In the afternoon, basic subject exams were held in the classrooms, and after they were over,
Ain, along with Leonard, Batz, and Roland, had left the academy and were walking through the evening academy district, stopping from time to time to enjoy the food from the stalls.
Their escort, Dill, was nearby, but he refrained from getting in their way.
“Your Highness, are you sure it was okay?”
“No problem, no problem, I like this kind of thing.”
There were two reasons for Leonard’s concern.
One was his concern that the crown prince would be exposed in such a manner. The other reason was that this was also Ain’s birthday celebration.
Before leaving the academy, Roland said that he wanted to celebrate Ain’s birthday at least a little bit.
However, the cafeteria was crowded, and there was no other place to celebrate with some snacks.
So Batz suggested that they go out and buy some food.
“This is so good. I think I’ll get another stick.”
Ain, oblivious to Leonard’s concern, went to order more of the skewers he had in his hand.
“…Don’t worry about it. Ain says it’s all right.”
“Maybe so, but ── huh, am I worrying too much?”
A little further away, there was Dill, and he thought maybe he should just enjoy it and not worry about it anymore.
Leonard looked away effortlessly and somehow turned his attention to a nearby store.
A carriage stopped in front of the store, and a well-dressed man stepped inside.
“Hey, hey, Batz.”
Roland wagged his tail and called out happily.
“Huh? What’s wrong?”
“I heard you were the only one to win the whole test.”
“Oh, you mean the test. That’s because Ain wasn’t there.”
“It’s not like you to give up before the fight, though?”
“He’s different. As a reasonably competent sword-wielder, I know I can’t win simply by being near him.”
“Is that how it is?”
“It’s just that I can’t handle him. Look, we were just gossiping, and he returned.”
“Hmm? What about me?”
When Ain returned, he was already chewing on the grilled skewers, his cheeks smitten with the taste of meat.
“We were talking about the exam. …I mean, we said we’d buy you the food, but what are you doing paying for it yourself? What’s the point of celebrating your birthday?”
“You already bought me some at the beginning, so don’t worry about it.”
“I see… You sure eat a lot. How can you eat so much when you’re going to a party?”
“It’s fine. It’s just so easy to get hungry these days. That is why I’ve been eating a lot of magic ── I mean, snacks.”
He swallowed the words “eating magic stones” just barely.
He has been aware of this since the time he went to Sith Mill, but these days he gets really hungry easily.
Ain, who had been talked about his strength earlier, was too loose, and Batz and the others shrugged their shoulders and laughed at the Ain-like character in each other’s faces.
“You sound like someone who’s going to save up to eat.”
“When you graduate, you won’t be able to eat and shop like this anymore.”
“I’ll have to enjoy it while I still can. It’s the same with the three of you, and I just want to enjoy this as much as possible.”
Suddenly, Roland’s ears twitched.
“I’ve got something I think I can present to you in the not too distant future, Ain-kun.”
“What’s the matter so suddenly?”
“Hahaha! It’s a very big one, so you can expect a lot!”
Roland smiled cheerfully while telling Ain about the present, which he said was also very big.
“I hope it will reach you next year…”
Unlike Batz and Leonard, who had no idea what he was talking about, Ain knew what he was talking about.
It was in a shipyard that he once secretly toured.
The Leviathan, the new royal family ship.
“…’ll be looking forward to it.”
Where he uttered his heartfelt thoughts and prayed for the day when he could get on board soon.
The door of the store Leonard had been looking at earlier was opened with a bang, and three men appeared and rushed toward Ain and the others.
The men were dressed like adventurers.
All of them were carrying leather bags filled with the contents of the bags.
They were obviously robbers.
Everyone was concerned about their presence at this hour, but Leonard said,
“I saw a man who looked like the owner coming in a few minutes ago. They may have been trying to get in just as the store’s safe was being opened.”
I see, that makes sense, Ain said.
Dill comes in when Ain was convinced.
“Please step back; the knights are on their way.”
This academy district is a place where many knights were patrolling, which was why they could respond immediately.
“Fools! They would never come without any preparation!”
The men moved into a battle stance at once.
One drew his sword, another his staff.
The last one picked up a bottle filled with a greenish fluorescent liquid.
“Eat it, you dogs!”
The bottle hit the cobblestones with such force that the liquid splashed out.
A dull, glowing smoke spread in all directions, frightening those who were around.
Those who inhaled the smoke coughed and crouched down.
The smoke seemed to be poison or a magic tool similar to a tear gas shell.
The knights stopped for a moment, and the speed of the men’s escape increased even more.
“Ain-sama, I’ll do it.”
The distance between them was only less than ten meters.
Dill drew his sword just before they were about to make contact, but Ain intercepted him.
