A few days after obtaining the boy-type summoned beast body, Kou, who was fast becoming a mascot-like existence among the members of Gawiik’s group, visited the laboratory again. The first time he had returned to Gawiik’s group in his boy form, Karen liked it so much that she held on to him and didn’t let go for a while, causing knots in Daido’s stomach.
Nowadays, he was learning how to use a bow from Karen in the morning. In the afternoon, he dropped by the laboratory to talk with Sayaka or to help the Professor with his research. At night he studied magic with Lef. This had become his lifestyle.
As he entered the laboratory, he saw Sarta, who seemed to be collecting and sorting things. Instead of her usual white robe, she wore clothes that looked like a formal dress. The laboratory was quieter than usual. Not seeing the Professor or Sayaka, Kou tilted his head.
“If you’re looking for the Professor and Saya-chan, they’ve been called to the Research building today, and I don’t think they’ll be back till tonight.”
“Are~? I see.”
“It was a sudden call, but it seems they are discussing the Professor’s inventions.”
It seemed that from among the Professor’s research and inventions some were being considered for official use. Sarta told him that the Professor took Sayaka along because one of the inventions was something he had built based on her knowledge from the other world.
“Sarta is also going out?”
“Well, I have some business at the Royal Palace. Would you like to come along?”
said Sarta as she picked up the bag in which she had crammed her things. Kou, who was interested in the Royal Palace block, happily decided to go along. Kou changed his town clothes to the noble’s clothes with a swish, as if they had seeped out from his body.
Sarta looked at him with envious eyes because of the summoned beast’s function of immediately changing its outer appearance, thus removing any need for changing clothes.
Kou and Sarta headed to the Royal Palace block in a carriage. Until now, Kou had only ridden on carriages while in the form of small animals like dogs, cats, or birds, so he looked very happy to be riding on one properly in human form. Eventually, they passed through the gate leading into the Royal Palace block and arrived in front of the entrance of the building.
“The building, it’s like a city with a roof!”
“Ufufu. Isn’t it huge? If we get separated you’ll get lost, so be careful.”
The eighth level where the lowest-class nobles lived received a lot of passers bys, although it wasn’t as much as the town. The wide corridor extending into the distance gave the impression of an underground labyrinth. However, a place with such a clear view only existed near the entrance, since the Royal Palace block was made by connecting many mansions and the deeper you went the more complex it became.
Passing through the seventh level where an indoor plaza and garden had been established, they reached the sixth level, where the residential district of the middle-class nobles was lined up. Sarta entered a room of one of the houses to take care of an errand of hers. In the meantime, Kou passed the time by visiting the garden on the fifth level.
The garden on the seventh level had some kids playing here and there, but the garden on the fifth level was quiet and peaceful. There was a big window in the roof of the garden and rays of the sun were descending into the garden at regular intervals; the scene which showed the contrast between light and dark was quite fantastic.
“It’s so pretty~”
After a while Sarta finished her errand and came back, so they moved on to the next place, leaving the garden behind.
From the fourth level, the mansions and courtyards of the upper-class nobles appeared one after the other and this area was built such that the atmosphere felt much more luxurious compared to the lower levels. The corridors and the walls, even the ceiling was finely decorated. The floor was polished, and in some places, you could even see carpets.
As Kou and Sarta walked along that corridor, they found several small groups of people after some bends in the corridor. They saw a girl coming this way accompanied by a maid and knight that looked like a bodyguard. She was wearing a light-yellow dress; clothes that showed that she was royalty.
As Sarta stopped at the end of the corridor and bowed, Kou also tried imitating her and bobbed his head in quick manner. The group that they thought were going to pass them stopped in front of them and the girl in the royal dress called out to them.
“…You are the magician assistant that works at the Andagi Professor’s place, are you not?”
“I’m called Sarta, Elrose-sama.”
Staring at Sarta as she replied graciously was the First Princess of Grandahl, Elrose. In fact, she was the sister of the Second Prince, Suaro. She told her attendants to stand back and addressed Sarta while lowering her voice.
“I heard that Professor took in that girl…Saya. What is she doing right now?”
“Saya? We’re having her help with the chores around the laboratory. She also helps the Professor with his inventions.”
Kou, who was listening to Sarta and Elrose’s conversation from the side got quite interested in the way Elrose was asking things about Sayaka in a roundabout manner, and tried to read her thoughts.
Haa…And I thought that she had finally settled down too …Why does that girl have to stir up her surroundings so much…
Elrose was in a dilemma. She couldn’t ask any deep questions because her attendants were close by. On the other hand, Sayaka had left the House of Butterflies and went to the Magical Research building near the Royal Palace block, thus making it easier for Prince Layos to visit her, which was making Elrose very worried.
She was worried that her brother would somehow use this against Prince Layos. It seemed like her feeling towards Sayaka weren’t especially friendly, however, Kou didn’t detect much enmity either. He read her thoughts up till then, when her conversation with Sarta finished and the whole group left.
