‘No, the Imperial Crown Prince is not someone who could come just because I called him. Let’s calm down for now. No good will come from feeling disturbed.’
“Nice to meet you. My name is Christelle de Sarnez.”
“I am very familiar with your name, young lady Sarnez. I am delighted to be able to host a hero of the Empire.”
Emille de Haas, the Haas Merchant guild leader who was more handsome than necessary, handsomely bowed.
His movements and tone were so elegant that it was hard to believe that he was a commoner.
It was obvious that he would become familiar with the demeanor as his job required him to communicate with nobles frequently, but the things Joanne said yesterday roamed around my ears.
I watched as he politely bowed toward the Duke and his wife, and Vice Captain Élisabeth.
‘That bastard is trying to sell off the merchant guild because he’s gone blind thinking about a rise in status.’
‘He wants to hand over the thing that grandmother and mother worked their butts off to achieve to go be the husband of a noble family?’
‘Was what she said true?’
It was foolish to make a decision after only hearing one side.
The information we received from interrogating Joanne was only known by the young Countess, Benjamin, Ganael, Demy, Percy, and I, because we were the ones who personally went to the prison.
The only report the Sarnez family received was that Joanne committed the crime in an attempt to tarnish her younger brother’s honor.
That was the objective truth
“Then please let me escort you inside, Marquis-nim.”
Emille politely greeted everyone before looking at me and smiling.
I did my best to smile back.
The genre of this novel was definitely Romfan, and Christelle was fated to end up with Crown prince Cédric.
That would mean that Emille would not succeed in seducing Christelle here.
I felt sorry for Emille, but the difference in the two of their social standings was clear as well.
“Thank you very much.”
I adjusted my Imperial-style outfit and responded. My steps were not as heavy as my thoughts.
I decided to trust the author of QNW once again.
There were bursts of laughter all around us and the sounds of glasses and utensils clanking.
The string quartet, flute, and clarinet played a decently light and fast song.
As heard in advance, the size of the feast was grand.
Of course, the size of the banquet hall, the decorations, and the number of dishes were simple compared to the Imperial Palace.
However, this place had a loud and cheerful atmosphere, which was a specialty of a coastal area.
The influential figures of the Merchant Association, who were here as well, jovially lifted up their glasses.
“To the Marquis of Sérénité!”
“Cheers for Prince Jesse!”
I earnestly smiled while seated at the center seat of the VIP area.
Being the center of attention like this was not easy.
It was one thing for Empress Frédérique or Cardinal Boutier to be in this position, but the fact that the only twenty-five years old crown prince was used to something like this felt amazing.
I didn’t need to prepare a speech or anything because the focus of this feast was an apology, but I felt like I was sitting on pins and needles with unfamiliar people who kept looking at me cautiously and raising their glasses for me.
‘It wasn’t like this in Juliette Palace.’
“One more glass!”
Clang! A glass broke somewhere. Duke Sarnez and Emille were seated on my sides.
Although the merchant guild leader probably did not intend for it to be like this, the fact that my friends, Christelle and Vice Captain Élisabeth, were not by my side made me feel a bit lonely.
‘How funny. When I first transmigrated here, I wanted nothing to do with the MCs.’
I couldn’t help but scoff at the fact that I was feeling lonely without them here after only about half a year.
“Marquis-nim, Marquis of Sérénité-nim.”
I flinched and looked around. The cotton candy-like voice was definitely Christelle’s.
I leaned forward and looked to the right and leaned back after not seeing her there.
Christelle, who was leaning back as well, waved toward me. I couldn’t help but smile.
“That dish is delicious. The stuffed mussels.”
“Is that so?”
“There is garlic and something else in there that makes it spicy. It’s also red.”
She smiled, telling me to quickly try it.
I was about to tell her that she had some sauce around her mouth when Emille, who was seated between us, suddenly covered my view.
‘That scared me.’
“Is the food to your liking, Marquis-nim?”
“Yes, all of the dishes are amazing.”
I quickly fixed my expression and responded.
Although all of the food tasted delicious, the fact that I only ate one plate of each dish made Benjamin and Ganael look concerned from a distance.
Emille, who had no way of knowing about that, curled his inner eyelids, making him look straight out of a painting.
