On a certain day, Aura welcomed the nobility from other countries and had an informal meeting at lunch in the courtyard of the royal palace.
It was common practice to take a long midday break during the hottest period of the year, but of course there were obvious exceptions.
Due to her schedule, Aura reluctantly had to sacrifice even her originally private lunch time for diplomacy, since she wouldn’t otherwise find the time to do it for while if not for today.
At any rate, it was way too hot to have lunch in the dining hall like always during this season.
In light of this, the luncheon meeting was held next to the water fountain spraying its water high up.
Aura had chosen a structure with only a roof on four pillars for their meeting. It had no walls, so the wind could freely blow through it.
The roof warded off the aggressive sunlight and the lack of walls allowed the wind to carry a somewhat cool breeze over from the nearby fountain.
In this courtyard with the best countermeasures against the brutal heat as possible, Aura cut up the flat hardtack, immersed it into the spicy soup and brought it to her mouth, then looked at the middle-aged noble sitting to her right.
“I hope I have your understanding now, Count Zamurd. The reason we have deployed soldiers this time is to subjugate the meat dragons, which we assume have appeared on the state road. Nothing more than a domestic matter.
I would like you to convey it to the Navarra Kingdom similarly.”
The Navarra Kingdom was a mid-size country south of the Carpa Kingdom. It bordered on the March of Guzzle of the Carpa Kingdom and in sheer numbers, their military strength was far inferior to the Carpa Kingdom, but they were formidable enough to somehow or other preserve their independence until the very end in the previous war.
Aura wanted to avoid to put their nose out of joint.
“Yes, I certainly have understood, Your Highness Aura. I promise you that I will convey it to my country without fail.”
After listening to Aura, the middle-aged man— the noble from the Navarra Kingdom, Count Nalbia Zamurd said that and lowered his head a bit.
Count Zamurd didn’t really have any traits to speak of. He was an ordinary man in his middle age: An average physique and an average height. His skin was brown, just the same as most people in the western part on the South Continent, and his hair and eyes were black.
It was basically said that the skin-, hair- and eye colour became darker the farther south you went on the South Continent, but there was seemingly no difference in racial appearance between the northerly Carpa Kingdom and the southerly Navarra Kingdom.
That said, everyone was wearing the simplified dress of their respective countries, so it wasn’t all too difficult to conjecture the nationality in appearance.
The simplified dress from Count Zamurd was arranged around the symbolic colour of the Navarra Kingdom: yellow. Finishing his lunch, he put down the silver spoon next to the soup and looked Aura in the eye, continuing with his speech.
“Still, with all due respect, my country cannot ignore the matter when the incident on the Salt Road really is caused by ‘Meat Dragons’, as it happens right at the border.
Your Highness, I would like to caution my country to keep an eye on the ’northern border’, too, when I write them about your purpose. Do I have your blessing?”
Queen Aura assented the request from the noble of the bordering country while keeping the vigorous smile on her face.
“Naturally. You may do that. Borders mean nothing to the dragons after all. Due to circumstances on our side as well, we cannot cooperate, but I have no reason to hinder you.”
“Yes, I appreciate your concern.”
Hearing her approval, Count Zamurd deeply lowered his head in a still sitting position.
Their conversation kind of feigned ignorance.
It definitely was a fact that the March of Guzzle bordered on the Navarra Kingdom, but a steep mountain range spanned between them as a kind of buffer, so there was no fear of the meat dragons, which had appeared in the March of Guzzle, crossing the border into the Navarra Kingdom unless something grave drove them into doing so.
Both, Count Zamurd and Aura, knew this of course.
The count deliberately sought the “permission to caution his homeland about the border” not for the meat dragons, but in regards to the army of the Carpa Kingdom. To put it simply, his reply amounted to: “If by chance, the information turns out to be a lie and the Carpa Kingdom is going to invade us, we will be ready, too.”
From the point of view of the Navarra Kingdom, that was the most natural reaction. It would be a failure as a country if they didn’t take precautions when a neighbouring country moved troops along the border.
Aura had anticipated his reply from the very beginning and had deliberately given Count Zamurd her approval, well aware of his implied intention. That was the unspoken side of their conversation.
