Frederick found the suite of rooms allocated to the Styrian party and they were heavily guarded. The entrance into the wing was secured by his own Royal Guards who promptly let him in, while one ran off to inform the guests of his arrival.
Frederick loitered in the atrium as he waited for permission to enter. Of course, he could simply barge in but given the already tense relationship between the two parties, it made no sense to stir up more trouble for no reason and over only a slight inconvenience.
It was Frederick's first time entering this particular annexe. From the plaque he was reading, it appeared these suite of rooms were built about two hundred years ago, when the Prince of the time had felt it was a little inappropriate to share the same parts of the Palace with foreign emissaries. As a result, he had the architects draw up new plans to extend the Palace to especially accommodate foreign guests.
Frederick heard the door open and was surprised to see Max come out.
"Your Highness, it is good that you chose to come at this time. The Princess has just finished her meal. Perfect atmosphere to seduce her. Haha. Don't worry your Mother and I have been visiting her these past few days, in anticipation of your return. Strangely though, she appeared to have a good impression of you already. I wonder why." Max mused.
Frederick found the atmosphere became slightly awkward and was a little unsure of what to say in response.
"Uh, Max, you really weren't going to leave this to chance, were you?"
"Haha, Your Highness, it is fine. Just be yourself, I am sure everything will go smoothly, there are only minor obstacles, but I am sure the two of you can fix them in no time. The Princess is very intelligent, she received all of our hints by the second visit and she does not seem to be against the idea. It is all up to you now." Max laughed as he walked out of the building.
Left behind, Frederick smiled in anticipation. It seemed everyone else had worked hard to smooth his path here. He resolved to make sure he did not disappoint them. For all Max's faults, his diligence was never in doubt.
The door opened once again and a grey-haired middle-aged man came out. He walked up to Frederick and bowed before introducing himself.
"Your Highness, I am the Knight Captain of the Princess' Guards, Karl Metter. His Imperial and Royal Highness tasked me with protecting Her Highness, but this failure will never be atoned for. Your Highness, should you ever need my aid in finding the masterminds, please feel free to order me as you wish." Karl promised fervently.
Frederick was taken aback at the lack of accusations and remonstrations from Karl. It appeared his Mother and Max had managed to appease their anger or more likely redirect it somewhere else, by the sound of Karl's words.
"Hmm, I will remember this promise, Karl. Very well, is Her Highness willing to see me?"
"Ah, forgive my lapse in memory, Her Highness informed me to guide you to her forthwith. Follow me, Your Highness."
Karl had the two Styrian Guards open the doors and allow them inside. Karl gestured for Frederick to enter first. However, Frederick was saved from his dilemma as Karl realised, he had not informed Frederick where the Princess was.
"Your Highness, Her Highness is in the room at the end on the left. Please follow after me."
Frederick smiled at this awkward first meeting. It seemed he and Karl had quite a few things in common. However, he put it to the back of his mind as he followed after Karl and prepared himself to meet Eleanor.
"Your Royal Highness, Grand Prince Frederick is here to see you." Karl knocked on the door and asked for permission to enter.
Frederick heard a soft voice respond. "Very well, you may enter."
Frederick entered only to find a large screen partition separating the room. Before it, were a few chairs and a table with refreshments. Karl led him over to the chairs and had him take a seat, before leaving the room. As Frederick sat down, the screen partition was pulled back and a young girl dressed in servants clothing informed Frederick he was to come inside.
Frederick was a little curious as to why it was so complicated, when he simply wished to meet the Princess. Door after door then a screen partition, what was next, some drapes? However, he then realised, his Mother's and sister's rooms were the same. It appeared females truly had a penchant for privacy.
Frederick shook his head of these tangential thoughts and followed after the handmaid. This time, Frederick was greeted by the sight of a large four poster bed. In typical Erlitz style, it was decorated with a few floral motifs but other than that it was both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Upon the bed was none other than Princess Eleanor. Her leg was wrapped up with bandages but other than that she appeared to be hale and hearty. However, Frederick then froze. When he saw Eleanor's face, he was captured. Love at first sight, perhaps? He felt his soul resonate, as if there was a hidden code he had just cracked.
However, the feeling was only fleeting. Just as he tried to put his mind to it, it had already disappeared. He shook his head of the melancholy that replaced that pleasant feeling and calmed himself down.
He needed to remain focused, after all he had a goal and mission to achieve. However, despite her condition, it appeared she was as bright and brilliant as the rumours said and he felt it would not be easy to broach the topic let alone convince her to agree.
As time resumed, Frederick immediately introduced himself. The maid who had her thunder stolen merely bowed to the Princess before withdrawing.
"Your Highness, it is a great pleasure to finally meet you. As the Grand Prince I humbly apologise for the negligence of my country and I. As esteemed guests, your safety should have been our utmost priority, however, as the situation presents, we have failed most miserably. I do hope you can find it in you to forgive my country and I. We will do all we can to compensate your troubles and to find the perpetrators."
Having said his piece, Frederick waited for her to reply. However, as the minutes ticked on, Frederick still stood before the foot of the bed, started to feel slightly pressured. Especially since the Princess' expression did not change one bit, despite his apology. He had noticed at his mention of forgiveness, she had frowned slightly. Other than that, her calm and placid face remained unchanged.
Just as Frederick was about to speak more, she replied.
