V2 Chapter 26: To the Royal Palace

I was invited to the Dragnaut residence and was welcomed by the entire duke’s family, just as Claudia had declared.

Claudia, of course, and the duke’s servants also warmly entertained me. I probably wouldn’t have been turned away even if I had come alone. This was also according to what Claudia had said, and for that, I was very grateful.

The Dragnaut Duke family is the first noble family in the Kingdom of Canaria. Although I felt a little uncomfortable being treated as a guest in their mansion, I couldn’t help but be pleased to receive high praise for my actions. My regard for the Dragnaut Duke family was rising.

Unfortunately, the Duke of Dragnaut and Astrid were absent, but this was expected.

As expected, the marriage between Prince Azar and Princess Sakuya was also a big problem in the royal palace.

Originally, the Marquis of Corcia, a nobleman from the imperial faction, strongly promoted the marriage of the two. Despite having weakened his position greatly in the previous Jijinbou incident, the marquis regained his political standing by taking advantage of the confusion caused by the stampede of rampaging beasts and the appearance of the mythical creature, Hydra.

In other words, he used the marriage as a pretext to secure a large amount of assistance from the empire. At the same time, he suggested that the empire would switch from a marriage policy to a military invasion if the marriage were canceled. Thus, he successfully pushed the marriage forward.

Of course, there was a lot of opposition, but King Thorvald himself made the decision.

Canaria Kingdom’s national power was already inferior to the Adoastera Empire. Considering the current state of confusion, if Canaria faced a full-scale invasion by the imperial army, there would be no chance of winning.

So it would be better to avoid military conflict through marriage. In exchange for turning a blind eye to the other party’s faults, a large amount of assistance could be extracted for use as reconstruction funds. The king’s decision was in line with the Marquis of Corcia’s suggestion.

This officially settled the marriage between the two countries, but a number of courtiers opposed the king’s decision. Some were so furious that they attempted to forcefully break up the marriage, and Duke Dragnaut was ensnared in the palace, working to suppress such radical movements.

Astrid, as the de facto commander of the Dragon Knight Corps in the absence of Duke Dragnaut, was flying around Canaria to maintain public order. She seemed to return to the duke’s residence only once every few days or not at all.

Claudia, who had finished explaining the situation, let out a small sigh.

“I’m worried about my father and sister, who always look very tired when they come home,” she said.

“I can imagine. It sounds very difficult just hearing about it,” I replied, crossing my arms with a pensive expression.

I would like to help the duke’s family if I could, but I have to go to Berka and search for the King of Beasts Behemoth after this. This is necessary to stop the pollution of Titus Forest and Kale River.

Besides, Suzume and Ciel are worried about me in Ishka. I want to go back as soon as possible to reassure them. That’s another situation to consider.

It would be dishonest to hint at helping Claudia when I can’t do it.

――Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll hurry back to Ishka and show my face to Suzume and the others, then head to Berka with full kei. If I defeat Behemoth there and hurry back, I can help Claudia and the others without any hesitation. Yes, let’s do that.

As I was lost in thought, there was a knock on the guest room door.

Claudia tilted her head slightly and said “Excuse me” to me before heading to the door. The face that appeared when the door opened was the duke’s butler’s, holding a letter in his hand.

Judging from the bitter look on the butler’s face, it didn’t seem to be good news.

Claudia and the butler whispered to each other. I didn’t intend to eavesdrop, but I wasn’t so uninterested that I would cover both ears, so some words came into my ears.

Among them were the words “Crown Prince” and “His Majesty the King”, and I reflexively frowned.

Whether it was King Thorvald or Crown Prince Azar, they were the ones who cut off Claudia, who was suffering from a curse, in the form of breaking off their engagement. Especially the crown prince, who was in the position of a fiancé, but didn’t send a single letter of concern to Claudia, who was bedridden.

Having feelings for Claudia, I naturally harbored resentment towards them – especially the crown prince.

Seeing a shadow on Claudia’s face when she came back, that feeling grew involuntarily.

And then, in front of my eyes, Claudia opened her mouth regretfully.

“I’m sorry, Sora-san. I wanted to talk to you more, but I have been summoned by His Majesty. I have to hurry to the palace.”

“Is that so? Please don’t worry about me – but, a summons from His Majesty?”

I tilted my head.

According to Claudia, Duke Dragnaut had been stuck in the palace lately. If the king had something to do with the duke’s family, he could have called Duke Dragnaut, who was in the palace, and there was no need to invite Claudia.

