Afternoon of Zenjirou’s third day in the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.
Zenjirou walked through the Sharrow family’s stronghold, the 【Purple Egg Palace】, one of the two prided royal palaces of the Twin Kingdom.
As its name suggests, the 【Purple Egg Palace】 has incorporated purple, the symbolic color of the Sharrow family, all over the place and is overflowing with an exotic atmosphere. Unfortunately, right now Zenjirou doesn’t have the leeway to appreciate the scenery.
(Calm down, don’t be nervous. Just breathing is exposing my trembling.) (Zenjirou)
There’s also the fact that he is wearing his first uniform, the one that makes it difficult to move. Zenjirou walks through the hallway in the Purple Egg Palace with a clearly stiff stride.
His destination is the audience hall.
It has been decided that Zenjirou will have an official audience with the king of the Twin Kingdom there.
Telling himself to not be nervous is a tall order.
Escorted by General Puyol and the elite Carpa Kingdom soldiers, and guided by Lucretia Broglie, Zenjirou arrives in front of a large, conspicuous double door.
On the other side of this door is the 『Audience Hall』.
It’s been three years since I came to this world. Finally I have the chance to meet a person of higher standing than me, other than my wife Aura. Zenjirou gulps.
“Your Majesty, are you alright?” (Lucretia)
“Yeah, open it.” (Zenjirou)
Maybe because he was talking to her, he didn’t tremble and his voice wasn’t as hoarse as his dry throat would suggest.
“Okay, please excuse me then.” (Lucretia)
The petite girl ─ Lucretia whirls around, making sure to show off her blond side tail, and touches what seems to be a magic tool next to the door, pouring mana into it.
That might have been the signal.
The two doors are slowly swung open
“His Majesty Zenjirou from the Carpa Kingdom entering!”
With those words, Zenjirou started to walk across the purple carpet surrounded by the gazes of countless nobles.
He’s merely walking while following etiquette. Put like that, it sounds like something extremely simple.
The technique itself is definitely simple. A smart child could do it in about a week with training.
However, if you add the condition that “You must walk gracefully at the center of the foreign royalty’s and nobility’s attention”, the degree of difficulty rises sharply.
To put it in perspective: It’s like being told to run at full speed along a path 2 m wide and 100 m long.
If that path is on normal ground, it’s probably difficult to not to succeed, but if there are steep cliffs to the left and right of that path, sprinting at full speed is likely impossible for anyone but the bravest of people.
If a person actually did better on the path with the steep cliffs, there’s no doubt that sports scientists would propose to have that person’s brain examined down to its very cells.
That’s how much a person’s ability is influenced by their mental condition.
And Zenjirou’s current mental state is on the brink, and even that’s a bit of an understatement.
(Your steps have to be shorter than usual. You must look straight ahead. Raise your chin so you don’t look down…) (Zenjirou)
As he chants the teachings of his private tutor Mrs. Octavia inside his head, he continues to walk, conscious of each and every single part of his body, from the tips of his fingers to his facial muscles.
Finally arriving in front of the throne at last, Zenjirou stopped and looked up to the king sitting on the throne atop a stage.
(This man is the king of the Twin Kingdom’s Sharrow family, huh? Doesn’t he look quite young for Prince Francesco’s grandfather?) (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou observes, even though his body is stiff with nervousness.
The master of the throne certainly has white hair and a white beard, but while he’s thin he isn’t gaunt and his spine is straight like a rod.
As it’s been three days since he arrived in the Twin Kingdom, Zenjirou has crammed a reasonable amount of knowledge about the Twin Kingdom into his head.
If that knowledge is correct, the present king should be more than 70 years old, but from Zenjirou’s judgment, the man on the throne is at most 60 years old.
(I suppose he must be in good health since he’s still actively working as king despite being over 70 years old. If he were to be unsteady on his feet, his son would have succeeded him long ago, wouldn’t he?) (Zenjirou)
As Zenjirou continues to think, the king slowly opens his mouth, staring fixedly at Zenjirou.
“How wonderful of you to have visited us. We are the king of the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, Bruno the Third.
As representative of the Kingdom, we welcome you to our country.” (Bruno)
Zenjirou bows his head slightly after hearing the king speak in a forceful voice that matches his age even less than his appearance.
“Yes, thank you very much, Your Majesty. I’m the spouse of Aura the First, ruler of the Carpa Kingdom, Zenjirou. I am honored to have received the opportunity to meet with Your Majesty.” (Zenjirou)
The official meeting in the audience hall is an exchange where 90% of what is said is predetermined.
“Today is a fine day. A royal has honored us with his visit from a distant, friendly nation.” (Bruno)
“I have also been relishing the fortune of visiting a famed power on the continent like the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.” (Zenjirou)
Having prepared for this exchange, Zenjirou barely thinks as he recalls each phrase. It feels like he is reciting a script rather than holding a conversation.
To put it bluntly, Zenjirou has been rather careless.
“I pray for Your Majesty’s reign to last for a long time to come.” (Zenjirou)
As the words leave his mouth, Zenjirou fully expects the reply to be “Much obliged for your consideration, Your Majesty Zenjirou.”
That’s probably why.
“Yes, I’m truly grateful for your words, Sir Zenjirou, but that prayer won’t come true, I fear.” (Bruno)
King Bruno’s deviation from the script caused Zenjirou to end up releasing a stupid sound with a befuddled expression.
At an official occasion, and especially in front of a foreign country’s king, that’s a fairly bad slip-up, but fortunately no one finds fault with Zenjirou’s outburst.
