Ascendance of a Bookworm (LN) - Volume 4.6 - Chapter 10

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The Music Tea Party and the End of Classes

It was the day of my tea party with the music professors. Most students were still working toward finishing their classes, and the shenanigans with Eglantine and Anastasius last year were still fresh in people’s minds, so I was going to be the only one attending this time. It was technically a show of much-appreciated consideration on the professors’ part, as they simply wanted to hear my new songs before they were debuted at other tea parties and did not want to burden me.

We were going to be debuting songs that Rosina had arranged, and we were bringing some pound cake with us, much like last year. Charlotte had even taught me how to bring up certain topics of conversation. “You are the only one in Ehrenfest who can ask things of the professors,” she had said. “We are counting on you.” I would not make her regret it.

I’m a big sister she can rely on, after all.

“Welcome, Lady Rozemyne,” Pauline said upon our arrival. My attendants lined up our gifts as we exchanged greetings, while Rosina began preparing her harspiel.

Once our greetings were complete, Pauline offered me a seat; then she took a sip of tea and demonstratively bit into a sweet. I did the same with my pound cake, proving it was safe to eat, and thus began our tea party. I glanced over at Rosina to indicate that she would soon need to start playing and then introduced the new song.

“This is a song dedicated to the Goddess of Water,” I said.

“Your songs are all dedicated to the gods,” Pauline remarked casually. “Do you make no others?”

“As I was raised in the temple, the gods are what I am most familiar with,” I replied with a smile. In truth, this applied more to Rosina, who had actually been raised in the temple and was the one arranging the music and composing the lyrics.

Rosina began playing on cue. It was a song I had based on a classical composition, and it was so relaxing that I started to wonder whether it might have some kind of healing effect.

“In a few years’ time, do you think you might transition into making love songs?” Pauline ventured. “You were engaged to Lord Wilfried in the spring, correct?”

“The engagement was settled, but how does that lead to me producing love songs, I wonder? It is hard for me to imagine the future...” I replied, which earned giggles from the professors. I allowed their amusement to wash over me.

Rosina could possibly write love songs if she one day fell in love, but with how dedicated she was to her instrument and the amount of time she spent in the temple with me, I could see her easily passing her prime without any romantic happenings whatsoever.

Still, I can’t make the love songs myself...

I could always attempt to make my own love songs, but I thought it was best to avoid such a risk. Ferdinand had described what I thought to be a heartwarming love story as perverted, so I could see myself unknowingly debuting a bawdy tavern song during what was supposed to be a refined tea party. Such a blunder would impact the reputation of not just me, but also Ehrenfest on the whole.

“In any case, Ehrenfest’s grades are certainly on the rise,” Pauline said. “Your grades last year surprised us all, and once again, those in your year have passed all their tests on the first day.”

“I hear that Ehrenfest was the only duchy to have any students pass the sociology exam,” another professor remarked.

“Even the laynobles of the lower years are performing admirably with their instruments,” Pauline noted. Laynobles tended to receive poor marks in music due to the varying quality of their tutors and instruments, but it seemed that Ehrenfest had raised the skill floor among its lower years. “Your duchy’s laynobles say it is all thanks to you, Lady Rozemyne. Whatever did you do?”

I gave a slight smile. “I simply suggested that we prioritize bringing all of our students to a certain level of competency, which we achieved by having archducal music instructors teach the children in the winter playroom and the dormitory. The achievement is not purely my own, however—it was Aub Ehrenfest who approved it, and my siblings Wilfried and Charlotte who made it a reality while I was asleep.”

From there, in order to avoid any further interrogation, I guided the discussion elsewhere. I used a line that Charlotte had given me and asked whether my songs were spreading through the Sovereignty. The professors’ eyes gleamed with excitement as they explained the circumstances of the music scene.

“Oh, indeed. They have spread at a shockingly fast pace,” Pauline replied. “It must be because they are focused on Prince Anastasius and Lady Eglantine.”

“They can be heard at tea parties of all natures, and we have been invited to several just to play them,” another professor added.

“Your song dedicated to the Goddess of Light is especially popular. Many adore that it tells of Prince Anastasius winning Lady Eglantine’s heart, and it spreads readily alongside stories of their romance.”

