*˖:✧ ⑅•.⋅༻♔༺•⑅ ✧:˖*
Valhayle checked the time.
He was waiting for someone right now. It was the 2nd Princess Demiera who he exchanged words of marriage with.
The task he was given tonight was to wait and escort the 2nd Princess.
The 2nd Princess…
She had a habit of being late so as to ascertain the difference between her status and the waiting person’s status. Demiera was also very obsessed with her entrance.
‘…I should wait a little longer.’
Valhayle looked towards the ballroom. He could see the 8th Princess walk past through the door.
Valhayle glared at the spot the 8th Princess had appeared and disappeared from.
She didn’t seem peculiar. She looked innocent with no dark aspects.
Even rumors about her described her that way: an ordinary, quiet, and reserved person.
A ‘bird in a birdcage’, since she knew nothing about the real world except the little world within the castle.
That was the public’s evaluation of the 8th Princess, as well as the only information Valhayle had of her.
But whenever she incomprehensibly ran away from him, Valhayle felt a vague shadow fall on her.
How do I describe it? After a moment of contemplation, he managed to label that feeling.
‘The last surviving soldier fleeing from an enemy.’
It was a description that came from a soldier who had spent half of his life on the warfield.
Valhayle chased after a soldier like that once.
The last desperate strand of resistance despite knowing their inevitable death. Even their noticeable despair was a sign of their desire to live.
And ridiculously, the same thing he saw from the fleeing soldier could be seen from the 8th Princess.
He was satisfied with the description he had settled with, but he soon became displeased.
Does that mean I am an enemy to the 8th Princess? A Commander in Chief who is treated like an enemy by his home country’s princess, huh…
“What are you thinking so deeply about?”
Valhayle looked up. The 2nd Princess Demiera was standing in front of him.
Valhayle immediately did the royal greetings. Demiera brought her perfectly dried hair over her shoulders and spoke.
“I didn’t realize the time while talking with Linbessy. Let’s enter.”
Valhayle pushed the thoughts in his mind away and extended his arm. Demiera lightly placed her hand over his arm.
“Princess Demiera Bmaha Meredith and Sir Valhayle of House Lumares are entering!”
The entire ballroom turned to him and Demiera. Demiera wore a confident expression and walked into the ballroom. People greeted her at her every step.
Valhayle stared at the princess’s proud expression.
Though she wasn’t the reason why this banquet was hosted, this was her world.
Demiera was the closest blood relative to the next term’s ruler and was probably even more prideful than 1st Princess Linbessy herself who was soon to be the next ruler.
She released Valhayle’s arm in the center of the hall.
“Will you get me a drink?”
Valhayle bowed and accepted her order. When he delivered the drink to Demiera, she smiled and said.
“I should find Linbessy. Our conversation earlier ended quite abruptly.”
Valhayle silently watched Demiera join Linbessy and her husband, Sir Caiburne.
It was not an unusual thing since Demiera never left Linbessy’s side.
Valhayle remained alone in the center of the ballroom until Sir Luke approached him.
“You are very handsome today, sir.”
Valhayle looked at Sir Luke with annoyance, who says that to him at every ball.
Sir Luke scratched his head and said, “…She could have stayed a little longer.”
Valhayle gave Sir Luke a questionable look. Sir Luke lowered his voice and added.
“You know, the 2nd Princess.”
He continued to grumble as if it was him in the situation.
“If it weren’t for Her Highness, there would be a line of ladies waiting to talk to you…”
Valhayle waved his hand in dismissal at Sir Luke.
“I only escorted her and had our first drink according to court etiquette, so it’s alright.”
“Hey, but still. She is on such good terms with our elders, I wonder why she’s–”
Valhayle interrupted him coldly.
“I’m not officially engaged to Her Highness yet. If we were close, it would be more scandalous.”
Sir Luke withdrew his words.
“Anyway, have you seen the 3rd Princess? She is breathtaking tonight.”
“I haven’t met her yet.”
“What about Sir Evon and Lady Adelle? The 5th Prince’s new fiancee?”
Valhayle let out a sigh.
He left Sir Luke behind and exited the ballroom.
He didn’t want to share meaningless greetings with an endless amount of people today. Nor did he want to listen to people who talked to him with all sorts of schemes and ulterior motives.
Valhayle just wanted to think somewhere quiet. He leaned on a wall somewhere dark near the entrance.
The celebration seemed to be starting inside. He wondered if he had to enter but decided to stay outside.
It was the exhaustion he felt after every encounter with Demiera. Valhayle stared into the dark void.
He thought of Demiera who would be roaming around inside the ballroom.
Roheneim’s fiancee who didn’t want him.
Valhayle and Demiera only came together by marriage of convenience. They didn’t share any emotional, intellectual, or political connections.
This engagement was only a pretext to bind Roheneim by the 1st Princess’s side.
Valhayle didn’t have any feelings toward her and neither did she. But Valhayle still felt guilty towards Demiera. It was a completely groundless feeling.
