A few days after Zenjirou’s debut into high society was decided. Octavia returned to the Márguez Residence in the capital quite near the palace after a long time.
The building was built abundantly with white marble and a lot of arches, where even an amateur could tell on a glance that it was built in the same age as the palace.
The main residence was located extremely close to the palace and existed just as long as the palace. Of course it didn’t belong to any average noble.
It could be said that this very residence directly represented the standing of the Márguez Family within the kingdom.
“Please halt the carriage here. I wish to walk for a bit.”
Octavia had passed through the residence’s gate in a two-horse carriage and called out to the attendants on the driver seats from within.
The middle-aged driver, also her guard, replied curt with that, then quietly stopped the carriage in an accustomed manner.
“Please watch your steps, Octavia-sama.”
“Thank you. You be careful as well.”
Octavia got off the carriage by taking the hand of a young waiting maid.
Currently it was the hottest season of the year. Octavia unconsciously squinnied from the assaulting sunlight, but the temperature inside the gate was five degree lower than outside.
Artificial ponds were situated all over the garden and the trees were planted so that a breeze would blow over the water surface towards the residence.
A resident of modern Japan aside, the heat wasn’t unbearable for Octavia, who had been born and raised in the Carpa Kingdom.
She took it for granted that she was surrounded on all sides by guards with short spears and accompanied by a waiting maid while she quietly walked the short path from the gate to the main entrance of the residence.
The path was made out of red-brownish paving stone as to reflect the light, flanked on both sides by trees from the southern countries with brightly coloured blossoms. The big blossoms were yellow and red, giving the impressions of a hibiscus.
The Carpa Kingdom had a manifold of brilliant colours, not just limited to the nature.
The clothes Octavia was wearing right now, were of a brilliant and bright blue, too. This traditional wardrobe of the Carpa Kingdom had a quiet design, barely revealing any bodylines, but in modern Japan this colour hue would surely be considered as “magnificent”. At least no married Japanese woman in her twenties like Octavia would wear these on a daily basis.
Before long, Octavia reached the front entrance of the residence and the large double door swung open inwards.
An elegant man in his forties stood beyond the door, which was pushed open by two muscular men.
“Welcome home, Octavia-sama.”
The aged butler greeted her with a calm voice as always, whereat the young wife of the Count replied with a smile.
“Good to be home, Serlio. My usual room?”
“Yes, and the master is awaiting you on the second floor.”
The faithful butler respectfully nodded to the mistress’ words.
“I see. Then please tell him that I will come as soon as I have changed.”
“Yes, very well.”
Octavia smiled softly as to thank him for his respectful bow, then disappeared into the residence with light steps and her waiting maid in tow.
Approximately half an hour later. Octavia met face-to-face with her husband, Count Manuel Márguez, in a room of the residence for the first time in half a month.
“Welcome back, Octavia.”
Count Márguez stood up from the couch, which showed traces of aging, spread his arms and greeted his second wife that was more than thirty years younger than him.
He was a middle-aged noble with a stout physique.
Probably in his fifties?
As he wasn’t one of the tallest, there would barely be any difference between him and Zenjirou, who was 1,72m tall, if they were to standd next to each other. His stomach had plumped out appropriate for his age, but since his short-cropped head hair and well-kept beard sustained a glossy black colour, he looked a few years younger than his actual age.
“It has been a while, Dear.”
Octavia showed her husband an austere smile and then accepted his embrace.
After the corpulent husband and the slender wife embraced each other for a while, they sat down opposite of each other on the seats in the corner of the room.
The sun coming in from the windows was as hot as ever, but water ditches were built under the windows, so the breeze coming into the room was surprisingly refreshing.
Count Márguez flushed the cold tea served by a waiting maid down his throat, then began to talk with a slightly serious face.
“You’ve done well, Octavia. Sorry to have pushed that sudden request onto you.”
“No, it is quite the honour for me to serve such a respectable person as a teacher.”
“Right. You’ve always been like that.”
Count Márguez couldn’t keep himself from making a wry smile to his wife’s response, which had not a single shred of ill intent as always.
Generally, women in higher society were quite proficient at obscuring their expressions and words, even in this world, but his young second wife was one of the few exceptions.
