Chapter 72: Banquet
Three days later.
Diana, who came to the smokehouse with Leon, was amazed.
Sofia had brought Klaus with her.
Moreover, the sharpness that surrounded the two of them was gone.
Something seemed to have happened between them in these three days. However, Diana couldn’t grasp what it was.
“Oh, did you two come to get smoked fish together?”
Diana asked, trying to find out, and Sofia blushed and confessed a little shyly,
“Yes, I invited him.”
Sofia blushed and hesitantly confessed.
Leon and Diana opened their mouths in surprise and exchanged glances.
Klaus stepped forward.
“Diana, it seems you’ve taught Sofia many things.”
“Yes, three days ago, it was fishing. Today, we came to get the smoked trout we caught there. Since we have them, let’s all eat together. I also made a promise with a villager to exchange the trout for mutton bacon.”
Klaus grinned upon hearing that.
“Oh, I’ve never had mutton bacon.”
“Let’s all… Oh, everyone is here.”
Diana pointed to the men from the village who had come from downstream of the river.
Behind those men were two familiar faces.
“…Isn’t that George and Fritz over there?”
Contrasting with the unfriendly George, Fritz smiled and waved his hand.
“What did you guys come here for?”
“Well, I made a promise to give George some trout, but I’m not sure about Fritz…”
“Um, Diana-san, over there.”
When Sofia pointed, Thomas came from upstream.
“He came because we made a promise to return the fishing rod.”
Unintentionally, the smokehouse became a gathering place for the villagers. The villagers exchanged expectant glances with each other and slowly opened the smokehouse. The scent of smoked fish filled the air.
The villagers said,
“Hey, quickly bring the basket. I’ll put the trout in it.”
When Diana handed over the basket, the villagers handed her the trout that had been hanging.
The savory aroma of smoked fish wafted through the open air, and Diana and the others breathed it in deeply.
“Hey, Fritz. This is for you.”
The villagers put something round and rolling into Fritz’s basket. Diana peered into the basket, her eyes sparkling.
“Oh, these are… smoked eggs!”
“Hehe, they’re good, right? Smoked eggs. Want to trade for these too?”
Meanwhile, lamb bacon was taken out, and each basket was filled with three types of smoked goods.
Now, they had to share the trout with their allies.
Thomas looked at the numerous trout sticking out of the basket and widened his eyes.
“Hey, hey! That’s a big catch. We can’t possibly eat all of this.”
Thomas glanced at the other smoked goods and said to Diana.
“I thought it would be about three fish at most, so I’m fine with three. The rest―.”
He suddenly left Diana and returned with a wooden box in his arms.
“…Let’s have some bacon too.”
Saying that, Thomas opened the lid of the box with a bang. Inside, there were neatly arranged red and white wines. The villagers buzzed with excitement.
“Oh! It’s wine!”
“Hey, old man. How about exchanging one bacon and one wine?”
In front of Diana’s eyes, a barter meeting began. The area in front of the smokehouse suddenly became lively, and the villagers sat down there and immediately opened the wine. Diana and Sofia were dumbfounded, but suddenly the villagers turned their gaze towards them.
“Hey, you two over there. Why are you just standing there? Let’s drink too.”
Klaus clenched a silver coin and approached Thomas.
“I’ll have a bottle of red wine too.”
Sofia was taken aback, but the coachman, who had been watching from a distance, thoughtfully handed glasses to the Duke McGallen’s party.
“What about it? Will Sophia and the others drink too?”
Diana hesitated but nodded.
Including George and Fritz, who had cheekily joined the group, an impromptu party began in front of the smokehouse.
While drinking the wine poured by the coachman, Diana enjoyed the delicious smoked trout.
“Mmm! It’s so delicious.”
When Diana shouted, a smoked egg flew into her pocket. Fritz and George were laughing over there. It seemed like they were sharing. Diana quickly took a bite of the smoked egg, and a firm yolk emerged from inside.
“Well, it looks delicious.”
Sofia murmured, and Fritz gently offered her a smoked egg.
“Hey, isn’t this treatment a bit too different?”
Diana said, and the men burst into laughter, fueled by alcohol.
Klaus was observing everything with curiosity, but…
“You’re Duke McGallen, right?”
One of the villagers asked, and he nodded slowly.
“Duke McGallen was supposed to have a wife around your age… Is she your daughter?”
“No, she’s my wife.”
“So, a second wife then? It’s impressive that Duke-sama quickly got himself such a young wife, even though she’s about the same age as me.”
“I envy that. I want a young wife too.”
As vulgar laughter echoed, Diana couldn’t help but frown. And then…
“Don’t casually talk about replacing wives.”
Sofia spoke with a firm attitude, and the atmosphere fell silent.
“My parents and I have discussed this marriage thoroughly and agreed to it. It’s not like I was replaced without any connection, like a dock’s hardware. We are equals. I don’t want to be misunderstood as a young girl who was forced and married against her will.”
Diana applauded in her mind. That’s right. Most people, while considering the balance of social status, marry each other thinking they are good people… even if they may not necessarily get along in the end.
“…That’s right. As Sofia said.”
Klaus emptied his glass and smiled happily.
“I am a man chosen by Sofia. At the moment, I’m desperately clinging to her… in reality.”
The villagers laughed at Duke’s words.
“Even Duke-sama is under the thumb of his wife!”
“We’re in the same boat! Come on, let’s drink!”
Diana and Sofia exchanged glances and laughed together.
Observing Klaus surrounded by the villagers, Diana asked her.
“…The two of you have changed quite a bit in these three days.”
Sofia smiled and sipped her wine.
“Yes, I’ve gained a bit more confidence.”
Diana nodded, and Sofia continued.
“So, I don’t have to deceive myself anymore. I still can’t dislike Ojii-sama. He’s always been one of the men I admired.”
“…So that’s how it was.”
“I thought that if we became deeply involved, we would hurt each other more, but it seems like it was the opposite. When we had an honest conversation, the more we talked, the more reassured I felt. Now, we’ve decided to talk about even the smallest things as much as possible. And then…”
“…No, it’s nothing.”
Sofia chuckled softly, as if proudly displaying a secret.
While nibbling on smoked fish, Sofia looked up at the blue sky and said,
“This is the first time I’ve ever enjoyed a meal this much.”
And she smiled.