A marriage ceremony between important nobles in the borderland simply did not end after the ceremony itself .
After all, influential nobles from far and wide, not to forget Royalty, had gathered here to celebrate it .
The road and inn accessibility in this world was nowhere good enough to cope with the situation, where the guests were told “thanks for coming” right after the ceremony and dispersed in small groups all at once .
Most people actually wanted to stay longer in order to use this opportunity for socializing .
And above all, it would be a grand event, when the groom General Puyol set out for the Capital with his wife Lucinda later on .
There was no way the other guests would leave ahead of them . The same naturally applied to Prince Consort Zenjirou as well .
Consequently, the capital of the March of Guzzle was bustling with all the wedding guests even now .
In his usual well-behaved way, Zenjirou spent the days in his allocated building without moving around much .
It certainly was inconvenient to be separated from his electrical appliances, but he had already went through that experience in Valentia .
Learning from his past mistakes, Zenjirou had brought along his portable music player as well as two portable game consoles this time, all of them charged in full .
Thanks to them, he had not been bored at night so far . Unfortunately he could only charge the devices in the Inner Palace, so he limited himself to use only one of them for one hour per day, but it was more than enough to pass the time in the otherwise uneventful nights .
The music player in particular played a decisive role .
Because Aura had recorded the chant for “Teleport” on it .
Listening to it on repeat, Zenjirou had set himself to learn the correct pronunciation of the “Teleport” chant for now .
“Ru Mavalaaiaia Hastaobraguopena… It’s no good . ”
Zenjirou heaved a heavy sigh in the dimly lit room, which was only illuminated by the hand crank flashlight and the display light of the music player .
“Grr… I expected it, but it’s still difficult! The intonation alone raises the difficulty quite a bit . ”
Putting the music player onto the desk, Zenjirou stretched himself on the simple chair he was sitting on, muttering with a loud voice .
Just like he had mentioned, the intonation for the “Teleport” chant in the magic language was already pretty difficult by itself . He had practiced it whenever he had time on the way here, but so far, he had not succeeded even once .
As things stood at the moment, Zenjirou was still miles away from fathoming “Teleport” .
“Will I really be able to use an awesome magic like ‘Teleport’ one day?”
Not quite complaining, nor exactly losing heart, Zenjirou muttered to himself while he turned off the music player and took a silver bell from the desk, ringing it .
It was met with an almost instant reaction .
“Yes, you called for me?”
With these words, a middle-aged woman neatly wearing maid clothes entered the room: Waiting Maid Ines .
The light from the flashlight was quite selective, so the room was pretty much wrapped in darkness except for the desk, but Ines showed no sign of missing her footing .
Because this world had no illumination tools whatsoever, its people had become a lot more accustomed to seeing in the night than Zenjirou . As one of them, Ines did not even feel inconvenienced by this level of darkness at which Zenjirou would not hesitate a second to turn on the lights .
And since it was dangerous to walk around with a light source such as an oil pan, people generally refrained from carrying one as long as they still could see more or less in the dark, so Zenjirou was practically an exception to the exception .
As his waiting maid came closer with her usual smooth steps, Zenjirou called out to her with a casual question .
“How’s Princess Freya doing?”
He could take this attitude, because he was all alone in the room with the well-acquainted waiting maid .
Ines, too, was used to that behaviour .
“Princess Freya is being shown around the main building by Miss Nilda . ”
She answered in a matter-of-fact tone .
“Oh, I had heard they were getting along, but this well? I’m a bit surprised . ”
“They are somewhat close in age and Miss Nilda has quite the sociable personality, after all . And Princess Freya does not seem to be put off by her attachment, either . ”
Up to a certain age, Nilda had been raised in an uneventful farming village, so she listened with genuine respect to the unusual exploits of Princess Freya from the bottom of her heart .
Likewise, Princess Freya must be enjoying to be the target of admiration from a younger girl for a change .
“Glad to hear . Just having someone to talk to already fends off boredom . ”
“You seem to have opened up to Princess Freya as well, Master Zenjirou . ”
“A bit, yes . ”
When Ines gave him a light smile, Zenjirou showed a wry smile to hide his embarrassment .
Although Zenjirou admitted that he found it difficult to deal with the openly affectionate Princess Freya, he could not help but be somewhat attracted to her, when she was smiling so innocently together with Nilda .
Standing up from the chair, Zenjirou took the flashlight from the desk and pointed it at his feet while talking to Ines .
“Well then, let’s go pick her up . It’s almost time for dinner . Ines, can you take me to the main building?”
“Certainly . Are you sure, though? I can go by myself, if it is just to call her back . ”
“I can’t really do that . It would spread rumours that we don’t get along . ”
She had been brought along as his partner for the marriage ceremony, so other people already had concluded that it was only a matter of time for her to become his concubine .
