A few weeks later, in the Country of Sanshiro, one fair maiden was in the midst of a budding turmoil.
“Let it be known – the heads of the Yagami clan, the Kiryuu clan, the Nissin clan, and the Samyang clan – are now a part of our virtuous council! Please use your positions to establish prosperity throughout Sanshiro as we head towards a new age of cooperation with the rest of the world!”
With Lady Kaguya’s announcement, new members were accepted into the governing body that was previously filled with the heads of banished warrior schools. After the incident with the Thunder Phoenix Clan, the families that had contributed to the Oracle’s kidnapping and coup were dissolved, and their positions stripped.
Naturally, new families were bolstered to replace the vacuum created by a removal of nearly half of the council members.
The Yagami clan prided themselves in their tactical and foresight abilities, intellectuals of combat and warfare. Members were often seen scribbling things maniacally in their notebooks before verbally sparring with smug expressions about the schemes that they believed the other side was plotting.
“I’ll have you know that I know all about what you know of what I know!”
“Oh really? As predicted by one who can predict that I predicted your predictions!”
Lady Kaguya felt like their words were over her head as she watched the leaders, known as Lira and Kei, perform a mock commander’s battle with clan members that often exercised their claim to superiority. Regardless, the overly cautious Wen Lu gave his guarantee of their aptitude. He had spent quite the time carefully judging promising new candidates who aligned with his Master’s aspirations.
In contrast, the Kiryu clan were a bunch of tough, traditional fighters who valued chivalry and endurance against all odds, a trait that resounded heavily with Wen Zhi’s preferences. The leader of this clan, Oni-ma, was a solid man, outwardly calm but hiding an unbridled fury within. Although his clan itself was smaller than others, he alone could demolish the onslaught of a clan several times larger than his own.
People merely needed to hear the name, ‘Dragon of Mangan’, to break out in a cold sweat and lose all will to fight. And for those who dared to proceed, the residents of Mangan knew to keep any personal belongings out of his path, lest they be snatched up and shoved into some unsavory crevice of his opponents. In particular, Oni-ma loved smashing portable transportation vehicles over arrogant people trying to cause trouble.
More surprising than those who curried the favor of her two guardians was the general approval of the latter two clans. The Nissin and Samyang clans possessed techniques that were hardly accepted as worthy by the public not long ago. However, the impact of a certain foreign chef’s food in the battle against the Thunder Phoenix Clan had driven them into the spotlight.
After all, who wouldn’t be proud at this point of sharing the techniques of ‘Status Manipulation Cooking’ that were demonstrated by ‘Star Shooter’, the hero that slayed a mythical beast with a simple kitchen knife.
Putting aside the fact that his Critical stat allowed him to do such a thing, his cuisine had been crucial in keeping the morale and strength of those fighting to save the Oracle. The Mapo Tofu buns that were carried into battle had likely been the difference between defeat and victory.
As such, families that excelled in mana-imbued cooking quickly rose in prominence. In particular, the Nissin and Samyang clans led the pack in cuisines that improved the performance of fighters.
The Nissin clan focused on the enhancement of daily cuisine using cheap and plentiful ingredients, creating a meal plan that complemented one’s training. Those following a Nissin-certified course saw gradual boosts in their parameters, much more so than standard training alone could achieve.
On the other hand, the Samyang clan were all about instantaneous kicks of ability that wore off after a certain period. Their members scoured the library of all known ingredients, looking for powerful effects that were brought out through cooking. As their clan was all about impact and exoticness, the taste of their cuisine naturally mimicked that philosophy.
Kaguya sampled a dish from them once, and certainly, it had a robust and explosive flavor that could become addictive. However, it wasn’t long before she had the uncontrollable urge to jump both Wen Lu and Wen Zhi at once.
By the time she snapped out of it, she had found herself on top of the two men. Their clothing were scattered around the room, and they were red in embarrassment. She looked down at herself, noticing that her own robes had become undone as well, baring the front for the two of them to gawk at.
It took quite some time for her two guardians to look her in the eye without blushing. While she shared their mutual embarrassment of the situation, they had kept the most jarring of memories secret from her.
After all, how could they tell her what she had actually done to them? That she had forced them down with unimaginable strength and whimsically played upon their exposed bodies with her fingertips. The entire time, her eyes were glazed over, giving off a devious and condescending look upon them.
The twins couldn’t help but squirm as she traced circles upon their bare chests. Their futile attempts to escape were met with muted, mocking giggles. Especially when her lips brushed past their ears, the words that escaped her mouth gave them the chills.
That single line was enough to make them die. All they could manage to tell her was that the food had sent her into a berserk status. Everything else was best forgotten.
Needless to say, the potency of their cuisine was undeniable. And their abilities paralleled that of her own interests. However, she was quite furious for a spell afterward at the advisor who suggested such a dish. The nerve of him trying to ‘encourage’ some activity in her relationships! She could manage that just fine on her own! She simply wasn’t ready yet to choose!
