“Thank you for the corporation. So, it was true.”
After the meeting between Riley and Reutrina ended…
With the sun already set, it was not just Stein who was in his office.
“… I know.”
As if she was responding to Stein’s mumbling, the woman sitting at the office sofa tilted the tea cup, made slurping noise, and continued.
“Count Stein, I actually had been very much against it because you made such a strange request, but…”
She was wearing a low-cut dress. Gracefulness could be felt from the way she was drinking the tea. The woman was Princess Reutrina who had the prospective marriage meeting with Riley today.
“About the exploit regarding the Astora incident, I thought Young Master Riley received recognition by chance for being with the maid. However, it seemed like that may not actually be the case either.”
Reutrina enjoyed the tea on the cup and described the impression she got from Riley when she met him for the marriage proposal meeting today. Stein looked at the garden beyond the window and carefully asked,
“Could it be that you were mistaken?”
Reutrina shook her head and said,
“No. I couldn’t have. The guard’s response was quite a response, but the Mercenary Hero who was standing next to Young Master Riley showed responses that were more definite evidences.”
Reutrina was thoroughly observing Ian, the butler who was attached to Riley. Based on what she saw today, Reutrina realized Riley was hiding his true strength.
“My original plan didn’t include that kind of proposal. Because of the favor you asked, I ended up getting points deducted against me from Young Master, so you will have to take responsibility for this, Count.”
The Princess said as she ballooned up her cheeks. Finding it suspicious, Stein turned to look at the Princess.
“Hm… Princess, I thought you are here because you are interested in the family’s successor?”
As Stein asked, the reason why Reutrina stepped inside the Iphalleta Mansion during the day of the successor announcement was… to have prospective marriage meeting and propose the engagement.
“The schedule for today changed, so you had the prospective marriage meeting with Riley instead, but… actually, I thought you would be a little more interested in Lloyd?”
Having heard Stein’s question, she held the cup with one hand, and twirled her hair with the other hand. Reutrina took a dramatic pause for a moment and responded.
“I saw the successorship announcement too. I thought it might be Young Master Lloyd who will be the successor, so I made sure to check too. In the process, I ended up having some scuffle with other nobilities, but…”
Thinking about the commotion that transpired last time, Reutrina cringed for a moment. As if she thought that was not important, Reutrina continued.
“Anyway, that’s not what’s important. Young Master Lloyd is also definitely magnificent, but… I don’t feel that special something rushing at me.”
Reutrina looked at Stein and carefully murmured,
“Please excuse me for saying something like this, but to take the heart of a princess, Young Master Lloyd is a little…”
“Young Master Riley seemed pretty good.”
‘To the world, Riley is known as the lazy-ass. Why are you blushing? What do you like about him so much?’
Noticing Reutrina blushing, Stein filled his face with question marks and waited for her next words.
“Personal taste… I am embarrassed to use the words, but my personal taste is someone older, not younger. That’s why.”
As if she was embarrassed, she smiled as she mentioned it. Stein carefully asked,
“Princess. How old are you?”
“I am 20. When this month passes, I will be 21.”
The number of question marks on Stein’s face increased by three folds.
“Princess. Do you happen to know Riley’s age?”
Stein slowly nodded and responded.
Riley was definitely one year younger than Reutrina.
Despite this, Reutrina was not taking back what she said earlier about liking someone who is older than her.
Stein didn’t know what to say. He just thought really hard about it. Princess put down the cup that was on her hand and said,
“As a reward for doing what you asked me when I met Young Master Riley today, I would like to ask you for a favor. Would that be all right?”
“Ah, yes… Please go ahead.”
Stein decided to think that the princess must have been kidding about what she said earlier. Stein waited for the princess to speak.
“About the invitation to the end of the year banquet at our family, the invitation was supposed to be given to the successor, but I wish it could be given to someone else.”
Reutrina mumbled while fiddling with her chin. Stein figured out what she was asking and cringed.
“Princess, by any chance…”
“Count! As I thought, you are quick on catching on!”
She clapped in joy and explained,
“It’s not that big of a favor. I’m just asking you to gently switch the person who will be getting the invitation.”
“However, Princess… Riley is…”
Stein wanted to explain that there is a high probability of Riley not going to go no matter who asked. However, he was interrupted by Reutrina.
“I would really like him to visit. During the banquet, I get bees getting tangled up with me even when I try to hide.”
As if she was done with the conversation, she got up from the sofa and walked out of the office right away.
‘This is a difficult situation.’
It was a favor asked by none other than the Princess of Duke.
Stein couldn’t just say no so easily. He was getting a headache. He crumpled his face and clicked his tongue.
* * *
It was at the mansion’s library.
Riley had Nainiae sit at the sofa. To calm is pulsating headache, he was lying on the sofa with Nainiae’s lap as the pillow.
‘I strained myself too much.’
Feeling the pain inside, Riley thought about the power that he had been using since last spring.
It was a technique that he mastered in his past life.
Using his energy, the technique allowed him to oppress anyone that he glared at, making them completely immobilized. The technique was useful in many ways. However… it had one drawback of causing great strain on the user.
“Young Master, are you all right?”
It seemed Nainiae noticed Riley was not looking well. With Riley laying on her lap, she asked as if she was concerned.
‘Damn it… I got worked up and angry for no reason.’
