The calendar on the South Continent, including the Carpa Kingdom, was a lunisolar calendar based on the moon phases with a leap month.
Their lunisolar calendar did not have three-hundred and sixty-five days per year, but rather had three-hundred and fifty days as a rule, except for when a leap month was added every four years; then the year had three-hundred and eighty days.
Zenjirou had been used to the solar calendar, so it was extremely confusing to him, when some years lasted a whole month longer.
Anyway, the terminology for the beginning and the ending of a year obviously did exist, since there was a basic parameter for one year, probably a solar year, and the custom to celebrate these days obviously did exist as well.
The New Year Festival in the Carpa Kingdom in particular had a lot in common with the New Year in Japan.
Of course that did not mean that they were ringing a bell in the night of the last day of the year, nor were they eating Soba on New Year’s Eve.
Neither did they have the custom to celebrate the first sunrise of the year, nor the custom to visit the shrine first thing in the new year.
Considering all that, it might be a bit of an exaggeration to say that they had a lot in common.
Nevertheless, the general procedure revealed similarities, seeing as they calmly did a major cleaning at the end of the year and then celebrated extensively for three days starting with the New Year’s Day.
The end of the year was spent fasting and cleaning.
The first day of the new year was spent lively at home without going out much.
And on the second day, the first big event took place.
The people bought a lot of things on that day, because a myth said that “anything you buy on the second day of the new year will last longer”.
Of course the clever merchants did not miss out on that opportunity. All the merchant houses across the country acknowledged that day as the busiest time of the year and prepared all kind of attractive products.
As a result, all the famous shops in the Capital were obviously crowded with customers on the second day of the new year, but even the stalls on the streets and parks, especially authorized for that day alone, were redundant with customers.
“Table wares! Buy your table wares here! Just look at this wild grain and greasy gloss! It pushes the price a bit, but they will last forever!”
“Miss, if you are looking for textiles, I am the right man. Take a look at this cotton cloth. Despite its firmness, it is not the least bit uncomfortable on the skin. I can guarantee you that it will make great trousers or shirts that will last a long time!”
“Kitchen knives, normal knives or pots! Do not forget to buy your ironware today! After all, today the Space-Time Spirit gives their blessing to us commoners as well! If not buy it now, then when?”
It was nothing special for the coarse street merchants, but even the famous shop owners, who were usually picky about their customers, had staff stand in front of their shop today and let them attracted customers with loud voices.
Just like the advertisement had promoted, a myth of the Carpa Kingdom said that the Space-Time Spirit, which usually was only benevolent to the Royal Family, was giving its blessing to all living things in the Carpa Kingdom on the second day of the New Year. It was the reason why it was said that anything you bought on that day would last longer.
Of course there was nothing to prove it, but with a history of hundreds of years, it was no longer a superstition, but rather a myth. Moreover, the myth was extended in the recent years by saying that the blessing of the Space-Time Spirit should be even stronger in the Capital, where the Royal Family resided, since the Spirit was their Guardian. That far-stretched rumour sounded so plausible that more and more people came all the way to the Capital on the second day of the New Year, just to do their shopping.
Thanks to that, the economy of the Capital was flourishing, but the soldiers guarding the Capital got the short end of the stick in exchange for it.
“Hey! No fighting on the street! Or do you want to spend the long-awaited New Years in jail!?”
“The street is getting crowded! Stop haggling over the price! The Spirit won’t bless the miser!”
“No pushing. No pushing… I SAID NO PUSHING! Stop it or I’ll nab ya!”
The leather armoured soldiers were shouting at the top of their lungs while sweating all over.
Trying to hold their temper, the soldiers fended off the pushing crowd with wooden clubs in their hands.
Normally the guards of the Capital would equip a short spear with an iron tip, but they were holding a blunt wooden club just for today.
The usual short spear acted as a “deterrent”, but on the day of the first shopping, they needed an utterly “practical” weapon.
Words alone were just not enough for a couple of soldiers to fend off a bustling crowd. So far, the soldiers were just holding the clubs sideways and pushed away the people, but it was not always that harmless. Sometimes they had to resort to using them as the very “impact weapons” they were.
Sellers and buyers alike became hot-blooded during the dealing and fellow customers quarrelled over the same product, claiming stuff like “I touched it first” and “No, it was me”, not to forget all the drunkards at daytime, since it was a festive day after all.
It was the job of the soldiers to put these people in their place, yell at them or literally punch some sense into them in the end.
If they were carrying an iron-tipped spear for that, it would not end well for sure.
It was one thing to use it against soldiers of a hostile nation or wild beasts, but flashing sharp metal at merely drunk people of the own country was out of the question.
Thus, they carried a weapon with a relative low power on days like this, where they were bound to make straight use of it.
Having said this, the club was still a proper weapon, even if it had less attack power. It could easily break bones, when swung with all its might, and depending on the spot, it could even end up being fatal.
But that only applied for when a minimum of discipline could no longer be ensured. Otherwise, the Capital was just imbued with a chaotic turmoil today.
“Hi there. We are here to relieve you.”
“Oh, wow. You guys are sweating like crazy. Here, a towel.”
A pair of soldiers, who had fought off the masses, turned around, when they were called upon by their fellow shift workers from behind.
“Oh, that late already?”
“Phew. We somehow made it…”
The well-built soldier in his mid-twenties was sweating to such an extent that it would not be strange to see his whole body give off steam, but he could still maintain a composed facial expression to a certain degree. His partner, a young soldiers in his teens, on the other hand could barely stand anymore and looked like he had narrowly escaped death.
The young soldier had relative few muscles for a hard-working combatant and stumbled over to his replacing colleagues like a newborn fawn.
“It’s all yours…”
“You okay? That sounded more like a last will. You better wash of that sweat with some cold water before taking a rest.”
As he no longer had the energy to respond to the joke of his co-worker, the young soldier just nodded once, wrapped the offered towel around his neck and staggered into the distance like a ghost, all the while keeping his mouth half-opened and a blank look in his eyes.
“So that’s how we’ll look after our shift…”
The soldiers from the shift change turned all pale, when the almost soulless appearance of their workmate reminded them of their own fate a few hours later.
“You okay? Here, some water.”
Relieved from the most arduous task for now, the two soldiers walked down a small alley separated from the main street.
All the people were gathering in the commercial district, so once you got away from there, the Capital became unbelievable desolate and quiet.
The task of standing watch on the congested commercial district was one part of their job. The other part was to patrol the almost deserted living district.
In the forlorn living district occurred as many burglaries as quarrels in the commercial district.
Unfortunately enough, it was the way of the world that some shady characters considered it a “great opportunity for burglary” while everyone was engrossed in the New Year Shopping.
“So, you calmed down a bit?”
“Yes. Thank you. I thought I had been prepared for it, but it seems I was too naïve…”
Finally back on his feet after the consideration of his senior workmate, the young soldier reflected on his gullible resolution.
The other soldier gave his dejected junior a shrewd smirk.
“Well, it’s not your fault. You aren’t even from the Capital. It would be ridiculous to expect you to anticipate this ruckus beforehand. Anyway, you learned now that the Capital Guards are by no means a breezing division.”
“And the hard way, at that…”
The young soldier agreed, using his wooden club as a crutch.
Unlike the other divisions, the Capital Guards Division suffered seldom if ever any casualties. After all, they were entrusted with the mission to guard the Capital, so even if war broke out, they would not be sent to the frontlines, nor would they get dispatched for a dragon subjugation like the soldiers based in the other Royal Domains.
The division dealt with “real battles” least of all, but once a year, they had to go through this pandemonium, so it was not really a convenient division.
And even more so, if you considered the fact that they had to deal with a lot more criminal incidents in the Capital than in the other domains, because of its dense population.
Even without an enemy force, it was so much more work to protect an exceedingly large amount of citizens than to face an unorganised enemy in the field.
Anyway, the two soldiers patrolled the living district of the Capital while their clubs made dull noises every time they touched down onto the cobble-stone pavement.
The noisy touchdown of their clubs as well as their more or less loud conversation were on purpose. They were drawing attention to the fact that the “Capital Guards were patrolling”, prompting any potential criminals, who were up to no good, to behave themselves.
Under that pretext, the soldiers casually chatted with each other.
“I’ve gotta say, it’s rather chilly now. Back there, it was as stuffy as during the hottest season.”
The young soldier had almost choked from the sultriness in the commercial district, so he took a deep breath once again and spoke slowly in order to savour the fresh air.
“Well, we’re already in the ‘Vibrant Season’. I would be damned if it were still hot.”
The senior soldier shrugged his shoulders a bit and replied like that.
Unlike Japan, the Carpa Kingdom divided the year into three major seasons, namely the “Rainy Season”, the “Hottest Season” and the “Vibrant Season”.
Based on the seasons in Japan, the “Rainy Season” would be Spring, the “Hottest Season” Summer and the “Vibrant Season” Fall and Winter alike.
In other words, the “Vibrant Season” covered half a year. The first part of it, namely the Fall equivalent, was “a bit hot, but not a hindrance to work”, whereas the last part, namely the Winter equivalent, was chilly in the morning as well as in the evening and mild during the day, so it was the most comfortable season of the year.
“True enough, but you tend to forget the seasons in there.”
“Yeah. That crowd really makes you feel like the Hottest Season has come around again.”
When the soldier in his teens said so in a weary tone, the soldier in his twenties agreed with a wry smile.
Although the people of the Carpa Kingdom were used to the heat of the Hottest Season, they apparently could not stand the heat generated by a dense crowd of people.
“The event only comes once a year. You can’t really tell them to restrain themselves.”
“Duh. If possible, I would have taken part, too. But I know what you mean.”
“Wait, you are after something?”
“Well, you might say that.”
It had been a casual question, but the young soldier flushed his cheek and averted his gaze in response.
The other soldier seemed to have an idea and showed a somewhat sly smirk.
“Oho, let me guess: A present for a girl. Right?”
He jerkily bumped the younger workmate with his right elbow.
The younger soldier apparently resigned himself to the fact that he was not able to avoid giving an answer, so he looked down with his cheeks still flushed
“Yes. I want a ring for my lover in the countryside… If possible, a bronze one.”
and obediently admitted it.
Bronze was an alloy from copper and tin. Depending on the mixture ratio of the copper and tin, the bronze could have a brown, golden or silver colour.
Since the metal was cheaper than gold or silver, it was popular amongst commoners to be used for accessories like rings or bracelets.
Nevertheless, it was quite an expensive item for the still young soldier and not something you bought to simply impress a girl you fancied.
Instead, it was much more a present for an important person with whom you were going to share a future. Realising that, the soldier did no stop the questioning of his junior.
“You mean matching rings? You know, these ‘Wedding Rings’ that are common talk right now.”
Zenjirou had given Aura a Wedding Ring. That custom had spread throughout the Kingdom at an alarming speed in the past two years. The purveyor to the court, who had access to the Inner Palace, where Zenjirou lived, had deliberately passed on that information.
A first-rate merchant would never miss out on such a profitable opportunity.
And as expected, even commoners with enough saving, not just nobility, had picked up the custom of “Wedding Rings” as of late.
Apparently the young soldier was also one of the people, who were eagerly accepting that new custom.
“Yes. I can’t afford anything fancy with my savings, but I should be able to buy two of them, if I count every penny. Besides, they really add to a proposal.”
When the young soldier said this with his typical for a citizen of the Carpa Kingdom dark-skinned face bright red, even the other soldier nodded heartily.
“Yeah, that’s for sure. I would have had it so much easier, if I had something like that back in my days.”
The man was apparently already married and showed a bitter smile, as he remembered how he had asked for the hand in marriage of his now wife.
It was definitely more reassuring to have pair rings for a proposal than to do it empty-handed.
Seen in this way, it was a “reliable weapon” for the proposing man and the proposed woman would not be averse to get a ring as a present, either. Needless to say, the craftsmen or merchant selling the rings were delighted, too. Everyone profited from the custom.
“Certainly. The story of the Wedding Rings has reached my home village, too, so she should know what I want, when I give her the ring by just saying ‘Please accept this’.
I mean, it’s way easier to say ‘Please accept this’ than ‘Please marry me’.”
“Just be careful that she doesn’t mistake it for a simple present, though.”
The senior soldier threw cold water on the passionate speech of his junior, but at heart, he was convinced that it was not possible to imagine a Carpa Kingdom without the custom of “Wedding Rings” in the future.
* * *
The second day of the New Year was celebrated during the day with the “First Shopping”, whereas the end of the day was celebrated with the “Night Festival”.
The people brought out lights and lightened up the night streets to the utmost, as if to assist the small waxing crescent moon, which finally started to regain its brightness, from the ground.
That obviously applied to the commercial district, which had been crowded with people, since the morning for the “First Shopping“ on the second day of the New Year, but all the other districts such as the living district, the craftsmen district or even the shanty town, where nobody but the residents ever went to, were also illuminated with countless fires, banishing the night.
If you could look down on the Capital from above now, you would see that the whole town was illuminated like an excessively decorated Christmas tree.
The brightest spot amongst all was the front yard of the Royal Palace.
Just for tonight, the yard was opened to the commoners and many residents of the Capital were swarming to the place.
Although it was opened to the public, it was still the Royal Palace. An hustle and bustle like in the commercial district was not allowed and the gathered people were behaving themselves under the watch of the Royal Household Guards.
The Carpa Kingdom mainly used oil pans or lantern with fluid vegetable oil as a general light source, but right now, the front yard of the Royal Palace was illuminated by “candles” held up by the gathered crowd.
Compared to the vegetable oil, candles were a lot more expensive, but were all the more safer, because they were a solid fuel.
Due to that, it was mandatory to buy a candle at the entrance, if you wanted to participate in the “Night of Flame Festival” of the second day of the New Year in the front yard of the Royal Palace.
Even if it was only an investment once per year, it still could only be afforded by people with a certain flexibility in their finances.
Consequently, all the people gathering in the front yard were from relatively wealthy families in the Capital.
The front yard was illuminated by countless flames lit by countless people.
Zenjirou witness that scenery from atop the balcony on the second floor of the Royal Palace together with his wife Aura.
When her husband from a different world breathed this utterance of admiration, the Queen put on a smile and said proudly.
“I know, right? It is like a starry sky on the ground. I am looking forward to this sight every year fraught with tension.”
Numerous people held up numerous lit candles.
There was no regularity in the point of lights, because they were not arranged beautifully, but just like Aura had said, it showcased the same unconstrained beauty as the starry sky.
“Yes, it is truly beautiful. Quite the privilege we have here.”
Considerate to his surroundings, Zenjirou replied affirmative to Aura with an humble tone while his gaze was clued on the starry sky imitation on the ground. It was no flattery or courtesy. He was truly fascinated by the sight below from the bottom of his heart.
It was indeed appropriate to call it a “privilege”.
There was no law that forbid to watch the “Night of Flame Festival” from above, but as a matter of fact, the balcony on the second floor of the Royal Palace was the only place in range from where you could oversee the front yard from above.
Sitting next to the Queen on these special seats on the balcony and looking down on the countless lights below, gave him the worrisome illusion that the gathered crowd was worshipping them.
The countless lights banished the night and illuminated the Capital like during the day.
It was passed down that the year had more daytime and less night-time, when the night was displaced by the “Night of Flame Festival” like this.
In this world, the terms “daytime” and “night-time” were not just referring to the time, when the sun or moon were out.
The daytime was seen as the time of prosperity and the night-time as the time of misery. It brought good luck to the year, when they fought against the symbol of absolute negativity, namely the night, with as much light as possible and acquired a prosperousness in form of the sunrise.
(Technically, I’m seeing this for the second time, but I’ve no recollection of the event from last year…)
Experiencing his second New Year after coming into this world, Zenjirou was puzzled at heart.
But he soon hit upon the reason after a bit of pondering.
(Oh, right. Last year, I was still too flustered to recognize this sight as “beautiful”.)
Unless there was a solid reason, royalty absolutely had to attend the “Night of Flame Festival” on the second day of the New Year. The official event was that important.
Last year around this time, Aura had been pregnant with the Crown Prince.
Zenjirou had been worried about his pregnant wife and attended a major event of the country for the first time, so it was no surprise that he did not have the leisure to enjoy the festival.
Right now, he was not wearing the third formal attire, which he had gotten relatively comfortable with lately, but rather the first formal attire, which he had only worn a handful of time so far.
A turban was completely wrapped around his head and was held together by an accessory similar to a crown, heavier and more pompous than a brooch could ever be.
The first formal attire had a lot of ornaments and golden threads worked into it in all places, so his whole body was shining brightly as the flame from candle stand next to him illuminated it.
It worked for Aura, since she was a beauty to begin with, but to Zenjirou it only looked comical and degrading instead, when a boring guy like him was dressed up with these ornaments. That might just be his Japanese value judgment preserving, though.
Queen Aura seemed to sense his gaze on her, when Zenjirou looked at his wife sitting next to him, so she turned to him and gave him a smile.
Needless to say, Aura was wearing her first formal attire as the Queen as well. As a rule, she often wore a dress-like attire that had been introduced by the North Continent, but her formal attire was the traditional dress of the Carpa Kingdom, similar to the clothes of the people of South-East Asia.
The crimson cloth was wrapping around her body gracefully and had even more ornaments than the clothes from Zenjirou. Unlike him, she looked as radiant as the jewels on her clothes, though.
Her appearance was so stunning and elegant that you were under the illusion that Aura herself was causing the glistering brilliance that actually came from the flame. It was the authentic embodiment of the notion called Queen.
