Chapter 172 : Arrival At Rodania
The pair arrived right before afternoon, on a clear weather, at the northeast of the Bertran Kingdom’s territory. It was the area where the capital of Marquis Rodan’s territory, Rodania, was located. When they arrived, they looked at the highway connected to Rodania and simultaneously breathed out a relieved sigh. At last, they had almost reached their destination.
Rio spoke out loud as he stepped onto the highway, while lowering Flora down from his hold. He looked at the city’s silhouette that was proudly standing at the end of the highway. Befitting the city that was originally built as a fortress even this far away, people could still feel the solemn atmosphere it gave off.
Flora nodded her head in agreement as she stood right beside Rio, taking in the sight before her. She looked as if she was moved by such a sight. And with good reason too: she was finally in her Kingdom after all.
「Shall we go? I’m sure that your arrival will cause quite an uproar.」
「I don’t want to make things too noisy if possible alas…」
However, Flora could only smiled wryly at his words, with a troubled expression.
「Well, that’s possible. I only need to do what I did with Christina-sama before, secretly send you to the core of the city. Should I do that?」
Rio asked, looking back at Rodania. Flora’s arrival was bound to create a ruckus, but…that ruckus would definitely not let her have her emotional reunion with Christina.
In order to let her return safely and be reunited with her family, an arrangement would need to be done. As much as possible, her return should be kept to only a few higher-ups. Furthermore, in order not to trouble himself with explaining the situation over and over again, he preferred to meet with the chief representative of Restoration, Christina, before he met anyone else. Of course, that was only as long as it was possible. Then again…
The choice was not in his hands. In any case, for him, the most important thing was to inform Celia about his arrival first. Any other thing could wait.
「Yes, once more, I’ll be in your care.」
Flora bowed to him as she said so.
「…by the way, while it’s fine for Flora-sama…don’t you think that it’d be rude of me to meet Christina-sama with this travel-worn attire?」
Rio asked Flora as if he had suddenly noticed that fact. More than that, while it was a common attire to wear when one was travelling, it was absolutely not something you wore when you met a noble. Not to mention royalty. Common people might think it was only a trivial matter, but for nobles, that was absolutely not the case. They were a bunch of annoying creatures who paid attention to that ‘Trivial’ matter as if it’d stain their honor if they didn’t do it. [TL : You LIAR!!!]
If I had to compare with my previous world, it might be similar to wearing casual clothes when one went to a store or restaurant that required certain dress codes to be worn. As a side note, if one were to ask whether they’d be allowed to enter the store or not, the answer was obvious. Naturally, they’d be kicked out right in front of the door. After all, complying with the rules of an establishment you were about to enter was the most basic of etiquette.
Nevertheless, his main reason for mentioning this was just an excuse he made in order to be able to make a quick stop to meet Celia to ask for her cooperation first.
「Eh, No, it doesn’t matter at all! You’ll be alright as long as you’re with me! 」
Though a slightly worried expression flashed on Flora’s face for a moment, she immediately shook her head.
「Uh…Flora-sama, while I appreciate your forthright personality, I’m afraid that it is not the same with other nobles. Though so far, we haven’t met with unnecessary troubles, that might not be the case when we go towards the governor’s mansion. Honestly speaking, wearing this sort of travel-worn attire is bound to drag us into unnecessary trouble sooner or later in there. As such, considering the situation, would you mind if we drop by my mansion for a while? Celia-sama might be in my mansion right now, so wouldn’t it be better to send the news about your arrival through her first?」
Rio explained awkwardly as he told Flora his real intention. He also subtly told her that depending on the circumstances, there might be a need for them to prove her identity before they arrive at the noble’s district in the city. Besides, while it was possible to go to the noble’s district as they were, he wanted to have some buffer time for the other side to adapt first after receiving the news of Flora’s arrival.
「Ah, that’s right. Yes! 」
Flora nodded easily once she understood his reasons for doing it in such a roundabout way.
「As for other complications that might arise…well, let’s just go along with the flow if we encounter such things.」
After finally receiving Flora’s agreement, Rio concluded their plan. They would head for Rio’s mansion first before they would head towards the governor’s mansion.
I guess it’s better for me not to notify Celia-sensei and Aisia on the way to the mansion.
