Chapter 158.2 : The Aftermath of Her Highness 2nd Princess
「Then, there’s no problem I guess. Because I gave them quite a sum of money.」
Despite being quite dumbfounded, Rio still respond to her worries with a wry smile.
「E-Eh, i-is that so? My deepest apologies, I ended up bringing trouble to lord Amakawa who was an unrelated party…」
Flora bowed her head in panic when she became aware of the truth.
「It was nothing, please don’t mind it, I just used it as a pretext to leave that place. Here you go.」
Shaking his head, Rio assured her with a light tone, and proceed to scoop another spoonful of congee for Flora.
「Uhm…………. Ah, yes.」
Despite feeling dejected, Flora obediently ate the congee with a slightly embarrassed face since she felt like she was being treated like a child
Undeterred by her great embarrassment, she finally gathered her courage and looked timidly at Rio――、
As expected, they’re just too similar, aren’t they?
She thought, wondering about the possibilities.
In spite of her lack of communication with Rio back when they were still in academy (that honestly could be counted on one hand), her eyes were always chasing after Rio’s figure whenever she happened to see him. All without her conscious acknowledgement. Even with her sister’s discouragement and peer pressure from the nobles, she had always wanted to talk to him. She didn’t care about the difference in their social status nor the eyes of the people around them, she just wanted to talk to him. Because she had always yearned for him.
That was why, now, when there was someone who greatly resembled the child Rio, only with a grown up appearance she thought Rio might have had, Flora remembered her buried feelings that she thought had been lost. As such, she really wanted to know about the person in front of her. Really wanted to know whether her speculation was right or wrong…
But then, maybe because Flora took a long time looking at his face without saying anything――,
「……… Uhm, is there something on my face? 」
Rio tilted his head with a bewildered expression.
「EH, AH, U-Uhm, come to think of it, what kind of place is this! ? 」
When she was suddenly awakened from her dazed state, she asked the first question that came to her mind.
「It’s a certain rocky area in the southwest part of the Paladia kingdom. We’re in my hiding place right now, but we’ll soon be in the Rubia kingdom if we keep advancing southwest.」
Rio answered by coveying their current location without giving more details than necessary.
「The Paladia………. Kingdom.」
Flora grimaced when she heard that. Especially since the distance she had to cover, without carriage, might she add, to arrive at the Bertram kingdom was no joke. Thereupon――,
「………… May I ask some questions? 」
Cautiously, Rio asked for her permission first in order to ask his questions.
「Yes, of course.」
Flora immediately gave her permission, eager for a change of pace.
「Flora-sama, how did you end up in the Paladia kingdom? 」
Having permission, the first question he asked was the reason she ended up in the Paladia kingdom. Hearing that question, Flora hesitated a little before she opened her mouth.
「… I was riding a magic vessel from the Galwark kingdom to Rodania to meet my sister. But then, two unknown men trespassed into my room… at first they said they wanted to kill me, but one of them suddenly threw a strange gem at me, and before I knew it, I was already in one of the forests of the Paladia kingdom.」
Flora explained what happened to her from start to end.
「A strange gem, and next thing you knew you were already in the Paladia kingdom? Before that they also said that they wanted to kill you? 」
Rio was puzzled and slid into his thoughts.
Was that a crystal loaded with metastasis magic? So, there’s someone out there who possessed such items… However, the big question here is why did they sent her to the Paladia Kingdom? If it’s for the sake of killing her, there wasn’t a need to go as far as that.
While Rio pondered about such things, Flora decided to interrupt his speculations.
「Uhm, they said that killing me just like that would be boring, so they added some challenges. I think I am lucky though since I believe the gem they threw at me was an ancient artifact loaded with space magic, but…….」
Flora offered him her conjecture with a timid voice. Rio’s eyes opened slightly at that addition.
「Do you know the name of the person who used that magic tool on you? 」
He asked her.
「No… Ah, but then, I saw one of them when I was on the verge of losing my consciousness outside of that village. He was the mercenary who came with the prince of the Paladia kingdom. Was his hair bla-………… I mean, when you say that there was someone you wanted to kill, are you referring to that mercenary….?」
Flora asked with a timid voice while observing Rio’s expression.
「… You’re correct. Certainly, since we’re talking about that man, I can’t think of anyone like him. He’s the kind of man that enjoys tricking others and then trampling them underfoot.」
Rio admitted with a frown on his face.
