The course of action Zenjirou and Aura took after the night banquet had already become a routine to them.
They cast off their official attire in the living room of the Inner Palace and went straight to the bath, then they washed off the perfumed oil and sweat with plenty of soap.
Following that, they bathed in the warm water to relieve their fatigue. After that they put on their nightwear and returned to the living room.
There they took cold water and fruit juice from the refrigerator and wetted their parched throats.
Before getting ready to go to bed then, the royal couple sat across each other on the couches and held a “debriefing” of the night banquet.
“Well, I must admit that I was really surprised by what happened at the night banquet.”
Sitting on the black leather couch, the Queen broached the subject with a weary tone for once.
“Ah, yeah. It really came out of nowhere. Actually, I would’ve never attended the banquet, if I have had even the slightest clue about it beforehand, no matter how much you had insisted.”
Zenjirou, too, said this with the same weary voice, but the irritation displayed on his face was even more obvious.
The surprise they spoke of was nothing less than the factual proposal from Freya Uppsala, the first princess of the Uppsala Kingdom.
“She said it so assertive in front of everyone. It leaves no room for interpretation.”
Aura heaved a sigh while she rubbed her temples with the thumb and middle finger of her right hand as if smoothing a headache.
“Ehm, you mean, it’s already an established fact that I’ll take Princess Freya with me to the wedding of General Puyol?”
Zenjirou asked timidly, like poking into a brush to check for a snake, whereupon the Queen shook her head.
“Not that. I mean that there is literally no room for interpretation about her request to you to take her with you to the wedding ceremony.
We cannot pretend it never happened. If we were to refuse her request, it would amount to an official rejection of a formal request.”
The vast majority of negotiations between nobility and royalty were generally decided in preliminary negotiations, namely in secret talks. When these preliminary negotiations failed, both side “pretended it never happened” as a rule, so that their images came to no harm in public. It did leave an unpleasant emotional aftertaste to both parties, though.
But this time, the matter had suddenly been brought up in public first without any of these advance talks.
Due to that, there was no option to sweep the current matter under the carpet.
Zenjirou was perfectly aware of the situation he was in, so his face lost all colour, when he heard that explanation.
“Wait? Am I already done for? There’s no way I can refuse this, is there?”
“If we want to refuse it, we need to be prepared to give up on the intercontinental trade agreement.
We would be able to write it off as rude, if they wanted a bride or groom for their family without preliminary discussions, but she is supposed to marry into our family here.
Moreover, she wants to marry you, the Princess Consort, and not the Monarch. Not to mention that she is a first princess, who inherited the legitimate bloodline of the current king. She surely knows that I, the Queen, will not give up the position of the legal wife, which in turn means that she intends to become a concubine.
From a political point of view, it is almost impossible to turn down such a convenient marriage proposal. The only reason to turn it down would be that a royal marriage involving another country goes against the tradition.”
“What? It does?”
For a moment, Zenjirou cocked his head puzzled, but recalled the fact soon after.
On the South Continent, being a member of a royal family equalled being a practitioner of a bloodline magic, so the royal blood was generally not passed on outside the country. It was fundamentally different from the common practice during Medieval Europe or Sengoku Japan in that regard.
The bloodline was only inherited within the own country. Political marriages between different countries were basically non-existent.
Under special circumstances, Zenjirou had priorly received an indirect marriage proposal from the Sharrow Family of the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, so the common sense of the South Continent had slipped his mind for a moment.
“So it’s possible the matter will be dropped due to opposition from our own nobles?”
Seeing a glimmer of hope, Zenjirou leaned forward on the couch as he asked it, but the Queen once again shook her head expressionless.
“No. The nobles will protest without doubt, but not in the way you hope for.
They will probably protest about the fact that you ought to take a concubine from our country first before accepting the princess from a different country. You might even get additional requests, when you take her to the wedding ceremony.”
“Additional? You mean I can take numerous partners to the ceremony?”
The Queen responded to the surprised Zenjirou at once.
“Yes, there are not many cases of it, but it is not forbidden per se. It is normal for high-class nobles to have numerous wives, so it does happen that they take a few of them along at the same time.
Well, it usually is just one woman for one man, since it is called a ‘partner’.”
Hence a man with numerous wives had to agonize over whom to take along to the ceremony. Of course the legal wife obtained priority, but the concubines would sulk, if the legal wife was given the priority all the time. Even if he were to take them one by one, there would arise disparities such as taking one woman to the marriage of a baron, but another to the marriage of a count.
But when he tried to be fair and always took all of them along, the ceremony was akin to a battlefield.
Thus, the invitation to a marriage ceremony was a sore point for a man with multiple wives.
Faced with the prospect to have to take a second wife at the very moment, Zenjirou unconsciously breathed what was on his mind.
The flustered one was Aura, though.
“No, Zenjirou, you got it wrong. That was only a worst case example. Not every man with numerous wives has to go through that.
The relationship between the co-wives will admittedly not be harmonious all the time, but strictly speaking, any human relationship will be more or less like that.
As a matter of fact, there are very few incidents that escalate into bloodshed.”
Seeing how her husband went paler with every word from her, Aura declared with a resolute tone in order to erase his fear and anxiety.
“Oh, please. It will be fine. Just leave it to me!
When you will have to take in concubines, I will take responsibility and keep them in check. Be it a princess from another country or the daughter of an influential noble, I will thoroughly drive the hierarchy and rules of the Inner Palace home to them and teach them not to cause problems to you.”
When Aura thrusted her clenched fist out and proclaimed passionately, Zenjirou burst out in laughter.
“Wow, what a reliable wife I have.”
“Yes, you can count on me.”
She was technically suggesting to use force, but in practice, that might actually be a good measure.
With Zenjirou being the Prince Consort and Aura being the Queen, they were a married couple with reversed roles. When he now added concubines to that, the hierarchy among Aura and the other concubines was pretty much set in stone.
In that case, they might as well address that hierarchy from the very beginning and let the concubine realize that they were subjects of Queen Aura before they were the wives of Prince Consort Zenjirou. By doing so, the peace in the Inner Palace could be kept.
“Anyway, you better assume that you have no way to refuse her as a partner for the marriage ceremony. It does not necessarily mean that she will become your concubine at the same time, but to be honest with you, the probability of that happening is quite high, so prepare yourself.”
Zenjirou looked at the ceiling on that ultimatum.
“Okay… Man, and here I had hoped to bluff it out by asking Mrs. Pascuala to be my partner.”
“You would practically ask for trouble, if you were to refuse Prince Freya in this situation and take Beldam Pascuala as your partner instead.”
Pascuala was an elder woman of over seventy years-old and the wife of the Royal Archmage Espaldion.
When a married man was invited to a marriage ceremony, he generally asked a related woman, when his wife was prevented for any reason, but Zenjirou had no relatives here. They were in a different world, in Japan, and Aura was the sole survivor of her family.
In such a case, one usually took a married female acquaintance along as the partner, so Zenjirou had wanted to ask Pascuala to assume that role.
According to that, his private tutor Lady Octavia would be a possible candidate, too, but even though she was already married, she was a young beauty. If he were to invite her carelessly, he could come under suspicion of being wolfish, so they had cast away that idea.