Anastasius had shocked the Sovereignty and the top-ranking duchies by desiring Eglantine more than becoming king—and again when he declared they would support Sigiswald as royals rather than seek the throne for themselves.

“Those who were supporting Prince Anastasius had only managed to sputter words of confusion upon witnessing him choose Lady Eglantine over all else,” Pauline said. “As for Prince Sigiswald, it has apparently been decided that Lady Adolphine will become his first wife.”

Sigiswald had escorted a middle duchy’s archduke candidate during his graduation and then married her as his second wife to begin with, meaning he was yet to take a first wife. Now that Eglantine was marrying Anastasius, he needed an archduke candidate from a greater duchy in order to become king. Adolphine had apparently been selected for the role.

“After all, most women the prince’s age are already married,” another professor intoned.

“Many were surprised to see Prince Anastasius surrender the throne, but even more were simply relieved that conflict has been avoided,” a third added.

Sigiswald and Anastasius were both sons of the king’s first wife, with similar mana quantities and generally similar ages. Both had previously been seeking the throne, so most had feared a great war when it came time for succession.

“Prince Hildebrand is the son of the third wife and is much younger than the other two princes, so he was raised to be a vassal to begin with,” one professor noted.

“I do hope the succession continues smoothly without incident,” Pauline said, sounding rather worried. The other professors made small interjections of agreement. In my opinion, it was hard to imagine there being any problems when Anastasius had willingly stepped down and Hildebrand was never even considered for the throne.

“Are there any other matters you are concerned about?” I asked.

“The biblical fundamentalists in the Sovereign temple have been a little...” one professor began before trailing off mid-sentence. “But, well, that is only the temple. Their protests are of no consequence.”

“Indeed. The words of the temple hold very little weight,” Pauline said with a refined sip of tea, as if washing away their needless concerns. “We nobles need only listen to other nobles.”

“Splendid results, Lady Rozemyne,” Hartmut said with a joyous expression when I returned to the dorm and listened to a report from Philine and my attendants. The information I had learned was apparently of enormous value to Ehrenfest, as our lack of connections with Sovereign nobles had made acquiring Sovereign intelligence near impossible.

“Given that you were raised in the temple, Professor Pauline was likely probing to see if you were a biblical fundamentalist,” Brunhilde noted. “It seems to me that she was relieved you did not respond whatsoever.”

“Erm, what’s a biblical fundamentalist?” I asked, confused. “I don’t think I’ve heard the term before.”

It seemed that I wasn’t alone in my bewilderment—there was an uncomfortable silence until Rihyarda gazed up, as if digging through her memories.

“I do not know the precise details, but I believe they are part of an organization that proclaims the bible to be the ultimate authority in all matters and that the king should similarly obey its teachings,” she said. It had apparently come into existence while royalty was preoccupied with the civil war, and its aim was for the temple to have a great deal more authority. “If you do not know about it despite being raised in the temple, Lady Rozemyne, then it surely has nothing to do with Ehrenfest. You need not pay these fundamentalists any mind; they are not even nobles, after all.”

And thus ended our discussion about the matter.

“In any case, I will gather the information collected tonight and report it to Ehrenfest,” Hartmut announced.

Lieseleta turned to me. “If you pass your practical lessons tomorrow then you can finally start going to the library again, Lady Rozemyne.”

“Indeed,” I replied. “Failure is not an option.”

This afternoon we had more brewing lessons, and these would decide whether I could go to the library. I changed into my brewing clothes and went to the Small Hall. It appeared that Hirschur once again intended to use her magic tool, as a white cloth was spread against the wall.

“Now then—today, we are learning how to make a proposal feystone,” Hirschur said while projecting the method onto the cloth. “These are going to be necessary both when proposing and upon receiving a proposal. You will all need to know how to do this for the future, so take care when making them.”

The quality didn’t matter this time, since this was only for practice, but a proper proposal feystone had to be the best possible feystone that one could make. It would need to have as many elements and as large a mana capacity as one could manage, and the quality needed to be as high as was possible for a feystone with the divine color of one’s birth season. Once it was ready, the feystone was dyed with one’s own mana and the elements of one’s partner were added. This process was largely unnecessary when a person shared all the same affinities as their partner, but in cases where your partner had an affinity that you did not, it was necessary to use feystones of that element in your brewing.

