Lady Sophia had declared that her faction would be responsible for mediating between His Highness Alforth and the commoners. The fact that she invited both parties to a tea party she was hosting quickly became known throughout the school.
Until now, His Highness Alforth was widely considered an elitist.
The highest members of the school’s social caste held the commoners in disdain. Keeping this mentality, the elitists looked down on the lower class, and in turn were seen as narrow minded bigots.
So for both the daughter of a Marquis and the second prince to proclaim support for the lower class, the commoners couldn’t help but rise up in excitement, while the elitists among the aristocrats shuddered in fear.
Time silently flowed by, and eventually the day for my lady’s tea party had arrived… with everyone from the school watching the event under intense scrutiny.
We were inside one of the club buildings on school premises– more specifically, one of the buildings that was rented out to the various factions. The floor we were on was currently being leased out as the tea party venue under the name of Marquis Rosenberg.
The site itself was set up by myself and the other servants of the Rosenberg house. Considering how many of the guests this time would be commoners, the decorations put up were ones that gave off a ‘simple but elegant’ feeling, so as to not overwhelm them.
My lady’s faction members filtered into the venue one after another.
With her hair curled into ringlets, entering before anyone else was Ferris Arken– the daughter of a Viscount who solidified her position in the upper echelons of the group by being the first of the noble girls to declare her allegiance.
The next one to enter was the daughter of a Count– Pamela Ford, she was the girl that had collapsed in the testing venue during the dance examination.
She seems to blame herself for what had happened to my grades back then, so she treats me quite nicely even in spite of my status as a servant. Bearing a beauty mark just under her left eye, she was a kind and charming young lady.
Following after her was Alicia.
She had her novel bluish black hair done up. That, combined with her dress– which bore a slightly more mature design than expected, she held a certain charm that was reminiscent of her future self from the game.
As I thought that, I couldn’t help but notice Lady Sophia pursing her lips in displeasure. I just barely spared them a glance, so I’d like to protest that she was overreacting.
Well, seeing her get jealous was cute though.
After the key members had gathered, the lower ranking ones began shuffling into the venue in droves. In the beginning, the only ones to join my lady’s faction were girls, but recently some boys have started to enter as well.
In just under a year, the group had risen to become one of the most influential factions in the school.
And amongst the members flooding in was the odd commoner or two.
Within the flow of invitees, a golden haired prince had arrived.
His Highness Alforth was dressed in black semi-formal wear, giving off an easygoing atmosphere while still retaining the dignity of a prince.
In consideration of this being a tea party where commoners were attending, he seems to have dressed himself appropriately for the occasion.
Regarding this, all I did was hint to him that it was important that he grew closer to the commoners, I didn’t give him any direct advice, so I’m glad to see he picked up on it.
But putting that aside, His Highness Alforth’s casual appearance made him quite approachable to the lower class. In such a short period of time, he had already developed his princely qualities to a great extent.
Yet for some reason, he had decided to approach me first.
“Hey Cyril, thanks for everything you’ve done for me until today.”
An innocent smile rose up on his handsome face as he said that. As expected, he truly was the prince of the game’s main route. Sighs began leaking out from the nearby girls at the sight of his expression.
“All of this was done under my lady’s orders. Such words are wasted on me.”
“Umm… so you’re saying I shouldn’t thank you, but Sophia herself for all of this?”
“It’s exactly as you say.”
Rather than a prince, from my perspective he was more like a little kid trying his best. Having seen how desperately he’s been trying to change himself during the lessons, I kind of wanted to pat his head in congratulations.
Various problems would arise from such an action though, so I held myself back.
“It’s fine to be happy, but you really shouldn’t be voicing your thoughts out loud like that.”
“O-oh… right, I still have a long way to go. I’ll make sure to express my thanks to Sophia, but even so, I want you to know that I’m grateful for what you’ve done, Cyril.”
While I was slightly taken back by his words, the prince flashed me a beaming smile and said, “I’m going to go greet Sophia now” before taking his leave.
And so, the tea party was successfully held without incident.
Although I called it a ‘tea party’, the event was set up in a standing buffet style meant for mingling with individuals outside of one’s usual cliques.
As a result, there were many interactions occurring that wouldn’t be possible normally. I felt deeply moved seeing Lady Sophia sharing a conversation with a commoner of the opposite sex without reservation.
With the opening of the event having finished so smoothly, His Highness Alforth and Libert had sat down at the same table to talk under Lady Sophia’s mediation.
The prince was clearly nervous.
