The residents of the Capital perceived a sudden event in the Capital such as a victory celebration as bothersome on the one hand, but it was the perfect opportunity for some fun on the other hand .
After all, how could it not be a bother, when the always heavily trafficked main street was going to be blocked for a whole day .
But at the same time, it was pretty much a festival, so amusement was guaranteed . The smart merchants opened up stalls near the blocked main street and anyone with a house facing the main street rented the roof or second floor to some spectators for some extra income .
Sure, it would be a problem, if it lasted for numerous days, but once in a while, it was a welcome change .
For that reason, Princess Freya and her vassals were received very warm-hearted, when they arrived from the Seaport of Valentia, making a triumphal entry .
Various dragon-drawn carriages and fully armed soldiers paraded over the main street of the Capital .
The vanguard consisted of a dragon-drawn cart that carried the skull of the Huge Pack Dragon . Because it had been a couple of days since its defeat, the decaying skin and flesh had been scrapped off, so it was just the bare bone now, but even then, the huge skull was still quite impressive by itself .
“Wow! So huge!! The head alone is as tall as myself!”
“That blonde female warrior on top of it was the one to finish it off . ”
“She’s quite tall herself . To be honest, I wouldn’t want to stand next to her . ”
“But she’s pretty . A fine woman . ”
As expected, the eyes of the gathered spectators were all focussed on the skull of the Huge Pack Dragon and the blonde female warrior Victoria Kronkvist alias Skathi, who stood atop of it .
It was extremely rare on the South Continent that a woman enlisted as a warrior . Even more so, when she was capable of leading an own unit and defeating the Huge Pack Dragon . That alone made her already an object of attention .
On top of that, Skathi was an eye-catching beauty .
With an height of over one-hundred and eighty centimetre, she was extraordinarily tall for a woman and her body was trained to such an extent that you could tell on a glance, but despite that, her breasts and bottom kept a feminine curve . And although the look in her eyes was a bit too piercing, she still qualified as a “beauty” .
It goes without saying that a beautiful female warrior from a different country caused a sensation with her military achievement .
Her master, Princess Freya, had also told her beforehand that her military achievement was contributing quite a bit to the negotiations, so Skathi was proudly throwing out her chest and swung around her beloved short spear with the Sea Elephant Tusk in response to the spectators on the street .
Behind her followed the soldiers of the Uppsala Kingdom, who were an object of attention as well .
“I’ve got to say, the guys from the North Continent sure are tall . All of them are at least a head taller than me . ”
“You can say that again! Is the North Continent the land of giants, or what?”
Their hair was blonde or light brown and their blue, green or gray eyes had vivid colours as well . Their keen faces were coupled with projected cheeks and a beard from the chin up . And above all, even the smallest of them was at least one-hundred and eighty centimetre tall, whereas the bigger ones had a muscular physique that easily measured over one-hundred and ninety centimetre .
These foreign giants were parading in unfamiliar leather or chain armours while wearing swords and short spears . That sight automatically made you back off one step, even if you knew that they posed no danger .
A few young men amongst the spectators touched their own arms or chests, comparing themselves to the army of giants passing by in front of them .
The pompously decorated carriage, driving shielded in the middle of these soldiers, drew relatively few attention .
Although the carriage was quite big, splendid and drawn by four Raptorial Dragons, it was not really an unusual sight for the residents of the Capital as compared to the skull of the Huge Pack Dragon or the giant soldiers of the North Continent .
Of course it would be a different matter, if Princess Freya were to put her beautiful silver hair and ice-blue eyes on display, but for reasons of safety, the enclosed carriage had very small windows .
Princess Freya did sit by the window and waved her hands with a smile to the citizens on the streets, but only a few people noticed her .
If anything, she used the window to intently observe the Capital of a different country for the first time .
(It looks a lot more prosperous than I thought . The main street is cobbled with a wheel path for vehicles . The houses are mainly built with wood, but in an elaborated manner and usually two-storied along the main street . Some even have a third story .
The people look healthy as well and I cannot see any starved out people, nor any homeless children . Considering that the great war ended only a few years ago, I would say it is safe to assume that this is indeed a flourishing major power . )
Princess Freya acknowledged once again that a trade agreement with this country would bring a lot of profit for her mother country .
“If possible, I would like to request that His Majesty Zenjirou continues to act as my contact person…”
She suddenly breathed what she was thinking at heart, but the waiting maid assigned to her by the Carpa Kingdom, sat at a distance, so she did not hear it .
The exchange between Zenjirou and Princess Freya had only lasted for a few days, but in these few days, she had more or less caught on to the personality from the man called Zenjirou .
For a royalty, he was pure-minded and sincere to the point that she had never seen someone like him before . Despite his standing as the Prince Consort, he did not seem to have much authority or decision-making power, but Princess Freya preferred to negotiate with a sincere and non-fraudulent person, even if he had less authority .
Otherwise put: Princess Freya viewed Zenjirou as a “negotiation partner that was easy to deal with” .
(His Majesty Zenjirou is the Prince Consort and one of the two royalty in this kingdom right now . That leaves only one other royalty to deal with: Her Majesty Aura . If half of what I have heard is true, she will be a formidable opponent, though . )
The silver-haired princess continued to wave her snow-white hand with a smile while she thought about these things at heart .
* * *
Around the time, when the delegation from the Uppsala Kingdom centred around Princess Freya made their victory parade through the main street of the Capital, Raffaelo Márguez had already returned to the Capital ahead of them and was now meeting with his father, Count Manuel Márguez, in the residence of their family in the Capital in a long time .
“It has been a while, Raffaelo . I hope you have been well . You did well in fulfilling the difficult assignment this time . ”
“Not at all, Sir . It was not all that difficult, actually . I am glad that you assigned me a worthwhile job that was specially tailored for me . ”
The conversation sounded a bit stiff for one between a father and his son, but amongst grown-up nobles, the relationship between Count Márguez and his son was actually quite good .
The father acknowledged his son as a competent successor and the son respected his father as a level-headed predecessor . Although they did have some differences in opinion, their relationship was enviable, when measured against the majority of other nobility .
The never-ending cheers of the citizens could be heard through the opened windows and Count Márguez let his gaze wander in its direction .
“Sounds like Princess Freya and her group made it to the Capital just fine . They must be rather popular to cause such a ruckus . ”
“The soldiers of the North Continent do attract a lot of attention . And the skull of the Huge Pack Dragon and Miss Victoria at the front are quite the spectacle . The rumours of the Pack Dragon Subjugation have even reached the Capital after all . ”
Raffaelo had accompanied Princess Freya and her group part of the way from Valentia to the Capital and he replied like that with a smile .
“That is kind of rich, coming from you . ”
Count Márguez made a wry smile, because he no doubts that his own son, sitting across from him, had spread these rumours .
The Capital spoke about the previous Pack Dragon Subjugation in such a way that Zenjirou had been the nominal leader on the battlefield while Xavier Guzzle had led the main force and Victoria Kronkvist had defeated the Huge Pack Dragon by herself .
This was no different from the information Count Márguez had gathered from reliable sources in the Royal Palace .
In other words, the truth was going around the town as a rumour almost unaltered . Needless to say, that was extremely unnatural .
Generally speaking, rumours were greatly exaggerated stories that made the hearer question, where they come from .
When the information was passed on accurately, though, it was more natural to think that someone had a hand in it .