The Queen noticed that her husband was looking at her with semi-closed eyes as if dazzled, and happily intensified her smile.
Through an upright effort, Aura had lost the extra kilos from her pregnancy with Prince Carlos and finally regained her initial weight as of late.
It was truly refreshing that she could proudly hold the gaze of her husband again without feeling startled.
The main reason they had refrained from making a second prince so far had been the fact that she could not afford to delay the state affairs due to continuous pregnancies. That much was true, but she could not deny either that a part of her had been “reluctant to completely reveal her fleshed out body” to him.
(My weight is back to normal and Carlos is already two years old. It might be time to consider a second child for real soon.)
Aura averted his eyes from her husband and looked down on the starry night sky of candles below the balcony while she harboured such a sentiment.
By the way, their child Carlos Zenkichi was not present here, as it was expected. According to the counting method of the Carpa Kingdom, Prince Carlos was already two years old, but going by the conventional counting method, he was still an infant under the age of one. To be precise, he was about seven months old.
That difference came into existence because their counting method set the age to one at birth and added one year on each New Year instead of the birthday, whereas the conventional counting method set the age to zero at birth and added one year on each birthday.
That discrepancy was especially harming in the early years. It made little difference whether you were twenty-seven or twenty-nine years old, but it made a world of difference whether you were thirteen or fifteen years old. And it was practically comparing apples to oranges, when you were either under the age of one or two years old, like Carlos right now.
Anyway, it was by no means wrong of Aura to seriously consider a second child soon.
Even if they were to start trying tonight, it would take at least nine month in the best case until the child was born.
In other words, Carlos and the second prince would have an age difference of one and half year according to the conventional counting method, or a one to two year difference according to their counting method.
It was not really a bad timing for the Queen to have a second child. And considering the fact that more inheritors of the “bloodline magic” meant more influence in this world, it did no harm to have a lot of children.
It always came at the risk of causing problems with the line of succession, though.
Zenjirou cocked his head puzzled for a moment, when he sensed an overtone and sex appeal in the smile of his wife, but they were in the middle of the “Night of Flame Festival” right now. A little private chat might still be tolerated, but they certainly could not afford to ignore their surroundings and immerse themselves in a lengthy conversation.
And then, the Queen and her Prince Consort silently kept watching the countless flames of the citizens gathered in the front yard until the sun dawned in the eastern sky.
Chapter 01: The Marriage of the General
The “Vibrant Season” was the equivalent to Fall and Winter in Japan. This season covered half of the year and like its name implied, it was the most vibrant season of the year.
During this season, the people on the South Continent worked busily as if to make up for the lost time they had spent quietly inside the house during the “Hottest Season”, where just standing in the sunlight could make you faint, or the “Rainy Season”, where it rained at least once per three days.
The previous war had also mainly been waged during the six months of the “Vibrant Season”. There had been a few skirmishes in the “Hottest Season” and “Rainy Season”, but otherwise it had generally been a ceasefire during these two seasons.
The same applied for the peaceful times.
Of course some merchants considered it a good opportunity to do business, when everyone else was not working, and natural disasters or dragon attacks paid no mind to the circumstances of humans, so the activities during the “Hottest Season” and “Rainy Season” never really came to a dead stop.
But it was only natural to wait with any activities that could be postponed due to these circumstances, until the Vibrant Season.
The best example for such an activity was a “Marriage Ceremony”.
It goes without saying that a “Marriage Ceremony” was a major event for the wedding couple, but for their families it was just the same.
Especially for weddings, where the family business was inherited, be it nobility or commoners. All related parties gathered from all over the country, celebrated the marriage and familiarized themselves with the new family members.
That involved a long travel, so it was practically a matter of course to hold the ceremony during the comfortable “Vibrant Season”.
Going by that logic, the marriage of Zenjirou and Aura had been an exception, since it had been held during the “Hottest Season”.
Due to these circumstances, there were a lot of marriage ceremonies during the Vibrant Season.
And it was not really irrelevant to Queen Aura, when a marriage ceremony was held.
After all, the law in the kingdom stated that the tieing between high ranking nobility required the permission of the Monarch.
In most cases, her secretary prepared the necessary documents and Aura just put her sign on it, but even that could get tedious, when there were a lot of documents to sign. Moreover, she personally had to write up something like a “Wedding Wish” for when it concerned important nobles.
Sometimes the Royal Family was even expected to give money as a Wedding Gift. It could turn out to be a worrying task to set an amount for that, because lavishness was not an option, but at the same time, it had to be enough so as not to shame the Royal Family.
Nevertheless, that minutely treatment was still better than the worst case, whereof two existed.
The first being a marriage between nobles so high ranking that Royalty themselves had to attend the ceremony.
The other being a marriage between nobility so influential that it could not be permitted so easily.
And right now, Aura was looking at the worst possible request for a marriage that combined both of the above mentioned conditions.
The request concerned Puyol Guillén, the current head of the Guillén Family, and the eldest daughter of the Guzzle Family.
Queen Aura sat on the couch in her office with that document in hand and looked at the two men sitting on the couch across from her.
The men in question were Puyol Guillén and Xavier Guzzle.
Even seated, the giant General was as tall as a standing petite woman and the young successor to the March was somewhat small for a man.
That height difference was not the only contrast between them. General Puyol was assuming an air of confidence to the point of calling him “brazen”, whereas Xavier next to him was straining every nerve, so that his tension was recognizable at a glance.
The Queen smiled at heart, when she saw the fledgling noble so flustered, but showed not the slightest hint of it on the surface while she deliberately spoke with a voice free from emotion.
“Welcome, General Puyol, Sir Xavier. Let us get straight to the point.
I am holding the marriage request for Lady Lucinda and you here, General. Is that in compliance with both families?”
“That is correct. I, Xavier Guzzle, testify that on behalf on my father, the head of the Guzzle Family.”
The general answered Aura with a composed tone. Following that, Xavier also answered, but with a tone that did not conceal all of his tension.
Aura nodded a bit affected, then continued.
“Okay. Very well.
So you are getting married, General. It definitely is desirable for the kingdom as well, when the head of the Guillén Family gets married.”
“Thank you for your understanding, Your Majesty.”
It was perfectly in accordance with the etiquette, when General Puyol put his clenched right hand against his left shoulder and lowered his head while seated.
But even so, the giant soldier only gave off the impression that he was “brazen”.
It must surely be in his nature. Aura once again gave the appearance of being inexpressive in order to conceal her dissatisfaction and inquired further.
“And your partner will be Lady Lucinda from the Guzzle Family. Seeing as Sir Xavier is here, I guess it is related to the earlier Pack Dragon Subjugation?”
General Puyol displayed a brazen smile and Xavier shivered nervously in reaction to the words from the Queen.
“Indeed. During this incident, I had the chance to acquaint myself with Sir Xavier here. Since he went to the Capital for a report later on, I took it upon myself to bring his men home to the March of Guzzle.”
“Right. The General has been a big help back then!”
After General Puyol explained so without ruffle or excitement, Xavier expressed his gratitude to him with a tone so vivid it could be called ingenious.
The Pack Dragon Subjugation took place on the Salt Road of the Carpa Kingdom last year. In the end, the incident was resolved at the seaport city Valentia, far away from the Salt Road.
Xavier Guzzle had originally been put in charge, but due to turns and twists, he had to leave his troops for a different mission, so General Puyol took it upon himself to lead the troops from Xavier back to the March of Guzzle.
A general of the Royal Army had been entrusted with the soldiers from a feudal lord, so it was unthinkable that he would leave right after bringing the men back to the border of the domain.
His responsibilities entailed that he led them all the way to the mansion of the feudal lord (in case of the border region, it was more like a fortress than a mansion), consigned the command to the person in charge there and waited for the troops of the domain to disarm.
It was perfectly normal that General Puyol would get acquainted with Lucinda Guzzle on that occasion.
Aura equally looked at both men sitting across from her while she once more recalled the information about Lucinda Guzzle she had looked into beforehand, in her head.
(Lucinda Guzzle is the oldest daughter of the Guzzle Family. She made a name for herself as a warrioress, when she assumed the role of the proxy lord in place of her elder brother during the previous war while her father was away, and took care of the domain and her baby brother.
But in exchange, she wasted her prime time and is still unmarried. I can relate a bit.)
The most suitable age for a woman to get married in this world was from around fifteen to twenty years old. Going by the standards of a modern Japanese like Zenjirou, it meant that a girl at the age of thirteen to fourteen would be “nubile” and a girl at the age of nineteen to twenty would be “past her prime of life”,
since they were calculating the age differently here.
Yet Lucinda Guzzle had wasted that important time span to protect her family from the turmoil of war.
She was already twenty-five years old, so she had long passed her golden age and counted as a middle-aged woman. Her age made it almost impossible to find a suitable family to marry into, even with the powerful backing of her family.
“Have you discussed it with Marquis Guzzle already?”
So just in case, Aura asked that, but she more or less knew what they were going to say.
“Yes, the Marquis has fortunately given us his blessings, too. Sir Xavier is even jumping the gun and calling me ‘Brother-in-law’ already.”
“B- Brother-in-law! You are not supposed to mention that in front of Her Majesty!”
General Puyol replied as expected and Xavier Guzzle exclaimed in panic.
Aura heaved a sigh at heart in response to that.
It was not difficult to imagine how great of a worrisome topic the marriage of his eldest daughter was for Marquis Guzzle.
After all, his daughter missed out on her chance to marry, because he went to war and abandoned his domain. Her younger brother Xavier must have felt guilty, too, since she had assume the mother role during that time.
And now, General Puyol had proposed to her.
Xavier was still too young and innocent to understand it, but Marquis Guzzle should be well aware of the intentions the general had.
When the Guillén and Guzzle Families were to be tied together through this marriage, General Puyol might get to incorporate the fortune and military strength of the Guzzle Family into his own. That ulterior motive was more than obvious, but every noble had more or less that kind of ambition.
No marriage would ever be achieved, if every single ambition like that was cut off.
Besides, it was by no means such a bad deal for the Guzzle Family to team up with the Guillén Family. As prominent nobles of the border region, the Guzzle Family was known for its fortune and military strength, but they had few connections to the heartland. The Guillén Family on the other hand had a lot of authority in the heartland.
(For that reason, I would normally never allow such a marriage, though.)
The nobility of the heartland with a lot of influence in politics and the nobility of the border region with a self-governing domain would team up by the means of marriage. It goes without saying how much of a threat to the Royal Family it was.
In the future, that marriage might bring out an even more influential power within the Kingdom than the Royal Family.
Having said all this, it proved to be very difficult to stop the marriage this time. Aware of that, Aura smiled to the best of her ability as she answered.
“Hahaha, now that is what I call rushing your fences. But Lady Lucinda was raised in the borderland. She might not be able to accustom to the life in the Capital.”
“No worries about that. She has told me that she would go anywhere as long as she is with me. The men in our country must be blind, when a woman like her can stay unmarried for so long.”
“Bro— I mean, General Puyol, you honour the efforts of my sister so far by saying this.”
Xavier was plainly speaking from joy, but the words from General Puyol were a declaration that even the bride herself had given her consent.
The Queen kept smiling, but her cheek twitched.
“Oho? Lovestruck already? That will not do. We cannot have the important general of our Royal Army getting his teeth out of him. Guess I will have to make a heartless decision here for the general welfare.”
It was nothing but a playful “pickoff attempt”, but a certain young man was too tense in body and soul to catch that obvious nuance.
“Y- Your Majesty! Please take my latest achievement as the price for your permission then!”
In response to the reckless utterance from the overhasty young man, the giant general displayed a bitter expression that seemed to say “Oh no” for a moment. It goes without saying that it was quite difficult to talk your way out of something you had claimed in front of the Queen.
Even more so, when the Queen herself would not give you such a chance to begin with.
For the first time today, the Queen registered a weak spot and intensified her smile a bit.
“Oh? I hope you do realize what you just said?”
She followed up on it with a threatening remark.
Xavier agreed knee-jerk, but her question could not really be denied now anyway.
Paying for the marriage permission with a military achievement. Taken by itself, it was nothing uncommon.
The problem this time round was that it meant that the supposed reward for his military achievement would not have to be paid.
For the Pack Dragon Subjugation Xavier Guzzle himself had led an army from the March of Guzzle. The soldiers received a wage, the food for the soldiers and dragons did cost money and so did the depleted arrows and broken equipment. And although they were only a handful of them, the families of the fallen soldiers needed to be reimbursed as well.
Normally all these expenses could be added on to the “reward” paid by the Royal Family.
But in this case, where the “achievement was used as the price for the marriage permission”, they were obviously not paid a single coin.
That kind of money admittedly meant no financial ruin for a wealthy family like the Guzzle Family, but it was still a burden, when they had to pay the whole sum all at once.
(There is no way the successor to the family name can make a decision about the reward money all by himself. That means, Marquis Guzzle must have already given his approval. So they are that desperate to marry Lucinda off, eh.)
If she were to forcefully crush this marriage, she would not only get on bad terms with General Puyol, but also with the Guzzle Family.
Reasoning like that, Aura realized that there was no way to prevent this marriage.
In that case, she ought to make the best of allowing this marriage for the Royal Family. After Aura had asked him again, she heaved an affected sigh with a stern face, then proclaimed to the giant general and young successor to the March.
“…Fine. If you are willing to go that far, I shall not be an heartless monster, either.
In light of Sir Xavier’s consideration for his sister, I will allow the marriage between Puyol Guillén and Lucinda Guzzle by way of exemption.”
“Th- Thank you very much, Your Majesty!”
Xavier almost jumped off the couch in his effusive delight, whereupon Aura gave him a blank look for a moment, but then she shifted her gaze back to General Puyol.
“Well, it is also my fault that you have stayed single until today. I am complying with your wish as an exception to the exception here, but it also allows me to finally clear my conscience towards you, when you have found a partner.”
She casually added that.
General Puyol was the current head of the famous Guillén Family, but even after more than thirty years, he was still single. The only reason for that was that he had been a marriage candidate for the Queen. Due to that, Aura had been in a bad position to refuse his marriage request to begin with.
By emphasizing on the fact that it was an exception to the exception, she was indirectly saying that she “compensated him for leaving him in abeyance all these years, by allowing this marriage, and that they were even with each other now“.
She was going to push the financial burden of the Pack Dragon Subjugation onto the Guzzle Family and clear off the debt to the Guillén Family for restricting General Puyol all this time.
By doing so, she could squeeze at least a little profit for the Royal Family from the marriage between two prominent families, since it was difficult to prevent it altogether.
Aura had racked her brain over this and while the young Xavier might accept it, General Puyol was not the kind of man to surrender this without a fight.
“Yes, I am most grateful for your exceeding kindness, Your Majesty. Following this, I would like to issue the invitation to our marriage ceremony in the March of Guzzle.
I know you are busy, so I will not go as far as to ask you to come in person, but there would be no greater honour, if you could favour us with your congratulations on the special day.”
Aura raised an eyebrow in response to the words of General Puyol.
“Oh? …You are holding the ceremony in the March?”
Xavier failed to noticed the subtle change in Aura and burst out happily.
“My father and sister said the Capital would be just fine, but General Puyol insisted on holding the ceremony in our domain. Thanks to him, my sister will make a final nice memory at home!”
In the Carpa Kingdom, it was the custom to hold the marriage ceremony at the home area of the family the marriage partner effectively left. Meaning: At the home of the wife, when she married into the man’s family, or at the home of the husband, when he married into the woman’s family.
Since marrying into a different family meant that “you cut all ties with your birthplace and became a member of the other family”, the custom signified that you get to have one final memory in your home.
Having said this, it was nothing but a general principle and there were plenty of exceptions.
Especially in cases like this one, where one partner hailed from the Capital, it was not all that unusual to choose the Capital for the ceremony regardless of the family situation.
On second thought, the Capital was certainly a better place to accommodate the guests than a domain in the borderland, and the Guzzle Family could use the ceremony as an excuse to go sight-seeing in the Capital, so it would be by no means a bad idea.
Despite that, General Puyol was going to hold the ceremony in the March of Guzzle instead of his birthplace, the Capital. Needless to say, there was a reason behind it.
And Aura immediately discerned his reasoning.
(In my position, I cannot afford to leave it at mere congratulations for his marriage ceremony. I would at least have to send a representative, or worse, attend it myself.)
General Puyol was a former marriage candidate for Aura. If she were to respond to the marriage of her former marriage candidate with only the bare necessities, it was more than likely that a rumour would spread, saying that she was still “emotionally attached” to him.
That would definitely be bad news. When a man took an interest in other women than his wife, he was called “authentic”, but when a woman was making eyes at other men than her husband, she was called an “adulterer” and there was no greater scandal than that.
Aura knew that and General Puyol knew that, too, of course, so he had chosen the March for the marriage ceremony.
(In other words, I have no other choice but to either attend it myself or ask my husband to go in my stead.)
It made no difference whether Aura herself went there and gave them her blessing or she sent Zenjirou there to give the blessing in her stead, when she wanted to avoid a scandal. In short, they just needed to give the appearance that Aura and Zenjirou congratulated the general on his marriage from the bottom of their hearts. Either royalty would go all the way to the borderland especially for his marriage ceremony. That fact gave General Puyol the perfect “prestige”.
And that was surely what he was after.
Aura had two choices. But in effect, she could not afford to leave the Capital for long as the Queen. So she basically only had one choice left.
(I will have to impose on my husband yet again.)
She grew desperate at heart, because she kept breaking her promises to him lately, but replied to General Puyol in order to squeeze even the tiniest bit of profit from this matter.
