Ten or so days had passed since Prince Francesco and Princess Bona had come to the Carpa Royal Palace.
That time span was long enough to make the presence of the foreign prince and princess somewhat natural in the royal palace.
This applied to both sides: The accommodated delegation as well as the accommodating Carpa Royal Palace.
Needless to say, it wasn’t all-encompassing. The building was fundamentally different from their home country. Although there were plenty of them, the foreign waiting maids had slightly differing views. And while they did bring some cooks from their home country along, they just couldn’t get the daily meals to taste the same, because of the involved ingredients.
Ten days were definitely too short to accept these essential differences in their cultures. On the contrary, these kind of differences could cause homesickness as they accumulated over time, so the real ordeal may yet to come.
Nevertheless, it also happened that some people never suffered from a life in a foreign country at all, albeit being a minority.
Fortunately, or rather, as expected, Prince Francesco belonged to that minority.
“Prince Francesco, please take a look at this. This is the garment with the new buttons that I have mentioned to you before. Unfortunately this is just a sample and a little bit too small for you to wear, but I will have one in your size with the same cloth tailored for you, if you wish so.”
At the southern side of the Carpa Royal Palace, in one room of the building that was assigned to the delegation from the Twin Kingdom of Jilbell and Sharrow, Prince Francesco had called for the merchant and was enjoying some innocent shopping today again.
The sunlight fell through the numerous opened windows and illuminated the room, where the garments and textiles from the merchant crowded the floor.
Just like the merchant had said earlier, the tailored clothes were nothing but samples and there was no stock of the same item in different sizes like it was common in boutiques in Japan.
In other words, all the assembled clothes here only varied in pattern or shape.
“Hmm, fascinating. Their design obviously originates from the North Continent, too, but they are completely different from the ones in my country. Truly fascinating, indeed.”
Prince Francesco weaved his way through the spaces between the widely spread clothes while he noted with bright eyes.
The western-styled clothes had originally come to the South Continent from the North Continent. Due to that, the basic design was the same in the Carpa Kingdom in the western part and the Twin Kingdom of Jilbell and Sharrow in the central part of the South Continent, but each developed its own characteristics as the local cultural customs influenced it after all.
“Okay, for now I will take three sets of clothes. The first one will be that garment with the new ’round buttons with four holes’. Then the one you described as the ‘most common in the Carpa Kingdom’ earlier. And I leave the last one up to your decision. Get me a piece of clothes that will suit me.”
“Yes, very well! I will do my utmost best to deliver you three set of clothes that will definitely win your favour.”
Having secured a generous customer in form of a direct royalty of a major power, the merchant prostrated on the spot without hiding his joy.
In contrast, the escorting knights, standing near the wall, kept an indifferent face.
The target they had to guard was ordering new clothes in a foreign land, which caused the knights unnecessary troubles, since Prince Francesco’s well-being was their highest priority.
As a rule, the occupation of the tailor was said to place fourth in the ranking of ‘types of occupations that were promising for assassination when being in favour’ (incidentally, far at the top stood the ‘doctor’ as the #1, followed by the ‘cook’ on #2 and the ‘hairdresser’ on #3 by far).
In order to tailor clothes, it was necessary to measure the body of the purchaser and approach him with needles to pin the cloth in place.
A tailor wasn’t as suspicious as a “hairdresser”, who stood behind the target with scissors or a razor for a long time, but the occupation still presented enough opportunities, if he meant harm.
For that reason, a tailor working for the royal family usually required a clean background and personality on top of the tailoring skills.
When a direct royalty then let the tailor affiliated with a merchant from a distant, foreign country make him some clothes, his guards would only shake their heads in disbelief.
However, the knights, standing in the back, showed no sign of stopping Prince Francesco, even though they were stifling a sour face.
Judging by their expression, they probably had already given up on interfering with his antics.
Still, they might have given up on stopping the purchase itself, but they could never abandon their duty to protect him.
They would take as much precautions as possible, such as: Preparing the needles to pin the cloth from their end, examining all the cloths before they were held up against the Prince’s body and seeking an assurance about the background of the merchant and tailor from the Carpa Kingdom.
Even so, the danger couldn’t be averted altogether and the knights would held be responsible if anything were to happen.
“Good, I am looking forward to it. I will be available for a fitting at all times, so feel free to come by whenever you need to.”
“Yes, thank you very much. I will do my utmost.”
The prince pledged himself to something troublesome with an innocent smile, whereas the knights near the wall just watched over him while stifling all kind of reactions, such as making a sour face or sighing.
* * *
Who turned out to be the busiest person because of the visit from Prince Francesco and Princess Bona? It goes without saying that it was Zenjirou.
Naturally, the evaluation of the “busiest” was relative, measured by the difference between before and after the visit, so he wasn’t actually the busiest person in the palace.
Previously, Zenjirou had been attending some official events in place of Aura, but it hadn’t been rare either that he got a whole day off.
However, that kind of lifestyle came to end with the visit of the Prince Francesco and Princess Bona.
After all, they were the prince and princess of the major power: Twin Kingdom of Jilbell and Sharrow. It required a rather high “status” to keep them company and as the Prince Consort, Zenjirou was the only other adult royalty of the Carpa Kingdom besides Aura.
Since Aura couldn’t abandon her duties as the Queen, it was extremely self-evident that Zenjirou was sent out to deal with the prince and princess.
“Zenjirou-sama, like I have told this morning, you now have a meeting with Prince Francesco. He is already waiting in the anteroom. Shall I bring him inside?”
Secretary Fabio’s flat voice resounded in the room of the palace, which recently had turned into Zenjirou’s “office and audience room”.
“Yeah, go ahead.”
Zenjirou met the gaze of the expressionless middle-age man, who was looking down on him from above, and corrected his sitting position on the couch, then nodded.
Actually, he felt like stretching himself out and heaving a deep sigh, but he couldn’t act so sloppy in front of the trusted retainer of his wife, who always had one word too many to say.
This middle-aged secretary was, like Aura had ensured, definitely a capable person, versed in the inner workings of the palace, but every time Zenjirou did something careless, this man was cautioning him with a mixture of spite and sarcasm, so he just couldn’t bring himself to like him.
But at the same time, he felt relieved over the fact that he would avoid making fatal mistakes when he followed his advice, which irritated him even more. Secretary Fabio often spoke ambiguously and tried to test him with his behaviour, but he properly held his tongue during times like this, where they couldn’t risk an embarrassment to the outside world.
“Okay, I will bring him in. Please wait a moment.”
Saying only that, Secretary Fabio left the room for now.
Roughly ten minutes later. Zenjirou was chatting with Prince Francesco, who sat on the couch across.
“Is that so? I’m glad to see that you have acclimated already, Prince Francesco.”
“Indeed. Your country and mine are not all that different in temperatures or food after all. Ahaha.”
Zenjirou forced a smile, whereas the blonde prince cheerfully replied with an absolutely innocent smile.
However, the prince’s earlier words and reality were contradicting each other.
