Nevertheless, His Highness treated everyone to a slightly big cookie during break the next day.
Everyone was surprised by this sudden event. And, they only took one cookie each while looking nervous.
The room was strangely tensed.
But, that lasted only for a second. Even if they were timidly eating the cookies, it was too delicious and it was impossible for them to keep feeling nervous once they lost their senses.
That was how delicious that cookie was.
“May I have another one, Your Highness?”
“There’s a lot so it’s fine.”
There were even guys who wanted a second one without hesitation, there were even guys who bit into the cookie and then just stared at it.
His Highness was the focus of the children.
His Highness, who was looking for a reaction from the easy to understand children at first, looked relieved. When our eyes met, I felt like he was trying to tell me something. However, that was interrupted by a somewhat excited voice that was asking him if he liked sweets as well.
But as for me, I did think 『Are these guys going to be alright? They got pulled in by things too quickly』. Well, they were still children and it was a gift from someone they would serve in the future, so it was fine.
I walked to the fountain where I spoke with His Highness on that day after the study session.
His Highness was already there. He was also holding the white cat. His Highness and the cat noticed that I was there at the same time.”
“It went really well, didn’t it Your Highness?”
“Thanks. It’s thanks to you Vernoux.”
He put down the cat who was struggling in his arms and slowly stood up.
“I didn’t know that it wasn’t that hard. Sorry I doubted you.”
“It’s okay. It’s because Your Highness chose a sweet that everyone liked.”
The cookies were probably all gone. They were familiar with it because it was a cookie they’ve all eaten once before. And, I didn’t even think it went well…… I have no intentions on confessing this. His Highness smiled while I was thinking that.
“Then, I should thank mother. But, mother would probably tell me this 『If so, then thank Vernoux』. The one who told me to do it was Vernoux after all.”
I don’t think he was just awkward, he was probably embarrassed as well. “Your praise is more than I deserve,” I had replied, but I was disturbed so the words turned out a little monotone. Nonetheless, His Highness didn’t read too much into it.
His Highness began to walk slowly. I felt like he was telling me to follow him, so I slowly met my pace with his. The place where he went to was the garden.
“I’ve read it in a book before, so I knew about the word ‘friend’. But, I didn’t know what a friend was and I didn’t know if I could make a friend. It wasn’t clear to me from reading it in books.”
He spoke as he entered the gazebo and sat down. I stood next to him and thought about the meaning of that word.
“…… It is very presumptuous to be friends with Royalty.”
I was unwilling to feel sorry for His Highness, but I had the courage to call him a friend. When I said what I had honestly thought, I heard a voice leak from His Highness, “Gah.” Then, he tried to hold his stomach and press it down.
“Vernoux, you’re interesting, aren’t you?”
“Do you think so?”
“Yeah. You’re interesting because you say things clearly.”
I don’t remember saying anything interesting. What the heck was so funny that he had to hold his stomach? This continued for a while and then he leaned back and said.
“It’s troublesome to be Royalty.”
I thought so too, but I shouldn’t agree with him. I can’t deny it either. It was a phrase that only gave me trouble. But His Highness didn’t want to trouble me nor did he want to make me nervous.
“But, I became friends with Vernoux thanks to that. I should be thankful.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
Even though I just said I sound presumptuous. Even though His Highness acknowledged that and even said it was troublesome. All I could do was shrug when I thought that.
However, it didn’t feel unpleasant. His Highness also laughed.
“Vernoux too, if there’s something I can do for you just tell me.”
“Your Highness, you shouldn’t say something like that so easily. Absurd requests might come your way.”
Of course, I didn’t mean anything bad by it. I don’t know if he was going to take my advice, but I wanted to warn him. However, His Highness tilted his head in curiosity.
“Vernoux, are you going to ask for something absurd?”
“…… I won’t.”
“Then it’s fine, isn’t it?”
That wasn’t the problem. That was a hindsight-based opinion, even I had the possibility of asking for anything I wanted. But, I didn’t need to say it out loud for him to understand this. His Highness’ smile didn’t fade and he replied.
“It’s fine. If you ask for something absurd, then I can just tell you I can’t do it. This is only if I can do it…… Oh yes, do you want to climb the east tower together? Something like that? It looked very nice up there.”
