༺ Suspiciously… (4) ༻
On the day of the party, after wearing the delivered suit, dress shoes, and the watch, I stood in front of the mirror.
“…This feels unbelievably comfortable.”
It’s not like I never had to wear suits in the last iteration and my previous life. Both in interviews and when I was meeting people from the royal court or high officials, I had to dress myself up.
But because I was still a knight, I didn’t have enough money to spend on a suit as someone who constantly had to fight.
‘I remember buying a cheap one from one of the stalls for 70 silvers.’
Ah… Was that why the 2nd Princess gave me cash? So that I didn’t have to wear clothes like a beggar?
“It was quite expensive for me back then though.”
Right now, the suit I was wearing was already worth one white gold coin, and the watch and shoes added up with the tie cost about one white gold coin and a half in total.
The scary thing was that Marie bought me even more than this. There were so many clothes that I probably didn’t have to buy anything else in my entire life, but the problem was that I had to take them back.
How am I supposed to carry all of them back?
“Korin! Are you ready?”
There was a door connecting the Evergreen Room to Marie’s room. Opening the door, Marie came into the room.
It was breathtaking.
Along with transparent glass shoes, she was wearing ivory-colored stockings and a dress with a hint of water-colored drops. The daring exposure of her chest and her shoulders was probably an expression of her unreserved pride.
Marie was even wearing some makeup unlike her usual self. Her skin that was already as white as white jade became as bright as the star of a night sky with the help of makeup.
“How does this look? It just arrived today!”
Lifting the sides of her dress with her pure white opera gloves, Marie rotated on the spot.
She was as bright and mystifying as a dancing fairy.
Honestly, seeing her made me feel worthwhile. If I hadn’t saved this girl, I wouldn’t have been able to see her in this dress today, and the people of the south would have forever lost their beloved princess.
“It was definitely worth the trouble.”
Marie tilted her head but without paying attention to that, I unhesitatingly walked up to her.
[When in front of an attractive lady, it is the courtesy of a gentleman to give her a kiss and ask for a dance, Knight Korin.]
I remembered being scolded in the last iteration by someone, so I decided to be a courteous gentleman this time around. By gently holding onto her hand through the opera glove, I gazed up at her after going down on one of my knees.
“Could you please give me the honor of having your first dance tonight, my lady?”
“U, uht…! Umm! Ahh?!”
Her cheeks were visibly flushed. Even her ears were reddened and it seemed that she wasn’t used to things like this.
“I will be asking you like that tonight, so it would be nice if you could accept my offer for me.”
“Huh? Nn! Of course! Of course I will! Okay! I will definitely do that!”
For some reason, the maids were whispering to each other behind Marie.
“…I knew it, he’s a player.”
“Our Lady fell for a gold digger.”
“Isn’t this dangerous? It looks like she would give everything to him.”
Even with the incredible ears of a knight, it was hard for me to pick up all the words in their conversation. They were exceptionally skilled at practically talking in silence.
In their conversation, there were a few words about real estate and inns… are they interested? To be fair, real estate is the best way to multiply your money. They are overpowered after all!
Maybe I should talk to them later about investment!
“Now, shall we get going?”
“U, uhh yes! Can you be my escort?”
“Of course, my Lady.”
“P, please stop…!”
“Then should I call you the Princess of the Potato Empire?”
She was tempted there for a second.
“Anyway, stop calling me by strange names! I am your senior so you need to listen to me!”
“Of course, my princess.”
Marie punched my arm in protest… and honestly, it was quite painful. Her strength was nothing to scoff at…
In any case, we got into the guest room of Senior Marie’s enormous beast, the Hresvelgr, and headed to the count’s castle located further south. It would have taken a few days by carriage, but it only took a few hours on this guy.
“Ehew. I wonder when I can get myself one of these.”
“Nn? Do you want me to give it to you?”
“…Don’t even say that as a joke please. You are pampering me too much.”
It was scary because she really might give it to me if I asked her for one.
Even if she did give it to me, there was no way for me to use it. Large beasts like wyverns let alone Hresvelgrs needed a place to dock and I didn’t have any.
Merkarva City prohibited the entry of flying animals for security purposes as well, so it was all the more useless for me.
