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Chapter II: The Two Princes 

I used the workshop to make a few copies of the Frame Gear training device, and made sure to have the others train with it in their free time. 
I made eight of them in total, lining them up along a far wall in my game room. The setup was a little bit reminiscent of an arcade. Though it was a little more serious than a mere game. 
I was surprised to find that the ones who took to it best were Yumina and Linze. But it made sense, given that they were the most adept at magic. But, as far as adapting to the movement went, Yae and Elze were the fastest to actually develop and improve. 
I cast [Program] on the Frame Units to make them project their displays on the outside as the person on the inside piloted. Rosetta made use of that further and developed the program to the point where it consolidated multiple image feeds from the various units and created a much clearer image of the battlefield. We could then watch as a third party to see the failings and successes of the individual pilots. I briefly considered that it’d probably be effective to imbue a Frame Gear with a program that allowed it to fight autonomously. 
But the amount of programming I’d have to do would be obscene, not to mention the amount of magical power that would have to go into it. Plus, it took two hundred years for Leen to program Paula to a standard level of response. I was sure it would take even longer to create a combat drone. I certainly didn’t have that much time on my hands. 
“Aagh, I losssst!” One of the units to the right of me popped open, and out jumped a wolf beastwoman. Specifically, Vice-Commander Norn. From another unit came a fox beastman, Vice-Commander Nikola. 
“Come, Norn. You must remember that a Frame Gear is not your own body. It has different proportions. Even if you feel as though you might have dodged, it could still be a hit.” 
“Guh... Hey, you calling me fat?” Norn had received a fatal strike from Nikola’s halberd on the Frame Gear’s flank. She’d likely tried to dodge just by a hair’s breadth, but her own physique was different to that of the unit’s, causing a critical mistake. 
The game room was opened for any members of the knight order that were done with their daily training. I decided it would be fine, since they needed to have relaxation time now and then. And a happy knight is a hard-working knight. In a sense you could consider it a perk of working for me, too. 
The simulators had become another attraction. The knights saw a toy they’d never played with before, and thus had to have it. They were regularly competing against each other to try and score the highest. 
But, even though they used the training tools, I didn’t tell them about the Frame Gears themselves. For now it was fine for everyone to treat it as a game. They’d likely be concerned if they knew they were being trained for such a monstrously powerful weapon. I didn’t mind secretly grooming them that way. If anything it was preferable for them to play the simulation as a game, since it would mean they’d be proficient when the time came for them to put their lives on the line in a real Frame Gear. 
As I was mulling over such ideas, Commander Lain strolled into the game room. She had slowly adapted and gotten used to her position as commander. 
“Ah, Lainy-wainy! Let’s fight, ’kay?!” 
“Norn. You are to address the commander as commander.” Norn gave a big over-exaggerated wave to Lain. I was somewhat amused to see Nikola interject with his usual deadpan expression. 
Lain gave a small smile to the two, then walked over to me. 
“My liege. Tradesman Olba has stopped by and requests your audience.” 
“Oh? Neat.” Wonder if he brought me the metals I asked for... Hope so, mass-producing the Frame Gears is gonna be a pain. I can only create one per day, and that’s at a constant pace. It’ll take me a whole three months just to produce enough for the Duchy’s knights, so I’d like to get on that really fast. 
I headed off to meet with Olba. He immediately attempted to rise to his feet, but I waved him off and sat down on a couch opposite him. 
“I’ve brought the metals, as per our arrangement. The receipt is right here, all should be in order! For now, I’ve five carts of the stuff, but I’ll continue to supply you as I find more.” Olba passed me the paper and I gave it a brief look over. There was a considerable amount of steel, copper and silver, but a slightly lower amount of gold, mithril, orichalcum, and hihi’irokane. I was quite pleased, to say the least. 
“You’ve really brought this much? I’m impressed.” 
“Only the best for my most financially bountiful client. Every last nation I have peddled your wares in has eaten them up like good, vapid little consumers. To show my appreciation for your most wonderful mind, I have put my top men in charge of acquiring the goods you seek.” Wow, the kitschy junk I pitched sold that well? Merchants sure are formidable, huh... I guess I’ve lit a fuse that I can’t put out. 
“I did run into a small issue of competitors producing similar goods to ours and selling them at lower prices... But our goods were produced first, and we have the proper branding. Thus, we win.” Guess that makes sense... Hula hoops and spinning tops can be imitated pretty easily, but the guy who introduces it to the marketplace in the first place probably stands to gain the most. 
“I must say, this is an exceptional amount of metal. Might I ask your intent? Are you going to build a great iron fortress?” 
“Mm... I’ll keep that a secret for the time being. Ah, right. Zanac, the clothing merchant, wants to have a little talk with you about baseball clothing. He said he had an idea about baseball uniforms, baseball caps, and miscellaneous baseball merchandise being produced and sold on a large scale.” 
“Ohoho. How very interesting. Baseball merchandise is indeed a hot topic right now.” Olba went off to meet Zanac on business, while I headed to the training field to pick up my metal shipment. 
The trading representative was waiting off in a corner of the field, so as to not disturb the practicing knights. I walked over and signed his receipt, and then moved all the metal from the carts to the workshop. 
I’d already moved the Mass Production Model Frame Gear to the workshop, so all Rosetta needed to do now was start the process off. 
Incidentally, Mass Production Model Frame Gear was a bit of a mouthful, so I asked Rosetta if they had an official designation. 
“Yessir! This model is FG-09, sir!” she replied. 
Not a very catchy name, but I guess since it was discontinued they never had to put too much thought into it... I guess I can think of a better name for it now, though! 
Hmm... how about Grey? It’s colored that way, after all... but maybe that’d be more appropriate a term for an alien creature than a mech... 
Ah! How about Chevalier? It sounds cool, and it means Knight, so I’ll go with that. 
With that settled, I left the mass production to Rosetta, and the fuel creation to Flora. 
I exchanged a few parting words with Olba, and was getting ready to relax. But of course, it wasn’t that simple. I heard the rushing pitter-patter of medium-sized feet behind me. 
“Ughaah!!” I turned to the source of the voice, only to find myself the victim of a violent tackle. Ow, damn it! My mystery assailant knocked me over, straddled me, and grabbed me harshly by the collar. It was none other than Sue. That was confusing in itself, because I had no idea what she was doing in my country. The young heiress to the Ortlinde family stared right at me with raw ferocity in her eyes. 
“Touya! You will take me as your bride, understand? We will marry!” 
“Huhwhat?!” I was absolutely dumbfounded by what she had yelled. I thought she was joking at first, but her expression conveyed only absolute sincerity. She looked even more determined than Yumina usually did. Then again, Sue had traveled far and wide to cure her mother’s eyesight, so I shouldn’t have been that shocked. 
“Touya, you’re attracted to little girls, right? That’s what Cesca told me! It should be fine, as I’m the littlest girl you know!” 
“Wh—?! Don’t listen to that goddamn maid, she’s out of her mind!!” L-Look, I know every one of my fiancees happens to be young, but... there’s only one year of difference between Yae and myself, then a two-year difference between myself and the twins, and the age difference between myself and the princesses is four years! That’s not awful, right?! 

“My lady, please do not act so rashly. His Highness the Grand Duke seems perplexed.” Leim suddenly appeared from the shadows and took Sue aside. 
When the hell did he get here?! No, calm down... Obviously she wouldn’t have come all the way from Belfast alone. 
“Sorry, but can someone please explain what this is all about?” 
“The thing is, recently the young miss received a marriage proposal.” 
“I don’t wish to marry anyone but Touya! I’m turning that other guy down!” Engagement, huh? Well that came out of the blue. Oh, but then again, considering Sue’s social standing, I guess it makes sense? Sue’s eleven if I remember right, and I recall the king saying something about royalty generally deciding on their engagement partners by the age of fifteen. Plus, well, Yumina got engaged to me at twelve, so... 
“I see. So who did the proposal come from?” 
“The Kingdom of Lihnea’s First Prince, Zabune.” Lihnea? If I remember right, that’s north of Refreese... In other words, across the ocean. 
It was on an island called Palnea, which was split into two kingdoms, Lihnea being the southern kingdom of the island. Supposedly they were always getting into small military conflicts with the northern kingdom of the island, Palouf. If I remembered right, Lihnea had trade agreements not only with Refreese, but with Belfast and Regulus as well. 
“I think it might at least be worth hearing out their side of the story. Who knows, he might be a great guy.” 
“Would a great person propose to someone they’ve never met!? I refuse to marry the kind of man who would dare such a thing!” 
“How did Duke Ortlinde respond?” 
“He has not yet given an answer. Considering the relations between our two countries from a purely political standpoint, it would not be a bad thing for either of our sides.” That made sense, considering this proposal was coming from a prince and all. If Sue and that Prince got married, it certainly would improve political relations between the two countries. But that alone would basically just be a political marriage born only out of convenience. 
“Putting that aside, I’m amazed you brought Sue all this way just to tell me that. Does the duke know about this?” 
“He does... in a way. Yes, in a way at least... The young miss stormed off so abruptly that I was forced to leave behind a letter explaining the circumstances... And truth be told, I, personally, am against this proposal.” 
“You’re against it? How come?” If this guy was the first prince, that meant he was gonna be king someday, right? If Sue married that guy, then that would make her the future queen of that kingdom, directly linking the duke’s family into the other side’s royal bloodline. I couldn’t really see any negatives thus far. 
“Prince Zabune’s reputation is not a particularly good one. Especially when it comes to women. According to the information of Belfast’s secret intelligence unit, Espion, Prince Zabune has had his way with many nobles’ daughters and various castle maids. It is due to such rumors of him that he has not yet succeeded the throne despite being older than thirty already.” 
“Whoa whoa whoa, hold the phone! This guy’s over thirty!? And he’s proposing to an eleven-year-old girl!?” Is this seriously okay? That’s pretty much a whole twenty year age gap! I mean, sure, even back in my world you sometimes saw variety programs with stuff like “Age Differences! Would you believe it, his wife is thirty years younger than him,” but that was always about stuff like a fifty-year-old guy married to a twenty-year-old woman. 
But this is a thirty-year-old guy proposing to an eleven-year-old girl! Is even that normal in this world!? “Is this like, y’know, that kinda thing? Where they’d just be engaged for now, and then the actual marriage would take place once she’s grown up?” 
“I am afraid not. The prince wishes to get married the moment he receives an answer to his proposal. From what he has said, he met the young miss at a party held in Refreese between our friendly countries, and that he fell in love at first sight.” 
“I refuse to marry him, and that’s that!” Geez. Not like I’m in any position to talk, but... Is this guy a pedo prince or something? No, wait, according to the rumors he’d been raping other women, so I guess he’s not a pedo. He’s just a piece of shit. With a reputation like that, how can I even begin to trust him? 
“Touya, please! Take me! You don’t even have to treat me the same as Yumina. Just keep me by your side. Please, Touya?” Sue wrapped her arms around me as tightly as she could and, unable to bring myself to push her away, I just stood there with her. From all that I’d heard, I didn’t think this marriage would make Sue very happy at all. However, considering that this involved Belfast politically, it wasn’t something I could take care of just like that. 
“...I suppose I should go discuss this with everyone.” “Everyone” being the duke, the king, and my wives-to-be. 

“Well, why not? It’s been a long time coming.” 
“I fail to see any problems that need discussing.” 
“You know, I always had a feeling things were going to end up this way anyway, I did.” 
“I’m happy that we’ll be gaining a new companion!” 
“You see, Touya? It turned out just like I told you it would, didn’t it?” You what? Why is every single one of you reacting like that!? I tried to consult with Yumina and the others about the Sue situation, and they all simply nodded and agreed. 
“E-Er well, we can come back to this later...” I couldn’t just accept it like that, but that was beside the point. That wasn’t the issue to begin with. 
“The issue is figuring out how to politely decline Prince Zabune’s proposal.” 
“Wouldn’t it just be fine to say she’s moving to Brunhild as a bride of the grand duke?” 
“That would cause repercussions for the Kingdom of Belfast. Prince Zabune is a persistent man who holds petty grudges. In the worst case scenario, he could end trade with Belfast once he ascends to the throne. That would be a crippling hit to our economy.” Leim frowned as he spoke. I didn’t really think the prince would be that petty, though. 
Still, what an awful state of affairs to get mixed up in... I was definitely against Sue getting married to a villain like him. But I wasn’t entirely sure what we could pull out of our sleeves. 
Maybe it would be better if the other party changed their mind about taking Sue as a bride. 
“The problem is the rejection itself. Still, this is a state affair. Is it really okay to be listening to our suggestions?” Hrmph, what to do... I crossed my arms and let out a deep sigh, when Cesca suddenly raised her hand. 
“The most logical course of action would be to kill him and be done with it.” 
“Are you insane?!” You dumbass robo-maid, don’t go running your mouth! That being said, she had a point. It would certainly solve a lot of our immediate problems... it’d just cause more in the long run! 
“I would be more than happy to squeeze the life out of a pathetic, thirty-year-old idiot prince. A miserable little piece of pedophile vermin who toys with women to mask his own insecurities... he’ll bring no wisdom with age, only suffering. It is best to snuff him out before his flame spreads.” 
