Chapter 16 - Cinderella
The emperor’s coronation and wedding… Agares remembered that event. The impatient—no, lovestruck—emperor had held both his coronation and wedding ceremony at the same time, which spanned over a week. The lengthy proceedings did not stop after the ceremonies. Banquets were held every night and formal affairs continued through the following days.
At the end of the week of festivities, the newly crowned sovereigns boarded an open carriage and were paraded around the empire’s capital where the citizens of the empire expressed their enthusiasm over their new, young rulers. As a member of the Imperial Family and the Emperor’s direct, blood relative, Agares had been forced to participate in everything. That week had been a nightmare for him.
He had not even been at the center of attention, yet the week had completely drained all energy. And now Ellis was promising to make his wedding even more glamorous than that? He would rather not get married if that were the case. Or, rather, the thought did not even cross his mind in the first place.
Agares leaned back and waved his hand. He did not know how the conversation came to this point, anyway. This was not what he had come here to discuss, yet somehow he had entangled himself in such a conversation with his brother, who was fully intent on marrying him off and eagerly awaiting the chance to.
“I didn’t come here to talk about this,” Agares continued.
Ellis, who was going to use this opportunity to turn Agares away, clicked his tongue as if he was disappointed.
“That’s true,” he said. “What did you come here for?”
“Oh, right. Brother, someone ate me.”
“Good grief, your vulgar words…wait, what?”
“Someone dined and dashed.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I believe someone drugged my drink at the last banquet. I was dopey and out of it after a few cups.”
“Were you poisoned?” Ellis’s tone turned serious.
“You know I’m resistant to poison. I think it was an aphrodisiac. When I came to, both my body and my head were in pain.”
“I had it under control when I noticed I’d been drugged and went straight into a room, but someone followed me.”
Ellis’s expression became serious. The Royal Family were popular among the people, but they always had to be careful. It was not unexpected to hear that someone had followed him after he fled to a room when he noticed his body reacting to the drug.
“She kissed me first.”
Now, that was out of the norm. Ellis frowned. Up until this point, he had thought that it might have been an assassin and was seriously considering launching an investigation into yesterday’s events.
“What did she do?”
“She kissed me.”
Ah, right. He had said it was an aphrodisiac.
“I don’t recall anything after that. I woke up in the morning only to find out that we’d done it and she ran away.”
“I’m glad you weren’t the one in the wrong.”
“Brother, I was assaulted, and you have nothing else to say but that?”
“So, you didn’t like it?” Ellis asked, expecting a no.
“I mean, well…I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it.”
On the contrary, he had felt really good. Maybe he had fallen in love with that woman’s body while in his haze. Usually, the sex was mediocre to him, but yesterday—perhaps because he was under the influence of drugs yesterday—he had been totally immersed in the experience. That had been the first time he had gone crazy like that.
He had waited in the bedroom, nervously slipping in and out of consciousness, anticipating his impending attack, but a petite woman had come instead. He had briefly thought she was a peculiar assassin, but the woman sat down by the bed and looked at him as if she was possessed. He knew that look. He had received that look all the time. She was admiring him. To his surprise, she did nothing but stare blankly at him before suddenly kissing him. The fragrance emanating from her person as she approached him had sobered him up.
He grabbed the thin arm that looked like it would have struggled to even hold up a fan, let alone assassinate someone, and the rest was history.
“So, what’s the problem?” Ellis said flatly, having lost interest in the situation.
“Erm, now that I think about it, there is no problem.”
“Then, you can help me with work, now.”
“Brother, your younger brother is sick because he has been drugged. I shall take my leave and rest.”
Agares got up from his seat, yawning.
“I’ll leave you to it, Brother.”
Ellis smiled at his detestable little brother and waved him away. After he was done with his report, Agares left the emperor’s office. He then turned to Cien, who was walking beside him.
“When is the next banquet I’m invited to?” he asked.
“There is at least one banquet you are invited to every day.”
Invitations practically flew to the Grand Duke whenever the nobility held banquets and salons. The beautiful and young aristocrat was loved by everyone in the empire. Additionally, because he was single, he received invitations to mingle with not only aristocratic families with daughters but also intimate, secretive gatherings he could not tell others about.
“Hmm. Then tell them I’ll be attending all the upcoming banquets.”
“P-pardon? A-all of them?”
“Correct, tell them I’ll be attending everything. Arrange it well such that they do not overlap.”
“Why all of a sudden?”
Sure, Agares was fond of banquets. He also never refused the seduction of noblewomen. However, Cien also knew that Agares practiced some modicum of modesty and was not the type to fully indulge in hedonism. Yet, now he was suddenly declaring that he would accept every invitation. Cien couldn’t fathom what was happening.
“Yes,” Agares said. “I’m looking for something.”
“Looking for something?”
“What are you looking for? I am at your service.”
“No. I have to do it. I’m the only one who can do it.”
“What in the world are you looking for?” Cien asked, unable to contain his curiosity.
Agares cocked his head slightly and grinned in such a way that it would have sent chills down anyone’s spine to see a grown man smile so, but it also strangely suited him well.
‘Cinderella? Has he lost his mind?’
“What about Cinderella?” Cien asked.
“You don’t need to know.”
“Then why are you looking for her?”
Agares stopped in his tracks. He narrowed his eyes as if something had suddenly come to mind. His scarlet irises darkened as if a shadow had cast over them. He licked his lips as if his throat was on fire. The action looked so erotic that Cien winced. What an awful man, he thought. Agares licked his lips again and sighed lamentingly.
“Her face,” he muttered. “I’m curious.”
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