After that Reinhart took his wife and daughter and continued their greetings.
“Count Fatma, it’s been awhile.” [Reinhart]
“Ohh! Thank you for calling out to me, Your Grace.” [Fatma]
“You helped me out a lot during our days in the academy, so I was hoping to introduce my wife and daughter to you. I hope you don’t mind.” [Reinhart]
“But of course!” [Fatma]
“That’s great. Elia, this is Count Fatma, he was my senpai during our time in the academy.” [Reinhart]
“Porco Fatma, my lady. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” [Fatma]
“Elialia Jamil. The pleasure is mine. I’ve heard about you from my father.” [Elia]
A rendezvous with Reinhart’s senpai, Porco Fatma.
“Mother, look…” [Elia]
“Oh? Indeed, we should go.” [Elize]
“Excuse me, I saw Count Willdan and Baron Clifford with their family.” [Reinhart]
And then a rendezvous with Elialia’s friends, Michelle and Riera, along with their parents.
“Your grace! It is such an honor to have someone of your stature grace this lowly one with your presence.” [Clifford]
“Baron, there’s no need to be so ceremonious. I hear your two daughters have been helping my daughter.” [Reinhart]
“Likewise, your grace. Riera says Elia has been such a blessing to her.” [Clifford]
“My daughter, Michelle, says so too. I was worried at first since she is quite the oddball, but thanks to your daughter, she was able to familiarize herself with the school. It’s been such a relief.” [Willdan]
“They have been a blessing to my daughter too. I hear they are accomplished children. It would be wonderful if they could continue to get along for a long time. Of course, us parents as well.” [Reinhart]
“It is an honor.” [Willdan and Clifford]
After the parents concluded their conversation, they all introduced their respective families, then had a pleasant chat.
In the process, the time for the
The bell in a corner of the large hall was rung several times by the staff to announce the start of the evening party.
At the same time, the duke’s family along with the rest of the nobles, who were going around greeting people, returned to their respective positions.
Upon confirming that the guests had finished moving, the staff by the side of the bell knelt and faced down.
As though that were a signal of some sort, the guests too turned to the seat of the royal family and performed the same gesture.
In the vast hall, at the end of the highest step, from the door hidden by a thick curtain, solemnly entered the king and his queen with arms linked.
They each took their seat, then turned to their subjects.
“You may raise your head.” [Erias]
At the behest of the king, the guests raised their heads, though their knees remained knelt.
“This year I have once again been blessed to welcome this wondrous day. To be able to witness the faces of our future, our youth – and that is no exaggeration – brings me much delight. Now, I’m sure our youth do not appreciate long greetings, and neither am I fond of them, so I’ll just say this. Enjoy the drinks, the food, and the people to your heart’s content… Now, all of you, take a glass!” [Erias]
At this point, glasses were distributed to all of the guests.
The king waited for drinks to be served to all the guests, then spoke.
“To the future of our country and our youth!” [Erias]
The king raised his glass, and the guests followed suit, then they all emptied their respective glass.
Like this the evening party had officially begun.
…Yes, this was just the beginning.
“Let’s go, Elia.” [Reinhart]
“Yes, Father.” [Elia]
As the three members of the duke’s family returned their glasses to the waiters moving around the vast hall, they headed to greet the king and his queen. Naturally, every eye in the hall was watching them, and not even the slow-witted failed to notice it. That the queen was wearing a pearl necklace. By this point, It was already common knowledge that the three members of the duke were all wearing pearl accessories.
Hence, the women interested in the pearls and the men pestered by them couldn’t help but speculate. A speculation proven true when the queen gave her gratitude. From this day on, the nobles wanting for pearl will want to become closer with them, further magnifying the already vast influence of the duke.
There were nobles who did not want for that to happen. Like Count Bernardo, whom Reinhart had spoken with earlier. The moment he turned his head away from the affectionate conversation between the duke’s family and the royal family, by coincidence, he spotted two acquaintances of his.
They were none other than Viscount Fargutton and Viscount Danietan, whom the duke had mentioned earlier. These two, who had sent people from their territories just like him, were talking among themselves with faces paled. They were probably thinking the same thing as him.
Thinking that, he called out to them.
