◇ ◇ ◇
Going back in time, some minutes before Krone joined Ain.
When the servant hurriedly went to the Archduke to tell him about what happened at the reception desk──When he was giving him the details.
“……So, a child about five years old did so to cover over our Archducal house’s blunder, is what you mean to say?”
Archduke Augusto sat in the largest and most prominent seat in the venue.
He sat there alone gazing at the hall with only one butler by his side.
But hearing about the fact that a child had tried to cover for them, he felt a wave of strong anger, making his eyes change severely.
Being famous as a strict nobleman, he felt deeply distressed by such a blunder.
“So, why is the second son at the party and not the eldest son?”
“That is……It seems Earl Roundhart just found out about the rule that only one child is allowed at the reception. At that moment, her second wife suggested to bring in Grint-sama…… Or so I heard.”
After hearing this, Archduke Augusto understood.
Having previously heard about the inner circumstances of the Roundhart family, he expected Ain to be put aside.
“Is that so? That’s too bad──Wait, could it be that the Roundharts are going to ignore the promise and place the second son as the next head of the family……? ”
“Ohh? Archduke? Promise?……What would that be? ”
Then, as Archduke Augusto began to think of something, the butler standing next to him spoke.
“……No, it’s nothing, I’m just a bit worried.”
Although there was some meaning behind those words, Archduke Augusto simply cleared his throat and gave a vague answer.
“I’ll allow them to view the garden. We’d need to apologize to them in my name later. How about you go as the guide, Jii (Old man)?”
Saying so, he turned to his side towards the old butler.
If they weren’t guided at least by the Archduke’s personal butler, it might be considered rude.
“Still, the Roundhart’s eldest son has a remarkable character. Without hurting his mother, he stood up to our Archduke house. Really, not bad at all, I even became a bit interested in him.”
“Just as you said, then it should be me the one to guide such people.”
Indeed, well, I leave it to you.
It should’ve ended with those words being said, but a person they didn’t expect came forward.
“──Ara, Ojii-sama. That sounded interesting.”
It was Archduke Augusto’s granddaughter, whom he cherishes and loved more than anything else, Krone.
Just from where did she start listening? Wondering about it, he asked.
“God……Were you listening to it, Krone?”
“Yeah. I was listening. ……Well then, Jii.”
Krone then continued, as if her eavesdropping was nothing to be mad about.
“I will go guide them. So, it’s fine if you stay by Ojii-sama’s side.”
Both the Archduke and the butler couldn’t hide their surprise at the unexpected situation.
While the old butler was at loss for words, the Archduke placed his hand on his forehead, puzzled.
“Come to think of it, Krone had been longing to talk with Olivia-dono since she met her at the previous party.”
“I haven’t met someone as wonderful as her. A lady more beautiful than any flower, more graceful than anyone else, and who the word ‘saint’ suits the most…… That’s Olivia-sama.”
In other words, you really want to talk to her, right? This is what the Archduke thought.
“……I would also like to talk for a bit with the eldest son, who appears to be different from what I’ve heard.”
She muttered these words so quietly that the Archduke couldn’t hear her, then turned to face the servant.
“Tell them they would be allowed to see the courtyard on the condition that they are guided.”
Before he answered, he looked towards Archduke Augusto, but his expression was one of already giving up.
The Archduke’s only answer was a gesture with his hand, and if waving off a bug, so he left.
“Ojii-sama, the gentlemen today seem to misunderstand something and approach to talk to me as if I’m a harlot. I too want a bit of time for myself to enjoy, would that be alright? ”
Her appearance was quite eye-catching at the party venue, so many people were looking at her with the intention of approaching.
That’s why he couldn’t help but accept her as a guide and give her the chance to go outside and spend some time with the woman she admired.
“Besides, I could make amends of our house’s rudeness to Olivia-sama. And yet, you tried to have a servant show them the garden. ……Wouldn’t that be a more detrimental idea?”
“Archduke……It seems the young lady has become stronger with each day.”
After such a sound argument, the words of the old servant made the Archduke have a wry smile.
In the end, the undeniable fact was that he had no choice but to send off Krone.
◇ ◇ ◇
“……That’s why allow me to apologize for the Augusto Family’s blunder.”
“Not at all, this is not something Krone-sama should apologize for, the fault……it probably lies in my house.”
The image of the pair as they talked was quite beautiful, despite the contents being somewhat depressing.
As for why it was so, it lied in their appearance and gestures.
Ain turned to glance at the Bluefire Rose, and it somehow felt even more gorgeous.
Immediately after, while noticing Ain was looking at it with a smile, Krone spoke to him.
“About that, would you like me to tell you the origin of its name? ”
“Uhh……Of the Bluefire Rose? ”
After nodding, Krone answered with the smile of a mischievous child.
