I wake up early in the morning to prepare for the day.
After breakfast, classes continue until the afternoon.
Then, there were more classes after a short break.
After school, students complete their assignments, return to their dormitories at sunset for dinner and review the day’s work before going to bed.
This schedule reminded me of the days when I was preparing for my entrance exam.
The students had to master Mitoan perfectly within a year, so the classes were hard and there were a lot of assignments.
After school, students would gather in the study room at the school building to work on translating texts written in Mitoan. This scene could be seen every day.
Groups had formed in the class within a week. Those who knew each other before entering the school and those who came from similar family backgrounds grouped together. Some of the groups included seniors for those who seek knowledge.
Well, that was only my guess since I was an outsider and didn’t know the details of their relationships.
I guess they all implicitly excluded me from their groups. I’m shoved into a corner when I go to the study room, and I get glared at and eventually ignored if I happen to interrupt their discussion.
I could only finish my own assignments and go to the lounge.
The lounge is a rest area for students in the school building. This room is often empty when the study room is crowded.
It was larger than a classroom with a long, fluffy carpet and small round tables in front of fluffy sofas.
On the other side of the inner door was the dining room. It was a ridiculously comfortable place where you could ring a bell and a waiter would bring you tea. Tall bookshelves lined the walls and this room also served as a library.
In the corner of the lounge, by a window with the view of the setting sun sat Alexei sipping elegantly on his tea. Roderick was waiting like a long shadow behind the one seated sofa.
They also noticed me approaching and our eyes met.
“Hello. May I sit down?”
Alexei replied friendly and I sat down on the one seated sofa to his left.
He rang the bell on the table and asked the waiter to bring me my tea.
I thanked him and he shook his head. I guess he wanted to say that he hadn’t done anything to be thanked for. That’s what makes him a gentleman.
It just so happened that there were no other students here today. It was so quiet that I could hear the birds flying outside. If there were classical music playing in the background, then it would have been perfect for the evening ambience.
“Did you finish your assignment?”
Alexei asked as he glanced at my bag.
“Yup, so I’m taking a break until dinner. I was wondering if you were here.”
I had found them the other day when I came here to take a break. If they weren’t here, then I would have just relaxed and gone back like normal. There are plenty of books here for me to enjoy.
“Is Roderick going to stand there the whole time?”
I brought him up and he glared at me silently.
The boy was standing up straight and hidden in his robe on his waist was a sword. I hadn’t noticed it at first since he put it next to his desk during class.
I heard that instead of having soldiers in the school, the escorting attendants carry weapons in case of emergency but since they have a strict screening procedure at the front gate, I don’t think he needs to be so vigilant.
“She’s telling you to sit down.”
“Please do not worry about me.”
Roderick replied to Alexei, who smiled bitterly, in a firm tone. Hmm.
“It’s pretty hard to get close to you if you stand there glaring at me. It’s hard to talk to Alexei too. You won’t make any friends.”
“That’s not good. Sit down Roderick.”
“Don’t let this person deceive you with her smooth talking, Your Highness.”
Roderick remained unwavering even when I tried to joke with him. That’s admirable loyalty.
Alexei smiled wryly again and then looked at me.
“I’m sorry, that’s just how he is. Don’t mind it.”
I have nothing particular I want to say if they’re alright with it. I just think it’s an odd position to be in.
I sipped on the golden herbal tea that had been brought to me. It was fragrant with a slight taste of sourness and bitterness. It was delicious.
“They probably used meunier leaves for the base and it tastes like they used some san berries too.”
“You can tell?”
I rolled the liquid around on my tongue and muttered which surprised Alexei.
“I’m just guessing. We have an apothecary, so I know most of the herbs that are used in our store. I’ve never had such high-quality herbal tea before though.”
They probably used higher quality herbs that are more fragrant and taste better.
The herbs at the store are medicinal herbs so they don’t need to be fragrant. They aren’t used only for tea, but also for grinding and mixing into ointments and are used in a variety of ways, so the ingredients required are different from those for luxury goods.
“I sometimes process unsold herbs into tea because it was a waste to throw them away. When I had several kinds of herbs, I would mix them together properly. My sister and I would ponder about what had been mixed with what.”
“That sounds like fun.”
“Yes, it was fun because we got better at mixing the herbs together, but the quality of this tea is too high for me to guess.”
“It’s amazing that you can guess something like this.”
Alexei was honestly impressed. I was a little embarrassed by his reaction.
“Does this tea have any benefits?”
“Meunier leaves are good for tired eyes and the san berries are good for stiff shoulders. It’s perfect for people who are tired from studying. It’s very generous of them to serve this even though they cram so much into their lessons.”
“You seem to have it all under control.”
“You do too.”
You were enjoying the elegant sunset earlier than me, but Alexei denied this.
