A Request from the New Government
―― Ding dong.
The doorbell rang.
It was evening time.
I was in the middle of preparing dinner while watching over the house, waiting for Claire-sama to return.
The pork and vegetable soup that I left simmering in a pot wasn’t quite finished yet.
Since we didn’t have a gas stove, things like turning the heat on or putting it out weren’t that simple, but for the time being, I prioritized the guest that was waiting by the door.
“Yes, who might it be… Oh, if it isn’t Matt?”
“It’s been a while, Rei.”
When I opened the door, I found Matt on the other side of it.
You’ve probably forgotten who he is by now, so I’ll reintroduce him. He was the person who ended up getting injured in the courtyard incident during the commoners’ movement back when we were all students at the academy.
After the incident, Claire-sama and I paid him a visit at the Spirit Church’s infirmary.
It seems that after he graduated from the academy, he became a bureaucrat in the new government.
“What’s up? Well, let’s not stand by the door. I’ve got a pot on the stove right now, so why don’t we take this inside?”
“Sorry about this. Pardon the intrusion.”
After showing Matt to the living room, I went back to stirring the pot.
Alright, it’s not burned.
“Do you mind if I cook while we talk?”
“That’s fine, since it’ll probably be a long conversation. Where’s Claire-sama?”
Although the courtyard incident that Matt was involved in was an act of rebellion towards the nobles, he still chose to address Claire-sama with an honorific.
I was a little surprised.
“She’s still at school. Claire-sama’s a teacher at the academy now.”
“Yep, I know. It’s amazing, though. Although she’s the heroine of the revolution, she chose not to get involved with the new government at all. She’s different from all of the other selfish nobles.”
Ahh, I see.
It made sense for Matt, who was involved with the commoners’ movement, to respect somebody like Claire-sama.
Despite being a noble herself, Claire-sama led the revolution to success and was now just living her life out as a commoner. She was probably a figure worth respecting in his eyes.
“Well, that aside, what business might you have with us?”
“…… I’ll be upfront with it.”
It felt like Matt’s voice became stern.
My eyes strayed from the pot as I looked at him from over my shoulder.
“I want Claire-sama to go to the empire.”
“Could you explain the situation to me?”
Claire-sama had a serious expression as she asked Matt.
Not long after Matt showed up at the door, Claire-sama came back home.
Since none of us had eaten dinner yet, we invited Matt to join us and the kids at the table, and now we were taking a break after eating.
Mei and Alea looked like they were curious about Matt, since it was their first time meeting him, but they got bored not long after, and went back to their room to play.
“Yes. I’ll start by explaining the state of international affairs in these last few months.”
Matt pulled out a world map from his bag.
“The Naa Empire has become more aggressive with their invasion of other countries in these last few years. They’ve already conquered a good number of countries, and have forced them to become dependent on the Empire.”
Matt moved his finger towards the eastern side of the Bauer Kingdom, which boasted quite a bit of space on the map.
“The Empire’s evil influence has already reached our kingdom. We almost fell victim to them and nearly became their puppet during the revolution. Luckily, because of Claire-sama and everyone else’s efforts, and thanks to Sousa and Appalachia, we were able to overcome those difficulties.”
“Do not mind me. Go on?”
Claire-sama prompted Matt to continue.
“Things didn’t stop at our kingdom. The Empire has been attempting to overtake Sousa and Appalachia as well. As a result, Queen Manaria of Sousa has spearheaded the formation of the Allied Forces, a group that is designed to rally other states in hopes of defeating the Empire.”
“The Allied Forces….. So things have become like this…..”
Claire-sama said with a groan.
Although we helped out a bit when the new government was inaugurated, Claire-sama and I have been completely out of the loop with anything regarding politics in these last few months.
I wonder when things spiraled into this.
“But the Empire is also determined. Even before the coalition was formed, the Empire extended an offer of peace to Bauer Kingdom.”
“….. I see, that’s what this is all about.”
Claire-sama nodded her head as if she understood something, but I didn’t know what that was.
