When I returned to the outer court, Freya had already changed into a formal purple evening gown. The dark purple evening gown was very befitting of her, especially with her white skin. While she had a young appearance, her gaze and dress-up was much mature. She also carried the aura of a venerable lady.
She was only fifteen, but her calm smile didn’t contain the naivety of a child. Her gaze was so deep that I couldn’t see through her thoughts. She was pretty, but what was her heart like? I don’t know, but I’m willing to trust her. Although I don’t know, maybe I didn’t suspect her because she called me “onii-sama”.
I walked up to her side. She raised her head up to look at me. She then wrapped her arm wearing a white-silk glove around my arm and smiled as she said: “Let us head to the banquet, onii-sama.”
“Wait, this is for you.”
I took out a jar from my cloak and handed it to her. She looked at it blankly at first, but when she took it, she reacted with surprise: “Honey cherry tomatoes?! Onii-sama, this is……”
Oh, these cherry tomatoes are different to the ones we know. If I had to compare, it’s more similar to our peaches. Okay, the cherry tomatoes here are just our world’s peaches. It was one of the things I loved to eat when I was sick. However, these cherry tomatoes were boiled with refined white sugar. In this world, honey and white sugar are considered luxury commodities, so this cherry tomato was very expensive.
I spent forty gold coins for one and it was tiny. This cherry tomato should be really soft. It’s very likely to go bad if it meets with hard impact so it’s hard to store it. That must be why it’s so expensive.
“This is my present for you. I haven’t given you anything as my adopted-sister yet. I thought about buying you a present when I went out with her majesty this time.” I watched her grip it tightly. I don’t think even nobles get to eat it often, one because of supply and two, because of its steep price. I don’t know if she’s had it considering she’s from a fallen noble family.
She lowered her head and looked at the simple glass jar. She reached her hand out to open the lid and took out a pulp infused in the white sugar liquid…… It’s supposed to look like a peach, but it looks like a tangerine…… She put it in her mouth. The combination of sugar and honey made the simple fruit sweeter. She slowly chewed it and a layer of water formed in her blue eyes. Tear drops then coursed down her face one after another.
She smiled with tears in her eyes as she looked at me. She wiped away her tears and then raised her hand with the jar up high as she looked at me with the happy smile of a child. She choked on her words as she said: “It really is sweet.”
I slowly chewed on the pulp in my mouth as I smiled and wiped away the tears on her face. I then allowed her to wrap her arm around mine. She wrapped her arm around mine tightly and stuck closely to me. Tonight is her majesty’s banquet. I’ve already given her majesty the best birthday present. It’s enough that mom and I both had fun today.
When we got to the ballroom, I gently let go of Freya and said: “I need to go and find her majesty. I’m in charge of holding her cape today. After it’s over, I’ll come and look for you.”
She smiled, tippy-toed up and gave me a gentle kiss on my cheek before letting go of my arm and going away. As she walked away she turned around to smile at me. I touched the spot she kissed and smiled helplessly. Did that kiss contain the sweetness of honey and white sugar?
There’s nothing more suitable than for her to go and see those nobles. Freya is good at socialising unlike me. I’m terrible at socialising, probably because I’ve never attended an event like this I guess. According to my understanding, the Vestalia household had always relied on her to sustain itself. She is but just a kid so how could she control an alcoholic-gambling father?
She failed once, so I don’t think she’ll fail again this time.
I circled around the large hall and arrived at the preparation room. Nier stood at the door and shivered at the sight of me before turning around and trying to run away. I looked at her hopelessly. I was the one that had a kiss forced on him, and a cheek-kiss is no big deal. You saw Freya kiss me. I don’t really care.
But Nier didn’t seem to agree with that.
When I greeted her, Nier jerked her body. She stared at me blankly. Her lips budged a few times and then seemingly said something, but maybe not. I smiled helplessly. I ignored her for the meantime and knocked on the door before entering.
“Ah, son, you came at the perfect time. If you were any later, I would’ve had to call Nier to go and get you.” Mom looked at me with a bright smile. She had changed back into her military uniform and was adjusting the position of her face-veil. Alice made space behind mom. I walked over and held her cape.
Alice looked at mom’s smile and said: “You look very happy today, your majesty.”
“Yeah since this is the happiest day I’ve had in years. With my son by my side and the gift he gave me as well as the gift my husband left for me, how could I not be happy?” Mom laughed happily and then stamped her feet. The maids came to her and adjusted the ornaments on her one last time. Once they were done ensuring that all was well, they stepped back. Mom waved her hand and said: “Let’s go!”
The evening party was still the same as always.
Although it’s said that it’s a banquet for the empress’s birthday, I felt like there was nothing special, other than there being more people than usual and the dishes being more sumptuous. Nobody complimented me this time either. It was like everybody was trying to approach the empress. Being able to say just one sentence to her was a great honour. But this is good too. I like being free. I took a cup of wine and went to the balcony where I once shared my thoughts with Nier and looked at the lights of the houses in the distance.
Not only was it a celebration for the palace tonight, even the people were celebrating like it was a national holiday.
When I suddenly heard a voice from behind I turned around and saw Nier. She was slightly blushing. She stood there holding a bottle or wine and a cup. She bowed and asked: “Would I be disturbing you if I drank with you?”
I froze up. It was the first time Nier took the initiative to invite me to drink. I shook my head and replied: “Of course not. I’d be very glad if you could drink with me, Nier. Come.”
I shifted to the side and Nier walked up to my side. After a moment of hesitation, she lifted the bottle up to her mouth and gulped mouthfuls. I looked at her completely startled. I didn’t know what to say. She let out a sigh of relief and then placed the bottle down. She then looked at the lights outside in silence. I waited for ages but she never spoke. Hopeless at the situation, I picked up my cup of wine again.
“Your majesty, I think… I’ve fallen in love with you.”
I spat a mouthful of red wine out, and then turned my head to look at Nier with utter shock. Nier’s face was completely red, although I didn’t know if it was because she was drunk or blushing. But she looked at me seriously and continued: “That’s how it is. This is the first time I’ve felt myself fall in love with someone, so I want to know your answer.”
I looked at Nier and stuttered: “Ah… this is a little too sudden… no… It’s not that I don’t love you. I really like you too. It’s just that I already have a fiancée and we’re going to get married soon, so sorry, Nier.”
“I see. I’m sorry for disturbing you. I wish you a happy marriage in advance.”
Nier bowed and then returned to the hall, leaving me at a complete loss for what to do.