Chapter 3 – Those who Went Back, Those who Returned


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In the morning, approximately ten days after Zenjirou had his meeting with the four beauties, who introduced themselves as representatives of the four Dukes.

“Zenjirou-sama, it’s time, please change your clothes.” (Ines)

“Oops, it’s this late already? Understood.” (Zenjirou)

Zenjirou, still in his house clothes after having woken up a while ago, begins to change into the third uniform as Ines, who is acting more like a secretary than a maid, directs.
Since this is a foreign country, Zenjirou has gotten into the habit of putting on his third uniform whenever he is anywhere but his room, the most private area he has at the moment.
Initially, he considered the uniform to be extremely formal, but now he’s become quite used to it.
Zenjirou goes over today’s schedule with Ines while the younger maids help him into his clothes.

“There aren’t any meetings scheduled for today, are there?” (Zenjirou)

A hint of joy can be detected in Zenjirou’s voice due to this thought, after ten days of having the same kinds of meetings pushed onto him.
Exchanging similar conversations with different people every day and night is exhausting in its monotony.

“Yes. Today is the day you will send General Puyol to the Carpa Kingdom, thus your schedule has been filled with the transition of command and the transfer.” (Ines)

Just as planned, General Puyol is scheduled to hand over the command of Zenjirou’s entire guard unit to a young battalion leader and return to the Carpa Kingdom today.
Of course the method of travel is Zenjirou’s 『Teleport』 spell.
Zenjirou, who had finished changing into the third uniform, briefly thanks the young maids, and breathes out deeply.

“Thanks, you were a big help. Can I take this to mean that with yesterday’s meetings, we’ve finished meeting with all interested parties?” (Zenjirou)

The middle-aged maid tentatively confirms Zenjirou’s query.

“Yes, that will be fine. The number of people who still wish to meet with you is more than ten times of what you’ve already handled, but those who must be prioritized have all been dealt with.
However, we will need to arrange another meeting with Prince Largo after his sudden cancellation the day before yesterday.” (Ines)

“Ah, there was that as well.” (Zenjirou)

Remembering the matter because of Ines’ words, Zenjirou furrows his brows as he reflects on it.

“It’s a little awkward saying it myself, but what urgent business could be more important than the scheduled meeting with me, a royal from a foreign country?” (Zenjirou)

“According to the rumors I heard, it was apparently King Bruno’s direct order.” (Ines)

“Woah, that move’s much more direct than expected…” (Zenjirou)

Guessing the circumstances that would have led to this, Zenjirou’s face scrunches up.
Officially, the only ones who should know the date and time of the meeting are the sender and recipient of the written invitation, but that’s just convention.
Therefore, even if King Bruno issues some kind of urgent order to Prince Largo, a collision with the date of the meeting between Zenjirou and Prince Largo will be dismissed as 『mere coincidence』.
Of course it’s unlikely that it’s actually a coincidence.
It’s obvious that King Bruno found out when Prince Largo’s meeting was, and deliberately forced some task on Prince Largo in order to obstruct the meeting.
That’s exactly why Zenjirou feels baffled.

“Why is he interfering so bluntly? Or if you put it another way, does this mean King Bruno believes that I can be swayed to Prince Largo’s side?” (Zenjirou)

This is the conclusion he reached after a little more consideration.

“Does that imply that Prince Largo can offer me an attractive advantage?” (Zenjirou)

Seeing Zenjirou lean forward excitedly after this thought, Ines points out calmly,

“I wonder about that. Taking into account the political power of both sides, I feel that it’s very likely that King Bruno can also offer any advantage that Prince Largo could. I am more worried that it’s the reverse.” (Ines)

“Reverse?” (Zenjirou)

“Yes, that this is not about an advantage, but a disadvantage.
Maybe there is actually a huge problem, which hasn’t been revealed yet, with the deal with King Bruno, and Prince Largo is trying to pull you away from King Bruno’s faction by divulging that?”

“That’s! …possible.” (Zenjirou)

It’s an extremely unpleasant prediction, but it follows reason. I mustn’t ignore that.

“The fact that I support King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe won’t change, but I’d like to hear what Prince Largo has to say as soon as possible. The next time he asks for a meeting, place it at the highest priority possible.” (Zenjirou)

“Understood.” (Ines)

Ines bowed respectfully.

 

◇◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

 

A few hours after that.
In his detached room, Zenjirou witnessed the transfer of control between General Puyol, who was dressed in his military regalia, and the young battalion leader standing next to him.

“Zenjirou-sama, I’m in your hands then. All future matters will be taken over by this person. Hey, introduce yourself.” (Puyol)

Hearing General Puyol’s cue, the young knight officer takes one step forward.

“Yes sir! I’m Eladio, leader of the Dragon Archer Knight Order’s third battalion. I am substituting for General Puyol!” (Eladio)

“I see. If it’s by General Puyol’s recommendation, I have no doubts about your abilities. Please take care of me, Eladio.” (Zenjirou)

As he is saying this, Zenjirou studies the young officer standing in front of him.
He has probably long passed the age of twenty.
He’s quite tall. Even when lined up next to General Puyol, he’s only a tad shorter.
However, because he’s not as broad as General Puyol, he looks tall and thin. Of course, this perception is biased because of General Puyol. As a knight he is still very well built.

“Yes, Your Majesty! Please leave it to me.” (Eladio)

The young battalion leader ─ Eladio declared with an expression overflowing with confidence.
Even just by looking at his face and attitude, one can grasp that he’s someone with great confidence in himself.
And, since he is a battalion leader in the Dragon Archery Knight Order at such a young age, he likely has the skills to back it up too.
Having said that, a young, developing person will always look unreliable in the eyes of a mature, influential person at the prime of their life.

“Eladio, I approve of your skills in military arts, and your command is acceptable as well. But, the mission that has been entrusted to you this time is on a different level of those you’ve had up until now. Your task is to guard an esteemed royal.
Take it properly to heart that even the slightest blunder won’t be forgiven.” (Puyol)

The solemnity of General Puyol, his direct superior, causes Eladio to tense up.