Raffaelo had probably seen some kind of profit in spreading the information about this incident as it was . Count Márguez needed to ask him about that, but for now, he spoke about the official business .
“I did read through the documents once, but let me hear it from you once more . The negotiations with Princess Freya were a success, right?”
The current head of the family addressed him like that, whereupon the successor to the title wiped the smile off his face and assume a stern facial expression .
“Correct . Master Zenjirou and Princess Freya have found a positive consent in regards to a trade agreement between our Carpa Kingdom and the Uppsala Kingdom . The fine details will surely be worked out here in the Capital from now on, but it has already been decided that the agreement will be exclusive to both royal families . ”
“I see . ”
The report from Raffaelo prompted Count Márguez to show a grin .
When the intercontinental trade turned into an exclusive business for both royal families before the other nobilities could interfere, then Count Márguez had been right with his speculations .
An exclusive trade agreement between the royal families of both countries meant that only the Carpa Royal Family was allowed to do direct trading with the Uppsala Kingdom, when their ships docked in the harbour of Valentia in the future .
With just that, the royal family would be the clear winner and Count Márguez would have no reason to support the agreement, but there was more to it, of course .
As a country from the North Continent, the Uppsala Kingdom mainly wanted to obtain specialities from the South Continent such as sugar, spices, dragon leather and bones, but it was impossible for the Carpa Royal Family to provide all these export articles by themselves .
So even when the intercontinental trade agreement was “exclusive to both royal families”, it only meant that they were the exclusive contact partners for each other . Other influential nobilities still had the opportunity to partake indirectly .
The goal of Count Márguez was to receive preferential treatment for these opportunities .
Acting in collusion with Queen Aura, Count Márguez had promised his support for the completion of the trade contract in exchange for not getting charged a handling fee by the royal family, so he could basically expect the same profit as with a direct deal .
“You have done well . I will discuss the fine details with Her Majesty Aura . Well, she has to negotiate the trade agreement with Princess Freya at the same time, so it may take some time, but it should not pose a drawback . ”
“Yes, I am leaving it to you . ”
The father confidently took up the baton, whereas the son ceded the baton trustingly .
“Good . ”
Having said this, Count Márguez was a bit sour at heart, even though he did not let it show on his face . His talented son had acted just like he had specified and achieved the very results he had wanted, but the Count was a little bit worried how accustomed his offspring had gotten to leaving the ultimate responsibility and success to someone else, maybe because he had done these kind of jobs for too long .
There was no doubt that his son was gifted, but Raffaelo was already in his thirties . It was about time he stopped being the “obedient son” and slipped more into his role as the “head of an influential family”, even if he might screw it up for a bit . Otherwise his father could not free himself from the worry about his succession .
Raising the capable and understanding son uprightly had unfortunately turned him into a man that awaited orders, which made him be unsuitable as the head of a family .
Of course Count Márguez wanted to reeducate him soon, even if it took drastic measures, but he certainly could not use the current matter, a secret agreement with the royal family, for it .
Pushing the concerns over his son to the back of his mind, the Count addressed himself to the problem at hand again .
“I did not go into it earlier, but let me ask now: You are behind the ‘faithful rumours’ going around in the Capital, are you not?”
Raffaelo affirmed the rhetorical question from his father with a serious expression .
“Yes . I used some of my men to spread them . ”
“Your reason being?”
His son responded smoothly to his next question as though he had prepared the answer beforehand .
“Simply put, I wanted to avoid ‘getting on Master Zenjirou’s bad side‘ . Left alone, the rumours would have surely exaggerated his achievement and that would not have been in his interest . ”
The response from his son was a bit unexpected, so Count Márguez cocked his head a bit puzzled and asked again .
“Hmm? What do you mean? I do understand that a glorified achievement goes against his will . He is loyal to Her Majesty Aura after all and pays careful attention not to undermine her authority by making a name for himself .
But why would you go out of your way for him? Did he asked you to do that?”
“No . I did it by my own accord . ”
When his son declared it outright like that, Count Márguez furrowed his brow a bit .
“But why? Just what are you making of Master Zenjirou?”
Raffaelo sat up straight in his chair and took a deep breath before he answered the inquiry of his father .
“Because he is ‘terrifying’ . Master Zenjirou is a ‘monster’ . ”
His expression as he openly admitted that, revealed that he was not joking .
“What do you mean? Explain yourself . ”
The Prince Consort was passive to no end and showed not the slightest sign of ambition, yet his son had evaluated him as a “monster”, so the shrewd count narrowed his eyes to slits .
He would have laughed at anyone else for saying this, but his son had a good insight into human nature .
Pressed for an answer by his father, Raffaelo paused to think for a moment .
“Well, to be honest, all I can think of to describe him is the term monster… And by that, I do not mean his appearance or strength, of course, but his mentality .
More precisely: He is ‘different’ . It took me a while to notice, because he generally is very mild-mannered, reasonable and does not let any raw emotions show up in his face in public, but you will end up making a fatal mistake, when you take him for an ordinary man . ”
He laid it on the line for his father .
“Hmm… Well, I do agree with you that his moral values are somewhat peculiar, but I still cannot see why you call him a ‘monster’ . Are you saying that Master Zenjirou is as formidable as General Puyol or Marquis Ralah?”
Since Count Márguez still cocked his head puzzled, Raffaelo leaned a bit over the table and groped for words .
“Not really . General Puyol has a tenacious mentality on par with a monster, whereas Marquis Ralah has a vigorous mentality on par with a monster, but these are nothing but classifications of intensity .
It is the same as classifying someone as ‘superhuman’, because he is stronger than a dragon or far taller than average .
In contrast, Master Zenjirou truly has a ‘monstrous’ mentality . ’Monstrous’ in the sense that he might look like a human on a glance, but in reality, his head is just a decoration, his fatal spot is his instep instead and he got an invisible third arm on his back . ”
When his son illustrated a true monster with grotesque descriptions, Count Márguez cocked his head bewildered altogether . For him it was unthinkable that the completely harmless looking Prince Consort posed such a danger .
“Those, who look ordinary on a glance, are actually the worst of all .
When you were younger, you fought with the sword, right? Please imagine the following:
You are going against someone that has average strength and no experience with the sword, but is a ’monster’ with the features I just mentioned . What would you say are the odds you win that fight?”
The example made no sense, but the Count answered in earnest, when he saw the stern expression of his son .
“Well… It may be a cumbersome fight, but I should be able to defeat him without much difficulty, when his techniques and physique are weak . ”
Raffaelo seemed to have waited for this answer as he immediately asked back .
“Father, you worked out your chances of success on the ‘premise that you knew about’ the head being a decoration, the instep being the fatal spot and the invisible third arm on the back, right?”
“Hm? Oh, I see now . ”
Count Márguez was by no means slow-witted, so he immediately comprehended now what his son wanted to say .
“Yes, you are right . I would be able to win, because I know about the monstrous peculiarities . Without knowing any of it, I would confront the monster like a regular human and believe I had won, when I split its decorative head, but in that moment, I would get killed by the hidden weapon held by the third arm on its back . Considering that, even General Puyol would likely lose against it .
So you are afraid of the fact that no one has an idea about what kind of intellectual attack Master Zenjirou will use or which subject should be avoided with him at all cost . ”
The son nodded twice relieved, when his father showcased an excellent breadth of mind .