Rio thought. He wanted to personally tell them about his arrival. Although it might be a useless consideration since Aisia, who was connected to him through their contract, should’ve noticed his arrival already at this distance.
However, he wondered about what he should tell them when they met. But, at that moment, he entered the telepathic communication range with Aisia. Thus he decided to first go through what he should tell them in his mind.
◇ ◇ ◇
The first thing they did after entering the city of Rodania was to head towards the noble district. Though he didn’t know whether Celia was in his mansion or not, Aisia was ordered to always stay by her side in her spirit form. So, it should be easy to ask her once he entered the telepathic range.
Walking by his side was Flora who was looking all around the city with a curious expression on her face. Well, that was only natural. After all, Flora, as a princess, surely had never strolled outside of the noble districts even when she was in the heart of her Kingdom’s capital. It seemed that she was having a refreshing experience as she saw the various lifestyles of this city’s citizens.
「Please be very careful and try not to lose your way since there are many people here.」
Rio said to Flora as he smiled at her.
「Ye-Yeah. It’s alright.」
Flora affirmed with flushed red cheeks as she realized that Rio had noticed her wish to wander around just now. She really couldn’t help herself though, she was very curious. But she knew that it was not a good thing to do, so to appease Rio, she made sure to walk right beside him.
Aisia, can you hear me?
Rio tried to send a telepathic message from his mind when they drew closer to the noble district of Rodania. He did this through the link created by the contract that tied them together. From his current position, he should have already entered the range of their telepathic communication, after all last he checked, their telepathic range should cover the whole noble districts.
Welcome back, Haruto.
Aisia replied immediately, as if she had been waiting for his message. And perhaps, all this time, she had been always waiting for his message. Waiting for his arrival.
I’m back. In fact, I just arrived now…and Aisia… Thank you. I’ve finally achieved my goal.
While informing Aisia of his arrival, he also told her that he had finally achieved the goal he had set at the beginning of his journey. He had finally gotten his revenge. While he was not sure what he’d get from her after leaving her behind to protect Celia, he couldn’t and wouldn’t change his decision at the time. It was just something that he had to do alone. Even then, he still braced himself now, preparing for the worst as he waited for Aisia’s response.
I see, then I’m glad.
Just like at his departure, Aisia only replied with her usual monotonous tone.
…thank you. Were there any changes on your side while I’m gone?
Rio was touched by Aisia’s reply. He couldn’t help but feel that he was healed by her monotonous words and his lips slightly curled up as he asked some questions about what was happening on her side. For some reason, he felt that he really was returning home right now.
Mmm, nothing unusual happened around Celia.
Aisia’s reply was short and to the point. She didn’t waste her words on unnecessary information. And she knew what Rio meant by asking whether something unusual happened around Celia. She knew that what he was truly asking was whether anything happened to anyone other than her, for example Flora’s disappearance. However, since Aisia didn’t consider this matter as necessary nor important, she didn’t say anything about it. Thus, Rio knew that this matters weren’t even worth the attention to her.
If that was the case, then I suppose I can feel at ease. By the way, are you close to Celia-sensei’s location right now?
She’s close by. We’re in the mansion right now, but it seems she’ll need to go to her lecture in the governor’s mansion later.
I see…well, the timing is just right then. Right now, I’m on my way there, but I also have business there. I want to meet Princess Christina, but if possible, I want to ask for Celia-sensei to be our mediator since I will be bringing another person along with me. I believe that she’ll understand the situation once she meets the person I’m bringing along.
Rio kept Flora’s existence a secret for the time being. He just asked Aisia to contact Celia. He did it this way because Celia couldn’t lie for her life. Her adlib would become too obvious if he told her about Flora beforehand.
Since that was the case, it was better to let her be truly surprised upon meeting Flora. However, he couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty when he imagined just how surprised Celia would be when she would see Flora.
Understood. I’ll tell Celia.
Thank you. I’ll contact you immediately after we arrive at the noble district.
With her reply, he ended his conversation with her.
◇ ◇ ◇
They had finally arrived at the noble district’s entrance. There was no other way to enter the district except through the front gate due to it being surrounded by ramparts. Naturally, the front gate was closed and guarded by a few gatekeepers, stationed there to guard against people who didn’t have entry permit.