He had slighted the other party without even being aware of it. It must be difficult for him to talk so openly with a victim of his own incompetence about what he’s done.
With that said, he wasn’t the only one, Libert seemed to be quite on edge as well. As expected, it looks like even he wasn’t brazen enough to curse a member of royalty directly to their own face.
But for how tense the situation was, there were still those that kept their calm.
The mistress that I served– Lady Sophia, was one of them. She broke the ice, bringing up small talk about the sweets arranged on the table in a gentle tone.
“These are confections developed by my exclusive butler, Cyril. They’re called ‘crêpes’, and if it’s fine with you, please try them.”
“Woah… these are amazing. Cyril really made these?”
“…oh? So he can make desserts of this caliber?”
“Yes, my exclusive butler is quite exceptional after all.”
It was cute seeing my lady puff out her chest so proudly, but… I think it’d be better if she held herself back a little on the praise.
At this rate, she was going to forget the original purpose of all of this…
I also had a bad premonition of His Highness falling to darkness in my lady’s stead if this continued on. I was worried about that, but he ended up saying, “Cyril can really do anything” with shining eyes.
Although it wasn’t as bad as him falling to darkness, was this really okay?
As I served everyone their tea, I asked my lady if she had forgotten her purpose, but she assured me it was fine with a smile. That advertisement from earlier was apparently just a whim of hers.
There was nothing wrong with that, there really wasn’t, but…
“Incidentally, do you think these crêpes would be popular amongst the commoners, Libert?”
Finally, Lady Sophia had brought up the main subject. In response, Libert fell silent to think about the intent behind that question. His anxiety from earlier had disappeared, now replaced with the countenance of a merchant.
“The taste is fine, but what worries me is the cost of the ingredients. No matter how great the taste is, there’s no way it’d be popular if it isn’t affordable for the commoners.”
“It’s exactly as you say. I’ve had similar thoughts myself, so– Cyril.”
At my lady’s signal, I pulled out a document from my jacket pocket and handed it to Libert. What was written on it was an estimate of the costs required to make the crêpes.
There were two prices listed on it, one using high quality ingredients, and another with cheaper ones. The lower ranked one was set at a price that the lesser nobility and ordinary people could afford.
“…if what’s written here is true, then it’s definitely possible to popularise this among the commoners. As long as you don’t mess up the marketing, it will definitely sell.”
–as long as you don’t mess up the marketing.
In short, he was saying we should leave the sales to someone well-versed in trade. To put it simply, we should outsource the work to someone else if we wanted crêpes to become popular.
Having elicited such words, a satisfied smile rose up on Lady Sophia’s face as she turned to His Highness. After which, a document was handed to him– one containing the details of the crêpe’s recipe.
“In that case, I’ll hand the recipe for this product over to His Highness Alforth.”
“…eh? To me?”
Libert’s face twitched while the prince broke out into confusion, but this was something both my lady and I had agreed on in advance.
At the small commotion that broke out, my lady repeated herself, saying, “His Highness Alforth is who I’m entrusting this to” with a smile.
“Didn’t I show you an unbecoming side of myself back at the rose garden? Consider this an apology for that.”
“Unbecoming? In the first place, I–”
His Highness tried to say something, but my lady shook her head first.
“No matter the reason why, there’s no denying what I did. This recipe is my apology for what I’ve done, so Your Highness, please use it as you see fit.”
Libert was the first to realise what she was doing.
Since a windfall of unforeseen luck was about to fall into his lap, an expression of hope and anxiety momentarily flashed over him, but he immediately fixed his poker face right after.
It took a little while longer, but His Highness Alforth soon realised what Lady Sophia was doing as well, and he started making a bitter expression.
“Even after everything I’ve done, I’m still causing Sophia problems…”
“You’re not causing me any problems, I’m getting something out of this as well.”
His Highness then turned to me, sending me a look that said he needed help.
However, my lady wasn’t lying when she said she was benefiting from this.
Even if we lost the recipe, the fact remains that we became the mediators between His Highness and the commoners. These crêpes would be the first step in repairing the strained relationship between the two parties.
This would undoubtedly become a great achievement for my lady.
Therefore, as the prince’s advisor, I nodded towards him with confidence.
“…understood, then I’ll receive this recipe with gratitude.”
His Highness took the recipe with great care before turning to Libert. Matching the prince’s gaze, the merchant’s son stayed silent, having already anticipated what would happen next.
“Libert, before anything else, I need to apologise to you– no, to the commoners as a whole.”
“You want to apologise to us?”