The Carpa Kingdom was mainly covered by thick forests and had high temperatures while the Twin Kingdom of Jilbell and Sharrow was a desert for the most part with always dry air even though it had the same temperature. It was rather far-fetched to claim that these climates were “not all that different”.
Needless to say, the differences in the climate also manifested itself in the flora and fauna, which in turn influenced the eating habits of the people living there.
In broad outline they were definitely resembling each other, for example that a lightly-baked bread was a staple food or that spicy soup and roasted meat were favoured. But on a closer look, the flour used for the bread turned out to be different, not to mention the kind of spices.
To draw a parallel, it was as extreme as grouping the French and English cuisine together as the “same western cuisine”.
(Though in his case, he might actually be serious about it.)
In their meetings over the past few days, Zenjirou had more or less started to comprehend the Prince’s personality and was cracking a bitter smile at heart.
Anyway, the prince’s behaviour was unpredictable. As all his words were directly conducted by his emotions and impulses, he was often contradicting himself.
Leaving aside the question whether his words were the truth or some elaborated act, Zenjirou would certainly go crazy if he were to take every single word from him at face value.
In any case, he was lucky that the topic resolved around food, since he had prepared some clues in advance.
“Reminds me, Prince Francesco, you seemed rather fond of the ‘distilled liquor’ at the evening party. If you want, I can cede you a bottle.”
“Really! Thank you, Your Majesty Zenjirou!”
Zenjirou turned a bit away as the Prince was more interested than expected, and called out to Secretary Fabio, who stood at attention behind him.
“Y- Yes, really. Fabio, bring it over.”
“As you wish.”
With one bow, the middle-aged secretary left for the room next door. Zenjirou observed him out of the corner of his eyes while he waited silently for his return with the “distilled liquor”… Or so he had intended to, but his plan crumbled like a house of cards.
“Woah, I can hardly wait! Thank you so much. I had never tasted such a strong alcohol before and now I am really hooked on it! Alcohol has always been a weakness of mine, but that was something entirely different. You drink it mixed with all kind of other things, right? I would love to try out a certain blend.”
The blonde prince, sitting across from him, seemingly couldn’t stand a moment of silence and continued to chatter happily.
It was somewhat considered to be bad manners to continue the chatter one-sidedly when facing a conversational partner of equal standing, but there would be no end if you started to point out every little offence to the prince.
“I see. Then I am glad to offer you some, if you like it so much.”
While Zenjirou was conversing with a forced smile, Secretary Fabio returned.
“I have brought it, Zenjirou-sama.”
Remaining seated on the couch, Zenjirou replied with a short nod, whereupon Secretary Fabio put down a bottle wrapped in red cloth before him without a sound.
Zenjirou reached out for the table and undid the knot of the wrapped cloth, revealing what was inside.
Prince Francesco exclaimed in awe, but this time his reaction was not exaggerated. As a matter of fact, even the knights, standing at attention behind the prince, had replaced their previous inexpressive with surprise.
The red cloth let out a “transparent, rectangular container”.
It was the “whiskey bottle” that Zenjirou had brought with him from his world.
The tall bottle with a square base was made out of thick, transparent glass. Moreover, the whole surface was rugged like the shell of a tortoise, so the sunlight coming from the windows made it shine brilliantly like a gem.
The bottle had originally been filled with the amber-coloured whiskey, but right now it contained Zenjirou’s self-made “distilled liquor”, which had a colour close to transparent. Due to that, the whiskey bottle was practically entirely transparent, making it a real eye-catch.
In the eyes of the people from the South Continent, where no class manufacture existed, this wasn’t just a container, but rather a piece of art.
“Wonderful! You are giving it me like this!? You will not ask me to give back the container once I emptied it, right!?”
“I will not. Please take it with you.”
As Prince Francesco was plagued by worries of poverty inappropriate for his standing, Zenjirou eased his sorrow with a shake of his head.
He wrapped the whiskey bottle in the red cloth again, then raised a bit from the couch and slid the bottle towards Prince Francesco.
“But I ask you to be careful. This bottle is way more fragile than one out of wood or silver. If you drop it from high up, it will break easily and if the surface is hard enough, it might even get damaged by just falling over.”
Warning him like that, Zenjirou watched Prince Francesco’s behaviour with utmost attention.
It hadn’t been his own judgement to present the prince the glass whisky bottle. Last night, he had made that decision in consultation with Aura.
Although the Twin Kingdom had shown a profound interest in the marbles, they weren’t all that impressed by the beads.
Then what about a transparent glass bottle? They had decided on this present because they wanted to observe his reaction and the result exceeded their expectation, but at the same time, betrayed their anticipation.
“Wow, this really is amazing. What is it made of? I have never seen such a clear craft, not even with crystals. Not to mention its perfect shape without distortions!”
The exaggerated joy in the facial expression of the prince was all too pure, making it impossible to distinguish whether it was directed at a mere “beautiful piece of art” or at “something valuable for making a magical tool”.
(Man, I can’t tell at all. Guess I should’ve made Aura come along or at least taken a secret shot of his attitude with my digital camera.)
Although he did regret that at heart, he also did understand that it had been practically impossible.
It was uncertain how long the Prince would have to wait until Aura found the time to attend the meeting as well, since she was busy with her duties as a Queen, and he hadn’t been able to think of a way to take a shot with the digital camera without raising suspicion.
The whiskey bottle would be just waste glass in Japan, but in this world it was one of his limited, irreplaceable goods, so it would definitely be a shame to give it away for nothing.
And Prince Francesco seemed to have discerned that worry of him.
“But I would feel bad if I were to accept something so wonderful without repaying you. What do you say when I offer to make a ‘magic tool’ for you in exchange, Your Majesty Zenjirou?”
He proposed the best Zenjirou could ask for.
It was a windfall that the Prince brought up the topic of making a magic tool of his own accord.
Once again, Zenjirou paid attention to Prince Francesco’s facial expression and speech while he replied.
“Now that sounds great. But I’ve heard that it takes quite a long time to make a magic tool. Will you manage? I believe that you have already promised to make us one magic tool while you stay here.”
As a compensation for the expenses of the delegation during their stay and the permission for the escorting knights to bring certain weapons into the palace, Prince Francesco and Princess Bona had promised to endow the Carpa Kingdom with one magic tool each.
The time required to make a magic tool accounted to months for something simple and years for something with a “bloodline magic” embedded into it. Consequently, the “personal gratitude” for the whiskey bottle would take place many years in the future.
“Yes, you are right. Hmm, what to do? It would be no problem if I just had one of these transparent, colourless jewels…”
Zenjirou wanted to praise his own self-restraint for not snorting when he heard the quiet words of the prince that he muttered more or less to himself at the end of his sentence.
(Has he lost his mind!? Wasn’t that supposed to be top secret!?)
The production period for a magic tool could drastically be shortened with the use of “transparent, colourless orbs” like the marbles. Or at least that had been an unreliable rumour only few knew of.
Apparently, Aura was more or less convinced that this rumour was true through gossip and correspondence with the Twin Kingdom, but there still was no specifying proof, of course.
