Shortly after the tumultuous birthday celebration, a political meeting took place, and the atmosphere was unusual.
Indeed, the nobles, who usually sucked up to and showered compliments towards Duke Bethmann, were now sitting far away from the duke.
No one around him sat close, making him seem like a remote island.
For a while, the conversations of all aristocrats revolved around the topic of Rosé and Elijah.
Rumors had spiraled so far that some people believed that blood had flowed out of Elijah’s arms.
And, rather than just his hair being pulled taut, people thought that all his hair had been pulled out and he was now bald.
However, they were united in their criticism of Elijah’s impertinence.
“Her Highness Rosé said that the reason she did that to Young Duke Elijah was because he had committed blasphemy against the Imperial Family.
Did you hear what he said”
“My daughter was sitting next to Her Highness Rosé that day.
The disrespect he committed was just… Tsk, tsk.”
“Why What in the world happened”
“How dare I utter it with my own lips You know how terribly His Majesty would think of you if you dare say anything against Their Highnesses… There’s no higher disrespect than that.”
Everywhere Duke Bethmann passed by the people around him would talk amongst themselves in whispers.
His head was raging with a headache, but there was no way for him to defend his tarnished honor.
For the time being, he had no choice but to duck his head and pretend he couldn’t hear until this problem blew over.
Venting his anger, he crumpled the paper in front of him.
“Duke Bethmann, the agenda being negotiated at the moment is your mine, but you’re unusually quiet.
Is there something wrong”
With a languid look towards the duke, Helios asked him as though nothing had happened between them before.
This was already the nth time that the emperor, who was well known for his kindness, had deliberately asked a difficult question towards the duke without any consideration.
As if it wasn’t enough that Helios had asked about the exclusive rights that the duke had acquired for that mine, Helios even went as far as expressing a strange, uncomfortable concern for the older man.
Each time this happened, Duke Bethmann stayed still without saying anything related to the transgressions he had committed.
All he could do here was shut his mouth and wait for Helios to let the matter slide.
Seeing how Helios confronted the duke several times, all the nobles around them gulped and tried to endure the tension in the air.
It was the second time they had ever witnessed and felt fear for the cold gaze in the emperor’s eyes.
* * *
After the meeting, Helios returned to his office and leaned halfway back on his wide chair.
The golden sunset poured into the room, touching his exhausted features.
“That wasn’t like you, Your Majesty.”
Raphael carefully spoke.
Helios handled the matter in a way that wasn’t unreasonable considering what Duke Bethmann had done.
All throughout the time he pressured the duke, Helios had a bright smile and spoke in such a calm voice.
However, beneath that appearance was a thorny anger that no one had ever seen before.
People say that it’s scary to see someone who smiles a lot get angry.
After seeing Helios like that, Raphael realized it again.
“It was for an inane reason, but should I increase Duke Bethmann’s taxes Or if not that, should I keep asking him questions that he’d be uncomfortable with.”
Slightly surprised by Helios’ harsh tone, Raphael raised one eyebrow.
“I couldn’t control it.
Helios ruffled his silver hair roughly, then buried his face in his hands.
“You deserve to be angry, Heli.
Duke Bethmann is the one at fault for saying such things, to the point that it reached the ears of Their Highnesses Rosé and Ferre.”
Before being Helios’ aide, Raphael was his childhood friend, and so he comforted his friend here.
Raphael patted Helios’ shoulder as he was still thinking about his younger siblings dearly.
It was a relief that it ended only at this.
If the emperor were someone other than Helios, people might have gotten indicted with blasphemy against the imperial family.
A few heads might have even gotten lopped off.
Duke Bethmann himself knew this fact, so he could have given Helios anything just to avoid this, all without any complaints.
“Is Miss Sera alright as well”
“Ah… Miss Popo.”
Helios let out a long sigh as he closed his heavy eyelids.
Because of what happened, he had been feeling much worse.
Until the political meeting, he didn’t intend to put that much pressure on Duke Bethmann.
It wasn’t like Helios to bring out excuses to pick apart other people, and neither was he someone who’d persistently stab at someone else’s weaknesses.
Most likely, the duke would not be able to talk carelessly anymore in the future.
Rosé and Ferre had already forgotten about that day and were smiling again.
Helios also had already healed Miss Popo’s wounds.
However, the moment he saw Duke Bethmann’s face, he recalled how much Sera had been quivering as she looked so small while folding into herself like that.
Her face had been as white as a sheet.
And what Raphael told him yesterday also added to his ire.
“I also heard that Duke Bethmann had attempted something like this with her before.”
The fact that the duke tried to commit this kind of thing and particularly targeted her again made Helios so terribly displeased, which was something he didn’t expect.
He had never been this angry before, and just the fact that he did due to this incident was surprising.
“I hope that she is alright.”
Helios sighed quietly.
The Miss Popo he knew was such a strong person, but he couldn’t not be worried.
She only pretended to be alright on the outside, but he didn’t know how she felt inside.
He could still vividly recall how much she had been shaking in front of him.
Looking out the window, he watched the Star Palace be painted with the red hues of the sunset.
Then, he slowly got up from his seat.
As the sun began to set, it soon became Rosé and Ferre’s dinnertime.
Helios was going to have dinner together with them again today.
“You’re ending the day early today.”
“I think it’s better for me to spend more time with my younger siblings these days.
While doing that, it would be good to see if Miss Popo is doing fine as well.”
After Rosé and Elijah’s fight, which had turned the entire imperial palace upside down, Helios made an effort to take care of his younger siblings a whole lot more.