“...E-Easy there, Cesca... How were you planning on killing him, anyway?” Cesca’s scornful words took me aback for a moment, and then the other gynoids chimed in with their own contributions. 
“I’ll ready the sniper rounds, sir!” 
“Potassium cyanide would end him quickly and painfully, you see?” 
“Uhm, I would like, totally... put an end to the damnable fool with my pipe wrench.” Shooting, poisoning, and good old-fashioned bashing? Y-You lot scare me sometimes... 
I decided to ignore those dummies and get back to the point. 
“We should visit Duke Ortlinde’s estate first. I’ll explain to him how Sue feels and come up with something. There might be something we can do still.” 
“...Okay.” Sue nodded quietly. With that decided, I saw no reason to delay. I opened up a [Gate] to the Ortlinde estate in Belfast. 
“This problem is causing me a great deal of stress as well, I assure you.” Duke Ortlinde let out a deep sigh as he sank back into his couch. It was only him and myself in the room. Despite my status as grand duke, we skipped pleasantries. Though that was probably a faux pas at this point, I didn’t care. 
“Sue’s happiness is paramount to me. Therefore this engagement, if you’ll pardon my expression, can bugger right off! There is surely a limit to that brat’s audacity! Why, if the prince were in this room with me right now I’d punch him in the teeth!” I didn’t think he would literally punch the prince in the teeth, since that would cause an international incident, but I was getting concerned that Duke Ortlinde’s fatherly fury was welling up to unprecedented levels. In all honesty, I’d probably punch the prince as well. 
“From a purely political standpoint, it’s obviously a good deal. If anything, Belfast stands to gain more from the deal than Lihnea would. Noble engagements are often political, that’s simply how it works. From a perspective like that, my Sue getting married to him is actually better than usual.” 
“Yumina being engaged to me isn’t public knowledge yet, right? I’m surprised the proposal came to Sue and not her.” 
“Yumina currently has direct succession rights to the throne. Other countries would naturally assume she won’t be up for grabs to a foreigner. Though, we both know she really should be married already.” Makes sense. The current order of succession for the Belfast throne was Yumina, then Duke Ortlinde, then Sue. But if Queen Yuel’s baby is a boy, then Yumina would become second in line. If it’s a girl, the baby would become second in line. 
If other countries wanted to make a political marriage with Yumina, they would need to wait until the baby was born. If the baby was male, they’d be free to send proposals to Yumina, as she’d no longer be bound to the throne. 
That was how the story went, but it still sounded bad to me... 
“Oh yeah, he said he fell in love with Sue at a party in Refreese or something...” 
“Bah. What was she doing at a party anyway?!” Duke Ortlinde frowned, seemingly unable to direct his anger properly. I could understand his feelings. As a father, he could only be haunted by the prospect of a man in his thirties trying to make a move on his little girl. 
“Despite his age, if he was well-liked by the people I may have had room for consideration. But the more I investigated, the more I realized that this boy is no good. He will not be able to make my Sue happy.” I noted that Duke Ortlinde called him a boy, even though he was over thirty. Guess that showed what he thought of him. 
From what I’d heard, the prince was an indulgent animal. He freely toyed with maids and noble girls that caught his eye, and sent any knights that disobeyed him to remote, dangerous regions with half-assed excuses. He also lived as he liked in a complete lap of luxury, refused to pay his taxes, and demanded tithes from merchants. If a merchant refused to pay up, he would make it his mission to crush their business. And apparently his lechery was so debased that he’d routinely go around snatching up married women, playing with them until they broke, and then do nothing as their husbands committed suicide. But whether or not the suicide was assisted was up for debate... 
“Why hasn’t a prince like that been disowned?” 
“Wardack, Prime Minister of Lihnea, is the authoritarian leader. He basically manages all of their state affairs and holds all the real power. The rumors say that the king is just a figurehead at this point.” Wardack? Even the name sounds evil. 
“Wardack is the cousin of Zabune’s mother, Queen Dacia. He does whatever he likes using that as his defense. Queen Dacia, in turn, gives Prince Zabune anything he likes. It’s surely this kind of coddling that created the animal he is.” Hmph... It’s never good when all the power is held by one person. Sounds to me like the king can’t stand up to the queen, either... I better make sure that doesn’t happen to me! 
“What do you think should be done about the engagement, then?” 
“...What do you think we should do?” My question was shot right back at me. Naturally, I was against it. I didn’t want Sue to marry a monstrous creep. 
“...I could kill him?” 
“...Despite the fact that you’re joking, I wouldn’t be opposed.” 
“Haha... yeah...” Still, it was just a joke. That Cesca must’ve been rubbing off on me. 
That being said, it only sounded like bad news for Lihnea if that idiot prince became king. Oh, but it probably didn’t matter who succeeded the throne given that they were just a puppet leader for Wardack. Having that moron in control would just make it easier to control things. 
“We could avoid this situation if you take Sue as your bride, Touya, but...” 
“But what?” 
“The idiotic prince would surely direct all his wrath in Brunhild’s direction.” 
“Damn it.” There’d been no formal contact between the Kingdom of Lihnea and my Duchy of Brunhild, so I doubted there’d be much damage, but... I didn’t really want our first interaction to be tainted by his unbridled anger. 
“No good?” 
“It’s not like it’s no good, it’s just... I see Sue as more of a cute little sister at the moment... I’m also engaged to five other women!” 
“Heh, at the moment, you say? Then there’s a chance. Still, there’s really no reason why a monarch can’t have multiple wives, just so long as he has the means to support and love them all. Even the beastking of Mismede and the emperor of Refreese have concubines. In fact, the burning king of Sandora has twenty-six or so wives, I believe.” Seriously?! That’s a full-on harem! Then again, I guess even the Tokugawa Shogunate had a bunch of concubines in the inner palace, huh. 
“In fact, you may find yourself with a succession crisis if you don’t have more brides or mistresses...” Hmph... I mean, I guess, but... I feel like a succession crisis would be even worse if there were too many heirs. 
“What to do... to stop this... hm...” Duke Ortlinde went quiet for a while, and began to ponder seriously. 
“This would involve dabbling in the affairs of a foreign land but... we could place the second prince on the throne instead of that fool.” 
“A second prince? You mean there’s more than one?” 
“Yes, the child of a concubine. He lives in a shack near the palace, detached from the luxuries of that life. He’s said to be a wonderful young man, but one with deep-rooted shame. Still, even a regular man would be better than the idiot in line right now.” A different mother? That means he isn’t blood-related to Minister Wardack. 
He was probably lucky to be alive. Given his nature as the second prince, there’d likely be a camp that wanted him crowned instead of his older brother. From that perspective, he’d probably be considered a pest by Zabune, so I was surprised he hadn’t had him executed or something. 
“There were some noble families who suggested having the younger prince succeed, but Prime Minister Wardack silenced them. The second prince’s mother is also deathly ill and kept isolated from the world. He has nobody supporting him, so they can treat him however they want. They’re letting him live in squalor until he dies, or something to that effect.” 
That’s horrible. 
From what I was told by Duke Ortlinde, he was twenty-two years old but not yet married. Apparently the stupid prince wasn’t the only one in the family to live a long while without getting married, at least by this world’s standards. 
“So in order to have the second prince crowned, the first needs to be disowned, yeah?” 
“Yes, that’s correct.” This is a sticky situation. It’d be considered high conspiracy to meddle in the state affairs of another country like this... Plus, I’m a grand duke. I lead my own country! It’d be really bad if I got caught up in this! 
It was true that I had to consider my own political affairs. If I was exposed planning such a thing, it could spell disaster for my diplomatic relations with other countries... 
My mind was already made up: either way, I wouldn’t give up on Sue. 
“What did His Majesty say?” 
“He said to reject it immediately. He said we don’t need Lihnea’s charity if Sue was the cost.” The duke spoke proudly of his brother with a faint smile on his face. His Majesty the King of Belfast was truly an amazing specimen. I was glad to hear he agreed. Plus, it wasn’t like we knew for certain that the rejection would ruin trade between the two countries. And even if it did, it wouldn’t be until that moron prince got put on the throne. 
The trade with Belfast was surely benefiting them as well, so I had a feeling that Prime Minister Wardack wouldn’t put an end to it. If he wasn’t an idiot, at least. 
“Then we’re rejecting it?” 
“Yes. I shall be doing so. I’m sure some of the other nobles will chatter about it, but they can only talk after it’s their daughters being hounded.” Exactly. At least Sue will be able to rest easily now. As I was pondering, a knock came at the door and Leim wandered in. 
“Sir. The Lihnea Kingdom’s messenger has arrived.” 
“Oh? He sent a messenger? He must’ve gotten impatient, good timing! Send him right in.” 
“Very well.” I tried to leave the room, but Duke Ortlinde grabbed me by the shoulder. 
After a while, a young man who looked to be around twenty years old came through. He bowed his body in a still, formal manner, allowing his tied-up chestnut hair to shake a little. 
“Most esteemed Duke Ortlinde. Pardon my rudeness and my intrusion, I have been sent to receive your response to the prince’s proposal.” 
“Worry not, you haven’t intruded. Please, take a seat.” The two of them settled on comfy seats facing one another, just a little bit away from me. Duke Ortlinde was to my right, and the messenger was to my left. I almost felt like a referee at the start of a soccer game. 
The messenger from Lihnea glanced to me, and was about to open his mouth, but then Duke Ortlinde started to talk. 
“While we appreciate the proposal, I am afraid we must reject it at this time.” 
“...If you don’t mind, could I ask why?” Hm? Did he just smile? It looked like a wry smile too, not a sneer... Guess he was expecting this. 
“Indeed, it has been decided that my daughter will be marrying another man.” Wait... no, hey, don’t do that! That’s... no! 
“...And to whom will she be betrothed?” 
“To the gentleman in the room with us. This is Mochizuki Touya, His Highness the Grand Duke of Brunhild.” You sneaky bastard! You went and used me like that?! If I speak out against it now the messenger will think you’re lying! I’ve been played like a damn fiddle! “Th-This man is the ruler of the Duchy of Brunhild?!” The young messenger’s eyes widened in shock. He immediately shot up and began prostrating himself on the floor. Ah, wait... stop. That’s not necessary! Stop bowing, stop bowing! 
“I-I never thought I’d be able to meet you here of all places... thank God... oh, thank God!!” Wait... uh, huh? Isn’t that a little much? Calm down a little, guy! 
“I’ve heard tales told of you, Milord! Tales of wonder and awe! Pardon my selfishness, but please let me ask... can you use transportation magic? Is it true?” 
“Huh? Uh, yeah. That’s true...” 
“A-Ah... P-Please, please save my mother!” 
Wait? Sorry, slow down. Too many plot threads at once here. What mother? When did he learn I can teleport?! I guess he could’ve heard about it because of the coup, or maybe when I was purchasing stuff in bulk... or maybe when I... was kind of just using it as a daily convenience... I guess I haven’t really been hiding it at all, huh. 
“Sorry, can you start from the beginning? What’s going on exactly?” 
“M-My name is Cloud Zeph Lihnea. I am the second prince of the Kingdom of Lihnea.” 
Duke Ortlinde and I stared, slack-jawed. Our gasps overlapped. The second prince? Here? The illegitimate heir who was treated like garbage? Why was he here as the messenger? Was that part of his family’s cruelty? 
“If you’re the second prince, that means you’re here because your mother’s ill... You want me to cure her disease?” 
“My mother has no disease. In truth, she’s been locked away. She’s in the clutches of that filthy cur, Minister Wardack!” Cloud, the second prince, raised his head. His eyes were burning with rage. 
Of course. Of course this was going to happen. 

Second Prince Cloud Zeph Lihnea of the Lihnea Kingdom lived a solitary life. 
From the moment he was born, he was taken from his parents and made to live in a small home away from the castle. By the time he even found out he was a prince, his brother had already drilled his own worthlessness into him. Depending on how Prince Zabune felt, days could consist of things like insults, or things like kickings and beatings. 
Insulting was fine, of course. The young prince could take that, but he could not stand to hear his mother slandered. The guardsmen and other young sons of noble families would not help him either. In fact, they would hold him down as his elder brother kicked him in the ribs and face. 
Even if Prince Cloud’s mother could be considered nobility, she was originally the daughter of a mercantile family. It was only by chance that she was adopted into blue blood. A baron and his wife could not have children, and they adopted the girl as their own, granting her the status in the process. It was because of this that Prince Zabune was taught by his own mother to despise his younger brother on principle. 
“Frankly, I’ve always wanted to leave the country because of my brother. But I couldn’t leave my mother behind, and they knew it. She was falsely diagnosed and locked away. My mother is isolated now, kept hidden from the world. They said she was contagious, and not to approach.” They effectively took his mother hostage, leaving the young prince at his brother’s mercy, with no way out. By the time he’d noticed his mother’s status as a prisoner, it was impossible to even visit her anymore. 
“She’s still alive, right?” 
“She is. There’s a girl that takes care of my mother, or at least she did. This girl is also a subordinate of a nobleman that takes care of me, so I know about her safety thanks to that.” Why would they do something like this? Is the older brother just jealous of the younger one, or something? 
