After disposing of all the enemies, since there weren’t anyone coming after him, Ardis arrived in Calves at his own pace.
The bureaucrats were relieved at Ardis arriving safely, but the others seemed to have a face that suggest 『This is natural』.
「Welcome back, Shishou」
「Yeah, I’m back. 」
Both sides that welcomed him acted as if he was only on an insignificant walk in the park.
In a similar tone, Ardis asked Minerva casually.
「So, what’s the plan? Are we going to see Nicole first? 」
「About that……we were told that someone from the castle is coming to guide us. 」
Ardis was surprised.
「To the castle, so suddenly? That’s quite…… well, progressing faster isn’t something to complain. 」
「I was surprised too. I wonder if it’s because they don’t have much room to consider either? 」
「Still……What kind of tricks did that Nicole play? 」
As Ardis and Minerva whispered among themselves, a guide from the castle arrived.
「Let this humble self be your guide. 」
After a simple greeting with the guide, Ardis and the party climbed on carriages to the castle.
The horses they rode on before were entrusted to the soldiers in Calves, and the party continued to the castle in three carriages.
Without anything particularly eventful happening, Ardis and the others arrived at the castle and got off the carriage at the gates, before following the guide inside.
「The atmosphere around is on edge as expected. 」
While walking in the castle, Kyrill caught up beside Ardis, and whispered.
「Yeah. It’s not like they’re completely surrounded, but the enemy has a camp just on a hill outside. I’m sure it’s not easy to loosen their tension with that. 」
It’s best to describe the atmosphere around the castle as a time of war.
In a situation where it wouldn’t be strange for the enemy troops on the hill to start an attack again, it can’t be blamed the atmosphere within the castle is prickly.
The party was then assigned their own guest rooms first.
After cleaning themselves of the dirt from the journey, wearing the formal clothing that Calves prepared, the bureaucrats started their diplomatic talks. Ardis and the others who came as escorts were guided together with Minerva into a large reception room that seemed to be for important guests.
Even though they were considered diplomats of a country, their treatment could be considered more than enough for a country that has not even declared its founding.
「Please wait for a moment here. His Highness will arrive in a moment. 」
After saying so, the guide left the room, and as replacements, the maids then entered and poured tea for everyone.
「His Highness, will come huh……」
After confirming the maids had stepped back towards the wall, Ardis spoke softly in a volume that only Minerva could hear.
「It’s surprising that we’re meeting directly with a royalty, right? 」
Minerva suppressed her voice and agreed.
Seeing how the diplomatic talk started right after they arrived, it must mean Calves is quite eager to form the deal.
By the time the trip tiredness set in, the individual had arrived while they enjoyed the tea.
The guards standing outside the room reported 「His Highness is entering」 to the people inside, and the door opened.
As the two people from outside entered the room, Ardis took a glance at them.
At the same time, despite not making a sound, it was obvious that the others were surprised too.
As if signifying their surprise, Marrieda even raised her voice in confusion.
The person that entered was undeniably someone that Ardis and the others were familiar with.
A person that had served as Marrieda’s bodyguard for many years, someone that had fought together with Ardis during the Reiten defense battle nine years ago, the mercenary that was the bridge between his hometown, Calves, and Wisteria.
However, although the person in front of Ardis was the same person as the mercenary, Nicole, he looked and felt like a different person.
Wearing a full set of first-rate clothing and exuding tremendous dignity, the dark green hair combed neatly was nothing like the rough looking hair when he last saw him at Glock.
「Welcome to everyone that has travelled afar. As the representative of Calves, I show you our sincerity in welcoming you. 」
The Nicole-like gentleman spoke with elegance and showed a perfect smile that could be regarded as an art piece.
The person that offered a saving boat to the stunned party was someone who stood behind Nicole.
A man that had a well-built physique, looking to be at most thirty years old.
From where he was standing, he should be a servant or confidant, as he started speaking to add on.
「This person is the king’s brother, His Highness, Nicholas ・ Farson ・ Calves. 」
Then, the party got hit again by the revelation of being the king’s brother.
「It has been a while, Your Majesty Minerva. It is surprising to see Your Majesty has herself come all this way, surely everyone in Calves is touched. 」
Without being given the chance for them to calm down, the words that came from the person in question completely discarded any chance that he was just 『Someone that looked similar』.
He was speaking in a manner that he’d known Minerva by face.
In other words, it was equivalent to him clearly claiming that he’s the same person they know.
「I appreciate your words for someone who has not undergone a coronation yet. Forgive our prior rudeness, Your Highness. I am certain the opportunity for both of us this time will bear fruitful results. 」
As expected of the former duke’s daughter.
Minerva instantly stood back up, unlike Ardis and the others who were still confused. Her lady smile that had been tempered through many years was impeccable as she answered.
Although she should be feeling some fatigue from the journey, it didn’t do anything in degrading her elegance.
After getting Minerva’s reply, Nicole glanced to his confidant, and his confidant replied with a nod of understanding before ordering the other servants to leave the room.
Including the soldiers that stood right at the door and the maids that stood around the room’s walls, after confirming everyone else left the room, Nicole’s expression suddenly crumbled, and his atmosphere changed.
As if his elegant conduct from before was an illusion, he walked in a barbaric way, finding his way to a sofa before crashing on it magnificently.
「Well, take a seat first. 」
His tone without any frills was how the Nicole Ardis and the others knew talked.
