"YOUR MAJESTY, Duke Sloane has arrived and he's requesting for your audience."
Nikolai stopped writing on his paper work to look up at Count Kyle Sprouse– his personal aide.
Kyle was a tall, lanky man with blonde hair, green eyes, and huge eyebags. His white complexion didn't look normal anymore. It looked like he turned pale due to exhaustion. Still, despite his obvious haggardness, he was still dressed sharply.
[All nobles are careful when it comes to taking care of their image after all.]
"You're only a few years older than me but it looks like you've aged so much since the last time that I saw you," Nikolai commented while leaning against his chair. "What happened to you, Kyle?"
Kyle rolled his eyes at him, finally dropping the formalities. "Whose fault do you think it is that I've aged this much, Your Majesty? I just arrived at the Royal Capital last night when Glenn informed me that you went to the Astello Temple with Her Royal Highness. You didn't even bring Glenn with you."
The count was one of the few people who knew the royal secret…
… and one of the selected few that he allowed to talk to him that way.
"I had to stay up all night and use my Mana to make sure that no one will notice that you've opened the portal, Your Majesty," Kyle continued in an exhausted voice. "And I had to do all of that when I've just returned to the palace after a long mission."
"Are you complaining?"
"I am," he said with a firm nod. "I don't get paid enough to deal with your recklessness, Your Majesty."
"Too bad you can't quit," he said with a smirk. "You know way too many secrets about the royal family that I can't let you go alive."
"Whether I stay with you or not, I'm pretty sure I'll die early anyway. I'd rather die rich though so I'm sticking with you," the count deadpanned. Then, he must have realized that he was being too casual so he added: "Your Majesty."
He just smirked before he changed the subject. "Why is Duke Sloane here when he didn't make an appointment with me?"
The aide let out a deep sigh. "You know how unpredictable Duke Sloane is, Your Majesty," he said while shaking his head. "And it's not like we can simply ask him to leave. After all, he's still the brother of the late empress."
"The late empress is long gone so Duke Sloane should stop acting like he's still a part of the royal family," he said, then he stood up. "Tell the duke that I have an important matter to attend to so he should just come back another time."
"Your Majesty, you already finished all the important matters that needed your attention," Kyle said, obviously nervous about what he planned to do this time. "Where are you going?"
"To the royal princess's tea party," Nikolai said while reaching for his jacket draped at the back of the chair. If his reason for not seeing Duke Sloane was "Prince Nero," then the duke couldn't complain. Plus, he had an excuse to see the royal princess anyway. "She's expecting a gift and what else could be more precious than my existence?"
HAVE you ordered an item in an online shop and waited for it excitedly? But when your item finally arrived, you realized that the product was very different from the photo posted by the seller. You felt scammed, didn't you?
Well, that was exactly how Neoma felt at the very moment that Emperor Nikolai arrived at her tea party. She was expecting a gift– not a trash.
That was definitely an "expectation vs. reality" moment.
[Can I ship him back to the hell he came from?]
Despite Neoma's inner feelings, she still had to stand up and smile to greet the sc*mbag.
Count Thompson, Marquis Alberts, Byron, and Harry all stood up and bowed while greeting the emperor. "Greetings to the one and only moon of the Great Moonasterion Empire."
"Welcome to my tea party, Papa," Neoma greeted the emperor with a big, business smile. As long as they weren't in a formal setting (like a meeting), she was allowed to call the sc*mbag casually. "Let me tell my servants to bring you a chair."
"No need for that, Nero. I won't stay long anyway," Emperor Nikolai said in his usual indifferent tone. Then, he turned to the entrance of the garden. "Bring them in."
Much to her shock, several male attendants of the emperor came in holding big boxes wrapped elegantly. The one leading the attendants was a tall and lanky blonde that looked like he hadn't gotten a proper sleep for the past century.
[Wait, he looks familiar.]
She had seen those eyebags in her first life. If she wasn't mistaken, the sleep-deprived noble was Count Kyle Sprouse– the emperor's personal aide. As far as she remembered, the count was also one of her father's childhood friends.
"For the royal prince's new friends, I prepared all the best study tools and new equipments for swordsmanship," the emperor said.
Byron and Harry looked too shocked to react. But when Marquis Alberts cleared his throat, the kids bowed right away and spoke at the same time. "Our utmost gratitude, Your Majesty."
The emperor just nodded. Then, he turned to the old nobles. "For Marquis Alberts and Count Thompson, I'm giving you the advance copies of all the books that the scholars of the empire will release this year. They will be available at the end of the year but as a token of gratitude for looking after the royal prince, you'll be one of the few people to get their hands on the books first."
Marquis Alberts and Count Thompson both looked delighted by the emperor's presents. Then, they bowed deeply. "Thank you for the honor, Your Majesty."
Emperor Nikolai just nodded again, then he turned to her. "Of course, I also prepared a present for the royal prince's tea party," he said with a smirk, then he turned to Count Sprouse. "Count Sprouse, show it to the prince."
