For a private invitation from a king of a country to a royal from another, namely Zenjirou, quite a few preparations were necessary.
It was two days after the formal audience ended that Carpa Kingdom’s Prince Consort Zenjirou and the King of the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, Bruno the Third, had their private meeting.
Zenjirou had ten guards with him as he walked down the hallway, but only five can come with him into the king’s private room.
Ines, the mediator between Zenjirou and the maids came along, as well as the young maid Kate. Natalio, his escort knight, and General Puyol, the one in charge of the guard unit flanked him. And a young knight battalion leader who isn’t very familiar with Zenjirou followed along.
Zenjirou sat down on a sofa while the five men and women stood in the back.
On the opposite sofa sit a gray-haired, old man ─ King Bruno, and to his left, a middle-aged man who appears to be in his late forties.
(Just as I thought, Crown Prince Giuseppe will be attending, too.) (Zenjirou)
“Thank you very much for giving me the honor of being invited today, Your Majesty Bruno, and also Your Highness Giuseppe.” (Zenjirou)
“No, it is I who should express my deepest gratitude to you for taking the trouble to visit, Your Majesty Zenjirou.” (Bruno)
“Excuse me for intruding on this meeting, Your Majesty Zenjirou.” (Giuseppe)
“No, not at all, Your Highness. I’m delighted that this gives me the opportunity to meet you as well as King Bruno directly.” (Zenjirou)
The prince consort of the Carpa Kingdom, and the king and crown prince of the Twin Kingdom exchange simple greetings.
Giuseppe’s attendance hadn’t been mentioned in the written invitation, but it’s expected regardless. The old king curled his mouth into a smile after seeing Zenjirou smoothly greet Giuseppe as well.
“Now then, I’m told that it’s bad for an old man with few years remaining to be hasty, but this is my nature, too. I’m aware that it’s boorish, but please allow me to start with the main issue at hand, Your Majesty Zenjirou.” (Bruno)
“Certainly, I do not mind. It’s also what I hoped for.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou agrees with a strained smile, as King Bruno cuts directly to the main topic after a harmless, inoffensive preface.
In reality, omitting the small talk is good for Zenjirou too.
For someone who excels at negotiation, discernment and observation like Marchioness Lucinda Guillén or Raffaelo Márguez, small talk might be an effective means to transmit and gather information, but Zenjirou, who only has three years of experience as royal, is incapable of such a meticulous exchange.
Seemingly satisfied with Zenjirou’s acknowledgement, the old king returns a single, brief nod, and speaks up,
“First, before all else, I’d like to apologize for the matter in the audience hall.
Please accept my sincere apology for causing you trouble.” (Bruno)
“I shall also express my heartfelt apology for causing you such trouble without warning. I’m very sorry.” (Giuseppe)
Both King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe bowed their heads, though only a little.
It goes without saying, but this is a rare occurrence.
Even if this is a private meeting, Zenjirou is not the only one present.
Leaving aside the two maids, Ines and Kate, there are several other people with considerable status in the Carpa Kingdom in the room, such as Natalio, General Puyol, and the young senior commanding officer.
It’s very likely impossible to conceal the fact that the present king and the next king of the Twin Kingdom lowered their heads for the prince consort of the Carpa Kingdom. Of course, it won’t be enough to establish a hierarchical relationship between the two countries since this is a private occasion, but it will likely leave a definitive influence.
(I see. You can definitely say that this is a genuine 『Apology』. I guess that means they gave me the advantage of having the apologies of the king and the crown prince as compensation for using me for a surprise attack.) (Zenjirou)
Them apologizing while others are present, even if it is a private location, probably means that it’s not a matter that has to be kept absolutely confidential. If I make a fuss over this, things will get complicated.
“I have no choice but to accept it if the two of you are going so far, Your Majesty, Your Highness.” (Zenjirou)
In saying so, Zenjirou emphasizes that he prioritizes maintaining the peace over gaining the highest benefit in the negotiations, and that he decided to allow this matter to rest with an unofficial apology. Nonetheless, the story isn’t over just like that.
“Then is it fine to take this as a conclusion to this matter?” (Zenjirou)
Sure enough, the old king and the crown prince both denied Zenjirou’s inquiry with wry smiles.
“No, only revealing half of the true state of affairs will produce misunderstandings. Seeing that we’ve come this far already, I believe that we should talk honestly.”
“We’d like you to allow us to explain the situation we are in, Your Majesty Zenjirou.”
Probably as should be expected from parent and child, King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe speak as if they are one.
(Okay, so the apology was purely for dragging me into their surprise attack without warning. That means the problem of me being involved in it still continues.) (Zenjirou)
I can’t escape. Having come to this conclusion, Zenjirou became gutsy instead, and boldly said after subtly adjusting his posture,
“I understand. Please tell me.” (Zenjirou)
Naturally, there’s no way for the king to be completely frank about the internal affairs of his country to foreign royalty.
Despite using the word 『honestly』, the explanation King Bruno provided was sanitized for outsiders, more than half of it accounting for the official stance.
“The original issue is likely that my reign has lasted too long. If a single king reigns for fifty years, the people will accept it as fact.
Of course, it’s not that they are fools either. Even if I’m called a king, I’m not immortal. Hence they logically understand that the reign of a single king can’t continue forever.
But, they have reached the point of wishing that my reign ─ in other words, the current state of affairs ─ continues at least for a bit longer, if possible, as this half-hearted status quo works out well for them.” (Bruno)
“I see.” (Zenjirou)
King Bruno’s explanation presents his relatively good reputation as the official reason for this, and it’s not as if it is a lie. It sounded like a fairly persuasive explanation to Zenjirou, too.
