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Completed ― An Unconscious Genius Magic Tool Maker Wants to Live a Leisurely Life

Chapter 1: Everyday Power Harassment

“Handle these purchase orders by tomorrow.”

“Huh…”

A pile of messy papers was placed on the table.

There were other piles that had not been finished, and I was speechless.

“Okay then.”

“W-Wait, director! There’s no way I can finish all this by myself by tomorrow.”

“What are you talking about? Isn’t that your job?”

“I-I mean, well…”

The director is also a magic tool maker, so this should be his responsibility too…

But I was in a position where I couldn’t say anything even if I wanted to.

“If you understand, then finish it quickly. Otherwise, the next task will come to you.”

“…”

“Well, you should have no problem with this, right? I’m counting on you. Former youngest court magic tool maker, Freya Roster.”

“…But, I’ll do my best.”

He wasn’t complimenting me. It was just a sarcastic comment, as evident by his facial expression.

The director left my laboratory, and as the sound of the door slamming echoed in the quiet room, I stood motionless.

“Sigh…”

The first thing that came out of my mouth was a deep sigh.

If the director were to be asked again, she would probably make a sarcastic remark again.

However…

“I feel like sighing. What’s with this workload… It’s enough for five people.”

The workload is five times that of another magical instrument maker.

Sometimes, I am given a workload that is almost ten times as much, with an insane deadline set as usual.

Of course, there’s no way to finish the usual work hours, so I have to work overtime every day and work half of my days off.

“This… means I have to work tomorrow too.”

Even on days when I should be able to relax on any days off, I am too busy to take a break.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve admired the cutting edge of manufacturing.

I was swallowed up by the waves of an incredibly unreasonable society as a court magical tool maker.

“When will my next day off be…”

I think about these things while working overtime.

By the time I finally finish, the date will have changed.

While everyone else goes home, I stay in the court and work alone.

Knock, knock——.

A knocking sound echoes through the door.

It seems like something rare is happening.

Someone coming to visit at this time?

I hope it’s not the director coming back and giving me even more unreasonable work.

Trembling, I ask the person on the other side of the door,

“Yes, who is it?”

“——It’s me, Freya.”

“Cain-sama!”

I rush to the door and open it with force.

There stood a man with blond hair and blue eyes.

His name was Cain Balmoust.

He is the legitimate son of the Balmoust family and also my fiancé.

“Good evening, Freya.”

“Good evening! Why did you come here, Cain-sama?”

“I came to check on how you’re doing. And there was something I wanted to talk to you about.”

He came all the way to the court just to see me?

At this late hour?

Cain-sama is always so kind.

His appearance, personality, and behavior are all excellent.

I’m unworthy of him as his fiancé.

However, I needed his kindness at this moment.

When he came to my lonely laboratory, I felt a surge of energy to keep going.

“Thank you, Cain-sama.”

“Ah, yes. So…”

He looks around the laboratory with a curious expression, even though he has been here many times before.

There’s nothing new to see, but he seems to be interested in something.

“Cain-sama?”

“…Freya, you were working late again today.”

“Oh, yes. I haven’t finished yet…”

“I see.”

I hoped he would comfort me.

If I talked to Cain-sama about it, maybe this situation could change.

Until now, I stayed quiet because I didn’t want to cause any trouble.

But I’ve reached my limit.

If this continues, I’ll collapse from overwork someday.

He came to check on me because he cares about me.

I should talk to him about it now.

“Um——”

“Freya, I have something important to tell you.”

Cain-sama interrupted me and said so with a serious expression.

I involuntarily shut my mouth.

Come to think of it, he said he had something to tell me.

I can talk to him about my troubles after he finishes.

I switch my feelings and smile at Cain-sama.

“Yes, what is it?”

“——I want to cancel our engagement.”

“…Huh?”

I feel like time has stopped.

I thought I misheard him.

I wanted to think that.

But his words remain clear in my ears.

He wants to cancel our engagement.

With me.

Cain-sama said so with a serious expression that shows he’s not lying.

Chapter 2: Broken engagement, and strangers

“W-Why…what do you mean?” I asked, trembling.

Then Cain-sama let out a small sigh and looked away from me.

He was looking at a pile of documents on the table.

“There are several reasons. One of them is the current situation.”

“The current situation…”

“Ever since you entered the court, you’ve been working until this late every day. At first, I thought you were passionate about your work and it was wonderful. But I’ve recently realized that you’re just slow and lazy.”

“T-That’s not true!”

I denied it instinctively.

Cain-sama misunderstood.

I’ve never skipped work until today, and I haven’t been slacking off.

I work diligently every day.

Still, it’s because the director is forcing me to take on an unreasonable workload that I can’t finish.

“I’m working without taking a break. Even today, I was supposed to——”

“That’s enough. No more excuses.”

A cold voice echoed in my ears.

I shuddered at the sound of the voice, which I heard for the first time.

“Cain…sama?”

“Do you think I’m talking about this without any basis? I confirmed it with the director beforehand. Whether you’re working seriously here or not.”

“The director?”

“Yes. I was disappointed to hear the answer. It seems like I was mistaken to think you were working seriously.”

I don’t know what the director answered.

Still, I know that the response wasn’t good.

That person hates me.

It’s precisely that person who created my current situation.

“N-No, that’s not true! It’s because the director——”

“Are you lying? You should be careful with your words. The director is in charge of the court’s magic tool makers. In other words, she’s the most excellent magic tool maker in the country. Who do you think is more credible, your words or hers?”

“T-That is…”

“According to the director, you’re doing your best to finish the given tasks as scheduled. You’re always working overtime because your efficiency is low.”

That’s not true.

It’s all because of the unreasonable amount…

“It is true that you have more work than other magic tool makers, but that’s because of your abilities. As the youngest royal magic tool maker, it was expected that you could easily handle this workload, but unfortunately, you were a disappointment. I feel really sorry about it.”

All of them.

Director interprets everything in her own way and reports to Cain-sama.

I can’t fix the twisted facts.

No matter how much I deny it here, Cain-sama won’t believe me.

The moment he mentioned breaking off our engagement, he had no intention of trusting me at all.

So I…

“I’m sorry.”

All I could do was apologize.

Was it my fault?

Was it just because I couldn’t meet expectations?

Where is the line between harassment and expectation?

What was being done to me, was it not harassment?

I… hated it.

Was it wrong for me to think that way?

“H-However, the matter of our engagement is not only our concern. The Roster family and the Balmoust family both need to agree.”

The two families have been close for a long time, and it is customary for the heir of the opposite sex to become engaged when they are born.

To promise a deeper relationship that lasts forever.

It’s what they call a political marriage.

And as the eldest daughter, I was chosen.

Our engagement was decided by the traditions of both families.

It’s difficult to overturn it on a whim.

“Don’t worry. We’ve already resolved that issue.”

“What do you mean by resolved…?”

“I’ve decided to become engaged to your younger sister, Aria, instead of you.”

“Aria…?”

Aria, my younger sister who is three years younger than me.

She’ll be coming of age this year, so there’s no problem with her becoming his fiancé.

“She’s a wonderful girl. She never lies to me and always answers me honestly. She’s still a bit naive, but that’s also part of her charm.”

“Cain-sama… Were you close with Aria?”

“Of course, right? She’s your sister. We had plenty of opportunities to interact. You didn’t know because you were at the court every day, but we’ve met many times before,” he said boldly in front of me.

“…”

I couldn’t say anything.

I never expected to be confessed to, right in front of the person themselves, that he had been cheating on me with my own sister.

While I was desperately working, the two of them were getting along well.

Just imagining it made my anger boil.

But I couldn’t express it in words.

Even if I did, it wouldn’t mean anything.

“Aria… what is her response?”

“Of course she agreed.”

“I see…”

It seemed like there was nothing more to talk about.

The conclusion had already been reached.

Before Cain-sama could say it, I decided to say it myself.

I straightened my back and slowly lowered my head.

“Thank you for everything until now, Cain-sama.”

“Oh, for me too, it was a good experience.”

And so, Cain-sama and I became strangers again.

Easily, without much emotion.

I learned that connections between people could be cut so easily.

Chapter 3: Midnight Encounter

For a while, I locked myself in the laboratory alone.

Even after Cain-sama left, I was in such shock that I couldn’t think of anything.

Yet ironically, my hands moved on their own when it came to work.

It had seeped into my body.

I couldn’t go home until I finished this.

I just want to go home… and rest.

“Sigh… Why does it have to be like this?”

Come to think of it, my life had been a series of things not going the way I wanted.

I wasn’t originally from the Roster family.

My mother was a commoner, and my father had a one-night stand with her.

That’s how I was born, and my father accepted me as his eldest daughter to hide that relationship.

But by that time, Aria had already been born, and my treatment in the Roster family was terrible.

My father wouldn’t even look me in the eye.

My stepmother treated me as an enemy.

The servants pitied me.

Even my younger sister Aria made fun of me.

I had no place in the Roster family.

Yet, I found my one and only reason for living.

When I was making magical tools, I felt like I was freed from all other entanglements.

Making things is fun.

I want to invent something that will surprise everyone.

And so, while studying alone to make magical tools, before I knew it, I had become a court magic tool maker.

It was four years ago, when I was 14, and I became the youngest ever to do so.

It was the first time anyone had ever paid attention to me.

Knowing me changed the way many people saw me.

It was around this time that I was approached by the Balmoust family, with an offer to engage with Cain-sama, with whom I had a deep friendship.

I became an adult, engaged, and was able to make things in the best environment at the court.

At that time, I was pleased that the people around me had recognized me, even though I was nothing special.

I felt like something would change in my life.

But in the end, things didn’t go well.

Expectations can also lead to resentment.

I was bullied by senior colleagues and the director, who didn’t like me, and was given unreasonable amounts of work.

Even if I somehow managed to finish it, even more work would come flying at me.

My only comfort when I was exhausted was Cain-sama’s kindness… but I lost that too.

I might be experiencing true loneliness…

“I should just quit…”

How many times have I thought this?

I want to escape.

I want to quit the court and live leisurely somewhere.

“…But it’s impossible, isn’t it?”

It’s just a wish.

Even if I did escape, how would I survive afterwards?

Even finding a job would be difficult.

No decent workplace would hire someone with an uncertain identity.

If things go wrong, I might end up living a worse life than I do now… but I can’t even imagine it.

Sigh

I’ll finish today’s work soon.

It’s almost time for the date to change to tomorrow.

Even if tomorrow comes, I’ll continue to have hectic days like today.

If there’s any difference, it would be that there’s no longer even a small comfort.

It seems like the only thing left for me is to devote myself to work with emptiness.

I can’t do anything but sigh.

❂❂❂

After finishing work, I leave the lab slowly.

I can finally go home and sleep in my bed.

I should be happy, but my steps are heavier than usual today.

Everyone should be asleep at this time, but what if someone is awake and I run into them by chance?

Oto-sama, Okaa-sama, Aria… Even the servants must know about the broken engagement.

Whenever we meet, they always make sarcastic remarks.

And tomorrow, if I come to work here, I’m afraid the director will make fun of me.

Everything feels like a hassle, and even walking feels sluggish.

Perhaps I should spend the night in the laboratory.

I’ve done it a few times before, so it’s not the first time.

I stop in my tracks.

“Maybe I should go back.”

And I turn on my heel.

I just passed through the courtyard.

Rustle, rustle, rustle!

“Huh?”

Someone other than me is in the courtyard.

It’s unnatural for anyone to be alone in the palace at this late hour.

I’ve never encountered anyone here before.

I can hear faint breathing.

It’s clear who’s there.

It must be someone who’s not normal.

Could it be a thief… or an assassin?

I suddenly got scared and tried to run away from the scene.

“Haa…h, u…”

The voice I heard from behind the trees in the garden was clearly in pain.

When I realized that, I stopped running away.

If I listen carefully in the quiet night, I can hear someone’s breathing getting louder.

It was clear that something was out of order.

And it was considerably weakened.

I would be lying if I said I had no fear.

However, before I knew it, my body had started moving on its own, rushing towards the source of the sound.

“A-Are you okay…?”

I peeked behind the tree with fear.

There was a man sitting there.

At a glance, I understood who he was.

“Y-Your Highness Julius!?”

Chapter 4: I want a day off!

Julius S. Euclis.

There’s no mistaking him for the second prince of this country.

However, he looks slightly different from the one I’ve seen before.

There are black markings on half of his body that I’ve never seen before.

“Y-You are…”

“I’m Freya, a court magic tool maker!”

“magic tool maker… were you at the court until this late…? That’s unexpected.”

“What happened? What are these markings…”

His highness is clutching his chest in pain.

Is it a heartache or difficulty breathing?

Or maybe both.

It’s clear at a glance that the situation is serious.

“I’ll go call someone now!”

“Stop!”

His highness grabs my arm tightly.

An extraordinary high fever is transmitted from his hand.

“Don’t do anything unnecessary. Don’t tell anyone about this.”

“W-Why? You have a high fever. Clearly, you are suffering from some kind of illness.”

“It’s not an illness. It’s… a curse.”

“A curse?”

“Yes… guh…”

“Your highness!”

The pain must have become worse.

His Highness releases my hand that he was holding onto.

In a split second, I grabbed the falling His Highness’ hand.

The high fever I felt from his fingertips is approaching the limit of what a human body can endure.

At this rate, it could be life-threatening.

“Forget about me… just leave and go home.”

“I can’t do that.”

“What are you…”

“I can’t just leave someone who looks like they’re in so much pain!”

I pull His Highness’ hand and wrap my arm around his shoulder.

For someone as weak as me, supporting an adult male is just barely possible.

But I force myself to do it.

“I’m sorry. Please forgive my rudeness.”

“What are you trying to do?”

“I’m taking you to my laboratory.”

If this symptom is really a curse, that magic tool should be useful.

Once we arrive at the laboratory, he’ll surely feel better.

So——

“Just hold on a little longer, okay?”

“…Ah.”

I feel like the burden has lightened a bit.

His Highness’ feet move along with my movements.

We increase our walking speed and head towards the laboratory.

We enter the darkened laboratory and lay His Highness on a makeshift bed.

The bed is uncomfortable, but endure it for now.

I turn on the lights in the room and search for the magic tool on the shelf.

“Let’s see, found it!”

I found a silver bracelet.

I attach it to His Highness’s right arm, on the side where the pattern is spreading.

“This should do it…”

The magical instrument takes effect.

The black pattern that had spread throughout half of his body gradually fades away and disappears.

In its place, the bracelet changes color to black.

It’s as if the bracelet is absorbing His Highness’s curse.

“… Huh…”

“Your Highness.”

“The pain… is starting to fade.”

“That’s good.”

As expected, it seems to be working properly.

Relieved, I sit on a nearby chair.

On the other hand, His Highness gets up from the bed, clenches and unclenches his right hand to confirm that the pattern has disappeared.

“Is it thanks to this bracelet?”

“Yes. It’s a magic tool with the effect of easing curses.”

“A magic tool? Is there such a thing?”

“Yes. Curses are special, but the underlying magic is the same.”

There are different types of curses.

The curse that His Highness was afflicted with was likely the type that spreads throughout the body.

This kind of curse won’t stop until the one who cast the curse is dealt with.

However, it is possible to slow down the progress of the curse.

“That bracelet will expand the curse’s target. Currently, the curse recognizes his highness’s body at a ratio of nine for the bracelet and one for the body. As the target expands, the effect of the curse weakens.”

“I don’t really understand, but the curse isn’t completely lifted, is it?”

“Yes, I’m sorry. Only the one who cast the curse can lift it.”

“No, it’s enough. Thanks to you, my body feels light. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a painless night. This curse seems to progress at night.”

A curse with a specified time frame for progression.

Judging from his highness’s story, the curse progresses every night, and when that pattern covers his entire body… it will activate completely and he will die.

That’s what I think this curse is.

“Thank you. Your name was Freya, right? You saved my life.”

“N-no, it was just a coincidence… I’m sorry for being rude.”

“It’s not rude at all. Your action of trying to help someone is something to be proud of as a prince of this country. You also took care of it immediately, so you are an excellent talent.”

“Excellent…”

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve been called that.

“I’m the one who should apologize. I used strong words… but please, promise not to tell anyone about this.”

“W-Why?”

“Heh, if it’s known that a prince of a country has been cursed… it could be a big problem, don’t you think? My father and the others would worry. I… don’t want to worry anyone.”

“That’s why you were in the courtyard…”

So that no one else would see him in pain.

This person…

“Why a curse?”

“I don’t know. Well, there are plenty of people who hate me. As a prince, I can’t help but draw attention and be seen as an enemy by bad people. As soon as possible, I want to find the person who cursed me… By the way, why were you there?”

“Uh, that’s… uh, work.”

“Work? It’s already past the time it should have been finished, isn’t it?”

That may be true, but I also have my own circumstances.

Especially today, no, yesterday, there were various things that happened.

“Sigh… oh, I’m sorry!”

Sighing in front of His Highness like this.

Realizing that I’m weakened to the point where I can’t control myself.

Seeing me like that, His Highness smiles kindly.

“Freya, is there anything I can do?”

“Huh?”

“You saved my life. If there’s anything you want me to do, please tell me. I want to do what I can to help.”

“Well, I mean, I…”

“Don’t hold back. Just tell me what you’re thinking.”

Just be honest…

What is it that I want?

Do I want to go back to being engaged to Cain-sama?

No, that’s not it.

I wouldn’t want to become engaged again with someone who cheated on me even once.

Do I want my workload to be reduced?

That would be nice, but I’m afraid of what comes after.

The backlash against me would likely become even harsher.

Many thoughts come to mind and then disappear.

After all, what I wanted was——

“I want a day off!”

“… A day off?”

“Yes.”

I just wanted time to rest my mind and body.

That’s all I wanted.

CH5

Chapter 5: A New Place

“You want a day off?”

“Well… technically, yes.”

“…Don’t tell me you’re made to work even on your days off?”

“A-ahahaha…”

I laughed it off, but His Highness looked scary.

“This is not a laughing matter.”

“I-I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m not angry at you. You said you’re a magic tool maker, right? What about the others? Are you the only one left?”

“Uh, well…”

His Highness kept pushing me with questions.

I didn’t know how to answer, so I was trembling with fear.

“Is something wrong?”

“N-No, it’s nothing.”

“Tell me the truth.”

“…Yes.”

In the end, I decided to tell him everything, under the pressure of His Highness.

What happened today.

What has been happening since before.

I didn’t plan on telling him, but once I started talking, I couldn’t stop complaining about everything.

“What the hell is that?! It’s clearly power harassment.”

“A-Ah, I guess so…”

“Weren’t you aware of it?”

“…I did have some expectations, but not because I wanted you to.”

His Highness lets out a big sigh.

“You know, expecting someone to give you unreasonable work is not really called having expectations. It’s definitely just a form of harassment against you. I’m surprised you’ve endured it for four years.”

“Hahaha… I had no choice.”

“Even with the broken engagement. You were angry, weren’t you?”

“I couldn’t be… you know, angry.”

It’s true that I disappointed him.

Cain-sama wasn’t always cold towards me.

It was me who made him like that.

I’m now thinking about how it’s too late to have consulted with him earlier.

“Is that so? I feel like he just didn’t see you properly.”

“Is that… really the case?”

“Well, it’s up to you to think what you want. But at least it’s a fact that the environment you’re in right now is not normal.”

“…Yes.”

I know that.

I’m aware that many people dislike me.

I’ve been made painfully aware of that fact.

I hold back a sigh that is about to overflow.

“Alright, I’ve decided. Freya, pack your things tomorrow.”

“Eh…? Are you saying I’m fired from my job?!”

Did he think I held resentment towards the kingdom for speaking my mind?

How am I supposed to survive if I’m suddenly fired?

“No, no. It’s actually a promotion.”

“Pro, promotion?”

“Yeah, and you can take plenty of time off. You can look forward to it.”

I tilt my head in confusion.

It wasn’t until the next day that I understood what that meant.

❂❂❂

“With this, Freya Roster is appointed as the special court magic tool maker for the second prince…”

“That’s what it says.”

In the morning, a letter of appointment arrived at my doorstep.

Director is now reading its contents.

Being appointed as the magic tool maker under Prince Julius, meaning you are under his direct control.

“So, in the future, if there’s work for me, please pass it through his Highness first. I’ll also return this research lab. His Highness will be providing a new one.”

“What the hell is this? What the hell is going on?”

“I don’t know either.”

It’s a gift from His Highness to me.

I actually know, but His Highness has instructed me to keep quiet about the curse incident.

Above all, this person is no longer my boss.

There is no need to talk about it.

“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me up until now.”

I bow deeply and greet her.

“W-Wait! There’s still work left to do, isn’t there?”

“I finished the work from yesterday. Please consult with His Highness regarding today’s work.”

“We have regular duties too, you know!”

“His Highness will decide on that from now on. It should be stated in the appointment letter.”

The previous duties will be handed over to another court magical instrument craftsman.

Effective from today.

By the way, the name of the new magic tool maker is written as the director.

Of course, it was His Highness’s instruction.

I cannot refuse.

The director desperately tries to stop me from leaving.

She must really not want to take over my work.

“Wait! Don’t you think it’s irresponsible to pass your work onto someone else?”

“I apologize for that. However…”

It may be a bit mean to say this, but I’ll take this opportunity to say it.

I’ll let out all my pent-up frustration at once for enduring until today.

“Director, you could easily handle the workload of just one person like me, right? After all, you’re the best magic tool maker in this country, aren’t you?”

“Fr-Freya…”

“Thank you for your hard work. If there’s anything, please let His Highness know.”

I say that and close the door.

I bid farewell to the laboratory I’ve been in for four years and headed from the court to the royal castle.

I head to the room I was told about earlier, take a deep breath, and open the door.

“Welcome to your new laboratory.”

Julius His Highness is waiting inside the room.

The laboratory has new research tools and is neatly cleaned.

It’s about one size larger than the court’s laboratory, and there’s also a room next to it for me to live in.

I no longer need to return to the Roster family estate.

I don’t have to worry about being chased by the grueling workload that gives me a headache at the court.

I can work here under his guidance.

I can wake up in the morning, work, finish at regular hours, and take a leisurely rest.

I have regular days off too.

So that I can lead an ordinary life.

“How is it? Do you like it?”

“Yes! It feels amazing!”

From this day on, the environment around me undergoes a big change.

This is the story of a single genius magical tool maker, who unknowingly saves people and their country.

This is where it begins.

Chapter 6: Life in the Royal Castle

Early morning.

My body wakes up as if being pulled by something.

I throw off the blanket and jump out of bed.

I have to hurry up and get ready, or I’ll be late.

There’s a lot to do today.

Maintaining and managing the magic tool facility, adjusting for the production of magic tools, and developing new magic tools.

There’s also a pile of paperwork to do.

If I don’t start as soon as possible, I won’t be able to finish it all today.

I’ll be living on the edge tomorrow and the day after that.

To prevent that, I have to leave my room at sunrise…

“Huh, this is…”

This isn’t my usual room.

I realize too late that this isn’t the Roster family’s mansion.

My entire body, which was moving around restlessly, suddenly stops, and I look outside the window.

The clear blue sky has not a single cloud.

Even though it’s the same morning, things can look so different depending on where you are.

“Oh, I see… I’m in the royal castle.”

My sleepy head wakes up sharply.

The things that were mixed up between dreams and reality are now clear.

Yesterday, I was promoted to be the second prince’s personal court magic tool maker.

With that, the research lab was moved to the royal castle, and I was given a dedicated room to sleep in.

Now, I don’t have to force myself to go back to the mansion anymore.

I received a new place to stay, a home to return to.

“I woke up as usual… What should I do?”

I didn’t have any particular plans.

Last night, His Highness Julius just told me to rest well.

What should I do now?

Without knowing what I could do, I changed my clothes without thinking.

The room was equipped with a kitchen where I could cook, and ingredients were also provided. So I made breakfast casually and waited for time to pass while daydreaming.

“Phew… It feels like it’s been a while.”

A peaceful morning like this.

For me, mornings were similar to the emotions of soldiers before going to the battlefield.

Once I left the room and entered the research lab, I couldn’t leave until my work was done.

If I were even a little late, I didn’t know what the director would say.

In any case, I was always in a hurry.

Sometimes I even skipped breakfast.

Lunch too…sometimes I couldn’t even eat.

Now, I am in the midst of leisurely flowing time.

Drinking warm tea, I can enjoy the time after a meal.

How happy I am.

“…”

I sip my tea in silence.

I’m not really thinking about anything in particular.

It’s a void of time.

The sound of the clock ticking seems louder than necessary.

“…Okay.”

I stand up energetically and tidy up the dishes.

After finishing the tidying up, I leave the room.

I step out into the hallway and come to a halt.

Even though I worked as a court magic tool maker, I don’t often have the opportunity to go to the castle.

If the court is where we work, then the castle is where we live.

Of course, the royal family lives there.

So, ordinarily, one would not enter the castle unless invited.

“I wonder which way to go…”

Naturally, I don’t know the way.

I decide to go in the direction that seems right for now.

It’s early in the morning.

There aren’t many people around.

So far, there are no other figures in front of or behind me.

“I wonder if anyone’s here.”

Even though I look around aimlessly, I can’t find anyone.

I was hoping to find someone and ask for directions.

I walk down the hallway, looking around nervously.

Then, at the corner, I suddenly encountered the person I was looking for.

“Your Highness Julius!”

“Freya, what are you doing here?”

“I was looking for you, Your Highness. There’s something I’d like to ask you.”

“Is that so? Then let’s go somewhere else.”

Luckily, I was able to meet His Highness and he led me to walk around the castle.

The destination was the office where His Highness usually works.

When I entered, there was a grand desk and chair in the back, and a table with two sofas in the center for face-to-face conversation.

“Please sit wherever you like.”

“Oh, okay.”

As instructed, I sat on the sofa.

His Highness sat down on the sofa opposite me.

“So, what do you want to ask?”

“Yes. I’m glad I was able to come to the royal castle with Your Highness’s arrangement, but I don’t know what to do now.”

Having nothing to do and not having to work makes me anxious.

Perhaps it’s a side effect of being busy working every day.

I can’t sit still.

If I don’t do anything, I feel restless.

When I honestly conveyed these thoughts to His Highness…

“Hahaha, so that’s why you woke up so early and were looking for me.”

“Yes.”

His Highness laughed in exasperation.

He then looked at me with a gentle gaze and said:

“You’re very diligent.”

“Oh, no, it’s nothing… I think it’s normal.”

“That might be normal for you, but it’s not something everyone can do. You’ve gone through tough times and still managed to face your work earnestly because you’re more serious than anyone else. You should be proud of that.”

“Th,thank you.”

What is this?

Was I really this embarrassed when I was praised before?

Not only embarrassed but also… very happy.

It made my heart feel a warm feeling.

I felt like he really saw me.

“To be honest, I was planning on giving you some day off starting today.”

“Eh…? Day off?”

“Yes. Because that’s what you wanted, right? You said you wanted some time off.”

“Oh… right, I did.”

When His Highness asked me if there was anything I wanted, that was the answer I came up with after thinking about it.

However, looking back now, I feel like it might have been the wrong choice.

“What? Don’t you need a day off?”

“No, I do want a day off. It’s just… I don’t want to take too much time off, I just want a reasonable amount.”

“Heh, so basically, you want to work normally and get proper time off, right?”

“Yes. If I’m going to work here in the court, I want to be of real use.”

Feeling sorry for how I was treated at the court, His Highness invited me here.

Even though he said it was a way to repay me, if I was going to be taken care of, I wanted to work hard.

As the special magic tool maker for the second prince, I want to show that I’m worthy of the name.

“You’re serious, aren’t you?”

As he said this and laughed, His Highness stood up and took a pile of papers from the grand desk and put it in front of me.

“This is the work of a magic tool maker that has come to you.”

“Th,This…much?”

I saw a name on the paper that seemed familiar.

I immediately realized that all of this work was what I had done until now.

Chapter 7: Heaven and Hell

I read the contents of the request written on the paper from right to left.

The more I look, the more I feel a sense of déjà vu.

It was clearly the job that I used to do… or rather, the job that I was supposed to do today.

There were one, two, three… thirteen sheets of paper written in small letters.

It was quite a lot when put into words.

When I think about doing this all alone in one day, I realize that I was really working hard.

“I think you’ve noticed, but the one who sent this is the director of the Court Magic Tool Maker.”

“…Yes, that’s right.”

There couldn’t be anyone else besides her.

Only the director, who knew the details of my work, could have sent this to me.

And when I took up my current position, I told her to always consult with His Highness if she wanted me to do a job.

I never expected her to come and request it from His Highness directly…

And with such a large amount of work, too.

“Your boss is amazing.”

“Hahaha…”

“It’s not a laughing matter. It seems that director hasn’t reflected on anything at all.”

“I don’t think she thinks it’s bad. I’ve heard it many times before.”

This is the job that you should do.

If it’s your job, then you should take responsibility and complete it to the end.

Is it too much work?

The nature and amount of work are determined according to your ability.

You can handle this much, can’t you?

I’ve heard these lines so many times that I can still recall them in my mind.

“How about other magic tool makers? Did they receive similar treatment?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Just you then. That’s even worse.”

I reply with a smile.

The words and actions of the director towards me, I don’t believe they were right.

However, I couldn’t bring myself to speak ill of my former boss.

“You’re not only honest, but also kind.”

“Huh?”

“Well, you could say you’re too kind.”

“Too kind…”

His Highness nods and says to me.

“You’re probably the type of person who worries about what’s wrong with you before thinking about what’s wrong with others, aren’t you?”

“…Yes, I might be.”

I actually think that’s true.

Unreasonable demands and harsh words.

Isn’t it because there’s something wrong with me?

Am I unknowingly doing things that make others angry?

I thought about it every day in bed.

Before sleeping, reflecting on myself that day.

Mostly just regrets.

“Instead of blaming others, it’s good to strive to become perfect on your own. That’s a good thing, and you should continue to do so. But if you feel even slightly that something is off objectively, you should consult with someone.”

“Consult…that’s right.”

“You look like you don’t have anyone to talk to.”

“…Yes.”

There was no one to talk to.

My colleagues were avoiding me, I had no friends, and even my family didn’t support me.

I had no choice but to worry alone.

“Then, from now on, you can talk to me. I am on your side.”

“Your Highness…”

“I was saved by you. No, I’m still being saved.”

On his right arm was a special magic tool that I gave him to alleviate the effects of the curse.

He is still cursed even now.

However, if he wears the bracelet, he can suppress the effects of the curse.

“Let me help you this time. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair, right?”

“….Thank you very much, Your Highness.”

This is the first time I have met someone who said that to me.

My eyes were moist with tears.

I wiped away the tears that were about to spill.

His Highness smiled kindly at my appearance and pointed to the request form placed on the table.

“So, what should we do with this? Do you want to take all of it?”

“No, it’s more than I can handle alone.”

“I see. Then choose what you can do. I’ll let the director know about the rest.”

