𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟕𝟏: 𝐄𝐱𝐭𝐫𝐚 𝐄𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧: 𝐒𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐘𝐞𝐚𝐫, 𝐖𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐘𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐖𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬
You may have heard before that a year in the Eakes Kingdom is divided into twelve months.
Among them, the last day when the month changes from Snow Month Nivose to Rain Month Pluviôse marks the celebration of the new year and a grand festival is held throughout the country. Of course, the royal family is no exception, and every year a luxurious banquet is held at the palace.
Last year, as expected, Mabel was rejected and felt down. However, during the brief moment when the New Year’s bell rang, Eugene visited the castle.
She was very happy about that, but as Mabel reminisced, she found herself clasping her hands in front of Eugene again this year.
“Eugene, about this year’s party…”
“. . .”
“I won’t force you if you don’t want to. But if it’s alright, Gertrude-oneesama also wants to meet you…”
With Eugene sitting in a chair with his arms crossed, looking sullen, Mabel’s heart was already on the verge of breaking.
It seems that last year’s visit was almost like a surprise attack by Row, which only heightened his wariness.
Eventually, Eugene sighed and stood up. Mabel continued to plead.
“It’s fine if you keep your mask on. Just for a little while…”
“I guess I should go, right? I’ll clear my schedule.”
Unable to believe that Eugene actually said that, Mabel blinked in surprise. Seeing her reaction, Eugene furrowed his brows, looking displeased.
“What’s with that face?”
“Huh?! Um, well, I just didn’t expect you to really come…”
“I am your fiancé. I’ll do at least that much.”
Upon hearing those words said so casually, Mabel felt like pinching her own cheeks. But unable to contain the slowly rising joy, she instinctively hugged Eugene.
“What’s the big deal? You’re being overly dramatic.”
“Well, because I thought it was absolutely impossible.”
Then Eugene let out a tired sigh and gently wrapped his arm around Mabel’s back. As he pulled her close as usual, he whispered in her ear with a slight smile.
“I’ve been prepared since the time I flew through the palace sky for your sake.”
“I will become a suitable fiancé for you. If necessary, I’ll go anywhere, whether it’s a social gathering or a party.”
Overwhelmed with emotion, Mabel’s eyes welled up with tears. Seeing this, Eugene let out a slightly exasperated smile and kissed her temple.
“Go to bed already. You have business at the palace tomorrow, right?”
Mabel quickly released herself from Eugene’s embrace and, blushing slightly, smiled and bid him goodnight as she left the study. Left alone, Eugene let out a sigh.
‘Really…I never thought a day like this would come.’
He chuckled wryly as he remembered himself from a year ago.
But strangely, it didn’t feel like an unwelcome change.
And on the day of the party.
When Mabel and her fiancé appeared at the venue, the guests couldn’t help but cause a commotion.
The youngest princess, who was rumored to have become quite beautiful recently, was wearing a mature deep blue dress. Instead of covering her neck, both of her arms were exposed up to her shoulders, giving her a very glamorous appearance.
Standing next to her was the mysterious masked mage of the rumors.
As the name suggests, a jet-black mask covered half of his face, and his expression could only be seen from the mouth. But from the golden eyes and the well-defined contours glimpsed through the mask, it was easy to deduce that they possessed a remarkably handsome appearance.
Although the guests were interested in the two who had become the talk of the town at the Flower Festival, they kept their distance in fear of the terrifying mage. Sensing this, Mabel lowered her eyebrows and apologized to Eugene.
“I’m sorry. It seems like it’s become an unpleasant atmosphere.”
“It’s within my expectations. Don’t worry about it.”
Soon, Gertrude appeared before the two in a stunning manner. Her deep red dress and her glossy black hair left down gave her a dignified impression.
“Eugene-dono! Thank you for coming.”
“I wanted to have a leisurely conversation with you. Can you handle alcohol?”
“To the standard of an average person, yes.”
Upon hearing this, Gertrude grinned with delight. Seeing that, Mabel discreetly tugged on Eugene’s sleeve.
“Eugene, um, Gertrude-oneesama is really strong when it comes to alcohol. And she likes to drink with someone else, so, um, please don’t push yourself too much.”
Ignoring Mabel’s desperate advice, Eugene casually accepted the glass without showing any concern. He swiftly drank the amber-colored liquor, creating delicate bubbles.
“Oh, you have an amazing drinking capacity. Well then, I’ll join you.”
“Onee-sama, please don’t drink too much―”
“By the way, Mabel, Kathy was looking for you. She wants you to help her choose a hair accessory.”
“Huh?! Why again…”
“George-dono suddenly decided to visit as a guest. As soon as she heard that, she hurriedly returned to the main residence.”