“Certainly, I can also understand the subjects’ feelings in wishing for your reign to last as long as possible, Your Majesty.” (Zenjirou)
“Yeah, considering that their feelings are out of loyalty to me, I cannot flatly refuse them either. But, as I have said many times, I’m not immortal.
The various political parties in my government are so unchanging that they may as well be set in stone. If I think about my death, I feel that it might be better to yield the crown now, even if it will cause some chaos.” (Bruno)
Of course, this idealistic reason is not the only reason that the nobles refuse to accept the succession right now.
There are some who wish to try and sit on the throne themselves, if possible, by pushing back the succession.
Others can’t welcome the new generation because of their estrangement from Crown Prince Giuseppe despite a good relationship with King Bruno.
Others still are deliberately hoping for a succession crisis and the disintegration of proper internal affairs. That’s not limited to people with traitorous tendencies either.
Nonetheless, if Zenjirou, a royal from another country, hears this and gets involved with such matters, he will sink into a swamp.
(Well, I feel like I’m already standing with both feet in a swamp now, though.) (Zenjirou)
In order to snap himself out of his spiraling thoughts, Zenjirou speaks up.
“I understood that it’s something you have thoroughly considered. I have only the greatest admiration for Your Majesty considering even the distant future of the country. While it’s embarrassing, someone like me can think of absolutely nothing else but the safety of his beloved wife.” (Zenjirou)
“Well, how embarrassing,” Zenjirou rigidly wipes the sweat on his forehead away.
What Zenjirou is trying to say is simple.
He’s conveying that “I came here to talk about inviting a healing practitioner for the sake of my wife, Queen Aura. As long as I haven’t received your firm promise in this matter, I don’t have any intention to go along with your story.”
The old king, easily guessing what Zenjirou wanted to say, chuckles and,
“Fuhaha, the relationship between the Carpa Kingdom’s royal couple is certainly as affectionate as the rumors imply. How truly enviable.
Well, if that’s the case, you don’t need to worry. We have already passed your wish on to the Jilbell family. The preparations for having one healing practitioner of the Jilbell family stay in the Carpa Kingdom for the month of Her Majesty Aura’s expected delivery are already in motion.” (Bruno)
He easily gives up such unexpectedly good news.
“Is that true?” (Zenjirou)
Having accomplished his goal unexpectedly smoothly, Zenjirou is at first bewildered then suspicious. There is no joy whatsoever welling up within him.
And that was the correct reaction in a certain sense.
“Of course it is. However, at present we can only promise a month. Anything more than that can’t be accepted, even for an emergency. In order to respond to such an emergency call, they have to first free up someone’s schedule, but the schedules of the Jilbell family’s healing practitioners are already at its limit.” (Bruno)
“…I understand.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou took a deep breath and answered King Bruno’s warning like that.
It’s certainly true that the delivery is the most dangerous for both mother and child, but you can’t say that there will be no problems during the pregnancy either.
Ideally, Zenjirou wanted to pick up a healing practitioner with 『Teleport』whenever Aura’s state took a turn for the worse, but he had been told in advance that they won’t be able to respond like that.
Of course he can also understand King Bruno’s reasoning.
Calling a healing practitioner in an emergency can be called “jumping the queue” if you put it badly.
The customers of the Jilbell family are almost all people who have no hope of being cured with other means. On top of that, it’s only royalty and nobility of a certain standard.
If he cuts in line, the Twin Kingdom that permitted it and of course the Carpa Kingdom that actually did it will unnecessarily incur someone’s enmity.
“Therefore, I propose that, if you care about Her Majesty Aura’s body to such an extent, how about hiring a single healing practitioner for a half year and bringing them back to your country? Of course, it will be slightly expensive, but it will result in the least amount of tension.” (Bruno)
Because one would be cutting in line, even with the explanation that it’s “urgent,” it would cause tensions to rise between Carpa and the people who would need to wait. In that case it’s better to reserve the schedule of a healing practitioner in its entirety with an official long-term contract from the start. It will be a considerable expense, but for Zenjirou nothing would be better than if he were permitted to do so.
Having said that, this proposal is far too good to be true, after all.
“Something like that is possible?” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou inclining his head to the side made his suspicions fairly obvious, and the old king smiled, his wrinkles deepening as he confirmed.
“At the very least, there is precedent. However, the most I could do in that situation is broach the subject with Benedict. I think the rest will require for you yourself to negotiate, Your Majesty.” (Bruno)
Benedict refers to the present pope of the Jilbell family, Benedict the First.
As its name suggests, the Twin Kingdom is a monarchy where two kings from two royal families coexist.
Bruno the Third, the king of the Sharrow family, and Benedict the First, the pope of the Jilbell family, are considered to be completely equal.
All the healing practitioners naturally fall under the jurisdiction of Pope Benedict as people of the Jilbell family. Even King Bruno’s position doesn’t allow him to use his authority on the healing practitioners.
“I see…” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou thinks it over.
If I consider Aura’s health, it’s better to have a healing practitioner stay close to her from as early a stage as possible.
The problem is the balance between risk and return.
(King Bruno bringing this up means that it won’t be free. On top of that, King Bruno can only pass the message on to Pope Benedict at most. After that I will have to persuade the Jilbell family through Pope Benedict.
Rather than spending too much time on that, it might be better to consider a quick return since I’ve already been promised a healer for the month of the delivery itself.) (Zenjirou)
We will only consult with a healing practitioner during the most dangerous time, the delivery period, and leave the pregnancy to Doctor Michelle. I think even that will guarantee a fairly high level of safety.