“Yes, indeed . When the nobles talked to Master Zenjirou during parties, I could not help but feel that they were casually touching an ancient dragon all over without knowing, when it would get mad .
Master Zenjirou certainly is mild-mannered and reasonable, but that does not mean he has no emotions . I learned that, when I worked as his assistance in the past month . ”
During the one month in Valentia, Raffaelo had witnessed how Zenjirou changed, when he could no longer keep his emotions in check .
For example: Zenjirou had been overjoyed, when Princess Freya mentioned the “goats”, and he had expressed his interest without thought .
Fortunately it had been the positive emotion called “joy”, but it still proved that Zenjirou sometimes based his behaviour on emotions instead of reasoning .
In the same way, it was possible that Zenjirou would dictate a death sentence based on emotion, if something triggered a ruthless anger or hate in him .
But Raffaelo had not the slightest idea “what exactly would trigger anger or hate in Zenjirou” .
Affable and a good listener, Raffaelo represented a great conversational partner and he excelled in discerning the feelings and moral values of others . By understanding the unvoiced feelings of his opposite or the words his opposite wanted to hear, Raffaelo could react to it and converse smoothly . It was his worldly wisdom .
But that very worldly wisdom was useless in regards to Zenjirou . Of course it was impossible to discern the feelings or moral values of others as a whole, too, because they all had their own personalities .
It was a completely different matter with Zenjirou, though . Raffaelo had not even the slightest clue, where to start to guess his moral values .
For example: Most young noble men enlisted in the army would be pleased to hear you talking about their bright “future prospects“, but would get angry, if you called them a “coward” .
Of course there were exceptions to the rule, but in most cases, only a part of the general framework was different, so such a classification could be applied to the majority . On the other hand, when people did not fit into the classification, it often turned out that they lied about their status or occupation .
According to this system from Raffaelo, Zenjirou would be a “young” “royal” “man” “without a job” .
If calling him jobless sounded wrong, you could list “Royalty” or “Prince Consort” as his occupation as well . For Royalty or Nobility, their rank often corresponded to their occupation .
Anyway, the “young male royalty” framework based on Raffaelo’s classification was entirely unsuitable for Zenjirou .
And that would not change, even if you were to change male to female, young to old, royalty to commoner or jobless to farmer/soldier .
Probably what you would expect from someone from a different world . It was impossible to classify him .
“Above all, I was made painfully aware during this incident that he is by no means a ‘puppet of the Queen’ like some nobles describe him behind his back .
He is in possession of a resolute personality and merely acts as the ‘puppet of the Queen’ of his own accord . Or more precisely, he is a ‘self-acting puppet‘ rather than a ‘puppet on a string’ . ”
Some of the nobles, who saw Zenjirou as a puppet on a string, wanted to dethrone Aura and let Zenjirou assume it instead, because they falsely believed that they could control Zenjirou at their convenience, when they got a hold of the strings themselves .
But Raffaelo had learned the truth now . Zenjirou was definitely not the puppet of the Queen . As a proof, he did not hesitate with his decisions in Valentia, even though the Queen had been too far away to give such quick instructions .
If he really were a puppet, he should have been unable to make any calls, when hell suddenly broke loose in Valentia, whereto the instructions of the Queen did not reach in time . But in reality, that did not happen . Zenjirou behaved almost the same as when he acted as the representative of the Queen in the Royal Palace .
That was terrifying above all, because it meant that Zenjirou always kept acting “in the best interests of the Queen” of his own accord and judgement .
For Queen Aura it was like she had another body that produced results on its own with a bare minimum of instructions . Raffaelo was anticipating that her authority would soon become even more consolidated .
He continued with a stern expression .
“Due to that, I suggest we keep our distance from Master Zenjirou until we understand him and his mindset better . It would be dangerous to go against him, of course, but taking his side would be just as dangerous . ”
Without knowing the moral values of your opponent, it could prove fatal, when you either went on the offence or tried to appease him .
The word “audacious” would be a compliment for a man, but a woman would be offended by it for sure, whereas the phrase “not being stingy with money” appealed to nobility, but not necessarily to merchants .
“Master Zenjirou was not offended in the slightest, even when his lack for martial arts was pointed out, nor does he shun to obey the instruction of his own wife at all . In my opinion it would be wise not to approach him while we not know what is to his liking or what offends him . ”
Raffaelo formulated it as a suggestion, because he himself was going to return home to their domain after this . His father Count Manuel Márguez would be the one to likely come into contact with Zenjirou in the Capital .
“Yes, I understand your concern and you do have a point . For now, I shall only speak to Her Majesty Aura for businesses . ”
Even for an old fox like Count Márguez, Queen Aura represented a tough negotiation partner, but at least he knew her cast of mind . Of course he could be outwitted sometimes, but he did not have to worry about waking a sleeping lion by accident .
The son heaved a sigh of relief, when his father was convinced, and nodded briefly .
“Good, that will be sensible .
Also, one last thing . This is just my personal opinion, but I believe we should consider how we can ally with Master Zenjirou as best as possible once we figure him out to a certain extent . ”
Count Márguez widened his eyes a bit, when his son voiced an assertive opinion for once .
“Oho? You mean he is worth the assistance of our family? Is he that competent?”
The son picked his words carefully, when he answered to the words of his father with a slightly brooding expression .
“No, I would not go as far as to say that . He certainly is not incompetent either, though . The reason why I feel it will be profitable for our family to have Master Zenjirou on our side, or rather for our family to side with him, is because it is quite likely that our interests will coincide, even though the interests of royalty and nobility usually oppose each other . ”
“Go on . ”
When his father urged him to continue with a serious look, the son obediently elaborated his explanation .
“Yes . I had the opportunity to be close to Master Zenjirou for a relatively long time during this incident . Thanks to it, I understand him even less now, but I did manage to confirm a few things .
First off, we erred in our early assumption that he has a good grasp of his emotions and expressions .
I say this, because he prioritized his emotions and decided to obtain the goats as soon as Princess Freya mentioned that she had them onboard .
The reason I had thought he has good control over his emotions was his extremely level-headed attitude, when he acted as a representative for Her Majesty Aura behind the scenes without getting assumptive .
But there is a different explanation for it, when you presume that he cannot control his emotions all that well . Namely that he is not suppressing these emotions but rather feels no dissatisfaction towards his ‘behind-the-scenes position as the Prince Consort’ to begin with . ”
“Master Zenjirou did end up as the supreme commander in name only for the Pack Dragon Subjugation, but I sensed some ‘reluctance’ in him, when it happened .
Considering these two points, Master Zenjirou might be a person, who prefers to work behind the scenes despite being royalty and hates to make a name for himself despite being a man .
If that assumption were prove to be true, I dare to say that there is no better person to cooperate with, when we wish to raise the fame of our family in the future . ”
“Indeed . I see now what you are getting at . It certainly is intriguing, if it is true . ”
After the lengthy explanation from his son, Count Márguez expressed his consent by nodding strongly without changing his facial expression .
The reasoning from Raffaelo was rather simple . Normally, any nobleman desired to have a chance to stand in the spotlight and make a name for himself . The one to provide these chances was Royalty . And when that Royalty had no intention to keep these chances for himself, he certainly should be a good negotiation partner .
It goes without saying that it was easier to ask a man with no interest in alcohol for the “high quality alcohol” he owned for some reason, rather than an incorrigible alcoholic for his “treasured alcohol” .
