TL : Cnine
ED/PF : Aster
The next morning, in Rio’s lodging, the time had only passed 8 .
Rio had just finished his breakfast in a strange situation where two maids were waiting by his side . Private meals were limited due to recent chaos, but the castle still allowed it under a few conditions such as this .
「Haruto-sama, shall I prepare some tea for you?」
「Yes, please do . 」
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Then, when the maid closer to his age brought it to him, the sound of the door knocking echoed through the room, and she immediately went to answer it .
「Good morning, Haruto-sama . 」
It was Charlotte coming in .
「Princess Charlotte… . Good morning . What do you need?」
Rio returned the greeting, but he was astonished nonetheless . They were going to have a tea party in Charlotte’s room, so he had no idea why she would come to him .
「You promised to have a conversation with me this morning, right? It’s a little early, but I came to meet you . 」
Charlotte replied with a charming smile .
Rio checked the clock settled against the wall . That conversation was supposed to happen at 9 o’clock . She was about an hour early .
It’s not like he didn’t understand coming earlier due to the sheer scale of the royal castle, but this was still…
Well, even if he voiced those thoughts to her, it would have gone in one ear and out the other .
「I see . I’m sorry to make you go through the trouble . 」
「Fufu, I came because I wanted to see you . Please don’t mind it . But if it’s alright with you, would you come with me to Satsuki-sama?」
「Of course . There’s somewhere I’d like to stop by that’s close to her room . Do you mind if we go to hand something off before that?」
「Not at all . 」
Charlotte complied sweetly .
「Then, if you’ll please wait a moment for me to prepare . 」
After making his request, Rio retrieved three letters that he’d left in his item box the night before .
The two of them strolled through the castle at a brisk pace .
Charlotte was grinning to herself, keeping a comfortable grasp on Rio’s arm . In contrast, Rio was already mentally exhausted .
「Charlotte-sama, sticking so close to me like this is a little…」
「Is it unpleasant?」
She asked him straight, looking at Rio with upturned eyes .
「It’s not unpleasant, but about the people around us…」
「Then there’s no problem, yes? I don’t concern myself with such things . 」
「I suppose, if you’re okay with it…」
He managed a smile to answer hers, but he was suppressing the sigh in his lungs . Of course, Charlotte appeared to be lovingly embracing Rio, but there was something strangely sweet about it . Some indication that she was an innocent young girl acting spoiled .
But he wasn’t about to lower his guard just yet . Age aside, Charlotte was still royalty . Fledgling bluebloods were known to be mentally unstable, and they had a tendency to grow arrogant with the power given to them .
Their overly conspicuous conduct and demeanor towards those below them, feeling that it’s completely natural, and pouting when things don’t go their way—although that last thing is still kind of cute .
The problem is when that turns into a tantrum, it’s like walking through a minefield . People start to hold grudges and viciously harass the subject of their ire .
And the most troublesome issue is one of the opposite sex . Namely, women . Rio learned his lesson back when he was still studying in Bertram Kingdom’s royal academy .
Charlotte was 13 years old, right when her emotional period should be reaching its peak .
He couldn’t afford to act carelessly towards such a girl whose true nature he still had yet to understand . It would be rough staying in the castle if he caused a disturbance—basically, he wasn’t about to risk insulting the royalty .
He also had to take into consideration why Charlotte stayed so close to him .
It was by order of King Francois that they were together . Rio knew he had to stay cautious around the king at the very least .
After all, it wouldn’t be off for him to think about using Rio for his own gain, seeing how close he was getting with Satsuki and how close he already was with her friends .
Even if Charlotte wasn’t aware of the purpose herself, the chances of her receiving an order with that goal in mind weren’t zero .
And if it was true, it only made things more awkward for him .
「Do you have some business with Takahisa-sama?」
「No . Rather, it’s with the three people who were under my protection . 」
「Is that so? Miharu-sama is quite the beautiful girl . 」
「Yeah… She is . 」
He kept his feelings from showing, but Rio felt weird for nodding in agreement so obediently, and Charlotte watched his reaction contentedly .
Their conversation ended when they finally made it to the room Miharu and the others were staying in .
They didn’t see the escort knight around, though .
Are they out right now?
He wondered about it for a moment, then brushed it out of his mind as he took a deep breath .
Knock, knock .
『Stupid! Onii-chan’s a pervert! You have no sense of delicacy!』
The sound of knocking was drowned out by a voice similar to Aki’s inside the room .
『W-Wait a minute, Aki! I’m sorry! Really really sorry! I wasn’t trying to peek, honest! I mean, M-Masato is in there, right? I was just looking for Masato! That’s all!』
『If you want Masato, he’s out looking around the castle since we have some free time! Geez!』
The commotion was loud enough for them to hear most of it .
「It seems we’ve come at the wrong time . 」
Charlotte stared dumbly at the door .
「It appears so . Still, let’s try once more . 」
Rio realized they should have read the room and left his matter for later, but he smiled wryly and added some extra force to his knuckles . Any chance that presented itself, he was going to take it .
『Ah—my apologies . Just a moment, please . 』
A reply came almost immediately .
