Volume 3, Chapter 4-5: In the Palm of His Hand

“Claire…what are you doing here?”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you I had some things to take care of as acting Earl?”

“You did, but…that involved you visiting the castle?”

“At first, I visited the Marquis of Gramp. Then, I spoke with other members of the royal family.”

“…the Marquis of Gramp and the royal family?”

Did she just now show herself once Liz and I had lost hope? No, she said she was meeting with the royal family so she probably spoke with Alberto before us.

I looked at Alberto and he responded with a wink…. Wow. Claire is incredibly reliable.

“Now then, Crown Prince Alberto, will you stop harassing my otouto-kun?”

“What are you saying? This only happened because your brother is so unreliable.”

“It’s because he can be unreliable at times that makes me want to protect him. I figured you’d be able to understand that better than most, Crown Prince Alberto.”

I’m guessing she’s talking about Liz. After feeling Claire’s intense gaze, Alberto hung his head.

— Really, I should be telling Claire I’m sorry I made her want to protect me because I’m unreliable.

…no, I’m just a human; I make mistakes. I believed Claire thought of me as a reliable brother, and back when we were at the mansion I proved to her I can be reliable so….I just feel like our positions have changed.

While thinking about this, the conversation between the two of them continued.

“So, Crown Prince Alberto, please cancel your initial plans of marrying Princess Liselotte.”

“And this would benefit me?”

“Yes, you stand to benefit from this as much as Liz.”

“Your brother has already shown that he has nothing worthwhile to offer me.”

“Yes, that may be the case. However, I’ve confirmed with his cute little sister in the other room that Liz has become more than a little interested in him.”

“What did you say….”

Suddenly, Alberto’s eyes stabbed into me like daggers. If a look could kill I’d be lying dead on the floor right now.

…umm, what? The ‘cute little sister’ must be Sophia, but what was that about Liz?

As I was still trying to understand her meaning, Alberto grabbed hold of my collar and pressed his face close to mine.

“Oi, what did you do to Liz!?”

“W-What do you mean…?”

I made her realize she’s a clumsy girl and exposed her to danger when I had her guard the students….

I casually averted my eyes.

“You bastard!”

“Wait, Alberto onii-sama! What are you going to do to Leon onii-sama!?”

After Liz raised her voice, the room fell silent. Hearing this, Alberto slowly turned to face Liz with an incredulous look on his face.

“L-Liz? Did you just call this guy o-onii-sama…?”

“Eh, that’s…umm…. Wh-Why would I call Leon onii-sama ‘onii-sama!?’ ”

…that was a horrendous attempt at lying. I let my head hang in defeat.

I stole the Crown Prince’s fiancée — I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t think of anything that would fix the situation. I was seriously worried that he’d kill me, but it wasn’t anger that left Alberto’s mouth. Instead, a deep sigh was all that could be heard.

Crown Prince Alberto turned his gaze to Claire.

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“…I don’t want to accept it but Liz seems to have chosen your brother.”

“Are you satisfied?”

“Yes, I’ll agree to your plan.”

I didn’t understand his meaning, but a pit of despair began to form inside me.

Honestly, I want to grab Claire’s arm and run away from this place…. I feel horrible seeing these two together.

“Well, otouto-kun, I’ve made all the preparations. Everything else is up to you.”

“…it’s up to me?”

“Otouto-kun, you have to decide whether you’re ready to grant Liselotte her wish.”

“I already made my mind up about that.”

At first, it was just Alice, Sophia, and Claire; but it’s not just them anymore. Liz is trying her best to live the life she wants to live.

If there’s something I can do to help her, I want to do it.

“Is that truly how you feel?”

“Yes. There’s nothing else for me to say. I’ll do whatever I can.”

“Okay. Then — add Princess Liselotte to your harem.”

“What!? …what are you saying?”

I immediately responded to Claire with shock, but there was something strange about the way Claire spoke.

“Do you know why Crown Prince Alberto wanted to marry Princess Liselotte?”

“Umm…he wanted to use her popularity with the people to his advantage.”

“Correct. However, if he just wanted to use her for her popularity, he wouldn’t need to marry her. They’re already well known for being close siblings.”

“Now that I think about it….”

Claire told me Liz was loved by the first prince, and Liz herself said she was close with her brother.

“So, why did you try to marry Princess Liselotte?”

Liz asked this question of Alberto. To be honest, I don’t understand the point she’s trying to make.

