As I passed the time chatting with Claudia, having nothing else to do, after quite some time passed Ergnade invited us to dinner. During this time, the drizzle outside was gradually slowing, and outside the fort’s windows, I was able to see the sun again. Although in the Kaldia domain, due to the Amon Nor Mountains blocking the sun, it gets dark quite early, but since to the east of Fort Jugfena is wide open plains, it’s plenty bright even during dinnertime.
“Are you dissatisfied in any way with your room, Viscountess Kaldia?”
“There’s no problems. Thank you very much.”
“I see. It seems that everyone from the Kaldia army is liking their rooms as well. They’re more disciplined than I would have expected. Usually, when we have armies from other domains coming here for the first time, they tend to complain about things here.”
As we walked down the hallway together, Ergnade tried to make small chat, although he seemed unfamiliar with it. While I made the appropriate responses, Claudia following along behind us was staring at him happily. Although I’m not obsessed with being a knight or anything, somehow I felt like following her example and observed him closely.
He seemed slightly older than Margrave Molton, I wonder if he’s about Gunther’s age or so. Now that I look at him closer, his facial features, especially his nose, did indeed resemble Earl Einsbark’s, who I saw at the House of Lords before. His muscular back seemed almost like a pillar to me.
Today he wasn’t in ceremonial dress, but in knightly attire instead, which was full black. It seems that the colors assigned to Fort Jugfena by the king were black and silver, although the only silver I saw Ergnade wearing was the knight emblem embroidered onto his cloak.
“……Those black clothes look very sharp on you.”
“Hm? Ahh. Indeed. I iron them every morning.”
Even though I was just paying him a vague compliment, Ergnade answered me with a deadpan expression on his face as he touched his own cloak. Then he grinned, and said somewhat proudly, “doesn’t it look cool?”
He’s a bit mischievous, was my first impression of him.
As we arrived at the dining hall for nobles, and I saw the painting decorating it, it made me think of Earl Terejia’s residence in the royal capital. The floor was carpeted, there was wallpaper on the walls, and there was even a bright chandelier hanging from the ceiling. There were velvety cloth curtains hanging from the windows as well, hiding the iron bars from view.
In this dining hall, it was so ornate that it could cause one to forget that this was actually a fortress of black iron. The glittering hurts my eyes. Since the glare from the chandelier was annoying, I avoided looking at it as much as possible.
Several people were already seated at the long table in the dining hall, including Gunther at the farthest end who seemed frozen solid. At the seat of honor was Earl Einsbark, with two men that looked like his sons sitting next to him. Everyone was wearing black knightly attire similar to Ergnade, it felt almost like a funeral, was the thought that flashed into my head.
Although in actuality, Arxian funerals have white attire, not black, but I’m just recalling memories from my previous life.
“Ahh, thank you for coming, Viscountess Kaldia.”
Earl Einsbark sitting in the farthest back stood up and held out his hands in a welcoming manner. Although just like the first time I saw him, he had the face of a strong knight in the prime of life, this time he didn’t have a strict expression like the one he had at the House of Lords, but rather a soft smile much like Ergnade’s.
“I’m very grateful that you’ve brought fifty brave soldiers from Kaldia, so as a welcome, although it may not be much, I had this modest meal prepared for you. Please enjoy yourself.”
“I’m honored and deeply thankful for this feast that you’ve prepared for me.”
Earl Einsbark’s eyes were soft, almost as if he was looking at a grandchild. Ergnade guided me to a seat on the earl’s left, then guided Claudia to a seat as well before sitting down himself at a seat much farther down the table.
“In order for us to live on, forgive us for the lives we take for this meal. All sins and virtues shall be judged by the scales of Xia.”
Well, I suppose this is sort of a more formal version of “let us partake in this meal” from Japan. It seems that in the neighboring country right next to us, the typical prayer before meals is “we are deeply grateful to the gods for this meal today.” Since I wasn’t religious in my previous life, I’m deeply grateful myself that I wasn’t born in the neighboring country and have to say such a thing before every meal.
“I’m very sorry to bring this up right after asking the forgiveness of the gods, but is it alright for me to introduce the people here to you now?”
“Of course, no problem.”
As I nodded, Earl Einsbark pointed to the man sitting right next to him. His hair color was similar to Ergnade’s, albeit slightly greyer, and he was a middle-aged man that resembled the earl even more than Ergnade did. He nodded at me politely.
“This is Volmar. He’s my eldest son, and the commander of the cavalry troops at Fort Jugfena. Next,”
The man sitting next to Volmar had beautiful features, and smiled gently at me just like Earl Einsbark did. Compared to his family, he was the only one with delicate features, and I couldn’t help but think that he looked weaker.
“This is my second son, Wiegraf. Although he’s a knight as well, since he’s not that skilled at martial arts, he’s a military strategist. He looks so similar to my wife, I wonder if it’s because of that?”
Although he was laughing easily, I noticed that my jaw muscles had stiffened up a bit unconsciously. It seemed like that parent and child could joke around with each other easily, and I remembered the way that Ergnade was being mischievous as he guided me here, so I relaxed slightly.
“Over there is Ergnade. He’s my third son, who cunningly contacted you before I did.”
“I’m just joking. I’ve heard that Earl Terejia has become the guardian of a certain child, so I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”
As Earl Einsbark said so, he laughed happily, ha ha! At the same moment, his eldest son Volmar who had appeared straightlaced up until now, burst out into laughter. Wiegraf and Ergnade snickered as well.
At seeing them, this time, I relaxed myself completely. Claudia and Gunther who had also both been nervous and frozen up, had started laughing as well before I realized it.
I had been worried that the Einsbark family might be difficult to deal with, but they seem like quite the peaceful family. Although the neighboring country’s invasion was still on my mind, that I don’t seem to be despised here for being that evil villain’s daughter, I felt a bit of relief.