The ball attendees’ enthusiasm began to evaporate when the clock struck midnight. To everyone’s surprise, King Faustian had persisted till the wee hours of the morning. It was only with Angelina’s soft persuasion that he allowed Consort Kent to bring him away for the night. The king was old, after all.
Queen Consort Kent’s influence among the aristocrats had grown over the recent years and Prince Kenzir had always been vocal about vanquishing it. However, it was King Faustian’s uncaring attitude towards his consort’s potential predicament that killed her inside; her pursuit for power was a goner.
As her child grew, Consort Kent began placing more priority on ensuring peace for them both after the imminent passing of the king and Prince Kenzir’s succession. The earlier conflict between the Ligia Union and Duchy of San Jose had just ended recently. There was still chaos among the union and the incompetence of the lords had burdened Margrave Kent greatly. There wasn’t enough care to extend to his sister and nephew. Consort Kent and her child were on their own now.
Before leaving, Angelina pressed a pale green nucleus core into the king’s palm. “Soak this in water and drink before sleep,” she said, her voice just slightly louder than a whisper.
Though the king was perplexed, he didn’t ask further. There was no way his darling daughter would think of hurting him.
“It’s good for your health. Locke specifically told me to bring this to you,” added Angelina while Consort Kent helped her father up.
“Hmm…” The king blew on the white goatee beneath his chin, fully ignoring Angelina’s words. It went without saying that the king knew who Locke was. Every available information about the young man was brought to his table even before Angelina and Locke left for Aomar. The old king harboured great dislike towards the young knight that’d wooed his beloved daughter.
Even so, regarding Locke as an incompetent lad would be untrue, at least that was what the king had concluded from his reports of him. Locke had enlisted at the tender age of fourteen, became a squad leader of the Falcon corps’ second division at sixteen and had survived the bloody battle of Gordon Heights. Not to mention, he had even served the defence of Felmo Grand Canyon and many other wars.
When Locke was eighteen, he’d saved Princess Angelina from Morphey Forest and the two went missing for over two months, only to be found by the patrol team on the outskirts of the Bering Mountains. He was then granted nobility at twenty before leaving for the Aomarian Empire with the princess for studies.
Based on what he’d read from the papers, Locke was indeed a promising young lad. However, it hadn’t convinced the king enough to hand over Angelina willingly. This wasn’t an issue of bloodline at all since the king cared nought for the line between peasantry and nobility. Plus, Locke was not a commoner; it was just that his aristocratic rank was relatively low. King Faustian could’ve bestowed him the status of a viscount directly if he pleased.
“Let’s leave for the night,” said the king as he turned around to leave with Consort Kent. His intention to stop their conversation there was obvious.
Angelina let out a sigh of relief as she watched her father leave. As long as there was no explicit objection from the king, Locke and her would stand a chance. But this was insufficient; she was still hoping for her brother’s help in pitching a few words for their intended union. Prince Kenzir had spoiled her the most and Angelina knew she could count on him.
Now that her father had retired for the night, Angelina had no plans to stay in the ballroom. Truth be told, she’d grown cold to the aristocratic socialising events ever since she became a caster. Angelina was more open to academic discussions about magic with people of the same wavelength. The absence of the king excited those with ulterior motives. The young aristocratic bachelors of the Kingdom of Faustian quickly straightened their posture.
“Salutations, Your Highness…”
“I’m Williams from the Agale Family…”
“I’m Arthurwright, son of the Monp Family…”
They started to flock towards Angelina like bees to honey, creating annoyance for the princess and trouble for the palace attendants. As royal servants, they mustn’t let anyone collide with their princess. If Angelina got upset or angry as a result, the king wouldn’t spare them. Yet, the servants couldn’t afford to chastise the nobles due to their peasant statuses. They could open up an undisturbed pathway for the princess with their thin frame.
“Princess Angelina! Pleased to meet you, I’m Kester from the De Sandro clan!” A red-eyed aristocrat stepped forward. The servants didn’t stop him; they were aware that he was the current hottest shot of the kingdom.
