Awareness slowly emerged in the sunshine that filtered through the window.
She turned over in the comforting dazzle and found no walls where she’d imagined them to be.
Realizing that she was sleeping in a larger bed than usual, Rishe stretched out her arms and legs as far as she could.
Was she in her room at the duke’s mansion, or at the royal palace of the desert king where she stayed over in her merchant days, or in the straw bed of her chambermaid life?
Her mind was muddled upon waking up and filtered through where she could be. After a leisurely stretch, Rishe finally opened her eyes.
The bed has a canopy and is protected by a light blue curtain. With the sunshine peeking through the thin curtain, she found herself in a deserted room with no furniture or carpet.
No need to train in the morning, no need to tend the herb garden, no need to prepare breakfast, no need to analyze the concoction she had set up the night before, nor was she in an inn where she had stayed during their journey to Garkhain.
With that in mind, Rishe simply buried her face into the pillow.
In the bed, she thoughtlessly let out a monologue.
From the height of the sun, it was probably around six o’clock in the morning.
It must have been close to midnight when she finally lay in the bed last night.
“That means…. I slept for more than six hours…?”
Rishe found it hard to believe this fact.
Up until now, four hours of sleep has been the norm in her life.
When she was a knight or a pharmacist, it was less than that, three hours at best.
(… Besides, I’m only planning on cleaning up today. I’m a hostage in the first place. Does that mean that I can sleep a little more…?)
A knock on the door however pulled her down from the seventh heaven.
“Rishe, are you awake?”
She jerked up from the bed in an instant at the sound of the voice on the other side of the door.
“This is Oliver at the behest of His Highness, I apologize for disturbing you so early. I’ve got something for you.”
“Please wait a moment. I’ll be right with you.”
Rishe jumped down from the bed and hurriedly dressed herself.
She untied the curtains to cover her bed and opened the door to see the squire, Oliver, smiling.
“Pardon me for the disturbance Your Highness. It is only at this time that I was able to leave His Highness’ office. It relieves me to see you already up.”
“Uhm, cough, it’s fine… Haven’t you had enough rest last night Oliver sama?”
“I’m sorry for my unsightly face, there’s been a pile of paperwork we have to deal with. His Highness hasn’t even taken a nap since yesterday.”
Rishe was reminded of Arnold.
He came to the balcony yesterday, shouldn’t he have gone to sleep instead of wasting his time like he did?
“His Highness seems too busy, but wasn’t he at work on the carriage ride home, too?”
“All the paperwork that was done before we left was completed during the round-trip itinerary. — What His Highness is currently dealing with is the work that piled up during his visit to the Hermitian state.”
With a mixture of understanding and sympathy, Rishe lowered her eyebrows.
The person who killed her is now being killed by his official duties, it’s truly pitiful. Rishe sympathizes with Oliver.
“I’m sorry, Oliver sama. I can’t believe you had to quit your job just to attend an evening party.”
“No, it’s all good. His Highness, who had said “I do not intend to get married for the time being”, actually found his wife because of it.”
Olivar grinned, a sincere and heartwarming smile.
However, Rishe was bothered by a point and gently extended her hands out. And then she told Oliver.
“Here you go. Please don’t hesitate to take a look.”
“And not only that, but you’ve been observing me since earlier, haven’t you? If you have any concerns, feel free to ask me to your satisfaction.”
Oliver rolled his eyes, then opened his mouth as if in resignation.
“Just as His Highness said, you have a first-class talent as a swordsman, don’t you? I suppose it’s partly due to my own inexperience, but I never thought you’d be able to pick up on even such an insignificant hint…”
(… It’s not much of a swordsman’s intuition, but a gut feeling from my days as a merchant.)
Rishe has caught Oliver’s prying eyes many times before.
The eyes of a nobleman trying to determine if the goods offered to him are genuine. Or a merchant’s eye trying to pick out what is profitable from a jumble of stones.
In other words, he has discerning eyes that can identify which is cheap.
“If I’ve done anything that’s rude towards the Crown Princess, I sincerely beg your forgiveness.”
Oliver bowed so deeply, Rishe had to stop him.
“Not at all, please raise your face.”
It is only natural for a squire to be wary of the woman who suddenly married his master. More than that, she has some questions to ask.
“Oliver sama, I understand that you’re deeply concerned about His Highness. Have you been with him for a long time?”
“I was originally a knight recruit from this country. I was seriously injured and was about to be relieved of my duties, but His Highness picked me up. I’ve been serving as his squire for about ten years now.”
“….You are such a loyal person, do you know why His Highness Arnold is planning to marry me?”
Oliver frowned in bafflement, then continued.
“To be honest, I myself was surprised. His Highness has been saying all this time that he has no intention of getting married for the time being. Nevertheless, it seems that he suddenly changed his mind after meeting Rishe-sama in the Hermitian country.”
Hasn’t he told his trusted follower of his true intentions as well? She felt more and more frustrated of having no clue as to what Arnold was up to.
“But, Rishe sama, let me assure you of one thing.”
Oliver hurriedly opened his mouth, perhaps misunderstanding that she was worried.
“I’ve watched His Highness by his side for many years, but I’ve never seen His Highness look so happy. He smiles so meekly in front of Rishe sama.”
Isn’t that just because he’s amused?
“What’s wrong? You don’t look pleased. His Highness has always been popular among women because of his looks.”
