Oh, my poor bread… just left on its own without me even getting a bite…
We promptly returned to our picnic spot where, thankfully, none of the food we left there had been touched by any wild animals.
Once we all sat down, Fiora, as I had expected, started her scolding.
“You really are a piece of work, aren’t you?” She began with crossed legs and arms. “Just running like that like a complete buffoon.”
“Look, they would’ve died if I didn’t arrive earlier.” I retorted. “I might be your bodyguard, but I’m not just going to ignore someone in trouble if I can help it.”
“What are you, some sort of a knight in shining armor? Going around saving damsels in distresses? Don’t think I didn’t notice you checking her out.”
“Ha, said the damsel herself.” I munched a huge chunk of my bread before swallowing it immediately like it was nothing. “You need me to be your guard so you pretty much fit the definition.”
“Hoo~” She smirked. “Is that a challenge? Are you throwing the gauntlet for a duel? A commoner like you couldn’t do that though. I could simply dismiss your challenge with the reason of your low social stature, and no one would care.”
Dueling. That concept exists in this world as well. You can find it numerous times in the fictions of this world, but it actually is still being practiced. It’s similar to how it works in my old world (or at least, I think it is), in how you can use it to settle differences between two nobles. Usually it’s done when someone insults your honor or if two noblemen are competing for the same lady in marriage.
And, just like she said, high society wouldn’t frown on someone who rejects a duel if the challenger is of a lower social stature than him. If the standing is equal however, it’s another matter entirely. You would get mocked for being a coward. Might even end up besmirching the name of your family in the process.
“I’m not a commoner, alright?” I replied, now visibly riled up. It always ends up like this whenever I speak to her for longer than a second, I swear. “You see, my grandfather is a nobleman of Ferus.”
“Then what are your family doing all the way in Marchen? Your father probably ran away or got disowned or something. Which meant he would lose his title. So yes, you are a commoner, boy.” She ended her sentence by taking a sip of her tea.
Of course she figured it out right away. Though that’s to be expected. As she’s a noble, and one embroiled in politics from such a young age, she would know everything there is to know about the world of nobles and aristocrats.
I’m tempted to say that Mother is a noble of Marchen that Father married so he moved to the kingdom, but she probably would just figure I’m lying anyways.
“Anyway, as long as you’re not some prince from some country, you can’t challenge me. I know I won’t be able to win if you go all out.” Then why do you still have that damn smirk on your face?! “Then again, I’m neither a gentleman nor a knight. For a lady, let alone a princess, to partake in dueling, that would be quite the unconventional thing.
“Everything about you is unconventional.” I retorted. “What kind of princess carries around a sword like that? And to be so good at it too?”
“Why, thank you for the compliment, Sir Pendleton.” She smiled.
After we finished our lunch, Helen immediately packed our things so we could resume our journey right away. We took in the pleasant sights and air around us once more before we would be forced to sit for hours inside the carriage once again. Well, Fiora and I would just resume our training on top of the carriage though.
“Hugo?” Nicole walked up to me from behind.
“Hm? Oh, Nicole. What’s the matter?” I noticed the worried look on her face so this must be something important.
“Did you really ogle that slave girl?”
“Buh-what?” If I was drinking anything, I would’ve spitted it out for sure.
“Please be honest.” She pleaded, grabbing my hands and gathering them together. “I won’t be angry. I just want to know the truth.”
I sighed. “Yes, I did. I can’t help it. I know it’s bad, but whenever I saw an attractive girl, I couldn’t stop doing it.”
There’s no point lying about it, is there? I really didn’t want her or Fiora to know that I’m a pervert but that cat’s out of the bag now. Might as well admit it.
I put on a sorry expression though, since I already knew where this conversation would go.
She replied with a sigh, releasing my hands and looking away from me. “I’m worried about you, Hugo.” She continued. “You, and Sherry.” I knew it. “You know she would be sad, if she saw you acting like that.”
“Look, Nicole.” I put my right hand on her shoulder, staring at her right at the eyes. “I admit it. I am a pervert. Even at this age, I already like ogling attractive girls. It probably will only get worse as I grow older. But know this. The only girl I truly like is her.” I took off my hand. “You already know how much she meant to me.”
“This is just one perverted boy’s opinion, but I think there’s a difference between lust and love. You can feel lust towards any good-looking girl you meet, but you only feel love towards that special person. Love is beyond physical attraction. It’s about sharing your very soul with another—your joy, your insecurities, your sorrows, even your dreams. You bare your very being with her. And I, being the shy person that I am, would never be able to do that with somebody else.”
She paused, seemingly trying to process what I just said.
I was gravely mistaken.
I had feared that Hugo was the kind of lecherous man, or boy, considering his age, that would be unfaithful with their partner—that one day, he would betray Sherry’s love and break her poor heart.
But now, I know that he wouldn’t grow up to be that kind of a person. The look and speech he just gave me—there was no lie in it. He was speaking the truth.
And the way he admitted his vice… it was truly admirable. He knew it was his flaw and he didn’t try to excuse himself out of it.
