Chapter 321

“Sir Isla.”

“Your Highness.”

As Ian approached the door to the room where Iriya and Irene were staying, Isla greeted him with a polite bow and his hand on the sword’s handle.

“Is Lady Pendragon inside?”

“Yes. But she mentioned a moment ago that she was going to change into something comfortable, so please wait a minute.”

“I will.”

Ian nodded before gesturing toward the knights who accompanied him. They separated into left and right of the door as if to guard the room.

“…..”

Isla took on a strange expression. It was as if he was asking Ian for an explanation. Ian replied with an awkward look.

“It’s not that I do not trust your skills. This is for my sake. I would feel more relieved this way.”

Ian usually did as he pleased. It was simply his personality, and his royal status granted him the right in most cases. Nevertheless, he sought Isla’s understanding. After all, Isla was not just a regular knight, but the king of Valvas. In addition, after digging around, he found out that Irene did not like people who looked down on others and used force to suppress them. She grew up under Elena’s influence, which was why Irene always respected and showed compassion for others.

“Hmm, I understand, Your Highness.”

Isla answered in a quiet voice, then returned to his position in front of the door.

A silence flowed through the air.

Ladies of noble families changed their clothes several times a day, and each change took a considerable amount of time. In addition, even comfortable clothes were formal, and in early summer, they would usually clean themselves off with wet towels before putting on their clothes.

“Hmm.”

Ian smacked his lips with folded arms with boredom. However, he spoke to Isla in a quiet voice after a moment of thought.

“By the way, I heard about it, Sir Isla.”

“What do you mean?”

Isla asked dryly with an expressionless face. He looked so apathetic that it looked as if he would not produce a single drop of blood even if stabbed. However, his dark blue eyes were a perfect for match for his rich, brown hair.

“Sir, I heard you have to get married?”

“Kuagh!”

Isla erupted into a cough with a distorted expression.

“Hahaha! Even the Knight King of Valvas can be surprised sometimes!”

Ian chuckled and patted Isla on the shoulder, apparently enjoying the fluster of the Knight King.

“Ehem! Hmm!”

Isla coughed awkwardly. He felt quite embarrassed at his own reaction and the prince’s unreserved, casual attitude.

“I hear there were almost a hundred suitors? How amazing. Basically, all the ladies of the prestigious noble families of the empire must have been trying their luck.”

“…That’s not necessarily the case.”

“Haha! You are so humble as well! Well, the Knight King of Valvas would be a son-in-law coveted even in the imperial castle. Huh? Come to think of it… did any of your suitors happen to be princesses?”

“…..”

Isla did not answer the prince’s question. Or rather, he could not answer. In fact, there was a member of royalty among the three candidates he selected after screening through the list provided by Elena.

“Hmmm? There really must be…? Ohhh…! Yes, who is it? Is it one of the collateral princesses? Perhaps I know of them?”

Ian assumed from Isla’s reaction and started making a fuss.

“Well, that’s… I do not think Your Highness will know her.”

Hmm? There’s no one among the collateral princesses that I do not know… Who is it?”

“A lady named Serin Reiner…”

“Reiner? Reiner must be… Ahh!”

Ian frowned and sank into thought for a moment, then clapped his hands with realization.

“She is one of the cousins of Her Majesty the Empress! Come to think of it, Reiner is one of the middle officials for the imperial court.”

The imperial castle was huge and had numerous officials. Nevertheless, Ian knew the names and origins of the officials – not only the high officials in charge of each institution but rather the middle officials as well. 

He was truly qualified to become the next crown prince.

“But… Hmmm…?”

Ian stroked his chin and looked at Isla with a strange expression.

“You are a Knight of Pendragon as well as the Knight King of Valvas. Why did you choose from a lady from a family of officials, rather than from a great noble or a knightly background? Is there a particular reason?”

“That’s…”

Just as Isla was about to speak it, the door behind him opened and a voice as soft as jade beads answered instead.

“The duchess is well-acquainted with the lady of the Reiner family.”

“My lady.”

Isla slightly bowed his head and stepped aside. Irene appeared in changed clothing, and Ian’s eyes widened instantly. 

She was truly dazzling and beautiful. Although she only wore a platinum necklace and a dress that slightly revealed her shoulders, she was truly a goddess. Her hair was the same white-blonde tint as her brother’s, and her small smile was reminiscent of blooming flowers.

She was so fair, and yet so wise and elegant. A light breeze sifted through her hair and Irene lifted her fingers to sweep her hair behind her ears.

“Ah, it’s…”

Ian forgot himself and looked at her with a dazed expression, then found something unexpected and muttered to himself without thinking. A shining object on Irene’s finger had caught his attention. It was the Orcon ring that the empress gave her and Lindsay as a gift in the past.

There was nothing new about the ring itself. The problem was the finger on which it was hanging on. Orcon was a mysterious, magical metal that freely adjusted its size according to the size of the finger, so it was perfectly well-fitted.

When she first received it from the empress, she had worn it on her right pinky. Following the customs of nobles, Irene and Lindsay wore their gifts on their right pinky because wearing a ring on the right pinky signified that they respected the person who gave them the gift or that they held a noble status.

But now, the position of the ring on Irene’s finger had shifted.

It was situated on the index finger of her left hand.

According to etiquette, a lady of marriageable age would wear a ring on their left index finger when they received it as a gift from their mother-in-law or their father-in-law.

