How did things end up like this… Amelia’s wry smile twitched every so often.
Like Celes suggested, it would have been better for her to not think things through. By doing so, she ended up in a situation she had never expected.
“Don’t mind it. Don’t mind it.” Amelia believed in those words. And flushing her problems down the corner of her mind, she held her mug and took a sip of the ale. “It’s not my concern.”
[Uaargh…! More aaale! Ale!] A dwarf rose to his feet from the floor and raised his empty mug into the air. [Aaaaalllee!] Then with a thud, he fell back to the floor and started snoring.
“Right. A human bested the dwarfs in drinking alcohol on her first time. It’s definitely believable.” Retaining her wry smile, Amelia took another sip. However, deep inside her heart, there was a thought screaming at the top of her lungs. Like hell that’s possible!
[Huwaah…] Arkand exhaled. [I-I can still! Drink!] He rose his trembling arm and tried to down another mug, but before he was able to empty it, he fell from his seat with a thud. Soon, like all the other dwarfs in the room, he fell asleep.
“M-maybe I should act like I’m drunk?” Amelia muttered. “But how? I’ve never been drunk before… And I never expected that I won’t get drunk on my first...” She pondered on her reflection on the ale’s surface. Though it was her third mug, her face was only slightly reddish. The warm sensation in her throat and chest was also light.
Haahh… I wonder what will happen if word gets out? Would I have a weird title? I wonder how the people would think of me besting dwarfs in alcohol? Ahh. Celes. You’re definitely behind this, aren’t you? You know I have an image to keep. Being an alcoholic Princess isn’t one of it!
Despite being carried away by the dwarfs’ mood into drinking three mugs, Amelia placed the blame on Celes.
Never mind. I’ll just sleep. Amelia pushed her mug away and placed her arms on the table. Resting her head on her arms, she said, “It reeks.”
Moments after, Amelia woke up from the light shaking. “Uhh...”
When her eyes adjusted, she immediately recognized the lodge’s stairway.
“Kanna?” Amelia whispered. The strands of brownish-orange hair dangling on the side of her face was all too familiar.
“Did I wake you?” Kanna chuckled. “But really, no matter how many times I get to carry you, I always thought you have grown so big.”
“I’m not that heavy, am I?” Amelia hunched forward to lessen the burden on Kanna. “But this is surprising. I thought you’d carry me like a Princess I am.”
Kanna smiled. “I have always carried you like this even when you were small. And let’s not talk about weight here. But back then, your body was smaller than mine. The difference now sure is big.” Kanna hinted a sense of nostalgia on her face. “How I wish it stayed like that, but the difference in growth between races becomes obvious over time huh.”
Upon reaching the top of the stairs, Kanna took to the right and found Ark beside an opened door.
“Good evening, Your Highness, Milady Kanna.” Ark greeted.
“Thanks.” Kanna returned.
“I appreciate it, Ark,” Amelia added.
Shortly, Ark bowed as Kanna entered the room. Afterward, Kanna placed Amelia on her bed while Ark closed the door and left.
“How about a change of clothes?” Kanna grinned. “Don’t you need one?”
“… No.” Amelia undressed. However, contrary to Kanna’s expectation, a white fabric was left.
Kanna pouted. “That’s cheating!”
Amelia was wearing the default white one-piece dress that came from her necklace. “… Kanna, please stay for a while.” She ignored Kanna’s protest and manifested her horn after closing the curtains.
“I already planned on doing that, so no worries.” Kanna walked towards the door and hinged the lock. “But Lia, though you reek of ale, you’re not drunk, right?”
“Well...” Amelia scratched her cheek after taking a seat on the bed. “That’s the gist of it.”
“Then you should take a rest tomorrow morning. People would be more suspicious of you if you don’t at least act like you have a hangover.”
“Right.” Amelia nodded. “I should do that.”
“So… why do want me to stay?” Kanna took one stop and another with her hands on her clasped behind her. “Don’t tell me you want to have a pillow talk?”
“You can talk to the pillow instead.” Amelia shot an uninterested gaze while presenting a pillow in front.
