Chapter 03: The Queen’s Pregnancy
Zenjirou stretched his whole body to the limit, easing its stiffness, amidst the morning sun shining through the open windows after he had changed from the pyjamas into a T-shirt and trousers for the first time in eight days.
The morning sun was still touched with red and the refreshing breeze, blowing in from the window, gently brushed over his body.
“Hah…The common saying ‘health is the greatest good’ sure proves to be true.”
Bathed in the morning sun, Zenjirou craned his neck and muttered emotional.
He had been sick in bed from the “Blessing of the Forest” for seven days. The physician had diagnosed his full recovery yesterday. As the exanimation had been late in the day, he had only taken a bath, a real one for the first time in seven days, last night and then went to sleep prudently.
Due to that, Zenjirou himself felt that he was “fit and well from today on”.
“Come to think of, today’s temperature… Oh, just around twenty degrees. It’s gone down quite a bit. No wonder it’s so refreshing.”
Looking at the thermometer on the wall, he checked the scale with the red fluid and raised a slightly surprised voice.
Although it was always chillier at dawn, it certainly was more comfortable when the temperatures dropped down to twenty degrees.
At this rate, it might be acceptable to spend the whole day without using ice or the fan today.
It was necessary after all that he got used to the climate of this country and it was easier done when the highest temperature stopped at around thirty degrees, since he couldn’t stand the days, where the temperature surpassed his body temperature.
“I can’t tell how long the fan or refrigerator will last after all.”
He didn’t want to call it to mind, but the lifespan of the electrical appliances was way shorter than a human’s. Since he had no replacements, the day, where he had to part with the electrical appliances, drew unavoidably closer.
And even before the appliances stopped working, it was quite likely that he would have to leave the inner palace again, like during the previous banquet, and expose himself to the scorching heat of the Carpa Kingdom. Or alternatively, he would have to hide the electrical appliances when a guest visited him like during the sick bed visit from Princess Isabelle.
In view of the future, it would be by no means pointless to get himself accustomed to the climate here while he still had the electrical leeway.
“Aw, I feel so weak. Though that’s only natural. Maybe I’ll do some toning or ball juggling exercises.
I think I brought an air pump and my old soccer ball along.”
Zenjirou mumbled to himself as he touched his body over his T-shirt and trousers.
It wasn’t unusual that the body started to weaken beyond a mere weariness when you stayed in bed for a whole week.
It would be dangerous in various ways to return to his shut-in lifestyle like this. Zenjirou could pass up on having a constitution, where he was out of breath just from getting up or walking around, at his young age, so he felt the need to impose some training on himself.
“It should be fine if I just get out into the garden, where the generator is located. I really need to move around for a bit.”
After fishing the white-black soccer ball out of the corner of the room, Zenjirou let it bounce on the carpet to check if it had enough air and said that.
So far, he had carelessly enjoyed his shut-in lifestyle to the fullest, albeit thinking “my body’s withering away”, but now that he had fallen sick once, he fully realized how important it was to preserve his physical strength.
The physical fitness could make the difference between life or death. It was worth falling sick just to realize that.
“Whoops. It’s a bit dangerous to juggle the ball here.”
After juggling the ball a few times with the instep of his left foot, Zenjirou caught a slightly missed kick in his hands and stopped the juggling for now, looking around the room.
This room, used as a living room by him, was “ridiculous large” compared to the common standard in Japan, but the power cords from all the electrical appliances stretched through the room in all directions, starting from the control unit of the generator standing near the wall, as if they were owning the place.
He had set them along the walls as much as possible as not to trip over them, but considering the position of the appliances and the length of the cables, some of them had to cross straight through the room here and there.
It would be a disaster if he were to get entangled in them by mischance.
“The best bet would be to convert an empty room into an exercise room. Many of them are unused anyway.”
Just in the moment he muttered that,
“Excuse me, Zenjirou-sama. I am here with your requested goods.”
the entrance door was knocked and then a voice could be heard, to which Zenjirou replied at once.
“Yes, I’m coming.”
Answering like that, he put the soccer ball under his arm on the couch and headed for the door.
Opening the door was the job of the waiting maid, but Zenjirou suspected that her hands were occupied from her words “with your requested goods”, so he opened the door from his end.
And like he had expected, the waiting maid with unusual blonde hair for the Carpa Kingdom, held a wooden plate with both her hands, her back straightened up.
“The kitchen staff has made it according to your instructions.”
Saying so, the waiting maid served him thinly sliced bananas fried in oil. Sea salt was sprinkled over them as the only seasoning.
The snack called “banana chips” was known in modern Japan, too, but he had them made these as a replacement for potato chips.
The mashed banana dish he had eaten when he was sick, was close to potatoes in taste, so he had arranged that the cooking plantain were prepared just like potato chips as an experiment.
“Oh, let me try one.”
Zenjirou took one banana chip from the plate the waiting maid presented him, and threw it into his mouth. Then he masticated the still warm chip with a crunching sound.
The plain taste of salt and high-class vegetable oil spread in his mouth. As the fundamental intergradient was different, it was hardly anything like the original potato chips, but the taste was good enough for a substitute.
“How is it, Zenjirou-sama?”
“Yes, good. But they’re a tad too thick. I wish you would cut them a bit more thinner next time.”
“Very well. I will pass it on accordingly.”
Zenjirou took the wooden plate from the waiting maid as she lowered her head curtly, and closed the door with these words.
Back in the room, Zenjirou put the plate on the low table and sat down on the couch.
“Hmm, they’re a bit hard, but a good alternative to potato chips. They aren’t sweet like a banana dessert either.”
The taste was more nostalgic than delicious.
It had been a few month since Zenjirou came into this world. He considered it to be too early to miss Japan yet, but it was an undeniable fact that he had recalled the Japanese food numerous times when he was sick in bed until yesterday.
Zenjirou didn’t fancy himself as a person that made a fuss over food and in fact, he hadn’t anything to complain about regarding the food in this world so far. However, he had realized during his illness that it was a different matter altogether when he was weakened in mind and body.