“The poison I mentioned earlier is so painful that it feels as if your body is being burned and consumed by flames.”
A beautiful blue rose which gave a burning pain, this was the origin of the name Bluefire Rose.
As if feeling a sudden chill, Ain’s cheeks jerked.
“That’s……A somewhat gruesome name, isn’t it?”
“Fufu, I guess it is, right? Even so, the Bluefire Rose can turn into a beautiful gem.”
Can roses with such a ridiculously strong poison can become gems?
Despite not even beginning to comprehend the basis for it, he wondered about what kind of jewel would it turn into.
“Something like artificial flowers? ”
“Not at all, it’s actually a real gem. The poison in that rose has the property of crystallizing substances, so when the poison is rapidly removed from its root, that self-defense mechanism kicks in…… Or so I’ve heard.”
She continued to explain that the part above the stalk gradually hardened, becoming a beautiful jewel.
(Crystallization, huh? ……Eh, by poison? Does something like that exists……?)
He had heard that some snake’s poison hardened the blood, making it like jelly.
Therefore, thinking about if such poison could really exist……it might not be too far-fetched.
At that moment, an idea flashed inside Ain’s mind.
(Wait, if it’s poison……then, probably──)
Will Toxin Decomposition work? Placing his hand over his mouth, he began to think about it.
“The name of the jewel is Star Crystal. Even I have only seen it a few times──”
Not minding about his gesture, Krone talked about what kind of gem it was.
“It’s a very beautiful gem with swaying blue flames like the night sky and fine particles that shine like the stars.”
The Bluefire Rose’s light mimicked the color of the night sky, with the stars superimposed.
It felt like a mysterious beauty just by imagining it.
At this point, Ain raised a question.
“Uhmm, but…… You’ve only seen it a few times, right? Don’t you have one in this mansion? ”
She’s the Archduke’s granddaughter, and since there are a lot of the roses which are used as raw material, she surely must have the gem.
After thinking along those lines and asking, Krone’s expression turned a bit sad.
“……I have longed for a Star Crystal, but they are hard to get.”
Eh, but isn’t just removing the poison? He was taken aback by Krone’s look of dismay.
“But it’s just removing the poison, right? ”
After all, there was magic to remove poisons.
However, this was difficult when it came to Star Crystals……it wasn’t that easy.
“If you don’t remove the poison quickly, the flower will die, so it’s very hard to do it with magic. There is another way to remove the poison……but it involves a very expensive medicine.”
It should only take money, right?
However, then, why would the Archduke’s granddaughter look so dejected?
“Is the medicine that expensive? ”
When he asked in wonder to Olivia, who was quietly listening by his side, she answered with an example.
“Ain. About how much it costs, it would take our territory several years of taxes.”
……It makes no sense.
Opening his mouth halfway, his expression stiffened.
“T-That’s just crazy……”
However, with this, it became clear.
His skill was useless, but it might’ve been made for a day like this.
The skill Ain was born with, 【Toxin DecompositionＥＸ】.
No matter what poison it is, or germ or bacteria. God surely said so.
“Quickly removing the poison from the root, right……?”
Afterward, Ain confirmed the way to make a Star Crystal.
(I want to believe……That there is something I can do.)
His younger brother took the seat of the next head of the family, and his mother Olivia continued to feel sad.
He worked harder than the people around him and made desperate efforts to have Logas look at him again.
That’s why, he wanted to excel in something, anything, causing his heart to gradually grow hot.
(……Be careful not to lose focus. Enduring a headache is nothing.)
He thought about that as he remembered the harmful and annoying effects of his power.
Still, I have to do my best today……thinking so, Ain strongly made up his mind.
“Krone-sama. If you could get a Star Crystal, would you want one? ”
Saying so, Ain suddenly stood up and walked with natural movements towards the fence.
“About that……Yes. I’ve longed for one, so of course, I would want one……”
Then, it’s alright……
He decided to get her consent before trying what he was about to do next.
It was a precious flower after all. Nobody would simply pluck it without permission.
They stared at Ain, wondering what he would do, as he walked.
“I want to thank you for today. And your yearning……I’ll see if I can make it come true.”
Unintentionally, the lines he read on the story leaked from his mouth.
Afterward, he took a big deep breath, increasing his spirits.
“What do you mean……WAIT, WHAT ARE YOU──!? ”
“AIN, STOP……! ”
Seeing Ain reaching out the inside of the fence, the pair stood up in a hurry.
Just beyond his reach was a Bluefire Rose, beautifully blooming.
(I’m sorry to pluck you all of the sudden.)
Apologizing in his mind, he touched the base of the Bluefire Rose.
After placing some power into his fingertips, a bit of the damp soil stuck to his fingers.
This might’ve been a variety that didn’t have long roots since it came out off of the ground easily after he pulled it.
