After finishing my dance with Claire-sama, I went over to the side of the hall where food was lined up to take a breather.
As a result of all of the hard work that was put into making improvements, the food that was served at the ball became quite delicious.
There was a large variety of creative new dishes from both the Empire and other nations all lined up.
“It tastes better now!”
“Yeah, it’s much different than before!”
I was happy to hear such positive reception from the attendees at the ball as they ate.
It seemed that the people of the Empire were not the only ones who found the food delicious.
“Eh, were there always this many types of sausages?”
“This ‘pretzel’ thing is also super, super delicious.”
“To think, I once made fun of the Empire’s cuisine…. I regret it…… But I’ll eat it!”
It appeared that some of the international students from Bauer were facing a bit of culture shock as well.
Don’t think your cuisine is superior and look down on the Empire’s food.
Food is constantly evolving, after all.
Dancing with Claire-sama was my primary objective for today, so all I had left was to enjoy the food.
I started with the sausages, but right as I picked them up to put on my small dish,
“Ahh, so you were here, Rei.”
Hilda approached me.
She was wearing an evening dress today as well.
Hilda, who was the beautiful ice-cold type much like Misha and Eve, wore a long blue dress.
It looked so refined on her that it made her seem unapproachable.
“What’s the matter, Hilda-sama?”
“I would like to express my gratitude towards you.”
Hilda gave me her usual smile as she spoke.
“Thanks to you, the diet in the Empire has improved significantly. Plus, you managed to make it in time for the princess’s public debut, so really, thank you so much.”
“No, I really didn’t do anything special.”
“Rei, being modest isn’t necessarily a virtue all the time. You’re being credited for your efforts right now, you should take some pride in it.”
Honestly, I didn’t think I was trying to be modest or anything, though.
“Hilda! You were here!”
“Princess, I see you are in excellent spirits.”
Philine came over to us as well.
I had already seen her dance with multiple partners already, so she was probably just here to take a short break.
“Princess, would you like to have a taste as well? The food here is incredibly delicious.”
“Thank you. But I feel like I won’t be able to move as well afterward, so I’ll refrain. Hey, Rei. Where’s Claire? I would like to have a dance with her.”
“If you’re looking for Claire-sama, I think she’s somewhere in the hall. Perhaps you passed by her without noticing?”
“I see…… Since it’s Claire, she’s probably in high demand right now.”
“Yes. As her partner, half of me feels proud, while the other half of me is kind of jealous.”
“…… That’s just how it is, huh.”
When she heard the word “partner”, Philine made an unamused face.
Even if you make that kind of face, I’m not going to just hand her over, you know?
“Anyway, will you dance with me?”
Hilda made such a proposal.
“Yes, that’s fine.”
“Ah, princess, I was actually asking Rei.”
Unlike what happened before, Philine’s complexion turned pale.
It seemed that Hilda didn’t notice it.
“What do you think, Rei?”
“I’m sorry, but I decided that I wasn’t going to dance with anybody other than Claire-sama.”
“Is that so? That’s unfortunate.”
“You’ve got some sort of ulterior motive, don’t you?”
“You can tell?”
“Well, of course.”
While we were in the middle of searching for each other’s true colors,
“…… I-I’ll be going back to the main hall.”
Philine said before parting from us.
“…… Was that on purpose just now as well?”
“You could tell?”
“Was that really alright, though? It’ll impact your chance at a promotion, you know?”
“The princess’s popularity is currently on a decline. You, on the other hand, are becoming more useful to me.”
It seemed that she no longer tried to keep her intentions hidden.
“I’m not a citizen of the Empire, though?”
“Even so, you are close to Her Majesty. Perhaps even more than the princess is.”
“Don’t you think you’re really overestimating me?”
“Is that so? Her Majesty hardly even takes notice of the princess, but you’re a different story. That goes for Claire François as well.”
After saying that, Hilda had a curious smile on her face.
