A beautiful lady, like an ethereal fairy who lost her way on the mortal world, was standing idly in the middle of the exhibition room.
Breathtaking pieces of art adorned her surroundings, but the lady’s gaze was only on her hands that were clasped together.
The eyes of the guests, who pretended to appreciate the paintings while secretly glancing at her, contained contemptuous curiosity that could not be hidden.
Pavel, who just entered the hall, ended up stopping on his tracks when she saw the beautiful lady.
He felt a strange sense of déjà vu and couldn’t help but feel that she was someone familiar.
A familiar long brunette hair, petite body, pale white skin, and clear blue eyes…
Even when he carefully called out a certain name that was dear to him, Pavel wasn’t ready to be convinced.
In the end, the surprise he felt at the moment he made eye contact with the familiar lady who raised her head was even greater.
A bright smile appeared on Erna’s face as she looked at him incredulously.
In an instant, the attention of every guest focused on them, but she did not seem to be conscious of it.
He quickly asked for permission from the confused Director of the Arts Center, then hurriedly approached Erna and respectfully greeted her with courtesy befitting a young lady from a noble family.
“It’s been a while, Ms.
Pavel sent a secret glance towards Erna, who had a puzzled expression on her face.
There were currently too many eyes around them, there was no need to throw out further information about their relationship in this place.
To Erna, who was about to ask a question, he gave a short and decisive warning.
She looked at him with narrowed eyes, and belatedly nodded with a small sigh after a while.
Everyone’s attention in this exhibition room was still focused on the two of them.
It’s been a while indeed, Mr.
She sympathized with Pavel with her awkward acting.
However, even at this awkward moment, his eyes were still full of joy that could not be hidden.
‘Í guess Pavel did the right thing..’
The obvious happiness that she and her friend shared from their unexpected reunion erased the displeasure in her heart that was left behind by that evil prince.
All that’s left now is Pavel and the joy of finally seeing an old friend after a long time.
The relief and comfort that she felt after meeting her only friend made Erna suddenly realize the loneliness and apprehension she harbored ever since she came to this city.
“It was nice to see you.
I’ll see you again.”
Before turning around, Pavel quickly whispered a word of encouragement to her.
“I’ll contact you.”
He quickly added with a bright smile, it was the smile of her friend, Pavel Lore, that she remembered dearly.
She pursed her lips to avoid carelessly uttering words that could be taken out of context, and responded with a small nod of her head instead.
After sending a short smile once more, he returned to the elderly gentleman who was waiting for him.
She later remembered that the man was the Director of the Art Institute who gave the speech at the opening ceremony.
His face, which introduced Pavel to the nobility, showed a pride for his student that could not be hidden.
With a smile, Erna quietly left the exhibition room.
She admitted she was sad that their reunion was cut short, but she still thinks it was a good thing they met, especially when she remembered the promise that Pavel left behind.
They will soon meet again, and there were many things that she wanted to say and share to her dear friend.
With an upright posture that reflects her current joyful mood, she began to leave the exhibition room with a much lighter step.
The regular sound of footsteps resounded through the hallway which was lit by the languid sunlight, she made her way towards the stairs.
However, this blissful moment ended abruptly when the memories of His Highness came to her mind like a raging flood.
His golden hair that resembled the afternoon sunlight and subtle gray eyes suddenly came to her mind.
During that unforgettable moment when he kissed the back of her hand, the man’s gray eyes gazed directly at her.
In the end, he insulted her with such an elegant and polite gesture and without any remorse, she treated her as a substitute for the Princess.
Erna, with a frown on her forehead, wiped the back of her hand where the prince’s lips had touched, as if erasing that memory.
Even though she was wearing gloves, the strange and unpleasant sensation of his lips touching her hand remained on her mind.
In the end, she even used a handkerchief to scrub the back of her hand thoroughly.
It was just a simple gesture, but her cheeks couldn’t stop burning from shame and anger.
If only she could, she would have completely wiped away those unpleasant memories from her head.
‘If it wasn’t for this stupid handkerchief!’
Resentment for the handkerchief that was returned by the Prince surged inside her chest, but it didn’t last long since it was a gift from her grandmother on her birthday last year.
In consideration to the sincerity of her grandmother who embroidered the flowers and initials of her name, she couldn’t truly hate this handkerchief in the end even when that cursed Prince touched it.
Erna, with a neatly folded handkerchief, started going down the stairs at a slow pace; both cheeks were still tinged with red.
Days had passed after the art exhibit ended, but the shameful memories that the Prince left behind came frequently and tormented Erna.
It always appeared on her mind without regard to the situation; when the sun was shining, when she saw her face in the mirror, or even when she sneezed just like now.
“Ah… … .”
She let out a light sigh as she looked down at the ink stains made by the pen she had dropped.
Lisa, who witnessed what happened, got up and opened the window of the bedroom.
As the gentle summer night’s wind blew, the thick scent of flowers that filled the room was lessened to an extent.
“Oh my, how absurd this is.
Those noblemen must have picked up all the flowers in Schuber and gave all of them to my Lady.”
Lisa clicked her tongue and looked at the amazing scenery of her lady’s bedroom.
Various bouquets of flowers with letters of courtship were everywhere, mostly because her weak-minded lady couldn’t afford to throw away those innocent flowers.
Additionally, Lady Erna made an effort to send replies of refusal to every pathetic letter.
This was the reason why her master, who would always go to bed early unless she was dragged to attend a party, was often awake until late at night these past days.
“I will write a new one.”
Erna removed the stained letter and set it down on the reading table.
Lisa, who watched the young lady write a sincere reply of refusal again and again, let out another deep sigh.
“Aren’t these prodigal sons illiterate? Why are they so tenacious and persistent even after being rejected?” Lisa openly grumbled with an upset mood.
