Though the Crown Prince had no close connection with Irelle, he was a strong suspect for aiming at Kalcion. Due to the objective of catching the criminal, Selena might have to lock eyes with him someday.
Luckily, he wasn’t someone who would gut out somebody’s insides.
"Then, wouldn’t the Crown Prince show up today?"
"He’ll be the last one to appear. Three of them have never appeared side by side holding hands."
"I know that the Queen is afraid of the Prince, but what is the reason?"
"He can’t stand someone being intrusive. Since the Princess is in the second line of succession, he doesn’t like to catch sight of her reputation."
"I think she’s doing pretty well in matters regarding her fame. She also appears to have dressed up thoroughly today."
"That’s viable since the Queen still has a large portion of the palace’s internal budget under her grasp. As well as, siphoning various assets."
"Uh-huh," purchasing something with the internal budget in the name of the party meant it became her property to use. The Queen was also preparing hard in case she had to face issues in the distant future.
As Selena chatted with Kalcion, the Queen and the Princess sat down on the podium.
A throne was placed in the middle, while the Queen and the Crown Prince’s chairs were seated on both sides. Next to the Queen was the seat of the Princess.
It was time to begin the event, but only half of the seats on the podium were occupied. However, the event could proceed immediately once the royal family entered the hall.
Needless to say, the music changed as the performance team entered the middle of the hall to begin. Even with all the performances for the event, it was gentle and boring. But it couldn’t be just omitted because it was a significant part of the event.
Selena stood beside the wall and watched the event half-heartedly. The nobles standing afar had similar expressions on their faces.
"How long does this performance last?"
"I’m dying of boredom."
"It’s going to end soon."
"You did say that the ball dance begins after this is finished," accepting or refusing dance partners and all those trivial conversations were connected and tied to each other.
Although she planned to never lose him, Selena hugged Kalcion’s arm tightly, mumbling a pretentious concern, "We should be careful not to lose each other."
As he said, after the performance, the music changed to a song for dancing. But no soul stepped on the dancing floor.
‘What’s with the mood?’
Everyone was looking at the podium as if waiting for something.
The Queen stood up gracefully from her seat and gestured to the Princess to stand beside her.
"I don’t feel well today, so instead the Princess shall begin the day with the first dance. Unfortunately, not all men of the royal family are present at the moment, so instead of them……"
As the Queen declared, Kalcion and Selena exchanged glances. They began to rush through the crowd before her words were over.
They would have got in trouble if they let their guard down.
The first dance was performed by the royalty who hosted the party. If the Crown Prince was present, he would have danced with the Queen or the Princess to start the event, but in his absence, it was required to be performed by someone of a lower status than him.
Why would the Queen—who walked through the hall gracefully—suddenly give away her first dance to the Princess, saying she wasn’t feeling well? It was to force Kalcion’s participation.
Kalcion could have easily refused to dance during a play, but he would find it difficult in a hall filled with people. When tied to a rule, too much reputation was intertwined for a rejection.
Scared, the two ran along the corridor for a while longer even after they left the main hall of the event.
"Huff, huff……. The Princess won’t be following you here, right?"
Breathless, she asked as she hid Kalcion behind a pillar in the corridor. The light at the entrance of the party hall became as small as fingernails, but she couldn’t let her guard down. She couldn’t neglect the persistence still instigated in her from her teenage years.
Evident from the music of the party, they appeared to have picked up some other person for the dance when they couldn’t find Kalcion anywhere.
Breathing out a sigh in relief, she finally turned her head toward the man in question.
"I was never asked to dance with the Princess in the previous–," he stopped when their eyes met too close.
It was only then Selena realized that she had grabbed Kalcion’s collar and pushed him against the pillar.
All the while she examined the movements of the party venue, she had pushed her body towards him closer and closer by the minute. And now, she was crushing Kalcion’s body with her own.
Kalcion, on the other hand, was holding Selena with his arms open when she turned her head to look at him.
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Just as magnets come close and stick together after they’re separated from each other, the two seemed to have been tied up by some force—impossible to be broken apart.
With their breaths thinning from the tightening sensation over their chest, Kalcion and Selena stared at each other. Their gazes flitting between their eyes, nose, and mouth.
It felt even more mysterious under the moonlight.
Both of their eyes seemed deeper than usual. As if you’d be sucked in if you were gazing for too long.
Selena’s fist, placed on Kalcion’s chest, was squeezed tighter with the passing seconds. Kalcion’s hands, which had been slouching apart, wrapped around Selena’s back and waist without him noticing it.
Just then, the sound of applause floated in from the party. Which caused them to loosen their grips and break apart.
"Oh, uh, the dance, I guess it’s over."
"So, uh, can we go in now?" she began to stutter for no reason. She couldn’t find the courage to look at his face, so she didn’t know that she was missing Kalcion’s gaze.
She glanced at anywhere but him, "T-This must be a garden attached. Oh, is it a maze garden? It seems nice here, so let’s take a walk before going in."
"Ah, right……. Then, let’s head inside."
At least, she was able to see where she was going.
As soon as they returned to the party, people rushed in to meet them from all corners.
"Where have you been? I wanted to greet you, but I couldn’t find you anywhere."
The afterimage of Kalcion’s grayish-blue eyes gazing at her was still shaking her mind, but she quickly pulled herself together and flashed a smile.
As soon as she thought of taking a break to dance, a skinny man approached them.
The man wasn’t much old, but he looked somewhat intimidated and shabby. It seemed like he had a shadow over his face, in contrast to the lively guests standing beside him.
While Selena got busy deciding what face to put on, the man bowed before Kalcion. Recognizing the man, Kalcion hardened his expressions for the first time that day.
"It has been a while, Your Excellency. How have you been?"
"I must ask about you."
"I’ve been well, thanks to your arrangement," the man, who once again bowed his head, could barely speak out his next words.
"…….Though it wasn’t easy to send my daughter off……."
Selena understood who he was.
Lady Irelle’s father.
"I have something else to say…… but may I ask for a moment of yours?" He then glanced at Selena.
Having made such a splendid appearance, there was no way for him to not recognize her being Kalcion’s company.
And there was no way he was comfortable to see some other women appear in his daughter’s place shortly afterward.
"I’ll excuse myself to the table. I’m starting to feel hungry."
Kalcion nodded after contemplating for a while.
"Don’t go outside the hall. Doesn’t matter how many guards are placed, the palace has more concealed spaces than the streets."
She avoided taking any seat due to her uneasiness.
She chose a table—filled with refreshments and alcohol—which had no people around.
Standing in a moderately deserted place, she picked up a glass of transparent pink liquid and watched Kalcion get serious on a topic with the Baron. It seemed they had a lot to settle, even when the marriage without love wasn’t achieved.
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Immediately after the incident, Kalcion did finish organizing before he left the capital, but all things could not be settled in just a few months. Perhaps this part needed to be discussed face to face.
For Baron Zion, it would have been difficult to ask Kalcion to meet him.
Selena took a sip of her drink.