Those without Dominas
When the “Holy Alliance” formed, each of the twelve allied countries had a Dominas.
However, the countries participating in that alliance had now decreased to seven. It was the consequence of fellow allies repeating the cycle of occasional disputes, mergers, separations and annexation, downfall and sudden rise to power.
Currently, the legitimate alliance signatories numbered seven including Amaddo. In regard to that, eight quasi-signatories matched their paces with Amaddo to protect the “Hill of Seal“.
In general, the former was a large country while the latter were small countries, but above all, the obvious conclusive difference was whether they had Dominas or not.
Biranoba was one of the twelve countries when the “Holy Alliance” formed. It had a history that long but lost its Dominas during those 200 years and had to be contented with its quasi-signatory position now.
(TN: Crest officer = Hiera Glaphicos)
Valeria pulled back the drawn curtain of the carriage’s window once it left the Roma’s castle gates fairly behind.
「…If there’s any inconvenience from becoming a Dominas, then it’s that we can’t appear freely in front of people」
If someone was to peek into the carriage by chance and expose the fact that Valeria and Karin were aboard, the castle town might have become quite a bit of racket. Hence the velvet curtain was drawn across the window to avoid unnecessary trouble.
After opening the window slightly, the regular sounds of the horses’ hooves and wheel streamed in with the gentle wind that carried the grass’s fragrance unique to the countryside.
Closing the book that she was reading, Karin abruptly asked Valeria, who was resting her elbow on the window frame and taking deep breaths, a question.
「…Excuse me, Valeria. Is it alright if I ask you a question?」
「It’s fine but…what’s it?」
「How old is he?」
「Him. How old is he?」
「By him…you mean Richternach-kyou?」
Karin nodded quietly.
「Ah—, I’m certain that Richternach-kyou is the same age as Valeria, right? 」
Opposite from Karin, the smiling Petra answered. Petra was Karin’s exclusive Hiera Glaphicos but she had originally aimed to be a Dominas and this relation was known to Valeria.
「Then, he’s one year younger than me」
While caressing her lower lips with her index finger, Karin murmured monotonously.
「…His parents aren’t around anymore right?」
「Eh? Yes, during his childhood, in a fire…」
Accurately speaking, it wasn’t because of a mere fire that Dimitar’s parents had passed away. It was a more tragic reason, but Valeria was hesitant to tell Karin the truth with her mouth, thus she simply agreed ambiguously.
「Then, his guardian is the academy’s principal?」
「You’re right but…what about it?」
「Is he your fiancé, I wonder?」
Valeria gave a cowardly response to Karin’s too abrupt question.
「Wh…what do you mean?」
「Exactly what it means. Whether it’s decided that he’ll be your marriage partner or not」
「I, I know that much! I totally know it! What I want to hear is, what kind of intention do you’ve for being curious about such personal information…」
「If he’s free—I’m thinking of including him as a candidate…It’s certainly personal information, though it’d be great if father can officially sound the academy’s principal out when it comes down to the last moment」
「Do, do you perhaps…fancy that person?」
「I’m sorry. Conversely, I’d like to hear from you but, do you not like him?」
Unintentionally shouting with a loud voice, Valeria hurriedly covered her mouth. There were just the three of them inside the carriage and Valeria didn’t think that Dimitar and Bettina who were on the coachman’s pedestal had heard their conversation; but more than that, she was ashamed that she had lost her composure.
「…I mean, that man has a bad mouth and a big attitude. Though this’s my duty, it’s really nothing but vexatious to be deployed together you know!? 」
「Ah—, a straightforward person? Or the like?」
「He’s not such a cool person!」
After Petra’s example was rejected immediately by Valeria, Karin looked on indifferently.
「Maa, I’ve heard your opinion」
「You’re seriously considering that guy as your groom candidate? 」
「He isn’t bad as a choice. In fact, he might be excellent」
「…Is that so?」
Valeria couldn’t understand Karin’s thoughts a bit. She got the chills just from imagining a marriage with Dimitar. Even though she gave in unwillingly into her imaginations and thought of him as the partner who played the pseudo husband, it might have been impossible to live together under one roof in the first place.
Of course, even Valeria acknowledged Dimitar’s ability as a Hiera Glaphicos and escort but this and that were separate matters.
However, without breaking her usual cool smile, Karin shook her feathered folding fan while replying.
「Whether or not I’m interested in him, and whether or not I accept that personality of his which you’ve thoroughly disparaged, are talks for the future. However, is Richternach-kyou not a very good person at the present, I wonder?」
「Y, you flattered him too much, Karin…」
「It’s because I’ve yet to experience his shortcomings. Even so, he can complete his jobs, have good looks, is young and healthy, and above all, the status as a person of the Richternach House is top class as a marriage partner. What he lacks is personal assets?」
Hearing Karin’s analysis, Valeria tried to think calmly.
Certainly, ignoring Dmitar’s wicked tongue and insolent attitude, if she looked at him objectively without prejudice, then as a man, he might belong to the fairly popular category.
However, Valeria couldn’t overlook those faults no matter what. Moreover, she had terrible experiences because of them, and thus she didn’t agree to Karin’s opinion upfront.
Did she deduce that from Valeria’s murky expression? Karin shut the folding fan with a snap and raised her pearl pink lips.
