Chapter 6 - The Invitation
“I heard I’m supposed to select my partner for my first dance at the ball,” the crown prince said.
“That is correct.”
“That’s why I’m here.”
Juselle looked at Hiel. To his knowledge, his son was not in a relationship, nor did he nurture special affections for any girl in particular. From an early age, Hiel learned that his future wife would be chosen for him. He had never felt the need to start a romantic relationship or approach the opposite sex. Thus, the current list of eligible ladies came to be.
“Is there a problem?” Hiel asked, scanning the list. “They all seem to be very charming young ladies.”
“Of course. I compiled the list myself,” the emperor boasted.
“Then I’m happy with it.”
What Hiel was actually happy about was the abundance of women for him to choose from. He had no idea there were so many beautiful, smart, and good-natured women living in the capital. Recently he had grown bored of how his mistresses quarreled over him, so this was the perfect opportunity to find a new plaything.
“It would be such a shame to reject all of the fine young ladies you chose,” Hiel mused for a moment, then perked up, as if he had an idea. “What if I invited them to a tea party? Then I could meet them all and then choose the lady I’ll dance with at the ball. How does that sound?”
Ian and Louison went pale. Their daughters, meeting the crown prince? They were still too young to meet any men, let alone a potential husband. But the two friends were not the only ones who looked uneasy. Everyone who had protested against their daughters being on the list began to look a little sick.
“Hmm…” Juselle pondered for a moment, then nodded his head in agreement. “You are the one who will be dancing with the young lady, so I suppose she must fit your standards.”
The emperor felt Hiel had made a good suggestion. “Marquis Horissen,” he called.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“This is a royal decree. Your daughters, and everyone else’s daughters, must be in attendance at the tea party!” Juselle ordered.
If even one person could remove their daughter from the list, everyone would want to do the same. Before this, the emperor had no idea that the nobles treasured their daughters so much.
Ian and Louison exchanged a glance. Both were desperately thinking of ways to ensure their children would not be summoned to the palace, but neither man could come up with a plan. They could not argue against the emperor, and that knowledge shrouded their features with the shadow of defeat.
All they could do was inform their daughters about the royal decree.
A man led his horse at a brusque pace, long black hair gently waving in the breeze. His blue eyes, shining like the stars in the sky, surveyed his surroundings: a battlefield littered with the bodies of enemy soldiers. Brushing his hair away from his eyes, he slowly turned his horse around.
“Commander Roy,” a voice called out to him. It came from one of the surviving members of his troops. The soldier walked toward him, clicking his tongue as he saw the carnage around them. It was as though his commander’s sword was a harbinger of death.
“You’re unbelievable,” the soldier said in awe.
Roy smiled bitterly, but it only seemed to enhance his already handsome features.
“Everything happened exactly as you said it would, sir.”
This operation—Roy’s operation—had been a resounding success. Victories while under his command happened so often that hardly anyone was surprised at this point.
“There’s a new letter waiting for you, sir,” the soldier continued.
It was common for Roy to receive letters. Although he did receive the occasional message from his friends, most of his correspondences came from common folk or young women enamored with his heroism.
“Right,” he said, treading ahead. “They all expect responses, don’t they?”
“These letters are becoming a pain,” Roy said, shaking his head slowly. He didn’t know what to make of his sudden and bewildering popularity, so he simply burned most of the letters he received after reading them. These kinds of letters came often and always requested that he reply to them. However, he lacked the time and desire to write back to a complete stranger.
“Let’s go back,” he sighed wearily, and the soldier nodded. Roy led his horse forward slowly.
The day’s battle was over.
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