A large carriage drawn by eight dragons advanced over the main street of the Royal Capital.
Of course a magnificent carriage like that was not travelling alone. The front and back were tightly protected by knights and soldiers. A relative smaller carriage trailed behind it, but it was still large enough to make it obvious that it belonged to nobility.
That were Zenjirou and his company coming back from the March of Guzzle.
Normally, the sides of the road would be brimming with cheering citizens, when a Royal Carriage passed through, but this time, it was relatively quiet.
Nevertheless, the main road was currently closed off and there were some curious bystanders or nosey kids running along on the sidewalk, but the atmosphere of a “royal procession” did not really come to be.
It was hardly surprising. The leading characters of the preceding marriage ceremony were the groom General Puyol and the bride Lucinda after all.
Even if Zenjirou was Royalty, he could hardly afford to stand out more than the important newly-wed couple.
As a matter of fact, when General Puyol and Lucinda had returned to the capital a few days prior, they had ridden an open carriage in their wedding dresses (the groom was wearing his full dress uniform, though) and waved their hands with a smile on their faces while they proceeded along the main road.
And although some days had already passed, it was expected that Zenjirou made a less flashy return, since he had been nothing but a guest to the wedding ceremony.
In a way, Zenjirou was quite happy about that.
He might have gotten a bit used to it, but riding a carriage without suspension over the hardly paved “Salt Road” had actually been quite tiring for him.
So he was grateful that he could lean back inside the carriage without having to wave to the citizens with a smile.
“Are you alright, Your Majesty Zenjirou?”
When Zenjirou unconsciously heaved a sigh, the first princess of the Uppsala Kingdom on the North Continent, Freya Uppsala, called out worriedly from beside him.
The young woman shook her short silver hair as she checked his complexion, so Zenjirou answered her with a smile.
“Thank you for your concern, Princess Freya. But I am alright. I was just relieved to be back in the Capital.”
He was not putting up a brave front. Sure, Zenjirou was a bit harassed from the long ride in the shaking dragon carriage, but not so much as to call it exhaustion.
Simply put, he was just “really tired”.
More importantly, he was bewildered by the fact that he did not mind having Princess Freya sit next to him so close that their legs were almost touching.
“I see. Once we let Her Majesty Aura in the Palace know about our return, we can finally relax, so please hang in there a bit longer.”
“Hahaha. You sure seem full of energy for all that, Princess Freya. I guess you are not the captain of an intercontinental voyage for show.”
“Fufu, thank you.”
His smile revealed not the slightest hint of wariness while he chit-chatted with her.
To begin with, Zenjirou had been nothing but a commoner in Japan not long ago and ascended into Royalty out of nowhere, so his mentality was not toughened to the point, where he could sustain scepticism while a woman in the same carriage approached him with affability or rather affection day in and day out.
On the other hand, Princess Freya was full-fledged Royalty, albeit a young one, so it was understandable she would get the better of him.
But even then, the current situation was not entirely going according to her expectations.
“It was quite strenuous at times, but it certainly was fun, was it not, Your Majesty Zenjirou?”
“Yes, for sure.”
When Princess Freya spoke about their mutual experience at the March of Guzzle, Zenjirou did confirm it with a smile, but immediately cast his eyes to something else.
He was looking at the Royal Palace.
His mind was already filled with the Royal Palace, or more precisely with his home, the Inner Palace.
Although Princess Freya sat so close to him that he could feel her body temperature, Zenjirou was captivated by the thought of reuniting with the still faraway Queen Aura.
Realizing she was not even in his field of vision, Princess Freya heaved a sigh as if to say “This is going to be a stiff piece of work”.
* * *
The first destination after arriving in the Capital was obviously the Royal Palace.
Only after “Prince Consort” Zenjirou reported his safe return to “Queen” Aura in the audience room and was complimented for his work by the “Queen”, his expedition officially came to an end.
A marriage ceremony between high-ranking nobility was pretty much a state ceremony already. And when Royalty attended it on top of it, it became an official event completely without doubt.
Hence it was necessary to report the return from such an official event, even if it was quite troublesome.
Needless to say, neither Zenjirou, nor Aura could call it a “warm welcome”, when they were exchanging stiff words at such a formal occasion.
So Zenjirou only experienced a “home coming” in the true sense of the word, when he returned to the Inner Palace after finishing the formal greeting in the Royal Palace.
“I’m home, Aura.”
Back in the living room of the Inner Palace, Zenjirou gave his welcoming wife a genuine greeting with a tired expression.
“Welcome back, Zenjirou.”
Gone to the Inner Palace a bit ahead of him, Queen Aura smiled a gentle welcome to her returning husband.
It was still before afternoon. Normally, Queen Aura would still be busy with her duties, but since her husband was returning home today, she had taken time off by rearranging her schedule a few days ago.
Zenjirou could never hope to imitate her in that. He took the definition of diligence a bit too serious, so he avoided pushing his work onto others at all times.
Closing the door behind him, Zenjirou pulled his wife standing in front of him into an embrace with both arms.
The married couple was almost equally tall, so they placed their chins on the other’s shoulder, rubbing cheek on cheek, while repeating the greeting one more time.
Wrapping his right arm around her back and his left arm around her waist, Zenjirou tightly caressed his beloved wife while breathing a relaxed sigh.
Holding the tender body of his lovely wife in his arms in the only room with electricity in this world, Zenjirou finally felt “at home”.
At the same time, his whole body was assaulted by fatigue and sleepiness as though the threads of tension that kept him going had suddenly been cut.
Although Aura had no way to see his face in their embrace, she seemed to sense his state by touch.
“Are you okay? Why do you not sit down on the couch for now?”
With these words, she lent him a shoulder and led him to the couch.
Even though Zenjirou was propping half of his bodyweight against her, Aura showed not the slightest shakiness in her steps or in the arm holding him.
If their position were to be reversed, it might not be impossible for Zenjirou, but it would still take all his strength to pull it off.
Like always, he did consider himself a bit pathetic for it, but obediently indulged in the goodwill of his wife and leaned back into the couch.
When he slouched on the familiar couch, the sleepiness was about to overwhelm him.
“You might as well go to bed. I do not mind, you know?”
Standing next to the couch, Aura called out to him gently, but Zenjirou shut his eyes tightly, shook his head a few times and refused.
“No, it’s too early for that. And it’s been a while for us, so I’ll endure it.”
He was actually the type of person to struggle with correcting his inner clock once it went wrong.
It was still afternoon right now. If he were to go to sleep now and wake up in the middle of the night, he would end up being sluggish for a few days until his daily rhythm was fixed again.
Before it came to that, he might as well bear with it for today.
Hearing his resolve, the Queen nodded an “Okay” and took the silver jug out of the refrigerator, bringing it over along with the red and blue Kiriko glasses.
“Alcohol will only make you more sleepy, so I suppose fruit juice will be better. It should clear your sleepiness a bit.”
When the Queen eagerly poured him some fruit juice, Zenjirou took the glass with a happy smile. They chinked glasses, Zenjirou with his blue one, Aura with her red one, and downed it in one gulp.
The cold water mixed with black sugar and the juice of a citrus fruit certainly swept away the sleepiness for a moment.
“Fuh, it’s been a while since I drunk something cold. You can’t get your hands on it outside, no matter what.”
“All thanks to you. Anyway, we still have some time until dinner, so how about we review our current situations for a bit?”
Zenjirou wrinkled his brow, when his wife suggested this with a smile.
“Hmm, that would certainly be an effective way to spend the time, but to be honest, I don’t think I’m in any shape to hold a meaningful conversation right now.”
The fruit juice refreshed him a bit, but his brain was still only working at half its capacity. Even if they were to exchange information now, he doubted he would report it accurately or remember what she might say.
But the Queen removed his doubts by shaking her head.
“No problem. We will hold a proper meeting tomorrow, when you cleared your head after a good night’s sleep. I have already made time for it. For now, you can just give me a rough outline of things. To begin with, I do not want to use time effectively, but keep you awake through it.”
Zenjirou was convinced by the words of his wife.
It definitely was a good idea to battle his sleepiness with talking. Of course it was no cure for the sleepiness itself, but it should distract him to some extent.
Although he was in no state to “exchange information” meaningfully, he could at least make some bantering chat.
“Okay. Who’s going to start? You said our situations, so I take it you have something to report?”
“Yeah, I kind of do. The fine details in the proper order can wait until tomorrow, so let us just present the important bits for now.
Zenjirou, I am sure you have noticed it already, but Nilda Guzzle currently does not have her name recorded on the ‘Roll of Names’.”
“Ah, I knew it. Good. Then I most likely took the right course of action. Well done, if I may say so myself.”
“So you did noticed it. Did something happen?”
Instead of an exchange of information, Zenjirou and Aura continued more of a relaxed conversation about their recent circumstances from then on.
Even without reporting all the details in the right order, they could more or less get a grasp of their respective circumstances, when they shared the important pieces with each other.
By the time they finished the casual meeting, Zenjirou had already forgotten about his fatigue or sleepiness and his back was soaking wet with cold sweat.
“I did have a hunch, but she really wasn’t nobility, eh. Phew, close call. If I hadn’t make her take a backseat, things could have gone really sour with the Navarre Kingdom.”
“Hmm, I was sure you would notice and deal with it, so I choose not to get in contact with you, but the situation seems to have been worse than I had imagined.
Who would have dreamt that Miss Nilda would actually have a brush with a knight from the Navarre Kingdom.”
Informed about the incident in the March of Guzzle by him, Aura also heaved a sigh of relief.
In retrospect, it had been the right choice of her to believe in Zenjirou and not contact him, but at the same time, she was aware that it could have escalated into something outrageous.
Considering the power difference between the Major Power known as Carpa Kingdom and the Middle Power known as Navarre Kingdom, it would not have been impossible per se to deal with an incident, where the non-noble Nilda picked a quarrel with the knight from the Navarre Kingdom, but it would have been extremely troublesome for sure.
In that sense, Zenjirou truly achieved the best possible result as he negotiated that ultimately “nothing happened and no one would pry into it any further”.
“Well done, Zenjirou. You really outdid yourself this time.”
Aura smiled and clung to the arm of her husband sitting next to her.
For serious conversations, they were always sitting across from each other, but for casual talks, they sat next to each other.
Aura was kind of breaking that custom by sitting next to him, when the content of their conversation was obviously serious, but she probably wanted to emphasise the fact that it was “not a proper meeting for information exchange”.
A pleased Zenjirou narrowed his eyes to slits in reaction to the praise from his wife and her body temperature he could feel on his shoulder and arm.
“Then it was worth all the trouble. Yeah, I really did give it my all this time.”
Normally, Zenjirou was always being modest, but for a change, he declared this proudly.
As a matter of fact, he had all the reason to be proud of himself this time.
Seeing her husband all puffed up with pride, the Queen narrowed her eyes a bit and smiled back at him.
“Marquis Guzzle and Miss Nilda should still be in the March of Guzzle. Okay, I will have a talk with Severo, so something like this will never happen again, and since it is kind of our fault, I will use ‘Teleport’ for him free of charge.”
When Zenjirou cocked his head puzzled in light of the unfamiliar name, Aura quickly explained it.
“Yes. He is a rear vassal of Marquis Guzzle and in charge of his residence here in the Capital. Everyone of the Guzzle Family is currently attending the wedding ceremony, so Severo is the only one left in the Capital. He is acting as a representative for the house now.”
In the Carpa Kingdom, a noble household was obliged to have either the “previous head of the house”, the “current head of the house” or the “next head of the house” be present in the Royal Capital at all times, but for special occasions like a “Wedding Ceremony”, they could temporarily withdraw the whole clan from the capital.
“I see now. But it’s quite a delicate subject. Can we trust that Severo?”
Rear vassals were not necessarily faithful to their lord. When they were competent, they were often part of the branch family of their lord and it was not unheard of that they would try to usurp him.
But Aura cleared Zenjirou’s doubt with a shook of her head.
“Nothing is certain in life, but it should be fine in this case. Quite untypical for nobility, that rear vassal family is actually very loyal to the Guzzle Family, so a lot of its member can be trusted.
By the way, Severo is the husband of Amanda.”
Zenjirou widened his eyes and forgot all about his sleepiness for a moment in light of the unexpected piece of information.
“Our Supervisory Maid Amanda? Wow, I suddenly feel like I can entrust my life to him. I might be exaggerating, though.”
It was dangerous to unconditionally trust someone, just because he was related to someone else you trusted. The family of an upright person was not necessarily upright as well.
Zenjirou understood that notion in his head, but on an emotional level, he could not deny the fact that he thought it would be alright to trust him, now that he had heard that he was family to a person he already trusted.
“For this reason, I am going to ’leap’ a messenger to the March of Guzzle either today or tomorrow. Marquis Guzzle should be returning to the Capital with his ’Copy of the Roll of Names’ and Miss Nilda then.
The Marquis is quite dutiful. I am sure he will want to express his gratitude to you, once he hears about it, so be prepared for it.”
Zenjirou curtly acknowledged what Aura said.
Considering the personality of Marquis Guzzle, it certainly was easily to conceive that he would take such an action.
Well, Zenjirou concluded that it should suffice to think about how to deal with Marquis Guzzle and Miss Nilda once they arrived in the Royal Capital.
“That’s all from me, I guess. Do you have anything to report, Aura?”
Approached like that, Aura pondered for a moment, then began to speak.
“Well, a few things, yes. First off, the glass research is progressing well. Thanks to the sand and shells you brought back from Valentia, the colour became a lot more transparent. Its viscosity increased as well, so it is a lot easier to handle now.
We are at the point to start experimenting with making these jewels now.”
“Oh, I remember you telling me about that before. So we’re finally at that stage?”
Zenjirou sat up on the couch with a glint in the eyes, but Aura threw cold water on his hopes by adding her objections.
“Yes, the glass itself is at that stage, but there has been almost no progress for the furnace of the glass, so there is no hope for a mass production at this point. At the present time, our furnaces cannot withstand the heat to make glass, so they break during the production.
Due to that, work is being delayed. Well, it is a tedious task to begin with, since not many people are assigned to it and they do have to take breaks.”
It definitely was a shame that there was no prospect of mass production yet, but before they reached that stage, they currently still had a lot of things to do.
They were striving to make colourless transparent glass on purpose, not by chance, and learn how to shape it into a sphere. If possible, they wanted to remove the bubbles from it, too.
“If it’s more viscous now, it should become spherical by itself, when we just let small amounts flow down a metallic slope…
You won’t get it, when I say it’s shaped like a water slide at a pool, right?
