The tension only seemed to rise with each passing minute. But, the amiable smiles and light laughter never ceased.
In one corner of the square, the Sidebryht and Norville families sat together, chatting leisurely.
Zaltarish was partially annoyed the Mithrandir seemed to be ignoring him. His feeble attempts at conversation continued to fall flat and it was beginning to agitate him.
And it only made it worse that Mithrandir was dressed particularly well tonight. Despite the provocative wear she usually had on, and the similarly revealing clothing her mother was currently wearing, Mithrandir had chosen to dress more conservatively tonight. Yet, Zaltarish couldn't find himself feeling sad about that, in fact, he very much liked this version of Mithrandir.
Although he was fully aware of the desire paths of cultivation the Norville family practiced, Zaltarish wished for nothing more than for Mithrandir to solely belong to him.
Not only was she a genius he believed matched up to himself, she also usually had a playful attitude that he was drawn to. However, it seemed that immature attitude had disappeared ever since the day of the assessments… which only made Zaltarish's anger burn more furiously every time the face of that human boy popped up into his mind.
But, to Zaltarish, Mithrandir was worth being with still… he had already fallen for her and such a small change was already something he glossed over completely. However, Mithrandir seemed to have no interest in him…
Zaltarish was prideful. He didn't want the only reason for Mithrandir being with him to stem from a forced marriage. He wanted her to choose him because he was the best… because no other man could provide what he could…
However, despite his best efforts, Mithrandir's attention seemed focused on something else. And when Zaltarish followed her gaze, he only could only sigh.
Mithrandir's red eyes were trained on the Aedre family as though she was missing something.
Noticing this, Zaltarish finally said something that made Mithrandir's eyes light up, "do you want to go and speak with Primrose? I can bring you there… I know she's your best friend," Zaltarish sighed again, "I hope my father's plans don't strain your relationship too much… I also hope you understand that we're doing this for the betterment of the kingdom.
In my father's youth, he didn't lose out in talent to King Acacia… and yet he lost his right to rule due to weak traditions. He was forced to toil away and erode his potential just for the sake of this kingdom… And when he realized he wouldn't be able to single-handedly change the fate of our race himself, he stopped suppressing his potential and came back to help raise up the Elvin Kingdom and support the King.
Before the king's disappearance… my father made no moves against him. He had no schemes. And no ambition. His only goal was to help the Elvin race as he had always wanted to…
And yet, that ungrateful King went as disappeared.
A useless tradition came back to bite us and here we are now… a broken kingdom… buried on the rankings… with little to no hope for the future," Zaltarish's eyes shined with a passionate fervor as he narrated the story of his father's life.
Mithrandir had lost her faraway gaze… and was seemingly looking at Zaltarish with interest as he continued.
"My father hasn't always been hard on me… In the beginning, he treated us all as a great father would. He was caring and nurturing… he guided my cultivation despite having so many responsibilities as the head of a major clan… but, that all changed.
I want nothing more than to succeed where my father failed. I want to see the Elvin Kingdom rise up… I don't want us to have to rely on some ridiculous True Empath who can't even put his own kingdom first.
The one who rules should be the most qualified… not the one who lucks into the position."
Mithrandir was silent for a long while as she watched Zaltarish grip his drink tightly.
Suddenly, she spoke softly for the first time that night, "if you showed me this side of you from the beginning… maybe it wouldn't have taken me so long to accept you…"
Zaltarish's head snapped in Mithrandir's direction, but she was already no longer looking at him.
But, the faint light of hope had taken root in his heart… so, he smiled faintly, now fully prepared to take on the challenges that lay ahead.
And that smile only got brighter when Mithrandir took the initiative to speak with him, "also… you don't have to bring me over… I don't think Primrose came today…"
In another corner of the square, Uncle Acacia sat burying a deep rage in his heart.
He had learned a few weeks ago of the death of the princess… and it was clear why someone wouldn't take the death of their niece too well.
Many looked at him with pity, especially since he sat amongst the members of the broken alliance.
Suddenly, Jade took the initiative to go and speak to him.
She wore her usual pure white dress. Her long silver hair flowed with the wind, and her purple-blue eyes looked like they would be better matched with the sky as moons of their own as opposed to the eyes of a mere elf.
Bowing respectfully, Jade's voice was soft, "I'm sorry for your loss, Headmaster Acacia… But, I'm sure that Dyon is innocent… I hope you don't blame him… the fact he isn't here could only mean something terrible has happened to him too…"
Tears threatened to spill from Jade's eyes, but, she felt like this was something she had to say.
Headmaster Acacia was snapped out of his thoughts to find a pitiful looking girl standing to his side. He could only laugh bitterly, 'just how many young women of our race do you plan on taking…'
Headmaster Acacia sighed, "I know little one… there's no need to apologize… I've been prepared for the worst-case scenario for a long time now…"
Jade nodded, "I hope to one day be as strong as you are…" she said faintly, turning to walk away.