Ah, I’m so nervous. The day of the banquet has finally come, yet Lucia still looks totally relaxed despite the fact that dozens of demon nobility will be here in a few minutes. I tugged on her sleeve. “Aren’t you nervous?”
“Nervous? About what?” Lucia asked and tilted her head. She had changed out of the white dress that she always wore and had on a red backless dress that plunged down far enough for her tail to be freed. A black leather belt was strapped around her waist with a scabbard attached that held her sword. Despite the fact she was wearing high-heels, she insisted on wearing her socks with the cute wolf and paw print patterns on them. I honestly didn’t know Lucia could look so ladylike. In my head, she’s like a blood-covered demon. It’s a bit unsettling to see the stark contrast.
“About meeting nobility,” I said. “The emperor is coming, you know?”
“So?” Lucia asked again. She yawned and fiddled with her hair that had been tied into a bun by our maids. A pin fell loose, and her hair cascaded down to her back. “Ah! That wasn’t supposed to happen. Oh wells.” She shrugged and poked me with the pin in her hand. “Are you nervous?”
“Yes.” I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. With a ticking time bomb like Lucia attending my party, it’d be a miracle if nothing disastrous happens. And other than that, the emperor holds the life of all his subjects in his hands. Though it’s unlikely, he can strip my father of his title and lands. How can someone not be nervous around someone who controls their life? Wait a minute….
Lucia, the one who controlled my life for over three months, slapped my back. “Chin up! Pretend they’re divine beasts and all your feelings of nervousness will turn into hunger.” She nodded and stared off into the distance with a glint in her eyes. Her stomach growled.
“I don’t think seeing a divine beast provokes hunger in normal people,” I said. But I have to admit divine beasts are delicious. Eating their meat has almost spoiled all other kinds of food for me. Lucia’s right; what do I have to be nervous about? I’ve seen over thirty divine beasts die in front of my eyes. Someone like the emperor can’t strike fear into my heart.
Lucia yawned and shifted her weight from foot to foot. “When are they coming?” she asked. “And why do I have to stand here with you? I’m not the birthday girl; I should be allowed to slack off and eat all your food without repercussions.”
“You already do that.” I grabbed her hand. “Can’t you stand here with me? I don’t want to stand up here by myself.” My father had me and Lucia wait inside the dining room, which had been repaired with the help of magic after Lucia destroyed it. A stage had also been set up by one of the walls in the center of the room. We were waiting on the stage with the curtains down because my father wanted to do something like a grand reveal with music and flashy effects. But it’s scary standing up here alone! Under the guise of protecting me from assassins, I managed to convince my father to let Lucia stay up here with me.
“The food’s not going to be poisoned, right?” Lucia asked. Her tail swept against the floor as she closed her eyes, most likely imagining the delicacies prepared for the banquet.
“Just wondering, but why are you so paranoid about poison in your food?”
“Because I was poisoned once,” Lucia said as her eyes snapped open. For a second, they turned white like she had activated her Path of Slaughter, but her irises and pupils returned when she blinked. “Sneaky little bastard. Once I get my hands on him, I’ll chop his ears off and make a stew out of them.”
“That sounds a bit like cannibalism.” She’s talking about a person, right? Unless a rare spirit beast that specialized in poisons poisoned her.
Lucia looked at me as if I were an idiot. “I never said I was going to drink the stew. I was just going to make it.” She raised her head. “Oh, they’re finally here.”
Moments later, I heard faint chattering and the sound of the dining room doors opening. My father’s voice rang through the air followed by the shuffling of footsteps and scraping of chairs against tile. Earlier, my father had his servants place nametags at every round table for the guests. Once everyone was seated, he’d direct their attentions towards the stage and the curtains would rise.
I glanced at Lucia. She was fiddling with her sword while humming. Wait. Why was her sword out!? “Put your sword away,” I said in the sharpest but lowest voice I could muster. Seriously, what was she thinking?
Thankfully, Lucia listened and rolled her eyes before sheathing her sword. “It’s just a habit,” she said and patted my head. “Besides, if you’re angry at me, you won’t be nervous.” She frowned. “But I don’t get why you’re always angry or bitter at me.”
Am I? Have I been treating Lucia unfairly? I don’t think so. I think anger and bitterness are completely normal emotions to feel when dealing with Lucia. And it’s not so much anger as it is frustration. She doesn’t understand social norms or etiquette when dealing with people. But is that her fault…? Right now, she might be dressed like a noble, but I’m not sure what her background is actually like. I always assumed she was nobility because commoners aren’t powerful: their starting points are lower and they won’t have the same amount of resources. Now that I think about it, how much do I actually know about Lucia other than she’s a divine warrior who can kill divine beasts and has an obsession with gold and good food?
“When the banquet’s over, can you tell me about your past?”
“Huh?” Lucia stared at me. “It’s not that exciting, but okay.”
My father’s voice rang out before I could speak. “And now, if you’d so kindly turn your attention towards the stage. I’d like to introduce you to the youngest fifth-circle magician in history, my daughter, Ilya!”
I took in a deep breath and held my head high while Lucia took a few steps back and whispered, “Relax, if anyone makes fun of you today, I’ll beat them up for you.” With those reassuring words behind me, the curtains rose.