The Saga of the Great Duchess Crusch Begins: Blue's Studies
—That suggestion from Fourier was abrupt as always.
The place was the Karsten fief in the Kingdom of Lugunica, in the guest room of Duke Karsten’s mansion.
“You want Ferris to acquire skills from…a healer in the royal capital?” said a girl with long green hair after putting down a cup of black tea and tilting her head.
She looked gallant and had amber-colored eyes. She still retained the young appearance of a teen yet had a well-defined face, so she would surely be beautiful in the future. Her name was Crusch Karsten.
“Yes! Meckart has been asking for my advice for a while. I too highly value Ferris’s healing skills, thus I brought forth this offer!”
The one who responded to Crusch was also a beautiful-looking young boy. He had blonde hair that shone like the sun and gemstone-like crimson eyes. A white yaeba tooth popped out of the corner of his mouth when he smiled casually, making his reckless personality visible from his appearance alone. Even though Fourier Lugunica was like this, he was the fourth prince of the Kingdom of Lugunica, so it was something of a surprise.
“Father consulted Your Highness? Ferris’s healing skills are something that I am proud of, but, keeping that in mind, what did Father consult Your Highness about?”
“Hm? It was about whether you want Ferris’s healing skills to improve further or not. I am contributing to your swordsmanship training, but Ferris has a lot of room for growth… That is what Meckart assumes, at least. So I thought that he should be taught by the court healer in the royal castle.”
“I see. As expected of my father and Your Highness. You have keen perception,” Crusch casually praised.
“Oh, it’s nothing! But I shall permit you to praise me more! Do praise!” Fourier exclaimed, laughing cheerfully while slapping his knee.
Crusch took a quick glance at the person remaining quiet next to her.
It was a girlish pretty boy who had neck-length chestnut-colored hair and round yellow eyes. His slender body was clad in female clothing, and as he had demi-human blood, he had distinctive animal ears and a tail. It was the person being talked about, Ferris.
Crusch looked at Ferris, who was looking down and sitting silently with his hands resting on his knees. “What do you think, Ferris? Do you intend on accepting His Highness’s proposal?”
“I am yours…Lady Crusch. As such, I don’t want to leave your side. But if you command me to go, then…” Ferris’s gaze wandered, and then he quietly looked at Crusch in an imploring manner.
Crusch went silent for a while at his weak attitude and then looked at Fourier. “You heard him, Your Highness. I personally think that I should leave it to the free will of the servant, but… Your Highness, can you command me?”
“Hm, what do you want me to command you to do?”
“Can you command me to order Ferris to go to the royal capital?”
She was playing with words. Ferris’s widened his eyes and Crusch smiled mischievously. And then…
“I do not quite get it, but alright. Crusch, I command you to order Ferris to head to the royal capital!”
“As you command, Your Highness. —Ferris.” Crusch bowed reverently, then directed her amber-colored eyes at Ferris. He reflexively shrugged his shoulders, and then she gave him the order. “Do as His Highness says and learn from the healer in the royal capital.”
—As far as Ferris could remember, this was the first time he had ever visited the royal capital.
“Wo-Woah…” Ferris stuttered, choking up with emotion, after getting off the dragon carriage that had picked him up and looking down at the city below the castle.
The sight was that overwhelming.
“It is magnificent, is it not? I also think that the view from here is superb.”
The person proudly crossing his arms next to him was Fourier, who he had ridden with on the way there. He was exceptionally carefree despite being royalty. It was unheard of for a royal to travel in the same carriage with someone else’s retainer while acting like good friends.
“Yes, it’s amazing. So this is the royal capital… The Kingdom of Lugunica’s, largest city.”
“And it is also a place that has been under my family’s protection for centuries. It makes me proud, and I feel weighed down by all of the responsibility. Ha-ha, even though I know that not much is expected from me!” Fourier exclaimed, saying something that was hard for anyone else to comment on.
“No, well, it isn’t…” Ferris replied, not sure how to respond.
As they stood blocking the entrance to the main gate of the royal castle, they heard a voice come from behind. “I am glad to see you have returned safely, Prince Fourier.”
Ferris turned around and looked up at the person who had said that and jumped in surprise. The man was tall, but his harsh, tense expression was a little too intense for a child’s heart.
Nonetheless, Fourier smiled cheerfully, showing off his teeth after confirming who it was. “Oh, Marcos! Well done welcoming us! Was it peaceful while I was absent?”
“I humbly inform you that we knights worked as one to maintain peace in the royal capital while Your Highness was away. Fortunately, there were no signs of unrest, and the people are living in peace.”
“Mhm, not bad! Oh yes, I will introduce Ferris to you too!”
