As they walked through the hallway, Bin in Alexcent’s arms, everyone couldn’t help but stare. They whispered to each other about the Duke Skad and his little mini-me.
“He’s already so handsome,” someone had whispered.
“They’re practically identical!” another said. “Their hair and eyes are exactly the same.”
Someone chimed in, “Do you think they have the same personality?”
People shook their heads. “Probably not,” someone said. “Anyway, he’s going to congress already. They’re already preparing him to be a successor!”
“Gosh,” another person murmured. “He must be really talented.”
“Well, what else should we expect? He is a Skad.”
Alexcent paid no mind to what everyone else was saying, he simply flipped through all the proposals that were given to him. Even so, everyone was enthralled by Bin.
“We need to develop the drainage basin!” a subordinate said. “They’re going to ruin the Empire’s economy.”
“No,” Bin mumbled.
Alexcent looked at his son and leaned down. “You don’t like this?”
Bin tapped on the proposal Alexcent was holding and nodded. “I don’t like it.”
Alexcent looked back up and smiled, throwing the document to the side. “Rejected.”
The subordinate shook his head. “My Lord!” he exclaimed. “The drainage development is for droughts and floods. You can’t just reject it.”
Alexcent’s eyes narrowed. He hummed. “Then why is it in the 4 River?”
“Pardon?” the subordinate gulped.
“You say it’s to prepare for drought and flood,” Alexcent scowled. “But actually you just want your areas to be bought by the Empire and have them be developed.”
The subordinate’s eyes grew wide. “No, that’s not it!” he fumbled through his words.
“It’s a waste of money,” Alexcent said. “Also, without proper investigation, it’s at risk of shoddy construction.”
“Then we’ll improve the plans,” the subordinate said.
“Because Bin said no.”
“Pardon me?” the subordinate exclaimed. Before he could even argue, he was escorted away as the next proposal was presented.
This time, Bin clapped and nodded.
“Approved,” Alexcent said, taking note of the proposal.
Bin lit up and his father couldn’t help but mirror his joy.
The subordinate from earlier tried to argue his point once more, but Alexcent just shot him down with a look. The proposals were up to Bin. Yes or no. Just one word and it would be decided.
“My Lord,” Karune, the Empress’s secretary, stood in front of Alexcent and bowed.
He nodded. “It’s been a while, Kal.”
“Yes,” Karune said. “The empress is looking for you.”
“Well, the young master to be precise.”
Bin looked up at Karune from his father’s arms. Belice had heard all the rumors about the father and son.
“How is she feeling?” Alexcent asked as he held Bin close and followed as Karune led the way.
“Better,” Karune said. “But she still has trouble moving.”
When they arrived at the palace drawing room, Belice was there along with Duke Roden. Karune made his leave as they exchanged pleasantries.
“Greetings, Your Majesty,” Alexcent nodded.
Belice smiled. “Welcome, Sir Skad.”
As Belice tried to get up, both Duke Roden and Alexcent jumped up in panic. “Your Majesty, don’t move!” Alexcent exclaimed.
“My goodness,” Belice laughed. “You would think I’m dying.”
“How’s your morning sickness?” Alexcent asked, worry written across his face.
“Better,” Belice said.
“She can barely finish a bowl of clear soup,” Duke Roden said.
Belice let out an awkward laugh.
“We must change your chef then,” Alexcent frowned. “You have to eat. You’re getting thinner and thinner every day.”
“Oh, the chef did nothing wrong,” Belice told him. “Don’t do that.”
“That might be a good idea, Sir Skad,” Duke Roden said, ignoring the Empress’s protests.
“Not you too, Michen!” she exclaimed. She gave the duke a pointed look then turned to Bin. “My Binny! Did you miss me?”
Bin grinned. “Auntie Majesty!”
Belice clicked her tongue. “Remember what your mom said? It’s just auntie.”
“Okay,” Bin giggled “Auntie!”
“You are so cute!” Belice smiled. “So unlike your dad. You got that from your mom. Don’t ever be like your dad, okay?”
“But I like dad,” Bin frowned.
Alexcent’s breath stilled when he heard his son say that.
“Oh, you like dad?” Belice asked, glancing at Alexcent. “What about auntie?”
“I like auntie too!”
Alexcent put his son down and Bin wobbled over to Belice who hugged him tightly. She set him on the sofa beside her and Bin put his hands on her stomach. He felt something move.
“Does your stomach hurt, auntie?” he asked.
“No, it’s just because the baby is in there,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt.”
Bin looked up at her and smiled. “So pretty.”
The little boy nodded. “And the baby too.”
“You can see the baby?” Belice laughed. “What does the baby look like?”
“A goddess,” Bin answered.
The adults in the room shared a look. “A goddess, really?” Belice asked, stroking the little boy’s hair.
Bin hummed. “Just like auntie and dad.”
“Will Bin love the baby?” Belice asked him.
“Yes!” Bin answered happily. “I’ll protect her like a knight!” He placed a gentle kiss on Belice’s stomach, and he felt another kick, like the baby was responding.
Alexcent walked over to Sir Roden. He supposed that it was almost time, seeing the state of Belice’s stomach. “You have to be careful,” he whispered.
“About what?” Duke Roden asked.
Alexcent knew that Belice was no different from Amethyst and, judging by what he knew, she was no doubt stronger too. That’s why they got along so well.
He knew that once Belice went into labor, she would swear at Duke Roden and grab a hold of his hair. Just like Amethyst had done. Alexcent felt the need to be there for Duke Roden somehow, to give him encouragement.
He wouldn’t understand it now, but two months and 15 days later, he definitely would.