I kept wondering about why I was called for as I walked along the corridor leading to the king’s private chambers.
The king usually spends his time in his office at this hour, so him being in his private chambers is quite a rare occurrence. I also often met my esteemed father during dinnertime anyway. Was the matter he summoned me for today unsuitable to be discussed at such a time?
I finally arrived in front of the king’s private chambers. I nodded towards the two royal guard knights, Darshim and Karrot. Both of them have served our family ever since I was a child, so I was quite familiar with them.
Darshim knocked on the door, opened it a little and declared “Her Highness, the princess has arrived.”
I entered the room and was surprised to see my brother inside as well.
“I have heard your summons and have come, Lord Father,” I greeted.
“Oh, Cleria. I’m sorry for calling you over all of a sudden.”
“It’s been a while Cleria.”
It certainly has been quite a while since I last met my brother – three months, I believe.
“It really has been a while, dear brother.”
My brother seemed so dependable as always. He also doted on me a lot. I’m glad I got to see him again after so long.
“Well then Cleria, this is a bit abrupt, but I’m thinking of sending you out for an inspection tour around our kingdom.”
I wonder what Lord Father means by this? It seems my dear brother has just come back from an inspection tour himself. It won’t be considered odd if I was sent out as well, but wouldn’t it be better for the timing for the tours to be spaced a bit apart?
“I do not have any qualms about it Lord Father, but is there a reason for sending me out so soon?”
“It would be better if we told her of the matter, Lord Father. Cleria isn’t a child anymore after all.”
“Yes, yes you’re right. Go ahead and tell her our concerns, Alf.”
“You’re aware that I have just come from an inspection visit to our southern and western domains aren’t you Cleria?”
“Yes, of course, brother.”
The southern and western domains were where most nobles from the former Alois Kingdom resided and governed.
The Alois Kingdom was a country that was annexed by Starveek Kingdom 162 years prior. As a condition for annexation, the noble houses of Alois Kingdom were granted rights to manage most of the southern and western territories. However, the south and west were also regions where a lot of problems occurred due to friction between the former Aloisian nobles and the nobility of Starveekian descent because of their differing outlooks and bearings.
According to my brother, he visited several major towns and cities in the southern and western domains and found some of the actions made by the local nobility somewhat worrying. There was no concrete evidence that they were up to no good. However, some subtle hints, like the local nobility’s suspiciously lukewarm attitudes towards his delegation or the number of conscripted soldiers being far greater than what was reported to the crown, proved to be enough causes for concern.
“The southern and western domains can’t possibly be contemplating rebellion?”
“No, Cleria. Both father and I don’t think the situation has come to that point quite yet. But their actions are still worrying enough.”
“But Lord Father has done his utmost to forge an amicable relationship with the southern and western nobility.”
In fact, as part of the peace process and a gesture of trust, mass recruitment of personnel from the noble houses of the south and west was implemented five years ago. Both the military minister in charge of the army and the finance minister in charge of the kingdom’s economic affairs had men hailing from those regions appointed to various positions of import.
Both men were excellent individuals who each proposed groundbreaking reforms which proved quite astonishing to their peers. However, it’s also true that their act of recruiting most of their vassals from those who hail from the southern and western domains raised more than a few eyebrows and posed some concern.
Furthermore, even though they haven’t managed to birth any children for them yet, both men received southern noblewomen as their concubines.
“I’m well aware of your concerns. But as Alf said earlier, we don’t think it would lead to a full-blown conflict just yet. Given these circumstances, I want you to visit the eastern and northern territories instead.”
“As for me, I can’t leave the capital for the time being because I need to help father deal with these matters.”
I see. If the situation in the south and west was really suspicious as they said, it’s only natural for me to be sent to the eastern and northern domains instead. The east and north are governed by full-blooded Starveekian noble houses. In case the southern and western domains really do stage a revolt, I could rally the eastern and northern lords to oppose them. This seemed to be an important undertaking. I have to do my utmost.
“Lord Father, this Cleria fully accepts your appointment to visit the eastern and western domains.”
Afterward, my older brother briefed me about the things I needed to take note of and the actions I needed to take.
Alf gazed at Cleria’s receding back as she left the king’s private room.
He didn’t want to burden Cleria with any needless preconceptions, so he opted not to mention the matter, but not all of the southern and western domains were governed by former Aloisian nobility.
Actually, forty percent of the noble houses in the south and west were full-blooded Starveekians. He didn’t tell her that even these noble houses seemed suspicious as well.
It would be best if nothing of the sort happened to Cleria during her inspections.
Alf then busied himself together with his father to think of ways to improve the current volatile state of affairs.
Fal, who was waiting outside, rushed up to me as soon as I went out of the king’s private room.
“What did the king need you for, Cleria-sama?”
“He told me to head to the eastern and western territories for an inspection visit. Would you like to accompany me?”
“Of course Cleria-sama!”
Afterward, I went ahead with the preparations for traveling. I had just come of age the previous year so this was my first time heading out for a royal inspection. There were a lot of things I was not familiar with.
And thus, as commanded by the king, we were finally set for departure after three days. I bid farewell to my father, brother, and mother. Mother must have heard something from father regarding my trip, so she told me to always remain vigilant during the journey.
My brother accompanied me partway in order to see me off. I’m so happy he did so!
“Do be careful during your travels Cleria. Perform your royal duties to the best of your ability.”
“Of course dear brother. I shall be going then.”
Accompanying me on my travels were several imperial guard knights and their squires. Even Sir Antes, captain of the royal guards, was present! Furthermore, most of the knights were those who have served me since I was young.
It was a well-known fact that father doted on me far too much in the royal palace, but I do think it was time for me to become a little bit more independent from now on.
We finally left the royal capital, home to half a million Starveekian citizens, and started our journey.
The royal inspection proceeded relatively smoothly. However, I felt a sense of unease when I went around several cities.
Our delegation was warmly welcomed by the high-ranking nobles, but the barons and the rest of the lower-ranking nobles seemed to be behaving strangely towards us. They did receive us properly, but it felt like they were acting unusually reserved for some reason.
Were their attitudes simply due to the difference in status between us? I asked Fal about my observations, but she told me she hasn’t noticed anything of the sort.
The royal inspection continued as planned until we finally reached the last leg of our travels. Three months have passed since we’ve departed from the royal capital. We arrived at the earldom of the Ludvic house, which my mother was formerly a part of. The current earl is my mother’s older brother. We were of course eagerly received by them.
The evening after our arrival, the door of my room suddenly received a knock. Fal, who was staying in an adjacent anteroom, swiftly got up and went to my side.
“It’s Darshim, Your Highness. A servant of this house came, saying that the earl requests to meet you with due haste, my princess. I did try to refuse him, but he insisted.”
If that’s the case, then it can’t be helped. We were staying at the earl’s castle to begin with. Complying with this request would just be appropriate. I looked towards Fal and nodded in agreement. “Please wait for a moment,” Fal called out.
I then proceeded to make myself more presentable.