“Okay . I cannot put our family on the line on account of your opinion alone, of course, but I will keep it in mind . Thanks . “
“Yes, Sir . If there is nothing else on the agenda, I plan to return home as soon as the reception party for Princess Freya in the evening is over . Do you mind?”
It seemed that he had gotten his point across to his father, so Raffaelo asked him for his permission to return home with a smile . Strictly speaking, it was not desirable that the current head of the family and its successor were both absent from the domain at the same time like in this case, but in a domain as large as the one from the Márguez Family, there was obviously enough manpower to keep the domain going for half a year, even without its leaders . Still, it never hurt to have a leader around .
Accordingly, the request from Raffaelo made perfect sense, but contrary to his expectation, his father Count Márguez shook his head .
“I do . Your return will be postpone a bit longer . It has not been officially announced yet, but Puyol Guillén will actually marry soon . ”
Even in the Royal Palace, this information was not all that widespread, so Raffaelo widened his eyes in surprise, too .
“Oh, about time . Who is the lucky bride?”
“The eldest daughter of the Guzzle Family: Lady Lucinda . ”
The answer from his father prompted even Raffaelo to be at a loss for words for a moment, then he showed a wry smile and shrugged his shoulders .
“Well… As one might expect of him, I guess? His ambitions still know no limits . ”
“Yes, he is going to gain a lot, but will also forfeit a lot . At the very least, the Royal Family will be sure keep an eye on him while Her Majesty Aura is still alive .
Well, it is not really our problem . Anyway, I will have you attend his wedding as the representative of our family . Given the circumstances, I would like to choose the partner accompanying you . ”
“Oh, I see . I assume that this partner is not going to be Mother or Mirela?”
When an unmarried adult man took a woman along to a wedding ceremony, he was practically declaring his intention to bond with that woman to his surroundings, so Raffaelo asked this just in case .
On the other hand, a man with no such partner would ask an already married female relative or a minor girl to be his partner .
By the way, Mirela was the name of Raffaelo’s girl cousin .
Count Márguez nodded once in response to his inquiry as if to say that it was self-evident .
“Correct . I mean your fiancée . This has nothing to do with General Puyol . I just think it is about time that you raise a family yourself, too .
I have narrowed down some candidates for now, but if you have any preferences, I am willing to consider them . Just tell me . ”
He took charge of the marriage of his son by himself like it was only natural .
Raffaelo, too, was not offended by this and naturally accepted the approach of his father . It was yet again proof how he was still nothing but an “obedient son” .
“My fiancée, hmm . Well, I am sure there will be nothing wrong with a woman chosen by you, but since you are asking: My ideal woman is someone like my Stepmother . ”
Saying this, Raffaelo named his stepmother, who was younger than him by more than five years, as his ideal woman .
The son had just told his father to the face that his second wife was his ideal woman . It was a somewhat awkward joke, but they were on such good terms that it was still understood as a joke . Besides, Lady Octavia was popular enough to make it a convincing argument .
Hearing this, his father gave a broad grin, rejoicing .
“Talk about the impossible now! You will not find another woman like Octavia, not even in our versatile Carpa Kingdom . ”
“Yeah, I know . But then again, I do not really have any preferences in particular, because whether we will be happy or not in the future depends on the effort my wife-to-be and I put forth, given that there are no faults with her personality or aptitude . ”
“I see . Then let us go with my top candidate: The second daughter of Baron Massana, Lady Keyshia . ”
“Lady Keyshia from the Massana Family? We certainly have some connection to them and their domain borders on ours . Our statuses are not really all that ill-matched, either…”
Raffaelo cocked his head unconvinced . While it was true that Massana Family was not a low-ranking family, it could not be considered high-ranking, either .
It technically was a noble family with a domain on its own, but that domain was rather small, so there were plenty of court nobles without a title and domain that possessed more authority than the Massana Family, when they worked in important positions . Baron Massana was such an insignificant feudal lord .
Having said this, he was still a legit feudal lord, so he did have his own land and army . That very land directly bordered on the domain of the Márguez Family, so it was not entirely unprofitable, if their two families were to join up .
But considering the fact that the Márguez Family was undoubtedly one of the ten most influential families in the Carpa Kingdom, it would seem that the Massana Family was a bit too plain for the successor of that very Márguez Family to take their daughter as his legal wife .
Count Márguez preferred stability over chaos and a high return with low risk policy over a low return with high risk policy, so that choice was certainly in line with his moral values, but even then, the return appeared to be somewhat lacking .
He showed a grin to his doubtful son and explained it in the manner of revealing a magic trick .
“Well, you pretty much guessed it already . If your bride were to come from an all too important family, it would be troublesome to bring them under control . There ought to be an unproblematic social distinction between both families .
Moreover, the appeal does not lie in the Massana Family, but in Lady Keyshia herself . ”
“Right . I have heard of her on numerous occasions . As far as high society is concerned, she is quite the beauty . Though a different type of beauty than my Stepmother . ”
“Yes . She is not nearly as popular as Octavia, but she is attractive enough that a lot of men do prefer her over Octavia . And seeing as she is five years younger than Octavia, she will only be compared to her in High Society for a short time . ”
Octavia was the very embodiment of the ideal woman for men in the Carpa Kingdom: Neat, graceful and reserved . Keyshia Massana on the other hand was an eye-catching beauty, who prided herself with a voluptuous body as well as an alluring face .
Versed in the traditional dance of the Carpa Kingdom, she was allowed to wear the most prominent colour “red”, the symbolic colour of the Carpa Kingdom, as a dancer .
Someone from Modern Earth might be reminded of “Carmen”, if he could see her dance wildly in the red traditional clothes .
“When she is five years younger than my stepmother, then she must have turned twenty this year . I find it a bit hard to believe that a beauty like her is still unmarried at this age . Did Baron Massana delay her marriage as much as possible to gain an advantage?”
If that was the case, his plan proved to be very successful . After all, a marriage with the successor from the Márguez Family happened to come in sight .
But Count Márguez feigned ignorance and continued with unexpected words, when his son made such an assumption .
“No, in her case, it is not a problem that she still is unmarried, even after twenty years . You see, she went into the ’Inner Palace’ as a ’waiting maid’ last year . A bit of an advanced age does not get in the way for a waiting maid . ”
“…I see now . ”
Raffaelo took a breathe and wearily pinched the bridge of his nose with the index finger and thumb of his right hand .
“Father, I believe I just told you that we ought to ‘keep our distance to Master Zenjirou’…”
His son reproached him like that on a rare occasion, whereupon the father shrugged his shoulders with a sniffish look .
“Of course that is what I am going to do . But we are an important family in the Carpa Kingdom and Master Zenjirou is the husband of Her Majesty Aura, so we cannot keep our distance to him forever .
This being the case, we ought to be a proactive to some extent and figure out his moral values as soon as possible . ”
He made a valid point . At the same time, Count Márguez would never chose a fiancée for his son on the spot . In other words, he has had a candidate in mind from the very beginning and listening to the opinion from Raffaelo just now did not change his view .
Raffaelo himself also had claimed that they “should side with Zenjirou, once they figured out his character”, so he could not reproach him all that harshly .
Meanwhile Count Márguez continued with his explanation .
“Octavia has gone into the Inner Palace numerous times and told me that Master Zenjirou gets along with the waiting maids surprisingly well . ”
“You mean he took a waiting maid as a ‘mistress’!?”
