A knock would normally sound a little gentler, but the knock of this time was extremely harsh and noisy.
Opening her eyes slowly, Valeria grimaced from a dull throbbing pain that ran through her temple, clicked her tongue and got up.
The light shining in from the gap of the curtain was dazzling, and her lengthened shadow indicated that it was still early in the morning. However, this rude knock wasn’t from a maid-san that had come to wake Valeria up.
She could roughly hear the low and restrained voice of Bettina together with the boisterous knocking that continued even now. It seemed as if that armoured girl didn’t realise that it was completely meaningless to lower only her voice.
Valeria furrowed her brows even deeper from that sound which pounded in her head, and went towards the door.
「Hold on…You’re being noisy…」
「Ah! You’ve finally woken up desune, Valeria-samaa!」
When Valeria undid the lock, a pink body intruded inside with a tumbling momentum.
「…Why in the world did you wake me up on such an early morning…?」
「T, this’s terrible desuyou, Valeria-sama!」
「So, what is it…?」
Bettina hurried to the window while dragging along noisy footsteps with a “gacho gacho”. When she had turned over the curtain and checked the garden, she returned to Valeria who had drunk some water from the pitcher and was seating on the bed.
「I, I actually saw this a while ago desuyou!」
「Although I stayed up all night, I unintentionally dozed off at dawn」
「Ha? Why did you stay up all night?」
「I’ll explain that again afterwards. A, anyway, some noise came from the garden after I dozed off desu! Thereupon, I woke up and wondered what it was. And when I flipped the curtain to look, they were there desu!」
「What was there?」
「Dimitar-san and Karin-sama desuyou!」
Valeria, who was tired and had placed her hand on her forehead, raised her face at Bettina’s words.
「Di…Richternach-kyou and Karin? Eh? Where were they?」
「In the garden over there desuyou!」
「Why were the two of them—?」
「I didn’t hear properly, but the two of them were nestled close together and somehow talking secretly under a tree as if they were doubtful of the surrounding. They seemed to have returned to their respective rooms afterwards, and I thought of hurrying to notify Valeria-sama—」
「Just a minute…!?」
Her slightly remaining sleepiness was completely blown away.
If she was to believe Bettina, then Dimitar and Karin had avoided public gaze and met clandestinely. She didn’t think that Karin, who fully understood her own position and was also very prudent, would ever do such a careless thing. But at the same time, Valeria was bothered by the remark of Karin who didn’t feel that Dimitar was detestable.
In reality, when she thought of what the pair were secretly doing and talking about in the garden at dawn, the brain of Valeria who had just woken up boiled with a “gura gura”. She wasn’t sure what to say and how to explain it, but she was angry somehow or the other. Although she didn’t know why, she was angry.
Pulling and tearing off her gown, Valeria flung it away and changed her clothes hurriedly. She then flew out of her room while holding the hem of her dress, and lightly kicked the door of Dimitar’s room.
「Richternach-kyou! Open the door quickly! Otherwise I’ll break it!」
「Valeria-sama, p, please calm down! Why did you flare up suddenly~?」
「I’m calm! And I’m not angry!」
When she responded with a menacing look that startled Bettina, the lock opened with a “kachari” sound and Dimitar peeked through the gap of the slightly opened door.
「You’re so noisy…What’s the matter exactly?」
「I’ve something to talk about!」
Right after she said so, Valeria half-forcibly intruded into the room.
Dimitar, who was rumpling his dark grey hair while yawning in succession, was actually in a light sleep as he was naked above the waist. Since he was always bustling about while carrying that large sword, his body was supple and balanced. It made her associate him with a sly carnivorous animal like a wolf or fox. And remaining faintly near his slightly visible abs was probably the arrow wound that he had received in Seriba.
(TN: To be precise, Dimitar was in the 1st stage of sleep.)
Valeria, who was staring at Dimitar’s body absentmindedly for a short time, came to her senses suddenly and shook her head while shuddering.
「—A, anyway! Put something on first! It, it’s rude to a lady!」
「…Aren’t you the one who had entered forcibly?」
Dimitar stroked the scruff of his neck and grumbled.
「…So, what’s it? Since you’ve specially come to disturb someone’s quiet sleep, I suppose it’s quite an emergency?」
「You’re being imprudent! Despite doing such a thing…」
While occasionally giving sidelong glances towards Dimitar who was buttoning his shirt, Valeria adjusted her breathing.
「Such a thing? What do you mean?」
「T, that—Bettina! Hora, repeat what you said just now!」
「It’s fine, so go on!」
Bettina reluctantly repeated the contents that she had told Valeria just now.
