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「Let’s leave them to enjoy their long awaited reunion with just the two of them . 」
Rio said to Venessa as he closed the office door . .
「Yeah, you’re right . 」
Vanessa nodded with a smile on her face . The other female knights also agreed with his suggestion while Celia only smiled at him softly .
「But, how did you end up coming back with princess Flora, Amakawa-dono? 」
Vanessa asked Rio, bewildered . It was natural for her to be looking for an explanation as the missing Flora suddenly appeared out of nowhere right in front of them .
「Long story short, by some coincidence, I met the stranded Flora-sama in the middle of my journey . I’ll let Christina-sama know the details later, after their private reunion . I mean, even Celia-sama has yet to hear the detailed event from me . 」
To avoid having to explain the details twice Rio gave Venessa a quick summary .
「Uhm, I see . Come to think of it, Amakawa-dono………… . . 」
After being informed of the situation, Vanessa consented to his decision . She then called him to a slightly separated area .
Nodding, Rio followed along .
「Are you really fine with using the magic tool that changes hair color in front of my subordinates? 」
Vanessa asked for Rio’s confirmation in an extremely small voice . Because, before, when she and Christina had borrowed the magic tool to change their hair color from Rio, Rio tied them to a non-disclosure contract, to not thoughtlessly reveal information regarding the magic tool to a third party . But there would be no problems as long as Rio allowed it .
And although Vanessa heard that Rio had permitted Flora to remove the magic tool, she still wanted to make sure .
「Yeah, I don’t mind at all . They’re Christina-sama’s bodyguards right? 」
「Uhm . They might be stupid, but they’re trustworthy . They’re tight lipped and won’t tell anyone about that magic tool as long as I order them not to . 」
Vanessa nodded in agreement . After all, these guards had left Bertram kingdom’s royal capital and had travelled all the way to Rodonia to stand beside Christina .
「I’ll leave that matter in your care then . As per our contract, as long as you do not proactively spread information regarding my magic tools you may share the information amongst yourselves within reason . But, don’t get me wrong . As stated in the contract I won’t provide you or anyone else with the manufacturing process . 」
Rio reconfirmed the content of the contract .
「That was splendid . Thank you for the reminder . 」
Vanessa bowed to Rio .
「It’s nothing . 」
Rio shook his head with a smile on his face .
「Now then, you guys need to be ………… Uhm? What’s the matter? 」
Vanessa, who had turned around to speak to her subordinate female knights, stopped and tilted her head puzzled as she saw the way the knights were looking at her . .
「Va, Va-…………… . . 」
Their lips trembled . .
Vanessa asked, puzzled . And, one could imagine that there’s a huge ‘?’ mark on top of her head .
「CAPTAIN VANESSA’S SPRING HAS COME! ! 」
Suddenly, those female knights shouted in unison .
「WHA……………… . ！ 」
Astonished, Vanessa was lost for words .
「Well, we thought you’ll be amongst the group of female knights who were doomed to be single for life . I mean our stiff captain Vanessa is already way past the marriageable age for a noble, so we thought that you really had no interest in marrying, no?」
「Yeah, we thought that you had abandoned the notion of marriage as there were no men around you . 」
「So, unknown to us, you had this gallant gentlemen so close to you! 」
「This is such a joyous occasion . right?! The second joyous occasion after Flora-sama’s return! Let’s prepare a grand celebration for captain Vanessa’s spring tonight . 」
Thus, those female knights became excited on their own . Vanessa’s face flushed red hearing their statements .
「Ahahaha…… . 」
In order to avoid bringing a calamity upon himself, Rio nonchalantly approached Celia as he kept some distance from Vanessa . Celia only let out a dry laugh when Rio went to her side .
「E-EEEI! You girls are so noisy! There’s more than a 10 year age gap between me and Amakawa-dono you know! 」
Vanessa cried out loudly as she tried to shut her noisy subordinates . And yet, she had zero persuasion power due to her flushed red face .
「In the first place, I’ve long since cast away my womanhood as a knight! I won’t be infatuated with love at this age! I-It’s not like there’s a particular reason for that anyway! M-My apologies for these noisy girls, Amakawa-dono! Eh? 」
Vanessa tried appealing to Rio with a flushed red face . It was only when she spoke of Rio that she realized that bringing up Rio at this point was a huge blunder on her part .
「I don’t think it was something that you have to apologize for . 」
Despite feeling the awkwardness of the situation, Rio chose a safe reply with a smile on his face . It was definitely not because he had the same opinion . Nope, absolutely not the case .
Taken aback by such a reply, Vanessa’s cheeks further flushed red . The other female knights impishly smiled at her .
