Chapter 203. Aquarius (1)

I looked calmly at the door in front of Duke Asteria's room. Based on the presences I sensed, the duke seemed to be alone in the room. The only sound from the wiretapping magic was loud white noise, and no human voice was heard. I took a deep breath, knocked, and went inside.

"You're here. You came back later than I thought.”

Luckily there was no one in the room but Duke Asteria.

I smiled slightly at the duke and showed him the wine and snacks. "The head chef was more resistant than I thought."

"Oh, did you get it? Honestly, I didn't think you could really get it." The duke looked at the wine in my hand and admired it.

"How could a head chef dare to refuse the duke when he wants something? Would you like a glass?"

There was no way the head chef could win an argument with me. It also helped that I asked for it when he was busy preparing for the banquet.

The duke shook his head lightly at my proposal. "No, I'll have the wine after the banquet. You have to drink precious wine with a precious person to enjoy the taste properly.”

I nodded at the duke. "Then I'll put the wine in the fridge. Since it is red wine, I'll set the temperature at around 17 degrees."

"Yes, do that.”

As expected of the palace, it was even equipped with a specialized refrigerator for wine. The wine refrigerator was full of high-end wines, so it would be good to take a few bottles later.

I tactfully asked, putting the wine in the wine fridge, "Did you have an enjoyable time with the honored guest?"

The duke nodded gently with a warm smile. "Yes, it's been a while since I had fun."

What did my third sister find Duke Asteria for? The most likely topic she came to discuss with the duke was currency reform. The duke was in charge of the big axis of currency reform, so this wouldn’t be strange.

However, one thing that bothers me is that my sister came "in person." It would have been fine to send the foreign minister ahjussi for something of this level. And yet, the fact that Hestia noon came in person meant there was something that I was missing.

Then, did it have something to do with the Asteria Market? No, then she would have visited the market staff rather than the duke. To go straight to the duke meant that the matter was directly related to him.

No matter how hard I think about it, I can’t figure out what the connection between my third sister and Duke Asteria is. If I had eavesdropped, I would have discovered the connection, but I missed it because of the Butterfly Tribe’s great elder.

"What are you thinking so hard about?" The duke called me when I was lost in thought.

"Oh, it's not anything important. I was just wondering if I have to attend the banquet or not."

Originally, the civil servants attached to the nobles all belonged to the central ceremony department. Therefore, after the conference, the civil servants gathered without attending the banquet and exchanged information.

However, I didn't have to attend the central ceremony department's meeting because I was not a member of that department, but rather, I was part of the adventurer's guild. To be specific, I had to attend, but an official letter came from the central ceremony department saying it was okay not to attend the meeting because they were wary of the duke.

"Hmm, the civil servants usually don't attend the banquet."

Duke Asteria contemplated and asked, "Do you want to attend?"

I immediately answered, "No."

"Puhaha! Think a little before you answer."

I shrugged a little when the duke laughed. "I did think it through before I answered. I thought about it in front of the refrigerator."

"Huhuhu, I see."

The duke, chuckling playfully, hinted, "Well, what do you say? You should attend. There's nothing to do even if you're alone, is there?”

"Nothing to do? I have to attend the central ceremony department’s meeting.”

The duke laughed. "Hahaha, you don’t want to attend the banquet that much? I can't believe you would rather go to that boring and awkward meeting. Well, I guess it would be a large hassle with all the unnecessary squabbling."

Rather than avoiding some squabbles, the problem was that there were going to be people from my village present. In addition, as the sun was slowly setting now, I had to leave the palace to meet my aunt for her request.

"Hmm, then do as you please, but let’s at least go to the banquet hall together. You have to eat dinner too, right? Just eat dinner and rest easy. Well, although it won't be so relaxing since it’s the palace."

I nodded softly at Duke Asteria’s suggestion. "Thank you for your consideration."

In fact, Duke Asteria was being so considerate that one would not even think he was dealing with a civil servant. Originally, I had to be a ‘Yes Man’ and follow the duke around.

"And moreover, you’ll be able to see a rare sight at this banquet.” The duke smiled deeply.

The rare sight was probably the gathering of representatives from the three battle race tribes allied with the empire. It was a rare sight I wanted to see at least once, but at the same time, it was also a sight I never wanted to see.

If something were to go wrong, I could be surrounded by three battle race tribes. I wanted to avoid that.

“Now, let's get ready to head out for the banquet." Duke Asteria rose from his seat with a smile on his face, and I followed him to the banquet hall.

* * *

Hestia hummed and prepared to go to the banquet as she said, "It's my first time at an imperial banquet, so I’m looking forward to it. Come to think of it, how many times have you been to an imperial banquet, Elder Weger?"