Hearing that, Dimitar’s eyebrows quivered.
「…Oi, you said that you dozed off? I’m sure that I told you to stay vigilant at night」
「Aah, I’m sorry I’m sorry!」
「You’ve nothing to apologise for!」
Valeria scolded the pliant armoured girl that was apologising, and scowled at Dimitar with a “girori”. This kind of man wasn’t frightening at all as long as he put on a shirt.
「Rather, what’s with the “stay vigilant at night” part?」
「You’ll need a guard when I aren’t around right? That’s why I told her to keep watch at night」
「Then, is it that? You forced the role of being my guard onto Bettina and indulgently go on a yobai yourself?」
「Yobai, you say?」
「Rather than yobai…y, you met with Karin secretly right!?」
When Dimitar, who was sitting on the bed’s edge, crossed his long legs and rested his chin on his hand, he released a lengthy sigh, raised his lips and gave a faint smile. It was the half-amazed-like and always mocking people—to say nothing of irritating—type of smile of his.
Valeria unconsciously flared up and raised her voice.
「Karin’s a Dominas in active duty you know!? Do you know what will happen if you get involved with her?! It’s obvious that you’ll be punished, even Karin—」
「…I’ve neither gotten involved with her nor intend to do so」
「Don’t laugh at each and every thing! Your attitude is terrible!」
「It’s because you’re saying so ludicrous things」
「Then what’s it!? What were you doing with Karin!?」
「Is there a need to tell you?」
Retorted by Dimitar with a “sakuri”, Valeria became speechless.
(TN: Onomatopoeia for being hit in the bulls-eye.)
Needless to say, if Dimitar was indeed trying to make a move on Karin, then Valeria must prevent it since Amaddo’s interest and honour would be greatly damaged. However, if that wasn’t the case, then Valeria had no right to interfere with what Dimitar and Karin were talking about or doing; even if she was Dimitar’s superior.
「I won’t act in a way that’d bring trouble to Lucius. Therefore, I’ll never do what you’re suspecting, and there’s no need for you to be edgy…If you understand that, then leave quickly. I’m feeling sleepy」
「I’m sorry…I could hear you even from the the corridor」
Yet when Valeria tried to argue vehemently, Petra who had finished changing her clothes and Karin who was in her gown and still looking sleepy entered the room quietly.
While rubbing her eyes, Karin stepped up to Valeria.
「…I don’t know what you’re thinking, but you’re misunderstanding this」
「If I really met a man secretly, I’d have done so in a place which is even more isolated. Do you think it’s exciting to be in a place that can be seen immediately if you flip the curtain ?」
Now that Karin mentioned it, it might be so. She didn’t notice it since she lacked the actual experience. Although Bettina was equally guilty, her embarrassment of having made an exaggerated fuss took precedence.
「T, then, what on earth were the two of you doing?」
「We were wandering around here and there in the town. Starting from the army’s armoury, we searched the workshop, and even the stable. I was thinking whether we could find evidence of Nereida’s existence」
「You went on a search—eh? Last night?」
「Rather than last night, it was few hours ago」
Once Karin had pointed out her misunderstanding, the voltage of Valeria’s subsided anger rose again with a “guru guru”.
「W, why? Such a thing, without notifying me…And also, why do you’ve to do it with Karin!?」
「I also said the same thing but~」
Petra pushed up her glasses lightly, and muttered in a tone that didn’t seem to be angry.
「—I wasn’t informed of anything too, and was told of the circumstances when I noticed this child came back just now—.Why did you hide it from me too, I wonder?」
「…I simply ran after Richternach-kyou at once because I noticed the sound of him leaving. I didn’t call out to you because I judged that I’d have lost sight of Richternach-kyou during that time」
「That’s enough from Karin’s side—」
Folding her arms, Valeria glared at Dimitar. Although she knew that it was impossible for this young man to become flustered from just a small cross-examination, she wouldn’t feel satisfied unless he apologised.
「—You, w, why didn’t you call me!?」
「I planned to call you. Although I knocked on your room before leaving the mansion, you’re probably sound asleep at that time already right? There wasn’t a response」
「No way!? You knocked? Really?」
Valeria’s complexion changed with a “gikuri” from Dimitar’s remark.
She had returned to her room after last night’s meal, flopped onto the bed at once and ended up sleeping. The next time when she woke up was already midnight. She felt that she had heard some noise at that time, but thinking back now, that might have been the sound of Karin leaving the mansion. Although she knocked on the door of Dimitar’s room immediately afterwards, there wasn’t a response. If she thought of it as a sign that he had already left the mansion, then the consistency matched.
