༺ The Masquerade (2) ༻
The night deepened as the carriages ascended the hill near the Imperial Palace.
However, unlike usual, no family crests adorned the carriages.
Ferzen was among the individuals lining up on the hill.
The door was quietly opened as the carriage came to a halt, and Ferzen entered the brilliantly lit banquet hall.
The hall was bustling with people.
Fortunately, since everyone in attendance wore masks, Ferzen felt only a slight unease.
Among the attendees, many individuals maneuvered wheelchairs.
With his keen eyes, Ferzen easily discerned the awkward movements of those who disguised their gender.
There were also many who assumed the appearance of children, much like Ferzen himself.
However, amidst the crowd, the area surrounding the first and second princes attracted the most attention.
Ferzen picked up a glass of wine and surveyed his surroundings before proceeding slowly.
‘Where is she……’
After quenching his thirst with the wine, Ferzen observed those in wheelchairs.
Identifying anything amiss was more challenging than discerning gender disguises, but it was not impossible.
After all, one’s identity could not be determined solely by their movements, so attendees did not pay much heed to it.
Consequently, prolonged observation revealed the unnatural aspects of their actions, though narrowing down the possibilities based on that alone was difficult.
Ferzen set the empty glass down and turned around.
To be honest, Ferzen believed the chances of Lizzy being present were quite slim.
Even if she did attend, she would likely be accompanied by her brother, Roer.
There was a foolproof and straightforward method to identify her, regardless of the slim likelihood.
Ferzen’s halted his footsteps.
The orchestra, employed by the imperial family, elegantly serenaded the already jubilant banquet before him.
As the current piece neared its conclusion, Ferzen patiently waited behind the conductor.
As soon as the song ended, Ferzen approached the conductor, tapped him on the shoulder, and spoke.
“There is a song I wish to hear. May I make a request?”
“Ah… Of course, that’s fine.”
“Then, may I ask you to play Blessed Night?”
“That’s quite an old song you’re requesting.”
“Yet, it is still beloved, just as in the old times.”
After a few breaths, the conductor raised his hand.
Blessed Night was a song that could be considered a staple for all musicians, so they should be able to play it even without the music sheet.
As the unfamiliar yet familiar melody filled the room, Ferzen turned his head.
Based on his earlier observations, he had narrowed down the number of individuals he suspected to be Lizzy to three.
The first one……
The sound of breaking glass reverberated amidst the splendid music.
Ferzen didn’t even need to see the reactions of those around to know.
A flicker of amusement crossed his lips as he saw a blue-haired woman trembling near the First Prince.
Wearing a wolf mask that concealed her face, she turned her gaze toward the imperial orchestra.
Their eyes met in that fleeting moment, but nothing eventful occurred.
In that instant, the lamb’s attire revealed the wolf within, recognizing its prey..
Unbeknownst to the lamb donning the mask of a wolf, a true beast sought to devour it.
‘Lizzy. Did you know?’
Fear and terror were unconquerable.
‘They will always haunt you, following your every step.’
With that realization, Ferzen leisurely stepped forward.
As if treading on snow.
He moved in complete silence.
* * * * *
Lizzy tightly gripped her chest as pain surged through her, hurrying to the terrace
Her maid, pushed her wheelchair, looking at her with concern, but Lizzy simply closed her eyes tightly and wiped away the cold sweat trickling down her face.
Even after leaving the room and stepping onto the terrace, she still faintly heard the music.
Blessed Night was a once-popular song with a rich history, but like changing fashion, it had rarely been played in banquet halls in recent years.
To put it bluntly, it was nothing more than an old song.
“I-I’m fine… Go, fetch me a glass of cold water…”
Lizzy forced her trembling body to calm down, taking several deep breaths.
Fortunately, her body quickly regained stability as soon as the song came to an end.
Finally composed, Lizzy wiped the sweat from her chin with a handkerchief.
That’s when she heard the door creak open, catching her attention.
Lizzy called her maid’s name, extending one hand towards the door while pressing the other against her forehead.
She gestured, asking her maid to hand over the glass of cold water.
Instead of receiving a glass of cold water, Lizzy felt the touch of soft lips.
Startled, she turned her head towards the door.
It was only then that she noticed a boy wearing a lamb mask and a white suit.
“Do you find my actions rude?”
Calming her trembling heart, Lizzy concealed the hand that had been kissed behind her body.
“It is a beautiful hand.”
But he, or rather, the boy, took her other hand and bowed his head once more to bestow another kiss upon it.
“Even though you wear a lamb mask, your actions are as cunning as a wolf.”
In truth, this masquerade was a place where people could act without any pretense.
It was also a space for individuals to express their dissatisfaction with the Prince they personally supported.
A small fraction of attendees even sought to fulfill their secret desires at this masquerade.
“Do I appear easy to devour since I am alone on the terrace?”
“It’s a misunderstanding. I simply came here because the old music didn’t suit my taste.”
His way of speaking did not match his youthful appearance.
Should she use the term “old soul” in this case?
When the atmosphere on the terrace became friendly, Lizzy’s maid finally returned.
After handing her a glass of ice-cold water, Lizzy ordered her to stand at her door instead of beside her.
At that, Ferzen put a faint smile on his lips and spoke.
“Are you Gremory Elden Ishtar Elmark?”
Lizzy flinched at Ferzen’s words.
“…… You have good eyes.”
“I hear that often. Wearing the appearance of the Empress of the Elmark Empire and sitting in a wheelchair must be a satirical element of its own. It’s funny.”
