As soon as Empress Frédérique made that comment, everybody in the hall moved in unison.
Some people seemed drunk but I guess they were jolted out of it with the Empress in front of them.
I could only give mad props to Cardinal Boutier, who was subtly smiling in such an atmosphere.
“I guess it’s time for a toast.”
The Empress, who had approached our table, commented in a low voice.
Seeing her up close, even the loosely placed cufflinks and the crow’s feet by her eyes made her seem difficult to approach.
I gently grabbed my glass of aloe juice.
Chief of Staff Laura Mendy filled the Empress’s cup with a newly opened bottle of rosé.
“For the endless prosperity of the Riester Empire and for everlasting peace for my son.”
The energetic shouts of almost 200 people echoed through the banquet hall.
The orchestra immediately resumed playing. The hall instantly became lively again.
The nobles picked up their glasses and were moving around, talking loudly. It seemed as if they had never been fading away earlier.
It reminded me of high school when the lunch bell rang.
‘Her Majesty is usually relaxed with the nobles. She believes that it will annoy her less to do so.’
I recalled something Benjamin once told me.
‘Is this a way of being relaxed with them?’
They do seem to have listened well when the time called for it.
“I greet the sun that has descended to the ground!”
“I told you to sit, François.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
Marquis Duhem jumped up and quickly sat back down.
The Empress took a seat at the head of the table, holding her glass in her right hand as she slowly looked around at us.
The air felt stuffy despite it not being the rainy season.
The people at the two tables adjacent to us were simply enjoying themselves after offering us up as sacrifices.
“Good job to all of you for spending time in that punk’s territory. Eat a lot and have fun before you go.”
“Thank you for your Imperial benevolence, your Majesty.”
Vice Captain Élisabeth’s words of gratitude were perfect.
Christelle and I bowed as well.
Silence soon returned as people resumed eating.
The Imperial Prince and his mother said a few things to each other here and there. There were no issues of the conversation jumping to us.
Christelle, Vice Captain Élisabeth, the Duhem brothers, and I had silently agreed to fill our stomachs and leave them to have their bonding moment.
Nobody tried to drag it out any longer than necessary.
“I heard that a Holy Knight from the Vatican has arrived at the Sarnez Duchy.”
“……Yes, your Majesty.”
The Empress suddenly addressed Christelle at that moment.
I silently cut a piece off my cordon bleu while listening to the information flowing to my ears.
“When will your education start?”
“This coming Monday, your Majesty.”
“That’s fast. I’m glad to hear that.”
The Holy Knight that the Cardinal had requested to be dispatched for Christelle’s education seemed to have finally arrived at the Empire.
That meant that there was no need for her to take lessons with me anymore!
I barely calmed the corner of my lips from curling up.
Christelle was a good person and had excellent potential, but I still didn’t want to be mixed in with her.
I put the large piece of cordon bleu in my mouth. The familiar yet new taste enveloped my tongue.
My mood lifted up instantly.
The Emperor continued to speak.
“If you are okay with it, I hope that my son can learn with you.”
“Your Majesty…… Are you talking about his Royal Highness?”
I raised my head and saw Vice Captain Élisabeth working hard to move her philtrum back and forth.
It must have been quite funny for her.
I quickly looked down because I was worried that I would burst with laughter as well.
Christelle’s hand stopped midair while holding a palmier.
“Yes. There is nobody in the Empire who does not know that the Imperial Prince has used the abilities of a Holy Knight. The Imperial family will request that they dispatch another Holy Knight, but wouldn’t it be good to learn together until then?”
“I know that you are not interested in being appointed as a Holy Knight. However, do not think you can avoid the lessons to use your powers properly.”
The Empress sternly rebuked the Imperial Prince.
I bit my lips so that I wouldn’t be openly smiling.
Not only would Christelle stop taking lessons with me, she would be doing group lessons with the Imperial Prince.
‘Am I dreaming?’
“……It would be my greatest honor to learn together with his Royal Highness.”
She responded as calmly as possible.
Though, that last part sounded almost like gibberish.
Despite the fact that it was stated as a request, the Empress’s words were basically an order.
Christelle broke the heart-shaped palmier in half with two hands.
