19 Would You Do Me the Honor?

When Rosalie approached the sitting area in the main Imperial Garden, she found the rest of the young unmarried noble ladies already gathered in their designated spots, patiently awaiting the commencement of the Hunting Loot Presentation.

The designated sitting area was positioned in the front row encircling the vast empty space where the men would present their prized prey, boasting about their triumphs during the Hunting Trip. This gathering offered the men an opportunity to dedicate their spoils to a particular woman they admired or loved, demonstrating their support and allegiance. A gesture of platonic affection was represented by kissing the back of the right hand, while intentions of marriage were symbolized by the left hand. Consequently, every lady seated in the first row was expected to be single and of marriageable age.

And to not receive dedicated prey at least once was considered an incredible humiliation.

As Lady Ashter approached her assigned seat, all other noble ladies deliberately raised their voices, feigning unawareness of her arrival.

"I heard the Hunting Trip this year was exceptionally fruitful! My own brother managed to capture a couple of elusive Mountain Foxes. The lucky lady who receives their fur will undoubtedly have the most exquisite winter coat tailored for her this season."

Lady Estelle Viden threw a quick glance at Lady Filmore and offered her a playful wink, indicating that she might be the lucky lady she was talking about, to which Anastasia Filmore reacted with a prominent blush on her chubby cheeks.

Lady Viden continued,

"Anyway. It seems that poor Lady Rosalie will not be receiving anything this year as well. Her brother, Young Lord Raphael must have the heart of a Saint since he always ensures that his dear sister's honor is not tarnished and she is never left without a gift."

She then turned her gaze towards Rosalie, who remained unfazed by her harsh remarks, calmly adjusting her slightly disheveled hair and dress. Clearly unsettled by the lack of a reaction, Lady Estelle furrowed her thin, red eyebrows and raised her voice even further.

"Year after year... The only man who gifts her his spoils is her own brother. That must be utterly humiliating!"

'What a foul mouth... How annoying.'

Rosalie let that thought cross her mind for a split second, then closed her eyes, still ignoring that forced, undignified chatter, and casually sipped on her glass of wine.

"But... Grand Duke Damien Dio is attending the banquet this year. "

A sudden mention of that name made Lady Ashter freeze for a moment and focus her attention. Perhaps that meaningless conversation could finally turn into something interesting for a change.

Lady Filmore let out a brief gasp and clasped her hands together rather dramatically.

"He is usually the one to hunt the biggest prey! Even His Highness the Crown Prince cannot compete with him. I wonder who he is going to present his loot to?"

"What do you mean, Lady Anastasia? It is obvious that he is attending the banquet this year because of Princess Angelica! I hear she has finally returned from the Temple!"

Lady Melania Blanche lightly nudged Lady Filmore on the shoulder with her folded colorful fan and shook her head in disapproval.

Upon hearing the name "Angelica", Rosalie recalled that in the novel, Princess Angelica Rische was the only daughter of the Emperor. Described as a fragile and frail child due to her premature birth, she spent most of her days confined within her palace walls, attended by doctors and nurses, or sent to the Temple for prolonged treatments administered by the Priest.

What held greater significance was that, during their childhood, Princess Angelica and Rosalie Ashter had been close friends, spending a considerable amount of time together before Angelica's untimely departure to the Temple.

Lady Ashter fixed her grey eyes at the place where the Imperial family was seated and almost gasped in bewilderment – Her Highness Princess Angelica had indeed made her return.

As their eyes met, Princess Angelica, instantly recognizing her estranged friend Rosalie, bestowed upon her an encouraging wink and warmly waved her hand, accompanied by a gentle smile that illuminated her pale, slightly sunken face.

Even from a considerable distance, the girl could not help but admit that despite her weak physical frame, the princess possessed a beauty befitting royalty – long blonde hair cascaded down her back like a golden waterfall, shimmering with a subtle silver hue as the sun's gentle rays caressed its voluminous locks. Her large azure eyes resembled the serene expanse of a morning sea, while her lengthy, almost white lashes evoked thoughts of wispy clouds adorning a clear blue sky.

Each time Angelica's slender, meticulously-shaped lips curved into a smile, it seemed as if the surrounding atmosphere was illuminated by a myriad of twinkling stars. Her mere presence held such significance, akin to that of a celestial object.


According to the rules established by the Crown Prince himself, the men's order of presenting their Hunting Loot depended on the magnitude of the prey they had slain. Consequently, the first person to present was the one who had hunted the smallest prey, culminating with Prince Loyd Rische showcasing his own accomplishments from the trip, and Raphael Ashter consistently being the second-to-last presenter.

But regardless of the grandeur of the event, Rosalie still found it abysmal.

Adorned in their finest attire, the noble gentlemen emerged, displaying the fruits of their skill and prowess. With a flourish, they showcased their prey—a vibrant array of feathery plumes, antlers, fangs, and magical furs. Each trophy carried a story of patience, agility, and precision.

The noble ladies watched that "show" with anticipation, their eyes gleaming with admiration and curiosity. It was a display of both nature's bounties and the noblemen's courage, weaving tales of adventure and demonstrating their ability to provide for and protect their beloved companions.

As the number of presented spoils began to increase, at last, it was time for Raphael Ashter to present his loot, however, much to everybody's astonishment, it was "Grand Duke Damien Dio" that was announced instead of his name.

All eyes were now fixed upon Damien. It was evident that no one expected him to present before Raphael Ashter, considering Damien's spoils often surpassed even those of the Crown Prince himself. The sight of nearly three dozen knights assisting him in carrying the magical beasts he had slain made it indisputably clear that Damien Dio was the undeniable victor of this year's Hunting Trip.

"Goodness gracious! He brought the corpse of the Saint Mountain Wofl!"

Rosalie involuntarily flinched upon hearing Lady Viden's words. The Saint Mountain Wolf was renowned as one of the rarest and most elusive creatures to capture, let alone bring down. It was not only esteemed for its exceptional strength and endurance but also for its lustrous grey fur, a luxury that even the wealthiest noblemen struggled to acquire.

Lady Ashter looked at the dead body of the Saint Mountain Wolf placed next to the Duke's feet and could not help but notice one strikingly marvelous detail – the beast's fur was the same deep shade of grey as Rosalie's eyes.

While the crowd remained enthralled by the worthiness of Damien's spoils, they failed to observe that he began moving not toward the Princess's seat but toward the noble ladies positioned in the front row on the opposite side.

'No way... Why is he coming here?'

Rosalie watched the Duke's slow but resolute stride toward her seat, his sharp golden gaze firmly fixed on her blushing face, and at last, his confident steps halted as he approached Lady Ashter's seat. With elegance, he extended his arm, inviting the flustered girl to place her hand in his. However, just as she was about to offer her right hand, the Duke swiftly seized her left hand and tenderly pressed his warm lips against her soft skin, his eyes still captivated by Rosalie's bewildered gaze.

Encouraged by the loud gasping sound that emanated from the onlookers' lips, Damien detached his lips from Lady Ashter's skin, and said, his voice filled with quiet determination,

"Lady Rosalie Ashter... Would you do me the honor of accepting my hunting spoils?"

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