At any rate, there was no way to gloss over the matter to begin with, since a high-ranking personality in the form of a foreign princess made a clear request at an official event.
“Anyway, we still do not know what she wants from us. Depending on that, we might have to refuse her, even if it costs us the intercontinental trade agreement.”
“By the way, what happens if her terms are reasonable?”
“In that case, well, I will do my best to preserve your peaceful life in the Inner Palace.”
Although the Queen answered earnestly, she averted her eyes from him. Zenjirou could only give her a word of thanks as he heaved a deep sigh.
* * *
Around the same time, Princess Freya and Skathi had returned from the night banquet to their room in the Royal Palace and were discussing the results of tonight’s banquet as well.
The whole adjacent building in the Royal Palace was currently rented out to Princess Freya and her company and numerous soldiers of the Uppsala Kingdom were guarding it. In the room furthest in the back, Princess Freya had changed into casual clothes and was sitting mannerly on the couch.
“Good job tonight, Skathi. The South Continent sure is something. Even this late at night without a fire, we can dress so lightly and not freeze.”
She wore a plain white one-piece dress with half-sleeves and it was currently the beginning of the latter half of the Vibrant Season, which would be January in terms of the Earth calendar.
In the Uppsala Kingdom on the North Continent, you would still freeze around this time of the year, even if you wore thick clothes and heated up the fireplace to the maximum, so Princess Freya could not help but feel alienated by this comfortable temperature that allowed her to wear just a thin one-piece dress with half-sleeves at night.
The tall female warrior Skathi had also changed into casual clothes, just like her master, and she responded to her master while she sat duly on the couch across from her.
“Indeed. But I am grateful for it. If I had to wear a fur against the cold, it would obstruct my foot- and spearwork. I can live up to my full potential in these kind of clothes.”
Skathi wore a grey attire similar to a sweatshirt and sweat pants. Her beloved spear with the tusk of a Sea Elephant was leaning against the couch she was sitting on, so she was ready to jump into action at any moment.
They had been welcomed with open arms, but this was still the Royal Palace of a foreign country. As a bodyguard, Skathi never lowered her guard completely, just in case.
“I put my life into your hands, Skathi. I doubt it will ever be necessary, because the higher ups of this kingdom, such as Her Majesty Aura and His Majesty Zenjirou, are quite level-headed, but I am counting on you, if anything happens.”
“Yes, you honour me.”
The silver-haired princess smiled dearly, whereas the blonde female warrior kept a serious expression, but softened the look in her eyes a bit as she lowered her head.
Skathi considered Princess Freya as a master worthy of her loyalty and her affection for her was so strong that she was even willing to give her life in order to protect her.
But for that very reason, she also considered it her duty to question her master for her intentions, when she did something incomprehensible, or advise her, when she felt something amiss.
The serious-looking female warrior looked her master straight into the eyes and asked with a sharp tone.
“Milady, I am firmly convinced that you always act with a solid plan in mind. But to be honest, I cannot comprehend your behaviour at the night banquet earlier at all. If you please, do tell me your intentions.”
At the night banquet earlier, Princess Freya had asked Zenjirou to take her along as his partner to the marriage ceremony. Skathi was aware that she had been the most surprised by this.
One reason for her surprise had been the action Princess Freya had taken for it: That motion was used in the Uppsala Kingdom, when a “woman proposed marriage”. Even if no one on the South Continent knew the meaning behind it, Princess Freya was not the kind of person to do that as a joke or prank.
The second reason was that Princess Freya had brusquely declined all the marriage talks that her father or brother had brought up so far.
As one might have already expected from the fact that she chose to become the captain of the “Yellow Leaves” and travel to another continent by her own accord, Princess Freya had a rather wild side to her for a female member of the royal family.
Aware of her role as royalty more than anyone, she did watch out for her conduct in public and was even ready to accept a political marriage in the end, but right now, she treasured her freedom above all.
Hence Skathi could not believe her eyes, when Princess Freya practically threw away that precious time by herself with the recent decision.
Stroking her short silver-bluish hair for a bit, Princess Freya responded to the question from her trusted retainer.
“Right. It would be best to tell you, if no one else.
This is just my personal opinion, but I believe that the sea will play an even bigger role for the North Continent from now on. I even dare to say that the safeguarding of the sea will be the most important matter for our Uppsala Kingdom.”
“Yes, I agree with you.”
Skathi nodded assenting to the words of Princess Freya, letting her blonde ponytail flutter in the process.
The northern region of the North Continent, where the Uppsala Kingdom was located, was separated from the rest of the continent by a steep mountain range. From the halfway point on, that mountain range was covered in snow all year long. Due to that, it was close to impossible that the Uppsala Kingdom would face a large-scale invasion by land.
At the same time, it also meant that the Uppsala Kingdom could barely do any trading with the other countries by land.
The northern region technically had three more countries besides the Uppsala Kingdom, but all three of them had the same cultural scene as the Uppsala Kingdom in a broader sense, so trade with them was not really all that worthwhile.
From the point of view of the countries in the central or south region, a war in the northern region would be nothing more than a “civil strife”.
Long story short, the Uppsala Kingdom had to go out on the sea, when they wanted to trade with countries of a different cultural scene, and an invader from a different cultural scene would have to come mainly from the sea to attack the Uppsala Kingdom.
“Considering that, we do require ships for keeping our country at peace as well as for expanding the sea trade. But our own woodlands are dwindling.”
That was the downside of being a developed country in various aspects to date.
The Uppsala Kingdom produced steel faster than any other country, built ships more vigorous than any other country and burnt more charcoal than any other country.
As a result, their own wood resources had drawn to an end before anyone else’s. Well, to be precise, the end was only becoming foreseeable now and their land was not stripped bared yet, but the large trees required for the ship manufacture could only be found in the borderland mountain area now.
“It certainly is a grave problem for the future of our country, when we exhaust these large trees for ship building. But can we not compensate for it with money? I was under the impression that we were going to establish a stable intercontinental trade, so that we can buy the wood from the other countries on the North Continent with its profits.”
The silver-haired princess showed a confident smile and answered her trusted retainer, who had offered her own opinion.
“That certainly is a safe way, but if possible, I would like to take it one step further. Assuming that establishing a permanent intercontinental trade is beyond question for our country, there is something bothering me.”
Skathi cocked her head puzzled, whereupon Freya continued her explanation.
“Yes. It concerns the homeland of Prince Francesco and Princess Bona, whom we met at the banquet earlier: The Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.
They said that the two royal families ruling that country, the Sharrow Royal Family and Jilbell Royal Family, were settlers from the North Continent.”
“Yes, Prince Francesco definitely said that. Judging by their looks, it does not seem to be a lie, though.”
Skathi remembered the appearances of Prince Francesco and Princess Bona from their meeting at the night banquet and answered like that.
Blonde hair, blue eyes and white skin for Prince Francesco. Auburn hair, purple eyes and also white skin for Princess Bona. They definitely only looked like someone from the North Continent. When Princess Freya had broached the subject again, apparently half of the nobility in the Twin Kingdom were supposed to look like a person from the North Continent and their claim that their ancestors were settlers from the North Continent did sound cogent to her.