Fourier grabbed Ferris’s hand and forced him in front of Marcos—the man who acted formally—with a little push. The suddenness of it surprised him, but Fourier tapped on his shoulder, and…
“This is Ferris. Ferris is my friend, and he is going to be an elite healer in the future. You can depend on him if something happens. Even if your head gets cut off, Ferris will make it grow back safe and sound!”
“Your Highness, don’t you think you’re overestimating me a little!?”
Ferris panicked at his overvaluation. But Marcos narrowed his eyes at what Fourier had said. “Are you from House Argyle by any chance?”
“───” A wave of anxiety washed over Ferris since his family name was suddenly brought up, making his breath catch in his throat. Fourier was tilting his head next to him, but it seemed like Marcos knew about his situation.
After looking at Ferris’s animal ears, Marcos touched his square jaw, as if in thought. “No, I did not mean to pry. I was rude to you, His Majesty’s friend. My apologies if I made you uncomfortable.”
Ferris shook his head and rejected Marcos’s apology. “No… You didn’t say anything bad.”
The knight said nothing in reply and looked at Fourier. “You said that she is going to be a healer, so is she the person you mentioned before, Your Highness?”
“Correct! The healers have made the necessary preparations, right? Since that is what Ferris was invited here for.”
“Everything has been taken care of. But the soldiers will start their training soon, so I humbly recommend leaving to go there now. And…” Marcos lowered his voice and whispered into Fourier’s ear. “Lord Bordeaux Zellgef will be coming today to conduct an on-site inspection.”
“—? Is that a problem? It is true that Bordeaux is a bit noisy, but…”
After that Fourier frowned, and Marcos didn’t look at Ferris so he wouldn’t know they were talking about him. “Her ears and tail. Lord Bordeaux doesn’t like demi-humans. So it would be better if he does not see him.”
“Well, well, that is absurd. If you choose your friends by blood alone, then you will be the one who gets discriminated against in the end. Tell Bordeaux that for me.”
“You can tell him that yourself, Your Highness. My status prevents me from making such comments,” Marcos replied, taking a step back.
Fourier looked displeased and then gestured at Ferris to come with him. Following his lead, Ferris bowed to Marcos and left.
After they were out of his sight, Marcos tilted his head. “I thought the eldest child of House Argyle was a boy, but it turned out to be a cute lady.”
“I was told you have learned the basic uses of mana. So, you can learn the rest through practical experience. There is no shortage of injured here, after all. He-he-heh.”
The one who said that with his distinctive laugh was a skinny, white-haired court healer. It was the healer that had come to the castle upon Fourier’s request, and he was one of the most excellent healers in the kingdom’s employ. He wasn’t the only one, however, as several more had made their way to the castle as well. Rather extravagant indeed just to train Ferris. Ferris understood that it was Fourier’s good will, but…
“You must be joking again, Your Highness,” said a healer.
“A demi-human girl? Here?” scoffed a second healer.
“I refuse to take part in this,” declared a third healer.
The number of healers complaining about being summoned unreasonably weren’t in the minority. They might have been talking in secrecy, but Ferris’s ears could easily pick up what they were saying about him behind his back. The thing that Marcos whispered into Fourier’s ear before was no exception.
“You do not look so well, Ferris. Don’t tell me you’re nervous?”
Fourier was being considerate towards Ferris who was facing down without knowing his subordinate’s disrespect and his smile made Ferris sad. It agonized Ferris’ heart further since he was fond of Fourier and felt indebted to him.
“The military training ground is next to the royal castle. It’s where they train the knights and city guards, but their training is intense, not to mention extreme, so they’re basically always bleeding and breaking bones, he-he-heh.”
The Skeleton Healer laughed at the place that pumped out injured people. It was unclear if he liked healing or just seeing blood and guts, but he seemed somewhat better than the other healers.
Ferris followed him around and learned by watching how he healed the injured knights and city guards. “So you don’t heal everything with healing magic,” he observed.
“The amount of mana an individual has is limited. It would be unacceptable to keep healing light wounds and then end up having no mana for the gravely injured. People become reckless when they think that wounds can be healed easily. If perfectly mastered, a healer can save someone on the verge of dying. It is a power that can twist fate depending on the situation.”
“Can save someone, on the verge of dying…”
Ferris reflexively clutched his chest since he was familiar with the situation the Skeleton Healer was talking about. It reminded him of the time he almost killed Crusch and saved her by unleashing some kind of extraordinary power.
“The power to save people is certainly amazing. But refrain from using your power excessively since when people get used to it, they start being reckless and end up losing their lives because of it. He-heh-heh.”
“I feel like, I have learned a lesson…”
You can perform first aid on a simple cut or bruise by bandaging it or cooling it with water. Anyone can do it if shown how, too. The Skeleton Healer might have been unorthodox in a lot of ways compared to other healers, but Ferris honestly felt like he could learn a lot from him.
While he was in his thoughts, a voice reverberated throughout the training ground.