“Yes sir, understood, sir. Putting the knights aside, I would have liked to work on the abilities of some of the soldiers a little more, but I will make up for any gaps myself.” (Eladio)

Hearing Eladio openly show his discontent with the soldiers that had been brought along, General Puyol narrows his eyes and reveals a malicious smile.

“Eladio, this is a good opportunity, so let me say it here.
I’m telling you now, since you seem to have some misunderstandings here, but 『incompetent, ordinary soldiers』 don’t exist in this world. Carve this fact deeply into your mind.” (Puyol)

“Is that so?” (Eladio)

The young battalion leader clearly disagrees with General Puyol’s words.
But, ignoring his subordinate’s attitude entirely, General Puyol says,

“Indeed. On extremely rare occasions, there are 『harmful, ordinary soldiers』, but 『incompetent, ordinary soldiers』 don’t exist.
That’s because, as 『ordinary soldiers』, they are not expected to have any special abilities.
Who you believe to be 『incompetent, ordinary soldiers』 are 『common, ordinary soldiers』.
And, those that are capable of making these soldiers, who only have this level of ability, into one cohesive unit and leading them are called 『ordinary commanding officers』. Seeing as they are entrusted with the authority and position of a commanding officer, they are required to have that level of ability.
A person’s capability should be measured based on his ability to fulfill the duties of his position.” (Puyol)

“…” (Eladio)

He probably understood what General Puyol wanted to tell him.
The confident smile disappears from the young officer’s face, and he purses his lips into a sullen expression.

“When a unit is unable to accomplish its mission, it’s not because there was a great number of 『incompetent, ordinary soldiers』 and a single 『ordinary commanding officer』.
But, a great number of 『ordinary soldiers』 and a single 『incompetent commanding officer』.
Now then, Battalion Leader Eladio. Do you think that your unit will be able to commendably carry out its mission?” (Puyol)

“Of course!” (Eladio)

“I’m looking forward to it.” (Puyol)

General Puyol responds to the young battalion leader’s indignant glare with a broad, provocative grin.

 

◆◇◆

 

All that’s left for General Puyol, who has transferred his authority, is to return to his country.
For that reason, General Puyol walks with Zenjirou to the sole room in the Twin Kingdom where 『Teleport』is allowed.
The only ones following them are Ines and Natalio.
This is for the sake of raising the still inexperienced Zenjirou’s success rate as much as possible, and also in order to keep the watchful eyes of others at a minimum.
The two of them had their differences since one is Queen Aura’s present husband and the other is her former husband candidate, but during the last twenty days they have become close as protector and the one to be protected.
Because of this, they no longer had reservations about conversing freely.

“Your words before. They were rather harsh, but it just means that this is how highly you value Eladio, right?” (Zenjirou)

Upon the prince consort’s question, the tall general shrugs his bulky shoulders, and shakes his head.

“No, it’s nothing so deep. I was merely repeating what I was told by the previous general when I was young.” (Puyol)

A person with great confidence in himself, almost to the point where his confidence exceeds what the talents he was blessed with can achieve.
It appears that General Puyol sees his younger self in Eladio.

“I see. Was the previous general a very strict person then?” (Zenjirou)

“Rather than strict, you should probably call him an abnormally stubborn advocate for perfection.
While he taught such things to us commanding officers, he taught the soldiers that 『You soldiers have no right to choose your superior officer. Hence all soldiers are required to at least have the ability to survive even if they are placed under the command of the worst, most incompetent commanding officer』.” (Puyol)

As if lost in his memories, General Puyol reveals a troubled, wry smile for once.

“Hahaha, if the peerless General Puyol can make such a face, it must have been terribly strict training. I’m sure I wouldn’t have lasted even a single day.” (Zenjirou)

“No, with all due respect, I think getting into a unit in itself is impossible for you, Zenjirou-sama. You would probably be one of the first to be eliminated during the selection.” (Puyol)

“Certainly, I agree with you there.” (Zenjirou)

In this world, where military skill is a requirement for a noble, this is a fairly rude remark, but Zenjirou is not offended since it’s the truth.
As they continued this unexpectedly harmonious and friendly chat, the group arrived at its destination.
It’s the room Zenjirou had been sent to with Aura’s 『Teleport』. In other words, it’s the sole area in the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell where the usage of 『Teleport』 is allowed.
After Ines locks the entrance door and Natalio positions himself to guard the door with a spear in hand, just for caution’s sake, Zenjirou turns to General Puyol.

“Well then, I’m going to send you to the Carpa Kingdom with 『Teleport』 shortly. Are you ready?” (Zenjirou)

“Yes, I’m fine whenever.” (Puyol)

Replying casually, General Puyol hefts the massive bag containing his leather armor. There’s no need for traveling clothes when traveling by magic.
The only other noticeable thing is the bundle of dragon skin papers that General Puyol is holding in his right hand.
Adding one more to the bundle, Zenjirou took a dragon skin paper sealed with wax out of his pocket and handed it over to General Puyol.

“This is a letter from me to Her Majesty Aura. Please make sure to deliver it into Her Majesty’s hands.” (Zenjirou)

Because Zenjirou’s writing is still quite clumsy, he hasn’t written anything of significance. That way, even if it’s intercepted by someone else, it won’t be a problem.

“Yes, Your Majesty! I receive it gladly.” (Puyol)

General Puyol accepts the letter politely and adds it to the top of his bundle of papers.
That bundle of dragon skin papers are the letters he had been given by the knights and soldiers staying here.
Since the general is going to return to the Carpa Kingdom first by himself, the soldiers entrusted him with letters addressed to their families.
It’s a considerate move that doesn’t match his appearance, but it may be why General Puyol has such strong backing among the military authorities.
In any case, there is no reason to delay the departure.

“I’m sending you off then. Since it may not succeed on the first try, please be prepared for this to take a while.” (Zenjirou)

 

————- End of Part 1 ————-

 

Zenjirou gently places his right palm on General Puyol’s abdomen, and drops his gaze to the photo he unfolded with his left hand.
It’s a printout of the picture of the 『Stone Room』 in Carpa Kingdom’s royal palace.

『Send my chosen target to the place I envision. As compensation, I will…』

Zenjirou closes his eyes and imagines the destination as vividly as possible while chanting the correct magic words.
He imagines General Puyol standing alone in the middle of the 『Stone Room』.
With this, the spell activated.
Zenjirou opened his eyes after the sensation on his right palm abruptly vanished, and the huge general, who was standing there moments ago, was gone.

