She and the Desert Country
“And? What did you want to talk about, Freed?”
I arranged my clothes and invited Freed to sit on the sofa. I don’t quite understand why he’d waste time, but certainly Freed should have something to talk to me about. Thinking so, I called for a maid to have tea prepared and broached the subject.
He seemed hesitant to say. With an unwilling expression he sighed.
Freed, who sat next to me rather than in front, picked up his cup and tasted it. With a single sip, his mouth slackened with an oh.
“Is this apple tea I wonder? It has nice aroma”
“You can tell? It’s new tea I got from Count Lambert’s daughter at the tea party the other day. Their tea plantation is wonderful”
Glad to be understood, I smiled cheerfully. Freed narrowed his eyes and spoke as if recalling something.
“… That reminds me of what reached the castle. Lidi is close with Count Lambert’s daughters”
“I happened to acquaint myself with them by chance. Or what, did you perhaps think I had no friends of the same sex?”
As I gave him a glance, he returned light laughter.
“By no means. I’ve heard about it recently, however Lidi’s salon appears famous. Plenty novel tea confectioneries are served there, for such things”
“… For such a reason”
Certainly, I use tea parties to unveil my news works, but I never would have thought they’d receive such recognition.
“The number of those wishing to participate in Duke Vivoir’s daughter’s salon seems to be increasing. Aren’t they coming to Lidi directly?”
“When I occasionally attended evening parties, I was surrounded by unfamiliar young ladies…”
I was under the impression that they swarmed due to my position as ‘Duke Vivoir’s daughter’.
“I’d never have expected they were after tea snacks…”
Perhaps it’s obvious considering they are young ladies of marriageable age. Being told what I haven’t considered until now, I blinked in surprise.
“Freed, where did you hear of that story?”
“This time it was Clara. Whenever she hears rumors about Lidi, I get to hear them, so I believe I’m rather well-informed?”
I thought it surprising that he was informed by this serious Head Court Lady Grimm.
She didn’t look like that type.
“She said court ladies are to not be trifled with when it comes to rumors, I can only agree”
“Ah, I can understand”
Rumors from court ladies. It’s very likely.
Plenty convinced, I urged Freed to continue the talk.
After a little hesitation, he began speaking with resignation.
“… As a matter of fact, Sahaja’s Crown Prince is coming”
Told something unexpected, I asked back.
“Sahaja’s?… There’s a truce, so it’s not like they’re a hostile state. Still, is it okay for the Crown Prince of such a country to come?”
“According to common sense it’s unthinkable, but diplomatically there’s no problem”
Freed frowned. From his way of speaking I could at least understand he doesn’t welcome it.
Naturally, the visit of the Crown Prince from the country we have truce with is the height of trouble.
“Why is he coming?”
As I turned towards him to listen, his expression became even gloomier.
He kept his gaze fixed at me.
“… It’s under the pretext of congratulating me on my engagement. I don’t know how true it is”
As I threw an interjection, I recalled what I know about Sahaja.
It’s a country I’ve been hearing often recently. It’s where Cain came from. A military country, half covered in desert.
The country where Assassin Guilds developed… The country which internal conditions keep producing dark rumors.
Surely, it’s been two years since the war with them ended. Since then, there’s been a truce.
“They have four princes and two princesses. The Crown Prince doesn’t appear much, however he’s a subject of talks”
Freed muttered while searching his memory, then with a no he shook his head.
“The Fourth Prince was executed the other day. He was held responsible for the failure of the campaign to the north”
“… I see”
It’s rare for that country to not be at war.
The king who reigns on top of that country is after all famous for being quite a warmonger.
There are also many quarrels caused by few tribes along the national border.
There are considerable restrictions regarding information about their military affairs. The same goes for their royalty.
Dad and Brother sent many members of the agency there, even so I recall them complaining about the information they could obtain being limited.
“The Crown Prince is… 28 years old… if I’m right. He still doesn’t have Princess Consort, right? Or is that information out-of-date?”
“No, it’s correct. I also haven’t received information about him taking Princess Consort as a wife. But the number of Side Consorts seem to have increased. I’ve heard there are seven now”
Has it changed within a week… Please forgive me for reflexively grimacing.
Since he’s royalty unrelated to myself, it’s fine if he does whatever he wants to, but even so Side Consorts are side dish, I can’t have a good impression of a man who keeps seven Side Consorts.
Seeing me frown Freed smiled wryly.
“Don’t make such a disgusted face. Not every royalty is like that, above all I’m devoted to Lidi?”
“I know. Else, I wouldn’t marry you”
He nodded with a serious look.
Freed promising to not take other wives was decisive in me agreeing to the marriage. Otherwise, even with the matter of the ‘King’s Flower’ I don’t think I’d easily agree.