But the king sent a messenger to the duke’s residence. In other words, the king’s business was not with the duke’s family, but with Claudia personally. Judging from his words earlier, it had something to do with the crown prince.

The crown prince who broke off his engagement with Claudia, who was suffering from a curse, called her to the palace through his father. The fact that this was not a happy thing was evident from the expressions of the butler and Claudia.

I thought about it and wondered if I should continue or not.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t intend to stay long in the royal capital. It would be better to avoid meddling in things I didn’t know about and stirring up trouble. It might end up causing trouble for Claudia.

Besides, Claudia didn’t ask me for help in the first place. I should just back off quietly and not do anything unnecessary. That’s what I thought.

――But on the other hand, it was also true that I had a feeling that I shouldn’t back down here. I was curious about the summons that seemed to have taken advantage of the absence of Duke Dragnaut and Astrid.

The face of the young crown prince who had pressured me to offer Clau Soras some time ago flashed through my mind. He had also avoided Duke Dragnaut and Astrid at that time.

Should I step into this matter, or should I back off?

I asked myself. The answer came back in an instant – step in, hard.

I cleared my throat and spoke with a serious expression.

“Lady Claudia, I’ll ask you frankly. I’m sorry if I’m wrong, but -”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Are you troubled by being asked to get back together by the person who dumped you?”

As I asked frankly as I declared, a strange sound escaped from Claudia’s mouth.

“So, Sora-san? Um, what do you mean by that…?”

“To be specific, I mean, are you troubled by being courted by the person who dumped you?”

In response to this question, Claudia flustered and wondered what to answer.

After a while, she seemed to make up her mind and nodded with a troubled look.

“Yes, that’s actually the case… Um, how did you know?”

“I’m sorry, but when you were talking to the butler earlier, I heard the word ‘crown prince’. As I said before, you looked very beautiful. Considering that, and the personality of the crown prince I met before, I guessed that there might be something like that.”

Hearing my answer, Claudia nodded with a serious face and then smiled slightly.

“Fufu, as I thought, you can’t possibly claim to be a mere civilian with no rank or position. Your deduction was brilliant.”

“I appreciate your compliment. And, well. If you don’t mind, I’d like you to take me to the palace, what do you think?”

“…Are you sure?”

She hesitated a bit and then nodded with a determined look.

“Of course. The Hydra has delayed it, but the plan to make you a “hostage” hasn’t disappeared yet.”

When I brought up the previous story, Claudia showed a look of apology and happiness.

The plan was to show others that we were engaged by inviting the unmarried princess Claudia to my house, as I was a single man. There were some other aims, but the main point of that story was to prevent a situation like this.

It was a little late, but if we visited the palace together at this opportunity and announced our future cohabitation, we could expect a good effect. This way, I could help Claudia without staying long in the royal capital.

The problem was if the crown prince didn’t give up – but when he asked for Clau Soras before, he said “offer it”, but he didn’t try to take it by force. He was pushy, but not tyrannical. He shouldn’t try to force Claudia to be his.

If this guess was wrong, and the crown prince tried to tear us apart – then the crown prince of Canaria Kingdom would receive a punishment worthy of his crime.

“By the way, Lady Claudia. You said it was a summons from His Majesty, but what was the matter?”

You don’t mean he sent a letter asking you to get back together with his son. I thought and asked, and Claudia tightened her expression.

“In a few days, Her Holiness the Pope will come from the Holy Kingdom, and he asked me to serve as an attendant with the crown prince.”

The moment I heard that, I involuntarily widened my eyes.

There was only one pope in the Holy Kingdom. The supreme leader of the Temple of Law, which performed miracles of the divine realm such as “Restoration” and “Divine Descent”. There were other temples in the Holy Kingdom, but only the Temple of Law claims the title of Pope.

The pope, who also served as the de facto leader of the Holy Kingdom, was believed to have a close relationship with the Adoastera Empire. She was also the one who told us about the barrier magic that prevented the Hydra’s poison.

The pope was coming to the royal capital soon, Claudia said. Was it to apply the barrier magic – no, they hadn’t found the necessary catalyst yet. Then, was it to oversee the wedding? It was a marriage between two countries, so it wouldn’t be strange for the pope herself to come.

But it seemed too early for her to enter the Canaria Kingdom for the wedding. The ceremony was still almost a month away. Maybe there was some other reason.

Lost in thought, I dressed in the formal clothes I had borrowed from the duke’s family.

After that, I went to the palace with Claudia in a carriage. From the moment we boarded the carriage, throughout the ride, and even after we disembarked, Claudia wore a continuous smile.

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