Ex Strongest, Receiving Proposal from the Empress
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Soma was honestly skeptical when he heard that there was a dining room in the royal capital, and that the empress, Victoria, was also eating there.
There was also a dining room in the shrine of the Holy City, but they used it while being careful not to be seen by others. However, rather than Victoria having a meal quietly, she had it with those who normally work in the castle. It was so natural that it was hard to believe it.
“Hmm… it seems that it’s true.” (Soma)
“It is so. Moreover, this is a scene that we have seen somewhere.” (Aina)
“Hmm. Well, if that’s the case, is it possible to eat together without issues?” (Soma)
As they were talking about such things, Soma, who was eating together with Aina, tilted his head to the sight in front of him. The meals specially prepared for them were delicious, but he was more interested in the scenery.
Yes, many people who came to the dining hall smiled, came in contact with Victoria, and were happy to eat together. It was natural for Aina to say so since it was a similar situation that they had seen in the royal capital yesterday.
The morning dining room, which was also in the royal capital, wasn’t available to everyone. In fact, from a quick glance, it seemed that most of the people here were civilians working in the castle.
Based on what they heard, the civilians were coming here to eat together with Victoria. Anyhow, speaking whether this was common, he probably would think that it was an exaggeration, but… when looking at the faces of those people, it seemed to be genuine.
When it came to common sense, people would want to avoid eating with higher ups if it wasn’t necessary. However, it seemed to be fine to eat while Victoria was here. On the other hand, the people seemed to want to eat together with her.
Therefore, the conclusion that he could come out from this scene was…
“Hmm… I suppose the empress is very popular.” (Soma)
“That’s the way to say it since it’s true. Certainly, it was like yesterday, but…” (Aina)
While saying so, Aina was somewhat confused because it was simply unexpected. To be honest, Soma also agreed.
That was because he hadn’t heard about this.
“Well, it doesn’t matter whether she is popular or not. After all, she is holding the highest position in this country…” (Soma)
“But to be honest, I was imagining the opposite situation…” (Aina)
There was no mention of her popularity, but only on her personality. The situation assumed from that point and the current situation weren’t matched.
No, if he said it in that way, the current situation was different from the personality he was hearing.
“Hmm, considering that she is the empress, it’s hard to think that we are gathering incorrect information.” (Soma)
“Of course, there would have been such things, but they wouldn’t say so unless they were confirmed.” (Aina)
Although they were wondering why it was, obviously, they couldn’t find the answer. Soma was smiling and squinting his eyes at Victoria, and she was smiling back at him. For the time being, he wondered if Victoria was happy.
At least, she was completely different when Soma and Aina were in contact with her. It was probably normal, but…
“Hmm… Well, if we can safely return, we should discuss this matter as well.” (Soma)
“Indeed… I wish we could return safely. Well, I don’t know what to do after this.” (Aina)
“Certainly, that’s true.” (Soma)
When he thought about it, he hadn’t thought that far.
Rather, it was accurate to say that they were following along with Victoria as soon as they arrived at the dining hall. Originally, Soma and Aina should be prioritized, but since they weren’t in a hurry, they were discussing as they were here. So, Soma and Aina shrugged their shoulders at Victoria’s gaze that contained an apology. So, the current situation was they were having meals while watching Victoria exchange greetings.
While reaffirming their current location, Soma somehow overlooked the place while having soup with moderately salty ingredients in the mouth. It was natural that there were various people in the dining room in the morning. Among them, the place where people were most gathered and excited was definitely at the corner where Victoria was, but there were many people scattering around, and it was also noticeable some of them grouped up together.
It was one of the groups where Soma suddenly became interested in. While putting fluffy bread into his mouth, Soma nodded when he noticed that the atmosphere was clearly different.
“That reminds me, it’s the same as yesterday.” (Soma)
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“Eh? …Aah yes, you’re surely right. Well, that’s exactly what I said yesterday.
Perhaps, Aina immediately understood where Soma was looking, Aina shrugged at his words while chewing a bread. Beyond the Soma and Aina’s line of sight, there was an appearance of a group that was sitting away from Victoria and others.
They could understand at a glance that the atmosphere was far from welcome.
“Hmm… Are they military officers?” (Soma)
“I wonder if it is because of them, the atmosphere is different.” (Aina)
Even if the group were far from them, they could see that they had been trained and their eyes were sharp. At least, they had experienced war.
It looked like they didn’t even greet Victoria, and they seemed to hate her. The group was so obvious that Soma and Aina could notice it.
Some had a disgusting expression, and some even showed an attitude that they didn’t try to turn away the expression from Victoria. Some were clicking their tongue when coming near to her, while others looked at her with hatred. The reactions and attitude varied, but it was certain that they didn’t like Victoria.
Individual likes and dislikes were personal freedom and couldn’t be forced by anyone. However, this was a public place, and they were directing that feeling to her, who was the person who held the highest position in the country. It wasn’t proper in so many ways, but… Soma frowned at them for another reason.
“What’s with that? Well, I’m sure it’s not good manners, but… no, it doesn’t seem that way. By the way, yesterday, you were talking about something strange…” (Aina)
“Hmm… now, I know why I felt that way.” (Soma)
“Eh…? I still don’t notice anything, you know?” (Aina)
“Well, it’s as a matter of course. The discomfort I felt wasn’t really them.”