(This is……Toxin Decomposition?)
He was immersed in an unfamiliar sensation.
It felt as if had swallowed shaved ice all at once, or if he had drunk a strongly carbonated drink.
There was no pain, nor an ill-sensation.
Only a refreshing feeling close to mint that was transmitted all over his body.
“STOP! QUICKLY, LET IT GO! ”
“Ain, can it be……that you……”
In contrast to the panicking Krone, Olivia seemed to have noticed.
Only now Ain noticed the voices of the two behind his back.
The sensation of his fingertips holding the stem sharpened with an aura like pseudo blood vessels.
Then, as if it were a straw, he started to suck up the poison.
(It’s alright. Even God said it──My power is the strongest against poisons.)
He was surprised at first, but right now he had nothing to be afraid of.
Let’s break down all the poison, but even when he thought that, he didn’t know how to do it.
In the end, Ain turned his focus to the fingertips grasping the rose and placed strength into it.
──Then, at that moment.
A strong blue light leaked out from the petals of the Bluefire Rose.
This was the sign of the crystallization he had been waiting for.
The light was so dazzling, it made the pair behind Ain to reflexively close their eyes.
(Wait…… isn’t this too bright……!?)
It was as brilliant as the birth of life, all of this to cause a change to a gem.
The rare value of the Star Crystal was probably also this sight itself.
“No way, that is……! ”
After the light subsided, Krone placed her hands over her mouth in surprise.
Wonderment, impression, and many other emotions overflowed, but Ain didn’t move his gaze.
……Shortly after, the sounds of ‘pishi pishi’ echoed.
“It’s done……I think.”
With that sound as a cue, the top of the flower completely separated from the bract, and a jewel sat in the palm of his hand.
A jewel in the form of the rose itself, with each petal quite beautiful, resembling space.
“This is my power. I haven’t used it before.”
Ain came back to his seat and answered wearing a wry smile.
On the other hand, Olivia just greeted Ain with a smile, but still, Ain felt confused.
(Huh──Shouldn’t it had been more painful? Why……?)
Ain answered Olivia’s smile with a carefree smile, but Ain was deeply puzzled by the fact that the pain he felt before didn’t occur.
……Just why on earth? Leaving this for later, Ain came close to Krone.
“I brought you the thing you longed for. Would you accept it? ”
Although it was a cheesy line, today was a party.
If he was to give away the beautiful gem that she loved, this was just the right thing to do.
Krone held both hands tightly in front of her chest as if to pray.
Her continuous blinking, proof that she was puzzled, was a girly gesture that was appropriate for a girl her age in Ain’s eyes.
“Krone-sama, please accept it.”
After using a slightly stronger tone, Krone finally reached out quietly.
“──Yes. I accept.”
Krone then shaped her hands like a bowl and Ain placed the Star Crystal on them.
It was like a night sky filled with stars, like a small universe, shining in the palm of her hands.
With those thoughts in mind, she stared at it with crimson-tinged cheeks.
“It was lovely, Ain.”
“……Sorry. I believed I could do it, so I couldn’t help myself.”
Olivia gently patted Ain. She too was happy about what Ain did.
“Ahh, Krone-sama. Could I have one more for my mother? ”
“Eh……Ehh……Of course, I don’t mind……”
After receiving that reply from Krone, who stared intently at the Star Crystal, Ain once again walked towards the Bluefire Roses.
“──Here you go, these are my feelings.”
The second time was easier than the first. Getting the hang of it played a big part, but he also didn’t hesitate this time.
Still, the light was just as dazzling as the first time.
“Fufu, thank you for the wonderful gift.”
With those words, Olivia received it. Her smile was more beautiful than the jewel.
“Wait, leaving all this aside──How did you make it!? ”
“Ahh, you’re back to being yourself at last.”
Regaining her composure, Krone grabbed Ain’s hand.
Her tone changed from a polite to a more natural one too.
“Th……..This isn’t something so menial to speak so calmly! Did you know there are only two of them in Heim……? ”
(Only two? I sure am amazing.)
Singing praises in his mind, he laughed in an easygoing manner.
Heim had only two, one in the King’s dagger, and the other on the Queen’s necklace.
“I’ve heard about your skill over and over again, Ain……But this……! ”
(Ahh, as expected. This was sure to become the talk of the people.)
Having a strange skill, even if he was the eldest son of an Earl House, it was difficult to hide it.
It was obvious that Krone would know.
“My skill, it seems to be really without par against poisons and fungi……”
After all, it had God’s seal of approval. There was nobody more trustworthy.
“I never heard of……that……”
Even after saying that, Krone’s cheeks were still dyed in red.
Was she blushed because of the excitement or surprise? Or maybe because of some other emotion?
There was no way to guess it, but as she held the Star Crystal in her chest, she calmly asked.
