Chapter 18: The Kingdom’s True Nature

The day of the party—

“I haven’t worn formal wear in ages…” muttered Hermes. 

His body enveloped in an unfamiliar sensation, he remained in the waiting room.

Since Hermes was only participating as a servant, he had thought his servant uniform would do the job just fine. It was quite tight-fitting and formal, and he had become quite used to it since coming to the Trakia household, but…

“Hermes, this is a matter of presentation. While I’m very much aware that you’re only a servant, being escorted by a man in tailor-made attire brings out a woman’s charm to the forefront, does it not?”

Persuaded by Leila, Hermes assumed that this was just the way things were. He couldn’t just decline after being told it was for Katia’s sake.

As Hermes was thinking about this and that, there was a knock on the door. 

“…May I come in, Herm?”

“Ah, Miss Katia. Yes, it’s alright.”

Seems like Katia’s finished getting ready, too. I know she’s dressing up for the big occasion, but it still took a pretty long time, thought Hermes, opening the door and laying eyes on the girl who entered the room.

There stood a fairy in the flesh.

She was outfitted in a purple off-the-shoulder dress. The line from her collarbone to her shoulders was boldly exposed, accentuating her dangerous charm as a woman on the fine line between maiden and madam. Moreover, the ruby necklace around her neck and the black ribbons adorning her wrists accented the whiteness of her skin, bringing about a magnificent golden ratio of loveliness and beauty.

The velvety fabric of her dress veiled her delicate frame from the chest to her waist, of which the faintest touch would seemingly shatter like glass. The skirt extending therefrom was bejeweled with an innumerable amount of small, golden ornaments, and combined with the color of the fabric, her skirt gave off a radiance akin to that of the night sky. The color of her skirt gradually became lighter the further you went down, which was a refreshing finishing touch.

She had a half-up hairstyle, and a lovely flower ornament was weaved into a part of her hair. Her modest yet meticulous makeup seemed to bring the natural beauty of her glittering amethyst pupils to new heights.

The Fairy of the Night.

Hermes had heard of certain whispers describing her as such. He now thoroughly understood the reason why.

“…H-How do I look?”

“Ah, u-uh…”

For several seconds, he had lost himself in her beauty, his mind completely blank.

Katia asked for his opinion, looking embarrassed. Her voice brought him back to reality, and his eyes briefly wandered around the room. 

“…I deeply apologize,” said Hermes with an awkward smile. “During times like these, I should be praising you to the fullest extent of my vocabulary, but… I can’t find the words to properly describe what I’m thinking. Beautiful—is all I can come up with.”

“!”

She must’ve understood exactly what he meant by that.

Katia seemed like she wanted to say something as well, but she was unable to put it into words; in the end, she ended up hanging her head in embarrassment, her face bright red.

“…That was the best reaction I could’ve asked for. Splendid work. Spending the entire night coming up with the design paid off in the end…!” said one person from the back. It was Leila, who apparently went unusually great lengths to make today’s Katia.

As the curtain to their little happening closed, the curtain to the party rose as Hermes and Katia entered the party venue arm in arm.

This party was being held to celebrate the Trakia household’s—in particular, Katia’s—outstanding achievement. As the star of the party, Katia had to make the rounds and greet everyone, to which Hermes accompanied her while paying due consideration to his position.

As expected, they received voices of praise from both the guests they greeted and the surrounding guests.

“…Lady Katia, was it? Even after getting a better look, her beauty is out of this world…”

“I believe she’s around 15? She’s already grown into such a fair lady—there’s no doubt in my mind that she’ll become a peerless beauty in the future.”

“Not to mention, I hear she’s flawless in the way of her education. If only it weren’t for the fact that she can’t use magic… it’s truly a shame…”

“No, hold on. According to what I’ve heard, she seems to be overcoming that flaw as well. Apparently, she drove away Count Eldridge solely by intimidating him with her Bloodline Magic.”

“What?!”

It seems like rumors about not only the artifact they brought back, but also their exchange with the count had made the rounds. 

She was being commended to the point where her degrading nickname, Miss Defective, seemed like a thing of the past. 

I mean, it hasn’t really been that long since I returned to the capital.

“…Miss Katia, was your reputation in the royal capital really that low…?”

“It sure was. Nobles love to jump from one thing to the other, so much so that the bad rumors about her went poof. The biggest reason, though, was that your guys’ achievement this time around was especially noteworthy,” unexpectedly replied someone else.

They turned to the voice, and there they saw a tall, purple-haired gentleman, his slender frame tightly wrapped in formal wear. It was Katia’s father, Duke Jurgen, the present head of the Trakia household.

“Your Grace… Your formal wear looks exceptionally good on you.”

“Hahaha, you should save those words of praise for Katia.” 

With a laugh, Jurgen tipped the wine glass in his hand to the side, freely speaking his mind. 

“Have you finished greeting the King?”

