A few months had passed since Zenjirou made his debut into higher society at the banquet without any problems.
Even in Carpa Kingdom, a southern country, the days with temperatures of over forty degrees during the day and over thirty-five degrees during the night didn’t last forever.
Recently the highest temperature during the day was a bit over thirty degrees and during the night, the average temperature dropped down to around twenty-five degrees. It were pleasant times.
With temperatures like that, the fan was good enough during the day even without ice and the nights weren’t stifling even without countermeasures against the heat.
The Carpa Kingdom didn’t have easily distinguishable “four seasons” like Japan, but various changes could be spotted from a look out of the window of the inner palace.
When Zenjirou had just transferred into this world, the flower bed had been filled with big-bloomed yellow or red flowers, but now flowers with small blue or purple petals were blooming on it and the shadows from the sunlight had grown a bit longer, too. Likewise, the gnats he had fought off with the bug repellent on the window ledge a few months ago were spotted fewer times now and the kind of birds, chirping during the evening, changed as well.
There was not enough change to warrant an assignment of “four season”, but one may roughly call this a “change of season”.
Anyway, it was certain that it had become remarkable more comfortable compared to his arrival.
However, Zenjirou currently was in no state to fully enjoy this calm season.
He slept, curled up in a ball on the bed like a foetus, in the dark bedroom with all the wooden shutters of the windows closed since noon.
“Hah, Hah, Hah…”
His breathing was rough and his exhalation hot. His cheeks were flushed and a constant sweat oozed from his forehead and neck. Even when it had gotten colder, the temperature should still be around thirty degrees during the day, yet his body was covered by a down-filled quilt up to his chin and still shivered from an unbearable coldness even in this situation.
Before long, an electronic sound unknown to this world quietly beeped under the quilt.
Zenjirou barely caught that sound and rummaged about under the blanket, then took out the thermometer pinched under his armpit and held it up to his face.
The number displayed on the digital thermometer was two degrees above his average body temperature.
* * *
Zenjirou was down with a fever.
The first actions Aura took after she received these news shortly before lunch, was to prohibit the waiting maids working in the inner palace from leaving the inner palace and to check her own constitution.
Of course she was worried about her sick husband, but she was a Queen. Her own well-being took priority over nursing the Prince Consort.
Aura had suspended her duties for now and returned to her own chamber in the palace. There she immediately called for the royal court physician to get herself examined.
Aura sat in a chair woven from vines with her mouth opened widely to show her throat. The old physician told her “Yes, thank you” and she closed her mouth.
“How is it?”
“Yes, everything is alright. Or at least, you are showing no symptoms at this point, Your Highness.”
The old physician showed a soft smile and answered Aura’s simple question.
“I see. Well done.”
Aura kept her stern and daunting expression upon the physician’s answer, but inwardly she made a sigh of relief.
Good. The medical treatment wasn’t all that advanced in this world, so the physician’s assurance gave no definite peace of mind, but judging by his tone, she wouldn’t have to worry for now.
Now that her own well-being had been confirmed, Aura could speak as a wife instead of a Queen.
“Then check on my ill husband in the inner palace next.”
Males were forbidden in the inner palace, but the medical staff was one of the few exceptions. As the Carpa Kingdom was a patriarch society, a “female physician” was unheard-of. Due to that, the physicians had to be made an exception to the ban of males or otherwise the residents of the inner palace wouldn’t be able to get any treatment when they fell sick.
“Yes. I will do everything in my might.”
The aged physician complied with a soft smile and left with the Queen’s permission.
In exchange for him, Aura’s personal secretary Fabio Debache entered the room.
“Excuse me, Your Highness. How did it turn out?”
Aura smiled a bit at the middle-aged secretary with the slender face and nodded once.
“Good, everything is alright with me. I sent Doctor Michelle on the way to examine my husband. Depending on his illness, I am thinking of using the ‘Imbued Stone of Cure’, but let me hear your opinion about it.”
“Imbued Stone of Cure”. Secretary Fabio raised one eyebrow upon hearing that term, but nodded right away and stated his opinion.
“Very well. I cannot say anything definite without hearing Doctor Michelle’s diagnosis, but if Zenjirou-sama should suffer from a serious illness, there is only one course of action we can take then. Our country cannot afford to lose him at the present time.”
The “Imbued Stone of Cure” was a magical tool made in the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, located in the central area of the southern continent.
The royal lineage of Sharrow had their “bestowal magic” while the pope lineage of Jilbell had “healing magic”. The “Imbued Stone of Cure” could be considered the fruit of joining together their two magic techniques, and had a tremendous effect.
Of course, it couldn’t re-grow a limp you had been bereaved of or recover any of the five senses you may have lost, but only a handful of sick people ever passed away after using the “Imbued Stone of Cure”.
In this world, where the medical treatment was only on the level of the medieval Arab world, it was an “omnipotent medicine” that even surpassed the latest medical science of the twenty-first century. Furthermore, only ten or so people in this world could produce it, so it went without saying that each “Imbued Stone of Cure” had a price that could bankrupt a small country.
The Carpa Kingdom was an eminent and large kingdom that dominated the western part of the southern continent and was on fairly good terms with the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, but even so, they only possessed three “Imbued Stones of Cure” at present.
The price was ridiculous high for one, but the item was so valuable that there was no guarantee that you could purchase one, even if you readied all that money. That was the “Imbued Stone of Cure”.
“I see. It makes it easier for me to hear that.”
Aura’s expression revealed a peace of mind on Secretary Fabio’s answer.
Aura herself had immediately considered to use the “Imbued Stone of Cure” in the moment she heard that Zenjirou had fallen ill, but she found herself unable to tell if that judgment had been done by her emotions as a wife or by her reasoning as a Queen.
With a calm mind, any noble would be able to tell that Zenjirou’s death would be a fatal blow to the country when Aura still hadn’t give birth to a child.
In other words, Aura was agitated so much that she couldn’t make such an “obvious decision” anymore.
It was alright to use the “Imbued Stone of Cure” when the necessity arose. Aura regained her usual composure thanks to that conclusion and rested her right elbow on the armrest of her chair with her chin on its hand.
“At any rate, my husband still looked fine this morning when I woke up. I wonder what kind of illness got him.”
“Judging by the fact that you were not infected although you are sharing the bed with him, I believe it is quite likely that it is the kind of illness you only catch once, one you already caught it in the past.”
Aura mused about Secretary Fabio’s word with her chin still on her hand.
An illness you didn’t catch again after suffering from it once.
Aura, too, have had a few illnesses like that in the past.
“One day I caught an illness you suffer only once from in your life. I had been all well in the morning, but just before noon, I got sick… Maybe he caught that?”
The condition of “suddenly taking a turn for the worse, even though everything was fine in the morning” added to Secretary Fabio’s idea, narrowed the illnesses Aura could think of down to one.
As Secretary Fabio was more composed than Aura, he must have concluded the name of the illness long ago.
“Just as you assume, I dare to say.”
The secretary answered with a monotone voice and an inexpressive look as always.
Aura felt the power drain from her body upon hearing his words.
If Zenjirou’s illness was really “that one”, all her worries so far would come to nothing. “That one” wasn’t a lethal illness. If anything, it was actually a good thing that he caught “that one”.
Aura’s assumption was then backed up by the words of Doctor Michelle when he returned from the inner palace before long.
“Zenjirou-sama has caught the ‘Blessing of the Forest’.”
The name of an illness with a mortality rate close to zero left the physician’s mouth. Hearing it, Aura refrained from looking up to the ceiling from the overwhelming exhaustion and told Doctor Michelle “Good, well done” with an austere expression.
In the back, Secretary Fabio showed a sly smile with one corner of his mouth raised as he easily saw through the consternation of the Queen.
* * *
“Aura, what’s the ‘Blessing of the Forest’?”
Aura had ended her duties in the palace earlier to visit her husband, who was down with a fever, and went to the inner palace. There Zenjirou still laid dead tired on the big bed and asked with a weak voice, only directing his eyes at her.
It was still evening, but since the window shutters were closed as not to let the open air in, there was no way to tell the situation outside.
Only one LED floor lamp was spending light as to make it more comfortable for Zenjirou to sleep. And even that was dimmed by a thick cloth over the lampshade.
Amidst this dim room, Aura sat in the chair that stood besides the bed and intently wiped the sweat from Zenjirou’s forehead or neck with the towel she had brought over from the refrigerator while answering his question.
“Simply put, it is a local disease that has spread here since forever. It is hardly virulent and rarely anyone dies from it unless maybe an infant or old person.
Moreover, you never catch it again after having it once and strangely enough, a lot of people, who had it, show weaker symptoms on other illnesses later on, so it is called the ‘Blessing of the Forest’.”
Zenjirou somehow comprehended Aura’s words even though his head was spinning from the fever, and unconsciously spoke out his impression.
“Uwah… If I were to bring my body, infected with the virus and full of antibodies, back to Earth, I would get a Nobel prize…?”
Even on Earth, there were illnesses like measles or chicken pox, which you generally didn’t catch again after having it once, but it was truly fantasy-like that antibodies, which dramatically worked against other illnesses, too, were created as a result.
That aside, it were truly great news that this illness was “rarely lethal”. Zenjirou had been crippled by the fear over an illness in the different world, but now he forgot the pain in the joints of his body for a moment and smiled faintly.
