ANNOUNCEMENT: CHE SERIES IS DROPPED!

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    The rain that began pouring down suddenly intensified with each passing moment.

    To make matters worse, an untimely gale blew in, making the banquet hall feel more cozy than home upon arrival.

    Countless lights continued to sprinkle their dazzling glow, but with the excitement of the first banquet having faded, the hall exuded a calmer atmosphere compared to the previous day.

    ‘The main banquet has a slightly more political nature, as I recall…’

    It was a setting where subtle diplomatic battles could unfold, with attendees probing and keeping each other in check.

    However, as it wasn’t a venue for negotiations involving vested interests, there were many instances where the purpose was simply to exchange pleasantries and cultivate goodwill.

    Thanks to this, the banquet hall’s atmosphere flowed gently, belying its political undercurrents.

    Having finished his first light dance with Amelia, Seongjin took a moment to leisurely survey his surroundings. It felt as though he had completed all his assigned tasks.

    He had heard that one was expected to dance at least once with their prospective marriage partner out of courtesy.

    However, little Chloe was absent, as she had yet to make her debut, while Isabella was also missing due to a head injury. Moreover, Julia Meyer was nowhere to be seen.

    This meant he was free until the end of the banquet.

    “It’s been a while, Prince Morres.”

    Taking advantage of the slightly sparse atmosphere, a small boy approached and addressed him.

    With a razor-sharp bob cut and rosy cheeks, it was Charles from the Ravioli family.

    ‘Oh, this kid is old enough to attend the banquet now!’

    Children from the Holy Emperor’s bloodline grew tall and slender like grass saturated with water, so it was surprising in many ways that this boy, even smaller than Sisle, was already over thirteen.

    However, as Charles meticulously observed Seongjin with a delighted expression, his face soon fell, appearing deeply disappointed.

    “My apologies, Your Highness. Did you not like the gift I sent?”

    Ah, come to think of it, this little one had gifted him a tie pin.

    “I had already coordinated my attire and accessories for the dress code quite early on, so it was a bit regrettable.”

    The banquet outfit had been completed just before his birthday, but there was no need to mention that.

    Fortunately, the boy’s face brightened, seeming to accept the explanation.

    “I see. By the way, please lower the way you address me. I don’t know what to do with myself.”

    “No, that simply won’t do. Aren’t you an esteemed guest who has come from a foreign country to celebrate the birthday banquet?”

    At this, a flicker of puzzlement crossed Charles’s face.

    “But then, why did you address the prince of Rohan…?”

    Ah. He must have overheard me talking casually to that swallow earlier.

    It’s fine. By my standards, that bastard doesn’t qualify as a guest.

    Observing Seongjin’s face, which had turned slightly grim, Charles soon nodded as if he had grasped something.

    He followed Seongjin’s gaze towards where Amelia stood. She happened to be facing Rohan’s swallow bastard, deeply engaged in conversation.

    “It would be wise to keep some distance from that prince. The rumors circulating about him are quite unsavory in many ways.”

    Charles whispered, looking somewhat concerned.

    “Rumors are said to be insubstantial like the wind, but grass cannot sprout in a barren field without seeds being carried in.”

    “Hmm, well…”

    Certainly, Leonard of Rohan did not give off a particularly good impression.

    For a fellow who had been raised preciously as royalty, there was an uncanny scent of blood in his eyes. It reminded Seongjin of those trash back on Earth who were more enthusiastic about slaughtering fellow hunters for power than fighting monsters.

    That’s why, when the bastard first attempted to approach Amelia, Seongjin had tried his best to block him. His sister’s demeanor in front of Leonard seemed somehow fearful.

    However, at some point after she regained her emotional stability, the situation changed a bit.

    While she maintained a smile that exuded charm to everyone, Seongjin could instantly tell.

    The way she looked at the bastard now was like a satiated cat eyeing a plump little rat.

    ‘Ah. She must have some interesting plan in mind for him.’

    So, despite his distaste for the fellow, Seongjin decided to observe the situation for a while. He knew that, contrary to her innocent appearance, Amelia had a rather shrewd personality.

    ‘Even if that bastard suffers some consequences, it’ll all be his own doing. If he has angered our angelic sister, doesn’t that make him worse than a demon?’

    Of course, that didn’t mean he would stop keeping a watchful eye on the bastard!

    As he was glaring at Leonard with a sullen face, Charles cautiously opened his mouth.

    “In contrast to that prince, the crown prince of Rohan is shrouded in excessive secrecy. Rumor has it that he has never attended a birthday banquet due to being too sickly for long-distance travel.”

