14-23. Snow Kingdom (4)
Satou's here. Since using poison in suspense drama had gone out of fashion, a friend told me that they could identify the writing era of the original work by looking at the type of the poison used. In the first place, it's rare for a suspense drama to use poison nowadays.
"Then, we'll be going."
"Houi, we're going to the labyrinth, contact us if anything happen okay."
I exchanged words with Arisa in the bridge of the airship that's circling in the sky above the royal castle of Kiwolk Kingdom.
A lot of nobles and merchants have gathered in the makeshift airfield below.
There are a lot of people welcoming us.
Probably because Princess Shistina is with us.
After seeing off Arisa and the others, the Team Pendragon, I meet up with Team Sightseeing who came from the solitary island palace.
The princess is wearing a golden dress, while Sera is wearing a silver dress.
Zena-san and Lady Karina are wearing sunglasses and SP-style clothing with their hair in bun style.
Both of them are equipped with a thin sword as a decoration, they look quite cool.
It's the result of Arisa's and my bad taste.
"Thank you for waiting, your excellency vice minister."
I smiled back at Sera who teased me a bit and lowered the airship.
"A lot of people are there desuwane."
"They must be welcoming us!"
Lady Karina who sounds intrigued, and Zena-san who has an innocent impression.
"Since an airship is quite unusual, maybe we should put some strict guards inside."
"Ara? If there's anything happen with the airship, they'll be picking a fight with Shiga Kingdom right?"
"You shouldn't let your guard down, Tina-sama. Every country has fools who don't understand the self-evident truth after all."
To respond Sera's and the princess's conversation, I summon guard golems from the solitary island palace here.
Three winged gargoyles type on the viewing deck, one exclusive guardian that can use every type of barrier, and eight knight type living dolls to guard the ramp.
Every golem is only around level 30, but these should be enough to prevent simple thievery and smuggling.
I see that the queen is in the center of the people welcoming us when I look around.
Kiwolk queen is a beauty that doesn't look like she's at her forties, her breasts area is particularly intense and she's wearing a black dress.
The right etiquette here is for me to immediately meet her, but since it seems like I'd be looked down if I were to much in a hurry, I should do it after several beats.
This is troublesome--.
"So that's Viscount Pendragon, he's quite young huh...."
"Your excellency, your voice is a bit too loud."
I could hear such whispers from among the kneeling people.
The only one that could hear it was probably me with my [Attentive Ears] skill.
"Good grief, why should I, the eldest son of a duke, kneel before a mere viscount even if he's a noble of a foreign kingdom."
"Viscount Pendragon is a retainer of the viceroy of the large Muno territory, moreover he's been recognized to receive such a precious item as an airship, once he's married to the princess of Shiga Kingdom, there's no doubt that he'll become an influential man in the capital. That influence equals Her Majesty the Queen, or perhaps more."
Hee, so vice ministers and viceroys have that much power huh....
"That youngster is?"
"Indeed. If by any chance, we incurred his wrath and got armies sent to us, our kingdom would eventually perish and our heads would probably be displayed before the castle gate."
Oy oy, what kind of warring state of period talk is that.
"However, our kingdom has the 『Forest of Snow』. No matter how many army attacking--"
"Please do not underestimate a major power. They have the 『Crimson Ogre』-dono protecting the kingdom's west, and a group of abnormal people called Shiga Eight Swords."
"However, our kingdom also has the generals and Light Snow Princess."
"Unfortunately, they are no match against them. They are mighty warriors who can fight demons on equal ground."
I don't know who's this Crimson Ogre, but it seems the 'equaling demons' part is a highly-valued point.
I think even Zena-san and Lady Karina, not just our girls, can easily fight against a lesser demon now.
--Now then, it should be alright now.
Even though the content of the chat was interesting, I took more time than planned. I feel that the queen's smile has begun to cramp.
As I stepped forward while minding to keep refined conduct, I saw the queen slowly took a breath.
Apparently, I had accidentally given some unnecessary pressure to them.
Once I've stepped forward enough, I greet the queen.
"I am the vice minister of Shiga Kingdom's Tourism Ministry, Satou Pendragon."
"I'm Kiwolk Queen, Heitana. I will allow Viscount Pendragon to call me Heitana."
"It is my honor, Your Majesty Heitana."
I lightly kiss the hand of the queen that's wrapped in a white glove.
It feels like the surrounding people who took a glance at that looked relieved and eased their tension.
According to the Tourism Book, it seems to be an etiquette shown to a noble who's above you in the eastern countries, so they're probably relieved to see me deeming the queen to be positioned above.
This seem to be an obsolete custom in Shiga Kingdom.
I introduced my entourages, the princess and Sera to the queen and we changed the location to inside the castle.
One of the queen's maids who saw the tribute had her breath taken away.
This place is not the audience hall but the queen's private room.
Two officials, one noble, and one girl with flowing hair near the queen have gathered here.
