Princess Bona was the chaperone for Prince Francesco.
Strictly speaking Prince Francesco acted as their representative, because his age and status were overwhelmingly higher, but everyone stopped addressing official matters to him after his tempestuous character became known on the third day since his arrival in the Carpa Kingdom.
As a result of this, the young Princess Bona had to shoulder the troublesome work by herself.
Furthermore, Prince Francesco wouldn’t just sit still. One day he participated in a luncheon meeting and mistook people’s names, the other day he attended a ball and stepped onto the dress of some lady. Every day he outdid himself.
Much as his simple-hearted character was excessive for his age, it fortunately prevented things from going out of hand, but incidents that had to be solved with a written apology or sometimes even with a little present, accumulated to no end.
The result of all this was that Princess Bona was busily engaged in duties every day, having no time for studying the foreign jewellery craftsmanship in depth like she had intended to.
But one person had sympathy for her circumstances. It was none other than the Queen of the Carpa Kingdom: Aura I.
“Ehm, did I hear right? You’re saying Princess Bona’s reaching her limit and I should solace her a bit?”
One night, Zenjirou lay heads-up on the bed in his blue pyjama already while he ascertained the proposal of his wife.
“Yes. This is generally true. To our regret, Prince Francesco is too difficult to deal with. If Princess Bona were to collapse, we would lose our point of contact with the delegation from the Twin Kingdom.”
Aura, likewise in her nightgown, was sitting on the edge of the bed while she affirmed it to her husband with a nod.
Her expression looked a bit sullen.
Nearly half a month had passed by now. Aura had met with Prince Francesco and Princess Bona a couple of times so far, if not necessarily as often as Zenjirou, and realized how pointless it was to deal with the prince directly.
The question whether the conduct of the prince was false or honest, didn’t matter on this occasion. You simply couldn’t come to grips with him.
Unfortunately, Zenjirou had to fully agree with Aura on that.
He was the one, who was in the line of fire from Prince Francesco, so he knew all too well how cheerful and simple-minded the prince was, but also what a problematic case he represented.
“Well, it’s a crucial time right now. You decided on the first magic tool, didn’t you?”
“Yes. In the end, I settled on the ‘Future Compensation’. It seems we can expect something really outstanding. According to Prince Francesco, it will even be possible to ‘replenish’ it. Though it will definitely be impossible to use it in instalments.
Anyway, I will be able to use my magical power more efficient then.”
Zenjirou asked her by only lifting his head from the bed, whereas Aura turned around and answered him as she still sat on the edge of the bed.
Like its name implied, “Future Compensation” was a magic that allowed you to use your magical power of the future in advance to supplement your lack in magical power.
This desperate measure had been invented in order to activate the high-class “Space-Time Magic”, which required ridiculous amounts of magical power to begin with, but if it could be embedded into a standalone magic tool, a completely new mode of use became accessible.
Take, for example, the case of Aura using that magic today to embed a magic tool with the magical power worth of three days in the future.
From the next day on, she will be unable to utilize any magical power for three days. That by itself was no different from the usual application of “Future Compensation”.
However, by preserving her magical power in form of a “magical tool”, she can freely decide when she wants to use that magical power.
Moreover, the “replenish” function allows her to occasionally store the magical power of days, on which she doesn’t need to use magic, and use it to active a large magic one year later.
Of course there were various restrictions, such as: One would be unable to use magic for at least a whole day after embedding the magical power. Only the one, who embedded the magical power, would be able to use the stored magical power. And the stored magical power could only be used once as a whole. Nevertheless, the advantage of being able to store magical power was extremely large.
Prince Francesco and Princess Bona were already given one marble each for the creation of a magic tool.
The lying Zenjirou sat up and said.
“So, Prince Francesco will be occupied with the making of that ‘magic tool’ for a while?”
“Indeed. As from tomorrow, Princess Bona will be relieved from her ‘chaperone’ duties and have a break for a few days while Prince Francesco works on the magic tool.
From what I have heard, Prince Francesco also seems to pride himself quite a bit on the creation of magic tools, so he will carry on his job extremely diligent and sincerely.
Therefore, could you help Princess Bona relax, Zenjirou?”
“Mh? But in her eyes, I’m part of a foreign royalty, ain’t I? Wouldn’t it wear her out instead when I impose on her?”
As he mounted a sound argument, Aura nodded briefly.
“Yes, you are right. But Princess Bona has not been in our country for long. I fear that she would just rest in her own room, even if she gets some spare time.”
“Sounds like a legit way to spend your break to me. To be honest, I’m a bit envious, because I’ve got so much work lately.”
“Do not lie to me! Someone, who says that, would not have the self-discipline to voluntarily prepare a timetable and a list of answers to possible questions on the day before the task.”
His wife talked him down with a playful tone, so he lapsed into silence somewhat disgruntled.
Still, he could think of nothing to riposte, because after coming into this world, he had started to realize that he was actually perceiving the “time he spent lazing around doing nothing” as torment.
Anyway, Aura continued to get the derailing topic back on track.
“Well then, on the first day you visit Princess Bona, you will show her some things from your world, like the weddings rings, for example.
