We proceed down a long corridor with a large basket.
In the basket is a stew with chicken meatballs in a prototype warming pot.
I’d like him to eat it while it’s still a little warm…
It’s called a thermal pot, but it doesn’t have a heat retention function. It’s just a container with a metal lid, covered with a fluffy cotton bag to keep it warm.
There are vegetables steamed in a jar to use as a sauce when they are cold, or if he prefers, he can eat them on a piece of bread. Of course, I haven’t forgotten about the galette.
I wish they’d develop a thermos or something.
As I recall, the thermos was made from a liquefied gas storage container.
Gas lamps do exist, so I guess it wouldn’t be to surprising if thermoses existed.
Recently, construction work has begun to install gas lamps in the university city on the south bank across the river in part of the royal capital. Of course, I haven’t seen it, but I was told about it at a tea party with Nadi the other day.
…Huh? If they made gas lights, does that mean they can do gas burners and gas stoves? No, but the kitchen facilities in the Royal Palace are still old-fashioned ovens, so I wonder if that part of the kitchen is undeveloped?
Or maybe there are different types of gas for gas burners and gas stoves and gas lights. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about those things.
If gas ovens and gas stoves were made, I think there would be a cooking revolution.
‘Cooking’—or ‘cuisine’ is still hard work, but it’s still a breakthrough in technology. (***The word used for “cooking” was “chōri” meaning cooking, food preparing etc. The word for used for “cuisine” was “ryōri” meaning cooking, or cuisine, etc.)
…I could bake a chiffon cake.
That’s the first thing I’m interested in.
The first advantage of a gas oven is that it has more heat and bakes evenly.
“…Ah, Princess, really, can you give me a break?”
Phil-Lynn, walking in front of me, stopped in his tracks. It’s not a good time to be here.
“No, I don’t like it. Phil, a promise is a promise. I’m allowed to cook and bring food. And no, I’m not a princess. Please call me Elty.”
What’s the point of giving me a false name, Elty Arthia, if I’m called Princess? It’s obvious that I’m faking my identity.
“Well, It’s nerve-racking when Elty walks around with the face of a squire, and I get scared.”
I pushed back to tell him to get a move on, and Phil began to walk sluggishly.
“…I know you’re Nigel’s princess, so I find it very difficult to treat you like a servant or an underling.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m Elty now…I’m a distant relative of Phil’s, a pre-adult child who is under guardianship.”
“Stop-It-Please…At least, don’t say that ‘Master Phil’ thing for real. (*** Phil says this in a choppy/slow way for emphasis. “Ya-me-te-ku-re”)
“What do I call you then?”
“Is Phil okay?”
“That’s a bit disrespectful, don’t you think?”
For a guardian, I don’t think it’s a good idea.
“I don’t care about relatives, my home.”
“I understand…If that’s what Phil says.”
It can’t be helped then.
“…More importantly, how much longer will it take to get there?”
I feel like I’ve already walked a long way, but I’m still not sure I’ll be able to reach my destination, as the Royal Palace is a large building.
“Oh, we’re already halfway there.”
“…I see. So it’s still halfway there?”
I give a small sigh.
“Hey, Phil…Do people skip meals when they have plans like this?”
The basket I’m holding is for His Highness Nigel, and the one Phil is holding is the rest. Phil has already consumed much of it, but there’s still enough for a few more people. I had His Highness’ subordinates bring it to me in the hope that they would eat it.
“Ah, mostly, they don’t use portable rations.”
“His Highness’ signature portable rations…”
I’m sure His Highness likes, or rather, eats portable rations without much concern, but I couldn’t be the only one to eat it properly.
I feel sorry for everyone else who has to deal with it.
“Well…it’s the best in terms of convenience.”
I heard the sound of water from the basket Phil was holding. It was probably the sound of the chai inside the water bottle shaking.
I put plenty of cinnamon and ginger in it to warm the body.
I thought about making a hot wine, but I decided on chai because tomorrow is the day of the Founding Festival.
The recipe is made with Feldie dairy cow’s milk, Grachie honey and ginger, Elzevert cinnamon and cardamom, and Alhane’s pepper and tea leaves. It is a drink that is very much like Dardinia itself.
I want it to keep warm, but I also want it to be airtight.
One of the things that troubled me here is the lack of means to preserve food. Especially the ones that are already cooked or half-cooked—It’s very difficult to store things like soups and stews.
One might say that I should just use a water bottle, but if it’s a pure drink, that’s fine, but the ingredients won’t fit in the water bottle.
The wide-mouth bottle or jar which I mainly use now takes up a lot of space and is not suitable for carrying around. Bottled and canned foods are made, but they require a large facility, so they are not easy to use.
I always wish there was something easy to use, like tupperwares from the other world.
But I can see why something like this wasn’t well developed for this kind of use, since there’s not much need to think about preservation in the first place.
