Chapter 10

Translator: Alice

Editor: SoaringPeaches

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Huge thanks to Roxypeony for the kofis! (3/3)

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This could not be part of the etiquette she had not learned, could it? After all, she had definitely noticed other ladies filling out their dance cards earlier.

 

After staring at the dance card for a considerable moment, she concluded that it was not really important.

 

“…”

 

The hushed whispers snapped Eileen out of her reverie. She looked around herself, still holding the card in her hand. Then she dropped her head, embarrassed. The incident from the triumphal procession was repeated.

 

Everyone in the banquet hall was focused on Eileen. They murmured as they observed the woman surrounded by tall, powerful men with shocked expressions on their faces.

 

On this occasion, however, the nobles immediately recognised Eileen.

 

Social circles were rife with rumours of the Grand Duke caring for the daughter of his deceased nanny.

 

“Ah. The one His Grace cherishes…”

 

“Oh? So that’s her. Hmm. I must say, I’m a little surprised.”

 

“It’s strange, isn’t it? I can’t believe she attended this banquet without even making her debut!”

 

“I heard her family was having a hard time.”

 

“I suppose the soldiers are doing this on His Grace’s orders?”

 

The whispering voices hit Eileen like a dagger, cutting deep. She felt pity for the soldiers who insisted on dancing with her as she listened to the malevolent chatter. Had she not come along, each would have danced with a lady of their choosing. 

 

Upon further reflection, she realised that it had been a while since she had learned to dance. If someone took her hand now, she would undoubtedly step on their feet. Eileen came to a decision. She would apologise to the soldiers who had asked for a dance and stuck to her original plan of simply congratulating Cesare and leaving.

 

Eileen looked back at Diego, who had been the first to put his name on her dance card.

 

“Sir Diego.”

 

“Oh, Senon and Michael will be a little late. They have some business to attend to. Depending on how things go, they may not come.”

 

It was not the question she wanted to ask, but it piqued her interest nonetheless.

 

“Is that so? It’s a shame. I wanted to see them too.”

 

Before she could continue, Diego interrupted with a mischievous smile reminiscent of a street performer.

 

“How about having a cup of tea soon? I bought the doll for you. It’s amazing, I must say. A great giant rabbit.”

 

What kind of rabbit doll could be so impressive? She could not even guess. While Eileen was preoccupied with the rabbit doll story, Diego and Lotan exchanged brief glances.

 

“Eileen.”

 

Lotan smiled brightly, his bear-like, blunt expression softening in front of Eileen.

 

“Did you feel uncomfortable on your way here? I should have picked you up myself, my apologies.”

 

“Oh no, not at all. His Excellency took care of everything…”

 

Eileen fiddled with her glasses, explaining hesitantly.

 

“He sent someone to help me prepare. But I felt like I’m burdening him, so I sent her back. Had I known it was going to be like this, I would have put more effort into it.”

 

The last comment unintentionally drew the knight’s full attention. If she had somewhere to hide, she would have done so long ago. Lotan laughed heartily as he looked at the embarrassed Eileen.

 

“We would have had a problem if you had dressed up properly, young miss.”

 

Following Lotan, Diego also made a comment from the sidelines.

 

“That’s right. All of the men would have flocked to our lady.”

 

Eileen just blinked, unable to comprehend what they were saying. They couldn’t have meant it, could they? Then in an instant, she remembered what she was going to ask.

 

“Oh, by the way, about the dance–”

 

“My lady! Have you looked around the garden? It underwent quite a change.”

 

Lotan interrupted her with another question. He then paused, and Eileen waited for him to continue. It spurned Lotan to continue.

 

“I mean the greenhouse. Yes. They’ve brought in a new plant called Orient, I think it was. From the East.”

 

“O-Orient?”

 

Eileen stammered in excitement.

 

“Oh yes. I heard it’s a very precious plant.”

 

When Cesare was at the Imperial Palace, he gave her full access to explore the palace gardens. The memories of her wanderings among plants she had only seen in books were still vivid in her mind.

 

However, Eileen had found it impossible to visit the palace gardens in the last three years without Cesare by her side.

 

“Wouldn’t it be nice to take a moment to explore the gardens before His Excellency arrives?”

 

“Would that be alright?”