If necessary, you may even let her borrow them for some time.
I am sure she will happily spent the rest of her spare time with honing her jewellery craftsmanship when you do that. After all, jewellery seems to be her purpose in life.”
“Oh, I see.”
Zenjirou agreed with Aura.
Speaking of, some of his co-workers at his previous company had been like that, too. The type of person, who dedicated their valuable holiday, which they only had once or twice per month, for their hobby and came to work on Monday with red eyes, but a “refreshed aura”.
Zenjirou didn’t had such a passionate hobby, so he didn’t know where they were coming from, but he had to acknowledge the fact that they were able to relax.
And Aura’s proposal made sense, considering that Princess Bona also belonged to that category, if not necessarily to such an extreme extent.
“Okay, then I can show her the wedding rings, the coins of my country and some beads?”
“Yes, sounds fine. I will leave the precise selection to you.”
“Good. Shall we turn in then?”
Ending the conversation at his own discretion, Zenjirou hit upon a little prank and moved over the bed to behind his wife sitting on the edge of the bed.
Then he embraced his beloved wife energetically from behind. His arms locked around her chest and his legs around her waist in the exact same manner as a koala was clinging to a branch of a tree.
After that, he rolled over and dragged his wife with him onto the bed.
“Here I go!”
Aura exclaimed troubled, but her face showed a smile. In the first place, it would have proven to be difficult for Zenjirou to pull Aura even with all his might if she had actually resisted.
She was stronger than him and also heavier, since she hadn’t lost all the extra kilos from her pregnancy yet, although she would never admit that out loud.
Whether he was aware of that or not, Zenjirou embraced his beloved wife on top of the bed and put his face against her neck to get even more intimate with her.
“Jeez, what is up with you?”
As she was being held from behind, Aura only turned around her head to look at him, whereupon Zenjirou smiled cagey.
“You see, I’m so busy these days and get back to the inner palace late, so I’ve less chances to hug Zenkichi and was feeling lonely.”
“Oh, I am just a substitute for Carlos?”
The Queen puckered her lips affected in a sulking manner upon the words from her husband.
And Zenjirou showed her an affectionate smile.
“No, no, I never said something that rude. To begin with, you two are completely different in size, weight…”
and softness, was how he had wanted to finish his sentence, but his words were cut off in the middle.
So far Aura had obediently abandoned herself to his arm like a spoiled lap dog, but she turned the tables on him in an instant, wriggling herself out of his arms and getting into a cowgirl position.
Apparently “weight” had been a taboo topic for his wife, since she hadn’t lost her additional weight from the pregnancy yet.
Looking up to his wife, who was sitting on his abdomen with a smile, Zenjirou blinked with surprise.
Aura grinned humorous.
“Okay, I get it. Tonight I will be your replacement for Carlos. Give me a hug, Papa.”
“No, I said it‘s not like that…”
But Aura didn’t listen to him and flopped onto his chest just like that. Then she quickly pushed her arms beneath his back and hugged him tightly.
Oh, she’s making fun of me. Zenjirou came to that conclusion and played along with Aura’s “mischief” while cracking a smile.
“Ahaha, I don’t remember having such a big daughter.”
If possible, he would have liked to put his arms around her back and stroke her hair or pat her back, but unfortunately Aura was embracing him along with his arms.
“Papa, I love you~”
“Thanks. I love you, too. But could you let go for a bit? It hurts a little bit…”
She ought to have heard it, but made no move to let go of him.
“Hey, Aura? Please release me, it hurts.”
Her voluminous and soft breasts pressed onto his thorax while her tender thighs squeezed his legs together. Moreover, she kissed him on the nape of his neck like a spoiled child.
It was supposed a cute prank of his beloved wife as she fawned on him.
But for some reason,
“Aura, I’m really feeling some pain here. Hey, let me go already. I give up. My arms are starting to get numb.”
“Papa~ Hug me. I love you, Papa!”
the ominous image of “being preyed on by a tigress” vividly floated in the back of his mind and wouldn’t leave him alone anymore.
* * *
A few days later.
Zenjirou visited the “second building in the south” that the Carpa Royal Family had rented out to Princess Bona.
He carried a small bag that contained the wedding rings, the wallet he had used in Japan and the pouch with beads.
(Oh man, I just can’t get used to the loose time measurement here.)
After being brought into a room with the words “please wait here”, he was sipping on the prepared cold tea while thinking to himself.
This world had no mechanic devices to measure time, so “appointments” turned out irritatingly vague for the perception of a person from the Modern Age.
Even if you arrived right on time according to your senses, it was common that you had to wait and the waiting person wasn’t even considering that as rude. No surprise, since there was no criteria for whose measurement of time was correct, considering the lack of a definite clock.
Still, everything had its limits.
(It feels rather long today.)
Zenjirou rolled up his sleeve and looked down on the wristwatch around his left arm.
He had been brought into this waiting room around nine o’clock, so he was actually waiting for more than an hour already.
In fact, Zenjirou was a person of noble rank, namely the Prince Consort. Even if a vague timeframe was the norm in this world, he had never experience such a long delay before.