“I guess I activated 『Teleport』 for someone else in one go. I wonder, did I get used to it a little?” (Zenjirou)

Ines quietly calls out from behind Zenjirou, who was repeatedly opening and clenching his right hand, as if he could actually feel whether his magic skill level had increased.

“Good work, Zenjirou-sama. Is it fine not to take a picture of this place?” (Ines)

“Ah, true. I was about to forget it again. Thanks, Ines.” (Zenjirou)

Zenjirou quickly takes out the digital camera in his pocket, and photographs the surroundings.

“Okay, that’s enough.” (Zenjirou)

After checking the photos, he immediately turns it off.
It’s impossible for him to charge electrical appliances anywhere but the Carpa Kingdom’s inner palace. He can’t waste that battery.

“We’re done here. Let’s go back?” (Zenjirou)

“Yes, as you wish.” (Ines)

“Yes, Your Majesty!” (Natalio)

Zenjirou left the room with Ines and Natalio following behind.

 

◇◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

 

That afternoon, after he safely sent General Puyol back as planned, Zenjirou received a completely unexpected report.

“Hah? Tell me again, who came?” (Zenjirou)

Lucretia, who relayed the news, was unable to keep the bewilderment out of her expression as she repeated it.

“Yes. As I said, His Highness Francesco has requested an audience with you, Your Majesty. What are you going to do?” (Lucretia)

Prince Francesco.
The grandson of the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell’s King Bruno the Third, and the son of Crown Prince Giuseppe who’s set to become the next king.
From his title, it would be very natural for him to also be here in the stronghold of the Sharrow family, the 『Purple Egg Palace』, but it’s actually not that simple.
Prince Francesco should be in the Carpa Kingdom with his overseer Princess Bona.
That Prince Francesco is currently in the Twin Kingdom’s capital. Firstly, there’s no doubt that Queen Aura sent him here with 『Teleport』, but even so, it’s unbelievable.
Normally an official event is indispensable when a royal comes or goes from their country. If such an event had taken place, Zenjirou would naturally have heard of it since he is living in the royal palace.
The fact that Zenjirou hadn’t heard anything despite this meant that Prince Francesco’s return happened suddenly and he hasn’t been officially greeted.
It would be an understatement to call a request for a meeting with Zenjirou, royalty from another country, in this situation eccentric.
Having said that, Zenjirou can’t just refuse him in his current position, even if it’s a preposterous request.

“Understood. Please ask him for a convenient date and time then. I will accommodate him as best I can.” (Zenjirou)

Seeing Zenjirou barely resisting the urge to sigh, Lucretia shakes her head and says with tears in her eyes,

“That is, it’s not…Prince Francesco is waiting on the other side of this door.” (Lucretia)

“……Haaah.” (Zenjirou)

His patience exhausted, Zenjirou let out a long sigh, only stopping when he ran out of breath.
Originally that’s against etiquette, but no one would blame Zenjirou in this situation.
Since he is merely reacting to this completely illogical behavior, it would only be suitable to overlook such a slight misstep as sighing in front of others.
Lucretia, who’s more or less a person of the Sharrow family, has actually been trying to make her already small body smaller in shame.

“There’s no way that we can let the grandson of the Sharrow family’s king wait outside in the hallway. Ines.” (Zenjirou)

“Yes.” (Ines)

“As you heard. I’d like to let in His Highness Francesco right away. Do we have a room that has been prepared?” (Zenjirou)

“We do. This way please.” (Ines)

The middle-aged maid answered her master’s request with a calm expression.

 

◆◇◆

 

“Man, it’s been a while, Your Majesty Zenjirou. It’s not wrong to say that since we haven’t met in over a month, right? At any rate, meeting you in the 『Purple Egg Palace』 feels kinda weird. No, really. Ahahaha.” (Francesco)

Bursting into carefree laughter as soon as he entered the room, this is without a doubt the grandson of the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell’s King, Prince Francesco.
His blond hair is kept longer than a man usually would, and his green eyes are so pale that they’re almost translucent.
He is simultaneously elegant and frivolous, two qualities that would normally run counter to each other, but seem to coexist easily as he smiles carefreely.

“It looks like you haven’t changed, Your Highness. For the time being, please sit down.” (Zenjirou)

“Thank you very much, Your Majesty. Ah, here, a souvenir.” (Francesco)

The blond-haired prince placed a sealed letter and a bundle, small enough to fit into one’s palm, in front of Zenjirou.

“These are?” (Zenjirou)

He recognizes the letter’s wax seal. It’s the seal of Carpa’s royal family. It’s the king’s crest, only to be used by the present king.

“From Her Majesty Aura?” (Zenjirou)

“Yes, it’s Her Majesty’s 『reply』.” (Francesco)

Since he said reply, it’s probably the answer to the letter Zenjirou entrusted to General Puyol this morning.
It’s promising that the reply was so swift. It’s likely not a coincidence that Prince Francesco returned home the afternoon he sent off General Puyol.
Aura probably timed it so that this exchange could occur.
Either way, it doesn’t need to be opened here and now.

“Thank you very much for going out of your way to bring it personally, Your Highness.” (Zenjirou)

Zenjirou signaled Ines who was standing behind him. She took the small bundle and the letter with practiced movements and withdrew.
He’s curious about the reply from his beloved wife, but for now he shifts his attention away from it.

“By the way, the reason you wanted to meet with me so urgently was for the sake of delivering this letter?” (Zenjirou)

Prince Francesco shakes his head at Zenjirou’s thinly veiled rebuke with a smile that didn’t contain even the smallest fragment of maliciousness.

“No, no, as expected, I wouldn’t go this far for a single letter. I came to meet with you in a hurry because I received a startling piece of information the moment I got back here.
Although it was also a surprise to hear that my old grandfather is retiring and officially handing over the crown to father, it’s because I heard that you have been involved in the selection of the magic tools to be gifted to the four Dukes on this occasion, Your Majesty.
I decided I had to meet with you as soon as possible, so I came here. Ahahahaha.” (Francesco)

With this, he laughs like usual.
Zenjirou suddenly felt exhausted after hearing his response.
Come to think of it, this man is a pure crafting and magic tool idiot.
Even as Zenjirou gives up his restraint and sighs deeply, Prince Francesco suddenly pitches forward and places his right hand on the table.