“……Do you really want to give this to me? ”
He had no intention of asking for it to be returned.
Besides, the jewel suited her flower-like appearance.
“I’d be troubled if you don’t just take it.”
As Ain said so, she held the Star Crystal in front of her chest and nodded with overflowing emotions.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Look, there are more flowers over there. Shall we go? ”
“Ahh……You are correct.”
The extraordinary moment passed quickly, and then three of them resumed their stroll in the garden.
However, some changes could be seen.
Of particular note was that the distance between Krone and Ain had narrowed, physically.
On occasion, Krone walked holding Ain’s hand.
“Polite speech. I’ll get angry if you use it again. ”
“……I’m not used to it, so I can’t help it.”
“But it doesn’t look like it’s just about getting used to it.”
“But you’re of an Archduke Family, Krone, and I’m from an Earl Family. You know? ”
He said that in a “Please spare me, Krone” kind of tone.
More often than not, there would be awkwardness, but they didn’t feel it despite this being the first time they met.
They both showed an attitude as if they had known each other for a long time.
“Ara, then should I order you using the Archduke’s position? ”
Hers was not an attitude as if flaunting power, and her pursed lips and narrowed eyes made it obvious this was said as a joke.
“Then, if you will. Krone-sama.”
“Seriously…… Again with the polite speech.”
Like this, they exchanged smiled while walking.
“──It was great…… that Ain couldn’t attend the party.”
Krone muttered quietly, but after noticing her slip, she closed her lips tight.
“Huh? Did you say something? ”
“……Yeah. I said it’s been fun being with you.”
This wasn’t what she muttered, but it was true nonetheless. Feeling embarrassed, Ain looked away.
And even that gesture seemed to make Krone feel happy.
“Huh, was the party venue that boring? ”
“Yeah, obviously. It’s the same thing every single time.”
For her, all the parties were places where the opposite sex surged towards her and they all tried to curry favor with her, basically bootlickers.
This made it hard for her to enjoy. Ain answered with a bitter smile.
“By the way, you act pretty maturely, Ain.”
“Isn’t that right? Also, in how you care for Olivia-sama──Don’t you think so? ”
Saying so, Krone turned to Olivia.
“He’s my Ain after all. It’s obvious he would be nice.”
Krone returned a soft smile at Olivia, who didn’t really answer her question.
However, since she already knew what kind of person Ain was after meeting him today, the hidden meaning was transmitted.
“Even so, Ain sure is different from the others.”
“Uhh……Thank you? ”
“Seriously……You don’t have to be that shy.”
But even after being told that, he just couldn’t help it.
The simple fact of being praised face-to-face by someone as beautiful as her, was stimulating.
“Uhh……Don’t worry too much about the Star Crystal, okay? ”
He thought that maybe the issue with the Star Crystal had caused her to act like this out of responsibility.
That’s why Ain told Krone that. But-
“You see, even before the Star Crystal I thought you had a likable character, Ain, you know? ”
She spoke those words with a tone of “How rude”.
“To be honest, I was a bit disappointed at first, you know? When we first met you were looking at me with eyes of ‘who the heck are you’, weren’t you? ”
Recalling the time they first met, she spoke with a chuckle.
“But maybe that’s the reason. Is this person different from all the others? That’s what I thought, if he cares for Olivia-sama, will he also care for me? And I had a great time talking.”
Well, that’s because it was fun.
Ain listened to the continuation while thinking so in his mind.
“Even when I heard stories about Logas-sama and his family, that strength to remain calm and patient, I thought it was great.”
Well, I guess there’s nothing I can do about that. Ain nodded shyly while thinking so.
Apparently, because of all these assumptions──Her image of him gradually became more favorable.
“And finally, you didn’t give me a gift, you made my longing to come true. There’s a big difference between the two, you know? ”
This was surely because that was something important to her.
She emphasized this was her longing.
“Also, when you said ‘I brought the thing you longed for’……I thought that was really cool.”
She ended up being embarrassed, too.
Bending over in a way that her head was below Ain, she looked up at him.
……When the young lady Krone, a woman who felt like a flower in an unreachable and tall ridge, showed Ain that lovely gesture, Ain’s heart was easily shaken.
However, the words he answered with were short and simple.
Not a speck of the previously shown masculinity was left.
“I suppose this is also part of what you are, Ain.”
Krone said so with a smile. At this moment, he felt strangely comfortable.
However, the end of this happy time was finally coming.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you in the middle of your chat.”
“……What is it? ”
The one interrupting them was one of the servants of the mansion.
She spoke while apologizing to Krone.
“The Archduke is calling for you. It’s almost time for the party to end, so……”
Krone gave out a big sigh after being returned to reality in an instant.
“Ain, Olivia-sama. Please excuse me……But as a host, I need to go bid my farewells.”