If Zenjirou needlessly prolongs his stay in the Twin Kingdom and makes Aura worry during her pregnancy, then he’ll be getting his priorities backwards.
“However, our side must stick to our own schedule, too. It pains me to tell you this, as the culprit of the disturbance, but I won’t have any time to introduce you to Benedict until I abdicate and pave the way for Giuseppe’s enthronement, Your Majesty.” (Bruno)
“…I see.” (Zenjirou)
Understanding what King Bruno wants to say, Zenjirou frantically fights back the urge to sigh.
His reason barely winning over the urge, he managed to keep it off his face, but it remains at the pit of his stomach.
(Ah, so that was his ulterior motive, huh? In other words, he’s telling me to see through the settlement of the succession problem if I want to borrow a healing practitioner for an extended period of time. That sly old fox.) (Zenjirou)
This doesn’t mean that King Bruno is banking on Zenjirou’s abilities and active help.
Honestly speaking, Zenjirou will be a living charm against evil.
In front of Zenjirou, who represents foreign royalty, even the nobles of the Twin Kingdom will find it difficult to break their official stances as the “king’s retainers.” In short, it will be possible for the whole matter to advance at King Bruno’s pace with no fuss.
“If you agree, I intend to do my very best to settle the situation so as to being able to send you back with a healing practitioner as soon as possible, Your Majesty Zenjirou.” (Bruno)
Essentially what King Bruno is saying, is that “If you want to realize the long-term dispatch of a healing practitioner, grant me some time to resolve our succession problem.”
“As your stay will surely be fairly long in that case, we will accommodate any requests you have so you are as comfortable as possible, Your Majesty.
You just need to tell your requests to Lucretia of the Marquis Broglie family. I have granted that girl authority for such issues.” (Bruno)
It appears that the blond girl, who’s in charge of looking after Zenjirou, is the first honey trap personally appointed by the king.
Once Zenjirou sighs deeply and deliberately loudly,
“Thank you very much for your kind consideration. But, since I will regularly return to the Carpa Kingdom as initially agreed upon, I don’t think that I will experience any inconveniences unless something drastic happens.” (Zenjirou)
Yes, it was a powerful reminder.
This is the Carpa royalty’s strength: possession of the cheat-like magic, 『Teleport』.
It’s limited to twice per day with Zenjirou’s mana, but it allows him to instantly travel between the Carpa Kingdom and the Twin Kingdom, a journey that takes a month during the Vibrant Season, and becomes impossible during the Rainy and Hottest Seasons.
Zenjirou’s reply causes King Bruno to ask, while stroking his white chin beard,
“Hmm? Then it’s fine for us to consider that you will stay until our situation is settled, Your Majesty?” (Bruno)
Zenjirou confirms the king’s words after a short consideration.
“Yes. But, even if I say so now, my wife, Her Majesty Aura’s health takes precedence over anything for me. I’m unable to promise you that I will definitely be able stay with you to the end, since my plans might change depending on the situation in my own country.” (Zenjirou)
“Yeah, I don’t mind that. In that case the dispatch of a healing practitioner will be limited to just the month of the expected delivery date, though.” (Bruno)
“I think that’s reasonable.” (Zenjirou)
With that, a verbal promise was struck.
Zenjiro will stay in the Twin Kingdom and assist with the Sharrow succession crisis until it is settled.
And, if Zenjirou is acknowledged to have contributed enough to the settlement of the succession problem, King Bruno will speak to Pope Benedict about the dispatch of a healing practitioner.
Just hearing this, it seems as if the investment and return are unbalanced, but considering that a healing practitioner will be dispatched unconditionally for the month of the expected delivery as an advance, you might say that Zenjirou will profit from it decently.
Honestly, by just obtaining the promise for a healing practitioner to be dispatched for a month, Zenjirou was able to achieve 90% of his objective in coming to the Twin Kingdom.
That’s why Zenjirou continues easily,
“It is acknowledged. I don’t know how much of a help I will be, and there’s no guarantee that I will be able to stay until the end, but as long as that’s fine with you, I shall do my best.” (Zenjirou)
“I see. I look forward to working with you, Your Majesty.” (Bruno)
The old king smiled in satisfaction.
Crown Prince Giuseppe silently acted like an ornament from after the initial greetings until the completion of the agreement, but once he sees that the agreement has been established, he leans forward slightly, still with proper manners, and speaks up.
“Then, Your Majesty, it might be sudden, but there’s something I’d like to request. Could I have you lend me an ear?” (Giuseppe)
Zenjirou is taken a bit by surprise by Giuseppe, who had slipped his mind a little despite constantly being within his field of vision.
“Yes, go ahead.” (Zenjirou)
Adjusting his posture to face Crown Prince Giuseppe rather than King Bruno, Zenjirou examines the next king of the Sharrow family once again.
————————– End of Part 1 ————————–
The Sharrow family’s first prince, Giuseppe.
He’s 49 years old. His appearance reflects this age.
His hair is reddish brown, but as befitting his age, there are some white streaks mixed in as well.
His eyes are light brown. They droop a little at the edges but when he smiles, like now, he looks like a very mild gentleman. He clearly inherited some traits from his father, King Bruno, but his son, Prince Francesco, doesn’t resemble him very much at all.
Well, the biggest difference is probably that Prince Francesco has blond hair and green eyes, though.
As they are seated on opposite sofas, his precise height is unclear, but if you consider the fact that their eyes are at essentially the same height, he doesn’t seem to have a particularly tall or short stature.
