Chapter 3 - Outing (外出)

From that night, Bertine and Dorothee kept getting reminders that they were in the enemy country.

First of all, it's hard to get food. When they did, it was in an unbelievably small amount, long gotten chilled.

Their dinner that day was a completely cold stew.

Breakfast was lukewarm tea and two dry, round bread loaves.

No one came to clean the room. No tea as refreshments nor hot water to wash face.

The lunch, which was finally delivered around two in the afternoon, was also meager cold, dried stir-fried food.

What's worse was that they didn't stop feeding them. As if saying that they had done the job in the kitchen, and Bertine should be satisfied with that.

Unable to endure it, Bertine, accompanied by Dorothee, confronted the butler in the servant quarters on the noon of the fourth day to improve the situation. Yet the elderly butler only offered back a fake smile and words mingled with feigned politeness.

"We're very sorry about that. I shall personally warn the kitchen. Though, please make sure to watch your behavior. Or else people will laugh at how the empire lady goes to the servants' room in search of food!"

The listening maids nearby chuckled.

Bertine, whose face was red with humiliation and fury, made sure to resolutely raise her face and declared, "Well then," before turning back to their room. Dorothee was shaking in anger, and Bertine couldn't bear the thought that the servants she had brought with her would also have to suffer from hunger and thirst.

"That butler is old enough to have seen the days when the empire was exploiting the southern countries. I'm sure he has plenty of reasons to hate us. Forget him, I'll take care of this myself."

"But we're not from the empire..."

"From their perspective, Centor Empire and Saint-Leuhan Kingdom are the same. Rather, they might hate our country more since we're called the empire's remora(1)."

Bertine took out the currency of her home country from the luggage and called out to the guard standing in front of the door with a smile.

"I'd like to go out and exchange money if that's permitted. I need to buy some food and water myself since we haven't received any proper supplies. Also, please contact Sir Ignacio and tell him I need to talk to him about this treatment."

She made sure to be polite. Antagonizing the guards would only do her no good.

"Food and water? I'm sure there's a misunderstanding..."

"I'll assure you I speak the truth. I will only cause you trouble if I fall ill from hunger, so please let me go outside."

The guards started mumbling excuses, "We didn't know about the situation since we take turns," or, "We're only asked to guard this place."

"Of course, I'm not trying to blame you. I also caused you trouble when I quarreled with His Excellency's fiancee."

Surprisingly, the guards immediately interjected.

"Eh? Fiancee? I don't think..." "If it's Lady Bianca, she's just calling herself that on her own."

And clearly showed their dislike for her.

(I see. That girl isn't his fiancee, huh? But it doesn't matter anymore. His Excellency clearly wants the reparation fee more than me anyway.)

"Does that mean I can go shopping?"

"We will accompany you."

Bertine nodded with a noble lady's textbook smile and nodded. "That's reassuring. Thank you. I'll be under your care."

Of the dozens of languages spoken in the countries of the Allies, Bertine had only learned the official language. Her father believed that they shouldn't look down on the transactions with the Allies, considering their abundant underground resources such as gemstones.

"We can't stand out by doing what everyone else is doing," His father always said. "There's no guarantee that the southern countries won't ever be more powerful than the empire."

That's how Bertine came to learn the language of this country as she was told to do, but now it really came to use.

The carriage was prepared, and the servants Bertine brought with her took the reins, the guards riding on horseback around them. The air outside after being shut inside was especially fresh, the sky clear blue. The change of atmosphere soothed her desolate heart.

"I want to go to the money changer first."

"Then we should head that way. I will guide the way."

"Thank you."

Before long, the guards began to follow Bertine's instructions with no unwillingness. She always had a kind smile on her face, but she had the unique aura of a person of dominance. Perhaps her consciously exuded aura gradually dazzled the guards, whose background seemed to be from commoners.


Cyro, the owner of the money lending and exchange business, quickly assessed Bertine, who entered the store wearing a dress from the empire.

(She clearly dresses like a noble lady from the empire. And one high-ranking noble, even.)

