Collecting everyone’s dishes after tallying everything up while treating them to curry, things started progressing again.
“We will now announce the results to the tally!”
When Ria, who was holding the high body-temperatured Haku close to warm herself, announced that, the energy among the spectators surged.
“Third place, coming in at 1588 Points! Registration number—52! Team [Arno]’s Snow White Mithledge Castle!”
The audience whooped in loud voices. The loudest of them all were, as expected, the Arno family.
The Mithledge Kingdom’s royal castle was a castle that was headquarters to the magic guild. Other countries’ were no match to its mystique. Voices of admiration and agreement arose from various places amongst the crowd towards the elaborately fine-detailed sculpture.
Then, making use of the timing so as to not break the venue’s tension, Ria raised her voice:
“Continuing on, second place!”
Everyone’s applause gradually ceased.
All that could be heard were the whispers of various people in mute excitement.
As though to build suspense, Ria swept her eyes across the audience before continuing to read aloud.
“This one acquired 1590 Points!”
Everyone let out sounds of astonishment and surprise at the narrow 2 Point margin.
The Arno family’s head even crumpled down and raised his voice, almost in a screech. The prize for third place was ten thousand, but since second place would receive fifty thousand, his response was understandable. Those around him looked sympathetic.
“Registration number—8! Team [Ash Bridge]’s Lottévester Three Goddesses!”
“”” Oooh! “””
Applause erupted throughout the the plaza, shouts of joy loud enough to send tremors through the ground breaking out. The owner of the inn [Ash Bridge] was being jostled by his mistress, who was jumping up and down in delight.
Lottévester’s three goddesses were anthropomorphizations of the three world trees that the Lottévester faith revered. These weren’t depicted according to moe culture of course, they were all anthromorphized as according to the mythology, like volcanoes and fate personified.
“And now, first place…!”
Hearing Ria’s voice, the plaza quickly quieted down.
Using that absolute silence—
“—Before that, let me present the special prize winners to everyone~!”
Some of the spectators fell over like it was a comedy skit.
It didn’t look like anyone was actually upset, rather, it appeared everyone was excited at the announcer’s skilled control of the event. Calm smiles spread through the plaza.
The only people that knew what the special prizes were were the people on the platform and those backstage.
The only reason people were able to be this calm was probably because they had only been told that it wasn’t money.
“First, the modeling division! Euripedes-san, please come forward!”
Euripedes, a stern-looking dwarf with a stocky build and a beard, stood up and accepted the microphone from Rachelle.
He backed away as though flinching from everyone’s stares, but managed to endure it with his pride as a man. Was this the fate of a true artisan that didn’t tend to stand up in front of people?
“My choice is the work tha’ showed the most attention to shaping it…”
He glanced down at the cheat sheet held in his hand, reading out loud—
“Registration number 102. Title, Beloved Horse.”
Hearing that, a stir spread through the audience. The entry he had read out didn’t particularly shine, but it wasn’t like it didn’t hold a certain charm to those that looked at it either.
The youth that had made it didn’t understand why his entry was picked either, simply looking around as though stunned.
“Euripedes-san, please comment on your choice.”
Receiving Ilya’s glance, Ria nodded and urged Euripedes to continue.
“There are many diverse kinds of craftsmen… Among the various methods used, I feel that they all share one thing in common, and that is that a great willpower endows the things that are made. For swords, that willpower is used to make them sharp and unyielding… For buildings, it is painstakingly used to ensure the safety of the people that reside in them. For statues, it is to bestow them life.”
Euripede’s voice was quiet, yet it still seemed to reach every last person in the plaza.
“… True, this work is not as elaborate as the two before it. However, it holds a love that wouldn’t lose to any other work and I could feel a breath of life stronger than all of the rest coming from it. That is why I, as a sculptor, chose this as the best entry… That’s all.”
Euripedes, who had realized that he was being uncharacteristically talkative for himself, ended his explanation and placed the mic onto the table in embarrassment.
“Euripedes-san, thank you for your words! As the grand prize from the modeling division, the sculptor of Beloved Horse, Belmadi-san, will receive…! Lunéville’s symbol—”
Saying that, Ria held Haku up in the air.
