YCKTML Chapter 66
“She’s pretty though. We need to find out who she is.”
Hans, the most impatient of the group, approached Count John Batten. He smiled, exchanged a few words with them, then ran back to the group.
“She’s the daughter of Baron Verezian. Have you heard of him? Baron Verezian… Oh, but she was really pretty up close. I’ve never seen such a beautiful woman.”
“Well, I think this is the first time I’ve heard of them.”
As the crowd whispered amongst themselves, Enoch pondered for a moment before speaking. “I heard that the former Imperial physician was awarded a barony. He’s a Verezian.”
“Oh, really? So the doctor got a title?” Hans asked in disbelief, and Rupert stood beside them, quietly listening to their conversation.
“Well, sometimes people with exceptional skills are given titles. A barony isn’t too much; it’s just a conferred title with no territory.”
“Then… It’s not a noteworthy family.”
When the men heard that, their eyes shone. It would be difficult to marry such a person, but a pretty but lowly noblewoman would be the perfect person to date casually.
The man next to Hans tapped him and said, “Let me request for a dance first. You can go after me.”
“What about you, Rupert?”
“Arthur, you know that Rupert is to marry the woman chosen by the Duke.”
Rupert frowned at those words. “Don’t talk nonsense.”
At his annoyed reply, the men jumped in excitement. “Oh? Rupert! Are you going to enter the competition?”
“But Rupert, Lady Erin is pretty, too.”
“That’s right. Lady Spilet is beautiful. She’s not very friendly, but when her ice-cold eyes turn towards me…!”
Rupert jumped up and walked away from his seat as if he didn’t want to hear any more. The merely found his reaction entertaining, and they laughed.
Then Enoch beckoned them to be quiet. “Shh.”
Soon after, a grand carriage arrived at the banquet hall entrance. The eyes of the nobles, who had gathered to socialize with their friends, shifted to the carriage.
Hans exclaimed, lowering his voice, “Rupert’s father is here.”
With Rupert nowhere in sight, Enoch went ahead to meet the Duke.
“You’re here, Lord Clifford.”
“I don’t know where to put myself because the Your Highness the Crown Prince is personally coming to meet me.” The Duke, who shook Enoch’s hand lightly, looked around to find Rupert. “My son…”
“We were together the whole time, but he excused himself a moment ago. The timing wasn’t right.”
“Tsk, tsk. He’s supposed to escort the lady inside.”
“Who came with you?”
At Enoch’s question, the Duke spoke to someone inside the carriage, his tone kind. “Erin, come out.”
A pale pink skirt fluttered out from inside the carriage. When Enoch noticed that the person inside was a lady, he reflexively stretched out his hand.
Erin’s eyes widened when she saw Enoch, but she grabbed his hand, and curtsied the moment she departed the carriage. “Erin Spilet greets Your Highness.”
However, while greeting him with courtesy, her face remained expressionless.
The Duke coughed and explained the situation. “Count Spilet said he couldn’t attend today, so I brought her along with me. But now Rupert’s nowhere to be seen…”
Everyone already knew that Duke Clifford wanted Rupert to marry Erin.
“Let’s go inside.” Enoch smiled as he led the Duke into the banquet hall.
Emperor Longard von Rikephoros and Empress Meribel Janiere entered the banquet hall.
The nobles socializing in the center moved to the side and knelt toward the Emperor and Empress.
Prince Enoch and Prince Breiman walked naturally behind them. When Enoch spotted Rupert, he nodded at him, gesturing for him to come forward.
After the Imperial family had walked past them, the Duke saw Rupert approaching him, and rebuked him in a low voice, “You surpassed the Crown Prince and took the lead.”
“Yes, it somehow happened…”
Rupert’s answer angered the Duke even more. “Couldn’t you have done it properly? You are the Crown Prince’s subject. What’s the point of beating him?”
“… I’m sorry.”
He wasn’t the type to make up excuses, and he wasn’t in a situation to do so.
As the Emperor ascended the podium, the commander of the Imperial Knights called out the names of those who passed the knight exam today.
Enoch, who joined his family for a while, also came down when his name was called. Several others, including Rupert, gathered at the center.
