“Me…… Are you planning on making me draw forever? You basically want me to eat and draw?!”
Joanne shouted from inside the cell to ask and I responded resolutely.
Her face was chaotic.
She was happy but felt weird, weird but happy.
She looked to be tearing up from chaos and relief and then smiled.
“I can’t let a talent rot. Oh, by the way, you have no choice in the matter. This is a punishment.”
“I’m very much aware!”
She frantically scratched the back of her head to hide her shock and rubbed her nose with her sleeve.
Her shoulders were moving up and down from breathing heavily.
I was planning on getting advice from Empress Frédérique and Cardinal Boutier regarding Joanne’s incident, but I felt as if the two adults would respect my decision as the territory lord.
They would probably give me some advice on a couple of things to fix or change and that would be it.
“What about Emille?”
“He’s imprisoned here too, isn’t he? Has he been eating?”
Joanne asked in a shaking voice. Vice Captain Élisabeth frowned.
None of us had a reason to tell a criminal about her brother.
The young Countess was about to say something when I raised my hand and stopped her.
I mouthed the words, it’s okay, to her.
“He is apparently eating one or two meals a day. He doesn’t speak much and I’ve heard that he has been sleeping a lot.”
“He will be heading to the Imperial Capital with us tomorrow.”
Joanne’s gaze slightly shook at my comment.
Although she had been harmed so much by Emille, she still seemed concerned for him as his older sister.
It must have been difficult to completely take away her affection because this was her brother, the person she had grown up with.
Anyway, family affairs were not easy to say to outsiders.
She struggled for a bit before speaking again.
“……That bastard needs to reflect on his actions for a bit. I hope he matures in there. It’s a good thing he is imprisoned.”
“He was the best among the frogs in the well. He should have conducted himself like the Prince if he wanted to be just as supported. He just sat there peeling away pumpkin seeds while wanting to be loved. He wanted fame on top of that. He also wanted to get married to a good family.”
‘He’s so full of greed it is even filling up his ass!’ Joanne ruthlessly commented. Christelle vigorously nodded her head.
“The shame of the family. But really, I’m not much different……”
Joanne trailed off before looking at me.
She then scowled as if she ate an extremely bitter medicine.
“So, I will work hard. I will keep working hard until I pay off all of my sins.”
“That sounds great.”
It was a great response.
I smiled and she started grumbling about how she got caught by the wrong person and that it would be better to go to the coal mines despite not really feeling that way.
That was all we had to do here. I was about to start walking when Joanne grabbed me.
“Excuse me! What about the merchant guild? What is going to happen to the Haas Merchant guild?”
“That is up to her Majesty as she is the master of Haas city. I heard that the merchant association in Haas will be running it together for a while.”
She became extremely depressed.
I heard that she gave up her inheritance a long time ago but her affection for her family seemed to still be there.
I became curious about something and asked.
“May I ask why you gave up on being the heir? You could have continued doing art even if you were the merchant guild leader.”
“I can’t do math. My stomach hurts whenever I even look at numbers.”
‘There was a back story like that.’ It seemed as if all of her abilities were invested in artistic intuition.
It made sense as I could not even imagine Joanne entertaining people as Emille had done.
I nodded my head and turned around. It was at that moment.
“Wait! I promise this is really the last thing!”
Clang! Joanne grabbed onto the bars of her cell as she shouted.
I could hear the Imperial Crown Prince sighing out the last of his patience.
I whispered to him to head out first because I was scared that he would pull out the Sword of Wisdom and then returned to Joanne.
Vice Captain Élisabeth, Benjamin, and Ganael remained about three or four steps away while the others walked down the hallway.
I looked down at the artist and asked.
“What is it? Are they not feeding you enough?”
“It’s not like that. It is a much more important issue.”
‘There is something more important than food?’ I tilted my head. She did not seem to care as she whispered.
“I told you last time. I said that we were framed as spies.”
It was the story I heard the first day I interrogated Joanne.
She said that although she could not prove it, she was confident that her great-grandfather, Baron Haas, had his title wrongfully removed.
“Yes, I have no proof. But my grandmother told us something while she was alive.”
