Author: lipzoldyck

 

It was a hot spring day, just like summer. Kaidel stood upright, suppressing the boredom that creeped up on him like a haze.

 

“Kaidel, I don’t know how to convey my consolation.”

 

“My father must have considered it an honor to contribute to the victory of the Empire and closed his eyes. Since Your Imperial Majesty has personally cared for me like this, I can only appreciate it.”

 

“Yes. Don’t pay attention to the loud talk of people you don’t even know. You will be a better family head than your father. Please work hard and become the Crown Prince’s reliable friend.”

 

“Valentine will always be Your Imperial Majesty’s faithful sword and the Empire’s shield.”

 

The predecessor, Duke Valentine, died in battle, and Kaidel suddenly succeeded to the duchy.

 

Kaidel, who participated in the victory banquet held at the Imperial Palace, left the venue immediately after having a brief private conversation with the Emperor. It was because the eyes on him and the whispers everywhere got on his nerves.

 

“Excuse me, if you don’t mind, would you mind helping me to the break room? After drinking, I feel a little dizzy.”

 

“I will call a servant.”

 

“Oh, my. You know that’s not what I meant…”

 

Most of all, the biggest problem was the young ladies who secretly, and sometimes blatantly, reached out to seduce him.

 

‘As long as it’s my seat, I can’t go back early. It’s so frustrating, I’m going crazy.’

 

Entering a corner alley where there was no one around, Kaidel undid the cravat and obsessively undid a couple of buttons. Only then did he feel a little bit relieved.

 

“Ah, my feet and ankles are killing me. They won’t be able to see it because of the skirt anyway, so do I really need to wear shoes?”

 

It was then. A young lady, whose hem of the skirt pulled up so wildly that her ankles could be seen, was striding towards him.

 

‘Although I came out quietly, did you follow me? Looking at her skirt rolled up to the top, she looks like an unusual woman…’

 

Kaidel quickly buttoned up and pulled down his hat.

 

“What on earth is this kind of banquet that doesn’t end. On a good day, it’s best to order a freshly fried chicken delivery and open a can of beer…”

 

The woman quietly muttered about chicken or canned beer, something Kaidel couldn’t understand.

 

‘Is she crazy?’

 

The first evaluation of the woman was made within Kaidel. She passed in front of him, nervous as he was.

 

Yes, she passed by. Without even giving a single glance at Kaidel. It seemed that she wasn’t even aware of his existence.

 

She’s like a crazy person, but she’s the kind of person who doesn’t care about himㅡor at not yet.

 

Kaidel slightly corrected his assessment of her in his mind.

 

“There isn’t a single bench in the garden of the Imperial Palace. It’s not like they’re short on budget. It’s unnecessarily spacious and has no practicality.”

 

Kaidel’s eyebrows twitched. Now that he kept her in check, she doesn’t hesitate to make dangerous remarks.

 

Kaidel dryly scanned the woman’s profile. Her outward appearance was that of a noble lady with no problems. It was quite a pretty face even to him, who wasn’t interested in women’s appearance.

 

Her youthful face, as if she had just become an adult, was full of life, and the green eyes sparkled like guns. The half-tied, curly blonde hair flowed gently down the white nape of her neck. The pink dress she was wearing was overly flashy, yet it suited the woman well.

 

‘It’s a really strange person.’

 

Kaidel looked away from her back.

 

“Ah!”

 

Clink.

 

Kaidel quickly turned around at the loud noise behind.

 

He saw a girl of about seven years old, pale and trembling. She must have been on her way to get food from the kitchen, there were chunks of meat and crumbled pieces of cake around the pieces of the broken plate.

 

The hem of the luxuriously shiny pink dress was covered in grease from the meat and whipped cream. It was such a gruesome sight that Kaidel’s brow furrowed as he watched the scene.

 

“Stand still and don’t move.”

 

“Lady, I-I made a mistake! I’m sorry…”

 

The woman who quickly fired at her looked around at the girl’s feet. He could understand that she had ruined that expensive dress, but his head hurt at the thought of the high-pitched voice that would follow.

 

Just as he was thinking of leaving his seat quietly, Kaidel met the woman’s eyes.

 

“Excuse me. The gentleman in a hat.”

 

‘Damn it. I should have moved earlier.’

 

Without hiding his displeasure, Kaidel slowly turned around.

 

“Do you mean, me?”

 

“Yes. There isn’t another one around here who can be called so, is there?”

 

“It seems so.”

 

Unfortunately, though.

 

“I’m really sorry, but could I borrow a handkerchief?”

 

Although it doesn’t sound very apologetic, the woman asked in a very polite voice.

 

“…Yes, of course.”

 

Equally reluctantly, but quite politely, Kaidel approached the woman and handed her a handkerchief. She had at least the manners that he shouldn’t turn away from a lady in trouble.

 

“Thank you so much for your kindness.”

 

Contrary to Kaidel’s expectations, obviously, he thought she would wipe the hem of her skirt, the woman immediately wrapped the handkerchief around the girl’s hand.

 

“You have to be careful when you bring a plate. Don’t move or touch the glass when it’s broken. Look, you get hurt like this. Is it painful?”

 

The girl, whose eyes were widening, shook her head. The woman let out a small sigh and continued her nagging in a firm voice.

 

“Fortunately, it’s not a big wound, but when you go back, make sure to apply medicine first. Do you understand?”

 

“Because of me, t-the dress…”

 

“It’s ruined. Fortunately, I have a few more dresses besides this one.”

 

It was definitely not a warm voice.

 

Yet she was kind enough to brush her soiled knees, look around for any injuries, and guide her away from the shards of glass.

