The laden wheat ears swayed in the wind.
The region was blessed with a warm climate, and they could harvest the wheat twice a year at the start of summer and the end of autumn. The only real season they weren’t farming was in the depths of winter, so as it was the middle of spring, the wheat ears had begun to droop as they approached ripeness.
The wheat ears at this time of year were comparable to a golden sea, because the stretching expanse that made up the wheat field was blown upon by the wind from the mountains at the end of spring and looked like a sparkling, golden sea.
There was a vehicle crossing that sea. Though it was a scene just like that of a boat crossing the waves, this was not a real sea. So the vehicle was not a boat, but a carriage drawn by four horses. It was large for a carriage, but as the wheat field surrounding it took up such a large tract of land it looked just like a miniature. On top of that, the people riding it were lovely, like well made dolls that strengthened that impression all the more.
“You idiot, Al… don’t be so stubborn all the time, you could have ridden with us…”
The first to peek out from the window was a girl who had hair that shone a brilliant gold, just like the wheat surrounding them. She looked around fourteen or fifteen and her luxurious hair streamed in the wind as her strong-willed eyes fixed themselves on a person outside of the carriage.
“That’s right, Al!! We’ve got lots of sweets you know!?”
The next was a girl who seemed much younger than the first, appearing to be around ten. Her head came out from under the arm of the first girl and she spoke to the same person outside of the carriage. Her hair was soft and fluffy and her large, darting eyes gave a strong impression.
“Lady Sheila, Lady Estelle, whilst I am truly grateful for your words, I cannot do such a thing. The prime minister aside, an apprentice such as myself could never ride in the royal carriage.”
The person they were talking to was the boy who would become known as a hero. His name was Alex Bartrall, people near and dear to him called him Al.
At the time, wasn’t someone who could be called a hero. He was pursuing the occupation of a mage, but he was an apprentice who had only graduated from the secondary department of the Royal Academy the other day, and he was still an amateur. Besides, if he continued his studies like this, he would become a court magician before too long and support the country as a politician. A politician being valued as a hero was seldomly seen so his prospects of becoming a hero were near nothing.
And removing him even further from the image of hero was his gentle and honest character. Those who knew Al well thought he was not suited to heroism, but that did not mean they did not appreciate him, they thought he would become a fine court magician and support the country, simply because he was unsuited to battle they thought of him as someone needed for a better government.
The one talent he had that was suitable for a hero was probably his stamina. His family, the Bartralls, had long been a family of knights, and though he had not inherited the position of knight, he had inherited that blood. Because of this he had endurance by nature. As he was tenacious and had stamina, and didn’t shy from building his endurance himself, Al had amazing strength for a mage, but because he didn’t practice the skills necessary for battle, he was below a new recruit as a warrior. He really was a youth unsuited to being a hero.
“You say that, but it’s all you can do to stay on your horse, isn’t it? We said it’s fine, so get in.”
“That’s right, let’s eat sweets!”
Even now, Al was actually struggling with that. He was riding alongside their carriage, but he was unskilled at riding horses, so it was a litany of struggles. The horse ran as it wished and rarely ran as Al wanted it to. Until now, Al had only trained as a court magician so was poor at dealing with the horse.
“Lady Sheila, I am exceedingly grateful for your consideration towards me as a childhood friend, however, were I to do so, it would be overstepping myself as one who serves in the palace.”
Even as Al struggled with controlling the horse, he eventually declined the girls’ offer. They were his childhood friends, but they also had the position of princesses, it was unthinkable for an apprentice mage to ride in the carriage with them. If they were all on a day off then it would be preferable, but they couldn’t whilst in the midst of official duties.
“So serious… you know if you’re that serious, you won’t enjoy life?”
The blonde haired girl let out a somewhat grandiose sigh at Al’s continued avoidance of mixing official business and personal affairs. She understood what Al was saying, but the situation had continued for an awfully long time, and she couldn’t ignore Al’s suffering. Though her words may have sounded harsh at first, she was being kind in her own way.
