Following this, Prince Francesco immediately left the Inner Palace.
On the other hand, Aura and Zenjirou, both still speechless, headed straight to the room of their child.
Their aim was unfortunately not to embrace their healed child, but to bound the confined physician, wet nurse and waiting maid to secrecy once more.
“Listen, under no circumstances are you allowed to speak of anything that happened in this room today. If it does come to light by chance, remember that not only you, but your whole family will pay with their lives for it. Understood?”
The doctor, the wet nurse and the waiting maid answered and bowed in unison to the unvarnished warning from Queen Aura.
“Good. Keep it in mind.”
Aura nodded contented.
This should probably take care of it.
In his capacity as the royal physician, Doctor Michelle was used to secrecy and the wet nurse Cassandra was a trustworthy woman with a profound loyalty to the royal family.
As for the blonde waiting maid… There was no need to especially point it out to Margret.
She was a trusted retainer of Aura.
If she couldn’t be trusted to keep a secret, then surely no one under Aura’s command could be trusted.
Considering all that, Aura had concluded that the secret would be safe unless something drastic happened.
“Even I am all exhausted today.”
Having moved from Carlos’ room to the living room, Zenjirou and Aura threw themselves onto the couches and slumped into it like a wet sack without saying anything for a while.
All too much had happened for one day today.
Carlos had fallen ill.
Prince Francesco had paid him a sick bed visit.
Then he had confined them his secret and revealed the secret of Carlos.
Each and every one was already a shocking matter on its own.
The sunlight, coming in from the windows, was still illuminating the room brightly, but Aura and Zenjirou had no longer the energy to even turn their heads.
Zenjirou had already cancelled all his work in the morning, but Aura was supposed to finish some more work today. Nevertheless, she had decided to call it a day at this point for once.
She knew very well that she eventually would be overwhelmed from too much work if she kept pressing on at such a time.
Besides, abandoning her work in the royal palace didn’t equal having free time from now on.
They lazed around for a while. When Aura recovered somewhat of her strength, she sat up straight on the couch.
“Do you need more rest, Zenjirou?”
“Uhh… Mmh? You want to get started already?”
Called upon, Zenjirou just turned his head towards his across-sitting wife without getting up.
“Yes, if it is alright with you, I would like to begin.”
Answering like that with sleepy, half-closed eyes, he, too, sat up straight.
“Now then, where do we start?”
Not yet back in top shape, Aura sloppily crossed her legs on top of the couch, whereas Zenjirou replied with interjectional yawns while craning his neck.
“Mh? Can I ask then what I found strange first?”
“Sure, go ahead. I do not know whether I will be able to answer it, though.”
OK’d by her, Zenjirou spoke up hesitantly as he was collecting his thoughts.
“Then a fundamental question first. Or rather, a review. It really was &l
* * *
“Prince Francesco, you are being too careless! I cannot believe you demanded to be allowed into the Inner Palace. One wrong step and it would have caused a huge scandal!”
At the same time, Prince Francesco, now back in the south building of the Royal Palace, received a really long lecture from the angry “chaperon” woman, like he had expected.
With the hottest season of the year out of the way, the room should have a rather pleasant temperature, since it was cooled by a magic tool called “Fog Genesis”, but Princess Bona’s flushed face was drenched in sweat while she was raising her voice.
Unlike Prince Francesco, who sat cosily on the couch, she had been standing most of the time with her arms pressed onto the table, leaning forward aggressively.
“My bad. But don’t you feel sorry for Prince Carlos? He isn’t even two years old yet and had an illness that might have killed him.”
When a royalty, whether from the Sharrow or Jilbell Family, got sick in the Twin Kingdom, the healers from the Jilbell Family immediately used their “Healing Magic”. Due to that, the members of the royal families in the Twin Kingdom were not used to dying from an illness.
In this way the “excuse” from Prince Francesco had had cogency, but not enough to convince the diligent Princess Bona.
“I do feel sympathy for Prince Carlos. However, I have been told that the ‘Spotted Fever’ is not such a lethal illness. Yet you used the one and only ‘Imbued Stone of Cure’ you possess!
What are you going to do when you yourself catch an illness now! We are not in the Twin Kingdom here. There are no healers around!”