“I see. So I’ll get better with just some sleep. …About how long will it take?”
“Hmm, three days at the earliest and seven days at the latest.”
In short, it would take him about five days to recover. He could get up if he really wanted to, but it sure was kind of tedious to have this physical condition last for five days.
As the joints in his body were aching, it was uncomfortable even when he was laying down and due to the high fever, he was sweating non-stop, yet when he was drinking water, his throat smarted as it was swollen.
He would feel better after some sleep, but he wasn’t the least bit sleepy due to the discomfort and pain in his joints. The symptoms resembled a bad cold.
(Still, you’re gonna feel like shit for a week at worst, but does really ‘no one die from it’? Seeing their level of civilisation, I would think they drop like flies)
Zenjirou’s feverish brain suddenly came up with this doubt.
Surviving a few days in bed with a fever of over thirty-eight degrees was feasible for an average household in modern Japan, since it had doctors, medicine and a balanced nutrition.
For example, Zenjirou considered his current condition life-threatening enough for the lower class with poor nutrition.
And he wasn’t wrong about that.
The reason this illness was nonchalantly called “Blessing of the Forest” was that the symptoms were far weaker when you caught it while still young. The body temperature would raise to about thirty-seven degrees at the most.
For that reason, parents with young children deliberately got them infected with the “blessing” when someone caught the “Blessing of the Forest” in town.
Of course, some boys and girls lost against the “Blessing of the Forest” and died, but one had no choice but to accept that. If the child couldn’t even overcome the “Blessing of the Forest”, it wouldn’t reach adulthood anyway. The parents deceived their own hearts by telling themselves that.
Anyway, these circumstances of the lower class had hardly any relation to Zenjirou.
“Reminds me, the waiting maids were being troubled. Would you at least allow them entry until you have recovered? That would ease my mind as well.”
Aura phrased a question she had suddenly recalled, whereat Zenjirou turned on top of the bed and showed an unpleasant expression on a rare occasion.
“Aw, if possible, I would rather not have that. To be honest, I don’t feel like getting better when people scurry around me…”
On the other hand, Aura, too, showed a bewildered expression on a rare occasion and persuaded her wilful husband.
“However, in your condition you cannot even eat or relieve yourself on your own. You need someone nursing you.”
Right now, Aura had specially taken some time off to attend to him like this, but as the Queen, she was originally in no position to do work like this. Looking after royalty was the job of the attendants, not the family.
As his throat hurt considerable, he could only reply with a feeble voice, but he rather stubbornly refused to accept Aura’s suggestion.
Aura called out to him again, so he strained his aching throat and confessed by squeezing out a small voice.
“You know, I’ve rather frayed nerves when sick. With a bit of carelessness, I start venting my displeasure on others or getting wilful.
I don’t want to do that… so I prefer to be alone…”
It wasn’t all that uncommon that a person got a sensibility different from usual when sick in bed.
Their body was weakened by the illness and it affected their mentality, too. So a lot of people got abnormally timid or felt lonely for no reason.
In Zenjirou’s case, it manifested as aggression.
The soup was too hot, the towel for wiping his body was lukewarm and so on. He started to curse every little thing. To begin with, the fact itself that others were healthy, even though he was going through such a hard time, was hateful.
As a child, he had always caused his parents trouble when he caught a fever.
Needless to say, Zenjirou was now a grown-up man at a good age. Even when he was weakened in mind and body, his mentality wasn’t so weak that he would propagate an absurd aggression to his usual milieu. He didn’t propagate it, but it was tiring to suppress that urge.
So it was better to be alone, even if it was a bit inconvenient. He didn’t even want Aura to be by his side right now. Or rather, he didn’t want her of all people to be here right now. If he were to act like a selfish kid in front of his good wife… it would take him a long time to recover on an emotional level after recovering from his illness.
“It’s okay… I can change my clothes by myself and I’ll ring the bell for the toilet…”
Zenjirou rejected it outright with a feeble voice, whereat Aura raised a voice, still not convinced.
She considered it part of the job of a waiting maid or butler to be yelled at unreasonably by their master. However, Aura had gotten a good grasp on Zenjirou’s values in the past few months.
The man called Zenjirou considered it a sacrilege to cause others unreasonable trouble. Moreover, the status of the other party didn’t matter in doing so. That applied to royalty and nobility, of course, but likewise to the waiting maids, who were nothing more than mere attendants.
Considering these values of him, she could easily predict that he would be in anguish later on if he ended up venting his displeasure on the waiting maids.
“…Fine. I will tell them to keep coming here to a minimum.”
After a moment of musing, Aura gave in.
Then Aura spoke out her next words kind of unconscious.
“It is nearly time for dinner. Is there anything you would like to eat?”
A nonchalant question. She surely only said it out of kindness.
The weakened Zenjirou reflexively revealed his wish upon her words.
“Porridge… I want porridge with either dried plums or an egg and soy sauce.”
Porridge for the sick.
It was an all too natural association for a Japanese. However, the typical Japanese food for sick people was nothing but an unknown dish in this world.
“Porritch? What is that? Dryte plums? I know of eggs, but what is soi sauce?”
Aura tilted her head in puzzlement. Even with his thoughts dulled by the fever, Zenjirou could easily catch her reaction. His words just now didn’t get through to her at all. Judging by the fact that the automatic translation of the soul of words didn’t work either, there must be no equivalent for “dried plums” and “soy sauce” in their language.
He replied to Aura with a faint smile.
“Mm, I don’t have the energy to explain it now… Later then, okay. And anything’s fine. I’ll eat everything.”
Zenjirou remembered that the homemade dried plums of his aunt were in the refrigerator, but dried plums alone wouldn’t make a difference. The Carpa Kingdom did cultivate wheat, but there was apparently no custom of turning it into porridge. Even if he had them prepare a special wheat porridge for him and added dried plums to it, there was no guarantee it would taste good.
He ought to save the development of new dishes for when he had a bit more energy.
(Guess I’ll deal with it a bit more serious when I feel better…)
While such thoughts crossed his mind, Aura stood up from the chair with a smooth movement and said.
“…Okay. I will tell the kitchen to prepare you a special meal.”
“Mm, can’t wait…”
Aura wiped the sweat from his forehead with a towel once more before leaving the room, whereat Zenjirou responded like that with a weak and forced smile.
When Aura left and closed the door behind her with a clatter, Zenjirou was all alone in the dim bedroom.
He fumbled his way to the table next to the bed with his hand, took the 500ml PET bottle, which was filled with boiled water that had cooled down, from it, opened the lid and raised it to his mouth.
His throat stung just from swallowing the lukewarm water. Still, he knew how dangerous it was when he didn’t take in some water after his body sweated so much, so he endured the pain and drank the water.
After emptying the bottle halfway through, Zenjirou close it again and put it back onto the bed table.
This PET bottle stemmed from the mineral water he had packed into his backpack along with the survival tools and emergency provision for his second summoning.
Back in Japan it would just be recyclable garbage, but in this world, the small container, too, was a valuable item.
It was light, didn’t break when dropped and didn’t spill anything when closed. An extremely convenient utensil. Zenjirou would’ve a lot more trouble drinking water without it.
A repetitive use invoked a hygienic uncertainty, even if washed carefully, so it couldn’t be utilized for long, but it was pure gold in an emergency like this.
Zenjirou had refreshed his dry throat in exchange for a stinging pain, then he plunged his face into his pillow and writhed while aware that he sweated all over his body.
(Aww, what came over me!? Wanting porridge in a different world… Am I an snotty brat or what!?)
Thankfully Aura was an understanding person, who could read the mood. If she had stayed, he might have demanded “canned peaches” next.
Zenjirou didn’t evaluate himself all too highly to begin with, but he had never thought that he would lack so much self-control as to reveal such a stupid selfishness. His self-loathing reached a fatal level, in all seriousness.
(Aw, damn. I’ve to get better quickly or my mind will break…)
Still plunged into his pillow, he kept regretting his verbal slip in anguish.
However, that, too, was a blessing in disguise. After a while of engulfing himself in a self-loathing so strong that he forgot the drowsiness of the fever and even the pain in his joints, Zenjirou let his consciousness sink into the abyss of sleep without him knowing about it.
“…Good grief. Have I really been paying attention to my husband until now?”
Around the same time in the living room of the inner palace, Aura, too, engulfed herself in a self-loathing that was in no way inferior to Zenjirou’s, after leaving the bedroom, then reflected on herself.
Aura sat down in the couch of the living room with a thump, showing unsightly wrinkles around her nose.
As a bit of her irritation had subdued from sitting down, Aura cast her eyes down with a calm expression now and grumbled.
“Porritch, dryte plums and soi sauce, was it? Since the soul of words is not working, letting someone look for it will… already be impossible, I bet.”
Her sick husband had automatically voiced his desired food and she couldn’t even prepare that for him. Not just that, she didn’t even know his preferences in food, so her self-loathing became even worse.
“An unknown land, unfamiliar clothes and obscure food…”
Aura imagined Zenjirou’s situation anew and felt gloomy.
In the previous war, she herself had commanded the expeditionary troops for a long time far away from the Carpa Kingdom, so she could empathize with how bad it was for the mind and body to be unable to eat the accustomed food for a long time.