“What does all of this mean?”
“They are just buying themselves time. Am I correct, Matt?”
“It is exactly as you say.”
This is what Claire-sama explained to me.
No matter how stubborn or strong their military forces were, the Empire would be at an extreme disadvantage if they had to fight Bauer, Sousa and Appalachia off all at once.
Even if they were to try and do so, that meant that they would need to buy themselves time to expand their arsenals.
That was probably what they were aiming for by extending their offer of peace to us.
“The fact that they extended the offer to Bauer is probably because right now, we are the most vulnerable nation, correct? And although Bauer accepted the invitation to join the Allied Forces, in reality, what we actually want the most is to avoid going to war at all costs, isn’t it?”
“…… It seems that I can’t hide anything from you, Claire-sama.”
Matt spoke with a hint of admiration in his voice.
“In that case, why do you want Claire-sama to go to the Empire?”
That was the part I couldn’t understand.
“As part of the offer of peace, the Empire proposed that both parties send students over to study in each other’s nations as exchange students. Claire-sama has been named as a potential candidate.”
“Me? Why is that?”
Claire-sama looked bewildered.
Well, that was to be expected.
It would’ve made more sense before the revolution, but Claire-sama was just an ordinary citizen now.
“This is purely political. The Empire has offered to send their Crown Prince over, the next-in-line to the throne. That’s why Bauer needs to send people of about equal value in exchange.”
“In that case, why does it need to be me? I am no longer of nobility, you know?”
Claire-sama asked him again. Matt continued.
“It’s true that you are just an ordinary citizen now. However, the Empire doesn’t seem to think that way. To them, you are the heroine that caused an entire kingdom to reform. In addition, because you managed to fend off the Empire’s attempts at invading the kingdom, they have marked you as an enemy to them.”
“So you’re telling me you want Claire-sama to go and become a hostage!?”
I could see where the conversation was going.
The kingdom was offering Claire-sama up as a human sacrifice.
“This isn’t funny! Matt, the conversation ends here. We refuse.”
“Rei, let us hear what he has left to say.”
“No, there’s nothing left to listen to!”
The blood completely rushed to my head.
After overcoming the revolution, we were just starting to enjoy the days of peace that we earned by ourselves, so why is she being put through something like this again?
However, a voice tried to get me to cool off.
“Rei, please calm down. Let us finish the conversation.”
It was Claire-sama.
She looked at me with calm eyes.
Rather than trying to reprimand me, her eyes looked as serene as a lake. Seeing that made me stay quiet.
“Matt, please continue.”
“Okay. Supposedly, our main offer is actually the third prince, Yuu-sama, who will also be sent out as an exchange student. Claire-sama will be accompanying her.”
“That is understandable. No matter how you look at it, the Crown Prince being sent out in exchange for somebody of former nobility is not a fair trade.”
“As you may have noticed, we specifically chose people that would have the least amount of impact on the kingdom. We can’t send out any key cabinet ministers or people that are more involved with our government because our kingdom just doesn’t have that much power anymore.”
“Yes. With Yuu-sama having abandoned the right to the throne, and with me being just an ordinary citizen, I think we are the perfect people for this.”
The two of them carried out their conversation like I wasn’t there anymore.
Claire-sama looked like a stranger to me right now.
No, that’s wrong.
I do know her.
This Claire-sama is the same as the other Claire-sama.
―― The noblewoman who walked herself over towards her own execution.
“I am aware that this is hardly of any benefit to you, Claire-sama. Of course, we’ll prepare as much compensation as we can, and I doubt it’ll be worth as much as the risk we are asking you to take.”
“However, as it is right now, the kingdom has no other choice. I know we are asking for the impossible from you. But please, just this once, lend us your support, Claire-sama.”
As he spoke, Matt bowed his head deeply.
I desperately prayed that Claire-sama’s next words were ones of rejection.
“…… Will you give me a week to make my decision?”
Is the answer Claire-sama left him with.