She and the Sixth Day
The next afternoon, as I’d declared I went with Raid to the beach.
Today we had many escorts. Many people would gather, so Freed had judged that we’d need more escorts.
There were both Wilhelm and Irvine escorts. I didn’t want them to look too imposing, so they came in plain clothes, but they were still escorts, their atmosphere was different from the people enjoying themselves. Everyone gathered was surprised seeing our numerous escorts, but when we began preparations for the takoyaki party, their interest got diverted there.
The escorts brought and set up takoyaki pans that had only been delivered last night.
The fisherman whom I’d asked for octopuses was there, so I talked to him, and he gave me a lot of octopuses. Moreover, he’d done basic preparations.
“Eh… You went so far?”
“Gal, I watched what you were doing, so I could roughly tell what to do. Besides, the preparations take time and effort, right? I thought it’d be better if you didn’t have to do that.”
“Thanks! I’m grateful!”
Of course, I paid him extra as thanks. He wanted to decline payment, but claiming it was proper compensation for the work, I managed to get him to accept it a little forcefully.
Raid wanted to do something, so I had her cut octopus. Some of the gathered people knew Raid’s face, so they raised little shrieks.
The disturbance spread in no time, but Raid was unshaken. Rather, she gently smiled and told them.
“Excuse me. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t make too much noise. Today I’m simply my friend’s helper. I forced my participation on her, so I’d be grateful if everybody cooperated.”
This time everyone’s eyes turned to me. Raid tilted her head.
“What, Lidi? Haven’t you introduced yourself to everyone?”
“Yeah. After all, there was no opportunity.”
It felt weird to expressly introduce myself, and I thought it would be okay if they didn’t know.
But, Raid was skeptical.
“You better properly introduce yourself. It’d be a big problem if something happened. Everybody, you know the Crown Prince and Princess of Wilhelm are staying in the Royal Palace, right? She is that Crown Princess, Lady Lidiana. Next to her is the Crown Prince, His Highness Friedrich.”
“T-The Crown Prince and Princess of Wilhelm?”
As Raid introduced us, everybody looked at me and Freed with startled faces.
While thinking that what she did had the opposite effect, I told everyone to relax.
“You don’t need to worry about that. Rather than that, this is more important. Look, I’ll be cooking soon.”
I made takoyaki batter and poured it into the mold. I added octopus cut by Raid and other ingredients, and while observing it, turned over the pieces.
People were surprised by our identity, but it seems the unfamiliar takoyaki was more interesting, as everybody fell quiet before long. They were all staring at me.
Using an iron skewer I had made together with takoyaki pans, I kept turning takoyaki over piece by piece. Once you get used to it, it’s a simple task, but at first, everyone fails.
I successfully turned over all takoyaki, adjusted their shape, and finished the first batch of takoyaki.
Yup. They turned out quite well.
I put four prepared pieces on a small plate and added a homemade sauce.
I like eating takoyaki with soy sauce or ponzu, but I decided teppan sauce would be better at first. I topped them with katsuobushi and stuck toothpicks into them.
“Yes, it’s ready. Then, first of all, mister fisherman who caught octopuses.”
“D-Do you mean me?”
Perhaps because he’d learned of my identity, he was strangely polite. I didn’t point that out and gave him takoyaki with a smile. He gingerly received it.
“Round… I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
“It’s delicious. Eat while it’s hot.”
“Then… I’ll eat it.”
Pressed by the expectant gazes from the surroundings, the fisherman put a piece of takoyaki in his mouth.
As he was chewing, the fisherman’s eyes went round.
“I’m glad! It’s a success! Everyone else, feel free. If you’re interested, line up. I’ve brought a lot of ingredients so I think there should be enough, but at first, everyone is limited to four pieces.”
Seeing the fisherman eat takoyaki with sparkling eyes, everyone began to line up impatiently.
Octopus sashimi generated initial interest, and the fisherman’s reaction showed it wasn’t anything strange. It was natural they’d want to eat it.
“Yes, yes, wait for your turn. Even if it’s all gone, I’ll make more, so please wait~.”
While arranging takoyaki on small plates, I spoke to everyone. Raid, who had been cutting octopus next to me, finished and helped me.
Together, we repeated cooking and distributing takoyaki.
A considerable number of people seemed to gather, so there was no end to them. As I started getting worried that the ingredient would run out, I was able to serve the last takoyaki.
“Yes. This is the end. Eat slowly, okay?”
“Thank you, Crown Princess!”
A small child happily thanked me. When I answered with a smile, the child ran to his mother, who was waiting for him, with takoyaki. His mother bowed to us.
“Phew… As expected, I’m tired.”
I talked to Raid who had done her best with me.
In the end, I didn’t have Freed help us. He himself wanted to help, but while the unknown newcomer Crown Princess who had only gotten married was one thing, the incredibly famous Crown Prince of Wilhelm serving takoyaki would be too daunting.
… No, well, it’s only natural.
Seeing everybody eat takoyaki with sparkling eyes made me feel accomplished to have persevered. Raid showed the same look and breathed out.
“… Thanks to you I was able to see something amazing.”
“The people were smiling. Honestly, I don’t think I was much help at all, but still, I’m happy this is the result of my hard work.”
“You were incredibly useful. Don’t worry!”
Raid being here saved me. Thanks to her, I was able to focus on making takoyaki. With Raid’s support in things like handing out the prepared takoyaki or taking care of takoyaki batter, we were able to handle these numbers.
There was still some takoyaki left. It wasn’t much, and while I was thinking of giving it to Raid and our escort, I heard a child’s voice.
