Chapter 18: Hope

I had a dream.

I dreamed that His Royal Highness the Crown Prince told me that I would have to get fatter to be eaten.

Please have any misunderstanding here.

I was a piglet at the time.

I was a poor little piglet, afraid of His Highness’s cold gaze and his words.

“I feel like I had a terrible dream…”

I woke up in my own bedroom.

Inside the canopy of the princess bed here is the bottom of the ocean. Based on the motif of the fairytale “White Lilies at the Bottom of the Sea,” a fairy tale that everyone here is familiar with, there is a scene of white lilies swaying at the bottom of the sea and colorful fish swimming around. I’m looking for the seven turtles in the story, but I haven’t found the last one yet.

“Are you awake, Your Highness?”

“…Yeah. I fell asleep on the way over yesterday.”

It’s probably because it was a simple dress, but I was shoved straight into the bed.

“…Oh.”

“What?”

Out of the corner of Lilia’s eye, there’s a glittering object under my pillow.

“What?”

“This is the Crown Prince’s cufflinks.”

On Lilia’s fingertips, large purple crystal and black pearls combined with cufflinks…cufflinks…sparkle…

His Highness’s taste is often simple, yet artisanal and luxurious. I’m not sure if it was him or his entourage who chose them, but he must have good taste.

“His Royal Highness the Crown Prince? Why?”

“His Highness came in last evening. It was the Crown Prince who brought the princess to her bed.”

“…Is that the reason?”

Is that what my dream was about?

“What is it?”

“It’s nothing.”

She probably wouldn’t understand if I told her about my dream of being terrified of being eaten as a piglet.

“What did he want? Is it bad that I didn’t wake up?”

“No, His Highness was the one who told me to put you to sleep, so he said it wasn’t much of an errand. Mr. Shion… Archbishop Gittice was accompanying, so perhaps that is why…”

“Archbishop Gittice is…Lilia’s milk brother, right?”

Lord Shion recently became the Archbishop of the Gittice region, which includes the capital city. His title is not His Highness, but His Eminence.

I don’t know much about it, but I heard that Archbishop and above are called Eminence.

In the Luthia Orthodox Church, there is no position that is equivalent to a pope. The highest authority is His Majesty the King, and the highest level of religious leadership is the Supreme Cardinal. Currently, it’s the former royalty, His Eminence Julius.

“Yes…He seemed to really like the snack he had the other day and was staying at the royal palace, so I’m sure he was caught by the smell of it yesterday as well. He can’t come alone, so he asked His Royal Highness the Crown Prince to help him.”

Why can’t he come alone?”

If he’s a former prince, wouldn’t he have a free pass to the royal palace everywhere?

“Although he is a member of the clergy, he cannot come here without the permission of His Highness. This is classified as a back palace, so adult males are restricted from entering and leaving. And since the guards are knights, Her Highness is not likely to be aware of this.”

“Is that so.”

I didn’t know it was that strict.

“There is no reason for Lord Shion to convince His Highness the Crown Prince. Unfortunately, Her Highness was asleep, so he didn’t get the snack he wanted.”

Lilia giggles and laughs wickedly. That’s the way the milk siblings are. You can’t be shy about saying things.

“Is he a sweets eater?”

“Yes. I can’t tell you how many times we snuck into the kitchen together…at the main palace, though.”

“Lilia would do that?”

“After all, it was Master Shion, the naughty boy, whom I was with.”

She used to get angry with him about a lot of things, she laughs.

I wonder what kind of person he is, Archbishop Gittice. I’m very interested in him just because he’s Lilia’s milk brother.

His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and His Royal Highness Prince Alfred, the Second Prince, don’t look much alike. I was a bit curious to see which side the Archbishop was on.

After getting ready, it was time for breakfast. We decided to order the menu here for breakfast.

Bread, salad, egg dishes, and a baked ham with it, along with some soup and yogurt with jam.

It’s a hotel breakfast menu that doesn’t require a lot of creativity.

If you make it every morning, you’ll get better at it.

Just complaining in my mind won’t make things better.

“How is it?”

