Chapter 161 - The Spring Garden
“This should be enough for now,” Thurwin commented. As he said, there didn’t seem to be a need for any more hunting.
“Let’s go back,” Hiel suggested, to which the group readily agreed.
As the group headed back to their barracks, Thurwin rode up next to Roy and murmured, “You would’ve won even if we didn’t form a team, commander.”
Roy had easily taken down the boar, and it wouldn’t have been that difficult to catch one more. It would’ve been an easy win. However, had Roy not formed a team, he would’ve been satisfied with catching one or two rabbits before returning to where Aris was waiting.
“If we hadn’t been on the same team, I wouldn’t have caught more than His Royal Highness,” Roy replied simply.
Understanding his meaning, Thurwin smirked and teased, “You only seem to think about her.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, yes. I hope she knows it too,” Thurwin sighed, as if it was a shame.
“Then, I should tell her.” A person couldn’t be expected to know without being told. Roy thought he should surely share with Aris what’d been in his mind, and knew that she’d be delighted to listen to him.
When they returned to the barracks, they heard the sound of a horn signaling the end of the hunt. There were only a few individuals that had succeeded in taking down a boar. Although another team had managed to catch one, the crown prince’s team was the only one that had taken down two.
“The winner is the crown prince’s team,” Juselle announced. The second and third place in the hunt were also announced in short order, and the emperor rewarded the winners after each was called to the stage. Roy was among them and received a prize and a plaque for his efforts.
Once the medals and awards were handed out, it was time for the winners to choose their Flowers for the ball. Elsa had already rejoined the other Flowers as they gathered below the stage, while Aris had also come out of the spectator section to watch the ceremony.
“Elsa Monetta!” Hiel was delighted that, as the winner, he would be able to proudly pick Elsa as his partner.
Everyone’s eyes fell on Elsa once the crown prince called out the name of the lady of his choosing. Running a hand through her silver hair, she flashed a bitter smile, but began making her way to the stage.
“And who will you choose, Count Delai?” the emperor asked.
Roy shook his head and replied, “I won’t be choosing anyone.” Since it was permissible that someone who was engaged or married wasn’t required to pick a Flower, everyone simply nodded, and Aris grinned, satisfied with this outcome.
Violet was up next, and selected Limontri like before, with the rest of the winners naming their Flowers of their choice in turn.
* * *
Men and women began arriving at the ball in pairs, and the gentlemen ladies mingled while sipping their beverages. Among them, Roy and Aris appeared hand in hand, which quickly drew the people’s attention. Having grown accustomed to their fame, the two were not as disconcerted as they’d been in the past.
Grabbing their drinks in a relaxed manner, Aris and Roy moved to a corner. They were first among their friends to arrive, and Ian was arriving later along with Louison. As they enjoyed their drinks, Limontri and Violet entered, engrossed in conversation, with Hiel and Elsa entering behind them. The people’s scrutinizing gazes immediately converged on Elsa, who was now widely known to be the crown prince’s lover.
“Don’t Limontri and Violet look good together?” Aris asked.
“They do,” Roy nodded.
“I advised her to write him a letter, but it seems like she hasn’t been able to. I think it will work if she pours her heart into it though.” Aris sipped her drink with a wistful expression on her face.
Roy also drank his beverage, before looking down at Aris’s face as he said, “It’s because of your letter that my life has changed a lot.”
“Right?” she smiled, returning his gaze. She wanted to point out that they would’ve married even if she hadn’t sent a letter, but that was a secret known only to her. Instead, she smiled brightly and chatted with him on other topics.
After a short while, the trumpets announced the emperor’s arrival, and Juselle appeared in new clothes. Addressing the participants of the Great Hunt, he signaled the official start of the ball and announced, “I hope you have an enjoyable party.”
When the music began, Roy exchanged looks with Aris, and he asked, “Shall we dance together?”
“Yes,” Aris happily responded, as she took his hand.