Chapter 33: In the Light of the Underground

A vague light floats in the darkness.

It’s not dazzling, but the light that illuminates the feet is the same light I’ve seen in the basement of the royal palace.

No matter how many times I see it, it’s still strange…

Without even having time to take a breath in the sanctuary, His Highness Nigel took me with him into the underground.

It’s not that I’m at the end of the time limit, but I’m not supposed to be out of the royal palace, so I’m sure he wants to avoid being outside as much as possible.

…I wonder what this light is feeding off of?

I’ve always wondered about it, but I’ve never been able to resolve that question.

There is no electricity in this world, yet this light is very similar to the light provided by fluorescent lamps and LEDs…electricity—or perhaps it’s more like it than anything else.

I was actually going to ask His Highness, but I didn’t know how to ask without using words from the other world, so I was unable to ask for a long time.

I glanced at the profile that is very close to me.

A cloak decorated with gold on a white background that only the paladins who serve the cathedral are allowed to wear—The profile with a slightly stern look has a different atmosphere than usual, which is not normally the case. But I was a little flustered.

At times like this…

Even though it’s the work of a helpless damsel in distress, I can’t help but ask myself what I’m doing in a situation like this. But I guess I can’t help but think it’s cool.

Not to say it’s desperate, but it’s a natural psychology to crush on a hero who comes to your rescue in a pinch.

This is called the suspension bridge effect.

Because there was plenty of favor to begin with, the increase in crushes from the suspension bridge effect is not much of a difference in terms of overall volume.

I take a deep breath in and out. One deep breath.

What flickers in my brain is the enraged red face of the man from earlier and his raised fist. Then the curses that were yelled—it made my body cower a little.

…But I can’t cower over something like this!

I took another deep breath and chased the nasty images away from my brain.

Then, I clasped my hands together and opened my mouth with intention.

“…Nigel-sama.”

What’s wrong? Does it hurt anywhere?”

His Highness responds quickly to my words, and is very concerned about my feet.

“…No. It’s okay…Um, I’m fine now, so I’ll walk on my own.”

Earlier I felt like I couldn’t even stand up, but now, I think I’ve calmed down a lot. I think I’ll be fine to continue on my own.

“…No, it’s not something to be overdone here.”

“No, really, I’m fine now.”

I had just decided to stop being picked up and moved around like this.

“…Luthia. The shoes don’t even fit your feet. You’re bleeding, too…There is no need to push yourself here. You have to dance again at the Founding Festival.”

His Highness Nigel reminds me with a sincere expression.

“I can go to…but…”

I just decided to walk on my own!

“Luthia.”

The sound of his voice is calm but firm and determined.

This one probably won’t nod no matter what I say.

This is a force majeure. It’s not that I’m too weak-willed or anything!

“……understood.”

I gave a small sigh and nodded, though I wasn’t making excuses for anyone.

My appearance must have been too troubled. His Highness let his gaze wander around as if he was troubled.

“Stay in my arms for my sake…”

Perhaps to avoid showing me his face, His Highness turns the other way and says so a little too quickly.

…Is he embarrassed?

“…for His Highness’ sake, is it?”

“Oh…it breaks my heart to let you walk with that foot. It’s not that I’m treating you like a child. I’m just worried about you…”

“It’s not an injury that you should be so worried about, you know?”

Because I didn’t even feel the pain until I was told.

Maybe the thin skin that was about to be blocked up again had peeled off, or maybe it’s just a scab.

“But still…Maybe you’re a lot weaker than you think.”

“…Is that so?”

“Ah…Those born in Elzevert are not only thin in stature, but basically not so toughly made…except for the duke, though.”

I’ve been aware of that for a while now. It would be strange not to be aware of it, considering how I had been falling down for a while now. Then, at the exception that was added at the end, I couldn’t help but spew out involuntarily.

“Oh. Well, the tendency is that men are not so weak…Perhaps it’s in the blood. Women are often the frail ones.”

Perhaps His Highness remembered my mother. A little bit of something nostalgic mixed in with the familiar sound.

“Okay…but it’s only for now. Once my leg is healed, I’ll walk properly on my own.”

I don’t think the lack of strength has anything to do with the foot injury at all, but if His Highness is worried about it, then I can’t blame him. But I’ll make sure to nail it down. Because I can’t just be picked up and moved around all the time!

“Ah.”

His Highness nodded properly.

In the darkness, where neither sunlight nor moonlight shone, His Highness proceeded to walk along, relying on the light that dimly emerged at his feet.

When I looked closely, I found that part of the road surface, which had been tightly maintained with stone, was emitting light.

Too bright to be fluorescent or luminescent, but too dark to be fluorescent…hmmm, it looks like an LED nightlight.

Though somewhat dimly lit, the fact that I’m not walking by myself gives me the luxury of observing my surroundings.

…What kind of space is this?

As my eyes get used to the surroundings, and I can see the vastness of this space, the questions instantly come flooding in.