    Right. The etiquette teacher had mentioned something along those lines.

    “Rohan’s officials must be quite worried. Fortunately, our Brittany is free from such concerns. Prince Philip is exceptionally robust, diligent, and impeccable, leaving no room for criticism.”

    Seongjin lowered his gaze to look directly at Charles.

    Huh? Look at this kid.

    “Quite a blunt expression of opinion, isn’t it?”

    He had thought the kid was the type to use roundabout, aristocratic speech like before.

    At this, Charles slowly smiled.

    “Before whom should I mince my words? I will say nothing more, Your Highness. In the future, Brittany will undoubtedly be the most suitable partner for the Empire’s endeavors.”

    “…”

    Seongjin turned his gaze towards Amelia and Leonard without answering.

    I see. I thought he was still young, but has sister already reached that age? Well, even that Morres guy already has three prospective marriage partners.

    Moreover, isn’t Amelia the eldest daughter of the Holy Emperor’s family? Considering the impact her marriage will have on the continent’s future landscape, it’s no wonder people’s attention is already focused on her.

    ‘Still, sixteen is quite young, a prime age for growth…’

    Somehow, there was a slightly bitter taste in his mouth.

    Meanwhile, Charles continued to stare at Seongjin with expectant, glittering eyes.

    ‘But why is this kid approaching me like this?’

    What does he expect from me? He should go to Logan, the likely successor to the Holy Emperor, instead.

    Or perhaps…

    Seongjin quickly glanced towards the head table.

    Hmm, Father isn’t here yet?

    Just then, Queen Llizabeth, who was seated near the head table, caught Seongjin’s gaze and flinched in surprise.

    She then promptly turned her head away with a stiff expression. What on earth is troubling the 1st Queen these days?

    As he was beginning to feel uncomfortable and considering leaving, he suddenly spotted a familiar face on one side of the banquet hall.

    ‘…Dame Julia Meyer? She attended the banquet today.’

    He could instantly recognize her unfamiliar face because, surprisingly, she looked no different from her usual appearance.

    Amidst the other young ladies adorned in splendid finery, she alone stood resolutely in her knight’s uniform, holding a drink with a somewhat businesslike expression.

    Aha, there was another stubborn one like Logan over there.

    ‘Anyway, I should complete my task.’

    His sister had repeatedly emphasized that he must ask his prospective marriage partner for a dance.

    After excusing himself to Charles, Seongjin slowly approached Julia.

    Come to think of it, he remembered having a good first impression of Julia Meyer. She had been quite helpful when he had attacked the capital’s guard the other day. She had completely ignored the commotion he caused.

    In fact, Julia had been gleefully watching the capital’s guard captain, with whom she had a strained relationship, floundering in the chaos, but Seongjin was unaware of such deep underlying circumstances.

    “Dame Julia. If it’s alright with you, may I request the next dance?”

    Upon hearing those words, Julia’s eyes widened as she turned her head.

    As if she couldn’t believe what she had just heard, she stammered before finally blurting out a response.

    “…Forgive me, Your Highness. But I am currently in my knight’s uniform.”

    “Hmm, I see.”

    Will the dance moves be a bit tricky?

    He vaguely recalled there being a move that involved grasping and fluttering the hem of a dress.

    “So that’s…!”

    I’m trying to politely decline the dance request by making excuses! Julia wanted to say that, but there wasn’t a shred of doubt on the prince’s face. He genuinely had no idea.

    “Ah, are you on duty right now? My apologies if you’re currently guarding the banquet hall.”

    “…No, Your Highness. Today is my day off.”

    Then what’s the problem?

    With an innocent face that knew nothing, Julia sighed and took his hand.

    Well, there’s no rule against dancing in uniform.

    ‘My parents will nag me again when I get home…’

    Contrary to the rumors portraying her as a woman who was a knight to the bone, stubbornly rejecting all suitors while insisting on her uniform, Julia Meyer had no particular aversion to beautifying her appearance.

    Regardless of how she dressed on her days off, it wouldn’t change the fact that she was a knight.

    It was simply that, during her academy days, her studies had been overwhelming, and after joining the knighthood, work had piled up like crazy, leaving her unwilling to waste energy on trivial matters.

    That’s why, despite her parents’ nagging, she showed up at every birthday banquet in her uniform. It was quite troublesome to refuse the flood of dance requests one by one.

    Sensing the young masters, who had been watching from afar, staring at her with startled rabbit eyes, Julia thought to herself.

