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Chapter 8 – A Farewell To A Helpless Past
Two days had passed since Krone had arrived in Ishtalika. Since the first night, Ain and Krone hadn’t had much time to talk. This was because both Graff and Krone had a lot of things to do.
But now that it was settled and finally had some time to relax, today she was observing Ain in the castle’s training grounds.
In front of Krone’s eyes, who let out a voice of admiration, Ain was fighting against a knight. The appearance of a young man fighting against a full-fledged knight was enormously impressed on her.
“Krone-sama. We at Ishtalika are a meritocracy, but unlike Heim, we are not a skill-based society, but a meritocracy based on effort.”
Up until now, Ain has been making desperate efforts. This is why his physical skills, swordsmanship, and fighting style have changed.
“Ain-sama has a rare talent, but he has worked even harder than that. He comes early every morning to train, but he also studies until late at night.”
Lloyd smiled at Ain’s efforts and gave him his unearned praise.
“──Yes. By looking at Ain now, I can see that… he has been working very hard.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Ain-sama’s absorption of the magic stone is a great power, but I am glad that you understand that he has trained even more than that.”
Even in a country that is known for its hard work, Ain is making a name for himself. Krone was deeply impressed by the fact that he had worked harder than anyone could have imagined.
“Hah… hah… kuh──.”
By the way, the opponent knight’s breathing became ragged, and it could be seen that he was having difficulty with Ain’s movements.
“Well ─ Ain-sama is not just like this recently.”
Lloyd grinned as he looked at Krone. When she looked closely at Ain, she wondered what he meant.
The swords swung vigorously and broke the knight’s center of gravity, and he hurriedly held his ground to adjust his stance. However, the neglected hand stretched out, and Ain aimed a blow at that point.
──*Clink* *Clink*. Then, the sword was knocked away by Ain and rolled away.
Lloyd stopped them with a loud voice, and the battle ended with Ain’s victory. The two men, Ain and the knight, thanked each other, breathing hard.
“Your Highness… it seems you have improved your skills again.”
“It’s still a long way to go. But I am glad to hear you say so.”
When the two had such a conversation, Ain left the knight’s side and approached Krone’s side. Then Krone closed the distance and talked to him after he finished his training.
“Um… Thanks for the good work, Ain.”
She handed him a fluffy towel and a large glass of water. Ain took the two, wiped off his sweat, and drank the water in no time.
“Yes, thank you.”
Ain looked refreshed from the aftermath of his victory. He gave a carefree smile and thanked Krone for his concern.
“…Isn’t your opponent a real knight?”
“Well, he’s an elite knight who’s always guarding the castle, but… why?”
“W-why, you say… I never thought that someone as young as Ain would be a match for a knight like him…”
This question was also natural; she was just taken aback. There were many rumors that she had heard about Ain during her time in Heim. However, at the party at Roundheart Mansion, she had heard about Ain from a servant.
What she heard was that Ain was a hard worker ─ but even so.
She has never thought that he would be able to compete with the knights of the great country of Ishtalika, the elite of which work in the castle.
“…In my case, I’ve absorbed the magic stone, and my status has improved.”
He has a self-deprecating look on his face, but Lloyd speaks to him.
“What are you talking about? I’ve said it before, Ain-sama; it’s only because of your own efforts. The gift of training ─ it’s because of this that your power comes into play!”
“──I’m happy to hear you say that, Lloyd-san.”
“Hahahaha! That’s great! Well, I’ll be going now.”
That’s it for today’s training. He promised that he would talk to Krone during his free time.
“I’m sorry, I think I’d better go take a bath first.”
He was sweating too much. His complex male mind was concerned about the smell, and he took a step away from Krone. However, she doesn’t mind and takes a step closer.
“…No, it’s okay; I don’t mind, you know?”
“I-I do care about it, though…”
Then, suddenly, she took Ain’s hand and started to walk away.
“As I said, I don’t care; it’s fine. Come on, let’s go.”
“…I thought about it when we talked at Heim, but Krone can be surprisingly pushy, can’t she?”
“Fufu. I wonder? But since I’ve crossed the ocean like this, I guess so.”
Ain nodded at the convincing analogy. Boldness, determination, and intelligence. The woman called Krone is out of the norm in many ways.
(I think it’s cute that she’s a little pushy, though.)
By the way, the night when he gave her the Star Crystal, they were linked their hands as they are now. It’s kind of funny that they’re doing the same thing, and it makes them laugh.
“Ah, I’m late to tell you──.”
She then laughed happily and walked in front of Ain with a thump… of her footsteps. She bent her waist and looked back at Ain, leaning her body into a crook.
“Didn’t you look great just now, Ain?”
She said this with a somewhat mature expression while still being a young girl.
“──I-it’s not fair for you to say this so suddenly.”
Suddenly, Ain averted his face, hiding his mouth. It is obvious that he was embarrassed by the sudden praise.
