Flame Kingdom – 26.2

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It was a chance given by heaven. 

When Emily told her ‘Erika-sama, I’m very sorry but…’ and wish to talk with her brother who coincidentally had come to Parsena as well, Erika felt she want to clench her fist and raise it to the sky at once.  ‘It is fine, Emily. ‘Please do, tell your brother my regard?’ She told her that while having a smile on her face. 

“…” 

According to Erika, Kota was an ‘amazing person.’ Always had a calm disposition, always did everything neatly, and smart. 

If Kota heard that he would definitely say ‘Where are you looking at?’ but, in Erika’s eyes, that was what reflected. ‘Love is blind,’ that saying was very appropriate for this situation. 

But… In her head, it was hard to imagine Kota familiar with Orkena continent’s gambling. Which meant… 

(“Eh, Erika-san? This, how do you play this?”) 

(“Oh my, Kota. This, you see? bla bla bla, bla, see, you understand?”) 

(“Heeh~. That is how you play it huh?”) 

(“Fufufufu. Now then, Kota. how about trying it?”) 

(“Y-Yes”) 

… Thar was what inside her head, the feeling of being the one with more knowledge, Erika thought maybe he would call her ‘Erika-sensei.’ Having a reliable man who one could rely on was very encouraging, but sometimes she wants his man to depend on her as well. Though the subject of being relied upon was a bit weird, but still she feels that was good enough… 

“… K-Kota?” 

“… What’s wrong?” 

“N-No, not ‘what’s wrong?’… You know the rule to play this?” 

“Yes. You said it before, but… It is ‘blackjack,’ right?” 

The moment they entered the casino, Kota’s gaze was fixed on the cards the dealers were dealing. The card was called ‘Trump,’ it was said the card was an invention made by Alex. 

(“By any chance, is this your first time saw that? Kota that is–“) 

(“Trump, right?”) 

(“–Trump… Wait, how did you know?”) 

(“… I’ve seen something very similar but don’t tell me, it has four marks, Clubs, diamonds, spades, and…”) 

(“Heart…”) 

(“This is just my guess but… Is this game about trying to compete and make the card number become 21?”) 

(“… There’s one of those indeed. In fact, it is a popular game, you know? It is known as blackjack.” 

(“… Ah, I see. I understand then…”) 

(“W-Wait, Kota! T-Then, how about that one?! There, the one playing dice, you don’t know, right? That is–“) 

(“Cee-lo, right?”) 

(“… How did you know that?”) 

That was what happened. It was disappointing for Erika but… Kota had his excuse. 

(“… Well, at first I felt suspicion but, now I’m convinced…”) 

(“About what?”) 

(“Well… He is a summoned one too.”) 

(“Huh? Really?”) 

(“No, well. Forget it.”) 

Kota said those words and sighed. He showed an expression as if it would be in vain to explain further. 

(“Then, Erika-san, let us go. Since I know how to play blackjack, let us start from there”) 

… That was what happened 2 hours ago. 

“K-Kota?” 

“… I’m in a good spot right now.” 

“S-Sure. Good spot, huh? But look? I wonder if the wallet would be lighter soon~ or so I wonder…” 

“.. Erika-san is the one who told me to play around and don’t think about the money?” 

“W-Well, s-sure I said that… B-But, you see!” 

“… Call!” 

Kota asked the dealer without listening to her. He got the card from the dealer and checked the content of his card. 

“… It’s a flop.” 

“…” 

Chips that were pilled up in front of Kota was confiscated by the dealer, and Erika’s hand was on her forehead. 

“… Kota.” 

“… Yes?” 

“You… You really suck at this…” 

It was good at the beginning… 

Kota said ‘I know the rules’, though it did make her felt a bit disappointed, she immediately changed her attitude into ‘There are still many reasons to teach you!’, and Erika decided to entwine her arm with his, and push her chest, though the volume was a bit unfortunate despite her age. When she did that, he was flustered, while saying ‘E-Erika-san, what are you doing?’, And she responded with ‘W-What is it? Isn’t this a place where a man should escort the lady?’ Making it a happy event for her. Then both of them went to the table. It was good at the beginning, but, it was only until there… 

“…” 

“… I have no money left.” 

