Disclaimer: I do not guarantee a 100% accurate translation. Do kindly notify me if you see any mistake.
Ally and Imaginary Enemy
Amaddo and its neighbouring country, Diruma, had, in these several hundred years, been strengthening their alliance by means of marriages between fellow royal families. That the “Holy Alliance (Furigana: Riga Santourear)” was in a long stable state was probably due to the firm friendship between Amaddo that boasted the greatest national power in the alliance and Diruma that possessed the third greatest national power.
However, it couldn’t be said that there was no cause of conflict in the alliance that looked firm.
The superior of the north, Haiderota.
This country which had a national power that ranked below Amaddo’s in the alliance was advancing its military expansion with a clear intent.
They didn’t try to conceal their ambition of wanting to replace Amaddo and becoming the leader of the alliance.
If one were to speak of a place that was overflowing with flowers within the castle of Amaddo, then the Crown Prince’s greenhouse came to mind in the foremost, but this courtyard was a comfortable location as well.
As Queen Arumdena, who was now in the middle of recuperating in a royal villa on her parent’s side, liked gardening since her early years, the Crown Prince’s hobby might have been influenced by his mother. However, in contrast to the bias-like—fussiness that, in some respects, existed in the Crown Prince’s playing around with roses, it felt like the flowers which decorated this garden had a broad-mindedness that accepted anything. Although a lot of flowers seemed to be planted disorderly at a glance, they were somehow pleasing to the eyes.
One would feel that spreading a white table in such a courtyard, inviting a beautiful woman and beautiful girls and treating them to tea in a fine early afternoon didn’t suit this fortitudinous king in any way.
After all, speaking of the 11th generation Jeffren, he was a military man who made a name for himself with his battle skills. Compared to sipping tea with a teacup, gulping down sake with a large beer mug was more like him.
Perhaps he had such awareness himself, the great man who wanted to stand on the battlefield despite being past 40 picked up the thin cup snugly, sipped the tea and frowned openly.
Orvieto who was drinking tea in a graceful manner looked at the king fleetingly with upturned eyes.
「—If you dislike its bitterness, won’t it be fine if you put sugar into it?」
「This degree can’t be called bitter」
King Jeffren Francesc who had placed the cup down folded his thick arms and smiled wryly.
「I—ah—…to put it simply, I prefer sake」
「However, everyone said that a military-style drinking feast isn’t suitable for inviting young ladies and expressing my gratitude」
「Thank you very much for doing this specially」
Karin who was drinking tea beside Valeria bowed her head. Seeing that, Valeria also lowered her head hurriedly.
The king, who had just returned from his mistress’s side, invited Valeria and Karin, and Orvieto as well, to the royal palace to personally thank the Dominas who had assisted in the resolving of troubles during his absence.
—Was what Valeria heard.
But after sitting on this seat for about 30 minutes, she began to feel that the situation was peculiar somehow.
Stretching her hand to a marzipan that was made in the shape of a wild berry, Valeria whispered to Karin softly.
「Isn’t something strange?」
「Right? Isn’t that so? We’re the guests of honour at this tea party, right?」
「Despite that, His Majesty is mostly talking to Head Director only since just now!」
「So it seems」
「Why did it become like this?」
「…This is a story that I’ve also heard from Petra though」
Scooping the jam of rose’s petals with a silver spoon and dissolving it into her black tea, Karin replied in a low voice.
「When he wasn’t engaged yet, His Majesty—or rather, I think he was the crown prince at that time; but anyway, more than 20 years ago, it seemed that His Majesty proposed to Head Director and was rejected」
「Like I said, it’s a story about His Majesty being rejected by Head Director」
While leaving her mouth open with a “bokan”, Valeria stared at the king and Head Director.
Indifferent to the young ladies who were whispering like that, the king even reached out his left hand shrewdly and grasped Orvieto’s hand while stroking his manly beard.
「—Nevertheless, it’s all thanks to you that two capable Dominas are born like this. I’ve to express my gratitude, Orvieto」
「Thank you very much, Your Majesty. …But if you really think that way, then please call out to them a little」
Indeed, the king’s goodwill towards Orvieto was expressed well in that over-familiar tone. Even though there was an onlooker with an amazed expression nearby—and despite being told to call out to the girls—the king paid no attention to Valeria and Karin.
「…By the way, Your Majesty」
Pinching the back of the king’s left hand and tearing it away with her fingers, Orvieto spoke coldly.
