‘I don’t even know where she is…’
Helios roughly tousled his silver hair as he scanned the crowd.
He looked everywhere—amidst the dancing couples, the young noble ladies who were hoping to be asked to a dance at the corners of the grand hall—but the one person he was looking for was nowhere to be seen.
‘Where on earth is Miss Popo…’
As he searched through the overwhelming droves of people, all he could do was worry and let out heavy sighs.
Unconsciously, Helios grabbed the cravat fastened at his neck with more force than he should’ve exerted and pulled at it to make it come loose.
What happened the other day was repeating again.
He was feeling suffocated, but he didn’t know why.
“When we saw her, it’s kinda like everyone wants to dance with Sera.
There weren’t even any girls all around Sera, just boys.”
As soon as he heard this, his feet moved automatically.
He recalled how they had danced just earlier, and how exceedingly pretty she was.
And then, he also recalled the countless men looking at her at that moment.
A banquet was usually an event where alcohol flowed freely, where temptation was rampant, and where the atmosphere was much too provocative.
Any beautiful young lady would attract everyone’s attention.
But in this case, that’s not all.
Sera was an innocent young lady who was attending her first ever ball, and she was the perfect prey here.
Even so, Sera Popo was a wise young lady.
Regardless of whether this was her first banquet, and regardless of whether she wasn’t familiar with this type of environment, she wasn’t the kind of person who would let herself be led astray.
But if he thought about it the other way—about all the people she was surrounded by right now—he wasn’t so sure anymore.
Nevertheless, there was a nameless sense of impatience filling his mind, and all he could think of was this: he needed to find Miss Sera Popo.
If he could reach her even just one second earlier, then he must.
Logically, despite all his concerns, he knew that the worst wouldn’t happen.
Helios asked himself.
He couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason, but he was certain of at least one thing.
Whenever anyone looked at her with a certain kind of gaze, he was filled with displeasure.
That’s why he suddenly got angry at Aushuvel.
How dare he leave her alone.
He knew better than anyone what kind of unsavory things happened in banquets.
As he looked around the banquet hall yet again, he now turned towards the doors leading to the balconies.
It seemed as if he caught a glimpse of cascading black hair and a fluttering blue dress.
He masked his impatience with the usual gentle smile.
He immediately headed towards the balcony where he thought he saw her go into.
He wasn’t even sure if she really was there, but his pace gradually sped up.
And now, he needed to take only a few more steps towards that balcony, which he started getting close to in an instant.
* * *
Sera dragged herself into a balcony as though she had just run away from where she was, then she quickly pulled the balcony’s curtains shut.
She was very much relieved when she finally tied the ribbon neatly.
It was an indication that this one was occupied.
‘I can finally breathe again.’
She couldn’t believe she had gotten drunk off of just a few drinks.
Because the champagne was so deliciously sweet, and because she liked the subtle warmth it gave her as it flowed down her throat so smoothly, she didn’t notice at all.
Sera could blame only herself for falling into the temptation of that sweet peach flavor.
The taste still lingered at the tip of her tongue, along with the buzz of alcohol mixed with it.
Fortunately, she managed to get away from the crowd using her tipsiness as a suitable excuse.
‘Still though, it’s not a bad experience.’
She chuckled as she thought about the young men who tried to ask her for a dance.
The reason she extricated herself from that crowd as though she was running way was because she really didn’t want to dance.
But at the same time, she also knew what kind of intentions they had.
Of course, some of them seemed sincere, but she knew it’s not just that.
Rather than truly being interested in her, they were only curious about the person who had danced with the emperor.
This lady, who was from a humble viscount household and had never debuted into high society, had unexpectedly appeared as the partner of the prince of a neighboring kingdom and had inexplicably danced with the emperor of this country.
Sera was neither young nor naïve enough not to be conscious about these things.
Still, it was strange to think about herself in this way.
‘It’s absolutely ridiculous.’
She let out a deep sigh, but she soon laughed.
When the emperor had come by her house and asked her to be his younger siblings’ tutor, she definitely didn’t expect that she’d find herself to be in this kind of situation.
She certainly didn’t think she’d attend a ball in such a fancy dress.
And besides that, she had danced with His Majesty the Emperor, who any young lady of this whole empire must have imagined herself to share a dance with.
It was only a stroke of serendipity, but still.
She liked that she truly had been able to dance with him even just this once.
The smile that tugged on her lips now was as sweet as the excitement of that time.
A breeze blew past as Sera propped her arms over the balcony railing and leaned forward.
Silently, she closed her eyes.
The excited voices of the people inside the banquet hall faded away.
Soon enough, the ringing in her head started becoming more pronounced.
As she basked in the warmth of this summer evening, she felt her intoxication gradually cooling down.
Slowly opening her eyes, Sera admired the scenery before her.
There, a well-managed garden lay.
The impressive fountain that stood out to her seemed to represent the glory of the Adelio Empire.
She listened to the tranquil flow of water as it broke into droplets and sparkled in the air, like the starlight embroidering the night sky.
She allowed herself to enjoy this moment of serenity.
However, she heard the sound of the balcony’s doors being opened and the curtains being pulled to the side.
“There’s someone already in here.”
She was sure that she properly tied the ribbon to make it known that this balcony was occupied.
Sera turned her head and looked behind her.
But as the purple curtains were pulled back, and as soon as she saw who it was who stepped through them, her pink lips opened slightly.
It was Helios.