“Thank you for your attention, please continue to enjoy the party.”
I somehow managed to hold my composure while being bathed in their applause. As I took my lady’s violin for maintenance, Alicia had rushed over, saying, “Cyril, that was amazing!”
Standing at my side, Lady Sophia started to scowl. Feeling a fight coming on, I couldn’t help but be wary of my lady falling into darkness, but the heroine then turned a beaming smile towards her.
“You were great too, Lady Sophia. The scene of you two performing a duet together was so beautiful I wish I could have it painted.”
“I-is that so?”
“Yes, especially when the song changed around the middle. The melody coming from Cyril back then felt like it was gently wrapping around the main melody you played. Seeing you perform together in such harmony was really, really nice.”
“I’m glad that you see it that way.”
…you’re too easy, my lady.
That thought came to mind, but I quickly waved it away. I felt exactly the same. Performing together with Lady Sophia in a way that we could share our feelings was truly fun.
If I weren’t paying attention, I’d likely react in a similar fashion.
“Lady Sophia, let’s play a song together!”
“–yes! I might not be on Cyril’s level, but I want to try performing with you. I thought as much after seeing your duet from before… is that okay?”
Innocently– as in, without a shred of malice or ill-intent, Alicia asked Lady Sophia if they could play a duet, all while her eyes shined like the night sky.
Having grown accustomed to being approached as the daughter of a Marquis, my lady wasn’t used to this kind of pure request. She seemed troubled, but also a bit happy.
Seeing Lady Sophia’s expression, how she intended to respond was obvious.
Holding out the violin that I had taken from her, my lady received it with a slightly embarrassed– but also somewhat flattered face.
“I’d be happy to oblige, but I don’t recall you having a violin. What do you plan to do?”
Alicia turned to Melissa for help, but the maid shook her head with a troubled expression.
“If it’s okay with you, would you like to use Cyril’s violin?”
“Oh, is that okay?”
When the conversation was suddenly turned to me, I replied, “Of course,” and offered Alicia my instrument.
“Thank you so much! Now Lady Sophia, let’s play together!”
Accompanied by the smiling heroine, my lady moved back onto the stage.
The two whispered something between each other, and Lady Sophia made a slightly surprised expression, but just like before, she seemed to relent after being pushed by Alicia’s innocence. After giving a light nod, my lady silently brought up her violin– and drew her bow.
A dignified tone spread throughout the venue, which was then followed by a joyful sound that seemed to flit around the main melody.
The music Alicia produced seemed to dance on the sound produced by my lady. I couldn’t tell who played the main melody– is what I’d like to say, but the tone played by Lady Sophia seemed to naturally resonate with me.
As I listened to their song, the image of an innocent girl being gently watched over by her mature older sister came to mind.
It was probably only due to Lady Sophia’s talent that her lead could enhance another’s performance rather than suppress them with her own.
It truly was a heartwarming scene– as that thought popped into mind, I couldn’t help but notice His Highness Alforth pulling his servant over. Said servant then excused themselves from the venue, most probably to fetch the prince’s own violin.
At least for a little while, it looked like this modest yet grand concert was going to continue.
The reason why I started it in the first place was to keep the other attendees occupied while the negotiations happened, but that seems to have changed. I made a quick observation of the surroundings to see if any problems had arisen from this.
Most of the crowd was happily listening to the performance, and those that weren’t seemed to be enjoying the new sweets.
As I confirmed everything was fine, Libert happened to notice my gaze and approached me.
“I’d like to apologise for leaving you– a guest, unattended.”
“No, it doesn’t matter.”
Libert’s eyes turned towards the two girls performing on the stage. However, I could tell that his line of sight was drawn towards Alicia.
It’s probably safe to say that he’s taken an interest in her, just like how he did in original work.
“I can’t believe your mistress and His Highness Alforth aren’t actually elitists.”
“So you finally believe us?”