"No need to apologise so profusely. The Dowager Princess has already apologised many times, as has the Prime Minister. As for your promise of compensation, well we shall see. However, it is natural that you should find the perpetrators and bring them to justice, no, Your Highness?"
Frederick felt the Princess was testing him. She acted like she was still angry, however, the coldness was that of a peer to peer, rather than being condescending to those below her, as it appeared from her words. Nobility was truly scheme after scheme.
"Your Highness, that makes me relieved to hear you are willing to forgive us. But indeed it is natural that we shall hunt the perpetrators. Might I ask, does Your Highness know anything about the attackers? Perhaps, something that caught your attention?"
The Princess took a couple of minutes before she responded.
"Oh, where are my manners, Your Highness, there is a seat over here. Please do take it. I do apologise, to have you see me in this unfortunate state, it is rather embarrassing."
Frederick responded perfunctorily as he made his way over to the seat beside the Princess. Having sat down, Frederick was slightly startled by the Princess' face suddenly appearing before him. She closely examined his face before staring into his eyes for a few seconds. Frederick felt slightly uncomfortable by her strong and close presence.
It appeared he needed to re-examine the image of the Princess in his mind. She was a little eccentric, to say the least. Frederick watched with curiosity as the Princess moved back and resumed her seated position on the bed. She muttered something under her breath which faintly sounded like.
"Something is different."
Frederick was not sure what she meant but he did not have to wait long.
"Frederick, do you remember our first meeting?"
Frederick was shocked. He had no recollection of ever meeting the Princess. Quickly re-trawling through his memories, he realised that there was nothing there. He had definitely, never met the Princess before. He thought to himself, was she still testing me?
Eleanor seeing, Frederick's pensive expression and lack of response, sighed, before smiling brightly.
"You truly have no recollection of ever meeting me?"
Frederick felt he had unwittingly stepped onto a rollercoaster, his emotions had been constantly thrown all over the place, whether it was seeing the Princess' face to even the questions she had been asking. It appeared the Princess was glad he did not remember their supposed first meeting.
Eleanor continued with a sly smile.
"Good, good. Very good. Say Frederick, what do you think about marrying me?"
Frederick felt that it was not a rollercoaster he had been placed onto, it was in fact, a rocket. Shot off, into God knows what direction, Frederick felt he had lost all his abilities to compute the situation.
Curveball after curveball, this Princess was indeed something else. Frederick decided to just laugh it off.
"Haha, Princess, you surely jest."
"Eleanor. Frederick, you promised to call me Eleanor."
Frederick felt the Princess was a little scary. When she had reprimanded him, her expression had become extremely serious and cold, it was as if there were two Eleanors. The quirky and confident one before him and that serious and cold woman.
"Right, Eleanor. Well, marriage, is not something that should be decided so easily. You need to think about it a lot more. After all, your position is not of that of a commoner's, plus are you not looking to marry someone you love?"
Even Frederick did not know why he was trying to convince her to change her mind. His goal had originally been to trap her, but it seemed it had been completely spun on its head. He felt that he had walked into the lair of a spider and had been entangled unknowingly. Slowly but surely, he had been reeled in and now it was time for her to make sure he could not get away. Frederick shuddered at this mental image.
It appeared when Max said he and his Mother had been softening Eleanor for the marriage pitch, he had not been lying. But now it appeared they had all been colluding. His Mother could finally get her son married, Max could finally not need to worry about heirs and Eleanor seemed quite eager to marry him. However, he was not quite sure when he had met her and what else he had promised her at the time.
"Frederick is your logic not contradictory. You ask me to mind my position, yet then ask me to look for love. Surely you know just as well as I do, that people in our positions, do not marry for love.
However, the truth is, I love you Frederick. I always have." The last few words were whispered forlornly.
Frederick felt a pang in his heart. It was the first time someone had so straightforwardly confessed to him. He could not get rid of the beautiful expression she had currently. It had been etched into his mind, like a priceless work of art. Genuine. That was the one word that he subconsciously attached to Eleanor.
He was put in a rough spot. It appeared she had a royal flush while he only had a pair. He could not find it in him to reject her. In fact, he felt relieved, it seemed everything had worked out well.
"Very well. Princess Eleanor Maria von Habsburg will you do me the honour of marrying me?"
Frederick decided he might as well take back some control in this spontaneous proposal.
"I will. I will." Eleanor replied with a slight blush. Frederick could not help but feel affection for her. He did not care whether they were genuinely his or left over from the original Frederick's, regardless he embraced them willingly.
However, just as Frederick was celebrating in his mind, the Princess poured cold water over the whole affair.
"Well, Frederick, there is just a slight problem. You see, I am technically engaged to Prince Christian of Pruse."
Frederick felt he had been played thoroughly by this Princess. Nay his fiancé. Now that he had already proposed to her and she had accepted, he was not willing to let her go. Not because she was his possession, he was not a psychopath. But because, he could not afford to let her go, plus he felt she was too good to let go.
Frederick would need to plan his next steps wisely. It seemed, Frederick could not catch a break, knew problems kept coming hard and fast.
Frederick spent the next few hours brainstorming with Eleanor, over their next steps. Their final plan, despite all its flaws would cause some severe political headaches. But they were determined to do so. For their happiness and for their future, together.
Sorry, everyone, life has been more hectic lately than I thought it would be. It probably won't calm down anytime soon. So, sorry, might push releases back to once a week. I will try to do two. But anyways, thanks for sticking with me. Hope to see you in the next one soon(tm).
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