It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (11/47), enjoy~
It has been about two weeks since I went to the castle town for a change of scenery. It’s mid-December, and the castle is bustling with activity.
It is a party. The party that Sylvird puts the most effort into during the year is coming up. As the snow begins to fall outside the window and the night scene is colored magically, a place is set up where only the family, some of the servants, and some of the knights attend.
──That’s because the party is…
“It’s Ain’s eighth birthday, isn’t it? Happy birthday.”
Olivia said in a cheerful voice from next to Ain, who was sitting in the honorable seat.
Last winter, there was no event to invite the nobility to celebrate his birthday, but that was because Ain had not yet been introduced, and this year, only his relatives were gathered due to the turmoil caused by Wolf.
However, the venue was too good to be a home party. It was too glamorous.
“Ain. Here you go, it’s a gift from me.”
“Thank you very much. …Um, can I open it?”
Olivia, sitting next to him, handed him a small box with a ribbon. She smiled and urged Ain to open it quickly.
“How is it? I hope you like it…”
What was inside was a pen with the royal crest engraved on it. In addition to being a luxury item, the fact that it has the crest of his own family makes Ain happy.
“Thank you for this wonderful gift! I will treasure it!”
“Fufu… that’s great. Happy birthday, Ain.”
After receiving her hug, Ain gently closed the box and placed it in front of him.
“Even so, that girl is. She’s a little weak when it comes to this kind of thing…”
“Mother? Who is the girl you were talking about?”
“…That cute, clumsy elf that’s always protecting Ain.”
“Y-yes…? What did Chris-san do?”
Olivia only smiled as if she was troubled but did not tell the true meaning of her feelings.
(Well, I don’t think I’ve seen Chris-san once since the party started.)
Is she busy? It’s not surprising, but there should be no work at a party with only a few people attending. It can’t be helped wondering that he can’t even catch a glimpse of her.
“I’m sure that girl is trying her best to be brave.”
“Well… I’m not really sure, but I understand. I’m going to go around and say hello.”
“Yes. See you later.”
Ain stood up from his seat and looked around the hall. He has already received gifts from Lloyd, Warren, and others. But he hadn’t yet thanked each of them individually, so he got up to thank them.
The first people he noticed were Lloyd and Dill.
With a glass in hand, he approached the table where the Glacier’s father and son were sitting.
“Good evening, Lloyd-san. Thank you for coming today, Dill.”
“Oh! Ain-sama! No, this is a very special day. Happy birthday once again.”
“Your Highness. Happy eighth birthday!”
Unlike Lloyd, who shouted out enthusiastically, Dill is still a quiet man.
“I’ve given you a gift from the Glacier family, but if there’s anything Your Highness would like, I’ll be happy to find it for you.”
His tone was firm, but in the past, Dill would not have said this.
“Ah! Then you can call me by my name…”
“I will refrain from calling you by your name, Your Highness. If there’s anything else I can do for you──.”
“…I haven’t been this frustrated in a long time.”
“Ku… Kukuku… N-no, Ain-sama. I’m really sorry for Dill…”
He can also understand how Lloyd feels when he lets out a laugh. Ain must have had a very amusing expression on his face.
“Hah… Your Highness? I don’t know how many times we’ve had this conversation.”
“W-well, then! I think it’s time for you to let it slide.”
“No, I can’t. I’m nothing more than a bodyguard.”
“Lloyd-san and the others call me by my first name, though.”
“──I am nothing more than an apprentice bodyguard. I am still a student and inexperienced, so my situation is different from that of my father and the others.”
Oh, if I say that, he says this! Ain inwardly revealed his dissatisfaction but raised his eyebrows at the not entirely unreasonable argument. His ambition to make Dill call him by his first name someday has not yet been crushed.
“I-I’m going to leave it at that for now. The next time…!”
“Ain-sama… that’s just an escape line…”
“It’s a statement of commitment for next time! I promise!”
After thanking them for the gift and stating his firm intention to make sure Dill calls him by his name, Ain leaves the table.
