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Trigger Warning: Violence (Depictions of violence in the last paragraph)
Chapter 5: Banquet
The banquet hosted by the Royal Palace in the kingdom of Palcemith. It was a place for the retainers to expand their networks, while at the same time serving as an opportunity for the royal family to announce engagements and the like.
Perhaps it was the aftermath of the chaos the Crown Prince and his entourage caused during the audience, the banquet was teeming with nosy noblemen and powerful clans that had attained the qualifications to attend.
I arrived slightly late at the Royal Palace on purpose; just before the banquet began. Wearing formal attire, I took the hand of Julieta; who covered her face with a veil as always, and alighted the carriage.
No sooner than the soldiers, entrusted with guarding the banquet, announced Julieta and my arrival, a tiny stir was caused. Whispers filled the room. Behind the folding fans, faces were brought closer and tales were happily shared. Exaggerated rumors of the Dragon Priestess abandoned by the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister who was driven into a corner. Even the nobles who usually gathered to greet Anderheim with flattery seemed to sense the situation in the kingdom this evening. They surrounded the seats Julieta and I chose at a distance.
Contrary to our surroundings, High Priest Malacia approached Julieta and I with a smile and gave a bow. Today, not just Julieta, even Malacia had a role to play. This luxurious banquet, that was to serve as the Crown Prince’s engagement announcement, would be the perfect occasion to raise the curtains of this ridiculous stage act.
“Is everything ready?”
“Of course. Just as Your Excellency wished, all the preparations are complete.”
“You did a good job, Malacia. Now, our time has come. Let us have a drink once everything is over. How about it?
“You jest…even if I look like this, I cannot possibly drink alcohol.”
The precious stones that adorned the candlestick on the table were Magic Crystals. A listening device thought up by the child prodigy Morino. Listening in on the conversation between the Prime Minister and Malacia at the table, the Crown Prince and his entourage lay in wait in another room. While I knew they could hear our conversation, I feigned ignorance, held Julieta’s hand, and gently spoke.
“Julieta…I shouldn’t have brought you to such a place today after you were hurt so badly. It must feel like a bed of thorns to you. But I promise you, this will be the last time you have to attend such a farce.”
“Your Excellency…I shall ask again, is it really fine? Won’t it be like you…abandoned everything with this?”
“Malacia, you’re mistaken. I have already abandoned everything.”
“I am tired of everything. If I was the only one smeared in mud, I wouldn’t have bothered. It didn’t matter if they made me play the clown. But the Crown Prince hurt his fiancée, Julieta. On top of that; he dared nominate that Sacrificial Priestess as a substitute for my lovely daughter. I do not believe His Highness is that ignorant to not understand what that means.”
I patted Julieta, who tightly returned my grip, on the head. Once I made sure that I had gathered enough attention, I took off my silver-rimmed glasses. I had made sure to eat and rest properly and had also borrowed some of Julieta’s makeup to lighten the area under my eyes. When I gave a gentle smile, countless sighs of wonder, albeit unconscious, could be heard across the hall.
“Ah, how beautiful…”
“It is obvious. His Excellency is the descendant of Sage Asbal.”
“Well, then why is Lady Julieta…”
I could hear it all.
Hearing the nobles gossip, Julieta lowered her head. But my Julieta’s debut would have to wait a bit. First I had to catch our opponents, who were to appear, off guard.
Before long, the time came. The sound of trumpets announced the arrival of the Crown Prince at the banquet.
The Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Palcemith, Vikram Atrai Palcemith. He had just turned eighteen and stepped into adulthood two years prior. Around half a year ago, he lost both his parents, the King and the Queen, in an accident. In addition to having a handsome face, his personality was just and upright; a gentle and reliable man. While his naivety as a sovereign was somewhat worrying, it was nothing that the retainers couldn’t support. There was no one to challenge his claim to the throne; and when the mourning would end half a year later, the same time as the Dragon Festival; he would ascend to the throne that lay vacant.
The one the Crown Prince escorted was a lovely girl wearing a marine blue dress, Nasha Laturi. Despite being brought from the remote village of Cofone as Holy Maiden who was to become the Sacrificial Priestess, she joined hearts with the Crown prince and overturned her fate.
Guarding their backs was my son, the Imperial Knight under the direct control of the Crown Prince, Sigurd Isys Asbal. Since the heroine had taken the Crown Prince route, Sigurd would eventually get married to Nasha’s younger twin, Melia. Incidentally, if the heroine took the Sigurd route, it would lead to a stormy love triangle with her sister. But let’s leave that for now. The one who was escorting Melia, who wore a canary dress, was the son of the Knight Commander, Lutora. It couldn’t be helped since Sigurd was on guard duty.
Besides, the child prodigy Morino and the Knight Commander Jolga were also present. The arrival of the Crown Prince indicated the start of the banquet and the announcement of his engagement to Nasha Laturi.
