As I approached the fountain square, I noticed that the stores’ doors were open, and their entrances were decorated with colorful flowers. Food stalls were also lined up in a row.
I wondered if there was some festival going on, and when I arrived at the restaurant, I found that most of the restaurant tables had been removed and the layout had been changed to allow more traffic flows inside.
Betty, the organizer of the event, and the store manager were busy discussing something. I then called them from behind.
“Oh, Alice! Hayato, too! It’s been a while. Wow, you two look amazing.”
“Thank you. Betty is also lovely.”
Betty, who always wears a robe, is dressed up in a long, slim red dress today.
This world is an otome game, so it has almost everything a girl could want, ranging from the aristocracy to the common masses. There is a wide variety of books, clothes, accessories, and cosmetics.
“Thank you for coming, both of you. Hayato, everyone is over there. They wanted to meet you, so why don’t you go and greet them?”
Betty, who was now able to speak normally with Hayato, said and pointed to the area where his former comrades – Ted and the others – were gathered.
“Yeah, I’m about to do that.”
We split into two groups, the boys and the girls. I started talking with Betty.
“You see, today…, one of my juniors from the academy is going to visit us. She said she wouldn’t be here for too long, so you don’t need to pay special attention to her.”
“Wow, really? If she’s Alice’s junior, it means she’s a young lady, right? I’m totally fine with it, but are they? I mean, they are a high-class lady, right…?”
“Should be fine. They can even get along with miss Carlos.”
“With Carlos-sis!? I’m sure they are good then. Sis was a bad match with weak-hearted girls.”
Exactly. It would be tough to face Sister Carlos if you are a frail girl, even I was frightened to hear her heavy bass for the first time.
I’m glad that Betty gives me her stamp of approval. I can greet them with peace of mind now.
“Betty. Isn’t it hard to prepare for all this? Is there anything I can help you with?”
“No, I’m fine. No, we’ve already had a meeting. Everyone will take care of the rest. But true, it was hard! Every ten steps I take outside, a stranger will be asking me about this!”
Laughing, Betty told me the story of how she managed to throw this party. The truth is, all the stores in the area are cooperating today.”
“Wait? They did?”
“Yes. Normally, when we commoners have an engagement party, we usually celebrate with our friends and people who just happen to be there or pass by, and we can switch places and celebrate anywhere.
This time, however, if I do that, the store will likely get overwhelmed. Look at this. All the stores around here leave their doors open and have flowers arrangement at the entrance.
That’s the sign that they participated in today’s party event. There are also stalls in the fountain plaza. It won’t be wrong to call this festival. Right?”
“Ah, you’re right…”
This is way more than I expected. It must have been challenging to prepare for this.
“Is that alright? Isn’t this cost a lot of money?”
“Yeah, it is, but since Ted and co. , guild master and Stuart family have contributed. I got some surplus for my pocket.”
“From my house, too? Father didn’t tell me anything about it, you know.”
“I was so surprised I thought my heart would stop, when the Stuarts’ carriage stopped in front of our house, I thought I was going to be arrested for disrespecting Lady Alice.”
“That won’t happen!”
There’s not once I thought that you were disrespectful, and besides, there aren’t many nobles today who would do it that lightly.
In the decades since the Adventurer’s Guild became an organization where people could rise through the ranks based purely on their abilities, rather than merely being a group of people, I’ve learned that the power of commoners has become much stronger than before.
The influence of the Adventurer’s Guild, which continues to grow in strength at a breakneck pace, is so significant that the nobles cannot ignore it.
The power of the adventurers’ guild is backed up by the presence of high-ranking adventurers like Hayato.
If a noble dares to abuse their authority for no reason, I believe that they will suffer painful retribution.
There must be many nobles who have been annoyed by the fact that they can’t do what they want using their half-baked authority, but now that Hayato, the undisputed top-ranked player, has joined the nobles’ side, there seems to be some relief in the air.
If the aristocrat’s dominance remains unwavering, there is no need to be extra vigilant. Such air won’t appear in the first place.
Since I’ve been going back and forth between the nobles and the commoners’ districts, I’ve come to understand this feeling firsthand on both the nobles’ and commoners’ sides.
Right now, Hayato and I sit right in the middle of the two societies.
I think it’s a valuable experience for me.
“So, I’ve made seats for the two main actors in the fountain square, and I’d like them to stay there. That way, there will be less confusion and less unfairness between the stores, right?”
“Okay, I understand.”
I looked at the fountain square. There stands a magnificent couch with its surroundings decorated in flowers. I’m sure that meant for us. But at this rate, this looking more and more like a wedding rather than an engagement party.
It seems that they managed to get the permit to use the plaza since this turned out into a bigger event than initially planned. Should they use the plaza without any permit, the police will most likely make a fuss about this.
“How did you get permission to use that place? It’s just an informal celebration.”
“Just an informal celebration? Which part of this looked like that? This sheltered lady has no idea how hard people work for this. I’ll tickle you!”
