Chapter 16 – Mana Wavelength
In the royal office, Claus was reading the report that his son Joshua, recently returned from Nadasha, had written.
“—And that is his report.” After hearing the detailed dossier, the Dragon King placed his fingers on his temples and breathed out an extremely annoyed sigh.
“Looks like war is inevitable after all, eh? What an absolute mess. Inform the troops: be prepared to engage opposing forces.”
“As you command.”
“So where is Joshua now?”
“He departed to search for the girl in question, on orders from the elders, as soon as he handed over his report. However, he has informed us that he wasn’t able to find any such girl in the royal capital. He found the thugs, but they said that they ran into her only once more; they chased her again after running into her the following day and then lost sight of her right in the middle of their pursuit. She hasn’t been seen or heard of since.”
“Not even Joshua has been able to find her?” the Dragon King questioned, a little surprised.
Joshua, who possessed a mana wavelength that was especially favored by the wind spirits, was capable of thoroughly surveying an area as expansive as the royal capital. Using the power of the wind, Joshua was able to find out a multitude of things—like how many kittens had been born that day and where, or that the couple that ran the greengrocer were having a marital spat.
But that same Joshua couldn’t find this one human girl.
“Strangely enough, she doesn’t seem to have left the capital, but he also wasn’t able to locate her here, not even by using the spirits to search the entirety of the city.”
After a moment’s consideration, a sharp light came into the Dragon King’s eyes. “She’s been kidnapped, then?”
“I believe the chances are high.” The royal capital was known internationally as a major port city. Many merchant ships came to the capital for business. Also, they served as a supply area for ships heading to the Nation of the Spirit King or the Imperial Nation.
Slavery was banned in the Nation of the Dragon King, and slave trader’s ships were barred from anchoring, but that didn’t stop it from happening outside of the eye of the law.
There was no shortage of cases of their people being kidnapped by slave traders.
Of course, they employed countermeasures against this, but the slave traders would abduct people by any means available to them, then the nation would once again take countermeasures —they were locked in a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse.
There were demi-humans among the slave traders, so when it came to kidnapping a human— a human woman, to boot—whose strength paled in comparison to that of a demi-human, it was light work for them.
“Joshua is expanding his search to outside the capital walls. That isn’t a guarantee that we will find her, however…”
“I see, I want to track her down if she’s been kidnapped, but that might prove difficult if she was taken off to another nation.”
Claus looked at the expression on the Dragon King’s face, but, outside from a slight furrow of the brow, he seemed relatively placid.
This was rather disarming.
The first person he’d shown any sort of interest in for the first time in a long time—no, for the first time ever, in fact—might’ve been kidnapped, yet his reaction to the news was extremely blasé. Claus had believed that he would be far more shaken up over the matter, but the Dragon King’s reaction seemed to be no more than that of a king concerned for his subjects.
“We’ll have Joshua continue to investigate as there might very well be more abductees than just her.”
As they ended their discussion, the Dragon King pulled out something from his desk drawer and stood up. “I’m going to take a short break.”
“…Yes, please, rest easy.” Claus didn’t even attempt to ask where he was going. One look at what he held in his hand made it abundantly clear where he was headed.
Now that the Dragon King had left the office, Claus was alone with his thoughts.
All of his vassals were relieved that the Dragon King had finally showed some sort of interest in the fairer sex, but he hadn’t mentioned the woman in question again after the first time.
This was most likely because the Dragon King was devoted to someone else.
Perhaps it was because their mana wavelengths were so compatible… He went to meet her whenever he had a spare moment. Since they were dragonkin and therefore had strong mana, it was only natural that he would be more powerfully drawn toward those with compatible mana wavelengths. …But it also made Claus think that the Dragon King’s chances at marriage were definitely a long shot now.
The elders were desperately ordering people to search for that girl, but it seemed as though it would all be for nothing no matter what.
◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
Ever since Ruri had come to live in the castle, her mostly self-sufficient way of life had been completely flipped on its head.
She didn’t need to clean or do laundry, and meals were brought to her morning, noon, and night. They had even given her maids, so she was being treated extremely well.
Recently, she had been learning the ways of the world via the teachers that the Dragon King provided for her.
In the morning, she would eat her breakfast and then take her lessons. During the lessons, she was taught how to read their language in addition to some rudimentary knowledge. She needed to know the language in order to read the documents in the castle’s library room. Her hope was that she could find a way to return to her world.