Princess Freya affirmed Skathi’s opinion and added her own assumption.
“Certainly. I believe it to be true as well. But then the question arises: At what time did their ancestors move to the South Continent?
Skathi, have you ever heard any rumours about two royal families with a bloodline magic each moving from the North Continent to the South Continent?”
“Well, now that you mention it… I can’t say I have.”
After a bit of pondering, the blonde female warrior shook her head.
Needless to say, Skathi was just a mere soldier and not an historian of the North Continent. To begin with, the North Continent was vast. There was not a single person, who ascertained the rise and fall of every royal family, since this world lacked the techniques to transmit information as well as the writing of history.
Having said this, it did not happen every day that two royal families with a bloodline magic emigrated to the South Continent together. It was a bit strange that not even a word of it had gotten around.
Her trusted retainer cocked her head puzzled, whereupon the silver-haired princess nodded once
“I have not heard anything, either. We would have to consult the academy in the Capital to be sure, but I assume that their ancestors moved to the South Continent quite a long time ago.”
and put her own assumption into words.
Skathi could agree with the assertion from Princess Freya. As time passed, oral lore got distorted. Then it started to fade away and in the end, it was forgotten.
“In that case, the ‘Church’ will pose a problem. How much do you know about the ‘White Empire‘, Skathi?”
The female warrior was slightly perplexed, since the question was all too sudden and unexpected to her, but she answered truthfully anyway.
“You mean the ’White Empire’ from the fairytale? It was a vast empire that existed decades ago. If I remember correctly, it started a war against the ancient dragons and was obliterated within seven days?”
Everyone from the North Continent had heard of this fairytale at least once in his life. It was a legend with so less credibility that the historians of the Uppsala Kingdom dismissed it as a “ridiculous fabricated story without any substance”.
But unfortunately, some people happened to believe this stupid fairytale while others pretended to believe in it in order to profit from it.
“Yes, that is the one. I am not all that familiar with the teachings of the ‘Church’, but the ‘Church’ worships the ancient dragons, so there is no doubt that they have an extremely hostile view towards the ‘White Empire’, seeing as it once started a war against these ancient dragons.”
It might seem laughable to regard a questionable existence as an enemy, but religion mainly drew its power from such fairytales, so they could not treat it with scorn.
“But I think even the ‘Church’ teaches that the ‘White Empire’ was destroyed well and truly?”
More precisely, it was said that the whole ruling class of the ‘White Empire’, namely its nobility and ‘twelve royal families’, had perished.
All the other surviving citizens had admittedly been guilty of having basked in the prosperity of the ‘White Empire’, but that sin was not worth the death sentence, so the merciful ancient dragons had spared their lives and deported them to the South Continent. At least that was what the ‘Church’ was teaching. It was also the reason why the South Continent was looked down upon as the ‘Land of Sinners’.
The interjection from Skathi prompted Princess Freya to frown for a bit before she shook her head and replied.
“Not quite. As you may know, the Church is not monolithic. They have dissenting opinions about the teaching and one of them claims that the descendants of the twelve royal families fled all the way to the South Continent and are plotting their revenge against the ancient dragons to this day.”
“Milady, are you implying that the Sharrow Royal Family and Jilbell Royal Family are descendants of the ‘White Empire’?”
Princess Freya gave her startled retainer a wry smile.
“Not at all. I would never suggest something that ridiculous. The ‘White Empire’ is just a fairytale to begin with.
But I am afraid the ‘Church’ might use it as a pretence to interfere with the intercontinental trade of our country.”
“Oh… That is what you meant.”
With the same stern face as her master, Skathi expressed her understanding to her.
The ‘Church’ had an authority on the North Continent right now that was not to be sneezed at. Especially in the southern region, practically every country was under the influence of the ‘Church’, so spoiling things with them meant spoiling the intercontinental trade itself.
After all, the Uppsala Kingdom was located in the northern region of the North Continent. In order to cross over to the South Continent, they had to stop by a harbour in the southern region of the North Continent for supplies at least once.
For that reason, the ‘Church’ was a damned opponent for the Uppsala Kingdom, since it was effectively their alleged enemy, but at the same time, they had to stay in favour with them to some extent.
“But we are trading with the Carpa Kingdom and not the Twin Kingdom. Could we not keep the consequences within a limit as long as we did not get any closer to the Twin Kingdom?”
“That certainly is possible, but it would be such a waste. I mean, they have the ‘Bestowal Magic’ and ‘Healing Magic’. The North Continent does not have such powerful bloodline magic.”
“That’s for sure.”
When her master heaved a dejected sigh, the blonde female soldier could not help but agree with her.
They had not heard any details yet, but the ‘Bestowal Magic’ was apparently a unique magic to make tools called ‘Magic Tools’ that allowed anyone to use magic.
These were practically indispensable for life-endangering voyages such as the intercontinental trade.
A “Drinking Water Treatment” magic tool for example would let them have enough drinking water at sea, even if Princess Freya were to be in bad health.
Not to mention the “Water Manipulation” magic. Leakages were bound to happen on long sea journeys and normally the crew had no choice but to scoop out the water with buckets, but if someone could use the “Water Manipulation” magic, they would be able to move a large amount of water all at once during an emergency.
Distresses would surely become less precarious, when these tasks relied on magic tools instead of humans.
And a “Wind Manipulation” magic tool would be the crème de la crème. The crew of the “Yellow Leaves” was talented without doubt, but sometimes a sudden change of weather could occur along the unfamiliar route, literally taking the wind out of the sails. A lot of incidents could be avoided, if the wind could be manipulated at will at such times.
There was also the rumoured “Imbued Stone of Healing”. It would surely be an immeasurable trump card for emergencies, if they could get their hands on one.
“Hence you want to get involved with the Twin Kingdom as well. I can understand that. But how does that relate to you getting married, Milady?”
They got back onto the initial topic by a devious route.
Princess Freya smiled happily to her trusted retainer, who had not lost sign of the essential point during their long conversation.
“It allows me to resolve everything in one fell swoop.
The woodlands in our home country are steadily declining, but the replenishment for navy and trade ships is not slowing down at all. As things stand at the moment, we have no choice but to rely on the southern countries under the influence of the ‘Church’, if we want to continue the intercontinental trade.
So why not establish a shipyard in the Carpa Kingdom, call over the shipwrights from the Uppsala Kingdom and build the ships here?
This would allow us to even build the ‘Mammoth Ships’ for which we currently do not have enough resources and are thus stuck at the drawing board. The Mammoth Ship is even larger than our ‘Yellow Leaves’ and when we provide it with the magic tools we will buy from the Twin Kingdom, it is no longer a dream to travel between the Uppsala Kingdom and Carpa Kingdom without an intermediate stop for supplies. And then we no longer have to curry favour with the southern countries or the ‘Church’.
See, it all works out.”
Her master outlined her bold plan with a bright smile, whereupon the female warrior was at a loss for words, overwhelmed for a moment.
“Indeed… If all goes well, it does work out, but will it really play out like that?”
Her plan was by no means wishful thinking, but it would still require a few fortunate turns of events to accomplish it like that.