“It is okay, lady Sheila. Even so, I am leading an enjoyable – whoahoah – life as it is.”
Even as he was surprised at the horse clearing some rocks that had rolled beneath it, Al managed to smile at the girl, whereupon she gave a sarcastic laugh and shrugged her shoulders.
“I’ll admire that stubbornness. Honestly, you’re as obstinate as could be…”
The girl’s name was Sheila. Formally it was Sheililah Mira Freislein, she was the second princess of the kingdom that Al served in. Her personality was free and wild, and her will was strong. The established routing of the royal family was stifling to her, and breaking the rules was a daily occurrence for her. Owing to that, Al often had to run around covering for her, but because Al knew her kindness, the relationship between them was by no means a bad one.
“Alll, don’t you want sweets?”
The other girl was peaking out from under Sheila’s arm as she stared sorrowfully at Al. She loved him like a brother so she was upset they couldn’t eat sweets together.
Her name was Estelle, or Esteltie Tria Freislein, the third princess of the kingdom, and Sheila’s younger sister. She was still young and her adorable appearance coupled with her innocent personality made many people love her. The only issue was her curiosity which would sometimes cause trouble for those around her. Just the other day she had a huge row with the nanny who had forbidden tree climbing, and cause the siege of Al’s room. Looking upon this as a princess’ actions, she would be called inexperienced, but it was completely natural for a ten year old girl. Even including these sides of her, Estelle was loved by all.
“I’m working now, so I’ll have them later. Please save my portion.”
“Got it! I’ll separate them so big sister Sheila won’t eat them!”
“I won’t eat them!”
Sheila had a reluctance to be labeled as gluttonous, so reflexively refuted it. And when she puffed out her cheeks, someone interjected into their conversation. A single boy that was riding with Al.
“That’s right, you ate too much and got fat, so you can’t have any more sweets.”
The boy had his arms around Al’s waist and rode along with him while clinging to his back. From his stature and looks, he appeared to be roughly the same age as Estelle, but as he was a dwarf, he was actually much older. He was actually older than even Al.
“I’m not fat! Don’t cast baseless assertions on me!”
“Nuhfufufu, such an easily exposed lieeee.”
Sheila frantically denied it, but the boy laughed meanly, as though he did not believe her in the slightest.
“I saw it. When you weighed yourself the other day, the scale had clearly gone up two more divisions from last month.”
Sheila’s complexion changed at this declaration, the blood draining from her red face as she went as white as a sheet before eagerly starting to make excuses.
“Th-that’s just because I’ve got some muscle, it doesn’t mean my figure’s changed! I’m really not fat!”
Sheila had recently started training in martial arts. It was originally for self defence, but she had an affinity for it and so continued with full training. She was impressively skilled and it was rumoured than in an unarmed fight, she was stronger than the palace’s soldiers.
In addition to growing stronger with martial arts, her weight had grown in proportion with her muscles. As she said, it had not ruined her figure, but that she had gained weight was an inescapable fact. And even though she enjoyed the martial arts, as a girl, she didn’t want to touch on her weight, it was a sore point for Sheila.
“Puh Puh Puh! But well, not eating sweets is better anyway! It’d be a shame for that horse if you were any heavier.”
Understanding her true feelings, the boy ventured a laugh. He had the typical personality of a dwarf, bright and cheerful, optimistic and had fun with others, he went right for her weak points as if it was courtesy. Even though she was a princess, the dwarves wouldn’t show mercy with something amusing.
“Sheila puts it at the limit as it is, no-one else can ride in the carriage. Anyway, a hero doesn’t ride in a carriage.”
This dwarven boy had another particular characteristic, that was that he believed Al would some day become a hero. Many people said that was unthinkable. Al had a gentle personality, his job and fighting were unconnected and he was involved with the government. Furthermore, the country did not have the sparks of war. Their relations with the surrounding countries were good and there were no signs of civil war. There were sometimes attacks from the remnants of the demons, but even defending against those wouldn’t be a big accomplishment. They were called attacks, but there were no victims, it was only the communications and logistics networks that were temporarily rendered unuseable.