If it were to seem like they were not getting along well now, it could harm the country in the future .
“Besides, I want to stretch my legs . ”
Perceptive as he was, Zenjirou realized the circumstances were moving towards an unfavourable outcome for him and yet, that knowledge did not prevent him from taking action in that very direction .
* * *
Around the same time, Princess Freya was walking down the dim hallway of the main building with Nilda .
Her bodyguard Skathi was following three steps behind them .
“Please watch your step, Princess Freya . Will you be fine?”
“Yes, I can see relatively well in the night and even participated in a couple of night manoeuvres . Thank you for your concern . ”
Just like she had asserted, Princess Freya kept a firm walking pace .
By the standards of Modern Earth, the stony hallway was wrapped in a considerable darkness, but Princess Freya and Skathi were accustomed to seeing in the dark more than enough, whereas Nilda knew her family home inside out . Even if she could not see as well, she could move around from memory .
“Wow . I take it that you took training for it?”
“Instead of specially training for it, it would be more accurate to say that I naturally adopted to it . You see, huntings and sea or river travels do not necessarily end by nightfall, so you have no choice but to continue throughout the night . As a result, I came to be able to see at night . ”
She mentioned it most carefree, but that method was anything but it . At the very least, it was not something a princess was supposed to do .
In fact, Skathi showed a wry smile behind them . As her bodyguard, she had been dragged into all of her hoydenish adventures .
“Milady, we are near a corner . ”
“Yes, I can see it . Thank you, Skathi . ”
Keeping her back to her trusted bodyguard, the silver-haired princess answered her like that and safely turned at the right-angled corner .
Nilda next to her followed suit as well .
The first to notice it then was, as expected, the female warrior Skathi, as she was paying close attention to their surroundings with her eyes most accustomed to the darkness .
“Hm? There is someone ahead of us . I can see a silhouette . ”
Upon her remark, both Princess Freya and Nilda stopped and narrowed their eyes to a slit .
“Oh, right . Considering he is coming from that direction, it must be one of our guards . ”
With the worst night vision from all of them, Nilda claimed this, but Princess Freya cocked her head dubiously .
“Are you sure? I cannot see it all that well at this distance, but I would say it is someone from the ‘Navarre Kingdom’ . ”
The delegation from the Navarre Kingdom was the only foreign group invited to this marriage ceremony, so Princess Freya had paid a bit more attention to them than to the others .
Because of that, she could now recognize their military uniform from just a silhouette .
Nilda exclaimed surprised, when she heard that .
“Excuse me for a moment . ”
Then she approached the silhouette with brisk steps .
“Pardon! Do you have a moment?”
When Nilda called out to it with a loud voice, the silhouette flinched for a second, then stopped .
The dimness hid all the fine features, but judging by the height, it was a man without doubt .
And a young man, at that, going by his voice .
His silhouette and voice assured Nilda that he was at least not associated with the House of Guzzle, so she named herself in the semidarkness .
“My name is Nilda, the second daughter of Marquis Guzzle . May I ask you to name yourself?”
“…Yes! I am Knight Raymundo from the Navarre Kingdom Delegation . ”
The silhouette performed the typical greeting gesture of a knight amidst the darkness and its voice was kind of flat from nervousness .
“Then I shall address you as Sir Raymundo . Pardon my asking, Sir Raymundo, but did you come out of that middle hallway just now?”
Her straightforward question turned out to be counterproductive, though .
“…No . You must have confused it . I came out of that other passage . ”
Saying this, the knight from the Navarre Kingdom pointed to the building’s outmost hallway, the one opposite from which Nilda had come out .
The hallways around here were set up a bit complicated .
In this area, three passages were running parallel to each other: The hallway Nilda and the other two had walked through, the hallway the knight from the Navarre Kingdom had walked through and the hallway pointed out by the same knight just now .
At some point, the two outer passages had a corner at a right angle and were merging with the middle passage . They were standing at that very intersection now .
But even in this darkness, the excuse from the knight was somewhat overdoing things . Nilda definitely had seen him coming out of the middle passage and as a matter of fact, she had stopped the knight right in front of the central hallway .
Nilda showed a troubled smile .
“Well, so you say, but I definitely saw you coming out from there . ”
She pressed him slightly .
But even then, the knight did not change his attitude .
“It is quite dark here, so it is not strange for you to make a mistake . Well then, Miss Nilda, I will excuse myself now . ”
As if to shake her off, the knight left the place with rapid steps .
Nilda tried to reach out to him, but her hand only grasped at air .
“…What do I do now? I guess I will have to report this to my father . ”
Nilda cocked her head troubled, whereupon Princess Freya and Skathi came over after they had watched the situation unfold from afar .