That piece of information certainly surprised even Raffaelo . But the answer to that question of his could not have been any more unexpected .
“No, not in the meaning of a ‘mistress’ . Not even a single maid is in such a relationship with him, but they are usually very close and the waiting maids perceive him as rather ‘affable’ . He seems to be very popular with them as well .
Of course this is not a testimony from the waiting maids, but merely the impression Octavia got by watching them . ”
“He is affable to the waiting maids, even though he is not in a relationship with them? So he does like them, yet lays no hands on them? …To be honest, that only makes me more wary of him . Just what is going on in his head? I cannot comprehend his personality or moral values at all . ”
Raffaelo jokingly raised both his arms a bit as if to say that he was at his wit’s end and assumed a surrendering pose .
“Then does it mean that amongst them, Lady Keyshia is a ‘favourite’ to Master Zenjirou?”
“No, unfortunately that is not the case . She simply is the only waiting maid with an appropriate background for the Márguez Family .
Strictly speaking, the daughter of Baron Regalado is an option as well, but you know how peculiar the situation is with that family . It would be dangerous to get involved with them carelessly . Besides, their daughter is a bit too young . Age-wise, Lady Keyshia is the best match for you . ”
“I see . ”
In light of the words from his father, Raffaelo pondered with his hand against his chin .
A twenty-year old woman, who was previously praised as a beauty in High Society and was now working as a waiting maid in the Inner Palace .
Her looks were first-grade without doubt and since she was chosen as a waiting maid, there could be no major flaws with her personality, either . At twenty-years old, she was still in the general marriageable prime by a hair’s breath, but that was also no issue at all, considering she spent two years in the Inner Palace .
Before long, Raffaelo reached a conclusion and declared his decision indifferently .
“Understood . I shall meet with Lady Keyshia once, but something unforeseen might prompt me to reject her, so I would like you to refrain from making it definitive for now . You can proceed with the negotiations positively in general, though . ”
“Okay . I will make preparations up to the point, where we can announce your engagement at any moment, if you feel like it . If possible, I would like you to take her along to the marriage of General Puyol as your fiancée . ”
Count Márguez nodded with a broad smile, when his son answered faithful to his expectations .
* * *
After their parade, Princess Freya and her entourage entered the Royal Palace and attended a formal ceremony for foreign visitors in the audience room .
Giving them three days to rest in order to relieve the exhaustion they accumulated through the long journey from Valentia to the Capital, the Royal Palace then hosted a night banquet to welcome and entertain Princess Freya and her retainers .
Dressed up men and women had gathered in a large ball room, which was illuminated by numerous fancy chandeliers and a large number of tall candlesticks, and were conversing merrily .
During the Vibrant Season, the temperatures at noon could already be called “refreshing” rather than “hot” and at night, it became pleasantly cool .
Consequently, the people dressed differently compared to the night banquets of the Hottest Season . The variation in clothes was obviously a lot more multifaceted now . True to the motto of Modern Japanese that fall was the most fashionable season, the temperatures during the Vibrant Season were just about right, so you were neither hot, when you put on a few more layers, nor were you freezing, when you put on a bit less, so it goes without saying that more liberties could be taken with the fashion .
The ladies and gentlemen really went all-out with their dresses, but amongst them, two people still stood out most of all: The honorary guest Princess Freya and the female warrior standing next to her, Victoria Kronkvist aka . Skathi .
In Valentia, Princess Freya had cross-dressed most of the time, since she was acting in her role as the captain of the “Yellow Leaves”, but she was wearing the proper dress of a princess right now .
Her light-blue dress had been brought along from the faraway Uppsala Kingdom . Its design was rather simple, keeping lace or other decorations to a bare minimum, but on a closer look, you noticed a blue sapphire, the exclusive decoration of the royal family of the Uppsala Kingdom, worked into it and an elegant style that was plenty of eye-catching in itself .
Moreover, the owner of that dress was an unfathomable beauty with short blue-tinted silver hair and ice-blue eyes .
She had skin so white that it looked unrealistic to the people of the South Continent, and her standing figure was stunning beyond nature .
Attracting the gazes of everyone, not just the men, Princess Freya kept on smiling, even when she heard the whispered gossip from around her . As a natural-born princess, she must have been used to stand in the spotlight .
The chandeliers projected countless shadows onto the red carpet while she advanced over it in the traditional manner of her motherland .
The culture of the Carpa Kingdom generally considered it bad manners, when someone of lower status called out to someone of higher status first .
Having been told of this in advance, Princess Freya wanted to melt the ice by opening a conversation herself, so she looked around smiling, but a silhouette approached her before she could act .
“Why, good evening, Princess of the North . May I have the pleasure of making your acquaintance?”
A young man with blonde hair and green eyes, wearing something like a dark purple tuxedo like a glove, casually called out to her with a smile and no sense of tension .
Behind him followed a young woman with auburn hair, clad in a light purple dress .
“Yes, of course . May I have your name, please?”
Princess Freya responded with a smile like that, although she already had an idea, who the man and woman were that stood before her .
“Thank you . My name is Francesco . I am the eldest son of the Crown Prince of the Sharrow Royal Family from the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell . ”
“My name is Bona . I hail from the same Kingdom, but are part of the Jilbell Royal Family . ”
When Prince Francesco and Princess Bona announced their affiliation with the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, the major power ruling over the central part of the South Continent, Princess Freya also gave her name as the representative of her homeland, the Uppsala Kingdom, with a smile and her head raised .
“Thank you for your polite introduction . I am Freya, the eldest daughter of Gustav V, the King of the Uppsala Kingdom . This is my trusted retainer Victoria Kronkvist also known as Skathi . ”
Standing at attention behind Princess Freya, the tall female warrior wordlessly lowered her head in acknowledgement, as the fellow royalty introduced each other .
By the way, Skathi was not armed, as might be expected . She had taken off her leather armour for something like a blue military uniform with silver embroidery . Below it she actually wore something feminine, namely a skirt, but on a closer look, the short skirt with a deep slit at the side turned out to have some kind of short trousers sewed in beneath it .
That kind of outfit enabled her to move around as good as in normal trousers, if necessary, but still gave off a feminine impression at the same time . Maybe this was actually the dress uniform for female soldiers in the Uppsala Kingdom .
“That’s what I call a tall and reliable bodyguard . Hello there . ”
Anyway, Prince Francesco seemed to have understood the unspoken intention from Skathi to be nothing more than a bodyguard for Princess Freya here, so he only called out to her once with a silly smile and then shifted his attention back to Princess Freya .
“Let me call you Princess Freya then . But I have to say, it’s my first time meeting someone from the North Continent, so I’m quite excited, if you will forgive my saying so . Would you tell me more about your culture?”
Prince Francesco could consort most familiar with someone he met for the first time without making that person feel enraged . That ability of his might be even more abnormal than his ability to control the bloodline magic of two different royal families .
Standing behind him, Princess Bona was sweating bullets under her forced smile, but Princess Freya showed no sign of being offended by the blatant attitude of the foreign prince, and replied with a smile .
“Yes, as long as time allows it, gladly . I am ashamed to admit this, but I actually have never heard of the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell before coming to the South Continent .