『You have a guest, Takahisa-sama . It may be Haruto-sama . 』
『U-Understood . Right away . Aki, please wait . Let’s talk again when you’ve calmed down . 』
He didn’t know exactly what went down inside the room, but it was clear enough that Takahisa seemed to incite Aki’s wrath .
The door hurriedly opened about ten seconds later .
On the other side was Takahisa, along with knights Kiara and Alice .
「Thank you very much for waiting . We were a bit busy just… now…」
Takahisa awkwardly made his greetings, and his eyes widened when he saw Charlotte gleefully linking her arms with Rio’s .
「Good morning, Takahisa-sama . 」
「Y-Yes . Good morning, Princess Charlotte . 」
Responding to Takahisa’s timidity, Rio joined in with his normal poker face .
「I’m sorry for disturbing you when you’re preoccupied . It’s earlier than expected, but may I ask whether I can meet Miharu-san?」
「Um, let me think… Masato went out for a walk, and it seems she went along with him . 」
「Yes . If it’s Miharu-sama, she accompanied Masato-sama in his exploration of the castle . Hilda joined them as their escort . 」
Kiara supplemented Takahisa’s poor explanation .
「Ahaha… that’s about it . In fact, I just got back myself, and Aki’s here as well, but…」
And Takahisa finished with a cramped smile on his face .
He wrote a letter for Aki, too, but Rio felt that Miharu should be the first to receive them .
As far as he knew, Aki still hated Amakawa Haruto—he could only imagine what kind of reaction she would have upon learning about Rio’s previous life . That’s why he wanted Miharu to read hers before Masato and Aki .
Would it be alright if he let Aki read hers first?
Rio couldn’t really predict that .
He was scared . That’s all there was to it .
「They should return… about half past nine at the latest . I mentioned yesterday that Masato wanted to check out the magic ship this morning . 」
Rio heaved a sigh . No matter how much he tried, he always seemed to just miss the right timing for things .
His freedom was cut during his stay in the castle, and Miharu was lodging in a different room .
But the biggest reason for that was probably—no, the main culprit was definitely standing right beside him, and Rio glanced at her .
When she noticed his gaze, Charlotte gave him the same sweet smile she always did .
I missed Miharu-san last night because of this girl, and it’s happening again now .
He was nearly driven to disregard their status and treat her coldly, barely managing to hold himself back .
No, maybe this is just the best case scenario . At least I managed to confess last night .
If he didn’t tell Miharu his feelings last night, he likely wouldn’t have gotten any time today between Charlotte’s clinginess and having a large group during the meeting they planned this afternoon . Aside from Miharu, there was also going to be Aki, Masato, Satsuki, Takahisa and Liliana .
There was no way he could confess in that situation .
He didn’t know if they could get time alone; he didn’t know how Aki would react; the discussion itself probably wouldn’t have the right atmosphere for it; and it’s entirely possible Miharu and the kids make their decision before then . It might be easier to just say goodbye then .
「If Aki-sama is inside, this should be enough for Haruto-sama to complete his business, right? Takahisa-sama must be a busy person, as well . 」
Charlotte cut in and urged Rio on when he hesitated to speak .
「… Yeah . 」
He agreed to her suggestion with a composed smile .
What to do…
He thought of five options:
1 . Entrust Takahisa to pass the letters alone .
2 . Have him call for Aki so she could receive the letters,
3 . Stay as long as possible for Miharu and Masato to return .
4 . Go on a search for Miharu and Masato himself while they wandered the castle .
5 . Give them the letters personally when they were going to see each other later in the day .
He honestly wanted them to read the letters as soon as possible . They’d probably be left confused when they read them, so he felt it right for them to have time to process the contents .
The tea party he’d promised with Charlotte and Satsuki was to start at 9, and since it was already 8:30 they were going to need to leave soon to meet with Satsuki on time . Even if he and Charlotte waited until the last minute, there was no guarantee Miharu would be back in time .
Rio made his decision .
「… Takahisa-san, may I ask that you give them these letters?」
「I don’t mind, but it’s okay to at least call for Aki, right?」
Saying so, Takahisa turned to go back inside . One of the three the letters were meant for was still in the room, so he thought calling her might be a better choice .
「No . Please wait . 」
But Rio stopped him, and Takahisa looked back .
「There are three letters, but I wish for Miharu-san to be the first to read it . Could you hand Masato and Aki-chan theirs after?」
「… Yes, I understand . 」
That was a lie . He wasn’t able to grasp the meaning behind his explanation, but Takahisa nodded obediently when he saw the pained look on Rio’s face .
The addressee’s names were written in Strahl’s regional language, and there was a sealing wax to keep anyone but the intended reader from opening it .
「Best regards, then . I’ll come to visit again later with Satsuki-san . 」
「Yeah . I’ll be waiting . 」
After Takahisa bid his farewell, Rio turned to Charlotte .
「Charlotte-sama, I’m very sorry to make you wait for the sake of my personal business . 」
「No need to worry, I’m fine with it . But we should hurry to pick up Satsuki-sama . We don’t want to be late and have her come looking for us . 」
Charlotte quickly seized Rio’s arm again, making to drag him off without any hesitation .
(~’ . ’)~To Be Continue In Part 2~(‘ . ’~)