“The bread is so-so. The salad is good. Eggs are overcooked. The ham is too soggy with oil. Soup is not very tasty. The yogurt and jam are good.”

“…Your Highness.”

“I can just say it’s my taste, right? I didn’t say it was bad.”

“…It’s basically saying the same thing.”

“Tell me well enough so that you don’t get anyone angry, Lilia.”

I gently wipe my mouth with a napkin.

I’ve been taught to eat everything that’s served, but I can do this because I know that what I leave here won’t go to waste.

I could never eat this amount of food in the first place. Just because the menu is a hotel menu doesn’t mean it’s brought to me on a tray for one person. There’s a basket full of bread, a bowl full of salad. Each plate of eggs and ham…all of it is enough for four or five people.

“But the kitchen staff will eat the rest, right? I wonder if they don’t think I’m doing them a disservice.”

“It’s a fairly modest meal for royalty, but it’s a feast for the average citizen, so…the taste is secondary.

“Taste is secondary?…Right. The only reason I can say anything about taste is because that I’m not starving.”

Sigh. I’ve been blessed, as I’ve thought many times.

“…It has a long way to go. You know it won’t start if I give up.”

I’m not asking for anything more spectacular, I’m just asking for these ingredients to be cooked well. I feel sorry for the ingredients if they are not cooked and eaten well.

“What are your plans for today?”

“…Do you know what His Royal Highness the Crown Prince’s plans are? If he’d like, ask if I could join him for tea. I’d like to return the cufflinks to him, and I’d like to deliver the cake.”

It’s best not to make too many sudden visits. He’s a busy man, after all.

“I’ll get right to it. I’ll look into it right away.”

Lilia, I wish you’d stop smiling that implied smile. It’s something I’m afraid of.

“…Along with that appointment, please go and get permission to go to the Kings Guard along with the schedule as well.

“Are you going in person?”

“Yes….I have some things I need to ask the Count to do for me.”

“Would you like me to run an errand?”

“I’m asking, so I will go.”

Lilia lets out a small sigh.

“…What?”

“No. I’m glad that Her Highness is no longer a doll, but I don’t want her to be a bad influence.”

“I’m still very reserved.”

I’m playing the princess, pretty much.

“…Please refrain from doing anything reckless.”

“It depends on the situation, doesn’t it?”

I smiled quietly and Lilia sighed.

***

The palace of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince was as silent as ever.

I was ushered into the same room as the other day. His Highness was gazing blankly at the garden where the white roses were no longer in bloom.

“Good morning, Your Highness.”

“Good morning.”

Slowly, His Highness looks at me. Oh, could it be that he’s in a bad mood? I don’t know why.

“I’m sorry for yesterday. I fell asleep…”

“No. I didn’t have any special errands.”

Yeah, he’s still cranky. I can tell by the tone of his voice and his expression.

Oh, I can tell, it’s like we’re married.

“I heard you wanted to go out, but…”

I see, so that’s what stuck.

So that’s why it’s morning tea…As for me, I was planning on having afternoon tea, so I was a little surprised that he specified morning tea time.

“Yes. To the Kings Guard diplomatic mission…I have a request for Count Stassen.”

“Wish?”

“Yes…It’s been a long time since my tutor, Professor Lehigh, passed away, but I haven’t yet found my next tutor…so I was wondering if I could ask the Count to help me out.”

Count Stassen is both a warrior and a scholar. Naturally, he can tutor me. Since the Earl has dedicated his sword to me, it would be fine if I ordered him to do so, but, after all, as a teacher, I don’t think that’s a good idea, so I thought I’d make the request directly.

“Is there something you want to know?”

“Yes. Lots and lots of things.”

His Highness tilts his head a bit as he replies.

“……For example?”

“For example, how many kinds of edible cheeses are there?”

“Cheese?”

“Yes. Some are soft, some are hard, some are white and some are orange. There’s a difference in the ingredients and whether it’s dairy, buffalo or goat’s milk. Also, I think there’s a difference in the way they’re made.”

“………That’s right.”

What? That puzzled look on his face.

