Zenjirou was making it a rule for himself to only attend events that were held for the sake of form as far as practicable, but appearing in public brought about some entanglements that he just couldn’t escape.
On a certain day, his appearance at a luncheon meeting that was held in form of a buffet in one part of the royal palace, was inevitably.
“Oh my, then you made a completely new alcohol drink by yourself, Zenjirou-sama? How wonderful.”
Standing in front of him, a tall beauty, who could pass as a super model, praised him with such an affected voice while her arms were crossed in front of her chest. It was Fatima Guillén.
“No, it’s just a hobby of mine. It’s hardly praiseworthy.”
Zenjirou tried to somehow end the conversation with an behaviour as cold as the circumstances permitted it, but she wasn’t the little sister of the “Insatiable Wolf” aka General Puyol for nothing. Her assertiveness and pushiness were in no way inferior to her brother’s.
“Oh my, how modest. They say alcohol is a kind of culture. Creating a completely new alcohol drink means to enrich our country’s culture and economy. It is wonderful, indeed.”
She held him in place with a nauseating flattery.
“Haha, please stop flattering me. When a beautiful woman like you sweet-talks me, I’ll likely get all stuck-up.”
Saying nothing but empty phrases, Zenjirou protected himself with a forced smile while he inwardly broke out a cold sweat and thought “what a pain”.
As the banquet was no formal event, it didn’t place as much importance on the social standing and etiquette. Since he only had a superficial knowledge about the etiquette, it had the merit that mistakes from him were somewhat overlooked, but on the other hand, it also had the demerit of allowing aggressive approaches like this one.
At any rate, it had been a mistake that he attended this banquet.
Zenjirou regretted his decision all too late.
From the list of participants that he viewed before, he had concluded that there would be no ambitious person amongst the guests, who would assertively curry favour with him, so he had attended unmindful, but this situation without an ambitious person turned against him now.
As a result, Famita Guillén, the little sister of an ambitious person, had participated at the last minute and could monopolize the approach on him to her heart’s content.
(Well, I’m surprised she can throw herself at a man she doesn’t love with such vigour. Guess I just can’t empathize with the values of nobles.)
Zenjirou looked at the tall beauty, who was half a head taller than him and continued to chat passionately in front of him, while he was under such an impression.
This may come across harsh, but the woman called Fatima was by far the most awkward person in keeping a poker face amongst all the people Zenjirou had met so far.
Well, considering that she was only seventeen years-old, it was to be expected, but it was obvious even to him that she hadn’t had her facial expression under control.
Her almond black eyes, emitting a strong will, were a problem in particular. No matter how much she praised him with words or how she gave him a charming smile, the glint in her eyes was the same as a “beast targeting its prey”.
Everything she did, including attracting his affection, happened on the orders of her brother. Her desire was the prosperity of the Guillén Family and she saw no value in making a happy family with him.
At least it appeared as such to Zenjirou.
However beautiful she may be, it would be no laughing matter to take her as a concubine. Zenjirou realized that it was a bit childish to think that about a girl seven years younger than him, but he couldn’t help but feel that way instinctively.
As the girl sensed his inner turmoil, Fatima overhasty exaggerated her offence, whereat Zenjirou was even further repelled.
It was an insuperable vicious circle.
“I am not much of a drinker myself, but over the generation, the Guillén Family had a lot of sympathizer for alcohol. I could tell a thousand tales about my brother, the current head of the family, in regards to alcohol.”
“Oho. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but General Puyol sure is an exception. All the tales about him truly describe him as the great man that he looks like.”
Zenjirou had feared that he went overboard with his affected reaction, but his seemingly admiring comment brightened up Fatima’s expression.
“Yes! When my brother was eighteen years old, he drunk our uncle Emidio-dono, known as a heavy drinker, under the table in a contest. My uncle lost his treasured spear to my brother as the stake, which made his loss only worse.
Since then my uncle has never touched alcohol again, so his wife, Lady Deborah, was quite grateful to my brother.”
As usual, the girl kept talking about the brave anecdotes of her older brother.
Zenjirou didn’t have an all that favourable impression of General Puyol, as he was Aura’s former husband candidate, so it was far from pleasant to hear him getting praised to the skies like this.
(Interesting. If he holds his drink so well, I’ll make some super high-proof alcohol next time, like 80% or so, and let him drink it in one go.)
Such mischievous thoughts were crossing his mind.
What a great feeling that would be if he could have the man, who walked about with a confident and overwhelming aura, on his knees for being dead-drunk.
Without an idea about the small-calibre imagination of the man in front of her, Fatima continued the bragging of her beloved brother with even more vigour.
“…Furthermore, a couple of his heroic deeds during the previous war have been made into songs. If you have the time, please invite a troubadour next time and listen to them. Any troubadour associated with the royal palace knows of them.”
