The Earlgrey family, head of the Imperial aristocracy, has fallen. The disappearance of such a well-known corrupt family who was involved in all walks of corruption, crimes, and injustice had tremendous effects.
Those corrupt nobles who had enjoyed the fruits of their crimes while under the umbrella of protection that was the Earlgrey family had frozen their activities out of fear of meeting the same end. Meanwhile the Empire’s more villainous merchants were all being rounded up thanks to the testimonies of arrested nobles.
For the sake of preserving their own houses, the other high ranking nobles couldn’t go out of their way to cover up any evidence, and because the Earlgrey family had violated the international treaty, they couldn’t attack Philia for undermining the Empire’s power like they usually did.
The commoners saw this as the nobles not being able to act with their usual arrogance, and their daily lives became much easier as a result. Support for Philia grew even further among them as it was her work and the police force she had set up that brought about these results.
The introduction of the Shirley element after her initial banishment ten years ago has caused a rapid alteration in the Imperial noble system. Their years as a hotbed of rotten self-interest had begun imploding in on itself. As the domestic pus was being squeezed out of the Empire’s open wounds, its emperor Albert Ragdoll was hanging his head inside the office of the villa he had been staying in since his castle’s destruction.
“Such an idiotic…….Duke Earlgrey, who has supported for all these years, killed Father and Mother.”
Speaking of change, the environment surrounding Albert. His biggest backer was revealed to be the mastermind behind the assassination of the previous emperor, one of the top five gravest sins in the history of the Empire. It’s only natural for him to be feeling tricked when the father-in-law he had trusted so much was revealed to have not only assassinated his father, but had also been meeting with him face to face for ten years while showing a perfectly amenable façade.
“Moreover that annoying sister of mine, Philia went off on her own again and revealed everything to the public…….”
There was no way Philia wouldn’t try to use this extra-large scandal to help undermine the Empire. Just like she had done with Knight Grandmaster Gran, Philia immediately exposed the full details of the incident to the general public. The central trunk of the Imperial nobles who all held a close relationship with the Earlgrey family had their strength significantly reduced, and as the man who faithfully took the advice of his parents’ killer, Albert became the greatest fool of an emperor in the Empire’s history. His subjects were laughing at him when nobody was looking, and his already low support fell even farther.
“Why……I am the emperor, the man who stands closer to God than anyone else in this world……how could my approval rating be falling while Philia’s is rising? What is wrong with me?”
Still fully believing the lies Alice had spun into his ear to make him fall in love with her, Albert fully believed he had made all the right moves until now. With that being the case, he was greatly confused over how different reality was from what he imagined.
As more details are uncovered concerning these past incidents, more of Albert’s backers had begun taking a distance from him……or to be more accurate, they were so busy covering their own asses to avoid being arrested by the police that they couldn’t afford to offer Albert any help.
Originally, many nobles including the Earlgrey family only supported Albert to suck up the sweet nectar you get from having a puppet for an emperor. With that nectar drying up, Albert officially falls down far on their list of priorities.
Although it’s a bit late, even Albert had begun realizing that the force behind him was gradually being whittled away. With thoughts of his younger sister on his mind and the flames of jealousy burning in his heart, Albert kicked his desk, throwing a tantrum as he began smashing furniture.
“Damn!! While I’m busy rebuilding the castle, nobody else is trying to help me…….not Philia, not the Duke, and not any of those traitors around me!! …………GaaaaaAAAAAAAAHHH!!”
Alongside his beast-like screams, Albert threw a written report across the room that had no small number of his supporters’ names written on it…….sorry, all of the former supporters who had jumped ship.
Albert understood exactly who his former supporters would flock to after leaving his side. Philia, the most popular person in the Empire at the moment. It was still unclear who was actually a heartfelt supporter of Philia and who was simply looking for a new source of nectar to suck up, but it all amounted to the same thing for Albert.
“Haa…….Haa……How did this happen? All I’ve done is love Alice and work for Alice’s sake……”
Because of scars left all over her body, his wife hadn’t shown herself in public for months now, and with her family home being demolished because of crimes committed, nearly all authority she held as empress had been lost. There was also her inability to have children to consider…….after thinking about it, Albert realized his love for Alice had diminished a fair bit.
