Joshua Juukulius's Careful Encyclopedia
There was something Joshua Juukulius had found odd during the past year and few months.
Whenever he picked up any food, Mimi and her brothers would enter his room without fail.
“Does the light turn on or something whenever I touch food or what?” he wondered.
“—? What happened all aba sudden, Joshua? Didu hit your head?” Mimi tilted her head, standing in the middle of the room with countless crumbs from her snacks stuck around her mouth.
Joshua pinched between his eyebrows and ridiculed himself for asking such a dumb question as he watched Hetaro heroically wipe the crumbs off his sister’s mouth.
“Joshua, you okay?” Tivey asked. “Wouldn’t it be better for you to tell the Lady and ask to have a rest?”
“—. It’s fine, thank you for caring for me, Tivey. But I’m okay.”
“…Don’t overwork yourself,” Tivey reminded him, adjusting the position of his monocle. He was the youngest of the three.
Joshua got along with him most, perhaps because they both had older brothers. He even copied wearing a monocle, which he had started doing after becoming friends with him and developing a slight admiration for him.
Joshua sighed loudly as he touched the “copycat” monocle.
The reason for his fatigue was not just incessant work and the frequent moving of his base for missions. The mental aspect was probably a big part of it. Anyway―
“—So, a messenger for a royal selection candidate, huh? Lady Anastasia is indeed ill-natured,” Joshua mumbled with a pale face, rubbing his aching stomach.
The Kingdom of Lugunica, facing the peril of having no king, was in the midst of selecting the new ruler of the next generation. Five candidates were gathered to participate in a three-year-long selection where one of them was to be chosen as worthy to sit on the throne. House Juukulius showed its support for a foreign country’s major merchant, Anastasia Hoshin.
She was recommended by a major merchant who was not only foreign but who also uncommonly established himself in just one generation. At first, the opinions split evenly within House Juukulius. People who strongly supported Anastasia were criticized.
What managed to persuade those opposing opinions and gained House Juukulius’s support was Anastasia’s talent and personal virtue. Above all, it was the achievements of Julius Juukulius, the “Most Excellent” knight.
As Julius’s younger brother, Joshua had always been doing his best to live up to his expectations. It was hard to say that it all bore fruit, but one thing he never failed to do was putting in hard work.
He had pride in cooperating generously as one of the Anastasia Camp.
Despite that, he was not very blessed with big roles this past year, and he had to endure times of misery, but—his time had finally come. In that moment, he felt shameful for the cowardice that was giving him stomach pain.
Of course, my cowardice is my own problem, and it’s wrong to hate Anastasia for that, but—
“Shall I say I wanted to do things properly taking one step at a time? …No, that would just be an excuse. I can’t face my brother or Lady Anastasia like this…”
“Huuuuuh, Joshua’s going round and round again! Donchu get tired of thinking about that stuff all the time? Mimi thinks dat is weird!”
“Ugh, Mimi is supposed to have the same role as me, but what is this difference in our perception…”
Joshua slumped his shoulders as Mimi gave him harsh pats on the back.
―On this occasion, Anastasia chose Joshua for the big role of a messenger to a royal selection candidate.
Anastasia definitely had enough chances to do research on all of the candidates, holding a solid and broad information network. And the result was―using all that information, and deciding to invite them to the Water Gate City of Priestella, the current hub where everyone had been brought together.
Three groups were invited: Crusch Kartsen, a duchess who was considered to be the leading candidate; Felt, who came from the slums and possessed the Sword Saint; and Emilia, a half-elf with silver hair.
Messengers would be sent to each of these groups, and the one Joshua was responsible for was—
“—The half-elf Emilia out of all the people…” he lamented.
“Looks like you have something against half-elves?” asked Hetaro.
“No, um…It’s not like I hate them. It’s just…aren’t they scary? She belongs to the same race as that Witch of Envy. I’ve heard that they even share similar appearances?”
Joshua explained the prevalent sentiment in response to Hetaro’s innocent question.
The legend of the Witch of Envy was a fundamental fear for all humans living in this world. Just imagining a girl with an origin that embodied that made one’s blood run cold.
“If it were Duchess Kartsen, I’ve met her before, although it was long ago. Even if it were Lady Felt, I’ve interacted with her first knight, Sir Reinhard. Why, despite all of this…”
“Mmmmm, you’re such a scaredy-cat! But Mimi thinks da lady is not scary! More like…kind? Or dangerous?”
“Oh, that’s right,” commented Joshua, “Mimi and the others have met her before, true.”
Unlike the troubled Joshua, Mimi and her siblings had contact with the Emilia Camp.
