One month later. Aura’s pregnancy turned out to be proper.
Her stomach still didn’t stand out yet, but she suddenly showed the unique symptoms for the initial stage of a pregnancy and her menstruation was more than three months late, so Doctor Michelle had verified the pregnancy with conviction.
The Queen was pregnant. Naturally, these big news stirred the Carpa Palace up.
Some people already requested an audience with the Queen to give presents to mark the occasion of the pregnancy. Others indirectly put in a good word for a concubine candidate for Zenjirou on the same occasion.
Moreover, influential nobles made a list of people from their own faction, who were currently breastfeeding a baby or had a big belly and were close to give birth, so they could be appointed as the wet nurse for the child of the Queen.
The “wet nurse”, who, as the name implied, breastfeed instead of the Queen, and the “nanny”, who was responsible for the upbringing after the breastfeeding period, were often different people, so a decision at this point was nothing definitive, but the influence of a wet nurse or foster sibling on the growing next ruler wasn’t to be underestimated.
The inner palace was a shielded space and normally it was rarely influenced by the outside, but the news this time originated from it, so it couldn’t stay out of it. Due to that, Zenjirou, too, had no piece of mind in the last month and spent hectic days.
“Aw, there really is no useful information. What a flop.”
The sunlight recently had gotten gentler bit by bit and now shone through the opened windows into the room of the inner palace, where Zenjirou had faced his computer the whole time and now leaked a dejected sigh after stretching his body and craning his neck once.
Ever since Aura told him about her possible pregnancy, he had looked through his whole data storage numerous times, so he knew that he wouldn’t find anything new now, but he couldn’t help checking again when he had free time. That was how much he regretted his insufficient preparation back in the days.
“Aw, damn. Why did I only consider the time after birth back then?”
No use crying over spilt milk. Although he did understand it in his head, he couldn’t stop himself from grumbling.
Zenjirou came to this world with the original duty to make a child. And he had believed that he had prepared adequately for that.
Baby bottles, freezer Tupperware for breast milk and a few packs of milk powder just in case. Additionally, he also prepared a few sets of cute baby clothes and bought some books on child-rearing with titles such as “Papa’s guide to raising a child” or “What a father can do” at the bookstore.
However, all these items or information served the purpose after the baby was born safely and were completely useless to help his wife during her pregnancy.
“Raising the child aside, I unconsciously considered the birth not my business.”
Zenjirou hung his head dejected in front of the computer as he said that self-reprimanding.
Or more precisely, he actually lacked an awareness for possible dangers for the mother and child instead of considering the pregnancy or birth “none of his business”.
That was nothing uncommon for a young, unmarried Japanese male.
Nowadays, cases, where the mother’s life was in danger at birth, were rapidly decreasing in Japan.
The mortality rate for a mother during a pregnancy or delivery was around 0,005 percent in modern Japan. That meant only five women out of a hundred thousand. An even lower rate than for being run over by a truck in Tokyo.
However, even on modern Earth were developing countries without proper facilities or hygienic environments, where the mortality rate for mothers was still close to five percent. In other words, one out of twenty mothers died.
Fortunately, the hygiene and medical skills in the Carpa Kingdom weren’t that backward, but even so, it wasn’t all that unusual that a mother of commonalty couldn’t endure the delivery and lost her life.
Needless to say, Aura had the best physicians in the country around her as the Queen and she herself was quite healthy and full of vitality and stamina. Doctor Michelle had assured that it was “extremely unlikely”, but Zenjirou still ended up imagining the worst case.
“It could all be settled at once if we were to call someone of the Jilbell family from the Twin Kingdom, though.”
The medical technology in this world was several stages behind the one in modern Japan, but the “healing magic” from the Jilbell lineage was an exception.
The Jilbell family could heal wounds, restore stamina or ease mental fatigue with the supernatural power called magic and with one of them by your side, there was nothing to be afraid of. A safe delivery would be even more guaranteed than in modern Japan.
However, even as the major power ruling over the western part of the South Continent, the Carpa Kingdom had hardly any chance to keep a person from the Jilbell lineage around for the whole time of the pregnancy.
The delivery was still more than half a year away. The Jilbell Family would never sign such a long-term contract, where they diligently watched over the royalty’s well-being and the danger of a miscarriage.
