As expected, the black-clothed army didn’t prostrate themselves on the ground.1 However, they stepped back behind Fubuki-san. Ah, thanks to this, it seems that this besiegement will soon be solved.
Anyway, it is not a time when I can escape from the reality. I unconsciously reaffirmed it to Taiga-san.
“…The king’s first child, in other words, he is the prince, isn’t he?”
“That’s right. Didn’t the fief population all call him as the prince?”
When I was asked back, I remembered and thought, ‘Now that you mention it’. When I was together with Leo-san, the auntie who’s also the fief population called him ‘Prince’. I thought that it was a figurative speech only, because Taiga-san is the young master and I was called ‘Princess’.
“…Eh, so it’s because he was truly a prince?”
“That is right.”
“I also go here and there, though it might not be as many times as Taiga-chan, but then, there are still people who recognize me. Although I’m still called as ‘Prince’ even by strangers.”
After Taiga-san nodded, Leo-san continued to explain while shrugging his shoulders. Aah, I seeee. So, his face is well-known here.
Putting that aside, for some reason, I don’t feel like he sends off an aura or a feeling that he’s a prince. Nah, perhaps I’m quite dull at this kind of thing, though. I’m still not accustomed to being a feudal lord’s daughter, too.
If that’s the case, then another reason comes to surface.
“…Say, why did the prince come here in the first place?”
“Hmm–, to conduct an investigation of the Shikino family.”
“Right. It’s an investigation regarding how Taiga-chan suddenly took over the house, and how there were a lot of servants and employees being replaced. Since the same thing happened 30 years ago, people couldn’t help but speculate that there might be something. And as expected, it also became a popular topic even at the capital.”
When I thought of the subject of Leo-san’s smooth answer just now, it was actually the story that wasn’t someone else’s problem—it was closely related to me.
30 years ago. In other words, it was the story during when Touka-san expelled the orphanage director and succeeded as the head of the Shikino family as [Shikino Touya].
Touka-san fired the servants and employees who supported the orphanage director and gathered the people around him who had supported him. Then, he protected the territory of the Shikino by using the name ‘Touya’. As far as it goes, he properly did his job as a feudal lord, so there wasn’t any problem in public.
Then, suddenly, he retired this summer. Taiga-san succeeded him and discharged the servants and employees who were on Touka-san’s side. This is something that’s closely related to the fact that I and the orphanage director were tossed to a different world. That matter didn’t go to public, though.
But well, it isn’t that weird for people to start wondering if something might be going on with that.
“Anyway, Father couldn’t directly come to investigate things, right? That’s why I received the full authority to come and investigate things. It would be suspicious for me to directly come to the Shikino territory, so I went to my relatives—the Shiiya family’s house first.”
No, no, no, no. Wait for a second, First Prince—for someone with that status to directly move, that’s already something else, but before that.
By ‘father’—which means it would be about the king, right? Why did he feel like wanting to come and directly investigate the matter?
Could it be that the royalty of this world is relatively active? Am I really related to that kind of a family? I wonder if even a drop of their blood also runs in my veins?
Anyway, Saryuu was listening to the conversation absentmindedly, and then he whispered without even thinking it through.
“Oh my, I didn’t tell any lie, okay? There’s the royal family’s blood in the Shiiya family lineage, so wouldn’t it be right for me to address the Shiiya family as my relatives?”
“Now that you mention it, you were introduced as a distant relative’s eldest son. Certainly, that is not wrong, but…”
Saryuu was greatly perplexed. Nah, even I also think that I’m also perplexed, though.
Certainly, the royal family and our family are distantly related, and the First Prince also means the eldest son, right? Smooth words make smooth ways, huh? Yup.
“Now then, about the result of the investigation.”
After scowling at Fubuki-san who moved only a slight bit and made her body stiffened, Leo-san turned his gaze towards Ayato-san. Or rather, to put it frankly, the black-clothed group couldn’t really move well as they were being overwhelmed by the prince aura.
“The previous head, Shikino Touya-dono retired due to an illness, and there wasn’t any problem with it. However, the servants and the employees that were hired by the previous family head and were paid with a high salary that didn’t seem to be worth it—they were all discharged at the same time as his retirement. This is the decision of the current family head, Taiga-dono.”
The words that Ayato-san spun were their investigation result. Leo-san would return to the capital with this document, huh? I won’t know anything that would happen from there onward, because it is out of my reach. It is also something that Taiga-san can’t do anything about, so I think, and I tightly grasped his hand. Ah, Taiga-san’s hand also squeezed my hand back.