“Rupert Clifford, congratulations on ranking first. Now, come up on the platform,” the Emperor announced, grinning at Rupert. Everyone in the room clapped awkwardly, staring at Enoch as they did.
In the previous knight tests taken by the heirs apparent to the throne, it was customary that they won.
However, Enoch congratulated Rupert nonchalantly and patted his shoulder. “Go ahead, Rupert.”
Rupert clenched his fists and stepped forward. He topped the exam because of his skills, but in the end, no one congratulated him. Not even his father.
He wondered what’s the point of trying so hard.
The wound on his side suddenly hurt. Emotionally and physically bruised, he couldn’t manage his facial expressions well.
Rupert knelt before the Emperor as he handed him a sword given yearly to the person who topped the knight exam. Rupert thanked the Emperor with a faint smile and then came down from the podium.
As he descended, Rupert made eye contact with Erin. Her eyes widened, and she immediately lowered her gaze, her face flushed. But she still peeked at him through her lashes.
Rupert looked away, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. Come to think of it, it was all because of Erin that he took the top position regardless of her intentions.
‘If it wasn’t for that hat…!’
Starting with Rupert, the participants received their knighthood one after another. Soon, a lively tune played to mark the start of the ball. Then, the Emperor and Empress opened the dance, and the rest followed to the center in search of a partner.
After leaving his sword to a servant, Rupert paused as he approached his close friends. People still surrounded Enoch as they congratulated him on getting second place.
Rupert could neither approach nor back away, so he stood alone, feeling Erin’s gaze again.
His face felt warm. For now, he wanted to escape from her eyes.
“Rupert.” Then Enoch found Rupert first and motioned for him to come closer. It might be better that way.
Resigned, Rupert joined the crowd and stood by Enoch’s side. Fortunately, the subject has changed.
After the current dance ended, the young nobles went to the center as was customary. Some had already left in search of their fiancées, while those who didn’t have a suitable partner looked for one.
Naturally, their target for today was Lady Verezian, whom they saw earlier.
“Can I go first?”
“No, wait. I want to–”
Rupert leaned against the wall alone, arms crossed, his eyes on the ground. If he raised his head, he’d meet the gazes of the two people looking at him–Duke Clifford and her.
Enoch, who stood next to Rupert, handed him a glass of champagne. Rupert only looked up when he took the glass.
Enoch stared at the center of the hall, his gaze on Erin, and muttered softly, “I envy you, Rupert.”
“…What do you mean?”
“Her eyes are only on you. I can’t help but envy you.”
Smirking, Rupert looked around them and said, “There are a lot more ladies watching your right now, Your Highness.”
“It’s only because I’m the Crown Prince. If I didn’t have that position, would they still look at me?”
Rupert could not easily refute, and Enoch continued, sipping champagne. “But Erin Spilet will still look at you no matter the circumstances. Rupert, you know the truth, right? People like that are rare.”
“Not really, that has nothing to do with me.”
Enoch drank the rest of his drink and handed the empty glass to a passing server. He said, “Then, I have to go do my job.”
“Where are you going?”
“Since the princess of the Chelda Kingdom has arrived, I must entertain her,” Enoch smiled, looking a little miffed, then waved his hand and disappeared.
After a while, Rupert saw Enoch with the princess of Chelda Kingdom as he escorted her to the center. Playing his role as the Crown Prince of the Empire, he must have asked her to dance.
Rupert sighed and looked ahead until his eyes met Duke Clifford, whom he had so avoided. The Duke silently pressed Rupert from afar, turning towards Erin and then back.
Rupert glanced at Erin standing alone and bit his lip. He had seen her dress before. He had heard that Count Spilet was going through financial troubles recently, so that must be why Erin couldn’t get a new dress for this banquet.
Well, even so, it wasn’t that difficult to dance with Erin.
Still, he felt uncomfortable. It also hurt his self-esteem that he had to choose a dance partner because of his father’s pressure.
Then he saw Hans, who approached Chloe and was rejected, make his way toward Erin. When Rupert saw it, he reflexively straightened and took a step.
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