(Hmm, if anything, I would have said that Princess Bona’s the type that doesn’t make others wait. Was I wrong? Or did something happen?)
In these cases, it was typical to provide company for the guest so that he didn’t get bored, but Zenjirou had turned it down in the beginning, because it was too troublesome.
Around the time he started to feel so bored that he regretted that decision a bit, the door was knocked.
“Excuse me, Your Majesty Zenjirou. Princess Bona awaits you now. Please follow me.”
A messenger finally appeared to inform him about his reception.
“M- My deepest apologizes for making you wait for so long. I am most honoured that you have went out of your way to visit me today.”
Guided to another room, Zenjirou was suddenly at a loss for words in front of a girl, who had deeply lowered her head.
“Ehm… Princess Bona…?”
Zenjirou had called her name to be sure, whereupon the girl in front of him ducked her head and affirmed with a weak voice.
“Well, how should I put it…”
Fully aware of how rude it was, he eyed the girl up.
Her slender body was clad in light purple, one-piece dress with few ornaments.
Her face was chiselled, but plain without any special traits.
So far, so good. All of that was nothing to new to the Princess Bona, whom he had met numerous times already. The issue was located higher up.
Her entire hair had been tied together into one bundle. A ponytail with an extremely short knot, if you will so. No, not quite. It wasn’t elaborated enough to call it a “hairdo”. The hair was merely tied back because it had been in the way.
On a closer look, the tied hair wasn’t held together by a fancy ribbon, but rather a small hemp cord. Furthermore, strands of hair escaped from the bundle here and there.
To be honest, it looked sleazy. Her appearance was unsuited to welcome the royalty from a foreign country, even if it happened in her private chamber.
Kindness dictated that you overlooked some minor flaws, but not saying anything in this case would make it awkward instead.
“Ehm… Would you explain the circumstances to me?”
Princess Bona nodded resigned.
For now, they sat down opposite each other on the couches and Zenjirou listened to the full explanation from Princess Bona, whose white skin had turned bright red up to her throat due to shame.
Although he gave Princess Bona, who was trembling her tightly squeezed fists on her lap, a pitying look, he still put a summary of what he had heard into words for confirmation.
“In other words, you had prepared yourself for my visit, early in the morning.”
“But I arrived later than you had thought, so you had free time on your hands.”
“And then you told yourself ‘just for a little bit’ and started to work on the gravure of the brooch from last night.”
“On that occasion, you wanted to tie up your hair, since it was in the way, but your usual ribbon was nowhere to be seen, so you just used the hemp cord that was binding your tools.”
“That was careless of me…”
“After that, you became engrossed in your work and continued until the moment the waiting maid told you about my arrival.”
“M- My apologies.”
“Then you tried to untie your hair in a hurry, but your hair got entangled and the cord would not come off. Even the help of the waiting maids only made it worse. In the meantime, you were running low on time.
You were faced with two choices: Either make me wait even longer or meet me in your current appearance. In the end, we are here like this now.”
“…I have nothing to say in my defence.”
Zenjirou realized something in light of the girl with the tied up hair, who deeply bowed once again.
(Oh, I see. She’s one of them. The type of girl I saw in the science and engineering department of my university: ‘a hopeless girl who has nothing but her hobby on her mind’.)
During his days at the university, he had spotted a couple of them.
As a general rule, young females favoured to use their limited resources of time and money on fashion or socialisation with their friends. However, a small fraction of women with a particular hobby ranked their hobby above fashion or socialisation.
That type of person was even more dominant amongst men, but there was a decisive difference between male and female hobbyists.
Namely: Female hobbyists still placed importance on outward appearance in their own way, unlike male hobbyists.
Even if men ignored fashion, they were still accepted as long as they maintained a certain level of hygiene, but the world was not that forgiving towards women, who didn’t care for fashion.
It even goes as far as saying that women were only allowed to go out in public without make-up up until the age of twenty.
Therefore, female hobbyists had no choice but to pay money and attention to fashion to a certain degree in order to avoid the criticism of the world.
As a result, these women “mimicked” an ordinary person so well that you couldn’t see through them when you only kept them company for a little while.
The girl sitting in front of Zenjirou was the perfect example, although her “mimicry” was turned off right now.
(What am I supposed to do now?)
Zenjirou got the urge to just return to the inner palace, pretending he never saw the girl trembling in silence, but escape was not an option, since this “informal meeting” counted as “work”.
“Ehm, I cannot really tell you not to mind it, but I accept your apology.
It will be alright as long as you are careful that something like this will not occur again in the future.”
“Th- Thank you very much.”
Princess Bona bowed down before Zenjirou like a village girl, who was shown mercy by the magistrate.
* * *
(Man, instead of faking an illness, she decide to apologize to me directly, so I thought she’s honest to a fault or obstinate, but maybe she’s just more ‘crazy about her hobby’ than I thought?)
Such thoughts were crossing his mind when he saw how Princess Bona’s eyes lighted up as soon as he revealed the “wedding rings”, the “beads” and the “coins” to her.
After her explanation, he had expected to hear her say: “I know it is selfish of me, but I ask you to postpone today’s meeting because of this”, but instead, Princess Bona had said “May I ask you then what brings you here today, seeing as you are willing to forgive me?” with upturned eyes, although she did turn bright red and hung her head in shame.