「Rather, it might be assuring that you took such a stance. Just competing for the top seat against you is enough」
Valeria and Karin were originally neither acquaintances nor friends, but rivals who aimed to be a Dominas and thus encountered each other during the intense competition. Eventually, Valeria became the top seat while Karin became the runner-up and both fulfilled their dreams of becoming a Dominas, but perhaps their relation might have become one where they quarrelled very much.
Valeria gazed out of the window and sighed.
「Such concern is completely unnecessary.—In the first place, I absolutely detest choosing my marriage partner based on pedigree or fortune」
She then remembered venting her irritation at her father recently and became sullen again.
On the afternoon of that very same day, the crown prince Jeffren Isaac summoned Home Minister Kamunyas-kyou to the glasshouse and asked him.
「Has Chichi-ue’s letter arrived? Did it say anything?」
「Ha!…It’s concluded that he’ll return from Taroma five days later…」
「That, saying five days later」
Pruning with a “pachipachi” sound, Isaac raised his face from the roses.
「—Five days later from when? From when Chichi-ue write the letter or when the letter reached you?」
「Most likely, is it not five days after His Majesty has written the letter—」
「Fuun,…elegant as usual huh」
(TN: Kanji 優雅)
Wiping his sweat with a handkerchief, Kamunyas looked downwards.
「So, is that all?」
「Look here, I didn’t dispatch a fast horse just to know when he’ll return from his mistress’s place you know? Did he not write about other more important matters?」
「Show it to me. That letter, you’ve it right?」
Removing the glove, Isaac held out his hand towards Kamunyas.
Seemingly like a rose mania’s hedonist, this young man was fairly perceptive. Kamunyas looked at the crown prince with upturned eyes and nervously took out a letter from his breast pocket.
Reading the letter that the senior statesman had received from his father in one go, the crown prince raised his well-featured lips completely.
「It’s unusual for him to praise me. I thought he’d be angry that I arbitrarily decided to exempt Seriba’s taxation but—eh?」
Scrolling down the content of the letter, the crown prince’s line of sight stopped suddenly.
「…It’s written that all national politics will be entrusted to me in the absence of Chichi-ue? Is this fine?」
「Ha…Since it’s endorsed by His Majesty—」
「N, nonetheless, you still have to consult with the senior statesmen in the end…」
「But of course, even I’d never think of becoming this country’s dictator from just this one sentence. Or rather, being a dictator is surprisingly troublesome right? You’ve to decide everything alone after all」
In Amaddo, the king is an existence that stands at the top of the government and also a religious leader who unifies God’s believers in the country. The king’s words are absolute, and the roles of the senior statesmen who work at the royal court are no more than his advisers to the end. Everything within the country is decided by the king, and that principle cannot be changed.
「…Maa, that’s why Chichi-ue takes a breather like this from time to time」
It was quite hard for the crown prince to approve and Kamunyas leaked a vague voice at his words without adding a response or a sigh.
「—Incidentally, is the appointed date for when Haha-ue returns from the royal villa known yet?」
「T, that…no, not yet…」
Returning the letter to Kamunyas, the crown prince revealed a faint smile which couldn’t be thought of as pleasant, put on the glove again and picked up the shears.
「—If Haha-ue returned from recuperation and the fact that Chichi-ue went to his mistress’s place was exposed, it’s possible that her condition will deteriorate again. In the worst case, it might develop into a divorce」
「B, but, what can—」
「I’ll write a letter to Haha-ue and request for her to rest at the royal villa for the time being as there’s disorder due to processing the aftermath of the Seriba’s rebellion」
「That’s a splendid idea—」
「Afterwards, it’ll be great if the Biranoba’s matter is settled promptly—By the way Kamunyas-kyou」
「Call Kaparos-kyou. Can I not confirm the budget, I wonder?」
「The budget—is it?」
「And call Barzari-kyou here too」
Kaparos and Barzari were senior statesmen that served as the Finance Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister respectively; together with the Home Minister Kamunyas and Military Minister Garido, they were referred as Amaddo’s Four Elder Statesmen.
「W, why is it necessary to summon the both of them?」
「A budget is necessary for the Chivalric Order’s manoeuvres right?」
「Huh, manoeuvres!? Why at this kind of time!?」
「It’s precisely because it’s this kind of time…We might have to force the Biranoba’s government to accept negotiation when the necessity arises, so I made arrangements with Barzari-kyou」
「Your Highness…! What in the world are you trying to do!?」
The crown prince cut a white rose and pushed it against Kamunyas; mixing in a hum, he went back to trimming the roses.
If one has to say, the father that was the king, was a man who expanded Amaddo’s territory and thought of fighting against barbarous believers as his job—to say nicely, he was heroic; to say poorly, he was rough—and didn’t meddle with domestic matters in details.
However, the son who was the crown prince appeared nonchalant but was in fact shrewd and calculating. Simply put, his deepest thoughts were completely impalpable.
Therefore, Kamunyas couldn’t fathom what the crown prince was trying to do at this point of time.
If it’s this intelligent young man, he doesn’t appear likely to do anything rash to harm the national interest, though the crown prince has the knack of making people worried from doing unimaginable things.
Having stopped en route for the night at a large relay station, Valeria’s party arrived at Biranoba’s capital city Buruan the next day.
As a friendly country since olden times, there was no inspection point to hinder people from travelling between Amaddo and Biranoba. Moreover, Buruan didn’t have castle walls that should protect a capital.
