Chapter 1. The beginning of everything
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It was the time of day when the sun had set and darkness had fallen, but a bright light was leaking from one mansion as if it were daytime. And in front of it, there was a long line of carriages.
The place where the well dressed people who got off the carriages headed was a large banquet hall. The arriving people had already gathered there and were exchanging stories.
The one who stood out the most was Chaylen, the host of today’s banquet. With his hair neatly swept back and dressed more gaily than usual, he was exchanging greetings with the people who were entering the banquet hall.
Even the people who attended this event today couldn’t help but look at Chaylen whom they had heard so much about.
“That’s the rumored Duke of Kaicher.”
“He looks completely different from Duke Peisen.”
And so, of course, each had their own purpose.
“We must take this opportunity to establish even the smallest of friendships, unconditionally.”
“Of course. The master of this place has already changed.”
Arun, who had been leading the people of the duke’s mansion, approached Chaylen for a moment. Then he spoke in a small voice.
“Please smile, Duke Chaylen. There are still people to come.”
“I’m already tired. Should we close the door?”
Chaylen had to smile as much as possible in front of the people, but it was an action he didn’t usually do, and his mouth seemed to cramp.
“That’s no good. Because right now, the most important person is about to walk in.”
At Arun’s words, Chaylen turned his head, and he saw the person coming in.Then his gaze changed in an instant.
“I see. I think you’re right.”
Someone approached and happily greeted Chaylen.
“Thank you for coming today, Duke Raymir.”
The two men smiled at each other and even shook hands, but the hearts hidden deep in their eyes were completely different. However, the banquet hadn’t even started yet, so they only greeted each other lightly and parted ways.
“As expected, he’s not an easy opponent.”
“It’s more interesting that way. Don’t you think so?”
Arun shook his head, as if he couldn’t bear such a reaction from Chaylen, and soon spotted one more person entering the room.
“Who is that?”
Arun was the one who had prepared the list to send out the invitations, so he remembered most of the attendees, but the woman in front of him was not recognizable.
“Who is that person?”
Chaylen didn’t reply to Arun’s question, but just looked at the woman blankly. At the sight of him, Arun asked once more.
“What’s wrong with you all of a sudden?”
Meanwhile, the woman approached him, and Chaylen finally came to his senses, greeting her politely first.
“Thank you for coming today.”
“No, thank you for inviting me.”
The conversation, which was no different from any other, immediately changed, and the atmosphere between the two of them also changed in an instant. Even Arun, who was standing by, was puzzled.
“By the way, why were you so absent-minded just now?” (Ellea)
“Because you look completely different from usual.” (Chaylen)
“That’s true. I don’t usually wear dresses like this because they’re burdensome.” (Ellea)
Chaylen couldn’t say that he was looking at her in a daze, because her unusual appearance was so beautiful.
Ellea’s gaze immediately went to Arun who was standing beside him and Chaylen introduced him.
“Introduction. This is Arun. Should I say he’s the person I trust the most?”
“I see. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Ellea Zevenica.”
Only then did Arun recognize who Ellea was, and immediately bowed his head and greeted her.
“My name is Arun. I’m in charge of managing the Duke and helping him.”
“That’s amazing. It is already hard to do just one, but you’re doing both. Chaylen, you’re not doing your job and making someone else do it, aren’t you?” (Ellea)
“Why do you say such an upsetting thing? I have a lot of things to do too.” (Chaylen)
The way Ellea was so polite to Arun, yet so easy-going with Chaylen made Arun confused.
Arun couldn’t for the life of him understand how the two of them looked so close, so he carefully spoke.
“Um, I don’t mean to be rude, but what is it with you two….”
“Do you mean we look like close friends? Yes, it’s as you see it.” (Chaylen)
“Don’t worry too much about it, I’m here by invitation of Chaylen. By the way, the banquet hall is very nice.” (Ellea)
Arun realized that the person Chaylen had said he had invited first was Ellea.
As awkward as this situation was, it was Chaylen’s behavior that was even more difficult for Arun to adapt.
Because this was by far the first time he had seen Chaylen so comfortably converse with someone.
Arun knew that he had always been more reserved than polite when dealing with people.
While they were talking, a knight hurriedly approached the three of them.
“Duke Chaylen, we are in trouble.”
“What’s the matter?”
Arun asked instead, sounding concerned, and the knight delivered some truly startling news.
“The Emperor has arrived.”
Chaylen and Arun had not been told that Terban was coming, so they were naturally confused. It was the same for Ellea.
Ellea was also puzzled, since she knew that Terban did not often attend such events.
After a while, the main character of the conversation had arrived, and the banquet hall became even noisier. Chaylen, as well as Ellea, watched them coming in through the entrance.
Terban and Shanil, who were entering arm in arm.
Chaylen approached the two with a hint of surprise, while Ellea watched them a little further back.
“I am seeing the Emperor.”
Chaylen looked flustered when he saw him, but Terban greeted him calmly.
