The palace was even livelier than the streets that night. The king was adamant about making his daughter’s return a grand one. He’d deliberately emptied a chamber and decorated it with more florals for his little princess.
Despite his age and chronic illness, the king didn’t seem to be burdened at all. In fact, he’d downed three glasses of wine straight while dragging his officials around the palace. Too blinded by joy, the king failed to notice that Angelina had been sending glares to the servant every time she filled his glass. The servant got the hint and promptly diluted the wine with water. Yet, the speed and volume the king was drinking had taken the senators by shock.
Strictly speaking, the elders of the senate were closely related to the king. They had royal blood in their veins; or else they wouldn’t have been involved in one of the three most powerful and exclusive institutions of the kingdom. A few were even older relatives to the king. Despite their seniority, one glare from the king was enough to shut them up before they could comment about his recklessness. The king’s nickname as the Lion of Faustian was not without a good reason; anyone who dared defy him would be slain.
Watching the elders cower at his intimidation made the king bubble with delight. He let out a boisterous burst of laughter. His daughter was home and he was in a great mood. He could barely feel his omnipresent pain. He handed his glass over to an attendant and held Angelina’s hand. The king settled into his throne.
The Sanctum and Hall of Knights had made huge movements across the empire over the year. He was a seasoned monarch that governed millions of citizens so he naturally came to realise the institutions’ motives. Admittedly, he’d been so worried about Angelina that he could barely sleep. The aristocrats and officials moved away to spare some privacy for the father and daughter pair. No one dared to interrupt their wholesome interaction.
Angelina was one of the unmarried princesses of the Faustian Royal Family. Since she wasn’t allowed to be involved with the kingdom’s governance, she’d rarely appeared in front of the nobles. This was a norm in almost every kingdom. However, everyone knew that she was the king’s favourite daughter and an excellent scholar from the Aomarian Imperial Academy. Many young and dashing aristocrat lads attended the ball with hopes to steal a glimpse of her.
Regarded as the suitor with most potential that’d receive the princess’ favour among the huge cohort of handsome aristocratic bachelors was the young prodigal troupe leader of Margrave De Sandro’s clan. Kester De Sandro was one of the margrave’s great-grandchildren. He was already a mid-rank Knecht at twenty-four years old and there were rumours that his direct bloodline had high potential to hit the mark of becoming a high-rank Knecht.
People who’d depended heavily on potions to get through advancements were never associated with the term ‘genius’. The fact that Kester was already a mid-rank Knecht at a young age all with his capabilities alone was highly praised. Compared to the students of the Princeton Imperial Academy, Kester wasn’t shabby at all.
Despite that, the young master was in a foul mood today. He’d followed his father to the city gates to welcome the princess earlier. During her entrance into Felor, he’d attempted to utilise his proximity to the king’s seat for a suave self-introduction. The aristocrat was certain that he was in his top form. Much to his surprise, his charming smile that’d worked wonders among young noblemen and women failed to elicit any emotion from Angelina.
He did, however, notice her intense attention towards an unassuming grey-haired knight that followed at the tail of her convoy. She even giggled at him! Though her bell-like laughter had attracted Kester greatly, a burning annoyance gnawed at his gut.
“Bring me information on that knight.” Kester pulled one of his friends over in the crowded ballroom. Kester may be a prodigy when it came to impetus, but his private life was a mess. The Felorian aristocrat circle was filled with talentless noble sons and he’d utilised his prodigal status to befriend a bunch of bad company. The young aristocrat he’d pulled over was Ranz. Ranz had been flirting intensely with a viscount’s daughter and had managed to score a dance in the garden.
While the young aristocrats were quite incompetent in life, they’d excelled in many arts. Most of them could dance for waltz was a compulsory subject for every noble-born. Despite getting interrupted from his date, Ranz wasn’t irritated at all. He turned to Kester with a grin. “Fill me in, young master Kester.”
Ranz hailed from a regular count family under Margrave De Sandro’s influence. Hence, Ranz was naturally expected to regard Kester with great respect. Like Ranz’s family, it was normal for many small and medium-sized noble clans to side with stronger factions. If one were to trace their hierarchy, they’d find that the four margrave clans of Faustian had stood at their pinnacle.
This wasn’t a time for nonsense. Kester pointed at a chatting pair in the garden outside the main hall. Locke and Melson were currently in the middle of a conversation.
“Isn’t that Herr Melson?” Ranz followed Kester’s finger but his attention was fully distracted by the bigger man.
“I don’t care who the hell he is! Are you going to investigate him or not?” urged Kester with a deepening frown.
“I… Alright, I’ll go!” answered Ranz through clenched teeth after much hesitation.
Melson was unlike them both. While Kester and Ranz had yet to be knighted, Melson was officially made a count by the current king. In terms of rank, Melson had shared the same status as Ranz’s grandfather.
Even so, ranks and status were just vague concepts. Ranz’s family were involved in the military while Melson’s clan was inclined towards trade and business. It was difficult to draw a good comparison between their families.
Now with explicit orders from Kester, Ranz could only explain his situation to his female partner before squeezing past the crowd for the exit. The higher Faustian circle had their own source of information. Ranz was going to seek their broker for more information on Locke’s background. While he too was at the welcoming parade this morning, his lower status had kept him on the outer ring of the crowd. Hence, he’d failed to recognise that Locke was one of the many people that’d returned with the princess from Aomar.
Ranz had merely assumed that Kester found the grey-haired knight an eyesore. Kester’s temper was the weirdest among their circle, after all. The young noble had just broken the legs of a baron’s son out of jealousy in his pursuit of romance.