I have misjudged him. Behind that emotional weakness he possessed, there is a certain maturity and bravery that he possesses. He is extraordinary, not just because of his magic prowess but also because of his adult-like gentlemanly mind. And today, I learned something from him, even though I was the older one.
You truly are in good hands, Sherry.
“I apologize.” I gave a bow. “I have thought ill of you, Hugo.”
“Eh, it’s alright.” He smiled. “I am really a pervert. Milicis doesn’t take kindly to my kind, does she?”
“I suppose not.” I giggled. “But you are an exception, I feel. You have your sinful urges but you remain a loyal gentleman despite them. I think that’s a praiseworthy act.”
“Hehe.” He grinned. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“But still, can’t you do anything about it? Your ogling, I mean. Even if it’s just that, I feel Sherry will still feel jealous that you’re eyeing other girls instead of her.”
“Hmm, it would be hard, I think,” he replied. “It’s not like I’m doing it consciously. My eyes just wander on their own.”
“I see…” I let out a sigh, before returning a smile. “Well, please try anyway. I don’t want to see Sherry sad.”
Soon after, Fiora called on to us, as we were ready to depart. And as I watched Hugo from behind, a certain, truly shameful feeling blossomed inside my heart.
I was jealous. I too wished I could have someone as mature and gentlemanly as Hugo as a lover. With the exception of his perversion, he truly resembled the princes in the books I read.
Oh please, forgive me o Great Saint. I should only feel happiness for my friend yet my impure heart feels envy as well. I truly am still unworthy to be your priestess.
Whew, that went well.
I was afraid she would go all preachy on me, saying that my action is sinful and that I should repent right away. But she is surprisingly reasonable. I guess I really should stop seeing heavily religious folks in a negative manner like that. Or maybe she’s just the exception.
Whatever it is, I’m glad she didn’t decide to hate me after knowing of my perverted nature. I wouldn’t want her to start telling me to leave Sherry because I’m unworthy of her, even if I might be.
And besides, it wouldn’t suit her saintly look. I still remember how I was awed by that the first time I met her.
Still, to stop ogling other girls, huh? That really would be hard… if I see any large, bouncing boobs, my eyes immediately locked on to them. I really can’t help it. And really, are there any healthy males out there that can resist doing it? It’s literally programmed to our very nature, thanks to millions of years of evolution. Or so I heard.
Though this is a fantasy world so evolution probably isn’t a thing. Maybe the God Nicole worshipped, what’s his name again, Heavenly Dragon? He might be the one responsible for creating humanity in the first place. So really, she should be blaming him for my perversion.
…Ah, that really doesn’t apply to me though, since I’m a reincarnator. So my soul came from my old world, not created by the Dragon.
Hmm, wonder why I got reincarnated here in the first place, and not on Earth? I didn’t meet any gods or goddesses. I just woke up as a baby without any explanation.
Oh well, who cares, really? What’s important is that I am now here and this is my life now. I might have messed it up, but I can still make a comeback.
As expected, we resumed our training right away. This time, she told me to perform the horizontal slash movement instead. And just like before, she demanded me to do it for hours, with her barking up instructions if she detected any wrong movements on my part.
When I managed to get it right constantly however, she remained silent, looking at the distant mountains instead.
Until she broke the silence however.
“Boy, that slave girl you ogled… you want her, don’t you?”
“Buh-what?! Where did that come from?!”
“With the money I’ll give you at the end of this trip, you can buy as many High Slaves as you want. Even the most expensive ones. They would be beautiful, they would be capable, and most importantly, they would all love you, their master.”
My mind immediately went wild. I imagined myself on a large bed, surrounded by four beautiful and voluptuous girls. Two girls hugged me from both sides, placing my arms between their soft naked breasts. The other two, on the other hand, attended to my little one, with one gently sucking on it and the other massaging it with her hands. My brain promptly gave their looks. Two were a pair of ordinary elf and dark elf. One was a beastkin, just like the slave girl. And the last one was a human, a blonde princess to be exact. I don’t know why there’s a princess there since they were supposed to be all slaves, but that’s just what said brain told me.
“Impressive. You really have an active imagination, don’t you, boy? Or perhaps it’s only regarding perverted matters? Whatever it is, I do hope you would stop making that unsightly expression whenever you do it.”
“Look, you’re the one who brought it up in the first place.” I protested, trying to hide my embarrassment.
“Ha.” She crossed her arms with a grin. “I really would recommend buying High Slaves instead of ordinary slaves if you want to use them for that purpose. They’re conditioned to love their master from birth, and they are highly trained in combat, housework, and yes, even lovemaking.”
“Wait, conditioned?” My eyebrows furrowed.
“Yes. You don’t know?” Her grin grew. “Most of them are of the beastkin race, either kidnapped as babies or born to one of their slave farms. Like domesticated animals, they were raised to love their eventual owners. Such was the trait of some species of beastkin. They could be tamed in such a manner.”
This information naturally took me by surprise. What in the— kidnapped? Slave farms? What is she talking about?
