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As soon as I arrived at the Imperial Palace, the attendants guided me to the drawing room. It was said to be the Emperor’s order.
They also said that the emperor had prepared a special gift for me in the room.
Although their expressions were not very good when they said so.
“May I open the door?”
It didn’t take long to find out the source of this unpleasant feeling.
The sonorous scream of the Emperor was heard behind the door.
“…I’ll do that.”
I opened the door widely with both hands and walked through it.
The bright light instantly invaded right into my pupils, I could see numerous faces looking at me at the same time.
“The second Princess of the Empire, Her Highness Stella Ethelanche!”
The last place my gaze went was with the face I was most reluctant to see. The emperor’s eyes shook violently. I said to him looking at me without even forgetting what to say. My gaze landed on the most unwilling person I wanted to see at last.
I didn’t forget to put a smile on my face.
After a moment, the emperor’s eyes gleamed.
“You, you, you! You came! You’ve returned! Well, I’m glad you’ve returned just in time, dear. We were discussing together about the preparation for your extravagant debutante ball. Of course, the coronation ceremony as well! L-Listen.”
The Emperor held both of my hands.
“I recalled that you ever said you had the money you won from the bet.”
“Stop it, honey.”
The empress murmured with her head lowered down. At that moment, the Emperor frowned, but he soon regained his composure.
“…you, I’m talking to Stella right now, okay?”
“If you use up a little bit of that money, your returning ceremony will be completely magnificent. You can make it as magnificent as possible, can’t you? As you can see, the Imperial Family will be able to hold not just one event, but two at the same time…”
Karen could be seen over the Emperor’s shoulder looking to the floor and bit her lower lip harder than anyone else.
The Emperor continued to talk.
“…Looks like we’re not in a good condition, even after six months have passed since we stayed here.”
“Are you short of money, Father?”
I said while looking at my hand which was held by him.
He wouldn’t have wanted to admit the fact that he had no money when authority is far more important in his life.
I shook off his hand. Then I walked past him and headed to the attendants who were all standing behind his back.
“The necessary things needed for the debutante ball and…”
The attendant who replied then looked at the other attendant next to her.
“…for the coronation ceremony which was planned by His Majesty.”
I snatched the long list from the attendant’s hand and read it.
I turned around after calling out the Emperor. The Emperor looked anxious when he saw the list was in my hand.
It was a look hoping for me to hold this list carefully.
And in that moment.
Two pieces of the paper then fell down and spread on the ground. The Queen stopped breathing for a moment and soon she heard a panting sound.
“Hey, what are you doing? Stella Ethelanche.”
Karen took my hand as her face was becoming pale.
“How can you …that.”
“I don’t need this.”
The emperor had a surprised look on his face.
“You don’t need anything from me, I’d like to hold the banquet this way.”
“You thought about making me feel nostalgic, right? Right. The banquets from ten years ago were very extravagant.”
“A banquet that will remind me of the good old days from ten years ago. I’ll be very grateful for such a present, Father.”
The Emperor folded both of his hands but didn’t raise his voice to me.
“But do you have money to make it happen?”
“Shut up, sister.”
[T/N: GO STELLA!!!]
I retorted while still fixated on the Emperor.
“Among all of my assets in a total of 45 trillion gold, I don’t have a single penny to give you, Father.”
“And yet, you still want me to stay?”
“That’s a relief.”
I kept talking without even giving him a chance to answer.
The budget proposal for the coronation ceremony which was being held by other attendants was also torn apart in my hand and the pieces fluttered to the floor.
“I didn’t even want to become the Princess of the Imperial Family either.”
“You’re not in your right mind.”
Karen caught me as I was about to go into my room.
Karen yelled as if she had waited to do so after I thought it was too troublesome to shake off her arms and decided to look behind me with an irritated face.
“What are you going to do? Don’t you know that it’s not the Princess’ job to plan a ball in the first place?”
I left the drawing room after telling the Emperor that I would take care of my own ball.
I had no intention of changing my mind about this matter.
“I’m planning it by myself because it’s my money.”
“You, listen carefully. If your purpose is to win the hearts of the nobles, it’s better to listen to me carefully. Stay back. Even if you are still planning to do so, put mother’s name in the name of the person in charge. Did you plan to humiliate the Imperial Family? A girl who isn’t even married yet…”
“I intend to humiliate the Imperial Family. That’s true.”
I shook Karen’s arm off and told her who gave me a look as if she couldn’t understand my words.
“You think I don’t know anything.”
“I also heard something today. The ball is absolutely owned by me as long as I use my own money. Father, mother, sister, and brother’s name will not be listed even if it’s in Hanja.”
Karen shook her clenched fist as if she was just getting humiliated.
I told her that.
“By the way, after hearing you said this, did you perhaps want to be a good daughter to your father?”
“Even until now …you’re still trying really hard.”
“Because you don’t know anything.”
