“Hold on a moment!”
As I froze upon hearing Roroa’s sudden marriage proposal, a flustered Liscia ran down and pressed on to Roroa.
“You’re Amidonia’s princess, right! What are you saying!”
“Whut do ye mean whut? The same as you, big sis”
On the other hand, Roroa was still at ease.
“Big sister Liscia is Elfrieden’s princess too, aye? The reason fer ye to marry Soma-han was at first to give him a case to govern Elfrieden, no?”
“H, how did you!?”
“Dinnae be underestimanting merchants. And then I’m the same. By marrying me, Soma-han gains a case to rule Amidonia. He’d somewhat lessen the chance of rebellion by the people”
“Well … yes, but even if it’s that way in the beginning, but I’m now completely doing it to support Soma’s rule. There’s my feelings for him too. Not just for giving him a case. Me, Aisha, and also Juna, we all chose to stay by Soma ourselves!”
Being sort of confessed to so loudly made me, who was listening from the side, feel embarrassed. However, even having listened to Liscia’s proclamation, Roroa said with a grin,
“Ah—, naught a problem then. I like Soma-han plenty myself.”
“Back when I was sheltering in Nerva, I saw the Royal Broadcast. That was revolutionary I say, and there’s still a lot of uses for it, too. Ye could make a fortune depending on how ye use it. Let’s see … both the Kingdom and Principality have Purveyors, aye? The one where the highest quality items they present gets a seal of approval from the government? That is simultaneously a guarantee of the quality of the item and publicity for only the guaranteed goods. So whut about taking just a wee bit of time on the Royal Broadcast to publicize these goods for a fee? Big merchants who want to publicize their goods will be willing to spend a lot of money for it I think.”
“Ah, I see. You want to air commercials”
That was a blind spot. Currently the Royal Broadcasts were airing public broadcasts. I haven’t thought much about commercials at all. Because I didn’t think that the idea of becoming a TV sponsor exists in a world without TV. But just like Roroa said, there are merchants like Purveyors who do trade by publicity. They’d be willing to part with money if we gave them a place to advertise. Using that for programme production costs would help lighten national expenditures.
As I was thinking, Roroa flashed a grin.
“Soma-han looks like ye could bring both Elfrieden and Amidonia together to a more prosperous era. I think there’s going to be a lot of fun things if I stay with ye. I’ve always thought that it’s better to marry someone fun”
“Roroa … are you sure you’re alright with me?”
I looked Roroa straight in the eye. This is something I must ask of her.
“I’m the man who killed Gaius … your father”
The air froze as I said so … or so I felt. Unexpectedly however, the only ones who are tense were people from the Kingdom. Roroa only calmly shrugged.
“If ye’re going to say that, then I’m the one who drove out brother. I used the merchant’s network to cause many riots to happen at the same time”
Ah … so the simultaneous riots really were this girl’s plan.
“About Lord Faither, ye neednae lose sleep on him. Or would ye prefer a girl who glares at ye saying ‘how dare ye kill my faither!’ ?”
“Um, it’s not about preference …”
Seeing me baffled, Roroa breathed a sigh.
“… well, not that I didnae feel anything. He’s still my faither after all. But, he was also going to kill ye as well, aye? A battlefield is where ye kill or get killed. That is something that cannae be helped anymore. Ye’ve also kindly returned his body, so there’s nought left for me to say”
“Well … it only shows how much we dinnae get along that I only felt this much.”
Roroa said with a somewhat lonely look.
“Lord Faither and brother were so obsessed with revenge to the Kingdom, they couldnae see the reality. Amidonia is a poor country. We have mines, but that’s all we have. We’re also not food sufficient. The ones to make the people suffer isnae the Royals or the people of Elfrieden, but hunger and poverty. What we really need are jobs and food. We, that is me, Colbert, and the officials, desperatly tried to raise money, but Lord Faither puts them into army spending right away”
“We managed to reduce the number of people that are starving, the girls selling themselves off, the children who had to be sent away. Fueling hatred for the Kingdom to suppress dissent isnae healthy. Someday it’s going to fail. But even so … Lord Faither never lent us an ear. I wonder when it began … when did I stop thinking of him as family …”
Roroa shook her head, pulling herself together, and made a grin.
