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*The Crown Prince’s POV.*
“The Princess of Lillian will now enter.”
At the same time as the servant’s voice, a small girl stepped softly onto the red carpet, holding the Duke’s hand.
The purple dress, decorated with frills and lace, was so gorgeous that it stood out even from a distance.
The ribbon ornament on her chest was cute for her age. The tiara on her head was very elaborate, and her pearl earrings were small and pretty.
Her brilliant blonde hair shone brightly, proof that she was of the Lillian’s bloodline. Her golden eyes, inherited from her mother’s side, were mysterious, and her small white face was pretty and cute.
Rumored, she was the Duke of Lillian’s only daughter.
However, after the death of the Duchess, the duchy became closed and it would be difficult to see her face in person.
It was the Crown Prince’s first time seeing her face.
He could still vividly recall the image of her under the fancy lights, escorted by the Duke, stepping slowly down the red-carpeted path.
When he spoke to her, Roxana stared at him, her eyes wide opened like a frightened rabbit.
“Are you the Crown Prince?”
When he actually faced her, she did indeed have a beautiful face, but he had the impression that she looked somewhat dark and weak.
She looked awkward, perhaps she was uncomfortable with the Duke by her side.
In response, the people looking at her had high expectations, but they soon became disappointed.
She certainly look like the Duke in appearance. Her eyes seem to resemble those of the Duchess’s. But they didn’t think she has the same personality.
“The Lady is still a child. But she is still very clever for such a young girl, she may even surpass the duchess when she is older.”
The Duke was regal and dignified, and the Duchess was gentle and strong, but the princess did not seem to resemble either of them.
The Duke was standing next to her, so she couldn’t come forward, and many people looked at her as if she was a prey.
But the Crown Prince was not disappointed to see her like that.
The Duke volunteered to go to war after the Duchess left the world due to illness, so the young Roxana must have been left home alone.
Not all, but children who grew up without knowing their parents’ love were often traumatized. Moreover, she had never been involved in any outside activities and lived only in the Duke’s mansion, so this was the first time she had appeared in such a crowded place.
With so many people’s eyes focused on one person, it was only natural that she looked that way.
He looked at her, small and pretty, at first liking her, then feeling pity for her. When he tried to converse with her under the coercion of the mother-empress, he found her to be innocent and very lovely.
The aristocrats in the capital were all arrogant and vicious regardless of their age.
The higher their status, the more arrogant and vicious they were.
Among such people, Roxana could be said to be special, for better or for worse. After the debutante, which left a strong impression, the Empress summoned her son to the Empress Palace.
“Jeremy, you seemed to be on good terms with the princess at the banquet.”
“You should get to know her better. It’s not a bad idea to get to know her beforehand, since she may become your future wife.”
The Empress said softly, looking pleasant and calmer than usual. The reason the Empress wanted him and Roxana to get close was to bring the Duke of Lillian into their supporting forces.
He was very young at the time, so he did not know this fact, and he just went along with it.
‘I liked her, too.’
The young girl, who had grown up unloved, was hungry for affection and he took a little interest and fondness in her.
Eventually, they got engaged. Her innocence and purity, so out of character for her status, was at times hard to understand.
He found her interesting, and sometimes endearing.
Roxana wasn’t beautiful enough to be the light of the country, but she was beautiful, and as she grew older her beauty became more and more radiant.
The unique weak and dark atmosphere had changed significantly, and when it was just the two of them, she was still innocent and shy.
But time had changed many things. Somewhere along the line, she was too slowly began to change.
The timid, and cute person she used to be disappeared, and she became depressed and violent.
She didn’t hesitate to use her power to torment the innocent Young Lady in front of many people. She also wore a childish appearance that didn’t fit the fashion and aged makeup.
Her fame and reputation had fallen to the ground, and before she knew it, she had become the target of others’ ridicule.
The disappointment grew in her incomprehensible appearance.
He felt disillusioned by her ugly struggle to lose her former appearance and began to stay away from her more and more.
But on the day of the banquet, his heart fluttered when he found her climbing onto the railing.
He thought he might really lose her, and his whole body froze and his head went blank.
But fortunately, Roxana regained consciousness safely and was standing in front of him in good health. Besides, not only did she look safe now, but she was also beautiful, as if she had regained her former lightness.
No, it was as if she was more beautiful than before.
She was dressed much more lightly than usual, but she was still graceful and dazzling in her beauty.
“You seem to have recovered well.”
“Is that so?”
Indifferent to their first meeting in weeks, she showed no sign of being the least bit perturbed by the praise.
Her gaze seemed deep and quiet. It was unfamiliar in a way that was calm yet somehow chilling.
I walked past the Crown Prince, who was standing there with a dazed look on his face, and went to the sofa.
Then a servant standing at the entrance offered me a cup of tea and some refreshments.