“I see. You are quite the virtuous man, General. Of course Royalty cannot be absent at the marriage ceremony of the general we entrust the safety of our country to.
Unfortunately, both my husband and I are extremely busy. As you may know, we are currently hosting three members of the Royal Families from two countries in our Kingdom.”
Prince Francesco and Princess Bona from the Twin Kingdom were obviously already here, but Princess Freya from the Uppsala Kingdom would come to the Capital soon, too.
Aura had wanted to keep her in Valentia and finalize the intercontinental trade negotiations for just the Royal Family, but that turned out to be impossible. After all, the female warrior under the command of Princess Freya had defeated the leading Huge Pack Dragon in the earlier Pack Dragon Subjugation.
Moreover, her achievement had already gotten around to the point that even the Capital was singing the praise of it.
With so much publicity, Aura could not afford not to invite them to the Capital for a reward in her role as the Queen of the Carpa Kingdom.
According to the schedule, Princess Freya would arrive with her retainers in the Capital in the next few days. Rumours were saying that they were going to enter the Capital with the skull of the Huge Pack Dragon on display, so the castle town was coming level with a festival.
“For that reason, we both have no time to spare. It would be a different matter, though, if the next ‘budget meeting’ comes to an end early.”
This time it was General Puyol’s turn to fall silent with a stern expression.
Her intention was not that difficult to understand.
She was saying that he ought to “approve her budget proposal in the next meeting, when he wanted either royalty to attend his weeding”.
The next budget meeting was dealing with the question, wherefrom they should compensate the accrued cost for the recent Pack Dragon Subjugation.
The finances of the Carpa Kingdom were hardly in any shape to have something to spare, even less when you took the previous war into consideration. So whenever unexpected expenses arose, one department would have to absorb the losses and that very department would strongly object to it.
When Aura enforced a decision, the affected department would obviously be angry at Aura, but if General Puyol were to stand up for her, that anger would mainly be directed at him.
To put it bluntly: She proposed that General Puyol should take the blame she was originally supposed to take.
However, it was not a bad deal for General Puyol, either.
He never really concealed his strong ambitions, so he had a lot of enemies. It would make no real difference, when he earned a bit of resentment on top of it now. On the contrary, he might actually rise in the esteem of the military, if word got around that he was willing to “earn the resentment from other nobles in order to secure the budget for the Royal Army”.
Once General Puyol quickly finished calculating the pros and cons in his head,
“Understood. If that is the case, I am more than willing to lend a hand.”
he gave his consent.
* * *
After Puyol Guillén and Xavier Guzzle had left her office, the Queen called out to her trusted retainer, who had silently stood at attention behind her so far.
“Fabio. You saw what happened. Tell me your opinion without reserve.”
The middle-aged secretary put his right hand against his small chin and spoke to the Queen after a moment of thinking.
“Okay. Long story short, you are going to send Master Zenjirou as your representative to the marriage ceremony between General Puyol and Lady Lucinda. In exchange for that prestige, General Puyol will wholly support you in the upcoming meeting.”
Narrowing his eyes to slits as if laughing with just his eyes, the middle-aged secretary nodded short and replied.
“Seems alright to me. It was pretty much a given that General Puyol would get his way in one way or another, since the Royal Family was at a clear disadvantage in regards to his marriage to begin with. Taking that into consideration, you still managed to clear the debt to General Puyol and averted the outstanding reward for the Guzzle Family from the previous Pack Dragon Subjugation, by allowing the marriage.
I would say the profit from the deal is satisfactory for the Royal Family.”
The Queen relaxed her shoulders in light of his assessment. But her secretary continued snappish as if to throw cold water on her hope.
“Well, Master Zenjirou is coming out on the short end, though. But that should prove to be no problem, either. He would never refuse such a well thought out deal.
He requires no wage and listens to everything you tell him. And above all, he would never dare to betray you. I doubt you could find a more faithful ‘pawn’ than him. You made quite the catch there, Your Majesty.”
On the receiving end of his irony, Aura almost lost control, when she slammed her right hand onto the table while bending over, but she pulled herself together in the next moment.
“…Are you saying I am treating my husband like a convenient chess piece?”
Aura placed her bottom back onto the chair with a sigh and asked her retainer in a somewhat feeble tone.
“If I may be frank: Yes, I cannot see it any other way, when I look at your recent treatment of him.”
Aura heaved another deep sigh in response to the words from Secretary Fabio.
Leaning back in her chair, Aura shut her eyes tightly and shook her head unruly a few times.
The reason she lost her temper and even sung small afterwards was precisely because it had rang a bell with her.
Lately, she had taken it for granted that she could entrust trivial matters to Zenjirou without a problem.
The Queen shuddered all too late in light of her altered train of thought, which “naturally” assumed that her husband was going to obey her unconditionally.
But the slender-faced secretary added indifferently, when he saw his master like this.
“Is something the matter? If I may say so, Master Zenjirou is not really offended by your one-sided distribution of work. So you are just feeling guilty on your own and that is not only meaningless, but also ridiculous.”
“You are as blunt as ever…”
The Queen gave her subordinate secretary a mixed look of anger and bitterness, but did not feel like forbidding him to speak.
To begin with, this man was her trusted retainer precisely because he could give tongue to painful fact like this.
Still, Aura did not take his whole statement at face value.
After rolling shoulders extensively and taking a deep breath, the Queen objected with a resolute face.
“You do have a point, but it is a fact that I am relying on my husband. And unless I admit to it, the reliance will only go out of hand.”
“A praiseworthy mindset, indeed. But you two are a married couple. I dare to say it is also unnatural, when the wife does not rely on her husband at all. Right now, you are constricting yourself a bit too much, which makes the whole situation unnatural instead.”
Being told that, Aura was at a loss for words. It certainly was not good for the relationship of a married couple, when they only made allowances for each other all the time.
As a matter of fact, Aura was somewhat annoyed by the lack of desire in Zenjirou. It admittedly was quite laudable to not cause trouble for others to the best of your ability, but when it started to concern people of your family, it gave off the impression of being “distant”.
The middle-aged secretary kept an inexpressive mask on his slender face while he warned the pondering Queen.
“Having said this, your worry that Master Zenjirou might get upset, might not necessarily be unfounded this time round.
After all he will need to take a different partner, when he attends the marriage ceremony without you.”
“Y- Yeah. You are right.”
The Queen contorted her face, when the pointer of her retainer hit the bullseye.
In the Carpa Kingdom it was common practice for an adult to attend a wedding ceremony with a partner of the other sex.
A married man would just take his wife with him and all was well, and when his wife was tied up with matters, he would ask a female relative. On the other hand, it was generally considered a confession of love, when an unmarried man asked someone to be his partner for the wedding ceremony.
Zenjirou was married alright, but he was going as the “representative of Aura” this time, so his wife could not accompany him as his partner.
As a consequence, Zenjirou needed to ask a different woman to be his partner. The chosen woman would then be seen as the leading candidate for a concubine without doubt.
The other matters aside for now, Aura was certainly reluctant to tell Zenjirou about this particularity, seeing as he was taking an obvious adverse stance on accepting a concubine.
“Oh well. I will be pushing my luck, but I guess I will ask Beldam Pascuala to accompany him.”
Pascuala was the wife of the Royal Archmage Espaldion and an old woman at the age of almost seventy years.
If an married old woman were to be his partner, she would hardly been seen as a future concubine candidate.
“Will the other nobles really put up with that? I mean, it is the perfect opportunity for them.”
“Probably not. We will have to push it through with some kind of specious story. And if that should fail… he really will get a concubine this time round. I just hope my husband will somehow accept it.”
Aura heaved a gloomy sigh.
The slender-faced secretary spoke a bit amused, when he saw his master depressed.
“Your Majesty really turns into a coward, when it comes to your husband. I have known you for a long time, so this is a refreshing sight.”
Aura raised her voice as expected and glared at her trusted retainer.
But as a matter of fact, she herself acknowledged that she acted like a coward, when it involved Zenjirou. He was giving her a pure and completely untarnished love, so she unconsciously felt a strong aversion to taint that love even a little bit.
Sitting in her chair, Aura closed her eyes and tapped the surface of her desk with the index finger of her right hand resting on the table while she mused.
“…Still, I have no other option, but to send my husband as my representative. I guess I will have to have a heart to heart talk with him.”
“I believe that is the right decision. Even in the unlikely event that Master Zenjirou will be offended by it, he fortunately will receive something that lifts his spirits in a few days.”
Suddenly, Aura’s facial expression took a change for the better.
That something to lift his spirits was nothing else but the ‘goats’ from Princess Freya.
The goats itself had been a present from Princess Freya for the birth celebration of Prince Carlos, but they would obviously occasion expenditure.
After all, they were the first mammal livestock in the Carpa Kingdom.
The goats needed an enclosure in the Royal Palace, the greenstuff needed to be cultivated for their food and people needed to be trained to take care of the goats.
All of this required a not insignificant amount of money.
Since the goats were not all that picky about the food and had a sturdy build, it was relatively easy to take care of them, but the people of the Carpa Kingdom had no experience with mammals down to the present day, so it was hardly a simple task.
By way of comparison: It was like asking a Modern Japanese milk farmer to raise iguanas now.
There was no other way but to rely on the subordinates of Princess Freya for everything in the beginning. And her subordinates would surely not lend a hand for free, either.
It was a troublesome undertaking that took time and money. Moreover, it was actually superfluous. Frankly speaking, Zenjirou was “having his way” with this project.
“It is kind of troublesome that the reception of Princess Freya coincides with the reception of the triumphal female warrior, who defeated the Huge Pack Dragon, but it is not really unfeasible. It will be a bit bothersome, but it is for the sake of my husband after all.”
Mentioning how much of a pain all this was, Aura was showing an unbefitting smile despite all that. After all, her husband had been selfish for the first time after never breathing a wish all this time. She could not help but feel extremely happy about granting him that wish.
Her secretary said a bit sarcastic, when he saw his master like that.
“You look like an overly doting grandmother that gets all excited about choosing a present for her first grandchild.”
“…Can you not say mother at least?”
The reproachful voice of the Queen lacked the usual edge, maybe because she was thinking the same.
“A mother would be a little bit stricter with her love.”
The brusque objection from her secretary rendered the Queen speechless and she puckered her lips.
* * *
At night of the same day.
In the living room of the Inner Palace, the royal couple sat next to each other on the couch after coming out of the bath and was touching glasses.
The four LED floor lamps, positioned in a circle around the two couches with a wooden table in-between, glittery illuminated the red and blue Kiriko glasses from Zenjirou and Aura.
The glasses were filled with an almost transparent alcohol. It was the long-known “distilled liquor”, but it was not made by Zenjirou himself this time.
The construction of a distiller was not all that complicated and the craftsmen of the Carpa Kingdom had been able to reproduce it, since they were relative adept at crafting copper ware.
Keeping the appropriate temperature had been a problem, but by trial and error, they apparently found a more or less accurate solution. Of course it was far more inefficient than the distiller from Zenjirou, which had an electronic hotplate that could heat up accurate to a degree, but for now, it was a working alternative.
That very distilled liquor from the distiller that the people of this world had built, was filling the glasses of Aura and Zenjirou right now.
Zenjirou swallowed the experimental alcohol after savouring it slowly and nodded curtly.
“Yep, tastes nice. It’s as good as mine. Well, that doesn’t mean much coming from me, though. To begin with, I don’t know if I should call the taste ’nice’, when it tastes just like my amateurish try.”
Likewise holding a glass, the Queen gave a smile to the words of her husband.
“Yes, I liked it as well. Good. Looks like we can proceed with a large-scale production.”
“Hmm, you sure? If we really want to mass produce it, we would need to make bigger distillers and it’s more than likely that unforeseen problems arise with a larger version.”
Zenjirou claimed that from a rather negative viewpoint, but Aura kept her smile up.
“We cross that bridge when we get to it. Trail-and-error is an integral part of starting a new business. Besides, I cannot allocate that much personnel to it for now anyway. We will just pay particular attention.”
The Carpa Kingdom was still recovering from the previous great war at the present moment. There was a lack of personnel everywhere, so it would be quite difficult to reallocate people for a new business, even for the Monarch.
But the distilled liquor had already been well received, when it was served to the nobles at the night banquet in the Royal Palace. Aura was of the opinion that it was only a matter of time until the initial investment was compensated for, as soon as they had a superstructure for the mass production ready.
“Well, it is no use discussing the distilled liquor any further now. Instead, Zenjirou.”
Zenjirou felt a cold shiver run down his spine, when his wife wiped the smile off her face and looked him straight into his eyes from beside him, and tilted his head puzzled.
“I want to discuss something slightly… no, something rather serious now. Okay?”
He gave his short okay and in order to underline his words, he put the blue Kiriko glass with the distilled liquor back onto the table and stood up from the couch to sit down on the other couch across from the Queen.
“First off, I have to tell you that Puyol Guillén and Lucinda Guzzle, the eldest daughter of the Guzzle Family, will soon get married.
As such, I would like you to attend their marriage ceremony as my representative. The ceremony will be held in the March of Guzzle.”
When the Queen told him that with a stern face, Zenjirou nodded acknowledging with a likewise stern face.
“….Eh? That is all you have to say?”
In light of her exaggerated preamble, Zenjirou had steeled himself for the worse, but he now cocked his head disappointed, since the matter did not sound all that grave to him.
Aura on the other hand heaved a small sigh at the sight of the poor reaction of her husband, and assumed a bitter smiling expression.
“I hate to admit it, but it seems that Fabio was right. Do you see nothing wrong with this?”
When Zenjirou still cocked his head perplexed, Aura eased her tension and explained carefully.
“Be it the matter of sending you to Valentia before or the matter of sending you to the March of Guzzle now, I am always deciding on matters without consulting with you in advance. Fabio said I am treating you like a ’convenient pawn’. And to be honest, I cannot deny it.”
“Oh, I see.”
Seeing his wife look down dejected, Zenjirou clapped his hands together as he finally understood.
He recalled how he had given his wife a small rebuke, when she one-sidedly had decided on his trip to Valentia. But this and that were two different matters.
“Now that you mention it, that really seems to happen a lot lately. But I know that politics sometimes call for a prompt decision, so I’m fine as long as you give me a convincing explanation afterwards.”
Aura had expected that answer from him. Or to be precise, Secretary Fabio had expected and told her about it at noon.
‘Master Zenjirou is not really offended by your one-sided distribution of work.’
These words of his had been the truth.
Zenjirou was not the least bit offended, even when she claimed to “treat him like a pawn”.
“You never get angry. Are you fine with being ‘treated like a pawn’?”
Aura bluntly asked him that.
Of course the Carpa Kingdom also had some people, who did not protest about being “treated like a pawn“. For example, the knights sworn to Aura actually took pride in being the “pawns of the Queen”.
But if they were to be “treated like a pawn” by their peers, they would surely be up in arms against it, too. The reason Aura could treat them like pawns without a problem was because of the clear hierarchy between the Queen and the Knights.
So it would make sense, when Zenjirou mentally “subordinated” himself to Queen Aura, but when they sat across each other like this, it was obvious at a glance that his attitude was at the same level as hers.
His wife was being honest with him, but her husband from a different world kept his head cocked to the somewhat vague question from her. Still, he answered to the best of his abilities.
“Ehm, I guess everything’s fine for now? But I would like to know now, why I’m being sent to the marriage ceremony, of course, and I’ll certainly get angry, if your explanation doesn’t sit well with me.”
In his mind, he was not really seeing Aura treating him like a “pawn”. On the contrary, he often cursed his own inability to help his wife, who was having a hard time with her duties.
Still not convinced by the answer of her husband, Aura breathed an anxious sound.
“Besides, you’re the Ruler here and I’m just your husband, so I think it’s only natural that you decide some things for me?”
Zenjirou simply considered it “situation-dependent” to “obey the orders from a peer”.
In middle and high school, he had obeyed a junior in regards to his position during the matches of the soccer club, and as a working adult, he had witnessed a couple of meetings, where the project members obeyed the instructions of their even-aged project leader. Needless to say, the situation could go into reverse on the next project, when someone else became the project leader.
Zenjirou only knew the Japanese way of thinking and amidst that, the moral concept that everyone was equal was not contradictory to the fact that there needed to be two kind of people, namely one giving orders and one following orders, in order to effectively and smoothly run an organisation.
Aura on the other hand was raised in a world with the moral concept that the hierarchy also constituted the line of command par for par, except for a few exceptions, so she might have trouble understanding it.
“…I see. Well, as long as you are fine with it. But we have already diverged from initially promised outlook quite a bit by now. Thus, I deemed it necessary to have a proper talk with you.”
“The initially promised outlook?”
“Yes. When I summoned you, I told you that I would ask you for nothing but your cooperation in making a child, right?”
Zenjirou clasped his hand understanding in response to the reply from Aura.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about that. I never expected you to keep that promise anyway.”
For the first time since they had met, the Queen looked hurt from the bottom of her heart, so her husband quickly corrected himself.
“Ah, no! That’s… that’s not what I meant, Aura! It’s not like I don’t trust you. I just wanted to say that the conditions were too good to be true and I never expected to be a full-time sponger, because the Prince Consort is still royalty after all. Nothing more than that!”
As the fruit of his earnest explanation, Aura’s expression took a change for the better.
Seeing that, Zenjirou heaved a sigh of relief while he continued.
“So I might be late in saying this, but I completely agree with your idea to discuss everything in honesty. We should forget all about ‘what is currently right’ and about being ’considerate’ or ’reserved’. Let’s just lay bare our genuine wishes.”