If the Navarra Kingdom was only going to take precautions beyond the border, it was still within an agreeable range for Aura.
Carrying the spicy soup to her mouth with the silver spoon, Aura was sweating a bit on the forehead and she pondered innerly.
(Well, considering the difference in our military powers, I would say that they are not going to try anything stupid anyway, even without my consideration, but that does not mean I can just neglect to do so.)
The Carpa Kingdom was a prominent major power in the western part of the South Continent, whereas the Navarra Kingdom was nothing more than one of many mid-size countries.
Even if she were to act somewhat inconsiderate, it was rather unlikely that the other side would oppose stubbornly, but international diplomacy had “unexpected pitfalls” everywhere.
If she could avoid any unfortunate accidents through a simple post hoc conversation with the diplomat from the other country like this, it was an easy deal.
That, too, was possible because the Carpa Kingdom was a major power. If the power levels of their countries had been reversed, it would have become a lot more troublesome.
Seeking their “understanding after the fact” like this time would definitely be inexcusable then.
It would take priority that she first asked for the opinion of the other nation, explaining that she “will deploy the army near the border without any hostile intentions”, and get their “approval” in form of an “understanding”.
(Considering that, I cannot really complain about troubles of this level.)
Aura had to sacrifice her lunch break, which she originally would have spent together with her amiable husband in the presence of the ventilator, for an informal diplomacy meeting, so she persuaded herself like that.
Quenching her thirst with the lukewarm water from the silver goblet, Aura deliberately showed a pleased expression, then nodded somewhat exaggerated and shifted her gaze towards another person.
She eyed a man, who wore a simplified dress of another country with white stripes on purple cloth.
It was the diplomat from the Twin Kingdom of Jilbell and Sharrow: Knight Moreno Militec.
At the receiving end of her look, Knight Moreno cleared his throat once with an affected cough, then slowly began to speak in order to play his own role.
“First off, I am glad to see that it didn’t cause an misunderstanding between your two nations. I have great respect for Her Highness Aura’s consideration as well as Count Zamurd’s insight.
I hope my country can follow your example and establish a constructive and worthwhile relationship with nearby countries as well.”
“You honour us, Sir Moreno.”
In reaction to Knight Moreno’s words, Count Zamurd showed a little bit of relief on his almost perfect poker face and responded like that.
Needless to say, it was a consideration towards the Navarra Kingdom to let a third party, namely Moreno Militec, attend the informal meeting.
Considering the difference in power between the Carpa Kingdom and the Navarra Kingdom, it wouldn’t be all too strange when any verbal agreements here were annulled by force later on.
Of course, Aura had not the slightest intention to do something that dishonest, but the other party had no way to read her sentiment.
Aura had earned herself a reputation as a relatively sincere ruler of a major power, but she would have no choice but to dodge the question when asked if she had nothing to feel guilty about in the past.
Because it would be a lie if she were to say that she never went back on her word as the Queen for the sake of her country.
Therefore, she had Moreno Militec from the Twin Kingdom witness the meeting in order to lend credence to her words.
The Twin Kingdom of Jilbell and Sharrow was a major power ruling supreme over the central area of the South Continent with a strength on par or even greater than the Carpa Kingdom. Even the Queen of the Carpa Kingdom couldn’t easily break her promise when someone from the Twin Kingdom had witnessed it.
And this intention of hers didn’t go unnoticed.
“My most profound thanks for your consideration, Your Highness.”
After giving Moreno a short glance, Count Zamurd looked at Aura on the seat of honour again and bowed deeply.
Explaining the “troop movements in the March of Guzzle” to the person from the Navarra Kingdom and coming to an understanding in the presence of someone from the Twin Kingdom.
That had been the objective of the informal meeting under the guise of a luncheon and it had been perfectly achieved in Aura’s eyes at this point of time.
However, she couldn’t just conclude the meeting now. Although it was just a pretext that nobody took at face value, the official designation was still a “private luncheon hosted by Aura”.
As they had already finished their lunch, the nobles drunk fruity water or soft alcohol drinks while making conversation.
In this world, the most common countermeasure against the heat was to sweat from a spicy soup, replenish the body fluids and then sweat again.
