– Crackle, crackle……
The bonfire crackled in the forest that was now covered in darkness.
The wild boar and venison that Sir Johann neatly butchered were dripping oil as they cooked.
He seemed like a pro at this, potentially because he has been a mercenary for a long time.
“It looks delicious.”
Eva, who was seated next to me, was blanking out as she mumbled to herself. I chuckled.
She had gasped earlier while looking at the animals that Christelle and Imperial Prince Cédric had brought back but she seemed to have adjusted to the situation quickly.
It made sense since the tablecloth that we had placed over a tree stump had come from Eva’s dress.
We would have been fine without something like that, but Eva said that elegance was important for nobles and ripped up a part of her dress.
“It looks ready. It will burn if it cooks any longer.”
Sir Johann commented as he stood up. Christelle clapped her hands.
I handed out the chubby baked potatoes as he distributed the meat.
We had a lot of things to eat because good little Demy grew a lot of different things for us. We soon finished setting the table.
“Thank you very much for the meal.”
I started eating and the people all around the stump joined in as well.
Our main character pulled out some small glass bottles from her pocket at that moment. My jaw dropped.
“Young lady Sarnez, are those perhaps……”
“This one is salt, this one is pepper, and this one is chili powder.”
Even Sir Johann, who told us he slept in the wilderness quite a bit, seemed very shocked.
‘She normally carries chili powder with her? Really?’
“I like strong flavors, so…… I always carry them with me to use whenever something seems to be lacking. It is troublesome to keep calling people over wherever I go.”
“My goodness. You are so cool, young lady Sarnez.”
Eva truly seemed amazed. I could not say anything and just nodded my head.
Thanks to Christelle’s amazing addition, we were able to have a well-seasoned dinner.
I thought that the meat would be very gamey because they were wild animals, but the Imperial Prince’s holy fire had added a strong taste of fire, making even the fragrance clean.
I first took a bite of the roasted boar meat.
Huuuuu, huuuu. I rolled the meat around in my mouth and gently bit down.
The juice came flowing out of the meat.
I thought that the meat would be tough but it was surprisingly soft.
I wondered if this was thanks to the Imperial Prince’s flames as well.
Adding salt and pepper made it feel as if it was the best flavor that meat could have.
My eyes curled up as I enjoyed the barbeque.
Demy and Percy, who were on my lap, cheered with joy.
I felt that it was strangely quiet and looked up to notice that everybody was staring at me.
I felt my ears instantly get hot.
‘Did I eat too greedily?’
“What is it? Why are none of you eating?”
“It’s nice to see you eating so well, your highness.”
Christelle finally commented. I just nodded my head and attacked the venison meat.
I could hear Gerrit’s clear laugh as well. I felt really embarrassed.
We all focused on eating for the next hour.
Once the large wild boar and deer ended up in everybody’s stomachs, we each ate two potatoes and tomatoes before eating a lot of fruit for dessert. Only then did people start to talk again.
“Wow, I’m really full.”
“I feel like I ate more than I usually do in the Imperial Capital.”
Sir Johann agreed with Christelle’s assessment.
Eva and Gerrit, who I was the most worried about, thankfully seemed to have eaten a lot as well.
I gave Demy some water and a lot of wild flowers before standing up.
I was going to clean things up and prepare a place to sleep so that I could digest the food.
“It is amazing that you seem to adjust so well, your highness.”
I had Demy help me create a large leaf and was placing it down like a mat when Christelle approached me.
I flinched because I felt guilty.
“Is that so?”
“Yes, your highness. I thought that you would have trouble eating a wild animal but you ate well and took good care of the children as usual.”
“I guess I thought that you would have grown up being prim and proper because you are a prince, your highness. Although I’m sure you struggled a lot too…”
“You and everybody else are trying so hard. I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing.”
Christelle smiled at my response.
She was probably right about the actual Prince Jesse, but I’ve only ever lived as a normal person so I didn’t know how to act like a prince here.
I suddenly thought of someone after thinking about that.
The Imperial Prince was elegantly burning away the remains of the boar and deer.
Now that I thought about it, this punk seemed to adjust better than expected as well.
– Crackle, crackle
The six people and two animals sat around the bonfire again.
This time, we had all washed and were ready to sleep.
We had leaf blankets the size of an average adult as well as pillows made from Demy’s thick vines.