“Yes. Thank you very much.”

I can choose my own work.

Is it okay to be so extravagant?

The answer to my self-questioning was decided by His Highness’s gentle smile.

If His Highness allows it, that’s good enough for me.

I am already a magic tool maker serving under His Highness.

❂❂❂

“What… what does this mean?”

“These are the documents entrusted to us by His Highness Julius.”

“That’s not what I’m asking.”

The request form was handed from Julius to the knight, and then passed on to the director.

She sweats while looking at the returned request form.

She feels frustrated that three-quarters of the submitted documents have been returned.

“Can’t you submit this again to His Highness?”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

“Why not?”

“It’s His Highness’s order. You are responsible for processing all the requests on this form.”

“…”

For those who work in the court, the orders of the royal family were absolute, no matter how unreasonable they were.

However, in this case, the unjust demand was only being returned to her.

In other words, it was her own fault.

“Well then, I want to talk to His Highness directly. I’ll go to the royal palace too.”

“I’m sorry, but in order to enter the royal palace, you need a recommendation from someone in the royal family. Even if you work in the court, you cannot enter without permission.”

“Ugh…then please relay my message to His Highness. I have something to discuss with him and I would appreciate it if he could come when he has the time.”

“Understood. I will convey your message.”

Saying that, the knight leaves.

She can’t go to him herself, so all she can do is wait, feeling frustrated.

And then, there’s a large amount of work that has come back.

She bites her lips.

However, it has only just begun.

For her, the real hell starts from here.

Chapter 8: Job of a Magic Tool Maker

“Are you really able to come with me?”

“What’s wrong? Am I bothering you by coming with you?”

“Bothered? No way! Your Highness is busy and yet, you’re willing to come with someone like me, so I feel sorry.”

“Hahaha, you’re too reserved.”

His Highness walking next to me laughed and said that.

“I’m interested. What kind of work does a magic tool maker do?”

“Have you never seen it before?”

“I haven’t had the chance. I’ve only heard about it. It’s an important position that supports this country. It’s a good opportunity to actually see it with my own eyes. It’s also a prince’s duty.”

“That must be tough.”

I casually replied.

His Highness answered with a smile, “Not as tough as you think.”

Somehow, when I talk with him, I forget that he’s a prince. It may be because of the atmosphere, the way he talks and his gestures are kind, and they remind me of something nostalgic.

We left the royal palace and headed towards the direction where the court is located.

The work of a magic tool maker at the court is mostly completed within the court.

“What’s wrong? You look down.”

“Well…yes. Honestly, I’m a little anxious.”

“This Isn’t your first time coming.”

“…That’s precisely why.”

Even though it’s for work, I feel hesitant about coming here.

Especially since I just left the court and entered the royal castle yesterday.

By now, the rumors have probably spread.

In a small world like this, rumors spread quickly.

As we enter the court grounds, familiar faces pass by.

As expected, there are a few who, knowing the circumstances, avert their gaze upon seeing me.

But greetings are exchanged as His Highness is with me.

It’s a strange feeling.

Along the way, we passed by my former research laboratory.

I can’t help but be conscious of it and my gaze is drawn to it.

But strangely, I didn’t feel any desire to return.

And so we descend down the stairs.

To the underground.

“The management room for the magic machinery is ahead.”

“I’ve been here once before.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah. Only once when I was a kid. I got lost while exploring the court.”

His Highness happily tells an old story.

It seems like His Highness was quite a mischievous child.

Looking at His Highness now, I couldn’t imagine it at all. It seems that he has become a calm person with growth.

“Not really. I still get scolded by Father and older brother for being impatient.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes. Have you met with Father and the others before?”

“No, I have only seen their faces to some extent.”

Even though I work at the palace, there are not many opportunities to interact with the king or His Highness. The only one who regularly reports and meets with them would be the director.

Come to think of it, I haven’t seen the director around. Usually, at this time, she would be going around checking the progress of each department…

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that we haven’t met.

I feel relieved in a way.

As I was thinking that, we reached the end of the stairs and arrived at a long corridor.

Thanks to the lighting attached to the walls on the left and right, it was bright even in the basement.

“Come to think of it…”

“Yes?”

“Lighting is an amazing invention. Thanks to it, we can feel safe at night and can move forward in places like this without getting lost. I think it’s truly great.”

“That’s right.”

Life has changed along with the development of magic tool technology in this country.

Not only the capital city but the entire country’s way of life is supported by magic tools – lighting, water, temperature control, daily necessities, and so on.

Magic tools have become indispensable in our lives. Each and every one of them is a legacy left behind by our ancestors. As His Highness said, I too respect the great people who created them.

“I also want to invent something like what our ancestors left behind someday.”

“Is that Freya’s dream?”

“Yes.”

“That’s a nice dream. Isn’t it?”

“Thank you. Um, what about His Highness’s dream?”

“My dream? Mine is… that the happiness of the people living in this country will continue on into the future.”

He said that with a smile. It was a gentle and somewhat embarrassed smile. My heart warmed.

His dream was much kinder and more beautiful than mine.

We arrived at the destination room. With a press of a button, the grand iron door opened, revealing an even grander device inside.

“This is the first time I’ve come this far. Is this… a magic tool?”

“Yes, technically it’s called a magic institution, and it’s larger in scale than the commonly known magic tools.”

This magic institution here is the central facility of the magic equipment that spreads throughout the royal capital.

The one we’re looking at right now is the magic institution that oversees the lighting equipment.

“So, this one manages the lighting for the entire royal capital. Impressive.”

“There are others too, you know. The ones for water-related matters, and the devices that supply magic power to the connection ports for magic tools.”

“How many are there?”

“Um, there are a total of 27.”

Ten of them are in the underground room.

In each room, two to three magic institutions are installed.

Half of them generate magic power and supply it to the royal capital.

“There are so many of them. Did you manage all of them alone?”

“Yes.”

“…I know it’s too late to ask, but were you okay?”

“I wasn’t okay, but I somehow managed it. I understand the structure, so I only need to check if they’re working properly and do some fine adjustments.”

“Well, it must have been tough. You had other work to do too.”

It was indeed tough.

As His Highness said, I couldn’t spend much time managing it while doing other work. The efficiency was also low due to the constant moving around. However, this is the central part that supports this country. I couldn’t afford to do a sloppy job, so I always approached the work with the utmost concentration.

“Was it okay? It must have been tough even with just this. You could have handed it over to someone else.”

“…No, I’ll do it.”

“Why?”

“Out of all the jobs I’ve taken on, this is the most important.”

For whatever reason, it was one of the jobs I had done. I was a little anxious about leaving such an important job that supports people’s lives suddenly to someone else, even though all the magic tool makers working at the court are excellent.

If I had to choose from the jobs shown by His Highness, I would choose to manage this place. That’s all.

“You’re really diligent. Watching you makes me feel like I’m slacking off.”

“I-I don’t think that’s…”

“Hahaha, no, it’s good motivation. I need to work hard too.”

After that, the two of us finished checking the devices. By the time we were finished, it was already past noon.

Chapter 9: The Royal Family’s Dining Table

“It’s already noon. Freya, what did you have for lunch?”

“Usually? Um, I either eat or don’t eat…”

“…I wanted to know where you ate though…”

“Ah, well, most of the time I just ate in the laboratory.”

I couldn’t let go of my work, so I would eat with one hand while working with the other.

That happened frequently.

When was the last time I was able to enjoy a leisurely lunch?

I can’t remember, so it feels like it never happened.

“Well then, how about having lunch with me today?”

“With His Highness?”

“Do you not want to?”

“No! I would be honored.”

Having a meal with the prince…

I feel uneasy about whether someone like me should be joining him.

His Highness tells me, “That’s good then. I was just thinking it’s lonely to eat alone.”

“Are you eating alone? Aren’t His Majesty or His Highness Klaus joining you?”

His Majesty Azard Euclys-sama, who is Julius-sama’s father and the current king of this country.

His Highness Klaus Euclys-sama, the first prince.

And their mother, Queen Mystria.

Just the thought of eating in the same place as the royalty makes me nervous.

I was trying to calm myself down, but apparently it’s unnecessary.

“My father is on a diplomatic trip to a neighboring country. My elder brother is in another city for an inspection, and my mother doesn’t live in the capital.”

“I see.”

“So you don’t have to be nervous. It’s just the two of us.”

“Just the two of us…”

That’s still nerve-wracking.

Having a meal alone with the second prince…it doesn’t feel real.

I follow His Highness nervously.

We come up from the basement, leave the palace and head to the royal castle.

On the way back, we pass by familiar faces, but we don’t meet with the director.

I was prepared to be scolded if we did meet, but it seems like my worries were unnecessary.

His Highness heads to the kitchen.

He greets the chef and asks, “Can we have lunch for two? Is there anything Freya doesn’t like?”

“No, there isn’t.”

“Then I’ll leave it up to you.”

I nod my head.

“Understood. Please wait a moment.”

The chef bows his head.

We head to the room to have our meal.

More than ten chairs are lined up around the abnormally long table.

The largest chair in the back is probably where His Majesty sits.

“Um, where should I sit?”

“You can sit across from me. My older brother isn’t here.”

“I-Is this His Highness Klaus’s seat?”

“Yeah, but don’t worry about it. He’s not the type to get angry over something like that.”

Even though he says that, I still feel hesitant.

It would be presumptuous to borrow the seat of the first prince.

But I can’t just stand there forever, so His Highness persuades me several times that it’s okay and I finally sit down.

The chair is much sturdier than I expected.

It’s completely different from the chair I normally use at work.

“Freya.”

“Yes, Your Highness?”

“For this afternoon, you can take a break.”

“Really?”

His Highness nods lightly and continues, “You finished the job you took earlier, right? There’s no other work for now, so there’s no need to push yourself.”

“I see…”

“As for other work, I’ll think about it until tomorrow. So today, just take a break. Resting is also part of the job.”

“Yes, thank you very much!”

His Highness understands my feelings well.

To ease my nerves, he brought up topics for conversation.

Before I knew it, talking had become enjoyable, and my unease had vanished.

Being near His Highness felt comfortable somehow.

My shoulders naturally relaxed, and I felt like I could be myself…

As we talked, lunch was brought in.

I was surprised by the dishes on the table.

It was such a luxurious lunch that I thought it might be from some party.

“Well, shall we eat?”

“I-Is it okay for me to eat this?”

“Of course. It was prepared for you. Not eating it would be disrespectful to the chef.”

“Y-Yes, you’re right.”

Don’t be nervous, savor it properly while eating.

After all, it’s been a while since I’ve had a decent meal.

“Itadakimasu.”

I took a bite and the moment I did, an explosion of flavor spread in my mouth.

“It’s delicious.”

“Right? Our chef is the best in the kingdom.”

“It’s really delicious! It might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.”

“Hahaha, is that all?”

His Highness laughs happily.

It might be an exaggeration, but that’s how I actually felt.

I can’t stop eating.

It’s so delicious that I forget this is the dining hall of the royal palace.

“If Freya wishes, would you like to eat here every day from now on?”

“Eh, no, that would be a bother…”

“I don’t mind. I’ll talk to my father and the others when they come back.”

“Y-Yes.”

While feeling surprised and bewildered that he would go that far, I also enjoy the delicious taste in my mouth.

It’s truly a heavenly place.

I even start to doubt if I’m in a dream.

“Thank you for the meal!”

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Yes! It was really good!”

“That’s good to hear.”

His Highness stands up.

The enjoyable meal time has passed by in the blink of an eye.

“What will His Highness be doing this afternoon?”

“I have work to do.”

“I see.”

I wish I could spend a little more time with His Highness…

“Oh, by the way, tonight.”

An invitation for dinner?

I feel hopeful.

“Would you like to have dinner together tonight?”

“Yes!”

“I’m glad. I was just thinking that I want to spend the night with you.”

“Yes. I… um.”

So, what does that mean?

My heart beats faster.

Chapter 10: Night Rendezvous?

One hour, two hours.

Without anything in particular to do, time passed by aimlessly.

I dislike having this kind of free time and want to be doing something productive.

That’s what I thought, but now my head is completely preoccupied with something else.

“…So, does that mean His Highness wants to spend the night with me?”

I can’t stop thinking about the one thing His Highness said to me after lunch.

Sitting in a chair, staring at the clock, repeating the same unresolved questions and answers.

“I guess that’s it… No, but then again…”

Going back and forth between affirmation and denial.

In the end, only His Highness knows the true intention.

All I can do is decide what to do when I find out His Highness’s true intention.

If… His Highness really did call me with that intention…

“What do I want?”

I ask myself.

I’m not sure.

But, I don’t dislike it.

Regardless of how it happens, for someone like me who has never been desired, it brings a certain level of happiness.

As I continue to ponder, time passes by.

The sun sets in the western sky, and the room is painted with an orange light.

And slowly the shine faded, and it became night.

Tonight, the moon was particularly beautiful.

◇◇◇

As dinner time approached, I hurried to the dining room.

Although the time was not clearly set, it would be impolite to keep his Highness waiting.

Besides, I wanted to know his intentions as soon as possible.

When I opened the door, his Highness was already waiting.

“Oh, you’re early.”

“Your Highness! I’m sorry for keeping you waiting.”

“No, I just got here myself, so don’t worry about it.”

“…”

I stared at his Highness’s face.

“What’s wrong? Would you like to sit down?”

“Y-Yes.”

I quickly took my seat.

After sitting down, I remembered whose seat it was.

My mind was cluttered with various thoughts, making it hard to focus.

That’s when dinner was brought in.

It was more luxurious and splendid than lunch.

The sight of a royal family dinner made me gulp involuntarily.

“Well then, let’s eat.”

“Yes!”

I began to eat.

Just like during lunch, the food was truly delicious and made me happy.

However, it wasn’t that I couldn’t stop eating; I was too nervous to focus on the food.

“What’s wrong?”

“I, no, Your Highness——.”

Suddenly realizing something.

The complexion of His Highness is not good, compared to during the day.

He seemed to lack energy.

“Is there something wrong with me?”

“Ah, um, I was wondering what kind of work Your Highness had in the afternoon.”

“Hmm? Just the usual paperwork. There were various things piling up, so I finished them all at once during the daytime.”

“I see. Thank you for your hard work, Your Highness.”

His Highness replied, “Thank you.

Is he tired because of that?

If so, maybe I don’t have to worry about it?

The meal ends.

“Thank you for the meal. Freya, I think we talked during the day.”

“Y-Yes.”

“Will you come with me to my room after this?”

“Uh, yes.”

Finally, the time has come.

I was led by His Highness and guided to his room.

It was not his office, but the bedroom that I was led to.

There was a luxurious bed.

I swallowed hard.

“Y-Your Highness…”

“No one can see us here.”

Did he call me here for that reason after all?!

I had prepared myself, but when I actually thought so, I became nervous and my heart rate increased.

However, suddenly his Highness sat down on the bed, holding his chest in pain.

“Gu… it’s still tough at the beginning.”

“Your Highness!”

I hurriedly ran over to him.

Sweat pouring from all over his body indicated a fever.

He must be having chest pain.

I noticed that the bracelet on his right hand that I had given him was turning black.

“Could it be a curse?”

“Yeah… it gets stronger at night.”

His Highness answered in a pained voice.

The magic tool I had given him to suppress the curse was working well.

The fact that it was turning black was proof of that.

Yet, his Highness seemed to be in terrible pain…

“It’s gotten stronger again since yesterday. During the first hour or so after the curse is activated, a pain that makes me almost pass out runs through my body.”

“I-I see…”

“Thanks to this bracelet, it’s much better. I really appreciate it.”

“Your Highness…”

The curse was apparently stronger than I had thought.

It gets stronger with time.

Today’s pain is worse than yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s pain will be even more intense.

And in the end… death awaits.

“I wanted to consult with you about this. You are the only one who knows about the curse, so I chose a place where we could be alone.”

“So it was…”

I felt ashamed of myself.

While His Highness was suffering, what was I, a useless person, thinking?

I should have understood with a little thought.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness.”

“Why are you apologizing? It’s all thanks to you that things didn’t get worse. You’re my lifesaver.”

“But…”

The curse hasn’t been lifted.

If it’s not lifted, it will progress.

The worst future will come.

“What I want to ask you is if there’s a way to temporarily stop the curse from progressing. Can you make something similar to this bracelet?”

“Of course! I’ll make anything for Your Highness!”

“Thank you. I can count on you.”

After a while, I could tell that his breathing had calmed down.

The intense pain that comes at the beginning of the curse must have subsided.

His Highness wiped his sweat.

“This is really troublesome.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“You’ve said it before, but curses must be dealt with by finding the person who cast them. I’m currently investigating on my own.”

“What are the clues?”

His Highness shakes his head.

“That’s the position I’m in. There are many people who want to kill me. To be honest, I don’t know who the culprit is.”

“That’s…”

“But I don’t intend to die like this. I will definitely find out and show them.”

“Um, please let me help too!”

It was a word that came out of my mouth so naturally, even surprising myself.

It must be what I truly thought in my heart.

“I’m His Highness’ magic tool maker. Please let me use my power too!”

“…It’s dangerous.”

“I know. But still, I don’t want you to disappear, Your Highness.”

There’s no one as kind and gentlemanly as him.

He recognized me.

He saved me from that hell.

So, knowing he’s suffering and I can’t do anything about it is unacceptable.

“Please!”

“Freya… Alright.”

His Highness smiles kindly.

“I’ll entrust half of my life and future to you.”

“Yes!”

Chapter 11: Roster Family

Nighttime.

Many of those who work in the palace return home in the evening.

No matter how late it is, they leave the palace completely before the sun sets.

There was only one exception.

Freya, the palace magic tool maker.

She was the only one who worked at the palace until the date changed.

But now the exception has changed.

“Finally done with this… The rest is…”

Documents piled up on the table.

All of them are purchase orders.

In the palace, there is a job to order magic tools as needed, create them by the deadline and deliver them.

The basic work is managing and adjusting the already circulated magic tools.

Creating new magic tools is not frequently done due to the time and cost involved.

Because all of that had been entrusted to Freya, it had been several years since she created magic tools from scratch.

—Whose story is this?

Of course, it’s the story of the director of the palace magic tool maker.

“Only one hour left today? Are you kidding me…?”

She looked at the clock and doubted the time.

No matter how many times she checked, it had already passed eleven o’clock at night.

No one is left in the palace.

Only she is left behind, continuing to work in loneliness.

A massive amount of work that she doesn’t know when it will end.

But this is her own doing.

She herself now experiences the suffering of having no one to rely on.

“Why am I the one in this situation…I am the director.”

Unlike Freya, she had a valid way to get out of this situation.

It was to admit her own fault and apologize to Freya.

If she reflects on what she has done to her and swears not to do it again, the kind Prince Julius will give her mercy.

She was not directly told that, but the director herself felt that it was highly likely.

Not executing it even though she is aware is her pride.

The director of the palace magic tool maker is proof of being the best magic tool maker in the country.

Her pride of rising to such a position doesn’t allow her to bow her head to others.

She silently continues to work.

Which will break first, her pride or her spirit?

Will her physical or mental health break down first? Either way, there is no bright future for her now.

❂❂❂

The day after I decided to cooperate in finding the culprit who cursed His Highness.

I was alone, in the basement of the palace.

I will fulfill the job I have taken on.

In addition, I will find the person who cursed His Highness.

In my own way.

While checking the magic institution, I think about it.

Last night, I thought deeply about it.

How can I find the culprit?

There’s no way I’ll find them blindly.

If it were that easy to find them, His Highness would have already found them.

“First, I need to study more about the curse.”

I finished my work in the morning and headed to a certain place.

❂❂❂

“——I’m home.”

The Roster family mansion.

The place where I lived until recently.

The mansion where I should have been.

To be honest, I didn’t want to come here.

There are a lot of memories I don’t want to remember.

But this mansion is the most efficient place to investigate.

For better or worse, it’s a familiar place.

I walk down the hallway of the mansion.

The servants who saw me momentarily looked surprised and then lowered their heads as if nothing had happened.

At least they maintain their manners towards me, so these people are better.

Ideally, I don’t want to run into Otoo-sama or Aria.

They would both be absent at this time, and my mother-in-law doesn’t come out of her room much, so it should be okay.

“… Unpleasant glares.”

I’ve been feeling them all this time.

Why did she come back?

What did she come here for?

That kind of gaze is felt from all over.

This is my home, where I grew up.

What’s wrong with coming back to my own home?

What’s so strange about it?

It’s really an uncomfortable place.

The palace is… being by His Highness’s side is many times more comfortable.

I ignored all the glares and headed to the study.

The study is at the back of the mansion.

It’s also where I learned to make magic tools.

“The smell of books… yes.”

This room is calming.

Because nobody uses it, it’s become like my own room.

Among the mansion, only this study allows me to relax and think things over.

“A curse, a curse… here it is.”

Searching for books from the study shelf.

There was a study in the royal castle too, but it was narrower and had fewer books than here.

It was difficult to find books in a large collection, so I returned to my familiar home.

I picked up several books on curses and sat in a chair, spreading them out.

I have read almost all the books here.

However, books that I have only read once are easily forgotten over time.

Curses.

It is a type of magic that can cause death to a target by fulfilling specific conditions.

Conditions vary, but the simplest one is contact.

The curse is bestowed by touching the target.

By setting more complex and strict conditions, the effect of the curse can be significantly improved.

The most effective way to deal with a curse is…

“To neutralize the activator… maybe.”

In the end, it seems that the only way to save His Highness is to find the culprit.

The problem is how to find them.

When did the culprit designate His Highness as the target of the curse?

According to this book, the effect of the curse weakens if the activator is not within a certain range.

In other words, the culprit is near His Highness… at least they should be in the capital.

“At least if I knew the motive or how the curse was cast…”

“——Oh my, oh my, I’m surprised to see you here.”

The door opened with a clatter.

Without even knocking.

If it were a servant, they would be reprimanded for such behavior, but not her.

With a high-pitched voice and a proud laugh, she called out to me.

“Hello, Onee-sama.”

“…Aria.”

My sister who took away my fiance from me.

Chapter 12: Disparity Between Sisters

Aria · Roster.

My younger half-sister who is three years younger than me.

I am the child of a mistress, and she is the child of the legal wife.

Due to that, the treatment we received in the mansion was like night and day.

While Aria was being doted on, I was treated like I didn’t even exist.

She could have anything she wanted, while I couldn’t even make a simple wish.

Recently, she even took my fiancé away from me.

“I heard the servants talking about it, but I couldn’t believe it… Onee-sama.”

“…Yes. You look well, Aria.”

“Yes, Aria is doing great. Just look at her.”

She turned around gracefully on the spot, as if showing off her dazzling outfit.

“Does this outfit suit me? It’s a new one.”

“…Yes, I think it looks good on you.”

“Thank you. I have to properly thank Cain-sama.”

“――!”

I didn’t want to hear that name from Aria’s mouth.

No, it must have come up in conversation by this point since we were facing each other like this.

Because Aria hates me.

Seeing my expression darken, Aria smiled happily.

“Onee-sama already knows, right? I’m engaged to Cain-sama.”

“…”

Do you know?

He was supposed to be my fiancé.

I wanted to voice my complaints out loud, but I managed to hold back somehow.

It would be pointless to resist.

Wanting to end the conversation quickly, I forced a smile and said to her, “Congratulations on your engagement, Aria.”

“Thank you. It’s all thanks to Onee-sama, too.”

“…”

On purpose.

She’s deliberately provoking me.

She enjoys seeing me lash out in anger.

That’s just how Aria is.

From the old days…

Whenever she gets a new dress, she always comes to me to show it off.

How is it?

Does it suit me?

I would answer with the same reply every time.

Yeah. It looks good on you.

She would smile happily when I said that.

But it doesn’t mean that I’m happy because of the praise.

She just wanted to show me something I would never have and enjoy my reaction.

She hates me.

She has never said it to me directly, but I’m sure of it.

As I listened to her snide remarks and witnessed her unpleasant behavior, I began to have a hard time with her.

“By the way, Onee-sama, what are you doing here?”

“I’m doing some research.”

“Oh, I see. I heard that you’re working under His Highness Julius. That’s amazing.”

“…Thank you.”

Her smile is a bit unnerving.

It’s clear that she doesn’t really feel happy about it.

My own success probably didn’t sit well with her.

“But why bother coming back to the mansion to do your research? Couldn’t you just search for it at the royal castle? Or do you not have a place there either?”

“That’s not it at all. I just thought it would be easier to investigate in a familiar place.”

“Oh, I see. I jumped to conclusions and thought that maybe you were kicked out because you couldn’t meet His Highness’s expectations. I guess I was wrong.”

“…”

You wish that were the case…

Even without saying a word, I can tell exactly what she’s thinking.

That’s the Expression.

That’s really not funny, is it?

That I’m working under His Highness.

That I’ve been acknowledged.

Just by facing each other like this, I can sense her frustration.

And that’s just a little…pleasant.

I lifted the stack of books I was reading and approached the bookshelf.

“Oh? Are you done with your research already?”

“Yes, I found out what I wanted to know.”

Besides, this study isn’t a comfortable place to be when Aria is here.

I looked through the book that contained information about the curse in this study.

There’s nothing more to be gained here.

After I finished tidying up the books, I hurried towards the door.

“You don’t have to rush back so soon. Since we’ve finally met after such a long time, why don’t you stay until evening? Maybe we can have dinner together?”

Aria, who was blocking the way in front of the door, made an unexpected proposal.

She had never once tried to eat together before.

What’s going on?

“Dinner?”

“Yes, I don’t know if they can prepare a meal for Onee-sama though.”

“…I see.”

That’s what it is.

She wants to make me miserable…

“I’m sorry. I have a prior engagement for dinner.”

“A prior engagement? With Onee-sama? Who is it with?”

“His Highness Julius. We promised to have dinner together.”

Aria’s eyebrows twitched, and she reacted visibly.

Her smile clearly looked forced.

She’s trying to laugh at me… this is payback for everything up until now.

“With Julius-sama? Hehe, Onee-sama, you sure love your jokes.”

“It’s not a joke. It seems unbelievable even to me, but it’s true. I feel like I’m dreaming too.”

“…I see. So His Highness is free as well.”

“That’s not true. He seems busy every day.”

Every time I replied, Aria’s expression changed.

It was no longer a smile, but a subtle expression, as if she was glaring at me.

I couldn’t help but laugh inwardly.

It’s not a bad feeling.

“Well then, I’ll be going. I have some important work that His Highness entrusted to me.”

“Oh, what kind of work is it?”

“Fufu, it’s a secret.”

“…”

I walked past her and left the study.

I didn’t see her face one last time.

But I can easily imagine it.

She must have had an expression on her face that she had never shown me before… a fascinating one, no doubt.

Chapter 13: Unforgivable

Aria Roster.

Her life was always overflowing with victories.

She was born privileged and treated like a precious jewel.

She could get what she wanted easily, living a life without any inconveniences.

In her view, there was always the pitiful figure of her sister.

Despite being the eldest, she was shunned by the family for being a child of a different mother.

She was treated as if she didn’t exist in the mansion and ignored even when she spoke up.

She couldn’t get anything she wanted no matter how much she desired it.

Aria felt some pity for her sister, who lived a life opposite to hers, but more than that, she felt a sense of superiority.

“Fufu, Aria is indeed special.”

The existence of her pitiful sister made her feel her own superiority.

She could think of herself as the chosen one only because her sister was by her side.

She was superior in birth, appearance, and talent.

She was only a little older, and other than age, there was no element in which she was inferior.

Oh, what an easy life she thought it was.

However, her pitiful sister, who could do nothing, had a rare talent that allowed her to be unparalleled.

It is the talent as a magic tool maker.

There are limited people who can bestow the effects of magic onto objects.

Talent in handling magic and the ability to manipulate and release magic itself externally are essential.

Magic tool makers release magic from their own fingers and use it as ink to give magic to tools.

It is necessary to express magic with characters or symbols, and there is a vast amount of knowledge required.

It was not an easy occupation that anyone could become.

It is a name of a position that only a chosen genius can attain.

Freya awakened her talent as a magic tool maker at a young age.

She learned the knowledge of creating magic tools by self-study and grew rapidly, becoming the youngest palace magic tool maker.

The reactions of those around her also changed slightly and softened.

Nevertheless, the superiority of her sisters did not change, but it was a fact that there were people who began to recognize her to some extent.

Aria couldn’t forgive that.

The fact that her sister had a field in which she was superior to her made her uncomfortable.

“Aria is the best.”

Therefore, I decided to further humiliate my older sister.

I will take away her fiancé, her position, and all the little property that Freya has.

After making her empty, I planned to pity her greatly.

But still…

“…”

After Freya left the study, Aria stands alone.

She bites her lip in frustration.

For the first time in her life, she feels the humiliation of being provoked by Freya, and her stomach feels like it’s boiling.

“Swoosh…well, never mind.”

Suppressing her overflowing anger with a deep breath, Aria leaves the study.

Her footsteps are light, and she heads to the entrance of the mansion.

There are visitors today.

Thinking of the face of that person, she smiles slyly.

“Hehe, Onee-sama, you should have waited a little longer.”

If she did, they might have bumped into each other.

I wonder what kind of face she will make.

Surely she won’t even be able to meet my gaze because of the frustration and embarrassment.

Imagining that scene, Aria basks in superiority again.

Yes, the visitor is…

“Hey, Aria.”

“Welcome! Cain-sama.”

Cain Balmoust, Freya’s ex-fiancé and Aria’s current fiancé, approaches Aria with a gentle smile and walks towards her.

“Thank you for inviting me, Aria.”

“No, I’m the one who’s happy that Cain-sama came.”

“You’re saying such a kind thing.”

Cain looks around the mansion, looking a bit lost.

“Is your father not here today as well?”

“Yes. Otoo-sama is supposed to come back at night.”

“I see. I was thinking of saying hello, but I can’t stay until night.”

“I will tell Otoo-sama that you came.”

“Thank you.”

The two move from the entrance to Aria’s room.

There was no particular reason for them to gather this day, just to chat.

They had been meeting like this even before they became engaged.

They used to do it secretly, but now that they are engaged, they no longer need to hide and can come to the mansion openly.

“Your father is always so busy. Aren’t you lonely being alone all the time?”

“Thank you for your concern. But I’m fine. Just by having Cain-sama come to see me like this, my heart is full. I’m not lonely.”

“Aria… You’re really an honest child.”

“Because it’s Cain-sama.”

Cain is already captivated by Aria.

She intentionally contacted Cain and behaved intimately with him to take him away from her older sister.

She has mastered the gestures, way of speaking, and atmosphere that make men like her.

Any man would fall for her in front of her.

If there is no one who she truly cares about…

“Cain-sama is so kind.”

“Not really. I’m a terrible guy.”

“Are you talking about Onee-sama? Then, you don’t have to worry. She came to the study earlier and seemed very energetic.”

“Freya was there?”

