Chapter 5: Kuro, Secret Path, and Castle Town II
The noise from the curious onlookers stopped the moment the handsome, and strangely out-of-place, boy appeared all of a sudden.
He was like a fairy right out of a folktale, immediately catching the spectators’ eyes. With shimmering, blonde hair and calm eyes that were a fresh green like the feathers of a kingfisher, the handsome youth resembled the fae that announced the beginning of a green spring.
The pants he was wearing underneath his poncho could barely identify him as boy, but no one would find it odd to describe him as feminine. In fact, there could be people in this crowd who misunderstood and assumed he was a girl.
That just shows how much of a pretty boy he was, to receive such impressions.
The woman raised a doubtful voice at the youth who called out to her with such familiarity. But before she could even open her mouth to ask, Herscherik spoke in rapid succession.
“Father said that if the fruits aren’t from here, he doesn’t want it! …..Huh? Miss, what’s wrong?”
With a questioning look on his face, Herscherik looked around his surroundings and changed his expression to a sad one as he spotted the scattered fruits. Though he had on such a sweet expression before, now his face had turned dark, like a flower in full bloom that was withering away right before the onlookers’ eyes.
“All these delicious fruits, strewn on the ground….Miss, what’s happened? Was there a problem? Shall I consult Father about this? Father has acquaintances in the Military Bureau, so I’m sure he can give you some advice!”
The Military Bureau was the department that controlled the country’s military and naval affairs. It was an organization that resembled the Ministry of Defense and JSDF of the Japan in his previous life. Here, it was the cornerstone of the country’s military strength and was deeply connected to the Order of Knights and other such organisations.
He had noticed the patrol men’s shoulders jumped in surprise, but Herscherik innocently raised his head with a curious look on his face.
“Misters, are you members of the Patrol Bureau? Father really likes fruit from this stall, so I’m sure that he’ll be sad.”
Having said so, Herscherik dropped his shoulders in sadness.
At this point, one could tell at a glance that this aristocratic young master was feeling down due to the damaged caused to his father’s favorite store. On top of that, it seemed that the boy’s father had some connections to the Military Bureau.
(Well, I’m not lying.)
Herscherik continued his act while sticking out his tongue in his head. His father was the king, so all of his ‘acquaintances’ in the Military Bureau were actually his retainers, and his father did love fruits, not to mention Herscherik hadn’t said a single word about him being nearby or anything.
“Nah, you see, I was just, you know…..”
With that, the government officials from the Patrol Bureau started mumbling incomprehensibly about something, but the crowd dispersed and left.
Originally, the Military Bureau and the Patrol Bureau were on bad terms with each other. It seemed that the decorated Military Bureau affiliated with the Order of Knights and the Patrol Bureau tasked with preserving the public order of the country’s insides were both claiming, “We’re the ones more fit to protect the country.”
From Herscherik’s point of view, each of their jobs was different, but to the concerned parties, that comment was a negligible opinion.
“Was that alright?”
Watching the men disappear from his sight, Herscherik asked the stunned woman as he began to pick up the scattered produce. The question jolted the woman back to her senses and she panicked at the sight of the child picking up the red fruits off of the floor.
“For the young master to be doing such a thing…..especially when this is my fault… I’ve troubled your father as well .”
“That was a bluff, so don’t worry about it. More importantly, your goods are somewhat damaged, but can you sell them?”
In his past life, Herscherik was brought up with the mentality that he mustn’t waste food, so he knit his brow together when he looked at the damaged fruit.
“It’s such a waste….”
Someone burst out into laughter at Herscherik’s muttering. Those were obviously words that wouldn’t come out of a young master from an aristocratic family. With that, laughter spread through the crowd of people like a wave. They weren’t sneers but warm laughter.
Everyone here understood that this was an act by Herscherik to save a woman he didn’t know.
“Nice going, sonny!”
“Eh? He’s not a girl? Either way, you did good for someone so small!”
A man roughly patted Herscherik’s head, and a lady clapped her hands in amusement. Herscherik received praised from them one after another, making him blush faintly in embarrassment.
Once the crowd left and he had finished gathering all the scattered fruit on the road, a considerable amount of time had passed. In the end, most of it had to be considered damaged goods and had lost their value as merchandise.
“It really is a waste….”
Herscherik whispered as he peered into the box holding the fruit that was no longer fit to be sold.
(I wonder how much time and effort went into all of these. Even just growing them ain’t easy, you know!)
Thinking that, Herscherik became angry. And his anger only grew more when his occupational disease from his past life instantly calculated the cost of this loss in his head.
