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“Arthur, he’s our son-in-law.”
At Ramona’s prompting, the Marquis of Montague loosened up his expression. Leonis greeted him with a kind look that was so subtle that not even the emperor caught a glimpse of it.
“It’s been quite a while, father-in-law.”
“That’s……right, I heard you had a hard time.”
It was difficult to treat the opponent because he was a duke. Celia was relieved that the Marquis of Montague did not openly show hostility.
Ramona was also about to notice that Leonis’ expression was different than before.
He was still a man with an intimidating figure, but he seemed to have lost a lot of energy as if he were going to live or would be torn apart just by approaching him.
‘Are you really in love with Celia?’
Ramona could see with her own eyes that Celia was beautiful, and this gave her the confidence to smile. Leonis’ attitude towards the Marquis of Montague would have been enough to explain the rumours of the Duchess of Cardian’s affair.
What kind of man in the world would go out of his way to the family of his wife who had an affair?
Originally, he held the title of the Duke of Cardian who had an arrogant and domineering side. When they saw Leonis greet the Marquis of Montague like a gentle sheep, most nobles seemed to judge that the rumour is just a rumour.
Ramona proudly raised the bridge of her nose as if to look some of the ladies in the eyes and see regret in their expressions.
‘Do you think my daughter is like all of you?’
Ramona said that she had no expectation that Celia would be loyal to Leonis. She didn’t think, however, that even if she was having an affair, she would be caught so soon.
The nobility’s focus was already shifting elsewhere. The rumour that the Duchess of Cardian was having an affair, which was the second hottest gossip at the time, turned out to be groundless, and attention was shifted to the ceremony of the crown prince of His Highness Michael.
“When will Your Majesty announce….”
“Wouldn’t he like to make an announcement in the banquet hall?”
“We might toast at the banquet first!”
The upbeat disposition of the people who were excited began to rub off on those around them. They thought it was strange that there was no one present at the banquet who could be considered the main character.
The future crown prince, Michael, and his mother, the first empress, were nowhere to be seen.
In particular, since Michael became the crown prince from the first empress, it was obvious that she would extend her power as if she had already become the Empress Dowager.
“Because the First Prince says she is still not feeling well.”
“Will she still attend the appointment ceremony?”
He anxiously peered around beyond the circle full of people who were muttering. He would have taken hold of Michael’s attendants or aides wherever they were and questioned them about where Michael was.
While he was bustling across the banquet hall, some of the assistants threw him a sidelong glance, but for the most part, they ignored him.
‘There he is!’
One of Michael’s aides was out, perhaps to check the nobles’ mood in advance. They had no idea who he was, but he was in a hurry.
The assistant’s eyes widened in astonishment when someone unexpectedly approached him and grasped his arm.
“How impolite of you…!”
“It’s urgent! Where is Your Highness, Michael?”
The man stared at him as if he was taken aback by the question, lowering his voice so that others could hear him. He had always thought that he was one of the second Prince Phil’s attendants.
“C-Could you kindly explain the reason why……?”
When the man was pushed by his momentum, he smiled with a fearful face.
“His Highness Michael’s life or death depends on it! Bring me to him right away!”
✦ ✦ ✦
Things would have gone much more smoothly if they could have borrowed the knights from the Duke of Cardian. In the end, Phil decided against borrowing the power of Prince Giel and instead requested the escort knight from the Third Empress.
He kept it a secret from the third empress, who was inquisitive about what was going on and went to the banquet hall with the majority of her knights.
However, the entrance to the banquet hall was guarded by another imperial knight.
“Only one person is permitted to enter the banquet hall.”
That was only possible when the opponent was a high-ranking aristocrat, and he had to leave his weapon open.
Phil used to get angry out of habit, but the imperial knights were unfazed. If this had happened in the past, they would have been scared about what the future held for them and would not have been able to respond appropriately; however, things are different now.
There was no reason to be swayed by the order of the royal family who had been kicked out of the position of prince because it was obvious that Prince Michael would become the crown prince. Moreover, it was the second empress, not the third empress, who held this banquet.
“Your Highness, even if Your Majesty says just one word, we’ll be able to bring them into the banquet hall right away.”
There was no point in getting angry here. At Joel’s soothing words, Phil gnashed his teeth at the imperial knights, saying “Let’s wait and see.”
Phil choose one of the knights who was the largest and had the most stern appearance, disarmed him, and then brought him inside. The remainder were told to wait outside the banquet hall.
When Phil entered the banquet hall, nobles gathered in groups of threes and threes and whispered. Phil returned a fierce stare and clicked his tongue at the absence of Michael.
‘Where did Michael go? Couldn’t he have already noticed and fled?’
According to the information brought by Joel, the Emperor plans to pass a glass to the nobles before entering the banquet, inform them of Michael’s apparition, and drink a toast. Then he will make a declaration that he will raise him to the position of crown prince.
