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    The main story is complete! As for the extras, I’ll be uploading 1-2 chapters per week :)

    “What’s up? Tell me.”

    “I’ve been worried about the same thing too. Just like you.”

    Matthias tilted his head in confusion, as if he found it hard to understand what I was saying. He looked just like a big, cute dog, which made me laugh.

    “There are so many people out there who are better than me. That’s what worried me. What if you guys realize I’m nothing special and get disappointed? What if you start liking someone else…?”

    I was told that AI could be programmed to only follow and love their owner, but I didn’t set it that way. Once offline, they face many restrictions. I didn’t want to bind them further, nor did I want their love for me to be in such a manner. What’s the point in affection that’s artificially created?

    “Lee Hyun.”

    “Yeah?”

    “Let me make it clear, I don’t like you because you’re great.”

    “Uh…”

    “In fact, if we’re talking about being great, there are plenty here who are better than you.”

    Matthias looked down at me with a serious gaze.

    Wow, I’m so happy… you jerk.

    “I just like you because you are you.”

    “…Okay.”

    “This feeling won’t change easily. So don’t worry.”

    “Then you don’t need to worry either. I don’t like you just because you’re great.”

    “Ah… I see.”

    “…”

    “…Did I upset you?”

    Matthias seemed to belatedly realize something and glanced at me.

    Really caught on quick.

    I pulled him closer by the neck and bit his cheek hard.

    “That hurts…”

    “I bit you because I wanted it to hurt.”

    I looked at Matthias’s cheek, now marked with a small bite, with satisfaction.

    “Anything else you want to bite?”

    “No. Whatever your answer was, I was always going to follow you.”

    Matthias hugged my shoulder with a relieved expression, as if all his worries had been cleared.

    “Let’s go inside, it’s cold.”

    “I’m considering abdicating the throne.”

    I dropped the piece of delicious white bread I was having for breakfast in shock. What kind of bolt from the blue was this?

    I wasn’t the only one who thought this was nonsensical; Matthias also stopped eating and stared blankly at Ludwig.

    “You’re giving up… the throne?”

    “Yes. I’ve thought about it for a long time and made my decision.”

    “No, no, no. Wait a minute.”

    I quickly finished my apple juice and wiped my mouth.

    “It’s not something irreversible. You can come back, right? Like commuting back and forth.”

    “I’m not saying I’ll abdicate right away. It’s something I plan to do gradually over a few years.”

    I thought he had misunderstood me, so I added more explanation, but that wasn’t the case either.

    “Why would you think of doing such a thing?”

    Ludwig’s goal had always been to become the emperor. Just a few years ago, we all worked together towards his ambition. We shed a lot of blood and sweat, and there were not a few sacrifices. It wasn’t a position one could easily give up once the goal was achieved.

    “I’m not worthy of it.”

    “…”

    Indeed… that’s true. After all, he left the throne to come looking for me.

    Having contributed significantly to his tyrannical reign, I decided it was best to quietly listen to him.

    “The empire has been maintained to this extent even with what we’ve done because the citizens have diligently fulfilled their roles.”

    “Hmm, there’s that, I suppose.”

    “I intend to pass the throne to them.”

    “What, are you planning to have them take turns being the emperor?”

    “No, the electoral system you told me about seems quite appealing. It’s very rational. I like the idea of not giving power to just one person continuously.”

    Is he thinking of electing a president? The thought of this empire turning into a democratic nation felt strange. In a few decades, the imperial palace might only remain as a tourist attraction, with modern government buildings erected.

    “Of course, it’s not feasible to proceed with it right away. The war needs to be concluded, and the aftermath will take months, if not years, to deal with. That’s why I’m thinking of taking steps gradually.”

    “What kind of procedures are we talking about?”

    “First, I plan to subjugate the Senardo Empire to the Gristch Empire. I’ve already obtained Cesare’s consent, so that will be the easiest part. After that, we’ll need to amend the laws, and handle things like administration and technological development, which could be more easily resolved under absolute monarchy.”

    “How long do you think this will take?”

    “Well, as of now, I’m estimating about 5 years.”

    “5 years? Isn’t that a bit too long?”

    Given Ludwig’s character, once he sets his mind on something, he tends to focus solely on that goal until it’s achieved. This made me think that he might not come out to the outside world for a while. Excluding the initial period of adaptation, I had a feeling I might end up staying here for a long time, which made me feel a bit melancholy.

    “It could be expedited with enough effort. But I want to take enough time to leave behind a decent empire.”

    Ludwig, intent on creating a better empire, somehow seemed like a person seeking atonement from a deity. The emergence of the rebels and Heiler’s death might have had an impact on Ludwig, I thought.