“Eh? Ah, yes, of course.”
Truth be told, the answer left his mouth more out of reflex than out of comprehension of her unexpected utterance.
With an outward appearance that embodied strangeness as everything below her neck was neatly clad in a thin dress without sleeves whereas only her hairdo was unkempt, Princess Bona gazed at the beads or wedding rings exhibited before her on the table.
“Amazing. These transparent grains have almost the same size and shape. And there is even such a small hole in the very middle…”
Zenjirou observed Princess Bona in silence as she looked at the beads on the table with the eyes of a professional instead of the typical excited look of women for jewellery.
Since she was looking down on the table, he was thus looking at the parting of her hair.
(Hmm, her hairdo’s a complete mess, but she got the silver dust applied to it like always. All that glitter. But it’s only natural, I guess. She properly prepared herself after all, even if she gave in to the temptation midway. …Mh?)
Amidst all the sparkling silver dust in her hair, he spotted a mass of silver that was too big to be called dust. It was slim and long, coiled like a chip of wood made by a woodcarving knife.
(Wait? Shavings from a carving knife? Didn’t she say that she was working on a gravure just before? Maybe…)
Aside from the silver dust, a silver scrap similar to a splint from carving stuck to her hair.
Zenjirou’s train of thought gained momentum when he noticed it.
Come to think of it, Princess Bona usually had her hair covered with silver dust. Moreover, her peculiar hairdo was straight halfway down, then turned wavy.
It probably was not a coincidence that the transition from straight to wavy seemed to be right around the part, where she had knotted her hair.
(Maybe her ‘half-straight, half-wavy hair covered with silver dust’ is actually just ‘unruly hair, due to tying her hair back tightly, covered with silver scraps’?)
The true circumstances were probably not that deplorable, but the chances were high that she deliberately chose this kind of hairstyle, so that she didn’t need to fix her hair every time there was a frizz or silver scrap.
Thinking back on it now, Princess Bona always had the same hairdo: silver dust sprinkled over partly straight and party wavy hair.
Having the same hairstyle all the time wasn’t strange per se, but noble ladies at her age usually changed their hairstyle to match the theme of the party they were attending or the dress they were wearing on that day.
Following that line of thought, Zenjirou’s idea gained credibility.
“Amazing. These coins are absolutely identical in size and shape as well. Your Majesty Zenjirou, would you be willing to tell me more about it?”
Apparently it was not enough for her to just evaluate it with her eyes. At some point, Princess Bona lifted her head and pleaded while looking him directly into the eyes.
“Yes, as much as I am possible to. But like I have mentioned to you before, I am a complete layman when it comes to jewellery, so I doubt the information I can give you will be anything like you expect.”
“Not at all. I am grateful to you. Any trivia might spark an idea.”
(Yep, dropping the topic of her hairstyle will be to our mutual advantage.)
Discerning that, Zenjirou deliberately turned a blind eye to anything related to her hairdo and went along with the subject as he sees fit.
The following conversation went smoothly as long as he averted his eyes from her hairdo.
“Oh, I get it. So they used diamonds to cut the diamonds. That sounds extremely simple, but that idea never occurred to me.
There are various problems unsolved, though. How would you pulverize the diamonds and how would you apply that powder to make a file? But once that is done, I might be able to process diamonds without relying on magic.”
Princess Bona’s smile was so vivid that you could almost see her excitement taking shape. Hooked by it, Zenjirou smiled back.
“I am glad that I could help. That said, are you unable to process diamonds with magic? I have heard that proficient earth magicians can cut diamonds with their magic.”
His clueless question prompted Princess Bona to show a wry smile.
“That is out of the question. I may be confident in my precise practice of earth magic, but my magical power is nowhere near enough to meddle with diamonds by means of magic.
On the other hand, people, who have sufficient magical power for it, tend to have trouble controlling it precisely, so only a few genius magicians are able to cut diamonds with magic, since they need to overcome that contradiction.
As far as I know Prince Francesco has not actually done it, but he should be able to.”
“Oho, that is impressive.”
Zenjirou met the unexpected high evaluation of Prince Francesco with genuine surprise.
To his knowledge, Queen Aura and the Royal Archmage Espaldion, not counting the infant Carlos Zenkichi, were the only ones in the Carpa Kingdom, who had more magical power than Princess Bona.
Having said that, Aura was a typical example for a magician that had a large amount of magical power, but lacked precise control over it, so she was out of the picture for now. As for Espaldion, he prided himself with a magical power that was greater than the average for royalty, but compared to Aura, that amount was probably still lacking.
According to that, one could tell how outstanding Prince Francesco was as a magician.
Princess Bona was unable to contain her mixed feelings while
“As you may know, he is a person with a lot of, well, quirks, but he definitely is a first-rate magician. I dare to say that my control is a bit better, but my magical power hopelessly outnumbered.
If anything, it is little short of a miracle that his control over such an enormous amount of magical power is only slightly inferior to mine.”
she described the legitimate grandson of her King like that.
Although she herself wasn’t aware of it, the same could be said about her, albeit lowering the sights a bit.
