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Remington’s adviser—whom, as one could imagine, he never consulted much—announced to the world that a document was found in his late master’s safe, appointing me as his successor as he had no heir. Since the adviser was rarely used, he obviously didn’t know that Remington didn’t even have a safe to begin with.

I had entrusted the forged document to Maayan, instructing her to put it in a safe and put the safe in Remington’s chambers unnoticed. She was not told of what it was, but she asked no questions, familiar as she was with me and fearful as she was of me. Moreover, now that Remington was dead, who in his castle could protect any of the staff there?

This day, lords gathered in Remington’s meeting room at my call, every one of them visibly troubled. This was only to be expected—it was the Remington after all.

“Lady Larissa,” one said, “Are you certain that this is right? Although I have no intention to cause trouble for you, surely other lords could if they united. And...Lord Arula certainly could if he tried, as he is a genius…”

At the time, Arula had not yet arrived; I’d asked him to let the others ramble first. He had assured me with that nod at the funeral that none of them had the ability to actually threaten my place, after all.

“Lord Arula this, Lord Arula that,” said another, boldly ignoring my presence to accuse the first man who spoke. “If you’re such a fan of his, why did you never consult him on any of your domestic issues?”

“Well, they are domestic issues…”

“Exactly! And this is Lord Remington’s domestic issue. Why should you feel that you must interfere?”

Oh, not bad. Let them murder each other.

A third lord, a bit older than the rest and quiet until now, spoke. “I intend to test you myself before fully acknowledging your ownership.”

Matter-of-fact. Nice.

“Lord Arula is a genius. If he—”

“If I what?”

There he made his grand entrance, just as the topic began to revolve around him again.

“Well, if you decide to go against Lady Larissa…”

Arula made his way to the only empty seat left in the room, which was directly to my left.

“Why would you suggest such a wicked thing?” Arula said, his smile innocent—even though he was anything but. “I pledge my allegiance to Lady Larissa.”

That ought to shut them up.

And it did: every one of the lords fell silent after Arula’s proclamation. I took that moment to finally enter the stage myself, beginning with a smile of my own.

“Gentlemen, I believe it was I who called this meeting. It troubles me greatly that you all should speak before I have uttered a single word, as I thought blueblood lords were all educated by the most respected teachers about etiquette. Please correct me if I thought wrong.”

They did not speak, so I continued.

“You may question my legitimacy, even though there is a document, laid here on this table from the very start, stamped by the late Lord Remington himself. What about this do you question?”

Again, they did not speak.

“If it is for your own territories that you fear, rest well assured, for I am not interested in becoming king in the sense of dominating over the whole land. I called you here today to propose that we cooperate.”

“How so?” the oldest asked.

“I suggest that each of us maintain our own territories adequately and without second thought—should you be content with such a simple request, I offer to teach your children everything I know—they may skip their ordinary lessons with their blueblood teachers and instead come to me,” I said, expecting them to refute me immediately.

“How do you propose to do that?” questioned the oldest lord still.

“I was waiting for that question,” I said.

I placed an orb onto the table, drawing everyone’s attention to it. The orb projected the silhouette of a young boy sitting in a study, reading something.

“Noah?!” exclaimed the oldest lord. “How did you abduct my son?”

“Abduct?” I repeated calmly, “Please don’t slander me with such rudimentary accusations.” After saying so, I turned my attention to Noah’s projection. “Hey, Noah?”

Hearing my voice, the young boy looked up, and after a short while found the projection. He looked directly at us, beaming cheerfully. “Lady Larissa! Oh, and father is there too.”

Thus he waved, and his father had on him an odd expression, as though he couldn’t quite process what was happening.

“How is the reading going?” I asked, ignoring the lord’s confusion.

“Good so far, but there are some parts I don’t understand well. Will you explain to me later?” Noah replied.

“Of course I will. Well, I’ll go back to the meeting for now, see you later.”

I waved, and the boy smiled. After that, I grabbed the orb again, ending the projection.

“Well?” I prompted, turning my attention back to the lords.

Once again, they fell into a contemplative silence.

“Need I go into more detail, or should this suffice?”

Seeing that they could not formulate a response, Arula smiled and gave this as a further push. “If I had a child, Lady Larissa, I would send him forth.”

“Or her,” I reminded him.

“Or her,” Arula corrected.

So that was settled. Even though I said I had no intention of uniting the land, there was essentially no difference now—except that I had less matters to personally attend to than if I were actually king, as the lords were each responsible for their own regions.

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