    ‘Perhaps this year marks the end of peaceful birthday banquets.’

    Well, it seemed unlikely that there would be anyone else brazen enough to ask her for a dance while she was in uniform.

    “Oh my, look over there.”

    “Quite impressive, unexpectedly…”

    The attendees in the banquet hall turned their gazes towards this unusual couple with curious eyes.

    Julia Meyer was a young lady with a physique that stretched tall like a willow branch. As a result, she was much taller than Seongjin, who was still growing, so it was thought that the two would make a somewhat awkward picture when dancing together.

    However, a handsome boy and a slender beauty standing side by side naturally created a picturesque scene.

    The couple whispering to each other while lightly stepping in time with the music seemed quite well-matched.

    Of course, if one were to hear the conversation they were having, such thoughts would have quickly dissipated. Seongjin, thinking it was a good opportunity, was currently seeking her professional advice on work-related matters.

    “Are you referring to the deployment of the 7th Knighthood?”

    When Julia asked for clarification, Seongjin nodded. Recently, he had been contemplating which department to involve for a large-scale seizure and search of the Milo Guild.

    “Yes. The 7th Knighthood’s official name is the [Imperial Capital Defense Corps], right? I understand they perform duties similar to the Capital Guard.”

    “That is correct, but…”

    Julia then made a complicated expression.

    “As Your Highness is aware, deploying troops requires a clear justification. Unless a direct order is issued by a high-ranking official of commander rank or above, usually an official request form and supporting legal clauses must first be submitted to the administrative department, and then we wait for the executive order to be issued.”

    “So the Knighthood cannot be dispatched with a simple request for support?”

    “In principle, that is the case. Otherwise, a cooperative relationship must be established in advance through prior consultation between departments. Of course, there are instances where the commander or deputy commander may dispatch troops at their discretion if they deem it an emergency situation.”

    “Hmm.”

    Seongjin tilted his head and asked.

    “So, what you’re ultimately saying is that we should arrange a prior work agreement with the Monster Special Task Force? Then what should we do? Should I formally prepare a cooperation document and send it to the 7th Knighthood?”

    At this, Julia Meyer’s expression rapidly soured.

    “Ah, but please, anything but the cooperation document…”

    Transformed in an instant into the face of an office worker worn out from overtime, Julia Meyer sighed.

    “Alright, Your Highness. The various administrative procedures for troop deployment are certainly necessary, but I acknowledge that they are also excessively cumbersome. Moreover, if Your Highness is requesting support to this extent, it must be an urgent matter that is far from ordinary. In that case, I believe I can handle it somehow at my discretion.”

    Considering the recent incidents the prince had been involved in, such as the monster case at the Digory residence and the Heresy Tribunal Gate incident, rumors were circulating that when the prince made a move, it was no longer a typical affair.

    Of course, Seongjin, unaware of the underlying reasons, merely tilted his head in puzzlement.

    “Let’s do it this way, Your Highness. If you can properly submit the post-action report and take full responsibility for it, I can manage an emergency dispatch at my discretion immediately upon Your Highness’s request.”

    “Are you sure that’s alright?”

    As Seongjin’s face brightened, Julia Meyer replied with a somewhat enlightened expression.

    “Yes. Then, at least the paperwork will be reduced by half, won’t it?”

    Every task has an arduous and drawn-out process of application and approval, but once it’s done, the cleanup is usually accomplished relatively quickly.

    Fortunately, the deputy commander of the Imperial Capital Defense Corps was flexible!

    “Thank you so much, Dame Julia! Should we have a departmental dinner sometime for our smooth cooperation in the future? I’ll draft a budget and send an official document to the 7th Knighthood soon!”

    As a newly established department, they were relatively free from budget constraints, Seongjin added proudly.

    At this, Julia made an absurd face before responding in a subdued voice.

    “…No, I mean, never mind the official document.”

    She seemed utterly fed up with paperwork.

    As the dance music ended, Seongjin parted ways with Julia.

    This was the first time he had conversed with her like this, but she seemed to be someone he could communicate with quite well. It was a satisfying encounter.

    ‘By the way…’

    Feeling a bit anxious, Seongjin unconsciously glanced towards the head table once more.

    And after confirming that it was still empty…

    ‘Oh…’

    He finally realized what had been bothering him for a while.

    Doesn’t it seem like the Holy Emperor is awfully late?

    Rumble, boom!

    Suddenly, Seongjin’s sensitive senses faintly picked up the distant sound of thunder.

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