“So this is how she looked like in person,” I muttered, admiring the woman encased in ice.
Breathing a cold mist in its surrounding, the figure of a woman frozen deep inside the ice conveyed a sad yet captivating beauty. The woman, dressed in a snug fit red gown, was endowed by a wavy brown hair topped with a golden crown crusted by precious gems. Her arms, covered in a similar rosy red evening glove, rested above her stomach.
Forming a frown, “It looks like she's just sleeping...” I muttered as I took in the figure of my Grandmother as she laid asleep.
“But she’s not asleep, right?” I asked, glancing at the silver-haired woman beside me inside a rectangular room covered in stone tiles in every direction.
Shaking her head in response, “No,” She answered. “She’s dead.”
Moving my sight back to the figure of Grandmother, “So this is how Grandfather was deceived huh…”
“This was stored underneath Titania’s chamber.” The silver-haired woman added. “I wouldn’t blame Randolf for believing that Fairy.”
“I guess Grandfather was deeply in love with Grandmother for him to desperately believe in a Fairy.”
“Love is complicated Amelia, it can be your strength, but it can also be your weakness.”
Letting my arm fall back to my side, “Celes,” I asked. “Have you felt love before?”
Gently raising the corner of her lips, Celes turned to face me wearing a warm smile. “Of course,” She answered as her eyes reflected a gentle light. “Even if I converted the time I have lived into hours of a day, that very tiny fraction of a second I have lived with Elena was the most glorious times that I had.”
“Elena huh,” I muttered. “The first silver-haired woman before Laurel became a kingdom.”
“Yes,” She added. “I made sure her name will remain in the history of Laurel.”
Expressing a light smile, “That’s so like you.” I said.
Turning her head towards the block of ice, “Do you want me to place this coffin of ice in Tercel?” She said.
“No,” I replied. “If by chance the nobles thought that the last Queen went missing due to the machinations of another race, the achievements I regained with the Tribe will crumble. If it was only the nobles, Mother and Father could use their power as a monarch, but once it spreads into a rumor to the citizens, it will be impossible to stop.”
“If that’s what you’ve chosen, then it’s fine.”
“Say, Celes,” I said. “You said that I don’t need to call you through the necklace anymore, right? Why?”
“It will impede your growth if you keep relying on me when you're alone.”
“...” Silently, my sight shifted to my feet.
“I'm happy that feel lonely about it,” she smiled as she reached out her hands and caressed my cheeks. “But Amelia, you could always speak through the necklace wherever and whenever you are. You don't need the deal to be a reason to talk to me.”
“... True.” Leaning my head against her hands, I closed my eyes and savored the warmth. “But Celes, I'd want to have more time like this.”
“You've been through a lot Amelia...”
Clasping her hands with my own, “Yes, I have.” I muttered, feeling her soft hands through my cheeks. “But now, at least, I have something to work on that I can call my own.”
I don’t have time to keep on breaking down; the war won’t wait for me…
“Celes,” I asked as I lifted my eyelids and looked up to her. “Can you train me like we used to? Once a week is enough.”
“Aren’t you forcing yourself?” She asked. “I won’t lend you my stamina and mana on the next.”
Chuckling, “Celes, I’m already broken, battering myself makes no difference.” I replied. “Besides, I don’t want to get used to having an indefinite amount of mana.”
“A broken person can still be fixed.”
Returning a smile, “My past will always be a part of me,” I said. “No matter how harsh it was.”
“I will train you, but I won’t be teaching you things you have yet to know.”
“That’s fine with me.”
Removing her hands from my cheek, “I’m glad,” Celes smiled. “Then why don’t we start now?” Then she shifted back to her usual playful smile.
Inside the rattling carriage on the day after. “Uuhh…” Amelia muttered as she slept on Erina’s lap “N-not that…”
It seems that her Highness is up to something again… Erina thought as she brushed Amelia’s hair.
“Is Lia having nightmares?” On the other side of the seat, Kanna asked.
“I believe not,” Erina replied. “It’s a byproduct of a recent event, probably during the night.”
