His tone was low and cruel. Ione nearly choked for a moment, but managed to formulate a plausible response.
“As a citizen of the empire… it would be an honour to help the grand duke.”
“…Unlike the grand duke, you wouldn’t be able to remarry after you get a divorce.”
I knew that.
If a person who was previously on the imperial registry were to remarry another noble after getting a divorce, the genealogy would become strangely twisted.
The road to another marriage would immediately become blocked, but that wasn’t important to me.
“Won’t you regret it?”
“Regret what, Your Majesty? Being able to stay by His Highness’ side, even if it were to only be for a short time, would be a lifetime honour.”
I replied calmly, trying to not show any excitement at the emperor’s reaction.
At that moment, when the emperor called me with a subtle voice.
The grand duke, who had been watching the conservation between the two of us as if it didn’t concern him, suddenly snorted.
“How on earth could I accept this situation?”
As our eyes focused on him, the grand duke, who slowly crossed his legs, began talking coldly.
“A bride who thinks of running away even before she gets married.”
The blue eyes that faced me resembled sharp blades.
Feeling prickled by the piercing eyes, I smiled as harmlessly as possible.
If I were to show a look of bewilderment right now, it would be over for me.
“I will also be working hard for the sake of the grand duke for the next three years.”
A smile that seemed to have no sign of impure intentions and a cute determination.
It was more powerful than a hundred words of excuses.
“I’ll allow this.”
The long-awaited permission from the emperor had finally been given to me.
“Then, while the contract is being prepared, the grand duchess should take a break and have some refreshments.”
At first glance, it sounded like a considerate suggestion for Ione, but it was clearly an order.
I wasn’t going to be deterred and quietly stepped out.
I was tired and didn’t want to be stuck between the emperor and the grand duke any longer.
“Is there a particular kind of tea that you enjoy drinking?”
I, who was about to sit down on one of the sofas of the parlour, grew excited at the lady-in-waiting’s question.
At dawn, the emperor’s messenger and lady-in-waiting had come to my house unannounced and out of nowhere and dragged me away.
When I had come to my senses, it was already noon.
I was tired and hungry, but I felt relieved at the thought of having overcome the crisis.
But tea and treats!
“Which types of teas are there?”
“We will be able to serve you without there being any shortage of options.”
Her cold voice and arrogantly snarky tone were like thorns.
I was tidying up the hem of my dress but had reflexively glanced at the lady-in-waiting.
While waiting for my answer, she had a neat expression and a straight attitude.
Ah, this was the imperial family, after all.
Listening to the lady-in-waiting’s high attitude, I finished tidying up the hem of my dress and pondered over the menu.
‘If there is no shortage of options, I’d like to drink iced americano instead of tea.’
A cup of iced americano that would freeze your stomach and a slice of a sweet cake that would blow away your fatigue and drowsiness, all in one shot!
Unfortunately, there was no such thing as coffee in this world.
“Then, could you prepare cold, black tea along with something sweet to accompany it?”
With a lot of ice, if possible.
The lady-in-waiting’s neat smile twisted subtly at my words.
“What was that…?”
At her words, it felt like my head had been pulled back, my drowsiness disappearing along with it.
“Is there no ice?”
“It’s not like that but… This is the first time someone’s responded in a way that wasn’t mindful of the season.”
At the end of her words, she even let out a small sigh.
‘Look at this?’
So, in other words, it seemed to be ridiculous to ask for something like iced tea, which others wouldn’t drink in this season.
I couldn’t quite understand why the maid was being so rude to me.
That confusion didn’t last long, as realization struck me.
What else could be the reason?
This must be a plot point given to the villainous ex-wife who needed to go on a rampage!
If you were someone who reincarnated into a K-rofan, you should avoid the thorny path in front of you.
Of course, I didn’t forget to pretend to be ignorant and did as I needed.
“Oh, my goddess. There must be no ice, is there? I didn’t know the situation beforehand, so…”
“No, I will have it ready in a moment.”
The lady-in-waiting, who had been acting arrogantly this entire time, crumpled her face as if she had been severely insulted by the words that questioned the quality of the imperial palace and stormed out.
Once I was sure the door had been closed, I twisted my face and punched the air.
What a temper!
Does it make sense for a lady-in-waiting to behave like this towards a guest of the emperor, towards the person who will become the grand duchess?
My anger was flaring up, but I had to hold it in.
I couldn’t resist the power of the original plotline, which seemed to be determined to make Ione the villain.
“Count Harford has nominated you for the position of the Grand Duchess!”
I vividly remembered Baron Clark’s expression, which was a mixture of surprise and admiration.
Baron Clark had excitedly talked about the Earl of Harford, but to my recollection, he was not part of the original story.
“Whether it was Harford or Gafford…”
It didn’t matter to me who he was.