Dragonkins lived long lives. It probably would have been more expedient just to ask one of the people who had lived long enough to become walking encyclopedias, but since she wasn’t telling anyone that she was a human, she couldn’t explain that she’d been summoned to Nadasha either. She would just have to investigate on her own.
After her lesson, she grabbed lunch and walked around the library. She was looking for any information that might help her find a way back home, relying on her limited knowledge of the language, but she ultimately wasn’t able to find any leads. She used the rest of her time to bask in the sun in the garden she’d found on the castle grounds, among other things, as a way to clear her mind.
Incidentally, the subject of her studies today was Beloveds.
There currently existed five Beloveds, including Ruri, and they were all under the care of various nations. The only Beloveds that had been made public out of those five were ones in the Nation of the Spirit King and Beast King.
There was a good reason why the other two nation’s Beloveds hadn’t been made public. They were suspected of being unconfident in their abilities to protect their Beloveds, since they were such a sought-after entity among all nations, leaving them with no other option but to conceal them.
In Ruri’s case, it wasn’t finalized that she was affiliated with the Nation of the Dragon King as of yet, so they were still keeping the fact that their nation had a Beloved under wraps.
But this raised doubts within Ruri—doubts about what she had been told, that no one would make a move on a Beloved because of their spirit entourage.
She knew that the spirits were ready to dogpile anyone who would harm her, but she’d been told that there were foolish people who didn’t know that out in the world. Apparently, that was mainly in human-ruled nations where many of the populace couldn’t see spirits and weren’t really privy to their dangers.
She also asked to hear anecdotes of past Beloveds; this closed out her lesson for the day.
Once done, she found herself in the castle’s garden.
The castle of the Nation of the Dragon King was made up of several buildings stacked around a towering, rocky mountain in a spiral staircase-esque manner.
Those buildings were generally referred to as the “castle,” but the building the Dragon King resided in was located at the top of the mountain, soaring above the clouds. The workers of the castle referred to this building as the “royal castle.”
The garden in the royal castle had become her favorite spot.
Beyond the garden fence was the precipice, which was so high up that it made your head spin when you peered over it. Ruri wasn’t afraid, though, as she could fly.
The rest area for the castle workers was located in the building below, so there weren’t any people passing the time in the king’s living space. While everyone watched her wherever she went because of her status as a Beloved, she could relax here in the garden and not worry about being the center of attention.
As she sunbathed in the garden above the clouds, the Dragon King appeared. When she got a look at what he was holding in his hand, her eyes turned understandably cold.
“I’m warning you in advance, I will not play with that.”
“Why not? I made it just for you.” The Dragon King wasn’t able to hold in his surprise and a sad look took over his surreally beautiful face.
In his hand was—the Dragon King’s handmade cat feather toy.
Ruri applauded his effort, but, unfortunately, she wasn’t actually a cat—just a human assuming the form of one.
The Dragon King wasn’t deterred, however, and waved the cat toy left and right in front of Ruri’s face. It didn’t stimulate Ruri’s cat-instincts in the slightest. She quickly turned her face to the side in disdain, making the Dragon King furrow his brow.
“Don’t cats like playing with feather toys?” “I am no normal cat.”
The Dragon King simply gazed at Ruri, nearly pouting, but she wasn’t batting at that cat toy no matter how pathetic he looked. Although, seeing the sad look in the Dragon King’s eyes made Ruri sympathize and reconsider some things, eventually leading her to offer a compromise.
“…Well, I won’t be playing with any cat toys, but you can touch my paw pads instead.” “What?!”
Her paw pads were ticklish, so she didn’t like them being touched all that often, but Ruri decided to make an exception this time and held up one of her front legs to the Dragon King, revealing the cute, pink paw pad to him.
He was being allowed to touch the paw pads she didn’t normally allow to be touched. This offer put the Dragon King’s mood back on track.
“If you’re not a fan of cat toys, is there anything else you’d like?” the Dragon King asked her as he squished Ruri’s paw pads. Ruri answered quickly, bearing with the tickling.
“You’ve provided more than enough for my day-to-day life, so there isn’t anything I can think of.”
“There’s nothing you desire, Ruri? I have enough capital at my disposal, so you don’t need to be modest.”
“Your sentiments are as good as any gift. Thank you, regardless.”