“I have already reached an advanced age. With this opportunity, I plan to hand over the throne soon.” (Bruno)
The generals and lords assembled in the audience hall express their surprise upon the elderly king’s declaration. The surroundings immediately descend into chaos.
“Y-Your Majesty, what are you saying!?”
“I haven’t heard of this?”
“Just what is this about?”
“What do you intend to do about the equilibrium with the Pope Jilbell family?”
Judging by their reactions, this declaration of King Bruno’s imminent abdication was apparently a bolt from the blue not only for Zenjirou, but also the nobles of the Twin Kingdom.
Not turning his head, Zenjirou glances around, trying to get a grasp on the situation.
As he did, he noticed that amidst the sea of surprised expressions, only a man appearing to be in the latter half of his forties and standing close to the throne had a strangely calm expression on.
Since he’s wearing a deep purple uniform, there’s no mistake that he is of the direct royal line.
(Is that possibly Crown Prince Giuseppe? Age-wise he seems to qualify for King Bruno’s son and Prince Francesco’s father.) (Zenjirou)
Once King Bruno abdicates, the present crown prince, Giuseppe, will become the next king. The probability that King Bruno had only discussed this with Crown Prince Giuseppe in advance is rather high.
The commotion continued for a while, but once the elderly king quietly raised his right hand, silence returned to the audience hall once again.
Despite the nobles’ fierce looks, the elderly king displays a dignity one would expect of him, and speaks up majestically.
“It’s understandable for all of you to be surprised. Even as the king I believe it might be a bit too unreasonable to broach a grave and important matter such as the continuation of the throne so suddenly.
But, as you all know, I’m already at an advanced age. The crown has become rather heavy for this old man’s head.” (Bruno)
“What are you saying, Your Majesty!? You are still young!”
The one who immediately refuted King Bruno’s claim about his age was a middle-aged man also wearing purple clothes and standing relatively close to the throne.
(Who might that be? From his clothes, it looks like he’s from the Sharrow family, but as expected, it’s not as if I have all the royals memorized.) (Zenjirou)
Unlike the Carpa Kingdom where the royal family is on the verge of extinction due to the previous great war, the Twin Kingdom has many royals.
It’s definitely impossible for Zenjirou to have completely memorized them all.
Zenjirou observes the man who made that statement.
I suppose he’s roughly in his mid thirties.
Since he’s in front of the king, he’s somehow managed to keep his wording and bearing within the accepted rules of etiquette, but his eyes are clearly bloodshot. Even to Zenjirou it’s obvious at a glance that he doesn’t welcome King Bruno’s talk about abdicating.
“Your Majesty, please reconsider. This country still needs your authority.”
“No, I don’t think so. The younger ones have already grown up in this country. I believe that my presence is no longer needed.” (Bruno)
A king who wishes to abdicate, and a royal who detains him.
On the surface, it might appear that the royal is simply devoted to the king, but if the politics of such a major country were so simple, there would be no hardships in life.
(I feel like I have briefly heard in the reports that the present king, Bruno the Third, and the next king, Crown Prince Giuseppe, should have a very good relationship? Besides, Crown Prince Giuseppe is the firstborn of King Bruno and his official queen. He has also obtained plenty of achievements as a Bestowal practitioner and politician.
There haven’t been any major problems with his character either.
To be frank, I don’t see any reason to contest his right to the throne…) (Zenjirou)
The most legitimate successor of the lineage has no flaws in regards to his abilities or personality.
As the crown prince he naturally holds the first rank in the succession order, hence any quarrels over his right to succeed are moot.
Considering this, the one being strange is not just the royal, who’s adamant that the king reconsider, but also King Bruno himself who declared his abdication as if it were a surprise attack.
(Why did he deliberately choose a method that would cause discord, even though there wouldn’t have been any problems with him doing it normally? Does King Bruno plan to appoint someone besides Crown Prince Giuseppe as the next king?) (Zenjirou)
That brief thought is immediately disproved by the elderly king’s next words.
“In the first place, even now Giuseppe is already representing me in more than half of the national politics. Even if I officially hand over the crown to him, nothing will really change much. Or, are you saying that you have an objection towards the coronation of Crown Prince Giuseppe, Largo?” (Bruno)
Largo hurriedly denied the king’s accusation as he glares at him from atop the throne.
“No, absolutely not! No one could be the next king other than elder brother Giuseppe.” (Largo)
Given that exchange, it looks like Crown Prince Giuseppe will be the next king after all.
And, since his name was mentioned, Zenjirou now knows who the protesting royal is, too.
(Prince Largo, eh? If I remember correctly he’s King Bruno’s youngest child, isn’t he? He’s Prince Giuseppe’s step-brother. I think he was 35 years old. Since Prince Giuseppe ought to be 48 or 49, there’s a difference of 13 or 14 years between them?) (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou recalls the information he has been memorizing during the last three days.
Nonetheless, even with that information, he can’t grasp the current situation at all.
From the beginning, the distance between the Carpa Kingdom in the midwest and the Twin Kingdom in the center of the southern continent is too big. Hence, the information will be sparse, no matter what.
It’s been only three days since Zenjirou arrived in the Twin Kingdom. He has gathered some information from the soldiers that arrived before him, but honestly speaking, it’s still far too little.
“However, agreeing to Giuseppe’s enthronement and agreeing to Your Majesty’s abdication are two totally different matters. Your Majesty, why have you so hastily broached this topic?” (Largo)
“What, Giuseppe’s enthronement a matter of course either way. There isn’t a problem even if I move it up a little. You support Giuseppe’s enthronement as well, don’t you?