How do I put it? I mean something like a spiral-shaped stair. In theory, molten glass with a high viscosity will naturally end up as a sphere by the time it has rolled down all the way down to the ash pit…”
Zenjirou remembered an old method to make marbles he had seen during his school trip to a glass manufactory in middle school, and tried to explain it, but he was not eloquent enough to depict it with words alone.
“…I’ll explain it with some illustration at another time.”
“That would be most helpful.”
As expected, Queen Aura could not fully grasp it, so she said that with a shrug.
When the making of marbles became possible in the future, albeit in small quantity, they needed to tackle a new problem: the creation of “Magic Tools”, which used these marbles as a medium.
“On the topic of Magic Tools, Prince Francesco mentioned something troublesome again.”
Suddenly remembering it, Aura wrinkled her brow and heaved a heavy sigh.
“Mh? What did he say?”
Prince Francesco said something troublesome. That subject and adjective came in pairs nine times out of ten, so Zenjirou showed almost no bewilderment and asked back.
The troublesome part was obviously referring to his declared desire to create a “Magic Tool” imbued with “Bestowal Magic”.
Even the smallest of brains could comprehend that his idea to imbue a Magic Tool with Bestowal Magic would shake the continent to the very foundations. Aura had the urged to tell her husband all about it and ask him for his opinion.
But she shook her head after a moment of contemplation.
“Hmm… No, I cannot tell you yet. Prince Francesco asked me not to speak of it to others. It would not be wise to break that promise at this point of time.”
For Royalty or Nobility, verbal promises were not something that had to be kept at all costs, but at the same time, it definitely hurt your reputation, when you broke them too often.
“As such, I cannot tell you the details now, but the matter quite likely involves these jewels of yours.”
“Ah, I can more or less see where this is going.”
Zenjirou nodded a few times, seemingly convinced by her words.
Considering Prince Francesco (literally) had only brains for his craftsmanship and mentioned something “in secret” that was going to involve the marbles from Zenjirou, he was probably trying to make an outrageous Magic Tool.
Seeing as Aura had not outright declined him, it was highly possible that the matter had some kind of advantage for the Carpa Kingdom as well.
Although not extraordinary bright, even Zenjirou could easily make a supposition about it.
“Okay. I’ll be ready to hear you out, when the time comes. But I want to confirm something: The marbles I brought along are mine for sure, but the ones the craftsmen make from now on won’t be mine, right?”
He was making sure rather than questioning it, but the Queen pondered for a while.
“Hmm, you devised the whole manufacturing process, so it technically would be legitimate to accredit their rights to you, though…”
Well aware of these circumstances, Aura still did not outright say “They are yours”, because she knew it would be disadvantageous to give these rights to Zenjirou.
At the present time, it was nothing but counting the chickens before they hatch, but when the Carpa Kingdom made the mass production of marbles possible in the future, it would be a huge issue of who owned the rights.
If the Carpa Kingdom were to get their hands on both the mass production of marbles and a practitioner of the Bestowal Magic one day, it would mean that they could mass produce Magic Tools.
The mass production of Magic Tools was a double-edged sword. In the hands of the monarch, it would strengthen the Royal Authority by far, whereas it could divide the country into two, when a different member of the Royal Family controlled it.
And it would become a lot more likely that someone else than the monarch secured the rights in the future, if the rights of the marble production were to be given to Zenjirou now.
It was relatively unlikely that a practitioner of “Bestowal Magic” would be born between Zenjirou and Aura in the first place. Crown Prince Carlos Zenkichi was said to be able to awaken to both “Space-Time Magic” and “Bestowal Magic” due to his vast amount of magical power, but he was more of an exception to the exception.
Normally, the stronger “Space-Time Magic” predisposition from Aura would be prominent in their child while the “Bestowal Magic” predisposition had almost no chance to surface.
Accordingly, a possible practitioner of the “Bestowal Magic” in the Carpa Kingdom would have to be a child from Zenjirou with a different woman than Aura. In other words: Indirect Royalty.
Needless to say, that Indirect Royalty would become the central figure of the Magic Tool production. Things would get rather complicated then, when Zenjirou possessed the rights to the marbles, a necessary ingredient for the creation of these Magic Tools.
The Indirect Royalty would be the child of Prince Consort Zenjirou, but not of Queen Aura. Considering the child would be mainly using the marbles, it would obviously expect to inherit these rights from its father.
Whether the mother was Princess Freya or some other woman, the relatives behind her would, without doubt, strongly lay claim to these rights, too, for their own interests.
On the other hand, that kind of trouble in the next generation could be avoided, if the rights to the marbles were given to Queen Aura in the first place.
Even if she shared that right with her husband, she had no obligation whatsoever to let a non-blood related Indirect Royalty inherit that right. It was much more natural to let her own child, the next monarch, inherit it.
Zenjirou obviously comprehended these circumstances as well.
“As a matter of fact, the glass craftsmen are acting upon your orders, so it should be yours. I’ve no right to meddle in it.”
He declared indifferently without showing any attachment to it.
“…Are you sure?”
Well-accustomed to his considerate personality already, Aura still showed some bewilderment this time round.
It goes without saying. This matter was different from the previous incidents, where he rejected all the rights or rewards Aura was supposed to give him, after all.
Zenjirou was basically relinquishing the rights to his knowledge without condition. And quite profitable knowledge that would become the backbone of the country in the future, at that.
Based on their time together, Aura was certain that he was being dead serious, but she could not relate to these moral values.
Although she understood it in the head that something like this was nothing special to him, her heart could not keep up with it.
Whether he knew about the emotional state of his wife or not, Zenjirou affirmed it with an indifferent expression.
“Yep. No matter how you think about it, the monarch should have direct control over the technology to make a medium for magic tools or it would be dangerous. Well, I will help as much as possible until a mass production is in place, of course.”
At wit’s end from his apathetic statement, Aura heaved a sigh.
“…Sometimes I question myself if you are really human. Maybe you are just a convenient illusion or the manifestation of a benevolent spirit?”
Prince Consort Zenjirou was such a “convenient guy” for her that it made her consider that for real.
His actual capabilities aside, he principally did everything she asked for on the one hand and showed not the slightest interest in what she did not ask for on the other hand.
In the previous war amongst others, Aura had been made aware of how unfair reality was and how difficult it was to balance the pro and contra of things, so she could not help but be scared of his consideration at times.
Needless to say, Zenjirou was not all that dense, either.
He did know that his moral values were quite abnormal in this world and also that consideration or modesty did not necessarily bring about good results once a relationship reached a certain familiarity.
But at the same time, it was an incontrovertible truth that authority or fortune were nothing but “troublesome” baggage for him. And as a born commoner, he had an extremely low tolerance for power and wealth.
It was not humility or anything, when he said he wanted to avoid opportunities to order around others with his authority as much as possible, but his true feelings.
With a bitter smile, Zenjirou tried to voice these true feelings as accurately as possible.
“Hmm, these kind of things are just work to me. A burden, so to speak. I’m not really trying to please you, but rather just speaking my mind.”
“I do know you are speaking the truth. But it unsettles me on an emotional level. It feels like I am slave-driving you one-sidedly.
No, it is not just a feeling. I am definitely slave-driving you in all objectivity.”
“Don’t worry about it, is what I would like to say, but we do have to consider the public view after all. Our positions are complicated enough as it is.
If you can’t leave me out of the picture, I guess we need to give the impression on the surface at least that you rewarded me in some way, so if you know of something appropriate, I’ll accept it.”
Aura showed a wry smile and heaved a sigh, when her husband was only worried about outer appearance.
“I do want to reward you for real, not just for show, though. But yes, outer appearance certainly is quite important for Royalty like us.
Giving you a title would be the safest choice in this case. Of course I cannot give you a title with a territory like the Duke of Valentia or Count of Potoshi, but there are still a couple of titles without land, so if you could accept one of them, it would help.”
A title without an associated territory, meaning a title of honour. Unlike the officials in the palace, such a title did not get a remuneration, so receiving the title alone could drive you into a financial corner instead, because you had to prepare the clothes appropriate to its rank, but that was not causing any concern for Royalty.
All necessary clothes and accessories for Royalty were being provided anyway and if they ever needed money for something else, Royalty could easily earn it through their “Bloodline Magic”.
“A title, eh. Yeah, sounds good as long as it doesn’t come with a troublesome territory management.
And personally speaking, there’s only one thing that counts as a genuine reward for me.”
Saying that, Zenjirou let his refreshing smile turn into a more suggestive one. In short: a “wolfish grin”.
He put his right hand around the back of his wife and pulled her closer with a jerk.
Aura obviously knew what that implied and for this very reason, she was quite troubled by his behaviour.
“Ah, well, you know, Zenjirou. Please keep calm and listen to me…”
Leaning against her husband, but still keeping a bit of a distance to him by placing her right hand on his chest, the Queen began to speak.
Zenjirou got a bad feeling about her unusual hesitant way of speaking and indecisive line of vision, but asked anyway.
“ Yeah, what is it?”
“Well, you see, it is not quite certain yet, but… we might be getting a ‘second one‘.”
A second one.
Comprehending what this was referring to, Zenjirou tensed up on the spot while still embracing his beloved wife.
There might a second child in the belly of his wife. That was wonderful news. Really wonderful news.
It could be called a great success, considering the reason Zenjirou was summoned into this world for.
And of course, he personally welcomed the fact that Aura was going to bear his child in a “fundamental way“, too.
His first child Carlos Zenkichi was essentially the greatest treasure to him and getting one more such treasure was truly a joyous occasion.
It was joyous indeed, but… Zenjirou was rather conflicted about it right now.
Because they would have to put their night activities on hold for a while, when Aura was believed to be pregnant.
Zenjirou loved children without doubt, but he loved the process of making them just as much.
Especially after returning from the month-long expedition in an “unsatisfied” condition.
The Queen and her husband maintained a stiff silence while embracing each other on the couch.
After more than a minute, the silence was broken by Zenjirou.
“…I… I’m… really happy to hear that.”
The prince consort struggles for words of pleasant anticipation and congratulations while his expression was a mixture of happiness and sadness alike. He was literally “smiling through his tears”.
Roughly ten days passed, since Zenjirou returned to the Royal Capital.
The sky over the Capital was covered by dark rain clouds and the raindrops drummed on the roof of the Royal Palace, creating puddles all over the courtyard.
At least there was no heavy wind like during a typhoon, but it was by no means the sweet rain shower you could witness in Japan during its rainy season. It poured down so heavily that you could hear the rain even with the window shutters closed.
The “Rainy Season” had just started.
This season had the slightest long-distance travel percentage of all seasons in the Carpa Kingdom.
Although the “Vibrant Season” was all about business, like its name applied, and everyone stayed indoors during the “Hottest Season”, because of its severe temperature, the “Rainy Season” was actually even more unsuited for travels than these two.
Even though it was called the “Rainy Season”, it actually rained only once every two to three days on the average, but with the street development in this world being what it was, most streets turned into small rivers unless it happened to be state-funded roads like the “Salt Road” or the main street in the Capital.
The rain would flood rivers and muddy the water, preventing you to replenish your water resources on the way. Likewise, it was no easy feat to camp outside in the rain. Moreover, some amphibious carnivores would show up on the street, when the rivers flooded, even though they normally did not come ashore. On top of that, vision was poor during a rainfall, so one could easily fall prey to an attack from these dragons.
Because of these circumstances, it had become a global acceptance to avoid long-distance travels as much as possible during the “Rainy Season”.
In light of this, Marquis Guzzle and Nilda Guzzle literally managed to reach the Royal Capital in the very nick of time, seeing as they arrived here a few days ago.
While the rain was watering the greenery outside, Zenjirou was sitting in front of his computer in the living room of the Inner Palace and chanted a spell with a strained expression.
“Send my chosen target to the place I envision. As compensation, I make…”
The fact that the “Magic Language” he had uttered sounded Japanese to him was proof that the automatic translation from the “Soul of Words” had been at work. In other words, a proof for his correct pronunciation.
Zenjirou wordlessly typed on the keyboard, entering the tenth check mark for today into his spreadsheet software.
The check marks indicated a correct intonation for “Teleport”, the spell he was learning right now.
He shouted emotionally, thrusting his clenched fists into the air while remaining seated.
It had been a spontaneous impulse born out of the subconsciousness of his mind.
Zenjirou usually contained his emotions, so it was a rare sight, but it was understandable in this case. After all, his efforts from the past three months, since Aura told him to “learn Teleport next”, were finally bearing fruits.
Of course he had only cleared the first hurdle by the name of “correct intonation” so far and the second and third hurdle, “correct amount of magical power” and “correct perception” respectively, were still waiting for him, but he had more or less cleared one third of the progress, so the feeling of accomplishment was accordingly great.
Especially after coming home from the March of Guzzle, he had invested a relative great deal of time in his magic training.
It practically doubled his delight.
Stretching his raised arms, Zenjirou turned his head to the sides and relaxed his shoulders.
Probably because she heard his cheer, his beloved wife Queen Aura appeared in the door connecting the living room and their bedroom.
“Looks like you make a breakthrough.”
When Zenjirou turned around, the Queen in a casual dress drew closer with a soft smile.
Two waiting maids flanked her on both sides, keeping watch over her.
“Ah, sorry. Was I too loud?”
Standing up from his chair, Zenjirou forgot all about his computer and trotted over to his wife.
“No, it is alright. You are working hard for my sake, right?”
“Yeah. Well, for you and our ‘second child’, to be precise.”
Then Zenjirou took her hand and lead her to the couch in the middle of the living room.
Aura obediently let him take the lead and slowly sat down on the black leather couch.
Normally the waiting maids would wait in a different room until they are called upon out of respect for Zenjirou, but they were not separating from Aura right now.
There was only reason why Zenjirou was learning “Teleport” with utmost zeal after coming back from the March of Guzzle.
His beloved wife Aura was quite likely pregnant with their second child.
Her menstruation still had not come as of yet and after the examination, the royal physician Doctor Michelle also had said she was pregnant in all likelihood, but even on the off chance that she was not, she still should act in moderation until it was verified.
Needless to say, the news of a second pregnancy of Queen Aura spread throughout the Royal Palace like wildfire.
Zenjirou had been dumbfounded by it at first, but once he had calmed down, he felt nothing but joice about it.
It was a shame that the nightly activities with his wife would come to an end again after such a short time, but the eager anticipation of their second child outweighed it by far.
That in turn reminded him of the vow he had taken in the past.
