The solemn atmosphere of the day had completely changed. The great hall of the Purple Peony Court was decorated with flowers and magical gems, which made it look even more grand. A celebration was being held. Delegations from countries from all over the world were present. They were all dressed up in fine clothes, and I could watch those beautiful garments to my heart’s content. Of course, I also wasn’t wearing the daytime formal dress either. I put on a gorgeous orchid-pink dress which suited the occasion, as I was standing next to the man playing one of the leading roles in Valgentum. He was wearing deep purple garments. People around us were looking at him but he stood silently without meeting anyone’s eyes, occasionally sipping on bubbly white wine from a flute glass he was holding. He didn’t wear his usual black robes. This look was quite refreshing to my eyes, but I was so flustered that I wasn’t really aware of what was being said to me.
I couldn’t help it, though, could I? It might sound like an excuse, but I had always had a soft spot for uniforms and suits. Incidentally, I also loved how the dressed up ladies looked, of course.
For those reasons, the great hall was a boundless sight for sore eyes. In my heart I thought it was a good thing that no man of valor approached my husband, as I continued to watch other people.
All around the spacious hall, the royals were surrounded by ambassadors and different members of the delegations’ entourage. The Princess smiled radiantly, as she was used to doing. The Head Knight of the Chivalric Order was chatting and cracking jokes, making people around him laugh. The Hero looked a bit perplexed, but he had an invigorating smile on his face. I only felt a bit sorry for Widnichol. He was surrounded by women taller than him and even from a distance I could clearly see how flustered he was. I wanted to somehow help him, but in this situation I would merely be an addition to the party and if I tried to awkwardly interrupt a conversation, I might somehow make our state of affairs worse. In this situation all I could do was to silently send him my support and cheer him in my heart.
Except for the man standing next to me, all of Valgentum’s dignitaries were still unmarried, so there were no other wives present. I heard that not only the aristocrats from our country, but also ones from other countries were aiming for formal marriage interviews. This evening was a great chance for them to catch other people’s attention, as it was impossible for the authorities from other countries to overlook them here.
I instantly thought that this celebration could be called a Grand Formal Marriage Meeting Party. If I didn’t exist, the man next to me would probably also be approached by other nobles and flooded with offers of marriage meetings. It’s… no, frankly, this picture wasn’t funny at all.
「What is it?」
「There’s a frown on your forehead.」
I shouldn’t have, it’s no good. I had scowled just now. He was looking at me as if about to ask if I was tired. He started to get closer but I stopped him, as I shook my head「It’s nothing.」. It’s not like I could tell him that I selfishly got jealous by imagining him being surrounded by people wanting to talk about marriage.
The people who knew us well often said that this man was keeping me to himself to the extent of wanting to bind me with a rope, but from his own point of view it was nothing of the sort. I, as much as anyone, felt the desire to monopolize and couldn’t help but feel jealous. He probably didn’t think about such things too much.
He didn’t look fully convinced, but he sensed that I didn’t feel like saying anything more, so he simply said 「I see.」and withdrew. I was satisfied, as I could go back to looking around the room. People around us were chatting pleasantly and occasionally looking in our direction, like I mentioned before. Nobody was approaching him not because I was with him but as expected, because of his black hair, his jet black hair. Sometimes, when somebody turned towards us or secretly looked at him, they lowered their voices and talked between each other. Even if they were saying something flattering, I wouldn’t say it was a pleasant feeling.
For myself, his glamorous and beautiful hair was a source of envy, but I have known for many years now that such a point of view wasn’t common in this world. The man himself didn’t seem to care but myself, standing next to him, wanted to say something and I was filled with complex feelings of irritation mixed with anger and sadness.
I started thinking about how I’d like my existence to be a shield for this man, even if just a little bit. Even though he didn’t seem to care about it. I was also gossiped about and called a cursed child that was hated by spirits, but this man was avoided simply because of the color of his hair. Such a tendency was much worse than any hurtful words. It saddened me deeply and also made me nervous. If they had something to say rather than gossiping behind his back, they should have said that to his face. That way I can ready myself and am able to respond with a counter attack.
That’s right. If they would approach in such a direct manner… Huh?
To the voice interrupting my thoughts, my hand holding a glass stopped halfway to my lips and I looked that way… or at least I tried to, but the man stepped in front of me. He stood there and I couldn’t see anything. He tried to protect me and I was thankful and happy because of it, but it was too much. He was overprotective. How many times did he make me think that, I wonder. I was about to say something, when I heard the words spoken directly with a serious look:
「In your case, even doing this is still not enough.」, to which I had no response. I thought of something unnecessary. Certainly, my conduct this year was more than enough of a reason for him to behave this way, so I couldn’t retort. That being said, what violence could possibly occur in such a place and among such a party of people? I leaned a little bit from behind his narrow figure to look at the person who spoke to us and I gasped.
「Um… would you be so kind as to spare me a moment of your time?」
There stood a young boy, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old, wearing a stylish, fitted dark blue suit. If compared to anybody in this room, as far as age goes, he was probably the closest to Widnichol. I was captivated by his deep wine colored hair. My normally white cheeks flushed with excitement. His features were perfectly arranged, his nose straight and narrow, his lips thin… But most of all, even more than his hair, it was his eyes that drew my attention. The gaze I was used to – full of repulsion, dislike and a wish to avoid the ,,blackness” – was not reflected in his eyes. The only thing I could read in them was pure and beautiful kindness. The color of his eyes was something between purple and orange, which I knew exactly how to call. Of course, I knew it. Since it was the exact same color as the eyes of the man standing in front of me and I called them sunrise colored. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. His eyes, his face – it was all extremely similar to the face I knew so well, to that man’s face. If I had to choose something that was distinguishing, it would surely be the age difference. Apart from that, it was as if my husband was looking in the mirror. Just like Edi, this boy was exceedingly beautiful.
As I was looking at him dumbfounded, the boy, as if unable to conceal his joy, put a smile on his face, which was so much like that man’s face. He stood in front of my husband, meeting him for the first time, and he didn’t look scared. Nor was he acting brave. He simply looked straight at him. I was the one shaking, although, I don’t know, why. I looked at the man, he was staring at the boy with the same colored eyes, while the latter was beaming, but he didn’t say anything. He simply examined the boy with an expressionless face. It appeared that the man was also trembling, or at least I thought so. The boy, who didn’t seem to notice our reaction spoke again.
「It’s nice to meet you. My name is Lucius Igur Bradott. I have always wanted to meet you.」
The boy made a refined bow in a flawless movement… no, not ‘the boy’, Lucius. He made a face that man would never do, showing a sweet smile.
「It is an honor to finally meet you, brother.」
In an instant, the whole room stirred with murmurs.
If we noticed… Actually, it seemed like the boy that introduced himself as Lucius and that man brought the attention of all the people in the hall. The gazes of the Princess and others, surrounded by a noisy crowd, were fixed on the pair. My husband being so popular was something to be happy about… But it was not the time and place for jokes. What the hell was I thinking! I shouldn’t get lost in thoughts at such a moment.
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