“Well, that was just the best-case scenario. I do not mind if it takes a decade or two until we can trade without an intermediate stop, but I concluded that having a shipyard in the Carpa Kingdom is essential in the end.”
“And for that purpose, you are willing to lower yourself as a ‘concubine’?”
Skathi emphasized the “concubine” part as she inquired with a stern expression.
Princess Freya was the first princess of the Uppsala Kingdom, born to the current king and its legal wife. She was a woman with the best pedigree within the country.
To be honest, it was quite disreputable if she were to become a concubine for a different country. All the worse, she would not be the concubine to the ruler, but to the Prince Consort.
Generally speaking, that marriage would imply that the Uppsala Kingdom was one or two ranks below the Carpa Kingdom.
Nevertheless, Princess Freya did not waver in her determination in light of that inquiry.
“Yes, precisely. I believe this is to be the turning point for the future of our Uppsala Kingdom. We might cause our ruin, if we hesitate now.”
The female warrior gave her strong-willed master a look of grievance.
“You may be right, but sacrificing yourself for it is just too…”
“Eh? Sacrificing? Why would I?”
Seeing how Princess Freya widened her eyes in surprise, Skathi realized that she and her master had some kind of misunderstanding here.
“You loathed the idea of becoming someone’s wife and living like a bird in a cage, right? So you kept refusing all the marriage talks back home, right?”
“Yes, of course, but that does not mean that I was expecting to never get married in my life. I do intend to combine my free life of adventures with my life of royal obligations.”
“Right. Which means you are quitting your free-spirited life with this marriage now and prioritise your royal obligation, correct? Even though you could have prolonged your marriage for a few more years at your age.”
At this point, Princess Freya finally realized what exactly her trusted retainer was misunderstanding.
The silver-haired princess burst out in laughter and shared her thoughts with her retainer.
“You got it wrong, Skathi. In fact, I want to marry His Majesty Zenjirou in order to maintain my free life.
The one month in Valentia and the banquet tonight convinced me that he is the ideal husband for me. Or at least, he is better than the gentlemen my father and brother introduced to me so far.”
Skathi cocked her head puzzled in light of the unexpected evaluation.
Even though she saw Zenjirou in a different light after the ruckus with the Pack Dragons, she still did not regard him all that highly. Skathi was a warrior to the core, so from her point of view, a man like Zenjirou, who had never carried a weapon, was not worth her attention.
But that did not seem to be the case for Princess Freya.
“Yes. For one thing, he showed me respect for crossing the sea as a female captain, for another thing, he always treated me as his equal during the negotiations.
And at the earlier banquet, he also had a good mood at eye level going with his wife Her Majesty Aura.
I am sure that he will genuinely accept it, when the woman he marries acts like a man, and not just for show.”
The assumption from Skathi had been right in a sense. Princess Freya had originally intended to live at her leisure as long as possible without getting married, before resigning herself to her fate of becoming a “good wife” to someone for the sake of the royal family.
But she raised her hopes, when she saw Zenjirou and Aura. In this world, there was a female royalty, who lived freely, even after getting married, and a male royalty, who not only allowed it, but also supported her.
Moreover, that very male royalty only had one wife so far and it would even benefit her mother country, if she were to become his concubine.
As soon as Princess Freya had cottoned on to that fact, she had taken action almost by reflex.
Her motivation was a bit too self-centred and pragmatic to actually call it “love”, but precisely because of that, she was devoted to it and grudged no pains to accomplish it.
“You see, His Majesty Zenjirou is the perfect partner for me. A symbiosis of my ideal and reality. ”
“I, I see.”
Her attitude towards marriage was extremely pragmatic, but she had proposed due to her own desire this time. As the female warrior came to know of this, she just nodded consenting numerous times as though she was overwhelmed by all of this.
* * *
From the next day on, the whole Royal Palace was talking about the proposal from Princess Freya to Zenjirou.
Needless to say, no one knew about the fact that the gesture Princess Freya had taken was the official proposal gesture for women of the Uppsala Kingdom, but asking to be your partner for a marriage ceremony was pretty much a confession already.
The marriage between the national hero, who was still single in his thirties, and the fortunate woman, who managed to snatch him, even though she was five years past her prime, was already an hot topic, but as expected, it was no match for the fact that a foreign princess had practically confessed to the Prince Consort in public.
And overshadowed by this ruckus, it totally went unnoticed that the other former marriage candidate of Queen Aura, Raffaelo Marquis, was going to take the Inner Palace Waiting Maid Keyshia Massana to the ceremony as his partner.
“Have you heard what happened at the banquet last night?”
“Yes, of course. The Northern Princess sure is daring.”
“Unfortunately I was not present there, but did she really say it right out in the open? Not just hinted at it?”
“Yes. I happened to look their way at that moment. Princess Freya directly told Master Zenjirou: ‘Please take me as your partner for the coming marriage ceremony.’”
“Phew, how shameless.”
“The North Continent really does things differently.”
“Oh my? Maybe Princess Freya is to be blamed and not the North Continent?”
“Sh! They can hear you!”
Whispered gossip was going around everywhere in the Royal Palace.
The matter was actually too political to call it simple gossip, but the behaviour of Princess Freya was such a sensation that the amusing gossip put any serious political discussion in the shade.
“Anyway, it is far from over.”
And although they put on a serious look in the end, they still could not completely hide the amused curiosity in their eyes.
On a certain afternoon after a few days with these rumours going around.
The persons in questions, Princess Freya and Zenjirou were meeting in one room of the Royal Palace.
They met because of the delivery for the previously promised goats, but under the current circumstances, it would be scandalous, if they were to do this one-on-one.
As a result, they had to chose a day, where Queen Aura was available, so it had been delayed until today.
The refreshing breeze and gentle sunlight found their way inside the room through the opened windows, where Zenjirou and Queen Aura sat next to each other on the same couch, whereas Princess Freya sat across from them.
Behind her stood a man and a woman. The woman was the well-known tall female warrior: Skathi. But the man was a new face. He seemed to be from the North Continent as well, judging by his skin and hair colour, but compared the other soldiers from the ‘Yellow Leaves’, he looked small and frail.
Nevertheless, he was still taller and more muscular than Zenjirou.
“It took longer than expected, but I present you the previously promised goats. You get three female and eight males for a total of eleven goats. All of them are young and healthy, so you should be able to bred them at once. They are giving plenty of milk as well.
They will surely meet your expectations, Your Majesty Zenjirou.”
Princess Freya immediately talked business and explained this with a brisk tone. The goats itself had already been taken to the Royal Palace, when Princess Freya had entered the Capital, but this paperwork officially transferred the possession of the goats from Princess Freya to Zenjirou.
“Thank you, Princess Freya. It is the best gift I could wish for. You have my deep gratitude.”
Zenjirou answered like this with a bright smile. His gratitude was no flattery, because the food would become a lot more enjoyable once they obtained the dairy goods made from the milk of the goats.
He was not dissatisfied with the cooking of the Inner Palace per se, but it certainly got him excited, when it was possible to reproduce the dishes or snacks of his homeland here.
Sitting next to him, Queen Aura entered the conversation after his words.
