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Ascendance of a Bookworm (LN) - Volume 3.5 - Chapter 3




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Ruelle Gathering (Take Two) 

As pleasant as the dream was, I felt an indescribable loneliness upon waking up. 

After eating breakfast, I left cleaning the monastery to Hasse’s apprentices and the shrine maidens while having Fran and the adult priests stock Lessy with the cleaning utensils, tubs, soap, and such that Achim and Egon needed. At the same time, my other attendants and personnel loaded their things into carriages, which we then sent on their way. Just like last year, they would be meeting up with the carriages containing Eckhart’s and Justus’s attendants at Hasse’s winter mansion before we headed to the next one. 

The Plantin Company carriages held the young orphans being moved from Hasse to the temple. I saw off the guards after giving them their little bonuses, and with that, the brief amount of time I could spend with Dad came to a close. 

Once they were gone, we departed for the winter mansion in my Pandabus. 

“Achim, Egon, will this be enough, I wonder? Please do visit the monastery if you need anything else.” 

“Thank you, Lady Rozemyne. Now we should be able to clean exceedingly well.” The two gray priests rejoiced, giving big appreciative nods as they accepted the supplies from us. It seemed they were going to pour their hearts into cleaning their room, and that was fine by me. In all honesty, it would have been nice if the people of Hasse saw their work and put a little more effort into cleaning themselves. 

“Richt, as discussed yesterday, here is food for the both of them. Please consider it part of their winter preparations.” 

“Understood.” 

I gave a portion of the tithe to Richt for Achim and Egon, then had the rest piled into Lessy. This would be used for the monastery’s winter preparations. 

“Now then, I will see you both when you arrive at the monastery,” I said to Eckhart and Justus, the former carefully observing as the latter teleported the collected taxes to the castle. And with that, I promptly brought all the luggage to Hasse’s monastery. 

Whew. This is a lot of work to be doing first thing in the morning... 

All I needed to do now was drive Lessy, but that was tiring enough in itself. I decided to sit in my room in the monastery for the time being and sip tea with Brigitte, taking a much-needed rest. 

“I was a bit worried about Hasse’s winter preparations, but Nora and the others know what needs to be done, and since this is going to be the third time those from the temple are doing winter preparations, they have grown used to it as well. Things are proceeding smoothly,” Fran reported. 

I gave a nod in response. The gray priests in the monastery were running around busily, carrying the tithe to the food storage area and hurriedly preserving the perishables. They wouldn’t be able to work freely with me about, so it was best for me to stay in my room. 

“So, Fran, may I read a book while we wait for Justus and my brother to arrive?” 

“...My apologies. The books you prepared are in one of the carriages that has already left.” 

“No way!” 

The copies from the castle’s book room and the knight stories I intended to put into my next book had already departed. Who could have ever seen this coming? 

As I wailed, Fran held out a picture book bible. “The books you prepared for leisure reading were too bulky to be held during an entire ceremony,” he said with a serious expression. “If you are fine with the picture books read to the children during their baptism ceremony, then... here you are.” 

“Yay! Thank you ever so much, Fran.” 

I eagerly flipped through the pages, my eyes racing over the letters. That alone was enough to bring much peace to my heart. Just sitting down with a book helped to steady my breath, and a warm feeling washed over me like I was finally alive again. I honestly wanted the whole world to understand what an essential part of life reading was. 

Eckhart and Justus arrived at the monastery while I was blissfully spending my time reading books. 

“What in the world inspired you to make these books, milady?” Justus asked, peering over my shoulder at the picture bible. I understood his words, but not the meaning behind them. 

“I make books to read books. What other reason could I possibly have?” 

“Er, rather, why picture bibles in particular?” he asked. But I couldn’t exactly tell him it was because all the stories I knew—both from my Urano days and the ones Mom had told me as a commoner—didn’t match the aesthetic sense of my target demographic. 

“Because I had never read anything but the bible. I feel that one must read new books to make new books, so if you ever intend to gift me any, I would gladly accept them all.” 