Flora looked at his face as if she heard more than what he said, but she didn’t ask anymore. She vaguely realized that Rio’s parents were killed by that guy who hunted her.
「My deepest apologies. Please allow me to ask one last question.」
Rio heaved a sigh, as if to let go of his frustration, before he asked permission to ask one last question.
「What could it be？ 」
Flora agreed to his request out loud in a wondering tone.
「I’m going to wait for a few days for you to recover, but what will you do after that, Flora-sama? 」
Rio asked about Flora’s plans with a calm tone.
「Uhm… I… was thinking about going to Rodania to meet my dear sister…」
Flora replied in an anxious voice. Due to her upbringing as a princess, this journey would be her first real travel experience without formal escort and Rio was also very much aware of that matter even without asking her. As a matter of fact, she was at her wits end in Paladia and almost ended up dying a dog’s death on the roadside. That’s why――,
「….If possible, will you let me accompany you until we arrive in Rodania? 」
Rio asked her. Despite the past they shared, Rio never intend to leave her alone on her journey back to her Kingdom’s territory. While there was a slightly hard to describe feeling when he thought back to that past, the moment he saved Flora from that situation, he never thought to leave her be on her own. At the very least, he would deliver her to Rodania
Flora looked at Rio with a dumbfounded face. While his statement surely took her by surprise, her reaction was slightly outside of his expectation.
「Well then, since you have never had travel experiences similar to the one we’re doing right now, I’ll be the one to handle the safety aspects, the route planning, our budgets, and the handling of the various luggage that we’ll need for such a journey. And my burden aside, the more important question is, do you have some sort of plan for our journey towards Rodania?」
Rio asked bluntly. Listening to the assorted duties he took upon himself, she was once again astonished. While she had thought that it was strange when he offered his help suddenly, it turned out he had another goal in his mind when he offered himself as her escort.
I never knew that there are so many things to take care of when one is travelling…
「Uhm, but…alright, then, I will have no choice but to impose on Lord Amakawa for a while longer………」
Hanging her head in shame, Flora said with an extremely apologetic tone.
「Well don’t worry about it. From the start, my reason for sending you back to Rodania was because my acquaintance also lives there. That’s why don’t think too much about it…….. Nevertheless, do you have any other thoughts for the trip? If you don’t, there’s no need to force yourself either.」
While Rio didn’t understand the reason for Flora’s reserved personality, he still looked straight at her face while waiting for her responses. For a moment he thought that she was just being vigilant――,
「Uhm, if it’s about the money……… I might be able to provide some by selling my possessions, and use that money to somehow hire an escort and guide. I might be able to ask for some assistance from the Rubia kingdom which is the ally of the Bertram kingdom…….」
Hearing her suggestion, Rio sighed, already knowing that such an idea was but wishful thinking.
「The Rubia kingdom aside, I won’t recommend the idea of hiring adventurers as your escort. You might be able to hire a big shot if you have a large amount of money, but human nature isn’t something that you can predict, and if something goes wrong, those guys might realize your identity. Don’t forget that we’re still in the Paladia kingdom. 」
With a half-shocked face, Rio disapproved of her idea and reminded her about their current position from his point of view. Employing an escort with dubious personality might harm Flora’s safety as well.
「That, is…true, but still………….」
Flora’s words were vague, as if uncertain if she should travel alone with Rio without an escort.
「Do you not trust me? 」
Rio asked daringly when Flora was floundering.
「…………….. EH？ T-There’s no way I feel that way! I think lord Amakawa is a trustworthy person! E-Even so, because I trust you, that’s precisely why I can’t leave this kind of things to you alone…..! 」
Flora’s expression changed rapidly as she spoke, panic filling her being. Rio could only stare at her with a dumbfounded expression.
「……… Then, will you rely on me? Christina-sama will be angry if I left everything to you. Moreover, I won’t be able to show my face to my acquaintance if I do so.」
He said, unintentionally chuckling to himself.
Flora just muttered 「Uuh」 as she was at a loss for words. And then――,
「Your acquaintance…is it…my dear sister? Or, is it…a noble of our kingdom?」
She asked, still with a reticent voice.
