Caden Istacio, the Crown Prince who hates formalities, was in a very strange mood today.
Every year at the start of the social season, he would wake up frazzled, hating all the time he had to spend getting dressed up and having to keep smiling in front of people he didn’t even know.
But today was different.
‘I’m sure I’ll look good.’
For some reason, he couldn’t stop thinking about the woman in the ballroom.
‘I’m sure everyone else will be as surprised as I am, saying, ‘Oh, he had that side to him, too.’’
He glanced at the assortment of accessories in his face.
“Ah, the epaulettes.”
He don’t want it to match, but he don’t want it to feel out of place.
He picked out accessories to match the dress he’d given her.
That woman, Ellen Kryant, was a very coveted talent.
That boldness of judgment and execution!
But even so, he couldn’t help but be bothered by that nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach—her incomprehensibility.
‘But we’ll be in trouble if we let her get to Crescent.’
That had been the case with the loading dock incident alone.
At least the saltpeter mine was a hand better kept hidden than revealed.
Without her, we would have had to face an unexpected musket force later and suffered heavy losses.
There was still much to learn about her, but one thing was certain: she was someone he needed to keep by his side.
‘There will be a discord with Krembel in the future, so it would be better to highlight the closeness between the families from now on.’
So make the greeting seem intimate enough.
“Is that done? Then I’ll go.”
As soon as the maid who had been touching his hair removed her hand, Caden rose from his seat.
The chamberlain looked at him questioningly, wondering what was going on.
“Your Highness, why are you walking in so early today?”
Caden cringed unnecessarily to himself and scowled.
“You’re the one who’s giving me the hard time today. I’ve been dressed up long enough, what more do you want me to do?”
Okay. He did get a little carried away today.
He avoided the chamberlain’s gaze and privately acknowledged his abnormality.
But he didn’t feel like telling him that.
“Yes… Let’s just go.”
The chamberlain sighed, as if giving up on the conversation, turned away from him, turned and walked out the door.
Feeling unnecessarily cool, Caden coughed and walked past the chamberlain, who was still waiting for him to come out.
The chamberlain followed his quick steps, often trailing behind him.
His goal for today was to make sure he made myself known to Kryant and discuss the grant.
Anything else would be a distraction.
With a firm resolve, he entered the hall where the banquet was being held.
As soon as he entered, he scanned the room for his target, and with one sweep of his gaze, he spotted her.
“… That dress really stands out. Is it because it’s so bright compared to everyone else’s light spring colors?”
The order of greetings is also quite important.
He had purposely entered early today because it was better to get in early and say hello to Ellen than to come in late and ignore the other Dukes and go straight to Ellen.
She’d be the first to greet me anyway.
But as he got closer, he realized that the women who he thought were just chatting were in a bad mood.
It seems like there was a subtle fight between the wives.
‘Oh my. this would be fun. I wonder if there is anyone greater than Lady Kryant.’
His curiosity piqued, he headed over to where they were talking.
When they recognized him and approached to greet him, he silently approached their side, gesturing that he would come to them later.
“Madame, would you like me to recommend a good doctor? It seems that there may be a problem with your memory, as you seem to have forgotten even the fashion trends that you see every day. I am worried about you.”
“Sure, I can find you a good costume shop. I manage it, so I can guarantee the quality of the merchandise.”
Oh, so it’s the dress I gave her that’s the problem?
He quickly cut to the chase–their unintentional gossip about him.
‘Well, since you’re in the position of having to ask for help, maybe this will help a little.’
Caden was pleased with his unexpected good fortune.
“Is my discernment that poor?”
“Oh, Your Highness!”
“I am a sinner for giving such an unfashionable gift.”
“Your Highnes, it is not that…”
He was busy glancing at Ellen’s face no matter what the women in front of him said.
Is this enough? Should he push her a little harder?
Each time he spat out a word, mindful of Ellen, he flashed her a radiant smile.
‘I’m glad. I see you like it.’
He smirked, pleased with the result.
‘Once you’re in a good mood, it’s a little easier to talk about it.’
As he considers the best time to bring up the grant, a voice calls out to him from the other side of the room.