She made a “sound argument” as she talked herself into a fury, but to anyone, who knew that the pressed prince was actually a healer himself, it only looked like she was making a fool out of herself.
Having said that, there was a possibility that he would be unable to use “Healing Magic“, because he lacked the concentration when his illness suddenly worsened or he suffered an unavoidable wound. Likewise might he be unable to pronounce the incantation properly when he got a hoarse voice in the worst case. Consider that, it really had been careless to give away his one and only “Imbued Stone of Cure”.
“Don’t worry. I already informed my father in the capital with the ‘Burning Pair Parchment’. He’ll send over a replacement at once.”
“Y- You even used the ‘Burning Pair Parchment’!?”
Princess Bona nearly fainted when she heard his answer.
The ‘Burning Pair Parchment’ was a magic tool.
It had originally been created with the military intentions to lit a fire in far away places, because one parchment from the bestowed pair of dragonskin parchments burnt exactly the same way as the other when you lit up one. But as soon as they discovered that they could write on it by means of burn marks, it was immediately established as a way of communication.
It hardly needs mentioning that its rate of transmission and secrecy was outstanding, considering that the fastest means of communication in this world was usually the “Small Flying Dragon”.
To cite an example: One country could use limited “emails” while the others were still using carrier pigeons or mounted couriers. Its value of benefit was extremely high. So high that it was said that its designer was the hidden mastermind behind the rise of the Twin Kingdom as the supreme ruler of the central region of the South Continent.
On a related note, magic tools such as the “Sand Pair Box”, which tried to generate the same effect with Earth Magic instead, or the “Water Pair Parchment”, which used water instead of ink, were developed, too, but never found practical application.
As a general rule, the “Burning Pair Parchment” was so valuable that it was only given to commanders of a fortress near the country border or diplomats in foreign countries for genuine emergencies.
Yet Prince Francesco had used his so readily, so Princess Bona was at a loss for words about his carefreeness.
Was it due to the fact that he was a prince of gentle birth?
That thought crossed her mind for a moment as she was well aware that she had a parsimonious spirit.
“Yep. My father and grandfather told me to inform them at once if I use the ‘Imbued Stone of Cure’. Oh, I asked them to send other stuff we are lacking, too. They will bring a support and fixture for your engraving, too. The other day you said you couldn’t find a good fixture here, right?”
“Really? Thank you very much! That has been troubling me. I know I should not be saying this, but the engraving techniques in this country leave a lot to be desired, and the same goes for their tools.”
“Yeah, I know. Kind of loose, aren’t they?”
“You noticed it as well? That is indeed the case. How do I put it? It does not properly fixate the metal and every time you apply the graver, it slips slightly out of position. The craftsmen here do not seem to mind it, though, so I cannot bring myself to mention it… Wait a moment, we are getting off-topic!”
Loosing herself in the talk about jewellery, Princess Bona suddenly noticed that she was led astray. She withstood the temptation and got back to the original topic.
“Let’s say I acknowledge your fellow feeling for Prince Carlos. Could you not have handed the ‘Imbued Stone of Cure’ to Her Majesty Aura or His Majesty Zenjirou?
Why were you being so reckless and entered the Inner Palace yourself?”
“The Carpa Kingdom has its own stock of ‘Imbued Stones of Cure’, you know? But they didn’t use one this time. So I couldn’t be sure whether Her Majesty Aura would use mine, even when I handed her it.”
That was definitely a sound argument from him, but Princess Bona got a bad feeling when she heard his justification.
“Uhm… Prince Francesco? I do not think it is possible, but I would like to ask just in case: You did not say something similar to Her Majesty Aura, correct…?”
“Similar? I practically told her that word by word.”
She put both hands on the table and hung her head so much it seemed it would fall off.
“Don’t worry. Her Majesty prefers a direct approach and is frank with you about small matters.”
Prince Francesco laughed it off unconcerned and appeased her by shaking his hand in denial, but Princess Bona didn’t hear anything of it.
“I- I personally have to apologize to Her Majesty Aura… No, she must be rather busy, so I should discuss it with His Majesty Zenjirou first…”
The fact that she, despite the circumstances, mumbled a constructive plan to fix the situation to herself, instead of harbouring a grudge, proved how genuine her diligence and sense of responsibility were, even if she was still hanging her head.
