Valia’s exclusive designer was not a top-notch designer in the current Gel capital. If Valia had commissioned a dress from designers who had many nobles as their regular customers, rumors would have spread.
Though Fleur’s most important customer was Valia, she would beat around the bush whenever the nobles secretly asked about Marchioness Garth.
‘Everyone can’t take their eyes off Valia.’
If there was anyone who had fun due to Valia, it was definitely Diana. She entered early and was chatting with nobles whom she knew well. The nobles who spoke with Diana also showed interest in Valia but Diana only feigned ignorance and just changed the subject. She was going to talk to Valia as late as possible. As Valia would enter the hall with Schuden, it would be hectic if the nobles used Diana as a bridge to talk to Valia.
‘It will also be fun to see them surprised.’
When everyone saw how Schuden could not take his eyes off of Valia, they would get flustered. Diana smiled like a prankster. It was not long before her dream would come true.
“Don’t you think that His Grace seems a little different today…?”
“…I know, right? I thought I had a problem with my eyes.”
It was as Diana had expected. Schuden’s gaze was fixed on Valia, and the nobles began to doubt their eyes. Every time they looked at the couple, he was staring at her. Of course, Valia also often looked at Schuden, but sometimes she looked around the banquet hall as well.
Even then, Schuden was looking at Valia. As if he could not take his eyes off her.
Among the nobles who doubted their eyes, there were also ladies who had a secret crush on Schuden. After all, Marquess Garth was a man who had a decadent yet elegant appearance and unbelievable power.
Indeed, many women had loved him but no one had ever received a confession from Schuden. It was the same even with the women who were able to date him briefly. Even after recalling their memories, no one could find even half of the smile that Schuden showed to Valia.
I have to somehow talk to Marchioness Garth today.
It was a thought that passed through the heads of the nobles in the hall. But who would be the one to talk to her first?’
There were implicit rules in Gel’s high society. It was considered disrespectful for a noble of lower rank to speak first to a noble who had just entered the banquet. The only nobles who could speak to the Marquess and Marchioness Garth right away were Duke and Duchess Billiam. However, Duke Billiam was away from the capital on business and Duchess Billiam was absent from the banquet due to her health. Many nobles just gave side-glances while waiting for the right amount of time to pass.
“Long time no see, Marquess Garth.”
“Isn’t this the first time we’ve met since the wedding, Gusto?”
Some unexpected people spoke to Schuden. The eyes of the nobles who glanced at them widened in surprise, but the one who received the greeting, Schuden, had a calm face.
“I guess my hearing is getting worse. Both of you entered the hall but I didn’t even hear the trumpet sound.”
“Hahaha, take it easy. Your hearing is just fine, Marquess.”
“That’s right. Gusto told them not to blow the trumpet. He said that he didn’t want to ruin the banquet’s mood.”
“Is that so?”
Schuden nodded his head indifferently. Valia looked at the two men who were standing in front of her. As if they were of unusual status, their attires were rare and they had three attendants each. Only the Imperial household could bring their personal attendants to the Imperial banquet. And the talk about the sound of the trumpet was also a clue. These men in front of her were of Imperial household.
“Anyway, it’s been a while, First Prince and Second Prince.”
After receiving Schuden’s greeting, the two Princes turned their gaze to Valia. At a banquet, it was a rule not to even greet a person of a higher rank until said person spoke first, so she just stood quietly until then.
“So, you’re Marchioness Garth.”
“It’s nice to see you here.”
Valia lightly bowed her head. Even without the attendants and trumpet sound, she already knew them.
“It’s an honor to meet you, First Prince and Second Prince.”
One of the Princes was Yeri’s husband and the other was the man who killed Yeri. he was also the man who killed Valia.
First Prince Gusto and Second Prince Elvan.
Valia looked at the two Princes. At this time, their relationship did not seem so bad. But Valia knew the future. The two most likely successors to the throne–Their relationship had drastically collapsed after Yeri came, to be precise, it was when Yeri chose one of them.
After a fierce battle, Elvan lost the battle for the throne and Gusto became Crown Prince. As such, Elvan loathed Gusto. Valia vaguely speculated that he must have mixed political issues with emotional issues.
Elvan immediately became an eyesore. It was common to eliminate half-siblings in the Imperial family, so for the Imperial household who had been defeated in the battle for the throne, their ending was obvious. If Gusto had become Emperor as he was, Elvan would have been dead.
‘That was probably the reason he rose in rebellion.’
Valia did not know the details of the rebellion that Elvan had caused. It was a matter of course. At that time, Valia was in Yeri’s palace. As her escort lady-in-waiting, the information available to her was limited. The same goes for the many attendants and ladies-in-waiting who lost their lives in Yeri’s palace. They died without knowing why or what caused them to die.
The only difference was Valia. She knew a little more about why Yeri had to die. Because it was Valia herself who remained by her side until the end.
‘I thought it would be scary to meet him again.’