Looking up to the ceiling of the coffee-brown ceiling of the carriage, Kanna muttered in thought. “What would Lia do at night?”
In reply, Erina expressed a mischievous grin. “A rendezvous with a man.”
“W-what?!” Shouted Kanna in surprise. “Impossible!”
“Then why not listen to her mumbles?”
“Y-you’re right.” Coming down from her seat to the floor of the carriage, Kanna placed her right ear near Amelia’s lips and listened.
“N-not... That agai- Auu...” Amelia mumbled in her sleep.
Paling, Kanna cranked her head to face the sleeping Amelia. “L-lia, it's not true, r-right?” Kanna asked with trembling lips while Erina placed a hand over hers.
“Worry not,” Erina masked her giggled with the rattle of the carriage. “Her Highness will only allow a fitting man.”
“What ar-” Immediately before Kanna finished her shout, Erina placed a hand over Kanna's mouth.
“Mmnn...” Amelia mumbled.
“Please voice your concerns once her Highness is awake.”
Nodding in reply, Kanna returned to her seat. Crossing her arms, Kanna repeatedly tapped her elbow with her finger.
“Kanna,” Unsmiling, Erina asked.
Surprised by the sudden call, “Err… What is it?” Kanna said.
“Her Highness has been up to something recently hasn’t she?”
“Eh?” Widening her eyes, Kanna asked. “How can you tell?”
“Her Highness had always been like this,” Erina moved her sight to her lap. “She'd always force herself to do more when she has a goal in mind. At those times, someone has to force her to take a rest.”
Returning her sight to Kanna, “Please do me a favor,” asked Erina with a light bow. “I’m not always by her Highness’s side, so please tell her to take a rest once you think she’s overdoing it.”
At the time Amelia woke up, “A man?” she dubiously expressed. “What do you mean?”
Leaning forward filled with concern, Kanna asked. “Y-you mean, you have no memory of sleeping with a man yesterday?”
“I have no idea of what you are talking about.” Moving her sights towards Erina, “Ah, I think I get it now.”
Smiling as if nothing happened, “Is anything of the matter, your Highness?” Erina asked.
“Haah…” Amelia breathed a sigh. “Listen, Kanna…”
“Mmmph!” Raising my arms, I stretched my back after alighting the carriage. “Erina, where should we eat this time?” Facing the brown-haired woman, I asked.
“Why not the usual diner?” She replied.
“Oh,” Kanna said pointing to a nearby food stall that offered wooden seats. “Li- I mean Mia, wanna try that one?”
“Hmm…” Moving closer to get a better view of the stall, “Fried rice with eggs huh.”
Recalling the food I ate at the Tribe, Rice is quite rare in the Tribe.
Turning back to Kanna and Erina, “I’m fine with it.” I said.
“So do I,” Erina replied.
Deciding by ourselves, we moved to take a seat and ordered our meals. Each of us ordered the same salted fried rice with eggs mixed with leeks and fried garlic placed in a wooden bowl.
After eating our meal, we went back into the carriage with a different set of horses. Taking our respective seats, the rattling of the carriage restarted after a few minutes.
“That rice is not bad, but Amelia, you’re a princess, right?” Kanna asked.
“That’s quite late of you to ask,” I grinned.
“I just realized it after knowing the difference between the meals given to you in Tercel and the manor, but what we’ve been giving you is…”
“It's okay,” I said. “Besides, if there’s anything that tastes bad, like really bad, it's the mana herb.” Shifting my sight to Erina beside me, “The two herbs from Argent are still fine, right?”
“It’s within the carriage’s baggage,” Erina smiled.
“I’ll take it at another time.”
As the scenery through the window changed from the wooden houses with a touch of stone and cement to a thick layer of concrete then to a sea of plants, Kanna asked. “We’ve been in this carriage for quite a while now, but most of the things I saw outside are farms.”
“That is the natural landscape here in Laurel,” Erina said.
“Yes, just like Erina said,” I added. “But there’s a reason for that.”
