Those who were participating in the card game rushed like some master in martial arts, and turned Nedo’s card upside down. As he said, behind Nedo’s card was a black card they called Noir.
“A Noir card! Nedo, how can this happen? How can you fool us by overlapping your cards?”
All the participants, including Ferrington and the blonde nobleman, fired arrows of criticism at Nedo in unison.
Ned was also embarrassed with his reddened face, and he came to his senses by the familiar voice pouring into his ears. In front of his eyes, Tashian was staring at him madly with trembling violet-like eyes with a woman in his arms.
“Oh, how far should I say about it…? Anyway, you seem to attract attention wherever you go.”
Aigoo, that stings…
Ikshid muttered insinuatingly, as he was conscious of the attention being poured down towards the three of them.
The focus has finally changed.
Nedo shouted that this game was invalid with a flushed face and with his ears wide open. Others drove him to the bottom, saying it was not possible. Nedo, who had no choice, had to drink a strong cognac as a penalty. The game then continued again.
“… Do you want to try for once?”
Tashian winked at the Blanche card, which was left alone in the empty spot, and suggested it to her. As soon as Eun-woo was about to nod with a pounding heart, a very familiar voice came from somewhere.
“No, who is this? My dear sister is here!”
From far away, a crown prince was flapping his golden cape and approached them.
When she saw Tashian’s expression, which recognized the owner of the voice like her, rotted in an instant, she contemplated in return, and tapped his arm. At the same time, she experienced the irony of feeling strange disappointment at the appearance of the imperial prince returning to Ikshid she knew.
“His Highness, the Crown Prince!”
“I see the next sun of the empire.”
People who were playing card games next to them all stood up and showed courtesy to Ikshid. When he was about to receive their greetings, he beckoned them to sit back, and Tashian and Eun-woo approached right in front of them.
Tashian was more relaxed now, than when he first discovered Ikshid was approaching them, but he still gave him a light silence with a look that he was not very pleased by his appearance. It was such a rude attitude that she wondered if he could do this in front of the crown prince. Eun-woo quickly followed him and posted an example of the imperial family he had seen earlier.
Ikshid looked satisfied with her violet-colored dress.
“As expected, that dress looks very good on you.”
The dress was the real gift of Ikshid, which was laid under the golden dress he gave to the Duke and her previously to tease her.
“It’s all thanks to Your Highness. I didn’t realize that you were such a well-informed person.”
“Haha, I mean, I almost didn’t recognize the duke. I saw you from afar earlier, but I didn’t know that the Duke was someone who could make such a bright face like a sunflower, Lord, no matter how much you like your partner, stop being a sloppy person.”
“It’s a shame that you’re still healthy, too. How come you never get sick?”
Eun-woo, who was listening to their conversation, had no words to say.
Why can these people be so consistent both in public and in private?
Ikshid noticed what was behind them and sighed when he found a Blanche card in the hands of a group of nobles standing from him at a distance.
“Haa…! The two of you leisurely enjoyed it as you two played the game of blanche, leaving me alone in the midst of those boring officials.”
“If I could have done that, it would have been a great joy, but just as I was about to start the game, I was interrupted by an unexpected surprise.”
“That means, the owner of this body was in the way?”
“I didn’t say anything.”
Tashian’s face, which seemed to return to its usual expression for a while, was about to become dark again.
Eun-woo changed the subject with a bright voice in order not to produce another scene that she watched countless times during refreshments they had.
“Now, what a nice banquet! I don’t know if the both of you are enjoying it!”
“Enjoy, my ass! I’m so tired of dealing with the nobles holding glasses and sticking together. There were a lot of people asking me to do this and that when I was about to sit in the chair silently.”
Ikshid grumbled, sipping the glass he was holding in his hand.
Eun-woo recalled that he had been surrounded by numerous aristocratic groups since earlier. They were politicians who followed the prince like baby birds with their beaks open and tight.
“I spent a lot of time looking for you to avoid my stops. If our Duke was quiet at this banquet, don’t you hate it? Therefore, if I go around the bare corner of the venue, I will meet the Duke, but no matter how much I toured around today, I couldn’t find you two. Finally, Tashian, I wondered if you had left your seat in the middle of the banquet and left, so I asked the servant to look for you. What the hell, you were right in the middle of the hall!”
In fact, it was a lie that Tashian and Miller’s sister were difficult to find. Far from being difficult to find, it was Duke Verk who was always at the center of attention. At times, there was a certain degree of strange jealousy towards the Duke, who seemed to be getting more attention than the Crown Prince himself.
Previously, when he looked around the hall to find them, he could easily spot a group of people ‘watching’ two people watching the Blanche game.
‘Look at this? It’s crowded because we’re only in one place.’
Ikshid glanced around with sharp golden eyes.
A group of people, who could not be compared before, were closely watching them, pretending that they were idling around.
They were cleverly covering their eyes with a fan or a glass as if not wanting to stand out from others, but Ikshid could feel their keen curiosity and interest around the faces of certain people, as they touched the surface of their skin with a sharp sense.