“Therefore, please tell me. What kind of choices are in the run at present? Your Majesty’s original idea is among them as well, right? It hasn’t been decided yet, has it!?” (Francesco)

“In short. does that mean that you’d like to participate in the selection of the magic tool to be donated?” (Zenjirou)

Zenjirou asked despite already being convinced of the answer to some extent, but Prince Francesco’s reply went against his expectation.
Prince Francesco shakes his head with a flustered expression, and says,

“No, that’s not my intention. I am confident that I am first class as Bestowal practitioner, but my personality is too strong, and I end up running off with an idea if I am not given any specifications. That’s why I 『definitely』 won’t give my opinion on this matter.” (Francesco)

“…? I see.” (Zenjirou)

An uncomfortable feeling welled up in Zenjirou’s chest after hearing Prince Francesco’s out-of-character response.
Certainly, Prince Francesco’s input would result in quite a few outrageous magic tools being put forward.
But, was Prince Francesco, who does as he pleases and doesn’t concern himself with how much trouble he is causing others, someone with such self awareness?
There has to be some ulterior motive behind Prince Francesco not boisterously offering his own opinion and instead specifically declaring that he 『definitely』 won’t state his opinion.
As Zenjirou focuses so as to not to miss even the slightest detail, Prince Francesco continues speaking with his usual expression and tone, but the implications are completely different from usual.

“Rather, if it’s this kind of problem, isn’t Uncle Largo the most reliable one? Since Uncle Largo has a conservative personality, I think it is him in particular who has 『aligned interests』 with you, Your Majesty.” (Francesco)

“…Hoh.” (Zenjirou)

It seems that there’s a catch that Zenjirou is not aware of.
After hearing Prince Francesco’s words, he is convinced that this is true and intentionally lowers his tone, muttering,

“More so than His Majesty Bruno and His Highness Giuseppe?” (Zenjirou)

“In this case, yes.” (Francesco)

Prince Francesco answered Zenjirou’s question, which had much deeper implications, without any hesitation.
Zenjirou ponders.
While he can’t forget the fact that this is Prince Francesco’s personal opinion, he believes that Prince Largo’s proposals would be more aligned with Zenjirou’s interests than King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe.
Prince Francesco is quite erratic, but it’s not a good idea to ignore his opinion just because of that.

“…”

Zenjirou, who had closed his eyes to think this through, opens his eyes with new resolve.

“Understood. I have heard Your Highness’ kind recommendation. I will create an opportunity for a meeting with His Highness Largo as soon as possible, and try listening to 『his side』.” (Zenjirou)

The blond-haired prince smiles broadly upon hearing Zenjirou’s decision.

“That’s really great. Since it looks like it’ll become an interesting conversation, I’d really like to attend it myself as well. Will that be possible? Ah, in which case tomorrow and the day after tomorrow wouldn’t work out for me.” (Francesco)

“Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow?” (Zenjirou)

“Yes. Tomorrow is the official return ceremony. The day after will be the unofficial dinner party with my family to celebrate my return. The dinner party will probably turn into a huge lecture though. Man, it’s something I would love to escape from if I could, but father and grandfather are people who give long sermons whenever they are given the chance.” (Francesco)

“Being prepared to be scolded from the start softens the blows a little,” Prince Francesco scratched his head.
Zenjirou narrows his eyes at the candid provision of information.

“Is it just your family that will be attending that unofficial return dinner party? Will Prince Largo be included, too?” (Zenjirou)

“No. It’s really a dinner party for my immediate family. Only my parents, my grandparents, my younger brothers and sisters, and I will attend.” (Francesco)

According to him it’s an extremely private gathering that half-siblings and concubines can’t attend, let alone his uncle.
In other words, Prince Largo won’t be summoned the day after tomorrow. And that means King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe, who want to prevent a meeting between Prince Largo and Zenjirou, will be busy scolding Prince Francesco on that day and thus won’t have any time to spare interfering with Prince Largo.

“I see. You have given me valuable information. I will adjust my schedule based on that information.” (Zenjirou)

Zenjirou announces, clearing his throat awkwardly as he processes the fact that Prince Francesco is capable of expressing himself in such a roundabout way.

“It’s an honor to be of help to you.” (Francesco)

Prince Francesco answered with his usual, carefree smile.

 

◆◇◆

 

That evening.
Zenjirou lay on his bed after changing into his favorite pajamas, reading through the letter his beloved wife had sent by the light of a magic tool.

“Ah, I thought I would have Ines read it to me tomorrow if I couldn’t manage myself, but if it’s like this, I can handle it.” (Zenjirou)

Knowing about her husband’s language level, the queen wrote him a letter with simple sentences, allowing even Zenjirou to understand it.
Since it’s the long-awaited letter from his beloved wife, Zenjirou wanted to read it by himself if at all possible. He carefully reads the simple sentences, tilting his head in contemplation.

“Umm, if I remember correctly, this is the word for 『Atmospheric Temperature』, so it’s talking about it being hot over there, I guess. This is a word I don’t know. How do you read that? Fr-Frieya, no, Freya, huh? Ah, Freya! Princess Freya wants me to send ice since she’s about to die in the capital? Mmh, if Aura’s fine with it, why not? She’s going to enter the inner palace in the future anyway.
Oh, but Princess Freya is going to return to the Uppsala Kingdom soon, isn’t she? I guess it’s better to not give her too much information before that. However, the Uppsala Kingdom sounds a little like Scandinavia. The heat of the Hottest Season must be harsh for a Scandinavian Princess. I certainly want to help her, but…” (Zenjirou)

It appears that the letter didn’t contain any serious information. Zenjirou happily went through the letter of his beloved wife.

 

◇◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

 

————- End of Part 2 ————-

 

Two days later.

Zenjirou managed to have a meeting with Prince Largo as planned.

“Your Majesty Zenjirou, I’m deeply thankful that you are offering your precious time to listen to my selfishness.” The middle-aged man, who wore a violet uniform, bows his head deeply opposite Zenjirou, who’s comfortably sitting on his sofa.