“Just as you did earlier, I’m only returning the good faith I’ve been shown.”
It seems that the prince’s heartfelt apology had properly reached Libert.
“I’m… sorry, it’s my bad.”
Libert suddenly uttered such words. However, I wasn’t quite sure why. As I tilted my head in confusion, he awkwardly scratched the back of his head.
“…forget it. Rather, isn’t this the first time the two of us have been able to talk so plainly?”
“Well until now, we’ve been forced into situations where the surrounding listeners were a cause for concern.”
‘We’re not your enemies’— being unable to say such words was honestly quite a pain, but it was already over. Now we could speak freely.
“Well… if you look at it in another way, it’s amazing that your mistress doesn’t have any elitist thoughts.”
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“Being such a brilliant and talented girl, she must’ve been pampered growing up. Considering her status, it makes sense that she’d come to think of herself as someone special, no?”
“If anything, my lady was only able to achieve this much because of the hard work she’s put in.”
“So this is a level that was achieved through sheer effort? But even then, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to become egotistic– no.”
Changing his statement mid-sentence, Libert then turned towards me for some reason.
“Was it because you were there?”
As I tilted my head at his words, Libert burst into laughter and said it was nothing.
“More importantly, let’s talk about the crêpe sales.”
“I heard that the major aspects of the deal had been finalised, but were there any problems?”
“None, actually. The finer details will be made at a later date, but things seem to be proceeding smoothly. First, we’ll begin sales in the Royal Capital, spreading the profit amongst our affiliated merchants by having them procure the resources we need.”
I thought this was just going to be small talk, something more serious seems to have come up.
“Is it okay to tell me that? Shouldn’t your marketing strategies be kept secret?”
“It’s not a problem. To anyone that heard your violin performance, it’s obvious that you’ll never betray your mistress.”
…I couldn’t help but feel like I was being subtly teased.
However, it’s true that I would never betray my lady. A portion of the proceeds earned from selling the crêpes would go into her faction. Knowing that, there’s no way I’d consider interfering with the sales, or rather, I’d actually do my best to cooperate with–
“For the record, I don’t know much about business, you know?”
I noticed why he revealed his plans and addressed it directly.
“Really? Lady Sophia told me that consulting you would increase profits ten-fold.”
You have too much faith in me, my lady.
As her exclusive butler, I wanted to live up to her expectations, but impossible things were just impossible. It’s disappointing that I couldn’t do this, but it’d be far worse to lie and say that I was capable of something I wasn’t.
“My apologies, but I don’t think I’ll be able to meet your expectations. The only idea that comes to mind is selling to the aristocracy first to build popularity, then selling to the commoners after the word has spread.”
‘Nothing more than simple top to bottom marketing’– I stopped myself from uttering those words. Libert was staring at me with open eyes.
“I beg your pardon. This is common sense for a merchant, no?”
“Don’t patronise me, how the hell is that normal? Yes… how could I have never seen this before?”
I was taken back by this. At first I thought he was angry, but he actually seemed excited. Moreover, there’s no way I could’ve predicted that he didn’t know this. Trends are always transmitted from the upper class to the lower class.
Even the fads among the nobility spread from the top to the bottom… oh, I see.
Unlike my previous life, this was a world that followed the feudal system. Due to the difference in the standard of living between aristocrats and commoners, trends among the upper class didn’t spread to those beneath them that often. Therefore, even if it was normal for fads to flow from top to bottom, the idea that it’d even happen between the nobility and the peasants wasn’t quite as obvious as it might appear.
“I think it’d even be possible to divide the crêpes into ranks to diversify the prices, creating seasonal products and the like. I’d be glad if my advice was able to help you.”
Noticing that my lady’s performance was about to end, I passed on a quick opinion of mine before taking my leave, but Libert had caught my sleeve, saying, “Wait.”
“Tell me everything you know. Of course, I’ll make sure to pay your mistress an appropriate price in exchange.”
