I haven’t drank alcohol since then, but I know my alcohol tolerance is high.
Besides, the alcohol in this place couldn’t even be called alcohol.
It was more correct to say it was carbonated water with fruity-flavored.
There is also a separate drink for adults because young children also come here.
So what I’m holding is just alcohol in the name.

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I handed the empty glass to Ian and waited for him to leave it behind.
But someone was approaching me.
It was one of the young ladies who glanced at me earlier and talked about something.
I didn’t avoid her eyes as she came with a bright smile.
She greeted me gently.

“Hello.”

“Hello.”

“I guess you’re not enjoying the banquet.
You are…?”

“My name is Blake Ariandel.
My father runs a small shipping business and a few things in Shioke.
That…”

Blake Ariandel had a characteristic of a slightly excited voice and deep eye smile.
My gaze turned to the tip of her fan.
At the tip of it, a family emblem was drawn in the shape of a long sword pierced through the shape of a lily.
I rolled my brain.
I immediately remembered her family, which must have been on one of the lists in the documents.

House of Marquis Chartero.
Looking at her green hair, she must be the first daughter of Marquis Chartero, Juri del Chartero.

The Chartero family is a prestigious family that has produced many talented swordsmen in the Empire for a long time.
And it was the family that had a large wine farm and even supplied them to the imperial family.
In addition, the 24 years old Juri was the great treasure and the pride of the Marquis Chartero.
I heard she’s good at reading the flow, whether it’s about character, funds, or people.
Her personality, sociability, and appearance didn’t lack too.

“…It’s an honor to greet Lady Chartero for the first time.”

“Oh my, was I that famous?”

She seemed happy that I recognized her at once.
The fame of the family also resembled their power.
In short, it’s a great thing to be known by everyone.

I smiled more deeply.

“Who doesn’t know your prestigious family? It’s an honor for you to greet me like this.”

“It’s an honor for me.
Ah, but if it’s Shioke, it must be…”

Juri del Chartero’s eyes sparkled with anticipation.
I gladly help her to remember.

“My father will be very honored to put Shioke’s mermaid pearls on your brooch.”

At those words, there was a surprise on her face.
Shioke’s mermaid pearls are being sold to the nobles in the capital because they look like the scales of a mermaid.
It’s not easy to get a single pearl, just as difficult as picking a star because it’s becoming a trend in fashion.
Besides, she seemed quite pleased with what I said.
She came a little closer to me, pointed where she came before and

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“There are people over there who might suit Lady.
Would you like to go with me?”

The ladies she pointed at were looking at me.
I put on a slightly troubled expression.

“I’m not very eloquent.”

“It’s okay.
If you’re invited here, we must have something in common.
Come on.”

Juri del Chartero pulled me.
I winked at the approaching Ian and followed her.

The young ladies were almost the same age or younger than me.
They, who are the same age as me, talked about the upcoming coming-of-age-ceremony, and the younger ones would listen silently or ask questions.
There was never a story about how to survive or do evil things like what I shared with my mother.
Listening to their dreamy stories, I felt like a lump of mud that had been thrown into the clean water.

As we talked, I felt a familiar gaze.
I stopped talking and turned my head to the side, where I could feel the gaze.
Just as expected, Valery was staring intently at me.
He was trying to catch a glimpse of me in his spare time, but I was a little faster.

“Blake, where are you looking at?”

“Ah, there’s a nice guy.”

I pointed to where I looked.
The young ladies looked at the place I saw, and their eyes widened in surprise, covering their mouths with a fan.

“He’s the prince.”

“Ah, really?”

I pretended not to know anything and paid attention to the young ladies’s words.
The young ladies, who thought about both the princes in their minds, began to talk.

“I like the second prince more than the first prince.”

“Why?”

“Have you seen the second prince’s shoulders? Those broad shoulders and his face… I feel ecstatic whenever I look at him.”

The young lady, who was particularly fussy, was the famous daughter of Viscount Saluman.
She had blood ties to the Chartero family.
It was said that her relationship with Juri was almost like a real sister.

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“But don’t you think he’s looking here?”

“I think so.
Who is he looking at? No way, is it me…?”

“No way.”

“Why!”

The young ladies became a little noisier.
I got a little closer to Juri.

“I… I need to get some fresh air.”

“Is that so? It’s a little noisy, isn’t it?”

“No, I’m just too excited.
I need to calm down before it brings me into trouble.”

Juri chuckled at my shallow joke.

“There’s a very interesting side of you.
All right, see you.
We will stay here the whole time.”

It means to go and join this group later.
It looked like I got a good result on her test.
Even though it was a relationship that happened because of giving a single pearl.

First of all, here we go.

I said goodbye to them and looked back at Valery.
He was looking at me like a man who really couldn’t see anything but only me.
Looking at his face made me feel guilty.

I knew Valery was watching me, but I walked toward the terrace without paying more attention.
Arriving at the terrace connected to the banquet hall, I waited for a while.
Fortunately, it was not long after the banquet began, so the terrace was quiet. 

As expected, the footsteps approaching this way were heard shortly after that.
It’s not too heavy, not too light, not too fast, and not too slow.

One, two…

As it got closer, I counted.
I just counted two and counted three in my head, then immediately turned back.

“Ah.”

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I thought we’d run into each other, but by mistake, I lightly slammed my nose against his chest.
It made me stumble backward.
At that time,

“Ah, I’m sorry.”

A warm hand held my waist firmly with apologies.

“Ouch, my nose hurts…”

Who knew I would slam my nose at his hard chest? I rubbed my nose, thinking I had lost my touch because I had been in the North for too long.
Then I opened my eyes again.

I could see his face so close that I could feel his breath.
My face was reflected in his purple eyes.
Without realizing it, I moved my face back a little.
This is not the distance that I already calculated.

“…let me go.”

“Ah, I’m sorry.
Are you all right?”

Valery Ahibara Kasinev released the hand holding my waist and lowered his head to check if my nose was okay.
He looked just like a huge dog.
I deliberately put on a slightly sulky expression on my face.

“Did you follow me again?”

“…Didn’t you look at me to signal me to follow you?”

I guess it wasn’t really a mess.

“I looked at you because I knew you.”

Disappointment flashed across his face when I told him it wasn’t like that.
Everything else is fine, but I really think he can’t hide his feelings.

“You said we would see each other soon.”

I don’t know if it’s true or just my mood that I heard his voice sounded a little sad.

“I did.”

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“I thought you meant it right now.”

“Well, it’s true that we will meet at the banquet.”

Then, Valery Ahibara Kasinev’s eyes bent beautifully.
It was such a sigh that I stared blankly for a bit, then glanced at him slightly.

“You knew who I was.”

“That’s…”

At that question, I glanced at him again and reached out to him.
I pulled out his collar, and I could feel him breathing heavily.
But soon, he relaxed as I led him.
I tapped the golden pattern embroidered on the collar and then let go of my hand.

“Here.
Because of this.”

He touched his collar and then looked at me once more.

“Did you know from this?”

“Yes, because only the imperial family can have that pattern.”

In fact, I will know him even without seeing it, but he will be deceived by my words.

“I see.”

“That’s right.”

“But I don’t think I saw that person today.”

“Pardon?”

He looked around once and then faced my eyes again.

“Your escort, the one that has a bad personality.”

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