Act 63: The Northern Princess
Act 63: The Northern Princess
“Rufina-dono, you’re here early.”
Sylvester sent the guard away as he said that to the woman who had just appeared. This person was Sylvester’s guest.
The woman named Rufina, who looked a little older than Cordelia and Sylvester, smiled provocatively.
“I’m sorry for interrupting your date. Even though you have someone like me…”
Cordelia couldn’t help but widen her eyes at those words.
『Even though you have someone like me』.
What does that mean? ――― Before she could ask that question, Sylvester answered Rufina in a strong tone.
“Please stop joking.”
“You don’t have any humour.”
“There’s nothing humorous about a joke that doesn’t make you laugh.”
“Really? By the way, is that red-eyed girl one of my brethren? Girl, I’ll allow you to tell me your name.”
“I am Earl Pameradia’s daughter. My name is Cordelia Enna Pameradia.”
Cordelia reflexively curtsied when prompted, but the word ‘brethren’ bothered her a lot. She could guess that Rufina was from another kingdom from her accent, so she might have used the wrong word.
(But her status seems high.)
Judging from Sylvester-sama’s response, she must be royalty from another kingdom. Rufina turned to Cordelia and nodded in satisfaction.
“Cordelia, was it? I am a messenger from Dulaus, Rufina Dulaus. I am the next King of the kingdom you call 『Northern Kingdom』. I have a slight accent, but I can speak your language, so you don’t have to be polite.”
Cordelia widened her eyes at those words. She thought that Rufina was some kingdom’s royal member, but she didn’t expect it to be Dulaus.
(But why did she reveal her identity to me…?)
Crista Kingdom and Dulaus Kingdom weren’t on very good terms, but she didn’t feel any tension when Sylvester and Rufina had interacted earlier. However, even if that were the case, Cordelia thought it was careless of Rufina to reveal her identity to someone who didn’t know who she was.
Sylvester seemed a little surprised by Rufina’s words, but Rufina didn’t care and said something Cordelia hadn’t expected.
“Cordelia, will you help me get rid of Ghost?”
If the Ghost she was referring to was the red-eyed young man who Cordelia knew, then she couldn’t ask for better. However, it was hard for her to believe that someone associated with the royal family in Dulaus, the supposed home of Ghost, would say this to someone on the first meeting.
“That’s an erratic question.”
Cordelia replied harmlessly. However, Rufina’s lips turned upwards, and she looked at Sylvester.
“Sylvester-dono, I would like this girl to attend the tea party.”
“What? I just want to talk with her a little. I’ll give up if you refuse. But if I can’t talk to her, then I’ll go to this girl’s house?”
Sylvester let out a small sigh when he heard this and turned to Cordelia. His expression showed that he was unwilling to let her attend the tea party, and it also told Cordelia that it wasn’t just an invitation to tea.
“Sorry, Cordelia-san. Can you accompany us for a bit?”
“Then, let’s move.”
At that point, Sylvester whispered into Cordelia’s ears, “You don’t have to push yourself.” From those words, Cordelia concluded that Rufina wasn’t talking about spirits when she had said Ghost, but the person.
(But, why did Rufina-sama ask me that?)
Cordelia wondered, but for now, she followed Sylvester and Rufina out of the greenhouse.
A tea set was immediately brought out to the room where the three of them went, and warm tea was brewed. The servants left on Sylvester’s signal.
“You don’t have to put your guard up that much, Fragrant Girl. But, Sylvester-dono… Your Kingdom has the dreamer girl and the girl who can manipulate invisible scents. There really is no end to talent in this Kingdom.”
This meant that the rumours of this Kingdom also reached the Dulaus royal family to some extent. However, Rufina’s statement didn’t make Cordelia feel closer to the royal member of another Kingdom, nor did it make her confusion disappear.
Rufina laughed when she looked at how Cordelia was acting.
“Well, of course you would be confused. A royal from another Kingdom, and Dulaus at that, has asked for your help. If I were in your shoes, I would think I’d gone crazy.”
“No, it’s not like that…”
“It’s not like I’m bullying her. Don’t glare at me.”
Rufina pouted at the sound of Sylvester’s voice, but she immediately relaxed.
“Well then, I’ll tell you a little about myself before we get to the main topic. I am the second child of King Dulaus, and I am currently fighting with my brother for the throne. I need achievements to ascend the throne. Among other things, I have been trying to arrange a treaty with Sylvester-dono to improve the food situation in our Kingdom.”
“I can’t wilfully talk about the details. In the past, our Kingdom had only invaded Crista because we lack food due to poor lands and snow damage. So, the quickest way to improve this is by getting the people and the nobles on my side.”
Even though Rufina had said that she couldn’t talk about the situation, she seemed to have announced the true state of affairs in her Kingdom.
It was unclear to Cordelia whether improving the food situation meant that Dulaus would be importing food or if they would be receiving technical support.
“Well, it’s easier said than done, and Sylvester-dono’s terms are quite harsh. I thought he was a demon.”
“We’ve also had a lot of trouble adjusting too. Please don’t say such disreputable things.”
“But do you have any idea how hard it is to change things like military preparations along the border? As a result, I was almost killed by the conservatives’ rebellion. Fortunately, I was able to get a silver mine from the nobles who wanted to kill me, so I got funds for the army.”