“Oh no, no. Thank you very much.”
The store’s proprietor, Louise, smiled brightly as if to say, “But such things aren’t worth being picked up.” Then, she presented one of the red fruits to Herscherik.
“It’s my thanks. It’s a little damaged and while it can’t be presented in the store, it’s still plenty delicious, and this fruit is my pride….Recently, those guys have been throwing false charges at the people all around this marketplace, extorting money; they’re the worst, you know. That’s why today feels soooo refreshing!”
“So that’s how it is….Are the Patrol Bureau and the commercial guild fighting or something?”
Herscherik tilted his head to the side as he accepted the fruit.
“Yeah, apparently the higher ups in the Guild of Commerce tried to skimp on their public order maintenance costs to the Patrol Bureau, and failed. And because of that, there’s harassment. Recently, it’s been really bad, so we’re quite troubled.”
Louise’s words stunned Herscherik, especially when he realised he had heard something inexcusable..
(No no no, wait wait. What’s “public order maintenance cost”? Protection money!?)
Herscherik was once again at his wit’s end. Naturally, maintaining public order was the Patrol Bureau’s responsibility, and the country was certainly in charge of covering their expenses.
(Yet, what the heck is “maintenance cost”!? It may be a somewhat implicit title, but a guild that pays is still a guild, you know….)
Perhaps there was the possibility of these public payment to the Patrol Bureau were a facade and the lower positioned government officials were secretly lining their pockets. But if these underlings were left to do such a thing, then it was superiors that were unqualified; Herscherik groaned at the thoughts whirling through his head.
Regardless, this meant that there was collusion between the Patrol Bureau and the Guild of Commerce.
The Guild of Commerce was a sort of trade association that organized the market, merchants, and artisans. The guild’s main job was stuff like assuring the development of the industry, ensuring the circulation of money and goods in the market, and the management of its members. However, since the guild’s establishment, another one of their obligations was to pay taxes to the country. Incidentally, when it comes to region, the lord in charge of the territory was the one to collect the taxes from the citizens under his land.
(Maybe they’ve been paying it until now but have become reluctant because their business have started to deteriorate recently?)
‘Protection money’….It was basically a “bribe” that one paid for business to run smoothly; it was a detestable thing, but it was something that couldn’t be completely eradicated. However, to ignore their original job because they didn’t receive bribe money; the Patrol Bureau was truly something.
“The taxes were also raised, making it even harder….”
Louise let out a deep, troubled sigh.
“Guess I’ll just report this matter to the guild for now. Well, I’ve already decided to close shop for today. I’m going to go talk with the guild, so wait here for a bit, okay? Because I still have to properly thank you!”
Herscherik saw her off. He then sat down on a wooden box and bit into the red fruit Louise gave him. The fruit, which resembled an apple and was a size smaller, was delicious—very sweet yet with a level of sourness that was just right.
But Herscherik didn’t have the luxury to just sit there enjoying fruit..
(Isn’t this country in a really bad pinch?)
Biting into the fruit, Herscherik covered his forehead.
Although it wasn’t at the level where you’ll be hit by injustice on every step you walk, it was still too prevalent. At this rate, this terrible situation will escalate, and if such was the case, the situation would have to be treated on the level of a great catastrophe.Even a place under the King’s nose, like the capital, would be a terribly troubled. Just thinking about what would become of the area was already terrifying.
In the case that the citizens were pushed beyond their limits and a rebellion occurs, the hatred would most likely shift towards the king and the royal family.
In any novel, manga, or game, the king who torments his citizens would be dragged off the throne and towards death in the end.
(That’s why the aristocrats controlling this country don’t plan on becoming king.)
His father sat on the throne and would be made to take responsibility for any rebellion that might occur in the future.
But considering that this was about his wise father, Soleil had probably already realized it. Nevertheless, he remained on the throne in order to both protect his family and fulfill his responsibility, until his death.
(I definitely won’t let that happen.)
Herscherik won’t let them kill his gentle father right before his eyes.
Herscherik’s thoughts were interrupted; he stood up and popped his head out in the storefront with a cheery reply.
“Oh, you Mrs. Louise’s child? I didn’t hear that she had a child though…..”
“Mrs. Louise went to the Guild of Commerce.”
“Oh, is that so? That’s a problem.”
The middle-aged old man rubbed his bald head.
“I suddenly needed some fruit, so I came here in a hurry, but….”
“Well, you can leave the money with me. Which ones do you want?”
Herscherik offered to help the old man who looked troubled.
“Oh, you’ve saved me, little miss!”
“….I’m, a boy, you know?”
