Chapter 281: An Awkward Dinner
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales stared solemnly at a piece of sausage on his plate. Holding his breath, he slowly raised his knife in the posture Jines taught him.
One… Two… Three seconds.
Finally, the prince heaved a loud sigh. He loosened his hands and placed his knife and fork back on both sides of his plate, giving up the intention to eat.
Sporting a headache, Thales raised his head and looked at the other side of the dining table… The blonde girl with jade-green eyes pouted and watched him with satisfaction. She, too, did not touch the food in front of her.
Once they entered the archduchess’ dining hall, Saroma had coldly chased Ginghes and the two maidservants out of there, despite their protests. Strangely enough, Ginghes the female officer, put up a protest out of formality, but had otherwise complied with the archduchess’ wish. In the past, it was rare to see such an instance.
“Alright.” Thales could only put on a bold face and say, “Our esteemed archduchess, do you have any comments on my dining posture?”
Saroma snorted softly and stared at him for a whole three seconds. She then said with pouted lips, “Again.”
Thales paused in surprise. “What?”
“You’re talking to me like that again.” With a dark expression, the young girl said in annoyance, “‘My esteemed archduchess.’ This kind of tone makes it hard for me to resist beating you up.”
Thales’ eyes widened and stared helplessly at her. He smiled and said, “But this is a form of address that should be used when having an audience with the archduchess, especially our adorable and charming—”
*Thunk!* A sound of metal clanging echoed suddenly.
Thales stared blankly as Saroma, the gloomy-looking young girl, stabbed her knife down and cut the beef on her plate before her in half.
Saroma was still staring at him with a furrowed brow. Her gaze was filled with unhappiness.
The teenage prince’s Adam’s apple bopped a little. He inhaled deeply and stopped smiling, suppressing the idea of making the girl laugh by talking in a joking manner.
‘It seems like she’s in a really bad mood. Then…’
*Thunk!* The sharp sound of metal knocking against the plate rang out again. The beef on Saroma’s plate was now cut into three parts.
A chill ran down Thales’ spine.
‘Warning! Warning! This is scarier than two years ago when…’
“Sorry.” The prince looked sincerely into Saroma’s eyes. “It’s my fault. Until now, I have been ignoring your feelings.”
Saroma’s gaze flickered and her sour face relaxed a little. As he stared at her dejected look, Thales could not help but hang his head and sigh.
Then, he immediately withdrew the expression on his face and calmly met the pouting Saroma’s gaze.
The prince then resolutely left his seat and walked to the young girl. Saroma was somewhat startled. She watched the approaching Thales and seemed a little uneasy. She shrank a little, like a hedgehog.
The young girl snorted softly with pouted lips. “What are you doing?”
Thales did not answer her. The prince went straight to her side while she sported a suspicious gaze. He pulled out a chair from beside the dining table and sat quietly.
“Hey, remember that I’m your friend.” The prince leaned forward and put his arm down, leaning against the dining table. As he gazed soberly at Saroma, he flashed a gentle smile. “You can trust me, you know. You can tell me everything.”
Saroma’s breathing became a little uneven, but she tried her best to maintain her dissatisfied expression. She snorted through her nose.
And yet, Thales continued to stare at her, gently and very patiently, without averting his eyes.
Now, it was the stern-looking Saroma who became slightly embarrassed because of his stare. The young girl cleared her throat unnaturally and turned her head away. However, Thales continued to look at her with keen, sparkling eyes.
At last, unable to withstand his gaze any longer, Saroma sucked in a helpless breath and released it, forcefully exhaling upwards. She lifted her gaze and watched as the hair covering her forehead flew up.
“Forget it. It’s nothing.” Saroma pouted her lips and shot Thales a glance. She lowered her head, a dark and gloomy expression on her face. “I just have a bad temper.”
“No, Saroma.” Thales shook his head. He exhaled and tried his best to speak slowly. “My dear lady, I know that today must had been very hard for you. The day of the state affairs hearing, and those disobedient vassals—”
Saroma abruptly turned her head around, her breaths hastening.
