Chapter 35:


Chained Regalia

A gentle, cool breeze swept through my hair. It was still bearable at the moment, but the cold season was rapidly approaching, so it wouldn’t be long before the weather grew too chilly to justify a casual outing.

Not long ago, I never would’ve cared. If anything, I would’ve welcomed it; after all, the frigid weather would probably exempt me from having to train quite as much.

On second thought, both Lucia and Alwey can be pretty sadistic when it comes to that. Oh god, will they force me to train anyway?

I shook that nightmare scenario from my mind. I had enough problems on my plate already; I would have to face that one when the time came, but, for now, I needed to focus my thoughts elsewhere.


Dates! What the hell are we supposed to do!?

Nerush was boring town, frankly. It had abundant amenities targeting travelers, but most were practical in nature. When it came to recreation, there was effectively just a heap of similar bars and restaurants scattered around town—decent places to hang out, sure, but none of them screamed ‘date’. And if the weather was about to take a turn for the worse, going somewhere outdoors was also a no-go.


Based on my memories, I had at least some degree of romantic experience, so I had hoped an answer to my woes would exist somewhere within the depths of my brain; alas, nothing sprang to mind.

“What… are you doing?” I heard a very familiar voice ask from above me.

Ah, crap, I thought she was still asleep!

“Ah, um… m-moonbathing.” I wasn’t able to say it with as much confidence as Selina had, but as much as I hated to admit it, it was the truth.

“Um, may I ask why?” She was already stifling her laughter, and I instantly regretted having ever given into the urge to lie down in the first place.

“I… woke up early and couldn’t fall back asleep, so…” Given the season, it was still dark at this time of morning, which gave me the idea.

“So you wandered outside and chose to lie down in the grass instead? In public?” The princess, with whom I’d long since become well acquainted with, snickered as she looked down at me.

“I s-saw Selina do it before, so…”

After hearing that, Lucia broke out into full-on laughter, clearly amused by the fact that I’d chosen to imitate Selina. In her defense, I would’ve found it funny too—if it were anyone but me doing it.

Just as I was about to rise off the ground in defeat, however, she suddenly plopped down next to me. She didn’t lie down completely like I had, but instead sat down with her legs outstretched to join me. Her laughter died down, and it was replaced by a gentle smile as she gazed out at the gray morning sky.

If I were to guess, she’d probably hastily changed into something to look for me immediately after waking up. She had exchanged her nightgown for one of her usual day dresses, but that was about it. She hadn’t even tied her hair before going out, which was an extremely rare occurrence.

“Were you really that worried about me?” I asked in a somewhat teasing, somewhat serious tone.

“Of course I was,” she replied without hesitation. For a moment, I suddenly felt very happy, before she added, “I assumed the fact that you were gone must have meant something awful happened. The Layn I know never would have woken up at a reasonable hour of his own volition, after all.”

“Y-you didn’t consider that maybe I was just being diligent?”

“Not for a moment, no.”

Have more confidence in me when it comes to stuff like this! Or, actually, just lie to me more; hearing that and knowing it’s the truth hurts!

“I’m glad to know it was nothing more than you acting weird, in the end,” she finished.

Based on her tone, both parts of her statement had been serious, and I sighed in response—though, I supposed I could live with her thinking I was weird.

Another light breeze wafted by, and I shivered lightly for a moment. Lucia was wearing a lot less than I was, so I got a little worried. “Are your legs cold? I’m guessing you left in a hurry, but you really should’ve put some pants on. Should we go back inside?”

For some reason, she eyed me suspiciously. “Are you actually worried, or is this just an excuse to stare at my legs?” She sounded like she was scolding me, even though I’d done nothing wrong. Admittedly, I was staring at her legs, but that was clearly for pragmatic, responsible reasons only.

“Both, obviously.” I figured I might have to pay for that joke in the end, but, weighing the odds, I took the shot.

She scowled at me briefly as if to play along, and then her expression quickly transformed back into an ordinary smile. She proceeded to shake her head back and forth a few times. “Right now, I’m fine. I do appreciate the concern, however.”