Justus, being Rihyarda’s son, was an archnoble, and there was no doubt in my mind that an information-loving man such as him had a huge collection of interesting books. But when I looked up at him with hope-filled eyes, he returned a stern expression much like one his mother would give. 

“Milady, you should never say something like that in public. You will only draw ambitious nobles to you.” 

I would happily accept bribes from anyone if doing so meant getting more books, but I guess Ferdinand would get mad at me for that... I can already imagine him smacking me on the head with that harisen the moment I leapt onto my pile of illicitly gained reading material. 

After finishing a lunch consisting of soup made by the gray shrine maidens and bread baked by Hugo, we set out by highbeast toward the next winter mansion. 

Unlike Hasse, the other cities in the Central District had reaped bountiful harvests thanks to having received my blessing, so all the people welcomed us with such fanatical enthusiasm that it actually threw me off. The mayors and town chiefs clasped their hands together and all but begged me to bless their land again next year, and it was all I could do to put on a polite smile and say that I would continue to perform Spring Prayer while serving as the High Bishop. 

This experience looped over and over again, the energy of the festivals overwhelming me to the point that I collapsed. I forced myself up again by drinking potions, but this happened several more times over the course of our journey. 

In the end, we arrived at Dorvan’s winter mansion—where we would be meeting up with Ferdinand—the day before the Night of Schutzaria. Given that we were initially scheduled to arrive with plenty of time to spare, it was safe to say that we had just barely made it. 

Eckhart had apparently sent an ordonnanz to Ferdinand informing him of our situation, and since Ferdinand arrived at Dorvan before us, he performed the Harvest Festival in my stead. The buzz from the celebrations had already died down, and it seemed my peaceful days had returned. 

“You are late, Rozemyne. I was getting exceedingly worried that you were not going to make it at all.” 

“My apologies for worrying you, Ferdinand. And thank you ever so much for performing the Harvest Festival here ahead of time. I am truly, truly grateful that it is over...” 

We had also started to fear that we wouldn’t make it to Dorvan in time for the Night of Schutzaria. I sighed in relief that those worries had gone unfounded, only for Ferdinand to peer down at me with a frown, touching my cheeks and neck with his hands. 

“So cold!” 

“No, your body temperature is much too high. Your pulse is abnormally rapid too. Fran, do you have enough potions?” 

“We have used about half of what we had prepared before our initial departure,” he responded instantly. 

Ferdinand glanced over at a box in the middle of the room. “I am storing extra potions in there. Take what you need for the rest of the trip. Rozemyne, drink one and then rest for the remainder of tonight. Your gathering will take place tomorrow.” 

While Ferdinand ordered me to leave, Fran began stocking up on potions with visible relief. I trudged over to the room that had been prepared for me, had Monika and Nicola change my clothes, then drank the potion that Fran had given me and went to sleep. I couldn’t be responsible for this year’s gathering being canceled when Karstedt was coming all the way from Ehrenfest just to help out. 

I promised Lutz that I’d make it this year too. I need to succeed, no matter what. 

I woke up the next morning feeling much better. Eckhart had reunited with Ferdinand, which meant Damuel was serving me again. He seemed a lot more dead-eyed and all-around exhausted since the last time we were together, but his face lit up with relief when he saw me. I smiled and finished breakfast, all the while imagining what insane workload Ferdinand must have dumped on him. 

“Rozemyne, you are going to be napping this evening, and I imagine you will sleep better if you use your head in the morning,” Ferdinand said. “Come to my room. You can write reports for the Harvest Festival.” 

I had thought I might be able to use my poor health as an excuse to spend all day lounging around in bed with a book, but Ferdinand wanted me to do paperwork with him almost immediately after waking up. How was that any different from a normal day in the temple? 

“I see that grimace on your face, but this is for your own sake,” he continued. “The sooner these reports are finished, the sooner we can start making your jureve. We cannot simply begin the moment we have all the ingredients—we must first report the results of the Harvest Festival to the archduke.” 