「Everyone, you can’t tease your superior you know . 」
After heaving a sigh seeing such a strange situation, Celia finally gave a follow up to help Vanessa . Though those girls might have just been teasing Vanessa, the person herself didn’t seem to be immune to that kind of teasing (had Celia been in her place , she most likely would have shown a similar reaction) . Moreover, Rio himself was seemingly reluctant to get himself involved with this kind of dangerous situation .
「My apologies for the discourtesy . My apologies to you too, Amakawa-dono! 」
The female knights straightened themselves, saluting with their hands on their chest, and apologised in a respectful tone . After the little commotion had ended, the door to the office opened with a clicking sound . And the one who came out was naturally Christina herself .
「Amakawa-dono, and Celia-sensei too, would you enter the room? I mean, no matter how hard I think about it, Flora’s story is just too……… . 」
Christina came out to invite Celia and Rio to enter the office .
「Certainly . 」
Rio and Celia nodded with a smile as they replied to her .
「Thank you very much . ……… . . Vanessa, you may enter too . And someone please tell Roana about Flora’s return . That girl must’ve been worried to death . You may tell the hero-sama too, but you absolutely mustn’t tell anyone else about this matter other than those two . 」
Christina issued instructions to Vanessa’s subordinates .
Vanessa and co replied in unison .
◇ ◇ ◇
Rio and Celia entered the office immediately after that . Since Vanessa had to give further instructions to her subordinates, she entered last .
「Go ahead, take a seat . 」
Thus, Christina led Rio and Celia to their seats .
「Excuse me . 」
Rio and Celia sat down on the chairs prepared for guests visiting the office . Sitting in front of them was Flora, with Christina by her side . Vanessa stood to the side .
「Well then, Amakawa-dono . Let’s get to the point, can you tell me, in chronological order as to how you ended up with Flora? 」
Christina asked Rio for an explanation of the general situation .
「First, the matter of me finding Flora-sama was a pure coincidence . As for what happened before I met her, my suggestion is to ask Flora-sama herself…… . . 」
「Will you tell me your side of the story then? I mean, Flora is as you can see, in this kind of condition . 」
Christina said so as she looked at Flora . Flora was still crying while leaning on Christina and was unable to explain the situation for the time being . Her eyes were swollen due to tears, and it seemed she was yet to be able to speak well enough to explain the situation .
「Certainly . Well then first, as you must already be aware, Flora-sama was headed towards Rodania aboard a magic vessel, right? 」
Rio decided to explain the situation by order .
「Yeah, I was told the same thing………」
「In the middle of their travel, the magic vessel was ambushed by some people . And Flora-sama was sent to the Paladia kingdom by one of those people . 」
「……… P-Please wait a minute . The survivors from the remaining magic vessel reported that the other magic vessel was shot down by a dragon-like creature . Do you mean to say that it wasn’t an accident, but a planned attack? 」
Christina was really surprised as she compared the report she had received with Rio’s story .
「I’ve never heard about that dragon-like life-form that you mentioned from Flora’s story, but…… . 」
Rio tilted his head as he looked at Flora .
「………… I-I don’t know about that too . 」
Flora told him so in a timid voice .
「In that case, that dragon-like life-form most likely appeared after those people sent Flora-sama to Paladia . 」
Rio guessed the order of events after he heard Flora’s confirmation .
「Flora was…………………… . . Sent? 」
Christina felt uncomfortable as soon as she heard Rio’s words . ――、
「Uhm, onee-sama, the crew…… . . How are they? 」
Flora asked that question faster than Christina could ask her own .
「……… Annihilated, one vessel survived though . 」
Christina replied with a reluctant face . Even if she managed to trick her now, she wouldn’t be able to cover up the truth . Thus, she had no choice but to tell Flora what happened .
「N-No-………-Way . 」
Flora trembled due to shock . Even though they had said that they would guarantee the safety of the crew as long as she didn’t resist, only one vessel was spared from that incident…… Maybe negotiations were meaningless from the very beginning .
No, she vaguely expected such a situation . She expected that man not to keep his promise . She just didn’t want to believe that .
Flora was completely ashamed by her naivety . But, the matter of her magic vessel and its escorts being attacked by a dragon-like creature caught her attention . Because except for the bottom ranks of dragon subspecies, no human was capable of controlling creatures as fierce as a Dragon or a dragon subspecies .
So, that dragon-like lifeform attacking the fleets might have just been mere coincidence . Maybe that man didn’t lie to her . Flora was completely lost in this matter .
「By the way Flora, how did you end up in the Paladia kingdom? 」
Christina asked her in an impatient tone . Though she more or less knew what Flora was worried about, she needed to confirm the truth before comforting her little sister .
