“Aren’t you nervous?”
“I am fine.”
Lucia talked to Damian, trying to make him relax. She kept remembering the party break that happened back in Roam. She scolded herself for having ominous thoughts on such a good day. Although it was hardly possible for there to be someone tactless enough to insult the Duke’s successor in a venue where he was being accompanied by the ducal couple, Lucia couldn’t let go of the anxiety that Damian might get hurt.
Hugo saw through her anxiety and frowned.
“My dear, you are more nervous than him. Don’t worry about the boy, he’s not a child.”
“I am really okay, mother. I don’t want you to feel uneasy because of me.”
Although their manner of speaking was different, both men were more worried about Lucia. Lucia looked at them and smiled sweetly. She decided to be at ease and enjoy the merry New Year party to the fullest extent.
The carriage stopped in front of the hall to the Outer Palace and the door opened from outside. Damian came out of the carriage first and watched his father follow behind him, escorting his mother down. A quick glance around showed him that carriages were already parked here and there, and that a line of carriages were just entering. As he looked at the blindingly bright lights coming from the party hall, Damian’s heart began to beat a little faster. Even though he was completely unbothered just a little while ago, it wasn’t because he felt nothing but because it hadn’t felt real yet.
“Let’s go in.”
Damian sucked in a breath as he entered the party hall alongside his parents. It was his first time seeing so many people in extravagant costumes gathered together.
The moment when all their eyes were simultaneously drawn to him and his parents was mind numbing. He thought he was already used to people’s gazes but there was something different from the gazes in the north and the academy.
It was strange. There was neither malice nor goodwill. They were definitely surprised by Damian’s presence but none of them outrightly showed such feelings. Damian faintly came to a realization. There were people who were well-versed in controlling their emotions and the high society was a place where such people were gathered.
Hugo called a servant and asked.
“Where is His Majesty?”
“Yet to arrive.”
Hugo then suggested to his wife:
“Shall we eat something simple first?”
“That sounds good. We won’t have time for that later.”
When Lucia discovered the familiar face approaching them, she happily greeted him.
“Oh my. Chris.”
Damian quirked a brow when he saw a face he was very familiar with, Chris, approaching and dragging along the two boys whose faces he was definitely not happy to see.
* * *
The New Year party held in the Outer Palace hall had started late in the afternoon and by the evening, it was practically crawling with people. The noble children who had expectably debuted into the social circle at this year’s New Year party, were going around greeting people with their parents.
‘I was once like that too.’
Chris got sentimental watching all the inexperienced little kids, even though he was in that spot just a year ago. The New Year party was one of the large-scale parties held by the royal family so the young boys and girls making their debut, were mesmerized by the splendor. Even if they tried to act calm, their flushed cheeks were filled with excitement, exposing their nervousness.
‘The way they’re walking is so stiff. I wasn’t that bad.’
Watching his juniors who were obviously just debuting, Chris patted himself on the back with groundless praise. When he saw a servant passing by with a tray full of cocktails, his eyes grew round. He stealthily looked around then quickly picked up a glass of cocktail. The translucent pink drink looked way too appetizing.
“I finally found you. Where have you been?”
Chris froze with the glass of cocktail in hand. Although he was prepared to get chewed out, his brother, Raven, merely frowned slightly upon seeing the cocktail and said, ‘Father is looking for you’, then he turned around. Chris followed after him and quickly finished the cocktail in one gulp. Then he grimaced at the unexpectedly strange taste and the sudden wave of tipsiness that hit him.
Going around and greeting people with his father and brother was really boring. Chris’ expression imperceptibly showed his unwillingness.
‘I understand that my brother will inherit the mantle of Marquis in the future so he has to do this, but why do I have to do this too?’
Although he bowed his head as he was told, his mind had flown elsewhere. He glanced at the entrance at intervals, checking to see when Damian would arrive.
‘Oh, it’s those guys.’
He found familiar faces. The ash-haired boy and the brown-haired boy. They always went around together at the academy and even here, they were together too. They weren’t alone but were mixed with several of their peers, both male and female, forming a group. A mischievous smile slowly crept onto Chris’ face.
“Elder brother. I’m going to go, I have something else to do. You can take care of the rest.”
Raven sighed as he watched Chris disappear into the crowd. He recalled the conversation he had had with his father not too long ago, when his father returned from the palace after receiving the King’s summon.
[You will be presented your title at the New Year party, so keep that in mind.]
[Didn’t you say you would apply for my title later?]
[I don’t know if I should say that it is because of your brother or thanks to your brother.]
When Kwiz was looking into giving Chris a title, he realized that the Marquis’ heir and eldest son had not received a title yet. So he called the Marquis, explained the situation, and said that since the order was wrong, both sons of the Marquis could receive titles.
[I’m sure you have already heard of the Duke of Taran’s extramarital son. You see, Taran Gong is quite protective of this son of his. His son will soon be debuting in the social circle and it seems Taran Gong wants to give his son a title as a present. Now, Taran Gong’s son made a friend at the academy, but this friend happens to be your second son. And it seems the Duke of Taran is very satisfied with his son’s friend, so he requested a title for him too. It is a tax-exempted title, so you don’t have to worry about that issue. Now, what do you think? Would it be fine for this king to put aside your first son and only give your second son a title?]
The Marquis had no choice but to reply that he would accept both titles.
Chris’ father, Marquis Philip, had sent Chris to the Academy because Chris wasn’t particularly talented in anything nor was he interested in dating anyone. All he did was play with his younger brother every day, causing the Marquis to worry for his future. However, Chris had made a connection that his father had never expected him to make. It was always this way. Even though Chris handled everything without much serious thought, he always got good results.
Chris and Raven had completely different personalities and they weren’t very close brothers. Raven didn’t hate his brother, but he usually couldn’t understand what was going on in his brother’s head. But honestly, sometimes, he was jealous of his brother’s manner of going with the flow.
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