──Some time passed since they parted with Logas, and the sky slowly darkened.
Before long, a deep indigo curtain covered the sky and a cool and calm night breeze wrapped around Ain and Olivia, however, the atmosphere was not calm at all.
“Then, you’re willing to admit this was a fault on your part? ”
Olivia, with a cold expression, spoke to the attendant standing at the reception desk of the venue.
“We’re extremely sorry……! The person who sent the invitation will be punished later……”
He immediately apologized while bowing deeply to Olivia, repeating the same thing.
“I don’t care about that. It’s annoying just standing here, so, can Ain just come inside already? ”
The reason she was angry was that Ain was not allowed to join the party.
(I didn’t expect something like this to happen……)
The organizer, the Archduke, had made the condition that the number of children that would be allowed per house would be one.
The reason for this, because at the last party, when he presented his granddaughter, all the children present had been noisy.
(This made the Archduke angry, but we somehow didn’t get the message……Or something like that.)
However, this should’ve been something for Grint to put up with.
But Logas and the others had entered the venue before they knew it, and it was already too late to go back.
(I wonder if this person will also be punished?)
Most likely this was Camila’s doing, but then, the sigh of the troubled man in front of them came to his mind.
Not only his gaze was restless, but also his gestures and complexion.
Despite this not being his blunder, as a servant of the Archduke, he could be punished for this.
“Please allow me to once again apologize……! I w-would like to help you somehow, but……”
But even with that said, no solution had been found yet.
The nervousness of the attendant at the desk increased, and cold sweat appeared on his forehead.
“P-Please wait a little longer……! If there’s anything else I can do for you two in the meantime──”
He blinked restlessly while trying to gain some time amidst his dismay.
At that time, when Ain felt sorry for this man──He noticed something.
(Oh, come to think of it……This is an amazing garden.)
From the hall, which doubled as the reception desk, one could see the magnificent courtyard beginning to be illuminated as night fell.
It was fantastic, and it could be easily described as having the greatest atmosphere.
“Please excuse me but, I’d like you to ask the Archduke something. The courtyard is so splendid it picked my interest. Can you ask if we’re allowed to take a walk? Just while the party is going on is fine. ”
Hearing those words, the attendant was taken aback.
Then, after a few seconds of silence, the man looked bright and cheerful.
“I a-appreciate your suggestion……! Then, allow me to quickly go and ask──! ”
The man sent a grateful glance to Ain for the suggestion that will hurt nobody and will help the Archduke’s house to save face.
She quickly understood his aim, and send Ain a calm look.
(With this, I guess that attendant will feel relieved, I guess……?)
The wife of an Earl was complaining.
Most likely, this had caused the servant some anxiety.
Muttering that in his mind, Ain then turned his gaze towards the garden.
“──The garden of the Archduke’s residence is truly beautiful, right Okaa-sama?”
What he remembered just now, were the contents of the book he was reading earlier in the carriage.
That impressive scene, the encounter between the Prince and Princess in the flower garden──In other words, for him, Olivia looked like a Princess.
“There are so many flowers, as beautiful as you, blooming. By all means, would you spend this night strolling the garden together? ”
He wondered if he had been too pretentious. However, it didn’t matter now.
For Olivia, who had her eyes tinged in a pale red and a small drop trailing down, Ain was like the Prince of the story.
She immediately smiled and gave Ain a gentle hug.
Afterward, ten minutes later.
The attendant who ran off a while ago returned while being out of breath.
“Th……The Archduke replied that he gives his approval……! ”
It seemed Ain would be able to relax and leave this place.
However, the servant continued.
“However, he gave the condition that one person should serve as your guide……”
So long as that person doesn’t interfere with my time with Olivia, it’s okay. While thinking so, he wondered about the person to be their guide.
Not long after, a girl walked out of the venue.
“──Nice to meet you. Would you happen to be the Roundhart’s eldest son? ”
Hmm, who’s she? He kept blinking after seeing that girl.
“Yes? I am, and you are? ”
Olivia seemed to know who she was, yet she didn’t open her mouth.
Ain, on the other hand, looked at her with suspicious eyes.
While wondering who was this girl who suddenly came and what would she want, he felt this was a light approach.
The girl, on the other side, felt a little puzzled by the gaze directed at her by Ain.
“……I’m Krone. I’m the granddaughter of the current head of House Augusto, Graf Augusto.”
It became obvious that the reason why Olivia didn’t speak first was that this girl was a higher ranking noble.