The Dragon King looked disappointed. He was probably just starving for the touch of something soft and cuddly. He would visit her several times a day to try to dote on and spoil her, like a grandfather trying to please his first grandchild.
After getting his fill of touching her paw pads, the Dragon King suddenly stood up. “Are you leaving already?”
“I’d prefer to stay with you a little while longer, but I really should be getting back to work.” With a single pat of Ruri’s head, the Dragon King returned to his office and Ruri reluctantly saw him off.
Ruri pondered over the feeling of dissonance she had lately when she was with him.
When she first met the Dragon King, she hadn’t noticed it. Maybe that had been the nerves, but being at his side was extremely comfortable. If she were to liken it to something it would be… basking in the spring sun or being snug under a kotatsu in winter—it was like being somewhere that you didn’t want to leave.
Those feelings grew stronger and stronger with each passing day, like an addiction or an illness. Even now, with the Dragon King gone, she was left with a deep sense of loneliness and loss. It wasn’t quite the same as not wanting to leave his side out of some kind of romantic longing. It was hard to put into words, but she felt as though some instinct was drawing her in.
The answer to the cause of this mystery sensation came from the spirits that were always with her.
“That’s because the Dragon King’s mana wavelength is just the right fit for you, Ruri!” “Just like how we find your mana pattern really comfy.”
“Being with someone with a compatible mana wavelength makes any person or spirit feel great.”
As Ruri listened to the spirits’ explanation, Asahi popped into her mind. Ruri remembered Chelsie saying that the reason why Asahi always followed her around was because she was attracted to her mana wavelength. Asahi had clung to her in a way that could only be described as bizarre and abnormal.
Now that she understood that this was how she must’ve felt, she almost understood why Asahi would cling to her no matter how many times she’d tried to shake her. Ruri accepted the feelings the Dragon King caused in her—but she couldn’t help but tremble in fear at the same time.
With mana wavelengths, just because one person was drawn in didn’t automatically mean that the other person felt the same way, as Ruri well knew. Like with her and Asahi, there were cases where the relationship was one-sided. She found herself worried that she would cling to and upset the Dragon King the way Asahi had clung to and upset her.
After the constant headaches she’d suffered from Asahi’s obnoxious and inappropriate behavior… Ruri didn’t want to have that effect on anyone, let alone the Dragon King. So, on that day, she decided to actively avoid him.
◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
Resisting her desire to see the Dragon King, so as not to turn into a pest like Asahi, she avoided going to the garden that they’d always see each other in, and she changed paths whenever it seemed like she might run into him. She spent several days actively avoiding the Dragon King.
Claus would look at her as if he wanted to say something from time to time, but she would ignore it. Eventually, the time came where Claus brought up the subject.
“Ruri, it seems that you are avoiding His Majesty as of late. Has His Majesty done something to upset you?”
“No, he hasn’t.” Claus had noticed that she was avoiding the Dragon King, so there was no denying it. Ruri awkwardly averted her eyes. She knew that she couldn’t run away from him forever, but she didn’t know of a good way of dealing with this situation.
“You’ll have to pardon me,” Claus said, grabbing and lifting Ruri by the scruff of her neck.
“Mrr-wah!” Ruri yelped aloud before asking telepathically, “What are you doing, Claus- san?!”
“He isn’t going to be able to get through any of his work at this rate.” “Work? What do you mean? Wait, where are we going?!”
Claus carried her to the Dragon King’s office, not taking no for an answer, and placed her atop his desk. She was at eye-level with the Dragon King and felt the comfort of being by his side for the first time in days, but she averted her eyes. She knew she shouldn’t be here.
However, once she glanced over at the King, she could see how conflicted he looked. “Erm… Is something the matter, Dragon King?”
“Yes, very much so. I have been without your soothing presence. I haven’t been able to focus on my work since I’ve been unable to pet you as of late.”
At first she thought he was exaggerating, but once she turned to Claus and he silently nodded his head in affirmation, she realized he wasn’t.
“Did I do something that upset you somehow? Was it the cat toy? Or perhaps you don’t like having your paw pads touched? If you dislike it so much, I can, of course, contain myself,” he asked with a serious expression, trying to understand what he had done wrong. The King was the picture of seriousness, but Claus just looked exasperated.
“If there is a reason, I would appreciate it if you would specify it. I am sure His Majesty has been quite sad that you have suddenly been ignoring him for no clear reason. Now then, I’ll be returning to work,” Claus said and left the room.
