Aushuvel Vaughn Heal sat gracefully cross legged inside the carriage and looked out the window, basking in the scenery that he was seeing for the first time in a long while.
He couldn’t see this kind of scenery all the time in his own home, the Vaughn Kingdom, since it was far up north where it snowed 365 days a year. The lush, dark green trees of the forests he passed through gave off an auspicious scent.
‘It’s a little warm.’
At the hot sun’s rays coming in through the carriage’s window, Aushuvel inadvertently wiped the sweat that formed over his forehead. The Adelio Empire’s summer was still a season that he couldn’t adapt to, perhaps because he resided in a home where only sharp, biting winds blew.
He was wearing thin clothes now, but he would have frozen to death back at home if he wore this there. Even so, when he was already wearing clothes this thin here in Adelio, it was still difficult to withstand the heat.
‘It’s already been half a year since Heli became emperor.’
As the carriage shook regularly while it moved forward, Aushuvel recalled the day exactly half a year ago when the green trees here were bare without a hint of leaves on the branches. Back then, he attended the empire’s inauguration of a new ruler, and he had represented the Vaughn Kingdom as the prince.
At the time when white puffs of breath could be seen in the air, he saw his cousin, who was the same age as him, dressed in black, ascending the throne.
The previous empress, Empress Charlotte, was the sister of Aushuvel’s mother, so the death of the previous emperor and empress came as a great shock to the Vaughn Royal Family. This was especially true for his mother, who was so hurt that she was still reluctant to ride a train.
In terms of external factors, his visit right now was as a diplomatic envoy to confirm the friendly alliance of their countries.
But inwardly, Aushuvel just wanted to see if his cousin Helios, who’s been through so much all this time, was doing alright. He had to take care of Rosé and Ferre back then, too, when the twins still couldn’t understand what was going on, and it was all too hectic that the suspicious train accident couldn’t be looked into.
“Well, I think you’re doing a lot better than I expected though.”
Aushuvel grinned as he closed the magazine in his hands and used it as a fan.
Before leaving for the empire, he asked one of his attendants if there was something interesting going on these days over there, and he had been presented with this magazine.
“This has been very difficult to get ahold of. I heard that the Empire’s high society is embroiled with such rumors these days, Your Highness,” said the young attendant, and it didn’t seem like he was lying.
Even in the Vaughn Kingdom where there were about fifty thousand rumors about Helios being said every day, Aushuvel was wondering about what was going on because he’s yet to hear anything interesting—until he saw this article.
‘Thanks to you, I didn’t get bored during the trip, Heli. You’ve never been involved in a rumor together with a woman, but look at this now, what an unbecoming scandal. I’m not going to let you live this down for a long time. But really though, who on earth is the woman?’
With a sly smile, Aushuvel thought about what he should ask Helios the moment they met. Since Helios had the opposite taste as Aushuvel, the woman in question was likely a prim and proper young lady, but you never know.
He might just have the same taste as Aushuvel.
“His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor, has arrived.”
At the emperor’s audience chamber, with both hands together, Aushuvel greeted Helios formally.
Aushuvel could feel a different atmosphere around his cousin as he sat in the emperor’s throne, and he could see him sitting in that very seat even in the far distant future. He thought that it would be difficult for Helios to maintain the emperor’s dignity because he was just so gentle and kind, but now that he was properly seated in that position, there was a sense of overwhelming pressure from him.
Perhaps Helios’ atmosphere itself had changed subtly.
“You must have been uncomfortable during your trip, Prince.”
“Unlike the Vaughn Kingdom, the sun is beating down much stronger, Your Majesty.”
Aushuvel answered Helios with a smile.
Then, Helios rose from his throne, sauntered forward ever so gracefully, and reached out towards Aushuvel.
Aushuvel called his name in a hushed voice that only the two of them could hear, and Helios’ green eyes sparkled in the same way that Rosé’s did. He then hugged Helios, who was about the same height as him.
At the same time, the surprised knights around them pulled out their swords urgently. However, as Helios patted Aushuvel on the back, the knights backed down.
“By the way, Your Majesty, I’m not one of your seven-year-old siblings you know.”
With a hearty pat on the back, rather than expressing how happy he was that his cousin was here for a visit and welcoming him here, he patted him just as he did with Rosé and Ferre.
Helios belatedly noticed how he hugged Aushuvel, and he took a step back with a smile on his lips.
“Of course. You’re none other than my cousin who’s the same age as me, yes? Rosé and Ferre are already waiting for us at the dining hall. Shall we go?”
“Of course, Your Majesty.”
Just as he said, Rosé and Ferre were at the dining hall of the central palace, which had been perfectly prepared to welcome their guest.
“Rosé! Ferre! You’ve grown so much!”
Aushuvel greeted the two first. Although there was a big difference in an empire and a kingdom, they could speak comfortably in private as family.
However as they saw Helios and Aushuvel enter, instead of jumping out of their seats, Rosé and Ferre paused and stood upright as they recalled what Sera told them before this.
“Your Highnesses, I know it’s been a while since you’ve seen each other, but you should greet His Highness gracefully.”
“Just like when Your Highnesses greeted His Majesty at the garden before.”
Rosé and Ferre exchanged glances, then soon heeded Sera’s prior request.
“It’s been a long time, Your Highness.”
Rosé curtsied adorably while lifting her cute knee-length dress slightly.
Dazed by Rosé’s graceful figure, Aushuvel looked at Helios with an astonished expression. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Obviously, they were still stumbling munchkins the last time he saw them half a year ago.
Helios smiled lightly, shrugging his shoulders.
Barely coming back to his senses from seeing Rosé’s unfamiliar behavior, Aushuvel looked back at the children. Ferre then greeted him in the same graceful manner.
“I am this Empire’s Prince, Ferre.”
Contrary to the magnanimous greeting, he mentioned his nickname instead of his full name. At Ferre’s cute mistake, Helios and Aushuvel turned their heads to the side to suppress the overwhelming urge to laugh.
Sure enough, Rosé nudged Ferre with her elbow.
“Ferre, you idiot! Sera said you should introduce yourself as Ferreritan!”
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