Meanwhile, the capital was lively as ever.
It has been nearly two months since spring arrived.

Beyond the streets lined with flower shops was a castle at the center of the capital.

Unlike the vibrant streets of the city, there was a bone-chilling silence in the castle.

A cold sensation flowed within the walls where the Empress resided.

The Empress seemed to be very annoyed.

Because the exchange meeting to be held in May was around the corner.

Initially, she thought of it as an opportunity to show her dignity to the world.

But it was too difficult to do that.

She grimaced, seated on a chair inside her bedroom.

‘Because the Duke of Reinhardt was not attending the meeting.’

Many of the foreign participants held businesses connected to the Duchy.

It sounded like most people were coming to see Ian.

However, as Ian ignored her invitation for three years, subtle resentment settled in her.

The last she could do was send the Crown Prince to persuade the Duke, but she hardly expected the unexpected change.

Then, a maid knocked on the door to which she proudly nodded.

“Come in.
What is it?”
“The Duke of Reinhardt has replied to the invitation.”

As if offering it to a God, the maid handed over the letter very politely.

The Empress received, only two fingers clutching the letter.

She read, still expecting his refusal.

“Let’s see…… 《I’m extremely honored and grateful to receive an invitation from the royal family》.
Huh, pretentious.”

She skipped over the words to search for the reason for his refusal.

For example……

I am unable to attend because I have to focus on my family and work.

It’s not enough for a Duke to be invited to the event.
And so on.

The Empress reached the end of the letter without any anticipated,

“《With my utmost respect and gratitude to the royal family for the invitation, I am writing to inform you of the Ducal couple to be present during the event.》I knew you would say that– Hold on, what?”

She read the letter again.

Amazing, he has accepted the invitation!

Flustered, she jumped up from her seat.

But as soon as she became aware of the maid, she pretended to tidy up her dress.

Was it her son who was able to persuade the Duke?

She was delighted for a moment, but soon her eyes turned cold.

Her pride was hurt.

She was the Empress.

She shouldn’t be too pleased just because a mere Duke changed his mind.

‘I should have killed him when he was accused of treason.
Bartolt did nothing to assassinate him in the countryside.’

Bartolt.
He was a coveted knight when he used to be in Ian’s Order.

But he was nothing comparable when she brought him.

He was now assigned as her escort because he was a great soldier.

She glared at Bartolt, who stood outside the room.

Anyway, all of them were useless.

Ugh, this Duke of Reinhardt!

 

***

 

Oscar was supposed to stay at the Reinhardt mansion for five days.

Two of them had passed, and he was already tired.

Laritte was often injured, but most of Oscar’s suffering was due to Ian.

Ian made sure to check everything, even if it was trivial, what could harm Laritte.

To Oscar, Ian’s behavior was due to his feelings.

But Ian kept insisting it wasn’t love!

His friend was dull.

It seemed urgent for Oscar to make his friend aware of his feelings.

Just in time, the couple arrived at the first floor where Oscar was seated.

“Did you sleep well last night?”
“Of course.”

After they greeted each other with ‘a good morning’, Laritte asked,

“We’re going to take a walk in the rose garden together, right?”

Ian was reluctant to allow Laritte to step outside.

He wanted her to be inside a safe perimeter until the consultation with the fortune teller.

It had been a long time since Oscar saw the rose garden of the Duchy, which was in an ambiguous location to say outdoor.

Still, Oscar could not be locked up in the house for five days.

Oscar wondered if he could have Ian realize his feelings.

‘Even if you ask Ian directly, he’ll only oppose it, won’t he?’

Oscar answered Laritte,

“……Reinhardt’s rose garden is grand enough to be envied by other nobles.
It is said that it’d always win first place if it was nominated in the garden competition every year.
I’m looking forward to it.”

Laritte replied,

“Really? I only went to the garden before the blooming season.”

On the other hand, Oscar had witnessed the garden in one full bloom as a child.

Laritte and Oscar took the lead towards the garden, chatting together.
They were getting along quite well.

Ian unintentionally became alone and followed them.

Soon after, Ian spotted a staircase in the grass and began to approach his wife to support her as he did these days.

Oscar was faster.

“Oh, a staircase.
Please hold my hand, Ma’am.”

Laritte held Oscar’s hand without much thought.

Oscar also acted naturally.
He learned while watching Ian treat Laritte like a newborn child.

“Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it! The fact that I was helpful to the beautiful Duchess makes me happy.”

Oscar belatedly realized the intense gaze he felt on the back of his head as he answered formally.

Ian was shooting a glare at him.

It was when Oscar realized that he had a way to make Ian aware of his feelings.

He decided to test a bit more.
He didn’t let go of Laritte’s hand even after she walked down the stairs.

“…..?”

Laritte looked up at Oscar with a blank face.

As mentioned, showers were often in the Iassa Empire.

As a result, there were certain cultures based on it.

If male aristocrats frequently held hands with female aristocrats to escort them, it was to prevent their falling due to the damp floor.

‘I guess that’s it.’

Laritte waved it off as her mind came to a rough rationalization.

However, there was another person who could not rationalize the situation.
Ian.

As expected, Oscar could feel his back catching fire under Ian’s glare.

‘You will be grateful to me later, Ian.’

Oscar formulated a plan to induce jealousy in his friend.

The trio walked through the rose garden.

It was a very fancy sight to behold.

The gardener, previously devastated by treason, had re-grown the garden with his sweat and hard work.

Oscar deliberately pretended to get close to Laritte.

He plucked a few roses from a branch and tucked them on her head.

“It’s beautiful.
The flowers seem vivid to hold emotions.
It really suits the Duchess, haha.”

Oscar was a gentleman of formalities.

His elegant gestures and kind words just now were not as good as Ian’s, but it got many women falling head over heels for him.

“The roses will be offended.”

Laritte also accepted the flower without much thought.

“No way.
They’re honored is all I can see.”

Oscar responded softly.
With a bit of sincerity.

Laritte looked surprisingly beautiful with roses in her silver hair.

Oscar stole a glimpse of the fuming figure of Ian.

Even though he had predicted such an outcome, he felt himself sweating.

This kind of Ian was really scary.

Nonetheless, he admired his friend in every way.

A Swordmaster’s life was difficult.

But Oscar had a clean heart.

He was going to give his life to help the couple move forward.

“A phrase comes to mind when I see the Duchess wearing roses in her hair.”
“What is it?”
“Rose resembles your beauty, your passion.
How could I not hand over this rose to the love of mine…… It’s a poem written by Lorentz, a minstrel poet, dated around 450.”

It was mainly used to praise one’s beauty.
However, it was sometimes used to confess someone’s love towards another.

Laritte didn’t know, but Ian noticed it.

Since then, Oscar continued to do his favors.
Kicking out all the bees around Laritte and gently smiling.

Meanwhile, Ian felt like someone planted seeds of flames in his mind.

‘Why do those two look so close?’

As soon as the seeds were planted, they sprouted and burned the surrounding land.

Ian refused to admit the fact and turned a blind eye to his rage.

It was a foolish thing to do.
The fire wouldn’t go out on its own.

The burning flames gradually reached his heart and reminded him of the moments.

Moments he had spent alone with Laritte in the villa.

Sitting together in front of the fireplace.
Carrying water down from the valley.
Having soup boiled with only potatoes and carrots.
Snatching the saw from Laritte, who was confident enough to cut the furniture herself.
Needless to say, the brief laughter of Laritte at the sight of him catching a fish……..

‘I don’t like how she is close to other men than me.’

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