“My brother preys upon the weak. He uses me for jobs like this to show everyone my pathetic state. By displaying me as the messenger, everyone gets to see that my place in his world is that of a lowly errand boy. I am nothing more.” That’s seriously messed up. I haven’t even met him yet and I hate his guts. 
“What about the king? Doesn’t he speak up about this?” 
“My father cannot speak out against Prime Minister Wardack. I fear that he may even be killed if he resists that man’s whims. The noble families that supported my father have been driven away one by one, as well. My father has no friends in that place.” The prince’s hands shook as he answered Duke Ortlinde. It was far worse than I’d thought. The prime minister was probably thinking of replacing the king with someone who had his family bloodline. Treating it simply like replacing a light bulb was nuts, though. Wait, hold on... “Then... the marriage proposal was for...” 
“I believe so. The intention would be to announce his marriage alongside his taking over of the throne.” Makes sense, then... That means he could’ve just picked anyone to marry, really. Or maybe he deliberately chose Sue because she’s young, and thinks she’s weak? Even if they’re married, a guy like Zabune wouldn’t let a woman stand on equal footing with him. If Sue marries this jackass, she might end up being abused, killed, or worse... this is sickening. 
“When he made me the messenger for this, I saw a chance. I’m aware that Duke Ortlinde and Your Highness are good friends, so I had intended to beseech Duke Ortlinde to meet with you somehow. I did not expect to be able to meet you today, however.” 
“Then you want me to save your mother, right?” 
“Yes, absolutely!” Prince Cloud began to kneel again. I wondered what to do. Using [Gate] would be easy enough. Finding his mother probably wouldn’t be impossible either, but there were still potential complications. 
“Grand Duke of Brunhild, if you’d allow...” Duke Ortlinde suddenly opened his mouth to speak. Hm? What’s with that tone? Is chatting like this in front of a third party bad, or something? 
“We should call an immediate emergency meeting of the western powers. We should not hear just the opinions of Belfast. It is prudent that we hear out Regulus, Mismede, and Refreese as well. It is equally prudent that you be involved.” What?! The matter’s that important?! I-I mean, I’m not opposed to a second opinion but this is a little much. 
“If Prince Cloud thinks it appropriate, I believe other nations may need to take action here. That fool of a first prince should be deposed, and Prince Cloud should take the throne.” WHAT?! Duke Ortlinde grinned and spoke with a confident bravado. All Cloud and I could do was stare. 
“...And, that’s basically the situation!” The leaders of the western alliance were all assembled in Brunhild Castle’s meeting room. Present were representatives from the Kingdom of Belfast, the Kingdom of Mismede, the Refreese Imperium, the Regulus Empire, and the Ramissh Theocracy. Ramissh was the newest member of the alliance. 
I gave them a rough outline of the situation, explaining we needed to decide our next course of action. 
“Indeed, our intelligence reports reflect much of the same information. The prime minister of Lihnea exceeds the king in power.” The emperor of Regulus let out a murmur, confirming he knew the same. 
“Well my people have little to do with Lihnea, I don’t think I have much to add here.” The beastking tapped his chin with a finger as he spoke. Lihnea seemed to have frequent relations with Belfast, Refreese, and Regulus, but no such relations with Mismede or Ramissh. Same for Brunhild. 
“That being said. The first prince and the prime minister both offend me on a personal level. I feel pity for the citizens.” 
“Indeed! I’ve heard stories that the people of Lihnea have been heavily taxed in recent years. The excuse given is that they are preparing a war effort against the Palouf Kingdom. It is troublesome indeed...” Her Holiness the Pope sighed and shook her head. 
“I’ve no concern with Prince Cloud ascending to the throne. He certainly seems qualified, but will that undo the damage that is already done? I doubt anyone in office will listen to him, as the government is filled with the prime minister’s corrupt cronies.” His Imperial Presence of Refreese also had a point. Changing the head wouldn’t fix much if the body itself was diseased. We’d need to pull it all out at the root. 
“What are your thoughts on this?” I spoke up, addressing the prince. He was dumbfounded and began to babble. Yumina’s Mystic Eye confirmed that he was a good person, and the pope would be able to easily tell if he lied. 
“R-Right, well... I intend to make use of the people that the prime minister shunned or exiled. For over a decade, there have been many nobles and ministers who were treated poorly due to their social ties. Including many talented people. The current situation is that if you cannot pay Wardack, you cannot keep your position.” The prince spoke in a deprecating manner, and the beastking shook his head in response. 
“Filthy... what a corrupt and... Ah, apologies. I did not mean to speak ill of your home.” 
“No, it... it’s true.” Prince Cloud looked down, eyes welling with sorrow. On the bright side, he was looking more and more like a good, honest man. 
“Are there powerful or skilled nobles on your side, then?” 
“Absolutely. Marquis Koupe is the former prime minister. He also has the support and trust of most of our noble families, and is the person that supported me from the shadows many a time.” Prince Cloud instantly answered the king of Belfast’s question. It seemed he had friends as well as foes. It looked like there was no shortage of powerful families that disliked Wardack. If we could unify them, then the country would function fine even with Cloud on the throne. 
“But that aside, Prince Cloud. What of you? If you only wanted to help your mother, then simply fleeing the country is an equally valid option, no?” 
“...No. I’ve seen many suffer at the hands of my brother and Prime Minister Wardack. I was weak, helpless. I couldn’t aid them. But if I can do something, even if my aid is late. I’d like to.” 
“That would mean you starting a revolution in Lihnea. Even if the prime minister holds the true power, you’d still be opposing the king. Are you fine with going against your father?” 
“I must, so yes.” The young man spoke confidently. Even though it wasn’t directed at the king, it was still a coup. Though ideally it would be done without mobilizing a military force. 
“Well then, everyone? What do we say to supporting Lihnea... No, Prince Cloud’s revolution?” I asked everyone seated at the table. 
“Our country supports Prince Cloud. The vile corruption in Lihnea could spread to our homelands if left unchecked.” 
“Hear, hear!” The king of Belfast was the first to speak up, with the emperor of Refreese following shortly after. 
“The Regulus Empire indeed cannot overlook this. While we cannot actively provide forces, we still offer our support.” The emperor of Regulus spoke up, as well. They still hadn’t recovered from the recent coup, so their national strength wasn’t at its peak. It was only natural they couldn’t spare resources. 
“While our heartland is unrelated to this mess, I still pledge my support to you and our allies. I cannot bring myself to tolerate Lihnea as it is now.” 
“Our Holy Nation feels the same. We too, support Prince Cloud.” The beastking and Her Holiness the Pope also pledged their support. With that, all countries in the western alliance were backing Cloud as the next king of Lihnea. Now all that was left was the matter of overthrowing the prime minister and his stooges. 
Ideally we’d want to avoid war or military campaigns. I was about to consult the others, when they all spoke up at the same time; “Well then, Touya. Good luck!” Excuse me?! You’re gonna make me mop this mess up on my own?! Rescuing his mother is fine, but the whole revolution?! No way! 
“Sorry for the trouble, truly. Thank you so much for your aid.” 
“A-Ah... no... I-It’s... It’s fine...” I smiled stiffly at Prince Cloud, who had gone and started bowing again. Damn them all to hell, I can’t possibly win! Combined they were formidable, but I guess they were all experienced rulers for a reason. They were pretty good, I could give them that... 
“Righty-o, fellow monarchs! We’re all supporting Prince Cloud? Great. Now, since we’re all in Brunhild... we should probably go and improve our diplomatic relations.” 
“Very well.” 
“Ah, finally.” 
“Heh...” At the king of Belfast’s remark, the other monarchs began shuffling out of the conference room. I knew what he meant by improving their diplomatic relations, because they were all headed for the game room. 
The only people left behind were me, Prince Cloud, and the pope. The latter two presumably because they had no idea about the game room. 
“Good grief... You should go join them, Your Holiness. There’s tea and sweets down there, as well. Partaking in that is His favorite way to relax, you know.” 
“Oho? Then I’d love to.” Of course, the Him I was referring to was none other than God. God had recently started dropping in and stealing snacks from my game room. I had no idea how he kept sniffing them out. Even the god of love came around now and then and ended up eating over half of my sweets. 
I was surprised to find that they had already found the Frame Units and were piloting them gleefully. Rosetta and Monica were there doing maintenance, and apparently just decided to stop and teach all the monarchs of the western alliance how to operate a giant robot simulator. 
They’d been developed to the point where four players could play at once. The external monitor showed four Frame Gears in the simulation, labeled Red, Blue, Yellow, and Purple respectively. I couldn’t tell who was piloting which, though. But that wouldn’t matter, each pilot was equally terrible. They all hopped around and slashed in the wrong direction, then lost their balance and collapsed. It was kinda funny. 
“Y-Your Highness, what is this?” 
“Well...” Prince Cloud and Her Holiness were stricken with surprise. That was only natural, there was a lot of foreign stuff in here. 
“This is my game room. It’s a room made for relaxation and play. Once a month, the leaders of the western alliance come here after meeting in my castle.” Though lately I was wondering if they’d been using the meetings as an excuse to just come and play. At least we actually hashed out an important issue this time. 
I pondered about whether or not I should start training pilots from other countries. The Phrase threat was looming ever closer, after all... 
If a massive amount of Phrase broke through the barrier, Brunhild alone definitely wouldn’t be enough to take care of it. Lending out Frame Units to other countries would probably be a smart idea. It’d be good to make them more accessible. Having only the rulers of each country trained enough to pilot a Frame Gear would be a disaster in itself. 
As I pondered my next course of action, I asked Cesca and Lapis to bring some snacks for Prince Cloud and Her Holiness the Pope. I certainly had a lot going on, I couldn’t help but feel that the busiest leader in the room that day was me. 

I used [Recall] to retrieve Prince Cloud’s memories of his home, and from there opened a [Gate] to the Lihnea Kingdom. Honestly, I didn’t like using that spell on boys, but it was just one of those things. I didn’t want to hold hands with him, much less push my forehead against his. 
There were five of us on the mission to rescue Queen Erya, Prince Cloud’s mother. The prince himself, me, Elze, Yae, and Kohaku. We wanted to make use of mobility and stealth rather than overwhelming force. The other party members would be staying at home in the meantime. I didn’t want to bring too many people, after all. 
We stepped out of the [Gate], finding ourselves in Nimue, Lihnea’s capital. Prince Cloud was a little disoriented, but that was only natural since it was his first time traveling by portal. 
“W-Wow... We really reached Lihnea in moments...” We emerged in a back alley so as to not be seen. Thankfully, it looked like we had avoided detection. 
From there the plan dictated we head right to the castle. I told Prince Cloud to report the proposal response as usual. 
I hadn’t yet seen the first prince or the prime minister, after all. I needed to see with my own two eyes just what kind of people they were. I cast [Invisible] to make every member of our group undetectable. Except Prince Cloud, of course. 
“What an incredible spell... I can’t see you at all...” 
“We’re only hidden as far as sight goes. If someone bumps us, we’ll be felt. Please guide us along, since we don't know the place well.” Prince Cloud gave a short nod before walking back to the castle at a slightly slower-than-average pace. 
We walked along a quieter road with less people on it, until we finally arrived at the castle. The guards gave a small glance toward Prince Cloud, offering little more than a grunt. That felt pretty uncomfortable to me. It really seemed as though he was given a hard time by the people around the castle, despite his status as a prince. 
We entered the castle hall, and someone came strolling along from the opposite side. Prince Cloud stiffened up, froze in place, and slowly bowed his head. 
“...I’m home, elder brother.” 
“Hah. Cloud? That was fast, wasn’t it? Who would’ve thought a slug like you could slither so quickly. It must be an ill omen; I’ll plan for rain tomorrow...” He was shorter than Cloud, and quite gaunt. He had a bowl cut. The sides of his mouth curved into malicious points as he chuckled. I knew then that it was the First Prince, Zabune. He wore golden boots, a fancy silk scarf, and lame style clothing all over his body. 
“...What horrid taste.” I heard Elze muttering, but thankfully Zabune did not. 
Keep it down, dummy! Your voice isn’t invisible! Behind him were two sneering men, and a woman who was looking down at the ground. The men were likely his followers, and the woman... seemed to be a slave. She was wearing one of those collars around her neck, like the kind I’d seen in Sandora. Still, I wasn’t aware of Lihnea having any slavery practices. 
“Well? Spit it out. What was the response? Good news, I hope?” 
“Ah, no... Duke Ortlinde’s daughter already has a fiance, it seems... It’s for that reason that they have declined.” 
“...Excuse me? What did you just say? Do speak up.” 
“...I said that they have decl—” THWACK! Before Cloud could finish his sentence, Zabune smacked him square across the jaw. 
“You useless little urchin. Why didn’t you just snatch the girl up?! If you had brought her, I could have collared her and there wouldn’t be an issue. You stupid, unintuitive little shit!” 
Whoa... What did he just say? Slap a collar on Sue? Is that what he has in mind?! 
