Valia blinked her eyes. She wondered if Schuden was joking, but he had a calm expression on his face, indicating that he was not. Valia was the first woman to whom he took the lead at and said that she was ‘pretty,’ and not just for once at that. Schuden was a man who had no preference in evaluating women’s personal appearance. His eyesight exceeded that of a normal person and he was able to distinguish faces, but he hardly ever did unnecessary things such as bringing the words out of his mouth. Valia did not know, but for Schuden, what he said and did were major words and actions.
“The designer paid a lot of attention today.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. She has been making the dress for weeks.”
Schuden grinned as he noticed that Valia’s cheeks had reddened a little. He was not saying her dress was pretty.
Schuden was waiting for this Imperial banquet to be over quickly. Aside from having an uninterested nature in banquets, he just wanted to kiss her. He wanted to keep her pink lips in his mouth and tie her soft tongue with his. The reason for suppressing that desire was Valia.
[You’ll ruin my lipstick.]
Why does kissing ruin lipstick? It was an item used by nobles, so should it not be durable? Schuden never imagined that the day would come when the performance of cosmetics would annoy him. He would have to call the designer and ask her to change Valia’s lipstick to the most expensive one.
‘Or I can just tell her to bring the designer with her.’
It would not matter then, as Valia can fix her lipstick at any time. The nobles, who did not know what Schuden was thinking, stealthily started talking to him again.
At that time, Valia shifted her head at the voice she heard. A pair of dark green eyes greeted her own. Valia hid her bewilderment and pretended to be calm.
Elvan was already near her. Though he had a face full of goodwill, Valia clearly remembered his gaze a few years later–the dark green eyes when he stabbed the sword into herself.
“There are flower petals falling on your shoulder.”
Sky blue petals fell on her light pink dress. Elvan reached out to her shoulder in a gentlemanly manner and removed the petals. Valia’s hand trembled without her realizing it.
“People don’t usually say thanks for things like this, do they?”
Elvan did not notice Valia trembling, he just showed a polite smile. It was very important to be liked by Marchioness Garth to gain support from Schuden. Elvan was just about to buckle down and talk to her with this small manner as an excuse.
But Schuden suddenly hugged Valia’s waist tightly. He said without caring whether the nobles standing nearby were holding their breaths or not.
“Let’s go to the lounge for a while.”
It was unexpected, but Valia nodded for now.
“Excuse me for a moment, First Prince and Second Prince.”
Schuden headed out of the door right away. His hand was still hugging Valia’s waist. With a disappointed look, the nobles could only watch as Marquess Garth left neatly and skillfully.
“Lead the way to the lounge.”
“Yes, Your Grace. This way.”
The lounge was located near the grand banquet hall. The Imperial Palace’s lounges were divided into a single room, a double room, and a multi-person room, depending on the size. The banquet had not yet officially begun, so many of the lounges were empty and quiet. The attendant guided Schuden and Valia to a double room.
Valia sat on the ivory sofa. The sofa without a backrest was long enough for three or four people to sit on but Schuden sat on the other side of the sofa in order for the hem of her dress to spread widely.
“Valia, are you not feeling well?”
“Me? No, I’m just fine.”
Schuden’s red eyes stared at Valia when she said she was okay. She was a little surprised by Elvan, but that was all. Her feet haven’t even hurt yet.
“But your hand trembled when the Second Prince touched your shoulder.”
“…His Highness suddenly reached out to me, so I was just a little surprised.”
“Is that so?”
Valia wondered. She only flinched a little bit, her hand did not even tremble that much. Even the one who was in front of her, Elvan, did not seem to notice.
“Schu, did you come out of the hall because of that?”
“Well if it’s not for that, is there any other reason?”
Schuden simply answered. Valia realized that he was paying a lot of attention to herself. He might be more sensitive than others because he was the best knight in the Gel Empire, but she did not expect him to bring her to the lounge in consideration for her.
“Then, I will take a break for a while before going back to the hall. Go ahead.”
The couple left the grand banquet hall to go to the lounge side by side. If they left their seats for a long time, all sorts of rumors would come out. Vulgar jokes in particular would obviously be the main focus.
Schuden knew what Valia was worried about. His typical train of thought was that he could just sew up all the mouths of those who babbled like that, but he knew that Valia was different from him.
“I will tell the attendant to stay in front of the door, so call him if anything happens.”
Schuden left the lounge. Now left alone, Valia took off her shoes. The shoes fitted her feet perfectly but it would hurt if she wore them for a long time. Valia, who put her feet on the elegant heels like a child, was lost in thought.
‘The Second Prince…’
After Gusto ascended as the Crown Prince, Elvan prostrated himself. Maybe he was just waiting for the day of his death. Rumors had circulated inside the palace that the Emperor’s health had become serious. Everyone whispered, saying that Elvan’s death was also not too far away.
The Emperor’s power was slowly succeeded by Crown Prince Gusto. Yeri, who was conferred as the Crown Princess at the time, also began to be treated similarly to the Empress. It was one of those countless nights, on the day when the era had changed, that the rebellion took place.