He didn’t like the fact that this engagement that Demiera clearly didn’t want had to be forced.
Even though he was also being forced too.
Valhayle shook his head and scorned himself.
He ran his hands through his neatly fixed hair and tousled it.
The fact that this banquet was for the 8th Princess’s coming-of-age celebration topped his exhaustion. The strange feeling continued to bother him…
Creak. At that moment, the door slowly opened.
Valhayle didn’t want to get any useless questions from anyone so he hid himself in the dark.
A head appeared from the door. Curly light brown hair flowed down.
Shortly but carefully, the person observed outside and escaped the ballroom quietly. Valhayle looked at the figure of a young lady with indifference.
It didn’t matter who that woman was or what family she belonged to since he didn’t care about anything that wasn’t assigned to him.
The door closed behind her and the diminishing light revealed her face.
Valhayle scowled at the unexpected face.
It was the first time he ever saw the 8th Princess this closely. He could even clearly see that even the loose hair around her forehead and ear was curly.
The first impression he had of her when he first saw her at this proximity was that…
She wasn’t princess-like at all.
The main character of the day who snuck out of her own coming-of-age banquet…
It didn’t make sense at all.
How did she come out? No, why is she coming outside?
Valhayle stared at her face with surprise.
Even if the celebration was over, she should remain and greet the people or at least maintain her position there.
What is she thinking?
The 8th Princess, who was now completely outside, quietly turned to the hallway and disappeared towards the garden.
Valhayle stared as she disappeared and lifted his back from the wall.
It wasn’t safe for a royal descendant like her to wander around alone. With an uneasy heart, he decided to follow her.
‘Where is she going?’
The garden was often the meeting place of secret affairs so she could be on her way to meet someone.
I thought she didn’t enjoy meeting people. I guess that isn’t true.
For some reason, Valhayle was a little angry.
The 8th Princess carefully observed the garden. It seemed like she was making sure no one was around.
After assuring herself that she was alone, she walked towards the fountain.
Valhayle watched her every move with curiosity.
The hand of a young lady who turned 20 tonight dipped into the fountain. Then, she immediately pulled her hand out, probably because the water was colder than she expected.
Valhayle thought once again that she wasn’t princess-like.
It wasn’t only because of her actions. It was actually more because of the expression on her face. Or perhaps it was because of her flushed cheeks.
And the unfathomable vehement expression she wore.
While Valhayle was still in shock from her face, the princess proceeded to do something even more shocking.
She lifted her dress up to her knees.
Bewildered by her suddenly exposed skin, Valhayle hurriedly looked away.
The soft sound of her dipping her leg into the water resonated. Sounds that sounded like she was swirling the water could also be heard.
‘What could she be possibly doing……’
Valhayle clenched his jaw.
He still couldn’t get a hold of her. The more he observed her, the more things there were that he couldn’t comprehend.
He turned to look at the 8th Princess again with an emotion closer to frustration than curiosity.
He froze for a moment.
Her fair skin wasn’t the only thing glowing under the moonlight.
There was a trail of tears on the cheeks of the woman standing inside the fountain.
That was the first time Valhayle found out even tears sparkled.
Valhayle held his breath, watching as her tears fell into the fountain. He knew it wasn’t proper of him to continue watching her like this. But he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
The princess bent forward and scooped the water. She watched the silverlight water escape through her fingers and…
…Burst into soundless laughter.
As if it was very amusing, as if it was very saddening.
It sounded a little like she was crying. However, based on the movement of her head and chest, he could tell she was laughing.
As if attempting to calm down her overflowing emotions, she took a deep breath.
She was like a baby who became impassioned even just by breathing.
Valhayle clenched his fist.
He finally knew what the shadow cast upon the 8th Princess was. And why he couldn’t identify it.
Now that he was watching her this closely, he was sure. The shadow hadn’t been cast upon the princess. Instead, the princess belonged in the shadows.
The deep shadows veiled the princess so completely that he couldn’t distinguish it from her.
Not long after, the 8th Princess walked out of the fountain.
The young lady hid her wet feet beneath her dress.
Valhayle barely managed to take his eyes off the princess and turned away.
If he remained here, he would eventually have to face the princess. Usually, it was the 8th Princess who avoided him; however, right now it was Valhayle who wanted to avoid her.
He strode briskly back to the entrance of the ballroom. And he halted at the spot where he had previously been leaning against the wall in.
Music came from the inside. The ball was still at its heights.
Thoughts that he had been outside for too long lingered on his mind but Valhayle remained standing in the dark. The scene he saw earlier glowed brighter than the chandeliers inside the ballroom.
Valhayle tried to remove the sight from his head.
Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.
Soft footsteps began to approach. Valhayle looked towards the source of the sound.
The 8th Princess who had somehow already erased all emotion from her face was walking towards the entrance.
*˖:✧ ⑅•.⋅༻♔༺•⑅ ✧:˖*
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