“You should know that her Majesty cherishes the three of them a lot, your highness. She would not have ended their punishment there if she didn’t.”
Benjamin commented in a jovial voice.
His movements were cautious as he placed ice in my warm hydrangea tea.
The resting areas in the Summer Palace were exactly to our liking.
Everything was just right to relax, organize our thoughts and information, and have tea time.
There was a small, well-maintained forest in the back of the Summer Palace. It felt like a large mansion.
There were even some pavilions with white tiles and orange roofs within the forest.
The couches and chairs were so clean that they looked new and the potted plants looked as if they had just been planted. It was amazing.
It was shocking that underneath the roof was decorated like the indoors when taking a single step out of the tile would place us within grass and trees.
“It is obvious because his Royal Highness is her Majesty’s only child. She looks kindly towards Vice Captain Élisabeth because she is his Royal Highness’s closest friend. Young lady Sarnez is Duke Simon de Sarnez’s precious daughter and was going to be his Royal Highness’s fiancée at one point.”
“That’s right. I also thought that the punishment was quite light.”
I nodded my head and picked up a beignet.
Today’s beignets were filled with boiled down cherries and cranberries with sugar powder on top. It smoothly melted on my tongue as soon as it entered my mouth.
Both the shape and taste made it feel like a French doughnut.
“Furthermore, the way the three of them caused so much trouble like that…… It might have reminded her Majesty of her younger days.”
The middle-aged man gently added on. I responded.
“I have heard that her Majesty and her Eminence, Cardinal Boutier, went around causing a lot of trouble back then.”
“That is true, your highness. Grand Duke Yvelines had to clean up after them. I’m certain that she must have been secretly pleased at seeing the three of them like that.”
‘That must be why she acted that way.’
The dinner with the Empress and the Cardinal four days ago had continued in the extremely tense atmosphere.
However, the punishment for Christelle, the Imperial Prince, and Vice Captain Élisabeth had been quite light in comparison.
By the end of it, it was so relaxed that everybody, except the Imperial Prince and myself, took multiple shots of absinthe.
According to Ganael, he would have been placed in the underground prison without any mercy if he had been the one to do such a thing.
“If it was someone from a household that has a terrible relationship with her Majesty, they could even be charged with trying to cause a rebellion.”
The young boy chatted away while seated on a small couch.
It would be weird if anything else happened if someone brought a pirate ship into the Imperial family’s territory.
I chuckled and took a sip of my hydrangea tea.
The Summer Palace had been extremely quiet for the past three days.
The Empress and the Cardinal had only come here to get away from the heat and not for a true vacation, so they were in their respective offices looking after the Empire’s affairs.
The knights were busy going back and forth between the Imperial Capital and Yvelines as messengers.
Vice Captain Élisabeth left for Moutet County the day after dinner.
She said she had a lot of things to confirm, such as whether or not the Margrave’s Knights Brigade successfully captured the pirates they had thrown into the water as well as how the aftermath clean up was going.
Christelle and her instructor, Sir Johann Geens, remained at the Summer Palace.
There was an Imperial Order for her to study with the Imperial Prince here for a while.
The two of them did not go all out when sparring against each other like they did back in the Imperial Palace.
Furthermore, the Imperial Prince was busy as the Duke of Yvelines, taking care of issues in the Duchy that had been stacking up.
It was nice that I was alone in peace.
The northern breeze brushed past the leaves and grass.
I couldn’t help but smile, feeling refreshed.
Benjamin and Ganael confirmed that I was eating and drinking well before opening up some books.
This has been how I spend my past few days. I slept well too.
I opened my notebook and picked up a quill pen, as I always did.
∙ Avoid vs Get involved
The two options I wrote yesterday were clearly visible.
I stared at the two options as if they were my worst enemies.
Based on my abilities, I might not be able to avoid getting tangled in Christelle’s epic story forever.
That was what this experience had taught me.
Until now, I had thought that I would find a way to survive if I did my best, stayed focused, and avoided the two main characters.
However, I was a bit skeptical after being in Yvelines with the two of them to spend the summer.