Then he wanted at least to immediately call over someone from the pope lineage when Aura’s condition took a sudden turn for the worse. That was wishful thinking, since the fastest method of transport in this world was a raptorial dragon, but the Carpa Kingdom actually had an exceptional way to make that wishful thinking reality.
“If only someone beside Aura could use the teleportation magic, then we would be out of the woods.”
Zenjirou grumbled for the nth time.
For the royalty of Carpa, the obstacle of distance originally meant nothing as they could use “Space-Time Magic”. With the teleportation magic, they could travel to everywhere on the continent in an instant.
However, Aura was currently the only one left, who could use the space-time magic.
The summoned healer would be for Aura, when her condition precipitated, so she would be in no state to perform a large magic like the teleportation.
“So it’s technically my role. I’ve to learn the space-time magic.”
Apparently, Zenjirou had enough disposition to be able to use space-time magic, albeit a latent one at best.
However, he had only started to learn magic for a few month. It usually required an average of three years of training to be able to use magic.
Although Lady Octavia, his magic teacher, had said that this number of three years could change drastically based on individual talent, environment or more training hours per day, it obviously didn’t mean that he could cut the three years short to one or half a year because of it.
It barely referred to reducing it to two years and ten months or two and a half years in very capable cases. With all due respect, it was impossible that Zenjirou would learn to use the space-time magic until Aura gave birth.
“But that doesn’t mean I can neglect my magic studies. To begin with, it isn’t necessarily her only pregnancy.”
Turning off the computer with a click on the mouse, Zenjirou lightly slapped his cheeks to refresh his mood and stood up from the chair fitfully.
“I would like to take more magic lessons, but it definitely would raise suspicion when I meet more often with Octavia-san while Aura’s pregnant. Maybe I should get an old woman as a teacher to avoid rumours or in the worst case, leave the inner palace in search for a male teacher.”
So far, Zenjirou had enjoyed a shut-in lifestyle under the nominal cover of preserving Aura’s power, but if it was to protect the lives of Aura and their child, he was prepared to accept a few inconveniences and leave the inner palace.
Speaking of, he was supposed to leave the inner palace for a short period to meet the knight, whom he had borrowed the “dragon bow” to, currently postponed due to the turmoil of Aura’s pregnancy.
He might be able to get a slight idea about what troubles await him when he leaves the inner palace.
“Perhaps I should take Aura’s place for public events, which don’t require difficult decisions, until she reached the stable period?”
As Zenjirou mused about the future in front of the computer, he suddenly put a thought into words.
In the patriarchal Carpa Kingdom, Aura’s authority would be undermined when Zenjirou substituted for her. That was an undeniable fact, but it would be mistaking the cause for the end when Aura endangered herself and the child by forcing herself to attend such events.
The point is, Zenjirou would just have to be careful and behave like a well-mannered doll.
“I should put some serious thought into it.”
Determined at heart in various ways, Zenjirou arranged the things he could and must do, in his head until it was time for his lesson with Octavia.
* * *
“…This is certainly not a pleasant feeling.”
Around the same time. Aura had interrupted her duties as a nausea had suddenly gotten the better of her and she breathed words that were close a whimper on a rare occasion.
She showed a symptom from the early stage of her pregnancy, namely “morning sickness”. When the words of Doctor Michelle could be trusted, the worst stage of the morning sickness would soon be over, but she could hardly wait for that day to arrive.
“And here I thought I learned to suppress the urge to vomit on the battlefield…”
“Well, I guess it means that the fleeting impulse to throw up from a mental stimulation cannot be grouped together with the ongoing sick feeling from morning sickness.”
“Yes, I was painfully made aware of that… Though I am able to live without that kind of information.”
Still sitting on her chair, Aura raised her head from the vat, then glared up to Secretary Fabio, standing next to her, and replied with that.
Normally she brushed off the blunt way of speaking from her secretary without problems, but now she felt like snapping at each and every remark of his. She now could understand Zenjirou’s sentiment of wanting to be alone when sick. It was quite an ordeal to hide her heightened aggressivity, originating from her bad condition, from others.
In that way, Secretary Fabio’s existence was a godsend to her.
The middle-aged secretary was generous and loyal enough to simply endure some abusive language from her and usually didn’t mince his words either, so she would’ve enough reason to complain about him instead if she wanted to.