“Please don’t worry about it. Ain and I had a great time with you.”
“It’s as mother says. Thank you very much for today, Krone.”
Ain followed after Olivia, yet he still wanted to talk more with Krone.
But she had something she had to do. He knew this but still felt a bit lonely.
“……Next time, I will go visit.”
“Seriously! I’m saying I’ll go visit you at the Port City! ”
She spoke clearly to Ain who was clearly bad at guessing, with eyes narrowed in a pouty manner.
“Are you sure? Won’t you hate it? ”
“There’s no way I’d hate it. I’ll be expecting a warm welcome.”
It might prove hard for Ain to come to the Archduke’s mansion, but if she were to visit him that was a different story.
Krone laughed after getting a better answer.
“I have some boring lessons, but I’ll do my best for that day.”
“……Me too, I’ll be working hard.”
Today, Ain had understood one thing.
It was just a gem, but this had given him a lot of confidence.
He didn’t feel like he had lost to his brother Grint in many ways, but now, thanks to this girl, Ain felt like working even harder.
“Then let’s make a promise, okay? ”
Saying so, Krone held Ain’s hand.
“The next time we meet, we need to become better versions of ourselves…… okay?”
“I see. Alright, let’s promise it.”
Ain held Krone’s hand, and while exchanging those words, he made the promise.
After staying like that for a few seconds, Krone began to walk away looking satisfied.
“Olivia-sama, thank you for letting me have such a wonderful time today.”
I look forward to meeting you again. With those words, bid her farewell.
Afterward, the three of them went to the place where they first met and parted ways.
He had some regret, but eclipsing that were the expectation for the day they would meet again.
After parting with Krone, they waited at the reception outside the party venue.
Then, for a while, the two of them waited for Logas to come out……
(In any case, they sure are late.)
Some tens of minutes had passed after Krone left, and one could see the nobles leaving the venue.
However, Logas and the others were nowhere to be seen.
“──Please excuse me, have you seen my husband……Have you seen Earl Roundhart?”
Running out of patience, Olivia decided to ask one of the waiters.
“Ohh, Lady Roundhart. ……Uhmm, about Earl Roundhart, he should’ve already left the venue……”
“……What do you mean? ”
Ain was taken aback by the cold voice in which Olivia asked that question.
“Y-Yes…… About Earl Roundhart, he left the venue early to attend an evening party being hosted by his friend the Viscount……”
Her expression after hearing this was nothing close to sad.
It could actually be called more ‘inorganic’ than ‘cold’.
It felt as if she had lost all her feeling for Logas.
“I see. Thank you for letting me know.”
“Not at all. If you have any further questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.”
“……Haa. I wonder if the job was done just at the right moment?”
Disappointment. From her every move, that was the only feeling transmitted to Ain.
With a gentle move of her hand, she ran her fingers over the hair on her back.
And after showing such a sensual and appealing gesture, she turned towards Ain with a peculiar expression.
“Say, Ain. About your father……Do you love him? ”
Folding her knees to approach Ain’s eyes, she asked a question he was unsure the intent of it was.
Her soft and gorgeous scent tickled Ain’s nose.
“That’s, in other words, what I really think──something like that? ”
“Yeah, that’s right. So? About your father……Do you love him to the point of not wanting to leave his side? ”
Probably Olivia wanted him to say he only loved her.
She might be sad, lonely, and found unbearable to be treated like that in the house she was married to.
“I’m grateful to him for raising me. But I don’t feel like I can forgive the attitude and way he treated you, Okaa-sama. So, I don’t really have those sort of feeling at all.”
That’s why he told her so. And so, the moment he said those words.
She pulled out the ring that was on her finger and placed it on the palm of her hand.
Immediately after, her expression changed completely, turning into a smile.
“Thank God. If so……I will tell you about the work that I was doing. However, this isn’t the place. Let’s talk about it in our quiet and more beautiful than anywhere homeland.”
What would she mean by that? He leaned his head in wonder, but she didn’t speak a word further.
“That’s why, since I don’t need this anymore, let’s just throw it away.”
Poro, poro……With those sounds, the ring rapidly rusted away.
Was that magic just now? Looking at the rusted and crumbling ring, Ain was surprised.
“O-Okaa-sama!? Why did the ring……!? ”
“I just don’t need it anymore. I’ve already reached the limit of my patience, and it’s unpleasant to have this as a connection.”
Question marks continued to float over Ain’s head.
He only wanted to ask about why had the ring rusted away, but the answer was just confusing to him.
“Ain. How about we go on a big, nice boat together later? ”
“Y-Yes. I look forward to it……”
Why bring up a ship all of the sudden?
However, despite having some questions, Ain obediently nodded at Olivia, who clearly had an air of not wanting to go into details.
