The Carpa Kingdom was a large country reigning supreme over the western part of the South Continent, also known as the Landlion Continent.
Due to the conditions regarding location, goods in the western part of the kingdom were mainly circulated “by sea” and in the eastern part “by land”.
Of course that was nothing but a rough partition and the western part had plenty of land routes as well. Likewise, the eastern part transported goods by sea, namely across rivers, too.
Generally speaking however, more money and effort had been invested into the land routes in the eastern part of the kingdom in comparison to the ones in the western part.
Amongst the various countries on the southern continent, the Carpa Kingdom enjoyed a good reputation for their well-maintained routes in its eastern region. And an impressive convey with a large dragon carriage, drawn by eight dragons, at its centre, was slowly proceeding on such a route.
The two young royalties from the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell, Prince Francesco and Princess Bona, were guarded by three hundred soldiers from the royal army of the Twin Kingdom. Right now they were temporarily resting on the grassland beside the road.
It was easy to understand that they chose this place intentionally for a break, seeing as a river was careering along not far away.
Although it was a bit of a detour, they had to move from watering place to watering place. Otherwise they wouldn’t have enough drinking water for the travellers and dragons. For that reason, roads remote from villages were deliberately zigzagged, so that they were bordering upon water sources on the way.
The Raptorial Dragons pulling the carriage were currently untied from it and greedily drinking from the river together with the Raptorial Dragons of the knights.
In the meantime, the knights were standing sentinel over their surroundings. The river could house the freshwater Water Dragons, crocodiles or carnivorous fishes. And just as likely was it that wild carnivorous dragons hunted in this area.
Having said that, this region was grassland as far as the eye could see, without any places to hide, and the water in the river was quite clear, too, so it was easy to spot any enemies within it. So the knights on watch, too, were standing there relatively relaxed and petted the necks of the drinking Raptorial Dragons in appreciation for their efforts on the road.
It was a relaxed atmosphere, albeit with a reasonable caution.
Then the door of the large carriage opened and a single silhouette appeared.
“Fuh… Good job, everyone. Oh man, my shoulders are so stiff.”
The young man, getting off the carriage, said that in a tone that was somewhat inappropriate for his status and rolled his shoulders as to underline his words.
“Please forgive the inconveniences, Prince Francesco. We will pause here for a moment to let the dragons drink, so please unwind yourself outside in the meantime.”
“Okay, will do. I’ll leave the schedule up to you, so do as you see fit.”
The young man with blonde hair, green eyes and oldest son of the crown prince of the Sharrow Family, Francesco, replied with a refreshing smile to the middle aged knight that acted as the commander of the guards.
Both, his behaviour and words, were not exactly lacking the dignity of a royalty, but it still got across as somewhat “easy-going”. As a matter of fact, the nearby knights were no more tense than necessary, even in the presence of one of the prominent figures of their country, namely the oldest son of the next king, which definitely was attributed to this very character of Prince Francesco.
His handsome, slender face always showed an amiable smile, so he appeared younger that he actually was.
However, it clearly revealed him as a born royalty how he “naturally” accepted all the nearby knights standing on guard at a distance.
Under to protection of numerous knights, Prince Francesco casually walked around with an extremely laid-back expression and eased his body that had become all stiff from the long ride in the carriage.
Suddenly the voice of a woman came from behind the prince.
When Prince Francesco turned around, he saw a familiar girl and said with a brighter smile.
“Hey, Bona. I see you left the carriage, too. Good call. The western area of the continent is so much hotter, and accordingly sultrier, than the central area, but near the water it’s definitely refreshing. Here, feel the nice breeze.”
“Ah, yes. Thank you for the advice, Prince.”
The young woman, nodding a bit surprised in response to Prince Francesco’s words, was Princess Bona.
Like Prince Francesco, she, too, was a member of the Sharrow Royal Family.
Nevertheless it would stretch a point to group Prince Francesco, a legitimate grandson of the current king, and Princess Bona, a lower rank noblewoman that was only put into the royal family because she atavistically awakened to the ‘Bestowal Magic’, together as the same “royalty”.
