“Yoo, you came. The human’s…Margrave-sama, was it? No need to be so frigging stiff. Take it easy.”
Being called out by a low, suppressed, threatening voice, Renya is troubled on how he should interpret the scenery in front of him.
Renya’s group that was let into the castle just like that was led to the audience hall with the Fang King waiting within.
Renya’s impression of the beastmen’s royal castle didn’t change from What a huge pyramid-like building even after he got close to it. He didn’t realize when gazing at it from afar, but the sight of building materials being carried one after the other and scaffolds being linked together all over the place surprised him as he wondered whether they still planed on expanding the castle.
Different from other such castles, the royal castle itself hasn’t been adorned with the usual ornaments or engravings.
Once he asked Kaede for the reason, she gave the truly tasteless reply that they would likely get destroyed right away anyway.
If it were in one of the royal castle of a human country, the preparations and preliminary announcements – on top of strict body-checks – would take time and it would turn into a peerlessly exhausting matter, but in the beastmen’s royal castle they were led to the audience hall without even being disarmed.
Renya, who can take out his weapons from his inventory whenever he needs them, was completely unarmed, so that was no issue, but even Shion and the others, who are carrying quite a few weapons, despite it being more or less a pleasure trip, weren’t examined by the castle’s sentinels either.
Mayria, who got anxious as might be expected, took out the daggers she had concealed in her pockets and asked a sentinel whether it’s okay for them to not take the weapons away, but the answer exceeded Mayria’s expectations by leaps and bounds.
“Ah, don’t worry since there’s no one here you can hurt with those things. If you’d like, how about trying to aim for my life? I will be unable to guarantee your life though.”
“If you defeat me magnificently, you will become the next king, okay? So how about it? Want to have a go?”
“Since I’d like to start gambling on which one of us is going to win, there will definitely be a reward when you finish me off,” the sentinel smiles brightly.
Renya and the others worried whether it’s alright for a sentinel, who serves in the castle, to offer something like that despite them being from another country, but neither Kaede nor Lepard looked as if they minded as it was seemingly common practice.
“Mmh? Ah, let me explain just in case. It’s not like that guy is actually disrespecting you.”
Lepard, who noticed the look of Renya who seemed as if he wanted to say something, states while scratching his head.
“On the contrary, those are indeed words owed to his overflowing loyalty. In other words, our king trusts them that they will repel any challengers, I guess?” (Lepard)
“Yet again what a bothersome loyalty…there haven’t actually been any casualties, have there?” (Renya)
“There were. Several people have been finished off by the successive generations of Fang Kings. But you know, the Fang King is an existence on whom the lower classes pin such hopes. I mean, someone called king gotta act like that, rite?” (Lepard)
Seeing as they are bearing the expectations that the king who possesses such strength that they don’t even need to worry about assassins, the position of king is one where you can’t betray those hopes, is what Lepard’s saying.
What a truly difficult position, Renya felt a little bit of pity.
They were guided all the way to the audience hall by the sentinel who continued to smile brightly while not knowing of Renya’s thoughts.
Renya felt relieved since the route so far didn’t have that many forks or curves as they were all hallways that have been completely mapped out. When they passed through the entrance door of the audience hall and were about to step up in front of the throne, Renya and the others became aware of her.
With the base of a beastman, she looks like a fox just like Kaede.
Her body leans slovenly on the throne, she wears a disheveled indigo blue casual dress and both her feet, which she had stretched out carelessly, are barefoot.
Her hair has a hue closer to gray rather than to silver and its length goes slightly beyond her shoulder blades.
As she wasn’t wearing any ornaments and didn’t seem to have put on any make-up at all, the sole spot – her lips – stands out with their extremely vivid vermilion color.
Is it her life force or her aura that seem to overflow from within her? Either way, it made her look as though she was a young woman in her 20s, but going by the feeling of her lips and the slightly visible area around her eyes, Renya judges that her age is likely ranging from the latter half of the 30s to the early 40s.
For an instant the word prostitute pops up in Renya’s mind, but at once he swallows it down without voicing it out.