As for the Imperial Prince, he looked ready to butcher the pork in front of him with his knife.
I was looking on the other side of the table at the two of them with a new mindset.
They were both being extremely rude in front of an adult, but it felt so good to see the two of them seated next to each other like this.
It felt as if the author was finally trying to actively connect the two of them together.
It did seem like the right timing, since they had been building up their relationship through the Spring Ball and the Great Clearance of Demonic Beasts.
The time I had spent suffering in between the main characters flashed before my eyes.
“Don’t fight again and focus. Now that people know that the two of you are Holy Knights, pretty much every noble priest in the Empire will want to make a celestial covenant with you. The House of Sarnez is not a collateral line of the Imperial family, but there are not many religious figures who will ignore the power your family holds.”
The Empress gulped down her wine as she said that.
The Cardinal told her to drink slowly, however she pretended not to hear her, and instead got a new cup before standing up.
“I guess it’s time to pummel the other tables too.”
She also did not forget to leave such a magnificent comment behind.
11pm. Marquis François Duhem died.
“Marquis Duhem, you can’t sleep here. You need to go home. Where are you staying?”
I shook his shoulder.
The Marquis, who had his head on the table, was completely wasted from Christelle’s bomb-drink attacks.
The distilled liquor that the Empress sent around earlier was not extremely strong. It was similar to vodka, but he chugged it all down because Christelle mixed it with grapefruit juice……
“Should I call your attendant over?”
I almost accidentally said an Uber. (TL: Korea has these driver services where people come and drive your car home, but it isn’t a thing elsewhere, so Uber it is) I looked around.
Christelle was at the table on the left with her parents.
Vice Captain Élisabeth was also there, taking care of her drunk mother, while Captain Hervé Duhem was sleeping in the exact same position as the Marquis.
Their hair and skin color seemed to be the only similarities between them, but seeing them like this definitely made them seem like siblings.
‘I should tell a passing attendant to take care of them and get out of here……’
“I am thankful that you helped my son.”
I flinched and turned my head.
Empress Frédérique, who had returned to the center table at some point, was looking at me.
She was still holding a glass of wine but she did not seem drunk at all.
The Imperial Prince had not moved at all since the beginning of the celebration and was still in his seat, drinking water.
“He said that you played a big role in his attainment of the Sword of Wisdom from the Flaming Star.”
“I am honored, your Majesty.”
I bowed toward her.
‘Is this the recognition she was talking about?’
I was relieved that it was not a big ordeal, standing in front of everyone.
“I’m thankful too, my little prince. My godson has found at least a little bit of peace thanks to you.”
“It wasn’t much, your Eminence.”
The Cardinal, who had been sitting there like a painting, commented as well.
The peace she was talking about was the fact that the Imperial Prince’s ether depletion symptoms were a bit better.
I thought that the strong ether of the Sword of Wisdom should have been quite helpful for him.
‘Does that mean that Sadie…… Will he not turn small like that again?’
“Do you know how Cédric pulled out the Sword of Wisdom?”
“I did not see it but I believe that he would have channeled his fire attribute ether, which matches the attribute of the divine item, your Majesty.”
The Empress sounded as if she was chuckling as she took a sip of wine. I wanted to go home.
“And how much do you know about my son?”
I raised my head to see eyes as calm as red wine observing me.
“I must hear his answer.”
The Empress remained firm despite the Cardinal’s dissuasion. I didn’t even need to think about the meaning of this.
She was basically curious about how much I, the prince of an enemy kingdom, know about the Imperial family’s internal secrets.
My survival instincts and intuition gave me my answer. I only had to say what she wanted.
“I don’t know anything, your Majesty.”
The response came not from the Empress but from the Imperial Prince. I could see him slightly frown.
“I do not know anything other than the fact that his Royal Highness uses fire attribute ether.”
The Empress sighed. I maintained my calm.
Only an idiot would babble to the person who controls whether you die or not about their precious child’s secrets.
The Holy Kingdom already cast me out, there would be no ramifications even if she killed me.
That is why I have to act clueless if it is the Empress’ wish.
Regardless…… I was planning to feign ignorance anyway because I felt so embarrassed.
