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After the tour, the group was having lunch in the dining hall. As the hungry Ain left his seat for a refill, Leonard opened his mouth.
“I was surprised by the training earlier.”
“Yes. I’m still amazed at the environment Ain is in.”
“Err, what about you two? I was hoping you could tell me something I could understand.”
Batz answered Roland’s question.
“We were surprised to see the training of the royal knights, but Ain did not raise an eyebrow. That means he’s used to seeing that.”
“He must have been exposed to that environment since he was a child.”
“From the looks of it, I’d say so. It makes our school seem like a lukewarm place.”
“Oh… that’s true. That’s probably why Ain-kun is so strong.”
Roland remembered how Ain had protected him from the vampire on the day of the academy district competition.
The three of them had all caught a glimpse of Ain’s efforts that were unknown to them. The thought that Ain was going to grow a lot in the future inspired them to keep working hard so as not to be left behind.
When the conversation was over, Ain came back in a good mood.
“Huh? Were you talking about something?”
“A lot of things. Why does Ain look so happy?”
“Because I liked the food today.”
It’s obvious, isn’t it? Ain said with a puzzled look.
At the unexpected words from the person they admired, the three of them lost their strength, and their expressions broke down. This is just like Ain, they thought.
Ain sat back in his chair and looked at the three smiling faces curiously.
Then Martha, dressed in her servant’s uniform, walked over.
“Ain-sama, excuse me for interrupting your meal.”
“Hmm? Why are you here?”
“I’m sorry to bother you, but… it’s the time for your afternoon appointment.”
Although he thought he had come to the dining hall earlier than planned, he seemed to have taken his time too much. He looked at his watch and saw that it was already past noon.
“Oh? Is there something you need to do?”
“A little. I’ve got some decisions to make.”
“Then, you will go, Your Highness?”
“I’m sorry, but yeah.”
It’s regrettable, but it seems that he’s supposed to discuss the matter of Baltic.
Ain finished his lunch, which he had just refilled, with gusto and without even tasting it. He felt a little regret that he should have checked the time carefully.
“Well then, Ain-ku ── No, Your Highness! See you at the school!”
In response to Roland, who waved cheerfully, Ain took Martha and left the dining room.
“Lady Krone is waiting for you in her office; I will show you the way.”
Soon after they started walking, a little girl came from the front carrying a basket of vegetables.
The girl had a better complexion than before, and her servant clothes made her look different.
But Ain knew her well.
“Ah! Your Highness! Hello!”
She was Mei, the orphaned girl he had rescued at Ist six months ago. Her carefree smile and cheerful greeting naturally made Ain’s cheeks relax.
“What are you doing here, Mei?”
“Me? I’m doing… hmm…”
Seeing Mei’s troubled look, Martha offered a helping hand.
“I’ve had Mei working in the dining hall lately. I have been entrusted to take care of her, so I thought I’d give her a chance to experience as much as I did when I was younger.”
“I see. Gifted education.”
“Ara ara… what a waste of words.”
“Well, Your Highness! I’m going to the dining hall now!”
“Yes, have a good day.”
As she walked away, Mei’s backward figure was full of vigor and confidence.
“I’m teaching her the same thing I was taught. No matter what time or place it is, a servant should always be graceful. Well, in Mei’s case, she’s just learning the job.”
“Martha-san’s master seems to be amazing, huh?”
“She’s indeed an amazing person. Even now, she is in charge of all the servants in the castle.”
She smiled and said.
“I’ve never told you this, but my master is Beria-sama. She’s the one who has been the head servant for many years and is the personal servant of Queen Laralua.”
“The old hag? I see… that’s why Martha-san is also amazing.”
The servant, Beria, whom Ain calls her old hag, doesn’t take care of anyone but Laralua.
That’s why, when in the castle, she’s rarely seen, and when she is, it’s usually only in places where Laralua is present. And she is capable of being the head servant in a castle where there are only competent servants.
It is natural for tea to taste different depending on who makes it.
Beria brews a tea that Martha could not beat even if she stood on her own head. She was also an extraordinary servant who could do what Laralua wanted without her having to say it out loud.
“She’s a great person, as you say, but she’s also a bit of a mystery. It’s only between you and me, but I heard that she used to be in a relationship with Warren-sama.”
“Please, keep this between us.”
Ain nodded back without saying it out loud and just opened his mouth in surprise.
He wanted to ask for more details. But, not wanting to ask too rudely, he managed to swallow his interest.
“I’m satisfied with the fact that Mei seemed to be enjoying her work. So, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear what you just said.”
By the way, Mei’s sister, Vara, is engaged in a different kind of work.
The place of work is a healing center set up near the knight training center. It’s not that she can handle healing magic, but she said that she was suited to work in a healing center, perhaps because of her personality.
As they were enjoying their conversation, they came to the entrance of the castle.
The knight opened the door, and Ain stepped in, where Krone met him. She seemed to be on her way out of the castle and almost bumped into Ain, bringing the distance between them closer.
She had a thin bundle of paper on her chest and was about to fall, but Ain supported her.
“It’s okay. But weren’t you in the office?”
“I heard that Warren-sama had prepared a conference room. That’s why I was going to go get Ain… but it was good to meet you now.”
Martha left the place at the same time that an intimate atmosphere began to flow between them. She bowed her head and said, “Excuse me,” so as not to disturb them.
“Shall we go then?”
