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We are now second years.
We got good grades on our finals. I landed the top spot in combat while Pax scored top in academics.
While we may each have our weak points, if you put us together, we did exceedingly well nonetheless.
Although our grades may have been good, our isolated school life continued.
However, I think the reactions from our surroundings have changed a bit.
I no longer sense most of the hostility directed at us from when we first enrolled.
To deal with that atmosphere between them and us, we tend to mutually ignore each other.
The first years didn’t pay us any attention in particular.
Maybe we’re just used to it by now.
Perhaps, in order to work on improving themselves, they’ve no liberty to pay attention to strangers.
I don’t know why, but this feels a little better.
However, another problem arose.
It happened shortly after our second year began.
A lone girl approached.
Graced with long, fluffy blond hair, she was beautiful.
She came before me and gave an elegant bow.
「I’ve always been looked at you from afar.」
Followed up by a respectful self-introduction.
She was the daughter of the ruler of Asura, in other words, a genuine princess, and a second year student, same as us.
From when we first enrolled, it would seem like her mother had instructed her to get along with me.
Yet, due to the color of my hair, my large physique, and the fact that I got into a fight soon after enrolling, I appeared to be too intimidating, so she avoided contact until now.
Since I’ve recently been more studious and have been carrying a gentle expression more often, she’s changed her mind.
She was sorry for being taken by first impressions.
She wishes to get along from now on.
By some chance, we may get married in the future…
After having one-sidedly apologized, without waiting for a response, she bowed and left.
Though that keyword rang out, I could understand.
My father is a fairly influential person.
Naturally, he would have close relations with the Asura Kingdom, the largest country in the world.
It seems that the ruler of Asura wishes to forge even closer ties with my dad.
Or possibly, it’s the other way around.
Which ever way, with such connections, talks of having their children marry would naturally surface.
At first, the candidate was to be my older brother.
My brother Ars has red hair, common to the Asura Kingdom, as well as knightly facial features like red-mama.
It seems like there were already talks for having my brother marry the Asura princess.
However, in the end, he had found another partner and ended up marrying and living with her instead.
Hence, those plans were canceled.
Though dad had given permission, I remember my eldest sister Lucy denouncing 「You’ve betrayed father’s expectations」 in rage.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call it betrayal, but having seen my sister’s fit, I can’t quite consider my brother’s actions correct either.
Well, putting that aside.
Since my brother’s no good, expectations now fall to me, the second son.
From a perspective of relative political power, it would be proper for my house to marry a male heir to an Asura princess.
Father hasn’t said anything.
About who to marry or who to not.
However, that girl’s mother had given her detailed instructions for various things.
That’s why she called out to me.
That said, I can’t help but be startled by these sudden talks of marriage.
「She did seem like a nice girl.」
While I was in that state, what Pax said was.
「She needed to overlook my hair color?」
「That’s not the essence of it. She didn’t hate you because of your emerald hair. She was just scared.」
「Was I so frightening?」
「Yeah, when school first started, you were scary as hell. Even in my eyes.」
Pax shrugged to show that it was just banter.
Certainly, I guess I was quite scary at the start of school.
Though I wasn’t conscious of it, protected by father’s authority, I’d been using violence all while saying that I wanted to be an ally of justice.
Being such an enigma, I suppose others would see me as a frightening being.
「Nomally, I’d expect her to just keep ignoring you, but nonetheless, she came to get acquainted. If she wanted to, she could have put off contacting you till after your engagement was established, nor did she even need to bring up the possibility that you’d get married in the first place. What an honest girl.」
Now that you’ve mentioned it, that sounds about right.
「Same as us, with parents in politics, she’ll eventually have to marry for that sake. In that case, wouldn’t it be preferable to marry someone nice?」
When what Pax said sunk in a bit.
「Pax, could it be that you have a fiancée?」
「Ah, actually I do. We’ve never met, but that might be because I’ve been avoiding it.」
With those words, I’m reminded of his homeland filled with nothing but enemies.
Surely, even after marriage, his wife wouldn’t become his ally.
「Oh yeah. That princess’s name. What was it again?」
「Umm, it was… Sariel.」
Sariel Anemoi Asura.
That was her name.
After that day, Sariel dropped by to chat on a daily basis.
That said, her conversation topics were too far out of my areas of expertise.
Things like flowers and tea, pastries and animals.
Since we did have a dog at home, I was able to chat about that a bit, but that’s as far as I could go.
The conversations quickly came to a halt.
Whenever our exchange would hit a stop, Sariel would make a troubled face and depart after saying 「Well then, please excuse me」.
With no means of stopping her, I’d end up seeing her off.
Those kind of exchanges repeated many times.
「You need to bring up some topics yourself.」
Though Pax might have said that, it wasn’t exactly a simple matter.
「I had intended to do so.」
My preferred topics were the same as always.
Heroic epics, tales of adventures.
The stories I’ve heard since I was a child of various struggles that my parents and master experienced.
All tales of battles.
Yet, when we go with that, it ends up being me doing all the talking.
Sariel would hear such stories with enthusiasm, making indications that she was properly listening.
She would even pose questions when something was unclear.
However, that was just on the surface, and I could tell that she wasn’t actually interested.