Did Dimitar notice the visible change in Valeria’s expression? He gave a small snort.
「…Judging from your expression, were you not sound asleep? As expected」
「Ma, when you drank to that extent during the meal, I don’t think you’ll be of any use until you sobered up」
(TN: Corrected the mistake in chapter 3. (>⌋⌊<) )
「How rude! Saying that I’m useless—」
「To begin with, you’re lacking in self-awareness」
Dimitar spoke coldly in order to muffle the words of the indignant Valeria.
「I’m sure that I asked you this at mealtime; whether you had fun outside during the day」
「W, what of it?」
「You didn’t realise it? That was sarcasm you know?」
Crossing his legs, Dimitar wiggled his toes with a “pura pura”, and a really wicked-like smile floated on his lips. Valeria was bitterly made to realise this during the mission in Seriba, but when Dimitar made such an expression, he’d thoroughly defeat her with logic and reason.
「—If you’ve even a little bit of self-awareness, you’d have survey the state of the town while you were out or memorise the map, and even though there were things you ought to do, the first thing you did when you came back to the mansion was to make me and Gacha Pink carry your belongings? Indeed, you certainly seemed to have shopped enjoyably…In short, that’s the extent of your resolution to this mission」
「Why would I take you, who didn’t investigate for the mission, and to make matter worse, got carelessly intoxicated from drinking so much wine, along on a secret espionage activity? You’d likely only be a hindrance…Maa, I originally didn’t plan to take you along, but to have no self-awareness even here is rather uninspiring」
「But…t, then, why was Karin—」
「…It’s because I didn’t drink as much as you did in the first place」
Standing shrewdly before the full-length mirror and arranging her dishevelled hair, Karin looked at Valeria from across the mirror.
「Besides, saying that I wanted to shop and sending the carriage to various shops was to affirm with my own eyes, how much the town which I’m visiting after several years has changed, and also the changes that can’t be known just from reading a map, so that I won’t be troubled when the time to move comes」
「Y…you were thinking of such thing while shopping, Karin!?」
「A person that has self-awareness like her is useful…This way of speaking is rude to Rudbeck-geika. Anyway, do you understand why I didn’t wake you up with this? It’s because it’s a waste of time」
As expected, he didn’t go easy on her. She was undeniably defeated thoroughly and had no words to retort. Yesterday, Valeria thought that she had unconsciously gotten carried away and enjoyed herself too much, hence she thought of doing her best from tomorrow for sure.
However, that thought was too naive. Despite being in the midst of a mission which might influence her country’s interest, the thought of doing her best from tomorrow was her ineptitude as a person chosen for this mission.
Dimitar discontinued the matter regarding Valeria, whose face was flushed from the anger towards him and above all, the anger towards herself, and spoke to Karin.
「…Just nice. Let’s discuss what lies ahead now」
「Very well. It has been three days already since we came to Biranoba, and our evaluations will also be affected if we don’t produce some conclusive results soon」
「…Even if you said conclusive results, did you discover something?」
When Valeria had finally said that much, Dimitar looked at her fleetingly and nodded.
「I’ve discovered that the army facilities of this town didn’t store weapons and armours which seemed like it (products of magic engineering), and have no trace of Nereida either. It wasn’t a detailed search but, maa, nothing might turned up even if we searched the royal palace’s treasury」
「Then where’s she hiding?」
「This’s my intuition but—this case is unrelated to Biranoba’s government」
「This country has no intention of expanding its military force at all. The soldiers’ discipline is lax, and even the armours’maintenance is perfunctory. It’s by no means a state where they can separate from Amaddo and protect the country with their own strength. In addition, its military budget isn’t especially large too… At least, I don’t think that the military authorities are involved based on these implications」
「Then what’s it? A matter that’s contrary to our expectations even though we came to Biranoba?」
「That might not be the case. It’s a fact that Nereida mailed a letter to Chief Engineer from this country」
「But we haven’t find a clue on where she’s now, and there’s no proof of her making something right?」
「…If you exclude the possibility that is the army’s authorities, then there’s one place which I feel is suspicious」
Saying so, Dimitar glanced at the back figure of Karin.
「…What’s it, Richternach-kyou?」
「Does the Valiente House has at least one or two other detached residences?」
「Yes. Though it has villas in Amaddo and Diruma, there’s also one nearby」
「Ah…if it’s that place, then I’m sure it’s about an hour by carriage from here~」
Petra supplemented Karin’s reply. Dimitar then nodded with a self-satisfied look, and continued in a low voice.
「Please teach me of that place in details」
「Wait a minute」
Valeria knitted her brows and stared at Dimitar.