He didn’t intend to be wilful or self-indulgent, but it might not be all that bad to reproduce the Japanese cuisine here within the limits of feasibility by asking the kitchen staff of the inner palace (speaking of, Aura had told him “Do as you please” with a beaming smile in response to it).
Zenjirou had more or less stopped eating snacks once he became a working adult, but now that he had tasted the “deliciousness” of pseudo-potato chips, he could no longer ignore a nostalgia due to his palate.
“I’m glad that sugar is nothing unusual in this country. Maybe I’ll experiment a bit on the sweet front? Ah, but while eggs are viable, I think it’s nearly impossible to get any milk products. So it must be sweets without milk or butter… Hmm, did I bring any recipes like that?”
The livestock in the Carpa Kingdom, whose climate was close to the tropical forest, was generally “dragons”— meaning reptiles. Needless to say, reptiles didn’t produce milk. And although they did lay eggs, the eggs of reptiles were rather different from the eggs of birds.
That said, it wasn’t fundamentally impossible to raise mammals here, since he knew that even countries with strict environments in Indian or Equatorial Africa, sharing the same heat as the Carpa Kingdom, managed to raise cows or pigs without problems.
For instance, some places like the palace managed to raise a bird that resembled a chicken as a livestock.
The reason that mammals generally weren’t raised as livestock on the South Continent was more due to the ecosystem on the continent and cultural customs up to this point rather than the problematic climate.
“If I could somehow obtain some milk, I could make them build a manual centrifuge and try to make some butter or fresh cream. Ah, but, I didn’t bring a microwave oven, so it would be difficult to make sweets myself, even if I’ve the ingredients.”
Although he had lived by himself for seven years during his university and salaryman days, his cooking skills didn’t amount to much.
His cooking repertoire only consisted of “curry”, “stew”, “hashed meat with rice” or simple fried stuff from a single fry-pan like fried rice with vegetables.
To begin with, it wouldn’t be all too admirable when Zenjirou, a royalty, stood in the kitchen. Considering the waiting maids’ responsibilities, it was better to assume that the option of “cooking by himself” didn’t exist.
“In that case, I can only teach the recipe to the kitchen staff once I thought of a feasible dish after taking a look at the available ingredients.”
Sitting on the couch and picking at the banana chips, Zenjirou muttered that while preparing a DVD to watch as a pastime.
* * *
At night of the same day, Aura and Zenjirou finally had some quality time again in their room of the inner palace after dinner and a bath.
“In short, you want to exercise a bit to keep in shape?”
“Yeah, that’s the gist of it. What do you say? May I turn the courtyard or a room in the inner palace into my practice room?”
Aura and Zenjirou sat intimately snuggled together with their shoulders touching on the same couch and talked.
They discussed Zenjirou’s idea from this morning: “exercise to stay healthy”.
Originally, Zenjirou was the master of the inner palace, so he didn’t need to get the permission from anyone to use a random room of the inner palace for juggling or to dribble in the courtyard, but that he asked Aura for every little thing showed how much he lacked self-awareness as the “master of the inner palace”.
“Mhm, I do not know what kind of exercise this so called soccer is, but if you want to keep yourself in shape, why not try your hand at martial arts? It does not hurt to learn the ‘ten arts’.”
Aura put a banana chip from the wooden plate on the table into her mouth after saying that.
Zenjirou repeated the unfamiliar term like a parrot, whereat Aura explained the ten arts to him in detail.
“Right. It refers to the ten martial arts that a soldier is supposed to learn in the Carpa Kingdom: Running, Spearmanship, Archery, Riding on Dragons, Tree Climbing, Swimming, Camping Outside, Stone Throwing, Swordsmanship and Barehanded Fighting.
Nevertheless, only a handful of knights have mastered all of them. Only three of them, namely running, spearmanship and archery are essential. Knights-in-training have to learn riding on dragons on top of that. One or two more of the rest are refined as special skills.”
Zenjirou raised a voice of admiration. Was it similar to the “Eighteen Arms of Wushu” carried over to old Japan? Now in his twenties, he didn’t think he could properly learn one this late in the game, but his interest was piqued. However, he replied after musing for a bit.
“Sounds interesting, but who would teach them to me?”
“Mh? Of course I would select a capable instructor from the royal army for you.”
Aura replied while picking up a banana chip, whereupon Zenjirou showed an expression that seemed to say “figured as much”. Then he shook his head distinctly.
“That won’t be any good. It would be a man, right? That means, I would’ve to leave the inner palace to attend lessons. And that probably complicates matters to no end. Besides, having a ‘master-pupil relationship’, even if it’s limited to martial arts, seems troubling in various ways.”
Zenjirou answered like that while recalling the faces of the club advisers from the soccer clubs in middle and high school.
They had been simple advisers for the clubs, but still deserved to be called “teachers”, so when he ran into them on the streets, he had reflexively stood at attention. And it would surely have an even greater effect on him if it was his instructor for lethal martial arts.
It went without saying that a person would try to approach Zenjirou in some kind of way due to the chance of being his “instructor”.
Being involved with one such troublesome person, namely his magic teacher Octavia, was enough for him.
Aura couldn’t hide her wry smile as she replied to him after swallowing the banana chip.
“Zenjirou, you do not need to be so considerate. You may conduct yourself a bit more as you please. I am prepared to make it happen to a permissible amount.”
Zenjirou scratched his head upon his wife’s answer
“Well, of course I don’t want to cause you any trouble, but if anything, this is more about my own conveniences. Simply put, I’m interested in martial arts, but not so much as to raise trouble for myself.”
and replied with that.
Aura kept silent for a while, then looked into the eyes of her husband sitting next to her.
In the end, she nodded with “fine”, as she realised that Zenjirou was telling the truth.
“Then I will not press you any further. Still, when you say that you want to learn martial arts without being tied to a complicated person and without leaving the inner palace, then shall I teach you when I have time?”
Zenjirou inadvertently widened his eyes towards Aura’s surprising proposal.
As her husband asked back, Aura threw a couple of banana chips at one go into her mouth and replied affirmative while chewing.
“Yes. Although I only have mastered the basic three skills plus riding and swordsmanship.”