If the author of QNW needed me for Christelle’s story and was planning to stick me in there once again against all odds, my resistance was futile.
Furthermore, the two of them had saved me when I was falling off a cliff.
I rubbed the spot on my forehead that had slammed into the Imperial Prince’s Adam’s apple.
∙ Avoidvs Get involved
– Pros of getting involved: Easy to gather information.
I added that sentence before staring at the paper again.
The main character was bound to be at the center of new information.
Christelle was lively and full of curiosity, so there was no better partner than her when it came to gathering new information about QNW.
I might even find some clues about returning home.
Things that I would not be able to learn through books or lessons should be plentiful in her adventures.
– Pros of avoiding them: Can live until the war.
I felt my throat burning and crunched on an ice cube that was floating on top of my hydrangea tea.
My concern stemmed from this point.
If I avoided the two of them and did not interfere in the original storyline as much as possible, the war was likely to happen as it did in the story.
I didn’t think that the author would trash an important event where the extremely popular second male lead passed away.
In this case, there was only one thing for me to do in order to survive.
Limit contact with the two main characters as much as possible and stay in a safe place until the end of the war.
However, if I did not resist getting involved with them and ended up being with Christelle and the Imperial Prince in the coming days…
The original QNW might disappear completely.
The two of them were both Holy Knights and I was a real priest, which meant that all of our classes had changed.
Adding someone like me, who contributed to the uncertainty, was too risky.
I was a regular person unlike the two of them.
I frequently made mistakes, my athletic abilities were the lowest of the low, and I could not make decisions like the main characters or Imperial family.
If I got involved and the story took an unexpected turn; if it rippled from there to accelerate the time in which I die……
“That’ll be quite the headache.”
I quietly mumbled. Survival. Survival was more important than anything else.
If I had transmigrated as the Empress or Cardinal and had to save Prince Jesse, I would have set the foundation from the beginning in order to prevent the war.
Unfortunately, I was the prince himself and a diplomatic hostage.
There were only a few things I could do, and staying submissive was the only way to survive when I could be in danger at any moment.
I did have a trump card already prepared, but……
It would be great if I had other ways to guarantee my safety.
I suddenly recalled what I had thought of while looking at the Imperial Prince a few days ago.
I quickly turned the front page of the notebook.
∙ Sadie and the suspicious letter
I had a note to get back from the little kid.
I was thinking that the only thing I could give the kid in return for it was ether.
Thinking about it that way, that was the same for the Imperial Prince and Christelle.
I could offer the two of them the same condition.
The problem was that the two of them probably didn’t care about me as much.
I can proudly say that my ether has the highest quality of all the ether in the continent, but……
“Benjamin, excuse me.”
I ended up calling out to Benjamin, who was seated on a couch across from me. I needed an adult’s counsel.
He immediately raised his head to look at me.
His imposing gaze made me calm down a bit.
“What should I do if I want to make a deal with someone but the cards I have are not very good?”
I asked. Benjamin tilted his chin a bit.
“My product is extremely high quality. I can confidently say that it is the best. However, the product itself is common…… So the other party can easily find a replacement basically anywhere.”
The Imperial Prince could probably order an Archbishop to come and give him ether if he wanted to do so, and Christelle wasn’t much different.
She did try to get me to partner with her twice, but that was because it was right before the Great Clearance of Demonic Beasts and she was in a rush.
The Duke’s House of Sarnez was a house with enough ability to search through every temple within the Empire if she was to leisurely look for a partner.
“But you are saying that there is no product anywhere better than yours, your highness.”
“That should be the case. At least I believe so.”
“Then that means that you have the greatest card in your hand, your highness.”
Benjamin responded in a calm voice.
Ganael, who eventually looked up from his book, blinked a few times as he listened.
“Anybody who is making a deal with you about it is probably in a high position. Such people have no interest in subpar products. Their minds are set on getting their hands on things that are as precious and rare as themselves. They will accept any request you may have, your highness.”
I had never considered it in that aspect.
I was just thinking about saying things like, ‘ether is all about quality over quantity, esteemed customer’.
‘I guess this is how pincette marketing works.’