Valia was facing the man who stabbed a sword in her stomach but she was not as nervous as she expected. The current Elvan and the Elvan at that time were like different people.
“Marchioness Garth, it’s a late greeting, but congratulations on your marriage. I heard you had the second wedding.”
“Thank you, Second Prince.”
“It was the first time in my life that I regret being a Prince. I only sent gifts with Elvan. I don’t know if you like it.”
“I received the gifts from the two of you. Thank you for your consideration.”
Valia answered calmly. Gusto was not the only one who subtly saw Schuden in her appearance. Their reactions were strangely similar in the aspect of being respectful but not affectionate. Such a type of person was the most difficult to be won over.
‘She won’t be easy either.’
Although it was an unexpectedly rugged mountain, the fact that they could not be given up remained unchanged.
‘Marquess Garth has been looking at her like that since earlier.’
Throughout the short conversation, Schuden was looking at Valia. He did not even try to hide his gaze. Thanks to that, Gusto had to choose his words carefully before bringing them out. The same probably went for Elvan. Gusto changed the topic while thinking about how to win Valia’s favor.
“By the way, Marquess Garth, I heard that Marquess Logan will take over the ceremony of this delegation. Is that true?”
“Yes. His Imperial Majesty has ordered that an official of the Marquess title be in charge of the ceremony.”
Gusto tilted his head. As a noble, it was a very honorable thing to be in charge of the ceremony of a delegation from a foreign country. Moreover, the Eastern Kingdom Union’s delegation was a distinguished guest who was treated at the level of the Emperor’s guests.
“As far as I know, you put the most effort into preparation to welcome the delegation. Why did you give way for the ceremony?”
“I know, right? Doesn’t the person in charge generally gets to take care of the ceremony?”
Schuden replied calmly.
“I have a personal business to attend to that day, so I have no choice.”
Personal business? Is that more important than the ceremony of seeing off the Emperor’s guests?
Gusto and Elvan each had a curious expression on their faces but Schuden did not add any explanation. It was something that he could not explain anyway—his relationship with Leo.
“Aren’t you the First Prince?”
“Greetings to the Second Prince. I had committed discourtesy as I didn’t hear the trumpet.”
Little by little, nobles began to flock around Gusto and Elvan.
The Imperial family was the noblest of all nobles, judging from the rule of Gel’s high society, no matter how weak their real power as Princes, they could talk to a Duke first. So as the members of the Imperial family, they spoke directly to the Marquess and Marchioness Garth. However, this situation was not a matter to be viewed from such a flat point of view. Gusto and Elvan were the two most powerful successors to the throne in the current Imperial Family.
The First Prince and the Second Prince were repeating the battle for power back and forth. The number of nobles that they had already won over was not small. However, at this Imperial banquet, Gusto and Elvan spoke to Marquess Garth and his wife first. What this meant was clear, all the nobles at the banquet knew that Schuden was advocating political neutrality.
“I haven’t seen you since the wedding, Marquess Garth.”
“I have heard a lot about you from my father. I’m from the House of Count Constati…”
“I met you once at the training ground last time…”
The nobles who were acquainted with the two Princes stealthily spoke to Schuden. Usually, it was common to try to get in touch with the Imperial households by being acquainted with nobles. But now, the situation was completely opposite. Still, no one took issue with it. Everyone was eager to say a word to Schuden.
At least, they could not speak openly to Valia. Perhaps the situation would have been different if she had been alone. But now, Schuden was standing right next to Valia. Every time his gaze passed, they felt a strange sense of intimidation, as if they should not speak to the Marchioness recklessly.
Thanks to that, Valia was able to be a little more comfortable among the crowds of nobles. She reminded herself of what kind of man Schuden was.
‘I have felt it before, but really…’
The center of the nobles. The apex of wealth. The protagonist of the war. No matter how many splendid modifiers were given, it was still not enough to describe Valia’s husband, Marquess Garth.
Suddenly, she remembered seeing Schuden at the Imperial banquet in the past. At that time, Schuden had a very expressionless face. Valia, who had been observing from afar, could read a dull look in his eyes. It was then that Valia knew. Marquess Garth—who she had never talked with, let alone seen up close—did not like banquets.
‘Does he still feel like that now?’
Valia shifted her gaze without thinking. There was no particular reason. She just wanted to see Schuden.
Contrary to what she vaguely thought would be his side profile, what came into Valia’s view was Schuden’s red eyes.
She did not know since when he had been looking at her. Valia tilted her head, wondering if she had something on her face. At the same time, the conversation that was focused on Schuden had now focused on the Princes for a moment. Valia asked slowly.
“Schu, is there something on my face?”
Schuden looked at Valia’s face. Her round, soft cheeks and sparkling lips were the same as they were when she entered.
“There’s nothing, Valia.”
Schuden answered that and took Valia’s hand. It was a natural action. Only a few nobles who were secretly peeping on the couple had their eyes widened.
“But you were looking at me earlier so I thought there was something on my face.”
“I’m looking at you because you’re pretty.”
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