Chapter 37: What Do You Think?
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Her Highness Nora’s birthday banquet could be divided into two main social circles. One was for the nobles, and the other one was for the children they brought with them.

The social gathering for the children was much less mature, but its importance wouldn’t pale in comparison to that of the adults. Factions formed as children tended to persist into adulthood, so houses that were close with one another usually requested for their successors to huddle together and form cliques.

For this reason, this banquet was important to children like Roel too. He was already disadvantaged for being absent the previous year, and this was further worsened by the fact that the Ascarts didn’t have many offspring or subordinate nobles.

“Roel, try your best to make friends at the banquet, but there’s no need to force it if it doesn’t work out.”

Carter told Roel prior to setting off to the royal palace.

He was basically giving Roel some mental prep for what was to come. Carter himself didn’t have a good time in his younger years, due to the Ascarts’ reputation as a house of magicians, and it didn’t help that Carter himself wasn’t too interested in building factions and connections either. So, he thought that the banquet wouldn’t be too pleasant for Roel either.

“Don’t worry, father. I’m not too bothered by all these.”

“Alicia, it’ll do for you to just follow your big brother Roel around later on.”

“… I will.”

The silver-haired girl replied obediently before slowly lowering her head. The smile on her face was slowly vanishing, replaced by unease.

Hm? Is she feeling nervous? It’s rare to see such a look on her face.

“Alicia, it’ll be fine. Just follow me later on.”

Roel patted Alicia’s head and consoled her.

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“… I understand, Lord Brother.”

Alicia squeezed out a strained smile for Roel as she tried her best to push down the fear in her heart.

It will be fine. I’m a member of the Ascart House now, and big brother Roel is with me too…

As the proverb went, ‘clothes make the man’.

Given the grand occasion, the nobles of the Theocracy were dressed in their finest garments. However, one would be sorely mistaken to think that clothes was the only thing they could compare with one another. No, the nobles compared their carriages too.

The usually peaceful street outside the Xeclydes’ garden was already filled with all sorts of beautifully adorned carriages. These carriages formed a long queue as they awaited their entry into the royal palace.

Carter made use of this opportunity to introduce their insignias for Roel and Alicia, paying greater emphasis toward the other four of the Five Eminent Noble Houses.

“That grey bear insignia belongs to the Belfast Marquess House. Their fiefdom is located at the northernmost border of the Theocracy, a place known to be freezing cold. Their people are known to be incredibly tough.

“Look at the golden bird insignia on our left, that’s the Lucerne Ducal House. They are the only ducal house left in the Theocracy and have always maintained a politically neutral stance.

“The one in front of us with the tiger insignia is the Elric Count House. They used to be a marquess house, but they were demoted for supporting Prince Wade during the March Turmoil. As their fiefdom is located next to the border, they have always been known for their great military might.

“The frontmost carriage belongs to the Weiss Marquess House. Their insignia is a campanula flower. Over the past few decades, they have been standing on the same front as the Xeclydes, making them a part of the royal faction. However, it doesn’t seem like they are entirely steadfast in their stance.”

Carter introduced the major noble houses one after another, and Roel listened to him attentively. As such, the two of them didn’t notice the darkened look on Alicia’s face when the tiger insignia was mentioned.

As the carriages entered the royal palace one after another, Roel finally managed to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking scenery of the royal garden. As it was the winter season, there wasn’t the usual fountain and grass field, but even the gazebos were designed elaborately enough to carry the aesthetics of the garden. The green cedar trees that the gardeners had trimmed carefully were also exceptionally pleasing to the eye amidst the usual white landscape.

Roel and the others got down from their carriage and walked into the manor with a brief display of their invitation cards. As for the gifts, they were entrusted to the maids of the royal palace to take care of.

The interior of the manor was posh, filled with hanging crystal lights and artworks from famous painters. Roel stepped on the soft carpet as he examined his surroundings with a deepening frown. There was a bizarre sense of familiarity about this manor.

“Does it look familiar to you? It has been a hundred years since this manor was built, that’s why its design resembles that of our Labyrinth Villa.”

Carter revealed the answer to the mystery for the two children as he took a look around the manor himself too.

Under the lead of the royal servants, they were brought to the banquet hall.

There was still an hour or so till the banquet officially began, but there was a reason why the guests usually chose to arrive early—it was to socialize with one another.

Aside from members of the Five Eminent Noble Houses, there were also top military and governance officials around, lofty nobles from the capital and minor nobles from distant lands. All sorts of people were gathered in this banquet hall, making it an opportune moment to alleviate the slightly tense atmosphere in the air and learn more about current affairs.

This was also a chance to observe the targets one wanted to get close to and make preparations for approaching the other party later on.

Carter brought Alicia and Roel around to introduce them to the nobles and military officials he was closer to. After greeting quite a few people, Alicia and Roel successfully found a few younger companions that they could hang out together with for the birthday banquet.

A daughter of a count house, a daughter of a viscount house, the daughter of a baron house… To put it in short, all of these younger companions were girls.

What about the guys then? Weirdly enough, there was not a single one aside from Roel.

Am I born under a lone star?

Roel’s lips twitched at this unbelievable coincidence. He looked at the group of girls gathered around him with a headache, not knowing what he should say at all.

Kids of his age tended to hang out with those of the same gender, which meant that Roel was very out of place in this group. They were still a few years away from the arrival of their youthful spring, where their hearts would start thumping for the opposite gender. As a result, while some of these girls were sneaking glances at Roel, none of them took the initiative to approach him.

In any case, time passed by swiftly amidst this boisterous atmosphere—at least for the others—and soon, it was time for the birthday banquet to begin. The inner doors of the manor hall opened, and a massive group of servants stepped out from within to pave the way. Following that, the stars of the show finally made their appearance—the Xeclyde royal family.

Prince Kane was the one who escorted Nora into the banquet hall. She was garbed in a flowy dress that made her look like a fairy, winning her gasps of amazement from the crowd.

Banquets in the Theocracy always started with a hymn. The bands began to play, and with Prince Kane taking the lead, the crowd sang their praise for the Goddess of Creation, Sia. After this formality was over, the banquet finally got to its main show.

Prince Kane and the young Princess Nora first expressed their gratitude toward the nobles for their presence before formally declaring the commencement of the banquet. Plates of sumptuous dishes were served on a large buffet table, and servants walked around the room offering drinks to guests to quench their thirst.

However, no one’s attention was on the food and drinks. At this very moment, everyone was looking at the two members of the royal family standing at the forefront, searching for an opportunity to step forward and talk to them.

“I-I don’t have to go, right?”

Looking at the graceful golden-haired girl standing in front, Roel took half a step back as he shot a glance at his father hopefully, only to be met with a deep smile from Carter.

“What do you think?”

Translator Notes

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