I placed the flower and pebbles the children brought on the old bench and stood up.
“Why, why here……”
Agnes looked flustered as she stopped the carriage and alighted, looking extremely anxious.
Demy recognized her and raised his tail.
Eva and I could not close our dropped jaws.
‘Agnes, why are you here?’
“Hello, Agnes. How……”
She bowed to Eva and I while I greeted her with bewilderment.
The three of us, everybody except Gerrit, had question marks on our faces.
We were silent because we didn’t know where to start our questioning.
Agnes was the first to speak.
“Your highness, I am the representative of Aightz Village. That is why I visit the seniors every month-”
Eva raised her voice. The young lady’s brown eyes opened wide.
The story we heard from granny Marlene and grandpa Remy yesterday filled my head.
The child of the most-educated family in Aightz who works in the Imperial Capital.
Someone who can read and write and sometimes meets important people during work. A kind and smart youth.
That was Agnes, the mountain keeper of the Imperial Palace. The two elders gave a perfect description!
My tongue felt stiff and I had chills at this completely unexpected development.
‘I should have asked the person’s name. No, why would anybody think that the representative of this rural village would be their friend?!’
“Umm, that… Are you coming from the Imperial Palace?”
I barely managed to form a logical sentence.
I noticed Christelle and Imperial Prince Cédric walking over with a rake and a pickaxe.
The way they were walking side by side looked gre… Wait, this is not the time for such thoughts.
I frantically waved to the two of them.
‘Quickly run over!’
“Yes, your highness. I had a lot of luggage this trip so it took a long time going around the mountain. It usually only takes three hours-”
“Please wait a minute. I’m sorry.”
I cut her off. I thought that I had heard something really weird just now.
“When you said you had to go around the mountain…”
“That mountain to the front.”
“……Is that perhaps…”
Eva and I squinted. Agnes squinted as well in confusion.
“Agnes. Is that the mountain behind the Imperial Palace?”
“Yes, young lady Blanquer. That is correct.”
Christelle, who had gotten closer, dramatically dropped the rake.
The two main characters looked back and forth at Agnes and me.
The Imperial Prince, who had figured things out, scowled.
“……The height of the mountain looks completely different from here.”
‘I know, right? It is a very low mountain when we look at it from Juliette Palace!’
“Your loyal subject greets our esteemed Royal Highness!”
Agnes was in awe after seeing the Imperial Prince and quickly showed her respects.
I finally had a moment to think that seeing us here was probably a total shock for Agnes.
She had worked hard in the Imperial Palace and got off work to go do her other job when people, whose positions were as high as the heavens to her, appeared in front of her.
I wiped my face with my hands and calmly started speaking.
“Agnes, we…… Are so happy and relieved that you came, Agnes. So then, Aightz Village-”
I couldn’t help but laugh as I talked. Sir Johann, who came out of the kitchen, was the one to finish the question.
“Are you saying that this is the neighborhood beyond the rear mountain of the Imperial Palace?”
“Yes, Lord Imperial Instructor. That is correct.”
Agnes’s response made us silent. After that…
Christelle plopped down and started laughing, almost as if she was crying.
Demy and Percy stuck to her to whine and chirp.
They seemed happy.
‘Don’t act like you guys knew from the beginning!’
“That should mean that we can get to the Imperial Palace quickly from here.”
I blinked and tried my best to assess the situation.
It felt like we had all become fools and I could only sigh in disbelief, but results wise, it was a good thing.
We should be able to make it to the Imperial Crown Prince succession confirmation ceremony if we left right away.
The Imperial Prince looked toward the south with a deep gaze.
The sun had set and darkness was descending on the village.
“That…… Your highness, it is late so it will be difficult to leave.”
Agnes responded with an awkward look on her face. She too seemed to have realized the situation.
She probably had a lot to do as a royal servant of the Imperial Palace for the succession confirmation ceremony as well.
The man who should be the Imperial Crown Prince tomorrow was in such a place like this so she was probably flustered and concerned.
“Was the succession confirmation ceremony delayed?”
“Excuse me? No, I did not hear anything about that.”
Agnes shook her head at my question. That was a relief.
