Chapter 12 – End-of-War Festival
The azure sky covered the academy district, and the spring sun made the flowers blooming on the trees come alive. The sunlight was soft, and the breeze that blew through the air was filled with the warmth of spring.
──Today was the day when many schools were celebrating their graduation ceremonies. It was also the same at the Royal Kingsland Academy.
“Look up. The sky seems to be blessing you as well as your new beginnings.”
His speech didn’t take long to reach its conclusion, and he left the podium.
Sylvird’s visit to the graduation ceremony was part of his official duties, but this year it had another meaning. It was also the day that his grandson, who had recently returned from an ordeal, would be attending the ceremony.
“The representative of the students, Ain von Ishtalika.”
The hero’s name was called, and he went up to the podium to take his place.
All the seats in the main auditorium were filled, and all eyes were on Ain as they took their seats.
…..Surprisingly, he was not nervous.
He had become accustomed to this kind of stage before very long, and he was a little happy to see such growth in himself. He never thought about it, but it was trivial compared to the war speech he gave during the war.
Just the other day, he had made a grand stand on the battlefield with a sword in his hand, and now he was giving an opening speech at a graduation ceremony, and this discrepancy was a little amusing and almost made the corners of his mouth turn up.
Ain’s voice echoed through the main auditorium.
His voice, his regal bearing, and every move he made held everyone’s eyes glued to him.
◇ ◇ ◇
The name of the festival was the End-of-War Festival.
As the name suggests, it was the longest festival in the history of Ishtalika, lasting for ten days, including the eve of the festival yesterday.
The festival was scheduled to begin after the graduation ceremony at the Royal Kingsland Academy.
“The speech by Ain was great.”
“Y-yeah… that was great…”
After the ceremony, Leonard was still in tears, while Batz was still brisk after the ceremony. Seeing that, Roland smiled wryly.
“Hahaha… Leonard, how long are you going to cry?”
“If I don’t cry here, when will I cry? I can still remember every word His Highness said! Oh… His Highness is truly a wonderful man. He told us for the first time about his life in Heim and the many stories he has told us since coming to Ishtalika! Just the fact that I was able to hear them directly from him on that occasion alone is a priceless treasure!”
“I know that, Roland and I both know that. We just want to know how long you’re going to keep crying.”
The three of them left the main auditorium and walked through the garden between the academic building and the school gate.
Around them, many graduates and current students were talking with each other. They were all shedding tears of joy and sadness at the graduation and regretting their last farewell to the current students.
“It’s graduation… huh?”
Today is the last time they will attend the academy. A dampness crept into their voices as they became aware of this fact once again.
“Once we graduate, for sure.”
“I’ll be working at a research institute near the royal capital. Leonard is in the legal department, right?”
“Yeah. I’ll be studying under my father. I’ve passed the exams.”
“…It feels strange to be so far away from you guys.”
Unusually, Batz scratched the top of his nose with a slight tear in his eye. The three of them are silent as they look at the terrace seats in the cafeteria of their memories.
No one opened their mouths, and then they stopped.
“Ah, there he is!”
Ain came in with his graduation certificate in his hand.
“Wha──A-Ain? You shouldn’t have come over here!”
“Your Highness! That was a wonderful speech! My tears have not dried up, and I have been soaked in emotion until this moment──Oh, yes! Why is Your Highness here?”
“Yes, yes! Ain, you’re supposed to be at the parade now!”
After this, Ain was supposed to go to a big parade from the academy district to the main street and back to the royal castle.
It was right after the graduation ceremony, and there was no time to spare.
“I kind of pushed myself to come.”
Ain smiled wryly as he scratched his temples.
“Actually, there was something I wanted to do on the day of the graduation ceremony. After the ceremony, I really wanted to go out on the town with everyone and have a good time until nightfall.”
“Well… we’d have loved to! But it’s just not possible!”
“I know. But I couldn’t bear not seeing everyone until the end.”
His feet turned toward the cafeteria. Why at a time like this, the three of them wondered.
“I’d like to talk to you at the table we used to sit at for the last time.”
The three were taken aback. They wondered if the crown prince, the acclaimed hero, had come back for such a thing.
At the same time, they were glad.
They could confirm that Ain was still their dear friend, as he had been since the day they met him.
“It can’t be helped!”
“I am honored that you invited me.”
“Hahaha, it’s the last time!”
The three of them got into their usual lineup and approached the academic building against the flow of other students with light steps.
The students were surprised to see Ain but only greeted him lightly.