“Not that I don’t mind, but I have to attend to my lady now.”
“Don’t worry about it. I already have permission from her to consult with you.”
Incidentally, I heard at a later date that they actually surpassed their initial sales predictions ten-fold.
But to that end, I was subjected to a thorough barrage of questions and inquiries.
After Lady Sophia and Alicia’s duet had finished, I was considering ending the conversation then and there, but then my lady began playing a song together with the prince.
Seeing that, I continued talking with a sigh. Once we finally finished, Libert began nodding with a satisfied expression.
“…this has been quite insightful. With this, we might actually be able to increase our sales ten-fold.”
“I’m glad to hear that. By the way, aren’t you going to ask Lady Alicia to play a duet with you?”
I wanted to head back to my lady as quickly as possible, so I casually directed him to leave. However, after contemplating it for a moment, Libert said, “I think I’ll hold back this time.”
“Why’s that? Are you afraid that she’ll reject you?”
“Well… a bit, but that’s not the problem. After hearing you play with Lady Sophia, I’ve lost all confidence in my skills. I can’t approach her as I am now.”
Libert laughed to himself self-derisively, but apparently he held our performance in high regard.
“Since I’m already here, I’m going to get acquainted with some of the other girls.”
After making that statement, the merchant’s son then turned around and left.
Right after the duet between His Highness Alforth and Lady Sophia finished, I immediately rushed over to hand her a towel in exchange for her violin.
“Thanks, Cyril. How was my performance?”
“The music you play is always wonderful, my lady.”
“Geez, I was asking you for constructive criticism.”
That’s what she said, but her face said she didn’t hate it.
However, my lady’s performance truly was wonderful. Her technique had improved, but above all else was the emotions she was able to convey through her melody. Just by listening to her play, you could really tell what she was feeling.
This was undoubtedly a talent only those who loved music could have.
“Cyril, I’m going to go take a break. Please take care of our guests in the meantime.”
“As you wish.”
Probably wanting to change her clothes in consideration of how much she sweated, Lady Sophia left the room accompanied by her maid. As I turned away from her, I couldn’t help but notice how depressed the prince looked.
“…is there something wrong, Your Highness?”
“If you heard me play earlier, isn’t it obvious?”
I pretended I didn’t know.
But I could guess. There was an overwhelming difference in skill between Lady Sophia and the prince. His Highness must not be any better at the violin than he was at dancing.
“I totally get that! I felt the same way when I played with her too!”
Abruptly showing up in agreement was Alicia.
I feigned ignorance to not hurt the prince’s self-confidence, but the heroine just jumped right in there without fear.
However, instead of growing upset, His Highness Alforth began sympathising with her, saying, “When I performed with Sophia, I could really feel my lack of talent!”
“Yes, exactly! The same thing happened back when I danced with Cyril!”
“I completely understand! When I had danced with Sophia, I almost wanted to cry from my lack of skill. It made me feel like I didn’t deserve such a great partner…”
“Your Highness, please cheer up. So that we don’t end up depressed next time, do you want to practice together?”
“That sounds great, let’s do it!”
I was happy to see the two of them getting along, but… was Alicia seriously going to use the prince as a training partner? This was quite a development.
Even Melissa seemed to be growing pale as she watched this happen.
However, as the two of them walked onto the stage, the distance between the royal family and the lesser nobility seemed to just disappear. The duet they played was wrought with inexperience, but somehow still pleasant to listen to.
…didn’t they actually quite suit each other?
Whispers began to break out in the surroundings at the sight of the pair. I couldn’t hear everything, but their impressions seemed to be generally positive. Unbeknownst to the two, their actions might’ve become another catalyst for the venue attendees to believe that the prince wasn’t an elitist.
“–I have to admit, I’m impressed.”
A clear voice echoed out from behind me.
The owner of this voice shouldn’t have been on the guest list I made, but considering her status, I guess it wasn’t impossible for her to sneak in here through some means.