He was tired both mentally and physically. With both of them overlapping, Riley was struggling with pain as he cringed. Nainiae bit her lower lips and asked carefully,
“Earlier, I heard from Mr. Ian. The prospective marriage meeting… At that meeting, you were about to have a duel against the Princess’s guard, but you suddenly stopped.”
Having heard Nainiae’s question, Riley relaxed his crumpled face. Looking at Nainiae from the lap, Riley said,
“That’s right. What about it?”
“By any chance… I was wondering if you were agonizing over it lately. That’s why I asked.”
Her question was loaded with concerns. However, Riley, the one who received the question, didn’t really have a pleasant expression on his face.
Instead, the look on Riley’s face got even darker.
“That’s enough. Instead…”
As if he was trying to casually move on to a different topic, Riley got his head off from Nainiae’s lap. Holding his pulsating head, Riley mumbled a certain summon spirit’s name.
A tiny flame started to burn next to Nainiae’s face. A palm sized fairy responded as she flapped her wings.
<Yes! Yes! I had been waiting for you to call!>
Riley looked at Heliona and got straight to the main point.
It seemed he was trying his best to avoid the hot topic that Nainiae mentioned earlier.
“About the artificial summon spirit, don’t you think it would be good to start getting ready for that?”
“Where, when and how… Tell me about them.”
Heliona nodded and took a moment to pause and choose what to say. She explained it such that it would be easy for Riley to understand.
<As for the question of when… It would be best before the plants sprout next spring.>
<Yep. Next spring! Because my master took measures, we probably won’t have to worry until the winter of the year after next. However, if we want to meet the spirit who is perfect for Nainiae, it would be best before the next spring when the butterflies start to fly around. After that, it will be too late.>
“What’s this perfect spirit for Nainaie about?”
<Ah, Um… I’m talking about the spirit that will be placed over Nainiae. The idea is like a bowl.>
Riley figured it might be better to just ask all of his questions later. Riley said,
<To meet the spirit that would become Nainiae’s bowl, from this place… Um… To the west? We need to head that way.>
“To the west…”
<As for what we need to do once we meet the spirit who we will be asking to be Nainiae’s bowl, I’ll tell you once we meet that spirit. Yes! Up to this part, do you have any questions?>
Furrowing his brows, Riley organized what he heard from Heliona. He asked the first question.
“You are telling us to just go to west without anything specific. Aren’t you being too impolite? Where in west exactly?”
<The place where black wings fly between white snow. It’s the place where bright songs surge without any sound.>
<It’s the language of the spirits.>
Having heard Heliona’s response, Riley got annoyed. He said in frustrated tone,
“Explain it in human’s language.”
<I know humans won’t understand it, but because I’m a spirit… I can only explain it in the spirit’s language.>
<Ugh, aren’t you making it too obvious that you are annoyed? You have no manner!>
‘I think I understand why Andal did it.’
Riley got to think about Andal thanks to Heliona’s black-faced bunting bird like mouth. Riley started to grind his teeth.
<Ah! Please don’t worry too much!>
It seemed Heliona was afraid of the look on Riley’s face. Heliona flapped her wings and hid behind Nainiae. Heliona added in a small voice,
<Actually, my master already put in good words to that spirit, so… That spirit is probably waiting for us right now too. The spirit probably will leave things like traces so we will be able to identify them when we get near the right place…>
Riley was chasing Heliona with his eyes. In the process, he naturally ended up meeting Nainiae’s eyes. Riley unconsciously avoided his gaze and asked,
“What do you think?”
“I already prepared my heart for this. Also, if I could be next to you, Young Master… I would try anything, even something else that would be even more complicated. I am fine with it.”
Nainiae said it with composure. Having heard the response, Riley nodded as if he was fine with it now. This time, instead of Nainiae’s lap, Riley leaned his head on a sofa and closed his eyes.
Although Nainiae called Riley, he did not respond. She carefully continued.
“About the prospective marriage meeting with the Princess…”
Nainiae was talking about something other than what Riley was expecting. Riley narrowly opened one of his eyes and looked at her.
“That Princess… Is she very pretty?”
Nainiae’s voice was at the level of an ant’s voice. Because of this, Riley couldn’t hear the question correctly. He opened both of his eyes and asked back.
“She is the daughter of a Duke Family, so… She must be graceful, classy, and anyway, she is probably very…”
Hesitating, Nainiae avoided Riley’s eyes as she fiddled with her fingers. She started to mutter in even quieter voice.
“Just what are you saying? Can you speak up?”
<She asked if that Princess is pretty?>
Heliona explained what Nainiae said. Nainiae, who was playing with her fingers, suddenly blushed, turning her face red hot completely and instantly.
<You know? The lass that was chatting and giggling away with you while sitting on the grass during the evening. That one.>
<That lass… I just don’t like her! Nainiae, do not worry! In my eyes, the great Heliona, the daughter of the Spirit King, you are far prettier… Uuuup!!>
Nainiae hurriedly blocked the mouth of Heliona that was chirping away on the side. With her face blushing, she turned to look at Riley.
“T… This is the problem with Ms. Heliona! Mr. Andal pointed out this problem to you already, so it is about time you fixed it!”
“I am sorry, Young Master. I’ll be stern and go over this problem with her later.”
Before Riley even had a chance to say anything, Nainiae tumbled and got up from the sofa. She then lowered her head toward Riley and quickly escaped the library with Heliona still held on her hand.