The next destination is the table where Warren and Krone were enjoying a chat.
“Hello. Thank you for your gift today as well, Warren-san.”
“No, not at all. I’m delighted that we are celebrating tonight… I’m sorry that you’ve only just arrived, but I have some business with His Majesty, so I’ll take my leave now.”
Warren greeted Ain lightly and left. The remaining Ain looked at Krone and laughed at the same time.
“Fufufu… it looks like he was being considerate to me.”
“It seems so. I’m sorry about that.”
“But since Warren-sama left the two of us like this, I’m going to be honest and take advantage of it.”
She said this and took Ain’s hand. She put her other hand on top of his and placed a small box in his palm.
“Happy birthday. It’s the first time I’ve given you a gift like this, right?”
“Oh… thank you! Can I open it?”
“Sure. Go ahead and open it.”
Krone’s head tilted up at an angle. She lowered her eyes to the Ain, who was curious about the contents of the gift, and bent her body into a crook as if to look into his face.
What was inside was a silver bracelet. It was a thin, simple, elegant gift with a series of tiny chains.
“Will you use it?”
“Of course! I’m so happy, thank you!”
“I’m so glad… After all, I wear the jewelry that Ain gave me, and he doesn’t wear anything that I gave him, that’s why…”
Krone mutters. In his right hand is a star crystal that reflects the chandelier’s light and shines today. She thinks that Ain will finally wear the gift that she gave to him, and her inner heart boils with joy.
“But when did you get it for me?”
Ain said as he tried to put on the bracelet. But he was unaccustomed to it and could not fit it with one hand, clumsily snapping the clasp.
“Here… give me your hand. I’ll do it for you.”
“You don’t have to worry about it. And I bought this the other day when we went to the castle town together. Do you remember the last store we went to? That’s why I was separated from Ain.”
“I didn’t notice that at all.”
“Fufu, I guess it was worth hiding to get it. Now, it’s done.”
Just like Krone, Ein’s right hand was also colored. The two of them naturally showed each other their right hands, and their cheeks loosened up.
“Look at them. They’re in a really good mood, right, Your Majesty?”
As Warren walked toward Sylvird, he spotted him at a distance from their seats. His cheeks were slightly red, probably because he had been drinking more than usual. He was smiling broadly and in a good mood as he talked with Warren, causing Laralua, who was standing close by, to laugh half-heartedly.
“Hahahahaha! Good, I feel so great now!”
Their softness towards Ain was evident in their dialogue.
“Wow, he looks amazing.”
“Or you should have said that that’s an amazing smile…”
“If I do that, he doesn’t look like a king… No, isn’t it strange that he can look like that and still have dignity?”
“He’s the king of a country like Ishtalika, so I don’t think it’s strange. But today, I feel he’s more like a grandfather than a king…”
“Perhaps you’re right. Well, he’s a wonderful grandfather.”
The two of them lightly tapped the glasses in each other’s hands. Although it was fruit water, it was very picturesque, especially when served by a young lady like Krone.
“Have you met Chris-sama?”
“No, I rather haven’t seen her since the party started; what about her?”
“…As a woman, I find Chris-sama’s behavior to be very cute.”
Aside from Ain, who was confused by the flow of the conversation, Krone didn’t say any more words.
It’s nothing, she said. And then she put her glass on the table.
“Maybe Chris-sama is looking for an opportunity with Ain?”
“Eeh… What’s that? Am I going to get assaulted?”
“No, it’s not. She’s just looking for an opportunity.”
Ain has no idea what that means. He just tilted his head.
“Maybe you should go to the balcony to try it out. If you wait for a little while, Chris-sama might come.”
“What’s that? Is that a prediction… or an intuition?”
“Don’t worry. My intuition often comes true in these situations.”
The strong confidence in her attitude made Ain feel that she deserved to be believed somehow. That’s how persuasive Krone was.
“Then I guess I’ll try it…”
“You should try it. I’m sure Chris-sama will be there.”
