The banquet at La Vienne Rose – the largest ballroom in the city – was about to begin. As we waited at our table for the last group, the first to arrive was Veneer’s City Lord and his wife. Along with the Veneer couple, another person arrived; maybe one of their sons. Marquis Venato’s group sat at the head of their tables as hosts of the event. The Marquis took the sit to my right, probably thinking the other chairs were taken. With this, the group had been seated… As for Lord Dragrange’s group…
“This should be our table, Leader!”
“Please have a seat!”
“Ooh-, is it here, or here?”
I heard voices behind me… As the voice came closer and closer, I turned my head and found—-
A short-statured man in a tuxedo with a raccoon face. His white undershirt was prominent due to his protruding potbelly, while his black jacket was made scarce as it’d been pushed off to the side. And standing next to him was a woman with a…. Slender rat face…? Behind them was a 2-meter tall car-eared man— I mean woman, in a brown evening dress…. E? Was this person a transvestite? I stayed seated, making sure that I was ready to stand at a moment’s notice as I watched the trio warily.
“Oh, the Dragrange family has arrived. Please, have a seat.”
Marquis Veneer, who’d been seated next to me, greeted the trio. So these weirdos were the people from the Degrange frontier?
My eyes followed their movement. So far, they seemed docile, but that cat-eared woman made me wary… Unaware of how I felt, Laptiricia-sama greeted her as she sat beside her. Somehow, I felt something strange. What about Ashley who’d been seated closer? She didn’t seem to hold any suspicion of them, or did she?
“Oo, if it isn’t Laptiricia Barga!”
“Nice to meet you, I am Laptiricia-sama.”
“I am the eldest daughter of Lord of the Degrange frontier, Ophelia De Lagrange. This man here is my escort—”
“Escort Virginia Parrenberg.”
“I am also an escort, my name is Edelhart!”
In return, Laptiricia-sama introduced both Ashley and I. Ashley replied without trouble, but I was at a loss for words. Because I felt stifled when Ophelia’s eyes and mine met. However, it was only for a moment as the venue’s lighting dimmed. Marquis Venato, as the host, emerged on the stage; probably signaling the beginning of the event. Ophelia had turned away, as ‘she’ didn’t seem to hold any interest in me anymore. ‘She’ clapped her hands in response to Marquis Venato’s speech.
After the greetings, a small orchestra began to play beside the stage. Their elegant and flowy music played as the servants distributed the food. The first served was a soup. The Marquis and Laptiricia-sama spoke as they enjoyed it slowly. The Degrange trio drank it at once. One even asked for seconds. Next came the main course, dishes of fish followed by other meat dishes. Then salads and lastly, desert. There were 10 or so dishes being served.
It may have been the first time I’d attended a banquet, but I knew enough to keep it simple; to enjoy just enough of the dish. But one thing prevented me from enjoying my meal was Ophelia. I watched her and the other two eat, specifically, I kept my eye on the silverware in their hands. I’d made sure that my knife was ready to be thrown at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, no matter how I concentrated, the display on the panther mask showed no guiding line. Apparently, the targeting system only worked with VMB’s weapons.
I watched them diligently, too high strung to even remember the taste of the meat I ate tasted like.
The first time I’d met them was at the Fort City of Barga. Back then, I thought they were just some adventurers. The second time I’d met them was when I took the request for the Marida Company. While those guys had given themselves a cool sounding name, they were the first to flee the moment the bandits appeared. The third time was at this very banquet. I thought to myself as I watched the giant of a person, who seemed confused on whether they’d be a he or she, enjoyed the dishes joyfully.
From their attitude, I could clearly tell them apart from a real noble like Laptiricia-sama. Don’t tell me they only attended the banquet just to eat? Did they really have to disguise themselves as a giant cat-eared lady with her escorts, the rat faced lady and little raccoon man just for that? I didn’t know which unnerved me more. Me realizing who they were, or everyone else not having the smallest inkling of suspicion of them. Not only those who sat at the table, not even the wait staff seemed to see the strangeness of these guests.
What was going on here?
In the end, the banquet ended without any incident. After arriving back at the inn, I finally had time for a break and asked Ashley.
“Degrange territory? It’s in the furthest most north of the kingdom. If we take a carriage there, it’d take two months to get there.”
“Have you ever met a member of the Degrange family before this?”
“No, I haven’t. But Ophelia’s beauty was famous even in the capital. She’s a beautiful elf just as rumoured.”
But what I saw back at the banquet was a beastkin. Meanwhile, the elf race was part of a very different fairy race… So that Ophelia was a fake. But why did no one else notice? They couldn’t have possibly mistook a beastman for an elf, right? It’s so ridiculous it must’ve been magic—
Of course, in other words, they’d used some sort of magic spell or tool to conceal themselves. However, it didn’t work on me who was a ‘Manuke’. Perhaps it was an illusion that interfered with the sight and sound of those with magic, making them see something different. I would’ve been deceived as well if it’d been a shapeshifting ability instead. But one that worked by interfering with one’s magic wouldn’t work on me. But what was their purpose? Just to attend the banquet?
In any case, those were the same trio of adventurers and that I encountered during the Marida escort request. Could anyone else see through their illusion? The trip to Veneer ended with that quest in my mind. We would leave tomorrow to return to the capital. There wasn’t another attack either that night. This journey might prove more difficult as we had another five days ahead.
We had a talk with the convoy leader. He’d mentioned that the most dangerous area would be the rest area, since we’d spend the night there. And it wasn’t just Laptiricia-sama we had to protect. It was also the horses and carriages as they were equally as important to keep our schedule. If we failed to attend the ball held in the capital, that’d been a major blunder. No only would the meeting of the Third Prince be delayed, it’d put a huge obstacle for her to become his fiancee.
With so many other nobles attending the banquet, her chance of getting to know the prince would plummet. And regardless of her rank, another person would replace her if she missed it. Therefore, although protecting Laptiricia-sama was important, keeping our transportation intact was just as vital.