「According to what I heard, it seems they were using some sort of magic tool that was loaded with teleport magic . 」
Rio told Christina of the real situation in an eloquent tone . Thus――、
「Magic tool……… Loaded with teleport magic? 」
Christina’s gaze wavered again . The reproduction of space magic, ancient magic in particular with current technology was deemed to be impossible . In addition, teleportation magic was amongst the highest rank in the category of space magic .
Even someone in Christina’s position had never seen such a magic sealed in an ancient magic tool before . That’s why it was natural for her to be that surprised .
「Yes . No doubt about it, Since Flora-sama herself said that the scenery around her twisted for a moment and, next thing she knew, she was already in the Paladia kingdom . I’ll tell you the details later, but the one who used that transfer magic tool was a mercenary called Lucius who was moving along with an ambassador of the Proxia empire called Reis . 」
Rio told Christina an even more shocking truth .
「………………… Reis . If I’m not wrong, Charles did say that name before………… . Though I don’t think that any of them are capable of controlling a big dragon, I still don’t think that dragon attack was unrelated to them either . All the more if this case involves a diplomat of the Proxia empire, an empire that is famous for its lesser dragon knights order . 」
Christina said with a grim look on her face while deciding to call Charles later on to ask him detailed information regarding that diplomat .
「……… . Yeah . 」
Rio nodded after waiting for a while . That moment of hesitation was because he wondered whether to tell them what Reis had told Aisia regarding him being ‘An existence similar to the spirits’ .
But by doing so, he would have no other choice but to tell them about the existence of spirits . Thus, he decided to scrap that plan .
「But, my mind is in disarray after so much new information came to light in such quick succession . 」
Smiling wryly, Christina massaged her temple . That was natural as many unbelievable stories were coming out one after another, but the one who reported the situation was Haruto, and it was Flora’s personal experience and thus, there was no reason for her to doubt their stories .
「It seems that they originally came to kill Flora-sama . Nevertheless, the man sent Flora-sama to Paladia instead . ……… . I don’t know why he did that but, if I am to speak my mind, I might have a guess as to his reasons for doing so . 」
So, Rio’s report dove into facts and his own speculations .
「Please do tell me . 」
Christina encouraged Rio to speak his mind .
「That man called Lucius is a whimsical man . He is the kind of person who likes to fool around, pursuing momentary pleasures . In fact, Flora-sama herself told me that he had quite a dispute with the man called Reis when he wanted to use the transfer magic tool . 」
Rio narrated the story with a piercing cold look on his face . It was just a story, but he didn’t try to hide anything about Lucius .
「……… . . Uhm, that man called Lucius, if I’m not wrong, we were asked about that man before on the way to Rodania, right? The leader of a mercenary group called… . 『Heavenly Lion 』 . 」
「Yes . 」
Rio nodded, affirming Christina’s recollection of that event .
「I’m sure that Vanessa knew about that man too . I missed the chance to ask before but, what kind of a person is that man? 」
Christina asked Vanessa as soon as she remembered that event .
「The thing I know about him was the fact that he was the former candidate of the 『King’s Sword』 . It seems he was interacting with my brother due to that occasion but, soon his house collapsed, uhm……… . Actually, I know almost nothing about him . 」
Vanessa shook her head with an apologetic face .
「Was a『Former Candidate of The King’s Sword』? Amakawa-dono, do you know something else about that man? 」
Christina then asked Rio .
「Yes, because I have been chasing after that man . That was also the very reason I managed to save Flora-sama back in the Paladia kingdom . 」
Heaving a deep sigh, Rio confessed .
「…… I see . What a miracle! To think that man became the catalyst to Flora’s and Amakawa-dono’s meeting . Yup, I think I get the gist of the situation . Thank you very much . 」
After grasping the general situation, Christina expressed her gratitude . Though there were many things that she wanted to ask, such as what kind of situation Flora was thrown into after she was sent to Paladia, or the reason for Haruto’s obsession with that man, she chose to sort the general situation out before proceeding to hear the details .
「It’s nothing, the situation was in fact extremely complicated, thus I’m glad if I could explain the situation well enough . I mean there are still a lot of things that I need to tell you about . 」
Rio smiled wryly as he shook his head .
「You’re right . 」
Christina also smiled in a similar manner to him .
「First, should I explain in chronological order what kind of experience Flora-sama went through in the Paladia kingdom and the details of how I ended up saving her? 」
Rio offered to narrate the story in order .
「……Yes . Please do so as it’ll make things easier for us . 」
Christina nodded in agreement .
「Certainly . 」
After giving her a nod, Rio began to tell the story in chronological order . About how Flora was stranded in a forest in Paladia, about how she was bitten by a poisonous spider when she slept outdoors, and despite managing to find a village nearby, how she arrived at death’s door due to the fever that struck her . As Rio explained, Flora provided further detail .