With that, standing next to each other, Krone walks shoulder to shoulder with Ain. The distance between them is so close that the backs of their hands occasionally rub against each other, and before they know it, Ain’s hand is on Krone’s waist as they ascend the stairs.
For the people in the castle, it was a pleasure to watch the distance between them grow closer every day.
“Did you have fun this morning?”
“…It wasn’t fresh, but it’s fun with friends, isn’t it?”
“Fufu. You didn’t have to tell me; I could see it in your face.”
Her thin fingers brushed against Ain’s cheek.
They continued to talk about things that had nothing to do with their plans for the rest of the day, climbed a few stairs, and walked through the castle for a few minutes. The castle was really big, but the two of them were used to it by now.
“It looks like this is the place.”
They stopped in front of a room, and Krone knocked on the door.
“Yes, come in.”
The old, calm voice answered and opened the door.
“Welcome, both of you. Ain-sama, I see you’ve been enjoying yourselves this morning.”
“…I’ll leave that to your imagination.”
“Fufu… Indeed. That’s excellent.”
“Well then, let’s get started.”
Without any further ado, Ain started the discussion.
Warren handed some documents to Ain as they sat down on the sofa. When Ain started looking through them, he began to explain.
“As I mentioned earlier, today’s agenda is about your official business to Baltic.”
“You’re talking about me going on an inspection, right?”
“Yes. I’m going to tell you some of the details of your schedule today──”
Warren told him about the official business. It was clear that although there were several tasks, the content was not difficult and that there was a strong aspect of the inspection.
“I understood a lot. By the way, Krone is going to the Baltic too, isn’t she?”
“Yes. Because she’s your assistant.”
She wanted to go on a trip with him, so that’s why she took the position.
“And Dill and Chris-san?”
“No, Chris-dono is not coming.”
“Huh? Did she have something to do?”
Warren smiled and answered.
“She’s a marshal, so it would be a problem for Chris-dono to leave when Lloyd-dono leaves the capital too…”
“Oh, I see. That’s true if you say so.”
“I’m sorry to say this, but Lloyd-dono was very enthusiastic. He was determined to protect Ain-sama even if it cost him his life.”
“That’s encouraging. By the way, what did Chris-san say?”
“──Actually, I haven’t told her yet.”
Next to Ain, Krone sensed Chris’s state of mind.
“Maybe it would be better if Ain told her about this.”
“I agree with Krone-dono. Chris-dono will probably be depressed when she hears that she’s going to be staying…”
Chris must have known that Ain was going to the Baltic.
She was sure that she would be going with him, but… she would be shocked to hear that she was going to be staying. Ain can easily imagine how shocked she would be. About a year ago, on the way back from Ist, they promised to travel together again, and now this.
“Well, I guess you’ll have to tell Chris-dono about it, Ain-sama.”
“You pushed it on me out of the blue, didn’t you?”
“I don’t know what you mean. Next, I’d like to explain the number of people going to the Baltic.”
Alright, I’ll tell her myself, Ain said.
Having decided that, Ain listened to Warren’s words.
“We’ll have a little over a hundred people in total this time.”
“That’s a lot of people.”
“I hope you can understand the danger involved. And Krone-dono.”
“As Ain-sama’s personal assistant, you will be entrusted with taking care of him. Is that clear?”
“Yes, everything will be taken care of.”
There was something a little off about this. Will there be a servant with Ain?
“Is there any reason not to bring a servant with us?”
“No, the servants will come with you. The only thing is that Ain-sama will be taken care of by Krone-dono.”
“I see… I don’t know if I get it or not.”
For now, he closed his eyes and rechecked the flow of the conversation so far. Ain sorted out a few things that popped into his mind and nodded his head in agreement.
He knew that Krone would take care of his personal needs and that he was going with a very large group.
He also had to tell Chris that she would be staying behind.
Chris would probably stare at him with sad eyes, like a dog that had been left alone. He felt uncomfortable thinking about it.
“──I’m thinking of having you leave next month.”
“Then I’ll adjust Ain’s schedule accordingly.”
“Thank you very much. …By the way, Ain-sama.”
“Baltic has a harsh climate, covered with snow more than half the year. The straight line distance is not much different than Ist, but due to the rugged mountain ranges and other terrains, even the royal water train takes longer than going to Ist. I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this before, but are you okay with the cold?”
“Unfortunately, I’m better in warm weather.”
Krone smiles at Ain, who shakes his head.
“Then you should put on a lot of clothes so that you can sweat.”
“…I have a different feeling about this.”
“Fumu, it’s a good thing your assistant is competent.”
“All joking aside. You mean I have to get new winter gear too?”
“Indeed. It’s already snowing by the time Ain-sama gets to Baltic.”
It’s too early.
He knew that the land was covered with snow for half the year, but it was still summer when he went. It’s just before mid-summer, not even late summer.
“There is no such thing as a sense of season.”
It seems to be covered by a very special climate, but in a world where there is magic, is that too much to ask?
“If you go to Baltic, you might as well enjoy its streets. That place is also known as the holy land of blacksmiths, so I’m sure Ain-sama will enjoy it.”
It was information that strongly attracted him.
“By the way, I had asked Professor Oz to accompany you. However, I am sorry to inform you that he is too busy to accompany you this time.”
“Professor Oz must be busy, so I guess it can’t be helped.”
It was not long before Ain was on his way to Baltic ── a place that was much harsher than he had imagined.