Chapter 95 - Tastes Good Fried
“What?” Girgantia stammered belatedly. He looked incredulously between Kane and the bird cage, before roaring loudly, “Look here, you barbarians! Do you know any idea what kind of bird this is? It’s a winter peacock that only lives in the western forests of Aswan! How could I eat this rare creature?! To eat such a pretty thing?!” As Girgantia gingerly embraced the cage with his claws, the peacock let out a cry, as if also protesting, “Yeah! I’m a rare bird!”
Kane shrugged and replied, “I hear it’s delicious when fried.”
“…” The look in Girgantia’s eyes wavered, and the peacock sensing the change started screeching—Cocoo! Coo!—and flapped its wings for dear life. Clearly, it must’ve been shouting, “You were just saying how you could never eat me! You don’t mean to, do you?”
“Delicious when fri…” Girgantia wiped away his drool, before continuing, “Ahem-hem. Hang on. So, you’ll let me go if I eat this little one?” It was a rather strange condition—the man had suddenly barged in, and said he’d be freed if he ate this peacock. Wasn’t this rather abrupt?
“That’s not all, of course. And Miss Tania, I also have an order for you. Take this.”
“M-me too?” Tania—who had been using the tip of her feet to discreetly clear away the chicken bones Girgantia had failed to hide—hurriedly corrected her posture, and accepted the leather pouch Kane held out to her. Her face turned quizzical upon peering inside. “Why am I being given this?”
“To use it, naturally,” Kane responded matter-of-factly.
“What? Me?” Tania’s voice grew louder. “Use a whip? On whom?”
“Of course, that would be…” Kane’s gaze landed on Girgantia, who was busy leering hungrily at the peacock. Sensing the knight commander’s stare, the dragon mumbled in a flabbergasted voice, “On me?”
* * *
“Isn’t there anything more colorful?” Yuliana complained. The maid adorning her giggled with a face full of worship, and said “Oh, Princess. You’re beautiful enough as you are. Putting on too many things will only obscure that beauty of yours.” However, Yuliana only bit her lips in frustration. ‘Well of course it’d look that way to you lot!’
To those whom her power influenced, she appeared more beautiful and dazzling than anyone else. ‘…But not the empress.’ It would’ve been fortunate if her power was only ineffective against the empress, but considering what happened at the banquet, it appeared the empress’ presence shielded those in her vicinity as well. ‘With everyone reeling from the chaos, little attention was paid to me at the banquet hall yesterday, but…’
Yuliana glanced down at the elegantly written invitation placed atop her table, which read: ‘I wish to apologize for yesterday’s commotion, and invite you to an afternoon of pleasurable discourse between ladies.’ Naturally, the name of the empress was signed in large font at the end. ‘I didn’t expect to be sought out this quickly,’ Yuliana frowned. The empress had openly glared at Yuliana, and made allusions to turning her into dragon feed. It was expected that the former wouldn’t stay still, but who would’ve predicted she’d act so soon? ‘Perhaps it’s for the better.’ Yuliana felt that meeting with and examining the empress up close might shed light on how her power was nullified. She scanned over her luggage cases, before her gaze eventually rested on a red case. “No. Bring me the gown in the red case.”
“Oh dear, but Princess! Isn’t that the dress that was brought for the last banquet? It’s much too extravagant to wear to a simple tea party.” However, the maid’s protestations fell on deaf ears. Yuliana had already made up her mind. The extravagant gown in the red case had been prepared for the final banquet, and had been tailored to capture everyone’s attention. Despite it still being early in the trip, Yuliana had decided to take a gamble. ‘Who’d have thought I’d need to wear that dress already. Still, it should work out somehow if I pester Baroness Diana.’
Yuliana pondered on the numerous ensembles she had brought with her, as she hastened her maids to dress her. Despite her outrageous appearance at the banquet hall, Empress Cecile’s beauty had lived up to the rumors. No, in fact, it exceeded the rumors. ‘I mean, come on. How could you conceal such a stunner of a princess, even if her mother was of humble birth?’ Yuliana was dumbfounded about why the kingdom of Navitan had chosen to hide the existence of such a beauty for so long. When whispers that the lack of major war waged since the emperor had welcomed the empress had come about due to him being smitten and unwilling to part with the empress, Yuliana had snorted; however, from what she’d seen yesterday, she had to concede those rumors seemed true.
‘But that doesn’t mean I’ll be backing down.’ Yesterday, she had lost the battle, but today, she will win the war. Yuliana burned with the will to fight, as her maid prepared the banquet dress. She would not let herself be done in as easily as she had been yesterday, and without fail, she would make the empress submit.
* * *
“Come this way, please.” The palace attendants welcomed Yuliana and her maids upon her arrival at the palace, and escorted the party to the tea party. Yuliana’s maids glanced around in appreciation at the palace’s splendor; one maid was unable to suppress her admiration and remarked “How truly amazing.” The others nodded in agreement, while another maid echoed in wonder, “It wasn’t nonsense when they said the empress’ palace was the most beautiful of its kind in the empire. Heavens, who’d have imagined such a place to exist in the world?”
Yuliana remained silent amidst her maids’ conversation, but she too was secretly impressed. Her palace in Aswan itself was considered a marvel of architecture, but in comparison to the empress’ palace, it was nothing more than a stable. ‘Yes, well. A woman should aim high, after all.’ Yuliana subtly clenched her fists, vowing to succeed in ousting the empress no matter what.
Soon, a spacious flower garden came into sight—petals gently fluttered in the breeze and a deep fragrance from innumerous flowers permeated the space. The picturesque scenery was like heaven itself, and at the end of this piece of heaven sat the empress awaiting their arrival.
“Huh?” As Yuliana neared the empress, her eyes captured ‘something’ that was unforeseen. Yuliana and her maids all paled upon realizing what that ‘something’ was. “Th-that’s… No way…” Had they been heard? Girgantia, who had been resting by the empress’ feet, raised his head and let rip a low-pitched, terrifying snarl that resonated from deep in his throat. What was even more horrifying, they noticed, was that the dragon’s mouth was smeared with blood, and stuck amongst his teeth were the familiar feathers of an Aswan winter peacock.
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