A margrave was classified as a senior noble in Arxia’s noble society.
The role given to a margrave was basically to maintain a key position in the kingdom. For example, a court noble in the capital would be given the rank of margrave if they have the rank of ‘Vice’ or higher in an important job such as finance, while a feudal lord would be given the title of margrave if they are in charge of the most important defence position near the border, have a large granary that provides a large percentage of the kingdom’s food, or have own a production area where the goods are designated as rare by the House of Lords.
Therefore, the total number of nobles who hold the title of margrave is in a different league from those who hold the title of earl. Only a handful of great nobles can be given that title.
The fief of Margrave Moudon is a typical example of a rare production area. In the past it was treated as the fief of a simple Junior Earl, but a variety of gems had been produced with the development of the fief, and two of the rarest gems, Esmart and Vardalia, have earned the Moudon House the margrave title.
“Thank you for coming tonight, Earl Kaldia. I hope you enjoy the birthday celebration, even though it’s a small party since I usually sleep in this mansion by myself.”
“No, it’s an honour to be invited to your son’s birthday celebration, Lord Moudon.”
Margrave Moudon was dressed in a justaucorps decorated with Vardalia gems to match his beautiful navy blue eyes. He smiled gorgeously and he looked so young that it was hard to believe that he had a son my age.
Behind him was a castle-like building that towered over the surrounding buildings. I didn’t dare mention the words ‘sleeping quarters’ to him.
This was a townhouse of one of the kingdom’s most senior nobles. The size and value of his mansion was beyond my worth, since I am only a Junior Earl who had been promoted from Viscount.
“… So, why do I have to enter through the backdoor?”
For some reason, I was entering through the backdoor of this wonderful mansion. The Margrave smiled mischievously and then after giggling said, “Actually, my son Lucius is your fan. I was wondering if you could tell him a little about the Academy’s entrance ceremony next year.”
I was troubled.
Although he’s supposed to frequent the capital often, the Margrave’s behaviour was a bit strange, or ‘my pace,’ or… if I don’t have to be careful with my words then I would say he behaves erratically. He has an attractive face and figure and a soft demeanour, yet he was treated as a mere flower in the capital’s social scene because of his personality. He was just too friendly. His personality as a countryside noble was too strong.
“I wished you had discussed such matters with me much earlier. I’ve already left my gift at your other residence.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry about that since you’re the gift. Just babysit him for a bit while the nobles get together.”
“Please don’t treat me as a gift… But then again, your son is quite unusual since he’s a fan of mine. I’m certain I’m only known for my bad reputation.”
I was led to the room where Lucius was waiting while we were joking.
The three servant children who followed silently behind us seemed confused. I had been informed beforehand that the Margrave was a bit odd, but he was more than a little odd for only acquainting himself with noble children in the capital.
In the antechamber, there was a child whose face was pale with nervousness and Zephyr, the older brother who was trying to calm the child down.
The child was probably Lucius. He had inherited his father’s silver hair and his eyes were a brighter jade colour than Zephyr’s. However, his features probably looked similar to his mother’s, and he looked like a cute girl.
“… Oh, Brother. I can’t do it after all. When I think about giving a speech, my heart hurts so much that I can’t bear it…”
“Don’t worry. You can do it, Lucius. You did much better than I did last year. Isn’t that what your tutor said?”
“But, Brother, Madam always scolds me and tells me not to be frightened and speak clearly like you… I can’t speak very well. I can’t do it.”
“Father and I will be with you when you give your speech. So, you don’t need to worry so much and just relax. Yes, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.”
Lucius, who continued to breathe in and out like he was told, coughed violently since his lungs reached their limits. He then glared at Zephyr with tears in his eyes. Zephyr who had nonchalantly received the glare while smiling mischievously looked exactly like Margrave Moudon.
I had thought that they weren’t alike, but when I compared them like this, I realised that they are. Isn’t that normal?
“Zephyr, don’t upset Julius too much before he gets to the hall.”
Margrave chuckled while saying.