“Should you have let him leave, Nilda? As far as I could tell, he seems to have set foot into a restricted area without permission . ”
The Southern Continent was foreign land to Princess Freya and she was currently nothing more than the partner for Prince Consort Zenjirou .
Not only did she not know much about the common sense here, she also had no real authority here, so she had just silently observed without interfering, but then she noticed that the situation had taken a rather serious turn .
Nilda showed a troubled smile in reaction to the question from Princess Freya and nodded once .
“Yes . The area beyond that middle passage belongs to our military . That being said, it only contains a little watchtower we rarely ever use, so it is not really an issue, if someone goes there, but we have told the guests that the place is off limits beforehand, so I had no choice but to broach the subject . ”
Even the mansion of a feudal lord had areas that were off limits to others, guests of state being to exception .
It applied to the private chambers of the lord and his family, the treasury as it was the wallet of the domain and the military facilities as it was the shield of the domain .
Just like Nilda had mentioned, the military facility beyond that hallway, where the knight of the Navarre Kingdom had set foot into, was not really all that important .
As a matter of fact, an interested guest would have easily gotten permission to go there, if he simply asked for it .
But it was a different matter altogether to “ignore someone who had trespassed there” .
If they were to let him get away with it here, they would soon have to do the same for the other restricted area as well .
“Seems like I will have to ask my father or brother to reprimand him tomorrow . ”
Nilda heaved a small sigh after these words . She held no official rank and was just the daughter of a mistress, regardless of her blood relationship, so people always tended to make light of her .
“If you would like, I can come with you to make a testimony . ”
“Yes, that would be much appreciated . I am sorry for the trouble, Princess Freya . ”
While they were having such an exchange, a bright light flared up behind Nilda .
“Milady, Miss Nilda, please stand back, just in case . ”
“Oh my, where has the time gone?”
“That must be Master Zenjirou . ”
Princess Freya and Nilda spoke up without due care upon the warning from Skathi, but still obediently got behind her .
The white light was a hundred, more probably a thousand times brighter than the moonlight . Zenjirou was the only person to possess such a thing .
Hence the warning from Skathi had been nothing but a reflex and there was actually no need for wariness .
“Oh, here you are, Princess Freya, Miss Nilda . Then we should get back to the annex building now . The preparations for dinner seem to be done . ”
And as expected, Zenjirou appeared from the roofed crossing leading to the annex building with his crank-powered LED flashlight in hand . His bodyguard Knight Natalio and waiting maid Ines followed behind him like always .
“Thank you for going out of your way to pick us up, Your Majesty Zenjirou . ”
“Thanks for letting us know, Master Zenjirou . ”
Amidst the brilliance of the flashlight, both Princess Freya and Nilda offered Zenjirou words of gratitude with a smile .
During the past few days, the three of them had gotten close to the point that such an exchange was normal to them . The shortage of personnel was actually working in their favour here .
Because of the lack of staff, less people were involved in situations like this one . Moreover, there was not much hustle and bustle in the countryside to begin with, so without knowing, Zenjirou had started to assume quite the “casual” attitude towards Princess Freya and Nilda .
“No, don’t mention it . It allowed me to stretch my legs, too, after all . But it would be rude to let the cooks wait any longer . ”
“You are right . Let us head back . ”
“Okay, Master Zenjirou . ”
The combined group then went back to the annex building with a bit of chit-chat .
* * *
Nilda had caught a knight of the Navarre Kingdom at entering a restricted area without permission .
In itself, that was not such a big deal .
At the very least, the Guzzle Family would have been willing to laugh it off with a “Be more careful next time” as long as the knight apologized with a “I got lost” statement and that would be the end of it .
The reason such a trivial matter escalated into something bigger was that the knight in question thought he could wipe that trivial matter under the carpet as well as his superior supporting his claim well and truly .
“So you refuse to admit it, no matter what, Sir Cristiano?”
The one to speak with a strict voice like that was the third son and successor-to-be of Marquis Guzzle: Xavier Guzzle .
Cristiano Pinto, the Knight Captain of the Navarre Kingdom, assented to the words of the young heir with a deliberate smile as though showing off his composure .
On the morning after that night, Xavier Guzzle had been informed about the incident by his little sister Nilda and had immediately went to the delegation of the Navarre Kingdom, wanting them to explain the circumstances .
“Yes . It definitely is true that one of my subordinates, Knight Raymundo, was called to a halt by Miss Nilda in the evening of yesterday . But like he had explained back then, Raymundo did not come out of the middle hallway, but had emerged from the outmost passage . ”
“You mean to say it is nothing but a mistake from Nilda?”
Xavier obviously sharpened his glance, but Knight Captain Cris did not let that attitude affect his smile and simply answered .