“No, I was also looking forward to an opportunity to have a chat with you, Your Highness Largo.” Zenjirou prompted the middle-aged man ─ Prince Largo to sit down.

“Yes, Your Majesty. Please excuse me then.”

Zenjirou observes as the man sits down.

 

 

Largo Sharrow, the fifth prince of Bruno the Third, the reigning king. He’s 35 years old. His outward appearance matches his age. Both his eyes and hair are dark brown, and he has a neatly trimmed mustache in the same color.

Clad in a deep violet uniform, he gives off the impression of a refined handsome man or the very definition of royalty. However, there is a hint of fretfulness belied by his attitude and expression, which somewhat ruins the glamor of his handsomeness.

“Your Majesty. To celebrate our acquaintance, I have brought this along with the dear hope that you would accept it. Please have a look.” As Prince Largo said so, he gestures to an attendant who had been waiting behind him.

“Yes, Your Highness. Please excuse me.” The attendant said, unfurling a carpet for Zenjirou to see.

That carpet, which had geometrical patterns knitted into it in dozens of variations of red and light brown threads, is a high-class item only obtainable by royalty. It may be a carpet, but it’s true value lies in the mana rising from it.

“It is used like this. 『Float』.” With Prince Largo’s magic command, the carpet floated up as ordered.

“This is?” Zenjirou, his interest piqued, leans forward on the sofa.

It’s charged with wind magic. The magic carpet is floating about 30 centimeters above the floor and rumbling loudly.

Magic carpet.

Because the Twin Kingdom is a desert kingdom that makes one think of the Middle East, Zenjirou ends up harboring excessive expectations.

“By any chance, is it possible to ride this?” Zenjirou asks.

Unfortunately, the response was a wry smile and a negative answer.

“No, it doesn’t possess that kind of function. As you can see, this can only float in the air. It can’t move,” Prince Largo explained.

“I see…” Zenjirou’s excitement is abruptly cooled.

“This 『Floating Carpet』 is a magic tool that’s used in the Twin Kingdom when a child is first able to walk. Since it floats in the air, when you step on it it has quite a lot of give. Because of this, there’s no danger of a child getting injured on it even if it falls down.
It might be too early for His Highness Carlos right now, but the growth of a baby is astoundingly quick. It won’t be long before he can play on top of this,” Prince Largo gives an explanation while gesturing like a salesman promoting his product.

“I see,” Zenjirou nodded enthusiastically, obviously caught up in Prince Largo’s explanation.

In other words, this is essentially a large play area for babies. There are spongy, inflated areas for children to play in department stores and things like that. That’s probably the magic tool version of those.

“You brought me something good. You have my thanks, Prince Largo.” Zenjirou expresses his gratitude.

Probably perceiving that Zenjirou’s words were genuine, Prince Largo breathed out in relief.

Creating a favorable impression by presenting a gift makes the negotiations that follow a lot simpler. It’s a cheap trick, but even so it’s still widely used because this method has this much success.

“By the way, Your Majesty, I have heard that you have taken the role of advisor for the choosing of the magic tools to present to the four Dukes for the new king’s enthronement. Have you already made up your mind?” Asking that, Prince Largo can’t keep how tense he is out of his expression.

Zenjirou was surprised that he cut straight to the main issue, but likewise Zenjirou believes it to be an unavoidable topic.

“No, I have been looking into past records as well as interviewing people in various positions to get a grasp on the nature of the gifts, but I haven’t been able to settle on an opinion of my own. Though I do have several choices in mind,” Zenjirou replies.

Prince Largo was visibly relieved after hearing this. It was as if “I made it in time” was written on his face.

Prince Largo turns back and tells his accompanying attendants and guards, “You guys, step back a bit.”

“Yes, Your Highness!”

Hearing the master’s words, his subordinates obediently put some distance between themselves and the sofa he’s sitting on.

“More,” Prince Largo adds.

They move back even further.

“A little bit more,” he orders once more.

They move back a little bit further.

“A little bit more,” he insists.

“…,” they don’t move. It looks like his voice doesn’t reach that far.

Zenjirou shifts his attention to the magic carpet that’s still in operation. The carpet, which had its wind magic invoked a while ago, and is becoming rather annoying with its rumbling. This sound serves as white noise, preventing anyone from overhearing.

Assured of their privacy, Prince Largo turned to Zenjirou, obviously having resolved himself, and said with a serious expression, “Your Majesty, I’d like you to have all your subordinates move back just like that, would that be alright with you?”

That was a blunt invitation for a secret talk that excluded others. Zenjirou wavers for a moment, but seeing how far they’ve come, the option of refusing doesn’t exist.

“Understood. Eladio, you and your men, fall back as well,” Zenjirou orders.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Eladio confirms.

And then it was only Zenjirou and Prince Largo facing each other on their sofas. Both parties’ close aides are still in the room, but with the added distance and with the wind magic tool running next to them, it won’t be possible for them to hear their conversation.

And yet, Prince Largo takes even more precautions and places his elbows on his knees, and begins to talk through his cupped hands so that his lips cannot be read, “You have my gratitude, Your Majesty. Seeing as it has reached this point, the secrecy might be pointless. But, let me ask you frankly, how much do you understand about our country, Your Majesty? Especially, the relationship between our Sharrow family and the four Dukes.”

Zenjirou closes his eyes in recollection and says, “Well, probably only the basics,” in answer to Prince Largo’s question. Zenjirou then reveals the information about the Sharrow family and the four Dukes that he has heard up until now.

The four Dukes are the indigenous people, the tribal chief families of the desert nomads. Two Dukes among them have settled down, and the other two are still continuing to wander the desert just like they had in the past. The settled Dukes are vassals of the Sharrow family, but the two wandering families harbor strong wishes for independence.

Prince Largo, who had been listening with a serious look and nodding along, breathed out deeply as Zenjirou brought it to a close with the words of “That’s about it.”

“I see. I don’t see any particular errors in Your Majesty’s information. However, if pushed, I’d say that information is more related to the structure and history of this country. The present situation has changed a little from that.
I’d like to add some information to what you already know. Of course you’re free to check the authenticity of this information as you please later on,” Prince Largo said.

