Flame Kingdom – 15

15 – (Mask)

I was looking down from the window at the flourishing city.

I could not see the face of the people, but I could see them running around full of vigor, causing my lips to turn into a smile.

“… I’m jealous.”

“About what?”

I turn my glance to the unexpected reply from the back.

“First of all, let me thank you, Matsushiro Kota. For coming here despite my sudden call.”

I saw a handsome man with grey hair opened the door. Despite his age, he was still a handsome man, Kota was sure that in his younger days he would be quite stunning.

“No, I should be the one who feels honored.”

“No need for such formality. Besides, my call was a bit unreasonable, to begin with. It should be us who feel grateful.”

“No no…”

“Please don’t say things that are not in your mind. I know who you are you know? ‘The architect of Rondo de Terra’s miracle,’ “The Alchemist of Yameto,’ ‘An Insane man with no common sense’ they said… Oh, and there are other two… “The devil,” or was it “The Demon King”…?

After saying that, the elderly man snorted.

“There is no way for someone to get such nickname unless they had done something admirable. I don’t want to talk with a mask. The person I want to talk with is the man named Kota Matsushiro.”

In response to the man sharp gaze, Kota shrugged his shoulders.

“I’m not lying. I do think that this is a good opportunity… I also wanted to talk to you…”

Saying that I gaze toward the city landscape once again. I saw a lot of people, come and go, as well as trade ships arriving and departing in the Port below.

“I would like to know, what kind of recipe did you use to achieve this kind of development so far…”

“Hou… You have developed Terra, and you still hope for more?”

Development…

“Of course. I want to develop Terra beyond what this city has… I want to develop it to become the best city surpassing the capital city of the Sorbania Kingdom.”

“…Hah…”

‘Interesting,’ He said…

Saying that Sorbania Kingdom’s King Carlos the First smiled toward Kota fearlessly.

—————————————————————————————-

“We’ve received a letter from the Sorbania royal family.”

It was fifteenth days ago before Kota met Sorbania King.

Erika who presented the letter in front of Kota’s eyes looked pale. Other than the name and meeting place, nothing was written on the envelope, looking at the practically blank envelope, Kota thought it was a joke.

“… How come you know it was from the Sorbania Royal Family?”

“The sealing wax.”

“Sealing wax?”

“Twins snakes, that climb on a scale. That is the Sorbania Royal Crest.”

Hearing that, I stared at the sealing wax. The snakes twine its body on the scale horizontally. Its eyes as if gazing at me, causing chill running down my spine.

“… Is it a normal thing to use the coat of arms as sealing wax?”

“Over there, it is… they are commercial Kingdom after all.”

“What the connection of that with the sealing wax?”

“The bottom point is that if you can use it to prove who you are, it is good to have one. It would be a waste of money just to create another crest for sealing wax.”

“… Sounds reasonable. Also, does this crest have a meaning?”

“In the old days, the scale was essential for business, and the figure that aims at profits was like a snake, that is the meaning of the crest.”

“Did they regard themselves as ‘snake’?”

It was a crest that giving off an aura ‘pretending to be bad.’ At least, such a thing was not something that usually is applied to the Royal family.

“Anyway, there’s no doubt that this letter is from the Sorbania Royal Family.”

No man would and could forge a royal family crest, she said. Kota then cut the sealing wax. – –

“… What is the content?”

“I have not read it yet.”

Kota shrugged his shoulders with a wry smile when Erika asked such question.

“…”

“…”

“… Come ‘on, say something…”

“… Erika-san.”

“Yes?”

“In Flame… No, in the entire Orkena Continent, are all the kings like ‘this’?”

“Like ‘this’? What do you mean?”

“Familiar… Or rather, down to earth?”

“I’m not sure about the down to earth, but… For example, south of the Orkena Continent, there is Dejas continent. In there a country ruled over the entire continent. Thus the Kings here had more free time compared to the Emperor.”

The atmosphere there was soo rigid that it might be able to choke someone, said Erika. Feeling interested, Kota opened his mouth.

“I’ve never heard an Empire called Dejas, you don’t like them?”