“That little bitch looked over at me and giggled during that party in Refreese! Her! A mere duke’s daughter, laughing at ME! Once I have her, I’ll collar her, then train her body. I’ll warp her damn mind! Then we’ll see who’s laughing!” 
What the actual hell... If you wore that stupid-looking outfit at the party, then it probably wasn’t just Sue giggling, you bastard...! Well, I guess the other guests probably restrained themselves to be polite. But Sue’s just a kid! Grow a goddamn backbone, you scum! 
“Tsk. I can’t believe you’re this useless. What a miserable shitstain I have for a younger brother... Well? Who’s the fiance? You found out that much at least, didn’t you?” 
“...The grand duke of Brunhild, Mochizuki Touya.” 
“Brunhild...? That fledgling nation? Pah! What are those retards thinking? They won’t profit if they marry her off to such a small nation!” S-Small?! What an asshole... It’s fine for me to say it, but he can’t! 
Prince Zabune tutted in Cloud’s general direction. All of a sudden he started pondering something, and then began to grin wickedly. 
“Hey, Cloud. Go to Belfast at once, and begin spinning a yarn.” 
“Excuse me?” 
“Go and spread the rumor that the grand duke of Brunhild is a pervert who uses and abuses women. If it gets around, then that pathetic little Ortlinde man might reconsider the situation at large... After all, he wouldn’t want his daughter going to a bad man. Aren’t I smart?” 
Man, I really wanna smack this guy. I’m definitely gonna hit this guy... just you goddamn wait. 
“...If I spread that rumor, can I see my mother?” 
“What? Didn’t I already tell you? Your mother’s sick. Con-ta-gious. Retard. What if you got sick as well? What then? Hm? Well? You should be thankful I’m looking out for you as your venerable elder brother. Hah... then again, she could die any minute, so I see where you’re coming from.” Zabune grinned alongside his last sentence, to which Cloud responded with clenched fists and a furious glare. Prince Zabune’s expression shifted immediately. 
“...Who are you to look at me in such a manner?” From out of nowhere, Zabune kicked Cloud in the gut. Cloud doubled over in pain, and Zabune smacked him again. Then, he dished out a third, merciless kick. 
“You pathetic little lowborn shit! You miserable, slimy little maggot! How dare you! How dare you!!! You should be thankful for even being alive... You should be licking my boots and kissing the ground I’ve stepped on, do you understand?! Maybe you’ll learn some respect if I smack it into you, you little shit!” Idiot Prince Zabune’s vicious assault finally subsided, and another person entered the room. 
“Zabune? What is the meaning of this?” 
“Ah, Mother... I was educating my rowdy little brother, think nothing of it.” What initially appeared to be a pig in a gaudy red dress was actually a human woman. The gaudy, obese, makeup-caked creature strutted down the red carpeted stairs with several maids in tow. She was quite clearly Queen Dacia, the idiot’s mother. They looked almost nothing alike, the only common feature being their filthy mouths and corrupted gazes. 
“Oh dear, Cloud... You really need to understand your position here. Unlike you, Zabune is the one who will carry the future of our nation. Don’t bother him with such trivial things, okay? Though, I suppose you can’t help it... You must have so much commoner blood in you from your mother’s side that such stupidity comes naturally, hm?” She stared Cloud down with cold, icy eyes, before suddenly turning to Zabune with a warm smile. The speed of her expression shift was disturbing, to say the least. 
“What happened with the proposal, Zabune?” 
“Cloud messed it all up. He’s useless.” 
“Aw, my poor little baby... Well, Belfast is a stupid little place... I’m sure it’ll fall into disrepair before long!” Instead of feeling anger, I found myself more surprised and amazed by the exchange I was seeing. These people were something else. 
“Once I sit on the throne, I’ll be sure to punish everyone that disappointed me. Speaking of which, Mother... I’d like to just become king already. I don’t need to get engaged.” 
“Very well... Shall we go and confer with Wardack?” 
“Yes please!” The two of them left, entourage in tow, completely forgetting about Cloud. 
That’s a mother and child duo beyond salvation... They’re far too corrupt. Why did the king even marry that pig? Was it political? Or did they blackmail him into it? 
“Come forth, Light! Soothing Comfort: [Cure Heal]!” Prince Cloud staggered to his feet after I cast recovery magic on him. His breathing was heavy, however. 
“Are you okay?” 
“I am... It doesn’t hurt anymore. Thank you so much...” The physical pain was gone, but I was sure the mental scars remained. His fist was still clenched and shaking. I could see the whites of his knuckles. It made me wonder just how long he’d had to endure this treatment. It was a miracle to me that Cloud had survived all of this without breaking completely. 
“What a gross guy...” 
“Indeed... I felt the urge to slash him into pieces, I did.” Elze and Yae both spoke up. Their collective tone was brimming with anger. I understood them, though. I wanted to hurt Zabune as well. Badly. 
“But what was with the slave collar...?” 
“Our country ostensibly prohibits slavery... However, my elder brother still purchased collars from a Sandora trader who passed by some time ago.” If I hadn’t been here, Sue could’ve ended up as a slave... I decided then that I wouldn’t just let Zabune go with a simple beating... Still, I was getting ahead of myself. 
We moved to a shaded area behind a column, then canceled the invisibility spell. From there, I target locked on to the slave girl and activated [Gate]. 
“Whuh... Huh?” I ignored her panic at suddenly being pulled to my location, and immediately used [Apport] to get that disgusting device off her. 
Her hands came up to her neck, and then she looked at the collar in my hands. The moment she realized she wasn’t wearing it anymore, tears began to flow from her eyes like rain. 
“I-It’s off... Th-The collar’s... h-ha... i-it’s off!” I revealed our identities to the newly-freed girl and took her back to Brunhild through another [Gate]. After briefly explaining the situation to Yumina, I asked her to take care of the girl. Then, it was right back to the mission. 
A short time later, the prince and his entourage returned in a fluster, but we had re-cast [Invisible] so we were in the clear. 
“H-Hey! Did my toy come through here?!” 
“I haven’t seen her, no.” Zabune rolled his eyes at Cloud’s response, then quickly turned around. He and his cronies began charging up the stairs. I briefly thought about using [Slip] to give them a nasty tumble, but before I could, the idiot prince stopped dead in his tracks. 
“Is there something the matter, Prince Zabune?” 
“Wardack! My plaything disappeared! She just vanished, like that!” A man in his fifties came strolling from the top of the stairs. He was dressed in a long black robe. Wardack...? 
“That is Prime Minister Wardack, yes.” Prince Cloud whispered in a voice so faint we could barely even hear it. Wardack kind of had the face of a bulldog... It was definitely the face of a villain, probably. 
“Have you not issued the command that forces her to return?” 
“I did, but she didn’t come!” 
“Then trigger the kill command. What use is a toy that refuses to function? We’ll find her corpse and clean it up, then get you a functional toy.” The prime minister shrugged, urging on the idiot prince. I was disgusted. How could a state official behave like this? 
“What the hell, man...! I didn’t even get to make full use of her yet. All of her limbs are intact, it isn’t fair!” Zabune sighed, but as he spoke the collar in my hand rapidly shrank in size... If it had still been on her neck, it would’ve killed her. Slowly. 
Their lack of regard for human life caused my blood to boil. They were doing unnatural things as if it was perfectly natural, and their lack of understanding of the vile nature behind their actions was baffling. These people were cruel. Animals, even. And they had to be stopped. 
“Well hello there, Prince Cloud. Back from Belfast already, are you? Did you settle the proposal?” Wardack strolled down to the bottom of the stairs, eyes focused on Cloud. He wasn’t being polite by any means; his tone felt almost mocking. He was clearly looking down on the younger prince. 
“I’m sorry to say that it was declined...” 
“Ah. Well, no matter. It’s actually fine. You have a new mission, anyway. You must head to the Palouf Kingdom to deliver a message.” 
“To Palouf? What for?” Prime Minister Wardack simply grinned, sneering ever-so-faintly as he turned and wordlessly left the room with Zabune. The elder prince looked like he was still in a bad mood. 
I summoned a small mouse and made it invisible, instructing it to follow after Wardack. I had a sinking feeling that his grin just then was one of a schemer. I knew it would be better to investigate it rather than let it be. 
The mouse caught up to them both before long, and their voices were projected into my mind. 
“Wardack... why are you sending Cloud to Palouf? Are there some cute little noble or royal girls there to replace my missing toy?” 
“No, it’s not for marriage.” 
“Then what?” 
“War, my boy. I will have Prince Cloud declare war upon the Palouf Kingdom.” 
I knew it... He’s come up with a miserable scheme. 

The biggest island in the western region was Palnea. It was an island divided into a northern kingdom, and a southern kingdom. North Palnea was known as Palouf, and South Palnea was known as Lihnea. 
The two countries skirmished repeatedly, and had no formal peace treaties, but they had also never engaged in full-scale war. They would skirmish, then cease hostilities, then repeat the process. 
The national strengths of each country was about equal. If either side declared war upon the other, then the winner would have a pyrrhic victory. The damage done to both nations would be far too great. 
But in recent years, that balance had begun to shift. The Palouf King tragically passed away, and their benevolent prime minister followed soon after. And, due to terrible weather conditions, crops had begun faring poorly in Palouf, offering little yield. Lihnea also suffered some losses for the same reason, but the brunt of it hit the northern nation. It was due to the strategically beneficial timing that Prime Minister Wardack of Lihnea decided he would make his move to unite Palnea as one. 
Wardack had begun preparations in secret some time ago, all to deal the decisive blow to Palouf. 
“Is it customary to declare war using the second prince?” 
“I believe that they are scheming, I do. If the young prince delivers the letter as normal, but the contents are a war declaration... then the recipient will become angry and kill the messenger, he will.” 
“That’s certainly not impossible... It’s probably not their primary objective, but I can imagine Wardack using my death as some kind of tragedy to rile up the war effort...” Prince Cloud laughed bitterly. Clearly, he had a good feel for Wardack’s personality. He must’ve been thinking about how little he was viewed by the people who should’ve been his family. 
“We need to start preparing. Cloud, I’ll ask you one final time. From here on we’ll be opposing Wardack and his allies. Are you okay with that?” 
“I am. I will fight him if that’s what it takes to save my mother.” He stared at me, and his indomitable will was clearly shining in his eyes. 
The first phase was meeting with the former prime minister, Koupe. We’d need his aid. He was a marquis, so he’d be able to influence other noble families and help us create a faction in support of Cloud. More importantly, he might have information on the second prince’s mother. 
Regardless of what happened, we’d need to act fast. 
“I’m glad you have such determination, Prince Cloud. You have the aid of the western alliance, so I know now that there is nothing to fear.” Marquis Koupe knelt on the ground before Cloud and bowed his head. It was the first time I’d seen him being treated like the royalty he was. It seemed that they were in a place far enough from the capital that the idiot prince’s opinion didn’t count for much. The Koupe mansion was way out in the countryside, after all. And it was quite a nice place. 
“I will cooperate with you, naturally... but I wish to avoid damaging the country. If possible, can we do this without force?” 
“That just means that the only obstacles are Zabune and Wardack. If we apprehend the prime minister and get the idiot prince disowned, we’ll be golden.” Marquis Koupe stood up and turned to me. I found it hard to believe he was actually over sixty. His muscles were insane. He had a receding hairline, and what little of the remaining strands left were white, but it was hard to envision such a well-built man as elderly. 
“Defeating the prime minister won’t be much of a difficult task... But having Zabune lose his right to succession will be difficult.” 
“Can he not be disinherited for his heinous crimes thus far, can he not?” Yae spoke up with her thoughts, but Marquis Koupe simply shook his head. 
“There’s simply not enough evidence. The prime minister has covered all of that up. The people involved would be fearful of retaliation, as well. They wouldn’t testify against him. Without the king’s direct word, Zabune cannot be disinherited...” 
But I guess the king can’t oppose Queen Dacia, huh... Actually, why not? Is she blackmailing him after all? 
“In the worst case... we could take the king hostage and force him to hand over the throne to Prince Cloud, but... that would not reflect well upon us.” 
“...Yeah, I hope we can avoid doing that. We wouldn’t want the prince being seen as some usurper who stole the throne.” That would be the worst possible situation. But we still had to move fast, since war with Palouf was inevitable at this rate. Hrmph... maybe Cesca was on to something when she suggested just killing the moron and being done with it... 
“For now, we should focus on rescuing Cloud’s mother.” 
“Queen Erya is being held under house arrest within Gallia fortress. It’s a place with deep ties to Wardack. One of my subordinates has successfully infiltrated the place and confirmed that Erya has no such sickness. But, it’s a horrible place. If she stays there any longer, she may actually become ill.” If the situation was as Koupe described it, I could afford to waste no time. We decided Gallia fortress was our first stop. 
Alright, time to use [Recall] and retrieve the Marquis’ memory... Ugh, gross... I have to hold hands with a muscly old man and... oh God, not the forehead! 
After the dirty deed was done, I instinctively embraced Elze. I-It helps a little... 
She hit me. 
Gallia fortress was reasonably large, but not quite as large as Brunhild Castle. It was sort of like a castle nestled in the mountains, but it also spanned the length of a mountain pass, blocking it off. 
