SETP Vol. 3 Chapter 16

 

 

Chapter 16 – An Early Reunion

 

“…should the word ‘Curia’ tell me anything…?”

I muttered under my breath.

I scratched my head, troubled.

I had so little awareness of international relations that a difficult word like “Curia” just made me give up trying to think altogether.

~

For me, brainwork was something for father, Grerial, and Stenn to do. I knew it was important, but I honestly thought such a grave discussion wasn’t something I wanted to hear at dinner.

“This is a very important matter for our kingdom.”

“Yeah, I know that much.”

I was in Diestburg’s castle town.

One reason was that I knew I was being targeted because of the whole Idies Farizard business, so I thought it’d be better to be outside when it happened.

The other reason was that if I stayed in my room Stenn would come to pester me to keep him company, so I took Feli with me for an aimless walk outside.

Until then, I had only left the castle to visit the flower shop managed by my acquaintance Warrick, so the town scenery was still fresh in my eyes. It was a rather pleasant experience.

Maybe because of the quality of my clothes, sometimes the people passing by would bow their heads, which felt rather awkward.

“…I’m working too much lately, aren’t I?”

—especially considering the time I woke up.

No wonder I felt so sleepy.

This realization dispelled the doubts hovering in my heart and made me feel lighter.

“Don’t worry, Your Highness. That’s perfectly normal.”

“…………”

I was reminded that the maid walking next to me was, after Ratifah, the greatest enemy of my sleep, and realized I spoke to the wrong person.

I secretly decided to ask Grerial to intercede for me to take a vacation, once I returned to the castle.

“…hm.”

I looked up at the sky.

The sun was at its zenith, so my eyes automatically narrowed because of the strong sunlight. The town’s hustle and bustle reached my ears.

It seemed louder than normal.

“It’s noon already.”

I walked all morning, so I was feeling pretty hungry.

I put a hand in my pocket and verified the presence of a pouch with coins in it, then turned toward Feli.

“Let’s have lunch. Luckily, there’s a place right there.”

I looked towards a small restaurant, crowded with lunchtime patrons.

—is that fine with you?

I implied the question with my words and gaze, and a gentle smile returned them without pause.

“Understood.”

Feli nodded and we headed towards the restaurant.

~

The restaurant was clearly crowded: inside we saw a small number of people waiting for their seats.

I thought that we would have to wait for a while, but then— 

“…oh my!”

For some reason, that particular comment stuck out to me, amidst the noise of the restaurant.

It was a voice I had heard before.

Quite recently, too.

“Ugh.”

Right after that, I heard another voice, filled with disgust.

It was a young boy’s voice, one that I knew too.

I looked in the direction of the voices and saw two people, sitting at a table for four.

A boy more or less the same age as me and a woman who could have passed for his mother.

“It has been a while, Fay Hanse Diestburg.”

The greeting made it clear that the previous reaction had indeed been directed at me.

The familiar person who greeted me was sitting at their table, eating what looked like a sort of stew, and smiled at me.

“…someone you know, Your Highness?”

Feli, who had never met them before, cocked her head to the side. Judging from their attire, she thought they weren’t nobles, so she wondered what could be their connection with me.

“Yes, they helped me out in Rinchelle.”

The woman’s smile deepened, probably pleased that I remembered.

“My name is Dvorg Tsarrich, currently a merchant based in Rinchelle. The boy is my escort.”

The boy stopped eating and bowed his head to Feli as a greeting.

“So I get an ‘Ugh’, but with Feli you get all polite?”

“…consider what happened the first time we met.”

I addressed the boy with a spiteful attitude, which was returned to me in spades.

The atmosphere between us had to be pretty tense, as Feli interrupted it to make her greeting.

“My name is Feli von Yugstine, I am a maid working in the Diestburg royal castle.”

Feli’s intentions were crystal clear: the boy and I realized that any more fighting was pointless, so we fell silent.

I turned my eyes from the boy to the merchant Dvorg Tsarrich and asked a question that suddenly popped up in my head.

“Why are you here, by the way?”

“I’m a merchant, you know that. My base happens to be in Rinchelle, but merchants are everywhere.”

However, to tell the truth…so trailed Dvorg’s words as she frowned.

“This time I came to meet you, Fay Hanse Diestburg. You are the main reason, actually. Business comes next.”

“…you came for me?”

“Yes, hoping you’d return the *favor* you owe me. Oh, but I can’t keep you two standing like that— ”

Our table happens to have two empty seats, added Dvorg.

“Would you kindly join us?”