Seeing him walking with all three of them and smiling so carefree, they couldn’t bring themselves to interrupt what was left of their precious time together.
◇ ◇ ◇
It was late afternoon when the parade came to a close.
“I think this may be the first time in the history of Ishtalika that there has been such a great crowd.”
“Just like Warren-dono said, the excitement is palpable in the castle.”
Standing by Sylvird’s side, Warren and Lloyd looked down on the castle terrace and enjoyed the bustle of the city.
They had plans to go into the city later, as they should, but for now, they were just taking a break and enjoying the view from here.
“Dear. You were enjoying yourself here.”
“Oh, Laralua! You, too, come here!”
The king called for his queen, but she was reluctant.
“I would love to, but have you seen Ain-kun?”
“If it’s Ain, he’s been hanging around the hall looking restless since he got back to the castle. Is there something wrong with him?”
“Actually, that Ain-kun, I have not seen him.”
“Have you asked Krone or Olivia?”
“I’ve asked Olivia. But she said she didn’t know. She just smiled as if she’s having fun.”
“She’s obviously aware of it…!”
However, they know that she won’t talk.
Even though it was the first day of the festival, Sylvird held his head in his hands and wondered what on earth Ain was doing.
Next to Sylvird, Warren asked him what was bothering him.
“Then, you haven’t asked Krone-dono about it?”
“That’s right… actually, I can’t even find Krone-san. I asked the civil servants, and they told me that she had been out of sight for some time.”
Then the three of them heard it and understood.
“Your Majesty. I wonder if Krone-dono is with Ain-sama?”
“I agree with you, Warren. The fact that Olivia seemed to know what was going on seemed fitting when I thought about it this way. In any case, he probably told Olivia just in case and asked her to keep quiet.”
“As for Lloyd here, I’m wondering how Chris is doing.”
“That girl would have been with Olivia. I’ll bear with it today… But I do wonder what they’re talking about.”
This was a sure thing now. Ain and Krone were going somewhere together.
They needed to find them quickly.
A moment later, when Lloyd was about to head toward the entrance and check up on them.
“──Your Majesty. I found Ain-sama and Krone-dono.”
Warren spoke up. It was only by chance that Warren, who was looking down toward the castle town, noticed them.
“W-where are they?”
Warren pointed in the direction of the harbor.
How could he know the details at such a distance…? Sylvird was about to complain, but even from here, he could see that they were there.
Lloyd, who had turned on his heel, also looked in that direction and formed a smile.
“…That’s El and Al, isn’t it, Your Majesty?”
“There’s nothing more we can do about it,” Lloyd said in a muffled voice.
“It is as Lloyd-dono said. Also, I believe that the twins are pulling a ship belonging to the August Trading Company. Incidentally, my guess is that they are borrowing it without permission.”
Is this what it meant to be stunned and unable to say anything?
Where will the two have the twins pull the ship to? That was hard to predict, but they knew they were going to leave the royal capital.
Then Sylvird stood up and approached the terrace fence.
“You… runaway crown princeeeeeee!”
He shouted loudly toward the ocean. The whole group, including Laralua, laughed at this unusual attitude for Sylvird.
“Hah… hah… good heavens, that crown prince! I always see his mother’s face… on his face! Good grief!”
The ship that Ain boarded had sailed away.
Then there was a knock on the door, and Martha stepped in.
“Excuse me. I have a letter for Your Majesty from Ain-sama.”
After being allowed in by Laralua, she knelt down and handed the letter to Sylvird. Sylvird tore open the envelope and opened the sheet of paper inside.
“I will use the reward for defeating the red fox by taking a day off today.”
This was the only sentence written on the paper.
In contrast to Sylvird, who looked up at the ceiling with a twitch on his face, Warren noticed as he rubbed his beard.
“Martha was probably silenced by a royal decree.”
“Yes. I was under strict orders to give you the letter after the two of them went out to sea.”
Today, Ain seems to have been surprisingly meticulous in his preparations. And, although Sylvird wanted to get angry, he actually couldn’t get too angry.
The only thing he asked for as a reward for defeating the red fox was a day off, which was not balanced.
“…..Was it you who gave the hero such wisdom, Warren?”
“Dear me, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Sylvird looked at the ship Ain was on with a final, relaxed expression on his face. His expression was not visible to everyone standing behind him, but he was secretly smiling.
What kind of a king would not allow a hero to have just one day off?
“Goodness gracious… they will be back by night!”
The gentle voice he spoke was carried by the wind to the sea.