「That way of saying…eh? Surely you aren’t suspecting Dante-san are you? I mean—isn’t he Karin’s relative and also the next prime minister of this country?」
「If the army isn’t the mastermind, then what we ought to suspect next is an influential person within the country. Since a large-scale research can’t be advanced secretly unless it’s someone with money and power」
It wasn’t as if she didn’t understand what Dimitar had said. However, while it was justifiable, she didn’t feel good suspecting Dante at the start. Dante wasn’t the only influential person of this country, and wasn’t it alright to do so after checking the many other possibilities? First, to suspect Dante meant suspecting Karin’s relative and childhood friend.
However, it was unexpected that Karin whom Valeria was glancing at didn’t appear offended—it was her usual stance nonetheless—and was indifferently facing herself in the full-length mirror.
「Hey, Karin! Shouldn’t you say something? Your childhood friend is under suspicions you know?」
「…If I were to separate myself from a relative’s standpoint and think of the possibility only, then if it’s surely Dante, he’s liable to do it」
「Like I said, he’s likely to do such things secretly if it’s him」
「He isn’t a bad person at the core, but perhaps I should say that he’s an excessive strong patriotic person with just a little prejudice…since the past, he’d say things like being responsible for this country someday, and changing this country that’s similar to a vassal state of Amaddo and Diruma. His pride is also very high」
「But to suspect him from just that…there’s plenty of people with strong patriotism right?」
「I don’t know that man well but」
Dimitar interrupted the conversation between Valeria and Karin.
「—The first time I felt that man was suspicious was when we arrived at this mansion. At that time, do you remember what that man said when he saw Gacha Pink?」
「I was bothered by that too」
Separating from the front of the full-length mirror, Karin replied instead of the speechless Valeria.
「…If I remember correctly, Dante at that time said something like he was envious that magic engineering is progressing in Amaddo」
「What about it?」
「…You knew the word “magic engineering”?」
「Eh? That’s maa, I heard it when I met the Chief Engineer some time ago」
「I didn’t know until I participated in this mission. Petra too right?」
「I, I knew of it!」
Bettina, who didn’t have the chance to interject the whole time until now, raised her right hand with a “gachuin” and spoke up.
「I also knew of it since earlier on」
「Isn’t that because you guys go in and out of the Chief Engineer’s workshop all this time—I don’t want to be shown off to by such a thing!」
「I don’t intend to show off in particular…The point is, it isn’t a word which should be known unless you’re such a person (a workshop’s patron)」
Dimitar said so while looking coldly towards Valeria who had spontaneously raised her voice.
「If one is to go in and out of a workshop, it’s natural that he’d be familiar with the word “magic engineering”, but on the contrary, it’s an unfamiliar word to people who don’t go in and out of there. In the first place, it’s a neologism that the Chief Engineer applied to his research. Even in Amaddo’s royal palace, there’s hardly anybody who know of such a word.—In that case, where exactly did Dante learn of the word “magic engineering”? Can a completely unrelated person to such research deduce that Bachu was an armour which was somehow made via magic engineering from just a glance?」
If she considered that the word was transmitted to Dante from Nereida who had researched with Quique, then the explanation made sense. Rather, there was no choice but to think so.
「I’m not sure the contact came from whom, but there must be a connection somehow between Dante and Nereida. I believe there’s hardly a doubt of that」
「If that’s case—」
Valeria looked around the room. Perhaps the sword and gauntlet which were heavily inscribed with magic crests were hidden somewhere within this mansion.
「—The actual article might not be here」
As if he had seen through Valeria’s thoughts, Dimitar continued.
「I tried to roughly search the mansion during the day yesterday, but there doesn’t seem to be a place for keeping such a thing. It’d have been understandable if it’s a set of decorated armour, but as far as a large quantity is concerned, it’s not hard to narrow down the storage area」
「What about the detached cabin where the gardener lives and the stable?」
「They aren’t inconceivable as possibilities…, but letting us stay like this and yet not restricting our movement in particular, I feel that it may be possible that the actual article isn’t here. Even if it is, it might be imperceptible」
「…If it exists, it might be in the detached residence」
「Ah—, if I’m not mistaken, I heard that the mansion was built especially for Dante’s Oba-sama to recuperate from her illness. Therefore, it’s seldom use now」
If it was a vast mansion that was far away from town and in addition, where guests weren’t invited to, then it certainly might be an ideal place for a person to hide in and continue researching. It seemed suspicious just from hearing about it.
However, Valeria still didn’t feel fully satisfied somehow.
