“Now that is a sight to behold. That is all I can say.” [Porco]
Porco gently closed the box and asked.
“What are your intentions for showing this to me? This item is too much for me. Surely, you’re not saying that you’re planning to use this as compensation.” [Porco]
“I could prepare another of the same kind if you want, but this particular necklace I intend to give to an acquaintance at a later date. He’s a newlywed man, you see, just last year, in fact, and I just couldn’t figure out what to gift him.” [Reinhart]
“You would gift something so luxurious? Hmm… Of the people you know who married last year… I see, it must be to His Majesty whom this gift is addressed then. In so doing, you will also gain the right to sell the pearls.
There are many nobles looking for pearls. I don’t know how you managed to procure these pearls, but you must have a remarkable source if you’re saying that you can procure another of such quality if I so wish. Moreover, if you can gain the endorsement of his Majesty, then not only will your assets, but also your influence over the other houses will increase.
And if I were to be one of those who are able to form a connection with the Jamil house, then I too will gain some influence, though at the same time, just as was the case with the dragon’s might, this too will antagonize quite a few people.” [Porco]
“I’ve already resolved myself. The Jamil family shall face the hostilities of the other houses. And I do not wish to merely have your support for the sake of having ‘cushion’, rather I am hoping that we will truly be able to become ‘friends’. And regarding the route of the pearl I showed you just now, you are actually not all that unrelated to it, Senpai.” [Reinhart]
“Please take a look.” [Reinhart]
Reinhart opened a box, and inside could be seen a seashell.
Its surface was polished, and the hidden mother-of-pearl was both dazzling and beautiful.
“This, this brilliance, and this shape… Could this possibly be?” [Porco]
“Ryouma-kun found it at your territory. Apparently, it’s a shellfish that’s often eaten over there.” [Reinhart]
“So this is really that ‘Sunagakure’?” [Porco]
“He said you had him clean your hot spring. Apparently, it was then that he used a chemical to polish the shell.” [Reinhart]
“Oh, that thing! I see. So this shell was hiding such brilliance within it.” [Porco]
“According to him, this shellfish and the pearl are made of the same thing, so I would like you to supply these shells to me as a food commodity.” [Reinhart]
“Since you’re going out of your way to ask for them, I take it these shells are the ‘source’ of your pearls?” [Porco]
“To be more precise, it’s something else. For example, the lump of filth from the hot springs that Ryouma-kun cleaned. If he were to perform some process, he should be able to use that as a substitute, but when it comes to a stable supply, these shells are the best.” [Reinhart]
“…Haven’t you thought of hiding it a little?” [Porco]
“I did say that I wanted us to be open to each other. There’s no point in doing something meaningless. So will you cooperate, Senpai?” [Reinhart]
When Reinhart said that so matter-of-factly, Porco was shocked. He rested his whole body’s weight onto his chair and looked up the ceiling.
“It would be my good fortune to be able to aid you, but in the first place, would you even allow me to reject?” [Porco]
“If you really wish to reject, I don’t mind. In the first place, Ryouma-kun was the one who asked me to pass this message to you.” [Reinhart]
“He got the shellfish from your territory, so he thought it would be best to inform you, but he figured you might become wary of him and cause problems if he didn’t say it properly. He doesn’t know about your situation that much, but he vaguely sensed that you had a ‘delicate problem’, so he asked me to pass you the message instead.
And just so you know, he wanted me to let you know purely out of the goodness of his heart. There’s no ill will in it. That’s why I’m also not trying to use this information to try and force you to do anything. it would be terribly painful if I were to do something like that and be hated by him.” [Reinhart]
“I see. I didn’t think he was a normal child, but I didn’t expect he would be able to see through me.” [Porco]
“Honestly, at the start, both me and my wife also thought he was a kid who knew nothing about the world and would easily be swindled, and were really anxious, but he’s surprisingly sharp.” [Reinhart]
The ill feeling in his chest was also undone.
Seeing Reinhart talk like that, Porco remarked.
“Reinhart. could it be? Is he your illegitimate child?” [Porco]
“! *Cough, cough!” [Reinhart]
It just so happened that it was while Reinhart was taking a sip of his black tea that Porco blurted out that remark, causing poor Reinhart to choke.
“I’m sorry, but why would you ask something like that?” [Reinhart]
“Because you were making that face that’s somewhat happy and yet sad. The kind of face a father would make seeing his child grow.” [Porco]
“Really? I was making a face like that?” [Reinhart]
“So you weren’t aware.” [Porco]
“To clarify, I don’t have any illegitimate children either.” [Reinhart]
“It’s true that you don’t look alike, but your personalties are a little…” [Porco]
“That’s enough for the jokes, let’s get back to the topic.” [Reinhart]
“But you said you wanted to go back to how we were before— Alright, alright, I got it already. Don’t glare at me like that. Where were we again?” [Porco]
“We were talking about how Ryouma-kun asked me to talk to you about the shellfishes, and how he’s surprisingly sharp.