“We will get off in the middle and change into a carriage.”
“Can’t we just jump off from here?”
Jumping straight down from flying beasts like the secret ops was something I had often done in the last iteration.
“No! My dress and my hair will become a mess then.”
“A mage at your level should be able to stop that without a problem though. Right?”
“Other people will also be surprised! It’s not good etiquette.”
“That’s true too.”
In any case, we landed on a nearby plain and moved into a carriage of the Dunareff family that was waiting for us beforehand to head to the castle.
“Ahh. Lady Marie! Welcome!”
As if he had been waiting for her the whole time, Count Casseus hurried his way over immediately after spotting the golden potato flower emblem of the Dunareff family.
‘I swear this guy wasn’t like this before…’
Was he really the same guy as the one who stubbornly refused to open the castle gates before we killed the Sea Serpent?
“Hello, Lord Casseus!”
“It is an honor to see you again. Our Vlandria family will wholeheartedly welcome you for your visit, Miss!”
After saying that, Count Casseus led us to the side of the queue of people that was waiting for inspection in front of the castle’s entrance and simply let us through.
“Oh my. It really is Lady Marie.”
“The news about having a guest from Dunareff was true then.”
“Lord Vlandria must be doing very well these days.”
What I realized the past few days was that it wasn’t an overstatement to say that the influential power of the Dunareff family was at an absolute level in the south.
Let alone the ridiculous size of their farm that reached 2 million hectares in size, they were a bigshot that pretty much had full control over 25 cities and the continent’s trade market.
The archipelago, where the headquarter of Count Casseus was at, wasn’t a subject of the El Rath Kingdom, but they desperately needed the cooperation of the Dunareff family to open a trade with the continent.
Therefore, the fact that the oldest daughter of the Dunareff family had accepted the invitation to the count’s party was a green light signal that the Vlandria family could dream of a smooth sail.
‘In that sense, I guess Marie showing up to the party is a lot better for them than killing a Sea Serpent.’
A Sea Serpent was something that could be dealt with by striking a deal with the Guardian Alliance with money or something, but moving the princess of the Potato Empire wasn’t something that could be done with money.
“What’s wrong, Korin?”
“I was just thinking of how amazing a person you are, Senior Marie.”
“R, really? Ehem! That’s right. Your senior is an amazing person, okay!”
In response, I gently pressed her nose down.
“W, what are you doing?”
“I had to because you were being a bit too snobby. Your nose was about to reach the sky at that point.”
“I, isn’t it okay for me to say that much though?”
“Well, I guess. Because you are the princess of the Potato Empire after all.”
“…It is a good name, but it sounds like you’re teasing me so I don’t know if I should be happy or not.”
Ahh, seriously. Just how much did this girl love potatoes?
After entering the castle, we were unloading the carriage when Marie tilted her head.
“Korin. Did you take your weapon? Where is it?”
“Yeah I did. Here. What about you senior?”
My spear was wrapped with a piece of cloth but I couldn’t see any weapon on Marie.
“I left it in the carriage just in case.”
“But is it okay for us to carry around weapons?”
“People actually think it’s cool for guardians to carry around weapons all the time. Besides, you never know when you’ll have to fight against monsters so it’s okay to bring them.”
It was probably not a good idea to carry a weapon into the banquet hall though.
“Entering now are Lady Marie of Dunareff Dukedom! And Sir Knight Korin Lork!”
The door opened along with the sonorous roar of one of the servants, allowing us into the well-decorated banquet hall.
The chandeliers were made with crystals and had fluorescent stones. All the windows were made of stained glass and on the walls were tapestries of the Vlandria household and representative ornaments from the southern archipelago.
“What’s wrong, Korin?”
Everything looked exceptionally different from the last iteration. All the items were new and were fancier than the ones in my memories. Did they remodel the entire building because of Marie’s visit?
“Oh my. Is that Lady Marie?”
“She has recently been promoted to semi-Unique Grade mage, right?”
“Semi-Unique Grade? Isn’t that practically the same as Sword Master Lunia Arden?”
“That’s right. The Dunareff Family must be feeling joyous then.”
“My son is entering the Merkarva Academy next year… Maybe I should try to put them together?”