“What’s wrong, Your Highness?”

Irene showed confusion while tilting her head, slightly widening her large, clear eyes.

“Uh, huh? No, it is nothing. Ehem!”

Ian came to his senses and hurriedly turned his head with a false cough. His appearance from the side was as usual. He appeared quite sharp and arrogant. However, he could not help but tighten his fist and have his mouth curl up in a smile.

“I was about to go for a walk with Miss Mandy in the garden of the residence. Would you like to accompany us, Your Highness?”

Irene spoke with a dazzling smile.

Ian nodded with a blank face. The girl had been pretty and charming like a fairy when he first saw her. But now, her calm and elegant charm was reminiscent of Elena Pendragon from decades ago.

“Let us do that…”

“Yes.”

With an even brighter smile, she reached out her hand. Ian linked arms with her in a natural motion – something he would have done thousands or even tens of thousands of times so far.

“Shall we go, Your Highness?”

When Irene spoke right by his side, a gentle and refreshing scent passed on to Ian.

“Well, then…”

At this moment, Ian Aragon momentarily forgot the shock and anger caused by Duke Arangis’ death as he took a step forward. He desperately wanted to turn his head and look down at her, but he did not want her to notice his feelings. As such, Ian walked proudly his back upright, which was what prevented him from seeing it.

‘Just as I thought, you have rather a naïve side to you. Ho-ho-ho!’

The most intelligent and bold girl of Conrad Castle, or rather, the Pendragon duchy, had a playful smile around her mouth.

 

The back garden of the residence was as wide and splendid as the rumors. The place had been dearly cherished by Count Sagunda, the former governor, and it was filled with all sorts of beautiful flowers and trees greeting early summer. In addition, a small hill existed at the backside of the garden, and a wooden pavilion built in the southern style stood erect under a large Zelkova tree. The refreshing, restful area greeted the youthful young men and women.

Since there was no need to set up a separate tent, the maids quickly and skillfully prepared refreshments. They originally served Irene and Lindsay as maids of the Pendragon Duchy, but they were extra careful today because of a special guest.

Isla and the other knights settled a little distance away from the pavilion and set up a perimeter.

Irene called out.

“Sir Isla.”

“Yes, my lady.”

Isla answered politely, and Irene continued with a smile.

“Come this way. You are a king of a nation. I would feel uncomfortable to make you stay like that.”

Isla shook his head with an impassive look.

“Not at all. I am here as a knight of the Pendragon Duchy.”

“Still…”

As a southern man known to be generous to the ladies, Isla usually listened to everything she asked of him. However, she knew that he tended to be stubborn when it came to such matters. As if seeking assistance, she glanced up at Ian.

“Your Highness Ian…”

‘Uagh!’

Ian felt his heart pound as she looked up towards him like a baby kitten looking at its mother. But he soon coughed and turned towards Isla.

“Sir Isla, why don’t you come this way?”

“…..”

He thought for a moment, then walked towards the pavilion as if he had no other choice. As the king of a nation which was a part of the Aragon Empire, he could not disobey the call of the one who would become the crown prince.

But after he arrived, he did not sit down. Rather, he stood nearby, guarding Irene.

“Sit here.”

But when Ian personally directed him towards a seat, he had no other choice but to sit. Soon, the maids brought tea and placed it in front of him. Isla silently savored the drink while lowering his long eyelashes.

Ian was quite handsome in his own right, but unlike his sharp image, Isla’s appearance was reminiscent of a wild stallion. The eyes of the maids went dim at his attractiveness. He was definitely the most popular knight among the ladies of Conrad Castle.

But the maids had no choice but to hold back their disappointment. The knight, who became king, needed to find a bride at the request of the duchess. The Knight King of the South, who was kind to all women, would soon belong to a single lady.

“Hmm.”

Ian narrowed his eyes after sensing something from the faces and eyes of the maids.

“By the way, Sir Isla. Why don’t we finish what we were talking about previously?”

“…..”

Isla paused in the middle of raising his teacup. He had attempted to avoid this meeting to steer off from such a conversation…

“What are your thoughts, Lady Pendragon? One of the reasons why Sir Isla will be accompanying us will be to decide on a bride. I do not think it will be a bad idea for us to share a small conversation with each other after hearing of the candidates. What are your thoughts?”

“I think it is a good idea. I am very curious as to which lady will become Sir Isla's partner. Is that not right, Miss Mandy?”

Iriya nodded cautiously. She was moved by Irene’s consideration for her. Even though Iriya was among three people with enormous status, Irene was trying to incorporate her into the conversation as well.

“All the noble ladies in Conrad Castle were greatly disappointed to hear that Sir Isla might soon marry.”

It was true.

The day Isla left for Leus in the flying carriage along with the two ladies, all the ladies of Conrad Castle cried their eyes out while holding each other, regardless of their status.

“Hooh! Just what I would expect from a southern man. I hear that the Valvas Cavaliers, especially, do not spare anything in terms of romance. That they spread their affection everywhere they go. Is that true for you as well, Sir Isla?”

“Children and women deserve protection. Unless it is on the battlefield, it is only natural for me to place them before myself.”

“Huh…”

Ian let out a breath.

If it had been anyone else, his hands and feet would have shriveled up because it was so cheesy, but it was different when Isla said it. It was enough to arouse a little bit of jealousy in him.

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