That tendency became quite apparent in wounded soldiers with a weakened spirit. Any military officer knew that the second most frequent last words from a dying soldier in the expeditionary troops were about their “hometown food”, only exceeded by their “family”.
“…In the end, I am nothing but compelling inconveniences on him.”
A dejected voice unconsciously left Aura’s mouth when her reflecting ended.
She knew that wasn’t the case.
Aura had no recollections of forcing him into coming to this world and in fact, Zenjirou had made the decision to come here all by himself.
When she thought back on it with a calmer mind, she couldn’t recall that Zenjirou had ever showed any signs of regretting his own choice or lamenting about any inconveniences as he lived in the inner palace.
As far as Aura was aware, he was always having fun. Especially during the nights, where they had physical contact, he was making a happy face that was overflowing with euphoria and satisfaction. She could claim at least that much with confidence.
To shake off her melancholy, Aura stretched herself on the couch.
“Right. My husband is by no means unhappy. I am just a tad too negative. Still…”
She then mused once more about her actions so far from a different rational point of view than before.
“Still, I believe it is alright to grant my husband’s request to a reasonable extent. It would be a problem if he were to ask to be send back to his world because of homesickness, since it would not only throw the royal family into disarray, but also the whole Kingdom.”
Aura neatly combined her emotions as a wife with the sense of duty as a Queen, and told herself that.
* * *
The South Continent knew of an animal called “Small Flying Dragon”.
Like its name implied, it was a rather small dragon amongst the winged dragons (the kind of dragon that flies through the sky), and was as big as a crow at most. From the four kind of dragons that human succeeded in turning into livestock, it was the only winged type.
Incidentally, the other three kinds were the “raptorial dragon”, the “Hulking Dragon” and the “Meat Dragon”. All of them were important and indispensable livestock, each sustaining the human lifestyle.
To be more specific, the “Raptorial Dragon” was used in battle and as a means of transport. The “Hulking Dragon” was used for labour and the “Meat Dragon” had the role to provide meat for consumption.
In terms of the livestock on Earth, the “Raptorial Dragon” equalled a “horse”, the “Hulking Dragon” a “cattle” and the “Meat Dragon” a “pig”.
Then, what was the “Small Flying Dragon” good for? It was a “means of communication”.
Basically, it fulfilled the same role as “carrier pigeons” on Earth in old times.
Compared to the general means of communication, namely a messenger delivering a letter directly on a “Raptorial Dragon”, it lacked reliability since there was a high possibility that the letter wasn’t delivered due to some unforeseen accident, but its speed was overwhelming.
The “Small Flying Dragon” didn’t even take half a day for a distance for which a couple of mounted messengers needed five days without rest in a relay team.
Such a “Small Flying Dragon” arrived from the eastern border station at the palace with a letter at noon that day.
“A message from the eastern border, you say?”
In the afternoon of the same day, Aura was working on her duties in her office when she received the news from Secretary Fabio and tilted her head puzzled.
“Yes. A ‘Small Flying Dragon’ from the border station in the east just arrived with this letter.”
Saying so, the middle-aged secretary with a slender face put three wooden cylinder, each the size of the little finger, onto the table.
The letters inside were most likely all the same. The “Small Flying Dragon” was in danger of getting lost or being preyed on by a larger flying dragon, so it was customary that various of them were entrusted with delivering the same message.
Aura took one of them and opened it, retrieving the thin dragon-skin parchment from within. The commander of the border station went out of his way to send precious “Small Flying Dragons”, so something relatively urgent must have happened.
After she read through the parchment with a bad feeling, Aura made a small sigh.
On her secretary’s call, Aura wordlessly held out the small dragon-skin parchment to him. It was typical that the information was hardly confidential, even if it was urgent, because a “Small Flying Dragon” could be intercepted by the enemy despite its overwhelming speed.
So it wasn’t all that strange that Secretary Fabio, a retainer of Aura, was allowed to read it.
Taking the dragon-skin parchment, Secretary Fabio read the small scrap and let the corner of his mouth twitch.
“Earlier this morning, Her Highness Princess Isabelle from the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell has arrived at the eastern fort together with her personal guards of three-hundred men. She requested entry into the country, so according to the treaty, I allowed it under the condition of disarming in the urban areas. Furthermore, three-hundred of the cavalry from the fort will accompany Her Highness Isabelle as guards, too.”
After that text followed the date on which the letter had been written and the sign of the commander in charge of the eastern fort.
While Secretary Fabio read the first parchment, Aura confirmed the contents of the remaining two wooden cylinders just in case and as expected, they contained the exact same message as the first.
Secretary Fabio read the short letter a few times as not to miss anything and then spoke with a flat voice.
“A visit by Her Highness Isabelle, mhm. Does it mean that amongst the royalty or nobility in the bordering countries, someone is so sick that he requires the power of Her Highness itself?”
“Yeah, I would say so. A lot of money must have flown for Princess Isabelle herself to make an appearance.”
Aura gave her consent to the words of the secretary, which had been phrased as a question.
Just like her name revealed, she was the Princess of the pope lineage of Jilbell, one of the two royal families in the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell located in the central area of the South Continent.
As the current pope, older than sixty years, was her father, she herself also had passed her 40s, even if she was called a princess. She was already a mother of three children, but it should be emphasized that she was one of the handful of people amongst the royalty that could use “healing magic”.
A lot of people visited the Twin Kingdom to receive the grace of the “healing magic” from the pope lineage of Jilbell. However, it went without saying that hardly anyone, who was at the point of death from an injury or illness, could make his way from his homeland to the capital of the Twin Kingdom.
Then what was a person, who was so sick that he couldn’t leave his sickbed, supposed to do? It was quite plain. He summoned someone from the pope lineage. With the kind of sum that would make a minister of finance go pale in the face.
“Three-hundred as an escort, huh. Judging by that small number, they must carry quite the number of ‘magic tools’.”
“Yes, without doubt. I do not know which country is involved, but they genuinely seem to be on the watch.”
“Investigate it at once. In some cases, a coup might occur in a bordering country.”
When someone from the Jilbell lineage headed to a patient in a different country, an abnormal number of guards usually accompanied that person.
The number went up or down a bit depending on the distance to the destination and friendly relationships with that country, but approximately a thousand elite knights were considered to be the minimum. The reason why people from the pope lineage took a number of guards, which appeared excessive on a glance, with them, could be understood right away with a bit of thinking.
The people from the pope lineage were the only ones in the world, who could use “healing magic”. It was more than obvious that royalty or nobility “wouldn’t want to let go” of the existence that had saved them from the clutches of death.
In fact, there had been various cases in the past, where a visiting person of the pope lineage had been confined, announcing that “he (or she) wished to migrate to said country”.
Having learned from that past, the Jilbell family now had made it an absolute condition that an usually armed escort was always allowed to accompany the person from the Jilbell pope lineage into the country when they travelled to a different country. That escort was strong enough to deal no insufficient damage to the visiting country if they should make any shady moves.
(Needless to say, the country in question had to shoulder the travel/lodging expenses for these guards.)
However, the bigger the troops, the slower they moved. In some cases, sick people, who could originally been saved, died because the delegation of around a thousand people took too long.
The trump card dispatched for such cases was the knights with “magic tools” that Aura had mentioned just now.
These knights matched a thousand people as they were armed with “magic tool” that were created by the other royal family in the Twin Kingdom: the Sharrow lineage. It was possible to cut back on the number of escorts a lot by dispatching them and as a result, the troops moved faster.
In other words, you could conclude from the small number of escorts that the patient was in such a critical condition.
“Either way, the treatment must already be over and they are on their way home, seeing as they are heading our way. Shall I arrange your schedule, so that you have time to use the ‘Space-Time Magic’?”
“Yes, do that.”
The secretary bowed down a bit to the sighing words of the Queen.
The reason why Princess Isabelle visited the Carpa Kingdom was obvious. She must have wanted Aura to send her back to the capital of the Twin Kingdom with the “teleportation” magic.
The movement through “teleportation” ignored any detours, thus saved time and stilled the fears of a travel.
The “teleportation” magic was a large magic that required a great amount of magical power and a long chant, so it couldn’t be used all that easily, but Aura could hardly refuse a request from the Princess of the pope lineage of Jilbell.
It was a good occasion to have a master of the “healing magic” owe her one. If anything, Aura would gladly welcome her as a guest under normal circumstances.
“The problem is my husband.”
After she said that, she placed one hand against her chin and became absorbed in thought.
Zenjirou had caught the “Blessing of the Forest” yesterday and currently was the very picture of a sick person.
“Considering the distance to the eastern fort, I guess Princess Isabelle will arrive here in five days?”
“Yes, more or less. Zenjirou-sama might not have recovered from the ‘Blessing of the Forest’ by then if it drags on.”
Recovering from the symptoms of the “Blessing of the Forest” took at least three days and seven at worst. As Zenjirou’s symptoms were more serious, it was quite likely that he would still be bed-stricken when Princess Isabelle arrived.
Aura contorted her face a bit.
“…How troublesome. I am not all that keen to let a foreign person into the room of my husband. I guess we should prepare an extra bedroom for the worst case and have my husband stay there during Princess Isabelle’s visit.”
The room Zenjirou normally lived in was filled with the electronic appliances he had brought along. If possible, she didn’t want to spread its information, even if she didn’t think that anyone could do anything with it right away after knowing about it.