A beautiful white-plastered castle towered at the top of a gentle hill, and town areas spread out in every direction with it as the centre. Without the demarcation of castle walls, Buruan was a large business city where people and articles went in and out freely regardless if it was day or night.
Showing her face from the carriage’s window, Valeria held down the hat atop her head and gazed at the castle.
「What a lovely castle, albeit slightly insecure. On such a open plains, and what’s more, there’s no castle walls. Can the capital be defended at the critical moment?」
「I don’t think that critical moment will come」
Dimitar replied promptly from the coachman’s pedestal.
「Biranoba is interposed between its allies, Amaddo and Diruma, with them on its east and west respectively. The possibility of an attack from foreign countries is exceedingly close to zero」
「Is that so?」
When Valeria looked back inside the carriage, Karin silently nodded.
「—It’s also due to Buruan’s national policy of not imposing tariff that there isn’t a castle wall or gate. If merchants can go in and out freely without being imposed with tariffs, that alone will flourish business transactions」
Perhaps she heard Dimitar’s words; Karin spoke in a low voice.
「…He’s quite learned, isn’t he? Having that kind of profound discernment, I think it’ll be good for you to follow his example a little though」
「He just have a broad knowledge from running errands here and there during his Chivalric Order’s days」
Hence it wasn’t unusual for Dimitar to have an extensive knowledge, but Valeria wasn’t amused that Karin praised him and couldn’t help but feel agitated. It seemed that even if Karin’s high evaluation of Dimitar was a bad joke, she didn’t seem to be teasing Valeria.
Valeria settled down onto the soft and fluffy seat, shut the feathered folding fan and adjusted her low-cut décolleté.
「—By the way Karin, what kind of person is your relative?」
「…The Valiente House is the home of my maternal grandmother. It’s a noble family even in Biranoba and I heard that the current family head Dante serves as Biranoba’s deputy prime minister」
「Ah, what a remarkable person」
「That being said, his age isn’t that different from us though…If I remember correctly, he should be around nineteen」
「Eh!? He’s a prime minister of a country at nineteen!?」
「The deputy prime minister…But I think it’s probably temporary due to talks of succeeding his father who passed away last year」
Karin mixed in a sigh and answered, then looked at Petra suddenly.
「Petra, inform Richternach-kyou of the route」
Petra opened the small window affixed right behind the coachman’s pedestal and directed Dimitar the way to Valiente House’s mansion. It seemed that the great nobles’ residences in this Biranoba were mostly in the town’s outskirts.
The path bordered by rows of Cytisus scoparius branched off from the centre of the tranquil rural districts and a white mansion’s silhouette soon appeared on the other side.
(TN: Cytisus scoparius)
Leaning out from the window again, Valeria tilted her head sideways.
「The castle and the street of stores and houses from some time ago are also like that, but this capital has numerous white buildings」
「…You, do you not know what the national flower of Biranoba is?」
Holding the bridle with his back curled up, Dimitar looked at Valeria over his shoulder. It was that usual cold look that scorned the other party.
「Eh? I, I don’t know but—」
「There ought to have been plenty of time to prepare, yet what in the world were you doing?」
「It’s the basic of basics to investigate on the foreign country if you’re going there on a mission. At any rate, you were probably choosing dresses instead of investigating sufficiently on Biranoba right?」
Since what Valeria had actually did first after receiving the crown prince’s order was choosing dresses, she had no words for rebuttal. Averting his gaze from the young lady who was mumbling with a “mogo mogo”, Dimitar shrugged his shoulders.
「—Biranoba’s national flower is the white lily. The Biranoba castle was painted with white plaster with that as an image and was called the White Lily castle as its alias. It’s for the same reason why the castle town’s buildings are white. It seems that slaked lime is often gathered from the mountain district that is adjacent to Diruma’s national border. High quality plaster is one of this country special product. Remember these well. Rather, you should have study beforehand. Your excessive ignorance affects not just me, but also Amaddo’s honour」
To the valid reasoning that came directly from her front as always, Valeria could only clenched her fists tightly and withdrew into the carriage.
「…Sorry. I’m of the complete same opinion as him」
Undoubtedly dealt a blow by Karin, Valeria’s face turned even redder and she shut the window.
When they passed through Valiente House’ door and approached the water fountain at the centre, the mansion’s maids stood in a line and greeted the party.
「Don’t lose focus」
Stopping the carriage before the foyer, Dimitar told Bettina in a low voice.
「—Carry as much luggage as you can. Although the other side will carry them too, you must carry your own luggage personally」
「I don’t mind but…why?」
「I’ll explain it eventually」
Dimitar leaped off from the coachman’s pedestal, prepared a small stepladder and opened the carriage’s door.
「Welcome, Karin-sama, Petra-sama」
The maids greeted Karin and Petra simultaneously when they descended from the carriage. It was likely that they had visited this places several times before. The thoroughly trained maids also didn’t forget to greet Valeria who descended next.
Dimitar gave the custody of the carriage to a person of the mansion and carried twenty percent of the luggage himself while Bettina took the other eighty percent. Afterwards, Karin and the party stepped into the Valiente house.
「—Welcome, Karin. And also the guests」
Upon entering the spacious entrance hall, a clear voice resounded. From the second floor corridor of the hall, a young man wearing ceremonial clothes with long shirttail descended.
Valeria raised a question, which was synonymous to her only, towards Karin in a low voice but it was also heard by Dimitar.
Why did this girl ask every single thing that can be understood without thinking—Dimitar reflexively clicked his tongue and endured it, then causally observed this mansion’s master.