“My family is already old man Hermann and ‘big brother’ Colbert, and also the uncles and aunties living in town. The ones I want to protect isnae the family only connected to me by blood, but the ones important to me”
She wants to protect not the family only connected by blood, but the ones important to her. Back when we negotiated post-war arrangements, Julius cast Roroa away, thinking she would become a political opponent. And now, Roroa is also abandoning Julius. It should’ve been even, but somehow, I felt more filial piety in Roroa. Probably … unlike Julius, Roroa understands the importance of family.
“One more thing. The insurrection in north-western Amidonia the other day, causing Julius to come cracking down, is that also your instigation?”
“I’d never do something like that!”
For the first time since Roroa was here, she was angry.
“In fact, I made it so that the rebellion happens at the same time to avoid that. Rendering brother immobile so he dinnae oppress the masses”
“So the insurrection in the northwest happened on its own?”
“That’s also wrong. Judging by the location, what’s near the northwest where it happened? Was there anyone who acted strangely?”
“! Holy Orthodox Empire Lunaria!”
The Holy Orthodox Empire Lunaria was to the northeast of Amidonia, and they sent troops to the border in order to take care of their believers within Amidonia. Roroa made an annoyed look and nodded.
“Religious affairs go beyond borders. Being so close to the Holy Orthodox Empire, that area had lots of Lunarian believers. The Orthodox Empire probably instigated the believers with a papal commandment. They dared send in troops and call it protecting the believers”
“But the northwest isn’t a prosperous land, right? What would the Orthodox Empire gain from it so much as to cause an insurrection there?”
“Whut they want isnae land, but people, believers. True believers, no matter how much they suffer, willnae latch away from the Holy See. Troubles and hardships are a trial from the gods. Therefore the country never has to think about the people’s well being. They get support so long as they observe the rites. That’s why the country is happier the more believers they have.”
“Nothing quite as troublesome as that, huh … speaking of which, you sound like you really don’t like the Lunarian Church, Roroa”
“I dinnae care about the Church itself. Whut I hate is the bastards using religion for politics, filling their own pockets while causing suffering.”
Hmm, I guess mixing religion with politics does cause trouble no matter what world you’re in. You’re using something that was supposed to heal people’s hearts as justification to do what you want. Interpretation of dogma is left to the powers that be, condemning people under the name of god for being heretics, for not espousing the same creed as themselves. Really, there’s nothing quite so troublesome.
“I’d rather avoid having anything to do with any of it if I could”
“But ye cannae do that, aye? That country’s going to contact you eventually”
“Why!? I’m not a believer”
“Because that country detests the Star Dragon mountain range and the Grand Chaos Empire”
The Star Dragon mountain range is obvious. It is the (de facto) country of intelligent dragons, and the faith of the Mother Dragon that inhabits it is one of the two great faiths of the continent along with the Lunaria Church (though it’s unknown what they believe in the Demon King Territory). That’s why the Orthodox Church would obviously detest the Star Dragon Mountain range, being the seat of the faith of the Mother Dragon.
“Ye ken that the Empress Maria is called the ‘Holy Maiden’, aye? The citizens that were saved by her relief policies called her that on her own. In the Lunaria Church, the right to name Holy Men and Maidens belong to the Pope. The Lunaria Church actually has someone they call the Holy Maiden. Which is why to the Orthodox Empire, Lady Maria is someone who sullies the title of Holy Maiden.”
“Since it’s the people who called her that, Lady Maria did nothing wrong, right?”
“They dinnae care. A religious country seeks charisma over everything else. It’s a slight on their honor for a Holy Maiden to just spring up on her own. Which is why after absorbing Amidonia and expanding your power, ye cannae expect the Orthodox Empire to leave ye alone. They’d try to probe you out somewhere. They may even slap a Saint title on ye and drag ye along in their fight with the Empire.”
Uwaa … it’s scary how likely that is. The secret alliance with the Empire, with it being secret and all, cannot be publicized to other countries (in fact, since it would be a problem if it were ever found out, both countries’ intelligence bureaus work around the clock to keep it under wraps). I have seen how the Church stabilized their own influence by giving the powers that be a spiritual position, back in the histories of Earth. They could possibly start calling us Holy Elfriedenian Empire and set us up to head the fight against the Empire.