The simplest solution to this was to have Zenjirou live in a different room for a little while. The inner palace was originally built to house several women, but at present, Zenjirou was the only one living there, so there were enough empty rooms.
“That would be playing it safe. After all, we can hardly afford to refuse Her Highness Isabelle to pay him a sick visit.”
Secretary Fabio expressed a genuine consent to Aura’s suggestion.
The “Blessing of the Forest” was certainly not lethal and it strengthened your body against other illnesses, so it was wiser not to cure it with “healing magic”.
However, there were plain spells like “stamina recovery” or “mental calming” amongst the “healing magic” that eased the patient’s pain without curing the illness itself.
There was no reason to refuse Princess Isabelle if she were to express the desire to pay him a sick visit.
“If it comes to that, my husband will have to meet with Princess Isabelle in his feverish condition.”
Zenjirou became a bit snappy when sick, just like he had said himself. Usually his reasoning and self-control were working admirable well, but for the moment, they tended to break down a bit.
Princess Isabelle might look like a somewhat clean-limbed and refined lady in her middle years, but at heart, she was a “healer” with nearly thirty years of experience and a trueborn member of the Jilbell royal lineage.
She was big-hearted enough to forgive the rude attitude of a sick person, but likewise, she was formidable enough to try to squeeze out any information from that attitude.
“I just hope that no trouble arises…”
Aura herself was kind of aware that the possibility of actually nothing happening was rather low while she mumbled that.
* * *
Six days later.
Aura had showed Princess Isabelle in her private chamber in the palace and made some private conversation in form of a pleasant talk with her.
The delegation of Princess Isabelle had arrived at the Royal Carpa Palace yesterday evening. The official greeting had been dealt with in the audience room this morning, but they couldn’t talk freely to each other at a public location.
Thus, the first words of Princess Isabelle had been like this:
“It has been a while, Your Highness Aura. First of all, let me congratulate you on your marriage.”
The middle-aged woman with a bit of plumpness said so while sitting on the leather couch, then lowered her head a bit in a refined gesture.
In the audience room, the two women had been clad in tight formal attires, but now they had changed into dresses with few ornaments.
Aura wore a dark red long-dress without sleeves while Isabelle had chosen a white dress with half sleeves that was relatively loose.
In the Carpa Kingdom, wearing a white dress was a special privilege for young ladies or brides, so ladies at a certain age refrained from wearing one, but in the Twin Kingdom, the white colour represented the Jilbell royal lineage, so the people from the pope lineage wore clothes based around the colour white under normal circumstances.
The design of her dress, just like the colour, was quite different from the fashion of the Carpa Kingdom as well. A long-dress with slits or a long wrap skirt were typical in the Carpa Kingdom, but Isabelle’s dress had a miniscule opening around the chest and concluded in a flared skirt.
Quite the contrast to a Carpa Kingdom dress, which was so revealing around the neck that the cleavage could be seen.
“Yes, thank you. The ceremony took place without problems. I am grateful about the generous wedding gift from the Twin Kingdom.”
Aura answered like that without lowering head, throwing out her chest instead. Age-wise, Princess Isabelle was more than ten years older than her, but Aura’s status as the head of the country made her the overwhelming social superior. Princess Isabelle was nothing more than one of the countless royalty.
She smiled elegantly by putting one hand in front of her mouth a bit.
This gesture made her appear more as a madam from a mercantile house than a member of a royal family.
“I am glad that it was to your liking, Your Highness. Originally, etiquette dictates that I myself should have participated in the celebration, but an urgent matter had occupied me… I will definitely make it up to you at a later point.”
“I take it that I cannot make you tell me about that ‘urgent matter’ as a way of compensation?”
Princess Isabelle showed not the slightest agitation towards Aura’s slightly provocative words and hedged it.
“Yes. It involved my credibility as a ‘healer’, so even if it is a request by Your Highness, I ask for your pardon on this matter.”
She used a meek smile and meek tone to make a firm refusal.
Who suffered which illness at what point.
Royalty or nobility of other countries would surely not ask the Jilbell lineage for treatment, if such information was spread flippantly. After all, there was no royalty or nobility that didn’t love to behave secretively.
The Jilbell lineage possessed a morale that was close to the “medical confidentiality”, to vaguely put it in the words of modern society.
Aura had known from the beginning that there was no way that Isabelle would agree and abandoned the topic at once.
“I see, too bad. That reminds me, there is something I would like you to take a look at, Princess.”
Aura then said with an expression as if she had suddenly thought of it and rang the bell on the table.
The door opened at once and Secretary Fabio appeared as he had probably stood outside the whole time to await orders.
“Yes. Bring me the ‘rings’ of my husband and I, as well as the ‘certain items’.”
“Yes, very well.”
Princess Isabelle tilted her head puzzled, whereat Aura smiled meaningful.
“Indeed. The country of my husband apparently has a custom, where the man presents the woman a pair ring. On this occasion, I would like to make these rings into some kind of ‘magic tool’.”
“Oh my, how wonderful. In that case, I will personally attend to the matter. When I forward your request to the Sharrow Family, I will put in a good word for you.”
While they were having such a conversation, the door was knocked and Secretary Fabio returned with a silver tray in his right hand.
“Excuse me. I have brought them.”
“Thanks. Put them there.”
Secretary Fabio put the silver tray onto the table between Aura and Isabelle and retreated after a bow.
The tray had two rings and two pouches on it.
Princess Isabelle made a slightly dubious look when she saw the pouches, but her eyes obviously widened in surprise in the next moment when she let her gaze wander to the rings.
“You may take them in hand. Let me hear your honest opinion.”
Aura prompted her with a broad grin, whereupon Isabelle took one of the rings and held it up against the sunlight coming in from the window.
The diamonds and gold on the ring from the different world sparkled in the sunlight.
The wedding ring that Zenjirou had given Aura was a wide ring with diamonds embedded into it.
Three small colourless and brilliant diamonds were embedded next to each other into a yellow-golden socket.
At first, Zenjirou had considered to choose pink diamonds to match Aura’s eyes and hair according to the recommendation of the jeweller clerk, but vibrant pink diamonds were shockingly expensive. He could have afforded some other types with a reddish tint with his budget, but instead of compromising on the colour, he had chosen the standard colourless diamonds in the end.
“How beautiful… Are these gems crystals?”
“No, they are diamonds.”
“Diamonds!? In such a shape?”
Unbecoming for a lady, Princess Isabelle raised a surprised voice. But it was understandable.
The gem called diamond existed in this world, too, but there were no common techniques to polish them. All the diamonds currently in existence had been cut with magic by an ancient earth archmage.
Even if the archmage from olden times were to be resurrected into the present time, it would be impossible for him to cut it into a polyhedron that emitted the most vibrant and beautiful radiance according to calculations of incident and reflective light.
The cutting techniques for gems advanced along with the development of precise machines. It was absolutely impossible to reproduce it in this world, even with the help of the irregular power called magic.
The same could be said for the golden socket.
“I wonder how these well-matched lines were carved so detailed…”
The fashionable wedding ring had simple, but systematic lines like the shading in a manga, engraved on the surface. Princess Isabelle’s home country, the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell was the leading power on the continent in regards to gems, but despite that, no one there would be able to reproduce something like this.
The jeweller crafts of this world were in no way inferior in a broad artistic sense, rather, the reproduction was impossible due to the simple problem of technology.
It was the same as telling the world’s best calligrapher to write tidier characters than on a computer.
Aura inwardly made a sigh of relief as Princess Isabelle’s reaction told her that her conjecture hadn’t been wrong.
(I knew it. It fascinates someone with an eye for it)
When Aura had looked at the ring Zenjirou gave her in their wedding night again under the morning sun the next day, she also had exclaimed a surprise not much different from Princess Isabelle’s just now.
The workmanship was just too detailed. The three gems emitted a bright radiance from every angle.
Aura explained herself at once to Zenjirou when he woke up and smile at her happily, and convinced him not to wear the rings ordinarily.
Its radiance was just too bright. If Aura were to wear this ring, the vigilant nobles would notice it right away and question her about the origins of the ring.
This development would have undoubtedly drawn attention to the donor of the ring, namely Zenjirou. Back then, the unwanted attention might have then preponed his debut into higher society.
At that time, Aura had wondered if she was overthinking it, but her worry seemed to have been spot-on, judging by Princess Isabelle’s reaction.
Before long, Princess Isabelle noticed that Aura was looking at her with a smile, so she laughed it off with an affected “Ohoho” and put the ring back onto the tray.
“Oh… I beg your pardon, Your Highness. I was so fascinated by it.”
“Quite alright. An impressive sight, is it not? If possible, I would like to turn it into a ‘magic tool’.”
“Yes, I believe the Sharrow Family will put in their utmost effort for such an exquisite item.”
Jewellery was a typical object for a magic tool, only second to weapons. Due to that, the people of the Sharrow lineage, employing the “Bestowal Magic”, inevitable had a good eye for jewellery.
It was almost a given that the other members would be even more surprised than Princess Isabelle.
“Good. I have not decided on a magic for it yet. Perhaps you have any ideas?”