Come to think of it, Aura had survived in a world of war. It was nothing unusual to know a military skill or two. Zenjirou said to his wife convinced with sparkling eyes.
“Wow, that’s amazing. Then I’ll take you up on it whenever you’re free.”
“Good, you can count on me.”
Aura nodded satisfied upon his reply and picked up a couple more banana chips from the wooden plate.
The crunching sound of Aura eating the banana chips resounded through the room of the inner palace for a little while longer.
In no time, the heap of banana chips had decreased so much that the bottom of the wooden plate became visible. Incidentally, Zenjirou had only eaten a handful.
When Aura reached out for the plate one more time after she swallowed the chips in her mouth, Zenjirou spoke up as he could no longer stand on the sidelines.
“Hey, my dear wife.”
“Mh? What is it, my dear husband?”
His wife only turned her head towards him while still holding onto the banana chips with her right hand. Zenjirou faltered for a moment, then opened his mouth without hesitation.
“I’m glad you like the sweets from my hometown, but I think you better stop now. It might not look like it, but they use quite a bit of oil. I’m a bit worried about my wife’s health.”
The large plate had been full to the brim with banana chips. Way too much for a little snack and overcharged with calories.
“Mh? Now that you mention it. Guess it was too much.”
Aura finally stopped reaching out for the banana chips upon her husband’s words. Zenjirou stood up from the couch, took a chilled towel form the refrigerator and gave it to Aura.
“Here, wipe the oil from your hands.”
“I guess it’s because you didn‘t finish your dinner? But you shouldn’t fill your stomach with this junk food.”
The extremely unusual rebuke of her husband made Aura shrug her shoulders rightfully as she wiped her hands, sitting on the couch.
“Mhm, I have nothing to say back. But the fish dish tonight was just crude.”
The Carpa Kingdom spanned wide enough to have a coastline, but the capital with the palace was located in the deepest interior of the country. Therefore all fish dishes in the palace were made from river fishes without exception.
Generally, river fishes often tasted cruder than saltwater fishes.
However, Zenjirou tilted his head puzzled upon Aura’s excuse.
“Eh, really? I wouldn’t say that the fish tasted crude in particular today.”
Zenjirou himself had only ever eaten saltwater fishes in Japan, so he disliked river fishes a bit. Wouldn’t he notice it first when the fish tasted noticeable crude, since Aura was used to river fishes instead?
That was what he thought, but the sense of taste or smell were affected by your physical condition after all.
His own senses must have been dulled as he had been ill not long ago. Zenjirou concluded that all by himself and didn’t pursue the matter any further.
“I usually do not like flavourful dishes that do not skimp on oil like fried stuff in the first place. But for some reason, I could not help myself today.”
After Aura diligently wiped the oil from the banana chips off her right hand with the towel, she made an excuse like that, but Zenjirou naturally didn’t buy it.
“No, it’s hardly convincing to say that after you nearly emptied the whole plate.”
Her husband sat down next to her again with these words, whereat Aura pursed her mouth up displeased and made more excuses.
“Well, I agree, but it is the truth. If I have to choose, I would say that I am not fond of flavourful oil dishes. It does not go as far as disgust, but I would never crave for them… Normally, I mean.”
“Yeah, sure, sure. Let’s save the rest for tomorrow, okay.”
Back on the couch, Zenjirou brushed it off by saying that and put a cover over the plate with the banana chips.
Aura wanted to object, but realized that she was currently at a disadvantage, so she changed the topic while refraining from protesting any further.
“Oh, reminds me, I handed over our ‘wedding rings’ to Princess Isabelle to have them made into magic tools. Also, I presented her one of these ‘marbles’, since she estimated them for me. Forgive me for not consulting you as you were sick in bed.”
She made a pretty obvious topic change on a rare occasion, but Zenjirou had no interest in teasing his wife excessively, so he obediently accepted the new topic.
“Ah, no problem. They were only a backup for when the summoning fails anyway. I already told you that I’m leaving the decision about what to do with them to you.”
“Yes, you did. Then I will gladly do so. However, the marbles have gotten a higher price than I expected, so I would like to talk about it with you, since they belong to you.”
Aura assumed a slightly serious expression again and sat back down on the couch, starting to explain swiftly.
“Hmm, fifty gold coins for a single marble, huh.”
After Zenjirou heard out Aura’s whole story, he didn’t quite get the point of it.
“If I remembered correctly, one gold coins is more or less worth a hundred silver coins? But I’ve no clue about the prices in this world, so just saying fifty gold coins doesn’t tell me anything.”
After all, he came from a different world. Moreover, he had never bought anything, nor paid for food, because he had shut himself into the inner palace ever since he came here.
Since he had written the tax yields of every region into his computer, he knew at least the general currencies, but to be honest, it didn’t feel real to him.
“With fifty gold coins, a lower class noble can buy a house that barely allows him to keep face. As the price for a single jewellery, it is exorbitant.”
“A whole house? That’s certainly amazing.”
Zenjirou comprehended a bit of its amazing magnitude from the example.
(In Japanese yen, a whole house would cost several millions. Ah, but the prices for a property or the house itself might not be as high as in modern Japan)
For now, it should suffice when he simply internalized that the price surpassed his own estimate by far. Zenjirou told himself that and brought the matter to end for now.
“A different world means different prices. I anticipated that, but I’m still a bit surprised.”
“That sounds like these so-called marbles had a rather trivial price in your world?”
Zenjirou casually replied to the curious Aura.
“Yeah, it’s cheap stuff. Simply said, they’re toys for children. One is worth ten yen, thirty if it’s an expensive one.
Oh, by ‘yen’ I mean the general currency of my country. The prices here are different, so you can’t covert them one-to-one, but know that a new-build house would cost at least ten million yen at the cheapest.”
Aura swiftly calculated in her head upon his words and said groaning.
“Considering these numbers, it would mean that two marbles could be bought with one silver coin.”
In fact, the calculation would vary every time depending on whether you extrapolated it to labour wages, to the price of staple food like wheat or rice, or to the cost of a single average meal. Therefore, a single silver coin couldn’t be equalled with twenty yen, but it sufficed for a rough calculation.
