Chapter 7

to a dear friend, happy bday starrie! 

***

Vasille burst into a small laugh at Sylvark’s sudden proposal.

“Weren’t you just in distress, Your Majesty?”

“Since you said it’s okay, I’m okay. Plus, Adrian is now a married man.”

The voice that had been chastising himself for pushing the grand duke into a hopeless marriage a few moments earlier was now gone.

It was a polite, dry voice being used to pester for a marriage, but Vasille liked this voice. 

He was a man who became the emperor at the absurdly young age of 13 and had to live without showing any of his feelings.

This voice that Emperor Sylvark was using right now was his best attempt.

He was much more reserved than he was in the beginning, and more than he was just last season.

But Vasille was looking forward to the next season, and to the future, with him, so she thought that this attempt was good enough for now. 

“What do you think, Vasille?”

Vasille burst into laughter and whispered, “Yes, we shall,” into his ear, her voice sounding sweeter than usual.

“Thank you, Vasille.”

The voice of the emperor was more affectionate than ever.

He sounded the way he did last spring, during the day he pulled himself out of hell.

***

“This is really bad.”

The voice that echoed throughout the drawing room, where all the staff and servants of the grand duke’s castle were currently gathered, was too soft and delicate to have come from the stern head maid. 

It was even trembling like it had been coming from someone soaked in water, but no one was surprised or laughed at it.

The situation was serious.

The relationship between the grand duke and the grand duchess was tense.

It wasn’t like it was going to be easy, being in a relationship with someone who came from the imperial lineage.

But no one ever thought they’d be fighting as soon as they’d arrived.

“This is big trouble. What should we do?”

No, it wasn’t just a fight.

It was a one-sided assault from the grand duke.

The grand duchess became white as a sheet and it looked like she was about to cry.

“Aah… It’s really terrible.”

Everyone’s expressions became even darker following the maid’s sad voice.

When the emperor summoned the grand duke to the capital a month ago to receive his grand duchess, no one thought he would have succeeded in bringing her here.

He was Adrian van Presse, after all. 

The most powerful heir to the blessing of the dragon of all time.

Unlike others who had received the blessing, he did not seek to find a companion even when he became an adult due to the strong restriction put on him.

“It doesn’t matter if I don’t have one.”

He dismissed everyone’s concerns, saying that it was stranger to hear his vassals begging for things to do rather than regretting not receiving any in the first place.

No matter how sad it was, no one could do anything about his refusal.

Who in their right mind would try to coerce a man blessed by the dragon?!

Even the emperor, who could very well have just given orders to the grand duke, was begging him.

The emperor had even organized banquets with the intent of having the grand duke find his partner, but there were never any significant outcomes.

Just as everyone thought that all hope was lost for the grand duke. 

The emperor had gotten him a bride.

He rewarded her with immunity, tons of money, and an estate. 

“No matter how much money she was going to get paid for this…”

The maid murmured with a sad expression.

However, she despaired that they were not truly meant to be for only a moment.

The servants of the grand duchy knew “Adrian van Presse” better than anyone else.

The one who was even less emotional than any of the previous people bearing the name of ‘van’ blessed by the dragon.

He would have never gotten a duchess through normal methods.

In other words, if it were not this time, there would be no other chance for the duchy to receive one.

‘We have to hold onto her somehow.’

In an instant, everyone’s passion was burning.

Everyone had been so excited to hear that the person they’d been waiting for was finally coming.

But then the grand duke stepped out of the carriage, abandoned the grand duchess, and entered the castle alone!

“…Maybe he didn’t know what escorting was?”

It was the commander of the knights who opened his mouth after a long silence. 

Agatha, the patissier, widened her eyes at the words of the knight commander and clicked her tongue.

“Say that again?”

“As expected, that wasn’t right, was it?”

“He’s not a fool.”

Sure, he was cold-blooded inside and out, but he wasn’t stupid.

At Agatha’s contemptuous gaze, the knight commander’s neck turned red.

“Come on, everybody, calm down. What’s happened had already happened. It’s no use talking about the past.”

The knight commander, who was blushing fiercely as he shook his head, looked pitiful, and the chamberlain, who had been silent this whole time, spoke softly. 

“No one thought that this relationship was going to be smooth from the start.”

“That’s right, but also no one expected this to happen.”

Even with the encouraging words from the chamberlain, the head maid could not erase her gloomy appearance. 

No one expected that the grand duchess would have been thrown away before being properly escorted. 

It was hard to stay positive with all of the unexpected challenges.

“Now let’s calm down and think about why we’re gathered right now. It’s unfortunate that things have come to this, but we can’t just sit back and let it continue on this way.”

“Her Highness seems to be very upset…”

“Yes, that’s why we need to push together even harder.”

