The day after Prince Largo revealed his surprising information.
Zenjirou started to move actively at once. In the eyes of someone ignorant of the circumstances, this probably didn’t look all that strange.
Originally, Zenjirou had planned to keep the meetings to the bare minimum, meeting only those who he couldn’t turn down, and then spend his time afterwards as he wished.
The last of those necessary meetings was the one with Prince Largo yesterday.
As long as one didn’t know Zenjirou’s original intent to stop after this point, him actively accepting meetings from candidates and, depending on the circumstances, requesting a meeting himself was a matter of course.
“Well then, this morning you’re going to attend the social party at Marquis Pizzani’s House. Lunch will be provided there. In the afternoon you are to talk to Her Highness Princess Margarita. In the evening, you will attend the royal palace’s dinner party. That will be all.” The blond, side-tailed girl, Lucretia, briskly informed Zenjirou from behind.
The one who had gained the most from Zenjirou’s change of mind was her.
With his initial schedule, Zenjirou planned to keep the contact with his caretaker, Lucretia, to a minimum by confining himself inside his own room after he was done with the mandatory meetings. However, now that his plans had changed to include more meetings, his contact with Lucretia had to increase too.
Even if he were able to get a meeting with the nobles of the Twin Kingdom, it wouldn’t be sensible not to borrow the knowledge Lucretia, a noble of the Twin Kingdom, had in order to schedule meetings while taking things like the other party’s social status, the meeting place, and the priority of the events into account.
“Please allow me to serve as your partner at the evening party, if you have no one already in mind. I’d like to be allowed to stand behind you during the afternoon’s meeting as usual, is that alright?” Lucretia asked.
“Yeah, please do. Sorry to trouble you.” Zenjirou replied.
“Yes!” The girl revealed a dazzling smile after hearing Zenjirou’s words of gratitude.
In fact Lucretia had been performing quite well. She had been continuing to appeal to Zenjirou by all possible means, to the point that it was becoming rather touching. Apparently she was now testing the appeal of being “a woman who is capable at her job.”
That was very convenient for Zenjirou.
(It would be really nice if she could keep trying this approach for as long as possible.)
At the very least, it was far more comfortable than her continuing to shower him with embarrassing words of praise over him just lifting and lowering his glass, or her going for excessive physical contact.
For an instant Zenjirou even wondered, Would she maybe continue this competence appeal if I were to pretend that she has a chance with this?, but as expected, he dropped that idea.
Even without considering how insincere it would be, Zenjirou didn’t believe that he had the ability to slip away at the end without making any promises to her after leading her on.
“There won’t be a problem if I wear the usual third uniform today, right?” Zenjirou checked.
Lucretia turned her big, blue eyes towards the ceiling for an instant, and then after pondering about it, replied, “No, it shouldn’t be a problem. However, for the evening party, I think that an outfit that allows for a easier movement might be better since there will also be a dance.”
“Understood. I will dress suitably for the evening party. You don’t need to tell me too many details, but would you please tell me what dress you’re going to wear for the evening party? After all I’d like to avoid choosing an outfit that doesn’t match my partner at all,” said Zenjirou after thinking it over for a bit.
Lucretia’s already large eyes widened comically, and she spoke up in a flustered tone, “Absolutely not! If you would be so kind as to tell me what you plan to wear, Your Majesty, I will match mine accordingly.”
“No, the woman is always the leading act when dressing up. It is only proper for me to match you, right?” Zenjirou asked, tilting his head to the side. Though Zenjirou wasn’t too clear on the details, his words were indisputable.
“But Your Majesty, you are a visitor who came all this way. As such, isn’t it logical for me to match you?” As she was saying so, Lucretia peeked his way with upturned eyes and blushing cheeks as if expecting something.
Zenjirou, who felt a chill down his spine like an omen of danger, immediately withdrew his previous statements, “I see. I shall accept your offer then. I will entrust the matter of the clothes for the evening party to Ines.”
“Yes, certainly.” The middle-aged maid, having been mentioned, bowed respectfully behind Zenjirou.
Lucretia revealed an expression similar to that of “an angler who let the fish get away on the verge of catching it” for a moment at Zenjirou’s answer, then immediately showed an amiable smile again.
“I understand. Flora.” Lucretia said.
“Yes, Lucy-sama.” On this side as well, the trusted maid Flora, who was nominated, primly replied.
“Please consult with Zenjirou-sama’s maid and decide on a dress for the evening party. I trust your taste.” Lucretia instructed Flora.
“As you wish. Please leave it to me. Well then, Ines-sama.” Flora addressed Ines.
“Yes, Flora-sama.” Having obtained the permission of their respective masters, the two maids began to discuss a little distance away.
Right now it was still early morning. There was plenty of time left until the evening party.
If I leave it to Ines, there won’t be a problem. With that, Zenjirou turned his mind to the matter of today’s first item ─ the social party at the Marquis Pizzani House.
