Chapter 23. The opening act of the banquet

 

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After Ellea washed up, Jane came to her with a dress she had chosen in advance.

 

The white dress showed off her collarbone and the short sleeves were see-through, which went well with Ellea’s complexion.

 

At first glance, the dress looked simple, but the lace adorning it was handmade and the pattern was beautiful.

 

As a point of interest, there were small jewels scattered throughout the dress, which added to the sparkle to every move. But from Ellea’s point of view, this dress was….

 

“It’s very uncomfortable.”

 

Jane, now quite used to Ellea’s complaining words, soothed her skillfully. 

 

“No, Your Highness. This is very simple. We were rather disappointed that the Princess didn’t choose a fancier dress.”

 

 “Really? By the way, why does everyone seem to be having so much fun? Isn’t it hard to get ready so early in the morning?”

 

Just as she had said, Jane and the other maids were laughing incomprehensibly. Then, one of the maids answered Ellea’s question without hiding her joy.

 

“Of course. It’s a chance for us to dress the princess up glamorously.”

 

“Is that what you enjoy so much?”

 

“Yes. In fact, we were secretly disappointed that we didn’t have many opportunities to do this.”

 

Ellea was simply astonished at her words. She thought they’d be rather pleased to have less work to do on a regular basis…

 

Jane, who usually took care of her, added.

 

“I’d like to show people that our Princess is beautiful, because she usually wears only comfortable clothes and no makeup, though of course she is beautiful enough without dressing up.”

 

As Jane had said, Ellea didn’t know what else to do, but she was very awkward when it came to dressing up.

 

Perhaps it was because she still felt the pressure of always being prepared for what might happen. 

 

“I see. It might be a chance that won’t come again for a while, so do what you want.”

 

For once, Ellea deliberately said something like that when she saw the maids working diligently for her. It was almost like she was giving up. 

 

Then, as if they had been waiting only for the words to fall, the maids approached with more fire in their wills and makeup tools.

 

The makeup added vitality, but also emphasized the glamour befitting the position of an Imperial Princess.

 

Some of her long hair was hanging down naturally, while the rest was tied into a single bundle and secured with a jeweled hairpin.

 

The look was completed with a necklace and bracelet made of red gems.

 

“You’re so beautiful.”

 

‘So much can change, can’t it?’

 

As the maids stepped back, Ellea checked her appearance in the mirror.

 

Her appearance, which was decorated to the best of the maids’ ability, was still just as awkward. However, the faces of the maids were filled with joy.

 

“Please let me decorate you like this every day, Princess.”

 

“I’ll listen to everything else other than this. But thank you all for your hard work this morning.” 

 

When all the preparations had finished, Borence came into the room.

 

“Your Highness, it’s time for you to leave.”

 

“Already?”

 

Looking out the window, Ellea was surprised to see that the sky was already darkening with sunset, unlike when she had started her preparations.

 

When she stepped outside, the carriage she was going to ride in had already arrived. 

 

“We are in the Imperial Palace, but we ride in a carriage?”

 

“Of course. Please get in.”

 

As the time approached for the banquet to begin, Ellea hurriedly climbed into the carriage and said to Borence and the maids.

 

“Don’t worry about me. I may be back sooner than you think.”

 

“Yes, I understand. Have a safe trip.”

 

Ellea reassured them to the end, and soon the carriage slowly departed. Her heart, which had been quiet, began to beat faster again as the fateful hour approached. It was as if it was out of its master’s control.

 

Nervously, Ellea repeated in her mind the resolution she had been keeping. 

 

‘’It will be fine. Everything will be fine.’

 

Meanwhile, in the large banquet hall, the numerous lights on the ceiling illuminate the space.

 

The nobles who had already arrived were comfortably conversing with each other, and among them, and Shenil stood out among them.

 

From early on, many of the ladies had gathered around her, and as if it was a setup, they began to praise Shanil’s appearance.

 

“You’re so beautiful today, Lady Shanil. The dress looks so good on you.”

 

“Thank you for saying that. You look great too, Young Lady.”

 

Shanil’s distinctive blonde hair was naturally hanging loose, and she wore a violet dress that matched it, showing off her beauty to the fullest.

 

Most importantly, the people who attended here knew her well.

 

She didn’t officially declare that she was in a special relationship with the Emperor. And that was what made her shine even brighter. At the same time, it was the reason why she had to look good unconditionally. It was all too obvious that if Shenil didn’t like them, 

they would never be able to enter this cruel world.

 

It was in this convivial atmosphere that the knight at the entrance announced the emperor’s arrival. 

 

“His Majesty, the Emperor Terban le Rubain, is entering.”

 

Everyone bowed their heads at the knight’s words, and Terban entered the room with ease. His fancy clothes for today’s banquet also suited him well. After being greeted by everyone, Terban walked proudly up the stairs and took a seat at the highest table. Immediately his low voice echoed through the banquet hall.