More accurately speaking, it wasn’t the matter of suspecting Dante that she was unsatisfied with. What she wasn’t satisfied with, was that the talk was progressing under the initiative of Dimitar and Karin with it (Dante’s possible involvement) as a prerequisite. She couldn’t help feeling as if she was excluded.
In fact, Dimitar and Karin had decided their future plans by just the two of them before Valeria could interject.
「—Then it’s decided with this」
「Now that’s it has been settled, everyone please leave. As expected, I can’t move tonight if I don’t sleep a little」
「…Yes. I’ll also take a rest」
Karin hid a small yawn with her hand and left the room with Petra.
「I said that I’ll be going to sleep soon right?」
Dimitar began to take off his shirt again while saying so. Seeing his surprisingly white back, Valeria’s face turned bright red and she panicky rushed out to the corridor with Bettina.
「Y, you really have no delicacy!」
Valeria, who had cursed towards the door that was closed violently, noticed the gaze of Karin who had taken a step out of her room, and feeling embarrassed, she hurriedly cleared her throat.
Karin stared at Valeria fixedly and spoke deliberately.
「…You, what’s the matter?」
「You seem to have a dissatisfied look since just now」
「T…that’s because you guys arbitrarily decided everything!」
「To be specific, we don’t have such an intention but…you should have said it if you’ve an opinion」
「I don’t have the chance to do so!」
「Is that so…? I’m sorry about that. Then, will you let me hear your opinion once again?」
Even if Karin said to let her hear it again, Valeria didn’t have an opinion in particular. When she went “au au” without saying anything else, Karin gazed at Valeria with a sympathising look,
「…You don’t have to be pretentious even to me okay, Valeria? Otherwise, won’t you feel suffocated?」
「I, I’m not pretending!」
「Ara, I’m sorry for arbitrarily deciding that」
「Saying I’m sorry I’m sorry…it doesn’t mean you can say whatever you like if you apologise like that」
「While I’m at it, I’m sorry for another of my arbitrary assumption」
「W, what? There’s still something else?」
Karin approached Valeria with a “zuzui” and looked up at her face from up-close.
「…Isn’t it because you’re actually jealous that you’ve been displeased since just now?」
When she understood the meaning of Karin’s words, Valeria’s mind became blank.
It was completely unexpected. What was unexpected wasn’t Karin’s words, but her current attitude that seemed as if she was jealous of something.
That’s ridiculous—thinking that made Valeria restless.
「Www, wh, what’s this, all of a sudden!?」
「I think you felt excluded and became jealous because Richternach-kyou and I worked as a pair a lot…Am I wrong?」
「Y, you’re wrong!」
Valeria clenched her fists and denied it with all her might.
「I’m certainly offended by his self-justification but…that’s all! It’s just unpleasant that you guys advanced the discussion as you like!」
「Then it’s fine. I’m sorry for saying weird things」
「Like I said, don’t apologise for everything…Even though you don’t really feel that sorry」
Laughing coldly with a “fufun”, Karin returned to her room.
When Valeria was seeing her off while adjusting her breathing,
「It’s not because I’m jealous!」
Valeria turned around and screamed at Bettina who had called out to her timidly.
「…That’s Karin’s arbitrary assumption! Therefore, you won’t take it seriously and say boring things to that guy right!? If you do so, I’ll fire you!」
「I won’t tattle to Dimitar-san especially but…what I want to say is desune, if you talk in such a loud voice here, won’t everything be overheard?…Maa, it might be too late even if I said it now though」
After she stared at her own face that was reflected on the curved surface of Bettina’s smooth helmet briefly, Valeria hurried to her room in a trot.
「—I’m going to sleep already!」
「Eh!? Didn’t you just wake up a while ago?」
「I’m going back to sleep!」
Bettina seemed to be saying something beyond the door, but it wasn’t audible to Valeria who had dived into the bed and pulled the blanket over her head. She decided not to hear it.
If she calmed down and thought carefully, such a thing should never happened.
Who was it that she liked—Valeria would unhesitatingly and instantly answer that it was Lucius. What did she thought of Dimitar—she’d declared immediately without hesitation that he was strong, and swearing to Redountra, a gloomy, irritating and unpleasant fellow.
Even if Valeria tried to think over and over again repeatedly, that stance of hers didn’t waver.
Nevertheless, Valeria didn’t understand it well why it wavered from such things spoken by Karin.
She thought that it was alright not to know what she didn’t know, and that it’d have worked out if she skilfully concealed her agitation, but it was regrettable that she had hurriedly denied it in a loud voice. That’d seem like she was hit in the bull’s-eye and panicked.
Valeria placed her head on the pillow again and continued her small-scale confinement till close to noon while groaning in a low voice.
