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Chapter 23: Tea Party

The Royal Palace of Dardinia is also known as the White Moon Palace. It has been the royal palace since the founding of the country, although it has been expanding in size.

The royal palace in the capital is called the White Moon Palace, and the detached palace in the eastern part of the royal domain is called the Blue Moon Palace, which is named after the two moons in the sky. One being the White Moon, and the other being the Blue Moon.

Both were designed by a wandering genius architect named Arsei Ney.

It is said that there are mysteries hidden in the buildings designed by Arsei that are not even known to their owners, but most of them are sealed up as ruins.

The building he designed is only used as the royal palace in Dardinia, even though it is the largest in the continent, and scholars from the university who study buildings also live somewhere in this palace.

“It’s amazing. It’s hard to believe that this building is 600 years old.”

“Really? I heard the underground part is much older… It’s built on top of the ruins before the United Empire.”

“…Before the unified empire…it would be, let’s see, about 600+800, at least 1400 years ago…It’s that old and it hasn’t fallen apart?”

I roughly calculate in my head. I’m pretty good at history. I had a lot of books in my study, and I heard I had studied it quite a bit, so I remembered a lot of things.

“It doesn’t seem to be collapsing. Well, the basement is off-limits, though.”

“Oh, is that so?”

“The first layer is in regular use, but beyond that is forbidden. I hear it’s a labyrinth.”

“Labyrinth…”

It sounds kind of exciting.

I don’t think I’m going to step into it alone, though, because it’s like a maze for me, as a lost child, everywhere is like a maze.

Because when I think about the size of the royal palace, I feel like…it’s going to be life threatening.

“Long ago, Shion-sama wandered in and made a big fuss, so please be careful…Your Highness please be careful.

“Don’t worry. I don’t need to go to that place, and if I do want to go to, I’ll have His Highness take me there.”

“That’s fine then.”

Lilia smiles at me.

I blame you for feeling something warm and fuzzy in that smile.

“The main and rear palaces are Arsei Ney’s architecture, right?”

“Yes. There are a lot of technologies used in the main palace that I don’t know about nowadays. The fountain in the Queen’s garden is one of them. Please take a closer look.”

“Heh…”

Only this part of the building, which was built by Arsei Ney, we call the Main Palace.

The Main Palace is the official space for the government offices of the country. It is the place where the officials, known as “civil and military officials”, work. It also has a large hall where various events and ceremonies hosted by the royal family are held, as well as lodgings for state guests.

Conversely, the Rear Palace is the private residence of the royal family. It includes the private study and bedrooms of His Majesty, as well as rooms for the Queen, other ladies, and young children… As I am currently the youngest child in the Dardinian royal family, the children’s room is not used.

The East Palace, located across from the West Palace and the Main Palace, is of much later construction. In particular, the Crown Princess Palace was built for me, so the differences in architectural style are immediately apparent compared to the others.

The Eastern Palace houses the Prince and Princess’ Palaces, whose current masters are the twin children of the Second Queen. His Royal Highness Prince Alfred, the second prince, also has a palace here, but he often stays in the quarters of the Central Division or in his official residence.

In Dardinia, the princess, who is the highest in the line of succession to the throne, does not descend to the vassalage until her brother…or sister has ascended to the throne, and so the children of all but the Crown Prince are transferred from the rear to the eastern palace after the rite of passage. Today’s tea party should be attended by Princess Nadia, who currently lives in the Eastern Palace.

“Lilia, why is it so warm in the corridor?”

That’s another one of Arsei’s mechanisms. A lesser-known fact is that there are hot springs underneath the palace that are pumped up and circulated throughout the palace.

Hot springs underground means there’s a volcano somewhere. Heh. Well, if it’s been safe for 600 years, it must be a dormant volcano.

Central heating, pumped from an underground hot spring, is amazing.

At the same time, I feel something strange about it.

Of course, it may be different from the central heating system that I know, but I don’t think the principle and mechanism of the system are very different.