Marriage is one-to-one. I won’t yield on that no matter what.
That’s why, for granting my wish, I fundamentally intend to satisfy his requests, I think it’s natural as I didn’t permit concubines.
… I just truly wish the number of times was a little lower.
“And? Is that Crown Prince coming somehow related to me?”
He specifically came to talk. I guess there’s something.
When I asked him thinking so, Freed made a disheartened face and unwillingly said.
“… He requested Lidi’s presence”
I don’t understand.
Although I’m a fiancée, I’m just a duke’s daughter and not royalty in the slightest, so why am I supposed to be present at the audience of the Crown Prince of the country we have a truce with?
“No, there’s no way…”
“He’s coming to congratulate me on my engagement, so the person in question should be present, is his excuse”
“Unreasonable or whatever, since it’s an official request I can’t refuse. That’s why I’m sorry, but I wonder if Lidi could come to the audience of the Crown Prince”
“… Of course, if I’m told to come I will”
If rather than asking informally he went through the proper procedures I have no right to refuse.
I don’t want to go through such a trouble, but I understand that won’t be allowed.
“… May I ask for the schedule?”
“Sorry that it’s sudden, but it’s at the day of the evening party organized by the Royal Palace. It seems that the Crown Prince will attend it”
“Wow, isn’t it short. Another trouble…”
Unconsciously my true opinion leaked out, but Freed nodded good grief.
“I don’t understand what the other party is thinking. I’m coming to congratulate on the engagement, so let me see Lidi. If it’s about the request it’s simple, but I don’t think that man is such a simple person”
From his way of speaking I predicted they’ve met, so I asked boldly.
“Hey, have you ever met Sahaja’s Crown Prince?”
“A couple of times so far. As Lidi knows, that man doesn’t show himself much”
“Crown Prince Maximilian… was it”
As I asked for confirmation, Freed affirmed saying that’s right.
With it, I took the opportunity to list what I’ve learned about him
“Err, according to official information, he’s got silver hair and dark grey eyes. He excels at swordsmanship and been declared the Crown Prince ten years ago, he’s got no major achievements. Sahaja’s Crown Prince is average… That’s the evaluation of great number of people… How do you actually see him, Freed?”
As I roughly stated, Freed opened his eyes wide like he was astonished.
“This much is common knowledge. I could get it from my surroundings. But after all I don’t know anything beyond what’s written in official documents. They could’ve been tampered with as convenient and I would be none the wiser. In practice, according to my information he had 6, not 7, Side Consorts”
“Even so, it’s plenty enough. Let’s see, speaking of my impression, he’s a man you can’t be careless around, something like this. He’s a type that prioritizes reason above everything. He seems to act inconspicuously in front of his country’s King, but I think it’ll be worse for our country when he becomes the King”
The present King is a person who wields his power for war.
He seems like the type who even if he needs a successor, would find an excellent successor unnecessary and drive him away.
So he’s acting inconspicuously in front of that King.
“Does this mean Crown Prince Maximilian conceals his ability on purpose to not be erased by his own Father?”
I’m convinced by Freed’s affirmation.
It’s common in militaristic countries like Sahaja. If the heir is too excellent, he’ll be shunned by his father the King. That said, incompetence is out of question.
Judging from Freed’s story, Crown Prince Maximilian seems like an excellent character. To not be shunned or discarded for incompetence, he’s controlling himself, waiting for the right moment.
“… What a cold country…”
I absolutely couldn’t stand it there.
I’m truly glad I was reborn in this country. Truly, Freed agreed, exasperated.
“That’s why Lidi, please be plenty careful. He’s a man from a country that could truly use any trick”
“Yup, got it”
I wish to avoid being involved in trouble, so I obediently nodded. Even if I say that, I guess there’ll be little opportunity to talk. I’ll just behave as inconspicuously as possible
“The evening party will be in three days if memory serves me right”
“That’s right. So please. Because Crown Prince Maximilian is coming, could you perhaps return to the castle with me today? There are things I want you to remember, and there’ll be dress coordination on the very day”
I recalled Freed saying earlier that he came to pick me up.
It wasn’t a joke or whatever, he really came to pick me up.
“Got it, I’ll get ready”
As expected, with the Crown Prince of a foreign country coming, we can’t meet up on the very day.
Especially since I have to participate it’s natural to enter the castle few days in advance. I can understand this much, aside from the very day of the evening party, there are only two days.
Even now is too late to prepare.
As I easily agreed, Freed showed a surprised face.
“I thought you’d resist more, but you’re surprisingly obedient”
“I wouldn’t refuse knowing the situation… That’s why Freed, you could have explained it to me first?”