“—The knights have lost their edge. Everyone lacks spirit. Spirit.”
The voice belonged to a giant bald man standing at the entrance, his arms crossed as he looked around. The man was entering old age, yet his straight posture and trained body were full of youthful energy. There was a light buzz, and the healers—excluding the Skeleton Healer—rushed towards him.
“Lo-Lord Zellgef!” a healer exclaimed. “What brings you to the training ground…”
“Don’t come near me. Such a nuisance. I stopped by since I was conducting an inspection. Fulfil your duty, your duty!” the old man shouted, spit flying, as he stepped into the grounds, driving away those who were trying to butter him up.
The atmosphere of the training ground suddenly grew tense, and the city guards who had been half-assing it until now kicked their training into overdrive.
On the other hand—Ferris hid himself in order to hide from the old man, Bordeaux. He was positive that he was the person who didn’t like demi-humans that Marcos mentioned.
Thinking that he would inconvenience Crusch and Fourier if he got found and worsened the old man’s mood, Ferris tried to make an early departure—but was soon stopped by Fourier, who had grabbed his shoulder. And then…
“Oh, Bordeaux! It has been a while. Have you been well?”
No one knew what he was thinking, but he charged straight at Bordeaux while pulling Ferris along. While Ferris was in a state of bewilderment, Bordeaux noticed them approaching and smiled. “If it isn’t His Highness Fourier. It is rare to see you at the training ground. Oh, maybe that isn’t the case. I have heard about it, Your Highness. That you have recently developed a passion for swordsmanship. If it’s fine with you, would you permit me to teach you a few moves?”
“No stop, you will hurt your back if you do things that aren’t good for your age. More importantly, I want to introduce you to my friend, Ferris.”
Fourier pushed forward Ferris towards Bordeaux just like with Marcos, and Bordeaux was friendlier than expected.
However, Bordeaux’s expression turned cold when he saw Ferris. “Those ears and that tail… You are a demi-human. —With all due respect, Your Highness, if I may give you any advice, then…”
“If you are going to tell me to choose my friends wisely, I will not hear it. I told you that I was going to introduce my friend to you. The friendship has already been established. Are you ordering a royal to throw away what he has acquired?”
Fourier, who was always smiling and often seemed somewhat oblivious to things, had a tense expression now and his voice was stern. The sight of that made Ferris speechless. Or perhaps you could say that everyone there was equally speechless.
“Introduce yourself, Ferris. In a way that you would not be ashamed to be my friend and Crusch’s retainer.”
“───” Feeling something moving up his spine, he stepped forward, obeying the command.
He reverently bowed to Bordeaux, who was looking down at him. “I am honored to have been given the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Felix Argyle. I serve as a retainer to the daughter of Duke Karsten, Lady Karsten.”
“And Ferris is also a friend of mine. He will be a healer in the future as well. Is that clear, Bordeaux?” said Fourier, wrapping his arm around Ferris and pulling him in. “I will not allow you to humiliate my friend from now on, no matter what the reason may be. If you rashly demean others, your actions will eventually come back to haunt you. Never forget that!”
“—Understood.” Bordeaux knelt on the spot and bowed—giving his utmost respect. The old man then rose and looked at Ferris. “His Highness has given you his stamp of approval. Be fully aware of how big a deal it is. As long as you live up to his expectations, I will overlook your lineage and evaluate you fairly. You have my word.”
Bordeaux lifted his face up and spoke in a voice that everyone in the training grounds could hear. “You knights have lost your edge! However, there is still hope yet for the kingdom we offer our loyalty to! The results of today’s inspection are good just from being able to confirm that. Train hard, warriors!”
Bordeaux took his giant body and left the training ground after laughing in satisfaction. A couple attendants followed after him, and Ferris finally felt himself relaxing.
“There was quite a commotion on day one. I am looking forward to this month-long apprenticeship. He-he-heh.” The Skeleton Healer laughed nastily thinking that it wasn’t his problem, and Ferris sighed.
He looked at Fourier next to him and then hesitated for a few seconds. “Tha-Thank you very much, Your Highness. But…are you sure it’s okay to say something like that?”
“Hm? I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but my status is higher than that of Bordeaux’s! I am a royal! Even if he is a member of the Sage Council, I am above him! There is no need for me to feel intimidated! Well, maybe I am, but only a little!”
“Hee-hee…but it made me happy. Why did you say those things?”
Fourier, now back to his usual self, sheepishly rubbed below his nose with his finger. “Who knows, but my words were genuine. We-Well, I admit that Crusch played a bit of a role too… But you know, Ferris. —It is the duty of men to protect women!” Fourier shouted, his arms crossed and wearing his usual cheerful smile.
—Unable to hold it in after hearing what he said at the end, Ferris let out a hearty chuckle.