「How’s Queen-denka’s condition? Has she not returned from Gruma yet?」
「Ah? Un, ma—…about that, hora, you said to put our focus here just now—」
「You’re right. Today is the tea party to thank both Her Eminences」
When Orvieto smiled cheerfully and said so immediately, the king sighed exaggeratedly and smiled wryly.
「Yare yare, as expected, it’s no good, huh! Even though it has been nearly 20 years since your husband died, your behaviour is stiff as ever」
「I shall take that as a praise」
Bowing respectfully, Orvieto looked at Valeria and Karin.
「—I believe this goes without saying, but please don’t carelessly make a move on these two people too. To say nothing of Amaddo, it’ll become a big problem of the entire alliance as well」
「I’m fully aware of such a thing! Or rather, even I won’t make a move on girls who are younger than my son, you know? I’m clear about the boundary of such a matter」
「Please cease that sort of vivid talk in front of the maidens who serve God」
「Iya—, sorry sorry」
The king, who had laughed with a “gahaha” and scratched his head, ordered a maid who was waiting at a short distance away to prepare brandy.
「Your Majesty. Having sake in daytime is—」
「To put it bluntly, I dislike black tea. I can’t comprehend the feelings of those guys who appreciate things like this」
「In that case, this won’t be a tea party」
「Do you want to see me frown whenever I sip a mouthful of tea?」
「I shall humbly decline」
「Maa that’s how it is」
When Orvieto closed her mouth with a sigh, the king finally faced the girls and smiled broadly.
「—I’ve heard about the Seriba and Biranoba’s matters from Kamunyas. It’s said that both of you did splendid work that was unexpected of a new Dominas?」
「Thank you very much」
「Though its order with your first job had reversed, we must still hold your debut ceremony grandly. —What do you think, Orvieto; what kind of idea will be good? Since it was made flashy to that extent on Shakira’s occasion, I want to make this extravagant no matter what」
「Is it because there are two people at the same time?」
「To put it simply, that’s right. At that time, if you hadn’t refuse it to the end, who’d Father choose to be the top student—」
「Babel-geika, I suppose」
Laconically yet clearly, Orvieto gave an immediate reply.
It was heard that when she was still a girl—when the present king was the crown prince—Orvieto was chosen to be one of the Dominas candidates; but because her mother who was the head of the Richternach House had died, she gave up the path of a Dominas and succeeded the house. At that time, Orvieto didn’t have a father or brothers and sisters already, thus she had no choice but to get a husband and give birth to an heir for the sake of continuing the Richternach House.
At that time, the one that had competed with Orvieto was Shakira Babel who commanded the entire alliance’s Dominas as their head even now. That Orvieto and Shakira were collectively called the “Souheki (two matchless people/a pair of bright jewels)” wasn’t only because the pair was simply the best magic warriors (Furigana: Marefikos) in Amaddo; the fact that they were fellow rivals who had worked hard together since girlhood might have been the cause too.
He poured the brandy which he had the maid prepared into the black tea to the brim, and similar to a boss of an outskirts’ bar gulping down cheap sake and then grumbling—naturally, Valeria had never actually seen that sort of people though—the king emptied the cup with a sigh. With this, it was unclear whether he was drinking black tea containing sake or drinking black-tea-flavoured sake.
“Puha—a”, the king took a breath and nodded greatly.
「That’s right…there’s the contribution from Romarikku this year, so there’s totally no problem budget-wise. Let’s invite lots of guests from the whole country and make it extraordinary and grand. Afterwards—」
The king began to say so and thereupon, Home Minister Moroku Kamunyas came dashing with a “dota dota”.
「—Your, Your Majesty~!」
「Oh, you’ve become able to read the situation, Kamunyas-kyou. I was just thinking of calling you. About this time’s debut—」
「S, save that talk for later! As a matter of fact, just not long ago, an express messenger from Haiderota carrying a letter that has their king’s signature had arrived—」
The king, who was smiling mainly at Orvieto until then, knitted his thick eyebrows and started speaking bitterly in displeasure as soon as he heard “Haiderota”.
「…What in the world does such an uncivilised second-rate country want with our country?」
「That, he said that it’s an urgent matter at any rate…」
Kamunyas, who had wiped his sweat and came before the king, held out a letter that was roundly rolled up and fastened with a ribbon.