I don’t know when they came up with such a system in modern Japan, but compared to other technology levels in Dardinia, the central heating system seems to be a very advanced technology…and that was 600 years ago?

I feel that if you have central heating, you could have more of the other stuff. Like oil stoves, cars, and trains…Personally, I’d like to see a fridge that isn’t an icebox.

Don’t they have oil over here?…No, if that’s the case, what’s that liquid in the lighting lamps and the latest stove?

It certainly didn’t smell like a petroleum-based product. That…isn’t alcohol in alcohol lamps made from petroleum?

Ah, I have no idea about physics or chemistry at all. I was a humanities student. I should have studied a bit more properly if this was going to happen.

The main reason why I still don’t have a clue about Dardinian technology, and by extension, the level of technology in this world, is that my knowledge of those fields was poor to begin with.

For example, I think it would be amazingly useful to have a lighter or something like that, but I don’t know how it works, so I can’t communicate it well, and I can’t make such a tool, whether it’s good or bad.

I had a lot of trouble explaining to people about this stuff when we were trying to find a gas burner.

“I didn’t know that…Why doesn’t my palace have something useful like that? My bath isn’t a hot spring, right?”

It’s cold in my palace without a fireplace or stove, and the bathroom next to my bedroom has a cute little clawfoot bathtub that people try their best to carry in every day to boil water for me. I think that’s a lot of work.

“It’s not that we don’t understand how it works, but I’ve heard it would take more than a decade and a lot of money to reproduce it now… \But the Princess’s palace is still good. The water is still flowing inside.

“What do you mean, it’s coming inside?”

“There’s a water pump in the kitchen and laundry room, and you have a flush room…so the toilet is state-of-the-art.”

A flush room is a room to draw water. It doesn’t have a running water supply, but you can draw water by using a hand pump.

The toilet can use the same functions as the flush toilet over there by holding water in a cistern along the wall. The toilets are made of ceramic and are decorated with sighs every time you see them.

Elzevert’s castle looks like a normal sit-down toilet, but it doesn’t have a cistern, so it flushes directly into the water flowing through the basement. If the water doesn’t flow properly, it is pumped out of a water jar that is provided. I heard that the drainage water ends up in a farm.

According to Miredei, it’s the same with the Royal Palace, and all that waste water from the palace is traced back to the treatment plant at the back of the royal farm.

I heard that there are several such treatment plants in the whole capital, and the area around them is always turned into a big farm. It seems to be very well recycled.

“Hmmm…hey, it was possible 600 years ago, why is it so difficult now? Or did you spend more time and money than that 600 years ago?”

“No. I’ve heard it’s easier with Ney’s lost technology…”

“Lost technology…”

There’s something about lost technology that has a romantic ring to it. Let’s see…it kind of reminds me of when I was a kid who was excited to hear about Atlantis and ancient civilizations. Doesn’t it feel like that? Like the Seven Wonders of the World, and Ooparts*. (*** “Out-of-place Artifact.” An artifact of historical, archaeological, or paleontological interest found in an unusual context, challenging conventional historical chronology.)

I used to read those kinds of magazines in the library at my school, and I was very excited to read them. The next issue after the Atlantis issue featured Osorezan and an octopus, so when I think about it now, it was a very boring magazine.

“What about in the summer? Isn’t it hot with the hot springs?”

“We switch to water in the summer, so it’s cooler.”

“I’m jealous of that…Hey, Lilia, aren’t you super familiar with this?”

Lilia knows everything, but she’s a little too detailed.

Then Lilia said with a slightly confused look on her face.

“Due to the fact that the main palace is Ney’s architecture, and also due to the fact that there’s a research team, the royal palace’s library has a wealth of materials.”

“…That’s it?”

I didn’t mean to dig into it. I just didn’t think it would be enough to get so detailed.

Lilia said with a wry smile on top of her confusion.

“…I once wrote a report on Ney’s architecture on behalf of Shion-sama.

“Didn’t the Archbishop go to seminary?”

“…A letter crying all the way to my parents’ house arrived with the materials…”

I started to spew out.

Lilia also has a weakness for Archbishop Gittice, doesn’t she?