“I truly thank you for accepting my invitation for today. The Merchant guild and I are all deeply amazed by your mercy that is as deep as the ocean.”
“Not at all. I am well aware of how much the Haas Merchant guild has contributed to the region’s economy. I do not think that innocent people should be harmed because of the deviation from the norm of a few.”
My words made his lemon-colored eyes sparkle. I thought that it wasn’t a bad response.
I was putting some of the farcis Christelle recommended on my plate when a single tear drop fell down Emille’s cheek.
I became shocked and put my spoon down to look at him.
“Mr. Haas. Why are you crying? Are you not feeling well?”
“Marquis-nim, you are a warm and kind person unlike the rumors.”
He whispered in a voice full of admiration. I opened and closed my mouth without being able to say anything.
“There were baseless rumors going around the entirety of the Empire. You supposedly entertained her Eminence in the morning and her Majesty at night while receiving the affection of his Royal Highness as well.”
“Yes! Drink it all, drink drink!”
‘Did he say that I received a bullet?’
I could not hear him properly because it was so loud around us.
“That is correct, your highness. It was truly disgusting and promiscuous gossip. I, too, believed that such a reputation was false. An extremely greedy and vulgar illegitimate child? How dare they say such things about such a pure person?”
His red eyes curled up beautifully as he whispered.
Honestly speaking, I could not understand what he was saying.
It seemed as if there were false rumors about me and Emille did not like them.
Well, it was not weird since I was openly called the Scoundrel of the Holy Kingdom when I first entered the Palace.
I nodded my head and scraped everything off of the mussel shell.
Emille wiped his eyes with his handkerchief. He looked extremely pitiful.
“To say that such a person of noble bloodline has fallen into greed or is a pig who has become drunk on Holy Knights…… I was truly sad. I was also infuriated.”
‘Pig? Pig is delicious.’
I listened to Emille with my ears while slowly scooping some petit four salé with my hand.
The salted pork with lentils gave off that special ‘acquired taste.’
Emille looked at me and continued to speak. He was speaking quietly, as if he was telling me a secret.
“Did you receive my gift, your highness?”
I blinked and stopped moving. There was a faint crack in his expression.
This was bad.
I had received so many things from the nobles and did not think to remember each present and who had sent it. As a result, I could not remember at all.
I finished chewing the food in my mouth and smiled awkwardly.
‘I guess it is too late to lie?’
“It was a pig sculpture crafted by an expert. It was made with the largest pink diamond on the continent.”
He stiffly explained. My jaw dropped.
“That’s right! Thank you so much for that. Her highness, crown princess Elise, was very happy as well.”
I smiled brightly.
The day I asked Elise to help Sir Johann and Gerrit popped into my mind.
The person who had gifted Cornelisse’s birthday present was definitely Emille de Haas.
I excitedly started giving feedback on it.
“The color was such a pretty pink and the shape was quite elaborate. I had never seen such a beautiful pig before.”
“I had a great time that day thanks to you, Mr. Haas. There was no other gift that could match it.”
I didn’t say that I sent it off to Cornelisse since that might be rude.
However, I meant everything else I said. However, Emille’s complexion became visibly stiff.
The smile on his face was no more and his red eyes instantly seemed to sink low.
I tensed a bit thinking that I might have said something wrong but he politely bowed and just turned away.
The conversation seemed to end like that. I tilted my head in confusion when I made eye contact with Ganael.
‘Please eat more!’
The young boy mouthed toward me.
My next target was a plate that was the size of a sink.
Benjamin nodded his head with satisfaction.
The feast safely ended. The Duke and his wife said that they would wait at the carriage.
Christelle gathered Élisabeth, Ganael, and Benjamin and headed down to a corner of the Haas Merchant guild’s lobby.
These four were the only ones who knew about the auction item she was aiming for.
It was most definitely a secret to Prince Jesse. Christelle whispered.
“It seems like I might be able to get preferential purchase rights.”
Élisabeth’s grey eyes opened wide like a shocked cat.
Ganael peeked to make sure that the door on the other side did not open.
Prince Jesse was currently in that office chatting with the Haas merchant guild leader.
The merchant guild leader wanted to officially apologize for his sister’s wrongdoing.