“I came here because I thought it would be right to attend a meeting like today in person. Let’s work hard for the Empire in the future, Duke Chaylen.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty. I’m sure your presence in person will make the event all the more meaningful.”
Chaylen bowed his head at Terban’s words, then his gaze turned to Shanil at his side. It was a face he knew well, of course.
‘It’s definitely that woman.’
“I’m Shenil Raymir. Thank you for inviting me today.”
“Thank you for shining this place. It’s no match for the imperial banquet, but I did my best to prepare it, Your Majesty.”
As Chaylen led them inside the banquet hall, the gazes of the nobles naturally focused on them.
Shanil felt good at the envy and admiration she could feel in their eyes. Soon, she spotted Ellea and approached her, leading Terban.
“I am seeing the Emperor.”
“The Imperial Princess was here as well.” (Shanil)
“Yes, it’s the first time since that day.”
When Shanil approached first, Ellea didn’t panic and started talking about that day. Shanil also responded by pretending to be fine.
“I wanted to apologize to you for what happened. I told Terban that I made a mistake. Isn’t that right?”
Ellea purposely didn’t look at Terban, so she didn’t notice that his gaze was on her the whole time.
After a short conversation, the two of them moved away to the other nobles.
‘I was expecting Shanil would be here, but I didn’t expect His Majesty to come as well…probably I shouldn’t have come.’
At that moment, a happy voice called out to Ellea.
“Ellea, I didn’t know you would be here!”
“Then that’s exactly what I thought when I saw you, and Heris was just having the same thought.”
Heris laughed at Ellea’s words and looked at Shenil by Terban’s side and said.
“I can’t believe she came to you first after all that. In a way, I thought it was really amazing.”
Shanil’s face was also full of unconcealed frustration. How could she have been so rude to Ellea, and then approached her with a smile on her face?
“I agree with you. It’s better to just pretend not to know.”
“No way. It’s obvious that she only acts in ways that you don’t like.”
Ellea nodded in agreement to Heris’ words.
While they were conversing, they heard Chaylen’s voice announcing that the banquet was about to begin in earnest, and everyone focused their gaze on him.
“I would like to thank you all for attending today’s banquet. I’m Chaylen Kaicher, and I’m glad you’re all here to celebrate, and I’m sure Kaicher will prosper even more in the future. So please take it easy and enjoy today.”
After Chaylen’s words, everyone responded with applause, signaling the start of a full-scale banquet with music.
The banquet went on smoothly, with each person conversing or dancing with their partner. Perhaps it was because of what happened last time that the other ladies didn’t approach Ellea, and Ellea was glad that they didn’t.
She was comfortably conversing with Heris, but when Terban and Shanil came out to dance, the attention of the nobles instantly focused on them.
“I don’t like Lady Shanil, but they looked really good together. That’s the only thing I can’t deny.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
Ellea also nodded without much response, as she always thought when she saw Terban and Shanil together. Soon Heris’s gaze turned to someone else.
“It looks pretty busy over there too.”
At the end of Heris’s pointing finger was Chaylen. He was surrounded by many women.
“What’s wrong with that?”
“There’s already someone next to His Majesty, so the ladies can’t put their eyes on him, but with the Duke is a different story. He’s a Duke, he’s single, and has an outstanding appearance. It would be of great interest to the ladies.”
Ellea hadn’t thought of it that way before, even as she looked at Chaylen right now, but Heris said with great excitement.
“Of course. A lot will probably come to Duke Chaylen from tomorrow. Like letters from nobles trying to marry their daughter to the Duke.”
Ellea was not understood at first, but as Heris continued to say, she began to convince.
‘Certainly, no matter how I see him, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s a Duke.’
“If someone gets close to Duke Chaylen, it’s a war then. It will be the subject of everyone’s interest. Wow, I really hate to even think about it.”
Heris shook her head as if she didn’t even want to imagine the situation.
It was Ellea’s specification to get involved in such a troublesome situation, so she decided to unconditionally hide her relationship with Chaylen.
However, that vow of Ellea was broken shortly after. This was because of one person who approached her without hesitation, walking past the ladies and others.
Ellea asked, “Why?” with her eyes as Chaylen stood in front of her. He politely held one hand forward, whether he knew her mind or not.
Ellea shook her head lightly, as if to say, “Don’t do that,” but Chaylen deflected lightly at that and began to smile.
This revealed what he had known and intended to do all along.
“Will you give me the honor of dancing with the Princess?”
‘Please, I was hoping it wouldn’t be…’
As Ellea had predicted, Chaylen asked for the dance, and many eyes were on them, not to mention Heris at her side.
Right now, Ellea has only two choices. She could either hold Chaylen’s hand or say a few words of rejection.
Frankly, she wanted to say no, but now, looking at this situation, she was sure that people would talk whether she said no or yes.
Ellea had no choice but to place her hand on top of Chaylen’s.
“Of course, it’s my pleasure.”
Ellea and Chaylen, who settled among the dancers, naturally began to dance.
And among the many people, three pairs of eyes were watching them.