Chapter 16 Jeffrey’s past
The two princes have blond hair and blue eyes and an uncanny resemblance, but have quite distinct personalities.
Crown Prince Conrad is twenty-five years old. He is thoughtful and gentle. Highly regarded by his subordinates. Beloved by his wife and is blessed with a son.
Second Prince Cedric is twenty years old. He is cheerful and lively. He had a fiancée who was decided for him when he was young, but because she was quite sickly, the engagement was amicably dissolved five years ago after discussion. He has not yet been engaged after that.
The second prince, Cedric, is close to his older brother.
“Brother, is it okay to not detain that woman?”
“She is probably innocent going by Jeffrey’s story, but I don’t know why she would defeat that man. I’ll keep her under watch for Jeffrey’s sake. It is my fault that Jeffrey’s been holding back for ten years. It’s my job to take on the hated role. You don’t have to worry.”
Ten years ago, the people of the West attacked the western edge of the Ashbury Kingdom, declaring that they would ‘take back their stolen sacred land’.
Long ago, the land was a dense forest with vague borders. Borders were later negotiated. It was a pioneering group dispatched by the Ashbury Kingdom that cleared the land near the border and turned it into arable land where crops could grow. The clearing eventually became a hub for people who utilized forest resources.
The western country must have regretted it since it became a land of rich harvest. They utilized the words of the people living in the surrounding area, ‘That forest has been our sacred land since ancient times’. The Ashbury Kingdom did not back down.
In response to the ethnic people from the western country and their soldiers trying to invade, the Ashbury Kingdom dispatched the royal army.
The battle was expected to be a landslide victory, so the crown prince participated in his maiden battle. Jeffrey, who was a member of the First Knights Order, called the Knights of the Royal Guard, also participated in the war to protect the prince.
They overwhelmed the enemy from the beginning and when it was said that ‘the war is already won’, opinions were divided on the next move.
There were two suggestions, ‘We should launch a night raid and annihilate the enemy at once before they can get reinforcements and rebuild’ and ‘As the enemy is familiar with this land, nightfall is a dangerous time. We should wait for the sunrise and launch an all-out attack’.
Both had pros and cons, and it was difficult to come to an agreement, so the battalion commander offered the prince to make the decision for his first battle.
After thinking about it for a while, the crown prince supported the idea of launching a night raid before enemy reinforcements arrived. However, Kaiser, the company commander, opposed the prince’s decision.
“Your Highness, if the enemy were to launch a night attack, not only would our army suffer great damage, a failed initial response will make it difficult to distinguish between friends and foes, and there is also the danger of friendly fire. Please reconsider.”
Kaiser expressed his opinion, but Prince Conrad, after much consideration, chose the night raid plan.
That night, the enemy anticipated their night raid and arrows rained down on the moving Ashbury army from high ground, causing considerable damage to Ashbury soldiers.
Crown Prince Conrad was unharmed, but many arrows pierced deep into Kaiser’s back, who shielded the prince from above.
The army suffered heavy casualties, but the battle was won by a fierce counterattack from Ashbury, and the cleared land was protected.
The only surviving family member of the company commander is his twin sister Catherine. With the successive death of her father and mother from illness, she had lost her entire family within a year.
However, when Catherine heard the tragic news of Kaiser’s fate, she did not lose her composure and acted calmly, so many admired her, saying, “As expected of a daughter of a family that has produced knights for generations.”
However, due to the fatigue from nursing her parents and the anxiety of losing parents in quick succession, the tragedy of losing her twin brother at the same time ate away at the mind of eighteen-year-old Catherine.
Catherine’s fiancée was Jeffrey Asher, the then 22-year-old member of the First Knights Order.
The twin siblings had a stronger bond than parent and child, so Jeffrey was constantly worried about his fiancée after their triumphant return.
Jeffrey, who fought right next to the Crown Prince, witnessed Kaiser’s end.
Kaiser was struck by an arrow while marching and vomited blood. He chose to fall over the prince to shield him when he realized that he was beyond treatment.
Jeffrey thought that he would wait until Catherine had calmed down before telling her about his heroic end.
However, the situation on the battlefield was secretly leaked to her. And the details were also inaccurate.
“The prince, who was anxious to win his first battle, forced an unreasonable night raid.”
“The company commander, Kaiser, was against the prince’s strategy from the beginning.”
“The company commander died in the battle protecting the prince.”
Jeffrey was unaware of the existence of the speculation-mixed secrets that Catherine had accepted as truths.
One day, ten days after the funeral, Crown Prince Conrad called Catherine and Jeffrey to the royal castle to ‘meet Kaiser’s sister in person and apologize’.
Crown Prince Conrad cleared out the audience and stood up and bowed to Catherine.
When Jeffrey saw it, he felt indescribable.
Kaiser’s death in battle was not the prince’s responsibility, and if the prince bows his head, Catherine can only reply that she forgives him no matter what she thinks inside.
He thought to himself. (There is no need to apologize, and I wanted to wait until the wounds in her heart healed before setting up this meeting). But the prince was only fifteen years old at that time. It was inevitable that he was ignorant of such considerations. Perhaps His Majesty was unaware of this face-to-face meeting.
Catherine quickly rose to her feet and said, “Your Highness, please raise your head.” And she smiled softly as she tried to reach out to His Highness. Jeffrey saw and tried to stop her (because it’s disrespectful to touch His Highness), which was when he noticed something hidden in her hand.
Without saying a word, he jumped on his fiancée and held her down, and when he forced her hand open, there was a small sharpened knife there. It was a disaster born from her pass without undergoing a physical examination because it was an invitation from the prince.
Jeffrey had struck a table and knocked over cups and plates which shattered, alerting the knights who then rushed in. Jeffrey quickly hid the knife he confiscated and carried Catherine into the infirmary without her consent, saying only that ‘she is not feeling well’.
As she sat on the sofa in the infirmary, Catherine neither cried nor got angry. She just sat quietly, her glass-beaded eyes not looking at him, and Jeffrey realized she was broken. She couldn’t accept the death of her twin brother more than Jeffrey thought, and she couldn’t forgive the prince.
Jeffrey deeply regretted believing the words she had repeatedly said that day with a noble smile, “My brother died in battle protecting His Highness, so it must be his long-cherished wish.”
Only Prince Conrad and Jeffrey knew about the fact that she pointed a blade at the royal family, but the four knights who rushed in might have sensed something. Catherine would surely be sentenced to death if it was made public.
Luckily, Catherine was sent back to her home at the discretion of Crown Prince Conrad, who tried to keep the incident a secret. Jeffrey said to the people in the mansion, “She needs supervision and has to be confined at home. Call a doctor too.” and took a break from work for a few days and stayed at her mansion.
“Kaiser’s death is not His Highness’s fault.”
He explained the truth many times, but Catherine’s face remained blank.
Catherine died the day after Jeffrey returned to work. His despair when he heard that Catherine killed herself is still vividly burned into his memory.
The scribbled suicide note only said, ‘I’m going to visit my family’.
After Catherine’s death, Jeffrey requested to resign from the Knights Order for personal reasons. He intended to take responsibility for not being able to anticipate her crime.
However, due to the King’s judgment and the wishes of the crown prince, his resignation request was not accepted, and he was assigned to the Second Knights Order, which is mainly responsible for guarding the royal capital, and continues to this day.
Even after ten years, the regret and remorse of not being able to notice her pain and to be a person she could rely on remained as a hard black lump in his heart that never disappeared.
One day in Jeffrey’s life, the ‘independent woman’ Victoria appeared carrying Nonna on her back.