Chapter 41 - Candidates

"Milady, uhm… would you like to eat in the terrace again? Something important came up suddenly so His Highness cannot join you." Elias was hesitant in his suggestion, sounding apologetic as he explained the dining arrangement to Evie.

Evie who was about to take her seat halted but she forced a smile on her face to assure the butler. "It's alright, Elias. There is no need to transfer places. I am fine with dining right here. It's not like this is the first time I'm going to eat alone," she replied when someone's voice echoed, pulling their attentions.

"Would you mind if I join you, Lady Evielyn?" Evie whipped her head towards the source of the voice, and an elegant grey-haired lady was smiling, approaching her. This was the first time Evie saw a grey-haired vampire.

They said that the major indicator that a vampire was old and ancient was their grey hair. The woman walking towards her was still very beautiful and elegant, exuding a regal aura of probably a queen dowager. Could it be that she's the mother of the late empress?

"Duchess Aurora," Elias greeted the woman and gave a deep bow to her. Evie followed Elias' actions and immediately did the same. She had yet to meet anyone other than Gavriel and his men in this castle – not even the Duke and Duchess – so having the duchess suddenly approaching her totally caught her off guard. Was it alright for her to interact or stay close to her?

"Duchess, it's a pleasure to meet you," Evie greeted and the Duchess' smile widened. "I thank you for gracing me with your presence at this meal. I'm sure it must have been hard for an important figure like yourself to put aside some time to deliberately come all the way here to accompany me." Evie remembered to be polite and gracious in speech as was expected of a noble lady.

"The pleasure is all mine, Your Highness. I have been wanting to meet with Prince Gavriel's wife ever since I've heard of you." She replied and the two ladies finally settled and sat across each other. After exchanging pleasantries, the servants laid out the dishes and both ladies started on their meal.

"I hope you have been enjoying your stay here, Lady Evielyn."

"Yes. Though Dacria is very different from my home city, I find this place really fascinating." Evie said. For some reason, she felt at ease with her, just like how she felt towards Elias when she first met him. They were both unintimidating. Was it because of their soft eyes and warm smiles? "This city is definitely a magnificent place. I am exceptionally in awe of the snow and how beautifully it enhances the scenery here. We never get it looking this way back where I came from."

"I am pleased to know that, Your Highness. If you feel bored, feel free to visit me, alright? I can be your company if you ever choose to have a spin and go sight-seeing around the city."

"Thank you so much for the offer. I'll definitely seek you out when the time comes when I'd like a tour of the city."

"It would be great if the prince would be the one to accompany you… but I'm afraid he's currently too occupied with state matters right now." The Duchess sounded a little apologetic and gave a gentle smile.

"Yes... he is…" Evie just smiled in return and gave an elegant shrug of her shoulders.

After their dinner, Evie and the duchess were still chatting as they left the dining hall and had just stepped into the massive living hall when they saw a number of ladies ascending the grand staircase heading towards the castles' ballroom.

With just one glance, Evie could tell that they were all gorgeous specimens of females – almost flawless. It was obvious they were probably the daughters of the nobles in this Dukedom. But why were they here? Did the duchess host a tea party? Evie doubted it as from what she observed, those beautiful ladies looked as young as her.

"Oh, they're finally here." The Duchess sounded pleased as she looked at the ladies with seemingly scrutinizing eyes.

"Who… who are they?" Evie asked curiously and hesitantly.

The grey-haired vampiress glanced at her while Evie still had her eyes firmly fixed on the bevy of fine-looking ladies. The Duchess regarded Evie with an observant gaze as she spoke.

"They are the daughters of the nobles, Your Highness." Duchess Aurora said, not taking her eyes off Evie's face.

"Why are they here?" Evie finally meet her gaze. "Is there an event happening currently?" she continued asking and the Duchess was silent for a moment. Seemingly weighing something in her mind before she answered.

"They were invited to enter into the castle as the candidates for His Highness' concubines."

It took a couple of seconds for Evie to register those words that the duchess had uttered. Her mind could not quite accept what she had just heard. Evie ended up standing there, frozen, as the duchess scrutinized her reaction.

Even though Duchess Aurora had yet to meet her husband due to the current situation, she had already heard about this. And this was why she sought to meet the Princess. Of course, she already knew about the deal of Gavriel's marriage to this human princess. And Duchess Aurora was actually disheartened when she heard about the deal that Gavriel was not even allowed to touch his own wife.

The duchess found it ridiculous, that a husband was not allowed to touch his own wife. So even though she does not approve with the idea of a married man having mistresses, Aurora could only support it in this particular case. She would definitely support the wife over any mistresses, because as a wife, she despised mistresses. However, how could she support a wife who denies her husband the right to touch her? Especially when she knows that her husband was in a dire situation and desperately needed an heir to secure his bloodline.

"I am glad Prince Gavriel finally agreed." The duchess continued, still watching Evie's face intently.

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