She may be blind, but Princess Sersiarin was scanning the banquet hall nonetheless.
He’s not here. She sighed, obviously dissatisfied. Joshua. She couldn’t feel his energy.
That time five years ago had left a strong impression on her. No one had made her feel that way again, and she was eager to see—to feel—him again. Sersiarin wanted to know what that sensation was.
“It’s been three years…”
“Yes? Sersiarin, did you say something?”
“Oh, it’s nothing, brother.” Sersiarin shook her head, offering Prince Kiser a small smile.
“Alright.” Kiser went back to looking over the crowd; soon, his face brightened.
“Young Lady Charles.” He strode down the steps with a smile.
Princess Sersiarin’s expression, however, was beginning to darken.
“I thought I’d see you again once I was out of Hwahwa Palace…”
Three years ago, the Emperor had freed her from her ten years of protective imprisonment in Hwahwa Palace for unknown reasons. Having spent most of her life in that palace, Sersiarin was happy to have this little freedom; she thought she’d be able to learn about all the important people and events.
The men watched her sigh again.
“Rumor had it she is one of the most beautiful women in the Empire—ever. It seems it was no joke.”
“Would it be so easy to be called one of the most beautiful women in the Empire? If Young Lady Charles is a beauty with hidden thorns, the Princess is like an untouched white lily.”
“I want that woman, rather than Young Lady Charles.”
“Wake up, you’re the second son of a Count. The difference between you is like heaven and earth—She’s a princess, for goodness’ sake.”
Sersiarin was, without a doubt, incredibly beautiful: blonde hair, black eyes, pristine white skin, and strong features. Every gesture was imbued with nobility, and she did it all with a lovely smile gracing her lips.
Her only flaw was her sickness, her frail aura—but many men found that appealing, too.
“Hey, be quiet! The prince might hear you.”
The men saw Prince Kiser coming in their direction and hastily shut their mouths.
“Young Lady Charles.” The Prince smiled warmly.
“I greet thee, Prince Kiser von Britten.”
“Thank you for the warm welcome; but please, don’t be so stiff.” His smile widened.
“It’s… not like that.” Charles shook her head, bewildered.
“So, you don’t want to see me?”
“This is the first time I’ve seen you since my birthday three years ago.”
“Ah.” She flushed with embarrassment. “I’m truly sorry—I should have come and represented my family.”
“I’m well aware of your family circumstances.” The Prince shook his head. “Don’t worry.”
“I mean… I really wanted to see you. So, will you dance with me?”
The people around them were dumbfounded; they couldn’t hear much, even though they were nearly silent, but the Prince’s gestures were unambiguous.
“Did the Prince just ask her to dance?” Natasha mumbled, her face twisting into an amused smile.
“Is it that stupid rule that whoever stands out most dances with the Prince?”
“He’s the Prince, he can do whatever he wants.”
“Maybe he doesn’t know? I mean, how can he dance with Young Lady Charles if he knew her family’s situation?”
“She’s practically from a peasant family.”
“Oh my. Stop being so cruel.”
Envy and jealousy bore down on Charles, particularly from the women.
The woman herself was equally astounded; the Prince certainly knew, so why did he offer her that welcoming smile? If she took his hand, she’d provoke everyone. Her family couldn’t risk that.
“Please accept my apologies. I’m not sure I can dance with the Prince.”
“Why?” Prince Kiser seemed confused.
Wasn’t this something every woman here desires? To take his hand in theirs? He was the First Prince of Avalon, heir apparent to the most powerful man in the Empire.
What he didn’t realize was that his position was poison in this situation. Kiser was used to doing as he pleased; he had no inkling of the nuanced feuds between nobles.
Or more accurately, he simply didn’t care. As far as he was concerned, asking Charles for a dance was just that.
“Is something bothering you?” Kiser’s smile was turning stiff.
“It’s nothing…” Charles fumbled for words.
“Is she refusing the Prince’s hand?”
“Is that really possible? Her family is out of power, and yet she dares?”
“She seems oblivious.” Natasha cackled.
“Hm? What do you mean, Natasha?”
Natasha thrust her chin towards Charles.
“How dare the future maid of the Crombell house dance with the Prince, anyways?”
“Oh my goodness, is that true?” The other women laughed.
“How does that sound, Master Gehog?”
“Not bad for a trophy.”
Prince Kiser was getting more and more irate, but Charles could only clutch her skirt helplessly as the sound of laughter washed over her.
I don’t know how to respond…
“She already has a partner, I’m afraid.”
“It’s an honor to meet you.” The man had picture perfect etiquette. “I am Baron Joshua Sanders.”
The room fell dead silent, allowing Joshua’s pleasant voice to fill the air.
This room was made specifically for Marcus—it wasn’t somewhere he’d normally receive a visitor.
“I’m curious to see how they react when they find out you’ve returned after almost five years.” He chuckled. “I think this is the first time we’ve seen each other face-to-face. What a wonderful meeting—if we can’t take over the Swallow Empire, is it so bad to be a Duke of Avalon?” Emperor Marcus leaned in close to the man on the other side of the curtain. “It’s only a matter of time before you being there causes a war. Anyways, our plan has been delayed by ten years due to unforeseen circumstances.”
The other man rose to his feet, setting his green hair aflutter.
“If you trust us, we will deliver satisfactory results,” he said, his green eyes glowing.
Marcus’s lips curled into a thin smile.
“Now I’m looking forward to it, Draxia belle Grace.”
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