After behaving like that for a short while, she raised her head, as she had seemingly made a resolve, and spoke.
“Prince Francesco, I have something urgent to attend to now, so you will have to excuse me. And for the love of God, please stay put.
Do you understand? If you have to go out, you absolutely have to tell me, okay? I do not need any weird consideration.
Well then, I will see you later.”
Once she had rattled away, she quickly left the room.
Her exit was signalized by the quiet clattering of the closing door.
As if on cue, Prince Francesco then changed his already slovenly posture for the worse and laid down on the couch.
Apparently the previous casual attitude had been his attempt to check himself in due consideration of Princess Bona.
He yawned shamelessly, then folded his arms behind his head and looked up to the ceiling while showing the usual smile on his face.
“Man, Bona sure is cute. Somehow I’m getting healed just by looking at her.”
In fact, he had never met a woman before that tired him as little as Princess Bona did.
“Maybe I would have a wife like her by now, if it weren’t for the way I am?”
Stretching his hands out towards the ceiling, he stared at the magical power emitting from these hands.
Even amongst royalty, his magical power was exceptional and it was more than twice as large as Princess Bona’s or Zenjirou’s.
Due to that, his body had control over the bloodline magic of two royalties without suppressing one. The fact that he could use two bloodline magic didn’t mean that he had two kind of magical powers, but just for fun, he was using his right hand for the “Bestowal Magic” and his left for the “Healing Magic”.
Prince Francesco continued his monologue while the magic power flickered irregularly on each hand.
“It’s a bit of a shame that I can’t get married, but I still like my carefree position. Or at least I don’t really want to be part of the political world with a claim on the throne.”
His face showed a bitter smile he would never show to anyone when he honestly gave voice to his thoughts.
“I wish my father or grandfather would think more like me…”
Still laying on the couch, he wordlessly stared at the ceiling for a while.
“The ‘Uniting Faction’…”
Before long, an unfamiliar term left his mouth quietly muttered.
“Uniting Faction”. Simply put, it was a political group that deemed the current dual system of the Twin Kingdom with the Sharrow and Jilbell Families ruling one country as “unstable”, and aimed at uniting both families.
And although it was called the “Uniting Faction” altogether, there were actually rivalling subgroups. Some wanted the Sharrow Family to be the only Royal Family and have the Jilbell Family take a backseat. Others in turn wanted the exact opposite of that. And yet others suggested that both families appointed a common king on a rotating basis.
One minority group amongst that “Uniting Faction” was called the “Absolute Uniting Faction”.
Like the name implied, they propagated the policy to literally “unite” both royal families in the future by the means of mandatory marriages between the Sharrow and Jilbell Family.
In their opinion, the king ought to be someone, who can use both bloodline magic, to serve as a symbol for the united royal family.
Having said this, it was nothing but a pipe dream, an extreme ideal so to speak, because there had never been such a person in the “past”. But “right now”, there lived an ideal candidate in the shadows.
“It’s not like I can’t relate to their ideal, but I wish they would keep me out of it.”
Their ideal intended to destroy the long-standing history of the two royal families, who went hand in hand with each other on the surface, but competed with each other over their authority in secret.
In simplified terms: It only sounded like they wanted to cause turmoil in peaceful times.
A truly troublesome issue.
For that reason, Prince Francesco stopped thinking any further.
“Well, come what may.”
Saying so, he sat up with a jerk and his face showed his usual innocent smile again.
* * *
A few days later.
Four royalties of two countries were meeting in a room of the Royal Palace.
Queen Aura and Prince Consort Zenjirou represented the Carpa Kingdom, whereas Prince Francesco and Princess Bona represented the Twin Kingdom of Sharrow and Jilbell.
It meant that all the royalties that were currently situated in the Carpa Kingdom were assembled in one spot.
The official pronouncement entailed an apology for the forceful entrance of Prince Francesco into the Inner Palace and an expression of thanks for his treatment, respectively. That wasn’t the real agenda, though.
And as a matter of fact, the pretext had quickly ended with Princess Bona saying “My apologies for causing you troubles the other day”, to which Aura had answered “No, not at all. I cannot thank you enough for using the ‘Imbued Stone of Cure’ for my son. I will definitely repay you for it.”