Even Zenjirou couldn’t withhold his wry smile as the tall beauty proudly continued to brag about her sweet brother.
“You sure respect your brother General Puyol from the bottom of your heart, My Lady Fatima.”
Upon the kind of warm-hearted words one gives to children, Fatima realized that she had completely wandered from one topic to another and flushed her cheeks reddish all too late.
“Ah, f- forgive me. Here I go on all by myself…”
She lowered her head embarrassed with these words and her coquettish played smile made her look numerous times more lovely. Still, she was hardly as radiant as when she was talking about the heroic deeds of her beloved brother, which grated a bit on Zenjirou’s nerves.
“No need to apologize. General Puyol is a very prominent figure in the military. It’s revealing to hear about his deeds and I personally am quite interested in it as well.”
“Many thanks, Zenjirou-sama.”
When he smoothed the situation out, the tall beauty leaned over her tall body and lowered her head bashfully.
* * *
The extremely tiring luncheon meeting somehow came to an end and Zenjirou had returned into the inner palace, but unfortunately it was not time to relax just yet.
“Octavia-sama is awaiting you, Zenjirou-sama.”
“Okay, I’ll be there in a minute.”
Today’s afternoon was scheduled with a magic lesson from Lady Octavia.
Over past year, Zenjirou and Lady Octavia had settled into the “classroom”.
Like always, they sat across each other on chairs with a table in-between them, carrying out the mysterious lesson.
“Well then, Zenjirou-sama, please go ahead. Show me your magic.”
Obeying his “teacher”, Zenjirou took a deep breath while remaining seated comfortably in the chair.
Since he had awakened the “ability to detect magical power” by now, he was able to perceive the faint magical glow coming from his body.
Zenjirou vividly pictured the effect of the magic inside his head while registering that glow coming from his folded hands on the table in the corner of the eye, then he spoke the “incantation”.
‘Cut off a spherical space of the world around the tip of my finger. As compensation, I will make three-hundred and fifty-nine offerings of magical power to the Space-Time spirit.’
He was speaking in the Magic Language. That language could cram various meanings into a single syllable, so the automatic translation from the Soul of Words made it sound like a rather long sentence, even though only a few words were spoken.
A moment later, the spell activated correctly.
A transparent light dome, centred around Zenjirou— or to be more precise, around the upheld index finger of his right hand, took shape.
It was a kind of Space-Time Magic, the bloodline magic of the Carpa Royal Family: “Space Isolation Barrier”.
It was a powerful defence magic that isolated space itself and prevented all interference from the outside, but it didn’t last for more than thirty seconds, so there weren’t many practical usages for it.
Anyway, Zenjirou unintentionally leaked a joyful utterance as he succeeded in activating the magic.
“Well done, Zenjirou-sama. You can use ‘Space Isolation Barrier’ almost perfectly already.”
“Guess so. In terms of magical output, this magic is the most simple for me after all.”
Since he wasn’t used to such straightforward praise, he reflexively conducted himself humbly, even while the corners of his mouth twitched happily.
The magic of this world was easier to activate when the output of the magic was closer to the naturally discharged magical power of the spell caster. Zenjirou actually couldn’t yet use the essential ability for a magician: The “control over magical output”.
But while he said so with a shrug of his shoulders, his composed female teacher showed a faint smile and spoke in a rare playful tone.
“Not quite, Zenjirou-sama. You are already beginning to get the hang of the ‘control over magical output’. Have you not noticed it? The naturally discharged magical power of a person is not identical on every day.
It fluctuates subtle based on your physical condition and mental state of the day. Your magical output for today is a little bit higher than the required output for the ‘Space Isolation Barrier’.”
Zenjirou was at a loss for words for a moment upon the unexpected statement.
“…Then why did the magic activate?”
Lady Octavia, likewise his teacher for etiquette and culture, was inwardly delighted that Zenjirou kept his way of speaking befitting for a royalty despite his perplexity, and explained in a calm manner.
“For the very reason I just told you. Although it was just for a little bit, you unconsciously regulated your magical power and restricted the output.
How about we try it again? This time pay close attention to the magical glow coming from your body.”
The “Space Isolation Barrier” had a short duration, so it had already dissipated.
Still somewhat doubtful, Zenjirou obeyed his teacher nevertheless and used the earlier magic again.
‘Cut off a spherical space of the world around the tip of my finger. As compensation, I will make three-hundred and fifty-nine offerings of magical power to the Space-Time spirit.’
However, he now focussed on the change in the magical power coming from his body.
By doing so, he clearly saw that the magical glow emitted from his folded hands on the table became fainter. In the next moment, the magic activated without problems and the dome of light appeared in the air.
“Aha… Looks like I’m really regulating my magical power.”
“Indeed. It is not much yet, but once you come to grips with it, you will be able to control your magical output at will. That is the second step for a magician.