「Haiderota is tentatively our ally, right?」
Valeria whispered into Karin’s ear secretly.
「—Considering all that, wasn’t that an extreme way of speaking just now?」
Although it was harsh to call an ally a second-rate country, the 11th generation Jeffren was originally referred to as the king who loved war the most in the continent. To be called uncivilised by such a war enthusiast, even Haiderota might lose its face.
Thereupon, Orvieto answered Valeria’s question instead of Karin.
「His Majesty loathes Haiderota because that country treats its populace’s livelihoods as sacrifices and advances its military expansion. His Majesty calls that uncivilised」
「Is that so? I’ve certainly heard that Haiderota is a powerful country with a very severe military doctrine, but—」
Haiderota was a military superpower which boasted a national power that ranked below Amaddo’s. As a signatory of the Holy Alliance (Furigana: Riga Santourear) that believed in Redountra, it was a friendly nation as well as the greatest rival to Amaddo—it was a story that even Valeria who was ignorant of worldly affairs would hear often. In any case, it seemed that the people of Haiderota had been thinking of wanting to oust Amaddo and becoming the leader of the alliance themselves.
Karin supplemented Valeria who was spreading jam onto a scone and eating with a “mogu mogu”.
「—Especially after the civil war that happened nearly a hundred years ago, they make the expansion of their military preparations the highest priority without caring about how others see them」
「Due to that, I feel that exacerbating the citizens’ dissatisfaction is putting the cart before the horse, but…Your Majesty, what kind of matter is it exactly? If it’s all right with you, please let us hear about it too」
「Rather than that, this matter concerns you」
The king held out the letter to Orvieto and pointed at Valeria and Karin in turn.
「—Eh? U, us…, is it?」
「—Indeed. …This is completely a harassment of Haiderota」
Folding his thick arms, the king caused the chair to creak and leaned back on it.
「—Kamunyas, the Haiderota’s messenger is still here, right?」
Kamunyas, who had shrewdly gotten someone to prepare a seat and drank the black tea, took a breath with a “hotto” and nodded.
「He said that he can’t return unless he has heard His Majesty’s reply…so, what exactly does the letter from Haiderota say?」
「It told me to hold the Dominas’ debut」
Karin narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
「…I’m sorry, Your Majesty. If it’s our debut, then even without being told by Haiderota—」
「Of course, that’s my intention from the beginning; the other party should also be aware of such a matter」
Orvieto who had looked over the letter passed it to Kamunyas this time and continued in a calm voice.
「—They want to ascertain whether the two of you really have the qualifications to be the cruxes of the seal, I guess」
「That…is Haiderota perhaps saying that we don’t have the qualifications of a Dominas!?」
“Guguu”, a deep crease grew in Valeria’s brow. She never had the experience of her position of a Dominas, which she had undergone that much hardships, won through the intense competition and obtained with great difficulty, drawing flak—it’d have been better if it was from within the country—from a foreign country’s government.
Placating Valeria who had instinctively begun to half-rise to her feet, Orvieto spoke.
「Originally, a Dominas is a selected person whom a whole country gives all its efforts and raises by spending several years. The training of a Dominas is something which takes that much effort; if I were to rephrase it, it’s something which ought to take that much effort」
「…In, in other words…?」
「Even though selecting one Dominas originally takes that much time, both of you were selected at the same time」
「…Since two people were chosen simultaneously, the time taken is one half; does it mean our abilities are doubtful because we’re Dominas who were chosen in half the time?」
Karin murmured indifferently.
「Normally, replacing two Dominas all at once in a country is an unlikely situation. In the first place, besides our country, the countries that have two or more Dominas are only Diruma and Haiderota; but customarily, the replacements will always stagger for a period of around several years, then will they be allowed」
「After all, a veteran Dominas retiring from her position and is taken over by a new Dominas means that the one protecting the seal weakens temporarily」
Having drunk up the black tea that contained brandy, the king poured brandy into the cup, which didn’t even have a drop of black tea, this time and drank this up in one gulp again. Spitting out a breath smelling of alcohol with a “fuha~a”, he snorted in displeasure.