The battle with the Witch Cult and subjugation of the White Whale that took place a year ago was a shocking incident that almost made Joshua foam at the mouth, and they had even cooperated with the camp.
“Then, could I ask what your impression of them is, Tivey and Hetaro?” Joshua inquired.
“Huh? Why did you skip over Mimi?” Mimi wondered.
Joshua gently patted Mimi’s tilted head.
Mimi happily climbed onto Joshua’s lap with a “Don’t wowwy!”
Joshua tickled Mimi’s throat, signaling Tivey and Hetaro before it was too late.
“We didn’t interact much with Lady Emilia based on our strategy,” said Tivey. “We just saw her during the conferral of honors… But we didn’t feel like she was scary.”
“The lady was cute…” Hetaro admitted. “Ah, I withdrew after the fight with the White Whale, so I don’t know much about Lady Emilia. But it’s a different story when it comes down to her knight…”
Joshua furrowed his brows at Hetaro, who had a point. “Ah yeah, there are many weird rumors about him…”
To tell the truth, one of the reasons why Joshua was so alert about the Emilia Camp, apart from that it was where the half-elf Emilia came from, was the existence of that suspicious knight.
Rumors whispered that he was an outsider who got mixed up in this grand royal selection, who neither came from a family of honorable knights, nor had any sort of extraordinary abilities.
However, if one tried to get information about the Emilia Camp, that black-haired knight of an unknown origin would most definitely come up in the conversation.
“I’ve heard he was involved in the subjugation of the White Whale and defeating the Sin Archbishop of the Witch Cult…” Joshua began. “It’s not like I am trying to doubt the fact that my brother contributed to the defeat of the Sin Archbishop…”
The fact that some unknown fellow might share the credit with my brother is infuriating.
Moreover, my brother was the one who actually managed to do it. Without question, the top honors should go to him.
“To begin with,” he continued, “he joined the subjugation of the White Whale and Sloth. While not confirmed, he might have subjugated the Great Rabbit, and even though his origin is unknown, he became a royal selection candidate’s knight. And a person who brings along a fearless little girl? I have no idea who I am supposed to imagine!”
Lady Emilia is equally inscrutable and frightening for choosing that kind of mysterious person to be her knight. Even apart from that, there are an endless amount of terrifying rumors about the Emilia Camp.
In the first place, the person who recommended Emilia to join the royal selection was Margrave Mathers, an infamous hypocrite.
He was also known as the “Demi-human Lover,” a well-known lecherous man who was rumored to force the demi-human maids in his mansion to wear indecent outfits.
He had a beast-human with a ferocious face and a bloodthirsty internal affairs officer as his two distinct subordinates. Those two were also quite tricky―the record on the former one could not be found even after full use of Anastasia’s information network. And the latter one was notorious for being wanted in his hometown.
On top of all that, there were even terrible ghost stories, like dozens of girls with the same face coming in and out of his main residence at the same time, or that there was smoke rising from the kitchen daily from steaming potatoes.
―Indeed, it seems like a dark and sinister and demonic place.
“The more I think about it, the less I understand why Lady Anastasia chose me to be a messenger for them… Maybe I unconsciously did something rude and she just wants to quietly get rid of me?”
“That’s a bit too pessimistic…” thought Hetaro.
“But! Can you think of any other logical explanation for this? Ah… Ah… What shall I do… I guess I should ask Lady Anastasia about her true intentions, right?!”
If there’s a chance that all this was some sort of mistake, perhaps clinging onto said possibility will be better.
“If it isn’t a mistake and right to the point,” said Tivey, “I feel like the Lady will think of a way to keep your mouth shut.”
“Even Tivey…” murmured Hetaro.
Joshua, frozen with a pale face, naturally blocked out the conversation happening in front of him.
He just felt like he was caught up in a grand conspiracy, standing up in a daze.
“Oh? What happen, Joshua? Pee? You wanna go pee?” asked Mimi after falling from Joshua’s lap, looking up at him while lying on the floor.
Joshua loosely shook his head in response to her question. “I-I can’t accept this kind of big role like this. I’m scared… I’m scared but! I need to go and straightforwardly ask Lady Anastasia her true intent…” Joshua headed towards the door, leaving those words behind. He then left the room, looking for Anastasia.
The three siblings left in the room glanced at each other.
“Tivey, you shouldn’t make fun of him too much,” admonished Hetaro. “Joshua is a serious guy.”
“I’m sorry,” Tivey replied. “But I kind of get the Lady’s thoughts.”
Tivey slightly lowered his eyebrows at Hetaro, who had given him a bit of a hard time, just like an elder brother would do. Mimi hugged them both as hard as she could from behind.
