Volume 1: The “Borderland Hero-Wannabe” Arc
Chapter 1: First Job, Part 2/2
The bell rang with a clear sound and Seirin’s former guide, a thirty-something year old man in official’s robes, entered the room.
I haven’t asked his name, but it should be Ryousou. A lower ranking official, but it looks like he’s His Excellency personal assistant.
So the rumor about Genzai-sama promoting capable people regardless of their rank and social status was true after all, Seirin mused.
Meanwhile he watched Ryousou’s profile as the man discussed something with Genzai. His face was nearly expressionless, but when they finished talking, Ryousou turned to look at Seirin with something dangerously close to pity.
As he followed Ryousou through a corridor from the main building to the South wing, Seirin pondered the Shan princess he would meet soon.
“Princess’s tutor, huh? A real princess!”
He couldn’t help feeling elated at this title. After all, he had only just become nineteen. As a child Seirin had been fairly popular with girls, but after failing the state exam repeatedly, everything changed. He hadn’t even talked to a girl properly for years now!
His heart beat faster.
He was going to meet a princess. And a thirteen year old one, at that!
In other words, somebody younger than him.
“Laoshi, what is this kanji?”
“Laoshi, this poem is so beautiful!”
She would say something like that, and he would respond:
“Let me see, that’s…”
“As expected from our princess, you’re very wise…”
Yeah, something like that.
What is he going to do, if princess turns out to be that adorable?!
And she has to be adorable, she wouldn’t have been chosen as the Emperor’s concubine otherwise.
That cute angel is going to be his pupil. What to do, oh, what to dooo???
Just when Seirin’s heart seemed ready to overflow with such fancies, Ryousou suddenly stopped. Looked like they’d finally reached their destination.
Ryousou turned to Seirin. “No man can come any farther. Seirin-dono, do you have the ribbon His Excellency gave you earlier? Only those who have it can pass through this door.”
“Even so, you must never come in unannounced. Please ring this to call the Head lady-in-waiting,” Ryousou instructed, pointing at a brass bell on the side of the door. “Everything in the South dorms is under her jurisdiction. You must always follow her orders.”
“I should ring it?”
Seirin took the bell.
But before he could properly ring it, the front door burst open and Seirin nearly collided with the woman who came through the doorway.
“Uwah!” He jumped back with an involuntary cry, but the woman remained totally unmoved by his actions.
“This is the princess’s tutor. He arrived from the capital today.”
After Ryousou’s introduction, she turned to the still shocked Seirin and offered him a full courtly bow.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Mirin, I am the Head lady-in-waiting.”
Though there was a light trace of an accent in her voce, she spoke imperially, like someone from the capital.
She wore a lady-in-waiting uniform in Engi fashion, but her appearance was closer to that of Shan nomads than imperial citizens.
“Pleased to meet you, too. I’m Sen’ya Seirin…” Seirin bowed his head a little before continuing.
“This is the first time I’ve seen a Shan speaking Imperial around here.” His words were frank.
To that, the lady—Mirin—replied:
“While this Mirin is of Shan, she has heard that the father of her father were an imperial soldier. He is dead now, but the mother of my father teached me the words.” Her face remained stony.
Seirin wasn’t sure how to reply.
“You had it rough”? “That’s amazing”? Nope, no good. Wouldn’t do at all.
“I-I see…” he finally squeezed out. He managed to continue: “I’m glad. I wasn’t worried about communication because I can speak the Shimur dialects, but Imperial is my native language so I’m glad there are Shan who speak it well.”
“Then this Mirin is glad, too,” she replied, once again without any change in her expression. “Your ribbon, please.”
“Ribbon? Ah, this one. Here it is.”
Seirin held out a jasper seal on a silk cord he’d received from Genzai. Mirin took it and pressed the seal to the entrance registry hanging beside the door. She verified the imprint and bowed.
“This seal is the original. Please, come after me.”
Her expression was blank so Seirin couldn’t be really sure, but it didn’t seem like she was angry at him.
With a relieved sigh he followed Lady Mirin. She stopped before a door in the inner part of the Southern dorms.