“Understood. Let’s hear it.” Zenjirou replied.

Seeing that Zenjirou had nodded lightly, “The fact of the current four Dukes are split into two factions is just as you have said, Your Majesty. The Ducal El’Haryuko House and the Ducal Ryarfon House distance themselves from the royal family and continue their traditional nomadism. Even now they are calling themselves 『Tribal Chief Family』. On the other hand, the Ducal El’Mentaqat House and the Ducal An’Imyam House have chosen to settle down and close the distance, accepting their roles as retainers of the royal family. Tradition or reform, independence or vassalage. In the past those two categories were the big differences, but now another difference has developed, deepening the rift. That’s the 『Economic Disparity』,” Prince Largo continues.

“Oh, so that’s how it is,” Zenjirou affirms.

With that point even Zenjirou, who’s not all that wise, could understand the gist of the situation.
Even so, he states his conjecture to make sure he hasn’t made any mistakes.

“Are gold and salt so profitable?” Zenjirou asks.

Unfortunately his hunch was right on.

“Yes. The El’Mentaqat house with their desert mine and the An’Imyam house with their huge salt lake are both endowed with enormous assets. Another thing, it’s the water rather than the salt that’s traded for the highest price among the resources that can be gained from the salt lake in the An’Imyam Dukedom,” Prince Largo confirmed.

When one thinks about it, it’s a very natural progression. Between wandering and settling down, it’s the latter that has a tendency towards a stable livelihood. Stability gives birth to spare energy. Spare energy stimulates the economy.

With time, a distinct economic disparity will appear between the two wandering Dukes and the two settled Dukes. It was somewhat inevitable.
However, in that case, it raises another question.

“Considering that, the Sharrow family is quite generous. After all, they are allowing their retainers to keep dragons that give birth to golden eggs.” Zenjirou comments.

Gold mine and salt lake. There’s no doubt that both are important sources of money for the Twin Kingdom. A normal royal family might have already confiscated those two as territories under the direct control of the kingdom.

The fifth son of the Sharrow family smiles complacently at Zenjirou’s blunt question and answers, “That’s because it’s also convenient for the Sharrow family like this. Both digging for gold in the desert and creating water and salt from a desert lake are definitely not easy tasks. The El’Mentaqat Dukedom’s ducal capital, the gold mine city, and the An’Imyam Dukedom’s ducal capital, the salt lake city; both are right in the middle of a barren desert, which would be unlivable if not for 『Magic Tools』.”

“…That’s certainly efficient,” Zenjirou sighs deeply, comprehending the reasoning behind it.

In other words, the Sharrow family is keeping both ducal houses, who chose to settle down, on a leash at this point in time.

Suppressing sand storms with wind magic tools, creating the drinking water necessary for people to survive with water magic tools, preparing the desert’s land and bringing about the minimum harvest necessary for people to be able to live with earth magic tools. Magic tools are literally the lifelines of desert cities.

Rather than experiencing hardships by producing the gold and salt in the desert by oneself, it’s more efficient to palm off magic tools at a high price to people, who will acquire the gold and salt for you, and receive the income from that.

“The economic disparity directly relates to a difference in population, too. The population of the settling Dukedoms has already grown to double that of the wandering Dukedoms.” Prince Largo explains.

“That’s…you can’t call the four Dukes of equal rank anymore then, can you?” Zenjirou reflexively asks back, startled by the unexpectedly large differences.

Treating houses, two of which have more than twice the population and several times the economical strength as the others, as equals is unreasonable, no matter how you think about it.

“No, it hasn’t yet reached such a point. Despite their inferior financial and human resources, the Ducal El’Haryuko House and the Ducal Ryarfon House have preserved the strength and spirit of the powerful desert nomads in the modern era. Not to mention the men, even the women and children will pick up the bow and fight when push comes to shove. You won’t find many idiots who look down on tribes of proud warriors,” Prince Largo refuted Zenjirou’s question with a bitter smile.

“That’s…,” Zenjirou had become completely speechless this time.

The two economically wealthy ducal houses that settled down, and the two wandering ducal houses that are drastically inferior in economical power but excel in military strength.

Even describing the situation as a ticking time bomb for conflict would be an understatement.

“As for the Sharrow family’s plans to alleviate the situation, they have chosen two main approaches. First, reducing the antagonism by demoting the two wandering ducal houses to Margrave houses, deliberately facilitating the increasing disparity. Second, avoiding a conflict by deliberately disrupting the current trend and reducing the economical disparity between the two wandering ducal houses and the two settled ducal houses through support.
The ones adopting the former plan are my father, His Majesty Bruno, and my elder brother, Crown Prince Giuseppe. The one supporting the latter plan is me.” Largo lays his cards on the table.

After hearing this headache-inducing onslaught of important information, Zenjirou focuses on bringing his facial expression back under control. But, now that he’s in so deep, he can only resign himself to it.

“Your Highness, why are you trying to promote the two wandering ducal houses? Between the wandering tribes’ route of independence and the settled tribes’ route of vassalage, isn’t the latter far more convenient for the royal family?” Zenjirou asks.

The middle-aged prince shrugs his shoulders at those questions and answers in a dispassionate tone, “I simply judged that doing it like this would be beneficial for the Twin Kingdom. Originally the El’Haryuko House and the Ryarfon House were the most and second most powerful of the four Dukes. The territories they own are vast and have very long borders with other countries. The nomads are the ideal choice for defending the long border in the desert. It would be troublesome for the Twin Kingdom in its entirety if they were to settle down.
However, if the two ducal houses were to be demoted to the rank of Margrave, would they really protect the border with the same zeal and on the same scale as now? I believe such selfish hope to be impossible.” Prince Largo explains.

“I see,” Zenjirou says.

 

————- End of Part 3 ————-

 

Prince Largo’s explanation is convincing.

Certainly, if the people, who are normally in charge of patrolling the border and protecting the territory that would become the frontline in an emergency were to be treated as 『lower ranked』 than those comfortably running the economy in the rear, it would be difficult to maintain their motivation. The royal family supporting them to maintain their morale and military power could be even called natural to some extent.