To begin with, the diligent Princess Bona had more or less worked out a conciliation for the incident beforehand through correspondence and Aura had no intention to aggravate the situation, since she knew about the secret circumstances regarding Prince Francesco.
Therefore their meeting immediately advanced to the next objective.
“Are we done now? We are, right? Good, then onto my business next.
This is the finished ‘Future Compensation’ magic tool. Thank you very much for your cooperation, Your Majesty Aura.”
Saying that, Prince Francesco took a small gold work out of his pocket and placed it onto the table.
Aura and Zenjirou involuntarily leaned over the table and eyed the small magic tool. Zenjirou naturally saw it for the first time, since he hadn’t been involved at all, but even Aura saw the finished product for the first time now, even if she had helped bestow the magical power numerous times before.
It was barely big enough to balance it on two fingers. To describe it more detailed: A light blue marble, provided by Zenjirou, was only enclosed by a metal frame in form of a regular octahedron.
The frame was most likely made out of pure gold, since it sparkled brightly.
The design was simple, but well done. At least to Zenjirou it looked like the thickness of the frame was coherent. And all eight holes, showing the marble inside, appeared to be regular triangles of the same size, too.
The handiwork was so perfect, precisely because of its simple design.
The admiration from Queen Aura and Zenjirou made the satisfied Prince Francesco figuratively give himself a pat on the back while he carried out his exposition of the ornament.
“Only the transparent jewel from His Majesty Zenjirou on the inside functions as the magic tool. The outside frame is merely a cover for it.
Spherical magic tools will lose their functionality from the slightest crack, so it was designed with a sturdy framework.
But it is still breakable, so please be careful with it.”
“Yes, I understand.”
After listening seriously to his explanation, Aura nodded short and reached out her hand for the magic tool.
“Oh, so small.”
“Certainly, but it still fulfils almost all of your conditions.
Magic tools are generally classified into three types: ‘Disposable‘, ‘Self-charging’ and ‘Manual Charging‘, so if anything, this one is a ´‘Manual Charging’ type.
In order to use it, you have to directly touch the jewel on the inside with your finger and then chant ‘I offer the magic of XX days’ in the magic language. By doing so, the jewel will store the effect of ‘Future Compensation’.
And like you have requested, it also is possible to ‘Replenish’ it. So when you apply a day worth of magical power today and again after a week or so, you will have two days worth of magical power at your disposal.
On the other hand, if you wish to access the magical power stored through ‘Future Compensation’, you likewise touch the jewel directly with your finger and say ‘I invoke you’ in the magic language. You control the magic tool with these two commands.
I am afraid, though, that it was not possible to make it ‘release only a part of the magical power’ like you had requested. So when you chant ‘I invoke you’, it will release its whole pool of stored magical power, whether it is worth just one day or a whole year, so please keep that in mind.”
Maybe he only became serious when he explained about magic tools? Prince Francesco kept a composed expression and a distinct tone so unlike his usual way of talking, for his explanation.
“Impressive. Seeing such a potent magic tool with such a perfect shape confirms all the rumours about you being a first-rate ‘craftsman’ and ‘practitioner of Bestowal Magic’.”
Zenjirou showered him in praise with a polite tone, whereas Prince Francesco
“Please! You’re putting me on the spot. But it was worth working so hard.”
showed his familiar innocent smile and scratched his head bashful.
“Yes, it is a wonderful piece. Let me thank you once again, Prince Francesco.”
And although Aura showed an indifferent expression and spoke with a flat voice, she admired the power of the magic tool in front of her at heart even now.
The significance of this magic tool was enormous.
It might give overly expensive magic like “Time Reversal” or “Space Isolation Barrier” a practical application now.
Its only shortcoming was that the stored magical power couldn’t be used bit by bit. If it were able to do that, she could have used “Teleport”, the best and most frequently used magic amongst the Space-Time Magic, in all conscience, but life wasn’t always a bowl of cherries.
(But it will practically the same if we can make more ‘Future Compensation’ magic tools in the future.)
Needless to say, the practitioners of Bestowal Magic from the Twin Kingdom would hardly agree to a “mass production” of magic tools for the Carpa Kingdom.