“Yes, I guess we have to start from there.”
With her intent finally coming across, the Queen leaned forward while remaining seated on the couch, in response to the answer from Zenjirou.
“Then let me hear your wish first of all. What do you want to do, Zenjirou? How do you want to live your life from now on?”
The serious question from his wife prompted a slightly overwhelmed Zenjirou to clear his throat affected once before he slowly framed an answer.
“Hmm, okay. Then I’ll just list my wishes as I think of them. It might sound a bit inconsistent, though.
Here I go: I want more time with you. I want to live together with Zenkichi. I want all three of us to sleep together in the same bed. But sometimes it would be good, when it’s just us two in the bed. We wouldn’t be sleeping then, though.
On the other hand, I don’t want any woman beside you. The Inner Palace is my home, my family, so I don’t want anyone from outside the family in it.
What else… Oh right, I’m starting to miss the food from Japan. And I want to do something about the shampoo that’s almost used up.
I’m curious about how the soccer team I supported is doing. I want to play some soccer, even if it’s just on a sandlot. I want to listen to the new songs from my favourite band. I want to access the internet on my computer.
And I’m bored to death in the afternoon, so I want to do something productive. Making the distilled liquor was fun, for instance.
But I don’t want to shoulder any heavy responsibilities like foreign policies. And I absolutely hate to attend parties, where countless nobles try to push concubines onto me at all times.”
As expected, even Zenjirou had some pent-up frustrations. In the beginning, he had made some petty demands, but over time, his wishes started to get more and more selfish, finally escalating into voicing his grievance.
Hearing that gush of words, Aura kept a composed expression on the surface, but heaved a sigh of relief at heart.
(I was right to bring up the subject. It seems he really has bottled up quite the frustration without knowing it.)
Zenjirou was an understanding man with a high tolerance limit. Even if there was something he would like to do, he would soft-pedal, when there was a legit reason not to do it. And he would do something against his will, when the situation called for it.
Because of his nature, Zenjirou himself tended to misunderstand it, but he in fact piled up the dissatisfaction about not doing what he wanted to do, and the frustration about being made to do something against his will.
His mind comprehended the fact that he could not avoid doing it, but his heart had trouble keeping up with that reasoning. Without even realizing it themselves, people would thus store a pool of negative emotions and become more irritated towards trivial things, answering with sarcasm.
Fortunately enough, Zenjirou was relatively broad-minded, so these symptoms had not surfaced yet, but listening to him made it clear how much frustration he had built up.
“Well, I know I’m just being selfish here, but that’s it.”
Zenjirou went red in the face, as he became embarrassed about having thrown a demanding tantrum like a child, but he also looked somewhat relieved.
Her husband had uttered his desires outright for the first time. Of course Aura held an opinion about it.
But for now, she showed no reaction in particular to his words and voiced her own wishes like they had agreed on in advance.
“My wishes can be arranged in two categories: What I wish for as your wife and what I wish for as the Queen of this Kingdom.
The first category is unproblematic. As a woman, I want to monopolize you as well. Likewise, I want us to spend more time with Carlos. In that point, our wishes coincide.
So I want you to understand that the wishes I am going to tell you now are only from my standpoint as the Queen.”
Listening to his wife, Zenjirou understood in his mind that he should take it serious now, but he just could not help but smile.
He could put himself in Aura’s shoes for a bit now, since she always tried to make him say embarrassing stuff like “I love you”. Even if you could be sure of the feelings of your partner, it was still something special, when it was put it into words like this. His whole body was stricken by a pleasantly prickling bashfulness.
The Queen softened her gaze for a second, when she saw him raising the corners of his mouth, but immediately put on a serious expression again and continued.
“As the Queen, the first thing I want you do is take a concubine.
It is becoming more and more difficult to shut up the nobles of our country. And when you take one, the Twin Kingdom will not ignore it, because of the secret agreement we have. So I want you to take another concubine from their side as well.
The power balance on the continent will shift, when we manage to make magical tools with the glass pearls in the future. And for that, I would like to establish a new court noble family without its own territory that inherits the ’Bestowal Magic’ in our Kingdom.
In accordance, I would like to advance the glass production thoroughly and I need your help in that. I will gladly take any ideas that increase the fortune of the Royal Family like the waterwheel improvements or the distilled liquor, too.
Needless to say, I want you to continue your work as my representative, because we two are the only grown-up royalties in our country.
A lot of negotiations call for a royalty to be present and it will ease the burden on me, when you attend any proforma events in my stead.”
Zenjirou obviously made a face at the blunt demands from Queen Aura and croaked out a genuinely repulsed voice.
It was as expected, but the wishes from Zenjirou and the wishes from Queen Aura beautifully contradicted each other. They only barely agreed on the manufacture stuff like glass or liquor, but everything else was something Queen Aura wanted him to do as much as Zenjirou wanted to avoid it.
Aura kept her mask as the Queen and continued.
“But the thing I am most afraid of is that we seriously will grow apart. So you have nothing to worry about, nor do you need to be reserved. I will generally prioritize your feelings over the wishes I just mentioned.
Nevertheless, tell me all of your dissatisfaction only in the ‘Inner Palace’. I want you to refrain from criticizing me in the Royal Palace. It would be the most fatal wound for me.”
Zenjirou could not conceal his surprise towards the words from the Queen.
“I would never criticize you. Wait, is this country really that male-dominated?”
The Queen shook her head with a stern face in response to his question.
“No, it was not really a problem at first. No matter how patriarchal our culture may be, the Crown has enough power to overturn it.
Besides, I have quite the strong powerbase, if I may say so myself, because I led the country to victory in the previous war, where everything was in chaos from having lost four rulers, my uncle, my father, my little and older brothers, in succession.
Just like I had originally foreseen, it was no real problem while you just stayed in the Inner Palace and only helped with making a child.
However, that no longer applies to you. For better or worse, you are intelligent enough to handle foreign negotiations and have an extremely understanding personality. Everyone knows that now.”
“Oops. Did I get ahead of myself?”
Zenjirou screwed up his face all too late, but Aura shook her head.
“No, you have done well. It is entirely my fault. In the beginning, I had only wanted you to attend the bare minimum of events or parties, but you proved to be more ‘useful’ than I had expected, so I ended up relying on you more and more without realizing it.”
The reason for that must have been her pregnancy.
Before it, Zenjirou certainly only had the bare minimum of duties to fulfil. But when Aura got pregnant and felt worse than expected, she could no longer undertake her duties as the Queen like before.
The only one with enough status to act as her representative was Zenjirou and he was competent enough to accomplish the duties as her representative appropriately. In a way, it was an unfortunate combination.
Even while Aura was still recovering from having given birth, Zenjirou continued to support his wife as her representative. Queen Aura ended up getting used to it and without knowing it, she took it for granted that her husband would work as her representative, even after she had fully recovered.
The decisive blow had been the earlier ruckus with the Pack Dragons attacking Valentia.
Strictly speaking, it had been Xavier Guzzle, Raffaelo Márguez and Skathi aka. Victoria Kronkvist, the female warrior from the Uppsala Kingdom, who achieved the subjugation, but on the paper, Zenjirou had been in charge of the final battle with the Pack Dragons.
In other words, he proved that he was more than capable to hold his own in the court and showed everyone that he was ready to stand on the battlefield himself, when it called for it.
It would be no exaggeration to say that Zenjirou already had enough influence to start up his own faction in the Royal Palace, if he felt like it.
Hearing that explanation from his wife, Zenjirou was a bit troubled over the unnecessarily high evaluation he got, but he understood the situation he was in and nodded with a serious expression.
“Okay. I was already mindful about it before, but from now on, I’ll be even more careful about my actions outside the Inner Palace. These kind of malicious rumours usually spread without consideration for the concerned party after all.”
“Yes, please do.”
Aura was about to heave a sigh of relief in response to the usual understanding reply of her husband, when she suddenly realized something.
(Not good. I was supposed to listen to his wishes today, but at some point, I started to push my conveniences onto him again. If I am not careful, the bad habit to rely on the patience of my husband gets out again.)
The Queen strongly reprimanded herself, pulled herself together and faced her husband anew.
“Well, I can only ask for your understanding in that matter, but for everything else, I intend to grant as many of your wishes as possible.
We both do have an interest in producing things such as the distilled liquor, so please focus on that.”
“Yeah, I want to complete a magnet first of all. Once the goats arrive here, I want to make cheese and butter, but I heard the Uppsala Kingdom has these, too, so instead of trying on my own, it might be faster to ask Princess Freya for help.”
“Oh, right. I have not told you about it yet. Princess Freya and her group have already left Valentia. That goes for your goats as well, of course. They should arrive in the Capital in a few days.”
“Oh, I can’t wait.”
Zenjirou revealed a grin in light of her notice. With dairy goods like cheese, butter or cream, he would be able to try out all the confectionary that had been impossible to reproduce so far. Having more semiluxury food you meant having a richer life.
The mood started to relax from the merry topic, but Aura addressed another complicated matter.
“Let us move on. You are reluctant to get involved with foreign affairs and higher society. If possible, you would like to abstain from doing it. Correct?”
“To be honest, yes. But I know it’s part of my job as royalty, so I’ll do it with gritted teeth, even if I don’t like it.”
Leaning back into the couch, Zenjirou glared at the ceiling and was immersed in his thoughts for a bit before he answered like that.
It was his job or his obligation as royalty, to be precise.
“In other words, you would prefer it, when you do not have to do the things that can be avoided?”
When the Queen asked him that, Zenjirou brooded over it, then shook his head.
“…Not quite. It’s a bit complicated. I can’t seem to settle down, when I do nothing, although I know there’s work to do.
Of course it would be great, if there’s no work to begin with, but when there’s work to do, I don’t really want to run away from it.”
“Mh? Could you elaborate a bit more? It is a bit hard to understand.”
The Queen cocked her head puzzled, whereupon Zenjirou pondered for a moment and then explained it while cocking his head thoughtfully as well.
“Ehm, how shall I put it? The work in foreign affairs or higher society certainly is a pain. But it’s even more painful for me to turn a blind eye on my obligations as royalty.”
Put another way: It was the same difference as between “playing truant” and “having a day off school” for a student.
Going to school every day was real a bother, so you were extremely grateful, when the school closed for a day. But the illegal act of “playing truant” left you with a guilty conscience. Instead of going through that, it was so much easier just to attend school every day, even if it was a bother.
A reasonable amount of diligence, a reasonable amount of seriousness and a reasonable amount of reluctance. That kind of mentality was not all that rare for a Modern Japanese.
His careful, but clumsy explanation let Aura still more or less understand what he wanted to say, since she was quick in the uptake.
“I see. You mean that you would feel guilty about abandoning your obligations, even if you hate them. And that it would be a lesser burden on your mind, when you reluctantly do your work, instead of experiencing that guilty conscience.”
“Yeah, pretty much. Ah, but my patience has its limits, too, of course! It’s still quite alright for now, but my workload keeps growing lately, right? If it goes on like that, I’ll be at the end of my patience soon enough.”
“Hmm, you are right. Forgive me. I will be more careful from now on.”
The Queen apologized in a laudable manner to her husband, who preached caution.
“Yeah, please. Ah, but you don’t have to worry about emergencies like the wedding now or the trip to Valentia before that.”
Aura summarized the conclusion they had reached just now inside her head.
(In short, I can allocate work for him like before, if it is an emergency, but I better reduce his general workload for foreign affairs or higher society as much as possible.)
Foreign affairs could involve people like Prince Francesco and Princess Bona or the soon arriving Princess Freya, whom Zenjirou had to entertain at all costs, but everyone else like foreign diplomats or national nobles did not necessarily require the hospitality from a royalty. It just meant that things would proceed more smoothly, when a royalty was present.
“Okay, I shall limit your work for foreign affairs and higher society to an acceptable level from now on.”
It was kind of unfortunate that she could only make minimum use of her pawn known as the Prince Consort now, but the Queen concluded that it was her turn to give ground here.
“You also mentioned all kind of things you wanted. Since I did not really understand it, I take it that these are things from your world. Would it be possible to get your hands on these on this world? Ah, you do not have to worry about money or such. Just tell me if it is possible or not.”
When Aura told him that money and effort were not an issue, Zenjirou cast his gaze to the ceiling and mused.
“Hmm… It’s definitely impossible to watch a match of the junior league here. Soccer by itself is technically possible here. You just need to gather some people and teach them the rules, but I would rather not do that, since it only complicates my connections further.
Listening to any new songs is impossible, too. Or at least I can’t think of how it would be possible.
But the food from Japan will be possible once I get the goats. Well, it’ll mainly be confectionary, though.
As for the shampoo, I already started to work on a replacement. I was ready to make the bath supplies here from the very beginning, so I put some instructions on my computer.
For stuff like soap shampoo or hair rinse from mixing kelp ash with citrus juice.”
“Indeed. The soap shampoo does concern me as well. It should be no problem to acquire the ingredients for it at least.”
The Queen let on about her standpoint as his wife for a bit, when Zenjirou answered like that, and nodded in agreement.
She was using the same soap shampoo as him. After all, they were usually sleeping in the same bed. There would be no point if only Zenjirou cleaned himself up, but Aura refrained from doing so.
Considering that, she was already quite accommodating to her husband.
The Carpa Kingdom had a climate of high temperatures and high humidity, so the custom of taking baths was relatively widespread, but not even royalty or nobility took one every day. Moreover, it was common practice to apply a lot of perfumed oil to erase the smell on the body or hair, but Zenjirou hated the scent and sensation of the perfumed oil to no end, so Aura refrained from using it inside the Inner Palace out of consideration for him.
Needless to say, it was sort of common sense for aristocracy in the Carpa Kingdom that the perfumed oil was indispensable, when she pursued her duties as the Queen of the Carpa Kingdom in the Royal Palace.
Thus Aura was thoroughly washing off the perfumed oil she had applied to her hair and skin in the Royal Palace every day in the Inner Palace, sometimes repeating that pattern numerous times a day.
She changed herself to suit the preferences of her husband. That was a praiseworthy approach, but in a way, she was no exception to the model of femininity in the male-dominated Carpa Kingdom.
Whether he knew about the devotion of his wife or not, Zenjirou nodded with a smile.
“Good, please do that. To be honest, I’m rather obstinate, when it comes to hygiene. Well, I can bear with it, when I only sweat a bit like right now, but I just have to take a bath, when it’s so humid during the Rainy Season or I sweat all over during the Hottest Season.”
He said that was a slightly troubled expression, since he realized that he was being selfish.
“Hmm, I can understand the Rainy Season, but I fail to comprehend how you can take a hot bath instead of a cold one during the oppressive heat of the Hottest Season. Still, if it is that important to you, I will comply with you.”
The Queen was the most important figure in the Kingdom, but she was adjusting her lifestyle to his.
Speaking of, it was also selfish of Zenjirou how he usually did not allow any waiting maids into the living room. Aura was born and raised as royalty, so she should take it for granted that she was surrounded by waiting maids all the time.
Despite that, Aura adopted herself to Zenjirou’s common sense and kept the waiting maids out of their private space as much as possible. That meant that she had to fetch anything in the room by herself and change simple sets of clothing by herself. There was no way that it left her unaffected.
Zenjirou gave thanks to her from the bottom of his heart, when the devoted love of his wife was brought to his mind once again.
Because she had taken him, a man with moral values different from her world, as her Prince Consort, Aura had to muster up a tolerance she would originally never need.
(I need to remember that at all times. Otherwise, I might get the illusion that I’m the only one that has to soft-pedal. And that would be arrogant.)
Zenjirou told himself that once more.
“You are welcome. It was not worth mentioning, though. So, anything else?”
Zenjirou cracked a wry smile, when his wife brushed it off manly, and continued.
“The internet, I guess. You told me it’s impossible before, but I think it would be feasible with some specialized magical tools to connect to the internet in this world.
The ‘Summoning Magic’ is dependant on the star constellation. So if we bring a small space in line with the correct constellation through ‘Time Reversal’ or ‘Time Acceleration’, it would make that space eligible for the ‘Summoning Magic’, wouldn’t it?
When we use the ‘Summoning Magic’ then, I say it’s possible to link our worlds for a bit.”
His aim was to create an environment, where his computer could access the internet, by linking it to a space with a nearby WiFi hotspot.
To achieve that, Aura did not need to make a human-sized connection between the worlds like she did, when she summoned Zenjirou here. Simply put, it sufficed to have a hole with the size of an eye of a needle, as long as the wireless signal could get through.
But Aura shook her head regretful after hearing the detailed plan from her husband.
“No, like I told you before, that is impossible.
First of all, ‘Time Reversal’ can only be cast onto a specific object, not some kind of space. Even if you wanted to cast it on an area, you would need to adjust the incantation first. And when you do that, the required amount of magical power will chance as well. You would basically create a completely new kind of spell.”
“A new spell? Can you actually do that, Aura?”
Aura answered with a laugh to the surprised Zenjirou.
“Of course. I may not be as good as the seasoned court mages, but I can improve already existing spells. The bloodline magic is a secret skill, so royalty has no choice but to fiddle with it themselves.”
If anything, Aura specialized in politics and warfare. She was not really passionate about advancing magic. But as royalty, she knew about her obligation to pass the bloodline magic onto the next generation, so she had acquired the essential knowledge and skills for it.
In fact, Aura had modified the ‘Summoning Magic’ that she had used to bring Zenjirou into this world.