After she had safely given birth, she ought to somehow express her gratitude and make amends to him, but for now it should be alright to presume upon his loyalty for a bit.
She rinsed her mouth with water from a silver goblet, then spat it into the vat and comfortably leaned back into her chair in a somewhat calmer state.
“So, what is the next matter?”
The Queen refocused on her duties, whereat her secretary resumed the conversation without giving her any considerate words like “are you sure you do not want to rest a bit longer?”.
“Very well. The letter from the envoy from the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.”
“Oh, that one.”
Aura tightly shut her eyes and shook her head a few times to get a clear head when her secretary answered.
Originally it wouldn’t be strange for Aura to welcome an official envoy from the Twin Kingdom in the audience chamber herself, but as she was currently in poor physical health due to the pregnancy, she avoided public appearances as much as possible.
“I presume it is about the request to turn the rings I handed to Princess Isabelle, into magic tools. I shall read it.”
With these words, Aura held out her hand, into which her secretary smoothly put the letter he pulled out of his pocket.
“Mh? This crest belongs to the Sharrow Royal Family?”
The crest on the envelope wasn’t from Princess Isabelle’s Jilbell Royal Family, but from the Sharrow Royal Family. Aura showed a slightly bewildered expression upon noticing that and tilted her head puzzled.
However, it wasn’t unusual that the letter came directly from the Sharrow Royal Family, considering that they would actually process the rings, even if she had told her request to Princess Isabelle from the Jilbell Family.
Convinced by that, Aura took a plain bronze dagger out of the drawer of her desk and opened the seal on the letter with it.
She calmly read through it, as the content at the beginning was just like she had expected, but suddenly widened her eyes when she reached a certain point of the letter.
Aura had been on the point of jumping up from her chair, so her secretary, surprised on a rare occasion, swiftly acted to support her.
“…It is okay. Nothing serious.”
Aura replied with that to Secretary Fabio, but contrary to her words, the blood had drained from her face and her complexion now looked bluish black.
She clearly wasn’t okay, but the secretary obediently retreated as he decided to observe his master’s attitude for now.
Before long, Aura finished reading the letter and took three deep breaths.
Her complexion was still kind of bluish, but judging by her expression, she seemed to have calm down a bit.
As Secretary Fabio had waited for the right time, he now called out to the Queen cautiously.
“Your Highness, may I ask about the content of the letter?”
Unlike domestic “messages from small flying dragons”, this letter was a diplomatic document from one royalty to another. Fabio was nothing but a simple secretary, so he had no right to read such a document.
After Aura took another deep breath upon her secretary’s question, she slowly began to talk with an expression that suppressed some kind of fury.
“It mainly contains what I already expected: Princess Isabelle’s gratitude about sending her off with my magic and the notification that my request for turning the rings into magic tool has been accepted.”
The faithful secretary silently listened to Aura’s words, signifying her to continue.
The content had agitated Queen Aura to such an extent. Even Fabio, whose trade mark was his iron mask-like poker face, started to sweat on the hands, which he had unconsciously squeezed into fists.
“The problem is the ‘gossip’ that is embedded into it like small talk. You see, the rumour is about one princess born into the Sharrow Family.”
“A princess from the Sharrow Family? Including the branch family, there is quite a number of them, but I think the fifty-years old Princess Caroline is the oldest one from the direct descendants.”
“No, not in the world today. It is about the princess that was erased from the official records roughly a hundred and fifty years ago.”
“A hundred and fifty years ago…”
The iron mask of Secretary Fabio twitched upon her words.
One hundred and fifty years ago. The erased existence of royalty. On top of that, a woman.
At this point, Secretary Fabio had an exact idea about whom that story was about and to “whom” it connected. He licked once over his dry lips and waited for Aura to continue.
“Since it has completely been erased from the official records, this seems to be a rumour at best, but apparently the Princess, a direct descendent of the Sharrow Family, fell in love with a man she would never be allowed to marry in reality.
Some say the man of her affection was a mere commoner, others say he was from the ‘royalty of hostile country at that time’.
And as love sprouted between two people, who were never allowed to marry, they turned towards elopement before long. In the end, it says, they travelled to a ’new land, where no one would ever find them’.”
Aura finished the tale by nearly spitting out the last bit with raping talking as if she had became desperate.
The secretary took a few deep breaths like Aura before. Indeed, this were certainly extremely bad news, which warranted an agitation.