I forcibly suppressed my inner turmoil, turned around and said, “Good day to you, Fol.” in greetings.
As expected, standing there in front of me was the student council president. Clothed in an azure dress, she flashed me a blooming smile akin to the royal family’s blue rose.
“Oh? I thought I’d surprise you, but… you seem to have expected me.”
“No, I’m very surprised. Tell me, how did you get in here?”
“That’s a secret, unfortunately. Besides, isn’t a girl with a bit of mystery more charming?”
She truly was good with words.
Saying it like that, I couldn’t tell if she was joking or not.
However, I could still imagine how she entered. Perhaps she used her status as a princess to get in. I’ll need to check in with the attendant I put in charge of entry, but there wasn’t any need to make a big deal of it at the moment.
“So tell me, what did this mysterious girl come here to do?”
“Oh, isn’t it obvious?”
“…you’re here to confirm the results of the test?”
Without answering my question, Fol smiled.
“You’ve successfully fixed His Highness Alforth’s reputation, enforcing the fact that he isn’t an elitist. I have nothing but praise for your skill.”
Fol was complimenting our work in a manner that I’d usually be proud of, but this only raised my alertness to the maximum. This was an unexpected situation for me.
In the first place, the problem was that her ruling on the test was completely biased. Whether or not the public actually thought better of the prince was secondary. Fol was the one to decide whether we passed, not our results.
This was a test we couldn’t win through conventional methods.
Therefore, I intended to approach it from a different angle.
Rumours were sure spread about His Highness Alforth after his party, to the point that even his parents– as in, the royal family, would take notice of the change in the prince’s reputation.
By creating the ‘fact’ where everyone in the school, and even the king himself recognised our efforts, we would then have the right to say, “You wouldn’t dare to reject us when even the royal family acknowledges us, would you?”– to pressure Fol into accepting.
Nevertheless– no, maybe that’s exactly why she was here.
Fol had come at this time to give her ruling on the test. Now that the rumours haven’t spread through the school, but were still practically confirmed to happen, there was nothing wrong with her making her decision at this time at all.
It wouldn’t matter if the public was on our side later. Even if Fol acknowledged the change in public opinion, there wouldn’t be any reason for her to alter the results she had already given.
I’ve been completely outsmarted this time.
“You pass. I have no complaints.”
But the words that left Fol’s mouth were the exact opposite of what I expected. When I looked towards her in surprise, an amused expression rose up on her face.
At first I wanted to ask her why, but after seeing Fol’s mischievous, yet highly transparent smile– which somehow begat no emotions, I understood.
“Was the violin duet the deciding factor?”
“…so you did notice after all. To have realised the truth, and yet to have still shown-off such a heartwarming scene to me, you’re surprisingly sadistic.”
I had considered a multitude of possibilities as to why she took her current stance, but now some of them were starting to sound feasible.
If my assumptions were correct, then I could guess the reasons behind why someone would try to get my lady into the student council, as well as Fol’s decision to reject her.
Hopefully I was wrong, but…
“Oh, Big si– I mean, Fol… what are you doing here?”
The voice of His Highness Alforth dragged me back to reality.
Apparently he was back from his duet with Alicia.
“Cyril… who is that?”
Alicia asked me that with a smile.
She was definitely smiling, but… it didn’t reach her eyes.
As I processed her anger, she continued, “Should I tell Sophia that you were off flirting with a beautiful older girl while she was away?”
A strange misunderstanding seemed to be developing, but please don’t.
“This is Fol, she’s the student council president of the junior high section. Acting as intermediaries for His Highness was actually part of the exam she posed for my lady and I to join the student council. She’s here right now because of that relationship.”
His Highness Alforth already knew her name, so I introduced her to Alicia, and although the prince was previously acquainted with her, I still introduced the two of them to Fol to keep up appearances.
“The student council? Cyril is…”
Alicia murmured something to herself before turning away from me and drawing closer to Fol.