And then, in the middle of reporting the situation――,
「Flora-sama………… . 」
Celia looked at her with a sad look on her face in hearing the hardships that Flora went through .
「Such a tragedy……… . . 」
Even Vanessa clenched her fists as if she didn’t want to hear the story anymore .
「It was a blessing in disguise that Amakawa-dono was the one who found Flora . I can’t imagine what would have become of her if he had come just a little later . But……… . at which point did Amakawa-dono meet Flora? 」
Christina asked Rio as to when he came across Flora as she tightly held Flora’s hands in her own .
「I think it was around the time when that man called Lucius and the others had just left the village and found the unconscious Flora-sama………」
Rio replied in a roundabout way . In fact, he hid the fact that―― He didn’t even notice her till the end of his battle with Lucius .
「Why did you choose to leave that village, Flora? 」
Christina asked Flora with a surprised look on her face . Leaving the village with her condition was nothing short of suicidal .
「……… . U-uhm, It seemed that the village chief wanted to send me to the lord of that area and since the Paladia kingdom is allied with the Proxia empire, I was afraid that I would end up troubling onee-sama if they were to catch me… . . 」
Flora said so in an extremely awkward tone .
「……… . . You didn’t prioritise your own safety even when you were in such a situation . I’m really troubled as to how to fix that side of you . 」
Christina admonished Flora as she gripped her shoulders . Though she understood the reasoning behind her little sister’s actions as a royalty, as her sister, she couldn’t just turn a blind eye to her actions . She wanted to tell her little sister to prioritize her own safety .
「S-Sorry . 」
Flora apologized in panic .
「You dummy, Don’t apologize . I’m not angry at you . I’m just worried . 」
After saying so, Christina hugged Flora .
Flora nodded with tears running down her cheeks .
「…………… My apologies, I interrupted your story . Would you be so kind as to tell me the continuation of it? 」
Christina only stopped embracing Flora a while later, and asked Rio to continue his story .
「…………… It’s just my opinion but I think Flora-sama had finally hit her limit . She fell unconscious not that far away from the village . And immediately after Lucius appeared along with his highness Duran, the first prince of Paladia . I think I arrived right after they found the unconscious Flora-sama . 」
Rio continued his story as if nothing had happened .
「Paladia kingdom’s first prince? for Flora? 」
Christina asked with a sharp look on her face . Duran was royalty of a backwater kingdom, but she had heard rumors about him . Though he was a first-class warrior, his philandering habits were quite infamous .
「I can’t guess what his relationship with Lucius was, but it seems that he knew about Flora-sama . Their objective was perhaps securing Flora-sama . 」
「…… I see . But then, why did that man called Lucius do something in such a roundabout way? I mean he could have taken Flora with him to Paladia without wasting a transfer magic tool . 」
Though Christina understood that Duran’s goal was Flora, she couldn’t understand the motive behind Lucius’ action .
「……… Didn’t I just say a while ago . That man is whimsical . Lucius is simply that kind of person . He’d do even a seemingly meaningless act calmly as long as it was enjoyable . Because it was something akin to entertainment for him . 」
「……… . Though I had a hard time understanding what kind of a man he was before, thankfully I understand his personality a bit more from your story . 」
A capricious man . Christina’s anger ignited, and burned ever so slowly when she heard about Lucius .
「Yeah, though that kind of expression is inaccurate to describe him, please think of him as a piece of shit without any morals or anything that makes one human . 」
Rio said with a wry smile on his face . Now that he had gotten his revenge, he could view Lucius without any prejudice, but his face remained calm as he told them that .
「And……… . Would you mind telling me the relationship between Amakawa-dono and Lucius? Naturally, you’re free to refuse and I won’t force you to tell us either . 」
Christina asked with a timid tone . She could see that it wasn’t an ordinary relationship due to how severe of an opinion the normally gentle Rio had about Lucius . Though she wondered whether she should ask about the relationship between them or not, she couldn’t let it go .
Rio glanced at Celia for a moment . Celia was also looking at Rio attentively . After taking a deep breath――,
「He was………… . . my parents murderer . 」
Bracing himself, he told them the truth .
「My apologies, it seems I trespassed into your personal matter . 」
Christina apologized in panic .
「Don’t mind it, the one who chose to tell you was me after all . Rather, thank you very much for taking my feelings into consideration . 」
Rio apologized back with a calm voice .
Celia clenched her fist as she stared intently at Rio’s face . But then, the atmosphere was greatly disturbed by the footsteps that came from outside . The door of the office was thrown open immediately .
Celia and Flora twitched in seeing the newcomer . ――,
「Oi, Christina!！Did you say that Flora just returned! ? 」
It was Hiroaki who had come along with Roana .