In complete silence, Lucia squatted next to the first prince, heaved him over her shoulder, and walked back to us. She pulled out the seat beside the emperor and placed Daniel onto the chair before dusting off his suit. The prince’s head lolled to the side with froth still leaking out of his mouth and dripping onto the floor. Lucia nodded and dusted her hands off before sitting beside me and smiling sweetly at the emperor. Then she turned her gaze towards me. “Can we start eating yet?”
I turned towards my father, who turned towards the emperor, who turned towards his son. I hope the first prince doesn’t turn into an imbecile. I forgot Lucia had my teacher’s spells stored inside her ribbon, and I didn’t expect her to use all four of them at once. Topsy-Turvy scrambles the target’s senses. Upsy-Daisy randomly changes the force of gravity on different parts of the target’s body. Twisty-Turny temporarily rewires the target’s nerves, ruining their motor functions. And Wishy-Washy reverses the flow of qi and mana in the target’s body. A combination of all four is enough to fry someone’s brain, turning them into a vegetable with no hope of recovery. That’s actually why Teacher Rogath can own such a massive property without having a noble title; no one wants to provoke him lest they live a life worse than death.
“Will he be alright?” the emperor asked Lucia.
Lucia nodded. “Definitely! They were four harmless spells anyways. They’re just minor inconveniences.”
Right, Lucia almost had the same exact thing done to her. Maybe she wasn’t as badly affected by the spells because there isn’t anything in her head to target.
“Minor inconveniences…,” the emperor muttered and looked at his son again. He closed his eyes and shook his head before sighing. He met my father’s gaze. “The banquet may begin.”
My father cleared his throat, breaking the unnatural silence pervading the room. “Wasn’t that quite unexpected? Sorry for the delay; the banquet will now proceed.” As soon as my father finished speaking, the servants bustled and passed out plates along with glasses and bottles.
The old butler, Matthew, was servicing our table. “Is there anything you’d like to drink, Your Majesty,” he said and bowed at the emperor while keeping the tray in his left hand perfectly steady. “A cocktail or a glass of wine, perhaps?”
“The wine,” the emperor said. The rest of the royal family echoed his choice, and their drinks were served.
“I’ll also have a glass of wine,” my father said. He rarely drank, but it would’ve been rude of him to not accompany the emperor’s choice. Oh, I should tell Lucia to get the wine too; she has no idea how etiquette works.
“Hot chocolate!” Lucia said, her eyes round and bright and practically shining at Matthew. The butler gave her a wry smile before taking out a steaming mug of hot chocolate from an interspacial ring. Evidently, Lucia had gotten along really well with him in the kitchen over the past few weeks. “Thanks!” She looked at me, her tail twitching back and forth. “Were you saying something?”
“No, it’s nothing.” Well, too late to salvage that. “I’ll have a glass of wine as well.”
“Half a glass,” my father said to Matthew.
So I’m old enough to be considered for marriage, but not old enough to drink a glass of alcohol? How does that even make sense? Even the youngest princess has a glass of wine.
“I’m curious, Lucia,” the emperor said from across the table. Lucia’s tail perked up, her face still attached to her mug of chocolate. “Where did you learn those spells? And to be able to cast them all instantaneously with a simple incantation, your attainment in magic must be high indeed.”
“I got them from Rogath, the old drunkard,” Lucia said. Is that how she thinks of Teacher? Well, it is accurate, I must say. He’s drunk more often than not.
“As I suspected,” the emperor said with a nod. “Is he here today?”
Lucia looked at me, clearly indicating she wanted me to answer. So I did. “Teacher is in the middle of a crucial experiment right now, and he wasn’t able to attend.” That’s a lie. Teacher was actually just too lazy to come, and he doesn’t get along well with nobles. He calls them prudish twits with paper livers.
“How unfortunate,” the emperor said without any sincerity. He smiled at Lucia. Was he hoping to rope her into his faction? “How come I’ve never heard of you before? If you don’t mind me asking, how many circles have you established?”
I sipped on my glass and waited for Lucia’s answer. But it didn’t come. Lucia? …And she wasn’t paying attention. Her head was facing away from me, staring at the steaming tray of food a servant was carrying over. I pinched her tail, causing her to flinch. “Huh!?”
The emperor’s gaze seemed to pierce through Lucia as her head whipped from side to side. He cleared his throat, attracting Lucia’s attention. “How come I’ve never”—Lucia tilted her head up and sniffed the air before turning back towards the approaching tray—“of you before…?”
“My apologies,” I said. If I didn’t say anything, I think the emperor would have her executed for not showing proper manners. “Lucia tends to get easily distracted. It’s a side effect of being her.”
“I see…,” the emperor said and turned his gaze back onto Lucia. She wasn’t paying attention to us at all. What was even being served for dinner? Is that … divine beast meat? There’s no way my father could’ve afforded enough for all the guests. If anything, it should just be limited to this table. As for the divine beast corpses Lucia and I had gathered during our time in the desolate mountains…, we already ate them all.
“This is the meat of a divine three-headed snake,” my father said as the tray was placed in the center of the table. It filled up the majority of the space, not leaving any room for anything else.
“Where did you get it?” the emperor asked. His eyes flashed as Lucia’s utensils struck the meat like lightning, taking a massive chunk for herself.
“Lucia brought it,” my father said.
“Huh?” Lucia asked through a mouth full of meat. “Me?”
“Right,” my father said with a nod. “I replaced the one in your interspacial ring. Just think of it as rental fees.” He beamed at Lucia, who started making strange clicking noises.
“Scoot over, Ilya,” Lucia said. “I’m going to smack him.”
I firmly approve of Lucia’s decision. This snake was ours—yes, I’m taking credit even though Lucia was the one that killed it. I knew that snake we ate a week ago wasn’t as tasty as a divine beast should’ve been. I moved my seat back, making space for Lucia to lean over and reach my father.
“Ow! Not in front of all these people, please!”
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