One marble was originally worth around ten yen, but here it was worth fifty gold coins. That was roughly a million times the value.
“Yeah, so I was certainly a bit surprised. If we were to mass-produce marbles here, I’ll become a billionaire in no time? Ah, no. It’s so valuable, because it’s so rare. If we were to flood the market with them, the price would plummet and all would be in vain.”
Zenjirou kept on talking about ideas and discarding them, but Aura stopped listening to them midway.
The all too shocking word she had heard in the middle of the sentence kind of stopped her train of thought and she grabbed the arm of her husband in that state.
“…Wait a moment. What did you just say? Did you say ‘produce’?”
“Ah, yeah. I did, why…?”
Zenjirou, overwhelmed by his wife, who looked at him with glaring eyes and held his arm, answered like that while bending back.
He was obviously retreating from her, but in her current state, Aura had no leeway to concern herself with that.
She drew closer to him with a serious expression.
“Does that mean it is no mineral? I thought it was mined out of nature like crystals or agate…”
“N- No. Marbles are glass. They’re manmade from compounding stuff like sand and lime.”
“Sand and lime… Do you know how to produce it?”
Even Zenjirou knew what Aura hoped for after asking this much.
He repositioned himself on top of the couch and showed a wry smile, then shook his head.
“Nope. No way. Glass manufacture exists since before the common era, so I guess it wouldn’t be impossible to reproduce it in this world, too, but it requires some specialized knowledge and techniques. It’s not something an amateur like me can learn by imitating.”
Aura burst out in laughter right after hearing his answer.
“…I see. Guess it does not turn out that convenient after all.”
Still holding his right arm with both her hands, Aura hung her head dejected on top of the couch.
Zenjirou felt a needless guilt from seeing his wife completely disappointed and uttered comforting words out of reflex.
“Ah, but one of episodes on the DVDs I brought along should be about trying to make glass. I doubt we’ll be able to copy it from just watching it, but want to take a look anyway?”
Aura’s reaction to his words was once again dramatic.
“Okay, I’ll get it ready.”
Zenjirou gently loosened his wife’s tight grip on his right arm and stood up to get the DVD.
* * *
A couple of minutes later, Zenjirou and Aura faced the television, sitting intimately shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch.
The TV showed a certain show, paused by Zenjirou. The show revolved around a male idol group building a village from scratch and even trying their hand at agriculture. The chosen and played episode dealt with the attempt to make glass.
Next to Aura, who intensely glared at the screen with a serious expression, Zenjirou translated and explained the words of the characters or narrator while temporarily pausing the show numerous times with the remote control.
After all, the “soul of words” didn’t work on words transmitted through a machine. Without his interpretation, Aura couldn’t understand a single word that she heard from the screen.
“Ehm, temperatures over 1300 degree are needed to melt glass. So you first build a furnace out of ‘firebricks’ that can endure such heat.”
“Oho, I see. These so-called ‘firebricks’ alone seem to be quite worthwhile already. Incidentally, how hot is a temperature of 1300 degree?”
“Ehm… I think they said the melting temperature for cast iron was 1200 during the previous episode where they stroke the iron, so it’s a temperature hundred degrees higher than the one for melting the unclean and hard iron.”
“Oh! Even higher than for melting iron? There are no furnaces on the South Continent that can liquefy iron.”
“That means somewhere else there are?”
“Yes, the North Continent is the leading power in regards to iron manufacture. I heard that they have the techniques to melt and mint iron. In our country all iron is forged. We can mint copper and tin at best.”
“Oho, so a technological gap exists in this world, too.”
Aura had tracked the screen with a serious expression, but with Zenjirou’s explanation, her face gradually turned grimmer.
“Wait, what did they say just now?”
“That you won’t get ‘firebricks’ from just kneading normal clay. So they made them by mixing the clay with the grinded powder from broken ‘firebricks’.”
“…Then, how do you make them when you do not have any broken ‘firebricks’?”
The DVD played on with Aura’s mood slightly sour.
She then listened to Zenjirou’s explanation again and raised a sharp voice.
“Wait. What did that mean?”
“Well, quite a high temperature is needed to burn the ‘firebricks’, so they built a special hearth for it.”
“And how did they build that hearth?”
“With ‘firebricks’ that they got from some other place.”
“…Then, where do you burn the firebricks when there is no place to get them from?”
Zenjirou continued his explanation while trembling a bit in fear next to his wife, whose mood became even more sour.
It really was no use to get angry at him like that. This show was nothing but an entertainment program he had recorded and not a genuine manual for manufacturing glass. The technique to make glass wasn’t so simple that it could be learned just from watching this clip. He thought that he had told Aura that beforehand, but it seemed that it didn’t quite reach her.
Her hope for a possible manufacture of glass must have been too high.
Well, he could certainly sympathize with her dissatisfaction.
Even Zenjirou would go nuts for a bit when he was told that the moulds of clay, mixed with grinded “firebricks”, had to slowly burn in a hearth built with “firebricks” in the process of making “firebricks”.
It would be no different than writing “firebricks” into the list of required items in the manual for “making firebricks”. It certainly was a bit unreasonable.
“I mean, the first ‘firebricks’ were made without ‘firebricks’, correct? Do you know of that method?”
Aura showed her full dissatisfaction on a rare occasion, so Zenjirou patted her back with his free hand.
“Calm down, my dear wife.”
“Impossible, my dear husband.”
Seeing as Aura played along with Zenjirou’s jokes, her dissatisfaction must not be from the bottom of her heart.
“So, what now? It won’t be useful anyway, so want to stop here?”
Zenjirou confirmed the time with a side-glance to the clock and suggested that, but Aura mused for a bit, then shook her head.
“…No, we started it, so we might as well finish it. Who knows, there might actually be some kind of finding.”
“I doubt it.”
Zenjirou said it in a small voice like a whisper, so it didn’t seem to reach the Aura’s ears as she sat next to him.
At the time displayed on the clock, he would normally already be getting intimate with her in the bedroom.