I believe your words stem from your respect for me.
But, if you obstinately continue insisting like this, you will make our exalted guest, who came from so far away, come to unnecessary misunderstandings.” (Bruno)
With the elderly king’s warning, Prince Largo looks over to Zenjirou, as if he had finally noticed him.
After which he bows courteously, without a trace of his previous emotions.
“That was very impolite of me, Your Majesty Zenjirou. I have shown you something unsightly.” (Largo)
His manners are perfect and he has a splendid poker face, but Zenjirou notices how his cheeks trembled for an instant.
I see. He’s controlling his emotions by clenching his teeth.
“No, not at all. Seeing fellow royals from the Sharrow family unreservedly expressing their emotions with the country in mind makes me feel very envious.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou smiles and answers with a reply that deliberately missed the mark, as if declaring that “I don’t get the circumstances at all.” But then again, given that it’s mostly the truth, he’s not really feigning ignorance either.
And, from the exchange so far, there’s just one thing even Zenjirou has realized.
(I don’t know what goal he had in mind to do something like that, but I do know why he chose this timing. This king used me as an excuse here!) (Zenjirou)
To be more precise, you should probably say that he was turned into a witness.
The Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell is a special country with two royal families and two kings, but in reality it’s a feudalistic state.
The king of a feudalistic state isn’t an absolute ruler like it’s commonly believed. It’s not unusual for him to be unable to have his own way, if the influential nobles within the country oppose him altogether.
Even with regards to the matter of succession just now; if the country’s influential nobles and other royals were to conspire and insist that they want King Bruno to do his best for a little longer, it’s possible that the matter will simply be dismissed.
However, by declaring it here and now, the situation changes completely.
Even if it’s not with full authority, Zenjirou is a royal of the Carpa Kingdom, a major power reigning over the southern continent’s midwest.
King Bruno officially declared that he will yield the crown to Crown Prince Giuseppe soon in Zenjirou’s presence.
Even if it’s true that they are struggling over power with the king, the influential nobles and other royals must publicly protect their stance as subordinates who have pledged their allegiance to the king.
They cannot break from their role as “loyal subordinates” in front of royalty from another country. And subordinates cannot object to him handing the crown to a son who officially holds the title of crown prince.
In conclusion, it’s a bit forceful, but King Bruno’s abdication and Crown Prince Giuseppe’s enthronement have been unanimously decided. From King Bruno’s standpoint, that must have truly been a coup de grace.
He understands. He really does, but Zenjirou’s honest opinion is…
(Don’t drag me into this just because it suits you! It’s a nuisance!) (Zenjirou)
…something very close to a scream.
The official meeting with King Bruno ended, though Zenjirou would be hard pressed to call it a peaceful meeting. After returning to his assigned room, he discussed the previous events with General Puyol.
“Yeah, I don’t really know the details either, but the reason Prince Largo opposes King Bruno’s abdication is simple. Prince Largo apparently wants to become king himself, given the chance.” (Puyol)
Sitting in an exotic chair that requires a rather strange posture, Zenjirou tilts his head in confusion at General Puyol’s statement.
“Mmh? I don’t understand. It has been decided that the next king will be Crown Prince Giuseppe, right? Seeing as Crown Prince Giuseppe doesn’t have any particular faults, I don’t believe that his younger brother, Prince Largo, has any prospect of becoming king.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou waits for the reply of the very tall general sitting on the sofa opposite him.
To be honest, General Puyol’s ability to gather information within the royal court definitely can’t be described as high, but because he spent a full month traveling the land route with the soldiers and knights of the Twin Kingdom, he’s somewhat familiar with the information about this country.
Whether he’s aware of Zenjirou’s innermost thoughts or not, the general shrugs his square shoulders and concisely answers,
“Certainly, Crown Prince Giuseppe has no weaknesses presently. However, in another decade he will have the flaw of being old.
And, King Bruno is already an old man over 70 years old, although he looks fairly vigorous for his age, as you could see for yourself. It’s certainly not impossible for him to keep the crown for another ten years, until he is 80 years old. There’s a rumor going around that Prince Largo has placed his hopes in that.” (Puyol)
“I see, I guess there is the issue of age.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou agrees with General Puyol’s explanation for the time being.
——————— End of Part 1 ———————-
Across the entire southern continent, the principle of prioritizing the eldest brother with regards to the order of succession is accepted as common knowledge. However, there have been a few exceptions where this has been overruled due to the successor being too old.
The present king, King Bruno, is currently 70 years old.
Crown Prince Giuseppe, the expected next king, is 49 years old.
On the other hand, Prince Largo, who’s reaching for the crown, is 35 years old.
If the crown is handed over to him right now, Crown Prince Giuseppe will still be considered to be in the prime of his life.
If his reign lasts until he is seventy like King Bruno, he will be king for twenty years yet to come.
However, it’s a different story ten years down the road. In ten years Crown Prince Giuseppe will be 59 years old, and Prince Largo 45 years old.
It is inevitable that some will raise concerns about crowning a 『New King』 who’s close to 60 years old.
In that situation, it wouldn’t be unnatural to consider crowning Prince Largo as the new king instead.
“But, there should also be the option to skip a generation in such a case, no?” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou raises another question, puzzled.
That would mean passing the crown not to the child, but directly from grandfather to grandson.
Such cases exist as well, when a king has continued to be active even at an advanced age, like King Bruno.
General Puyol shook his head at Zenjirou’s question, continuing,
“That will probably be difficult. Crown Prince Giuseppe has seven children in total with his official consort and his other consorts, and those are just the ones who are publicly known. Unfortunately only two of them are male.
