Once we arrived at the venue, we took care of the reception process. Well, to be honest, President took care of it. It didn’t seem like a complicated procedure, but he ended up chatting with the receptionist for a bit. I guess it was because it was our first time attending, and maybe there was something special about it.
As we entered the venue, I was greeted by a smiling Utagawa-san. Yeah, it looks like she’s wearing the dress I sewed. It makes me happy.
“…Maito-san, are you nervous?”
Do I really look that odd?
“Well, I’ve already reached the state of enlightenment.”
My life is in the negatives. I don’t even have the energy to protest anymore.
“If that’s the case, then it’s fine… But don’t worry too much. Tsuge-kun will handle everything, won’t he?”
Yeah, well, that’s true.
My role is pretty much being a wallflower or rather, a part of the wall. I’ll blend in! As a wall!
“Maito-san, did you sew that dress yourself?”
“No, I borrowed it.”
“It suits you, so you should be more confident. Right?”
…Really? I hope Utagawa-san’s sense isn’t completely disastrous. Are you sure?
“…Don’t make that face. It’s better to puff up your chest and show off a bit. Trust me, it’ll make things easier. We’re like a spectacle for the nobles in this country. So, it’s better to be confident. If you shrink back, you’ll attract all the unpleasant ones.”
“Maito-san, what Utagawa-san says is right. Let’s approach this rationally.”
…Right. Rational. Yeah, I know.
“Maito-san, did you forget? ‘But only if they’re handsome’ applies only in this world. Because in this world, we are handsome too.”
Oh, right. I forgot about that. If you’re handsome, anything goes because you’re handsome.
Alright. I won’t be scared anymore. Or rather, I’ll just accept it.
Everyone did this, back when we were in the temple.
…Again, everyone is amazing.
“By the way, Utagawa-san isn’t alone, right?”
“Yes, I was with Kaji just a moment ago. But he disappeared quickly.”
Kaji-kun, huh? Oh yeah, he must be surrounded by the young ladies over there.
“Most likely, Tsuge-kun will be surrounded the moment Maito-san is gone, so be prepared for that.”
Utagawa-san said that with a wink and then left.
And right after she left, I was surrounded by young men who came from nowhere. It’s amazing. Scary. What’s going on?
“Now, Maito-san, what should we do?”
We’re having a strategy meeting while watching Utagawa-san. We did some planning beforehand, but when I saw the situation, it’s quite different from what I expected.
“It would be better if you stay with me. Otherwise, we’ll both be surrounded by members of the opposite sex, and it’ll be hard to have any meaningful conversations.”
Yeah, that’s reassuring, grateful, and also a very rational suggestion.
“In that case, I’ll just stand beside you with a smile, right?”
“Yes, that sounds good… And, I know it’s cruel to ask you this, Maito-san, but it would be best if you pretend to be an idiotic woman who doesn’t understand much.”
Well… I guess there’s no helping it. If they underestimate me as an idiot, it gives us a lot of room to maneuver.
I learned the importance of making your opponent let their guard down from the gladiator tournament we had some time ago.
“Got it. Let’s go with that plan.”
Upon agreeing, President extended his hand for some reason.
“I’ll escort you.”
Who the heck are you?! Stop with that creepy smile! It’s giving me goosebumps! This is beyond awkward! It’s terrifying!
…Ah, right, I see. I have to be able to pull off this kind of act.
I take President’s hand and try to smile while emptying my mind as much as possible. President looked a little surprised at first by my change in expression, but quickly returned to his charming smile and said, “Shall we?”
“We’re both covered in awkwardness.”
“That line belongs to me, you scoundrel.”
During this exchange, we both maintained our suspicious and awkward smiles.
In this manner, we continued to advance through the venue, exchanging glances and chipping away at each other’s HP. It’s quite tense and enjoyable!
While getting some drinks, a nobleman approached us.
“Is today your first time here?”
He was a young man with a frivolous air about him, grinning as if he was enjoying the spectacle, just as Utagawa-san had mentioned.
“It seems you are foreigners, but did you also buy your noble titles with money?”
He was trying to provoke us, but unfortunately, both President and I have thick skins.
“Yes, well, we thought it would be a bit of a spectacle.”
President replied nonchalantly, cutting him off and dismissing the provocation with ease. The nobleman seemed startled by President’s sharp retort. Well, getting cynically teased like that with a charming smile… I can understand his surprise.
With an unwavering, cheerful smile, President continued to gaze at the nobleman, and I followed suit with my head-empty smile, and that seemed to scare the nobleman away, stammering as he made his retreat.
The initial encounters were like that, but well, after that, there weren’t many strange people, and I could have fairly normal conversations.
As for President…
While he was talking with the gentlemen, I focused on smiling and nodding throughout. I acted like I was listening and understanding, even though I didn’t really get it. It’s like pretending to understand what you don’t understand, pretending to understand what you’re pretending to understand… a double-layered acting. A two-tiered face structure.
