Herscherik opened up the stately door to a place familiar to him.
“This is the library.”
He told the person following behind him, who neither responded nor nodded. He entered the library after Herscherik and looked around with a displeased look on his face. Such behavior was normally punished for disrespecting the prince, but Herscherik could only bitterly smile since he knew that he was the cause of this displeasure.
This person looked androgynous—appearing as a beautiful woman but was actually a man.
Let’s go back three minutes to the reason behind the displeasure.
Herscherik and the man left Eutel’s room with Herscherik leading the way.
(I don’t know what the archbishop is thinking, but I’m taking this chance.)
Herscherik couldn’t manage to get into contact with the Church no matter how hard he tried, so them initiating contact was a stroke of luck. They probably had something planned, but falling for their trap was far better than having zero contact from them.
(They can’t do anything bad inside the castle, right… Hm?)
Herscherik noticed the unusual number of looks he was getting from those around him. People were always looking at him because of his position as prince, but that didn’t mean he was accustomed to them. They felt uncomfortable, but he sensed that there were more eyes on him today.
He followed the direction of everyone’s gazes and understood.
Ever heard of the phrase: femme fatale? It can refer to a woman who is so beautiful that she could even change the course of a country. Even if this man’s gender didn’t coincide, such a word existed for people like him. That was how transcendental his beauty was. Even the royal beauties of the inner palace stopped and turned around to look at him as he passed. His beauty was eye-catching, regardless of the onlooker’s gender.
(He truly is beautiful.)
Herscherik continued to lead the way as he snuck glances at the man. Herscherik’s father and brothers possessed a different kind of beauty; they were certainly beautiful, but they were all definitively male no matter how you looked at them. If he was forced to say, the second prince William and the fifth prince Eutel had a slightly androgenous appearance, but it wasn’t enough to mistake their gender.
But once you heard this man’s voice, there wouldn’t be any doubt that he was a man. But then again, if someone called his high-pitched voice feminine, then you wouldn’t be remiss for making such a conclusion.
The man noticed Herscherik’s gaze and asked. After a few seconds of confusion, Herscherik decided to ask the thing he wanted to ask the most.
“You’re…not a woman, right?”
Herscherik didn’t know the man could furrow his brow so deeply, causing Herscherik to promptly apologize.
(It’s true that it’s scary when a beautiful person gets angry!)
Wiping off the cold sweat, Herscherik rushed to their destination when he suddenly noticed something.
(Oh, right. I don’t know his name.)
Herscherik was careless. He cursed himself for also forgetting to ask about the archbishop. He turned around again.
The androgynous man looked even more displeased, causing Herscherik to momentarily tremble. But he really was reminded of that cat.
(Yeah, he really resembles it.)
The neighborhood stray cat Shiro was exactly like its first impression. When in a good mood, it would meow once, but when it was in a bad mood, it would glance and flick its long tail, telling people to go away. It was probably being fed by someone since it wasn’t skinny, and it probably also wasn’t a stray since its white fur was always beautiful. However, Ryouko spotted it whenever she returned home late after overtime, so it was most likely a stray.
As Herscherik was reminded of Shiro the cat, he attempted to start a conversation with the man looking down at him.
“Um, may I know your name?”
“No need. I am neither connected to this country’s royal family nor am I your retainer.”
Herscherik silently sighed, wondering if this immediate rejection meant that this man didn’t want anything to do with him.
(His attitude really is just like Shiro. Well, Shiro the stray cat had a hot-cold personality, only allowing me to touch it if it was in a good mood. But, while that behavior was cute for a cat, there’s nothing adorable about it coming from a guy…)
He cast his eyes toward the androgynous man again.
Normally, if someone uttered such to a member of the royal family, they would be locked up for disrespect. However, Herscherik preferred such frankness over those who approached him with clear intentions to ingratiate, and it was foolish to jail someone for something like having an attitude. Nevertheless, it was inconvenient to not have any way to address the man.
“…I understand. Then, I’ll just go ahead and call you Shiro.”
Those beautifully-defined eyebrows of the man were raised even higher, but Herscherik simply smiled in response.
“I mean, isn’t it inconvenient to talk without having some way of address to you? I had to make up one since you wouldn’t tell me.”
As Herscherik recalled how he also made up a nickname for Kuro when they first met, he observed with great detail the man’s astonished face.
(I feel like this person isn’t skillful enough to be involved with underhanded schemes.)
This was Herscherik’s intuition.
Whenever someone had an ulterior motive, they would attempt to hide their displeasure. The more elaborate the motive, the more they would fake their expressions to conceal it. This was how it was like with Minister Barbasse and Archbishop Hoenir. Herscherik himself knew as he also played the part of a young, innocent prince.
