What comes after the 『Rainy Season』 is the 『Hottest Season』.
To begin with, even if the 『Rainy Season』 and the 『Hottest Season』are clearly separated on the calendar, it doesn’t mean that the weather necessarily follows that calendar.
In the first place, the calendar in the Carpa Kingdom is a lunisolar calendar. The lunisolar calendar needs to be adjusted by adding an intercalary month every few years. That means that it could be misaligned by up to a month depending on the year.
Even without that, the 『Rainy Season』is longer in some years than others.
Because of this, even though the calendar might still say that it’s the 『Rainy Season』 , there might not be any more heavy rain. On the other hand, there are also times when it rains every day, even though it’s technically already quite a while into the『Hottest Season』.
However, the people have learned to adapt to these conditions.
The humans living in that area assess whether the 『Rainy Season』 has actually come to an end based on the sky’s color and the local plant growth rather than depending on the calendar.
One day, when it had become the『Hottest Season』 in the proper sense, Zenjirou’s escort, led by Puyol Guillén, lined up in the royal palace’s audience hall for the official send-off.
“Well then, Your Majesty Aura, Zenjirou-sama, we are off.” (Puyol)
Dressed in traveling clothes and acting as representative, General Puyol announces the departure to Aura and Zenjirou, who are sitting on the elevated thrones.
Normally Zenjirou is only allowed to act as silent decoration during official events with Aura, but today that’s not going to happen.
After all, Zenjirou will be personally speaking with the guard unit that will be accompanying him at the Twin Kingdom to improve morale.
In a certain sense, Zenjirou is the main character today.
Zenjirou lightly raises his right hand from his spot next to Aura, and speaks up.
“I feel honored that so many excellent soldiers are going to make a great effort for me. However, what I’d like you to not forget is the fact that you are our country’s treasure.
It might be boorish to say this to you, who possess an indomitable fighting spirit, but I will make this clear now.
Understand, protecting each other’s lives is the supreme order. I do not wish you to pursue the schedule to the point of sacrificing human life.
What I desire above all is to be able see everyone present when I arrived in the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jillbell.”
“Yes, Your Majesty! Such words are more than we deserve!” (Puyol)
Once General Puyol answers, all soldiers present press their right fist against their left chest, and bow.
Even though he knows that it’s a ceremony, the stern-looking knights all hitting their chests at once still manage to startle Zenjirou.
He believes that he has managed to hide any obvious signs of his surprise, but the soldiers that excel at observation might have seen through him.
Well, it’s too late now anyway. Zenjirou will be the first to say that his fighting strength and courage is not that of a soldier, but at the same level of women and children. That’s only his personal opinion though.
Next Zenjirou addresses the blond prince and the princess with the chestnut-colored hair standing at the side.
“Your Highness Francesco, Your Highness Bona, allow me to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude for lending your valuable guards to us as guides.” (Zenjirou)
The one to open his mouth first after hearing Zenjirou’s words is the prince ─ Francesco.
“No, please do not take it to heart. It is a worthwhile proposal for us as well. After all, you are giving those who yearn for their hometown a chance to return. Just between you and me, there are also some lonely, sobbing fellows among these young soldiers. Ahaha.” (Francesco)
“Your Highness!” (Bona)
The princess standing next to him ─ Bona pulls his sleeve and quietly chides him, but it was too late.
Several young knights among the Twin Kingdom’s soldiers, who are lined up in their traveling clothes, blush extensively and tremble slightly, drawing quite a bit of pity.
Fortunately everyone present seems to be rather benevolent, feigning ignorance, but the people concerned probably wish the earth would swallow them up.
Probably trying to distract from the awkward atmosphere as soon as possible,
“I shall also express my thanks, Your Majesty Zenjirou. You should not be the grateful party here as we are relying on your kindness. I would like to express my gratitude on behalf of all the soldiers returning to our country.” (Bona)
Zenjirou naturally breaks into a smile at Princess Bona’s usual, serious and polite manner of speaking.
