16-2. The Royal Castle's Salon
Satou here. There are times when you're taken aback by the surrounding people as they clamor about something you don't care about yourself, right. I'd prefer for them to take it at face value instead of weirdly trying to read some secret meaning behind the words.
"Ichirou-nii, did Sol-kun try to solicit you to be his retainer?"
While I was making transformation sets for Pochi and Tama's school commuting, Hikaru came by with some snacks on her hand.
The things on the table, like the smocking jacket, flask cloth, sling, bag for indoor shoes, and dust cloth were all handmade by Arisa after she got carried away.
"I'm amazed you knew."
"Un, cause Sete scolded Sol-kun about that."
This Sete that Hikaru referred is the king's nickname.
According to the info on my map, his real name appears to be Seteralick.
"Why would he?"
"I mean, Sete and the others had already made the arrangement--"
According to Hikaru, the king and the prime minister are currently trying to persuade Duke Bishtal and Marquis Kelten from soliciting me away from Earl Muno--He's a marquis now eh--behind the scene.
Yet the prince Soltrick himself tried to make me his retainer, thus it provoked the king's wrath.
"Well Sete was also at fault for not telling Sol-kun, and Sol-kun too nicely dropped it to the level of being friends, so he only got reprimanded, it's fiine."
Being a royalty seems to be a pain.
I feel like they aren't communicating normally enough as parent and child, but that might be just how it is between a busy king and a 32-year old son and heir.
Still, looks like even the king is troubled as to how to treat a demon lord slayer.
"That's not it you know?"
"Sete and pm seem convinced that Ichirou-nii's true identity is Hero Nanashi."
--It's the opposite, the opposite. Hero Nanashi true identity is me.
Retorting aside, Hikaru only responded the king's question with a vague Japanese smile, neither affirming nor denying it.
Hikaru isn't the type that can be subtle with her gestures though, so they most likely have found out.
I did some flashy things during the Divine Punishment while bracing myself for the possibility of having my identity blown, so only this much is within my expectation.
"But, looks like Sete and pm think that Ichirou-nii's real nature isn't a normal human."
Come to think of it, when we told the king and pm that there were two Nanashi, they thought I was a gods apostle.
"I'm just an ordinary man though."
When I replied that, Hikaru gleefully laughed, "Ahaha."
The entry on my status properly reads [Human] just you know.
"Putting aside the matter about whether Ichirou-nii is 『ordinary』 or not, it seems Sete thinks that you're a 『Dragon Avatar』 who turned himself into human using Primeval Magic, you see?"
"Isn't that quite a leap of logic?"
"Not really you know~. I mean you beat demon lords all over and routinely saved the world from crises. Isn't it quite obvious that you aren't a normal person?"
Hikaru continues with that as a preface.
"Which means, you're either a god's apostle, a demon or a dragon, but a demon wouldn't kill demon lords left and right like that, and a god's apostle wouldn't go against god's will and proactively prevented monster stampedes. Therefore--"
Looks like [Dragon] is the only remaining possibility by the process of elimination.
The battle junkies, Black Dragon and Ancient Dragon, and the careless Heavenly Dragon, Ten-chan flashed in my mind.
I don't think I'm that eccentric though?
I rarely ever damage the surroundings.
Hikaru pointed at the wall clock and stood up.
"We'll be late for the dance party if we don't dress up soon."
"Is it that time already?"
Glancing at the schedule table in my menu, it's bad indeed.
We really can't be late to attend a huge dance party sponsored by the king can we.
"So this is the ultimate dish which dyes over all thing as told in the legend!"
"This nose-stimulating smell is just wondrous."
I heard voices of the glutton nobles from Oyugock territory--Marquis Lloyd and Earl Haku from a food cart that provides light meals.
I didn't see them in the noon, just when did they get to the capital.
Don't tell me that they flew here on airships for the sake of eating curry.
It seems the two are camping in the curry corner.
"I expected no less from the two celebrated gourmets. You went for the curry first thing first."