He felt that something bad would happen if he said anything untactful.
Next to the throne where she was sitting, a somewhat largely-built beastman, who seems to be a man clad in something like a thick dougi, is prostrating himself without the slightest movement.
Just like Lepard, that man possesses leopard ears and tail. Even the color of his short, bristled hair is likewise black.
However, in contrast to Lepard, it’s obvious that some white streaks are mixed in here and there.
Based on the situation, it’s possible to deduce which one of them is likely the Fang King, but when he’s asked which one of them it actually is, Renya doesn’t find any words to give a clear answer.
Assuming that they have the strength to be trusted by the soldiers so much, he has a hunch that it’s not the fallen man, but once he considers whether the Fang King is actually a queen just because of the current scene, he cannot help but to feel that it’s somehow different.
Thus you can say that it’s only natural for Renya to instinctively ask before bowing towards the king.
And even the questioned woman shows no sign that she feels offended from being confronted with Renya’s question without him even going on his knees or lowering his head. She only reveals a broad grin that had the feel of a carnivore.
“Lobelia Panther, that’s who I am!”
“Who’s the one laying over there?” (Renya)
“This guy? …Well, I wonder?” (Lobelia)
In the slight moment when the woman, who introduced herself as Lobelia, shifted her attention to the fallen man next to her, Renya grabs the nape of Lepard, who was behind him, and pulls him closer.
If it was a simple contest of strength, Lepard should be the clear winner, but even though he’s being pulled, Lepard doesn’t show any mentionable resistance.
“She said Panther, didn’t she?” (Renya)
“Yeah, she did.” (Lepard)
Lepard nodded with clear resignation plastered on his face.
“You were Panther as well, weren’t you? Spit it out! How are you related to her?” (Renya)
“That person is my mother. And the one lying next to her is father, I guess. …So far as it goes, my father, Sigurd Panther, is the Fang King.” (Lepard)
All of the humans blink in surprise.
Having been told that, Renya shifts his focus to the man laying next to Lobelia in a hurry, but as he doesn’t even twitch while laying there limply, he can’t quite believe Lepard, even if he’s told that this man is the Fang King himself.
“I understand how you feel. But it’s a fact, so there’s nothing I can do ’bout it.” (Lepard)
Lepard says while casting his eyes downwards and shaking his head.
Seemingly not having noticed that, Lobelia is immersing herself in poking Sigurd’s body with the tip of her foot.
“Though there’s a tendency for it to be misunderstood occasionally.” (Kaede)
Kaede said absentmindedly as if having just recalled it.
“His Majesty the Fang King is certainly strong, but…Her Highness the Queen is far beyond him in strength.” (Kaede)
“Even if I’m asked for a reason, all I can say is that’s it’s the reality…it looks like Her Highness was a mercenary who made a name for herself on this continent in her youth….” (Kaede)
“It’s just a story I heard, but that High King and father fought over who was going to marry mother, resulting in both of them being beaten up.” (Lepard)
“I don’t know about His Majesty the Black King, but His Majesty the Fist King came several times to challenge her and each time he was sent back half-dead.” (Kaede)
If that’s the truth, then it means that it’s not an exaggeration to call the woman, who is in the process of gradually switching over to kicking the felled man after she got tired of just poking him, in front of Renya and the others as the strongest among the beastmen.
“Doesn’t that mean that your mother could unify this continent all by herself?” (Renya)
“Yeah, I think so as well.” (Lepard)
“What are you whispering amongst each other over there? You’re in the presence of the king, aren’t you?” (Lobelia)
Not only had she switched to kicking that very king, she was now trampling down on him. While doing that, Lobelia called out to Renya and the others who were secretly whispering among each other.
Lepard’s body trembles with a start and he switches to standing on attention.
In contrast to that, Kaede slowly bends her waist and bows.
“As for you, Your Highness, it’s a true pleasure to find you in good humor. This Kaede, who received permission for an audience on this occasion, shall express her utmost gratitude.” (Kaede)
“Kaede, that’s sickening. Don’t humble yourself in such strange way.” (Lobelia)
“For better or worse, it’s appropriate in front of the king.” (Kaede)
Lobelia snorts once at Kaede who declares that nonchalantly.