“This is where Princess resides,” the lady said, turning to Seirin. She continued in her curiously accented Imperial. “You’ve probably imagined a lot of things, because you heared this girl is a princess. Whatever hopes and delusions you have, better throw them all away now.”
“No, no, never,” Seirin protested. “I would never be so rude as to fantasize about Her Highness!”
He couldn’t exactly confess that he’d been doing just that until very recently.
“Oh, really? Well, you seem rather impatient to meet her. However, you should give it up. Please consider the person living in this room a wildcat rather than a princess.”
“What? A…wildcat?” Come to think of it, Genzai-sama said something similar as well.
That’s just compared to the usual standards for imperial concubines, Seirin had thought. But even the Princess’s people say the same thing. You don’t usually call your master a wildcat, do you? What’s really going on here?
“Perhaps it’s better to brace myself, after all,” Seirin decided. Gulping, he nodded at Mirin.
In response, she opened the door.
That’s the first thing Seirin heard when he stepped into the room.
The voice belonged to a girl sitting cross-legged in the centre of the room. A girl in very light clothes.
How light? Well…There’s no way they could be any lighter.
Putting it simply, there was not a thread of clothing anywhere on her. She was naked as a baby.
It wasn’t something any amount of imagination could have prepared him for. So Seirin could only mutter instinctively in Shimur.
“And that is… a princess…?”
“Yes, unfortunately she is the real thing,” Mirin answered from beside him, speaking fluent Shimur as only a native speaker could. There was no expression on her face, but her words seemed to be sympathetic.
“Correct! I’m Mine, the youngest daughter of Shan’s chief Ishil,” the cross-legged girl responded cheerfully. She held a big cup in her right hand and raised it up high to greet Seirin.
“So, this bare-skinned, cross-legged, ox-milk drinking chibi is…a Princess?!”
“Yes, unfortunately, you are not mistaken,” Mirin repeated.
She said it twice, so it was probably true. But the so-called Princess was gulping milk from a cup and sitting stark naked on the floor.
“Hey, don’t call me a chibi!” The naked girl howled angrily. Her chest was non-existent, but her lungs seemed to be in great shape. That really was an excellent bellow.
“Also, it’s not ox, it’s sheep. Very tasty!” The chibi raised her cup again. If everything Seirin had heard about her was true, she certainly seemed to be the real deal. But he just couldn’t accept this.
After all, she was sitting on the floor in her birthday suit.
“Aaaaah. Whatever, just put on some clothes, will you!”
“Oh, don’t whine at every little thing. I’ve just returned from a long ride and it’s hot, so of course I took them off.”
So Seirin could see. Indeed, her riding clothes, and the towel she used to wipe her sweat, were strewn across the room. Of course, they were not properly folded.
“And I’m saying enough with sitting here cross-legged and naked! Stop it!” Seirin yelled without much thought for proper etiquette.
As if hearing it for the first time, the chibi looked down at herself. While not voluptuous, her body had gentle curves and there was no hair anywhere, except for her head and brows. Even between her legs.
Having noticed this particular fact, Seirin became red. He could see literally everything. Well, maybe not everything. He had no such experience, so he couldn’t be really sure. But anyway.
“What’s with all this exhibitionism?”
Mine herself didn’t seem to understand the problem.
“There’s no wind today. This is the best way to deal with the heat. Don’t you do the same?”
“Just. Wear. Your. Clothes!” Seirin shouted loudly from the bottom of his belly, and his voice echoed through entire Southern wing.
Mine closed her eyes and put the cup of sheep’s milk on a nearby table with a loud thump. Then she turned to Seirin and stared at him challengingly. In a haughty tone of voice, she declared, “How interesting! If you really want me to wear clothes, make me!”
At this moment the last remnants of rationality fled Seirin’s mind.
It didn’t matter that this naked girl was a princess, or an important guest, or even a symbol of his idol, Tsukihara Genzai’s, achievements. “I shan’t be rude,” his good sense had been whispering. But at this moment his good sense died with a bang. Entirely and without any hopes of returning.