“That person just now was the First Princess Elrose-sama. She is the little sister of His Highness the Second Prince Suaro. Both were born from the concubine Liiza-sama.”
“A Princess, hmm. There were three Princes, weren’t there?”
“Ara, you already know.”
“I heard it before. I have talked about a lot of things with Sayaka after all.”
“I also know that there is a princes that is not in the Royal Palace.” Said Kou, as if showing off his knowledge about the Palace. He looked like a boy trying to stretch to look taller and Sarta couldn’t hold back her feelings of warmth.
However, even though from his appearance, honest reactions, and tone of voice which gave off the impression of a small boy, she knew very well that Kou was anything but a child. Therefore, she tried talking about a topic that was not meant to be discussed with children.
“It is rumored that there are various complicated issues surrounding the conflict between Prince Layos and Prince Suaro. It is becoming something of a problem.”
It was not something as simple as appearance or way of thinking, or even the difference in lifestyle. Apparently, there was some secret about the birth of the two, or something like that. A very dangerous topic and yet Kou was the same as usual, which made it hard to discern if he was interested or not. Answering with “I see~” every now and then, he absorbed the background knowledge relating to the two prince brothers which was not very well known.
The third level of the Royal Palace block housed the mansions of pure-blooded families, with courtyards lined up on each side, one after the other. Sarta had come to deliver an item to a certain lady who lived on this level and she recommended Kou take a walk around the neighborhood as she might be held up talking to her.
“You can walk around the courtyard freely, but don’t enter the buildings around here without permission, alright?”
Sarta began negotiating with a lady in her thirties who looked at the boy Kou with decidedly suspicious eyes. Just like before, Kou went out into the courtyard to enjoy his walk, so as to not get in the way of Sarta’s work.
Compared to the garden that covered the fifth level, the space that was made from joining all the courtyards of the mansions seemed a bit narrower. However, the gently sloping plaza was in the form of a lawn which had been meticulously taken care of and had a beautiful gazebo. On one side, the trees had been planted in a bunch, making a space that was kind of a miniature forest. There was a bench installed which was causally surrounded by different flowers and so on, there were quite a variety of different landscapes all around.
“Ah, there are fish swimming here.”
Heading upstream along a streamlet, Kou separated the tall grass, and entered the place where the trees were densely growing, finding a small clearing. This place which had been built deep inside the trees and could not be seen from the outside seemed like a place of relaxation. There was figure of a young man sitting there on a wooden bench.
“Oh? It’s rare for a guest to come here.”
Said the young man with a soft smile, relaxing on the wooden bench that gave off the feeling of being handmade, like something children would make for their secret base in the garden by joining pieces of wood together.
“My name is Rozeth. Where did you come from?”
“I came along with the assistant Sarta on her work, and am taking a walk right now…” As Kou was explaining this, he felt as if she had heard the young man’s name somewhere, and tilted his head.
“Ahh, from Professor Andagi’s place…Even so, how did you find this place?”
“I was just walking along the stream and ended up here.”
“Ahaha. Well yes, it is along the stream, but usually if you are not a gardener you wouldn’t come in here.”
“Children from the town would though.” Rozeth said and laughed. Trees and grass as big as the height of an adult surrounded the space, and unless you purposefully divided the grass to enter, you could not reach it. And among the people living on this level, there was no one who would do that, including the children.
“By the way, what is your name?”
“Me? I’m called Kou.”
“Kou…? I’ve heard of a Kou at the Professor’s laboratory from Layos Nii-san, but if I recall correctly, he was supposed to have the body of a golem.”
“Ah, that’s me…Wait, Nii-san?”
TLN: Nii-san, as you probably know, means older brother.
Rozeth called Layos his older brother. He was one of the three princes of Grandahl, the Third Prince Rozeth. Kou recalled that he had picked up his name from when he had tried to read Layos thoughts at the laboratory.
Rozeth Third Prince, like the Second Prince Suaro was also born of a concubine, but compared to the Second Prince, he had no supporters, nor did he have his own faction and while everyone respected him because of his status as royalty, almost everyone had no expectation of him; a prince only for show.
He was in a place farthest from the power struggle, but he himself was satisfied with the current situation.
“I see, so you’re the one…You seem to possess different forms. Again, nice to meet you, Kou-kun. I’m happy that we’ve become acquaintances.”
“Nice to meet you too~”
Inside Prince Rozeth’s place of relaxation and not his secret base, both shook hands. Kou spent some time talking to the sociable prince. About Sayaka and Prince Layos, they talked about various things, ranging from the Professor to the King himself.
He learned about the time when Sayaka lived in the Royal Palace and about her relationship with Prince Layos. This was a very interesting topic for Kou because he wanted to know about it from his heart.
From the time Prince Layos started his obsession with Sayaka, conflicts among the supporters of Suaro and Layos from the pure-blooded families deepened, and clashes between the two factions happened, sometimes even resulting in injured people.
“Although there were few public acts of violence, it seemed like there were quite a few nasty things happening behind the scenes.”
