The Saga of the Great Duchess Crusch Begins: Ferris's Sudden Emergence
My neck feels ticklish, and the draftiness down there is making me uneasy. The feeling of the wind on my bare shoulders feels kind of nice though, and I can’t get over just how different the world feels just from dressing differently. I know I shouldn’t be like this, yet here I am. If I don’t stay mindful of it, I’ll probably behave the same way as before. I need to be careful.
“Oh, there you are. Perfect timing.”
He heard a voice come from behind while walking down a familiar path in an unfamiliar outfit. He turned around and saw a gentle-looking man with a beard calmly walking towards him. He looked like he was almost in his forties, but each of his gestures made him look older.
To put it in other words, he looked older than his age.
“Duke Meckart?” asked Felix. “What’s the matter? You look so feeble.”
“I don’t think I do though? Well, truth be told, my back hurts more than usual today… Eh-hm, that is not what I wanted to talk about. Have you seen Crusch?”
The man—Meckart—smiled calmly at his rather insolent reply.
He is a good-natured man, though I must say that he’s not at all suited for the world of political warfare full of scheming and deception.
But even if he was like that, he was the current head of a ducal family that also happened to be one of the most prestigious families in the kingdom. So, things weren’t easy for the people around him. While having such an opinion about Meckart, the person who had been questioned put a finger to his lips, and…
“Hmm, Lady Crusch went for a long ride this morning. She said she would be back by lunch, so I think she will be back soon.”
“What!? A long ride!? Why!? I told her beforehand that His Highness, Prince Fourier, would be visiting and that she should receive him!” Meckart’s face turned pale, and it was obvious that he was flustered. He smiled wryly and pointed at the magic time crystal placed in the mansion’s hallway and…
“Regarding that, I…I too have circumstances that make it hard for me to answer.”
Meckart looked at Felix, who had changed to a feminine tone in the middle of his sentence, and lowered his eyebrows in a troubled manner. “I am sorry you are going through so much trouble. If it’s Crusch we’re talking about, she probably forced you again, didn’t she?”
“No, it isn’t like that.”
He smiled softly and brushed his chestnut hair over his shoulder in a natural motion.
Meckart let out a sigh while looking at his gesture. It seemed like he was both impressed and deplored by it. “Seems like you are really getting used to that look, Felix.”
He called the name of the boy—who was being bashful like a young girl.
He cut his long hair short and replaced his formal menswear with fashionable women’s clothes. It was his first time wearing a skirt or tight stockings. He wiggled his long, thin tail that protruded from the skirt specially tailored for demi-humans or beastmen. Next, he styled his hair so that his demi-human cat ears would stand out and then put on a flirty smile to complete his new look.
Oh wait, I can’t forget to decorate my hair with my important white ribbon.
Felix Argyle thus assumed the role of a femboy just like had been asked of him.
He was shocked and pleased to find that his cross-dressing looked surprisingly natural. With this, he could see the promise he had made with his master through, in the best way possible. It would be Felix’s greatest joy if he could be of service to her.
Thus, he sincerely wished that he could be useful even in a situation like this, however…
“What is the meaning of this!? I have come here, yet Crusch is nowhere to be seen!”
“Ha, ha-ha-ha!” Meckart laughed nervously. “My daughter is at an age where she may feel embarrassed. Since Your Highness has come here to meet her personally. Maybe that’s why she isn’t showing up!”
It didn’t seem like he could come between the two who were having a verbal tug of war at the gate of the mansion anytime soon. One was Meckart, the master of the manor, whose pale face was even paler and seemed desperate. And the one facing him was a rather handsome boy with long blond hair. He was around the same age as Felix, which put him at around eleven or twelve. His crimson eyes were shimmering like jewels, and he had spoken in somewhat of a carefree tone. With his fur coat, servants following closely behind him, the luxurious dragon carriage that he came out of, and from how a duke was bowing his head down, it was clear that he was from a prominent family.
Or rather, his background was obvious.
“So that’s His Highness, Fourier Lugunica.”
He was royalty who held the title of Fourth Prince of the Kingdom of Lugunica and was the son of the current king. Now, the reason why a person of such high stature had taken the trouble to visit a duke’s fief was because—
“I was wondering where all that noise was coming from, but it turned out to be Your Highness. I had no idea that you had already arrived. Apologies for my impudence,” said a girl who had appeared on an earth dragon, expertly controlling it, with her tied-up green hair fluttering in the wind. She was a real beauty.