Mabel pouted in annoyance. She glanced at Eugene and he spoke up.
“You can go.”
“If you’re worried about me, it’s unnecessary. I’ll talk to your sister.”
As if he could read her mind, Mabel timidly looked at her sister. Gertrude also smiled, lifting the corners of her mouth, and Mabel finally smiled.
“I’m sorry. Well then, I’ll just step out for a little while.”
After Mabel left, Gertrude poured more alcohol into Eugene’s empty glass. As soon as her sister was gone, his demeanor became distant, as if his body temperature had dropped.
“Is everything alright? You can escort her.”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t you come here as her escort, so that she wouldn’t be taken by another man?”
With a second glass in hand, Gertrude smirked. Eugene sighed as if it was all trivial.
“I’m not that narrow-minded. Besides, it’s a pity to keep making her worried.”
“A pity, you say.”
“Yes. In a situation like this, we can’t even enjoy ourselves.”
Receiving Eugene’s implied gaze, Gertrude quietly surveyed the surroundings.
With Mabel gone, the attention of the guests had shifted more towards Eugene. Curiosity, suspicion, fear…Although no one voiced it, the atmosphere surrounding Eugene was clearly abnormal.
“If it were just me, I could handle this level. But Mabel shouldn’t have to endure this.”
If her fiancé were an ordinary man, surely, she wouldn’t attract such curious gazes, and Mabel would have enjoyed the party. In fact, last year Eugene hesitated to attend out of fear of this happening.
But after going through misunderstandings, Eugene made up his mind to be her fiancé and even dedicated his life to her. Mabel was working so hard, and he couldn’t just keep running away.
“―A mage is not a human. We understand that we can’t fully understand each other. But still, I want to give her happiness as a human.”
For example, being able to introduce her beloved sister to someone she loves.
For example, being able to spend the end of the year together.
Eugene understands that these small things are what make Mabel the happiest. That’s why, even if it means becoming a clown――despite feeling uncomfortable being treated as a spectacle, he can’t help but want to make it happen.
“Thank you. If I could tell her directly, my sister would be happy too.”
“If you say something like that, Mabel will immediately want to go home. It would be counterproductive after going through the trouble of dressing up and coming all the way here.”
Indeed, Gertrude chuckled wryly. But after taking a sip from her glass, she suddenly smiled with the expression of an older sister.
“I truly appreciate your desire to protect that child. However, she is not as weak as you think.”
“If you were to accompany her, Mabel knew that she would attract curious gazes like this. And yet, she still wanted you.―To introduce you as her fiancé, without a doubt.”
There was a gap between humans and mages without a doubt.
Since the Flower Festival, the understanding of the citizens towards Mabel and Eugene is slowly changing. However, there are still nobles who avoid Eugene’s presence, and Mabel continues to struggle desperately, not giving in to their criticism and sarcasm.
“Now that Mabel has become your official fiancée, the two of you will be much more exposed to public scrutiny than before. Among that, there may be moments where you will be looked at with even more curiosity and strangeness.”
“Nevertheless, she will surely continue to hold your hand. As long as you don’t let go, Mabel will never give up standing by your side. Please, remember that.”
It was Gertrude’s heartfelt wish as an older sister. Eugene, upon receiving those words, slightly curved his lips.
“That’s good to hear.”
Playing with the empty glass in her hand, Gertrude also smiled mischievously.
“Of course, I will wholeheartedly support the path you two choose. I want her to be happy, you know.”
“It’s good to have a strong ally.”
“Think of it as gaining another annoying sister-in-law.”
At Gertrude’s joking words, Eugene also smiled as if he was influenced. Soon, the third glass of alcohol was poured into their empty glasses.
“Now that it’s settled, we need to have a frank conversation, dear brother-in-law.”
“I’ve been thinking since earlier, but is this alcohol safe? It feels quite strong.”
“Oh, yes. If an ordinary person drinks half a glass, they would collapse. Oh my, mages are truly powerful!”
Seeing his sister-in-law’s slightly flushed cheeks, Eugene clearly showed on his face that he thought, “This is going to be troublesome.”
A few moments later when Mabel returned, her mouth hung open in surprise.
“I can’t believe it! Onee-sama, drunk like this…”
Gertrude, who had the bad habit of offering alcohol to various guests and knocking them down one after another, had collapsed on the sofa before the new year. Her fiancé was by her side, taking care of her and saying, “Oh my, oh my.”
Mabel, who witnessed that scene, also looked up at Eugene, who stood next to her with fear and hesitation.
“Eugene, um, are you okay?”
“Well, um, as long as you’re safe. . .”
