“I heard that the carriage has entered the Imperial Palace. I informed her Majesty first.”
Two attendants quickly chatted in front of the door to the room in the Empress Palace that is used to receive audiences.
It meant that the crown princess had entered the palace. I clenched and unclenched my fists as I waited for my turn.
The middle-aged man, who was left alone by the other attendant, bowed toward me.
“Now entering, Prince Jesse of the Venetiaan Holy Kingdom.”
He then announced my arrival in a loud voice.
Benjamin and Ganael were left to wait outside while Vice Captain Élisabeth moved away to her station outside Empress Palace.
I heard a loud noise as the knights opened the door.
The audience room was majestic all the way up to the door.
“Shh, Percy. You promised that you would be quiet.”
I warned the chimney bird sitting on my shoulder.
I never told him to come with me but I had no way of stopping him now when he had already decided to come.
A grand sight soon filled my view.
I forgot all about my nerves as I gasped in admiration as I walked.
Everything in the Empress Palace was tall and large. The building itself was as complicated as a shopping complex.
It was my first time in the audience room. It was overbearing but in a different manner than the ballroom.
Marble pillars that looked to have the circumference of five adult wingspans were standing all throughout the hall.
There were three magnificent chandeliers on the ceiling leading up to the throne.
The floor, which was clean enough for me to see my reflection, had a red carpet with the Imperial family’s crest embroidered on it.
“Is it okay to step on this?”
I stood in place for a moment debating it when…
“My dear student.”
Cardinal Boutier called out to me. I jerked my head up.
“Come this way.”
She gently motioned while standing there in her splendid Cardinal formal attire.
She was seated at the end of the audience room on the right side of the throne.
Empress Frédérique, who was seated at the top-most position, chuckled while looking at me.
It was only then that I realized that I was so busy looking around the audience room that I missed my timing to give my greeting.
I felt my ears instantly get hot.
“I greet the sun that has descended to the ground and your noble Eminence.”
I urgently bowed and Percy chirped as if in response.
The Pair de Riester who believed he was a divine beast gasped in admiration.
I moved to the side to avoid stepping on the carpet and approached the Cardinal.
She was on top of a set of wide stairs with the Empress.
Imperial Prince Cédric was to the Empress’s left.
“Hello, your Royal Highness.”
I greeted him. He looked at me once before turning his head.
‘How am I to deal with him?’
“You can stand below Cédric.”
“Thank you very much.”
I wondered if it was okay for a diplomatic hostage to be on these steps but it should be fine because the Cardinal told me to do so.
I moved to the other side and stood one step below the Imperial Prince.
My eyes kept moving despite me not wanting them to do so.
Even the back of the throne was decorated luxuriously with beautiful dark red and gold threads.
There was a velvet cover on the ceiling above the Empress’s head, which made it obvious that she was the most important person in this place.
It gave off an immense feeling of wealth and authority.
A familiar voice whispered to me at that moment. I looked for the source of the voice.
I could see Christelle standing with Duke Simon de Sarnez at the bottom of the steps.
She was pretty close to me. I nodded my head and her lips started to move.
She pointed to the entrance of the audience room and then at herself.
“Later. You want to chat with me later?”
I quietly mumbled. Christelle smiled brightly after seeing me nod my head.
She seemed off two days ago so it was a relief to see her looking better.
I turned my gaze to see some other familiar faces.
Marquis François Duhem, who was well-dressed for once, winked at me.
I was greeting Margrave Caroline Moutet with my eyes when the Imperial Prince said something in a low voice.
I looked up at him.
“Are you still angry, your Royal Highness?”
‘He’s angry, he’s definitely angry.’
“Because of me?”
‘It’s because of me.’
“I don’t know why but…… Thank you for at least understanding.”
I whispered honestly.
He slightly scowled as he looked down at me.
‘He probably wants to know what I mean.’
“I’m sure it looked as if I traded the position of being the partners with the two of you in order to save Sir Geens. I had no choice because my life was on the line as well, your Royal Highness.”
“But you were more magnanimous than I expected. Oh, I also want to thank you very much for helping me.”