Not in their wildest dreams they would have thought to get that proof so quickly and moreover, exposed by one of the proprietors himself.
Maybe this prince really was just a simple idiot? Such a convenient though crossed Zenjirou’s mind, when suddenly
“Excuse me, Zenjirou-sama.”
the voice of a sentinel resounded from beyond the door.
Zenjirou excused himself from Prince Francesco, who was sitting across from him.
“What’s the matter?”
With a loud voice, he called out to beyond the door.
“Yes, Princess Bona has come for a visit. May she come in?”
Then he realized it all too late.
Why hadn’t Princess Bona been present here?
It hadn’t bothered him that Prince Francesco had come by himself, because only the name of the prince had been announced for the meeting, but now that he gave it another thought, something was odd.
At the evening party it had become more than obvious that Princess Bona was supposed to be a “chaperone” for Prince Francesco.
Would that faithful Princess Bona really allow an extremely dangerous situation such as the troublemaking prince meeting the royalty of another country all by himself, to happen?
Zenjirou already kind of knew the answer and darted a prompting glance at the blonde prince as he called his name.
Prince Francesco showed a bright smile without the slightest shred of ill will, then
“Well, she always has to accompany me, you see. So I thought she could need some time for herself, too, and came here without telling her, but what can I say, she really takes her duties seriously.”
told him while he scratched his blonde-haired head.
“Is that so. But now that she’s here, you do not mind that she comes in, right?
You heard me? Let her in.”
(…I wouldn’t want to be in Princess Bona’s shoes.)
Pitying the princess with the auburn hair quite a bit in thought, Zenjirou gave the soldier beyond the door an order with a loud voice.
* * *
“I apologize that I have come by without prior notice. And I offer you my deepest gratitude for accepting my whim so readily, Your Majesty Zenjirou.”
Princess Bona’s first words were exactly what Zenjirou had expected: An apology.
A visit without prior notice certainly was not a nice way. Even more so when you considered that Zenjirou counted as a “public character” in the royal palace and the two of them weren’t exactly close enough to ignore these unwritten rules.
But Zenjirou could relate to the princess’ role as a “chaperone”, so he didn’t intend to make a fuss about something like this.
“No, it’s alright. That said, it won’t happen every time as I’ve things going on at my end to consider, too, but on occasions like today, I’ve no reason to refuse you.”
Even while he gave her a light warning, he also voiced his approval of her action.
The “occasions like today” part was obviously referring to the present situation, where Prince Francesco had dared to meet Zenjirou all by himself, giving his chaperone Princess Bona the slip.
In other words, he was implying the meaning: “Please join us the next time this happens without worrying about making an appointment or giving prior notice.”
And she must have properly comprehended his hint.
“Th- Thank you very much.”
Princess Bona made an expression like she had a narrow escape from death and lowered her head once more.
“Hmm, not sure what is going on, but good for you, Bona.”
“!…Yes, Prince Francesco.”
As the main culprit for her worries uttered something easy-going, Princess Bona was about to say something on reflex, but then realized that it was inappropriate for this place and swallowed these words at the last moment.
The mood could need some refreshing. Sensible to that, Zenjirou spoke with a tone like he thought of it just now.
“Come to think of, I usually have tea around this time. What do you say? How about we go out into the garden and continue our conversation in the pavilion?”
He casually suggested.
The prince and princess had no real reason to decline, so
“Yes, sounds good. I was just feeling a little thirsty, too.”
“Yes, thank you very much. I will take you up on your offer.”
the two of them replied affirmative.
The pavilion in the garden was a building without walls and only four pillars that supported a shingled roof. The trees had been planted in such a way that the wind blew over the nearby fountain into the pavilion, so it was a lot chillier there than in the royal palace.
For that reason it had been an extremely reasonable suggestion to spend the hot noon hours in the pavilion. However, Zenjirou didn’t choose this place for its chill.
As the pavilion stood near the fountain, there was obviously a constant splashing of water to be heard. As a result, the conversation within the pavilion couldn’t be overheard by the escorting knights or the secretary, who were all standing by outside, unless they deliberately raised their voices.
His thoughtfulness had made Zenjirou relocate the conversation to this place, because he wanted to clue Princess Bona in on the “slip of tongue” from Prince Francesco and get her confirmation about it.
“Well then, I will take some cold tea.”
After he had said down in the typical local chair made out of wood and vine, Zenjirou kept his gaze directed forward while he called out to the person behind him with a normal vocal volume on purpose.
“Zenjirou-sama? Did you say something?”
Secretary Fabio asked back affected.
“Yeah, did you not hear me? I said to bring me some tea.”
Now Zenjirou repeated himself with a louder voice. All of that had been pre-arranged by them.
He had wanted to show the prince and princess that they wouldn’t be heard by the others if they spoke normally, but the only indication to whether they had understood him or not, were there facial expressions.
“I will take cold tea, too. They say you ought to drink something hot and sweat during the heat, but I really prefer something ice-cold when it is hot outside.”
Saying so, Prince Francesco showed a grin, but otherwise his expression was unreadable, which wasn’t all that surprising for Zenjirou.
The problem was Princess Bona. She was truly easy to read.
“Eh? Ah! Ehh!? Ahh! …I, I will take cold tea as well…”
Put into words, her expression first changed into “doubt”, then into “comprehension”. In the next moment it already changed into “doubt” yet again and lastly, “shock” was written all over her face.
She had been perplexed right after hearing him out, because she didn’t understand the hidden meaning, but after a few seconds, she made an “Oh, I see” face, now that she had read between the lines. But directly afterwards, she had wondered why there had been a necessity for such a confidential talk, and finally, she had despaired, because she concluded that Prince Francesco must have had exposed some secret information to Zenjirou before her arrival.
At heart, Zenjirou pitied her, but he couldn’t let that emotion influence him in his position. On the contrary, his position obliged him to broach the subject again and profit from that slip of tongue.
(Though I can’t overdo it and incur their displeasure. And I’m not supposed to do anything spectacular in my position either… Now this is a pain.)
While these thoughts crossed his mind, the waiting maids with orders from Secretary Fabio finished placing the silver goblets with drinks and wooden plates with snacks onto the table.
The wooden plates with elaborated designs carved into the fine wood were masterpieces, to say nothing of the silver goblets.
Zenjirou brought his silver goblet to his mouth and wetted his throat a bit. He fixated his gaze equally on the blonde-haired prince and auburn-haired princess sitting across from him as he spoke.
“Prince Francesco, earlier you mentioned that the time for making a magic tool would be no problem if you had a ‘transparent, colourless jewel’. What did you mean by that? Maybe you could explain the process in detail?”
Zenjirou had imagined that a point-blank approach would be best, but his words evoked a drastic change in Princess Bona.
She snorted with all her might without any chance to keep up appearance. Her whole body was caked with “horror”, not just her face. Lucky under the circumstances, she didn’t had anything in her mouth.
Of course Zenjirou had waited to bring it up until he had confirmed that Princess Bona had swallowed her tea, just in case, and his consideration had certainly paid off. Though it was hardly any consolation for the Snort Princess herself.
