“You’re here. Come closer.”
We were invited to attend an audience in the Imperial Palace.
The people that were invited included me, and for some reason, Alea as well.
We didn’t have any sort of formalwear for Alea, so we had to ask the same shop we went to during our dress shopping trip to prepare something for us on a rush order.
Yep, my daughter is cute.
Claire-sama also came with us, but she was in the waiting room.
She wasn’t invited to attend the audience, so we planned to meet up with each other later.
Dorothea was seated in her throne, with the old man, Joseph, standing by her side.
“I’ve heard that there were general signs of improvements in our cuisine. You did well, Rei.”
“Well, the chefs in the Empire were excellent to begin with. All I did was give them an opportunity to prove themselves.”
In fact, I didn’t actually do that much.
All I did was persuade Dorothea, instigate a cooking competition, and send Alea out to train young and prospective chefs.
I also helped out with other trivial duties, but it was no big deal.
“Let me offer you a reward. What do you want?”
“I told Hilda about this already, but I would like you to offer your protection for the entire Bauer student exchange group from the threat of the demons.”
“Hmm. Could you ask for something more specific?
“Think about it, Your Majesty. It’ll only be one part of your national defense, right?”
“That’s true. I understand. I’ll think about it.”
“Is that all you wanted to talk about with us?”
We already finished discussing the rewards, and I wanted to go home as soon as possible to flirt with Claire-sama.
“Well, wait up. I want to offer Alea a reward as well. What would you like?”
When the Empress posed the question to her, Alea had a puzzled look on her face.
“The people that received your guidance all said the same thing. Thanks to you, they feel like they’ve regained their pride.”
According to Dorothea, this was what happened.
At first, they were all reluctant to be taught by such a young little girl, but as time went on, those opinions changed.
“I think we were probably corrupted by the status quo.”
Although becoming a chef at the Ministry of Cooking was considered one of the highest ranks in the field, a chef was still a chef.
The position, in general, was considered incredibly low.
Even if they were proud of their own skills, the reality was, they were dissatisfied with how unreasonably undervalued they were.
“But Alea-sensei taught us that wasn’t the case.”
The words Alea left them with while they were under her guidance seemed to touch their hearts.
―― “Being able to make delicious meals is like magic. All of you chefs are such amazing people.”
As I mentioned before, a lot of chefs were people that couldn’t make it to the military.
Within that group of people, there were a lot of people with insufficient aptitude for magic, much like Alea.
To them, hearing those words from Alea, who also couldn’t use magic, touched their hearts.
“Alea-sensei gave us a reason to feel proud of ourselves. If you have to offer recognition to somebody, if you can, please honor her.”
That was what they said.
“The consensus was they all wanted you to receive some type of reward. You should accept it.”
Alea looked happy as she replied cheerfully.
Alea, you’ve really come a long way.
It was almost as if that night we all wept together after finding out about her lack of magical aptitude was nothing but a distant memory.
“Alright, so what would you like?”
“Can I ask for anything?”
“Well…… In that case, I want to become as amazing as a quad-caster, just like Mei.”
I was startled when I heard Alea’s request.
Even if she never said it aloud, in the end, she still felt inferior on the inside.
“Hmm, I see. That sounds difficult.”
“Is it impossible?”
“As the Empress, I would never back down on my word. Rest assured. I will train you.”
When I heard Dorothea’s words, I could hardly believe my ears.
The Empress was willing to train Alea personally?
Basically, the God of the Sword was about to take on a disciple?
“The Empress offering her personal guidance to someone from another country is unheard of!”
The old man admonished her.
Well, that was to be expected.
Alea was a citizen of Bauer – a nation that had long been at war with the Empire up until recent.
“You heard what I said.”
“Stop with your shenanigans. Please be more aware of your position!”
“Old man, do you think the Empress you’re desperately trying to reprimand right now is so narrow-minded that I’d lie to a child?”
“Please stop creating things that other people can use against you!”
“If you’re so worried about it, then you protect me, old man.”
The old man fell completely silent.
To be able to protect somebody that wields a nickname like the “God of the Sword”, you would need to be just as strong as a demon.
“Starting from tomorrow……. No, let’s start right away. Come with me.”
“Umm…… Actually, uh, wait a minute, could you wait a moment, Your Majesty!?”
“What, you too?”
“Alea’s just a little girl whose body isn’t even 10 years old yet!?”