As Aura asked for a suggestion, Princess Isabelle put her hand against her full chin and mused for a while. Then,
“Hmm, it may be exquisite, but is a tiny jewellery after all, so I believe it would be better to refrain from putting in a large magic. Maybe something rudimental like ’Ignition’, ’Fireproof’ or ’Spring of Water‘?”
she replied with a sensible remark.
“I will not be so unreasonable as to ask for ‘cure’, but maybe ‘stamina recovery’?”
“It is possible as long as you are alright with the fact that the ring turns into ash after around five uses.”
The women then continued to discuss it for a while longer, but couldn’t really come up with a fitting magic. Isabelle was going to stay in the Carpa Palace for a while longer anyway, so there was no need to find an answer right now.
As they concluded the matter for now and she had put the ring back onto the tray, Princess Isabelle suddenly looked at the two pouches on the tray.
“Come to think of it, what is inside these pouches, Your Highness?”
Aura picked up the bigger of the two pouches and replied with a delightful smile to Isabelle’s question.
“Right, these belong to my husband as well. I would like to hear your professional opinion on this occasion, so I had them brought here. You are an expert on jewellery, correct?”
“Well, I belong to the royal family of the Twin Kingdom after all, so I am more knowledgeable about them than the average, but I rank behind the people of the Sharrow lineage.”
While Isabelle said that, she also shot a curious glance at the pouch in Aura’s hand.
Judging by Aura’s words, the pouch must contain some kind of jewellery. Moreover, it belonged to the same person, who brought these extravagant rings into this world.
Her anticipation rose all the more.
Aura opened the pouch while feeling Isabelle’s glance on her fingers, put her fingers into it and took out one piece. With a CLACK, she put the “certain object”, held between her middle finger and thumb, onto the tray.
It was a marble.
The traditional marble had the simplest design of stained glass encased by a transparent, colourless glass sphere and rolled about on the silver tray.
As Princess Isabelle witnessed its radiance, she widened her eyes even more than when she had taken the ring in hand.
Assuming her surprise at the ring had been “revealed intentionally”, then the surprise she was showing right now ought to be one that “she failed to conceal”.
Princess Isabelle showed an expression that said “Oops” for a moment, then assumed her usual calm expression again.
“…Pardon me. That took me entirely by surprise. What exactly would that be?”
Keeping her eyes on the rolling marble on the silver tray, she spoke with an extremely surprised tone.
The “surprise” this time was affected and not an impulsive feeling like the initial surprise when she caught sight of the marble.
Aura was dubious of Isabelle’s exaggerated reaction, but hid it behind a smile and replied.
“Astonishing, is it not? It belongs to my husband as well. It is neither crystal, much less a diamond. They call it glass. I was told that it is far more fragile than crystals and thus breaks easily.”
Princess Isabelle was reaching out for the marble mindfully, but on the word “fragile”, she stopped her hand with a flinch.
Aura smiled to herself a bit, then
“Although I say fragile, I mean that it breaks when you drop it from a height onto a solid surface. It will not be damaged when you hold it normally and we have a carpet on the floor here, so even when you should drop it, it will not cause it to break.”
she added that.
“In that case, may I hold it in hand then?”
“Yes, take a good look.”
With Aura’s permission, Princess Isabelle picked up the marble with three fingers and held it up against the light like with the ring before, leaking a soft sigh of admiration.
“Let me be frank with you, Princess Isabelle. What price would you attach to a single piece of it if it were kept for sale?”
Aura made a surprisingly frank question with some kind of intention, whereat Isabelle faced forward again and replied after clearing her throat once with an affected cough.
“That is to say, you intend to sell these gems, Your Highness?”
Isabelle looked rather serious, whereupon Aura smiled at her a bit.
“Not quite. They originally belong to my husband after all. I cannot sell them all on my own accord. However, as this article does not exist natively in our world, I am allowed to part with a few of them to measure their value.”
Then she said with a shake of her head.
Isabelle nodded apparently convinced by Aura’s explanation.
Non-essential things without a value for the military such as jewellery, had no set value, even if it would seem that way. Much less an item like a glass marble, which was unknown to this world up till now.
Although Aura and Zenjirou may consider them as “valuable” from a subjective side, the true value could only be measured through a general assessment from the public.
As such, it wasn’t all that odd that Aura hit upon the idea of spreading one or two to the public to establish its value. Likewise, it was neither a poor choice to ask Princess Isabelle for her opinion on it.
However, Princess Isabelle said something with a serious expression that made Aura doubt her ears.
“Hmm, supposing I would be able to buy this gem… I would offer thirty gold coins for it.”
Thirty cold coins.
Aura was at a loss for words from the unexpected amount offered, but somehow managed not to show it on her face and replied shortly.
“…Are you being serious?”
After a short silence, Princess Isabelle shrugged her shoulders resignedly and answered.
“…Very well. Fifty gold coins then. I do not believe that anyone would offer any more than this.”
She spoke as if she was having a business discussion here all of a sudden instead of a hypothetical one, and proposed an addition of whole twenty gold coins at once.
Aura made no bones about her surprise this time.
She had checked with her, asking “are you being serious?”, because she already considered thirty gold coins “exorbitant”, so she never expected the offer to raise even further instead.
Maybe she misunderstood Aura’s words as “you seriously want to buy it at such a cheap price?”?
With that in mind, Aura gave Princess Isabelle a probing glance, but Princess Isabelle was looking at her with a gentle smile on her plump, but graceful face.
Aura was convinced by seeing that smile.
(No, that is not it. I find it hard to believe that Princess Isabelle would misread such an obvious implied doubt. She raised it deliberately, huh. But why would she put such an exorbitant price on a single gem?)
The sum of fifty gold coins was off the wall.
To make it easier to understand: You could buy the cheapest “Raptorial Dragon” for three gold coins and for ten gold coins you even got a superb “Raptorial Dragon for knights” that was trained for combat.
Moreover, the residence of a lower class noble without an own landholding went for a price of fifty to hundred gold coins. So it should be obvious how extraordinary the price of fifty gold coins for a single marble was, no matter how rare and exquisite it was.
Needless to say, such a sum wasn’t uncommon for jewellery and some goods were even traded for one more digit. However, this marble wasn’t worth that much in Aura’s opinion.
Something was strange.
Sensing that, Aura took the other pouch and put a few beads from it onto the silver tray as to attain more information.
“Well then, how about these? I find them rather intriguing as well.”
Red, blue and green. The clear and transparent beads in various colours were rather eye-catching, but Princess Isabelle’s reaction remained down-to-earth.
“Oh my, they are fantastic, too. Not only are the grains equal, there is also a small hole in the middle. That promises a diverse and interesting utilization.”
Neither her praising words, nor her fascinated look seemed to be feigned, but she didn’t show any surprise, either, when she caught sight of the beads.
“Beautiful, would you not agree? And quite intriguing. You could make a necklace if you just pull a string through the hole. What would you say is an appropriate price for these?”
“Hmm, you can tell their quality on a glance, but considering the size… I would estimate ten silver coins per grain.”
Princess Isabelle put her hand against her full chin and suggested a price, which wasn’t all that different from Aura’s expectation.
Incidentally, one gold coins was worth a hundred silver coins, albeit for a small variance in its age or region.
Fifty gold coins for one marble. In silver coins, it would be five-thousand. On the other hand, one bead was worth ten silver coins.
In other words, Princess Isabelle had estimated one marble worth five-hundred times the value of a bead.
That difference was certainly warrantable due to their variation in weight, but Aura considered the price for a marble somewhat excessive.
The abnormal value of the marble stood out all the more as the price for the beads was just as she had expected.
(Still, does such a blatant price mean that she wants to show that she has laid her cards on the table? …I shall test her for a bit)
“Oh, I see. It was most helpful. Let me grant you one piece for your troubles. Pick whichever you like.”
Saying so, Aura picked up the pouch with the marbles in an affected manner and poured the contents onto the silver tray.
A dozen marbles rolled about on the silver tray.
Princess Isabelle uttered a remark of surprise with one hand in front of her mouth, whereat Aura kept track of what she was looking at while calling out to her with a soft smile.
“No need for restraint now. You may choose whichever you like after you checked them thoroughly.”
All kind of marbles spread on the tray. From the standard type with coloured glass inside to marbles with a bleared surface to ones with a beautiful marble pattern. There was even a globe marble amongst them that had a simple world map drawn on it.
As all of them were displayed on a single tray, they looked quite impressive worth to be called “jewels”.
Princess Isabelle must have sensed that Aura was watching her behaviour. She shrugged her shoulders once, then picked up one marble from the tray.
“Then I will you take up on your kind offer and receive this.”
The marble she had picked was a rather transparent and colourless one without any patterns.
“As for the remaining ones…”
“Say no more. It solely depends on my husband, but if he should be willing to part with them, I will definitely speak to you first, Princess.”
Aura’s assurance was seemingly satisfying for Princess Isabelle as she smiled softly and politely lowered her head.
She then cast a glance at the shadow from the sunlight shining in from the window, and said as if she had suddenly thought of it.
“Oh, whatever happened to my manners? I ended up getting lost in the conversation. Your Highness, as a kind of repayment for the gem, may I have your permission to pay your sick husband a visit? I will be able to give a helping hand for a bit.”
“Of course. You are gladly welcome to do so. No one on this continent would dare to refuse a sick bed visit from someone of the Jilbell lineage. As soon as the preparations are done, I will guide you to the inner palace. Take the room next door to rest until then.”
