Chapter 116: Interlude Part 1
Afternoon of the day Rio left Galwark Kingdom.
The hero who belonged to Bertram Kingdom’s anti-government organization 『Restoration』—Sakata Hiroaki—was visiting the mansion of Duke Kretia alongside Flora for lunch.
On Hiroaki’s plate was a finely-marbled well done steak, smoothly being cut through by his knife. As he took a bite, the steak melted in his mouth as if he didn’t even need to chew, and the savory gravy slowly drowned his taste buds.
「I’m honored to receive such praise. I was worried about whether I could satisfy the tastes of a gourmet like Hiroaki-sama.」
Liselotte answered with a smile, but Hiroaki started looking a little dissatisfied.
「It’s perfect. Or, I want to say that, but now I really want to eat rice to go with such delicious meat…」
「Fufu, it seems like Hiroaki-sama always wants to eat his meals with rice.」
Flora interjected, giggling in her seat.
「It’s the staple food of my homeland after all. Wish I could eat it again someday.」
Hiroaki sounded slightly embarrassed as he spoke, while Liselotte suddenly showed a smug grin.
「Actually, I had a dish with rice prepared just for today.」
「Wait, for real?」
She exchanged a glance with the maid by her side.
Aria bowed, then moved to the tray she carried the food out on, bringing Hiroaki and Flora’s eyes with her.
「Ohh, this is… Is this a risotto?」
「This rice is from a plant being cultivated by Rikka Firm in a certain area of the Strahl region. That area typically uses porridge instead of wheat, so I had it made with that in mind.」
「Ah, so this is the kind that isn’t very sticky. Yeah, this isn’t best suited to be eaten straight like white rice.」
「So this is rice? It’s the first time I’ve seen an ingredient like this.」
Flora looked curious about the risotto. She’d never even seen freshly-threshed oats before today.
It was a normal reaction for a princess. Although fresh wheat could be eaten as a congee, that was the food of commoners who couldn’t even afford bread.
「Perhaps because the recipe isn’t widespread, it’s not preferred by royals or nobles. This one is the result of trial and error as well, but please enjoy it.」
The two guests lifted their spoons to their mouths in answer.
Their mouths unwittingly went slack when they gave their impression.
「The flavor of creamy butter and cheese are spreading through my mouth. It’s rich, yet not overpowering. And the pepper is a nice accent.」
「As expected of you, Hiroaki-sama. Your palate is truly impeccable.」
「I’m a picky eater after all.」
Hiroaki spoke as if it was something to be proud of.
「This dish has my full approval. It’d become a hit if it spreads. Don’t you think so, Flora?」
「Right. The pasta earlier is delicious as well, but this wouldn’t lose.」
Following the flow of the conversation, Flora obediently nodded along.
「Thank you very much. If you’re okay with it, I’ll give some of the rice to you as well. Hiroaki-sama should know quite a few recipes, no?」
「Really? Sounds interesting. I’ll give it a shot.」
「Thank you so much, Liselotte-sama.」
「Please, there’s no need for thanks. But in exchange, I’d be grateful if you could promote this dish among Restoration.」
Liselotte answered them with a playful grin, and Flora quickly made a proposition.
「Yes, of course! Ah, right! It would be wonderful if Satsuki-sama could be invited to taste this food, right?」
「Certainly, since Satsuki-sama seemed to miss the taste of rice herself. I hope to invite her soon.」
「That’s wonderful. I wanted to talk with Satsuki-sama too…」
「Are you low on time? Then before you leave, would you like to have a little tea party? I can invite Satsuki-sama as well.」
「I would love to!」
Flora brightened up, then turned to Hiroaki beside her.
「Um, are you going to join us, Hiroaki-sama?」
「Eh, count me out. Sounds like trouble to me.」
「It should be fine, right? I wouldn’t have anything to say. Besides, do you think any men would come to a tea party in the first place?」
No joke; she’s pretty, but I can’t handle those nagging, class rep-type girls. Anyone who says they’re a lot better when you treat them well is lying to your face. Plus, I finally came to another world. Too much hassle trying to get along with some damn normie I don’t even know.
While Hiroaki let his thoughts run amok, Liselotte changed the topic after sensing it veer into the unpleasant.