Empress Frédérique and Cardinal Boutier, for whatever reason, trusted that we would return on time.
I spoke, almost as if to convince her.
“Shouldn’t it work out because we have your carriage, Agnes?”
“There is no path through the mountains, your highness. A path could not be created because just beyond it is the Imperial Palace. There is a barrier, but it is best to prevent anything from being able to approach it.”
‘Shit, that is true.’
I thought about the forest we arrived at through the portal.
But that was not going through the mountain, it was taking a long path around it.
“The mountain is dangerous as well. Do you remember when his Royal Highness and young lady Sarnez went out for a little field trip?”
The mountain keeper looked at us and cautiously asked. I tried to recall the event from a few months ago.
They definitely did that before we headed south for the Great Clearance of Demonic Beasts.
The interior training ground was destroyed because Christelle and the Imperial Prince got in a big scuffle and the angry Empress and Cardinal suggested having their lesson outdoors.
We had to fight against some Toxin Bulls out in a vast grass field.
“The rear mountain of Juliette Palace is basically a hill. It is flat.”
I commented. Agnes nodded her head.
“Yes, your highness. There is a wide basin once you climb the rear mountain of the Imperial Palace. Beyond that basin, you find a high peak. That is the mountain you see over there.”
All of us turned toward the mountain.
‘So, that place we enjoyed our picnic is a low and flat area while that tall thing over there comes after…… Huh?’
“Oh my, the divine lamps are already starting to float!”
Grandpa Remy, who came out of the house on the other side, commented in a loud voice.
My eyes opened wide while looking at where he was pointing.
Lamps that were just as orange as the Imperial Prince’s eyes were slowly starting to appear above the mountain.
Demy quickly dangled on me before getting onto my shoulder. He must have wanted to see them from a higher spot.
“They always fly over the day before his Royal Highness’s birthday. They are super pretty but are a headache because a lot of them fall down here every so often.”
Grandpa Remy seemed used to this but this was a unique experience for us.
The now dark purple sky slowly started to be filled with light.
There were only three or four at first but now there were six, seven, eight and then nine.
Everybody was at a loss for words as we watched.
I recalled a scene from an animated movie that Eunseo really loved.
Chestnut stomped her hooves as if in admiration. Christelle petted her back and mumbled.
“It’s so pretty……”
“The eve of the festival has started.”
Flinch. I snapped out of my daze at the Imperial Prince’s comment. The two of us made eye contact.
“That is the signal for the start of the eve of the festival?”
“They always float the divine lamps from the Claire Plaza of the Imperial Capital.
“People gather there?”
His gaze and voice were calm. Christelle asked.
“Have you participated in the eve of the festival before, your Royal Highness?”
The group became completely silent, as if someone had poured cold water over them. Baby Geens dangled on his father’s leg.
I urgently looked back at the mountain keeper.
“Agnes. How long will it take to get to the plaza if we left right now and went around the mountain?”
“Your highness, it is dangerous at night because there is no light. The sun also sets faster at the foot of the mountain. It would be better to leave early in the morning……”
“What are you saying? Agnes, what is going on?”
Granny Marlene, who was walking over with a scythe over her shoulder, interrupted.
Grandpa Remy, who was watching us, seemed flustered as well.
It was understandable, as the two people they had freely been calling young men were being addressed as your Royal Highness and your highness.
‘We need to apologize and explain to them as well……’
“I can escort his Royal Highness. If you allow it, your highness.”
Sir Johann, who was standing behind me, gently commented.
He was saying that he would fly over the mountain with the Imperial Prince.
I looked into his mint-colored eyes and looked down at Gerrit.
The child was tightly holding his dad’s shirt with his hand. I could not ask him to do that.
“Sir Johann, you leave tomorrow with Gerrit.”
“Your highness, I’ll be fine.”
“Gerrit will not be fine. It has only been three days since he met back up with his dad.”
Sir Johann looked down at his son after my comment. I smiled and continued to speak.
“They found the flower used for Gerrit’s medicine around here.”
Christelle truly seemed happy. Sir Johann seemed shocked as he looked at me.