I would appreciate it, if you could tell me about it as well . ”
“Why, yes! I say it’s only natural to not have heard of it on the North Continent . I mean, our kingdom is located in the central part of the South Continent and has no connection to the sea . We practically have zero contact with the North Continent . ”
“I see . Thank you for enlightening me . But then again, you two look a lot more like us rather than the people of the Carpa Kingdom . ”
Her scepsis was understandable . People on the South Continent generally had darker skin, even considering nuances, but Prince Francesco and Princess Bona had exceptional fair white skin .
They resembled Princess Freya and Skathi so much that someone clueless would immediately believe it, when he was told that the four of them came from the same country .
Francesco smiled frivolously to the reference from Princess Freya
“Oh, that’s probably because our ancestors were settlers from the North Continent . By now, the blood has mingled with the one from the South Continent, so some royalty or nobles do tend to look like the natives here, but the majority of them still looks like Bona and me . ”
and revealed some personal information .
“Oh, really now . I see . ”
Princess Freya appeared to be impressed, but she contemplated the contrary point of what she had heard just now at heart .
It was not unthinkable that they still looked nothing like the natives, even after numerous generations . The term “settlers” suggested that they had been more than just one or two people, so it was quite plausible that they refrained from mingling with the natives in order to protect the bloodline magic .
While preserving the bloodline magic like that, they unintentionally happened to preserve their appearance as well .
The problematic part was that fact that the Twin Kingdom, the place where they settled, was located deep in the inner land with no connection to the sea .
Needless to say, you could only migrate from the North Continent to the South Continent by boat . Regardless of how many years ago it happened, the ancestors of the Twin Kingdom ought to have arrived on the continent by the sea first .
Despite that, the Twin Kingdom was a completely landlocked country in the central part of the South Continent now . Of course it was possible that it was the result of repeated expansions and surrenders of land in all the years .
But that made no sense either, considering the fact that the current Twin Kingdom was a major power known for their “domination over the central part of the South Continent” . The creature known as human could generally forget about taking something unrightfully, but never forgot about having something taken away from him unrightfully .
Assuming the Twin Kingdom has had a coastline in their territory once upon a time, someone would have definitely demanded to “reclaim the lost land” .
Then Princess Freya suddenly thought of another possibility . She kept her smile under perfect control and asked .
“So I can take it that the members of the other royal family in the Twin Kingdom, namely the Jilbell Royal Family, also look like you?”
“Yes, indeed . Of course each family has its own distinct features, but overall, we all do not look all that different from people of the North Continent . ”
When Prince Francesco answered her casually like that, Princess Freya started to harbour another doubt at heart .
(Two royal families with a bloodline magic each migrated to the South Continent as one group? Moreover, they did not separate ways then, but founded a single country together? That seems rather unnatural . )
Under normal circumstances, a royal family with a bloodline magic was prone to cling to their sovereignty . Princess Freya was unable to rule it out completely, since she did not know about every kingdom that once existed on the North Continent, but at the very least, she could not think of a country that would apply to the Sharrow Family and Jilbell Family while they were still on the North Continent .
When a royal family possessed such a convenient bloodline magic like the Bestowal Magic or Healing Magic, some stories about them were bound to be remaining, even if they had perished .
(Well, a bloodline magic is not everything, when it comes to the power of the state, so it would not be all that strange, when a dynasty or two perished without entering the history books . Even less so, when that dynasty did not actually perish, but just moved over to the South Continent…)
The possibilities were endless, so Princess Freya concluded that it was pointless to muse about it any further right now . She pushed the thought to the back of her mind and breached a casual topic instead .
“I envy the South Continent for its variety of dragons . It has been my first time riding a dragon carriage . To my shame, I must confess that I was overexcited much like a child . ”
The topic must have been appealing to Prince Francesco as well . The blond prince jumped at the chance at once .
“Yes, I recall that the North Continent has very few dragons . Here, even the same species can be quite different, depending where they come from . Most of the Raptorial Dragon from around here are green and resilient against heat, but in our Twin Kingdom they generally have a fawn colour and can cope with dry air . ”
“Is that so? That is quite the difference, considering it is the same continent . ”
“Yes . The culture varies in the west and central part, too . Not only is the architecture quite different, the atmosphere in the cities is something else entirely . ”
“That is really fascinating . ”
From that point on, Princess Freya and Princess Francesco exchanged experiences about their respective cultures .
After a while,
“Here come Her Majesty Aura and Master Zenjirou!”
a voice echoed through the large hall, heralding the entry of the Queen of the Carpa Kingdom and her husband .
“Prince Francesco, Princess Bona, you will have to excuse me . I need to bid Her Majesty Aura and His Majesty Zenjirou welcome . ”
Hearing that Aura and Zenjirou were coming, Princess Freya bowed herself off from the prince and princess of the Twin Kingdom and was about to leave .
“Oh, then let’s go together . We have to greet them as well . ”
“Indeed . If you do not object, Princess Freya, please let us accompany you . ”
Prince Freya had no real reason to turn down the request from the prince and princess to go along with her . They were in the same boat in regards to an obligatory greeting to the host, namely the royal couple .
“Very well . Let us go then . ”
With a smile, she allowed them to tag along with her .
“Your Majesty Aura, Your Majesty Zenjirou . I owe you a debt of gratitude for holding this wonderful party for my sake today . I, Freya Uppsala, yield you my thanks as the representative of the delegation from the Uppsala Kingdom . ”
Freya Uppsala expressed her gratitude with a beautiful and clear pronunciation and swept a cutesy by holding on to the hem of her dress and lowering her head a bit .
Accepting the courtesy from the princess of the North Continent, Queen Aura threw out her voluminous chest and nodded generously .
“It appears you relieved the exhaustion from your long journey all right . The banquet tonight is held to welcome you with open arms . Enjoy it to the fullest . ”
“The party is unceremoniously, so I hope you can relax and enjoy it, Princess Freya . ”
“Yes, thank you very much . ”
When Aura and Zenjirou answered her, she bowed in a manner that was obviously different from the etiquette on the South Continent . There was no doubt, though, that the unfamiliar motion was something extremely graceful .
Zenjirou had gotten quite used to conduct himself as royalty in the past one and a half year, but needless to say, he was still not at the level of a natural-born royalty like Aura .
Thus, he basically let Queen Aura take the lead and just stood by her side on occasions like this . Normally, he would have to stand behind her, but the Carpa Kingdom was patriarchal inclined . Even if he was the husband of the ruling Queen, people would not shut up about it, when a man stood behind a woman .
“You have been in our country for over a month already, but came to the Capital only recently . The food here is obviously quite different from Valentia, where you have stayed for a long time .
I am sure that there will be some cuisines not to your liking, because of our cultural differences, but I hope you can enjoy it nevertheless . ”
“Yes, I already had the pleasure of trying some of them, Your Majesty . The cooking here is quite piquant . ”
“Oh? Unfortunately, I have never tasted the cooking from the North Continent myself, so I cannot really tell, but I guess it really is different?”
“Yes, Your Majesty . The North Continent has no dragons as livestock, so the meat is always from goats, cows and pigs . In case of our Uppsala Kingdom, we have the meat from reindeers as well . Surprisingly enough, the vegetables are more or less the same, but the seasoning is the most crucial difference .
We have no cuisines on the North Continent, which uses spices or sugar bountiful . ”
The culinary art livened up the casual conversation between Queen Aura and Princess Aura, true to the function of an appetizer . Food and clothes were relatively safe topics, so they were often used as a common theme for conversations like this one .
