Chapter 30 – Puppy love, first love (1)
The breathtaking morning landscape of the Epesia Duchy, where the brilliant shone, boasted of enough beauty that its people would come out to admire it openly.
This spire was intended for the use of seeing approaching enemies in advance and to prepare for any incidents. However, at dawn in the land of Epesia, it was just a beautiful structure.
However, the castle where the Duke of Epesia himself resided would encompass it all. The castle was the very symbol of the Duchy of Epesia that had continued to defend the kingdom for generations due to its impregnable fortress that had never been breached for all of two hundred years.
A flag with the insignia of the Duchy was atop the highest spire, fluttering in the strong ocean breeze. Although it was an old castle, it was well managed, and there were no signs of dilapidation.
Apart from the beautiful exterior of the fortress, the interior boasted of elegant furniture and paintings everywhere to the extent that people could admire every corner as a piece of art.
All of this was the work of the vassals that had been serving Epesia for generations, the Hawk family, who were famous for their architecture and artistry.
More than that, Selvan Hawk, the current successor and the talented artist of the Hawk family, was planning to hang an oeuvre on a wall of the castle. Right now, he was looking at that wall with a deep frown on his face.
Selvan stared at the wall with a severe gaze. If he were a knight, it wouldn’t be strange to assume that he was about to pull out his sword, saying that he must cut down his adversary here.
However, despite that expression, the maids around him constantly glanced over towards him.
With a high angular nose and hair that was shoulder-length tied up behind his head, and with pale porcelain skin that seemed to have never met sunlight before.
As he frowned, his sapphire-like eyes were shining. His forehead slightly wrinkled and lips twisted in agony made him look like a piece of art himself.
In other words, he was handsome.
“What would be good here?”
Selvan tilted his head to the side as he looked at his surroundings. They recently cleaned up the furniture in this area, so the wall looked empty.
Selvan thought about whether he should decorate this wall with his paintings or with beautiful furniture. Most of the empty spaces were already filled with similar works, but only this one place had yet to have been decorated according to his taste.
This place was at the training grounds that were used by the knights, and right next to the wall was an open terrace that had a nice view of the coast.
What would be good enough to hang here in the wall that could not be filled even if the four generals would line the wall? This was Selvan’s biggest challenge.
When Selvan turned his head slightly, he saw a young maid with a shy look on her face as she bowed her head. She looked to be about sixteen years old.
Selvan looked over to her in slight confusion, but he soon bowed and smiled.
“What can I do for you, Lady?”
The young maid gaped openly, looking as though her heart would pop out of her eyes immediately after hearing Selvan’s elegant voice and seeing his gorgeous smile.
The maids in the sidelines, who were watching the two, gritted their teeth.
‘How dare she be so sly in front of our Selvan?’
‘I thought it was good that she just came here yesterday, but how dare you…!’
‘Me! I want to talk to him, too!’
Each of them looked at the two while having the same thoughts. Well, it wasn’t exactly a secret since their eyes were blazing with anger.
“That, um… W-What’s wrong? You seem to be very worried.”
Selvan smiled slightly as he looked at the wall. Then, he slowly opened his lips to speak.
“I was thinking about what I should fill this wide wall with.”
“I-I see… Then what do you think would be good?”
“That’s the thing. I’ve thought about it, but if it’s a painting, it could be a lady frolicking on a beautiful shore, and it should be an oil painting rather than a watercolor painting. But I gave up on that idea since the knights would be training right across, they might not be able to concentrate because of this kind of painting. Then, I thought about placing a mosaic using glass shards, but as you might already know, the wind blowing by the beach is highly corrosive, so if it would be hung using metal, the iron would corrode and it would be very dangerous, so I’ve given up on that idea as well. However…”
She shouldn’t have asked. The young maid stared perplexedly at Selvan, who just kept talking on and on.
Selvan kept talking without even noticing what kind of gaze he was receiving. After ten… twenty minutes, the young maid just slipped away.
However, Selvan just continued speaking, not knowing about this.
“…so I thought maybe I could hang portraits of all the Dukes in a row, but… Huh?”
Selvan smiled once more and looked around to find the young maid, but there was no one beside him.
Confused, Selvan scratched his head.