Glassworks, jade silk and Shiga pongee fabric, work of art and paintings I got a lot in the Royal Capital, I also brought some unusual ingredients for a mountainous country like dried saltwater fish and abalones. There is no arms.
Among the glassworks I've also put engraved seals on them to make them into pseudo magic tools.
They're just items that can prevent slight injuries, and protect against microorganisms and weak germs.
They look like toys compared to the goods my companions have that can even protect against Hydra's deadly poison, but this should be no problem since they're just something to add values to the accessories.
In addition, I asked Sera and Princess Shistina to pick these selection of gifts.
"To bring such gifts for a courtesy call.... as expected of a retainer of the lord of the large Muno territory. Does Viscount Pendragon have a duty as a governor besides being a vice minister?"
The queen who was in good mood due to the tribute asked so.
Even though I'm a governor in name only, she sure knows her information fast.
--I forgot the name of the abandoned mine city, so I checked the name on the map.
"Yes, just the other day, I was appointed to be the governor of Blaiton City by Earl Muno."
The people beside the queen were surprised when they heard the [Governor] part.
"To be a vice minister of the capital, governor, moreover, a warrior who defeated a mighty monster of Selbira Labyrinth, the 『Floormaster』 at such young age, perchance, Viscount Pendragon is related to Shiga Royalty?"
"No, I am a commoner-born upstart."
A middle-aged noble with handlebar mustache beside the queen--he seems to be the prime minister of this country--asked me, but I promptly denied it.
Even though I said the truth, he said, "you jest", while smiling wryly. What a mystery.
And then, maids came into the room pushing wagons with tea utensils.
"My, what a wonderful fragrance."
"It's the blue tea from Rumooku. It's a first class good that can even compare to product of Zetsu Earldom of Shiga Kingdom."
The one who reacted to Princess Shistina was the girl with wavy hair.
She's the second princess of Kiwolk, her name is Cruu. She's unmarried despite being a 21 year old royalty, a child-faced beauty with huge breasts. The breasts in her white dress are probably about the same size as Nana's.
And also, in contrast to her calm demeanor, she's a level 37 magic warrior who possesses Two-handed Hammer, Ice Magic, and Horseback-riding skills.
If you're deceived by her appearance, she might use that chance to beat you.
"Her Highness Light Snow favors Rumooku. Shouldn't you welcome the guest from other country with our own country's tea?"
The prime minister rebuked the muscular read-haired general.
Apparently, Princess Cruu is the Light Snow Princess.
She's the person whom the Shiga Kingdom's secret agent warned me to be careful with.
The other military personnel keeps observing us without saying a word.
He's probably the so-called [Winter General].
He's a black haired man who looks like an unmotivated soldier, a 29 year old man, having a beret looks like it'll suit him.
He's observing the surrounding while sipping the tea.
The tea was good, but the tea-cake was too sweet with gritty sugar.
It seems there are a lot of sweet-tooth in this country, the prime minister and the red-haired general are eating them with relish.
"Do sweet things not to Viscount Pendragon liking?"
"No, it's really delicious."
"However, you look like you don't have an appetite."
"I was admiring the beautiful cake that looks like the new snow of this kingdom."
"Hohoho, Viscount has a way with words."
I made some suitable excuses for the queen.
Using Poker Face skill's help, I put up a business smile and put the too-sweet cake into my mouth.
Ah, it's gritty. I don't dislike sweet things, but this is hard.
"Although the snow is beautiful for us travelers, isn't it hard for the people living here?"
"The continuing snow should make it hard for the people living in the mountain to look after cattle, let alone going on a hunt."
Sera-san got on my the topic I brought up.
"O-our country's people have gotten used to snow, please don't worry."
"I have heard rumor that the winter is unusually long--"
Sera jumped on the prime minister's excuse.
"Fufufu, Sera-dono is kind. I am aware of the continuing winter, thus I have ordered the prime minister to exempt all taxes and forced labors."
"Y-yes, Your Majesty. We will provide food supply if there really are such villages."
The prime minister let out a sigh of relief for the queen's backing.
Fumu, I didn't ask about taxes and forced labors, but I didn't see any food aid at least.
"Your Majesty and prime minister-dono are too soft! There is not enough self-support effort! No matter how long you exempt tax and labor, the war won't ever finish. Once we've assembled our force, even without relying on the winter, we will drive away those annoying Kogeoku Kingdom's savages!"
The prime minister chided the red-haired general's verbal slip.
Looks like I can really consider the [Winter] of this country to be man-made.
Black haired Winter General-shi looked bitter, but he turned away when he noticed my line of sight.
Looks like the red-haired general does not like using the [Winter] to prevent the invasion even though his reason seems to be different.
"Satou-sama, please tell me about Shiga Kingdom."
"What kind of dresses are in fashion in the Royal Capital?"
"I was given the chance to see the Jade Silk presented to Her Majesty, it was really wonderful."