“Well, we are talking about evening here . The sun had already set . I dare to say it is not strange for a woman to make such a mistake . I mean, women are prone to fear the darkness, are they not?”
“…Nilda was not alone . Princess Freya as well as her bodyguard Victoria claim the same circumstances . ”
“Both women, too . Fear and surprise is known to be contagious . Once someone claims something, it is not all that unusual for others to come to the same misunderstanding . ”
His expression was overflowing with confidence while Knight Captain Cris answered like that . To an onlooker at least it seemed like he believed what he was saying from the bottom of his heart .
“… . . ”
“… . . ”
Sitting across from each other, they stared at each other wordlessly for a while .
Knight Captain Cris was admittedly slender, but was by no means small with his height of more or less one-hundred and eighty centimetre .
The petite Xavier was not even one-hundred and seventy tall, so there was an obvious height difference, which was still all too apparent, when they sat across each other .
Considering that Knight Captain Cris was also a bit older than Xavier, it only looked like a David versus Goliath situation .
From his behaviour, Xavier could tell that Knight Captain Cris was also the better fighter of them by far, so he had trouble to seize the reins of the negotiations .
Taking a deep breath to provide his body with new oxygen, Xavier then said with a resolute look .
“Okay . It seems we are not on the same page here . ”
“Instead of the same page, I say the end is just obvious?”
When Knight Captain Cris gave him a faint smile, Xavier clenched his back teeth .
“I, for one, cannot bring myself to believe that all three witnesses made the same mistake . ”
“Sir Xavier, do you mean to imply that a knight of our country is lying then?”
“Yes, that is exactly what I mean . ”
For the first time today, Knight Captain Cris broke his calm mask in light of Xavier’s clear statement .
“Sir Xavier, are you aware of the significance of your words?”
Knight Captain Cris lowered the tone of his voice, whereas Xavier was extremely careful not to let his voice waver as he answered .
“Yes . I am aware that I would commit a grave defamation, if I were to be wrong . Should it turn out that I suspected the knight of your country wrongfully, I am prepared to make an official apology . ”
“… . . ”
He must not have expected Xavier to stage such a determined opposition . Knight Captain Cris was at a loss for words for a moment .
In all objectivity, though, Xavier actually had no reason to humble himself here .
As the next successor to a March in the Major Power known as Carpa Kingdom, Xavier Guzzle was more or less on equal footing with Cristiano Pinto, who was the oldest son of a famous family with proximity of blood to the Royal Family in the Middle Power known as Navarre Kingdom .
The Carpa Kingdom and Navarre Kingdom were officially acknowledging each other’s sovereignty, so of course things would have gone a lot smoother if Xavier just had made compromises to Knight Captain Cris pro forma, but neither did he need to feel obliged to draw in his horns in his position, when their opinions were as contradictory as right now .
“Now, you mentioned earlier that the end was already obvious, but can I take it that you have acknowledged our claim then?”
“…No, it seems we really are not on the same page . ”
Even while cladding himself with a mask of inexpressiveness, Knight Captain Cris shook his head with a displeasure he could not conceal entirely .
* * *
Knight Raymundo, a member of the delegation from the Navarre Kingdom, had trespassed into a restricted area .
Three people had witnessed that: Nilda Guzzle, Freya Uppsala and Victoria Kronkvist .
Princess Freya was the partner for Zenjirou, Victoria aka . Skathi was her bodyguard and Nilda was tasked with taking care of Zenjirou here .
So all three of them had a rather close relation to him .
Hence it was practically an inevitability that Zenjirou would get dragged into this incident as well .
“My deepest apologies, Master Zenjirou . I cannot express nowhere near enough regret for involving Princess Freya in a matter of our family . ”
As the morning sun beamed through the windows, Nilda Guzzle lowered her head with bitter regret . Zenjirou responded to her with the softest smile he could manage .
“No, as far as I see it, it was not your fault, Miss Nilda . Princess Freya says so, too . It was just an unfortunate course of events .
And seeing as the delegation from the Navarre Kingdom is involved in this, it is no longer a domestic issue, but an international one . So, as a representative for Queen Aura, I am involved, too . I will help you to the best of my abilities . ”
“Thank you very much, Master Zenjirou . ”
Nilda was pepped up by his words and showed a bright smile .
Her abundant display of emotions made you worry if she could actually survive in the world of nobility .
“For that reason, can you lend her a hand, Princess Freya? If you run into some kind of trouble, you may use my name . ”
Princess Freya answered him with a charming smile .
“Of course . Just leave it to me, Your Majesty Zenjirou . Miss Nilda is a dear friend to me as well, so I personally want to help her out in this anyway .