One is Prince Francesco, whom you know as well, Your Majesty. Prince Francesco would have no issues with regards to his age since he’s 25 years old, but there’s his 『problematic personality』. Additionally, he doesn’t possess the right to inherit the crown in the first place either.
And, the other young man, Prince Vettor, is currently seven years old. Fortunately he’s also the child of Crown Princess Tosca, the legal wife, but even ten years later he will barely have passed the age of adulthood. Directly inheriting the throne from His Majesty Bruno will be harsh, I think.” (Puyol)
“I guess that means His Majesty Bruno’s overly long reign is about to produce various problems.” (Zenjirou)
While Zenjirou is internally admiring Crown Princess Tosca for bearing children with a twenty year age gap, the general expresses his agreement with the conclusion he had reached.
“Yes. From our Carpa Kingdom’s perspective, it’s a truly ironic outcome. A king’s reign being too long or short as well as the number of royals being too many or few is an everlasting problem in any epoch.” (Puyol)
On one end of the spectrum is the Sharrow family, who is facing a succession dispute, because there’s too many half-hearted royals who peacefully spent nearly 50 years under the reign of a single king.
On the other hand the Carpa family has far too few of the next generation, due to the royal family nearly being annihilated during the previous great war and because they ended up enthroning three kings whose reigns didn’t even last a year.
Certainly, both families are experiencing the difficulty of stabilizing their reign.
“I understand the general outline of the situation. However, of all things for me to get dragged into, why is it a domestic problem for the Twin Kingdom…” (Zenjirou)
Watching Zenjirou furrow his eyebrows, General Puyol lifts one eyebrow and answers with some amusement,
“I think King Bruno only has so many external cards to play. In the Twin Kingdom it’s mostly the Jilbell family’s duty to negotiate with foreign countries after all.” (Puyol)
“Sharrow for domestic affairs, and Jilbell for foreign diplomacy, huh?” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou muttered, recalling the basic information about the Twin Kingdom.
“Yes. That’s why the Sharrow family has very few chances to meet officially with foreign royalty. Not to mention that, as royalty, you are a central figure of the Carpa Kingdom, Zenjirou-sama. For King Bruno you must have truly been a godsend.” (Puyol)
Although they might all be foreign royalty, there are clear differences in status between Zenjirou and other visitors.
The small countries around the Twin Kingdom are economically dependent on the Twin Kingdom. There are also many countries that have been converted into vassal states. Even though they might technically be king in those countries, it’s not rare for them to not be able to measure up to even the high-ranking nobles of the Twin Kingdom.
Also, even if the country itself were to be a large country, the king likely wouldn’t have much influence on the nobles near the border that are affiliated with him. Compared to them, as husband of the queen and part of the royal family of a major power that rivals the Twin Kingdom, Zenjirou has much more clout.
Even for the nobility and royalty of the Twin Kingdom it’s somewhat difficult to go against an agreement made before Zenjirou.
“I understand the reasoning, but that doesn’t mean that it feels nice.” (Zenjirou)
General Puyol lifted the corners of his mouth into a sort of smile at Zenjirou’s sigh.
“It’s certainly just as you say, but don’t you think that this is a rare opportunity as well?
No matter how they try to gloss it over, this is a huge favor for them. Isn’t it possible to use that to achieve your objective, if you emphasize that, Zenjirou-sama?” (Puyol)
Zenjirou smiled wryly at General Puyol’s straightforward way of speaking.
“It’s surely as you say, but the opportunity has already passed, you know? Now they can just keep feigning ignorance.” (Zenjirou)
Since the other side has already accomplished their objective, it will be hard to bring up this “debt” now. General Puyol reveals a broad, daring grin and refutes Zenjirou’s words.
“I think that would be rash. King Bruno announced that『I will retire from the throne soon』. Zenjirou-sama, what exactly do you think 『soon』means?” (Puyol)
Even while tilting his head in confusion, Zenjirou processes the hidden meaning behind General Puyol’s words.
“Let’s see…since he said soon, it should be less than a year. No, the succession is a serious matter that can’t be handled in a year. Therefore, it should take more than a year but less than two.” (Zenjirou)
The general looks surprised by Zenjirou’s reply.
“Hoh, you interpreted soon as more than one year but less than two, Zenjirou-sama? I thought that it would take at least three years since it’s the crown succession we’re talking about here.
Given that there’s a difference of one year between our estimates, there might be some among the Twin Kingdom’s royalty and nobility who would take that 『soon』 to mean within five years, and depending on the circumstances, even ten years.” (Puyol)
“Hmm, I see.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou, having guessed what General Puyol wanted to say, took a single, deep breath.
King Bruno officially promised that “Soon I will yield the crown to Crown Prince Giuseppe” to the domestic nobles. However, as for defining how long 『soon』is, that will happen from now on.
And, from General Puyol’s perspective, as the one who was used as a witness in that situation, Zenjirou’s interpretation of 『soon』holds the most weight.
For example, if Zenjirou were to say “Come to think of it, when will His Highness Giuseppe’s enthronement be? Since you said that it will be soon, I suppose it’ll be around next year,” he will be able to force the interpretation of “soon” to be “within next year”.
Obviously, setting an illogical time frame like the ten years General Puyol mentioned before or within a month might be impossible, but as long as it’s within the bounds of common sense, Zenjirou’s statement will very likely be adopted as official time for 『soon』.
(Hmm? Wouldn’t it have been better if he had clearly stated the time frame then and there? Why did King Bruno use a vague expression like “soon”?