“… Haah~…” 

…Kota was devastatingly weak. 

Whether it was because the gambling god was on a business trip, or the fortune god was busy, or maybe the goddess of fate didn’t like someone with a soy-sauce face… Or perhaps all of them combined? 

Cards after cards, it was only weak cards come. Then he made a call as if he had a strong card, then lost the game, and even if his hand was strong, the others held stronger. In the beginning, she could smile and tease him by saying, ‘Things can happen, make sure win the next one~.’ But then… 

“… Erika-san, please have fun. I want to get some fresh air for a bit…” 

When he saw the chips in front of Erika, he heaves a big sigh. That was it, whether it was Kota’s luck being sucked by her or the goddess of fortune was sulking at him. On the other hand, Erika had won big. Still, that makes her feel a bit guilty… 

“… Well, then.” 

“W-Wait, Kota! Wait for me!” 

Erika immediately followed Kota who begins to walk while looking that his soul had come off. 

“… Oh? You should play a bit more and have fun, no?” 

“It’s not fun to play alone!” 

It took a little time for her to redeem her chips, then she found Kota appearance which left in a hurry leaning against the fence with the river on his back. 

“… Geez. Just because you lose, to leave the girl behind and sulking…” 

“No, I’m not sulking…” 

“Then what?” 

“… Just a bit. I myself never thought that I’m strong in gambling, but to think I would lose that much…” 

“Go reflect on it. I don’t care about you losing? But to leave me alone there, I won’t forgive you next time?” 

“… Yes.” 

“Good then.” 

That said, she showed her beautiful smile that was like the moonlight. 

“… Ah!” 

“Eh?” 

“Kota, that!” 

As she noticed something, Erika pointed at the street. Following her pointed finger, what entered his vision was… 

“Street vendors?” 

“That’s right! Parsena specialty! The ‘Beef skewer’! Let us eat it together!” 

“That’s fine but… Are you sure?” 

“About what?” 

“Well… Is it fine for the royal family to eat at the stalls…” 

“It’s fine! This is Parsena after all… The shame is also on vacation!” 

“… You sure know how to say that… Wait, Erika-san!” 

Erika runs faster before Kota finished his words. After an exchange of words with the street stall uncle, she returned with a smiling face. And holding beef skewer on each hand. 

“Ehehehe~… He said ‘Since the young lady is beautiful, I will give some extra,’ and here I got a bit bigger portion…” 

Then Erika gives out the beef skewer with more meat to Kota. 

“What about the money?” 

“It’s fine. You lost a lot, right? Since I won, let me treat you.” 

“But, still…” 

“It is fine, I said! If I don’t return some of my winnings, I might not be able to win again next time!” 

“… Which Gambler line is that? Anyway, I won’t hesitate, then…” 

He thanked Erika and eat the beef skewer. The sweet and spicy sauce melt with the meat in his mouth, it was delicious. 

“This is delicious…” 

“Right? The elegant dishes the north ward has are delicious, but, these southern ward dishes are the best, it makes you feel alive, right?” 

“I don’t it is good for a princess to say that?” 

Hearing Kota’s remark, Erika smiled happily while waving her finger and went ‘Ckckck.’ 

“This is Parsena, you remember? A gambling city where only luck and talent could bring victory. To say ‘Since I am an aristocrat, let me win!’, that would be…” 

“I see… unrefined ‘princess,’ is it?” 

“Unrefined indeed. I’m just an ordinary Erika. You are just Kota. This is that kind of a city…” 

‘That’s why… I love it’. She said. 

“… I see. Is that why you choose Parsena as a vacation destination?” 

“Not really, I don’t mind to be recognized and called by the surrounding as the Duke of Terra or Flame Kingdom Princess, but you know, isn’t it fine for me to step down once in a while?” 

“… I guess I understand.” 

“And, though you said you’re not really working much… I’m still worried. I want you to rest for a while, And I want you to let yourself to do something ‘stupid’ at your travel destination.” 

“… I understand. I will raise my spirit for it then…” 

“Good.” 

Hearing that exchange, both of them laughed. 

“… ‘Sneeze'” 

It was a lovely sneeze from Erika. 

“Are you cold?” 

“Un… Just a little bit– Wait, K-Kota?!” 