“Are you embarrassed?”
She said as she peeked into Ain’s face.
“…I was just surprised.”
“Hmm… yes. Your face is red. Was it because you were surprised?”
She tilted her head and asked him, even though she knew the answer. It’s not fair for Ain since her gesture is so cute.
“This is because I was training just a few minutes ago…”
Ain is also a man. He tried to be strong, but unfortunately, his strength was weak and fragile.
“I was sly, wasn’t I? Why does training have anything to do with it?”
“…I knew you were sly, Krone.”
In the end, he was defeated by her. He didn’t have a chance to win in the first place, but she was formidable.
(I guess that’s part of Krone’s charm.)
Not only was it not bad, but Ain had a good impression of this as well. Seeing that Ain was defeated, she was in an even better mood and walked next to him.
As they were doing so, Warren walked up to them.
“Oya, An-sama and Lady Krone. It’s just perfect.”
Is there something I can do for you? The two stopped.
“It has just been decided that a celebration party will be held.”
“A celebration party?”
What kind of celebration is it? Ain asked when Krone looked at him with a similar expression.
“Yes, it’s a party. It’s to celebrate the fact that we were able to mine sea crystals from Euro.”
“Oh, I see. It is indeed a celebration.”
“The party will also serve as a celebration for Olivia-sama’s return. It will be two weeks and a few days from today, and Ain-sama… as well as Lady Krone and Graff-dono will be attending.”
He understood what he meant by “just in time.” However, Ain wondered if it was okay for him to attend. It’s because he hadn’t been introduced to the public yet, and he wasn’t sure if he should show up at such an official event.
“Um, Krone is fine, but is it okay if I attend?”
“You know, Ain. I think it’s strange to say that… is it fine for me?”
If Ain doesn’t attend, she won’t either. As if to say this, she laughs with a troubled expression.
“Hahahaha! I’m glad to see you two are getting along so well. Of course, there is no problem with the two of you attending. Both of you will be treated as my guests.”
In other words, he should hide his identity so that Ain could attend the party. Thinking about it, it was the first time he had ever been to a formal party, and he was getting a little nervous now.
“I need to make costumes for the two of you. So, I’d like to ask for your time this evening.”
It was to measure their bodies. It was a party, so they should at least wear formal attire.
“U-um… Warren-sama? I have my own dress…”
“It’s a gift from Olivia-sama. Please accept it.”
“…Understood. I’ll be sure to convey my thanks to Olivia-sama.”
Ishtalika’s formal attire ─ the dress that Krone wears, but she was interested in it. The dress, which would be different from Heim’s, resonated strongly with the female heart.
Besides, if she was told that it was a gift from Olivia, she could not disregard it.
“Therefore, I will send a servant to serve you both later. Then, I’ll take my leave…”
The two of them looked at each other and laughed at the sudden announcement. They had never dreamed that they would be able to sit in on the party so soon.
“Your Highness? I’m looking forward to seeing you in your formal attire.”
“Oh, I can’t wait to see the princess in her dress as well.”
They exchanged theatrical gestures and reminisced about the party in about two weeks. Then they enjoyed chatting in the courtyard.
◇ ◇ ◇
That night, Krone finished Warren’s lesson, which had become routine, in her room at the castle.
“Although peace tends to hide them, there are many vicious monsters out there ─ please remember that.”
The time was just before the sun went down, and it had been a very long lesson today.
“That’s it for today’s lesson. Now, please consider… and discuss your future plans.”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
The lesson ended with a lot of difficult stuff, not something a nine-year-old girl would do. But she is trying her best to keep up with the rigor of the class.
“Lady Krone, you must be tired, so please use the large bathroom.”
Warren then looked at the tired Krone and suggested.
“A-as expected, that’s…”
“No, it’s an important duty to relieve fatigue.”
This is true, but she usually uses the bathroom provided in her room. The large bathrooms that are used by royalty made her refrain from using them.
“…I understand. I’ll take your word for it today.”
“Yes, please do. Then… I’ll be leaving.”
Warren said and left Krone’s room.
Phew… Krone let out a tired sigh and got up from her chair. She slowly walked out the door and made her way to the large bathroom.
“Well, I’m looking forward to it.”
Despite her reluctance, she was looking forward to being able to go to the large bathroom. Her mood gradually lifted; she lightened her step and made her way to the large bathroom.
“Oya? Krone-sama, what brings you here at this hour?”
“Oh, good evening, Martha-sama.”
“No, no, you can just call me Martha.”
When she was called with sama, Martha told Krone so with a wry smile. But as expected, Krone seemed uncomfortable to call her that.
“Then… would you mind if I called you Martha-san?”
“It would be fine if you call me just by my name, but… yes, of course.”
After getting her consent to call her by that address, Krone answered the previous question.
“Actually, Warren-sama suggested that I go to the large bathroom. So I thought I’d borrow it for tonight.”