It was the opposite that made Soma uncomfortable. He was feeling discomfort, not from them.
If anything, they were displaying different expressions, albeit due to feelings of disgust.
“That’s because they are the same to those who are smiling to the empress.” (Soma)
“…I can see it after you say that. Not only everyone smiles though…” (Aina)
“Hmm… I don’t know if the wording is correct, but the degree of feelings is similar.” (Soma)
Yes, they certainly showed their dearness and favor the empress. However, he felt that it was too uniform.
Of course, it was possible that he was just thinking too much, but it was also true that he couldn’t overlook it. However, if someone asked what it was about, he could only think of nothing else.
“You guys, do you have time?” (??)
Then, he heard a voice while thinking about that.
When he turned around, there was a stranger. He was in the late twenties to early thirties.
He looked like a feeble man in a glance, but it was simply because the upper clothes were tightening. There was no mistake that he was a capable man.
Maybe… No, he definitely had a special rank skill. He was a considerable opponent and had considerable experience. If Soma fought him head-on, he wouldn’t lost, but depending on the situation, it could take some time to win.
He felt a similar atmosphere to those who he had seen earlier, so, Soma and Aina naturally fixed their posture.
“Ah, no, you don’t have to do that… I guess that’s not possible. Well, I just have something to ask you guys. As soon as I ask that, I’ll leave, so can you listen to me?” (??)
“Hmm… what would you like to ask?” (Soma)
It was clear that he didn’t know how to treat Soma and Aina, but when he looked at them, he knew that those two weren’t from here. There were people who could be suspicious people. If he thought so, it was natural that he wanted to ask questions.
“Well, I don’t mind.” (Soma)
“I see. That helps. Well then, I have only one thing to ask. Are you the Demon King?” (??)
Rather than Soma, it was Aina who became more nervous about the question. The man smiled bitterly because he could see from Aina’s appearance that she was preparing his magic in case something could happen. She was reliable, but he thought that she was too vigilant at the same time.
The man didn’t have the appearance of a swordsman, and it seemed that his expression was close to curiosity. No matter how Soma answered here, it was hard to imagine if the situation turned bad.
Plus, at this distance, Soma could move faster than the man before he could do anything even if their posture of sitting and standing were taken into consideration. For that reason, Soma nodded without thinking too much.
“Yes, it seems I’m called so.” (Soma)
“I see…” (??)
The man nodded, probably because he didn’t think Soma would admit it easily or he might have other reasons. Then, the man changed his expression as if he chewed something bitter.
“Is that really true…” (??)
He seemed to start thinking about something, but he would soon notice the current situation. When the man raised his face, he opened his mouth. At that moment, the face was further distorted.
The expression that appeared was a disgust that was close to hatred unless Soma misunderstood him.
“…Please excuse me. And thanks. That’s all I want to hear. Goodbye.” (??)
The man left quickly, but Soma knew what had happened because someone was caught at the edge of his field of vision. Victoria, who had been surrounded by many smiles, stood there with an expression of Noh mask.
The man changed his facial expression probably because he noticed that Victoria was right there.
“…Sorry, it seems that I’ve kept you waiting for a long time.” (Victoria)
An expression had already returned on Victoria’s face, but it didn’t seem it was because of his mind that she looked sad and had a painful expression only for a moment. Soma was able to decide that she didn’t see it, but… in the end, his curiosity won.
“It’s not a big problem. Since we’re having meals, we wouldn’t be able to talk a lot anyway. By the way, do you know the man just now?” (Soma)
“…Rather than know, he is the captain of the royal guard. We have known each other for a long time.” (Victoria)
“Hmm… I see.” (Soma)
“More importantly, he seemed to be asking about something. What was it about?” (Victoria)
“Well, it’s not a big deal.” (Soma)
Soma replied in that way because she couldn’t figure out how she would perceive the question, and it was also because he didn’t want Victoria to continue the topic too much. Although she asked Soma, it seemed only because of her position and circumstances.
The guess seemed to be correct as Victoria nodded and moved on from the topic easily.
“Is that so? Well, that’s fine then. By the way, did he say something about having history with me?” (Victoria)
“Hmm, that’s not it. He was here to ask about me.” (Soma)
“That seems to be so. Hey, Demon King… no, Soma. Before that, I have a question to ask you.” (Victoria)
“What is it? Is the question only for me?” (Soma)
He looked at Aina, who was next to him, but then, she shrugged her shoulders. If that was the end of the talk, that would be fine.
If Aina didn’t mind, he was fine. Victoria nodded at about the same time as she turned her gaze back.
“Hmm. Well… what do you think of this empire?” (Victoria)
The reason Soma couldn’t come up with words was because there was no way to answer it.
“Hmm… to be honest, I can’t answer. I don’t know much about the empire, so I can’t answer.” (Soma)
He had heard from Eleonora and Satya. Therefore, he knew about the empire to a certain extent. On the other hand, that was the limit of his knowledge.
Soma didn’t know this country enough to enable him to answer her question.
However, Victoria nodded as if she expected it. And…
“Is that so… Well, I was wondering if it should be that way. And that’s the reason why I want to propose this.” (Victoria)
That proposal was inviting Soma and Aina to spend some more time in the empire.
With a smile on her mouth, Victoria uttered such a proposal.
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