It was Marquis Port, who had come to discuss the public meeting.
He left the room for a moment, intending to visit Ellen after he had concluded his business with the Marquis, and less than an hour had passed.
Lord Cheshire came rushing toward him.
“My lord, what has become of Lady Kryant and his…?”
He had posted him to block Gillian’s approach, but why is he here alone?
The answer to that question came quickly.
“Lord Krembel is dragging Lady Krembe–no, I mean Lady Kryant–into the terrace and refusing to come out. Help!”
At the prince’s words, he dared to interrupt and say, “Hey, look at this?” Caden, who was caught off guard by his continued words, unconsciously stiffened his expression.
“He drew a line in the sand, saying it was a family affair, and ignored even Lady Traia. If that’s how it comes out, there’s nothing I can do…”
Caden headed straight for the terrace.
“If Gillian takes her back at this rate, I’m screwed.’
If he couldn’t negotiate with her and get funding, he was in real trouble.
Caden walked over and pushed open the door to the terrace Krembel had entered.
There was a man and a woman standing there, both with an icy air about them.
“Ah, there you are.”
He greeted Gillian in the same manner he had when he considered him his best friend.
But that was the only thing that was the same.
“I apologize. Your Highness, I have a few things to organize, and I’ll be with you in a moment.”
Gillian spat out an indirect warning to say ‘stay out of this.’
I am Gillian Krembel, who always followed the words of the Crown Prince, saying that I am your loyal servant and even if it means proving my innocence, I will follow the words of the Crown Prince.
“Oh… Yes, alright. It’s a pity, but it can’t be helped. I’m afraid the party is boring, so I’ll let my lady enjoy the feast first, and you can come back when you’ve collected your thoughts.”
Reading a certain caution in that subtlety, Caden took Ellen’s hand in front of him.
Ellen took his hand without hesitation, and he was soon out of there with the bitter accusation that came with relief.
* * *
“I don’t think you’ve had much to be happy about, and you’re good at keeping your face in check.”
Caden said, glancing down at her face.
“Heh, in case Your Highness didn’t know, I’ve had enough good things happen.”
Ellen replied with a chuckle, and Caden glanced at her with a mischievous glint in his eye.
“Such as the fact that I went and made a mess for you?”
“Including that, of course.”
Ellen thanked him with a bright smile.
“Thank you for that, Your Highness.”
When she didn’t fall for the joke, Caden quickly turned his attention back to the front of the room.
“Your Highness seems to find it amusing that I’m smiling right now.”
“Well, everyone in this business is like that. Poker face.”
He swiped a hand across her face.
Then Ellen giggled.
“In the first place, it is impossible to know what is inside a person. If you think like this, they think like that, and if they think like that, its like this.”
It’s a life lesson I’ve paid dearly for, and one I hope His Highness will take to heart.
She was laughing, even though she was clearly talking about her own experience with bitterness.
That got on his nerves, so he asked her.
“… Would you like to dance?”
Ellen stared at his face in surprise.
Even from here, she couldn’t tell if his smile was genuine or fake.
‘Well, at least I’ll feel better if I move my body–’
At the same time, he’ll take out today’s business while looking around.
“Gladly, if you say so.”
Ellen replies with a light chuckle.
As they approached the center of the hall, people began to move to the side to make room. One by one, as they realized who was on stage.
Judging by the sideways glances they gave them, they were quite curious about the events that had just transpired.
Once they were in the center, the musicians began to play.
As the music filled the hall, they took their first steps in unison.
It wasn’t long before they began to match each other’s steps.
“You’re better than I thought.”
Ellen said with a small sigh.
“Is that a compliment?”
“No, I was just saying that you didn’t always seem to enjoy dancing.”
“If I don’t enjoy it and I’m bad at it, I won’t be around for long.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
The hem of Ellen’s skirt curved nicely as Caden tugged on it.
Twirling, she did another half turn, away from him, and the recoil strengthened Caden’s grip.
She had a way of seeing, after all.
Her lips traced the curves of her soft body in an arc as fine as her flowing dress.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
“I have a favor to ask of you, and can you do it without losing your temper?”
He asked, his eyes narrowing.