Herscherik made a small self-deprecating smile, hidden from Shiro.
In a sense, both he and those men were cut from the same cloth. But, he felt that Shiro was different from them.
(Well, he has a hot-cold personality.)
“Then, Mr. Shiro. Let me show you around the library. Since this is the royal castle’s library, there are bound to be rare books here. You can look at them if they interest you. Oh, and—”
Herscherik lowered his head to him. The young man, Shiro, suddenly switched from displeased to dumbfounded, but Herscherik didn’t notice since his head was down.
“I’m sorry for mistaking you for a woman.”
Herscherik said before quickly turning around and leading the way again. Shiro looked like he wanted to say something, but Herscherik didn’t notice.
(I have yet to rule out the possibility that he’s an enemy.)
Herscherik reflected as he walked ahead. Believing in his intuition, he didn’t feel any danger to himself. At the very least, he didn’t sense any animosity or intent to kill coming from the man. It was true that as long as he lacked information, it would be dangerous to assume and plan for the future based on incomplete data. If his assumptions were wrong, things might become irrevocable.
(Leaving matters of this man aside, the Church had made their move… Something will surely happen.)
He had no choice but to act based on this fact alone.
In any case, Herscherik showed the man he named Shiro around the library. Herscherik didn’t miss the moment the man’s displeasure instantly changed the moment he entered the room.
(I was also surprised when I first came here.)
The library was located in a corner of the building that housed both the Magic Bureau and the Research Bureau in the royal castle. It was an atrium on the third floor and all the walls were completely covered by books.
(This is heaven for lovers of physical books.)
Herscherik similarly had his heart jump for joy the first time he came here since the exclusive library for the royal family in the inner palace was insufficient. The calming scent of old books made this immediately one of his favorite rooms.
The male librarian saw that Prince Herscherik had entered the room, so he went to greet him, but Herscherik shook his head to stop him. He was a fellow bookworm who always introduced Herscherik to very interesting books, but Herscherik didn’t think he would have enough time to talk with him today.
“Mr. Shiro, is there anything you want to see?”
The man was about to protest at being called such a shameful name, but he resigned himself. He shook his head and decided to say something else.
“…Have any books about magic?”
“Um, I think they’re over here.”
Herscherik said and walked up the stairs. The books related to magic should be located on the second floor.
After Herscherik guided him to the spot, Shiro picked up a book, deeply interested. Then, he opened it and began to run his eyes across the pages.
Herscherik was hesitant to talk to him upon seeing him like this. He also immersed himself in reading, but he wouldn’t be upset over someone interrupting his reading.
(Is Mr. Shiro a magician?)
Herscherik wondered as he observed in great detail Shiro concentrating on the book.
Just as he thought when they first met, this man was dainty and frail. His hand popping out from his robe sleeve was as thin as an ice goby. Herscherik could sympathize. Despite his daily training, his body remained small and thin for a boy, unable to gain much muscle mass. This was his present concern.
(I probably won’t get to the level of Oran or Kuro, but I want an average amount.)
It was difficult to see underneath their clothes, but those two were quite muscular from all their training. Oran had a rather narrow frame for a knight, but he was just thin with well-defined muscles. Kuro wasn’t as tough as Oran, but his muscles were supple and flexible.
The prince wondered how he fared compared to them. He checked out Shiro, who was buried in his book, and rolled up his own sleeve. A thin, dainty, white arm popped out. This all-too-familiar sight made him let out a sigh.
(Hmph, I really am too thin.)
He had no peers around him so he had no reference, but if he used his past memories instead, he was indeed on the smaller side. He had held onto the faint hope that growth speeds were different in different worlds, but when he looked at his older brothers, he couldn’t help but discard that thinking.
He let out another sigh.
“Your Highness Herscherik?”
Having someone call his name caused Herscherik to quickly raise his head. The royal family was the face of the kingdom. It would be scandalous if he was caught sighing in public.
But, he noticed that the one looking at him didn’t mind such things, so he was relieved.
“Hello, Mr. Siegel.”
Standing there was a tall, slender, young man dressed in a white robe. With cerulean hair and glasses over his ultramarine eyes, the man looked more like a student than a scholar, but he was actually staff at the Research Bureau.
“How are you? Are you here to pick up some documents?”
“Yes, I need them for my research.”
He said while his eyes were already locked on the bookshelves. He was what Ryouko would refer to as a fanatic in her world. Moreover, he was a magic fanatic. Marcus had introduced him to and became acquainted with Herscherik during the drug incident.