「Yes. My acquaintance is Celia-sama of earl Claire’s house.」
「EH, C-CELIA-SENSEI! ? CELIA-SENSEI IS IN RODANIA! ? 」
Flora’s eyes opened wide the moment Celia’s name came out from his mouth.
「Yeah, in fact Celia-sama and I met when we acted as escort for Christina-sama in our journey towards Rodania.」
「Amakawa-dono has…………… With my dear sister, and Celia-sensei till Rodania? 」[E/D: I…somehow get pissed off whenever she said ‘my dear sister’…do that need to be repeated every time you refer your sister?][TL : Cool, buddy]
Flora asked him, eyes blinking owlishly.
「Yes. Yes, along with lord Vanessa of the Aimar house. I can’t show you the proof right now tho-………. No, if I’m not wrong, Christina-sama gave me her brooch when I left Rodania in exchange for a pass. If you insist, I can show you the brooch…shall I? 」
Flora agreed, astonishment evident on her face when Rio asked that question of her.
「Well then, I’ll leave for a while to fetch it. Let me also reheat the congee since it has cooled down by now.」
Rio stood up, holding the tray in his hand as he did so. Then he left the room without even waiting for her reply.
「Lord Amakawa, Celia-sense, and my sister……….」
Flora muttered those words to herself, her expression unchanging from its astounded state. That was just how much the current discussion—the matter of Rio being acquainted with Christina and Celia– shook her to her very core.
◇ ◇ ◇
A few minutes later, Rio was back with the re-heated pot of congee along with the brooch as his proof.
「Here you go.」
Rio placed the tray with the pot on the desk, and then showed the brooch to Flora.
「This is my dear sister’s-………..」
Flora’s eyes were opened wide when she received the brooch. After she finished examining it, she peeked at Rio’s face――,
The crest of my dear sister, the crest of the royalty is engraved on this brooch…… For her to give one of her possessions that had the crest of royalty crafted on it shows just how much she put her trust in Lord Amakawa.
She pondered on the meaning of her dear sister’s actions. Normally, royalty wouldn’t just carelessly give something that had their own crest to just anyone. Giving something had such a crest crafted to someone else was an indication of how highly they were trusted More than that, just the fact that Christina gave such things to a foreigner–one that was a noble at that– surprised her more than the fact she gave it at all.
Is it because my dear sister also thought that Lord Amakawa might be Rio-sama? Or, is there another reason for her action on top of it?
There was also the possibility that both of them shared such secret together. But in that case, he should have already told her of that…though she thought that way, she was still unsure.
No, there’s also the possibility that Lord Amakawa isn’t Rio-sama………
Yes, in the first place, she didn’t even know whether Haruto was Rio. It might have just been her imagination and wishful thinking conflating Haruto and Rio.
With so many questions circling in her head, Flora couldn’t help but switch her gaze between the brooch and Rio’s own face.
「Do you believe me now? 」
As one would expect, Rio was tired of waiting for a response. Thus he proceeded to ask her with a sardonic smile on his face.
「Y-Yes, I-I trusted you from the very beginning! 」
Flora nodded her head, apprehensively.
「Well then, let me ask you again. Will you let me accompany you to Rodania, Flora-sama? 」
Rio straightened his body, asking the same question with a straightforward gaze, waiting for her answer. Flora was still conflicted and it showed in her embarrassed expression that appeared on her face. Nevertheless――,
「…I’ll be in your care. I, definitely will repay this favor on my own, for sure. That’s why, please take me along to Rodania.」
After her brief silence, Flora bowed to Rio. In her heart, she swore to repay this favor herself, and not let others pay this for her―― She also swore she wouldn’t repay good deeds with evil.
「Certainly. You can just leave it to me. Well then, you must recover your physical condition first. Therefore, we shall stop talking first, and I’ll let you finish your meal. That way, the congee won’t get cold for the second time.」
Rio nodded respectfully at her, and then smiled whilst entreating her to resume her meal.
「……….. Yes! 」
Flora replied cheerfully.
「Well then, here you go.」
With that said, Rio scooped up the congee and fed it to Flora. Eating it elegantly, she couldn’t help but mutter.
Delighted, she once again praised Rio.
「Thank you very much. Please eat properly. I have also prepared a cold apple juice for dessert.」
Maybe she’s like that because it’s been a long time since she ate properly――was what he thought when he heard her praise whilst informing her of the juice he had prepared.