“Yes. She said she was there to do some research. I don’t know if that’s true.”

She’s keeping a calm face even though her engagement has been broken.

She is trying to give Cain the impression that Freya is a bad person by making him think that way.

“So, Freya is working under the second prince now, right? Did she tell you what she’s doing?”

“I asked, but she didn’t answer. Onee-sama is so mean to be mean to her little sister.”

“I see. And what about the research?”

“She didn’t tell me that either. It seems like she was reading a book about curses.”

“Curses…?”

“Yes. I wonder why she was reading it.”

Aria giggles.

“That’s scary. Maybe she was looking for a way to curse me.”

“That’s scary! Aria won’t let that happen!”

“Thank you, Aria. Let’s take it easy today.”

“Yes.”

The two held hands and gazed at each other, as if they were seeking each other but looking in different directions.

Chapter 14: Is this normal?

After returning to the royal castle from the mansion, I hurriedly headed to the laboratory.

I didn’t have any particularly noteworthy information in hand.

However, it would be a waste of time to be disappointed. It was already past 3 pm, and the deadline until evening was approaching. If night fell, His Highness would suffer again. As for the method of breaking the curse, I would think about it later, but I had to complete it before nightfall.

“Hurry, hurry.”

“If you hurry like that, you’ll bump into someone.”

“Huh? Oh no!”

“Oops.”

As I was about to turn the corner, I was suddenly called out from behind. I instinctively turned around and stumbled, almost falling, but someone gently reached out their hand to help me.

“That was dangerous. You almost fell, you know?”

“Y-Your Highness.”

“Well, it’s my fault I called out to you. Here.”

“Thank you very much.”

I was led by His Highness, and my collapsed posture was corrected.

I stood up and faced forward. Because I was pulled closer, the distance between our faces was close. As I looked into His Highness’s eyes and felt his presence nearby, I involuntarily blushed.

“What’s wrong? Your face is red. Do you have a fever?”

“Ah, no! I just got startled. Ahahaha…”

I can’t say that I was nervous because His Highness’s face was so close.

Now that I think about it again, this is the first time I’ve talked to someone of the opposite sex at such a close distance.

And for that first time to be with a prince…

It feels like I’m in a romance book or something.

“What’s the rush? Do you have something important to do?”

“Yes. I’m thinking of making a magic tool for Your Highness.”

“For me? That’s why you were in a hurry.”

“Yes. I want to finish and hand it over to you by tonight.”

I don’t want to see His Highness such a pained expression.

When His Highness makes a painful face, my heart aches too just from watching him.

If I can make it a little easier for him with my power, there’s nothing more joyful for me.

“…I see. For me.”

“Your Highness?”

“Thank you, Freya. Your kindness is almost too much for me to handle.”

His Highness’s expression, as he said that, was so beautiful that I’ve never seen anything like it before.

It sparkled like delicate glasswork.

I couldn’t help but stare in awe.

“If it’s okay with you, can I observe you making a magic tool?”

“Observing, you say? Of course, that’s not a problem.”

“Thank you. Actually, I wanted to see it once. You making a magic tool, that is.”

“If it’s okay with you, then by all means.”

I head to the laboratory with His Highness.

This time, I walk slowly so as not to trip.

Upon arriving at the laboratory, I arrange the necessary items on the table.

In this room that His Highness had prepared, all the tools necessary for making magic tools are available.

Moreover, they are all the latest models.

If you ask, materials can also be provided.

The work environment is slightly better than at the court.

On the table are pumice stones, iron grains, and of course, magic crystals that are indispensable for making magic tools.

“Well then, let’s begin.”

“Yeah. I’ll watch here.”

His Highness is watching from beside me.

Although I said “by all means”, I’m nervous about being watched like this.

I have never had the experience of someone else watching me work, not just His Highness.

The director only came to nag, and it seemed like she had no interest in my actual work.

I take a deep breath.

The image of what I want to create is clear.

The magic to be bestowed and the structure are also decided.

It’ll take about 30 minutes or so to complete, I guess?

Since I’m in front of His Highness, I also feel like I want to show off my skills.

“Alright.”

I expressed my motivation with a very small voice so that His Highness couldn’t hear me.

I started by making the tool for the magic, the magic tool.

I gather the prepared materials in one place, and move unnecessary ones to the edge of the table.

I’ll make it in the shape of the same bracelet as the first one.

I place my hands over the materials.

“Create.”

I activate the magic and synthesize the materials.

It takes about two seconds for the materials enveloped in light to transform into a bracelet.

“Was that magic?”

“Yes. It’s a transmutation magic. With this magic, I can synthesize materials into any shape I imagine as long as I have the materials. It’s easy for me to prepare the tool with this magic.”

This is not an essential power for a magic tool maker.

Many magic tool makers have the talent of a magician, and I can use several types of magic as well.

Transmutation magic is one of them.

“That’s amazing.”

“No, this is just convenient. With or without it, you can become a magic tool maker. What’s important is what comes next.”

The tool can be prepared by request.

The essential requirement for us to be magic tool makers is to transform this ordinary bracelet into a special tool.

And the talent necessary to achieve this is…

To directly release magical power outside of the body.

Normally, magical power is energy flowing within the body and cannot be released externally.

Magicians consume magical power and release it as magic.

Manipulate the flow of magical power directly and control it freely outside the body.

If this cannot be done, magic effects cannot be bestowed upon tools.

I gather magical power in my fingertips and create ink of light.

Using this, I inscribe magic onto the magic crystal that I synthesized earlier.

This time, the magic to be bestowed is a healing spell.

His Highness is already wearing the bracelet that spreads the curse target.

It’s impossible to directly prevent the progression of the curse.

So at least, if I can alleviate the pain and fatigue.

One type alone is not reassuring.

Let’s layer five types.

When layering, I wait until one magic is imparted and settles before imparting the next magic.

This process is repeated the necessary number of times.

“It’s beautiful.”

“…”

I silently continue with my work.

Although I felt like His Highness was laughing beside me, my focused hands didn’t stop.

And so, after imparting the final one and confirming if it moves by flowing magical power.

“It’s done.”

“Is it already finished? It’s only been fifteen minutes.”

“I only had to make one…”

“Well… it still feels fast. Is this normal?”

“I’m not sure…”

Come to think of it, I’ve never seen the work of other magic tool makers.

I’m self-taught, and only learned the basics by reading books, and then repeated and learned on my own.

Honestly, I’m not sure if this method is correct.

I thought I was just a little fast at making it…

“I wonder…”

How skilled am I as a magic tool maker?

It was the first time I had ever thought about such a thing since I started on this path.

Chapter 15: Studying Together

The sun sets and the moon rises.

Gradually, the moon’s shape gets closer to being perfectly round.

It’s visible clearly without any clouds.

After finishing dinner, I was summoned by His Highness to his bedroom.

“Since no one will disturb us here.”

“How is it?”

“Oh, it’s quite comfortable.”

He has two bracelets on his arm.

One is a bracelet that distorts the range of the curse and hinders its progress.

The other is a newly created bracelet that reduces pain.

Normal healing magic is ineffective against curses.

However, it is possible to temporarily alleviate the pain.

The curse that His Highness is receiving seems to be the type that becomes stronger with each passing day.

It should be more severe today than yesterday, but he seems to have calmed down since putting on the bracelets.

“At first, it was still a bit tough, but it wasn’t so painful that I couldn’t move. This magic tool is really well made.”

“Thank you. I’m glad to be of service to you, Your Highness.”

Seeing His Highness’ expression, which had seemed a bit painful before, ease up, I feel relieved.

For the time being, it seems that we have succeeded in alleviating the unbearable pain.

It’s just…

“…as I’ve said many times before, it doesn’t mean that the curse has been lifted.”

“I understand. Unless we resolve the root of the problem…”

His Highness’s life is in danger.

When I first met him, he was already at the stage where he had difficulty breathing due to the pain.

The full extent of the curse is still unknown.

However, we know that the curse is close to completion.

How much time do we have left?

Perhaps only a few days… or maybe tomorrow, something might change…

“Don’t make that face. I’ll be fine.”

“Your Highness…”

I can see through his forced smile.

Even if he’s nearing the end of his life, there’s no way he isn’t scared.

No matter how strong someone is, death is scary.

His Highness is probably… if it were me, I would despair and break down in tears right then and there.

This person is strong.

And not just strong, but…

“Anyway, how was it? Did you return to the mansion? Did anyone say anything strange?”

“Yes, everything was fine.”

“I see. If anything happens, be sure to consult with me. No matter who it is, I won’t forgive anyone who makes you unhappy.”

“Thank you very much.”

Just hearing those words is enough to fill me up.

It’s so warm that I feel like I might melt.

His Highness is not only strong, but also kind.

Despite being in a difficult situation himself, he worries about others like me.

It’s not something that just anyone can do.

At least, the people around me always prioritized themselves.

I was made to think that’s just how humans are.

Until I met His Highness.

“I also looked into the curse myself, but I couldn’t find much useful information…”

“I see. I also want to investigate, but it’s hard to find time. I have official duties during the day, and at night the curse is too strong for me to move…”

His Highness stands up from his chair.

He stretches and rotates his shoulders.

“I can move like this now. So, I’m thinking of going to the library to investigate.”

“If that’s the case, I’ll go too!”

“Haha, I intended for you to rest, but if you insist.”

“I’ll be fine. I used to work during this time not too long ago.”

It’s still the same day.

The toughest part is the few minutes right before crossing over to the next day.

I want to somehow finish it today, but it’s impossible, isn’t it?

That moment is the most painful.

Compared to back then, it’s much better now that I can do things I want to do on my own will.

“Are you sure it’s okay? You have work tomorrow too, you know?”

“I understand. Plus, Your Highness also has work. We’ll finish faster if we investigate together.”

“Well, that’s true. Then I’ll take you up on your offer.”

We leave the room together.

As secretly as possible, so that we won’t be found by anyone.

His Highness, who knows the castle well, leads me through a route with few people.

No one uses the library at this time.

Naturally, there are no people around the library either.

We safely arrive and enter the library.

The spaciousness and the amount of books stored there were impressive.

Of course, it’s on a different scale than the study in the mansion.

It’s like a large library.

“So, we’re going to search from here…”

“Don’t worry. I have a rough idea of where things are. I didn’t have time to investigate directly, but I was planning to do it eventually. It’s this way.”

Led by His Highness, we move towards the back of the library.

“The more frequently read books are towards the entrance. What we’re looking for is much deeper in.”

“I suppose they wouldn’t be read much. Books about curses, that is.”

“Yeah. It’s my first time looking into curses, too.”

If you weren’t cursed, you wouldn’t have thought about it for the rest of your life.

I never thought the word “curse” would become so familiar to me.

There are so many things in the world that I don’t know.

It’s a reminder that I still have a lot to learn.

“Here it is. About twenty books.”

“Half of them seem to be books I’ve read at the mansion.”

“Then let’s skip those. We’ll divide the remaining half and search.”

“Understood.”

We take the books and sit by the window.

The moonlight shines in just right.

“The moon is beautiful.”

“Yes.”

“I like the night, but… I was starting to hate it because of the curse.”

As we talk, we flip through the pages.

His Highness, illuminated by the moonlight, looks unusually alluring and beautiful… I find myself staring at him.

“Hm? Is something wrong?”

“N-No, not at all!”

Lately, I feel like I’ve been watching His Highness all the time.

To the point where I don’t even understand why.

“Um, what does His Highness usually do?”

“Usually? About work?”

“Including that…”

I suddenly became curious about His Highness.

Chapter 16: His Highness’s Dream

This is the first time I’ve felt this way, and I’m confused.

I want to know more about His Highness.

What he’s thinking, what he’s feeling.

I want to know so badly that I blurted it out without thinking.

“On a regular day, well, basically, it’s just work. Being a prince may look like a leisurely life, but it’s actually quite tough.”

“I don’t think it looks leisurely at all.”

“Is that so? I thought people might think, ‘What does he do all day?’ and see me as being arrogant.”

“I wouldn’t think that!”

Well, I may have had similar thoughts before…

I’m interested in knowing not just about His Highness Julius, but also about how people in similar positions spend their days.

“I’m taking on some of my father’s work. Managing the territory, dealing with problems that arise in various places, and handling diplomacy with other countries. Those are the kinds of things I do for work.”

“Even just listening to that sounds tough…”

“It is, to a certain extent. But being a prince is still easier than being a king. If I become king, I’ll have many times more work and pressure. I’ve been watching my father since I was little, and I’m amazed he hasn’t broken down physically. He’s still flying around the world for diplomatic missions. Who knows when he’ll be back.”

“That’s quite…”

His Majesty probably has even less time off than I do.

“Well, the chances of me becoming king are low, so there’s no need to worry about it too much.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t you know? In this country, the first prince usually becomes king. I, the second prince, am just a backup in case something happens to my older brother.”

After the first prince becomes king, His Highness Julius will become the first prince.

There has only been one instance in history where the second prince became king.

Apparently, it was because the first prince suddenly died of an illness.

Unless there are unavoidable circumstances, His Highness will not become king.

“In that sense, it’s easygoing.”

“…Do you not want to become king, Your Highness?”

“Hm?”

“I, um… I would be happy if someone like you became king.”

A king who can see things from others’ perspectives.

A kind king who cares for his people.

I thought it would be a perfect fit for His Highness.

He laughs.

“Thank you. It’s not like I don’t want to become king, but it’s just not something I’m suited for.”

“You, Your Highness…?”

“Oh, if I become the king, I will have less time to interact with each person individually. I will have to focus on the country, not just the people. And then I won’t be able to listen to small problems or voices. I don’t like that.”

“You don’t like it?”

“Isn’t it childish?”

“That’s not true!”

I shake my head vigorously.

Seeing me exaggerate my denial, His Highness laughs happily.

“It’s okay. I think I’m childish too. I’m not good at managing or leading a large group of people, so I’m not suited to be the king.”

“…”

“Besides, I won’t have time like this if I become the king.”

His Highness says so and smiles at me.

Is he talking about the time he spends with me?

If so, I’m happy.

If he’s conscious of the time he spends with me, even a little.

“On that point, my older brother can undoubtedly become a wonderful king.”

“His Highness Klaus, right?”

“Yeah, my older brother is an amazing person. He can handle anything perfectly, and he always looks ahead of things. I believe that if it’s my older brother, he can become the best king in history. I’m sorry for my father though.”

“Fufu, Your Highness respects Prince Klaus, doesn’t he?”

“Yes.”

He nods and looks up at the ceiling with shining eyes.

“My older brother has always been my goal since I was young. It hasn’t changed to this day. That’s why I decided that I would be the support for my older brother when he becomes the king. I’ll solve the problems that are out of his reach. I’ll make sure he can focus on what he wants to do.”

“That’s wonderful.”

When talking about Prince Klaus, His Highness looks like a child, so happy.

He really does have respect for him.

They must have a good relationship as brothers.

Different from us.

“I’m still inexperienced, but I’ve been doing various things recently. I can’t say it too loudly, but I’ve been investigating the black market.”

“The black market? What is that?”

“Simply put, it’s a place where stolen goods and people are bought and sold.”

“Such a thing exists?”

“Yes,” His Highness answers clearly.

The slave trade is strictly prohibited in this country.

It’s because it’s a violation of human rights.

If it’s discovered, heavy punishment will be imposed.

“They exist, those guys who secretly sell women and children behind the scenes… I can’t forgive that. So I’m investigating and crushing them. I’ve already captured some of the bandits who have connections. Maybe they’re involved in this case too.”

“Then I’ll help too——”

“No.”

Before I could answer that I wanted to cooperate, His Highness clearly refused.

My body trembled at his voice, which was stronger than usual.

“This is too dangerous. I don’t want to put you in danger.”

“Your Highness…”

“Just helping with the investigation is enough. It’s just a guess that they might be connected. Don’t ever try to investigate alone, okay?”

“…Yes.”

It’s a shame, but if His Highness says so…

My job is to find a clue to lift His Highness’s curse.

If only this book has any valuable information…

“Oh, this…”

“Did you find something?”

“Yes.”

The book I was looking at had some interesting information.

The body of the cursed person is mixed with the magic of the person who cast the curse.

“Magic…”

If I can identify the magic…

I might be able to find the culprit who cast the curse!

Chapter 17: Light

Magic flows within humans. From infants to the elderly, magic always resides within every human. However, for most people, their magic is too weak, or they lack the talent to use it as a magician, so they cannot feel it.

Only the chosen ones can embody their inner power. And there are individual differences in magic. The size, quantity, and nature of it are all different. Just like a person’s appearance, even if they are similar, there are no two completely identical things.

That’s what they say.

“If this book is correct, there should be someone else’s magic mixed in with His Highness’s body right now.”

“I see. If we examine the magic and find a match, then…”

That person would be the culprit.

“But is that possible? Can we identify magic?”

“It’s possible. There is a device that can examine the nature of magic, but…”

That won’t work.

We can examine the magic flowing within His Highness. However, we must try the same method with other people as well. Will the culprit comply willingly?

If it were me, I wouldn’t approach them suspiciously.

If we want to investigate, we need to find a way that the culprit won’t notice, and it should be easier to understand…

For example, yes!

So much that you can tell just by looking at it.

“That’s right. The magic eye.”

“Magic eye?”

“It’s the eye that houses special powers. Among the many magic eyes, there is an effect of being able to see the flow of someone else’s magic.”

“Is there really such a useful eye? No, even if there is, I don’t know anyone who has a magic eye. Do you know someone who has it?”

I shake my head.

Of course, there shouldn’t be anyone.

Magic eyes are very rare, and confirmed cases within the country are scarce.

If His Highness is not aware of it, I would not know either.

“If you trace back the magic eye’s origin, it is a type of magic. That’s why it can be reproduced with magic.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes. Probably.”

“Pro-probably?”

His Highness tilts his head in confusion.

I answer honestly.

“I haven’t tried it myself, so I don’t know unless I try. But I think I can do it. No, I’ll show you!”

To save His Highness’s life.

I clench my fist with strong determination.

It’s just wishful thinking.

Even though I said I can do it, I have no assurance.

Even so, I’ll do it.

I’ll definitely create it and show it to them.

“Freya…then, I’ll leave it to you. I’ve entrusted half of my future to you. If you say you can do it, then I’ll believe in it too.”

“Yes, thank you!”

I knew His Highness would say that.

He trusts me.

Therefore, I will live up to that trust.

I will put everything I have into it and definitely make it happen.

❂❂❂

The first thing I started with was studying about the magic eye.

Just like during the curse, I don’t know much about the magic eye.

With His Highness’s help, I gathered some relevant materials.

I read through them all.

“I see. It’s just that a special magic we are born with resides in our eyes… so if we understand the contents of the magic, it seems like we can reproduce it.”

Next, I continued my magical studies.

Although, knowledge of magic is essential for making magical tools.

I already understand almost all existing magic.

As a review, I selected several spells that have effects similar to the magic eye and decided to improve them.

“Let’s also refer to the magic tool that inspects magic properties.”

Although I can’t use it for this task, it should be easy enough to investigate.

By flowing magic power into the device, detailed information such as its properties, amount, and speed of flow within the body can be examined.

There should be several of them in the court.

They are used for entrance tests for the knighthood.

I run to the court and confirm the structure of the device once again.

I passed many familiar faces on the way, but I can’t afford to worry about them now.

There may not be enough time.

I start working on it as if today is the deadline.

“For the device…if I look with my eyes, glasses would be a good choice.”

To avoid suspicion from others, I should use a normal design if possible.

If I wear an obviously strange device, the culprit might escape.

I’ll also apply layers of magic.

A single magic won’t be able to reproduce the effect of the magic eyes.

Combining different effects and properties of magic is difficult.

The device could compete and break, resulting in failure.

If I fail, there is a risk of the magic backfiring.

In the worst case, I might get seriously injured…

“It’s not a question of whether I can do it or not.”

I’ve decided to do it.

“I’ll do it, knowing the risks.

Above all, if I don’t complete this, His Highness’s life will end.

That kind and wonderful person will be gone.

I don’t want that.

I might get injured?

If that’s what it takes to help His Highness, it’s a small price to pay, right?

“Alright.”

I slapped both of my cheeks and focused on the task at hand.

I concentrated and thought.

In my mind, I tried every combination of patterns, and tried them in order of the most likely to work.

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

The clock’s hands moved forward.

Not a word was spoken, only the sound of work echoed through the room.

I didn’t even notice when evening turned into the next day.

I didn’t feel hungry.

With all my focus, I moved my hands silently.

And then——

As the sun rose in the eastern sky,

“I did it!”

The magic tool of the pseudo-magic eyes was completed.

Emotions and exhaustion overwhelmed me, and I fell asleep as if I had collapsed.

The morning sun I saw before falling asleep was the light of hope for me.

Chapter 18: No, thank you.

I feel physically weak.

When was the last time I worked until I could see the morning sun? Was it a few times when I was working at the court in the beginning?

I wasn’t used to it yet, but I was given a lot of work.

If tomorrow wasn’t a day off, I’m sure I would have gotten sick.

“Ugh, ugh…”

I wake up from a deep sleep.

My cheeks hurt slightly, probably because I was sleeping on my desk.

When I raise my face and body, something falls with a rustling sound.

“Huh?”

It was a blanket that had fallen.

I pick up what fell on the floor.

There was no blanket provided in the research lab.

I don’t remember putting it on myself, so who…

And when I look at the table, there was a note placed on it.

Just one word.

Thank you.

Have a good rest.

It was written.

There was a name written at the end of the note.

“Your Highness…”

I see.

His Highness also put this blanket on me.

He probably came to see how I was doing in the morning.

Looking at the clock, the hour hand had passed noon and was pointing to two o’clock.

I had slept a lot.

I stretch my body wide.

“Um, sigh… I’m hungry.”

First, I should have lunch, not breakfast.

After that, I need to finish today’s work and go to the prince’s place before it gets dark.

It’s a little tight if I start now.

“If I hurry, I’ll make it.”

I just need to finish the usual three-hour work in two hours.

The item I need is already completed, so I just need to test it with the prince.

I quickly changed my clothes and made a simple lunch with what I had.

I also tidied up my appearance and dashed out of the laboratory.

I put the completed eyeglass-shaped magic tool in my pocket.

“Oh, that’s right. I’ll try putting it on for a bit.”

I haven’t tested the effect on others yet.

Since there are a lot of people in the royal castle, I’ll observe the passing people and make sure I can see their magic power.

With that in mind, I tried to take out the magic tool from my pocket.

“Freya.”

That was when it happened.

A familiar voice echoed in my head.

I trembled and my body froze.

Why?

That was the first question that came to mind.

This is the royal castle.

You can’t enter without permission.

Even a named nobleman cannot easily come and go.

So I thought I was okay.

I didn’t think I would meet him while I’m here.

I turn around.

“Cain-sama?”

“Hey, long time no see.”

Cain-sama smiles at me with a familiar face as usual.

“Why is Cain-sama in the royal castle?”

“I had some business to take care of. I was summoned by His Highness Julius.”

“By His Highness?”

“Yeah. By the way, I heard you’re working under His Highness. Hasn’t he told you about his connection with me?”

I don’t know.

His Highness has never mentioned anything about his connection with Cain-sama.

But he should know that Cain-sama and I were formerly engaged…

My mind is in disarray, and I can’t organize my thoughts properly.

“What was the reason for His Highness summoning you?”

“I can’t say it out loud. If you’re close with His Highness, he might have told you… you know.”

“That means——.”

I remember one possibility.

Should I say it out loud?

What if I’m wrong?

I’m not being silenced by His Highness, but it’s not something I can talk about lightly.

However, I can’t help but be curious.

“The black market… is it?”

My mouth moved on its own.

Cain-sama shows a surprised reaction.

“What, did you know? Yeah, that’s right. His Highness and I are investigating the black market together.”

“Why is Cain-sama involved?”

“It just happened that way. I’m a victim too.”

He shakes his head wearily.

A victim… It’s said that stolen goods are also sold on the black market.

So does that mean something was stolen from Cain-sama too?

I’ve never heard such a story before.

No, maybe I just wasn’t told.

More than that, I was relieved.

Because I now understand why His Highness didn’t tell me.

“Oh, that’s right. There was something I wanted to talk to you about if I saw you.”

“What is it?”

“Would you like to become my mistress?”

“…Huh?”

My body stiffens.

I didn’t understand the meaning.

No, I understood the meaning, but I thought it was impossible.

Mistress?

“To tell you the truth, Aria consulted with me. She said that she couldn’t bear seeing you like this after breaking off the engagement with you and was in shock. She came to me in tears and begged me for help.”

“Aria…did what?”

What are you talking about?

It’s true that it was a shock, but when I talked to Aria, I didn’t say anything about Cain-sama. At least not from my own mouth. Rather, she instigated it…

“She suggested that I make you my mistress or second wife because she thought it was pitiful to leave things as they are.”

Oh, I see. So she instigated it as a way to harass me.

Thinking that way, it’s just like Aria. And it’s just like him to be easily swayed by her words.

“What do you think? If you want, I can——”

“I’m sorry.”

I bow my head deeply, with all sincerity.

“I respectfully decline.”

“…”

Cain-sama seems surprised.

That’s the expression he’s making.

“I don’t want that kind of thing. And above all, it’s impossible for me to return to the side of someone I’ve left once.”

“…Is it really okay? I think that being by my side is what makes you the happiest.”

“I am already happy. As long as I can work here under His Highness, I don’t need anything else.”

I have no more words to say.

I am here, working under His Highness.

Just being here is already rewarding enough.

Because His Highness sees me.

He didn’t see anything… unlike you.

“Please be happy with Aria.”

“…Is that so? Then there’s no need for us to talk.”

“Yes.”

There’s nothing left for me to say.

It’s a closed chapter.

We start walking in opposite directions.

We pass by without a greeting, without a word.

We probably won’t ever talk again.

Thinking that, I take out a magic tool from my pocket and put it on my ear.

I don’t have any particular intention.

It’s just that it’s the last chance and he’s right in front of me, so I thought I’d try it out.

I look at him.

Through the magic tool.

In an instant, I feel a chill.

The magic power dwelling within him was pitch black… like a curse.

Chapter 19: Unexpected Person

Perhaps?

While working at the court, I’ve been thinking about it in the back of my mind the whole time.

It’s difficult to forget.

That scene, that sensation, is etched clearly in my memory.

His figure wrapped in a pitch-black mist.

I was afraid of that appearance.

If curses were visible, it would surely be that color.

“No… it can’t be.”

It must be different.

After all, he is investigating the black market with His Highness.

Few people know about this.

Because he is trusted by His Highness, he must be involved in this matter.

He has no reason to curse His Highness.

Even from a positional standpoint, Cain-sama would not benefit from cursing and killing His Highness.

It must be different.

As far as I can think, I come to the conclusion that it must be different.

But it crosses my mind.

His back wrapped in black mist.

I can’t forget it, no matter what…

“Your Highness…”

I want to see you soon.

I want to meet you and make sure.

If I can see His Highness through the magic tool, this restlessness will be resolved.

I can prove that the discomfort I feel is a misunderstanding.

I hope that’s the case.

❂❂❂

Just randomly passing time, evening came.

I hurried back to the royal castle and went straight to the dining hall, waiting for His Highness.

After a while, His Highness arrived at the dining hall.

“Your Highness!”

“Freya. Did you sleep well?”

“Yes. Thanks to you, I slept soundly! But more importantly…”

I was holding a magic tool in my right hand.

His Highness noticed it.

“Oh, you’ve completed it. To finish it in less than half a day, you’re truly amazing.”

“Thank you.”

His words of praise made me happy, but there was something else I wanted to know now.

“After dinner, could you let me try it out?”

“I’m sorry, but…”

I said, knowing it was impolite.

“Could we try it out here and now?”

“Freya…?”

I pleaded with serious eyes.

Perhaps he understood that, as His Highness also put on a serious expression.

“Alright, there must be something.”

“Yes.”

I just had to make sure, to dispel this uneasy feeling as soon as possible.

Please, I begged silently…

And then, I put on the magic tool.

I hope it’s a mistake.

“——!”

“Freya?”

“…No way…”

I doubted my own eyes.

But I didn’t doubt the effect of the magic tool I had created.

It was working normally.

That’s why it looked like it was mixed.

A dark haze was hanging over the bright white flow of magical power.

Various emotions rushed into my head.

Fear of knowing the fact I didn’t want to believe.

And fear of having been engaged to such a person until recently, causing my breathing to become erratic.

“What’s wrong, Freya!”

“Haa, haa, haa…”

“Calm down! Take a deep breath!”

The prince supported my body, which was about to collapse from hyperventilation, and held my hand while I took deep breaths.

I could hear the prince’s voice and the sound of my heartbeat.

I regained my composure.

“Are you calm now?”

“Yes… I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. What happened? No, what did you see?”

“…”

Should I tell him?

What if it’s just a misunderstanding?

There’s also the possibility that it’s just a coincidence…

“Freya.”

He tightly grips my hand.

“I trusted you and entrusted you with this. So, no matter what is said, I will believe it.”

“Your Highness…”

“Tell me. What did you see?”

“…Yes.”

I told the prince everything.

Without holding anything back.

❂❂❂

Time passes by.

In the royal castle, a soirée was being held.

Every three months, a soirée was held in the royal castle, inviting the notable nobles.

Of course, the royal family also attended the soirée.

This time, since the king and the first prince were absent, the second prince, Julius, attended.

The soirée was lively and exciting.

Behind the scenes, the two encounter each other.

“What is it that you wanted to talk about? You said it was an important matter.”

“Oh, I have something to tell you. Duke’s son, Cain.”

The two faced each other in a dimly lit room with only one light on.

As the soirée was about to end soon.

Before everyone left, Julius called him out.

“Did you find out about the information I mentioned?”

“No, not yet. The nobleman who is connected to the black market is still unknown. It seems they won’t show themselves easily.”

“I see. By the way, it was you who told me about the connection between the black market and the nobles.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Thanks to the information you provided, we were able to capture the bandits quickly.”

“I was just lucky. Your Highness’s swift action was everything.”

Julius reflected on the events that had led up to this point.

Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly.

“That’s why I thought it was different. I had excluded only you as an option.”

“Your Highness?”

“Because if it was true, what was the point of cooperating with me? It would only have strangled your own neck… but it wasn’t like that. It was all about removing yourself from the equation. Did you purposely approach me?”

“What are you talking about——”

“Did you curse me too? Was it you?”

Julius glares at him with a strong look.

It can no longer be concealed.

Once he uttered the word curse, there was no turning back.

“That is… what do you mean?”

But it’s not a mistake.

He trusts Freya’s arms.

She said it herself.

The name of the culprit who cursed himself is…

“When did you notice?”

“I knew it… Cain!”

Their expressions change.

His Highness with anger, Cain with a smirk.

Chapter 20: Good job

“By the way, if I may ask, how did you notice?”

“It was Freya. She made a magic tool that allowed me to feel your magic flowing within me.”