As a practitioner of the “bloodline magic”, her magical power admittedly ranked at the bottom of royal standards, but she could call an abundant magical power her own when comparing it to any average magician out there.
On top of that, she had declared that her forte was the precise control over it, so her talent was more than outstanding.
Nonetheless, Princess Bona underestimated herself, whether that happened deliberately out of modesty or due to an undeserved self-assessment. In order to change the subject, she picked up a bead from the table.
“I have to say, these beads are truly a fascinating thing. The folk art in my country also includes handiwork, where small stones are chained together with a string, but they used coloured stones with holes for that. Naturally, none of the stones share the same shape or colour. Moreover, they are bigger than these most of the time, so they can only be used for bulky bracelets or necklaces.
In contrast, you have so many of the same size, shape and colour here. It would make an extremely beautiful handiwork.”
“Yes, with enough practice, you are able to make all kind of things with it, such as rings, broaches or bracelets. I have a few templates, so would you like to try your hand at it, Princess Bona?”
The most favoured handiwork of beads in recent times were cell phone straps, but that would prove difficult to explain, so he omitted it.
“May I!? Thank you very much!!”
The conversation proceeded harmonious while they unconsciously grew closer to each other.
* * *
Aura had been worried about it before and with justification: Zenjirou and Princess Bona had a good chemistry.
Zenjirou was born into an average family on Earth and then had unexpectedly acceded the position of the Prince Consort. Princess Bona hailed from a lower ranked noble family and was welcomed into the royal family when she atavistically awakened to the “Bestowal Magic”.
On top of that, both were diligent in nature, smart enough to understand their own standing and even had a rationality that made them act appropriate to their status.
In short, they sympathised on the fact that they both had went through the “trouble of climbing the social ladder”, even if under slightly different circumstances.
“Eh? Then you lived with your parents until you were ten years old?”
“Yes. I was accepted into the royal family when I turned ten. Before that, I was raised as any other second daughter of a lower ranked noble.
Though I do admit that my parents had high expectations of me, since I had an exceptional magical power despite being the daughter of a lower noble.”
“I see. Then it must have been quite an ruckus when you were acknowledged as royalty?”
“And how! It took several days to recognize it as reality, for me as well as for my family.”
According to her, the Twin Kingdom examined those born into higher nobility with a magical power on par with royalty when they started to recognize the world around them, but the status of Princess Bona’s family had been too low for that.
Due to that, her aptitude wasn’t discovered until her tenth year of age.
Incidentally, her case triggered the other lower ranked nobles to hope that maybe their child was the same, but to their dismay, that was not the case.
“So you learned the ’Bestowal Magic’ within six years? And the jewellery workmanship, too?”
In reaction to Zenjirou’s admiring tone, Princess Bona replied with an embarrassed smile, which was a mixture of modesty and pride.
“Yes, I had a tough row to hoe. Though I would say that it was more difficult to learn manners and speech. The royal etiquette is completely different after all, even if I was born into lower nobility.”
“I can relate.”
Zenjirou inadvertently expressed his genuine consent.
“In contrast, I had fun learning the ’Bestowal Magic’ and jewellery craftsmanship. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. Nevertheless, it was difficult in its own way. And naturally, I still have much to learn.”
Right now she was sixteen years old. She had started to study when she was ten. It was quite praiseworthy that she had obtained a full-fledged skill within six years.
The various branch families of the Sharrow Royal Family had brought up even younger professionals for jewellery, armaments or bestowal magic, but they had learned their practice from the cradle. Princess Bona had a later start than them.
Engrossed in thoughts like that, Zenjirou noticed something strange.
“Then what about Prince Francesco?”
“Yes, he was acknowledged as a full-fledged practitioner of the Bestowal Magic at the age of twelve. In addition, he also has mastered the crafts of jewellery and armaments, so he definitely is an authority on these fields of expertise.”
Her wry smile showed a tinge of jealousy, but Zenjirou was in no shape to notice that.
(I knew it! That means he received the education of the branch family from the very beginning, even though he’s a direct descendant.)
Unlike the branch families, direct descendants of the royal family weren’t obligated to learn the skills to craft armaments or jewellery, instead they got drubbed the “bloodline magic” into them.
Of course the magic wasn’t learned in a day or two either, but the years of study for the jewellery and armaments craftsmanship were several times of it.
After spending years of grappling with iron and silver day in and day out, you started to get the hang of the craft.
There was no way that a direct descendant, a key element of the country, could spare all that time for it. There were many other things he ought to learn if he had free time on his hands.
However, Prince Francesco had not only learned the Bestowal Magic from a young age on, but likewise mastered the craftsmanship of jewellery and armaments. Unless he was some kind of abnormal genius, it meant that he was made to study all of it as early as possible.
(In other words, he already got stripped of his right to ascend the throne in the future when he was practically still a baby. And then it doesn’t make sense to blame his ‘stupidity’ for depriving him of that right.)
If someone were to give up on a young child for the reason of being “stupid”, that person would be far more stupid instead.
There was no doubt that the birth of Prince Francesco was shrouded in some kind of mystery.
