Finally, after many twists and turns, the festival is just a few days away.

“Long live His Highness, the Crown Prince!”

“Long live the Empire!”

The Empire’s Anniversary Celebration was the greatest festival of the Empire, second only to the Catholic Church’s Easter.

Starting a week before the festival, various events would be held to celebrate the birth of the empire, and so the streets of the capital were engulfed in a festive mood.

“Are there any problems with the preparations for the festival?” Crown Prince Rael, the de facto ruler of the Empire, was also busy with the festival preparations.

Prime Minister Oren nodded.
“Yes, everything is progressing smoothly without any hiccups.”

“Good, it’s the first festival in years, so we can’t afford to have any problems.
The people, who are exhausted from the civil war, have been anticipating this festival.”

The people were worn out from the war with the Cloyan Kingdom and the civil war among the princes that followed.
Thus, Crown Prince Rael wanted to soothe their pain through the first festival that came after the said wars.

“When the festival begins, let’s generously distribute the meat and alcohol rations to the people.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“It would also be good to waive the special tax for this year.
They’ve been suffering from all kinds of taxes due to the civil war.”

Rael discussed measures with the Prime Minister.
However, after some time, the Prime Minister brought up another topic.

“However, there is an unexpected development for the festival.”

“What is it?”

“The Western Empire has sent a congratulatory delegation.”

“From the Western Empire?” Rael’s expression through the iron mask was astonished.
It was such an unexpected news.

“It’s unusual how the Western Empire sent a congratulatory delegation, considering they’ve never done so up until now.”

“Yes, it certainly is, given that they also have a hostile relationship with us.”

The Western Empire!

They branched off from the same native land and have been in conflict for hundreds of years, as each insisted on legitimacy, refusing to recognize the existence of each other’s empire.

Since they occupied the Kingdom of Cloyan a few years ago, the relationship had worsened.
They continued to dispute Cloyan’s territory and refused to officially acknowledge their occupation.

‘They’re also searching for the last surviving members of the Cloyan royal family, including Princess Morina.’

If they find her first, it would complicate matters, as they might use her to assert their claim over the Cloyan territory.

‘If we can find Princess Morina first, the problem will be solved efficiently, but we can’t even figure out where she is.’

He turned to Prime Minister Oren and asked, “Why did they suddenly send a delegation when they’ve never done so before?”

“There are a few possibilities.”

Crown Prince Rael tapped his finger on the iron mask.
“It could be espionage.”

“Yes, or they could be looking for flaws.”


Prime Minister Oren nodded gravely.
“It’s the first festival since Your Highness took the throne, so they might be trying to find a flaw to undermine you.”

“That’s possible,” the Crown Prince said, assenting with the Prime Minister’s conjecture.

“If any problems arise during the celebration, unnecessary rumors might circulate.”

“I don’t like the sound of that,” the Crown Prince frowned.

Of course, the Eastern Empire didn’t need to worry about the Western Empire’s opinion.
But being mocked for a trivial matter would be unpleasant; it would hurt his pride.

“How many people are there in the delegation?”


The Prime Minister said in a bewildered tone, “A total of 200 people.”

“What? 200 people?” The Crown Prince echoed in shock.

It was an incomprehensibly large number.
Usually, the number of delegates per nation was less than 10 people.

“Most of them are knight troops.”

“Knights? What’s going on? Are they planning a demonstration of force?” The Crown Prince spoke in a sardonic tone.
If they show even a hint of suspicious behavior, we can just cut off their heads right away.”

No matter how many the 200 elite knights were, it wouldn’t be difficult to subdue them within their territory.

“I hope they do attempt a show of force.
I will teach those westerners a proper lesson,” said the Crown Prince with a growing sense of hostility.

The Prime Minister hurriedly waved his hand and said, “That’s not it.
They seem to be knights on escort duty.”

“Escort duty? Whose?”

“I don’t know.
However, according to the report from the scouts that observed them, they appeared to be guarding someone important.
There may be another important figure accompanying Count Shobek, that they did not inform us of.”

“Hmm,” the Crown Prince said.
“With that number of troops, it’s almost like escorting the imperial family.
Could it be that they’re going?”

“I’ll take a closer look.”


Crown Prince Rael then asked about the schedule, “When is the welcoming banquet?”

“It’s on the eve of the festival, three days from now.
They’re scheduled to arrive exactly the day before.”

“I see.
Where will it be held?”

“It’s at the Lily Palace.
Peter, the longtime chef of the palace, is preparing the banquet.”

Prince Rael paused for a moment and asked, “Lily Palace?”

“Yes, that was the original purpose of the Lily Palace, to host distinguished guests like them.
Why do you ask? Is there a problem?”

“No, nothing like that.”

Prime Minister Oren tilted his head and looked at the Crown Prince.

“It’s nothing.
You don’t have to worry about it.” His reason was nothing special.
It’s because he thought of someone who worked at the Lily Palace.

‘Why did I think of that maid?’


For some reason, the Lily Palace reminded him of her.

Why did he, the most powerful person in the empire, think of her, a girl who’s nothing but a humble servant?

