It truly was summer.

Argen’s summer, besides being much hotter than that of Djerba, was humid, probably because of being surrounded by the sea.
The curtains swayed and fluttered amidst the salty smell of the wind blowing through the open windows.
In the now familiar heat, Erhart looked through the invitations that had arrived to him one by one.

They must have been carefully selected among the items that came in, but there were quite a few things to look at.
It was a young lady’s birthday party, but since it was the Margrave’s invitation, he was obliged to go.
After checking the family name and date, sorting out which ones to attend to and which ones to refuse, there were only a few left.

Erhart, who was writing down the contents of his RSVP on several selected invitations, paused for a moment as he felt the brooch hanging on his right chest heat up, but he did not stop writing.

The nib soaked in ink did not falter.
He prefaced with a question about the weather, then replied that he was willing to accept the invitation, and sealed it with his seal.

“This.”

Erhart, who replied to the servant, looked at the place where he left, closed the curtain, and grabbed the brooch.

Infused with his magic, it hummed, creating a hazy figure.
The feeling of power draining was not particularly good, so only when the figure was completed did his furrowed forehead smoothed out.

“I was worried, but luckily it works.
I thought it would take a long time to write because the words are so twisted.”

— What is this?

“As you can see.
It seems quite appropriate to use this to communicate words that cannot be conveyed through letters.
Besides, every time a letter from my mother reaches Argen, there’s a disagreeable person in Djerba.”

Its original purpose was elsewhere.
For example, to communicate with the beings that existed in the deep black sea where a carrier pigeon could not reach.
Even though he was busy, he created a magic circle, failing over and over again to make an effective one, but Rayan lived in a place his magic could not reach.

It was devised for over a year, so it would be a waste to discard it, he thought about whether there would be any other usable place, so he improved it and sent it to Olivia and it seemed that there was no problem in using it.
However, since it could only be used once even after pouring out a huge amount of magical power, the efficiency was noticeably lower, so he didn’t even dare to make another one.

— What if you get caught?

“But the beautiful emerald-studded brooch that this son thought of for his mother and airlifted directly from Argen reached his mother safely.
That’s all that matters.”

Olivia let out a sigh.
She had her youthful clarity on her face.
Erhart looked at her carefully.
For some reason, after seeing each other for the first time in a long time through correspondence, she looked small and fragile.

“Are you okay?”

ㅡ …

“Mother?”

— Your Highness is looking out for me, so how can I not be? What were you doing?

“I was replying to Margrave Canavan’s invitation to his daughter’s birthday party.
I’ve agreed to go horseback riding with Canavan’s son and he’ll be here soon.”

ㅡ…

Olivia didn’t say anything for a moment.

— Erich.
Erhart.
What are you going to do?

But she soon rebuked with a serious expression on her face.

— His Majesty is feeling on the edge.

“I guess the man who is busy ruling all over Hesseles always has his ears open in Argen.
Watching what I’m doing.
After recovering at the resort, I was left lonely being on my own and built friendships.”

The name of the son of Olivia Winston, the Emperor’s favorite for ten years, was great.
As he began to accept invitations and began to attend parties, Margrave Canavan, who had seized the military power of Argen, and Baron Hassel, who was involved in the business sphere, rushed to call him.
Erhart did not refuse.

That was why, starting from a year ago, his position in Argen had expanded considerably.
And it was apparent that the news had been passed down to the Emperor, who always kept his eyes and ears open to him for unknown reasons.

— Why? If you laid low…!

“Will I die if I laid low?”

— Erich!

Olivia’s face lost its color.

“Mother.
I know what you’re thinking.”

It was clear that she thought that he would be forgotten someday if he lived inconspicuously and was not seen by the Emperor.
Then, when he grew up to a certain extent, he would marry a princess of a foreign country and be sent elsewhere.
Either that or she’d be able to keep him alive by taking advantage of the favor she had.

“But the Emperor will not just wait and see.”

Hasn’t this been proven? The poisoned tea sent to Erhart that he hadn’t forgotten was clear evidence.