Softly… 

Kota placed his jacket on Erika’s shoulders. 

“T-This is! Kota…” 

“It is bad for a girl to let their body get cold, you know?” 

“B-But! Kota, you will…” 

“It is fine. This is my thanks for the beef skewer.” 

“Y-You can’t!” 

“Is that so? Then, let’s see…” 

‘Please let me put it on you,’ he said. 

“… Fine then. I will let you put it on me.” 

“I’m honored, princess.” 

“Umu. I’ll leave it up to you~…” 

“What is that…” 

After that exchange, both of them laughed louder than before. 

“… That’s right. Kota, tomorrow, are you free?” 

“I have nothing to do… We’re in the middle of vacation, you know? And I have no plan for tomorrow.” 

“Is that so? Well then, Kota, take Sonia out to the north ward tomorrow…” 

“Sonia-san?” 

“That’s right. At the north ward, there are shops that serve delicious tea and cookies. For Sonia, the southern ward was a little early. I want Sonia to enjoy the vacation a little bit more…” 

“…” 

“W-What?” 

“No, well… Erika-san is kind.” 

“W-Well, it’s not a big deal, no? We’re on vacation right now, it would be boorish if it is only us who have fun, ernn…” 

Due to Kota’s unexpected compliment, Erika flustered. 

“You are going to become a good mother, Erika-san.” 

“M-Mother you said! W-Who is a mother! Who? I have not married yet, you know?” 

Erika flustered further. And Kota attacked her more… 

“Ah, that’s right. Then Erika-san, would you like to come to become my wife?” 

Kota dropped the biggest bomb ever. 

… Just in case, Kota didn’t mean seriously asking her, ‘why don’t you become my bride?’. This was that, when ‘Certain-chan, so cute. How about going out with me for a bit?’, it was meant as a light pick up joke.

No, well, whether or not Erika know that him asking her to become a bride was a joke… But following the flow, he had expected that she would reply with ‘Eh~, you’re not my type~,’ or ‘Then… Let us be a friend first!’, and turn the talk into a frivolous talk. Due to the unusual vacation, Kota tension was kind of rising. 

“No, it is impossible for me to go and be your bride.” 

“… I-Is that so?” 

… Surprisingly, she replied with a straight line. As expected, hearing that Kota was slightly feeling down. But then inside his mind, he was also questioning why did he feel down. 

“A-After all, if I go to your side then I would marry to your family, no? I-I am a royal family member you know? And also the head of Duke of Terra household. It is impossible for me to ‘come’ as a bride. B-But, if Kota insists that I become your b-bride, emm, if possible, I would be most happy if Kota is the one who ‘come’ into my household and be the son-in-law–, huh? Kota?” 

When she raised her head, Kota had already walked away without her noticed. She found Kota holding the fence and looking at the river, taking the ‘contemplation’ pose. 

“What are you doing?” 

“Ah, no… Well, just a little, ‘contemplation.’ I’m thinking, sometimes nothing good comes out if you went with the mood or something like that…” 

Saying that Kota showed a dry laugh. 

“… Nee, Kota?” 

“Yes?” 

“Did you hear what I said before?” 

“About what?” 

… Now it becomes Erika who contemplated the situation, whether she should be happy or not that Kota didn’t hear what she said. But for now, Erika’s heart was not strong enough to say the same words once again. 

“… Mou, forget it, you idiot!” 

“Eh? Huh? Erika-san, are you mad at something?” 

“I’m not mad! Idiot Kota!” 

“See you’re angry! That is definitely someone angry!” 

“Shut up, shut up!” 

As the night deepened, both of them walked along the Parsena river to the inn slowly while arguing. 

“… Erika-sama!” 

“Wah?! E-Emily? What’s wrong?” 

It was Emily who welcomed both of them when they arrived at the inn. Her usual expressionless expression was gone, and one could see that she looked panic. 

“Erika-sama! Sonia-sama! Sonia-sama is not together with you?!” 

“S-Sonia? If it’s Sonia, then she should be inside her room—…” 

“She’s not there!” 

Emily’s voice grew more panic. 

“I cannot find Sonia-sama anywhere, Erika-sama!” 

Her voice reverberated in the inn entrance hall.