It was on the road leading to Solituk, the capital of Marden.
Wayne horse-drawn carriage, which was being protected by escort pass the high way…
As for the cause of his groan, was because of the card in his hands. Ninim, sitting face-to-face, she also held cards in her hands… On the road to Solituk, they decided to play card games.
However, as their expression tells, Wayne was at a disadvantage. That was because, Wayne lack concentrations… Speaking of why—…
“It’s not the first time but, are you really bothered by it? About this…”
Ninim who sits face-to-face against him touches her own hair while looking amazed… The color of her hair was pitch black. Since they were heading toward the western country, she had dyed her hair black like before.
“At least let me touch it…”
“I told you it would cause the color to fade didn’t I?”
As they argue with each other.
Wayne draws the card from the deck with a dissatisfied face, but then, his eyes slightly opened…
“… Oi, Ninim, how about letting me touch it if I win the game?”
“I see, you get a good card huh?”
Ninim smiled. It was a blatant provocation but, she also has no intention to back down. Then she comes up with an idea, as a prank…
“Let’s see… Then if I win, I will dye Wayne’s hair?”
“Mine? Is there any fun by dyeing my hair?”
On Ninim’s suggestion, Wayne unconsciously touches his own hair. However, on the other side, Ninim seems to show deep interest…
“That is not true. I feel like it would be very interesting. If you don’t like it, then I don’t mind, but in that case, you can’t touch my hair.”
Wayne alternated his gaze between his hands and Ninim’s hands.
“Alright, let us bet with that condition…”
“Alright then… Then, let us show the cards…”
*One, two…* As Ninim calls out… But at that moment, Wayne smiled…
(—Fuh, I got you, Ninim!)
Actually, by guiding Ninim’s line of sight by playing with his hair, he had pulled out the necessary card from his other hands, replacing a few cards…
(The cards in my hand is the second strongest hand! I could make the strongest one because of one of the cards! Anyway, this match is mine!)
“Yup, I won.”
Wayne yelled, in front of him was the strongest hand.
“Oi, Ninim-san?! How did you make this hand?!”
“Of course, I got it. I can’t tell you from where though?”
In other words, she also did the same.
“But Wayne, I thought you need another discard before you get these pair?”
“Eeeh, really? I guess maybe it was a mistake in Ninim’s memory?”
“Is that so? Fine… Besides, no matter what, I won.”
Wayne was defeated.
Next, Ninim then grabbed the dye out of nowhere in a good spirit.
“The quality is a bit lower, but we have more variety other than black. Hmmm, Black, White, Gold… What color would be good for Wayne I wonder?”
“Do as you like… Oh but I don’t like Gold much, because it has strange looks…”
“Then I will make it gold!”
“No, Ninim-san, didn’t you hear what I say just now?”
“I think it would look great?”
Truly, the tyranny of the winner.
Wayne who was the defeated has no choice but to leave everything to fate.
“But, return it to normal right before we arrived in Solituk alright?”
“Of course, I understand. If you stand with blond hair in front of Zenovia, she would be surprised.”
Ninim combed Wayne’s hair as she giggled.
Then she said…
“Speaking of Zenovia, do you think she aware of the other side movement?”
“Aware of what?”
Asked back, Ninim responded…
“— Of course, the purpose of this ceremony…”
“– A trade with the Solgest Kingdom is it?”
Ziva nodded as he heard Zenovia mutter.
“Yes. This time, Prince Wayne attending the ceremony seems to be for that purpose…”
The two of them were in the palace conference room.
In addition to Zenovia and Ziva, several vassals were attending there, which was why Zenovia looks more serious than usual. Ziva then continues to explain in front of them.
“If the current condition continues, it would be only a matter of time before Marden become a strong force in the Natra Kingdom. By connecting with the Solgest Kingdom, which has a shipping route with other countries, they will seek profit from another route different from Marden.”
“I see… Then, if they do that, the gap in growth within the Kingdom would diminish, and the danger from our growth will also be diminished along with it, no?”
“Yes. There’s no difference…”
Marden’s integration with Natra and stabilization within Marden’s territory were urgent tasks for Marden’s leaders. The latter has shown signs of improvement thanks to the economic boom, but then the former didn’t show any improvement. However, if Natra had found another path to growth, it would be easier to integrate into Natra without neglecting stabilization inside the territory.
They welcome this situation, thus they didn’t have to intervene… Zenovia and the other vassals breathed relief but, Ziva continues.
“The danger diminished but, the importance also diminished… From another point of view, Marden’s value is an all-time high. For the moment, we might be able to temporarily halt the growth, but we also need to draw something from Natra.”
Not only Zenovia but also the other vassals raised their voices.