By the look of it, Aura would have no problem attending to Princess Freya by herself for a while .
With that in mind, Zenjirou took a look around . As if he had waiting for that moment, the blonde man in the purple outfit showed a friendly smile and called out to him .
“Hey, it has been a while, Your Majesty Zenjirou . As you can see, I already treated myself to one . ”
Saying this, the blonde man— Prince Francesco raised his silver goblet that was filled with a cocktail based on the distilled liquor .
“I am glad to see you again, Your Majesty Zenjirou . Thank you very much for inviting us tonight . ”
The chaperone for Princess Francesco, Princess Bona appeared from behind him with these words .
As always, her characteristically wavy and auburn hair was sprinkled with silver dust . The simple light purple dress she was wearing suited her well and fit into the ambience all right, but Zenjirou remembered that her outfit and hairstyle were practically always the same . Of course the dress itself was always a different one, but the simple one-piece design in a light purple colour never changed .
He somewhat got the impression that Princess Bona wanted to expend as little effort as possible for fashion .
Anyway, seeing as the prince and princess of the Twin Kingdom had greeting him in person, Zenjirou had to return the favour as well .
“Good evening, Prince Francesco, Princess Bona . Yes, please enjoy yourself . ”
His wife was taking care of the honorary guest Princess Freya, so Zenjirou gave his attention to Prince Francesco and Princess Bona for now .
Practically his equals, Zenjirou was already somewhat familiar with them, so he could deal with them relatively stressless .
Thus he talked to them in a relaxed manner .
“By the way, is it just me, or are you wearing this for the first time, Prince Francesco?”
“I knew I could count on you to notice it! That’s the new shirt I had ordered here in the Capital . ”
Saying this, Prince Francesco proudly pointed not at his purple tuxedo jacket, but at the white shirt beneath it .
Zenjirou definitely deserved praise for recognizing the shirt as new, seeing as it was only showing for bit at the neck line of the jacket .
Having said this, he had only noticed it because of the “four-hole buttons” on it, not because he had a keen eye for fashion .
Whether it was the same for the North Continent or not, these “four-hole buttons” were a fairly uncommon sight on the South Continent at least . The purveyors to the court had keenly discerned them on the clothes Zenjirou had brought along and with his permission, they had started to copy them, so every shirt with four-hole buttons was new without doubt .
The general button was a pricey kind of ornament, except for the simple wooden ones, so most of them were fancy and extravagant like brooches, decorating the clothes of royalty and nobility .
“These buttons are quite fascinating . Its flat surface allows you to wear them even underneath without hindrance and they stick firmly to the clothes, since they were sewed on through four holes .
When I think about it, it’s quite the simple idea, but I am still impressed . ”
After Prince Francesco said this, Princess Bona joined the conversation a bit curiously, despite usually staying in the background .
“Are these buttons made out of dragon bones? They certainly look simple, but it can by no means be an easy task to flatten them to that extent and open four holes so near each other without breaking it . And considering that a thread is going through these holes, you have to properly polish the holes or the thread will tear while you thread it in . ”
Her interest apparently did not stem from its decorative value, but rather from the technique to manufacture it .
(Now that I think about it, it’s a bit strange . She loves jewellery, yet has no interest in dressing herself up . I guess her sphere of interest is rather small? The one from Prince Francesco strikes me as too broad, though . )
While these thoughts crossed his mind, Zenjirou responded to the prince and princess .
“Yes . The result is simple indeed, but it actually requires even more skill to make one than the normal decorative button . But I’d like to think that it would not prove difficult for the two of you?”
“Well, yeah . It might be worthwhile to make them out of metal like silver or copper, too . These materials dull more easily, so it requires intense care, but that way, you grow an attachment for it . ”
“I think I will try to make them out of the ‘corals’ I received from you, Your Majesty Zenjirou . It should prove to be a practical, but pretty ornament, when I shape the red corals into a flower and open four holes in the middle of it . ”
As long as it was novel, Prince Francesco displayed an interest in about anything, whereas Princess Bona’s interest was only piqued, when it concerned jewellery .
Zenjirou was glad to see that they both delved into the subject, but when Princess Bona mentioned the souvenir corals, he felt a conscience-stricken pain in his chest, but forced himself to smile on the surface .
(Sorry . To be honest, it wasn’t from me, but from Ines…)
Forced to return home at once due to the unexpected happenings at Valentia, Zenjirou had been unable to buy the souvenirs he had promised to them .
Later on, he had sent a “Small Flying Dragon” to the waiting maid Ines, who had still been in Valentia, and had her buy the corals and pearls in his stead . Both Prince Francesco and Princess Bona had been delighted at the souvenirs, but Zenjirou felt a bit guilty .
Nevertheless, he could not really talk about that, so he went along with their conversation, feigning innocence .
“Oh, that sounds great . What do you think of trying other materials besides the corals? I am not an expert on the matter, but would not amber or jade work as well?”
“What a wonderful idea! Ah, but when you are going as far as using such beautiful stones, it might be more worthwhile to process them into the usual large decorative buttons rather than into these inconspicuous buttons . Ah, but it could be considered more fancy, if you dare to use a precious stone as a concealed button…”
Princess Bona was usually introverted, but she, too, came out of her shell, when jewellery was mentioned . So far, so good, but she would then lose all moderation and never come to an end .
Zenjirou decided it would be dangerous to continue the topic any further, so he broke off the conversation about the buttons and started to push for a different topic .
“Reminds me, you came over together with Princess Freya . Do you already have made an acquaintance with her?”
“Yes . We have been talking with her before you came . ”
“She was so kind to entertain us after the introductions . ”
Princess Freya must have heard their answers . Her conversation with Queen Aura had just came to a halt, so she butted into their conversation with a smile .
“Indeed . I had the pleasure to strike up an acquaintance with them . The stories about the Twin Kingdom have been extremely intriguing to me, since I was born in the north . ”
“Oh please, your stories about the North Continent have been quite entertaining, too . I would love to hear more at a later date, when you have time . ”
“Oh my, I would be glad to, Prince Francesco . ”
Unlike Prince Francesco, Princess Freya seemed to imply more than mere curiosity, but no one was touching upon that .
With an innocence smile like a child, Prince Francesco carried on .
“Thank you, Princess Freya . Oh, right . I hope His Majesty Zenjirou can participate then, too .
Did you know that His Majesty is very erudite, Princess Freya? It was him, who made the drink in Lady Skathi’s goblet . Am I right, Your Majesty Zenjirou?”
For some reason, the prince proudly announced that, whereupon Zenjirou grinded his teeth, annoyed with his unnecessary meddling, but he had not really been keeping the distilled liquor a secret to begin with .
“Well, yes . I certainly did made it, but calling me erudite is giving me too much credit . ”
He tried to brush aside the subject humbly, but perceptive as she was, Princess Freya obviously did not let that happen .
“Oh my, is that so? So you are versed in making ‘distilled liquor’ . ”
She raised an affected voice of surprise, where as Skathi behind her widened her eyes genuinely surprised and stared at the goblet in her hand .
Queen Aura discerned that she needed to help out, so she naturally applied herself
“Going by your phrasing, I take it that ‘distilled liquor’ is nothing uncommon on the North Continent?”
by asking that .
The silver-blue-haired princess answered the question from the red-haired queen without delay .