Queen Erya, Prince Cloud’s mother, was being confined in the highest room of the tallest tower by the fortress. 
Thanks to Marquis Koupe’s memories, we were able to bypass the tight security and slip right inside. Prince Cloud spoke up as he looked on at the place confining his mother. 
“The defenses here are quite strong... Still, we should be able to bypass it all with your invisibility magic... I just hope we can reach my mother and get her to safety soon...” 
“Target lock on: Fortress Soldiers. Invoke [Paralyze].” 
“Target lock, successful. Invoking [Paralyze].” 
I heard several gasps and grunts from all over the fortress, and the soldiers lining the front gate fell down to the ground. That should’ve taken care of most of it, at least. [Paralyze] wouldn’t work on people with great magical defense, or those who happened to be carrying talismans, but it wasn’t likely that there’d be many fitting that criteria. 
“Let’s go...” 
“...Hm.” I called on to the others and charged ahead. Prince Cloud was just staring at me, blank in the face. Yae suddenly put a hand on his shoulder, staring him in the eyes. She shook her head as if to say “Do not worry about it. If you worry about it, you will worry forever.” I had no idea what that was all about. 
We looked over the collapsed soldiers as we strolled into the fort. It was really heavily guarded, for whatever reason. More so than the royal castle, come to think of it. Once we entered the castle, I noticed there were still some people moving around. Mostly helpers, menial staff, and so on. That made sense. I did specify soldiers, after all. Oh well. 
When we came through, they all ran outside in a panic. They were screaming something about a disease outbreak. It did kinda look like that from their perspective, I guess. 
I ignored them and entered the tower. I took the door keys from an immobile soldier, then started ascending the steep spiral staircase. 
About halfway up the stairs, we came face-to-face with a black-haired maid girl in her twenties. She hadn’t been affected by the spell, seemingly. Only natural, as she looked nothing like a soldier to me. 
“Name yourselves or I’ll call the guards at once!” 
“I am Cloud, second prince of Lihnea. My mother is here, and I’ve come for her. Please let us pass.” 
“Prince Cloud?!” The maid with long, black hair suddenly kneeled. She bowed her head. Oh, could it be...? 
“Please excuse my behavior. My name is Angie. I’m the personal chambermaid of Queen Erya. On Marquis Koupe’s orders, I’ve been protecting her here.” 
“Ah, you’re Angie? Koupe told me all about you. Thank you so much for informing us about my mother. I owe you a great debt.” 
“You speak too highly of me...” I knew it! She’s Koupe’s maid, the one that was sent to spy. 
“Your mother isn’t much further from here. Just keep climb—” 
“What’s all this, then?!” A lone soldier came charging at us from above. Just as I’d expected, there was at least one who had resisted my effects. 
Just as I was drawing Brunhild to immobilize him, Angie crouched down low and launched a powerful flying kick to the man’s jaw. Her display of speed and strength was far beyond my expectations. Whoa... 
“Angie... she’s definitely a brawler. She moves like a pro...” Elze muttered under her breath. A brawler maid?! Well, I guess if she was spying for the Marquis she’d have to have more to her than just looks. 
“Alright, let’s go.” Angie grabbed a set of keys from the fallen man and began leading us up the stairs. We followed behind dutifully. 
After a while of traipsing up the stairs, we came to a small door hinged inside a wall. There was no more room to go upward. We were at the tippy-top. 
Angie opened it up with the key, and Prince Cloud charged headlong into the room. A lone woman sat on a small rocking chair in the corner, knitting something. She looked to be in her forties. She definitely resembled Cloud. I could see the gentle spirit in her eyes. 
“C-Cloud...? Is it... really you?! Cloud!” Both parent and child shed tears of joy as they embraced. I heard something behind me and quickly turned. Yae was openly weeping. She must’ve been moved. Well, I could understand her reason... Yae was certainly a girl with a beautiful heart. 
I took a handkerchief from my pocket and passed it over to Yae. She delicately blew her nose with it, and then dabbed at her eyes. Pfft... 
“Cloud... you’ve grown so much... I’m so glad I survived to see this... I-I’m so glad...!” 
“Mother... we’re leaving this place at once. Your Highness, if you would...” 
“On it.” 
“Highness...?” I opened up a [Gate] right away, and Queen Erya gave me a puzzled look. I thought of taking them straight back to Brunhild, but quickly decided that Marquis Koupe’s mansion would be best for the time being. 
Prince Cloud took his confused mother by the hand and led her through the [Gate]. Angie was equally surprised, so we urged her through as well. 
With that, the rescue mission was complete. With that, Prince Cloud was no longer shackled... And with that, we could finally begin the revolution. 
Heheh... Now, let’s see here... How am I going to deal with that rat-bastard who wanted to make Sue into a slave...? Ohoho... I’m not gonna go easy on him... Now I have nothing holding me back... I giggled internally. 
“...Touya’s making a scary face again.” 
“He is surely plotting something malevolent, he is.” 
I-I’m not malevolent! 

With the only thing holding him back dealt with, Prince Cloud abandoned the royal palace. 
Marquis Koupe was harboring both Cloud and his mother, but thankfully they hadn’t been found out or pursued. Not that it really mattered. If anyone came sniffing around for them it’d be trivial enough to wipe them out or use [Gate] to escape. 
The sudden disappearance of the second prince kicked up a massive stir amongst the royals. I used my little spies to listen in on the state of affairs. 
“What do you mean Erya’s been taken from Gallia?! You mean to say that Prince Cloud stole her away?! What about the soldiers, were they napping?!” 
“A-Ah well... The carrier pigeon message s-said that everyone was suddenly immobilized. They couldn’t do anything!” Prime Minister Wardack smacked his fist against his desk as the messenger recounted his story. The shivering man quickly bowed his head and scampered out of the room. 
“Didn’t I tell you, Prince Zabune? It would’ve been far wiser to... remove that boy from the picture.” 
“C-Cloud, you bastard child! How dare you rebel against your masters...” The idiot prince didn’t seem too invested in his anger, but Queen Dacia spoke up in hysteria. 
Hiding in the shade of a curtain was a little mouse. The cute little thing was my perfect spy cam. 
Through magic, I was able to synchronize my sense of sight and hearing with the mouse’s, allowing me to peek in on what was going on. 
“If Prince Cloud and Marquis Koupe were to join forces, it could cause us legitimate trouble... For the time being we should focus on having His Majesty the King relinquish the throne to Prince Zabune. After that, we’ll have Cloud detained and imprisoned. The specific charge is irrelevant, so long as we take him in.” 
“But what of the war with Palouf, Wardack?” 
“...Unfortunately, we must postpone it. What’s important now is preventing the seeds of revolution from taking hold.” 
“Tch... I was looking forward to tasting the Palouf princess, too... Well, I don’t mind. There’ll be plenty of time for that once I’m the king of Lihnea.” Zabune smiled, probably at the prospect of ascending to the throne, then merrily skipped out of the room. 
Hm... What to do. It might be better to wait and let the idiot prince become king, then public opinion wouldn’t be so harsh if we deposed him instead... 
No, we can’t do that. The longer we wait, the more victims there’ll be... I decided on my next course of action. 
“The most worrying part of this is Erya’s abduction. If word of it reaches that foolish king’s ears, well... It would be better to have him relinquish the throne to Zabune before that happens.” Huh? Wardack’s changed his tone... He dropped all pleasantries toward the king, and isn’t calling Zabune by his formal title either... Are these his true colors, then? Still, he’s with Queen Dacia... Is he fine talking like this near her because she’s his cousin? 
“After all that’s happened, we do need to have the boy ascend. Still, we require the king’s approval to put sanctions on Marquis Koupe... Curses! Still, he likely has no idea that Erya was taken away from us, yet... So long as we can keep him in the dark, we should be fine. Even if you have to use force, ensure the king declares Koupe an enemy. Even if he disagrees, so long as he still thinks we have Erya, he’ll obey.” 
Hey, wait a sec... Wasn’t Erya taken as a hostage to keep Cloud under their thumb? Does this mean that the king’s effectively been a hostage this entire time, too? If he cared about Erya that much, it basically means he’s been turned into a yes-man with the threat of her death... Still, this is a good opportunity for me... I’m gonna catch these guys right in the act. I used [Gate] to send my smartphone to the mouse, and then it began to record. 
“If Erya and Cloud return to the king’s side, it would cause a problem for us. We must block the royal palace off at once. No one enters, no one leaves. First order of business is having the king relinquish his throne to Zabune in front of the nobles.” 
“And what will become of the king once he hands it over?” 
“He will be disposed of. I wouldn’t normally want to do it so quickly, but this Cloud business means we could have malcontents or an uprising soon. We need to ensure that the throne is incontestable.” 
Well, that just about does it. They’re totally conspiring to assassinate the king right here. What’s more, Queen Dacia’s just as guilty as Wardack! This evidence should help prevent Prince Cloud from being viewed as a suspicious rebel. Now there’s actually proof and cause to rise up. 
“After that, we’ll have Cloud killed in some circumstances or other... We cannot allow anyone with the royal bloodline to live.” 
Huh? What was that? That doesn’t add up... Even if Cloud and the king died, Zabune would still be... Oh. Oh no. No... don’t tell me... Th-That would explain why Zabune was always treated so much better than... Cloud... 
“Our family will finally lay claim to the royal throne. None will stand in our path.” 
“Yes, after all these wasted years, our son will rise as king...” 
“Ahaha! It’s the birth of a whole new royal line, I’m so excited...” The two people giggled together, crooked grins painted on their faces.

“Our family will finally lay claim to the royal throne. None will stand in our path.” 
“Yes, after all these wasted years, our son will rise as king...” 
“Ahaha! It’s the birth of a whole new royal line, I’m so excited...” 
The video playback ended. I looked around the room. Everyone was sitting there in stunned silence. 
“Then... Prince Zabune is the son of Wardack and Queen Dacia?! Doesn’t that make this a coup? An attempt to wrest control of the royal family?” Marquis Koupe stood up from his chair, fists clenched. He sounded furious. I could hardly blame him. It was as he said, an attempt to usurp the throne. If I were in his position, I couldn’t possibly remain calm. Wardack had maintained the ruse about Zabune’s birthright for over thirty years. He took control of the political climate of the country, then threatened the king. Through this, he took over as prime minister ten years ago, and his rot had only grown deeper. 
The fact was that Wardack had likely engineered Koupe’s removal as prime minister, just as he’d engineered everything else. 
“It was surprising... Still, the proof is in the pudding.” 
“I-I agree, I do. Cloud-dono and that miserable whelp do not share any physical features, they do not. They do not even share a single parent. They are not brothers at all, they are not.” 
Elze and Yae spoke up reasonably. It was true that there was really no resemblance between Cloud and Zabune, but Zabune definitely had the wicked eyes of both Wardack and Dacia. 
There’s something in the animal kingdom known as a “brood parasite.” Some bird species, like cuckoos, lay their eggs in the nests of entirely different birds. Those birds would then unknowingly raise the cuckoos as their own, absolving the real parents of responsibility. This situation kind of made me think about that. 
I looked over at Prince Cloud, who was shaking slightly in his seat. The prince interlocked his fingers, resting his elbows on his knees. Then, he suddenly spoke up. 
“My broth— That is, Zabune... is indeed not related to me, then. I no longer have reason to hesitate. For the sake of my mother, for the sake of my father... for the sake of my country that has been so monstrously bastardized and scorned, I will fight. I will oppose the traitors who are attempting to usurp my nation.” 
“Well spoken, Prince Cloud! You are the true heir, after all. That pathetic family will never take what is yours by birthright!” Marquis Koupe was right. We were on the side of justice. We’d saved Queen Erya, whose life was being used as a bargaining chip to keep the king compliant. The opponent had no more trump cards to use. All we had to do was force the truth from their mouths. But first, I decided to do a little conclusive investigation. 
I used [Invisible], slipped back to nab a hair from both Wardack and Zabune, and then took it back to Flora at the alchemy lab. She ran a DNA test, and we determined that they definitely were father and son. Thus, we had conclusive evidence that Zabune was not the king’s progeny. They were not connected at all. 
I had to do it, just to be certain. It was for my peace of mind. 
“Fufufu... I’ll be sure to run the test again when your children are born, you know?” 
“...What’s that supposed to mean?” Why was she bringing up children all of a sudden...? I didn’t really think that I’d have to worry about being the father or not, though. 
I started to understand why the shogun prevented males from accessing the inner palace during the Edo period... 
“You’re gonna have a lotta kids, you know? The doctor said you would, you know?” 
“Doctor Babylon said that...? Don’t tell me she was looking that far ahead...” Was she using that damn future-peeking artifact again? Just how far was she looking? Guess I’ll have kids after I turn eighteen, huh...? Am I really gonna give in to desire that easily?! 
Lemme think... It’ll be another year and a half... Ah, wait. There’s nine months for pregnancy, so... The earliest this could happen will be around two years from now... Oh, but in this world a year isn’t three hundred and sixty-five days... It’s actually a good bit longer than a year on Earth. So with that in mind, I might have some more time. 