“Now there’s only one way I won’t die.”

Erhart had never had hope for her expectations, in the first place.
He had just let it be because he had no desire to live.

— Erich.
I am only a concubine at best.
With a low background.

“You are now Duke Winston’s sister.
His Majesty has approved it, so who can deny it?”

Although she may have served as the maid of honor to the Marquis Sefeld, once the daughter of a fallen noble family, who was well known as the Emperor’s paramour, she was now the Emperor’s only concubine, and with his accreditation Duke Winston put her on his family register.
So now, who could accuse her origins and slander her?

— Besides, His Majesty has only four grown sons.
Among them, Prince Fabian, the offspring of the Empress, became engaged to Princess Winston as soon as he became an adult this year.
His Majesty gave me Winston, but Winston’s will is there.

“I mean, if you break it off, it’s over.”

There are many ways to break it off, Erhart laughed.

—···· Erich.

Eventually, Olivia sighed and called him out.

“I want to live.
I don’t want to die anymore.”

ㅡ…

“Mother.
That’s all.”

She blinked her eyes with a puzzled expression.
It was surprising.
It was the first time that Erhart, who had always had a bored face and showed no reaction, said that he wanted to live on his own.
Olivia turned her head away.
Her shoulders trembled faintly.

Erhart waited quietly.

She straightened out her body after a few moments.
Her eyes seemed a little red, but Erhart didn’t bother pointing it out.

— I know you’re clever, but it’s not the right time to reveal it.

He quickly realized what she was talking about.

“I know.”

As he grew up a bit, he had more magical power than before, but there was still a limit.
He was always just enduring with perseverance.
This was possible because the broach, which was the medium, contained magic power in advance; it would have been impossible if he had used pure magic otherwise.

With only this level of power, he could not go against the Emperor yet.
He knew it well, so he hid it.

– The rose of Renée Palace’s garden has bloomed very beautifully.
I shall have a tea party soon.

She could live with the Emperor’s power, but Olivia was extremely wary of her power.
She didn’t go out except for the parties she had to attend, and of course she seldom led tea parties in the first place.
It was a statement that meant Olivia was to step into the social circle herself.
She doesn’t want to just focus on saving him, but wants to share his will with him.

“Thank you, mother.”

— Thanks for what?.
Seeing you like this has relieved my regrets, but I want to see with my own eyes just how much you have grown up.

— Marie misses you a lot too.

“Tell her I do too.”

— Please put some sincerity in those words, Erich.

Erhart smiled silently at the light remark.

“Your Highness, Count Canavan has come.”

At that moment, the servant’s voice was heard from outside.
Olivia’s side also seemed to be calling for her.
Without even saying goodbye to her, he cut off his mana.
Erhart, who looked at the finely cracked surface of the jewel and placed it on the desk, then instructed the servant to lead the Count to the drawing room.

Fatigue was evident in his gesture of wiping his thin face.

It wasn’t that his body was tired.
Of course, as he cut down on sleep and used it to study or socialize by dividing every second of every hour, his body often complained of physical fatigue, but the mental fatigue was greater than that.

He, who cynically viewed relationships, was not interested in interacting with others and rather hid his inner feelings.

“Why do I want to live?”

Erhart, who had his body stretched out, muttering useless words, only turned his head.

“…”

The sun was still in the middle of the sky.
He wished sundown could come sooner.
When he thought of the existence that would come once darkness fell all over the place today, he felt much better.
It felt like time was passing by so slowly, but at least it was much more tolerable than when he couldn’t give any meaning to the passing of time.

There were a lot of complaints these days, he needed to bring something to comfort himself.

Ah.
Will there be an unwelcome guest coming today too? Erhart frowned as he thought of Rayan’s guardian, who always looked at him with distasteful eyes.

“Your Highness.”

After he didn’t come out for a while, a call from outside urged him again.
He then straightened up and fixed his expression.
Erhart, who put on a proper smile like a mask, tightened the loose cravat properly and set out.

When he opened the door, the fatigue from before could no longer be found on his face.

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