Of course, as an airheaded woman, I couldn’t comprehend the complex discussions of the gentlemen, so I didn’t interject much. However, I managed to grasp some things.
Lately, there’s someone gathering investments.
If it goes well, it could significantly raise their status in other countries.
And if it goes really well, they might be able to take control of other countries.
These seem to be hot topics these days, and the more you listen, the more you hear about it.
Well, it’s President who’s listening, not me.
With information gradually coming together, President has earned quite a reputation among the nobles as a “clever person” or something along those lines. Things are going quite smoothly.
“Could it be, are you Shachi-dono!?”
Someone who looked out of place in this setting was shining with excitement. …Who is this?
“Ah, we are from the Poison Magic Research Institute!”
…Oh, it’s them!
Come to think of it, yeah, they might have been among those eccentric individuals who participated in the poison tasting event along with President after the gladiator tournament.
So, this person is a noble. Well, if it weren’t for their noble hobbies, they probably couldn’t participate in poison tasting events.
Then, that person called out to someone behind them, and more vaguely familiar faces gathered around.
…At this point, I won’t say anything.
And the discussions about poisons began. …This, well. It’s a clever trap, isn’t it!
If things go on like this, President’s disguise will be exposed! Besides, if we get detained here, President won’t be able to gather information and all!
With a smiling face, I gently nudge President.
“I’ll go get some drinks.”
Translation: If you’re going to be detained here, then I’ll have to do my best, right?
“Understood. I think I’ll be here for a while.”
Translation: I’m sorry. Please take care.
…In any case, we managed to convey our thoughts to each other, so we exchanged smiles and I made my exit.
Alright, from here on, I can’t just act like a fool. I remind myself that I am the Demon Lord, walking with my back straight and trying to appear dignified. After all, I am an attractive Demon Lord! A Demon Lord! I should carry myself with confidence!
I started walking aimlessly without any particular purpose, but soon someone called out to me, and that prevented me from being discovered immediately.
“Would you like a drink, miss?”
When I turned around, there was a nice-looking middle-aged man holding two glasses filled with pale amber liquid.
“Thank you, I’ll take one.”
Once I received the glass, I quickly used ‘Appraisal’ to check its contents.
“It has a beautiful color.”
Ah, it’s alcohol. Uh-oh, and it’s quite strong. I’m in a pinch. I should avoid drinking this kind of stuff.
“The taste is exquisite. Please give it a try.”
…Damn it, if I drink this, my performance will definitely suffer. But if I don’t drink it here, it might be suspicious.
Reluctantly, I take a sip of the drink. Ahhh, it’s alcohol! I know it’s alcohol! The smell alone gives it away! I know, I know!
“How is it?” the nobleman asks, still smiling. I can’t tell if there’s malice behind that smile or not.
“It’s a bit strong for me. I’m not good with alcohol, to be honest.”
He looks a bit disappointed at my response.
“Oh, I see. In that case, how about this one? It has a smoother taste and isn’t as strong.”
At an unfortunate moment, a server arrives with another glass and offers it to me.
I use ‘Appraisal’ again, but, as expected, it’s still alcohol.
Regardless of its smooth taste or anything else, it’s still alcohol.
…Should I take a gamble?
I look at the glass for a moment and then decide to take another sip. Ugh, I should have taken something to eat before trying this. It’s not working out well.
“Ah, it’s delicious.”
I said with a forced smile.
I don’t find it delicious at all, but I force myself to drink the entire glass.
The nobleman looks pleased with my response. I can’t tell if he’s just a fan of alcohol or if he has some malicious intent.
“By the way, I noticed that you’re from a foreign country.”
I keep up my smile and respond.
“Yes, you’re absolutely right… I suppose it’s quite noticeable to see someone with black hair around here.”
“Indeed. Beautiful black hair like yours and Miss Utagawa’s is quite rare, and especially for someone as stunning as you, it’s easy to notice.”
Ugh, your flattery is so obvious.
“You’re quite skilled at this.”
I tried to keep up the act, but I might vomit soon.
“Do people from foreign countries not enjoy these gatherings very much? I don’t see many of you around.”
“Yes, that’s right. It’s because these places are not very familiar to us.”
“I see. So you and Miss Utagawa are both eccentrics, is that it?”
“Well, thank you for the kind words.”
“By the way, there was another foreigner who came a while ago, and he was quite peculiar. He approached me with an investment proposal. A rather audacious individual, I must say.”
“Was it someone other than Miss Utagawa or Mr. Kaji?”
Hmm, who could that be?
“You’re not familiar with him, I presume? Oh, perfect timing, he’s right over there!”
Aaargh! Aaaargh! Aaaargh! Aaaargh!
…Can I run away? Is it okay to run away? I’m running, I’m running!
I don’t have time to worry about anything else right now!
I quickly apologized.
“Excuse me, I’m feeling a bit… I must excuse myself!”
For now, the most important thing is to escape.
I don’t have time to think about anything else!