“I want to join the student council too!”
The princess’ eyes widened at the sudden application.
“You want to join as well? Why?”
“Cyril and Sophia have done a lot for me, so I’d like to join the same group to help them in thanks.”
“I see… but I’m sorry. The student council doesn’t have any more room for new members.”
The heroine’s innocent attitude didn’t seem to mesh well with Fol– who was doing her best to avoid human interaction. She rejected Alicia for that reason.
“That can’t be true, I’ve heard that Fol was the only member of the student council. Originally there was supposed to be five or six members, so there should still be some open positions.”
It was His Highness Alforth that cut in.
Certainly, it was just as the prince said, but Fol had still declined even in spite of that. He should’ve understood that this was inconvenient for her and kept quiet.
I guess His Highness was still unable to read the mood. In order to live in an aristocratic society, it was necessary to be able to perceive such things. I knew I’d have to teach him about this eventually, but–
“So with that in mind, please let me join too.”
This time it was His Highness Alforth that drew closer to Fol. Apparently, it wasn’t that he couldn’t read the mood, but that he had read it and pushed forward even in spite of knowing her intentions.
“Huh, no, umm… Al– I mean, Your Highness, you want to enter the student council as well?”
“Yes. Cyril and Sophia have done a lot for me, so I want to join the same group and work with them.”
He gave the same reason as Alicia.
“…I told you that we have enough manpower.”
“Just because you have enough, doesn’t mean you can’t increase it, right?”
Wow, His Highness Alforth immediately plunged into the subtle nuances Fol gave out. As he wouldn’t have noticed these things before, this was definitely a sign of his growth, but… was this really okay?
In any case, the prince then pressed her for an answer.
“In the first place, if this whole event was part of a test, that means the student council was involved in it, right?”
“Well, I suppose that’s true.”
This event– that is, working as intermediaries between His Highness Alforth and the commoners, was part of the request to improve the prince’s reputation.
Probably because she understood what he was trying to say, Fol affirmed the prince’s suspicions while looking away. However, it was still a confirmation of her meddling.
“With that in mind, please allow me into the student council. Wouldn’t being in such a group be good for me?”
He got her. Considering how she was the very person that issued a request to improve the his reputation, it’d be pretty hypocritical of her to refuse his application to join a group that would help him better himself.
But that was all it meant.
“Your Highness, please don’t do that. Any more, and you’ll be taking advantage of your status, ruining the reputation you just fixed.”
Originally, since they were both members of the royal family, such a thing wouldn’t be a concern. However, Fol was currently acting as a commoner with the backing of a Count house.
Even though the misunderstanding that His Highness was an elitist was resolved, she was advising him that causing a scene by flaunting the power of his status wouldn’t help him.
Her words seemed to be effective, as the prince began to withdraw.
“We want to join the student council regardless of our status! We’ll do grunt work or anything!”
This time it was Alicia who began pressuring Fol. It didn’t matter what their status was, they innocently just wanted to help out.
The princess then turned a troubled gaze my way.
At first I thought that she was asking for help, but that wasn’t it.
Considering the intentions behind her allowing us to pass the test, she wanted my opinion, as another person aware of the whole situation.
‘Do you really want to get them involved?’– she was asking me.
I can’t say I wasn’t worried.
If Alicia joined the student council, there would be a higher chance of Lady Sophia falling into darkness, and the possibility of the prince falling into darkness wasn’t zero either.
And above all else, these developments might only bring more pain to my lady in the future.
But I wanted my lady to be truly happy, and that wouldn’t happen if I locked her up in a gilded cage, ignorant to the dangers of the outside world.
I’d like to believe that this choice would be better for her in the end.
“Isn’t it fine? The more the merrier.”
I uttered those magical words to push Fol’s back.
Written by Scarlet Rain (緋色の雨)
Translated by KuroInfinity at slothtranslationsblog.com