She wrote it according to the information he sent her.

“I want to see Archbishop Gittice next time. I have a lot of questions for him.”

I’d love to hear stories about Lilia’s early years and such.

“If you get a chance, you can visit…Lord Shion would like to meet you as well, Your Highness. He’s there for the sweets, though.”

“Well, I’ll invite him over for tea next time…Please tell His Royal Highness the Crown Prince.”

“Yes. It would be better if Mr. Alfred were to join us then as well.”

“His Highness the Second Prince? Why?”

“…If it’s just Master Shion, he’ll go out of control.”

“Out of control?”

“He’s just a kid.”

Lilia smiled.

…Now that was a bit scary. So I’m not going to go into that in detail.

What’s that they say about monarchs avoiding danger?

The room was filled with the scent flowers.

The room is filled with bright sunshine and is filled with flowers as if it were a greenhouse.

“Thia, you have come.”

A woman with a smile more beautiful than the flowers that seem to cover the room…Her Royal Majesty Yulia, the First Queen.

It’s hard to believe that she is the mother of the 27-year-old Crown Prince.

If you don’t know any better, some might even say that she and the Crown Prince can look like husband and wife. When I said this to His Highness the other day, he froze in his tracks.

He seemed to be seriously displeased, so he forced me to never say it again, giving me that secretive, terrifying smile.

His Highness probably doesn’t like his parents very much. It’s a sensitive matter, so I should avoid saying it outright.

Was she 48 or 49?

She was a beautiful person who did not lose her beauty even when viewed up close.

It’s not unusual for a royal family or aristocrats to have a bunch of beautiful people. Because they often take women with good looks and reputations as their wives, they keep piling on more and more genes of beauty.

But the Royal Queen is not only beautiful in her face, but she also draws the eye like she’s constantly in the spotlight. I’m not sure if it’s just her aura, but it’s that kind of thing.

My face is also very pretty, just like my mother’s, who was known for her beauty, but when I look at it every day, I don’t think anything of it…It’s my face after all.

The same goes for His Highness’ face. I think His Highness is also very beautiful, but I’ve gotten used to seeing him, so I’m not that conscious of it anymore. I can’t help but notice the prince’s aura, but I don’t get nervous about it. It’s amazing what one can get used to over time.

“Thank you for inviting me.”

I gently pick up my skirt and take a bow.

Today, I’m in my formal gown. It’s a dark blue velvet base, with an extravagant use of white lace. Julia and Alice forcefully reminded me that the point of it is to casually use the Crown Prince’s forbidden color on the ribbon of my hair in a twin-tailed hair.

“Here.”

I handed a bouquet of pure white orchids as a souvenir to the Queen’s Highness’s lady-in-waiting, and she looked at me seriously.

?????

It is an unspoken agreement that one should bring something to a tea party.

This white orchid, also known as “The Queen’s Smile,” is not too fragrant and is very beautiful. If you think of it as a small, pure white cattleya, it is close enough.

It is a mysterious flower that can be used to detect certain poisons…So, the color of the petals turn purple when they react to biological toxins.

This is what the Crown Prince delivered and sent over to take with me.

My initial plan was to bake some sweets, but His Highness and Lilia were against it.

It’s always easy to get into trouble with food. If it’s poisoned, it’s a problem, and even if it’s not, it can get worse.

I have no reason to disagree with their advice. Besides, there was a mass stomachache incident in the cafeteria just three days ago. I don’t think it’s because of the cold weather that the food went bad…

…Really.

The truth is, I thought that His Highness and Lilia both said that to me because they thought there was a good chance that something would happen.

Lilia is very nervous about offering sweets to someone else.

It’s not a problem as long as I eat it in the western palace, and as long as I give it directly to someone I trust, it’s not a problem, but I don’t know what will happen if it goes through someone else’s hands on the way.

I’m a little nervous about it, but I’m sure Lilia has her own reasons, so I fully accept that. I don’t have any knowledge of that sort of thing at all.

“Come now, enough with the formal greetings. Come here.