“No, not at all, Your Highness Bona. As I said before, we find it very reassuring to have the soldiers of the Twin Kingdom to accompany us as guides. It’s nothing you would need to thank us for.” (Zenjirou)
Watching Zenjirou say all that in one breath, the queen, who had left the conversation to her husband up till now, speaks up.
“I’m sure that there’s much more to be said, but at this rate they will never be able to depart. This is enough, right?” (Aura)
Hearing Aura’s words, Zenjirou nods rather exaggeratedly like a mechanical doll.
“Indeed. The cool period of the 『Hottest Season』 is precious. All present, depart.” (Zenjirou)
“Yes, Your Majesty! We shall be on our way!”
With Zenjirou’s permission, the elite soldiers of Carpa’s royal army, and half of the Twin Kingdom’s military escort respond in unison.
Meanwhile, Uppsala Kingdom’s First Princess Freya Uppsala panted like a dog in the detached room assigned to her in the port city of Valentia, on the west coast of the Carpa Kingdom.
“Jeez, the daily rain was still much better than this here…” (Freya)
The silver-haired princess sprawls limply atop a sofa as if she’d melted, dressed in an attire that looks inappropriate even as house wear for royalty. To be precise, her feet are bare and she’s only wearing a thin, translucent white dress.
“Are you alright, Princess?” (Skathi)
She weakly corrects the tall female warrior ─ Skathi, who had worriedly called out to her, “Right now I’m not your princess, but your captain.”
“…No good. It’s as if I’ve been locked up in a giant steam bath with no cold water available. I’ve come to believe that the church’s claim about the southern continent being a penal colony is correct.” (Freya)
“Please get your act together, Princess. If His Majesty Zenjirou’s words are correct, the temperature in the next month will rise until it cannot even be compared to this.” (Skathi)
“……I wonder, how are humans able to survive in this area? I don’t think that this is an environment suited for humans to live in.” (Freya)
“I do sympathize with your feelings, but the one that declared that she will marry His Majesty Zenjirou and move to this land is you, Princess.” (Skathi)
Imagining how she would live in this land for the rest of her life, Princess Freya’s mouth dropped open and a single tear left her eye.
Princess Freya wipes away that tear with the back of her right hand, and sits up on the sofa with a ghost-like, sluggish motion.
“Phew. Anyway, Skathi, don’t you feel hot?” (Freya)
Taking in the languid look of her master, the female warrior replies with an unconcerned look.
“I train every day.” (Skathi)
“Even if you do that, what’s hot is still hot, though.” (Freya)
“…There’s no way that I can complain during the course of my duties.” (Skathi)
“In other words, you’re just pretending not to feel hot, right?” (Freya)
“Tell me, Skathi?” (Freya)
Due to the persistent questioning of Princess Freya, even Skathi cannot hold back, her voice cracking a little,
“Yes, it’s hot! So please, don’t speak about it being hot all the time. That makes even me feel depressed, you know!?” (Skathi)
It was on such a day during the 『Hottest Season』 that the notification about the completion of the repair works for the 『Golden Leaves』 arrived.
The completion of the repair work for the 『Golden Leaves』.
That news reached even the capital quickly, a small flying dragon having been sent as messenger.
For the current Zenjirou, going to Valentia cost no time, once he received this news.
The same day he received the notice, Zenjirou and Aura respectively sent his knight Natalio and her maid Ines to Valentia with 『Teleport』, and then on the next day, he sent himself after them.
“We have awaited you, Zenjirou-sama.”
“All preparations have already been put in order.”
“Very well. Thank you for going ahead to prepare this time as well, Natalio, Ines.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou thanks the two who awaited him at the destination.
Even though he was in the capital just moments ago, he’s now in the distant Valentia.
When he had 『Teleport』 cast upon himself by Aura, he felt that, “Magic is amazing!”, but now that he is able to use it himself, he feels a very indescribable sense of discomfort.
“The world widened or…shrank in an instant…what a truly strange sensation.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou mutters under his breath and tilts his head to the side in confusion.
This is Zenjirou’s third time in Valentia, but because all of his visits had been round-trips through 『Teleport』, it doesn’t feel like he’s come to a distant place at all.