After you awakened your ability to detect magical power and learned how to control your magical output, the only thing you have to do is to memorize the individual spells. You are now at the second most important turning point, Zenjirou-sama.”
“Okay. Keep on instructing me.”
When he uttered the words in a commanding tone from a superior, which he finally could use now without feeling awkward, Lady Octavia respectfully lowered her head.
“As you wish. I may be inexperienced, but it is my greatest joy to be able to serve you.”
Her conduct was so perfect that it didn’t offend a single etiquette and her polite way of speaking sounded like sincere courtesy. A too well-mannered behaviour could make one feel like being treated as a stranger, but in Lady Octavia’s case, it was a natural virtue.
The young noble woman emitted a warm-hearted kindness just by smiling sweetly.
“Then let us begin with the training for the control over magical power from today on. It is done like this… Can you see it? By doing this, you can restrict or increase the output of magical power.”
In line with her words, the magical glow from her entire body brightened and weakened through perfect command of her will.
“Please try it now, Zenjirou-sama.”
“O- Okay… M- Mhmm…!”
Zenjirou somewhat tried to change his magical output with the expierence from the earlier cast magic, but his efforts hardly bore fruit.
It wasn’t entirely in vain, but the shift merely came down to a level of “now that you mention it, the glow gets a little stronger and weaker, maybe?” when one strained his eyes.
It would simply be pretentious to compare it with Lady Octavia’s attempt, as she was in perfect control of it.
However, the youthful teacher praised the struggle of her student.
“Yes, just like that. To stick with the analogy, where the acquiring of the ability to detect magical power can be described as ‘opening one’s eyes’, the comprehension of controlling the magical output can be described as ‘learning another way to move one’s body’.
In other words, the control over magical output only begins after you awaken to it, unlike the ability to detect magic, which you obtain by awakening it just once. You are going to move a body that has never moved before. You are like a newborn child, if you will so. In the same manner a baby learns to turn in his sleep, then to crawl and finally to pull himself up, you take your time to learn how to move your second body, namely your ‘magical power’.”
There were no shortcuts to this progress. Only an accumulation of honest effort. Furthermore, it required talent to get past a certain level, just as moving your body.
No matter how much an untalented person trained for it, he would only be able to restrict and increase his magical output to a certain point or else fail at a delicate control of it.
To sum it up: There was a relative high chance that this training would turn out to be a “fruitless effort”. Nevertheless, not one fibre of Zenjirou’s body currently considered the choice “to give up” despite knowing this.
(I won’t be able to use ‘Teleport’, unless I get a hang of this control over magical output.)
If Zenjirou failed to learn how to use “Teleport” by the time Aura gave birth again, he would once again have to undergo the painful experience of simply praying to God.
(Do it! For Aura!)
Zenjirou kept going with the training for “control over magical output” in good earnest without noticing the heart-warming gaze Lady Octavia gave him as she watched over him.
* * *
During the hottest season, Zenjirou had spent a relatively busy half-day with a luncheon meeting at noon and a magic lesson in the afternoon. By the time Aura came back, he was laying on the black couch in just a T-Shirt and trousers, watching a DVD.
“I am back, Zenjirou.”
Zenjirou reflexively took the remote control and paused the DVD. Then he got up from the couch and looked into the direction of the voice, where he found his beloved wife in a rare dress.
“Oh, welcome back, Aura. What’s up with these clothes? In the morning you were still wearing your usual dress, weren’t you?”
When he had seen her off in the morning, she had been wearing the usual red evening dress with a deep V-cleavage, but for some reason she was now clad in the sari-like national attire, the one Lady Octavia normally wore.
But unlike Lady Octavia, who liked to arrange her attire around the colour blue, Aura’s sari had a vivid red colour as the base.
Aura raised the corners of her mouth to a little smile, as the reaction of her husband pleased her.
“Fufu, surprised? I changed because I attended a traditional event in the afternoon today. Our country technically acknowledges dresses as a formal attire as well, but a few old events require me to wear traditional clothes like this.”
Spreading both her arms and throwing out her chest, Aura showed off her unusual wardrobe to her husband.
The look in her eyes and her behaviour were basically screaming the question “does it suit me?” and Zenjirou was not so dim-witted to overlook it.
Still, he wasn’t an eloquent person, so all he could say was his honest opinion without giving in to his embarrassment.
“Ui. It’s my first time seeing it, but it aren’t bad at all. Of course your usual dress is great, too, but this one’s quite vivid.”
Fortunately the awkward, but sincere praise of her husband seemed to have properly been conveyed to her.
“Good. I usually do not wear this kind of clothing, because it is harder to move in than the military uniform or dresses, but if you like them, I may put them on more often from now on.”
Her bright smile was so charming that it captured Zenjirou even now.