After watching her train with Rod-sama, I knew that she had the aptitude for it, but no matter how you look at it, having her be trained by an enemy, who I didn’t even fully trust, was worrying to me.
“I’ll have one of my subordinates apply some strength-enhancing magic on her. I’ll also arrange for her recovery.”
“Even though this is something your daughter wanted, what do you think will happen if you don’t respect her wishes?”
No, I don’t want to be told that by somebody who doesn’t even respect Philine’s, her own daughter’s, wishes―― is what I wanted to say, but I kept those words to myself.
“Your daughter, however small she may be, has already unsheathed her blade.”
I was anxious.
But even so, this was what Alea wished for.
Plus, if Alea continued to pursue the path of becoming a swordswoman, there was no better way to improve her current environment.
I was conflicted.
“Rei-okaasama, please consider this request from me.”
“I want to become stronger, just like you and Claire-okaasama.”
Upon seeing that dedication in her eyes and the strong determination within her, I made up my mind.
“I understand. Please take care of her.”
“Yep, leave her to me. Oh, right. Philine was looking for you, Rei Taylor. It seems like she’s got something she wants to talk to you about. Go and find her.”
“I understand. Alea, give it your best.”
After saying that, Alea left with Dorothea.
“…… You’ve got your fair share of hardships, huh, Joseph-san.”
“If that’s how you truly feel, you should’ve stopped Her Majesty.”
“No, being able to study under the God of the Sword is a once in a lifetime opportunity, after all.”
“It could be a trap, you know?”
“Knowing Her Majesty, I doubt it.”
“…… Haah, that’s true.”
“Good grief,” the old man said as he rubbed his eyes.
“Could you tell me where Philine-sama’s room is?”
“I’ll have someone guide you there. Please wait a bit.”
“Alright. Thank you very much.”
I also left the audience chamber.
“It seems like we keep running into each other lately, doesn’t it?”
“That doesn’t make me happy at all.”
The guide that the old man called for me was none other than Hilda.
I don’t think anybody could blame me for how exhausted I looked for now.
“Your position in the Empire has risen again, huh.”
Hilda said, amused.
It seemed that she was already aware of the guidance Alea was receiving from Dorothea.
“This time, it was something Alea achieved herself.”
“And that same Alea is the daughter you adopted, right? So it’s practically the same thing.”
Well, it’s true that I was Alea’s guardian.
“Well, it’s probably best if I stop saying such unnecessary things to you. I wouldn’t want you to come to dislike me even more.”
It wasn’t like I hated Hilda or anything, but I also wasn’t fond of her.
Although, she was difficult to deal with because of how similar we were to one another.
“You’re heading to Philine-sama’s room, right? I’ll lead you here.”
Hilda said as she took the lead and started walking.
“According to the rumors, apparently you’re like some kind of prophet that can predict the future, right, Rei Taylor?”
“I’m not able to do something like that.”
Most likely, she heard that from somebody that infiltrated Bauer during the revolution, but this was something I could not reveal.
“In that case, what about that thing you said to me the other day? ‘Don’t you think you’re trying a bit too hard in your ambitions?’, was it?”
I did say something like that.
At the time, I was just trying to rein her in a little bit, but I ended up saying something unnecessary.
“I just have a bit of insight.”
“That would be a big deal if that were true. And it seems like your prophecies aren’t completely perfect either.”
What did she mean by that?
Hilda stood in front of the room.
Apparently, this was Philine’s room.
“I’ll take my leave here.”
“Thank you very much.”
After seeing Hilda off, I knocked on the door.
“It’s Rei. I heard that you wanted to talk to me about something.”
I opened the door and went inside.
The door didn’t seem to be locked at all.
Isn’t this a bit too careless?
For some reason, the room was a bit dark.
The lights were dimmed down as much as possible, and it was practically impossible to see the back of the room.
“I’m in the back, Rei.”
I proceeded to follow the direction of the voice.
What is this?
Somehow, I had a bad feeling about it.
Philine was in the bedroom.
She was standing right in front of her bed, with her back turned to me.
“What’s happening? You’ve even got the lights turned off and everything.”
“I just didn’t want to be seen.”
“Right now….. I probably have a terrible look on my face.”
In the next moment, Philine-sama jumped towards me.
She pinned me down and had me in the mount position as she proceeded to strangle me.
“……. Please die…… Rei Taylor.”