On most days, this castle is completely empty except for Father, me, and a handful of servants. In the past, Father employed many more maids, but they kept the entire place spotless and He found it too dull. Father is easily bored, after all. Now the castle has a game where each maid is assigned a particular wing of the castle. At the end of the day, the maid whose section is the dirtiest gets executed. Father’s spirits were lifted immensely when I came up with the idea for the game some years back, though the maids weren’t too happy about it. Not that their opinions much matter, anyway.
Father had me sit in on His meetings with the council and the nobles from a fairly young age. I remember them being quite perturbed about it, but they would never refuse a direct order from the king, of course. I didn’t understand much of what was going on at first… But when I approached Father after one meeting and told Him, “The councilman directly across from you kept fidgeting whenever you mentioned the latest budget cuts…” He grinned at me and pat me on the head. The next day, I found out that He had had the councilman executed. There were some whispers about the charges against him being rather trumped-up, but those soon died out, as well.
Father is just and Father is kind. He saved Weblin from His older brother, the Mad King Mejojo, who almost engulfed the entire kingdom in a pointless war—chasing blindly after the wolves who had long since gone. It’s no wonder Mother loves Him, though she’s never actually told me why she does. It seems obvious enough to me.
It was not long ago when I was walking down the hallway of the castle. I felt a presence just around the corner and so I tensed and heightened my guard, which allowed me to easily dodge when the assassin leapt out at me. My sword was drawn in an instant. Young though I am, I’ve been trained daily for this sort of thing. Father bullies me mercilessly every time I perform poorly in my lessons. Before I could even make out the face of my attacker, he was dead.
I heard the sound of someone slowly clapping. Father walked out from behind a nearby pillar, His boots making a soft patter across the marble floor. “Well done,” He said to me, though His smile didn’t quite reach His eyes.
“Who was that?” I asked. I knew in my head, drilled into me by 15 years of lessons and lectures, that the Garibaldis had many enemies, but up to that point I had yet to experience anything like this. I was still a bit shaken, a bit confused. I wondered how many times Father had had to defend Himself from assailants in the past and I marveled at how He was still alive and well in spite of it all.
“Oh, nobody. Just the son of that councilman you had killed a few years ago.”
“Councilman that… What?”
“You don’t remember? You pointed him out to me, Luc. He seemed suspicious, so I had the CCK execute him.”
“But… But I…” I couldn’t wrap my head around it, but I could very easily imagine exactly what Father would say if I tried to shift the blame. The more I thought about it, the more obvious it was that the man had been killed because of my actions. It wasn’t a good or bad thing, just something that happened. He was acting rather strangely… It had probably been for the best. A shame two people had to die, but such is politics sometimes.
Father seemed amused at my inability to form words. He grinned for a few moments before looking thoughtful. Before I could ask why, He said, “Come to think of it, your 16th birthday is in a few days, right? You should talk to your mother and figure out what sort of party to throw.”
“I-Is that really alright?” I stammered. Despite being almost 16 and the crown prince, I was acting like a small child. I’m still a bit ashamed to think of it, but my heart leapt at the mention of Mother. I don’t get to see her very often, after all.
“Sure, sure. —Ah! She’s probably not ready for you today, so why don’t you see her on Wednesday? She’ll be in the usual place.” Father sauntered off while waving at me carelessly with one hand.
Today I am visiting Mother. My mother, Fiona von Garibaldi, formerly of the House of Galland, is a Lobeira. Their bodies are frail and it’s only because of Father’s care that she is still with us today. Mother lives in a special part of the castle and is always surrounded by flowers. She became the dowager queen when my uncle Mejojo died and Father could have had her killed immediately because of what my uncle had done. I’ve even been told that the nobles urged for Him to do so, but He took pity on her because she was pregnant with Mejojo’s child—with me. Father loves Mother, who was always abused by Mejojo, and treats me like His real son instead of His nephew.
I push open the doors to Mother’s sanctuary and she is sitting up in bed like always. Father is standing and leaning against the wall opposite me with His eyes closed, but I know He is awake. I sit down at Mother’s bedside and grasp her cold hand in mine. “Good afternoon, Mother.” I make a bit of small talk.
It doesn’t much matter what I say, as Mother is always in a good mood. Father always says that it’s wonderful I inherited her spirit without inheriting her stupidity also. Her brilliant green eyes are fixed on me, as is her smile.
“…So in a few days, I will be turning 16. I hear that’s how old you were when you came to Weblin Castle.” A vacant stare answers me. Father says that is generally how Mother responds to everything, but that I shouldn’t be put off by it. She only wants me to continue talking. “Father says He wants to throw a party, but we’re not sure what kind.”
“Your mother celebrated her 16th birthday in this castle, too. My brother threw her a very grand party and danced with her the whole evening.” Father speaks up at last. Though His eyes are still closed, He is obviously amused. How selfless of Father not to feel discomfort even when talking about the past and of people who have wronged Him.
“Is that true, Mother? …I see. How extravagant. Perhaps we should do the same this year, too. I wish you could come…”
“Fiona can’t go to parties. She’s too embarrassed to let people see how ugly she is.”
“Of course, Father. Mother is very shy. That’s why she never even speaks to me.”
After about half an hour, Father tells me that Mother is tired. He ushers me out and tells the CCK to tidy up after us. “I still wish she would speak to us sometimes even if she’s reserved.” I try to keep the disappointment out of my voice, though it’s pretty difficult.
“I think she’s just scared of you, Luc. She talks an awful lot to me.”
“Really? What does she talk to you about?”
“Oh, the usual things. Begging for forgiveness, asking about her family, wanting to know if all the wolves are truly gone. The same things she talked to me about when she was ali—when she was well. It’s hellishly boring.”
“She really says all those things?”
“Hmm~ She says them with her face. Or her eyes, maybe? Anyway, when I look at her, that’s all I can hear.” I’ve seen Father get angry at Mother before because of this, slapping her face or stabbing her shoulder with the point of His rapier… But she doesn’t respond to those things, either. She doesn’t even bleed like we do. Father always looks very tired after that.
“If she’s so boring, why is she still alive?” An obvious question. I don’t ask out of malice, simply out of curiosity. As far as my knowledge goes, those who bore my father are quickly killed lest they continue to do so.
“Alive, huh? Well~ I wonder about that.”
I, for one, have never heard Mother utter a single word. For a while, I used to think that she was dead, that I was merely conversing with a cold corpse. But Father told me that this behavior is common among the upper class. To prove it, He showed me a number of other noblewomen who were the same as Mother: cold, unspeaking, seemingly dead women who did not respond no matter how much their children cried. Her heart doesn’t beat, but Mother’s body does not decay as corpses do. She always looks the same every time I see her: beautiful and serene. My green eyes are like hers even though I am a white Cathiy in every other way. I wish I looked more like Father, but it can’t be helped.
Still, I think the biggest tell as to Mother’s condition is that Father is almost always happy when He’s in Mother’s presence. How could He be happy if she were dead?