「Come to think of it, Satsuki-sama challenged Haruto-sama to a match yesterday. Did you get a chance to see it?」
「It was splendid. They were almost too fast to follow. What did you think, Hiroaki-sama?」
「Ah, I guess you could see it that way. I can’t say I enjoyed it as much; she went easy on him. Normally a hero like Satsuki can’t be defeated.」
Hiroaki heaved a disappointed sigh.
「What do you mean by “going easy”, Hiroaki-sama?」
「Because it simply wouldn’t be a fight if a hero released all their power. If I were to fight without holding anything back, there’d be no losing for me.」
His proud tone shone through again, leaving Liselotte a bit shocked.
「It’s only natural. The heroes rule over nature itself. Forget single combat, even an army couldn’t stand against us.」
「The heroes control nature?」
「Yeah, with our divine raiments. For example, my 『Yamata no Orochi』 gives me total power over the water element.」
So he said with his bold smile.
「『Yamata no Orochi』?」
「Hm? Yeah, it’s the name of my raiment. Back in my world, it’s the name of a mythical beast known as the god of water. Divine raiments don’t have a name, but giving it one makes it easier to materialize.」
「To think those kinds of secrets exist in them… But, why do you know such things? Did you have that knowledge from the beginning?」
「I got a weird dream my first night in this world. I think it’s because of that dream teaching me everything that I had all of this information unconsciously after I woke up. Basically, the weapon taught me how to use it.」
「I see… It seems I’ve just heard quite the interesting story. Thank you very much, Hiroaki-sama.」
Liselotte looked bemused for a moment at Hiroaki’s vague explanation, but she quickly gave him her gratitude with her typical smile.
Somewhere on the highway stretching north of the Galwark royal capital—
A commoners’ coach made way for a convoy of noble carriages, the latter on its way to the kingdom of Rubia.
Armed knights and soldiers surrounded them.
Inside one, decorated the gaudiest of them all, rode a girl in a white knight’s uniform and a man hidden by his black robe.
The girl was renowned as the knight princess, Rubia Kingdom’s second princess, Silvy.
The man shrouded in mystery was someone whose fate crossed with Rio’s, Reis.
The now-seventeen Silvy was glaring at the robed man, her discontent marring her otherwise sculpture-like features.
「I cooperated with you as promised. My little sister… Return Estelle immediately.」
「Mm, but the plan failed, didn’t it?」
Reis only answered her demand with a vulgar grin.
「Don’t fuck with me! This isn’t what we agreed on!」
But all he did was shrug.
「Oh, yeah, it’s regrettable. I did say that I’d return your sister as long as you worked with us, but I don’t remember saying anything about that being the only condition…」
「You, quit screwing around. Don’t you understand the risks we took going along with your plan? All the preparation down the drain…」
「What, that was just a little sideshow.」
「Sideshow? Trying to massacre the royals of multiple kingdoms was just a sideshow to you?!」
「It’s not like I was trying to assassinate them. Don’t you think it was entertaining to spice up that boring party?」
「Aw, that’s disappointing.」
After a moment to calm down, Silvy looked meekly at Reis, who only seemed more arrogant than ever.
「Hey… I can pay random. I can swear not to disclose your identity. So why won’t you give me back my sister?」
「If ransom was what I wanted, I would have gotten it long ago. You should know by now I have no need for such things.」
「Then tell me… what are you after? If you wanted a hostage, wouldn’t I be a better choice? The first princess would be higher value than the second.」
「Because a hostage is frail and weak. A strong-willed woman like yourself makes a horrible prisoner.」
「Estelle is safe, right?」
「Yes, of course. She’s a brave girl. And attractive to boot.」
Reis’ creepy smile ticked her off more than usual, and her next words chilled to the bone.
「… Filth. You try anything strange to her, I’ll make you regret it for the rest of your miserable life.」
「Ooh, how scary, I’m shaking in my boots. You shouldn’t be so reckless; we’re accomplices, after all. Shouldn’t we be getting along?」
Silvy gave up trying to talk, turning her face to the coach window.
Wait for me, Estelle. I’ll save you, no matter what… But, I wonder what Renji would have done in this situation…