「And that’s why, deliberately taking time and carefully selecting the Dominas candidates are so that the effect of the protector’s weakening becomes a minimum; and deferring the period and then allowing the replacement are so that the Dominas aren’t all newcomers—they probably want to say that our country which didn’t abide by such a general rule is outrageous」
「Even in our country that has three Dominas, it has been more than twenty years ago that two people took over simultaneously…since the time when Babel-geika was chosen」
「However, the case this time—」
That Valeria and Karin were chosen simultaneously was because the two positions of the Dominas who will finish her term of office of nine years and retire, and the Dominas who had to retire due to health reason would be vacant at the same time incidentally. Speaking of inevitability, then this was inevitable; it wasn’t because Orvieto and the king aimed for something and did so.
In addition, Valeria and Karin, who were chosen to be the Dominas in this time’s replacement, were two people who possessed abilities that was difficult to say which of the two was better—it was none other than Orvieto who had evaluated so. The certification of the celebrated “Witch of Sunlight” wasn’t just for show. Hence, Valeria believed that hers and Karin’s abilities shouldn’t fall behind other countries’ Dominas’. She didn’t believe that her disposition as a seal’s protector was especially inferior either.
「—Perhaps to those guys, whether your abilities are suitable for a Dominas or not, such a matter is inconsequential」
Making the chair scream with a “gishiri”, the king stood up.
「Or rather, I even feel they might be hoping that your abilities are low」
Dominas were the greatest magic warriors who stood at the peak of the country, and those abilities were one of the measurements indicating the level of the magic warriors of an entire country. With such a meaning, for Haiderota which was thinking of kicking down Amaddo, it was obvious that the abilities of Amaddo’s Dominas being low would be better than being high.
The king snatched the letter from Kamunyas’s hands and crumpled it into a ball.
「Your, Your Majesty!?」
「I’ve read its contents. Such a thing isn’t needed anymore, right?」
The king threw back the letter, which was balled hard and small, to Kamunyas and looked back at the girls angrily.
「—I’m sure that Haiderota’s ill-natured people saying these things is a plot to annoyingly make excuses and try to see our skills. How about you, Orvieto?」
「I think so too, Your Majesty」
Orvieto bowed her head courteously and concurred with the king’s opinion.
「To begin with, there’s no regulation that Dominas must hold a debut for foreign countries. In fact, such an event didn’t take place when Haiderota’s Dominas took over four years ago and last year」
「It’s a different matter if it was just us who weren’t invited」
「The purpose of Haiderota demanding our country to hold it this time is evidently the assessment of both Her Eminences. Their real aim is to ascertain both Her Eminences’ abilities and calibres as magic warriors」
「Even without being told, I intend to hold it grandly」
Snorting with a “fufun”, the king smiled. Completely different from the time when he was smiling broadly at Orvieto until a while ago, it was a bold smile.
「Well then…what shall I do? Summon every one of the other side’s royal family?」
「In that case, Your Majesty」
Orvieto spoke to the king who was constantly licking his lips.
「—How about we go there of our own accord?」
「Of our own accord?」
「Haiderota wants to see both Her Eminences’ abilities, right? If that’s the case, we just have to show them. In return, let’s have the other side show us their Dominas too. It’s a good opportunity for both Her Eminences to broaden their knowledge; after all, it’s not like there will be chances to see a foreign country’s Dominas in person」
「I see…that seems to be interesting」
“Girari”, the king’s eyes sparkled at Orvieto’s suggestion.
「If we send in both Her Eminences as diplomats, even Haiderota has to take on the etiquette of entertaining state guests. How much hospitality is Haiderota which spends all its time in military expansion capable of…we just have to make them waste money as much as possible」
Staring seriously at Orvieto who had declared so at once, Valeria became speechless. It was because she learnt that Orvieto was someone who said scarier things than she had imagined.
「…I’m sorry, did you just realise it now? As expected, you’re a natural airhead」
When Valeria secretly told that to Karin, her friend with cold eyes mercilessly insulted her after adding a completely insincere apology at the beginning.
「She wouldn’t be qualified to be the magic academy’s (Furigana: Prasa marefikos) head director just by being simply carefree, would she? She’ll surely have a political sense of that extent」
「Iya, but, how do I say this—」
「…Maa, I also agree with your view of this being different from your mental image though」
From the fact that Orvieto had forcibly pushed for Dimitar to be her exclusive Hiera Glaphicos, Valeria already understood that she was a calm yet high-handed person. However, in regard to the current Orvieto who was closely face to face with the king and Kamunyas and plotting this and that, Valeria could also catch a glimpse of her side as a cool-headed schemer.
While waiting for the adults’ discussion to end, Valeria quietly sipped the black tea which had cooled completely.