The Count would surely get a serious distrust of women if the entire conduct she was showing were to be an act.
“So, what’s Zenjirou-sama like? Let me hear your honest opinion.”
Lady Octavia frankly replied to the question of her husband with an eloquent tone.
“Yes, he seems to be a very likeable person with a strong desire to learn. I believe that he can be trusted.”
“Mhm, I see.”
Count Márguez kept nodding while listening to his wife speaking about the Prince Consort for a while.
Apart from evaluating them “too kindly“, her judgement of people could be trusted most of the time. When he exaggerated the bad points tenfold and deducted the good points to a tenth based on what she told him, then he could imagine the person’s character more or less.
So Count Márguez made his own interpretation of Octavia’s words, which portrayed the man called Zenjirou as “naively lenient to those under him” and “wise enough to understand his own position” with “no manly virtues such as ambition or aspiration”.
To be honest, not really the kind of convenient person for gaining a foothold into the royal family.
It was difficult to involve a conservative and rational person with no ambition, in a conspiracy.
That said, Zenjirou was actually the only male in the royal family. An existence far too precious to ignore just because it was difficult to meddle with him.
After musing for some time, Count Márguez frankly asked for the opinion of his wife.
“Octavia, what kind of woman would you choose if you had to assign a concubine to Zenjirou-sama?”
Octavia, too, was a born high-class noble. However, the young Lady widened her eyes once in surprised as she wasn’t used to this kind of topic, then showed a bit of a wry smile and shook her head.
“I… would not assign anyone for a little while longer. While I only saw Her Highness and Zenjirou-sama together a handful of times, it does seem that the two of them are rather intimate from what I have heard from the waiting maids working in the inner palace or from Zenjirou-sama’s daily conduct itself.
Even if a concubine were to come up to the inner palace now, she most likely would feel out of place.”
Needless to say, an ordinary concubine had an overwhelming lower standing than the legal wife. And even much less in the current pairing of “Queen”, “Prince Consort” and “Concubine” instead of “King”, “Queen Consort” and “Concubine”.
The difference in social standings between the legal wife and a concubine was already large to begin with, but a “Concubine” would never be a match for a “Queen”.
Normally, a concubine was often of poorer birth and lower standing than the legal wife, so the affection of the King was the only point in which she could win against the legal wife.
And in regards to that affection, an assigned concubine would only suffer a cruel fate if the relationship between Zenjirou and Queen Aura was really that insurmountable.
“Hmm, is that so…”
Count Márguez tilted his head in contemplation as he still couldn’t assent with the frank words of his wife.
He was by no means stupid or obstinate, but as a man from the Carpa Kingdom, he only had a very stereotypical view on things.
In compliance with his values, he found it somewhat hard to imagine that there was a man, who could love that “Queen Aura” to such an extent.
The ideal woman for a man of the Carpa Kingdom was more or less a woman like his second wife sitting in front of him.
Namely a woman, who silently followed her man respectfully without speaking out of line. That was the criterion for a “good woman”.
“Wisdom” was desired, but not “intelligence”. “Hardworking” was considered as a virtue, but “assertiveness” as an immorality.
In Count Márguez’s eyes, the human called Aura Carpa was a “virago too good to be a woman” as a Ruler, but not very attractive as a single woman. Of course that impression acknowledged that Aura was a beauty with a glamorous body.
Count Márguez asked again as if to make sure.
“Are you saying that Zenjirou-sama loves Her Highness Aura with all of his heart?”
Lady Octavia’s opinion didn’t waver on her husband’s reconfirmation and she replied distinctly.
“Yes, without a doubt.
Seeing as he lacks ambition and the desire for power, I would go as far as to say that the only reason that he abandoned his own world to come here, was his love for Her Highness.”
To be precise, Zenjirou had two reasons to accept the marriage with Aura. One was his love for her, the other was his urge to quit the company that kind of exploited him. But only Zenjirou himself knew this.
Anyway, Count Márguez could only accept that he miscalculated a bit when Queen Aura’s type was to Zenjirou’s liking.
The Carpa Kingdom was a large country that ruled over the western part of the southern continent, but Aura was the only one of her kind. Or at least, the Count didn’t know of anyone else. Thus it was impossible for him to curry favour with Zenjirou through the most typical approach of sending a woman of his liking to the inner palace.