However, there was something far more pressing than pursuing the unladylike reaction of Princess Bona in front of a foreign royalty, namely: the bombshell announcement that had caused that very reaction.
“G- Good gracious, Prince Francesco, you have told him about it!?”
That Princess Bona hadn’t lost her senses yet reveal itself in the fact that she still kept her voice at a normal level. But her face was “pale” in the true sense of the word and the voice that left her lips, which had turned bluish violet, had transcended a mere scream and was closer to a “death cry”.
But the anxious state of mind of the princess was completely ignored.
“Hmm, now that you mention it, I might have let something like that slip out. I said it in a very low voice, but I guess His Majesty Zenjirou heard me anyway. Ahaha.”
“…This is no laughing matter, Prince Francesco. It was supposed to be a secret amongst the Sharrow Family!”
“Oh, right. That is the way it is, Your Majesty Zenjirou, so please keep it to yourself.”
Prince Francesco made an expression like he only realized that fact now, put his index finger against his mouth and lowered his voice, which in turn enraged Princess Bona.
“What is the point of asking him to keep it a secret now!? It spelled doom for us the moment he heard about it!”
“Please calm down, Princess Bona. It may be weird for me to say this, but Prince Francesco was really speaking in very low tone, so I’m sure I was the only one to hear him as I sat directly across from him.
Let us have a more constructive-minded conversation.”
Zenjirou thought to himself how callow she still was, with a wry smile while he appeased her like that. If his earlier words had only been a bluff, then her reaction would have given away crucial information for sure, but she herself didn’t realize that.
Having said that, Princess Bona was only sixteen years old yet. In Japan she would still be a high school girl. Only a handful of people ever managed to get negotiations skills like a poker face or improvisation at a practical level at this young age, even if they were of royal birth. It would definitely go too far to expect that much from the diligent princess.
“Ah, yes. Please forgive me for stepping out of line…”
Reflecting on her actions, Princess Bona now turned bright red and bowed repeatedly. On the other hand,
“Indeed. No use crying over spilt milk. Let us work towards a more productive end.
Your Majesty Zenjirou, I can certainly cut down the time for creating a magic tool if you were to hand over one of these jewels in your possession. What do you say?”
Prince Francesco requested that with a bright smile as if he had decided on that course of action from the very beginning.
(Ohh… Maybe he isn’t just an idiot after all?)
“Okay, I understand the gist of it. But what I don’t understand is why it has to be a marble— that jewel. I’ve heard that the Twin Kingdom has the best skills for gemcutting on the South Continent. Would it not suffice to polish a crystal into a spherical shape?”
Glossing over his naturally raising wariness with a smile to the best of his abilities, Zenjirou inquired as casually as possible.
Prince Francesco shock his head in an exaggerated manner, still smiling cheerfully.
“Not at all. You are giving our gemcutters a bit too be much credit.
Of course our country has gemcutting skills that are prominent on the whole continent, but it is impossible to polish some transparent material into such a perfect spherical shape. Right, Bona?”
The addressed Princess Bona heaved an heavy sigh as she finally resigned after she had quarrelled with him for some time, and started to speak.
“Indeed. We certainly do not have anyone capable of that at present. Polishing a gem purely depends on the skills of the lapidary, and in the past, some craftsmen had been able to polish a crystal into a useful spherical shape.
But then, I heard that even these exceptional craftsmen rarely succeeded and took a lot of time, so they fabricated three or four at best in their lifetime. Besides, a craftsman of such a calibre would not dedicate his whole work life to the creation of these spheres alone.”
“Oh, I see.”
Zenjirou assented impressed.
In fact, the polishing of hard minerals into spheres had only become possible in the latter centuries on Earth as well.
It actually required really advanced skills to cut a perfect sphere from minerals. Not that Zenjirou would know about it.
In comparison, it was extremely easy to make marbles. Because, unlike a crystal, where you had to “cut it into a perfect sphere”, marbles were shaped like that from the ground up.
Simply put, you let an adequate amount of fluid glass of high viscosity roll down a spiral slope like a waterslide, and by the time it arrives at the bottom, it will have cooled down and taken a spherical shape.
Needless to say, you ended up with mostly deformed spheres that were hardly perfectly round by using this simple method, but you just had to repeat it long enough to pick out the satisfying products.
While Zenjirou recalled the “marble manufacture procedure” that he had seen at a glass museum during a field trip in high school at the back of his mind, he nodded his assent and carried on the dialogue.
“That certainly makes them valuable. Still, to what extent does the jewel affect the procedure when you actually use it?”
Princess Bona hesitated to speak up, as she still seemed to be opposed to disclosing everything at the last moment, but the blonde prince, sitting next to her, had no such reservations.
“Believe it or not, but it has an enormous influence. You can finish the bestowal of a typical element magic in one day with the jewel you have presented Princess Isabelle with before. The important factors for an item to be bestowed with magic are ‘colour’ and ‘shape’.
Am I right, Bona?”
How much more did he intend to disclose? Prince Francesco didn’t show the slightest inclination to stop his chattiness, which prompted Princess Bona, who was bad at making a poker face to begin with, to screw up her face all too obviously.
At this rate, it seemed like the only way to put the prince to silence would be by sheer force from the guarding knights with an order.
Princess Bona strengthened her resolve as she concluded such. Now that it had come to this, she ought to take up the reins of the conversation by explaining things herself and somehow turn the one-sided exchange of information into a give-and-take.
With a vexing resolve like that, Princess Bona looked Zenjirou straight in the eye, then nodded with an obviously sugarcoated expression.
“…Yes. The more transparent and colourless it is, the quicker the magic gets bestowed upon it. But even if it is not colourless, something with a high transparency is better than one without. That is actually the reason why gems are so highly valued as a target for bestowal.
Then there is the shape… Oh my, please forgive me. I let myself get carried away.
Do you happen to be interested in this, Your Majesty Zenjirou?”
After revealing a bit of information, the girl with the auburn hair asked him that a bit affected.
Thus, Zenjirou realized what Princess Bona was implying.
(Oh yeah, she’s trying to make me say that I’m interested. If I commit myself to it, the fact that Prince Francesco spoke of his own accord will at least give the impression that he talked because I expressed interest.)
Now that he had noticed her aim, there was no need to play along.
But if he were to drive them into a tight corner, it was possible that the relationship to the Twin Kingdom of Jilbell and Sharrow would be damaged.
Making a quick judgement, Zenjirou smiled exaggerated and replied.
“Well, it is a truly fascinating topic. But I’m afraid that I’m not the right conversational partner for it. As embarrassing it is to admit it, I only just awakened my ability to discern magical power by sight at my age and barely know anything about magic yet, so I fear that I will only disappoint you two by saying something absurd.
That will not happen with Queen Aura, though.”
Loosely translated, he was saying: “In my position, I’ll not be able to make any promises for a compensation, even if you give me more information now. Please direct such requests at Queen Aura herself.”
Zenjirou hadn’t used any particular abstruse metaphors for lack of time, which fortunately brought about the result that the princess with the auburn hair correctly caught his implied meaning and brightened her smile in relief.