Around that time, Phil defied the emperor, brought Martin Caesar, and planned to reveal Michael’s true identity to the world.
‘My whole body trembles at the thought of his face falling from joy to hell just by imagining it!’
Martin Cesar was apprehended by Phil’s entourage while wearing a mask for this. He hadn’t been carried into the banquet hall yet, but he was surrounded by the Third Empress’s knights.
He was in the midst of his drunken stupor and had no idea where he was. They had to put a gag over his lips since he was acting suspiciously while taking the medication.
As Phil walked to the centre of the banquet hall with strides and looked around, he spotted Celia with the Duke of Cardian.
Celia looked like a fairy in her blue dress with silver embroidery and platinum tiara. Phil felt a gulp go past her, even though he knew that was not the case.
‘Shit! I should have f*ck that b*tch back then…!”
Leonis returned his glance like a ball of fire as if sensing someone’s gaze. Phil felt goosebumps and got the feeling that there was a throbbing scar on his body that would never go away as he looked at him.
Even though the current Leonis was unarmed, the look in his eyes caused his hamstrings to tingle. He looked like a monster that could tear his arm off with his bare hands.
‘I should have killed that killer a long time ago!’
“Your Highness, what are you looking at…… Ehem!”
After receiving Duke Cardian’s gaze, Joel, who had been following Phil, also felt numbness spread throughout his hamstrings. The banquet hall was quite large, and Michael was nowhere to be seen at the entrance.
He needed to go inside the banquet hall to make sure Michael hadn’t run away yet, but his feet didn’t move.
Joel moved his trembling legs to hide Phil from Duke Cardian’s gaze. As if nothing had happened, Phil passed through the centre of the banquet hall and went further inside.
The banquet hall was also connected to two other spaces except for the largest central hall. In each space, ladies and nobles were divided and chatting.
They looked at Phil, who suddenly appeared, with curious eyes.
The second empress was the same, but Phil and Giel also became like dogs chasing chickens, so it was a good spectacle from the point of view of the nobles.
For that reason, the Third Empress was also supposed to be absent from this banquet. She expressed her stance against the emperor’s making Michael as crown prince.
Phil pinched his brows because he couldn’t find Michael even in those two places. Someone seemed to have leaked information from somewhere and reached Michael’s ears.
If he hadn’t run away, he would have been the first person to show up at the banquet hall to confirm the support of the nobles.
Michael’s aide could be seen in Phil’s eyes as he agonized over whether he should immediately go to the emperor and tell him the truth he knew.
When the attendant saw Phil approaching with strides, the attendant skillfully bowed. The attendant looked at Phil curiously.
“Do you have any instructions?”
“Michael, where is Michael now!”
However, the attendant merely gave Phil a look as though he was slightly surprised and did not point out his mistake in manners despite that he ought to have addressed Michael as “older brother.”
“Last time I saw him, he was in the waiting room.”
“Last time? You’d better hurry up and check to see if he’s there!”
After receiving orders from Phil, the attendant bowed his head and rushed out in the direction of the waiting room. Joel murmured something under his breath as he examined the back of the attendant, who appeared unwilling to leave.
“As expected, wouldn’t it be better to inform His Majesty first?”
“Are you seriously going to keep saying that! I’ll have to watch him fall to clear my mind. How dare he deceives His Majesty and me……”
To put it bluntly, the entire empire had been deceived by the hat, but Joel didn’t bother to point it out. Phil continued to huff and wait for his servant to return.
Phil was now inside the banquet hall, but unlike previous encounters, very few nobility approached him. Some of the people he knew did greet him, perhaps as a show of respect, but that was the extent of their interaction.
They stated that they did not even need to be polite to him because the prince had lost his position in the imperial family. By pretending to be friendly with Phil, he didn’t want to get caught in the eyes of Michael, who was going to become the crown prince in a short time, because he had a will in his heart that he didn’t want to get caught.
Phil scowled angrily at them. The nobles hastily retreated and avoided looking into his eyes as soon as they came into contact with his gaze.
An attendant came running panting and called out to him. It was against the law for imperial court servants to make loud noises or run unless there was an emergency.
Phil frowned at the thought.
“His Highness Prince Michael is nowhere to be seen…… Yo-Your Majesty calls for Your Highness.”
When it became clear to him that Michael had run away, Phil, who was in a fit of rage, became nervous at the servant’s words.
‘Your Majesty is calling me…… Could this have reached His Majesty’s ears as well?’
The emperor’s eyes and ears were bound to be everywhere. Knowing that his father Orcan’s intelligence is superior to his own, Phil was perplexed as to whether he would be questioned for not informing him first.
“If His Majesty calls, I will go. Joel! Follow me!”
Joel, as well as the disarmed escort knight, followed Phil. The attendant, as if he had been scolded by the emperor, had a pale face.
Joel, who was walking behind Phil, turned around with a perplexed expression on his face and looked back. It appeared that another royal attendant was delivering something to the Duke and Duchess of Cardian.