The Marquis Pizzani House was a prestigious family that can be traced back to the time of the Twin Kingdom’s founding. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that they are almost on par with the Marquis Broglie House, Lucretia’s family.
Both families were the most prestigious among prestigious families, implicitly trusted by the royal families, and if one goes back a few generations, with royal blood flowing in their veins. In particular, the current Marchioness Pizzani was also the wet nurse of Prince Vittore.
Even for Zenjirou, who had the title of “Royal of a Major Power,” it wasn’t easy to get in contact with the second son of Crown Prince Giuseppe, who should become the next crown prince and the second in line for the throne, because he was only seven years old. Thus, forming a connection with Marchioness Pizzani, who was in turn connected to Prince Vittore, was extremely important for Zenjirou at the moment.
“Pleased to meet you, Your Majesty Zenjirou. I am delighted to be able to welcome such an exalted gentleman of the Carpa Kingdom. I am the present head of the Marquis Pizzani House, Alan Pizzani. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.” Marquis Pizzani bowed deeply before Zenjirou.
“I’m the spouse of Carpa Kingdom’s Queen Aura the First, Zenjirou. Marquis Pizzani, I’m honored to be personally greeted by the family head.” Even as he gave the expected response in a dignified manner, Zenjirou sighed in his mind.
(Haah, yet another important person. I can’t complain since it was me who initiated contact this time, but there are too many people I have to remember. I feel like my brain is about to explode with all this information…)
It was understandable that Zenjirou feels this way. At the minimum, he needs to remember King Bruno, Crown Prince Giuseppe, Prince Largo, Prince Francesco, Shura of the Duke El’Haryuko House, Nazim of the Duke Ryarfon House, Taraye of the Duke El’Mentaqat House, Fikriah of the Duke An’Imyam House, Lucretia of the Marquis Broglie House, and Marquis Pizzani.
In the near future the Marchioness Pizzani and Prince Vittore would also be added to the list.
Of course, if it was just remembering their faces and names, it wouldn’t even be worth mentioning, but for gathering information and in order not to be caught in the enemy’s strategy, he even had to remember the characters, abilities, political, and blood relationships of everyone.
It’s only natural for him to express one or two complaints.
At any rate, I have to concentrate on the man in front of me. Once Zenjirou was seated at the table he was assigned, Marquis Pizzani sat on the chair opposite Zenjirou.
The table was big and round. Its surface was covered by a pure white lacework table cloth. Given that machine-knit cloths didn’t exist in this world, it naturally had to be knit by hand.
I wonder, just how much does just one of these cost? Unconsciously, he was hesitant to even place his hands on the table cloth, indicating that his mindset was still that of a commoner despite the fact that by title he was royalty.
And yet, Zenjirou somehow managed to pretend to be unconcerned, placing both hands on the table, and saying, “By the way, I heard that you made a name for yourself as a brave soldier in your youth, Marquis Pizzani. Won’t you regale me with your heroic exploits on this occasion?”
If the other party had confidence in their own military arts, asking about their military exploits was an accepted conversation starter between men.
When speaking with a woman, complimenting their accessories or clothes was generally a safe conversation topic.
Of course, as a high-ranking noble, Marquis Pizzani was well aware of these subtleties.
“Hahaha, those were such meager military achievements that it would be embarrassing to have you listen to them, but since you have asked, then I shall tell you, Your Majesty.
This is a story from my first battle. Back then I was only 17 years old…” He began to smoothly recount the deeds of his early days allowing the words to flow over his audience.
He kept his story interesting by occasionally mixing in failures he made because of his youth, and joking about predicaments, where he reaped what he sowed, and not just the stories about his own great accomplishments.
“…Because of that, I was able to return alive after bringing down the great commander of the enemy army by myself with recklessness, paper-thin courage, a lot of luck, and my own meager abilities, even though it was far beyond my means.
Good gracious, at the time I really thought I would die.
There are often men, who embarrassedly announce that they wet their pants on the battlefield, but I think that’s a lie. Otherwise, they would be brave warriors against whom someone like me would have no chance.
When I noticed it, my trousers were completely sopping wet. They were in such a state that I couldn’t tell whether it was pee or just sweat.”
“Nothing less of you, Marquis Pizzani. You’ve experienced the cruel battlefield since your early years, haven’t you?” Hearing Zenjirou’s flattering response, Marquis Pizzani shook his head with a wry smile.
“No, to be precise, I only experienced the battlefield once in my youth.
Because of that I became a total coward, and have not accomplished anything that could be called a military exploit ever since.
Thanks to that, and with me being crazy about hunting but without the accompanying skill in it, my wife has more than once told me to 『Let your subordinates do the shooting since you’re just wasting arrows』. How embarrassing.” Marquis Pizzani finished while laughing loudly.
In order to continue the conversation, Zenjirou asked with feigned interest, “Marquis, you have an interest in hunting, too?”