“A magic tool that can reproduce the effect of a magic eye to detect the flow of magic? She really is a genius, isn’t she?”

“Surprising, coming from you. I never thought I would hear you call someone a genius, especially someone you abandoned.”

Cain smiles devilishly.

“That’s exactly why. She’s smart. I decided it was too dangerous to keep her around, so I let her go. I was planning to let her weaken and make her the next commodity, but it backfired. I never expected the prince to keep her close.”

“It was fate. It was fate that I met her there!”

Julius draws his sword from his waist.

Cain remains calm and his smile doesn’t fade.

“It’s pointless, Your Highness. Now that we’ve reached the truth, I’ll take care of it here. Do you know? There are many ways to curse someone.”

“Oh, I know. I immediately thought of you as the culprit when I found out. When we first talked, you asked me for a handshake.”

“Yes, at that time, I applied a curse. It’s already progressed quite far, hasn’t it? It must be quite painful for you.”

“Sorry, but I’m feeling great. Thanks to her.”

Julius swung his sword with all his might, as if to show that he could still fight.

“Even if you can move, it’s pointless. Applying the curse again to the one that’s already progressing. Then you can be killed instantly. With your current condition, you don’t even have to touch me directly. Like this, in words…”

He put a curse on his words.

“Die, please.”

“――!”

“Kukk… Gaaah…”

It wasn’t Julius who fell, but Cain.

He spat blood from his mouth and knelt down on one knee.

“W-What? Why did you…?

“The method of dealing with the curse is to either have the caster release it or kill them. But there’s another way. It’s more advanced, and it can be either one… No, it can be both. That method is——”

“Curse reflection?! That’s absurd! How can you do that without even knowing what type of curse it is?”

“This is it.”

What Julius took out was a hand mirror.

Of course, it was not just an ordinary mirror.

It would demonstrate its effect when he infused it with magic.

“M-Magic tool?!”

“That’s right. And you know who made it.”

“Freya… I see.”

“Yeah, she’s a genius, as you say.”

❂❂❂❂

“The culprit is likely Duke’s son, Cain-sama.”

“Him? You’re not… Are you sure?”

“Yes. Cain-sama’s magic is flowing within Your Highness. Also, the magic I saw from Duke Cain was…”

I conveyed my fear honestly.

“… I see. Well, if that’s the case, it all makes sense. The next step is how to deal with it.”

There are two ways to lift a curse.

One is to have the caster lift it themselves.

However, it’s unlikely that the other party would agree to do it.

The other way is to kill them.

It’s the most certain method, but it would be a difficult decision for the kind-hearted, His Highness Julius.

“There’s one more way. A way to lift the curse.”

“Is that true?”

“Yes. With this method, Your Highness doesn’t need to get your hands dirty or make a request for the curse to be lifted. Could you give me some time?”

“Ah, sure. I’ll leave it to you.”

❂❂❂

“I didn’t do anything. You just self-destructed on your own. Don’t curses become even more effective when they are returned? How long do you think you can endure?”

“Ku…using just a magic tool like this!”

“She’s really a genius. She analyzed your magical power and built a magic tool that reflects curses from there. sHE finished it all in just one night.”

“Guh, oooohhhhhh!”

Looking down at Cain who was suffering, Julius spoke.

“There is only one reason for your defeat, you made an enemy of her.”

“Guaaah, uuuuuuu!”

“Remove the curse. If not, you will die.”

The curse he tried to cast was the same as the curse that Julius had already received.

Therefore, if Cain removes the curse, it will be lifted at the same time.

However, Cain does not remove the curse.

He continues to suffer.

“Hey.”

“… I can’t… I can’t…”

What?

“…I can’t remove the curse…it’s not just my power. Do you understand? There are others who cursed you.”

At this point, the accomplice confesses.

It’s not a ploy to shake Julius’s composure.

It’s a testament.

“Remember this well. There are many who aim for you and your country. Eventually, they will come over to our side. Until then… Ggh.”

We’ll be waiting.

Julius didn’t hear the last words.

However, he understood.

At the same time as the curse’s pain disappeared from within himself.

“…Sigh, let’s keep it a secret that he’s dead.”

After that, the full extent of the black market was made public by His Highness Julius.

The individuals involved in stolen goods and human trafficking.

Among them was the heir to the Balmoust family, a noble family belonging to the kingdom.

As a result, the Balmoust family was held accountable, and their status as nobles was revoked.

At the same time, investigations began into the nobles with whom they had close ties.

Cain, the mastermind, was said to be detained in the kingdom’s underground prison.

❂❂❂

“Am I allowed to be here?”

“What happened suddenly?”

“Well, I… I’m from the Roster family. I was also formerly engaged to Cain-sama.”

The Roster family is deeply involved with Cain-sama.

As a result, they are currently under strict surveillance.

However, I was an exception and could move around freely.

“It’s fine. You played a major role in solving the case. You should be proud of yourself.”

“…I guess so.”

I received a reward for contributing to capturing Cain-sama while under His Highness’s command.

“Are you feeling relieved?”

“…No, it’s not like I was holding a grudge or anything.”

“…I see.”

“But what I’m thinking right now is…I’m just glad that His Highness is safe.”

I laugh.

The reality is that His Highness is right next to me.

That curse progressed with the waxing and waning of the moon.

If it had been a full moon, His Highness would have died.

But he is still alive.

“We can see the full moon together again next time.”

“Yes!”

There are many things to think about.

However, I could only feel proud of myself for saving His Highness’s life.

Chapter 21: Things that crumble

“Why?!”

A high-pitched voice echoes through the mansion.

However, her voice doesn’t reach the men wearing heavy armor.

“I already explained. Unnecessary outings are not allowed.”

“Aria just wants to go outside!”

“What’s the purpose? Where are you going? If you’re meeting someone, who is it? Explain the reason for the outing to us, and if it’s deemed necessary, permission will be granted.”

“That’s ridiculous! It’s because I’ve been cooped up in this mansion for so long!”

Aria raises her voice.

With a volume of voice that she has never used in her entire life.

Anyone who knows her well would be surprised.

No one has ever seen her with such an uneasy expression.

But the other party is a group of knights who protect the kingdom.

Emotion doesn’t enter their thoughts.

If even a small part of it is deemed unreasonable…

“We can’t permit the outing for that reason.”

They deny her outright.

Aria frowns and asks them.

“Why?! Aria hasn’t done anything wrong!”

“That is what we will prove from now on. As we have explained repeatedly, Roaster’s family is currently under suspicion. Until their innocence is proven, we will monitor everyone, including you, miss.”

Currently, multiple knights are staying in the Roaster family’s residence. Their purpose is not to act as guards, but to monitor.

The fact that the eldest son of the Balmoust family was involved in the black market has become public, and the nobles associated with him are now under suspicion of being accomplices.

The black market was massive. It was unlikely that only one noble was involved.

And then there was the phrase Julius heard.

[It’s not just me who’s cursing you. There are others who are hostile to the kingdom.]

These suspicions increase when it comes to people in higher positions rather than those who are in hiding.

Therefore, Julius ordered the knights to monitor them.

The monitoring will continue until their suspicions are cleared.

“T-Then, why is it just Aria and the others! Onee-sama is also a Roaster!”

“His Highness has stated that Freya Roaster is trustworthy.”

“Hey, why…”

In this matter, Freya has achieved great success.

She contributed to the rescue of Prince Julius and the capture of the person who cursed him.

Due to these achievements, the possibility of her conspiring with Cain is extremely low.

If she were an accomplice, there would be no reason for her to help Prince Julius.

Furthermore, her current position.

As the Special Court Magic Tool Maker for the Second Prince, it was also a factor that cemented her credibility.

Trust in the Second Prince is also linked to the trust in her as a subordinate.

There is no one in the kingdom who doubts her.

However, her blood relatives are different.

Some people know about the treatment Freya Roaster has received from her family.

“Freya-sama is from the Roaster family, but I have heard that her involvement is minimal. There is no reason to doubt her.”

“A-Aria is Onee-sama’s sister! If you trust Onee-sama, then Aria too——”

“I understand your words, Aria-sama, but you are actually the one who is most suspected.”

“…Eh?”

Receiving strong and cold words, Aria trembles and stiffens.

Why me?

To her who makes such a face, the knight monitoring her says, “You are Mr. Cain’s fiancée. Isn’t it natural to suspect the person closest to him?”

“T-That’s…”

Aria’s shoulders slump.

The reason she became engaged to Cain was all because of her older sister Freya.

It was proof that she was better than her sister.

She took everything her sister had and made it her own.

Such desire has come back to her as suspicion.

It is not the right way to put it, but it is a self-inflicted wound and a misplacement of priorities.

“…That’s enough!”

Unable to retort, she slams the door shut and locks herself in her room.

She collapses onto her bed, hugging her pillow tightly.

“Why…even though Aria has nothing to do with it.”

She is not at fault.

So why is she treated like this?

Regret and helplessness well up inside her.

However, she doesn’t understand.

The emotions she has been holding within herself all this time were actually what she had been giving to Freya.

In other words, she finally understood the feeling that her sister had been enduring for so long.

❂❂❂

“…hahh.”

I let out a big yawn and stretch, arching my back.

The clock’s hands pointed to eight in the morning.

If I were still working at the court, I would have been late and in a panic by now.

But things are different now.

There is no clear start time, and I won’t be scolded for waking up late.

It’s still a bit unfamiliar, but it’s nice to have a relaxed morning like this.

All of this is thanks to His Highness for giving me a place to belong.

That’s not entirely true, is it?

You won it with your own strength.

His Highness would probably say something like that.

“Well, let’s do our best today too.”

I change my clothes, eat breakfast, and finish getting ready.

As I leave the royal castle, I walk down the hallway.

When I first came here, I was so nervous that I was stiff, but that has eased up a bit too.

I can greet the people passing by to some extent.

“Freya.”

“Your Highness!”

Today is lucky.

To run into His Highness like this in the morning.

While thinking about such things, I run towards him.

“Hey, if you run, you’ll fall again.”

“I’m fin——waa!”

“Gotcha.”

As I stumbled and nearly fell in an empty spot, His Highness supported me with his hand.

“I told you, didn’t I? You’re quite clumsy.”

“Hahaha…”

His Highness takes me by the hand.

Led by the warmth of his hand, I am guided.

Now and in the future.

“Your Highness, how is your health?”

“I’m completely fine now.”

“That’s good. Oh, you’re still wearing that bracelet.”

Two bracelets are equipped on his right arm.

The magic tool that I made.

“You don’t need it anymore, you know?”

“I know. But it’s important to me. I want to wear it all the time. When I wear it, I can always feel you by my side.”

Saying that, His Highness smiles.

Smiling like a blooming flower.

I become embarrassed and my face turns red with happiness, making a silly grin.

“I-It’s an honor.”

“It’s the life you saved. I’ll treasure it.”

“Yes.”

Being by this person’s side makes me the most at ease.

Chapter 22: Disappearance

“…”

A woman sits slumped in her chair.

Her hair is disheveled, her skin rough, and dark circles have formed under her eyes.

She lets out a deep sigh.

“Haah…”

A pile of unfinished work sits on the table in front of her.

The clock’s hands have long since passed closing time.

But there is still an abnormal amount of work left to do, and she can’t complain to anyone.

She is not in a position to do so.

Because she is supposed to be the one assigning work to her subordinates.

“I have to finish this quickly…”

Since Freya left the court, the director has taken on most of her work.

There are various important matters happening outside, but she doesn’t have time to know about them.

She has locked herself in the laboratory and has been working tirelessly.

The workload that Freya was able to handle alone was not something that one person could handle normally.

Only a magic tool maker with skills equal to or greater than hers could finish it in a day.

In other words, the director was made to understand Freya’s bottomless talent. That a magic tool maker who was far more skilled than herself was so close.

“Kuh…”

She gritted her teeth.

For someone like her, who was a lump of pride, there was no greater unbearable pain than knowing she had been defeated.

The anger dispelled her drowsiness.

There was no end to the work in front of her.

These days would continue tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

She would continue to taste the bitterness of defeat.

“I can’t take it anymore…”

Her mental state was nearing its limit.

Physical exhaustion, the collapse of her pride, and anxiety for the future.

Various negative factors overlapped, and there was no way to heal her broken body and mind.

She had always looked down on others, and there was no one who truly supported her.

Despite everyone being aware of her hardships in this situation, not a single person thought to help her. That was the proof of her loneliness.

The feeling of isolation, with no one to support her, further eroded her spirit.

The crowning blow was a rumor.

That the magic tool maker for the Second Prince had made great strides in rescuing the prince’s life and exposing the great evil lurking in the darkness.

She is undoubtedly the greatest magic tool maker in this country.

Many people who did not know her before have come to know of her existence.

They have begun to recognize the existence of a great magic tool maker in this country.

If you were to ask those who know her who the best magic tool maker is, they would undoubtedly answer Freya Roaster.

The director’s pride had collapsed to the point where it was impossible to recover.

Finally, both her mind and body reached their limits…

❂❂❂

“What? Disappeared?!”

I raised my voice loudly first thing in the morning.

It was such a surprise.

“I-Is that true, Your Highness?”

“Ah, yes. I received a report from my subordinate earlier. The director of the Court Magic Tool Maker, Iris Routilus, has been missing since early this morning.”

“Was she abducted or involved in an incident?”

That would be a much bigger problem.

His Highness shook his head.

“No, most likely it was her own decision. They found evidence of packing up in her laboratory and home. If it were kidnapping or an incident, she wouldn’t have had time to pack up, would she?”

“That’s… true.”

The director has disappeared?

Does that mean she ran away?

Why… no, probably the reason is——

“I guess she couldn’t handle that workload anymore.”

His Highness said what I had been thinking.

I guess that’s what happened.

Since I entered the royal castle, the director has been doing most of the work I have been contracted to do.

It may sound strange for me to say this, but it’s tough to handle that much work in a day.

The director probably had other work to do and it was even harder for her than it was for me.

“Sigh… honestly, I didn’t expect this to happen. I thought she would come back and apologize after reflecting on it.”

“That would have been difficult, I think.”

I know the director’s personality well.

She doesn’t think she’s wrong.

She doesn’t bow her head to anyone.

We’ve been working together for almost four years, and I’ve never seen her apologize.

Admitting her own mistakes and relying on others.

I never thought she would do such a thing.

“But even so, I didn’t think she would run away…”

According to His Highness, a search request has already been issued.

Her name, face, and identity information have all been made public.

It is now difficult for her to continue working as a magic tool maker in this country.

Even if she were to return, she could not go back to her current position.

She herself has thrown away everything she has built up until now.

“That was so difficult…”

However, I couldn’t sympathize with her.

If she could understand the pain I have experienced, that would be enough for me.

“Oh! What about the work the director was doing?”

“That’s the problem. Of course, she left all of her work behind. We cannot expect her to return, and even if she is found, we cannot force her to work. Therefore…”

His Highness looks apologetic.

I somehow understand what His Highness is thinking.

I laugh.

“It’s okay. I’ll do it.”

“Freya.”

“It was originally my job.”

“I’m sorry. Of course, you don’t have to do everything. The rest will be divided among the other magic tool makers. It was never meant for one person to do it all.”

That’s right.

The director had been pushing a large amount of work onto me, but behind the scenes, other people were able to take it easy.

Returning to the original workload didn’t actually increase the amount of work.

“However, I can only do my own job. I think being a director is a difficult job.”

“It looks like you’re doing okay too. It’s a headache, though.”

I tilted my head in confusion.

“What do you mean?”

“That director seemed to be pushing her work onto you and the vice-director. So even if she’s gone, the court will continue to function as usual.”

“I see…I didn’t realize I was doing the director’s job too.”

It was news to me.

“Hey, Freya. Don’t you want to be a director?”

“…Huh?”

I blurted out in surprise at His Highness’s sudden words.

Me, a director?

Chapter 23: It was tough for both of us

The Prince continues, “Now that the director has gone missing, the director of the Court Magic Tool Maker is vacant. We don’t know when it will fill up. It’s not possible for her to return in the first place. The selection of a new director has begun.”

“Y-Yes…”

“So, I was thinking that you might be suitable for the position.”

“M-Me?!”

I react exaggeratedly.

Am I suitable to be the director?

I have never even thought about it.

“The person suitable for the director’s position is someone who is the most knowledgeable in that field in the country, and has achieved recognition from others. You fit both of these criteria. Don’t you think you’re suitable?”

“N-No… I am still inexperienced.”

“You’re humble. But many people recognize you. You saved my life in this incident. There is no one more qualified than you.”

“…”

His Highness is praising me.

I am sincerely happy.

To be recognized.

To hear those words from the Prince’s mouth.

It fills my heart.

But, that’s why there are things that I can’t help but think about.

“What if…I become the director? What about my current position?”

“In that case, you will no longer be under my jurisdiction. You will become the one who governs the Magic Tool Maker Court.”

“…”

If I become the director, I won’t be able to work by His Highness’s side.

That…was something I didn’t want.

“Um…I’m going to be selfish.”

“It’s okay. I owe you a big favor. I want to hear your wish.”

“I want to stay as I am now.”

I fidget with my fingers and speak with a low voice.

His Highness had recognized my power and had asked me to become the director.

I might disappoint his expectations.

Even so, I——

“I want to continue to be by His Highness’s side…I want to be of help to His Highness.”

I didn’t want to leave this person’s side.

More than becoming a director, this place was my oasis and ideal world.

If I left now, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to return.

I spoke my true feelings, knowing it might sound presumptuous.

Then His Highness exhaled and laughed, as if he had been relieved of something.

“…Huh, okay.”

“Your Highness?”

“Well, then there’s no helping it.”

I had been prepared to be scolded.

But His Highness was laughing with a refreshing expression.

As if he had been expecting this to happen.

“Then let’s ask the other candidate. Lidoria Marquetin, who was the vice director. She should have a good grasp of the situation.”

“…”

“What? Did you think I was going to force you to do it?”

“N-No, of course not! Your Highness would never do such a thing.”

He’s the kindest person I know.

If I said I didn’t want to, he would back down.

I knew that.

What surprised me was that he seemed happy about it.

“To be honest, I was hoping you would refuse.”

“Eh…”

“I also wanted you to stay by my side. It was just my selfishness.”

“Your Highness…”

It seemed that His Highness had the same feelings.

It made me so happy that my chest felt hot.

My heart was beating so loudly that it felt like it would explode if I didn’t hold it back.

“Because of such personal reasons, I wanted you to refuse. However, in that case, there is something else I would like to ask of you.”

“An ask, you say?”

“Yes. I want you to assist Lidoria, who will become the new director. This is an unusual promotion. I’m sure she’ll be confused by the suddenness of the situation, and she’s still young.”

“So, you want me to help with the director’s work.”

“That’s right.”

I happily accepted.

If it’s a request from His Highness, I even feel like I want to do anything for him.

Aside from that, I was also a little interested.

Lidoria-san, who was also given work by the previous director like me… I wanted to meet her and see what kind of person she was.

❂❂❂

She sits in a chair in the director’s room and picks up her glasses.

Lidoria Marquetin, who was appointed as the new director this time, seemed to be someone who could really do the job… with a calm and composed demeanor.

“Haa, why do I have to do this…”

But her inner self was very sensitive.

An unexpected promotion at an unexpected time.

Many people would be happy, but it’s different in her case.

The first thing she felt after being appointed was disappointment.

“Being a director is impossible…I’ll just end up with more work…”

Having been burdened with countless tasks and working like a horse, she did not want to be in a position where she would receive even more pressure than before.

She had only one wish.

“…I want to rest.”

Interestingly, it was the same as the Freya of that time.

In fact, while Freya stayed late at the court working, she was working normally.

Why didn’t she notice?

The reason was that she had turned off the lights in the room intentionally, working only by the small candle flame because she felt more comfortable in the dark.

“That old lady is really the worst…she left work for me until the very end.”

There was a mountain of work left by the former director on the table.

She looked at it and felt disappointed.

Knock, knock, knock——

The sound of knocking on the door echoed.

“Who is it? Oh, that’s right, the assistant is coming.”

No one had told her yet.

She calls out to the door, “Come in.”

The door opens.

“Excuse me.”

“Ah…”

The two of them meet face-to-face.

Although they work in the same place, they have had no contact until now.

But the two somehow know each other well.

Because their situations were similar.

The two facing each other were silent for a while.

And at the same time, they spoke.

“”Thank you for your hard work.””

The two of them, who are similar in some ways.

The first greeting they exchanged was a word of congratulations to each other.

Chapter 24: Helping each other is important

“It was really the worst! That person would immediately throw her work at me and get angry if it wasn’t finished by the deadline! What do you think, Freya-san?”

“I totally understand that feeling… I’ve had similar experiences.”

“Exactly! That person’s irrationality gave me a headache.”

“I agree.”

We sipped our tea in silence.

I had come to the director’s office to say hello about an hour ago.

For some reason, I ended up having tea with the new director, Lidoria-san.

“There are a lot more of those irrational episodes. There aren’t enough fingers on both hands to count them.”

“We both went through a lot, didn’t we?”

“Yes, we did.”

For the past hour, we had a great time venting about the former director.

As victims in similar situations, we had something in common.

Although this was the first time I had talked to Lidoria-san, it was good that we were able to quickly bond.

Of course, the reason for that was a bit sad.

“Ah… I feel a little relieved now. I haven’t had anyone to talk to about this until now.”

“I also thought that I was the only one receiving harassment.”

“I definitely think that Freya-san had it the worst. She has a high pride (director), so she was trying to crush anyone who seemed like they might take her position.”

“I see…”

I had a vague suspicion, but it turns out that she was bullying me for that reason…

Lidoria-san was also a vice director, so she (the director) must have seen her as someone who could kick her out of her position.

“I wasn’t particularly interested in getting promoted, you know? I only became the vice director because the previous one suddenly resigned.”

“Is that so? That means…”

“Yes, she resigned because of the harassment from that person.”

“I see…”

Lidoria-san was the vice director since I entered the court.

So, that means the harassment started even before that.

If that’s the case, I can only accept that the director had that kind of personality.

“Since that person became the director, three people have quit. Freya-san is amazing. She persevered and worked hard despite being persistently harassed.”

“No, I… I just didn’t have anything else to do.”

If I quit the court, I would have no place to belong.

Even at home, I am alone, and my family is there but not really there.

To survive, I had no choice but to continue as a court magic tool maker.

It’s not like I had some noble conviction or anything like that.

“Well, the same goes for Lidoria-san, doesn’t it? You became the vice director before I joined, right?”

“Yes, six months before Freya-san joined. So it’s been four and a half years?”

“Longer than me, then.”

“In terms of time, yes. But the amount of harassment Freya-san received was greater, wasn’t it? And, to be honest, I thought about quitting several times.”

“Is that so?”

When I asked, Lidoria-san let out a big sigh.

She continued, saying, “When I told my parents, they yelled at me, ‘We will never allow you to quit! If you do that, we will sever the ties between parent and child!’”

“I-Is it really necessary to go that far?”

“It’s an honor to work at the court, and it’s unthinkable to give it up. My father wanted to enter the court, but he failed the exam, so that’s one reason…”

Expectations from her parents.

They entrusted their daughter with a dream that they couldn’t achieve themselves.

It seemed that such feelings had been binding her back.

“It’s difficult, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

I don’t know.

I have never received expectations from my parents.

However, after hearing Lidoria-san’s story, I learned that being expected of something does not necessarily mean happiness.

There are cases where it is not the case.

“Sigh… Why am I the director… By the way, is Freya-san currently working under Prince Julius?”

“Yes. I work in the royal castle.

“How is it in reality? Compared to here?”

“It’s very comfortable.”

I answered immediately.

Because I really think so, my mouth moved without hesitation.

“That’s nice. How did you become close to Prince Julius? Was there some kind of opportunity?”

“Uh, well…”

I couldn’t mention the curse incident.

Only I and the people involved know that His Highness was cursed.

It has not been made public.

“Oh, I’m sorry. It was impolite to ask about private matters.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“Don’t apologize. I’m also a little happy. I’m envious, but it’s great to see someone with a similar situation as me achieving recognition…”

“Lidoria-san.”

I feel relieved as I see her kind smile.

To be honest, I didn’t have confidence in getting along well with others.

I am not good at dealing with other people.

Because I have always been facing magic tools, I am not used to interacting with people.

I thought it would be awkward to work with someone else.

But I felt that it would be okay if I worked with this person.

We understand each other’s hardships, so our hearts naturally become closer.

“Lidoria-san! I’ll work hard as your assistant too. Let’s finish our work together and go home on time!”

She is someone who cares about me after His Highness.

So I want to support her.

“Thank you, Freya-san. It’s reassuring. Let’s work together from now on, okay?”

“Yes. Nice to work with you too.”

Let’s support each other as like-minded people.

So that we can both be happy.

First, let’s face the work in front of us.

Chapter 25: Am I not normal?

“…Shall we start working then?”

“Yes, let’s.”

We lift our heavy spirits.

The conversation was enjoyable, and before we knew it, we had spent nearly two hours.

Naturally, no work had been done.

Just like when I came into this room, a large number of purchase orders were piled up on the table.

“”…Sigh.””

We both sighed at the same time.

Despite our determination to do our best, it was still a difficult task.

To be honest, I didn’t want to do it.

“Freya-san, could you go check on the magic institution?”

“I’ve already finished that. I took care of it before coming here.”

“Really?! That’s a relief. It’s a hassle to move around there.”

“I thought so, that’s why I did it beforehand.”

Lidoria-san grabs my hand and shakes it up and down while expressing her gratitude.

“It’s really reassuring. Then all that’s left are the purchase orders here.”

“Just our usual work. I’ll take care of the purchase orders, so Lidoria-san, please focus on administrative tasks.”

“Thank you. I’ll help too once I finish here.”

“Okay.”

Naturally, the division of labor was decided.

I took on the tasks that I had been doing at the court up until now.

Lidoria-san had been doing most of the clerical work in place of the previous director, regardless of the amount of work, it was more efficient for each of us to take on the tasks we were used to.

I immediately started working.

My job was to process the purchase orders sent to the director.

I made the magic tools that could be made on the spot, and for those that required mass production, I made a design and shared it with other magic tool makers.

It’s physically impossible to make hundreds or thousands of them alone.

Even the previous director understood that and didn’t ask me to do everything.

Once the core of the magic tool was made, the outside could be made separately and then combined later.

The magic crystal used for making the bracelet is the core.

Only we magic tool makers can engrave the magic into the magic crystal.

“…Wow, Freya-san, that’s amazing.”

“Yes?”

“I’ve never seen anyone write so quickly like that.”

“Oh, really?”

Lidoria-san was impressed as she watched me imbue magic into the magic crystal.

It seems that I work faster than an ordinary magic tool maker.

What I had vaguely felt was confirmed by a colleague who said, “Are you only doing one step now?”

“No, it’s four steps.”

“Four?! Four steps at that speed?”

“Y-Yes.”

Lidoria-san was extremely surprised.

Four steps means that at least four inscriptions are needed.

The more complex the magic effect of the magic tool, the more steps are required.

As the number of steps increases, the difficulty of creation also increases.

“It looks like you’re working at the speed of one step…that.”

“Is that so? I thought it was normal since it’s always like this.”

“It’s not normal at all. The interval for settling is also abnormally fast. Normally, it would take at least three minutes to finish one of the four steps, right?”

“Eh, three minutes?”

I can make one in about thirty seconds.

The interval for settling refers to the time between inscribing one magic and the next one.

If you want to make consecutive posts, make sure the magic is properly settled before doing so.

If you continue to write forcibly, the magic may repel each other and there is a risk of a major accident.

“By the way, I want to ask, what is the most number of steps you have ever done?”

“Um, I think it was 21 steps.”

“21… that’s in another dimension. I don’t think there has ever been a magic tool maker who has completed that many steps before.”

“Is it really that much…?”

It was certainly tough at that time.

It took an hour to create, and if I made a mistake, the magic would have exploded and caused a disaster.

I was making a barrier to protect a certain town.

“Uh…Looking back now… that might not have been my job in the first place.”

“It was definitely a request that came to the director. I think she entrusted it to Freya-san because she couldn’t do it herself. Then Freya-san completed it easily… I can pretty much imagine what happened after that.”

“Oh… come to think of it, I feel like I’ve been getting more difficult work since then…”

She (the former director) must have felt a blow to her pride when I solved the case that she thought was impossible.

At that time, I didn’t realize it, but now I understand it well.

The former director wanted to crush me completely.

“I wonder what she’s doing now.”

“Well? I don’t want to see her face anymore. Such a person.”

“Hahahaha…”

I also don’t want to see her if possible.

She always gave me a lecture whenever I met her, and I didn’t feel good about it.

However, it would be a lie to say that it doesn’t bother me at all. If there is a chance, I would like to see where the person who escaped from the court is and what she are doing.

We continue to work while thinking about such things.

In the evening, the regular time is approaching.

One minute left until the end of work… thirty seconds… ten seconds——

“We’re done!”

“You’re right, we’re finished.”

We managed to complete it just in time.

We exchange glances and do a victory pose.

It feels refreshing.

“It’s been a while since we finished on time. Thank you, Freya-san, you’ve really helped.”

“No, it’s my job.”

“You’re dependable. Please take care of me from tomorrow——”

There’s a thud, and something rolls.

Our gazes go to the floor.

There was a sphere with a hole emitting a pale blue light rolling there.

“Is this… a golem’s core?”

Chapter 26: Golem’s Core

The golem, a humanoid magic tool weapon. When most people hear this name, they probably think of a giant mineral creature created by magic tool technology.

It has a rough, brick-like stone body, made up of several layers, and a sturdy humanoid shape about the size of a brown bear. The golems that appear as gatekeepers in dungeons and in stories have such an appearance.

However, in modern times, golems come in various forms. Not only humanoid shapes, but also golems modeled after quadrupeds, birds, and fish have been created.

They are installed to guard important facilities and sent to investigate places that are difficult for humans to infiltrate. Their uses are varied.

And the most important part for golems is the core, the heart of the machine.

“This is the core, right? And it’s pretty high quality… why would something like this be here?”

“Oh… probably the former director’s personal item.”

“The director’s?”

More precisely, it was the former director’s personal item.

I gaze at the golem’s core that I picked up, looking closely at it. It emitted a pale blue light and was as beautiful as a jewel.

“That person was knowledgeable about golem-making. Her personal research theme was supposed to be creating an autonomous golem.”

“An autonomous golem!?!”

A golem is a magic tool.

It has no emotions and operates based on simple commands given by the user.

Various situations are set up to be handled by replacing specific commands with magical formulas.

The more commands there are, the harder it is to make a golem.

Despite this difficulty, many golem makers dream of creating an autonomous golem.

One that has its own will and can take action through its own thinking, just like a human.

“So the director was trying to create an autonomous golem too.”

“It seems so. She pushed her work onto us and was doing her own research she wanted to do.”

Lidoria-san, with an exasperated look on her face, speaks with a sigh.

