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The invitation arrived faster than Vivian had expected. The golden embroidery on cream-colored paper clearly indicated that it was an invitation from the palace.
When she unfolded the invitation, it revealed the date and location, along with a message announcing a congratulatory banquet. The banquet was to take place in four days.
Vivian thought that four days should provide plenty of time, but her mother, the Countess, had a different opinion. Four days was barely enough time to acquire a suitable dress. It felt like a war within the Count’s estate for those four days. Amidst it all, Vivian’s role was to try on the dresses she had acquired from famous dressmaker’s collections and select the appropriate accessories to match the dress.
On the day of the banquet, Vivian wore the red dress she had carefully chosen and adorned herself with sparkling jewelry before heading to the palace. As she entered, she found the grand hall just as dazzling as it had been when she first attended.
The hall was filled with people, each engaged in various conversations, but it seemed that discussions about Daenerys had been the topic of society for the past few days, especially now.
Someone noticed Vivian standing at the entrance and greeted her, causing a momentary hush in the bustling crowd. Suddenly, several people gathered around her.
“Oh my, Lady Lector, you’re here!”
“I heard you played a significant role in reclaiming the western territories.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I regret not being able to greet you at the last banquet.”
People of all ages and backgrounds gathered around Vivian, and she could only nod and smile, unable to utter a word. However, the crowd did not disperse.
Vivian finally gathered her thoughts and made an effort to answer their questions one by one. Although they all had different things to say, the questions were generally similar. The noblewomen inquired about Daenerys, while the noble men asked questions related to Vivian. It was clear where their interests were focused, based on gender.
Amidst the relentless barrage of questions and introductions, Vivian began to feel a bit weary. Someone in the crowd approached her from behind and gently tapped her shoulder.
Amidst the sea of unfamiliar faces, a familiar one appeared. It was Tainy. He seemed to be wearing more refined attire than usual, perhaps due to the banquet. Vivian apologized to the people around her and moved away from the crowd with Tainy.
“When did you arrive?”
“Just a while ago. Everyone suddenly became curious about the western territories, so…”
Vivian smiled, finding it a good opportunity. While looking at each other, Tainy pointed over her shoulder with his thumb.
“The Order of Eckhart is over there. Would you like to go and greet them?”
Walking alongside Tainy, Vivian engaged in various conversations. Even after seeing each other every day, being apart for a week and four days had given them plenty to talk about.
As they approached, the Order of Eckhart, who had been laughing and chatting among themselves, welcomed her. Some knights cheered at the sight of her wearing a mesmerizing dress.
As Vivian seamlessly blended in with them, many onlookers were agitated. The reactions of the people towards the two knight orders in the palace had been starkly divided. The Royal Knights, led by Glen Dinus, were considered the virtuous group, while the Order of Eckhart, led by Roger Orpheus, was seen as the wicked group.
The citizens of the Empire had never doubted the rumors about the Order of Eckhart, especially after the shocking incident, which had engraved the name ‘Roger Orpheus’ in their minds.
However, in recent days, the tide has turned. The revelation that members of the Royal Knights were affiliated with Daenerys had caused a stir. Simultaneously, subtle rumors had emerged, suggesting that the tarnished reputation of the Order of Eckhart was due to manipulation by the Royal Knights.
Opinions on this matter were highly divided. Some believed it was impossible, continuing to view the Order of Eckhart as a sinister group. Others considered the possibility and felt ashamed of their prior judgments. Most people found themselves wavering between these two opinions.
Unintentionally, the Order of Eckhart had garnered attention at the banquet. Especially now, with Vivian’s presence, the spotlight remained on them.
Vivian, having just entered the crowd, paid little attention to the surrounding commotion. Above all, the person she had been looking for was nowhere to be seen. She lightly tugged on Tainy’s sleeve, the one who had brought her here.
“Excuse me, where is Sir Orpheus?”
“The Captain? He said he’s taking a short break because he’s tired.”
“Did he go outside?”
Vivian immediately left the banquet hall. It was getting quite chilly outside as the sun had just set. Wearing a dress that exposed her arms and shoulders, Vivian crossed her arms.
