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    Chapter 121: New Year’s Party

    Ian slid his hands all the way into the leather gloves, accepting Minnie’s help. Minnie was slicking back every strand of Ian’s hair perfectly. Ian attached the tassel that came with the uniform to his chest and glanced back.

    “Ahaha. Don’t I look totally good?”

    “Yeah. I guess that’s why they say clothes are wings.”

    “Even Sir Romandro looks better than usual.”

    “Hey? When you get a compliment, you should return it in full, why are you only giving me half?”

    Beric also tied up his usually disheveled hair neatly and buttoned up his collar. The old scabbard hanging from his waist looked out of place, but it didn’t matter since they had to leave all their weapons at the entrance of the hall anyway. With even Romandro dressed properly, it really felt real.

    ‘Today is really the day.’

    Minnie turned around, seemingly finished, and smiled broadly. Lady Viviana, who had been fussing around next to her, also nodded her head in satisfaction.

    “My, you look so splendid.”

    “You’re exaggerating, Madam.”

    “I’m being sincere. You’ll probably be the most dazzling one at the hall. I heard that the son of Marquis Ralton is also handsome, but he can’t compare. Oh my.”

    Viviana smiled, admiring Ian’s upright posture as if he were her own nephew. Beric suddenly poked his head in and asked.

    “Lady Vivian! What about me?”

    “Oh, and Sir Beric too. You look very handsome.”

    “Oh. Those words have no soul……”

    “Come on. Let’s stop now and hurry up and leave. There will be a line of carriages going into the palace. It’s going to be more crowded than usual, so it’s better to go early. Besides, isn’t Ian the main character of the New Year’s party? There will be a lot of things to be instructed on once you get there.”

    Romandro waved his hands, separating Beric and Viviana. Hasha, who was lying on the sofa, laughed sloppily.

    —Have a safe trip.

    “Yeah. I’ll be late, so you rest too, Hasha. Beric! Let’s go. Walk with a straight posture so your clothes don’t wrinkle.”

    The three men got into the carriage, seeing off Viviana and Mini. Unlike usual, the inside of the carriage even seemed to smell fragrant.

    Creak!

    “I’ll be back!”

    “Viviana, I’ll be back.”

    “Be careful and come back safely. Sir Ian. Congratulations again.”

    Neigh!

    As Ian waved his hand lightly, the carriage set off. There seemed to be more luxurious carriages on the road to the palace than usual. Beric stuck his face to the window and his eyes sparkled as he saw the palace for the first time.

    “This is crazy.”

    “You’re going to lose your saliva, Beric.”

    The carriages running alongside them all waved the flags with the seals of their respective families. It was the majestic aura of the nobles, who were proud of nothing more than who they were and where they came from.

    Clatter clatter!

    But Ian was the special protagonist of the New Year’s party. While the other nobles followed the procedures for entering the palace one by one, Ian’s carriage followed the guidance of the palace staff and turned into a side road, heading straight for the main hall of the 1st Imperial Palace.

    Creak.

    “Welcome. Lord Ian. Sir Romandro. I am Carl, the official in charge of the title appointment ceremony for the New Year’s Party.”

    As they got out of the carriage, the palace official greeted Ian with a respectful bow.

    Shouldn’t the protagonist always appear last? The plan was to wait in a separate room inside the main hall and make a grand entrance when the atmosphere was ripe.

    “There seem to be more carriages than I thought.”

    “It seems that there are many nobles who are looking forward to this New Year’s party.”

    The fact that a commoner from the borderlands was not only a magic user but also caught the eye of Mariv and immediately became the lord of a family was enough to make everyone want to ‘see’ Ian and hasten their steps.

    “As I’m sure Sir Romandro has already told you, I will say it again. When the New Year’s party begins, the light of the oracle will be lit. At that time, please enter, wait for a moment, receive the title and family name, and then proceed with the magic verification ceremony.”

    The instructions were simple. Simple, but the key was whether he could get along well with the nobles during the breaks in between. In a way, wasn’t that the most important time at the New Year’s party?

    Unlike Romandro, who seemed to be nervous, Ian sat down on the sofa and relaxed his shoulders.

    “Do you also verify magic with the light of the oracle?”

    “Yes.”

    It was a grandiose name, but in fact it was just a magic illusion made for decoration. It reacted like waves according to the strength of the magic user, but its characteristic was that it spread gorgeously in a performance-like manner to raise the status of the Ministry of Magic.

    In a word, it was an event meant to be shown.

    ‘Hmm. If you think you’re going to be embarrassed, that’s probably the time to do it. They’ll probably make sure it doesn’t react to any magic.’

    If the light spread out magnificently in response to the magic, it would be able to capture the atmosphere, but on the other hand, if it flowed quietly and indistinctly, there would be nothing as funny as that.

    “Ian. Can you do it?”

    “You don’t have to worry about etiquette.”

    “I’m not the one who’s going out there, so why is my heart beating so fast? Oh my. Really.”

    Romandro bit his nails and shook his body. Beric, on the other hand, just looked around as if everything was new. The official, who seemed to be an odd combination, just watched them from a distance.

    Knock knock.

    How much time had passed?

    When it seemed like the sun was slowly setting, a noise was heard from outside. It meant it was the best time to make an appearance. The counselor opened the door respectfully and guided Ian.

    “Come this way.”

    “Beric. You follow Sir Romandro.”

    Beric smiled, raising his thumb as if to tell him to trust him. It was his usual playful smile. As they walked down the long hallway, the murmur seemed to grow louder. Far away, below the central staircase, a line of carriages could be seen.

