Chapter 45 - Partner for the Banquet
I tried to calm myself down first. If I showed any sign of uneasiness, Father might take advantage of that and talk about the marriage list. ‘I must not panic and respond steadily at times like this.’ When I effectively gained control over my emotions, I feigned ignorance. “Ah, I haven’t decided on my partner yet,” I said. My father stared at me. His observant gaze was so uncomfortable that I suddenly lost my appetite. Instead of becoming agitated, I casually said, “There are quite a few people who wrote to me, asking to be my partner. They’re all wonderful, so it’s been difficult to make a decision.”
“I see,” my father said quietly after staring at me for a while longer. The sound of his silverware resumed.
‘Did I just successfully defend myself?’ I let out a soft sigh of relief. The rest of the dinner was accompanied by a series of dizzying questions from my father, but as long as he didn’t mention the marriage list, it could be considered a success. ‘I should also take a look at the letters after I finish eating.’ I decided to quickly finish my food, so I could head back to my room and find a partner.
“Jubelian.” At the sound of his voice, I became nervous and inhaled sharply. He might mention the marriage list after all.
“Yes?” I managed to ask. His piercing gaze seemed to urge me to meet the crown prince at once. I unconsciously swallowed and tried to breathe through the thick tension. As my father continued to stare at me, he cut a piece of his juicy steak and placed it on my plate. ‘All of a sudden…?’ Although I would have normally declined it, there was a problem. ‘Out of everything on his plate, why did it have to be meat…’
During these past few days, I hadn’t been able to eat properly because of my father’s disciple. The maids would have found it suspicious if I had asked them to bring me two sets of silverware, so I had ordered finger foods. As a result, I was craving meat. The problem was that I couldn’t afford to stay in the same room with my father any longer, as it would increase the chances of him mentioning the marriage list.
‘I must… decline…’ My determination faltered when the steak’s savory aroma suddenly entered my nose. ‘It’ll surely melt in my mouth if I eat it, right?’
As I worried about what to do, my father said firmly, “Eat.”
‘Since he’s telling me to eat, I guess I have no choice. He might get upset with me if I don’t listen.’
When I came to this decision, I took a bite of the steak without hesitation. The soft meat immediately melted in my mouth, exuding rich juices. It was exactly the high-quality taste that I had been salivating over these past few days. Although I was deeply immersed in the flavor, my troubles didn’t end there.
“Eat slowly. You’ll get sick.”
My father was the only reason I would get sick, but I didn’t dare to tell him this. I continued to eat quietly.
* * *
As soon as I finished eating, I went to my room and checked the letters I received. ‘There’s one from the esteemed son of Count Rowen, Sir Boromir, and another one from the esteemed son of Marquis Crocus.’
I was startled that so many respectable people had requested to be my partner. It didn’t make sense at first, considering my social reputation, but then I remembered my lofty status as the duke’s daughter. Many people would seek me out, just to have an excuse to meet him.
‘Thanks to my father, it won’t be so hard to choose a partner.’ It was ironic that he was the very reason I could avoid the predicament he had placed me in. I sighed in relief, eager to finally resolve this annoying problem of choosing a partner.
‘But who should I choose?’ As a member of the Imperial Knights, Sir Boromir was popular for his excellent swordsmanship, manners, and decent looks. Another candidate, Count Rowen’s son, was famous for his beautiful appearance. The last candidate, Marquis Crocus’s son, was the successor of a wealthy and well-known family. He would also lead the Foreign Ministry in the future. All three of these men were worth more than my terrible social reputation. If someone else heard about my dilemma, they would think I was bragging.
‘The esteemed son of Marquis Crocus did ask first, but… I would like someone who is least likely to cause trouble in the future.’ I made a decision quicker than I had anticipated. There was no way someone as handsome and capable as Marquis Crocus’s son would ask to be my partner without an underlying motive. For this reason, I chose the esteemed son of Count Rowen, who had nothing but his appearance, which was handsome enough to be compared to Mikhail.
‘In the end, it’s best to have a handsome partner.’ I made up my mind and wrote a letter to the esteemed son of Count Rowen, permitting him to take me as his partner for the banquet. Then I gave it to Merilyn.
“It’s too late today, so please send it tomorrow.”
“Yes, my lady.”
Now that this problem had been solved, I was relieved that my father hadn’t mentioned anything else to me. Writing the letter quickly drained my energy. ‘There’s something else I need to do… but I’m so sleepy.’
I eventually gave up trying to stay awake. As soon as I rolled into bed, I fell into a deep slumber.
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