「Come on, Minerva-jou and Ojou too, quickly take a seat. If I were to let the ladies continue standing, won’t I be seen as an arrogant bastard? 」
Fluttering his hands up and down, Nicole gestured everyone to sit.
Although Ardis was relieved at how Nicole changed in an instant to the Nicole he knew better, he glanced towards the confidant behind him.
「Oh, this guy’s fine. He’s in with it. 」
He probably meant the person knew the rough acting Nicole.
Removing all other people from the room was to prevent them from seeing the current Nicole. It’s fine to assume that he was already familiar with both Nicole’s frontal face and the one he’s showing now, seeing how he wasn’t saying anything.
Probably noticing what Ardis and the others thought, the confidant gave a bow before speaking.
「Sorry for my belated greetings. I am the first and biggest victim of His Highness’s wandering habits. I am someone who has served as the ass wiper for His Highness for many years, Samuel・Jay・Pamil. Nice to meet you. 」
Although what came out of his mouth was polite, it seemed like his respect for his master was thrown aside somewhere along.
Unlike the stunned party, Nicole wasn’t particularly offended, and only complained back.
「Like I said. If you really hate it, you can just quit. Didn’t I already tell you many times? 」
「Ha ha ha, what are you saying this late in the game. I’m now already considered a set with His Highness, as weirdos that cannot be salvaged in Calves. The places I can go are already long lost. 」
While the joking atmosphere unfolded within the room, Ardis secretly asked Marrieda, who seemed to be speechless from her inability to follow what happened.
「Did you know? 」
「…………I told you before, right? It’s not like I can see what I want to see in my dreams. 」
Looks like even Marrieda had no idea that Nicole was a royalty of Calves.
Hearing how she replied like a normal person, it looked like she hadn’t recovered from the shocking truth.
Naturally, there were some confusions for those except Riana who met him the first time, but Minerva seemed to have already recovered, and for Ellenoa who didn’t know him too well in the first place, she didn’t seem much affected at all.
As expected, those who knew him longer would be more shocked.
Like Marrieda, Kyrill who knew Nicole for a long time was confused too.
Disregarding their confusion, Nicole while sitting, turned around to Samuel and asked.
「You called him here, right? 」
「Yes, he should be here soon. 」
As if matching their conversation, a young man’s voice came from the door.
「Uncle. Lionel has just arrived. 」
「Ou, come in. 」
Receiving Nicole’s permission, one young man entered the reception room.
This time, both Kyrill and Ellenoa showed a big reaction.
It was a man that seemed to be around twenty years old with simple yet neat clothes.
With his long light green hair tied into a ponytail at his back, with elegant steps, the young man walked beside Nicole, and showed a smile before speaking.
「Your Majesty the Queen, greetings for the first time. The eldest son of King Calves, I am Lionel・Farson・Calves. As the representative of the royal family, I express gratitude for coming all this way to our country within such a dire situation. 」
Even though he greeted Minerva politely, the bare Nicole just hit it on the ground mercilessly.
「Ah right, you can stop that. We’re already over that phase. 」
Nicole waved his hands around saying that it was unneeded, and immediately afterwards, Lionel’s voice and attitude lost his politeness.
「The heck―. Even though I finished my line pretty well. Can’t I just act cool in front of my friends for once? 」
From his tone, even a fragment of his noble-like atmosphere from before disappeared.
「Trying to act cool in front of your former classmates will do what good. 」
「It’s exactly because they were my classmates, it’s like…… surprising them with a side that they didn’t know before. 」
「If you have the time to play small tricks like that, then train your sword and surprise them with that. You haven’t even gotten a hit on me, right? 」
「Who the heck can win against a monster like you, uncle? Moreover, most of my time is occupied with the crown prince’s education. 」
「Don’t be stupid. I’m not really that strong though? There are more than a few dozen people that are stronger than me. There, see that person. A real monster is someone like him. 」
Nicole gave his glances to Ardis.
Being led, the others too focused their eyes on Ardis.
「I mean, I heard it from Kyrill before, and I’ve seen him fighting before but……is it really to the extent that uncle would say that? 」
「Yeah. Even just comparing it would be ridiculous, he’s a monster through and through. 」
Having left them to speak too much on their own accord, Ardis complained.
「Can you stop labelling someone monster this monster that? 」
「Hey! Ardis-san! 」
Ardis had already adjusted to the attitude that the guy in front of him isn’t Calves royalty, but the mercenary he knew, but no one can adapt so readily.
Unable to come to terms that the Nicole he knew was the same person as the king’s brother, Nicholas, Kyrill raised his voice panicking, but the person himself did not mind much, but was rather apologetic.
「Ah―sorry my bad. 」
While Kyrill’s gaze was still skeptical as to whether this was fine, the young man that named himself Lionel then waved his right hand and called out to him in a familiar manner.
「Yo, Kyrill. Ellenoa. Long time no see. 」
「Eh……. Ah―, eh―」
He probably didn’t know how to reply.
Seeing Kyrill not being able to say anything while his mouth opened, Lionel broke out in a laughter.
「The heck, was I forgotten already? It’s me. Rai. 」
Unlike Lionel who was hugging his stomach while laughing uncontrollably, Kyrill was only opening and closing his mouth.
「Rai was……, Rai was the crown prince of Calves……? 」
Ellenoa, another individual who had this firsthand experience, appeared to be daydreaming and murmured to herself constantly.