“Father,” the two brothers turned around and stiffened when they saw that I was standing behind the Margrave. It was normal for them to be surprised if their classmate suddenly walked in through the backdoor with their father. In addition, I had refused Zephyr’s invitation. That was completely his father’s fault though.
I waved at the frozen Zephyr while wondering what to do.
“Good evening, Zephyr.”
“Huh? Why? I thought you said you had a prior engagement today…”
“Oh, this is my prior engagement. I was invited to celebrate the birthday of a mischievous Margrave’s son, and he wrote that I should hide this from his son for some reason. I’m sorry.”
I apologised for refusing Zephyr’s invitation a few days ago. I don’t know what you’re thinking Margrave, even if you stare at me so intently. Even though I was puzzled, I had no choice but to do as my acquaintance requested. If you have something to say, then say it to your father.
“Hmm? Isn’t it normal for me to send an invitation to my friend?”
The Margrave said with a pleasant smile, and I lowered my eyes in amazement. This man is hopeless, he only did that to tease his beloved son.
However, I can see that they trusted each other. Even as an outsider, I could immediately see that Zephyr was tolerating his father’s meaningless prank, even though he wasn’t happy with it. I was a little jealous of that.
… Anyway, Lucius, who according to Zephyr was suffering from stage fright, didn’t seem to have time to talk with me, so I ended up killing time by talking to Zephyr about random things.
I guess it was a good thing that I didn’t directly give him his present, since just greeting the guests was probably impossible for him in this state.
After that, Julius’s nervousness flew out the window and his excitement allowed him to greet the guests splendidly, so this time it seemed that Margrave Moudon knew his sons well and was good at one or two things. I’m sorry for thinking that you are odd. As one would expect, he is a capable Margrave. Although, he’s hopelessly doting towards his children.
“… Umm, it’s delicious. I didn’t think I would be able to eat Forshbali seafood in the capital.”
“Really? I’m glad you like it. Fish is hard to come by… they don’t get brought from the countryside to the capital unless it’s an opportunity like this. There are better ways to eat fish when it’s caught fresh from the sea.”
“Does it need to be fresh?”
“Yes. You cut the fish into thin slices, sear it and eat it with lume vinegar. It’s very tasty and refreshing.”
“It’s also delicious when you eat it with gaelberries and onocera oil sauce.”
Lume and gaelberries are sour vegetables grown in the north in Forshbali and Ugaul. Like fruits, they’re made into jam, vinegar and pie fillings.
“I see,” I nodded my head as the image of seared tuna with lemon juice popped up in my mind. I couldn’t help but be amazed at my own mind for remembering unimportant memories such as this, all of a sudden, even though I couldn’t remember the game’s scenario anymore. Well, for the woman whose memories these belong to, the meals she had in her daily life were probably more familiar and important to her than the games she played in her spare time before her death.
“And this is lume pie. You’ve probably never had it before.”
“Oh, I’ve heard about them, but I’ve never had them before. I’ll have a slice.”
Zephyr cut up a piece of pie for me, then he looked at Lucius and I had the feeling that they were holding back their laughter. I put the pie in my mouth while puzzled and chewed.
“…, … so…!”
The strong sour taste that immediately spread in my mouth almost made me shout, “Sour!” That was how sour it tasted. It was astringent. No, the astringent taste wasn’t that strong, but it was really sour.
Zephyr laughed when he saw my reaction. I almost glared at him for a second, but I thought better of it and fixed my expression, then I ate the rest of the pie. The pie crust was sweetly seasoned, so I was able to enjoy the rest of the pie once I realised how sour it was.
“Kaldia, how is it? Do you like it?”
“… I was surprised by how sour it is, but yes, it’s good.”
“Everyone who tries lume for the first time has the same reaction as you. I’m sorry, I thought that you wouldn’t think it was that sour if I told you about it beforehand. The main component of this pie isn’t the sourness of the lume.”
“People in the Forshbali fief eat it for the first time when they reach pre-adulthood, since children aren’t supposed to eat it. I also only had it for the first time the other day, and unlike you, I shouted about how sour it was.”
“I see,” I replied as I took the wine that Lucius offered me as a palate cleanser and sipped it. It was delicious, but the sourness of the pie made my mouth water.