“Yes. Since I have the privilege of being friends with Duke El’Haryuko, I visit the 『Ducal Capital』 once a year, and participate in a genuine hunt. As I just told you, the results are terrible, though.” Marquis Pizzani replied.
“…Hoh.” Zenjirou, whose heart jumped at the unexpected connection, barely restrained himself from revealing his enthusiasm and spoke up calmly, “That’s wonderful. As a coward by nature, I haven’t participated in any battles or hunting at all, but as a man, albeit a poor excuse for one, I’m curious about those kinds of stories. I wonder, are the dragon species living in the desert of the Twin Kingdom different from the ones in the dense forests by the Carpa Kingdom? Marquis, what kind of dragons do you hunt?”
Originally, getting in contact with Marquis Pizzani was to get information about Prince Vittore from the Marchioness who served as his wet nurse, but information about the El’Haryuko Dukedom, one of four dukedoms, was better than none.
Having been indirectly urged to continue his story, Marquis Pizzani talked on with a smile, not letting on whether he knew of Zenjirou’s inner thoughts.
“Yes. The one with the easiest differences to understand is probably the raptorial dragon. The raptorial dragons of the Carpa Kingdom are green, but the Twin Kingdom’s raptorial dragons are light yellow, or more specifically, you could call them sand colored. Just as their appearance suggests, the Carpa Kingdom’s raptorial dragons are strong in wetlands, and the Twin Kingdom’s raptorial dragons are powerful in dry areas.
Well, since they are both called『raptorial dragons』, they seem to be the same species and can be crossbred.
Because of this, mixed species are deliberately raised in the Twin Kingdom so that we have raptorial dragons that run reasonably well in wetlands as well as the desert.” Marquis Pizzani explained.
By the way, the ones made to pull the dragon carriages for Prince Francesco, Princess Bona, and their entourage when they headed to the Carpa Kingdom were those mixed breeds.
“Now that you mention it, I have heard about it before. That the best raptorial dragons on the southern continent are the ones from the Twin Kingdom.” Zenjirou said, causing Marquis Pizzani to happily puff up with pride.
“How excellent that this reputation reached even the continent’s western regions. But, to be even more precise, the best raptorial dragons aren’t those of the Twin Kingdom, but those of the El’Haryuko Dukedom and the Ryarfon Dukedom.” Marquis Pizzani corrected Zenjirou.
“I see. Certainly, if you consider their lifestyle, it is only natural. Marquis Pizzani, you previously said that you often visited their 『Ducal Capital』, and there’s naturally a large number of raptorial dragons in the 『Ducal Capital』, right?” Zenjirou asked for confirmation.
The 『Ducal Capital』 of the two wandering dukes refers to each tribe’s center, at the center of which there was a huge tent for the ducal house, or as they called it, the tribal chief’s family.
Those who lived there were all members of the wandering tribes. Except for infants and the elderly, who could not stand on their own, everyone possessed their own raptorial dragon. Inevitably that meant the number of raptorial dragons in the 『Ducal Capital』 was massive.
“That’s right. The raptorial dragons owned by the ducal house are the best among them. As a sign of friendship between me and Duke El’Haryuko, I was given one male raptorial dragon, and it is magnificent. It’s a safe bet that the royal capital’s citizens would all be envious if they saw it.
However, in the 『Ducal Capital』 it’s not even particularly rare. It’s no more than a dragon of 『reasonably good quality』.” Marquis Pizzani raved about the El’Haryuko Dukedom.
“I suppose one could only say, as expected of the center of raptorial dragons. However, if you were to be even more specific, which is better at breeding raptorial dragons, the El’Haryuko Dukedom or the Ryarfon Dukedom?” Zenjirou asked casually.
In response Marquis Pizzani widened his eyes unnaturally, and said with an even more unnatural tone, “Generally it’s said that the raptorial dragons of the El’Haryuko Dukedom are strong, and the raptorial dragons of the Ryarfon Dukedom are fast. As for the question of which is better, both tribes’ raptorial dragons are excellent…I won’t say anything bad, Your Majesty. I would also advise Your Majesty to never mention this in a place where people of both ducal houses are present.”
“I see. I appreciate the good advice.” Zenjirou nodded while smiling wryly.
—————– End of Part 1 —————–
This was apparently a “taboo question that would stir up trouble without getting an answer.”
Seeing that Zenjirou had agreed, Marquis Pizzani changed the topic, “If we’re speaking of unusual dragon species characteristic to the desert, it would be the 『Changeling Dragon』, I think.”
“『Changeling Dragon』?” Zenjirou asked back.
“Yes. Just as its name suggests, it’s a dragon that can transform. Well, we call it transforming, but it only changes the color of its skin. It’s a small, herbivorous dragon with dull movements and no offensive abilities, so bringing it down is simple as long as you can find it. However, finding it is quite a hurdle.
In the day, when the temperature rises, it adopts a pale, almost white, yellow, blending in with the desert sand. When night falls, it changes to a deep indigo blue, making it difficult to differentiate against the dead of the night.” Marquis Pizzani explained.