Ferdinand was assigned as my doctor and apothecary, so with him pushing me like this, there wasn’t much I could do. I simply had to give in and work hard for the sake of my health. 

I’m going to power through and finish this jureve so that I can finally be healthy, then I’ll read books until I collapse from exhaustion! Just you wait! 

I reluctantly made my way to Ferdinand’s room, almost having to fight against the alluring pull of the box with books in it. When we arrived, I found that all the attendants he had brought with him for the Harvest Festival were doing work as well, Eckhart included. Both Ferdinand’s tax official and Justus were also busy, writing up reports in their respective rooms. 

That was Ferdinand for you, the man who lived to work and let no time go to waste. And once again, he was wrapping everyone around him into his obsession. 

I spent some time silently scratching out documents, when an ordonnanz suddenly flew in, its ivory wings flapping majestically. It circled around the room once before landing on Ferdinand’s desk and delivering a message in Karstedt’s voice. 

“I’m almost there. Have lunch ready.” 

“Understood,” Ferdinand replied, and once the ordonnanz had flown away, he looked out the window and sighed. 

I followed his gaze to see what he was looking at. It was far away enough that it was little more than a speck, but I could make out the griffon representing the knight commander flying this way. To say Karstedt was almost here was a bit of an understatement. 

“That is enough work for today. Clean up and prepare to welcome him,” Ferdinand said. 

Everyone put away their work at once. Ferdinand’s attendants then headed to the front entrance to welcome Karstedt, while my attendants started preparing tea and sweets. They were hurrying about without a shred of dignity or grace to their movements, but their organization nonetheless showed just how skilled they were. By the time Karstedt was brought inside, all the preparations were complete. 

“You appear to be doing well, Rozemyne,” Karstedt greeted me. 

“It’s all thanks to Ferdinand’s potions,” I replied, and it seemed my message was conveyed without me having to spell out that I had been a total mess the day before. 




Karstedt’s eyes wavered as he searched for the right words. “I’m just glad you have recovered enough for your gathering,” he eventually managed to force out. 

“How are matters at the castle?” Ferdinand asked casually, taking a seat. Karstedt would ordinarily reply that everything was normal and peaceful, but this time he paused to think. Then, he carefully scanned the room. 

“There’s something I was told to tell you both. Rozemyne, you stay seated there. Clear the room of everyone but the guard knights.” 

Once all the attendants were out of the room, Karstedt took out the kind of sound-blocking magic tool that affected an entire area, then activated it. Ferdinand took a deep breath before exhaling. 

“Karstedt. What in the world has happened?” 

“Nothing as of yet, but there are some dangerous signs popping up.” 

Everyone tensed up a little. Even if nothing had happened yet, the fact that there was danger would put anyone on guard. 

Karstedt looked us over, then continued. “I heard this from Elvira, but... Ferdinand, as I’ve already mentioned to you, the former Veronica faction has shown signs of reviving as the Georgine faction ever since her visit.” 

“Yes, I remember you mentioning that. But she is the first wife of Ahrensbach; she doesn’t have the ability to lead a faction in Ehrenfest.” 

Veronica’s faction had long been the largest faction due to her having served as the first wife of Ehrenfest during the previous archduke’s reign, then having raised the future archduke ever since Florencia was wed into the duchy. It retained this prominence even when Sylvester becoming the archduke caused Florencia and Elvira’s faction to steadily grow in both size and power. 

That all changed, however, when Veronica was arrested for abusing her position as the archduke’s mother to commit crimes: the more neutral members within her faction instantly switched to Florencia’s. 

“And that is precisely why the former Veronica faction is attempting to reconvene beneath Lord Wilfried.” 

“Wilfried...? What does he have to do with a women’s faction?” 

“The point is not for him to be invited to tea parties or anything like that. I imagine they just need a name to unite themselves under. Lord Wilfried was raised by Lady Veronica, and he opposed the archduke’s will by inviting Georgine to return to Ehrenfest,” Karstedt explained, reminding me of when we had said our farewells. “He’s the perfect figurehead to unify both the former Veronica faction and the new Georgine faction.” 

