Chapter 1. From the Breakup of the Marriage
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Two days have already passed since the Emperor’s birthday party.
Except for the official event, I was staying quiet in the detached house because I had not yet been released from probation.
Maybe because I grabbed the workers like rats just before I got my memory back from my previous life, I was able to live more peacefully because no one strayed from their zone. It was the best way to not to be noticed by me.
While reading the socialite gossip, I remembered the face of the first prince at the banquet.
Right after I stepped on his foot.
I smiled to myself, thinking, ‘He looked like he had a lot to say.’
However the first prince had not said much since then and just politely escorted me as his fiancé.
I wondered if it was too much to step on him on purpose, but I couldn’t let go of the discussion about my usefulness, as if I was just some kind of object.
Just because the memory of my past life came back doesn’t mean that my previous bad temper has entirely disappeared–
‘The former Elodie is also me.’
What has changed is that I now have eyes that can see the situation more objectively.
Anyway it was quite annoying of the first prince to refuse to break up. It would be more convenient for him to break up this marriage now.
I twisted my face and said mockingly, doing my best imitation of Adenmir, “I fell in love with Estelle, so I want to break off our marriage. Try holding onto your skirt while crying. Humph.”
I only imagined it, but it doesn’t really fit well with the first prince.
Anyway, where was I in my reading?
“I even read the part where the Countess Faust and her butler secretly entered the stable…….”
I was just about to get back to my gossip paper when…
Martha threw open the door and hurried in.
Martha shouted, “Miss, did you have an incident?!”
Far from an accident, I was confined to this detached house these days, and I shook my head hard because it felt like an unfair accusation at the moment.
Martha threw her hands up, exasperated. “Look at you stuttering. You did something. If you didn’t there would be no reason for the duchess to call you!”
My ears perked up in interest. “The Duchess? Did she call me?”
Martha: “Yes, She told me you should come to the greenhouse!”
Unlike Martha, who stamped her feet with anxiety, I put on my outerwear with a smile.
I could roughly guess why she called me.
“Are you leaving, Miss?”
“Of course, I must go. She is calling me.”
I could guess why Martha was so afraid.
The power of the shadows, Perdia.
Although the nature of all family members is cruel, it was Themis, the Duchess, who was the cruelest person among them.
She was such a ruthless torturer that there was a rumor that she constantly fed a spy hiding in the family with poison, and made him feel like he was burning for a month.
There was also a story that she did not stop torturing the spy, even after he confessed the truth he knew, because she enjoyed his pain. However, it was not clear whether it was true or not.
I gulped. ‘I’m still afraid of the Duchess, too.’
I approached the duchess to raise funds for independence, but I wouldn’t have dared to talk to her first if it wasn’t for that reason.
Because the duchess and I were uncomfortable with each other.
I was raised in this mansion since I was a baby that couldn’t even crawl. Naturally, I had my first memories of the duchess.
Did I catch a cold? For some reason I was crying out loud, and there was no one around me to take care of me. Except for the duchess. The Duchess looked at me as I lay crying.
Like looking at an inanimate object. That was all.
That first memory would come to mind from time to time.
However the Duchess has never treated me coldly or openly embarrassed me.
She just treated me superficially as if she were treating a guest who came to the family.
If we meet, we greet each other briefly and say hello to each other at a meal. It was safe to say that we never had such a long conversation until recently.
Anyway, I needed to calm Martha’s acting down – it wasn’t as if I was going to die!
“It’s all right, Martha. I’m not going to be poisoned anymore.”
Martha sniffed. “You mean because you have the power to ‘destroy’ the poison?”
It was a good thing Martha believed my lie. Having entrusted her with work separately, I immediately headed to the Duchess’s greenhouse.
The sunlight on the way to the greenhouse was so hot. It was so muggy that I frowned, even after being out for a while.
I quickly entered the greenhouse; it was better than outside, but it wasn’t cool at all.
“Where did she go?” I muttered to myself.
I drifted over to her research desk, but there was no one.
Research journals and research materials were scattered all over the place, and I didn’t want to cause any misunderstanding, so I looked around the flower bed next to the laboratory.
‘Wow, it’s pretty!’
Among them I saw a large, colorful flower with five colors. It was when I stretched out my hand to touch it as if I was possessed.
“If you reach out a little more, your entire arm will be torn.”
“Oh…….!” I quickly pulled my hand away and looked back.
There was the Duchess.
“Halkaria, the cannibal flower. It enchants people with their pollen and flashy looks and then devours them. You’d better be careful, Elodie.”
“I didn’t know.”
“That’s understandable. It was recently discovered on an unexplored, uninhabited island belonging to the Kingdom of Debei.”
Fufu. The Duchess smiled at the cannibal flower as if it were lovely.
Haha. I sat across from her with an awkward smile.
Of course, I knew how to get to the point, but the Duchess served tea for me. It was a cool cold tea with rose-shaped ice.
“Thank you for the drink!” I chimed.
I was thirsty from the scorching heat, so I gulped down the iced tea in an instant. It was a very refreshing, sweet and delicious tea.
However, the Duchess’s reaction was unusual. It was a strange expression, as if seeing something absurd.
“Did you drink it all?”
“Wasn’t I supposed to drink it….?”
I drank it all, without leaving a single drop. I glanced at the teacup and the Duchess’s face in bewilderment. She told me to drink it, so I drank it, but now you ask me if I drank it all….
The Duchess tilted her head. “It’s rare for people to drink the tea I give them without hesitation.”
Only then did I understand why the Duchess was surprised.