She was a beautiful girl, and yet, words like pretty or cute hardly suited her. The way she stood reminded people of the sharpness of a sword. She had a gallant, strong face, and piercing eyes. She had such a commanding presence that it was hard to believe that she was a young girl, and the way she carried herself could make anyone gasp. There was no mistaking that she was Felix’s master and the girl everyone there had been waiting for.
“Ooh, Crusch! Are you feeling alright? Only you could get away with making me wait like that!”
“My apologies. I was told that Your Highness would be arriving in the afternoon. I did not expect you to arrive before lunch.”
“Yes, I hastened the earth dragon since I wanted to meet you.”
Fourier became overjoyed and excited at the arrival of the girl—Crusch Karsten. He’d replied to her boastingly, but he had completely missed the mark and puffed his chest arrogantly as if he had said something admirable. Looking at that, Felix was convinced that he was exactly like how he had heard.
Crusch and Fourier were exchanging pleasant remarks, but Meckart, who was a duke and also a father, couldn’t watch it in peace. He spoke up, his face still pale. “Hey, Crusch. How long are you planning on playing with the earth dragon? Take it to the stables and then come right back after changing your clothes. Don’t forget to take a shower, alright?”
“Yes, alright. Felix, come.” Crusch, who had received an order from her father, called Felix, who was standing among the servants.
He reacted to her call like a dog with an “OK!” and quickly went to her side.
“Take the dragon to the stable. You can accompany me on a long ride next time. It feels quite nice on a windy day.”
“I’d love to do that after my training. Oh, and you might need to hold my waist and hands while teaching me, so…”
“That won’t be a problem. If that is what you wish to do, then you can pick a time and date after looking at your schedule.”
With the promise in place, Felix grabbed hold of the reins with a smile on his face. Crusch bowed to Fourier, and as she was about to head back to the mansion…
“Don’t make His Highness wait too long, and change into the dress that has been prepared for you. I will not tolerate any complaints, Crusch.”
“…Father, I have told you many times. I shall no longer wear dresses, only formal men’s attire. I don’t want to be the kind of master that breaks her promise with her retainer.”
When Crusch respectfully corrected Meckart’s misunderstanding, Felix turned pale when he found out that he was the reason behind that.
Fourier then interrupted them. “Stop. What is the meaning of what you just said? Speak in a way that even I may understand,” he asked, cutting into their parent-child conversation without reading between the lines.
Crusch briefly told Fourier that she had made a vow to see a certain promise through: to stop acting like a woman, and to become the finest swordswoman and aristocrat. As Felix felt proud listening to that, Meckart put a hand to his forehead and lamented his daughter’s future.
Fourier’s face turning red, he said, “No, no, you cannot do that! What on earth are you saying! Stop being a woman? Stop being stupid! I will not forgive such a thing! Since you are a girl!”
“I believe it would be out of line for Your Highness to dictate to me about what I should be,” Crusch responded rationally to Fourier, who was being emotional.
“Arggghhh…!” Fourier groaned, at a loss for words. His gaze wandered and then landed on the sword at Crusch’s waist. “Alright, then pick up your sword! Use your sword to show me how big your ambition is!”
“…A duel? Between I and Your Highness?”
“Yes! I am learning swordsmanship in the royal castle. Everyone was saying that I have talent. I shall personally teach you the difference between the strength of a man and a woman!” Fourier declared with a bright face, thrusting his fist towards the sky.
Fourier quickly turned around to look at Meckart, then smiled at the pale duke. “I am fine with the garden being the location for our duel! Bring two wooden swords! I shall turn your daughter into a woman!” he so boldly declared.
Felix was performing healing magic on Fourier, who was sprawled out in the garden like a torn-up rag. He had seen the duel—which was more of an execution, though it would be referred to as a duel for the sake of propriety—and wasn’t sure who was at fault here.
Was it Fourier’s fault for daring to continue challenging her without realizing the difference in ability? Or was it Crusch’s straightforward personality’s fault, which prevented her from holding back? Either way, the result of the combination of both was the cruel state of the fourth prince.
