The day when the young lady of Nyrestia Duchy departs for the Cleansing Rite eventually arrived.
With an expedition more than two hundred people including escorts and church officials, although it took some time for them to depart, they still managed to leave the capital on schedule.
The carriage where the young lady rode were surrounded with private soldiers from the duke family, then mercenaries on the outer layer.
The other carriages carrying priests and other officials had mercenaries as well while sandwiching the duke’s carriage in the middle.
Ardis unlike other mercenaries were right beside the duke’s carriage with the private soldiers. It is the proof that he is trusted by the young lady.
The carriage was the only one different from the others with various ornaments and decorations. One can discern that there’s someone prestigious riding it, from a security standpoint, it might not be the best idea, but it’s essential for the effect of announcing that she’s going on a Cleansing Rite for the masses.
What’s important with the Cleansing Rite is not doing it but be seen doing it. There’s no meaning if the young lady doesn’t stand out.
In the luxury carriage, there were two people sitting opposite of each other. One of them is naturally the duke’s daughter.
Normally thinking, her close female aide as a fellow passenger would be natural. However, the only other passenger on the carriage wasn’t a person of the duke’s residency.
For whatever reason, there was the figure of Solte tilting her head inside her mind without showing her confusion on her face.
Between the duke’s daughter and the saintess candidate, there was another creature, a golden-colored beast coiled up.
The beast yawned grandiosely. Within the silence, the duke’s daughter spoke first.
「Sorry if it bothers you, Sister Solte. They are still afraid now after all……」
「Umm……. Please don’t be mindful of me. 」
In the first place, it was the duke’s daughter who invited the beast onto the carriage.
Leaving aside the mercenaries who are used to it, there’re probably no girls that would be fine after seeing a carnivorous beast spanning over a meter along.
On top of that, they were close to the point of contact, even an adult male wouldn’t want it.
The duke’s daughter was for some reason patting the beast in question without fear, however, all her servants were scared to the point of unable to stand up.
That’s why, only the duke’s daughter herself was riding in that carriage but, in the end, the only other person who didn’t fear the beast, Solte was nominated as a passenger.
Solte didn’t fear the beast at all. After all, the beast was the one who saved her when she was in danger, and the partner of a mercenary that she’s close with.
「In any case, I’m glad to have Sister Solte here. 」
The other party is the daughter of a credible bloodline. Normally, an ordinary sister wouldn’t be allowed on the same carriage.
However, because Solte is a known saintess candidate, the duke’s family didn’t express their displeasure, at least on the surface.
In any case, the difference in status doesn’t change. It’s not someone Solte can converse with easily.
「You shouldn’t force yourself too. 」
The duke’s daughter seemed to be worried about her, as she replied a beat late.
「……I’m alright. I’m not forcing myself here. 」
Then the topic ended, and silence visited once again.
Although it wasn’t to the degree of being awkward, just as Solte started to feel uncomfortable, the duke’s daughter as if recalling something grabbed the basket beside her seat and showed it to the beast.
「I’ve brought some sweets from the head cook. Baked sweets or kneaded sweets, which would be better? 」
It seems like she was planning to feed the beast as well. Just as Solte thought that she was treating the beast quite well, a human voice came from the beast.
「I like baked ones more. Solte wanna eat too? 」
Solte and the duke’s daughter had round eyes at the same time. Then, the same question came from both of them in different phrasing.
「Rona, you are fine with speaking? 」
「Rona-sama, are you fine with speaking? 」
Again, question mark appeared on both their head. Then they looked at each other.
Then between them, there was a suppressed snickering noise from Rona.
「You could’ve told me earlier if you knew……」
The duke’s daughter who was pouting at Rona showed an expression befitting her age unlike her serious face from earlier. Seeing her real face, Solte felt the strain on her shoulders lightened a little.
