Chapter 17:

The Princess’ Family

Chained Regalia

“I don’t know how you guys can drink that stuff. It’s awful.”

“Try it again. Once you get used to it, you’ll like it.” Lucia lightly slid the mug of sireif intended for me—ordered without my input—closer towards me.

“Drinking it little by little until I get used to it? Isn’t that the kind of thing you do to build up resistances to poison? Sounds kind of suspicious if you ask me.” I had no idea why she was so insistent I drank this stuff. I supposed she thought she was treating me to something nicer than water, but that was only true if you could handle the flavor.

I slid the mug back over in front of her. “Feel free to have mine, though, since you seem to like it so much.”

Selina, sitting across the table from Lucia and myself, scolded me. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Don’t be like that, Laynie! Look at Luci! Look at how sad she looks because of what you said!”

“Uh, she looks completely unconcerned, though. And stop calling me that.” Although Lucia definitely didn’t seem to be offended at all by my rejection, she apparently didn’t accept it either and promptly slid the mug back over to me.

“No, Selina was correct. I couldn’t be more upset about this. The way you spat in the face of my gratitude was crushing.” She didn’t even try to make her performance sound convincing, and she was casually sipping from her own mug as she said it.

“You clearly don’t care either way. You drink it.” I slid it back.

“That would be my third drink. Oh, could it be that you’re trying to get me intoxicated?” She eyed me suspiciously.

“Oh dear, you’ve found me out,” I replied sarcastically. “It’s not my fault you guzzle that stuff down. If you get too drunk, it’s your own fault.”

Just as Lucia opened her mouth to reply again, the mug was suddenly intercepted from right beneath our noses. Perhaps fed up with our exchange—or, more likely, just because the idea crossed her mind—Selina had reached out and seized the source of our conflict.

Bringing it up to her lips, she opened her mouth wide and poured the toxin inside. And continued. And continued. Glug, glug, glug. By the time she lowered the cup only seconds later, she had completely emptied it.

She let out a satisfied sigh. “There! I solved both of your problems. No need to thank me.” She puffed out her chest, apparently proud of her stunning conflict-resolution skills. I offered a casual applause, half out of sarcasm and half because I was genuinely impressed by how quickly and easily she managed to accomplish the task.

Lucia, on the other hand, scowled lightly. “No matter how many years go by, your manners never improve, do they?”

Selina placed one hand on her hip and held out the other with a thumbs-up. “Nope!” She punctuated her declaration with a cutesy wink. She held that pose for an awkwardly long period of time, completely unashamed.

Lucia just stared for a good few seconds, her expression difficult to read. Suddenly, though, she broke out into laughter. “I will likely never fully understand you, Selina, but, still, I hope you never change.”

“Awww. I love you, Luci! You’re the best!” She reached over and seized Lucia’s hands without warning, causing the latter to nearly drop her drink.


“Hehe. Never!”

Maybe I was wrong, but I couldn’t imagine them becoming friends or getting along if they were to meet for the first time as they were now. Well, admittedly, I didn’t think Selina would have a problem being friendly with anyone, no matter who they were; it was more that I couldn’t imagine Lucia being a willing—or returning—recipient of it. The resilience of old friendships was a powerful thing, I supposed.

“Actually, that makes me wonder...” I read my thoughts aloud for whatever reason. Lucia and Selina turned to me, with inquisitive and curious expressions on their faces, respectively. “How long have you two known each other?”

At my question, Lucia turned to Selina, nominating her to answer. Her answer, though, made no sense to me. “The beginning.”

“The beginning?”

“Yup!” She smiled, as if her confirmation meant anything to me.

Lucia sighed and clarified for her. “Since I was born.”

“The beginning!” She repeated her original answer, somehow beaming even more than before, as if to say, “See? Told you so!”

“Huh? But…” Perhaps it was because she still looked young, but I hadn’t realized Selina had been summoned that long ago. Of course, since she was a Chain, she wouldn’t age naturally. From my understanding, she was skilled enough that she could manually manipulate her body manifestation to show the effects of age, but that didn’t mean she’d actually done so at any point.

