Jessica, the Count’s Daughter
When evening came, a maid visited my room with clothes for me to change into. It was a very extravagant costume.
“What is this?”
She answered in a respectful voice.
“It is what you will wear when attending the feast tonight.”
“It’s like something one would wear to a party.”
“That is right. There is going to be a simple dance party after dinner.”
“I don’t like to dance.”
“It will be fine. You only need to stand there, Lord Ashtaroth, and the ladies will be enchanted.”
‘And would you be one of them?’ Toshizou would have asked. But I wasn’t one to say such things. And so I changed into the clothes that she prepared and went out into the hallway, where I encountered Toshizou. He was wearing his usual clothes.
“The clothes of nobles do not suit me.”
“I agree. Well, some people do dance in military uniforms.”
“Indeed. Still, you are quite courageous, master. Coming out here with that bed hair.”
“Ah, this? Yes, I had been taking a nap.”
“I’m surprised you can sleep while surrounded by enemies.”
“As if you are any different? I can tell by your eyes that you’ve been sleeping too.”
And pretty deeply, by the looks of it.
I chuckled. And then we headed for the castle dining hall together.
The dining hall in Ismalia castle was very big, and could seat about thirty people at once.
I wondered if it would just be us three that ate there. But as we sat down in our seats, I noticed that someone else was coming from the back of the room.
She was dressed like a young noblewoman, and appeared to be around eighteen years of age. She was very pretty. Like a princess.
Count Ismalia introduced her with a look of pride.
“Ah, my daughter. I’m glad you are here. You are as beautiful as ever.”
While I had suspected it, it was still a little surprising to hear it from the count. She did not look like him very much. Perhaps she took after her mother.
I seemed to have looked at her a little too long, as she suddenly looked embarrassed.
“Oh, I feel embarrassed when you look at me like that, Lord Ashtaroth.”
“Forgive me. But you were just so beautiful that I forgot myself.”
“You flatter me.”
She said with a smile.
“I am Jessica. The daughter of Count Ismalia.”
“That’s a beautiful name.”
Jessica smiled as she took a seat, but seemed to glare at the maid for being slow in pulling the chair back. The maid looked very pale and apologized. Clearly this young lady had a strong personality. That said a lot already.
The maid walked away quickly and Jessica smiled again. It was a good smile, but did not feel genuine.
After that, the cooks brought in the food. There was a cold pumpkin soup that was very good.
And then several other dishes were brought out as part of the course. They were all very satisfying, but my hands, which carried the knife and fork, suddenly stopped. This was because Count Ismalia had brought up something that was unrelated to politics.
“By the way, King Ashtaroth. Are you married?”
“Unfortunately, I am not.”
Count Ismalia grinned upon hearing this.
“That’s wonderful. …No, it’s such a waste. Then why don’t you marry my daughter?”
It was said so casually. As if he were a butcher who was suggesting that I buy some sausages. I almost said yes. But, of course, it was not something to answer so lightly.
“I think it’s too early for me to get married. I have only just become a landlord. And my future is uncertain.”
“I don’t know when I will be attacked and destroyed.”
“The same can be said for any lord. However, they all marry and leave children behind.”
“That will be difficult for me.”
“Difficult, or simply irritating?’
Well, he wasn’t wrong. But Ismalia continued.
“How about it? You can take my daughter as your wife and bind the houses of Ismalia and Ashtaroth together forever.”
“I’m grateful for the offer. Please allow me to consider it for a few days.”
“So you cannot marry my daughter.”
“I didn’t say that I cannot.”
I said with a troubled expression. And then Jessica came to my rescue.
“Father, you are troubling Lord Ashta. Please listen to him. This talk can be continued at a different time.”
‘That’s true,’ agreed the count. And the subject was dropped.
The count started to talk about hunting. Apparently, he had killed the great stag whose head now decorated the dining hall. There were a lot of good hunting grounds in the Ismalia territories. And he said that we should go together next time.
Like this, the dinner continued. But I started to feel uncomfortable. While the talk of marriage had ended, Jessica continued to look at me with deep interest. While it was hard to complain that a beautiful woman was looking at you, this woman in particular was not to my liking. When the dinner was over and we headed towards our room, Toshizou said,
“She is a villain. Consider yourself warned. If you are fooled by her beauty, she will tear out your heart with her teeth.”
He had a lot of experience with women, and was very perceptive.
“I’ll remember that.”
I answered, and locked the door. But that night, the woman visited me. Bringing trouble with her.