< — Realization — > (3)
When Katherine and Lucia returned to the party hall, the Queen made her entrance. Beth was more than a little surprised to see the two sisters coming to greet her together. It was an odd combination. Inwardly, she was worried that the two of them might have had quite the rough start when they met. The Duchess’ character didn’t worry her, Katherine was the problem.
“Duchess. Princess Katherine is used to speaking comfortably. Please understand.”
Beth tried to excuse Katherine’s mistakes; she didn’t have to see it for herself, it was obvious. Katherine’s counterattack came right away.
“Your Highness the Queen is lacking in energy these days. Yesterday must have been hard, I see wrinkles under your eyes.”
“Ho…ho-ho. Of course. I’m older now.”
Lucia suppressed a smile as she looked at Beth who was forcefully smiling with a protruding vein on her forehead.
The atmosphere of the party ripened in earnest. The musicians took their place and began to perform pavane, minuet and passepied in rotation. Every time the music changed, the men and women formed pairs and went to the vacated center of the dance hall to dance. One after another, the noblewomen who were gathered around Lucia and the Queen, stepped away after receiving a dance request. Katherine also stepped away after receiving the request of some young man.
“Would you please give me the honor of having a dance with a beautiful lady?”
Lucia looked at the hand held out to her then she looked up. It was a man she had never seen before. He looked like he was in his middle twenties. With black hair and a gentle smile, he was an attractive man that gave a moderately favorable impression.
In a ballroom, accepting a dance request and dancing was nothing more than having a simple conversation, there was no need to reveal one’s specific status. The noblewomen at her side began encouraging her when they saw that she was still just looking.
“Go ahead. Duchess should have a dance on a day like this.”
“Oh yes. The Duchess’ elegant dancing will make the ball more interesting.”
“He’s Count Yungran, very popular with the single women.”
Whether he was popular or not didn’t matter to Lucia. She was only just attending but she didn’t think it would be very good to be too passive in the party. Lucia took the unfamiliar man’s hand and stepped out onto the dance hall. A minuet was played. Lucia placed her arms on the man’s shoulders and began to move slowly to the music.
“You, my lady, are shining like the brightest and most elegant flower today. You are really beautiful.”
“…You flatter me.”
The man’s stereotypical compliment didn’t sound very interesting to Lucia. The man’s hand on her waist kept bothering her and the smell of his perfume was unfamiliar. She kept comparing him to her husband. And her husband seemed to have a bigger lead.
‘It looks like I stepped out for nothing.’
Lucia was already regretting it before the music verse ended. It was too boring. Moreover, her shoe was chafing and hurting her heel. Because she moved more often as she danced, she seemed to have bruised herself. Every time she took a step, it throbbed with pain so Lucia gradually voided her face of expression.
The atmosphere of the ball was ripe. When the King and other important figures arrived, people stirred. They bowed deeply to the King as he passed, showing their respect. The King walked through the path made by the crowd and approached the Queen. The Queen payed her respects to the King and greeted the retainers of the King.
Hugo quickly looked for his wife but no matter where he looked, he couldn’t see his wife near the Queen.
“Where is my wife?”
At his side, Kwiz squeezed out a wry smile. The sight reminded him of his son when he was looking for his mother. Beth smiled softly and turned her head towards the center of the hall.
“Oh no, Gong. Your wife has been stolen.” (Kwiz)
Kwiz cheerfully explained the situation.
‘I’m definitely firing that woman.’
Hugo had never changed his mind so often in a short period of time when hiring someone. He firmly made up his mind as soon as he saw his wife’s dress. As of today, the designer was fired. To think she’d make his wife wear such a piece of cloth. It was unacceptable.
Compared to other noblewomen, Lucia’s exposure was definitely not too much. However, even if another women were to dance naked, it was different for Hugo. His eyes only saw her exposed chest and the fair skin on her back. The sparkling necklace was almost covering her neck, hindering the exposure as much as possible, but it was not enough for his standards. Rather, the bright skin beneath the necklace seemed more conspicuous.
His wife was beautiful. She looked noble and grand. But at the same time, she made him aroused. Hugo reach a judgement according to his very selfish principles. This was a definite no-no.
If it wasn’t for the bum with a hand on his wife’s waist and spinning her in a circle, his mood wouldn’t be so terrible. Hugo quietly stared at one pair ―to be exact, the man― out of the several pairs that were dancing in the center of the hall. The first minuet was stolen from him. To an act that nobody gave meaning to, Hugo gave significance and burned with anger and shock.
Kwiz’s expression was strange as he watched Hugo whose gaze was transfixed at the center of the hall. The Duke’s expression was cold as always as he stared at his wife. Kwiz thought that the Duke of Taran may be someone whose emotional part of the brain was missing. The man was stingy with emotions and his expression was always indifferent and cold. However, recently, the Duke’s mask weakened when the Duchess was involved. His expression was outwardly calm but something was obviously roaring from within.
‘This is completely serious. What the hell happened in the north this past year?’
Kwiz carefully scrutinized the Duchess in the blue dress. No matter how he looked at her, he couldn’t find any clue. She wasn’t ugly but he didn’t feel the charm of a temptress from her. Her slender figure may stimulate the protective instincts of young men new to the fairer sex, but for men who knew a fair amount of women, they were more attracted to voluptuous and captivating women. This was exactly the kind of women that the Duke of Taran had dated in the past.
“What are you thinking about so seriously?” (Kwiz)
“I am debating whether to kill that bastard.” (Hugo)
The atmosphere in the vicinity instantly went cold. The Duke’s grandeur when he handled the ‘Mad Dog’ Krotin yesterday was still firmly impressed in people’s minds. Within those casual words of his, people felt the threat of death. Their expressions turned ghastly pale.
‘Taran Gong is going crazy.’
Kwiz was nervous. His reign was just beginning and it was already facing a crisis.
“…Gong. Calm down. Do you mean to see blood on this King’s crowning celebration?”
When Kwiz spoke seriously, Hugo turned to look at Kwiz slightly then he returned his gaze to the dance hall. The damn minuet was taking too long. His patience was gradually wearing out as he waited for the dance to come to an end.
“I’m joking.” (Hugo)
“…I’d rather you don’t joke like that.”
It was so scary that he got goosebumps.
“The highlight of the ball is the dance. Why are young people so conservative?” (Kwiz)
“I know right? It would seem I am conservative. Perhaps I should throw down the gauntlet once.” (1)
Hugo had never challenged someone to a duel for such a ridiculous reason. He thought it was a very useless endeavor but he was tempted to try it.
That was no different from saying he would kill the man. Kwiz cleared his throat a few times to clear up the dreary atmosphere. Just in time, the minuet came to an end. He couldn’t be more thankful. Looking at the Duke of Taran quickly heading towards the Duchess, Kwiz put on a sour face.
A world that moved according to plan was quite boring. Variety to some extent was the vibrancy of life. It was only just yesterday that Kwiz found the Duke’s change to be interesting. However, as time went by, he felt that this wasn’t good. It was too big of a variable. It wasn’t predictable at all.
‘It isn’t good if he’s too carried away by personal feelings…’
While worrying, Kwiz’s eyebrows were raised as he looked over the crowd.
‘Who is that bastard?’
His sister, Katherine, did not even come to greet her brother when he arrived yet she was chatting with some shameless bastard at the corner. Kwiz called a servant immediately.
1. Remember: throw down the gauntlet means issuing a challenge.