Chapter 37 – May I have This Dance? (2)
“Byun Gyongbaek of Oberde,” she greeted in acknowledgment, “It’s a pleasant sight to see you.” He gave her his own bright grin at her words. So full of confidence he was, and Leah could see why.
His entire ensemble consists of purple silk, covering him from head to toe. Despite being a rare and expensive clothing, she couldn’t help but feel it was such a waste that Byun Gyongbaek was the one who’s wearing it instead of anyone else.
His face was noticeably more flushed so early in the banquet, and the purple color only made him look more ridiculous than he already was. Leah tries to hold back a grimace at the sight of him.
This is a little rude, Leah thought as she gave him a once over. He’s the very image of greed. She mused before forcing herself to think up a compliment to fit the situation.
“What a pleasant outfit you have.” She finally said with a gentle smile, and he only grinned proudly.
“Of course it would be, I made an effort to look presentable to you.” He boasted, and Leah presumes, if given a chance, he would send a matching dress to her at once. Leah only laughed half-heartedly as last night’s events flash through her mind.
Despite all his guards being decimated, Byun Gyongbaek looked practically unaffected by it. Leah felt slightly sorry for Ishakan having to deal with him.
Though if there was anything else that could tell her he was affected by last night, it was with the way he stuck to her like glue, as if to rub it in Ishakan’s face that Leah was his. Last night’s event popped in her mind, and she resists the urge to scowl at the knowledge of prostitutes who looked like her. And then her thoughts turned to the equally treacherous deeds she had done as well.
“May I have the honor to dance with you?” He finally asked her, offering out a hand for her. Despite the desire to say no, thank you, Leah has no choice but to accept. After all, in the eyes of the public, Leah belonged to him.
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She took his hand, with expertly concealed distaste, and he surprised her when he removes her hand momentarily and entwines their fingers together. Leah looked down at their conjoined hands.
If holding his hand was difficult now, she loathed to think how she’d feel when the dreaded honeymoon would arrive. She let out a sigh.
Midway to the end of their dance, the joyful festival music suddenly died down. The chatting stopped soon after, as well as the laughter, and everyone that was already out dancing as a man stood imposingly in front of the engaged couple.
Ishakan had been waiting for the perfect moment to ambush them. He waited until they pass through him to make his move and stopped right in front of them, extending his hand out in an expecting manner, daring the princess to deny him.
“May I have at least one song, Princess?” he asked with a charming smirk. It was like hearing a pin drop in the silent room as he asked her for her first dance, taking pleasure in disregarding the etiquette of Estia.
Leah knew he was baiting her, but her customs demand to let her first dance be with either her family members or betrothed. He hadn’t even waited for them to even finish when he purposefully stepped in to ask her for one.
Leah stared blankly at his offered hand, thinking of the many implications of her every response. Deeming her to take too long in answering, Byun Gyongbaek threw Ishakan a scowl, but schooled his features to one of indifference. Perhaps he was shaken by last night’s events as he cordially greeted Ishakan.
“The King of Kurkans.” He stated and Ishakan’s hawk-like eyes shift to him.
Byun Gyongbaek removed his hand from Leah, and wrapped it protectively around her waist, pulling her closer to him in a show of defiance as he looked up at Ishakan.
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“I apologize, but the princess is my fiancé.” He pointed out in a civil tone, and Ishakan chuckled dryly before his lips turn to a sneer.
Byun Gyongbaek was delighted with the clear distaste he saw on Ishakan’s expression. It felt like he had just dealt a major blow on the Barbarian King’s pride! It seemed like the King of Kurkans had grown too complacent with the banquet. In a smug tone, Byun continued to rub the salt in the wound…
“It’s customary in Estia, that the princess’ first dance would belong to me.” He said with a smirk, “I do hope you’d understand.” So confident he was, he overlooked a simple fact.
This was no ordinary man he was contending with, but the King of Kurkans. And as king, he was civil enough to let him finish goading him in, but he would have the last laugh.
“Is that so?” He simply quipped, and Byun Gyongbaek stared at him in confusion, “I thought this whole banquet was supposed to be in our honor?” Ishakan asked, looking around for emphasis, and Byun could feel his blood simmer in frustration.
“King or not, tradition dictates-” he got cut off, when Ishakan stepped forward, cutting off his argument. Ishakan continued to stare him down. The nearby people also watched in rapt attention, waiting for what was going to happen next.
“Is this how Estia treats their esteemed guests?” He asked with a raise of his brow. His tone of voice was low and quiet, but the wind carried it effortlessly.
Even the Kurkans paused in their festivities, watching the heated exchange of their king and their host, shooting death glares at Byun Gyongbaek, never mind blinking.
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Feeling their glares at the back of his head, Byun Gyongbaek could feel the stifling atmosphere that was filling up the space. Other nobles were wise enough to proceed about their activities quietly, wary of their outlandish guests. He could feel the sweat roll down his temples as he attempted to hold his ground.
Ishakan turned his attention to Leah… “Princess? What have you got to say?” He asked her with a wide smile.
Sensing she has been backed into a corner, Leah felt the crowd stare at her, and in resignation, she accepted the dance, placing her hand in his outstretched one. She noted momentarily how warmer than others his hands were to the touch.
Gritting his teeth in silent anger, Byun Gyongbaek relinquished his hold on her and stepped back, glaring at them both one last time before walking out in fumes.
The crowd parts as Ishakan and Leah moved towards the center of the ballroom, and like watching the moon in the night sky, the figure of Leah’s pale complexion and silvery-white hair, flowing smoothly with every move, in contrast to the King’s dark brown hair and tanned skin, captivated their gazes.
Even their robes greatly contrasted, yet blended so well, together.
As they began to dance gracefully between the crowd, soon, the nearby nobles eventually returned to their businesses as the boisterous and joyful atmosphere returned.
Despite being so close physically, as Leah practically hung onto his shoulders as he held onto her waist, the rest of the dance was done in complete silence.
But this silence didn’t last long for some of the Kurkans growled at the general direction of the musicians, who, in fear, immediately began playing once more.
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It was a music only meant for the two of them.