“Hey! stop it! Kya, ha, ha.”
I was cackling and laughing as she tickled me on the side, and before I knew it, Pete was standing in front of me.
He was dressed more formally than usual, in a light gray double suit. He looked at us, he smiled a little and bowed politely,
“Congratulation, I’m happy on this special day a miracle-like connection has been made.”
“Yes, thank you. Please have fun today.”
After finished his greeting, Pete went to Hayato’s side. After that, people began to gather one after another, and before I knew it, the store was densely packed with people.
“Geez, It’s not even time yet, but well… I can’t be helped. let’s just serve drinks already. Manager! Please start serving the drinks!”
When Betty called out, I heard a reply from the kitchen, “Yes, ma’am,” and the waiters came out one after another with the drinks.
I was offered a glass with a tiny bubble in it, which Betty quickly accepted from beside me. She took a sip and said, “You need a poison tester, don’t you? Here you go. It’s okay,” she said, handing me the glass.
“Don’t mind it.”
I took a small sip. It’s sparkling wine.
Wine… suddenly my bitter memory was revived, and I immediately took my lips off the glass.
I wonder if it okay if I drink it slowly…
Betty speaks to me as if to remind me.
“It’s unlikely that something will go wrong, but… Ted and I will bring the food to two of you after tasting it, so let me know if there’s anything you want to eat.”
It pains me to have my friends go to such lengths, but such a thing did happen, the blame will fall on her. It’s probably best for me to leave everything to Betty.
I wonder what I should do to thank her.
She said we should have a tea party, but I wonder if that would be suffice?
As I was thinking about this, Betty suddenly popped her hand and brought out a large bag.
“Ah, yeah… I’ve made this for you. Would you wear it?”
What came out of the bag was a crown made of colorful flowers.
“Wow, it’s beautiful. Are you sure? Is it okay for me to wear this?”
“Yes. Since there would be many people, I thought it would be better to make it easy to recognize the main character from a distance. Isn’t it pretty?”
She put the flower crown on my head, and my face broke out in joy at the freshness of the flower’s fragrance.
“Hm, I think it suits you. Come on, let’s go show it to Hayato.”
She pulled me by the arm, and I went to my future husband.
As soon as Hayato saw the flower crown, he said, “It’s amazing, it’s beautiful,” and smiled. Betty and I dyed our cheeks red very quickly in front of that smile.
The party started, and Hayato and I moved to a couch in the fountain square.
But we couldn’t just sit there. We had to stand the whole time as people we knew and didn’t know kept coming up to us and greeting us.
The children from the orphanage came with the priest and the sisters, and the girls were all dressed up in dresses that I had donated. They are lovely.
When Betty said, “The restaurant with the flowers is all-you-can-eat today,” everyone’s eyes lit up and flew away.
Sister Carlos also arrived with a man. It must be her husband. He was a very muscular man.
“Oh my god, you wore that dress. I’m so happy. Look at this. The Duke daughter is wearing the dress I picked out for her.”
The quiet husband laughed and bowed to me.
“Nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you. Congratulations.”
“Thank you very much.”
After the safe greeting, she said, “I’ll see you later. I’m going to drink now,” she said, and walked into the store where alcohol was the main dish.
Soon, the sun began to set. When it was getting dim, candles were lit here and there.
“It’s nice. It’s candlelight night.”
Next to Betty, the herd of poodles with bow ties on their collars frolicked around.
Two people with a simple name, Ted and George, picked up the pups since it was dangerous to let them play in the middle of the street.
George sniffed their cream-colored curly hair and tied them to the leashes without changing his expression. He seemed to be quite familiar with them.
He finished tying them up a little farther away from the candles and human food, smiled kindly with his droopy eyes, took a glass from the waiter, and drank more than half of the wine in one gulp.
I was dumbfounded by the boldness of his drinking, which did not match his herbivorous image, and George held out the remaining wine to Hayato.
“Tasted. You can drink it now.”
“No, keep that, I don’t want it anymore.”
“Why not? You need it, don’t you?”
“I don’t need it. I’m bad with alcohol.”
“I know that, but why don’t you at least drink a little at a celebration? Cut off some slack.”
“Hayato, you don’t like to drink?”
I didn’t know that.
It was true that he was old enough to drink in this country, but I had never seen him drink. He didn’t even drink the honey wine back then.
Hayato was keeping silence at my question, and George answered for me.
“When he first turned fifteen, we all decided to have a drink together, but this guy got downed. He collapsed so fast that I had to put him in a corner, and a lady who was drinking nearby said she’d help him.”
“Hey, George. Stop it.”
George continued, ignoring Hayato’s attempts to stop him.
“I won’t go into details, but it was hilarious. I’ve never seen him so upset before.”
Then, Ted joined in.
“Oh, yes, that time. You’re right. I also laughed. Normally you look like you can do anything, but you’re actually weak in alcohol, and when you’re like that, you’re kind of a jerk.”
