She and the Trip Story
After agreeing to my mother-in-law’s tea invitation with enthusiasm, I immediately summoned Clara.
Clara, the Head Court Lady, could enter the royal quarters freely. I tried to call on her to see if she was indeed nearby. As expected, she arrived without delay.
“Welcome back, Princess Consort. Have you called for me?”
“Thank you, Clara. Yes, actually, despite the short notice, I’d like to have tea with my mother-in-law. Do you know of any good places?”
“In that case, why not use the courtyard for the first time in a while? I’ve heard that the flowers in Wilhelm are different from the flowers in Irvine. In this way, I believe you will really feel like you’ve returned.”
It wasn’t me but my mother-in-law who agreed to Clara’s suggestion.
“That sounds like a lovely idea. By all means, let’s do it. Since you went to Irvine, I’ve been having tea indoors all on my own. I’d be delighted if I could relax while smelling the fragrance of the flowers for the first time in a while.”
Since my mother-in-law wanted it, I had no objections.
And after hearing that while I wasn’t here, she only had tea by herself in a lonely room, I also absolutely wanted a tea party under the blue sky.
I love my mother-in-law.
She had always been good to me, who had married into the Wilhelm royal family. Of course, it’s thanks to Freed that every day is so enjoyable, but I think my mother-in-law has a big influence on that as well. Because she has welcomed me, everybody is kind to me. That’s why I don’t want my mother-in-law, who has been my benefactor, to look sad, and if there’s something I can do to please her, I want to do it with all my power.
After hearing our answers, Clara bowed her head with, “Certainly.”
“In that case, I shall begin preparations. What sort of tea do you want today?”
“Ah, in that case, please prepare the coffee that I’ve brought from Irvine as a souvenir. Mother-in-law, is coffee alright? I’ve heard from Freed that you drink it occasionally.”
“Coffee? Yes, I’m not against that.”
Her response relieved me.
“I’m glad. I bought it because I wanted Mother-in-law to drink it. Clara, I packed it in my luggage, so ask the court ladies and use it. I’ll leave the choice of confectionaries to you.”
“Please make the coffee on the weaker side. There’s a piece of paper with the recommended method of grinding and amount of powder to use in the bag with the beans, so could you use it?”
Just buying the beans and bringing them back isn’t all there is to enjoying delicious coffee. I realized that in Irvine, so while I was buying coffee beans, I had asked to include a piece of paper with the recommended way to grind those beans.
I had expected to be refused, but nothing of the sort had happened. Instead, the shop clerk acted like my request was natural.
I remembered the clerk saying, “I hope it tastes as delicious as possible.”
Raid recommended just a mere cafe, but it was a pleasant establishment, down to the smallest details. I wanted to return there if I happened to visit Irvine again
“We’ll be heading to the courtyard. Mother-in-law, shall we?”
I left the rest to Clara, and together with my mother-in-law, headed to the courtyard inside the royal quarters.
It was a garden exclusive to the royal family, and thus all non-royalty were forbidden entry. I could even have tea with my mother-in-law, the Queen, enjoying peace of mind, so it was our favorite fail-safe tea party location.
When we leisurely arrived there, two court ladies who had immediately received Clara’s orders were polishing the chairs and table for the tea party.
“Our apologies. Please wait just a moment until our preparations are completed.”
I smiled at the court ladies who humbly bowed.
“It was a sudden request, so there was no helping it. Mother-in-law, why don’t we take a walk in the courtyard until it’s ready?”
“That sounds good. It would be boring to just wait.”
Since my mother-in-law agreed, we went for a turn around the courtyard.
While looking at the flowers blooming irregardless of the season, I amused myself by talking with my mother-in-law.
“Irvine was awfully hot. However, the wind was comfortable, and after a while the heat stopped bothering me so much.”
All our topics centered around Irvine. My mother-in-law was listening to me with a smile.
When we got onto the topic of how I befriended Raid, her interest became sharply apparent.
“Princess Ophelia is coming to Wilhelm next week, isn’t she? What is she like?”
She must’ve been curious to hear about another woman. I could understand her feelings.
“Er… she’s a lovely and cool person. Dressing as a man suits her well.”
“Dressing as a man? She’s female, right?”
My mother-in-law was surprised, so I replied, “Yes.”
“Inside she’s a very gentle woman. Regarding her choice of dress… I was surprised, too, but it suits her very well.”
“Lidi, if you say so, then she must be a wonderful person.”
“Yes. Becoming friends with Raid might’ve been the best gift I received from Irvine. I can’t wait for her to arrive next week.”
“Is that so? Then I’m looking forward to it, too.”
While we had casually circled the courtyard, we eventually returned to where we had started. Thanks to our leisurely walk, the preparations had been finished. On the white table there was a large platter with flat confections wrapped in thin paper that looked like candies. I could faintly see brown inside.
“What are those? They aren’t candies, are they?”
“They’re caramels. When I talked about serving coffee to the Head Chef, he suggested these sweets.”
Clara gave a satisfactory explanation.
Coffee was poured into our cups, and a pleasant smell filled the air.
“My… What a pleasant fragrance.”
“It’s not too bitter, so I think it’s easy to drink it even black.”
“Lidi, it’s a precious souvenir from you. I always add sugar, but I’ll take your advice today and drink it black.”
My mother-in-law drank a sip of the coffee. She blinked her eyes and exclaimed, “Oh my.”
“It has certain sweetness to it.”
“Yes, it does. The beans are from the Rammdahl region in Irvine, and it seems popular with women.”
“It’s my first time having a coffee so easy to drink.”
I was relieved to learn that she liked it. I also took a sip.
The gentle taste made me relax.
— Yup, it’s delicious after all.
I was right to buy it and bring it with me. It had a pleasant taste without being too bitter. It may be underwhelming for those who prefer a darker coffee, but I believe it will be popular amongst women. Or rather, isn’t it perfect for novice coffee drinkers?
My mother-in-law seemed really pleased with the coffee, and was drinking it with a cheerful expression. It’s a good thing to expand on the things you liked, and I was delighted that a person I loved liked the same thing as me.
— That’s right.
I remembered that Raid was coming next week.
Her upcoming visit was something I cherished. I might as well leave the souvenir I had bought for myself for her arrival and we could drink it together.
She’ll be leaving her hometown for two years. I wanted to save the taste that reminded her of her own home for her.
— Yup, let’s do that.
I’m glad I bought a lot of beans.
We arranged coffee beans to be imported from Irvine, but it will take several months for them to actually arrive in Wilhelm. In the meantime, I’ll treasure what I bought as a souvenir, and drink it with Raid.
“Ah, it’s delicious.”
I tossed a caramel that was served with the coffee into my mouth. The intense taste of caramel spread through. It was very sweet, and went exceptionally well with the coffee. Just from placing it on the tongue, it melted smoothly.
It felt like the sweetness had healed the fatigue that had accumulated before I knew it.
With Clara waiting on us, I drank coffee and talked with my mother-in-law.
The tea party in the sunshine naturally brightened my mood. Suddenly, my mother-in-law meaningfully looked at Clara.
“Please excuse us. I want to talk with Lidi privately.”