I may not look like it, but I am quite confident in my eyesight at night . ”
With these words, she jutted her chin forward in such a way that it seemed playfully at first, but her eyes were by no means smiling .
Gender discrimination against women .
Princess Freya had suffered the same treatment numerous times in her home country, but it was nothing one could get used to .
Contrary to her outward appearance, Princess Freya was quite strong-willed, so she must have felt offended, too, when her own capability was looked down upon .
“Yes, I’m counting on you, Princess Freya . ”
“Gladly . ”
Keeping up her strong-willed smile, Princess Freya swept him a ladified curtsy .
After the two girls left, Zenjirou eased his tension and grumbled in a peeved tone .
“Oh man… What a pain . ”
Currently, Zenjirou was all alone in the room with his waiting maid Ines .
A waiting maid was not really a suitable adviser for his current problem, but she was the only person, he could trust and confide in here .
“Hey, Ines, let’s have a little talk . I just want to confirm some things and will make the ultimate decision by myself, but please let me hear your honest opinion . ”
“Very well, Master Zenjirou . ”
The middle-aged maid just bowed politely as she seemingly had anticipated the request from her master .
Zenjirou nodded once .
“Thanks . Well then, my first question might be common sense, but I want to start with the basics .
Will this incident become more weighty, if ‘Nilda is not nobility’?”
He gave voice to his biggest worry first .
In his opinion, it was quite likely that Nilda Guzzle was not a noble .
Needless to say, his reasoning originated from the fact that Queen Aura had not told him about her existence .
All nobility was listed on the “Roll of Names” managed by the Royal Family .
Looking at it the other way round, those not listed on the “Roll of Names” were not officially recognized as noble, even if they legitimately were of noble birth .
Considering Aura had not been aware of Nilda, it was extremely likely that her name was not listed on the Roll of Names .
The middle-aged maid assented his question with a composed look .
“It definitely would become more weighty . In this case, a diplomatic issue . ”
Zenjirou heaved a sigh in light of his bad premonition coming true .
“I knew it . Just in case: Does the same still apply under the premise that Nilda is completely right and the knight lying?”
“Yes . The hierarchy is more important in this case . The truth is irrelevant . To make things worse, the other party is a knight and the trespassing happened at night .
Something could have been done, though, if it had been a male soldier, commoner even, that stopped him . ”
“Ah, so they being female is part of the problem, after all . But what could have been done, if it was a soldier? Is the common military that well esteemed?”
His question was met with a diligent explanation from the middle-aged waiting maid .
“No . The reason is that this incident happened during the night patrol . People will even listen to a commoner as long as he is specialized to comment on the matter in question . ”
For example: A Knight purchases a weapon and then accuses the blacksmith to have swindled him with a defect product . The counterstatement from the blacksmith would be taken into consideration as well then .
Because the blacksmith was even more specialized in weapons than the knight .
But in this case, the incident concerned a trespassing at night .
In a broader sense, it was a military issue . Needless to say, the knight was specializing in that and Nilda was nothing but a little girl with no connection to it .
So, when she turned out to be no noble, like Zenjirou assumed, this incident would become rather troublesome .
“Oh god . Not good . Even if I’m right in assuming that she’s not nobility, Nilda currently doesn’t seem to be aware of it .
Depending on the circumstances, I might have to talk to Marquis Guzzle and work together with him . ”
“I dare to say that his would be a bit too risky . Although the possibility is low, the Marquis still might be behind the concealment of her person . And even if no one is behind it, it could actually be a mistake made by the Royal Family .
Considering that, I cannot recommend revealing everything to Marquis Guzzle so easily . ”
“Oh, right . You’ve a point… But this is a diplomatic issue, right? It’s no longer just between the Royal Family and a Feudal Lord . It would be bad to ignore a diplomatic issue, just to protect the Royal Family . We can’t confuse our priorities here .
But in the unlikely event that Marquis Guzzle really is behind this, it would become the worst case scenario . Although it isn’t all that likely, we still can’t rule it out, so we must keep it in mind…”
With no end to his worries in sight, Zenjirou looked up at the ceiling from his chair .
There were two possibilities: Nilda had her name listed on the “Roll of Names” or not . If it was not listed, there were another two possibilities: Someone plotted it or it was some kind of mistake .
If it was indeed listed, there were no problems at all .
Problems only arose, when her name was not listed on it .
Assuming it was part of a plot, the mastermind behind it could be Marquis Guzzle and it would worsen the situation sharply to consult with him .
On the other hand, if her name was not listed, because of a mere mistake in the paperwork, the best course of action would be to report it to Marquis Guzzle as quickly as possible .
(I think a mistake is more likely, but if I act on that possibility and it turns out to be a plot after all, it’s game over . )
The slightest miscalculation could let the best choice result in the worst ending .