Biranoba’s deputy prime minister, Dante Valiente, descended from the stairway slowly—according to the information that Dimitar had learned beforehand, he followed his father’s footsteps by becoming the prime minister though he was still nineteen this year. It was certain that he was a young and smart politician with a future of great expectations.
Dante’s somewhat falsetto-like shrill voice irritated Dimitar slightly though and he didn’t like it in any way.
Descending while touching his big and round red ringlets, Dante bowed and softly kissed the back of Karin’s hand. Looking at Karin with upturned eyes, he muttered.
「How old are you again?」
「…You shouldn’t have forgotten after seven years right?」
「Hahaha, is that so?」
Dante narrowed his eyes and smiled, then took the hand of Valeria who was beside Karin.
「Pleased to meet you, Costacurta-geika. I’m Biranoba’s deputy prime minister, Dante Valiente」
「Pleased to meet you, Your Excellency. At your invitation, I’ll be in your care and boldly intrude on you」
Though her facial expression seemed slightly stiff, her words flowed out carefully. Most likely, she had practised her speech in the carriage.
Dante finished greeting Petra too and finally, he looked towards Bettina rather than Dimitar.
「You’re the Hiera Glaphicos, Richternach-kyou—, and this is?」
「I’m Valeria-sama’s attendant, Bettina desu~」
Dante raised his eyebrows and stared at Bettina. Certainly, it was expected that he couldn’t accept it immediately when a mass of short and stout pink armour introduced itself as an attendant. Karin then said to the puzzled Dante.
「…I’m sorry, there’s a meaning behind this child’s appearance. She won’t be a bother and I guarantee her identity, so don’t touch on this topic anymore」
「And I thought that such fashion is popular in Amaddo.—Is that an armour which somehow move on magical power?」
「As expected of the magic-advanced Amaddo. I’m envious that its magic engineering is making progress」
Dante smiled bitterly and invited the party inside.
At the passageway adjoined to the interior, a huge man with sharp eyes was standing there. It was obvious that he wasn’t a retainer that performed routine duties in this mansion. He was probably a mercenary or something.
「He’s a guard of this mansion, Salomon Pujor. Though he may be taciturn and unsociable, he’s reliable and has served here since my father’s generation」
Dimitar secretly checked the hand of Salomon who bowed silently. The skin near the base of his right thumb was stiff and tough, probably a result from wielding a sword or spear for many years. He was definitely a soldier who had accumulated a considerable amount of experiences.
「The guest rooms have been prepared separately」
What Dante had personally guided them to, was a detached room of the vast mansion on the first floor that faced the elegant courtyard. It was a room of first-class furniture and interior, making the inn where Dimitar usually stay seemed absurd and such room was prepared for every one of the five men party.
「Please have a rest first. I shall have cold beverages prepared at once. Afterwards, someone will guide you around the mansion」
Bequeathing generosity typical of a master of a noble family that had continued for generations, Dante then stated that he had work to do and returned to his study.
Exchanging looks with Valeria and the rest, Dimitar entered the room assigned to him and knocked on the wall and floor to check for the presence of secret path or hidden door before unpacking his travelling clothes.
「There’s none here huh…though it won’t be strange for the family head’s room to have one or two secret passages」
Loosening his neck with a “kokikoki”, Dimitar widened the collar of his outer garment and stepped forward to the bay window. A bed of beautiful flowers were blooming directly beneath the window. Since the window wasn’t fit fixedly, it was possible to go to Valeria or Bettina’s rooms without passing through the mansion via this window. Naturally, he could use this to escape when the situation called for it.
While constructing an escape route in case of emergency within his head, Dimitar began changing his clothes. It was an exceeding troublesome talk, but Dimitar have to attend this evening’s party in light of his position. For Dimitar who hated formalities, passing time with a flawless and clear face as a member of the Richternach clan that was Amaddo’s noble family and above all else, as Valeria Costacurta’s exclusive Hiera Glaphicos, was quite a torture. If this wasn’t defined as part of the mission, he wanted to break the window and escape immediately.
The massive door was imprudently knocked on and pink’s voice could be heard beyond it.
「Don’t shorten people’s name as you like…Be it you or Mercier, why do brats act over-familiar with everyone?」
Opening the door and inviting Bettina inside his room, Dimitar fixed the cuffs of his white shirt and sighed.
「I don’t want to be told that by Dimitar-san who call people Gacha Pink desu~」
「So, what do you want?」
「Um—, it seems that a party will be held here tonight but, what shall I do~?」
「Standby in your room」
「I said to standby in your room」
「W, w, why! Even I want to eat the good food at the banquet desuu!」
Bettina stomped her foot with a clatter. Annoyed by the tightness of the collar, Dimitar sat down on a chair.
「Then, I’ll ask you couple of things but…did you bring a dress?」
「I didn’t. I wasn’t aware that there’ll be a party…」
「It’s because I never mentioned it」
「It’s not like I was particularly told about this either. It was because I guessed it somehow that I was prepared for it.—Do you get it? At the moment when you never thought through such things carefully, you’re already unnecessary in tonight’s party」
「T, this’s discrimination desuyou!」
「Then, supposed you know it beforehand, can you prepare a dress that’s expensive enough to build a small house?」
「Eh…? Build, a house…?」
「Isn’t that obvious? It’s a party gathered with people who wear such dresses you know? If it’s a woman, she has to wear other necessities like necklace or rings. Though Our Eminences have fallen to ruins, they can prepare at least this much since they are originally from noble families. But it might be impossible for you? Even if you managed to borrow a dress somehow, do you know manners? Can you hold an acceptable and witty conversation without being impolite? What if a man invite you for a dance?」
Bettina crumbled down with a boisterous “Gachaa!” sound from Dimitar’s successive questions.