I sat nonchalantly drinking my tea, and eventually the Crown Prince took a seat across from me. He had not taken his eyes off me since I entered the parlor. Instead of expressing his disdain and disgust as he had done before, he just watched silently, his gaze full of admiration and wonder.
I wasn’t foolish to not know what that look meant.
If I had to guess based on my experience and Roxana’s memory, the Crown Prince seemed to like beautiful women who looked beautiful and innocent.
Knowing this, I went to the trouble of dressing up, so the effect was still not bad. If there was such a thing as a camera in this world, I wanted to take a picture of his face right now and send it to Claire.
It was good to win the favor of the other person easily, but it was not a pleasant thing because the other person was the Crown Prince.
I was uncomfortable with the blatant gaze that didn’t seem to fall on me in the slightest.
The Crown Prince regained his composure and, perhaps embarrassed, cleared his throat and withdrew his gaze from me.
He brought the cup to his lips gracefully, blushing slightly.
It seemed like an unthinking action, but perhaps because his appearance was so gaudy, it was like a work of art.
It was indeed very beautiful, but I didn’t feel any special emotion.
My heart didn’t throb or feel scared or excited like it had a few days ago before meeting him.
It was nothing like I expected, so I was a little surprised at myself. I was surprisingly at peace now that I was facing him.
There was no angry atmosphere, and the Crown Prince acted cautiously, as if he was rather considerate of me.
His expression was calm, and there was little conversation, so much so that I even felt bored rather than nervous.
Perhaps it was the accident at the Imperial Palace that was the cause of this peacefulness, but with only two of us like this, I felt how long it had been since the Crown Prince had seen me, or rather, seen Roxana, and spent time alone with her.
Roxana loved this time, peaceful and as warm as the afternoon sun. I looked at him casually and shifted my gaze to the boxes piled voraciously in the back. It had been bugging me from the moment I walked in, but I was too preoccupied with the Crown Prince to take a closer look.
When my nerves relaxed a little, I saw it again. The boxes piled high were uniformly wrapped in high quality packaging, in large quantities and of various sizes.
“It’s your birthday soon.”
The Crown Prince said, as if he noticed my gaze. I thought for a moment about what to say and answered.
“Thank you for the gifts.”
It was a really tasteless reply, even when I thought about it myself. The Crown Prince must have felt it, because he looked a little disappointed.
“It has been a long time since I have seen you, but it seems I am the only one who is happy to see you.”
The Crown Prince said in a voice full of disappointment.
As for me, I found what he just said hilarious.
‘When has he ever cared for Roxana?’
Looking at me the whole time, treating me as if he was an old friend or lover, I thought of his action at the banquet at the Imperial Palace and a sneer came to my mouth.
“It hasn’t been that long.”
I replied in a calm voice, in keeping with the Crown Prince. When a cold answer followed, the Crown Prince was offended and stopped talking.
In a flash, the atmosphere in the room froze. The servants looked at me and the Crown Prince with a strange look, and I sat still without looking at them.
The Crown Prince stared at me with a stiff face.
So I looked at him silently and calmly.
The silence continued for a while. At the end of the silence, it was the Crown Prince who spoke first.
“I apologize about last time….”
“I didn’t think you’d be so hurt. I’m sorry.”
The Crown Prince told me with a sigh in his voice.
His apology gave me a lot to think about.
In fact, not only did the nanny and maids around ignore Roxana, but the person who sincerely apologized was practically pushing her to die. The Crown Prince still has the upper hand if it is the crown prince’s child to be a legitimate heir, whether it is good or bad to expand the country’s territory and defend the nation, but even the emperor tried to persuade and conciliate it instead.
However, the way the Crown Prince, who had a much higher status than them, uttered his apologies in a sincere manner was somewhat surprisingly understandable.
The struggle for the throne between the Crown Prince and the second prince was not yet over, and the situation was so fierce that it could be said to be at its peak right now. The imperial family, built on a history of flesh and bone, was a more merciless and brutal place than any aristocracy.
The Empress had made a proper name for herself and sent two Princes off to war at a very young age.
However, contrary to everyone’s expectations, the second prince was still alive and well, and the army he led achieved a string of victories that were cheered by the people.
The Crown Prince asserted his legitimacy and was supported by most of the nobles with the power of the Empress, but he could not ignore the nobles who supported the Second Prince.
Above all, the Second Prince had the support of his people.
Being a war hero was the title of the Second Prince.
It was too important to ignore. Furthermore, even though the Emperor had seen the conflict between the two powers intensifying, he had yet to express his exact intentions, which confused many people. If I turn my back on this situation now, things will be very different.
When I didn’t respond, the Crown Prince looked at me with an uneasy look in his eyes. I raised my head and slowly made eye contact with him.