“Hehe.” Kanna chuckled. “But Lia, isn’t it surprising that you knew about these kinds of stuff?” A mischievous grin rose on Kanna’s face.
Amelia turned her gaze to the side. “So what if I knew about it? I-I’m not that innocent after all. And it’s not like I can erase my memory after realizing what I’ve read… Haah… Regrets...”
“I still wonder what have you read to realize these stuff.”
“Anyway, that aside.” Amelia stood and approached Kanna. “Thank you, Kanna.”
“Hehe.” Kanna returned Amelia’s embrace. “A sweet reward from Lia. But it would have been waaaaay better if there wasn’t a pillow in-between. Like, why is there even a pillow barring me from fully embracing Lia? There’s no justice in this!”
“Like I said, talk to the pillow.” Amelia tightened her embrace and buried Kanna deeper into the pillow.
Kanna sighed. “This feels like victory and defeat at the same time.”
“It’s all in your mind.”
Kanna laughed and made a space for the pillow to the drop on the floor. “Still, I never expected that you would cooperate with me and Garfin. I thought you’d try to cover things up by yourself like you usually do.”
Amelia expressed a wry smile. “I received a lecture from someone. That’s all.”
“Was it Celes?”
“You seem to take her words to heart.”
Amelia tilted her head. “Now that you say it, I do.”
“You don’t have to answer, but who is she? I do get that you have a similar horn, but I can’t connect anything aside from that horn and your appearance.”
“She’s… the very source of the Laurelian Bloodline.”
“… I see.” Kanna took the pillow and returned it to the bed.
“Maybe we should pick-up from the last time we spoke about this,” Amelia suggested.
“I’m all ears.” Kanna sat on the bedside and prompted Amelia to sit beside her.
Last time, Kanna and Amelia discussed Amelia’s childhood and the matter revolving around the Devourer. However, Amelia limited the information she shared with Kanna. At the least, she was hoping to not let Kanna know too much.
This time around, with full trust, Amelia decided to not leave Kanna in the dark.
Little by little, she spoke of her problems. She ranted. At length, she expressed her emotions while clinging to Kanna like a child she used to be. She spoke at random. She was unstable. But Kanna silently took it all.
“Kanna. Kanna. I can’t do it alone.” Amelia tightened her embrace. “What if I can’t keep my promises? What if Elaine carried my burdens if I was gone? What if Brent loses the war? Would mother and father understand what I’m going through right now?”
“Lia...” Kanna slid her fingers through Amelia’s hair.
“Being a royal is a curse.”
“No, Lia, kindness is your curse.”
Amelia failed to utter a response and looked up to Kanna. “Then should I?”
Kanna shook her head. “Be who you are. Be what you wanted to be. Don’t give in and throw away your kindness to ease the rope around your neck.”
“… Even if it means my life?”
“Yes, even if it meant your life. Besides, I’ll be there. You don’t have to challenge everything alone.”
Amelia rubbed her eyes with her forearm. “Then I’ll depend on you.”
Kanna smiled. “You can bet your life to me, Lia.”
The review of the Goblin Queen, Oisa, proceeded with Sylvar as the head. Amelia, who has the right to participate in the review of the alliance with the goblins, did not participate.
Her reason was, “My views against goblins is biased. And I never knew that they could be considered as a race. I just thought they were a beast that could gain intelligence. So it would be best for my bias to not influence the review.”
With all the reports she read concerning goblins and remote villages, Amelia could not find it inside her to easily accept goblins. If anything, she grew up with the idea that goblins are beasts, much like how most humans and races thought.
That aside, among the dwarf chiefs, only Garfin participated. Arkand and Dresbon were on a slightly similar stand with Amelia. They could not easily forget their fight against the goblins inside the lair.
Participation aside, the first review showed a positive response from the Sylvar, Kan, and Garfin. Only Ran took a neutral stance regarding the situation.
[With their help, we can further expand towards the east,] Sylvar commented.
[My concern is the dragon’s lair. It could serve as a base for exploration.] Garfin chimed.