For the March of Guzzel, he has vivid memories of his aching buttocks after a long journey in a royal carriage, cementing it as a distant place in his mind. However, he definitely doesn’t have the same feelings for Valentia.
Once he processes that the places within the kingdom to where he can 『Teleport』 like this will increase from now on, he can somewhat understand the feelings of all the nobles trying to increase the number of royal family members ─ bloodline magic successors, to the extent of trying to force concubines on him.
Anyway, because travel through 『Teleport』 doesn’t exhaust one’s stamina at all either, Zenjirou can go into action quickly as long as he has prepared himself mentally.
“How about Her Highness Freya?” (Zenjirou)
The one who answers Zenjirou is Ines, who had been in Valentia since the previous day.
“Yes, Her Highness is already waiting in the anteroom.” (Ines)
“I see, I guess I will go meet her at once then. What about the preparations for the parlor?” (Zenjirou)
“They have been completed.” (Ines)
“Alright, then lead the way.” (Zenjirou)
“As you wish. This way, please.” (Ines)
Guided by the middle-aged maid, Zenjirou started to walk through the corridors of Valentia mansion.
Princess Freya arrived almost immediately after Zenjirou entered the parlor.
“Your Majesty, thank you very much for repeatedly troubling yourself for our convenience.” (Freya)
The smiling Princess Freya is once again dressed in the attire of a ship’s captain.
“No, if it concerns the 『Golden Leaves』, it also matters to us.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou replies and invites Princess Freya to sit down.
“Yes, excuse me.” (Freya)
Zenjirou sighs in admiration in the comfort of his mind as he watches the princess sit down as elegantly as ever.
(Wow. She doesn’t even sweat in this heat. There isn’t a bubble of cool air just around her, is there?) (Zenjirou)
With her silver hair, her ice blue eyes and her pure white skin, the quietly smiling Princess Freya appears not to be affected by the heat at all.
In truth, this is simply her suppressing the sweating above her neck with fighting spirit and willpower, but being blissfully unaware of these underlying circumstances, Zenjirou honestly admires her.
“So, you mentioned it in your report, but the repairs of the 『Golden Leaves』have been completed safely?” (Zenjirou)
The princess nodded with a sincerely happy smile.
“Yes, thanks to your assistance, it finally came to an end a few days ago. After receiving permission from Valentia’s port warden, we have gone through several test runs within the harbor.
All that’s left is today’s trial run beyond the harbor.” (Freya)
Valentia’s port, which is protected by a threefold breakwater, is perpetually calm
Of course no one would assume that the 『Golden Leaves』, which is a big ship designed for travel between continents, will only be used within the calm waters of a harbor.
Hence it’s necessary to ensure that there will be no problems beyond the harbor where the sea is rough.
Nonetheless, the ship has been completely checked and carefully repaired until now. In reality the final test of leaving the harbor is more like a ceremony.
“I see. Is it alright to allow me to accompany you on that final test run?” (Zenjirou)
Princess Freya delightfully consents.
“Yes! Please accompany us by all means. Please enjoy the sensation of riding the 『Golden Leaves』, the pride of the Uppsala Kingdom. Having said that, we will be just making one round outside the harbor today.” (Freya)
To Princess Freya, the 『Golden Leaves』 is her greatest pride. It’s a cutting-edge sailing ship manufactured in her own country on which she serves as 『Captain』. Although she is almost no more than a figurehead, this ship is like her own personal castle.
She always feels the urge to express her pride in it.
“Understood. Please treat me well.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou answered with a smile as if seeing something pleasant.
“I already thought so when I saw it the last time, but now that I’m seeing it up close, it’s truly a masterpiece. Rather than calling it a ship, a mountain of wood would be more appropriate.” (Zenjirou)
Looking up at the 『Golden Leaves』 from the wharf, Zenjirou expresses his heartfelt admiration once more.
In Modern Japan, ships that are bigger than the 『Golden Leaves』 are commonplace, but something this size made completely out of wood is still very impressive.