The prime minister who requested the curry from me said that to Marquis Lloyd and Earl Haku while looking proud.
"Well well, if it isn't your excellency prime minister."
"It can't be that you drove Earl Pendragon who has achieved something as great as slaying demon lord to cook this?"
"That cannot be, our wise and great prime minister would never do such folly."
Marquis Lloyd and Earl Haku who were acting weirdly pompous started to pick a fight with the prime minister.
"Good evening, Marquis Lloyd and Earl Haku. I had asked our chef to cook these dishes, I myself didn't have any hand on them."
I didn't want to see a fight between acquaintances, so I swiftly got between them and cleared the misunderstanding.
"So these are the dishes from Hero-sama's country. To think the day where I could see the real thing myself would come!"
"It's spicy, but really tasty."
"You're right, Soruna."
I turned around to see the source of the cozy carefree voices and found Marquis Muno and his family enjoying curry along the wall in low key.
Even though they're one of the few quickly rising upper ranked nobles that can be counted on hands in Shiga Kingdom, Muno family's humbleness never changes.
"Your excellency Muno!"
"Heya, Satou-kun. We're having some curry here."
Marquis Muno greeted me with the hand that held a curry spoon raised.
"It's truly delicious--so this the dish that the first generation hero-sama and ancestor king-sama yearned all their life.... Ah, I'm in the annals of history right now."
Marquis Muno said some incomprehensible things with an emotional face.
But really, if I knew that he'd be this delighted, I would have served some curry when we visited Muno territory.
"They're good with fried prawns and cutlets too you know."
"Yes yes, Karina-sama. I've got them here already~"
Muno Marquisdom's maid, Erina came back carrying a plate with fried prawns and cutlets inside.
The pieces of fried prawn around her mouth must be from her poison tasting.
No need to point out minor details.
"Satou, could I have a dance?"
When I was heartwarmingly watching Muno family, Hikaru who had gone all out with her dress called from behind.
Today she's wearing make up properly, it makes her look like a different person.
"Karina-sama, would you let me have this dance first?"
Lady Karina who was stuffing her cheeks with curry didn't say anything and could only nod with a complex expression on her face.
It'd be nice if she could learn from her big sister Soruna and raise her girl power a bit more.
"Look, demon slayer-dono is taking a woman's hand."
"Oy, that's not her highness Sistina, is that?"
"That's Duchess Mitsukuni!"
Attentive Ears skill picked up the nobles' rustling.
When we got to the center of the dance hall, a lively tune of dance music started playing.
"It feels strange dancing with Ichirou-nii."
Hikaru said some weird thing even though this wasn't the first time we danced together.
"It'll be nice if this moment continues on forever--"
"I'll dance with you anytime you want."
I mean, don't raise a weird flag there.
That retort in my mind ended up being in vain as our dance ended without any problem and then I continued to dance with princess Sistina, Lady Karina and Sera in turns, moved to the lower noble area and danced with Arisa and the youth troupe, and Lulu and the senior troupe.
The beastkin girls had a special training Arisa the other day, so they could dance well, sans some weird parts.
Of course, I've recorded all that so we can watch it back anytime.
After I danced with Zena-san lastly, daughters of lower nobles in the surroundings rushed in.
Since Zena-san's position was that of a lower noble in Seryuu earldom, it probably became the impetus for people who were holding back to step forward.
"Earl Pendragon-sama, please allow me to have a dance with you."
"Earl Pendragon-sama, my house is fertile! Make me your concubine to continue your lineage!"
"Earl Pendragon-sama, please have a dance with me. I don't mind if it's inside the bedroom at night."
Fair-looking women have gathered here, but they're a bit too honest with their desire.
Many also asked me to a dance when I became viscount back then, but this can't be compared to that time.
How do I say this, they're really desperate I can even feel bloodlust.
"""Earl Pendragon-sama, please--"""
The flooding girls pushed their bodies on mine.
Lots of them were unmarried women of around mid to highschooler ages, but some were widows at their 20s.
They were quite forceful--.