“Seriously, stop. If you say anything else, I’ll kick your ass.”
“The fun is gone if you become that serious, fine, I’ll stop. I’ll leave the rest to you, Alice.”
I looked at Hayato, and he quickly looked away.
It’s okay, though.
“… Alice. It’s a misunderstanding.”
“I haven’t said anything.”
As George and the others laughed, the people nearby took out their instruments and started to make a sound.
Everyone seemed to be in a good mood as the drinks started to flow.
The instruments ranged from harmonicas and violins to mini guitars, accordions, and fife.
The music they began to play was light and cheerful, reminiscent of the western theme park, with a hint of nostalgia.
It was the sound of people who loved and embodied the freedom, the kind of music you don’t often encounter in aristocratic society.
The girls who listened stood up with happy expressions on their faces and began to spin around with their arms crossed. The children from the orphanage imitated them and started spinning and dancing.
Even those who didn’t dance clapped their hands and whistled, and I was suddenly filled with excitement at the sight of such a rich country. My father once told me that he respected His Majesty the King, and now I could understand why from the bottom of my heart.
Because it is impossible to have such a bright and mature culture of the common people under a bad government, I had learned that in class, but uncle was really a good king.
While I was secretly impressed, I heard the squealing of girls echoing from all around. I wondered what was going on, but it was because Hayato’s discoloration had begun.
From a light brown that looked good in the sunlight, his hair turned into cold, bluish silver and the eyes turned into sapphire blue.
This happens at least once a day, so I’ve gotten used to seeing it, but it’s still a surprising and strange phenomenon to occur. It’s extraordinary.
George, who was watching this, muttered to him over a drink.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you like that. I guess you can’t get better.”
“It’s not a sickness. Maybe.”
Betty covered her cheeks with her hands and fall.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen a chameleon moment this close! It’s a once in a lifetime moment of my life.”
“Betty … that’s an exaggeration. It’s a daily phenomenon.”
Betty looked up at Ted’s jab.
It’s not an exaggeration. Hayato will live in a different world than us. I heard that you had been given territory, and you will be leaving the capital soon. How many more times can we meet like this?”
“O-Oh.. yeah, you’re right…”
“Then why don’t you just go with me?”
At Hayato’s words, Betty, Ted, and George all asked at the same time, “What?”
“Why don’t you all come with me? Or rather, please go with me, to Ridill. I’ll make sure that we can keep adventuring.”
The beautiful silver-haired boy who sits on a luxurious couch crosses his legs and says the words so easily is full of mysterious charisma.
When I unconsciously replied “yes,” he said, “Alice, we are in this together.”
Naturally, the three of them couldn’t answer immediately, and each pondered.
But the fact that they couldn’t answer immediately meant that there was room for consideration.
“Right? Please. It would be reassuring and helpful if everyone could come.”
“… don’t show your confidence in a weird way. It’s not cute at all. I don’t care where I go as long as I can hunt…”
“Okay! It’s decided then, George will go!”
“I didn’t say I was going! I just said that I could go. Give me time to think about it!”
“I wonder if I could… Choco and the others will be more comfortable in the country than in the capital.”
Ted, who prioritizes his poodle well being first, is almost decided. Betty, on the other hand still thinking about it.
“… I’m going to talk to Lime about it.”
Lime is the healer with a sick mom who joined Ted’s party with Betty.
She said she was taking care of her sick parents while raising her children, but what will happen to t them if she goes?
“It doesn’t have to be right away. I’ll be waiting forever.”
He smiled, saying the words as if they were a pick-up line, and Betty turned red and wavered.
As Betty sat at the edge of the fountain, a group of people who seemed to have been listening to our conversation interrupted her.
“I’d like to move there, too!”
“I’m also interested in the quiet life in the country! Also, I’d like to work for lady Alice.”
Oh…! So many people want to move here!
Thank you, but it’s not that easy to move here. You have to think carefully before you decide.
Hayato seemed to have thought the same thing and nodded, but he avoided directly informed them.
“Thank you, everyone. I’m glad to hear it. But Ridill is not close, so you have to discuss it with your family and friends before you make your final decision.”
George grumbled, “We didn’t get that option?” and Hayato shrugged.
“Well, You guys are special to me, you know. I’d appreciate it if you could help me out. If you don’t want to go to …I won’t force you. Sorry for that.”
“No one said anything about not wanting to… All right, I’ll go with you. I can’t help it.”
Despite the troublesome tone of voice, the expression on his face is a happy one.
George, a kind and caring person, but he has a slightly troublesome way of speaking. I personally like this type of person.
Just then, I heard a familiar voice coming from the area where he had tied up the pups.
“Wow, there are so many puppies!”
I think it was a conditioned reflex that gave me goosebumps.
I turned around and saw the pink-haired heroine, Maria, crouched beside the puppies.