Thankfully, it wasn’t too cold to sleep outside because it was August.
There were no signs of anything dangerous in the area we arrived in.
“Gerrit is already asleep.”
I jerked my head at Christelle’s comment.
The child who had taken his medicine and then laid down next to Sir Johann was breathing gently, already off in lala land.
I felt sorry for the child.
It would not have been enough to rid him of his travel fatigue while sleeping on a comfortable bed but he actually had to sleep out in the wilderness.
“I’m sorry, Sir Johann. Everybody else as well…… We wouldn’t have ended up here if it wasn’t for me.”
I apologized. Thinking about it, the reason we ended up like this was because I stepped forward to heal the water deer fawn.
Sir Johann’s eyes curled up.
“You were helping to save a life. That was something only you could do, your highness. I think that it was a good lesson for Gerrit to learn.”
“It is fine because I respect your decision, your highness. I’m sure that you would do the same thing again even if we could turn back time.”
That was true. I smiled bitterly and thanked him.
Christelle looked at me and nodded as if she felt the same way.
Eva pouted to the point that her mouth looked like Percy’s beak, but she did not say anything.
‘I wonder if she thinks I’m a pushover again.’
The Imperial Prince, who was seated to my left, had a calm gaze as well.
He had a lot of things to take care of for the succession confirmation ceremony and there was supposed to be a practice run in two days. It was a surprise that he was not angry.
I was thankful about that.
“Your Royal Highness, you will be able to return safely before the succession confirmation ceremony.”
Christelle mischievously commented as I spoke to console him.
“I think his Royal Highness is oddly enjoying this. Ether cannot be fooled. Is it perhaps that you do not want to become the Imperial Crown Prince, your Royal Highness?”
The Imperial Prince immediately glared. Sir Johann raised his head as if he was amused.
Eva’s gaze quickly moved around like a ping pong ball.
I didn’t want to see water and fire fighting in the middle of a forest so I immediately stepped in to calm the situation.
“The young lady is joking, your Royal Highness. It is because she thinks that you might be feeling a sense of burden in becoming the Imperial Crown Prince……”
I suddenly realized something after saying that. I blinked my eyes.
“Is the thought of becoming the Imperial Crown Prince burdensome, your Royal Highness?”
“That is my responsibility.”
The young man responded in a low voice. It sounded pitiful despite being his usual voice.
The fact that it was a responsibility that was given to him since birth, the fact that he had prepared for this moment for his whole life did not mean that it was an easy and trivial position.
I finally realized why he agreed to head out of the Imperial Palace so easily.
I also realized the reason why he looked so calm while being in a place like this.
“I think it is okay to feel burdened, your Royal Highness.”
I cautiously commented. His orange eyes opened a bit wider.
The side of his face being lit up by the bonfire made him look his proper age for the first time in a long while. He would soon be twenty-five.
“It would be weird if you could do everything calmly, your Royal Highness. You are going to rise to the position that will make you responsible for the entire Empire in the future. It is obvious that you would be scared and nervous.”
I smiled. It made me think about when I skipped the supervisor position and was promoted directly to a team leader at work.
It was nothing compared to the Imperial Prince’s situation, but……
I had been happy about my accomplishments and the increase in pay, but my shoulders had felt heavy with the new responsibilities.
I thought about the Imperial Prince rising to the position of Imperial Crown Prince, a position where he needs to be officially involved with Imperial Affairs and be in charge of so many lives.
I was sure that the pressure was something someone like me could never even imagine.
“But it won’t only be difficult because you will have people by your side to help you, your Royal Highness. You have David, your family in the Romero Palace, her Majesty, and her Eminence.”
“There is Vice Captain Élisabeth, young lady Sarnez, Sir Johann, and young lady Eva as well. Oh, Marquis Duhem tool.”
The Imperial Prince’s brows seemed calm despite my rambling.
I became full of anticipation after seeing that he did not show any repulsion to hearing Christelle’s name.
‘She really does fit inside his boundaries now.’
Christelle asked. She seemed entertained and excited.
‘Hey, you too?’
“There is Mr. Sand as well.”
“That’s true. Ah, I want to see Mr. Sand. He’s such an important priest for us. Who else?”
I quickly responded and she retorted back in a charming voice before looking at the Imperial Prince.