In fact, her attitude towards Prince Francesco was closer to that of an aristocrat consulting a royalty rather than that of an equal member of the royal family.
Their difference in authority was represented in all kind of things. For example, the dragon carriage of Prince Francesco was large and drawn by eight dragons, whereas the dragon carriage of Priness Bona was one size smaller and drawn by six dragons.
However, despite the obvious differences, Princess Bona was an unmistakable member of the royal family. In terms of social standing, she was very clearly distinguishable from the escorting knights and much more closer to Prince Francesco.
Therefore it was none other than her role to point out “that” right now.
“Excuse me, Prince Francesco, but did you put on these clothes by yourself?”
Her question implied a meaning obvious to any hearer, but Prince Francesco didn’t seem to notice it at all and answered cheerfully.
“Oh, you noticed. As you know, we have far less waiting maids with us than in the royal palace. I don’t want to bother them all too much, so I usually do what I can on my own.”
The prince declared it so proudly that you practically could hear the nuance: “Quite considerate of me, isn’t it? Go on and praise me.”
Seeing him like that made Princess Bona feel rather guilty for some reason. But she still had to mention it, because she was the only person present that could speak openly with him without causing societal problems.
Princess Bona cleared her throat determined with an affected cough and then
“Prince, you are wearing two different kind of socks.”
she stated the fact as straightforward as possible.
“Eh? Ah, you’re right.”
The surprised Prince Francesco looked at his own feet and saw exactly what Princess Bona had pointed out: He was wearing different socks on each foot, a red sock on the right and a blue sock on the left.
“Ahaha, now that’s really something. Thanks for telling me, Bona. You spared me an embarrassment.”
The prince thanked the young princess with a smile for pointing out his mistake.
“No problem. I may be speaking out of turn, but I suggest you return to your carriage and change your socks.”
While replying like that, Princess Bona internally heaved a sigh of relief.
(Good, he will “listen to reason” from my side after all.)
Some people would feel offended and perceive it as “compromising” when you gave them a correct advise for their own sake. Fortunately for everyone involved, Prince Francesco was not that narrow-minded. However, there was a different problematic issue with the prince.
“Mh? But since I’m wearing one red and blue sock each right now, doesn’t that mean there’s one red and blue sock each left in the carriage as well? So when I go back and change them, wouldn’t I end up with a blue sock on my right foot and a red sock on my left foot?”
(The problem is… he somewhat lacks the “brains to understand” my words.)
Princess Bona couldn’t help feeling a dull pain around her temples when she heard the words of the prince, who was around eight years older than her.
She remembered the words that Prince Francesco’s father, the crown prince, and his grandfather, the current king, entrusted her with at the royal palace.
“Please take care of him.” Not in her wildest dreams, she would have expected these words to literally mean “babysitting”.
Their journey was an official visit abroad, the first one for the Sharrow Family after a couple of dozen decades. Moreover, their destination was the Carpa Kingdom, the leader in the west with whom the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell wanted to avoid a direct confrontation.
So, what was the Sharrow Family thinking for sending her, the lowest of the lowest-ranking within the family, and a prince, who was nearly dead from the neck up, as the important emissaries?
(His Majesty and His Highness the Crown Prince are both sagacious personalities. There has to be some kind of reason for sending Prince Francesco…)
She had hoped to be told about that reason, if possible, but that was nothing but wishful thinking for a royal member at the bottom of the food chain.
If she had known beforehand that it would turn out like that, she would have never competed for this delegation…
(…No, in the end, I still would have competed for it after careful deliberation.)
As she never lied to herself, she came to such a conclusion.
Her fate might have been decided from the moment on, when she saw the diamond rings that Princess Isabelle from the Jilbell Family had brought back with her.
The three embedded diamonds were perfectly uniform in size and shape, and the fine and precise lines engraved in the socket were simply captivating.
The rings were exquisite enough to fascinate someone, who was aiming to be a jeweller.
By nature, those of the Sharrow Family, who were on the low-end in the line of succession, often tried their hand at creating jewellery or armaments in order to stand on one’s own feet as a maker of magic tools. And Princess Bona was no exception. She was already recognized as a full-fledged jeweller at her young age.
