Huge thanks to Maricel for the support!
Frederick de Anata played the most significant role in his enlightenment. A human being who had been in the North all his life finally visited the Empire’s Capital because of his succession.
When Frederick made his way into the Capital, high society turned upside down once more.
“Who do you like? Sir Blanchett or Archduke Anata?”
“It’s too difficult to choose between them! I like both of them.”
“No, but still! If you were to choose one, who fits your ideal type?”
“Um… then, the Archduke! I know he’s a dangerous man, but I’m somehow attracted to him. This feeling is similar to liking raw and unrefined food! Oh, and he always puts on a flat expression, but sometimes his face can look relaxed! Which is really… Huff, I just can’t describe it. You have to see it for yourself!”
It was no wonder that Frederick was perfect in all aspects, including appearance, status, bloodline, and talent. Even his arrogant and cold bearing wasn’t considered a flaw. Rather, his bearing combined with his outstanding appearance created an awe-inspiring atmosphere.
“We will never fight over a man.”
“Why? Do you like the young Marquis more?”
“Of course, my choice will never change! You know, I feel purified seeing Lord Blanchett’s smile. And did you see the Lord when he fought? When he grabbed his sword, his eyes turned sharp. It really drives me crazy!”
“Of course I saw! His face is the sweetest in the world, but his body screams roughness!”
“You shouldn’t say that!”
Gerard and Frederick certainly had different appearances. If Gerard was the prince in a fairy tale, Frederick was the ruler of a rough land in the North. Therefore, there was a time when the young ladies of the Hernia Empire were divided into two groups that supported Gerard and Frederick.
“Why are you just standing there? Who do you like better between the two?”
“Yes! Who do you prefer more?”
“I… actually prefer His Highness the Crown Prince Owen!”
Of course there were exceptions.
“Isn’t His Highness very pleasant? He’s so humorous that I keep laughing when I’m with him. Plus, I love the fact that he’s nice to everyone, and always has a boyish smile on his face. However, he’s filled with so much dignity once he takes care of state affairs! That’s really cool!”
When the young Lady brought up Owen, the women around her gasped in surprise.
“Hey! Are you for real?”
“Huh? I’m serious.”
The young Lady who was questioned looked around in confusion.
“She must not know. She didn’t know.”
“You didn’t speak about this anywhere else, did you?”
However, her friends only spoke with serious expressions. She couldn’t quite understand why.
“What? Is there anything wrong with it?”
“Did or did not? Just answer.”
“Phew, that’s a relief. Don’t you ever speak of that anywhere else.”
“No, but why?”
The young Lady who brought up Owen was resentful. They didn’t say anything whilst letting her walk on eggshells for no solid reason.
“You must have not known much because you just came back to the Capital, but do not touch the Crown Prince.”
“His Highness’ lover is young Lady Roem.”
“The Roem family? Which one out of the three?”
“Do you really have to ask? Karina Roem! The flower of high society!”
“Huh?! Really? I… I didn’t know that.”
The young Lady, who finally understood the whole situation, covered her mouth. That Karina Roem! The unrequited love of the young Lady, which hadn’t even bloomed, quickly withered.
Owen was obviously the best groom after Gerard and Frederick. No, he was even better in terms of status and bloodline. Moreover, there were quite a few young ladies who took a liking to him because of his clumsy and endearing personality.
However, he had a powerful lover in Karina. The incident where Karina personally attended the gathering of young ladies who supported Owen and disbanded them was still talked about. Even then, Karina ws always Karina. The obvious part was that Karina was able to go that far because Owen was always on her side. Then and now.
In any case, the gossip among young ladies didn’t provoke Gerard’s interest. He just understood that Frederick Anata was the reason for the commotion happening lately.
Until the man’s name came from Leila’s mouth.
“Gerard, do you know who I met yesterday?”
“Archduke Anata! He’s very similar to the rumors about him.”
“He’s handsome, but… he’s so full of himself.”
It was the first time Leila talked about a man to Gerard. He furrowed his eyebrows for a moment before recovering them to their usual place. The words she said shouldn’t have been taken lightly by him.
Leila and Frederick ran into each other much more frequently since then. At this rate, he was suspicious whether he was following her.
“I ran into Archduke Anata again today! This is the third time.”
Leila said to Gerard, holding three fingers in the air.
Gerard was only displeased with Leila’s frequent talk about Frederick. Therefore, he only tilted his teacup without bothering to come up with a response.