I don’t believe that King Bruno, who is known as a great and wise ruler, didn’t think of something at that level…) (Zenjirou)
After pondering about it for a short while, the conclusion Zenjirou came up with was simple.
(I wonder, did King Bruno intentionally concede a little?) (Zenjirou)
Given that, various things would make sense.
From the very start there was a feeling of discomfort.
Zenjirou’s visit to the Twin Kingdom was for Zenjirou’s aspiration “to establish an arrangement to call a healing practitioner as soon as Queen Aura delivers her second child”, but at the same time the Sharrow family should harbor the ulterior motive of “wanting to win over Zenjirou, a descendant of the Carpa and the Sharrow family, for their own country.”
And yet he was suddenly used for a sneak attack at his first official meeting.
There’s no one who will feel great about one-sidedly being used in such a way.
They probably want to win him over if possible, but even without going that far, the Sharrow family would want him to pass on his blood by having a child with a concubine of their choice. They should have no interest in being hated by Zenjirou.
(Not a chance. Since I lack information right now, I won’t reach a conclusion no matter how much I brood over it.) (Zenjirou)
Just as Zenjirou let out a breath and gave up on guessing for now, there was a knocking at the door.
“What is it?” (Zenjirou)
The soldier standing guard at the door answers,
“Excuse me, Zenjirou-sama. Lucretia-sama is asking for a meeting. What shall I do?”
Lucretia. She’s one of the few people in the Twin Kingdom whose name and face Zenjirou, who’s only been in the Twin Kingdom for three days, can easily match.
The Marquis Broglie House’s young lady, Lucretia.
She’s the caretaker assigned to Zenjirou by the Twin Kingdom.
“Let her in. I’m sorry, but please get the place ready quickly. General Puyol, you may step back.” (Zenjirou)
“Yes, certainly.” (Ines)
“Yes, Your Majesty. Please excuse me.” (Puyol)
With Zenjirou’s commands, the middle-aged maid, who was waiting in the back, and the tall general sitting opposite of him started to move briskly.
Roughly 30 minutes later.
Instead of the general, a girl with her golden hair bundled into a side tail sat across Zenjirou.
Her sitting posture is perfect, but the length of her legs is obviously insufficient, causing both of them to hang in the air without touching the floor.
Coupled with her innocent smile, she looks quite childish, but despite her appearance, she’s pretty much an adult.
But then again, since boys and girls at the age of 15 are referred to as 『adults』, it’s quite confusing for Zenjirou who can’t help thinking like a modern Japanese man.
Having said that, it doesn’t change the fact that he must treat this girl as an adult woman despite her childishness since it’s the custom of this world.
“Sorry for having kept you waiting, Lucretia.” (Zenjirou)
As Zenjirou says so with a tender expression, the girl shakes her head, causing her side tail to sway.
“Don’t mention it, Your Majesty. It is I who should thank you for allowing my sudden visit.” (Lucretia)
“No, it’s no big deal. So, what’s your business with me?” (Zenjirou)
As he is answering, Zenjirou glances at the maid standing behind Lucretia.
The maid is holding a bundle of sealed dragon skin papers in her hands. They look very much like『written invitations』.
As Zenjirou had his official audience with the king today, the nobles of the Twin Kingdom immediately started to make moves towards currying favor with Zenjirou.
It’s not particularly welcome, but Zenjirou expected as much.
However, the topic Lucretia broached first after noticing Zenjirou’s line of sight was something slightly unexpected.
“Your Majesty, I shall once again extend our apologies in King Bruno’s stead for having shown you something disgraceful during the audience today.” (Lucretia)
The girl politely lowers her head once more.
Zenjirou raises his hand in response to that apology.
“No, that is not an issue that requires your apology, Lucretia. Please do not mind it.” (Zenjirou)
He smiled back in order to look as cheerful as possible.
But then again, although his tone is soft, his words are clearly a rejection of Lucretia’s apology.
If you were to ask whether it is an issue, it certainly is. Although the other party might be the king of a country, royalty being treated like that is a departure from etiquette. As such, Zenjirou would be making light of his own position if he pretended it was alright with just the apology of a noble’s daughter.
This is likely within Lucretia’s expectations, too. She continues without any particular change in her expression.
“Yes. As for the matter in question, King Bruno has said that he’d like to make some time for you in the future. Flora.” (Lucretia)
“Yes. Here.” (Flora)
Hearing Lucretia’s words, the young maid behind her carefully presents the topmost sheet of the bundle to Lucretia.
Taking the invitation, Lucretia checks the addressee to make sure there aren’t any mistakes and returns it to Flora.
Lucretia’s maid courteously approached the sofa, where Zenjirou is sitting, and respectfully offered the invitation to him.
“I shall receive this.” (Ines)
The one who received it was also a maid, Ines, who waited behind Zenjirou.
After checking the invitation with practiced movements, Ines broke the seal with her master’s permission, and spread the paper out in front of Zenjirou.
Carpa Kingdom’s dragon skin paper is often light green, but this one is cream colored. It might be due to a difference in the dragon species used to produce it.
“If it is alright with you, I will read it out loud?” (Ines)
“Yeah, please do so.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou is capable of reading and writing to some extent thanks to his diligent practice, but he doesn’t have the confidence to deal with official documents where misreading won’t definitely be tolerated.
“Please excuse me then. 『To Zenjirou, the exalted aristocrat who came from a distant land…』” (Ines)
Starting with a drawn out preface, the contents read out by Ines had no major differences to what Zenjirou understood as he followed the letters on the paper with his eyes.