He was Marcus’s personal magician. According to Siegel himself, he took the position “because I can make a living while indulging in my research and there are no annoying superiors.” He apparently possessed first-rate skills as a magician, but he had been so focused on magic tools, especially those from ancient times, that he devoted all his time and effort in restoring the ancient wisdom that had been lost to time. As such, he had never witnessed Siegel’s actual power.
“By the way, who is this person? They look like a magician from what I can see.”
Siegel asked and looked over at Shiro deeply focused on reading the scholarly material on magic. Siegel pushed up the bridge of his glasses, fixing them. Marcus knew that this was Siegel’s habit whenever he entered his “scholar-mode”, but Herscherik wasn’t aware.
Before Herscherik could introduce anyone, Siegel made the first move.
“Well, it doesn’t really matter who they are. You there!”
Shiro looked upset since his reading was being interrupted. If this was a manga, the author would have drawn three angry marks on his head. By the way, Herscherik saw five angry marks when he asked if Shiro was a woman.
Siegel didn’t seem concerned at this reaction and took large strides to close the distance between them.
“Can you let me see that bracelet-type magic tool?!”
Siegel openly pointed at the bracelet. Herscherik thought that it was a fashionable accessory when he saw it, but it was apparently a magic tool.
Magic tools came in many different forms. The one Herscherik was familiar with was the magic tool that functioned like a modern-day scanner copier. It was an amazing invention that could duplicate documents by pouring in your mana. But, the mana tools these two men were discussing were nothing like that.
“Did you make this mana tool yourself? It’s quite idiosyncratic… This schema is for reducing casting time, right? But, wouldn’t this also excessively drain your mana?”
Siegel was currently so close enough to Shiro that they were practically touching. His eyes were so fixated on the bracelet that you would have thought his stare could drill holes into it. There was a stone that resembled a ruby on the golden bracelet. When Herscherik also looked closer, he noticed that there were magic chants carved on both the golden bracelet and stone. In technical terms, this was the magic schema. Magic schemata were patterns created from magic, but since Herscherik couldn’t utilize any of them as he had no mana, he didn’t really understand them.
“…Oh, no, it’s really designed only for prompt casting in emergency situations. If I’m prioritizing mana efficiency, I’ll use this one—a mana replenishment-type.”
After Siegel pointed it out, Shiro removed a different bracelet and showed him. In contrast to the first bracelet, this one was silver with a blue stone.
“Mhm, I see. You supplement it with mana beforehand so you can cast magic with only half the mana cost, huh. Then, if you change this schema, it’ll no longer shorten the casting time?”
“I considered such, but then a problem came up…”
“Hmph, achieving balance is difficult.”
Seeing the two explode into a passionate discussion on magic, Herscherik timidly interrupted them. He sensed that if he didn’t stop them, they would continue talking until the evening.
(What’s this sense of abandonment?!)
Herscherik had once studied some magic. However, since he had no mana, his studies ended at the basics. He never learned about the technical side of magic. Or rather, he couldn’t have learned it anyway. Even if he read about it in books, he couldn’t put what he learned into practice and fully comprehend it.
“My apologies, Prince Herscherik. I lost myself when I saw such a rare and remarkably designed magic tool.”
He apologized with words, but he didn’t look at all ashamed of his actions. Herscherik let slip a bitter chuckle to Siegel. For better or worse, this man was a scholar. He spared no time or effort in his devotion to his interests, but it was doubtful for him to have eyes on anything outside that realm.
“That’s right! If you’d like, how about you two go to the testing grounds? I heard that the Bureau plans to experiment with a prototype mana tool there. If you have any comments, I’ll be glad to hear them. Also, I’m sorry but I have to return to the laboratory. Thanks to you, I thought of a new schema. Until then!”
Herscherik and Shiro watched the man quickly run off. However, he left the room without grabbing any material despite his initial goal in coming here. Herscherik was about to point this out when he noticed that Siegel had already left the library.
“…So, you’re a magician, huh, Mr. Shiro. I’m a bit envious.”
Herscherik realized that he voiced his true thoughts and quickly covered his mouth. But once the words left his mouth, they couldn’t be taken back. He looked up at Shiro’s quizzical face and answered with a bitter smile.
“Yes, I completely lack the ability to use magic, you see.”
This was a constant reality since he was born into this world. He had no ability or means to protect his weak body. Yet, despite that, he was ambitious. And he had people who would follow him.
(That’s why I can press forward.)
“Oh, but if you’re interested, do you want to go to the testing grounds?”
Herscherik forced a bright voice to dissipate the gloomy mood.
The triplets had also invited him today to attend the special experiment viewing, but Herscherik’s mind was focused solely on the Church.
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