She had beautiful light blue hair, like a mixture of white silver and sapphire.
She appeared to be two or three years older than Ain and was a bit taller than him.
If one was asked about her future potential, they would say she would become as beautiful as Olivia──Such was her cuteness.
When Ain met her, he was overwhelmed by a certain emotion.
(……I wonder what this is? I can’t tell for sure, but somehow……I feel she has a good heart.)
Just by standing next to her, for some reason he felt comfortable.
Furthermore, he felt it was natural to stand next to her……He thought so, she was someone who made him feel assured.
Ain felt deeply puzzled not only by her good looks but also by the feelings she gave off, which were the exact opposite of the feeling Shanon gave off.
“My name is Ain Roundhart. Excuse my rudeness, but, is there something I can do for you……? ”
But even with that said, he held some doubts. What would someone from the Archduke’s house want from him?
While not leaving Olivia’s side, Ain gazed at Krone who stood in front of him.
Then, slowly, she looked back at Ain.
“I see……You sure aren’t like the other kids.”
“W-What? What do you mean with that……? ”
He wondered what she felt from their current exchange. So, he asked again.
“……It’s nothing. It’s just that, when I’m at a party, I only get approached by annoying people.”
In short, Ain felt she might’ve become interested just by the way he questioned her.
“Ohh……So it’s because I didn’t try to get close to you, Krone-sama, I see.”
He laughed lightly to himself while thinking “What is this girl saying?”.
He wanted to retort that not just because she’s cute, he will suddenly try to approach her.
That was simply too shallow and something Ain didn’t feel like doing, and he was convinced he wouldn’t do it.
(She sure is cute and beautiful……But I’m already used to that by watching Okaa-sama.)
Then finally, while thinking so, a small laugh escaped his lips.
“Yo-……You don’t have to laugh about it, you know ……? I was at the party until just a while ago, so I was somewhat puzzled by this complete change……! ”
“No──Not at all, I wasn’t laughing at you, Krone-sama, it’s just……”
If anything, he sympathized with her, thinking it must’ve been hard for her to be at that party.
(Ignoring she’s a girl beyond their reach, seems like that, right?)
Even if he wanted to talk his way out, he couldn’t find the proper words to do it.
Still, sensing Ain wasn’t trying to make fun of her, Krone leaked a sigh.
“……I understand. You are different from the others……Let’s leave it at that.”
“Ah, hahaha……I’m sorry, thank you.”
And so, with circumstances not allowing her to be sloppy, she cleared her throat and corrected her posture.
“Well then, I will be accompanying the two of you. Come──Let me show you our proud garden.”
That’s right, come to think of it, that attendant said one person would serve as our guide.
When Ain remembered this, she was already walking gracefully in front of them.
◇ ◇ ◇
The gardener must’ve been incredibly skilled, to harmonize all these different kinds of flowers almost as if it were art.
Lights leaked from the mansion, illuminating the beautifully decorated courtyard.
(It’s fantastic……Wait, I guess putting it in just that word might be rude.)
The courtyard of the Archduke’s residence was simply spectacular, and it was even better than the garden that could be seen outside.
And right now, Ain was walking in such a garden with two women.
“──Can it be that you’re the one to show us around, Lady Krone? I’m sure Ain is happy.”
“Please don’t be so formal with me. As for me, I’m worried that my garden will be overshadowed by someone as beautiful as you, Olivia-sama.”
(……Ohh, so she’s a fan of Okaa-sama?)
In his mind, the two of them were fine, but that was another story.
With Olivia being complimented, he was now in a better mood, and he looked at the flowerbeds while humming.
“……You really can’t trust the rumors after all.”
Krone muttered. Next to her, Olivia opened her mouth with a bitter expression.
“About Ain……Right? ”
“Indeed. It somehow reached my ears………I’m very sorry.”
At that moment, noticing the conversation between the two, Ain turned around.
“Rumors?……What do you mean? ”
Seeing Ain looking at them with a puzzled face, both Olivia and Krone smiled broadly.
“The person in question is the only one who doesn’t seem to know, right? It’s nothing. It’s just, I was thinking you were truly a gentleman.”
“Oh, okay……is that so? Well, thank you.”
Ain blushed and looked down because of the sudden compliment.
Afterward, Olivia looked at the flowers alongside Ain, meanwhile, Krone looked at them a few steps behind.
“Look, Ain. That flower is beautiful.”
“……Ahh, true. Can I get closer to it? ”
“Yeah. Just be careful. Also, you should never touch it.”
