|Author: Carrot Sauce||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 3073 characters|
|Translator: LazyButAmbitious||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1712 words|
Roughly an hour prior, Takamine Reika had arrived in Himeji, running into Lily and her group just before she entered Tenshu Castle.
Reika knelt on one knee behind Princess Asuka. “Forgive me, Princess, for I’ve found no other formidable experts besides Miss Lily and her two companions.”
“On the contrary, Reika, you’ve done exceptionally well. Discovering Lily and her group is worth more than finding a thousand other powerful figures!”
“Eh?” Reika looked puzzled, as she was yet unaware of the recent developments. Princess Asuka quickly briefed her.
Upon learning of Lily and her companions’ capabilities, Reika felt a mixture of surprise and relief. “Your Highness, when I encountered Lily’s group earlier, they expressed concerns about the royal decree you enacted today,” Reika mentioned, her face tinged with concern.
“You mean the arranged marriage my father insisted upon?”
“Your Highness, you must not proceed with that!” Reika collapsed onto both knees.
“I’ve already reached an understanding with Miss Lily,” Asuka began to explain the details of their agreement.
“But Your Highness, that would betray the world’s trust! You pledged to wed the individual who attains the most kingdom shares once peace is restored. The world is far from peaceful. Fulfilling that vow prematurely would enrage our most powerful allies1,” Reika urged anxiously.
“You’re right; I acted thoughtlessly,” Asuka admitted. “It’s fortunate you returned in time to correct my oversight.”
“Those influential figures are not known for their patience, and given the pressure from the king and prime minister, it’s understandable, Your Highness,” Reika consoled her.
“Do you think I should disclose the truth to these powerful individuals? But that might backfire, especially if word gets out,” Asuka pondered aloud.
“It’s a delicate situation, but revealing the truth outright isn’t advisable,” Reika agreed.
Feeling increasingly overwhelmed, Princess Asuka sank onto a wooden platform, resting against a small table. “Reika, my thoughts are jumbled. What course of action do you suggest?”
“Agree to the marriage arrangement, Your Highness.”
“But didn’t you just say that would be a mistake?”
“I meant consent to the arrangement, not actually go through with the wedding,” clarified Reika.
“Ah, you’re suggesting we stall,” Asuka’s eyes brightened.
“Exactly. You can’t outright defy the king, but as a regional lord, you have a duty to your territory. Send an envoy to verbally agree to the marriage, then use the ongoing demon disruptions and territorial crises as a reason to delay. Demons are, after all, causing actual turmoil in the Ehime region,” Reika advised.
Princess Asuka looked at Reika and nodded, her face brightening with a smile. Reika might have a feminine appearance, but her knack for strategy is akin to that of a seasoned male advisor.
(This chapter is provided to you by Re:Library)
(Please visit Re:Library to show the translators your appreciation!)
“True, this tactic might serve as a temporary measure but it’s not a lasting fix,” Asuka voiced her concern.
“You’re right. Using military obligations to stall could suffice for now. If the issue is pressed further, we can state that the marriage will proceed only when the global situation has stabilized,” suggested Reika.
“That makes sense. Once the world reaches a point of stability, my personal reservations will become irrelevant,” Asuka conceded.
“But, Reika, what about my previous commitment to the powerful experts? Wouldn’t confirming the marriage, even verbally, mean breaking my promise to them?”
“You’re in Himeji, Princess. You can assert that the marriage isn’t finalized, as it was just a verbal agreement. You can mention that you were compelled by your father to reluctantly agree, thus maintaining his authority. When the world is finally at peace, you can fulfill your initial promise to the people and wed the individual who tops the kingdom shares. If that person fails to meet certain criteria, like being female or declining the offer, you can then justifiably heed your father’s directive to marry the prime minister’s son. No one would fault you for that,” Reika laid out her plan.
“Reika, your advice is nothing short of brilliant2. I was clouded by a myriad of concerns and almost breached the people’s trust. Your timely counsel has been invaluable, and finding extraordinary individuals like Miss Lily only adds to your merit. It’s wonderful to have you beside me, Reika.”
“Princess…” Reika’s cheeks flushed. “I can’t take all the credit for the strategy; it wasn’t solely my idea.”
“Oh? Do tell,” Princess Asuka urged.
“In truth, the plans and countermeasures were imparted to me during my meeting with Lily and her companions.”
“So, it was Miss Lily who advised you?”
“Not quite. It was Lady Ayaka, the tall and insightful woman accompanying Lily, who offered the counsel,” clarified Reika.
Princess Asuka nodded in understanding.
“Interestingly, Lady Ayaka insisted that I present her idea as my own.”
“So, why did you choose to disclose this to me?” Princess Asuka chuckled.
“I couldn’t bring myself to mislead you, Princess,” Reika confessed.
Asuka nodded her approval. “Well, thank you for your honesty. And make sure you extend my gratitude to Lady Ayaka as well.”
By this time, Ayaka, Lily, and Shimizu had made their way back to their dwelling. Gathering inside the home, they threw open the window and surveyed the barren courtyard beyond.