“Huh, is that alright?”
I accidentally reacted to that unexpected invitation. It was so fascinating that the crease on my eyebrows disappeared.
Wandering around the castle wasn’t allowed, but if I looked around the castle with His Highness as my guide, then I wouldn’t be criticised.
“You won’t be scolded if you’re with your friend, right?”
I still think I did it out of self-interest. But if I missed this chance, then I don’t think it would appear again.
“Please, Your Highness.”
I asked him frankly and he nodded.
Then, we headed straight for the tower. The wind blew comfortably on us as we looked down onto the town. It was very wide and sparkling.
“How is it?”
“It’s more than I imagined.”
His Highness’ voice was swept away by the wind and I couldn’t hear it clearly. Also, I don’t think my words reached him either, but I couldn’t confirm it. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the scenery.
“I’m going to be shoulder this kingdom in the future.”
The words His Highness muttered while looking down onto the town were also swept away by the wind. However, it miraculously reached my ears. He wasn’t talking in a loud voice and I thought they were words that he’d just blurted out. But still, I had heard those words clearly.
Somehow, it might not be bad to support him.
I looked at His Highness’ face from the side and thought that I would like to talk to him a little more.
After I got the chance to talk to him, we would often hang out together after the study sessions. We never made any promises, but we met in front of the fountain most the time. I wasn’t hiding it, but I couldn’t tell our classmates that I dared to talk with His Highness. I intended to answer them if they asked about it, but they never did. Still, I was probably able to convey to them that I got along with His Highness. There were no complains. If I had to say it, then I was recognised as a mediation-like existence and they seemed thankful.
However, this was only between the children. There were adults who got into bad moods when they found out I was friends with His Highness.
“The Flantheim son seems to be getting along well with His Highness, but it’s important for him to be aware that he’s a retainer.”
He’d even had adults say that to his face while grimacing. But still, I couldn’t just quietly agree with them.
“I have His Highness’ good will. It would be rude to refuse it for no reason.”
I didn’t reply to them with the feeling of 「leave me alone old man」. But, that answer probably caused the rumour of 『Flantheim’s child isn’t cute at all』to float around at that time. So, I decided to act more friendly to those around me.
When I did, the rumour quietly died down. See what happens!
Other people noticed this, so naturally, my father also noticed that I was on talking terms with His Highness. To begin with, one of the reasons why he’d noticed was probably because I constantly went home late.
Father asked me happily.
“I hear you’ve become friends with His Highness. Did you talk with your fists?”
Of course, it was possible that father was joking. I want him to predict that my face would twitch at those outrageous words.
“No. I do speak with him, but that’s impossible.”
“What?! So, it’s not like that. Even if you’re a little wild; I wouldn’t blame you if you two were able to understand each other. I wonder how many times Elvis and I crossed swords with each other before we understood each other. Well, whether I won or not is a different story.”
“Father, I don’t have the courage to go wild with His Highness.”
I lost sight of the expression I should be making at my father who had recommended such an unusual method. Unfortunately, it was my principal not to fight a losing battle. I don’t know if I can beat His Highness, and I don’t think I would do something similar to father, who had been beaten several times in the past.
In the first place, there was no way I would go wild with His Highness because it would be too terrifying afterwards…… I honestly thought something like that at the time.
Therefore, I was surprised when His Highness proposed a 『wild』idea a few days after.
“Vernoux, why don’t we explore the castle basement today?”
On that day, His Highness proposed that to me in front of the fountain after our study session.
“The basement, was it?”
“Yeah. It’s old, but it’s an interesting place with mysterious patterns written on the walls.”
I’ve explored many places in the castle, but I have yet to set food in the basement. I didn’t even know that the castle had a basement…… No, it makes sense considering how big this building is, but I couldn’t imagine what kind of place it could be.
“I want to see it.”
I answered without hesitation, like always. He immediately urged me, “Then, let’s go.” He was rushing more than usual, but his attitude wasn’t strange enough for me to doubt him.
However, I saw that the adults, who were watching us from afar, also moved when we did. It wasn’t surprising that we were seen by someone.
