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“Let go of my hand. Unless you do not intend to hear the answer.”
I took a step back and widened our distance as soon as he did what I said.
Jason looked as if he wanted to approach me right away and get a hold of my hand again, but I hid it behind myself.
I spoke as if everyone was listening after looking around.
“I realize this is the perfect time to tell people about our scandal allegation which was a lie, Viscount.”
“…What are you doing right now?”
He talked in a small voice.
I said while tapping my palm on his shoulder as if I understood everything regardless of what he actually meant to say.
“With the amount of attention we’re getting which is the most notable thing for this purpose, I meant to ask you to give up this time, right here. That was a really great choice for both of us. Now everyone in the Empire will know that we are not lovers, and loveless companions.”
“I was brought from the sky.”
When I pointed my finger toward the ceiling with a contented smile, all the eyes of the nobles in the ballroom headed to the place where my fingertips were pointing.
I spoke leisurely as if I have been waiting for this moment and Jason looked at me with a stunned look.
“……and also, thank you for helping us build the Stella Ethelanche Foundation with a huge amount of gold. Everyone knows about the story, don’t they?”
I said while looking back at the nobles.
“The story about the mysterious Princess of the star who took refuge among the stars and moved the star palace above the clouds when the Imperial Family was threatened 10 years ago.”
Karen was watching me with a ridiculous face.
That folktale I quoted was nothing but nonsense which was believed by the people.
There was no such thing as a star palace that existed in the first place to hide the real Stella.
Because I posed as someone while playing the role as Karen’s maid even though I was the real one.
But what would those, the Imperial Family members who knew the truth do?
They wouldn’t have any intention of showing their disrespect to me in front of anyone.
And I would take advantage of the fact.
Jason Evanders has stopped reports of the Ethelanche Foundation until he was done issuing embargo to the entire press, and also the fact that my information is extremely limited to the noble society.
I will use it only for my own sake.
“You were the first person on earth to understand my intention so well to help the nobles who had lost billions of dollars.”
“But it’s very unfortunate that there are people who suspect such a strong ‘friend relationship’ as a romantic relationship. I believe Viscount will behave so well that such a thing won’t happen anymore in the future.”
Jason Evanders looked like he was just getting a perfect blow in the face.
He, who was considered as the cream of the crop in the empire, wouldn’t have expected to be dismissed in front of so many nobles.
[T/N: ‘cream of the crop’ means someone who is carefully selected as being the best of a class (source: Merriam-Webster).]
I was just treating Jason like a complete subordinate.
The Imperial Family couldn’t just come and go to him like they pleased.
Only then did I take a step forward to him as he looked at me with a cold and stiffened face.
“But friends can dance with each other at least once. Don’t they?”
“Oh, now that I think about it, there was an antiquated rule for people who live in reality. Was it about an unmarried woman who couldn’t talk to the man first?”
I smiled beautifully while keeping my gaze straight to Jason.
“I take it back if it’s rude of me to ask for a dance like this. There will be many people who want to dance with me.”
It wasn’t a disgrace to me even if he refused, and I nailed down the fact that it wasn’t a loss either.
What about you?
He looked at me for quite a while and flashing a smile after that. And he came up to me to reach out for my hand.
“Your Highness always surprises me.”
“Therefore, this would be the first dance of my debutante.”
I took his hand and lightly grasped his shoulder with my other hand. His hand wrapped around my waist and he pulled me against him.
When our gazes met, gentle music hummed into the air. He tilted his head and whispered in my ear.
“…To be frank, I was angry. The information about the Ethelanche Foundation was a special news that my side once tried to spark up and disclose, but it’s not even a breaking news anymore because it was not new.”
And he lifted me up so lightly to harmonize with the tempo.
Our distance was pretty close when our eyes met in the air.
He seemed to grin at me with a surprised face. And I began to step leisurely.
“But somehow, I thought that I could be taken advantage of if it’s for Your Highness.”
“And, Your Highness… at least if I could only protect Your Highness’ adoptive parents in your regard.”
The distance between us grew closer again.
“Can you show me your weakness?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“I was talking about using the Imperial Family’s falsehood to hide the past of Your Highness, who was once a commoner.”
I turned around in my place when he held onto my hand.
Jean Vezelle’s masterpiece, the glamorous laces on the dress spread around beautifully so that it was able to evoke exclamations from the people.
He said while wrapping his hands around my waist again and tilted his head toward me.
“I asked if the lies the Imperial Family made to make Your Highness look like a nobody can also be used to protect your adoptive parents.”
“But I didn’t like people who were too smart like this.”
“Hiding your past of living with commoners and gaining favor from the nobles with your transcendent image, while hiding the existence of your adoptive parents at the same time. I was used by the Princess without realizing it.”
“You were the first one to take advantage of me. Moreover, when you said you came to help me.”
“I’m trying to help you.”
“On top of that, using me to overcome the situation where you could have been humiliated because you don’t have a partner. In addition, it’s great to give a blow to the Imperial Family as well.”