“Hoh, this is my first time hearing about such a dragon species, I think?” Zenjirou was astounded.
“That’s reasonable. It’s a dragon species unique to the El’Haryuko and Ryarfon Dukedoms of the Twin Kingdom. I believe there’s an especially large number of them in the El’Haryuko Dukedom.” Marquis Pizzani added.
A dragon species that could change color ─ speaking of reptile types, Zenjirou could only think of a chameleon with his meager knowledge. Because of this, the image of the 『Changeling Dragon』, which he hadn’t seen yet, solidified as a chameleon in Zenjirou’s mind.
“Low danger, difficult to find, and easy to defeat. Because of these characteristics, it seems that children who have just learned to hold their first bow in the El’Haryuko Dukedom, challenge 『Changeling Dragons』 at the beginning.” Marquis Pizzani said.
“What do they do with after defeating the changeling dragon? Can you eat it?” Zenjirou inquired out of curiosity.
Marquis Pizzani shrugged and replied, “Unfortunately, changeling dragons can’t be eaten. Well, they aren’t poisonous, so it’s not like they’re completely inedible, but they taste terrible. They are mostly skin and bones anyway. To the desert people, the changeling dragons are harmful pests that should be exterminated.”
It is said that changeling dragons eat the same plants as raptorial and meat dragons, who the desert people used as livestock. But, because the small changeling dragons only ate the roots of the tall grass, they ended up killing more of the grass than they ate. The grass, which withered away after having its roots eaten, wouldn’t be eaten by raptorial or meat dragons either. To the desert people, who treated the livestock as their biggest assets, they truly were pests.
In reality, the grass which was left behind after its roots were eaten by the changeling dragons became fertilizer for the next generation of plants, but that kind of natural cycle wasn’t commonly understood in this world yet.
Since Zenjirou wasn’t the type to think too deeply about matters like this, he decided to think of them as pests that would cause trouble for the desert people. Having decided this, he began to consider whether they could be used for something instead of just being hunted down for the sake of it.
“What about their skin then? Does the changeling dragons’ skin possess no value?” Zenjirou inquired.
“Sadly, that’s the part with the least value. Since it’s thin to begin with, it’s unreliable as material for armor or boots, no matter how you process it. Even when using it as dragon skin parchment or accessories, the color changes depending on the temperature as I explained earlier, and it becomes extremely ugly.
Well, if it’s exposed to a heat over a certain temperature, the color will be fixed, but it becomes stiff and brittle, and is ultimately useless in the end.” Marquis Pizzani smiled bitterly, but Zenjirou didn’t even register it, too shocked by what the Marquis had said.
“Eh? T-Then you are saying the hide retains the same color-changing properties, even after the dragon itself has died?” Zenjirou asked while startled.
“That’s right. Leather goods are sometimes boiled or exposed to water while being processed. Since it changes its color each time and develops irregular, dotted patterns, it’s quite unsightly. It has no value at all. Moreover, even after processing, it doesn’t stop changing color. Well, it’s almost impressive that something so completely useless exists in this world.” Marquis Pizzani said, continuing to emphasize the changeling dragon’s uselessness.
However, Zenjirou ignored the rest, and muttered, “A natural, heat-sensitive paper…?”
The gears clicked together within Zenjirou’s brain, as a new magic tool took shape in his mind.
(I can’t finalize any details without asking a Bestowal magic expert, but won’t this work? Or rather, why didn’t anyone think of this before now?)
Zenjirou, who had discovered a ray of hope for the situation in an unexpected place, somehow managed to safely finish the conversation afterwards even as the new application for the dragon skin revolved constantly in his mind.
Zenjirou had found a clue to resolving the situation during the social party at the Marquis Pizzani House, but that wasn’t enough to change his objectives, Zenjirou regarded King Bruno, who was one of the highest authorities in this country, and Crown Prince Giuseppe as potential enemies at present. He couldn’t act too unnaturally, to ensure that he didn’t raise their suspicions.
In the end, Zenjirou had a conversation with Princess Margarita that afternoon, finalizing the ceremony of turning his wedding ring into a magic tool, then attended the evening party with Lucretia as his partner at night, just as planned.
“As expected…no matter how much we struggle, this is an aspect the Carpa Kingdom won’t be able to rival.” Zenjirou mumbled, as he escorted Lucretia, dressed in brilliant emerald, while garbed in scarlet himself.
What caught Zenjirou’s attention was a luxurious chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The chandelier, which was made out of polished gold and silver, rivaled the one in the Carpa Kingdom’s royal palace, but it was lit by something that couldn’t be imitated.
『Magic Tool of Light』. Not a magic tool of fire. It was a 『Magic Tool of Light』.
It was something created in collaboration of the Sharrow family with the royal family of another country, which possessed a bloodline magic of light. Even if you were to search the world, it was an object that only existed in that country and the Twin Kingdom. Even the LED stand light that Zenjirou brought into the inner palace would be no match at all against this white light, which illuminated this big hall almost completely with only eight light sources.