But that said, it’s not easy to just antagonize them. The problem with religion is that even when you crush their home base and kill their leaders, their believers will remain. The more you suppress the believers the more united they become, and the leaders you killed will be revered as martyrs. Furthermore, most of these believers are common citizens. It would be just short of a genocide to eradicate all believers. I can’t join or antagonize them. Seriously, such a pain.
Wincing back from the bad imaginings, my shoulder was stroked by Roroa, who switched the topic.
“Well, let’s leave the matter about the Orthodox Empire for now. What ye should decide now is about our marriage”
“Soma-han… Do ye want me, or do ye not?”
A straight-ball question. A pair of big round eyes looked straight at mine, looking like the puppy from “What to do, Aif○l?” 1. Well, since you asked like that, then the answer is obvious.
There were just too many benefits to marrying her I desperately want to reach out and grab her. Firstly, marrying Roroa would reinforce the legitimacy of the Amidonia merger. Secondly, she was attractive from a personnel point of view. She had the economic foresight to come up with a source of revenue in advertising, and independently establish a mercantile network. It was also well that she understands the tricks that nobles use, which is something that Hakuya and I had overlooked. Both she and Colbert are talented people I want to have at all costs.
Furthermore, I have a good impression of Roroa’s way of thinking. Her downtown merchant spirit, or rather, the way that even when she’s a realist that screams “The world, it’s money!” she was still aware of duty and humanity. The money she earns for the people, she uses for the sake of the people, even though it didn’t come to bear fruit thanks to Gaius’ actions. She had the guts to butt heads with her own brother for the people she cares about. To top it off, there’s nothing to complain about having such a cute girl wanting to marry me. If there’s a problem … that would be what Liscia thinks. She’s the princess of a longstanding enemy country, after all.
“What do you think, Liscia?”
“If Soma thinks she’s necessary, then I’m okay with her”
Said Liscia, bluntly. I couldn’t see any ill feelings in her face. What’s weird was that she was slightly miffed as if saying, “what’s that look for?”
“She looks like a capable girl to me as well. I think she has what it takes to be received as a Queen Consort. If Soma would manage inheritance rights later, then there’s nothing more for me to say.”
“Liscia … thank you.”
“Naturally, you’ll still care for the rest of us, right?”
Really … such a good girl. I’m really glad about having Liscia as my … fiancée. Roroa then interjected with a somewhat good mood.
“Ah, sorry for barging in on your sweet world for two, but ye dinnae have to worry on that front. I dinnae care about the crown”
“Aye. … in return, there’s something I want to ask of ye, Darling.”
Darling? … well, okay. Roroa then looked up at me with upturned eyes and a face like a child begging for something.
“Something you want?”
“Ye see, I always wanted a company of my own”
“Aye. Ye see, Darling, I wanted te see how much I can change the country with the money I earn for myself. Your policies have foresight, but they canne meet the budget every time, right? You’d have it hard to spend treasury money on high risk or seemingly useless things, aye?”
“Well … you’re not wrong.”
Now that my authority had gotten stronger, I can easily assign budget on things that I can explain the merits of relatively easily, like road construction to improve the circulation of goods, or building a new city, but on the other hand, it’s hard to budget for things whose effects cannot be seen immediately or that are seemingly meaningless. Like for instance, funding for specialized research. Experts can understand “We can’t be left in second place,” but non-experts aren’t likely to understand.
“And so, if ye have some measure that ye want to take and dinnae have budget for, ye can talk to me. I’ll back ye up with the money I earn from the company.”
“That’s … reassuring, but are you sure? For a Royal Consort to be doing a merchant’s work, you’re going to look as if you have no authority to the people.”
“I’ve thought about that too. I’ll be working behind the scenes, and leave the front to … let’s see … the owner of the Silver Stag Shop in Vannes I’m friendly with, Sebastian”
Sebastian of Silver Stag Shop 2 … ah, the one Juna and Tomoe went to. The name left an impression on me, like, doesn’t it sound like a butler’s? Then that means the ‘really cute small racoon type client’ he was talking about would be Roroa. Well, he sure did seem like a reliable, nice middle-aged tradesman. He’d have what it takes to represent a company.
“Um … if I may have a word as someone entrusted with the treasury.”
Colbert cut in with a difficult look on his face.
“If you have that kind of money I’d rather have it in the treasury, but …”
Ah, yeah. I get what Colbert is saying. The Kingdom was at the brink of bankruptcy until recently, too.
