My consciousness snapped awake as if a switch had been flipped.
I sluggishly got up.
The view of the bed’s canopy, which had been of the bottom of the sea in the Crown Prince’s Palace, had been transformed into a garden of light since I moved into the rear palace.
The Garden of Light is the setting where the founding king of Dardinia and his queen, the princess of the fairy king, first met.
The spring garden, with its freshly stitched flowers in pale tones wet with morning dew, glistens in the dazzling gold and silver threads of light.
In fact, the pattern is different on the outside from the inside. Its elaborate embroidery is now a work of art.
The thick, densely embroidered ledger does not allow any light to pass through it, so it is impossible to tell whether it is morning or night yet.
I have a clock, but it’s not small enough to fit in my bunk.
My face was wet.
I knew it from the beginning, but when I came back to reality like this, I somehow still couldn’t get out of the feeling that I was in a dream.
It’s been a while since I’ve dreamed about Maya.
It’s been a little over a year since I lived as the Crown Princess of Dardinia, Arthirea, despite having memories of the thirty-three years of Maya Izumi working as a confectioner in twenty-first century Japan.
Maya’s memories of her life were revived because of the attempt on Arthirea’s life.
When Maya’s memories were first awakened, I was very confused and troubled. Many things happened before I made up my mind to live as an Arthirea while possessing Maya’s memories, but now I don’t have to worry about it at all.
This is because I never doubts myself as an Arthirea with Maya’s memories.
On the one hand, I am a Japanese woman from the 21st century. On the other hand, I am the Crown Princess of another world’s country called Dardinia.
We have nothing in common at all, yet there is almost no sense of discomfort.
Still, when I dream about the other world like this, my heart wavers.
The ‘me’ here and ‘me’ over there.
Even if there is little to no discomfort, we will never be the same.
Maybe I will live with it softly.
It’s not something I’d tell anyone about and have them believe me…
I even wonder sometimes if it might be a dream myself.
I gently wipe the tears away with the sleeve of my nightgown.
I gently slip out of the cozy blanket, which is said to be woven from Glache goat’s wool. The feel of the long, fluffy carpet touches my feet.
…Nobody has come yet, but I wonder what time it is…
I always wake up when someone comes to wake me up. Strangely enough, I only wake up about 30 seconds before being woken up.
Occasionally, I’ll be awakened by a subdued call from Lilia, but most of the time I’ll wake up just before that.
Examples like today’s are very rare.
What is it…somehow, it feels strange.
Is it because the mourning period is over? I wasn’t sure what to think.
The mourning period for the death of the King of Dardinia was one year.
Three years might be said to be the appropriate time to mourn a man of supreme importance, but unlike in the past, the current political climate makes it difficult to accept that the throne will remain empty for three years.
The unspoken rule is that the mourning period for the king should be one year, to coincide with the celebration of the new king’s accession to the throne.
The funeral rites of His Majesty the former King, Gladis IV, will all end with yesterday’s funeral service.
In the meantime, Arthirea, who was twelve, had just celebrated her thirteenth birthday.
I thought there wouldn’t be much difference between a twelve year old and a thirteen year old, but the views of those around me have completely changed.
The first menarche* had arrived… (***menstruation–our girl got her first period :p)
It’s awkward to say, but everyone who works at the Royal Court now knows.
Because for three days after I found out that everyone knew, I was so embarrassed that I just couldn’t help myself and stayed in my bedroom!
However, when I finally gave up and walked out of my bedroom, everyone congratulated me with a big “Congratulations.”
I almost went back to being the Doll Princess!
Because my facial muscles were tight!
The only thing that helps is that His Highness was smiling…
I think I am pretty much at ease with my husband, Crown Prince Nigel, who is fifteen years older than me.
I am well aware that he is my husband.
I’m confident that he likes me in his own way, and I’m fully aware of my favor.
But after all, there is quite an age gap between us.
Of course, there is no such thing as a ‘intimacy’ yet.
Or rather, it will never happen until after the Founding Festival.
Having reached my first menarche, I can say it much with confidence, no matter how much people around me expect me to do so.
We haven’t even finished the coming of age ceremony yet.
To be honest, it’s a bit of a problem for me even now.