As expected of magic. These light sources were a perfect cold light since they didn’t generate any heat at all.
Once he looked around properly, magic tools of 『Motionless Fireball』 had been placed on each of the tables to keep the food warm. Magic tools of 『Mist Generation』 applied a moderate level of humidity to the air, which was circulated with magic tools of 『Wind』.
“Come to think of it, right now it’s the Hottest Season, isn’t it?” Zenjirou asked, having completely forgotten.
“Ufufu, you will not notice the seasons when you’re in the 『Purple Egg Palace』.” Lucretia answered as if it were her own achievement. She held a little tighter onto Zenjirou’s arm.
Just as he had said himself just now, Zenjirou really hadn’t taken note of the season after coming to the Twin Kingdom. Of course it wasn’t as cool as being in a room with air-conditioning, but the palace maintained a comfortable temperature that you could spend your time in normally once you got used to it.
Unlike the Carpa Kingdom with its dense forests, the desert nation Twin Kingdom was dry. Moreover, in contrast to the Carpa Kingdom’s 『Hottest Season』 which had days where the temperature didn’t fall below the average body temperature of a human even in the dead of the night, the temperature fell sharply at night even during the 『Hottest Season』 in the Twin Kingdom. For the most part the nights were easy to bear, but some nights the temperature would fall drastically and it would be too cold to go out in the usual evening attires.
However, Zenjirou had been staying in a detached area of the 『Purple Egg Palace』, so didn’t feel much of a difference in temperature and humidity.
The heat of the day was mitigated using magic tools that circulated water and created mist, which had the added benefit of preventing the air from becoming too dry. During the rare, cold nights, the palace was moderately heated with fire and wind magic tools. As might be expected, there was no magic tool of light in the detached area, but since magic tools of 『Motionless Fireball』 also served as illumination, there was no problem staying up late into the night.
The Twin Kingdom was much better than the Carpa Kingdom at creating a comfortable environment. Of course that was something limited to a small fraction of wealthy nobles and the royal palace who could use expensive magic tools lavishly.
In any case, Zenjirou strode through the big, bright hall with Lucretia on his arm.
He was well aware that people were looking at them, regardless of their age and gender, but no one called out to them. He was thankful that the rule that the higher ranked person must initiate conversation with a lower ranked person was commonly shared across the entire southern continent. On the other hand, it meant that when he wished to form connections and gather information like tonight, he had to actively approach people.
Surveying the vicinity after resolving himself, Zenjirou discovered the figure of a person he recognized.
Even considering her social status, she’s likely a suitable first conversation partner. Coming to that conclusion, Zenjirou approached the woman with Lucretia hanging at his left side.
There was no male partner with her. Apparently she was participating by herself.
“Taraye. What coincidence meeting you here.” Zenjirou said and smiled at the woman in front of him ─ Taraye of the Duke El’Haryuko House.
Taraye was a beauty with rich, wavy, blond hair, and an ample body. She was smiling sweetly, dressed in a gown with a deep plunging neckline, obviously showing off her cleavage.
That beauty bowed respectfully upon hearing Zenjirou’s words, and replied, “Oh my, Your Majesty Zenjirou. I am delighted to have you greet someone like me first.”
With a deep bow that drew his eyes to her cleavage, Taraye, looked up at him with upturned eyes and grinned at him winningly.
If he wasn’t imagining it, there was a grinding sound coming from the teeth of the girl clinging to his left arm. Zenjirou’s only thought was, I’d like you to not start a quarrel on your own accord, okay?
Certainly, a voluptuous beauty like Taraye was in Zenjirou’s strike zone, but the only ones currently occupying Zenjirou’s heart were Aura, his beloved wife, and Carlos Zenkichi, his beloved son. Returning home with a healing practitioner for Aura, and not allowing Carlos Zenkichi to be dragged into the schemes of the Twin Kingdom; these were the only two matters in Zenjirou’s head right now. He, who wasn’t all that intelligent to begin with, didn’t have room for anything else.
“However, Your Majesty, our meeting here definitely can’t be called coincidence. After all, I attend most of the evening parties held in the royal capital.” Taraye said, lifting her head with a sway, reminding one of a snake in some way.
“Hoh? Taraye, you like evening parties?” Zenjirou inquired.
“Rather than a matter of taste, it’s rather advantageous for me to attend. This is a place where the materialistic desires of the people appear on the surface in a manner that’s easy to understand. And at the same time, it serves as the forefront of fashion for clothes and accessories. The information I can gain in places like this is sometimes worth a lot of money.”
Information is not more valuable than money, but rather information can be converted into large sums of money; it was a description very characteristic of Taraye.
“I see. As the rumors suggest, it looks like you possess great business ability, Taraye.” Zenjirou praised.
“Nothing less of Taraye-sama. You have a discerning eye for business that one wouldn’t expect from a lady affiliated to a ducal house.” Lucretia commented.