As Zenjirou had slept the last seven days all alone due to his sickness, he had looked forward to tonight quite a bit, but he might have to “hold it in” for yet another night.
(Well, what choice do I have? Not like my wife will leave me)
“Then let’s continue, my dear wife.”
“…Okay, my dear husband.”
Zenjirou showed a wry smile in her bind spot, so that she couldn’t see it, and twined the hand he had on the back of his beloved wife around her shoulders, then continued to interpret and explain the show while he pulled her body into an embrace.
* * *
The early afternoon on the next day.
Queen Aura sat in front of the royal physician, Doctor Michelle, and quietly exposed her voluminous chest to a great extent.
“Excuse me, Your Highness. Do you feel anything when I press here?”
“Yes, it feels a bit strained.”
“No, nothing in particular.”
A voluptuous woman exposed her breasts and an older man felt up her body. On a glance, it looked rather lewd, but Aura was way too unashamed for it to be erotic and Doctor Michelle was simply focussed on his job.
Before long, Doctor Michelle finished his exanimation of Aura, nodded once and told her.
“Okay, Your Highness, you may cover up your front now.”
“Good. So, Doctor Michelle, did you discover anything?”
Aura asked that while she retied the shoulder straps of her dress, whereat Doctor Michelle mused for a while with a wrinkle between his greyed eyebrows, then answered her question.
“Your Highness, please let me confirm one last thing. You said that at first your body felt weak like due to a small fever when you woke up, right?
“Indeed. Also, when I stand up from a chair, my vision gets blurry.”
“Have you experienced any change in your senses of smell or taste in the last few days?”
“Yes. The fish tasted rather crude and I excessively ate a flavourful food that I am usually not fond of.”
“And what is more, you feel some strain in your abdomen.”
“Yes, though I was not aware of it until your exanimation.”
“Moreover, your ‘menstruation’ is already two month late.”
“Yes, but my ‘menstruation’ has always been irregular. During the war, it even had been late for half a year once.”
Aura’s eyes, looking at Doctor Michelle, were filled with a certain hope as she answered.
At first, she had suspected that she was under the weather and called for Doctor Michelle, but considering his question, she could more or less guess what he was going to say.
This aged physician considered that the reason for Aura’s qualm.
And thinking about it, it was more than reasonable. It had been a couple of month since Aura shared the bed with Zenjirou. It would be by no means strange for her to show symptoms of a pregnancy.
As the last survivor of the royal family, Aura had the obligation to bear a child to continue her bloodline, but it had been her wish in equal measure, too.
“So, how is it, Doctor Michelle?”
Aura leaned forward on the chair and waited for the old physician’s words.
Doctor Michelle cleared his throat with a cough, then presented his conclusion.
“I cannot be all too sure just yet, but as far as I see it, it is quite likely that you are pregnant. Still, when you are indeed pregnant, please be careful from now on as you are getting into the period with the highest chance of a miscarriage.”
It was difficult to specify a pregnancy in this world without a pregnancy test, unless the stomach stood out. Especially for women like Aura, who had an irregular menstruation.
The aged physician didn’t assert it, but his words had some conviction in them, so Aura showed a bright smile.
“Oho, I see! But to think that the change in my sense of taste sprang from the pregnancy. I had thought for sure that one would crave for fruits during a pregnancy.”
“That is only the most common manifestation. In reality, it varies for each person. In your case, Your Highness, you crave for some flavourful food while others may have a desire for sweet things.
In the worst case, one may even be thirsting for alcohol and the most unmanageable type ‘does not want to eat anything’, combined with the morning sickness that comes later.”
“Then I take it that I should refrain from alcohol during the pregnancy?”
Aura loved alcohol, even without an exceptional appetite, so she inquired while slightly twisting the mouth.
Doctor Michelle distorted his gentle face upon her words and opened his mouth.
“That goes without saying. There are a lot of other things you have to take heed of, too. In the first place, the amount of alcohol you usually imbibe is a bit…”
“Yes, yes. It is for my child, so I will not talk back. Just say the word.”
Aura showed the frowning physician a wry smile and raised both her arms in defeat.
* * *
“Eh, pregnant!? Really?”
At night of the same day, Zenjirou heard the news about his wife’s pregnancy from her and reacted with surprise.
He literally jumped up from the couch, rushed towards Aura, who still stood at the entrance of the room, and inspected her stomach from a short distance.
Still smiling happily, Aura caressed her own stomach with her right hand while slowly heading towards the couch.
“Well, it is not certain yet. Just the probability for it is high. My ‘menstruation’ is rather irregular, so not even Doctor Michelle could make a definite statement. Naturally, I will act with the assumption from now on that there is a child in my stomach, seeing as the probability is high. I believe it will cause you some inconveniences as well, but I ask for your help.”
“O- Of course. Yeah, I’ll do anything I can.”
Zenjirou answered Aura as she sat down on the couch, but like most males in this situation, it still didn’t feel real to him that he would become a father and he moved about in confusion.
Normally he would sit down next to Aura with a nonchalant face, but now he sat down on the opposite couch with a meek expression.
Until yesterday, he had embraced her shoulders and pushed her down on the bed like it was nothing, but suddenly the body of his wife seemed like a fragile object.
Aura smiled a bit upon the obvious agitation her husband showed, but didn’t urge him to sit beside her like usually.
When all is said and done, it was a first experience for Aura, too. Their individual feelings might not be comparable, but she was possibly more nervous than him.
“Well, to be honest, I have no idea what we are supposed to do, so I cannot tell you to do anything at this point.”
“Ah, right, okay. Mhm, a baby, huh.”
He had been prepared. To begin with, the main reason Aura summoned him from a different world to take him as her husband was to “preserve the bloodline”, so it would have been weird instead if he hadn’t been prepared. Still, now that it had come to it, he was stricken with a shock that was difficult to put into words.
It was an overwhelming feeling like the joy and worry weighted on him like a pressure. A tension that made him want to run away, even though there was no way that he wasn’t happy about it.
Zenjirou tightly joined his hands together on his lap and noticed that his fingertips had gone completely cold and stiff from the tension.