 

Eileen’s overwhelming fascination with plants overshadowed her desire to return home. Eileen blushed as she asked Lotan for help in finding the garden, and Lotan graciously agreed, as if he had been anticipating her request.

 

On their way towards the gardenhouse after leaving the banquet, Eileen remembered what she tried to say the whole evening.

 

“Oh…”

 

Lotan, who had been leading the way, turned around with a puzzled expression when Eileen sighed. As if in answer, she showed him the dance card on her wrist with a pained expression.

 

“You must not have had the chance to dance with other ladies because of me. I feel terrible. So I planned to simply greet his Grace and leave.”

 

“I feel like everyone missed the opportunity to dance with other ladies because of me. So, I was just planning to greet His Grace and leave without dancing.”

 

“Please do not do that, Miss Eileen.”

 

At Lotan’s earnest insistence, Eileen smiled slightly. 

 

“Alright then. Shall we dance to one song, Lotan? But we have to let the others go.”

 

“…I think that would be acceptable.”

 

Lotan’s response brought immense relief to Eileen, alleviating her worries. They laughed and talked until they found themselves in front of the greenhouse.

 

“Please take your time and enjoy the view.”

 

“What about you, Sir Lotan?”

 

“I must return to the reception. You do not have to worry about the way back.”

 

It appeared that he would send someone to escort her back. Eileen thanked him and entered the greenhouse alone.

 

The glass greenhouse was fairly humid inside. A stream of moonlight entered, allowing the leaves to bask in the soft light.

 

As Eileen continued inside, her eyes scanned the surroundings for the elusive new oriental plants. She then heard a faint creak. She turned to see the greenhouse door opening behind her.

 

“Lord Lotan?”

 

Eileen looked back to see if Lotan had returned. And she simply froze. Cesare entered the greenhouse at his usual leisurely pace.

 

He was dressed in a ceremonial uniform that differed only slightly from the one during the triumphal procession. Under the moonlit night, the man took on an even more menacing appearance. A gentle smile graced his lips, as if hinting at a secret kiss.

 

Eileen hesitantly lowered her head. With a graceful movement, she shifted her leg, delicately bending her knee and gently lifting the hem of her dress—a gesture of utmost reverence.

 

“Your Excellency, Grand Duke Erzet.”

 

And so, Cesare proceeded to speak to her with formality.

 

“Lady Elrod.”

 

“For the victory, Your Grace… I–”

 

She hesitantly offered her congratulations, unsure if it was proper etiquette. Then laughter erupted before she could think any further. Eileen slowly raised her head.

 

The man facing the moon had a bright grin on his face, red eyes crescent. Eileen could not help but be captivated by the sheer beauty of his radiant smile. Her attention was entirely absorbed by him when she finally asked her question.

 

“Did I make a mistake?”

 

“No, not at all.”

 

Cesare smiled as he shook his head.

 

“It makes me nostalgic for the past.”

 

He then extended his hand to Eileen, tapping the dance card with his leather gloved hand.

 

“Eileen, would you do me the honour of joining me for a dance?”

 

He swiftly removed it in a courteous manner and inspected it. With a fleeting smile, Cesare examined the signatures written inside. He inscribed his name on the first blank line.

 

[Cesare Traon Karl Erzet]

 

The signature was written confidently, with no harsh strokes indicating hesitation. It is as if it always belonged there.

 

Cesare signed the card with elegant penmanship. With a tender touch, he delicately fastened it to Eileen’s wrist.

 

Eileen examined the card dangling from her wrist, the corner of her lips twitching. Someone else might mistake it for a piece of military documentation.

 

‘I never expected His Excellency would actually ask me for a dance.’

 

***

 

She was left with no choice but to sway awkwardly on the dance floor. Eileen imagined the looks and whispers she would get while dancing with Cesare.

 

It was pointless to make excuses for fear of missing the steps. She knew that Cesare would reassure her, guiding her to follow his lead.

 

Indeed, he was capable of doing exactly that. After all, it was Cesare himself who taught her ballroom dancing.

 

She remembered him taking her little hands and twirling her around.

 

She never mastered the art of dancing. Since the beginning, her mother would have stepped in to give her severe reprimands.

 

“How dare you disrespect the prince! You are wasting his time with your dance lessons!”

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Notes

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