In short, it’s an explanation for the events during the audience and a proposal to establish a private occasion for a future exchange.
Zenjirou, feeling a strange sense of discomfort, gently brushed the characters on the dragon skin paper with the tip of his finger. He examines his finger, but the ink didn’t leave a stain.
“…I see. Understood. I’d like you to tell His Majesty Bruno that『I’m grateful for your swift invitation and that you are freeing up some of your valuable time for me』.” (Zenjirou)
“…Very well. I shall convey your message without fail.” (Lucretia)
She probably understands what Zenjirou wants to say.
Widening her blue eyes slightly, Lucretia smiled sweetly and answered.
Normally ink used on dragon skin paper doesn’t dry very quickly.
At least, it shouldn’t have completely dried, assuming that this had been written after today’s official audience.
However, Zenjirou just ascertained that the ink was completely dry.
That means that this 『written invitation』 had been written before today’s audience.
And yet, it expressed a desire “to apologize for the events during the official audience.”
Zenjirou sighs in his mind even as he continues smiling outwardly.
(I guess that means today’s events were perfectly according to King Bruno’s plans. It really gives me a headache, if I think about future matters.) (Zenjirou)
As expected of an elderly king who has reigned over a major power for nearly 50 years. I will be thoroughly taken advantage of if I relax my attention.
——————– End of Part 2 ——————–
Zenjirou, realizing this once again, pulls himself together and addresses the girl sitting across from him.
“So, I suppose the remaining papers are similar letters?” (Zenjirou)
“Right, it’s just as you say. Flora, hand them over.” (Lucretia)
From Flora to Ines. From Ines to Zenjirou. The bundle of invitation reaches Zenjirou’s hands by the same route as before.
Leaving aside the invitation of King Bruno, it’s impossible to try opening even just the invitations from the nobles and royals right now.
For the time being, Zenjirou only looks through the senders of the first few invitations.
(Duke El’Haryuko, Duke Ryarfon, Duke El’Mentaqat, and Duke An’Imyam. Holy smokes, even though I expected it, all four dukes are lined up, eh?
Since the Twin Kingdom’s Dukes don’t leave their own territory, it was probably sent by a proxy staying in the capital.)
Due to the predictable list of big names, Zenjirou sighs internally once again.
Even Zenjirou, who still only has a basic knowledge of the Twin Kingdom, knows the names of the four Dukes.
Although both the Carpa Kingdom and the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell are kingdoms, there are very many subtle differences.
Among them the difference in the status of 『Duke』 is relatively large.
In general the two positions of prince and duke are of almost equal rank, but in the Carpa Kingdom there are only princes while the Twin Kingdom only has dukes.1 Prince is a peerage granted to royalty closely related to the direct line. Duke is the highest noble rank.
The four Dukes who sent invitations to Zenjirou are the latter.
Of course their authority is tremendous. Not to mention their assets and political power, even with regard to their public status, practically speaking, the positions of the four Dukes rank next to Sharrow’s king, Sharrow’s crown prince, Jilbell’s pope and Jilbell’s crown prince.
Except for the two rulers and crown princes, even royalty is placed below the four Dukes.
Given the Twin Kingdom’s history, one could say that this is fairly reasonable in a way.
Originally the four Dukes lived in the desert of the southern continent’s central area as four tribal chief families.
The four tribes were large and employed many brave warriors, but unfortunately none of the chieftain families possessed bloodline magic.
It might have been alright on the northern continent, but on the southern continent that’s fatal.
On the southern continent the succession of bloodline magic is the mark of a royal family. No matter how loud the four tribes were, not only did the surrounding countries not approve of them as 『Royal Families』, but they also didn’t recognize their territories as a『Country』.
They were never seen as anything but wandering, stateless, desert nomads. Of course the neighboring countries didn’t treat them as equals.
The ones who appeared at that point were the emigrants from the northern country led by the Sharrow and Jilbell families.
Both royal families, who had escaped from the northern continent, naturally had no place they belonged to on the southern continent.
It was only natural. A group with pale hair and white skin stood out in a bad way on the southern continent where vibrant hair and dark skin were prevalent.
The place where the emigrants were able to settle after a life on the run – even after entering the southern continent – was the huge desert in the central area of the continent.
The desert of the four tribes that wasn’t accepted as a country by the surrounding countries, because the four tribes didn’t possess any bloodline magic despite effectively ruling the central desert.
The Sharrow and Jilbell families who didn’t own any land where they could live in peace because they had escaped from the northern continent.
The two camps met and established a new country in the desert, joining hands after a variety of trials and tribulations.
That’s the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.
Given the country’s hidden history at its foundation, it’s only natural for the chieftain families of the four tribes ─ the present four Dukes to wield authority that’s extremely close to that of the royal families.
After all, the desert, the actual soil on which this country is built, originally belonged to the four Dukes.
Even if you look at the current territories of each of the four Dukes, they are far more expansive than the territories of the Sharrow and Jilbell royal families.
Of course, the assets of the two royal families are overwhelmingly superior due to their game-changing trump cards: the 『Bestowal Magic』 of the Sharrow family and the 『Healing Magic』 of the Jilbell family.
Zenjirou realised this after confirming the four Dukes’ signatures.
“Your visit is of utmost importance for the Twin Kingdom, Your Majesty. Of course everyone is hoping to meet with you.” (Lucretia)
Through her flowery words, the blonde girl conveyed the welcoming attitude of the entire Twin Kingdom toward Zenjirou’s visit.