    “Alright, I understand. I’ll support you. I might come in from time to time, so let me know if you need anything.”

    Ludwig smiled faintly at my words.

    “Sure, I’ll ask if I need anything.”

    “But… you’ll still come out sometimes, right?”

    “If you want me to, anytime.”

    I looked away from his now pale eyes. I had asked Sirius to keep the appearance of the orbs unchanged, but I wished Ludwig’s eyes were both shining in beautiful purple.

    “Let’s continue our meal then.”

    Ludwig, having conveyed everything he wanted to, picked up his fork with a refreshed expression. Matthias seemed to have lost his appetite after Ludwig’s shocking revelation and sat silently in front of the table with a stiff expression. I nudged Matthias with my elbow and asked.

    “Are you okay?”

    “Yeah, well… I was just a bit taken aback because I didn’t expect it, but I’m fine.”

    He doesn’t seem fine.

    I thought it might be best to leave him alone for now. As my thoughts grew heavier, my appetite waned, and I barely touched my favorite potato and mushroom soup before getting up from my seat.

    “Where are you going?”

    “I have to meet Acel. We made a promise. Do you want to come?”

    “No, I have things to do today. I just came to see you for a bit.”

    Matthias placed his large hand on my head as he spoke.

    “Acel would be happy to see you. But maybe not now. Alright, I understand.”

    “I’ll go see her later if I can. But why would she be happy to see me?”

    Matthias seemed genuinely clueless. Thinking of the intense memories that might only be vivid for Acel made me feel a bit sorry for her. I wonder if she’s feeling down right now.

    “It’s just… something like that. Well, take care today.”

    “Let’s have lunch together later.”

    “Okay, I’ll come down in time.”

    I waved at Matthias and left the room.

    “Is it going to snow…?”

    As soon as I stepped out of the long corridor, I was greeted by white clouds.

    “Cough…”

    The winter wind slipped through my clothes, causing me to cough immediately. I hoped the place where Acel was would be a bit warmer.

    After entering the palace where Acel was staying, I found myself a bit perplexed.

    “Which room was Acel in again?”

    The corridors, as well as the doors, all looked so similar that it was confusing. Even trying to recall the way from yesterday didn’t help much. I would have asked a servant if one happened to pass by, but today, of all days, there seemed to be none around. As I was aimlessly wandering the hallways like a bee doing a figure-eight dance, I heard Acel’s voice from somewhere.

    “Lee Hyun…?”

    “Acel!”

    Acel, in her pajamas, stood at the door, looking at me with sleepy eyes.

    “What are you doing there?”

    I was wandering the hallways because I couldn’t find where you were…

    But feeling a bit embarrassed to admit that, I made up an excuse.

    “Just, taking a walk.”

    “Here?”

    Acel still looked as if she was wondering whether she was dreaming, glancing around. She shook her head slightly, then approached me without even putting on her slippers and buried her head in my embrace.

    “This isn’t a dream, right?”

    “No, it’s not.”

    I stroked Acel’s cheek and smiled. But something was off. Acel’s forehead felt warm.

    “Huh? You seem to have a fever?”

    “It happens sometimes. I’ll be fine by the afternoon.”

    “Oh, really? Maybe a bit of rest will help…”

    “But I still keep up with my classes. I’ve even skipped a grade.”

    Acel said, looking up at me as if she had just remembered something important.

    “I know you’re working hard. Just don’t overdo it. It’s normal for kids to play hooky once in a while.”

    Acel’s eyes widened in surprise, and then she gave a sheepish smile.

    “Lee Hyun is strange… Everyone tells me to study hard so I can become someone important.”

    “You’re doing well enough.”

    Certainly better than adults who abandon their duties to wander for years. A child who diligently studies is far more commendable, indeed.

    “Seriously.”

    Acel, looking at me with affection-filled eyes, suddenly sneezed. It then occurred to me that the corridor was a bit chilly for her to be in just her thin pajamas.

    “Let’s go inside. How about I make you some hot cocoa?”

    “I’m not a child anymore, so I’m fine.”

    But she had no problem having some just yesterday…

    “How about milk with honey then? Just one spoonful.”

    “That sounds okay.”

    I chuckled inwardly at Acel’s feigned indifference. As soon as we entered the room, I was taken aback.

    “What’s all this?”

    The bed was covered in parchment, pens, ink, and various papers scattered around. Not just on the bed, but it seemed to have spread to the floor as well, looking like it hadn’t been cleaned up for a year. The surprising part was that Acel had only been assigned this room yesterday. How could a room that was tidy just a day ago turn into this?

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