「It, it’s impossible desuu…」
「I thought so」
Simply put, Bettina is just the niece of a Chief Engineer who worked for the Amaddo Kingdom’s army. She’s undoubtedly a commoner and by rights, far from participating in tonight’s party, it was impossible for her to be invited to this mansion as a guest.
「…Maa, though I want to see you in an appearance besides the armour, give up on tonight. Above all, you can’t endure the urge to pee during the party」
「Uuu…B, but, the banquet—」
「I’ll bring the food to you somehow…Apart from that, you absolutely cannot take that off」
「That Bachu something」
「You mean Bachururus?」
「Don’t forget what the Chief Engineer said. That’s a mass of highly classified information. Also, take care of that during the party. Watch over it properly」
Dimitar pointed towards Jagieruka that was leaning against the luggage while drinking the water from the pitcher.
「While I feel uneasy leaving it behind in this room, I can’t bring such dangerous thing into the party’s venue」
「When Dimi-san puts it that way, it’s as if there’s a thief in this mansion」
「It’s not only this mansion. I’m always this cautious wherever it may be. Since you also brought along this pink armour, always act with this in mind…If that is stolen by chance, the one to be dismissed is your uncle」
「Oh, please don’t threaten me」
「It’s not a threat. It’s the fact」
「…Somehow, it has become scary to be in this room alone…」
With her toes turned inwards, Bettina returned to her room feeling restless while grumbling. She was probably struggling against the urge to pee that assaulted her again.
Dimitar pulled the curtain across the bay window and lay down on the bed with Jagieruka held under his arm. He wasn’t very tired in particular but his trait was to rest whenever it was time to do so.
That very same day, after he was summoned by the crown prince and talked about various things, Lucius managed to return home before meal. In the middle of changing clothes, he heard his mother returned home and became amazed.
「…Though I say this, it’s rare for Haha-ue and I to return home before meal at the same time」
「It has been roughly ten days since the last time」
Thial who was assisting Lucius’s change of clothes supplemented his mutter.
「In that case, I’ll have my meal together with Haha-ue tonight since it’s a rare occasion」
「Then it shall be so」
Fastening the belt of his gown and striking his side with a “pon”, Lucius went to the dining hall.
「—You’re early today too」
When Lucius sat at the table first and drank his wine, Orvieto appeared after changing her clothes.
「It was His Highness’s instructions for me to return home early and rest」
「…Is that boy planning to do something again?」
Lucius picked up the cutlery and looked at his mother with upturned eyes. Orvieto held the most important post in the kingdom but it bothered him whenever she said such disrespectful things from time to time. From Orvieto’s view, the crown prince Isaac was certainly a young man whose age wasn’t that different from her son, but nevertheless, it was inexcusable to call him that way. It might even become a troublesome matter if someone from the castle heard it.
Swirling her glass wine, Orvieto said boldly.
「After all, he’s currently doing something right? Furthermore, he sent two Dominas to Biranoba…What on earth is he doing, I wonder?」
「As expected, it’s something that I can’t even tell Haha-ue 」
Naturally, Lucius knew about the objective behind Valeria and party’s trip to Biranoba, but even if his opponent is Orvieto, he wouldn’t tell her that.
「Setting my position as the magic academy’s principal aside, I’m curious as Dii’s guardian…Since Valeria-jou has set out, this means that child also left right?」
「I think you’ll find out whether he’s here or not if you go to the inn and check…And foremost, this’s my first time hearing that Valeria-jou has set out」
「You’re poor in lying and acting」
Orvieto pouted her lips slightly and placed the glass down, then reached out for the serving of soup with warm steam rising up from it. Though a cuisine of roast mutton’s tender shoulder meat, meatballs which used spice and omelette with eel stuffing were spread out alongside on the table, Orvieto didn’t eat much of those.
「—Incidentally, what’s the task that you’ve to do?」
「Boy—no, the crown prince said something right? Resting your body or the like」
「A manoeuvre is expected to begin soon. In the case, I might be absent from home for a few days」
「A manoeuvre, the Chivalric Order of bonbons?」
(TN: ボンボン means inexperienced young man from well-to-do family; personally I can’t think of an English-equivalent word for it…)
「…You absolutely can’t talk about this outside, Haha-ue. Including me, the gathering of bonbons is a fact」
「I’m very interested to see those bonbons leave their nest, and what kind of manoeuvre they’ll do…perhaps this’s also related to the Biranoba’s case?」
「I cannot say that. If you want to know, please ask His Highness」
「I shall do so if I ever feel inclined to」
Saying so, Orvieto sipped her vegetable soup elegantly.
「—I wonder if Dii is eating properly?」
「It’s alright. Unlike Haha-ue and I, Dii is a person who can prepare food by himself if there isn’t any to eat…Besides, I think he should be surrounded by luxurious cuisine around this time」
「That means Dii is currently at a place that can produce such cuisine? Where in the world can it be I wonder?」
Having carelessly talked about Dimitar’s whereabouts, Lucius averted his mother’s gaze.