[Alabaster’s eastern portion huh.] Kan muttered. [I hope there are historical items left out there.]
[Towards the east huh.] Ran wondered. [I just hope it’s not too dangerous.]
[[I agree]] Sylvar, Kan, and Garfin spoke in unison.
On the other hand, Dresbon and Arkand were overseeing the retrieval of usable parts from Greith.
[A free feast before winter huh. The wyverns sure are well-fed for their sleep.] Dresbon muttered. He drove his knife on Greith’s spine, trying to separate the vertebra from the ligaments. [Dragon bones. It’s not every day that we get to retrieve such materials.]
[True. These emerald scales are still usable despite it receiving a shock from the dragon’s fall. I wonder how many leather sets I can make from these.] Arkand scraped off the excess meat and fat from the skin. [But other than that, I still can’t believe I lost to Amelia.]
[No one expected her to win.] Another dwarf chimed. [But someone who can beat the lights out of me in ale huh, I’m charmed.]
[Oi! You’ll get a beating from Garfin if he hears that!] A dwarf working on Greith’s claws shouted. [I won’t even wonder why if he made a weapon just to cut your head off!]
[I don’t care! I have vowed only to marry a woman who can beat me in a drink!]
[Suit yourself! You have too many rivals, you know?!]
Like the other dwarf said, a number of dwarfs took a liking to Amelia. Their reason might have been shallow, however, dwarfs had the nature of betting their life for alcohol. Betting their future on it was not unheard.
[Muhaha!] Arkand laughed. [That Garfin! I’m sure he’s grinding a new blade right now!]
[Really, we can’t have new corpses to bury.] Dresbon expressed a wry smile. [Try to cherish your life more.]
It has been a day since the dwarfs that perished during the operation were buried. Naturally, Amelia, who was partly involved in their deaths, participated. However, the day after, she left with Kanna and Birby and flew towards the Duchy.
Before she left, she spent most of her time in the lodge handling what was supposed to be her responsibilities as chief.
On a certain day, Amelia did not expect Ran to visit the lodge. However, after she watched Ran play with Rick and Fae, she was convinced.
“Was Ran always like this?” Amelia asked.
“It’s the same old Ran,” Kanna answered.
“She seems to take a liking to children, which is rare for the elves,” Ark added.
“Hehh...” Amelia continued to watch Ran, Rick, Fae, and Birby II play in the lodge’s yard.
[Here comes the dragon! Rawwwrrr!] Ran chased after Rick and Fae while holding Birby II in her arms.
Meanwhile, Birby II gave out a high-pitched chirp. [Piiikyaa!]
Fae was running with a bright smile on her face. “Dragon! Dragon! It’s a dragon, Rick! Run!”
Rick was the same. Though usually quiet and reserved, he was recently laughing and showcasing a smile. It was a nature that suited him rather than his calm and serious vibe.
“Then I guess I don’t have to worry about Rick and Fae.” Amelia sighed in relief. It was another weight off of her shoulders upon seeing Rick and Fae’s smile. “But Ark, please still monitor both of them. We can’t have them facing too much danger.”
“I understand, Your Highness.”
“Ark, can I borrow Lia for a bit?” Kanna tugged on Amelia.
“Of course.” Ark nodded.
Kanna dragged Amelia for about two meters away from Ark and prompted her to crouch.
“What is it? Is it something Ark should not hear?”
“Rather than that, it’s something that concerns Ark himself.”
Amelia knitted her brows. “Is there a problem with him? In all honesty, I have yet to have a problem with Ark. So this is new.”
“No, no.” Kanna shook her head. “It’s not a problem with him, but more like, uhh… an unexpected situation revolving around him?”
“Huh?” Amelia tilted her head.
“You see, Ran took a liking to Ark.”
“...” Amelia looked at Kanna with a straight face. “That’s all?”
“Eh? That’s all? Aren’t you concerned about them?” Kanna scratched the side of her head.
“No. It’s not like I don’t have any concern for them, but isn’t this something on a personal level? And if that was the case, I don’t intend to intervene.”