It seems that the research has been going on since before the former director took her position.

Many magic tool makers have something they want to accomplish throughout their lifetime.

For the previous director, this core was probably it.

“Lidoria-san was also involved in the research, right?”

“No, I wasn’t. And besides, there’s no way she would let me be involved. That person has a habit of taking credit for other people’s achievements, but doesn’t like it when someone else takes credit from her.”

“Hahaha…”

That’s just like the previous director.

But honestly, it was a little surprising.

That person had a goal she wanted to achieve as a magic tool maker too…

“…I’m a little envious.”

“Huh? Envious of that person?”

“Yes. I don’t have it myself, but there’s something that as a magic tool maker, I want to create in my lifetime…”

It’s a lifelong goal.

Many people say that it’s an important element for a magic tool maker to grow.

I don’t have that.

I have things I want to create at the time, but without any meaning or purpose, I don’t know what I want to make.

So, I think it’s enviable that the previous director had that.

“Isn’t that okay? I don’t have one either.”

“Lidoria-san doesn’t?”

“I don’t have it. I feel like I had it when I was younger, but now I don’t. Besides, we had no choice. We were too busy with work, we didn’t have the luxury to think about anything else.”

“…That’s true.”

As Lidoria-san said, we didn’t have the luxury.

We had to finish today’s work no matter what, so that we could finish tomorrow’s work.

It was a repetitive cycle.

Even on our days off, we were thinking about work.

I haven’t had much time to spend on my research lately.

“That’s why we have the future ahead of us. We can finally settle down and take our time to find what we really want to do.”

“That’s true.”

Thanks to His Highness, I have a little more free time.

Now, I just need to find what I really want to do.

Yeah, I hope I can find it.

“Well, now that work is finished, let’s clean up and go home for today.”

“Yes.”

Lidoria-san starts organizing the processed documents.

I wanted to help too, but I noticed the core I was holding and stopped in my tracks.

“Lidoria-san, what should we do with this?”

“Is it the core? Well… I was told to store all of that person’s belongings in the warehouse and put them in a box for now.”

“…What happens after that?”

“I heard that we’ll keep it for a year, and if she doesn’t come back by then, we’ll dispose of it.”

“Dispose of it…”

“Well, It can’t be helped. She left it behind.”

I gaze at the core in my hand for the third time.

No matter how many times I look at it, it’s beautiful.

I’ve made a golem before and even made a core when I was less skilled than I am now, before entering the court.

It’s a little frustrating to see that this core is more sophisticated than the one I made, using some really good material.

“It’s such a waste.”

I thought so.

I understand that it’s the former director’s personal belonging.

However, once the thought has crossed my mind, I can’t stop thinking about it.

“Excuse me! Can I take care of this core?”

“Huh? What are you going to do with it?”

“It’s presumptuous of me, but I was thinking of trying to complete it as it is.”

“Are you going to make it? The autonomous golem that person developed? Why bother?”

“I thought it was a waste. After making it this far, it would be a shame to dispose of it. Above all, it’s sad for this child…”

“Sad…is it?”

I wonder what I’m saying to a tool.

Even if I end up being laughed at, there’s nothing I can do about it.

However, the magic tool isn’t at fault.

I didn’t like that person, and I won’t be able to like her in the future either.

But I’ve become interested.

What that person wanted to create

“It’s fine. After all, it would just be thrown away if left alone.”

“Thank you very much!”

“Besides, I’m a little interested too.”

“That’s right.”

I feel like Lidoria-san and I are very similar.

While realizing that, I tightly grip the core.

Chapter 27: We’ll make a golem.

“Here it is, around this area!”

Lidoria-san rummages through a wooden box and takes out a thick booklet.

There’s no title on the cover, and it looks like a simple report with a considerable number of pages.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a report on golem creation. It was left behind by the previous director.”

“A report?”

“Well, in this area, your personal research achievements count as your accomplishments. That person reported her progress and boasted about being an excellent magic tool maker to the kingdom.”

It was the first time I had heard about it, not about the previous director, but about how reporting personal research achievements could be recognized by the country.

I had never heard of that before.

According to Lidoria-san, everyone working in the court seems to be reporting not only research achievements related to their work but also those outside of it.

“Well, I didn’t have that much leeway, so I haven’t done it much.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.”

“Well, normally, the director should explain it to you…”

So that’s how it is.

Since the day I entered the palace, the harassment from the previous director had begun.

Even though it was our first meeting if it was when I had just entered?

It was said to be because she feared being surpassed, but now I feel like that person just dislikes me…

“Please use this as a reference. I’m going to throw it away anyway.”

“Thank you.”

I received a report from Lidoria-san and briefly checked its contents.

What kind of things did the previous director write?

I was surprised to find that she had actually written a well-organized summary of the key points.

“This report… is easier to read than mine.”

“Well, that person is actually capable of working. Even before becoming the director, I heard that she worked very hard for the sake of her career. I think she became like that after becoming the director because she worked hard to get there.”

I can’t imagine the sight of the previous director working hard at all.

Of course, that person wasn’t in the director’s position from the beginning.

Thinking about it, the only director I know is the one from the past four years, and I don’t know anything about her before that.

I wonder what kind of person she was?

I was a little curious, but I’m more interested in the core that I have in my hands.

“I’ll go back and investigate right away.”

“Please take it easy. You have work tomorrow too.”

“It’s okay. I’m used to being busy.”

“That’s the same for me too. But it’s too late once you break down. Please don’t push yourself too hard.”

I nodded in agreement.

Because I know how hard work can be, Lidoria-san’s words carry weight.

❂❂❂

After returning to the royal palace, I immediately returned to my room and started reading the report.

It’s about the size of a fairy tale book in terms of page count.

Just skimming through it would take a considerable amount of time.

However…

“…It’s easy to understand.”

The way the previous director summarized it is easy to understand, and I’m able to read it quickly and smoothly.

I’m flipping through the pages at a pace that’s clearly faster than my usual reading speed.

It’s a somewhat frustrating feeling.

I also need to learn how to write reports that are easy to understand like this.

I was also taught things other than making golems.

“… Alright, I think I got the gist of it.”

In conclusion, this core is only ten percent complete.

Although it has commands for startup and shutdown, the crucial action patterns are not programmed.

The materials used are the highest quality “magic mirror stone” and “magic crystal stone” that can be obtained in this country, mixed with several types of special minerals.

Magic mirror stone is the only inorganic substance that has the ability to generate magic power on its own, similar to the magic crystal stone used as the core of magic tools, but they are completely different minerals; magic mirror stone generates magic power, while magic crystal stone has the ability to store magic power.

Normally, golems require a replenishment of magic power.

Golems operating in the kingdom have a daily timing for replenishment, and golems encountered in dungeons are supplied with magic power from the dungeon side through a special mechanism.

Autonomous golems must generate and store magic power on their own, without requiring replenishment.

As a golem core, this one is constructed as solid as possible.

The situation is to make the exterior firm and work on the interior later.

On the contrary, it’s convenient.

It’s troublesome to have half-hearted commands.

“Select command patterns and prioritize them…”

I immediately started thinking about the commands to write in the core.

Just like making a magic tool, the more commands there are, the higher the difficulty of creating it.

For a normal golem, it is sufficient to give it five to ten commands, but…

“For an autonomous one, at least thirty… no, forty is needed.”

In order to respond flexibly, various patterns must be given.

Among them, the most important command is to think for itself.

Record information and think based on that information.

I want golems to do what we humans do every day.

I think again.

The difficulty of creating an autonomous golem.

It’s like creating a completely different life form with our own hands.

It’s truly a divine act.

“That person must be desperate.”

Once you start, you won’t stop.

I want to see it completed.

The excitement of stepping into unknown territory drives me forward.

Perhaps this is it.

The goal that I want to achieve in my lifetime.

Chapter 28: The Imperial Guard

“Yawn…”

“You look sleepy, Freya-san.”

We are working in the director’s room.

Lidoria-san became the new director and I became her assistant.

This relationship has been going on for about a month now.

We’ve become close, and the director’s room has become one of our comfortable places.

“Did you stay up all night making golems again yesterday?”

“Hahaha… yes.”

“You’ll ruin your health if you don’t take it easy, you know? But it seems like telling you that is useless.”

“I’m sorry.”

I laugh apologetically at Lidoria-san’s exasperated expression.

How many times have we had this conversation?

“Is everything going well? With the golem-making, I mean.”

“Yes, so far.”

“How far have you progressed?”

“Um, I’ve completed up to the 28th step.”

“28… as usual, it’s beyond standard.”

The golem core left behind by the previous director.

Two commands had already been granted in the first two steps.

From there, I converted an additional 26 commands into magic and granted them to the golem.

“It seems like Freya-san is likely to complete it easily.”

“That’s not true. It’s definitely difficult when the number of steps increases. The work efficiency gradually decreases.”

I was able to complete about one to five steps in a day from scratch.

However, as the number increased to ten, twenty, the time it took to establish them inevitably increased.

Now, I have to wait at least one night to write in one command.

“It’s fast enough. Normally, it’s abnormal to be able to write more than twenty steps. Moreover, because the core of the golem converts the instructions into magic and writes them, it also takes time.”

Lidoria-san often says that I’m abnormal.

Of course, it’s not meant as an insult, but rather a compliment.

I still can’t believe it.

I’m just doing normal things.

Even though I’m praised by Lidoria-san and His Highness…

I wonder why.

I still can’t think of myself as amazing.

“How many steps do you plan on making?”

“Let’s see, it will be necessary up to fifty-seven.”

“fifty… That’s a different dimension. Can I visit and observe the process next time?”

“Of course.”

While exchanging a fun and lively conversation, we efficiently completed our work at hand.

Since we divided the tasks between the two of us, our work speed was significantly faster.

It seems that it was the same in the past, but the greatest advantage is being able to communicate and help each other like this.

Sometimes we concentrate on our work in silence and take a break for tea once we finish.

We’re enjoying every day in one way or another.

Tontonton――

The door to the director’s room makes a sound.

I wonder if a colleague came to report something.

Lidoria-san responds, “Please come in.”

“Excuse me.”

The voice just now was――

“Your Highness.”

“Hey, Freya.”

The one who showed up after opening the door was His Highness Julius.

He smiles at me.

“Your Highness Julius.”

“Hello, Director Lidoria.”

His Highness also greets Lidoria-san.

These two already know each other.

However, it’s his first time visiting the director’s room, so Lidoria-san was surprised.

“I’m sorry for coming suddenly. Did I disturb your work?”

“No, it’s not a problem. What business do you have today?”

“Oh, I have something to discuss with Freya.”

His Highness looked at me.

“I have something to talk about. Can you spare some time?”

“Yes, Lidoria-san.”

“Leave the rest to me. Have a good trip.”

“Thank you.”

I stood up and bowed to Lidoria-san before walking over to His Highness.

“I’ll send her back when we’re done. Until then, I’ll borrow her.”

“Yes.”

“See you later.”

Lidoria-san waved to us with a gentle smile.

I followed His Highness out of the director’s office.

“I’m sorry for taking you out here so suddenly.”

“No, if it’s an invitation from His Highness, I will always respond.”

“Thank you. It’s been a while since we talked like this.”

“Yes.”

His Highness has been busy lately, and I’ve been working with Lidoria-san, so we haven’t had many opportunities to talk.

We’ve also been having meals separately more often.

To be honest, it’s been a little lonely.

That’s why I’m happy to be able to talk to His Highness like this.

“We finally wrapped up the black market case. The rest of the matter is in the hands of the knights.”

“I see. It’s great that it seems to be resolved safely.”

“It’s also thanks to you. You did a good job.”

The crackdown on the black market and the identification of the nobles involved kept them busy as they had to travel to various places for it.

But now that it’s over, the black market case is out of His Highness’s hands.

“Well then, you can take a break for a while.”

“I wanted to do that, but there are still things I have to do.”

His Highness relaxes his shoulders.

That’s too bad.

When we’re busy, I can’t make time to talk with His Highness slowly.

Because I had been thinking about indulging in luxurious things like having dinner together, I feel disappointed in myself for being so selfish.

I wonder if we won’t be able to meet again for a while…

“We’re hoping you can help us with our next case.”

“… Huh?”

“Oh, if you’re busy, I won’t force you. I won’t make it mandatory. It’s just a request from me.”

“N-No, that’s not it! I was just surprised… I’m happy.”

I was glad that His Highness had come to rely on me. And the hope that I might be able to work by his side again made my heart swell.

“Thank you.”

“No need to thank me. I am, after all, the magic tool maker for His Highness.”

I felt a little embarrassed as I said that. When I glanced at His Highness, he seemed to be pleased.

“Now then, there are some people I want to introduce you to today.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

Before I knew it, we had arrived in front of His Highness’s office. He opened the door.

Inside were four men and women whom I had never seen before.

“Let me introduce you. They are my personal guard.”

Chapter 29: Colorful Personalities

“The Royal Guard?”

“Yeah. They’re directly under the Second Prince’s command.”

So, they’re people in a similar position to me?

In the room, there were three men and one woman. They were all people I had never met before, and I swallowed nervously as I felt the tension rise.

A well-built man with short hair smiled like the sun peeking out from behind clouds as he looked at His Highness.

“You were late, Your Highness. We’ve been waiting for a while.”

“Gardo, don’t be so familiar with His Highness,” a bespectacled man with an intellectual air scolded him.

“It’s not a big deal. Right, Your Highness?”

“That’s right. It’s fine for now. There’s no one else here but us.”

“See? I told you.”

“…As always, Your Highness is too kind,” the bespectacled man shook his head with a sigh.

Next to him, a small man popped his head out.

“More importantly! There’s something I’m curious about!”

“Hmm? Oh yeah.”

“Your Highness, who is this person?”

“Who’s that?! Who are you talking about?! What’s Your Highness talking about?”

The small man approached with a glint in his eye.

The only woman among the four of them grabbed him by the collar.

She had distinctive orange hair and wore a hat that looked like it belonged to a magician.

“Don’t just suddenly approach like that. It’s disrespectful to women.”

“H-hey, sis, my neck…you’re choking me.”

“You guys are quite lively.”

His Highness said with a smile as he watched them.

I was the only one who couldn’t keep up with the situation and felt left behind.

“So, Your Highness…”

“Oh, sorry. Let me properly introduce her. Everyone, listen up. This is Freya, a magic tool maker.”

“Oh, the one who played a role in the incident at the previous black market.”

“The magic tool maker who lifted His Highness’s curse!”

Wait, curse…?

I looked at His Highness with a sudden burst of energy.

He nodded in response.

“I’ve told them about my curse and how you helped me. They were also involved in investigating the black market with me.”

“I see…I didn’t realize others knew as well.”

I thought I was the only one who knew about it.

There were others who knew too.

“You’re quite secretive too, Your Highness. Keeping quiet about the curse for so long.”

“His Highness must have had thoughts on this matter too. There’s no need to bring up what has already been resolved.”

“Well, yeah. Lest, you must have had some thoughts on this too, right?”

“…That’s true, but…”

It seemed that even if he had talked about it, he kept the time he was cursed a secret.

He probably reported everything after it was all over. There was dissatisfaction with not being relied upon.

Their expressions seemed to plead for it.

“I’m sorry. I’m reflecting on it.”

“Your reflection only lasts for that moment——it hurts!”

“Stop saying everything that comes to your mind.”

“Hahaha…my ears hurt.”

His Highness laughed it off.

They were the Prince’s subordinates, but they seemed quite close.

I was a little envious of their friend-like atmosphere that they occasionally showed.

“Thanks for helping His Highness. I’m Gardo, the captain of the Royal Guard. Nice to meet you. This is our vice-captain, Lest. The small one is Dan, and the one pulling Dan’s ear is Iris.”

“Nice to meet you. I’ve heard about your accomplishments from His Highness. I sincerely appreciate you saving him.”

“Nice to meet you! Please don’t call me small!”

“It’s the truth, isn’t it? As fellow women, let’s get along.”

“Yes, of course! Nice to meet you all.”

I bowed deeply.

My first impression was that they were all individuals with strong personalities… Would I be able to become friends with them?

“They are in the same position as you, so there’s no strict hierarchy. You can feel free to interact with them,” His Highness said.

“Oh, so does that mean she’s joining the Royal Guard too?”

“Me?”

“Well, it could turn out that way… But it’s not mandatory. It’s up to Freya’s will.”

“Um…”

I was at a loss for words.

It’s not that I didn’t want to. Becoming a member of the people who supported His Highness was something I desired.

“What does the Royal Guard do?”

“I told you before about what I, as the Second Prince, am doing, right? The Royal Guard’s role is to assist me and work with me to investigate and resolve various issues.”

The incident with the black market.

His Highness was fighting against the evil lurking in the shadows of the kingdom.

I remembered being warned before to not get involved because it was dangerous.

“I was too naive at that time. Your power made me realize that… from now on, I don’t know what will happen. To prepare for unforeseen circumstances, we need your power. Part of me doesn’t want to put you in harm’s way. But…”

“Your Highness…”

It’s clear that he’s struggling.

His personal feelings versus what he should do as a prince.

He’s weighing both options and can’t decide which one to prioritize.

That’s why he’s asking me.

What do I want to do?

To determine what he should do based on my choice.

“Please let me help. That’s what I intended to do at that time too.”

“Freya…”

My mind is made up.

Working by His Highness’s side is my duty, and it’s my honor.

“Thank you. You really are dependable.”

He looks both happy and sad.

Understanding the complex feelings of His Highness, I make a decision in my heart.

To be of assistance to His Highness.

And to make an effort not to worry him.

Chapter 30: The First Job

“Hey, Your Highness! Let’s get to the point!”

“Yeah, you’re right. We’ve exchanged greetings, so let’s get into it. Everyone, just sit wherever you want.”

Each person took a seat on the sofa in the office.

Normally, everyone would sit facing His Highness, but due to the size of the sofa, that wasn’t possible.

When four people sat on the right side, there were no more seats available.

“Freya, you can sit over here.”

“Y-Yes!”

I sat next to His Highness.

Whether it was during a meal or a discussion, I had only ever sat face-to-face with him, so having his shoulder right next to me made me nervous.

“Now, let me explain about this case. Lest, could you bring out the map?”

“Yes.”

Lest-san spread out a world map. It included detailed information on our country and the surrounding nations, and it was probably a more accurate version than those sold in the market.

His Highness pointed to a specific spot on the map.

“Here. A new dungeon has been discovered.”

“A dungeon?”

“Do you know about it, Freya?”

“Yes. Only in terms of knowledge.”

A dungeon is a large labyrinth where ancient relics are said to be buried.

Great Men who lived in ancient times created a huge treasure house to complement their achievements and results.

Even in modern times, the structure and workings of this treasure house remain a mystery.

It’s only called a treasure house because it’s believed that treasures are kept inside, but no one knows its actual purpose.

Discovering a new dungeon is essential for unraveling the secrets of ancient times, and among the treasures sleeping there, there are many objects that surpass modern technology.

“The legacy of dungeons is closely related to the development of civilization. That’s why every country and organization is focusing on the discovery of dungeons. Our country is no exception.”

“Is investigating a dungeon the purpose of this mission?”

“Yes, it is.”

His Highness nodded in response to Lest-san’s question.

I had a feeling that investigating a dungeon would be more difficult than investigating the black market.

I’ve never even seen a dungeon before, so I don’t know, but I was curious as to why His Highness was trying to conduct such an important investigation with just a few of us here.

So I asked His Highness, “Won’t we conduct a more extensive investigation (larger survey)?”

“That’s the next step. To tell you the truth, there’s no guarantee that this is really a dungeon.”

According to His Highness, they found what seemed to be the entrance to a dungeon. However, they haven’t investigated inside, so they can’t confirm it.

They can’t mobilize the knights based on unconfirmed information.

And another thing, if they’re going to conduct a large-scale investigation, they need to prepare more to ensure success.

“The country isn’t the only one aiming for the dungeon. Various organizations have their eyes on it. Especially, criminal organizations are dangerous.”

“Criminal… like bandits involved in the black market?”

“Something bigger. Recently, there’s an organization called Apharis that’s been expanding their influence. They’re willing to commit acts that go against humanity, such as human trafficking, dangerous drug trafficking, smuggling, theft, and murder.”

I swallowed nervously.

Apharis…there’s such a dangerous organization.

I thought this country was safe.

It only seemed that way because His Highness and the knights were protecting us.

There are invisible evils in the world.

“For those guys, a dungeon is like a perfect prey. Once they find out about its existence, they will definitely come to take it. That’s why we can’t let them find out.”

“In other words, we need to handle things covertly.”

“That’s where we come in!”

“We’ll investigate the dungeon and use our findings for a full-scale raid, or even attempt to clear it on our own. Isn’t that right, Your Highness?”

His Highness nods in agreement.

“We’re an elite team, and we won’t back down even against a dungeon. Freya, I want you to prepare the magic tools we’ll need for our investigation.”

“Understood. What will we need?”

“I’ve already compiled a list. Take a look at this.”

Lest-san hands me a piece of paper.

The paper lists the minimum necessary equipment for dungeon clearing, as well as the characteristics of the magic tools that will be required this time.

“I noticed that sea travel is expected… Are we going to use a ship?”

“No, we can’t use a ship. It would be too conspicuous and dangerous.”

The entrance to the dungeon found this time is located on the sea.

It seems that the distance can be reached by using a ship, but the problem is the monsters that are around there.

“If we go by ship, we will undoubtedly become targets of the monsters. With this number of people, we can’t use a large ship, and interception is also difficult. So, first, we need to think about how to approach.”

“I wouldn’t mind swimming.”

“I absolutely refuse.”

“I’m not good with water either, so please spare me.”

“Besides, it’s impossible in terms of physical stamina. The distance is too far to swim.”

Lest-san was explaining carefully to Gardo-san using the map.

Gardo-san was getting annoyed and rejected it as a joke.

“Freya, can’t you do something with your power?”

“As long as we get to our destination safely at sea, right? then I think we can do something about it.”

“As expected of you. Then please prepare five sets for the number of people.”

“Five sets?”

“Yes, for them and for me. After all, the dungeon is dangerous.”

“I see…”

I wonder if I can’t participate in the dungeon investigation.

Even His Highness is participating…

“Understood.”

I decided in my heart.

I’ll make six sets, including my own.

Chapter 31: Dungeon

One day later——

I delivered the magic tools I created to His Highness and the others.

I explained each one to them in His Highness’s office.

“That’s all.”

“As expected. You finished them in such a short time. It must have been tough to do it while handling your usual workload.”

“No, it’s nothing. I can handle this much.”

“Wow! You’re amazing. As expected, you’re His Highness’s favorite.”

Gardo-san said as he examined the completed magic tool closely.

His favorite?

I’m… His Highness’s favorite?

I feel happy and my face is about to break into a smile.

Lest-san and Dan-san also took the magic tool and inspected it from various angles.

“Now we can depart for the dungeon investigation.”

“Yes! It’s exciting to see these kinds of tools.”

“You’re like a child. Oh, wait. Did we receive one extra?”

Iris-san noticed.

The order was for five people, including His Highness.

However, six magic tools are set on the table.

His Highness tilted his head and asked me,

“Did you also make a spare one?”

“No, that one is mine.”

“I see. Freya’s… What? Yours?!”

His Highness widened his eyes in surprise.

I didn’t expect him to be so surprised, and I was the one who was taken aback.

With a magic tool in my hand, I asked His Highness,

“Your Highness! I would like to accompany you on the investigation.”

“Accompany… Do you understand what you’re saying? It’s a dungeon.”

“I understand. Nevertheless, I want to go with you.”

“Freya…”

With determination in my heart, I pleaded with His Highness with a serious look in my eyes.

His Highness looked troubled.

I don’t think he expected me to say that.

While realizing that it was impolite to trouble His Highness, I continued to speak.

“Because it’s a dangerous place, the magic tool may break if something happens. If that happens, only I can repair it. Also, if I have the materials, I can create a magic tool on the spot.”

I showed that I am useful.

Although I am not a knight.

I do not have the ability to fight like everyone else.

Still, it is useful to accompany them.

As His Highness’s magic tool maker, I want to do my best to be by His Highness’s side.

“It’s okay, isn’t it?”

“Gardo, no, but it’s dangerous.”

“She said she’ll come with us knowing that. She’s prepared…right?”

“Yes.”

I nodded and answered clearly.

Gardo-san smiled and said, “Then there’s no problem. Actually, having backup is appreciated.”

“…”

“Your Highness, I understand that it’s important. Actually, if it’s that important, you should protect yourself with all your might.”

“…sigh.”

His Highness let out a bold sigh as if he had given up.

He put his hand on his waist and smiled gently.

“Okay, I understand. I respect your will.”

“Thank you very much!”

“However! Don’t do anything reckless. Promise me that you won’t leave my side. If you’re not within reach, I can’t protect you.”

“Yes.”

I felt my heart beat faster as I saw His Highness’s unusually serious expression.

I never thought I would be so happy to hear his worried voice about me.

Is it because the person is His Highness?

If that’s the case, then I…

I stare intently at His Highness.

“We’ll depart tonight, so make sure we arrive early in the morning.”

“Got it! Dan, make sure to arrange for the carriage.”

“Understood!”

“And don’t be late, Lest and Iris! We’ll leave without you if you’re sleeping!”

“I won’t be sleeping.”

“Please don’t include me with you.”

Come to think of it, this is my first time going outside the capital as a magic tool maker.

And to think that my first business trip would be to an unknown dungeon… I wonder what my past self would think if she knew?

Would she be surprised and faint?

No, she might actually find it fun.

Just like how I feel now.

After all, dungeons are a treasure trove for us magic tool makers too.

❂❂❂

We rode the carriage for a day and a half.

To the east lies a vast ocean along the border of the country.

If we deviate a bit north, we will find a town with a fishing port and a beach where we can enjoy the sea.

We headed for an unpopular sandy beach.

“Are you ready?”

“Yeah, we can go anytime, Your Highness.”

“How about Freya?”

“I’m okay too. I’ve prepared myself.”

I answered firmly, putting some strength into my hand.

Following the voice of His Highness saying “Let’s go,” we entered the sea.

Of course, we weren’t swimming.

We were walking on the sea.

“Wow, amazing! You can really walk on it!”

“Magic tools are so convenient. It’s a pleasure to be able to do this without being a magician!”

“Don’t get too excited. Remember that magic power is limited.”

“That’s right. How much magic power do you think it takes to maintain this kind of effect with magic? Use it wisely.”

The four of them walked ahead, and His Highness and I followed.

The boots we wore on our feet were magic tools that could walk on water.

Based on the information we had, this was the fastest way to get there without using a boat.

There was also a method of floating the ship and moving forward, but it was excluded due to the cost and time required for production.

In addition…

“The monsters don’t come attacking, huh.”

“Yeah, they just swim right below us.”

The robes we wore on our shoulders were designed to make it impossible for anyone without the same kind of magic tool to see them.

Although the monsters could sense our presence, they couldn’t attack us since they couldn’t confirm us visually.

“It’s a bit anticlimactic to be able to come here safely like this.”

“Don’t let your guard down.”

“I know. But we’re almost there.”

Lest-san’s gaze was fixed on the destination.

It was in the middle of the sea.

A building that protruded unnaturally, like an artificial structure.

“Is this…”

The entrance to the dungeon.

Chapter 32: Magic tools are so convenient, aren’t they?

We arrived at the entrance of the dungeon.

In the center of a long and narrow building, there is a hole just big enough for one person to fit through.

There is no door and it’s not locked.

Anyone can easily enter inside.

However, we are currently at sea.

Normally, no one comes near and it cannot be found.

According to what His Highness said, it was discovered by chance when fishermen who were working nearby reported the existence of a strange building.

“Let’s go. You guys.”

“Yes.”

“Roger!”

“Okay.”

The royal guards enter first.

His Highness and I follow behind.

As soon as we entered, there was a staircase.

It was spiral-shaped and continued all the way down.

The sunlight pouring in from the entrance no longer reached us, and it quickly became pitch black.

Dan-san, who was leading the way, turned on a magic tool for light.

The magic tool is in the shape of a lantern and can continue to illuminate for two days if it is fully charged with magic power.

One large-sized and several small-sized magic tools that can be equipped on the waist are prepared for each person.

“Dan, can you see the back of it?”

“Not yet. It’s pretty deep.”

“If we hit the bottom, we’ll just be in the water… I don’t think so.”

“So far, there’s no sound of water. We can only hope it stays that way.”

We descended the stairs cautiously.

After walking for about five minutes, we finally saw the bottom.

Relieved that we weren’t in the water, we took a deep breath as we saw a long hallway that seemed to stretch on forever.

“You can still turn back now, you know?” His Highness asked me.

I shook my head vigorously.

“I’m okay.”

I was nervous, but not afraid.

We continued down the hallway.

We walked straight for what seemed like forever, until suddenly they came to a crossroads.

“Dan.”

“Got it. Everyone, cover your ears!”

As instructed, everyone covered their ears with their hands, including me, although I wasn’t sure why.

Dan took a deep breath.

“Aaaa!”

He suddenly shouted at the top of his lungs.

Can humans really make that much noise?

His voice echoed loudly, threatening to burst their eardrums.

“What, what was that just now?”

“You’ll know it when you see it.”

Dan-san listened quietly, trying to hear.

Then he pointed to the right path.

“This is the correct way.”

“Eh, how do you know?”

“By the sound. He has better hearing than most people, you know? He can even distinguish very small sounds.”

“If you listen to the echoing sound, you can understand the overall structure!”

Did he check the path leading to the back by the sound bounce?

Can humans really do something like that?

I was so surprised that I couldn’t say anything.

Everyone followed the directions he showed without questioning and continued on smoothly without encountering any dead ends.

But this is a dungeon.

It’s a place where great ancestors stored their legacy.

Something is bound to happen.

“Oh, something moved. Be alert, they’re coming.”

Dan-san, who was leading the way, stepped back, and Gardo-san stepped forward in his place.

He had already unsheathed his large sword from his back.

Lest-san held his spear, while Iris-san readied her staff.

“Golem, perhaps. It’s an enemy that you’d expect in a dungeon.”

“Don’t just stand there impressed, let’s go.”

“We’re being attacked! Iris, prepare your magic.”

“Okay.”

Three giant golems appeared.

Their massive bodies blocked the hallway up to the top.

Gardo-san quickly stepped forward.

Swinging his greatsword, he clashed with the golem’s fist.

“Hah! That was a light punch!”

Taking advantage of the opening, Lest-san severed the joint with his spear.

“Joints are fragile, but the golem won’t stop as long as its core isn’t destroyed.”

“Iris!”

“Get out of the way, both of you.”

Iris-san had already finished chanting her spell.

A lightning bolt that could shatter rocks was released from the magic circle deployed in front of her.

“Vortex.”

The lightning precisely pierced and destroyed the golem’s heart, its core.

With its core destroyed, the golem ceased to function.

The motionless giant body was now just a pile of rocks.

Two more golems remained.

