It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (85/110), enjoy~
The following day, there was a commotion in the villa. This was because Ain was nowhere to be found.
The royal knights, who were the last to see him, had told Dill that he had gone to the basement.
“I must check before Olivia-sama wakes up.”
Dill hurried down to the basement, but the door was still closed. He wondered if Ain was really in there.
Thinking about it, Dill knocked roughly on the door. He knew that it was left by the first king, but all he could think about now was his master, Ain.
He knocked on the door for a few tens of seconds.
Suddenly, the door started to open in both directions. Then a sleepy-eyed Ain appeared from inside.
“Ain-sama! Are you alright?”
“Y-yeah… I’m sorry, I made you worry.”
As soon as Ain left the basement, the door closed automatically.
“Of course! W-why did the door…?”
“I don’t know, but it opened.”
“…What in the world happened in there?”
Ain is not sure how to answer. If he were to tell him what he saw, he would be telling the truth that the first king wanted to hide.
“There was a book or something that the first king left behind. But since I didn’t know if I should tell anyone, I’d ask my grandfather first before telling everyone. I’m sorry, but I’d appreciate it if you could keep the basement a secret from the royal knights as well.”
“No problem. As long as Ain-sama is safe, I’m fine.”
“Thank you for all of your help. ──Well, I think I’ll get some sleep until my official duty begins.”
“I wonder what happened in there. Were you not sleeping?”
“Unfortunately, I woke up during the night. I was reading a book in there until a while ago.”
“Ah, I have one question.”
As Ain walked up the stairs leading to the surface, he stopped and looked back.
“Have you ever heard of the curse of loneliness?”
“No, I haven’t heard of it, but…”
“Hmm, okay. Thanks.”
What exactly is that? Dill swallowed these words.
The words were the ones that Ain had seen when he was reading the first king’s diary. It was written on a page near the back cover.
(…The chief of the Red Foxes had a skill called the Curse of Loneliness.)
This is the information that the first king researched. The chief of the Red Foxes was skilled in the knowledge of curses and used that knowledge and skill to control the Demon Lord Arche. And it was written that the Red Fox chief had artificially caused her to run amok.
However, Ain still doesn’t know how he was able to open the door. The questions were endless, but he was grateful for the new information he had gained.
Ain rubbed his heavy eyelids and thought that he would have to visit the basement again later.
◇ ◇ ◇
The official duty of the day is a kind of memorial ceremony. The nobles were gathered in the square located in the center of the town.
Since Ain and Olivia were Dryads, they were supposed to plant a commemorative tree. The name of the event was to celebrate the return of Ain, who had saved the town.
“All clear, royal knights.”
Many knights had come to report to Dill, though the security was tight as usual.
“I understand. Then continue with your duties.”
He seemed to have gotten used to giving orders. He is not yet twenty years old, but he looks dignified.
“Martha-san, you can count on Dill.”
“I would be troubled if he did not. He is the son of a marshal and is assigned to the crown prince.”
Although she said this, the corners of her mouth were raised.
“And if you ask me, it’s because of Ain-sama.”
“Yes, you. You’ve really become a great man. All the people in the castle are looking forward to your reign.”
The topic suddenly changed and turned to Ain. Hearing their conversation, Olivia approached from behind Ain.
“It’s my Ain, after all. It’s only natural that he becomes a great man.”
She hugged him from behind.
“I understand, but please refrain from behaving like that in public.”
“Yees. I understand.”
Olivia walked away regretfully, and Martha accompanied her out of her seat.
Dill came running toward Ain, who was smiling, embarrassed about the skinship he had just experienced.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting. It seems that there was some kind of lively atmosphere.”
“…We were talking about Dill starting to show his dignity.”
“I-I’m flattered, but why are you suddenly talking about it…?”
“There have been a lot of things going on.”
When Ain said this, he thought about the upcoming tree planting.
The memorial tree planting began as planned. A few minutes after Ain was praised by Martha, the event began.
The organizer, a nobleman, gave a short speech before handing out burlap sacks of trees to all the participants.
Looking around, it was obvious that only the nobles were participating in the event.
But at least, no one could casually talk to the princess and the crown prince. As it was the job of the royal knights to do so, a certain distance was maintained between the nobles and Ain and the others. And in between stood the royal knights.
“We have to plant a lot of trees, don’t we?”
”Indeed, it’s quite a scale. The leading nobleman of this town said that it was a commemoration… of the arrival of the hero of Magna and his holy mother.”
The word “hero” made his spine tingle a little.
“It’s not surprising that my mother was named the holy mother. But it tickles me when people call me a hero.”
“But you’ve done enough to be called a hero.”
“Well, I’ve done some spectacular things indeed.”
“That brings back memories. I can still vividly recall the day I came to this town with Ain-sama after running away from the castle. It’s a good memory now that I was prepared to have my head cut off.”
“…I’m still grateful for that.”
It was not long before Dill called him by name again.
“We moved the royal train and rammed the ship.”
“It was pretty dangerous, right?”
“No, not quite. It was more like a suicide mission.”
Ain has an embarrassed expression on his face when he is told this.
The two of them exchanged glances in silence.
Eventually, Ain smiled bitterly and said to Dill, who closed his mouth.
“…..I’ll do better next time.”
“Please let there not be a next time.”
This was Dill’s deepest wish.
When most of the participants had finished planting the trees, one of the host noble’s arrived.
“Guard Officer Dill-dono, may I have your attention?”
“Yes, what can I do for you?”
“I’d like to ask His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and Her Royal Highness the Second Princess to plant the last tree…”
The nobleman turned his hand. When Dill looked in that direction, he saw that a conspicuous spot had been left.
A large hole had already been dug, and a sapling in a burlap sack was placed next to it.
After checking it out, Dill turned to Ain.