There was fire all over the palace. The gates of the Crown Princess’ Palace where Yeri resided were blocked and numerous attendants and ladies-in-waiting were killed by swords. The Crown Princess Yeri was in the innermost part of the palace, Valia was also there.
The last member of the Imperial household that Valia served was Yeri.
She was the saintess who encircled the oracle, she appeared from the lake in the Imperial Palace and was conferred as the Crown Princess. She was the only one who could use the name of a priest as her middle name and the name of the Gel Imperial family as her last name. Yeri abandoned her original surname, Cha, and was given a long name. Yeri Paean Lagerlöf. One of the escort ladies-in-waiting of this high and noble woman was Valia.
Therefore, Valia had to protect Yeri.
[You should have chosen me, Yeri. Then, this would not have happened.]
Elvan finally broke into the center of the Crown Princess’ Palace. Behind him, knights in armor were randomly killing the attendants and ladies-in-waiting. As they died vomiting blood, so too did color drain from Yeri’s face.
[Gusto… What about Gusto?]
[My oh-so-great brother?]
Elvan laughed. He made a gesture, and the knight behind him held out a sack. Elvan took out what was inside the bag without hesitation. The lady-in-waiting standing next to Yeri screamed. Elvan was holding Gusto’s head.
[You have always had too much hope, Yeri.]
The green eyes that were mocking Yeri were shiny. Elvan lifted his sword. It was a sword stained with the blood of the escort ladies-in-waiting. Among them, there was of course Valia’s blood. The escort ladies-in-waiting were no match for the knights equipped with armor. They were pushed back from the number right away. Elvan slashed Valia nearly at the last, he laughed as if he was having fun.
[Your escort ladies-in-waiting were very loyal. I heard she was one of them, I guess it’s true after all.]
Elvan threw Gusto’s head at Yeri’s feet. Yeri trembled and sat down. Valia saw all of this while she was on the ground. The sound ceased to be audible at that time. The last thing Valia saw in her blurred consciousness was Elvan’s sword piercing Yeri’s chest.
‘And when I opened my eyes, I was in my room. As if everything was a lie.’
In fact, she had already finished thinking about whether all of this was a dream or whether what she went through was a dream. Valia had certainly returned to the past. It was an unquestionable fact.
‘It was really terrible…’
Actually, Valia did not understand Elvan. Although he became a loser in love, Elvan really worked hard to court Yeri. His sincerity was never second to Gusto. Even after taking into account the political advantages of marrying a saintess, Elvan seemed to really love Yeri. The sincere love he had for her led to Valia finding him strange. How could he kill the woman he loved?
‘Because she did not accept his feelings?’
Valia shook her head. How could he kill people just because of an unaccepted love? That was never love or romantic madness, it was just violence. Perhaps the reason Yeri chose Gusto over Elvan was that she recognized his violence in advance.
After organizing her thoughts, Valia put her shoes back on. She felt lucky that Schuden had taken her to the lounge. If Elvan kept talking to her, it would have been difficult to organize her thoughts so calmly. When she went outside, the attendant bowed his head.
“I have to go back to the grand banquet hall.”
“I will take you there, Marchioness Garth.”
Valia walked through the majestic hallways at the guidance of the attendant. Perhaps the banquet had finally begun, there were few nobles in the hallway. Only the attendants and ladies-in-waiting were busy walking. Valia was right in front of the door of the grand banquet hall when a nobleman caught her attention.
To be exact, her attention was directed to the golden seal on the man’s left chest. It was the mark of the Emperor’s guest. Valia’s eyes widened slightly at the mark that was difficult to put on unless it was an important guest. Then, as if feeling her gaze, the man turned his head. The red eyes reached the silvery-gray eyes.
Their gaze met only for a brief moment but the attendant who was guiding Valia quickly took a step forward. He, too, knew what seal was on the man’s chest.
“This lady is Marchioness Garth.”
The man murmured slowly. He stared intently at Valia without even thinking of introducing himself. His fixed gaze lengthened. Valia felt burdensome and furrowed her forehead slightly. Then the man exclaimed and opened his mouth.
“I’m Viscount Leo Canute, the delegation from the Eastern Kingdoms Union.”
Valia was a little surprised. Leo Canute was the representative of the delegation and was famous as a war hero of the Eastern Kingdoms Union. She had heard of him in the past for something regarding Schuden.
“Nice to meet you, Marchioness Garth.”
“Oh, yes. Nice to meet you, Viscount Canute.”
After receiving the courtesy greeting, Leo suddenly reached out to Valia. She blinked her eyes as she looked at the man’s hand held out in front of her. He did not look like he was trying to escort her.
Is he requesting arm-wrestling or something?
The attendant hurriedly explained.
“Marchioness Garth, shaking hands is a basic greeting between nobles in the Eastern Kingdom.”
“…I did not know, I almost made a mistake.”
If a golden seal was worn on their chest, the nobles of Gel had to treat them with due courtesy regardless of their status. It was for the same reason that Valia, a Marchioness, spoke formally to Leo, a Viscount. Valia hesitated a little and reached out to Leo’s hand. the corners of his lips rose slightly. Leo was just about to grab Valia’s hand.
“What are you doing to my wife?”
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