"Has Satou-sama seen the thing called sea?"
"I saw in the book that there are seas of sand called deserts, is that true?"
In the dance party we were invited to after the talk with the queen, I was surrounded by the noble daughters.
Every girl is wearing an expensive dress and fine ornaments.
Compared to the suffering populace, the nobles seem to be prosperous.
Sera and the princess volunteered to take care of the girls, so I was finally able to enjoy the party.
Still, it's a gaudy party that's unbelievable for a rural kingdom.
Delicacies that I've never seen in downtowns are lined up on the buffet table.
I tried eating several, the galette with yogurt that seemed to be made of local ingredients, and the greater burdock and carrot wrapped in bird meat with the sweet sauce were tasty.
The others were like inferior version of Shiga Kingdom's dishes, they were not quite there.
It's not a problem with the freshness of the ingredients, it feels like the chefs are just not accustomed to the ingredients.
"What do you think, Viscount-dono. About our country's cuisines."
The eldest son of a duke who was gossiping about me earlier came to talk to me while holding a wine cup in one hand.
"They're very luxurious. The cuisine over here is especially splendid."
"Kiwolk bird wrapped greater burdock is it, you seem to prefer quite a rustic dish."
I praised this kingdom's cuisine since I had a favorable impression, but he treated it as [Rustic dish] instead.
Looks like he dislikes his own country's cuisine.
"Yes, it's simple but truly delicious. Enough to make me wanting to thank the chef later."
"I-is that so...."
If possible I'd like to get the chef to teach me the recipe and the secret to it, that'd be swell.
The young nobleman was taken aback with my reply.
Perhaps he was trying to provoke me?
"Here you are, Viscount-dono!"
The one who called me with a bold voice was the red-haired general, holding a curved sword in one hand.
His face looks a bit red, he reeks of liquor. Looks like he's drunk.
"I heard that Viscount-dono has many valorous acts to be proud of! Please show us your valor by doing a sword dance with me."
The red-haired general throws a sheathed curved sword to me.
As if matching the timing, the people who were dancing around moved aside to clear the stage for the sword dance.
Courteously, the red-haired's and my sword dance is officially announced to the surrounding people.
Looks like it's impossible to decline the sword dance invitation.
I look around the venue to collect information.
The queen is expressionless like a noh mask so I can't read her emotion, the prime minister, the Winter General and some capable looking nobles are looking like it's unpleasant, Light Snow Princess and most of the nobles look like they're looking forward to it.
Judging from the cheering, it seems the red haired general is popular among the military and the wealthy nobles.
Zena-san and Lady Karina who are peeking from behind the venue's pillars are looking here with excited faces.
Sera and the princess's faces look like they're saying, "Get him!"
--This is not a duel but a sword dance you know?
Starting with a strumming sound, heroic tune from the orchestra begins.
I somehow feels that it sounds crude, perhaps because I've gotten used to Mia's music.
"Here I go, Viscount."
"Please go easy on me."
He pulls the curved sword and holds the sheath in the other hand.
The red-haired general seems to be a dual-wielder, so he's using the sheath for the other one instead.
I block the two swords swinging down on me with the curved sword while matching the tune.
Due to the thin curved blade, it made a peculiar sound when I blocked.
I glide my feet on the carpet, revolving once while still blocking the two swords to the red-haired general's side, and then I strongly fling away both of his swords.
Matching the time when he fixes his posture, I hit my sword against his to make za, zan sounds rhythmically.
Since this was a sword dance, I got out of the swordsmanship's standard and attempted to do some exaggerated movements, but it seems the red-haired general doesn't like it.
I'm imagining the battle dance from the [Returning King] anime, I'll ask Arisa to score it once we get back.
It was popular with the girls and the maids in the venue at least.
In the middle of the sword dance, since I saw the queen getting excited, not only the princess, it was worth the effort.
When the music is over, the red-haired general is gasping for breath.
Looks like the stress is a bit too much for him since it was at the level of simulative blows with the beastkin girls.
Please stop looking at me with those eyes, this was a sword dance you proposed yourself.
"It was quite a wonderful entertainment. Both General Ganunu and Viscount Pendragon are representatives of brave warriors from each country. I shall give you these presents."
The queen praised us both and gave us bracelets with ice stones on it.
They're not magic tools but they look quite expensive.
It seems General Ganunu is a queen devotee, his face looks like he's forgotten about me and is greatly moved with the bracelet he got.
Without a sound, a maid came to me and presented a wine goblet on a tray.
I drank the honey wine and returned the empty goblet to her.
Since it seems there was a paralyzing poison with delayed effect inside the honey wine, I put a mark on the maid.
In addition, although I can cure myself from paralyze state using magic from Magic Column, this kind of abnormal status drug won't work due to my Resistance, so it's not a threat.
"Viscount-sama, could I have a bit of your time?"
"But of course."
I replied to the hooded weaselkin merchant who called out to me with a smile.