「Something of a friend… huh?」
「Yes. Something of a friend.」
Vermudol began thinking about what her introduction exactly was implying.
Basically, she’s saying that she isn’t being employed by the princess.
From the information he had gathered from Ichika’s reports, it sounded like she was a guardian or insurer of some sort, but since she purposely said 「something of a friend」, that didn’t seem to be the case anymore.
It wasn’t as serious as that… perhaps more like someone helping out a neighbor.
「I didn’t mean to imply anything significant with my words just now. You just seemed to be the type of person who liked to read deeply into the words of others, so I thought I’d just give it to you straight to avoid making anything too complicated.」
Realizing that she was half-teasing him, Vermudol ceased his thoughts on the matter.
「I am Vermudol. The king of the Zadark Kingdom… I thank you for inviting us here.」
「Oh, are you not going to call yourself a Demon King?」
「That would just be my personal view on my position, not my actual standing. I felt that giving you my exact standing would avoid making anything too complicated, after all.」
Reina smirked in response to Vermudol’s words.
「Yes, you’re right. You’ve been summoned here as the king of the Zadark Kingdom. This will be a conference between the top members of our countries.」
「Yes, that sounds about right.」
As Vermudol and Reina locked eyes, the hooded Celis was slightly trembling.
Even though she was the main subject of this meeting, the presence of Vermudol and Reina strongly overpowered her own.
Recognizing this, Vermudol let out a deep sigh and continued with his introduction.
「…Anyway, these two are Sancreed and Ichika. Sancreed is… let’s see, he’s like a general. If Ichika were to have a position, she’d be something like a prime minister. She has no specifically defined role, however.」
Crim, who was waiting in the back, was a maid, so there was no need to introduce her. Nino found the atmosphere to be a pain so she made quite the early leave, so he had no need to introduce her either.
Celis was gazing at Vermudol with a very curious stare after he finished his introduction… and as if she had just gathered her resolve, she put her hands to her hood.
「Reina has already introduced me, but I am Celis. I am the Canal Kingdom’s third princess… and I am currently a candidate to be this country’s next queen. I am grateful that you have accepted my request for you to arrive here, Lord Vermudol.」
「It was no trouble at all, Lady Celis. We are here today as fellow leaders of our countries. And seeing as we are seeking out peace and friendly relations with you, this meeting is much to our benefit.」
Celis looked a little surprised to Vermudol’s response, and then quickly began shaking her head.
「I-I see. In any case, well…」
「I had felt that you would have made a comment towards my appearance.」
Upon hearing this, Vermudol once again took a good look at Celis.
However, he couldn’t find anything particularly out of the ordinary. Her clothes were a little plain for someone of royalty, but her robes were well-made.
「Hmm… I’m afraid I’m not entirely sure what you’re referring to. If you were trying to imply something with your words, then I apologize for not catching on. I have still yet managed to fully grasp the customs of humanity, you see.」
「Huh? Oh, um, don’t worry about it…」
Celis’s words grew to a mumble as she drew her hands to the cat ears on top of her head.
Vermudol nodded with understanding upon observing her actions.
Black cat ears and blonde hair. It was a typical beastmen trait, but if she was that concerned over her cat ears, then they must have held some kind of important meaning.
「I don’t completely understand, but personally speaking, I don’t see anything that strikes me that out of the ordinary. However, if there is an important meaning to any what you are trying to say, then I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate for me.」
「Oh, um, well… I thought you’d be more surprised over my ears.」
Vermudol once again looked at her ears.
The contrast between her elegant blonde hair and the black ears poking out of it was quite beautiful.
Wait, now that I think about it, the ears and hair being different colors might have been a rare pattern.
Even so, cases of half-beastmen or even quarter-beastmen weren’t that uncommon. It wasn’t something that he would ever think to point out.
「They seem to be wonderfully maintained ears. If you’re referring to the Demi-Human Argument, there’s no need to have any concern over that. We have a friendly treaty with the Jiol Kingdom, and besides, we’re Mazoku, remember?」
「Y-You have a point. Oh, but, um… well… y-yes, you’re right.」
Vermudol made a dubious face, seeing that she was about to say something.
Witnessing that, Reina opened her mouth in order to help her out.
「Celis was born from two human parents. It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to know that many people had something to say about that. It’s even become a bit well-known among the other countries, which is why she is a bit self-conscious about them.」
Essentially, she was scared that people might show contempt towards her for over the chance of being an illegitimate child.
In a political sense, it meant she was always working with a disadvantageous risk on her shoulders.
「I see. However, the fact is that you were born that way, and there’s no point in arguing against that. There’s no need to humor whatever ridiculous delusions the low-lives might throw at you. And most importantly… to me, you are one of the leaders of humanity’s greatest countries, the Third Princess Celis. Any information other than that is irrelevant.」
「I-I suppose so…」
「But still, even if I were to have just met you as another person, there still isn’t really anything about you that would particularly bother me. Like I said earlier, your ears are very well maintained.」
Those words drove straight though Celis and caused her to go silent. Eventually, she turned her eyes down.
「I-Is that so…」
Celis continued to keep her eyes down, but after a while, she rubbed her hands against her eyes and once again looked up. Vermudol felt that her eyes might have looked a little red, but it was not something that he would spend much time thinking about.
「Please excuse me for that. Once again, I formally welcome you to the Canal Kingdom, Lord Vermudol. We welcome you all as representatives of your country.」
「Thank you. Now, I’d like to get our discussion underway as soon as possible… However, there’s something I need to address first. It seems there are just two of you. If Reina is but a friend to you, does that mean you are just by yourself?」
In response to Vermudol’s query, Celis made an odd expression as if she had difficulty explaining herself, and then turned to Reina for help.
「To put it simply, when the cabinet minister heard you were coming, he locked himself up in his room. The captain of the Swordsmen of Light is still trying to persuade him at the moment, but it’s likely he’ll stay in there until our meeting is over.」
「How embarrassing. And he calls himself the minister?」
「Those that normally strive in their work do not necessarily do the same during times of emergency. Well, I suppose he isn’t the best at his job even when the danger has passed.」
Celis showed a wry smile upon hearing the sharp words of the two of them.
「Um… to be fair, we were indeed attacked by Alva the other day. Seeing as he had just been exposed to danger, he’s feeling rather weak-willed at the moment.」
「Surely it wasn’t nearly the level of danger you were exposed to, though… Well, I get what’s going on. He must have the wild idea that I’m the one controlling the Alva, correct?」
Upon seeing Celis make another wry smile, Vermudol guessed that his assumption was correct.
「Hmph, I knew people would come to that conclusion, which is why I specifically told the other countries that I was unrelated to the Alva in advance. Goodness, this is troublesome…」
「I’m very sorry. This is all because of my lack of power.」
Vermudol thrust out his hand to stop Celis as she was about to bow her head.
「You have no need to apologize. I’m sure I could have done a better job handling public relations, in either case.」