After all, I’m only a thirteen-year-old girl. That is also a rather immature age in that world.
It’s a bit of a problem for me to serve in a bedchamber with my own body.
Though, His Highness can’t take a princess other than me.
Not everyone clearly recognizes that.
But it is a confirmed fact, at least among the four dukes.
The King of Dardinia is officially allowed to marry four queens, but unfortunately, His Highness can’t receive a queen other than me.
This country only allows thrones for the children I will give to.
It’s a big responsibility, but it didn’t feel quite right to me.
Probably, if I don’t have a child ten years later, I would be hunted down.
Well, if we’re talking about His Highness, I think he’ll be fine for another three years or so.
His Highness Nigel isn’t particularly fond of young girls***, and since he’s not the kind of person to be pushed around by the pressure of others, perhaps both sides won’t be forced to enter the bedside in an unwilling manner. (***Basically saying that he’s not a lolicon)
However, the move to the Rear Palace is making everyone around us more upset.
That rear palace will also be my private residence for the time being.
Since I moved to the Rear Palace, the number of maidservants under my command has increased by two orders of magnitude.
What used to be a number that was sufficient on one hand is now a three-digit number of maidservants. If the maidservants are included, the number is probably double that.
A number like that is necessary to keep the palace running smoothly, and now that His Highness is about to ascend to the throne, various families are sending maidservants to the rear palace.
Most of them are considered concubine candidates…
When I think about it, I want to sigh.
A concubine is not given the rank of ‘queen’, she is actually a public mistress. Even if you give birth to a child of the king, that child won’t even be given the royal title.
The only title given to the king’s bastard child is of the first count and the pension associated with the title.
It’s an unwritten rule that will never change, no matter how much favoritism is shown to a mistress.
However, that is not to say that a bastard son of the king can’t get a good position if he gets around well.
There are many noble families in Dardinia that are the first-born inheritance of both sexes, so there is a certain number of female heirs, and thus a demand for a son-in-law.
And as a matter of fact, it’s obviously not possible for His Highness Nigel to have a consort other than me, so it’s not like there aren’t people who start out as a concubine who want to have children and become a consort.
I know of several such people already among His Highness Nigel’s new maids.
I can easily recognize such people.
They look at me differently when His Highness and I are in their presence.
Very rude for a maid, isn’t it?
I may not be a maid, but I am the Crown Princess.
I don’t think it’s particularly appropriate to treat me like a child or to harass me casually.
Apparently there are many people who don’t understand that I will be queen when His Highness Prince Nigel ascends the throne, even at a young age.
One difficulty is gone, and then another comes…
I have lived in the Crown Prince’s Palace with multiple layers of protection.
His Royal Highness Prince Nigel, of course, and His Majesty the King, who is dead, were my greatest supporters.
But with his death, I am considered to have lost my backing, and it’s easy to give credit to that area… I am harassed for it.
—Because I’m still very young.
—To put it bluntly, I don’t have a physical relationship with His Highness.
Just when I think the danger of my life has diminished, the next step is the battle of the women…
To be honest, I’m not very confident.
I’m not very good with that stuff to begin with.
I was rather passive in the other world as well. I wouldn’t say that I threw away my girl power, but I don’t think I had much.
I’m doing my best now.
I have all the memories we’ve accumulated over the past year, and the time we’ve spent together.
I’m confident that I have a good grip on his stomach!
It’s already been a regular agreement between His Highness and I that morning tea will double as breakfast and we’ll spend the morning with each other.
I feel this is enough, for now.
The institution of marriage itself is different in the other world and this one.
If I said to protect monogamy, people would think I was crazy, and I don’t think I’m someone who could have a monopoly on it.
Most importantly, I don’t think I have a choice, as I am not yet able to have be match for His Highness.
In other words, I would be okay if His Highness had a woman on the side, as long as she understands my position properly.
Rather, I think it’s just as well.
His Highness is a healthy adult male, and he is in a position to allow that to happen…
Originally, I was to be transferred to the rear palace after the coronation ceremony, but it was His Highness Nigel who insisted that I be transferred with him.
He even went so far as to say that if he didn’t move with me to the rear palace, he himself would not move from the crown prince’s palace.