A short moment of silence swept through the table.
“You still have a long way to go, Cédric.”
The Empress squeezed her son’s shoulder once before letting go. The Cardinal quietly sighed.
‘Did the conversation topic suddenly change?’
“It’s not easy to earn trust. Work harder at it.”
The middle-aged woman commented in a mischievous tone.
I peeked to the side to see that the Imperial Prince’s orange eyes were glaring at me as if he wanted to roast me on the spot.
It scared me even more because I knew that he was capable of actually doing it now.
‘What’s the issue now?’
“We owe you a debt of gratitude, so I will give you the opportunity to request anything you wish. I heard it is your birthday soon.”
The Empress resumed speaking to me.
It seemed as if everybody but me knew about my birthday.
“Thank you very much, your Majesty.”
“You may return to rest now. It is late.”
I had to work hard to prevent my cheeks from rising in joy.
I thought that I would only be able to leave after spending the whole night here, so it was great luck to be able to leave before midnight.
The Cardinal had a bitter smile on her face after seeing me so happy.
It seemed as if she wanted to leave with me but could not do so.
I called over a passing attendant to take care of the Duhem siblings, respectfully said goodbye to the three people remaining at the table, and left.
The only thought on my mind was regarding my birthday present.
It wasn’t really my birthday, but I had to use this opportunity well since it was rare for a diplomatic hostage to get the privilege of choice like this.
Nobles were holding hands and spinning around the hall, dancing.
The calculator in my head was spinning around as well.
On the eastern part of the continent of the rising moon… The Venetiaan Holy Kingdom.
A man was angrily tapping the end of a folding fan.
There were endless tapping noises echoing in the wide palace room.
The attendants gathered nearby were warily looking at the man, not knowing what to do.
They looked tense because they didn’t know when a chair or vase might come flying.
Their handsome master was sometimes angelic and sometimes devilish. Though, he was more frequently the latter.
The urgent news that came across the border today was enough to turn him into a devil.
“Why is he still alive?”
He was not asking the attendants.
Vicious wrinkles filled the face of the man whose face was usually smooth despite being over fifty.
The man began to open and close the fan over and over.
It was a violet colored fan that complemented his faded light purple hair.
“Not only did the Imperial Prince get a divine item, the daughter of a Duke became a Holy Knight. And in between them is that dirty bastard child……”
“Y, your Royal Highness. We must be misinformed about Prince Jesse’s great performance…”
The man ended up flipping over the tea table.
The attendant who had spoken curled his shoulders forward in fear.
Hot tea splattered on the wallpaper, floor, and the attendants’ clothes. Nobody dared to move.
The Prince Consort of the Holy Kingdom, Werner, brushed back some of his hair and calmed himself.
“He did not die back then and made me extremely angry. Is he planning on building his influence in the west?”
“How would he dare to have such thoughts, your Royal Highness? The Empress of the Empire is no pushover. I’m certain that she will not just sit back and let the prince gain popularity.”
The Prince Consort glared at the attendant with a vicious gaze.
He should not have used the word, popular.
A small figure opened the door without knocking and entered at that moment.
The Prince Consort looked flustered for a moment.
The attendants used this opening to quickly start cleaning the floor.
The attendants who came with this uninvited guest looked pale.
Barging into the Prince Consort’s bedroom like this would usually result in severe punishment.
“Did you hear the news, Royal Father? They said that my brother rode a griffin the size of a mountain! He then awakened the Imperial Prince-nim and young lady with kisses……”
“They are just lies.”
The Prince Consort instantly cut his young daughter off.
At seven years old, second princess Cornelisse did not know how to control her excitement yet.
The child with rosy cheeks shook her small head side to side.
The man picked his daughter up. The pieces of glass on the floor were crushed under his shoes.
He supported the princess with his arm and headed toward the window with a peaceful look on his face as if nothing had happened.
The child’s ivory-colored hair sparkled in the sun.
“Elder brother said that he would come back if I slept 100 nights, b I didn’t know that he would have adventures there too!”
The Prince Consort chuckled. His chocolate-colored eyes became as dark as the night.
“Adventures are always dangerous, my little princess. You have to bet your life on them.”