Due to that, one had to drink an adequate amount of water in summertime or one would suffer dehydration.
Even without a particular medical science, the people of this world were aware of the danger of dehydration through experience.
Amidst that, the diplomat from the Twin Kingdom, Moreno called out to the smiling Aura with a casual tone as in simple gossip.
“Still, I’ve got to say that the communication within your country is as quick as always, Your Highness. It’s very untypical for a major power. I take it that you have used your magic on this occasion?”
“Mh? Ah, yes. It was a pressing matter after all, so I send off the messenger with my magic.”
There was really no need to conceal it, so Aura answered honestly. Nevertheless, she was wary of him inwardly. Even without confirming it, it ought to be easily conceivable that she had used her “Teleport” magic for this matter. The only reason the diplomat from the Twin Kingdom deliberately inquired about it here was that he wanted to expand that topic now.
Whether he was aware of Aura’s suspicion or not, Knight Moreno widened his eyes in an exaggerated admiration and spoke.
“Oho! So it was your magic after all. I knew it, the practical use of the magic from the Carpa Royal Lineage really surpasses even the other royal lineages.
However, I would imagine it is all the more inconvenient at the present time. I mean, the magic is quite useful, but you are the only practitioner, Your Highness.”
“…Well, I guess so.”
I see, that is how he is going to play. Aura more or less figured out what Moreno would say next, so she relaxed a bit and affirmed it.
And as a matter of fact, the following words from Moreno were exactly what Aura had expected.
“Well then, what do you say about this, Your Highness? We could make your magic into a ‘magic tool’ in order to use it more efficiently.”
Keeping a sociable smile on his face, Knight Monero suggested this.
The manufacture of a “magic tool”. Of course he was referring to a “Teleport” magic tool.
(I knew it.)
Aura had to use all of her willpower to stop her smile from turning sour.
The suggestion to make “Teleport” magic tools was something the Twin Kingdom had enquired of the Carpa Kingdom since forever, not just in Aura’s generation.
And it was also an unresolved issue as the Carpa Kingdom had always pushed it aside. The “Teleport” magic was one of the advantages that had raised the Carpa Kingdom to be a prominent major power in the western part of the South Continent.
Embedding that magic into magic tools meant to bequeath the possibility that people apart from the Carpa Royal Family could use the “Teleport” magic, albeit restrictive.
In reality, the Twin Kingdom had once proposed to “make two teleport magic tools and distribute one to each side”.
There was no way Aura could accept a dangerous proposition, where she practically threw away an advantage of her country herself.
“That is a grateful offer, but I have to refuse. It is necessary to cooperate with the spell caster and tool manufacturer for years to make a magic tool, correct? As you mentioned before, I am currently the only practitioner of the ‘Space-Time Magic’.
You surely do not expect me to vacate my throne and go to the capital of the Twin Kindom, do you?”
She knew what Moreno was getting at.
The Twin Kingdom wasn’t considering what Aura had just said, namely inviting her to the capital, either. They most likely had their eyes on Zenjirou.
Lately, Zenjirou was quickly making progress with his magic training. He still hadn’t a perfect control over his magical power, but he reached a point, where he succeeded in activating the magic at three out of five attempts.
Once he mastered his output of magical power, it would only be a matter of time until he learned the “Teleport” magic.
It was foreseeable that he would reach a practical level of the “Space-Time Magic” within this year at the earliest or next year at the latest.
Aura conjectured that the ultimate aim of the Twin Kingdom was to invite Zenjirou to their capital once he was able to use teleport.
(In that case, I cannot really give him a curt reply here.)
She frowned inwardly.
After all, Zenjirou himself had expressed his “intention to go to the capital of the Twin Kingdom as soon as he learned how to use ‘Teleport’”.
Making arrangements, so that he could bring over a practitioner of the “Healing Magic” from the Jilbell Lineage during Aura’s next delivery if necessary.
That was Zenjirou’s greatest goal of now.
Her husband was so devoted to his wife that Aura unconsciously cracked a smile just from remembering that.
Taking into account these prospective state of things, it was better when Aura avoided turning down the offer conclusively now.