“I admit that he’s certainly very popular with the ladies with his beauty, but I’m not sure I’m happy about it. His behavior towards me feels like he’s simply playing with a toy.”
Oliver merely laughed without denying it. After all, he got the same impression.
“I’m glad you have an understanding of His Highness. — I’m afraid I’ve talked too much, but please accept this.”
What Oliver gave her was three sheets of paper.
“His Highness has asked me to give you a list of the guests, who will be invited to the wedding ceremony.”
“Thank you very much. I was just about to ask for it.”
It’s quite helpful to be able to have things arranged without having to ask. Rishe checked the names of the state guests listed there, one by one.
(His Majesty Zahad, His Royal Highness Prince Kai, Her Royal Highness Princess Harriet ….The Kingdom of Domana is no longer represented by His Majesty, but by Duke Jonal.)
Rishe pondered through the names of the people on the list. For her, this is more than just a list of wedding attendees.
In a sense, this is the list of the key figures in each country that Arnold turned against.
Before Arnold kills his father a few years later and wages a war of invasion, there’s still an opportunity to change the situation in each of these countries.
It could be said that the people listed here are also related to it.
(His Majesty Zahad, I’d be glad if I could be friends with you this time as you did when I was a merchant. I wonder if Prince Kai will go out of his way again despite his weakness… He has a strong sense of responsibility for his official duties, so I’m sure he will storm the long trip.)
She felt a bit nostalgic, reminiscing about all the people she had been involved with in her past lives.
(They will one day become Garkhain’s “enemy nations.” Even so, if we can take action now, we might be able to prevent the relationship from deteriorating, if not to an ally.)
She would like to believe that doing so would help to avoid war. Not knowing Rishe’s feelings, Oliver goes ahead with the story.
“The wedding is in three months’ time, so everything will be arranged in time.”
“Yeah, thank you.”
“In the meantime, what I would like to discuss with you is tomorrow’s evening party, which is a matter of concern….”
Did she hear him right?
Oliver’s face turned even more cloudy hearing Rishe’s obvious bewilderment.
“…. Rishe sama, didn’t His Highness mention it to you?”
“Zee, nothing at all. Is there an evening party tomorrow?”
“Huh, that guy is truly….!”
Oliver slapped his forehead down as he assessed the current situation.
“…. There is. And His Highness knows, is he trying to squash me by not telling me about it?”
“It’s my negligence…! He told me, “There is no need for Rishe to attend an evening party like that, just present a notice of absence.” I tried to persuade him at length and assumed that he agreed!”
She really pities Oliver. There was no way the Crown Prince’s fiancée could not attend the evening party held at the Royal Palace.
“No need to worry, Oliver sama. I’ll go. Rest assured that I will attend the party properly.”
“Thank you, Rishe sama. Then I’ll hasten the selection of your handmaidens and have it confirmed by the end of the day.”
“No, I’m fine by myself. This time, I’ll do the work alone.”
She has some certain reservations about the selection of her handmaidens.
From yesterday’s exchange between the maids, it seems that there is a dispute over Rishe’s potential handmaidens.
Meeting those ladies while washing pots or at the well, “It’s settled because it’s already been decided” won’t work.
“But won’t you find it difficult choosing on your own?”
“It’s no trouble. I can even do my hair and wear my clothes alone. I was even the one who packed my clothes and stuff out of my parent’s home, so no need to worry.”
Despite Oliver’s doubt, Rishe hurried to rearrange her cleaning schedule for today and tomorrow.
“—- Your Highness, Arnold, there’s something I need to ask.”
This was the first thing Rishe said when they met again dressed in her evening finery.
“I would like to have some medicinal herb seeds and a corner of the garden that I could use as a field. I’ve written out a list, I’d be happy to talk to you about it later.”
“Whatever I want, didn’t you say you’ll fulfill them before?”
As Rishe turned her head, the somehow tired-looking Arnold sighed. He has been dressed up by Oliver for a while now. He’s now wearing his usual black military uniform with a red cloak and black gloves on his hands.
“I heard Oliver say that he didn’t brief you on the details of tonight’s party. This is a nonsense that Father has organized in order to maintain the appearance that the Crown Prince is looking for a marriage partner from within the country.
“Oh, I see. I understand.”
Certainly, domestic aristocrats must be dissatisfied if the crown prince, a premium stock, only seeks marriage outside the country.
“Since I’m engaged to you, there’s no need for such a night out. It’s not hard to imagine how the nobles would treat you as a hostage.”
“But I’ve already gotten ready.”
Rishe pointed out and plucked the hem of her gown.
She is wearing a bright sea-colored dress. The sheer fabric of the skirt is in layers and the generously draped hem puffs out like flower buds.
Her coral hair was braided and pinned up with a hair ornament. Her makeup was light, coupled with pearl earrings, and lustrously polished shoes.
“Remember, Your Highness. I may indeed be the “Hostage Crown Princess” for this country. But I don’t see any disgrace in that.”
Because that’s what she has chosen to do.
Her claim only widened Arnold’s eyes in astonishment.
“— Let’s go, you should show off your fiancee.”
Extending his arm to escort her, Arnold exhaled as if in resignation, then smiled unabashed as usual.
“It can’t be helped. You have to excuse my touching.”
“We’re both wearing gloves.”
Arnold took hold of Rishe’s hand and started walking.