Even if Sera’s feet hurt a lot right now, she was confident that she’d be able to run away. That is, until familiar shoes came into her view while her head was down.
Slowly raising her head, Sera looked up to see the prince, who had shown an unfamiliar scene just a minute ago.
Sera smiled awkwardly as she glanced up at the prince’s face, still with traces of what transpired just now.
Shamelessly, Aushuvel grinned and wiped off the lipstick marks that were left on his lips.
Then, he offered a hand to her as she was still unable to get up from the ground.
With that expression on his face that she knew Helios would never make, Sera was taken aback, but she didn’t refuse the prince’s hand.
Now standing up again, Sera shook off the grass and leaves from her dress here and there.
She tried to pull out the small twigs caught between the tulle and lace, but contrary to what she wanted, her hair and clothes became more disheveled.
Though she worked hard at trying to act austerely, she didn’t know that her actions translated differently.
Aushuvel laughed out loud.
“We’re going to get misunderstood, the two of us.”
“Huh? About what?”
With a mischief evident on his face as he shrugged, he helped Sera remove the leaves and twigs.
He didn’t know how it happened, but there were a few twigs even in her hair.
Aushuvel came closer to her and calmly plucked the twigs off her black hair.
“Are you hurt?”
“Ah, I was so surprised that I didn’t even feel it.”
“I see. Why were you peeking though? At us.”
“I didn’t mean to see it. I promise.”
The embarrassing scene was replayed in her mind, and at that, Sera’s ears turned bright red.
She averted her gaze and instead looked at the distant sky, but she could feel Aushuvel staring at her, likely grinning widely.
“But what happened? Did you return? Heli told me that you were in a hurry to go home.”
“Ah… There aren’t any carriages left because they’re taking the distinguished guests home. I was told that at least one would come back in three hours.”
Feeling apologetic, Aushuvel replied.
“I’m sorry, it’s my fault. I forgot to prepare a carriage for you. Do you want to lend you my carriage?”
“No, it’s alright. There’s only two hours left now, so I just have to wait a bit more. Let’s just say it’s the price for this dress, Prince Aushuvel.”
With Aushuvel’s support, Sera moved. She fell just now, so she walked carefully on her very sore feet, then she sat on the fountain rail.
The fountain was much larger and much grander up close compared to when she saw it from up the balcony.
* * *
Right now, Helios was on his way out of the banquet hall after finishing up his work at the ball. Jean and Raphael were on his flanks.
He was heading straight to the main palace without knowing that Aushuvel and Sera were together in the garden.
“Isn’t that Miss Sera and Prince Aushuvel?”
…Until Jean, who had uselessly great eyesight, pointed out the two, who were sitting by the fountain.
At Jean’s observation, Helios and Raphael’s heads turned in unison. It was almost too far to see clearly, but those two were obviously Sera and Aushuvel.
“She mentioned that she was going home right away, but I guess she didn’t go just yet.”
Perplexed, Raphael murmured to himself as he stared at the intimate distance between Sera and Aushuvel.
Hearing his mutter, Helios turned towards Raphael.
“Have you confirmed if she has a carriage?”
“Most of the palace’s carriages must be out right now because of the banquet guests. Did you check whether there’s at least that Miss Popo could ride home?”
Ack, why didn’t I think about that before. A flash of embarrassment crossed Raphael’s expression.
This oversight happened because he was so preoccupied with the ball in the past few days, and he didn’t expect that Miss Sera would attend.
“She must be tired because it’s her first time attending a banquet, and she had to watch my younger siblings, too.”
After Helios said this under his breath, Helios immediately headed towards where Sera was before Raphael or Jean could even reply.
As he neared the grand fountain in the garden, Helios’ expression had hardened beyond recognition.
Thinking that she’s meeting him many times by chance today, Sera stood up from the fountain rail.
To her, the expression he had on right now came across as him being very uncomfortable to see her, so Sera hesitated.
‘Is he angry that I still haven’t gone home…?’
She was about to say that there weren’t any carriages left, that’s why she’s still here. However, Aushuvel soon stood in front of her to block her from Helios.
Then, Helios’ sharp gaze turned towards Aushuvel’s red-stained lips, and then over towards Sera’s haphazard dress, which looked entirely different compared to how it was originally.
The quiet pressure that could be seen behind his eyes was as cold as the dawn’s breeze, and this made the atmosphere incredibly tense.
Sera couldn’t understand why he was reacting this way, and so she stared up at him blankly.
Soon after, she realized that not only Helios, but also Raphael and Jean seemed to be very uncomfortable.
Raphael was blushing and he couldn’t look straight at her, and Jean looked as if he was half out of his mind.
Surprised by the voice that was completely devoid of emotion, Sera turned her head towards Helios.
She couldn’t understand why, but the gaze he had now was as cold as when he met Duke Bethmann before.
“Tell me, what have you been doing?”
He looked so different from how he usually was. Helios’ expression as he looked at Aushuvel was endlessly cold.
But the strangest thing was that Aushuvel remained lax, regardless of Helios’ countenance.
“What do you mean?”
Aushuvel’s voice was lilting with mirth, as though he was finding this situation funny… despite it seeming like a fight would break out any minute now.
Helios’ unfamiliar atmosphere made Sera frightened and concerned.
Helios’ voice was like a low growl.
Very anxious now, Sera glanced towards Raphael, who was behind Helios, and tried to ask wordlessly just what was going on.
But again, Raphael lowered his head and averted his gaze, blushing all the while.
“May I ask what’s going on… Did I do something wrong?”
So, Sera carefully opened her lips and spoke. She couldn’t understand why the situation had come to this. However, somehow, she could tell that she was surely the cause.
“The thing that Miss Popo did wrong.”
Responding to what Helios answered, Aushuvel naturally put one arm around Sera’s shoulders and smirked slyly.
On the other hand, with a forced smile on his lips, Helios’ eyes narrowed.
He was looking pointedly at Aushuvel’s hand, which was on Sera’s round shoulder.
“Everyone, I think you’re all misunderstanding what’s going on here.”
Despite what Aushuvel said, if anything, it looked like Helios was literally about to burst at any moment.
Lowering his tail first, Aushuvel removed his hand from her and soon whispered into Sera’s ear.
And he told her what the other three men were imagining just now.
With every word Aushuvel whispered, Sera’s face flushed more and more until she looked as red as a beet.
When Aushuvel finished telling her everything he had to say, he stepped away from her when Sera looked up at Helios and huffed.
Amidst all this, the one who deserved to be angry here was none other than her.
“It’s not like that at all, Your Majesty!”
Sera shouted at him.
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