“Is that so. Then would it be alright to continue our conversation at a later date in the company of Her Majesty Aura?”
“Yes. I will advise her accordingly.”
The matter had been settled somehow or other. Princess Bona couldn’t stop the relief from showing up on her face, whereas Zenjirou with his poker face was inwardly liberated from just as much pressure and nervousness as the girl sitting in front of him.
The only reason he barely managed to conceal it was his slightly superior experience.
On the other hand, Prince Francesco acted completely different from his earlier chatty self. He politely refrained from interrupting their conversation and simply watched over it with an innocent grin.
* * *
After Zenjirou parted with Prince Francesco and Princess Bona at the pavilion in the garden, he once more returned to his office in the royal palace.
Only Secretary Fabio was with him in the room. The office was steaming hot in comparison with the pavilion, but even that steaming hot air felt comfortable, now that the heavy responsibility in form of the meeting with two royalty from a foreign major power had been taken off his shoulders.
Sitting on the edge of the leather couch with his legs apart, he relaxed his shoulders and took a deep breath.
Secretary Fabio darted a cursory glance at him, but he refrained from saying anything now, though.
He surely realized that Zenjirou’s mind and body wouldn’t last if he didn’t get to relax a bit when his schedule had time to spare and no one else was around.
Another detestable point about the middle-aged secretary was that he meticulous waited for the very moment he caught his breath and regained some of his stamina and willpower, to call out to him.
“Well then, Zenjirou-sama, may I ask you something? Earlier you relocated to the pavilion in the middle of the conversation, but can I assume that you did that, because you had something to discuss that was not meant for our ears?”
Maybe this man could see the recovery rate of his stamina and willpower in numbers? For a moment, Zenjirou harboured such an unrealistic doubt, but then he had to answer his question.
He nodded short and sat up well-mannered on the couch. Then he leaned into on the backrest and looked up to the middle-aged secretary standing before him as he opened his mouth.
“Yes, you can. It actually concerned classified information from the Twin Kingdom. To be honest, I never expected Prince Francesco to carelessly reveal so much.
I cannot possible tell you about it.
Of course I’ll report the details to Aura. If you should feel the need to know about it, ask her later.”
“Mhm… I see.”
In reaction to Zenjirou’s reply, Secretary Fabio put his right hand under his thin chin and pondered for a while.
It was not often that the middle-aged secretary, detached by Aura, got absorbed in thought for a long time.
Had Zenjirou said something bad in his response? Although he did not show it on the surface, Zenjirou was a bit nervous at heart as he waited for the answer of the secretary.
Then Secretary finally seemed to have collected his thoughts. He nodded once and grumbled more or less to himself.
“We might have been ‘deceived’ instead.”
Zenjirou frowned in regards to the ominous remark.
“Deceived? What do you mean? Explain it.”
As far as he could remember, he hadn’t been so negligent to let them deceive him. If anything, he viewed it as a one-sided diplomatic victory for himself, whereby the other party had slipped up of their own accord.
The middle-aged secretary received Zenjirou’s obvious stern look from below, and answered without so much as moving a muscle as always.
“Okay. The fact that you alone heard classified information from the Twin Kingdom at first hand poses a great problem.
I would like to confirm one thing with you. After Prince Francesco disclosed that classified information, did he forbid you to say anything about it?”
“Yeah, he did. He said I should keep it to myself.”
Zenjirou answered perplexed, but honestly, whereat Secretary Fabio nodded as if to say “I knew it”.
“In that case, in my humble opinion, we have no choice but to abide by that, whether that is true to their intention or not.
After all, it is classified information from the Twin Kingdom of Jilbell and Sharrow. I cannot say how advantageous it would be if we were to utilize it effectively, but it would definitely bear some kind of fruit.
In addition, there will be official records of your meeting with Prince Francesco today.
Truly a magnificent diplomatic achievement. It will raise the ‘fame of His Majesty Zenjirou’ for sure, yes.”
Zenjirou even forgot to caution him about calling him sarcastically by the title “His Majesty” as he breathed a sound of dismay.
It was quite clear what Secretary Fabio was trying to say.
The more advantage the Carpa Kingdom took of the information Zenjirou had attained today, by bringing it to light, the more it would highlight his achievement and raise his fame whether they liked it or not.
Needless to say, that was the worst case scenario for Zenjirou and company.
The patriarchal values were ingrained in the Carpa Kingdom. For example, an “achievement” of this level alleged it as a plausible pretext to expand Zenjirou’s sphere of influence.
Although the nobles acknowledged Queen Aura’s ability as a politician, the majority of them harboured an emotional aversion towards the fact that they played second fiddle to a woman.
Due to the issue with a lawful lineage, no one was so stupid to claim that the throne and crown should be abdicated to Zenjirou, but many put forth a “sound argument” that he ought to have an authority appropriate to his standing as the only adult male of the royal family.
Of course some people were suggesting that out of pure good will or their sense of justice, but above all, most of them were saying it in self-interest, thinking that they were “easier to deal with” if Zenjirou had more authority than Queen Aura.
“So… what’s it to be? Are you saying they still have the upper hand right now?”
As he was still confused, Zenjirou spoke with an unconfident and inquiring tone, whereupon Secretary Fabio shortly nodded once in affirmation.
“Yes. We admittedly might benefit from bringing the matter to light, but at the same time, it will cause mayhem. Hence, it is necessary to keep it in confidence. I deem it proper to remain passive.”
“Why should we have to be careful to keep it a secret when they were the ones, who leaked it to us… Sounds a bit unreasonable to me.”
Zenjirou ended up complaining on the spur of the moment even though he saw the truth in Secretary Fabio’s advice.
But while he was talking with him, the initial shock faded and his train of thought got back on track as well.
“I wonder if Prince Francesco really considered it in all its bearings when he acted? I do admit that the situation’s too convenient for the whimsical actions of a free-spirited man to be responsible for it alone, though.”
The middle-aged secretary shrugged his slender shoulders a bit in reaction to his question
“Everything certainly plays out too well to call it a coincidence. But even if we were to assume that Prince Francesco’s attitude had been a farce and that he is actually far more intelligent than he lets on, I still believe that it would be an overstatement to say that he caused this situation wittingly.
I mean, it would have played out entirely different if you had happened to be ambitious. For now, I say that it is impossible that he caused this in purpose.”
and replied with that.
Secretary Fabio certainly had a point. Or rather, Zenjirou was an exception amongst exceptions. In general, there was no such thing as a male royalty, who would keep confidential information of this level to himself out of consideration for his wife.
Normally, the Prince Consort would make good use of the information as soon as he heard it and the Twin Kingdom would suffer quite a loss.
“Hmm, yeah. It’s too strange for it to be a stroke of luck from an idiot. Just like it’s too strange for it to be the plot of a smart mind playing the fool. But what’s it all about then?”
Zenjirou did voice that question, but it rather seemed like he was talking to himself without expecting an answer.
“I do not know. If everything had neither been a coincidence nor a plot, then maybe it was a bit of both? Or else, there is more to it than meets the eye, an important objective that makes them disregard the disclosure of classified information?