“It was not about like or dislike. Borrowing your words, it is about being “familiar.” Rather than dealing with them, dealing with the lords within the Orkena Empire are easier.”

“… Hou…”

“I’m sure it was written in the book that I gave to you before, that all of the countries in the Orkena Continent, was once part of a single Empire, The Flame Empire, except Parsena region. I think it would be easier to think that the Flame Empire was the landlord, and the countries inside of it were the tenant.”

“A coalition of Kingdom then? Was the Flame Kingdom part of that?”

“The Flame Kingdom is more like the descendant of the landlord.”

It feels like a failed management in an apartment, resulting only the owner lived there.

“There, it’s easier to borrow seasoning in the neighborhood rather than going all the way to the next city right? Well, that is what I mean with being ‘Familiar,’ it’s not about like or dislike… Besides, the languages are similar to each other.”

“Language?”

“The way Maria speak, that is Sorbania’s language you know?”

“… I thought it was just a dialect.” <TLN: Maria speak using Kansai Dialect.”

“Because Sorbania was a commercial country, it was highly versatile, they used language that easier for other countries to understand. They never invade a country, if anything, an ‘inward oriented’ country had more complex language, such as Laurent Language.”

“I see, by the way, you can speak Laurent?”

“Laurent Language huh? Let me see… A simple sentence…”

She took a deep breath.

“Oi Kota man, wat yer doin’ in dis place?” <TLN: In Japanese, it should be Osakan Dialect.”

“… Hah?”

“What I said was, “Oh my, Kota. What are you doing in this place?””

“… Let me read the letter. —-I see this is Laurent is it?”

“It sounds complicated, but if you write it on paper, you should be able to understand it. After all, the grammar and the other things are similar.”

“I see…”

“Since originally we are part of a single empire, the culture, custom, lifestyle are very similar. Even the form of politic is similar here…”

“Royal government is it?”

“Since the Flame Empire was a coalition of Kingdoms, it didn’t have a strong centralized government. At best they were just a landlord. And leaving the Tenants to do however they liked. Unless they didn’t pay the ‘rent’…”

“By rent… You meant national tax?”

“That is right. By doing so, it supposedly acknowledges the Flame Empire throne as their lord, but the reality was not that simple… A complaint, rebellion, etc. They did however they liked. The Emperor of that time must have a hard time indeed.”

“You said it as if they were somebody else problem, aren’t they Erika-san’s ancestor?”

“Even if it was, for me, ancestors are the same as strangers to me.”

I guess I can understand that.

“That’s why the king of each nation here has a strong spirit of independence. Though I don’t mean that we’re being negligent when it comes to governance. But because that kind of culture, the lords under the royal family ended up with that kind of attitude. Well, they said that children grow up by watching their parents’ back. Many of the lords think, ‘why do I have to pay taxes when my superior don’t…”

“Well, pay taxes, for the ‘kingdom’ no?”

“The correct one is for defense… In exchange for recognition, in the time of emergency, the Royal family should dispatch relieve troops…”

In exchange for landowner recognition, The throne provides military responsibility I guess, it was more like take and give situation.

“By the way, Terra has no military duty you know?”

“I guess so. I’ve never seen a military expense report. Was it because you’re the Queen’s elder sister?”

“That’s right. That was why this place is called “Paradice on Earth.””

Military spending was quite a burden. Up until there, indeed this place could be called paradise on earth.

“Don’t say anything more…”

“… Sure…”

After all, other than that, this place could only be called as hell. The grass next door was definitely greener.

“You don’t even retort huh? Anyway, what did the King of Sorbania want from you?”

I did say that the content of the letter was somewhat ‘familiar.’ For Erika, it seems my words indicate that it was not something small.

“…I wonder what indeed…”

“Come on, don’t play around.”

“I was surprised you know?”

“Just spit it out…”

Hearing Erika’s words, I decided to began to talk about the content.

“In other words… He wanted you to come and have some tea…”

“… Huh?”