“You hellspawn!” cursing in Shimur, he sprang at Mine.
“Ahahahaha. What? Can’t catch me? You’re too slow!”
And so the chase began.
“Damn!” Mine slipped from under his arm.
“Half-wit,” she yelled at Seirin’s back.
“What did you say, you bitch!” Mine dived between his legs.
At that she shouted excitedly.
“I said, try to catch me, if you can, you stupid hack!”
“I’m not a hack! I’m young!” As he screamed this, Seirin finally managed to drive Mine to a corner of the room.
“Now stay still! Listen to what I say and put on your clothes!”
“As if I would listen to anything you say! Greenhorn!” Mine spat back, jumping towards the wall. Kicking off the wall she vaulted right over Seirin’s head.
“Uwah!” He was being completely played by Mine, who was running up the walls and doing somersaults so high she reached the ceiling. She moved just like the real wildcat.
“Gyahaha! I’m here! I’m here!” The girl was running around and laughing happily when she stepped on her own scattered clothing. Stumbling, she slipped and fell back.
“Look out!” Just before her head hit the floor, Seirin dived forward and shielded the back of her head with his hands.
….Or he intended to, anyway. His hold couldn’t support the tumbling Mine and was crushed into the ground by her head.
There was a dull thump and Seirin felt sharp pain.
Mine scowled at the pain and closed her eyes tightly. Still holding her head in his hands Seirin looked at her upturned face, panicking.
“Are you alright?” he asked, right when Mine opened her eyes. Her big blue eyes, widened in shock, seemed to suck him right in. After regarding his face intently for a while, Mine blinked three times and asked hesitantly.
“…So I’ve lost…?”
“Exactly!” Seirin gripped her hair to cut off any escape routes.
Making a face, she screamed. “Oi, that hurts! Let go! I won’t run! I’m not a coward! I’m the youngest, but I’m still the chief’s child!”
Seirin released her hair from his grasp. Mine stood up slowly and snorted derisively as she glared at him.
“There’s no choice… I’ll dress up. Be grateful.”
“What’s there to be grateful for? Normal people wear clothes all the time.”
“But this is the only way to deal with the heat. Mirin won’t even let me open the windows to let wind in,” Mine complained.
“Because you escape at the slightest chance,” Mirin retorted. All this time she had been standing at the entrance and silently watching the chase.
“Even if I escape, I always come back later, don’t I!”
“Yes, when you become hungry. Then you certainly deign to return.”
“I also come back to sleep.”
“Of course. I always know to come in when window shutters start to screech.”
“You see, I always return. What more do you want? Quit being angry.”
Mirin sighed a little and turned to Seirin. “Do you understand now why I called her a wildcat?”
Seirin nodded mutely.
Putting on her scattered clothing with a sour expression on her face, Mine asked, “Oi, youngster, what’s your name?”
“It is Seirin, Sen’ya Seirin.”
“Seirin? Sounds girly… Where did you learn our speech?”
“At the Capital’s… market. Merchants from all around the world gather there. I heard them speak and I learned to talk like them.”
Having finished putting on her underwear, Mine covered herself with a piece of cloth and nodded in understanding.
“Ah, that’s why you’re so good at swearing. You’re the first from the Empire to call me a hellspawn or bitch.”
Seirin made an apologetic bow. “About that, I’m very sorry. It somehow got out…”
“Don’t apologize! I was glad!”
“What!?” Seirin raised his head.
Barring her white teeth, Mine looked at him and laughed.
“It was really nostalgic, like back at home. My family called me things like that every day!”
She finished dressing and stood before Seirin with her hands on her hips, staring fixedly at his face.
“You’re an interesting man. The tutors who came before you tried to act all arrogant, but they were all sooo boring. Only you had the guts to scream at me and yank my hair! I like you! So welcome!”
Fully clothed, smiling Mine looked like any cute girl her age.
“So be it. I’m in your care now,” Seirin said with a light bow.
It’s going to be a difficult journey, he thought quietly to himself.