Zenjirou wasn’t aware of it, but contrary to her bearing as a Queen, Aura had a surprisingly pure and cute attitude in regards to the subtleties between a man and a woman.
Normally she would take off the formal attire and exchange it for a more comfortable casual wear as soon as she returned to the room, but today she sat down next to Zenjirou on the couch while keeping the red sari on.
When Zenjirou naturally put his right arm around her right shoulder, Aura went with the flow and rested her head on his shoulder.
Although the ventilator was blowing over a bucket of water, the nights of the hottest season were still hot, but sometimes they just wanted to embrace like this nevertheless.
That said, there was a limit to what their love power could overcome.
Maybe they had been satisfied with the physical contact already or maybe they couldn’t endure the heat anymore.
Either way, they separated from each other at the same time.
“Reminds me, you were watching a DVD, right? Are you not going to finish it?”
Sitting up, Aura suddenly remembered what Zenjirou had been doing when she had entered the living room and asked that.
But Zenjirou shook his head.
“Nah, I was just killing time until you get back. I can always finish it in two days or so, when I’ve got time for myself again.”
Aura realized that he was being considerate to her, but decided to obediently presume on his benevolence.
If it had been a game or music, she could have enjoyed it together with him, but watching a DVD was out of the question.
After all, the Soul of Words didn’t work through machines. There were extremely few movies or series that were interesting without understanding the language. She had come to somewhat like sport broadcasts like soccer or baseball, since she learned most of the rules through video games, but she just couldn’t get enthusiastic about it due to the lack of emotional attachment to the sport teams from Zenjirou’s world.
Zenjirou regretted the fact that he could have brought along silent movies from Chaplin or something like that if he had known that beforehand.
Anyway, Aura asked her husband her habitual question as she had cut short the old topic.
“So, how was your day? Did anything special happen?”
“Mh? Well, the luncheon meeting was no big deal, I guess? Though I panicked a bit when Lady Fatima Guillén barged into it.”
The obtrusion of Fatima Guillén. Aura’s expression stiffened, when she heard the name of the girl, who was making the most aggressive moves at the present time.
“Fatima? She did not get any weird promises out of you, did she?”
“Don’t worry. I brushed her off politely. Or rather, she lapsed into her brother complex midway and lost sight of everything else. Ah, but I told her about my ‘distilled liquor’. Was that bad?”
Her husband asked with a slightly distressed expression, whereat the Queen pondered for a moment, then spoke.
“No… If that is all, it poses no problem. I had planned to serve the distilled liquor at the next banquet anyway.”
Zenjirou made a sigh of relief, but Aura didn’t neglect to give him a warning.
“Nevertheless, be careful about what you disclose. Distilled liquor and soap are harmless, but I want the glass to be a royal secret even after we manage to reproduce it.”
Besides, if Zenjirou were to carelessly improve the country, the “Faction opposing the Queen” would take advantage of that and make him their puppet.
Even Zenjirou was aware of this danger.
“Yeah, sorry. I was kinda careless.”
These apologetic words were spoken with a meek face. He must have grown accustomed to things, in a bad way. His careless actions were a bit on the raise recently.
“…Okay, it was nothing grave this time, so just be more careful from now on. Did anything else happen?”
Zenjirou was grateful to the good will of his wife, as she was undertaking a slightly forceful topic change, and took her up on the offer.
“Let’s see, I made good progress in the magic lesson with Octavia-san. I can now activate the ‘Space Isolation Barrier’ nine out of ten times and I learned to control my magical output for a bit. See.”
Saying so, he intensified and weakened the glow of magical power coming from his body, albeit quite marginal.
“Ohh! You can already do that after such a short time. I am impressed. It took me more than two years to control the output of magical power through my own will even for a little bit after my grandfather started to teach me magic.”
She praised him like that.
But Zenjirou couldn’t help but smile wryly as he knew the actual story.
“That was when you were seven, right? Since I’m an adult, I’ve a better perceptivity and more patience than a child, so I’m obviously going to learn faster.”
It definitely would have been a bit sad if he, in his mid-twenties, only improved his magic as fast as the seven-year old Aura.
Zenjirou had a concrete goal. Namely to learn how to use “Teleport” until Aura was pregnant with their second child.
For that goal, he was prepared to give it his all.
“Rest assured, I’ll give my best.”
“Okay. But do not overdo it.”
Aura reminded Zenjirou, as he resolved himself anew, in a casual manner, but inwardly she was seriously worried.
(Good grief. If I leave him alone, he will push himself to the limit again for “self-practice”. My husband is always so quick to do everything in his power.)
For the time being, she once again would have to actively watch over him and incite him to rest sometimes.
(Jeez, he is more handful than a slothful person.)
Aura harboured such a reproachful impression, but the look she gave her husband from the side was overflowing with kindness.