“So, you need to gather those as well. We should be able to grow them in the Imperial Palace’s greenhouse or the garden if you inform her Majesty. Young lady Eva knows where the flower grows.”
“I will take his Royal Highness.”
I proclaimed. It felt as if my voice shook as I said that. Everybody looked at me at that moment.
His orange eyes sparkled brightly in the darkness.
“The eve of the festival is not important.”
The Imperial Prince commented in a low voice. It seemed as if he could not understand my actions.
It could seem that way.
We had Agnes now and we would arrive on time for the succession confirmation ceremony if we left early in the morning.
“No, it is important.”
I looked directly at him.
“Many people have gathered together to celebrate your birthday and the Imperial Crown Prince succession confirmation ceremony. I believe it is your duty to accept that with joy as well, your Royal Highness.”
Christelle, who had plopped down on the ground, nodded her head in agreement.
Seeing the main character agree made me a bit more confident regarding what I was about to do.
“Plus, it is good to get there early and get a good rest. The real thing happens tomorrow morning.”
“Furthermore, you ended up here helping me heal Chestnut. I want to help you return to the Imperial Palace, your Royal Highness.”
I smiled. The Imperial Prince looked at me silently before snorting.
“What? Are you going to personally drive the carriage or something?”
“No, Agnes said that driving at night is dangerous. I don’t know the way either.”
We might end up in the Duhem March if I drove.
I gulped and looked at Christelle.
To be more specific, I was looking at Percy, who was gently stuck to her shoulder this whole time.
“Percy, come here.”
The chimney bird chirped as if to respond before flying over and landing on the back of my hand.
He blinked his black eyes as if he had no idea about what I wanted.
“Do you remember saying that I am not your master?”
Percy tilted his body.
I raised my arm and looked at the divine item before whispering quietly so that only he could hear.
“So, let’s make a deal.”
That was how I ended up with a wing on my back again. It was a large light purple wing on one side.
“Ugh, Percy! Gently!”
My feet floated off the ground and my body swayed.
The villagers who rushed out after hearing the news were shouting, ‘oh my god!’ and ‘my goodness!’ They then bowed down on the ground.
I smiled bitterly.
I told them that it was okay and that they could look at me, but the seniors just shook and kept their heads down.
I felt especially sorry because granny Marlene and grandpa Remy seemed so scared.
I was concerned that we might have left a bad memory for these people who had been truly wonderful to us.
Christelle and I made eye contact.
“Don’t worry about the seniors. I will console them properly. Young lady Eva and Sir Geens are here too.”
She smiled brightly and grabbed both of my arms to pull me down.
Behind her, Eva’s eyes were extremely wide as she looked at Percy, the Ark of the Wind Deity.
Gerrit was constantly fidgeting, as if he wanted to touch the feather.
“I will leave it to you, young lady Sarnez.”
“Yes sir! I am gentle unlike a certain someone.”
Christelle peeked at the Imperial Prince as she responded.
I smiled because I could tell that she was being rude on purpose to calm our nerves.
I checked the vines that Demy had wrapped around me one more time before giving the red panda and the water deer a hug. I then stood in front of the Imperial Prince.
There were vines wrapped around his waist as well. The young man looked down at me.
“Are you confident that you will not regret this?”
‘Why are you saying something so scary? You are the male lead, so saying something like that is going to be a flag.’
“I don’t have a fear of heights, your Royal Highness.”
I responded energetically.
Of course, I was a bit scared, but I should be fine since I had no issues going on shaky bridges or glass viewing platforms.
“It is not that kind of issue. There will be over 10,000 people in the plaza-”
– Flap, flap!
The Ark cut the Imperial Prince off and made a large flap with its wing.
I screeched as we floated over five meters off the ground.
The Imperial Prince quickly leaped and stuck his boots into the long vine.
The ground quickly became distant!
“See you tomorrow morning, your highness!”
Christelle waved both her arms as she said goodbye.
Sir Johann, Gerrit, and Eva quickly became small.
The fifteen or so villagers only raised their heads to look up at the Imperial Prince and me.
“Yes, thank you very much for everything!”
The Ark shot up into the sky as if it had been waiting for this.
Percy to the rescue!