She didn’t want to say anything to Bettina and Petra now, and of course, Dimitar and Karin too.
A silhouette of a bird with its wings widely spread was traversing the blue sky slowly.
While a strong breeze with the scent of greenery blew with a “soyo soyo”, Isaac looked up at the sky and drew his bow to the maximum quietly.
Although the bowstring resounded with a “hyuu”, the bird calmly flew away as it was. Isaac frowned and looked back towards Lucius over his shoulder.
「…Since it’s so far away, it can’t be helped that I missed right?」
「If it’s a person belonging to the army’s archery corps, it’s natural for the bird to be shot down but, maa, it’s Your Highness」
「Hey, don’t you feel your way of speaking is scathing?」
「Excuse me. I meant to say that a person like Your Highness normally doesn’t has to take up a sword or a bow」
Lucius smiled slightly and bowed, and then holding the edge of his mantle lightly, he raised his right hand overhead. A high-pitched cry resounded after several seconds, and the bird from before fell from the sky. Without a moment delay, several young men of the Chivalric Order galloped on their horses to retrieve the game.
Isaac held up his hand over his brows and gazed at the bird that was shot down, and then looked back at Lucius again and sighed.
「…How ostentatious. However, good skill」
Lucius hid his right hand, where the magic crest vanished from, under the mantle and replied nonchalantly.
「If I can’t do this much, then I’m unsuitable to be in the Seal Chivalric Order」
「…Even though I’m the leader when I can’t use magic well?」
「Your Highness is fine. You’re His Highness after all」
The Amaddo’s crown prince; based on that point only, he was appointed as the leader of the Seal Chivalric Order. In the first place, the group of magic warriors that was organised to protect the “Hill of Seal”, might be in the process of becoming an existence like an Imperial Guards Chivalric Order now.
The Seal Chivalric Order, commanded by its leader Isaac—substantially, it was the vice-leader Lucius—, headed to a prairie near the national border, set up camp there, and had been hunting under the name of manoeuvres since morning. Most of the members were practising sword superficially; otherwise, they were sitting down and chatting pleasantly, or amusing themselves with card games—in any case, it was as if there was no tension of a manoeuvre here.
Numerous tents hoisted with multi-coloured flags were set up nearby, and as it was exactly noon, thin smokes from meals trailed up. When one more hour elapsed, the bird which Lucius shot down moment ago would become a treat for the crown prince. It was like a picnic of nobles.
Isaac entered the shade of a large tree which towered alone in the prairie and said.
「…I want to hear your honest impression, Lucius-kun」
「What is it?」
「How many people among the current Chivalric Order can perform the same feat that you did just now?」
「It’d be great if there’s half」
Lucius answered so, but he understood that there was even less in reality. Even though the quality of Amaddo’s magic warriors had improved, the quality of the abilities of the young men who enrolled into the Chivalric Order decreased year by year. Although it was ironic, it was an unmistakable fact.
「That’s to say, half of them are unsuitable to be in the Chivalric Order?」
「That’s how I think at least…In the first place, what’s important to the dignitaries of the grand nobles who are thinking of letting their grandchildren and sons serve Your Highness isn’t magic or sword skills, but the amount of donation」
「How detestable, for such a convention to be enacted」
「This type of members aren’t capable of protecting Your Highness and the royal family at the critical time, but there are many people who haven’t thought of such matter at all」
「Ma, a flashy battle that’d involved even our Chivalric Order hasn’t occur for more than 100 years, so this isn’t incomprehensible…but for the Chivalric Order that I lead to be a gathering of good-for-nothings and only for appearance is somewhat worrisome」
Isaac who was grumbling slightly shut his mouth suddenly and looked up at the sky.
When Lucius followed Isaac’s line of sight, he spotted a tiny white pigeon flying from the west.
「…Even if I who can’t use sword or magic say one thing or another, there’s no persuasive power, and if I don’t have at least an adequate skill of the bow」
Lucius stopped Isaac who had said so and was about to prepare the bow again.
「Please wait, Your Highness」
「N? What’s it?」
「That’s a carrier pigeon of our army. Considering the direction, it’s likely a notice from Costacurta-geika who had headed to Biranoba」
「That means she had found out something at once?」
Lucius went towards a tent in a trot.
With both the king and queen currently absent from the capital and even the crown prince leaving Roma, the party had brought along a mobile pigeon house in preparation for the worst. Normally, a carrier pigeon could only return to its nest box; but this carrier pigeon that was raised in this pigeon house was able to return to it accurately even if it was moved to other places. It was a valuable object prepared as a means of communication to Kamunyas-kyou, but it was Lucius’s concern that made Dimitar carried a similar pigeon.