It was different from her usual smile.
This was a smile from her truest, scheming self.
“Hilda-sama, you’re being quite cruel.”
“What are you referring to?”
“I’m talking about Philine-sama. Out of everybody involved in the Imperial family, you are the one that she is the fondest of.”
“Oh, where did you even learn of that information?”
“Rather, I think I should ask you something instead. Why are you assuming that I wouldn’t know about it? It’s something that practically every student at the Imperial Academy knows about.”
Even Anna, the girl who provided me with information on Philine’s affection levels, knew about it, and she wasn’t particularly special either.
“Fufu, well, this is tough. Why can’t you just let yourself get caught in one of my tricks already?”
“I don’t really care about how high my value is. Philine is a strong woman at her core, but even she has her limits. She won’t be able to bear it if she feels like she got betrayed by somebody she really trusted.”
“You sure are aware of where you stand right now.”
I thought Philine was currently a little unstable.
Claire-sama, the person that she liked, was already taken by me.
Plus, it might sound like I’m bragging a bit, but I was starting to get praised for my achievements during the revolution.
I had also earned the favor of her blood-related mother, Dorothea, and on top of all of that, Hilda started giving priority over to me, so it would be more strange if she wasn’t feeling inferior right now.
“Besides, working with me doesn’t sound so bad for you either, right? You want to change things within the Empire, after all.”
“This isn’t the right place for this type of conversation.”
I separated from Hilda.
Up until now, we haven’t been harmed by the Empire in any way, but that might not necessarily be the same in the future.
I didn’t want to add any unnecessary fuel to the fire.
Haah…… what a pain.
Was this a positive or a negative thing in our plan to ensnare the Empire?
Most likely negative.
Our original plan was to get Philine all riled up so she could put an end to the Empire’s aggressive foreign policies.
However, right now, it seemed like she was feeling uncomfortable with me.
This most likely called for a change in our strategy.
“What’s wrong, Rei-sensei?”
After walking for a while, I bumped into Lana.
As she mentioned before, she had no intention of dancing, so she was just grabbing food to put on her plate.
“Ah, well, it’s nothing. Where’s Eve?”
“She went to go dance with Joel, since we’re here anyway. Surprisingly, that girl’s the type to follow the crowd sometimes.”
Lana said as she laughed brightly.
I was incredibly grateful for her usual and unchanging lightheartedness.
Especially since I was exhausted after searching for Hilda’s true intentions and vice versa.
“You really don’t plan to dance, huh, Lana.”
“Yeah. I’m really hopeless when it comes to things like that.”
Lana smiled brightly again as she spoke.
“Doesn’t the Imperial Academy offer dance classes, though?”
“Yeah, but I really don’t think I’m suited for things like that anyway.”
“I see…… Well, that’s the same with me, though.”
“If I could dance, I would’ve wanted to dance with you, sensei. Ah, but if anything, do you wanna try dancing in other ways tonight? I’m really good at that sort of thing, you know?”
Lana said while wiggling her body around.
“Don’t say such stupid things.”
The person who smacked Lana on the shoulder was none other than Claire-sama.
It seemed that Claire-sama came over for a short break.
“Claire-sama, did you ever run into Philine?”
“Yes. She asked me to dance with her, but I was feeling a bit tired, so I turned her down.”
That’s some horrible timing.
“Did something happen?”
“Well, to be honest……”
I explained what happened with Hilda from just a while ago.
“……. So that’s what happened…”
“Do you think you could find her and dance with her?”
Even though I wasn’t a fan of the idea, as long as she liked Claire-sama, our original strategy could proceed as planned.
“I think it’ll be counterproductive. If Philine ends up wondering why I refused her in the first place, I fear that she might notice our true intentions.”
“Is that so……”
Seemed like that plan wasn’t going to work then.
In the end, the ball ended without a hitch.
Except for one thing.
The guest of honor, Philine, had left partway through.