It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (105/116), enjoy~
Chapter 4 – Her Birthplace
“Ain, you must be very careful.”
“I’ll tell you the same. Please be careful on your way.”
It had been a week since Ain had decided to leave the royal capital.
It was Sylvird and Prime Minister Warren who said this to Ain as he was about to leave the castle at last.
Ain was standing in front of a wooden box in the castle’s hall.
He said, “I understand,” and turned around, squinting at the dazzling dawn light coming in through the window.
“If anything, I’m more worried that I’ll get sick from being carried around in this wooden box.”
“Hahahahaha! I’ve been told that once we’re in the water train, you can leave, and then once we’re near Sith Mill, you can walk freely.”
“I’m relieved to hear that. It seems that we have to be patient until the water train.”
It was only natural that there would be some inconvenience since they were moving in secret. However, it was painful to force this inconvenience on Krone, Chris, and Dill.
“I’ll ask the chief properly.”
“Umu. ──And about the matter that only Ain and I know about.”
The latter part was said in a whispered voice.
The reason for going to the Sith Mill was ostensibly to get information on the Red Fox. And the other thing that only Ain and Sylvird know about is the relationship between the first king, Gail, and the former Demon Lord territory.
(I also have to ask about Wernstein.)
He had not yet told Sylvird about this matter, but he should tell him as soon as he found out something. This was something he wanted to ask the chief about at all costs.
“Oh, by the way, you weren’t opposed to my going to Sith Mill, were you Warren-san?”
“Yes, I did not. I was in favor of it.”
“The only one who was against it was Olivia. However, Olivia only didn’t like the idea of being separated from Ain.”
“It is as His Majesty said. I was surprised to hear that you had sent a letter to the chief of the Elves, but that was about it. I think Ain-sama should meet the chief.”
Perhaps Warren’s words were also because the chief knew the first king well. He encouraged Ain, who admired the first king and had him as his goal.
Suddenly, a warmth wrapped around Ain’s back.
“Mother, you came to see me off?”
“Yes. I won’t be able to be with Ain for a while. Just now, I was thinking how I could go with you.”
“I suppose you’ve given up?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, I’ve decided to give up.”
But if it gets serious, she’s going to follow him. When she was in Heim, she and Euro had put together a business deal that was close to a treaty by themselves, and that’s why she had to think that way.
While they were talking like this, Krone and Chris appeared nearby. Both of them were fully prepared.
“We’ll buy you some souvenirs. What would you like?”
“I’m good with anything.”
“Me, too. But, yes… I might want to hear something interesting from Chris.”
When Chris overheard these words, she huffed, puckered up her mouth, and said in a weak voice, “Please don’t do that.”
A mysterious look was directed at Ain.
“As I have told you many times, there is a sanctuary in Sith Mill. This is why no evil person can set foot in it, and the barriers are too powerful to allow any magic from the outside to pass. Therefore, since message birds cannot be used, there is no way to contact you in case of an emergency. Avoid staying longer than you planned, no matter what. Understood?”
“Yes. If something happens, Dill will come to Sith Mill with the knights, right?”
“Yes, that’s the plan.”
“Don’t worry; I’ll take it in stride.”
“I hope so… but considering Ain’s record, I cannot believe it.”
Ain smiled wryly.
Even Olivia, who was clinging to his back, was laughing happily.
“So, I’ll be leaving now.”
Warren stood up from his seat.
“Did you have work to do?”
“Yes. Actually, I’m supposed to send Lily to Heim today. The meeting ended, and the two sides parted ways, but I wanted to be sure and have her investigate.”
He was relentless, or rather, he never let his guard down. He may act like a good-natured old man, but he was actually thinking a lot.
“Well then, Ain-sama, please take care of yourself.”
After these words, Graff came to the hall. It was time to leave.
Ain received one last strong hug from Olivia and then climbed into the wooden box that had been prepared for him.
It was not too small and not too wide if only one person was inside. It was not comfortable, but he could still stretch his legs.
(I’m pretty sure I’m the first crown prince who’s hid in a wooden box twice.)
The first time was when he snuck into the Tower of Wisdom at Magic City Ist. And this second time, he couldn’t help but feel a not-so-pleasant familiarity.
(What should I do with my jacket?)
He had brought a jacket with him in case it was cold outside the castle. He wondered if it would be cold outside and looked at the sunlight streaming through the wooden box.
There was a clatter, and then Krone slipped into the wooden box.
“I’m sorry, can you please put a little bit more space?”
“If I’m not mistaken, does that mean we’ll be in this wooden box together?”
She nodded quickly.
There were still several wooden boxes outside.
So many, he thought.
“It was a mistake.”
She said as if she could read his mind.
“The other wooden boxes were overstuffed, and there was no room for me.”
“Did Krone make such a mistake?”
“It’s true. I made a mistake.”
It was so deliberate. He tried to vacate the space first.
There was plenty of room in the wooden box for one person, but it was a different story for two. If they had been as small as they were when they were both young, they would have been able to manage, but now it’s tough.
“…I can’t be together with you for a while.”
It was a rare, young tone of voice.
She couldn’t help but reveal the reason why she used such a deliberate method. Then, she realized that the wooden box was unexpectedly small.
The moment when she almost gave up despite her disappointment.
“You know what?”