Weger answered Hestia's question with a gentle smile. "Yes, it wasn’t my intention, but I had a few opportunities to attend."

Hestia’s eyes glistened. "How is the imperial banquet? I know of it from books, but they wouldn’t be as descriptive compared to what you've experienced in person."

Looking at Hestia with her sparkling eyes, Weger thought Hestia looked like a teenage girl who also liked to dress up and dreamed of a ball.

Weger replied with a warm smile as if looking at his own granddaughter, "It probably won't help much even if you hear what I have experienced. Most of the banquets that I’ve attended were victory parties filled with burly men.”

In Weger's experience, the imperial banquets he attended were to celebrate surviving the 20-year war that protected the empire from the Demon’s Territory about 120 years ago. Werger went to these banquets as a warrior, having been sent to the empire as an ally. The mood during these events was a time full of desperation and sorrow from losing colleagues rather than excitement.

"Is that so?" Hestia smacked her lips with disappointment.

"The novels Younger Miss used to read would be more helpful than the stories I have experienced."

"The novels Leisha used to read?” Hestia recalled the novels Leisha had brought in through diplomats.

"Uh... Those?" Hestia had a vague sense of her fantasy being broken apart.

There were quite a variety of novels that Leisha brought, but most of the novels featuring balls and banquets were about the male protagonist's mother telling the poor female protagonist not to approach her son and throwing water on her. By the climax, the female protagonist was discovered to actually be the hidden daughter of a count, and with her status revealed, a massive plot twist would ensue in which the male protagonist’s mother becomes embarrassed.

Then the novel would end with forgiving the male protagonist's mother, but Hestia could not understand such novels. If water was thrown at you, of course, you should quit dating the male protagonist at that point and destroy the male protagonist's mother. Why forgive and move on while laughing, “Haha, hoho?” They should be punished thoroughly to make them feel regretful so that they won't do such a thing to others.

Weger was flustered when Hestia became rather disappointed. The foreign minister saw the flustered Weger and smiled. "This banquet will probably be different from the novels that Leisha used to read. What was shown in those novels were social gatherings, while this banquet is an extension of politics."

Hestia’s interest seemed to be renewed at the foreign minister’s words. "Really?"

"Yes, but of course, since it is a banquet, the basic things won't be much different from the novels that Leisha used to read. The novel itself is the culture of the upper class in the first place, so I heard it expresses it quite realistically.”

The novel was basically an amusement for the literate stratum of society. In a feudal society where there was an emperor, literacy was another expression for the upper class.

"Hmm, I see.” Hestia nodded.

"And I heard that girls around Deputy Chief nim's age will be attending the banquet. The imperial princess and the granddaughter of the Butterfly Tribe’s great elder will also be present, so it would be good to have a conversation with them."

Hestia nodded at the foreign minister’s suggestion. "Come to think of it, the great elder of the Butterfly Tribe was bragging a lot about his granddaughter, so I'm looking forward to it."

At a meeting where the emperor and representatives of each tribe met, the great elder boasted of his grandchildren. Hestia thought the great elder was a little bit of a pushover and that someone in his position may exaggerate, but he wouldn’t go so far as to lie just to brag.

"Everyone is attending the banquet, so, Foreign Minister, please tell everyone to get ready."

The foreign minister nodded at Hestia's instructions. "Yes, I understand. And I will also relay that before anyone opens their mouths, they must receive permission first."

"Hahaha, please."

At the foreign minister's joke, Hestia smiled merrily and wore a star sapphire necklace. Hestia hummed as she looked at the star sapphire in the mirror. This star sapphire was a birthday present from Den.

“I wonder which noble’s house he stole this from?"

Hestia already knew that Den was Lupin from Lancelot's report. She looked at the necklace and smiled. Observing Lupin's activities, it was clear that Den was in the capital. She murmured, thinking that perhaps there was a high probability that Den would be in the palace.

"Seems like it’ll be fun." Hestia's mischievous smile looked both pure and merciless.

* * *

For some reason, I felt a sudden chill and looked back.

"What's wrong?"

I answered Duke Asteria with a light smile. "It’s nothing. I just felt a little cold all of a sudden.”

"No way. Even though it’s early March, the temperature never changes in the palace due to magic.”

"Haha, right? I think it was just a fleeting feeling."

It's just a feeling, right? Somehow, I had a bad premonition. I suspected that I should run away somehow before the people from my hometown come to the banquet hall.

"Wow! It's Den!" Alphonso lunged at me as I heard a familiar voice. I lightly caught Alphonso's head with one hand and stopped him.

"You're here early?” I asked, vigilant of the surroundings.

Him coming so early meant that people from my hometown could just as easily do the same.

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