“There’ll be nine brides, each bearing children for you, you know? You’ll be a great monarch with many heirs.” 
What?! Nine kids or more... That sounds like it might be a hassle... Wait just a second. Nine? Did she say nine? 
“What exactly do you mean by nine?! I don’t remember anything about nine!” 
“Now now, don’t worry, you know?” 
I’m seriously gonna have that many wives...? What kind of future is that?! W-W-Wait, hold on though... Elze, Yumina, Linze, Yae, and Lu... Equal five. If I tentatively add Sue to that, that’s still only six. Does that mean there are still three more girls remaining? What’s gonna lead to that? 
“...Did you tell anyone this?” 
“I didn’t, you know?” 
“Don’t tell anyone. You could cause unnecessary damage.” Damage to me, that is... What the hell are you doing, future me? 
“Oho. Then I’ll accept your proposal, you know? I’m happy to be one of your potential wives.” 
“What? No. Shut up! Didn’t you already tell me you can’t have kids?” 

“If we combine the research laboratory and the alchemy lab’s facilities, it should be possible to create a clone of you, Master. That’d be like us having a baby, you know?” 
“Absolutely not!” I didn’t feel comfortable having a perfect clone “son” running around. After warning Flora not to babble pointlessly, I headed back to Marquis Koupe. 
I told Elze and the others the report I’d gotten. With that, there was no doubt Zabune was a fake heir. We had no more reason to hesitate. 
“Then I’ve got one final thing to do, alright?” 
“Are you going somewhere, Touya-dono?” Yae cocked her head to the side. Of course, I’d already decided my destination. 
“I’m going to the first victim of all of this. He deserves the truth.” As I spoke, I opened up my [Gate]. 

Two days later, all of Lihnea’s nobility were gathered in the royal palace. To an outsider it would seem like a regular king’s summon, but in truth, Wardack had called them all there. 
My party, myself, Koupe, and Cloud had all made our way into the palace. We hid ourselves with [Invisible] and stood a bit away from the gathered noblemen. 
Wardack smiled broadly as he addressed them all. 
Queen Dacia stood smiling by the side of the throne, and Prince Zabune stood a little bit down from the throne. He had this irritating grin on his face, though. 
Just as the murmurs in the room reached fever pitch, a loud trumpet blew. 
“Presenting His Majesty the King.” The nobles all hushed at the messenger’s words, bowing their heads. The king of Lihnea strolled into the room. The man was easily in his fifties. He stood tall, and honestly reminded me a little bit of Prince Cloud, but his face gave off a far less reliable vibe. 
He wore a white robe accentuated by a deep red mantle on his shoulders. The man definitely gave off the presence of a king. He sat himself down on his throne. 
“I will get right to the point, dear subjects. I have called you to voice my intentions of abdication. I will soon relinquish the throne.” The king of Lihnea spoke loudly and clearly, causing the nobles to begin chattering amongst themselves. Only three people in the room were unsurprised. Naturally, those three were Wardack, Dacia, and Zabune. The three of them gave a subtle knowing glance to one another, sick smiles plastered to their faces. 
“Now, to all of you gathered here, allow me to formally announce the next king of Lihnea. I am transferring all obligations, power, and duty to my son. I am formally resigning. The heir to my throne is, of course, none other than the first prince...” All eyes fell on Zabune. The bowl-cut idiot prince smiled gleefully as the expectations of the upper classes washed over him. But... it was not to go as he expected. 
“...Cloud. I will be abdicating the throne to First Prince Cloud Zeph Lihnea.” 
The nobles all let out astonished voices. However, the most shocked and terrified voices belonged to the malicious trio. 
It was at that moment that I shoved Prince Cloud in the back, deactivating the [Invisible] spell. 
Marquis Koupe followed after him, almost as though he were the young man’s escort. I kept myself and the others invisible, however. We were outsiders, so it was best to just observe. 
“What...? Cloud, you little...!” Prince Cloud completely ignored Zabune’s flustered words, making his way over to the king. Once he reached the foot of the throne, he got down on one knee and bowed respectfully. 
“Thank you, Father. I humbly accept the responsibility. I will do you proud as king, I promise you that.” 
“Aye, my son. I trust you.” 
“Wait just a goddamn minute! What the hell is happening here?!” Prince Zabune couldn’t stop himself from yelling. The surrounding nobles became restless due to the sudden declaration, but calmed again as Wardack stepped out toward the throne. 
“Your... Majesty! Pardon my rudeness, but... going by the very laws of this nation, the successor must be the first prince. Even you cannot shatter such tradition, surely...” 
“Yes, you’re quite right. That’s why Prince Cloud is ascending, instead of Zabune. I said I was abdicating to First Prince Cloud, did I not?” 
“You—! But... Don’t be foolish! The first prince is Zabune, not Cloud! Enough of this farce!” Queen Dacia completely lost her composure, yelling at the king. The king began to laugh after hearing her speak, and soon enough his bellowing laughter rang out all through the throne room. It didn’t take long for Dacia to become unnerved by the king’s odd behavior. 
“Farce, Dacia? Farce? How dare you.” King Schlaf of Lihnea rose from his throne with the eyes of a hawk. They were trained right on his wife. The complacent, weak-looking king was completely gone. All I saw in him was fury unbound. 
“Now... my dear gathered nobles, please listen. There is a nation nestled between Belfast and Regulus. It is a recent one. A Duchy. The Duchy of Brunhild. It is presided over by a grand duke. This man defeated a Black Dragon that terrorized Mismede. This man is a Silver adventurer. On top of that, he prevented a dangerous coup in the Regulus Empire, saving many lives. The man who saved that country has come to save us too.” 
“Grand Duke, please step forward.” Prince Cloud called us up, so I deactivated the cloaking spell. Elze and Yae were to my left and right respectively, while a full-sized Kohaku strolled leisurely in front. 
“Grand Duke Touya, would you kindly show all of the people here just what it is you showed me?” 
“...Are you sure?” 
“I am, boy. Even if it makes me look like a miserable old man who was deceived for three decades... it is a truth that must be revealed.” The king of Lihnea laughed in a self-deprecating manner. 
“Very well, then.” I took out my smartphone and used it to project a video into the air. It was quite a large display, clearly visible to everyone in the room. 
“And what will become of the king once he hands it over?” 
“He will be disposed of. I wouldn’t normally want to do it so quickly, but this Cloud business means...” 
“W-Wait, that...!” Wardack and Dacia both began sweating bullets the moment they realized what they were seeing. They were fools... They should never have spoken of assassinating the king so brazenly. 
“Yes, after all these wasted years, our son will rise as king...” 
“Ahaha! It’s the birth of a whole new royal line, I’m so excited...” 
“S-Stop! Stop this at once!” Wardack lunged at me furiously, only to find himself held down by Kohaku’s forceful mass. The gathered nobles began murmuring amongst themselves again. 
“This is a recording of what happened during a private meeting between Wardack and Dacia. It’s a Null spell of my own design. I watched the whole thing through the eyes of my familiar.” 
“Th-This is preposterous! Your Majesty, surely there’s a mistake here...” Wardack sputtered and was clearly wracking his brain for an excuse. And the king might have believed him, had he been a loyal and honest man. However, Wardack was nothing but cruel. He used threats and deceit. The king had no reason to believe his lies. 
“A mistake? Hm... The only mistake was buying into your story. I must’ve seemed quite the fool in your eyes, eh? Your son was treated as the first prince. I had nothing I could do to prevent that, for I was ignorant. Did you find it funny, Prime Minister?” Wardack piped down as the king’s words battered him. His eyes darted around the room as torrents of sweat ran down his brow. He had nothing more to add. 
In the end, Wardack’s power was just a stolen version of the king’s power. With the loss of Erya, they intended to swap out the puppet king for Zabune. And now all of that was over, in mere minutes. He was crushed. 
“Now that my dear Erya is safe... I’ve no reason to be merciful. Wardack, you are stripped of your position. I was a fool. I let my worry for Erya’s health take over my mind. I should have cared for my country, but you took advantage of my feelings to usurp power from me. I am filled with naught but regret, but I cannot change the past. It may be true that I was a worthless king, but that is true tenfold for you, you bastard. You are a worthless prime minister.” 
“Father...” The king looked at the ground in shame as his son quietly stared over at him. Queen Dacia simply fell to her knees in stunned shock. 
This whole situation began because of her infidelity. As miserable as she looked, I had no sympathy for her. This woman had no conscience. She was more than willing to betray her husband, continually deceive him, and then have him killed. As I thought about such things, the idiot spoke up. 
“What’s with this nonsense?! I am the first prince! I am the next king! That stupid little whelp can’t take my rightful position! Wardack and Mother planned your death, I had nothing to do with it! It wasn’t me! It’s not fair!” 
“...You’re a stupid bratty man, and there’s no redeeming you.” I could do nothing but sigh at Zabune’s antics. All he was doing was distancing himself from the accused. Selfish. That was all he was. Not two minutes had gone by and he was immediately trying to save himself. He was an idiot beyond compare. 
“Stupid?! How dare you! What are you? You’re nothing! You’re a grand duke, big deal! Your country is nothing, you hear me?! Don’t get all high and mighty with me just because you get to stick it in Ortlinde’s daughter!” 
“Ghaugh!!!” My weight-alteration magic made the idiot prince slump to the ground. Ah wait, he was no longer a prince. Just an idiot, then. The idiot was so pressed against the floor that he looked like a piece of roadkill. 
Once the shock wore off, he began yelling even louder. He really didn’t understand his position. Prince Cloud came over and spoke to me with a sigh. 
“Your Highness, please disable that spell.” 
“Huh? But...” 
“Please.” I did as Prince Cloud asked of me. Zabune leaped to his feet and threw a courteous little smile in Cloud’s direction. 
“Good boy, Cloud! You know well enough that I’m the only one out of us with the right stuff to be the new king. I’ll forgive your transgressions, don’t wor—” 
“Silence.” Prince Cloud quietly spoke to Zabune. He was shaking. Zabune’s chattering ground to a halt, and a single bead of sweat ran down his face. Slowly, Cloud raised a fist into the air. 
“...Hey now, what are you doing there? You really want to hit me? I’ll never forgive you. Brothers shouldn’t fight each other, understand?” 
“You. Are. Not. My. Brother.” With a ferocity I never expected to see in him, Cloud brought his closed fist down upon Zabune’s face. The impacted party flew backward, did a little flip, and landed in a crumpled heap on the ground. Well, that takes care of that. 
“Z-Zabune!” Dacia ran over to her son. The idiot was bleeding profusely from his nose. The king of Lihnea simply watched all of this unfold. With cold eyes trained on Dacia, his lips parted. 
“Even a pig like you loves her own son, hm? I empathize. My own son is dear to me, after all. I think I understand how you managed to treat Cloud so poorly. I wasn’t upset in the least watching Zabune fall down.” Wardack and Dacia managed Zabune’s education, so the king was actively prevented from participating in his life for the most part. 
They met a few times in a year, and the king only really knew Zabune through rumors of his bad deeds. Wardack even prevented the king from telling Zabune off. Thus, the king of Lihnea never fostered any paternal affection toward Zabune. 
The sad truth was that if the king was allowed to raise Zabune properly, he might have raised him with love in his heart. Then, his eyes would not have been so cold, even if he had learned Zabune was another man’s child. 
“Gah!” Wardack wriggled from his confines and attempted to leave the room, but I wasn’t about to let that happen. 
“Ghaaaah!!!” The bulldog-faced man fell where he stood. Amusingly, he reacted in much the same way as Zabune did. That was to be expected, since they were father and son. 
“We’ve searched your manor. Very gaudy, isn’t it? Certainly extravagant for a man serving his country. Bribery, embezzling... smuggling, blackmail... Lucrative business, eh? Ah don’t worry, the king has all the evidence.” 
“And we’re aware of all the nobles who worked under you. They will not escape our grasp, either.” Marquis Koupe looked over at the crowd of noblemen. Some of them looked panicked, while others just looked at the people around them in surprise. 
“I truly am a pathetic man. This... is all my fault. You supped upon my weakness, doing whatever you like due to my inability to act. Truly, the people would be better off with Cloud as king than I... Yet even that act may seem like I’m simply shifting responsibility.” 
“Father, don’t be foolish. There’ll be times I need guidance in the days ahead. Do not hesitate to guide my hand when I make a wrong turn.” 
“C-Cloud... I’m so sorry...” The king took his son’s hands in his, tears welling up in his eyes. It was a touching sight. Finally, after years in the shadows, Prince Cloud could finally join his father in the light. 
“Enough of this! Don’t you fuck with me! This is my country! Guards, kill them! Cut them down! I’ll give you money, status, anything!!!” Zabune started babbling like a madman. He looked like one too, since blood was still streaming down his nose. I wonder if “them” also included the king... Naturally, nobody obeyed him, so all that remained of his order was a faint echo that miserably petered out. 
“I almost feel bad for him now, I do.” 
“Seriously... When you raise kids, you need to make sure they’re raised right... or they’ll turn into, well... this.” I agreed with the two of them. If this guy was my son, well... Just the thought disgusted me. 
