The following day, when night finally fell upon the Eirbower Dukedom, the northern region welcomed its grandest annual celebration.
Civilians in their vibrant new clothes marched around the city under the lead of a marching band. All sorts of floats started appearing in the streets to the cheers of the crowd. From the main streets to the remote alleys, there was no end to the bustling crowd.
Ever since evening, before the sun completely disappeared over the horizon, magic fireworks had been popping nonstop. It slowly pushed the festive atmosphere up to a new high.
At the same time, in a grand banquet organized by the Eirbower Duke, several thousand couples dressed in magnificent suits and gowns started entering the scene.
While the aurora was thought to be Sia’s blessing since ancient times, the extent of the blessing was thought to differ based on one’s location. It was believed that those who stood in a position closest to the sky would be granted a purer blessing. This was rather similar to some of the traditions of the mountainous tribes in Roel’s previous life.
The highest ground in Aurora City Ols was none other than the Eirbower Ducal Manor’s Blessing Square, but this location wasn’t open to outsiders. Only esteemed guests who had received an invitation were allowed to access it. Influential or high-ranking nobles would receive a free pass into the Blessing Square, but the rest would show some sincerity in order to obtain an invitation.
Only guests who were ‘invited’ to the Eirbower Duke’s banquet were allowed to access the Blessing Square. The notion of an invitation only event felt prestigious and classy, and it would have been so if not for the explicit price tags labelled on the invitation letters.
To be frank, everyone was here just for the Blessing Square. Who would be in the mood to socialize when out on a honeymoon trip with their lover? This could be seen from how couples were sticking to themselves, whispering sweet nothings to one another while occasionally grabbing some food to eat. Really, they were just waiting for the aurora to appear.
If that was the case, what was the point of the banquet?
One reason was so that they could mark up the price of the invitation, and the other was to avoid crossing the church.
It was a teaching of the church that everyone was equally entitled to Sia’s blessing. Noble or commoner, everyone was equal before Sia. Had the Eirbower Dukedom directly sold invitations to the Blessing Square, it would be equivalent to treating Sia’s blessing as a commercial product. That was clearly a violation of the church’s teaching, an act of blasphemy toward Sia.
Not even the Eirbower Duke would have been able to bear the consequences of such a crime.
But at the same time, after the huge amount of money he had devoted to the construction of the Blessing Square, how could he simply open it up to the public?
The Eirbower Duke two centuries back had a streak of inspiration and thought of a roundabout manner to circumvent that rule.
Isn’t it perfectly reasonable for me to restrict others from entering my own home? All I’m doing is staying at home and watching the aurora with my friends, so that can’t possibly be a violation of the church’s teaching, right?
Who I view to be my friends is my own business. I don’t think that the church has the right to tell me who is my friend and who isn’t.
What? You said that some of them are here for the first time? Don’t you know that it’s basic graciousness as a host to invite someone to their home when they have come with utmost sincerity? Even new friends are considered friends too!
Due to this interesting maneuver, the Eirbower Duke had become a metaphor for materialism in the northern region, a person who befriended others based on their wealth and standing.
Such association was extremely dishonorable for a ducal house, but the nobles in the northern region had a very different mindset due to the harsh environment they lived in. To them, reputation was nothing before money that could be used to purchase necessities to survive the winter.
Besides, the banquet wasn’t exactly a scam to fleece the affluent either.
From the exquisite dessert platters to the symphonic melody played by a renowned Austine band, even Roel had to give a nod of approval. He had to admit that the money wasn’t spent in vain.
Sensing Roel’s movements, Lilian leaned close to him and asked.
“Are you hungry?”
“No, I’m alright.”
“Would you like to dance?”
“I’d be delighted to, but I don’t think that I’m able to do so in my current state,” replied Roel as he shook his short arms helplessly.
Amused by Roel’s response, Lilian chuckled softly. She leaned down and planted a light kiss on his forehead.
“Even so, you’re the only one I’ll dance with.”
The sudden kiss and subtle confession made Roel’s heart skip a beat. He raised his head to look at the woman standing before him, and he couldn’t help but fall into a daze.