The Valiente House seemed to possess more influence in Biranoba than Valeria had thought. That could be understood by judging the number of people assembled in tonight’s party. This might be the true influence held by an old family; a noble family that had preserved its prestige.
If the previous her, who had yet to become a Dominas, used the Costacurta House’s name to gather people, Valeria was sure that she couldn’t gather this much of them. However, it was likely the Costacurta House should have boasted of a glory like this until her grandfather squandered the house away.
Valeria’s dream was to regain Costacurta House’s former glory with her own strength.
—Nonetheless, the austerity forced onto Valeria because of that was harsher than she imagined.
「Is Valeria-jou already playing an active role as a Dominas in her country?」
「Exactly, please allow us to hear what sort of activities you’ve performed up till now」
Surrounded by young nobles who had reached adulthood, Valeria made sure that her smile didn’t cramp with the utmost efforts. Speaking of party, it was the same even in Amaddo where Valeria was encircled by people, but the sense of distance of every person here was unusual. Simply put, it was the first that she felt swarmed by curiosity.
「Most of the work that I engaged in is related to the country’s highly classified information, so—」
She couldn’t say that she had only completed one mission until now and that she was here now for her second mission—, hence she properly evaded the topic.
「Even that sort of matters are entrusted to Dominas?」
「I certainly thought that you’d be offering prayers to Redountora every day at the temple」
「Though I want to experience that kind of tranquil day, I’m a Dominas as well as a high grade inspector of Amaddo, so I’m busy one way or another…」
Although Valeria concealed her lips with the feathered folding fan and laughed elegantly with an “Ohohohoho”, she was emotionally worn out.
In short, Dominas were rare existences for the Biranoba’s nobles.
Certainly, Dominas were people with rare talents and there were only twelve of them on the continent, but before that, magic warriors were scarce in Biranoba. Since Biranoba didn’t have a Dominas, there was neither an official organisation to research magic nor a specialised organisation to manage magic warriors. Also, talents who possessed magic power had left the country repeatedly, and eventually, the magic warriors who could use magic on a practical level were almost nonexistent in Biranoba now.
Valeria Costacurta was a magic warrior who possessed the strongest power in the continent and also a Dominas; though she might be an object of interest and longing rather than an object of reverence to them. Obviously, her charm as a woman was involved to some extent seeing that they were periodically throwing glances towards her low-cut area; nevertheless, that didn’t become much of a consolation to her.
One of the young nobles then asked Valeria who casually shifted the position of the shawl on her shoulders to reduce her skin exposure.
「I heard that Valeria-jou is sixteen, but how long does a Dominas’s duty lasts?」
「It’s usually nine years」
「Which means…you’ve to dedicate your purity to the God until you completed your duty at twenty-five?」
「That’s a waste—」
Valeria heard his muttering mingled with an unpretentious sigh and nearly spouted out instinctively.
「Iya, if it’s Valeria-jou, she’ll become more beautiful nine years later」
「Then I’ll also try to lead an honest life of abstinence for nine years」
Unable to tell if these young men were joking or being serious, Valeria naturally responded with a forced smile and ran her gaze around quickly.
In this numerically inferior situation of one against many, there was a limit to continuing her lady facade. At this rate, she might either reveal her usual determined face and draw the surrounding’s attention or faint from the mental suffocation.
In order to overturn this situation, Valeria surveyed her surrounding in hope for a friendly support. Unfortunately, the figure of Karin who was the most reliable couldn’t be found and Petra didn’t noticed Valeria’s pinch as she was chatting happily with women that seemed to be her old friends. Since Bettina didn’t come to this place from the start, that being the case, there was one more person whom Valeria could rely on—.
As Valeria was amazed, she involuntarily ended up looking again .
Similarly to how Valeria was surrounded by dressed up young men tonight, Dimitar was also encircled by ladies in lovely dresses. On top of that, what on earth was he talking about with a flattering smile which she had never seen before? And was he not making the women laugh?
While Valeria was surprised that the youth didn’t even slip up at this kind of place, she was also seething in anger with a “futsu futsu” at the same time.
Even if he didn’t know them, he was able to act cordially with women whom he had just met today and don’t know if they’ll meet again after this. Yet why wasn’t he able to do the same to her who is his superior? She wouldn’t have mind if it was just that, but why did he keep repeating mannerism that irritated her—.
She barely maintained her composure when she began to think of that. At the very least, she couldn’t make a smile for the party.
Did he notice Valeria creasing her brows deeply? A young man then called out to her quizzically.
「Ah, n, no, it’s nothing—」
Valeria, who blinked her eyes hurriedly and somehow erased her stern expression, replied with a surprised voice and fell into a slight panic.
When Valeria calmed down her agitation and glared at Dimitar with a “girori”, their lines of sight coincided.
Receiving Valeria’s gaze that was filled with slight anger and irritation, Dimitar surprisingly didn’t ignore it. After bowing to the surrounding women and slipping out from the centre of that encirclement, he approached Valeria.
「Pardon me for intruding on your chat.—Your Eminence」
「There’s something that I want to tell you」
Dimitar gave a meaningful bow and glanced towards the balcony fleetingly.
「—Everyone, please excuse me for a while」
Valeria informed the young men and proceeded to the balcony with Dimitar.
「What on earth do you want to talk about?」
When Valeria asked in half relief and half irritation, Dimitar resumed his usual brazen countenance and snorted.