“The goal today is to learn,” Hirschur said, “so add one element that you lack, no matter your plans for the future.”

But I don’t lack any elements...

The final step was to add the words of your proposal such that they would appear on the feystone. It was similar to the engraved wedding ring my mom had worn back in my Urano days.

I had plenty of experience dyeing feystones with my mana, so I completed that step in a snap and moved to the front table with the brewing pots. Compared to dyeing a feystone for my jureve, dyeing one for class was simple.

“You’ve finished dyeing it already?” Hirschur asked with surprise, her purple eyes sparkling. She received the blue feystone dyed with my mana, brought it close to her face to check, and then whispered, “It truly is dyed...”

“The feystone is small and not of a particularly high quality. I don’t see why it would have taken me very long...” I said.

“Oh, it should have taken you quite a while, under normal circumstances.”

I set up a yellow feystone for elemental purposes and a parchment with words on it beside the pot. Given that I had all of the elements, for the purposes of class, I prepared a Wind feystone.

“What words will you be putting in, Lady Rozemyne?” Hirschur asked and excitedly reached for the parchment.

“I’m sorry to disappoint, but they are nothing that special,” I replied. It was just a common phrase—so common, in fact, that it was pretty much a standard go-to. As a woman, it was generally safe to go with something like “To my God of Darkness” or “I wish to be your Goddess of Light.”

Hirschur scrunched up her nose with disappointment upon seeing my trite choice. “Lady Rozemyne, if you do not choose words that would move a man’s heart, I cannot give you a passing grade,” she said.

“What?!” I exclaimed. “But this is just practice! Finishing the feystone should be enough for me to pass, shouldn’t it?”

“No. You have plenty of time, and since you are already engaged, I would suggest thinking of a proposal that you might give to Lord Wilfried.”

Excuse me?! She wants me to come up with sweet nothings right here and now?!

“I wish to witness your skill with the pen,” Hirschur continued. “A task such as this must be easy for someone as well-read as you. Lady Elvira’s book was filled with many wondrous turns of phrase.”

Gyaaah! No way can I admit that I skimmed over all the love scenes and proposals because I couldn’t understand all the divine euphemisms being thrown around! Someone, please! Give me a wondrous proposal to use!

For the first time in a practical, I was completely frozen, unable to even move my hands. This task was a lot harder than any of the brews Ferdinand had forced me to learn.

Wh... What should I do?! “I love you” or “My heart is yours” seem like reasonable alternatives, but I can’t confirm they’re actually okay in this world without speaking to Ferdinand first!

Such phrases may have been orthodox back on Earth, but in this world, I had no idea how they might be interpreted. I was aware that lengthy euphemisms and poetic allusions were all the rage here, but that wasn’t much help when I needed to come up with something on the spot.

“That is quite a deep frown, Lady Rozemyne.”

“I don’t think you should be asking a student like me to think up a proposal.”

“Might I suggest you consider what kind of proposal you yourself would wish to receive? Perhaps it might prove useful,” Hirschur said, more or less cackling at my predicament. I decided to follow her advice.

Hmm... Maybe “I want to make you miso soup every morning”? Or “I want to make a library just for you.”

I ran my ideas by Hirschur, who rejected them on the spot with a look of complete bafflement. “Lady Rozemyne, what is this ‘miso soup’ of which you speak?” she asked. “Is it a common breakfast food in Ehrenfest?”

“Not in Ehrenfest, but I wish to eat it someday.”

Hirschur gave a heavy sigh and shook her head. “I now understand where your interests lie, Lady Rozemyne, but do you think such things would move Lord Wilfried?”

I suspect he doesn’t know what miso soup is, and it seems unlikely he would get excited about receiving a library, so... no.

“Did you not suggest I come up with proposals to suit me, Professor Hirschur?”

“Ones that suit you and that might at the same time move Lord Wilfried. Show some effort in learning to please men.”

As someone who had never even had a boyfriend, this was a very big ask. Had I been one of those teens with immense girl power who made boys go gaga with every other word, I probably would have gotten more dates back on Earth, and Shuu wouldn’t have made fun of me all the time. People always said the same things to me: “Boys like girls who can change to suit their tastes, and you don’t do that at all. You’ve got too much pride. You charge down your own path way too much. Nobody can keep up.”

