‘The outer court was kept as always. It appears that my outer court remains the same even in my absence.’
‘Living in the outer court actually makes me feel that I’m a guest, a stranger now. My guess is that it’s due to me having gotten used to living in my own palace. Additionally, this is Mom’s palace. It’s Mom’s territory, not mine. Perhaps that’s why it feels foreign and I’m struggling to adapt.’
‘It seems that I’ve lived as a master for too long.;
‘Nara is arriving today so I’ve prepared to provide her with a reception. As the Prince, I don’t need to welcome her outside of the city. However, I need to at least meet her and her group in the guest hall.’
‘Truth be told, given our relationship, I wouldn’t have a problem with welcoming her at the entrance.’
‘The only thing is that I would have failed the requirement Freya gave me, and that is to ensure I maintain a balance.
‘Hence, the three of us sat in the guest-room and waited for Nara. Luna had made tea. Wait. We say boiled tea here. I wonder if Nara, who always drinks strong alcoholic beverages, will be able to drink tea. Freya sat behind me with her eyes shut as she awaited their arrival. Perhaps she was listening for the sound of the horse carriage.’
‘You know, the vassal states do suffer a fair bit. They have to send tributes at the end of every year. Not long after is Her Majesty’s birthday, so they need to send another bunch of gifts. And now they have to send more gifts once again. Hmm, I actually think the people in charge of the national treasury are the most pitiable. Her Majesty can’t store any more in her inner court, and there’s more stored at my outer court.’
Sounds suddenly came from outside. The sound of a heavy horse carriage’s wheels rolling on the road came in. Freya stood up and looked out the window. You can see a corner on the other side of the flower garden outside of the window. She chuckled and said, “It appears that the group from the desert have arrived. I never thought Socina’s group would be late.”
“I assume it’s because their lord has other business. They do still need to handle their own affairs, after all.” I chuckled. I am aware of what the lord of Socina needs to settle. She was after the mineral to consolidate her rule inside her city, after all; consequently, she must be trying to sort out the internal political affairs there. That must be why they’re slightly late. I believe that her problems will be solved once she arrives, and I’ll be able to head to Socina without concern.
I sat up straight. A moment later, footsteps from outside approached, accompanied by Nara’s hearty laughter and Tarak’s somewhat stunned voice. It seemed that the young man from the desert is very surprised by this palace. Nara’s palace can’t hold a candle to the Royal Palace after all.
“Ah, Your Majesty!” I heard Nara’s voice from behind. I stopped up and turned around to see her smile. I greeted her, “Long-time no see, Nara. The journey must have been rough.”
Nara giggled softly then replied, “It was all right. I would say the trip has been an eye-opener for me. Or should I say, I have found how Karnashun look in the future?”
I laughed heartily.
‘Nara sure is ambitious as I thought. She wants her city to flourish as the Royal Capital is in the centre of the southern plains. While one may feel threatened by that, I, personally, don’t feel that way.’
‘I’m not Elizabeth after all, and Nara is also my friend.’
Tarak sincerely saluted me as per usual. I tapped him on his shoulder and said, “You don’t need to be so serious. Tarak, while we might not be able to be so friendly later, we’re the only ones around right now, so you don’t need to be so serious. We aren’t just Prince and his bodyguard after all. We’re good friends, too. Moreover, I’m waiting for your invitation to act as the witness for your marriage.”
“That… uhh… We… we… it is still a long way away….”
Tarak instantly went red in the face and shyly stuttered. Nara, on the other hand, was very calm. She looked at me. With a grin, she asked, “Probably around summer this year. We still need to prepare for our wedding for some time I think. Did you not prepare for half a year for yours, Your Majesty?”
I chuckled and replied, “No. Nier and I got married in two months. With Lucia, it was about three months. We originally needed lots of time for planning, but in the end, we just hurried and got married.”
Nara froze for a moment. She then smiled and said, “We might as well get married next month, then. If you only prepared for three months and we prepared for six months, would we not be stepping out of line?”
“I don’t care, honestly. Plus, I had reasons for getting married so early, reasons I’m not too willing to mention… Of course, your marriage will be the first marriage I had a hand in arranging; therefore, you need to prepare well for it. Ah… I get it now. You’re in a bit of a rush, aren’t you Nara?”
Nara was the one who went red in the face this time. She shyly glanced at Tarak and went silent. I chuckled and said, “Stay in the palace for tonight. That’s a great honour to have, you know? You won’t be able to stay in the palace once more people arrive.”
“Really? Thank you very much for giving me the honour then, Your Majesty. I am very honoured. I am very honoured, not to mention that you are the one to provide us with a reception this time, Your Majesty. I want to know if you are receiving us as a friend or as His Majesty.”
Nara sat to the side. She picked up a cup of tea and drank it as she spoke. But then she looked at the cup of tea in front of her and froze. It would seem that this stuff doesn’t suit her palate. However, her eyes were full of vigilance and sensitivity. She appeared to have already discovered the purpose of me being here.
I tilted my head and with a smile, asked, “What do you think, Nara? Which identity would you be happier with?”
Nara tilted her head the same way and with a smile, asked me back, “Your Majesty, which response would you prefer?”
“You tell me first.”
“I do not think that I would be particularly happy with either. Instead, I would be happy when you are both His Majesty and my friend.”
I froze for a moment and then laughed aloud.
‘It seems Nara is one whose eyes are bigger than her stomach. In her opinion, knowing a Prince isn’t important. Not even being his friend was very important. What made her happiest was that her friend was the Prince who was soon to succeed the throne.’
‘That would be the equivalent of being connected to Empress Elizabeth. Meaning she wants to be in a favourable position among all the vassal states, or even half of the continent.’
‘That must be Nara’s ambition.’
Nara smiled then stood up. She looked at her thin clothes and said, “By the looks of it, I need a new set of clothes here, as people look at me with strange gazes when I wear this. I shall not take up any more of your time, Your Majesty. Also, it would be better if you could serve me strong wine next time. But it is fine if you do not have any. I have prepared lots of wine from the desert for you.”
“Yeah? That does bring back memories…”
‘I don’t know when it started. Mom particularly likes strong wine, so it became one of the treasures I always wanted. I wonder what my trip to the desert gave me. A wine addiction, perhaps?’