All in all, he seems like a gentle, refined, middle-aged gentleman. Of course, it goes without saying that one has to be on their guard, given that the next king of a major power is certainly not just a nice guy.
Crown Prince Giuseppe speaks up slowly while maintaining eye contact with Zenjirou.
“Allow me to confirm first, but do you know about the origins of our Twin Kingdom, Your Majesty?” (Giuseppe)
“Yes. Having said that, I’ve only been given a rough outline. If I remember correctly, I heard that immigrants from the northern continent led by the royal families of Sharrow and Jilbell, and the indigenous people, the desert tribes, joined forces and founded the nation.” (Zenjirou)
Giuseppe nodded several times during Zenjirou’s explanation.
“It is as you say. The four desert tribes, the original inhabitants of this land, accepted us, the immigrants. The tribe chief families are the current four Ducal families.” (Giuseppe)
Even Zenjirou has heard as much.
No matter how much of a history they have or how many people follow them, those who do not possess bloodline magic will never be accepted as a 『Royal Family』on the southern continent.
Hence the outsiders, Sharrow and Jilbell, provide the kings, and the chiefs of the four tribes, the original inhabitants who accepted them, follow behind them as Dukes.
“Because of those historical circumstances, it’s tradition for the king of our Sharrow family to donate a magic tool to the four Ducal houses at the time of an enthronement.” (Giuseppe)
Zenjirou could easily accept Giuseppe’s statement since the story behind it is very plausible.
It’s easy to imagine that there had been ups and downs before the outsiders of the Sharrow and Jilbell families were accepted as the ruling families by the four tribes.
The agreement to confer a magic tool to the four tribes each time a king is enthroned is a reasonable point of compromise.
“The new king confers a magic tool to the four Dukes. The four Dukes give a return gift after accepting the king’s. A new king will be recognized as such for the first time after this exchange.
Well, since the four Dukes cannot say 『We won’t accept the present』 or 『We won’t give anything in return』, most of it is mere formality.” (Giuseppe)
Be that as it may, this is a story from a world entangled by muddy politics.
Even the straightforward process of accepting and returning gifts will have various intentions hidden within depending on how it’s carried out, as expected of a political world.
By accepting it right away and returning an eye-popping, wonderful item, one demonstrates the ascension of a new king is welcomed from the bottom of one’s heart.
On the other hand, delaying the acceptance of the gift until the last possible moment before the delay becomes an insult, and deliberately returning a gift of lower rank than the one given to the previous king, even if the return gift is luxurious, actually demonstrates an aversion to the change of kings.
“I’d like to borrow Your Majesty’s help in regards to that magic tool.” (Giuseppe)
“You mean by providing a jewel for the magic tool?” (Zenjirou)
When Zenjirou is asked to assist with a magic tool, the only contribution that comes to his mind are the glass marbles.
Apparently his expression betrayed the fact that his guard was up. In order to ease Zenjirou’s wariness, Giuseppe says with a soft voice and a smile,
“No, that’s not it. What I’m looking for is 『Advice』. What would be a good magic tool to present to the four Dukes as the next king? I’d like to borrow your wisdom, Your Majesty.” (Giuseppe)
“Advice, you say? I’m not well-versed in magic, though…” (Zenjirou)
The words Zenjirou blurted out in bewilderment are the full truth.
Because bloodline magic is the proof of royalty on the southern continent, many royals and high-ranking nobles have mastered magic. Compared to them, the knowledge that Zenjirou, who lived in a magic-less world until his mid-twenties, possesses pales in comparison.
However, Giuseppe shook his head and said,
“In that case I will show you a list of magic tools presented to the four Dukes by the successive generations of kings. Since there are also several gifts that I am already considering, I have noted them down as well.” (Giuseppe)
Zenjirou’s immediate reaction was to say, “If you have narrowed down the decision up to this point, the advice of someone like me is all the more unnecessary, no?”, but he barely managed to swallow down those words in time.
(Wrong, it’s the opposite. There’s a reason why he’s deliberately asking for my advice after having narrowed the choices down this much. Perhaps what’s necessary isn’t good advice, but the fact that it’s my advice?) (Zenjirou)
Having arrived at this point, the conclusion was simple. It’s trivial. It’s the same as before.
The succession this time is essentially a surprise from King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe. The longer the whole matter drags on, the more opportunities there will be for the opposing faction.
Hence they want the four Dukes to accept the magic tools as quickly as possible.
For that Zenjirou’s name will be useful once again.
If they say that “it’s a magic tool chosen by the Twin Kingdom’s crown prince and His Majesty Zenjirou,” they will make it difficult to come up with any excuses. In short, that’s probably how it is.
(I get it, but I guess my personal abilities aren’t worth mentioning before my prestige as Aura’s husband.) (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou smiles bitterly in his mind.
The people who have contacted Zenjirou so far, are mostly those who respect him as the 『Queen’s Prince Consort』, those approaching him in order to use his authority, and those hoping that he will accomplish something with his status.
Given that Zenjirou himself is well aware that his abilities and his position as prince consort of a major power don’t balance out at all, he doesn’t feel too unhappy about it despite smiling bitterly in his mind.
On the contrary, he felt good about grasping why Giuseppe has gone so far as to request his useless 『Advice』.
“Understood. It is not much, but let me offer my wisdom to the best of my ability.” (Zenjirou)
“Great, I look forward to working with you, Your Majesty.” (Giuseppe)
The crown prince smiled brightly in response to Zenjirou’s reply.
And then he continues speaking as if it’s nothing of concern.
“I shall inform the four Dukes.”