This was his only shortcoming. He hailed from a proud family sponsored by the Duchy, had excellent looks, was a talented artist, and he was his family’s successor. He was popular, but even so, no one wanted to talk to him.
As anyone could see, he fell into his own world and couldn’t keep his mouth shut even if someone tried to stop him.
Wouldn’t anyone with the same tendencies know?
This time again, Selvan sighed as he found himself alone after his conversation partner had vanished.
“It’s like this…”
When Selvan muttered helplessly, a beautiful voice answered him from behind. Selvan turned around.
The owner of that voice was a woman with long flowing red hair that was reminiscent to the sunset. Julia stood there with her arms folded.
With wide eyes, Selvan realized that he had seen her around while she was passing by.
And he also knew about it, the family that Julia was from. Robinharts. Perhaps thanks to her excellent genes, it was an incredible family that was famous for their features generation after generation, and marriage proposals would pile up at their doorstep just because of their family name.
At one time, there were rumors that one of the family’s offspring would become queen only because of her appearance, but this was quickly ruled out since that couldn’t possibly be the only criteria for choosing a queen.
However, since they were connected to a Marquisate and a County, their family’s social standing was higher than their true rank as a Viscounty. That was the Robinharts family.
“So, what were you saying?”
Julia tilted her head to the side, and her red hair fluttered down. Selvan, who was staring blankly at her hair, had his eyes glimmering as he spoke.
“What I said… Did you listen to everything?”
“Yes, it was interesting. Especially what you said about the art pieces that would involve glass shards to make a mosaic. I thought that kind of innovation wouldn’t come out in this time period yet, but already…”
“Oh, I mean this side of the world.”
The gentle smile was somewhat ethereal. It was mysterious. The beautiful appearance of her standing confidently while looking at this wall somehow evoked something unknown.
“The Duke of Epesia seems to be busy these days, so it must be difficult to manage this building alone, Selvan.”
“Y-You know my name?”
Selvan stuttered with his eyes widened, and Julia narrowed her forehead for a moment before she soon smiled. Her plump red lips were pleasantly curved up.
“How can I not know?”
And Selvan waited for her to continue.
“You’re very famous for being handsome.”
Selvan gaped openly as he heard those words, but Julia continued speaking.
“In the past, according to the cultural studies book I read, it was called a Baroque style of art. But here in Epesia, there are many spires and stone structures, so I thought this place would be mostly Gothic.”
He didn’t know what those words were, Gothic and Baroque. Those were words that didn’t exist in this world, but the architectural styles were similar.
Even so, Selvan couldn’t help but be startled to hear her say jargon like that as though she herself were a seasoned artist.
Noble ladies would jokingly ask where art could be learned and used. They only regarded artists as people who could paint their portraits.
However, Julia was properly looking at and evaluating art as it was. Selvan stared at her in a daze.
“…that’s why this architectural style is… Pardon? Did you say something?”
Julia tried to ask since she didn’t catch what he said as he muttered. But Selvan shook his head hurriedly and covered his mouth.
Julia glanced at him for a moment and was about to speak again, but someone came up from behind them and called her.
Julia turned to see who it was, and there Leo was, with his hair that was like the light blue sky. He approached them with a gentle smile.
Julia was startled by his sudden appearance. Selvan also bowed down and greeted Leo, also surprised.
“I asked you to have lunch with me, but why are you here?”
“I’ll skip lunch today. I ate too much fruit in the morning, so I feel a bit full.”
“You’re going to skip a meal?”
Leo looked displeased as he heard this, then he shook his head and took her hand. Selvan’s eyes widened as he saw Leo’s behavior and the way he naturally held her hand.
In the first place, it wasn’t common for nobles to take someone else’s hand like that unless they were seeing each other or if they were in a special relationship.
And noble ladies also reacted quite sensitively about things like this.
However, Julia just let her hand be taken as she grumbled, as if she didn’t care that she was holding hands with someone.
“But I don’t want to…”
“You’re too thin. You have to eat some more. I feel bad for you like this.”
“So are you saying I look ugly?”
When Julia responded bluntly, Leo only smiled and said.
“No, you’re pretty.”
“What are you…!!”