“Hmph.” She glared angrily at Thales and refuted sarcastically,
“Hard? Why would it be? I am the Archduchess of Dragon Clouds City, the one and only archduchess in almost seven hundred years. I hold Eckstedt’s most powerful territory in my hands, why would it be hard?”
Saroma’s breathing grew heavier. The girl had crossed her arms and spoke with an unpleasant expression. Thales stared at her quietly.
“My vassals are among the most loyal.” Saroma harrumphed angrily. “They have strong abilities and are sagacious. With them, Dragon Clouds City is as stable as the Sighing Mountains.
“I don’t have to worry about anything, even things related to myself. Everything in Dragon Clouds City operates in an orderly fashion, and the Walton Family is just flourishing like it did in the past…”
Saroma seemed to have turned into a chatterbox. The young girl opened her mouth wider as she talked, and her expression grew angrier.
“So, why would it be hard for me, compared to some pitiful prince whom is held hostage and lives in fear, and whom I might just swallow up whole one of these days? I’m practically the most fortunate-Mmh!”
The young girl was stunned. Something was shoved into her mouth. She stared in shock at Thales’s movement, feeling something in her mouth.
At some point, the prince had come to sit right next to Saroma. Thales stared straight into Saroma’s clear eyes. The young girl did not know what to do and her cheeks flushed slightly.
The second prince exhaled. He took the spoon in his hand out—calm and composed—from the stunned Saroma’s mouth.
“If this spoon of beans can’t alleviate your anger…” Thales was beaming as he spoke. He turned to scoop up another spoonful of beans from the plate and waved it in front of Saroma. “I have more.”
It was only then when Saroma registered what was going on. Her slightly blushing face began showing signs that she was about to get angry from the embarrassment. With her mouth full of beans and extremely dissatisfied, she made some unintelligible noises.
Thales still smiled with narrowed eyes. He waved the spoonful of beans at her.
“That’s right! Chew them to pieces, hard! This will alleviate your anger!”
With her mouth filled with beans, Saroma’s cheeks became puffy. She glared at Thales in dissatisfaction for a whole three seconds.
Thales responded with a smile.
Finally, with an unpleasant expression, the girl snorted loudly. She turned away and peered at Thales from the corner of her eye. As though out of spite, she chewed the beans in her mouth loudly.
With that strength, it was as though she was chewing Thales’ flesh instead of the beans.
The prince blinked at her with smiling eyes.
Seriously, her attitude towards him last time was good. Where did the adorable Little Rascal who liked hiding behind him and who spoke demurely go?
Thales stared at Saroma, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. He stared at this young girl who looked back at him, wide-eyed, as though in protest. He stared at her puffed cheeks that bopped up and down as she chewed with increasing strength.
“I shaid sho befo-Um, I said so before.” The young girl finally managed to chew and swallow the mouthful of beans with great effort. She said furiously to the prince, “I am not unhappy at all-Mmh!”
Expressionlessly, Thales shoved a second spoonful of beans into Saroma’s mouth.
Suppressing the desire to laugh, the prince drew the spoon back, but he realized that he could not take the spoon out of Saroma’s mouth. The girl bit down on the spoon hard with a murderous glare.
“Come now, be good. As people, the most important thing is to be happy…” Suppressing his quivering shoulders, Thales managed to pull the spoon out from between her lips. He stared at Saroma as she chewed angrily on the beans, even harder than she did with the first spoonful.
Although the archduchess’ eyes were still scary, the prince suddenly felt in that moment that his life right now was not that bad.
‘Fortunately, she’s also quite adorable like this.’ Thales started to become lost in his thoughts. ‘When did she turn from that careful little girl to the way she is now?
‘Ah, it must be that day. Two years ago, teary-eyed and anxious, she stealthily came to me with her blood-stained bed sheets while I was still drowsy. Ginghes heard the commotion and came in. From that day onwards, I was banished from my room on the fifth floor to the Blood Court.