“I want to make it clear that I don’t have any thoughts of elitism. I have no quarrel with you, but it’s a fact that the elitists used me and have caused you quite a bit a trouble, so–”
In apology, His Highness then bowed down towards Libert.
Seeing one of this country’s princes lowering their head towards a commoner, a commotion started breaking out from the surroundings. Even if he didn’t have any elitist thoughts, for a member of royalty to submit before someone of common birth was going way too far.
In a panic, Lady Sophia quickly said, “Your Highness, please raise your head” and it was only with those words that the prince corrected his posture.
“I know a person of my position shouldn’t lower themselves so easily, but let this moment be the exception. I’m sorry for what I’ve done, and I want you all to understand that.”
Libert was silent. However, his face that always appeared to be doing calculations was frozen. Rather than him refusing to respond, he seemed to be in shock.
Towards such a merchant’s son, His Highness revealed his inner thoughts.
“In addition, I’d like it to be known that I believe that to develop this country for the better, we should work together with the common people, not above them. With that said, I’ll entrust you with this recipe I’ve received from Sophia.”
His Highness Alforth then offered the document to Libert. Seeing that, the merchant’s son seemed to finally break out of his shock, his gaze snapping back and forth between the prince and the recipe.
“In other words, you’re going to leave the consignment sales to us?”
“No, I told you I’d give you the recipe. It’s not a commission. All the profits you make from this will be yours alone.”
His Highness Alforth declared that he wouldn’t need any compensation. I’ve said before that he’s grown quite quickly, but it seems he’s still a bit naïve in some aspects.
With that said, the prince was still far better than how he was before.
Balancing gains and losses in his head, the look in Libert’s eyes were more serious than ever. Eventually, he reached a conclusion, turning back towards His Highness.
“This is a very gracious offer, but I can’t accept it.”
The air in the venue seemed to freeze at Libert’s words.
Lady Sophia and I were the only ones who remained calm.
“So you don’t accept my apology?”
“No, I wouldn’t consider such rudeness. As merchants, the transactions we make need to be compensated fairly. The same is true even for apologies.”
His Highness once again turned to me with a troubled face.
Perhaps he couldn’t understand what Libert wanted. However, the fact that he could recognise his limits and was open to outside help really showed how far he’s grown.
“Libert is saying that the recipe is too valuable to be used as a simple apology.”
“Oh… I see, so does that mean it’d be fine if I just left the consignment sales to them?”
In response to the exchange between His Highness and I, Libert nodded in agreement. However, the prince tilted his head in confusion.
“But isn’t it a merchant’s first priority to make more money? I’m the one that chose to use it for an apology, so isn’t it fine?”
“Even if Libert’s company initially starts out with a monopoly, similar goods would quickly come out after the product is analysed. He wants to work using Your Highness’ name to prevent that.”
Libert sent me a glare that said I shouldn’t say anything more.
“I’m currently acting as the prince’s advisor, so I’m not going to miss an opportunity to help him grow. Don’t worry, I won’t tell him to call the deal off or anything. Please negotiate to your heart’s content.”
“So the rumour about you working as his educator was true? …tch, I should’ve known.”
Libert silently cursed to himself, but I understood where he was coming from. If it were me, it’d be quite difficult to structure a negotiation with the prince if a butler was constantly butting in from the sidelines.
“Umm… in other words, what should I do?”
“Think about what the other party is looking for and negotiate for something that’s mutually beneficial. I’m not going to say anything more because doing this on your own will be good for you, Your Highness.”
“I don’t think it’s as easy as you’re making it sound…”
His Highness Alforth then gave me a look like an abandoned puppy. Any girl who had a thing for young boys would’ve swooned at that moment, but unfortunately it wouldn’t work on me.
“Please rest assured, Your Highness. You’ve almost lost the rights to the recipe once, so no matter the outcome of the negotiations, you won’t be able do any worse than that.”
This time he groaned, saying, “What would be the appropriate thing to say as a prince?” and as His Highness did that, Libert looked at me like he wanted to say something.
“Yes, what is it?”
“It’s nothing, just… you’re surprisingly merciless towards His Highness.”
“Even though it might be temporary, I’ve been assigned to work as his educator. Though since I’ve only started quite recently, I’m being far more lenient with him than I was with Lady Sophia.”
Wincing at that statement, Libert then sent a pitying gaze towards my lady.
“I see… Lady Sophia, it must’ve been quite hard.”
“Is that so? Personally, I’ve always wanted Cyril to be stricter.”