“That’s amazing…”

“I told you, they’re the elite. We can leave it to them.”

This is reassuring to watch.

The remaining two golems were also taken care of without a problem.

“Something’s coming from behind!”

“What?”

We turn around.

In the darkness, two, then four red eyes appeared and multiplied.

The figure that appeared was a half-fish monster.

“Sahagins, isn’t it? Looks like they followed us from another route.”

“Or the demons inhabit this place?”

“Seems like it. I’ll hold it back.”

Dan-san held a knife in his right hand and several thin iron needles in his left.

“I’m not very good at fighting, though!”

Nevertheless, he bravely charged forward.

He swiftly shook the Sahagin left and right, threw needles to blind their eyes, and stabbed it with a knife.

However, there were too many of them, and several approached them.

The three were still fighting the golems.

I’ll try to do something——

“Stay back.”

“Your Highness?”

His Highness drew his sword from his waist.

Then he swiftly cut down a Sahagin and sheathed his sword in an instant.

“What… Huh?”

“Indeed, as expected of you.”

“Gardo-san!”

He was suddenly behind him.

It seems they had defeated all three golems.

“The prince is strong. His swordsmanship is among the best in the kingdom.”

“Really…”

“I’ve always liked moving my body since I was young. That’s why I ended up training with the sword. What do you think? I’ve become quite decent, haven’t I?”

“Yes! You were very cool.”

Those were words of admiration that came from the bottom of my heart.

The prince smiled happily.

That smile erased my anxiety.

Chapter 33: It’s the final boss

“Is everyone okay?”

“Yes, we are. We have also finished removing the remains of the golem.”

“We have eliminated all the Sahagins as well.”

“I’m fine over here. Wait, Gardo, you’re injured.”

Iris noticed that Gardo’s right arm was swollen and slightly bleeding.

“Oh, you’re right. I didn’t even notice.”

“That’s because you don’t wear armor.”

“Well, it’s too heavy and makes it hard to move.”

“I understand, but it’s meaningless if you get injured.”

“Don’t worry, it’s okay. A little bit of saliva should fix it.”

Gardo waved his injured arm to show that he was okay.

It seemed like he was really okay, just a minor injury from the fight with the golem.

He’s bleeding, but it’s not serious.

“Oh, Gardo-san.”

“What is it, Freya?”

“If you don’t mind, please use this.”

“What is this? A bracelet?”

I handed Gardo a bracelet with green decorations.

“Please try wearing it.”

“Okay.”

He equipped the bracelet as I had told him.

And then…

“My wound has healed!”

“It’s a bracelet with healing effects. It can heal light injuries like the one you have now.”

“Wow! I had no idea something like this existed!”

“Yes. But I didn’t have enough time to make more than one.”

I actually wanted to make one for each person, but it took time to make boots and other magic tools.

I could only make one with the time left.

“It’s okay. Gardo is always the one who gets injured by doing something reckless.”

“We’ll be careful ourselves, so don’t worry!”

“I appreciate it. I’m good at attack magic, but I’m not good at other types of magic. I had to rely on potions and herbs for healing.”

“Thanks, Freya! Now I can rampage to my heart’s content.”

Gardo-san flexes his muscles.

“Don’t break it with too much force. After all, it was made by Freya with great care.”

“Huh? What’s up, Your Highness? Are you sulking because you didn’t get one?”

“I’m just worried about the bracelet.”

“Isn’t it mine?”

Laughter breaks out with delight.

The cheerful atmosphere almost makes you forget that this is a dungeon.

His Highness also seems to be having fun.

When he’s with these people, the prince sometimes shows a childlike smile.

“You seem to be having fun, Your Highness.”

“Hmm? Yeah, I am. I’ve been chasing after some suspicious cases with a bad feeling recently. This kind of case without any complications is relaxing. I’ve also had a lot of desk work, so it’s fun to move my body freely.”

Seeing His Highness innocently laughing, I also start to feel happy.

It seems like His Highness likes to move his body.

“Now, let’s move forward.”

Even after that, the dungeon’s traps stood in our way.

However, we crushed them all without a scratch and advanced to the back.

There’s no need to worry about getting caught in traps since Dan-san finds them all.

We’re progressing too smoothly, and we finally reach the deepest part.

“There are a lot of golems here, aren’t there?”

“Yes, there are many, even considering that this is a dungeon. Perhaps the great person who created this place was an expert in making golems.”

“Golems…”

“What’s wrong, Freya?”

I flinch at His Highness’s voice next to me.

“Oh, no, just thinking about something.”

“I see.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about golems all the time.

Every time I see a golem, I think of the core left by the previous director.

I am gradually getting closer to completion, but I’ve run into a big problem.

Even if the core is completed, there is no vessel to attach it to.

The vessel used with the golem changes proportionally to the precision of the core.

For the autonomous golem I’m making this time, a body with a high degree of freedom is necessary as much as possible.

I have to be able to make a golem out of us humans… or else it would be out of proportion to the core.

Even I can’t make that.

If you can make a human with a magic tool, it’s already in the realm of gods.

“Freya, you’ve been thinking a lot lately.”

“Eh? Is that so?”

“Yeah. Did you start something new?”

“Well, yes. I made something I want to do outside of work…I think.”

It’s a little embarrassing to talk about private matters with His Highness.

“I see. That’s good.”

“Your Highness?”

The Highness breathed a sigh of relief.

“It’s good to have something you can be passionate about. You’ve been looking more lively lately. It’s a big difference from when we first met.”

“I-Is it really that different?”

“Completely different. Back then, you were just tired. But now, you seem to feel a sense of accomplishment along with the fatigue.”

“Accomplishment… Yes, that’s right. I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Working under the Highness has helped me regain my confidence.

Thanks to having more mental space, I’ve been able to focus on other things I want to do.

In short, I am now…

“It’s thanks to Your Highness.”

“I haven’t done anything, have I?”

“That’s not true.”

Being near the Highness is what has made me feel so alive.

I believe it, and that’s what matters.

“Tell me eventually what it is that you want to do.”

“Yes.”

When it’s complete, I’ll show it to His Highness.

With that thought, we move forward.

To the deepest part.

When we opened the heavy iron door, there was a spacious room.

There is another door further inside.

And in the center,

“The boss of the dungeon has appeared!”

A huge golem with six arms stands firmly.

Gardo-san draws his sword, and everyone else gets ready to fight.

In response to that, the golem comes to life.

Chapter 34: Golem’s Vessel

Each of its six arms is equipped with a weapon.

The first right arm holds arrows, and the first left arm holds a bow.

Both second arms hold spears, and the third arm is equipped with a sword.

It seems to be designed to attack from any distance, whether it be close, medium, or far.

“Let’s do this as usual! I’m counting on you for backup.”

“Be careful not to get in too deep.”

“I’ll be protecting Neesan and keeping watch of the surrounding area.”

“I’ll prepare my magic.”

They all have serious expressions, unlike their usual selves.

Even His Highness, who stands before me, has already drawn his sword.

Always ready for battle.

No, perhaps it’s to protect me.

“Don’t move from behind me.”

“Yes.”

With tension running high, Gardo-san leads the charge.

He swings his great sword with great vigor and strikes the golem with its six arms.

“Here we go!”

The golem defends itself by crossing its two swords.

Gardo-san’s blow is heavy, and a crack appears at the golem’s feet.

It has considerable power, such that it can only be defended against with both arms.

Normally, it wouldn’t be able to counterattack from this position, but the golem still has four arms left.

Instantly, a thrust of a spear attacks.

“Hold on!”

“Get back!”

Lest-san deflects it with the same spear.

They launch a coordinated attack in close combat.

It’s two against one, but the opponents still have more arms.

The first arm wields a bow and arrow, and the second fights at close range. They aim at the two attackers and fire.

“Icicle Lance.”

The arrow released is nullified by a spear of ice.

One more time, Iris-san’s magic is launched.

The golem brushes it off with its arms.

“Tch, it’s tough.”

The golem takes aim again with the arrow.

The target is Iris-san.

Perhaps it judged her magic to be troublesome.

Gardo-san and Lest-san attack to interfere with the launch.

However, the golem shoots anyway.

“Neesan, don’t move!”

Dan-san shouts.

He tangles a wire around the flying arrow and pulls it, changing its trajectory.

“Phew, this thing’s heavy.”

“Thanks, Dan! I’m going for another shot.”

This time, it’s not ice but a huge spear of steel.

It’s generated above Iris-san’s head and launched at explosive speed.”

“Iron Lance.”

The golem defends itself by crossing both hands, abandoning its bow and arrows.

However, Iris-san’s attack prevailed, destroying the golem’s head.

Inside the head, a core can be seen.

“All right! With this, it will stop——”

The golem swings its sword at Gardo-san.

He quickly dodges it.

“What’s with the sword! What the hell is going on!”

“It’s different, Gardo. This golem probably has multiple cores.”

“Seriously.”

Unless the core is destroyed, the golem cannot be defeated.

And the six-armed golem had multiple cores, and as long as its power circulated, it would regenerate no matter how many were destroyed.

“It’s healed.”

“This will be a long battle.”

“Neesan, how much magic power do you have left?”

“Half. Somehow, create an opening and I’ll smash it with one blow.”

Iris-san starts chanting her magic.

It will be a disadvantage if it becomes a long battle.

It seems they changed their strategy to unleash a powerful attack, anticipating this.

“H-Hey!”

“This target——”

Immediately, the golem’s behavior changes.

Ignoring the two who were approaching for close combat, it headed towards Iris-san who was preparing to cast a spell.

“Seriously?!”

“It’s coming this way.”

“It must’ve sensed an amplification of magical power.”

That function has been added to the golem.

A frighteningly precise golem.

Surely the person who made this was a much better magic tool maker than me.

“This is no time to be impressed.”

“Freya, what are you doing?”

It was a good thing that the opponent was a golem.

Recently, I had been researching golems more than anyone else, so I was more familiar with their structure.

If this is a golem, even if it was made in ancient times…

“I’ll stop its movements!”

I took a blue ball out of my bag.

I threw it at the golem.

The golem swept the ball away with its sword, and the moment the blade touched the ball, it exploded.

The exploded ball emitted a lightning-like light and temporarily sealed the golem’s movements.

“What was that just now?”

“It’s a magic tool that temporarily disrupts the flow of magical power. Its effect only lasts for a few seconds, though.”

“Great job, Freya! Iris! Let it rip while you have the chance!”

“I was going to do it anyway, even without you telling me!”

Above Iris-san’s head, a gigantic steel hammer had materialized.

She had said she was going to smash it to pieces, but did she really mean it literally?

“Destroy it! Thor’s Hammer!”

The sideways hammer captured the golem.

With a terrifyingly powerful blow, the golem was blown away and embedded into the wall.

The shock spread throughout its entire bodies, and the golem’s exterior and interior became a mess.

“——Phew, I’m out of magic now.”

“Good job, Neesan. It’s completely smashed to pieces.”

Gardo-san and Lest-san also return.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief after confirming each other’s safety.

“Thank you, Freya-chan. We were saved because of you.”

“No, I’m just glad everyone is safe.”

“You really did a great job, Freya.”

“You even had something like that prepared.”

Everyone praised me.

Among them, my gaze met with the person I most wanted to praise me.

“Truly, you continue to amaze me.”

“If you say so, then it was worth accompanying you.”

We passed through the final checkpoint, and all that was left was the last room.

There were no enemies inside, only the treasure of the great person who built this place.

“Wow… it’s all shiny gold.”

“There are some tools here that I don’t quite understand.”

“I think they might be magic tools.”

The person who built this place was a magic tool maker.

There were many golems here, likely because they were an expert in golem-making.

It was interesting to see magic tools made by someone else. I wanted to try them out and see what effects they had.

“Hey, everyone, come over here! There’s a huge box!”

We went to where Dan-san was.

The box was long and narrow, big enough for a human to fit inside.

Gardo-san opened the box, and what we saw inside left us speechless.

“A…”

“”””A human?””””

A boy with pale blue hair was sleeping inside.

He looked human in every way, but I was the only one who noticed that he wasn’t.

“This isn’t a human. It’s a golem’s vessel.”

There was a hole where a core could be inserted at the position of the chest visible through the gap in the clothes.

Without a doubt, it was a vessel.

Moreover, it was the most intricate one I had ever seen.

Chapter 35: Regression of Life

Two days after the dungeon investigation.

I am facing the golem’s core in my laboratory at the royal castle.

Beside me, a boy who looks like he could start moving at any moment is sleeping.

However, he is not human, but an artificial creation.

The outer shell of a golem.

In other words, he is like an empty husk.

“So, Freya wanted to create golems.”

“Yes.”

His Highness is also in the laboratory.

I have already explained the situation to him.

“An inheritance from the former director… huh. I’m surprised you wanted to work on it. But to put it bluntly, didn’t she have some issues? It would have been okay to just throw it away.”

“Magic tools are not to blame. Besides, I wanted to see it for myself.”

The completion of an autonomous golem is a goal that many magic tool makers aim for.

It is a realm that no one has yet reached.

I want to reach that place.

I want to know what kind of scenery I can see from there, what color it is.

My curiosity drives me forward.

For the past month, I have been facing golems intensely.

The previous director is no longer relevant.

I am just doing it because it is what I want to do.

“I have been searching for this for a long time. A vessel that is worthy of this core.”

“Is this it?”

“Yes, it is a vessel that is so intricate that I have never seen anything like it.”

From any angle, it looks like a human being.

However, this is a creation, and although it feels soft to the touch, it has no warmth.

Although it looks like a human, it somehow lacks humanity.

It’s different from a corpse.

There’s no sense of life from the start.

Rather, it feels like something is missing.

As if——

“It’s like the soul has been removed from the body.”

“A soul. That’s surprising. Do you believe in such a concept?”

“I didn’t believe in it until I saw this vessel.”

If my soul were to leave my body, would I become the same as him?

This boy was so different that it seemed so.

“Your Highness, thank you for giving me this child.”

“It’s fine. It’s an item that nobody can touch even if it’s stored in the kingdom. If you see potential in it, you should have it. Everyone else would say the same, right?”

I remember the end of the dungeon exploration.

When I found this boy and learned that he could become a golem’s vessel, I immediately asked His Highness.

❂❂❂

“Can you give me this child?”

“…Freya?”

I couldn’t retract the words I blurted out.

Even if I tried to cover my mouth, my voice had already reached His Highness’s ears.

“I’m sorry. I was just…”

“It’s, it’s alright. Besides, we were planning to take all magic tool-related items back to the court for investigation anyway. You have the right to it too.”

“Yeah, and it’s thanks to Freya’s quick thinking that we were able to defeat the boss easily. I think she should receive it as a reward.”

“A reward, huh? That’s a good idea.”

Everyone, including His Highness, affirmed my selfish request.

I was happy about that, and my heart was warmed.

“Thank you very much.”

❂❂❂

“Is the core completed?”

“No, it’s still incomplete.”

“How long will it take?”

“Well…it will take at least a month.”

The longer the process, the more time it takes for the stabilization to occur.

Even if you work on it every day, gradually the time when you can’t do anything increases.

“A month? Then let’s wait patiently. I also want to see the completion. I want to witness the result of what you wanted to do.”

“I also wanted you, Your Highness, to be the first to see it.”

“I’m honored. Then please let me know as soon as it’s done.”

“Yes!”

His Highness is also looking forward to it.

Filled with even more motivation, I devoted myself to finishing the golem’s core. At first, I was able to do two steps in a day, but after passing the 35th steps, I reached my limit and it took me a whole day to complete just one process.

Furthermore, the difficulty level of the granting continued to rise. Although the time for each step was short, it required several times the concentration.

To be as efficient as possible in my work, I practiced the magic of commands and their granting on a daily basis.

It was a difficult task and there were times when the stress made my stomach ache, knowing that even one mistake could mean failure.

However, more than anything, it was enjoyable. The joy of putting all my effort into something was an invaluable asset to me.

And now, a month has passed.

“We’ve completed the final stage.”

In front of His Highness, I finished adding the core.

It took a total of 57 steps.

I programmed enough orders for it to function as an autonomous golem, and the magic’s perpetual circulation was working properly.

If I had added just one more step, the core would have exploded under the strain.

It was especially important to discern the right moment, but it worked out well.

As I breathed a sigh of relief, His Highness gave me words of encouragement.

“You did well. Lidoria-san said that there’s probably no one else in the world who can create a core like this except for you.”

“Oh, no, I still have a lot to learn.”

“At times like this, you should be proud and not be modest. You accomplished something that no one else could.”

“Your Highness…”

Something that no one else could do…and I did it.

As he said this, I tightly grasped the completed core.

My hands add their warmth and it’s faintly warm.

“I’ll put the finishing touches on it.”

“Oh.”

I approach the sleeping boy.

I pull up his clothes and check the open right chest.

If I fit it in here, the core should connect to the body.

Once the body and core are firmly connected, it will activate.

If it fails, it means that this core was insufficient.

This is my limit right now.

Please, I want it to move.

Open your eyes——

“Please.”

I prayed as I inserted the core.

Light is emitted.

The generated magical power runs through the empty vessel at high speed.

The lifeless and inhuman body takes on a faint reddish color.

The golem is activated.

No, it’s more like a person has been revived.

The boy opens his eyes.

“…”

“He opened his eyes!”

“Yes!”

It was a success.

The core and the body are connected.

Now, the autonomous golem is complete——

“Papa… Mama?”

“”…Eh?””

We were at a loss for words at the first word the boy spoke.

Chapter 36: Have We Got a Child?

“Good morning, Papa, Mama.”

“”…””

The little boy who had just woken up looked at us and called us Papa and Mama.

We looked at each other, unsure of how to react, and remained silent for a while.

The boy then looked anxious.

“Papa…? Mama?”

“Oh, uh, good morning.”

“Good morning.”

We quickly replied, afraid that he might start crying.

Shouldn’t we have denied it at this point and told him the truth?

Does the boy mistake us for his parents?

Could it be that he doesn’t even realize he’s a golem?

At what point do autonomous golems understand themselves?

As I was worrying about this, His Highness asked the boy next to me.

“May I ask your name?”

“Yes! I’m Nero! Papa.”

“Nero, huh? That’s a nice name. Why do you call us Papa and Mama?”

In the flow of asking for his name, His Highness asked the question I wanted to ask.

I interrupted my thoughts and listened to Nero’s answer as he introduced himself.

“You two woke me up, didn’t you?”

“That’s right. I only witnessed it, but you woke up thanks to her,” His Highness said, looking at me.

Nero also looked at me.

His clear marine blue eyes were so captivating that I felt a strange sensation.

It was as if he was peering into the depths of my heart.

Nero smiled a little.

“Human children call their creators ‘parents’, so I’ll do the same.”

Human children…

I realized something from his words just now.

This boy understands that he is not human.

He is conversing with us after understanding this fact.

Just one thing needs to be corrected.

“I only made your core, so calling me your ‘parent’ may not be entirely accurate.”

“Eh… Am I not supposed to call you Mama?”

Suddenly, Nero’s eyes filled with tears.

Like a child who had lost his parents and started crying.

I hastily waved my hands and denied it.

“N-No, you’re right! There’s no mistake that I’m the creator!”

“That’s good. So then, Mama is Mama.”

“Y-Yes, that’s right. I’m Mama…”

I let out a sigh in my mind.

I hate myself for not being able to firmly deny it at times like this.

His Highness pats my shoulder.

“For now, this is good. But how about asking him some questions?”

“Your Highness… That’s a good idea.”

He has just woken up.

There are many things I want to know as well.

I take a deep breath and ask Nero.

“Nero, you were sleeping for a long time, right?”

“Yes!”

“Do you remember when you started sleeping?”

“About 1,400 years ago.”

1,400 years…?

That’s five times more than the number I had vaguely associated with.

If it’s that long ago, this country didn’t even exist yet.

“Do you remember sleeping in the dungeon?”

“I don’t remember it directly, but Master must have put me to sleep.”

“Master? Is that the person who made you?”

“Yes. Master made my body.”

Nero speaks with a bright expression and tone.

I am interested in the Master who created him over a thousand years ago.

How did they create him?

Why was only the core missing?

And why was he stored in the dungeon?

I asked Nero more questions afterwards, but I didn’t get much information.

It seems that his memory before sleeping is unclear.

Perhaps due to the effects of sleeping for so long, his memory storage may have degraded.

Even humans experience a decline in memory as they age.

Do autonomous golems also become more human-like in that regard?

It’s even more intriguing.

“Papa! Mama! I’m hungry.”

“What… do you get hungry?”

“Yes! My body is no different from a human’s, so I can eat.”

“I see… is that so?”

His Highness turned his gaze towards me, seeking an answer.

In truth, I haven’t fully grasped the details of his body either.

I have only observed his external characteristics and conducted a few tests.

But I don’t know the exact internal structure.

I didn’t want to touch it carelessly and risk breaking it, so I didn’t interfere.

“What happens to the things you eat? Do they get excreted like humans?”

“No, everything is digested. The digested energy is stored as magic power.”

“There’s such a function, huh.”

It’s a technology so unfamiliar that I can’t stop being amazed.

It’s not just the appearance, but even the insides are close to that of a human.

What kind of technology is being used?

If I could go to the world of a thousand years ago, I’d go right now to check it out.

Filled with curiosity and questions, I was lost in thought for a while.

Nero pulls at the hem of my clothes.

“Mama, I want to eat something.”

Those eyes, like a small animal filled with desire for something…

Even though I’ve never been a parent, my maternal instinct is tickled.

“Y-Your Highness.”

“Yeah. Let’s prepare a meal.”

“Yay!”

His innocent joy is like that of a real boy.

His Highness and I are warmed by it.

It’s like we’re experiencing the feelings of parents with children right now.

“Papa! Mama! Please tell me your names!”

“I’m Freya. I’m a magic tool maker who works here.”

“I am Julius, the prince of this country.”

And so, a new life with the autonomous golem Nero began.

We did not know at the time that this encounter and fate would later bring about great turmoil.

Chapter 37: Gaze

“Have you heard?”

“That rumor? It’s just a rumor, right?”

“But isn’t it suspicious? It came out of nowhere.”

“But that’s too easy of an explanation.”

Knights guarding the royal castle are conversing.

Among them, there is a rumor that has been circulating recently.

It is impolite to talk about it loudly, and no one openly asks about it.

“His Highness has a secret child…”

“I heard the other party is a magic tool maker brought in from the court. It’s not an impossible story, is it? She was suddenly brought into the castle by His Highness.”

“That’s true when you put it that way…”

“I saw it myself. The child was walking with them and calling them ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama.’”

Whispers of the rumor are spoken in hushed tones.

However, due to its intriguing content, it quickly spread outside the castle.

Similar rumors are spreading within the court as well.

“But the child is too old for that. Probably around fourteen years old.”

“Then it’s impossible. Considering His Highness’s age. And the other party, the magic tool maker, is still young, right?”

“I guess so…”

In reality, there are strong factors that deny the possibility of such a thing.

That’s why the rumors have spread.

Because people don’t know, they mix in various speculations.

“Your Highness is kind, so maybe if we ask, he’ll answer… or not?”

“If you have the courage to do so.”

“…let’s not.”

“Okay.”

❂❂❂

“So, the rumor that we have a child is spreading.”

“I-I see.”

I chuckle bitterly.

To be whispered about having a child at my age.

And to be thought of as His Highness, of all people.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness. I’ve caused you trouble too.”

“Don’t apologize. I should be the one apologizing. If it’s going to come to this, we should have just announced Nero’s true identity openly.”

“I agree with you on that.”

We decided not to disclose Nero’s true identity.

Just being an autonomous golem attracts attention.

But he was even more human-like than that.

In appearance, behavior, and even his thoughts.

It’s as if we created a living human being… If we were to announce it openly, it would cause more confusion than the response we received.

And many people would start trying to get their hands on Nero.

I think His Highness was able to vividly imagine such a future precisely because he knows the reality of the black market.

I also agree with His Highness’s opinion and have kept Nero’s identity hidden.

At least for now, we won’t make it public.

“But it’s backfiring. I intended to make him a foundling, but…”

“It’s just a rumor. It can’t be helped if people find it interesting to talk about.”

“Yeah. Let’s wait for things to settle down.”

“Okay.”

Rumors are just rumors after all.

Eventually, people will get bored and stop talking about it.

So I decided to wait patiently until then.

Fortunately…

“Mama! I’ll leave the materials over here.”

“Okay. Thanks, Nero.”

“I’m fine with this much! I’m strong, you know!”

Nero himself is very energetic.

It’s been over two weeks since he woke up.

He’s been living his days without any problems.

Now, he sleeps and lives in my room, and during the day, he helps me with my work.

Lidoria-san knew that I was creating golems, and because she trusts me, I explained the situation to her.

After that, even the royal guards understood.

Surrounded by a small but understanding group of people, Nero spends his days in a human-like way.

“Eating, sleeping, running, laughing, thinking… it’s hard to believe he’s a golem.”

“Yes, I agree.”

If you don’t look at the core in his chest, no one would think of him as a golem.

He just seems like a cheerful and energetic boy.

His personality is obedient, and he listens carefully to what we say.

His efficiency at work has also improved because he is skilled.

Everything is going smoothly, and it’s scary how well he fits in.

However, there are some questions.

He moves using the core that I made.

Golem behavior changes depending on the number of commands given to the core.

I have put fifty-seven commands in so that he functions as an autonomous golem.

However, he shouldn’t be able to move with such human-like freedom.

How is it possible for him to move so much like a human?

Over a thousand years ago… Why did the person named Master create Nero?

I want to unravel the mystery someday.

“I should be going back now. I still have work left to do.”

“Okay.”

“Papa, are you leaving?”

“Yeah, I’m still a prince, you know. I’ll stop by again around evening.”

His Highness stroked Nero’s head and left the laboratory.

As I took a break, I recalled the rumors I had heard from His Highness.

“The child of His Highness and me…”

That was the rumor.

Is that why I always feel like someone is watching me recently?

To be honest, it’s not a comfortable gaze.

But if that’s the reason, then if I wait a while, the rumors should disappear along with it.

So, I’ll endure it.

“Mama, what should I do next?”

“Let’s see. Can you help me with this one?”

“Yes!”

Now, this child is with me too.

It’s much livelier and more enjoyable than being alone in the laboratory.

I don’t mind the unpleasant gaze when I’m working.

That’s why I didn’t consult with His Highness.

But… from this day on, I will feel even more eyes on me.

Chapter 38: Who are you?

A gaze.

At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it.

But gradually, I became aware of it and it started to scare me a little bit.

Morning, noon, and night, constantly.

It feels like someone is watching me.

Even when walking down the hallway, I can’t help but be conscious of the gaze of others.

Although I understand that it’s probably because of those rumors, I occasionally feel a sharp gaze pierce me and I suddenly turn around.

But one day, it suddenly disappeared.

I suddenly stopped feeling that gaze.

I thought maybe I had just gotten used to it, but it was unnatural for it to suddenly disappear.

The rumors are still going on.

Even so, I was happy that the unpleasant gaze had disappeared.

Finally, I can work in peace of mind.

Or so I thought…

“…I feel it again.”

As I walk down the hallway, someone glares at me.

“Are you okay, Mama?”

“Yeah.”

Nero walks next to me, looking worried.

Since he’s with me, I don’t want him to worry unnecessarily.

I tried not to think about it.

His Highness also seems busy lately.

I wanted to talk to him, but I didn’t want to give him any unnecessary work.

“If you’re not feeling well, let’s take a break. Papa is worried too.”

“Thank you, but I’m okay. Tomorrow is a day off after today, and I’ll feel better if I get a good sleep.”

“Mama… then I’ll work hard and finish my job quickly!”

“Thank you, Nero.”

Yes, everything will be fine if I get some sleep.

Before, I slept with anxiety, and when I woke up in the morning, the gaze was gone.

I don’t know why, but I expect it.

After finishing work, I go to bed at night.

And then I wake up.

“…it’s gone?”

The gaze was really gone.

I had felt it all morning yesterday, but it was completely gone now.

It’s the same as last time.

But I still couldn’t feel at ease.

A few days later——

“…again?”

I feel it.

A sharp gaze… from various directions.

Have the number of gazes increased?

Or am I just getting nervous?

I don’t know anymore.

This is the first time I’ve experienced something like this, so I don’t know how to deal with it…

“Hey, Nero, do you feel like someone is watching you lately?”

“Watching me? Sorry, I can’t feel the gaze with my body.”

“…I see.”

“Can Mama feel it?”

I nod.

When I was working in the lab, the words slipped out of my mouth.

I had been trying not to say anything to Nero so as not to worry him.

“It’s probably because Mama is famous! Lidoria-san said so too! Mama is a really amazing person. That’s why people are paying attention to you!”

“…Maybe you’re right.”

“Yes! It will surely disappear eventually.”

“That’s true.”

I regretted talking about it, but I was happy that Nero cheered me up.

Thanks to him, I felt a little better.

That’s right.

It’s just that people are paying attention to me because of the rumors, and it’s only for now.

I only feel a sharp gaze, and I won’t be harmed.

This is the royal castle, right?

His Highness is here, and Nero is with me now.

I don’t need to feel anxious.

Telling myself that, I focus on my work today as well.

At night.

I feel the most uneasy before going to bed.

The quietness of the room makes me feel like I’m being gazed at even more.

Sometimes I feel anxious that something might happen while I’m asleep.

“It’s okay, Mama! I’m here with you. I’ll protect you, Mama.”

“Nero…”

It’s pathetic. I’m making Nero worry too.

I need to stop worrying and just go to sleep already.

After that, I’ll talk to His Highness.

It’s not fair to burden him with my problems, but I can’t continue like this.

Even with Nero’s comfort, I can’t stop worrying.

I can’t concentrate on work like this.

“Tomorrow…”

I’ll go to His Highness in the morning.

I think this and drift off to sleep.

Tick tock, tick tock…

I wake up immediately.

The clock’s hands have only moved an hour.

“Huh?”

I notice it right away.

Nero, who was supposed to be sleeping with me, is not there.

“Nero?”

I look around the room.

He’s nowhere to be seen.

Then I notice that the window is open.

I remember locking it before going to bed.

“Could he have gone out from here?”

Did he go out alone?

Even though I told him not to go out alone, did he go against my words?

Suddenly, anxiety wells up within me.

Alone, my body trembles.

Before I know it, I’ve left the room and headed outside to find Nero.

Outside the window, the garden stretches out.

The late-night royal castle is dimly lit, and I don’t pass anyone as I run down the hallway.

I reach the courtyard.

“――They’re really troublesome.”

Nero’s voice.

He was in the courtyard after all.

I peeked at them from behind the trees.

And the sight I saw――

“What…?”

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Standing there was unmistakably Nero.

But his usual demeanor was different.

What surprised me most was the man who had collapsed in front of him.

“Ggh… Shit.”

“When are they going to give up? No matter how many times I repel them, they keep coming back. Where does that persistence come from?”

“Who…Who are you…?”