I could only feel the power of the original work, which seemed to be using characters that were not part of the original work in order to adjust and modify the story so that it could proceed as planned.
Shivering at the thought, I rubbed the back of my neck.
The lady-in-waiting’s attitude was disgusting, but it wouldn’t kill me to endure it.
However, if I were to become careless and get swept up by the original story, I would die.
I firmly vowed to never give the grand duke a reaction that would result in me getting caught.
Although my life was at stake, if I were to survive, I would have a solid foundation for the rest of my life.
In addition to immunity, the compensation promised by the emperor was full of generous conditions.
For example, private property that was already paid for by the banks.
“But how much is 300 million gold in Korean won?”
I didn’t know what the exchange rate was.
I tilted my head and folded my fingers, smiling.
“I don’t know how much it is, but it definitely is a lot of money.”
There’s nothing like financial therapy, no matter what world you’re in.
My anger cooled down at once, and my motivation rose in an instant.
I will survive this!
“Don’t kill her.”
“What do you mean by that?”
A cold expression and a voice without any hint of warmth.
As soon as Ione left and he was now alone with the emperor, Adrian wiped the trained expression off his face.
Without his ceremonial smile, his features were as fearsome as a well-honed blade, enough to make one quiver in fear.
But his brother, who had seen him for so many years, was not the least bit fazed by his expression, as he smiled and continued without the slightest hint of agitation.
It was difficult for Adrian to understand the emperor who was making outrageous remarks.
He didn’t know if it was out of the benevolence he was showing because he was the emperor, or whether it was because he was ‘concerned’ because he was a monster.
“I could have sent anyone to you. She was the only one who was nominated, but if she didn’t deserve it, she would have been sent back.”
“She is clever and kind. Isn’t she quite cute too? Her personality also seemed to be strong. I thought she’d be better than the rest of the ladies of the empire.”
While Adrian sipped his tea, the emperor sang praises of Ione.
“It was said that the baroness was ill, but it wasn’t due to a genetic disease.”
Even after Adrian’s teacup had been refilled, the emperor was still going on.
It was so long and boring.
It was not a story that he should have listened to, and it was not a story worthy of being told by the emperor.
For it was about none other than the wife of Adrian van Presse, who was now speaking up.
“You’d better stop.”
Despite his obvious warning, the emperor shook his head at those words.
“Promise me, Adrian. You will do your best for those three years. And if, in three years’ time, you find your ‘fated partner’ in someone else, you will let Lady Clark leave safely.”
“Adrian, whether it’s fate or love, there is no such thing. So just try your hardest. Won’t you?”
Adrian looked at the emperor, who repeated his request with an expression of desperation.
The emperor whom he had seen for all his life seemed terribly unfamiliar at this moment.
He was annoyed now that he spoke with the same voice and face as himself.
Adrian quietly rolled the empty teacup in his hands.
He was unclear why this was bothering him.
Was it because the authority of “van” was being infringed upon by the emperor…?
Or was it annoying because his flesh and blood was interfering too much…?
The emperor called out to him again as he was engrossed in an unclear feeling of displeasure.
“Would you like another drink?”
“I think I’ve had enough.”
“Adrian, it’s not difficult to have another cup of tea.”
“Yet, having two kettles was obviously too much.”
It was definitely a tea break that started with just one drink.
However, with the addition of another cup, and then another… with the emperor’s invitation continuing endlessly, he had drunk two kettles before he even realized it.
It felt like tea was now dripping from the inside of his tongue.
Although the conversation was not pleasant, and it lasted well over an hour, it was enough to show his sincerity to the emperor.
“I’ll be leaving now.”
“Stay a little longer. Why are you going?”
“Isn’t it because of the issue of the Grand Duchess that you have invited many people to the imperial palace? Now that the grand duchess position has been filled as you wished, we need to clean up the mess in the North.”
He wasn’t exaggerating.
Right now, the North was literally a mess.
Before the cold season began, Adrian would travel around the north and sort out the areas that showed signs of trouble in advance.
Otherwise, in the middle of winter, the waves of demons the North would face would be enormous.
But this year, he wasn’t able to. The emperor had been summoning him nonstop.
The knights had worked hard, but in the end, knights were only knights.
They could not be compared to Adrian, the only ‘Demon Swordsman’ in the history of the Empire.
At this rate, the northern part of the empire may have to undergo an unprecedentedly harsh wave this winter.
“It’s not even the middle of winter yet…!”
“We’ve already found demons that have broken out of their eggs because we didn’t deal with them in time.”
Adrian, who got up from his seat, bent down to be at eye level with the emperor.
The wordless tea party was partly to finalize the issue of the Grand Duchess, but it was mostly to wait for the emperor’s finacée.
Knowing that, he didn’t want to wait any longer.
“Or should I say this? I don’t want to spend any time with Your Majesty’s fiancée.”
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