“So, the guy blankly standing over there is the aforementioned human Margrave-sama, right?” (Lobelia)
“He’s Margrave Kunugi-sama of the Trident Principality, a human nation.” (Kaede)
“That weak-looking fellow who’s accompanied by a group made entirely out of women?” (Lobelia)
Being told that it’s only women, Renya tilts his head in confusion.
There should be at least two men called Kurz and Grün though, he turns around, looks into their faces and comprehends for some reason.
It was needless to point out, but Kurz has the face of a girl. As for Grün; even if you set aside his body’s appearance, his face is beautiful, a common trait among elves. If one persists in being fairly unreasonable, insisting that he’s a woman can be accepted one way or another.
All the more if the other party is a beastman who doesn’t care at all about minor details.
Renya ends up thinking, I guess it can’t be helped even if she regards all the members behind me as women.
“So anyway, I’m hearing that you’re getting things done reasonably well. You did well to come…umm…” (Lobelia)
Lobelia lets her eyes wander from Renya’s face to empty space and ponders.
Renya felt suspicious whether she might have been unable to remember his name, but Kaede helped her out right away.
“He is Earl Renya Kunugi-dono, Your Highness.” (Kaede)
“Oh, right. You said Renya or such, correct? Let me welcome you. I’m Lobelia, the queen of the Fang King’s country. Glad to make your acquaintance.”
“…It’s a honor to meet you, Your Highness…” (Renya)
While wondering what he should do next, Renya gives his greetings in an extremely flat tone and bows his head formally.
By the way, the party to whom Renya should have originally bowed his head to still shows no signs of recovering his consciousness while laying next to Lobelia.
The humans and elves began to worry whether he might have died, but for the beastmen this scenery doesn’t seem to be anything of significance.
“Your Highness, for what reason did you beat the hell out of His Majesty this time?” (Kaede)
“Because he heard that a guy stronger than Lepard was going to come from a human country, he kicked up a fuss saying that he will go challenge him.” (Lobelia)
In contrast to Lobelia’s disappointed expression, there’s no change on Kaede’s.
While staying expressionless as if wearing a noh mask, she says words lacking any emotions.
“You are saying, you made him obedient with physical force?” (Kaede)
“Yeah, once blood rushes into the heads of our men, they won’t listen to what others say.” (Lobelia)
“That’s a decisive judgment, Your Highness. As ever, your skills are splendid. As expected of the monster that led three kings around by the nose in her youth…” (Kaede)
While feeling a shudder due to the words spoken by Kaede without any hesitation, Renya and the others look in her direction.
Even as she says a word that will unmistakably become a huge problem if directed to the queen in the situation of being in the presence of the king, Kaede’s expression doesn’t change.
Even Lobelia, who was told that, looks down on Kaede from the throne without losing her temper, but Renya didn’t miss how her hands, which were grasping the armrests, were filled with a little bit of power.
“What did you say…just now?” (Lobelia)
Kaede tilts her head to the side and shows a blank expression towards Lobelia, who asks as such while grasping the armrests which was, by now, making grinding sounds.
“Oh my? You failed to hear it at this distance? It looks like even someone like you, Your Highness, is unable to avoid the approaching old age. Age doesn’t stop before anyone.” (Kaede)
Kaede who revealed a faint, cutting smile, conceals her mouth with the cuff of her sleeve and starts to laugh in a deep voice.
The corners of Lobelia’s mouth twitch as if cramping and veins appeared on her forehead.
“That’s big coming from you, the likes of a lass who directs amorous glances towards other people’s son.” (Lobelia)
“My goodness! Even at this age you are still unable to let go of your son?” (Kaede)
The glaring gazes of the two clash against each other. Renya clearly perceived the scattering sparks.
He can hear someone from somewhere shouting, “It started again! Anyone who can, run away!”
