After finishing the labyrinth attack with their lives intact, Hermes and co returned to the duke’s estate.
The next few days at the estate were leisurely and uneventful.
The knights that accompanied them had sustained considerable injuries, so a decent amount of time was spent on their treatment and recuperation.
Well, that’s part of the reason, but…
What took up the most time was everything that followed after bringing back the ancient artifact. They presented it to the royal family, then they had it analyzed, then there was that hassle about the reward for their great achievement of bringing such a valuable artifact back and yadda yadda yadda. The entire household had more than enough on its plate, so Katia and the rest couldn’t make any thoughtless moves.
So, for the next few days, Hermes didn’t have any work to do as a bodyguard, but rather—
“Miss Katia, your tea is ready.”
—he was doing his job as another one of the servants.
“Yes, don’t mind if I do—wow, that’s delicious.” After taking a sip of the tea he made, Katia couldn’t help but widen her eyes in surprise and give her honest opinion.
“I’m glad to hear it. I wasn’t quite sure of what your preferences were, so I just did what Master liked. I’m pleased to know that it suits your taste.”
“Well… putting my tastes aside, you’re just really good at making black tea, Herm. Where did you get so skilled?”
“? That would be at my Master’s place. I took care of practically all the housework, so after five years of doing that, I believe I’ve gotten just as good as the next person…”
“You’re far better than just ‘the next person’, Hermes,” said Leila in a wry-sounding tone. She was Katia’s personal maid.
At the present moment, she was teaching Hermes everything to know about working as a servant for the Trakia household.
In short, she was his superior.
“You do your housework flawlessly, so much so that you measure up to our maids, and you instantly get the knack of any new tasks that come your way—you’re the ideal student. I doubt we’ll have much left to teach you in the near future.”
“I’m honored. This household went the extra mile to bring me in, so I need to become useful as soon as possible,” announced Hermes with a smile. He got Leila’s seal of approval, so he was feeling a little self-confident. “So with that in mind, please instruct me to do anything you so desire, Miss Katia.”
For some reason, Katia choked on her tea.
“A-Are you alright?”
“I-I’m fine… I just swallowed my tea the wrong way, is all…”
“…I blame that one on you, Hermes.”
Then, for some reason, he was scolded by Leila.
“…Anyhow, you’ll be conducting your research into my magic after this, right? I’ll be there shortly, so go ahead and get ready before me.”
Hermes didn’t quite understand what just happened, but it was indeed almost time for him to recreate Katia’s magic so that he could take a closer look at it, which they had decided upon the other day at the labyrinth.
I’d expect nothing less from the magic passed down through a duke household; the complexity of its formulas were unlike anything I’ve seen. The road ahead seems longer than I had originally anticipated, but I’m definitely feeling steady progress in my analysis.
But most of all, I simply delight in examining such meticulously constructed and beautiful magic. What sort of approach should I take with my inspection today?
Hermes sank deeply into his own little world of thought and theorycrafting, forgetting all about the previous exchange as he exited Katia’s room with a bow.
Hermes closed the door, and a brief silence followed thereafter.
Katia placed her teacup on the desk and sank into the sofa, the strength draining from her body.
Naturally, her face was bright red.
“I understand how you feel, my lady.” Leila, who had been watching her, nodded with her arms folded together. “Cast aside by your fiancé, you sank into the depths of despondency—but then! Just as you were about to be assailed by fiendish scoundrels, the boy from your childhood swoops in like a knight in shining armor! Having grown into a splendid young man, he repels the scoundrels in magnificent fashion, the promise that you two made from bygone days held dearly in his heart! No wonder you fell for him. My heart skipped a few beats just listening to your account of what happened. You were there first-hand, so your poor maiden’s heart must’ve not stood a chance.”
“…Calling them scoundrels is taking it too far… Also, you make it sound like I’m an easy woman. Stop that.”
“While that’s not necessarily untru—my apologies.” Leila blurted out her honest opinion, but she quickly caught on to the black aura emanating from Katia, so she held her tongue. “But for real, you hit the bulls-eye with him, my lady. Hermes is a very honest and sweet boy—a complete 180 from that impudent, unruly prince!”
“…He’s His Highness the Second Prince, you know. You shouldn’t speak poorly of him.”
“Not my problem! I haven’t any respect for a half-witted man who dumped my lady!” Leila childishly pouted and faced the other way, but she quickly regained her composure and began speaking with a smile tinged with mischief, “It might as well be as clear as day, so I’ll just say it upfront: you’re in love with him, are you not? Why not shoot your shot and tell him how you feel?”