The original “Summoning Magic’ was restrictive, since it could only summon someone you clearly envisioned in your mind. With the condition “a man with a disposition for Space-Time Magic living in a different world”, she had modified it in such a way that she could bring an unknown person into this world.
Having said this, the previous King Carlos II, well-known for his magic research, had devised the majority of that modification and Aura had only given it the final touch.
She then threw more cold water on Zenjirou’s hopes.
“Besides, the ’Summoning Magic’ itself is a problem. All it can do is instantly summon a person or object from a different world. But you want to link both worlds for the longer term, correct? That would require a completely different magic.
Maybe something like a ’World Link’ spell? But even if you take an already existing spell, it would already take more ore less a year to adjust. And I honestly have no idea how long it would take to create a new spell from scratch.”
When the problematic points were practically slapped into his face, Zenjirou screwed up his face and fell silent.
He still knew relatively little about magic, but even so, he could somehow tell that it was extremely difficult to devise a new spell such as “World Link” while adjusting the “Time Reversal” magic at the same time.
In the worst-case scenario, it might turn out to be quicker, when he studied magic with all his might and devised the magic himself instead of Aura, since she was always busy with something, whereas he had relative much free time on his hands.
Although he understood all that, Zenjirou still could not let go of the idea and questioned his wife further.
“Okay, I understand that it’s impossible in practice for now. But in theory? Let’s say we can adjust ‘Time Reversal’ to be cast on an area and create a new ‘World Link’ magic. Would it be possible to do it then?
Is it even realistic to adjust ‘Time Reversal’ and create a ‘World Link’ magic?”
The question from her husband prompted the Queen to cross her arms under her breasts and ponder for a moment before she replied.
“Hmm, I am not that knowledgeable about magic to call myself an expert, so I cannot say for sure, but it should technically be possible. Both magic are a kind of Space-Time magic after all.
But to be honest, I am not sure whether that alone will suffice to achieve what you want to do.
Shifting an area into the past with an adjusted ‘Time Reversal’ and continuously connecting our worlds with ‘World Link’ would require an enormous amount of non-stop magical power. It will be impossible to maintain, unless you draw the magical power from ‘Future Compensation’.”
This implied that they needed a double deployment of “Future Compensation”. If the worst came to the worst, they would have to pay with several month worth of magical power from Aura for a couple of minutes to access the internet.
“Uwah, it takes that much? Ah, but you can store your magical power from time to time in the magical tool Prince Francesco is going to make, right? If we use that…”
Her husband beamed with joy as though he had found a solution, but the Queen shook her head inexpressively.
“No, I cannot permit that. I already decided how to use that tool. You told me that the things you brought with you have a lifespan, right? I will use the stored magical power to cast ‘Time Reversal’ on them from time to time.”
The things she spoke of mainly referred to his electrical appliances.
The LED floor lamps, the refrigerator, the air conditioner, the television, the computer, etcetera. All of them had a guaranteed lifespan of five to ten years from the manufacturer. Even the domestic hydropower generator, which was the foundation for everything else, only had a lifespan of fifteen to twenty years. Moreover, they were not in Japan here. This world had higher temperatures than Japan, so it would not be strange, if the electrical appliances were to break before the guarantee of the manufacture expired.
“Oh, right. That definitely has more priority than accessing the internet. Nothing beats having a long-living refrigerator or aircon after all.”
Zenjirou clapped his hands convinced. Originally, he had brought along the home devices as some kind of “support wheels” until he got used to his new life in the Carpa Kingdom, but why pass on the opportunity, when a cheat-like magic like “Time Reversal” could prolong their lifespan.
Especially the afore-mentioned refrigerator and air-conditioner were a real treasure on the overwhelmingly hot South Continent.
Fascinated by their appeal, the Queen started to agree with her husband for a moment, but then shook her head as if to shake off the temptation.
“Yes, you are right… No, wait. I want to preserve them, too, if possible, but I primary want to use it on something else, namely that so-called computer of yours. It got the highest priority.”
In light of her unexpected answer, Zenjirou cocked his head baffled.
“My computer? You can’t use it, can you? So why?”
Needless to say, the operating system and programs on his computer were mainly in Japanese. It was completely useless to Aura, since she did not know Japanese or English.
But she replied with a confident look.
“Because I want you to keep using it for the ‘tax check-up’. The yearly tax report is heavily influenced by it.”
So far, Zenjirou had input the written tax reports given to Aura by the feudal lords every year into the calculation software on his computer and double-checked them.
On the basis of that calculation, Aura reprimanded the feudal lords about their taxes, squeezing profit from it for the treasury.
It was an advantage beyond description that Zenjirou, someone she had absolute faith in, was doing the whole final tax check by himself. Thanks to him, the news that you could not dodge the taxes on paper from the Royal Family, spread like wildfire.
Of course forging the tax documents was not the only way to dodge the taxes. There were plenty of other methods such as changing the size of the delivery carriages carrying the goods, specifying the population or farmland in the domain lesser than it actually was or obtaining tax exemptions due to made-up catastrophes.
Accordingly, the calculation software only covered a small portion of the tax evasion as a whole, but the fact that the forgery of the documents was seen through, put a lot of pressure on the feudal lords.
Although Zenjirou was convinced by her explanation, he put forth his next doubt.
“Hmm, I understand the value of the computer now, but is it wise to entrust a government system to a machine only I can use? Or do you plan to learn how to use it?”
The Queen shook her head with an earnest expression in response to his question.
“Well, I would like to, if I had the time, but I will leave it to our daughter.”
That reply came out of the blue.
“‘Daughter’? Huh? What do you mean?”
Needless to say, the only child they had right now was Prince Carlos Zenkichi and like his title implied, he was a boy.
Aura then explained it carefully to the puzzled Zenjirou.
“You see, I have been thinking about it for some time now. We have a monopole on this method thanks to that computer tool of yours and it would be a shame to discontinue it after our generation.
In other words, we just have to pass it onto the next generation. A child between you and me will be able to use ‘Space-Time Magic’ more likely than not. And if it is a girl, she can stay in the Inner Palace until she is grown-up. It should not be all that difficult to teach her how to use it, when you have all the time in the world.
Of course we will teach her ’Space-Time Magic’ as well. Once she can use ’Future Compensation’ and ’Time Reversal’ and only uses it on your ’heritage’, it will be possible to keep the system running for a long time.”
“Y- Yeah, I see now…”
Zenjirou reacted with a frown to the words of his wife.
She wanted to raise her future daughter into a maintenance worker and user of all the electrical appliances. Her idea was certainly promising, if you only took the profit for the Royal Family as a whole in consideration.
But Zenjirou was raised in a normal Japanese household, so to be honest, he was fiercely against deciding the role of his own daughter in life before her birth without consent and treating her almost like some “repair tool for the electrical appliances”.
The same could technically be said about the First Prince Carlos Zenkichi, since it was set in stone the moment he was born that he would be the next King, so Zenjirou might just have to accept it as the fate of Royalty.
“In the future, I would like to establish a matrilineal branch family, whose matriarchs will undertake the same responsibility generation after generation.
There is always the risk that the branch family may be taking over, when you give them special privileges, so we would to have to be careful about it, but in my opinion, it is not such a bad idea, if we can work together as a unified ’Royal Family’. What do you think?”
The Queen had guessed from his expression that he was not really fond of her idea, so she gave a more elaborated explanation in order to convince him.
For a moment, Zenjirou was going to say that he left the decision up to Aura like always, but then he remembered that they wanted to have an open conversation without reservation today.
He put both feet on the ground and leaned a bit forward on the couch for some reason before he nervously spoke his mind.
“Ehm, I wonder if our daughter can become happy, when we enforce only one way of living on her the moment she’s born?”
As the Ruler of a major power, Aura could not really relate to his honest opinion.
“Mh? The fact that she will be born as royalty means that her way of living is already decided. Whether she will be happy or not depends on the love we give her as her family, the ease and comfort from the wet nurse and her own effort most of all. Am I wrong?”
In this world it was only natural to be born into a certain class and take over the business of the family as a rule. According to its moral concept it was by no means an unfortunate thing to have your “way of living decided upon birth”.
If anything, the younger siblings even envied that secure future, because they were in a position, where they could not follow in the steps of their parents.
Zenjirou understood that in his head, but his heart could not quite keep up with it after all.
Based on the premise that your future was already outlined for you, you pursued your own happiness as appropriate in this world, whereas in Modern Japan you principally had the all the freedom to choose your job. These two set of values had very few in common.
At a loss what to do with his sympathetic reasoning and unsympathetic emotions, Zenjirou scratched his head irritated on a rare occasion.
“Ah, yeah, you’re right. Well, you are, but… I think it’s scary to have everything decided already upon birth. You can’t rule out the possibility, either, that she can’t keep up with the lesson for the calculation software, not to mention the other devices.”
In Modern Japan, almost anyone could master the calculation software with enough time.
But the circumstances were entirely different here in the Carpa Kingdom. Since their daughter would be born as royalty of the Carpa Kingdom, she would learn the language of the western part of the South Continent as her mother tongue. Learning the writing of that language took priority as well, of course.
It should be extremely difficult for such a person to master the calculation software, since it displayed literally everything, even the help screen, only in Japanese or English. Moreover, Zenjirou was by no means an “expert” in regards to the computer or the calculation software, so he did not really qualify as a teacher.
Even so, he might be able to teach her the essential operations, but just like he had mentioned just now, its success was not absolutely certain.
“Hmm, maybe I should write a manual about the stuff for posterity?”
“Yes, that sounds good. Knowledge tends to distort every time you pass it on only by word of mouth. It would be extremely helpful, when you leave behind a written manual.”
It would take a bit of effort to put his knowledge into a book, but it was actually not all that difficult to accomplish. After all, this world had the automatic translator known as “Soul of Words”.
All they had to do was having Zenjirou dictate it to Aura while she wrote it down in the language of the western part of the South Continent. It was not an easy job as a whole, but it would not be such a huge burden, when they did it bit by bit every evening.
“Yeah, it doesn’t hurt to have a manual either way. By the way.”
Her husband suddenly looked around restlessly and wore a hinted smile, whereupon the Queen cocked her head a bit wondering.
“Well, we keep talking this and that about our ‘daughter’, but we still don’t have one, right?”
They conversation resolved around the premise that they would get a daughter in the future. Did that meant that the ban on the recently neglected “act to make children” was lifted? Seeing as her husband was brimming over with that desire, the Queen gave him the answer he was waiting for with a grin.
“Oh, that. Yes, you guessed right.
Carlos is growing up well and you have taken quite some work off my shoulders as my representative. My condition is fine as well, so I think the time has come to make a second child.”
Zenjirou answered with a low voice while his pupils dilated and the corners of his mouth twitched upwards past comparison.
“You look lecherous.”
His expression displayed his lust so straightforward that even the steadfast Aura reflexively felt like backing off while she gave him a wry smile.
Moreover, Zenjirou raised both his hands to his head and erratically moved his ten fingers in a gripping manner.
“You are acting lecherous as well.”
Aura quickly embraced herself in an attempt to hide her cleavage with her arms, since she sensed danger. But no amount of arms could ever hope to conceal her voluptuous body in the thin nightgown she was wearing.
If anything, she actually emphasised her cleavage by hugging herself, giving rise to a sensational sight.
“Hah, Hah, Hah…”
Still looking lecherous and moving his hands lecherously, Zenjirou raised from the couch in a stooping position and approached her slowly.
“Wait, what are you going to do with these hands?”
Practically gluing herself to the back of the couch, Aura took her distance from him.
“Hoh, Hoh, Hoh…”
Zenjirou put his right foot on the wooden table between the two couches without hesitation and slowly drew closer to his wife in a straight line.
“Hey, calm down. Your lust has gotten the better of you.”
“You told me to be open about ‘my desires without holding back’ today.”
“I did not mean it like that! I wanted you to speak your mind and said nothing about taking action on the spot!”
Seeing as she did not move from the couch despite her protest, Aura must have been willing, too. Besides, they were as different as a little kitten and a tiger in regards to physical strength. If Aura seriously wanted to resist, Zenjirou would have no chance against her.
After he slowly climbed over the table, Zenjirou leaned over the couch his wife was sitting on.
“Wait. Let us go to the bedroom at least.”
“It is not! It is right over there!”
“Right now, it‘s an insurmountable distance for me.”
It was pretty rare for Zenjirou to oppose Aura that much. He had probably “hungered” for this situation that bad.
It was useless. There was no way to stop him.
Realizing that, the Queen showed a faint wry smile and spread her arms resigned, accepting her husband, who was crowding her from above.
“Oh please, at least speak normal.”
Nevertheless, she did not miss out on giving her husband a light smack on the back part of his head while he buried his face into her breasts.
Chapter 02: Victory Celebration in the Capital
The residents of the Capital perceived a sudden event in the Capital such as a victory celebration as bothersome on the one hand, but it was the perfect opportunity for some fun on the other hand.
After all, how could it not be a bother, when the always heavily trafficked main street was going to be blocked for a whole day.
But at the same time, it was pretty much a festival, so amusement was guaranteed. The smart merchants opened up stalls near the blocked main street and anyone with a house facing the main street rented the roof or second floor to some spectators for some extra income.
Sure, it would be a problem, if it lasted for numerous days, but once in a while, it was a welcome change.
For that reason, Princess Freya and her vassals were received very warm-hearted, when they arrived from the Seaport of Valentia, making a triumphal entry.
Various dragon-drawn carriages and fully armed soldiers paraded over the main street of the Capital.
The vanguard consisted of a dragon-drawn cart that carried the skull of the Huge Pack Dragon. Because it had been a couple of days since its defeat, the decaying skin and flesh had been scrapped off, so it was just the bare bone now, but even then, the huge skull was still quite impressive by itself.
“Wow! So huge!! The head alone is as tall as myself!”
“That blonde female warrior on top of it was the one to finish it off.”
“She’s quite tall herself. To be honest, I wouldn’t want to stand next to her.”
“But she’s pretty. A fine woman.”
As expected, the eyes of the gathered spectators were all focussed on the skull of the Huge Pack Dragon and the blonde female warrior Victoria Kronkvist alias Skathi, who stood atop of it.
It was extremely rare on the South Continent that a woman enlisted as a warrior. Even more so, when she was capable of leading an own unit and defeating the Huge Pack Dragon. That alone made her already an object of attention.
On top of that, Skathi was an eye-catching beauty.
With an height of over one-hundred and eighty centimetre, she was extraordinarily tall for a woman and her body was trained to such an extent that you could tell on a glance, but despite that, her breasts and bottom kept a feminine curve. And although the look in her eyes was a bit too piercing, she still qualified as a “beauty”.
It goes without saying that a beautiful female warrior from a different country caused a sensation with her military achievement.
Her master, Princess Freya, had also told her beforehand that her military achievement was contributing quite a bit to the negotiations, so Skathi was proudly throwing out her chest and swung around her beloved short spear with the Sea Elephant Tusk in response to the spectators on the street.
Behind her followed the soldiers of the Uppsala Kingdom, who were an object of attention as well.
“I’ve got to say, the guys from the North Continent sure are tall. All of them are at least a head taller than me.”
“You can say that again! Is the North Continent the land of giants, or what?”
Their hair was blonde or light brown and their blue, green or gray eyes had vivid colours as well. Their keen faces were coupled with projected cheeks and a beard from the chin up. And above all, even the smallest of them was at least one-hundred and eighty centimetre tall, whereas the bigger ones had a muscular physique that easily measured over one-hundred and ninety centimetre.
These foreign giants were parading in unfamiliar leather or chain armours while wearing swords and short spears. That sight automatically made you back off one step, even if you knew that they posed no danger.
A few young men amongst the spectators touched their own arms or chests, comparing themselves to the army of giants passing by in front of them.
The pompously decorated carriage, driving shielded in the middle of these soldiers, drew relatively few attention.
Although the carriage was quite big, splendid and drawn by four Raptorial Dragons, it was not really an unusual sight for the residents of the Capital as compared to the skull of the Huge Pack Dragon or the giant soldiers of the North Continent.
Of course it would be a different matter, if Princess Freya were to put her beautiful silver hair and ice-blue eyes on display, but for reasons of safety, the enclosed carriage had very small windows.
Princess Freya did sit by the window and waved her hands with a smile to the citizens on the streets, but only a few people noticed her.
If anything, she used the window to intently observe the Capital of a different country for the first time.
(It looks a lot more prosperous than I thought. The main street is cobbled with a wheel path for vehicles. The houses are mainly built with wood, but in an elaborated manner and usually two-storied along the main street. Some even have a third story.
The people look healthy as well and I cannot see any starved out people, nor any homeless children. Considering that the great war ended only a few years ago, I would say it is safe to assume that this is indeed a flourishing major power.)
Princess Freya acknowledged once again that a trade agreement with this country would bring a lot of profit for her mother country.
“If possible, I would like to request that His Majesty Zenjirou continues to act as my contact person…”
She suddenly breathed what she was thinking at heart, but the waiting maid assigned to her by the Carpa Kingdom, sat at a distance, so she did not hear it.
The exchange between Zenjirou and Princess Freya had only lasted for a few days, but in these few days, she had more or less caught on to the personality from the man called Zenjirou.
For a royalty, he was pure-minded and sincere to the point that she had never seen someone like him before. Despite his standing as the Prince Consort, he did not seem to have much authority or decision-making power, but Princess Freya preferred to negotiate with a sincere and non-fraudulent person, even if he had less authority.
Otherwise put: Princess Freya viewed Zenjirou as a “negotiation partner that was easy to deal with”.