「I’ve no need for you specifically. And there’s nothing to talk about either」
「I only used that as a pretext to bring you out here simply because you made a sullen expression. Aren’t you troubled because you were surrounded by those youngsters?」
「Am I mistaken? If I misunderstood, then return quickly」
「Ah, no no no, y, you aren’t wrong, um—」
She’d be embarrassed if she admitted it, however the cause of Valeria’s sullenness was Dimitar rather than those young men. But to complain though she was expressly brought out here, and in addition, she was actually feeling embarrassed knowing that Dimitar was observing her; hence she wasn’t able to reply in any way.
「Was it hard pretending?」
When Dimitar sighed greatly, he leaned against the balcony’s handrail and laughed derisively.
「—However, they’re desperately putting up a pretense too」
「Huh? Those people?」
「Yes. They’re fully aware of the merits of receiving a former Dominas as a bride」
Valeria ceased the insignificant shaking of her feathered folding fan and asked a question in return.
「…You kept them company without knowing such thing?」
Dimitar became astonished, then sighed again and said.
「For people who possess magical ability and promote themselves highly, it’s natural but they’d go to the place that gave them the highest evaluation. In that sense, Biranoba might be the best. In any case, this country doesn’t has a Dominas and lacks magical war potential. If it’s in such a country, a Dominas is valued highly even though she’s retired」
「Retire—, I’m not retiring yet!」
「Hence the talk of nine years later. Even I’ll be troubled if you retired now.—However, they might be relatively serious in proposing to you even after nine years you know? It doesn’t mean the Dominas’s skills will decline suddenly just because she retired. Also, just by having a magic warrior among the relatives might be greatly linked to a successful life in this country」
「They…they’re proposing to me for that…?」
「If you think of it as a kind of political marriage, then it’s more than probable. They seek neither beauty nor assets nor political strength in their spouses, but purely magic powers」
In that situation, it was as if she was told that she had nothing to boast to other people except her magic ability.
When Valeria thought so, she unconsciously grumbled that aloud.
Hearing Valeria’s grumble by chance, Dimitar looked down on the girl coldly.
「If the title of Dominas and magic talent are taken away from you, what’s left of you then?」
「Eh? Of course, that’s—」
「Besides your father’s fortune, it’s your appearance and youth」
Dimitar cut Valeria off and said so when she tried to list them on- by-one.
「Even Biranoba has plenty of beautiful girls from wealthy families. If they had wanted that sort of marriage partner, it wasn’t necessary for them to expressly search for a noble’s daughter from outside the country」
He then said those words bluntly and left the balcony.
Valeria’s cheeks twitched and she saw off Dimitar’s back.
「There’s nothing left of me if my title and magic are taken away!? Who is!?…No, he didn’t say nothing remains though. Even so, saying that father’s fortune and my youth and appearance are all that I’m left with is—」
Valeria released a sigh mixed with anger and leaned against the balcony. While tapping the feathered folding fan on her shoulder, she looked down on the garden below.
She couldn’t see clearly since the starlight was insufficient, but there were two figures nestled close to the shade of a tree.
Valeria returned to the hall from the balcony and closed the glass door with her hands held behind her.
She tried to scrutinise the hall’s interior again but Karin wasn’t anywhere as expected. Moreover, Dante who should be the host didn’t seem to be around too.
She could easily guess who the pair of silhouettes at the shade of the tree from a while ago belonged to.
「…Aren’t you unexpectedly quick to settle things?」
Valeria spread the folding fan to conceal half of her face and proceeded to the table that was lined up with cuisine.
In Amaddo, the earliest age when people began training was seven or eight while even the latest would be before their twelfth birthday should they decided to become a Dominas.
To begin the training meant engraving magic crests onto the skin first, followed by studying usage of elementary magic. Karin was a child who memorised quickly but nonetheless she was ten when she chose this path, hence that time when the magic crests were first carved onto her remained in that girl’s mind even now.
Though more than half of the girls aimed to become a Dominas, did they feel the lack of talent or could they not endure the pain of having magic crests drawn on them? They’d abandoned their dream half a year after the training started. Thus in the midst of the harsh competition, Karin publicly became a Dominas with her natural ability, endeavour and some help from luck.
The last time that she visited the Valiente House was when she was ten, before she participated in the training, and thus this was her first visit in seven years since she seldom left Roma during the training.
The traces of those days when she played hide and seek in this garden as a child were already gone.
「After father’s death, I was made to take over the reins」
Dante smiled at Karin while guiding her through the garden at night.
「—Since I’ll be the one supporting this Valiente House after my late father」
「It came to the point where you want to paint it in your colour—right?」
「Maa is it something like that?…There’re expectations that young generations like us will be the ones to support this country」
Karin looked up at the balcony where boisterous laughter could be heard faintly and gave a small sigh.
「…Did you form personal connection with me too for that? You’re ambitious like your Chichi-ue」
The Dante Valiente in Karin’s memories was a slightly precocious boy of twelve years but, the Dante whom she met again after seven years was a young and already splendid head of the Valiente House. He was currently the deputy prime minister as a proxy for his father who died suddenly, but if it was this young man, he might seized a post above that eventually with just his true strength.
「You were brought up in Amaddo all this time so you might not know it intuitively but」
Dante walked to the square gazebo at the corner of the garden to distance themselves from the loud noise that had escaped, offered a bench to Karin and continued speaking.