If word of this shellfish were to become public, the territorial dispute occurring behind closed door for Ratoin Lake would intensify.” [Reinhart]
“It would no doubt. If the others see this as an opportunity, many of them will come in and try to get an advantage for themselves.” [Porco]
“Your father also worked on the roads of your fief. Other than the areas around the lakes, your territory was difficult for humans to settle in, but that’s different now. In other words, it’s become that much more appealing.” [Reinhart]
“To be honest, having the duke’s house as my backing would really be a huge help. So by all means, please do join the dinner party. I’ll also introduce you to the influential nobles I know and promise you my full support.” [Porco]
It was in this way that these two men promised to work together.
“By the way, what’s in the last box?” [Porco]
“Something different from the pearls but still related. It will be profitable to us both, so how about it? Will you cooperate with this one too?” [Reinhart]
“The last two shocked me plenty, and yet you’re saying you still have more? There’s no point in doing needless things, right? Just get to the point.” [Porco]
“I’ll be frank then. Are you interested in a new technology that could allow food to retain its freshness and taste for a longer period of time?” [Reinhart]
“Of course I would be. My fief’s local specialty is fish, and that’s a commodity that’s all about freshness.” [Porco]
“The technology is currently under research, and the prototype freezing magic tool apparatus is inside this box.” [Reinhart]
“But if you freeze it, the taste will get worse. Are you saying it can be done now without losing the taste?” [Porco]
“The difference is like night and day. If you ask me, it’s already good enough.” [Reinhart]
“Just how did you accomplish it?” [Porco]
“This magic tool can produce a temperature far lower than a normal magic tool. Apparently, the key point is to freeze the food commodity quickly. To that end, a powerful liquor known as ‘industrial alcohol’ is being used. And supposedly the raw materials for that liquor is the ‘white sake’ of Fatma Territory that even amateurs could make.” [Reinhart]
“We certainly do have something like that. It takes quite a bit of skill and effort to make something that could be drank properly, but of course, it’s a different story altogether if only a strong liquor is demanded. The ingredients also grow in those parts, so cultivating them if necessary won’t be difficult either. I suppose in that sense it’s really suitable for my territory.” [Porco]
After coming to an understanding, Porco asked another question.
“Reinhart. I feel like I’m having deja vu, but the face of a certain boy just keeps popping up.” [Porco]
“As you’ve surmised, this too is indeed Ryouma-kun’s research.” [Reinhart]
“Just who is that child? One thing after another…” [Porco]
“Since we will be cooperating, I suppose it would be best to tell you… He is the forgotten orphan of the famed Melia the Sage and Teagle the Martial God. However, it seems they aren’t related by blood and was merely adopted by them.” [Reinhart]
“…So the troubadours weren’t wrong to call him the ‘Barley Tea Sage’ then.” [Porco]
Porco smiled in understanding, but in the next moment, his expression became serious.
“We have the opportunity, so I might as well tell you, but I think that boy is a bit unsteady.” [Porco]
“…You think so too, Senpai?” [Reinhart]
Reinhart’s expression also became taut when Porco pointed that out.
“I’ve noticed it since awhile ago, but with the recent events, I’ve confirmed it. He’s too devoted.” [Reinhart]
“You’ve probably heard of it, but actually, I asked him to do a job too. His performance was far beyond what I’d expected, but he didn’t really seem to care about the compensation.” [Porco]
“That’s just one part of it.” [Reinhart]
“His problem is much more fundamental to humans. At least, that’s what I think.” [Reinhart]
“Did something happen?” [Porco]
“Yes. But I, no— Our family would like to continue supporting him, both as nobles and as individuals.” [Reinhart]
Seeing Reinhart’s eyes that were full of resolve caused him to once again break into a smile.
“That part of you hasn’t changed one bit.” [Porco]
“Yeah… Alright! We’ll talk lots today, we’ll eat delicious food, drink liquor, and hear each other’s grumbles and worries over our work and our family. That is my duty as both your friend and your senpai.” [Porco]
“Thank you, Senpai.” [Reinhart]
“We’ll be supporting each other from now on, so there’s no need to be reserved. Just like old times, right?” [Porco]
Porco rang the bell again and ordered Piguu to hurry the preparations for supper.
After that the two men spoke and rekindled their friendship.