Chapter 17: The Calling (2/5)

As Kebrilio’s figure receded from the halls, Hecaris III fingered the frozen rose in his hand delicately. “Another rose to add to the collection.” He soliloquized, “I wonder what manner of rose would best suit Elric’s womanly dress, what arrangement of flowers would suit her best?”

The emperor thought about making a new piece of art now that he was alone. His floral pieces required the morning dew for the best effect, which in turn meant having to work early in the morning else the rising sun would ruin his work. Pruning, trimming, and arranging the roses were only secondary compared to the amount of fresh dew on the roses.

He looked up at the sun and saw how it was already hanging high up in the western skies. Alas, it seemed that the time for art was over. He would have to try again tomorrow morning.

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The emperor wasn’t the only person fond of the early morning. A good majority of the citizens in Waldsk were accustomed to starting their days earlier in the morning rather than later, and the Duke Hughesin was one of the more ardent followers of this example.

If anything, Hughesin was perhaps the earliest one to rise this morning. The sky hadn’t even its first sign of sunlight when he casted off his blankets and rose from his bed. The butler, kitchen-staff, and groundskeeper were roused from their beds and summoned to him at once for their orders; the kitchen having the hefty order of cooking up a grand meal for the beautiful Fantasia to break her fast. Hughesin remembered how ravenous she was when she ate and was determined to win her heart through her stomach. 

The groundskeeper was burdened with the task of fashioning the most beautiful bouquet of flowers for Fantasia before she could wake, meaning he had hardly any time to find the freshest and most beautiful flowers until then. Not only was the order given with an extremely-short notice, but the sheer volume of flowers he had to arrange was nearly enough to bring the groundskeeper to tears. The man had been used to carrying out similar orders on short notices before, but never had he had to carry out one as enormous as this. Half of a carriage had to be filled up with flowers? The elderly groundskeeper was confident this was his tallest order yet, but yet he bore no grudge against his employer. 

Never had the duke mistreated any of his servants, they were treated rather well in comparison to the servants of other nobles, in fact. Like the others, the groundskeeper wished from the bottom of their hearts that their master would find his better half soon. The majority of the work staff had been talking about lady Fantasia for the past two days, heaping praise and compliments onto her when the topic arose. Even the two magi, punished after their attacks onto Fantasia, felt nothing but the deepest regrets for their actions. One of the magi even solemnly pledged to protect her to the day of his death as penance.

Yes, everyone was excited for Fantasia to be wed to their master, the duke. A tall order this may be for the groundskeeper, but for the sake of his master’s happiness, the elder was willing to toil and smile until the task was completed. He even took a carriage off toward the royal gardens, for he knew that garden was the only one in Waldsk with the most resplendent flowers.

And so that left Hughesin alone in his estate to pace about while the groundskeeper and his other staff went about their duties.

He even called for the four ladies-in-waiting to Fantasia to be woken from their slumber. It was a task far easier than waking his butler. All the duke had to do was gently shake them once or twice and they’d wake with a sharp cry and dive under their beds—much to Hughesin’s ire. 

Did they not realize that he could care less for any other woman now that he found Fantasia? What could these ladies, especially the servants, possibly offer to him over a lady like Fantasia? Was he supposed to be a sex-crazed maniac that goes crazy upon seeing someone of the fairer sex?

Still, these four ladies were under Fantasia’s employ and not his. Rather than possibly giving Fantasia the wrong impression of him, Hughesin thought it best to give them the simple order of cleaning their mistress’ room without rousing her before he left their room.

Having successfully delegated everyone with the appropriate tasks, Hughesin left the manor to wait by the gates for his groundskeeper to return.

When the carriage returned with the proper flowers, he had several of his servants transport the flowers outside Fantasia’s room so her four ladies-in-waiting could then arrange them inside.

The four ladies-in-waiting were thoroughly surprised by the sheer volume of flowers. Everyone knew Hughesin as a flowery playboy, but who knew he was this serious about a single person? The sight was enough to make the four laugh.

Misunderstanding the meaning behind their laughter, Hughesin gave them all a nod before bidding farewell.

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The first rays of sunlight splashed down into Elric’s room when he woke up to a sea of flowers all around himself. The whole room was practically submerged in them. Burying his head underneath the pillow, Elric let out a sigh of frustration. The day had barely started and yet Elric already knew he was in for a hellish day.

A scrumptious and magnificent-looking morning meal.

Seated right beside him was a fully-attentive H*gh*s*n.

And across the table from h*m was the equally-spirited mother.

Giggling amongst themselves, several maids peered into the room from behind cracked doors and windows.

There was also the countess and her twenty-or-so students.

The latter was deeply-engrossed in gossip.

Each one of them had a strange glint in their eyes.

Sometimes, someone would come into the room to take a look at the gathered women.

One of those such personages was a retainer from the emperor’s court.

All in all, Elric practically felt defeated.

The greatest factor to his unspirited mood was the one sticking closely to him, the duke, Hughesin.

Any minute action from Elric would immediately earn the attention of the duke, who’d pester him with all sorts of nonsensical jabber. And that would in turn cause a handmaid to appear right beside them, ready to walk to Nadirheim and back if their job required it. 

Despite the pain, however, Elric knew etiquette had to be kept and his disguise maintained. Swallowing the proverbial bitter pill, he tried his best to mentally prepare himself for another painful day.

And so the lessons went on...

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