“Well then……『I’m going home. Come quickly for me』.”
She suddenly spoke to the earrings she was wearing, which flashed a couple of times.
What was that? In addition to the ring, he now lost the opportunity to ask about the ship and the earrings.
“──Alright, it should be time to return to the Port City, right? ”
“……You’re right, Chichiue isn’t good after all. I wonder if we’ll be able to get home before the day changes? ”
“Yeah, I think we’ll arrive there just before the day changes.”
Thus, the two of them left the mansion and walked towards the carriage that they came riding on.
After that, they didn’t talk about Logas and the others, and instead enjoyed conversations with no special meaning about their daily lives, as they returned to the Port City Roundhart.
A few hours after leaving the Archduke Augusto’s mansion, they were on a pitch-black road, shortly before the date changed.
And finally, the carriage arrived at the Port City Roundhart, the place where he was born.
“I’m sorry……for everything that happened all the sudden.”
“That’s not your fault. And I had fun with you, Okaa-sama.”
He couldn’t attend the party, but he enjoyed his time with Krone.
And while promising he would do his best starting tomorrow, he noticed he had become enthusiastic about it.
“Huh, Okaa-sama? Aren’t we stopping? ”
The horse-drawn carriage was approaching the Roundhart house, but it showed no signs of stopping.
“We’re not getting off here. Just wait a bit more……Okay? ”
Passing in front of the Roundhart mansion, the carriage continued, making its way to the harbor.
What’s going on? Suddenly, the sound of the bustle reached Ain’s ears.
“I wonder what’s going on? It’s very noisy despite this late hour.”
The city seemed way too lively considering the time of the day.
Even if the town had many bars and stores opened at night, this commotion was a bit too strange.
『Hey! What the heck is that……!? 』
『The knight guard……Is the knight guard not here yet!? 』
『Kyaaaaa──! Hurry……someone! 』
Regardless of men or women, there were some disturbing voices.
Seeing how noisy it was one would think of a festival, but this seemed more like some accident happened.
“Lady. It seems quite noisy ahead……Should we keep going? ”
Noticing the suspicious air ahead, the driver asked Olivia, but she simply nodded.
(Is……is it okay? To keep advancing?)
Just like before, Ain was puzzled, however, Olivia was just sitting next to him in a good mood.
It was clear that she knew something, but since she was just quietly sitting there, Ain didn’t ask.
Instead, he turned his attention to the hustle and bustle outside.
──Before long, the harbor was soon visible.
After passing through the main street and moving to the open area, he noticed a large building he was not familiar with.
(What is that……?)
What Ain saw was something like a huge chimney.
At the same time, it appeared the bustle of the people reached a climax.
Arriving at the harbor, at the place where the bustle was at its highest, he saw a large ship anchored, an unexpectedly large ship.
“──W-What is that……!? ”
Just how big would that be? It was a ship that probably exceeded 200m.
A beautiful ship with a base of white, and one could not only appreciate its size, but also its artistic value at a simple glance.
It was equipped with several cannon-like turrets and a huge barrel that seemed to be the main gun.
“Nice, nice, it seems they arrived. ……Come, Ain. Shall we get on?”
“Wait, wait, wait! Getting on that…… Okaa-sama? Where did that ship……! ”
“Driver-san? Could you please deliver this letter to the Roundhart family? ”
Without waiting for an answer, she took out a letter she had prepared without Ain noticing and handed it over to that person.
“Come on, Ain. Shall we go?”
Alongside those words, Olivia got off the carriage and walked with Ain following her at her side.
Immediately after, the crowd noticed the two people approaching them.
“Madam Roundhart! Where did that ship……! ”
Normally, Olivia would answer their questions with an angelic smile, but this time she didn’t answer, nor she was wearing her usual smile.
The people kept a certain distance, but it seemed that at any moment they would try to reach for her shoulder.
(Someone……is coming down?)
Perhaps noticing the presence of Olivia, over a dozen knights came down from the ship.
And lastly, a well-dressed knight walked through the ramp and down into the landing area at the Port City.
Olivia placed her hand on Ain’s back, trying to calm him down.
Is mother acquainted with them? Ain’s doubts deepened further, but Olivia moved forward without hesitation.
Ain, on the other hand, was quite wary, and ready to protect Olivia at any moment.
“……Oh, brave knight, we are not your enemies. Please, rest assured.”
That voice came from the most well-dressed knight among the knights.
That knight, who turned out to be a woman, kneeled down and spoke with a bell-like voice.
When Ain said so, she took off her helm and smiled at Ain.
Hidden beneath that was a beautiful woman, about the same age as Olivia, with white skin and beautiful gold threat-like hair.
“Yes, we’re friends. But calling ourselves friends considering our position might be a bit rude…… At the very least, I will never deceive the two of you. ──It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Ain-sama.”