For example, our meals are always prepared in quantities that we can’t eat. But all the food is for the servants, so there are no leftovers.
I made too much food, so let’s eat it again tomorrow! There’s no such thing, and the cycle of eating what was made that day is already completed.
Also, I don’t think too much about carrying it around.
Perhaps it’s the lack of the ‘bento’ concept. This is partly due to the lack of airtight and portable containers, and partly because there are plenty of food stalls and casual eateries that allow for intense price competition and cheap eating out.
When the light-blue carpet in the Rear Palace ends and the blue carpet in the Main Palace begins, we proceed in a slightly different mood.
…What a fresh feeling.
I usually walk in front with my maids and ladies-in-waiting in tow. Now, I follow Phil with a basket. But there are other reasons to feel fresh.
The ladies-in-waiting and chamberlains who pass by us lightly admire Phil and bow their heads, but they pass by quickly without looking at me.
I’m not one of them, and given my age, I’m not an official guest of honor, as I don’t wear the same tailor’s clothes as them.
…An ‘apprentice’ seems to be treated like a ghost.
As someone who usually gets too much attention for my every move, I’m very grateful for it.
As I was thinking about this, I looked at the wall and realized that I was in the right place.
That…this picture is…
It’s a picture that I secretly loved, with a fantastic landscape that seems to suck me in. The blue…I can’t see the boundary between the sky and the water.
I felt like I heard the sound of the wind whistling in my ear.
…No. It’s okay. This is inside the building.
I remembered that day. That day too, I took a little detour just to see this painting.
Come to think of it, it hadn’t even been a week since that day.
A cold sensation runs up my spine.
I tried to call Phil’s name, but I couldn’t get my voice to work.
My body was shaking and my legs were not moving.
I’m not scared…I’m not scared at all!
But then, as if in a flashback, the scene of the moment of the attempt on my life flashed in my mind.
I can’t remember even trying to remember it, but now the horror of that moment comes back to me vividly.
That fear I remembered binds my body. I felt like I was going about to get caught, and then I stopped. I felt as if I wouldn’t be able to take a single step if I got it.
I repeated his name in my mind as if I was casting a spell. With that alone, there is something that is born in my heart.
My pride—where this soul stands.
His Royal Highness Nigel Elsebard, Crown Prince of Dardinia.
The person who will be king tomorrow.
My knight who will protect me.
I remembered the Nigel-sama who saved me when a man almost beat me downtown.
The back that shielded me, the strength of his arms as he lifted me up…and the warmth of his arms as he held me close.
…I can stand properly.
To me, Nigel-sama’s name is a magic spell.
Just chanting it in my mind always keeps me going.
“…Are you okay? Are you sick?”
I hear a soft voice and look up.
One step ahead of me was a woman who was dressed in a royal maidservant’s garb.
I think she’s over thirty years old, but might not even be near forty years old. To be honest, it’s hard to tell a woman’s age. Especially for the maids of the royal court, whose makeup skills are well developed.
This person is a lady-in-waiting. And also an official.
The same tie shape as Lilia’s. The collar and sleeves are different from those of my handmaidens, probably because she is on duty at the main palace.
The beautifully crafted wagon she pushes is filled with not only cleaning supplies, but also official stationery and a change of glass pens for the waiting room. She is probably restocking the supplies that are provided for the waiting room around here.
“…Thank you. I was just a little dizzy.”
The fact that the stone adorning her cuffs is black obsidian instead of lapis lazuli shows that she is not a noblewoman.
“Is that so? But you still don’t look good. Why don’t you get some rest?”
“It’s a bit hectic down the road, with all sorts of people coming and going without a hitch. I don’t want you to get sick in the midst of it all…”
She looks into my face with concern, probably out of kindness. She encourages me to take a break.
“I just did a cleaning check, so you can use this room. You can use this chair by the wall. I can’t keep up with you because I have work to do, but…”
She pushed open the door and urged me to go inside.
Ah, what to do…
I’d really like to take a break for a bit, but I’d like to deliver the food right away.
…But I have no idea where to go without Phil.
Phil didn’t tell me where His Highness Nigel was now.
I’m sorry that I stopped, but Phil should check his back a bit more too!
How far did he go without me?
“My name is Elinia Nerke, and I am a junior lady-in-waiting in the rear court. And you are?”
Elinia Nerke…that name sounded familiar somewhere.
…Where did I hear it?
I should have heard it just recently. I feel like I’m remembering it up to my ears. It’s a shame I can’t remember it at the last minute.
“I’m Elty Arthia. From today, I’m an apprentice to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince’s chamberlain, under Count Altheidel Exanidium.”
I bow my head deeply. For a moment, I almost got Phil’s name wrong…I don’t think I made a mistake, but I was about to thank the woman.
The reason I didn’t say Consul Phil-Lynn is because the setting is that Elty is a relative of Phil’s and has been given guardianship. Even if they were very close, I thought it would be a bit confusing to call a superiors by an abbreviation in an external setting.