Zenjirou and Lucretia, the content of their remarks were almost the same, but the emotions behind them were entirely opposite. Unlike Zenjirou, who honestly admired and praised Taraye, Lucretia’s words were more sarcastic, and pointed out how atypical Taraye was for a noble lady.
Listening to the two of them, Taraye’s eyes widened slightly and a visible look of surprise appeared after Zenjirou spoke, even though she showed no reaction to Lucretia’s words at all. Apparently Lucretia’s attitude towards Taraye, who did business like a merchant despite her noble status, was more common than Zenjirou’s.
Zenjirou briefly wondered if he had misjudged her, but he immediately thought, Well, it probably won’t have any effect on the situation anyway.
“By the way, it seems the other three aren’t present?” Zenjirou asked.
“It appears Shura returned to Duke El’Haryuko’s 『ducal capital』 immediately afterwards. Nazim almost never shows up to the royal palace except for official functions. Fikriah has been over there the whole time.” Taraye answered, pointing to her.
In that direction, the small black-haired, black-eyed, woman had seized a servant-like man and was passionately bombarding him with questions.
From his attire, the servant seemed to be a magician serving in the royal palace. Or he might be a magic engineer who had been entrusted with the job of servicing the magic tools that had been set up in the venue.
Only the people of the Sharrow family could create magic tools, but anyone could use them. Having said that, a magician who was allowed to handle the magic tools in the royal palace should be one of the best.
Zenjirou, who grasped the situation, commented vaguely not knowing what to say, “That is…how do I put it…what an unusual way to enjoy an evening party.”
Taraye couldn’t hide a wry smile from Zenjirou doing his best to put it politely, and answered, “I dare say, a new magic tool has been discovered. Fikriah is very…enthusiastic in her pursuit of knowledge about magic.”
“Her intellectual curiosity sure is going at full throttle.” Zenjirou agreed.
Although Zenjirou had tentatively thought that she was one of the honey traps, she hadn’t glanced in his direction even once. Given that Zenjirou had announced in advance that he would attend this evening party, there was no way she didn’t know about his presence, though.
(Was I possibly too self-conscious when I regarded Taraye and the other three as honey traps?)
Zenjirou suddenly arrived at such a thought.
—————– End of Part 2 —————–
During their first meeting, the four were extremely friendly towards him, but looking back on it now, it was only natural to have a certain degree of hospitality when welcoming a royal from another country. At the very least Shura, who’s said to have quickly returned to the 『ducal capital』, and Fikriah, who is still ignoring Zenjirou as she floods a royal magic practitioner with questions even now, could be discounted from the number of honey traps.
(Well, it’s probably a bad idea to be careless just because of that, though. But it would be so much easier if they were all as blunt as Lucretia.)
Zenjirou turned his attention to the blond girl who had been clinging to his left arm for a while now. Lucretia, feeling his gaze, turned to him and smiled back lightly.
“Is anything wrong, Your Majesty?” She asked.
“No, it’s nothing,” Zenjirou shook his head to hide his thoughts, and, “Taraye, please excuse me,” bid farewell from Taraye.
To begin with, he only called out to Taraye since she was a face he recognized.
“Yes, Your Majesty. Please take your time and enjoy yourself.” Taraye answered.
“Yeah, thanks.” Zenjirou said and separated from Taraye.
While slowly and aimlessly walking around, Zenjirou asked Lucretia, “The Sharrow family isn’t attending today’s evening party?”
Encouraged by the thought of Zenjirou relying on her, Lucretia quickly flipped her golden side tail and promptly answered as if it would get her brownie points, “Yes! Today’s sponsor is His Highness Crown Prince Giuseppe, but as he’s actually only lending his name so that the royal palace could be used, the true sponsor is Marquis Pizzani. Marquis Pizzani is holding the evening party as part of the duties of a high-ranking noble, but since he isn’t an overly zealous person, it seems that he will only make an appearance towards the end to extend some greetings.”
“Hmm, I see.” Zenjirou had received a broad explanation about this, but he felt slightly disappointed, now that it was confirmed again.
He had hoped that he might be able to meet a few more prominent people with Crown Prince Giuseppe as the nominal sponsor and Marquis Pizzani as the actual sponsor.
The one who Zenjirou wanted to get in contact with most right now was Prince Vittore, the second son of Crown Prince Giuseppe. And, in order to get to him, he decided on Marchioness Pizzani, the prince’s wet nurse, and Crown Princess Tosca, Prince Vittore’s real mother, as secondary targets.
For this reason, with both their husbands Crown Prince Giuseppe and Marquis Pizzani being listed as attending, he harbored expectations towards this party, but it was apparently a total miss.
If I hold out a bit longer, I might be able to meet with Marquis Pizzani, but I already met him this morning. There’s not much value in meeting him twice in one day.