During the pregnancy and delivery of their first child Carlos Zenkichi, Zenjirou had been made aware that both pregnancy and delivery were not without risk in this world, even for royalty.
So he had sworn back then that he would master “Teleport” by the time their second child was going to be born, in order to bring over a healer from the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell in case anything went wrong.
And now, with Aura’s second pregnancy at hand, Zenjirou was incited by the goal had had set for himself.
If Aura was indeed pregnant, there was no time to waste. He needed to learn “Teleport” and visit the Twin Kingdom as soon as possible.
Although Zenjirou was royalty from an allied nation, they would hardly listen to him, if he suddenly were to come over with “Teleport” and agitatedly demand: “My wife is in danger! Give me a healer!”
It was necessary that he visited them officially once and negotiated beforehand that “he needed to bring a healer into his country at a later date“, when they had become acquainted.
Zenjirou sat down next to Aura, preoccupied in thought.
“I can’t travel during the ‘Rainy Season’ anyway, so it’s a race against time. I have to learn ‘Teleport’ before the ‘Rainy Season’ ends at all costs.”
Seeing her husband clench his fist with determination, the Queen cracked a smile and narrowed her eyes to slits most pleased.
“No need to drive yourself into a corner. The ‘Rainy Season’ is followed by the ‘Hottest Season’. It is not as bad as during the ‘Rainy Season’, but long-distance travel will still be quite difficult. So how about you set the time limit to half a year from now on?”
It goes without saying that Zenjirou himself was not going to ride a dragon carriage from the Carpa Kingdom to the Twin Kingdom. It might work for domestic travels like Valentia or the March of Guzzle, but when it involved a foreign country, it was definitely too careless.
Other Royalty might have no other choice but to do so, but the Royalty of the Carpa Kingdom was in possession of their trump card “Space-Time Magic”. There was no need to deliberately expose their members to a danger.
Zenjirou himself could easily be sent over with “Teleport” from Aura.
But he was still Royalty, so there was no way he could visit a foreign country all by himself.
Knights, Soldiers and Waiting Maids needed to accompany him for protection and support. Sending all these people over with “Teleport” was definitely impossible.
Everyone besides Zenjirou would have to travel the normal way by foot or carriage.
So even when he himself could move around with Aura’s “Teleport”, he still was somewhat bound to the restraint of the seasons.
Zenjirou, too, understood that Aura was right, but decided not to be spoiled by his wife.
“Yeah, thanks, but I better get this over with as soon as possible. If you really are pregnant, I’ll likely be busy with work again and have no time for practice anymore.”
During her previous pregnancy, Aura had to cut down her workload quite a bit before entering the stable period. At the same time, it meant that Zenjirou got more work to do as her representative.
From now on, he would continue to make an effort to learn “Teleport” while working as a proxy for Aura. Once he had mastered “Teleport”, he would then negotiate the dispatch of an healer in the Twin Kingdom.
Needless to say, the negotiation were expected to take a while, so Zenjirou would have to go back to the Carpa Kingdom at regular intervals (made possible through his use of ‘Teleport’) and handle the work as Aura’s representative.
Either way, he would be quite busy for some time now.
“Sorry to impose on you, Zenjirou, and thank you.”
“No, it’s alright.”
Zenjirou softly squeezed the hand his beloved wife had put on top of his.
* * *
It was indeed true that the “Rainy Season” slowed down productivity as a whole, but it did not bring it to a complete halt.
Especially the nobles staying in the Royal Capital were the least affected by the rain. The streets in the capital were paved with stone and nobility generally travelled by a carriage with a roof.
On top of that, they mainly gathered at the Royal Palace or their own mansions. Both were large structures of stone and braved the weather well and truly.
As a result, the nobles involved with the Royal Palace socialized relatively unaffected, even during the “Rainy Season”.
On a certain day, the nobles gathered in the audience room of the Royal Palace and curiously fixated their gazes on Queen Aura sitting on her throne, an elderly Feudal Lord and an unfamiliar little girl standing before her.
Today’s audience had not been on the agenda. Queen Aura had suddenly summoned a special meeting.
The fact alone that she had convened an extraordinary meeting was enough to convince them that something out of the common had taken place.
At the beginning, most of the nobles had been anxious, thinking “Just what could have happened?”, but everyone had regained their composure by now. Seeing how Marquis Guzzle, who had explicitly been obliged to attend, had remained calm, they had concluded that the matter could not be all that severe.
Under the watchful eyes of numerous nobles, Queen Aura sat on her throne imposingly and lowly began to speak.
“I am glad you all headed my summoning today. I called you here for no other reason than to share an important information I have obtained.
Marquis Miguel Guzzle and the girl besides him, step forward.”
“At your command.”
Upon the Queen’s order, the elderly Feudal Lord, Marquis Guzzle stepped forward with an ease unusual for his age.
Nilda Guzzle, the little girl who had stood besides him, followed behind him.
You could tell at a glance how nervous she was by looking at her stiff motion.
Be it her length of stride, her way of walking or how she dragged the hem of her dress. All of it was still barely in line with etiquette, but obviously deformed by her tension. Everyone broke out in a cold sweat, seeing that.
The majority of nobility here should have never seen or heard about this girl, but at some point, everyone was warmly watching over her with worry.
Even though they did not know her, the fact that she was next to Marquis Guzzle made it easy to guess that she belonged to the Guzzle Family.
Some nobles here could be considered political opponents of the Guzzle Family, but even those did not give her any mean glances, thinking “Serves her right. Go and embarrass yourself in front of the Queen”. Nilda might actually be a factor to be reckoned with.
Anyway, when Nilda managed to prostrate before the throne, even if slower than usual, everyone in the audience room heaved a sigh of relief.
In order to get this lax atmosphere under control again, the Queen spoke with dignity.
“It has been bought to my attention that this little girl here is your own flesh and blood, Marquis Miguel Guzzle. Is that correct, Marquis?”
The elderly marquis agreed with the words of the Queen.
“Yes, that is correct. She is my daughter, Nilda Guzzle.”
“Okay. The Guzzle Family has been a loyal vassal for generation, so I do not mean to doubt you. But let me say this: The royal ’Roll of Names’ I keep does not register the name Nilda Guzzle.”
Her straightforward declaration caused a commotion within the audience room.
Well, of course it did. For nobility, it was a serious issue, when their name was not registered on the “Roll of Names”.
In the Carpa Kingdom, nobility referred to those, who were registered on the “Roll of Names” in the possession of the Monarch.
Strictly speaking, even a legitimate child of a noble family was only the “child of a noble”, but not a “noble itself”, until they went to the Monarch and had its name be registered on the “Roll of Names”.
As a matter of fact, a noble without an heir could appoint a promising subject of his as a foster child and make him nobility by registering him on the “Roll of Names” under the eyes of the Monarch. On the other hand, low-ranking nobility with lots of children often refrained from registering the younger ones on the “Roll of Names” for economic reasons.
Hence it was a very important matter for nobility, whether the name was written on the “Roll of Names” or not. In a way, it could even be considered more important than parentage.
All the gazes were naturally fixated on Marquis Guzzle and his daughter Nilda.
But unlike the surprised crowd, the two people in question were not behaving any different from before.
Nilda had been trembling like a small animal from the very beginning, so it could not get any worse, and Marquis Guzzle kept his calm composure and slowly shook his head, objecting to the Queen’s statement.
“Be that as it may, it is a fact that Nilda is my daughter and I came to here in the past to register her on the ‘Roll of Names’. I have our ‘copy’ here.”
Saying so, Marquis Guzzle took out a single dragon leather parchment from his pocket.
Like its named suggest, the “copy” was a duplicate document you received as proof for the registration, when signing in a name on the “Roll of Names”.
Needless to say, it was a very important document and was usually stored away at a safe place of the owner. One does not simply pull such a thing out of the pocket for a spontaneous counterargument.
Before long, the nobles in the audience room realized that they were watching a prearranged conversation.
And in fact, it was indeed a performance for publicity.
Aura and Marquis Guzzle have had an unofficial meeting a few days ago, where Aura informed him about the missing entry of Nilda’s name and confirmed that his “copy” was not counterfeited.
But without revealing any of that, Aura remained seated on her throne and ordered the civil servant standing next to her.
“Hmm, I see. Bring the ‘copy’ to me.”
“Well then, Marquis, I will be taking this.”
The young civil servant took the “Copy” from Marquis Guzzle and handed it to Queen Aura, whereupon she spoke up overexaggerated.
“This is definitely genuine. It has the signature from His Majesty Sancho and it is his handwriting for sure.”
Needless to say, she could say that, because they had an expert verify the signature a few days ago.
The late King Sancho was Aura’s little brother from the same mother. She did know his handwriting, but her memory of it was not so vivid that she could identify it on a single glance.
After checking the “Copy”, the Queen looked over the audience hall and declared.
“Seeing as this ‘Copy’ is real, I am afraid that I will have to admit that there is a mistake with the ‘Roll of Names’.
Marquis Guzzle, this ‘Copy’ has the signature of His Majesty Sancho. Is that correct?”
“Yes. His Majesty Sancho filled in the ‘Roll of Names’ and made this ‘Copy’ in the City of Potoshi six years ago.”
Marquis Guzzle affirmed the words of the Queen like that.
Sancho I. also known as the “King of Revenge”.
As that name implied, he swore to avenge the death of his older brother and spent the majority of his not even one year regency on the battlefield.
Hence the registration of nobility on the “Roll of Names” was conducted either on the frontlines or in Potoshi, who was the closet city to the frontlines.
Later on, the “Roll of Names” he carried must have been lost in the chaos that followed his death on the battlefield.
Explaining this hypothesis, Aura continued on.
“This is an unprecedented incident, so I will make an exception this time and re-register the name on the ’Roll of Names’ without further ado. The registration date on the ’Copy’ will be valid as it is, of course.”
The fact she especially mentioned without further ado was due to the normal commission fee, when registering a name on the “Roll of Names”. That fee was just pocket change for a great house like the Marquis Family, but low-ranking nobility had trouble coughing up that amount of money.
The Queen then addressed the civil servants standing at attention behind her.
“Someone, bring me something to write.”
“Here, Your Majesty.”
Upon her order, the civil servant standing next to her handed her a wooden plank akin to a drafting board and a dragon-bone quill.
While two civil servants supported the wooden board from both her sides, Aura opened a large book and took the patterned dragon-bone quill in her right hand.
The dragon-bone quills used in the Carpa Kingdom were like glass pens, namely hard dip pens.
Another civil servant presented Aura an ink jar, wherein she dipped the dragon-bone quill. With all eyes focused on her, she ran the quill over the “Roll of Names” in a composed manner like always.
Once the Queen had written the name Nilda Guzzle, her degree of kinship, the name of her guarantor and the dates of six years ago and today, she gave the “Roll of Names” to one of the civil servants and then put the “Copy” on top of the wooden board.
This document required less effort.
She simply wrote her own name, Aura I., under the sign of Sancho I. and added today’s date in small letters under the date of six years ago.
Giving the completed “Roll of Names” and “Copy” to the civil servant, the Queen declared to the nobles gathered in front of her.
“The mistake has been corrected. I, Aura I., hereby acknowledge that the late king Sancho I. registered Nilda Guzzle as nobility of the Carpa Kingdom six years ago.”
Only the “Roll of Names” in possession of the Royal Family had been out of order. The Guzzle Family had not been at fault, so their treatment of Nilda as nobility had been correct. Aura was explicating that she would not accept any objection over that.
Due to her standing as the Monarch of the country, she did explicitly mentioned an “apology”, but her phrasing made it more than obvious that the Royal Family assumed full responsibility for this case.
“His Majesty Sancho I. only ruled for less a year, but I really doubt that Nilda Guzzle was the only one to register on the ‘Roll of Names’ during that time.
Come and talk to me later on, when it happens to concern you. I promise that I will give you the same treatment as Nilda Guzzle as long as you have the ‘Copy’ with the signature of Sancho I..”
The nobles were thrown into turmoil in light of the words from the Queen. Some of them were showing a pensive face, apparently having someone in mind.
Waiting until the commotion settled down on its own, the Queen continued on.
“I shall establish a special one-year period to re-register on the ‘Roll of Names’ from today on. Anyone affected shall come and see me within that time period, bringing along your guarantor and the ‘Copy’ with the signature of Sancho I.
In case that there is no guarantor, you also may come alone as long as you explain the circumstances.”
Like its name implied, the guarantor was someone, who guaranteed the background of the person aspiring to become new nobility. Normally, it was the own parent, but in case of vassals, the head of the lord’s family could act as a guarantor as well.
The reason Aura mentioned that “they may come alone if there was no guarantor” was that some houses had lost the head family in the previous great war.
“That is all for today.”
When the Queen ended the meeting, the gathered nobles deeply lowered their heads while they were already considering how to act from now on in their minds.
* * *
The next day.
It was raining hard. Even though it was called the “Rainy Season”, the rain was only falling once every two to three days, but today happened to be that very day.
The heavy raindrops resounded beyond the closed wooden shutters and the room was so dark it required a couple of oil pans for illumination, despite it being midday.
In that dim-lit room of the Royal Palace, Zenjirou was meeting with Marquis Miguel Guzzle and its second daughter Nilda Guzzle.
“You have my deepest gratitude on this matter, Master Zenjirou.”
“Thank you very much!”
The elderly father and the just coming-of-age daughter did not sit down on the couch, but took a knee on the carpet.
Aura had informed him that this might happen in advance, so Zenjirou replied without being surprised.
“All right. Raise your heads. We cannot talk like this.”
Saying this, he urged them to sit down on the couch.
“Yes, thank you.”
Seeing as Marquis Guzzle and Nilda obediently sat down on the couch across from him, Zenjirou heaved a sigh of relief so small no else heard it.
He could deal with it, when it was just a formality at an official event, but when someone prostrate himself before him in all earnestness like Marquis Guzzle just now, he was overwhelmed on an emotional level.
Born as a normal Japanese guy, Zenjirou still could not get comfortable with other people prostrating before him.
However, that was nothing but his personal sensitivity. Marquis Guzzle on the other hand had a concrete reason to express his gratitude by prostrating himself.
Miguel Guzzle was a straightforward warrior with an unusual lack of talent for intrigues as a noble, but that did not mean that he was stupid.
Once he was told that Nilda’s name was missing on the “Roll of Names” and recalled the incident at the wedding ceremony, he easily could figure out the intention behinds Zenjirou’s actions back then.