“Very well. Excuse me then.”
Princess Isabelle concluded the conversation with a smile at the end and stood up with a genteel movement, making a small bow and leaving the room.
* * *
“…And thus, Princess Isabelle estimated the big, round gems to be worth fifty gold coins and the small grains with the hole to be worth ten silver coins. Let me hear your honest opinion.”
In exchange for Princess Isabelle, who had left for the room next door, Secretary Fabio had entered the room. Aura had filled him in on the details of the earlier conversation and now sought the opinion of her private secretary.
“Fifty gold coins, you say? I get the feeling that this price is a little bit over the top.”
The secretary said that with raised eyebrows, whereat Aura hit him with a voice that made no pretence of her disgust.
“Fabio, watch your vocabulary. Or are you seriously saying that fifty gold coins is just ‘a little bit’ excessive?”
“…My apologies. Let me correct myself. It is a price that exceeded our expectations by far.”
Without flinching from the displeased utterance by his master, Secretary Fabio apologized and rephrased it with a curt bow.
Aura herself had no intention to fuss over such a trivial expression in length either. She regained her composure right away and continued the conversation while looking up to the mask-like expression of her secretary as he stood in front of the couch.
“It is strange, would you not agree? Let alone the fact that she showed a far greater reaction to the gems than to the rings.”
The weddings rings of Aura and Zenjirou.
The meticulous processed golden socket had jewels called diamonds embedded in it, which were polished with a technique unknown to this world. The beauty of this jewellery was obvious to anyone. Even a person without any knowledge about jewellery would normally valuate the rings over the marbles.
“Certainly. Above all, it baffles me that Her Highness Isabelle has taken such an obvious attitude.”
Saying so, Secretary Fabio expressed his agreement to the opinion of his master.
If anything, Princess Isabelle was known for having a good personality, but nevertheless, she had survived the higher society as a member of the royal family from a major power for more than forty years.
The other party would take advantage of her if she were to express her desires too obvious. She ought to have internalized such common sense.
Despite that, she had dared to propose the ridiculous sum of fifty gold coins.
“I do not recall that Princess Isabelle ever had a soft spot for new things, nor that she tends to be profligately. Then the sum of fifty gold coins must be an appropriate price for her.”
“Her Highness Isabelle could possibly be anticipating a rivalry. If she happens to know of someone that would pay an equal or even greater amount once the gems get known, her enigmatic behaviour would make sense.”
“In any event, she does not consider it as mere jewellery.”
The slender-faced secretary resolutely affirmed Aura’s emphasis.
“Yes, that much is for sure. I cannot imagine anything concrete, but I would say it is safe to believe that she discerned some kind of great utility value in the gems.”
Aura crossed her arms on top of the couch and recalled Princess Isabelle’s reactions.
When Aura had scattered all of the marbles on the tray, Princess Isabelle had her eyes on the transparent and colourless marble from the very beginning. As long as that was no coincidence or an intentional misleading from her, there might be some kind of value in the colour or transparency of the marbles. However, crystals could easily be used as a replacement in that case.
“I cannot make sense of it. I know too little as to make little more than guesses. Seems I will have to ask the old geezer for his opinion later on.”
“That sounds reasonable. Espaldion-sama might know something we two are unaware of.”
The royal archmage Espaldion was the best magician in the Carpa Kingdom, but at the same time, also a wise man with a multifarious knowledge. The aged magician might know something that would provide some kind of indication.
“Indeed. Tell him that I would like to borrow his wisdom, if possible tonight already.”
“As you command.”
Secretary Fabio replied with that and politely lowered his head.
“Anyway, fifty gold coins for one, eh? If they all have the same value, my husband will be able to gain a fortune of around two-thousand and five-hundred gold coins from just that.”
You could build a small fortress with that amount.
It was a large amount of money, even for royalty.
“Yes. It would be precarious to sell the gems without exactly knowing what kind of value Her Highness Isabelle saw in them, but I would say it is alright to let Zenjirou-sama do as he wants with them, given that they cause us no harm.”
“Yeah, I would really like to secure the Twin Kingdom as a business partner. After all, they always pay with newly coined gold coins.”
“I know it might be rude of me to say this, but I would welcome it when Zenjirou-sama exchanges the gained cold coins with our large silver coins from the coffers of the state then.”
“Now you are being too frank.”
Aura unconsciously showed a wry smile towards the words of the middle-aged secretary.
At present, only two countries were minting gold coins on the southern continent. The Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell was one of them while unfortunately the Carpa Kingdom wasn’t the other one.
There were no gold veins in the territory of the Carpa Kingdom and they could only prospect small amounts of gold from rivers. The found amount wasn’t enough to allow a regular minting of gold coins every year.
Instead, they got the most and best silver mines on the South Continent, so they traded with foreign countries by means of “large silver coins”, which had a high purity and were thus worth twenty-five times the value of normal silver coins. But even so, the value of their large silver coins was only a quarter of the gold coins from the Twin Kingdom.
Due to that, it was still an unresolved matter that the most valuable currency used inside the country wasn’t their own.
So the least they could do was to amass the gold coins of the Twin Kingdom in the coffers of the state for emergencies, but the Carpa Kingdom had only just won a long war. The coffers looked rather desolate.
In the worst case, they would have to seriously consider “buying gold coins” from the Twin Kingdom with silver coins. Even two-thousand gold coins were already a rather attractive sum.
However, things wouldn’t proceed without a consultation.
“Okay, we will put this matter on hold until I talked with the old geezer tonight. I cannot afford to make Princess Isabelle wait any longer. I will show her to the inner palace. I take the preparations for it are done?”
“Yes, whenever you command.”
Aura nodded with “Good” upon Secretary Fabio’s instant reply, then stood up from the couch.
Princess Isabelle was a privileged guest and her visit of Zenjirou on his sick bed was officially considered an “act of good will”. It would be too rude to make her wait for too long.
“Then let us waste no time.”
Aura knocked on the door of the room next door as to guide Princess Isabelle to the inner palace herself.
* * *
Today was the sixth day since Zenjirou had caught the “Blessing of the Forest”.
He was snuggled in a bed of a room in the inner palace into which he was moved in a hurry yesterday, and sweating in his sleep.
His fever had already gone down to around thirty-seven degrees, the swelling in his throat started to abate and he had regained his appetite.
Until two days ago, he could barely slurp the soup with minced chicken and vegetables, but this morning, he managed to eat a cuisine that resembled mashed potatoes with sweet-sour red bean jam. For Zenjirou it had tasted like something similar to potatoes, but it had actually been a dish, where steamed bananas got mashed. It was more of a home cooking than a palace cuisine, but it was relatively easy to digest and had a high nutritional value, so it was perfect for a sick person.
According to the physician, he would completely recover within the next couple of days.
Zenjirou himself certainly felt better now, but he had grown accustomed to his true bedroom in the last few month, so he was restless about sleeping all alone on a brand-new bed in a different room without his electrical appliances.
His tired body demanded sleep nevertheless as it fought against the illness. Although his condition had improved, Zenjirou was dozing off at temperatures of over thirty degrees during the day. His drowsy consciousness was aroused from sleep by the soft sensation of a palm on his forehead and an unfamiliar voice of a woman.
“It seems his fever has slackened a lot. I would say he will be back to normal in a day or two.”
Zenjirou opened his eyes slightly and his gaze settled on an elegant looking woman in her middle years, who showed a soft smile and had her hand placed on his forehead.
Not fully awake, he whispered absent-mindedly.
Straight, long hair in a pale chestnut-colour. Dark brown eyes puckered gracefully and darkened skin, not a natural tinge, but tanned from the sun.
The people from the Carpa Kingdom, like Aura, looked like a mixed race of a Latin and black person, whereat this middle-aged woman looked more like an European with her features and tinge.
She was obviously from a difference race than the people of the Carpa Kingdom. Zenjirou wasn’t all that confident in his memory, but he would definitely remember someone with such characteristics if he had seen her before.
The foreign lady— Princess Isabelle removed her hand from his forehead, stood up from her chair and made an elegant curtsy while holding the hem of her dress.
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Zenjirou-sama. My name is Isabelle. I am the third child of Johann IV, the eighteen Pope from the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.”
“Th- Thank you for your polite greeting. I am…”
Zenjirou tried to sit up on the bed in a hurry due to facing a state guest in the form of a Princess from a major power, but Princess Isabelle gently stopped him in an accustomed manner.
“Please remain as you are. Your body has not recovered yet.”
She urged him to lay down again by saying that.
Zenjirou noticed something from her remark.
“Eh? Oh? But I’m feeling awfully well…”
As he had been laying down the whole time, his entire body still felt somewhat uncomfortable, because he couldn’t muster much strength, but the sharp headache that had addled him, or the exhaustion and drowsiness that had eaten into every nook of his body before his nap, had vanished completely. He felt like he could get up without any problems now.
Princess Isabelle, still showing him a gentle smile, put one hand on Zenjirou’s shoulder as he had tried to get up, and pushed him back onto the bed.
“Zenjirou-sama, you have to keep lying down. You feel better now because I have cast ‘stamina recovery’ and ‘relief of mental fatigue’ on you just a moment ago. I could have used ‘cure-all‘, but it is a matter of the ‘Blessing of the Forest’. You will not receive the blessing unless you overcome it by yourself, so I dared to leave it untouched.”