He had been willing to do anything for her at one point. He provided her with the finest dresses and jewelry, put off his own duties as emperor for the sake of going on dates with her, and even went so far as to condemn his former fiancée when he learned about how she was bullying her.
In return, Alice spun a web of sweet nothings into Albert’s ear. ……And that was it. In a way, her contributions to him were worse than nothing. Albert was in desperate need of gold at the moment, and her propensity of spending it like water while saying it was necessary for him to come off as a great emperor could easily be blamed for the current lack thereof.
――――Albert, please restrain yourself. You are the one who carries on his back the future of all the Empire’s citizens.
Albert remembered something his former fiancée had once said to him when they were young. It was back when he had first begun indulging his own personal desires, dipping into the national treasury without permission and skipping out on his studies as future emperor so he could go on dates with Alice.
Those words had only annoyed him back then, but now that dissatisfaction with Alice had begun bubbling up form within, he was finally able to understand that Shirley only said what she did because she was thinking of him as his fiancée. Shirley had only been trying to make him a wise ruler for the future.
“Ah……what have I done……”
Albert understood at long last. An indispensable existence…….that was what Shirley had been for him.
However this realization was distorted. He believed that Shirley had bullied Alice out of jealousy because her sister had become close friends with her beloved Albert. …….Since Albert had completely forgotten the fact that it was Alice who had been bullying Shirley when they were children, his line of thinking morphed into this convenient explanation that he convinced himself to be true.
“Shirley…….you loved me so much”
He says it like it’s a fact because it was a fact. However it was none other than Albert who screwed it all up, and if anyone with a modicum of self-decency were around to hear him, they would be amazed that he would have the gall to say it aloud. However while the anti-emperor faction led by Philia does oftentimes call Albert a bird brain, even they didn’t fully grasp just how many feathers he had stuffed in his head.
Shirley held an education and talent that had once driven Albert’s jealousy, and thanks to her status as a semi-immortal, her unparalleled beauty would persist for ages to come. Having someone such as her as a future companion would be a dream come true.
What’s more, his and her daughters who she gave birth to after leaving the country were adorable angels who bore a striking resemblance to their mother. With a family like them, he would be able to reach happiness as a man and the glory of an emperor.
Such a future has long since been made impossible for him……..not that Albert would accept such a reality.
“There’s still time. I can still start over.”
An ordinary person would never understand what would make him think that or how he could reach such a conclusion. However Albert is capable of dreaming up the delusion that best suits him and insists it is reality.
(Because even now Shirley must love me. How could she not when she loved me so deeply back then? We may be separated now, but that was a folly of my youth for being unable to accept and understand her jealousy. She was sulking over my narrowmindedness and combining that with her jealousy of Alice, she decided she had to leave because she loved me. She did it all to protect her heart which was being crushed by jealousy!)
Albert was completely unaware that Shirley’s feelings back then were most certainly not jealousy and confidently pushed the matter forward.
(But I’m different from how I was back then. My heart and soul have grown during my ten years as emperor, and the me now can accept her jealousy. ……Rather, the fact that she would go so far as to bully her own sister out of her love for me is pretty cute.)
At this point, the fact that Shilrey had harassed(false accusation) the woman he had devotedly loved for ten years has become irrelevant to Albert. His thoughts consisted of nothing but Shirley, the woman he threw away and had tortured afterwards for good measure.
(However……no matter how much she wants to sulk in her envy, isn’t ten years with no contact much too long?)
Albert suddenly came up with a very good, sensible question. This would normally be the part where Albert would come to understand the effect of his actions and feel remorse, but his misunderstandings would never stop.
(Don’t tell me this is all the work of that Golden Witch Canary!? As time passed she should have cooled off, and with the birth of our daughters, it doesn’t make sense for her to not have returned to me. Then did that witch seize Shirley’s weakness and is now forcing her and my daughters to be doing a job as dangerous as being an adventurer!? I’m sure about it…..that must be it!!)