Somehow, her reaction was blander than my expectation…

—————————————————–

In a nutshell, that was how I met with this fearless handsome man. A country of ‘trade,’ that by using the port under the direct control of the Royal family, it had continued to take some of the world wealth through its foreign trades… And the owner of such Maritime Empire was Sorbania’s King, King Carlos the First, looking at his fearless expression, rather than ‘trade,’ Kota thought he was more like a ‘sailor’ instead.

“…”

It seems he was trying to probe me…

“… Your majesty?”

Because Kota could not endure the glance more than this, Kota decided to ask him… Even if his age was only around 30 years old, he was still someone standing on the top of a country. It would be hard for anyone to be gazed for a long time by such a person.

“… Oh, right…”

Before long, Carlos began to open his mind. ‘Oh, right’ he said…

“Hnn?”

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! I can’t stand this anymore… What do you mean by ‘Oh, Right!’ me?!… What kind of Ikemen am I to say something like that?!”

He said those words while covering his face with his hands.

It was a posture as if saying ‘Oh god why…’… He was being a straight man toward himself.

“… Err?”

“It gives me the goosebumps! Just what am I doing trying to look good!”

Kota looked at him with a blank gaze. That would be natural of course. After all, the severe atmosphere the King have before had disappeared, and even his way of speak had turned into Kansai Dialect.

“The one who is a moron is you~~~!”

The door which was being used by Carlos to enter the room once again be opened. Come inside was a man. Looking at the man that came, Kota was once again rendered speechless. *Plak*, The moment he entered the room, he immediately hit the King with a slapstick.

“… A s-slapstick?”

“That’s hurt! You moron, what are you doing?! What are you going to do if I turned into a stupid man!”

“As if you would! In fact, your head is already a lost cause! I told you time and time again to take this meeting seriously! And look what you did! Did you do all of this just to bully me?! Is this a bullying?!”

“Even if that was my true intention as if I could stand this play! I felt disgusted just remembering how I speak before!”

“You moron, you’re a King you know?!”

“Oi, you’ve been calling me moron this moron that, who’s the moron here?!”

“Of course it’s you! There’s no other one than you!”

“You bastard, I’m the King you know? In the first place who gave the bizarre idea to use a slapstick on a King?! I will send that bastard to the guillotine, now!”

“That is not important! You, be serious for a bit! Kota-han had come from the Flame Kingdom you know? Furthermore. It was us who called him! At least use the proper Flame Language for diplomacy!”

“As if I could use the Flame Kingdom! Did you sell your Larcia’s soul?!”

“As if we could sell something like that! Come on, be serious a bit, okay? I will give you some sweets if you behave.”

“Oi, I’m not a kid! There’s no way I could be bribed by using sweets… But just for reference, what taste do you have?”

“It’s strawberry candy! Oi, didn’t you say you won’t get bribed?!”

“… Errr…”

Kota who was left speechless due to the rapid change of the situation began to speak. The man with the slapstick realizing Kota’s voice, began to fold the slapstick and bowed slightly toward him. Though he did that, Kota was still feeling some tension after the weird situation that happens before. It was such a surreal sight.

“A-Ahem! P-Please excuses us, Kota-sama. – I’m the Prime Minister of Sorbania, and my name is Philip-…”

“Uwah, He actually used Flame Language. It sounds creepy!”

“Shut up! Or I will grill your mouth! Ahem, please pardon us for this Kota-sama. ”

“What do you mean grilling my mouth?”

“That’s not important! Come on, be serious for now!”

“No no no, this is my mouth you’re going to grill you know?”

– –

“… Did you think, you’re funny?”

“I didn’t say that I want to be funny! I do want to be serious you know?”

“Uwah, to think you want to be seen as a funny guy by the other side this much… Do you really want to become Flame’s child that much?!”

“What do you mean by Flame’s child…”

… Finally, after one hour of their comedy slapstick, the situation turns to normal and once again the meeting resumed…

—————————————————-

“Ahem, I’m sorry for all of this… You must have been surprised?”

“Ah, no, it’s okay..”

…..

…..

…….