Count Sprouse bowed to the emperor before he opened the elegant rectangular box in his hands. Inside it was a beautiful golden key. "Your Royal Highness, this is the key of the new library that His Majesty built for you."
Her eyes widened in shock. "A new library?"
Okay, she was shocked.
The Blanco Palace had already a library. Why did the emperor give her another one?
"I turned the Sapphire Palace into a new library and study hall for you, Nero," Emperor Nikolai said. The Sapphire Palace that he mentioned was the smallest palace in the estate. It used to be a ballroom, but it had been ages since the emperor threw a party. "Now, you have a place that you can use for the Book Reading Club that you mentioned to me before."
Neoma's smile froze. She didn't remember mentioning a Book Reading Club to him before. Or was it originally Nero's idea? Well, whatever it was, she had to play along. "Thank you, Papa. I can't wait to open my Book Reading Club."
The emperor smirked. "You can invite your other friends to join the club if you want. It will be lonely if the only members of the club are you and Lewis."
She almost raised a brow at that.
[The sc*mbag finally called Lewis by his name and not "foxy boy."]
"Pardon me, Your Majesty," Marquis Alberts said in a somewhat confused voice. "But how can a commoner join an exclusive club organized by the royal prince himself?"
"Lewis will no longer be a commoner soon," Emperor Nikolai said in a firm, clear, and commanding tone that befitted his position. "Under my order, the Silver Fox Clan will be recognized as part of the nobility again. Once the law is passed, Lewis will be given the title of a knight. He'll be known as Sir Lewis of the Silver Fox Clan by then."
Okay, Neoma was impressed.
Wasn't it just last night when she demanded her father for Lewis's freedom? And now, the emperor already thought of a way to make her butler a noble.
Technically speaking, knights were a part of the nobility and not the peasantry. But they still sat pretty low compared to other nobles that belonged to the higher society. She wasn't complaining though. As long as Lewis's lineage would be accepted as part of the nobility, her butler would be treated better than how he was being treated like a commoner now.
[But this sc*mbag should have at least given me a heads-up.]
NEOMA couldn't believe that she got what she wanted.
While lying on her bed, she replayed the events that took place a while ago.
After Emperor Nikolai left her tea party, Marquis Alberts suddenly changed his attitude towards Lewis. He agreed to let her butler join the study group with Byron and Harry. The marquis said that she didn't have to pay for Lewis's education, but she insisted that her palace would fund it.
In exchange of allowing Lewis to join the group faction, she invited Byron and Harry to join her Book Reading Club.
[Should I teach those brats the joy of reading comics?]
Well, that would be hard because as far as she knew, there were no available comics in the empire yet.
Her thoughts were cut-off when her stomach growled.
[Gosh, I'm hungry again.]
She rolled on the bed until she was lying down on her side ala-Cleopatra. Then, she turned to Lewis who stood stiffly beside her bed. The knights and maids in-charge of her well-being were all waiting outside her door. "Lewis, is it time for dinner yet?"
Since she didn't have any schedule left for today, she was just waiting to eat again. She was living the piglet life right now and she was loving it.
[I'll just ask the emperor about the library and the Book Reading Club tomorrow.]
"Dinner. No," Lewis said while shaking his head. "Princess. Just eat."
"I know, right?" she agreed with a sigh. "I just had an afternoon tea a while ago and I'm already hungry again. I'm such a pig, am I not?"
"Princess pretty pig."
She laughed at his compliment. Lewis, as her butler, kept spoiling her. Anyway, she got serious again when she remembered something. "Lewis, I'm sorry. I didn't know that my father has a plan to "resurrect" your clan as part of the nobility. Are you upset that we're making decisions for you and your clan?"
He shook his head. "Me alone. No clan. Me don't care."
Aww, that made her feel sad for him.
She was about to comfort him when all of a sudden, the pocket watch on her side table vibrated. Knowing that it was Nero, she got up and picked up the call by opening the lid of the pocket watch.
As soon as she did, Nero's smiling face greeted him.
"Hello, Big Brother," Neoma greeted him brightly. "How are you?"
Nero's smile got bigger. "I miss you, Neoma…" His voice trailed-off and she noticed that his gaze when past her. "Who is that boy behind you?"
She turned to Lewis before she faced her brother on the "screen" again. "Oh, it's Lewis. He's my butler-slash-knight that I mentioned to you before, Big Brother."
"Ah, I see," her twin brother said with a big and (kind of overly) sweet smile on his face. "Lewis is quite handsome, isn't he?"
She nodded in agreement. "His face is a national treasure, Big Brother."
"Yes, and a boy with that kind of face is in your room, Neoma," Nero said. He was still smiling but for some reason, she was getting a creepy vibe from her twin brother. "How cute."
That sarcastic remark sent chills down her spine.
Neoma, out of instinct, closed the lid of the pocket watch– effectively cutting off the call. She felt horrified when she realized what she just did. "Did I just hang up on Nero?"
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