Even so, Secretary Fabio had more of his composure left than Aura, as he himself wasn’t related to it, and uttered his considered opinion without a crack in his voice.
“So the partner for the ‘prince, who eloped into a different world one hundred and fifty years ago’ in the myth of our Carpa Kingdom, was the Princess from the Sharrow Family. In other words, Zenjirou-sama has inherited both the Carpa bloodline and the Sharrow bloodline, I wonder?”
Aura shook her pale head wearily to the words of her secretary.
“Maybe? Maybe not? No one knows the truth. But it seems that the sender of this letter considers it to be true.”
Aura wrinkled her nose displeased and wildly threw the letter in her hand onto the table. The content was extremely unsettling, but she perfectly understood the importance of it nevertheless.
In this world, being royalty equalled having a unique magic in its bloodline.
Due to that, cases, where royalty of one country married into royalty of a different country just like in mediaeval Europe on Earth, practically never happened. The Carpa Kingdom, for example, had clearly written down a prohibition to marry foreigners for people, who had a relative of the first or second degree that could use “Space-Time Magic”.
The royalty with their bloodline magic belonged to its country and amounted to its military strength if necessary. Now considering that it would fall into the hands of foreign royalty, it was understandable to lose your cool.
“But does that letter really state the truth? What is the chance that they took advantage of a myth from us and sent the letter with the aim to stir up our country?”
Aura shook her head amused in response to her secretary’s prudent argument.
“I cannot deny that possibility, but the messenger arrived too late for that. A whole month has passed, you know. Most likely, the messenger carefully delivered the letter with his own hands without relying on small flying dragons. If they had wanted to stir us up, it would have been more natural to use a small flying dragon.”
With small flying dragons, the same message was sent a bunch of times and only one of them had to reach the destination. The downside was thus that the information could easily leak to an outsider. So when the aim was to stir things up through a rumour, there was no reason not to use the small flying dragons.
“I see. Then why do we not persist in denying all knowledge of that matter?”
Upon the secretary’s bold suggestion, Aura awkwardly averted her gaze and answered.
“Impossible. My husband already ended up confessing it in front of Princess Isabelle during her sick bed visit that he is the descendant of the Carpa royalty, who eloped into a different world one hundred and fifty years ago.”
On a rare occasion, her secretary was at a loss for words to her confession.
“That… was careless.”
“It is all very well for you to talk. Back then, no one could have foreseen how precious that information is. Moreover, my husband had been sick at that point.”
“I am aware of that, but it does not change the fact that it was careless.”
Aura immediately defended Zenjirou, whereat her secretary coldly dismissed it with a sound argument. And after a bit of musing, he put the extremely unfavourable current state into words.
“In that case, the ‘rumour’ has a high credibility, much to our regret. Your Highness, Zenjirou-sama has inherited the Carpa blood without a doubt, correct?”
The secretary confirmed it now after all this time, whereupon Aura nodded while leaning against the backrest of her chair.
“Yes, that is for sure, because I added such a condition to the summoning spell. In addition, my husband has not all that much magic power as a royalty. He would not be able to use the ‘Space-Time Magic’ and ‘Bestowal Magic’ at the same time, not even by accident.”
There was no precedent of a royalty having inherited two bloodline, so it couldn’t be said with certainty, but an established theory at the present time didn’t rule out the possibility that one person theoretically could use two bloodline magic. However, it required an amount of magic power twice as much as a royalty generally had, to make it possible.
“Then the Sharrow Family must fear the latent power in Zenjirou-sama’s blood, namely the existence of this child.”
Aura felt the gaze of her secretary on her stomach and unconsciously stroke it with the palm of right hand, answering him.
“Yes. But I doubt that my child will pose any danger to begin with. Even when we assume that my husband has inherited both the Carpa and the Sharrow blood, once it mixed with my strong Carpa blood, the Sharrow blood was surely suppressed anyway.”
Unless their child became an abnormality that was born with an exceptional magic power and could use both “Space-Time Magic” and “Bestowal Magic” without any problems, it would never cause any troubles. And even the Twin Kingdom surely didn’t anticipate such an unrealistic event.
Secretary Fabio expressed his consent to her words.