“…E-them… Indeed I was surprised…”

“Hahaha! Such an honest person aren’t you?”

Carlos said that while laughing heartily… Well, I did think it was funny situation…

“Really, sorry for this…”

He was as old as Carlos. Although not as handsome as Carlos, he looked more modest for the Prime Minister of Sorbania who right now bowed his head once again. Despite being younger than him, Kota could not help but feel pity toward him.

“Please don’t worry about it.”

“Thank you…”

“See? Kota said it is fine…”

“You shut up!”

“Going to grill me for real this time?”

“Forget about that already! Ah geez! I’m really sorry for this mess…!”

Philip, how pitiful… That was Kota’s honest feeling.

“… I don’t really mind. A cheerful person is better than a gloomy one…”

He was not lying. It was better to have a cheerful atmosphere during the meeting rather than a dark, gloomy one.

“… Though I do think that this is a bit too much…”

I’ve never seen, subordinates hit their boss with a slapstick…

“Well, that was because of Sorbania’s national custom. I may be a King, but it doesn’t mean I’m greater than anyone…”

“That’s why you allowed your subordinates to use a slapstick?”

“Oh?! You know of Slapsticks? This is Sorbania’s greatest souvenir you know? How about one?”

That thing was a souvenir?

“I shall pass. We do not have such custom in Terra…”

“Georg and Nee-chan, was wrong eh? I do have the same impression since I was a child, but I never thought that ‘that’ Rondo de Terra would be developed that much, it feels almost weird…”

“Indeed… This must be because of Erika-sa– Duke Erika’s virtue…”

Kota was trying to gloss it over with a smile.

“Hahahahaha! You sure could say something funny…”

It seems he found my talk to be funny somehow…

“Virtue? Warmth? Do you think that the city would develop that much with such cheap crap?”

While saying that, this time, he gazed at Kota with a sharp glance.

“….”

“Don’t you agree? If the King was virtuous would the citizen free from starvation? Can a city feed themselves if the King was compassionate? No, that is not how it works, right…?”

“… I agree…”

“Like I said before… I called you not to talk with a mask. I wanted to talk with the man named Kota Matsushiro…”

‘That’s why… Here I am using Sorbania’s language’. That was what he said…

“… I’m not familiar with the royal court courtesy… But, I think what I’m doing is also reasonable though?”

“Do that in your own royal court. In this place is different, see?”

‘Fuuh,’ he said that and sighed…

“You do realize that this kind of a place is where ‘we’ need to wear a mask? Not just Sorbania, each trade city is an enemy of Terra after all… That’s why I’m not going to expose my hands that easily?”

“Finally, your real thought come out huh? But, do you really think that? I think what I’m doing, and what Terra doing have a great difference?”

“… Is that how you think?”

“You still trying to gloss it over huh? Look it this way? What Terra doing are selling and buying lands, then built stores, along with that attract merchants to come? But to build a store, one need lumber and nails… You also need a carpenter to build a store. Not only that, to accommodate those people who came, you also need to prepare entertainment, food, alcohol, and other necessity. Along with that, money moves around. In short, that was how it is right?”

To arrive at Terra, it took three days with the fast carriage from the Royal Capital. It did have a port, but Terra had a little charm as a ‘relay point.’ With such limited attraction, there were only a few things that could be done to attract some business. One was to make Terra as a production ground, or as a consumption land. Terra chooses the latter. To stimulate that, Terra reduced their tax…

“… You do know a lot…”

“I’m fundamentally a merchant after all. Like they said, information is Gold.”

“You’re a King you know?”

“I only manage the country.”

Smiling like a child, Carlos the First continue the talk.

“You see, I did the same thing as you do to my place before… At first, I was just trying to bolster the business? That being said, if one manage it properly, one could preserve store or home for decades, but the availability of land is limited. The merchants and people, along with the limited amount of items, have a limited amount of money. Soon, the economy stalled. You see, when goods are being sold, merchants would like to come. Even if it was foreign trade, I don’t care…”

From there it turns strange, he said.

“The country change beyond exaggeration.”

Many things, change. He said.

