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Her luxurious black shoes stepped gracefully down the marble imperial corridor. At the same time, her red hair, which hung down in a single bun to her lower back, swayed lightly.
There was not a single wrinkle in the long jacket that came down to envelop her slim upper body and hips, and the pants that wrapped her long, slender legs.
She had a small, elongated, pure white face, dark eyebrows that looked as if they were drawn, a straight nose and plump lips. Her dark purple eyes shone mysteriously under her long, lush eyelashes, filled with a sense of regalness and confidence.
Elysia’s beautiful and seductive figure attracted the eyes of the maids and attendants who were passing through the corridor towards the council chamber, as if they were possessed.
But she couldn’t care less about their gaze.
‘Today’s case must be rejected.’
Elysia couldn’t help but worry that the second Prince’s power would grow even larger if the proposal she was about to submit passed.
The more his power grew, the more difficult it would be for the Marquess of Camellia to escape him and the Duke of Russet.
Elysia was walking ponderously when a voice from behind her stopped her in her tracks.
There was a faint smile on Elysia’s mouth.
Turning her body, she saw a woman walking fast with the sound of clicking shoes.
It was a woman around her age, but she was wearing a gorgeous dress.
When the woman came to a stop in front of her, Elysia smiled and spoke to her.
“Countess Dolorence. Seeing you dressed so nicely, it seems you have an appointment today.”
“Thank you for the compliment, but I had to go to the theater right after the council meeting, so I wore a dress. Do I look all right?”
Countess Dolorence, Aria Dolorence, blushed happily at Elysia’s words.
“Yes. I don’t know who it is, but they can’t seem to take their eyes off the Countess. I can’t take my eyes off of you either.”
“Anyway, Marquess Camellia is very accustomed to admiration. As I always say, if the Marquess was a man, I probably would have fallen in love with you immediately.”
“I am flattered.”
Lifting Aria’s hand gently, Elysia winked teasingly, lightly brushing her lips against the back of her hand, just like men do.
Aria burst into laughter at Elysia’s sly attitude.
“I can’t help handle this, Marquess Camillia.”
There was a reason why Aria had said that.
The Camellia family was a prestigious and venerable family that had been instrumental in the opening of the country. But it wasn’t just for that that they were recognized by the people.
It was because they were well aware of the path the Marquis of Camellia had taken from the moment the Empire was founded to the present.
The first head of the Camellia family who helped the founding emperor to build the empire, Raelynn Camellia, was the emperor’s best friend and woman.
Her achievements were up to par, and Raelynn should have received the title of Duke.
However, the other nobles were not happy about her receiving the dukedom as a woman. The only one who did not object was the Deimos family, who was close to her.
The founding emperor granted the marquisate on the condition that the nobles would not object to Raelynn becoming the head of the Camellia Marquisate.
After that, the checks and balances against the Marquess of Camellia, the only female patriarch, continued.
The emperor, the Duke of Deimos, and the nobles who recognized Raelynn were the only ones who were willing to speak out.
But Raelynn and the rest of the nobility were not willing to speak out. However, Raelynn and the other future Marquesses of Camellia were not obsessed with such things.
‘You’re a woman.’ They changed this perception for a long time. And finally, they took the position of the head of the aristocratic faction.
In the meantime, other female nobles, impressed by their efforts, began to join them. Gradually, more and more women became heads of the families, and gradually entered politics.
The Marquesses of Camellia did not hesitate to reach out to such women. They generously gave their knowledge and support as needed.
Thanks to them, 5% of the current people in the Council were made up of female nobles. It was an accomplishment that the Marquess of Camellia and the female nobles had made together.
The Camellia, who had been such a famous family, began to fall silent after the previous Marquis and his wife had a carriage accident.
Rumors had spread throughout the empire for a while that the Camellia family’s fortunes had begun to slump along with the vacancy in the position of landlord.
Many people who respected and adored the Camellia were worried about the misfortune that had befallen the family and prayed that they would successfully overcome the crisis. They also hoped that the new leader of the Camellia would come soon.
So it was not surprising that people showed an explosive interest in Elysia Camellia, the first person to inherit the marquisate and enter the social and political world.
The downside was that she would be put on the front page even if she caused only a small scandal.
Of course, there were those who were dissatisfied with the aristocratic faction’s support for the second Prince after Elysia inherited the marquisate.
Still, many people were in a situation to believe in the Camellia family, and were watching the actions of Elysia, the Marquess of Camellia.
Aria, the master of the house of the Count of Dolorence who was facing Elysia, was one of them.
She was an aristocratic noble, but she followed the Marquess of Camellia, not the second Princes or the Duke of Russet as her predecessors did.
So Elysia felt more burdened. She had to protect them and at the same time accomplish the restoration of the Camellia family. In order to do that, she had to prevent the second Prince from growing in power.
Elysia thought as they made their way to the council chamber.
‘There is no way that Duke Deimos would be fooled by such a case. He is a man who does not take even one small thing lightly. Even if he hadn’t noticed, he would have heard about it somehow, because Lulien had taken steps.’
Lulien probably used Hal and Helios to inform someone from the Emperor’s faction about the case. Then it must have reached Duke Deimos.
She wasn’t worried, she’d been through something like this once or twice before.
