It would have been inaccurate to call him a boy. His brother, Hugo, was almost in his mid-twenties so this guy might also be in his early twenties. The dimwit acted like a child when he was maybe twenty years old.
With his behavior and attitude, he deserved to be called childish and with the Grand Duke of Glouster next to him, the difference was more apparent.
“Clearly, the invitation didn’t arrive due to some problem,” said the Princess, haughtily. “Would there be any reason the Grand Duke would purposefully leave me out when he is inviting young nobles from all over the place for a gathering?”
I rolled my eyes. There is a glaring reason. He just doesn’t like you. But I couldn’t say that to the successor of the throne.
“Speaking so unabashedly and disrespectfully to the princess is deserving of punishment in itself,” said Duplo’s second son. It seemed he had gained courage being next to the princess.
Why is he with her? What are they planning? I needed to figure that out.
“Pardon me,” I said, “It’s just… we, the ill-mannered, would have just thought we weren’t invited if we hadn’t gotten an explicit invitation. But that is just our ignorance. It is indeed a relief the princess doesn’t… misunderstand things out of the generosity of her heart. It is a great relief to the Grand Duke himself; I am sure. He has prepared everything in honor of the princess. If she was not to attend, it would have been very sad for him.”
I smiled sweetly at the princess and the Grand Duke. The Grand Duke, still out of the range of vision of the princess, smirked. The princess’ face turned redder. I decided to throw Aaron under the bus to sate her. I tapped Aaron on the arm.
“How lucky that the Princess seems to be pleased of your presence Aaron,” I said, looking at him. “Since the Grand Duke will be busy greeting the guests, why don’t you accompany her to look around this beautiful castle? It would be an honor. You would have things to complain about me to, like you always do. I am sure you both will have a lot to talk about!”
Aaron stared at me wide-eyed, shocked and scared. It was like his eyes were screaming at me. I directing a bright take-one-for-the-family smile at him. Alex also smiled sadly at his brother.
Aaron looked like he would break down and cry but as the noble that he is, he straightened up, composed himself and looked at the princess.
“Would you do me the honor of letting me accompany you to walk around the castle?” he asked, politely. “Of course, I don’t presume to know much about the castle because I have never been here in person before. But I have read some books about it and I can be a decent partner in conversation, if you will allow me.”
The Princess’ sour face brightened. I was confused. Why Aaron of all people? Why did she fancy him? I didn’t dare ask. No one would.
“Of course!” twittered the princess. “I wanted to take a look at the Glouster lands to see the condition but that can be postponed. Isn’t that right, Uncle?”
“Of course,” said the Grand Duke, “I will have everything prepared for you to take a look tomorrow.”
The princess smiled brightly and offered a hand to Aaron. For a split second, Aaron didn’t move. I elbowed him at his side. He flinched a little and stepped forward and offered his arm so that she could place her hands on his forearm.
The Princess stood with a happy face with Aaron by her side. The second son of Duke Duplo looked satisfied. What in the world was going on? I wondered. If he is supposed to be the princess’ new play toy, he should have been grumpy of Aaron as his rival…
“Eugene, please guide Her Highness through the castle.”
“Eugene,” called the Grand Duke. The butler appeared by his side at lightning speed. “Will you please escort Her Highness and Lord Aaron on a tour of the castle?”
“Greeting, Your Highness,” said Eugene, bowing respectfully in front of the Princess, “I am the butler. I will be honored to show you the castle. Are you perhaps interested in any particular part that you want to see?”
“Hm,” said the princess, “Which places does the castle boast about?”
“Perhaps the upper floors,” said Eugene, “The Glouster castle has long been….”
The butler led the princess and her party to the upper floors explaining about the history of the castle and such. He was very skilled at handling difficult situations, it seemed. After the princess’ maids and servants followed her and Aaron up the stairs to the upper floor, we let out a collective sigh of relief. I had tried hard to ignore Aaron’s glare when he passed by me.
“Aaron will make a scene later,” whispered Alex to me.
“It’s alright,” I said, “I will just have to convince him it was a glorious job he did for the family.”
“You can add my mental wellbeing to that list, too,” said the Grand Duke. “I am so thankful I could kiss your feet, Miss Alice.”
“I hope you are joking and that is hopefully not a fetish you enjoy,” I said. “Why is the princess here?”
He sighed. “It is exactly as she said,” said the Grand Duke, “She arrived unexpectedly. She said the invitation might have gotten lost before it reached her.”
“And was it lost along the way?” I asked. “You didn’t send it, did you?”
He let out a weary sigh and looked up at the ceiling. “I was always such a failure when it comes to children and adolescents. I don’t even know what to do with them. Not even then.”
He didn’t really like kids. Detective Jang Seong-hoon had debated leaving his job as a detective to have a family. He had wanted a ‘normal’ life. But what was even normal? Some people think turning to a life of crime was ‘going into a bad track’ but if as children all they saw was violence and death and knew it to be the only ‘normal’ way for survival, that kind of life would feel ‘normal’ to them.
I blinked at the Grand Duke and glanced at Alex. “I heard you two talk about sharing a past life that day,” said Alex.
“And do you believe it?” I asked.