“You there. What’s your name? And your court rank?”
From out of nowhere, Second Prince Astor made his grand appearance at the party.
The first thing he turned his attention to was the man who had been desperately begging Katia for marriage a short while ago.
“Y-Yes! My name is Karl von Hartnett! I am a count!”
“Really now. So, pray tell, what were you about to say?” Astor disinterestedly glossed over the very self-introduction he had asked for, then advanced upon the count. “My decision to break off my engagement with Katia was quite what?”
“I find it rather hard to believe, but surely you didn’t mean to say that breaking off the engagement was a mistake, right?”
“N-…N-N-N-N-Not by any stretch of the imagination!” replied the count. Drenched in cold sweat, he shook his head so hard that you could hear the bones in his neck creaking.
“Then why did you so frantically plead for Katia’s hand in marriage? I, Astor Josef von Eustia, deemed that woman worthless, so for what reason do you try so desperately to get your hands on her? Why do you feel as though she’s worthwhile enough to merit your actions?”
“The thought came to me!”
“Rumor has it that Miss Katia has overcome her greatest flaw: her inability to use Bloodline Magic! As such, I believe she has become a flawless duchess in the truest sense of the word! I humbly implore your forgiveness!!” The count prostrated himself before Astor, trembling from sheer terror.
Astor looked down on the count with callous eyes and snorted. “…Hmph. Well, it matters not. Unlike me, the likes of you are quick to be led astray by potential gains. I took the trouble of coming here just to set the record straight.”
Hermes didn’t quite understand what Astor was getting at, but from his tone and behavior, it seemed like he would forgive the count.
Feeling hope, the count raised his face. “T-Then…!”
But soon after, he switched back to his callous demeanor. “You’ve committed a sin. Enticed by those rumors, you were about to say that I was mistaken in breaking off the engagement.”
“N-No, you’ve misunderstood! Your Highness would never make the wrong decision!”
“No, you were about to say it. In other words, you thought I was in the wrong from the bottom of your heart, going about each day doubting my decision; of that I’m sure.”
Although this wasn’t any of Hermes’ business, he couldn’t help but think that the latter half was a false accusation.
“Y-You’ve hit the nail on the head, Your Highness!”
“There were frequent instances of that man implying that he doubted your decision prior to this!”
“He intended to go against your will beyond any shadow of doubt!”
The surrounding nobles who had been listening piled on the count, completely taking Astor’s word for granted.
“N-No way! You all!”
“I expected as much. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes.”
“Y-Your Highness! This is all a misunderstanding, I say, a misunderstanding! I beg of you—”
“I shall pass your verdict in due course. Take him away.” Astor commanded the soldiers acting as guards for the party, his lips twisted in a self-satisfied smile.
The soldiers, although bewildered, couldn’t disobey an order from royalty. They dragged the count away, who was begging for forgiveness all the while.
Judging from the count’s behavior, that verdict or whatever likely wouldn’t end with just a slap on the wrist.
For an all too absurd reason, the count’s fate was set in stone at the stroke of Second Prince Astor’s pen.
He whirled around and looked in Katia’s direction. “Now then. It’s been quite some time, Katia.”
“…Indeed it has, Prince Astor.”
“You’ve gotten rather full of yourself, haven’t you? You’ve gone as far as to acquire phony power; did you yearn for the status that came with being my fiancée that much?”
…Huh? Hermes raised a question mark in his mind. It’s the same as before. It’s clear what he’s saying is ridiculous, but he unhesitatingly says it with total confidence nonetheless.
“…With all due respect, Your Highness, it is not pho—”
“Hah! With all due respect, she says! You’ve always been this way, playing with words and making everything go your way!”
“But unfortunately for you, I’ll never re-engage with you, try as you may!” Astor exclaimed, cutting off Katia and one-sidedly hogging the conversation. “The reason being that I’ve found someone already! A lady far more superior and truly worthy of my affection, that is! Come along now, Sara.”
After declaring in exaggerated fashion, Astor shifted his gaze behind him. In his line of sight, a young girl around the same age as Hermes stepped forward from the crowd.
She had light blonde hair and large, glittering deep-blue eyes. Her long eyelashes and plump lips were rather distinctive, rounding off her good looks with a touch of tender gentleness.
Covering her body, which was surprisingly well developed for a girl her age, was an angelic white dress made of many layers of thin cloth.
If Katia was a fairy, then she was an angel. She was beautiful enough to make you doubt your eyes.
“Her name is Sara von Hartman—she’s my new fiancee.”
The party guests made a stir.
Judging from their reaction, information about his new engagement and whatnot was news to them.
“She’s the eldest daughter of the Hartman household of barony. While her house rank may be low, such is a trifiling matter. She has the kindness and beauty that Katia doesn’t—and most importantly, she has talent for magic, which Katia couldn’t hope to measure up against!”
“…Sara.” Katia gazed at Sara, paying no heed to Astor’s introduction.
The look in her eyes was by no means hateful—rather, it looked more like she was concerned for her.
Curious, Hermes inquired Katia, “Is she an acquaintance of yours?”
“…Yes. We had the same class in school.”
“Ah…M-Miss Katia,” said Sara. She must’ve noticed Katia’s staring, as she lifted her face and came closer.
She looked at Katia with a somewhat guilty look on her face. “Miss Katia, I, um…”
“Sara. Are you really alright with this?” Katia, on the other hand, asked in a deliberately stern—albeit still worried—voice, “Becoming engaged with His Highness—with royalty—isn’t all sunshine and rainbows like everyone else says. Do you have the resolve to put your mind and soul on the line?”
“Enough, Katia!” Right when Sara was about to respond, Astor intervened, protectively standing in between her and Katia. “Hmph, you really are a cunning woman. Observe, ladies and gentlemen! She’s always been this sly, even during her school days!”
Then, Astor embraced Sara and spoke loudly in an attempt to appeal to the crowd, “Envying Sara’s talent in magic, she chose to abandon her own prospects in magic, all to maliciously and repeatedly bully Sara by taking advantage of her superior position! You’ve hidden your true nature from the public well, but I see right through you! Isn’t that right, Sara?” Astor tenderly called out Sara, asking for her testimony.
“Fret not, she can’t hurt you. I’ll protect you,” whispered Astor in her ear.
Sara seemed hesitant, wanting to say something, but she tightly shut her eyes. “…His Highness… is… right,” she said, her voice verging on inaudible.
“Well said. You told the truth. This is who Katia really is, my noble friends!” Astor shouted, drowning out Katia’s sorrowful whisper. “I quickly caught on to her devious nature, broke off the engagement, and expelled her from the academy! And yet, here she is again, struggling pathetically and not knowing when to give up!”
“Open your eyes, you foolish nobles. The very same woman whose been called Miss Defective and branded incompetent by none other than me abruptly awakens to her potential after all this time? That’s beyond the realm of reason! She must have used some underhanded trick.”
“The only thing we know for sure is that she brought back the ancient artifact.”
“Anyone could’ve done the same with a little luck. She might’ve pulled a fast one on us…”
Astor’s grand performance proved effective, as the nobles’ opinions gradually began changing.
Then, it happened—at an unbelievably convenient timing to boot.
“It’s a disaster!” A single guard soldier barged into the banquet hall, his voice cutting through the clamor.
Now the center of attention, the guard soldier exclaimed, his face dripping with sweat, “A gigantic monster has appeared within close vicinity to this assembly hall!”
Think this author might be a lolicon lol. Thankfully this chap was shorter than most. Might post over the weekend. Also thinking of translating a new series, lmk if you guys got any suggestions. Thanks for reading.