Zenjirou could not bring himself to choose a route that might lead to ruin, no matter how low the probability .
“Damn . Nilda sure has bad luck, or should I say bad timing?”
He heaved a sigh, whereupon Ines interjected with a shake of the head .
“Not quite, Master Zenjirou . It was neither bad luck, nor bad timing . It was a bad line of action on her part . ”
Zenjirou cocked his head puzzled, so Ines explained .
“Even if she was of higher birth, a woman would generally be discreet on the surface towards a man in such a situation, where the man claims something to be ‘different‘ . She ought to have dealt with him by putting a good gloss on her warning . ”
In other words, Nilda should have apologized with “I see, please forgive my mistake” at the point, where the knight had claimed “No, you are wrong” .
Then she would keep him in check by saying: “But it is no surprise that a little girl like me would make a mistake, when you abide in such a suspect place . I would appreciate it, if you could refrain from letting me ‘misunderstand’ in the future . ”
The knight would be able to bring everything to a smooth end then by answering with “You are right . I am partly to blame for lingering in such a suspicious place, too . I will be more careful from now on . Thank you for your consideration . ” .
In short, the right line of action involved accepting the claim from the knight on the surface, but cautioning him between the lines .
But Nilda had skipped past that etiquette and opposed him straight on by practically saying “No, I am not mistaken . I saw it . Why are lying to me?”, so the knight ended up persisting on his stance, either due to obstinacy or surprise .
In this sense, you could say that Nilda had made a mistake . Needless to say, it did not change the fact that the knight started all of this by trespassing into the restricted area without permission .
“Oh, right . You did say Nilda was raised in a rural village for quite a while . I guess she hasn’t learnt enough about noble etiquette yet . ”
“I am afraid so . The fact that she was born and raised in a rural village means that she initially internalized a different kind of common sense . It cannot be an easy endeavour to overwrite it with the noble mindset later on . ”
“Isn‘t this even worse?”
Although the knight from the Navarre Kingdom may fundamentally be at fault here, they were at a huge disadvantage, assuming that an actually non-noble girl had reacted in an unbefitting manner for nobility .
“…Maybe I should ask Princess Freya to take the blame?”
The conclusion Zenjirou reached after painstaking contemplation was a somewhat conflicting one for him .
“Princess Freya, you say?”
Cocking her head, the maid asked him that, whereupon Zenjirou nodded and explained his train of thought in detail .
“Well, she was present at the scene, too, so I thought we could make her be in the spotlight instead . Things have already escalated quite a bit, so the Guzzle Family can’t back-pedal anymore and say Nilda was wrong after all at this point, either .
On the other hand, it will be troublesome, when we carry on with Nilda in the spotlight and it becomes apparent later that she is no noble .
So I want Nilda to take a backseat and let Princess Freya assume the role of staging the protest . It should go a lot smoother then . ”
“The current circumstances would greatly improve through that for sure, but are you fine with that? Princess Freya is basing her authority here primarily on you, Master Zenjirou .
You would basically be propagating an even stronger bond between the two of you by doing so . ”
Zenjirou heaved a sigh in light of Ines’ advice .
In addition, he would be owing Princess Freya a great debt for having her take the fall in this .
Considering she was aiming to become his concubine, Zenjirou was sure she would never let this chance slip by .
Having said this, he could not come up with a better solution .
And possessing a sense of responsibility stronger than the average as well as a timidness stronger than the average, Zenjirou inevitable had no choice but to pick the safest way out he could think of .
“I shall ask Princess Freya for help . I will consult with her in person as quick as possible today . We cannot let Miss Nilda know about it, so see to it that Princess Freya comes over alone . ”
“As you wish . ”
Ines made a brief bow to his orders .
* * *
Everything started as a trivial argument between Knight Raymundo from the Navarre Kingdom and Nilda, the second daughter of Marquis Guzzle, but Knight Captain Cristiano and Xavier Guzzle were respectively negotiating on behalf of the former two and not yielding to the other, fanning the dying embers into a blazing fire .
If the fire were to spread like this, it could even cause some serious damage .
Any person with a bit of prudence could see that the situation had “gone south” .
Fortunately enough, the respective people in charge of both parties, Marquis Miguel Guzzle and General Martín Nadal, carried such prudence .
“First of all, let me express my deepest gratitude for setting up this meeting, Marquis Guzzle . It will allow us to prevent the situation to get even more out of hand . ”
“No, I have to apologize for letting the inappropriate conduct of my daughter to escalate that much, too, General Martín . Besides, I am not the one, who set up this meeting .
Your gratitude is due to my daughter… I mean, Lady Guillén . ”
While the subordinate and son had glared daggers at each other, the officer and father were exchanging greetings with a smile .