“She said that my great-grandfather was the type who couldn’t even tell the smallest of lies and would rather break than bend. He did not admit to his sins even in his last moments before the late Emperor executed him.”
Her lemon-colored eyes were sparkling. I lowered my voice as well.
“So what are you getting at? You want me to help your family get rid of that dishonor?”
“Where would a flower of a Marquis who came here as a Diplomatic hostage get such authority? I don’t have rock for brains.”
She quickly whispered. ‘I feel like she said something weird just now……
“I’m warning you. The household that framed us is still on their high horse living a great life. Who knows if they are still spies for the Holy Kingdom?”
“……You be careful too, Marquis-nim. That’s all.”
Tang! Joanne let go of the bars and withdrew.
I looked at her in a daze for a moment before turning around.
The young Countess soon escorted me.
The last thing I saw were the remains of the portrait of Ganael that Joanne had washed off with water.
To be more specific, it was the faint white signature at the bottom.
‘J. T. Haas’.
“I’m really nervous. What if it is a fake?”
Christelle picked up Julite’s headdress and mumbled.
‘What else? Someone is going to lose their head.’ Her scary mumbling continued.
Instead of asking who would lose their head, I calmly said goodbye to the people who came to see us off at the portal.
Today was the day we were returning to the Imperial Capital. It was a bit disappointing but also great.
“Thank you for everything, Chantal. We will come again.”
“It was an honor, Marquis-nim. We were truly in awe of your big heart. We will look forward to the day we see you again.”
Chantal’s wrinkled eyes curled up.
The only people here from the Lord’s Castle were Chantal in her capacity as the lead attendant, and a servant.
Next to them was the bishop of the Sérénité diocese whom I had met during my walk through the territory.
The Archbishop of the Empire’s southwest region’s Archdiocese never showed himself but Benjamin said that he was doing it as a way to keep me down.
It was not weird because the high-ranking religious figures of Riester were mostly at the center of a fight for power.
It was just weird that he was wary of me and not someone else.
‘I have nowhere to go higher than a Marquis.’
“May the Almighty God’s blessing pave the way for a safe return.”
“Thank you very much. I hope you return safely as well, Bishop-nim.”
I shared goodbyes with the benevolent looking bishop and stepped onto the portal.
Everybody seemed busy with the final preparations.
However, our little headaches were causing trouble again!
“Demy, no! You shouldn’t be mean to our youngest.”
“You are the leader. Be more considerate……”
Demy loudly protested after being half-forced into my arms. He seemed to have his reasons.
‘No, even if Tithé is slow to move on land……
We can’t have the three of you carrying him on your backs.’
“In my opinion, that is the best way to move him when you are not carrying him, Marquis-nim. The divine beasts are smart.”
Christelle gently placed Julite’s treasure on my head as she commented. ‘That is true, but…’
Rhea and Perry grumbled once the center of their formation became empty.
Tithé seemed too heavy for just the two of them.
I looked toward the harp seal whose eyebrows were bobbing up and down as he laid on the backs of the red pandas.
We let him go in the Haas coast and waited for three hours but the little guy just kept swimming in the same place while looking only at us.
I looked around to see if his family might show up but there was nothing.
Once the sun went down, I wrapped the little guy in a towel and brought him back.
“Is it uncomfortable on your big brothers’ backs? Are you okay?”
– Ah oo!
Tithé cheerfully responded.
Based on seeing him for a few days, the little guy liked to copy the red pandas, chase Percy around, and showed a lot of interest to Christelle since she had the water attribute.
I smiled bitterly and squeezed Demy back in the middle. ‘I guess you all have a plan.’
“Yes, big bro was in the wrong. I will respect the four of your decision.”
Demy growled with satisfaction before the four of them moved efficiently to the center of the portal.
Crown prince Cédric, who had watched our little skit from start to finish, left a single line of review.
“Just worry about yourself.”
‘I got it.’ Christelle moved her hand away from my head at that moment.
The headdress that had been moving around for a while was finally fastened.
I was able to quickly snap out of my thoughts because the diamond coming down the middle of my forehead was cold.
She fixed my front hair and smiled.
