“…Things have taken an unexpected turn, huh…”
As a result of his discussion with Jurgen—Katia’s father—Hermes began working at the Trakia household.
After that, they had a detailed discussion over the specific terms and conditions and whatnot, but there was nothing in particular that he didn’t agree with.
If he had to mention one thing he wasn’t too keen on, it was that he was prohibited from using The Inscription of Genesis, The Emerald Tablet without permission, but that was really it. Jurgen said that recreating Bloodline Magic in front of a large crowd would have dire consequences on aristocratic society, and it was quite likely that it would even put Hermes in danger, so it was better to not use it for now.
Jurgen knew the royal capital like the back of his hand, so Hermes thought it would be best to obey what he said. The biggest reason why he wanted to see Bloodline Magic was to analyze it, so there wasn’t much of a problem.
What they discussed afterward was the dramatic escape from Chris that Katia had the misfortune of going through today. Chris had made plenty clear that he was on direct orders from Astor, but even royalty couldn’t simply ignore the law and give such an order, so Jurgen planned on using his position as the Minister of Justice to object against Astor’s decision.
For the time being, that would probably prevent Chris and co from moving freely. Katia wasn’t completely free from danger, but that wouldn’t matter if Hermes did his job as a bodyguard to perfection.
At any rate, Hermes, although a servant, was able to become part of a prestigious duke household. Additionally, Jurgen, the present family head, promised that he would do as much as he could to help Hermes achieve his objective.
Back when Hermes first arrived at the capital, he was thinking of earning money at a day job that fit his skillset and sneaking into the commoner ranks of the knight order after saving up a reasonable amount of money. The current developments were a welcome surprise to him, considering how vague his previous prospects were.
Hermes was given the guest room he was led to earlier for his newfound employment as a servant and bodyguard. It seems like it was completely fine for him to treat this room as his own.
Hermes never thought he would be able to sleep on a bed—let alone be guaranteed the finest food, clothing, and shelter—on his first day at the capital.
At night, Hermes muttered to himself on the balcony of his room as he thought back on everything that’s happened in the past half-day or so.
“At any rate, I’m grateful to Miss Katia.”
“—Oh, you were here, Herm.”
Speak of the demon… or whatever it was.
Katia came walking from the other side of the balcony.
“Perfect timing. I was just thinking of talking with you a little more.”
She was wearing the same plain dress he saw from before.
She must’ve been wearing loungewear or something similar, as there wasn’t much in the way of any special decorations on her dress. Even so, it mysteriously still looked like a top-quality piece of clothing when she wore it.
At any rate, the material it was made out of was exceedingly high-quality. The subdued color of her dress complimented her hair and the vividness of her pupils, bringing about an otherworldly beauty that seemed to melt into the night sky.
She must’ve found his persistent staring strange, as she tilted her head to the side.
“What’s the matter? Is there something weird about me?”
“Ah, no. Rather, it’s quite the opposite… After getting another look, I was just thinking that you’ve become quite beautiful.”
As expected, her cheeks became beet-red.
“You’ve become quite upfront in the time I haven’t seen you… Although, come to think of it, you were always pretty upfront whenever you praised me back then…”
She placed her hand on her cheek, and it seemed like she was about to go off into her own little world, but she looked right at him with slanted eyes.
“That said, I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while, but… what’s with your way of speaking?”
“My way of speaking?”
“That’s right. You’re a lot more distant than you used to be… You won’t even call me Katty, either.”
“No, that’s a little…”
Hermes judged that would’ve been bad in more ways than one, so he decided to take the sensible approach and call her by her regular name.
“I’m already a commoner, and now I’ve become your employee and servant… I don’t think it would be good for appearances to act like we did back then.”
“Then do it only when we’re alone together.”
“It’s fine if we’re somewhere private, right? If you’re gonna go calling yourself a servant, then you’d best listen to your master.”
Without looking at Hermes, she lunged demand after demand at him in rapid succession.
…I don’t really get it, but I don’t have a reason to decline.
“I got it, Katty… Are you happy now?”
Her shoulders jumped with a start, and she finally looked in Hermes’ direction.
Her facial expression was slightly relaxed, and some lingering redness remained on her cheeks.
I probably shouldn’t point that out.
“Hmm… I’m not very used to speaking like this, though. It’s been years since I haven’t spoke politely.”
“Yeah, really. I lived together with my master in the backcountry ever since I was banished.”
Hermes hadn’t spoken casually ever since they were separated, so it’s been around five years.
He definitely felt a sense of nostalgia when he did.
Katia bent forward and asked a question, seemingly intrigued.