At those brazen remarks, Julia blushed and tried to shout, but she soon quieted down as she was led away by her hand.
As Julia followed Leo, she glance behind her.
“Let’s talk again next time, Selvan.”
Selvan bowed his head with a blank look as he watched Julia wave slightly after calling his name.
His eyes were filled with joy. The corners of his lips went up. Seeing his beautiful smile, the maids at the sidelines widened their eyes and clutched their hearts.
“Is this… what I think it is?”
Selvan muttered blankly with wide eyes.
Later that evening, Julia entered her room and plopped down on a chair with a tired face, and her maid Elisa came to her side and brushed her hair.
“Did His Grace the Duke pay attention to the Lady today as well?”
Julia glanced into the mirror to see Elisa, who gently swept back her hair. Elisa’s brown hair and freckled pale skin elicited a cute image from the girl.
“It’s just as you said. He sticks to my side whenever I go anywhere, so I’m exhausted. He’s normally well-mannered, but now whenever he sees me he’d ask, ‘Where are you going? Where do you plan to go? Can’t we go together?’”
Elisa burst into laughter. She couldn’t picture the quiet-looking Duke chasing someone around like that.
“His grace must look like a puppy.”
“…An overgrown puppy.”
Julia stared silently at Elisa for a moment, who was smiling while biting her tongue to stop herself from saying anything more. Elisa, perplexed by Julia’s stare, asked.
“Is there something wrong?”
“How old are you, Elisa?”
“Me? I’m 18 years old.”
“You’re quite young.”
Elisa smiled softly as she gently continued brushing Julia’s hair.
“Most maids start working at a young age. It’s already been eight years since I started.”
Julia smiled as she recalled the maids at her family’s house who were always busy looking after her.
“Do you have a boyfriend, Elisa?”
After being asked a personal question, Elisa gaped for a moment, but she soon shook her head in a hurry. Julia hummed.
“Why? You’re pretty, so I think you’re popular with guys.”
Julia’s eyes sparkled. She didn’t really talk about it, but of the various people who visited Julia as a shaman, 30% were consultations about money, and 40% were about dating.
“I’m a dating expert!”
“Da… Dating expert?”
“Mm, is it a difficult term? Let’s just say I’m a love expert.”
When Elisa quietly repeated her words, Julia’s eyes glimmered again.
“I’m an incredible person who can make a man and a woman fall in love with just one talisman. Have you heard about Baron Geville who married a commoner two years ago? You know that story, right?”
“Oh? I’ve heard about that. It caused quite an uproar.”
“That’s right. But that commoner was my customer. I made a talisman for her, and they got married after just a month… What do you think? Amazing, right?”
Julia grinned, exaggerating the story. But when she said it in such a way, Elisa looked as though she was really considering it.
Catching on that there was definitely something going on with Elisa, she practically glowed as she waited for the maid to speak. Then, Elisa looked towards Julia and quietly spoke.
“T-Then… Can you make a talisman for me?”
“Oh, there we go. I knew it. Who is it, who is it? I’ll make one for you once I know.”
Elisa hesitated and blushed. For no reason, Julia’s mood soared as she saw the refreshing response of a teenage girl in love.
Although she herself was just 20 years old here, she was actually 40 years old in total. That’s why Elisa’s reaction was cute to her.
As Elisa gradually opened her hesitating lips, she said.
“It’s… It’s Lord… Selvan Hawk.”
“Selvan? That artist, Selvan?”
Julia was surprised by Elisa’s cute response, her voice slightly trembling. Was it really him?
Julia recalled Selvan’s face. Handsome in the objective aesthetic sense. And he had great abilities, too. As a son-in-law (?) he’s perfect.
“Nice!! I’ll help you!”
Julia exclaimed with vigor. Elisa’s eyes widened at Julia’s words, and she clasped her hands together. Julia nodded and patted Elisa’s head lightly.
“Just trust me. I’ll connect you two together!”
Her eyes were shining. Elisa bowed her head as she thanked Julia for her help, saying that she would also reciprocate the favor.
Julia just smiled and shook Elisa’s clasped hands when she said thank you.
‘I’ve been feeling bored, so thank you.”
However, it was pitiable that Elisa didn’t know that there was an impure motivation to Julia’s help.
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