“Enough of this disgusting display, boy. You are neither a prince, nor are you my son. Who would listen to you now? No... it’s time you sat down, for once. Sat down and reflected on your heinous behavior.” Zabune’s teeth came together in a dull grind, and his face turned a furious red. That heinous behavior came up when we were looking into Wardack’s crimes... 
We’d learned about all the women he’d toyed with, all the peasants he’d killed for entertainment’s sake, and all the many people he’d had kidnapped and enslaved... Not to mention the people he had raped in front of their parents. It seemed he especially enjoyed hearing their parents beg for mercy. 
This man, who had done all manner of wicked things, had no regrets. He never sat down and reflected on himself, so he simply didn’t care. Even when faced with the evidence, he’d be the type to just double-down on the fact that he was right and everyone else was wrong. 
At the end of the day, Zabune was beyond a spoiled brat. I didn’t think he needed to be shown any mercy. 
“Your Majesty... What do you plan to do with the three traitors?” 
“As far as charges go, they’ll all be put to death. It’s the only logical thing to do in order to save face. Word will eventually get out of what happened, so we must deal with the perpetrators swiftly.” The queen’s affair and deception, the fake prince... the prime minister who held all the real national power. It would go without saying that this would reflect poorly on him to outsiders. Still, it seemed as though he’d already accepted it, so at least he was prepared to mitigate damage. 
“E-Execution?! Have you gone mad! Don’t you dare!” Zabune was still wriggling around like a worm, screaming like a banshee. Honestly, I was getting pretty sick of him. I wished he’d just shut up. 
“How dare he? How dare you? Aren’t you long overdue a punishment, you miserable little whelp? You’re no prince. You’re nothing more than a common criminal. Nobody is coming to save you. Nobody is coming to protect or represent you. Accept it and be a man for once.” 
“Shut up! Shutupshutupshutup!!! You piece of shit! I’ll kill you! You better remember me, understand?! Remember this face! Your country, your women, I’ll fuck them both to pieces!” 
“...Excuse me?” What the hell did you just say? 
Slowly, I pulled Brunhild from its holster. Then, I took aim at Zabune’s right leg and fired. The live ammunition penetrated his flesh, making blood bubble up around the point of impact. 
“Gyaaaaaaaah!!!” Zabune crumpled in a pathetic, writhing heap, clutching at the wound. His voice was beyond disgusting. I wanted him quiet. 
“Wh-What did you...?!” 
“...You’ll do what to those I hold dear? You vow to do what to my home? Do you really think I’d let you live, you monologuing little shit? After you dare threaten everything I care about?” I shot out another round, firing at his left leg. 
“A-Ahgh!!! S-Stop, p-pleahss...! I-I’m sohrry! D-Don’t kill me...! I-I don’t wanna dieee!!!” 
“...Those innocents you tortured didn’t want to die. You laughed at them. You took pleasure in their suffering. Why shouldn’t I do the same to you?” I stomped Zabune’s arm with my foot, holding it in place beneath my shoe. After that, I brought Brunhild’s muzzle to the palm of his right hand. Then, I pulled the trigger. 
A beastly, animalistic roar of pain forced its way past his lips. Either due to fear of death, or just plain torment, the miserable animal in human clothing known as Zabune... passed out. 
I quickly used restorative magic to patch up the wounds I’d made. I never intended to kill him, after all. He pissed me off, so I just wanted him to hurt. There was nothing more to it. Punishing Zabune wasn’t my burden to bear. 
It went without saying that the bastard was going right to hell, but the people whose lives he had ruined wouldn’t be satisfied if he was given such a quick death. What happened to him now depended on Prince... er, King Cloud’s judgment. 
“...Sorry. Think I went a little overboard.” I apologized to Cloud’s father. 
“No, this can simply be considered another form of atonement. Though I did declare the death penalty, what happens to him is in Cloud’s hands. I have abdicated the throne, after all.” 
“Guards, take them to the dungeon!” At their new king’s command, the royal guards came in and apprehended the villainous trio. Funny, given that they completely blanked Cloud the other day. 
“Are you okay, Touya?” 
“...Yeah, I just got a little upset.” The moment he said he’d do things involving my duchy, Elze, and the others... I lost composure. It wasn’t like he’d be capable of doing anything, but just the thought made my blood boil. 
It was similar to when those bratty knights picked a fight with me back in Belfast. I didn’t really seem to mind when it came to me, but I couldn’t keep my cool when the people I cared about were slandered. It wasn’t my intention to have such a short fuse. I definitely needed to learn a little more self-control... 
As I pondered such things, I watched Wardack, Dacia, and Zabune get dragged off to the dungeons, kicking and screaming all the while. 
Right after succeeding the throne, Prince, or rather, King Cloud, began to make his mass reforms. 
His first course of action was reinstating Marquis Koupe as prime minister. After that, he had the authorities go through all evidence of Wardack’s embezzling and bribery. The evidence was then used to arrest the merchant houses that had conspired with the wicked man. 
He also made sure to purge the royal capital of noble families that had supported Wardack’s campaign of terror. 
Furthermore, he reduced taxation on the general public. And on top of that, he used the ill-gotten gains that Wardack had stockpiled and redistributed them to the people, creating several public works projects to improve quality of life in Lihnea. 
The mansion that Zabune called home was also raided, and a dungeon was discovered in the basement. Several enslaved people were living there, all collared. I promptly removed their bindings with my magic, freeing the abused innocents there. 
Wardack had been abusing his position for over ten years. It seemed he’d focused all national budget and resources into strengthening the military. His goal all along was clearly war. 
By declaring war on Palouf and reuniting the island of Palnea under a single banner, Wardack would have gone down in history as an amazing man who had accomplished the impossible. 
Because of the military focus, the people suffered greatly and domestic issues weren’t addressed. Whether or not Lihnea would’ve even been able to win the war was another matter entirely, though. 
All in all, Lihnea’s national power was at an all-time low as a result. I hoped that they’d be able to avoid conflict with the Palouf Kingdom, but given that the north had suffered a poor harvest and a few other issues, it didn’t seem like either side was in a condition to fight. They’d likely continue their relative peace for the foreseeable future. 
“Still, I wonder if I’ll be able to build friendly relations with the Palouf Kingdom. It may be difficult to heal old wounds, but I think it would be worthwhile.” 
“Yeah... Oh, what’s the former king been up to?” 
“Father has been spending every waking moment with Mother. He’s basically doting on her in every way he can. I think he’s trying to atone for not being there for her during Wardack’s treachery.” King Cloud was sitting in Brunhild’s conference room, chatting with me. 
After the incident, I ended up investigating how the country had received the news, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the people felt pity toward the king for Wardack and Dacia’s deception. They regarded him as an unfortunate man who had been treated cruelly and misled. The king’s image seemed to be well-preserved, and the hatred of the people was more focused on Zabune, Dacia, and Wardack. 
Zabune’s hedonistic behavior was also well-known by the people in the castle town, and apparently popular opinion in the country was that Lihnea would meet its end under the reign of King Zabune. When it was revealed that he was an impostor prince, and would be duly punished by the law, the citizens were positively exalted. The hatred for that idiot clearly ran deep. 
“So, what happened to those three in the end? Death penalty?” 
“No, actually... They were given a much harsher fate. Their victims wouldn’t be able to rest in peace if I’d let them off with something as final as death.” 
“...Th-Then what did you do?” 
“The slave collars that Zabune had with him, well... I repurposed them. The three of them were fitted as slaves, and sold to a merchant from Sandora. They’re likely laboring under a harsh master by now.” That’s... hardcore. 
Apparently Sandora had some pretty heavy excavation going on, and the operation was manned almost entirely by slaves from all over the place. From what I understood, most of those slaves were heinous criminals, forced to work from the crack of dawn until late at night. It was basically like a prisoner’s life, an inescapable hell. 
“Zabune never lifted a finger in his life, so I imagine it’s especially bad for him. Still, this was a necessary punishment. If he died without tasting a fraction of what he inflicted on others, the deceased could never be satisfied.” I guess it’s a matter of perspective... whether that’s cruel or generous. On the one hand, it’s hellish labor, but on the other... they’re still alive. It would ultimately come down to personal philosophy. 
They were criminals, so it was fair that they experience a portion of the suffering they’d given others. I had no sympathy for them. 
“Touya my boy, shall we begin?” 
“Oh, right. Sorry, I was thinking a bit.” The king of Belfast cleared his throat and stood from his chair. Looking over the other world leaders gathered in my conference room, he went over the day’s agenda. 
“Please raise your hand if you disapprove of the Lihnea Kingdom joining the western alliance.” Not a single representative objected. Belfast, Refreese, Mismede, Regulus, and Ramissh were all in favor. Obviously I didn’t object, either. 
“Then we’re all in agreement. Let us welcome Lihnea to our fold.” Cloud, the freshly-crowned king of Lihnea, bowed his head. Everyone gathered around and applauded. His formal induction into the alliance would mean the other members would be able to support him properly. Though obviously nobody expected anyone to go out of their way to support Lihnea. 
“Well then... today’s agenda is formally closed, so...” 
“We should see about deepening our bonds as rulers, aye!” 
“Hoho, I won’t lose this time!” 
This again?! Pssh... it’s bad enough once a month, but I wonder if they called the meeting early just to play instead of dealing with the Lihnea situation... Well, maybe it’ll be fun. 
I made my way out of the conference room with the beastking of Mismede and the king of Belfast. 
“Touya, lad. Are they at the stadium?” 
“...Yeah, but it took a while. Please warn me in advance next time...” I stared at the two and let out a small sigh. 
“There’s a match between Mismede and Belfast today, you know? You should come too, young king.” 
“Hm? A match? You mean fencing or something along those lines?” 
“It’s a baseball match! Never heard of it? Don’t worry, I’ll teach you all about it!” The emperors of Regulus and Refreese both descended on King Cloud like vultures. The pope followed quickly behind them... but I wondered if that was out of concern for Cloud or the game. 
When the hell did they even have time to arrange a game? It’s kind of annoying that I had to transport all the players here on short notice... What am I, a goddamn bus?! I was a little miffed, but it was no big deal. 
I told the royal knights, and they all seemed pretty eager about it. I wondered if the ones with free time on their hands had already gone to the stadium. 
Hm... a baseball match... Wonder if I should whip up some popcorn. Caramel popcorn sounds good right about now... I can probably make a ton at once if I use magic, too. Popcorn’ll make everyone hungry, so I should probably see about getting some beer coolers, t— Hold on... this is getting pretty business-minded... 
As I thought about such things on my way to the kitchen, I suddenly heard the pitter-patter of little feet running steadily in my direction. Wait a minute... that noise... “Touuuuyyyyaaaaaa!!!” 
“Gwaugh!” As if from nowhere, I was struck with a ferocious side-tackle. O-Ow! That really goddamn hurts. 
“Father told me everything, Touya! You beat him... You beat up that wicked old prince just for my sake! Ah, you’re amazing, Touya! Truly astounding! You’re husband material, Touya! I just knew it!” 
I had collapsed. The next thing I knew, Sue was cuddling my head. Well... Cloud was the one that beat him up. 
“W-Well, I mean... I definitely wouldn’t let an idiot prince like him have you, but I’m not so sure about being husband material...” 
“F-Father said you’d approved of me already... A-Am I truly that worthless to you?” 
Guh... Please don’t start tearing up like that. If you go on like that, you might end up being one of the nine brides Babylon saw... 
Five brides was daunting enough, that was for sure. Though it was true everyone had approved, somehow... Guh... It’s more of a burden than anything! 
Sue was definitely cute. She was bursting with energy, and her face was... well, more than pretty enough, to be fair. She was a little bit of an airhead at times, but not in an intolerable way. I was certain that she’d be a great beauty once she finished growing up. 
Right now, I can’t view you as anything other than a little sister, Sue... But I mean... I feel like I could end up seeing you like I see the others, given time. No, not could... I probably will. The same thing happened with Yumina, anyway. 
“Hic...” Crap! I gotta say something or she’ll start crying! 
“...Th-Then... just like the others... I won’t marry you before I turn eighteen. Is that acceptable?” 
“Y-Yes... I don’t mind at all. Thank you so much, Touya!” Sue’s tiny arms pulled my head into a warm embrace. ...Well whatever, at least she’s happy. 
I clambered back up and took Sue to the kitchen to make some popcorn. In the end, the popcorn and beer ended up being a huge success. I prepared salted popcorn and caramel corn. The former ended up being the best seller initially, but over time the caramel flavor became more popular. I learned that popcorn was a common snack in this world, but caramel flavoring was something new. I was surprised, since it wasn’t like sugar was uncommon here or anything. Felt a little weird, but I rolled with it. 
In the beer’s case, I prepared wooden cups, and offered a one-third discount to anyone that brought their own cups. I decided not to use paper or plastic cups because it could’ve caused a surge in litter. Wooden cups were better all-around because you could take them home and reuse them, so there was no waste. Everyone won that way. 
It actually went so well that I considered making hamburgers or hotdogs for the next time. 
Just as such thoughts were running through my head, Olba appeared as if from nowhere, popcorn in hand and grin plastered on his face. The man’s trading senses were insanely on-point. 
