I could feel his protruding bones. Before I knew it, when had his hands grown so big I could not hold them in their entirety with just one hand? It felt strange.
When I raised my head, the young man who was all grown up stood in front of me.
‘When did he grow so big?’
It was strange. Or was I too short? Dane used to be of similar size and in just two years, I was already looking up at him.
‘Would I have grown more if I had not died?’
I thought of the path I could not take. Dane stared at me and smiled bitterly.
“I’m always worried about you.”
His smile was as beautiful as the sight of the prettiest autumn leaves falling on the ground. His dark and murky gaze fell on my cheek. He looked reproached.
“You always looked at what was ahead of you and never bothered to see who’s behind or beside you.”
His sombre gaze disappeared from his red eyes before a warm and cozy one filled its place.
Dane smiled as sweet as the blooming spring, just as usual.
“I’m standing behind you, Ashley.”
His scarlet eyes that slowly opened reminded me of the warmth of a fireplace and his arms were solid and firm as a knight’s.
Dane let go of my arm and lowered his gaze.
“For your first party, I wish you the best.”
“Your lady-in-waiting, she has done an amazing job. Enough to deserve praise.”
That was quite a compliment from Fleon who had always been strict on manners and etiquette. Right. I was happy and relieved that my brother thought well of my lady-in-waiting but apart from that, I thought it was strange how he came to my palace everyday.
… Really, was he fired?
“Come on, brother. Just be honest with me? Are you being ostracised?”
“I thought you’d go through this one day considering your personality, brother. But running away does you no good. Ack.”
“I thought you’ve become more calm but you’re talking nonsense again, aren’t you?”
“Ack. Ack. Ha! Then why do you keep coming to my palace?”
My head was already in a mess with tomorrow’s tea party and now even this brother of mine was worrying me. Although he had become somewhat closer to being a mature adult, he still retained his personality.
“You’re going to the tea party, right?”
“Then where else am I going? Why is everybody asking?”
He was still as uptight as ever as he played the devil’s advocate with his words. He did not look like he regretted saying that.
He was the most worthy of being part of the Imperial family. That was why sometimes I got caught up in the illusion that I had an immature second generation mogul as a brother whenever I looked at him.
“Enough. I mean, what is there to be enough of!!”
“You shocked me. Why are you yelling? Why are you going back and forth all by yourself? Do you have a headache?”
Fleon narrowed his eyes at me and before I could say anything, he squeezed my cheek even tighter.
“You. Why on earth? Why are you suddenly going to a tea party? Huh? Even if you don’t go to such a party, either that man or I will be able to take care of you. Yeah?”
“Who’s taking care of who? Will you just let it go?”
Fleon leaned forward and made deep eye contact with me as he shook my cheek.
“It’s not too late! No tea time for you!”
“Urgh, Ow, ha! Can’t you let go? What do you mean? How can I suddenly not go?”
“You’re so stubborn!”
“Who’s saying what now?”
As I removed his hand from me and glanced to my side, I could feel a long breath grazing my forehead.
“Ha… How strange. No matter where I look, you still look stupid. It seems like only your appearance has changed.”
The voice that was murmuring exhaustedly made me tense up. And soon my smile faltered.
Damn. Now I was crazy enough to be relieved just by hearing voice.
“Don’t worry. Nothing you’re worried about will happen, Fleon.”
“W-who cares about ugly people like you?”
Covering his face, he stuttered with a trembling voice.
“Rather, I feel sorry for Honestus for having to see that ugly face.”
“Seriously, as you get older, you still have a bad habit of speaking like that. You’re a piece of crap. You say and do everything you want. What a comfortable life you lead.”
“Ha. Is that so?”
He snorted as if I was being ridiculous and grinned. But for a moment his expression fell unknowingly. I placed my hand on my forehead. He really was extremely arrogant and proud, almost bordering on zero empathy.
“You know my mother is a candidate for ‘Vulcanus’, right??”
As he stared at me rubbing my forehead, he asked nonchalantly.
“I do. So?”
He did not look the least bit sorry.
‘He looks like a gangster. An absolute gangster.’
I glanced at him nonchalantly before sighing softly. It had been a long time since I had given up on his temper. Yeah, there were some people in this world that never change.
“Desn’t it look like I have a lot of money to burn?”
“That’s it. I know even if you didn’t explain.”
“No, you really don’t.”
Vulcanus, the 8th God was the God of Blacksmiths and Minerals. As his title suggested, he protected blacksmiths and lands blessed by him contained numerous veins of minerals. Therefore, he was immeasurably rich.
He was able to walk around doing whatever he wanted because had the abundance of resources and the ability to craft as well as manufacture gold, diamonds, rubies and sapphires.
However, it was a very secluded place that had no interest in politics.
Fleon spat out after chewing on his words gently.