Truthfully, he felt bad.
It was unpleasant, not only to witness the spectacle of a crime being committed but also because he felt like they were interrupting his time with his classmates.
The men reach them before the smoke.
Stopped by Ain’s intense gaze, Dill had nothing more to say.
“I detain you in the name of the crown prince.”
No warning because they had already harmed many passersby.
The men felt a jolt of vision the moment they passed Ain and found themselves lying on their side. They had no idea what was going on or why.
Countless gold coins spilled out of the leather bag.
“Dill, give an order to the knight.”
Ain walked toward the smoke, paying no attention to the fallen men.
He held up his hand to purify the smoke that was tormenting the people and then raised it to the cheers of the passersby who noticed him.
Batz said with a wry look on his face.
“I don’t even know when he drew his sword, so there’s no way I can deal with him.”
“I see, so you gave up right from the start.”
Batz, who had admired him, suddenly remembered.
He thought of the red, swollen cheeks of Instructor Kaizer. In addition, he noticed that Ain’s test had already been completed.
Batz nodded secretly, thinking that it was convenient to reply that a lot had happened.
◇ ◇ ◇
At night, at a party, Sylvird raised his voice with joy.
“──Ain is thirteen years old today. I have been waiting for this day to come.”
He raised his glass and made a toasting gesture.
Sylvird, who had been laughing and enjoying himself up to this point, suddenly furrowed his brow and tilted his head with a silly expression on his face.
“Well, I heard that on such a festive day, there was a man who had a big fight with a robber. It seems to have happened in the academy district.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Oh, I heard that man looked just like Ain.”
“I’ve been through a lot, too, but I haven’t had any big fights.”
“──Isn’t that just a quibble!”
The people gathered in the hall were all excited at the same time.
Not that Sylvird had any intention of getting angry. No, it must have been a matter that should have been scolded, but due to circumstances, and circumstances being what they were, Ain was also unharmed.
Based on what he had done so far, it was unsurprising that… this much can no longer be said.
“That’s how it is, everyone. The crown prince has swung his sword at robbers before his birthday party, but let’s put it aside for today. Let us celebrate this mischievous prince together.”
Everyone at the party raised their glasses and shouted a toast.
The glittering venue with a huge chandelier overhead and sumptuous food on all the tables whetted the appetite.
In the dazzle that seemed to represent the prosperity of Ishtalika, Ain was delighted with everyone’s blessing.
Ain also raised his glass and shouted with joy.
Then the food was brought to Ain’s table, the star of the event. All the dishes were to his liking and included ingredients from the port city of Magna, which Ain loved.
“I wish everyday was my birthday…”
He thought as he muttered in a whisper.
“What a silly thing to say-nya.”
“Geez, it’s just like Ain.”
Katima and Krone, who were nearby, heard him.
“Well, I guess I should give the crown prince, who is saying strange things, a present first-nya. There you go.”
“Happy birthday, Ain.”
The two handed over wrapped boxes, both about the size of the palm of a hand.
“Can I open them?”
“Yes, of course.”
“You can open mine, too-nya.”
“Thanks. I wonder what it is.”
First, he opened Krone’s gift. Inside was a classy pen, a gem that would look great in the breast pocket.
“I hope you can use it for work or something.”
“I like it already. I’m going to start using it today.”
“Fufu… that’s good.”
Now for the next one.
“There are no explosives in it, are there?”
“Don’t be silly-nya. If I put such a thing in the package, my father will scold me-nya. Even so, I would have to give it to you some other time-nya.”
“So you did intend to give it in the first place.”
“Good grief, don’t talk nonsense, just look at it quickly-nya.”
Although his caution was heightened, he was curious to see what was inside anyway.
When he opened the package with trepidation, he found what was inside.
“…A pen holder?”
It was a pen holder, but it was its appearance that needed to be looked at carefully.
It is a luxurious item made of precious metal, but it is not tacky and has good sense. To put it roughly, a small cat laid on its side with its arms curled up, on which a pen could be held.
What struck him was that the cat’s fur looked a lot like Katima’s.
“Could it be…?”
“It’s just a coincidence-nya.”
“I haven’t said anything yet.”
“Yes, I know what you mean-nya! Ain must think this pretty cat looks a lot like me-nya!”
Although Ain didn’t want to agree with her, he did agree that the cat was adorable.
“This year, I followed Krone and Chris when they went shopping-nya. So I bought a present for you-nya.”
So, he got a pen and a pen holder.
“W-well… I’ll just use it since it’s so nice to have it.”
Ain placed the pen holder beside him and put up the pen that Krone had given him there.
He had nothing to complain about. It’s not a bad sight.