While we’re at it, in particular, she wasn’t good with stories in which people die.
For example, once upon a time, my dad and granddad challenged a labyrinth of the highest difficulty.
To rescue mom and grandmother, dad and granddad had secured the cooperation of various allies and delved to the depths of the labyrinth.
Along the way, the group was able to rescue my mom as well as my grandmother.
However, grandfather had perished in battle versus the labyrinth’s boss.
Because of that, father had fallen into a deep depression, but recovered with mom’s assistance, and returned home.
It’s a sad story, but at the end, without fail, dad would state 「No matter what trials and tribulations one may experience, this had taught me that we must always continue to push forward.」
It’s a nice story.
Still, upon hearing of my grandfather’s death, Sariel would make a sad face, saying 「I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hear the rest.」 and leaving.
Without hearing the conclusion, it ends as a sorrowful story.
Even though, if you stop the story there, it would certainly have a sad ending…
I’d say, for sure, our compatibility is bad.
Even if our compatibility isn’t great, I know she’s not a bad girl.
I can’t say that I want to marry her though.
If we could find some common ground, it could be possible for her to become pleasant company, but being unable to do so, this continues to bother me.
Anyhow, she’s a troubling partner.
It would be nice if I could talk with my brother who’s good with the ladies, but he’s long since graduated, and has been helping father with his work.
Though he graduated the royal academy at the top of his class, he’s now buried under a mountain of work.
It’s not so important of a problem for me to trouble such a busy brother.
Therefore my mediocre relationship with Sariel remained as is.
Still, the advent of Sariel didn’t improve the state of segregation for myself and Pax.
To the contrary, it feels like we’re even more isolated than before.
There were some students that didn’t like how I was getting close to Sariel.
They were guys from distinguished households, hoping to get married to Sariel.
Having seen me get close to Sariel, their attitude took an about face and the harassment began.
That didn’t last long though.
That’s because Sariel’s entourage took action.
Since Sariel was a princess, it was a given that she’d have quite a few followers.
They were girls from families of Asura’s upper nobles.
Always nearby, they would shower Sariel with affirmation.
Like a field of flowers with Sariel’s smile in full bloom at its center.
From afar, in the midst of flattery and honest praise, you could always see Sariel’s unwavering smile.
That entourage came before us.
They made up some 「Only Sariel-sama is allowed to call out to them.」 kind of rule.
Regardless of who would approach us, they would drive them off off.
Be they ones with any prospects of marrying Sariel or not.
The girls of Sariel’s entourage were from families of high standing, as well as abundant in number.
Surely, this wasn’t for our sake, nor was it out of some sense of justice.
Witnessing their idol, Sariel, willingly associate with some boy instead of themselves, perhaps they felt their own value decreasing.
Or maybe, she told them 「My mother instructed me to do so.」, and they wanted follow in line with the royal family.
Anyways, because her followers wanted to be special to Sariel, they wanted to drive off the insignificant pests crowding around her. (TLC this paragraph. phrasing was kinda tough)
That said, their rule became absolute.
All those hostile classmates were driven away and, from then on, don’t really bother us anymore.
However, we were no longer treated like we didn’t exist.
We began to stand out.
While we were unaware, we started to draw some attention from those uninterested to start with.
Those overbearing senpai from back when we were first years now turn a blind eye.
The teachers seem to be treating us like some kind of tumor.
As expected of the royal family’s authority. (TLC this paragraph. doesn’t feel like this makes contextual sense)
I couldn’t tell if that was a good or bad thing, nor was I interested.
Anyways, it didn’t change our situation very much.
Still, what was I to do about my relationship with Sariel?
How was I supposed to treat her?
That still bothered me.
「Your marriage is still only in the realm of possibility, right? In that case, just treat her like a friend.」
Pax might’ve said that, but Sariel was too different from any girl I knew.
I’ve never met such a frail, dainty girl.
The closest might be my youngest sister, Chris.
She likes flowers and sparkly things and gets mad when I tell tales of battle and adventure, calling them boring.
Sariel doesn’t get mad though.
The furthest would be my elder sister, Lara.
She lives a crude and slovenly lifestyle, always playing hooky and only thinking of her next prank.
Strangely, we got along just fine.
If Sariel was a little more like Lara, I wouldn’t be so troubled.
「When you look at it like that.」
Though I may say that, my relationship with Sariel seem to make any progress.
Her entourage didn’t want someone who’s 「just friends」 talking with her, nor did she herself wish for more “friends”.
In which case, regardless of our poor compatibility, those dull exchanges continued.
Nonetheless, for Pax and I.
Without doubt, this character named Sariel had entered the story of our school life.
The appearance of a cute girl had blossomed upon our gray school life.
I may be a loner, but there’s no way I’d reject some female company.
Regardless of how we might become engaged or the fact that she’s a genuine princess, I still held the desire to get close to a pretty girl.
Although, our feelings for each other didn’t seem to change.
My strange relationship with Pax and Sariel went on.
Visiting the slums with Pax. The three of us having a chat.
Many things happened.
But our relationships didn’t really change.
Pax and I remained close friends.
Sariel and I remained awkward with each other, same as always.