So from his personality, his job, and the times they lived in, the possibility of Al becoming a hero could be said to be nothing. So the dwarf alone was the only one who believed he would be a hero. The bet between their friends the other day on whether Al would become a hero within ten years currently sat at an overwhelming majority of ‘no’, even Al himself bet no. Serving at the palace, Al did not want a situation that would allow him to become a hero because it would be a huge incident that shook the nation. The bet was in this state, so on the dawn of Al’s heroism, the dwarven boy would receive twenty three times the gold he had bet.
Everyone thought it impossible, but for some reason, he firmly believed it would come to pass. His belief originated when they met, from that day, he had followed after Al, dreaming of the day he would publish Al’s heroic tales.
“Uro, leave it there, any more would be rude.”
The ‘Uro’ that left Al’s mouth referred to the dwarven boy, his full name was Urop Galop Mallop, Urop, son of the Galop family, from the Mallop clan. Urop itself meant wheat ear, and the Galop family were farmers. And Urop’s occupation was the same as his mother’s, a travelling bard. He was after a heroic tale because of the influence of his maternal family’s blood.
“Well, if you’re saying so… I have been gravely discourteous, Your Heaviness, lady Sheila. I simply sympathised with the horse and accidentally spoke my mind, I formally apologise.”
Still with his broad grin, Urop apologised politely. However, it was clearly a spiteful remark, so far from abating, Sheila’s rage grew all the more as she raised her eyebrows.
“Al, grab hold of that idiot and bring him here!”
“I-I can’t do that!”
Controlling the horse was the best he could do, so Al couldn’t grant Sheila’s request.
“‘Course we’re not coming, bleeh, bleeh.”
Urop stuck his tongue out and mocked an angry Sheila. He went further and skillfully stood atop the horse and turned his back on her, waving his backside left and right. His natural sense of rhythm gave rise to a delightfully irritating movement.
“Hey, musclehead! Come get some then!”
“Sure, moron! I’m on my way!”
This provocation made Sheila lose her cool and forget herself, in spite of the fact the carriage was moving, she opened the door and went to jump at Urop.
“Waaah! Help, Al!!”
“Wah, Uro, watch out!!”
Finally realising he had gone too far, Urop moved on the horse to use Al’s body as a shield. He moved quickly, almost like an insect, but as Al wasn’t used to handling horses, it was a dangerous action. Suddenly, Al made a mistake with the reigns and lost his balance.
The worst possible case floated through Al’s head, that Sheila would jump and the three of them along with the horse would fall over in a huge accident. It was an awfully realistic impression.
However fortunately, his impression did not come to pass.
“Just you waatch, I’ll beat you up so bad you can’t even stand-”
“…Calm down a little, Sheila.”
A voice stopped Sheila as she was about to jump at Urop, a female voice that was beautiful, calm and clear. Not just that, but it held a distinct strength of will in it, so cut through even Sheila’s rage.
“That’s dangerous, and nobody doesn’t know that your body is trained. There’s nothing to be angry about.”
The speaker was on the other side from Sheila and Estelle, so all Al and Urop could see was her long hair and dress. This was the country’s first princess, Celestina, Celestina Fiara Freislein, or Ceres as a nickname. She was Sheila and Estelle’s older sister.
“Of course, the person you care about most knows that too, so don’t think about a joke or two, is that the behaviour of a princess?”
Sheila heard her words and looked back at Ceres and her burning emotions quickly died out, then after a glance at Al and Urop, she nodded firmly.
“Got it, I’ll do that, sis.”
“Fufufu, well done.”
Ceres’ refreshing laughter echoed around the carriage, and hearing it, Sheila thought.
“If sis speaks like that, there’s nothing else I can do…”
Ceres was the first princess, and there were no male heirs in the royal family currently, so in the future, she would shoulder the responsibility of the country. And with the king currently in his sickbed, she had already been burdened with the nation’s politics. So Ceres could not give a personal opinion, but she listened to everyone and protected her country and family.
