After the antidote incident, the wariness of the knights who were keeping Rishe at arm’s length eased up a bit.
Initially, the knights were reluctant to leave their comrades in her care, but the rest of the way, they actively reported the conditions of the injured and even consulted Rishe for the treatment.
And as if in gratitude, some would wander through the woods when they stop for a rest and collect herbs that Rishe wants.
Though she really doesn’t need their thanks for healing them, she was still glad for their frankness.
Having experienced the life of a pharmacist, Rishe now wants to collect raw materials for medicines whenever she can. They may come in handy in a variety of situations.
A few days after the bandits’ raid.
The carriages finally arrived at the Imperial Capital of Garkhain.
The moment the carriage passed through the gates, Rishe muttered without thinking.
It is an orderly cityscape lined with rows of white-walled buildings. There are various shops on the first floors, and when looking up to the second floors, flowers can be seen displayed on the windowsills.
Laughter could be heard from people coming and going along the well-maintained brick roads, and in the heart of the beautiful city, stood a towering magnificent castle.
“This is the imperial capital, Siengis. It’s the largest city in the country and one of our trade centers.”
Even while listening to Arnold’s introduction, Rishe felt fidgety inwardly.
In no time at all, people gathered to watch the opulent carriages that have entered the city.
Some were carrying shopping bags in their hands, while others held their children in their arms. They were waving their hands with sparkling eyes akin to welcoming a wonder.
The city is bustling, giving a glimpse of the wealth of this country. The children staring at her with glittering eyes were so cute, Rishe couldn’t resist smiling. Their young cheeks turned rosy as they hopped around happily.
The carriages traversed through the streets, passing through the castle’s main gate and entered the castle. Knights lined up on the left and right of the road, welcoming the Crown Prince and his fiance.
Arnold, who had gotten out of the carriage first, extended his hand towards Rishe. He did it so naturally, from raising his hand to assisting Rishe, rendering the surrounding knights a bit flustered.
“It’s been a long journey, Your Royal Highness, Rishe…”
Oliver, the squire in the front carriage, bowed his head as he joined the knights in attendance. After that, he looked at Arnold as if he were a rarity.
“It’s totally unusual for His Highness to lend a hand to a woman, don’t you agree?”
Hearing that pointed out, Rishe realized that the requisite she had demanded of Arnold, the “Don’t touch a finger” was breached. It was him who reached out first, but it was her who accepted it.
Arnold, who had succeeded in his maneuver, burst out laughing. Frankly, it was annoying. Oliver seemed to have seen a miracle, but then he whispered something in Arnold’s ear.
Receiving the report, Arnold sighed in annoyance.
“Is something the matter?”
“… I had arranged a royal villa for you in the Royal Palace, but it seems that the preparations have been delayed due to some mistakes. Unfortunately, you are likely to spend some days in the guest room in the Royal Palace.”
This rang alarms on Rishe’s head.
One of the conditions put forward by Rishe for the marriage cited “Separation from parents.” That wasn’t simple by no means. She had expected that it would take months for the preparation, but now, he’s saying that it would only take a few days?
“Uhm, if you don’t mind, I’m fine staying in your residence for the meantime.”
“Pardon?… But, I have been away from the palace for quite some time. It’s dusty and in a terrible mess.”
“I already told you, didn’t I? It doesn’t matter if it’s old or dirty. Of course, until Your Highness’ arrangements are in place, Your Highness can always get on with your affairs as usual.”
Truth is, she was dying to say, “I want to live alone in the future.” But in the first place, she had decided to live with Arnold separately from the emperor.
“Besides, I’m a hostage!”
“… Why are you so proud of it?…”
Rishe merely stuck her chest up and grinned broadly.
They were led to a detached royal villa located in a corner of the vast Imperial Castle grounds.
The royal villa was small with four floors in all. The place, which has been unused for so many years, was certainly dusty.
(But it’s not that bad.)
She had envisioned a place similar to a storeroom, but the inside of the castle was rather empty and tidy. Lots of dust settled on the surfaces, but there is no deterioration due to neglect.
It would be a solid fortress once it’s totally cleaned up.
“If you want to live in the Royal Villa, just do as you want. I’ll be busy for the next few days, but I’ll get some servants to keep the guest rooms available at all times.”
With that said, he disappeared with Oliver.
Oliver informed him that their absence in the past two weeks has left him a mountain of official business that requires sleepless nights for a few days to finish.
(Emperor Arnold Hein … Oops, he’s still the Crown Prince. I’m worried about what he’s scheming, but never mind that. Better make my bed first.)
Rishe changed into the simplest dress she brought with her, and rolled up her sleeves.
To begin with, she opened all the windows, even with the knight guards watching every nook cautiously.
Fortunately, the weather was fine today and the whole castle was aglow.
It may look like a deserted castle with no curtains or carpets, but once it is furnished, it will be a splendid space.
Having secured the means of ventilation, Rishe next searched for the stairs to the basement.
When she pushed open the heavy wooden door, a slippery mouse ran past her feet. The knight accompanying her squeaked, “eek!” but still entered the basement with a poker-face.
“Ri, Rishe-sama, what are you doing in a place like this?”
“Most cleaning tools used by servants are usually stored in the basement. There it is.”
From the storeroom, she obtained a hataki, a broom, a dustpan, and a new rag.
A pail was also found, and after fetching water, Risch began a great sweep of the castle.
She covered her nose and mouth with a handkerchief wrapped around her face, and beat off the dust from high places, such as the edge of a window sill. Once that was done, she moved on to sweeping the dust off the floor.
“With the dusts all cleaned up, it feels gratifying!”
Rishe rolled up her sleeves that had fallen off full of vim and vigor.
She first swept the dust with a broom and rag so that the dust accumulated like a snow won’t fly, gathered the lumpy dust in one place, and once she dumped it, moved on to sweeping again.
With the sweeping done, it was time for mopping. She really wanted to use a floor mop, but found nothing in the storage room, so she could only use the hataki.
“Rishe-sama, is there anything I can do to help?”
The knight guard, whom she didn’t even spare a glance, asked. Even though it was a detached palace, every room inside the castle used by the imperial family is vast.
However, Rishe shook her head.
“I can’t ask the knights guarding me to clean up.”
“But…there’s no reason for Her Crown Princess Rishe to go out of her way to do a laborious task like this. Please use a guest room in the main castle.”
“No, this castle suits me well enough.”
Rishe wasn’t banking on anything so she was so adamant about it.
Preparing a guest room is really hard labor. During her life as a lady’s attendant, just a one-night stay by a guest would mean maids being harassed from morning to night without a break.
Not a single hair, not a single dust, not even a wrinkle in the sheets. The harshness of the labor and also the tension of being beaten for an intolerable failure were terribly exhausting.
She doesn’t want to put the maids through that kind of stress merely because of a few days of stay in the main castle. She heard that maids in the castle are but a few, so it must be taxing for them to even handle work in the main castle.
“Now, look at that!”
She turned to the area where she had finished ragging and showed the knight.
The knight’s eyes rounded in astonishment as he looked around the room, which was now completely clean and brightly sunlit.
“Imagine that you were the one who cleaned up this whole place, don’t you think life would be much more fun?”
She asked in laughter. The knight joined in amusement, totally agreeing with her.