His tone was smooth, but the implications of his words were rather questionable.
Zenjirou has plans to privately meet with the representative of the four Dukes.
If the four Dukes hear that “Zenjirou has given his advice on the magic tools that will be gifted by Crown Prince Giuseppe” in advance, there’s no doubt that the discussions will become much more intense.
Honestly, that will be troublesome for Zenjirou.
(But well, I guess laying all the circumstances openly on the table from the very start will also make it easier to get things done.) (Zenjirou)
To begin with, Zenjirou has no chance of success if he were to try to win a game filled with subtext and hidden motives with born nobility and royalty.
If he plays with all the cards on the table from the start, it will also be easier for him to handle it.
Zenjirou, having completely revised his previous thoughts, says with a smile plastered on his face,
“Is it fine for me to directly ask the four Dukes what kind of magic tool they’d like to receive, too? If such an act lacks discretion, I will naturally refrain, though.” (Zenjirou)
“No, if you could do me the favor of asking, Your Majesty, you won’t hear any complaints from me.
Come to think of it, the four Dukes have each sent individual invitations to you, haven’t they? Troubling a guest of honor many times over with the same business is far too impolite.
We will arrange a place, so please meet with all four at once, Your Majesty.” (Giuseppe)
“…Is that alright?” (Zenjirou)
Having been told something unexpected, Zenjirou questions the crown prince, but receives a loud laugh and a confirmation in return.
“Yes. The four Dukes themselves aside, if it’s their representatives in the capital, there’s no problem with handling them all four at once. I’m sure they won’t have any interest in uselessly wasting your precious time with individual visits.” (Giuseppe)
“Is that so…?” (Zenjirou)
Even though he outwardly agrees with Giuseppe’s words for now, he cannot help feeling uncomfortable.
(Is he looking down on, no, shunning the four Dukes? I haven’t officially heard of any discord between the Sharrow family and the four Dukes, but could this be an issue with Crown Prince Giuseppe himself?) (Zenjirou)
Thinking this, Zenjirou peeks at King Bruno out of the corner of his eye, but as far as he could tell, the old king doesn’t look like he’s about to try and stop his son.
(King Bruno hasn’t refuted Crown Prince Giuseppe’s words either. That means the relationship with the four Dukes isn’t so good after all? Or is it a problem with the people representing the four Dukes?
I guess it’s my imagination. I feel like the way how Crown Prince Giuseppe speaks about the four Dukes’ representatives really resembles Lucretia’s, though.) (Zenjirou)
And just as he was thinking about this matter,
“By the way, Your Majesty Zenjirou. what do you think of the Marquis Broglie House’s Lucretia who we had take care of you? Personally I’m not very close to the Marquis Broglie House, so I was a little worried.” (Giuseppe)
Since the question was thrown at him right when he was engrossed in his thoughts, Zenjirou ends up answering reflexively.
“As she seems to be a fairly attentive noble lady, she’s been a great help. The Marquis Broglie House must be an important family to the Twin Kingdom for it to be expressly called upon by Your Highness.” (Zenjirou)
“Indeed. Lucretia’s 『Home』, the Marquis Broglie House, is a distinguished family that has existed since before the nation’s founding. You might call it one of the indispensable pillars of the Twin Kingdom.
The previous Marchioness Broglie was the wet nurse of the second prince, Fribert ─ my immediate younger brother. The present Marquis Broglie is the foster brother of Fribert.” (Giuseppe)
Even though he feels slightly uncomfortable with the sudden mention of Second Prince Fribert, Zenjirou nods several times with an impressed look.
“So she is the noble daughter of a great family. I didn’t know that she was of such high rank. Thank you very much for your special considerations.” (Zenjirou)
The crown prince generously waves his right hand at Zenjirou, who bows in order to hide his expression, and replies,
“No, not at all! It’s natural for us to go this far for the prince consort of the Carpa Kingdom, Your Majesty.
Although Lucretia is still young, she possesses proper awareness of her own position as a noble. Please feel free to put her to use as you like.” (Giuseppe)
The words “free to put her to use as you like” probably include a honey trap-like meaning, too. The Sharrow family wants Zenjirou’s bloodline. They would welcome Zenjirou making a move on Lucretia, and certainly wouldn’t blame him for it.
Lucretia should have resolved herself for this much as well.
King Bruno also said, “tell your requests to Lucretia.”
It doesn’t seem to be a mistake that Lucretia is a temptress sent by the Sharrow family.
Despite all that, she looks too childish. However, at this point it’s too difficult to hold on to the conviction that it’s definitely impossible.
Anyway, now that he knows that Lucretia and the Sharrow family have a deep connection, Zenjirou feels like he could understand the reason why Lucretia and Giuseppe both urged him to slight the representatives of the four Dukes.
(The Sharrow family and the four Ducal Houses. Maybe there’s actually a deep-rooted antagonism between both.) (Zenjirou)
“Understood. For me this is a yet unknown land. I shall be reliant on Miss Lucretia henceforth.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou replied as he put up his guard.
Three days later.
Zenjirou held a meeting with the representatives of the four Ducal Houses in a room of the 『Purple Egg Palace』.
“Pleased to meet you, Your Majesty Zenjirou. I am the first lady of the El’Haryuko tribal chief family, Shura.”
Introducing herself with a bow is a 『beautiful girl』 with slanted eyes and red hair, which closely resembles Aura’s hair color, that’s bound into a ponytail at the back. Age-wise she’s probably in her mid to late teens. If you go by Japanese standards, she looks like a senior high school student.