“I have no intention of telling you that. Just hurry up and… disappear.”

As Nero touches the man’s forehead, the man disappears in an instant.

That was undoubtedly a teleportation magic.

He moved the man somewhere else.

“Why can Nero use magic…”

I didn’t give that command.

In the first place, I’ve never heard of a golem using magic.

Nero lets out a small sigh.

The boyish innocence is gone from his profile.

“Hm? What, there’s someone else?”

Did he notice?

“Is turning you away not enough? If you’re too persistent, then your life will be——?!”

“Nero…?”

“You are…”

Our eyes meet.

It’s definitely Nero.

But, different.

It’s Nero, but not the Nero that I know.

“…Who are you?”

Chapter 39: Ancient Magician

I look at him with suspicion.

Placing his hand on his waist, he lets out a big sigh and mutters to me, making eye contact.

“I see. So you saw it.”

“…”

“Don’t be so scared. I’m not your enemy.”

“Who are you…?”

Who is he?

I kept the second question to myself.

His mouth moves.

I concentrate on that movement and the voice that comes out of it.

I’ve been wondering for a long time.

The answer is about to be heard now.

“I am Nero. There is no falsehood in that name. If there is anything false, it’s the existence of a Master.”

“Master…the one who created you…”

“There’s no Master for me. I created myself.”

“Huh…?”

I tilt my head without understanding.

He continues with a smirk.

“Strictly speaking, I am from when I was alive. This body is an artificially created humanoid made from my cells.”

“Artificial…creating a human body with human hands?”

“That’s right. You understand quickly.”

“Is it really possible…”

To create a human body with human hands, like giving birth to a child?

At least, it’s something I’ve never thought about.

“It’s impossible for ordinary people, but if you have the original body, it’s a different story. I used my own body to create this one. To go beyond the framework of humans and see a far future. And it came true, thanks to you.”

“My…?”

Nero rolls up his sleeves and shows me the core in his chest.

That radiance proves that he is a golem.

“I succeeded in creating a body, but I just couldn’t make the core. I lacked the talent of a magic tool maker. I could make a simple golem, but my acquaintances laughed at me when I talked about creating a core similar to that of a human-like golem. But I believed. I knew someone who would definitely achieve it, and I waited for that person…”

“You were sleeping in the dungeon?”

“Yes. I’ve been waiting for a future where a true genius like you will wake me up from my deep slumber! A future where a true genius like you will wake me up from my deep sleep!”

Nero rejoices.

His voice echoes in the quiet garden of the royal castle.

“Let me introduce myself again. My name is Nero Claudius! A man once called the Great Magician.”

“Nero… Claudius…”

I knew that name.

The world’s largest country, Romania, which became the prototype of this country in the past.

The name of the fifth king, Nero Claudius.

He was known as the wisest sage who had mastered all kinds of magic and was the greatest magician of his time.

“The name of a king…”

“Yeah, I see. Has my name been passed down to future generations properly? That’s a good thing.”

“Um, are you really…?”

“You don’t believe me? Well, that’s fine. You can think of it as a child’s ramblings. But you know, don’t you? That the fact that I am acting like this is the best proof.”

He declared confidently, placing his hand on his chest.

Yes, I understand.

Because it’s strange.

With just the core I made, he shouldn’t be able to move around so freely.

I had been thinking about it for a long time.

It was as if someone’s soul was inhabiting his body.

“… Why did you go through all of this trouble?”

“I told you, didn’t I? To see the world in the future.”

“Did you turn yourself into a golem just for that? To extend your life?”

If that’s the case, he’s not mentally stable.

It sends shivers down my spine.

“Hmph, well, I wouldn’t have lived much longer anyway if I didn’t.”

“Huh”

“It’s a curse. A powerful one… that becomes complete when the caster dies. Once it’s cast, it can’t be undone. Not even me. I can’t…”

I can’t believe I’m hearing the word “curse” here too.

Was he cursed too?

And he realized his own impending death and turned his body into a golem.

To live on?

If that’s the case, I need to reflect on my thoughts and actions, as he’s sane.

“Um, what about those people from earlier?”

“They were insolent men who were peeking at you from afar. The gaze you felt was because of them.”

“I guess it wasn’t just my imagination…”

“They’re probably spies from some country. They might have wanted to get a hold of the prince’s weakness. You’re unlucky too. No, I suppose it’s no use if you’re in love with him.”

I tremble involuntarily.

“W-What?”

“What? Are you not in love with that prince?”

“W-What…”

“I know it when I see it. I haven’t lived this long for nothing. I have life experience that’s many times greater than yours.”

He saw right through me.

Not just this boy, but the magician who had lived in the past.

I suddenly feel embarrassed and my face gets hot.

His identity and his purpose, everything becomes unimportant to me.

“Don’t worry. I won’t say anything.”

“Y-Yes.”

“I was revived thanks to you. Therefore, I will become the one who protects you. Until you die or until I become unnecessary, that is. But in exchange, please keep my identity a secret. Oh, no, you can share it with someone you can trust. For example, that prince.”

“I-I understand.”

This is not a secret that I can keep to myself.

In many ways, the night passes with a sense of nervousness and excitement.

❂❂❂

The next day.

“…So, that’s why…”

“Nice to meet you again. The prince of modern times.”

“…Are you kidding me? Is this child actually an ancient magician and a former king?”

“That seems to be the case.”

Together with Nero in the laboratory, we told His Highness about his secret.

As expected, His Highness was greatly surprised.

“…sigh, I can’t believe it, but if Freya says so, I’ll believe it.”

“Oh, so you trust this woman’s words.”

“I do trust her.”

“I see. It’s a good relationship… though a little unsatisfying.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’m talking to you.”

The two of them calmly continue their conversation.

I secretly admired His Highness for quickly and readily accepting the situation, while I still couldn’t get over my surprise.

Chapter 40: Feelings in words

“Why did you call us Papa and Mama?”

“It was just for fun. I thought it would be easier for you guys to deal with an innocent boy persona…but it seems to have had the opposite effect.”

“Thanks to that, there are strange rumors going around. I don’t care about myself, but don’t cause trouble for Freya.”

“I understand. That’s why I took action on my own.”

“Is it about last night?”

I informed His Highness that someone was watching me.

According to him, it seemed to be a spy from another country.

It wasn’t just a recent problem; it was known that there were spies from other countries within the organization.

“We were trying to flush them out…but we don’t know which country they were from.”

“I asked, but they didn’t answer. It was too much trouble, so I teleported them outside the city, but it seems I was too lenient. They keep trying to approach her again and again. They’re quite persistent. Do they really want to exploit your weaknesses? You must be very popular.”

“Don’t tease me. I don’t feel happy about having many enemies. Rather, I feel really sorry for causing trouble for Freya in this matter.”

“It’s not your fault, Your Highness. I’m fine, really.”

“…No, I’m really sorry.”

As I see His Highness apologize repeatedly, I can’t help but feel sorry for making him worry about me.

To think he’s troubled about me…

“… Maybe it’s not good. Maybe it’s not good for me to see you like this.

“Eh…”

“Because I’m so close to you, I’m involving you in troublesome things. For the sake of your safety, maybe I should maintain an appropriate distance from now on…”

“…”

I didn’t need him to worry about that.

I was about to say those words, but I swallowed them back.

I can tell from His Highness’s expression that he’s genuinely worried about me and is proposing this while in anguish.

It made me both happy and sad at the same time.

I hear a small sigh next to me.

“So you don’t mind if I take her, do you?”

“Nero?”

“What do you mean?”

“This woman has value to me. A magic tool maker with such excellent talent did not exist even in the era when I lived. With this woman, I can achieve my goals.”

What is he suddenly talking about?

Is Nero’s goal not to be freed from the curse and live on?

That’s what he was talking about yesterday.

Or so I thought.

“What’s your goal?”

“That’s right. My goal is to make this world mine.”

“Wha…Are you crazy? You can’t just——”

“I can do it.”

In an instant, the air turns cold.

His Highness is staring sharply at Nero.

I have never seen such an expression.

“I’m the great magician. Now that I have an undying body, I can do anything. For starters, I can take over this country.”

“N-Nero?”

What are you planning?

I was about to say that, but I stopped.

I didn’t feel any malice or hostility towards me in Nero’s gaze.

I understood it in an instant.

This isn’t his true intention, it’s just an act.

“Are you planning to use her for that purpose?!”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

His Highness doesn’t realize it.

He confronts Nero with an expression full of anger.

He’s already standing up, ready to draw his sword.

“If that’s the case, then I’ll cut you down. I won’t let you lay a hand on her.”

“Oh, really? Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

“――!!”

The air is heavy, too heavy.

It’s like my whole body is being held down by a giant hand.

I can’t move.

Neither can I nor His Highness.

“What…my body…is it magic?”

“No, it’s just magic power. You can’t move because you’re afraid of my magical pressure.”

“Is that so…”

“If the difference in power is too great, this is what happens. Your instincts understand it. You can’t beat me. If you try, you’ll be killed.”

There are times when fear makes my legs freeze.

Now, it’s happening throughout my whole body.

“Ugh…”

“Give up. It’s thanks to you that I woke up. I’ll spare your life.”

“…Who said I’m giving up?”

“Oh, really? You’ll fight me?”

His Highness drew his sword.

Prepared to die.

“Why go that far?”

“To…protect her.”

“Why? This woman is a stranger, isn’t she? Are you willing to risk your life for a stranger?”

“…She’s not just any stranger.”

Trembling, His Highness tightly grips his sword.

Pushing aside his fear, raising his feelings, and smiling.

“She saved my life… She’s someone I care about and she deserves to be happy.”

“Even so, you’re still strangers.”

“Maybe that’s true now! But eventually… we won’t be strangers anymore. I’ll make sure of it!”

Those were undoubtedly His Highness’s feelings.

His expression of emotion towards me.

“I’ll protect her. Because I… love her.”

“Your Highness…”

His Highness said that about me…

“Hahaha! You finally said it.”

“Huh…?”

The heavy pressure of magic disappears.

Surprised, His Highness also puts down his sword.

“Just kidding. I didn’t have any grand purpose like that. I just wanted to live in the world of the future.”

“Then… what about earlier…?”

“I was just teasing you. You were trying too hard to be cool and making this girl sad. And just so you know, you were the one who accidentally revealed your true feelings. I didn’t tell you myself.”

I have nothing to say.

He certainly didn’t break that promise, but…

“Nero…”

“Here’s one for you, as thanks.”

On purpose, to let me hear His Highness’s feelings.

“You got me good.”

“I’ll tell you one thing. Just holding onto your feelings won’t convey them. If you don’t express them, you’ll surely regret it later. It’s my advice as an elder.”

“…It’s kind of humiliating to be told that in that way.”

“Throw away your shame, especially in front of the woman you’re in love with.”

His Highness laughed and said, “That’s right.”

Then he looked at me in the eyes.

“What I just said is my true feelings. I love you.”

“Your Highness… I also——”

“You don’t have to say anything more.”

“Huh?”

His Highness smiled and spoke as he stopped my answer.

“There are still various constraints that prevent us from being together. But in the near future, I will definitely tell you again. At that time, I want to hear your answer.”

“Your Highness…”

“You’re being shy now.”

“I’m in front of the woman I love. Besides, I’m still a prince. I’ll do my best to make the best of what I can do now, thinking about the future. It may take some time.”

“——That’s alright with me.”

I’m already very happy.

“Thank you. Please wait for me.”

“Yes. I’ll wait. Forever.”

I dream of a future walking with His Highness.

A brilliant and happy scene.

The best time that will eventually come.

I’m looking forward to it now.

Chapter 41: A Story from the Past

Feelings are conveyed through words.

The advice of a great magician who was revived from the past connected our hearts.

If it hadn’t been said, I wouldn’t have realized my own feelings.

If I hadn’t put it into words, we might have passed each other by and gone our separate ways.

It’s all thanks to him that it didn’t turn out that way.

“Thank you very much, Nero-san.”

“It’s too late to be so formal. I’m not good with stiff conversations.”

“Um, then is it okay to just call you Nero-kun?”

He nods.

“That’s fine. It would be more awkward for those around us if you were too formal with me.”

“That’s true.”

To those around us, I’m older and Nero-kun is a child.

In reality, he’s a great magician who has awakened from a long, long sleep.

But no one knows that.

“Is it okay to keep Nero-kun a secret from everyone else?”

“I would appreciate it if you could. I don’t want to attract too much attention.”

“Okay. If that’s what Nero-kun wants.”

I don’t want to do anything that he doesn’t want.

Only the royal guard and Lidoria-san know about this story, aside from us.

Nero-kun told me that it’s okay to tell trustworthy people.

If I told the people I talked to, they wouldn’t spread his existence indiscriminately.

At the very least, it wouldn’t become the kind of rumor that spreads within the castle.

“I wonder if there’s any way to stop that rumor…”

“Are you talking about the rumor that I’m your child? It’s an interesting story, but are you dissatisfied with it?”

“W-Well, I’m not exactly at an age to have children yet…”

“Age isn’t that important when it comes to becoming a mother. Or do you not want to have a child with that man?”

“W-Wait a minute…I’ll think about it.”

My voice trails off in embarrassment.

If His Highness were still here, I wonder what kind of expression he would make.

Would he blush and be embarrassed like me?

I’d like to see that side of His Highness too.

“Well, there’s no need to worry. That issue will be resolved soon.”

“W-What do you mean?”

“He has already conveyed his thoughts and feelings. He will take action as soon as tomorrow if possible. I’m going to help him. There’s no way he can fail.”

“Is that so?”

I don’t really understand, but it seems like Nero-kun and His Highness are working on countermeasures.

I can’t think of anything I can do, so I’ll leave it to the two of them for now.

Now then, it’s time to work today as well.

“Let’s go to the palace.”

“Understood.”

Nero-kun and I head to the palace.

To manage the magic institution located underground.

This is the only job that must be done without fail every day except for days off.

Because it plays an important role in supporting the lives of the people of the kingdom.

Since tomorrow is a day off, we need to check extra carefully today.

“But it’s amazing. Has magical technology advanced this far?”

Nero-kun looks at the magic institution with his hand on his chin, smiling.

Suddenly, a question comes to mind.

What kind of magic tools were there in the era when he was alive?

“Were there no such things in the era when Nero-kun was alive?”

“Large-scale magical devices did exist, but they weren’t as compact as this one.”

“They used to be even bigger?”

“If this can sustain the same effect… then it would have been seven times larger.”

Seven times larger…

Just imagining it, one device alone wouldn’t fit in this room.

Magic tool technology is evolving every year.

The most noticeable change is the size of magic tools.

Even with the same effect, they have become smaller and more convenient.

Unnecessary parts have been removed, and the engraved magic has been simplified.

“What’s even more surprising is that magic tools have become a part of daily life.”

“It was different before?”

“It was. Magic tools and magic were just means for fighting. They were tools of war…including magicians.”

“War…”

The era when Nero-kun lived was probably harsher than it is now.

Now, this country is very peaceful.

There seem to be small distortions and problems…

But there hasn’t been anything like wars that would claim many lives.

Just that is enough to say that this country is peaceful.

“If you were born in the same era as me, there is no doubt that the countries would have started fighting each other to claim you. The existence of a superior magic tool maker greatly affects a country’s military power.”

“I don’t even want to imagine that… it doesn’t seem like I’ll be getting any rest.”

“Of course, there is no rest no matter where you are. You’ll be made to work until you die.”

I gulp.

If that were to happen, I would be living in even harsher conditions than when I worked at the royal palace.

I really…

“I’m glad I was born in this era.”

“Yeah. And…”

Meeting His Highness was the greatest stroke of luck.

Listening to Nero-kun’s story, I was grateful once again for this miraculous encounter.

“But even though it’s peaceful, it’s not a good idea to be too relaxed. In any era, there will never be a complete end to conflicts. If people realize the usefulness of your power, they will appear to fight for it, even if it means spilling blood.”

“I-Is that so?”

To be honest, I don’t think I have that much value.

“They did the same thing, sniffing around about you. At least stay within my reach. Otherwise, I can’t protect you.”

“Thank you, Nero-kun. But don’t push yourself too hard, okay?”

“Heh, my body is a golem. I don’t feel tired at all.”

“Still, I don’t want you to get hurt because of me.”

Even if it’s a created body.

What resides in that body is the true life of him.

“…Treating me like a human, how interesting. If I were truly human, I’d be tempted to just take you.”

“That would be a problem.”

“I don’t think so. That man wouldn’t stay silent.”

“I hope so.”

Chapter 42: Alone Time Together

On a holiday morning.

I wake up a little slower than usual.

“Ugh…”

I stretch my arms wide.

Nero-kun, who slept in the same room as me until yesterday, has moved to a separate room from today.

If he were an innocent child, it would be okay, but it’s not good to sleep in the same room with a man who is much older than me…

So, His Highness was considerate enough to separate the rooms for us.

As for Nero-kun…

“Don’t worry. I have no interest in touching other women. Besides, I am currently in a golem body.”

I didn’t feel any lies in his words, but His Highness separated the rooms because he didn’t like it.

I feel like I’m being treated specially by His Highness, and it gives me a sense of superiority.

So, I am experiencing being alone for the first time in a few days.

My room, with only me in it, is quiet and makes me feel a little lonely.

I change my clothes and wash my face.

Feeling refreshed, I leave the room.

As I open the door, I see Nero-kun in the hallway.

“Are you awake?”

“Nero-kun?”

He was waiting for me.

Nero-kun’s room is next to mine, strictly speaking, it’s next to the research laboratory.

“You’re up early. Were you already awake?”

“I don’t actually need sleep in this body. I just do it out of habit. Besides, there was something I had to take care of today.”

“Something to take care of?”

“Let’s discuss the details with the three of us. Shall we go to the dining hall?”

As I had intended to do so, I nodded in agreement. If His Highness is joining us, it might be about the countermeasures for the rumors we discussed yesterday.

I head to the dining hall with Nero-kun.

When we open the door, His Highness is already seated.

“Good morning, Freya.”

“Good morning, Your Highness.”

His refreshing smile makes me feel very refreshed.

“Good morning, Nero. Is it done already?”

“I followed the plan as instructed. It’s working without any problems.”

“As expected of a great magician.”

“It’s an easy task for anyone, not just me. You explain it to her.”

His Highness responds with that intention.

We sit down and talk while having our meal.

“Yesterday, I officially made Nero your assistant.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah, our ambiguous position has caused some strange rumors. If we had started like this from the beginning, we wouldn’t have had unnecessary problems. I really caused you trouble.”

“Oh no! I caused more trouble for His Majesty than I did for you.”

An illegitimate child of a prince.

It could be a big problem that could damage the trust of the people.

I am just an individual, and my position as a palace magic tool maker is not very strong.

And besides, the content of the rumors itself… wasn’t that bad.

“But, there’s no need to worry about the rumors spreading anymore. They’ll disappear soon.”

“Is…Is that so?”

Will it really change just by officially making Nero-kun my assistant?

To deny the already spread rumors, there needs to be an appropriate change.

It’s not easy to put out the fire that’s already burning.

As if reading my thoughts, His Highness continues to explain, “Just making Nero-kun your assistant won’t be enough, but we’ll borrow the power of a great magician.”

“Nero-kun’s power?”

I look at Nero-kun.

He nods.

“I used my magic to cast a suggestion on those in the royal castle and palace. I was welcomed as your assistant from the beginning.”

“You manipulated everyone’s memories?”

“I didn’t do anything too grandiose. I just spread something similar to the rumors. The effect itself isn’t that strong, but it worked well in this case.”

Nero-kun says.

It’s not like people believed the rumors.

That’s because the rumor about a hidden child between me and His Highness is undoubtedly not true.

The age difference is too great.

Judging from Nero-kun’s appearance, it would mean that I or His Highness gave birth to a child when we were still children ourselves.

It’s impossible for human anatomy.

In other words, while the rumor spread, people had a conviction that it would be impossible.

“Then we just need to support that. This will make the rumors disappear.”

“But it’s just a rumor. We can’t restrain those who are nosing around you, so I’ll still rely on Nero for that. I’d like to have a bodyguard, but…”

“A clumsy bodyguard will only get in the way. I’ll be enough by myself.”

“So, I’ll leave it to Nero. I’m sure you’ll be fine, but if you have any concerns, let me know right away.”

“Yes. Thank you very much.”

His Highness and Nero-kun both care about my safety.

I feel guilty for being protected, but more than that, I’m happy.

The three of us finish our meal without realizing it.

The time spent with His Highness goes by in the blink of an eye.

“I’ll go back to my room first.”

Suddenly, Nero-kun stands up and tries to leave the dining hall.

He stops abruptly, with his back turned.

“Oh, right. Let me tell you one good thing. This room is currently protected by my barrier. It’s the safest place in the world. No sound can escape outside. You don’t have to worry about being overheard no matter what you talk about.”

With that, he leaves the room.

The rest of us look at each other and can’t help but smile.

“Nero really notices things, doesn’t he?”

“He’s kind.”

“Maybe. Thanks to him, we were able to be alone.”

“Yes.”

Nero-kun cares about us.

Recently, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the time to relax and talk with just the two of us, so I’m happy.

“You’re not working today, are you?”

“Yes, I’m taking the day off.”

“I see. I wish we could spend it together…”

I shake my head.

“Just being able to talk like this makes me so happy.”

“Freya…”

I fell in love with a prince of a country.

This is not a normal romance.

We can’t meet each other often, and our time together is limited.

That’s why this brief moment is special and comforting.

“Let’s plan a holiday together when our schedules align. By then, I’ll have eased your anxiety.”

“Your Highness…then I’ll try to finish my work quickly too.”

“Don’t push yourself.”

“You too, Your Highness.”

I thought that I wouldn’t mind pushing myself a little if it meant we could extend the time we spend together.

I’m sure His Highness feels the same way…

Chapter 43: The Director and the Pretty Boy

“——So that’s the story.”

“…Huh?”

It was the first time I introduced Nero-kun to Lidoria-san.

She had seen him in action many times before and knew about the absurd rumors with His Highness.

Of course, she knew that he was a golem.

But Lidoria-san was also someone I trusted.

Honestly, when I told her that Nero-kun was a former great magician…

“W-Wait a minute. Your story is too sudden and confusing.”

“That’s true.”

Lidoria-san’s reaction was natural.

It would be strange if she just accepted it with a simple explanation like ‘A great magician from ancient times became a golem and was resurrected.’

There are still things that you find hard to believe.

But I can understand the fact that he is not normal, because I made his core.

Nero-kun’s uniqueness.

“To be honest, I can’t believe it…it’s too free to call it a golem. No matter how excellent the core completed by Freya-san is, I can’t imagine a golem that moves so human-like.”

“But it’s not just a golem. This body is based on my original physical body. In other words, it’s a living corpse.”

“A corpse?! Did you transform your own body into a golem? Why would you do such a thing…”

“I had no other choice. It was the only way to survive.”

Nero-kun talks about being cursed from his own mouth.

He also didn’t want to become a golem by his own choice.

He chose the best way he could to live in the future.

Although, I don’t think ordinary humans would even come up with such a method.

Nero-kun’s existence proves his exceptionalism as a magician.

“So…what are you going to do from now on, Nero-san?”

“As I explained earlier, I am her assistant for now.”

“The Great Magician as an assistant…what an amazing combination.”

“Hahaha…I think so too.”

Despite looking like a child, there’s someone much more amazing than me next to me.

And he’s here to support me as my assistant.

Thinking about it again, it’s an unbalanced relationship.

“Is that alright with you, Nero-san?”

“It’s fine. It’s undoubtedly thanks to her that I awakened. If it wasn’t for her, I would still be sleeping. Maybe I would never have awakened.”

He clenches his fist and stares ahead.

As if to feel the reality of being alive.

“I’m grateful. Truly grateful.”

“Nero-kun…”

“I’ll be here for a while until I can repay this debt of gratitude. Gratitude isn’t just about words, it’s something that needs to be shown through actions.”

“That’s quite profound.”

“Nero-kun’s words are strangely persuasive.”

“Of course. The density of the time I’ve lived in is different from yours.”

Every time I talk to him like this, I become interested in the era he lived in.

He said it was a brutal world, but it couldn’t have been just that.

If the world only breeds conflict, I don’t think kind people like him can be born.

“That’s the way it is. You said Lidoria, right? If you have anything, don’t hesitate to tell me. If she’s your superior, then my superior is the same.”

“W-well, I’m not exactly her superior…uh, is that okay?”

“Oh, I’ll listen to most things.”

“T-Then, there’s one thing…”

Lidoria-san is fidgeting.

Looking at Nero-kun, as if expecting something.

I’m also curious about what she’s going to ask.

Especially since proactive Lidoria-san is rare.

“If it’s possible…how close is Nero-kun’s body to a human’s?”

“Hmm? What’s that? Is that what you wanted to know?”

“Yes! I’ve been curious about it all this time. His appearance and movements are just like those of a human boy, and he even eats and sleeps, right? I just really want to know what’s going on.”

She’s speaking faster than usual, probably because she’s excited.

I’ve never seen Lidoria-san like this before.

“I see. Then go ahead and investigate to your heart’s content.”

“Is, is it okay? Then, can you take off your clothes?”

“I don’t mind.”

“Huh?”

The conversation suddenly progressed all at once.

Nero-kun took off his clothes without any hesitation, and a few seconds later, he was in a very indecent state.

“Is this okay?”

“Wow… you really look just like a human boy.”

“It’s not just the appearance. The internal structure is the same as that of a human, taking in air, circulating blood, and transmitting nerves. Of course, it’s all pseudo.”

“Do you grow?”

“The body doesn’t change. However, I can change my shape with magic. If I want to, I can become an adult or even more childlike. I can’t change my gender though.”

The two of them were calmly talking face to face.

A naked boy and an older woman staring at him…

If someone who didn’t know saw them, wouldn’t they call the guards?

Or rather…

“Hmm? What’s wrong?”

“Why are you covering your eyes, Freya-san?”

“Well, it’s just… because he’s naked. Why is Lidoria-san so okay with it?”

Despite his appearance as a young boy, he’s still a boy.

I’ve never had a chance to stare at the naked body of the opposite sex.

I’m too embarrassed to look straight at him.

As a magic tool maker, I’m interested in his body, but… it’s even more embarrassing.

“I have a younger brother who is about the same age. And Nero-san is a golem.”

“That’s right. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

Nero says confidently.

He doesn’t try to hide anything.

“Don’t be embarrassed by something like this. If you can’t handle this, you won’t be able to do anything when you spend the night with that prince.”

“N-Nero-kun, what are you saying!”

I imagine for a moment and my face turns bright red.

Beside Nero-kun, who is laughing happily, Lidoria-san looks puzzled.

Come to think of it, I hadn’t told her about me and His Highness…

Chapter 44: City of Water

“…sigh I’m exhausted.”

I collapse onto the bed as if my body can’t take it anymore.

It might be the first time in a while that I feel so tired at the end of the day.

Lidoria-san has been talking with a naked Nero-kun for almost two hours since she became interested in his body.

I was the only one who was troubled the whole time.

When I close my eyes, I recall the words Nero-kun said to me.

“Someday, I too…”

The face of His Highness came to mind.

The person I love.

I involuntarily shake my hand above my empty head, having had an inappropriate imagination.

It seems that I have no resistance to men.

Seeing Lidoria-san made me realize it.

I wonder if His Highness will eventually be disappointed with me.

I become a little anxious and close my eyes again.

❂❂❂

The next morning.

Nero-kun and I were summoned to His Highness’s office.

The royal guards were already waiting inside.

Gardo-san greeted us with a big wave.

“Hey, it’s been a while! You look good.”

“Yes. Have you all been doing well?”

“We’re as usual. And this is the one next to you, the golem we found in the dungeon…”

“Nero Claudius. Nice to meet you.”

The royal guards also knew about Nero’s circumstances.

But this was their first time meeting face-to-face.

All four of them looked interested.

“Oh, when he moves, he doesn’t look like a golem at all.”

“He’s just a pretty boy.”

“But he’s really an old man inside! That hurts!”

“Watch your words.”

They were still as lively as ever.

“You guys also played a part in waking me up. Thank you. Thanks to you, I am here.”

“Don’t worry about it. We didn’t enter the dungeon to help you or anything. By the way, you’re the one who made that dungeon, right?”

“Yeah, it was my secret hideout for research.”

“That’s amazing. How did you even create something like that?”

“It’s easy. Making dungeons and such.”

They immediately start chatting and getting along well. It seems that Nero-kun also gets along well with these friendly people.

I feel relieved for now.

Then, His Highness arrives late.

“Sorry for being late. What’s this? Are you all already getting along?”

“Oh, we were waiting for you, Your Highness.”

“Ah, you’re here.”

“Everyone’s here.”

His Highness looks at each person in turn, and finally sits down on the sofa.

Of course, next to me.

“Well then, the reason we gathered today is none other than to discuss the next mission.”

“Finally. I’ve been waiting for a while and had nothing to do.”

“That’s what I thought. This time it’s going to be a bit more complicated. Or rather, it seems like Freya’s power will be essential.”

“Me?”

His Highness nods.

It seems that the case requires the use of a magic tool.

If that’s the case, I definitely want to do my best.

I’m determined to show His Highness my best side.

“What’s the job?”

Nero-kun asked.

His Highness spread out a map and explained, “In the town of Acrysta, located south of the capital, they are currently suffering from an unexplained water disaster.”

“Acrysta, isn’t that the water city? It’s known for having lots of waterways and fountains throughout the town!”

“That’s right.”

“Water disaster, so is it a flood or a drought?”

Lest-san asked.

Those were the two things that came to my mind as well, but it seems like it’s different.

“The water in Acrysta’s waterways comes from underground springs. The water is so clean that you can drink it as is and it supported the lives of the people in the town. But it seems that the water has been contaminated.”

“Contaminated? Why now all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know. That’s why Gardo, we’ll investigate it ourselves.”

“I see. It could be man-made.”

Gardo-san hits his fists together as if to psych himself up.

I don’t want to think that it’s man-made…that someone intentionally contaminated it.

But it’s a possibility.

I recall someone who had connections to the darkness behind a calm facade.

❂❂❂

We quickly finished preparing and departed from the capital by carriage.

The city of Acrysta, our destination, is about four hours away by one way.

Although the distance isn’t that far, we have to cross a mountain.

On the other side of the mountain, the temperature rises sharply and the sun shines brightly.

“This side is really hot.”

“I can’t wear armor in this heat.”

“But don’t suddenly take it off. If you do that, I’ll freeze your whole body.”

“…It’s really hot.”

“I agree.”

Iris-san is exasperated by Gardo-san and Dan-san’s reactions.

As he watches their interaction, His Highness smiles fondly.

But it’s really hot.

I’m surprised that the temperature could change so much just by crossing a single mountain.

I wish we had brought a magic tool that could produce cool air.

Shall I make it here since I have the ingredients?

“Don’t waste your magic power.”

“Oh, you caught me?”