“It’s something that happens to the royal family in my Kingdom. There are nobles who are afraid that we will be invaded by foreign kingdoms because our military is weakening, but more than that there are those who would gobble up all the profits gained from selling weapons to the kingdom, and people who profit off bribes under the pretence of purchasing weapons. In general, even though Dulaus produces some silver and gold, they don’t want Crista enough to bite off more than they can chew, so there’s no need to worry about being invaded.”
However, some of them might have been hit hard by the military change. Two years ago, Ghost had said that there were northern nobles who wanted the『Dreamer Girl』, so that might have had something to do with this. Cordelia didn’t know what to ask Rufina since she had said that she had almost been killed but acted as if nothing had happened.
“But, besides that, it’s a good thing that we ended up destroying the Dark Guild. Unfortunately, we let the red-eyed man get away.”
“Is that person 『Ghost』?”
“Yeah. He’s done some bad things in the kingdom in the past, but it’s gotten worse lately. If this continues to escalate, then the people of Crista will hate Dulaus even more, and we might have to start this plan all over again. Ghost hasn’t received any instructions from the northern royalty, and the best way to prove this is by capturing him. Which is why I want to capture him and claim that he has nothing to do with the northern royal family. Even within Dulaus, people have made a lot of accusations towards me because I failed to capture him, and above all, he has caused harm to people in both kingdoms.”
Rufina looked sour as if she had eaten a bitter bug.
“That’s all I have to say. Do you have anything to ask me?”
“Why did you invite me to join you in getting rid of Ghost?”
“In Dulaus we use anything we can. I invited you because it seems like you would be useful. I’m looking for help from various people, but I still haven’t got any noble ladies from this kingdom. Someone who Sylvester-dono trusts, would not trouble him… nor would they tell anyone about this discussion. If you were someone like that, then Sylvester-dono would have tried harder to stop me.”
Cordelia certainly didn’t plan on telling anyone about this. Easing tensions with the north should also help reduce this kingdom’s military burden. She didn’t know how much of an outcome this would have, but she knew that cooperating and compromising with Rufina, who had just barely found their common ground, would be extraordinary. She couldn’t be irresponsible and interfere with that.
“Then, I’ll just ask one thing. What do you think about this Prince Sylvester?”
Sylvester’s expression was hard to describe, but he also looked as if he didn’t want her to get involved. However, Rufina interrupted him before he could speak.
“Don’t disagree, Sylvester-dono.”
“But she’s not a trained soldier. There’s no need to get her involved in this, is there?”
“The same goes for the merchants, right? If I’m not mistaken, since she’s the daughter of Earl Pameradia, her sister-in-law and her family were involved in the silk incident? It’s possible that Ghost might try to contact her again, and it wouldn’t be bad for her to have me and you help her when it happens.”
The flora silk incident wasn’t big enough for the royal family of another kingdom to know. On top of that, Cordelia surmised that she had investigated Ghost thoroughly so that she can capture him since she was able to bring this up even though she hadn’t planned on meeting Cordelia. In that case, this invitation was a godsend to Cordelia.
Catching Ghost was the only way she could really break away from 『Cordelia』.
She had felt Ghost’s presence again because of what had happened with Shelley, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he appeared before her again in the near future.
I won’t let him get away this time.
Thinking that, she didn’t have any reason to refuse.
“Rufina-sama, what do you want from me?”
Rufina smiled at Cordelia’s words.
“Let’s see… First of all, I want us to go to town.”
“… Excuse me?”
Cordelia blinked at Rufina’s eccentric reply.
“Rufina-dono. Surely that was a joke?”
Sylvester spoke in place of Cordelia who didn’t know how to answer. But Rufina still had a smile on her face.
“Of course, I’m not joking. I also want to visit town and do some shopping together with a woman. If you secretly assign guards to me, then I’ll sneak off.”
“My bad, Sylvester-dono. You might want to come with us, but you can’t come into a store that sells underwear, can you?”
“Rufina-dono, please learn what discreet means.”
Rufina must speak like this on a regular basis since the serious Sylvester didn’t seem like he was panicking at all.
“I hid my identity while traveling, but I entered this kingdom legitimately under my real name. I’m free to do what I want as long as it’s within the laws of this kingdom, and you know that I’m not weak in the first place. I had to train every day to avoid being assassinated in the palace.”
“Speaking of which, I don’t see your guard, Rufina-sama.”
“Some of them are under my brother, so I left them behind. Well, they’ll probably be here tomorrow.”
Cordelia understood that Rufina, who had just informed them about her brutal relationship with her brother, wasn’t worried about being in this kingdom even though Crista and Dulaus don’t have good relations. At the same time, she also thought that it would be difficult to come up with a reason to stop Rufina from taking a stroll.
“Your Highness, the security in town isn’t that bad. Even I can show her around.”
Cordelia almost never went out alone, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t go out. She felt that it would be more dangerous to let Rufina go out on the streets alone. It didn’t seem like Rufina would get offended by anything, but she might cause chaos for those around her because of her wilfulness.
Sylvester had given up. He sighed and looked at Cordelia.
“I’m sorry, but can you give me your hand? I think the left one should be fine.”
“This is mine. It’ll protect you.”
He slid his bracelet onto her hand. It was very similar to the one Cordelia had received from Gille.
“I’d like to continue our conversation when you return that to me.”
She felt like that was also the answer to the question she had asked in the greenhouse.
It was difficult to talk more about this in front of Rufina, but Cordelia didn’t even know what to say to him in the first place.
Using guiding Rufina around town as an excuse, Cordelia left the castle as if she was running away.