After I smiled and thanked him, the Imperial Prince opened his mouth as if to say something before closing it again.
I whispered quietly so that he could barely hear.
“I apologize for making you angry, your Royal Highness. Please let me know your reasons when you wish to do so.”
Percy jumped up and down on my shoulder at that moment.
I petted his chest in shock.
“What’s wrong? Are you hurting somewhere?”
“Now entering, her highness, crown princess Elise of the Venetiaan Holy Kingdom!”
Click, boom! A chilling noise pierced through my ears.
It felt as if blood was draining from my whole body. Everybody’s gazes focused on one spot.
I slowly turned my stiff neck to look at the door.
The massive door opened and two silhouettes appeared.
One was Captain Hervé Duhem, who was escorting the crown princess.
The other was a woman who was standing in front of him. She started to walk on top of the embroidered carpet.
Her posture was straight and her steps were wide and uniform.
I even forgot to breathe while looking at her.
Her deep eyes sparkled blue. It seemed as if they would not allow even the slightest bit of dishonesty.
Her blonde hair, as bright as the sun, almost reached her calves despite being tightly braided all the way down.
The way some of her hair was braided to look like a crown on her head made for a memorable look.
She had silver armor on, making it obvious that she was a warrior.
Her chin and forehead were firm and straight. She was tall and had a great physique.
Anybody would think that she would become a good ruler in the future. I gulped.
Her specs were completely different from me and had a different manner than the Imperial Prince.
“Elise Venetiaan, crown princess of the Venetiaan Holy Kingdom greets her Majesty, Empress of the Riester Empire.”
Elise arrived in front of the Empress and elegantly knelt down on one knee as she showed her respect.
Her voice was low but clear. I inadvertently took a half step back.
I could feel the Imperial Prince looking at me.
“I have frequently heard of your noble reputation. I am happy to meet you like this.”
“It is my honor, your Majesty. Her Majesty, Queen Christanne sends her regards.”
“I thank her for her regards. Please also deliver my well wishes to the Queen.”
There were no changes to the Empress’s expression or tone. I was the only one drenched in cold sweat in here.
The Cardinal soon started speaking.
“It must have been difficult traveling such a long distance. The Imperial Prince has prepared your lodgings, so rest well.”
“Thank you very much, your Eminence.”
Elise looked at the Cardinal as she responded. Her gaze then headed toward the Imperial Prince.
The two of them made eye contact for a short moment. And then…
Elise and I made eye contact.
Even though I came here expecting such a situation, I felt as if I could not breathe.
I did my best to not let my anxiety show and smiled.
Her firm gaze started to shake.
The corners of Elise’s lips curled up while looking as if she might start to cry.
She quickly calmed herself but it clearly looked as if her heart was in pain.
I could not help but be certain. This woman truly cherished her younger brother.
The Empress and crown princess continued their discussion.
“Your brother, Prince Jesse, has had many achievements in the Empire.”
“……Thank you for your generous words, your Majesty.”
“As a result, I plan on bestowing a noble title to him soon.”
I looked up at the Empress in shock. Of course, Elise would have found out about it eventually.
It was more beneficial for me to get the title as quickly as possible. But to do this on their initial meeting?
“I hope that you and the Holy Kingdom are happy about it. A noble title is the highest compliment the Imperial family can bestow on someone.”
I finally realized something after hearing that.
The Empress did not trust Elise, so this was her way of making sure that Elise didn’t try to harm me in any way.
It was a warning not to mess with someone who was to get a noble title from the Empire.
There would be no issues if Elise had no bad intentions as it would just be delivering the good news to her.
The crown princess was silent.
“Congratulations, your highness. What wonderful news.”
Marquis Duhem used that timing to congratulate me. I smiled as naturally as possible.
“Thank you very much, Marquis Duhem.”
I then made eye contact with Elise again. Her gaze was quite unstable while looking at me.
She lowered her head with a dark complexion on her face.
“Her Majesty will be happy to hear that.”
“Good. I’m sure you are tired so go get some rest.”
Elise answered and the Empress immediately responded.
Elise stood up and bowed toward the Empress and Cardinal before looking toward the Pair de Riester.