Because it was Ceres that had said ‘the person you care about most knows that too’. Thanks to Ceres’ position, she herself had not been able to speak of her feelings to the person she cared about most for a long time. So her saying those words held weight, they may have been off-hand words to her, but Sheila couldn’t take them lightly.
Even as the carriage regained its calm, the horse that Al and Urop were riding on next to it was still in the midst of chaos. Because of Urop’s movements atop the horse, Al had completely lost his balance and looked like he was about to be shaken off the horse.
“You two, calm down!”
At that moment, another horse pulled up alongside them, its rider had the mark of the imperial guards engraved upon her armour. She was not even twenty, yet there was no hint of girlishness from her movements or voice. Her hair was brought together to make it easy to move, her eyes shone strongly and her voice was firm and filled with a clear strength of will. Contrary to her youth, she was enveloped in the dignity of one who stood above others.
She reached her hand out to the side and gripped Al’s horse’s reigns.
“You saved us.”
“It’s okay now.”
When Al and Urop noticed her presence, the horse’s speed had already started to drop, and the shaking lessened in proportion to it, Al and Urop were able to regain the correct horse riding posture.
“Thank you, sis.”
“You saved us, Friede.”
The woman that Al called ‘sis’ and Urop called ‘Friede’ was the woman in charge of those guarding the carriage. The guards were set up surrounding Al’s horse and the carriage, forming an unbroken string around the carriage, the one acting as the leader of this group had gone out of her way to save them.
“Oi, it’s not ‘sis’, is it?”
“That’s right. Sor- no, thank you for the help, Lady Bartrall.”
Her name was Friede, she was generally called Lady Bartrall, and as could be discerned from the name, she was Al’s older sister, Frederica Bartrall. One of few female knights in the kingdom. Ordinarily, the title of knight was passed down directly through the male line, so ordinarily, the eldest son, Al would have inherited it. However, before he had come of age, his father, the previous Lord Bartrall had passed away, so it had passed to Friede. Although, it may have passed to her regardless. The previous lord had lamented time and again that she was not born male, and had said, respected as an outstanding knight as he was, that she had the necessary characteristics to become a knight. Furthermore, her younger brother Al had, contrary to her, a personality not suited to fighting. Both of their parents wanted them to have a future suitable for them, so even if the previous lord hadn’t suddenly died, the possibility of Friede becoming a knight was still plenty high enough.
Friede had spectacularly lived up to the previous lord’s expectations. Indeed, at first she was ridiculed as a knight in name only, riding her family’s coat tails, but she had overturned those rumours with her own strength and skilled swordsmanship along with her contribution to the tactics she participated in stood out from the crowd. So much so that they said it was what was expected of a knight from the Bartrall family, and even spiritually gained much respect. Currently she was stuck as a company commander due to her youth, but there were many rumours that she would rise to a higher position soon enough.
“Please take care, court magician, if you were to be injured, it would hinder her highness’ duties.”
Friede had the expression of a knight, and treated Al as a court magician. Friede was even more diligent than Al and essentially never mixed work and her personal affairs. The single exception was the ring with a blue gem that adorned her finger. Other than the ring she had worn since long in the past, both her girlishness and that she was Al’s sister were completely invisible. That was her fastidiousness when it came to her work.
“Right, I will engrave those words into my body.”
Al too spoke as a court magician to the commander of the guards. His avoidance of mixing personal affairs and work was in large due to his sister’s influence. To Al, Friede was a sister he was proud of, he felt she was more suited to being a knight, both physically and mentally. Combining vigour and fortitude, fairness, valour and intelligence, along with a deep compassion, she was by herself the ideal sister to Al.
And Friede was the same. Al may have a low aptitude towards knighthood, but he was hardworking and thoughtful, he noticed the little things and had a calm and kind personality.In the peaceful world of today, she felt that people like Al were needed. Actually, for the past few days, he had been busily helping the princesses with their work, and all Friede could do was guard them. When they were moving like this aside, she was unable to help them with their work. So to Friede, Al was a brother she was proud of, who could do the things she couldn’t.