“At first, I tried to improve Emza port. It took a lot of money to do it, but thanks to Emza, many merchants began to come. Merchants who have problems with distance began to open stores. And when they build stores, our taxes income increased. And with lower taxes, the merchants could do more trades. Along with that, Emza develop even more. The more stores being built, the more development could be done. Your eyes would pop if you read the improvement of revenue we got you know?”

It was a creation of demand by the state, not just solely relying on natural demands. In modern Japan, it would be the end of the fiscal year where they went all out to maintain the highway. The workers of construction companies who got the project would spend money in pub and stores near their workplace, and that money would circle around until it made back to the government via taxes. Thereby the economy becomes active. When business went bust all around and God could not help with his invincible hand… Such method indeed provides some effective means to save a nation.

“In the end, what you did was the same as I did no? The lord themselves, use their assets to turn the economy around. I have to say this, but Sorbania only noticed this method only after decades since the founding of the nation. I could accept that it was also being done in another country, but I could not believe that it was the work of a single young girl.”

“Why?

“There’s no courage. Flame is a stubborn country, with history and traditions, and they cherish them for the sake of nothing. That girl, despite living in the province for several years, she could not do anything. When the Queen’s elder sister sold her assets and erase some taxes, I thought she had gone mad…”

“How harsh…”

“Oh, I don’t have any intention of disrespecting her. After all, no matter what, Orkena’s culture is centered around the Flame Kingdom. I could understand if the Flame Kingdom wanted to protect the culture since they were the direct descendant of the Flame Empire.”

“For not helping, do you think you have the right to say that?”

“I’m a merchant you know? Furthermore, I am the head of state, do a head of state pay tribute to someone?”

If he had to do it, he would do it in the bare minimum, he added.

“Well, that was why, Kota, I grew suspicious toward you. What do you think, what did you feel, what kind of future do you see? That’s why I called you here…”

There was no way he called me for such a simple reason, was what I thought.

“Well, I was invited by a head of a state, there’s no way I would refuse I guess?”

“Is that a ‘mask’ reply?”

“… As I said at the beginning. I also came here to know the recipe you used to develop your country.”

“You sure know how to talk back since the start… So? What kind of things do you come up with after seeing my country?”

“Please, it is not easy to come up with something just by looking you know?”

“Well, I figure~…”

It might be because he didn’t expect anything, he answered while relaxing his body deeply to his chair. He then stood up and went to his work desk in a hurry as if he remembered something…

“I totally forgot! There’s something I wanted to show you…”

After finding what he was looking for, he took the piece of paper and hand it to Kota. A faint smile appeared on Kota’s face when he saw the piece of paper that was no bigger than his palm.

“… Is this one white gold coins certificate?”

On the piece of paper, it was written, “Rondo De Terra One white gold coin certificate.” Also, there was the seal of “Duke Erika Orlenfeld Von Flame” also “日本語” seal being pressed there. <TLN: The Japanese words read ‘Nihongo.’>

“That’s right. Right now, Terra is performing trades with this kind of certificate now right?”

“Thank you…”

“There’s nothing to be thankful for. Even the merchants in my place have begun to feel jealous you know? It has become a hot topic that in Terra, one could perform a business transaction with just a single piece of paper.

“A piece of paper is it? That is not the case—”

“Ah, I understand. This paper could be used as collateral right? You can exchange it for one piece of white gold coin, right?”

“That’s right.”

“No you see, what I found interesting was, you should know it too right? One piece of a gold coin might be not much, but what about one hundred? One thousand coins? Think about the weight. To think it could be mitigated it like this…”

“Thank you…”

“… You might not think too much of it, but this is interesting you know?”

“Is that so? The deed itself was not a rare idea, anybody could come across of it sooner or later. Also…”

“Ah, that’s not it…”

Saying that he took the certificate from Kota’s hand.

“I thought it was interesting because the person who comes up with it didn’t notice it…”

After saying that, he grinned.

“… Eh?”

“This is you know…”

He said that while shredded the certificate to pieces.

“A counterfeit…”

– – – – –

– – –

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