“Won’t that be difficult? I heard there’s a whole warehouse full of marriage proposals.”
“More importantly, who is that young gentleman by her side?”
With just her appearance alone, Marie created a ripple in the banquet hall.
Back in Merkarva Academy, everyone was a student so her influence was a lot smaller, but it seemed that Marie’s position in her homeground was unmatched.
All the important guests gathered before long so the host, Count Casseus, started his speech on the stage.
“I am Count Casseus Vlandria. Thank you everyone for attending our family’s party today, and especially, a warm welcome to Lady Marie Dunareff for honoring us with her presence.”
As expected, Count Casseus started by mentioning Marie. He was pretty much flaunting that this was how close he was with the Dunareff family.
Now that she was at the center of everyone’s attention, Marie returned a wave and a faint smile until the host gathered their eyes back to the stage. Soon, the party officially began as the performance of the orchestra resonated across the hall.
“Lady Marie. I am the countess of the Rotenan region—-”
“Your dress looks amazing today. I run a small business in Sebastian—-”
Whether it be a noble or an influential member of the region, they all looked for Marie for a conversation. Marie started a fluent conversation with all of them with a bright smile on her face and satisfied everyone that came to her.
As expected of a human capybara, she was very friendly and great with people.
[The banquet hall is where tongues dance like swords, Knight Korin. You have to be careful with your words at all times.]
According to the words of the 2nd Princess in the last iteration, the banquet hall was the battlefield of tongue-swordsmen that could turn 180 degrees at any given moment, but that didn’t seem to be the case for Marie.
To be fair, that was natural because the royal palace had factions and political positions whereas the Dunareff family had an absolute position and wealth in the south.
‘I guess Senior Marie will be untouchable in the south at least.’
After all, there was no-one in the south unlike the capital that could fight against her on equal grounds.
I carefully approached Marie, who was in the middle of a conversation, and whispered into her ears.
“Senior. We should go to the office in a bit.”
Marie and I had already prepared our weapons. Once the party was well and truly underway, we would talk to the count and retrieve our weapons that we assigned to the servants before heading to the office.
Around when the orchestra started changing the theme of their music, a young neat-looking man came to Marie with Count Casseus.
He was a young man wearing the ornamented pure-white formal clothing of a knight. If I remember correctly, that was his son.
“I hope you are enjoying the party. This here is my son.”
“Hello. Young Lord Vlandria.”
“My name is Levent Vlandria. Nice to meet you, Miss.”
After the bow, Levent raised his head up with his back still bent and stared at Marie with sparkling eyes.
“Haha. I’m not saying this because he’s my son, but he has exceptional skills as a knight. He was recently promoted to semi-Grade 1.”
Hoh~. Semi-Grade 1, huh… He looked like he was still in his twenties, which meant he was probably hailed as a genius by his peers.
“I see…! Congratulations!”
“Still lacking compared to you, Lady Marie.”
Levent said in modesty. After that, Count Casseus opened his mouth with a cough.
“Haha. Well then, let me go greet other guests of the party. Young people should talk with young people, so an old man like me will leave you to your own devices.”
Following Count Casseus’s suggestive invitation, Marie started having a conversation with Young Lord Levent.
“You are a student in Merkarva Academy, right? I am also from Merkarva Academy. Is Instructor Haman still doing well?”
“You were a senior huh! Yes, he still goes, ‘You guys!’ and is very strict with his lessons.”
“Haha. He’s the same as always it seems. If I may, can I talk to you more casually, Junior?”
“Of course you may. Senior.”
“Then I will be more casual from now on.”
Levent naturally closed the distance. He then shifted the topic to make faint moves at her.
“The holiday just started right? If you’re okay, how about you come to the salt mine that we have? The scenery inside the mine with all the rock salt is as beautiful and pretty as you, Junior Marie.”
“Ah, we have some salt mines too. Around 20 of them.”
“Hnn? Ahh… I, I see. Then how about you come over to the beach that we bought recently? It’s famous for having an emerald color…”
“Wow~! My mom said she sold a small corner of our land. So your family was the one that bought it. I see!”
“R, right… You mean the one with a resort in construction…?”
“That’s the one! She mentioned giving me some things to do because there wasn’t much construction work these days. I am the director of the construction company, you see!”