“Lily, had we not fortuitously encountered Reika earlier, my intention was to seek a moment with Mr. Kiryu to nudge Princess Asuka in the right direction. Given the princess’ steadfast resolve, it would have been untoward for us, as outsiders, to comment too explicitly,” Ayaka noted.
“Sister, your consideration is commendable,” Lily responded. “Truth be told, even though I disagreed with the princess’ approach, I too was at a loss for a better alternative. If I had thought of one, I would’ve mentioned it then and there. It’s not like I’m overly concerned with such matters.”
“Hehehe, in many ways, that indifference of yours is also a strength, particularly when dealing with someone as honorable and compassionate as Princess Asuka,” Ayaka chuckled, her hand lightly covering her mouth.
They had initially planned for a casual chat before bathing, but as if on cue, Kiryu arrived.
“My apologies for the intrusion. According to Her Highness’s directive, you are all now exclusive mercenaries of Himeji,” he announced. “How could we let you continue to reside here? I’ve prepared a more fitting abode for you. Would you kindly accompany me to your new residence? It would be remiss of us to let you spend another night in such conditions.”
Ayaka responded, “We’re not overly concerned about the accommodation, but since you’ve taken the trouble to come, we’ll gladly accompany you. It’s not as if we’re worn out. That said, you’ve missed the opportunity for a rather notable accomplishment.”
(This chapter is provided to you by Re:Library)
(If you are reading this from other sites, that means this content is stolen without consent. Please support us by visiting our site.)
Kiryu’s brow furrowed in confusion, to which both Ayaka and Lily responded with enigmatic smiles.
Leading them to a manor perched on a hill behind Tenshu Castle, Kiryu showcased a residence that commanded a panoramic view of Himeji. While not rivaling the estates in Heian-kyō, the manor was a paragon of elegance and refinement within the Asuka Kingdom.
“Wow, this is decidedly superior to our last place,” Shimizu noted.
“It certainly captures the essence of the Asuka Kingdom,” Lily added, laughing.
“Ladies, feel free to make yourselves at home. You have a retinue of attendants at your service. Should you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
It was evident that exclusive mercenaries like them enjoyed a different tier of treatment—deservedly so. The only downside was that even this prime residence in Himeji didn’t come equipped with a hot spring.
For the time being, the three sisters made their temporary home here. As for the adoption of their advice by the princess, it was a matter of wait and see. Days sped by as Lily alternated between training sessions with Shimizu and assisting Ayaka with her medicinal regimen.
As the days rolled on, Ayaka’s health noticeably improved, incrementally bolstering her strength. Shimizu also experienced growth in her abilities, thanks in part to her paired training with Lily.
On one particular evening, both Kiryu and Reika paid a visit. While Shimizu and Lily were engrossed in their training, Ayaka was by herself in the courtyard, lost in contemplation as she took in the nocturnal views of Himeji.
“Mr. Kiryu? Miss Reika?”
“You’re just the person I was hoping to see, Lady Ayaka,” Kiryu greeted, emphasizing ‘Lady’ in recognition of her mature presence and high-ranking mercenary status. “Her Highness has dispatched me as an envoy to the royal city and asked that I convey her gratitude to you.”
“Oh, it’s a minor thing, really,” Ayaka replied with a smile.
“Additionally, during my absence, Reika will serve as my stand-in for any matters you might have. Just reach out to her if needed.”
“I appreciate the heads-up, Mr. Kiryu. Safe travels.”
Just as Kiryu was about to exit, he hesitated. “Is there something else, Mr. Kiryu?”
“I must humbly request that you and Miss Lily look after the princess and ensure her safety in my absence!” Kiryu implored, bowing deeply.
Ayaka’s smile carried a hint of understanding. “You seem even more invested in the princess’ well-being than we initially thought.”
Caught off guard and a tad flushed, Kiryu stammered, “Well, she is a noble princess and I am but her devoted servant. That’s all there is to it.”
(This chapter is provided to you by Re:Library)
(You can support us by leaving words of appreciation on our site!)
Acknowledging his words with a nod and a smile, Ayaka watched as Kiryu took his leave. Reika and Ayaka conversed for a bit; Reika filled her in on her usual whereabouts and how to reach her. She also dug into the legends surrounding the enigmatic Night Queen before parting ways.
Late into the following night, after Lily had aided Ayaka with her medication, the two took separate baths. Once they were refreshed, they retreated to their individual rooms for some much-needed rest.
Suddenly, the night’s stillness was shattered by a series of echoing drumbeats from Tenshu Castle’s battle drums3.
“What in the world?”
Lily and Ayaka slid open the corridor door, their eyes scanning Himeji’s skyline. Torches flared to life within the castle, and it was evident that a formidable assembly of soldiers and skilled fighters was amassing.
Just then, a ninja materialized within their manor. “Esteemed Mercenaries, a formidable adversary is laying siege to the city outskirts. Princess Asuka urgently summons you to Tenshu Castle!” announced the ninja.