“Yes, I am of the same mind. However, it is a different matter altogether when Zenjirou-sama has a child with a concubine. The odds are that this child will manifest the blood of ‘Bestowal Magic’ instead of the blood of ‘Space-Time Magic’.”
“Certainly. I presume that is it what the Sharrow Family fears.”
The bloodline magic of royalty was a country’s best kept secret and if that were to leak to a different country, it was only natural that the members of the Sharrow Family would feel threatened. All the more in their case, since their bloodline magic was closely connected to their country’s defence and finances. If they were to lose their monopoly on magic tools, the Twin Kingdom’s earnings would plummet greatly, to put it charitably.
With one wrong step, the Twin Kingdom might resolve itself for a “next great war”.
“For now, we can only soothe the Twin Kingdom by hinting at them that my husband will not take any concubines.”
“Will that really appease them?”
Aura sighed in response to her secretary’s doubt and shook her head.
“I doubt it. I am sure they cannot rid themselves of the doubt that we will raise a user of ‘Bestowal Magic’ by having my husband secretly impregnate a woman and bring it up as someone else’s child even while we publicly announce that he takes no concubines.”
In fact, Aura herself might have resorted to that, if they weren‘t keeping track of Zenjirou. She knew how dangerous it was to anger the major power of the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, but the prospect of having the “Bestowal Magic” in the own country was so attractive that she wanted to grasp at it against her better judgement.
“Anyway, I think we should consider ourselves lucky that we avoided the worst timing here.”
“Indeed. If it had come to light before your pregnancy or after Zenjirou-sama had taken a concubine… To be honest, I do not even want to imagine it.”
Secretary Fabio answered her like that and shook his head with a stiff expression.
If these news had come to light before Aura was pregnant with Zenjirou’s child, the Twin Kingdom might have demanded more forcefully that Zenjirou was to be handed over to them.
On the other hand, if he already would have had a concubine, it was even possible that they suddenly started a war at once. Considering that, the current situation was far away from having the worst timing.
“Good grief. I would have never known about my husband’s lineage if not for this letter. If they are that afraid of fire, they should not have lit one in the first place.”
Aura glumly gave vent to her displeasure, whereat her secretary answered with a voice that had regained its full composure at some point.
“Most likely, they ‘did not know that we do not know the truth’. Or more precisely, they ‘had no concrete proof that we do not know it’. Maybe they came to the conclusion that it would be too late to act if we should ever stumble over the fact by chance and all they did was watch from the sidelines?”
“I guess that is the gist of it. Either way, I have to talk with my husband first. I am pregnant and the circumstances are a bit complicated after all. It would be better to assume that this will not work out peacefully while we keep it a secret from him.”
For a moment, Secretary Fabio looked like he wanted to say something, but didn’t put it into words in the end.
“…Very well. Although it is a very important matter, it ultimately concerns Your Highness and Zenjirou-sama. I will entrust it to you.”
Aura nodded firm and had all forgotten about her morning sickness at some point.
* * *
At night of the same day.
“…Due to that, the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, or rather the Sharrow Family cannot ignore your existence as you have inherited the bloodline of the Bestowal Magic. Forgive me for taking back my previous words, but I can no longer allow you to take a concubine because of this.
I am sorry. It will become boisterous around you for a while, but I want to ask for your assistance.”
After dinner and bath, Aura sat across Zenjirou in the room of the inner palace and explained in detail what the letter from this noon said, what information they gathered from it and how they would cope with it.
One hundred and fifty years ago, the prince of the Carpa Kingdom eloped with a woman into a different world and the chance was high that this woman was a princess from the Sharrow Royal Family.
It seemed that Zenjirou did not only inherit the Carpa blood, but the Sharrow blood as well, as their descendant.
Therefore, it was possible that his children would have an aptitude for the Bestowal Magic, although Zenjirou himself showed an obvious aptitude for the Space-Time Magic.
Due to that, Zenjirou couldn’t officially take any concubines for the time being, as not to provoke the Sharrow Family unnecessarily.
(Still, the Carpa blood of my child with Aura will apparently suppress the Sharrow blood, since her blood’s stronger than mine, so it won’t pose a problem)
Zenjirou put the information he had heard just now in order in his head without having a real grasp on it, then took the glass filled with water mixed with sugar and fruit sap, from the table while he was still slumped into the couch, and brought it to his mouth.
The moment he tilted the glass, the ice inside bounced around with a clatter and a water drops sprang from it onto his face.