“It sure seems so.” (Zenjirou)
Lowering his gaze to the thick bundle of invitations, Zenjirou deliberately smiled wryly.
The blonde girl responds to Zenjirou’s wry smile with a cheerful one, and says,
“Having said that, it’s inevitable that there will be a difference in commitment. There are some who will show up personally, and there will be others who send representatives. Please take this as a difference in their enthusiasm.” (Lucretia)
She says in a slightly shrill voice.
In contrast, Zenjirou’s short reply was in a deeper register than usual.
It’s not a coincidence. As a matter of fact, his wariness had been triggered.
The four Dukes are regional lords possessing huge territories, making them more like kings of half-independent states than mere dukes. That’s why the four Dukes stay in their own territories, and only dispatch representatives to the royal capital.
Even if he were to be invited to the four Dukes’ mansions in the capital, the possibility of them personally being present there would be low.
(In short, Lucretia is hinting at postponing a meeting with the four Dukes, right? What does that mean?) (Zenjirou)
Because everyone has their own agenda as they reach out to him, and Zenjirou is sorely lacking information right now, Zenjirou’s limited ability to make decisions has already been stretched to its absolute limit.
Anyway, it’s clear that this is a problem that I can’t solve no matter how long I think on it.
Zenjirou pulls himself together, and scans the signatures on the remaining invitations.
The names of the royals, such as Prince Largo who caused the commotion in the audience hall, is information within his limited knowledge, but he hasn’t heard of any of the nobles.
However, he notices that there’s a name that he expected that is missing.
(There’s no written invitation from Crown Prince Giuseppe. Is it because he will be present when I meet with King Bruno? In that case, King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe were definitely co-operating back there. Well, it’s not like that’s particularly unusual though…) (Zenjirou)
There’s yet another name Zenjirou expected that is missing.
“Yes, what might it be, Your Majesty?” (Lucretia)
Zenjirou conspicuously lowered his gaze to the stack of invitations, then tossed a question at her. She did not shy away, continuing to smile innocently.
“It seems as though a written invitation from 『Marquis Broglie』 is missing?” (Zenjirou)
Hearing Zenjirou’s remark, Lucretia, daughter of the Marquis Broglie House, deepens her smile as if she had expected that question, answering,
“Yes. As you can see, there are very many people from both high and low ranks wanting to invite you, Your Majesty. Hence I had my family refrain from doing so as well.
In exchange, I, Lucretia, would be very happy if you could take me as the representative of Marquis Broglie, if you have any business with my house, since I will be staying in the vicinity during your stay in the Twin Kingdom.” (Lucretia)
“I see.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou recalled that the lowest-ranking person among the senders of the written invitations was an Earl.
(I guess even this thick bundle of invitations went through a rather careful selection.) (Zenjirou)
People with low social status, people with weak connections to those higher-ranked, and people who already have someone in Zenjirou’s vicinity like Marquis Broglie.
This bundle of invitations seems to be from everyone other than these people.
“Then please tell Marquis Broglie that I shall be imposing on his daughter during my stay here.” (Zenjirou)
“Yes, certainly.” (Lucretia)
The girl happily answered Zenjirou’s words with a smile.
Approximately one hour after that meeting.
Zenjirou dismisses everyone, even the guards inside his room, which is the deepest within the wing they are staying in. When only the inner palace’s maids, who knew about his disposition, were left, he slovenly rested his face atop the table, still in his chair.
“I’m exhausted…” (Zenjirou)
Ines smiles at Zenjirou’s words, which are overflowing with many emotions, and praises him.
“Good work with your official duties, Zenjirou-sama. Would you like to change your clothes?” (Ines)
“Yes, please.” (Zenjirou)
Nodding in response to Zenjirou, who is staring blankly, Ines exchanges looks with the young maids, and they gather around Zenjirou.
Zenjirou is currently wearing the first uniform of the Carpa Kingdom.
Today’s outfit does not include a sword belt and a decorative bronze sword, but besides that, it’s the first uniform.
Unlike the third uniform, which is not formal attire, the first uniform can’t be taken off by a single person.
Zenjirou, standing with help from the maids, is deftly undressed by them like a dress-up doll. Fortunately he has no appointments after this.
Now in his underwear, Zenjirou put on his house-clothes ─ the cotton pants and t-shirt he brought along from Japan, and flumped back down on the chair.
Once he does, Ines pours water into a silver cup with superb timing, and holds it out in front of Zenjirou.
Zenjirou thanks her and throws back the entire cup in one gulp.
Right now it’s the height of the Hottest Season. But, since the Purple Egg Palace, the stronghold of the Sharrow family, is moistened and cooled with magic tools that generate mist and wind, it almost doesn’t feel like the Hottest Season at all.
According to the soldiers who came by the land route, it seems to be a somewhat different harshness compared to the Carpa Kingdom with its hot and humid climate.
As such, Zenjirou’s thirst and the fact that he’s drenched in sweat isn’t because of the temperature outside, but comes from his genuine exhaustion from the negotiations.
Unlike at the inner palace in the Carpa Kingdom, there’s no refrigerator, but since the drinking water here is directly drawn from a deep underground water well, it’s relatively cool.
“Phew, I’m alive again.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou, reinvigorated by the water, sits up properly, and complains to his trusted, middle-aged maid.
“Ah, man, the internal affairs of the Twin Kingdom are so complicated. Honestly, I have no clue who’s allied with who in what way and who’s opposing who in what way!” (Zenjirou)
“Certainly, the Twin Kingdom is rather unique. There are two royal families in one country. Two ethnic groups, the immigrants from the northern continent and the desert people, coexist.