Either way, we have too little information to speculate.”
And in fact, the reply from Secretary Fabio contained nothing that could be viewed as a solution.
* * *
Around the time Zenjirou and Secretary Fabio were seriously engrossed in conversation, Prince Francesco and Princess Bona had returned to the southern building. An heated dialogue took place while they walked down the long hallway, even if they were talking past each other like always.
“Prince Francesco! Do not do something like today again. Please call for me as well when you are going to meet Her Majesty Aura or His Majesty Zenjirou.”
“Um, my bad. You looked so busy lately, so I just wanted to be nice to you, Bona. But it backfired. Okay, I will be more careful from now on.”
Strictly speaking, only Princess Bona was talking hot-blooded. Prince Francesco smiled friendly as ever as he answered unconcerned.
She couldn’t neglect to scold him, since she acted as his chaperone, but neither could she rebuke the man all too severely, since he was older and higher ranked than herself. Although her expression indicated otherwise, Princess Bona contended herself with just that.
In the meantime, they reached a certain room.
In practice, Prince Francesco was staying alone in this first building, whereas Princess Bona had her lodging in the neighbouring second building, but right now, they had to discuss something urgent.
Princess Bona followed Prince Francesco through the door opened by the guards.
The interior of the room was cold to the point that just one step into it was enough to feel it.
It goes without saying that the Sharrow Royal Family permitted Prince Francesco and Princess Bona to take a few magic tools with them for a long stay in a foreign country, so that their daily life wasn’t affected in the least.
And it was one of these magic tools that chilled down the room.
A large, silver basin had been embedded with the spells “Fog Genesis” and “Wind Control”, which ensured that it constantly coughed up fog with the consistency of white fume and then let spring up a pleasant breeze.
The cooling effect wasn’t as sweeping as from Zenjirou’s air conditioning, since there was no magic that manipulated water temperature, but it still managed to convey the feeling of “sitting in the shade of a tree near a riverlet”.
The foreign prince and princess heaved a deep sigh of relief when they got away from the unfamiliar stifling heat, and sat down on chairs facing each other.
Their wooden/vine chairs as well as the wooden table were all made here in the Carpa Kingdom. They weren’t exactly uncomfortable, but definitely took a little getting used to.
Prince Francesco spoke while he shifted his bottom on top of the chair to find a better sitting position.
“Phew, bless the cold. Anyway, I am really sorry, Bona. But I do not think you need to be that angry. I mean, both my father and grandfather said it would be alright to disclose it as long as it earns us the jewels.”
“The Crown Prince and His Majesty, respectively, actually said that the obtaining of the jewels takes highest priority and only in the worst case, we are to reveal classified information. No one said a single word about recklessly bandying classified information about.”
Princess Bona corrected the conveniently repressed memory of the prince with a serious tone.
But the blonde prince did not even flinch.
“You are so naive, Bona. Naive in your opinion about how well my father and grandfather understand me. From the time when they allowed me to speak about the secret, they had already resigned themselves to the fact that I would blurt everything out on the first occasion.
After all, I am not smart enough to remember every little term. Both of them know that all too well.”
Prince Francesco threw out his chest with an “Ehe~”, whereas Princess Bona slouched her shoulders crestfallen.
“Prince… That is not something to be proud of.”
Suppressing the dull pain surfacing at the back of head, she retorted quietly, but punctilious.
In her troubled mind floated the scene when the King and Crown Prince of her home country had entrusted her with this mission.
When she had accepted the “chaperone” mission, she had been surprised how large the offered reward was. Back then, she had trembled with excitement, thinking she had been entrusted with an accordingly important task, but maybe the abundant reward was just a “compensation for her troubles paid in advanced”?
She harboured such a doubt in her heart when Prince Francesco said with a sidelong glance at her without straining his beaming smile.
“Oh well, it is all water under the bridge now. More importantly, Bona, look at this. I received this from His Majesty Zenjirou. Great, right?”
He unfastened the red cloth that was wrapped around the bottle with distilled liquor on the table.
The colourless and transparent whisky bottle showed itself. It was filled with a liquid whose hue was close to transparent, the self-made “distilled liquor” from Zenjirou. But the content wasn’t important right now.
“D- Dear me!”
As expected, her eyes lighted up and she leaned forward towards the table. The moment she had gotten up from the chair, it rattled noisily, but she didn’t even notice it, let alone bothered with it.
“You can pick it up, but be careful. His Majesty Zenjirou said that it is very fragile. Hey, are you listening, Bona?”
Without replying to him, Princess Bona reached out straightaway for the whiskey bottle, her eyes sparkling with passion. She carefully grabbed it with both hands as not to drop or knock it over, so she must have heard his warning at large.
Once she had pulled the bottle to in front of her and sat back into the chair, Princess Bona fixated her gaze on it intensively to the point that it seemed to be a waste to blink.
“So beautiful… What a flawless workmanship. Is it from the same material as these transparent jewels? And everything is so uniform, be it the pattern on the surface or the height and width, not to mention the lack of deformations. Just how was this made?”
“Uhm, Bona? Just to be clear, His Majesty Zenjirou gave that to me, not to you.”
Princess Bona’s hands clutched the whiskey bottle so tightly that one might worry that the distilled liquor inside would warm up, which prompted Prince Francesco to call out to her from the other side of the table worried.
“Would you consider relinquishing this to me?”
Although he did anticipate her request, it was nevertheless an unexpected utterance from the princess, considering her usual demeanour.
Normally she was modest to a fault and hiding her own desires, but her attitude seemingly changed completely for anything related to jewellery.
“No, I certainly cannot do that. His Majesty Zenjirou personally ceded it to me. It would be rude if I passed it on to someone else right away.”
“Th- Then I will settle for this part on the edge.”
“No, no. If you break that out, the contents will spill. It will be completely useless to me with a hole!”
“If it is of no use to you, I will gladly take the rest as well!”
“No, hold your horses! I was speaking purely hypothetical and you cannot actually break it, okay? Please tell me you understand that.”
Should this be called a negotiation or just slapstick?
Either way, the usual roles for Prince Francesco and Princess Bona were reverted on a rare occasion and their skirmish lasted until the sanity of the princess recovered.
* * *
At night of the same day.
After dinner and bath, Zenjirou had changed into leisurewear and was now sitting across his wife Aura in their bedroom with the air conditioning, discussing the occurrences of today.
“I see… Prince Francesco really gave us a troublesome ‘slip of tongue‘. I cannot say if I should be happy or annoyed.”
Aura had listened to the whole story of the incident at noon, then she said that as she leaned into the backrest of her chair.
“But never minding how it came to be, you can call it a success that you managed to ascertain the effect of the marbles. You did well.”
“Thanks. Well, I didn’t really do anything and I can’t even take credit for it in my position. Aura, be honest with me. Do you think it was on purpose? I do agree with Fabio that it’s quite a tricky situation, because I happened to hear about it first when I was alone.”
Aura closed her eyes and mused.