“What’s wrong?”

His Highness doesn’t seem to care about my level of weight, but he doesn’t hesitate to move forward at a fairly fast pace without even catching his breath.

“…This is the basement of the royal capital, isn’t it?”

“That’s right. To be exact, it’s underneath the seven regions of Utoria, Regalia, Saforia, Eluria, Lioria, Ludilia, and Malaria, which are called the old royal capitals…You’ve used the subterranean passages before when you went out to Utoria, haven’t you?

“Yes, that’s right. But I don’t think the ceiling was this high.”

“Because it was the basement of the royal palace…The basement of the grounds of the Royal Palace was a fortress during the Unified Empire era. The part of the fortress that spans the main palace and part of the west palace are the remains of the largest building in the fortress, and the city used to spread out around it.”

“So the ruins of the underground part of the royal palace, outside the ruins of the citadel, are the remains of an underground city as it is?”

“Yes. The Citadel will be one of the main streets of the underground city.”

I’m told that Al Greya was built on top of a city that had sunk to the ground…”

“Yes. It is said that Al Greya was designed by the Founding King to be designed by Arsei-Ney and completed during the time of King Faras the Fifth.”

“…It is said?”

“I believe that there is no perfection in a city. I believe that a city is never complete. It is always developing unfinished, and the moment it reaches the peak of its development…it begins to decline. This Al Greya is still expanding with each passing year, and therefore is still far from being complete.”

A typical phrase for His Highness, or should I say it’s logical…

His Royal Highness Prince Nigel is a man with a great deal of scholarly curiosity, although he has a sense of propriety. As he once said himself, it is the nature of scholars to want to know everything they don’t know or understand. And once they are curious about something, they can’t help but pursue it.

Most of what I think is very typical of His Royal Highness Nigel due to this scholarly nature.

Like the way he uses words…and the fact that he wants to be very precise…

Not to all, but very detailed for some.

Don’t get me wrong…His Highness is a rather troublesome person.

But I like it…that sort of thing too.

I like His Highness to have the face of a ‘curious scholar’ rather than the face of the ‘perfect crown prince.’ I feel like I can see his true expression and he looks somewhat child-like. I’m glad that I feel like I’m kind of forgiving.

I’m not sure if it’s really true or not…

I think I still know too little about His Highness Nigel.

Because I lost my memory a year ago at the Winter Lake in Elzevert, even my own memory is not complete, which is the foundation of it in the first place, and I lack the knowledge and indicators to use as a basis for judgment.

All I know is what I like and dislike about the food I eat…

‘Operation Feeder’ is still going strong!

In the corner of my mind, I can see the expression on his face when he’s in a good mood after eating something delicious, or when he’s in a bad mood because he’s interrupted in his quiet time. Then I look at the profile of His Highness in front of me.

I’m not going to change my feelings here and now, and I’m not going to lie.

I gently press down on my chest.

This is the only feeling left behind—this feeling never disappeared even though I lost my memory.

Although, it’s no longer just ‘I love you’

Now I feel possessive, and a strong desirer for exclusivity.

Yeah. It’s not enough just to hope for it.

Because I want to stand beside His Highness.

I don’t want to give that up to anyone at all.

That’s because I don’t want to just be protected in his arms.

I can’t just be a wishful child anymore.

This country is my country, said my late mentor, Professor Lehigh.

I recall His Highness saying that my preference for milk and honey in my tea was the reason for the development of dairy products and beekeeping. Various types of milk are available in the Royal Capital, and as a byproduct, cheese and other dairy products are produced in abundance and brought to the Royal Capital. And honey, which used to be sold in apothecaries, has become so common that it is now commonly available in food stores, and is a big part of everyone’s diet.

If only everyone could eat more good food that way.

I don’t understand the politics and economic difficulties of the country of Dardinia.

But when it comes to enriching the food supply, I think there is something I can do, albeit in a small way.

There is not much I can do, as I am still mostly a Crown Princess in name only.

…but I will probably be able to do much more when I become queen.

I clench my hands tightly.

On my left wrist was a scrunchie in a bright shade of peacock green.

Giallo, with whom I had parted in a hurry. The faces of Ragg and Rufa, Fee and Lenalee, and Wei…children with whom I was separated without exchanging a word, all come to mind, and I think of Lela Adele, who has been a great help to me.

The people who live in my country…People who I should protect and guide as the queen of this country…

They had been vague and only known in words, but for the first time I was able to think of them in a tangible form.

The ladies-in-waiting and maidservants who are always close to me are, of course, my own people, but they are mostly aristocrats like me, and they recognize that they are in a position to protect and lead their people, just as I am, so they didn’t ring a bell as a concrete example.

Having met everyone, I think I understand a bit more.

What it means to be the Queen of Dardinia.

To love my country.

I think I’ve found my own way to understand it. Maybe now I can answer the question Professor Lehigh once gave me.

It’s still very poorly written…

I was only at the starting point of it all.

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