(I’ll tell Aura about it later.)
“Sounds like Prince Francesco sure is blessed with an excellent talent.”
Zenjirou made a mental note of it and gave his consent to Princess Bona just because.
His reply had been little short of half-hearted, because he was woolgathering, but mercifully, Princess Bona didn’t seem to suspect anything.
“Indeed. I have taken my cue for being a maker of magic tools from him.
Anyway, this ring is truly the most eye-catching item. The more I look at it, the more fascinated I get by its perfect handiwork… This obviously applies to the three uniform diamonds, but also to the well-elaborated socket. Just how did they manage to make such a detailed pattern?”
As she once again shifted her attention towards the wedding ring, Zenjirou thankfully took up the thread of the conversation.
“Believe it or not, but the total number of this repeating, reticulated pattern is exactly the same for both rings.”
He was just repeating what he had heard from the clerk at the jewellery shop, but Princess Bona was most surprised by that information.
“Really!? One, two, three…”
She pinched one ring between the middle finger and thumb of her right hand, brought it closer to her face and started to count the patterns on the socket with all her might.
Having said that, the reticulated pattern on the ring was not something that could be counted with the naked eye.
Even so, Princess Bona was trying with her whole heart. Seeing that, Zenjirou’s kindness was triggered unnecessarily.
Much to his chagrin and much to her joy, the “coins” were laying on the table within sight at that time.
(Oh, I know.)
His usual wariness and tension had dropped considerable, so he put the idea he just thought of, into action without any hesitation.
“Excuse me for a bit.”
With a short utterance, he picked up a five yen coin from the table with his left hand, then scooped a drop of water from the refreshing drink with the fingertip of the little finger of his right hand and carefully dribbled that drop into the hole of the five yen coin.
“Mm, nope. It’s a concave lens. Once more… Good, now it worked.”
After a few failures, the drop of water completely filled the hole of the coin, like he had intended to, and formed a little convex lens.
“Mhm, okay, all done. Princess Bona, please use this. You should be able to see a bit better with it. Hold it carefully and look at the ring through the hole in the middle of the coin.”
So far Princess Bona had desperately counted the patterns on the ring, but now she obediently followed his instructions, took the coin and looked through the opening at the ring.
Her following reaction was sweeping.
“Eh? EH!? What is this!?”
She exclaimed in surprise when she saw the world through a convex lens for the first time.
Zenjirou was happy that her reaction was exactly like what he had expected, so he answered her somewhat elated.
“It’s a water lens. It makes things appear bigger by making use of the light refraction effect. You know how the riverbed looks distorted when you look at it from above through the clear surface? It’s the same principle.”
“Ehh? It appears to be so big just by looking through water?”
“Not quite. It’s not only the water. Its shape is important, namely a disc shape, where the middle is inflated and gradually flattens towards the edge.”
Princess Bona eagerly listened to his clumsy explanation and then suddenly chanted a spell while she breathed heavily due to her excitement.
“Mhm… Maybe like this? ‘O, water in the vessel, gather at my fingertip and take he shape I desire for a short while. As compensation, I make one-hundred and fifty-six offerings of magical power to the water spirit.’”
This time it was Zenjirou, who exclaimed in surprise.
When she smoothly chanted the spell with her index finger on the surface of the water in her glass, a portion of the water contorted itself like slime and shaped a lens in the size of a magnifying glass at her fingertip in no time.
“Oh, wow. This is really amazing, Your Majesty Zenjirou!”
The moment she confirmed the effect of the simple water lens she had made with her own water magic, she forgot all her manners and called out innocently.
On the other hand, Zenjirou had lost his composure to react to her.
(Oh shit. Now I’ve done it…!)
He noticed his mistake all too late and broke out in a cold sweat all over his back way after the fact.
But Princess Bona was too excited to notice his behaviour and was looking at the magnified texture of the table with the water lens when the magic wore off in the middle of it.
Out of magic, the water lens suddenly dissolved and dropped onto the table with a splash.
“My apologies. That was impolite of me.
As excepted, the short duration effect of normal magic is impractical. And the ‘Full Water Reshaping’ magic consumes too much magical power. If we create a specialized magic and turn it into a magic tool…
Your Majesty Zenjirou, thank you very much!”
It goes without saying that Princess Bona was naturally thinking along the same lines that Zenjirou had feared.
Developing a magic that shaped water into a lens and embedding that very magic into a magic tool meant that the Twin Kingdom was going to monopolize the important technology called lens.
(Damn! I screwed up big time. I’ve gotta confess myself guilt to Aura and perform damage control.)
“No problem. I am glad that I could help.”
Zenjirou was shaken at his unprecedented mistake and it took all of his willpower to at least reply as a formality.
* * *
At night of the same day, Zenjirou had returned to the inner palace and reported the incident during his meeting with Princess Bona to Aura at full length with a meek expression.
He had deemed the subject inappropriate for the comfortable bedroom with air conditioning, so they were, once again after a long time, sitting on the couches in the living room at his request.
“Hmm, I would say you did quite well in getting Princess Bona to show her true colours and obtaining some information on the mystery behind the birth of Prince Francesco, but why are you so crestfallen? Does it really pose such a big problem when the Twin Kingdom realized that so-called lens?”
