“Why are you so late….? ”
A man with a penchant for uttering nonsense rose from leaning forward. Dahlia had to look up to meet his gaze.
Her gaze traveled up the gold buttons of his white uniform, stopped at the neatly filled collar of her neck. As she glanced along her gallant and strong jawline, she glimpsed the Young Duke of Edelred’s sweet smiling mask.
He really is a man with a terribly dazzling shell. A man who seemed unperturbed and could leisurely face all of life’s crises thrown at him.
Although he looked tender, calm and religiously detected from worldly matters with a striking face Dahlia was not deceived. She was well aware how vicious and indecent he really was behind that handsome profile.
Just before leaving Tezeba, that man taught her what reverse guiding was. It was a painful experience, as if the soul had been punctured. It was a shock she never wanted to go through again.
Dahlia, who fiercely glared at Jurgen with trepidation, unclasped the necklace she had clutched in her hand. Then, with a relaxed smile, he took another step closer.
“Count Von Klose must have been very concerned about bringing the lady to the capital.”
Jurgen’s stare pointed directly at her necklace. As if he knew what this gem was, he discreetly smirked.
No, she was sure he knew. Who was this man?
Watching the burning red jewel on her necklace he stretched out his arm as if offering to escort her.
“I’m thinking of taking a walk, would you like to accompany me? Or I’ll ask for the first dance.”
The ripple effect of the word “first dance” spread and the unkind glazes of the crowd that up until a while ago had judged her attire and jewelry badly, now followed them with intrigued scrutiny.
So she decided to take advantage of Jurgen’s skillfully arranged goodwill.
Dahlia willingly put her hand on his arm.
“Indeed, the air is a bit stuffy, thank you for your consideration.”
“I am honored, my lady.”
Feeling like she was on a well-lit theatrical stage, Dahlia walked across the banquet hall with him. Despite the inexhaustible stares, Jurgen bent slightly and his nose brushed past her ear as they stepped forward together while staring straight ahead.
“Why are you shaking so much? Are you nervous?”
His affectionate tone gave her chills up her spine. In the eyes of others, it would seem that Duke Edelred was courting her.
Well-taught, Dahlia replied with the facade befitting of a lady, dignified and graceful.
“I don’t know what you mean in the slightest, Sir Edelred.”
“You’re also exemplary at acting.”
“It’s all thanks to my lord.”
“Thanks to me?”
“Yes, thanks to me?”
Bewildered, the aristocrats couldn’t take their eyes off them, their mouths agape at their amiable behavior. It was what he was hoping for. The two looked at each other fondly and quietly walked out of the banquet hall.
Leaving the cool banquet hall and entering the garden scorched by the heat of summer, she shook off his arm and moved away from Jurgen.
The sight of Dahlia retreating as if she’s running away from him, surprised him and made him burst into laughter.
“You treat me like a villain.”
“Didn’t you know? You are a villain.”
“Aren’t you being too harsh on the person who rescued you from the suffocating banquet hall?”
“You are still shameless, Sir Edelred.”
The two shot back at each other without losing a word.
Since it was an imperial garden, soft light poured from the magic crystal spheres illuminating the area.
Although the number of wizards decreased after the power of the magic tower diminished, there were still a plethora of wizards that were on retainer for the imperial family. Curiously Dahlia studied the crystal orbs powered by mana and stepped forward to get a better glimpse.
“Still… . I didn’t want to dance in front of people, so thank you for saving me.”
“Now you’re being a little more honest.”
Turning around, she smirked and spread her skirt in a curtsy in half- ridicule.
Jurgen watched her honey-colored hair swaying faintly with every step.
The gossipmongers in the banquet hall did not know that her light brown dress, which attempted to be discreet, was a color allowed only to high-ranking nobles in the past.
Ignorantly they blatantly revealed their shallow noble lineage with their defamation. On the other hand, Count Von Klose was one of the five great families that supported the empire for as long as Edelred.
How crass, to evaluate and malign a young maiden from such a family based on just a dress and a few jewels. If His Majesty the Emperor was there, they wouldn’t have dared even make eye contact with her.
“Since we’ve met again… . Please apologize. For reserve-guiding me last time.”
Jurgen’s brow wrinkled at her remark after she had suddenly stopped walking.
“Yes, it was horrible and unpleasant. I had never felt that way before… . It was terrible.”
With determination to face him, she glared at Jurgen, and involuntarily wrapped her hands around her belly. But luckily today, the seal did not activate. Only light discomfort came from the faint ringing of her blood-red necklace.
“I apologize, my dear lady.”
With courtesy, he kissed the back of her hand and politely lowered his gaze. It was an impeccable manners that he wouldn’t make eye contact until he received permission.
“… Your apology, I will accept it.”
As soon as she nodded her head reluctantly and pulled her hand away, he said at once:
“What about my marriage proposal?”
“You haven’t responded to my proposal yet.”
Dahlia’s jaw was clenched, avoiding his gaze. She knew it was not a sincere proposal. We’ve only just met. Something happened and she guided him… and there was contact, but it was absolutely nothing more than an accident.
But are you proposing? Why?
“Sir… . You must have a bad memory. I obviously refused.”
“You didn’t seriously consider it though.”
“My reply would be the same even if I did seriously consider it. I… . I will not marry you.”