The only thing she really had to worry about was enduring the Emperor’s faction when they tried to argue with her, and performing a natural retreat when she had no choice.
She didn’t want to be suspected by Duke Russet or his people.
“Now, then, let’s try our best to act today, shall we?”
Looking at the open door, Elysia steeled herself once more.
She was ready to rely on Duke Deimos’ arrow-like rebuttal that would fly at her if she wanted him to reject the second Prince’s agenda.
But about an hour into the session, she was inwardly perplexed.
The debate between the aristocrats and the emperor’s faction, which had been going on since the matter had been brought up by her, had somehow drifted in a positive direction.
“I think the purpose is good.”
“It’s true that we need new people now. Only then will we be able to hear fresh opinions that we hadn’t thought of.”
“Exactly. I think it’s always necessary to bring in new talent.”
Seeing the back-and-forth of opinions between the nobles of the noble and imperial factions, Elysia finally straightened her furrowed brows. Outwardly, she looked indifferent, but her heart was on fire.
Elysia found it strange that no one from the imperialist faction objected. Even if it’s not Duke Deimos, someone must come forward, but what happened?
Her gaze went to Iker, who was sitting opposite her. He hadn’t said a word since she had submitted her case, which was unusual.
He just sat with a casual expression on his face and listened to the opinions of the nobles.
‘Didn’t His Excellency hear about it?’
Elysia, who had been watching Iker’s expression, suddenly hardened. He met her gaze head-on. The panicked Elysia quickly averted her gaze. So she didn’t see a smile in Iker’s eyes.
‘Why did I make eye contact?’
As Elysia rolled her eyes in dismay at being caught sneaking a peek, she saw the emperor’s chamberlain coming in through the back door of the hall. Stooping low and quietly entering, he approached Iker and whispered something to him.
Then Iker nodded and opened his mouth. The heavy voice sounded gravely through the hall. At the same time, the nobles who were exchanging opinions fell silent.
“I apologize for interrupting the discussion. It seems that His Majesty has given us some refreshments.”
At the word refreshments, the faces of the nobles brightened. Tired from the long debate, the refreshments were like a blessing rain for them, but there was another reason.
The person who made the refreshments was the emperor’s personal pastry chef. The sweets produced by the empire’s best chef were something that could only be enjoyed at this time.
Elysia was also full of joy that the discussion had been interrupted. If anyone else saw her, they would think it was because of the refreshments.
She had been worried that this agenda would pass.
Elysia was glad to hear Iker’s voice again.
“I think I need to take a break for a while, rest for about an hour, and start again. Marquess Camellia. Is it okay with you?”
In the hall was the Duke of Russet, who outranked Elysia, but he had asked her the question because she was the head of the noble faction.
Elysia had to answer right away to the Duke of Russet’s complexion.
As long as the Camellia was not strong and independent, she still needed to lower herself.
Fortunately, the case was going well, and she could see that Duke Russet was nodding lightly.
Elysia sighed inwardly, relieved. She was worried about what she would do if Duke Russet kept looking at her to tell her to continue.
As she turned her head towards Iker to answer, she was startled.
The expression on his face was the same as always, but the way he looked at her was softer than the indifferent look he usually gave her.
Elysia nodded, unconcerned about anything.
“Let’s do that.”
Iker’s lips lifted softly at her answer.
The change was so slight that the others didn’t notice it, but Elysia, who was standing across from him, didn’t miss it.
‘Why are you smiling?’
Elysia frowned a little at the awkwardness that came again. He couldn’t possibly be laughing at a treat, so he must have laughed at her.
He had never touched drinks or cookies, even though the emperor had occasionally offered them in the past.
Before she could collect her thoughts, however, Iker’s voice rand heavily in the hall.
“Everyone agreed, so we will begin discussing the case again in half an hour from now.”
No sooner had he finished than the maidservants with their trolleys and trays entered and moved in unison. After a while, bread, cookies, and teas were placed in front of the nobles. Smiles spread across their faces as they looked down at the refreshments being laid out in front of them.
Elysia, as usual, was just like them. But she was not smiling.
It was because of the way Iker had looked at her earlier, and the way he had smiled.
‘Why was he smiling at me? What was that soft look in his eyes?’
Elysia felt confused in her head. She looked down at her snack, but couldn’t see it. One thought suddenly crossed her mind as she was thinking hard.
‘Is it because he slept with me?’
Once the cause was established, in an instant a succession of doubts followed.
‘Is that why he didn’t refute the agenda? Because he was looking out for me?’
Elysia frowned and quickly shook her head.
‘No, no, that can’t be it. It’s Duke Deimos of Steel. There is no way that he would do such a foolish thing out of emotion.’
However, remembering Iker’s apparent attitude earlier, Elysia was confused again, and she would not have been able to get out of her thoughts if Aria had not called her.
“The cake is really good. You should try it, Marquess.”
Elysia lifted her fork as if nothing had happened, cut off a slice of cake and brought it to her mouth. She didn’t really feel like eating it, but she didn’t want other people to look at her with strange eyes.
She bit into the cake and the sweet taste filled her mouth.
Nodding approvingly as she lifted her cup, Elysia caught sight of Iker leaving the hall. It looked like he was going for a break.
Elysia hurriedly put her cup away and got up from her seat.