“” But I refuse! “”
“Why are you two suddenly in sync!?”
“It’s fine. It’s something I’ll be earning with my own skills”
“It’ll be much easier for domestic affairs if we have the budget for it, too”
“But Your Highness …”
“Now now, I willnae be wasting it away like Lord Father did, see. This is what ye call division of labor. I’ll be earning, and ye’ll be saving. Then everything will be alright.”
◇ ◇ ◇
The later setup of King Soma adopting extraordinary policies, Roroa providing financial support out of amusement, and Colbert counseling him against it, had now been established. They both support King Soma in financial affairs, but due to the difference in their statuses, they would each come to be called Arsonist Roroa and Extinguisher Colbert.
◇ ◇ ◇
Then Roroa slithered up to me and wove her arm around mine.
“And then when a child is born to Darling and me, they will go on to succeed the company. Since they’re my child, they probably won’t be interested in the crown.”
Well, sure, a child born to “I want to live in peace” me and “I hate boring things” Roroa and took to our personalities wouldn’t want to be a King, what with it being a lot of work. … speaking of, I suppose the only ones who’d be willing to inherit the throne would be “I will do my duty” Liscia’s children maybe? “Musselbrain? Can you eat it?” Aisha and also “Ufufu” Juna would be like “It’s better to be able to move freely,” and hope to be side queens.
… Is this going to be an inheritance war? People fighting because they don’t want to inherit? I have to make sure Liscia works hard and give birth to a successor with a good sense of duty if I’m to avoid this. Though, if I asked her directly she’s going to get mad at me and say “don’t act like it’s somebody else’s problem!!”
“Sebastian got himself a daughter not long ago, if we had a boy then we could have him marry into that family, but if we had a girl, well, let’s think about it later”
“You’re moving too fast! Actually, will you get your hands off Soma already!?”
Liscia tried to pry her off in a fluster, but Roroa used my body as a shield and clung to me alternating between my left and right hands.
“Aw don’t be so stingy big sister. Ye’ve been all lovey dovey with Darling all this time, aye? Let me have this bonus turn”
“We haven’t! We’ve been so busy we didn’t have time for things like that!”
“Really big sister? Could ye actually be still …”
“Yes I’m ‘still‘! Got a problem!?”
As Liscia said that in a frenzy, Roroa turned towards me with eyes full of cold.
“Darling … that’s …”
“No, hold on … (why the hell is the blame on me now!?)”
“That’s right! This happens because Soma won’t take care of things properly”
“Well, that’s, umm … (They’re teaming up!? Is this that!? The appearance of a common enemy!?)”
“Um … I, uh … would like you to take care of me properly too”
“Ugu … (Et tu, Aisha!?)”
“Huh!? … (D, did I just feel the hand of someone who’s not here on my shoulders just now!!?)”
In the blink of an eye, I was wrapped in the rowdy mood of my four (?) fiancées. Cold sweat dripped unstoppably from me, and the retainers watched resignedly with wry smiles.
Several days later, the Principality of Amidonia had merged into the Kingdom of Elfrieden, becoming a new country, the United Kingdoms of Elfrieden and Amidonia, or Friedonia Kingdom for short. Since around this time I had come to be called the Great King who expanded the territory in under a year, or the Great King of Friedonia. I don’t think too fondly on this “Great King” title, it gives me the impression of a squid or an isopod or something … aaaaalso …
Since I took the princess of Amidonia, Roroa as my wife, there were rumors that “King Soma becomes stronger (territory expands) every time he gets a new wife” or “He’s a lecher that even overthrew an enemy country because he wanted the princess (Roroa).” Sheesh, how did it turn out like this …
◇ ◇ ◇
One thing led to another and thus it came to the top level conference between Lady Maria and I over the Royal Broadcasts. I had just now finished explaining to her how the Amidonia merger came to be.
“… and that’s what happened”
[That’s really … no … pffft]
On the receiver set, Lady Maria was covering her mouth and her shoulders were shaking. Sounds like it tickled her funny bone. Still, since it was officially a conference site, she held herself back (and she looked cute doing that too). Though I thought it would be better if she had laughed out loud.
[Fufufu … Lord Soma, you sure can put one’s mind at ease]
“Yes. It looks like I caught a shark when I was fishing for bream with a shrimp”
[Do take proper care of the fish you caught, okay]
“I can’t really release them now, can I?”