He rubbed the palms of his hands together as to warm up his tensed fingertips while he asked a relevant question to disguise his tension.
“But in that case, I guess it would be bad to sleep together from tonight on. Of course we’ll have to postpone the night activities, but before that, I don’t have such a good sleeping posture.”
The bed they usually slept in was ridiculous huge with a size bigger than a one-room mansion in downtown, but they slept in the middle of it while embracing each other.
He had already found his arms or legs on Aura’s body on several occasions when he woke up in the morning. A leg/arm or two on top of her wouldn’t increase the likeliness of a miscarriage so easily, but even if there was only a one percent chance, he ought to avoid it.
Aura had kept smiling the whole time, but on Zenjirou’s argument her face twitched.
The smile vanished form her face and a serious expression took its place. She correct her posture and slowly opened her mouth.
“Right. Doctor Michelle also said it would certainly pose a remote danger to share the bed now that I am under the suspicion of being pregnant.”
Aura’s tone as she said that, showed a slight hint of sounding out her husband’s attitude, but it was just too weak for Zenjirou to notice it as he was currently out of it due to tension and surprise.
“Then we can’t afford to sleep together. Tonight we’ve no other choice but to sleep in separate rooms and tomorrow, we’ll have them add another bed to our bedroom during the day. Then I’ll sleep on that one from tomorrow on.”
The husband proposed a rearrangement of their bedroom, so that he could sleep in the same room as his wife now that it was likely that she was pregnant and they couldn’t copulate anymore.
The suggestion sounded very attractive to the wife, but Aura was a Queen before a wife, so she couldn’t agree to it right away.
“Are you really fine with that?”
She asked him while keeping her serious expression.
Zenjirou couldn’t comprehend the meaning behind her question and made a dumbfounded utterance.
Aura observed the face of her husband, which was bathed in the white light of the LED floor lamps, with sharp attention to see through any lie and asked with more direct words this time.
“When you still let me into the bedroom while I am pregnant, it would mean that you cannot invite ‘other women’ into the bedroom, you know?”
Even Zenjirou’s brain, which wasn’t fully working right now, could understand such clear words.
In short, Aura implied the possibility that Zenjirou would lay hands on other women while she was pregnant.
(Oh, right. I’m technically royalty, so it normally wouldn’t be strange for me to have other wives besides Aura, I guess)
He had learned in the last few months that very few males amongst royalty have had only one wife.
So far, no one had disturbed their happy married life, since the absolute duty to have a “legitimate heir of royal blood” with Aura was pending, but when the crucial factor, namely Aura, was already pregnant and he couldn’t sleep with her anymore, then other women would definitely make a move— or more precisely, influential nobles would send out women.
Zenjirou, realising his own situation, openly frowned, then replied with a tone that sounded like he would click his tongue any moment.
“I’m not such a good-for-nothing that I would run off to another woman as soon as my own wife is pregnant with my child. Actually, I don’t think I’ll have the time to think about anything but you and the child until you’ve safely given birth.”
His statement was slightly exaggerated, but true to eighty percent. Right now might be one thing, but it certainly was going too far to say that he would worry about Aura’s well-being the whole long time until she gave birth, but in the unlikely event that he accepted a concubine, Aura’s face would definitely pop up in his head if he were to share the bed with the concubine.
At this point, this was nothing but a speculation, but one he would vouch for.
His words sounded a bit like a passionate confession of love, so Aura stopped her cheeks from blushing with her willpower and replied while still keeping a serious expression.
“However, the problem at hand is that the important nobles will definitely make a move as soon as my pregnancy is confirmed and announced publicly. It is more reasonable for them to do so than for you to refuse in this case.”
“Well, I guess… but Aura, you told me to be a bit more selfish, right? Will you accept it as my selfishness when I say that ‘I don’t want that’?”
Her husband had always considered her standpoint and never been selfish to an extent, where it was irritating, but he named his first selfishness now. Aura would’ve never anticipated that it would be in regards to “denying a concubine”.
She felt a joy that heated up her body to the bone and didn’t even hide her surprise.
“To think you would go so far. Are you that against it?”
Zenjirou sat down on the black leather couch again, then looked straight into Aura’s eyes and nodded.
“Yes. If I had to choose between like and dislike, I would say dislike. And If I had to choose between like, dislike or neither, I would still say dislike.
Well, I’m aware that I’ve to fulfil my role as royalty once I married you, so I’ll do my best to somehow accept one if it puts you or the country at a disadvantage when I refuse, but… to be honest, I’m not confident that I can pull it off.”
“Mhm, I never knew you were this upright.”
Zenjirou showed a wry smile on Aura’s evaluation and denied it with a wave of his hand in front of his face.
“Nah, it got nothing to do with being upright. For example, I once had a girlfriend for roughly a year. If you had summoned me for marriage during that time, I would’ve probably dumped her for you without a second thought.
I might have even resorted to adultery if it were possible to freely move between our worlds. So I’m not really upright. Just like I said before, it’s just my selfishness.
I would just hate it when the long-awaited relationship with my lovely wife turns awkward because an outsider makes a woman I don’t love barge in between.”
“Hardly probable that it will become awkward. I certainly will not be pleased when you sleep with another woman, but I know my place as royalty enough as not to express it.”
Aura unexpectedly objected like that, whereat Zenjirou replied with a sullen face.
“It would be awkward for me. I’m not so impudent as to have an affair at night and ask my pregnant wife ‘how’s our child?’ during the day.”
Aura was at a loss for words.
His strong opposition was beyond her expectation. Or rather, she didn’t expect him to oppose the idea to begin with. Rejecting a concubine under normal circumstances was already arguable, but to do the same while the legal wife was pregnant made you quite an oddball amongst direct royalty.
(Oh… Before I knew it, I expected my husband, a commoner from a different world, to have the same values as nobles in our world)
As that thought crossed her mind, Aura realized once again now that her husband was not from a typical lineage.
In a way, she had been “spoilt“ by him.