    “This way. You will enter now.”

    Phew.”

    It was Romandro who exhaled. Ian nodded, adjusting his collar. The servants opened the huge doors on either side.

    Creak.

    “Oh, hello. Madam.”

    “It’s the first time since the tea party last week.”

    “Oh. You are Lady Charlotte.”

    “It’s an honor to meet you.”

    “I heard you recently returned from the military.”

    “The lady’s dress is truly beautiful today.”

    The gap gradually opened. The conversations of the nobles leaked through the cracks.

    In contrast to the dim lighting of the hallway, the inside of the main hall was bright and splendid like daylight. Hundreds of fairies raised by magic floated in the sky, providing a spectacle, and the perfect and melancholy melody of the orchestra seemed to fill everything flawlessly.

    Clash.

    The moment Ian stepped into the banquet hall.

    The nobles who were closest stopped their conversation and turned their heads. The eyes of the ladies who covered their faces with fans widened, and the men moved their jaws slightly, saying, “Look at that.” Like falling dominoes, the strange atmosphere of the banquet hall spread out with Ian at the center.

    “Beric. This way.”

    “What? Already?”

    As soon as they entered, Romandro slipped away to the side with Beric. Romandro was just an ordinary counselor here. He was not in a position to introduce the nobles to Ian.

    “Look at that. That’s him.”

    “Oh. The illegitimate son of Count Bratz?”

    “Oh my. He’s younger than I thought.”

    Ian stood alone on the red velvet carpet and looked over the nobles. He stood still, his gaze moving slowly and leisurely.

    “That’s right. How dare a child… I’m scared of my father… Really. And they say he’s close to the borderlands barbarians, so you can tell one by looking at ten.”

    “Sister. Isn’t he a little too much?”

    “Are you crazy? Come to your senses. He’s a commoner.”

    “But he’s a magic user? And yet how did he get Mariv’s favor……”

    They were not subtle, but rather harsh. They didn’t hide their condescending eyes, as if a strange spectacle had appeared. Romandro, who had turned to a corner, saw this and bit his lower lip.

    ‘I knew it would be like this, but it’s even worse when I see it with my own eyes.’

    How could he break the momentum of the vested interests alone? All Romandro could do was wish that His Majesty the Emperor would appear and introduce Ian as the protagonist.

    Swish.

    But at that moment.

    Ian raised his chin and smiled. It was an elegant and confident smile, as if he was born with it.

    —’Smile, Your Majesty.’

    Along with the words of encouragement, Ian recalled the first banquet he attended as Emperor.

    It wasn’t much different then. Compared to the snake-like people who were trying to devour the young Emperor, this situation could be considered quite mild.

    —’Your inner strength is tremendous, and it will be conveyed to others without you having to say anything. Think of yourself as the center. Then others will come to you as the center.’

    Ian started walking on the carpet. His straight back, soft jawline, and leisurely gaze were not something that could be considered a commoner from borderlands.

    —’And always smile. When Your Majesty smiles, the world smiles. But when Your Majesty cries, the world will laugh even louder.’

    Swish.

    Ian’s eyes met head-on with a nobleman who was stepping on the carpet. He was blocking the path Ian was supposed to take. When Ian smiled silently, the man was embarrassed and took a step back.

    “Oh, my. I apologize.”

    “No. Are you by any chance the eldest son of the Seruo family?”

    Ian glanced at the seal on his chest and spoke. It was a subtle jab, but it was a familiar pattern that he had seen 100 years ago. The embarrassed man nodded his head involuntarily and said his name.

    “My name is Marlon Hope Seruo.”

    “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Ian. Since I’m receiving my family name today, it’s a shame that the name I can tell you is short.”

    “Ah. Yes. That’s right. You’re Ian.”

    “Hello. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it? I’m Alena Seruo.”

    At that moment, the woman next to him introduced herself. It was a very brief moment, but the woman’s gaze swept up and down Ian.

    Ian greeted her with a smile as well. Although they were not influential people, they were not bad as first-time conversation partners. Ian knew well that approaching his peers first, rather than the older nobles who were stiff and old, was one way to break the ice.

    “I heard you’re a magic user.”

    “Yes. I’m receiving my title today, and then I’ll have a magic verification ceremony.”

    “Then would you shake my hand? They say it’s good luck to meet a magic user. Before you get the title of magician, that is.”

    “Of course, Lady.”

    “Oh, me too……”

    Ian successfully managed to infiltrate their midst. In addition to the people of the Seruo family who were chatting noisily, other groups were also listening in on their conversation.

    “Seruo, why don’t you introduce us too?”

    “Ah. This person is from the Hayman family……”

    “Hello, it’s been a while. This is Ian?”

    As a few curious and sociable nobles approached, the atmosphere quickly reversed. It was a reaction that was difficult to start, but once it got going, it progressed very naturally.

    Boooooom.

    While Ian was chatting with the nobles, a heavy trumpet sounded and the orchestra stopped playing. At the same time, the women held up the hems of their dresses and bowed slightly, while the men put their hands on their chests and lowered their heads.

    Ian did the same.

    ‘It’s the Emperor’s entrance.’

    “His Majesty the Emperor enters! Everyone, pay your respects!”

    Ian focused his senses on the sound of footsteps entering the banquet hall and ascending the platform.

    ‘Emperor, who are you?’

    If he only saw his face, and if his vague memories became clear, Ian would be able to remember the next emperor as well.

    One by one, the nobles raised their heads, greeting him.

    “Ah.”

    The moment he raised his head, Ian stopped and let out a small gasp.

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