Zenjirou would usually never make such a childish blunder. Hearing about the secret of his birth must have agitated him more than he had thought.
“Are you okay, Zenjirou? It will hurt like hell when it gets into your eyes.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. It was only my face.”
On her outcall, Zenjirou took a white, gauze handkerchief out of the pocket of his trousers and wiped his face with an embarrassed expression.
Then he asked what weighted on his mind the most, what he wanted to know before anything else.
“But honestly, my existence can possibly become disadvantageous to the country then?”
The wife showed a reassuring smile on the frank question of her husband, and shook her head decisively.
“No. Your lineage may be a bit of a problem, but considering the situation in our country, it would be far more problematic if you leave. So there is no need to worry.”
Zenjirou smiled bashful as he felt from her words that he made his wife be considerate to him unnecessarily.
“Yeah, okay. No worry, I wouldn’t think about backing out or anything the like. I’m not such a self-sacrificing type.
It’s just that I was thinking that some nobles would take all kind of actions if my existences ever brings a drawback to the country from an objective point of view.”
Answering like that, Zenjirou shivered his body as his own imagination struck terror in his heart.
As his answer was a bit unexpected, Aura closed her mouth temporarily.
She mused a while over the thought process of her husband, which was more rational and severe than she had expected, then slowly opened her mouth.
“No, I would say you do not have to worry about that. For starters, the news that you have inherited the Sharrow blood is a classified information, only known to their and our royal family so far. But even if it should go public, the nobility in our country would hardly go head over heels to harm you.
Right now, I may be carrying a heir in my stomach, but you are one of the very few people from the Carpa lineage. That fact will not change. The drawbacks you might cause with your presence pale in comparison to the drawbacks of losing you.”
In her mind she added: So realistically speaking, it is not the nobility of our Carpa Kingdom we need to worry about, but the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.
At present, Zenjirou was undoubtedly a “hindrance” to the Sharrow Royal Family. The only one, who would profit from his disappearance, was none other than the Sharrow Family.
Therefore it was necessary to negotiate behind closed doors and convince the Sharrow Family that “Zenjirou wasn’t such a hindrance that warranted to wage war to get rid of him”.
Of course it was possible that some people in both the Carpa Kingdom and Twin Kingdom would take no account of such a logical argument and hurried to get rid of Zenjirou, but nothing would get started if even that had to be considered. These kind of dangers, difficult to anticipate, could only be dealt with makeshift.
After saying all that, Aura frowned a bit and continued.
“Anyhow, the fact that you have inherited the Sharrow blood is a classified information, just like I told you earlier. In other words, you must not mentioned anything about it when you turn down a concubine. Do you understand?”
Zenjirou faced the ceiling and mulled over Aura’s question, then answered unconfident.
“Ehm, basically… I need a nominal ‘excuse’, different from the truth, to reject a concubine?”
Aura nodded curt once as his answer had apparently be correct.
“Indeed. But just like I told you before, it is rather unnatural for you to turn down a concubine in a political sense right now. To be honest, it will be quite difficult to come up with a reason that the nobles will accept.
So please forgive me for this, but can we say that the reason for turning down a concubine is your own selfishness?”
“My selfishness? What do you mean?”
Zenjirou tilted his head puzzled, whereat Aura averted her eyes a bit as her shyness won over her reasoning, and answered vaguely.
“You just have to proclaim the opinion you voiced when I told you about the concubine before, as it is. So, well… Like you do not want anyone to disturb our time alone. Or like you have your head full with the baby and cannot think about anything else…”
“Ah… AHH! G- Got it, yep.”
Zenjirou couldn’t hide his agitation either after hearing that. While he felt his own face getting hot, he replied flustered. Thinking back on it now, he said some really embarrassing stuff back then.
Not one word had been a lie, but the truth didn’t make it any less embarrassing.
An uneasy silence hung over the married couple even now that had made a child.
Aura continued to talk with an affected loud voice as she couldn’t stand the uneasiness of that silence.
“G- Good. Since we cannot reveal your lineage, there is no logical excuse the nobles will accept. In that case, the easiest way is to forcefully push through an argument based on your emotions.
…Forgive me. In the end, I am making you take the blame. Hereafter you will surely be labelled as a ’fool that underrates political decisions because he lost his head over a single woman’.”