“Of course it would be easy to gain popularity with the people by marrying Liz. However, at the same time, I realized that Liz was becoming unhappy.”

“So why would you….”

“Do you really not understand? Do you really think it was a coincidence that Liz just happened to end up at the school you manage?”

“…well, she was told about our school by Wells and Crane helped her escape to Muhle.”

“Ha!”

In response to my words, Alberto let out a sharp laugh. What is he trying to tell me?

Claire attempted to help me understand.

“Why do you think the Marquis of Gramp would help the princess run away? Do you really think the Marquis would do something so dangerous that could have even lead to his family’s collapse if he wouldn’t stand to gain anything from it?

“Are you trying to say Crane wasn’t the one that helped her escape? But he asked for my assistance directly.”

“You’re focusing on the wrong part. The Marquis of Gramp knew there was no danger and that he could profit from the situation. So he sent Liselotte to us.”

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“That’s…impossible.”

I turned to Alberto as he nodded to confirm her story.

“That’s right. I ordered Wells to mention the rumours about your school to Liz, hoping she’d feel motivated to improve herself. And it wasn’t Liz that asked the Marquis for help, I instructed him to do so. I told him that if Liz asked him to take her to the school in Muhle, he should cooperate.”

“W-Why would you do something like that?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Liz would be staying in the Grances family’s territory. My fiancée would be under your protection. How would that look to the world?”

“…like the Earl of Grances and Crown Prince Alberto are allies.”

“That was part one. I then planned on negotiating with you to gain some of your technology in exchange for breaking off my engagement to Liz, but…she became more attached to you than I expected. So, I needed to modify my plan slightly.”

“…s-seriously?”

From the very beginning, I was playing right into Alberto’s hand.

“And so, Leon, I plan on giving Liz to you.”

“–Wa-Wait, I already have Alice, Claire, and Sophia!”

“…if you already have three people, one more shouldn’t be a problem.”

Uwaa, I can’t even refute that!

No, wait, for sure, increasing three people to four isn’t a big difference. However, those three might be opposed to adding one more.

Claire is…well, she clearly isn’t opposed to the idea. But Sophia…was the one that started Sisters and invited Liz to join. However, Alice…told me there’s no problem being with an adopted sister.

…eh? I don’t think any of them would be against the idea.

No, no, no, everyone else might be okay with it but I’m not.

Certainly, I was prepared to accept not only Alice but also Sophia and Claire. But that doesn’t mean I should just accept every girl.

As I was fighting with myself internally, Alberto laughed.

“You don’t need to look so troubled. It was a joke.”

“…eh? Which part?”

“About you marrying Liz. I’m not going to lie, just picturing Liz marrying you makes me angry. What Claire proposed was making Liz your sister.”

“…and how is that different than marriage?”

The moment I said this, Alberto looked puzzled.

“What are you saying? Marrying her isn’t the same as making her your sister.”

“…eh!? O-Of course not!”

Alice really is poisoning my mind. I seriously thought for Liz to become my sister I’d have to marry her.

…but, isn’t this fine? If he just wants her to be my adopted sister….

I don’t mind that idea….

“I’m just going to ask you this upfront, Crown Prince Alberto, what else are you planning?”

“I’m not plotting anything. I just wish to use this relationship of ours to gain some renown with the people. Don’t worry. I’ve already spoken with Claire.”

“Claire?”

I looked at Claire to see her showing a big smile.

Well, if Claire is okay with it, I feel better trusting him.

In fact, I don’t really see any alternative.

“I understand. If you’ll allow it, Princess Liselotte will become my adopted sister.”

“Leon onii-sama, are you okay with that?”

“Of course, as long as you don’t hate the idea.”

“Of course not! Thank you so much, Leon onii-sama!”

Liz stood up from her seat and jumped into my arms. Immediately after that, I heard a loud crash as if someone slammed their fist into a table.

“…oi, Leon? Since Liz will be your sister, doesn’t that make me your older brother?”

“Eh? No, isn’t that a little different…?”

“Sorry, I didn’t hear that! Why don’t you come practice your swordsmanship with your new brother! Now, get away from Liz and come with me to the courtyard!”

“Eeehhh!?”

I was unable to resist Alberto as he dragged me away from Liz. I was taken out into the courtyard and forced to spar against Alberto until sunset.

Sophia watched our fights and decided that Alberto was an enemy of her onii-chan. She was the clear victor in her fight against Alberto.

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