For a moment, Alexis stares at Maria in front of him—However, she barely makes eye contact with him, but she doesn't back away.
「...You know what? If you don't want to tell me where Valencia is, please leave...」
Maria shook her head.
「No, I'm not leaving... No, definitely not.」
Alexis thinks to himself, "I'm at a loss".
She is still hesitant and her gaze drifts, but as usual, she is more fearful than strong-willed. Is it because she is stubborn at heart, or is there some other reason for her stubbornness?
（Maria seems to think that I am forcibly raping Valencia...）
And that's not all. She may also have a reason that Valencia is still too young to be a man's lover. Before, he remember her telling him something like that.
「...I have no choice. If you don't back off soon, I guess I'll have to let you play with her instead」
"Anyway, let's scare her," Alexis thought. Still, he is not looking for Valencia to be his partner, nor does he want Maria to be his partner.
But to Maria, it seems that men are always looking for a woman to screw—.
She shudders, then gives a frightened, but challenging look.
「Y-You're the worst. Really, men are...」
「Haah... I guess you're right...」
Alexis replies, and Maria looks away.
「H-Have you ever thought about women's feelings at all?」
When she says this, it hurts Alexis in a different way.
「Yeah, I try to think about it... I want to think about it. But life doesn't work out that way...」
Thinking back on his unattractive days, he looks into the distance.
"Really, if I could understand women's feelings, I would not be having as much trouble as now," He think to himself.
Maria shows a slight agitation at Alexis' sentimental attitude, but soon she gives him a glare.
「A-Anyway, I'm not leaving here until you give up...」
Then, Maria looks nervous, squeezes her skirt with her downed hands, and says in a muffled voice, "...I don't want more people to have a hard time".
Alexis folded his arms.
He thought she's not a bad person. Maybe.
Her attitude toward men is bad, but the way she treats her fellow men suggests that she is a kind person at heart.
Thinking about it, it would take a very brave person to stand up to the object of her dislike in order to protect others.
「...It can't be helped.」
He didn't buy her bravery. Regardless, he had no choice but to do something, since he was stuck in the middle of nowhere.
「Okay. If that's the case, follow me.」
Maria stiffened, and her hands tightened their grip on her skirt.
「Okay, then, let's go. Come on, Maria.」
With that, Alexis turned and headed back the way they had come.
Maria's face became stiff, but she followed Alexis quietly.
* * *
Alexis' destination was the dining room.
「Hey Sara, are you there?」
He opened the door and emerged with Maria in tow, only to find Sara and Dorothea there.
Sara is sitting at the table with a drink, just as she did when Alexis was there, and is chatting with Dorothea who is eating at the table.
It was not Sara but Dorothea who answered.
「Oh, you're here, too?」
Alexis pushed Maria, who was standing behind him, into the dining room and said to Sara, "Serve her some food, too," as he responded.
「Oh, Maria-chan. You're here at last.」
Sara smiles at her.
「Did you just switch guards? So is it Valencia now?」
「Eh. Sara-san, please don't talk about that...」
Maria gave an embarrassed look. She probably didn't want Alexis to hear. Seeing her attitude, Alexis finally laughed.
「I see, so Valencia was the lookout.」
「Well, that is...」
Maria hurriedly turned around and looked at Alexis.
「W-What? Was it something I shouldn't have said?」
Sara looks puzzled.
「Oh, I see, Valencia is outside the garden box. Well, I guess I'll go see her now.」
Alexis snaps back, and Maria rushes to grab Alexis' arm.
「No, wait! That's not good, that's not good...」
After saying this, Maria realizes that she touched Alexis, and she hurriedly removes her hand from Alexis's arm.
Seeing such an attitude of Maria, Alexis couldn't help but give a wry smile.
「Oh, Alex-kun, you haven't met Valencia-chan yet?」
Sara notices this and speaks to him.
「Hey, you have to go to her soon. You'll make Valencia-chan cry, okay?」
Sara said with a wry smile. Maria turned around and opened her mouth before Alexis could reply, perhaps because she was so surprised.
「W-Why? Why are you talking about Valencia-chan crying?」
"What?" Sara looked puzzled for a moment, then smiled,
「Because Valencia-chan is like a loyal dog. She's the saddest when her master breaks his promise to her.」
「I have a feeling that Master is more like Fransisca than me...」
Alexis blurts out, "Oh really?" Sara blinks her eyes.
「Maybe so, but aren't you like the master of the master? I think Valencia-chan is very special to you.」
「Hmm, is that so?」
Alexis was scratching his hair while tilting his head.
Maria seemed to find Sara's friendly manner with Alexis unnatural.
「I-I can't believe it...」
Maria's voice sounded as if she was about to disappear. And Sara said, "What" eyes widened in shock.