For some reason, Princess Freya had intervened in the quarrel between Nilda and the knight from the Navarre Kingdom and even taken the spotlight at some point.
As her partner, Zenjirou had not restrained her “tomboyish act”. On the contrary, he had supported her in full.
And in the final stage, he had proposed to “pretend this incident never happened to begin with, without further probing from either side”.
All of these actions had come across as strange at that time, but with the knowledge that “Nilda was no nobility”, it became apparent what Zenjirou had wanted to do.
He had protected Nilda. As a non-noble, her actions would have caused problems later. In order to prevent that, he had made Princess Freya back her up. Considering the circumstances, that was the only possible conclusion.
“Have you already been aware of Nilda’s circumstances back then, Master Zenjirou?”
From his previous mistake, Marquis Guzzle had learned that he was more suited to voice his doubts directly instead of scheming poorly, even if that was untypical for a noble, so he asked frankly like that.
Zenjirou pondered a moment over the question from the elderly feudal lord, but decided there was no reason to hide things at this point and answered honestly.
“I had no proof, but I have had no information about you having a daughter named Nilda.
So I just acted with the worst case scenario in mind. I am glad nothing serious happened.”
“Yes, you really saved us there, Master Zenjirou.”
This time, Marquis Guzzle deeply lowered his head from the couch.
His attitude was by no means exaggerated.
Without Zenjirou’s meddling back then, Nilda and the Guzzle Family might not have fallen from grace, but they surely would have suffered a great deal on the diplomatic stage.
Of course the whole incident arose from the erroneous entry on the “Roll of Names” from the Royal Family, so you could say that Zenjirou, as a member of the Royal Family, had only cleaned up his own mess, but politics were too complicated to write it off as that.
Even if a previous king had committed the mistake in the first place, the fact remained that the Guzzle Family had “its non-noble daughter cause a quarrel with a noble from the Navarre Kingdom”.
It was more likely that the Navarre Kingdom would have brought up a complaint to the Guzzle Family instead of the Carpa Royal Family. But that possibility was completely erased now, because the situation had been resolved around Zenjirou’s proposal to “pretend the incident had never happened to begin with and neither side was to probe into it any further”.
Marquis Guzzle could technically say a thing or two to the Royal Family for its mistake on the “Roll of Names”, but he felt nothing but gratitude towards Zenjirou himself, who he had read the atmosphere and completely smoothed out the situation.
“I shall not forget your kindness. Please just say the word, if I can ever be of use to you.”
“It is quite reassuring, when a seasoned general like you says that. I could not be happier, when you continue to pledge your loyalty to the ‘Carpa Royal Family’.”
“…Yes, as you wish.”
After a short pause, the elderly lord obediently nodded his assent to Zenjirou.
Nilda next to him was showing a beaming smile and did not seem to notice, but there was a hidden meaning in the conversation just now.
Zenjirou was afraid of the fact that the marquis was expressing his gratitude towards his person alone, so he explicitly reminded him to pledge his loyalty towards the “Carpa Royal Family” and the marquis accepted that after a moment of consideration.
Zenjirou himself knew he was being a bit too neurotic, but he wanted to remove any dangerous seeds as soon as possible.
He gladly accepted the loyalty from a noble knight with an effective manpower of a single person, like Knight Natalio Maldonado, but accepting the loyalty from a Marquis with his own army to his person as the Prince Consort would spell trouble for the future.
Although involved as well, Nilda on the other hand seemed to not understand any of these circumstances and still showed an innocent smile.
She was no fool, either, and had received an education as a noble from her older sister Lucinda once she had been taken into the Guzzle Family, so she did understand that it was a severe problem in the higher society, when your name was not registered on the “Roll of Names”.
But that was all she understood.
She did harbour a genuine gratitude towards Zenjirou for going out of his way for her, but that was about it. She was not considering any interests like “Why did he do so?” or “What does he seek in return?”.
“Thank you very much, Master Zenjirou.”
Hence, she was also pouring nothing but a genuine and almost dazzling affection into her thanks.
“No, do not mention it. I am just glad nothing worse happened.”
Encouraged by the little girl’s smiling face, Zenjirou also showed an honest smile.
* * *
Around the same time, in another room of the Royal Palace, Queen Aura was having a confidential meeting with her faithful retainers Secretary Fabio, the Royal Archmage Espiridión and the waiting maid Margret.
“Are you feeling fine, Your Majesty?”
“Yes, no problems so far. Well, even Doctor Michelle still could not be sure about my pregnancy after all.”
With a helping hand from waiting maid Margret, the Queen sat down on the black leather couch and said this, thanking the maid with a wave of her hand.
Only Aura was sitting down. Her three retainers remained standing, forming a small circle before the couch.
A middle-aged secretary, an old magician and a young waiting maid. Their jobs, gender and age were all different, but the three of them shared one thing in common: Aura was placing her full trust in their abilities and loyalty. One of them had a somewhat untrustworthy personality, though.
The person with that untrustworthy personality, Secretary Fabio had started this conversation.
“So, Your Majesty, I take it you have summoned us here because of the incident with the ‘Roll of Names’?”
The Queen agreed to the words of her secretary.
“Indeed. I need to consult you about my ‘pregnancy’ afterwards, too, but the ‘Roll of Names’ takes priority.
Margret, report what you know as of now.”
Prompted by the Queen, the waiting maid with unusual blonde hair, green eyes and white skin for the Carpa Kingdom, bowed briefly and began to speak.
“Yes, Your Majesty. At least four people from all the nobles leaving the audience room, have expressed a concernment later on.”
Hearing the espionagesque summary from the blonde waiting maid, the Queen wrinkled her brow a bit.
“Like I thought. Miss Nilda was not the only one. I had expected it, but it will be somewhat troublesome. That said, those from the capital will be our least problem.”
“Certainly. The true problem lies in the ‘possible erroneous entries’ whose families were not present today and do not know about these circumstances.”
The slender-faced secretary acknowledged the misgivings of the Queen.
The Carpa Kingdom was currently releasing nobility from their duty of serving in the capital by way of exception, when they were short on hands due to the losses in the previous war.
A delay in the procedure could be expected, when the “possible erroneous entries” happened to be in these families, who were shutting themselves away in their domains.
The aged magician Espiridión stroke his short beard while answering to the words of the Queen and the secretary.
“Do you know which nobles have been relieved from their duty, Your Majesty? If so, we can just inform them and resolve the problem.”
The Queen shook her head vexedly to his question.
“Of course I do, but some of them are vassal nobles. It will only complicate things, when I go over the head of their lord and contact them directly.”
“I see. That certainly is a problem.”
In light of these words, the elderly magician also showed a vexed expression.
The Royal Family possessed quite the power in the Carpa Kingdom, but the country was essentially a feudal state.
The Feudal Lords were more or less self-governing and the influential ones had other nobles working under them, the so called vassal nobles.
As the Monarch, Aura technically had no authority over them. The vassal nobles generally only obeyed the orders of their lord.
If Aura were to get in direct contact with these vassal nobles without the knowledge of their lord, the lord would obvious be offended.
Even if it was done out of consideration, it did not necessarily achieve a good result.
The Royal Family could only bring up the topic to the lord and when that lord was harbouring some kind of reservations towards his vassal, the Royal Family could do nothing about it.
“Then how about we extend the period for the nobles, who have received the information belated?”
The proposal from Secretary Fabio was instantly met with a head-shaking from the Queen.
“No. The period will be one year, no exceptions. If I give them any more time, people might start to have evil intentions.”
The “Copy” of the “Roll of Names” one brought along for identification was signed with the Royal Crest and the signature of the Monarch at that time, but given enough time, it was not outright impossible to forge the document.
To make things worse, the error in the “Roll of Names” occurred during the previous great war.
It was not uncommon that commoners were promoted to nobles for their military achievements in a great war.
Influential nobles could make use of this opportunity to increase their vassal nobles by forging a “Copy”.
And unfortunately it was likewise possible that the second son or daughter of a poor noble, who were not ennobled themselves, were tempted into some evil intentions.
Low-ranking knighthood families often only registered their oldest son as their successor or their beautiful daughters as a way to bond with other families on the “Roll of Names”. All their other children remained commoners.
The reasons for that were many and various, but the registration fee was without doubt the greatest hurdle. The fee was so expensive that nobles a the bottom of the hierarchy had no choice but to forfeit the future of their own child in tears.
The current condition to “re-register without a fee, but with a ‘Copy’ signed by Sancho I.” was extremely attractive to these people.
“But a few might slip our attention then. Have you thought about that, Your Majesty?”
The Queen nodded briefly to the aged magician.
“Indeed. Hence I intend to more lenient with other things other than the deadline. The ‘Road Maintenance‘ this year will be done in consideration of these circumstances.”
In the Carpa Kingdom, it was pretty much a given that a road somewhere in the country needed repairs after the “Rainy Season”.
When part of the road turned into a mud or a clogged gutter prevented shallow puddles to flow off, it was still the lesser evil compared to an expected landslide in the mountains, where the road became impassable by all means.
A mountain road blocked by a landslide was obviously a more serious matter, but puddles or mud on main roads like the “Salt Road” were effectively impeding more people.
Since the available military engineers were limited, the Queen had to decide on a priority list in terms of efficacy for the whole country.
As a result, the problem of a landslide on a mountain road with relative few travellers was put on the back burner or dumped entirely on the residents there, even if it was a severe obstruction for them.
However, Aura was claiming that she was going to prioritize roads, where “people with a missing entry on the Roll of Names“ would pass through, this time.
“The Royal Family is at fault for this case and when people end up losing their nobility, just because they could not reach the Capital, I will definitely fall out of favour with them.
In the worse case, I will ‘leap’ you there, Greybeard. I know it will not be easy on you, but brace yourself for it.”
When the Queen said that, the elderly mage shrugged his shoulders and heaved a heavy sigh.
“Well, all right. These old bones of mine are yours to command, Your Majesty.”
Normally, people with a lot of magical power tended to have trouble with small-scale magic that required few magical power, but some rare exceptions did exist.
Espiridión was one of them.
With all kind of spells and an enormous magic reservoir at hand, he could exhibit a power far greater than a whole group of military engineers all by himself.
It would not even take him a day to make a road blocked by a landslide be passable by foot again.
“I am counting on you.”
The elderly magician nodded with a small smile to the request of the Queen.
With the “Roll of Names” issue dealt with for now, the Queen began to talk to her trusted retainers about the other matter at hand.
“Well then, I believe the news of my pregnancy already went around the Royal Palace, so what are the reactions in that regard?”
To be precise, Doctor Michelle only had suggested “a high possibility for a pregnancy”, but nobility was not known to be patient enough to wait until it had been confirmed for real.
Margret gave a report with a composed tone.
“Yes, the majority of them are reacting the same way as before. Most of them are trying to push for a concubine for Master Zenjirou while others are aiming for the position of the second wet nurse.
Needless to say, the great houses are carrying out both at the same time.”
“Hmm, I just hope there will be someone suitable like Cassandra was for Carlos, but I have no bearing on that, unfortunately.”
Saying that, the Queen rested her chin in her hand with a difficult expression.
Cassandra was the wet nurse for their first child: Carlos Zenkichi.
She was not upper nobility, but her personality was trustworthy and she had three own children, so in terms of nursing a child, she was the perfect fit for a “wet nurse”.
Unfortunately, she had not received much education, so she could not continue as a “nursery nurse” after the nursing period.
Aura could leave her child to Cassandra with an easy conscience. But would she actually find such a wet nurse for her second child as well?
As a token of her anxiety, Aura unwittingly placed her right hand on top of her not yet swollen stomach.
The slender-faced secretary raised an eyebrow to her behaviour, but did not address it and instead carried on the dialogue.
“Certainly. We can only choose the most suitable applicant at that point. More importantly, the great houses will not aim for the wet nurse, but for a concubine for Master Zenjirou.
We will have to think of a countermeasure for that first.”
Aura gave a small nod to her secretary.
“You are right. That is the more pressing problem. I was thinking that the presence of Princess Freya would put them off, but how does the current situation look like?”
Princess Freya from the Uppsala Kingdom on the North Continent had actually proposed to Zenjirou at an official event.
Afterwards, Queen Aura had not separated her from Zenjirou, but rather even allowed her to accompany Zenjirou to a wedding ceremony as his partner. At the Royal Palace, it was seen as nothing but a matter of time until Princess Freya was officially recognized as a concubine.
Aura was asking whether such a de-facto concubine was discouraging other concubine aspirants or not. The Waiting Maid Margret shook her head relentless.
“Unfortunately, her presence has actually worsened the situation instead. Truth be told, the nobles have increased their efforts on commending a concubine, compared to your first pregnancy.”
Previously, they had believed Zenjirou preferred a “woman like Aura”.
To put her charm blankly, she was a mature woman with a tall and voluptuously figure.
But the prime age for marriage in this world ranged from fifteen to twenty-two years-old and only a few women had such a charm at such an age.
On the other hand, Princess Freya was a typical beautiful girl in her later teens. She did have some quirks, such as her unladylike short hair or her zest for outdoor action while cross-dressing, but it made things simpler, when Princess Freya was acceptable to Zenjirou.
Nobles were thinking that they just had to prepare an ordinary “attractive girl of marriageable age”, so the line-up was broader than before.
Hearing the status report, the Queen heaved a heavy sigh.
“I see. Then my husband being busy actually has a favourable effect.”
“I do have heard that Master Zenjirou is working really hard, but is it really to such an extent?”
The question from her secretary prompted the Queen to pull a wry face, but at the same time, she could not conceal a tinge of delight in her expression.
“Yes. Ever since he was told that I might be pregnant, he has been using almost all of his free time to learn ‘Teleport’. He can already chant the spell without any trouble and the output of magical power does not prove to be a problem, either.
Now he only needs to draw a concrete image of the spell in his mind, so he is almost there.
You see, he promised me that he would definitely make it in time for my childbirth.”
“Phew, you sure are loved, Your Majesty.”
The Queen went red in the face in light of the teasing words from the aged magician, but threw out her large chest with pride.
“Indeed. I do worry about the burden it gives him, though. But the bustle does seem to work in a favourable way, too.
My husband is preparing to bring over a healer from the Twin Kingdom by learning ‘Teleport’ before I give birth. With that excuse, we can limited his public appearances to a minimum.”
Normally, Zenjirou was such an obedient husband that it worried her instead, but there was one topic, where he explicitly expressed his refusal: Concubines.
So it was a good thing to have a “legit reason” to shield him from the concubine obtrusions as much as possible.
But the secretary with the slender face addressed the next problem with his usual inexpressiveness.