Her Royal Majesty gently pushed my back. I nodded my head.

In the room, Her Highness Argenna, the second queen, and Princess Nadia were already there.

Oh, were two side queens coming or something?

“I’m sorry I made you wait.”

I gently bowing to the two women.

With that alone, Her Highness Argenna and Princess Nadia looked at me.

There is a sense of déjà-vu in their astonishment.

…I don’t know what it is, but I used to watch it a while ago.

…Something only the a doll princess knows. I have to be careful not to talk too much.

The people of the western palace are totally used to it, but the others are not.

Besides, I had a meeting with Lilia that I wouldn’t show too much of a change to catch them off guard…I’d forgotten about it until now.

“Everyone is all together, it’s just as well.”

“It’s freshly baked.”

Princess Ariana and Princess Nacia bring the wagon in. (*** Idk who these people are. Maybe Argenna an Nadia but with spelling errors? Translation was unclear.)

Apparently, the two of them will be serving as well.

“Sometimes it’s nice to have a private conversation without a lady-in-waiting, isn’t it?”

“Her Royal Majesty Queen Yulia gives a charming wink.”

A soft smile escapes everyone’s lips.

If she wasn’t always smiling…and if I had seen her other expressions…I might have been attracted to it.

When treated normally, Queen Yulia is a very attractive person.

A soft smile, a gentle manner, and a thoughtfulness of speech that never distracts…that would make any of her ministers take notice of her. Her good looks are probably more of her own than innate.

If we were to speak of the face itself, Her Royal Highness Argenna is more beautiful. But I can’t take my eyes off of Queen Yulia. Even though I’m a little afraid of her, I can’t help but admire the queen’s loveliness.

“Thia, I heard that you had a great deal of fear in Elzevert.”

“No…”

“I’ve heard that Princess Arthirea has no memory of this…”

Princess Nadia gives me a worried look.

She has jet-black eyes, jet-black hair, and slightly dark skin. Princess Nadia has southern blood in her veins. Many southerners are physically gifted, and the women are extremely sensual… that is to say, they are very stylish.

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry” I said, bowing my head.

“Oh, dear, that’s not the case. You may forget, but I am still your mother.”

A gentle, compassionate smile. It’s a smile described by the people as a mother goddess…

“Thank you.”

I think the reason I feel stuck is because I’ve spent a lot of time seeing a lot of women at work in a predominantly female workplace.

It’s a strange feeling.

Maybe…

To put it simply, Queen Yulia is an actress. In fact, it’s a slightly different nuance than acting, but that’s the way it should be put simply. I think every woman has a certain amount of interest in acting.

Women who are aware of their own cuteness and beauty know how to present themselves. They’ll be able to find a way to make themselves the prettiest or most beautiful partner one can find to lean on.

In the case of Queen Yulia, she is a special version of that. You can call it the highest class.

She knows how to show herself and how to win the hearts of others.

No matter how many mistresses His Majesty the King has, she is still the first person. It has been said that His Majesty loves this person that much.

It is said that the only person who threatened this person’s position was Liliana, the favored mistress who was imprisoned for the rest of her life because of the Tirese case where my nanny died.

“I have done a poor thing to Ellucia.”

My heartbeat jumped with a thud.

I looked at Her Majesty.

“Ellucia was, as I recall, a relation of Maria under Her Majesty, was she not?”

Princess Nadia tilts her head lightly.

“Yes. The daughter of a family that has produced military officers for generations…her father is the Crown Prince’s bodyguard, and she can handle a sword, so I thought she would definitely be Thia’s bodyguard.”

Huh?…What’s wrong with that?

I was surprised that Her Royal Majesty Yulia would call her son the Crown Prince, but that wasn’t the only thing that surprised me.

I had heard that Ellucia was the daughter of a military officer attached to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince. So I had simply assumed that Ellucia was an introduction from His Highness, but the way she was talking now, I could take it to mean that it was Her Majesty Queen Yulia’s intentions at work.

“Your Majesty Yulia considers Princess Arthirea to be her own daughter, right?”