The wharf at Valentia’s port has been built to comfortably accommodate small one-mast ships. Because the wharf is situated much lower than the ship’s deck, one has to look up making the ship seem all the more intimidating.
“Zenjirou-sama, please climb up over here. Please watch your step.” (Natalio)
“Yeah, thanks, Natalio.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou, who had been looking up at the 『Golden Leaves』 like an idiot until then, turns his feet in the direction of the wooden ramp connecting the wharf and the 『Golden Leaves』 under the guidance of his knight Natalio.
The stairway-like ramp had obviously been hurriedly built expressly for the sake of the 『Golden Leaves』.
Small single-masted ships from the Carpa Kingdom could be boarded just by bridging the gap with a sturdy plank but a four-mast ship like the 『Golden Leaves』is in a class entirely of its own.
The sailors are nimbly climbing rope ladders up and down, but using those for loading or unloading cargo is difficult.
That’s the reason why the ramp had been built in a hurry.
“Eep, this makes one feel quite weak at the knees.” (Zenjirou)
“Zenjirou-sama, it’s better to not look down.” (Natalio)
“Yeah, that makes sense.” (Zenjirou)
Because it has handrails despite its simple structure, Zenjirou, who has no fear of heights, climbs the ramp at an unexpectedly brisk pace.
Sandwiched between Natalio in the front and Ines in the back, he reaches the deck before long.
The instant he lets out a breath of relief at his safe arrival, a jolt throws him backward.
“Uh oh.” (Zenjirou)
“Are you alright, Zenjirou-sama?” (Ines)
However, before his balance falls apart completely, Ines gently props him up from behind, preventing anything serious from happening.
“Yeah, thanks, Ines.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou looks slightly embarrassed as he thanks her, quickly separating.
Since they are still inside the harbor, the swaying isn’t strong. He was merely surprised in the beginning. The swaying isn’t a problem so long as he’s only expected to walk and stand normally.
Moreover, the soldiers of the Valentia Dukedom, who had boarded first, have secured the area around Zenjirou.
The 『Golden Leaves』 is technically territory of the Uppsala Kingdom, even though it’s floating in the Carpa Kingdom.
In the most extreme case, the ship could depart for the northern continent with Zenjirou still on board. In such a case, the Carpa Kingdom would have no means to chase after the 『Golden Leaves』.
Of course Princess Freya wouldn’t consider doing something so reckless and pointlessly detrimental to all parties involved, but it’s best to be cautious.
I guess it’s 10 people in total?
As might be expected of soldiers from the port city of Valentia; none of them have any trouble moving around aboard.
The one who likely has the shakiest foothold is Natalio. Well, he’s the only one who was born inland, so it’s a rather unfair comparison. To put it bluntly, his foothold is even shakier than Zenjirou’s.
Meanwhile Princess Freya, who had boarded ahead of Zenjirou’s group, shows up on the deck.
“Welcome, Your Majesty. As representative of the sailors of the 『Golden Leaves』, I, Captain Freya, shall offer you some words of welcome.
Though it will just be for a brief time today, please enjoy your outing on the ocean.” (Freya)
Princess Freya in her stylish and charming captain’s uniform for men boasts, as she puffs out her chest.
The stern men waiting behind her are probably the officers of the 『Golden Leaves』.
Having so many men that are taller than even Skathi lined up is rather intimidating.
Zenjirou shifts his eyes back from the men in the back to Princess Freya and replies with a strained smile,
“Yes, I’m looking forward to it. While it may be embarrassing, just standing on the deck like this is already exciting.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou’s words are entirely sincere.
The big, wooden sailing ship is in active service, and has weathered a voyage of several months. Boarding a ship that he would never have been able to see in the modern era is quite emotional for him.
If he wasn’t royalty, he might be frolicking like a child right now.
Naturally, since automation doesn’t exist in this world, everything is done by relaying orders down the chain of command.