“It definitely is troublesome. To be honest, it would have been a hard blow, if not necessarily fatal, if my husband had been anyone other than you.”
Zenjirou inadvertently smiled broadly in reaction to her words.
It had been a vote of confidence from his wife without doubt. On closer consideration however, the vote rather applied to his lack of ambition and desire.
In accordance with the universal values of this world, her words had by no means been a praise, but that was hardly any concern for Zenjirou.
He could say in confidence that something like that wasn’t worth elaborating to the point, where it jeopardized the relationship with his beloved wife.
Aura returned the smile of her beaming husband while she leaned forward and continued to talk with both her arms resting on the table.
“For now I also agree with Fabio. At this point we have too little information to deliver judgment. Instead of paying undue attention to their potential intentions, we ought to focus on further verifying the information.
For example, we could hand one marble over to them and see if they can make a magic tool. And even while I really query whether it had been a pre-arranged ruse by Prince Francesco and Princess Bona, I cannot rule out its possibility.
Above all, I actually welcome it when the time for creating a magic tool can be reduced. Because I know how effective it will be to embed the ‘Space-Time Magic’ into magic tools, yet the required magical power and time are too expensefull so far when repeating the process numerous times.”
Once she had finished her speech without a breather, she took the red Kiriko glass filled with ice water in hand.
To make a magic tool, you needed a practitioner of the Bestowal Magic as well as a practitioner of the magic you wished to embed into the magic tool.
Both practitioners could end up being one and the same person in case of simple elemental magic, but to embed the “Space-Time Magic”, Aura’s cooperation was absolutely necessary as she was currently the only practitioner of it.
And since she had a busy schedule as the Queen, it would be more than welcome if the cooperative work time could be cut down from one year to less than ten days.
“Well, it’s a good thing that you’re able to spend much less time on the creation of the magic tool, but wouldn’t it be a problem in itself when the work is done all too fast?
I’m afraid someone might even lift the lid on ‘my achievement’ if the information gets leaked by chance.”
Although he did acknowledge the virtue of her suggestion, Zenjirou had qualms about doing it. Aura put the red glass she had drunk from back onto the table and answered.
“We have no choice but to conceal it by delaying the publication for a year, even if it was actually done after a few days. Fortunately, it only involves four people: Prince Francesco, Princess Bona, you and me. The less people know about it, the easier it is to keep it a secret.”
“Are you sure? I mean, we’re talking about Prince Francesco here.”
The Queen hesitated quite unusually as her husband shot an extremely doubtful glance at her.
“Mh… Well, I admit that I am a little bit worried.”
“Just a little?”
“…Okay, quite a bit. But we ought to take a few chances here to get to the bottom of it.”
“Hmm, I’ll let you call the shots on these things. Do you have an idea already what kind of magic tool to request first?”
Zenjirou realized that Aura had already decided on a general course of action, so he shifted the topic to something else for now.
If she was set on testing the “secret technique” from the Sharrow Family by handing a marble over to them, then they had to decided what kind of magic tool they wanted to have made.
Aura seemingly had intended to discuss this question with Zenjirou as well. She leaned forward some more in such a way that her deep cleavage poked out of her thin nightgown, and began to talk.
“Yeah, that is a good question. Picking a powerful and versatile magic has a lot of merits, but considering that it might fall into the hands of an enemy one day, we cannot assume full risk.
The monopoly on the ‘Bloodline Magic’ lets the royal family stay in power after all. Embedding it into magic tools means to abandon its advantage, if not necessarily completely.
Just to be safe, we should request a ‘disposable’ magic tool, but then again, its applicability will be limited. It is a tough choice.”
Resting her chin in her hands on the table, his wife vented a sigh. Meanwhile, Zenjirou was over the moon with her revealed cleavage as he contributed ideas.
“Hmm, so it comes down to that after all. Then the hidden magic ‘Time Reversal’ and the most important ‘Teleportation’ are out of the question.
What else could be useful… Maybe ‘Great Barrier’ or ‘Effect Extension’?”
“Yes, something like that. And speaking of disposable ones, ‘Spatial Vibration’ is possible, too. It is one of the few destruction spells amongst the Space-Time Magic. Embedding it into a magic tool and keeping it at a fortress on the border will act as a deterrent.”
Aura answered like that and nodded satisfied after that.
Just like the name implied, Space-Time Magic was a magic that manipulated space and time to a certain degree. Due to that, there were a lot of useful spells for the everyday life, but in contrast, there were very few offensive spells.
“Oho. Anything else? …Ah, what about the ‘Summoning’ spell that brought me here? It’s not really a hidden magic, is it?”
Zenjirou had noticed that Aura didn’t want a precise answer from him, but rather various suggestion that stimulated her inspiration, so he mentioned everything that crossed his mind.
“That is too far-fetched. There is no point in embedding a magic that can only be used once or twice in thirty years with an appropriate constellation.”
“Well, it occurred to me before already, but we’ve ‘Time Reversal’ and ‘Time Acceleration’, right? What if we combined it with one of these? Perhaps it works even without the right constellation then.”
“Not a chance. Magic that manipulates time cannot be applied to something with magical power. You would only be able to summon something non-organic when you combine Summoning and Time Reversal.
Moreover, the ‘Time Reversal’ spell needs to be supplied with my magical power of several days through ‘Future Compensation’ even if I only want to wind back time for one year for the tiniest object. ‘Time Acceleration’ is not as bad as ‘Time Reversal’ in that aspect, but why would you go to the lengths of doing that to obtain something from the not so distant future?
Frankly speaking, it is not worth it.”
“Mhm, I see. Too bad.”
Zenjirou stared at the ceiling a bit regretful.
Through the combination of “Time Reversal” and “Future Compensation”, he had wanted to establish a connection to an internet hotspot.
The idea was to align a fingertip-sized airspace to a time with an appropriate constellation by means of “Time Reversal” or “Time Acceleration”, and then link it to Earth with the “World Bridge” spell.
At the same time, his computer and cell phone would be reverted to their state before he had cancelled his internet contract, through “Time Reversal”. By doing so, he had hoped to establish a connection to the internet, but that turned out to be nothing but wishful thinking.
(Too much of a good thing.)
Pulling himself together, Zenjirou still vocalized whatever come to mind.
“Oh, we might as well embed ‘Future Compensation’ then. The spell allows you to use your magical power of the future in advance, right? But you said there’s no such thing as ‘Past Compensation’, which would you allow to utilize the unspent magical power of the past.
But we might get a pseudo effect if it is possible to embed ‘Future Compensation’ into a magic tool. I mean…”
“Oh, I see. That certainly sounds viable. We would have to consult Prince Francesco for details, though…”
The royal couple continued their night chat until the cell phone played the music that signalized that it was time to go to bed.
Intermission 2: The Battle of the Dragonback Archery Knights
Around the time when Zenjirou was in the hot seat to entertain the prince and princess from the Twin Kingdom in the Royal Palace, the Dragonback Archery Knights led by General Puyol were fighting off the “Pack Dragons” that attacked them from both sides of the road in a distant region.