“Yes . The North Continent has it as well . Having said this, it was only developed relative recently, so I would not really call it common yet . ”
Aura suspected that Princess Freya was definitely more wary of Zenjirou now and attached importance to him, even if she did not let it show on her face .
The people on the North Continent prided themselves on having more advanced technology than the South Continent . So when they heard that someone from the South Continent had implemented something that was still considered a novel technique on the North Continent, even if it was nothing but a luxury good like alcohol, their evaluation and wariness towards that someone was bound to rise .
“I see . Then I would love to hear your honest opinion on it . We are still only making a small amount of it right now, but we would like to expand the business to a national scale in the future . ”
Aura asked for her help without turning a hair, but Princess Freya regretfully shrugged her shoulders a bit .
“My apologies . I have barely ever tasted it, since the alcohol is too strong for me . My Skathi here should be more familiar with it, though . Am I right, Skathi?”
Suddenly addressed, the female bodyguard flinched surprised for a second, but Skathi was still her trusted retainer and bodyguard .
Used to being asked for her opinion by superiors at places like this one, she answered in a flat voice without any tension or excitement .
“Hmm, I recognize the distilled liquor I just had as a freshly distilled alcohol mixed with fruit juice .
Of course there is nothing wrong with drinking it like that, but on the North Continent, we let it rest in wooden barrels for a few years . It thus grows richer in colour, flavour and taste . ”
“Oh, you mean maturation . ”
Zenjirou inadvertently spoke his mind, when Skathi gave that advice .
Apparently, the North Continent had developed the technique to age distilled liquor by storing it for a long time, like it was the case with whiskey or brandy .
“Mh? You already knew of it, Zenjirou?”
Queen Aura asked disappointed, whereupon Zenjirou quickly explained himself .
“Ah, no . I only knew that such a method existed, but not how to actually implement it . ”
Although he did know that it involved putting the distilled alcohol into wooden barrels and letting it rest, he had no idea how to go about it in detail . For example, what kind of wood should be used for the wooden barrels? And he did hear that whiskey barrels were charred on the inside, but to what extent? Also, were there other factors to take into consideration?
It would require a lot of trial-and-errors to ascertain that . But the maturation process took years, so it would take at least a century to develop the method through trial-and-error .
Zenjirou had not been that desperate for it, so he had put it on the back burner for now, but he probably should explain all this to Aura once they were back in the Inner Palace .
Standing diagonally across from him, Princess Freya narrowed her ice-blue eyes to slits and smiled at Zenjirou while these thoughts crossed his mind .
“You really do know a lot, Your Majesty Zenjirou . As Prince Francesco has suggested, I certainly would like to have a talk with you in peace at some point . ”
“Definitely . We are bound to meet for the transfer of the goats down the road, so if you like, we can talk then . ”
Zenjirou fended off her aggressive approach like that, but as though he had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, Prince Francesco declared loudly .
“Eh? But then I won’t be able to talk to you . Your Majesty Zenjirou, please hang out with me, too, afterwards . ”
The night banquet was kept rather lax, but even then, the utterance from Prince Francesco was barely acceptable . As such, Princess Bona lost all the zestful colour she had in her face and pulled the prince at his sleeve with all her might .
“P- Prince Francesco!”
Fortunately enough, everyone present seemed to posses a generous heart, so no one frowned at his mannerless outburst .
But Queen Aura shattered that desire of his for a different reason than its rudeness .
“I am afraid that your wish will go unfulfilled, Prince Francesco . My husband is schedule to leave the palace for some business as my representative . ”
When the Queen revealed this, only Prince Francesco voiced his dismay, but Princess Bona and Princess Freya looked surprised all the same .
Zenjirou was the Prince Consort, but he had only left the Capital once so far, namely for the matter with Princess Freya in Valentia .
In other words, it was easily conceivable that something must be happening in the borderland soon that was equally important as the visit from Princess Freya .
“Where are you headed, Your Majesty Zenjirou?”
“Well, you see…”
Seeing that her husband had doubts whether he was allowed to mention it or not, the Queen at his side helped him out .
“My husband is going to the March of Guzzle . This is still confidential, so please keep it to yourself . The marriage ceremony of a prominent figure of our Kingdom will be held there . ”
Aura lowered her voice on purpose as she said that, but the “confidential” part was a lie, of course .
Strictly speaking, the marriage between General Puyol and Lucinda Guzzle had admittedly not been announced to the public yet, but it was actually a so-called “open secret” that had gotten around to the point, where almost all the nobles, who frequented the Royal Palace, already knew about it .
Since it was not officially announced yet, it was not okay to broadcast the story everywhere, but even if you were to do so, there was not really a law against it, nor a punishment as a matter of course .
Otherwise, Aura would have never mentioned it to royalties from different countries in this place, where who knows might be eavesdropping .
Nevertheless, it was exciting to have a “secret talk”, even if it was just for show .
Princess Freya flushed her snow-white face a bit and leaned a bit forward .
“Oh my, a marriage ceremony? In view of the fact that you mentioned the March of Guzzle, is it possible that Sir Xavier is getting married?”
Having been involved in the Pack Dragon ruckus in Valentia, she had met with Xavier Guzzle in person, making a casual acquaintance . He was one of the few contacts she had, since Princess Freya had only arrived in the Carpa Kingdom a few months ago .
“No, it is not his wedding . The eldest daughter of the Guzzle Family, Lady Lucinda will be getting married . She will wed General Puyol, the current head of the Guillén Family . ”
The name mentioned in Aura’s explanation was not unfamiliar to Princess Freya either .
She had heard of his name in terms of an intermittent leader for the Pack Dragon Subjugation and during the month-long stay in the Residence of the Duke of Valentia, the gossip about the top general of the Carpa Kingdom did go around as well .
When the marriage concerned a significant general of the country, it certainly made sense that the Prince Consort attended it as the representative for the Queen .
Convinced like that, Princess Freya quickly wracked her brain and reached a bold conclusion .
“I do have a connection to the Guzzle Family as well .
Your Majesty Zenjirou, would you please allow me to accompany you to the marriage ceremony?”
Five royalties from three different royal families were making conversation here . People were sure to have listened in on them .
As soon Princess Freya made that bold request, the ball room fell so quiet you could hear a pin drop .
Queen Aura clicked her tongue at heart, when all the gazes were turned to them, but corrected the princess from the North Continent with a calm tone .
“Princess Freya, you may not know about it, but here on the South Continent, it often signifies a deep relationship, when you attend a marriage ceremony together with a woman, who is not related by blood .
I am sure you said it unsuspectingly, but are you not being a bit too thoughtless here?”
The warning from the Queen was recited calmly, but had a touch of intimidation . Nevertheless, Princess Freya did not even bat an eye .
On the contrary, she intensified her smile and
“Oh my, is that so? Then it is ‘just the same as on the North Continent’ .
Then let me say it again: Your Majesty Zenjirou, I would like to attend the marriage ceremony as your partner . Would you please consider it?”
declared this with a purposefully loud voice, so that everyone in the hall could hear it .
Then she held onto the hem of her dress with both hands, swept an exceptional curtsy and lowered her head so low that her neck became visible .
The female bodyguard standing at attention behind her gasped in surprise .
Skathi was the only person here, who knew the meaning behind that behaviour . The act of sweeping an exceptional curtsy while lowering the head deeply, was used by the women of the North Continent, when they proposed to a man .