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The next morning. Inside the castle gate, the crown prince Ain is in a hurry.
“Ain-sama! Your tie! Your tie is crooked!”
Ain had unusually overslept. Chris, who was also in a hurry to get ready, approached him. She bent down and put her hand on Ain’s chest and dexterously adjusted the bent tie.
“It’s an amazing tie… it bends on its own…!”
“It’s not like that, is it? I think that Ain-sama just bent it himself… Yes, it’s fixed now.”
Ain’s neck is tightened by her long and shapely fingertips.
“Huh, I’ve not seen Dill this morning…”
“Dill is in training. He’s still a rookie knight, after all.”
As soon as she took her hand away from Ain’s chest, a woman approached from the castle’s direction.
It’s Martha, in her servant’s uniform.
“Um… Is that okay? It’s good to see you two getting along so well this morning, but I’m afraid you’re running late.”
Ain-sama! Let’s hurry up!”
They both checked their wristwatches and decided to leave the carefree exchange at that. Ain started running, and Chris followed him.
“Martha-san! I’m off!”
“Yes. Take care and have a good day.”
Needless to say, Ain’s presence was the main reason why the castle was more lively than before. He exchanged a few words with the servants and knights he passed along the way and walked out of the castle gate. Chris, who seemed to be pushed around a little, seemed to be enjoying herself somewhat, and she kept smiling even though he gave her a hard time.
After a while, Chris returned to the castle after sending Ain off. Before she left for work, she saw Olivia when she was approaching the courtyard and approached her.
“Good morning. I have just returned from escorting Ain-sama to the academy.”
“Yes, thank you for all your help.”
Olivia, who was elegantly enjoying her tea, put down her cup and looked at Chris.
“I heard that you’ve been fixing Ain’s tie this morning. I don’t know, but I feel like Chris is being even nicer to that boy than before.”
It’s not a quizzical attitude, but Olivia’s voice is bouncing with happiness.
“…Is that so? I don’t think I’m doing anything special…”
Olivia smiles, perhaps unconsciously.
“But I can’t take my eyes off him.”
“He is just like Olivia-sama, but much more mischievous. That’s why I think I have to keep a close eye on him, like no one else.”
Chris said, folding her hands behind her back. She looked at the flowers planted in the courtyard and relaxed her cheeks.
“…Also, I can be by his side without straining my shoulders.”
The two of them are a good match. They can be either as guards or as close companions.
Olivia took a sip of her tea and opened her mouth.
“It’s true that Chris is even more clumsy when he’s in front of Ain.”
“Hahaha… I wonder if I’m too relaxed? I’m sometimes worried because it’s too natural…”
“If you two are having fun, I don’t think anyone has any reason to complain.”
“…I’d like to be a little more like that cool older sister, but…”
In the end, Olivia smiled broadly as she blinked repeatedly, and Chris pouted her lips in frustration.
◇ ◇ ◇
A few hours have passed, and the place has changed to the Royal Kingsland Academy.
Now, in the middle of summer, the small lake where Wolf had set off the explosives when Ain was a freshman was also filled with green leaves floating on the shimmering surface of the water.
“So? I told him. You really do have muscles like slugs, don’t you?”
Today, the usual four of them were sitting on the terrace of the school cafeteria, and Ain laughed a little at Batz’s mysterious metaphor.
“What’s that? Are you trying to humiliate him?”
The two friends followed Ain and opened their mouths.
“…Batz. The whole body of a slug is mostly muscle. So it’s not appropriate for you to discredit their muscles.”
“H-haha… but what’s funny is that the slugs are the ones that come to my mind.”
The four of them are already a fixed group, but in fact, they are the only ones who have succeeded in maintaining a single group through the third year. Since their freshman year, they have been working well together, and the friendly rivalry they have developed together has been a valuable asset.
“Hey, Leonardo! Slugs are so small! The same muscles mean different things.”
“N-no, I mean… That’s because Batz said something about muscles!”
…Huh. Batz is so smart; why is the conversation always like this…?”
“Hmm? Hey, Ain. I think Roland just made fun of me. Is it just my imagination?”
“I don’t think it’s just your imagination. He’s actually making fun of you.”
“H-hey! I know, right? Geez… Roland is really a terrible person!”
In addition, the people around Ain also agree that Ain should work with these three people.
Dill has already graduated from the school, and there is no one in the academy to guard Ain. If there are more than one people, they can act as guards, and if there are people from noble families like Leonardo and Batz among them, it will make even more sense.
Dill, who is now a royal knight, even secretly thanked the three of them.
──Batz stood up after the jokes and idle chatter.
“Well then. I’m going to start training now.”
Looking at the clock, the time is a little past noon.
“Ah, that’s right… I’m going to go to the workshop as well.”
“I’m going to go to the library and do some self-study. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Your Highness… Ah, someone’s coming.”
A moment later, the three of them were about to leave their seats and seemed to be splitting up.
But then several knights hurriedly approached from the direction in which Leonardo noticed them.
“That appearance… they’re the royal knights. So I guess that means they’re here for Ain, right?”
“For the time being, we’re going to wait for the knights to arrive just in case.”
Leonardo said to wait just in case because there was concern that someone dressed as a knight would attack Ain.
“Yes. That’s right.”
Roland responded, and the three of them stood next to where Ain was sitting.
“──Your Highness. There’s a message from Lloyd-sama. This is why we had to rush to the academy”.
After saying that, he presented his status card.
Since it was confirmed that he was definitely a knight of Ishtalika, Leonardo and the other three stepped back so as not to get in the way.
“Thank you. So what’s this about?”
“With all due respect, Your Highness… It’s confidential, so we can’t discuss it here.”
Then Leonardo said, “Your Highness,” looked at Ain and changed his attitude.
“Your Highness. We will take our leave now.”
“Have a nice day, Your Highness.”
“Ah, um… We’ll see you tomorrow. Your Highness.”
“Yeah. See you tomorrow.”
Leonardo, Batz, and Roland said their goodbyes in that order, and then everyone separated at the same time.
After confirming that they had left, the royal knight talked about the secret.
“──A monster that corresponds to a national disaster has appeared. Christina-sama is on her way to deal with it, but Lloyd-sama would like to talk to you about this as well.”
Ain wondered. Chris was on her way to deal with the monster.
Chris was one of the most talented people in Ishtalika. She was the vice commander of the royal knights, Olivia’s personal guard, and was currently in charge of guarding Ain.
When he was told that Chris had gone to such trouble to defeat the monster, he wrinkled his brow deeply.
(…The situation looks bad. This person’s complexion is also bad.)
Upon closer inspection, the royal knight’s expression is also calm, but his forehead is sweating, and his desperation is apparent as if he is holding something back.
“…I’m heading back to the castle now. Please escort me.”
There were several other knights at the entrance of the academy.
The knight who came with the message and the knight who was waiting for him all wore the armor of a royal knight.
“Thanks for picking me up. I will now return to the castle.”
Ain’s attitude towards the knights showed that he was used to being a royal family member. In an unforeseen situation like this, this simple attitude was appreciated.