This is His Highness. It wasn’t odd for someone to be watching us to make sure that I didn’t harm him. Them watching at a distance meant that they trusted me to some degree…… I thought, as we turned the corner and he suddenly pulled my arm. We left the main pathway and I was pushed into a small corridor.
“Your Highness, this isn’t……”
“This way is fine.”
No, it’s not. I’m sure the guard turned blue the instant we turned the corner. I don’t want to be wild…… I had told my father, but I was caught up in His Highness’ mischievous act
However, he didn’t slow down.
“It’s fine. That person isn’t watching me on father’s orders. So, it’s okay.”
“And, I wasn’t intending on going to the basement today.”
He said as he proceeded down a path that I knew well. It was the way to the east tower, which I climbed together with him in the beginning.
We went into the tower and ran up to the top. We were both out of breath when we reached the top.
“The wind certainly feels nice up here. We should have brought some sweets up with us.”
“…… We should have.”
“Speaking of which, I haven’t heard this from you yet. Tell me your favourite sweets next time, Vernoux. I’ll prepare some.”
“If possible, I want water more than sweets right now.”
“You’re right. I want to drink some water too.”
Even though he said that, he didn’t have any intentions to immediately climb down the tower. He put his back to the wall, sat down and looked up at the sky.
“We can’t reach the sky from a tower after all.”
“…… Well, it’s closer to the sky than the basement.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to trick you. I’ll show you to basement next time. But, I didn’t want the adults to hear us talking today. We can’t take our time talking if they are near.”
His Highness said and I sat down next to him. It was bad to speak while looking down on him. Then, I looked at the sky like he was, and I saw the white clouds flowing slowly across the sky.
“…… The sky is certainly high.”
It wasn’t like I really wanted to go to the basement. So I didn’t mind if that was what he wanted. I wasn’t troubled if the adults heard us talking, but I did mind them.
“Have you ever been to town, Vernoux? I’ve only peeked at it from inside of the carriage.”
“The town, was it? Father has taken me there before.”
What does he want to talk about now that we’re away from the adults? I thought and he talked about something that had nothing to do with the sky that he was looking at.
It’s natural that he’d want to walk around town himself since he sees it a lot from the tower. His Highness mostly went out with His Majesty. He couldn’t go to places that he wanted to. I only walk around town with father, but he’ll usually take me to places I want to go if I tell him about it.
“If possible, can you tell me about your experiences there Vernoux?”
“You might get a preconceived notion of the town from my personal experience.”
It wasn’t like I didn’t want to tell him. But, I was a little scared of planting a preconceived notion into his mind. Even though we’ve become good friends, His Highness was still His Highness.
However, he continued to stare at the sky without looking at me and laughed.
“But still, there’s no harm in knowing, is there? I also want to see it someday.”
“…… Well, just talking about it is something I can do.
However, I suddenly realised.
Yes, talking about it wasn’t a problem. But what should I do if he says something like, “I want to go incognito with you?” in the future? It suddenly crossed my mind that it would be odd for His Highness, who was smiling, to suddenly say this. But, I was probably thinking too much.
If he did want to go, then I probably wouldn’t stop him. Perhaps, when His Highness wanted to do something, he wouldn’t stop even if people tried to stop him. I had to master how to go incognito first, so that His Highness wouldn’t loiter around. Because, if I left him alone, then he might wander off somewhere.
“I thought you were a little more mature, Your Highness.”
“I thought that you were a more formal person, Vernoux.”
The first impression we’d left each other was considerably different from how we were. However, we’re lucky that we didn’t both think, “It would have been better if you were.”
Well, I couldn’t imagine that I would be calling His Highness, 『Gille』two years after that.
“Vernoux, you’ve been spacing out since a while ago. What’s wrong?”
“Oh, no. It’s nothing.”
I, who was remembering a lot of things, shook my head slightly at the grown-up Gille in front of me.
I wasn’t hiding anything, but I didn’t dare to tell him about it. Rather, I would cause a misunderstanding if I told him straight-up that 「I was thinking about you」…… I mean, even I would be put off if I heard it. Well, I’ll be put off a lot by it.
“Do you want to climb the tower again after so long?”
Well, I’m saying a lot with just this.
When I thought that, Gille looked a little confused like usual and then he laughed, “Then, shall we prepare some sweets and water?”