Albert began shifting the blame for Shirley staying with the Kingdom on Canary’s shoulders. It was the kind of wild assumption the woman herself would gladly tip her hat off to.
(Now that I think about it, after the Duel Ordained by the Goddess, when I was busy convincing Shirley to return as my mistress along with our two daughters, there was that lower class brat who dared to strike my magnificent countenance…….! He must’ve been a thug hired by Canary to break up the good mood I had with Shirley so she wouldn’t come back to me……..!)
He was even working in his resentment towards Kyle as well. Albert had successfully convinced himself that those two people were keeping Shirley trapped in the Kingdom.
“My cute daughters refused me with a bunch of words I didn’t understand, but that must’ve been because Canary was controlling their minds and making them say things they didn’t mean…….what a despicable thing to do to two cute, innocent children! Keeping me away from the family I love, you unforgivable fiend!!”
The level of reach in these baseless claims was honestly refreshing. Albert had built for himself a fantasy, a story where Shirley was trying to desperately return to Albert, but the vile witch Canary is holding her back by forcing her to partake in one perilous battle after the next.
(I cannot allow my beloved woman and cute daughters to remain under that vile witch forever. I must return them to the Empire as soon as possible and have Shirley retake her place as my fiancée.)
Since they were already engaged once before, there should be no problem with them simply getting back together…….Albert came up with a plan riddled with problems, chief among them being the fact entry into the Kingdom by Imperial officials is strictly regulated.
All of the nobles who support Albert had told him that as the emperor, he most certainly was not allowed to enter the Kingdom or else risk a second incident like the one with Gran.
(But I can’t give up. I will definitely defeat that perpetually evil witch, and Shirley…….I’ll bring you and our children back…….!)
Thinking back, Philia was always very fond of Shirley. If they were finally to be wed, Philia would surely join his supporters, so all of his problems would be solved.
“It would mean being reunited not just with my true love, but my daughters as well…….I must get my hands on that power. They will be absolutely indispensable to my becoming a great emperor.”
It would be difficult to divorce Alice, so she would need to be moved to a villa or demoted to a consort afterwards. Deciding on a plan of action, Albert wrote out a letter and immediately handed it to a servant to have it delivered. He then boarded a carriage and made his way towards a cathedral in the capital.
It was the oldest cathedral in the Empire, dedicated to a god nobody believed in anymore. Without anyone else at his side, Albert smoothly ventured through a building that had only escaped demolition because of its historic value and found a large basement spread out underneath the building.
Meanwhile, in the Kingdom.
“What’s wrong Mama?”
“……Are you catching a cold?”
“……No, I don’t think so.”
A strange chill had run up Shirley’s back while she was putting the laundry out to dry with her daughters. The summer heat had mostly faded away, and a cold air had begun to set in because of the change in seasons. However, that and this were completely separate matters. For some reason Shirley had suddenly begun feeling creeped out from out of nowhere as if several tentacles had begun stroking her whole body.
Tio put her hand to her mother’s head when Shirley bent down to get some clothes from the laundry basket.
“Mm……you don’t feel hot. I’m not sure what’s normal though.”
“That’s pointless then……are you sure you’re okay Mama? If anything’s wrong, we’ll take care of the laundry while you go rest.”
“No, I really do feel perfectly fine.”
“Enough of that! You’re always worrying about us every day”
“You should relax some during a day off.”
A calm warmth washed over Shirley as her two daughters pushed on her back towards the inn’s back door.
(Even though they’re still at that age where the only thing they should be thinking about is how to best have fun, they’re like this day after day.)
These days where Shirley was able to see her daughter’s grow and be physically close to them was more precious to her than anything else. After spending almost eleven months together like this, those months spent crawling in darkness after her engagement was first annulled seemed like a complete lie.
(I can say for sure now at this point that I made the correct choice straying away from revenge. I was able to watch these two grow, and besides, other than Princess Philia, Emperor Legrand, and Empress Elizabeth, I hardly remember anything from my time in the Empire anyway.)
After the issue with her parents, Genan and Elena Earlgrey, was resolved, Shirley had been living a fulfilling life. She paid neither the Empire……or Albert, any mind at all.