“It was worth all that effort. It is so pretty. It suits you much better than I thought, your highness.”
“Thank you very much.”
I answered with sincerity.
My bag was full of motion sickness medicine I got from Marquis Duhem, but I decided to use the portal without using it today.
Benjamin and Ganael got on the portal behind me.
Percy flew around the ceiling before landing on Christelle’s shoulder.
Vice Captain Élisabeth gave a few orders to the Imperial Guard before eventually joining us.
She was pretty busy until this morning as there were quite a lot of troops that were sent from the Imperial Capital to Sérénité.
“Anyway, I wonder why Julite betrayed the late Emperor Romero.”
Christelle whispered while looking at my headdress. I blinked my eyes.
“I was curious as to why she is called the rare villainous and looked around but all I found was that his Majesty and Julite were lovers until the war started because of one of their betrayal. The reason for the betrayal was not listed. Do you perhaps know, Marquis-nim?”
I had nothing to say. This was something I had looked into until not too long ago.
However, nobody wrote about why Julite betrayed Romero, as if they all promised not to discuss it.
I couldn’t even tell whether it was a strategic move for her to approach the late Emperor or if she truly loved him until her feelings changed.
It was understandable that Christelle would ask me because Julite was a noble of the Holy Kingdom.
She probably thought that a prince like me might know something about her.
“I don’t re-”
Red mana shot out of the crown prince’s glove at that moment.
I gulped out of reflex. My fear of getting motion sickness slowly crept up.
Christelle gently patted the back of my hand that had veins clearly visible as if to soothe me.
The portal magic formation reacted to the young man’s power and started glowing red like hot metal.
“There would not have been a fallout between the two nations if we knew the answer.”
A sharp low voice cut in between Christelle and me. I looked toward the crown prince in shock.
‘You heard all of that?’
We then heard the noise of the portal being activated. The young Countess said that it would be okay. She was consoling me in advance.
I took one last look at the people of Sérénité who were showing their respects.
As I started to feel the headdress get warmer…
Demy, Rhea, and Perry broke their formation and ran over to me.
I guess they were still too scared to use a portal without me.
I chuckled and hugged my divine beasts. My fingertips slowly disappeared.
I opened my eyes wide. The power of this holy artifact truly was holy.
Forget motion sickness, I didn’t even feel like I was sucked away.
This was a mysterious and new fantasy world. The headdress was as warm as a roasted sweet potato.
The others who left with me were starting to appear one by one, making me certain that this was the regional portal in the western part of the Imperial Capital.
My cheeks automatically moved up to form a smile!
“Dame Sarnez, I did not feel a-”
I heard a familiar voice. I immediately turned. At that moment…
A pair of large brown eyes appeared in front of me.
I gasped and almost fell on my butt.
The young Duchess, who had decorated her curly hair with a pretty ribbon, was standing there looking at me like an angry poodle.
“I’m disappointed! You made a lady wait three hours!”
The child quickly turned her head away before shoving a piece of paper into my arms that were full of divine beasts and walked away.
To be more accurate, she started walking away, realized something and stopped, held up the hem of her dress and bowed toward me.
She was a respectful child after all. She also didn’t forget to peek at Tithé as she did that.
‘But she was waiting for me? Did she come all the way out here to greet us?’
“Welcome back, your highness.”
I then heard an easygoing voice in the portal. It was the Geens father and son I had not seen in a while.
I smiled brightly toward them.
“Hello, Sir Johann. Have you been well, Gerrit?”
The young boy bowed and hesitantly walked toward me. I barely managed to hug him with one arm.
Eva was now greeting the crown prince, Christelle, and the rest of her friends.
It was satisfying to see everybody looking so delighted. Sir Johann looked at the young Duchess and explained on her behalf.
“Young lady Blanquer has been desperately waiting for you, your highness. The invitation came out a few days ago.”
I asked back.
The card that was barely dangling in between Rhea and Tithé fell to the ground.
I subconsciously read the card.
‘The Blanquer Lord’s Castle invites you to a joyous occasion. On September 30th, young Duchess Eva Blanquer will be hosting a masquerade.’
Masquerade~ Paper faces on parade- Masquerade~