Rather, it’s praiseworthy that they managed to remain a single country, despite being relatively weak at foreign policy, for several hundred years.” (Ines)
Zenjirou nodded his agreement.
The more I hear about it, the stranger it is that this country manages to remain one.
“The confrontations between the immigrants from the northern continent with the two royal families as their center, and the desert people with the four Dukes as their center. And I hear there are also disputes behind closed doors between the two royal families as well as power struggles between the four Dukes.
On top of that, even within the Sharrow family there’s the strain of Prince Largo wanting to go against King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe.
Honestly speaking, let alone outsiders like you, Zenjirou-sama, there might be no one who completely understands all of the conflicts, even among the Twin Kingdom’s nobles.” (Ines)
“…The Twin Kingdom’s power structure has become complicated and mysterious.” (Zenjirou)
Hearing Ines’ analysis, Zenjirou looked up at the ceiling with a fed-up expression.
But, now that he has heard these circumstances, Lucretia’s previous attitude comes to mind.
“I guess that means the harsh things Lucretia said about the four Dukes were linked to the confrontation between the immigrants and the desert people?” (Zenjirou)
Lucretia said, “There are some who will show up personally, while others send representatives. Please take this as a difference in their enthusiasm.”
The ones sending representatives are naturally the four Dukes.
Her blatantly telling him not to prioritize the four Dukes might stem from the confrontation between the immigrants and desert people.
Even as she agrees with Zenjirou’s conjectures, Ines also points out another possibility.
“That possibility is quite reasonable. However, since I’ve heard that the confrontation between the two ethnic groups is rather mild compared to the other conflicts, I think it might be a bad idea to arbitrarily conclude that to be the cause.
The two royal families, who need to maintain their bloodline magic, are obviously exceptions, but other than them, even high-ranking noble houses have intermarried with the other ethnic group at least once or twice in their history, I heard.” (Ines)
“I see. Whatever we might say, it’s a country with a several hundred year long history. I guess their blood has mixed with each other a long time ago.” (Zenjirou)
“Yes. But then again, there were a hundred times more desert people than immigrants when the country was founded. Leaving aside the capital, if you go into the provinces, it seems you will find that the majority of the commoners are pure-blooded desert people.” (Ines)
“Hee, you’re quite well-informed.” (Zenjirou)
She probably noticed Zenjirou’s curious expression at her unexpectedly detailed explanation.
After laughing a bit, Ines…
“I heard from the knights and soldiers. The soldiers traveled together with the Twin Kingdom’s soldiers for a whole month. It appears there were many who exchanged detailed information after opening their hearts quite a bit.” (Ines)
…easily confessed her source of information.
Zenjirou claps his hands together in understanding upon those words.
“Oh, I see. We teleported with magic, but the majority of the guarding soldiers walked together with the soldiers of the Twin Kingdom for an entire month, after all.” (Zenjirou)
I hear that the journey from the Carpa Kingdom to the Twin Kingdom was quite difficult.
Journeying together over such a long distance, it’s inevitable that there will be some who form friendships across the country borders. The information subconsciously exchanged between fellow humans in such a situation is nothing to sneeze at.
In a sense that information is the most accurate since it is from within the country itself.
“In that case I think we can have those soldiers continue their information gathering. We will provide the expenses for them going to eat and drink together with their fellow soldiers under the pretext of 『Entertainment Expenses』.
Ah, but please be careful that the soldiers don’t realize the true intent behind it. If they were to learn that this is for gathering information, our soldiers might not be skilled enough to continuously hide that fact from the Twin Kingdom’s soldiers.” (Zenjirou)
Due to Zenjirou persistently emphasizing that the pretext is for the sake of the friendship between fellow soldiers, Ines assures him that, “I will keep it in mind”, with a gentle smile.
“How about requesting Natalio-sama to carry out the task of collecting the information from the soldiers then? If we then have Kate hear the information from Natalio-sama afterwards, it probably won’t be regarded as odd if seen from the outside.” (Ines)
Natalio Maldonado, the sole personal knight of Zenjirou at present, and Kate Maldonado, one of the inner palace’s maids. As their names suggest, they are blood-related siblings.
Natalio and Kate, who had come out of the inner palace for the first time in several years, using the opportunity to meet each other frequently will likely look very natural.
“Mmh, I leave the fine details to you, Ines. Anyway, we won’t be able to understand the more subtle ploys if we don’t gather information. Ideally, I’d like to quickly have them agree to deploy a healing practitioner of the Jilbell family, and then swiftly return to the Carpa Kingdom, though.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou sighs deeply.
“That might be impossible at this point in time.” (Ines)
“Yeah, I know…” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou drops his shoulders in disappointment and answers Ines, who smiles sympathetically
I got that brazenly dragged into an inheritance quarrel at an official occasion.
In the worst case, I probably won’t be able to leave until I have at least a rough idea of the inheritance issue.
“First I have to handle the private meeting with King Bruno. If I don’t understand the moves of the other side there, I won’t even be able to find a common ground.” (Zenjirou)
“That’s true. On that occasion I shall also accompany you to the best of my ability, as little help as it might be.” (Ines)
“Okay, I will rely on you.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou, who had completely acclimated to a mere maid taking over secretarial duties, smiled back at the middle-aged maid.
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- This sentence makes a lot more sense in the raw since it’s an explanation of the definition for 公爵 (koushaku). Koushaku can mean both, prince or duke, just like hakushaku (伯爵) can mean earl or count. With that information, the first part of the sentence reads as: “In general prince and duke exists for the position called koushaku, but…”