“It’s not just about cheese. Every region has its own unique food.”

“Ah.”

“…That’s the kind of thing I want to know about.”

What is there and what is not. It’s important to me, personally.

“What will you do when you know…?”

“I’d like to try it.”

I turn to him with smile.

I actually have an ingredient I’m looking for. Yes, cacao. If there is coffee, there must be cacao.

And then there’s sweet potatoes. I want to have sweet potatoes. Plus, they’d come in handy in an emergency.

And if I can find it, then buckwheat and horseradish!

“So…?”

“For example, if you know a crop that can be grown in a cold, barren area, you can grow it in a similar area in another part of the world.

“…I see, that’s interesting. If you can grow the right crops, at least you won’t starve.”

“Yes…And if you’re only thinking about wheat, you can sell it and buy wheat.”

“Ah.”

The important thing is to get a steady output.

“Also, alcohol and tea. It’s different in each region. The same barley wine can be made in the north and the south of the country, but it is completely different. There is a variety of sake made with potatoes, barley, and rice…I’m sure everyone will tell you that their local sake is the best, but I think each one has its own advantages.”

“That’s true.”

Dardinia is a large and prosperous country. Due to the size of the country, the cultures, customs and temperaments of the different regions are very different. There are differences between the south and the north, for example, that make it hard to believe that they are the same country, and there are also differences between the east and the west.

Since the founding of the country, it has been a nation of diverse ethnic groups, but this has led to many conflicts. The people of the south and the north in particular have traditionally been said to not get along with each other.

“I want to know and teach everyone about that. I think we should just try to recognize the good in each other…I don’t know about politics and other difficult things, but I think…‘delicious’ is universal.

Different people have different tastes, but the feeling of ‘good’ is the same.

“I want to know many things about this country. I want to know about the many things in this country. I want to know what festivals are held in each region, what kind of customs there are, and so on. I want to know not only the differences in food, but also culture and things like that.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s your country, isn’t it?”

“My country…Yes, Dardinia is my country.”

I can say it clearly now.

I have not forgotten Japan. But…that’s far away now.

It feels as if it was a dream….A vivid, raw dream. Like a butterfly’s dream.

“Good intentions.”

His Royal Highness laughed slightly.

Yes. Now, I think that was a smile. It was really slight, but it was…

“It seems you’ve learned a lot about history…”

Oh, I knew you’d notice. What Arthirea was doing.

“Yes. And I don’t think it was in vain, either.”

“Oh, that’s right. Nothing was in vain.”

“But…I don’t remember much…about it.”

I have a vague recollection of things, but it’s not clear.

“…I see. It’s a waste.”

“That’s not true, it’s not all about getting into university.”

Arthirea had planned to take the exam eventually, regardless of whether or not she was going to be admitted to the university.

The notes and drafts of her paper that were left behind showed that.

“Is that so? Your language and history are up to standard. If you study the law well for a year, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to enroll.”

“…How do you know about all that?”

“You’re my princess. I should know that.”

Lilia, they know. You said he probably wouldn’t know.

I sip a little of my warm tea.

I snack on a cookie. They were a little hard. I could have added a little bit of milk to make it crispy.

“…I can’t say for sure because I’ve forgotten…but I don’t think I was planning to enroll.”

“Why?”

“Because…what am I going to do as a scholar? I have more important things to do.”

“What is important?”

“…Your highness, I am your Princess.”

That was the most important thing to Arthirea. That’s why Arthirea’s signature had always been Crown Princess Arthirea Dis Dardie.

“That doesn mean we need to limit your desire to learn.”

“I didn’t want to be a scholar. I wanted to be a princess worthy of His Highness.”

“…………Really.”

Wide open eyes. I’ve never seen such an expression before.

What is he so surprised about, this guy?

“Yes.”

I say so flatly.

His Highness the Crown Prince looks a little confused, and then his mouth relaxes a little again.

When His Highness smiled, it looked like he might be up to something, but I didn’t say that.

We were quietly drinking tea together again until His Highness’s secretary, who couldn’t hold back, interrupted us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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