“I’m the third daughter of the current Ryarfon tribal chief, Nazim. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Your Majesty Zenjirou.”
The one introducing herself next is yet another 『beautiful girl』 standing next to the previous one.
She has gray hair with a tinge of blue that flows straight down her back. She’s gently laughing, her blueish gray eyes crinkling. She’s approximately one head shorter than Shura, the girl with the red ponytail, but they appear to be the same age.
Moreover, the two 『beautiful women』 lined up next to the girls keep the introductions going.
“I have come visiting on behalf of Duke El’Mentaqat. I’m called Taraye, Your Majesty. I am delighted to have received the honor of meeting you.” (Taraye)
Taraye, the representative of Duke El’Mentaqat, is the only one among the four with a western outward appearance. She has blond hair in loose waves, and her eyes have a deep amber hue. However, because her skin is somewhat darker, and her features are lightly chiseled, it’s difficult to call her looks completely western. She’s likely a half-blood born between the desert people and the immigrants. It’s not clear whether she has reached the age of 20 yet or not.
“I am Fikriah of the Duke An’Imyam House. I thank you deeply for sparing some of your valuable time for us today, Your Majesty.” (Fikriah)
And in contrast, Fikriah of the Duke An’Imyam House, who introduced herself last, was a woman with an outward appearance typical of the desert people.
Black hair, black eyes, and dark skin. She has probably long passed the age of 20. She’s the smallest among the four, but apparently also the oldest among them.
Her glossy black hair has been wastefully cut to the point that one can see her nape. There are no emotions to be found in her two, big eyes which shine like obsidians.
For that reason her feminine charm takes a big hit, but her features are well-ordered enough that it would be inappropriate to not call her a『beautiful woman』.
The red-haired Shura, the blue-gray haired Nazim, the blond-haired Taraye, and the black-haired Fikriah.
————————– End of Part 2 ————————–
A complete set of beautiful women and girls.
The fact that all the representatives of the four Dukes were beauties of a marriageable age is so obvious that Zenjirou couldn’t miss it even if he tried.
(Ah, I see, now I understand why Lucretia was so bitter about the representatives of the four Dukes. That means there is no specific animosity between them due to specific circumstances. They are just her 『rivals』.) (Zenjirou)
Having comprehended this much, Zenjirou tries to take a peek at Lucretia’s face, who’s waiting at the side, out of the corner of his eyes.
Lucretia has an innocent smile on her face making her look younger than her actual age, but her mimetic muscles haven’t moved even an inch for a while now.
It’s truly an extremely unnatural smile – “as if painted on her face.”
Just as Lucretia Broglie is a honey trap sent by the Sharrow family, these four women are likely honey traps sent by the four Dukes.
Of course their objective opposes Lucretia’s. It’s only natural that Lucretia and Crown Prince Giuseppe, who supports her, won’t look at these four in a favorable light.
Having said that, no matter what kind of ulterior motives each of the girls might have, Zenjirou has no duty to go along with it.
“I’m the spouse of Her Majesty Aura the First, Queen of the Carpa Kingdom, Zenjirou. I have cordially received everyone’s greetings.” (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou urges the four women, who had gracefully extended their greetings, to sit down.
Having received permission, the four elegantly sat down on their respective chairs. Zenjirou slowly speaks up after this,
“However, I was really surprised by your directness. For the representatives of the four prided Dukes of the Twin Kingdom to be all beautiful, blooming women; it was 『completely beyond expectation』 for me.” (Zenjirou)
The meaning of 『completely beyond expectation』 conceals an implicit refusal – “I never harbored any expectations that it would become a relationship between man and woman from the beginning.”
However, the four girls, who are affiliated to the four Dukes, aren’t so careless as to openly show their agitation with something as minor as this, even if they are young.
“Even I was surprised at first. I’m well aware that I’m somewhat lacking in ability as a representative of my father, the tribal chief, but I will make every effort not to disgrace my tribe.” (Shura)
Shura reveals a dignified smile.
“I suppose that’s right. Then allow me to put forth my very best effort so that you may consider this unexpected encounter a good opportunity.” (Nazim)
Nazim smiles with her eyes.
“Let me apologize for surprising you, Your Majesty. Since the Duke El’Mentaqat House wishes to build a good relationship with Carpa’s royal family, we will be very happy if you can give us the chance to make up for our mistake.” (Taraye)
Taraye reveals a sweet and seductive smile at him, unfazed.
“I was also very surprised when I was proposed to be the representative of Duke An’Imyam. However, given that it’s an unmistakably good chance for me as well, I gladly accepted it.
Your Majesty, if you don’t mind, please allow me to listen to stories about your native country.” (Fikriah)
Fikriah tips her head slightly to the side and smiles faintly.
Even Zenjirou cannot help but acknowledge that their smiles are charming despite their different sentiments.
At the very least, their smiles are certainly more charming than the obviously forced smile that the girl with the blond side tail standing next to him has on.
(Considering that, Lucretia is a bit of an amateur. Well, that’s understandable given her age, though.) (Zenjirou)
Despite these rather rude thoughts, Zenjirou smiled on the surface and began a friendly chat with the four beauties.
While chatting about relatively harmless topics such as today’s weather, their preferred colors, and their respective hobbies, Zenjirou noticed that he could separate the four into two categories.
No, more accurately, he noticed the differences the moment he met them, but now he understands that this is not just a matter of appearance but is a more fundamental problem.
“By the way, Shura and Nazim, you wear garments of the desert people, but Taraye and Fikriah, you are wearing attire originating from the northern continent, correct? Is this simply a matter of personal preference?” (Zenjirou)
Just as Zenjirou mentioned, in contrast to Shura and Nazim who are dressed in a way reminiscent of equestrian tribes, Taraye and Fikriah wear western-styled dresses.