Cyro inwardly grinned at the prospect of getting a good customer. Rubbing his hands together, he welcomed them with his sales smile as amiable as he could pull off and inquired, "How may I help you?"

"I would like to exchange money. Please convert the empire gold coins for this country's silver and copper coins."

Currency converter had its rules and specified rates. Twenty imperial gold coins turned into a small pile of coins on the desk in front of Cyro.

"Also, how much would you be willing to pay me for this jewelry?"

Bertine showed him "The Pigeon Blood", a strikingly red ruby pendant. In the empire, it would be worth thirty large gold coins.

"Hmm. The shade of the ruby isn't the best, so I'll probably go with twenty large gold coins."

'Take the bait!' Cyro glanced at Bertine.

But with a wry smile, she simply acknowledged, "Oh my. It was worth forty large gold coins in the empire, but it became surprisingly cheap here. How unfortunate. Thank you, but I'll look for another store." Her hands were about to reach for the pendant.

"Please don't be hasty. If you need the money urgently, I will pay you twenty-five large gold coins."

"What urgent needs? I just want to buy a beautiful, fancy dress. This was an important gift from my grandmother, so I don't want to sell it cheaply. Though it seems like it wasn't meant to be."

"Then how about thirty large gold coins?"

"Thirty-five. It should be worth that much."


"Thirty-three. I accept no less than that."

The initial hope for easy big money had long disappeared, but Cyro settled for thirty-three. The listening guards behind them were surprised at the exchange and whispered,

"Hey, don't you think she's too used to negotiating? Isn't she the marquess' daughter?"

"Yeah, I was surprised too. And look, she's definitely a good hustler."

Deep down, Dorothee couldn't help smiling to herself.

In their home country, Saint-Leuhan Kingdom, price negotiations were the basics of the basics even for nobles. The small country prospered only through business. Anyone who found the lesson beneath them would soon fall behind others.

Dorothee had seen many negotiations in her life, and she knew that Bertine's bargaining still wasn't as intricate as the experts. Even so, she was satisfied enough that her master was a dependable lady.

Once Bertine placed the large gold coins in exchange for the ruby pendant into her small luxury bag, she left the store. Her next stop was the accessory store. She sold one of her unused embroidered handkerchiefs for four small silver coins, looked around, and bought twenty plain white silk handkerchiefs.

"Let's buy food and water next."

"Miss, we will make sure to warn the kitchen, so..."

The guards again tried to stop her, but she couldn't yield. The guards were all honest men, but the butler was less trustworthy.

"Thank you, guards. But that's fine. I'll buy some and immediately return back," Bertine replied, resisting the urge to say, 'Who knows if they'll add rubbish to our food next time after getting reprimanded!'

The guards had awkward looks on their faces. Bertine once again reassured them that she wasn't blaming them and headed for the grocery store. They then bought food edible with no need for fire and a barrel of water.

Returning to the residence with the guards, Bertine handed them each a small bottle of liquor and offered, "Sorry for taking your time. Have these for your trouble."

"No, we can't take this."

"Nope. I may ask you to accompany me again. Consider it a token of my gratitude."

The guards, nervous at the beauty of Bertine's beam, put the vials in their pockets. "Then we'll receive it. Thank you very much."

The servants coming from Saint-Leuhan were crammed into one room, completely exhausted. Bertine handed them food and water and encouraged them, "I will send you home soon. Please hang in there."

She then returned to her room and heaved a small sigh.

"Now, what should I do next?"

"My Lady. even if the servants return, I will remain. Please give me permission to make sure of your survival in this country. Or else I won't be able to sleep well worrying about you, My Lady."


Bertine was so happy and grateful for Dorothee's words that the tears she had endured for a while streamed down her face. She covered her face with both hands to hide them. She had been acting courageously all this time, but the cold treatment and being starved in this residence had shattered her spirit more than she could have imagined.

"Haa... Why am I crying... I'm still too self-indulged, aren't I? Rather than weeping like this, I should quickly send a letter to my father about His Excellency wanting the reparation fee more than me."

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