While Roel was still delightfully greeting each and every noble and official walking up to him, not too far away from him, a silent fuse had been ignited. Two young beauties were currently standing face-to-face. Neither spoke a word, but just the chilly atmosphere that floated between them was enough for some of the keener viewers to notice that something was wrong.
The noblewomen present began sharing their intelligence with one another. Quite a few of them had seen Alicia during Nora’s birthday banquet, so it didn’t take long for the identity of the silver-haired, crimson-eyed girl to be known by everyone.
“That child is Lord Roel’s adopted sister? Doesn’t that mean that…”
“Shh! Don’t speak of things that aren’t verified yet.”
“What more is there to verify? Look at the atmosphere there! It’s clear that Her Highness’s good times have just hit a stumbling block.”
A passion for drama burned innately in the hearts of all humans, regardless of which world one was in. The onlookers waited with bated breaths for the promised clash between the two duelists who had now crossed paths with one another. They were dying with curiosity to know who would emerge victorious.
Carter also only just noticed the two girls standoff. In order not to get caught up in this mess, he quickly rushed over to where Holy Eminence John and a few other top nobles and officials were gathering and started chatting with them.
“Alicia, hurry up and get straight to the point. Time is precious. It wouldn’t be good if he were to see this.”
Nora shot a glance at Roel, who was still busy dealing with the nobles and officials approaching him. She always felt a little stifled whenever she had to deal with Alicia.
Alicia’s identity as Roel’s adopted sister came with disadvantages. It made it difficult for Roel to discern between kinship and romantic love, thus making it extremely difficult for her to advance their relationship any further. However, her significant importance to Roel also made it difficult for rivals to deal with her. Anyone who wanted to approach Roel couldn’t afford to fall out with her.
How much did Roel dote on Alicia?
Nora felt that she had already gotten a good grasp of it the last few times she had visited Roel. In brief, her position in Roel’s heart was unshakable.
This, in turn, meant that Nora couldn’t afford to make any obvious moves against Alicia. The idea that marriage was just about two partners was nothing more than naivety. Most people wouldn’t want to bring in a spouse that was at loggerheads with their family, unless they were prepared to go to the extent of severing ties with their family.
Nora had no idea whether Roel would ever go to such an extent for her, but she had no intention of putting it to the test. She was already on the verge of catching her prey, and she didn’t want any unnecessary complications to occur at this timing.
She stared at Alicia’s red eyes intently, a little afraid that the latter would blow things up. It wouldn’t look good on either of them if Roel got involved in this matter too, especially now that they were in public. However, as it turned out, her worry was unfounded.
“Greetings to Your Highness. Please be assured that I do not have any particular intention here; I just wish to greet you. It wouldn’t be a cause of concern even if Lord Brother sees us together here.”
“If your intention is to greet me, I’d be more than delighted to have you around. It’s not to any of our advantage for our relationship to get too awkward.”
“Please do not worry. I’m appreciative of the things Your Highness is doing to protect Lord Brother, and I have no intention of making things difficult for you. After all, Lord Brother’s safety takes precedence over everything else.”
“Is that so?”
Nora’s expression softened a little after hearing Alicia’s words. She suddenly felt that it was not without reason that Roel doted on her. This child was able to distinguish between what was important and what was not, and she didn’t allow her own personal emotions to get in the way of important matters.
Even though Roel might appear to be in safe hands at the moment, in truth, there were still plenty of threats lingering around him. The incident with the Mythril Priory was a perfect example.
On top of that, John had mentioned that members of the Ascart House who had awoken their hereditary bloodline tended to be short-lived, dying prematurely before their time. It was almost as if they were cursed; Nora couldn’t help but be deeply worried.
“It looks like you value him quite a bit.”
“Of course. I can’t bear the thought of any harm coming to Lord Brother.”
The silver-haired girl placed a small hand over her heart, and the frost on her face melted to reveal a smile. It was a warm smile that vanished within moments, but its beauty was not lost upon the onlookers, who felt their hearts skipping a beat.
“I don’t think that it’s a bad thing to have you protect him in my place before I am strong enough to do so myself.”
“Before you are strong enough to do so yourself? You sure do speak big words. Do you think that you can surpass… Wait a moment.”
Halfway through her words, Nora’s sapphire pupils suddenly widened a little. She assessed the silver-haired girl standing before her for a short moment, and astonishment flickered across her features.
This feeling… She’s already on the verge of reaching Origin Level 5! How can this be possible?
Nora had met Alicia during her birthday banquet, and the latter was still a powerless little girl back then. Yet, in the short span of two months, the powerless little girl was already on the verge of acquiring her own Origin Attribute?
This frightening realization made goosebumps rise all over Nora’s body as her wariness toward Alicia grew to an unprecedented high. She reassessed the little girl who dared to challenge her with narrowed eyes, but this time around, she felt warning bells ringing in her head.
“When it comes to protecting Lord Brother, the responsibility should go to whoever is better at it. Don’t you agree with what I said, Your Highness?”
“It looks like I’m being underestimated here.”
Nora laughed softly to herself before she stepped forward with a smile on her face. She wasn’t using any of her transcendent powers, yet her disposition suddenly became incredibly domineering.
“You wish to replace me? Try it then. I shall let you know the disparity between us.”