“I’m good. What about you, Mother?”
“If that’s what you want to do, I’ll do anything for it.”
As usual, she seemed to be in full affirmation of Ain.
The two of them followed the nobleman and proceeded to plant the last tree that had been prepared for them. When they arrived in front of the hole, the royal knights surrounded them and glanced at them.
They worry too much ── Ain thought.
“It can’t be helped.”
“Yees? What did you say?”
“It’s nothing. Let’s start planting.”
The burlap sack was heavier than the previous ones. However, it didn’t matter to the current Ain.
He placed the burlap sack gently in the hole and poured sand into it. In the end, Olivia picked up a jug and poured water on the dry soil. The scent of the soil rose in the air, gradually absorbing the water and turning a dark brown.
“It looks like good soil.”
“Ara, you think so too, Ain?”
“Yes. I thought it looked nutritious.”
“Actually, I thought so too. Maybe it’s because we are Dryads.”
Olivia then turned her compassionate eyes on the sapling.
Ain heard her say softly, “It’s going to be big,” and thought about what he might say. He couldn’t think of anything clever to say, so he ended up saying something similar.
He tapped the base of the tree gently as if talking to the sapling.
…This is the end of the tree planting.
There was the sound of drinking something.
“Dill, did you just swallow something?”
“It wasn’t me, but… what was that gulping sound?”
For a moment, there was a sound as if something was going down the throat.
Then there was another ── gulping sound.
This time, he could clearly see where it was coming from.
Olivia, who was standing next to him, seemed to hear it as well, and they both looked in the same direction at the same time.
“It was coming from below, wasn’t it?”
“Yes… I think so too.”
Unsure of what to make of it, Ain crouched down and put his ear to the ground. There was a mixture of sounds coming from underneath the ground, like something being drunk and sounds of dirt being shoveled.
Is there something under the ground?
At the same time as Ain stood up wondering, the ground in front of him swelled greatly.
He hugged Olivia’s body almost reflexively. And then he jumped away from the hole.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Ain protected me──”
“I’m glad to hear that. But what happened suddenly?”
As soon as he turned around to check on the situation, he saw Dill’s expression. His gaze was not on Ain but at the sapling that Ain had just planted.
His expression was confused as he widened his eyes as if he had just seen something unbelievable. The same was true for Martha, who was standing right beside him.
“What are you two so surprised about… Hmm? Where’s the sapling?”
When he turned around, the sapling he had planted earlier was gone. Instead, there was a huge ripple tree standing in its place.
Each leaf was lush and green, and the trunk was thick and magnificent. No matter how he looked at it, there was a huge ripple tree that was out of the ordinary.
“Um, Ain… that ripple tree is the sapling that Ain planted.”
Olivia, who was approaching, anxiously grasped the sleeve of Ain’s clothing.
Ain couldn’t help but be surprised.
(Could it be because I told it to grow bigger?)
It might have been because he, as the Demon Lord from the Dryad, said so that this happened.
It was still too early to draw any conclusions, but he couldn’t help but feel that this was the most likely explanation.
“It even yielded fine fruit…”
“I’m sorry, but this is not the time to be talking about fine fruit.”
Dill had a good point.
The phenomenon was so great that even Ain was distracted.
The participants’ voices began to reach Ain’s ears as he smiled bitterly. There were many voices, such as “What’s going on?”
There was no sound of fear but a strong sense of confusion.
(What should I do?)
Although he could not make a decision on the spur of the moment, Olivia says, “It’s okay,” in a small voice.
Then she turns to the nobles and speaks out loud.
“This is a representation of the Crown Prince Ain’s power. The crown prince is one of the few Dryad beings who is blessed with even rarer powers. It is no secret that his body has grown greatly. It was his special power that created the Great Ripple Tree in this way.”
The nobles listened in silence. Ain, who was standing next to Olivia, also took in his regal appearance.
“The crown prince is not only a hero for defeating the sea dragons, but he also brings the bounty of nature to Ishtalika, which was unified by His Majesty the First.”
Smiling, Olivia finished speaking, and the area fell into silence.
It was also the nobles who broke the silence. One of the nobles clapped his hands and said a few words in praise of Ain.
“Our hero even brings the blessings of nature…! His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, is just like a reborn version of His Majesty the First!”
Olivia’s speech came to life because Ain had always been thought of favorably.
“Good grief… Olivia-sama, are you sure it is okay to say what you just said?”
“Ara, do you think it is wrong, Martha? That was actually what Ain just did. …That looks like a delicious ripple, by the way.”
The fruit on the tree seems to be twice… four times the normal size.
It is bright red with a glossy surface and a sweet and sour aroma that seems to reach all the way down to the bottom.
Also, the tree is as high as the fruit. The tree was over ten meters tall and looked to be as tall as thirty meters.
The tree is seven or eight times taller than a normal tree and is truly a different kind of tree.
“Shall we take it home with us since it’s so special?”
“Yes. It looks delicious, and I think it’s good.”
“Well… how do we get it?”
“I can climb it myself, but… Dill, can you get me a ladder or something?”
“I’ll bring it back as a souvenir for grandfather and the others.”
Martha let out a big sigh, holding her head, thinking that she was already talking about this when she was in a panic just a few minutes ago.
“If it’s good, I’d like to grow it in the castle. Martha-san, don’t you think that’s a good idea?”
“…Yes. I’m sure it will be good.”
It’s just a matter of listening to the conversation, and a part of her started to feel that she didn’t want to care much.
It is even more so because it is not an emergency situation, as she knows that Ain is the cause.
“I’m back. I borrowed a large ladder, and I believe it will reach the top… Huh? What’s wrong, mother?”
“…Nothing, nothing at all.”
When Dill returned, he looked at Martha, who was tired and gave a strange look.