“Your Highness, is it fine for us to be on the deck?” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou asks with a bouncy voice. Princess Freya considers it with a slightly serious look and then,
“Let’s see…I think for now it’s okay, but can I have you grasp the railing over there, just for caution’s sake? If we were to make absolutely sure, you should probably sit in an affixed seat, but that would at least halve the thrill.” (Freya)
“You’re definitely correct there.” (Zenjirou)
As if charmed by Princess Freya’s impish smile, Zenjirou also breaks into a smile and agrees with her.
At any rate, for today’s final check they will only be leaving the harbor for a very short time. The possibility of a problem occurring simply because he’s standing on his own two feet should be extremely low.
Zenjirou obediently steps up to the railing Princess Freya pointed at, and firmly grabs the wooden handrail with both hands.
If there’s a place he can hold onto like this, nothing serious will happen even if they encounter severe turbulence.
Having established a firm grip, Zenjirou suddenly remembers and calls out to the middle-aged maid standing behind him.
“Ines, you grab it as well. Untrained people like us staggering around will only cause trouble.” (Zenjirou)
Looking back, he found that Ines had a much more stable standing posture than Natalio but nonetheless, as people with no military training or experience with ships, he and Ines are the most likely to have problems.
A faint smile forms on Ines’ small mouth because of her master’s concern.
“Thank you very much for your concern, Zenjirou-sama. Very well, I shall accept your kind offer and take hold next to you. Excuse me.” (Ines)
She gracefully positions herself next to Zenjirou, and extends her hands to the railing.
Behind her, Natalio looks on slightly enviously. Natalio is a reliable soldier and knight on land, but the situation seems to be entirely different onboard.
As soon as she was sure that Zenjirou and Ines had grasped the railing, the captain of the 『Golden Leaves』- Freya orders at the top of her lungs,
“『Golden Leaves』, depart! Raise the anchor!” (Freya)
Around 30 minutes after that.
The 『Golden Leaves』 with Zenjirou’s group aboard left Valentia’s harbor, allowing its big frame to freely glide across the sea.
Just as Princess Freya herself had said before, her title of “Captain” was essentially just a title.
The first order was the only one Princess Freya gave as captain. The detailed handling of the ship afterwards is carried out by a grim, middle-aged man who was introduced as vice-captain.
Each time the vice-captain loudly gives an order, the sailors move across the ship to turn the rudder or adjust the angle of the sails.
Today the wind and waves appear to be calm. Even outside the harbor there was unexpectedly little swaying, but whenever the ship drastically changed its direction, the entire hull tilted to the side.
“The sailors are really amazing to work atop the masts even with all this shaking.”
If we had to relate it to something in Zenjirou’s experience, the sensation is not unlike when a train needs to make a fairly big turn.
It doesn’t really matter as long as Zenjirou holds onto the railing, but if he were to stand around without a support, it wouldn’t be odd even if he were to fall off. That’s how unstable the foothold is.
In defiance of the tilting and swaying, the sailors run around on deck.
It was obvious that Zenjirou’s admiration, evident in his words, was nothing but his true feelings.
Princess Freya responds to that with a happy smile.
“Yes. A sailor’s first task in training is 『Standing』.” (Freya)
Of course, that’s not what happens on a large ship like the 『Golden Leaves』.
It’s something done on a small fishing vessel that has a maximum capacity of about ten people.
Obviously, they wouldn’t be able to do any work if they couldn’t even stand without holding onto something.
Tying ropes. Mopping the deck. Hauling in the net if they are fishermen. Shooting harpoons. All of these are things one cannot do unless both hands are free.
Hence, it’s said the sailors of the Uppsala Kingdom are allowed to board their parents’ ships from a young age to rack up training.
“I see. I hadn’t expected that being a sailor was a job specialized enough to require an apprenticeship. Given that, I’m pretty sure that even steering that rudder is a job that requires quite some skill, right?” (Zenjirou)
The man that Zenjirou had expressed interest in had both hands on a large wooden wheel.
Given that the man is turning the knobbed wheel in accordance to the vice-captain’s instructions, it’s very likely that it’s the rudder of the 『Golden Leaves』.
However, seeing him point it out, Princess Freya widens her eyes in surprise for an instant.