“Huh?” Kanna’s pupils widened in surprise. “Wait. So you don’t mind Ark going out with Ran?”
Amelia shook her head. “No, I don’t mind. Besides, I think its Ark’s call to make.”
“Well, true. But don’t you want to help Ran?”
“Hmm… I’m not a matchmaker? And other than that, I think Ran needs more preparation before she could confess to Ark? After all, Ark is… pretty old. Though I think he’ll still live long, it won’t be that lengthy for an elf.”
It’s kinda similar to my and Max’s situation… but on a different scale.
Kanna sighed. “Well, if that’s the case, I’ll just remind Ran. On the other hand, why don’t you ask Ark if he has someone he was waiting for.”
Amelia frowned. “I can assure you, Ark has never been interested in taking a woman’s hand. Well, other than his sisterly figure back when he was still an orphan, I have never heard him taking an interest in one. In my case, he vowed loyalty to me in exchange for funding the orphanage he came from. So you could say that the orphanage is the only string tying Ark to me.”
“Sisterly figure huh.” Kanna grinned. “Then I guess there’s no need to help Ran!” Kanna stood and said, “Secret meeting, adjourned!”
“What kind of role have you taken into?” Amelia smiled.
[Talya, Talya, it’s me, Spee.] Spee, the fairy with Greith, shook Talya awake. [Remember? Spee. Your comrade.]
[Spee?! Spee? Why is Spee… here?] Talya grabbed Spee’s shoulder and shook her.
[W-wait! Talya! What’s wrong with you?!] Spee fluttered her wings and took a distance from Talya. However, after a step backward, her back collided with crystalline bar. [Ahh, it’s too cramped in here!]
[Why? Why?! Spee! You shouldn’t be here!] Talya pulled on her hair and despaired at the center of the cage. [There’s no escape! Nothing! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!]
[Talya…] Spee knitted her brows. [What happened to you? And to everyone else?]
[Aha! Ahaha!] Talya laughed hysterically. [Dead! They’re all dead! Even Queen Titania! She’s dead! All dead! We shouldn’t have messed with her! It was a mistake! Relics are not enough! It was a mistake! Ahahaha!]
[D-dead? Wait, so she… found out? And everything fell apart?]
[Yes! Yes! Devourer?! Jormugandr ripped it into pieces! We never stood a chance! We shouldn’t have tried to acquire her blood! A mistake! A mistake! A disastrous mistake! Now, all our efforts! Are for naught!]
Spee’s knees buckled. [… It’s not real, right? We lost the... bet?]
[But it’s fine! It’s fine! I’m no longer alone in this cage!] Talya crawled towards Spee. [Spee! I’m not alone! You and I! We can spend our life here! In this cage! Forever!]
[T-talya! Wait! Please, come back to your senses!] Spee jumped to the side and dodged Talya’s assault. [Talya! Keep it together! We can escape from this!]
Talya shook her head with tears dripping from her chin. [Spee, It’s useless! It’s useless! Useless!] Talya broke down in tears and curled herself.
[Talya… Just what did they do to you…]
Spee, after being brought to the Tribe, was put under trial. Before a punishment was brought down on her, Amelia suggested that they ask Amalthea—the original source of the request—to judge Spee. The chiefs agreed at the suggestion. Amalthea too consented.
On the previous testing ground for the Tribe’s horn, the chiefs presented Spee to Amalthea. Amalthea gave her gratitude and received Spee. She shocked Spee unconscious and made her drift along with the wind. As a reward, Amalthea gave suggestions on how to use her shedding as materials. This reward alone made Garfin, Sylvar, and Arkand rejoice.
Afterward, Amalthea secretly visited Amelia in the Tribe and presented Spee.
[I have no need for this fairy,] she said.
Amelia received Spee without qualms. She then manifested Talya’s cage and placed the unconscious Spee inside.
[I heard about it from Celestia.]
Amelia expressed a dry laugh.
[I mind it not to wait for you. And worry not, Celestia would watch. Your life would be guaranteed.]
“It doesn’t guarantee that I won’t lose my will to live though.”