However, the nomads’ preference for self-reliance has too much potential for trouble for the royals to wholeheartedly support them. If they were to become too independent, things could quickly spiral out of control.

“The difference between your approaches in regards to the four Dukes is the point of confrontation between you and His Highness Giuseppe then? You’re saying you won’t oppose His Highness Giuseppe’s enthronement as new king as long as you can reach an agreement in that area, Your Highness?” Despite his nervousness, Zenjirou couldn’t contain himself and fired off two questions in quick succession.

Prince Largo decisively shook his head at those questions.

“No. It’s not that much of a problem. Personally I think promoting the two wandering ducal houses would be beneficial in the long term, but fostering the two settled ducal houses to increase the power of the kingdom isn’t wrong at all either,” Prince Largo replies.

“Then, why…?” Zenjirou is confused.

Just when Zenjirou was about to ask, “You are against the enthronement of His Highness Giuseppe, aren’t you?”, Prince Largo forestalled him while smiling wryly.

“In the first place, I’m not against the enthronement of Giuseppe. Did I say anything like that even once during the official audience?” He countered.

“……Huh?” Zenjirou lets a thoughtless sound slip out, completely forgetting his act.

Prince Largo continues dispassionately, having come to a conclusion, “Ah, it’s not just you, Your Majesty. The majority of my country’s nobles have misunderstood, too. No, to be precise, they 『are made』 to misunderstand by my father’s and brother’s manipulation of the information, but I have not once wished to take the throne for myself. I’m a conservative. Pushing my brother, whose lineage, ability, and personal history are all impeccable, aside to obtain the crown sickens me to the core with just the mere thought of it,” said Prince Largo, his head dropping as he trembled in dismay.

“W-Wait a moment please. Didn’t you ask His Majesty Bruno to reconsider during the audience back then, Your Highness?” Zenjirou asks, unable to clear up his confusion.

“What I wanted father to reconsider is the decision to hand over the crown to brother『quickly』. I have absolutely no objection to father yielding the crown to brother.” Prince Largo corrects.

Still trying to decipher the situation as best he could, Zenjirou follows up with further questions, “Why are His Majesty Bruno and His Highness Giuseppe carrying out this manipulation? Even though you approve of His Highness Giuseppe’s enthronement?”

“That’s because there’s something that brother is planning after he becomes king that we cannot agree on.” Prince Largo says.

“And that would be?” Zenjirou questions, tilting his head to the side in confusion.

Prince Largo takes a deep breath, then whispers in a barely audible voice,

“Yes. It’s about 『the matter of designating Francesco as the next crown prince』.” Prince Largo reveals.

“Ah!” Zenjirou softly cries out.

Prince Largo didn’t miss the comprehension that flashed through Zenjirou’s eyes for an instant.

“So Your Majesty also knows, the real reason why that idiot has no right to succeed the crown even though he’s the king’s eldest grandson.” Prince Largo confirms.

Prince Francesco. 25 years old. Originally he should be next in line to the throne right after his father, Crown Prince Giuseppe, but his succession isn’t being recognized because it’s said that his personality is too worrisome. He’s a model problem child for the Sharrow family.

But, Zenjirou is aware of the real reason why Prince Francesco isn’t allowed to succeed the crown. It’s because Prince Francesco is one of those rare people who can use not only the Sharrow family’s bloodline magic, 『Bestowal Magic』, but also the Jilbell family bloodline magic, 『Healing Magic』.

Putting it bluntly, bloodline magic is the vested interest of a royal family. Normally a country only has one royal family. As such, they just have to ensure that their blood does not leave the country, but the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell is a special country where two royal family stand side by side, as the name suggests.

Both royal families have done their best to ensure that their bloodlines do not mix, but over several hundred years and many generations, it is simply unavoidable.

As a result, those of the Sharrow family who awake to Healing Magic and conversely, those of the Jilbell family who are capable of Bestowal Magic exist, albeit very rarely. Accordingly the two royal families have a secret agreement with each other, stating…

If someone who awakens the other’s bloodline magic is born to either family, that person cannot be allowed to pass on their blood

When that secret agreement came into existence, the intended target was able to use only the bloodline magic of the other family but not that of his own family. However, people who can use the blood line magic of both families like Prince Francesco, are naturally included in that agreement too.

Having said that, the fact that Prince Francesco is a practitioner of『Healing Magic』is a closely-guarded secret even among the higher-ups of the Twin Kingdom.

(If I remember correctly, Prince Francesco saidThe only ones definitely aware of it are the king, the pope, my parents, and master who taught me healing magic』.)

The king, the pope, his parents, and his healing magic teacher. None of these could be Prince Largo.

“I’m sorry to say this, but by his own admission His Highness Francesco’s character is too uninhibited. I don’t think it’s strange at all for His Majesty Bruno not to bestow the right of succession on His Highness Francesco.” said Zenjirou, feigning ignorance for the time being, despite his suspicions that it’s likely too late at this point.

Just as he thought, it was too late.

Concealing a wry smile beneath his dark brown beard, Prince Largo said, “Well, I suppose that’s the official stance. But, as I’m still technically royalty, I have heard of the secret agreement between the Sharrow family and Jilbell family. Besides, I have studied quite a bit about magic. I learned that it’s theoretically possible for a person, who possesses twice the mana of a common royal, to possess two bloodline magics simultaneously.”

“…That’s a very interesting story.” Zenjirou replies.

It appears Prince Largo has surmised the truth, and is fairly sure of his conclusion.
Since he cannot confirm it, he has carefully worded his claim, but even Zenjirou couldn’t help but confirm his suspicions implicitly.

“In other words, that means the point of conflict is His Majesty Bruno and His Highness Giuseppe trying to appoint His Highness Francesco as next crown Prince, and you being against that, Your Highness?” Zenjirou asks.

“Yes, that’s right.” Prince Largo calmly confirmed. “Brother is an excellent statesman. Of course I don’t agree with him on everything, but it’s a matter of course that as a retainer of the king I would support him once he ascends the throne. I’m prepared to obey my brother.
However, Francesco is another matter. I can’t permit him to become the next crown prince, which would all but ensure he is the next king,” Prince Largo stated decisively.

It was an opinion that was easy to understand for Zenjirou.