“Yes. You, tell me. Stella Ethelanche. How would you know? The feeling of being loved. How it feels like to be their only hope, I don’t know how you think of them, but I would say proudly that they are my parents.”
“How envious I am of you.”
I wouldn’t have said this easily if I didn’t have my loving adoptive parents.
I might not have been able to respond to Karen without having any lingering feelings.
Maybe I would’ve envied her a little.
Even if I still had everything at that time, I wouldn’t have had the lovely family that Karen had.
So I felt even more grateful.
Toward my adoptive parents who live well in a safe place.
“Then, let’s see how well you do. With your parents.”
I patted Karen on her shoulder and walked off.
Karen staggered in her place, perhaps because she didn’t expect that sort of reaction from me.
Toward the back of my head, Karen said in the midst of anger.
I stopped in my place.
Because I wasn’t afraid of what she was going to say.
Because I didn’t feel the need to run away from her.
“You thought I didn’t know about what you have done today, huh? You work along with a designer who is admired by the nobles so you can please them. Nevertheless, don’t try to run a bluff on me saying that you won’t follow the implicit rules of society and listen to me. Stella Ethelanche. You’ll regret it later…”
“Just wait and see.”
“Don’t ever tell me what I should do with my money. I’ll take care of it by myself.”
That was the last thing I said to her before finally walking into my room.
Karen no longer refuted the word ‘my money’.
Clyde politely refused to be my partner for the ball, he did not come to see me on Monday either after that.
Three weeks passed peacefully.
I’ve been occupying myself with work to not bother him.
I received help from Lady Agatha Fairfax and the chief maid of the Imperial Palace to plan for a great ball.
She sincerely helped me with a thrilled face because she didn’t expect that I would reach out to her.
She recommended some reliable maids along the way.
Sometimes, Mrs. Fairfax would begin talking indiscreetly about the Empress and suggesting she have a conversation with the Empress, but I didn’t answer that.
Lady Fairfax couldn’t hide her pity for him, but she didn’t suggest any further.
Meanwhile, Jason Evanders would occasionally show up in the Imperial Palace and talk about useless things to me.
As if we just collided against each other, he smiled brightly while handing over things such as flowers, jewelry, and opera tickets to me.
Of course, I refused everything.
Still, when he asked if his proposal didn’t need to be looked up thoroughly, it certainly wasn’t.
One day, he came to the Imperial Palace with a map.
I was curious and then headed to the drawing room to meet him.
What he brought wasn’t just flowers or jewelry like usual, so she became interested.
“I’d like to invite Your Highness someday. To Sutherland,”
That’s what he said.
“…although you are the owner of the mine, you’ve never actually seen the mine itself, haven’t you?”
And he briefly explained his diamond mine.
Jason’s diamond mine was said to be the size of a big city in ‘Sutherland’, the southern part of the empire.
I barely could hide the surprise look on his face when he spoke about that as if it were no big deal to him.
“Then, doesn’t that explain the huge value of the mine?”
He poked the sharp tip of the compass into a map on the table. There it was. His compass spinned around in a circle for several times slowly before it was directed to one point.
“All of these are mining areas. Everyone here makes ends meet by the income coming from my mine. The whole city is solely for my own business.”
Did the God also look down to us from the sky just like when he looked down at the map?
“Evanders is like a king here. Now my mother, Lizia Evanders, is currently running this place.”
There was a hint of arrogance in his voice when he said so. It was a sort of attitude that indicated he was born as a noble without having the need to exclaim it.
“Wouldn’t you want to visit it , when the ball has ended?”
Of course I refused it. He left after saying that’s all he had to say.
Then, it was already the night before the debutante.
The stars in the night sky called for me and whispered gently.
…the debutante, it’s going to be great. Lady.”
I turned around and looked at the veiled dress. Jea Vezelle made it for me.
“The debutante will never succeed.”
I answered the stars confidently.
“I’ll do whatever I deem to be right.”
A lot of people have said it to me.
“…It hasn’t been long since you returned to the palace, so I think you didn’t understand the rules.”
“There’s something the Princess should know. Well, there are ‘rules’ in the Empire’s society. And…”
“She must wear the best dress that nobles would like…”
“You work along with a designer who is admired by the nobles so you can please them. Nevertheless, don’t try to run a bluff on me saying that you won’t follow the implicit rules of society….”
There was a thing called ‘rule’ in society.
Naturally I didn’t intend to act obedient.
“Don’t expect me to do well on the day of my debutante.”
“Everything is according to the ‘rule’, but wasn’t it a real failure to mess around with the unacceptable rules?”
Everyone believes that I will get the support from the nobles to keep the Imperial Family in line but that was what they said without knowing me well.
Tomorrow, I wanted to show everyone that I was nobody’s puppet.
I felt a sense of relief without any particular reason, it might be due to the idea that I could leave this place anytime as soon as my contract with the Imperial Family was over.