“Allow me to express my gratitude to you as well, Princess Freya. We have prepared a grazing ground and stable for the goats in the courtyard of the Inner Palace, but as you may know, no one in our country has ever taken care of goats before.
I am pretty sure we committed some mistakes in our preparations, so I would like to borrow your expertise on it.”
“Certainly. I brought him along for this very reason. Nicolai, introduce yourself.”
The young man standing behind the couch gave a jerk in light of the words from Princess Freya.
“Y- Yes. My name is N- Nicolai! Please ask me anything about the goats!”
The voice of the young man Nicolai had become completely tremulous from nervousness. Princess Freya back him up in a calm manner.
“Nicolai is mainly in charge of the livestock on the ‘Yellow Leaves’. He comes from a peasant family with a large farm.
No one knows more about goats than him. I am willing to assign him to you for the time being.”
Upon her introduction, Zenjirou nodded convinced.
Apparently the reason his physique looked weaker than the warriors from the “Yellow Leaves” was that he was no professional soldier. As a matter of fact, only a quarter of the whole crew was solely specialised in combat, since the “Yellow Leaves” was a large ship for extended voyages.
It goes without saying that all of them could take up arms if the situation called for it, considering that they had been chosen for the ship that carried the first princess, but they were not explicitly trained in martial arts.
“I see. I am sure it will be a lot of work, but I am counting on you.”
“Yes, I will do my utmost!”
Still standing at attention, Nicolai responded to the acknowledgement from Zenjirou with a ringing voice.
Although he was part of the crew of the “Yellow Leaves”, Nicolai was young and nothing but a farmer, so he probably was not really high-born.
Zenjirou was worried about the young goat enthusiast, who had turned bright red from nervousness, so he immediately produced relief.
“Princess Freya, I do not mean to rush things, but if possible, I want him to head into the courtyard right now and start teaching our staff how to take care of the goats straightaway.”
His wife seemed to understand his intention as she went along with it.
“Yes, that sounds good. Mr. Nicolai, five our people should already be taking care of the goats in the courtyard. You may regard them as your subordinates. Order and use them as you see fit.
But please keep in mind that your instructions should enable them to take care of the goats by themselves in the future.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Nicolai lowered his head almost to an angle of ninety degrees on the spot.
Taking care of goats may sound easy at first, but it required a lot of knowledge: How to put them to sleep. How to prepare their food. How to breed them safely. How they gave birth. How to treat the young goats. How to milk them or even how to slaughter them. One month would hardly be enough to learn all of this.
“Indeed. You heard it, Nicolai. Please head to the courtyard and do your thing. And conduct yourself properly.”
“Yes, you can count on me, Princess Freya.”
With the permission from his master, Nicolai bowed clumsily and quickly left the room.
“Allow me to thank you two for your consideration on behalf of my subordinate.”
Giving the leaving Nicolai a fleeting glance, Princess Freya then said this with a soft smile. She apparently had caught on to the intention from Zenjirou.
Zenjirou became somewhat bashful and hid his embarrassment behind a forced smile.
“Do not mention it. I did mean it, when I said that I wanted him to start right away, after all.”
“Yes, please be at ease. Nicolai is truly an expert, when it comes to goats.
The goats we picked for you are splendid, too, so it should definitely answer your expectations.
Nicolai mentioned that they fulfil the ‘three m-conditions‘.”
“Yes. Milk, meat and sexually matur…”
In the midst of the answer from Princess Freya, the female warrior rebuked her from behind and stopped her borderline utterance at the very last second.
As far as the official records were concerned, this meeting was held in order to pass on the goats. Hence it would be no problem to call it a day now, but this occasion was far too valuable for both parties to let it end with just the transfer of the goats.
Zenjirou had been relatively active so far, because the present was for him, but now the Queen sitting next to him would take up the baton.
“Well then, we finished what we came here for, but a lot faster than I had expected. Princess Freya, if your schedule allows it, would you like to make some small talk for a bit longer?”
Despite the choice of inquiring words, her eyes and voice were clearly communicated her intention to talk about that certain matter.
There was no way Princess Freya would miss that hint.
“Yes, of course. I am not so foolish to let an opportunity to talk with you slide so easily.”
She replied with a perfectly controlled smile as well.
(Oh shit, this is too much for me…)
Zenjirou foresaw the following conversation and starting to think up an excuse to leave, but changed his mind soon after.
(No, I’ll definitely regret, if I leave now.)
There was hardly anything he could do, though, even if he stayed. He had admittedly gotten somewhat used to the heated exchanges of higher society, but it was totally out of his league, when it concerned establishing a partnership between a man and a woman.
Nevertheless, Zenjirou did understand that the problem revolved around his person, so he resigned to his fate, telling himself that he ought to be present at least.
Whether she knew about this determination of her husband or not, the Queen boldly threw out her chest and started to make “small talk”.
“You sure surprised us at the earlier night banquet. The Royal Palace speaks about nothing but you, Princess Freya.”
The silver-haired Princess flushed her cheeks a bit embarrassed, when the red-haired Queen suddenly went like a bull at a gate.
“I am aware of the trouble I caused you, but I thought that I would never get the chance to get closer to His Majesty Zenjirou, if I let this opportunity slide, so I was unable to keep myself in check.”
“Oho, my husband sure is loved.
He certainly is an irreplaceable Prince Consort to me as well as the target of my ardent love, but if I may say so, he is not really all that popular in general. May I ask what attracted you to him so much?”
As troublesome as it sounded, even the political marriages between nobility or royalty that were in fact consummated for status and wealth, placed quite the importance on the feelings of the couple to the outside world.
This being the case, someone could not really say “I‘m only after your status and money. I have not the slightest interest in you as a person.”, when asked this question after confession their love.
Confronted with a curious look from Queen Aura that looked forward how she would answer, Princess Freya took a short deep breath and replied.
“His personality, of course. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that you should be able to relate to that the most, Your Majesty Aura.”
“Oho, his personality, eh.”
“Yes. It might be strange for me to say this, but I am not what you would call a typical female royalty. I am sure you realized that, seeing as I came all the way here.”
Aura neither approved, nor opposed the explanation from Princess Freya.
It would cause nothing but trouble if she were to approve of an utterance mocking royalty, even if the person in question did say it herself. On the other hand, it was difficult to oppose the statement, too, since the truth of it was obvious to anyone.
Princess Freya continued with her explanation.
“Even at home, I often took drastic actions. Rather than staying quietly in the safety of the Royal Palace, I want to do what I can to help my country. My Father and Brother had to put up with a lot, since I could not repress that sentiment. I gave my opinion to all king of things that women were normally not supposed to get involved with, and sometimes even achieved results.
Most of the men reacted almost same at these times: They either frowned and called me an insolent woman or put on a fake smile and expressed regret over wasting such talent on a woman.
My actions did cross the red line, so I am aware that I am at fault for going against the system, of course.
However I cannot help but feel devastated, when I am proud to have achieved something, but no one praises me for it honestly.”
“Hmm, I see.”
Aura could really relate to her assertion on an emotional level. Apart from the time, since she ascended the throne, Aura, too, had experienced a lot of inconveniences while she had still acted as a princess during the Great War.
Hence she also could pretty much guess what Princess Freya was going to say now.