After Aura had listened to his repentance-like report, she crossed her legs anew as she sat on the couch and inclined her head uncomprehendingly.
Zenjirou had anticipated her reaction to some degree.
It definitely didn’t seem to pose such a great threat, since a single convex lens could only be used as a magnifying glass. At best, it would make the work of craftsmen like Princess Bona more “convenient”.
As a matter of fact, Princess Bona had admittedly been impressed on a large scale, but hadn’t shown doubt in the least. In other words, she had recognized it as something trivial not worth a suspicion, even when he generously had told her about it for free.
However, the potential of the lens wasn’t that tiny. And Zenjirou was aware of it.
Although he had been aware of it, he had carelessly spilled the knowledge to a most dangerous person of influence, so he regretted his own action all the more.
He took out the five yen coin and started to explain again.
“Okay, look here. First off, this is the convex lens I showed to Princess Bona. You see how it’s inflated in the middle and gradually flattens towards the edge?”
“Yes, the view beyond it really looks enlarged. How convenient.”
Aura peeked through the five yen coin lens held out by him, and nodded impressed once again, but wasn’t really worried about it after all.
Zenjirou then shook the coin once to remove the water and filled it with an even smaller drop of water than before.
“And this is a concave lens. Now it’s the other way round: The middle is the thinnest part and the edge is thick. Everything looks smaller now, right?”
“Certainly. But how is that useful?”
She asked him a question, but Zenjirou told her “wait a sec” with a side glance and stood up from the couch, moving into a corner of the living room.
All the stuff he had brought with him from Earth, but didn’t use all that often, were stored there inside a box.
“Ehm, where did I put it… Ah, there it is.”
He rummaged in the opened box for a while, then suddenly pulled out something that was wrapped in an elongated cloth coloured in fancy blue, white and red.
“The good ol’ fan merchandise from my university. I got rid of my fan tricot and cell phone strap when I joined my old company, but I’m glad I kept at least the terrycloth scarf and binocular.”
Technically, only the terrycloth scarf was a fan merchandise. The binocular was a run-of-the-mill merchandise that he had only used to watch the training matches, but that wasn’t really worth mentioning now.
Zenjirou put the terrycloth scarf, which had written “YOKOHAMA” in Latin letters on it, back into the box and returned to the couch, where his wife was waiting, with only the collapsible binocular in hand.
“Here, look at this. It’s the result of combining a convex and concave lens. Well, just putting them together won’t get you a clear vision like this, instead everything would look mirror-inverted and bottom up, but it brings its consequences home to you at any rate.”
With these words, Zenjirou folded out the binocular, adjusted the focus briefly and handed it over to Aura.
Seeing as it was night right now, she couldn’t look outside, but the living room was large enough and the binoculars only had a triple magnification, so its function could be experienced well here, too.
“Wha!? What is this!?”
When Aura had looked through the binocular like Zenjirou had told her, she exclaimed in surprise as expected.
“It enlarges things threefold, but depending on the lenses, you can get even more.
At this point in time, Princess Bona only knows about the convex lens and I don’t think she’ll hit upon the idea to combine the convex and concave lens any time soon, but at a practical level, it’s possible to make it happen at once.”
In fact, even on Earth there had been a large gap between the development of the lens and the development of “telescopes” and “microscopes”, which utilized the combination of lenses.
Considering that, it might be overhasty to panic about it, but excessive optimism was risky.
Aura peeked a few times through the binocular and pondered wordless for a while.
A device that allowed you to see faraway things enlarged. If the main component of it, aka the “lens”, could only be applied through magic tools, then the Twin Kingdom would obviously have a monopoly on it.
Before long, Aura seemed to have reached a conclusion and she showed Zenjirou an unusual strict expression as she spoke.
“You are right. You did make a ‘mistake’.”
As her husband apologized honestly, Aura shook her head a bit, whereby her long red hair swung back and forth, and sighed.
“Well, what is done cannot be undone, but the circumstances seem a bit too complicated to just brush it off with that.
We have more or less two ways to cope with it: The first method would be to negotiate with them to ultimately get our own magic tool for the water lens, but the better alternative would be to establish the same manufacture process in our Carpa Kingdom by utilizing the ‘Bestowal Magic’ laying dormant in your blood.”
The conversation started to turn into a disappointing direction in line with his expectations, so Zenjirou tabled his own idea as to oppose it.
“Or else we can give the glass manufacture greater attention. This binocular may be made out of something else, namely hard plastic, but lenses in my world are principally made out of glass.
As such, we just have to establish a glass manufacture and teach the craftsmen how to shape the glass into a lens at the same time, then the value of the lens will drop from a ‘magic tool’ to a ‘high-class tool’.”
Apparently had he thought about countermeasures from the time of his “mistake” until now, seeing as he fluently presented his own plan.
“Oh, I see. That is worth considering as well. But before anything else, we have to do something about you first.
This incident finally convinced me. Zenjirou, you are being imprudent around Princess Bona, abnormally so at that. Are you aware of that?”
Zenjirou was at a loss for words when his wife pointed it out strictly.