“…That’s correct. The one currently turning the rudder is the steering chief. In addition, there are three other men who possess the qualifications to take the helm, but when push comes to shove, the difference in skill is clear.
When we want to arrive as soon as possible or run low on stored food after being washed away in an unexpected direction during a storm, we can only leave it to the steering chief.” (Freya)
“Hoh, I suppose one should truly call that the work of an expert.” (Zenjirou)
While Zenjirou is busy admiring, Princess Freya and Skathi exchange nervous glances.
His nonchalant way of mentioning it is rather discouraging, but Zenjirou’s words just now were enough to make their vigilance rise, bringing up the value of the man called Zenjirou.
This type of steering mechanism, where one turns a wheel, as on the 『Golden Leaves』 is state-of-the-art technology that has only been introduced on ships with more than three masts, even on the northern continent.
Using several cogs and the principle of leverage to connect the steering wheel and the rudder, it’s possible to turn a ship of any size with minimal effort. Even the steering becomes simple with a wheel.
With the addition of scales, one can even tell whether the wheel needs to be turned to the left or right and by how much.
On the other hand, more traditional small ships rely on pushing and pulling a long and heavy tiller directly connected to the rudder to change direction.
A primitive rudder like that is so heavy in a rough swell that two or three adult men are needed to take charge of it. It’s difficult to make minute adjustments with it too.
They borrowed the power of Carpa Kingdom’s shipbuilding craftsmen for the repairs, but they heard that not a single one of them knew about steering wheels or showed a keen interest in it.
It goes without saying, but the craftsmen who had been lent for the repairs should have been the very best within the Carpa Kingdom.
Why is Zenjirou able to understand technology unknown to even them so naturally?
Of course it’s possible that craftsmen of the Carpa Kingdom obtained that information, and reported it to the capital, but Freya doesn’t believe that fits Zenjirou’s current behavior.
Zenjirou seems to regard the wheel-shaped rudder as something “natural.”
Producing distilled liquor, knowing about ring-shaped rudders; in Princess Freya’s eyes, Zenjirou is a man of many mysteries.
Of course neither Zenjirou nor Aura hide the fact that Zenjirou has come from a different world, but to Princess Freya of the northern continent, which is advanced in technology but undeveloped in magic, the concept of a 『Different World』 is something she can’t quite grasp.
However, it makes her realize once again that Zenjirou is a person with a different set of values and knowledge to the other people of the Carpa Kingdom.
While this is going on, the final check of the 『Golden Leaves』 is proceeding favorably.
The sailors work briskly and skillfully move the ship according to the vice-captain’s orders.
It appears the 『Golden Leaves』 plans to sail in a big circle outside the harbor and then return.
Of course, this might be the plan, but a sailing ship needs to take the direction of the wind into account. As such, it advances in a zig-zag. Because the direction and strength of the wind varies, the course taken ends up being a rather crooked circle.
Rather, Zenjirou, who’s riding the ship as it’s doing such maneuvers, can tell that the sailors of the 『Golden Leaves』 are indeed excellent just from the fact that they have managed to plot a course that is a recognizable circle.
Eventually the bow of the 『Golden Leaves』 is turned in the direction of Valentia’s port.
It looks like the final test has finished, and all that’s left now is to return to harbor.
As the port of Valentia gradually gets bigger before his eyes, Zenjirou unconsciously lets out a breath in relief.
It’s not that he doesn’t trust Princess Freya, but getting on the ship of a foreign country and leaving the harbor on it carries a certain kind of tension.
In contrast to that, the relief of having safely returned wells up within him as the harbor draws closer.
“Indeed, this might have a charm that 『Teleport』 doesn’t possess.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou whispers with his eyes turned towards Valentia’s port.
Certainly, traveling through 『Teleport』 is rather unromantic. Compared to that, traveling on a sailing ship has a certain level of class to it.
To begin with, if people were asked to choose between a “tasteless, quick method of travel” or a “tasteful, slow method of travel,” most would likely pick the former.