Maria continued to chuckle for a little longer, but then regained her serious look.
[Now, about the Lunaria Orthodox Empire’s manoeuverings …]
“According to Roroa, they disliked that you have taken the name of Holy Maiden”
[That is true. They requested many times that I don’t call myself Holy Maiden … protested, actually. But even so, I wasn’t the one calling myself that, so there’s nothing there for me to do]
“It would be weird if you tell the people not to call you Holy Maiden, after all. … in that case, the Empire would continue to be a latent danger the Orthodox Empire. They might try to come in contact with me just like Roroa said”
[Lord Soma, don’t you think you’re … throwing away the Orthodox Empire’s authority?]
She was trying to probe me with that question, so I answered with a clear shake of the head.
“Please don’t joke about that. I’m trying to lead the world into a new era here, spare me the theocracies”
I don’t need a Girolamo Savonarola in my country. Lady Maria seems reassured by my clear denial.
[The Empire also considers the Orthodox Empire a big headache. There are a lot of Lunarian believers in the Empire, as well, so the Humanity Declaration have no power against religious groups. In fact, I fear they might make use of the loophole Lord Soma pointed out.]
Something like, the religious groups within the country declaring independence. Once the religious adherents grouped together they’d be hard to eradicate. They’re more likely to blow up the more they were put under pressure. The only way for her to handle them would be to round up those who scheme for independence before they could form up into groups, or maybe throw away the Humanity Declaration and promptly attack and destroy the Orthodox Empire.
“Will the Empire still not renounce its leadership of the Humanity Declaration?”
[No. Humanity can’t afford not to stand together at a time like this. There needs to be a flagwaver for that, and the duty falls to the Empire. The Orthodox Empire should understand that as well. If humanity fought with one another and the Demons came in and destroyed us, then it will all be for nothing. I do believe they won’t do anything rash at this time.]
“… I wonder about that.”
I don’t think it’s a problem you can look at with that kind of optimism. The more chaotic the times are, the more religion shows its true worth. The reason was the hearts of the people who wish to ‘be saved’. Despair caused by society and the times drive people towards religion. Nowadays, with the threat of the Demon King Territory, some people had already thought of this as the end times. If this despair were to be allowed to run rampant, it will become food for the Orthodox Empire, leading to them gaining incredible power.
In order to avoid that … we need to show the people a ray of hope. We need to have the people believe that the world will not come to ruin, that tomorrow will come no matter what, and that the coming future will be something greater than today. For that …
“So long as you, the Grand Chaos Empire, espouse the ideal of humanity becoming one, then we, the Kingdom of Friedonia will walk alongside you.”
The Empire … Maria, is the ray of hope for humanity. In the meantime, the Kingdom will steadily advance the progress of the times. For humanity to not lose hope. For us to rise up by ourselves without having to cling to the divine even in despair.
“I believe that if we cover for each other, we can deal with anything that may happen.”
[Yes. I wish, if I may, that this oath will continue on for eternity]
If one continually looks up towards an ideal, one will stumble on the rocks by one’s feet.
But if one were to only look down at reality, one will lose sight of the path to one’s destination.
That is why we walk together.
The two of us looked at each other’s face through the screen and smiled.
◇ ◇ ◇
«Elfrieden Classical Idioms Course»
[To catch a shark while baiting sea bream with a shrimp] … proverb. Meaning to catch a shark with a lot of untasty 3 parts as one tried to use cheap shrimp to catch valuable sea bream. Denotes the disappointment of having something unexpected happen when one tries to expend the least effort for the greatest result. Furthermore, since even untasty shark has valuable shark fin, it also denotes the fact that there was something good that came along with the disappointment. Similar idioms on Earth would be “Don’t count one’s chickens before they are hatched” for the former, and “Jewel in a dunghill” for the latter. King Soma uttered this phrase upon being disappointed that he had to merge the whole of the poor lands of Amidonia when he wanted to only annex Vannes (and as for the latter, the shark fin would surely be Princess Roroa).
TN: It’s election day and I can finally have some time to finish this up! Apologies for going missing all this time. Funnily, one of the candidates in my area is the incumbent governor who is being sued for blasphemy for saying what Roroa and Maria is saying in this chapter: that political opponents are using religion to take him down and further their own agendas. It only proves his point IMHO.