A slightly dark tin tube was fastened onto the leg of the pigeon that had headed for the mobile pigeon house and descended with a “hata hata”.
「It was earlier than I imagined…it’s great that it didn’t prove to be a fool’s errand for coming until here」
「Please wait for a moment」
Lucius retrieved the rolled up memo from the message tube. The other members had also gathered in the vicinity of Lucius and Isaac.
「So, what did the Ojou-san say?」
「…It seemed that the Seriba’s case from the other day was unrelated to Biranoba. The likelihood of its government and army participating in that is low」
When Lucius had presented the unrolled memo to Isaac, he prepared the crown prince’s seat near the bonfire. An assembly type table and chairs were carried at once, and Isaac’s dining table was put together.
Isaac sat down on a wooden chair laid out with cushion and snorted.
「It’s boring that the material to shake Biranoba has decreased」
「If their guess is right, I think that’s enough to shake Biranoba…but is Your Highness perhaps thinking of giving some reasons to crush them?」
When Lucius asked in a lowered voice, Isaac drank his sugared wine in one gulp and shrugged his shoulders.
「I’m not thinking to that extent. A buffer is necessary between Diruma and I also don’t want to incur the enmity of Biranoba’s strongly patriotic citizens…However, I’d like to sell them an even greater favour or make a large loan etc. if possible; isn’t it convenient to have such trump cards in time of emergencies?」
「Then, maa, let’s depart when the meal finish.—Lucius-kun, I wonder if you can go first and enter Biranoba to drop a few lines to their prime minister-dono? Do pretend that we’re travelling incognito to the utmost」
「With this large household, I feel that this isn’t travelling incognito though」
Excluding the members, the party of approximately 100 people was comprised of the chefs and even the attendants taking care of the pigeons. Lucius looked back at it and smiled bitterly.
Valeria filled the white porcelain bathtub that was carried in with Bettina’s horsepower with water, and took off her dress.
「Even though it’s fine to borrow the mansion’s if it’s a bath~…」
Did Bettina who was made to assist Valeria’s bathing unconsciously expressed her thoughts? She vented such complaints.
Thereupon, Valeria deliberately lowered her voice,
「Perhaps Dante-san might be the mastermind—, if I’m made to hear such things, I can’t enter the bathroom calmly right!? I’ll be unarmed while bathing!」
「I think Valeria-sama is strong even if you’re unarmed though~…」
「It’s an issue of feelings, feelings!」
“Hyu hyu”, she lightly drew a sign with her right hand and thrust it into the water with a “zabon”. She waited for a minute as it was and the lukewarm water gradually became warm.
Seeing that Valeria heated the hot bath with magic, Bettina felt admiration and leaked out a sigh.
「—Toasting bread or heating a bath; as expected, magic is convenient in various ways if it can be used」
「I didn’t experience pain for such things specifically. Rather, I don’t use it for these kinds of things only in the first place」
If she was to enter the bathroom, rather than heating the hot bath entirely with magic, she’d at the most set a fire first and heat the hot bath normally with firewood. It was much easier and the efficiency was also good. Bettina might not understand even if she explained, but to make so much water into a hot bath in a short time, a considerable amount of heat which could burn a small house in the blink of an eye must be released in one go; in short, a seemingly simple and very advanced magic must be used.
It was mentally taxing to use such magic and she’d also feel hungry later. When a line of red light connected her right hand which was plunged into the bathtub to her cleavage, Valeria’s mental power was undoubtedly exhausted.
Bettina stared at the magic crest’s radiance earnestly and spoke up at this late hour.
「—Valeria-sama, do you really possess magic crests on your whole body?」
「What’s this about, all of the sudden?」
「I mean, doesn’t Dimitar-san has them on his hand or forehead only?」
「I don’t know. Magic crests only appear when they are being used…Maa, it’s true that I’ve them on almost my whole body」
There was a conceit of enduring that much pain within Valeria. It could be clearly said to be the only part where she didn’t lose to that impertinent Dimitar.
Taking off her undergarments, Valeria submerged into the hot bath and grandly stretched herself.
「Your whole body means your bottom and…um, your embarrassing places too—?」
「I said almost right, almost! Almost my whole body!」
「Then, there’s none on your bottom?」
「You can’t use them if they’re on strange places you know? The skin must be exposed to use the magic crest of that place」
「Ah, I see…Besides, you’ll have to show it to Dimitar-san when the necessity arises」
With those few words from a nonchalant Bettina, Valeria recalled the matter in Seriba.