“Father collapsed with a pale face. It’s possible he might scold me later.”
“Hmmm, he might do that.”
Crusch saw Meckart off as he was being carried away by the servants, looking exhausted. There was no trace of sweat on her, making Fourier’s lousy fighting skills seem even more pitiful.
“Uuh… Pa-Paper thin, it was a paper-thin difference.”
“Is that so? Then the paper must be quite thick.”
“Lady Crusch, His Highness will feel miserable if you do not treat him a bit more kindly.”
It was a straightforward statement, something typical of her, but it was too honest, so Felix gave some advice.
The three of them were talking in a corner of the garden while basking in the breeze. The soldiers accompanying Fourier and the servants of the mansion were looking at them from a distance. They were probably thinking that it was a lovely sight.
“Anyway, Crusch… I did not know that you were so skilled at using swords.”
“I am still quite lacking. But, Your Highness. A promise is a promise. From now on, leave me to…”
“I-I know. You can do as you please until I best you at our next match.”
The part where he effeminately asked for a rematch was part of his loveable character, and it brought a wry smile to Ferris’s face.
Crusch probably thought so too, as her lips were relaxed, and she was smiling.
Felix and Fourier were completely enchanted by her charming, gentle smile.
“I-I need to be strong. Or else I will ruin the reputation of the royal family.”
“It isn’t like that. Besides, how good you are at the sword won’t diminish the prestige of Your Highness and the royal family. The sacred blood pact—as long as the Dragon protects the kingdom, the respect from the people will remain unshaken.”
“Mhm… I don’t think so.”
Fourier immediately tried to conceal his emotions, but Crusch followed up and denied his words.
Fourier looked displeased after hearing what she had to say. “If the Dragon does everything, then why does the royal family exist? That is not a reason for me to stay weak. It shouldn’t be a reason for me to be weaker than you…a woman!”
It was the kind of stubborn words that boys his age would say in front of girls they liked. Felix, however, instinctively sympathized with the rebellious attitude against his own weakness in his words.
Felix felt like Fourier’s words pierced his heart since he once had nights where he would wrap his arms around his knees and cry at his own helplessness.
And Felix wasn’t the only person who was deeply impressed by those words.
“—’Then why does the royal family exist’.” Crusch opened her eyes and mouth and repeated Fourier’s words, tensing her cheeks.
Even Crusch didn’t know just how deeply his words resonated in her mind now. Though she didn’t know it, it was an unshakable fact that it left a mark on her heart and shook her soul.
“Your Highness, let us cross swords like this again. I believe your feelings to be most noble.”
“Hm, is that so? Yes, it is as you say! Hmm, I am glad that you understood me! But it is that! It’s okay if you are a little gentler with me next time! I don’t want to feel pain…”
“You won’t learn anything if I go easy on you.”
“You really aren’t kind at all, are you!?”
“Pffft—” Felix burst into laughter, unable to hold it in after hearing Crusch’s reply and Fourier’s scream.
Fourier stared at Felix for the first time after seeing his reaction. Felix was about to open his mouth to immediately apologize for the disrespect, but… “I thank you as well. You are more skilled in healing magic than the people in the castle. It felt rather pleasant. You have earned my praise. Your name…yes, it was Ferris!”
With a bright face, he boldly said the wrong name. But he seemed so full of confidence that Felix wasn’t sure if he should correct him or not. And then…
“—It’s a fine name. Your original name feels somewhat odd due to that attire. Ferris has a nice ring to it. If you like it, I would like to call you that too… What do you think?”
Crusch smiled gently and revealed that she liked the name he had been called by a mistake. Felix muttered that name in his mouth in front of Fourier, who looked confused, and then nodded. “Yes, then please call me Ferris. I would like My Lady and Your Highness to call me by that name from now on.”
“Hmm? I don’t get it, but oh well. Alright then, Ferris, I’ll be expecting good work from you!”
Fourier’s expressions were that of a person who didn’t understand anything, and he ruined his beauty by laughing loudly. Felix smiled wryly at that, and Crush tenderly and lovingly said, “—Ferris. Yes. That name seems like a better fit for my woman.”
She said that without thinking, causing a commotion that once again made Fourier explode and Meckart fall unconscious.