When I looked up, I saw the emperor and empress looking at me from the top seat.
Their faces were pale.
As if they never expected me to act like this.
I smiled at them as if I was saying ‘look at me’.
Do I still look like a fake princess who was just a bait?
When the music came to an end, my debutante’s first dance had ended successfully.
The gentlemen immediately gathered around Jason when he stood facing me as if he had waited.
When I saw them all looking at me, I thought they were going to take over the turn asking me to dance after Jason.
I hummed and turned to the source of voice only to realize it was my acquaintances, Lord Hector Selvice, the chief editor of the Velvet Daily.
“Do you mind if I ask Your Highness to dance? Of course, just because you two are completely friends, I wouldn’t have intruded tactlessly.”
He kept watching Jason’s tact while saying so.
Jason approached me and wrapped his arms around my shoulder instead of answering.
He stared at Jason with an unexpected and intimate move, but Jason answered deftly while fixing his eyes to the men.
“Of course we are, but because there are so many gentlemen gathered here, why don’t we go play billiards together? I suggest it because I think it would be better.”
“That’s a great idea!”
Hector Selvice replied as if he had been waiting for it.
Most of the gentlemen looked reluctant to play billiards, perhaps not interested in it, however Hector Selvice excelled in leading the ambience.
“Come to think of it, Lord Evanders is pretty good at billiards, so it would be great if you could introduce the game to your partner here. Don’t you think so?”
The men barely nodded with dismayed looks.
I glared at Jason with all my strength, but he answered deceitfully.
“Then there’s no reason to hesitate.”
After uttering those words, Jason turned around with his shoulders still wrapped on my shoulder.
One hand was unfortunately stuck into his trousers’ pocket.
I tapped Jason’s hand around my shoulder as soon as we turned around, however he tilted his head and whispered to me.
“Now that you’ve used me as you pleased, it’s your turn to help me.”
He was very skilled in dealing with people.
“I’ll let you go first. Lord Winchester will go first.”
Jason won each of the matches even though he always gave up the first turn without difficulties.
His eyes became sharp when he skimmed the ball, different from his usual gaze which were always gentle when he looked at people.
While his arms tucked under the cue, he hit the white ball on the table in a quite straight posture.
Whenever he leaned down his upper body and women could see his shirt was about to burst through the stretched vest, the women’s breathless exclamations kept coming.
At this moment, the sky seemed to be on his side.
The white ball rolled exactly as he wanted and eventually hit the enemy ball.
Despite his endless winning streak, Jason responded to the game with a face like it was just a trivial matter for him.
The tendons on his forearm stood out as he delicately pushed the ball with a cue..
Only then did the fine and firmly attached muscles on his body be able to catch my attention.
I thought I could understand where the power that lifted me up earlier came from now.
‘He won again.’
How much would I have to reciprocate if I kept staying here? When I was about to leave my seat silently, he approached me.
The eyes of the people who were in their seats headed in this direction altogether.
Jason Evanders was just like a magnet that could attract the attention of the people.
“Wouldn’t the star of the day try to play it as well?”
I said quickly because I didn’t want to get involved.
The situation where people’s attention focused on me was not great either.
I didn’t want to stay in the noisy ballroom for long because Clyde didn’t come either.
“Please enjoy yourselves. I can go now if I have watched this, right?”
“Take this back. Have fun.”
Hector Selvice quickly moved away after he received the cue from Jason Evanders
“I was just getting bored as well.”
“I saw the piano on the way here earlier, so how about I play the pianoforte?”
[T/N: Pianoforte is the longer word for ‘piano’ which is used when someone is referring to antique or modern rearrangement of piano.]
“No, I’m going, just by myself.”
I should’ve told him this. That was what I thought soon after.
But he had an unexpected rival.
“Sir Jason, please play the piano for me as well.”
“I also wanted to do so.
“Are you finally playing it? You always refused no matter how Young Lady Hayleen asked you to do it at the previous ball.”
“I’ll play it if Your Highness wants me to.”
All the women looked at me with sparkling eyes when he said so.
“Your Highness, please listen to Sir Jason playing the piano.”
“He can play any song perfectly. I’ve never heard of such a delicate pianoforte performance.”
“There was probably no such good performance in the Starland where the Princess resides.”
Jason took off his jacket and draped it on my shoulder as if he had been waiting to do so.
He said it was cold, opened it tightly, and tilted his head and whispered closely. He whispered closely and tilted his head, adjusted the jacket firmly while saying the air was cold.
“Aren’t you about to go?”
His jacket had a unique scent.
“….because you’re my friend.”
He once again tightened the jacket that was draped on me as a way to prevent me from taking off his jacket and returning it.
“Between friends, we can accept a kind of request to this extent. Am I wrong?”
“Play as much as you want. Because I have to go.”
It was at that moment.
“I helped you, Stella.”
He whispered in a really low voice that it could only be heard by me as he drew closer, and flash a beautiful smile when our eyes met.
“Please help me just this once.”