“Oh, that makes sense at this time… Please enjoy yourselves.”
Martha bowed deeply and was about to leave Krone’s side… But then she stopped and said
“Speaking of which──.”
“In the corridor leading to the large bathroom, there is the castle’s proud library.”
“Yes. From what I’ve heard, it’s quite large.”
“I was returning from the library to give Ain-sama a drink.”
In the end, she smiled at Krone, bowed once more, and then left.
“…I assume that means… that I have permission to meet him for the night?”
To see his face at the end of the day. Her heart naturally beats, and she decides to take a detour to the library. Krone was heading for the large bathroom, so the stacks were only a short walk away.
After going down a couple of stairs, she came to a room with a particularly large door. She put her hand on the historic door and slowly opened it without making a sound.
A row of bookshelves spread out in front of her. The walls were so high that she couldn’t imagine how many books were on them.
She smelled the old paper and started looking for Ain.
“…I wonder where he is.”
There were desks and chairs everywhere, but no sign of Ain. She walked further and further into the room, to a spot by the wall with high windows all around.
He was sitting alone in his chair, with several thick books stacked on his desk. And what caught Krone’s eye more than anything else was.
“…So that’s the pile of paper Ain makes, as rumor says.”
The pile of paper was full of words that Ain had scribbled on. Piled one on top of the other, it is an excellent example of his desperate efforts, a far cry from what an average person would do.
His concentration is so intense that he doesn’t even notice Krone nearby, moving his pen laboriously.
“You’re working so hard all by yourself until this late at night…”
In the morning, he trains with his sword, and then he studies until late at night, which makes her feel affectionate for him.
She then breathes into his ear as if to play a prank.
Martha said that she had given him a drink earlier. This means that Ain was just about to take a break, so she decided to play a little joke on him.
“Eh… Eh…..? Eeeeeehhh!”
“I-is it too much of a surprise…?”
After his body shook with fear and looked around, he turned his attention to Krone behind him. He finally realized who the culprit was, and his lips twitched in embarrassment at his surprise.
“I… I’m not surprised, you know…? If anything, I was just tickled…!”
It’s obviously an attempt to look tough, but the gesture is adorable. She kept it to herself, as saying this would obviously put him in a bad mood.
“I just finished my studies for the day. I heard that Ain was still studying, so I came to check on you.”
“…I see. Then, I’d be happy if you’d talk to me normally next time.”
“Can I do the same as before if I talk to you first?”
He didn’t answer but took a sip of the drink that Martha had just made. After gulping it down, he looked at Krone, who seemed to have calmed down a bit.
“It’s no fun to watch me study, is it?”
“No, not really. I’m happy because I got to see something amazing, you see?”
She looked at the pile of papers and started talking about it.
“I got to see Ain’s pile of papers, as it was rumored.”
“W-what’s that rumor…?”
“It’s a secret. It’s just that Ain is working really hard…”
He had no idea what she was talking about, and Ain just looked at her curiously.
“I guess that means… I have to work even harder.”
It’s not that she was slacking off; she was making an effort in her own way. But when she found out that the man she loved was working even harder, she decided that she had to work even harder…
“Ah, I wanted to ask you, is it true that Ain has broken many wooden swords?”
“Huh… eh, how did you know… about that?”
The Roundheart’s servant had been telling the truth. Krone smiled and watched Ain’s dismay.
“I wonder if Ain was… more violent than I thought?”
She didn’t think so, but she just enjoyed talking to him and wanted to tease him.
“…I used to carve a piece of wood into a sword every morning, but it would break easily in the evening.”
“Hmm… Was it cheap wood?”
“No, it’s a high-quality wood that can be used for ships and building materials.”
And then, Krone was taken aback.
“D-did you just destroy a wooden sword like that in one day?”
“…I’ve been swinging it like an idiot, so maybe the burden was too much.”
However, there is no way that a mere boy’s strength can break it. It took only half a day. Krone thinks that he might have been talented even back then, with her eyes glazed over. Even if it is a skilled adult knight, it would not be easy to do the same as Ain.
“You have a strength deep within your body that your skills cannot measure.”
Muttering, she thought even more strongly ─ she would have to work even harder to stand next to Ain.
Eventually, Krone gently turns around and leaves Ain.
“I was on my way to the bathroom. Would you like to join me?”
She giggled and teased him for the umpteenth time. Immediately after that, Ain blushed and replied.
“I won’t join you! Now, go take a bath and get some rest!”
With a flamboyant gesture, he replied, which made Krone even happier. If he was embarrassed, it meant that he found her attractive.
“Fufu. See you next time, okay?”
So she deliberately hints at the next time.
She said good night to Ain, who blushed and kept quiet and walked to the large bathroom. This evening, she was able to travel to the dream world in an excellent mood. It was a day when she strongly felt that being close to him warmed her heart so much.