Section 9: Ashel Lu Aude Oshunel
The relaxed atmosphere we had going completely changed as soon as that person stepped into the room.
[Ashel]: “Pardon me. My apologies for the sudden visit, and thank you for seeing me despite how late at night it is.”
Short, golden hair. Soft, misty eyes as blue as sapphires. A body thin even while wearing armor, yet it looked in no way delicate.
Taller than me, but probably a little shorter than Toslin? I heard they were seventeen years old, so I guess this would be about right for their age.
I froze. Obviously I’ve never once in my entire life met royalty before, and now suddenly there’s a prince standing right in front of me, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do right now.
[Ashel]: “Just as I heard, a party full of only women. Allow me to apologize once again as a man for finding myself in your quarters like this.”
There’s nothing to be forgiven. We’re already aware you’re actually a woman, so it doesn’t really bother us in the first place.
I thought about saying that out loud, but since I figured her knowing that her secret had been leaked might cause some unnecessary worry, I decided we should keep a tight lip on that little detail……
[Lapris]: “Huh? What are you talking about? Anyway I look atcha you’re a……”
[Toslin]: “Oi oi, you’re supposed to be keeping quiet when we have a guest with us Lapris.”
[Lapris]: “Puha!? You, what the hell Toslin, let me go! You trying to kill me!?”
[Ashel]: “…..wow, a fairy. It’s been so long since I’ve seen one……”
I’m sorry the first fairy you’ve seen in so long has to be this foul-mouthed girl. And I’m especially sorry to spoil the mood by having said fairy desperately struggling in the grip of an elf trying to keep that very same fairy quiet.
I continued repeating several apologies like those from inside my heart……
[Ashel]: “You are, Iris Calvafon-san……yes?”
Ashel-sama came further into the room, stopping in front of me and smiling.
[Iris]: “Y-Yes. I am Iris Calvafon. It’s very nice to meet you.”
Oh, this……I can understand why Charlie was so taken.
Her well-ordered looks on their own could draw someone in. But those soft eyes of hers create an ephemeral air that would make anyone who saw them overcome with the urge to protect her.
That’s how I feel, and I already know she’s a woman. If the prince were to show that smile to any girl who still believed her to be a man, it would be like an arrow straight through the heart.
Honestly I think it’s only because I spend so much time with other beautiful and cool women like Toslin and Saluena that my heart is able to hold up and resist.
[Iris]: “At this time, um……it is a great honor to be allowed this audience with royalty after being escorted all the way from Soletta Ritta.”
It was a little belated, but I tried bending the knee and bowing, but Ashel-sama put up her hand to stop me.
[Ashel]: “Oh, there’s no need for that. I’m here as a personal call, so there’s no need for any frivolous formalities. Rather, I should be the one bending the knee to you.”
As I looked back up confused, Ashel-sama gave herself a self-depreciating laugh.
[Ashel]: “My apologies for the late introductions. I am Ashel Lu Aude Oshunel. The first prince of this country. I only just returned to the castle, but I knew I had to come see you right away when I heard you were already here. I wanted to apologize to all of you no matter what.”
Ashel-sama bowed her head low as she spoke.
[Ashel]: “Despite confronting it directly, I was unable to finish off that dragon completely, putting you and the rest of the villagers at Relton in grave danger……I am truly sorry.”
The crown prince showed up out of nowhere, and now she’s suddenly bowing her head. How could I not panic in a situation like this?
I was barely able to keep my composure–if you could call it that–, but the direct apology from royalty had stopped any and all thought processes going on in my brain.
[Ashel]: “I had wanted to follow after the dragon as soon as it had escaped, but the damage on my party had been severe as well…… Even so, we made our way to Rifront as fast as we could, but when we made it there, a traveler gave us word. The dragon had already been slain……”
[Iris]: “…..i-is that how it was?”
[Ashel]: “After that, I received an urgent summons at the worst possible time, and I have been away from Oshunel until now. That is why my apology has been so delayed. My deepest apologies.”
Ashel-sama kept her head down the entire time she was apologizing. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do here, so I turned towards the others in a silent plea for help. Toslin and Rose-san answered that plea, calling out to Ashel-sama on my behalf.
[Rose]: “Please raise your head Ashel-sama.”
[Toslin]: “We are not bothered by something like that.”
[Ashel]: “You are…..”
She finally raised her head, and I could take a breath in relief.
[Toslin]: “Tosrillon F. Iriburgh. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
[Rose]: “Rosalith Cuulbacall.”
As expected, unlike me who can only bow her head and grovel, the current knight and former noble are capable of smoothly introducing themselves and providing a polite greeting.
[Ashel]: “Rosalith….. I see, you are…… I heard about you from Yuhanna. She’s always worried about you. Of course, I was too.”
[Rose]: “Sorry to worry you.”
[Ashel]: “I would ask if you had any plans on returning to the earl house……but something tells me your resolve is firm on that matter.”
[Rose]: “My apologies.”
That’s the second time Rose-san has given an apology.