“Viscount Fargutton, Viscount Danietan.” [Bernardo]
“C-Count Bernardo!” [Fargutton]]
“Thank you for reaching out to us.” [Danietan]
“There’s no need for greetings. More importantly, are you thinking about that incident?” [Bernardo]
“Huh? Ah, i-it’s not completely unrelated, but…” [Danietan]
Viscount Danietan was talking rather inarticulately, but they couldn’t afford to cause a commotion here in the party, so it was Viscount Fargutton who spoke in his place with a hushed voice.
“Actually, our bad reputation has become the topic ever since we came here.” [Fargutton]
“What? By ‘we’, you’re referring too….” [Bernardo]
“It’s related to ‘that incident’ you mentioned, so… ‘We’ refers to us.” [Fargutton]
When the count heard that, he pricked up his ears and listened in on the conversations around them.
“Have you heard? About Viscount Fargutton’s extramarital affairs?” [Noble Lady 1]
“I hear Viscount Danietan is also laden with debts.” [Noble Lady 2]
“My son works as a tax collector, and apparently, Baron Rufred hasn’t been paying his taxes.” [Noble Lady 3]
“Have you heard? Viscount Sergier has been doing whatever he pleases in his territory with his money and authority.” [Noble Lady 4]
“Count Sandrick has a company in his territory that he’s rather too close with.” [Noble lady 5]
“I hear Baron Jerok goes out every night to play in those stores with women.” [Noble Lady 6]
Ill rumors of those who participated in their plan could be heard left and right. Of course, rumors of himself were included too. Moreover, they were detailed rumors, from secrets he’d hidden because they were embarrassing to secrets hidden because they were crimes.
“What is going on? Did you hear anything from that man?” [Bernardo]
“Nothing, but without a doubt, someone’s spreading rumors.” [Danietan]
“But they’re coming from everywhere. It’s almost as if they’re competing with each other.” [Fargutton]
When Count Bernardo heard Viscount Fargutton’s mutterings, he realized what the source of the weird feeling he had was, and froze up.
It was indeed strange how the nobles around them almost seemed like they were competing to spread rumors.
But what was
Conversations between nobles were always held behind the scenes, and they frequently used vague wordings to avoid making any blunders.
But of course, the extent of vagueness varied according to the time, place, and the relationship they had with the person.
Trying to pull down the reputation of a noble from another house in a public place like this could be taken as an insult. And even if said noble did not take offense, such actions were likely to leave trouble brewing.
Hence, there were ‘rarely’ anyone among nobles who would so openly make such remarks in a place like this.
…But there were exceptions.
And from the air in this place, it was likely that that exception was occurring this very moment.
The moment he realized that, all blood left his face.
For the exception was no different from the end of a noble.
When a scandal of some house comes to light, and their punishment becomes talk of the town.
At such a time, criticisms and insults alike can only be tolerated.
Even if the critics were to take a step too far, so long as they had not overstepped too far, a light warning is all they would receive.
After all, there was no denying that a scandal had been made, so the one really at fault is the person who caused the scandal in the first place.
Moreover, a noble whose honor has been sullied can no longer do anything.
Though that noble might still keep his life, the nobles that prize honor will no longer associate themselves with him, and that was no different from a noble’s ‘death’.
Already, the gazes around them were no longer what they once were.
No, Duke Jamil made this happen.
Without them realizing it, the outer moat had been filled.
When the count realized that, his limbs began to shake.
It was then that the king spoke and the vast hall erupted, but the king’s words did not reach the count.
However, the people around him immediately started talking about it, so whether he wanted to or not, he had no choice but to hear.
‘His Majesty has given his approval for Duke Jamil’s pearls.’
That would raise the value of the duke’s pearls even higher.
And the nobles wishing for these royally approved pearls would draw closer to him, magnifying the influence of his house.
To the count, that was no different from a death knell.
He desperately racked his head to find a way out of this situation, but he could not find a way out.
Perhaps, he could throw all shame to the wind, and throw his head to the ground and beg for forgiveness, but such a plan did not once appear in his mind, and instead, incomprehensible excuses filled it.
Already, the count was in a daze, and before he knew it, he’d raised up his head.
In that moment, his eyes met the duke’s.
The duke was smiling.
Not a word was shared between them. But he knew.
It was not that the duke was ill prepared that he did not continue pushing him earlier.
Rather, there was no point to it anymore. Without him knowing, the game was already over.
The rest of the night was spent by the count like a corpse.
He spoke to no one, and no one spoke to him either.
A few days later, the scandal of the count and the other nobles would