At the boy’s words, Lizzy awkwardly raised the corner of her mouth.
Actually, she didn’t intend any satire while choosing her appearance.
She simply wanted to appear as strong as Gremory Elden Ishtar Elmark, the strongest female figure she had ever seen……
Lizzy just wanted the strong appearance of her.
After all, if by any chance Ferzen was in the banquet hall, she felt that she wouldn’t be able to face him with her original appearance.
Silence enveloped the terrace at that moment.
Ferzen glanced up at Lizzy briefly before shifting his gaze to the beautiful night sky above.
“It is an uncomfortable silence.”
“As a woman, if you lack the confidence to engage in a smooth conversation, why don’t you throw your conversation partner a subject to discuss?”
“Didn’t you mention that you would only be here for a while because you don’t like the old music?”
“Children are inherently capricious.”
Lizzy looked down at Ferzen, who was talking to her with such a young voice, before bursting out laughing.
“Great. Then…… Please let me know what you think about the current political landscape.”
The political landscape.
That’s a pretty challenging request.
After all, in Ferzen’s case, he interpreted the situation based on the facts he had heard from the Second Prince.
However, it wouldn’t be difficult to discuss it. He only needed to rearrange some facts he knew from the Second Prince. Therefore, Ferzen adjusted his tone and began to speak.
“If I were to say which side the scale is leaning towards, I would have to say it tilts in favor of the Second Prince.”
“The reason…… is?”
“Don’t you already know? It was something that everyone knows despite claims to the contrary.”
“Very well. However, with Brutein’s support, is there room for others to make an impact? Due to that fact, there’s the possibility of people cozying up to the enemy……”
At Lizzy’s words, Ferzen laughed.
And to his laughter, Lizzy found herself unable to finish her sentence.
“Your perspective is not wrong. After all, if there’s no space for those who wish to prove their greatness, they will try to create it through force.”
Lizzy remained silent.
“However, if there’s no reward awaiting those who attain that position, there’s no incentive for them to do so.”
Lizzy continued to listen.
“Everyone knows. Regardless of what Louerg, backed by the Bruteins, did to the Roverium Kingdom, the Imperial Family will not provide them with a fair reward.”
In the first place, Brutein’s lineage had no desire for such a reward.
Additionally, this time, a reasonable justification had been prepared for the other political factions.
For that reason, other loyal supporters would feel not anxiety but comfort and a strong sense of unity.
It was said that the Second Prince would only be one step ahead of the First Prince.
Because of that, was there any reason for them to give up?
“But Count Louerg… He recently married the daughter of the Alfreds. A child of Brutein blood marrying into the Alfreds. Could this be a sign of his growing ambition?”
Ferzen had nothing to say about that part.
After all, it wasn’t unreasonable for people to perceive his marriage in that light.
“If he were truly ambitious, he wouldn’t have set his sights on the Countess of Louerg, located on the outskirts.”
Lizzy listened quietly.
“Even if you place bricks on top of a sandcastle, the end result is clear—it will crumble. It may seem peculiar, but that’s why others don’t question his actions.”
“Is that really the reason?”
Lizzy leaned forward, placed her arms on the armrest, and tightly clenched her fists.
Witnessing this, Ferzen spoke up.
“Is that wrong?”
Lizzy remained silent.
“Perhaps they harbor greed and ugliness within, but to claim people are mistaken for judging solely based on outward appearances… It may seem reasonable, but it’s not.”
“What do you mean?”
“Does anyone roam the streets naked?”
Lizzy remained silent.
“Everyone wears clothes. People are willing to pay a hefty price to adorn themselves in fancy and beautiful garments.”
Lizzy still didn’t respond.
“That is human nature. If you wish to deny it, I dare to ask: Does your outward self reflect who you are inside?”
Ferzen’s words caused Lizzy to bite her lip.
She couldn’t say yes.
Even now, she… she was donning the appearance of the Empress of Elmark as a disguise.
She yearned for a facade that wouldn’t be shaken by any storm.
“You weren’t seeking favor from me, were you? It’s not the words you want to hear, but rather the words you don’t want to hear…”
Adjusting her wolf mask slightly, Lizzy lowered her head to meet Ferzen’s gaze.
“Truly… you are a lamb I desire to slaughter and consume.”
Her delicate fingertips brushed against his cheek.
How foolish had she been to not recognize the wolf concealed beneath the lamb’s clothing.
The darkness of the night grew deeper.
If someone couldn’t see through the essence, they could consume anything, even if it was rotten water.
You should know that people’s eyes were more useless than they usually thought.
Sneering at his own advice that he wouldn’t pass on to her, Ferzen quietly inhaled the smell of her body that he could feel at her fingertips.
The smell of sheep, which was unfit for wolves, wafted through.
It was very sweet.
TL note: Imagine seeing a 12y kid drinking wine…….on the bloody Imperial Palace…….
People already freaked out when i started drinking at 14, which is way better than 12…..Btw my cuties, The witcher 3 soundtrack is…..Wild……heheheh see what i did there……Imma die alone ain’t i? why tf i can have my blasted romcom arc already??!!!!!! Oh don’t mind me…just having a 25y crisis since i presently realized that from the high school class, IM THE ONLY ONE THAT IS NOT EITHER: MARRIED, HAS A KID, IS RICH, OR IS LIVING THE GOOD LIFE……I mean at least I’m not worst than a guy named Petterson, mf got his ass in jail lmao….
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