‘Or was it a year ago when, blushing, she wore a corset, and I mocked her with my gaze in the library? It’s all thanks to Ginghes, who tirelessly taught her female suzerain to abide by the dogmas of a noble lady.
‘Or was it the time she first wore a formal dress and had a ladylike hairstyle? She stood in front of me, anxious and excited, but turned and left in anger because I laughed so hard that I doubled over.
‘I don’t remember… Anyway, she became like this without me realizing it. That girl who was once puerile and timid, she had slowly grown up inside the walls and snow of Heroic Spirit Palace and Dragon Clouds City.
‘Eventually, she’ll definitely transform into someone all of us would not be familiar with: Archduchess Saroma Walton.
Remembering the past they shared, Thales felt his mood go down.
‘Is this really what she wants? Will she really be happy… to become a Walton?’
Weighed down by his concerns, Thales ate a mouthful of beans with a sigh.
At that moment…
Saroma anxiously interrupted his thoughts. The young girl’s voice sounded a little surprised, and also a little rushed.
Thales registered the situation and stared at Saroma’s expression in surprise. The archduchess’ cheeks were unusually red. She had hesitantly and nervously stretched her right hand towards him, as though she wanted to remind him of something.
“Hm?” The prince arched an eyebrow, chewing all the beans in his mouth quickly, not knowing what was going on. “What?”
Thales realized that something was not right. At this moment, Saroma’s cheeks were completely red, and even her ears were blood-colored. It looked especially obvious against the backdrop of her platinum blonde hair.
‘Why is she blushing? The last time I saw her like this was probably when she wore a formal dress for the banquet and came to ask for my opinion? What’s going on?’
“Um…” Saroma stared at Thales dazedly. She wanted to say something, but swallowed her words. Her red cheeks twitched a little. She seemed quite embarrassed. That hesitant and timid manner made Thales think of what she was like when she was younger.
Finally, under Thales’s bewildered gaze, Saroma lowered her head slowly and covered her face with her bangs. She said in a voice, soft as a delicate mosquito, “It’s nothing.”
The archduchess said nothing else. She instead stared at the table absent-mindedly.
Baffled, Thales shrugged. He still did not really understand why Saroma was blushing. The prince shook his head and lamented about how strange women are.
Right when he lowered his head and put the next spoonful of cold stew into his mouth…
Thales swept his gaze past the spoon he had just extracted from his mouth with his hand…
The prince’s heart skipped a beat. The spoon in his hand fell on the plate and made a sound.
Thales went back to his original seat absent-mindedly. When he glanced at the familiar spoon and then at Saroma who blushed so hard her ears were red, Thales could only feel extremely embarrassed.
‘This seems to be the spoon I used just now to…’
The prince’s gaze alternated between the spoon and a certain person’s lips. He subconsciously smacked his face.
He could not help but smile awkwardly. “Erm, about this…”
“I wanted to remind you just now.” Saroma’s voice was shrill, soft and almost could not be heard clearly. “But you were too fast.”
Thales’ felt at an extreme loss for what to do. Relieved that no one else saw what happened, he used his last hint of rationality to stop himself from saying that it was alright and that he did not mind.
The atmosphere in the dining room immediately turned extremely unbearable. However, watching Thales’ reaction, Saroma, her head lowered earlier, seemed dissatisfied. She lifted her gaze somewhat.
“Hmph, you deliberately did that, right?” The young girl snorted softly. “Ginghes said—”
“Ah, by the way!” Thales smacked his head hard and changed the topic in a very rigid manner. “I remember now!”
Under the archduchess’ indignant gaze accusing him of such an absurd behavior, the second prince took out a rectangular wooden box from his front chest pocket. The box was small but delicate, with simple carvings of patterns on it.
“Here,” Thales said nonchalantly. He just wanted to reduce the awkwardness right now with this. “Your birthday present… although it’s still two months away.”