“Oh my, Chris.”
The duchess smiled brightly and greeted Chris happily. When their eyes met, Damian used his eyes to ask Chris what he was doing. Chris smiled mischievously in response. Then when he faced the Duchess, he wore a polite look on his face.
“Chris. It saddens me to not have seen you for a few days now. Will you come to hang out again from tomorrow?”
Since the day Chris was forcefully invited to the Ducal residence, he had been visiting frequently. He even brought his younger brother, Jude. He stayed from morning till night, ate snacks, lunch, took naps, read a book; basically, he enjoyed himself like it was his own house. The only thing he declined was the Duchess’ proposal to have dinner before he left. He wanted to avoid eating with the Duke of Taran.
Visiting someone else’s house a few days before the New Year wasn’t good etiquette, so he stopped visiting to avoid acting out of line.
Lucia liked Chris’s friendliness. He seemed like he would be a good friend and a great balance to Damian’s stiff personality. She also liked his shamelessness in happily visiting the ducal residence without reserve.
“Yes. I will gladly come to visit if you invite me.” (Chris)
For the few days that they didn’t go to the ducal residence, his little brother, Jude, kept whining, asking when they were going to see the princess again. Jude called the Duke of Taran’s little daughter, ‘princess’. When Chris asked him why he referred to her like that, the little boy fidgeted and replied:
Chris was dumbfounded. The little brat had a good eye.
“There’s no need for an invitation. You are always welcome. By the way, who are these two gentlemen?”
Chris held the shoulders of the two boys firmer. He giggled inside as he felt them trying not to stagger.
“They are classmates from the Academy.”
Steve and Henry stated their names and greeted the ducal couple. Lucia figured they were probably nervous, so she accepted their stiff expressions.
“Damian, are they your friends?”
When Damian’s indifferent gaze swept over the two boys, their clear faces darkened. Damian glance at Chris, who was grinning with satisfaction, and he secretly smiled. Chris had kept grinding his teeth over the suspension incident and it looked like he couldn’t stop himself from playing a trick on the two boys. Damian decided to play along with Chris.
Damian drew out the end of his sentence and observed the paling expressions of the two guys.
“…are not my friends, mother.”
‘Mother’. This was practically killing them and making sure they were dead. The arrogant guy who didn’t know his place was in fact, the Duke’s son. They already had a bad feeling when Chris talked with the Duchess in a friendly manner and revealed that he had been visiting the Ducal residence without reserve. Steve and Henry really felt like dissipating on the spot.
Damian didn’t plan on torturing or taking the two boys to task for something that had happened in the past. If they kept acting up in the future, he would definitely crush them but that hadn’t happened yet. To the two boy who didn’t know what he was thinking, it sounded like a declaration of war.
“And I don’t think they will be in the future.”
From Damian’s answer, Lucia sensed that their relationship was not very good, so she stopped being interested any further.
“Chris, where are your parents? My husband and I have already met them, but Damian should officially say hello.”
Chris let the two boys go and joined the ducal family. As Steve and Henry watched them get farther away, their legs trembled, and they sank to their knees. Their knees touched the floor and they supported themselves with their hands. The only comfort was that most people were focused on the ducal family of Taran, so they didn’t pay much attention to the unseemly sight of the two boys.
* * *
The Duke of Taran couple and the Marquis of Philip couple greeted each other, then they moved to a separate room and had a light meal together. The Marchioness was very thrilled to learn that her son had a connection with the Duke of Taran’s son, so she was excited throughout the meal. Chris felt embarrassed because of his mother’s overreaction and grumbled to himself.
After the meal, Damian stayed with his parents and greeted the nobles that came up to them endlessly. Around when all the faces were starting to blur together, the King made his entrance. Damian was finally able to take a breath. The chamberlain faced the party guest and spoke loudly.
“His Royal Majesty has arrived.”
People lowered their clamoring voices and stepped aside, making a path for the King to come in. Kwiz was donned in white robes with a crown on his head and golden mantle draped over him, revealing the majesty of a king. This was an appearance that was only seen on the King when it was an important and official occasion. The crowd hasn’t heard of anything beforehand, so they began to stir.
“I look forward to endless jubilation in Xenon’s future as we face the glorious first day of the New year.”
The King gave a short speech to his attentive aristocratic audience.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to borrow today’s occasion to present to you all, the excellent pillars of our nation.”
When the King stopped speaking, the chamberlain unfurled the scroll in his hand that was covered in red silk, then he spoke sonorously in a loud voice.
“Damian, son of Taran. Raven, son of Philip. Chris, son of Philip. Come forward and accept the honor bestowed onto you by His Majesty.”
Chris nodded his head when Damian’s name was called and when he heard his brother’s name, he was a little surprised, but when he heard his own name, his eyes widened. He blankly watched his brother and Damian walk forward then he felt someone hit his back and turned around. His father was frowning and scolded him, ‘what are you doing, not going out there?’
“Huh? F…Father. Why…”
“Hurry up and go!”
The Marquis clicked his tongue as he watched Chris go forward hesitantly.
‘That boy. He didn’t know?’
The Marquis thought that his eldest son had already told Chris while Raven thought that his father had already told Chris. In other words, Chris had absolutely no idea that he would be receiving a title today.
Chris’ soul flew away as he stood, suspended with a red mantle over his shoulder and a silver emblem on his collar, symbolizing his title as Count. He didn’t know what senses he had used to finish the ceremony.
Every noble learned the ceremonial procedure for receiving titles or medals because it was mandatory. Chris was able to subconsciously react thanks to this rooted memory, but he didn’t remember anything he had done. He could only guess that he hadn’t made any mistakes since his father didn’t have a fierce expression.
“…Have I really become ‘Sir. Philip’…”
He had gained the official qualification to become Sir. Philip instead of Mr. Philip.
‘What’s with this count title.’
He had received a Count title alongside his brother. He had never seen such a case before.
Damian patted the shoulder of his completely distracted friend.
“Are you even listening? Our parents just arranged to have dinner tomorrow evening at your house.”
Light came back to Chris’ eyes.
“We’ll be eating with our parents? It’s not just our parents together?”
The awkwardness during the meal some time ago had been very unbearable for him, so what was this talk about invitation! He could already see a vivid image of his mother turning the house upside down to clean it from tomorrow morning.
“Of course, you and I will be there too.” (Damian)
“…Ah. Indigestion again.” (Chris)
“If you don’t have digestive medicine at home, I’ll bring some for you.”
Chris mumbled gloomily.
“…I’m so thankful I could cry.”
All Chris knew was that he was envious of his friend’s sturdy stomach.
[End of sidestory: Damian]