He became absorbed in thought with a serious face for a while.
“Hmm… In that case, it would be better to take the approach of supporting their relationship for now.”
The conclusion he finally reached was a rather defensive one.
The Márguez Family was already a distinguished family with plenty of influence in the current politics. It was a kind of instinct for high class nobles to make intrigues as to enlarge their sphere of influence or family prosperity, but his position wasn’t one, where he needed to make any risky bets.
If the relationship between the Queen and her husband was that good, it might be better for him to constantly gain the Queen’s favour by supporting their intimate relationship for the time being.
As a matter of fact, the birth of a child between the Queen and her husband took priority over spreading the royal blood by the means of concubines for the husband, from the viewpoint of an important figure supporting the kingdom.
“Yes, I believe that to be the best choice as well.”
Octavia smiled happily from the bottom of her heart and nodded to the deduction of her husband.
She knew, too, that marriages of nobles/royalty prioritized the preservation of the bloodline or bonds between the families over the love of the involved parties.
But on an emotional level, she wanted a loving couple to build a happy family without any obstacles, even in light of such a reality.
Count Márguez could perfectly read his beloved wife’s thought from her bright smile, showed a bit of a wry smile and muttered.
“Still, I just don’t get Zenjirou-sama’s taste in women…”
That utterance could have been lese majesty if Aura had heard it, but that statement came from the bottom of his heart.
* * *
Around the same time, Queen Aura visited the training ground of the royal army outside the capital in a long time.
The vegetation in the western part of the southern continent was famous for their abnormal fast growth and weeds overran the fields right after they had been tended to, but thousands of armed people and hundreds of raptorial dragons were running around on this training ground on a daily basis.
Nothing of the sorts of clearing of weeds was done here, yet a scenery of plain, red earth stretched as far as you could see.
Today, the “Dragonback Archery Knights”, said to be the elite unit amongst the army, were occupying the training ground.
A kind of giant reptile called the raptorial dragon was the most popular animal to ride here in on the southern continent.
Compared to the “horses” used on the northern continent, the raptorial dragon was slower, but it was twice as big and its power and stamina were beyond compare. Their power was even three to fivefold when you made a comparison between them and the large horses that were used in the armies of the various countries on the northern continent.
As poikilotherms, they had the fatal weakness of becoming less active as soon as the temperature dropped below a certain point, but that weakness rarely was an issue here in on the southern continent.
Accompanied by General Puyol Guillén, Aura let her eyes wander over the knight mustered before her.
She currently wore a military uniform. Her attire was primarily red, the colour representing the royal family, and had golden patterns embroidered on the sleeves and collar, but it principally promoted mobility and resilience.
But even this “unfashionable” uniform gave off a whole different impression when Aura wore it.
Aura’s voluminous breasts and ample bottom couldn’t even be hidden by the thick fabric of the uniform. Not to mention her waist, which was tightened by a thick belt, a necessity for the sword at her side.
Her relatively straitened waist ended up emphasizing the volume of her breasts and bottom.
If Zenjirou were here, he would surely be happy about this “feast for the eyes”.
Needless to say, the knights of the kingdom would never leer at the Queen during a manoeuvre.
A hushed silence overlay the training ground.
That very silence told of the high discipline of the knights. It would be one thing for just humans, but every knight before her was mounted on a raptorial dragon.
It was no simple matter to assemble over a hundred raptorial dragon in one place, keep them from neighing excitedly and have not a single one break the formation.
As she was satisfied with the result, Aura nodded once, then softly cracked the short whip in her right hand into her left hand and gave an order.
“Aye-aye. Begin the manoeuvre!”
General Puyol, standing next to Aura, forwarded her order to the knights with a loud voice matching his imposing stature.
The knights raised a voice like a bellow, then spurred their raptorial dragons with their whips, ready to show of the results of their daily training.
Then they vigorously displayed the fruit of their practice in front of the Queen and General.
Some charged ahead with a long spear in hand. Some skilfully rushed through an obstacle road with mud and fallen over trees on their raptorial dragons. Some shot arrows at distant targets while still mounted on the raptorial dragon, showing off the prominent dragonback archery.