Suddenly, a set of heavy footsteps approach my flank. “She was summoned 21 years ago, approximately six moons before her highness was born.”

“Ah, Alwey, you’ve returned,” Lucia greeted the latecomer. Now that Selina’s attention had been briefly torn away, Lucia managed to finally shake off her hands and escape.

Alwey’s cloak was dripping, and his hair was soaked. “The rain’s gotten worse, huh? Sorry about that.” I commented, commiserating.

He nodded, before walking over to our table and sitting down with a sigh.

“You visited the courier service, right? That’s not too far from here, but not exactly close, either. How far can you two get from each other?”

Selina shrugged, so Alwey responded, “I do not know precisely, but I would estimate it to be about half the size of Nerush.”

“H-huh? Half?” I’d expected maybe a few hundred meters at most, but that was at least a few kilometers. The ten or so meters I could currently manage from Lucia was embarrassing in comparison.

Selina puffed out her chest in pride for the second time in the last few minutes. At least in this case, it was somewhat justified.

Realizing I’d gotten sidetracked, I jumped back to our previous topic. “So, then, I guess you two have known Lucia her whole life. Even though she’s a princess? How’d you manage that?”

“Alwey was the closest friend of Luci’s dad, the late King Orliff. So I basically got a free ticket to see her whenever I wanted. Those were the good ol’ days! Hey, but did you realize?” She cupped one hand up to her mouth to block out Alwey, an action that became immediately redundant when the ‘whisper’ that followed failed to lower the volume by any meaningful degree. “Despite how we look now, I’m actually older than him!”

Now that I thought about it, that did corroborate my age predictions for them. Knowing she’d been summoned 21 years ago, he’d probably been around Lucia’s current age at that time.

Still faux whispering, she continued, “Imagine my struggle: a mature, worldly woman such as myself having to deal with a naïve young man like him. He had a thing for older women, too, so I also had to deal with his constant advances.”

“I did not—” Alwey tried his best to interject (and deny what was, more likely than not, a completely made-up claim), but his attempt merely added more fuel to the fire.

“You don’t!? Are you saying you actually like younger women? Hehe. Luckily for you, I look the part, so I’m the best of both worlds! Take good care of me, okay?” She daintily placed her head in her hands and grinned at him. “Awww, don’t look at me with those bedroom eyes! I’ll blush!”

Contrary to everything she'd just said, Alwey merely grimaced at her, bitter disdain in his eyes. Based on this interaction—and practically every other one they’d had—I still had absolutely no idea as to the exact nature of their relationship beyond being work partners. I couldn’t tell if this was them getting along or if Alwey’s scorn was genuine. Both could be true, I supposed.

Come to think of it, I could imagine Lucia teasing me like this if she was put in that situation. I have a decent idea now of whom she may have picked up that kind of behavior from…

If it were me, I’d play along, but for a serious guy like Alwey, that probably wasn’t an option. Then again, I had no idea what he was like in the past, so perhaps at one point in time he was more receptive to this kind of thing.

Not getting any sort of overreaction, Selina pouted and sat back down in her chair; she’d been standing ever since first stealing my mug earlier.

Though it was somewhat belated, I turned to Lucia to whisper a question (and, unlike Selina, I actually said it quietly enough that only she could hear). “So why did you, as a kid, befriend that self-proclaimed ‘mature, worldly woman’?”

Lucia quietly giggled to herself, then smiled. “I was royalty; most of the people I was allowed to see were stuffy, entitled, and boring, even the children. Selina was one of the few people I was freely allowed to meet with whom I could always have fun with, no matter my age. She is… very important to me.”

For some reason, I couldn’t help but smile. “I figured it was something like that.”

If Lucia was the last member of the royal line, that presumably meant that all of her known blood relatives were dead. Even so, it made me happy to know that she still had ‘family’ here with her, after all this time.

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