“Oi, what’s with this…” (Renya)
“It’s the usual, but I think you will be dragged into it if you are close-by, okay? So…let’s get away from here for the time being. I will guide you.” (Lepard)
Lepard guides Renya and the others, who cannot follow the rapidly changing situation, outside the audience hall by pushing their backs.
Even as Renya’s group is about to exit the room on their own accord, Kaede and Lobelia looked at each other, apparently not noticing Renya’ and the others’ escape, and began to raise low indistinguishable laughters.
“What’s up with this?” (Renya)
Given that Renya agreed unconditionally with the proposal of leaving the location for the time being, he moves on while being urged on as he asked Lepard.
Lepard threw a glance over his shoulder, and after seeing the two quarreling, he sighed.
“So far as it goes, I’m this country’s hero and prince. Which also means that I’m a candidate for the next Fang King.” (Lepard)
“Do you have any siblings?” (Renya)
“No, I’m the sole biological child. However, since there ain’t no way for a weak guy to become the Fang King, at present it has stopped at candidacy.” (Lepard)
Even if they had a blood connection, it was apparently impossible for the beastmen to allow a weakling to be the Fang King.
“How’s that related to that dangerous atmosphere in there though?” (Shion)
Lepard nods at Shion’s question.
“Kaede and me are, um…well, how to call it…” (Lepard)
“In a relationship, right?” (Shion)
Once Shion asked in order to make sure, Lepard’s face became bright red in an instant.
“Yeah, well…due to those feelings, I believe we are going to be together sooner or later, but…” (Lepard)
The view of Lepard winding his body with his cheeks becoming red wasn’t anything nice to look at for too long.
Renya decides to urge him to quickly continue.
“I’m going to strangle you. Continue.” (Renya)
“Ah, yeah. So I talked with father and mother about that. Father gave his permission, but the problem is mother…” (Lepard)
“Did she oppose?” (Renya)
“She said that she will introduce a far better woman than such a black-hearted priestess…and, Kaede, who heard that, took offense…” (Lepard)
Just as we were leaving the audience hall, Lepard quietly turns his gaze towards the two women still glaring at each other.
There’s no way that he can side with the woman that he loves in his position as a son, but likewise it’s not like he can do what his mother tells him. He appears unable to do anything while being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“Isn’t that a matter of standing?”
No matter how much the beastmen don’t care about minor details such as race, the act of a mere priestess opposing royalty would definitely be punishable in any human country.
Renya worried about that part, but Lepard relieved him of those worries.
“In our place a priestess is unrelated to politics. Even among the priestesses, Kaede is the Main Priestess and the hero’s companion. No matter what mother says, that certainly ain’t an opponent she can handle with the authority of royalty.” (Lepard)
“So they spew venom at each other like this each time they meet?” (Renya)
“No…they use force right away…” (Lepard)
Just when Lepard mentioned that, the sound of an explosion could be heard from inside the audience hall they had left moments ago.
Renya and the others are startled, but seemingly it isn’t that unusual for Lepard and the soldiers serving in the castle. There’s no one that seems to hurriedly run around in panic.
“Call the repair squad right away. Of course do the repairs after the two give up, okay? I will guide our visitors to the guest room. Report to me if it looks like the damages are going to spread.”
“Prince, are you going to stop that?”
The castle guard, who nodded towards Lepard’s orders, asked that with a voice full of hope, but Lepard shook his head.
“If it was something I could stop, I’d have done so a long time ago…it’s necessary to buy time to let the visitors get away, right?” (Lepard)
“I see, I understand. I will arrange for the repair squad right away.”
“I leave it to you. Now then, Margrave-san…I’m sorry, but please stay in the castle for today. If I let you go back to the city without meeting with the king, I don’t know what mother would do to me.” (Lepard)
“I believe the main cause for that is the queen though?” (Renya)
“I know. I full realize that. Please, consider it as you helping me out.” (Lepard)
Once he’s begged like this, even Renya finds it difficult to feel like abandoning him and leaving the castle unreasonably.
He thought that at least those interested would return to the city, but once Renya said that would will stay, all the other members unanimously decided to stay in the castle in the end.