「I-I can't believe you, Sara-san... Because, you know that prince-sama is using your precious princess as a comforter, don't you? Don't tell me you didn't know. It's so well known in the fort that even I knew about it. And you don't get angry? Aren't you upset...?」
Sara tilts her head for a while, then mutters, "Oh, I see," as if she has realized something.
「Maria-chan, you are a newcomer to the fort, aren't you? So, it's not surprising if you don't know... Until Alex-kun came, the Krangal soldiers in the fort were very undisciplined and hard to deal with. Thanks to that, we didn't make any progress in the attack... But Alex-kun made it right. Thanks to Alex-kun, things become better. Including I, Her Highness, Fatima-chan, maybe even Lorenzo-kun.」
「No, I mean...!」
Maria says frustratedly.
「Prince-sama... is making princess sad by stepping on her dignity! As a woman, don't you hate it?」
Sara now had a wry smile on her face, and when she turned around, she made eye contact with Dorothea, who was eating and watching what was going on, and exchanged a wry smile with her.
The two girls face was sort of like, who's going to say it? Who is going to say it? There was an atmosphere of like that.
After a while, Sara turned around and she opened her mouth.
「Well... I think there is a misunderstanding about that. Not many people who know us well would think that he's stepping on our dignity...?」
Maria's expression is one of incredulity rather than wonder.
Sara, perhaps considering her state of mind, starts to speak slowly and thoughtfully again.
「Well... To be precise... At first, I stopped them myself. You see, Her Highness is a Princess-Maiden after all, and it's not good from outward appearance, is it?」
Maria, who is not familiar with the customs of the Sagrado people, looks puzzled.
On the other hand, Alexis thought it was typical of Sara to say "external" instead of "religious".
「But Her Highness never stopped. Why do you think?」
Sara asks, and Maria rushes to open her mouth.
「Well, of course, since Prince-sama does that, even if you wanted to stop, you couldn't stop, could you?」
「No, that's not it. In the first place, Her Highness the Princess-Maiden has a higher position internationally, you know? After all, Sagrado is special in the eyes of neighboring countries. If we say we are being treated unfairly and ask for help, foreign countries will support us, and we can get protection from them. So we are not the absolute weakest. But Her Highness didn't want that.」
「...Well, that's... A sense of responsibility...」
「Anyway, there's a theory that since she's like that, she doesn't realize that she's in a position where our kingdom has more freedom than she thought, right? Well, that's fine, though」
（Is that okay? Sara, if you know that, tell it to Fransisca. I've been thinking it's strange that she's so smart but not so smart about politics）
Alexis thought so inwardly but did not say so out loud.
Meanwhile, Sara was telling the rest of the story.
「And, the answer I got from Her Highness was... "No way! I don't want to stop". I can't believe she said that because everyone would want to stop if they knew those sensations. At first I thought it was a youthful enthusiasm」
Maria makes a strange face.
After all, it's the phrase "youthful enthusiasm" coming out of a young girl's mouth. Alexis nodded to himself, "I know exactly how she feel".
"...Yeah, but eventually, I actually thought Alex-kun's was great. —Dorothea-chan, you are aggree with me, right?" Sara turns to Dorothea, as if trying to get her agreement.
「Wait, why are you asking me that? I thought Sara-san was the one who was going to tell...!」
Dorothea's face turns red and she complains.
Sara smiles at Dorothea saying, "Calm down, calm down".
「I-I can't believe it...」
Maria's voice trembled and the conversation stopped.
「I-I can't believe everyone!!」
Maria shouted and pushed Alexis out of the dining room, even though she had not yet arrived at the table.
Sara looked at Maria with a wry smile on her face.
「Aren't Maria-chan hungry...?」
Dorothea puts a spoon in her mouth and asks a question.
「I'm sure she'll be hungry...」
The two women said in the same tone.
"What are we going to do about this situation?" Alexis thought. Well, it is also true that he had thought that having a third person explain to Maria, whom he could not help after he explained himself, would help.
（Should I go after her and do something? No, even if I went there...）
When he was wondering like this.
「Well, I'll explain it to her later when I bring her some food. Alex-kun, why don't you go to Valencia's place?」
Sara suggested so, and Alexis nodded his head, "Well, I guess I'll do that then...". It was true that it would be much better if Sara, who was of the same gender, went there instead of going there himself.
Besides, it's not that he can't read the air. Basically, she is just unwilling, but she will do it when she has to.
（I'm not so sure about that either...）
In such a case, the ideal is Fatima. But the next best is definitely Sara.
「Well, I'm sorry, but can you take care of the rest?」
「Okay, I'll take care of it. Alex-kun, you go on your way.」
Sara waved her hand and Alexis left the dining room.
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