I had to think about this. I needed to push it properly while the mood was good.
“There are a lot of wonderful people. Benjamin and Ganael respect his Royal Highness as well. The Pair de Riester who are loyal to her Majesty will help his Royal Highness as well, and…… Demy, Rhea, Perry, and Percy are there as well.”
I looked down at Demy, who was lying on my knees, and the little punk covered his face with his front paws.
Percy shoved his head on Demy’s tummy. Both of them seemed sleepy.
“And when you take a fabulous person as your soulmate in the future, that person will be a big source of comfort you can rely on as well. Like young lady Sarnez.”
The Imperial Prince clenched his Sword of Wisdom and jumped up. All of us looked up.
The bonfire energetically shot up for a moment before calming down. It felt like a proper campfire!
‘No, that’s not what is important right now.’
“Your Royal Highness, where are you going?”
He started walking away without saying anything.
I was apologetic, thinking that I had made a mistake or had pushed Christelle toward him too much, when Sir Johann calmly explained.
“I think he is going to look around. There might be nocturnal demonic beasts nearby. I will stand guard.”
‘He’s so meticulous.’
It was suspicious that we had not seen any demonic beasts despite Christelle, the Imperial Prince, Percy and I, four divine items or carrier of divine items, being gathered together in one place.
Those beasts show an instinctual desire to attack divine items, so it was good to never let your guard down.
I started to lie down before noticing Christelle next to me, who was already lying down with a leaf blanket over her, smiling at me.
Eva was looking at me with a blank stare.
‘……It should be fine since the main character of this Romfan seems to like it, right?’
“I’ll stand guard next. Good night, everyone.”
“Yes, your Royal Highness. Please get some rest.”
I said good night to everybody and put my head down on the pillow.
The night sky that was full of stars seemed really close and beautiful.
A carriage from the Imperial family should arrive in the morning.
‘Please let that be the case.’
I could hear Christelle sporadically mumbling things like ‘broken friendship’ and ‘this is so funny’ until I fell asleep.
It was raining again in the location of the problematic wartime portal.
François Duhem had never felt malice for bad weather in his life.
His beauty and brains always remained whether the sky was cloudy or bright.
He didn’t even care when the roads turned into mud and the carriages moved slower than turtles because of heavy rain.
He always had multiple outfits and shoes prepared. He was also a gentleman who always arrived at least thirty minutes in advance of any appointment like a proper gentleman.
“Hey mister, why do you look like this is the end of the world?”
That was why he had never experienced something like this, where the magic formation for half the portal, something he had delicately excavated, ended up buried in mud from the unexpected rain.
Soldiers were quickly running around putting tents over the portal.
Élisabeth and François made eye contact in the carriage with the open door.
The Marquis’ light pink eyes were shaking as he dramatically placed a hand on his forehead.
“Élisabeth, I contemplated something.”
“You know that you always end up with ominous results whenever you are deep in thought.”
“Listen to me. Didn’t they say that his highness, Prince Consort Alexandre, blessed be his name forever, left his home the day before he became the young Duke to become her Majesty’s partner?”
“What if his Royal Highness left to find his soulmate before he rises to the position of Imperial Crown Prince as well-”
Élisabeth slapped the back of his hand. François groaned from the pain.
“Will you say that hitting me with the hand that has your engagement ring was not intentional?”
“Please say something that makes sense. You always act weak like this at least once.”
The young Countess’s grey eyes stared at him.
She looked quite shrewd as she inspected her rapier and her main-gauche.
It looked like the rain was going to end, so she needed to head back out and guard the Marquis before reporting to the Imperial Palace.
“You don’t want the Duke’s House of Sarnez or House of Blanquer to find his Royal Highness before you do, do you? Her Majesty trusted you with this task.”
“Ah, ah, Élisabeth!”
“Yes sir. This rain is nothing. I will think about my fiance to push myself while you think about her Majesty and your younger siblings to keep going.”
These were the things she usually said to console the soldiers during snow removal or high-intensity training sessions.
François, who had no way of knowing that, seemed quite touched.
This man, who could be a hack or a genius, was busy raising his own morale as Élisabeth nonchalantly looked up at the sky.
She had an odd feeling about this.
‘……Sadie, you didn’t end up in some countryside area, did you?’
It’s you, you doofenschmurtz! He wants you to mention yourself!