Chapter Thirty-Seven: A Man and a Woman on a Summer Night (Part I)
“Wolf-sama and Victoria-sama from the Duke of Creverenz are here.”
Escorting my sister, I stepped into the Royal Palace to attend the evening party held every season.
In this country, it was a custom that those of the lower social position would enter first at evening parties, with those at the top entering last.
Although one’s birth status could initially be low, the order may still change should the people in question rise to a higher position. However, since my family ranks second only to the Royal family, we usually come in as second or third to the last.
The last to enter was always the Royal family.
The evening party would only begin once His Majesty, Her Majesty, and Crown Prince Reinhardt had already entered and given the opening remarks.
This was true in every instance. However, the princess who was to be escorted by Prince Reinhardt, Annelier, who was already in position for the past year or so, had not appeared at any evening party since.
“She isn’t here today, too?”
After confirming that Annelier wasn’t in her assigned Royal seat, I couldn’t help but reminisce my childhood friend’s face, which was always somewhat out of the ordinary.
The last time I interacted with Annelier was at an evening party held when Prince Barnabas, who was an exchange student at our school, visited.
And a while ago, there was an epidemic going around in the palace, so I was a little worried when I heard that Annelier had fallen victim to it. Still, I think it was because she had recovered in the nick of time that she could make one other public appearance.
I didn’t have much of a chance to talk directly with Annelier, who became the crown princess, and I could only see her face from afar, but since I’ve known her since childhood, I was sure I hadn’t just mistaken her for another person.
She had always looked a little frail, so I thought it couldn’t be helped if she really was just recovering from being ill the entire time I didn’t see her.
But after that, Annellier disappeared again… Looking back on it now, maybe she wasn’t fully recovered by then.
A prince was born between His Highness Reinhardt and Annelier in the spring, so I thought that was why she couldn’t come out—she was pregnant. But even after that, Annelier still hadn’t shown up.
It might’ve just been that her postpartum wasn’t in the best state, but then again, summer’s nearing its end.
Even now, I couldn’t help but wonder if she really was doing okay.
Annelier was my childhood friend. She really was just a simple childhood friend, so I don’t always think about her.
However, when it comes to evening parties, I couldn’t help but think of Annelier.
That’s because the first dance, which was initially supposed to be between Prince Reinhardt and Annelier, had to be performed by my sister and me on his behalf, who had no partner due to Annelier’s absence.
I didn’t have a fixed partner either, but at evening parties, I’d escort my sister, who also didn’t have a partner of her own. So, for the past year or more, we siblings had been dancing instead of Prince Reinhardt and Annelier.
Although, indeed, His Highness wouldn’t have any problems finding another woman to dance with should I refuse to take over, but then I’d feel sorry towards Annelier, who would have her husband dance with someone other than her.
That’s why I’ve accepted the role of bearing the first dance.
After the king had given the opening remarks, the music began to play.
It signaled the beginning of my role.
“Let’s go, Victoria.”
Victoria, who used to be so nervous, now seemed to have gotten used to it.
Annelier hadn’t been appearing so much that Victoria had gotten used to it…
As we danced, my thoughts had to be less intrusive.
It’d be troublesome to make a mistake while having all the attention on us.
As we finished dancing to one song on the center floor, I saw a slightly nostalgic face waiting for me when we walked back.
“Long time no see, Wolf-dono!”
A man with short red hair was showing a sullen smile.
He wasn’t a bad guy, just a bothersome classmate with a loud hair color, bulging muscles, and a personality.
The people from Oscar’s family had never seen the great spirit that protected the Royal family, but they did have a fire-related spirit’s blessing.
Because it didn’t rain much where Oscar’s family was situated.
The Royal family of Barzal was famous for their divine protection from the great fire spirit. It’s because when you’re under their protection, you will excel in martial arts. However, the land will inevitably dry up.
It was a problematic blessing where if one couldn’t control it well, it would make it impossible for them to govern a territory.
After Oscar graduated from the academy, he was assigned directly to the frontier.
I guess they couldn’t keep him close to the Royal Capital any more than they had…
“Have you finally returned?”
“It’s still summer! It’d be okay if I do for a while.”
What a lie; it’ll be a lot hotter if Oscar was here since it’s still summer.
Though since we’re already in a dry season, it shouldn’t be that noticeable if it didn’t rain much.
If he was coming to the Royal Capital, wouldn’t it make more sense if he came during the colder seasons?
“But I’ve been in the frontier all this time, so I felt completely out of touch with the on-goings within the Royal Capital. So? Tell me anything you have on you.”
“I don’t have much to talk about either. You must have already heard about the child born from His Highness Reinhardt.”
“I did hear about that. With the birth of an heir, Cress’ future looks bright.”
“What’s with the long face?”
Whenever it was about this topic, I couldn’t help but think of Annelier.
“Annelier… It appears that Her Highness had been feeling unwell since giving birth to that child.”
“Ah, so that’s why you guys had to dance the first dance instead.”
“I hadn’t seen her face in over a year. I’m a little concerned that my childhood friend isn’t feeling well. I always find myself wondering how she’s doing.”
Oscar crossed his arms over his chest.
“Why don’t you just ask?”
“That is… If you’re wondering how Her Highness Annelier is doing, why don’t you just ask His Highness Reinhardt? If you’re curious, just ask about her!”
…Would it be okay to ask about her?
“You’ve known each other from childhood, so it should be fine! Hey, come! While you’re giving your greetings, just ask!”
Oscar went behind me and pushed me towards the Royal seats.
Since the first dance was over, I’d have to go and give my greetings to the Royal family…
Was it really okay to ask about Annelier?
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