"Earl-sama is soon to be married with her highness princess, his body is precious! Contacts from anyone besides his family is not allowed!"
They were forced to withdraw before Mia and Arisa's impregnable fortress pair and the fighting prowess of Lady Karina's chest.
Beauties who have gotten reputation as flirts in the high society could only watch that from afar as they couldn't easily get close.
There were some terribly beautiful women enough to rob my eyes, but since they had [Squanderer], [Hard-bitten], and [Wicked Woman] on their titles, I ignored them along with the other women.
As terribly beautiful they are, they're still not at the level of Lulu anyway.
"Master! I have secured young organisms so I reported."
As I was watching the impregnable fortress pair doing their magic, Nana who went away by herself took little girls with her back in tow.
"Perodota--I'm sorry, Pendotagon... Auuu"
"Nice to meet you Earl-sama, my name is Sopoana, third daughter of Baronet Mousa."
"Earl Pendragon-sama, I'm Kisuna, seventh daughter of Baron Nito."
Children who just debuted in high society.
"Nice to meet you, young ladies. I'm a retainer of Marquis Muno, Earl Satou Pendragon."
I bowed like a noble would before the little ladies.
The children screamed in delight like kyaa when they saw that.
Arisa and Mia are looking here for some reasson, I want to insist my innocence.
In one corner of the dance hall, I danced with the children, and their older sisters and older sisters of those sisters, it got out of control as the age kept increasing.
It seems I have to strongly decline when it's necessary to do so even if the other party is a kid.
The group of women who had circumvented the impregnable fortress pair began to walk toward here as their eyes which looked like that of carnivores kept staring at me.
It almost feels like they were shouting, "Hyahhaa! Time for the hunt!"
The dance hall got noisy just when I looked around trying to find a way to escape.
"His Majesty the king and his highness Soltrick!"
After the announcement, the king and the first prince went back.
Though, the king brought Duke Bishtal and Duke Oyugock back with him.
First prince Soltrick is looking at me with complicated eyes.
It's as if he thinks I'm an inhuman existence.
That prince broke the crowd apart like Moses as he walked toward me.
The little girls who were around me took some distance away in a hurry.
"Earl Pendragon, can I have a bit of your time?"
"With pleasures, your highness Soltrick."
I've gotten a bit tired dancing while getting glued by the noble ladies, so this invitation is welcome to me.
As long as it's nothing troublesome.
"Am I bothering you in your socializing?"
"Not at all, I had just gotten a bit tired dancing, so I'm very thankful for having to accompany your highness."
Invited by the first prince, Soltrick, I was led to a salon for royalty near the dance hall.
It appears there is a space equipped with an anti-spying magic tool to talk secretly here.
And the seat I'm led to by the prince is exactly inside that space.
Looks like he wants to have a secret talk.
"I got severely reprimanded by his majesty for trying to pull you to be my retainer."
The prince sat on the salon's sofa and said that with a hard-to-read expression.
It's about the matter Hikaru told me before the dance party.
His aides are standing at a place away, it seems they won't approach us as long as the anti-spying magic tool is still active.
Come to think of it, one of his aides has changed to someone I don't know.
"I have fired that page."
The prince seemingly noticed my line of sight and told that nonchalantly.
Looks like he was originally someone who worked under the third prince Sharlick.
He got discharged after the aging of the third prince by the yellow demon in the duchy capital, and got hired by the first prince to be his page after a period of working as a handyman.
Looks like he was hired because of his meek attitudes against high ranking people.
I wasn't interested in the details so I didn't really listen.
"Allow me to promise you again."
The prince straightened himself with a serious expression.
"I will not try to make you my retainer unless you willingly do so. I want us to be nothing more but friends and I ask you to correct me if I ever commit an error."
"I understand, Soltrick-sama."
It's convenient for me personally, so I obediently nodded.
Judging from what Hikaru said, the king and the prime minister seems to have wrongly guessed that me acting as hero Nanashi's body double was only for Hikaru to mimic my speech and conduct and I'm a being more powerful than Hikaru--a Dragon Avatar.