As she wondered where he had gone, she hesitated for a moment before starting to walk. The path along the palace corridor was the same secluded area where she had first met Roger at a party.
As expected, her hunch was correct. Roger was standing by the railing in a dim corner, barely visible from a distance. When he was alone like this, he emitted an atmosphere that even made her hesitate to approach. It was a lonely and melancholic atmosphere that was never felt when talking to him face to face. Vivian wondered what he was thinking.
Vivian paused for a moment and then continued forward again. As the sound of her footsteps echoed, Roger slowly turned his head in her direction. The candlelight illuminated her silver hair, and she lazily raised her lips.
“What are you doing here?”
“Just came out for some fresh air.”
As Vivian’s figure gradually became visible from the dim darkness, Roger turned his body completely toward her. When she approached him, Roger had the gaze of a man who had fallen in love at first sight with a woman he had never seen before.
“…It’s not unexpected, though.”
He delicately touched her cheek as if he were admiring a precious treasure.
“More than I imagined.”
Vivian realized that he was admiring her appearance, which she had meticulously chosen for the party, with an absent-minded look in his eyes. When she looked into those deep eyes that seemed to be completely captivated, her confidence soared.
His fingers that had touched her cheek now moved down to her neck. He gently traced her skin, which was exposed by the low-cut dress, and furrowed his brow.
“Isn’t it cold?”
“Well, it is.”
At Vivian’s indirect response, Roger immediately acted as if he would take off his coat at any moment. Surprised, Vivian restrained him and pulled him closer by the waist.
“So, hug me.”
At her insistence, Roger stiffened his body for a moment. Eventually, his strong and warm arms embraced her waist. Vivian savored the warmth radiating from his chest as she leaned her head against his shoulder.
“Remember this place? It’s where we first met, just the two of us.”
“Now that you mention it…”
Roger, seemingly lost in thought, glancing around as if he hadn’t realized where they were.
“It feels like it was just yesterday, but time has passed so quickly.”
It felt unbelievable. The man who had once seemed awkward and distant now felt closer than anyone else. Both physically and emotionally.
“Oh, right. Roger, I have a question.”
As she embraced him, Vivian suddenly remembered something and raised her head, looking into his eyes as they shimmered with azure blue.
“Have we met when we were children?”
As Gray’s assumption that she would regain spirit magic by having sēx with him seemed to come true, Vivian became curious if she had any childhood connections with him.
With her question in mind, Roger embraced her waist tightly.
Vivian was startled, and a scream burst from her lips. In the small, confined space, her scream echoed loudly. Vivian, who had ended up sitting on the railing, quickly covered her mouth with her hand. With a mischievous boyish smile, Roger grabbed her hand and asked.
“Don’t you remember?”
As he lightly kissed her fingertips, it sounded like he knew something, and Vivian’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Have we really met before?”
With both arms holding onto the railing on either side of her legs, Roger leaned in close, still smiling.
“Well, when was it?”
He casually replied, his lips brushing against Vivian’s.
“I wonder when it was.”
With a slight sigh, he gently kissed her lips without her even noticing. Vivian was taken aback by the unexpected kiss. In fact, the fact that she had met him in the past left her astonished.
“When was it?”
“No, Roger, wh…”
Every time Vivian tried to ask a question, Roger interrupted her with a gentle kiss. It was a kiss that felt like a reproach, as if he wondered why she couldn’t remember what he remembered.
Unable to resist the persistent kisses that sealed her lips, Vivian reluctantly covered his mouth with her hand. Roger, whose kiss had been prevented, slightly pulled his head back, his eyes twinkling. His slightly curved eyelashes held a mysterious charm in the night breeze.
“I can’t say it because it feels weird to be the only one who remembers.”
He licked the palm of the hand that covered his lips. The sensation was oddly tantalizing, and Vivian made a strange sound as she pulled her hand away, startled.
“What, what is it… Are you really not going to tell me?”
“That’s right. Think about it carefully.”
At first, she thought it was a joke, but as time passed, it felt more and more sincere. In the end, Vivian, who had her mouth slightly open, looked at him in amazement. However, Roger’s actions, trying to insert his tongue between them, forced her to keep her mouth closed.
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