Chapter 1 - Stalker
‘The colors of my world shifted the first time I saw you.’
Isabel could not remember where she had first seen him because, for her, a banquet was nothing more than a setting full of awkward situations she had to endure. All grand and splendid banquets were the same to her. She was a phantom amongst the other guests who were lively with conversation and laughter. No one talked to her. No one noticed her presence. Isabel cared so little for banquets that she could not even recall what kind of banquet she had first seen him at.
But the moment she had seen him was clear in her mind.
The windows overlooking the starry, night sky, the chandelier and the light it scattered, and the ladies and gentlemen in their expensive dresses and suits had all disappeared before her eyes. All she could see was him.
The whole world seemed to quake.
He had dazzling, blonde hair that looked as if moonlight were trapped in each strand, and his curved eyes half-covered his scarlet irises. He had not been facing her, but she was sure that his gaze had wandered over and met hers. His smile had not been directed towards her, but Isabel’s breath caught in her throat regardless. All of her surroundings disappeared—even she herself disappeared. He was the only thing left in her world. Ever since then, Isabel would look for him at banquets.
The previous emperor had suddenly passed away at a relatively young age. Per the line of succession, the Crown Prince was then crowned emperor. He was the prince’s brother. In other words, he was someone who shared the same blood as the emperor, the Grand Duke.
The Grand Duke did not yet have a Grand Duchess to accompany him, though he enjoyed a life of debauchery regardless. Nobles were obligated to keep their chastity while unmarried. Only after marriage were they allowed to do as they pleased.
He should have received criticism for his playboy lifestyle since he was not yet married, yet, on the contrary, the noblewomen were deeply attracted to his immorality. Everyone wished to be his lover. The affairs of his bed were the center of all the noble ladies’ attention. Unwed, young ladies would look at him and pray to stand in the spot beside him. Although he had a different woman by his side each time, the spot where she could simply observe him from afar at banquets was enough for Isabel.
There was another woman beside him again today. No one was asking Isabel for a dance, so her dance cards were always empty just like every other banquet. Once again, Isabel was a wallflower. In the past, it had been very difficult and embarrassing for her to accept that fact, but now she was rather grateful for it. No one was interested in her.
She was the ghost of the banquet. Her lack of presence allowed her to hide behind a pillar and spy on him until the end of the banquet. There, she witnessed him kiss another woman in a clandestine corner of the banquet hall.
From the way his tongue penetrated and moved inside the woman’s lips, his seductively languid smile, to how his white-gloved hands squeezed her waist, wandering up the curves of her body to seize her breast—Isabel had watched everything.
As she watched him, she imagined the texture of his lips. She wondered what it would be like to have his lips touch hers and his thick tongue penetrate her lips, swirling inside. She wanted the person he was touching and tasting to be her. It was a fantasy that could not come true, but Isabel was satisfied just watching him.
That’s right. Isabel was Agares’ stalker.
* * *
There were countless young noblemen in the empire, but when one was asked to pick the most charming man, everyone’s first pick would always be the Grand Duke, Agares. He was beautiful today, too.
Agares Halen Arthas.
He was a man whose name, Agares, was more renowned than his title as the Grand Duke of Arthas.
A crowd of people was always surrounding him. Countless men and women flocked around him, the beautiful man of power. At any banquet in which the emperor was not in attendance, he was the belle of the ball. The word “belle” normally did not suit a man, but he was more beautiful and shined brighter than anyone.