A Royal Meeting
A man stood in the plains outside of a certain town in the Kingdom.
Using his binoculars, the man looked towards the settlement that the woman who once saved his life now lived in, but it was a benefactor that he had also turned his back on once before in her hour of direst need.
A woman so beautiful, he would never see her equal again so long as he lived. White hair like snow, two eyes that twinkled like gems and a fantastical body, he had admired all of it.
Even though his true feelings had never come to the fore, it had been his life’s joy to serve such a woman.
How long had it been? How long had he held feelings for his benefactor despite her disinterest?
The ideal he held of her had been shattered when the allegations of her torturing her little sister were brought to light, at the time he couldn’t see her in the way he had before.
When she later escaped from prison, he was one of the first to join the search parties. He was determined to catch her and put an end to everything, but despite his determination, she was nowhere to be found and eventually the search ceased.
“When it turned out that everything had been a misunderstanding, I fell into despair.”
There had been a huge misunderstanding. Both she and her younger sister had both been victims, left to the cruel mercy of fate. He was disgusted in himself for ever having lost faith in her, but fortunately, she’s still alive.
If he pursues the order from his current lord, she should appear before him. He might be able to live by her side once again.
He’ll solve all the misunderstandings and they can live together as two people in love should, those are that man’s desperate hopes.
“Please wait just a little longer, Shirley-sama. I shall meet you soon.”
Whilst holding such a selfish desire close to his heart, the man gazed at the building where a number of children could be seen playing in the yard.
It was the end of the month. On that spring afternoon, Shirley could see a clear blue sky and the cries of cicadas through the open window of the Adventurer’s Guild reception room.
According to Canary, there were four high ranking people who wished to visit her. As expected, she had heard the story of the magic caster’s identity from Grania and the talks are to be about Sophie and Tio.
“…Shirley-san, would you like some tea?”
“No, thank you.”
This is bad. That feeling fills Yumina’s heart.
The intimidating pressure that flowed from the swordswoman who had arrived 15 minutes before the meeting time had slowly filled the room. Although she’s not particularly angry, she’s aware that she is going to be meeting with royalty, a breed of people Shirley didn’t think too fondly of considering her past experiences.
Especially when she considers that it may have been a person she was previously acquainted with back in the Empire.
Usually, any correspondence she receives from Yumina always entails misfortune, but since this entire thing was set up by Canary she’s even more wary than usual.
“Hoh? You’ve already arrived.”
‘Please show up soon, Grandma’ was what Yumina was wishing from the depths of her heart and, as if reading her mind, Canary strode into the room with her golden hair flowing behind her.
“How you been… Is that what the young people say now, right? You look healthy.”
“That’s true enough. You look a little worse for wear.”
“So you say? If it’s true that I’m not at my best, then that is a loss for the world itself.”
As Canary said such a line with a theatrical tone of voice, Yumina and Shirley stared at her with cold eyes.
( (Rather, wouldn’t the world become a paradise if you were just bedridden forever?) )
Canary’s mischief-making has been the same as ever. The two of them had just heard a story that three weeks ago, after being insulted by a cardinal from the Theocracy, she had destroyed the estate where he kept all of his fineries and smashed the stained glass windows of his cathedral into a thousand pieces.
Moreover, they don’t know just what kind of trickery she used, but for some reason, the Theocracy wasn’t able to pin the crime on Canary. Coercion behind the scenes…? Whatever the case, she got away with it.
“Now now, don’t look at me like that.”
“Agreed. Personally, I enjoy hearing tales of Canary’s escapades, they’re all quite novel.”
Following behind Canary was a man in the prime of his life, with a dignified yet enigmatically handsome face framed with black hair and a beard as if he wore the mane of a lion, behind him was a woman with beautiful silver hair that was not overshadowed by him at all.
Yumina’s back stiffened straight away as she saw him and Shirley was about to stand up from the sofa, but she was motioned to stay by the man’s hand.
“It’s fine. I am merely here covertly on my day off. You need not stand on ceremony, I am merely just another guest.”