“But, Your Majesty, if you really are pregnant, then we have to concern ourselves with a lack of manpower from now on.
Assuming your pregnancy will proceed the same as before, we cannot expect you to continue to you work as you have during your pregnancy. Previously, Master Zenjirou had stepped up to compensate for it, but now that he is prioritizing his magic training, I am afraid the state affairs will stagnate.”
“You have a point. We can only hope that my husband will have mastered ‘Teleport’ before my pregnancy starts to obstruct my workload.”
“Will Master Zenjirou not be going to the Twin Kingdom as soon as he has learned ‘Teleport’?
We will be even more short of hands then.”
The Queen denied the worry of her secretary with a shook of her head.
“Not at all. The ‘Rainy Season’ has only just begun. And after that, we have the ‘Hottest Season’. Neither of them is suited for long-range travels.
It will take at least half a year before my husband actually sets out.”
Aura and Zenjirou had already discussed this matter before.
Even if Aura were to ‘leap’ Zenjirou himself there, all the other personnel had to travel by land.
People, who were not used to travelling, would have extreme troubles to move from the Carpa Kingdom on the western part of the South Continent to the Twin Kingdom on the central part during the “Rainy Season” or “Hottest Season” by foot.
The slender-faced Secretary nodded approvingly to the statement of the Queen.
“I see. Even Master Zenjirou would not be that reckless, after all.”
“After all? My husband is very compliant to begin with, you know. He hardly ever tries to push a measure through.”
When the Queen gave him a questioning look that was saying “You should know that”, the secretary raised an eyebrow in surprise and objected.
“Master Zenjirou certainly is quite compliant and reasonable in most cases, but when it comes to your well-being, Your Majesty, I sometimes see him act otherwise.”
This was not a compliment in its entirety, but in one sense, it was a most pleasant evaluation for Aura.
Her usual reasonable husband became emotional to the point, where he abandoned his reasoning, when it involved her. It let her feel the sheer size of his affection.
The Queen smiled softly with a mixed expression of embarrassment and pride.
“Be it the incident with the ‘Roll of Names’ this time, the dragon subjugation in Valentia previously or the prototype distilled liquor and glass production in the backyard I have not told you about in detail yet; my husband has accumulated far too many achievements to keep them hidden. What is your opinion on that?”
Looked at by the Queen, the blonde waiting maid took half a step forward.
“Yes, it is as you say, Your Majesty. Every time Master Zenjirou achieves something, more people are spreading rumours about you being a ‘bad wife oppressing her husband’ little by little.
Fortunately enough, Master Zenjirou reacts delicately and continues to deny these rumours every time they come up, so it has not become a serious problem, but it does not change the fact that such a tendency is on the rise.”
In this patriarchic world, it was unnatural that Aura was holding the title of the Monarch as a woman, so it was understandable people would voice such an opinion, when Zenjirou was exhibiting a certain capability.
Aside from the kinship, Zenjirou was of unknown origin to them, so while marrying into Royalty may be acceptable, the actual majority of people were expressing the opinion that Zenjirou should not ascend the throne.
But as a matter of fact, a female monarch would be restricted in her duties every time she got pregnant and gave birth, so it was kind of inevitable that the nobles, who experienced the effect of a pregnancy on the state affairs first hand, would come to think that “a female monarch is troublesome after all”.
Acknowledging this reality and such a future, the Queen made a resolve.
“Carrying on like this will surely come back to bite me in the future. I am more than reluctant to do so, but I guess I will have to resign myself to appointing a ‘Marshal’ and a ‘Prime Minister’.”
The Carpa Kingdom currently had no ‘Marshal’, the highest ranking military officer, nor a “Prime Minister, the highest ranking civil servant, appointed.
Because Aura hated a division of powers as the Monarch. And she did have the wits to keep the country running without trouble while holding all the decisive power over both the military and the government. Until now, that is.
But during the pregnancy, even Aura had trouble to deal with military and government matters alike by herself.
“I see. That is why you are giving Master Zenjirou a title of nobility, too.”
Quick on the uptake, her secretary immediately read her intentions, so the Queen agreed with a determined look.
“Indeed. Right now, my husband is nothing but a member of the royal family and he cannot attend any real meetings, unless he acts as my representative. But with a title of nobility, he will be able to sit next to me.”
With a “Marshal” and a “Prime Minister”, Aura’s workload would decrease. But at the same time, it would mean a decrease in authority as well. So it was easily conceivable that her influence on meetings would decline in the future.
A title of nobility for Zenjirou would become meaningful at such a time.
With it, Zenjirou could attend the meeting as some kind of Lord without being a representative for Aura.
Of course they could not expect him to eloquently talk down the other higher nobility, but for Aura, it was sufficient to have one more person present, who would unconditionally take her side.
Having discerned these intentions of the Queen, the Secretary nodded appreciatively a few times, then answered in a sharp-tongued manner.
“Why yes, quite a sensible administration. The nobles will surely rejoice, when you appoint a ‘Marshal’ and ‘Prime Minister’, and your workload will decrease, too. On top of that, you keep up your powerbase for when it is important, so everyone, but one, will profit from it. Such a fabulous idea.”
It was self-evident, who that one person was.
Namely Zenjirou. He got an honorary title without land and, as a consequence thereof, only more work.
“Just so you know, my husband did give his approval.”
“Oh, I bet he did. Master Zenjirou is quite compliant after all. Even if it disadvantages him a bit, he will accept it without complaint as long as it will be of help to you.
But Your Majesty, you have to understand that every person has a ‘limit’. Please do keep that in mind.”
The Queen took heed of the warning from her secretary with a wry face.
As a matter of fact, Secretary Fabio had been right.
So far, Zenjirou had been acting under the patronage of his wife, so “he did not need to endure anything, nor did he suffer from it”, but the inconveniences entailed by a title of nobility were something “he could endure, because he understood their necessity.”
The difference between these two was obvious.
The former would obviously be tough for an ordinary man here, but Zenjirou had different morale values and he did not suffer from it in the slightest, so was there no need for consideration.
On the other hand, the latter was definitely tough on Zenjirou. But it was still on an acceptable level and he gladly assumed the role, when he could ease the burden on his beloved wife by enduring it.
So if Aura were to forget the premise that Zenjirou was suffering from it and took his devotion “for granted”, it would disrupt their intimate married life.
“I know that, of course.”
So the Queen mumbled again as if to convince herself.
A certain day during the “Rainy Season” in the Carpa Kingdom.
Marquis Miguel Guzzle was meeting with Supervisory Maid Amanda in a room of the Royal Palace.
“It has been a while, Amanda.”
“Yes. You seem to be doing well, Master Miguel.”
Sitting across from each other, the elderly feudal lord and the middle-aged supervisory maid exchanged a friendly greeting.
In the first place, Amanda was a blood relative of Marquis Guzzle.
To be precise, she was the daughter of the little brother of the previous Marquis, which made her a cousin to Miguel, the current Marquis.
“Sorry for calling you out today. I know how busy you are as the Supervisory Maid and how difficult it is for you to come here to the Royal Palace.”
When the Marquis apologized briefly, Supervisory Maid Amanda softened her usual stern expression and shook her head a bit.
“Not quite. Fortunately enough, I enjoy quite a bit of trust from Her Majesty Aura, so leaving the Inner Palace is actually not all that difficult for me. Besides, it is a valuable opportunity to meet with you, Master Miguel.
By the way, is he doing well?”
When a married woman like Amanda was casually inquiring about a man like that, she was obviously referring to her husband.
“Yes, quite well. But the recent ‘Roll of Name’ incident had taken a bit of a toll on Joseph.
He is all better now, though, and was complaining how he did not lose any weight, even though he could not eat well during the incident.”
“Fufu, I can just picture it.”
Off-duty here, Amanda laughed happily while listening to the activities of the husband she married over twenty years ago.
All her children had long since came of age and she had taken on the important duty as the Supervisory Maid of the Inner Palace, so Amanda was certainly missing her family after not seeing him for over a year.
“Well, when he is doing well, I guess that means the matter with Miss Nilda caused no further problems.”
Marquis Guzzle nodded affirmative to the smiling Amanda.
“Yes. I was taken aback quite a bit, when I came to know about it, but fortunately enough, it went off without a hitch. All thanks to Master Zenjirou.”
“Glad to hear that. Speaking of Miss Nilda, is she in the Capital right now as well?”
“Indeed. She is running high all around our residence, because everything is new to her. I know I should be stopping her, but I just cannot bring myself to reprimand her…
I would not think twice about scolding my subordinates, though.”
With that, Marquis Guzzle scratched his head.
“You only realize what you have until it is gone. Lady Lucinda has left a large void.”
Supervisory Maid Amanda said teasingly, whereupon Marquis Guzzle screw up his nose poutingly.
“I always knew what I had with her. The problem is, she went away so suddenly. I had no time to make preparations.”
“She basically did everything from managing the domain to taking care of her siblings to their education, on her own after all.”
“Yes and the education is actually the problem. As you know, Nilda was raised in a village until she was nine. So her education is far from perfect. Of course she knows her basics, seeing as she safely got through the audience with Her Majesty in the Palace, but I am still worried. But now that Lucinda married into another family, I have no one suited to teach Nilda anymore.”
“I see. That is the most pressing matter right now, is it not?”
Amanda deeply bowed her in approval.
“It is. I feel bad for relying on others already, but I am afraid I do not have all that many connections. So, do you know of anyone suitable in your set of acquaintances, Amanda?”
The request from the head of the main family prompted the capable woman in charge of the waiting maids in the Inner Palace to look up at the ceiling and ponder for a moment.
“Just to be sure: You want to educate Miss Nilda as a proper Lady of the Guzzle Main Family, correct? That narrows the possibilities down quite a bit, even here in the Capital.”
The Guzzle Household was one of the ten most prominent nobles in the current Carpa Kingdom. It goes without saying that very few people were qualified to teach the daughter of such a family.
Nevertheless, Supervisory Maid Amanda mentioned the name of one of these rare candidates.
“The first that comes to mind would be Lady Octavia, the wife of Count Márguez. Even more so than her beauty, the main reason they call her the flower of higher society is because of her conduct and character, so she makes the perfect teacher.
Even Master Zenjirou, the Prince Consort, is being taught by her in manners, etiquette and even basic magic. Hence I can recommend her competence by all means.”
The wife of Count Márguez: Lady Octavia.
Hearing that name, Marquis Guzzle wore a scowl on his face.
“Lady Octavia certainly is a sensible choice… but if possible, I would like to avoid to be indebted to Count Márguez. Whenever you sit at the negotiation table with him, you will end up owing him in the end, even if he was the one asking for a favour.
And I would be asking a favour this time. To be honest, I am too scared to think about how that would turn out.”
Marquis Guzzle and Count Márguez were equals as influential nobles, but there methods were the exact opposite of each other.
A warrior through and through to the point that others called him unsuited for nobility, Marquis Guzzle would definitely be at a disadvantage, when negotiating with Count Márguez, who was the role model noble excelling at rhetoric and manipulating things behind the scenes.
Although somewhat pathetic, his reason had an undeniable truth to it.
Supervisory Maid Amanda gave a wry smile to his words and mentioned the next candidate.
“Then how about the wife of Count Albéniz? She may be a bit strict, but is well known for her teaching of girls.”
“No, a strict teacher would be bad. Lucinda might have taught her well, but Nilda still comes from a small village. Even now, she sometimes does things that ‘give away her origin’ on unexpected occasions.
So it has to be someone, who can turn a blind eye to some extent.”
“What about Marquis Ralah’s wife then? She is not staying in the Capital, but in their own domain, so it might be a little bit worrying that you would have to send Miss Nilda there, but she is generous and strict in equal measure. There is nothing to complain about her skills, either.
After all, Her Majesty Aura chose her as her wet nurse.”
“No. The Marquis and his wife are known to be perfectionists. They would not return Nilda until she perfectly internalized the etiquette. Besides, Nilda would get lonely so far away from home.”
“…Sheesh. Then you might as well send her over to the Guillén Family? Lady Lucinda could finish her education while Miss Nilda works as her chambermaid.”
“I can’t really impose on her any further. I mean, she almost missed out on getting married, because I had her look after the house. And her standing in the new family would suffer, if I were to make her work for me just the same.”
Seeing as Marquis Guzzle kept rejecting all of her suggestions, Supervisory Maid Amanda fell silent with a blank expression.
“Sorry for being so selfish, when I’m asking a favour of you.”
While her older cousin slumped down ashamed, Amanda was still dealing with him earnestly.
“Let us take one thing at a time. First off, what kind of conditions must the teacher fulfill at all costs? Please tell me all of them.”
Prompted by her, Marquis Guzzle slowly answered while sorting out his thoughts.
“Let’s see. This is kind of obvious, but it needs to be someone with an appropriate background worthy of teaching the daughter of a Marquis.
On top of that, the person must be lenient to some extent towards any problems Nilda will cause due to her upbringing in the village.
Moreover, I want it to happen in the Capital, if possible, so I can rush over and apologize in the case Nilda causes some serious trouble.
And if I may have my way, I want an affable person, who doesn’t scowl Nilda into silence.”
The conditions he gave were not all that unreasonable taken by themselves, but bundled together, it turned into quite the tall order.
You could find a noble, who was worthy to teach high nobility. You could also find a noble, who was lenient enough to turn a blind eye to problematic behaviour to some extent. A lot of nobles were living in the Capital, too. And you could surely find an affable noble amongst them as well.
But it was quite difficult to find a person, who met these criteria all at once.
In fact, the first suggestion from Supervisory Maid Amanda, Count Márguez’s wife Lady Octavia was the closet to that ideal, but if he were to chose her, he would owe the cunning old bird Count Márguez one. Just thinking about that made him shiver.
“Guess I’m asking too much.”
It seemed like he had to bite the bullet for the sake of his cute daughter and negotiate with his nemesis.
Marquis Guzzle was just about to make his resolve, when
“No, I still have one person, or rather a place in mind.”
Supervisory Maid Amanda unexpectedly answered like that.
“Wh- Who is it!?”
The Marquis raised his head in surprise, whereas Amanda declared businesslike.
“Yours truly. Or maybe are you dissatisfied with me?”
Supervisory Maid Amanda give him a little smile, but Marquis Guzzle was taken by complete surprise and could not hide the bewilderment in his words.
“No… Wait… Do you mean you will quit working as the Supervisory Maid in the Inner Palace? I definitely cannot ask you to go that far for me.”
But Amanda denied his words with a shake of the head.