“…I see. Ah, do you like seeing taxidermied bodies of demonic beasts? In our house, we have some that I killed—-”
“I love it! My father even made museums for me. Do you know the Dunareff Taxidermy Museums in all the cities? All the demonic beasts there are the ones that I defeated! Ah, sorry Senior. I missed your last words.”
“N, no. It’s nothing…”
Stop, Marie! Levent’s HP is already at 0!!
What was this? Was she trying to embarrass him on purpose? But there was not a sliver of bad intention on Marie’s face for that to be the case.
At this rate, it was like he was trying to teach a fish how to swim. He couldn’t boast about money in front of Marie because of the overwhelming difference in finance, and she was a semi-Unique Grade mage for him to boast about his strength.
Unfortunately, there might be no-one in this continent that could brag about anything in front of Marie.
But Levent didn’t give up and continued striking a conversation with her.
There were a lot of hyenas nearby that were aiming for Marie. They were openly facing her with greedy eyes but couldn’t dare approach her, and Levent knew that he was in an overwhelmingly advantageous situation compared to the rest of them.
Slowly, the pace of the music changed. The ones who attended the party started looking for their partners as we neared the dancing time.
“Lady Marie. Although I might not be perfect…”
Levent said while slowly reaching his hand out. The point he was trying to get across was very straight-forward. Even Marie who was tactlessly shaming him knew what this meant and turned her gaze towards me.
Right when we looked at each other, a young man stood in the middle to block my sight.
“Lady Marie! I am Garlie of Rondenium! I am one of your devoted admirers! Could you please grace me with your first dance!”
He was sipping on his drink while throwing glances at her so I wasn’t expecting him to have the guts to speak up like that. Looking at his face… he probably just hit 20 or something.
“Lady Marie! Me too!”
“Please grace me with your first dance!”
“No! Lady Marie…!”
As soon as the guy called Garlie spoke to her, the guys immediately pounced forward like hyenas. Marie didn’t know how to deal with the sudden flood of guys and was flustered for a second.
“Ah, umm… So…”
It was great that they had guts, but they didn’t have enough manners it seemed.
The slightly better choice for Marie would be to have the first dance with Levent, who was the son of the host of the party but… the basic etiquette of a banquet was to have the first dance with the partner.
– Clomp clomp.
Her face turned visibly bright after seeing me walk to her. She then sent fierce gazes at me, asking me to save her from this trouble.
“I am Korin Lork.”
“Young Lord Lork, is it? You are Lady Marie’s partner…”
After noticing that I was her partner, the guys including Levent immediately showed their vigilance.
“You can call me Sir or Knight Lork. I’m not a noble, you see.”
“…You’re not a noble?”
Again, peerages in this world were close to honorary titles.
This world already had a centralized state and centralized military rules in place, and the noble peerage of this world was but a name. They didn’t have the right to collect taxes or run private militaries.
Without power to support it, titles weren’t as powerful as before.
But even so, they still had value in that they were proof of someone’s social position. For instance in Marie’s case, she wasn’t even interested in the peerages she will be inheriting, but there were still a lot of them under the name of their family to prove their position.
In other words, having a peerage meant that you either had a relatively high social status or were rich.
The guys immediately started looking down on me. Everyone here were from noble families so they probably didn’t care much about a single knight.
“I am Levent Vlandria, a semi-Grade 1 Knight. Sir Lork. You seem to be one of the peers of Lady Marie, am I correct?”
Look at him put emphasis on the ‘semi-Grade 1’ part. How cute.
“I am her junior.”
“Hah~ I see. Lady Marie must have brought you here to guide you to places and show you around I believe.”
“That is somewhat true.”
After all, the pretext was that I was here to have a look at Castle Duke.
“If you’re Lady Marie’s junior, that means you’re my junior as well. Junior Korin. If you are okay with it, I would like to dance first with Lady Marie. Can you please concede for me?”
If I were to translate his words, I would get this – ‘I am a semi-Grade 1 Knight and I’m your senior as well. Fuck off if you understand your position.’
Translating the words of the high-class people was daunting as always. It was surprising how princesses had to deal with these every time.
But of course, there was only one thing for me to say in return.
“No. I don’t want to.”