“You’re easy to read from your expression. It’s obvious.”

Nero-kun stopped me, so I’ll stop making it.

Certainly, I can endure this level of heat.

If we rely on magic tools for everything, what will happen if we run out of them?

“I wonder what would happen if we actually run out of magic tools? I can’t imagine a world like that.”

“It means that magic tools have become so integrated into modern life. But civilization doesn’t always develop. It can collapse from small triggers.”

“Don’t say scary things.”

“It’s just a possibility. The more you take for granted, the more you fear losing it.

There’s an unusual weight to Nero-kun’s words.

He may have experienced such situations before.

In fact, the same thing was happening in the city we are heading to.

Chapter 45: Waterway Management Bureau

Acrysta, the city of water.

The pure white buildings, roads, and the entire city emit a white and fantastical atmosphere that is popular among tourists within the kingdom.

One of the city’s main attractions is the clear water that flows throughout the city and can be seen from anywhere.

The water flowing in the waterways is so clean that it can be drunk directly.

It is a valuable water source that supports the livelihoods of the people in the city.

However, now it is said to be plagued by a mysterious contamination.

“It’s surprisingly normal, isn’t it?”

We entered the city.

I thought that the atmosphere would be heavier since we had heard about the contamination troubles, but the people in the city were walking around as usual and there didn’t seem to be any impact on their daily lives, at least not from the first impression.

“What is visible is not everything. Besides, this is a tourist attraction. There are clearly fewer people here than when I last visited.”

“Does that mean there is an impact? What shall we do, Your Highness?”

“Well, let’s first confirm the actual situation.”

We decided to listen to the voices of the people in the city.

We approached a man walking down the street and asked, “Excuse me, can we talk to you for a moment?”

“Hello? Yes, Your Highness Julius?!”

“Don’t be so formal. I don’t want to stand out too much.”

“Y-Yes…”

It’s natural to be surprised when the Prince suddenly speaks to you like that.

The man regains his composure despite being flustered and listens to His Highness’s words.

“I heard that the water in this town has been contaminated recently. Is it true?”

“Uh, yes. It seems to be the case, but I don’t know the details. The agency that manages the city’s waterways has told us not to drink the water directly from the waterways.”

From what the man says, the contamination seems to be true.

However, it seemed that the people in the town were not given a detailed explanation, and only the people at the agency that manages the waterways in the town knew the situation.

His Highness thanks the man and decides to visit the waterway management bureau.

❂❂❂

The waterway management bureau was located in the center of the town.

It was a three-story building, and it seemed that the water was springing from this location.

Literally, it was the hub of the city’s waterways.

“Excuse me.”

“This is a non-affiliated place——Your Highness!”

“I’m sorry to surprise you. Is the director here?”

“Yes, sir! I’ll call them right away, Director!”

One of the station staff rushes off in a panic.

Watching this, His Highness chuckles wryly, and Gardo-san whispers under his breath.

“Shouldn’t we have made an appointment after all?”

“…No, that would have made the paperwork more troublesome.”

“But isn’t it also inconvenient to keep surprising them every time?”

“You’re right…we’ll handle it better next time.”

As they’re talking, a thin man hurries over from the back.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Your Highness Julius.”

“My apologies. Did I rush you?”

“No, it’s alright.”

He doesn’t look alright at all…

He’s gasping for breath and seems young, but maybe he doesn’t have much stamina?

He gives off a slightly unreliable vibe.

“Excuse me. I’m the director of this branch. My name is Histoman.”

“Director Histoman, I apologize for coming without an appointment, but could you spare us a little time?”

“Yes, I had some free time, so please come in.”

“Thank you.”

Led by the Director, we proceed towards the back of the administrative bureau.

Inside, it resembled the room of the magic institution located in the basement of the palace, albeit slightly.

There were ornate devices scattered here and there.

It was probably a magic institution, but I couldn’t tell how it worked just by looking at it.

And…

“This smell…”

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”

Nero-kun whispered to me secretly.

If he says so, it seems that it’s not a good thing after all.

We were guided to the reception room.

His Highness sits down, and the Director sits across from him.

“I apologize for the small room.”

“It’s okay. We’ve come to inquire about the contamination of the waterways.”

“What, Your Highness came all the way here yourself?”

“These kinds of problems fall under my jurisdiction. Can you please explain?”

“Yes, of course.”

We hear the story from the Director.

The contamination is a fact, and it has only been occurring for about two weeks.

This facility has magic tools that analyze the components and purity of the water, and the condition of the water is always managed by them.

Suddenly, toxins were detected in the water that gushed out.

It was a small reaction, so if it was a natural occurrence, it would settle down soon.

At first, they didn’t think deeply about it, but a week later, the concentration increased rapidly.

“Although it doesn’t look different, when you drink it, you’ll feel a slight bitterness. If you drink too much in a day, you’ll suffer from digestive symptoms such as stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, so we’ve asked the people in the city to stop drinking the water.”

“What about drinking water?”

“We have a storage tank here. The water in the tank is not contaminated, so we deliver the water from the tanks to the houses.”

“How much is left in the tank?”

The director looked hesitant to answer…

“To be honest, it won’t last for another month.”

“I see. It seems to be a quite urgent situation.”

“I’m sorry. It’s our responsibility to manage the waterways…”

“Don’t blame yourselves. Thanks to the quick response of the management bureau, the damage to the city has been minimized. Your response was not wrong.”

“Your Highness…”

“Besides, it’s all right now. I brought someone reliable with me at times like this.”

His Highness made eye contact with me.

I nod and turn to the stunned Director.

“Can you do it, Freya?”

“Of course. That’s why I’m here.”

Chapter 46: Filtration System

With the permission of the Director, we immediately start working.

Gardo-san and the other royal guards will help deliver drinking water to the people in the town.

His Highness, Nero-kun, and I will stay at the management bureau.

The Director went into the back room, saying that he had work to do.

It must be tough for him in this situation.

We need to solve this problem quickly.

“First, let’s check the condition of the water.”

“Wait. Don’t touch the water directly. I’ll do it.”

Nero-kun stopped me from drawing water from the canal.

He peered into the transparent water from above.

“My body is a golem. Poison and curses don’t affect me.”

“The Director said it’s okay to touch it, right?”

“Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Nero-kun might be right.

Although it may be okay to touch it now, it could change if the concentration of poison increases.

There is also the possibility of delayed effects.

It’s best to leave it to Nero-kun, who is at no risk.

“You should learn to be more suspicious of others.”

“Huh?”

Nero muttered under his breath as he passed by me, and then he stuck his right arm into the waterway.

“While I’m at it, I’ll check the state of the water.”

“Can you really do that?”

“Who do you think I am? I’m a great magician once hailed as the world’s best. It would be strange if I couldn’t do something as simple as that.”

“You’re saying that about yourself…”

Ignoring the exasperated His Highness beside him, Nero closed his eyes.

There is also a device in this facility that can examine the state of the water.

Although I don’t suspect the facility’s equipment, I also brought a simple magic tool for investigation.

I had planned to use it, but it seems unnecessary with Nero here.

He is probably using magic of the same quality as that recorded in the magic tool.

For a moment, a magic circle lit up on his fingertip as he put it in the water.

Nero opened his eyes.

“I see.”

“Do you understand?”

“…There are indeed toxins mixed in, but it’s not just one type.”

“Are they mixing multiple toxins together?”

Nero-kun didn’t respond immediately to His Highness’s question.

He looked around, scanning the waterway from one end to the other.

Then, he looked at the floor, walls, and ceiling inside the facility.

“Do you understand what toxins are?”

“Toxins are harmful substances to the human body, right?”

“That’s right. There are various types of toxins. Some only work as toxins under certain conditions. But this example is…special.”

“What do you mean? Don’t be so vague.”

It seemed like Nero-kun was avoiding giving a specific explanation about the toxins.

His Highness noticed it too.

After waiting for a while, he opened his mouth with a troubled expression.

“It’s still uncertain. I’ll investigate a little more. You guys just focus on your job.”

“No, we need to know what type of toxins.”

“If we’re just removing the toxins from the water, the type doesn’t matter.”

“Is that so?”

His Highness’s gaze was directed at me.

I nodded and explained.

“I wanted to examine the species to determine the cause of the toxin contamination. Even if we can remove the toxins, it’s only temporary if we don’t identify the cause.”

“I see. Then, should we leave that to Nero and focus on making the magic tool?”

“Yes. Is that okay with you, Nero-kun?”

“Yeah, leave it to me. But you have to stay in the same room as me. Make sure to let me know when you’re moving around, got it?”

Nero-kun shows an unusually serious expression, and both His Highness and I nod in agreement.

Looking at his reaction, I have an intuition that the situation happening in this city is not just a natural phenomenon.

For now, I focus on making the magic tool.

I will make a filtration device.

It is a device that purifies water, and there is a similar magic institution in this facility.

But even using it, the toxins have not been removed.

Therefore, normal filtration is useless.

So what I thought of is a magic tool that can return the water to its normal state.

Clean water stored for drinking.

If the water in the storage tank is in a normal state, then we just need to make the flowing water have the same properties.

“I’ve never heard of such filtration.”

“This is my first time trying it too.”

“Is it really okay, even though it’s your first time?”

“Of course.”

I can apply the technology of the magic tools I have created so far.

I might be a little short on materials though.

“Nero-kun, I need to buy some materials because we don’t have enough.”

“Hm? What do we need?”

“Well…”

I told Nero-kun the type and amount of materials we need.

“I think we can get everything we need in the city.”

“Got it. I’ll come with you for shopping.”

“Thank you. By the way, did you find anything?”

“Sort of. I’ll tell you later.”

❂❂❂

We went out to the town to buy the materials.

Walking through the city again, it felt like a completely different world from the capital.

The pure white buildings were dazzling and beautiful.

It’s quiet now with few people walking around, but I imagine it must be lively during busy times, which is a bit exciting.

“Your Highness, I should carry it after all.”

“I’m fine. I mean, it’s heavy, right?”

“That’s why I’m saying it. I don’t want His Highness to walk around with heavy baggage.”

“It’s okay. Leave the heavy lifting to me, and Freya, please focus on your own work.”

I appreciate His Highness’s kindness, but I can’t help but be conscious of the people around me.

I’m just a simple magic tool maker, while His Highness is a prince of a country.

No matter how you dress it up, this class difference cannot be ignored.

If His Highness weren’t a prince…

When I suddenly thought about that, I caught a glimpse of a flyer in the corner of my vision.

With a big headline, it said, “The meteor shower is approaching.”

Chapter 47: Make a Wish Upon a Star

While gathering materials along the way, we joined up with Gardo-san and the others. The amount of luggage had become too much for His Highness to carry alone, so the timing was perfect.

We got their help to transport the materials to the management office.

By that time, the sun had set and it was completely night.

“That’s enough for today. We’ll continue tomorrow.”

“Yes.”

And so, the first day ended with gathering materials.

We headed to tonight’s lodging with His Highness as our guide.

There seems to be a mansion in this city managed by the royal family, and we will be using it tonight.

In each city, there is at least one mansion set up for the royal family to stay in.

There are also nobles who own multiple villas.

However, the scale of the royal family is different.

When we arrived at the mansion, we were each given a room.

Even if each person uses one room, there are still many extra rooms.

Nero-kun and I were given a neighboring room, while the royal guards and His Highness had rooms that were a little further away.

After dinner and bathing, all that was left was to sleep.

I’m alone, staring blankly at the ceiling in my room.

“…I can’t sleep.”

I have work from tomorrow morning as well.

I should go to bed early so that I can work properly.

The members of the royal guard are resting in preparation for tomorrow.

His Highness must be tired from carrying my belongings today.

He’s probably fast asleep by now.

I sit up from the bed and stare towards the window where the moonlight shines in.

“It’s safe inside this mansion…maybe..”

Nero-kun said that before going to bed.

He told me that he has set up a barrier to protect the mansion.

Thanks to that, everyone in the royal guard can rest.

“It’s probably okay to go out a little bit.”

It should be okay as long as it’s inside the mansion.

I can’t sleep anyway.

Besides, I remember something written on that flyer.

“A meteor shower…I hope it’s tonight.”

I leave the room and head to the balcony.

The night breeze blows through.

It’s a little chilly, but it’s comfortable enough right now.

There isn’t a single cloud in the sky.

The stars are clearly visible.

But…

“No meteor shower…”

“Freya?”

I hear a voice from behind.

I quickly turn around before even seeing who it is.

I already knew who it was from the voice.

“Your Highness.”

“Good evening.”

“Good evening. What brings you here?”

“That’s my line. I came to see the stars.”

His Highness approached with a wry smile and stood next to me.

Leaning against the balcony railing with both arms, he looked up at the night sky.

“I came to see the stars.”

“Huh? Does Your Highness also have that flyer?”

“Well, I happened to see it. Or rather, I noticed that you were looking at it, and I found it too. Is it tonight? The meteor shower.”

“It seems so.”

His Highness also came to the balcony to see the meteor shower.

Just like me.

“Do you like stars?”

“I don’t dislike them, but I wouldn’t say I’m particularly interested in them.”

“Is that so? I thought you must like them since you came to see the night sky without sleeping.”

“I just couldn’t sleep.”

I looked up at the night sky.

There are some particularly bright stars in the sky that I gazed at.

Around them, there are fainter stars.

Overwhelmed by the strong star light, It felt like they were about to disappear.

Just like…

“Me and His Highness.”

“Hm? What about it?”

I inadvertently let my thoughts slip out.

I quickly covered my mouth, but it was too late.

His Highness looked at me with a puzzled expression.

“Well…I just realized how presumptuous it was…”

“What are you talking about?”

“…That I’m in love with you, Your Highness.”

My voice was barely audible.

Even I thought it was a pretty unconfident thing to say.

“It’s a little late for that. Have you been thinking about it for a while?”

“Yes.”

“Did anyone say anything to you?”

“No, it’s just…it feels like a dream.”

Before I met His Highness, all I thought about was work.

What to do tomorrow.

How to finish my work quickly and efficiently.

When will my next day off be?

I was so preoccupied with these things that I had no room to think about anything else.

And my future…

I can now think about it.

I can even choose what to do tomorrow.

I’m living days that feel so liberating and free, it’s almost like a dream.

It might be the first time I’ve ever felt this positive and able to imagine my future.

That’s why I’m starting to feel anxious.

How long will this happy present last?

Could it all just be a dream?

After all, happy dreams always come to an end.

Where am I right now?

“Anxiety due to happiness… Isn’t it a luxury problem?”

“That’s right.”

I feel like it’s almost too wasteful for me to have this problem.

“I’m also thinking about similar things.”

“Huh?”

“If you ask me if I have no worries about the future, that would be a lie. I am a prince. The future of the country is inevitably involved in my future. I cannot decide everything on my own. It’s suffocating.”

“Your Highness…”

It may be the first time I have heard His Highness express such weakness.

Even when he was afflicted by the curse, he never gave up and struggled.

And yet, he’s expressing his anxieties now.

About me…

How selfish of me.

I…

At that moment, shooting stars streak across the night sky.

“Your Highness!”

“Yeah.”

One, two, one after another.

A night where stars fall.

We look up at the night sky.

“It’s beautiful.”

“Yes, very much so.”

We stand side by side, gazing at the stars.

This moment may not last forever, but for now, it’s enough.

Let’s live with anxiety and various thoughts.

I make a wish upon a star.

That someday, we’ll be able to feel nothing but happiness, without any anxiety.

Chapter 48: Deceitful Evil

It lasted about ten seconds.

The stars showered through the night sky.

Once it was over, it was underwhelming, but we basked in the afterglow.

“… Shall we go back?”

“Yes.”

Just like how I made a wish upon the stars, I wonder if His Highness made a wish too.

If so, what kind of wish did he make?

We walked down the hallway of the mansion.

Blocking our way was a small shadow.

“Nero?”

“Nero-kun.”

“Is the fun over?”

He smirked.

It seemed like he knew we were looking at the night sky.

“Were you spying on us?”

“Don’t compare me to some no-good. I was just watching over you from the shadows.”

“Actions speak louder than words. Well, it’s fine.”

“Nero-kun, were you waiting for us?”

He turned his back without answering.

“Nero-kun?”

“Follow me. I’ll tell you about the evil lurking in this city.”

His Highness twitched beside me.

Nero-kun walked off alone.

His Highness and I looked at each other and nodded.

❂❂❂

The next day,

With all the materials ready, I immediately started working on the project.

Since it wasn’t such a difficult magic tool, it didn’t take much time.

Using the entire morning, the filtration device was completed.

The completed filtration device can be attached to the conventional magic institution and can restore contaminated water to its normal state.

With this, the water flowing through the waterway is now safe.

“It’s amazing. It was really solved so easily.”

“Our magic tool maker is excellent.”

His Highness said proudly to the surprised director.

The director’s eyes shone as he asked the blushing me.

“It’s really wonderful! Freya-san, if it’s okay with you, could you take a look at other devices too? We were wondering whether to renovate some of the older equipment.”

“If that’s the case, I would be happy to.”

“Thank you! Right this way, please.”

The director guided His Highness and me to the back of the facility.

We headed towards the furthest room where he frequently went in and out of.

“Please come in. This is a special place where even other staff members are not allowed to enter.”

“A special place?”

“Yes. It’s a room that I personally manage, so… it’s troublesome if outsiders interfere.”

In an instant, the atmosphere changed.

It felt like the temperature had dropped suddenly, and my whole body trembled.

There was a clicking sound, and the door was locked.

“Director?!”

“What do you mean by this?”

“…I told you it’s troublesome if I’m disturbed. I don’t want anyone to interfere with me.”

Suddenly, the space was dominated by purple smoke.

A pungent smell like rotten garbage.

There was no doubt that it was toxic.

We quickly covered our mouths, but it was already too late.

“I went to great lengths to prepare for this, and now it’s all for nothing if it’s resolved so easily.”

“Did you… release the poison?”

“That’s right, Your Highness. You were slow to notice, weren’t you?”

“What… are you planning to do?”

The Director grinned.

“It would be troublesome if I were found out. I wouldn’t be able to profit from it anymore. So I’ll let you two forget about it. I’m very good with poisons, and I can make poisons that confuse people’s memories.”

“Damn it…”

“It’s pointless. The one you just inhaled was a nerve poison. You won’t be able to move for a while.”

“I already know that.”

“——Huh?”

Immediately after, His Highness’s body shone dazzlingly.

“It’s so bright!”

When he opened his eyes after the light subsided, there was no one there.

“Gone?”

“Of course. What you saw was just an illusion I created.”

“What…?”

“Now we don’t have to check anymore, do we?”

“Yeah.”

With Nero-kun leading the way, His Highness and I opened the entrance to the room.

The Director’s eyes widened in shock.

“As Nero said, it was the Director who was the culprit. I didn’t want to believe it, but…”

“Unfortunately, it’s the truth. Didn’t he confess earlier?”

“I know.”

“H-How did you…? When did you notice?”

The Director raised his voice.

Nero-kun let out a sigh and spoke.

“From the beginning. I felt the presence of magic when I entered this facility. The poison in the water was probably generated by magic, right?”

“How did you…? How did you determine that the poison was made by magic?”

“You’re a second-rate magician. There were still toxins in the magic. I couldn’t overlook that.”

“Kuh…”

“Director, is it true that you contaminated the waterway and provided safe drinking water to the people in the town for a fee?”

Gardo-san and the others listened to the townspeople’s stories.

Apparently, only some of the drinking water was provided free of charge, and others had to purchase it.

Gardo-san, who was helping with the distribution, was surprised to hear that people were receiving water for free when he accidentally delivered water to a house that was not on the list.

“What a dishonest business.”

“Damn it! Then, I’ll just have to deal with you directly——”

“It’s useless.”

The Director tried to deploy a magic circle.

But it disappeared immediately.

In front of him was Nero-kun.

“N-No.”

“Do you know? If you collide a magic circle of the same quantity and quality, they cancel each other out. So if you want to use magic, you should hurry up. You’re too slow.”.

“Guaa!”

Suddenly, a block of ice generated above the Director’s head and fell on him.

Trapped under the ice, the Director couldn’t move.

Then His Highness approached him.

“Stop here.”

“Damn it! I was just thinking about using this magic to make a fortune!”

“We’ll hear the story in the capital.”

And so, the incident was resolved.

When the lid was lifted, it turned out to be an ugly act committed by a man to earn money.

Although it was a simple conclusion, I’m relieved that it was resolved before anyone got hurt.

Chapter 49: The First Prince

Acrysta Waterway Management Bureau, Director.

His evil plot was stopped just before it could be completed.

He was taken to the capital and admitted to the charges, and imprisoned as a criminal.

The incident was resolved without causing any major problems.

“Haah…”

There was only one person who held unresolved feelings.

Prince Julius, who was handling the aftermath in his office, muttered with a sigh.

“In the end, he was just a petty criminal…and had nothing to do with the curse incident.”

In his mind, he recalled the words of a former nobleman (duke’s son) who had once tried to kill him.

Please remember this well.

There are many who aim for you and your country.

The giant evil that lurks behind this country.

It was clear that if left alone, it would become the greatest threat to the kingdom.

However, since Cain’s downfall, there hasn’t been any noticeable movement.

“Was he lying… Or…”

Is he waiting for something?

In any case, he determined that he shouldn’t neglect his vigilance, for the sake of her safety.

Knock, knock

“How are——-”

Before he could finish his sentence, the door to his room opened.

Someone entered before he could give permission to enter the prince’s room.

It is an extremely rude act, but it’s forgiven for this person.

Because he is——

“Brother?”

“Long time no see, Julius.”

As fellow princes.

The first prince, Klaus Euclis.

He is Julius’s older brother and the leading candidate for the next king.

His appearance is similar to his younger brother Julius.

“I heard you’ve returned.”

“Yeah. I just got back a little while ago. You seem busy though?”

“Not really.”

“Is that so? I heard you’re still doing dangerous things.”

Julius reacts with a twitch.

“What are you talking about?”

“Hahaha, you still want to show off, don’t you?”

Julius hasn’t told his brother about what he’s been doing in secret with the royal guards.

It’s entirely his own decision.

Even if he fails, he wants to minimize the impact on his brother and father.

“Don’t push yourself too hard. You’ve always had a tendency to overdo things. If you brandish your justice carelessly, evil will strike back.”

“Hahaha, I’m well aware of that.”

It was something that Julius had only recently experienced.

It was unexpected even for him, as Prince Julius.

Being cursed.

“Father is also worried about you. It’s great that you’re working for us, but you should also think about your own future.”

“I’ve been thinking about it…. Especially lately.”

“Is that so? Then it’s perfect. I have good news for you.”

“Good news?”

“A marriage proposal.”

Julius opened both of his eyes wide.

“A marriage proposal?”

“Yes. You’ve met her before. It’s Princess Meryl-sama from our sister country. There’s no one more suitable as your partner.”

“Why… all of a sudden?”

Klaus tilted his head.

“Isn’t it sudden? It’s been talked about before. You’re already an adult. It’s about time you had a fiance. If I become king, you’ll be the first prince. If that happens, people’s expectations of you will be even higher than they are now.”

“…”

“What, are you dissatisfied? Even in my eyes, I think she’s a perfect match for you. Personality, appearance, status… all of them are perfect for you.”

Julius thinks.

If his older brother Klaus says so, then it must be true.

He’s acquainted with Princess Meryl from before.

A woman who looks stunning in glamorous dresses.

He thinks she’s bright, graceful, and charming as a woman.

But the flower of the smile that blooms deep in his heart has a different name.

“——Brother.”

❂❂❂

Lately, I’ve been hearing new rumors.

“Have you heard? His Highness is going to be engaged.”

“Huh? Wasn’t it just talk about a potential marriage proposal?”

“Is that so? The word I heard is that the marriage proposal is already over and they’re planning to get engaged.”

“…”

As I walk down the hallway, such rumors are circulating.

As for me…

“Your mind is elsewhere, isn’t it?”

“Huh…”

Nero-kun points it out to me.

I suddenly realized it.

If I notice, I’ve been sitting still with my work undone for a while.

“If you’re that concerned, why don’t you ask the person directly?”

“But… His Highness seems busy lately.”

Since the incident at Acrysta, I haven’t been able to see His Highness much.

I was busy with the aftermath, and I had my own work to do for several days.

Just as things were finally settling down, I heard those rumors again.

I want to confirm them, but to be honest, I’m scared.

“Good grief. You could solve it with just one question.”

“Yeah, but…”

Nero-kun lets out a big sigh.

“Looking at your depressed face is bringing me down too. Go ask him right now.”

“Huh, right now?”

“That’s right. Ask and you’ll feel better. If you can’t do it, then I’ll publicly announce that you’re in love with the prince——”

“I-I’ll go right now!”

I quickly stood up from my seat and rushed out of the laboratory.

On the other side of the closing door, Nero-kun looked at me with a bewildered face and laughed.

I know what he’s trying to say.

If I just ask, I should be able to feel relieved.

Rumors are just rumors, and His Highness’s heart…

“I found him.”

He was standing in the middle of the hallway, blocking the way.

Your Highness… No…

It’s not His Highness…he looks similar, but his gaze is a little sharper.

“Nice to meet you, Freya Roster-san. I’m Klaus Euclis’, Julius’ older brother,.”

“Your Highness Klaus?!”

It’s my first time having a proper conversation with him.

And also my first time facing him like this.

This person… is the Crown Prince.

“There’s something I want to talk about. Would you accompany me?”

“…Yes.”

Chapter 50: Can’t Stay Unaware

I walk down the hallway with His Highness Klaus.

The knights passing by us do a double-look, wondering what’s going on between me and His Highness.

“Now with Klaus, huh?”

“Who is that girl?”

“…”

Honestly, I’m the one who wants to know the most.

We enter a room.

“Sit over there.”

“Uh, um…”

“It’s okay. It won’t take long.”

Guided by His Highness, I sit in a chair facing him across the table.

There’s no one else here except for us.

In a quiet room, just the two of us…

I can’t calm my nervousness in a different way than when I was with His Highness Julius.

“I heard you’re working under Julius.”

“Y-Yes!”

“I heard you’re a magic tool maker with excellent skills. Weren’t you originally working in the royal palace? Why did you go to Julius’ place?”

“That is…”

His Highness Klaus doesn’t know about the curse…I think.

So I can’t tell him.

I’m at a loss for how to answer, and my gaze wanders around.

“If you don’t want to answer, you don’t have to force yourself to tell me. I asked Julius about it too, but he wouldn’t answer. I thought maybe you would answer if I was a little mean. I’m sorry.”

“N-No…”

His Highness Klaus laughs cheerfully.

Looking at his smile, I feel a little relieved.

Maybe because he resembles Prince Julius.

“The other day, I talked to Julius about a marriage proposal.”

“――!”

I react unconsciously.

Was this sudden topic change, or rather, was he planning to talk about this all along?

I brace myself.

“He should start thinking about his future too. It was my meddling as an older brother, but I was resoundingly rejected.”

“…You were rejected?”

“Yeah. Firmly and because there’s someone that he has already decided on.”

His Highness Klaus looks at me and smiles.

“He mentioned your name.”

❂❂❂

“——Brother, I appreciate your offer, but I have to decline.”

Prince Julius bows his head.

Deeply.

“…Why?”

“Because I already have a partner in mind.”

He says it clearly with his head still bowed.

Klaus raises an eyebrow slightly and continues to ask him.

“What about the person you’re seeing?”

Julius slowly raises his face.

“Freya Roster.”

“Oh, Roster. The magic tool maker you’ve been mentioning, right?”

“As expected of my brother, you already heard about her.”

“Why her? As far as I know, you weren’t that close to her, were you?”

Their first encounter is unknown.

And there are only a limited number of people who know that he was cursed.

Julius kept the information closed off even from his own family.

He doesn’t intend to reveal everything in this situation either.

“I can’t say much. But she saved me. With her power and kindness… I wanted to see more of her, someone like her.”

It’s not about reason.

Their hearts and feelings are drawn to each other.

Love is like that, too big to be expressed in words.

Even without words, his expression conveys everything.

“You’re in love, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“I see. Then there’s no need for meddling. However… it’s going to be tough from now on.”

“I understand.”

“It’s not just you. She’s in the same situation too.”

She has to make those around them acknowledge that she’re worthy of becoming the prince’s companion.

❂❂❂

“It was the first time for me. Seeing Julius fall in love with someone else like that.”

As I thought, His Highness’s heart is with me.

The talk of an engagement was just a rumor, and His Highness hasn’t made a commitment to anyone.

I feel relieved from the bottom of my heart.

“Freya.”

“Yes?”

“I’m entrusting Julius to you. He can be quite reckless. Please support him well. That’s why I wanted to talk to you.”

“Yes!”

They don’t just look alike, but Julius and Klaus both have a genuine kindness and affection for others besides themselves.

It’s a wonderful brotherly love.

I’m almost jealous.

“Well, it’s time to change shifts.”

“Huh?”

Klaus looks at the door of the room.

Immediately after, the door opens vigorously.

“Brother! Freya!”

“Your Highness?”

It was a breathless Julius who appeared.

Klaus stands up.

“I’m glad we could talk. Now the two of you can take your time.”

He says this and walks away, passing by His Highness Julius in front of the door.

Closing one eye with a mischievous smile, he leaves like a prince, refreshing.

The two of us left behind, meeting each other’s gaze in silence.

“Sigh… after Nero, now it’s my older brother who did this to you.”

The Highness sits in front of me, looking exasperated.

“What did you talk about with my older brother?”

“Um, about the marriage proposal.”

“Oh, I knew it. I said no, didn’t I?”

“Yes. I heard.”

I answered with a laugh.

Watching the Highness panic is refreshing, and I feel a bit of superiority from seeing all of his different expressions.

“Freya.”

“Yes?”

“Being with me will surely cause you a lot of trouble.”

“I don’t think it’s a trouble.”

I want to be next to the Highness.

“I have a position too. That’s why it’s not easy for me to say it in words.”

“I understand.”

I already know.

That the Highness is thinking about our future together.

“To grasp our future, we need more than what we have now. We have to make those around us recognize that we are suitable partners. This includes you——”

“I’ll do my best. I’ll become the best magic tool maker in this country… no, in the world.”

If I could invent something that would be remembered for generations, I would be celebrated as a great person.

The magic tool makers of the past supported history, developed civilization, and left many achievements.

I will do the same as my predecessors.

I would create an invention that everyone would recognize, and leave my mark on the world.

If I did that, no one would have any complaints, and even if I stood next to His Highness, I would be recognized.

“I feel the same way as His Highness.”

“Freya…”

Right now, I am still lacking in many ways.

It was still a dream.

Even so, I would definitely get there someday.

To a bright future.

And for the happiness of living a peaceful life with His Highness after that.

~The End~

TL: Sorry guys, volume 2 is paywalled. We do not translate anything that is not in the public domain.

Advanced Chapters

KOFI-PATREON

𝐇𝐎𝐌𝐄


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