The same goes to Tashian, a person who oddly developed five senses.
This was also due to his inevitable position.
The Duke of Verk was the most traditional aristocratic family in Hellasium. Among the numerous noble families in Hellasium, he was the only descendant of the imperial family that had the right to succession, even though it was only a formality.
The duke has been the object of envy and has had the respect of the people for more than centuries since the birth of the empire. However, among the previous dukes, the current dukes’, and Tashian Verk’s positions were quite different in size and volume.
After being crowned on behalf of Reinhardt, the half-brother who was elected as the successor after the previous duke who died at the age of 17, Tashian Verk was called the emperor’s black sword and worked hard all over the continent as the head of the Imperial Order. People said in unison that he was truly the birth of war god.
His great reputation showed, when the pattern of the black spruce tree symbolizing the Duke, appears on the battlefield, the enemies quickly lose their fighting spirit and run away in confusion.
‘Rumor has it that even the defeated soldiers of the defeated country respected him and dyed their flags dark purple symbolizing the Duke to ask for protection?’
Ikshid’s golden eyes were fierce and stared at his servant, who was called a war hero.
The war in which the Duke participated recorded an overwhelming winning rate of 100 wins. The public praised him as a living legend in the history of the empire.
But Ikshid knew what was hidden behind Tashian’s unusual popularity.
In fact, the forces supporting the Duke of Tashian Verk were not bloodlines with higher authority than the aristocracy, but commoners and lower-class people, or status launderers with such a past. It was because he was an illegitimate son of a prostitute from the poor.
Even though he made the greatest contribution to this war, it also made the same sense that he could not mention his name, the leader, when giving a congratulatory message to the Knights earlier.
Ikshid got wrinkles in his forehead, recalling the memory of struggling with the senate for days for ridiculous reasons.
〈”Don’t forget that his mother, who was a brothel singer, was born in Genova, the enemy country!” 〉
〈“The only difference is that it was already too far-fetched to just entrust a man who inherited the blood of a lowly prostitute to the great post of commander-in-chief!” 〉
〈”On behalf of the whole elders, I request that Duke Verk be banned from attending this victory commemoration banquet!”〉
The old men of the Senate rushed eagerly to disparage the obvious merit of the duke, based on his veins.
Ikshid looked at them, who seemed to be weaving together, but gathered their mouths and sang together. No, to be exact, he stared at the head of the Senior Citizens’ Association, Reinhardt, who was sure to have a light smile as always behind him.
‘It’s hard to understand… No matter how different the background is, isn’t Tashian a legitimate successor recognized by the family, who went in to fill the vacancy after being elected as an heir?’
However, Reinhardt’s feelings toward Tashian Verk were vicious enough to see Ikshid as a third party. In response to the chief’s hatred toward Tashian, Ikshid always had to feel his endless ignorance.
‘Why in the world is that ‘heir’, who was always restless because he can’t bring down his brother who is only a substitute for him in front of the imperial officials?’
As it is said to be a speculation towards the one who sat in the position that would have belonged to him originally, he himself was the heir who was said to have higher authority than the emperor.
They were strange brothers who could not find an answer even if they thought about it this way, and thought about it.
“I knew you’d come here.”
Tashian snorted and answered.
“For aristocrats who have grown up precious in their Residence all their lives, wild animals trapped in cages seem to be amazing.”
“Don’t disparage yourself too much. Some of them have sweet eyes on you with admiration’s feelings.”
This has been referring to a group of young women who have been glancing and unable to draw attention from the duke.
Most people will look at the Duke as usual, who was only a replacement for the former Archduke Reinhardt, out of curiosity, but among them, there were some people who tried to approach him with a human affinity for him, as Ikshid said.
Of course, it was a separate problem that they were all frightened by the dark face of the Duke and couldn’t even talk properly.
“I don’t need that kind of gaze.”
Sure enough, Tashian responded straight away with a tone of annoyance. Ikshid shook his head and clenched his fist.
“This human with that dirty temper! That is why you haven’t been able to get married.”
“You’re talking about yourself.”
“Hey, Lord. Aren’t you going to say anything to the Prince you serve? You’ll have to break that habit.”
“Then Your Highness should say something that makes sense, don’t you agree? It’s only the servants who bow like a puppet at the words of His Highness.”
Tashian, who was answering coldly, suddenly closed his mouth to the mild pain on his arm. Looking down, as expected, Eleanor was pinching his one arm with her index finger and thumb.
Eun-woo looked at the two men who chatted affectionately as usual even with the eyes of people with a feeling of doubt and dumbstruckness. Having endured the desire to yell at them to stop this childish verbal fight right now, she replaced it by pinching Tashian’s arm.
She got angry with a voice that seemed to be heard or not.
“Both of you, please stop! Aren’t you embarrassed to see other grown-ups?”
“Eleanor, what did I do…”
Eun-woo eventually screamed even though it was light.
However, it was the prince, not the duke, who seemed to be shocked by it.
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For the first time in his life, Ikshid revealed his shocked expression on the surface of his face.
No, right now… Did the duke just get pinched?