“Of course. Alienor didn’t miss me much, so in a way, she is more than my own daughter. His Majesty is much more concerned about her than his own princess, so…”

…That’s not something to say in front of Princess Nadia.

Sure enough, the princess stares at me with a scowl.

It’s not like I don’t remember what I’m saying, but I don’t feel like I was so fond of Queen Yulia.

“Thia, you haven’t been eating much…I heard that you like sweets these days, so I had them made for me.”

Her Royal Majesty Queen Yulia, serves what looks like scones to me on a plate and tells me to eat a lot of them.”

‘Thia.’ The sweetness of this name sends a shiver down my spine.

I’m not sure if it’s because I can’t fully trust her reasoning, although I think she’s a wonderful person, maybe it’s because I get goosebumps when she calls out “Thia” to me.

The physiological fright shakes the forgotten memories inside me.

“Thank you.”

“I understand that Princess Arthirea has been baking lately.”

Plump and rosy cheeks…Princess Ariana recently turned forty, but she looks much younger. She must be taking care of her beauty, all these people.

“Yes.”

“Oh, by all means, let me know next time. I’ve heard that the princess’s sweets are different.”

“Yes. When His Highness asks for it.”

If not, His Highness will say no…Yeah.

“Speaking of which, it’s time for Princess Nadia to start thinking about getting engaged.”

I was relieved when the topic of conversation shifted from me to Princess Nadia.

On the contrary, Princess Nadia blatantly shook her body. I’m sure she doesn’t like this topic. I understand how she feels.

I’m not at all happy to hear about a sensitive subject like myself, and especially about marriage, becoming the subject of a tea party like this.

“Yes…His Majesty has approached me with a candidate for the position.”

“The heir of Alhane is already married, is he not?”

Alhane is the family home of Her Highness Argenna.

It would be the first place you could think of as a marriage destination for Princess Nadia, who is a descendant of the their princess.

“Yes, they were fortunate enough to be blessed with a boy last year…”

“Well, the South family is safe and sound. Then…who is Lady Nadia’s potential marriage partner?”

Princess Nadia, who was supposed to be the center of the conversation, gave an uncomfortable, drawn-out laugh.

That’s right. To tell you the truth, I think it’s none of our business.

“The first thing that comes to mind is Gaul, the son in the west…But the boy is still 12 years old. He said he didn’t like his younger one…” (***honestly, this sentence made no sense to me in translation)

“But it wouldn’t do much good for Your Highness to be married outside of the Four Dukes would it?”

“Yes. We have the example of Princess Diana, don’t we?”

I don’t know how many generations ago the king’s daughter was, but there was a princess named Princess Diana.

“She fell in love with a poor count who was her brother’s tutor, and after a few twists and turns, she married her first love, but she married into a family so poor that she couldn’t even afford a carriage for herself, and was unable to go out.”

She did her own cooking and sewed her own dresses… Anyway, the princess had a great deal of trouble. So it’s often used as an example of a bad idea to marry someone of a different status.

But I don’t know if the princess was really unhappy.

No one knows how it ended, so I don’t think it’s right that we should all feel sorry for her.

Whether she was happy or unhappy is something that only she can determine.

“After all, there are a lot of things that can go wrong if the family members are so different.”

“But the East family is…”

The eyes are focused on me.

Yes, I know. I’m the interim heir. So I’m very aware that I’m treated as an incredibly valuable commodity.

“Unfortunately, there is no inherited house for the son of Toko, right? A branch house is not allowed…Well, even if you do use a branch house, the title you get is a Viscount at best, so it’s not suitable for a royal princess to marry.”

“Then how about His Highness Schnack? Although there’s little age difference, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and Princess Arthirea are also examples…”

With a pop, I thought I heard the sound of patience snapping in Princess Nadia who was sitting next to me.

“I don’t want to be the only one who’s always trying to be a good-looking as a boy! And by the way, I don’t want a 40 year old man who says he’s even going to ask his mom to pick out a drink!”