“…don’t you mean ‘ just sit down there’?”

“Though you owe me a favor, this is just a plea. A mere merchant like me can’t go ordering royalty around, after all.”

If I pretended to forget about my promise she would do nothing, and if I said I couldn’t grant her request she would not force me to. This is what Dvorg’s words implied, but since I knew what she meant by saying I owed her something, I felt I had no choice but to sit down.

“Feli.”

Feli probably understood what I meant just by that, and immediately took one of the open seats.

As soon as we sat down, Dvorg smiled warmly and thanked us.

“So?”

I owed Dvorg a favor because she procured me a ship in Rinchelle.

I told her that I would do anything she wanted if she lent me a ship, but when I went to return it she just said “Now you owe me a favor, Your Highness”.

I contacted her without Feli or the others around, of course. So no one other than me, Dvorg, and the boy were supposed to know about it.

“Prince Fay, what do you know about ancient relics?”

“Ancient relics…?”

I was mostly ignorant not only about international relations, but also about the history of the country I was born in, so there was no way for me to know. I couldn’t help but answer her question with another question.

“Let’s see, it’s…a story from more than one thousand years ago.”

Dvorg then took out a weathered notebook from her pocket. It clearly showed it had been used for many years.

“A time when kingdoms or countries didn’t even exist yet. Products of an era in which people did not even have an established sense of morals. That’s what the ancient relics are.”

Dvorg continued talking while leafing through the old notebook.

Its pages, however, were mostly white.

“In this era, no writing system had been developed either, so there are no written documents about it. What we have is only cryptic wall paintings at best.”

What was she getting at?

I had no idea how this topic would lead to the “favor” I owed her.

“Several years ago, rumors that one of the empire’s researchers deciphered one of those wall paintings started spreading. Then a few days ago, I heard rumors that in one of the locations where an ancient relic was supposedly found, people from the empire are acting in terribly suspicious ways. Incidentally, Diestburg seems to be troubled by the empire recently, yes?”

“…news does travel fast.”

The reaction to Dvorg’s words came not from me, but from Feli.

“Information is the lifeblood of a merchant’s business, after all.”

Feli probably wanted to know where Dvorg had gotten such information from, but the latter surely had no intention to talk about it.

“Okay, I got what you said about those ancient relics, but what exactly do you want me to do?”

“It’s simple. I would like you to go to the place called ‘Forest of Nightfall’.”

Forest of Nightfall…? I whispered to myself, and Feli sighed helplessly, then explained that it was the name of a forest located in the southeastern region of Diestburg. She knew how little my knowledge of such topics amounted to, so she filled the gap immediately.

Her words, however, raised a question in my mind.

“…someone from the empire infiltrated Diestburg?”

There had been rather frequent attacks recently, by spies or people with troublesome abilities like Idies Farizard, but I didn’t think that Diestburg would allow enemy forces to cross its borders so easily. According to Feli, father was a surprisingly skilled king.

“In the Forest of Nightfall…there might be. That is the only place not under tight security.”

Feli replied in a stiff tone.

She sounded different than the usual, for whatever reason.

“Well, it’s faster to actually go there than to talk about it. No problem, really.”

I felt the sudden urge to say that Dvorg’s irresponsible words were a huge problem in my book, but I didn’t want to stray the conversation further, so I kept quiet.

“If there really are people from the empire, they’d surely attack people from Diestburg – especially Prince Fay – without warning. Thus I would like to ask you to get rid of any such empire people.”

Dvorg then continued.

“While Prince Fay draws their attention, he will enter the ruins and make a clean sweep of the empire’s research and its results. That’s the plan.”

Dvorg then placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder, who already knew everything about the plan…or not.

“M-master!? This is the first I’ve heard about that!!”

He was wide-eyed, almost panicked.

“…I will pay back what I owe you. But if the empire turns hostile with you because of that, it’s your problem.”

I figured I should at least give her a warning. She returned it with a warm smile, though.

“Luckily, merchants are always hungry for information. Besides, I can smell money in that direction. A tremendous amount of it too.”

Dvorg spoke in a joyful tone, her cheeks flushed like a maiden.

Frankly speaking, I didn’t understand her feelings at all.

“Merchants are pretty troublesome creatures…”

“Indeed. Especially because that era still has many interesting things to offer. One of the most famous ones is, let me see, that one…”

Dvorg flipped through the mostly blank notebook and found one of the few pages with something written on it.

“A swordsman hailed as ‘invincible in the whole world’ was said to have lived. Apparently, they called him…the ‘Sword Emperor’.”


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