“Listen! I went to the market today. However, in the alley I often walk by, a group of young men were surrounding a noble girl. I thought I should help her, so I approached them and it turned out she was young Lady Roem, whom I’ve said I wanted to befriend!”
“Oh, the third daughter of the Roem Family?”
Gerard remembered what Leila had said before. Didn’t she say that she wanted to get close to her because she looked at people impartially unlike other young girls?
“Yes! That’s why I stepped in to help her! Those guys were nothing to me. But when I almost finished them all, Archduke Anata appeared.”
“After that, the Archduke’s escort took care of the rest and handed them over to the police. However, what really pissed me off was… Uh, Gerard? Are you listening?”
“Oh, I’m listening.”
Gerard replied in a low, subdued voice. However, Leila didn’t notice it because she was too focused on telling her story.
“I knocked them all down because I was genuinely upset, but he bragged about it! Do you know what the Archduke said?”
“The police seem to be overconfident in themselves. Do you think the security forces of the Empire are mere decorations?”
Leila imitated Frederick’s low voice.
“He told them so! It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”
“Yes, that’s ridiculous.”
“Wow, it’s more ridiculous thinking about it again! He shouldn’t have intervened in a fight that I clearly was about to win and admonished them about it.”
Leila felt as if Frederick had gotten the better of her this time, so her excitement didn’t subside. If it were her original self, she would have refuted the evil Archduke’s words right away! At that time, young Lady Roem, whom she wanted to be close with, was there, so she had no choice but to manage her temper.
Perhaps, that’s why she kept thinking about the situation.
“…But, you know what? The Archduke is a little weird.”
“I mean… He called me Dame Stein, not young Lady Stein.”
Upon saying so, Leila fell into deep thought. Was it because it was the first time that a nobleman had ever called her ‘Dame’? For some reason, her mind wandered.
Leila’s thoughtful silence made Gerard uneasy. He couldn’t let Leila think about the man any longer.
“So, did you become close to the third daughter of the Roem family?”
“Oh, right. Young Lady Roem! The young Lady wishes to invite me to the Roem residence as a token of gratitude! I’m thrilled! Do you want to come with me?”
“No, why would I follow you there?”
However, that was just how it was. Gerard naturally changed the topic of the conversation. Leila quickly escaped from her lingering thoughts of Frederick and focused on the new topic.
As such, the person who knew Leila best and the closest to Leila were, indeed, him. He was confident that he wouldn’t lose his position by Leila’s side. That’s why he thought there was no need to react emotionally to each passing relationship she would have when growing up.
Gerard pulled up the corners of his mouth, pretending to act calm. He didn’t realize he was acting as though he was laid-back.
However, when all Leila’s conversation topics were eventually dominated by Frederick, Gerard could no longer pretend to be relaxed. He felt strange, wanting to say that he hated it and was irritated at the way Leila kept talking about Frederick. A sense of awareness weighed on him.
“Gerard, look! What do you think?”
Leila unfolded a wad of paper in front of Gerard. There were several poorly drawn dresses on the paper.
“What are these drawings?”
“No, I told Derick once that…”
Gerard bit back sharply. It was because Leila called Frederick with such a friendly name. It wasn’t just a name, but a nickname.
“Why do you call Archduke Anata like that?”
“Oh, Derick gave me permission for that. You know, because the names of northerners are simply too long.”
Leila said as though it was nothing.
“Stil! You’re calling him that just because being granted permission to do so? What are you going to do if others misunderstand?”
“Calm down, Gerard. Of course I don’t call him that in front of others. Don’t worry about it.”
“Ha, that’s not the only problem…”
“All right, Ger! I’ll be careful from now on.”
Leila called Gerard using a nickname with a cute wrinkle in her nose. She was trying to move past it quickly. Gerard frowned.
“I’m sorry but I don’t remember granting the Lady permission to call me by my nickname, did I?”
Gerard intentionally spoke in a firm tone.
“Oh, you’re so low! How long have we known each other? You don’t even let me call you by your nickname!”
“I can’t help it even if you’re saying I’m low. Don’t call me by that nickname.”
“I don’t want to. Ger, Ger, Ger, Ger!”
“Ha, you’re just too…”
“How come nothing has changed from when you were young?”
“You don’t like it? Do you want me to go away just like how the prickly young Master used to tell me in the past?”
“No, it’s not that I don’t like it.”
‘Therefore, stay with me forever, Leila.’
Gerard shoved the important remark back down his throat.
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