She had unconsciously reckoned that her husband comprehends her position and accepts her suggestions without needing any detailed explanations or persuasions, so she couldn’t deny it if she were to be called “spoilt”.
(Not good. I told him to be more selfish, but in my mind, I took it for “granted” that he would not be selfish…)
Aura closed her eyes in self-reflection and made a small sigh.
It came in an unexpected way, but her husband mentioned his first selfishness. She wanted to comply with it, if possible. Moreover, it concerned the “refusal of a concubine”, so naturally, Aura gladly wanted to grant that “selfishness” on an emotional level, too.
However, what did reality look like? Was pushing aside a concubine here still considered a permitted selfishness, rationally considering the current relationship between the royal family and the important nobility?
In the worst case, it would be misunderstood as Aura’s selfishness instead of Zenjirou’s.
And the likeliness of that was rather high. In view of their respective positions, it was more natural that Aura was the one rejecting the concubine.
The criticism wouldn’t be fatal, if others were come to the wrong conclusion that Aura ignored her husband’s will and rejected the concubine, but quite painful nevertheless.
Before long, Aura opened her eyes and declared with a calm tone.
“Fine. I will try my best to have it settled in accordance with your will. I promise you. However, I am the Queen. Although it is a familial promise, I will have to break it if brings about a large disadvantage to my country that I cannot ignore.
Be prepared for that… and forgive me.”
Aura lowered her head a bit with a serious face, whereupon Zenjirou showed her his usual gentle smile for the first time today.
“…I get it. You don’t have to take it so serious. I’m well aware of my own position. And you know, it might affect the child if you’re feeling down.”
Aura raised her head as he spoke and relaxed her expression on his words.
“Yes, you are right. Well then, we are pressed for time, so shall we call it a day now?”
Saying so, she stood up from the couch.
Zenjirou tilted his head puzzled for a moment, but then realized right away what Aura was getting at. They had decided not to sleep in the same bed. As it was too late now to prepare another bed in the bedroom, there was no other way but to sleep in a different room than Aura tonight.
The words “one more night in the same bed wouldn’t hurt” were on the tip of his tongue, but Zenjirou forcibly swallowed them down and stood up.
Zenjirou was given only one great responsibility, namely to let Aura bear a healthy child. By no means could he afford to spoil that of all things.
“Okay. Be careful. Try to keep your stomach warm.”
“I know. Doctor Michelle gave me a long speech already, too. No alcohol, no long baths, never bathing alone and watching out for my sleeping posture. If it turns out that I am not pregnant after all these restrictions, I will not able to stand for a while because I feel so drained.”
“Ahaha. It just shows how important you and that baby are.”
While exchanging words like that, Aura moved to in front of the exit of the room, being seen off by Zenjirou.
The six LED floor lamps were placed around the main living area, namely the center of the room, so the space, where she was standing, was gloomy.
Amidst this gloominess, Aura faced her husband one more time before grabbing the door knob and twined her arms around his neck.
“Yeah, good night.”
Zenjirou accepted the embrace without protest and put his hands on his wife’s back and waist, then pulled her voluptuous brown body closer and kissed her lightly.
“Mm… Mmm… Good night.”
After they exchange a kiss and an embrace to feel each other’s warmth, Aura left the room with a regretful smile.
* * *
After wishing her husband a good night, the Queen headed not to a different bedroom, but to a room in the palace.
“Welcome back, Your Highness. How did it go?”
The middle-aged man with a slender face, standing in the dark room, asked and bowed respectfully.
“So dark here. Make some more light.”
Aura said with a casual tone, then lowered her bottom onto the chair made of vines as energetic as always, but stopped midday as she suddenly came to a realisation and sat down with care.
“Yes, please give me a moment.”
Secretary Fabio used the fire of an oil pan to lit the candles on the candle stands while Aura leaned back and started to talk with her eyes still upturned.
“For now, I told my husband about my possible pregnancy and the implicated matter of a concubine later on. But he mentioned an unexpected ‘selfishness’.”
“Oho? How rare. What did he say?”
“Well, it is nothing complicated. To get to the point, my husband does not want to take a concubine if possible. His reason is…”
Aura then let her secretary, who warily narrowed his eyes to slits, in on the earlier conversation with her husband with a carefree tone.
“I see now. In other words, he would rather share the bedroom with Your Highness, whom he cannot sleep with, than to sleep with a concubine. Oh my, you sure are loved, Your Highness.”
After her secretary had heard the story from beginning to end, he directed slightly teasing words at his master.
“Yes. Thanks to that, I am blessed with the happiest married life ever. Still, for that very reason, I have to reflect on myself now. It appears that I took my ‘sympathetic husband’ for far too granted.”
“Certainly. I should never have imagined it possible that Zenjirou-sama’s ‘selfishness’ would take such a shape. In fact, I, too, have started to become accustomed to his understanding personality.”
The secretary assumed a poker face and assented to Aura’s words with a small nod.
“But to think a man would love you so much that he unquestioningly sees a concubine only as a hindrance.”
“Fabio, if you have something to say, say it outright.”
Then Queen glared up to him from her chair with half-opened eyes, whereat her secretary shrugged his shoulders curtly while still standing attention, and answered.
“No, I was just thinking ‘every man to his taste’, but without any malice.”
“…That could hardly be any worse. You are definitely being rude there, Fabio.”
“Oh? Then do you consider yourself to be the right stuff that men love?”
Aura showed a fierce expression of anger to her secretary’s affected question, but had troubles to object.
The Carpa Kingdom was a patriarchic society that strongly tended to androcentrism, so a pushy woman like Aura wasn’t all that liked, no matter how beautiful and well-proportioned.
Aura herself was aware of that. Of course she wasn’t dissatisfied with her appearance or character, but when she compared herself to an ideal “woman loved by men” like Lady Octavia, she started to have some doubts.
Aura sensed that she was at a disadvantage, so she cleared her throat with a cough and got back on topic.
“Well, anyway, this incident was a real eye-opener to me because it seems that I have overvalued my husband a bit, too.
