Chapter 3: Ryouko, Oran, and Castle Town Exploration Part One
Octavian, under the moniker of Oranju, or Oran as given by the prince, watched the prince guide him around the castle town in disbelief.
“Ryoko-chan~ Haven’t seen you in such a long time! Come over!”
“I’ll come later!”
“Ryoko, this nice meat just came in. Take a sample!”
“Oo, thank you Oji-san.”
“Ryoko-kun, the usual black-haired Nii-san is not with you today? I’d asked him to come over to my store, but he responded so coldly… Oh my, the new older brother behind you is a hunk! Introduce him to this Nee-san, won’t you?”
“Onee-san, cheating is not good, right? Won’t your boyfriend get angry again?”
The prince Herscherik, who was now being called Ryoko, advanced through the hustle and bustle of the street with a skewer of deep-fried meat in one hand. Speaking in terms of Japanese food, it was like fried chicken.
(A simple seasoning… Aah, I wanna drink some beer.)
While his appearance was that of a 5-year-old child, on the inside he was a 34-year-old single woman.
In her previous life, when she was done with overtime and didn’t feel like preparing dinner, she would go to the supermarket and buy side dishes such as Yakitori at a 20% discount, and finish her meal with a beer in hand. There were probably other reasons, but it went without a doubt that the comfort of her single life caused her to pass her marriageable age.
“Prince, is it always like this?”
“Oran, I told you to call me Ryoko.”
Herscherik was stuffing the meat into his cheeks as he looked back, craned his head to scowl at Oran. Subsequently, he also glanced at the cooled meat in Oran’s hand. Oran had received the fried meat together with Herscherik at the store, but he still hadn’t touched his.
“Oran, are you not going to eat? It’s quite delicious.”
Oran was encouraged by Herscherik, and he stuffed the deep fried meat in his mouth. The meat was not elaborately seasoned, but the simple taste was certainly delicious. Herscherik, who was satisfied by seeing Oran quickly gulping the food down, continue to advance through the hustle and bustle of the castle town.
“I started to come here secretly around a year ago. Kuro used to come together with me, but recently, he became swamped with work from his other job. As such, I was a bit hesitant to go by myself…”
He was truly thankful that Oran could accompany him.
(One year ago would mean that the prince was 4?)
From what Oran gathered, the butler had only come recently, so before that, the prince would go by himself. Moreover, the townspeople did not know of the prince’s true identity yet was in close contact with him.
Incidentally, even when Kuro couldn’t accompany him, Herscherik would secretly go to the castle town, and every time Kuro would discover this, bring him back, and reprimand him. Even so, Herscherik, who did not seem to learn from experience, was very pleased with the fact that Oran could go out with him even when Kuro was not there.
That overprotective butler was currently doing an investigation at the request of Herscherik.
“Oran, are you well-acquainted with this area?”
“I’ve come here before, but not that much…”
During his student days, Oran would usually come around here to play with his friends. However, most of his friends were nobles, so the residents of the castle town would only look at them from far away. Even if someone was to come close, it would generally be shop employees who were trying to attract customers.
It was nothing like how it was with Herscherik: the town folks’ familiar behaviour and invitations.
“I see, then I will guide you today.”
And like that, Herscherik grabbed Oran’s hand and enthusiastically started walking.
To outsiders, it looked like a younger brother was dragging his unwilling older brother along.
The prince’s guidance was very accurate.
His words went from wives’ bargain buys, to buying things worth their price, to even details of idle gossips around, saying things like: ‘The food there is delicious… The fish here is very fresh and wonderful, and the price is good too… The weapons over there are expensive but the quality is the best… This back alley has a lot of bad people so it’s better to not approach it… The florist over there has a cute onee-san but she already has a boyfriend…’ and so on.
“And this way is… well, it’s not really necessary to me but Oran and Kuro might find it indispensable.”
And in a whisper, Herscherik informed, “It’s a shortcut to the red-light district.”
(First of all, I need to find the guy who taught this kind of a thing to a five-year-old boy and hit him.)
Oran swore in his heart to protect Herscherik from those improper things.
Now, towards the end of the tour of the town, was a fruit shop managed by a married couple. During this season, citrus fruits were lined up in front of the cramped storefront.
“Louise-san, danna-san, I came to visit!”
When Herscherik called out to the shop counter, the big man who appeared from behind the shadow of the boxes of fruits caused Oran to reflexively put his hand on his sword.
The person who appeared was taller than him, his body was more than twice Oran’s size. He looked like someone who would take anyone on by himself, and end them. It is impossible not to be on guard when you saw him.
“Oran, it’s written all over your face.”
Having said that, Herscherik kicked Oran’s shin.
The unexpected attack caused Oran to crouch down, but screaming would be disgraceful, so he tried to restrain himself.
“Oh, Ryoko-chan, long time no see. Welcome! Today you’re not with the usual dark onii-san. Who is this person?”