In times of peace, Al would support the royal family and the princesses, and in times of crisis, Friede would. That tacit distribution of roles came into being between the two of them. Both of the siblings were childhood friends with the princesses so both of them were always happy to be of help to them. This could be said to be a reason for delight to the Bartrall family too, who had deep ties with the royal family, and if their father still lived, they were certain he would praise them. The two of them thought like this as they strove in their work.
“Urop, you should restrain yourself a little too.”
“Sorry, sis. I’ll keep the time and place in mind from now on.”
Urop always did as he pleased, but the one person he couldn’t raise his head to was Friede. He fundamentally disliked constraints, but for some reason, he obediently followed Friede’s words. He felt they had a persuasive power, you could call it benevolence. It was something Urop wished to learn as a bard, he wanted his own poems and tales to have that same persuasiveness. To put it simply, he had grown to respect her, of course, more than Sheila.
Satisfied with their answers, Friede nodded with a smile.
Immediately following that, she noticed something and cast her gaze around. The golden wheat fields swayed in her vision.
She raised her own horse’s speed and followed the princesses’ carriage.
“Sis, what’s wrong?”
“I have a feeling, though I don’t think it’s anything bad.”
Al and Urop exchanged glances before raising their horse’s speed in the same way, but because Al was not as skilled, their speed was not as fast as Friede’s. So by the time they reached the carriage, Friede had already begun speaking with the occupants.
“Princess, the farmers have come to greet you.”
“Thank you, Friede, I’m glad you told me.”
Friede was talking to Ceres. They both had similar, calm personalities, so the two were the best of friends. What Ceres felt was important, so too did Friede. So Ceres had a deep trust in Friede, and this had a considerable influence on her position as commander of the guards.
“Ah… So that’s why sis went to the carriage…”
Al noticed that the farmers had stopped their work and gathered just within the wheat fields alongside the road they were travelling on after noticing the carriage and come to see the princesses pass. They were just ahead of the carriage, and Friede, working to guard them, had noticed this immediately and gone to inform Ceres.
“Please stop the carriage.”
“Roger that, Your Highness.”
In accordance with Ceres’ command, the carriage slowed, and the guards too dropped their speed in accordance with that. Normal nobles and royalty would have probably passed through whilst waving from the carriage, but Ceres was different, she stopped the carriage and intended to greet the farmers.
“Right… I need to work too.”
Al pulled on the reigns and slowed his horse. It wasn’t just Ceres, Al had things he needed to do too.
“Whoa… the princess…”
“It’s the princess! The real one!”
“To come right to us…”
Al and Urop struggled down from the horse, the crowd of farmers had started to make a stir and Ceres appeared from the carriage.
Her luxurious, waist long hair was adorned with a silver diadem, and her slender and dainty body was enclosed in a dress that was decorated in such a way that it brought a white bird to mind. Her kind and gentle gaze rested directly on the farmers. Though they were travelling clothes, being a princess, they were by no means cheap, particularly as she was returning from a diplomatic meeting, they were all higher class than usual. To see her appear so readily amongst the farmers covered in mud, even they weren’t farmers, it would be a surprising situation.
“Everyone, I thank you for your service.”
At Ceres’ smile, and lovely lips opening, the farmers fell before her. The royal family was respected and loved in this country, so there were more than a few who were moved to tears merely from being spoken to by her.
“Please raise your heads. It is precisely because of all of your efforts that we are able to be here.”
“It is because of the royal family’s constant support, princess!”
Cerest wanted them to raise their heads, but her words that were full of consideration merely made them prostrate themselves further. Only now did Ceres make the troubled face of a teenage girl.
“Still, there sure is a lot… Harvesting it will probably need a lot of energy. Maybe I could try helping too?”
“Al, this is wheat, right!? The stuff we use to make bread and cookies!! Our dinner being tasty is thanks to these people, right!?”