Of course, her brother apologizing would not get rid of her crimes.
“Yes. The merchant guild leader showed quite the interest in me. I feel like it would be easy to get something like that from him if I lead him on a bit.”
“You are growing into quite the Pair de Riester, Dame Sarnez.”
Benjamin commented. Christelle smiled at the elder’s compliment.
She was not very interested in the Beau Monde.
She would rather eat delicious food and play with Prince Jesse or spar with the crown prince.
However, she was definitely aware of the fact that her status, abilities, and appearance were beneficial in getting what she wanted.
That was why she understood why other nobles dressed up like peacocks and made pedantic remarks.
That was definitely a form of skill.
“Is the auction tomorrow night?”
“Yes. That is why I agreed to have lunch with the merchant guild leader tomorrow. We will eat lunch and take a walk together. I’m thinking of throwing some feelers out there while we chat.”
“That sounds like a great plan. But please make sure to have an attendant with you.”
The young Countess carefully advised It was because she was suddenly reminded of Joanne de Haas’s shocking remarks.
The Duke would not accept it even if the merchant guild leader truly approached Christelle, but you never knew what might happen.
The wealth of the Haas Merchant guild rivaled those of most Pair de Riester.
The abilities of the twenty three years old merchant guild leader would be extremely beneficial to the Duchy’s shipping industry.
“I understand. Please just make sure that the Marquis-nim does not find out about it. Presents are the best if they are a surprise.”
Ganael and Élisabeth nodded their heads on the same beat.
Prince Jessed would definitely be happy as well if Christelle won the bid. It was at that moment.
The office door opened and Emille de Haas urgently walked out.
They thought that he would be with the Prince but he was alone. Everybody’s eyes opened wide.
“Mr. Haas. Where is the Marquis-nim?”
“Ah, that…… He said that he would calm down before he left so I came out first……”
Christelle approached him and the merchant guild leader weakly looked down.
He was covering his cheek with his large pan-lid like hand. Élisabeth scowled.
“Is your teeth hurting? It sounds like you are crying.”
The merchant guild leader seemed to not know what to do and looked down.
The flashy cloth that draped down from his buzz cut hair was the same color as his eyes.
The portion of his face he was covering was red and swollen. Christelle decided to put on a show and play along.
“Oh my, what happened to your face?”
“Did you get bitten by a mosquito? I heard that the mosquitoes out at sea are quite vicious. A bite would definitely make someone tear up. I completely understand.”
“No, ma’am. That’s not it.”
Emille quickly responded.
“The Marquis-nim, he…… He placed his hand on me.”
Ganael curled forward and his poker face crumbled.
Élisabeth bit down on her lips and patted her fiance.
Christelle also bit down on her tongue to hold back from making a noise.
No matter what, they were certain that they could not laugh or swear right now.
Benjamin squinted and was silent for a few seconds before taking some dust off of Christelle’s shoulder.
His strategy was to just ignore the guy.
“Aigoo. I see. How pitiful. Why did he hit you?”
Auction. Successful bid. Auction. Successful bid. Christelle thought about her top priority and calmly asked.
‘Please don’t worry about Ganael. He knows the pain because he’s been hit before as well.’
She followed with improv like that as well.
Élisabeth was unable to hold back and buried her face in her hands.
Anybody would think that she looked like a shocked noble.
“He found it disgraceful that a lowly person like me dared to bother his conversation with you, Dame Sarnez…… I could not say anything because what he said was true.”
He slowly continued.
Christelle almost broke character for a moment but managed to miraculously maintain her calm.
Her will to gift the Prince a present at the same level as the crystal bell had won.
Benjamin was now counting the stripes on the wallpaper.
“Haaaa! I will apologize on his behalf. The Marquis-nim does have a habit of raising his hand easily.”
Emille cried while leaning his forehead against Christelle’s hand.
Everybody was in silent or vibrate mode as Christelle seriously debated about this.
‘Why does the prince end up with these fox-like people wherever he goes? No. What the hell does this young son of a bitch think he can gain from doing something like this?’
Jesse in a harem with the Empress, Cardinal, and Cedric? ROFL. But more importantly, what the heck is Emille planning?