“Indeed . I shall properly thank Lady Lucinda later on . ”
General Martín nodded his assent a couple of times .
Their conversation made it redundant to mention, but this meeting had indeed been set up by Lucinda, who had just married into the family of General Puyol .
The two of them sat across each other in the anteroom Lucinda and General Puyol usually used .
After the marriage ceremony, General Martín had requested another meeting with the bridal pair, but Lucinda had “accidentally” scheduled a meeting with her father Marquis Guzzle at the same time .
So the bridal pair was now rearranging their schedule and had General Martín and Marquis Guzzle wait in the “same” anteroom in the meantime .
As such, General Martín and Marquis Guzzle were making use of the “coincidental” occasion of waiting in the same room to have an unofficial meeting, exchanging opinions as the ringleaders .
The whole situation was easy to see through, but these kind of pretexts were very important in Higher Society .
Neither side would be able speak their mind in an official meeting, where one side was the host and the other side the guest, because they had to keep up appearance .
In an informal place like this, the old Marquis and the middle-aged General could converse without restrain .
After a simple greeting, Marquis Guzzle broached the topic at hand .
“To be honest, I am well aware that this is just a stupid argument about a trivial misunderstanding, so if possible, I want to end this without much fuss . ”
“I agree . Normally this would be solved with a verbal warning and a verbal apology, so I would appreciate it, if we could do just that . ”
Although there was quite the age difference between them, they talked to each other on an equal footing .
On top of being quite close in social standing, Marquis Guzzle respected General Martín for being the better soldier of them, whereas General Martín respected Marquis Guzzle for his long history of military services, making it a sound relationship of mutual respect between them .
Nevertheless, they were still a Feudal Lord and a General from bordering countries .
Of course they were harbouring some negative feelings towards the other somewhere deep down in their hearts, but both of them held the other in high enough esteem to not let it show on their faces .
Thanks to that, the meeting proceeded smoothly .
“Geez, Xavier takes too much after my younger self . In a bad way, that is . He is inflexible and always clings to appearance, when trying to resolve things . The actual truth aside, there would have been nothing wrong with formally admitting that Nilda had been in the wrong here . ”
“I reckon you have your problems with him . ”
Even while agreeing with him like that, General Martín could not keep himself from giving a wry smile .
The words from Marquis Guzzle sounded like he wanted to say that he himself had become flexible by now, but that was by no means the case .
The man called Miguel Guzzle was actually so bad at equivocation and charisma that it was rather impressive how he could live as nobility in a major power like that .
“Haha, you have got me there . Well, there is no point in beating around the bush now, so let me be frank:
The knight in your group, I think his name was Raymundo, did trespass into the restricted area, right?”
Although this was an unofficial meeting, the question from the elderly noble was sharply straight-forward, so General Martín obfuscated the wry smile on his bear-like face and nodded once .
“Yeah . Cris does not seem to have pressed him enough, so we do not have a confession from the man himself, but given the circumstances, there can be no doubt he did it . ”
This honest concession could be made, precisely because it was an unofficial meeting . One that practically had never taken place, so to speak .
Marquis Guzzle was neither surprised, nor angered by his answer; He simply accepted it with a nonchalant tone .
“I thought so . Well, Nilda is not one to lie about such things . And it is almost laughable to call it a mistake, when there are three witnesses . ”
“I wish Miss Nilda would have been a bit more tactful, though . My knight certainly started things, but she seemed to have pressed him direct and straight-forward .
Even I would have been left with no other choices but to either apologize wholeheartedly or feign ignorance in face of such a cornering question . ”
General Martín pulled a slightly wry face after these words .
“I have to bear the blame for that instead of my daughter . My teachings were poorly . Forgive me . I am sure you already noticed it, but she is not the child of my legal wife and was raised in a rural village until she was nine . ”
“Oh, she seems to have a good head on her shoulders for all that, though . I take back my earlier words . You do have a good hand at raising your children . ”
“No need to take it back . It is all thanks to Lucinda that Nilda has grown into what she is now . But it is my responsibility that she is still lacking education . ”
Marquis Guzzle shook his head with these words .
The fact that he easily admitted that spoke for his integrity, but also for his flaws as nobility .
He unintentionally had given General Martín a valuable piece of information: Marquis Guzzle was holding his daughter Lucinda in extremely high esteem .
“I see . You must be very proud of your eldest daughter . ”
Nodding with a composed look, General Martín innerly renewed his wariness towards General Puyol .
“Well, enough of that . We were talking about Miss Nilda and Knight Raymundo .
Under normal circumstances, this issue could have ended with a verbal warning and apology, but Knight Captain Cris and Sir Xavier have clashed head-on, so it can no longer be resolved that easily . ”
“We are meeting here to keep the consequences as little as possible . ”
When Marquis Guzzle said declaratory, General Martín showed a somewhat sly smile and replied provocative .