 

“Thanks to you, I can go home early today, stretch out my feet and rest, so maybe it’s a good thing…”

 

The mumbled words seemed to be true. Kaidel smiled involuntarily. She was definitely a bit of a strange woman.

 

After putting the girl down, the woman brushed off her skirt and wiped it off. It was an insincere touch that seemed insensitive.

 

“Be careful next time. Go ahead.”

 

“Are you really just letting me go?”

 

The girl stared down at the stained hem of the woman’s dress hesitantly. Anyone could see that she couldn’t return to the banquet hall.

 

The woman, who sighed deeply, beckoned the child to look at her.

 

“Yes, so go before I change my mind. I’ll count 10 seconds. 10, 9, 8…”

 

“Thank you!”

 

The girl ran away because she didn’t want the woman to change her mind.

 

“Ah, the handkerchief.”

 

The woman stared down at the handkerchief in her hand, as if she had suddenly thought of it. The handkerchief, which was once clean without a speck of dust, was so messed up that it was impossible to hand it back.

 

Kaidel quickly hit the ball.

 

“It’s okay, you don’t have to return it.”

 

“Of course, I was thinking of returning it as a new item, not this one.”

 

“That’s no need, too.”

 

When Kaidel refused, the woman wrinkled her eyebrows.

 

“But… It looks very expensive and luxurious.”

 

“That dress looks expensive, too.”

 

“I don’t know because I didn’t buy it with my own money.”

 

“It’s the same.”

 

She was a strange woman.

 

There was nothing ordinary about her words or actions. The discomfort that weighed on his heart whenever he spoke with someone of the opposite sex wasn’t felt in his conversation with her.

 

Rather, he was quite happy.

 

“I don’t know if I can find the same one, but I’ll send you something similar as best I can.”

 

“Alright. Fortunately, I have a few more handkerchiefs besides this one.”

 

The woman let out a small laugh as Kaidel echoed her words to the girl. When she smiled so brightly that her dimples were shown, he had the illusion that the area around her had brightened a little.

 

As he looked closer, he began to see the personality in her face that he hadn’t seen before.

 

Her large eyes looked gentle, yet oddly provocative. The freckles, which ran faintly from her cheekbones to the bridge of her nose, gave the impression of a tomboy. The cynical atmosphere that didn’t match her age was also unique.

 

“What is your name?”

 

Asking for her name was purely impulsive.

 

“My name?”

 

“Yes. There isn’t another one around here who can be asked, is there?”

 

Kaidel shrugged his shoulders, once again quoting her.

 

“It’s Eleanor.”

 

Eleanor. Kaidel quietly rolled the name in his mouth. It’s a common name, yet for some reason, it felt very special.

 

“Eleanor Everett.”

 

She’s kind of weird and a little brazen, and even though she’s not very friendly to him, she’s a woman to be curious about.

  

***

 

“There is a reason why it’s difficult to make a reservation here. The meat melts in my mouth.”

 

Eleanor stomped her foot as Adrian busily brought the meat he was slicing into his mouth.

 

‘It’s so delicious!’

 

The restaurant Adrian had reserved was a very popular date course in the capital recently.

 

It was very popular with noble lords and ladies as they could enjoy a cozy meal in a private room. Of course, the food was great.

 

It was a place where one has to make a reservation several months in advance to be able to come, but how did he get a seat in a day?

 

She was a bit puzzled, but whatever the process was, good is good. It was a truly perfect dinner.

 

It was so much fun that it seemed as if their relationship, which had been strangely strained after not seeing Adrian for months, went back to the past in an instant.

 

As Eleanor grappled with the menu board in agonize, Adrian performed his, “from here to here”, elegantly showing off the rich finances of the Marquis. Besides, Eleanor, who usually frowned even when she only went near the ‘o’ sign of alcohol, ordered a bottle of wine first.

 

Eleanor asked with a smile as she gulped down a glass.

 

“Today, why are you so generous?”

 

“If you say that, it’ll seem like I was stingy with you at times, Ellen.”

 

“Then let’s say that you’re more generous than usual. Why are you so nice? Is there anything you want from me?”

 

“I always have what I want from you.”

 

Adrian muttered meaningfully. Eleanor said with a broad smile as if she knew.

 

“Is it because of Sienna?”

 

Eleanor added briskly as she pricked the asparagus served as a garnish and put it in her mouth.

 

“She’s welcome to come and play with me from time to time. She’s cute and nice. I wished I had a daughter like her.”

 

“Daughter? You said you didn’t want to get married before.”

 

Did she even tell Adrian that?

 

Eleanor thought for a moment to herself, then she replied slowly.

 

“Because I was too young then. They get married too early here. At an age when the blood on my hair wasn’t even dry…” (like a baby that’s just born)

 

“Here? You speak as if you have lived elsewhere. Are you drunk already?”

 

Adrian laughed and pointed out the error in her words. The stingy Eleanor hastily changed the subject.

 

“You stopped me every time I went near alcohol, so why aren’t you saying anything today?”

 

“Because there are no idiots here arguing with you.”

 

Eleanor laughed out loud, as if she had heard a funny joke. She finished a glass and shrugged her shoulders.

 

“Who on earth? Nobody cares about me.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Adrian raised his eyebrows. Eleanor nodded her head proudly.

 

“Of course. I’m a bit quick-witted about that.”

 

“Ellen, I assure you, that’s just your illusion.”

 

Adrian burst out laughing and murmured softly as he reached for her glass.

 

“You have so little self-awareness about how pretty you are. That’s why I always feel anxious.”

 

Author's Thoughts

this chapter is sponsored by Aris (3/5)

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Comments (3)

  1. “I’m a bit quick-witted about that” yet girly doesn’t see the obvious liking the dudes have for her 💀