「—Our Biranoba’s situation is extremely delicate」
「Is it because it’s between two large countries?」
「That’s exactly the problem…The peace that Biranoba presently has comes from the geographical condition of lying in between the major powers that are Amaddo and Diruma. Our peace is protected by these countries’military forces」
「Is there a problem with that?」
「Military-wise, Biranoba is compelled to depend on Amaddo and Diruma and has to bear a portion of both countries’ enormous amount of war funds annually as collateral… But if I’m allowed to say, then that’s a completely needless expenditure」
「…It’s not unnecessary isn’t it?」
「Originally, we should be carrying weapons ourselves to protect the country. However, the current us don’t have that weapons. As a result from bearing a portion of both countries’ war funds, there’s no surplus for possessing weapons」
「…Isn’t it the same at the end?」
Dante sat on the bench opposite of Karin, looked up at the moon and shook his head exaggeratedly. Each of his theatrical actions hadn’t changed from the time when he was a child.
「—That’s a state of overly lax servitude. Even you’ve seen the old map at least right? The Biranoba from before boasted a territory that was almost twice of the current, but those plots of land belong to Amaddo and Diruma now…Do you know why?」
「My apology…I’m not interested in history. And this isn’t my motherland either」
「This’s also your grandmother’s birthplace」
Though Karin brushed it off curtly, she undoubtedly understood why historical context became so. Biranoba was forced to cede its territory to both countries because it had became an undeveloped country in magic and wasn’t able to produce a Dominas successively, thus burdening Amaddo with the training of Dominas. In regards to the enormous expense that was essential to train Dominas perpetually, Biranoba which had lost its Dominas had to cede its territory or dowry so to call it.
(TN: To summarise: Biranoba’s a 3rd rate country in magic > unable to train a Dominas > task is taken over by Amaddo > in return, Biranoba gave Amaddo territory as Dominas’s training expenses.)
「If there’s a power in our country, without losing a Dominas, our territory wouldn’t need to be ceded. The stipulation that Biranoba had with Amaddo at that time clearly—」
「…Is there any meaning explaining that to me now?」
Fanning Dante’s face gently with her feathered folding fan, Karin interrupted her childhood friend’s speech.
「If you want to reproach your processors’ folly, I think it’s better to do so to your heart’s content at your royal court…However, telling me that is barking up the wrong tree. Since I’m part of the Amaddo’s government, I’m not in the position to interfere」
「But there’s a power in you too」
Karin wasn’t sure what kind of talk Dante was trying to bring up and knitted her brows. As expected, she shouldn’t have a face-to-face talk with Dante. To begin with, Karin and party came to Biranoba to search for Quique’s assistant, a woman named Nereida. She didn’t have the leisure to engage in reminiscent talk with Dante here.
「…Do you remember the last time when you spend the summer here?」
Dante said so while fiddling with his quirky forelocks.
「At that time, I received such a shock when I heard that we couldn’t meet for a while because you’d be gone for training」
「…Such a thing might have happened」
「The words that I told you at this square gazebo on that day wasn’t a joke or anything, but have you forgotten them already?」
「…What were they?」
Although Karin had searched through her memories and recalled those words accurately, she took it upon herself to feign ignorance and looked away. Just then, the moon in the night sky was obscured by the thin clouds and its brightness weakened. For better or worse, the mood didn’t turn bad.
「You’re heartless…I asked if you would marry me you know?」
「I’m sorry. I don’t remember」
「Even now, my feelings haven’t change」
「Even if that’s so, I cannot respond to it」
「I understand that as a Dominas, you’re obligated to maintain your purity」
Dante shrugged his shoulders and stood up.
「—I’ve waited for seven years. Therefore, I believe there’s no reason why I can’t wait for another nine years」
「…Are you serious?」
「…However, if I were to collate and contemplate the preceding conversations, then it’s because you want my magic talent after all isn’t it?」
「You’ve been an intelligent woman since the old times so glossing it over poorly might also be pointless, and above all, I want to be honest to you so I’ll say this clearly… I certainly want your magic talent」
「However, genuinely wanting to marry you is my true feelings. Was there any man besides me that propose to you before knowing you’ve magic talent?」
He really hadn’t changed.
Seeing Dante spoke with his hand placed onto his chest, Karin thought so. Dante Valiente was a person who did everything grandiosely, pompously and never tried to hide his desire. Needless to say, he should bear in mind to be self-effacement since he lived in a political world, but even so, that essential part from when he was a boy seemed to remain in him.
Karin rose up from the bench and proffered her right hand to Dante.
「…The host can’t be absent forever, can he? Let’s return soon」
「I still haven’t hear you answer」
「You know that it’s not something which can be answered at once right?」
「Maa, you’re right」
「Your response to my appeal is exceeding low…I’m a daughter of the Rudbeck House you know?」
「If you give birth to two sons, the eldest and second son can be the heirs to the Valiente and Rudbeck House respectively」
「…Don’t tell Valeria this」
Karin closed her mouth and let Dante led her by hand in silence.
If Valeria heard Dante’s words, she’d likely jump for joy at the loophole whereby she, who was a daughter and heiress, could get married to Lucius. Irrefutably, if she resorted to such method, then the Costacurta and Richternach Houses could attain heirs. And if it was a girl like Valeria, then she might coolly give birth to around two or three healthy children.
However, Karin somehow thought that might not go well with Valeria and Lucius and felt vaguely uneasy.
End of Chapter 2