The two of them looked at one another with flames burning silently in their hearts. Alicia had a target that she wanted to surpass, and Nora was alarmed by the competitor who was threatening to overtake her. Just like that, the rivalry between two of the most outstanding girls in the Theocracy was sparked over a boy who was oblivious to it all.
As a result, three distinct crowds were formed in the hall.
The first was Roel’s, who was still happily offering well wishes to the swarming crowd who were dying to shake his hand.
The next was Nora and Alicia’s, who were standing unyieldingly before an audience of hordes of noblewomen.
The final one was Carter’s, who was chatting passionately with John about the dilemmas faced in raising a child, hoping to stall for time. Fortunately, John seemed to be rather pleased with himself for having helped his granddaughter score a goal, and in view of the fact that they could become in-laws in a few years, he was interested in deepening his relationship with Carter too.
Overall, it was still quite a warm and heartening atmosphere, but unfortunately, it didn’t last till the very end.
It was around an hour after the rite ended, and Roel’s wings of light were on the verge of vanishing. Just as Roel was finishing up his last few handshakes, a guard suddenly rushed into the room and headed over to Carter and Kane’s side. This abrupt situation didn’t really cause much of a commotion as the star of the show was Nora, and the highest-ranked individual in the room was John. As a result, the attention on Kane was greatly reduced.
Carter initially didn’t pay too much heed to Kane being called away, but when the latter returned with a grave expression on his face and halted all greetings to request for a private conversation with Holy Eminence John, he knew that something major must have happened. John’s face remained perfectly impassive during the private conversation with his son, making it nigh impossible to figure out what was going on, but some of those who were more attentive noticed a slight fluctuation in his mana for an instant.
Several minutes later, after the discussions between Prince Kane and Holy Eminence John came to an end, the former walked back to the crowd and dragged Carter and a few other top brass of the Knight Orders to the side to hold a quick meeting.
Putting Kane aside, Carter, as the patriarch of the Ascart House, was considered as half a star of the show. The new disturbance that was occurring was swiftly noticed by the crowd, and some of the more keen-eyed nobles and officials began observing the situation closely. However, those who had watched Holy Eminence John only saw a nonchalant expression on his face the whole time, so it felt as if what he had discussed with Kane earlier was unworthy of mention.
In the end, Roel didn’t notice the confrontation between Nora and Alicia. Shortly after Alicia finished greeting Nora, she was surrounded by the young female nobles under the Ascart House’s umbrella, blocking off any prying eyes and preventing anyone from messing with her. Being of a similar age group, they soon found a common topic and began chatting merrily with one another.
Meanwhile, Nora continued accepting the greetings of the noblewomen one after another.
“Mister Carmen, I didn’t expect to see you here too. I’m really grateful for your assistance not too long ago.”
“You’re being too kind. Lord Roel, you’re the one who helped me here. I knew that I couldn’t have seen it wrongly. You’re truly a perfect match with Her Highness Nora!”
“Ah, this… Hahaha.”
Roel shook Carmen’s plump hands as he followed the usual convention of nobles—when in doubt on how to answer, just carry the topic across with a peal of hearty laughter.
The Holy Capital’s Royal Library was the largest historical archive in the Theocracy, making it an extremely important place for Roel. While Carmen’s position as the head librarian wasn’t too high, getting on his good side would make things much more convenient for him in the future.
And more importantly…
(Affection Points +80!)
Oh my, look at how generous he is with his Affection Points! How could I ever dislike a person like this?
“Mister Carmen, I am personally quite interested in history, so I’ll probably be dropping by your place quite often in the future.”
“Lord Roel, the Royal Library would be honored to have you there! Just send a messenger over beforehand, and I’ll make sure to have the librarians gather all of the records you require and prepare the best environment for your browsing.”
Roel was quite delighted by Carmen’s response. Just from that in itself, he should be able to continue freeloading off the royal library’s VIP Reading Lounge in the future. He continued chatting a while longer with the librarian before offering him Sia’s blessings and bidding farewell.
By then, the wings of light behind Roel had finally vanished completely. Making use of the opportunity, Roel halted this fanmeet handshake event and quickly left through the side door to head for the washroom. As delighted as he was from all of the Affection Points he had earned over the past hour or so, he had ended up accruing quite a bit of distress in his bladder.
After quickly relieving himself, he proceeded to wash his face. Staring at his reflection in the mirror, he exhaled deeply.
So far, the ceremony had proceeded almost perfectly. The atmosphere was great, and many of the officials and nobles were making use of the opportunity to request visits while dropping hints at possibilities of collaboration. Other than the huge hole in the roof, one could say that the ceremony had achieved its intended outcome.
“The ceremony should officially end soon. Guess I should head over to father and Alicia’s side and camp it out,” muttered Roel to himself as he straightened his body and began making his way out of the washroom.
Unexpectedly, as soon as he was about to step back into the hall, he found himself bumping right into Carter.
“Hm? Father, were you waiting for me here?”
“Roel? No, I just happened to be discussing something with His Highness Kane here earlier. Since you’re here, I’ll give you a heads up first.”
The coincidental meeting with his son seemed to have sparked some thoughts in Carter’s mind. He pulled Roel to one side and fell silent for a short while. His expression slowly turned grave before he spoke in a solemn tone.
“I might not be able to return anymore.”