“But His Majesty Zenjirou is different.
When I met him as the Captain of the ‘Yellow Leaves’, he simply commended me for accomplishing the intercontinental sea travel.
Moreover, he allowed me to be an equal negotiation partner in the negotiations to pave the way for the intercontinental trade agreement this time around. No, it was not a matter of allowing it or not. He just took it for granted that I was a negotiation partner at eye level.
I do not know any other men that would act like him.”
Aura hit the mark for the most part with her prediction of Princess Freya’s next utterance.
“Why, yes. I can definitely relate to that the best. The notion of my husband to treat women as equals is extremely pleasant for a woman, who does not like to take a backseat.”
“I would appreciate it, if I could take part in that pleasantness as well.”
“Hmm, I am not so sure about that. You see, I am quite the jealous woman. Can I actually be so generous to allow my beloved husband to give another woman but me amorous glances? I am not giving me much credit here.”
“Oh, Your Majesty, please show me the mercy befitting of a ruler. I promise that I will not get in your way. There would be no greater happiness in life for me, if you were allow me to take part of it even for a little bit.”
Right next to the fiercely debating Queen and Princess, Zenjirou innerly writhed with embarrassment while every fibre of his body, including his facial muscles, were frozen stiff.
(O- Oh god, stop it. Any more of this and the shame will kill me…)
The torrent of flourish words from the beautiful woman and beautiful girl praising him had no prospect of an end. From a rational point of view, he did understand that they were merely “putting on a show for the marriage negotiation“, of course.
But even if he did understand this in his head, it did not necessarily mean that his feelings would align themselves accordingly.
Zenjirou was confronted with numerous praises exaggerated to the point that he did not even know if they applied to him as well as a passionate confession of love. His spirit was not strong enough to withstand such a combined attack.
He did not doubt that his wife Aura was really loving him that much, of course, but her choice of words was extremely over the top. As for Princess Freya, he was not even sure whether she was actually talking about love or not.
Who would have thought that rhetoric could be such a powerful weapon? Zenjirou clenched his teeth and weathered out the urge to squirm in pain from scratching his itching body all over.
In reality, Aura was speaking her mind more than Zenjirou was acknowledging and Princess Freya was by no means telling lies, even though she did use overly complicated expressions. Needless to say, Zenjirou had no way of knowing this.
Likewise, Aura and Princess Freya were not aware that he was fighting with his embarrassment on the inside, so their exchanged continued like a torture for him.
“Still, the feelings of both parties are important in this. I feel bad about saying this myself, but my husband completely loves me from the bottom of his heart.”
“I am most envious.”
“But that raises the question if there will be any place for you. You are very beautiful, of course. So much more than a middle-aged woman like myself. Nine out of ten men would surely choose you over me without hesitation. But I am afraid that my husband is that tenth man.”
When the Queen said this puffed up with pride, Princess Freya was stuck for an immediate answer and fell silent for the first time today.
Speaking of, Queen Aura and Princess Freya were different people altogether to the point that their only common trait was their gender.
Aura had long red hair, whereas Princess Freya had short silver-blue hair.
The brown skin of Aura stood in contrast to the pure-white skin of Princess Freya.
Furthermore, Aura was approaching her thirties, but Princess Freya was still in her teens.
Last but not least, Aura had an extraordinary height and shoulder width for a woman coupled with a large bust and bottom while Princess Freya had a rather slight build for a svenskar that came along with sloping shoulders and a general petiteness.
When Aura was the ideal type of woman for Zenjirou, then Princess Freya was definitely nowhere near his sphere of interest.
However, Princess Freya was not so gracious to back off because of that.
She pulled herself together at once, put on a bright smile and made a suggestion.
“On a related note, the female warrior standing behind me is Victoria Kronkvist also known as Skathi. She is my trusted retainer and bodyguard to whom I completely trust my life. I would like to get your permission to let her accompany me in the case I am allowed to move into the Inner Palace.”
Believe it or not, Princess Freya just threw in her trusted retainer as an extra.
Admittedly, Skathi was more or less similar to Aura: A tall virago with the right curves around her bust and bottom. But she was even taller than Aura, who was already tall for a woman, by more than ten centimetre, so it was a debatable point whether she was the “same type of woman”.
Zenjirou unwillingly snorted with surprise in light of the unexpected offer, but fortunately for him, someone else displayed an even greater reaction, which overshadowed his own.
“M- Milady, what are you saying!?”
It was no one else but the aforementioned female warrior herself: Skathi.
Seeing as she turned red and was flustered beyond help, it was obvious that the princess did not arrange with her about it beforehand.
Princess Freya must have mentioned it after thinking of it on the spot.
Realizing that, Zenjirou was overcome with partly repulsion, partly misgiving, so he inadvertently put in his two cents.
“Princess Freya, I am aware that you are not being serious in your suggestion, but do you not think that you went a bit too far here?
Miss Skathi is an excellent warrior. Some of her talent may be inherent, but I am sure she exercised quite the effort to reach that level.
You should know better than anyone else how wrongfully it would be to make her give up the path of the warrior and force her to live the life of a woman instead, Princess Freya.”
Zenjirou had dared to go for a slap in the face, since he wanted to stop the escalating eulogy, but his intentions went completely unnoticed.
Aura showed him an expression for a moment that seemed to say “You idiot”, but it was too late anyway.
Princess Freya smiled broadly in response to his scolding
“You are right. I do apologize for speaking out of turn. But your objection only confirmed my belief again that you are the ideal partner for me, Your Majesty Zenjirou.”
and made sheep’s eyes at him.
It made perfect sense.
Princess Freya had claimed that Zenjirou was the ideal partner for her, precisely because he treated “women as equals”.
By scolding her for the earlier statement and appreciating the free will of Skathi, he was obviously agreeing to her moral values.
“I see. You do seem to have an eye for men, Princess Freya.”
Queen Aura smiled wryly while her face started to show an hint of resignation.
“Well, I do understand what attracted you to my husband for now, but feelings alone will not accomplish a marriage for people of position like us. You should know that, Princess Freya.”
Queen Aura said this and advanced the discussion to the next stage.
A marriage between royalty/nobility was not meant to substantiate love, but to bring profit to both parties.
The real negotiation would start from here on.
Both the Queen and Princess knew this, so they put on a serious look alike.
“Of course. I do believe that the future of our two countries will be extremely bright, when I do marry into your family.”
“Oho, can you elaborate? I am afraid that our country is quite out of touch with international marriages.”
The utterance from Aura was no lie. On the South Continent, royalty equalled bloodline magic, so royal marriages were generally carried out within the country. The disadvantage of leaking the bloodline magic to another country outweighed the advantage of allying with a foreign country by far.
In other words, Aura was basically saying that their own culture was usually not allowing international marriages between royalty and that Princess Freya ought to present an adequate benefit, if she wanted to push the marriage through.
And her implicated meaning seemed to have come across.
Princess Freya corrected her sitting posture on the couch, took a deep breath and began her persuasion with a focussed look in her ice-blue eyes.
“Yes. First of all, my country is quite advanced in technology, even for the standards of the North Continent. We may not have a large territory, nor the population befitting a major power, because we lack the farmland, but we pride ourselves upon our unrivalled technology.
