Chapter 3 - Stalker
After all, the rivals for his attention were all the women in the empire, whether they be single or married. It was good to have fewer rivals, even if it was only by one person. The veiled feud to capture him was fierce even among those he paid no attention to. They were all of the mindset that if they couldn’t have him, then at the very least they wanted to deprive others of the opportunity to possess him.
“N-no. I didn’t mean it that way.”
Lady Ellin, who was a baron’s daughter, had tried to be coy by asking if such a man was a bit much to handle. She muttered as heat rushed up to her neck, but it was too late. After expressing such a sentiment, even if by the slightest possibility the Grand Duke one day showed interest in her, she could no longer accept him. If she went back on her words, all sorts of rumors would follow.
Ellin bit her lip, but she could not come up with a good retort. Her status was low and she lacked influence within this gathering. The circle of nobility was interconnected. It would be a loss for her if she was kicked out. The other ladies were satisfied that they had handled a rival with only a few light remarks and resumed their conversation once more.
“Still, they say he’s completely different in bed. A beast.”
“How could you say such a thing?”
“Well, I’m sure you were all aware of this.”
They fluttered their fans and tried to cool themselves down, but they couldn’t hide the envy they felt towards the woman who claimed the spot next to him today. No matter how much they fought here, the real winner was the woman currently standing in that position.
Agares excused himself for a brief moment to the person beside him and promptly took his leave. Isabel also gave the glass she was holding to a passing server and quickly followed him out of the banquet hall. The banquet hall was packed with many people both inside and outside, and no one noticed the invisible Isabel.
Isabel followed Agares, though it was difficult to do so despite his leisurely gait. No one noticed her chasing him thanks to the hustle and bustle of the nobles and servants traversing through the hall. Soon, he had moved towards a deserted area. She also considered the fact that she got to follow him in this manner as part of her good fortune today, stooping down to pick up his hair along the way.
Just like now.
Something dropped from his person with a light thud. What fell from him was a silk handkerchief embroidered with gold thread. There weren’t many who could embroider silk. It must have been extremely expensive, but the actual monetary value of the handkerchief meant nothing to Isabel. Even if what he had dropped was a gross handkerchief barely worth a dime, it would still have become Isabel’s most precious item.
Isabel carefully picked up the handkerchief and hugged it to her body. As she picked up the handkerchief, body tingling with pride, she looked up and met someone’s gaze. Isabel ducked in surprise. Had he seen her pick up the handkerchief? He seemed to be scolding her, asking if what she had picked up was the Grand Duke’s handkerchief and why she kept it in her arms instead of returning it.
Isabel, frozen and unable to escape from the surprise, waited impatiently. She waited and waited, but she did not hear anything. After keeping her gaze fixed on the floor the entire time, she finally carefully looked up. When she raised her head once more, the man with who she had made eye contact was no longer there.
“Phew, that startled me,” Isabel mumbled, scarcely audible.
She sighed a sigh of relief. She had been so surprised that her heart was beating hard against her chest. It wasn’t until she realized that no one was looking at her that the adrenaline subsided slightly.
Isabel was someone who could not catch other people’s eyes, so she had lowered her gaze without even realizing it. Yet, the man whose eyes she had met had disappeared just like that. No one paid attention to her as always, but now, there was another problem.
Agares, the man Isabel had been chasing and spying on, had also disappeared.