“No nitpicking, okay?” Angelina warned Kenzir with a pout. The toddler in her arms blinked his huge eyes before giggling at Angelina’s expression. The Faustian princess quickly smothered his face with affectionate kisses.
The birth of Prince Kenzir’s son had solidified his status as the heir to the throne, forcing the other children of the king to give up on their hopes. Anyhow, they’d find another way to leave a mark in history if they didn’t wish to be incompetent royal-borns. Many famous officials in the kingdom were of royal blood, after all. The toddler was just six months past two years. He was fairly new to walking so he still needed to be carried around.
“Where’s Mythie?” Keeping an arm around the toddler, Angelina reached for the cup of tea proffered by her servant.
Mythie was Prince Kenzir’s wife and she was one of their few friends while growing up in the chaotic palace. It’d been years since Angelina last met her. She wasn’t surprised that her brother wedded Mythie. After all, the eldest daughter of the Marmen clan was well-known for her lovely temperament and grace. She wasn’t any less beautiful than Angelina so Mythie and Kenzir made for a compatible couple.
“She’d left for Marmen’s manor earlier,” replied Kenzir with a smile.
The couple had just returned to Felor recently. The future king and queen of the kingdom were immediately slumped with work upon arrival; some of them being official matters while some were favours. Either way, the two were left with no time to spend for themselves, let alone care for their toddler. The child was placed under the meticulous care of the royal nannies and servants in their absence.
On the second day of returning to Felor, Locke was summoned into the palace by the prince for a dinner appointment with Angelina in tow. The dinner occasion was surprisingly simple. It wasn’t a ball since there was a noticeable lack of aristocrats and performers. The servants had arranged silver platters neatly in the middle of the quiet but lavish dining hall.
Prince Kenzir had specifically requested that Locke was to be seated next to him with Angelina to his right. Locke clumsily worked his cutleries on the meal, immensely pleased by how well the steak cooked with a recipe the royals kept secret melted in his mouth. He’d come to realise that Kenzir was a peaceful and sophisticated person, which was quite different from the prince’s heroic and calm persona that he’d seen during his days in the Falcon corps.
Prince Kenzir was older than Locke by a few years, which meant that he was around thirty years old. The prince had been sent to lands beyond the palace for training with hopes that he’d learnt to treat others calmly while not losing his regal dignity. After a few questions directed at Locke, the entire banquet proceeded with the prince’s tempo.
Truth be told, Locke didn’t consider himself to be the most assertive person. Though he wasn’t sure how to interact with the prince appropriately, he’d noticed that engaging Kenzir’s questions were good enough to keep the conversation going.
“Locke, you’re quite gifted in impetus!” Prince Kenzir praised as he dabbed his lips with a napkin.
That wasn’t by no means lip service. Locke was already a high-rank Knecht by twenty-six years old and he could easily be considered a prodigy in Faustian. Kenzir could also sense that he was on the eve of another breakthrough. Once Locke reached the peak of a high-rank Knecht, he would become someone that Kenzir shouldn’t mess with.
In this kingdom, high-rank Knechts were eligible candidates for commanders while quasi-Ritters were made leaders of the royal guards or vice generals. However, the attainment of the positions was largely dependent on family background rather than competence and merit alone. If not, Herr Wyr wouldn’t just be stuck as a family officer to a baron despite being a high-rank Knecht.
Though Locke was elated by the Kenzir’s acknowledgement, he quickly humbled down. The prince was next in line to the throne; if they could get Kenzir’s approval, their marriage would be half settled.
“Brother, please let Locke go home if you have nothing else to say. He’s about to make a breakthrough soon!” Angelina reminded with a pout.
Admittedly, Angelina’s over-protectiveness was a massive headache to Kenzir but all was well. The prince still managed to get a good glimpse of Locke through the short interaction. Locke is a decent man, alright.
Prince Kenzir was no stranger to political marriages and he didn’t wish the same fate for his sister; his marriage to Mythie was a textbook example of one. Did he truly love her? Perhaps not, but they were the only ones who knew the truth.
There were four major military bodies in the kingdom, among which were the Lion corps and Wolf corps that were under direct royal control. The Falcon corps and Gale corps, on the other hand, were controlled by the three of the biggest margravate clans.
The Gale corps had declined ever since losing Margrave Woode in battle seven years ago. They’d hit rock bottom, allowing the Falcon corps to rise in power and keep their momentum despite being supported by only two margrave clans. As the head of the Falcon crops, Margrave Marmen’s power began to grow as the corps thrived and his influence in court expanded. Prince Kenzir’s marriage to the eldest daughter of the Marmen clan might just be the most politically sensible choice.
“Alright, alright. You may leave first, Locke.” Prince Kenzir held his arms up in defeat. His sister really did have him wrapped around her finger.
“Thank you, Your Highness. I shall excuse myself.” Locke stood and gave a standard bow to the prince.
Over the years, the young lion of Faustian had learnt to hide its claws and fangs. While the prince had been nothing but courteous throughout dinner, Locke wasn’t used to being so close to someone at the pinnacle of power. The pressure was unbearable.
Locke wished to advance as soon as possible. He was eager to grow immune to such intimidation. He was close to becoming a quasi-Ritter and Prince Kenzir had been hinted all night that he’d give Angelina’s hand in marriage if Locke could become one.
Prince Kenzir was already half the victim of a political marriage and he didn’t wish for the same to befall his sister. This made him all the more determined to protect Angelina’s right to happiness.
Worryingly, Angelina was already twenty-five years old. She had become one of the handful of Faustian princesses that failed to marry in their youth. The king and prince were extremely concerned about Angelina’s private life. She’d spent years studying in Aomar, which diminished her chances of interacting with any of Faustian’s elite bachelors. Yet, the king and prince didn’t wish to marry her to a faraway land. It seemed like Locke was an appropriate match with everything considered.
Things were bound to be smooth since Angelina was exceptionally determined on marrying Locke. To the princess’ glee, their union seemed to have received all the approval it needed with Prince Kenzir’s subtle assent and the king’s silence.