「I didn’t know Sister Solte knew about Rona too. 」
「Likewise, it was a surprise. 」
「But if Sister Solte knows about Rona, then do you happen to know Shishou――, rather Ardis-sama? 」
「Yes. The first time I met Ardis-san was when I was still a student in Mariules Academy. It’s an embarrassing topic but, I challenged the Corsas Forest with classmates while being conceited, and were rescued when we were in danger. It’s already been five or six years since then.」
As Solte recalled, it was truly reckless of her. Although it still felt fresh in her mind, it had been almost six years since then.
The ringleader between them, Hansrick had already become a non-returnee of the war with the Empire.
Solte is different from back then. Having undergone training daily, her healing arts are incomparable than before, having more experience, she no longers find herself lost in preparing for rites.
Being acknowledged as a fully fledged sister rather than an apprentice, she’s no longer treated as an amateur. However, the only thing that didn’t grow much in that period was her height.
「I wasn’t there yet right. It’s about few months after that we first met. 」
Rona added on, and Solte returned her mind from reminiscing.
「Is that so……. So you two have known each other for longer. 」
The duke’s daughter for some reason looked jealous.
「What about Ojou-sama? When did you meet with Ardis-san? 」
「It was about two years ago for me. I’m still receiving periodical lessons regarding swordsmanship, that’s why he’s my Shishou. I met Rona then too. 」
Solte confirmed after hearing an unexpected word.
「S-Swordsmanship…… is it? 」
Although it was an immediate answer, Solte asked again.
「Ojou-sama, you are? 」
「Yes. Despite how it may seem unladylike. 」
「Ah, pardon me. Although it was surprising to hear a young lady learning swordsmanship, it was even more surprising to hear Ardis-san teaching someone else his swordsmanship. 」
As she thought that her words had slipped, Solte quickly corrected herself.
「Kukuku, that’s right. Al teaching a noble young lady swordsmanship wasn’t a thing I’d imagine in a thousand years. But anyways, it just means that Al had interest in Minerva. Aah, not that kind, it’s about Minerva having potential to be taught. 」
Regardless of knowing what Solte thought, Rona described his partner with joy.
「I hope that’s the case……」
The duke’s daughter seemed a little anxious while saying.
「It’s Al we’re talking about, he’s not going to teach anything to someone without potential. Even if it’s a daughter of a big-shot noble, Al would probably just say 『Who cares』 and move on. 」
「Ah, that really sounds like what Shishou would say…… 」
As the duke’s daughter was convinced somehow, Rona quickly changed the topic.
「Well, rather than that, let’s eat the sweets. I’m hungry already. 」
「Fufu, that’s true. It’s the baked sweets that the head cook made after all, leaving it to harden would be a waste. 」
Taking the sweets out from the basket, the duke’s daughter fed it to Rona’s mouth.
「Aaa―n. Mnnn――, so sweet――! 」
Rona’s tail was waving left and right inside the narrow carriage. His tail was hitting back and forth next to Solte and the duke’s daughter seat.
「Would Sister Solte like to have one too? 」
「Eee……. Gladly, Ojou-sama. Thank you for your consideration. 」
The duke’s daughter smiled gently towards Solte who was still having a hardened expression.
「Please call me Minerva. It will be a long journey after all, and there’s only Rona and me here, no one would say anything. 」
At the elegance and prestige, Solte was once again forced to feel the pain in difference of their education. The duke’s daughter is fifteen this year.
It is the same age when Solte almost died in the Corsas Forest. Thinking about the difference in league of her common birth and the duke’s daughter in front of her, Solte felt a little miserable.
Understanding that her offering was a method to shorten their distance, Solte confirmed with a mix of happiness and confusion.
「……Is it really fine? 」
「As long as it’s only in front of Shishou and Rona. 」
「……I understand. 」
As expected from a duke’s daughter who can properly divide private and work, as Solte promised.
「And so, until we return to the capital, thanks for having me, Minerva-sama. Please call me Solte as well. 」
「Yes, thanks for having me, Solte-sama. 」
Solte similarly replied with a smile at Minerva who was beaming.