“I will appropriately greet two or three people, and then retire for the night. Could I leave the choice of people to you, Lucretia?” Zenjirou didn’t have any deep considerations when he said these words, but the girl’s reaction was dramatic.
“! Yes! Please leave it to me! I shall introduce Your Majesty to people who suit your temperament! How about Earl Raymond for starters? He has a gentle character and is of the same age as His Majesty Bruno, so he’s a person with many friends of every age.” She exclaimed excitedly.
“I’ll leave it to you.” Zenjirou said indifferently.
“Yes! This way then!” Lucretia replied eagerly.
In the end, it was Lucretia who achieved the most this evening; being escorted by Zenjirou, and then being entrusted with the privilege to choose the people he greeted.
Lucretia had been assigned as Zenjirou’s caretaker, but that still didn’t mean that her care extended to his bedroom.
“Well then, Your Majesty. Have a good night.” She said.
“You too, Lucretia. I’m sorry to have troubled you today.” Zenjirou, who had somehow managed to safely make it to the end of the day, bid goodbye to the blond-haired girl who had been following him around the whole time, and retired to his bedroom.
The only ones present in the room were his trusted inner palace maids, led by Ines.
Zenjirou heaved a heavy sigh, “I’m exhausted…”
Roughly flinging off his attire from the evening, Zenjirou slumped on a sofa in just a t-shirt and trunks.
“Good work today, Zenjirou-sama.” Ines placed a silver cup with cold water in front of Zenjirou while the young maids quickly put away Zenjirou’s clothes.
“Yeah, thanks.” Draining the water in one go, Zenjirou seemed to regain some energy. He lifted just his head up from his sprawl and addressed the middle-aged maid standing next to him, “Ines.”
“How is the information gathering from the soldiers and maids going?” Zenjirou inquired.
Ines drew one step closer to the sofa, and said, “As it’s only been one day, the information hasn’t been cross-checked, but as far as I’ve heard from Kate, nothing has contradicted what Prince Largo told you. Also, in regards to the 『Fusion faction』, we haven’t managed to gather any information on it since you stressed the importance of discretion. Honestly, it’s difficult to say whether it exists or not.”
“I see…” Zenjirou replied.
As he expected, such confidential information couldn’t be gathered in a day of two.
Because there was no time, Zenjirou was currently operating on the assumption that Prince Largo’s information was correct, but at the same time he had been trying to find evidence supporting that assumption. Calling it supporting evidence sounded grandiose, but in reality they were only collecting the gossip circulating between the soldiers and maids.
He had brought just the guarding knights and soldiers, as well as a minimum number of maids. He did not have the means to establish a flawless espionage network. On top of that there was a time limit in this case.
The magic tool to be gifted to the four Dukes. Zenjirou had been appointed advisor for this decision, and he had at most ten days to work out an answer to tell Crown Prince Giuseppe.
Before that he had to decide who to believe, Crown Prince Giuseppe or Prince Largo.
(Even with optimistic estimates, it’s not possible to gather all the information by then. In the end that means that I will need to decide without all the information at hand.)
Usually Zenjirou would get a stomach ache just from thinking about such heavy responsibility, but this time that didn’t happen.
Putting himself and Aura, who was – while he was loath to admit it – far more resolved and capable than he aside, Zenjirou wasn’t so thoughtless that he would allow himself to carefreely feel a stomach-ache when a child that couldn’t even walk yet was involved.
“What we currently know is that the nobles who frequent the 『Purple Egg Palace』 believe it to be natural for Crown Prince Giuseppe to be enthroned as new king, the majority of the people are not sure but think that Prince Vittore will become the next crown prince, and that everyone is under the impression that Prince Largo, as Crown Prince Giuseppe’s political opponent, is still aiming for the crown so long as there’s a chance.” Ines recounted.
Once he heard Ines’ summary, Zenjirou thought, I see, certainly it seems that none of the information contradicts Prince Largo.
“In that case should I consider what Prince Largo has said to be fact after all? No, but since even Crown Prince Giuseppe hasn’t outright lied, it’s possible that Prince Largo is doing the same. Or rather, the idea of him revealing everything to me, a foreign royal, is too strange…” Zenjirou pondered.
Zenjirou understood less the more he thought about it.
Feeling like he couldn’t find the way out of this mental labyrinth on his own, Zenjirou addressed the middle-aged maid who had begun to be more of a close aide than anything else.
“Has there been anything from King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe?” He inquired.
“At the moment, nothing.” Ines answered.
“Hmm, that’s also very unnatural, isn’t it?” Zenjirou voiced his thoughts.
It was rather unsettling that Crown Prince Giuseppe, who had gone so far as to push an urgent task onto Prince Largo to prevent him from meeting Zenjirou, hadn’t said anything even though the meeting between the two had gone through.
“Was it actually not such an important matter for Crown Prince Giuseppe? Or is Prince Largo’s story a lie after all? Somehow there are too many scheming people on the move. It looks like I’ll end up playing into someone’s hand, no matter what choice I pick.” Zenjirou grumbled.