“But Wilfried didn’t intentionally disobey Sylvester, did he?” I asked. “He just wasn’t paying enough attention to what was going on.” 

Karstedt nodded. “Right. I doubt he was thinking about anything at all. But what matters is how the situation looks to the public.” 

Ferdinand began tapping a finger against his temple. “This is going to be a pain,” he muttered, his eyes narrowing as he fell deep into thought. I hadn’t the faintest idea what might have been running through his head. 

Karstedt continued speaking in the meantime, providing Ferdinand with more intel. “It seems people are saying that, with Lord Wilfried close to Lady Georgine and very likely to become the next archduke, there’s no better leader for them.” 

This information had come up in conversation during all manner of tea parties due to laynoble connections. Most neutrals were laynobles, since they needed to stick to the dominant faction just to survive, and thanks to that, information flowed freer through them than it did anywhere else. 

“So despite all we have done to both unite the factions around Lady Florencia and Rozemyne, and restore Lady Florencia’s right to rear Wilfried as his mother, the war between factions is only getting worse?” Ferdinand muttered, tightly knitting his brow. 

It seemed that all the hard work Elvira had been doing behind the scenes to form a large faction around the current first wife had now been washed away entirely. This was news to me, but she apparently hadn’t just been using the tea parties to gather information about Ferdinand and fangirl over him. 

“They have made no open moves yet, at most having spread rumors and some information during the hunting tournament. They can’t do much more when Lady Georgine is out of the duchy and Lord Wilfried is under the supervision of his retainers. Normally, this whole mess would just fade away over time. But since Lady Georgine is coming back next summer, it’s impossible to squash it completely. We should stay on guard in case they become more active.” 

“Okay, Father—I have a question!” I exclaimed, launching a hand into the air. “What exactly does staying on guard entail?” 

Karstedt, Ferdinand, Eckhart, and Justus all replied in turn. 

“Speak to Ferdinand before doing anything.” 

“Just... please think before you act.” 

“Do not speak to or meet with strangers.” 

“Don’t accept bribes, even if they’re books.” 

The flurry of warnings hit me with such force that the most I could muster in response was a weak, “Okay...” 

They really don’t trust me at all, do they...? 

With lunch over, we started a meeting to ensure that everything was in place for the ruelle gathering to proceed smoothly. We knew what to do this time, since we had already experienced the Night of Schutzaria last year, and with the knight commander Karstedt, Ferdinand, and Eckhart all working together in an invincible team, it supposedly wouldn’t be difficult at all. 

“The feybeasts are going to be gathered in a horde, but they’re all weak,” Karstedt began. “We should use weapons that can kill swathes of them at once.” 

“During our previous attempt, they didn’t appear until the ruelle petals started to fall, so it should be okay for us to delay our departure,” Eckhart suggested. 

“I agree,” Justus chimed in. “And with that in mind, we should let Lady Rozemyne nap for longer than she did last year. She was so sleepy last year that she needed to be kept awake during the battle.” 

“Wait just a second, Justus! That only happened because I had to contain the goltze for ages!” I protested. “As long as I only need to do the gathering part, I won’t need any more sleep than last time.” 

We all shared our opinions and narrowed down what role each of us was going to play. It was decided that the knights would position themselves in a circle around the ruelle tree, with Justus riding his highbeast and slaying any feybeasts that tried climbing on the branches, just like last year. 

“You can fight even though you’re a scholar, Justus?” 

“I know a bit about combat, since there’s no avoiding it while gathering. At the very least, I’m skilled enough to protect myself.” 

“Considering that he gathered ruelles last year, it is perfectly safe to count on him in battle,” Ferdinand said. It seemed that Justus was completely unreliable when put in front of materials that he hadn’t gathered before, but when it came to things he already had and thus didn’t care so much about, he’d join the fight without issue. 