“I see. I understand the gist of the situation. From the start His Majesty Bruno and His Highness Giuseppe were not conspiring to hasten the enthronement of His Highness Giuseppe with their surprise attack, but instead to instate His Highness Francesco as new crown prince afterwards, correct?” Zenjirou repeated the information back to ensure that he had it correct.

Currently Prince Francesco is 25 years old, and he doesn’t possess any succession rights. No matter how much the king and crown prince conspire with each other, this remains a fact.

And, if nothing changes in ten years, Prince Francesco will have turned 35 without the right to succeed the crown and it will be next to impossible to install him as next crown prince, even if both King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe wish it.
If he passes 30 without entering the line of succession, the minds of the people will have concluded that he is someone “who was removed from the succession race”.

“All things considered, I also understand the reason why His Majesty Bruno and His Highness Giuseppe started the rumor that you’re aiming to become the next king. By labeling you as an overly ambitious person aiming for the crown, they planned to weaken your influence, didn’t they Your Highness?” Zenjirou asks.

“It’s just as you’ve discerned,” Prince Largo confirmed Zenjirou’s words with a bright expression.

Prince Largo is targeting the crown. Simply by spreading that rumor, Prince Largo’s hands in the royal court are tied.
Regardless of whether it is lineage, ability, personality, or faction, Prince Giuseppe has no weaknesses. Just who would listen to the words of a younger brother trying to supersede Crown Prince Giuseppe.
No matter how often Prince Largo repeats, “I don’t plan to become the next king. My brother Giuseppe is the only one suited to be the next king,” others merely conclude that, “Well, that’s what he’s saying in public.”
Because he’s actually working towards delaying Crown Prince Giuseppe’s enthronement as much as possible in order to crush the possibility of Prince Francesco becoming the next crown prince, his words have no credibility.
It certainly was a hopeless situation for Prince Largo.

(Wow, I guess this is a royal of a large country.)

Forgetting his own position, Zenjirou silently admires Prince Largo.

It’s indirect, but he’s being mercilessly driven to the wall by his own blood. And yet he continues to keep up the public facade of being on good terms with his family.
No, maybe they really harbor deep affection for each other as family. And on top of that, they are capable of relentlessly opposing each other in politics. They are “capable royals” exactly because they can do something like that.

“However, I don’t understand the reason why His Majesty Bruno and His Highness Giuseppe, both skilled politicians that could surely see this coming, would deliberately be fixated on His Highness Francesco.” Zenjirou says doubtfully.

Seeing as there’s a secret agreement between the Sharrow and the Jilbell family, putting Prince Francesco close to the throne is essentially a betrayal.
Compared to King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe’s usual astuteness, this obsession stands out even more as an anomaly.

In response to Zenjirou’s questions, Prince Largo exhales deeply, obviously recalling something he resigned himself to very long ago, and says, “It can’t be helped. Father and brother belong to the 『Fusion Faction』, and moreover the 『Complete Fusion Faction』.”

“『Complete Fusion Faction』?” Zenjirou tilts his head to the side as he processes this new term, which managed to feel rather sinister to him despite this being the first time he’s heard of it.

“As its name implies, the 『Fusion Faction』 is unhappy with the current state of the royal families standing side-by-side in our country and aims to have only one royal family . Among them, the 『Complete Fusion Faction』 aims to consolidate the two royal family’s lineages into one through marriage and propagating the bloodline magics of both, Bestowal and Healing, to establish one fully united royal family.” Prince Largo explains.

“…” Zenjirou is speechless, immediately suspecting that Prince Francesco himself wouldn’t have believed the existence of the 『Complete Fusion Faction』the first time he was told about it either. “Your Highness Largo, I’m sorry about the rude question, but is His Highness Francesco without a doubt Crown Prince Giuseppe’s child?”

“Yes. I suppose there has been no doubt about it in our country.” Prince Largo replies with implications.

Zenjirou was rather convinced of his own boorish suspicions with that answer. But, just to grasp at the final straw, he confirms once more, “That 『Complete Fusion Faction』 doesn’t exist only within the Sharrow family, but also within the Jilbell family?”

“Yes. They are only a few, but I hear that they are spreading their roots in the both royal families.” Prince Largo replies.

“…I hear there’s someone His Highness Francesco calls 『Master』 in the Jilbell family.”

It goes without saying, but he’s talking about his 『Healing Magic』 master, the person said to have secretly taught Prince Francesco how to use 『Healing Magic』.

When Zenjirou first heard of his existence from Prince Francesco, he dismissed it. After all, just what healing practitioner of the Jilbell family would teach a prince of the Sharrow family, said to be their political opponent, about their bloodline magic, the secret among secrets?

“It’s His Highness Charles1 of the Jilbell family. As you have likely deduced, he’s a member of the 『Complete Fusion Faction』. Since his childhood he has been on good terms with Giuseppe and brother’s legal consort, Toska. Ah, the Crown Prince Consort Toska is a descendant of a branch family, but she’s a fully-fledged member of the Sharrow family and a fairly skilled bestowal practitioner. Naturally she’s also a member of the 『Complete Fusion Faction』.” Prince Largo explains.

I don’t want to hear anymore. Deliberately ignoring the sinking feeling in his stomach, Zenjirou gets to the conclusive question: “And His Highness Charles has been 『unusually』 partial towards His Highness Francesco?”

For better or worse, the implications of such a question got through to Prince Largo, and he replied, “It’s as you say. His Highness Charles has shown more favor to Francesco than Giuseppe, his 『real father』, ever did.”

 

————- End of Part 4 ————-

 

 

 


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Translation Notes:

  1. It’s the French Charles, spoken like shawl, but with a “r” instead of w

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Risou no Himo Seikatsu – Volume 9 – Chapter 3: Those who Went Back, Those who Returned – Part 1

  2. Pingback: Risou no Himo Seikatsu – Volume 9 – Chapter 3: Those who Went Back, Those who Returned – Part 2

  3. Pingback: Risou no Himo Seikatsu – Volume 9 – Chapter 3: Those who Went Back, Those who Returned – Part 3

  4. Pingback: Risou no Himo Seikatsu – Volume 9 – Chapter 3: Those who Went Back, Those who Returned – Part 4

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