“His Majesty won’t be attending—he’s quite the busy man. He’s flooded with external affairs and dealing with monsters and the like, so he leaves internal affairs such as these entirely up to his retainers or other royal family members,” said Jurgen. He then lowered his voice, muttering in a slightly depressed-sounding whisper, “…But that’s the troubling part.”

Hermes didn’t know much about the royal family, but he’s heard rumors that monsters have been much more active as of late.

Hermes chalked up Jurgen’s grumblings to that, but Jurgen was quick to change the subject and began speaking, “That reminds me. I’ve heard you helped Katia overcome her difficulties with magic?”

“Ah, not quite. All I’ve done is provide her the means to do so. Katia has always had that power.”

“But if it weren’t for you, she wouldn’t have ever gotten the chance to shine. I give you my thanks… It seems like my decision to place my trust in you was the correct one.”

“…” 

Those words reminded Hermes of their exchange on the day he came to the Trakia household. Hermes suddenly felt like something was off, so he decided this was a good chance to ask. “Your Grace.”

“Hm? What is it?”

“Why do you put so much faith in me?”

It’s true that Jurgen had known Hermes since his childhood, and that he understood Hermes’ personality and circumstances in life.

However, Hermes also felt like it was hasty of Jurgen as the head of a duke household to make the decision of hiring Hermes on the spot. 

“Just as Your Grace said that day, it was highly likely that I could’ve been working under the Flembreed household. And yet, without a moment’s hesitation, you agreed to hire me… Naturally, I’m very grateful, but I can’t help but wonder why you made the decision that you did.”

“…You have a point. As I’ve said, a big part of the reason was because Katia genuinely trusted you. However, if I were to list another major reason—” Jurgen then took a sip of wine and continued with a rather cryptic smile, “—it would be because I have a rough idea as to who your ‘Master’ is.”

“!”

“In our generation, she is quite famous. She’s the first person that comes to mind that’s capable of bestowing you such out-of-the-ordinary magic.”

Just as his master instructed him to, he hadn’t said a single word about Rose’s true identity—not even about her gender.

The fact that he referred to Rose by “she” proved that he wasn’t completely bluffing. 

“Yup, from the face you’re making, I can tell I’m right on the mark… That just further proves that I made the right choice,” said Jurgen, scanning Hermes’ face for even the slightest of twitches and getting a read on what he was thinking.

I suppose he isn’t the head of a duke household for nothing.

“Fret not. I only figured it out because she knows me—or rather, my wife. There aren’t many people in our generation who could instantly connect the dots between your magic and her.”

“…Is that… so.”

“Yup. So don’t dwell on it too much. I’d greatly appreciate it if you kept supporting Katia like you’ve been doing so far… Look, she seems to be in a bit of a predicament already. Go over and lend her a hand,” said Jurgen, giving Hermes’ back a light push and disappearing into the throngs of party guests.

“…That scared the hell out of me.”

I had no idea there was someone who could connect me to Rose just from my magic alone. According to Jurgen, I seem to be an irregular case, but it’s best to be on the safe side, thought Hermes, heading over to where Katia was like he was told to.

“Miss Katia! I beg of you, please just give it a moment of thought!”

“I’m afraid not. It’s out of the question as of now.”

“Please don’t say such things! A trifling second is all I ask of!”

Hermes spotted some persistent, bootlicking man desperately imploring Katia.

From the looks of it, she’s clearly being bothered by him, so Hermes thought of a swift way to help her out and called out to her as he approached. “—Miss Katia. Your father is calling for you.”

“Oh, Herm. Alright, I understand. I’ll be there shortly,” responded Katia with a nod, seemingly getting Hermes’ message in an instant. 

She shifted her gaze to the begging man. “…So, what will you do? Will you say the same in front of Father?”

“B-Before Sir Trakia of Dukedom!? I-I must decline!” said the man, instantaneously breaking into a cold sweat as he hurriedly took his leave.

Katia sighed and approached Hermes. “You’re a life-saver, Herm.”

“You seemed to be rather troubled. Also, I must apologize—”

“I know already, you lied about Father. At heart, he’s the type to let his kid handle themself during occasions such as these.”

I heard this from Leila, but apparently, Jurgen is dreaded by other nobles during social gatherings and the like.

Well, I guess it makes sense, what with the pressure I felt from him on the day I arrived, as well as the ability of discernment I was just subject to a moment ago. I doubt anyone would want to be that guy’s opponent in a battle of wits.

I used Jurgen’s reputation against that man just now, but it was far more effective than I had thought. Even if he took up Katia on her offer, I’m sure Jurgen would’ve dealt with him one way or the other.

“On that note, what was he talking to you about?”

“…Marriage talks.”

“Marriage talks?”

“Yup. You heard what they said when we were greeting everyone, right? ‘Get engaged with my son’ and whatnot. Sometimes the actual son of the family would come along and cross the line, saying stuff like ‘Be my wife.’”

“Ah…”

“I couldn’t believe my ears when the same people that scorned me in front of my face brought up marriage… How am I supposed to bring myself to be with the people who’ve never believed in me?” grumbled Katia with a fed-up expression.

