* * *
“Your highness, is that person…”
Hestel, who was turning her head to seek an opportunity to approach Liarte, widened her eyes when she saw Lian’s appearance in Liarte.
‘You’re the twin of Elheim’s ex-princess, aren’t you?’
A cold face with a twisted lip at the corners, wondering what he didn’t like.
As she had heard many times from Princess Ninian, he was a handsome man with boyish traits.
The difference was that Liarte’s eyes were darker than she thought, giving her goosebumps.
Thanks to that, Liarte’s elegant and graceful appearance was not noticeable.
“Who are you pointing at?”
The Crown Prince, who was staring daggers at Liarte’s back, turned his head.
“Ah, well, I was going to ask if it would be possible to approach the former princess through the annex.”
Fortunately, Hestel also had the sense not to bring up the story of Elheim in front of the Crown Prince.
It was quite a famous story when Elheim declared that they would not put out the fire in the Imperial Palace, and the Crown Prince’s prestige fell.
“You’re saying stupid things again. In Birce, even passing a child could break your neck.”
For the Crown Prince, Hestel was a tool that couldn’t be ruined yet.
“The only object you should use is the former princess.”
“I see,” answered Hestel, pretending to be polite.
“Come to think of it, did you make eye contact with the princess? What happened this morning?”
Hestel was at a loss to answer the Crown Prince’s question, which he suddenly asked.
Should she say that the princess strangely rejected Hestel?
“It seems to me that she is vigilant, but we can get closer with time.”
The Crown Prince spoke as if he were full of energy.
“Has it been some time since the princess rescued you after you fell into the water?”
‘What have you been doing?’
Hestel also thought the princess would come over easily.
The plan was very simple.
Liarte, as said by the Crown Prince, was a person who was weak in affection and lacked connection, even though she could hide it.
Following the advice that Liarte would never let Hestel fall into the water, she went into the fountain.
‘The princess saved me right away.’
That was good. However, a firm refusal came when Hestel said she wanted to repay the favor after she was saved.
It was also unfair that Hestel looked fake because she was vaguely similar to the princess.
In fact, it has been the anxiety that has bothered her the most since a while ago.
If only she hadn’t looked at the back part of the paper.
Hestel bit her lips.
Most nobles in the empire tended to use cursive.
It was a regular letter, and such neat handwriting was not common.
Even if she tried to regard it as a coincidence, she kept thinking that it was too much of the same handwriting as the title of the red painting.
It was then…
“Ah, Young Lady Hestel. Your Highness the Crown Prince is also present.”
A passing aristocrat smiled and held out his hand.
“I saw the genius painter’s painting well. I didn’t believe it when I heard from my friends, but the expression “genius” is true.”
“Thank you for the compliment.”
The praise that would have been sweet a while ago has been on her mind.
“How did you express red in such a colorful way?”
It was all Hestel’s talent.
Hestel replied with a shy smile.
She showed off her mixing with humility, as she has done to people before, but the aristocrat murmured curiously.
“I don’t think so.”
Hestel naturally became sensitive and asked back.
“For some reason, I thought that the feeling of the picture and your answer were different. Are you sure you drew this because you like the sunset?”
“Yes. My favorite thing is the view of the sunset.”
“But I can’t find orange or yellow in this painting except for the gold dots.”
There was a red color with no yellow color at all.
When it came to the sunset, it was the current imperial style to express it by mixing vermilion and sunlight.
However, the red painting only uses shadows to control the color.
“Oh, I’m sorry if it was rude. I’m not saying that you’re not a real artist. It’s my mistake to ask a lot of questions.”
The aristocrat bowed.
“That’s all right.”
Hestel replied forcefully.
Of course, the red painting deserved to be famous. In fact, didn’t the artists from the competition flock to see the painting?
However, unless there was art in the painting, the general public couldn’t properly judge the red painting.
Objectively, if asked if it was drawn well, they would say no.
Now even people in society knew about Hestel and the red painting.
It was as great as Hestel showed off and enjoyed as much as she could.