“Ah, yes…… M……Me too, nice to meet you.”
Due to all the sudden occurrences, he couldn’t give her a proper reply.
He couldn’t deny that his missing answer was also due to being captivated by her beauty.
“It’s been a while, Chris.”
Olivia spoke to the knight as if she was talking to a close friend.
“Yes. I’m very happy to meet you again, Olivia-sama. Upon receiving your contact, we hurried and came to this Port City as soon as possible with 〈Princess Olivia〉.”
Hearing those words, Ain’s bewilderment reached its peak.
Eventually, the two of them were guided by the knight named Chris and boarded the huge ship.
Looking at the exquisite and luxurious interior, Ain then thought:
(From what I know, this ship isn’t from any country that I know……)
The Kingdom of Heim was the southernmost country on the continent.
Most of the land in the southern half of the continent is owned by this nation, making it the largest power in the continent.
Moreover, aside from not losing in size, its military power is far superior from any other country in the continent by a factor of two to three.
And although there are other countries on the continent, it’s no exaggeration to say that Heim is the ruler of the continent, both in name and in fact.
Then, to the north of Heim is the Trade Cities of Birdland.
Birdland is located in the middle of the continent, and it’s often used by merchants and adventurers from all across.
Therefore, in there you can find a lot of novelty goods and luxurious items from all across the continent.
On the other hand, Birdland has a slightly special side, unlike the rest of the countries.
When all the countries in the continent were at war, this was a region that remained neutral and where the ceasefire was signed, not a nation per se.
Merchants have a strong say in the matters and they run the cities in collaboration with the adventurers.
This makes the de-facto ruler the Commerce Guild.
Next, the Rockdam Republic is located east of Birdland and northeast of Heim.
It’s a country where the head of state is determined by an election under the law, and the winning candidate receives a noble peerage.
Its area encompasses about half of the northern side of the continents, and it’s the second largest after Heim.
When it comes to military power, they are neither weak nor strong, and honestly, there’s nothing special to note in this aspect.
One of the characteristics of this country is that they actively use a wide spread of land for agriculture.
The last one to mention is the Dukedom of Euro.
It is located in the upper left region of the continent. It’s an area to the west of Birdland and northwest of Heim.
In terms of territory, it’s slightly less than that of the Rockdam Republic, making it the third-largest country in the continent.
This is a nation with an excellent cavalry, with no equal across the continent in mounted combat.
Although the number of soldiers is small, this is a country with a fierce person who made Chief Commander Logas taste defeat in a duel.
(──And so, this is what I remember studying.)
None of these countries should have a ship like this.
The interior of the ship vaguely reminded him of luxurious hotels of his past life.
In addition to the high-quality furniture and goods, the nice smell of perfumed oil could be sensed from the soft carpet that was laid down without wrinkles.
“Okaa-sama…… I just don’t know what’s going on.”
“It’s okay. We’ll reach my room soon……We’ll speak there, okay? ”
Starting with the ring issue, then came the word ‘princess’, and now he had gotten on a ship and was already sailing in the sea.
This had already exceeded the realm of just “not knowing”, so he decided to give up on thinking about it.
“By the way, I wonder what sort of explanation should I give you, Chris? ”
“Everything would be good. But even if I didn’t ask, you’ll have to explain to His Majesty after we return home.”
“Then, let’s talk about it later since right now Ain and I are tired. ……I feel hungry so I think I’ll eat something.”
Olivia spoke with a listless expression, but from Ain’s point of view, this was the first time he had seen her like this.
It’s something I’ve never seen back in the mansion as if her expression is without worries──This is what he thought.
“Yes. Then, let’s get something done quickly──You there, call the waiter.”
The knight she ordered this bowed his head and with a crisp motion left the place.
And so, the three of them eventually reached their destination, Olivia’s room.
(Ehh, what’s with this? It’s huge……)
There stood a large door. Its height was probably around 5m.
The beautiful and elaborate designs carved into the wood conveyed quite the sense of luxury at a simple glance.
“Alright, shall we go in? I also want to hurry and let Ain get some rest.”
“As for me, I would like you to be the one to get some rest, Okaa-sama.”
“Ohh……fufu. Then, how about we get some rest together?”
“……From everything so far, I believe she has such a fine son. His Majesty surely will be pleased.”
Chris muttered a bit absentminded.
“Chris-san? Did you say something just now? ”
“No, nothing at all──Now please, come inside.”
He heard some disturbing words, but they were muddled and he was being ushered in, so he didn’t mingle in them.
The space inside had its floor made of white marble-like material, on which a thick, soft and beautiful red woven carpet with a beautiful pattern was laid.
Several paintings were decorating the walls, and there was a huge chandelier dominating the high ceiling.