She must’ve been asked a lot, and very persistently.

Although, their sudden change of heart could be explained pretty easily.

Excluding the fact that she couldn’t use magic until now, she was known as a beautiful, wise, and all-around flawless dutchess.  

Now that rumors of her only and greatest flaw being gone were floating around…

“It’s unavoidable that you’d be in high demand, my lady.”

“Excuse me?” 

Katia, however, frowned in response, seemingly displeased. “Why are you acting like this isn’t your problem?”

“Huh? No, that’s not…”

“Are you saying that you wouldn’t care if I got engaged?”

She stooped over, glaring at Hermes with upturned eyes. “Listen up. If, by any chance, I did get engaged… I might… not be able to be with you anymore.”

“What?”

“While male servants close in age aren’t necessarily off-limits, it’s best to keep them out of the picture so as to prevent any tasteless rumors from spreading around. If the spouse is the stern-type, then male servants are totally out of the question. In spite of all that… does it really not matter to you, Herm?” asked Katia, her voice sounding somewhat sorrowful. 

Hermes fell into thought for several seconds. “…Working conditions in a duke household are extraordinarily excellent. It would be quite troubling to get kicked out… Besides—”

“Besides?”

“Becoming separated from you again would indeed… be very lonesome,” whispered Hermes. 

He spoke softly, yet his words brimmed with emotion nonetheless. 

Katia widened her eyes in response. “T-…That’s right. As long as you get it.”

She turned the other way, hiding her now tender expression to keep up her angry facade. “A-Anyway, that’s how it is,” she exclaimed, speaking on the fast side.

“U-Understood.”

“Don’t worry, I don’t plan on considering marriage for some time, so I’ll decline all the offers I get toda—”

“Duchess Katia!”

Once nobles catch wind of a potentially good marriage opportunity, they reach aggravating levels of persistence.

Once again, another noble approached Katia.

“…And who might you be?”

“My name is Carl von Hartnett! I manage a count household to the west. I am pleased to make your acquaintance!”

Despite blatantly making her disinterestedness clear, the man—Carl von Hartnett—introduced himself with a complete disregard for her halfheartedness.

“I applaud your unyielding endeavors to conquer your inability to use magic at long last, Miss Katia! As such, I’ve come with an offer—”

“Might it be marriage?”

“I-I would expect nothing less from you, Miss Katia! Your wisdom is a sight to behold! It is just as you’ve surmised! On that note—”

“I must apologize.”

Repeating the same sequence of events for the nth time today, Katia unhesitatingly cut the man off mid-proposal, speaking as little as possible. “As of now, such proposals are out of the question. Hence, I am declining all offers that come my way today.”

“P-Please don’t say that! At least meet my son! Although he’s the second son—”

“…Listen here.”

Nevertheless, Count Hartnett refused to back down, turning a deaf ear to whatever Katia had to say while selfishly continuing the conversation.

His behavior pushed Katia’s patience over the edge, and in her irritation, she decided to voice what she had been slightly hesitating to say until now.

“Count Hartnett. Last month, I broke off my engagement with His Highness Astor the Second Prince.”

“!”

“Do you understand the implications of that? I ask that you reconsider your offer with that in mind—”

“W-While that may be true!”

However…

This man’s stupidity had surpassed Katia’s wildest dreams.

“Even His Highness the Second Prince would not have expected you to awaken to your potential at this age! Your broken engagement simply means that your talent far exceeded His Highness’ expectations! It’s a cause for celebration!”

“Hold on, any further and…”

“That’s right! You are undeniably beautiful and overflowing with talent, a magician loved by the gods and a flawless duchess! His Highness Astor’s decision to break off his engagement with you was quite—”

“Really now. Quite what, exactly?”

An elegant voice resounded.

Even amid the clamor of the crowd, it was clear enough for everyone to hear. Everyone present stopped dead in their tracks after hearing the voice, and the hall went dead silent. 

Amidst the tension, a singular person approached Katia and co., the tapping sound of their shoes accompanying each step.

Everyone made way for the person in question, and their identity was revealed amidst the rows of party guests.

Their golden hair shined with the brilliance of the sun, and their ruby pupils gleamed like a blazing inferno.

They were the very definition of the word handsome, and anyone who got a look at their face would think the same. They wore an arrogant expression, which was backed by absolute confidence.

The luxurious garments covering their body and the mana rising therefrom only further proved that their confidence wasn’t just for show.

Just by standing there, they asserted themself as the star of the show onto everyone present.

The person in question—a handsome young man with a massive presence—was the sole focus of attention.

Overwhelmed by the young man’s aura, Count Hartnett trembled wordlessly, his face deathly pale.

Katia said the man’s name instead, “…Prince… Astor.”

Astor Josef von Eustia.

He’s this country’s second prince, and was the finishing blow in the chain of events that resulted in Hermes’ banishment.

At long last, Hermes had his first encounter with him.


One very overdue chap of recreator. As usual it was super long. Tmrw is magic arrow, thanks for reading. EDIT: Forgot to delete a line, mb.

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