As Luke said, in a few days, each family will receive the field trip details. However, since Sylvird is the supreme director of the academy, Ain only needs to hear confirmation from Sylvird.
It was the day the academy was closed.
After finishing his daily training, Ain takes a shower and passes Warren in the castle hallway.
“Why don’t you go outside and relax once in a while?”
The conversation was rather vague. Warren said, “Good work for the training,” and then he added that.
“Relaxing? …Hmm, another day at the beach in the back would be a little boring, wouldn’t it?”
“So why don’t you go outside? As a reward for Wolf’s incident, His Majesty has permitted you to walk outside, right?”
“Now that you mention it, I’m tempted to go to the castle town…”
“Well, that’s good. Then why don’t you ask Lady Krone to join you?”
Warren finally said this and left favorably. It’s a strangely sudden development, but it doesn’t bother Ain; his attention is on the castle town.
He walked through the castle, humming to himself.
“…But where’s Krone? Martha-san may know about it.”
“Yes, I do know it.”
When did she appear? Ain opened his mouth to be surprised by Martha’s sudden appearance. She came because she heard a voice calling for her, and her expression made Ain flinch.
“Lady Krone is in Olivia-sama’s room right now.”
“…Thank you. I’ll go there now.”
“Yes, I shall take my leave then.”
She bowed elegantly, but the fact that she was so mysterious was hard to take away from Ain’s eyes. However, Ain went straight to Olivia’s room. Her room is close to where he is now.
──Knock, Knock. He knocked lightly with the back of his hand.
Olivia’s voice was heard from inside, and Ain stepped into the room.
There was a sofa in the middle of the room. Chris was also unusually seated on it, and Olivia, Krone, and the three of them were happily sitting around the table.
Ain asked Olivia if the timing was wrong.
“Huh? Were you perhaps talking about something?”
“Welcome, Ain. Yes, actually, Chris is…”
“W… W-w-we’re not talking about anything! It’s just that… I was thinking of having a cup of tea together sometime!”
“Fufu ─ that’s what it seems. I’m sorry.”
It is obvious that they were talking about something. Furthermore, it’s something that they want to hide from Ain.
(A fellowship of women… Yeah)
It may be embarrassing, even if it’s with the crown prince. Ain didn’t pursue it in particular and looked at Krone, who was sitting across from Olivia.
“Yes. I asked Martha-san about you. Was everything alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Warren-sama was here once before too.”
Is that why he told Ain to invite Krone?
“W-well, that’s okay. …Actually, Warren-san suggested I go to the castle town once in a while for a change of pace. Do you want to go with me?”
“Ara. Is it an invitation for a date?”
“…You can say that if you want.”
Ain doesn’t deny it, but he muddies the waters in an embarrassed manner.
“Geez! I’d be happier if you said it properly…”
But seeing that Krone’s cheeks softened, Ain realized that it was a good idea to invite her.
“That’s right. Olivia-sama, would you like to join us, too?”
“I apologize, but I have some work to do after this… Can you just take Chris with you?”
It was natural for Chris to accompany them as an escort. But Olivia’s reserved demeanor hinted at other intentions. Krone also looked as if she had guessed something. Chris looked as if she had found hope.
The conversation proceeded despite Ain’s confusion. With Krone and Chris, who immediately prepared to go out, Ain left the castle and headed for the castle town.
◇ ◇ ◇
The port of the royal capital has a crescent-shaped hollow carved out of it. It had been cleared to create a large, practical port where ships and battleships could dock. The three of them decided to do some shopping on the way to the port before heading back.
The cold sea breeze blew strongly for a moment.
“It’s already December. You should have dressed a little warmer… Aren’t you going to wear a muffler or something?”
“Oh… I don’t have a muffler. I might want one, though.”
“Fumufumu… muffler, huh…?”
Chris took out a piece of paper from her pocket and wrote it down quickly. While wondering what she was doing, Ain looked at the sea.
“There are a lot of reefs around here.”
When he looked a little offshore, he saw rocks poking out of the water. This is the reason why the port of the royal capital is inferior to the port city of Magna.
“The reef over there? That is the remains of the damage caused by a monster soon after the establishment of the royal capital here.”
How big was the monster attack? If the reef is a trace of damage caused by a monster, it means that there used to be land there.
Krone, who was also surprised, stood next to Ain and listened.