Ain parted from Krone and went to the balcony as she had said. It was still cold and snowy outside, and he didn’t think he could stay there very long.
“…I have no idea.”
If he came out there, Chris might come. Even after contemplating, it was still puzzling.
“H-huh? What a coincidence, Ain-sama!”
Chris really came. She walked nervously, her hands unnaturally hidden behind her back.
“…She really came.”
Ain was surprised by Krone, who had made the right guess, and his eyes lit up when he saw Chris, who looked as if she had been dragged out.
“Chris-san, I haven’t seen you around today. Where have you been?”
“M-me…? I was, um… that’s right! I had to help Martha-san with some errands…”
“No, you don’t, do you? Martha-san also participated in today’s event without having to work.”
“…Eh, is that so?”
“You’re lying. I now realize that Chris-san was also a liar… Ugh… it’s cold…”
Chris’s eyes darkened as she was easily caught up, but her face also brightened as if she had gained a ray of hope. When she heard Ain’s voice saying it was cold, she quickly approached him.
“It’s cold when you go outside dressed like that…! Actually, I just happened to have this in my possession… if it’s okay with you…”
Fuwah, Ain’s neck is wrapped in something soft. The mysteriously warm cloth warmed Ain from the neck.
“Huh? A muffler…?”
“Y-yes! It’s really a coincidence that I just happened to have this with me!”
“Heh… I see… huh?”
When Ain looked at the edge of the muffler, it had the embroidery that he had just seen the other day. It was proof that it was from the last store they visited in the castle town.
(Could it be Chris-san…)
Was this the reason why she had been acting a little suspicious that day? Also, the reason why he couldn’t see her today and come here was probably because she was not used to giving gifts and felt embarrassed.
Ain realized the meaning of what Krone had said.
“I said on the port that I wanted a muffler, didn’t I?”
“Eh? W-w-w-w-w… what are you talking about?”
“…Then, I’ll return the gift that Chris-san gave me for my birthday. Thank you for everything.”
He took out a small box from his pocket, just as small as the one he had received from Krone.
“Actually, I bought it at the same store. I bought something else for mother and Krone, but I’ll give it to Chris-san first…”
She looked reluctant, but Ain forced her to hold it and told her to open it.
“It’s beautiful… but, I-I can’t accept this!”
“I always indebted to you, and this is my way of thanking you. And also, it would be rude not to accept something that the crown prince has given you.”
Ain grinned like a naughty child, which of course, was not his intention. It was a way to convince Chris, who tended to be reserved.
“It’s… it’s not fair! If you say something like that, I’ll…”
“Chris-san, this muffler is so warm. Was there something like this on the second floor of that store?”
“Eh? Y-yes. There were a few similar ones ─ Hah!”
“You don’t have to act like you’ve dug a grave; I already know everything. It’s fine. The next time I go to school, I’m going to start wearing this muffler.”
The flow of the conversation was already in Ain’s hands. Chris was also panicked that she had been found out, but in fact, she was so happy that Ain liked it that she felt like jumping up and down.
She wanted to say something, but her cheeks almost slackened, and she held her tongue.
“You know, I don’t think there’s anything to be embarrassed about…”
“Of course there is! I was a lonely woman who had never given a gift before, and I was always so nervous just knowing when to give it!”
“Even if you’re so determined…”
“That’s fine! I’ll use the necklace that Ain-sama gave me too!”
“Oh, please do so by all means. I’ll be happy if you use it.”
Chris was completely drained of the poison. When Ain smiled innocently at her, she revealed her innermost thoughts and regained her composure.
“──C-cough. Now, let’s talk again, Ain-sama.”
Her face naturally regained its dignity.
“Happy birthday to you.”
“Yes, thank you. And also, the color of your cheeks has not yet subsided.”
“──Please let it slide even if you know it!”
Today was his birthday. And Ain learned about a new side of Chris. Chris also found out that Ain was still as kind as ever, but he also had a surprisingly mean side.