Regardless of intentions, the two culinary clans had demonstrated their worth. As such, they would be valuable supporters of the country.
Or at least, they would be if they didn’t cause unnecessary drama…
“The Star Shooter is the right man to rule the throne at the side of Lady Kaguya!”
“Are you daft? Letting a foreigner take a place upon the highest throne?! Lord Wen Zhi is the epitome of strength and courage. He should be the one to lead us!”
“No no no. Intellect along with strength are what is needed as the Holy Sovereign. Only Lord Wen Lu fits all of the requirements.”
Back and forth, the council of advisors started bickering about who was most worthy of ruling as the Holy Sovereign and taking Lady Kaguya’s hand in marriage. The three factions had created a rift between each side.
Kaguya simply shook her head at the men, twice her age, as they continued to play matchmaker before the others. Had they forgotten that she had the final say in the matter?
What if she wanted none of them?
Or rather… what if she wanted all of them? She chuckled at the thought of it. Putting aside the twins who had an unshakable devotion to her, the strange chef from Sistina already had many admirers. That much she could tell from seeing his mind.
Still, the quirky personality that differed from her guardians tickled her heart just the slightest bit. She had grown rather fond of his time at the castle and wouldn’t have minded if he stayed longer.
“The whims of a maiden, I suppose.” Kaguya sighed at the pressures of society pricking at her.
She was 23, an age in which marriage was long overdue. She could put it off using her Oracle duties as an excuse, but there was no written law that said Oracles couldn’t marry. Neither would she lose her powers if she laid with another. Those were simply ruses by fogey old men to maintain a veil of chastity and purity by one who was deemed as the Holy Maiden.
Kaguya stared at the Sun twins who were currently chatting with the various heads post announcement. Watching the two of them, only a year younger than her, devote themselves to their Master always put a smile on her face. Especially when they fought so hard to free her, the memories drew a bit of heat upon her cheeks. She had the neighboring princess, now Queen, to thank for that, having gifted her a device that recorded their heroic feats.
Maybe it was time to put the excuses aside and let herself be drawn into her passion. The country was starting to stabilize once again…
Just then, Lau Ki Young approached her. The stout man that hardly seemed his age was the head advisor and one of her most trusted supporters. He was one of the few who could fight back demons with his bare hands with hardly a scratch.
She was in awe by the reports he gave upon his return pertaining to the ‘Mage Demon’ from decades ago and the series of events that resulted. Her heart raced at the part when Electi were being corrupted, as it was what she feared would happen. She gripped the arm of her chair so tight that her knuckles turned white at the mention of Princess Katalina being possessed. And finally, she gave a giant sigh of relief when the combined efforts of Sir Claude and his Master managed to exorcise the demon without harming the poor girl.
The report felt like some fantasy tale designed to tug at her heart and keep her on edge. On second thought, a romanticized chronicle of these events would not be a bad thing for one of the country’s scribes to pen. She told herself to get on that at some point in the near future.
For the moment, Lau gave a simple bow to her, the typical practice demonstrating his piety. However, Kaguya noticed that he was holding something strange in his left hand. Nonetheless, she went about the normal formalities.
“Lau Ki Young, do you have something else to relay to me? I would gladly hear what is on your mind.”
“Lady Kaguya, in addition to being present for your announcement, I have brought something to be passed to you.” Lau cupped the object between his palms and presented it forward with a slight bow. “It is a present, apparently through the combined efforts of the lands of Sistina and Macali.”
A present from both nations? Now, that was an interesting point. It had been a while since she heard news from Sistina, which was in the midst of rebuilding. And the Isles of Macali had been particularly secretive up until recently. She had her friends from Sistina to thank for opening up those relations.
However, Katalina had left her with a bit of warning.
“If you end up meeting with the representatives of Macali, you can pretty much ignore the King. He’s a flirt that chases the ladies, despite already having 7 wives. You’re better off talking to his wives to get some real governing executed.”
She was perturbed by how one could simply dismiss the head of a nation, but Katalina was hardly one to lie. After all, she had yet to meet the people in question.
Kaguya reached forward to accept the gift, wondering what it could be. Rolling the palm-sized object between her fingers, she noted a small mana signature coming from it. Likely, a magical stone of sorts was imbedded, possibly a new creation from the ever-curious ruler. A few buttons jutted out from the front, the only other conspicuous feature of the flat disk.
“If I may…” Lau scooted closer and pressed one of the buttons, emitting a buzzing signal.
While the other council members had filtered out of the audience chamber, her two guardians stayed behind and noticed the exchange going on. They came forward as the buzzing noise echoed in the otherwise tranquil room.
“Whazzat? Not a bomb from the Bomb Prin-, I mean Queen, is it?” Wen Zhi cheekily jested.
“Brother, your mouth is going to get us in trouble one of these days,” Wen Lu retorted.
Just then, the device made a click and a voice could be heard coming from it.
“Ahh, is this thing finally working? Test, test- wait, that’s not what I should be saying… Uhh, this is Claude speaking…”