on the other hand, were somewhat sad.

“If I can dance with you at the soiree, just for that night, just to pretend to be your lover… I’ll be happy.
If you dance with me and still can’t think of me as anything more than a friend, I won’t want to be anything more than that in the future, be rest assured.”

It was a very sad confession.

I don’t think there was any lie in his eyes as he looked at me earnestly.

“But I’d be working that day, too.
I can’t get any vacation time easily…”

“Vacation is a right granted to all magicians by the Magic Agency and I’ll ask His Highness.”

Gideon lowered his eyes and looked painfully at the brooch in my hand.

“I regret that time very much.”

“That time? Did you mean the graduation party?”

Gideon did not answer.

I remembered the outdoor party with Mac and Cynthia.

Gideon mixed in with that…?

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Gideon eating a marshmallow stuck in a tree branch with a sticky mess around his mouth?

That’s a little hard to imagine…

“I don’t think you could have missed the graduation party, being a duke and all.
I had to give an answer.
But I’m glad you feel that way.
Thank you.”

I raised my right hand and gently touched the back of Gideon’s hand resting on my shoulder.
His blue eyes slowly lifted to catch mine.

I can’t be so mean as to refuse the invitation of such an anxious and hard-working man.

“Thank you, Gideon.
–If it’s not too much trouble for you, you can take me to the grand soirée next month.”

“Really?”

Gideon’s sweet blue eyes widened slightly in surprise.

“Just so you know, it’s only the big night, okay?”

“I know.”

Gideon smiled wryly.
The first corner of his eyes lowered and the corners of his mouth slowly raised in a gentle smile.

The way he smiles looks just like my Ulysses and it makes my heart ache.
It’s that smile that I loved so much.

I was so confused that I looked away.

When the dance was over and the chatting began, I returned to the Crown Prince.

The saint was accompanied by her father, the Marquis of Zefarm and was chatting with the ladies in the hall.

The crown prince took one look at me as I approached and raised his eyebrows.

“Where have you been? You’re a Konoe Mage.”

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“If I had been near you, I would have interrupted your dancing.
I’ve been waiting by the wall.

“Have you tried the chocolate?”

“Yes.
It was very good!”

I can’t say that I dropped a piece.

“It’s a Piaran.
Of course it was good.
–You and Gideon were acting strangely by the wall.
What were you talking about?”

“You were watching us? We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so we were talking about work.”

The crown prince snorted.

Then Gideon appeared beside him and interrupted the conversation.

“Thank you, Your Highness, for inviting us to next month’s grand soirée.”

The crown prince took a tall glass from a waiter who was passing by and poured white wine down his throat.

“It’s only natural to invite the Lancaster family.
Your presence will make the soiree more glamorous.
It would be a shame for Leia’s royal palace to be filled with only ugly men.”

“There is one thing I would like to ask you regarding the Grand Night Party.”

“What is it?”

“I would like to borrow Liesel, Your Highness’ bodyguard, for the duration of the Grand Ball.”

“Why? You don’t need an escort.
You graduated at the top of your class from the Academy of Magic.”

The crown prince tilted his head in a puzzled manner.

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