“Your Highness Nagi, err… pleased to meet you. Thank you very much for choosing me as a candidate at the recent investiture ceremony.”
“Ah, yes, that’s right. Thank you for coming on your rest day.”
After I parted with Mika and went to the classroom for Livelihood Magic Study, I was surprised to find Machina there.
Unlike Magical Botany, I had almost zero knowledge of Livelihood Magic, and there was nothing I could bait to this classroom to gain attention. I had no choice but to come to this classroom all by myself.
But when I found a familiar face, I just had to call out to him.
And then, I realized.
(I had never talked to Machina yet!!)
But, I never expected Machina would take the Livelihood Magic Study class.
He’s the second son of Marquis Lambert. Contrary to his flippant, seemingly frivolous appearance, he has always won first place in the swordsmanship competition in which Mika has placed third every year.
Just like the last time I saw him, he looks aloof, with his blond hair in a single braid. I remember this relaxed demeanor of his had encouraged me many times. His soft, slightly droopy, pale blue eyes were now opened wide, as if startled.
It was only natural.
After all, the gloomy, shy prince suddenly spoke to him in a friendly manner.
“Is it alright if I sit next to you?”
“Yes. I don’t know anyone here, so I was a bit worried.”
“If Your Highness Nagi had chosen me as your knight, we would always be together.”
“…….No, I’m sorry. People around me had also told me to choose you.”
Machina then said he was joking and sat down next to me. The size of the classroom was the same as the other day, about as small as the Magical Botany class. From the looks of it, the students present here seemed to be mostly rural aristocrats and commoners.
I glanced at Machina, who sat beside me.
Even at the time when we last parted, Machina worked hard to find a way for me to survive. After that, I lost track of Machina’s whereabouts while I was in jail, but I still remembered how I hoped for him to at least live.
This Machina in front of me doesn’t remember those times I’ve spent with him.
It’s not that we had an intimate relationship. Still, he was a knight who spent almost every day with me for five years. I can trust him.
(I wonder if we can get along…)
Unlike the type of person I am, Machina is sociable and can get along well with anybody. After all, he’s a good observer of people and good at drawing the right lines.
At every ball or evening party, I was always so surprised by Machina’s brilliant behavior.
I tried talking to him while feeling a little nervous, and my hands were sweating. Because I already knew that Machina is a good person, it was much easier talking to him than to a complete stranger.
“Wh-why do you take Livelihood Magic Study, Machina?”
“Well, it’ll be a long and serious story, so is it okay if I answer briefly?”
“…If you don’t mind, I’d be happy to hear about it.”
“Ahaha, is that so? To tell the truth, our territory is often flooded with refugees from the Rubrum Empire. Most of them are poor commoners or slaves, and there are quite a few institutions and orphanages there. So, I thought that if I could improve their everyday magic, maybe it would help my brother manage his territory a little.”
Hearing all that, I was surprised.
In my first life, five years ago, Machina took Law and Theology classes to match with me. Of course, I told him that he could take any subjects that he wanted, but I was surprised that he actually thought about something like that.
Indeed, Lambert territory is adjacent to the Rubrum Empire.
The Kingdom of Pluvia is located in the middle of the map, between the Kingdom of Malacia, where my grandfather is located, on the left-hand side (west) and the Empire of Rubrum on the right-hand side (east). The Pluvia Kingdom is located at a relatively high altitude and is blessed with abundant rainfall.
The Kingdom of Malacia, on the left, is a beautiful country where the rivers flowing from Pluvia have created a soil suitable for agriculture.
But, the Rubrum Empire on the right is different.
There are various theories, but for some reason, the border on the Rubrum Empire side is shaped like a cliff, and the desert runs from the bottom of the cliff all the way to the capital of the Rubrum Empire.
Of course, not all of it is obstructed by cliffs.
The northern area of Lambert territory connects loosely to the desert.
It seems that because of this, refugees fleeing the harsh environment and oppressive government are staying in Lambert territory.
In my first life, I had never thought about the refugee issue.
Now that a peace agreement is in place, there will be no war. But the young emperor, recently enthroned in the Rubrum Empire, will be a problem in the next five years.
Machina said, “Ahaha, I’m sorry. It ended up being a serious talk,” and laughed. Looking at him laughing caused a feeling of regret to spread and took over my heart. We were together for five years, but I had never heard such a story from him.
Machina had always worked hard for me, but what did I know about him? I bit my lips.
But I can’t just wallow in my regret. I should face the Machina in front of me right now.
“That’s amazing, Machina. I’d be interested to hear more about the refugee issue. If you don’t mind, can I visit Lambert territory during the summer break? If it’s not too much trouble, that is…”
Such words were slipping out of my mouth.
Seeing Machina frozen in place with his mouth hanging open, I thought that I had made a mistake. I was the only one who felt a sense of familiarity with him.
I became more and more panicked.
My heart was pounding fast and I felt my eyes darting around.
But, I suddenly felt at ease when I saw Machina supporting his cheek with one hand on the desk and fiddling with his braid with the other hand, twirling it around.
That was Machina’s habit when he felt surprised.
I remember him telling me that he didn’t want people to realize that he was surprised, so he would make it seem like he had the leisure to do the opposite.
“Your Highness Nagi… more than I thought, you’re…”
“No, I’m glad. I’m so happy that it made me wonder why you didn’t choose me instead.”
I never thought there would come a day when I hear those words from Machina’s mouth.
I was so happy that my chest felt tight. In my first life, I definitely wasn’t a good lord to him. Still, to think I could still exchange words with him like this, made a warm feeling spread in me.
As I was thinking how glad I was to see him here, Machina then said something with a smirk on his face.
“Ah~ …..I wish you had chosen me instead~”
“No, I told you, I’m sorry about that.”
“If that was the case, …would it be alright for me to embrace you as Mika did?”
I furrowed my eyebrows, not quite understanding what was being said.
But then, Machina narrowed his eyes and kept continuing frighteningly.
“You embraced Mika earlier. How nice~ a forbidden love.”
“Wait! Wh-what? You must have seen it wrong.”
I was feeling warm until just earlier, but now I suddenly turn pale as if it were raining ice water.
He said earlier, was it that time?! My heart pounded loudly. I had a feeling that my desperate excuses weren’t having any effect on Machina.
No, but a forbidden love…? Love? That’s not it! I’m the only one who’s dipping my toe into those things, and it’s not like Mika also feels that way, so I should just be bold about it.
The reality is, there was nothing between Mika and me.
“Huh? Well, I don’t really mind if that was the case.”
“It’s not something like that, I’m telling you, you must have seen it wrong.”
“I guess so. I must have been mistaken. There’s no way Your Highness Nagi would be in the forest of that research facility, is there?”
“Ahaha… that’s right.”