They treated me this delicately probably because they don't want to anger me and bring themselves the wrath of a dragon.
They'd have negotiated normally if I were ancestor king Yamato's body double or attendant.
In all likelihood, the king has probably hammered the prince with the possibility of me being a dragon.
Now, I personally am not going to neither deny nor affirm this rumor.
There's probably no one suicidal enough to step on a bare minefield like a dragon's wrath, and now the upper echelon will probably stop pushing unnecessary marriage proposals on me.
"I should have taken my time to pick better."
First prince Soltrick said that while not showing his exhaustion in his face.
After the talk earlier, the prince introduced me to his retainers and nobles from Duke Bishtal faction, but there was quite a lot of them.
Additionally, since Duke Bishtal was summoned by the king, a talented looking elite young man who was also the heir was introduced to me as Duke Bishtal's delegation.
The young man really looked like your model stuck-up noble, but since he was probing like he was handling an unexploded bomb, dealing with him was more tiring than him just being stuck-up.
After we finished greeting each others, one of the prince's aide started to speak with, "This is still a rumor" as the preface.
"Is your highness aware about the rumor of the discovery of the 『Holy Living Armor』 that's in the ancestor king-sama's legend?"
Holy Living Armor--it feels like I've heard this term from someone a long time ago.
"Some noble somewhere probably got deceived by a fraud again. What blasphemy."
A middle-aged noble from Duke Bishtal faction said that and the other nobles also seemingly convinced that it was a fake.
This is probably a frequent fraud like how [Beria Magic Medicine] was in the labyrinth city.
"It might be the truth y'know?"
Just like Beria magic medicine.
"Hou? So Earl Pendragon is betting on the authenticity of the 『Holy Living Armor』 being found?"
"What are you betting?"
"I'm sure Sir Pendragon will bet an article the like of us cannot even begin to fathom."
Some of the nobles fanned me.
It seems to be a revenge play by people who don't think well of me being the first prince's [Friend].
"Then I will bet this."
It's a key made of diamond with a seven-colored jewel put on its shaft, a magic circuit from blue liquid is carved inside the body.
It's one of joke items I made for the girls' treasure hunting game.
It will emit beautiful blue light when you fill it with mana, but it has no magical effect at all.
An intellectual looking noble was surprised when he saw the key.
The way he was surprised almost made want to instinctively said, "Did you know ●●●●."
"I cannot say for certain, but this is an insignia from the ancient Rarakie dynasty that was destroyed during the age of gods."
I try to recall the event of Floating Island Rarakie that happened in the middle of the Divine Punishment.
It does look similar with engravings that were in the capital of Rarakie.
Well, it's just a mere coincidence....
"Then is this the key to move the flying castle and city?"
"T-true! The pattern inside this key looks like a magic circuit."
Lured by the intellectual-looking noble, the other nobles also clamored.
"Earl Pendragon! Could I put mana in this?"
"Yes, do as you like."
I nodded to the noble who asked with a desperate face.
The noble in question puts his mana, then the circuit gets clad in beautiful blue light and then, beautiful ripples of light are produced on the surface of the key.
"Holy magic tool!"
The nobles are staring at it like they've been entranced.
How do I say this, the way they're enthralled looks like they'd about to go kill each other any time, it's scary.
They felt way more serious than the ladies earlier.
"Earl Pendragon, are you really sure you're betting this extraordinary treasure?"
The first prince asked me.
He's probably telling me that I can still pull back now, but it will have the opposite effect for sure.
Because the nobles who were entranced by the diamond key recalled about the bet.
"I-I will bet the toll tax collection right for the Molto river bridge!"
"Who'd need toll right for some random river like that! I will bet the right to Yukel silver mine!"
"Then I will bet our heirloom mithril sword."
"Magic sword! I'll bet the magic sword Forbidden handed down in Bisthal House!"
<TLN: In katakana.>
Judging from the English name, it means [Prohibited] or [Taboo].