Nevertheless, the current Rio was the famous owner of the mansion inside this very noble district. And since he was rewarded with Christina brooch, he was free to come in and out of the noble district without entry permit.
It’s okay…maybe. Somehow I feel a little anxious, is this because I used to be a commoner?
Rio went towards the gate, recalling his past as he went. At this point, Rio had removed his hood to show his face to the gatekeeper, but Flora, who was standing behind him, kept her hood up.
And, when those gatekeepers noticed Rio and Flora’s arrival――,
Naturally, those gatekeepers stopped Flora and Rio. They weren’t wearing noble attires after all and those who were permitted to come within this gates usually wore noble attires. So, the commoner travelling attire they wore, became an obstacle to their entry. In Rio’s case, he even carried a backpack as well, not a behavior nobility would entertain at all. Thus, no one would view them as nobles.
Furthermore, people who entered the noble district would always use carriages. Even when they were just guests. That’s why, due to such prejudices, it wasn’t unusual for them not to consider that the visitor might be a VIP.
「I’m Haruto Amakawa, the owner of one of the mansions in this noble district. And here…is the brooch that her highness Christina bestowed upon me. She had told me that it worked as an entry permit as well.」
As he spoke, Rio showed Christina’s brooch to them. The gatekeepers were taken aback, gazes fixed on the brooch. Then they started to sweat profusely.
「M-M-MY DEEPEST APOLOGIES! I’VE RECEIVED PRIOR NOTIFICATION FROM CHRISTINA-SAMA BUT, I NEVER EXPECTED THAT MILORD WAS THE PERSON, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ENTER! OI, OPEN THE GATE! 」
The gatekeeper gave a salute before immediately granting them permission to enter..
「No problem……….. This person here is my companion, can she enter along with me? 」
Though Rio was astonished by their reaction upon seeing the brooch, he still asked that question as he glanced at Flora who stood behind him.
「NO PROBLEM! 」
The soldiers nodded immediately. Meanwhile, the other gatekeepers were working very quickly to open the gate. Soon the gate was opened for them.
「Well then, this way please.」
Rio led Flora through the gate.
「…………. Thank you for your hard work.」
During that time, Flora expressed her gratitude for the gatekeepers.
「……….. You’re welcome? And back to you too.」
Despite their confusion, the soldiers replied to Flora politely. Though they would be scared to death if they ever learned of Flora’s identity.
「Don’t you think that everyone would be delighted once they learnt that the one who greeted them was Flora-sama? 」
Rio mischievously asked her, smiling as he did so.
「Eh? Is that so? 」
Flora tilted her head in puzzlement. She didn’t get what Rio meant at all.
「Yeah, for sure.」
Rio smiled at her as he nodded at her.
「…………. Thank you very much.」
Flora expressed her gratitude to him with a face that was flushing red. [ED: The hell…how many times are you going to have your face flush red? At this rate, you’re going to be like a steamed lobster.]
Then, the two of them walked on the noble district’s street quietly. The noble district was in fact a quiet place, the atmosphere it had was a unique one that drifted around the districts. It was completely in contrast with the bustling atmosphere outside of it.
Nevertheless, that didn’t mean that the pedestrians were quiet. Every now and then, you could see the noble ladies or noble’s servants. You could also see the nobleman walking in a hurry towards the direction of the governor’s mansion to do their businesses. Still, the public order looked good what with the soldiers that were constantly patrolling around the place.
「As expected, our attires really stand out here, don’t they? Shall we go faster?」
When he felt curious and probing gazes from the onlooker, he smiled wryly before he turned to Flora and suggested they quicken their pace. Sooner or later, someone might mistake them for suspicious people just because of their clothes.
Flora. Who might have started to notice the gazes on them, nodded in agreement. A few minutes later they arrived in front of Rio’s mansion.
「This place is Lord Amakawa’s mansion…may I ask if you have a business here?」
One of the two female soldiers who were standing by as the gatekeeper of his mansion stopped them. Though they used a polite tone, they seemed to be on guard due to Rio’s and Flora’s attires.
（Even the soldiers guarding my mansion are suspecting us huh…
For a moment, Rio was slightly bewildered in shocked. There were soldiers guarding his mansion. Wouldn’t this show to people that his mansion had basically been turned into a true and proper noble mansion?