His wife lined up her knees and lowered her head a bit on top of the couch, whereupon Zenjirou stood up from the other couch wordlessly and sat down next to her on the same couch.
Now sitting next to her, Zenjirou took Aura’s left hand, which was folded in her lap, and said to her while peeking at her face from the side.
“But that’s the best way, right? Then I don’t mind. A bad reputation of that level has no real harm and actually wards off any weird worshippers instead, so isn’t it all good?
Besides… That hearsay is, in fact, the complete truth.”
Aura smiled softly while Zenjirou still held her left hand, and reached out her right hand for his face. Then,
“Your face is all red.”
she pointed that out.
The husband had endured the embarrassment to comfort his wife. He revealed his emotions on a very rare occasion and raised a loud voice.
“H- Hush! And here I tried my best to endure the shame and confessed…!”
The Queen entirely regained her smile from seeing her bright red husband, lovingly caressed his cheek with her right hand and apologized with a chuckle.
“Sorry, my bad. I was just too happy about your devoted words, so I unconsciously ended up teasing you. Thank you. I will definitely repay you.”
While pleasantly feeling the fingers of his wife on his blushed cheek, Zenjirou replied with a lowered tone.
“Nah, no need to. It’s me, who gets completely taken care of all the time anyway. When I think of it as an effort to preserve my current lifestyle, it isn’t worth mentioning.”
In response to his words, Aura, too, answered honestly without reservation this time.
“Right. I am the Queen, so I cannot afford to have a bad reputation. I can make use of notorieties in regards to my cool-headedness in diplomacy or my sternness on the battlefield, but not so much about a bad reputation concerning love affairs.”
If the rumour spread that the Prince Consort was “refusing concubines because he was head over heels for the Queen”, it would label him as a “fool not interested in politics” at worst, but if the rumour spread that the Queen “denied him any concubines because she was head over heels for him”, then voices would be raised at once, saying “I am worried with such a Queen on the throne”.
If either Zenjirou or Aura had to end up with the stigma of being “lost in love”, it was inevitable that it would be Zenjirou.
For a while, Zenjirou held Aura’s hand and let her caress his cheek, then he let go of the hand of his beloved wife and started to talk with a serious expression again.
“Now I actually have a request myself, too. Forgive me as well for taking back by previous statement, but I would like to attend a bit more activity outside the inner palace. Would that be alright?”
Aura’s relaxed expression froze for a moment upon his words.
He wanted to leave the inner palace. In itself that wasn’t anything unusual, but as his wish was all too different from his behaviour so far, Aura unintentionally assumed a caustic tone.
“You want to? Why?”
Zenjirou picked out the Queen’s biting tone quite well, but didn’t flinch from it and answered while keeping a soft tone.
“Yeah. The burden on you in the last month was quite huge, wasn’t it? So I thought I would substitute for you in suitable events that don’t require complicated decisions.
Of course I’m aware that by doing so, brings the danger of nobles approaching me, but right now, I’m more worried about your health.”
Aura didn’t respond to the sincere words of her worried husband for a while.
It certainly was a fact that her work had became more difficult in the month since her pregnancy had been confirmed. Although her duties as the Queen were few, she had thought that she was tending to the laws and personnel enough to keep the country going, but it was likewise a fact that it would be so much easier when there was a royalty, who could take her place.
“Mhm, I am happy about your offer, but it will bring you a lot of trouble, you know?”
Zenjirou nodded with a smile when Aura called attention to it.
“I’m prepared for that. Or so I say, actually it might be worse than I imagine.”
“It will definitely far worse than what you imagine. Once you start getting active outside of the inner palace, the ambitious nobles are not the only ones that will pester you. Even my loyal retainers will treat you with suspicion.”
The Prince Consort would actively leave the inner palace. While it was a great chance for the ambitious people in the country, it seemed like a threat to the loyal retainers of Aura on the other hand.
Aura’s right-hand man, Secretary Fabio and others would surely track Zenjirou’s every single move with doubtful eyes.
Zenjirou made a slightly troubled face upon her answer and replied.
“Of course I’ll refrain from doing so if it causes you troubles…”
Aura mused for a moment. At the beginning, she certainly had wanted a “husband that didn’t meddle with politics at all”, but a “husband that helped her through thankless tasks with deliberation as not to rattle at her authority” was even more welcome than a “husband that did absolutely nothing”.