It had been winter for more than half a year in the desolate and barren territory at the northern end of the empire. 

There was a possibility that the grand duchess, someone native to the southern territories, would want to flee in terror from the bitter cold, and so in preparations, the servants swept, wiped, cleaned, and heated the castle of the grand duchy…

They didn’t expect the grand duke to come forward and turn the table upside down himself.

“But what are we supposed to do?”

If they knew what to do, they wouldn’t have been so worried.

Once again, it became a moment where everyone’s mouths were closed.

Ring ring ring. 

The silver bell hanging from a string on the wall began rattling nonstop, making a loud noise.

“The bell! Her Highness, the Grand Duchess!”

The maid, bouncing like a spring, rolled up her skirt and ran.

***

Paeng!

I blew my nose.

After a day of rest in the warm room, my runny nose became even worse.

My nose was running nonstop, it was as if I had caught a cold.

Every time I sniffled, I was reminded that I was not the female lead.

There was no such thing as a snotty female lead! It was ugly and wouldn’t have fit the image, after all. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to just cry pitifully like a female lead? 

This was making me cringe so badly.

“Ha… This supporting ex-wife effect.”

I tried to speak cheerfully but soon became sullen again. 

I was determined to keep a low profile…

“Hah…”

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t escape the force of the original work. 

[TL/N: the original translation was “If you want it, buy it”, but I found that it didn’t really make too much sense? Or I couldn’t word it into a line that would make the story flow nicer? So I interpreted it as “even if I wanted to have it, I couldn’t buy it because I wasn’t strong enough” or something along those lines, since she’s basically… powerless against the original] 

As if it wasn’t bad enough that I ended up becoming noticed by the grand duke, the very man who now controlled my life.

I wonder if this was what it felt like to be submerged in the water while your limbs were tied up. 

Frustrated couldn’t even begin to describe how I felt right now.

I had always been a smiley person like I was taught to be, but that day was definitely different.

Sensing my hidden agenda, Adrian warned me harshly.

“This is really blinding me.”

With a sigh that made my shoulders shake, I finally admitted my reality.

Adrian was a man of few emotions, but it was natural for him to become angry at those who sought to deceive the noble blessed one. 

As soon as the original work began, it seemed as though the whole world was suddenly against me.

I thought I was prepared for this during the first week of my possessing Ione, but the reality of the situation was overwhelming me.

I knew it all.

“No, I didn’t, I had no idea the original story had such powers. I thought I had it all figured out, and then I was pulled into the original plot, and I wasn’t prepared for that, and this is terrifying because I’m right in the middle of everything again. Right?”

I had to say it out loud because I needed someone’s comfort.

After possessing someone, there were moments when I realized that I was completely alone in this new world.

Especially at moments like this one, where I was struggling to defend myself from a future that no one else knew about.

When I had to do something that I wouldn’t be able to explain and when I had to do something that didn’t make sense.

I used to feel as though I had the world at my feet.

Sure, it was a world from a novel that I read, but who here was going to guess that I took possession of someone’s body? 

So, at some point, I stopped trying to stop myself from doing self-comfort. 

“Choi Ione, it’s okay.”

I called myself Choi Ione because I was Ione, but at the same time, I also wasn’t Ione.

Was there anything else that could have more clearly described both Choi Eunyoung and Ione coexisting within me? 

Choi Ione.

Whenever I said this unfamiliar name, my agitated mind calmed down. 

And then I would remember and realize what I needed to do. 

Since the grand duke misunderstood the situation, I just needed to actively explain.

There was no better method than this.

What I’d give him wouldn’t exactly be an explanation though, it’d be more of a lame excuse…

“Hm…”

I let out a small sigh.

I’d been lucky yesterday.

One of Adrian’s lieutenants arrived, claiming that there was something urgent happening, and took him away without any prior warning.

Contrary to my expectations of him calling for me at any moment shortly soon after he was done his business, Adrian didn’t seem to call me out until it was already the next day.

This bought me some time.

My frozen body was able to thaw and my fluttering heart had calmed.

I wanted to meet him when my ugly, snotty nose finally stopped running.

It wouldn’t do anything any good if I were to delay it any longer. 

“I need to meet him.”

I immediately tugged on the rope hanging next to my bed.

I put all of my strength and determination into the hand that was pulling the rope. 

***

“Oh…?”

I eagerly pulled on the rope, but no matter how long I had waited, no one came.

I thought it might have been due to the rope being potentially faulty, so I pulled as hard as I could. 

‘Where is His Highness the Grand Duke? I need to see him for a moment, so please guide me to where he is.’

I’ve even prepared lines that were elegant enough to prove my position as the grand duchess but weren’t arrogant nor sounded too easygoing. 

Why was no one coming?

***

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