In response Ines gently said, “Zenjirou-sama, please allow me to make an impertinent remark.” Receiving Zenjirou’s permission, Ines continued, “Aren’t the advantages and disadvantages for you and the Carpa Kingdom what matter most, Zenjirou-sama? With that logic, it would be no problem if you were to deliberately allow yourself to be manipulated by someone as long as doing so would be beneficial for you, right?”
“…I see.” Ines’ words showed Zenjirou how narrow his outlook had been.
He had likely been blinded by the thought of Crown Prince Giuseppe trying to use Carlos Zenkichi as a political tool. His emotions had taken over and Zenjirou had already concluded that, if it was true, then it was absolutely unforgivable.
Considering it calmly, there was no real need to make Crown Prince Giuseppe suffer a painful experience as long as he could secure Carlos Zenkichi’s safety.
Of course, since such 『revenge』 could be carried out through future diplomacy, there was no need to completely abandon the line of thought, but it didn’t need to be achieved at great personal expense. This kind of power play diplomacy didn’t suit Zenjirou anyway.
“The important matters are securing Zenkichi’s safety and making sure that we can definitely call a healing practitioner for the baby in Aura’s belly. Apart from these two objectives, we don’t need to worry about anything else, huh?” Zenjirou stated.
Once he re-established his objectives, his mind became clear. I will ignore the people scheming in places that aren’t directly related to me. If Zenjirou tried to foil those schemes with his meager abilities, and failed, it would instead develop into a terrible disaster.
“In that case, the things I must know are those pertaining to the 『Complete Fusion faction』, I guess. At the very least I have to ascertain whether it really exists. Ideally, I could trust Prince Largo’s words as soon as I have proof of King Bruno and Crown Prince Giuseppe being part of the 『Complete Fusion faction』, but…” Zenjirou assumed.
“『Complete Fusion faction』, you say? Certainly, the distorted foundation of the Twin Kingdom’s political system is the two families being equal, hence I don’t think that it would be strange for people to consider such a thing.” Ines commented.
Having said that, assuming that the present king and the next king belong to that faction, and that it’s unacceptable to go public with that truth, proof could not be obtained through normal means, Zenjirou analyzed.
“However, even though the present king and the next king belong to 『Complete Fusion faction』, the 『Complete Fusion faction』 is a minority group. That makes no sense. If we believe Prince Largo, there are also members of the 『Complete Fusion faction』 among the Jilbell family, right? And yet they remain a minority. That’s odd.” Zenjirou expressed his doubts.
“That’s because it isn’t a political faction that can gain traction in the current situation. If you look at the long history of the Twin Kingdom, kings of the 『Complete Fusion faction』 might have been a minority.” Ines gave her opinion.
Zenjirou clapped his hands, saying, “Ah, I see. I guess it’s an unorthodox ideology given the long history. In that case, now that two generations of kings have the same intention, it would mean for the 『Complete Fusion faction』 that they are welcoming a golden age after spending a long time in obscurity, I suppose.”
Having said all this out loud, Zenjirou suddenly noticed that there was a hint in his own words. The problem was that the kings of the 『Complete Fusion faction』 had never been of two successive generations. It was about what kind of position the 『Third Generation』, who would also be the face of the movement, would take.
“How about the crucial Prince Francesco? Is he also a member of the 『Complete Fusion faction』?” Zenjirou asked.
“I wonder about that. Of course I can’t declare it with absolute certainty, but if you look at His Highness Francesco’s conduct so far, I’d consider that possibility to be low.” Ines replied with a tone that held quite a bit of conviction, despite the leeway in her words.
“Oh, I see. That’s right, isn’t it? In the first place, it was Prince Francesco who created the chance for me to meet with Prince Largo. I guess that means Prince Francesco himself isn’t part of the 『Complete Fusion faction』. Having said that, Prince Francesco is definitely the key here…” After contemplating for a bit, Zenjirou decided something, and looked up at Ines with an uncharacteristically sharp expression, stating, “Ines, I’d like to get in contact with Prince Francesco as naturally as possible. Do you know any good methods for that?”
Hearing her master’s request, the capable maid tilted her head slightly to one side, and very readily answered, “Isn’t it best to do nothing in that case?”
Seeing Zenjirou’s sharp face changing into one of a dunce in an instant, Ines patiently explained, “I can’t believe that a person like His Highness Francesco would be able to control himself and say nothing in a situation like this. Going by our experience with him so far, isn’t it obvious that he will contact us himself if we wait a little?”
“Ah, that’s true. But, time is really limited. I’d like to get in touch with him as quickly as possible.” Zenjirou countered.
“Can you specify how quickly exactly? I believe that His Highness Francesco will be able to hold back for several days at most.” Ines asked back.
“Ah…” Due to Ines’ overwhelmingly persuasive advice, Zenjirou yielded and said, “I guess I will watch the situation for two or three days then,” with a disappointed voice.
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