“You know what, Ain?”
“I won’t say who it is. But don’t forget that there was another person who went shopping.”
Krone’s gaze turned in the direction behind her as she said this meaningfully. A shy Elf was behind a pillar.
“Can I go and teach her that a pillar is no place to hide?”
“You can’t be mean to her.”
Krone replied in a cheerful voice, not expecting to do that, and Ain immediately laughed in return.
“I’ll go there.”
As he headed straight for her, she just ran away from him.
Or rather, Ain was hoping that she wouldn’t run away.
(…Why did she run away if she was going to give me a present?)
He didn’t know what she was thinking. Sometimes he wondered what he should do if the recipient didn’t like the gift or if there was another gift that would be better.
Therefore, he wanted to close the distance without making fun of it, but a little forcefully.
When the pillars overlapped in his vision, Ain moved quickly and approached the pillar where Chris was hiding.
“You know what? A pillar is not a place to hide!”
“Well, you don’t have to be so surprised.”
“But, Ain-sama! There are times when you can hide behind a pillar! For example, if it comes to a siege, you can use it to avoid the opponent’s attack!”
“I guess my birthday is not the day for a siege.”
“…..I think it’s unfair to argue rightly.”
As if in contemplation, Chris easily offered the present.
“Happy birthday. Here is a present from me.”
“Huh, you were strangely honest this year.”
“Geez! No, it’s not! I wasn’t hiding because I was embarrassed; I was just checking to ensure the wrapping wasn’t falling apart!
Chris, with pouty lips, had no choice. However, her cheeks relaxed when Ain received the present.
She squinted and said in a calm voice, “Please open it.”
What was wrapped was a leather-bound notebook. It was simple, but the engravings used for the binding were superb and caught Ain’s attention.
When he opened it, he found that it was the same size as the notebook he was currently using.
“I had heard about it when we visited Mouton-san’s workshop, so I thought I would give you a notebook.”
“Thanks! I’ll use this notebook from today!”
Krone must have chosen a gift to match the notebook.
Ain, who is not particularly interested in jewelry, was truly delighted to receive a gift he could use daily.
Seeing his white teeth in front of her, Chris couldn’t help but realize that she was also starting to feel happy.
“A-ahem! It’s time to get out from behind the pillar!”
She was embarrassed by such honest joy.
“Chris was the first one to be here…”
“Don’t worry about me! Come on, let’s go over there and enjoy the food!”
Ain followed Chris’s light footsteps as she strode toward the center of the hall.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Happy birthday, Ain.”
Ain received a passionate hug from the supreme Olivia and then a gift from her. Wrapped up was a pair of gloves, nice and warm to the touch.
When Ain was happy, she hugged him again. It was a blessing.
“Olivia is still the same as ever.”
“Of course she is. As her father, I know that Ain is her everything.”
“It’s not just you. The whole country knows it.”
After a pause in the conversation, Ain asked,
“Is it really a good thing? To have a birthday party for me at this difficult time of the year?”
“It’s okay. It is important sometimes to be cautious, but Ain’s birthday is very important. The people will not feel good about not celebrating the next king.”
If the people were discouraged, it wouldl lead to the country’s decline. Naturally, Ain was well aware of this. He was just a man of character who had developed an emotional reserve.
He drank a glass full of fruit water to refresh his mind.
“Of course. It’s a great opportunity, and I hope everyone enjoys it to the──”
Before he could finish, something unusual happened.
“…What is that, Grandfather?”
Outside the window, the view that stretched out beyond the balcony was enveloped in something strange.
Far away in the night sky, a blue-green light was drifting.
“What is that? I’m pretty sure that’s…”
“Ist. It is from the direction of the Magic City of Ist.”
The color of the light was familiar. It looked just like the light seen in the huge furnace filled with liquefied magic stone in the underground space on the lowest floor of the Tower of Wisdom.
But why was it drifting through the air?
And is the light so intense that it could reach the royal capital?
“Nya…? T-that can’t be…!?”
Katima, who also noticed something unusual, rushed to the balcony.
Ain followed her and went out onto the balcony at about the same time.
The sound of sweat trickling down Katima’s forehead as she approached the railing and looked at the light and the sound of raw saliva being swallowed reached Ain’s ears.
…Under the cold, snowy sky.
Ain, confronted with a bizarre sight, was speechless.
The blue-green light was different from the artificial aurora produced in Ist, and it was drifting over Ist in vigorous waves.
It turned into a thunderstorm that pierced the clouds and exploded.
The same colored glow pierced the night sky above Ishtalika, and high in the sky, a torrent of power that transcended human knowledge was unleashed without stopping.
After ten seconds, then dozens of seconds, the deep blue sky spread out.