Eugene stood there, hiding his expression behind the mask, appearing as usual. Relieved, Mabel took his arm. But the moment she took a step forward, Eugene’s body swayed.
” I’m fine. There’s nothing… wrong.”
“You’re clearly drunk!”
Without time to worry about the concerned and curious gazes around them, Mabel supported the swaying Eugene and moved towards an empty area. The hall was still filled with heat, so she brought him to the balcony, hoping it would be a little more comfortable.
They opened the large window and stepped outside.
As they entered, exhaling white breaths in the cold air, they found themselves in the very place where they had exchanged a kiss last year. Mabel felt a little embarrassed, but she leaned Eugene’s body against the railing.
Eventually, Eugene raised his head with a groan.
“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
“Don’t push yourself. It’s amazing that you didn’t lose to Gertrude-oneesama.”
Seeing Mabel teasingly smile, Eugene also raised the corners of his mouth. Perhaps because the enclosed heat was making him uncomfortable, he confirmed that there was no one around and removed the mask from his face.
From beneath his black hair, his shining golden eyes peeked out, revealing an otherworldly beauty. However, his cheeks were redder than usual, and Mabel lowered her eyes in surprise at the rare sight.
“I’m sorry for being late. My third sister was being uncooperative.”
“Oh, it’s not that I don’t like it when she’s nitpicky while choosing various things, It’s just that because of that, I left Eugene behind.”
“It’s not a big deal. Don’t worry about it.”
As Eugene gave a curt response, Mabel narrowed her eyes again. She rested her head on his shoulder and whispered in a softer voice than before.
“Thank you for coming today.”
“I knew Eugene doesn’t like these kinds of gatherings. But, you came here, and we were able to talk with Onee-sama…I’m really happy.”
A pleasant silence flowed between the two.
Soon, small snowflakes began to fall from the sky.
“Wow, it’s snowing!”
From the starry sky, as if fragments of stars were falling, Mabel’s eyes sparkled with excitement. But the next moment, she let out a cute sneeze.
She hadn’t noticed it while indoors, but her bare shoulders were quite exposed to the cold. Though she wanted to spend a little more time alone with Eugene, there was no helping it. Mabel looked up at him.
“If we stay like this, we’ll get cold. It’s about time we go inside―”
Then, something soft gently enveloped Mabel’s shoulders. It was fluffy, pure white wings―and their owner, Eugene, was calmly gazing at the town below.
“Just a little longer.”
“Just a little longer, stay here.”
Though Eugene’s gaze didn’t meet hers, Mabel happily smiled and said, “Okay!”
“These wings are warm.”
“It’s the first time I’ve touched them.”
“It’s the first time someone has touched them, for me too.”
“Is that so?”
Hehe, a laugh escaped from both of them unintentionally. Their breaths mixed within the wings, and the cold from earlier disappeared as if it were an illusion. Mabel, wrapped in that warmth, gently leaned against Eugene.
Before long, as if on cue, the pure sound of a chaste bell echoed from the center of the capital. The sacred melody, as if purifying the town, swept over the houses and people like ripples.
The long year came to an end and the sound of a new time echoed.
Eugene, who was beside her, suddenly looked down at her. Mabel raised her face, wondering what was going on. Then, Eugene gently placed his hand on her chin with practiced ease and tilted her face upwards.
And then―as if to hide it with his large white wings, he gently kissed her.
Surprised by the sudden action, Mabel quickly closed her eyes and accepted his affection. Meanwhile, the twelve bells continued to ring at regular intervals, and just as the final melodious note was fading away, Eugene finally pulled away.
“We’re in the same place as last year.”
“Last year, it was here, right?”
He remembered?! Mabel blushed belatedly. But Eugene, too, seemed satisfied, as if last year’s encounter had been unsatisfying. He smiled contentedly.
“I won’t be leaving early this year; so rest assured.”
“Eugene. . .”
Unable to contain her emotions, Mabel clung to Eugene. She pressed her body in indescribable affection against his chest and glanced up at him for just a moment.
“Eugene. I’ll do my best.”
“Do your best?”
“Well, with various things! So… let’s be together again next year.”
Mabel, pumping herself up, was silently observed by Eugene for a while. But soon, he pulled her slender shoulders closer and enclosed her within his majestic white wings.
“Next year, and every year from now on. I will always be by your side.”
“A promise, right?”
Eugene’s pinky intertwined with the pinky Mabel offered. Wrapped in warmth as their body temperatures mingled, the two quietly laughed within the wings.
And so, the new year began peacefully.
The path ahead for the two of them would certainly not be easy.
But the future that awaited them―would surely be warm and filled with happiness.