I woke up to the feeling of soft sheets, crumpled among a spacious bed. The canopy hanging above like silky bundles of curtains gave me the slight urge to bat them down like a cat. My next thought was, ‘What a strange feeling….’ Truthfully, this same thought had repeated every morning for the past week or so. After living in temporary quarters for such a long time, it was a bit hard to acclimate to the luxurious feel that this bed gave off.
I sat up and looked around. The room I was now in, my new bedroom, had the makings of a rich noble. Dressers and wardrobes constructed with marvelous artistry stood against the wall, which popped to the eyes due to its vibrant shade of green.
When the builders asked me how I preferred the decorations, I simply left it up to them. My sense of aesthetics was about as indifferent as the texture of eggs that I preferred coming off a frying pan; frankly, I probably put more effort into that than the scenery I woke up to.
I hopped out of bed, myself wrapped around a simple sleepwear composed of basic cotton fibers being the only thing out of place in this room. Opening my wardrobe, a row of matching outfits lay within; the only thing different being the orientation of white, gray, and black in their design. Though I objected little to silk adorning the furniture, I stopped others short of having wardrobes made for me with it. It seemed hardly appropriate for me to wear something that nice with how my day-to-day activities were. The one thing that I allowed some expenses on were properties similar to my normal battle outfit. For that reason, several pairs of clothing were especially tailored and imported from Sanshiro.
With all of the attention to detail that others hounded me with, one would think that I was an extremely important person… which I was. Just a month ago, the Queen of Sistina, who up until then was the amicable, but quirky, princess and travel companion, had given me the position as her Chancellor.
Though I was surprised at first, I could understand the logic of her decision. After all, I was a trusted friend and fellow architect of her wild inventions. If there was anyone who could understand and build upon her lofty ideas, then that would likely fall upon my shoulders.
The one hesitation I had rested in the corner of the room, abandoned but not forgotten. The mantle of the former Chancellor – the dark trenchcoat-like robe and wide-brimmed hat – was a constant reminder of who I shouldn’t be. With an outfit chosen and dressed, I stared at myself in the mirror. The kingdom was strangely accepting of a Chancellor that looked like he should be in the kitchen. However, the bright emblem adorning my breast pocket was a conspicuous reminder of my standing to others.
Stepping out onto the balcony, I greeted another bright day of the slowly changing scenery of my new home. To my left, the busy city of Faulkner was already bustling with activity, headed by the young Marchioness who was also my Master. To my right, a shiny new structure – too simple to be called a castle but still holding a measure of grandness – stood among a cluster of partially-completed buildings.
What I was looking at was the new home for the kingdom’s ruler, Katalina Bastia de la Sistina. The old castle in the ruins of Engelberg seemed too stuffy and wasteful for her personality, so she decided to make the residence more ‘efficient’. After all, she wanted to have a close connection with the people, just like how she was as Katsys the Inventor. However, using Katsys as an alias was no longer needed. That fake name had symbolized a hesitancy in accepting her role, but now, she was able to embrace every facet of herself.
Of course, being a Queen called for some measures of security, which she understood but found annoyed with.
The layout of the building was purposefully made to be tortuous to enter, unless the person was given the right tools. Probably taking a page from the annoying design of the Thunder Phoenix Clan’s home, the halls were long and spiraling. However, shortcuts for easy passage were designed for those with the proper credentials, mana signatures recognized by the magic lock system. This allowed for the Queen and her confidants to quickly take shortcuts and get to where they needed to be.
However, I chuckled at why this would be necessary as it seemed like she could just create a portal outside.
“I need line of sight, Claude. The only place with that is from the Royal Balcony which is shielded from all magic with a barrier,” she retorted when I commented to her about that. At a minimum, the building was constructed to keep intruders from reaching the throne room or her private quarters, unless they could bypass the magic locks in place. Few would know about them unless they visited the ‘castle’ themselves.
Originally, Katalina wanted to include the Chancellor’s quarters in this building. That was met with some staunch opposition from the local lord.
“Claude is my familiar. Why would he be living with you, your Majesty?” Eryn tried to put it as respectfully as she could.
“Oh, Marchioness Faulkner. But Claude is my Chancellor. He has the duty to serve the kingdom under its Queen, does he not? And besides, you already have many wonderful people guarding you, do you not?”
Katalina made it a point that I had been protecting her all this time. However, one glance at Eryn’s face told me that she wasn’t having it.
“But you are Queen. The entire kingdom is at your command. Surely, there are plenty of people to guard one as great as yourself? If not, why don’t you invent one?”
Seeing such friction between the two of them for the first time made me draw back in fear. This wasn’t getting us anywhere. Quickly, the gears in my head tried to churn out an alternate solution.
“Shouldn’t I… have my own place instead?” my lips blurted out suddenly.