(His Majesty Zenjirou is the Prince Consort and one of the two royalty in this kingdom right now. That leaves only one other royalty to deal with: Her Majesty Aura. If half of what I have heard is true, she will be a formidable opponent, though.)
The silver-haired princess continued to wave her snow-white hand with a smile while she thought about these things at heart.
* * *
Around the time, when the delegation from the Uppsala Kingdom centred around Princess Freya made their victory parade through the main street of the Capital, Raffaelo Márguez had already returned to the Capital ahead of them and was now meeting with his father, Count Manuel Márguez, in the residence of their family in the Capital in a long time.
“It has been a while, Raffaelo. I hope you have been well. You did well in fulfilling the difficult assignment this time.”
“Not at all, Sir. It was not all that difficult, actually. I am glad that you assigned me a worthwhile job that was specially tailored for me.”
The conversation sounded a bit stiff for one between a father and his son, but amongst grown-up nobles, the relationship between Count Márguez and his son was actually quite good.
The father acknowledged his son as a competent successor and the son respected his father as a level-headed predecessor. Although they did have some differences in opinion, their relationship was enviable, when measured against the majority of other nobility.
The never-ending cheers of the citizens could be heard through the opened windows and Count Márguez let his gaze wander in its direction.
“Sounds like Princess Freya and her group made it to the Capital just fine. They must be rather popular to cause such a ruckus.”
“The soldiers of the North Continent do attract a lot of attention. And the skull of the Huge Pack Dragon and Miss Victoria at the front are quite the spectacle. The rumours of the Pack Dragon Subjugation have even reached the Capital after all.”
Raffaelo had accompanied Princess Freya and her group part of the way from Valentia to the Capital and he replied like that with a smile.
“That is kind of rich, coming from you.”
Count Márguez made a wry smile, because he no doubts that his own son, sitting across from him, had spread these rumours.
The Capital spoke about the previous Pack Dragon Subjugation in such a way that Zenjirou had been the nominal leader on the battlefield while Xavier Guzzle had led the main force and Victoria Kronkvist had defeated the Huge Pack Dragon by herself.
This was no different from the information Count Márguez had gathered from reliable sources in the Royal Palace.
In other words, the truth was going around the town as a rumour almost unaltered. Needless to say, that was extremely unnatural.
Generally speaking, rumours were greatly exaggerated stories that made the hearer question, where they come from.
When the information was passed on accurately, though, it was more natural to think that someone had a hand in it.
Raffaelo had probably seen some kind of profit in spreading the information about this incident as it was. Count Márguez needed to ask him about that, but for now, he spoke about the official business.
“I did read through the documents once, but let me hear it from you once more. The negotiations with Princess Freya were a success, right?”
The current head of the family addressed him like that, whereupon the successor to the title wiped the smile off his face and assume a stern facial expression.
“Correct. Master Zenjirou and Princess Freya have found a positive consent in regards to a trade agreement between our Carpa Kingdom and the Uppsala Kingdom. The fine details will surely be worked out here in the Capital from now on, but it has already been decided that the agreement will be exclusive to both royal families.”
The report from Raffaelo prompted Count Márguez to show a grin.
When the intercontinental trade turned into an exclusive business for both royal families before the other nobilities could interfere, then Count Márguez had been right with his speculations.
An exclusive trade agreement between the royal families of both countries meant that only the Carpa Royal Family was allowed to do direct trading with the Uppsala Kingdom, when their ships docked in the harbour of Valentia in the future.
With just that, the royal family would be the clear winner and Count Márguez would have no reason to support the agreement, but there was more to it, of course.
As a country from the North Continent, the Uppsala Kingdom mainly wanted to obtain specialities from the South Continent such as sugar, spices, dragon leather and bones, but it was impossible for the Carpa Royal Family to provide all these export articles by themselves.
So even when the intercontinental trade agreement was “exclusive to both royal families”, it only meant that they were the exclusive contact partners for each other. Other influential nobilities still had the opportunity to partake indirectly.
The goal of Count Márguez was to receive preferential treatment for these opportunities.
Acting in collusion with Queen Aura, Count Márguez had promised his support for the completion of the trade contract in exchange for not getting charged a handling fee by the royal family, so he could basically expect the same profit as with a direct deal.
“You have done well. I will discuss the fine details with Her Majesty Aura. Well, she has to negotiate the trade agreement with Princess Freya at the same time, so it may take some time, but it should not pose a drawback.”
“Yes, I am leaving it to you.”
The father confidently took up the baton, whereas the son ceded the baton trustingly.
Having said this, Count Márguez was a bit sour at heart, even though he did not let it show on his face. His talented son had acted just like he had specified and achieved the very results he had wanted, but the Count was a little bit worried how accustomed his offspring had gotten to leaving the ultimate responsibility and success to someone else, maybe because he had done these kind of jobs for too long.
There was no doubt that his son was gifted, but Raffaelo was already in his thirties. It was about time he stopped being the “obedient son” and slipped more into his role as the “head of an influential family”, even if he might screw it up for a bit. Otherwise his father could not free himself from the worry about his succession.
Raising the capable and understanding son uprightly had unfortunately turned him into a man that awaited orders, which made him be unsuitable as the head of a family.
Of course Count Márguez wanted to reeducate him soon, even if it took drastic measures, but he certainly could not use the current matter, a secret agreement with the royal family, for it.
Pushing the concerns over his son to the back of his mind, the Count addressed himself to the problem at hand again.
“I did not go into it earlier, but let me ask now: You are behind the ‘faithful rumours’ going around in the Capital, are you not?”
Raffaelo affirmed the rhetorical question from his father with a serious expression.
“Yes. I used some of my men to spread them.”
“Your reason being?”
His son responded smoothly to his next question as though he had prepared the answer beforehand.
“Simply put, I wanted to avoid ‘getting on Master Zenjirou’s bad side‘. Left alone, the rumours would have surely exaggerated his achievement and that would not have been in his interest.”
The response from his son was a bit unexpected, so Count Márguez cocked his head a bit puzzled and asked again.
“Hmm? What do you mean? I do understand that a glorified achievement goes against his will. He is loyal to Her Majesty Aura after all and pays careful attention not to undermine her authority by making a name for himself.
But why would you go out of your way for him? Did he asked you to do that?”
“No. I did it by my own accord.”
When his son declared it outright like that, Count Márguez furrowed his brow a bit.
“But why? Just what are you making of Master Zenjirou?”
Raffaelo sat up straight in his chair and took a deep breath before he answered the inquiry of his father.
“Because he is ‘terrifying’. Master Zenjirou is a ‘monster’.”
His expression as he openly admitted that, revealed that he was not joking.
“What do you mean? Explain yourself.”
The Prince Consort was passive to no end and showed not the slightest sign of ambition, yet his son had evaluated him as a “monster”, so the shrewd count narrowed his eyes to slits.
He would have laughed at anyone else for saying this, but his son had a good insight into human nature.
Pressed for an answer by his father, Raffaelo paused to think for a moment.
“Well, to be honest, all I can think of to describe him is the term monster… And by that, I do not mean his appearance or strength, of course, but his mentality.
More precisely: He is ‘different’. It took me a while to notice, because he generally is very mild-mannered, reasonable and does not let any raw emotions show up in his face in public, but you will end up making a fatal mistake, when you take him for an ordinary man.”
He laid it on the line for his father.
“Hmm… Well, I do agree with you that his moral values are somewhat peculiar, but I still cannot see why you call him a ‘monster’. Are you saying that Master Zenjirou is as formidable as General Puyol or Marquis Ralah?”
Since Count Márguez still cocked his head puzzled, Raffaelo leaned a bit over the table and groped for words.
“Not really. General Puyol has a tenacious mentality on par with a monster, whereas Marquis Ralah has a vigorous mentality on par with a monster, but these are nothing but classifications of intensity.
It is the same as classifying someone as ‘superhuman’, because he is stronger than a dragon or far taller than average.
In contrast, Master Zenjirou truly has a ‘monstrous’ mentality. ’Monstrous’ in the sense that he might look like a human on a glance, but in reality, his head is just a decoration, his fatal spot is his instep instead and he got an invisible third arm on his back.”
When his son illustrated a true monster with grotesque descriptions, Count Márguez cocked his head bewildered altogether. For him it was unthinkable that the completely harmless looking Prince Consort posed such a danger.
“Those, who look ordinary on a glance, are actually the worst of all.
When you were younger, you fought with the sword, right? Please imagine the following:
You are going against someone that has average strength and no experience with the sword, but is a ’monster’ with the features I just mentioned. What would you say are the odds you win that fight?”
The example made no sense, but the Count answered in earnest, when he saw the stern expression of his son.
“Well… It may be a cumbersome fight, but I should be able to defeat him without much difficulty, when his techniques and physique are weak.”
Raffaelo seemed to have waited for this answer as he immediately asked back.
“Father, you worked out your chances of success on the ‘premise that you knew about’ the head being a decoration, the instep being the fatal spot and the invisible third arm on the back, right?”
“Hm? Oh, I see now.”
Count Márguez was by no means slow-witted, so he immediately comprehended now what his son wanted to say.
“Yes, you are right. I would be able to win, because I know about the monstrous peculiarities. Without knowing any of it, I would confront the monster like a regular human and believe I had won, when I split its decorative head, but in that moment, I would get killed by the hidden weapon held by the third arm on its back. Considering that, even General Puyol would likely lose against it.
So you are afraid of the fact that no one has an idea about what kind of intellectual attack Master Zenjirou will use or which subject should be avoided with him at all cost.”
The son nodded twice relieved, when his father showcased an excellent breadth of mind.
“Yes, indeed. When the nobles talked to Master Zenjirou during parties, I could not help but feel that they were casually touching an ancient dragon all over without knowing, when it would get mad.
Master Zenjirou certainly is mild-mannered and reasonable, but that does not mean he has no emotions. I learned that, when I worked as his assistance in the past month.”
During the one month in Valentia, Raffaelo had witnessed how Zenjirou changed, when he could no longer keep his emotions in check.
For example: Zenjirou had been overjoyed, when Princess Freya mentioned the “goats”, and he had expressed his interest without thought.
Fortunately it had been the positive emotion called “joy”, but it still proved that Zenjirou sometimes based his behaviour on emotions instead of reasoning.
In the same way, it was possible that Zenjirou would dictate a death sentence based on emotion, if something triggered a ruthless anger or hate in him.
But Raffaelo had not the slightest idea “what exactly would trigger anger or hate in Zenjirou”.
Affable and a good listener, Raffaelo represented a great conversational partner and he excelled in discerning the feelings and moral values of others. By understanding the unvoiced feelings of his opposite or the words his opposite wanted to hear, Raffaelo could react to it and converse smoothly. It was his worldly wisdom.
But that very worldly wisdom was useless in regards to Zenjirou. Of course it was impossible to discern the feelings or moral values of others as a whole, too, because they all had their own personalities.
It was a completely different matter with Zenjirou, though. Raffaelo had not even the slightest clue, where to start to guess his moral values.
For example: Most young noble men enlisted in the army would be pleased to hear you talking about their bright “future prospects“, but would get angry, if you called them a “coward”.
Of course there were exceptions to the rule, but in most cases, only a part of the general framework was different, so such a classification could be applied to the majority. On the other hand, when people did not fit into the classification, it often turned out that they lied about their status or occupation.
According to this system from Raffaelo, Zenjirou would be a “young” “royal” “man” “without a job”.
If calling him jobless sounded wrong, you could list “Royalty” or “Prince Consort” as his occupation as well. For Royalty or Nobility, their rank often corresponded to their occupation.
Anyway, the “young male royalty” framework based on Raffaelo’s classification was entirely unsuitable for Zenjirou.
And that would not change, even if you were to change male to female, young to old, royalty to commoner or jobless to farmer/soldier.
Probably what you would expect from someone from a different world. It was impossible to classify him.
“Above all, I was made painfully aware during this incident that he is by no means a ‘puppet of the Queen’ like some nobles describe him behind his back.
He is in possession of a resolute personality and merely acts as the ‘puppet of the Queen’ of his own accord. Or more precisely, he is a ‘self-acting puppet‘ rather than a ‘puppet on a string’.”
Some of the nobles, who saw Zenjirou as a puppet on a string, wanted to dethrone Aura and let Zenjirou assume it instead, because they falsely believed that they could control Zenjirou at their convenience, when they got a hold of the strings themselves.
But Raffaelo had learned the truth now. Zenjirou was definitely not the puppet of the Queen. As a proof, he did not hesitate with his decisions in Valentia, even though the Queen had been too far away to give such quick instructions.
If he really were a puppet, he should have been unable to make any calls, when hell suddenly broke loose in Valentia, whereto the instructions of the Queen did not reach in time. But in reality, that did not happen. Zenjirou behaved almost the same as when he acted as the representative of the Queen in the Royal Palace.
That was terrifying above all, because it meant that Zenjirou always kept acting “in the best interests of the Queen” of his own accord and judgement.
For Queen Aura it was like she had another body that produced results on its own with a bare minimum of instructions. Raffaelo was anticipating that her authority would soon become even more consolidated.
He continued with a stern expression.
“Due to that, I suggest we keep our distance from Master Zenjirou until we understand him and his mindset better. It would be dangerous to go against him, of course, but taking his side would be just as dangerous.”
Without knowing the moral values of your opponent, it could prove fatal, when you either went on the offence or tried to appease him.
The word “audacious” would be a compliment for a man, but a woman would be offended by it for sure, whereas the phrase “not being stingy with money” appealed to nobility, but not necessarily to merchants.
“Master Zenjirou was not offended in the slightest, even when his lack for martial arts was pointed out, nor does he shun to obey the instruction of his own wife at all. In my opinion it would be wise not to approach him while we not know what is to his liking or what offends him.”
Raffaelo formulated it as a suggestion, because he himself was going to return home to their domain after this. His father Count Manuel Márguez would be the one to likely come into contact with Zenjirou in the Capital.
“Yes, I understand your concern and you do have a point. For now, I shall only speak to Her Majesty Aura for businesses.”
Even for an old fox like Count Márguez, Queen Aura represented a tough negotiation partner, but at least he knew her cast of mind. Of course he could be outwitted sometimes, but he did not have to worry about waking a sleeping lion by accident.
The son heaved a sigh of relief, when his father was convinced, and nodded briefly.
“Good, that will be sensible.
Also, one last thing. This is just my personal opinion, but I believe we should consider how we can ally with Master Zenjirou as best as possible once we figure him out to a certain extent.”
Count Márguez widened his eyes a bit, when his son voiced an assertive opinion for once.
“Oho? You mean he is worth the assistance of our family? Is he that competent?”
The son picked his words carefully, when he answered to the words of his father with a slightly brooding expression.
“No, I would not go as far as to say that. He certainly is not incompetent either, though. The reason why I feel it will be profitable for our family to have Master Zenjirou on our side, or rather for our family to side with him, is because it is quite likely that our interests will coincide, even though the interests of royalty and nobility usually oppose each other.”
When his father urged him to continue with a serious look, the son obediently elaborated his explanation.
“Yes. I had the opportunity to be close to Master Zenjirou for a relatively long time during this incident. Thanks to it, I understand him even less now, but I did manage to confirm a few things.
First off, we erred in our early assumption that he has a good grasp of his emotions and expressions.
I say this, because he prioritized his emotions and decided to obtain the goats as soon as Princess Freya mentioned that she had them onboard.
The reason I had thought he has good control over his emotions was his extremely level-headed attitude, when he acted as a representative for Her Majesty Aura behind the scenes without getting assumptive.
But there is a different explanation for it, when you presume that he cannot control his emotions all that well. Namely that he is not suppressing these emotions but rather feels no dissatisfaction towards his ‘behind-the-scenes position as the Prince Consort’ to begin with.”
“Master Zenjirou did end up as the supreme commander in name only for the Pack Dragon Subjugation, but I sensed some ‘reluctance’ in him, when it happened.
Considering these two points, Master Zenjirou might be a person, who prefers to work behind the scenes despite being royalty and hates to make a name for himself despite being a man.
If that assumption were prove to be true, I dare to say that there is no better person to cooperate with, when we wish to raise the fame of our family in the future.”
“Indeed. I see now what you are getting at. It certainly is intriguing, if it is true.”
After the lengthy explanation from his son, Count Márguez expressed his consent by nodding strongly without changing his facial expression.
The reasoning from Raffaelo was rather simple. Normally, any nobleman desired to have a chance to stand in the spotlight and make a name for himself. The one to provide these chances was Royalty. And when that Royalty had no intention to keep these chances for himself, he certainly should be a good negotiation partner.
It goes without saying that it was easier to ask a man with no interest in alcohol for the “high quality alcohol” he owned for some reason, rather than an incorrigible alcoholic for his “treasured alcohol”.
“Okay. I cannot put our family on the line on account of your opinion alone, of course, but I will keep it in mind. Thanks.“
“Yes, Sir. If there is nothing else on the agenda, I plan to return home as soon as the reception party for Princess Freya in the evening is over. Do you mind?”
It seemed that he had gotten his point across to his father, so Raffaelo asked him for his permission to return home with a smile. Strictly speaking, it was not desirable that the current head of the family and its successor were both absent from the domain at the same time like in this case, but in a domain as large as the one from the Márguez Family, there was obviously enough manpower to keep the domain going for half a year, even without its leaders. Still, it never hurt to have a leader around.
Accordingly, the request from Raffaelo made perfect sense, but contrary to his expectation, his father Count Márguez shook his head.
“I do. Your return will be postpone a bit longer. It has not been officially announced yet, but Puyol Guillén will actually marry soon.”