As he has said himself, he is of common birth. His knowledge and perception allow him to understand the values and lifestyle of royalty and nobility. Furthermore, he possess a reasoning and tolerance that lets him adapt to these values. Due to that, I unconsciously ended up misunderstanding him, but the values rooted in his personality greatly differ from ours.”
“So it seems. Though royalty and nobility, respectively have to accept something like a concubine as ‘ordinary’.”
To begin with, perceiving the fact that a direct royalty took a concubine, as an “affair” was fundamentally out of place. A concubine was a respectable secondary “wife”. Nobody in his senses would call the relationship with his wife an affair.
“It would be pretentious to expect that from my husband. He is already so very sympathetic and fully understands my position. We never expected a husband that would wholly conduct himself according to our wishes from the beginning, did we?”
Her secretary complied with her.
“Indeed. However, the refusal of a concubine will not come across as a selfishness from Zenjirou-sama at this point. It will be understood as your selfishness, saying that the Queen keeps other women away from Zenjirou-sama out of jealousy at best.”
“I… know that.”
Secretary Fabio had struck a nerve, so Aura pressed onto her temples with the thumb and middle finger of her right hand and made a big sigh.
The bad reputation of “not respecting one’s husband” was so harmful in the Carpa Kingdom that it couldn’t be ignored. As the Queen, Aura had to prevent that from happening at all costs.
“If you want to grant his selfishness no matter what, then it is necessary that Zenjirou-sama puts himself on the line to a certain extent and actively takes the blame for it.”
In other words, he claimed that Zenjirou ought to appear more in the higher society from now on and declare from his own mouth how madly in love he was with Aura and how he had no interest in other women.
It was the same as telling Zenjirou to ruin his reputation to protect Aura’s.
“…So in the end, it will cause troubles for my husband.”
Aura grimaced, whereat her secretary replied with cold words while remaining inexpressive.
“We are hogtied. Rumours about your pregnancy are already spreading within the palace. When you turn down all of the requested audiences from the important nobles right now, it comes with an adequate price.”
Aura clicked her tongue in reaction to Secretary Fabio’s words.
“It has already spread that far?”
She had been prepared for it, but that was quick.
It surely showed how much attention everyone had giving the Queen’s pregnancy. When a legitimate heir was guaranteed, there was no longer a need to hesitate about sending in a concubine.
While Aura sighed yet again, Secretary Fabio broached a different topic as he suddenly thought of it.
“Oh, speaking of audiences, the royal knight Otario Maldonado requested a meeting with Zenjirou-sama.”
Aura raised the volume of her voice a bit surprised upon his words.
“Otario? I have not heard that name before. What does he want? My husband will not leave the inner palace, you know. I cannot allow a man to meet him unless it is something quite important.”
“It seems he wants to directly express his gratitude for receiving the ‘dragon bow’ from Zenjirou-sama and pledge his loyalty anew on this occasion.”
“Ah, I see. The one from the banquet.”
Aura recalled the circumstances and was convinced by its inevitableness.
General Puyol had tried to present Zenjirou a tribute in form of the “dragon bow”. Zenjirou had brought the matter to a quick close with the words “pass that ‘dragon bow’ to your knight, who is the most able with the bow and the most loyal to the royal family”.
The general must have passed on the “dragon bow” to a promising knight like he was told.
Five “dragon bows” were worth as much as a single battle raptorial dragon and it was only natural that the knight wanted to thank Zenjirou for receiving one of it.
“So, is that knight called Ontario a problematic one? Zenjirou ordered for it to be handed to the one with the greatest ‘loyalty to the royal family’, you know.”
If his “loyalty” wasn’t directed at the royal family, but General Puyol instead, she would never allow a meeting.
Her secretary denied the question she had asked with strained shoulders.
“No, General Puyol must have born that in mind, too. Knight Otario is from the Maldonado Family, which has a low status, but is known for their long loyalty towards the royal family. He himself is a person of extreme good conduct and there are no problems with him.
Well, it seems he is in favour with General Puyol, seeing as he received the ‘dragon bow’ from him, but I doubt he is swayed that easily.”
“Still, that sounds like there is more to it? Although Knight Otario himself is not problematic, someone around him is?”
The secretary consented unaffected to her words.
“Yes. Very perceptive of you. Knight Otario has a little sister in a marriageable age. Her name is Kate. There are no problems with her personality either. She is quite beautiful, wise and just as loyal to the royal family as her brother. However, the problem with her is that she serves Zenjirou-sama in the inner palace.”
Even Aura was at her wits’ end on that answer.
The secretary nonchalantly gave his master, who showed an expression like suppressing a sour face, the final blow.
“I have heard that Zenjirou-sama interacts rather friendly with the waiting maids in the inner palace. So the little sister will surly convey the gratitude for the ‘dragon bow’ of her brother. I just hope they do not get too close to each other.”
General Puyol’s aim was as transparent as ever.
A royal knight extremely loyal to the royal family and his little sister, likewise extremely loyal to the royal family and working in the inner palace. When he brought over the knight to his side and succeeded in getting the sister closer to Zenjirou, he would’ve established a connection to the royal family, albeit in a roundabout way.
“…Where is Knight Otario stationed?”
“Previously he served in the guard troops of the capital, but his transfer to the Dragonback Archery Knights under the direct command of General Puyal has been determined.”
The words from her secretary were exactly what Aura had expected. The knight with the borrowed “dragon bow” was transferred to the elite unit “Dragonback Archery Knights”. At least on the surface, it embodied no problem at all.
Needless to say, in the shadow lurked General Puyol’s obvious intention to win Otario over for his faction.
“That means he gave up on his ambition to make his little sister a concubine for my husband?”
“No, the General himself wishes an audience with you, so I believe it is unlikely he has given up. My guess is that he intents to pursue two plans at the same time.”
“The man is as transparent as ever…”
In the last few months, he had worriedly spoken to Aura about the reorganisation of the royal army and the armies of the feudal lords quite often, so she had thought that he settled down, but the ambitions of the “Insatiable Wolf” were as strong as ever.
“Good grief, what a pain.”
“My sincerest condolences.”
The secretary said that to the sighing Queen with a tone void of any feelings, then bowed courteous.