She had said that he was being careless around a certain woman. That piece of information wasn’t meant reproaching, but stimulated a guilty consciousness within him. Even more so, since he admitted the truth behind in.
Zenjirou answered her somehow without averting his eyes, albeit stuttering.
“Yes, that’s, well, right. I’m aware… of it, I guess? What can I say… She’s really easy to talk to. We’re kinda on the same wavelength and get along well…”
As her husband was vindicating himself, Aura put a hand against her chin and mused. At least he was aware of it himself, so he wouldn’t mistake it as jealousy when she pressed him hard.
Once her thoughts had reached that point, she became aware that she was afraid of getting hated by him, and smiled bitterly at heart.
The Queen never had been a person, who let her thoughts show on her face.
“That makes things easier. Forgive me, Zenjirou, but I am forbidding you to meet with Princess Bona by yourself from now on.
This incident might as well repeat itself otherwise, even if you do not intend for it and she may have no hidden motive.”
She sternly declared without batting an eye.
Personally, Zenjirou didn’t need to be reminded about it.
Sure, he had enjoyed the conversation with Princess Bona as he got along with her, but he was not going to persist on them when it actually disadvantaged the country.
“Yeah, okay. From now on, I’ll only meet with Princess Bona when she’s acting as the ‘chaperone for Prince Francesco’.”
“Yes, please do so. Forgive me for contradicting myself now, seeing as it was me, who suggested that you go see Princess Bona in the first place.”
“Nah, don’t worry. It might’ve turned out like this now, but your decision was right back then. The biggest problem is my weakness, so I should be apologizing, not you.”
The calm response of her husband prompted the red-haired Queen to heave a small sigh of relief to herself.
* * *
Deep in the night. Once Queen Aura had confirmed that her husband was sound asleep in the same bed, she quietly slipped out of the bedroom and went to the living room next door.
Amidst the darkness of the living room, she fumbled for the LED floor lamp and switched it on.
The white light of the LED was too bright for her eyes accustomed to darkness. Aura blinked a few times and by the time her eyes got used to the bright light, the entrance door of the living room was lightly knocked three times.
“Good. Come in.”
“Yes, excuse me.”
The one, who entered with her permission, was a waiting maid with unusual blonde hair for a citizen of the Carpa Kingdom.
Her official appointment only advertised her as one of the young waiting maids, but in reality, she was an secret key figure with a wide information network amongst the waiting maids in the inner and royal palace. Along with the Royal Archmage Espaldion and Secretary Fabio, she was one of the trusted retainers of Queen Aura.
Aura sat down on the black leather couch in her thin nightgown, then spoke in a rough tone.
“Yes. According to the waiting maids we dispatched to Princess Bona, Princess Bona has shown no attempts to seduce Zenjirou-sama.”
“Mhm. Then she herself really has no ulterior motive?”
Hearing the report, Aura mused in the thinker’s pose.
She had pretty much come to terms with the fact that the Sharrow Royal Family would aim at Zenjirou’s lineage.
Even if the best time for it would be his visit to the royal palace of the Twin Kingdom as soon as he learned the “Teleport” magic, she had been on the watch, thinking Princess Bona was going to make some kind of move while she staying here, but nothing of the sort had been reported so far.
Even today Zenjirou, their target, had gone to her temporary lodging all by himself. It had been the perfect opportunity, so Aura had worried that she would do something, but the report just now denied it.
“Still, my husband hits if off with Princess Bona very well. Is it just a coincidence? But the Twin Kingdom is faraway on the central part of the southern continent, so they should not know about his type of woman…”
As a matter of fact, not even the nobility of the Carpa Kingdom, who were pushing for a concubine, had a real grasp on his type of woman. If anything, the only clue was that he was pretty intimate with Queen Aura, but she and Princess Bona had not really anything in common.
All her thoughts didn’t get her anywhere. Still, she couldn’t help but feel worried about the close association between Zenjirou and Princess Bona, although she wasn’t going to use the illogical concept of a “woman’s intuition” to justify that worry.
Zenjirou hadn’t been that lax with anyone before. Not with Lady Octavia, who was famous for her beauty in the royal palace. Not with Fatima Guillén, who brimmed over with confidence and youth. And not even with the waiting maids of the inner palace, who were interacting with him every day.
To be honest, Aura was well aware that her caution was fuelled by the green-eyed sentiment of a woman.
As the Queen however, she fortunately had the right to restrict the relationship of her Prince Consort with a foreign princess.
Even if she was unable to prevent him from taking concubines one day, the first one definitely shouldn’t be a princess from a foreign country.
“Okay. Tell the waiting maids to report anything anomalous from now on, too. But we do not want to raise any suspicion in Princess Bona’s mind, so I do not need a periodical report.
They are primary to act like faithful waiting maids, who listen to her.”
Although she admitted that her behaviour was controlled by a womanly emotion, she persuaded herself that her actions were justified.
The blonde waiting maid, standing in front of her, showed a brief smile, as she noticed the unusual feminine reaction of the Queen.
But before Aura saw anything, the maid smoothed her facial features again and quietly left the room after she had bowed once, so that her long blonde hair shifted.