There was no way Lilian would wear a maid uniform to a banquet, but she wasn’t dressed in the traditional long dress of the Austine Empire either. Rather, she was wearing a gown that conformed to their identities as nobles from the Country of Scholars.
It was a marvellous gown that revealed a bit of her smooth shoulder and trailed off beneath the knee, displaying her beautiful legs whenever she made a move. There was a touch of laces at the hems of the gown, giving her usual cold disposition a tinge of cuteness. A mischievous satin ribbon was tied around her fair neck, tempting others to unwrap her like a present.
Roel quickly averted his eyes away from her, not daring to look for a moment longer. He looked at the crowded dance floor in the center of the room, only to shake his head in the end.
“I think we should avoid crowded places until my condition is resolved.”
“I doubt that anyone here has the spare attention to look at others. It’s unlikely that anything will happen as long as we avoid physical contact with others. Trust me, I won’t allow anyone to touch you.”
“If that’s the case… alright.”
The hesitant Roel eventually succumbed to Lilian’s persuasion. Hand in hand, the two of them made their way to the dance floor. Considering the nature of the banquet, the band opted for a soothing romantic melody suited for couples to slow dance to while exchanging honeyed words.
With the surroundings filled with flirting couples, the amorous atmosphere here far surpassed that of anywhere else. Roel only noticed that something was amiss when he came close to the dance floor, but before he could do anything, Lilian had already interlocked their fingers.
“Senior, the atmosphere doesn’t seem right. They are all…”
“Hm? What’s wrong?”
Roel raised his head in a fluster, only to be met with Lilian’s tender smile. His golden eyes slowly dilated before awkwardly turning away.
“Is that so? Well, let’s begin dancing, shall we?”
The melody came to an end, and some of the couples took their leave from the dance floor. Roel and Lilian walked in and occupied a dim corner of the dance floor. As a new melody started playing, the couples began to move.
The difference in height and strides made it impossible for the two of them to dance as freely as they did in the Witness State, but their inconveniences brought about by their physical differences gave a different charm to their dance.
Their bodies were only several centimeters away from one another, but the height difference made it such that one of them had to look upward and the other had to look downward. Lilian’s appearance might have looked unseemly to others due to the effects of Ethereal Tear, but she looked as gorgeous as always in his eyes.
It was a vastly different dancing experience to both Roel and Lilian.
Lilian lacked experience in pair dancing, and the difficulty was heightened by her unusual partner. It would have been difficult for the two of them to synchronize their movements well with one another. Yet, with her hands interlocked with Roel’s, she felt like there was something deep within her guiding her movements, allowing her to perfectly harmonize with Roel.
Dance was a way for nobles to socialize and for lovers to deepen their feelings. The latter was true for those two.
They found their surroundings slowly fading away, leaving just the music and each other. They soon got into their stride and were finally able to spare some attention to chat.
“What do you think? I told you that it’ll be fine, right? Doesn’t it feel good?”
“… Mm. You’re a good dancer.”
“No, I am just following the guidance of our bloodline bond. You can feel it too, right?”
Lilian looked at Roel with intoxicated eyes, and the latter nodded with a reddened face.
The bloodline resonance between them should have already become extremely faint with the sealing of Roel’s powers, yet they could still clearly feel a connection to one another.
“We’re bloodline kin, after all.”
“We are, but is that all there is to us?”
The unexpected question from Lilian caught Roel off guard. He stared deeply into Lilian’s eyes, and he could feel her apprehension and anticipation. Her lips were quivering ever so slightly, waiting nervously for the verdict.
The soothing melody continued to play on, and the amorous whisperings of the couples echoed on the dance floor. Under this atmosphere, the feelings that Roel had been suppressing were finally let loose.
“No, we aren’t just bloodline kin.”
Roel shook his head. He stared at the woman in front of him with eyes filled with searing feelings.
Before he could finish his words, the doors to the banquet hall suddenly burst open. The clergymen responsible for relaying the blessing had arrived, evoking cheers from the crowd. Everyone’s attention was immediately drawn over.
This abrupt situation caused Roel to jolt in astonishment.
At the same time, amongst the clergymen, a golden-haired woman cast her sapphire eyes across the banquet hall.