Princess Nadia stands up stiffly and declares to all the faces.

His Highness Schnack is Your Majesty’s brother, right? He’s a…beautiful boy hobbyist…

Who is this 40 years old mother’s boy? I wonder if this is a reference to His Highness Schnack?

“Another drink, Princess Nadia?”

“Oh…Yes.”

The air that had been frozen for a moment was softly melted by Queen Yulia’s words. Queen Yulia gently placed her hand on her shoulder and made Princess Nadia take a seat.

Fragrant tea is poured into the Princess’ cup. And then some for my cup as well.

I sip a little, and it’s quite thick and astringent, unlike the Sagiya’s tea His Highness gave me. Without milk, it’s too much for my current taste buds. The sweets are sweet, so I don’t put sugar in it, but I poured out a generous dollop of milk.

“Nadia, the words are over, I’m sorry.”

“………”

At her mother’s words, Princess Nadia pouted and turned to the side. Her huffy expression…her bright green eyes are full of regret.

…She’s the type of person who can never do sly tricks or anything like that.

Even though she’s a half-sister, she’s so emotionally honest that it’s hard to believe she’s His Highness’ sister.

His Highness, you’re really good at that sort of thing…

“I’m sorry, I’m an old lady, so I’m getting down to the nitty-gritty.”

Queen Argenna softly smiles at Princess Nadia.

And yet, while she was saying this, Princess Nadia asked her.

“We’ve received tales from abroad?”

“Yes…but it’s just a story. His Majesty also said it. It’s a good thing that you’re not going to have a hard time marrying into a foreign country for the sake of it.”

“That’s right.”

“But when you live there, it’s the capital. Even better if your loved ones are there for you…”

“Queen Yulia.”

Her Royal Majesty Queen Yulia’s homeland is a small principality called Dahal. There is no longer a country called Dahal. The land is now under imperial control.

“That said, the royal family of Dahal has no marriage policy.”

“It can’t be helped. That’s what Dardinia is all about.”

Her Royal Highness Argenna, who was born a daughter of the Duke of Arhan’s family and became the second queen, said so proudly.

She was born into the four dukes who succeeded the royal family. She would not have been able to accurately capture the nuances that lurked in Her Majesty Queen Yulia’s words. No, neither could the others present here understand it.

They were born in Dardinia, raised in Dardinia, and were the daughters of a prominent Dardinian family that only Dardinia knew.

But I understood a little.

I was also a gentile, just like His Highness Yulia.

A fraction of my heart was nurtured in 21st century Japan.

Why Dardinia doesn’t have a marriage policy…

I think there is some unstated rule about that.

Dardinia isn’t really an isolated country, nor is it pureblooded, but it doesn’t like to let the royal blood out. The same is true of the four dukes who are considered to be associate members of the royal family.

The Dardinian royal family may take wives or sons-in-law from other countries, but rarely do they do the opposite.

It is certain that blood is considered sacred even among the nobility. Just look at the lack of inheritance rights for bastards and their strict inheritance rules. And that’s what makes my problem so troublesome, though.

“Has Princess Nadia already made up her mind?”

Queen Yulia asks.

“I am…not…”

“I’ve been told by His Majesty that if I can’t choose one of the candidates before my 18th birthday, he will decide.”

For the time being, there’s a choice…

I thought she was going to be ordered around without question.

“Your Majesty Queen Yulia, just for your information, how did you do in the case of Alienor? Did Princess Alienor make the decision herself?

“She made her own decision…That’s the kind of girl she is.”

“You are just as clever, aren’t you?”

Her Imperial Highness Argenna sighs that she cannot make any decisions on her own.

Princess Nadia clenches her lips and squeezes her cup of tea…I’m worried that if she puts too much effort into it, it might break.

Even if you’re told to decide who to marry when you’re 18 or so…

As someone who lived the single life until I was 33, I can’t say anything about it.

…I don’t know if I’m being paid back for that, but I’ve been a married woman since I was seven months old now.

I scowled as I tried to sip on my warm milk tea.

