says he comes to the Imperial Palace alone.
He’s such a great friend.
His eyes are pretty too.”


“Russphe? Could he be the little fellow from Calpodia?”


Duke Valliot’s eyes turned to Kassel.


“That’s right.”


Ricardo Willow Calpodia, head of the Marquis of Calpodia, was the younger brother of the current emperor, Winchester Gaia Selledor.


He was also a member of Selledor, who had the right to inherit the throne.


And the only child of the Marquis of Calpodia is Russphe Winteriche Calpodia.


Ruspe was the favorite niece of the current emperor, Winchester Gaia Selledor, who insisted on being unmarried, even though he was still young.


As another heir to the throne, he was also marked as the next successor of the Emperor.


He resembled the Emperor more than the Emperor’s brother, the Marquis of Calpodia, also had a clear figure and mind.


The flaw was that his temper was weak.


By the way…


Kassel raised his eyebrows and glared at Aika crookedly.


Aika was startled, hurriedly put her arms around Duke Valliot’s neck.


She then stuck out her tongue cutely, as if she thought she was safe.


Fearing that she wouldn’t be taken to the Imperial Palace, she used all sorts of methods.


“He’s not bad.
Tell me when you’re coming.
Make sure Aika doesn’t catch a cold.”


“It’s midsummer soon.”


“Don’t you know that summer colds are worse?”


Yes, yes, what can I say.


Kassel gave up, rubbing the nape of his neck.


No matter what I said, he wasn’t on my side here.




Goal achieved!


As promised with Russphe, I was able to go to the Imperial Palace.


Although Uncle’s eyes were fierce, Uncle was afraid of Grandpa!


At the banquet hall, Grandpa was the most popular person.


Even though the space he used to talk with Uncle was far from the center of the banquet hall, people wanted to come and talk to him from time to time.


That’s why I couldn’t help but greet Grandpa and follow Uncle.


“Uncle, let’s look around more before we go!”


“Who told you to be friendly with me.”


I looked up and saw Uncle’s grim face.


I pretended not to notice and widened my eyes.




“What are you blinking your eyes at? You betrayed me.”


“No! No! I won’t betray Uncle.”


I grabbed Uncle’s hand before he could go.




“Go ahead and tell me, what?”


“That’s not a betrayal, it’s an operation!… It is.”




Even after shouting, I averted my eyes because somewhere in my conscience stung.


“This doesn’t make sense.”


I closed my eyes tightly, thinking that he was giving me a fist.


However, even after waiting for it, I felt nothing on my head.




I flinched at the sound of annoyed tongue clicking and looked up, yet Uncle’s gaze was elsewhere.


Is it not me?


Uncle didn’t let go of my hand.


“There is someone I can hardly see at the banquet halls.”


A man about the same age as Grandpa approached us.


He wasn’t very old, but his hair was much whiter than Grandpa’s.


He had gray hair swept neatly over his forehead and had auburn eyes in eyes with no double eyelids.


His lips were pulled up as far as he could in a smile, yet his eyes weren’t smiling.


Brown eyes and white hair.


Also, like Grandpa, he carried a cane.


On the cane, I could see trees crossing each other on a hexagonal background like a turtle shell.


Ah, where was that?


That crest… … I’m sure Mom told me!


‘Ro, Rondo?!’


I heard it from Mom before.


I like to draw, so I always boasted to Mom about the pictures I drew.


Then, the day I drew the crest of the Duke of Valliot and showed it to Mom.


Mom was astounded and she taught me to draw all the family crests of the Empire, from easy to difficult ones.


And Mom explained the family crest every time I drew it.


Most of the words were difficult, but it was still a very fun time.


Enough for me to memorize everything!


Rondo was among them.


[Mom, is this really Rondo? Ugly turtle!]

[Haha, why is it ugly?]

[Because I have to be careful!]


I drew four legs, a head, and a tail just like a real turtle, and Mom laughed.


I heard that Rondo is close with the Deslin family!


[But Aika, Deslin and Rondo have snake eyes, so you should never be friends with them.
For now… it will be difficult, but remember that.]



Although Rondo is a marquis family, it can’t be seen recklessly as its power is similar to that of the duchy.


I heard that they maintained a brotherly relationship with Deslin, one of the dukes, for a very long time, so it could be regarded as Deslin’s power, but maybe…?


Also, I heard that Deslin was the most powerful family during the reign of the previous emperor, and that the number of vassals was large as it was an old family.


I remembered Mom telling me with a sigh that it would only make me tired if I bumped into them because they were very picky.


That’s why, I memorized it like that.


[Watch out for turtles and snakes!]

[My Aika is so smart.
Our pretty daughter.]


It was the first time I saw that face, yet strangely, I had heard that voice somewhere.


“Is there any reason not to?”


That grandfather flinched at Uncle’s low voice and his eyebrows quivered.


I was a little startled by the lower-than-usual voice.


I don’t know if it’s just me, but it felt like Uncle was capturing the surrounding atmosphere with one voice.


Is it because I betrayed Uncle?


“…That can’t be.
I meant that it was fortunate that His Grace the Duke of Valliot and Marquis Leguier were in good health even though you had gone through a great deal.
You even hold a banquet like this.”


Then, a smirk from Uncle’s mouth.


There seemed to be a drop of cold air.


“Why, are you afraid that your plans will be disrupted because of your expectations? Should I have rotted in a closet for a year?”


“W-What kind of plan.
Apparently, the Marquis has a big misunderstanding.
I was very worried because it was such a shocking thing.
Could this child be the Prime Minister’s daughter? I only heard that rumor…”


As he blurted out the end of his words, the gray-haired grandfather’s eyes turned downward.


The destination of that gaze was me.


The reddish brown eyes seemed strangely cold.


Originally, the color of wood should be warm.


I flinched involuntarily and quickly hid behind Uncle.


I was scared for nothing, so I grabbed my uncle’s leg and looked up at him.


At the same time, Uncle’s head turned towards me.


Is he scolding me for bothering him? I thought so, yet Uncle suddenly picked me up.


At the same time, my body floated.


Surprised, I quickly wrapped my arms around Uncle’s neck.


“If you spit out anything more, you’ll get in trouble.”


Uncle’s voice grew colder than before.

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