“Thirty years ago, there was also a mass dismissal of the servants and employees done similarly when Touya-dono received the family headship from his predecessor, but at that time, there was no problem related to their salary. It was only related to the family headship quarrel that arised between the eldest heir and his younger brother of a different mother.”
“Where did Shikino Touya manage to raise the funds to pay his employees such a high salary? The special products of the Shikino territory consisted of farm products and wool. However, some of the luxury goods have been priced higher slowly from 30 years ago, and currently, if we take the price alteration into consideration, it has been increased not less than three-fold the price at that time.”
Ah-, in other words, they raised the price of the special products and the difference in the price entered their pockets, huh? Which means, there were also some merchants who conspired together, then. Is this something similar to a story titled, “The Legend of Bright-Yellow Pies”?2 Nah, I’m not sure how to phrase the term “bribery” in this world, though.
“The goods which price was increased were nothing other than the expensive kinds of goods produced only in the territory of the Shikino, so this didn’t really influence the general population.”
“In a sense, this is shadow money. Since the goods can only be produced here, it is not known about how much the production cost has increased or how much have they increased the price. In addition, they also increased the price steadily from 30 years ago.”
I see. Since raising the whole price of the goods would be dangerous to the fief population, they only increased the price of luxury goods that they could wring out from the other feudal lords or the likes of them, huh? No matter what, it was important to ensure the security of their standing. That’s why, he worked on it for his 30 years of serving as a feudal lord.
I guess Touka-san was someone who worked hard and made efforts in the wrong way. If only he’d work hard normally, then there shouldn’t be anything wrong.
“Then, he hired some shinobi with that money. During the period of 30 years, the former employees of the Shikino mansion passed away in successions. It was said to be caused by illness or accidents, but what do you think?”
Oi, oi, oi. Nah, I certainly have heard about this story, though. Or rather, I wonder how they’d be able to tie everything together?
Although it’s too late, I’m starting to shudder now. How can I shudder? I mean, I’m safe and sound despite what happened in the past. And my mother, too.
“Uhm… In other words, what does that mean?”
As expected, since the explanation was excessively long and as a result of various things mixing up, Saryuu seemed to be unable to comprehend it. Then, Leo-san who noticed it suddenly smiled. Even though he was only normally smiling, the black-clothed people became surprised once more. What? Could it be because his thirst for blood is directed to you guys?
“I see. It seemed to be slightly too difficult for Saryuu-chan. Ayato.”
“Yes. In short, it seemed that there were circumstances that the previous head of the Shikino family didn’t want to be known to public. The servants and employees who were aware of the circumstances—some stayed within the residence and received high salary, and some were expelled after receiving a large sum of money. On top of these two groups, there were also some whose mouths got sealed by the hired shinobi.”
Ayato-san chose his words and explained. Well, in short, except for his own people and the ones who could be detained with money—they were erased. It was seriously like a historical drama, huh?
“The previous family head acquired the funds used for those purposes by unreasonably raising the price of the luxury goods like wool. The heir who succeeded the house—Taiga-dono—was aware of that and discharged the servants and the employees who remained while receiving high salary.”
“The ones who remained after the dismissal were Saya and Fubuki. However, apparently, Fubuki remained with the intention of assassinating us while we are off guards.”
Taiga-san called the two names while sighing. Saya-san truly remained by Taiga-san’s side, but as for Fubuki-san…
“And, beginning with that Fubuki-chan, the discharged employees and shinobi developed an unjustified resentment and started this time’s riot. To put it simply, this is the consequence that appeared after Touya-dono blundered.”
Leo-san heaved a sigh as if he was exasperated, as he fluttered his hands. Nah, I guess he was really exasperated. After all, he was entrusted with a duty of settling the thing that occurred since 30 years ago.
The thing that glittered on the hand that he fluttered was the crown mark. Perhaps that’s the proof that the king had entrusted him with a full authority, right? Leo-san who flaunted it plainly then looked out over Fubuki-san and each one of the black-clothed people.
“Now then, Fubuki-chan and her friends. If you’d throw away your weapons and surrender here, I will let you receive a proper trial. However.”
At the same time as Leo-san’s words, Ayato-san and Maito-san suddenly dropped their balance. It felt like they were readying themselves so that they could move at any moment. In addition, Taiga-san and the maids also pulled one of their feet respectively as if they were pulled along by Ayato-san and Maito-san’s actions.
“If you’re resisting, I will punish you all at this place in the name of the royal family, Sumeragi. Why don’t you try and choose which one sounds better?”
His tone was as usual, but Leo-san’s voice was terribly cold and sharp.