“We’ve just pledged our allegiance. If we do such a thing now, it will only create a feeling of disgust on the other side, no?”
“No, Zenovia is the legitimate blood of the Marden royal family. We might pledge our allegiance to Natra, but it is not good if we only flatter them all the time…”
“However, this economic boom is not only about Marden. We can’t do it without the goods from the east.”
As the vassals argue, Zenovia spoke.
“If we want to do something, it would be better before Wayne enters into negotiation with the Kingdom of Solgest– In other words, our opportunity is when he stayed here…”
“If so, we don’t have much time to prepare… Ziva, what do you think we should do?”
Ziva replied Zenovia’s question, after a moment of silence.
“— Zenovia and Prince Wayne, should get married.”
“— So, Wayne will marry Zenovia?”
Wayne said indifferently…
“Sure with that, I can get Marden under full control, but as I said before, under emergency, I will definitely sell the country!… Wait, ouch! Oi, don’t pull my hair!”
“Don’t worry… My hands just slipped…”
The excuse was too convenient don’t you think? He was about to say those words but refrained… Wayne then continues after sighing.
“It’s just, I want to remain single for now.”
“Searching for your heart?”
“I want to prolong marriage as long as possible… No, wait, Ninim, it’s just a joke! So don’t try to cut my hair down to its root!”
“Don’t worry. My hand just slipped again.”
“Honestly, it was just a joke, alright?! Here my real reason, see, marriage is a big move where I can use it with another country! So I still want to keep it on hand!”
“Mu… I can understand that.”
“See? Of course, if negotiations with the Solgest Kingdom do not go well, the story will change. So to speak, I have two cards, one to develop a market or one to get married. And of course, I want to save the marriage card for another country!”
Ninim in doubt for a while but since it was a plausible reason, she decided to ask another question.
“… Then, for example, how about make Zenovia concubine?”
Wayne answered immediately.
“Zenovia was a former princess, no? I heard she has become a spiritual pillar of Marden territory now, her status might not be a princess anymore, but if I do make her a concubine where the people still have some thought that she has the blood of a Queen, then it would only trigger animosity within Marden people.”
However, if Wayne makes Zenovia the first wife, the other feudal lords will not be happy and complained that he had given too much preferential treatment to a newcomer. In addition to that, the marriage might still bring ill feeling no matter which status Zenovia get(Queen or Concubine).
“That is why the purpose of this stay is just to confirm whether Marden’s side is willing to cooperate with Natra! And in case of the cooperative route, their side will propose marriage 9 out of 10 but, I will avoid that with all my might while aiming for my policy!”
Ninim thought that was the worst deal.
“Most likely, Prince Wayne will try to avoid marriage.”
Amid a gathering gaze, Ziva said…
“At least until there’s a successful negotiation with the Kingdom of Solgest, it is safer to avoid any clear reply. Therefore, it would be a good plan to secure the commitment during the Prince stay.”
“If that happens, everything will be clear up, Marden will no longer look like an outsider by the Natra lords, and the Prince’s voice will improve significantly as well.”
“Indeed. Despite the other lords’ rejection, once the force of Albarest royal family and Marden territory unite, no one in the Kingdom can defy it.”
Ziva’s words were true. The forces of the Natra royal family and the Marden territory were the biggest. If these two representatives, Wayne and Zenovia, were tied together in the form of marriage, everything would be rock solid.
“How is it, Zenovia-sama? If you can agree with this, we will make the arrangement right away…”
There was no reason to get lost.
Marrying Wayne was the perfect solution for Marden’s future.
It makes sense to take advantage of the current economic boom and push aggressively. It was also a profitable proposal for the Natra Kingdom.
Yes, when it comes to politics, there was no reason to get lost.
That was why Zenovia answered…
“By the way, Wayne.”
Wayne turns his eyes toward the caller.
Ninim then continues while looking nervous.
“This is just an ‘if’ story alright?”
“… Oke, an ‘if’ story is it? If what?”
Wayne thought it was unusual Ninim did this.
Wayne ponders, wondering why Ninim was making such a roundabout topic, while on the other hand, his sister Franya, often did it.
“— If the hair dye failed, you won’t get angry right?”
“You asked that at this timing, it has completely failed isn’t it, Ninim-san?!”
As Wayne yelled, Ninim looked away softly.
“That is not true… … But anyway, it is unrelated, here look at the mirror first…”
“W-Wait, what?! What is this?! What’s going on with my hair?!”
“Honestly, it is such a pity that such tragedy happens…”
“Why are you in the mood of giving up, Ninim-san?!”
Thus, the horse-drawn carriage moves toward Solituk with Wayne in despair.