He was a proper merchant, and he always sold well, so I had no reason to mistrust him. He wasn’t formally employed by Mismede either, meaning he could do as he pleased. 
I wanted to go and see the match itself before negotiating trade, however. I went up to the transparent VIP booth high up in the stands. The leaders of Lihnea, Regulus, Refreese, and Ramissh were already there, chowing down on popcorn no less. 
The commander-level knights from every nation were also present, presumably for bodyguard duties. Gaspar, the one-eyed knight from Regulus, was wielding the flaming spear he’d won in the bingo match a while back. Though I’d set it so magic was nullified within the VIP box, so the spear was just a regular spear. 
“How’s the game?” 
“Ah, Grand Duke! It’s very interesting... I hope that one day, when my country is in a better state, that we might have a national team as well.” Prince, er, King Cloud’s eyes glimmered with excitation and hope. 
“I wonder who’ll win...” 
“I bet that Mismede will win since they are up 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th inning. Beastmen have exceptional physical prowess, after all. For them, what would normally be a triple would turn in to an in-the-park home run.” 
“Don’t underestimate Belfast, my friend. They have that pitcher who is an ace with curveballs. Once he’s on the field, Mismede won’t be able to score again.” The two emperors discussed their opinions on the situation. Belfast needed one more run somehow. While they chatted, Ramissh’s pope sat quietly, chomping her popcorn noisily. 
“Ah, Lord Touya...” 
“Hey, no need to be so formal, remember?” 
“I-I know, but... I can’t simply refer to God’s messenger as a common man, but that aside... This ‘caramel,’ I think you called it? Would it be possible to make it in my country too?” 
“Of course. It’s pretty simple, actually. I’ll put the recipe down on paper for you, so just give it to your cook. I made some regular caramel candy in the kitchen a while ago, too. Wanna try some?” I pulled several sheets of the candy out of [Storage] and handed them over. Her Holiness popped a little piece into her mouth, chewed it a little, and adopted an amazed face. 
“It’s amazing...! Ah, I know children will just love this. I’d love to have this included in our orphanage care packages...” 
“Oh, that’s great. I’ll put down the recipe for this one as well. It’s good to hear it’ll go to needy ki—” At that moment, I felt a gaze upon me from behind. Three gazes, to be exact. Three greedy people... 
I gave the caramel over to the emperors and Cloud, as well. They popped it into their mouths at once, and chewed on it happily. I also handed out bits of the candy to all the men on guard duty... Though, that was only because I could feel their gazes forming on me, too. 
The match carried on until the ninth inning, three to two all the while. Belfast was at bat, with one out. They had a runner on first base. If they could manage a home run, they could easily make it a comeback win. 
Suddenly, some commotion stirred outside the VIP box. The guards were briefly on edge, but they quickly calmed down upon realizing who it was. Laim, my butler, charged up to see us. That he’d come all this way was rare in itself. What was even rarer was the fact that he was running. 
“Something going on?” 
“S-Sir... the Gate Mirror... from Belfast...!” His breathing was haggard, so he’d clearly ran to the stadium full-sprint. He passed me a piece of parchment, and I hastily opened it up. What I saw shook me to the core. 
“This... Oh no!” I tried to use a [Gate] to reach the Belfast bench immediately, but in my haste I forgot that I’d nullified magic in the box. Rushing out into the regular stands, I tried again and moved there immediately. 
Standing just like a team manager, side-to-side with his brother, was His Majesty the King of Belfast. He was intensely focused on the game, but quickly snapped out in surprise when he saw me appear out of nowhere. 
“Whoa, Touya? Is something going on? You here to fix the game?” 
“N-No, not that! L-Labor, Your Majesty!! Labor!” 
“Huh? Labor? You mean like, work?” 
No, damn it! While His Majesty the King didn’t understand what I was talking about, Duke Ortlinde clearly understood right away. 
“Y-Your wife is in labor, is what I’m trying to say, Your Majesty! A message just came through from Belfast! Your child’s coming!” 
“Oh, I see. WAIT. WHAT?!” Talk about a slow reaction! I was thinking the baby would be due soon, but this timing is bad! 
I sent the flustered king through a [Gate] to Belfast, then told the duke to carry on with the game. The game would end as I expected after two more outs, but that wasn’t important. 
Since the queen was already deep into labor, we weren’t allowed inside the room. I could understand why I was forbidden, but ended up being pretty surprised that the king couldn’t go in as well. Keeping the husband out was something I just found confusing. I wondered if it was a royal custom or superstition or something. Either way, it’s not like my presence would help anything. 
For the time being, we waited in the room next to the next room. We stayed so far out of consideration for the queen’s voice, but now and then her screams would travel through both rooms and reach our ears... 
The king started pacing back and forth, so I briefly left him behind and opened up a [Gate] to call over Yumina and the others. It was the birth of her younger sibling, after all. 
Yumina immediately went through to see the queen, as did the rest of my wives-to-be, so really it was just me and the king again after all that. 
I couldn’t do anything to help, so I left Kohaku behind in case of an emergency, then briefly returned to Brunhild. 
As it turned out, Mismede won the match three to two. I sent back each player and world leader to their respective countries. I was really anxious about the birth, so I decided to return to Belfast right away. I promised I’d send a letter through the Gate Mirror when the child was born. 
I went back with Duke Ortlinde and Sue, only to find the king still pacing back and forth. 
“It sure takes a while, huh...?” 
“Actually, Yumina was born fairly quickly. It’s a case-by-case sort of thing, I think.” Not even an hour had passed, but it felt like an eternity. Every time we heard a pained groan from the queen, I frowned. We men were powerless to prevent her suffering. It was honestly a little disheartening. 
I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to endure hearing that if it was the birth of my own child. 
Wait, hold on... If what Doctor Babylon said is true, then does that mean I’ll have to experience this kind of anxiety at least nine times?! 
“I can’t believe it...” His Majesty the King paced back and forth with little rhyme or reason. I followed him with my eyes, wondering if I’d be in his position before long. 
I was wondering how long childbirth lasted on average, but before I could search it on my smartphone, I heard a baby crying from nearby. 
With a start, His Majesty charged out of the room. I hastily followed after him. 
Still, as it was before, the king was still not permitted access to the birthing room. We waited for someone to come out and tell us the news. After a while, Linze peeked her head out. 
“The child has been born. It’s a healthy baby boy. Both the mother and child are well.” 
“Wh-What?! A baby boy?! And they’re both okay?!” His Majesty merrily walked over to the door. Duke Ortlinde and I thought it wouldn’t be appropriate to go and see the queen immediately after childbirth, so we waited outside. 
“A little boy... that makes him a prince. That means you’ll no longer be in the running to become king of Belfast, Touya... What a shame.” 
“Come on now, don’t worry about that at a time like this.” Joking or not, what the duke said actually made me relieved. With the prince’s birth, everything was settled. 
After a while the door opened up, and out came the king holding a precious little baby bundled up in white cloth. 
“He’s here! The heir to Belfast’s throne!” 
“Congratulations, big brother!” 
“Congratulations.” The newborn child was wrinkly, kind of like a monkey. He was teeny, that was for sure. Looked fragile enough to break at a single firm touch. Yumina jokingly called me big brother because the little guy was basically my younger brother-in-law. It was kind of weird to consider. 
“By the way, Touya. We’d very much like for you to become the boy’s godfather, so... can you think of a good name for him?” 
“What, me?!” Strange thing to saddle me with, but I guess I can oblige... Hm... If his older sister is named Yumina, then... 
“Yamato... I think that’d be good.” 
“Yamato... Hm, yes. Yamato. Yamato Urnes Belfast. A strong name indeed. I like it! Very well, the boy is Yamato. Prince Yamato.” Yumina was just a string of three basic syllables, so I figured Yamato would work just as well. It was a pretty solid name, too. Well... if we took the battleship of the same name, then maybe it’d be more of an ill omen, but... this is a different world, so it’s best not to fret. 
His Majesty the King lifted his son high, smiling all the while. 
“Whoosh... Woooooh...” 
“Waaah!!!” The prince started crying, which made the king freak out and run back into the birthing room. He’s definitely overreacting... It was kinda cute, though. Is this just what people become when they have kids? Children sure are amazing... 
The prince’s birth was formally announced shortly after. 
The news spread through the castle town in no time at all, and people flooded into the streets celebrating. I was allowed to fire up a bunch of fireworks to celebrate, too. Well, technically they were being dropped down from Babylon, but I digress. In tandem with that announcement, Yumina’s engagement was made formal knowledge as well. Her fiancee was announced as an up-and-coming grand duke. In other words, me. It didn’t take long for gossip to spread about that, either. 
Apparently the story became pretty popular in the guild. Some kind of success story about a lowly adventurer who rose up the ranks, became a monarch, and got engaged to a beautiful princess. 
Yumina’s engagement wasn’t the only one announced, either. In Regulus, Princess Lucia’s engagement was made public knowledge as well. I imagined people would be chattering similarly over there too. 
Thanks to the announcement, I imagined the citizens would be a lot more confident about a solid unification between Belfast and Regulus. 
The other girls didn’t get formal engagement announcements, but they weren’t really torn up about it. Well, Sue was a little bit fussy. 
Sue had been accepted as my fiancee, but I didn’t quite have the heart to bring her back to Brunhild with me. I imagined that Duke Ortlinde and Ellen would get lonely. 
As a compromise, I created a permanent [Gate] in her room at the Ortlinde estate, which connected to her own bedroom in my castle. I told her she could stop by any time. 
“Ah... I’m glad the kid was born okay.” 
“Indeed. I was most impressed by her resolve, I was.” The girls, who had been there for the birth of Prince Yamato, sat exhausted on a couch. We were all in a guest room that had been provided for us. Yumina and Sue weren’t present, leaving myself, Elze, Linze, Yae, and Lu. They seemed more than relaxed to be done with it all. 
“...W-We’ll... eventually have children of our own, won’t we...?” Linze quietly spoke up, causing the others to turn beet red and mutter amongst themselves. 
Wh-What a thing to say... Even I’m gonna turn red! 
Festivals were being held in the streets that evening. The royal palace was giving out free booze, and everyone was celebrating the prince’s birth. 

The Gate Mirrors I’d set up all saw activity, well-wishes from various nations coming in en masse. The king smiled gently, which honestly kind of made me feel nervous... I wasn’t sure I was ready to be like that. 
The problems in Lihnea had been dealt with, and Prince Yamato had finally been born... It was time for a much-needed rest... or so I thought. 
“Hello there, my name is Fleur. Grand Duke, thank you so much for saving me.” 
“Ah... It’s really no big deal...” A young woman with light-brown hair stood before me. She seemed to be around twenty or so. She was the female slave that I had freed from Zabune. In all honesty, I’d kind of forgotten about her. 
There was a lot going on, so it wasn’t really my fault. Apparently Fleur had been living in my castle since the time I brought her back... And only now had she been able to meet with me. Or rather, only now had I remembered she existed. 
“Zabune’s been sent off to the dig site at Sandora, so you’re free. If you’d like me to take you home, just say the word.” 
“Ah, no... I’d like to ask if I can work here. I don’t wish to return to Lihnea, and I know my home is fine without me, so...” 
Well, she was a slave over there, I guess... Even if the place is different now, it’s probably still full of bad memories. 
“Uh... Sure! A friend of mine runs an inn in the castle town, would you like to work there?” 
“Yes! I’d love to!” And so, I sent Fleur to go work at the Silver Moon. Micah accepted the offer readily, so that was lucky. 
I gave her various high-quality potions made in the alchemy lab. It would be helpful to have stuff like that at the inn, just in case people got injured over there. 
“How’re customers doing? Is the inn profiting well?” 
“I’d say we’re definitely turning a profit, yes! Rooms are rarely empty these days. A lot of adventurers and travelers from Belfast and Regulus pass through here, actually. Ah, that reminds me... they often swap stories, and I heard an interesting one recently.” 
“Hm? What was it?” While Brunhild’s Silver Inn branch was ostensibly a hotel, it was also an intel-gathering hotspot. Almost all the staff there were ninjas formerly associated with the Takeda house. It was their job to observe suspicious individuals and listen out for curious stories. They were my gossip traps, after all. 
“There’s a small village to the south of the Roadmare Union. Apparently a crystalline monster appeared there recently. It was supposedly the size of a bear, with a body shaped like a mantis.” 
“...What!” It had to be a Phrase. Likely one of the weaker ones, given the size reference given... Probably on the same level as the Cricket Phrase we’d encountered so long ago. 
“So, what became of that monster?” 
“The guild in Roadmare put out a job to wipe it out, and a party formed to kill it. But... there were massive casualties. The village was entirely annihilated, and the party almost died.” Wow, they killed it? I’m impressed... but still, that much damage even against a weak one... 
Still, I was hearing more Phrase sightings lately... They were appearing more frequently, little by little. I wondered if the world’s boundary was becoming even more strained. 
Ende hadn’t shown up, which probably meant he didn’t consider the weak Phrase important enough. 
“Guess I’d better hurry...” I asked Micah to deal with Fleur, then quickly opened up a [Gate] to Babylon. 

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