Tilting my head, “Where should I start? Ah, you see,” I said. “Most of Laurel's land is sandwiched by the sea of Formos and the forests at the foot of Alabaster. Because we can't build the farms near the forests and the coasts due to occasional attacks from beasts, the farmlands were built a distance from both, which results to the endless sea of farmlands.”
“But aren’t there too many towns and villages around here?” She moved her sight from the window back to me and Erina.
“True,” I answered. “But those towns and villages are essential. They serve as relays for carriages, posts for Soldiers, Knights, Messengers, and sometimes Adventurers. There are also towns and villages on the other ends of this sea of farmlands. Those towns and villages are the ones actively giving out quests to adventurers. They also serve as training grounds for the Armies at certain times.”
“Hmm…” Kanna muttered. “That seems a bit complex, or not, but how will Laurel’s armies pass through these farmlands?”
“I guess you could call that as one of the problems of Laurel,” I smiled wryly. “Although there are spaces between the lands near this road, it will make the formation of the armies sparse, but since the history of Laurel lacked large scale wars, especially that we are far from the center, Laurel focused more on production rather than the military aspects.”
“That makes sense,” Kanna nodded. “But Lia sure has a lot of knowledge”
“That’s necessary,” I replied. “It’d be a shame as a Royal if I don't know at least this much.”
“Now if only his Highness Mark will feel the same,” Erina added.
“True…” I sighed. “Anyway, the towns and villages are mostly owned by the Knights, but since the Knights need to serve the military of Laurel, they usually leave magistrates in their stead to rule their fief. On the other hand, some Nobles, like those who are staying in Aves, do the same while serving the palace, but there are also those who rule their fief directly.”
“The way human society works is quite complicated huh.”
“Our difference in population is one of the reasons.”
Scratching her head, “I guess that’s enough for me.” Kanna smiled wryly. “Anyway, why are we heading to Fargan?”
“We could have taken Birby,” I used my hand to knock on the wooden board at my back. “But the baggage I brought along is too much for him; there's also the issue with my Personal Guards waiting for me there.”
“Eh?” Kanna muttered in surprise. “The Guards a distance ahead and behind us are not yours?”
Glancing at Erina’s direction, I answered with a smile. “Yes, those aren’t mine. Those are the Royal Guards themselves.”
“That’s weird, why haven’t you used your own?”
“Because the Royal Guards are enough to defend me when I’m deep within Laurel.”
“Because her Highness made them do questionable things while she's away.”
“Ahaha, right.” Strained, I smiled.
Stitching her eyebrows, “Questionable things?” Kanna asked, dubious.
“It's not 'kind of' your Highness, turning your some of your Guards into adventurers, that is indeed questionable.”
“I can justify that,” I said with a smile. “Using adventurers to hunt Bandits hiding between the border of Academia and Laurel, that’s the best approach with the best results.”
“You just wanted the bounty on their heads.”
“I-I need funding for my land.”
“You already have too much.”
“You also have funds from selling these pins and clips in underground auctions.”
Gulping, I spoke. “But I ne-”
“You also have funds from selling those despicable fertilizers.”
“… They’re just slime fertilizers…” I muttered in a low voice while fiddling with the ends of my hair.
“Haah…” Erina sighed. “You say that they’re just slime fertilizers, but the image of a princess owning slime pits is not a good one.”
“I know that,” I said. “That’s why I placed someone else as a head of the production of those fertilizers…”
“But it is still inside your land and you allowed it.”
“Eh?” After a listening to our exchange, Kanna muttered. “Slime pit? Wait, Lia owns a land?”
Noticing the oblivious Kanna, “Ah,” I said. “Yes, I have. Once Argent ascends to the throne, I’ll lose my status as a princess and become a duchess to rule over a land. I'll also have to change my last name into something else as acceptance of losing the right to the throne. But since I’ve been working at it early and the fact that I’ve been achieving a lot lately, my land has been expanding for quite some time now.”
“Then those Guards you’re speaking of?”
Smiling, “They’re more of a small personal army rather.”