(In the end, I could not take part in turning these rings into magic tools, but when I go to the Carpa Kingdom and get close to Her Highness Aura and her husband…)
She had announced her intention to be part of this delegation with that kind of ambition, which was a bit too endearing to be an ulterior motive.
Anyway, now that the current king and crown prince were “counting on” her, she no longer had a choice but to do her best to meet their expectations.
“Prince, there is no need to change both socks. Just switch one of either socks and you will have matching colours on both feet.”
“Ah, right! That’s what they call thinking outside the box, I guess. Not bad, Bona. You’ve a flexible way of thinking.”
“…You honour me.”
The young princess fought the dull pain in her head while she already started to regret her own decision.
* * *
A few days later.
Aura was looking through various documents in her office in the royal palace when a message from the fortress on the eastern border reached her per small flying dragon just as the sun had started to set.
“…I see. They have finally arrived.”
‘Delegation from the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell arrived at the eastern border station. The emissaries are Prince Francesco and Princess Bona.
Scheduled to proceed after a few days of rest at the fortress. One thousand knights from the fortress will accompany them as an escort.’
Once she had read the written message briefly, she heaved a sigh.
Their visit had been known to her for a while now and she admitted that it wasn’t all bad news. However, Aura could anticipate the troubles that came along with important matters, thus the sigh.
Even so, she couldn’t just leave it at a sigh as a ruler of a country.
“Fabio. How are the preparations for their reception going?”
Sitting on her chair and keeping her gaze on the documents on her desk, Aura called out to her secretary, who stood at an angle behind her.
“Yes, it is going smoothly. We have made three buildings available in the southern wing of the royal palace and the personnel has been assembled according to your instructions as well.”
The middle-aged man with the slender face, Secretary Fabio, replied with a flat tone as always.
“Three? Will that be enough? We are talking about two royalties of a major power here.”
Aura, raising an eyebrow, turned only her head backwards, whereupon her secretary responded indifferently.
“Yes. They seem to have less attendants with them than we anticipated at first, so I believe it will suffice. You can only get to the first and second building through the third building, so when we place His Highness Prince Francesco in the first building, Her Highness Princess Bona in the second building and the escorting knights in the third building, they should have not much to complain about from their end, either.”
Deeming it necessary to verify things in detail, Aura beckoned him to come closer and posed her question.
“What about their arms? As knights from the Twin Kingdom and moreover, under the direct control of the Sharrow Royal Family, it is more than likely than everyone is equipped with ‘magic tools’ fit for action.”
“I definitely agree with that. We certainly cannot allow the unrestrained possessions of combat-ready magic tools within the royal palace. However, they have to protect two royalty with a limited number of people. I doubt they will hand over their magic tools even when we ask them to.”
“I will appoint ‘extraterritorial rights’ to the three buildings given to the delegation and permit all armaments there. And they may only leave with protective magic tools after ascertaining their abilities and getting our permission.”
In reaction to Aura’s proposal, her secretary noted reaffirming.
“Does that mean that average armaments, namely non magic tools, will be allowed in the royal palace without limitations?”
“Not without any limitations at all, but we will have to compromise to some degree.”
“I can already see our nobles protesting, though.”
“What do you expect me to do? It is not like I can tell them to guard the direct royalty without weapons.”
Answering him, Aura once again heaved a deep sigh.
Even if under limitations, armed foreigners would be let into the royal palace. It definitely wasn’t a welcomed situation, but they couldn’t simply turn them down either, considering the future.
In the near future, Zenjirou wanted to go to the royal palace of the Twin Kingdom after learning how to use “Teleport”. If they forcefully disarmed the guards of Prince Francesco and Princess Bona now, the odds were that they would demand the same of Zenjirou’s guards when he went over there.
Nevertheless, the delegation was coming over “uninvited” for their own convenience, so the Carpa Kingdom would lose its face when they conceded everything to them.
Aura crossed her legs under her long, red dress with a side slit and pondered. As her secretary had been serving her for years, he seemed to read her thoughts from her face
“In that case, how about we charge them a fee for every weapon or magic item they bring in? If the matter can be solved with money, I am sure they will not refuse either.”
and suggested this.