“That’s right. Moreover, I am delighted to meet with you, our Kingdom’s hero.”
They came here just like any other citizen, so they don’t want to cause an uproar. After explaining that to Shirley the King and Queen of the nation, Edward and Alicia Pendragon, sat in the sofa opposite to her and smiled.
“Yumina, sensitive matters will be discussed.”
“Ah… Then, I’ll take my leave.”
Canary whispered into Yumina’s ear and Shirley waited until she had left the room before she spoke.
“This is something you don’t want others to hear?”
“Well, it’s that kind of thing.”
The involvement of the Empire has become apparent to the royal family. What is discussed here could become a matter of national security, so it’s better that as few people as possible hear it, hence why Yumina was asked to leave the room.
“…Well, it has been some time. I’ve heard all about your valiant efforts. You truly delivered us from destruction when you defeated the dragon king. As both a monarch and a citizen, I am eternally grateful.”
“I too wish to extend my gratitude. Truly… I did not think the chance to meet you again would ever come.”
“…That’s right. I confess that I didn’t think we’d ever meet again either.”
Since everyone here knows about Shirley’s circumstances, talks should proceed smoothly.
“I am pleased to see that Your Majesties are still well, it having been such a long time since our last meeting.”
“I’m glad to see you well also. I’ve heard it from Canary that you became a semi-immortal since we last met and indeed it’s like you haven’t aged a day… Rather, you’ve only become more beautiful.”
From the beginning, Shirley had never been good at expressing herself without words. So although she maintained an air of wariness, the King and Queen celebrated their reunion happily without concern.
“I still remember it now. Whenever I visited the Empire, Empress Elizabeth and yourself would always be hosting some sort of tea party.”
“Heh… Kukuku. The idea of Shirley attending anything so elegant as a tea party is hilario-GEH!?”
SMACK! With a loud sound, a strong blow hits the back of Canary’s neck.
Shirley knows that she’s built an image of a sword demon who leaves behind nothing but a mist of red on the battlefields she fights on, with those days of tea parties and balls in her past long behind her, but for some reason, she still finds Canary’s laughter irritating.
“It does not do to laugh, Canary. If you adorned her once again in finery, she would not look out of place in any gala even today?”
“That’s right. Would you like to join my next tea party? I’d be ever so happy if you could attend.”
“No… Because of my circumstances, I’ll have to decline.”
Alicia understood and withdrew the offer with a smile. Although Shirley had changed so much, the Queen acted just like she had in the old days.
Remembering back, this couple had always been rather hard to pin down in a conversation, she always struggled to keep a distance of respectability because of how friendly they were to her.
The Queen is not a bad person at all, but it’s rather hard to deal with royalty who will earnestly invite a normal citizen to a tea party for high society so casually. Honestly, she really hasn’t changed at all.
Moreover, although Edward has matured well, he has definitely aged. Why is it that time around Alicia alone has frozen?
She should be at least forty years old, but she looks like she’s in her twenties. It’s all too strange, even if she uses the beauty products marketed by Canary, who fainted after being smacked in the neck by the woman who sat next to her.
“So, what about the other two? They haven’t arrived yet?”
She feels that if she doesn’t change the subject, she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from asking after the Queen’s secret. It’s only 5 minutes until 2 PM; it’s almost the promised time and yet there’s no sign of the other two having arrived.
“Ah, my mistake, I was wrapped up in our conversation. Canary.”
“I understand… Oww, my neck.”
Rubbing the back of her neck with her fingers, she clicked the digits on her other hand. It’s the forte of the Golden Witch, spatial magic.
“I will tell you now, but please do not raise a fuss when you see our guest. It would be dangerous… For multiple reasons.”
As golden magical energy streaked through the room, two beautiful girls seemed to step out of thin air. They both bore a different kind of youthful feeling than Shirley and Canary, the red-haired knight with the innocently curious expression and the familiar looking princess with blonde hair and sky blue eyes.
“…It has been some time. Shirley-sama.”