“O- Okay… I see.”
Now that she mentioned it, his body still felt hot even if his stamina was back. He seemingly hadn’t fully recovered from the illness yet.
(Oh, reminds me, last night, Aura said that I’ve to switch rooms, because the Princess from the Twin Kingdom will come to pay me a visit)
Zenjirou had been more or less informed about the circumstances beforehand, but he have had a fever of over thirty-eight degrees until yesterday after all. Naturally, he didn’t remember any details.
(Ehm, from what I remember, my social position is higher, but it shouldn’t cause any problems when I humble myself, because I‘m on the receiving end of her “cure“ this time…?)
Wracking his dulled brain to the max, Zenjirou recalled the etiquette for dealing with foreign royalty that he had learned in his lessons.
Laying on the bed, he viewed his surroundings and noticed that his beloved wife was looking at him from behind the sitting Princess Isabelle.
When Aura met his eyes, she made a curt nod without saying anything.
(Does that mean I don’t have to worry about etiquette all that much?)
Zenjirou calmed down a bit as he somehow guessed her intention, leaned his head against the headboard and turned his head towards Princess Isabelle in a position, where only his upper body was sitting up for a bit.
“You have my gratitude, Princess Isabelle. I feel a lot better thanks to you.”
“Do not mention it. Now you only need rest and nourishing food, then you will be up again tomorrow.”
“Yes, understood… Mmg.”
As he had gotten up and continued to speak despite still having a slight fever, his voice cracked at the end of his sentence and he coughed shortly.
“Zenjirou, drink some water.”
Aura, standing at the back, took a small feeding cup in hand without a moment’s delay and brought it to his mouth as he was laying on the bed.
Zenjirou had become used to Aura taking care of him in the last few days, so he drank from the feeding cup in her hand without showing any embarrassment.
“Yeah, much better. Thanks.”
Princess Isabelle witnessed the natural harmonious couple and laughed a bit with her right hand in front of her mouth.
“I have heard the rumours, but you two really get along.”
“Ah… I beg your pardon.”
“Well, better than the other way around.”
In contrast to Zenjirou, who got a bit bashful from being watched by an outsider, Aura smiled broadly and declared proudly.
The Queen was well-known as a lady of character while her husband was a complete nobody. Aura was somewhat convinced that diverse and ignominious rumours were spreading in foreign countries. It would be a pity to miss the opportunity to propagate how extremely well she got along with her husband.
“Indeed, I can only concur with that.”
Princess Isabelle agreed with Aura and chuckled.
The public tended to misunderstand, but “happy couples” were not rare in the world of royalty and nobility. Of course it was an undeniable fact that their marriages were made more in favour of family connections or balance of power instead of the feelings of the involved, but for that reason, the married couple then strived for a harmonious relationship afterwards.
Both parties shouldered responsibilities of a family or country. It was by no means impossible that they fell in love some time after their marriage when they were ready to approach one another without a fatal clash of interest.
Still, it was definitely an extremely rare case that a couple showed a harmonic sympathy like Aura and Zenjirou, not even half a year after their marriage.
(I assume they must be a really good match?)
Princess Isabelle hid her observant eyes behind a gentle smile and watched over Aura and Zenjirou’s behaviour.
“Come to think of it, Zenjirou-sama, you came from a different world to marry Her Highness Aura. True love knows no bounds, so to speak?”
“Eh? Ah, yeah, that’s right.”
For a moment, Zenjirou was surprised about Princess Isabelle mentioning “him coming from a different world”, but he calmed down right away when he gave it some thought.
It was a wide-spread fact that the bloodline magic of the Carpa Royalty was “Space-Time Magic”. Royalty and titled nobility from every country were bound to keep a close eye on the marriage of Aura, the Queen from the Carpa Kingdom and last member of its royalty.
By that logic, it would be strange instead if nothing about Zenjirou’s background was known as he suddenly became the Prince Consort.
He must have come to such a conclusion. Or maybe his reasoning was still not up to par due to the fever?
“150 years ago, my ancestors eloped into my world for love and I, their descendant, have now returned to marry. If you think about it like that, it is quite moving.”
Zenjirou unintentionally revealed delicate information to royalty from a foreign country.
Standing on the site, Aura contorted her face as if to say “Oh no!”, but it was too late.
“Oho… Something like that happened in the past…”
Princess Isabelle gave an agreeable response in an admiring tone, but her soft expression turned vigilant for just a second.
“…It is a rumour at best. Although it is the truth that a direct descent of the royal family was erased from the records 150 years ago, there is not a single proof that he eloped into a different world, much less that Zenjirou is a descendent of him.”
Aura’s tone was calm as she said that, but it outright denied the credibility of the information Zenjirou had revealed carelessly.
Zenjirou aside as he wasn’t himself from the fever, it was unthinkable that Princess Isabelle, experienced in diplomatic negotiations, would misunderstand what Aura was trying to say.
“…Yes, certainly. Forgive me. Despite my age, I become overly excited about romantic love stories, so I ended up making an indiscreet remark.
To begin with, it is hardly commendable to involve a sick person into a long conversation, even if he is on the road to recovery.
Zenjirou-sama, Your Highness Aura, I will excuse myself now.”
Princess Isabelle discerned the meaning behind Aura’s words and raised from her chair while saying that tactfully.
“Yes, alright. Let me express my gratitude to you for helping my husband. Thank you, Princess Isabelle.”
“You are more than welcome, Your Highness Aura.”
Aura herself walked the departing Princess Isabelle out of the provisory bedroom.
That neither of them showed even a shred of their tension proved that they were “born royalty”.
“You have my thanks, Princess Isabelle. I feel a lot better now.”
Only Zenjirou was unable to read the mood and thoughtlessly expressed his gratitude from behind the leaving Princess and Queen, still laying on his bed like he had been instructed to.
* * *
The night of the same day.
Aura had called Secretary Fabio and Archmage Espaldion into her private chamber in the royal palace and chaired a secret meeting.
This room, one of the smaller ones in the palace, was illuminated by the flames of the candles burning on the candle stands.
Bathed in the red light of the flames, Aura crossed her legs on top of a chair with an elaborated design and address Secretary Fabio, who stood diagonally to the left in front of her.
“Well then, let me hear your report.”
The middle-aged secretary took one step forward when his master called out to him, and started to speak with his usual monotone voice.
“We identified the ‘client’ of Princess Isabelle. It was the former king from the Kobrag Kingdom: Luis II.”
The Queen inclined her head with an unsatisfied expression upon the secretary’s report.
“The former king from the Kobrag Kingdom? How odd. To say nothing of the current king, I cannot believe that the Kobrag Kingdom can afford to call Princess Isabelle for their former king.”
The Kobrag Kingdom was a neighbouring country with a shared border to the Carpa Kingdom, but their territory as well as their population only amounted to a fifth of the Carpa Kingdom. Needless to say, their assets were accordingly lower, too.
It survived the previous war only by chance due to its strategic location and it made no sense that such a small country called Princess Isabelle for the sake of an old man that already abdicated the throne.
“Prince Robert, Prince Thomas or at best, the younger brother of the pope, Matteo would be more appropriate for the wallet of the Kobrag Kingdom, would you not agree?”
Aura mentioned the names of members of the pope lineage of Jilbell. All of them were “healers” one or two level inferior to Princess Isabelle, but their treatment was accordingly cheaper.
The secretary in his middle years objected Aura’s sound argument without showing as much as a fissure in his inexpressive mask.
“However, all of the aforementioned are males. They would be unable to enter the inner palace.”
Aura kept her head tilted in puzzlement from the increasingly cryptic answer, and asked back.
“Why does the inner palace matter? The patient was former king Luis, was he not?”
“Yes. So it does not concern the inner palace of the Kobrag Kingdom, but rather the inner palace of our Carpa Kingdom.”
Aura finally discerned the intention of her secretary from his supplementation and wriggled about on her chair.
“! In other words, you mean that Princess Isabelle planned to come here from the very beginning?”
As the Queen displayed her anger, her secretary confirmed it bluntly.
“Yes. It is still under investigation, but it appears that the Kobrag Kingdom requested the dispatch of Prince Robert, just as you have conjectured, Your Highness. The truth of the affair seems to be that the Twin Kingdom then imposed ‘sending Princess Isabelle instead of Prince Robert for the same price’ on them.”
“Are you implying that that the Twin Kingdom even picked up on my husband catching the ’Blessing of the Forest’?”
This time, the middle-age secretary shook his head to her question.
“No, I would say that was a coincidence. On the contrary, if they had known that Zenjirou-sama was sick in bed, it would not have been necessary to dispatch Her Highness Isabelle.”
The “healers” from the Jilbell lineage were an existence more extraordinary than physicians. Under the justification of examining a patient, even males were allowed to step into the inner palace, ignoring the gender barrier.
If they had known beforehand that Zenjirou was a “patient”, it ought to be unnecessary that they specially dispatch a female member.
“I see. Quite indeed. In that case, the Twin Kingdom dispatched Princess Isabelle for a cheaper price just to catch a glimpse on my husband.”
“A Prince Consort suddenly appeared in our Carpa Kingdom. It would hardly be an unnatural approach to learn of his nature.”