The two girls stared at me after that statement, their eyes searching for what I meant by that. I felt like their affection points toward me would drop severely if I said the wrong thing next.
“Well… you know. I’m just going to be super busy anyway, and wouldn’t it be better if I was close enough to both of you if you needed me? What about the others too? Where would they live?”
I was well aware of Katalina’s feelings toward me, but I had been caught off guard by how defensive Eryn had become at the situation. Part of me wondered if her heart had grown fonder after my absence, but that could have been wishful thinking. In terms of the ‘others’, I was referring to the random collection of Electi that now resided in Sistina.
“True… As the Chancellor, it may be best for them to be under your watch.” Katalina took a step back.
“I’m fine with that, as long as I can come by for food occasionally.” Eryn folded her arms and looked away.
I eyed her skeptically. Carina had all of my recipes, and there was also Biggs and Wedge. I highly doubted that she was craving something in which no one else could make. My cooking really wasn’t that high level in the first place, at least, not without mana shenanigans.
After that, it was settled that a place would be built for me, right in the middle of where Eryn and Katalina’s homes were; I even caught Katalina in the act of measuring out the distance, just to be sure.
Several other things were decided once we met with the others.
Since Katalina had lost her guardian, Gerard, before we escaped from Sistina, someone trustworthy was required to protect her. Interestingly, we both looked towards the stoic speedy girl that was as much of a ninja, perhaps even more so, than Gerard had been.
“If that is what Master wishes, I will protect Big Sis,” Ludmila said. There may have been a slight pout in her agreement, but only those that really knew her could tell the difference. I never knew what was in her mind anyway, so I just gave her the typical brotherly headpat. With that, Ludmila would stay with Katalina in the castle.
Saki, having lived next to the Chancellor’s quarters before, instinctively decided to stay with me. Once again, a chilly atmosphere crept in.
“That’s… okay, maybe?” Katalina mumbled.
“Probably safer than having her live with me…,” Eryn said, also hesitant. She recalled Saki’s eyes of adoration upon her. While they had an amicable relationship so far, Eryn was a little shell-shocked after learning how Cornelius, who had revealed her gender to Eryn recently, had adored her despite being female as well. At the moment, she was a bit self-conscious as to what attracted females to her.
“You’re not a girl secretly, right? Right?” Eryn patted me on the chest, just to make sure. Seriously, with a girl like her, I highly doubted that I was her sole male admirer.
In any case, it was settled that a room would be built for Saki in my new residence… just not right next door. Some other rooms were originally going to be reserved for the rest, but it seemed like they had their own ideas.
“But I want to live with my teacher!” Yi Long voiced out, expressing an interest in being close to Cornelius. Having taken a liking to him, the Duchess spent a fair bit of her free time showing him the intricacies of magic control.
“Well, I want to stay here!” Chrys objected, wanting to dive more into the world of cuisine. The City of Faulkner seemed to be the best place for that, since I introduced her to Biggs and Wedge. Like the eager trainee waiting to stand on her own, she started to work at the restaurant I owned, ‘A Certain Slice.’
After what seemed like a long and rather pointless back and forth between the two, Yi Long finally relented after he realized that Cornelius would be a frequent visitor anyway. Furthermore, he could still fine-tune his craft under the cooking duo who used to work under the Reichenstein family. Apparently, they had undergone a similar training regime.
As a result, they decided to get separate rooms in this residence also. That was fine with me. One look at the blueprint of the place told me that it was already too expansive to live on my own, even with the assortment of butlers and maids dedicated to taking care of the Chancellor. At least, they allowed for a few of my own adjustments to the contents, despite unyielding to how grand of a scale the Chancellor’s residence should be.
A gentle rapping sounded on the bedroom door.
An elderly gentleman opened the door, every bit properly dressed as I was used to Pietro being. In contrast, this gent had a smaller, rounder stature and a jolliness that accompanied the lack of measured caution that I was used to.
“Roberto, how may I help you?”
“Well, Master Evers, sir-“
“How many times do I have to tell you? Just call me Claude. It feels too abnormal to be addressed so highly in private.”
“Then, Sir Claude, Miss Saki is waiting for you downstairs. Presumably, a task for our esteemed Chancellor.” He visibly relaxed and spoke in a more casual tone.
There was a certain giddiness to his voice, almost as if he found humor in his own words. The fumbling of his fingers added to that comical feel of a person bumbling his way through unfamiliar territory. When I asked the other staff about it, that had apparently been his normal character. Honestly, I preferred that over calculative, measured people who constantly curried one’s favor.
“Alrighty, lead the way.”
Today, like every other day in the past weeks, had been a series of tasks in rebuilding the kingdom. There was seemingly an endless list of things to take care of, and I, as the Chancellor, couldn’t just shy away from it. As I left my private quarters, I wondered aloud.
‘Just what will today bring?’