“Really,” she said, “He and m’lady be having a hard time. Julius too, huh.”
“So, Lady Anastasia, I would like to ask you what your true intentions are. Depending on your answer, I may have to suggest that I am not fit to complete this mission…”
“What the heck, Joshua, ya so serious,” Anastasia replied.
Keeping in mind the talk he had with Mimi and the others prior to this, Joshua simply went to Anastasia’s room and was greeted with her soft wry smile.
This was after he shared all of his thoughts, as he could not bear to keep them bottled up anymore. Of course, he adjusted his words so as to not feel ashamed in front of his elder brother, Julius Juukulius.
Nevertheless, there was no denying that what he was asking itself was pathetic, so his complexion was poor.
“Ya don’t have to worry, Emilia’s place ain’t that scary. Emilia or even Natsuki ain’t gonna bite.”
“But what about the margrave… Or the two subordinates? Or the smoke from the kitchen…”
Anastasia put her hand on her cheek and squinted her pale blue-green eyes in thought.
“Hmm, I was making Joshua help thinkin’ it’d be all good, but guess it just made things scarier. T’was my bad.”
The reflection she voiced was about the fact that Joshua was helping her organize the information collected from the network. That sort of putting complex content together was one of Joshua’s specialties, so he felt confident about having been a help.
However, it was also true that he was all swept up by what he had seen and heard—what a dilemma.
“Hm, I get your worries, Joshua. If you’re gettin’ that worried, shall we rethink ’bout ya bein’ a messenger?”
“Nah, all good, all good. —But lemme try one thing?”
Anastasia closed one eye and mischievously smiled at Joshua’s dark face. Startled and unable to understand her words, someone knocked on the door behind him.
The person whose face peeked out of the doorway was…
“Did you call me, Lady Anastasia? I got the notice from La…”
It was no one but Julius himself who entered the room after a respectful bow.
While Joshua was completely astonished by Julius’s appearance, Julius just squinted his eyes with a short “Ah, Joshua,” before continuing. “What were you talking about with Lady Anastasia? Is there something you want to ask me?”
“Ah, um-m-m, no, to you, um…”
“Ya, that’s the deal. He’ll be needin’ you, Julius, to keep goin’.”
Joshua fell into disorientation. He did not want his brother to know about his shameful cowardice. Anastasia waved her hand to call Julius over. “Remember how we said we were gonna send Joshua as a messenger ta Emilia’s place? He wants ta learn more about those folks so that he doesn’t come across as rude.”
“I see. That’s why you called me.” Julius approved while nodding, easily taking in Anastasia’s concise explanation. He then looked at Joshua with his clear yellow eyes. “You are right to be mindful like that. Lady Emilia is completely different from what you heard from rumors or her reputation before the start of the royal selection. If you keep that kind of false impression, it indeed might be rude towards her.”
“Brother… Th-Thank you. This is very helpful and motivating to me.”
Hearing the words of Julius who valued his thoughts with a smile, Joshua’s dark clouds of thoughts cleared up. He could feel his anxiety vanishing.
Anastasia was nodding repeatedly in satisfaction with her arms crossed.
―Indeed, her insights are genuine. I must work hard for her from now on, too.
“Ah, and if you go to Lady Emilia, you should be careful of her knight,” Julius continued. “He is…well, you do not know what to expect from him at first sight. However, he has a strong sense of loyalty towards Lady Emilia, and remarkable mental fortitude and determination.”
“He is also a spirit arts user. He was officially awarded and earned the title of knight. In other words, he is a spirit knight just like myself. Not because of that, but watch out alright… Joshua?”
While Julius was eloquently throwing out all of those precautions, his younger brother did not show any reaction. Julius raised his eyebrows.
Yet Joshua just responded with a short “It’s nothing,” shaking his head. “Brother, thank you for your detailed explanation. Thanks to you, I’ve realized he is an opponent I must be very careful of. —Lady Anastasia, I will perfectly fulfill my role as a messenger.”
“Ya,” she replied, “lookin’ forward to it, good luck.”
“Yes, leave it to me! I will definitely bring back good news!”
With glowing eyes, Joshua proudly ran out of the room, short of breath with a hand on his chest.
Julius watched him leave, and turned to his mistress, still raising his eyebrows in faint surprise. “…My little brother… Did he act rudely?”
“He-he, nah, all good… I think Joshua was suspectin’ I was up to somethin’ though.”
Julius let out a sigh as he observed how Anastasia smiled—thinking how his younger brother’s behavior itself was likely a sign that Anastasia’s plan had been fulfilled.