“If I may say something else……”
“Of course, I will listen.”
I sat up straight as I responded. Benjamin smiled benignly.
“Nonetheless, the most important thing is trust, your highness. There needs to be mutual trust in order to make a deal.”
He was speaking as if he saw right through me. I smiled bitterly and lowered my gaze to the table.
I could see a Brioche Vendéenne that had been luxuriously braided like Christelle’s hair.
“Is it hard for you to trust the other party, your highness?”
Ganael quickly put his book down and sliced some brioche for me, most likely thinking that I wanted to eat some.
I laughed once the warm piece of bread was placed in my hand.
“I’m not sure. Thank you.”
At least Christelle seemed trustworthy.
She was Jung Eunseo’s favorite character and seemed to be a righteous person.
She might do whatever she needs to do in order to be a shield if I asked earnestly. On the other hand, the Imperial Prince……
“I think I want to trust him.”
“Then how about giving him a chance, your highness?”
The young boy looked at me and innocently asked.
‘A chance. A chance is something I can only give if I’m in a position to give it.’
“I’ll think about it. The brioche is delicious. You should eat it while it is warm too.”
I placed a piece of bread in Ganael and Benjamin’s hands as well.
I had no plans on suggesting a deal right away anyway.
A supporting character like me with a time limit had to watch the flow and be smart about where to take the next step.
“Today is special ether training. Big bro is going to rip his Holy Domain up.”
Demy seemed to be extremely disciplined despite his guardian being in pajamas.
The room I was staying in within the Summer Palace was about twice the size of my room in Juliette Palace.
It was a relief that my circle would not extend past the door even when I extended it as far as possible.
The attendants were making a fuss late into the night because it was my birthday tomorrow.
I had no desire to add even more chaos.
Everybody was walking on their tippy-toes and whispering because the Empress, Imperial Prince, and Cardinal were resting, but it was still chaotic.
It made me wonder if it was even okay for them to treat me so well when I was a Diplomatic hostage.
‘Well, I don’t mind it. I guess I’m thankful that the Imperial Prince gave permission for them to do this too……’
I was a bit apologetic that there was nothing I could give in return.
“Should I take some confessions tomorrow?”
I could at least do that much.
I had not properly completed my duties as a priest after the first two days in Yvelines.
Nobody was forcing me to do it, but I felt guilty not doing it and relaxing since I was the one who said that I would do it.
Rhea could not wait any longer and pushed down on my foot.
She was telling me to quickly release my ether.
“Yes, Korean people like it fast-fast.” (TL: The faster pace in life (exemplified in technology, construction, and delivery industry) is largely reflective of the general Korean culture for instant replies and fast progress. This might have stemmed from the rapid economic growth the country experienced within such a short period of time, which gave rise to the phrase.)
I lowered my gaze and opened my Holy Domain.
I felt a tiny amount of ether leaving my body and a golden light lit up the inside of the room.
The ceiling, and a part of the wall that was painted blue as an accent, were glowing green.
The gold decorations sparkled even more radiantly. The three red pandas jumped up and down with excitement.
I looked at the kiddos and recalled what Cardinal Boutier had told me.
‘I’m sure you know about it after reading the books, but there is only one way to upgrade your ether circle. Use it frequently- circulate it frequently and apply it frequently.’
She said that that also depended on whether someone had the talent for it.
If the plate they were born with was small or they only had a small amount of ether, a priest would remain at the same level forever.
‘You can become a good Cardinal, my little prince. So don’t give up and play around with your ether.’
She was setting her disciple’s goal for becoming a Cardinal when this was a world where a priest retiring as a bishop was already considered the greatest honor of someone’s life.
I would probably die in the war before reaching that level, but it was a good thing for my teacher to be ambitious about my potential.
The chimney bird that had been nodding off on a pillow flew over and landed at the center of my circle.
“You’re not asleep yet. Did you come to watch?”
The Holy Domain shook for a moment. My eyes opened wide.
It reminded me of radio signals being jammed.
The bird sounds like some secret agent in disguise. Reminds me of that one movie, Spies in Disguise.