The other female soldier quickly poked her companion with her elbow.
「Hn, what’s the matter? 」
The female soldier who was poked by her comrade tilted her head, confused, questioning her comrade. However, her comrade didn’t pay any attention to her. Instead she ignored her.
「C-Could it be that you are, Amakawa-dono? Forgive me, but I am making sure since your appearance was similar to the description of Amakawa-dono that was told to me before, so uhm…」
The other female soldier asked that question with trepidation as she examined Rio’s appearance carefully. She was not completely sure, but just in case, she had to ask.
「Yes, it’s me indeed………. And you are? 」
Rio nodded, confirming his identity before asking for the other party to introduce herself and her identity.
「My deepest apology. By the order of Christina-sama, we were dispatched as the guards of this mansion.」
The female soldier straightened herself, hitting her right hand on her chest as she introduced herself. As for the reason why both gatekeepers were women, it probably was Christina’s arrangement in consideration for the girl who resided in this mansion, Celia.
「M-My apologies! 」
When everything registered in her mind, the female soldier who was poked also quickly straightened herself as she gave her apology.
「So that’s why huh. Thank you for your hard work. I just returned from my journey and want to meet Celia-sama, may I enter? The one over here is my traveling companion.」
Rio gestured to Flora, who was standing behind him, asking for permission for her to be allowed to enter as well.
「Of course! Here you go! 」
The two female soldiers replied in unison. Though they really should’ve reported the arrival of a visitor to Celia, the temporary owner of the mansion, the two female soldiers easily opened the gate for them. After all, the other person who was entering was with the rightful owner of the mansion.
「…………. Thank you. By the way, is Celia-sama inside the mansion right now? 」
Although he knew that Celia was inside, he still needed to confirm it once again. Just in case and as a show for the world to see.
「Yes. She’s going to visit the governor’s mansion in the afternoon for a lecture.」
「Understood. Well, this way please, Laura-sama.」
Rio used Flora’s fake name as he escorted her from behind. And, as soon as they passed the gate, they headed for the mansion.
「Thank you very much. …So this place is Haruto-sama’s mansion.」
After entering the mansion’s site, Flora looked around with a curious look on her face.
「In reality, I don’t live in this mansion. I left Rodania the day after I received this mansion, and since Celia-sama was living in this mansion, I used the guest house during my stay in Rodania.」
Rio said, also looking at the mansion’s site with a curious look on his face. He had never paid any attention to the place after receiving it after all. At most, he had only taken a cursory glance.
「…Is that so? 」
Flora’s head was tilted, looking puzzled. She wondered why he went to a guest house even though he had a mansion here. Shouldn’t he have used it?
「Except for unexpected or urgent circumstances, a man staying in a mansion with a noble girl will only become the source of bad rumours.」
Understanding her unspoken question, Rio smiled wryly as he explained his reason for not living in this mansion. Now that he thought it over again, it might be better and safer if they could live separately during their stay in Rodania.
「Yes, that’s true indeed……………」
Despite agreeing with his reasoning, Flora didn’t look fully convinced. Which was only natural. After all, the person who did it himself didn’t fully understand why he did that…so why would she be convinced?
In the intervening period, they were getting closer and closer toward the mansion.
Celia emerged from inside of the mansion. Though she should’ve already heard the news about his arrival from Aisia beforehand, she might’ve been waiting for the right timing for their reunion.
「It’s been a while. I’ve returned, and…I’m home」
In response to Celia who rushed at him, Rio cheerfully greeted her.
「Yeah, welcome home! So, who is that person over there? 」
Depite her slightly disordered breath, Celia welcomed Rio with a bright smile. She almost couldn’t resist rushing to embrace him, but in the end she controlled herself before looking at Flora who was standing right beside Rio.
「Please, don’t be surprised, she is…Flora-sama. It was purely by chance that I came across her. Flora-sama, you can take off your hood now. The magic tool that changes your hair color should be enough to disguise your identity for now…」
After he revealed Flora identity with a slightly awkward tone, he asked Flora to take off her hood.
「Uhm, it’s been a while, Celia-sensei……….」
Flora took off her hood as she greeted Celia.
And as he expected, Celia stood there with a dumbfounded expression on her face upon seeing Flora.