“Ain, come over here.”
Olivia invited Ain to a large and gorgeous white sofa located near the center of the room.
Moments after the two sat down, the waiter came in carrying their drinks.
“I wonder what did you bring for this occasion? ”
“Yes. It is a freshly squeezed ripple drink.”
After answering, the waiter began to pour the orange-colored drink that gave off an apple-like scent, causing Ain to gulp.
I see. It’s called ripple here. As he was thinking that, the waited placed a glass in front of Ain.
“I’m sure you’re also tired, Ain. Come, taste it.”
Ain picked up the glass.
And sure enough. Its taste was that of an apple. However, it had a sweetness and rich taste as elegant as the room itself.
──Well, now that I’ve enjoyed this delicious taste, let’s get back to the main topic.
Olivia noticed Ain’s gaze that conveyed that she should properly tell him what she’d been hiding.
◇ ◇ ◇
Changing locations, at the Archduke Augusto mansion.
“I’m s……sorry to have kept you waiting, Chichiue! ”
The one who came into the room out of breath was Harley──Archduke Graf Augusto’s only son.
Today had been the presentation of Harley’s long-awaited eldest son and second child, Lier.
“You’re late. Otou-sama.”
“I had some work left to do at the party. Rather, shouldn’t you be already asleep, Krone? ”
However, soon enough gave up because she simply uttered cold words at him.
And so, after those two calmed down, Graf opened his mouth.
“Well then, I guess a bit of background information is in order first.”
Harley corrected his posture after hearing Graf.
He then went on to talk about the incident with Olivia and Ain, and the words and actions of Logas and company.
When he heard of Ain’s inconveniences, Harley made a bitter face.
Then, after finishing that story, Graf cleared his throat.
“Now, what I’m about to talk next is the main subject. You need to keep this a secret, understood? ”
At that point, Krone, who had been quiet until now, placed the cup of tea she had been drinking on the table.
“──This main subject, it is related to the origins of Olivia-dono.”
“Her origins? I heard that she was the daughter of a big merchant from Birdland.”
“That’s not quite correct. It’s not that simple. It was decided that the truth shouldn’t be made public until after Olivia’s child was named to be the next head of the Roundhart family.”
What is he talking about? That was the sort of expression the pair had while listening to Graf.
Was that necessary to conceal the truth of her being the daughter of a big merchant? They just didn’t understand.
“Will this be something that will cause trouble when I go visit Ain? ”
“Krone? What are you talking about? ”
“Harley. I’ll explain that later. And about that……it might, Krone.”
Only after seeing Graf make a slightly softer expression was that Krone felt somewhat relieved.
“It’s just……The social status might be a bit lacking.”
However, his words sounded serious. For some reason, there was severity in them.
“Port City Roundhart. The continent that’s two days across the ocean from there, do you know what country it is? ”
The continent that Archduke Augusto spoke of.
That was not referring to the continent where the Kingdom of Heim was, but the continent beyond the sea.
The name of that place was Isthar──The continent of Isthar.
“Of course. The only country in that continent, the Unified Nation of Ishtalika……a superpower.”
“Umu. Harley studied abroad in the past, so he must understand how powerful they are.”
“There’s no way I could forget. It’s a country we couldn’t even dream to defeat.”
The culture, technological skills, and military were incomparable to Heim.
Even if they were to compare the lives of the ordinary populace, the difference would make it seems like a country of another world.
Moreover, Isthar was large, the continent was several times larger than the continent where Heim was.
“Ishtalika is also home to many non-human races, right? ”
“Ohh, it seems you’ve been studying hard, Krone. That’s right, it’s a country where many races live.”
“Chichiue. So? Why did Ishtalika suddenly come out? ”
……In the next moment, Harley and Krone were surprised.
The reason being, Graf’s expression grew stiff, and large drops of sweat began to float on his forehead.
Afterward, he began to speak in a weak voice, almost like a whisper.
“Unified Nation of Ishtalika. It’s current King, Silvird Von Ishtalika.”
Krone had yet to grasp the meaning behind Graf’s words.
However, Harley understood. Or rather, he began to understand.
“His third child, the second daughter.”
At that point, drops of sweat also appeared on Harley’s forehead……And his breathing became rougher.
Graf then continued, looking down with a gloom expression.
“──The Second Princess, Olivia Von Ishtalika. That is, Olivia-sama’s real name.”
Ahh, then the previous words about social status lacking.
Krone finally understood. That it was her the one in the lower position.
“Olivia-sama is……a Princess……? If so, then Ain is……”
After hearing the hidden truth, Krone spoke in dismay.
If Olivia was a princess, then her son, Ain, would be royalty from the great superpower called Ishtalika.
Not being able to sort out her emotions, Krone looked at the Star Crystal she held tightly with eyes devoid of energy.