Honestly, the most me-like proposal out there would probably be: “I’ll make you like me. Get ready to be corrupted.”

Too much pride, huh...?

“Would men like a proposal that sounds more humble?” I asked. “Perhaps something like ‘please dye me in your colors’?”

“Oh my, my, my!” Hirschur’s eyes sparkled with what seemed to be pure amusement; she looked a lot like Elvira when she was latching on to a romance story. “You are quite the precocious child, aren’t you, Lady Rozemyne? I can understand—you are of an age where you wish to act like an adult—but you should save such words for when you have come of age. For now, go with the phrase you proposed originally.”

For when I come of age...? Don’t tell me it means something obscene. Should I file this under the list of things Ferdinand would get mad at me about?

“Professor Hirschur, would this be a phrase that Ferdinand would scold me for were he to learn about it?” I asked timidly.

Hirschur paused in thought for a moment and then smirked. “Oh, worry not—Ferdinand will never see these words,” she said. “Proposals are given only to one’s partner, after all.”

So I’m only safe because he’ll never see it... which means he absolutely would get mad at me!

“You are almost out of time, Lady Rozemyne,” Hirschur cautioned. “Do you not wish to pass today?”

I snapped back to reality and quickly returned to brewing. I wanted to accuse her of wasting my time with this proposal business, but I swallowed my complaints and took out my schtappe. I had mixed elements when making my jureve, so I completed the brewing itself without issue. Golden words appeared within the dark-blue, bead-shaped feystone.

“You pass, Lady Rozemyne.”

Yes! Library, here I come!

“Wilfried, I passed,” I announced upon returning to my table. “I can go to the library now.”

“That was fast. I’m still struggling to dye this thing...” Wilfried said while glaring at his feystone.

“That may be because you’re approaching it as you would brewing. For a feystone, it’s more efficient to add as much mana as you can all at once.”

When it came to dyeing feystones, the amount of mana used was crucial—beating down the feystone’s resistance was a lot easier when you overwhelmed it with a ton of mana, and this ended up being more efficient than a slower approach. Laynobles without much mana had essentially no choice in which method they used, but the archnobles and archduke candidates here could probably handle going faster.

“You could’ve told me that earlier, Rozemyne. I’ve already used a lot of my mana.”

“In that case, you may have to spend today doing nothing but dyeing the feystone,” I said. “If you do not dye it completely, then it will gradually start pushing out your mana, so take care to not waste your mana entirely.”

“Mana gets pushed out...?” came a surprised question from the nearby students. They had only ever used magic tools to dye feystones, which were of such poor quality that they’d turn to dust just from sitting in the palm of my hand, so this information was completely new to them. In truth, I hadn’t known either before Damuel told me.

After all, I was told to dye stones right where I gathered them.

“All at once...” Wilfried muttered. He was focusing on the feystone in a way that made it clear he was pouring mana into it. Hannelore and Ortwin, who were sitting with him for this class, likewise wore serious expressions as they regripped their feystones.

“Done!” Hannelore announced excitedly. She was the first to finish—she no doubt had as much mana as you would expect from an archduke candidate of a greater duchy—and she showed me a feystone that was as red as her eyes. “It is all thanks to your advice, Lady Rozemyne.”

“Your own skill and mana capacity is what allowed you to succeed,” I replied.

“Oh, no. I am not particularly skilled when it comes to using my mana, so without your advice, I would most likely not have finished anytime soon.”

I was glad to have helped my friend, and I gave her some tips for brewing while I was at it. I wanted her to pass as soon as possible so that we could work together in the Library Committee.

I ended up talking with Hannelore and giving her advice until our brewing class came to an end, which made Wilfried pout. “Don’t you have any tips for me?” he said.

“I do have one—you should join the Library Committee as well.”

“Just what kind of tip is that?!”

Incidentally, I sent a letter asking Ferdinand what “please dye me in your colors” meant. His reply was three pages long and tightly bound in packaging that marked it as confidential.

I see... So it’s a rather direct way of inviting someone to your bedroom for you-know-what. Lewd indeed. Hirschur told me to use it for my actual proposal, but I don’t think I will.

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