“You have to take responsibility. This darned chick.”
“… Did you just propose?”
I could not see myself but my face must have been as wrinkled as Fleon’s.
“Did I? Are you crazy??”
“Didn’t you just do that?”
“My ideal type is someone bigger and curvier! And she’s someone who’s a lot friendlier than you, you know?”
“Who do you like again?”
“Ha, how daring. Hey, which crazy bastard will accept you? No, that’s not it. You can’t let a bastard take you! Fuck, you should just hurry and get married!”
I did not hide my ridicule.
“When I haven’t had my coming-of-age yet?”
“Even with the cracked look of yours?”
“I don’t need another person. Did I ask? And it’s ultimately up to me? You’re saying a lot of weird things today.”
I could not hold it in anymore nearing the end and raised my voice.
“I mean, you don’t have to force yourself to face things you don’t like!”
After losing myself in what I said, when I stared at him again, my brother who was much larger than me stood right in front of me.
“This darned chick! Now that I think about it, look at you pecking like that. You have nothing to be proud of!’
With my mouth slightly agape, I looked up at him.
“I don’t spend money on myself! But for you, it’s not a waste. Did you have to say that? I have a disgusting amount of money.”
I only knew his mother’s family name but other than that, I did not pay much attention to them. I just vaguely knew that they were rich. This was the first time in years he was admitting how much money he had in person.
When we were younger, he would proudly brag about how his maternal grandfather was wealthy and ask me what I wanted but he no longer bragged.
He closed his eyes as if he was lost in thought but then he opened them. I watched silently for Fleon to say something else.
“Well, have you seen another prince living as comfortably as me?’
He was self reliant.
“What a comfortable bastard.”
I could not help but to say something in response.
I shut my mouth at the piercing sound that scratched my eardrums. When I turned my head around, there were fragments of pieces of ceramic and a flustered maid.
Lena, who had once been scolded harshly by my brother, was now extremely afraid of him.
“What. How dare you break such a precious teacup?”
The warmth of the atmosphere quickly subsided. Fleon pulled on the collar of his white shirt as he smiled pitifully with a bored look on his face. This was not a good opponent to be facing.
‘It would have been better if it had been Dane or me.’
Annoyance and anger was directed towards Lena whose young eyes trembled. He smiled cooly and sneazily before raising his head.
“Look here, you.”
Before I could say anything, Fleon pointed at the floor and ordered monotonous.
“What’s a sinner doing just standing there? Kneel.”
Lena sat on her knees and as soon as she fell on the ground, she lowered her back. Lena shook her head at Fleon’s finger. I jumped to my feet before opening and closing my mouth in a hurry.
“Well. You didn’t do anything. Honestly, you won’t do this in the future either. You won’t do anything at all.”
Fleon lowered his gaze arrogantly as he rubbed the back of his neck slowly.
“If I hit this damn maid, you’ll be mad. Right?’
Smiling softly, he then raised his chin proudly.
“Try blaming me again this time round. Why are you covering a mere maid while blaming me for being a bad person?”
“… I didn’t.”
It was just a year ago where I had been on the other side of his intense anger after blindly covering for a maid.
It was the day I ate outdoors with Fleon and Dane.
“Make me prettier than I usually look.”
The day I wore a bright dress even after Fleon had threatened me not to. The dress I was wearing that day had special pins to prevent moths from eating the cloth but my maid who had been working for five years had forgotten to remove them. I had been pierced in the middle of our meal. Because the dress was white when Fleon noticed the bloodstained dress, he had turned the entire Terena palace upside down.
“I knew it! It’s because all of you are so lazy, something like this happened!”
Fleon was the one who said that, already knowing how close I was to the maids.
Frankly, his anger was valid and I understood where he was coming from. Because of my wound, he threw up years’ worth of anger. As if something in his head snapped, he ran amok, leaving me who did not behave like other nobles’ would in that situation behind.
I raised my hand gently.
“I know. It’s Lena’s fault so stop it. Alright? I’ll scold her later.”
Fleon snorted before speaking.
“My chick always said that. Don’t you think so?”
As he tilted his head, he raised his head and directed his arrogant gaze towards me. His voice, after passing puberty, had become low and elegant. He leaned on his arm against the table before smirking at me. Then, he turned his gaze away from me and headed towards Rebecca.
“Did you see that, lady-in-waiting? I mean, dame of Aventa. Your mistress is too soft.”
Rebecca nodded her head lightly.
“Remember. I’ll kill you if you let out the slightest of curses in that party.”
I blinked before putting a mysterious expression on my face.
“… I’ll keep that in mind. My prince.”
He was aiming for this from the start?
: I noticed that in my last few chapters, my ‘Imperial’ was not capitalised. It’s supposed to be by the way. I’ll make sure it’s consistent in the future! Hehe.