From their conversation so far, the different clothing is not just a matter of preference so Zenjirou brings up this point, putting on a befuddled expression.
The first to react was the youngest of the four, Shura.
“You may call it a preference if you like, but you can also see it as a question of being prepared. For a daughter of a tribal chief’s family, clothes that don’t allow you to ride a raptorial dragon are not an option to begin with.” (Shura)
Shure throws out her lacking chest with pride.
Just as Shura says, the native attire, which Shura and Nazim are wearing, while clearly feminine from their flair and embellishments, are actually trousers.
With this, it certainly doesn’t seem as though there will be a problem straddling the back of a dragon.
“Since the Duke El’Mentaqat House has settled down, its lifestyle, including clothes and accessories, has followed the royal trend. Since we always use dragon carriages for a woman’s travel, a dress like this is typical.” (Taraye)
Taraye contradicts Shura’s logic, and throws out her own abundant chest in response.
Shura’s light brown, almond-shaped eyes, and Taraye’s amber, drooping eyes each reflected the other for a short moment, and Zenjirou could sense invisible sparks flying between the two.
Once he sees that the remaining two, Nazim and Fikriah, are smiling wryly, he realizes that the rivalry between Shura and Taraye seems to be a well-known fact.
“Hoh. In short, although they are called the four Ducal houses and the four tribal chief families, there’s quite a few differences between their customs. That’s very interesting.” (Zenjirou)
While continuing the conversation with a safe sentiment like that, Zenjirou thinks,
(I see. The Duke El’Haryuko House and the Duke Ryarfon House are preserving their lifestyle as nomads of the desert from before the foundation of the Twin Kingdom.
On the other hand, the Duke El’Mentaqat House and the Duke An’Imyam House have settled down and followed the example of royalty, I suppose.
That must have caused various differences in their cultural customs.) (Zenjirou)
Roughly speaking, the four houses have separated, with the houses of El’Mentaqat and An’Imyam leaving their life of wandering with raptorial dragons for a more permanent residency and truly accepting their positions as vassals of the royal families, in contrast to El’Haryuko and Ryarfon who have retained their attitudes as independent desert people.
That difference has become immediately visible after several hundred years.
The difference between the native dresses handed down by the desert tribes and the dresses originating from the northern continent is the easiest to understand, but there are other differences besides that.
In contrast to Shura of the El’Haryuko House and Nazim of the Ryarfon House who refer to their houses as 『tribal chief family』, Taraye of the El’Mentaqat House and Fikriah of the An’Imyam House have been referring to their own houses as 『Ducal House』for some time.
Neither is wrong, but calling oneself a 『tribal chief family』 can be perceived as the pride of an independent tribe, whereas the label of 『Ducal House』 makes it clear that they are aware of their position as an authority of the Twin Kingdom.
Zenjirou sorts the circumstances in his mind once again.
(Let me see, the Twin Kingdom has two types of people: the immigrants who crossed over from the northern continent, and the desert nomads who lived in this desert from the beginning. They have been deepening their relationship quite a bit over the many years, but there is still some friction. On top of that, the two royal houses of the Sharrow family and the Jilbell family, the leaders of the immigrants, are equal in power, but oppose each other behind the scenes.
On the other hand, the desert nomads, who are the local population, are composed of four tribes. Each of the tribal chief families has become a Ducal House.
Among them, the El’Haryuko House and the Ryarfon House distanced themselves from the royal families without changing their lifestyle as desert nomads. The El’Mentaqat House and the An’Imyam House have settled down, and closed the distance with the royal families.
Naturally this has resulted in a trench between the El’Haryuko House and the Ryarfon House, and the El’Mentaqat House and the An’Imyam House. And, with the succession of the throne of the Sharrow family, signs of a confrontation between Crown Prince Giuseppe, the legal heir to the throne, and his younger brother, Prince Largo, are becoming apparent… Man, this country is full of confrontations.
I have heard that the political relationships in a major power are a complicated labyrinth, but I wonder, this surely must be the most complicated country in the southern continent?
At the very least I won’t get away unscathed, if I carelessly poke my nose into their affairs.) (Zenjirou)
Zenjirou, convinced of this, once again swore in his mind to not support any camp as much as possible.
Now that it has come to this, it’s better to quickly get on with business rather than continuing an awkward chat and deepening any relationships.
“By the way, it appears you have already heard from Crown Prince Giuseppe.
Crown Prince Giuseppe requested advice from me in regards to the presentation of magic tools to the four Dukes which will accompany his ascension to the throne.” (Zenjirou)
“Yes, we know.” (Shura)
The one who answered was Shura, but the other three lost their smiles and adopted serious expressions just as she did.
It might be natural, but it seems that the magic tool presentation is a problem even for the four Ducal houses, causing them to become tense.
“Having said that, it’s not like I’m well-informed about magic or the four Ducal Houses. As such I decided to directly ask you, despite it being a rather boorish move.
What kind of magic tool do the four Ducal Houses wish for respectively?” (Zenjirou)
Upon Zenjirou’s words, the women calling themselves representatives of the four Dukes stayed silent for a while, tension hanging in the air.
Even if each of them had a magic tool they desired, it’s difficult to decide whether to honestly mention it with other houses present.
There was a short standoff as the four girls exchanged looks.
The one who spoke up first, just as before, was the girl with the red ponytail ─ Shura of the Duke El’Haryuko House.
