Chapter 157 - First Love
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“Why are you laughing? Ah, although I’m glad you are, my lady!”
“How kind of you. But I’m fine, I just came out to get some air.”
“What a coincidence. I came out for the same reason.”
“Did you enjoy studying abroad?” she asked suddenly.
“Yes, very much.”
“May I ask what you enjoyed the most about it?”
“I liked a lot of things, such as meeting tons of new people and learning about another country.”
“I really envy you.”
“It’s a pity I didn’t come back sooner. Had I known I would get to meet you, I would have rushed right over, my lady.”
“Oh my goodness!”
He had expressed his feelings for her so straightforwardly. His manner of confession was not at all like that of an aristocrat. It was impulsive, but he did not regret it.
The lady could only blink in surprise. “Have you just come of age this year, my lord?”
“Yes, the coming-of-age ceremony was another reason for my return.”
“How old do I seem to you?” the girl asked.
She looked very young. At the very least, she had to be two to three years away from her coming-of-age ceremony.
“I…” Aldern stuttered, “I can wait till you grow up, my lady.”
He was being impetuous today, but he did not regret it. Fate must have made him return so he could meet her. This encounter was predestined.
“This is the first time I’ve felt this way.” Aldern knelt in front of her. “Give me a chance to be your man.”
“That would be difficult,” said a voice so cold that chills ran down his spine. Aldern looked behind him to find a beautiful man there. He knew this man who was as cold-hearted as he was beautiful. Aldern remembered seeing him a long time ago. He had found him to be dazzlingly beautiful then, too, but he looked absolutely breathtaking now—to the point that Aldern began to wonder if someone should be even allowed to possess such beauty.
Aldern immediately stood up and greeted him politely, “Your Highness the Grand Duke.”
The grand duke received Aldern’s greeting half-heartedly, his voice dripping with displeasure as he said, “Stay away from her.”
“Please excuse my rudeness, Your Highness, but it is none of your business.”
“This is a serious affair. I am not playing with her. I am not lying to her. You should be the one to retreat, Your Highness.”
The grand duke scoffed and turned to the lady, “Come one, why are you just standing there with a smile?”
“What’s wrong, Your Highness?” the lady asked, “He simply called me a lady.”
“You think I’ll spare you if you look at me like that? ‘A lady’? Are you smiling because you like hearing that?” the grand duke snapped.
The grand duke was not someone who could be opposed. As one of the most powerful men in the empire, he was a man who could easily influence Aldern’s family. But Aldern could not stand seeing him treat the young girl so menacingly.
“Please do not persecute the lady, Your Highness,” Aldern tried to interfere on her behalf.
“I’m absolutely speechless. Can’t I talk to my wife?”
“Even if she’s your—pardon, wife?”
Aldern swiftly turned in shock to see the petite young lady cover her lips and give him an apologetic look.
“Yes, the woman you’re currently flirting with is my wife.”
“W-what? Then… then, s-she’s the grand…”
“Pleased to meet you. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Isabel Lynn Arthas.”
The grand duchess was a married woman who was at least in her mid-twenties. She even had a daughter.
Aldern stared at her in a daze.
Isabel addressed the grand duke, “I only came out to get some fresh air. Why were you looking for me?”
“It’s cold at night,” Agares said as he draped a shawl over her shoulders. He had used it as an excuse to look for her.
“Your Highness,” said Isabel, “today’s banquet is a summer banquet.
“Fine, I came because I missed you.”
Isabel smiled wryly as she took her husband’s hand. She gave Aldern a slight nod. “I’ll see you inside.”
“Why are you being so friendly to him?” the grand duke whined like a child, “Do you like being called a young lady that much?”
“It’s certainly not bad,” she replied.
Aldern stood frozen in place until the loving couple’s figures faded into the distance. He was too stunned to do anything except move mechanically when an attendant came to find him and led him back to the banquet hall. He was dragged to the center of the hall as soon as he entered. The grand duke and grand duchess were there, too.
“Oh, Your Highness the Grand Duke, this is my son. He just returned from abroad,” introduced Aldern’s father before turning to his son, “Aldern, greet His Highness.”
“I-it’s been a long time, Your Highness.”
“Indeed, it’s been a long time. Did you enjoy your time studying overseas?”
“Yes, I learned a lot before my return.”
“I look forward to your contribution toward the empire.”
“It will be my honor.”
“This is Her Highness the Grand Duchess. Say hello.”
Aldern’s heart ached at the sight of her awkward, apologetic smile.
“Congratulations on your return,” she said.
“Thank you, Your Highness the… Grand Duchess.”
“By the way, my wife was confessed to today,” Agares suddenly declared.
An icy silence enveloped them instantly. The people were not blind. The grand duke was famous for his love for the grand duchess, and there was no one who was not aware of what the grand duchess looked like, unless it was someone who had been away from high society for a long time and had returned only recently, of course.
Among all those present, Aldern was the only one who fit those criteria. They all knew why the grand duke had brought up the story so suddenly.
“Is that so? Which passionate young man was it?” someone chuckled.
“It must be because Her Highness the Grand Duchess is getting more beautiful day by day. She had not changed at all since I first saw her.”
The conversation soon shifted to another topic, and the laughter and small talks continued. The mood at the banquet reached its peak, and everything gradually settled down. After telling everyone to enjoy themselves at the banquet, the grand ducal couple left the hall hand in hand.
The marquis from the eastern territory appeared behind Aldern, one hand settling on his shoulder in sympathy. “You know what they say. First love is always painful.”
Truly, what a tear-jerking, painful first love it was.