“WHA-! T-THERE’S NO WAY I COULD JUST UP AND DO THAT!!” Katia bent forward and fiercely objected. The flush in her cheeks, which had finally receded, came back in full force.
“Is there some sort of problem with what I said?”
“Sure there is! It’s riddled with problems! Our social standings and situations are totally different, and I’m sure his goals are way out of my reach, far grander than what they were in the past… Besides…”
“Besides?” Leila picked up from where Katia trailed off.
Katia’s eyes wandered about, seemingly not wanting to say anything more; but in the end, she continued in a frail voice, “…I just broke it off with my fiancé last month. If I just confess to him out of the blue… what’ll I do if Herm thinks I’m some loose woman that jumps from guy to guy…?”
“…My lady. You are too cute.”
“Hey, Leila, what’re you hugging me for?”
“Because you are too cute.” Leila’s behavior was so sudden that Katia’s mood took a 180, and she gave her the stink eye.
Katia felt like things have gotten pretty stupid in more ways than one, so she decided that she might as well get everything off her chest. “One more thing.”
“Are you still worried about something?”
“…It kinda feels like Herm is too mature.”
“Oh?” Leila released Katia from her embrace and faced her.
Ever since she reunited with him, that was the biggest thing on her mind.
She remembered him as a child who acted his age and expressed his emotions in a straightforward and loud manner.
But now, after meeting him for the first time in five years, he had become much more indifferent and subdued.
I could just chalk it up to him becoming more mature and call it a day, but… if I were to put it in harsher terms, it looks to me like he’s become more unfeeling overall.
He got mad on my behalf during the labyrinth attack a little while ago, so I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s emotionless, but regardless, my point still stands.
…If I were to tell it like it is, I want him to be more interested in me—but that’s just me being selfish, really.
“He complimented me by saying I was pretty, but it was super casual… so… that’s why…”
“I see. So what you’re saying is, you want to see him react more bashfully and awkwardly!”
“So what you’re saying is, you want to see him react more cutely and innocently, like a young boy flustered by Miss Katia’s—the number one beauty of the capital—charm!”
“T-That’s going a little too far… Also, that’s just your one-sided opinion.”
“I shan’t deny that!”
I’ve been thinking this for a while now, but this maid is way too outspoken.
“But I mean it when I say that. Even if I were to look at it objectively, you’re one of the prettiest girls in the royal capital, my lady! Also, please leave that stuff up to me!”
“…Whatever do you mean by that stuff?” Katia gave Leila a suspicious look, who was proudly puffing out her chest.
“The other day, my lady, you brought back an ancient artifact from a labyrinth and presented it to the royal family, which is a magnificent, meritorious accomplishment. You will, without a shred of doubt, be granted some sort of reward… that means a celebration party will also take place.”
“That will be your big chance! I, unworthy as I may be, know everything there is to know about you, my lady! THEREFORE! I shall, without fail, select the clothing that will bring out your charm to the fullest! Then, I shall have Hermes escort you, giving him the absolute best view of you, the most attractive person there by a long shot!” Leila tightly clenched her fist for emphasis. “There is no gentleman who wouldn’t be spellbound after being put together with a lady of your beauty! As luck would have it, the star of this party will undoubtedly be you, my lady! As such, no one shall rebuke or berate you for dressing up as beautifully as you desire. That’s right—I’ll be able to dress you up in all the ornaments and dresses that I always wanted to make you wear, but couldn’t…!”
Leila’s desire to doll up Katia to the maximum stood out like a sore thumb.
Just as Leila predicted, several treasures were bestowed to the Trakia household as a reward for bringing back the ancient artifact.
The celebration party would be held not a day later.
Katia, who had no fiancé or even any brothers at the present moment, appointed her servant, Hermes, as her escort.
Hermes wondered if it was really alright for him to take on such a role, but he was the only male servant close to her age, making it clear he was only there for official reasons. Upon asking, he received a somewhat decent explanation, so he agreed.
Thus, it went as Katia aimed for and expected.
However, something unexpected happened on the day in question, and the curtain to the party rose.
Was gonna post this yesterday, but I wanted to take some more time to make it better, so here it is. Pretty happy with the result. I’ll post magic arrow later today (for sure this time). Thanks for reading. EDIT: changed anniversary party from celebration party mb .