By the time we had settled on when we would depart, discussed the types of feybeasts we could expect to encounter, and established where we would each be positioned, it was already evening and time for me to nap. It seemed that Ferdinand had indeed worked me so hard in the morning that I could fall asleep with ease, but did that mean I was happy about it? 

Absolutely not. Curse him. 

Beneath the gleaming purple moon that marked the Night of Schutzaria, we converged at the discussed time and flew to the same ruelle tree as the year prior. When we arrived, the moon was almost directly above us in the sky, and the ruelles were already swelling in size. The flowers bloomed as slender, metallic-looking tree branches wrapped around them, filling the air with a thick, flowery smell. 

“The petals will soon begin to fall. Let us use this opportunity to slice away any obstacles,” Ferdinand said. He whipped out his schtappe and muttered “riesesichel,” transforming it into a large, shining scythe that made him look entirely like the Grim Reaper. The aesthetic honestly suited him pretty well, though I would never say that to him; even if a similar concept did somehow exist in their culture, he would just end up getting mad at me. 

“Hyah!” 

Ferdinand lifted the scythe high into the air, then began slashing away the branches of the trees surrounding the ruelle tree. 

“I see. Cutting the branches will decrease the number of feybeasts that can jump this high...” Karstedt muttered, transforming his own schtappe into a giant scythe and promptly hacking away at them as well. Upon hearing his words, I was struck with an intense urge to apologize to Ferdinand. 

I’m sorry for thinking that you looked like the Grim Reaper, Ferdinand. You’re the best. My hero. 

“Incidentally, what did you use the ruelle flowers you gathered last year for, Justus?” I asked. 

“My hobby is gathering materials, not using them, so you will need to ask Lord Ferdinand about that,” he replied. It seemed that he only needed a single ingredient for his collection, and once he had that, he gave the rest to Ferdinand. He considered it both an apology for all the problems he had caused in the past, and an advance payment for the future problems he was no doubt going to cause later. 

I couldn’t help but wonder just how many issues Justus had been responsible for, but then it suddenly hit me— 

W-Wait a minute... Am I going to need to pay Ferdinand an apology fee too? But I can’t think of anything he would want. Should I just pay with my mana? 

Soon enough, the ruelle petals began to scatter. Just like last year, they peeled off one by one, dancing in the wind as they fell. They were large in size—a lot more similar to magnolias than cherry blossoms—and elegantly fluttered down like the white feathers of a bird, spinning and drifting along on the night breeze. The way they fused with the ground the instant they touched it made them all the more extraordinary and ephemeral. 

“Rozemyne, perform the blessing now before they arrive,” Ferdinand called. 

I prayed to Angriff the God of War and blessed everybody, as instructed, then flew up right next to a ruelle, waiting for it to ripen so that I could gather it as soon as possible. From my elevated position, I curiously watched everyone below. 

“Here they come.” 

The five knights readied their weapons, now circling the ruelle tree. It was interesting to see how they all used different weapons: Eckhart wielded a spear, Brigitte the same halberd as last year, Damuel his familiar sword, and Karstedt the scythe he had been using to cut away the branches. Sadly, I couldn’t see what Ferdinand was holding from where I was, but I could at least make out that it didn’t seem to be a scythe. 

I wonder what it is... 

My pondering was soon interrupted by the rustling of grass and branches coming from far away. There weren’t just one or two feybeasts approaching—there were dozens and dozens of them. And I knew from experience that countless more would soon follow, drawn in by the flowers’ smell. 

Cat-like zantzes and squirrel-like eifintes, none tall enough to even reach Damuel’s knees, leapt out of the bushes and raced toward us, their eyes gleaming an intimidating red. 

“Individually, they are weak. Take care to kill rather than wound them,” Ferdinand ordered. 

“This is going to be a long fight,” Karstedt added. “Watch your mana usage, Damuel.” 

“Yes, sir!” 

Damuel, standing between Karstedt and Ferdinand, tightened his grip on his sword. 


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