While Zenjirou is thinking about such things, the 『Golden Leaves』 returns to Valentia’s port.
Being able to bring a large ship alongside the pier in one attempt should be fairly difficult, but these are the sailors who succeeded in traveling between continents.
They managed to pull the ship’s big hull right up next to the stone pier without any noteworthy troubles.
However, while it may be true that they have safely lowered the anchor, that doesn’t mean that it’s possible to disembark the ship right away. As long as the stair-like ramp hasn’t been set up, amateurs like Zenjirou definitely can’t get off. Besides that, the sailors still have plenty of work left to do, such as properly tying and fixing the sails, or coiling the leftover rope out of the way.
While the sailors are busily scurrying around, Zenjirou waits with a hand still on the railing.
Seeing that I can’t disembark at the moment, I will only become a hindrance if I do something. I have no other option but to wait patiently and try to stay out of the way.
As though saying she’s finished her job now, Princess Freya speaks to Zenjirou with a bright smile.
“And with that the final test run of the 『Golden Leaves』 has come to an end.
Thank you very much, Your Majesty. All of this is the result of Carpa Kingdom’s kind help.” (Freya)
Princess Freya bowed gracefully. However, it was by placing her right fist to her shoulder and lowering her head – a manly bow.
It’s probably because she’s not a princess right now but the captain of a ship.
Aware that it was slightly improper, Zenjirou turns to face Princess Freya but retains his hold on the railing behind him.
“No, the pleasure is ours. Our country’s craftsmen had the privilege of gaining valuable experience.” (Zenjirou)
Those words are sincere. Of course, Carpa Kingdom’s craftsmen likely won’t be able to build a large sailing ship based on just this one experience, but it should be quite a good foundation.
Princess Freya’s happy smile deepens with Zenjirou’s reply.
“Hearing that is a blessing for me.
By the way, Your Majesty. Seeing as the repairs of the 『Golden Leaves』 have been completed, we must return to our home country.” (Freya)
That was a very reasonable statement, but Zenjirou received such a shock that it surprised even himself.
“Eh? Y-Yeah. That’s right. How soon are you planning to return?” (Zenjirou)
Leaving aside the troublesome matter of her becoming his concubine and so on, Zenjirou is well aware that he enjoys being with Princess Freya like this.
At the very least, the time he has spent with her was enough to make him feel a touch of loneliness at the thought of her leaving.
Seemingly oblivious to Zenjirou’s mood, the silver-haired princess answers with a beautiful smile.
“Let’s see. Ideally I think I’d like to depart the month after the next. However, while it may be embarrassing, Carpa Kingdom’s 『Hottest Season』 will be hard on us. Since it looks like next month will be even hotter than now, I can’t stop worrying that there will be some of my subordinates whose health will deteriorate.
In that case, I believe the earliest departure will be during next year’s Winter ─ the month right in the middle of the 『Second Half of the Vibrant Season』, or we may delay it even further to the month after.” (Freya)
Zenjirou cocks his head to the side in curiosity at Princess Freya’s answer.
“I can understand that the heat of the 『Hottest Season』 will take a toll on those from the northern continent. But, is it going to take several months to recover from that?” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou’s doubt is reasonable.
If you forcefully convert the month in the middle of the 『Hottest Season』 to the Japanese calendar, it would be August. On the other hand, the middle month and the following month of the 『Second Half of the Vibrant Season』 would be February and March of the next year.
There’s actually around half a year between those two.
No matter how weak the Sweyar people of the Uppsala Kingdom might be to heat, do they really need half a year to recover from what would be at most heat fatigue?
But, Princess Freya shakes her head at Zenjirous question, making her short silver hair sway, and says,
“No, it’s not as worrisome as that. It’s likely the sailors’ conditions will improve within 10 days of the end of the 『Hottest Season』.
The problem lies with the season at that time, and the number of days it takes to travel to our motherland.
We took approximately 120 days to arrive in Valentia after leaving Uppsala. That includes us running into storms, and traveling an unknown route, so we should be able to shorten the journey time by quite a bit. Even so, taking safety into consideration, we should estimate it to be around 100 days.
