“Phew, finally done…”
“Mabel-sama, thank you for your hard work today.”
As Mabel entered the kitchen, she was warmly greeted by the smell of cookies baked by the chef and the servants who had already taken a break.
“Mabel-sama, you really helped us earlier.”
“No, it’s nothing. Kathleen-oneesama’s hair is soft, so it tangles easily.”
The servants who had been panicking by Kathleen’s side earlier came to thank Mabel with an apologetic expression, and she smiled in response.
Although her four sisters were all very kind, they could be a bit capricious or emotional, often leaving the servants at a loss. At times like that, Mabel, as a family member, would step in and somehow bring peace to the situation.
Although Mabel was often overwhelmed, she couldn’t help but lend a hand to those in need due to her kind-hearted nature. As a result, she seemed to be seen as someone who had drawn the short straw by those around her.
“Thank you very much. Mabel-sama is so kind.”
“Indeed. At first, I thought it was unfair to have the princess do something like that, but thanks to Mabel-sama’s help, we were able to get through it.”
Upon hearing the young servant’s words, Zoe, the head servant, also murmured to herself. She and Mabel, who were both turning sixteen this year, had a strong bond of trust since long ago, and Mabel smiled shyly.
“It’s okay, Zoe. I seem to be more suited to house work.”
“Really. You also have a deep sense of duty that compels you to help those in need.”
“It may not be very princess-like, but isn’t it okay for Mabel-sama to be like that?”
As they exchanged such conversation, Mabel picked up a cookie from the center of the table. This was her favorite time, where she could sit with the servants and drink tea during the slightly calmer afternoons when her sisters were busy with their own affairs.
Finally, the tea was ready, and the sweet, rich aroma tickled her nose—in the midst of such happiness, the sound of the kitchen door opening in a hurry echoed.
“―Are you here again, Mabel-sama?”
“Travis! What’s wrong?”
The one who appeared was Travis, who worked as an assistant to Mabel’s father, the king. He was still young, but a talented person nonetheless. He had long straight silver hair and deep gray eyes. Through his distinctive silver-framed glasses, he found Mabel among the servants and pushed up his glasses.
“Mabel-sama’s engagement has been decided.”
Unable to understand the words that Travis had just told her, Mabel repeated them back.
“Engagement, you say?”
Mabel blinked a few times and repeated Travis’s words in her mind.
My engagement…my engagement?
Meanwhile, the servants, though taken aback by the sudden news, continued to offer their congratulations.
“So you’re finally engaged! That’s wonderful. We were all worried since you’re already sixteen and there were no rumors of any suitors.”
“That’s great news, Mabel-sama! You’ll be able to handle any nobleman with ease.”
“Wait a minute! What do you all think of me?!”
It was true that while her older sisters had quickly become engaged, the unremarkable Mabel was rumored to have trouble finding a suitor. Some even said that the king, who was reluctant to let go of his youngest daughter, was having trouble deciding on a suitable match.
The kitchen was bustling with a celebratory mood, and Travis was the only one calmly continuing the conversation.
“The fiancé is Eugene-sama of the Masked Mage.”
In the next moment, the celebratory mood turned into a funeral-like atmosphere.
“Travis-sama, can’t we pretend this engagement never happened?”
“Mabel-sama, you can come back anytime if it gets too hard for you.”
“What do you mean? What’s going on?!”
Taken aback by everyone’s sudden change, Mabel looked to Zoe for help, who also seemed to be staring at her with a pleading expression.
“But Eugene-sama, the masked mage, he…”
“He always wears a mask, and no one has ever seen his true face.”
“Rumor has it that anyone who approached his mansion out of curiosity and saw his face ended up collapsing on the spot.”
“My great-grandfather heard that he has been living on the outskirts of the Eakes Kingdom since he was a child; If that’s true, he might be well over 120 years old…”
“That can’t be right?!”
As Mabel listened to the information about her fiancé from the servants, she felt her blood run cold.
Mabel knew of the existence of the masked mage, or more accurately, the “Mage.”
Long ago, people were able to use miracles called “magic.”
They could create fire out of nothing, produce wind, and cause all sorts of phenomena. In order to use magic one needed “magical power,” which everyone was born with to some degree.
However, as time passed, magical power began to show disparities among people. The strong became stronger, and the weak became weaker. As a result, those who had strong enough magical power to use magic became a very small minority in the world.
Those who could use magic eventually came to be called “Mages.”
Their magic, which had been condensed over a long period of time, was incredibly powerful. It was said that with the power of just one mage, an entire country could be destroyed. As a result, they disliked having their magic used and quietly disappeared from the public eye.
And at some point, they all began to wear masks. As a result, they came to be called “Masked Mages” based on their appearance.
A rumor brewed around the kingdom that a mage lived amongst the people.
Because they wore masks, no one knew the true appearance or actual age of the Masked Mages.
Even if someone happened to see them, as one of the servants had mentioned earlier, they would faint or lose their memory upon seeing their faces. No one could remember their distinct features.
Furthermore, they were said to be extremely long-lived, and no one knew exactly how many decades they had lived. If the stories the maids told were true, her potential partner would be quite elderly.
Of course, as a princess of the kingdom, Mabel never thought she could choose her own marriage partner.
She understood that it was decided based on the country’s interests, but even so, the potential partner sounded very wretched. However, Travis continued the conversation, either knowing or unknowingly aware of Mabel’s feelings.
“In that case, please go to Eugene-sama’s mansion in two months. We have already investigated the location.”
“T-Two months from now?”
“Yes. There are preparations to be made.”
Mabel intended to say that it was too soon, but it didn’t seem to be taken that way by Travis. She sighed as a feeling of helplessness enveloped her.