“The crescent-shaped hollow that stretches out before us was not there when the country was founded. Originally, the land was even wider, and the port was built in the offshore area where it is now located.”
“Chris-sama. It sounds like the vast land area was destroyed by a monster.”
“Yes, just as you said, Lady Krone. A single monster destroyed it.”
Chris walked slowly along the rocky pier.
“The huge body is bigger than our battleship, and the destructive power is enough to control the waves and sink the entire land into the sea ─ it is called the king of the sea. The damage was caused by a sea dragon.”
No way. Ain thought so; it does not mean that the story is not credible.
The port of the royal capital is not small. It’s just that Magna’s port is way too big. The power that had turned much of the land into ocean debris naturally made Ain swallow his saliva.
“I hear that in the past, dozens of ships were sunk, and tens of thousands of people were killed. In the long history of Ishtalika, it is the second most damaging to human life after the Demon King.”
“…Has it already been defeated?”
When Krone asked with a stiff expression, she received a wry smile from Chris and words that seemed difficult to say.
“Yes, it has. However, the sea dragon will reappear approximately every hundred to two hundred years. So it wouldn’t be strange if it appeared in the near future.”
Every time it appears, it has a history of sacrificing many people and somehow being defeated. Whenever it appears again, she said, the only way to defeat it is to be prepared to sacrifice a lot.
“But, I’m sure the technology in this country is getting better. So there must be a countermeasure…”
“As Ain-sama said, we are continuing our research into countermeasures against the sea dragon. But…”
Chris’s ponytail swayed dully…
“The experts are saying. But even so, it’s hard to imagine how many casualties there will be.”
That’s why it’s the second most destructive monster after the Demon King.
“I-I’m sorry… for telling you such a gloomy story while we were out…”
“It’s not like that. Right, Krone?”
“Yes. Thank you for telling us something important.”
The three of them left the seashore in order to regain their composure. But in the corner of Ain’s mind, the fear of the existence of the sea dragon left a deep scar.
The sun was setting much earlier than usual. It was getting darker and darker in the castle town, and the first snow would start to fall soon.
The three of them walked to an area lined with stores off one of the main streets. Not far from the noble district, there are many stores selling so-called luxury goods, and Majolica’s store is not far away from here.
“…I’ve bought several outfits, is that okay?”
As soon as they left one of the clothing stores, Ain twitched his cheek. The three of them were empty-handed, as their purchases would be sent to the castle.
“It’s okay. Actually, Laralua-sama has asked me to go and find some clothes for you. Ain-sama’s body is getting bigger and bigger, after all…”
“It looks good on you. Can you try it on next time?”
“T-thank you… but I think the problem is the price.”
The amount was one digit different from what Ain had imagined, and when he finished paying the bill, there was one more zero.
“Um, you know, Ain-sama is the crown prince, so it would be a problem if he wore something too cheap…”
Krone, on the other hand, did not move an eyebrow. She was born in a great noble family, and she had seen a lot of money being spent, more than Ain.
“Wasting money is not a good thing. But, if the royal family and the nobles are always reluctant to spend money, there will be no money to go around for the people of the country.”
When you spend, you spend. Krone convinced him that it was also the responsibility of those who stood above. Chris, standing next to her, seemed to agree with her, and she nodded without saying it out loud.
“N-now that I’ve done my shopping! Aren’t there any places you two want to go…?”
Ain understood Krone’s reasoning but felt uncomfortable. They’ve been to a few stores so far, but he changed the subject, probably because he only bought his own stuff.
“Speaking of which… Chris-sama, should we get going on?”
Suddenly, Krone said that and looked at Chris. After a puzzled look, she replied, “Yes, I guess so.”
“Ain. Actually, there’s a store I want to go to. Do you mind if we go?”
“Sure. Then let’s get going.”
The two of them walked so close that the backs of their hands were almost brushing against each other. It was somewhat awkward, but Chris, who was watching them, could see that they had made more progress than last year.
Apparently, Krone was used to walking in this area.
“Here, here. Come on… follow me.”
“I… I get it!”
Ain, who occasionally walked along with Krone’s pull, still looked embarrassed. In her right hand, a star crystal shines brightly again today.
“What store are you going to?”
“Hmm… They sell hair clips, rings, and I think they also sell shoes for gentlemen.”
“It’s not really a general store; it’s more like an accessory store.”
“Yes, something like that.”
That sounds like something he could enjoy. After he thought that…
“When we entered the store, I wanted to look around with Chris-sama. So I might leave Ain alone for a while, is that okay…?”