Even in the Royal Palace, this information was not all that widespread, so Raffaelo widened his eyes in surprise, too.
“Oh, about time. Who is the lucky bride?”
“The eldest daughter of the Guzzle Family: Lady Lucinda.”
The answer from his father prompted even Raffaelo to be at a loss for words for a moment, then he showed a wry smile and shrugged his shoulders.
“Well… As one might expect of him, I guess? His ambitions still know no limits.”
“Yes, he is going to gain a lot, but will also forfeit a lot. At the very least, the Royal Family will be sure keep an eye on him while Her Majesty Aura is still alive.
Well, it is not really our problem. Anyway, I will have you attend his wedding as the representative of our family. Given the circumstances, I would like to choose the partner accompanying you.”
“Oh, I see. I assume that this partner is not going to be Mother or Mirela?”
When an unmarried adult man took a woman along to a wedding ceremony, he was practically declaring his intention to bond with that woman to his surroundings, so Raffaelo asked this just in case.
On the other hand, a man with no such partner would ask an already married female relative or a minor girl to be his partner.
By the way, Mirela was the name of Raffaelo’s girl cousin.
Count Márguez nodded once in response to his inquiry as if to say that it was self-evident.
“Correct. I mean your fiancée. This has nothing to do with General Puyol. I just think it is about time that you raise a family yourself, too.
I have narrowed down some candidates for now, but if you have any preferences, I am willing to consider them. Just tell me.”
He took charge of the marriage of his son by himself like it was only natural.
Raffaelo, too, was not offended by this and naturally accepted the approach of his father. It was yet again proof how he was still nothing but an “obedient son”.
“My fiancée, hmm. Well, I am sure there will be nothing wrong with a woman chosen by you, but since you are asking: My ideal woman is someone like my Stepmother.”
Saying this, Raffaelo named his stepmother, who was younger than him by more than five years, as his ideal woman.
The son had just told his father to the face that his second wife was his ideal woman. It was a somewhat awkward joke, but they were on such good terms that it was still understood as a joke. Besides, Lady Octavia was popular enough to make it a convincing argument.
Hearing this, his father gave a broad grin, rejoicing.
“Talk about the impossible now! You will not find another woman like Octavia, not even in our versatile Carpa Kingdom.”
“Yeah, I know. But then again, I do not really have any preferences in particular, because whether we will be happy or not in the future depends on the effort my wife-to-be and I put forth, given that there are no faults with her personality or aptitude.”
“I see. Then let us go with my top candidate: The second daughter of Baron Massana, Lady Keyshia.”
“Lady Keyshia from the Massana Family? We certainly have some connection to them and their domain borders on ours. Our statuses are not really all that ill-matched, either…”
Raffaelo cocked his head unconvinced. While it was true that Massana Family was not a low-ranking family, it could not be considered high-ranking, either.
It technically was a noble family with a domain on its own, but that domain was rather small, so there were plenty of court nobles without a title and domain that possessed more authority than the Massana Family, when they worked in important positions. Baron Massana was such an insignificant feudal lord.
Having said this, he was still a legit feudal lord, so he did have his own land and army. That very land directly bordered on the domain of the Márguez Family, so it was not entirely unprofitable, if their two families were to join up.
But considering the fact that the Márguez Family was undoubtedly one of the ten most influential families in the Carpa Kingdom, it would seem that the Massana Family was a bit too plain for the successor of that very Márguez Family to take their daughter as his legal wife.
Count Márguez preferred stability over chaos and a high return with low risk policy over a low return with high risk policy, so that choice was certainly in line with his moral values, but even then, the return appeared to be somewhat lacking.
He showed a grin to his doubtful son and explained it in the manner of revealing a magic trick.
“Well, you pretty much guessed it already. If your bride were to come from an all too important family, it would be troublesome to bring them under control. There ought to be an unproblematic social distinction between both families.
Moreover, the appeal does not lie in the Massana Family, but in Lady Keyshia herself.”
“Right. I have heard of her on numerous occasions. As far as high society is concerned, she is quite the beauty. Though a different type of beauty than my Stepmother.”
“Yes. She is not nearly as popular as Octavia, but she is attractive enough that a lot of men do prefer her over Octavia. And seeing as she is five years younger than Octavia, she will only be compared to her in High Society for a short time.”
Octavia was the very embodiment of the ideal woman for men in the Carpa Kingdom: Neat, graceful and reserved. Keyshia Massana on the other hand was an eye-catching beauty, who prided herself with a voluptuous body as well as an alluring face.
Versed in the traditional dance of the Carpa Kingdom, she was allowed to wear the most prominent colour “red”, the symbolic colour of the Carpa Kingdom, as a dancer.
Someone from Modern Earth might be reminded of “Carmen”, if he could see her dance wildly in the red traditional clothes.
“When she is five years younger than my stepmother, then she must have turned twenty this year. I find it a bit hard to believe that a beauty like her is still unmarried at this age. Did Baron Massana delay her marriage as much as possible to gain an advantage?”
If that was the case, his plan proved to be very successful. After all, a marriage with the successor from the Márguez Family happened to come in sight.
But Count Márguez feigned ignorance and continued with unexpected words, when his son made such an assumption.
“No, in her case, it is not a problem that she still is unmarried, even after twenty years. You see, she went into the ’Inner Palace’ as a ’waiting maid’ last year. A bit of an advanced age does not get in the way for a waiting maid.”
“…I see now.”
Raffaelo took a breathe and wearily pinched the bridge of his nose with the index finger and thumb of his right hand.
“Father, I believe I just told you that we ought to ‘keep our distance to Master Zenjirou’…”
His son reproached him like that on a rare occasion, whereupon the father shrugged his shoulders with a sniffish look.
“Of course that is what I am going to do. But we are an important family in the Carpa Kingdom and Master Zenjirou is the husband of Her Majesty Aura, so we cannot keep our distance to him forever.
This being the case, we ought to be a proactive to some extent and figure out his moral values as soon as possible.”
He made a valid point. At the same time, Count Márguez would never chose a fiancée for his son on the spot. In other words, he has had a candidate in mind from the very beginning and listening to the opinion from Raffaelo just now did not change his view.
Raffaelo himself also had claimed that they “should side with Zenjirou, once they figured out his character”, so he could not reproach him all that harshly.
Meanwhile Count Márguez continued with his explanation.
“Octavia has gone into the Inner Palace numerous times and told me that Master Zenjirou gets along with the waiting maids surprisingly well.”
“You mean he took a waiting maid as a ‘mistress’!?”
That piece of information certainly surprised even Raffaelo. But the answer to that question of his could not have been any more unexpected.
“No, not in the meaning of a ‘mistress’. Not even a single maid is in such a relationship with him, but they are usually very close and the waiting maids perceive him as rather ‘affable’. He seems to be very popular with them as well.
Of course this is not a testimony from the waiting maids, but merely the impression Octavia got by watching them.”
“He is affable to the waiting maids, even though he is not in a relationship with them? So he does like them, yet lays no hands on them? …To be honest, that only makes me more wary of him. Just what is going on in his head? I cannot comprehend his personality or moral values at all.”
Raffaelo jokingly raised both his arms a bit as if to say that he was at his wit’s end and assumed a surrendering pose.
“Then does it mean that amongst them, Lady Keyshia is a ‘favourite’ to Master Zenjirou?”
“No, unfortunately that is not the case. She simply is the only waiting maid with an appropriate background for the Márguez Family.
Strictly speaking, the daughter of Baron Regalado is an option as well, but you know how peculiar the situation is with that family. It would be dangerous to get involved with them carelessly. Besides, their daughter is a bit too young. Age-wise, Lady Keyshia is the best match for you.”
In light of the words from his father, Raffaelo pondered with his hand against his chin.
A twenty-year old woman, who was previously praised as a beauty in High Society and was now working as a waiting maid in the Inner Palace.
Her looks were first-grade without doubt and since she was chosen as a waiting maid, there could be no major flaws with her personality, either. At twenty-years old, she was still in the general marriageable prime by a hair’s breath, but that was also no issue at all, considering she spent two years in the Inner Palace.
Before long, Raffaelo reached a conclusion and declared his decision indifferently.
“Understood. I shall meet with Lady Keyshia once, but something unforeseen might prompt me to reject her, so I would like you to refrain from making it definitive for now. You can proceed with the negotiations positively in general, though.”
“Okay. I will make preparations up to the point, where we can announce your engagement at any moment, if you feel like it. If possible, I would like you to take her along to the marriage of General Puyol as your fiancée.”
Count Márguez nodded with a broad smile, when his son answered faithful to his expectations.
* * *
After their parade, Princess Freya and her entourage entered the Royal Palace and attended a formal ceremony for foreign visitors in the audience room.
Giving them three days to rest in order to relieve the exhaustion they accumulated through the long journey from Valentia to the Capital, the Royal Palace then hosted a night banquet to welcome and entertain Princess Freya and her retainers.
Dressed up men and women had gathered in a large ball room, which was illuminated by numerous fancy chandeliers and a large number of tall candlesticks, and were conversing merrily.
During the Vibrant Season, the temperatures at noon could already be called “refreshing” rather than “hot” and at night, it became pleasantly cool.
Consequently, the people dressed differently compared to the night banquets of the Hottest Season. The variation in clothes was obviously a lot more multifaceted now. True to the motto of Modern Japanese that fall was the most fashionable season, the temperatures during the Vibrant Season were just about right, so you were neither hot, when you put on a few more layers, nor were you freezing, when you put on a bit less, so it goes without saying that more liberties could be taken with the fashion.
The ladies and gentlemen really went all-out with their dresses, but amongst them, two people still stood out most of all: The honorary guest Princess Freya and the female warrior standing next to her, Victoria Kronkvist aka. Skathi.
In Valentia, Princess Freya had cross-dressed most of the time, since she was acting in her role as the captain of the “Yellow Leaves”, but she was wearing the proper dress of a princess right now.
Her light-blue dress had been brought along from the faraway Uppsala Kingdom. Its design was rather simple, keeping lace or other decorations to a bare minimum, but on a closer look, you noticed a blue sapphire, the exclusive decoration of the royal family of the Uppsala Kingdom, worked into it and an elegant style that was plenty of eye-catching in itself.
Moreover, the owner of that dress was an unfathomable beauty with short blue-tinted silver hair and ice-blue eyes.
She had skin so white that it looked unrealistic to the people of the South Continent, and her standing figure was stunning beyond nature.
Attracting the gazes of everyone, not just the men, Princess Freya kept on smiling, even when she heard the whispered gossip from around her. As a natural-born princess, she must have been used to stand in the spotlight.
The chandeliers projected countless shadows onto the red carpet while she advanced over it in the traditional manner of her motherland.
The culture of the Carpa Kingdom generally considered it bad manners, when someone of lower status called out to someone of higher status first.
Having been told of this in advance, Princess Freya wanted to melt the ice by opening a conversation herself, so she looked around smiling, but a silhouette approached her before she could act.
“Why, good evening, Princess of the North. May I have the pleasure of making your acquaintance?”
A young man with blonde hair and green eyes, wearing something like a dark purple tuxedo like a glove, casually called out to her with a smile and no sense of tension.
Behind him followed a young woman with auburn hair, clad in a light purple dress.
“Yes, of course. May I have your name, please?”
Princess Freya responded with a smile like that, although she already had an idea, who the man and woman were that stood before her.
“Thank you. My name is Francesco. I am the eldest son of the Crown Prince of the Sharrow Royal Family from the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.”
“My name is Bona. I hail from the same Sharrow Royal Family.”
When Prince Francesco and Princess Bona announced their affiliation with the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, the major power ruling over the central part of the South Continent, Princess Freya also gave her name as the representative of her homeland, the Uppsala Kingdom, with a smile and her head raised.
“Thank you for your polite introduction. I am Freya, the eldest daughter of Gustav V, the King of the Uppsala Kingdom. This is my trusted retainer Victoria Kronkvist also known as Skathi.”
Standing at attention behind Princess Freya, the tall female warrior wordlessly lowered her head in acknowledgement, as the fellow royalty introduced each other.
By the way, Skathi was not armed, as might be expected. She had taken off her leather armour for something like a blue military uniform with silver embroidery. Below it she actually wore something feminine, namely a skirt, but on a closer look, the short skirt with a deep slit at the side turned out to have some kind of short trousers sewed in beneath it.
That kind of outfit enabled her to move around as good as in normal trousers, if necessary, but still gave off a feminine impression at the same time. Maybe this was actually the dress uniform for female soldiers in the Uppsala Kingdom.
“That’s what I call a tall and reliable bodyguard. Hello there.”
Anyway, Prince Francesco seemed to have understood the unspoken intention from Skathi to be nothing more than a bodyguard for Princess Freya here, so he only called out to her once with a silly smile and then shifted his attention back to Princess Freya.
“Let me call you Princess Freya then. But I have to say, it’s my first time meeting someone from the North Continent, so I’m quite excited, if you will forgive my saying so. Would you tell me more about your culture?”
Prince Francesco could consort most familiar with someone he met for the first time without making that person feel enraged. That ability of his might be even more abnormal than his ability to control the bloodline magic of two different royal families.
Standing behind him, Princess Bona was sweating bullets under her forced smile, but Princess Freya showed no sign of being offended by the blatant attitude of the foreign prince, and replied with a smile.
“Yes, as long as time allows it, gladly. I am ashamed to admit this, but I actually have never heard of the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell before coming to the South Continent.
I would appreciate it, if you could tell me about it as well.”
“Why, yes! I say it’s only natural to not have heard of it on the North Continent. I mean, our kingdom is located in the central part of the South Continent and has no connection to the sea. We practically have zero contact with the North Continent.”
“I see. Thank you for enlightening me. But then again, you two look a lot more like us rather than the people of the Carpa Kingdom.”
Her scepsis was understandable. People on the South Continent generally had darker skin, even considering nuances, but Prince Francesco and Princess Bona had exceptional fair white skin.
They resembled Princess Freya and Skathi so much that someone clueless would immediately believe it, when he was told that the four of them came from the same country.
Francesco smiled frivolously to the reference from Princess Freya
“Oh, that’s probably because our ancestors were settlers from the North Continent. By now, the blood has mingled with the one from the South Continent, so some royalty or nobles do tend to look like the natives here, but the majority of them still looks like Bona and me.”
and revealed some personal information.
“Oh, really now. I see.”
Princess Freya appeared to be impressed, but she contemplated the contrary point of what she had heard just now at heart.
It was not unthinkable that they still looked nothing like the natives, even after numerous generations. The term “settlers” suggested that they had been more than just one or two people, so it was quite plausible that they refrained from mingling with the natives in order to protect the bloodline magic.
While preserving the bloodline magic like that, they unintentionally happened to preserve their appearance as well.
The problematic part was that fact that the Twin Kingdom, the place where they settled, was located deep in the inner land with no connection to the sea.
Needless to say, you could only migrate from the North Continent to the South Continent by boat. Regardless of how many years ago it happened, the ancestors of the Twin Kingdom ought to have arrived on the continent by the sea first.
Despite that, the Twin Kingdom was a completely landlocked country in the central part of the South Continent now. Of course it was possible that it was the result of repeated expansions and surrenders of land in all the years.
But that made no sense either, considering the fact that the current Twin Kingdom was a major power known for their “domination over the central part of the South Continent”. The creature known as human could generally forget about taking something unrightfully, but never forgot about having something taken away from him unrightfully.
Assuming the Twin Kingdom has had a coastline in their territory once upon a time, someone would have definitely demanded to “reclaim the lost land”.
Then Princess Freya suddenly thought of another possibility. She kept her smile under perfect control and asked.
“So I can take it that the members of the other royal family in the Twin Kingdom, namely the Jilbell Royal Family, also look like you?”
“Yes, indeed. Of course each family has its own distinct features, but overall, we all do not look all that different from people of the North Continent.”
When Prince Francesco answered her casually like that, Princess Freya started to harbour another doubt at heart.
(Two royal families with a bloodline magic each migrated to the South Continent as one group? Moreover, they did not separate ways then, but founded a single country together? That seems rather unnatural.)
Under normal circumstances, a royal family with a bloodline magic was prone to cling to their sovereignty. Princess Freya was unable to rule it out completely, since she did not know about every kingdom that once existed on the North Continent, but at the very least, she could not think of a country that would apply to the Sharrow Family and Jilbell Family while they were still on the North Continent.
When a royal family possessed such a convenient bloodline magic like the Bestowal Magic or Healing Magic, some stories about them were bound to be remaining, even if they had perished.
(Well, a bloodline magic is not everything, when it comes to the power of the state, so it would not be all that strange, when a dynasty or two perished without entering the history books. Even less so, when that dynasty did not actually perish, but just moved over to the South Continent…)
The possibilities were endless, so Princess Freya concluded that it was pointless to muse about it any further right now. She pushed the thought to the back of her mind and breached a casual topic instead.
“I envy the South Continent for its variety of dragons. It has been my first time riding a dragon carriage. To my shame, I must confess that I was overexcited much like a child.”
The topic must have been appealing to Prince Francesco as well. The blond prince jumped at the chance at once.
“Yes, I recall that the North Continent has very few dragons. Here, even the same species can be quite different, depending where they come from. Most of the Raptorial Dragon from around here are green and resilient against heat, but in our Twin Kingdom they generally have a fawn colour and can cope with dry air.”
“Is that so? That is quite the difference, considering it is the same continent.”
“Yes. The culture varies in the west and central part, too. Not only is the architecture quite different, the atmosphere in the cities is something else entirely.”