“Not quite, Master Miguel. I mean the opposite. My suggestion is to send Miss Nilda into the Inner Palace as a Waiting Maid.”
“Nilda as a Waiting Maid!? But that’s…”
“Yes, I know. We can merely recommend Miss Nilda. It is up to Her Majesty Aura to accept her or not.
Fortunately enough, the Inner Palace is currently looking for more Waiting Maids, so I believe she has a good chance.”
“Well, it certainly would be reassuring to have you teach her personally, but to be honest, I can’t help but worry about Nilda doing something inappropriate in front of Her Majesty Aura or Master Zenjirou.”
His worry was obviously justified.
Originally, only the best ended up being a Waiting Maid of the Inner Palace. They were hired for their already acquired competences and proper etiquette, not for actually teaching it to them.
Having said this, that was nothing but the general image. In reality, traits like character, lineage, reliability and connections were far more important than skills and etiquette, so young waiting maids were not really expected to have mastered all the skills and etiquette, but Marquis Guzzle was somewhat badly informed about that, because he kept away from the political bustle in the Capital.
“You do have a point, but please rest assured.
As far as I know, Master Zenjirou is the most tolerant person amongst Royalty and Higher Nobility on the South Continent, when it comes to sociability and generosity of forgiving unintentional blunders.”
“Hmm…. Is that so.”
Zenjirou once again rose in Marquis Guzzle’s esteem.
Since Marquis Guzzle deemed strictness only necessary in the military, he actually preferred it, when his superiors aka. Royalty valued lenience over discipline.
Of course that was only his personal preference and others would surely frown upon such a meek ruler.
Anyway, the Inner Palace seemed not to be such a bad idea, if Supervisory Maid Amanda could be trusted.
“Okay. Then I shall write Her Majesty Aura a letter of recommendation for Nilda soon.”
As if everything had been resolved now, Marquis Guzzle displayed a bright expression, but Amanda did not forget to remind him.
“It goes without saying that it is up to Her Majesty Aura to accept Miss Nilda into the Inner Palace or not. Please keep in mind that she might get rejected by her, so you should feel Lady Octavia out as the next best choice, just in case.”
“I, I know that.”
The elderly Feudal Lord replied sour-faced.
* * *
A dragon carriage drawn by two Raptorial Dragons was running along the street of the Capital amidst the heavy rain.
The stone-flagged street might not be affected by the “Rainy Season”, but there was less traffic for sure.
Wealthy nobles like Marquis Guzzle were travelling in a solid closed carriage, so it was relatively irrelevant whether it was raining or not, but these people were a minority based on the total population.
With a lot of nobles, the Capital had a lot of dragon carriage running on its streets, so there was a business specializing in removing the feces left behind by these dragons, but the daily wages during the “Rainy Season” were twice as much as during the “Vibrant Season”.
It was quite a fortune for a day labourer, but even then, it was difficult to find enough people to clean up the dragon feces during the “Rainy Season”.
Well, considering they had to run around the large Capital in the pouring rain and pick up muddy dragon feces from the side of the road, it might belong to human nature to stop short of it, even if the pay was good.
Needless to say, a high noble like Marquis Guzzle could not fathom that kind of anguish of the commoners.
The dragon carriage with the Marquis inside returned from the Royal Palace to his personal residence in the Capital with heavy clattering.
“Welcome back, Milord.”
Returning home, Marquis Guzzle was welcomed at the entrance by Joseph, who was in charge of the residence in the Capital.
With his chubby physique and helmet-like bowl haircut, Joseph was always giving off a droll aura that soothed the atmosphere, just by standing there.
“Yeah, thanks. Amanda was doing fine, Joseph. And she was worrying about you.”
Hearing the present condition of his beloved wife from his lord, Joseph showed a big smile on his round face.
“Glad to hear. So, what did you tell her?”
“I told her how you were complaining about not losing any weight, of course.”
“Milord… Why take the trouble to especially tell my wife about my bad points?”
Marquis Guzzle slightly shrugged his shoulders, when his retainer glared at him with a miserable face.
“Well, she asked for it. In fact, Amanda was quite happy to hear about it.”
“Geez, you need to be more considerate of your subordinates, Milord.”
Joseph rebuked his lord with a wry face, but it lacked authenticity due to his well-rounded facial traits.
“Hahaha, okay, I will keep it in mind.”
“Knowing your memory, it surely will not be there for long, Milord.”
Even while adhering to the right tone, their bantering was quite casual. The Marquis and Joseph seemed to share an intimate friendship.
While the two of them larked around politely like that, the pitter-patter of light footsteps could be heard from inside the residence.
“Welcome back, Father!”
With a bright smile on her face, the second daughter of Marquis Guzzle, Nilda Guzzle appeared before them.
She looked younger than her actual age, because of her small stature and baby-face, but she was fifteen years old, which made her an adult in the Carpa Kingdom.
“Yes, I’m back, Nilda.”
Even the fierce expression of Marquis Guzzle softened, when he saw the innocent smile of his daughter.
Born and raised in a rural village, Nilda had been thrown into the world of nobility all of a sudden, but probably thanks to a kind environment, she still had not lost her affable and innocent smile that flustered its beholder.
Her lack of wariness was a cause of worry to Marquis Guzzle, but at the same time, he was healed by it, so it did have its merits.
“How is it going, Nilda? Have you written the letter?”
Before he left, Marquis Guzzle had given his daughter some homework, so he asked about it now.
The letter was referring to nothing else but a letter addressed to Zenjirou.
When Nilda had taken care of Zenjirou during his stay in the March of Guzzle, he had promised her to “show her around the Capital, if she ever came over”.
She was going to confirm whether that verbal promise had just been a pleasantry or a genuine offer, through an official letter.
The daughter smiled proudly in light of her father’s question
“Yes, I have written one! Will you look it over?”
and looked up to him with her large black eyes.
“Yeah, bring it over.”
Thereat the little girl quickly toddled back to her own room.
She was going a tad too fast, but she was still the keeping dignity of a lady with her pace, holding the hem of the skirt in place.
“Hmm, seeing that, it might be safe to present her in public after all.”
But when Marquis Guzzle mumbled that, Joseph denied it with a sigh next to him.
“And where exactly are you looking, Milord?”
“Mh? What do you mean? She looked like a fine lady to me. Are you thinking otherwise?”
Marquis Guzzle was aware that he himself knew little about etiquette, so he became concerned with the negative answer from his retainer, asking him again.
Joseph kneaded his temples with the thumb and middle finger of his right hand as if it was a “lost case”, and answered without hiding his disapproval.
“Her conduct might get a passing grade, but that is not even the problem here. Why does a Lady of the Guzzle Family need to fetch a letter ‘by herself’?
What does she think the servants are here for?”
When his lord exclaimed dumbfounded, Joseph continued his lecture.
“Miss Nilda is taking too much after you, Milord.”
Hit home, Marquis Guzzle averted his eyes.
Just like Joseph had pointed out, Marquis Guzzle was too carefree, considering his position.
It was too troublesome to get other people do every little thing for him, so he ended up doing it himself instead.
To begin with, Nilda had been raised in a village, where it was only natural to do things yourself, and with the bad influence from Marquis Guzzle on top of it, it was only understandable she would forget to make use of the servants.
“Hmm, then it could actually have the opposite effect, if I let her work as a waiting maid in the Inner Palace with that kind of mindset.”
Since Marquis Guzzle muttered it to himself in a very quiet voice, not even Joseph standing right next to him seemed to have heard it well and truly.
“I’ll explain later. I want to hear your opinion, too.”
“Yes, I understand.”
While the lord and his retainer were having this conversation, Nilda came back with pitter-pattering again. She was holding a dragon leather parchment as big as a post card.
“Here it is, Father.”
“Let me see.”
Taking the dragon leather parchment from Nilda, Marquis Guzzle read through the small letter.
Postcard-sized, the letter did not contain all that much words.
After formally addressing Zenjirou, she started with a seasonal greeting, then asked him if she may take him up on his verbal promise and ended it with an apology for writing him all of the sudden, signing it with her name.
Although Marquis Guzzle was not all that good with education, he did know the basics as a high-ranking noble.
So he could at least judge if the letter was written politely and neatly enough.
“Hmm, seems to be alright.”
Saying so, Marquis Guzzle handed the dragon leather parchment back to his daughter.
Having looked at him anxiously up till now, Nilda now showed a bright smile on her face.
“Yeah. I could point out a few things, but it will not cause any problems for now, if you send it to Master Zenjirou like that. You did well, Nilda.”
Praised by her father, the daughter replied happily from the bottom of her heart.
Seeing her like that, the Marquis remembered what Lucinda, the daughter he married off not long ago, said before.
‘Please remember to praise Nilda for her success, no matter how trivial it may be. She was raised as a commoner for some time, so she is always worried if she is acting appropriate for a noble.’
Nilda had been raised by Lucinda, and definitely not by him.
Becoming painfully aware again of the hole the eldest daughter left behind, Marquis Guzzle spoke to his other daughter.
“I know how much you dislike studying, so you must have worked really hard for this. Have you been looking forward to it that much?”
“Yes! The garden in the Royal Palace seems to have all kind of things like a beautiful fountain or a pond with a lot of goldfishes! I really want to see that!”
Marquis Guzzle showed a wry smile in light of her answer.
Seeing as she was trying to get closer to Prince Consort Zenjirou, the father had suspected she might harbour the ambition to get involved with the Royal Family, but the moral values of his daughter were apparently much more youthful than he had thought.
“That’s definitely something to look forward to.”
It would be distasteful to question her any further, so Marquis Guzzle just looked at the dazzling smile of his daughter for a while.
This might go without saying, but just because it was called the “Rainy Season”, it did not mean that it was going to rain non-stop for three months.
With a bit of luck, you got a few consecutive days without rain, albeit with a cloudy sky, and with even more luck, the sun came out for a bit.
This afternoon was one of these rare sunny days during the “Rainy Season”.
Zenjirou was walking through the garden of the Royal Palace together with two girls.
Even there, the persistent rain had washed away the soil or damaged the plants, but the royal gardeners dealt with it skillfully.
Thanks to them, the garden was still worth being called “beautiful” despite being in the very middle of the “Rainy Season”.
Seeing this fine garden for the first time, the black haired girl, Nilda Guzzle exclaimed excitedly.
“Uwah, so pretty! It is so pretty, Master Zenjirou!”
“I’m glad you like it.”
Zenjirou narrowed his eyes pleased, when Nilda was thrilled at the sight of the bubbling fountain in front of her.
Captivated by that fountain, she was not paying attention to her footing as she teetering around, but fortunately enough, it had not rained in days, so the ground was not slippery.
Still, it would be bad, if anything were to happen, so Zenjirou was about to give her a light warning, when the other girl called out to Nilda with a smile.
“Nilda, you are getting a bit carried away.”
“Ah, I am sorry, Princess Freya. That was unsightly of me.”
The voice from the silver-haired girl, namely Princess Freya, brought Nilda back to her senses and she corrected her posture.
Zenjirou unwittingly cracked a smile, when he saw her switch from hyperactive to modest in no time, as it reminded him of a well-trained, but energetic pet dog.
(Whoops. I gotta be careful. Being with Nilda messes with my sense of intimacy.)
Admonishing himself, he pulled himself together before becoming too relaxed.
Apparently dealing with the girl named Nilda had the same effect on him as with Princess Bona: His usual tensioned attitude was coming loose.
To begin with, he had been too careless, when he promised a full-aged girl to “show her around the Royal Palace”.
In a desperate manner, he had reasoning that “he never said anything about showing her around with just the two of them” and had Princess Freya accompany them, but Nilda seemed to never have had any ulterior motives to begin with and was happy about her company.
Both of them had gotten rather close during the incident at the March of Guzzle, so his plan seemed to work out well.
Under the watchful eyes of his bodyguard Knight Natalio, various other soldiers, some royal waiting maids, Princess Freya’s bodyguard Skathi and some rear vassal knights that acted as a bodyguard for Nilda, Zenjirou committed himself to escort the two girls.
“The pond with the ’golden fishes’ I told about before is this way. Want to take a look?”
“Golden fishes? That sounds fascinating.”
Hence Zenjirou guided Nilda and Princess Freya to the pond in the back.
“Over there. It is not really dangerous, because it is quite shallow, but please be still careful as there is no fence.”
“Yes, thank you for the warning.”
Listening to him, Nilda stood at the edge of the pond and observed the shoal of fishes swimming in the pond.
“Wooooaaah… So pretty!”
It was indeed a beautiful sight to behold.
A single fish was no bigger than the middle finger of a grown-up, but there were so many of them that the whole water surface sparkled brightly.
With a stricter upbringing as a lady, the glint in the eyes of Princess Freya was not as distinct as in Nilda’s, but she did seem interested and leaned over a bit to get a better look.
“You have some really colourful fishes here. I am quite surprised.”
Zenjirou got the idea that fishes and birds became plainer further to the north and more colourful further to the south, so he asked Princess Freya a question in light of her words.
“Does the North Continent not have ornamental fishes like this, Princess Freya?”
“Hmm, at least I have never seen such ‘beautiful’ fishes before. Above all, a shallow pond like that would completely freeze up in winter.”
“Oh, right. It would certainly be difficult to keep them then. And making the pond deeper would defeat the purpose of sightseeing.”
“Indeed. As such, fishes were nothing but a source of food in my eyes. Prosaic, is it not?”
The silver-haired princess shrugged her shoulders with a wry smile.
“Not at all. I am actually envious. The Capital is located inland, so I only ever get to eat freshwater fishes here.”
The fishes used in food almost entirely amounted to saltwater fishes for Zenjirou, a born Japanese.
By no means did the freshwater fishes served in the Royal and Inner Palace taste bad, but because of their peculiar taste, he did prefer saltwater fishes after all. Nilda turned around to the two royal members and joined their conversation with a friendly smile.
“I like fishes, too. When I was still living in the village, I caught and ate small fishes from a waterway this big. It channelled off a far away river.”
While saying this, Nilda spread her arms and if her words could be trusted, the waterway in her home village was not even measuring thirty centimetre in width or depth. Even a child would be able to cross it easily. It may have been a small village, but did they never consider to expand it? At this size, it would not be strange if it were to dry up during the Hottest Season.
“Did they ever talk about expanding that waterway? I would think having more water would be better.”
Nilda shook her head to his question, then answered.
“No, it is too dangerous. If they were to expand it any further than this, then crocodiles or carnivore dragons would get to the village, when the river is in flood during the ‘Rainy Season’.”