Wondering if it was a flower that picked Olivia’s interest, Ain moved closed while pulling her hand.
“──Isn’t he the exact opposite of what I’ve been hearing?”
Standing at a distance where her voice couldn’t reach the pair, Krone softly muttered to herself.
“Doesn’t know manners, has a lazy personality……was it?”
Krone sighed while thinking of the circumstances.
What she had on her mind right now were the rumors she heard about Ain.
But, when she met Ain, she realized that those rumors were simply malicious lies.
“Compared to the other children who came to the party today, he’s polite and caring. Also, his appearance next to the gorgeous Olivia-sama is quite eye-catching.”
No matter where she looked at, Ain was the exact opposite of the rumors, and he had shown her an impressive caring side.
“……Such a wonderful considerate side. I think it’s hard to even think of a man who could do that.”
Before Olivia was humiliated, Ain had bowed his head for her sake.
At that time, it was admirable how he had phrased it, that he found something as beautiful as Olivia.
Remembering that, she even longed for someone to say such a honeyed phrase to her.
“Truly beautiful, Krone-sama.”
Immediately after, while being immersed in her thoughts, Ain spoke to Krone.
“Eh? Ahh…… That’s the pride of our family’s courtyard. I’m glad you like it.”
“I even thought it was shining because of magic or something……”
Krone then walked closer to Ain and Olivia.
At the end of their line of sight was a glowing rose gleaming in blue.
“Not at all. This is called a Bluefire Rose, and they emit their own light.”
The blue, shimmering light certainly shone like a flame.
“Water, soil, climate. The conditions for its flowering are very severe, making it quite difficult to grow. It needs a lot of fertilizer, and after it blooms, it absorbs the magic from the surroundings, causing it to glow in blue.”
Ain, feeling curious about it, happily listened to her explanation. But-
“Fufu……But you see, this rose──It has a very dangerous poison in it.”
Ain immediately turned pale and pulled himself back.
“You are, not kidding……Is it true? ”
“Yeah. The poison contained in one rose is powerful enough to kill a thousand people.”
Even though she’s talking about a poison, she’s speaking proudly about it, or so Ain thought.
Why would they plant such a dangerous thing is this place……He thought to himself.
“We don’t usually worry about it since only the royal family comes to this place.”
“I…… I see.”
I guess they don’t worry about it since so few people come.
And, having a guide like Krone, there should be no need to concern themselves about such a thing.
“Furthermore, it’s usually covered with glass. But today was special.”
“……You mean, it’s okay despite it having poison.”
“Yes, it’s as you say.”
Saying so, she laughed with a lovely smile.
“──Ojou-sama. The seats are ready.”
It happened when they were about to move to see the next flowers.
An elderly waiter came and spoke to Krone.
“Thank you. ──If it’s alright with the two of you, why don’t you join me at a small party? ”
“Yes? Party……is it? ”
Seeing Ain ask in wonder, Krone continued.
“We prepared a meal and some tea in the salon in the courtyard, by all means, join me. ”
Thinking about it, perhaps because of the continuous walking, Ain felt his throat a bit dry.
And it might also be a time when the two women with him started to feel some tiredness.
“The party inside is somewhat boring. So, let’s have our own party──”
Hearing those words, Ain and Olivia smiled happily.
She surely cared about the two of them, enough to phrase it like that.
“──Ara. It’d be my honor to accept your invitation, Krone-sama.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that. The seats are just over there, I’ll show you the way.”
After taking a road they hadn’t walked by before, the three of them gradually moved away from the lights of the mansion.
Being surrounded by tall hedges, Ain felt the illusion of being invited to another world.
“By the way, is there a reason why you, Krone-sama, was chosen to be our guide? ”
This was by no means dissatisfaction from Olivia towards Krone.
It was just that it seemed strange for her to have someone belonging to high nobility serve as a guide for them, who were of lower nobility.
“──We’ll speak about that too, but for now, please have a seat.”
She apologized for now, and as they walked, the three of them soon arrived at the seats that were prepared for them.
Pure white table and chairs. The roof was also white and spotless.
Despite it being a small seat, it was reasonably comfortable and elegant and blended well with the colorful scenery of the garden.
(Ahh, the Bluefire Roses are also planted here.)
He could see the roses they spoke about before also planted behind a simple fence.
After that, regaining his composure, Ain sat down next to Olivia.
“Well then, about why I decided to show you around, it’s because of something I heard from Ojii-sama and others──”
Seeing the two taking a seat, Krone started talking.
◇ ◇ ◇