In that case, her plan necessarily involved either teaching Carlos the Bestowal Magic or having Zenjirou make a bastard that could use Bestowal Magic.
The blood from the Carpa Family would be too dominant in a child from Aura, so it was pretty unlikely that it would awaken to the Bestowal Magic.
It would be so much easier if all her children were blessed with enough magical power to use both magic without problem, like Carlos, but expecting another direct descendant being born with such enormous magical power was seeing things through rose-coloured glasses.
As a matter of fact, Aura only knew of one more person that had a magical power on par with Carlos, namely the blonde prince in front of her.
Moreover, when you excluded these two, she was, as far as she knew, already regarded as someone with quite a lot of magical power, even though she only had seventy to eighty percent of their magical power.
Considering all that, it was rather foolish to expect her next children to have equal or greater magical power than Carlos.
She should try to mass produce the marbles in the future by advancing the development of the glass manufacture.
At the same time, she should raise practitioners of “Bestowal Magic” and “Space-Time Magic” by letting Zenjirou take a couple of concubines to make as much bastards as possible to a feasible extent.
That decision was supposed to be executed without hesitation, if she were only thinking about advancing the influence of her country.
It hardly needed mentioning that it wasn’t that simple. Various factors needed to be considered, such as diplomatic issues with the Twin Kingdom for practically stealing their bloodline magic or authority claims from other families when Zenjirou took a concubine.
(Still, I better put up with the fact that my husband will no longer be able to avoid taking a concubine at this point.)
In the moment Aura drew a conclusion that caused a sharp pain to run through her chest,
“Excuse me, Your Highness. It is nearly time. Are you ready?”
the door was knocked and a familiar middle-aged man with a slender face entered: Secretary Fabio.
Unlike the other three, Aura was overwhelmed with duties, so she had coordinated it with them from the beginning that she would leave the meeting ahead of time.
“Already this late? Fine. Prince Francesco, Princess Bona, I will excuse myself now.
Take care of the rest, Zenjirou.”
Saying so, Aura stood up from her chair, whereat Zenjirou also stood up.
“It has been a pleasure, Your Majesty Aura.”
“Thank you for allocating some time for us out of your busy schedule, Your Majesty Aura.”
Prince Francesco curtly said his thanks with a smile while Princess Bona bowed faithfully like always.
“Yes, I will, Your Highness.”
Seen off by the respectful words of her husband, which she would never hear in the Inner Palace, Aura left the room.
* * *
Letting Zenjirou take care of the rest and leaving early, Aura then headed to the room she was most familiar with in the Royal Palace: The office of the Queen.
After she had sat down in her usual chair, a gloomy sigh left her mouth reflexively.
This emotional manifestation of the Queen didn’t escape the Head Secretary.
“Is something the matter, Your Highness? For you to sigh unbefitting like that…”
She hadn’t heard his unblemished way of speaking in a long time, since she had assigned him to Zenjirou lately, so she felt more nostalgic than angry.
“Oh, well, it turns out that I will have to burden my husband once again. So, to be honest, I am feeling a bit depressed.”
Aura craned her neck with these words and sat back, looking up to the ceiling.
Her secretary, known for his usual indifferent mask, perked his eyebrows up in reaction to her whining, and said in a teasing tone.
“Oh dear, enamoured, aren’t we? I reckon, you are that afraid of making him angry?”
Aura narrowed her eyes displeased from his obviously ridiculing words, and spit out her answer.
“Yes, I am. More than anything at the moment, to be honest. Maybe you do not realize how scary it is to anger my husband?”
“Who knows? People say that rational people like him are beyond control once their emotions gain the upper hand, though.”
On a rare occasion, Secretary Fabio avoided a straight answer. Feeling a bit advantageous, Aura denied him.
“No, no. It is nothing that simple.
Listen, I will give you an example.
Suppose that I angered Manuel Márguez. In that case it does not matter whether I or him are in the right. It will still affect the state affairs terribly when Count Márguez is in a bad mood. What would you do in my position to lift his mood?”
Secretary Fabio couldn’t quite wrap his head around it, but answered the rather realistic example right away, even if he cocked his head.