She frowned and held onto her chest quietly in the hot bath. Although that time was a situation where her magic crests had to be restored before been discovered by the enemies, she’d become furious at having her cleavage casually pressed against and her waist touched even when she thought back on it now. Although she impulsively hit Dimitar hard afterwards, that still wasn’t enough as a maiden’s revenge.
「If the magic crests on your breasts disappeared or get damaged, must you still show your breasts to Dimitar-san?」
「N, no way! Of course not! Such a thing will never bufu!」
Valeria who was about to raise her feet onto the bathtub’s rim broke her balance, sank into the hot bath till her head, and then stood up hurriedly.
「—D, don’t say weird things suddenly! I, it’s embarrassing…!」
「But “exclusive” means this sort of things right? You can’t say it’s embarrassing when the time comes can you?」
「T, that may be so but…」
「There wasn’t such a thing before?」
「W, why are you asking this sort of thing!?」
「I mean, the relation between Valeria-sama and Dimitar-san seems bad. If that’s the case, it might become rough—is what I think…if it becomes so, then whose side should I take?」
「You’ll choose my side! Whose attendant are you!?」
「That seems to be a matter of course…but probably」
Thereupon, Bettina gulped a little and prevaricated. Although she couldn’t be seen due to the visor, she probably had shut her mouth.
「…What’s it? Probably?」
「Ah, no…since you’ll get angry if I say it…」
「Hearing you phrased it like that makes me want to hear it more and more though?」
Valeria made sure to lean forward on the bathtub’s edge and urged Bettina on with a “zuzui”.
「But, um…then I’ll say it honestly. In the first place, no matter what kind of situation it is, I feel that Dimitar-san’s decision is more correct than Valeria-sama’s…」
Valeria raised her right which had a magic crest appearing on it overhead, but she submerged it into the hot bath with a sour expression. Although it was vexing, it was pointless to refute it.
Sprinkling Bettina lightly with hot water, Valeria immersed herself into the hot bath again until the tip of her chin.
「…Suppose you become a magic genius like me, and your magic crests are damaged to some extent, can you still cover for yourself? If you really could, then that guy won’t have a turn to show up」
「…Is that true?」
「What’s with that doubtful intonation?」
「…Maa, if they’re damaged, there’s also a magic crest that’s the highest priority for restoration; in that case, I’ll have to borrow that guy’s help even if I’m reluctant to do so」
「Eh? Is it some sort of special magic crest?」
「…So you don’t know it well, me neither. It’s said to be a magic crest that was handed down since long ago to signify the status as a Dominas」
「Where is it?」
「I said it right? That magic crests can’t be seen unless magic power is circulated」
Valeria held her own body, curled up her back and pointed at the area around her left scapula over her shoulder.
「It should be roughly in this area…」
She concentrated her consciousness on her back slightly and poured in magic power.
「Ah…! A small magic crest resembling a rose has appeared!」
「Yes, that’s it. I don’t understand well, but only that magic crest has to be restored immediately if it’s damaged. It isn’t used for some magic in particular…how do I say, it’s a sign of a proof? In that sense, it’s something carved onto you when you’re officially chosen as a Dominas. I had Karin showed hers to me before, but it’s slightly different from mine」
「He—. Then it really is a proof of a Dominas」
「However, to carve this extra one takes time and feels painful. Sometimes, I become envious of the people who are living a life that’s unrelated to such things」
「…But I feel that the girls from all over the country still have the thoughts of wanting to become a Dominas」
“Kyukkyu”, while wiping her pink body that was sprayed by the hot water with a towel, Bettina murmured somewhat despondently.
「Even I, won’t say to be like Dominas-sama as expected, but I’m still thinking of becoming able to use magic even now. If so, I might be able to help Oji-sama’s research more…」
Thinking that she had hurt Bettina’s feelings somehow, Valeria sat in seiza in the bathtub and apologised in a small voice.
Valeria had seen tens of these girls who had their dreams shattered and dropped out so far. If she had made one wrong step, she might have become like them too. Hence, if that was true, she should have understood the feelings of the girls who held a sense of failure, and yet she had said careless remarks without doing so.
Bettina spoke to the despondent Valeria in a slight panic.
「It’s fine either way, why does Valeria-sama has to apologise?」
「I’m sure that I’m similar to Oji-sama. Oji-sama also can’t use magic. But, the circumstance where normal people also can’t use magic is precisely why I think Oji-sama started his current research」
「By the way, if Valeria-sama doesn’t get up soon and take a nap, wouldn’t it be troubling later? There’re preparations to be done too」
It was obvious that Bettina was being mindful towards her who was feeling depressed, but Valera decided to go along with that.
End of Chapter 4