The hidden meaning within this conversation does worry me, but there’s something else here that worries me even more. Rose-san spoke with Ashel-sama as if it were normal, but is that really okay? Ashel-sama is supposed to be a man right now which means Rose-san’s vow of chastity would……..
I stole a glance towards Rose-san face during the moment. She had fallen silent, blinking a couple times with a clearly restless look on her face.
…….judging by her reaction, it looks like she’s realized her mistake as well. Rose-san already knows Ashel-sama is actually a woman, so she answered as if it were nothing……
[Ashel]: “By the way, did you say Iriburgh just now? Are you perhaps related to the viscount family of the holy forest nation of Laforia?”
Fortunately despite Rose-san and my worries, Ashel-sama didn’t seem to notice, instead turning her gaze to Toslin.
I guess Ashel-sama doesn’t know about the vow of chastity Rose-san took. Thank goodness.
[Toslin]: “It is the highest honor to have the prince of the great nation of Oshunel know our name. As you have surmised, I am indeed the third daughter of my house. Currently I am traveling across the continent to perfect my sword skills and broaden my insight.”
[Ashel]: “I see, a traveling knight then? How envious.”
The holy forest nation of Laforia. A country of elves that has been on friendly relations with Oshunel since the country was first founded.
I already knew Toslin was from a knight household, so that wasn’t too surprising, but hearing she was from a family of viscounts made me go, “Woah……” inside my head.
[Ashel]: “I received help from a group of Laforian elves during my first cyclopes subjugation, and during that time, I heard the Iriburgh name pass through their lips many a time.”
[Toslin]: “Is that so? My humblest apologies that they dirtied your ears so.”
[Ashel]: “Nonsense. It was fun listening to them all.”
Toslin gave her a wry smile while Ashel-sama gave a beaming, radiant smile in turn.
Good looks and a sterling reputation, Charlie’s evaluation is looking more and more on the mark.
[Iris]: “……hm? Is something wrong Carol?”
I was thinking things were a little quiet, so I turned towards Carol who was watching as Ashel-sama and Toslin laughed together.
[Carol]: “No, nothing at all?”
Carol looked back at me and shook her head.
[Noelia]: “I brewed some tea. Everyone, please enjoy.”
[Iris]: “Ah, thank you Noelia-san.”
Noelia-san had somehow set up some tea on the table without me noticing.
Her deft hand and attention to detail really is that of a pro. I can see why Yuhanna-sama selected her to take care of us during our stay.
[Iris]: “Oh, I almost forgot. Should I grab the sweets Maria-sama gave us?”
[Rose]: “A wonderful idea. Sally-oneesama, would you mind grabbing the sweets I have in my luggage?”
Saluena nodded quietly underneath Ashel-sama’s gaze as Rose-san began arranging the chairs.
[Rose]: “Hmm, that should do.”
[Carol]: “Ah, I like it.”
[Toslin]: “Honestly I’m not sure if my stomach can handle another round……hey. There’s a chair right here. Sit there.”
As soon as Toslin sat down, Carol placed herself right on top her lap.
[Carol]: “Eh, no way.”
And then, with her tail wagging behind her, Carol turned her down as naturally as she breathed.
[Toslin]: “You little……. My apologies. Please don’t pay this girl any mind.”
[Ashel]: “No, it’s fine. I’m the one who should be apologizing for barging in here in the middle of the night and now taking part in some of your treats.”
After shyly taking a seat in one of the chairs Rose-san prepared, Ashel-sama looked curiously at Carol.
[Ashel]: “A werewolf…..it’s my first time seeing one. Does that make you Carotayle-san?”
[Carol]: “What? How do you know me?”
[Toslin]: “Come on, be polite.”
[Ashel]: “Oh, I really don’t mind. There are rumors floating around all throughout the capital, and I just happened to hear your name through those. Carotayle the werewolf girl. The one who confronted the evil dragon alongside the elf knight. With your ferocious claws and sharp blade, you managed to cut through the dragon’s thick scales and cause it to raise a horrendous roar in agony……is how the story goes.”
[Carol]: “Hogwash. It’s all a big lie. I wasn’t able to deal a single wound to that dragon.”
[Ashel]: “That’s how epics are. It’s not like the poets were actually there to see or hear anything that actually happened. There’s also always the bit of dramatic flare to make things more appealing.”
[Rose]: “It is true that Carol-san fought hard to rescue the village and its people, so it’s fine for you to not mind it that much.”
[Carol]: “Hmm, maybe. But, it’s still surprising. There are people out there singing about us.”
Carol was lightly kicking her legs back and forth from off the edge of Toslin’s lap with her cheeks puffed out from all the treats she had stuffed in there.
[Ashel]: “The effect of the dragon has already made its way into the capital. And as the people who slew it, you are all regarded as heroes.”
Ashel-sama’s bright expression grew muddled after saying that last word, and her soft eyes turned towards her feet.
Saluena threw one of the treats into her mouth, allowing the sweetness to roll over her tongue before washing it down with some of her tea.
And then, as the conversation broke and a moment of silence fell down upon us, Ashel-sama repeated that word aloud.