‘How strange.
She’s just a random maid who works at the Lily Palace.’

Thinking so, he erased the thoughts of her from his mind.

For a moment, he wondered if he would see her again at the banquet, but he shook his head.

An intermediate maid from a noble family—not a junior maid like her—would be assigned to serve at the banquet.
Maids like her would be doing various chores behind the scenes.

‘She looks so frail, menial tasks must be challenging for her.’ He found himself unconsciously thinking of the girl who was alone in the swan garden, cleaning the latter all by herself with her petite body.

The Crown Prince of Blood shook his head.
‘Why do I keep having these unnecessary thoughts?’

Then he spoke in a firm tone.
“Anyway, since this is our first time welcoming delegations from various countries, including the West Empire, make sure to tell the head chef to meticulously prepare the banquet.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

But was it a coincidence? While they were having that conversation, Marie, whom the Crown Prince was thinking of, was assisting Chef Peter in preparing for the banquet.

The Lily Palace, where Marie worked, was bustling with preparations for the banquet.

“Marie, can you help me for a moment?”

“Yes, Chef Peter! How can I help you?”

Marie nodded in response as she arranged the dishes for the banquet.

“I’m going to check the meat for tomorrow’s main dish, the veal steak.
Would you like to come with me to make sure everything’s okay?”

“Yes, I’ll go with you right away.” Marie put down the plate and followed Chef Peter.

Peter smiled and said to her, “It’s such a busy time, isn’t it? Aren’t you tired?”

“No, I’m fine.
You must be tired too, aren’t you?”

“Well, this festival season is the hardest time for people like us.”

With a relaxed face, Peter asked Marie about various things.
He’d been treating Marie affectionately, like she was his own daughter.

“Thank you for doing a good job.
Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of compliments about you among the Lily Palace maids.”

“I-It’s nothing.”

“No, really.
You’ve hardly made any mistakes lately.
We’ve been so busy with preparing for the banquet and so having you come to the kitchen has been a huge relief.”

Once she finished cleaning the Swan Garden, she was assigned at the Lily Palace, where she originally worked at.
Her task was to assist in preparations for the upcoming banquet.

When she came to the kitchen, she received a lot of compliments by assisting the chefs with her master maid abilities.

“Moreover, I was already feeling a lot of pressure because I heard that the banquet is important to His Highness the Crown Prince.
I’m so grateful for your help.”

“His Highness the Crown Prince?” With an embarrassed expression from the never ending compliments, Marie was surprised at the mention of the Crown Prince.

“Yes, His Highness is paying extra attention to the upcoming event because it involves welcoming the delegations from various nations.
Thus, it’s crucial for the Empire’s prestige.
And the fact that delegates from the Western Empire are also attending makes it unprecedented and even more important.”

Peter, who had somewhat of a carefree personality, seemed to feel considerable pressure when he heard that the Crown Prince was paying special attention to the banquet.

As was expected, given the Crown Prince was a terrifying entity to everyone.

‘Come to think of it, the Crown Prince will also attend the banquet two days from now.’ She shuddered inwardly just by thinking about it.

The thought of facing him was daunting.

‘I’ll be doing dishes in the kitchen, so there won’t be any chance of running into him.’

She vowed to never leave the kitchen that day.

Trying to cheer up Peter, she said, “Don’t worry too much.
Your cooking skills are the best in the empire, you know.”

Peter beamed at Marie’s words.
“Thank you.
While I’m not sure about being the best, I am confident with my skills.”

“Is veal steak the main course?” Marie asked.

The banquet’s full course meal consists of more than 20 dishes, such as an appetizer called hors d’oeuvre, a entrées froide (cold entree) of salmon, three types of entrées chaude (hot entree), a meat dish served with salad, etc., etc.

The most essential dish among them is the grosse pièce (main dish), which consisted of steak made from the highest quality beef.

“Yeah, we’ve been aging the highest quality veal in a low-temperature environment for a month now.”

“Low temperature?”

“Yes, even the best quality meat will taste dry if cooked right away.
To bring out the best flavor possible, we age it at a specific temperature.
Now that we’re here, you can see it for yourself.”

Kkiik (Squeek).

When they arrived at the storage room, Peter fished out a key and opened the door.

The door strangely led down to a basement.

“Hold the lamp and follow me carefully down the stairs.”

“Oh, okay!”

Marie shivered from the cold air as she cautiously descended the steep stairs.
She mumbled, “Why is it so cold here?”

It was so cold as if it were the middle of winter.

“It’s because it’s deep underground.
If we keep the meat in such a cold place, it won’t spoil and will age to an enhanced flavor.”

At those words, Marie looked in awe.
To think that the meat was aged like that instead of being cooked right away.
Such a novel idea.

“That’s amazing.”

“Yeah, if it’s aged properly, the meat tastes much better.”

“But won’t it go bad if you store it like this?”

Peter’s face darkened at her question.

t/n: jesus, idk why the author insists on using french words in korean bc it’s so hard to translate when i don’t speak french TT ^ TT i had to search what geuroseupiesseu (그로스피에스) means, it was so annoying, i doubt koreans even know what that is

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