As Herscherik stood in the storefront and assisted the old man, customers started gathering in interest, and the fruits sold well.
Herscherik had forgotten how his looks rated when compared to the beauty of his father and brothers, but in truth, he himself was a handsome boy. And he was raised well and very sociable.
To men, regardless of age, he would tilt his head to the side and ask with upturned eyes, “Mister, this one is also delicious. I kinda want you to eat this.”
To women, he would provide innocent and sweet compliments, saying, “I would be happy if a beautiful lady, like you Miss, were to buy these fruits,” working hard to vend the produce.
The gestures he used to grab ahold of the men’s hearts were referenced from the capture targets in the gal games 1 from his past life. He also used the ikemen characters’ lines from otome games to make the women’s hearts flutter. His knowledge from his past life was unexpectedly useful in this situation. “Moe” may be a common theme across the whole world, or rather, across time-and-space.
Besides, the primary reason was probably that this small child was working hard to sell. There were many people who came and unintentionally bought extra stuff.
Nevertheless, there were customers who thought that since they were dealing with a child, they could short change him and he wouldn’t stop them. To such a bunch, Herscherik would teasingly say, “Mister? Isn’t a thief someone who walks away with goods without negotiating first? Which is better: the Regional Legal Affairs Bureau, Military Bureau, or Patrol Bureau?” and then make them buy at ridiculously high prices. For those people who make orders like, “I’ll take 2 of those and 3 of these. Ah, forget that 1st part and I’ll take 4 of those. And for this one, forget it….” in order to mess around and cause confusion, Herscherik would flick the beads of an abacus in his head. He would hand over the goods and demand payment without mistaking a single copper coin.
In the end, even all the fruits that had fallen over were sold out, albeit for a cheaper price. By the time Louise returned, half of the goods in the storefront had already disappeared.
Herscherik held out the bag filled with money and a piece of paper.
“Customers came, so I tended the store in the meanwhile. I more or less sold everything at the market price, so I think it should be fine, but…..”
Louise opened her eyes wide as she looked at the document Herscherik so confidently handed her. The type of fruit sold, its unit price, quantity, and total cost were all neatly listed on it; at the bottom, the total sum was properly recorded. According to Louise’s memory, this was the highest sales for this month.
“Since chefs can cook the damaged fruits and all, so I sold just it to them at a cheap price. I did ask for their address though.”
When Louise looked at the spot Herscherik was talking about and there certainly were a number of addresses written in the margin of the document.
Louise was left speechless by his brilliance, but Herscherik took her reaction as a criticism.
“……Sorry for doing something unnecessary.”
“Oh heavens no! I was just taken back by how amazing you are despite being so young!”
This was something unbelievable for a boy, who had yet to reach 5 years old, to accomplish all by himself.
“On top of helping me, you also tended to the store….I have to thank you somehow.”
Louise said, thinking deeply about it. But an idea of what appropriate gift to give to an aristocrat’s son as a sign of thanks didn’t really appear.
Herscherik’s eyes twinkled at Louise’s words.
“Is it alright with you if I come over to play and help out again?”
These unexpected words surprised Louise.
“That’s fine; rather, I would be thankful for it, but…”
Herscherik jumped around in joy, and Louise resigned. After all, the person himself said he wanted to do it. That was probably a praiseworthy part of the young master.
But Louise thought to herself that she didn’t get the same feeling from this child as she did from aristocrats who looked down on the commoners.
“Ah, I should be heading back home now.”
Herscherik took out his pocket watch. Although he had left the castle a little bit past noon, it had already turned 4 o’clock. There was the possibility that if he didn’t return soon, they would find out that he had disappeared.
“I’ll come again, Ms. Louise!”
“Yeah, I’ll be waiting! …..And boy!”
Louise held back Herscherik who started to run off.
“My name… Her…”
Herscherik panicked and swallowed back his words just as he was about to carelessly reveal his true name. It could end badly if he revealed that he had the same name as a prince.
That’s why he decided to use a name that he was familiar with.
Then Herscherik hurried on his way back. Seeing him off, Louise repeated the name.
“‘Ryouko’, quite an unusual name.”
After that, Herscherik occasionally appeared in the castle town and stopped by Louise’s store. He would help out and contribute to the sales while gathering information.
In the beginning, the castle town residents watched with curious eyes at the young aristocrat helping out in the storefront, but before they realized it, it became an ordinary scene; within a day, the mood turned underwhelming.
On another note, Kuro was enjoying his long-awaited break and noticed Herscherik actively working in the storefront and it caused him to burst into laughter, to the point where he even had trouble breathing.