Perhaps sensing that Kou was not a child as his outlook and tone of voice suggested, Rozeth went ahead and told him about the specifics of what happened back then.
After Sayaka left for the House of Butterflies, Layos couldn’t visit her so readily anymore. The emotions of the ladies in the Royal Palace cooled down somewhat and the fight between the Layos faction and Suaro faction that were using the hot-headed ladies for their purposes also cooled down. It seemed like nowadays, the situation was showing signs of relapsing again.
“Prince Suaro and Prince Layos are on bad terms?”
“Who knows? It’s not like they are fighting directly. However, I have seen some suspicions people in Suaro Nii-san’s surroundings.”
“I will become the Adventurer King!” Said Prince Layos without a hint of hesitation, and seeing his ‘charismatic hero’ stance, Prince Suaro replied: “What is needed of a true ruler is not military force and achievements, but rather knowledge and wisdom.” With that, he intended to add the parliamentary officials to his own supporters to consolidate his power. Some whispered that he would use this power to target the right for the throne.
However, there were also rumors that behind Prince Suaro’s actions was the will of someone else.
“It might become a bit hectic from now on.”
Saying that, Prince Rozeth ended the conversation.
Since they had been talking for quite a while, Kou decided that it was about time he returned, and leaving Prince Rozeth behind who gave him permission to come again, saying “Come visit again”, left the secret place of relaxation.
Kou headed for the exit of the courtyard. As he approached the halfway point between the garden and the corridor, he ran into Princess Elrose who Sarta and he had met earlier, wearing a light yellow dress and royal clothes, who seemed as if she was going out for a walk.
“Ara, you’re the one from before…”
She seemed to be in a hurry and the voices of her maids calling out “Princess!” who were apparently searching for her could be heard from the direction of the corridor. As she glanced back once in the direction of the voices–
“Keep me company for a while.”
–she took hold of Kou’s hand and ran with him somewhere in the courtyard hastily.
“Where are we going?”
“Just be quiet and come along.”
They ran to a place which was not visible from the corridor. Hiding under the shadows of the trees, Elrose peeked out to see if the maids were following them, and addressing Kou who was also trying to stealthy peek out, asked:
“Are you perhaps an attendant who recently joined? If you stay at the Professor’s place then tell me something about Saya and Layos-sama.”
“What kind of things?”
“What kind…Well, you know, how are Layos-sama and Saya when they’re together…or what kind of things they talk about…”
Even as she tried to keep her composure, Elrose became increasingly flustered. As Kou tried to read her thoughts, the caught a glimpse of a strong emotion in the depths of her closed heart. I love Layos-sama. But I can’t bring myuself to hate Saya either…Such feelings were swirling out.
“So you love Prince Layos.”
“Wha–!? Y-You don’t have to inquire about useless things!”
Kou found her flustered and ruffled state quite lovable and told her about how Prince Layos and Sayaka spent time together at the laboratory.
He told her about how Sayaka didn’t think much about Prince Layos; rather, she didn’t think that he really loved her. He also told her about how Prince Layos seemed like he couldn’t help but be drawn to Sayaka.
“You, you get what Layos-sama is feeling?”
“Somehow or the other.”
Hearing Kou’s reply, Elrose convinced herself that it was because he was a child and could pick up on what others were feeling intuitively.
Kou realized that she was making decisions about him based on the physical appearance of this body, but since it was convenient he let it be. He was subtly practicing the art of “making his outer appearance his weapon” that he had picked up from the Shadow Artist of the Varow Group during the tournament.
As they had finished talking for the most part, Kou and Elrose left the shade of the trees and headed back towards the corridor. The maids and nights who were gathered at the entrance of the garden discussing how to find the Princess came running over.
“Princess! Try not to act on your own. Everyone was so worried.”
“Ehh. I’ll try to be careful.”
“Um…who might that child be?”
“He was coincidentally wandering around here, so I thought I’d lead him back.”
Elrose told the guard who was suspiciously eyeing the boy who was apparently an attendant of Professor Andagi’s assistant to stand down, and turning to Kou, said the words that would give Kou the permission to move around more easily.
“I’ve taken a liking to you. Come to the Palace sometimes to talk.”
Implying that she was going to use him to get information, she told Kou that she would let the gatekeeper and guards know about him, and left. The droves of maids that followed after her looked at Kou with curiosity and interest as ‘the boy who Elrose-sama has taken a liking to’.
Kou being Kou was feeling very pleased inside that he had gained two new people to talk with at the Royal Palace. After seeing Elrose and her procession off, Kou decided to finally go back to the room where Sarta was and entered the corridor. As he did, Sarta appeared from somewhere.
“Well then, I’m done with today’s errands. Shall we return to the laboratory?”
“Fufufu~ I heard that Elrose-sama has taken a liking to you.”
“I was told I could come again to chat.”
Talking about things like that, they started on the way back. Suddenly, Kou felt a small whisper coming from Sarta’s thoughts, even though he didn’t intent to do it. Looks like the first stage was successful. Kou thought that it was related to her work today at the Royal Palace block and didn’t pay it too much attention.