Aura was not the slightest bit concerned about her face or hair getting dirty from stirred dust and called out to General Puyol beside her.
“Quite formidable. I am impressed you trained them so well.”
The ambitious general lowered his head faithfully on the Queen’s appraisal.
“Yes, thank you. At present, we finally surpassed the 80% mark of the required force. This year, or no later than next year, we will have the proposed count assembled.”
“Replenished up to 80% in five years, huh. Well done, General.”
Aura openly praised General Puyol on a rare occasion. In fact, his achievements were quite admirable.
It had been the knights, the main pillar of the army, who took the most damage in the previous great war.
An immense amount of money and time was needed to replenish the knight troops. They had to raise and train the raptorial dragons while at the same time, their riders had to be brought up, too.
It was indeed a meritorious deed to replenish the original count within five to six years. That said, the replenished troops only consisted of young knights without any real battle experiences. Even if the troops were complete again, they didn’t even come near the fighting capacity prior to the war.
General Puyol kept his grim expression even while the Queen praised him, and replied with a shake of the head.
“Please direct these words at the breeders of the dragon stables. This achievement is mainly thanks to them.”
Puyol Guillén, known for his ambition in the royal court, was a good commander, who cared for his men on the battlefield or training ground and correctly reported their achievements.
“You are right. I will do so.”
Aura honestly consented to General Puyol’s sound argument.
The raptorial dragons were raised as riding animals and their greatest inferiority to horses were their lifespan.
A horse had an average lifespan of twenty to thirty years. In comparison, the lifespan of a raptorial dragon was around fifty years. A long life prolonged the deployment in battle, but at the same time, it also prolonged the time a raptorial dragon needed to be ready for battle after birth.
While a horse could technically be used as a warhorse four or five years after its birth, the raptorial dragon needed at least ten years.
In other words, the raptorial dragons assigned to the army in the last five years had already been around the age of five to ten at the end of the war. Or to put it yet another way, they all had “hatched from their eggs during the war”.
It had been an extraordinary effort on the breeders’ part as they managed to raise and feed the dragons, which ate even more than horses, during the ongoing war, where the budget had been cut drastically, without any casualties.
Anyway, the replenishment of the knight troops, the backbone of the army, was very good news to Aura.
“Come to think of it, it seems like we will be able to increase the military budget for a bit next year. I will let you know the exact number later, so make plans how to use it.”
The extra budget for the military was not by chance. Zenjirou had disclosed the tax evasion from the feudal lords with his recalculation.
As a result of a full discussion with the feudal lords over the past few days, Aura managed to increase the national budgeting to a reasonable extent and decreed that the majority of it was to be contributed to the military budget.
Originally, the feudal lords had set aside that money for their own military. It would simply result in a decline of national military strength if that kind of money were to be used for something else than the military budget.
Right now they maintained a reconciliatory stance with the bordering countries, but the situation wasn’t so peaceful that they could turn towards disarmament.
General Puyol smiled for the first time today from hearing Aura’s words.
“Oho, is that so? Very well. As soon as the numbers are clear, I shall get in contact with the important figures and outline the military requests.”
“Yes, do that.”
Aura kept her gaze on the manoeuvre of the knights and replied with a nod.
“Understood. Luckily, most of the prominent military brass will be in the capital for the banquet in two days. I presume it will not take all too much time for me to hand in a report.”
General Puyol’s utterance made Aura twitch her right hand holding the whip.
The banquet in two days was obviously referring to Zenjirou’s debut into higher society.
She had anticipated it of course, but this ambitious general actively sought a connection to the Prince Consort.
(Oh, I wonder how this will turn out)
Her husband had not the slightest bit of ambition while the general was practically a mass of it. On a glance they appeared incompatible like water and oil, but the interesting part about humans was that people like them could become best friends forever.
(I would not want this ambitious man to give him a bad influence, but as his “wife” it is not my place to interfere with his male friendships)
Aura could only stand on the sidelines, but the fact that she wasn’t all too worried about it, showed how she had started to trust Zenjirou.
“My little sister is looking forward to it as well. I would very much welcome it if Zenjirou-sama could spare some time for her.”
“I see. Then I will tell my husband accordingly.”
General Puyol displayed his ambition as open as ever, whereat Aura responded with these word in a calm tone without any agitation.