It’s hard to tell because of the sweltering scent of flowers, but there is a faint, unusual smell…Is this milk rancid?

“What’s wrong? Thia.”

“No…”

Maybe I shouldn’t drink. I don’t want you getting a stomach ache.

“Oh, sweetheart, are you okay?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t be like that. Have some more.”

I shake my head quietly.

At times like this, it’s useful to play as the doll princess. I don’t have to explain every single thing or worry about whether the other person is offended.

“Really? I’m sorry, then.”

Queen Yulia smiled graciously.

From a perceptive point of view, it could be that Her Majesty is harassing me, but since it was Princess Nadia and Queen Argenna who prepared the tea, I’m not sure who did it.

I wouldn’t want anyone else to drink it…

As I was thinking about what to do, I heard a shuffling, ear-splitting sound.

“…Enough of this! It doesn’t matter who I marry. My father told me I could choose!”

Princess Nadia stood up roughly and hits the table.

Apparently, her wedding talk was still going on while I was thinking for a bit.

“It’s none of your business. And you mom! You guys too!”

Princess Nadia threw a tantrum and tugged at the tablecloth in front of her with all her might.

“Kyaa!”

“Nadia!”

Instantly, the tabletop became a blinding disaster.

Oh, yuck…

Spilled tea stains the hem of my gown.

I hurriedly wipe the hem with my handkerchief.

It’s not good. It’s a new gown, so I’m sure Julia and Alice, who are passionate about their costumes, will be saddened if I stain it.

I see regret in Princess Nadia’s eyes as she watches me out of the corner of her eye.

“Come on…”

She took my hand forcefully.

“Nadia.”

“Shut up. Mother is never going to leave me alone at all.”

“What? Ah…”

She grabbed my hand tightly and forced me out. Unable to find an opening to shake it off, I was half dragged out of the Queen’s sitting room.

Ah…where am I going…

When she bit her lip and I saw the way she was pondering as we walked along, I thought it would be okay if I went out with her for a bit.

…I was halfway through the process of being dragged along, partly because I couldn’t escape.

I know what it’s like to be unfulfilled, or to hate that kind of thing.

The atmosphere is elegant, but, well, it’s like a well-wishers’ variant of a superfluous caring aunt.

Princess Nadia walks slowly, looking like she’s angry.

“Well…do you know where you’re walking? I don’t have a clue anymore.”

“…Your Highness.”

I heard a voice. A familiar voice.

“…Lilia.”

I stop. Princess Nadia stops as well as if she was sick.

Lilia bows gracefully to Princess Nadia and she looks down as if she doesn’t know what to do.

“Is the tea party over already?”

“………Yes.”

I can’t bring myself to go back.

Seeing that silence until I nodded, and Princess Nadia who looked like she was about to start crying somehow, Lilia seemed to have figured something out. She didn’t ask any more questions.

“What about Lilia?”

“I’m going to go down to the main palace for a moment…If you’re done, let’s go back to the palace. It’s dangerous to walk around without an escort.”

Curtly, I nodded.

“Would you like to join me, Princess Nadia?”

“…Huh?”

The princess, who looks somewhat at a loss for words, looks up.

“Are you sure? Your Highness.”

“Yes.”

I’d feel sorry for her if I left her alone in any way.

I can’t do anything to help her on her side, but I can at least let her stay as a distraction.

“Are you sure you want to…?”

I’ll send an envoy to the Crown Prince and Queen, and I’ll ask the Crown Prince’s permission.

Princess Nadia trembled at hearing the words ‘His Royal Highness the Crown Prince’…

“After all, I…”

What did he do to scare this cute little princess? His Highness.

“It’s fine.”

His Highness is not a man who doesn’t understand a story if one speaks properly.

…You might be afraid before you can speak, though.

“Well, let’s go back then, shall we?”

“Yes.”

Lilia led the way, and this time I pulled Princess Nadia’s hand.

“………sorry.”

In a tiny little voice, Princess Nadia utters an apology.

“…I’m fine.”

Instead of responding, the hands that squeezed back tightly were very reliable.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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