 

“As I’m sure you all know, today is the occasion for welcoming Princess Ellea Zevenica to Rubain, and I hope that this occasion will bring nothing but good things for the future of both empires.”

 

Everyone responded to Terban’s words by bowing their heads. Just then, through the silence, a knight announced Ellea’s arrival.

 

“Princess Ellea Zevenica is entering.”

 

The voice drew the gaze of everyone in the banquet hall, including Terban, to the entrance. Not much was known about her, as she had been a frail princess since childhood and restrained herself from outside activities.

 

With this mixture of curiosity and anticipation in their gazes, Ellea soon appeared. Despite the pouring gazes, she strode proudly towards the center of the banquet hall.

 

“Wow.”

 

That one word summed up the feelings of everyone in the banquet hall.

 

Her white skin contrasted with her red lips gorgeously, and even her silver eyes were mysterious.

 

Everything about her, including her dress, added to her beauty.

 

Immediately stopping at a distance from the emperor, Ellea raised her eyes and faced Terban.

 

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“Ha.”

 

Arriving safely at the entrance of the hall, Ellea took a deep breath and calmed her trembling heart.

 

Soon a knight opened the door, loudly announcing her arrival. She stepped out into the bright light coming from the door.

 

Once inside the banquet hall, the situation was completely different from when she had attended as a knight. First of all, she could feel the stares and interest directed at her all over.

 

‘Is this what it feels like to attend a banquet?’

 

Up until now, she had been escorting Terban as El, so instead of enjoying the banquet, she had to be on alert in the vicinity and was busy commanding the knights. A joyful festive atmosphere was not a word that applied to her, and she had never once enjoyed it with ease.

 

Above all, she felt that the meaning behind people’s gazes had changed a lot from before.

 

She sometimes had a hard time adjusting to the way they bowed their heads, especially when their eyes met hers.

 

This was because the title “Imperial Princess” that she had from the moment she became Ellea seemed to be worth more than what she had earned through a lifetime of hard work as a knight. This made Ellea feel somewhat bitter.

 

Stopping in the middle of the banquet hall as she looked around, Ellea slowly raised her head to face Terban.

 

He was looking down at her from a high post, and the moment their eyes met, no one averted their gazes.

 

Actually, she was so nervous during the journey to Rubain, and so confused by her sudden encounter with Terban, that she didn’t have time to think deeply about it.

 

The mere fact of the meeting itself was very much too much for her to handle.

 

However, after all this preparation and facing him, she finally felt a little bit of El’s emotions coming up instead of Ellea’s.

 

She thought if she saw Terban, the first thing she would do would be to resent him. Because he was the one who said he believed in her, but in the end, he was the one who betrayed that trust.

 

She definitely thought so, and even turned a blind eye to him by vowing that she wouldn’t want to see him so much, but what is this feeling now?

 

However, there was one thing that she must never forget. 

 

‘I’m not the knight El, but Princess Elle Zevenica. In front of His Majesty, there is no more El. So I don’t have to avoid him.’

 

She pulled herself together and greeted Terban with the etiquette she had worked so hard to learn. 

 

“Greetings to His Majesty Emperor Terban le Rubain. My name is Ellea Zevenica.”

 

Fortunately, her voice did not tremble, and she showed her usual calmness, as if she had never met him before, as if she did not know him at all.

 

Terban noticed Ellea’s inclination to pretend not to know, and after a moment, he gave her the formal greeting.

 

‘Welcome to Rubain. I hope you can stay comfortable here as if you were in Zevenica.”

 

“I’m doing well, thanks to the help of many people. Thank you, Your Majesty.” 

 

“Please take it easy and enjoy the banquet, especially since it is to welcome the Princess. So let us begin the banquet.”

 

The banquet hall came to life with the sound of music as Terban announced that it was time for the banquet to start.

 

Somehow, however, his eyes kept following Ellea as she finished her greeting and left.

 

‘Why did you look at me like that?’ (Terban)

 

He thought he knew a little bit about the Princess because they had spent a short time together while coming to the imperial palace, but now she had a look on her face like she just met him for the first time. It was as if she drew a line between not approaching him and not showing any interest.

 

Before long, Terban was thinking about the meaning of her eyes.

 

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Standing in the banquet hall, Ellea felt as awkward as she thought she would.

 

No one casually approached her, alone as if she were on a distant island. She could only feel the glancing gazes.

 

‘I’m already tired.’

 

Ellea was tempted to just say hello and go, but she couldn’t because it was a banquet for her and also because of her position.

 

At that moment, as she slowly looked around, a Young Lady approached her first.

 

“I am pleased to meet Princess of Zevenica. My name is Heris Endarin, daughter of Marquis Endarin. I would like to speak with the Princess, may I have a moment?”

 

Ellea turned her head and saw a familiar face standing in front of her.

 

It was someone she certainly knew when she was El.

 

Lady Heris Endarin with her impressive green hair.

 

More than anything else, there was a reason why Ellea couldn’t forget this Young Lady.