The knights drew their bows on the backs of their Raptorial Dragons and shot their arrows upon the signal from General Puyol.
Dozens of fired arrows found their target: the bodies of the Pack Dragons. Although a few arrows hit nearby trees or fell harmless to the ground, most of the arrows on the scale of things pierced their intended targets.
“Wow… These are the Dragonback Archery Knights in action…”
Apart from the battlefield, Xavier whispered dreamily as he observed them.
Since the body of soldiers from the March of Guzzle led by Xavier himself, was devoting itself to the guard of the salt like promised, they wasn’t partaking in the battle.
Of course their guarding duty entailed fending off any Pack Dragons that approached them, but the way things were going, it didn’t seem likely they would get to swing their weapons at all.
Even if Xavier was technically standing on a battlefield, he was watching the battle unfold as a better observer instead.
The overall battle before his eyes was developing like his strategic thinking had simulated.
The foot soldiers constrained the Pack Dragons with their spears while others stood ready at their sides with big, wooden shields to defend them.
The main offensive were the archers, firing arrows from behind them.
Their strategy was fundamentally the same as the one Xavier had employed against the Pack Dragons with his troops before.
But there were two major differences. First, the “Dragonback Archery Knights” fought true to their name, sitting on their Raptorial Dragons, and second, the shield bearers didn’t have to fortify the frontline so far, not even once.
“How can they control their Raptorial Dragons so successfully amidst all that howling of the Pack Dragons…”
It was only understandable that Xavier didn’t believe his eyes.
The Raptorial Dragon was actually a herbivore and thus a prey for the Pack Dragon, a carnivore.
Of course the trained Raptorial Dragons wouldn’t flee the scene, but it was still pretty thrilling to see how the archers had let go off the reins and wielded their bows with both hands as they sat on the backs of the Raptorial Dragons with only their feet in the stirrups.
The Raptorial Dragons stayed still, sensing the will of their riders even without the reins.
And the archers showcased precise shooting from an unsteady and weak stance in the stirrups.
Moreover, the majority of the bows used by the Archery Knights were “Dragon Bows”— a bow that an average soldier would even have trouble drawing on the ground.
It could be tallied well-intentioned as “amazing” for one or two people, but when all of the Archery Knights, counting up to over a hundred, showed the same impressive competency, you couldn’t help being struck dumb.
Xavier kept his gaze on the battlefield in front of him while calling out to his father’s retainer standing next to him.
“Are you able to do that?”
The skilled knight answered the question of his young commandant frankly.
“Yes, I can. To be honest though, their skills are still a bit lacking, considering their fame on the South Continent.
Well, they were nearly wiped out in the previous war and when you consider the fact that they recovered in such a short time, they are still worthy of praise.
But as someone, who has seen the full potential of the ‘Dragonback Archery Knights’ during the war, I cannot help feeling a bit disheartened.”
“Are you saying they were even better than that!?”
Xavier forgot all about the battle and exclaimed in surprise when his close aide practically found fault with them so casually.
“Indeed. If I had joined the Dragonback Archery Knights during the war, I would have ranked barely mid-table, but in their current condition, I am closer to their elite. Well, the young knights do have talent, they just lack experience and training.
I do not doubt that General Puyol will bring them back to the top of their form in the near future.”
His statement was clearly based on the fact that he personally knew the soldier named Puyol Guillèn.
General Puyol as well as Knight Joseph had made a name for themselves in the previous war. It wouldn’t be all surprising if they had fought together on the battlefield in the past.
In the corner of his mind, Xavier was thinking that he would like to ask him about it if he got the chance, while he focussed his attention and sight back onto the battlefield.
“I can see how good they are, but why is General Puyol letting them fight on top of the Raptorial Dragons? No matter how good they may be on dragonback, it’s a fact that they lose accuracy compared to drawing on the ground.
I can’t even imagine that someone as experienced as General Puyol would be overconfident in his soldiers and issue a meaningless command.”
The doubt of the young commander was immediately clarified by the seasoned knight.
“The reason is to get the necessary altitude for shooting, because they can horizontally shoot above the heads of the foot soldier if they remain seated on the Raptorial Dragons.”
“Oh, I see.”
Xavier turned a bit red from embarrassment as the all too simple fact was pointed out to him.
Speaking of which, he now noticed that the archers were certainly firing arrows as one pleases without having to worry about the foot soldiers in front of them.
If the archers would get down onto the ground as well, they would surely have a lot less chances to shoot. “Taking up position on a high ground” was the basic of basics in ranged combat.
Xavier scolded himself for his obstinacy that had viewed the Raptorial Dragons only as a “means of transportation” and shook his head a bit. At that time, a particular howl he had heard before echoed from deep within the forest.
“Yes, over there!”
Knight Joseph and Xavier spotted the silhouette at the same time.
Even though the giant silhouette stood even deeper in the woods than the other Pack Dragons, it created the impression of being within one’s reach.
The abnormally large Pack Dragon led an abnormally abounding pack.
It goes without saying that General Puyol had noticed its existence as well, and was giving additional orders to his soldiers.
“Fourth Squad, enemy to your right, fire!”
However, the huge Pack Dragon reacted before the elite soldiers could implement the command of the general.
By the time the archers quickly had turned their Raptorial Dragons and nocked an arrow, the huge Pack Dragon had already vanished into the depth of the forest.
At the same time, all the other Pack Dragons were starting to retreat, too.
“Don’t give chase! Guarding the salt takes priority for now. But stay alert.”
The knights reacted as quick as a wink to the orders of the general.
Thereafter nothing more happened and the wary General Puyol eventually gave the all-clear.
“Remove the corpses from the road. We move on as soon as the troops are lined up again. Anything to report?”
“No, General Puyol. We suffered no losses!”
Xavier stood at attention and answered General Puyol, who had come over after leaving the aftermath of the battle to his adjutant.
There had been no causalities on Xavier’s side. It was only natural, since not a single one of them had even gotten the chance to draw his weapon.
“Okay. We had no casualties either, but we used up more arrows than I had anticipated. If possible, I would like to stock up our supply at the March once we delivered the salt. Can you arrange it?”
In reaction to his question, Xavier threw out his chest and
“Yes, please leave it to me! Merchants affiliated with my family will be available at the settlement closest to the ‘Salt Road’. They are able to provide you with anything you need within an utmost short period of time.”
General Puyol raised an eyebrow in recognition, as the answer surprised him.
“Sir Xavier, you headed straight for the royal domain after the subjugation attempt, right?
In that case, did you arrange all that in advance?”
“Yes. I have made arrangements for unexpected loss or in case the subjugation were to drag on, but also for distributing the delivered salt all over the March as quickly as possible.”
The gigantic general exclaimed in surprise again when he heard Xavier’s reply.
Before setting out for the subjugation, he had secured a supply line for any eventuality.
It would turn out to be a waste of money if everything went according to plan, so it had its pro and contra, but at least General Puyol seemingly deemed his action worthy of praise.
“A good call. Well done.”
“Always at your service!”
The praise from the hero of the previous war sparked the young successor to the Marquis to show a broad smile.