“It’s quite a rush to be under the Consul Phil-Lynn…starting today, aren’t you?”
“I was brought here today because it’s the Founding Festival.”
Elinia nodded in agreement with my answer.
An apprentice maidservant is a considerably more comfortable position than a maidservant apprentice, which seems to be the same thing.
Although the handmaid’s apprenticeship is said to be a foil for future marriages, they actually serve the nobleman and are strictly disciplined as well as an apprentice of manners.
But an attendant’s apprenticeship is different.
A chamberlain apprenticeship is more like a social tour for boys who are about to choose a career path. For this reason, the sons and daughters of high-ranking aristocrats can also be sent to the royal court as an apprentice, and the length of their stay is not always the same.
Some stay only for a week or so, while others do their apprenticeship for two years in order to go on and become a real attendant.
“I see. Well, then, after you’ve rested, you should go to the courtyard.”
Elinia stops the wagon at the end of the hallway and takes my hesitant hand and welcomes me into the room and sits me down in a chair.
“In the courtyard?”
“Yes. The Founding Festival is also a flower festival. The flowerbeds are so wonderful.”
…He would definitely be angry I was found by my superiors.
This is one of the visitor’s waiting rooms, albeit unused. It’s not a place that servants are allowed to use. Nevertheless, they were accommodating in consideration of my condition.
“I’d love to have a look at it.”
Elinia smiles at my reluctant offer.
“Yes, you should see it.”
She didn’t have a very well-defined face. But her smile was very attractive.
“…If anyone finds you here, please tell them that you were asked to move the chair for them.”
I look at the beautiful chairs pulled up against the wall.
“Yes. I replaced the chairs today…Later, I’ll send word to the Consul that you’re sick and need some rest.”
Let’s just sit back and wait for Phil to come get us.
I’m sure he’s already noticed and is looking for me.
Something I don’t want to have to look for and cross paths with poorly.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
And as I watched the back of Elinia as she left the room with a light eye bow, I remembered where I had heard her name.
…from the other day at breakfast…
That’s the name of the person responsible for the breakfast, which was a blunder that was hard to discern if it was deliberate, inadvertent, or mean-spirited.
I held the door open thinly after Elinia left so that Phil, who would be coming to pick me up, would notice.
But…I didn’t recognize her face.
Maybe she hasn’t or has rarely appeared in front of Arthirea.
…Because she’s a junior lady-in-waiting.
I bite my lip lightly.
I don’t really like that distinction between advanced and junior. But this isn’t an easy thing for me to do with my likes and dislikes.
I’m sure she’s incredibly talented…
That’s what it meant to be a commoner and still be able to wear the sleeves of an official royal courtesan’s uniform.
Her current attitude towards me was also thoughtful and favorable. I can see why she is said to be one of the confidants of Anna Maria, the next chief lady-in-waiting of the rear court.
It is impossible to live at the royal court and not be aware of your position or status. The manners in the palace are stipulated in detail according to status, clothes are the same, and there are various ways to say hello.
In addition, my memories of my time there sometimes give me a sense of irrationality and a strong sense of discomfort about my status. Of course, I don’t think that I should simply get rid of it, though.
I know it in my head…
Dardinia was founded to protect the Key Princess, the last imperial princess and her bloodline.
Aristocrats are the descendants of the knights who protected the princess. The status system is an absolute necessity for this country to exist.
In a way, I’m the one who stands at the top of this Dardinian status system, and that’s why I can’t do anything about it.
There are many, many difficult things…
I remember the faces of the children in the orphanage. Ragg and Rufa, and then Giallo and little Wei…children without status.
…There’s a system in itself where if you have talent, you can put it to use.
There are children who come from orphanages who are willing to take the university entrance exam.
Even a slave can become a high-ranking bureaucrat if they graduate from the university, and a commoner can become a general if they serve in the army, depending on their ability.
In a broader sense, this obscure existence of a junior lady-in-waiting may be a remedy.
If so, what can I do?
What I can and can’t do—It’s not just a matter of competence, but many other factors come into play. I can’t move carelessly, as I don’t yet have a proper grasp of what’s going on inside the royal palace.
…But if I don’t do anything until I know everything, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do anything.
In these cases, I don’t have to think of myself as doing it alone.
Even if I don’t know what I’m talking about, I know someone who can let me know.
I don’t have to figure it out on my own…first, starting with the first step in front of me!
I hold the basket tightly in my hand.
I can do it step by step, starting with what I can do.
If I think too much, then I can go back to the starting point.
My starting point is His Highness…Yeah. The first thing I have to do is make sure His Highness eats his food properly!
I stand up. In order to get His Highness to eat, I have to meet up with Phil, who knows where His Highness is.
I was just about to go out into the hallway when Elinia came out of the next room a little early.
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