“Guess so, I’d thought that method would be effective on Lidi”
His judgment is correct. As long as I can be convinced, I have no objection to going to the castle. I understand I’d return to the castle in three days anyway. Going there few days earlier is no problem.
“… Could you wait downstairs? I’ll quickly get ready and come down”
“Okay. I’m happy you’re coming… Let’s sleep together from tonight?”
As the continuation of before, he pulled my waist to him and sweetly whispered into my ear.
“… I wish for another bedroom”
There’ll be lots of preparations.
I thought there’d be no point in going to the castle early if I couldn’t sleep so I insisted a guest room is enough, but Freed rejected my plea with a smile.
“Did you think I’d grant that wish?”
“… Isn’t that right”
Crestfallen I hung my head, on which Freed dropped a kiss, and saying laters he left the room.
Damn it. I knew resistance would be futile.
I became anxious whether I could get enough sleep in the next three days.
A while after Freed left Cain jumped down from above the ceiling.
Although it was an action that fit the shuta sound effect, he made no noise.
He stood there in silence making an extremely strict face.
“What is it? Cain”
“Sahaja’s Crown Prince is coming”
With those words I realized he had listened to Freed’s story.
At the same moment I recalled that I did it with Freed. My face dyed red in the twinkle of an eye.
“Ca… Cain… Perhaps you’ve seen it?”
As I turned bright red and asked that, in the blink of an eye Cain’s expression broke into easy-to-understand discomposure.
“I… I didn’t do that! I understand that the Crown Prince is unreasonably strong, so I escaped when the atmosphere became like that… I have no such hobbies!”
“I, I see… Then it’s fine”
So said Cain to bring the talk that derailed back on track.
“We’re talking about Sahaja’s Crown Prince!”
As I nodded, Cain began pacing around the room with an irritated appearance.
I felt him biting his nails strengthened the impression. Then he quickly muttered a monologue to himself.
“Why is that shut-in Crown Prince coming? He had no such plans, did he? What in the world is his intention… Damn it, I don’t get it! … Hey Princess, please be careful of that man. Honestly speaking, I don’t want you to go!”
“Not going is impossible… Do you know him?”
Suddenly he turned to me and warned me in a strong voice.
When I asked Cain, whose behavior was unusual, a question, he suddenly stopped walking.
“… I’ve never met him, but I’ve often heard about him. In the country he’s called Silent Crown Prince. He hardly appears before the citizens, many say he’s locked himself in the Royal Palace”
“Freed however said he’s an excellent prince”
While saying so I returned to the sofa. I told Cain who was talking while standing to sit down, but he gently refused.
“Princess’s husband impression ain’t wrong. He’s pretending to be ordinary to his father, but behind the scenes he’s corralling people one by one to his advantage. Now under that Crown Prince talented people of his country are gathered. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that their King was overthrown any time”
“That means after all Crown Prince Maximillian is like his father?”
As I understood what Can was trying to say, he gravely nodded.
“He won’t dirty his hands directly. The story that he’s waiting for an opportunity is famous in the underground, actually the time he’s come make a request to a guild has become quite a rumor. In that sense the parent and child are similar. From the parent’s side too, if the son showed even a little strange behavior he’d be mercilessly brought down”
It’s as I heard from Freed. Or perhaps the real situation is even worse.
While looking at the ceiling, Cain told me as if he remembered.
“But I don’t think there’s been a story of him coming to my guild. Because our guild master was in the King’s faction”
“Such stories don’t often leak outside the country, do they…”
“That’s how the information control is like for us. Besides, I only know this story because I was immersed in the underworld”
Certainly, he’d obtain such information belonging to an assassin guild.
Perhaps their work revolved around that. It wouldn’t be unrelated.
While watching intently Cain who calmly exposed Sahaja’s internal circumstances that had been covered in veil I thought.
I might soon have to confess about Cain’s existence.
It might still be alright for now, but if I obtained information that’d be a trump card in warfare or diplomacy, I’d have to tell Father.
When that happens, I won’t be able to stay silent about Cain.
If I can save lives by reporting about it to Father, I shouldn’t hesitate.
“Be that as it may, I think Wilhelm did a good job investigating, okay? In particular the Crown Prince’s impression is spot on. That man looks down at people with harsh eyes. Naturally, I intend to guard you on the very day, but Princess, really take care”
As Cain warned me with a serious face, I also earnestly nodded.
As to not create an opportunity, we have to finish it peacefully without a hitch.
As I persuaded myself once again, Cain continued with the word and.
As if he thought it was some important information Cain raised his face and meaningfully smiled.
“One correction. The number of Side Consorts is not seven, it’s eight. Recently I’ve heard he’s elevated a tribe’s daughter to Side Consort, you see?”
“… Aah, I see”
… What a truly inconsequential information.