The Imperial Princess, Philia Ragdoll. She didn’t say the name aloud. The reason she didn’t draw a sword wasn’t self-control, but because she was still in shock.
Whilst Sophie and Tio were under threat of kidnapping from the Empire, a member of the Imperial family suddenly dared to appear in front of her. It would be strange if she wasn’t shocked.
“…I would like you to hear what I have to say.”
Suppressing the nostalgic and shameful feelings that welled up when she looked at Shirley, Philia sat in a seat prepared for her, Lumiliana standing behind.
“Honestly, I know I’ll hate the answer, but… Why are my daughters being targeted by Imperial magi?”
Philia’s face seemed truly regretful as Shirley glared at her, but she managed to summon her courage and answer resolutely.
“I will be frank. His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Albert Ragdoll, learned of the existence of his daughters and plans to bring them back to the Empire, to create an Imperial heir.”
“…Why would he need to do such a thing? From the perspective of the Empire, wouldn’t it be strange for the children of a criminal to succeed the Imperial throne?”
When Shirley so assertively referred to herself as a criminal, tears welled up in Philia’s eyes for just a moment, but she blinked them back and looked at the differing coloured eyes before her.
“As it stands, the Emperor only has two children. That woman… I mean, Empress Alice has a condition that leaves her unable to conceive.”
“Alice… So she really became the Empress after all?”
She remembered the younger sister who once made her daily life a living hell. By the time Shirley had settled into the town and the guild, relations between the Empire and the Kingdom had soured leading to a lack of flowing information and trade between the two countries, but Shirley wasn’t surprised that Alice ended up marrying Albert.
“Can’t he just make do with some noblewoman, then? Even if it’s a concubine, it shouldn’t be an issue so long as she bears him a successor, right?”
“That’s… Whenever such a thing is brought up with the Emperor, he doesn’t listen and proclaims his sincere love for Alice, refusing to sleep with any other woman.”
He talks about sincere love and fidelity after cheating on his fiancée with her younger sister? Apart from Canary, everyone has an expression of utter speechlessness, Philia continues despite the feeling of shame in her heart.
“Once he learned about the existence of your children, he decided to take them in order to quash the criticism directed at Empress Alice.”
“…For something so stupid, he’s going to rob my daughters of their future?”
At the low and rumbling voice that seemed to resonate from the very depths of hell, Philia flinched and Lumiliana began to reach for the hilt of her sword but stopped when Edward raised his hand.
“I can assure you that her words are the truth. Indeed I’ve received word from my own sources within the Empire, moreover, the country itself is under enormous strain in no small part thanks to that Empress herself.”
“That’s not the only strange thing that’s going on. Why did she have to come here…? Unless that’s something you cannot answer.”
To be honest, Shirley doesn’t really care. The only thing that matters to her is how the people in front of her intend to act on this information.
“I… I will return to the Capital and beseech His Majesty to desist. The crimes already committed cannot be undone, but at the very least I hope to stop him before it’s too late.”
“I know you must be worried about your daughters being turned into political pawns, but I have no intention of meddling in the family affairs of someone who has done so much for our nation. Please rest at ease.”
So he said, but putting Edward aside, Shirley can’t so easily trust Philia. Since he is so close with Canary and it was on her word that this meeting was decided he is likely telling the truth, but the Empire… She’s not so readily able to trust a member of the Imperial family.
“I am not so conceited to think that I can convince you today, but I wish to say one more thing.”
Whether or not she knows just how suspicious Shirley’s gaze is, the princess spoke clearly without looking away.
“It exposes the true shame of my house, but although my brother may be a fool, the Empress is a true parasite that sucks the lifeblood of the country.”
“Ho ho, to say such a thing so openly.”
Canary cackled heartily. For Shirley, watching a girl that she last saw when she was such a young girl denounce her family like that made a strange feeling well up in her heart.
“Although I have not yet decided on the means, I will gather evidence that magicians were hired. Perhaps it might be possible to interrogate the casters themselves and have them confess, but in the meantime, please do take care.”
Double release Sunday btw (no, this isn’t going to be a thing).