She quickly settled her thoughts like that, but on a very rare occasion, her train of thought turned out to be completely futile.
The reason behind it was that Aura’s forecast was fundamentally different from Knight Moreno’s answer.
“Not at all, Your Highness. You may rest assured that is not the case. To tell you the truth, Prince Francesco and Princess Bona have shown a great interest in the ’transparent jewel’ and the ’diamond rings’ after laying eyes on them.
As long as you permit it, Your Highness Aura, the two of them have expressed their dear desire to visit the Carpa Kingdom once.”
Faced with a completely unexpected statement, Aura failed to keep a straight face and revealed an expression of surprise.
However, that was only natural.
Prince Francesco and Princess Bona. Both of them were royalty from the “Sharrow Lineage”. It was one thing when a person from the “Jilbell Lineage” was summoned as a practitioner of the “Healing Magic”, but a member of the “Sharrow Royal Family”, also known as practitioners of the “Bestowal Magic”, had never set foot into a foreign country, at least not in the last hundred years.
Aura’s surprised reaction was actually rather moderate. Some of the present nobles from the Carpa Kingdom ended up snorting the drinks from their mouths over their clothes or tablecloth.
She couldn’t even blame them for this.
A visit from the “Sharrow Royal Family” was such a shocking revelation. Moreover, he was hinting at the manufacture of a “magic tool”, so it also presupposed a long stay depending on the circumstances.
“Ah, this is not set in stone, of course. I would appreciate it when you only treat it as some small talk at an informal gathering. But I swear that what I have said is the truth all the same.”
Moreno showed an affected grin on his face as if he was proud about the huge impact his utterance had caused at the end.
* * *
Night of the same day.
As always, Zenjirou and Aura were having some quality time for themselves on the couch in the living room after a dinner and a bath.
However, there were not sitting “next to each other”, but “opposite one another”.
They would sit next to each other when they talked leisurely. And when there was something to be discussed somewhat seriously, they would sit opposite one another. This unwritten rule had established itself at some point in the past year.
Due to that, Zenjirou had recognized how the conversation would turn out from the moment Aura had sat down in front of him, so he put down his whiskey on the rocks on the coaster on top of the table without having nipped at it yet.
His judgment didn’t seem to be incorrect as Aura began to talk with a serious expression that didn’t correspond with the comfortable clothes in form of a sheer nightgown that she had put on after the bath.
“Zenjirou, can we talk for a bit? I know it is not the most appropriate time for such a topic, but I want you to hear about it. It came up during the ‘luncheon meeting’ today…”
The six LED floor lamps illuminated the couch, where Zenjirou leaned forward a bit in his blue-striped pyjama and lent his wife an ear.
“Ehm, I don’t really get it. Is it really such a rare thing that the ‘Sharrow Family’ comes to another country?”
After listening to Aura’s explanation from beginning to last, Zenjirou first posed such a straight question.
The Prince and Princess of the “Sharrow Royal Family” might come to this country.
He understood that it was an important event, but even so, Aura’s surprise about it seemed a bit exaggerated to him.
For instance, Princess Isabelle had paid him an official visit last year and she was from the Jilbell Royal Family, the other royal linage in the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.
Due to the short notice, only nobles from the Carpa Kingdom or ambassadors from other countries had attended the marriage of Aura and Zenjirou, but his private tutor Octavia had told him that marriage ceremonies of a ruler were usually witnessed by a great number of direct royalty from other countries.
Aura smiled a bit at his question, then nodded and answered.
“Yes, a visit from ‘royalty’ is not something extraordinary. A visit from THE ‘Sharrow Royalty’ on the other hand is extraordinary, because the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbill has two royal families. Foreign visits are principally entrusted to the ‘Jilbell Family’.
The Kingdom did not last with a double leadership centuries-long for appearance’s sake. They have properly allocated the duties.
I have heard, though, that there are many blurred authority structures between the two families and that they apparently fight over them in the shadows in the interest of their respective family.”
Upon Aura’s explanation, Zenjirou nodded with “I see”.
“I guess when such a secluded royal family goes out of their way to visit another country, they have some kind of concrete goal?”