Incidentally, I am the crown princess. A marriage with me would not only involve my person.”
“What do you have to offer?”
The Queen asked bluntly, whereupon the Princess answered kindly.
“Our civilization and the manpower to provide it.
I was born and raised in a different culture on the North Continent. Of course I will do my utmost to adapt to your culture, when you accept my proposal.
But to be realistic, it would be quite difficult for me to live here, if I had to rely on your culture alone.
Hence I want to bring enough manpower along to reproduce the culture of the Uppsala Kingdom here to a certain extent.”
“Hmm, your culture. What does that entail in detail?”
“Why, yes. I will not bore you with all the fine details, but it would mainly be ‘iron’ and ‘ships’. The Uppsala Kingdom worked its way up with the power of iron and cemented its leading position with seafaring. Without these two, the Uppsala Kingdom would not exist today.”
Queen Aura narrowed her eyes to slits as though her interest was piqued.
Strictly speaking, Princess Freya had just told a lie.
Iron and ships were in fact the support pillars of the Uppsala Kingdom, but that fact was completely irrelevant to her so-called aim to “reproduce her own culture in the country, where she married into”.
Only a hardcore female sailor would need the ironwork and ships of her home country that bad in the country she moved to for marriage.
Well, you could not rule out the possibility that it actually held true for Princess Freya, but a female member of royalty normally brought along bits of her own culture that were closely related to her lifestyle, namely food and clothes, for her marriage.
It made sense to bring along cooks, tailors, specialized farmers or animal breeders, but there would technically be no need for blacksmiths or shipwrights.
Yet Princess Freya had brought “iron” and “ships” to the table first. She had done that, because she had come to know in the negotiations in Valentia that the Carpa Kingdom was desiring these two the most.
Princess Freya had to give a good account of herself here, so she demonstrated that she could provide what they were after.
Queen Aura did not bat an eyelash in light of her offer, but she could not help but be surprised at heart, seeing as Princess Freya seemed to be more serious about this than she had anticipated.
“Your ironwork and ships are famous, even on the North Continent. That certainly sounds attractive. However, is the Uppsala Kingdom really that magnanimous to offer such technology for free as the dowry for their important princess?”
She asked that, knowing that this was not the case, of course.
Princess Freya had brought her title as the crown princess, the iron and the ships on the table. So what was she going to ask for in exchange?
Taking a deep breath, the princess nodded briefly and sat upright.
“Well, I do not like to bring it up, but I AM the legitimate crown princess of the Uppsala Kingdom. If I were to become a concubine of His Majesty Zenjirou under normal circumstances, it would appear as though the Uppsala Kingdom is socially subordinate to the Carpa Kingdom.
And that would make it problematic to have a ‘relationship on equal terms’ from now on.”
“Yes, if you actually want to have a ‘relationship on equal terms’, that is.”
The Carpa Kingdom had not really a reason to tie a relationship on equal terms. They would never lower themselves, of course, and would actually welcome it, when the other party lowered themselves on their own accord.
The silver-haired princess continued without answering the suggestive remark of the Queen.
“So I was hoping you could bestow a special rank on me in order to preserve my position.”
“A special rank?”
“Yes. An aristocratic title for members of the royal family along with a principality that has a seaport.”
“Oho. So you are demanding land?”
Queen Aura asserted pressure at once, but Princess Freya was not intimidated as she went on.
“We would establish a shipyard there first of all. I want to build ships there that will benefit both of our countries.”
“Are you going to call over the shipwrights from the Uppsala Kingdom?”
“Yes. The key members would come from over there. But it is hardly likely that these will be enough, so I think that we will have to borrow some craftsmen from you.”
Aura pondered over her suggestion for a bit.
The fact that she wanted to employ craftsmen of the Carpa Kingdom in the shipyard meant that she had no intention to keep their ship designs a secret. In the beginning, the Carpa Kingdom would have to rely on the instructions of the shipwrights from the Uppsala Kingdom, but over time, they would be able to learn the technology to build large sailing ships on their own.
Just in case, Queen Aura checked with her.
“Ships are mainly built from wood, but a part of them also requires iron, correct? Are you going to build all these parts here as well?”
“Yes. I intend to call for some blacksmiths from our country, too, but just like with the shipwrights, they will hardly be sufficient, when going into a full-fledged production, so I would like to borrow the help of your blacksmiths as well.”
In other words, she was saying that she did not mind to actively teach them their ironwork technology as well as their shipbuilding technology.
Aura mused for a moment.
From her standpoint, she really wanted to get her hands on the large sailing ship technology as well as the exquisite ironwork technology. Especially the ironwork technology, since it included the blueprints for their high-performance furnace. The research for the glass manufacture should make a great leap forward with that furnace.
Aura was willing to make quite the concessions, if it meant its obtainment.
She cast a quick glance at her husband sitting next to her.
He was silently submitting to all this with bated breath, so she felt kind of sorry for him, but she would fail as a ruler of a country, if she were to let such an attractive opportunity slide.
“What kind of title do you have in mind?”
“One that is on par with the typical feudal lord title of your country, I guess. It would be ancillary to the royal family, but the principality gets autonomy in exchange for yearly taxes.”
“An aristocratic title for a branch member of the royal family and the title for an autonomous feudal lord are quite different, you know. The biggest difference being the right to appoint a successor.
A feudal lord has the right to appoint the successor all by himself, but the reigning monarch keeps the right to pass on the aristocratic title for a member of the royal family.
On the other hand, a feudal lord generally has no claim to the throne, even if it is a royal princess, whereas the branch family of the royal family does have that claim, but is lower in status.”
“In that case, you may keep the right to appoint a successor, Your Majesty. But I would like to stipulate that someone inheriting the blood of the Uppsala Royal Family and Carpa Royal Family will be giving priority to the succession.
Needless to say, I have no use for a claim to the throne of the Carpa Kingdom, either.”
“The same would apply to the throne of your country.”
“Yes, I am aware.”
Their fierce battle continued in form of words.
Princess Freya had ventured to explicitly state her “abdication of the claim to the throne of the Carpa Kingdom” instead of lumping together the claims to the throne of both countries.
If not for Aura’s intervention, the child or grandchild of Princess Freya and Zenjirou would have been able to assert its claim to the throne of the Uppsala Kingdom.
And then the Uppsala Kingdom could call them over under the pretext of their succession to the throne, in order to steal the disposition of the bloodline “Space-Time Magic” of the Carpa Royal Family in the future.
Moreover, Zenjirou did not only have the disposition for the “Space-Time Magic”, but also for the “Bestowal Magic” from the Sharrow Royal Family. Princess Freya had no way to know about this, though.
Queen Aura contrived a counteroffensive that would not reveal these circumstances.
“You were born and raised into a royal family without a bloodline magic, so it might be difficult for you to understand it, but here on the South Continent, the practitioners of a bloodline play an important role as their numbers represent the power of the state.
Unfortunately, our country currently only has three practitioners of our bloodline magic: Myself, Zenjirou and our child in arms Carlos. Due to that, our nobility is really pushing my husband to ‘take a concubine’.