(…I see, so that’s it.)
It would be embarrassing if it weren’t between women. He perceived Krone’s intentions, not inferring evil, but in a purely guilty way.
“It’s okay. I’ll look around the store too. It’s okay, right, Chris-san?”
“Y-yes! It won’t be too far, but please don’t go outside, okay?”
She hadn’t forgotten about the previous incident in the academy district. Although Ain gets it done well, he doesn’t always behave as planned.
“I know I’ll be hanging out in the store, so please meet me there when you’re done.”
Thus, the three of them went to a cozy building filled with the warmth of wood and orange lights that created a gentle atmosphere. The store’s cozy and quiet atmosphere gave the impression of unadorned dignity.
The store was divided into the first and second floors, and there were no customers except for the three of them. The showcases visible from the entrance were lined with elegantly designed pens and tie pins.
According to the information, shoes, hats, and other accessories are sold on the second floor.
“Is that where Krone and Chris-san are going?”
“Yeah, are you coming too, Ain?”
“Hmm… It’s fine. I’ll take a look at the first floor, and you can stay with Chris-san.”
She seemed to know that he had been paying attention to her. She smiled gently and walked up the stairs with Chris, away from Ain.
The stairs made of hardwood made a clattering sound.
“…Let’s take a look around.”
Walking around the store alone was something Ain had never thought of doing before, and it lifted his spirits. He gazed at the neatly lined showcases, occasionally uttering, “Heh…”
An elderly gentleman approached Ain, who seemed to be the owner of this store.
“Hello, customer-san. Can I help you with some──.”
When he realizes that he is dealing with the crown prince, his expression changes drastically.
“My, my… I apologize for approaching you in such a rude manner.”
“U-uhm, no, it’s okay, you don’t have to worry about it. Or rather, how did you know who I was?”
Although someone in the academy district rarely finds out about Ain, he was surprised that the owner recognized him as the crown prince just at a glance.
“What are you talking about? Your Highness has already been introduced to the public, hasn’t he? Besides, although our store is a humble one, Her Royal Highness has visited us. She has told me about Your Highness on several occasions.”
“So grandmother was visiting. No wonder the store has such a nice atmosphere…”
“I appreciate it.”
Ain walked through the store with the owner.
The owner said that he and his wife run the store and that although it is small, it has a long history. In the past, Sylvird had also visited the shop, and he could understand why Krone liked it so much.
“──However, with all due respect, there is nothing in my store that can compare to that jewel.”
“That jewel… you mean the Star Crystal?”
“Yes. There is no information that I know of that the jewel has been sold in the stores in the capital. In other words, I think it was a gift from Your Highness.”
That was the correct answer. The store owner did not pursue the matter any further when Ain replied with a wry smile. It was a so-called delicate topic, and Ain was grateful for the response.
“Can you help me find a gift? I was thinking of giving something light to the two people who have been so good to me…”
“If that’s the case…”
The owner of the store pondered but quickly opened his mouth.
“It’s not easy to get precious metals for young ladies. There’s nothing better than that jewel…”
“In that case, do you have something that can be used during this season?”
“You are right. But if it is a knight, a simple necklace may be a good idea.”
Nodding to his advice, Ain searched for a gift within his allowance.
In the end, he bought a large stole for Krone, and for Chris, he chose a small coin necklace inlaid with jewels. He also selected and purchased some small accessories for Olivia. Each item in this store is stamped or embroidered. It was like proof of quality.
It was more than ten minutes after they parted. Then he heard footsteps coming from the top of the stairs.
“Oya. It seems that your companions have returned.”
Krone and Chris descended the stairs, just as they had done when they went upstairs. The difference was that both of them had small paper bags in their hands.
(Did they get what they wanted?).
He thought as he saw them smiling at each other with satisfaction.
“It seems like the time is up, isn’t it? I would be happy to help you if there is another opportunity.”
“Yes, thank you very much. Well, if there is a chance, I would appreciate it.”
After thanking the owner, who bowed, Ain approached the two girls.
“I’m sorry… I made you wait too long…”
“Me too. I apologize too…”
“It’s okay; it’s okay. I was having fun on my own.”
This was the end of their outing for the day. The three of them went outside and walked through the castle town as the nightfall was falling. When Ain returned to the castle, he enjoyed his dinner in a good mood, saying it was a nice change of pace.