From behind the shadow of the big, bear-like man appeared a glamorous, healthy-looking, suntanned woman.
“Louise-san, long time no see.”
Ignoring Oran, who was crouching next to him, Herscherik smiled sweetly at the lady.
“My father told me that he was worried about me going out alone by myself, so I had Oran accompany me.”
“Ara, it must be hard being a good son.”
‘Well, my father is a worry-wart.”
Oran recovered from the pain and looked admiringly at the exchange. Everything that Herscherik said was true. It’s just that some parts were omitted.
“Can you help me today?”
“Of course! You can also use Oran if you like.”
And like that, Herscherik and Oran began to help at the fruit shop.
As he helped the bear-like husband to carry and distribute the goods, Oran was doubly impressed.
Herscherik was so skilled in serving customers that it made Oran want to ask where he had learned to do so. Customers who were already familiar with Herscherik all stopped in front of the store, to see the prince after such a long time, and bought fruit. The way he handled them was superb and the calculations for the change were made quickly and without any mistake.
After two hours of Herscherik standing at the storefront, almost half of the fruits were sold.
“Whenever Ryoko-chan comes, things always sell quickly. You’re a big help.”
Herscherik grinned shyly towards Louise who addressed him in high spirits, as he fanned his face with his hand. Although it was only early summer, the sun’s rays were shining down on them with no mercy. It was quite a tedious labour for Herscherik, who was used to staying indoors in air-conditioned rooms.
“Here, eat this and take a break. Your onii-san is also taking a break.”
Louise said while giving him a juicy grapefruit-like fruit. It had already been peeled, exposing its juicy and appetizing flesh.
Herscherik gleefully received it and went towards the rear of the store. There, a slightly tired Oran was sitting, hanging his head. It seemed that the husband had used him mercilessly.
“Oran, you okay?”
Herscherik sat down next to him and asked while eating the fruit. But no matter how you look at it, Oran did not seem to be alright.
“…Do you always do something like this, Prince?”
“Like I said, don’t call me Prince but Ryoko… well, no one seems to be listening, so it should be okay. As you would expect, I don’t carry the goods since I can’t even lift them.”
Herscherik looked around his surroundings as he put another piece of fruit into his mouth. Sweetness and sourness spread in his mouth and its juice moistened his throat.
(I’ve always thought about it, but the fruits here are truly superb. It is a pity that we cannot have a stock of this in the castle.)
Because the castle contracted a company to supply them with food, there was no opportunity for the common shopkeeper. As it was a contract with a country, the company sold its goods at a relatively high price. If you want to eat the same thing as those in the castle did, it will probably cost twice as much.
“Not that. I mean, do you always come to the castle town?”
“Ah, that’s what you mean. Not always. I also have to study. I only come here when I have some free time.”
“Can I ask why?”
Herscherik tilted his head.
(At first, there were various reasons…)
To complete his investigation in the castle town since the castle lacked all the information and to confirm some facts. But there were also other reasons…
“Probably because they wouldn’t teach me anything in the castle.”
(That may be the number one reason.)
It was Oran who tilted his head in response this time. Herscherik was already studying and working hard under the best teacher in the castle. And it was because that teacher had a sudden matter to attend to today that the two of them could go out.
“In the castle, you know, they won’t tell me how much this fruit costs.”
As Herscherik said that, he took out a piece of fruit from a box next to him. This ripe fruit was filled with the time, love and hardship of the couple.
“This one fruit, how much time and money did it take to produce, and what’s the selling price? How much tax had to be paid and is there any profit from it?”
If he asked those questions, those tutors in the castle will surely not answer him. The matters of the castle town were trivial things to them.
“I want to know. The reality of the people living in this country and the things that are not written in any book. The books teach us about the great figures of the past, but they hardly teach us anything about the present.”
Herscherik revealed a bitter smile.
It was the same with his past life as Ryoko. For a while, she only prioritised the knowledge from books and naively believed the information written on the Internet. She thought that it was correct without considering anything else. But reality is more complicated than what can be written, and sometimes you have to decide for yourself what is right or wrong.
Oran glanced at Herscherik’s side profile. No matter how he looked at it, the faraway gaze of the prince didn’t seem like it belonged to a five-year-old child.
Just as Oran started to speak, an unnatural female scream could be heard from a distance. Following it was an angry roar from nearby. There were also voices raised, commanding someone to call the patrol.
Oran looked towards the source of the raised voices. A tight tension rarely felt in the castle town, hung around them. Oran reflexively placed his hand on the hilt of his sword.
When Oran looked to his side, Herscherik, who was here just moments ago, was gone.
“Ryoko-chan! Don’t go there!”
Hearing Louise’s scream, Oran jumped up and rushed out of the storefront.
A blond boy was pushing his way through the crowd and rushing to the centre of the uproar.
(Why did the prince go first!?)
He clicked his tongue and chased after Herscherik, who had shattered every one of his assumptions of what a five-year-old prince would act like.