Libert fell silent at those words.
The extent of Lady Sophia’s diligence even left me dumbfounded.
–and that’s how His Highness and Libert began negotiations for the consignment sales.
With that said, Libert wasn’t looking solely for monetary profits, but to get the prince’s backing under a fair trade.
While His Highness Alforth was seeking to express his friendship with the commoners.
As long as their interests aligned, it was impossible for the transaction to fall through. I predicted that the talks would proceed smoothly, but–
“You’re telling me to take a share of the profits, but I just can’t accept it. Since Sophia gave me this recipe, can’t they be given to her instead?”
Negotiations became complicated the moment the prince muttered that.
Talks didn’t break down, but if they were going to do things from that angle, Libert asked if sending the money to Sophia’s faction would work instead.
His Highness Alforth wasn’t a member of Lady Sophia’s faction.
Although he wasn’t in it, he’s shown himself to have strong connections to them through this event. Even if they were only working together due to aligned interests, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the prince was a member of the group.
Even Libert’s group of commoners have grown closer to my lady’s faction though this.
I had no problems with this. Considering the status and talents of my lady, it’d be quite worthwhile to add the second prince and a large group of commoners as allies.
As her butler, I couldn’t have been more proud.
However, the version of my lady from the original work was quite isolated. This situation where she was surrounded by friends was far too different from the game. I wouldn’t be able to predict what would happen in the future.
I was a bit anxious, but seeing her participating in the negotiations alleviated those worries. Lady Sophia seemed to be more alive than ever.
And it was my job to support her.
As I thought that, I got permission from my lady to take my leave.
Taking up the violin I had prepared for this occasion, I moved to the back of the venue and started playing on the stage that was set up in the corner.
It was a bit of entertainment for the other participants that had nothing to do while the main members– including Lady Sophia, were busy with negotiations.
I performed the complete version of the song used in the entrance examination– the version that wasn’t simplified to reduce difficulty.
This song was chosen because an easier one would only make my lack of charisma stand out all the more. It wasn’t perfect, but I kept playing with a smile.
Once the first score was finished, the second one I transitioned to was a soft love song. A short while after I started it, the sound of another instrument began to gently resonate alongside me.
That gorgeous tone was undoubtedly the music created from my lady’s violin. Appearing at my side, Lady Sophia was playing her instrument with nothing but grace.
I continued the performance as I asked her if the talks had finished.
“The negotiations only finalised the major aspects of the deal, the finer details are to be decided at a later date… and it’s your fault.”
“I can’t just sit back and watch when you’re doing something this fun.”
It seems that ‘fun’ by my lady’s definition was to play an improvised duet at a venue where a prince, various aristocrats, and many influential commoners had gathered.
As expected of Lady Sophia, she had the heart of a lioness.
But if this was what she wanted, I would do my best to respond to those feelings. I passed the main melody over to my lady, and began playing to support the music she created.
“Cyril, it’s okay for you to be a little more forward.”
“I’m just acting appropriately, as your exclusive butler should.”
“I thought you’d say that.”
Drawing her bow across the strings with a smile, Lady Sophia began to laugh. This song would’ve been difficult for my lady before… but now she was playing it perfectly.
She was growing more and more with every day that passed. I felt happy about this, but… also a little lonely.
“Yes, my lady?”
“I really wanted to dance with you at the welcome party, you know?”
A mischievous smile rose up on her face, and the music that my lady then played began to skip like an innocent youth. It felt like the sad feelings of a child growing into the expectations of a girl in love.
“Cyril… did you notice?”
Of course I did.
But I didn’t answer her. I couldn’t answer her. If I had crossed that line and answered her… I wouldn’t be able to stay by her side anymore.
I drew my bow to express my feelings instead.
The melody that resounded out was so beautiful and different I couldn’t help but be surprised. Even though I had no skill in the violin, my instrument began singing a heart-breaking emotional tone.
In response to this, the tone played by my lady began to change. As beautiful as the rose symbolising the Rosenberg Marquis house, and yet as innocent as a maiden in love.
These were the emotions my lady transmitted to me through her music.
Were my feelings being transmitted as well? I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed as I thought so.
But… I didn’t hate it. Like this, I continued to play a duet with my lady, producing a tone I would never have been able to create on my own.
Eventually, the song came to an end with the venue exploding into a ravenous applause, and for the first time in my lives, I experienced what it was like to play an instrument just for fun.
Written by Scarlet Rain (緋色の雨)
Translated by KuroInfinity at slothtranslationsblog.com