What Claus said was correct. Ruri would be sad if someone she spent a lot of time with suddenly started avoiding her for no reason. After reflecting on it, she decided to try explaining herself, even though she wasn’t sure he would understand her reasoning.
“He is right. I’m sorry. Um, you see, according to the spirits, I apparently mesh extremely well with your mana wavelength. And being together like this feels extremely comfortable for me.”
“Then why have you been avoiding me?” The Dragon King asked, not following Ruri’s logic at all.
“Even if it is good for me, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you mesh with my wavelength, right? In the past, I had someone who meshed with my wavelength, but the same didn’t apply to myself. They would follow me around wherever I went and wouldn’t listen when I told them to stop. Even when I found an opening to run from them, the moment I saw them chasing me down from behind as if they could sense my presence, I shuddered in fear,” Ruri spoke, recalling the past vividly.
The King looked at her as if he understood what she meant. “There is the occasional person who’ll find someone whose wavelength they’re strongly attracted to and they’ll wrongly assume that the feeling is mutual. And there are also people who will attach themselves to someone because they find being by their side so comforting they can’t think straight.”
“What’s the best way to deal with that situation?”
“Just like other relationships, they’ll eventually feel bad being an annoyance to the other person and back off. Well, there are some people who will be persistent anyways, but a mana wavelength is with you forever. So if they realize they’re not wanted, they should feel compelled to stay away. It all depends on their personality, though.”
Asahi was probably one of those people who assumed that Ruri felt the same way she did. However, the reason she clung to her no matter how often Ruri showed her dislike didn’t seem to be because she was so attracted to her mana that she’d lost her mind. Instead, the answer simply seemed to be that Asahi was so bad at taking hints that she never even noticed that Ruri hated her.
Putting that aside, it appeared as though clingy behavior due to mana attraction was something that happened fairly often in this world. Despite magic’s many conveniences, this one aspect was somewhat of a shortcoming.
“Well, that happened to me, so I didn’t want to put you through the same ordeal. I know how terrible it feels to be chased around by someone you don’t like. I get the urge to be with you more and more whenever I see you, so I’ve been keeping my distance.” Ruri wanted to be near him, but she didn’t want to smother him so much that he hated her like she had Asahi. Considering she had no confidence she’d ever be able to leave his presence if left to her own devices, she decided to get some distance while she still wanted to.
After hearing Ruri’s explanation, his expression was neither distressed nor displeased—it was filled with relief and joy.
“I see. If that is your reason, then you’re fine. You don’t need to avoid me anymore.”
“Why? Don’t you find having someone hanging around you all the time annoying?” She certainly had.
“All your worries are solved if I feel the same way that you do, Ruri. That’s why I said that you’re fine.”
“You feel the same way, Dragon King, sir?” Ruri’s eyes widened in surprise at this.
“I do. I always feel the same sense of peace from being next to you, but I didn’t want to ruin everything by hanging around you too much and making you dislike me, so I have been keeping my visits to a minimum as much as I could. But if you feel the same way, then there’s no reason to contain myself.” If Claus were in the room, he most likely would have quipped, “Daily visits are ‘keeping things to a minimum,’eh?” in response to this statement.
“You can just come to see me; you don’t need to think about me finding you annoying. In fact, I’ll come to you.”
“Yes, thank you very much, Dragon King, sir.”
The Dragon King had given her his permission personally, thus resolving the matter so simply that it made Ruri wonder why she even agonized over it for days in the first place.
It made her think. If her and Asahi had had mutually compatible wavelengths, would their relationship have been different?
And as she contemplated that, the Dragon King thought to himself while gazing at her face and spoke up not long after.
“…This has been on my mind for a while now, but calling me ‘Dragon King’ sounds too formal between us. I’d like it if you’d call me ‘Jade’ from now on.”
“…Jade-sama?” Ruri called him by name for confirmation, making Jade smile gently. The sight of such a transcendentally handsome individual smiling was breathtaking.
Ruri felt intense palpitations in her chest as she stared at him in fascination.
Jade lifted Ruri up and placed her on his lap. He proceeded to indulge in stroking her fluffy white fur for the first time in several days and he couldn’t have looked happier. Ruri also smiled in delight as Jade’s large hands petted her. He seemed satisfied with Ruri cradled in his arms.
This day all but confirmed that any marriage plans for the Dragon King were on indefinite hold.