… That means… I really must let my shadow, Radka, try this once. I can’t be the only one who tastes this sourness. Well, it’s delicious even though it’s sour.
“Zephyr-sama and Lucius-sama.”
A girl, who looked as if she was welcoming adulthood, had seen that the conversation had settled down and approached.
Judging from the crest that was on her dress, she seemed to be from the Moudon’s branch house. Zephyr and Lucius warmly welcomed their relative and briefly introduced her to me. However, she was only introduced as their relative Jeltje, perhaps because her status was too low.
“So, what’s the matter Jeltje?”
“I have a message from the head of the house in the hall. He said that it is about time for you to come back into the ballroom. Both of you left for the dining room as soon as the pavane was over… Especially you, Lucius, since it’s your birthday, please spend a little more time in the hall.”
Both Zephyr and Lucius smiled thinly… Hmm, it’s hard to tell but that’s an annoyed look, right? I’ve seen Margrave Moudon wear that look every time the House of Lords discussed tax on jewels and ornaments.
“… Well, birthday celebrations are basically balls.”
As I muttered in agreement with Jeltje, Zephyr quickly grabbed my arm while smiling as if he had suddenly thought of something good. What is it?
“How about you join us, Earl Kaldia? There are a lot of beautiful ladies from the Moudon House here tonight, so please tell me if there’s a girl you like.”
“… No thank you. I have a virtuous wife named Rashiok… Leaving the jokes aside, I’ll join you in the hall. Lord Moudon invited me here so I can’t just stay in the dining room the whole time.”
I stood up while half-joking about the sentence in a classical literature that I had recently read in class. Although socialising in the hall is a bit of a hassle, I’m more used to it than Zephyr and Lucius, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to accompany them as their friend.
Also, isn’t that something you say when you’re trying to marry off a girl in your bloodline? I’m wearing a man’s outfit, but I don’t plan on taking a bride.
“Earl, who is this Rashiok that you spoke of?”
“Rashiok is the draconis I raised. Of course, I was joking when I said he’s my virtuous wife.”
When I arrived at the main ballroom, where the orchestra was playing music, with Zephyr, Lucius and Jeltje, the ladies approached us with great speed and quickly surrounded us. Their energy was so strong that I would have died had I been on the battlefield. In a way, it was scarier than being approached by enemy soldiers with weapons.
… Even though I was on the host’s side, I now realised that Zephyr and Lucius are popular with the ladies. The Crown Prince, with his inhumanly good looks, and his close aides have overshadowed Zephyr, but the ladies definitely adored Zephyr, who had his father’s sister’s hair and beautiful velvet eyes. No, it was rather strange for him not to stand out. In other words, the Crown Prince’s appearance is abnormal.
I took half a step back, trying to get out of the way of the ladies.
“Hmm, excuse me Zephyr-sama. Who is this?”
But for some reason, the further I stepped back, the more they closed the distance and they even asked Zephyr to introduce them to me. Why me? Even if they couldn’t snag the two hosts of the party, were they really that desperate not to become wallflowers?
Zephyr introduced me as his schoolmate. The adult ladies quietly took half a step back while hiding their faces with their fans, probably because they knew of my bad reputation, but the pre-adult ladies pressed even closer for some reason.
“Excuse me, Earl Einsbark, would you like to have a dance…”
“No, hmm, please dance with me.”
“Hey! You said you wanted to dance with Margrave Moudon earlier!”
“Do you like Saraband, Earl? I’m confident in dancing it.”
I took another step back as they pressured me to dance with them. They shortened the distance between us by a step again.
“As expected of an Earl who causes a stir in the capital. There are so many people who admire you like I do.”
Lucius commented with admiration and delight. No, you’re probably the only eccentric who would admire an infamous noble like me. People in the capital mainly talk about my cruelty, so it left them no room to admire me.
Look at the warlike expressions on the ladies’ faces. They were probably sent by some noble who thought they could somehow make a connection with me, someone who is the topic of both good and bad things.
… Ah, come to think of it, I’ve been treated weirdly lately. This might be an effect of that.