Still crossing her legs on top of the chair, Aura placed her hand against her chin and became absorbed in thought.
Secretary Fabio was indeed making a sound argument. Zenjirou absolutely sympathized with Aura’s objective and took a backseat without voicing a selfishness, but in the eyes of foreign people, who weren’t aware of that, it only appeared like the Carpa Kingdom gained another helmsman.
The odds were that the southern continent would be once again thrown into turmoil by the Carpa Kingdom if the Prince Consort happened to be extraordinarily ambitious.
By that logic, it might certainly be important enough to dispatch someone of Princess Isabelle’s calibre to “learn of Zenjirou’s nature”.
“His debut in our country is only just over, but one for the foreign countries follows right away, eh?”
“The previous banquet had excluded foreign guests as to keep any damage to a minimum if he were to be caught tripping, so it was inevitable.”
Aura looked up to the dark ceiling and sighed, whereat Secretary Fabio said that with a serene tone.
Zenjirou’s will of “not interfering in politics with all his might” was only acknowledged to a certain extent within the Carpa Kingdom itself. It would still require a lot of time and effort to spread the correct insight to the people of foreign countries.
In addition, this kind of information had the quirk of being easily distorted the further and longer it travelled. From the beginning, it might be wiser to give up on trying to spread the correct insight to a hundred percent.
“…Okay, good. Enough about that for the time being.”
Aura shook her head once, then again and brought the matter to a closure.
After that, she shifted her gaze from Secretary Fabio towards the old man, who stood diagonally on the right side in front of her, clad in a purple robe.
“Next up, are you in the picture, old geezer?”
The attention suddenly turned towards the old man in the purple robe— The royal Archmage Espaldion spoke leisurely.
“Mhm, the personal belonging of Zenjirou-sama, namely his gems, right? Fifty gold coins for a single one of them is certainly unusual.”
The topic changed from Princess Isabelle to the marbles, which she had estimated to be worth an unreasonable high amount.
As even Espaldion, just like Secretary Fabio, agreed with her, Aura nodded satisfied for now and pressed him on.
“I find it hard to believe that Princess Isabelle would give such an abnormal estimate without reason. Old geezer, can you think of anything?”
The country’s best magician stroked his long beard upon the Queen’s question and fell silent for a while, then opened his mouth with a prelude of “This is to be taken with a pinch of salt”.
“Your Highness, how much do you know about the ‘Staff of the Storm Wall’ from the Gupta Kingdom?”
Being asked that all of a sudden, Aura frowned puzzled while she answered truthfully.
“You mean that ‘miracle of the Barang Mountain Pass’, right? Where a single magic tool stalled an enemy army of fifty-thousand for half a year.”
Espaldion assented with Aura’s answer.
“Correct. The battle between the Gupta Kingdom and the allied forces of the Kushal Kingdom and the Waltana Kingdom, which took place in the early phase of the previous war.”
To put it simply: The Gupta Kingdom was attacked in a pincer movement by two bordering countries, and during this life-threatening crisis, they protected one border with the magic tool called ‘Staff of the Storm Wall’ while the other invading country was warded off with their own troops, thus successfully defending the country.
It was most likely one of the most powerful magic tools on the South Continent. “Lightning” was the bloodline magic of the Gupta Royal Family.
In other words, the ‘Staff of the Storm Wall’ was a magic tool created by the combined effort of the Gupta lineage with their “lightning” and the Sharrow lineage with their “bestowal”.
The Gupta Kingdom was on good terms with the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, much like a vassal state, so it was not all that unusual that their royalties worked together to make a magic tool.
However, Espaldion spoke up.
“The problem is the time needed for creating the staff. I will spare you of the details now, but the staff was made in the capital of the Twin Kingdom without a doubt.”
“Well, I would imagine so. Unlike the Jilbell lineage, the people of the Sharrow lineage do not leave the capital unless it is something important.”
Aura expressed her consent with a curt nod, whereat Espaldion inclined his head deeply and continued.
“That would mean that a person of the Gupta lineage went to the capital of the Twin Kingdom and spent a long time there to create the staff, then returned home with the staff. However, the timeframe is too short for that.”
Secretary Fabio, standing on the side, seemed to recall something from hearing Espaldion’s story and interjected.
“Oh, I have heard about that matter, too. I think that even if you calculate the round trip with the fastest raptorial dragon, the person from the Gupta Family would had less than ten days for his stay in the capital of the Twin Kingdom.”
“Nine days to be precise. And that, too, is under the assumption that everything went well during the travel. It is said that a realistic calculation would give the person of the Gupta Family nearly three days for his stay in the capital.”
While listening to her two trusted retainers, Aura went through her own memory.
In the first phase of the previous war, Aura had not been born yet. So it was not weird that she had no recollection of it.
But she did understand the odd part about the story. It was said that even the simplest disposable “magic tool” created by the Sharrow royal lineage usually took at least one month to manufacture. Not to mention that it was common knowledge that a large magic tool like the “Staff of the Storm Wall” required years.
Aura remembered that her “Barrier Carpet”, currently lent to Zenjirou, had required a member of the Carpa Royal Family to remain in the capital of the Twin Kingdom for two years when it was made.
One month for a simple tool. Two years for a tool on the level of a national treasure. Compared to that, the three day period for the “Staff of the Storm Wall” was obviously abnormal.
Although she trusted the old geezer, Aura couldn’t take his words at face value and replied doubtfully.
“Would it not be the simple solution that the person from the Gupta lineage secretly went to the capital of the Twin Kingdom already well before and they started to work on it in secret?”
The Queen questioned his opinion, but the aged magician wasn’t offended and answered while inclining his head deeply.
“Yes. Both sides officially claim that to be the case. Others, too, accept that theory as the most plausible. However, a different theory is still irrefutable these days, too.
Namely, that the Sharrow lineage has a ‘secret technique’ for drastically shortening the required time for creating a magic tool when the necessity arises.”
“Hmm, I see.”
Aura felt that they finally got to the real issue at hand and made a small sigh as if snorting.
Such rumours of “hidden magics or secret techniques from royal families” existed in all ages.
The “Mind Search Magic” from the Harkonen Royal Family was rumoured to be a skill to permanently turn people into puppets. The “Gardening Magic” from the Bernhard Royal Family was rumoured to have gone out of control and created the desert on the South Continent as a result. The “Creation Magic” of the Makarov Royal Family was rumoured to have grown this land. Etc, etc.
In fact, there was even a rumour regarding the “Space-Time Magic” of the Carpa Royal Family, to which Aura could only smile wryly with “spare me”.
It claimed that the ultimate secret technique of the “Space-Time Magic” could “resurrect the dead” by turning back the clock.
As Aura knew the truth, she couldn’t resist to give a snigger.
(If such a magic were to exist, I would have revived one of my brothers instead of disturbing the peaceful life of my husband in a different world)
No matter how ridiculous it was, Aura was unable to break out in an unreserved laughter, because she knew that there was a germ of truth in that rumour.
(Resurrect the dead, eh? Well, it is not impossible for the “dead” of the likes of bugs and shellfishes)
Truth be told, there really existed a spell amongst the “Space-Time Magic” that could turn back time to a limited extent.
That said, it had strict conditions like “cannot be cast on targets with magical power” or “the practitioner must have touched the object with his hands and seen it with his eyes in the time line he wanted to return it to“, so it was hardly practicable.
All living beings in this world, except for lower animals like bugs or shellfishes, had more or less magical power.
Due to that, “resurrecting the dead” with “Space-Time Magic” was impossible in reality. It was also impossible to repair magic tools.
It was possible to repair stuff without magical power like a broken sword or cooking utensils that had become impractical, but it was way more efficient to just buy these things anew instead of using the secret royal magic for it.
Anyway, it was the truth that the “Space-Time Magic” could resurrect the dead, even if it was something boring like “only bringing bugs back to life”.
Considering that fact, the rumours about the royal families of the other countries might contain some truth as well.
Aura licked over her upper lip and posed a question.
“So, what kind of rumours regarding the ‘secret technique’ do you know about, old geezer?”
“Very well. One says that the Sharrow Royal Family can drastically shorten the time for creating a magic tool by the means of spending their life-force. And in fact, one member of the royal family died of illness almost directly after the ‘Staff of the Storm Wall’ was made.”
Aura dismissed the first rumour Espaldion mentioned.
“Impossible. Sure, the Gupta Kingdom is a precious ally to the Twin Kingdom and they protect the important north, but considering their temperament, it is unthinkable that the Sharrow lineage would sacrifice one of their kin for them.”
“Yes. I am of the same mind. So I regard it merely as a coincidence. But there is one more prominent rumour.
It claims that the ‘Bestowal Magic’ can be cut short on time and effort considerably when an object with certain conditions is prepared.”
Aura felt like she had finally heard the answered to her first question after a long detour.
She kept silent for a while, then asked slowly with a low voice.
“…So, what does the ‘Staff of Storm Wall’ look like?”
“As it is the best-protected magic tool of the royal family, it is nothing but a rumour from hearsay, but I learned that apparently it is a straight wooden staff decorated with a ’large, transparent and round crystal’ at its tip.”
“…Oho. That is quite the intriguing ‘rumour’.”
Aura’s face, illuminated by the light of the candles, showed a broad grin. That smile resembled the expression of a feline carnivore as it bared its fangs.