“I haven’t finished the assignment. I just couldn’t get the last translation right, so I took a break.”
“The last translation? ‘The root of all things in heaven and earth…’ that part?”
“Probably. I’m not sure about the other passages either, but I’m having real trouble understanding the meaning of the last sentence.”
“The grammar and content of the text is complex. It would be easier to understand if you read the textbook on ideology and understand the basics from that.”
“Have you already read that textbook?”
“I wanted to read the new books right away.”
We were allocated books on magic which I have been curious about for a long time, so how could I not read it?
“I’m just not good at waiting. Let me know if you need my help. You should do your own assignments as much as possible, but it’s a waste of time to worry about a problem alone if you can’t figure it out. Let’s work it out together. That’s what friends are for.”
Even I have times when I’m unsure of my answer. It’s more fun to exchange opinions with a friend even though they might not know the answer either than to just check the answer over with a teacher.
“I just want Alexei and everyone else to treat me normally.”
“What do you mean ‘just’? Be careful what you say.”
I smiled at Alexei who thanked me, but Roderick was furious.
“You’re normally in no position to talk so freely to His Highness.”
“Yes, yes, thanks.”
“Don’t just brush it off!”
“Roderick, this is what I want. Don’t blame Aime.”
Alexei sighed in exasperation.
“I want to talk to everyone more normally… but it seems like they get tense when I’m around. When I went to the study room the other day, all the students there were paying so much attention to me that they didn’t even make a single sound.”
“Oh, did something like that happen?”
“Yeah. I felt uncomfortable and left. It became difficult for me to go there after that…”
Alexei’s shoulders drooped sadly. So that’s why I never see them in the study room.
I’m sure everyone wanted to avoid disturbing the Prince’s studies, but he wouldn’t have come here in the first place if he was someone who found it troublesome when others studied with him. The dormitory is a private space, and you can study as quietly as you want. Everyone’s being too considerate towards him.
“I would have loved to see that. It sounds amusing.”
“You’re being rude.”
“Isn’t half the blame on Roderick? It’s scary to see him standing behind you while glaring with a sword.”
A small counterblow at Roderick who had been seriously offended by my joke.
Alexei looked back at his attendant.
“I see, you might be right. I had wondered if that was the case too.”
The attendant was dismayed by his master’s doubt.
“I-I do not always act intimidatingly towards others.”
“So, you know you’re being intimidating?”
“I’m doing it to keep away rude people like you!”
“Stop it, Roderick.”
Alexei wasn’t joking. He seriously wanted Roderick to stop.
“I can’t have Aime run away from me as well.”
Then he looked at me anxiously. I thought this was kind of cute and smiled.
“I’m fine. I’m used to seeing a face that’s several times scarier than Roderick’s, so his little glare won’t bother me.”
Gis-nee’s face was so scary that it would make little kids cry. Roderick is still young and his facial expression lacks intimidation. The same goes for the other nobles.
Alexei looked relieved when I said I didn’t think anything of Roderick’s glare while Roderick looked disappointed. The fact that they show their emotions so honestly on their faces shows that they’re still just kids.
“Scary-looking adults chased me all the time in the past.”
“Why did they chase you?”
I muttered something without thinking and Alexei heard it.
“Ah, well, I used to live on the streets, you know.”
Alexei seemed to understand. He suddenly put on a serious expression and looked down.
“… I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologise. I don’t mind being asked about it.”
I don’t mind being questioned about something I brought up. I only expressed it in a vague way because it’s not fun to listen to the heavy background of someone who you’ve only just met.
“You don’t have to mind it. I’m living happily now. I’m allowed to study whatever I want, and my sister is working at the palace.”
I smiled at him, but Alexei frowned and stayed silent.
He opened his mouth to speak after a while as if he had made up his mind.
“Aime. Can you tell me about it if it’s not too painful for you? Just tell me what you can, you don’t have to talk about it in detail.”
“I can, but it’s not all pleasant.”
“I know… I’ve heard that there are people like that here in the capital too. I want to know as much about this kingdom as I can.”
I felt that there was something desperate in his eyes as he said this than just genuine interest.
“Alexei really is a Prince.”
I accidentally let those words slip and he looked at me in confusion.
I had never met a Prince before, even in my previous life, but I thought it was an appropriate title for this kind boy.
“――― Then, please listen to my story. Ah, but are you sure you don’t want to do your assignment first?”
“You gave me a clue about how to translate it. I’ll think more over it at night. I want to hear more about your story, Aime.”
After he said that, I drank my tea first to moisten my throat.
There were some things I couldn’t talk about like Gis-nee, who Chancellor Leonard had forbidden me to talk about, but I can tell him about the problems that exist in this kingdom.
I told the Boy Prince, who listened attentively, as much as I could during the short time before sunset.