However, even though she came to know through their relationship until today that he had no evil intentions like stealing a march on her and taking power, it remained questionable if he had the necessary skills for conversations and negotiations to survive against the sly nobles without making any promises.
(Still, it is certain that my current condition will greatly affect my government later on. I never thought that a pregnancy would restrain me so much in my conduct)
In her initial plan, Aura had intended to keep giving birth to children in “consecutive years”, but that option was quite unrealistic, learning from the current situation.
The period from the pregnancy until delivery commonly lasted “ten month and ten days”. A year had twelve months, thirteen when there was an intercalary month. If she were to give birth to a child every year, she would spend five sixths of each year pregnant.
It undoubtedly would interfere with her duties.
(I guess it is too much of a burden after all to be a “mother” and a “Queen” at the same time)
At least it would be unrealistic to rule directly without a Marshal and a Prime Minister as she had done until now. However, Aura’s authority and influence would weaken in accordance with her diminishing burden when she appointed a Marshal and Prime Minister.
From now on, she would have to be even more mindful about the power balance to the influential nobles than right now.
(Taking that into account, it would be meaningful to have an ally, whose personality I can trust, even if I cannot rely on his abilities)
Aura faced Zenjirou.
Zenjirou looked her directly into the eyes and silently waited for her decision.
They gazed at each other at a close range for a while in silence. Before long, Aura then relaxed her expression and declared.
“Fine. The burden would certainly be too much for me like this. I am happy to receive your help. However…”
“Yes, I know. When ‘you decide’ that I’m causing trouble instead, then I’ll shut myself into the inner palace by ‘my own will’ again.”
Without letting Aura finish her sentence, Zenjirou assured her with a smile.
Even if she was the Queen, she would end up ruining her reputation when she, as the wife, interfered with her husband’s free will. Zenjirou was thoroughly taught about the values of this country in regards to that.
Yeah, her husband was sympathetic to the core. Aura’s expression was about to crumble for a moment from her husband’s profound affection, but she braced herself right away and responded.
“Yes, sorry for all the trouble. I am counting on you. Come to think of it, you are scheduled to meet Knight Otario Maldonado outside of the inner palace to accept his vow of loyalty. I shall have my loyal retainer Fabio accompany you on that occasion.”
Secretary Fabio would surely give him some precise advices. And even if she didn’t want to consider it, he would immediately sense it when Zenjirou awoke to ambitions by chance, and undoubtedly “deal with it accurately”.
“Well then, it is about time I retreat to the bedroom. It may be a bit earlier, but I have to increase my sleeping time, since I wake up in the middle of the night.”
Aura said that, then slowly raised from the couch.
Recently, she woke up in the middle of the night due to feeling sick, albeit not every night. But even without that, Doctor Michelle had told her to get as much sleep as possible.
To begin with, it had become quite the habit to stay active during the night, too, due to the LED floor lamps Zenjirou had brought with him. During her previous daily routine, she had been already asleep by now.
“Huh? Already this late?”
Zenjirou looked at the digital clock on top of the shelf when she said that, and stood up from the couch as to follow her, softly taking her hand.
“Okay, then let’s go to sleep.”
“You do not really have to go along with my early bedtime, you know?”
Aura informed him like that while docilely letting her husband lead her by the hand.
“Nah, I wouldn’t be able to relax here anyway, since the waiting maids are going to be on standby in the living room.”
Zenjirou replied with that to her words.
The waiting maids of the inner palace were on night watch to cope with any unusual phenomena with Aura in the current phase of her pregnancy, where she showed symptoms of pregnancy discomforts. After Aura had gone to bed, the waiting maids took up station in the only room adjoining to the bedroom, namely this living room.
Zenjirou usually hated it when they imposed onto his private space, but he couldn’t voice such a petty selfishness when it concerned the safety of his beloved wife.
Due to that, it lately stopped bothering him so much when the waiting maids were present in the room next door. That said, not so much that he could relax in the same room as them.
“I see. Then we are going to bed together, I guess.”
Aura said, then linked her arm with Zenjirou’s.
“Yeah, we are.”
Their current bedroom had two beds. Husband and wife, heading for their shared bedroom with separate beds, slowly opened the door to the bedroom while their arms were still linked as if they had a hard time letting go.