“Well, yes, but we two are already on the same page here . A further escalation is basically off the table . Considering that, I kind of want to squeeze a profit from it now .
So here is my proposal: How about we decide on some key conditions amongst us and let the youngsters give it a try until they contradict these? I dare to say it would be a valuable experience for Sir Xavier, too . ”
“Hmm… You do have a point… But I am not fond of lying to my son like that . Then again, it is an effective way… Hmm . ”
The suggestion from General Martín prompted Marquis Guzzle to frown uncomfortably, but he gave it some thought anyway .
His proposal was not all that difficult to understand .
He was basically saying: “Why don’t we use this opportunity to let our youngsters gain some experience while we clear up matters?”
In fact, the current situation was predestinated for it .
The two youngsters had completely different opinions and were clashing with each other in negotiations, but behind their backs, their superiors aka . Marquis Guzzle and General Martín had reached an agreement on not letting the matter escalate any further .
To be honest, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance .
Because Knight Captain Cris and Xavier could experience a genuine negotiation concomitant with all its pressure while their superiors could always step in when it looked like either side was about to screw up .
In short: It was the perfect opportunity to let the two youngsters, who were not used to dealing with foreigners, gain experience in a riskless environment .
Both of them would surely be offended, when they learned that their superiors had actually watched out for them all the time while they presumably negotiated in all seriousness, but that was also part of their “training” .
“What do you say, Marquis Guzzle? Care to give it a try?”
Although he did understand its merits, Marquis Guzzle was still hesitating, simply because that method went against his preferences .
As a truthful soldier, he never hesitated in the slightest to deceive his enemy, but he could not bring himself to cheat his allies or family that easily .
Nevertheless, Marquis Guzzle had also told his soldiers before that reinforcements were coming, even though that was not the case, to keep up the morale . And sometimes he had exaggerated the strength of the enemy force for a battle they were expected to win with ease, to keep them on guard .
Lies could be an expedient, too . Marquis Guzzle was not so obstinate that he would not understand that, so after a moment of careful deliberation, the elderly feudal lord nodded with a grim look .
“Oh well . Let us do it . Its merit is certainly beyond doubt . But are you fine with that? Knight Captain Cris does not know that the false testimony from your knight is the cause of all this, does he? If worst comes to worst, he might lose his position . ”
“Such is life . ”
When Marquis Guzzle remarked considerately, General Martín brushed it aside flatly .
“He cannot expect any mercy, if he rashly throws a fit . ”
“I know . I will deal with him in that case . What about the opposite then?
It is quite possible that my Cris will pull through and have your side admit that it was a mistake, too . ”
“The official announcement aside, I want you to scold your knight and knight captain in private then . I will keep my son in check myself . It might not be pleasant, but I know that an ‘unreasonable defeat’ in a negotiation can be a valuable experience later on .
But emotions are a different matter altogether . I cannot stop my son and daughter from harbouring reservation towards you . Is that alright?”
Marquis Guzzle asked just in case, whereupon General Martín pondered for a while and then assented .
“Hmm, in that case, I personally shall apologize to Sir Xavier and Miss Nilda in private . ”
He certainly wanted to avoid having the successor of a neighbouring domain harbour any ill feelings towards him .
On this view, it would be more convenient for him, when Knight Captain Cris actually lost the case this time round .
In case of his loss, General Martín could let him experience the ”aftermath of a defeat” and have no bad blood with the Carpa Kingdom .
On the other hand, a victory would only earn him the achievement of having enforced the lie of the knight, but at the cost of giving the successor of the neighbouring March a bad impression of himself .
Well, it would an extremely valuable experience for a different meaning, when the knight turned a lie into the truth through negotiations, so a victory would not be a bad deal per se, but a loss would still be a lot more advantageous in comparison .
Anyway, everything seemed to settle without a problem at a glance, but Zenjirou would surely turn pale in the face and raise a scream, if he could have listened to this conversation .
Either the lie from Knight Raymundo was exposed and Knight Captain Cris had to apologize .
Or the lie was approved and General Martín unofficially apologized to Xavier and Nilda .
The peaceful conclusion of both cases was build on the assumption that “Nilda was nobility” .
If it then became known at a later date that Nilda Guzzle was no official noble, it would turn into a real mess .
But without the knowledge of that fundamental requirement, the conclusion from the two men was extremely reasonable and realistic .
“Good . It was a fruitful discussion . I definitely have to thank Lady Guillén for it . ”
“Yes . No matter how it ends, we have avoided the worst scenario with this . ”
Oblivious to the fragile first piece in their line of reasoning, General Martín and Marquis Guzzle exchanged these nonchalant words and laughed together .