Ain didn’t want to see Krone’s face like that. It wasn’t a hard decision, but Ain came up with the only place where she could sit.
“If it’s okay with you… this is the only place I can think of.”
As for himself, he wondered about this suggestion. But it was the only place left.
The place that Ain had mentioned so reservedly was right in front of him.
It was embarrassing to put it into words.
But what he meant was, I’ll spread my legs, and you can sit here──.
“Are you sure?”
“As long as it’s okay with Krone.”
As expected, she tends to be reserved, considering Ain’s burden.
But one last push.
“Come on, hurry up.”
The gentle voice made her want to be spoiled unconditionally, and so on.
“…Sorry to bother you.”
“Kuku… what’s that? You weren’t disturbing me anyway.”
“G-geez! I didn’t plan for this to happen either!”
Krone, who sat on his crotch, said unhappily.
But when she put her back to his chest, she relaxed with joy.
She turned her face down a little so that Ain couldn’t see her cheeks that had loosened up with happiness.
“You can use this.”
Ain presented his jacket, which he was not sure whether to wear or not.
“It’s not too cold now that Krone is here, so you can use it as a lap blanket.”
She took the jacket and unfolded it. She covered her knees without hesitation.
◇ ◇ ◇
It was a full day and a half from the royal capital to the frontier city.
It took them as long as they had heard from Sylvird to reach the region located in the northwest of the continent, further west than the Magic City of Ist and south from the direction of Baltic. It was the next night after Ain left the royal capital that the water train carrying the group arrived at the frontier city near Sith Mill.
And the next morning.
──The entrance to the forest leading to Sith Mill. It is surrounded by trees of unseen heights, in front of a deep forest.
Even though it was the next morning, it was still dark during these days of autumn, and there was still time before sunrise. In addition, this was a rural town with peaceful pasture land. That’s why there were not many lights.
“Ain-sama, we will camp here and wait for you.”
The royal knights nodded in agreement with Dill, who said as if it was perfectly natural.
No, go rest in the town; Ain swallowed these words. It’s an exchange that has been repeated many times before today.
“My father told us to train as well. It’s a good opportunity for us knights, so we’ve decided to do this camping exercise without relying on magic tools. We will be self-sufficient in all our needs, including food.”
“….You are so tough!”
Ain was no longer wearing his crown prince attire when he uttered an exclamation of admiration.
It is even easier to move than the one he used to walk around the Magic City of Ist, and he was wearing stretchy clothes to go through the mountain roads.
Naturally, so was Chris, and she was carrying a large bag on her back.
“I’m honored by your compliment. If we hear anything from the royal capital, we’ll head to Sith Mill right away. The Elves may be displeased, but rest assured that we will explain that it is an emergency.”
“Take it easy, please.”
“No problem. We have no inconvenience, just a place to sleep and a satisfactory meal.”
The royal knights nodded in unison and it was just a repetition of the painful training and conditions they had experienced before.
Ain heard that Dill also participated in the training. As royal knights, they sometimes train in remote areas. He heard that it was a hellish environment compared to now, with almost no clothes on.
“So, please take care of yourself.”
“Thank you. And don’t let Dill and the others be attacked by thieves.”
After making everyone laugh with one last joke, Ain stepped into the forest with Chris.
Then everyone’s voices, which had been audible only a short while ago, quickly disappeared. The trees surrounding them were even taller, and thick, knobby trunks greeted them. The path was not easy to follow, and the dense trees made it difficult to see.
“I’m counting on you to guide me, Chris.”
“Yes! Please leave it to me!”
Chris’s unfailing progress was encouraging. Her kindness could be seen in the way she occasionally glanced at Ain’s feet.
“What is this tall tree called?”
“They’re called pillar trees. They grow to be several times the size of the ones around here.”
“Wow… I wonder how old they are.”
“The biggest trees are over a thousand years old. Other trees can live up to five thousand years.”
“That’s where the Elves live. It’s beyond my imagination.”
Chris, who was walking ahead of him, looked back, amused by Ain’s dismay.
It’s not easy to walk, but Chris bends her body in a dexterous and light movement.
“There are many, many interesting things to see as we go further.”
“…I’ve heard good things. I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s a long way to Sith Mill.
It would be permissible to be a bit of a tourist.
If Ain had not experienced the road to the former Demon Lord’s territory in the winter, he might have been overwhelmed.
Perhaps his experience at that time had helped him, but he was able to go through the muddy forest path more easily than expected. In his heart, Ain was relieved that he could walk without bothering Chris.
“Ain-sama… you still seem to have plenty of leeway, don’t you?”
“For now, though. It was tough when I went to the former Demon Lord’s territory, and I think I can do my best.”
The sun was shining through the trees overhead.
When they left, it was still dark, but the sun had already risen. In contrast, the forest was dimly lit and even slightly eerie.
As the scenery was still very similar to the previous day’s, it lacked freshness.
“All the scenery looks so similar. Have you ever been lost, Chris?”
“…Not in this area.”
“That’s good to know. …Hmm? This area?”
“Oh, look! We’re approaching a canyon! We’re going to cross that suspension bridge!”
Ain was getting worried about the path ahead.
“Yeah… it’s okay; I’m doing fine.”
However, it wasn’t bad to travel alone with Chris, as they had done this time. Even if they got lost, he felt that he could enjoy the situation.