Erna, on the other hand, carefully pressed down the written letter using a blotter paper with a small smile on her face.
It seemed that Lady Erna was the only woman under the sky of Lechen who would make such an effort to carefully write a rejection letter.
She tried to persuade her that it was not necessary, but the young lady stubbornly insisted.
‘Even if you rejected their courtship, a proper lady still needs to do so with dignity and courtesy befitting a true noble.’ Erna spoke such words like an old woman who was from the last century.
Lisa found such Lady Erna quite lovely at these times, but she couldn’t help but also find her stubbornness frustrating; which further made her poor self upset.
“That is the last one for today!” When Erna picked up a new set of stationery, Lisa finally declared with a smirk.
“Is it going to be a big deal if those stubborn fools got the replies a bit late? It is already the time for you to take a rest, Miss.” While her lady hesitated, Lisa quickly put away the stationery and inkwell.
Erna, who decided to accept the will of her maid, got up and headed to the bathroom.
After meticulously washing her ink-stained hands, she returned to her room as Lisa approached her with a comb in her hands.
It was still awkward and uncomfortable to entrust these matters to others, but Erna meekly sat in front of the dressing table.
Lisa removed the shawl the young lady was wearing over her pajamas and began to comb her hair carefully.
The maid then looked through the mirror with a proud smile on her face, the grim expression on her face whenever she was rejected for what she was trying to do was nowhere to be seen.
Erna’s shyness in this unfamiliar situation disappeared and was replaced with the relief her maid gave her.
“Starting tomorrow, please leave the bath towels to me.”
“No way!” At Lisa’s words that she said with a hum, Erna exclaimed with apprehension.
“You don’t trust me? Even though it’s my first time handling such duties, I believe that I can still do it properly.
Please believe in me, Miss.”
“It’s not like that, Lisa.
It’s not that I don’t trust you… … .” Erna looked at Lisa reflected in the mirror with perplexed eyes.
“It’s that…I’m ashamed.”
“All the girls from other noble families are taken care of this way by their maids.
The same applies to the house of Viscount Hardy of course.”
Lisa’s eyes widened as if she couldn’t believe her lady’s concern.
Erna, a little embarrassed, gently lowered her eyes and avoided her maid’s gaze while stroking the back of her hand.
Lisa, on the other hand, started brushing her hair once again.
“Please let me make your life here a bit more comfortable, my Lady.”
The sound of her hair sliding through the dense tooth of the comb and Lisa’s friendly voice permeated her silent bedroom.
“Besides, what is there to be ashamed of? If I had been as pretty as my Lady, I would have been able to dance naked on Tara Boulevard!”
Lisa, who threw a mischievous joke, burst into laughter.
Erna, however, let out a startled yelp and held the front of her pajamas tightly as if protecting her body.
The jokes of the young people in the big city were so provocative that they sometimes made her dizzy from shame.
“U-uhm… Lisa?” Erna, who had barely regained her composure, carefully raised her head to meet her maid’s eyes in the mirror.
“Did you have any other letters?”
“Other letters? Oh, you mean from Mr.
Pavel Lore?” Lisa, who had been listening to the same question for several days, understood Erna’s meaning at once.
“I’m afraid there’s still nothing, Miss.
Seeing you waiting like this, it must be a very important letter, right?”
“Not really… It’s not like that.” Erna smiled awkwardly and shook her head.
Fortunately, Lisa didn’t ask any further questions.
Lisa finally left after she finished all her work, and now, only her lone self and various flowers were left in the bedroom.
‘It’s already been four days.
Did something happen to Pavel?’
Erna, who had been anxiously wandering around the room, did not get in bed until midnight.
As she gazed at the curtains swaying in the night breeze that blew through the slightly opened window accompanied by the strong scent of flowers, she finally gradually felt sleepy.
She fell asleep while stroking the back of her hand, as if trying to soothe her troubled heart.
A lively bachelor party at a noble’s club ended naturally, as the participants lost their consciousness one by one due to too much alcohol.
Even the main character of the party, who was struggling to keep himself upright, ended up collapsing on the table.
In the end, only Bjorn was left.
With the hand that just put down a glass of wine, Bjorn hit the forehead of the groom who had fallen down in a very funny way.
The force of his hit rang out quite loudly, but the victim still showed no sign of waking up.
“… … I don’t know.
Just take it.”
Raising his eyelids with difficulty, the drunk groom mumbled in an indistinct voice.
Bjorn groaned and got up.
He wasn’t in good shape because he was also quite drunk, but it wasn’t enough for him to join the ugly crowd that was scattered around.
With his dry mouth moistened with cold water, he picked up his loot lying in the center of the table and turned around.
It was the tradition at every bachelor party called ‘Stag Night’; the last conscious survivor would receive a golden trophy in the shape of an antler.
Bjorn couldn’t remember how many stag antlers he now had in his home.
The funny thing was that he even got the trophy at his own bachelor party.
He wanted to throw it away because it was a very unfortunate trophy, but it was a piece meticulously made by a skilled craftsman from the same workshop, so it was such a waste to throw it away.
Thanks to that, the antlers that survived till this day must have been buried somewhere as a decoration in the Schuber Palace.
He staggered across Tara Boulevard as he left the club full of ugly guests that were either weeping out of the blue or toppling down over and over again.
He could have ordered a carriage to bring him home, but it was still too early for the coachman to drive the carriage when dawn hadn’t even arrived yet.
Checking the clock tower standing in the square, Bjorn sat down on the edge of the fountain as if his tired body finally collapsed from intoxication.
The starlight twinkling beyond the fading darkness was clearly reflected in his muddy eyes.
It was the last memory left in his mind before he finally lost his consciousness.
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