|Author: Sasaki Ichiro||Original Source: Syosetu|
|Translator: Mab||English Source: Re:Library|
Rufous dry wasteland and rocky hills with no grass or trees as far as the eye could see.
While gazing at the monotonous scenery consisting of only three basic colors —the blue of the sky, the white of the clouds, and the red of the earth— four mounted figures were silently advancing along a narrow path that wound between cliffs.
“…” It had been a full day of traveling on desolate mountain roads that never changed. Rocking on the backs of emus; myself, Chad, Eren, Andy, and Bruno, the five of us traveling together, were physically and mentally exhausted.
The only ones in good spirits were probably Regina, who was leading the rest of us on Maya’s back, and Vier, who was pacing back and forth at the feet of the emu I rode.
By the way, emus were huge birds, more than 3 mertes tall from the ground to the top of their head, which could be mounted to carry humans and cargo. Compared to other pack animals (horses, land dragons, wildashers, etc.), they matured faster, were relatively inexpensive, and could tolerate a poor diet, which was why emus were a rather common option in remote areas.
Well, in return, they had the disadvantages of not being able to carry heavy loads, short-lived, temperamental, and bird-brained…which means everything has its merits and demerits, and no pack animal is absolutely superior to the others.
So, the emus normally would panic and go berserk on the spot because an amateur like me was holding the reins and they were near high-ranking carnivorous demon beasts like Maya and Vier. However, because they were all under Regina’s domination magic, the emus were obediently and willingly walking in a single file—following Regina’s instructions.
“I’m getting tired of seeing the same scenery forever. Why did the people in the past build a gate in a place like this anyway?” Bruno, riding together with Andy’s emu, whined in a bored tone.
“I heard this place used to be a lush, natural treasure trove, you see.” Andy, astride the saddle and holding the reins with a practiced hand, looked back to the younger boy and chuckled. When he did, Bruno gave the dead earth another look-see, and when he spotted not a single sign of life, he showed a semi-doubt look. “Well, I heard that from my dad, so it’s not like I saw it myself.”
“If anything, don’t you go complaining now after you begged to join in even though no one asked.” Eren, who was riding alongside Chad, looked at him with a troubled look on her face.
“Yeah, like you’re any better!”
“I am here in my father’s place, officially, as the representative of the village chief. As for you, know your place.”
Eren returned with a smug on her face, beaming with pride.
“…kids sure have a lot of energy.” Chad sighed in exhaustion. Like his peer Andy, he was accompanying Regina this time as a helper and guardian of the children, but unlike Andy, he didn’t seem to be very skilled at steering the reins and was quite nervous.
“We should see it soon.” Regina, who was walking ahead with Maya, raised her usual grumpy voice and pointed to the end of the road with the top of her long cane. The thing she pointed at looked like a collapsed rock, but it was the ruins of a city.
Chad’s relief was shared by all, but then Regina looked back with a knife-edge squint and snorted.
“Hmph. The work starts here. I’ll say it again, I expect the same work result for all of you, kids or adults. If any of you dare to skip out on work and laze around, I’ll turn you into a pig or a dog and throw you out!”
After delivering her intimidation straight, with no sign of a smirk, everyone present straightened their backs and nodded furiously. Especially Bruno, who had experienced being turned into a pig before due to his excessive mischief, already looked pale and desperate.
We, a group of slaves, then silently made our way to our destination, led by our grumpy mistress.
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Now then, the reason why we left the forest and came to this wasteland went back to the arrival of letters to Regina from a relative she had in the imperial capital—the dragon knight and father of Luke, Mister Eilmer.
The letters she received were all in the name of Mister Eilmer’s personal letters, but in reality, they were divided into ‘update on Mr. Eilmer and family,’ ‘the recent happenings of the Imperial Capital,’ and ‘a request to Regina.’ The more she progressed with the letters, the worse Regina’s mood became.
Incidentally, when she was reading the ‘update on Mr. Eilmer and family’ letter, she asked me something in a voice tone full of discomfort and disbelief. “Jill. Do you have a sister or a relative close in age who has the same… whose name is Syltianna?”
That question made me twist my neck in confusion.
“Hum… by sister, you mean Syltianna’s sisters? Well, while our mothers are different, I have six sisters, and since I’m the fifth daughter, I have four older sisters and one little sister. The closest ones in age are probably my older sister who is just a year or two older than me or my little sister who’s three to four years younger… Also, I don’t know any of my relatives.”
“Hmph. They got the wrong person, then. It says here Luke’s been offered a marriage proposal with Syltianna, the daughter of Frontier Count Aulanthia of Livitium Imperial Kingdom.”
“Luke got a marriage proposal?! With the daughter of Count Aulanthia, and that name…”
Should I be more surprised with such a sudden offer, should I be surprised about this strange coincidence? However, the offer to marry ‘Syltianna’ is probably a mistake. After all, Syltianna has long died.
“—I don’t know if that’s true or not, but this surely means Luke won’t be marrying the ragweed princess. Good for him, eh?”
Perhaps it was one of my half-sisters. I tried to remember who it could be, but I couldn’t recall any of my siblings, because the only interaction we ever had was when I passed them in the hallway and they gave me the look as if they were looking at a filth.
“Whoever it might be, I know that they have at least decent appearances, unlike me. As I recall, my sisters were collectively referred to as the Lovely Flowers of Aulanthia (excluding the ragweed).”
“Hmph. How ridiculous. Beauty can only be forged from character, experience, and months and years of hard work. A single layer of skin can’t decide the outlook value of a person!”
Regina’s point was clear and straightforward. Personally, I think it was a fair and just argument, but as someone whose value actually was decided by my appearance, and humanity and personality were denied simply because I was ugly, I found it hard to agree. …This is complicated.
“Is that…how it is?”
“It is. Even ragweeds can bloom flowers, you can eat their young leaves, and you can use them as a medicinal herb. You’ll look even more stupid if you group them up with random weeds and throw them away!’
Regina spat out those words and, as if to visualize her sentence, tossed the letter on the table before she reached for the second letter.
“…” Not that I dare to suspect, but is she, by any chance, trying to cheer me up? If she is, she sure sounds more like she has a strong opinion on ragweeds…
After skimming through the second letter, Regina wrinkled her brow, tossed it on the table as if she was disgusted by it, and mumbled away with hatred.
“…for crying out loud, an adult should’ve known better than to come crying to a retired old fool for every little thing. He’s been spoiled a little too much.”
That didn’t sound like something I should say anything about, so I stayed silent when Regina reached out for the third letter…and as she read on, Regina’s face became more and more grim —her expression was so fierce, I’d bet even ogres would run with their tail between their feet— and when she did, Maya quietly retreated with her footsteps stealthily, while Vier and I, after exchanging a glance, also fled out of the room fearfully.
The moment I soundlessly closed the door and reached the hallway—
“SON OF A B̲I̲T̲C̲H̲—!! HE THINKS I’M HIS GOFER OR WHAT??!!!!”
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A furious roar of rage thundered, threatening to topple the now-leaning hermitage with a single shout. Vier and I both face-planted due to the sheer impact on our backs.
By the way, ragweed being a medicinal herb is a superstition. The scientific name of ragweeds is Ambrosia artemisiifolia, with Ambrosia being the food and drink of gods. Since ancient times, Ambrosia has been considered an ingredient of the elixir of immortality.
Also, Syltianna’s half-sister princesses all have generally regular appearances, it’s their upbringing that gives them the atmosphere of beauty.