‘You must never be caught.’
Whenever she imagined she would be caught, her heart would drop immediately.
“You know we don’t have much time.”
Hestel was surprised because what the Crown Prince said sounded particularly sinister.
“There are not many opportunities to brainwash Princess Elheim. I said we didn’t have time.”
Then the Duke of Haron appeared.
Although he was wearing a formal dress, Hestel thought he was still wrapped up in a tuxedo.
“Yes, Duke. Have you identified the location?”
What the Crown Prince set up was a full-fledged kidnapping plan.
“I came to the dark and shady place you mentioned.”
“You can do this well, right?”
Brainwashing required conditions.
Among them, Hestel had two conditions. It had to be nighttime, and she herself was not in the moonlight.
“Then, let’s carry out the plan.”
The Crown Prince smiled lightly.
It was a smile with the unique confidence of a person who firmly believed that a situation of failure was not possible.
* * *
The ball that Liarte had been waiting for the most came up.
“I won’t fall this time. I won’t stumble.”
“That’s a good resolution.”
She was going to dance perfectly, she would even use the power of water.
She was looking forward to seeing the results of what she had been practicing rather than the ball itself.
“Then, let’s go.”
There was a curiously large ballroom in the annex.
It appeared to be because the Duchess of Birce had previously used the building primarily for amusement.
People were everywhere in the annex.
As she was about to enter, Liarte found a man at the entrance.
It was the Duke of Haron in a formal dress with a completely covered face.
‘I see you often.’
The most amazing thing was the fact that the meeting continued to happen by accident.
“What’s the matter?”
“I want you to be vigilant, heir.”
Michael sent Liarte behind his back.
A voice with a distinctive tone came out of the cloth that covered his face.
“I just found this while walking in the garden here today.”
It was a sketchbook with a black cover.
On the outside, there was the name of Liarte written by Merlin, saying, “You never know.”
“Is this the Young Lady’s item?”
It was a finished sketchbook, so Liarte forgot it existed.
“Yes, that’s right.”
The Duke of Haron looked anew at Liarte, nodding her head.
“You were rude this morning.”
“I couldn’t see ahead either. We might collide.”
The sketch he saw this morning was very standard.
Usually, if you drew well, you would fall into conceit and have no basic skills in most cases.
But Liarte’s sketch of the woman was so good that there was nowhere to catch a groove.
So after he found the sketchbook, he looked inside out of curiosity.
“I owe you an apology, Young Lady.”
“I do not care if you look inside.”
The only thing in the sketchbook were the lines that Liarte drew.
Lines that filled the blank space of the sketchbook.
While practicing drawing lines, Liarte made several of these sketchbooks.
“Then I will give you some advice as an apology.”
If he touched Liarte, Birce would never stay still.
The Duke of Haron intended to manipulate the situation from behind as much as possible, as long as things didn’t go badly.
He was moved, though, by the effort in the sketchbook.
“Be careful of the Crown Prince, Young Lady. Be more careful in places where there is no moonlight.”
That was the best the Duke could do.
After the greeting, Liarte entered the ballroom with Michael.
The Duchy of Haron was a family that lived by erasing their presence as if they were dead.
In fact, it was not the best level, but he gave advice to the point of overdoing it.
‘Come to think of it.’
Even the person who painted the red painting drew such a simple and basic line.
Of course, Liarte’s skills were significantly better.
It was the result of creating dozens of more sketchbooks that Duke Haron seemed to have seen after the painting competition, but the Duke did not know this yet.
* * *
As they stepped into the ballroom, most people turned their heads in Liarte’s direction.
Liarte leaned slightly against Michael.
“Don’t be so nervous. It’s because you’re the owner of this coming-of-age ceremony.”
The first dance began with Liarte.
By all accounts, her partner was Michael.
“Then, shall we go?”
It was the moment when Michael held out his hand.
The Crown Prince suddenly approached Liarte.
“I came to ask for a dance.”
Liarte’s question rang out in the ballroom.
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