I smiled at her response and decided to twist my body to sit up like she was. After a moment of consideration, I leaned slightly to the left, laying my head into the side of hers.

“Mmpf!?” A quiet squeak poured from her lips as I did so, but she didn’t move or push me away.

“Sorry, should I stop?”

“No, it’s okay. I did not expect you to be so bold, is all.”

“I didn’t expect it either, honestly.” I chuckled candidly at myself.

I still didn’t know if I deserved this. I didn’t know if I deserved Lucia, or the happiness she gave me. As much as I tried, I couldn’t stop questioning these things, either.

But it didn’t matter. No one could really know something like that for sure, and they would be conceited to even think they could. What someone did or didn’t deserve was all subjective speculation, in the end.

If I was going to move forward, I would need to believe, even if I didn’t know for certain. At one time, that prospect terrified me, but at some point, I finally realized—or, rather, accepted—that I wasn’t alone, and that I didn’t need to feel scared of facing the unknown.

And so…

“I love you, Lucia.”

… I’ll accept and express my feelings, whatever they are. I’ll be honest, both to myself and to you.

I’ll keep moving forward. I swear.

“Don’t say stuff like that without warning,” she complained, the embarrassment in her voice ringing clear.

“Nope. I’ll say it whenever I feel like it.”

“Tsk. What an insolent servant of mine. Whatever will I do with you?”

Her head leaned away from mine all of a sudden, but it was quickly replaced by a different, softer sensation on my cheek.

“D-don’t do stuff like that without warning!” I turned to face her as she pulled away, and I timidly touched the part of my cheek that she’d kissed.

She tilted her head cutely. “No. I will do it whenever I feel like it.”

A moment later, an arm suddenly slung over my neck, and a new face thrust itself between mine and Lucia’s.

Honestly, I was grateful for the interruption; my heart probably would’ve burst if things had kept going.

“Hehe! You little lovebirds are so cute! I’m super jealous; Alwey hasn’t gotten that romantic with me in years.”

“Wh-what are you doing out here this early!?” Realizing our exchange had been witnessed by a third party, Lucia looked like she had entered a state of panic.

“Hmm…” Selina removed the arm that was wrapped around me, and tapped a finger to her chin several times, pretending to think. “I could just sense that there was a romantic moment out there I could spoil, and I couldn’t miss that chance, you know?”

“G-get off of us, Selina.” Though I was thankful, Lucia seemed quite irritated that we’d gotten cut off early.

“No can do, Luci. Alwey’s about to show up, and if he sees you two snuggling up all alone, he’ll enter ‘overprotective dad mode’. Laynie might not make it out alive if that happens. I’m helping you out!”

As if on cue, I heard the door to the inn open a short distance away, followed by the sound of heavy footsteps.

As I craned my neck, I heard his voice. “What are you three…? Oh.” He sighed. “Did Selina convince you to moonbathe with her? I could see him participating, but your highness?”

Apparently, Selina’s moonbathing extended beyond the one instance I’d seen of it.

That’s… actually not surprising at all, to be honest.

“Ah, your highness,” he said, his eyes widening, “it is far too cold out today. Please, change into something war—”

Lucia sighed. “Yes, yes, I know. I will go change.” She stood up, and Selina and I were quick to follow.

Before I even realized it, I was smiling. I was happy. I was so very happy.

“I should not have been the one to tell her. You need to watch out for her highness like that,” Alwey moved on to scolding me. “As a Chain, that is one of your duties, Layn.”

I mostly ignored his complaints, but something stuck out to me.


He’d never called me by name before. I was almost certain of that. It was almost as if…

“Eh? Layn, are you alright?” Lucia noticed before even I did—a tear, just one, had slid down my cheek.

I smiled and nodded at her. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

I belonged here.

I was accepted here.

I wasn’t a stranger in this world.

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

My name is Layn. I used to live by another name, but that was a long time ago. It’s a past I’ve moved on from.

This is my life—I get to spend every day with the people I care about, and with the woman I fell in love with.

Braving a potential violent outburst from an overprotective Alwey, I suddenly pulled Lucia close and squeezed her with everything I had.

“Yep. Couldn’t be happier.”

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