Apparently they also had a well in the village as another water source, so there was no real shortage of water during the Hottest Season.
“I see. So you have to consider these factors, too.”
Hearing this story, Zenjirou once again realized how much he lacked the common knowledge of this world.
(Speaking of, I wonder how the water source for the Capital is managed? With so much water required, the waterway can’t be all that small.)
Did they strain a wire mesh or alike somewhere on the way to prevent dangerous animals from entering? Zenjirou was curious about that, but as royalty and kind of master of the Palace, he knew better than to satisfy his curiosity by asking royalty from another country or the daughter of a noble from his own country.
(I’ll ask Aura later.)
Zenjirou was preoccupied with his thoughts. In the meantime, Nilda spotted a building in the back of the garden and spoke up.
“Say, Master Zenjirou, what is that building over there?”
The building she pointed at was very far away and partly concealed by trees, so no details of it could be made out, but even then, it looked obviously out of proportion to this garden.
All things here, be it the pond, the fountain or the pavilion, admittedly differed in size, but they all shared a thoughtful beauty. Yet that building looked like nothing but a crude wooden hut.
Faced with her question, Zenjirou did gave a wry smile, but answered honestly as it was nothing to hide in particular.
“Oh, that is the ‘Goat Shed’. Sorry, but I cannot show it to you.”
“A ‘Goat Shed’?”
Nilda tilted her head puzzled. Apparently the word “goat” did not exist in her vocabulary.
Since the “Soul of Words” worked properly, the term must exist in the language of the western part of the South Continent, but Nilda probably did not come across the word so far as she was raised in the borderland.
“A goat is a livestock from the North Continent. Princess Freya here was so kind to give us some. It is the first time our country is farming them.
We try to keep people away as much as possible until the goats have gotten used to their new environment.”
The expert dispatched by Princess Freya, Nicolai was taking care of the goats with all his might, so the goat milk sent to the Inner Palace had recently lost most of its smell.
Right now, the breeding seemed to go well, too, and some yeanlings had already been born in the shed.
However, Princess Freya voiced a little worry to Zenjirou.
“I am a bit worried, because we did not expect this constant rain. You carefully built the shed according to Nicolai’s instructions, so I do not think anything serious will happen, but still…”
“Eh? You’re worried?”
In light of her unexpected utterance, Zenjirou forgot his royal manner of speech for a moment and responded casually.
Totally warming up to Princess Freya beyond their standings, Nilda asked the question at hand before he could.
“Princess Freya, are these so-called goats bad with rain?”
When Nilda looked at her straight with her round black eyes, Princess Freya affirmed it with a smile.
“Yes. Goats are known for their exceptional ability to adapt to the environment as they manage with little food, but they originally come from dry high plains, so they are somewhat weak to rain and humidity. It is not a fatal vulnerability, though.”
The reason she spoke so politely to Nilda was because she was addressing Zenjirou at the same time.
In fact, Zenjirou replied to her and not Nilda.
“Is that so? That certainly is a bit worrying.”
To him, the goats in the shed embodied the hope to enrich his eating habits in the future.
As of recently, the goat milk in particular had lost a lot of its smell and was a lot easier to drink now.
He might actually cry for real, if the goats were to die out due to some skin disease.
“I hate to trouble you, Princess Freya, but could you inquire about the situation from Nicolai?”
Nicolai was currently dispatched to the Carpa Kingdom, but he still used Princess Freya as an intermediary, because their relationship was not all that close yet.
When the goats died out, Zenjirou would cry and that was the end of it, but Nicolai was left in charge of them as an expert, so his very life might actually be on the line here.
Neither Zenjirou, nor Aura assessed the farming of northern livestock in an unfamiliar environment such as the Carpa Kingdom as easy, so even if it did fail by some kind of twist, they would not give him such a severe sentence.
But who would actually believe it, when relatively unacquainted royalty told you: “It’s okay. Even if you fail, there won’t be a punishment, so take it easy.”
With an explanation from Zenjirou, Princess Freya comprehended that approach and accepted his request with a calm smile.
“Very well. I shall meet with Nicolai soon and discuss it with him.”
“Thank you, Princess Freya.”
Zenjirou somehow ended up talking away with Princess Freya, but the main guest today was Nilda, not Princess Freya.
Remembering that, he faced the young girl with the imposing big black eyes again.
“Well then, are you thirsty by chance? If you like, we can take a break in the pavilion over there.”
“Yes, thank you for your consideration, Master Zenjirou.”
Nilda nodded to him with a friendly smile.
* * *
Around the time Zenjirou was talking with the two girls in the garden, Queen Aura was working in one room of the Royal Palace.
Not long ago, Doctor Michelle had diagnosed her with a “pregnancy without a doubt.”
Learning from the previous pregnancy, it was highly likely that her morning sickness would soon become worse and heavily obstruct her work efficiency.
In light of the child in her belly, she definitely could not overdo things, but she wanted to get the work she was capable of right now out of the way.
The stack of dragon leather parchment at her hands in particular were important documents for a smooth delivery in the future.
“Now let me see who we got for the second recruitment.”
With these words, Aura looked through the bundle of parchments.
Just as she had muttered now, these documents were the second round of applications for waiting maids of the Inner Palace.
A few waiting maids had retired due to marriage or age reasons, so they had started a recruitment for new waiting maids a few months ago.
The elected people from the first round had become accustomed to the Inner Palace in the last few months, so they were going to run a second election now.
Secretary Fabio had gone through the applicants beforehand and eliminated the candidates not worth the trouble of the Queen herself, so applications were unexpectedly sparse.
The Queen silently looked through the bunch of papers with her loyal secretary standing besides her.
These recommendation letters were kept rather short. All of them had written the name of the candidate, her age, the name of her backer and their relationship on it for sure.
Then each backer had written down the fortes of their candidates in an attempt to appeal, but to be honest, Aura skipped most of these.
In the first place, it was always the same bragging about appearance and manners. If she were to take them at face value, the Carpa Kingdom would apparently be overflowing with girls, who were supposed to become peerless beauties in the future.
“Mirela, fourteen years old. Backed by Count Marquez. Uncle and niece. Oh, the niece from Count Marquez. So she is already at this age?”
Looking at the first parchment, Aura recalled the person from her name.
Aura had memorized Count Marquez and his entire family, which had fielded Raffaelo Marquez as one of the two former marriage candidate for her, so she did not need to ask the secretary standing next to her about it.
“This goes here.”
She placed the dragon leather parchment to the right. Then she looked through the others papers one after another.
“Isidora, thirteen years old. Backed by Marquis Bervides. Father and daughter.
Lorensha, twelve years old. Backed by Baron Massana. Father and daughter. Additionally, the little sister of the former waiting maid Keyshia.
Hasmin, sixteen years old. Backed by Viscount Bonilla. Father and daughter. Hmm.”
There was no reason to reject them, but neither was there any decisive factor that warranted hiring them, so these candidates went to the left side of the desk.
“Next one. Luisa, thirteen years old. Backed by Marquis Ralah. Wait, that means… Yep, as expected, ‘Lord and Subject’. Since my husband works outside more often now, Ines and Margret cannot cope with it alone anymore. This obviously goes here.”
Placing the dragon leather parchment to the right, the Queen showed a satisfied smile.
Afterwards, Aura checked all the papers, but after going through them once, there were hardly any worthwhile candidates.
The troublesome ones had been dropped before Aura got to see them and the remaining ones hardly ever distinguished themselves from the others.
So far she had almost mechanically sorted the papers to the left and right (mainly to the left), but the Queen suddenly stopped her hand at the very last parchment.
“Nilda, fifteen years old. Backed by Marquis Guzzle. Father and daughter. …Miss Nilda as a waiting maid?”
Taken somewhat by surprise, the Queen looked up to the face of her trusted retainer by her side.
“Fabio, I want to hear your opinion. What do you think of this?”
Addressed by the Queen, the Secretary replied calmly with his usual inexpressive mask.
“There are generally two reasons to send your daughter into the Inner Palace: First, wanting a connection to the Royal Family. And second, giving your daughter some prestige.
For an influential family like the Guzzle Family, it is usually the former, but in the case of Miss Nilda, I would say it is more likely the latter.”
“Yeah, considering her situation, any decent parent would try to polish her up.”
Aura looked up at the ceiling and put her right hand against her head.
Raised as an illegitimate child in a village, the little girl had made a grand debut at the audience room, because she had not been listed on the “Roll of Names” until recently. Her past could not be any more dubious than that.
Moreover, Marquis Guzzle already suffered a trauma from not being able to marry off his eldest daughter Lucinda until she passed her best years. So it was not unthinkable that he would dote a little bit too much over his second daughter.
According to Zenjirou, their relationship was positive to the point, where their complicated starting point was nowhere to be seen anymore.
After pondering for a while, Aura made a decision.
“Well, her birth and upbringing aside, I did kind of put her on display with the ‘Roll of Names’ incident. I guess I will have to make up to them.”
The last parchment was placed on the right side of the desk.
* * *
At night of the same day.
Done with their work, the Queen and the Prince Consort were reporting the latest news to each other as always in the living of the Inner Palace.
After dinner and bath, they had sat down across from each other on the couches in their light nightgowns, drinking cold water in a relaxed manner.
In a departure from convention, three waiting maids were standing by Aura’s side, though.
Now that her second pregnancy had been confirmed for sure, Aura had to pay attention to her body and the other life within it.
Normally, Aura was sending the waiting maids away in consideration of Zenjirou’s moral values, but she was actually pure-blooded royalty.
To be honest, she could relax better with some maids by her side to order about.
Usually Aura was considerate towards Zenjirou, but during her pregnancy, it was Zenjirou’s turn to be considerate towards her. Neither of them actually mentioned it, it just happened naturally.
In this relaxing environment, Aura spoke up first.
“Well then, I have something to tell you first. We have gotten applicants for the second waiting maid recruitment. I have already narrowed them down to the final candidates. The new maids are scheduled to come in soon.”
“Okay. Sounds good. The first newcomers have settled in after all.”
The first round of newly hired waiting maids had come into the Inner Palace while Zenjirou had been away to the March of Guzzle, so he did not really have time to get used to them, but they had never gotten in the way.
Zenjirou had agreed to increase the personnel, when the other maids retired, a long time ago, so there was no point in rejecting them now.
But he was certainly surprised at her next words.
“I want you to be mindful of one thing. Truth be told, Nilda will be one of the new waiting maids.”
Naturally, he unwittingly exclaimed in surprise.
This was the first time that someone he got to know outside was coming into the Inner Palace.
When Zenjirou displayed confusion and a bit of wariness on his face, Aura expanded on it.
“Ah, needless to say, you do not need to treat her any different. If anything, you are getting a bit along too well with her. Just be careful you do not start to treat the other waiting maids differently, too.”
He was obviously relieved to hear that.
“Alright then. But still, that surprised me. For a moment, I thought she was going on the offensive, too.”
“I would have rejected her, if that were the case. Apparently Marquis Guzzle purely wants her to work in the Inner Palace. Given her background story, you know.
He must want to give her the prestige as a ‘former waiting maid of the Inner Palace’ to find her a fine husband.”
“Oh, I see. That’s his aim.”
Zenjirou already knew about Nilda’s birth circumstances.
So he immediately accepted that reasoning.
Well, Marquis Guzzle simply wanted to “finish the education of his daughter under a kind master in the Inner Palace”, but Queen Aura had no way of knowing that yet.
She would only realize it later in a conversation with Supervisory Maid Amanda.
“Okay. I’ll keep it in mind.”
Zenjirou had taken a liking to Nilda, so he welcomed it that she would be working at his side as a waiting maid.
He had been with her just recently at noon, so he gave a report as well.
“Nothing really serious happened on my side. Both Nilda and Princess Freya seemed to have enjoyed the tour.
Frankly speaking, I’m not really the type to notice, when a woman harbours feelings for me, but it looked to me like Nilda simply wanted to see the palace. She had no ulterior motives.”
Aura nodded with a stern expression to his report. She kept it a secret from Zenjirou, but amongst the waiting maids in the garden had been a subordinate from Margret. In other words a secret agent.
It was indispensable to get another opinion than Zenjirou’s subjective view from her later on, but Aura herself also considered neither Nilda, nor Marquis Guzzle behind her capable of utilizing sex appeal for power play. Most likely, Zenjirou’s assessment was spot-on.
Yet, Aura was not able to avoid warning him on that score.
“Fine. But you still need to be careful, when meeting her.
She might not harbour romantic feelings for you, but her feelings are favourable nonetheless.
I might be getting ahead of myself, but it seems you have the same level of intimacy with Miss Nilda as with Princess Bona.”
“Uhh… Okay, I’ll be careful.”
When his wife pointed out what he himself had also been aware of, the husband averted his eyes and obediently took her advice to heart.
At any rate, Aura had no intention to nag about it all that much.
She immediately moved onto the next topic.
“What else is there? Oh right. You, bring me that.”
The Queen looked at one waiting maid, who simply bowed without questioning the vague order.
“Yes, very well.”
Smoothly moving to one corner of the room, the waiting maid came back with a package wrapped in red cloth.
Considering she was carrying it by herself, it must not be all that heavy.
Then Aura gave that waiting maid another order.
“Put it down there. But be careful so as not to break it.”
As she had been told, the waiting maid put the wrapped package onto the table between Aura and Zenjirou and unwrapped the red cloth skilfully.
Seeing what was inside, Zenjirou unwittingly leaned forward and exclaimed joyful.
Pleased by the reaction of her husband, the Queen smirked and threw out her big chest that was wrapped in her light nightgown.
“Behold the newest achievement of our craftsmen!”
In a nutshell: It was a “glass flower vase”.
Illuminated from all sides by the white light of the LED floor lamps, the light green glass twinkled and any person from modern Earth would identify it as a “glass flower vase” for sure. It was such a perfect workmanship.
It stood on its own on top of the flat table and had a hole on top to put in flowers. As it had no other visible holes, you could expect it to hold water as well.
A “glass flower vase“ well and truly.
It was indeed well-done to the point, where you would ask impressed “did you make that yourself?”.
But even though it could stand by itself, it seemed like the bottom was not perfectly flat and seemed somewhat unstable. On the whole, it looked obviously distorted, too.
No one on Modern Earth would probably buy this, not even in a hundred yen shop.
Even with the biggest form of flattery, it was only about the level of a better result from the try-it-yourself corner at a glass museum.
But Zenjirou’s delight had nothing to do with the workmanship of the glass container.