It went without saying, but he asked it nevertheless, whereat Aura consented like expected.
“Yes. Most likely, they are after your ‘marbles’. Truth be told, the Twin Kingdom has intimated through letters from Princess Isabelle that they wish to buy up all the remaining ‘marbles’.
I think it is safe to assume that the ‘marbles’ play an important part for the application of the ‘Bestowal Magic’ after all.”
“Hmm, the marbles, huh…”
The glass balls were simple toys worth a few hundred yen per bag, but in this world, they were precarious objects that could disrupt the political balance between the royal families. Still, all of that didn’t feel all too real to Zenjirou.
“Well, I’ll leave the negotiations to you. Do as you like and tell me the outcome afterwards. Ah, by the way, what are the odds that they aren’t after ‘my bloodline’? At the beginning, they were rather persistent about it.”
As he suddenly thought of it, he raised such a question, whereupon Aura put her right hand against her chin and mused for a while. Then she shook her head and answered.
“…No, I cannot deny the possibility of it, but I would say it is quite unlikely. Sure, Princess Bona is a young and unmarried royalty and when she pays us a visit, they probably think it will not do any harm to try to seduce you on the occasion, but even so, she cannot just go on the offensive in our palace.
If we have to be wary about something, then it is ‘their palace’. At some point in time, you intend to go to the Twin Kingdom when you have mastered the ‘Teleport’ magic, right? Even if you should have magical power to spare, you certainly would not return on the same day. Their palace would undoubtedly give you a very ‘warm welcome’.
And as long as the Sharrow Family has not given up on your bloodline, or rather on your person, they will make their move there.”
Saying so, his wife showed a slightly menacing smile, which involuntarily made a shiver ran down his spine.
“Oh, okay. Yeah, I can see something like that happening.”
Thinking about it, it was only natural.
Technically, he could jump directly to the permanent residence of the ambassador of the Carpa Kingdom in the capital of the Twin Kingdom with the “Teleport” magic, but there was no way that he would be allowed to make a short trip to their royal palace without notice.
Just like Aura had said, he would hardly be in a position to refuse the “warm welcome” with a hidden agenda.
(Not good. I might’ve taken this a bit too lightly.)
Although the matter was still far off in the future, Zenjirou became aware of his naive outlook and hung his head a bit in self-criticism on the couch.
Nevertheless, he couldn’t let the initial goal of learning the “Teleport” magic and moving to the Twin Kingdom, falter just because of that.
It was more or less an established fact that Aura would give birth to a second or third child in the future.
During the birth of the first child, namely Carlos Zenkichi, he couldn’t do anything and had to entrust everything to luck and Aura’s stamina. He definitely didn’t want to face the same incompetence for the next delivery again.
Once Zenjirou could travel back and forth to the Twin Kingdom with “Teleport”, he would be able to immediately bring over a practitioner of the “Healing Magic” from the “Jilbell Lineage” when it came to the crunch.
He was willing to take a few risks for that.
Renewing his resolve about his future activities, Zenjirou corrected his posture on the couch and looked Aura, sitting across from him, in the eye.
“Okay. When that time comes, I’ll be extra careful and do my best not to be ensnared.”
With a gentle look, the Queen gave a short answer to the reply of her husband.
His reply came about through the reasoning of not changing the presumed plan of “going to the Twin Kingdom as soon as he learned the ‘Teleport’ magic” in the least.
Aura realized that the root of his reasoning was his affection and consideration towards her, so she unwittingly cracked a smile, albeit worrying about his future.
“Fine. It is still something for the future, but I am counting on you once the time comes.”
With her smile on display, she told that to her husband with a calm tone.
“Anyway, to get back on topic, when will that Prince and Princess of the Sharrow family come here?”
Amidst a bit more relaxed atmosphere, Zenjirou stirred his whiskey, diluted from the melted ice, with a silver spoon and drunk from the blue Satsuma Kiriko glass.
Aura wet her throat with the brandy from the red Satsuma Kiriko of the same design and leaned against the backrest of the couch, answering after inclining her head to the side.
“When, indeed. It is merely an ‘unofficial chitchat’ yet. I do not think that it will happen any time soon, but something like this never happened before. To be honest, I cannot guess their actions.”