To be more specific, she was looking at Christelle. The two pairs of blue eyes clashed without either side giving in.
“……Please let me escort you to Strauder Palace, your highness.”
The one to end that silent staring contest was Captain Duhem.
He showed his respects to the Empress before calmly escorting the crown princess.
Elise finally turned around and quickly departed.
I watched her back and let out a deep sigh.
The room became chaotic at that moment. Duke Sarnez supported the falling Christelle.
I quickly alighted the steps and headed toward her. She was thankfully still conscious.
Christelle grabbed my wrist and smiled. She looked pale.
“So crazy…… Your older sister is very strong, your highness.’
“Was it ether overpowering?”
“I provoked her first but your sister completely smashed me down.”
I couldn’t help but laugh in disbelief.
‘Why would you provoke someone you just met?’
Duke Sarnez looked stunned while listening to his daughter.
I used the arm she was holding to slowly release some ether.
Percy, who had been a good boy on my shoulder the whole time, rubbed his body against my neck. I finally felt relieved.
Anyway, it looked as if I managed to get past the firs meeting without issues. Now it should be peaceful for the next two days.
“……And that is why I wanted to apologize.”
Our main character finished what she was saying. I looked at her with bewilderment.
I had to be confined to Juliette Palace once I left the building, so I used helping Christelle recover as an excuse to walk the hallway of the Empress Palace with her.
The attendants walking by observed us with odd gazes.
It felt different from the gazes Ganael and Benjamin, who were following behind us, were giving us.
Christelle spoke as if to console me.
“Please don’t mind their gazes. They are just amazed at my abilities.”
“Someone who can go in and out of Romero Palace is walking side by side with you, your highness.”
“……Should I move a bit farther away?”
I gasped and asked. I did not expect to get such a misunderstanding.
‘No wonder Duke Sarnez gave us some privacy.
Had I been too relaxed despite being the second male lead? I guess someone like me who has been single since birth would be clueless to something like that.’
Christelle smiled mischievously and lightly punched my arm after seeing my look of horror.
“Why does it matter? We are friends, your highness.”
I quickly agreed and returned the conversation to our original topic.
Christelle had apologized to me.
She apologized extremely politely for not considering my thoughts and pushing for me to do as she wanted until now.
“That, mm… Thank you for apologizing.”
“It is true that I have been quite shocked and even embarrassed at your words and actions, young lady Sarnez. It put me in a difficult position as well. But I seem to recall you asking for forgiveness each time.”
I recalled how Christelle had eloquently confessed to the error of her ways.
She had been so persuasive that I even thought that she had some kind of status window visible in front of her.
It was rare to see her struggling with her words after hearing that.
“At that time, I…… I was being honest but it was more so something I said just to resolve the situation.”
“So it was just all malarkey.”
“Ah, do you really have to phrase it like…… Yes, you are right, your highness.”
Christelle admitted to it. I ended up laughing out loud.
“That’s okay, young lady Sarnez. You haven’t been that way lately and I have studied up about Holy Knights as well. You are instinctively drawn to ether.”
Furthermore, I had absorbed a divine item in the Paten of Wishes.
It was understandable why she and the Imperial Prince desired my either.
“In fact, it is I who is thankful for your understanding of my situation. I did make a deal for Sir Geens but it wasn’t as if I was forced to be the two of your partner despite not liking the two of you.”
“Is that so, your highness?”
Christelle’s face lit up as she looked up at me.
I felt sorry that she might have had such thoughts. ‘It was all calculated but I don’t dislike them.’
“We are friends, after all. His Royal Highness was understanding so I thought that you would know as well, young lady Sarnez.”
“……Who was understanding?”
She squinted her blue-gray eyes. Christelle’s tone sounded weird.
“His Royal Highness was definitely upset as well. I felt his ether.”
“Did he say that he was not angry?”
She asked to dig further into the situation. I smiled awkwardly before responding.
“He is angry but it seemed to be for a different reason than you, young lady Sarnez. He didn’t say much earlier eith-”
Christelle scoffed as she turned her head.
I heard her mumbling random things about ‘nine tails’ and ‘look at that young punk doing things like this already.’
Fox fox fox!