“That is really fascinating.”
From that point on, Princess Freya and Princess Francesco exchanged experiences about their respective cultures.
After a while,
“Here come Her Majesty Aura and Master Zenjirou!”
a voice echoed through the large hall, heralding the entry of the Queen of the Carpa Kingdom and her husband.
“Prince Francesco, Princess Bona, you will have to excuse me. I need to bid Her Majesty Aura and His Majesty Zenjirou welcome.”
Hearing that Aura and Zenjirou were coming, Princess Freya bowed herself off from the prince and princess of the Twin Kingdom and was about to leave.
“Oh, then let’s go together. We have to greet them as well.”
“Indeed. If you do not object, Princess Freya, please let us accompany you.”
Prince Freya had no real reason to turn down the request from the prince and princess to go along with her. They were in the same boat in regards to an obligatory greeting to the host, namely the royal couple.
“Very well. Let us go then.”
With a smile, she allowed them to tag along with her.
“Your Majesty Aura, Your Majesty Zenjirou. I owe you a debt of gratitude for holding this wonderful party for my sake today. I, Freya Uppsala, yield you my thanks as the representative of the delegation from the Uppsala Kingdom.”
Freya Uppsala expressed her gratitude with a beautiful and clear pronunciation and swept a curtsy by holding on to the hem of her dress and lowering her head a bit.
Accepting the courtesy from the princess of the North Continent, Queen Aura threw out her voluminous chest and nodded generously.
“It appears you relieved the exhaustion from your long journey all right. The banquet tonight is held to welcome you with open arms. Enjoy it to the fullest.”
“The party is unceremoniously, so I hope you can relax and enjoy it, Princess Freya.”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
When Aura and Zenjirou answered her, she bowed in a manner that was obviously different from the etiquette on the South Continent. There was no doubt, though, that the unfamiliar motion was something extremely graceful.
Zenjirou had gotten quite used to conduct himself as royalty in the past one and a half year, but needless to say, he was still not at the level of a natural-born royalty like Aura.
Thus, he basically let Queen Aura take the lead and just stood by her side on occasions like this. Normally, he would have to stand behind her, but the Carpa Kingdom was patriarchal inclined. Even if he was the husband of the ruling Queen, people would not shut up about it, when a man stood behind a woman.
“You have been in our country for over a month already, but came to the Capital only recently. The food here is obviously quite different from Valentia, where you have stayed for a long time.
I am sure that there will be some cuisines not to your liking, because of our cultural differences, but I hope you can enjoy it nevertheless.”
“Yes, I already had the pleasure of trying some of them, Your Majesty. The cooking here is quite piquant.”
“Oh? Unfortunately, I have never tasted the cooking from the North Continent myself, so I cannot really tell, but I guess it really is different?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. The North Continent has no dragons as livestock, so the meat is always from goats, cows and pigs. In case of our Uppsala Kingdom, we have the meat from reindeers as well. Surprisingly enough, the vegetables are more or less the same, but the seasoning is the most crucial difference.
We have no cuisines on the North Continent, which uses spices or sugar bountiful.”
The culinary art livened up the casual conversation between Queen Aura and Princess Freya, true to the function of an appetizer. Food and clothes were relatively safe topics, so they were often used as a common theme for conversations like this one.
By the look of it, Aura would have no problem attending to Princess Freya by herself for a while.
With that in mind, Zenjirou took a look around. As if he had waiting for that moment, the blonde man in the purple outfit showed a friendly smile and called out to him.
“Hey, it has been a while, Your Majesty Zenjirou. As you can see, I already treated myself to one.”
Saying this, the blonde man— Prince Francesco raised his silver goblet that was filled with a cocktail based on the distilled liquor.
“I am glad to see you again, Your Majesty Zenjirou. Thank you very much for inviting us tonight.”
The chaperone for Princess Francesco, Princess Bona appeared from behind him with these words.
As always, her characteristically wavy and auburn hair was sprinkled with silver dust. The simple light purple dress she was wearing suited her well and fit into the ambience all right, but Zenjirou remembered that her outfit and hairstyle were practically always the same. Of course the dress itself was always a different one, but the simple one-piece design in a light purple colour never changed.
He somewhat got the impression that Princess Bona wanted to expend as little effort as possible for fashion.
Anyway, seeing as the prince and princess of the Twin Kingdom had greeting him in person, Zenjirou had to return the favour as well.
“Good evening, Prince Francesco, Princess Bona. Yes, please enjoy yourself.”
His wife was taking care of the honorary guest Princess Freya, so Zenjirou gave his attention to Prince Francesco and Princess Bona for now.
Practically his equals, Zenjirou was already somewhat familiar with them, so he could deal with them relatively stressless.
Thus he talked to them in a relaxed manner.
“By the way, is it just me, or are you wearing this for the first time, Prince Francesco?”
“I knew I could count on you to notice it! That’s the new shirt I had ordered here in the Capital.”
Saying this, Prince Francesco proudly pointed not at his purple tuxedo jacket, but at the white shirt beneath it.
Zenjirou definitely deserved praise for recognizing the shirt as new, seeing as it was only showing for bit at the neck line of the jacket.
Having said this, he had only noticed it because of the “four-hole buttons” on it, not because he had a keen eye for fashion.
Whether it was the same for the North Continent or not, these “four-hole buttons” were a fairly uncommon sight on the South Continent at least. The purveyors to the court had keenly discerned them on the clothes Zenjirou had brought along and with his permission, they had started to copy them, so every shirt with four-hole buttons was new without doubt.
The general button was a pricey kind of ornament, except for the simple wooden ones, so most of them were fancy and extravagant like brooches, decorating the clothes of royalty and nobility.
“These buttons are quite fascinating. Its flat surface allows you to wear them even underneath without hindrance and they stick firmly to the clothes, since they were sewed on through four holes.
When I think about it, it’s quite the simple idea, but I am still impressed.”
After Prince Francesco said this, Princess Bona joined the conversation a bit curiously, despite usually staying in the background.
“Are these buttons made out of dragon bones? They certainly look simple, but it can by no means be an easy task to flatten them to that extent and open four holes so near each other without breaking it. And considering that a thread is going through these holes, you have to properly polish the holes or the thread will tear while you thread it in.”
Her interest apparently did not stem from its decorative value, but rather from the technique to manufacture it.
(Now that I think about it, it’s a bit strange. She loves jewellery, yet has no interest in dressing herself up. I guess her sphere of interest is rather small? The one from Prince Francesco strikes me as too broad, though.)
While these thoughts crossed his mind, Zenjirou responded to the prince and princess.
“Yes. The result is simple indeed, but it actually requires even more skill to make one than the normal decorative button. But I’d like to think that it would not prove difficult for the two of you?”
“Well, yeah. It might be worthwhile to make them out of metal like silver or copper, too. These materials dull more easily, so it requires intense care, but that way, you grow an attachment for it.”
“I think I will try to make them out of the ‘corals’ I received from you, Your Majesty Zenjirou. It should prove to be a practical, but pretty ornament, when I shape the red corals into a flower and open four holes in the middle of it.”
As long as it was novel, Prince Francesco displayed an interest in about anything, whereas Princess Bona’s interest was only piqued, when it concerned jewellery.
Zenjirou was glad to see that they both delved into the subject, but when Princess Bona mentioned the souvenir corals, he felt a conscience-stricken pain in his chest, but forced himself to smile on the surface.
(Sorry. To be honest, it wasn’t from me, but from Ines…)
Forced to return home at once due to the unexpected happenings at Valentia, Zenjirou had been unable to buy the souvenirs he had promised to them.
Later on, he had sent a “Small Flying Dragon” to the waiting maid Ines, who had still been in Valentia, and had her buy the corals and pearls in his stead. Both Prince Francesco and Princess Bona had been delighted at the souvenirs, but Zenjirou felt a bit guilty.
Nevertheless, he could not really talk about that, so he went along with their conversation, feigning innocence.
“Oh, that sounds great. What do you think of trying other materials besides the corals? I am not an expert on the matter, but would not amber or jade work as well?”
“What a wonderful idea! Ah, but when you are going as far as using such beautiful stones, it might be more worthwhile to process them into the usual large decorative buttons rather than into these inconspicuous buttons. Ah, but it could be considered more fancy, if you dare to use a precious stone as a concealed button…”
Princess Bona was usually introverted, but she, too, came out of her shell, when jewellery was mentioned. So far, so good, but she would then lose all moderation and never come to an end.
Zenjirou decided it would be dangerous to continue the topic any further, so he broke off the conversation about the buttons and started to push for a different topic.
“Reminds me, you came over together with Princess Freya. Do you already have made an acquaintance with her?”
“Yes. We have been talking with her before you came.”
“She was so kind to entertain us after the introductions.”
Princess Freya must have heard their answers. Her conversation with Queen Aura had just came to a halt, so she butted into their conversation with a smile.
“Indeed. I had the pleasure to strike up an acquaintance with them. The stories about the Twin Kingdom have been extremely intriguing to me, since I was born in the north.”
“Oh please, your stories about the North Continent have been quite entertaining, too. I would love to hear more at a later date, when you have time.”
“Oh my, I would be glad to, Prince Francesco.”
Unlike Prince Francesco, Princess Freya seemed to imply more than mere curiosity, but no one was touching upon that.
With an innocence smile like a child, Prince Francesco carried on.
“Thank you, Princess Freya. Oh, right. I hope His Majesty Zenjirou can participate then, too.
Did you know that His Majesty is very erudite, Princess Freya? It was him, who made the drink in Lady Skathi’s goblet. Am I right, Your Majesty Zenjirou?”
For some reason, the prince proudly announced that, whereupon Zenjirou grinded his teeth, annoyed with his unnecessary meddling, but he had not really been keeping the distilled liquor a secret to begin with.
“Well, yes. I certainly did made it, but calling me erudite is giving me too much credit.”
He tried to brush aside the subject humbly, but perceptive as she was, Princess Freya obviously did not let that happen.
“Oh my, is that so? So you are versed in making ‘distilled liquor’.”
She raised an affected voice of surprise, where as Skathi behind her widened her eyes genuinely surprised and stared at the goblet in her hand.
Queen Aura discerned that she needed to help out, so she naturally applied herself
“Going by your phrasing, I take it that ‘distilled liquor’ is nothing uncommon on the North Continent?”
by asking that.
The silver-blue-haired princess answered the question from the red-haired queen without delay.
“Yes. The North Continent has it as well. Having said this, it was only developed relative recently, so I would not really call it common yet.”
Aura suspected that Princess Freya was definitely more wary of Zenjirou now and attached importance to him, even if she did not let it show on her face.
The people on the North Continent prided themselves on having more advanced technology than the South Continent. So when they heard that someone from the South Continent had implemented something that was still considered a novel technique on the North Continent, even if it was nothing but a luxury good like alcohol, their evaluation and wariness towards that someone was bound to rise.
“I see. Then I would love to hear your honest opinion on it. We are still only making a small amount of it right now, but we would like to expand the business to a national scale in the future.”
Aura asked for her help without turning a hair, but Princess Freya regretfully shrugged her shoulders a bit.
“My apologies. I have barely ever tasted it, since the alcohol is too strong for me. My Skathi here should be more familiar with it, though. Am I right, Skathi?”
Suddenly addressed, the female bodyguard flinched surprised for a second, but Skathi was still her trusted retainer and bodyguard.
Used to being asked for her opinion by superiors at places like this one, she answered in a flat voice without any tension or excitement.
“Hmm, I recognize the distilled liquor I just had as a freshly distilled alcohol mixed with fruit juice.
Of course there is nothing wrong with drinking it like that, but on the North Continent, we let it rest in wooden barrels for a few years. It thus grows richer in colour, flavour and taste.”
“Oh, you mean maturation.”
Zenjirou inadvertently spoke his mind, when Skathi gave that advice.
Apparently, the North Continent had developed the technique to age distilled liquor by storing it for a long time, like it was the case with whiskey or brandy.
“Mh? You already knew of it, Zenjirou?”
Queen Aura asked disappointed, whereupon Zenjirou quickly explained himself.
“Ah, no. I only knew that such a method existed, but not how to actually implement it.”
Although he did know that it involved putting the distilled alcohol into wooden barrels and letting it rest, he had no idea how to go about it in detail. For example, what kind of wood should be used for the wooden barrels? And he did hear that whiskey barrels were charred on the inside, but to what extent? Also, were there other factors to take into consideration?
It would require a lot of trial-and-errors to ascertain that. But the maturation process took years, so it would take at least a century to develop the method through trial-and-error.
Zenjirou had not been that desperate for it, so he had put it on the back burner for now, but he probably should explain all this to Aura once they were back in the Inner Palace.
Standing diagonally across from him, Princess Freya narrowed her ice-blue eyes to slits and smiled at Zenjirou while these thoughts crossed his mind.
“You really do know a lot, Your Majesty Zenjirou. As Prince Francesco has suggested, I certainly would like to have a talk with you in peace at some point.”
“Definitely. We are bound to meet for the transfer of the goats down the road, so if you like, we can talk then.”
Zenjirou fended off her aggressive approach like that, but as though he had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, Prince Francesco declared loudly.
“Eh? But then I won’t be able to talk to you. Your Majesty Zenjirou, please hang out with me, too, afterwards.”
The night banquet was kept rather lax, but even then, the utterance from Prince Francesco was barely acceptable. As such, Princess Bona lost all the zestful colour she had in her face and pulled the prince at his sleeve with all her might.
“P- Prince Francesco!”
Fortunately enough, everyone present seemed to posses a generous heart, so no one frowned at his mannerless outburst.
But Queen Aura shattered that desire of his for a different reason than its rudeness.
“I am afraid that your wish will go unfulfilled, Prince Francesco. My husband is schedule to leave the palace for some business as my representative.”
When the Queen revealed this, only Prince Francesco voiced his dismay, but Princess Bona and Princess Freya looked surprised all the same.
Zenjirou was the Prince Consort, but he had only left the Capital once so far, namely for the matter with Princess Freya in Valentia.
In other words, it was easily conceivable that something must be happening in the borderland soon that was equally important as the visit from Princess Freya.
“Where are you headed, Your Majesty Zenjirou?”
“Well, you see…”
Seeing that her husband had doubts whether he was allowed to mention it or not, the Queen at his side helped him out.
“My husband is going to the March of Guzzle. This is still confidential, so please keep it to yourself. The marriage ceremony of a prominent figure of our Kingdom will be held there.”
Aura lowered her voice on purpose as she said that, but the “confidential” part was a lie, of course.
Strictly speaking, the marriage between General Puyol and Lucinda Guzzle had admittedly not been announced to the public yet, but it was actually a so-called “open secret” that had gotten around to the point, where almost all the nobles, who frequented the Royal Palace, already knew about it.
Since it was not officially announced yet, it was not okay to broadcast the story everywhere, but even if you were to do so, there was not really a law against it, nor a punishment as a matter of course.
Otherwise, Aura would have never mentioned it to royalties from different countries in this place, where who knows might be eavesdropping.
Nevertheless, it was exciting to have a “secret talk”, even if it was just for show.
Princess Freya flushed her snow-white face a bit and leaned a bit forward.
“Oh my, a marriage ceremony? In view of the fact that you mentioned the March of Guzzle, is it possible that Sir Xavier is getting married?”
Having been involved in the Pack Dragon ruckus in Valentia, she had met with Xavier Guzzle in person, making a casual acquaintance. He was one of the few contacts she had, since Princess Freya had only arrived in the Carpa Kingdom a few months ago.
“No, it is not his wedding. The eldest daughter of the Guzzle Family, Lady Lucinda will be getting married. She will wed General Puyol, the current head of the Guillén Family.”
The name mentioned in Aura’s explanation was not unfamiliar to Princess Freya either.
She had heard of his name in terms of an intermittent leader for the Pack Dragon Subjugation and during the month-long stay in the Residence of the Duke of Valentia, the gossip about the top general of the Carpa Kingdom did go around as well.
When the marriage concerned a significant general of the country, it certainly made sense that the Prince Consort attended it as the representative for the Queen.
Convinced like that, Princess Freya quickly wracked her brain and reached a bold conclusion.
“I do have a connection to the Guzzle Family as well.
Your Majesty Zenjirou, would you please allow me to accompany you to the marriage ceremony?”
Five royalties from three different royal families were making conversation here. People were sure to have listened in on them.
As soon Princess Freya made that bold request, the ball room fell so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Queen Aura clicked her tongue at heart, when all the gazes were turned to them, but corrected the princess from the North Continent with a calm tone.
“Princess Freya, you may not know about it, but here on the South Continent, it often signifies a deep relationship, when you attend a marriage ceremony together with a woman, who is not related by blood.
I am sure you said it unsuspectingly, but are you not being a bit too thoughtless here?”
The warning from the Queen was recited calmly, but had a touch of intimidation. Nevertheless, Princess Freya did not even bat an eye.
On the contrary, she intensified her smile and
“Oh my, is that so? Then it is ‘just the same as on the North Continent’.
Then let me say it again: Your Majesty Zenjirou, I would like to attend the marriage ceremony as your partner. Would you please consider it?”
declared this with a purposefully loud voice, so that everyone in the hall could hear it.
Then she held onto the hem of her dress with both hands, swept an exceptional curtsy and lowered her head so low that her neck became visible.
The female bodyguard standing at attention behind her gasped in surprise.
Skathi was the only person here, who knew the meaning behind that behaviour. The act of sweeping an exceptional curtsy while lowering the head deeply, was used by the women of the North Continent, when they proposed to a man.