“Hmm, I see. Then it’s no use being on guard already, I guess. Ah, speaking of, what kind of people are they? Do you know them?”
Aura shook her head to his question.
“No. Like I just told you, the Sharrow Royal Family rarely appears abroad. Compared to other royal families, there is barely any information about them.
All I know is their lineage and age. And maybe some exaggerated rumours that will be of no use.”
She said that, then put her red glass back on the coaster on top of the table even though it was not empty yet.
As her husband asked the short question of “what kind of rumours?”, Aura leaned backwards on the couch and continued to talk with her hands folded on her stomach.
“Mhm, let me tell you about their ages first. Prince Francesco is twenty-four years old whereas Princess Bona is sixteen. The prince is a direct descendant from the royal family and the grandson of the current king. Furthermore, he is the oldest son of the crown prince, who is pretty much assumed to become the next king.”
Zenjirou widened his eyes in surprise upon the unexpected great family tree.
“That means he’ll be the king after his father?”
That would be the case from interpreting Aura’s explanation straightforward. In this world, it was no absolute rule that the eldest son would succeed the throne, but it was a favoured trend.
However, Aura shook his head to his question again.
“No, not quite. At least at the present time, Prince Francesco has no claim on the throne yet.”
This statement surprised Zenjirou even more than before.
“EH!? But isn’t he already twenty-four? Is that even possible?”
“No. Normally it would be impossible. There exists a precedent of a person with legitimate birth not being acknowledge as royalty, because he could not activate the ‘bloodline magic’, but Prince Francesco is known as one of the top five practitioners of the ‘Bestowal Magic’ amongst the current Sharrow Royal Family.”
Zenjirou couldn’t help but getting suspicious after hearing Aura’s distinct words.
The legitimate grandson of the current king was already in his twenty-fourth year of age and had no problems to activate the “bloodline magic”, yet for some reason, he had no “claim on the throne”.
When he wasn’t given the claim on the throne, even though there was nothing wrong with his lineage, age and talent, then the simplest solution would be that there was a problem with his “character”.
“…Somehow, I don’t really want to meet him anymore after hearing that.”
Zenjirou muttered his impression with a frown, whereat Aura expressed her consent with a short nod.
“Nonetheless, they are breaking the longstanding silence by deliberately sending a delegation to our country, so he must have enough common sense not to cause an international problem… or at least I hope so.”
Aura frowned a bit while saying so, then pulled herself together and started to describe the other royalty.
“The other visitor will be Princess Bona. She has pretty much the opposite background from Prince Francesco. Her parents are not royalty. She was born into a senior noble family with blood relation to the royal family and inherited the ‘bloodline magic’. I think she is the 25th or 26th in the line of succession? Well, a rather low-ranked nobility.”
“Oho, so even if you aren’t of royal birth, you can get acknowledged as royalty as long as you can use the ‘bloodline magic’.”
Zenjirou said somewhat in awe, whereupon Aura nodded curt and responded.
“Yes. It varies from country to country, but the laws in the Twin Kingdom treat it like that. Well, the not pure-blooded royalty can practically use the bloodline magic, if only by a narrow margin, so it does not cause difficulties regarding the succession for the time being. In reality though, they have no other value than being a practitioner of the ‘bloodline magic’.
She ought to have a rather weak standing inside the country.”
“I see. It might be rude to say this, but she’s a true ‘princess in name only’, huh.”
“That sums it up. That is why it is so troublesome. Their intention is as plain as day.”
Saying so, Aura gave Zenjirou a meaningful look. He discerned what she wanted to say and slurred his speech.
“Ahh… I see, indeed. In other words, I guess, they maybe, kind of, still haven’t given up on me, after all?”
“Well, I am repeating myself, but I think she will not go on a foolish offence in our palace. More likely, they are thinking on the lines of making an early visit to deepen the acquaintance to you, with a ‘nothing to lose’ mindset.”
Aura said and shrugged her shoulders a bit.
“Uwah… Sounds like it’ll be quite tiresome…”
Zenjirou emptied his glass in one gulp so as to swallow the emerging sigh along with it.