Based on the way he carried himself and his iconic red eyes, Angelina could confirm that the blood flowing through Kester’s veins belonged to the De Sandro clan. He was most likely one of the many grandchildren of the current Margrave De Sandro. Unfortunately for him, Angelina wasn’t in the mood to entertain the young noble. She returned him a polite smile with a nod and left for the door behind Kester. Kester was left with an awkward expression and a proffered right hand.
Light laughter rang from across the ballroom and Kester’s cheeks burned red. Despite that, he didn’t dare to show his temper. Many of the nobles attending the ball were a few generations senior to him. Kester ran into the crowd with great disappointment; he wanted to leave the palace at once.
Angelina took in her surroundings once she exited the hall. Glace, Suzzane and the other women were gathered at the northwest of the garden, surrounded by a huge group of Faustian noblewomen.
In the southwest were a few aristocrats that sat on the stone benches. It wasn’t difficult to notice Locke, who was there relishing in the taste of precious royal wine in solitude. Angelina went straight for her lover, presence immediately attracting massive attention from the surrounding aristocrats.
“Why are you not dancing?” Her voice rang before she was even near. She ignored the greetings of the nearby nobles to sit beside Locke. The Faustian princess followed his line of sight to a bunch of aristocrats that were waltzing in the garden. The most jarring sight amidst the pretty sight was none other than Count Melson.
“Well, you know I can’t dance,” answered Locke with a wry smile.
“Haven’t I taught you how to dance?” Angelina rolled her eyes at him. She pried his glass away and flagged a servant down for a refill. She then took a small sip. The peeping nobles gape at that.
“I don’t remember anymore!” Locke replied quickly. Admittedly, his superb muscle coordination could help him follow the beat easily even without tutelage. As long as his partner could dance, he could mirror her movements and not look too stiff.
“How about I give you a refresher?” Angelina perked up. This was an obvious invitation to dance.
“Nope.” Locke refused. Apart from the curious aristocrats, the other women had their eyes glued to them too. Locke didn’t wish for trouble in his paradise. “I’d like to leave, though,” expressed Locke. Judging by the countless stars that decorated the sky, it was already long past midnight.
“You can leave if you wish. Just ignore the others,” came Angelina’s nonchalant answer as she crossed her legs. She was fully aware of Locke’s rationale. Speaking of which, she’d hadn’t spoken to old Locke and Tia so far. The only time Angelina had met them was when they’d departed Felor. Similar to Locke’s jitters around the king, Angelina was equally nervous around Locke’s parents.
“Then I’ll be leaving now. You should rest early too.” The foreshadow of Angelina’s breakthrough was brewing strong over the last few days. It was best to get as much rest as possible to keep her mental abilities at their peak, which would increase her chances of success.
“I know. Now, go,” said Angelina with a wave.
Locke went towards Glace, Suzzane and the others. They weren’t locals so they naturally didn’t have a lodge in Felor. It didn’t make sense for them to stay in the palace and it was too late to ask for a room at the inn. The most natural course of action was to let them stay in Locke’s house. He caught Glace introducing an Aomarian cosmetic product to the noblewomen once he was within earshot.
“This is a perfume formulated by an ancient ink workshop on Sachiel Street, a rare item that only aristocrats could purchase.” Glace showed a pink box to the surrounding ladies. They knew nothing of Sachiel Street nor did they know anything regarding the ancient ink workshop mentioned. All their eyes could see now was the little pink perfume box.
Glace’s six years in Aomar and her proficiency in Aomarian had successfully concealed her Shalorian background. The Faustian ladies had automatically assumed that she was an Aomarian noble.
Aomarian nobles and Faustian nobles were not considered to be on equal footing. The former lived in the imperial capital and were regarded as more superior, which was why the Faustian ladies were eyeing Glace with faint envy.
Compared to Glace, Suzzane and Kristin were more reserved. Their full attention was on the banquet delicacies since they didn’t dare to say anything more than necessary. This was Suzzane's first time at a royal ball so the fact that she could remain calm throughout was impressive enough.
“Hey, it’s time to go,” Locke said to his women.