There was gentle laughter and applause. An indescribably warm atmosphere wrapped the plaza.
Lunéville’s symbol wasn’t Haku, of course. It was simply a story of Ria getting carried away and asking Euripedes to sculpt something, who had then chose Haku.
Still, since the dragon god was actually something worshiped here and there, the sculpture of Haku, who may become the future family head, might carry some divine favor.
While thinking about trivial worries like that, Ilya went to Belmadi, who was holding Haku’s statue.
“Please value it.”
Blushing, the young man bent his waist at a ninety degree angle.
Ilya was relieved that he wasn’t someone that would do something like viewing it as trash and throwing it away.
“Continuing on, the appraiser division! Amabell-san, please step up!”
Amabell’s answer didn’t seem that enthused. All of the staff understood that she wasn’t the type of person to stand in front of others. It was mostly due to being forced to stand in front of everyone because she held sway in her division that her mood was like this.
There was another cause for her tenseness, but we’ll leave that out.
“… The work that felt the most excellent to me as an appraiser was registration number 81’s… Yeti’s Shield.”
“”” ? “””
Not entirely able to understand the meaning of her words, everyone tilted their heads to the side.
The entry for registration number 81, Yeti, was made by team [Blue Sword]. It was a snow sculpture that looked (somewhat) like a warrior that held a sword in one hand an a shield in the other, clad in armor. Although the armor and arms came out good because they were familiar with maintenance and repairs and the like, the person came out like a haniwa. 
Her announcement made it feel like she was targeting the assessment of the shield rather than the whole thing as a sculpture.
“A-Amabell-san, please explain?”
“… To be frank, I do not understand snow sculptures well enough to evaluate it as an appraiser. Therefore, I chose it based on its value. That is all.”
Not just Ria, but several people turned towards Ilya for rescue. Ilya encouraged Amabell to explain a little further.
“Amabell-san, please teach us your basis of evaluation.”
“Basis…? My basis of evaluation was how much it contained the nature of fine snow. That shield isn’t just fine snow, but also more at equilibrium with itself than any of the others.”
Probably, the only people who could agree to her words were those that held the [Appraisal] skill like Ilya and could confirm it themselves.
Even among those that had the skill, because it was strengthened by symbolization—the shield took the same shape as a hexagonal snow crystal—almost no one knew that that shape was more deeply related to snow than the elements that symbolized it, water and wind.
She hadn’t made the evaluation based on the snow sculpture’s commercial value, but as something that paid attention to the snow that composed it as a snow sculpture. It appeared that it could be said that Amabell was always paying attention to raw materials as an appraiser.
Having decided to think of it as that, Ilya looked back at Ria and prompted her to move forward.
“Ah, umm… well, as the appraisal division’s grand prize, team [Blue Sword] will receive a rare metal ingot, as well as a set of materials for high-grade restorative medicine!”
When Ilya went to Fidel with two bags in her hands, he took a look at them and smiled wryly.
“I never thought he’d receive something like this… at any rate, it will be great as long as we process them.”
“Appraisers are people focused on materials after all.”
She handed the prize to him with a carefree smile. Not worrying about the small things seemed to be part of the town’s festival.
At any rate, there were still two special prizes to go.
“Next on the list, the branch vice manager for the branch division…”
Ria’s enthusiasm had obviously tanked.
“(Ria, mixing personal and work matters is no good.)”
Ria’s puffed out cheeks looked adorable. It was adorable, but Ilya had to harden her heart here.
“(You shouldn’t give him an opportunity to take advantage of. If you do, make sure he doesn’t notice, alright?)”
Ria nodded proudly. The black cat beastkin looked like she was on a hunt.
Ilya decided to think of it like that, at least.
“Branch vice manager, please make your announcement.”
She bowed exaggeratedly, her head hanging in her heart.
“Hmph… Then, I’ll give my pick. The work that I chose is registration number 90’s God Rattle—”
“Congratulations, registration number 90! The team that made God Rattle, [Quiver’s Branches], will be awarded with a one month’s supply of meal tickets from the branch division!”
- Look here for more information on what haniwa are: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haniwa Return