But the Queen knitted her brows deeper upon his proposal and shook her head,
“To be honest, that sounds appealing, but no. I do not want to establish the precedent of bringing weapons into the royal palace in exchange for money.”
“Then how about having them arrange some kind of ‘magic tool’ instead? That is a compensation only the royalty of the Twin Kingdom can pay, so it will hardly become an exploitable ‘precedent’.”
“…That works, I guess. Then I have to consider what kind of magic tool I will request.”
“I am sure you know this already, but the resulting aftermath of a Space-Time magic tool is just as tremendous as its benefit.”
Turning the “Space-Time Magic”, which originally could only be used by the royal family of the Carpa Kingdom, into a magic tool meant that even people outside the royal family could use that magic. At the present time, Aura was the only practitioner of the Space-Time magic, so a magic tool with her magic would be a huge advantage to the Carpa Kingdom, but giving the magic a shape in form of a magic tool also meant that it could fall into the hands of other countries in the future.
“‘Teleport’ is out of the question, but even for other Space-Time magic it would be safer to make them into ‘disposable’ magic tools, if anything…”
At some point, Aura had started to count the chicken before they are hatched and when she noticed what she was doing, she cleared her throat with a cough and got back on topic.
“Well, in any case, working out the fine details will have to wait until they arrive here. Enough about quarters and armaments for now. You have enough personnel, I take it?”
Her topic change came out of nowhere, but her secretary was used to it, so he replied without any hesitation at all.
“Yes. Per your instructions, we have enlisted especially the young waiting maids from lower noble or wealthy common families, who have adequate looks and skills so as not to embarrass us in front of the foreign royalty.”
They had picked women of relatively low status out of consideration for the Twin Kingdom. Both, Prince Francesco and Princess Bona, would only bring a bare minimum of attendants with them from the Twin Kingdom.
The attendants provided by the Carpa Kingdom were just temporary staff. Now, if they were way older or of higher status than the waiting maids from the Twin Kingdom, it would complicate the command structure.
“Good. But it will not affect their departments when we withdraw them, will it?”
“Rest assured. The royal palace has a certain surplus of staff to begin with and we can always ‘temporarily reinstate’ some retired maids if necessary.”
After hearing his full explanation, Aura nodded briefly.
The preparations for the reception seemed to be going well. Once the two royalty arrived, it might very well be possible to encounter some unforeseen shortcomings, but elaborating further than this was the job of the people in the field, and not something the Queen of a country should directly involve herself with.
As the Queen was pleased by his answer, the secretary now asked her a question himself.
“Well then, what about Zenjirou-sama in the Inner Palace? He would at least have to attend the welcome party.”
Right now, Zenjirou was still learning etiquette in the inner palace.
In the past year, he had acquired the manner of speaking for conversing with the native nobles to some extent, but teaching the etiquette for dealing with someone of nearly equal status, namely foreign royalty, had been postponed. Of course he had started to study the social intercourse between royalty as soon as the diplomat of the Twin Kingdom had informally notified them about the visit from the Sharrow Royalty, but it was far from perfect yet.
Aura felt a sting of guilt in her chest when she thought about how she had to throw her husband onto the stage with superficial knowledge, and responded with an odd flat tone.
“Lady Octavia assured me that he has learned enough to get through it in one piece as long as nothing ’unexpected’ happens.”
As expected, the middle-aged secretary twisted the mouth a bit when he heard the vague answer from Aura.
“Oho, as long as nothing ‘unexpected’ happens, you say?”
“…Leave it be, Fabio.”
She reprimanded him, but her words kind of lacked strength again. Well, it was only natural.
The Sharrow Royal Family had broken a decades-long taciturnity and was visiting a foreign country.
Conceivable goals were Zenjirou’s glass marbles and his blood line.
Moreover, the visiting royalty were a prince obviously fraught with problems, since he still hadn’t a claim on the throne after more than twenty years even though he was the legitimate grandson of the current king with a perfect lineage, and a young princess at just the right age for marriage.
Taking all these factors into account, Aura herself believed not one bit that “nothing unexpected” would happen.