If we depart from here at the beginning of the Vibrant Season, we will be sailing through Uppsala’s 『Winter Sea』, no matter what we do.” (Freya)
“Ah, that’s bad, isn’t it?” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou easily agreed with Princess Freya’s answer.
The start of the Vibrant Season is in 10 months. Adding a hundred days ─ a little bit more than 3 months, their arrival in the Uppsala Kingdom will be in January.
Right at the height of the 『Vibrant Season』 is the most comfortable time in the Carpa Kingdom, but at the same time the Uppsala Kingdom welcomes the 『Winter』, their most difficult season.
No matter how state-of-the-art the 『Golden Leaves』 might be, in the end it’s just a wooden sailing ship.
Working on deck is unavoidable on a voyage. Even below deck there are no heating devices like on the passenger ships of the modern era. Uppsala’s port seems to be ice-free because of the ocean currents, but the outside temperature is merciless.
Sailing for an extended time through the northern continent’s northern seas during winter, where the temperature falls below minus 20° C and at times even reaches minus 30° C, is extremely dangerous.
Even if you say that the Sweyar people are used to the winter sea, there are limits.
There’s no need to deliberately face a mid-winter sea that is capable of giving you frostbite within five minutes of being drenched by a stray wave, and instantly killing you from shock if you happen to fall overboard. The heat during the Hottest Season in Valentia is harsh. The same can be said for the coldness of Uppsala’s Winter, which is equivalent to the second half of the Vibrant Season. And, if one assumes that the route between Valentia and Uppsala takes more than three months, it’s best to decide on a period where it’s possible to come and go without problem.
That’s precisely the reason why Princess Freya needs to start the return preparations so as not to miss the opportunity, now that the ship has been repaired.
Since it’s not like she can return any time she pleases, that’s only natural.
“Then you’re saying that you will return to your country at the end of this year’s Hottest Season as long as there’s no problem with the sailors?” (Zenjirou)
Upon Zenjirou’s query, the princess boldly nods once, and after taking a breath deep enough to move her shoulders, she asks with a nervous smile,
“Yes. That’s the plan. But, at any rate I have to persuade my father and my elder brother at home, and then I want to 『Return』 to this country.
Your Majesty, would you please welcome me at that time?” (Freya)
Upon Princess Freya’s question, Zenjirou’s expression tightens. Of course that question isn’t to be taken literally.
Gaining the permission of her father and brother ─ the king and crown prince in her own country and returning to Carpa Kingdom can’t imply anything but her officially becoming Zenjirou’s concubine.
Asking Zenjirou “Would you welcome me?”, she is almost explicitly asking him.
For Zenjirou it’s a question that he is hard pressed to answer.
If Zenjirou is going to refuse Princess Freya becoming his concubine, this might really be the very last opportunity to do so.
If he gives a positive reply here, he won’t be able to back out anymore.
(Be that as it may, after all there’s no way that I can crush the trade between continents out of selfishness.) (Zenjirou)
This late in the game, there aren’t many options left to pick for Zenjirou. Zenjirou’s understanding, logical thinking and character would never allow him to refuse now.
“Of course, Your Highness. I shall wait together with Her Majesty Aura for Your Highness’ swift return.” (Zenjirou)
Those words, clearly stated with a smile, cannot be taken back any longer. They’re a declaration that he will accept Princess Freya as concubine.
Intentionally adding “with Her Majesty Aura” to that is Zenjirou’s small personal resistance, his slight warning.
A reminder that, “My legal wife is only Queen Aura. I will welcome you so long as my relationship with Queen Aura is harmonious.”
Princess Freya has probably resolved herself to that.
Of course, it’s impossible for her to stay calm when the partner she has confessed to tells her that “There’s a woman I prefer over you”, but Princess Freya isn’t such a thoughtless woman that she would allow even the slightest trace of that to show on her face in this place.
“Yes! I will return to you, Your Majesty, without fail.” (Freya)
A smile on her face and eyes moist, her expression is unmistakably one of a woman, despite her male captain’s uniform.