“Lady Sheila, and Lady Estelle too!?”
And as Sheila and Estelle descended from the carriage, the farmers’ shock reached its zenith.
Al proudly watched his childhood friends. Very rarely would royalty be able to directly thank the farmers. And the fact that they were returning from their trip should mean that they were tired, yet the three had inextinguishable, bright smiles. As the Princesses displayed their ceaseless love towards their citizens, Al being their attendant, found their appearance to be pleasant. And, as childhood friends, it was dazzling to see their magnificent growth like this.
“Al, charmed again?”
“T-that’s not it.”
Al panicked at Urop’s statement. To say that he had none of those feelings would be a lie. The princesses had grown beautifully and he admired their stance of putting the citizens first. On top of that, Al also knew them as girls close to his age. So if you were to tell him not to hold feelings towards them, it would be impossible.
However, Al had to say he held no inner feelings towards them. Their lives weren’t free. Even if Al were to show those feelings, it would just trouble them. Throughout history, when the country was healthy and there were many of heirs to the throne, the Bartrall house had taken wives from the royal family, but currently, the king was in his sickbed, and that work was left to the three princesses, and further, those three princesses were the only three with the right to succeed the throne. So even if Al were to hold inner feelings to them, and even if he was from the Bartrall family, who had long held deep ties with the royal family, and even if the girls were to love Al, he had to say he felt friendship and was childhood friends with them, but he did not feel inner feelings towards them.
“Don’t say stupid things and work, Uro.”
“You’ll be a hero, so I don’t think it’s stupid…”
If Al were to become a hero, then he might possibly be able to tell them his feelings. But he was only an apprentice court magician, so he could only put a lid on any feelings more than friendship, and simply work for the princesses.
Their motherland, the Freislein kingdom was founded exactly two hundred years ago. The founder, Rein Crawford was a knight, and at the time, a huge war had just ended and the land was scorched, the towns were overflowing with refugees and Rein Crawford, who had distinguished himself in the war, was allowed to create a country to take in those refugees. However, it was not allowed as a simple reward, if pushed, it could be said to be due to the surrounding countries’ circumstances. Their true reasoning was that for all of them, recovering was the best they could do, they did not have the leeway to take on the refugees or help to revive the areas devastated by the wars, and all of them wished to avoid the responsibility. The surrounding countries selfishness had allowed for the formation of the Freislein kingdom.
The founding king, Rein Crawford had named the country after the holy sword he himself had used, and established the capital where the final battle had been fought. The fort and attached castle town that had been built there during the war were appropriated and changed into a town, however, even so, the uncontainable refugees had created slum areas around the castle town. The town took the name of the founding king, and was called Rein.
However, the country Freislein, and the town Rein both had bleak prospects. The huge amounts of refugees, and the scorched earth held back their progress. The neighbouring countries were impoverished from the war as well, so they could not expect any monetary aid. Because of this, the first few decades could have been called an age of darkness. Disease ran rife, and civil war after civil war broke out, and a period of time where people’s hatred would not abate continued. That the country was somehow able to overcome that was due to its relatively warm climate and the unexpectedly huge amount of resources that it brought about, and above all, because the Freislein royal family devoted itself to protecting their country.
As a result, the capital had huge wheat fields surrounding it, and what was said to be the most modern town in the surrounding countries had a gorgeous palace towering over it in its centre. The citizens and royal family joined hands and spent a long two hundred years to restore the surroundings, scorched by the fires of war to this state. And it wasn’t just the capital, Rein, other areas were the same.
So, the majority of the country’s current citizens were proud of its beauty, and by the same token, held a sense of reverence towards the royal family, that hadn’t abandoned them, even in the darkest of times. They rejoiced that they advanced the country, hand in hand with the royal family.
This was the reason the princesses left the carriage to thank the farmers, they felt the same. They rejoiced that they had worked hard with the citizens to develop the country even further over the past two centuries, and this was conveyed to the citizens, so their loyalty to the royal family grew to be unshakeable.