The important point was that they finally managed to produce “glass” without doubt in this world. The glass vase cast a light green shadow over the table due to the light from the LED floor lamps.
Its colour was way more transparent than the colour from Ramune bottles at least.
“Wow. The craftsmen must have really given it their all, given the short time span.”
The Queen narrowed her eyes pleased in light of the compliment from Zenjirou.
“Well, yes, their future depends on it after all.”
The reinstated former smiths asides, the young craftsmen headhunted from all the smith apprentices would have a dark future awaiting them, if they failed to make a name for themselves as glass manufacturers.
The royal family was paying them enough to not be troubled in their livelihood, but hardly any woman would marry a guy working in a line of work without prospects.
In order to find a wife and build a stable family, they needed to establish the job known as “glassblower” in this world. Compared to women, men were suitable for marriage over a longer period of time, but a time limit existed nevertheless.
Then Aura suggested to the excited Zenjirou.
“As a result, I would like to finally try making these glass marbles next. You already had an idea about how to make them spherical, right?”
“Yes. It’s not really my idea, but just something I saw at a glass museum in the past, though. Give me a sec. Like I told you before, it’s hard to explain with words, so I’ll draw a sketch.”
With these words, Zenjirou stood up from the couch and headed for the desk, where he kept the printing paper and pens.
Aura did not even have time to stop him. Her raised hand dangled awkwardly in the air as she put on a wry smile.
In her eyes, it was questionable why royalty had to get up and fetch something by themselves, when there were waiting maids around, but to Zenjirou, it was only normal to go fetch something by yourself without relying on others, if it was in the same room.
These trivial things really showed the difference in moral values between them.
But the reason the couple was still getting along just fine was because they both understood that it was normal for their partner and respected each other’s moral values.
Anyway, Zenjirou did not notice the wry smile of his wife at all, since he had turned his back to her, and returned to the couch with paper and pen in hand.
“Ehm, I have two ideas. A primitive method and a modern method. I’ll draw down both, but I think the modern one won’t work out, since it requires a driving force.”
Saying this, he drew down a device to make the glass marbles spherical.
His struggle persisted for a while.
Having no artistic disposition, Zenjirou had troubles drawing it, but somehow finished two sketches that tried to convey his idea to the beholder.
“Something like this. I suggest the first one. The second one would be better, but is more like something to work towards to.”
“Let me see… Oh, I see. The first one is easy to understand. You pour a controlled amount of molten glass down this repetitive spiral-shaped channel.”
“Yes, exactly. While the molten glass rolls down this spiral slope, it naturally becomes round and by the time it gets to the end, it has cooled down somewhat and becomes firm.
Although it looks simple, I believe it will require a lot of trial and error, so you better tell the craftsmen to be prepared for that.”
The theory was extremely simple: You just let molten glass roll down a spiral slope made of metal. But with a bit of thinking, you could come up with a lot of reasons why it could fail.
If the molten glass was too viscous, it failed by sticking to the metal.
If the spiral slope was too steep, it failed by rolling over the edge.
But if the slope was too shallow, it failed by losing momentum in the middle and stopping premature.
Needless to say, it also failed, when there was a single distortion or bump in the spiral slope.
The method was relatively simple, but required a fine-tuned assembly.
“And this is the other one? I do not really understand it, even with this drawing. Does this circling line mean this roller is turning around?”
“Yes. You take two uniform round rollers with grooves carved into them and let them spin at the same speed, in the same direction. Then you pour the molten glass into the groove. The gap between the rollers is smaller than the diameter of the marbles, so the molten glass does not drop down and keeps spinning in between.
By spinning in the grooves of the rollers, the molten glass naturally globes itself, cools down over time and becomes firm.”
The other sketch pictured only the crucial part of the modern process for making marbles.
Normally, that glass manufacture was fully automated. Glass shards were melted, cut into the right amount and moulded into a sphere. Uneven ones were eliminated while the rest naturally cooled down.
But it would be impossible to recreate that whole production line in this world. Neither was it necessary to do so.
What mattered was how they could shape the molten glass into a proper sphere before it cooled down and hardened.
The craftsmen themselves could take care of adjusting the amount of molten glass or picking out uneven ones.
One bag of marbles was sold for around a hundred yen on Modern Earth, so they needed to make thousands, if not ten of thousands all at once, otherwise there would be no profit, but that did not apply to this world.
The marbles were going to be a catalyst for the magic tools, so strictly speaking, making one marble a day would already be plenty enough.
“How are you going to spin these rollers? Manually by hand?”
“Hmm, if possible, I would like to use a waterwheel. At any rate, this is just another scenario. For now, we should work with the first method.
I just wanted to give an alternative in case we can’t get the first method to work out at all.”
It goes without saying that Zenjirou was no expert on making glass or marbles. The only experience he had with it was seeing the assembly line once at a museum during a school trip.
Apart from that, he only vaguely remembered stuff from reading on the internet or in books.
The Queen compared the two sketches with each other. Even an amateur like her, could tell at a glance that the second method was far more complicated than the first.
Needless to say, the simple structure of the first one did not necessarily mean it was equally simple to recreate, but its feasibility was higher without doubt.
“Okay. Then I shall only pass the first spiral method to the craftsmen for now.
They are all former smiths. It should not prove to be all that difficult to recreate its appearance. They might even be glad to get to forge something again in a long time.”
Although Aura said this, she was actually not thinking that it would go so smoothly.
Even if they were former smiths, most of them had been young apprentices with uncertain job prospects in that business.
In spite of being overseen by retired professionals, the smithcraft of these glass craftsmen was probably going to be inferior to the work of regular blacksmiths.
However, she could not simply allocate that work to some other professional blacksmiths just because of that.
The glass craftsmen themselves would actually be using the tools to make marbles, whereas other blacksmiths would have absolutely no clue about glass itself or what these tool would be used for.
So it was self-evident that outsourcing the creation of tools in the testing would involve communication problems somewhere down the road.
“Alright. I’ll leave it to you, Aura.”
Having finished her report about the glass now, Aura look at the waiting maids at her side once more.
“You two, bring me the other stuff now.”
The two waiting maids calmly accepted the obscure order without getting flustered.
“Yes, very well.”
“Please wait a moment.”
Like the maid before them, the two of them moved to one corner of the room and brought a barrel small enough to be carried in one hand and a palm-sized round block of wood.
When the two waiting maids returned, they put the small barrel and round wood block onto the table with these words.
Zenjirou could tell at a glance what these things were.
“This is ‘Distilled Liquor’ and a ‘Compass’?”
The Queen affirmed it with a smile, when her husband leaned forward.
“Indeed. The ‘Distilled Liquor’ is from the first batch up for sale and this ‘Kuhmpuhs’ was made according to the sketch you drew before.
The liquor was already well-received at the night banquet, so we are starting a little mass-production this year and will sell it to the public.”
Seeing how the culture he introduced was taking root in this world, Zenjirou was greatly excited, but also somewhat worried.
Well, the ‘Distilled Liquor’ had already existed on the North Continent, so it would have been only a matter of time until it reached the South Continent, though.
“Pour us some.”
Ordered by the Queen, the waiting maid at her side filled the empty Kiriko Glasses they had used before to drink some cold water, with the liquor from the small barrel.
It looked no different than water, colourless and transparent.
Zenjirou immediately grabbed his glass and carefully took a nip of it. After savouring it a bit on his tongue, he swallowed it.
“Yes, it’s well done. We can sell it like that.”
As such, Zenjirou gave it his seal of approval.
At first, they could only make ‘Distilled Liquor’ with the electrical hotplate distillery he had brought along, but it had already been more than half a year, since the people of this world had started their quest to recreate it with the tools of this world.
They could make a plain ‘Distilled Liquor’ without problem now.
“Seeing as you want to sell it, it is profitable already?”
Zenjirou asked curiously, whereas Aura shook her head with a grim face.
“No, it is hardly profitable at the present. And considering the investment in the facility, we are actually operating in the red.”
In a way, he had expected that answer. Zenjirou put the glass down on the coaster and spoke grimly as well.
“Yeah, thought so. The distilling process isn’t all that effective, either, so it’s only natural.”
“The costs for the materials and fuel are more of a problem, though. Considering its supply and demand, there is no perfect season for the manufacture. We recruited people for the typical handiwork of the ‘Rainy Season’ this time, but I would like to try making it during the ‘Hottest Season’ next year.”
“Hm? What do you mean?”
Her husband titled his head puzzled, as he seemed to not understand, whereat Aura explained it in simplified terms.
“I intend to use fruit wine or ale shy of spoiling as the raw materials for the ‘Distilled Liquor‘. We can purchase large quantities of these for cheap during the ‘Rainy Season’, but the price for the fuel we need for the distilling process is at its highest during the ‘Rainy Season’.
Taking the price for the fuel into account, the ‘Hottest Season’ would be best, but then the raw materials become scare goods.”
“Oh, a cause for worry for sure…”
Comprehending what she was getting at, Zenjirou heaved a troubled sigh.
On top of having a climate with high temperatures and high humidity, the Carpa Kingdom had not developed a preservation method, so the average fruit wine or ale with low alcohol content was spoiling relatively quickly.
Unlike Modern Japanese, the commoners of the Carpa Kingdom would still drink it with a bit of spices or sugar, when the alcohol turn a bit sour, but there was a limit to that as well.
The “Rainy Season” with its continuous rain and the “Hottest Season” with its abnormal temperatures were especially bad for its preservability.
Once the alcohol had gone bad for good, it certainly was out the question to use it for the Distilled Liquor, so they wanted to use alcohol just shy of spoiling, but that was only available in large quantities during the “Rainy Season”.
Hence, the cheapest season for buying a lot of “alcohol” was the “Rainy Season”.
But needless to say, the continuous rainfall of the “Rainy Season” made it difficult to obtain firewood or charcoal, which they needed as a fuel for the distilling.
Usable firewood during the “Rainy Season” was limited to the stock you sheltered from the rain inside, and that effort obviously made the firewood more expansive than during the “Hottest Season” or “Vibrant Season”, where you could just let it lying around outside.
In conclusion, the “Rainy Season” was good for buying the raw materials cheap, but screwed up the prices for the fuel.
On the other hand, the “Hottest Season” was the exact opposite.
Since humidity went down and temperature up, firewood became cheaper as a fuel, but it was more difficult to get large amounts of alcohol as a raw material.
It was self-evident. The alcohol just had went through its archenemy, the entire “Rainy Season”.
Most of the “cheap alcohol shy of spoiling” in the “Rainy Season” would have changed to “useless spoiled alcohol” by the time the “Hottest Season” began.
And then, the little alcohol that remained would obviously become more expensive due to the law of supply and demand.
In conclusion, the “Hottest Season” was good for buying fuel cheap, but screwed up the prices for the raw materials.
“Hmm, how about making it during the ‘Vibrant Season’? The prices for firewood won’t be as bad as during the ‘Hottest Season’ then and they are making fresh fruit wine and ale at that time, so there will definitely be some ‘by-products that barely qualify as alcohol, but are unfit for selling’. If we buy that up, we should be able to get a portion of the materials for cheap.”
Zenjirou had thought it up on the spot and deemed it a rather clever idea after giving tongue to it, but Aura shook her head brusquely.
“That will not do. Both the farmers and the craftsmen will be busy during the ‘Vibrant Season’, precisely because they are making the new alcohol. We may be able to scrape up the manpower, but the ‘wages’ will be rocketing during that season.”
“That definitely won’t do…”
In light of her explanation, Zenjirou looked up at the ceiling and heaved a sigh.
Even if they managed to economize on fuel and material costs, there was no point, when higher wages ruined it.
And above all, the Carpa Kingdom still seeing some effects from the previous great war. The whole country suffered from a lack of manpower and the Royal Family would surely spark a fierce backlash, if they were to try hiring people for a new business during the busiest season.
Realizing that this matter could not be resolved here and now, Zenjirou moved the topic to the other item beside the “Distilled Liquor”.
“So, this is the ‘Compass’?”
“Yes. It was not all that difficult to make, actually. The needle in the middle was made by blacksmiths, the rest by carpenters. I believe it was done right according to your instructions, but what do you say?”
Zenjirou took the “Compass” in question in his hands, checking it out.
The needle in the middle was not yet magnetized, so it technically was not a compass, but he could check for any other discrepancies for now.
“Lemme see… Hmm…”
He did so by raising it, turning it around and shaking it a bit.
Except the needle, everything was made out of wood. Because there was no glass or plastic in this world, it had no cover on top. Instead, the needle was held in place by a wooden frame in the shape of a cross.
The needle seemed to be properly balanced and spun around neatly, when he nudged it with his finger.
There was no problem structure-wise.
“Yeah, looks good. I’ll magnetize the needle later. Mh, wait? How do I take out the needle?”
“Oh, that wooden cross is simply pushed on, so it will easily come off, if you pull with a bit of force. That part can easily be remade, even if you break it, so do not worry about it.”
“Okay… Oh, it really came off so easily. How are we going to attach it in the end, when the needle is magnetized? It’s a bit unreliable like this.”
With the dismantled pseudo-compass in hand, Zenjirou asked Aura, whereat she answered naturally.
“I guess with small nails? Or maybe glue it? Well, either way, the craftsmen will do their job properly.”
“Hmm, speaking of, you have no screws here, do you? I did give the merchant one of mine, but I guess a replication is too difficult?”
“Not necessarily. He might not have seen any value in recreating it. After all, merchants only ever act on profit.”
“I see. Guess that’s true.”
Convinced, Zenjirou put the dismantled compass back onto the table.
First the glass, then the distilled liquor and the compass after that.
While they were taking about these three things, quite some time had actually passed.
Zenjirou looked at the desk clock, then faced his beloved wife again and declared.
“You should go to bed now, Aura. After saying good-night to Zenkichi, that is.”
With these word, he stood up and offered his right hand to the Queen, who obediently replied to him.
“Already this late? Fine. Doctor Michelle would nag at me, if I stay up too late after all. But what about you?”
Still grasping the hand of his wife after helping her get up, her husband answered honestly.
“I’ll practice ‘Teleport’ for a bit longer in the living room after seeing Zenkichi, before going to bed. I’m getting a feel for it.”
“I admire your enthusiasm, but do not overdo it.”
Zenjirou unwittingly cracked a smile, when his wife frowned worriedly, and reassured her.
“Yeah, I know. I’ll keep it in moderation.”
The Queen and her husband then naturally crossed arms and left the living room in order to say good-night to their beloved child Carlos Zenkichi in the other room.