It’s passionate and lovely, the newly arrived maidservant, Margo, was enthralled, but in reality, the majority of the reason for this is for a practical reason. The Crown Prince Palace’s security system will be much less effective if it is empty.
Although the crown prince’s palace was originally a palace with an elaborate security system, it would be completely isolated if there was no access in and out of it.
An isolated and enclosed palace is dangerous because once it is penetrated, the outside world cannot reach it.
But that doesn’t mean the rear palace is safe.
With the death of His Majesty the King, the danger that had been hovering around me had diminished considerably.
But it has by no means ceased to exist. I am still a target, and above all, I must protect myself first and foremost.
And yet, from now on for my life in the palace, I have to govern the palace properly.
If possible, I must ensure that nobody is placed in the rear palace who is blatantly targeting His Highness.
Even if I was convinced in my head, I might not be able to forgive myself with my emotions if I saw it in front of me.
As I was thinking about this and that, it got a little chilly and my body shivered.
Let’s get something to wear…
Or, just as I put my hand on the thick ledger to open it to change clothes, the early spring air, still slightly chilled, shivered.
I tried to discern the time by the sound of it, but there were more than one or two solemn bells to be heard.
Not necessarily loud enough to tear my eardrums, but the sound of the bells would be echoing throughout Royal Capital.
There are a total of twelve bell towers in Royal Capital Al Greya, and the people of the Royal Capital know the time of day by the sound of the bells. During the daytime, they would ring a fixed melody of five measures, and after the sun went down, they would ring only one bell to indicate the time.
What is ringing now is the melody.
It’s longer than five measures and…this isn’t the fixed sound…
I close my eyes to the overlapping, high and low resonant tones of it.
I followed the melody, almost getting sucked into the sound of it.
A craftsman from the countryside would distinguish the sound of these bells when heard, but for me, who has grown up in the royal city since I can remember, it’s not too difficult.
Even if I don’t remember it, I do remember these things…
And my level of musical education is pretty high, if I do say so myself.
Thanks to His Majesty…
It was the late His Majesty King Gladis IV who taught me such things.
His Majesty was very interested in the arts, and he was especially fond of and knowledgeable about music, to the extent that he played many different instruments himself.
As my mother was very fond of music, she taught me many things as a child, and these memories come to me from time to time, even now.
This song is “Sagriza.”
Sagriza is a special song that is played at important ceremonies in Dardinia.
We do not know when and by whom it was written.
It was originally performed by wandering musicians, but the head of the Dardie family took a liking to it in the days when it was not yet a state, and started to have his own musicians play it, and eventually it was performed at ceremonies.
I’ve never heard it played with bells before, though.
I can tell that they use the bells of all the bell towers in the Royal City.
The bells here are different from the temple bells in the other world; they have multiple bells and were set up from the beginning to play a melody.
It is very similar to carillons from that world.
But I didn’t know that it is possible to play the sounds of several bell towers superimposed on each other like this.
Overlapping and echoing each other…what a sound it is!
The sound played is deep and profound and does not waver in the slightest. When I give my attention to the echoing sounds, I feel as if I’m being transported somewhere far away.
“Good morning, Your Highness. Are you already awake?”
Lilia’s subdued voice brought me back to consciousness, which was about to fly off into the distance.
The door is quickly opened. I squinted at the glare of the light coming through.
“…Hey, Lilia. What’s this bell ringing news? I didn’t hear anything about it last night, but…”
At Lilia’s signal to confirm I’m awake, Alice and Miredei start getting ready to wash my face and so on.
“This is the bell of congratulations for the beginning of a new world.”
“????? Though Nigel-sama has not yet been enthroned?”
“Yes, Your Highness. It is the end of mourning for His Majesty the King who has passed away. The end of mourning signifies the beginning of the reign of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, even though he has not yet ascended the throne, and so it is a bell to congratulate him.”
“A bell to signal the beginning of a celebration.”
“Is the time fixed?”
“Yes. The sunrise of the day.”
I see. Looking at the clock in the next room, it’s almost 6:30. I wondered if the clock was out of order because it was halfway through the day, but I was convinced that it was set for the sunrise.
The solemn ringing of the bells echoed throughout the city in the morning light with the bright and hopeful tune of a new beginning.
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