“What is it?”
“U-Um… I also… want to eat it…”
The child who whispered with his utmost effort was wearing tattered clothes and had beautiful green eyes. His parents didn’t seem to be around.
Of course, I wouldn’t even consider not giving takoyaki to a child who wanted it, so I smiled and tried to give him a small plate, when I heard voices from people around.
“Beastman, go away. You are a half beastman, right?”
“That’s right. This isn’t something you can eat.”
“Don’t come here with your dirty beastman blood, brat!”
“… What does this mean?”
I felt the expression on my face harden.
Surprised by the sudden change of everyone who had been smiling until then, I reflexively looked at Raid next to me.
Vexed, she looked down and bit her lip.
“… In our country, discrimination against beastmen remains firmly rooted. Of course, the country doesn’t discriminate against beastmen. But, people’s sentiment can’t be changed easily. People look down on beastmen for their different characteristics… And so, Lidi… Despite my or your presence, they openly harass him.”
“Of course, not everyone is like that. However, many people think of beastmen as below them. That… creates a world where children like him can be abused.”
The heartbreaking words rendered me speechless.
Irvine already abolished discrimination against beastmen decades ago. Beastmen aren’t treated as slaves like in Tarim. And yet, is this sentiment still present among people?
Certainly, even in Wilhelm there are people who look down on beastmen. That’s why I was concerned about Rena, and why both Ms. Tithi and Levitt hide that they’re beastmen.
Even in Wilhelm they can’t be open about who they are.
I severely felt that in Irvine.
After all, Irvine is like this, despite being a major country that rivals Wilhelm.
Even if I’m unaware, there’s a high possibility Wilhelm is similar. I wonder if only us, who are unaware of the truth, think equality exists, and in reality, beastmen are still oppressed as in the past. I felt very ashamed of myself for talking to Ms. Tithi without thinking about it at all, and I understood why Ilya stubbornly doesn’t go outside and is afraid of having her identity exposed.
The world still isn’t kind to them, even if they go to a country where discrimination has been abolished.
I felt overwhelmed by the harsh reality.
I tightly bit my lip, and in a hurry put takoyaki on a small plate. I garnished them with sauce and katsuobushi then personally carried them to the boy. He was a small child, so I kneeled.
“Yes, here you are. It’s hot, so make sure not to burn yourself while eating.”
As I handed him takoyaki, the boy looked at me with incredulous eyes. I smiled at the boy to show him it was alright.
“You can eat it. It’s your portion.”
“Lady Lidiana! Crown Princess! He’s a lowly beastman!”
Someone shrieked at me. However, I ignored it.
I made takoyaki with my own money. Am I not free to serve it to whoever I want?
I won’t deny anyone.
“Why? That’s a beastman!”
One of the nearby women also shouted. The surroundings agreed with her. In an instant, I felt bloodlust. However, I stood up ignoring that bloodlust and clearly expressed my opinion to everyone.
“So what? Who decided that beastmen can’t eat takoyaki? This child is alive, same as you all. Discrimination was abolished long ago. How long do you intend not to accept other races than your own? I thought Irvine was a wonderful country without discrimination. In fact, I thought that until just now. But, does this mean I was wrong?”
The people I glared at one by one averted their eyes.
A country without discrimination. When I said that, they must’ve realized their remarks ruined everything.
“If that’s the case, that’s deplorable. I don’t want to believe that Irvine is a country where even small children are discriminated against.”
People listening to me gasped. Not everyone, but at least some of them opened their eyes wide and looked like it was the first time somebody pointed out what they were doing.
They opened their mouths to say something. But Freed, who came to my side before I noticed, said first.
“… Could you disperse quietly today? We don’t want to cause problems or inconvenience Hendrik. If you pretend nothing happened today, we won’t say anything either. But… I’d be happy if you gave just a little thought to the meaning of my consort’s words.”
“… Your Highness Friedrich.”
“I also want to think about the meaning of my consort’s words. I’m sure Wilhelm is similar to this country.”
Freed’s words made everyone fall silent.
I’m sure if he had said that Wilhelm is different, everybody would have opposed. But he didn’t, he said it faces the same problem, so nobody could say anything.
“.. I’d ask for that too. Could you leave for today?”
A bit later, Raid spoke to everyone. The words of the Princess of their own country made everyone gradually disperse.
After all, the words of their royalty reached their eyes. It’s only natural.
After everyone left, only the despised beastman boy remained. He was trembling with takoyaki still in his hands.
“… I’m sorry for saying that I wanted it. I should’ve just watched as usual and endured…”
“It’s fine. You aren’t at fault.”
I again crouched down in front of the child and stroked his head.
“You didn’t do anything wrong. You should live as you want.”
“But… Everyone says that I can’t. I’m a half-beastman. Before it was known, nobody had ostracized me, but it’s been like this ever since it got exposed. I think it’ll continue forever.”
It wasn’t me who responded to him, but Raid. She looked at the child on the verge of crying and told him.
“I won’t let this country continue like this. I promise… I promise that by the time you grow up, this sad feeling will disappear for sure.”
Raid clearly nodded to the boy staring at her. The child showed a reassured smile and left saying, “If Princess promises, it’ll be alright.”
I just watched him leave.
“… Let’s go back.”
I called out to Raid, who was just standing next to me and watching the boy’s back without saying anything. I confirmed she nodded and ordered the escorts to clean up.
Then, we all went back.
When we arrived at the Royal Palace and were about to part, Raid, who had been silent the whole time, called my name.
“… Do you have a while? I want us two to talk.”