“In that case, Your Majesty, I’m wishing for 『Flame Fortress』.” (Shura)
Not betraying her strong-willed look, Shura appears to have a straightforward character.
The magic tool called 『Flame Fortress』 sounds familiar even to Zenjirou. It was in the list of magic tools given to the four Ducal Houses by the Sharrow family in the past, which Giuseppe had given him a few days ago.
Just as its name suggests, it creates a fire wall surrounding an arbitrary limited range.
It can be used to protect domestic dragons from attacks by wild, carnivorous dragons, and also as a trap during wild dragon hunts.
For the El’Haryuko House, which mostly lives on hunting and nomadism in the huge desert, it certainly could be a beneficial magic tool.
As if encouraged by Shura, who got the ball rolling, the remaining three also state their wishes.
“I’d like to receive several 『Parchments of Shared Fire』. I wish for as many methods as possible for the royal capital and the 『Ducal Capital』, which continues to move, to stay in contact.” (Nazim)
The one requesting this is Nazim of the Duke Ryarfon House. Just like the El’Haryuko House, the Ryarfon House is a household that maintains the nomadic lifestyle to this very day.
Hence, the moving『Ducal Capital』 led by Duke Ryarfon refers to the tents of the tribe.
Meeting up with the 『Ducal Capital』, which quickly changes its route depending on the wind’s direction, the existence of watering places, and the growth of the grazing spots, is quite difficult even for the people of Ryarfon.
Considering this, for the retainers of the Duke Ryarfon House, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that no matter how many 『Parchments of Shared Fire』, which allows one to directly ask people in the 『Ducal Capital』about their whereabouts, it wouldn’t be enough.
“Let’s see. In my humble opinion the magic tool 『Turn Fresh Water』 might be the most essential. The majority of our country’s territory is desert. Water is more precious than anything else.”
Fikriah of the An’Imyam House says, smoothly flicking her short but glossy black hair behind her.
This was also a very respectable request from Duke An’Imyam House.
The Twin Kingdom’s sole lake exists in the territory of the Duke An’Imyam House who have become sedentary people. However, that lake is filled with extremely salty water.
Besides water dragons, which have gone through an understandable mutation of partial adaptability, nothing can live in that water, which has a salt concentration two or three times higher than that of the ocean.
Due to its salt content, the water cannot be used for drinking or agriculture as it is. Fortunately a convenient tool called magic exists in this world.
If they use the 『Turn Fresh Water』 spell, even salt water that burns one’s throat quickly changes into fresh water that will quench the thirst of both humans and dragons. Moreover, they will be able to harvest salt as a byproduct, too.
If they have a 『Turn Fresh Water』 magic tool, the Duke An’Imyam House will be able to produce even bigger amounts of fresh water.
Of course, even at the present, the An’Imyam House is negotiating with the Sharrow family about buying several 『Turn Fresh Water』 magic tools, but if they can procure another on this occasion, there might be no better outcome.
Seeing as three of the four women have voiced their hopes, everyone inevitably looks to the remaining one.
The blond-haired beauty, who had the attention of everyone present, and Zenjirou’s in particular, straightens as if to emphasize her abundant chest, and slowly opens her mouth with a bewitching smile.
“Your Majesty, I wish for a 『Space Isolation Barrier』 magic tool.” (Taraye)
That was a statement with massive impact.
Probably as should be expected,
“Taraye!? You bitch, do you understand what you’re saying!?” (Shura)
Shura goes into a rage that makes her dark brown face almost the same shade as her hair.
Nazim expresses her extreme shock by widening her bluish-gray eyes to the limit.
“Taraye, I can understand your intention, but as expected, I think that’s an unreasonable request.” (Fikriah)
Fikriah narrowed her two black eyes and shook her head, making her shiny, black hair sway, and chided Taraye.
In reality, all three are correct.
As can be expected from its name, the 『Space Isolation Barrier』requested by Taraye is 『Space-Time Magic』. Naturally its users are limited to the royalty of the Carpa Kingdom.
In other words, Taraye is asking Zenjirou to assist in the creation of the magic tool.
It’s not rare for the creation of magic tools to require several months for something common and simple, or even years, depending on what it is.
For Zenjirou, who has his beloved, pregnant wife waiting in her country, that suggestion was simply out of the question.
Having said that, as the one who asked for their opinion, he hesitates to decisively cut down the opinion of a representative of the four Dukes.
“As expected, that really is a bit difficult. However, Taraye, why do you want a 『Space Isolation Barrier』 magic tool?” (Zenjirou)
『Space Isolation Barrier』 is one of the three spells Zenjirou can currently use.
Just as its name suggests, it’s an extremely powerful barrier spell that protects its interior by isolating it in space, but because its effective duration is exceedingly short, it’s something that has almost no use as a standalone spell.
However, if you can put it into a magic tool, it changes everything. If one can invoke it for a long time, the『Space Isolation Barrier』 becomes extremely useful.
The blond-haired beauty answered Zenjirou’s question with a flirtatious whisper and a seductive smile.
“It’s for the sake of the 『Mine』. It may seem like an outrageous request, but every year more than a few miners lose their lives in accidents in the mine in our territory.
When you speak of miners, you might think that it’s mere physical work, but it’s a highly professional job. I have always wished to reduce the loss of personnel as much as possible.” (Taraye)
It’s more of a decent, admirable request than expected.
“Is that mine a 『Gold Mine』?” (Zenjirou)
Taraye confirms Zenjirou’s theory, while smiling sweetly.
“Yes, It’s as you say.” (Taraye)
———————- End of Part 3 ———————-
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