‘Because the Duchess notoriously deals with poison. You have no choice but to suspect that the tea is poisoned.’
But that didn’t apply to me. No matter what poison I eat, the purification power of the Severes family will detoxify all of it.
But the Duchess didn’t know how I make my antidotes.
I wiped the sweat from my forehead, pretending it wasn’t a big deal.
“It was too hot to refuse a cold tea….?”
“Life is more important than heat,” she countered.
“Because I like the smell of the tea…?”
“It’s tea that doesn’t smell.”
Whatever I said was interrupted repeatedly. I had a gut feeling that it would be difficult to fool the Duchess with simple words.
What should I do?
I thought for a while, and then I shouted, “The Duchess and I are good partners! There’s no one who would be poisoning their partner…..”
“Yes. I’m sure you liked my abilities. Didn’t the antidote pass this time? I thought that’s why you called for me.”
After I had said it, I was worried that I might look rude, but it was already done.
I was nervously waiting for her response.
Duchess: “Partner…. Yes, partner. You’re right, Elodie.”
Fortunately, there was no sign of displeasure with my attitude. As I exhaled in relief, the Duchess’s words continued.
“I didn’t poison your tea. If I were really going to poison you , it would have been in a different situation, not when you and I are talking. Because I have to avoid suspicion.”
“And wouldn’t I be able to hurt you anytime, if I made up my mind?”
This is how the Duchess sounded to me: ‘If I wanted to hurt you, I’d have removed you earlier, so you can rest easy.’
“The Duchess is right.”
When I answered with a bright smile, the Duchess smirked.
“As you guessed, this time I got a license to sell the antidote you made. The supplies have been prepared, and distribution has started. There was also an advance payment. The amount of antidote produced was small, so it isn’t much, but here you go.”
“Thank you, Duchess.”
I pulled down the corner of my mouth that was about to creep up when I saw the money bag.
The Duchess said it was a small amount, but it was more than expected when I lifted it and heard the jingle.
I wanted to open it right away, but I endured it with extreme patience.
“Check this document for detailed cash receipts.”
There was no way that the Duchess with her negligible wealth would have cheated on me, so I covered it with a glance.
“And I have another request.”
“Yes, tell me.”
“I’d like to order an additional antidote, but how long will it take?”
I answered, “It will be ready in a couple of days. The amount won’t be much this time, but will that be okay?”
“Ideally, I’d like to buy the method to prepare the antidote if possible. Would that be difficult?”
“Uh…. Sadly, yes, it’s a trade secret.” I smiled awkwardly and clapped my hands.
If I hastily disclose how to make the antidote, I was likely to be caught using the power of the Severes family.
Naturally the Duchess immediately moved on to the next question.
“There are quite a few other extreme poisons waiting, so I wonder if you can also make an antidote for them.”
“It is possible. But the more toxic, the more demanding and time consuming it will be.”
Rather than being difficult, it would be painful for a long time, so I didn’t want to take one if possible. The amount that can be made at once is also limited.
Standing up from my seat, I suddenly remembered the last family meal. The Duchess firmly blocked Jansi from conducting a background check on her new pharmacist.
“Madam, thank you for keeping our partnership a secret from brother Jansi.”
“I made a promise, so of course I have to keep it. Because we are partners.”
It was a word that felt new to me, who was a Perdia but not a Perdia.
Of course the Duchess didn’t mean anything with it.
To get to the annex where I was staying, I had to go through the west corridor. After leaving the greenhouse, I walked toward the west corridor.
Next to the corridor, I was passing by the door to the family’s dungeon when I heard the Duke’s voice.
“Lock him up.”
“Ah, your Excellency. I feel wronged. I swore allegiance to Perdia and his Excellency with all my might, why -!”
The sound of dull kicks stopped my steps.
As I turned my head toward the dungeon, a scary scene unfolded.
I saw a man whose face had been ripped apart so savagely that it was hard to recognize him and the Duke of Perdia standing in front of him. The family’s soldiers surrounded them.
Although it was difficult to identify because of his face, I found out who was lying on the floor.
It was Tector Arold, the (former) aide of Duke Perdia.
“We have already collected evidence that you are in communication with the second prince.”
“No, Your Grace, it’s a conspiracy! This must be the scheming of the second prince to cause a division in the Perdia family!”
I marveled at Sir Arold’s assertion and his audacity.
Look at that fluttering sheet of paper that sells even out his real master with whom he communicates.
On the other hand, it was a claim that could have restored his position, if the Duke of Perdia had trusted his aide.
“Conspiracy, you say…..” A smirk appeared on the Duke’s lips. It was right after that.
The Duke’s blade slammed into the floor without hesitation.
And there beside it–
There was the aide’s hand.
Tector screamed at his hand severed by a sword, but the Duke did not remove the sword or blink.
“ Help….please, please…..save me….”
Only when the aide who had been crying for a long time finally fainted, did the Duke pull out his sword.
Red blood flowed from the tip of the sword.
Having unintentionally witnessed this terrible scene, I held my breath and crept behind a nearby tree to hide.
But my attempt to do so was unsuccessful.
I slowly raised my head at the low voice that called me.
A golden, cold gaze was staring straight at me.
Scared, my whole body froze. His eyes alone were enough to overwhelm people.
At that moment I had a thought. ‘If he finds out that I´m not his real daughter, the tip of that sword might point at me.’
I’m trying so hard to avoid that ending, but will it work out as I thought?
Instinctive fear crept in.
Then the Duke stepped aside and passed me.
“I have something to tell you – follow me.”
It sounded like a command. The passing Duke smelled thickly of blood.
I followed him without saying another word.
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