* * *
Raphael, who had left a warning to the envoy of the federation, was now hurrying back to his room. Despite having a lot of remaining tasks, his footsteps were filled with impatience.
‘That sweet scent.’
Why could he smell that guy’s fragrance around the man? Was it just his imagination? However, that rich, ripe peach-like aroma that made his mouth water…
‘Am I going to confront even the southern guys now?’
No, even if that guy’s body and mind were lighter than mushroom spores, he wouldn’t do that.
Even if he had an overwhelming sociability, he wouldn’t stoop to associating with random pedestrians, let alone become friends with suspicious people!
If he had at least a functioning brain, he wouldn’t ally himself with potential enemies who might soon wage war.
Thinking about that guy’s crazy past antics, he suddenly felt a sense of unease. Raphael hurried his steps. He jumped several steps at a time, crossing the stairs, and when he swung open the bedroom door, he saw the boy eating a cookie.
“Oh, Your Excellency?”
“You’re back so early when there’s still work to be done. What’s the matter?”
The boy’s eyes sparkled mischievously. Whenever Raphael looked into those eyes, he would sometimes feel a very strange sensation. His irritation and anger would subside, and he would inexplicably want to keep staring at that stupid and idiotic face, also willingly fulfilling the boy’s desires.
Those eyes made him feel like an idiot.
Raphael approached the sofa and squatted down, covering the boy’s eyes with his palm.
He couldn’t help but focus on the small breath that touched his calloused palm.
Clicking his tongue, Raphael nuzzled his nose against the boy’s nape. The familiar sweet scent filled his nostrils, enveloping his lungs.
Doubt gradually turned into certainty.
“Who were you with and what did you do today?”
The boy hesitated for a moment before weakly mumbling.
“I’m sorry. Um, you told me to stay put, but… “
“I heard that there was a peach festival in front of the palace square, and I wanted to eat some too…”
“But it was just for a moment!”
There was a peach cooking contest, a peach throwing festival, a peach juggling contest, and so many other things that didn’t sound too brief.
Nevertheless, the boy strongly insisted that it was just for a short while.
“Is it really true?”
“Is it true, then?”
“Although I momentarily disobeyed Your Excellency’s orders and went out because I was fascinated by the peaches, I didn’t have any contact with anyone else!” The boy kept rambling, but Raphael only listened with one ear as he got lost in thought.
‘So, that’s why the sweet scent was there.’
If they roll around in a pool filled with ripe peaches, the crushed flesh and juice would be scattered everywhere, and even if they washed up, the scent would linger for a while. Yes, if they all intertwined and rolled together in the pool…
“Was the peach throwing fun?”
“It was so much fun! And I saved a lady who almost fell, and she was so grateful that she kissed me on the cheek…”
In the boy’s large eyes, a beast was seen. Raphael firmly held onto the boy, who was subtly trying to escape.
“Ah, I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“How sad it would have been to get robbed of that fun time, right?”
“Please save me.”
Raphael’s mouth twisted into a sinister smile.
The desperate scream of a lunatic echoed, signaling the end of a hot night in another sense.
* * *
Today was the day of the opera hosted by the Empress.
In a corner of the opulent and beautifully decorated opera house, nobles gathered in small groups, surrounded by a dense cloud of pink haze.
Charlotte still gently touched her burning head with her palm. It had been a long time since she’d had a good scalp massage. Not only her head, but her neck and shoulders were throbbing.
‘Oh, I’m so anxious.’
It was just yesterday. Even though she managed to escape before the Grand Duke came into the banquet hall, he somehow suspected her outing.
He thoroughly investigated where she had been and who she had been with, scrutinizing her recent activities.
‘Does he think I contacted the Mare Federation and sold them information…?’
Charlotte felt deeply aggrieved, but she answered sincerely for now.
Luckily, that day was the day of the Peach Festival held in front of the palace square, so it provided a convenient excuse for her outing.
Thinking she had successfully maneuvered her way out of the situation, the Grand Duke still managed to strip her of all she had left.
‘He’s such a merciless person.’
Since he had an exceptional sense like a ghost, she wanted to behave as quietly as possible today. However, it was an event hosted by the Empress herself.
Since Bravant also received an invitation, they had to attend, but unfortunately, Grace was busy with her duties, so Charlotte had to attend in her place.
Refusing the Empress’s invitation would be a grave offense.
And so, Charlotte, with a reluctant face, was crouched in a corner of the opera house.
Someone approached and stood in front of her, who was sprawled out like a boiled mushroom.
“Oh, Your Highness.”
Charlotte hurriedly bent her knee to show respect, but Prince Adrian stopped her.
“You’re my savior, so there’s no need for formalities.”
“Are you feeling any better?”
Adrian’s eyes, as he spoke, seemed strangely sad, but since it had nothing to do with her, Charlotte decided not to pay attention.
Adrian continued speaking, “Do you know the title of the opera being performed today?”
“I heard it’s called ‘Season of Courtship.'”
The summer night festival was a celebration of the love between the Emperor Conrad and the Empress Aisthas, the imperial couple.
The opera ‘Season of Courtship’ depicted their youthful years, making it the perfect play for today’s performance.
“To be honest, I really like ‘Season of Courtship.’ No matter how many times I watch it, I never get tired of it.”
“I didn’t know Your Highness had an interest in opera.”
“It’s because I can relate to many aspects of the storyline.”
The Crown Prince smiled brightly and gestured to a nearby servant who brought two glasses of romantic pink champagne in front of them.
“Aisthas received many courtships from those around her, but she only had eyes for Conrad.”
“I’m like Aisthas in that regard…”
Charlotte, lowering her gaze, paused abruptly. The Prince’s trembling hand held out a champagne glass. Sensing her puzzled gaze, the Prince quickly withdrew the glass and hid his trembling hand behind his back, but it was too late. Charlotte swiftly grabbed his arm.
“Excuse me for a moment.”
“No, wait, it’s not what you think!”
“It’s nothing? Isn’t your tremor getting worse?”
As Charlotte tightly clenched his trembling hands, the Prince’s tremor escalated uncontrollably. Moreover, his face turned as red as an about-to-burst tomato.
“Unintentional hand tremors can be a precursor to diabetes, hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, brain disorders, or other muscle abnormalities.”
“Oh, I thought today was going perfectly…”
“If left untreated, it can pose a risk to your life!”
Charlotte looked around fearfully, and from somewhere, the shadow-like physicians lurking in the vicinity sprang into action. They helped the pale and trembling Adrian to lie down and expressed gratitude to Charlotte, their benefactor, before leaving the opera house.
Once again, she had successfully preserved the Prince’s life!
She felt a great sense of accomplishment, but she was also exhausted. Charlotte let out a small sigh and was about to move towards the box seats for some rest when it happened.
“Oh, Fourth Princess!”
“It’s been a long time. Did Princess Nadia also come to watch the opera?”
“No, I just… came to pay my respects to the Empress.”
From the end of the corridor, a familiar name reached her ears. Charlotte immediately stopped walking and hid her body behind a pillar.
‘The Princess knows my face.’
If they crossed paths, it would be disastrous. But the corridor leading to the box seats was a wide and open single lane, so if she continued like this, they would inevitably meet face-to-face.
She had to run away. Faster than light!
Charlotte quickly turned around and sprinted towards the opposite end of the corridor.
But there, she encountered…
“No, Your Excellency, why are you here……?”
“Step aside before I plant that noble guest list in the courtyard.”
Read ahead here.