Hey! You won’t say a single word with regards to Julieta?
At the time when the vortex of perfunctory shouts and claps congratulating them settled down.
I abruptly stood up.
I intentionally clapped slowly, slowly walking towards the guests of honor.
Questioning my appearance, Nasha turned pale. Crown Prince Vikram confronted me as if to protect her. Standing beside them, Sigurd and Jolga gripped their sword handles. But I did not mind their actions and paid homage to the Crown Prince.
“Your Highness, I offer you my heartfelt congratulations on your engagement.”
“Hey, what are you planning?”
I ignored Sigurd, who interrupted me, and ran my eye over the people around. On catching sight of Morino, I beckoned him with a bright smile.
Giving a light nod to Lutora, who whispered for him to be careful, Morino cautiously approached me. I took off the golden pocket watch round my neck.
It was a pocket watch within the royal Coat of Arms engraved in relief1 on the back. It was a symbol of the Prime Minister. It was mandatory to carry it with me in public. When my father died in an accident when I was twenty, I was handed over the watch.
“Morino Swettso, hold out your hand.”
Even the prodigy could have never predicted this situation. Taking advantage of the moment when Morino was dumbfounded, I grabbed his hand and placed the glistening golden pocket watch in his palm.”
“From today onwards, this belongs to you. Congratulations, Prime Minister Morino. Be loyal to His Highness and protect the Palcemith Kingdom.”
Morino’s eyes quavered in astonishment.
The Crown Prince and the retainers gathered around too were the same. Seeing them clamor about in confusion, I once again loudly clapped my hands. While knowing that all eyes in the venue were on me, I politely bowed to the Crown Prince a second time.
“I humbly apologize. While it is inexcusable to propose so at such a celebration, Your Highness, I wish to quit the post of Prime Minister.”
“Therefore, I entrust Morino Swettso as my successor. Despite being only sixteen years of age, Morino boasts of the best brains in the kingdom. He is a promising youth whom the Crown Prince has a deep trust in. He shall surely support the Crown Prince from here on.”
“Wait, Prime Minister Anderheim. Is it fair to come to such an important decision by your judgment without any consultation?”
The one to first recover from the shock and pose a question was the Knight Commander Jolga.
I tilted my head in confusion, only to look up and see Jolga with a smile that did not reach his eyes. Taking in a sharp breath, Jolga resolutely glared at me. Well, if you thought about the fate between Jolga and Anderheim, it couldn’t be helped.
“It is custom for the appointment of the next Prime Minister to be entirely left to the incumbent Prime Minister’s discretion. You too must have memories of being nominated by your predecessor when you became the Knight Commander?”
“Certainly that is so.”
“Moreover, my heir, Sigurd, entered knighthood without my approval. I have heard that it was with your permission. Do you have any objections?”
Instead of the hemming and hawing Jolga, this time it was Sigurd who answered.
“I am an adult! I don’t need your approval!”
“Silence, Sigurd. Whether you are an adult or not, the fact that you carry the Asbal family name on your back remains unchanged. Don’t run your mouth.”
“…Calm down, Sigurd. Sir Jolga, thank you. I apologize, I was just surprised for a bit.”
I came to my senses at long last.
After taking a few deep breaths, Morino kneeled and bowed deeply towards me.
It would not be a disadvantage to take away the power of the Prime Minister before he changes his mind.
You must have judged so, right, Morino? Is it truly so?
“I humbly accept Lord Anderheim’s appointment. I shall wholeheartedly devote myself to lead the nation to become better.”
“That is good…then, Prime Minister Morino, I wish to request one last thing of you.”
“Come here, Julieta. Malacia, the preparations.”
I called Julieta, who had been seated all this while. After paying homage to the Crown Prince and Nasha, she remained kneeling. Not minding the Crown Prince, who made no effort to hide his displeasure; and Nasha, who seemed frightened; in the public eye, I took off one of Julieta’s shoes. Despite her fair and slender heel exposed, Julieta did not run away. She held onto my shoulder tightly and waited for the moment.
“As everyone knows, my daughter relieved the honor of becoming the Sacrificial Priestess on His Highness’ command. Originally, she should have stayed in the room prepared for the Sacrificial Priestess by the royal family. However, due to serving as the Dragon Priestess for a long time, her mind and body are weakened. Thus the only appropriate step is that she receive medical treatment until the Dragon Festival…Malacia.”
“As you wish.”
Malacia took a small knife with the emblem of the shrine engraved on its handle. He bent beside Julieta and before anyone could make a move, slashed the skin between her heel and calf from the side.
Trigger Warning End
Hasr: Sorry for leaving you on a cliffhanger kek.
You can always support me on kofi for faster releases tho.
A little note on the names, Jolga is pronounced Yol-ga and Malacia is Ma-lah-key-ah.