Hence that very concubine must be able to aid the effort to increase the practitioners of the bloodline magic in the royal family. If not, we might as well forget all about this. I hope you can understand that.”
It was said in a somewhat roundabout way, but Princess Freya realized what Aura wanted to say after a bit of pondering, so she suggested this with a somewhat stiff expression.
“…You can check someone for the disposition of the bloodline magic, right? So when there are various candidates for the succession, you prioritize the one without the disposition for the succession of the title, whereas those with the disposition will be adopted into the royal family. But if the candidate without the disposition passes away for some reason, you will return the other candidate with the disposition. How does that sound?”
“Hmm, that seems appropriate. Although one may not show the ‘disposition for the bloodline magic’, the latent ability is still inherited, so the marriage of the chosen successor would still need the approval of the royal family, but this is a law that applies to all high-ranking nobles in our country. Please reconcile yourself to it.”
“Then we need to clarify the military for your principality. For a branch member of the royal family, we could deploy the royal army there.”
“If possible, I would like to keep my own military. Defending the land is one thing, but they need to keep the harbour safe, too, or it would be putting the cart before the horse.”
“Oho? Then you plan to do your own intercontinental trading with your motherland in that harbour?”
Aura sharpened the look in her eyes, whereupon Princess Freya answered unconcerned.
“Of course I will pay an appropriate share of the profit to the royal family.”
“No will do. That is one thing I cannot allow. The intercontinental trade is to be conducted only between the Carpa Royal Family and the Uppsala Royal Family. Nothing will change that.”
“Then what are we supposed to do with the ships we build at the shipyard? Their transfer could be considered a kind of trade, too?”
“The Uppsala Kingdom will get the even numbered ships out of the first ten ships built in the shipyard for free. If they want more ships after that, any future ship from the shipyard needs to stop in Valentia once, where it then will be sold in a deal between both royal families.”
This compromise ensured that the intercontinental trade was conducted under the control of the Carpa Royal Family.
Giving away five large sailing ships for free definitely hurt the Carpa Royal Family, but it was still better than allowing the harbour of Princess Freya to interfere with the intercontinental trade.
No one knew what the future may hold, but her harbour would at least be more influenced by the Uppsala Kingdom than the Carpa Kingdom while Princess Freya was alive.
If such a harbour were to trade with its motherland, the Uppsala Kingdom, on its own, the Carpa Kingdom would gravely lose its standing with the Uppsala Kingdom in the intercontinental trade.
Nevertheless, Aura could not outright decline the proposal from Princess Freya, because it would cost her the ship and ironwork technology she was going to offer.
Hence Aura sought to soften the conditions by complying with the short-term desire of the princess.
“Five large sailing ships for free…”
Now it was Princess Freya’s turn to fall silent and think.
The Uppsala Kingdom was a highly developed country, but their military strength was that of a middle power at best. A total of five large sailing ship for free was an extremely attractive offer to them.
In the long run, it was obviously a lot more profitable, if they were to get the permission to do trading in the harbour from Princess Freya, but it would take time to see the result of it and the Uppsala Kingdom would still profit enough from an established intercontinental trade in general, even without pushing that condition through here.
Then it should be alright to accept the offer. Princess Freya reached that conclusion, but still faced one problem.
Unlike Queen Aura, who had all the decision-making power in the country, Princess Freya was nothing but the crown princess.
Accordingly, it was already pretty scandalous that she proposed a marriage without the approval of her father or brother, but a contract for an intercontinental trade was on a whole different level.
Princess Freya was given the “Yellow Leaves” and set out with the mission to “develop an intercontinental trade route to the South Continent for the homeland”.
In a sense, the negotiations of the intercontinental trade were a royal decree.
Therefore it proved difficult for her to give an immediate answer to such important matters at her own discretion. At the same time, her homeland was too far away to wait for orders from the higher-ups.
“…Well, in that case, could we arrange that the trading in the harbour does require the approval of the Carpa Royal Family first?
I really would like to get your permission to lay the foundations for possible trade at the harbour in the future.”
Princess Freya persistently continued the negotiations in order to make it possible that the principality and the Uppsala Kingdom could directly trade with each other in the future.
* * *
“I will excuse myself now. Thank you very much for the fruitful collaboration today, Your Majesties.”
“Not at all. You have my gratitude as well. We should repeat this at some point.”
“I am glad you were pleased, Princess Freya.”
The Princess and Queen were bidding each other farewell with a smile on their faces, whereas Zenjirou forced a smile with a somewhat stiff expression.
The door closed shortly after and Princess Freya and her female bodyguard were gone. Thereupon Zenjirou flopped himself onto the couch like a marionette that had its string cut.
“…It sure was fruitful for everyone. Except for me.”
When her husband uttered scornful words for once, the Queen did not reply for a moment and pondered in silence.
The two of them might be all alone right now, but they were still in the Royal Palace and not in the Inner Palace, so Zenjirou was technically picking his words in face of the Queen, but his phrasing came across even chillier because of it.
As a matter of fact, Aura would only hurt Zenjirou with anything she said now, considering her position.
Just like he had mentioned, it had been extremely fruitful for Aura in her role as the Queen. The ironwork and shipbuilding technology as well as the intercontinental trade with the North Continent had been brought to the table. There had practically been no way to dismiss the matter anymore, when presented with such favourable conditions.
As of now, Princess Freya was not yet officially acknowledged as a concubine, but it was pretty much set in stone that she would accompany Zenjirou to the marriage ceremony as his partner for a start.
To begin with, the real negotiations over becoming a concubine and a trade agreement could not be debated in the Carpa Kingdom alone. Princess Freya would have to return home to the North Continent with the “Yellow Leaves” and get the approval from her father before returning. Thus the matter would at least still take another year to settle.
Everything Princess Freya agreed to here was based on her own judgment, so it was still possible that the deal was called off in the future.
Nevertheless, it did not change the fact that it had paved the way for a “concubine” if everything went well.
Zenjirou had loathed that more than anything, so he unconsciously heaved a sigh. He had been more or less prepared for it, but the inevitable had finally come.
“Zenjirou, I am the Queen and you are a member of the Royal Family. The Royal Family has to prioritizes the welfare of the country over their own emotions.”
The Queen dared to take a strict approach while she slowly sat down besides him. Then she reached out for the folded hands of her husband with her left hand.
It did look like a casual and natural gesture, but in truth, Aura was suppressing a deadly fear at heart while she did so.
What if her husband were to turn away from her the moment she sat down next to him? What if her husband were to push away her extended hand?
But these gloomy assumptions turned out to be completely baseless.
Zenjirou unfolded his hands and softly grasped the hand of his wife. Their ten fingers firmly entangled into each other, he turned his head and smile at his wife sitting next to him.
“I am aware. I am far from perfect, but please take good care of me.”
His stiff choice of words contrasted with his soft tone and gentle smile. And the warmth conveyed through their hands completely relieved the Queen of her anxiety and nervousness.
“Yes. The prosperity of the royal family and the kingdom comes first of all. But as long as it does not contradict that objective, it should be alright that royalty pursues their own happiness as well. I will do my utmost for that, too.”
Hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder, the Queen and Prince Consort then bathed in the comfortable body heat of the other as they relaxed for a while.