“What kind of person was that master of yours?”
“Hm… Like I mentioned earlier, I can’t give any details about her name or social position, but…”
Well, I suppose it’s fine if I just talk about her personality.
“To put it bluntly, she was a lost cause.”
“A-A lost cause?”
“That’s right. She gave off the impression that she didn’t care about anything except magic whatsoever. I took care of all of her basic everyday needs. She’d tell me to not come in for three days and lock me out of her laboratory, and when I came in three days later, I found her on the verge of dying from dehydration. Seriously, she never failed to amaze me.”
“T-That’s pretty insane…”
Come to think of it, I feel like Master’s doting and reliance on me got worse since then.
After that, Rose had several other tantrums up until he left.
“But when it came to magic, she was really amazing—to the point where I can confidently say she’s the absolute greatest magician in the world, from now until probably forever.”
Hermes’ voice was gentle, yet unwavering as he spoke his true feelings about his master.
Once Katia heard that last line, she smiled in a somewhat lonely way.
“You were saved by that person, huh… and not by me.”
“? I was also saved by Master. You’re the one that kept me together before I met Master.”
“That’s not what I meant, though… Well, let’s leave it at that for now.”
From then on, they had several nostalgic conversations here and there.
“—Speaking of which.”
Suddenly curious, Hermes asked a question.
“What have you been doing these past five years? You were engaged with Prince Astor, so a lot must’ve happened.”
In an instant, her body stiffened.
“…That’s right. A lot happened.”
In a different atmosphere than before, Katia began speaking.
“Hey, Herm. Haven’t you realized?”
“Regardless if you’re my childhood friend or servant, I wouldn’t be out alone with a man the same age as me while it’s this late at night—that is, if I was engaged.”
Hermes knew something was off.
Before he could realize what, the answer came straight from her mouth.
“You’re on the mark. Just last month, my engagement was broken off… Now, I’m nothing more than some discarded lady.”
At the same time, located in one of the rooms in the royal palace.
“Please forgive me! Please forgive me, Your Highness!”
The pathetic voice of a young boy with silver hair and jade eyes—Chris von Flembreed—echoed throughout the room.
“Silence. Who said you could talk back?”
Chris’ wails were cut short by a beautiful, yet displeased voice filled with self-confidence.
“I ordered you to capture Katia and granted you more than enough fighting power to do so.”
“And yet, what did you return with? You say you were interrupted by some no-name random magician and failed?”
Crumbling against the pressure of his voice, Chris shrank back, unable to say a word.
Correctly speaking, he wasn’t interrupted by some no-name random magician—it was undoubtedly his former younger brother.
However, his measly pride prevented him from acknowledging that fact.
He had no other option but to hide the true identity of the person who interrupted him, resolving himself to the further reprimanding that would follow thereafter.
…That’s to say nothing of the fact that hardly anything would’ve changed even if he did disclose the truth.
Moreover, he was currently unaware that hiding the truth would only bring him further grief down the road.
“Katia is, without a doubt, a hindrance to this country.”
Paying no heed to Chris’ paltry schemes, the owner of the voice continued.
“She attempted to obstruct my military rule at every step of the way, so I broke off our marriage. All she had to do was obediently accept my decision, yet she was unable to do so and brought about even further violence.”
His voice was filled with self-confidence—no, more precisely, his voice was that of someone who knew not of self-doubt to begin with.
“If I left that thing unchecked, she would have undoubtedly brought disaster to this country. That’s why we must capture her… And yet, despite that, those hard-headed elders said they couldn’t charge her with anything because she hadn’t been accused of any crime yet. No one understands my foresight; this is why this country is stagnating.
“I-It’s just as you say, Your Highness!”
Chris shouted, unable to bear the silent pressure exuding from Astor any longer.
“Your Highness is the true hero, a perfect being! You have never once been mistaken in your judgement! Those unsightly elders who merely cling to their status and influence shan’t obstruct Your Highness’ path to—”
“Enough with the blatant attempt of flattery, it’s unpleasant. It makes me question my character.”
However, that too was unpleasantly brushed aside by Astor.
“…Hmph, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t think everyone can do everything as flawlessly and perfectly as I can. The gods must be testing my ability to tolerate the failures of the inferiors below me as a king.”
Astor gave Chris, who was profusely apologizing, a side glance and turned his back at him.
“Temporarily cease pursuing Katia. Investigate the magician that interrupted you before anything else.”
Astor took little notice of Chris, who broke out into a cold sweat as he realized would pay dearly for his lies in the coming future.
The voice of his master—the second prince, Astor Josef von Eustia—left Chris with a leisure gait.