“Ah, that look. I like that horrified, disgusted look. You may be an unrepentant pervert but you’re still a moral person.” She stood up with a smile, her twintails and skirt billowing in the wind. “But you’re also naive. How do you think a slave can love her Master that much? If you think it’s because of true love, then you’re even dumber than I thought.”
Of course. Kidnapping people to sell them—that still exists back in my old world. But slave farms? I find it hard to believe.
“Slave farms? You mean places where they raise slaves?”
“Not just that. They’re born there as well. They would have pairs of older slaves producing infants to be raised as new slaves. The law allows it, since children of slaves are considered slaves as well.”
I fell silent. This truly was the first time I’ve heard of such a thing existing.
This world is a more messed up place than I thought…
“So, still want to buy them? They will pamper you for sure. In fact, it would be their greatest happiness. Isn’t it a win-win scenario? You get to satisfy those urges while they get to be happy.”
The tone of her voice—it was clear that she too was disgusted by the practice.
As for me, well, that revelation just killed any boners I might have for the idea.
Maybe it’s because of my stubborn pride, like how I refused to pay for prostitution if I really wanted to have sex that badly with a girl in my old life. Or maybe it’s because of my modern Japanese mindset, that found such a thing to be quite horrifying, to say the least. I certainly could just ignore them both, and partake in the practice since I’m a citizen of this world now.
…No, even so, I still can’t. Then I will be a cheating scum for real, because there’s no way Sherry would approve.
Ah, for me to even consider it… it makes me wonder yet again if I even deserve her in the first place…
“How do you know so much about it anyways? Aren’t princesses usually sheltered from that sort of thing?”
“Ha, you can’t survive as a naive little girl if you’re the imperial princess,” she retorted. “Of course I know all about it. It’s a major part of my older sister’s business enterprise after all. Selling those high-class loyal slaves to nobles and rich merchants, she makes good money doing it.”
“And I guess you disapprove?”
“Hmph, you’re surprisingly sharp for once.”
“It’s kinda obvious, the way your expression looks and your tone. And I have to say,” I gave a smile. “You’re a nicer person than you let on, aren’t you?”
“And what makes you think that?”
“Nobles, let alone an imperial princess, don’t usually care about slaves. But you do. Which means you’re nicer than them.” My smile turned to a grin. “Really, you should stop acting so tough for once. You’ll be cuter if you smile more, you know~”
Her response? A kick to the shin, so fast that I couldn’t react.
“Stop wasting time and continue your training,” she ordered, before sitting back down.
Ah, she really is a tsundere…
We managed to cross the pass in its entirety right when the sun was going down, arriving at the town of Aurand at the other side. We immediately went to the inn and rested for the night there, conveniently taking our dinner in the tavern there as well. I slept in my own room while the other three shared another. Hmm, I wonder if the bed wouldn’t be too small.
The next morning, after breakfast, Fiora gathered us in her room for a meeting, to decide on what route we would take next.
“So, our next destination is the city of Sigil, where a Grand Priest currently resides.” She pointed at the dot on the map. “We can go straight southeast from here to get there quickly. However, that means we would have to cross through the heart of Zamba Swamps, which would mean fending off a lot of monsters, and strong ones at that. Another alternative is to follow the normal road where we would head east first before south, though naturally that meant we would have to take a longer road.” Her index finger nimbly traveled through the parchment.
“Wait, can our carriage even travel through swamp lands in the first place?” I protested. “The wheels could sink and that would only delay our journey even more.”
“Really?” Fiora returned with a groan. “You do know you’re a mage, don’t you?”
“…Oh… right…” I completely forgot that I could just use an Earth spell to handle that problem with ease.
“And seeing how you managed to take care of that wyvern so handily, I say we shouldn’t have any problem taking the shortcut,” she continued. “Helen, there’s no S-rank monsters there, is there?”
“None to my knowledge,” she replied. “Only A-rank at best and even those are a rarity.”
“How much days would taking that shortcut save?” I asked.
“My estimation puts it around two or three days,” the maid answered.
“Hmm,” I paused. “Is it really worth it to take that route if we only saved that much?”
“We have to consider as well the fact that taking the route might throw off any pursuers that would be coming after us,” the maid continued.
“So you’re saying that they would expect us to take the normal route instead.”
“Perhaps.” She pursed her lips. “There really is no guarantee, unfortunately. Your Royal Highness is already well-known in the palace for being the sort of girl who might just decide to take the riskier route if it will make her arrive faster.”
“Then, maybe we shouldn’t take that route after all.”
“No, we’re taking that route,” Fiora interrupted. Oh boy, here we go. “It would be a good opportunity for you to train.”
“But I just started training today!” I objected in disbelief. “I can’t be fighting against monsters right away!”
“Oh, don’t be a coward. I can tell that you already have a good foundation under you. Your stance and your form—they’re still crude but they’re functional. Your father taught you well after all.” She smirked.
“And besides, if anything happens, you can just blast them with your magic, no?”
In the end, Your Imperial Majesty’s selfishness won over. She was the person in charge after all, so she had the final say. We were going to go through the swamp to reach Sigil, and hopefully, not terribly dying in the process.