“Lift his mood, you say? Let me see, assuming it has to be resolved quickly at all costs, I believe the fastest method would be to temporarily exempt him from the taxes to the royal family. Because, for the better or worse, Count Márguez reaches his decisions based on profit.”
Aura nodded once, as his reply satisfied her, and cited another example.
“Well then, what would you do for Puyol Guillén under the same prerequisites? Unless you fix the relationship with General Puyol as fast as possible, the country will suffer. How would you act in that case?”
“I would have no other choice, but to promote him to ‘Marshall’. He is an ambitious man, but his ambition is directed at his military standing rather than nobility.”
That reply was apparently satisfying as well. A grinning Aura asked him a last question.
“Well, certainly. And now the last, important question.
The situation is the same as before. How would you improve the mood of my husband if you had to fix the relationship as quickly as possible?”
Secretary Fabio remained silent for a while.
But no matter how hard he pondered, he apparently couldn’t find an answer to that question.
“I give up. I cannot think of anything.”
Shrugging his slender shoulders, he admitted defeat.
The grin on Aura’s face intensified.
“See. You have no clue, right? You cannot think of anything, right? Same goes for me. Now you should know why I am so scared to make my husband angry.
There is no trump card you can play to at least get him to hear you out when the relationship got worse by angering him.”
“Indeed. I have never met a person, who is so not attached to anything in particular, before.”
He had no choice but to acknowledge that.
Zenjirou wasn’t after money, nor did he show any ambition towards status. Neither was he some kind of collector that got passionate over a certain something. Although he wasn’t completely indifferent about women, he didn’t ogle any other women but his wife Aura, and even rejected concubines with all his might.
“I have no means to soothe him with If I actually were to anger him. Nonetheless, an impaired relationship with him will affect the country greatly. Now, is it really such a strange thing to fear putting someone like that off?”
“No. Forgive me, my remark was out of line.”
The secretary honestly apologized to the glaring Queen.
“Well then, what is on the agenda today? It strikes me that I ought to reply to a petition from the eastern nobles?”
Done with the chit-chat, Aura tried to get into business mode, but Secretary Fabio
“Not quite. That was originally planned, but a ‘Small Flying Dragon’ arrived this morning from General Puyol, who is on the way to subjugate the Pack Dragons on the Salt Road. Please look through it first.”
corrected her and placed four small envelopes containing thin dragonskin parchments onto her desk.
The messages of the “Small Flying Dragons” were usually all the same, but she still had to read them just in case.
“General Puyol contacted us with ‘Small Flying Dragons’? Then something unexpected must have happened.”
Aura clicked her tongue reflexively and took one of the envelopes with a gloomy face. Once she had opened it, she read through it.
As a result, she screw up her face sullen.
“Your Highness? Bad news, as you expected?”
She heaved a sigh in reaction to his question.
“Yes. Bad news indeed.
Puyol Guillén failed to subjugate the Pack Dragons. Or more precisely, they fought a battle and he concluded that they are undermanned for the task, so he is requesting reinforcements.”
When the secretary was clued in on it, he narrowed his eyes to slits and was astounded on a very rare occasion.
Still, his reaction was understandable.
Puyol Guillén was leading the elite troops “Dragonback Archery Knights”. And to think they failed to subjugate mere carnivore dragons. Any resident of this country would doubt his ears when hearing that.
Aura tapped the small dragonskin parchment in her hand and shrugged her shoulders a bit.
“If it is true what is written here, then it is not his fault. I would have requested reinforcements under these circumstances, too.”
“It has some weight to it if you are both saying that. Well, do I arrange for reinforcements?”
“Yes. Prepare them for a large-scale hunt. Anyone with experience will do, but prioritize numbers. Still, we cannot afford to lose a single soldier right now.
So we should send supply wagons and supplies abundantly in order to ease the burden on the soldiers even for a bit.”
“That will costs us dearly.”
“I know, but it is necessary.”
Secretary Fabio kept quiet for a moment upon her answer, but before long, he accepted.
“Very well. Anyway, I would really like to hear the details later on. I cannot believe that a simple subjugation of carnivore dragons has gotten so large-scale.”
“You said it. The phrase ’wishful thinking’ has never been so right on the money as now. What a harsh world we live in.”
Saying so, Aura heaved a sigh as if she was exhaling deeply.