"What? Are you too cheap to bet Shaitan?"
"Ludicrous, like I'd use Shaitan as a betting item!"
The duke heir and the prince's retainer are quarreling.
Apparently, Bishtal house has several magic swords as the heirlooms.
"Then I will bet the secret magic book of dyeing!"
"I'll bet a military tool then!"
The place was filled with enthusiasm as people began to bet their magic equipment, scrolls, Blessing Orbs and magic books.
It somehow turned into a boasting event for their heirlooms.
On the other hands, people who don't have anything to bet can only groan 'gununu'.
"I'll bet my granddaughter!"
"Then I'll bet my little sister!"
Oy oy, you're getting too carried away.
I don't like these kind of things.
"Please exclude humans from the bet."
The first prince quickly intercepted a noble who was going to object my declaration.
"Are you really sure you're betting that?"
The prince asked once again.
"Yes. That was something I found inside a hill-like Octopus Kraken's belly I encountered when I was journeying as Satou. Thus, I'm not sure if it has any value myself. If that is allowed, then."
"Then, I will not object."
At my explanation, the prince glanced at the nobles and nodded.
"But there is only one of this key, can this be bet?"
A key can't be divided unlike money.
"No problem, people who obtain the key just have to share it in accordance to the value of the thing they bet."
The prince asked the nobles, "You're fine with that right?", and the nobles replied positively with faces filled with desire.
After hearing that it will be split by the value of the bet, higher ranked nobles began to add dangerous-sounding things like copper and iron mines, gem deposits and trade rights.
Additionally, I asked the details of the rumor from the one who brought it up, and it seemed that the [Holy Living Armor] that became the source of this bet was discovered by explorers under Marquis Kelten.
After the threat of monster stampedes was over, Marquis Kelten applied for the permission to deploy a large airship to the king, so the rumor seemed plausible.
The nobles are guessing that the airship is for the sake of transporting supply and soldiers needed to investigate the ruin the explorers discovered.
I think that there's a high chance of the armor really existing if the marquis even goes as far as mobilizing an airship, but according to the intellectual glasses noble, the family of Marquis Kelten have been often recorded to search for the [Holy Living Armor] and fail at it in history of Shiga Kingdom.
Apparently, the nobles could bet this heartily because they had a huge chance of winning.
Well even if I lost the bet, that'd just mean losing a junk, no problem here.
"Oh, what should I do. I have dirtied this precious dress I borrowed from mother."
A girl who was speaking in monotone was blocking the passage when I was on my way back to the girls after leaving the prince's salon.
The monotone-speaking girl appears to be a baroness of Bishtal Dukedom.
A particularly big bucktooth seems to be her charm point.
Since her house maid was watching while clenching her fist behind a pillar, there's no doubt that this is a farce.
I pass by her without stopping.
"I'm in trouble~. Really really in trouble~."
This time a muscular woman carrying torn shoes were in trouble, looking obviously unnatural.
"My shoes of the heel got torn~."
Isn't that supposed to be [Heel of your shoes]?
Well, forget the heel, I think having the entire shoes ripped is just too much for an act.
This woman is also a noble from Bishtal dukedom.
"My young little sister is sick in bed. But my family is so poor we can't afford her medicine."
An obese woman with jewels covering her entire body in bad taste appealed.
"My chronic disease--"
This time a dispirited woman with a make-up that made her look sickly was sitting, looking like a ghost.
I almost believed her for an instant, but according to AR reading, she's the very picture of health, so I walk by her without stopping.
I was made to witness these farces many times until I arrived at the hall.
One thing they have in common is that they are all plain women related to Bishtal dukedom.
I have no doubt that this must be a plain harassment by Duke Bishtal.
I was planning to dispatch Echigoya Firm restoration unit to Bishtal dukedom to help the territory's revival in all earnestness but it seems to be a good idea to refrain from doing that for a while.
I'll leave it at the level of sending enough food so that there won't be anyone dying from starvation, like it's always been so far.
※ Next update is planned for 7/16