Chapter 20

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“Is that so?”

 

I replied in a hard voice with a cold, stiff expression on my face.

 

I had gone to great lengths to urge reconciliation, but since the other side refused, there was no need for me to be any more obsequious.

 

I didn’t know how my current appearance was reflected in the eyes of the Crown Prince.

 

His complexion darkened even more as his gaze met mine.

 

At the same time, the image of the Crown Prince, who was now in front of me, overlapped with the image of him accusing and treating Roxana coldly in front of Claire.

 

A sneer came to my mouth as I saw him looking as if he was the one who was hurt, even though there was another victim.

 

When I thought of how he treated Roxana, and how much she suffered because of it, I hated the man in front of me and felt unpleasant spending time facing him like this.

 

I was just about to stand up when I realized that if I faced him any longer, my earlier decision to stop making things worse might be in vain.

 

“I think you misunderstood me enough…We’re not lovers.”

 

I frowned.

 

‘You don’t sound sincere in your excuses.’

 

The Crown Prince was adamant, knowing that I didn’t believe his words one bit. I quickly wondered if his words meant that they were not officially dating.

 

Expressing affection and love for each other, taking sides, and giving gifts were not things that only lovers could do. Hugging, kissing, and other skinship activities were not necessarily reserved for lovers.

 

I didn’t completely believe what the Crown Prince said, but even if what he said was true, nothing changed.

 

In order to favor Claire, the Crown Prince treated his fiancée coldly and neglected her. If he had given Roxana even half the attention he cared for Claire, Roxana would not have been as broken as she was.

 

At the end, when she came up with a wish for her own death, her heart became heavy as if she had put a big stone on her heart.

 

“…”

 

I made no reply to the Crown Prince.

 

Then he continued to speak with a nervous look on his face.

 

“I am sincerely sorry that I have been so neglectful of you lately. But you’re only nominally engaged to me? What the hell does that mean?”

 

Roxana loved the Crown Prince, so he was her only betrothed, but he had no love for Roxana. So I guess it’s hard to find a word that can define their relationship more than nominal fiancée.

 

But the expression on his face as he questioned me was full of shock, as if he had not heard me. When I stared at him in silence with furrowed brows, he said as he took my hand.

 

“I have never, not even once, thought of you in that way.”

 

He spoke firmly with his eyes fixed on me.

 

“Roxana, you are my fiancée. No matter what happens, that fact will not change. Don’t forget that.”

 

I gently withdrew my hand from his grasp and replied.

 

“Is that so?”

 

The Crown Prince was disappointed by my reply. Did he really think that I would be moved by such words?

 

I sighed inwardly.

 

I thought to myself, It would have been so much better if it was Roxana who was listening to those words instead of me. When I didn’t show any more reaction, the Crown Prince asked me with a wry smile.

 

“By the way, what did you mean by what you just said?”

 

“What do you mean, what I said earlier?”

 

“What Claire said.”

 

I was a little surprised because I didn’t expect him to say something I thought I would overlook first.

 

Did the Crown Prince really not know how Claire had been tormenting Roxana? It didn’t really matter if he knew what she had said or done. Now was the time to expose Claire’s mistakes to the surface.

 

Normally, it would be more likely that the Crown Prince would know about it and just keep it to himself, but now that he felt guilty, I would probably see a minimum of sincerity if I were to point out her mistakes. Whether he warned Claire or not, or watched her in the future, there was nothing bad for me. It would be perfect if the Crown Prince knew what was behind her and was disappointed and kept away from her, but I didn’t want to go that far.

 

I just want to make sure that there would be a small conflict between them and that Claire wouldn’t be able to act recklessly in the future. That’s enough for now.

 

“I heard that you gave Claire a dress from Madam Haley this time.”

 

I spoke as nonchalantly as I could, trying to keep my face ordinary.

 

“How did you…?”

 

He looked at a loss as to whether I knew. The way he looked at me made me sigh, because he really didn’t seem to know. Madame Hayley was now independent and ran her own store, but she was once a designer working in the imperial palace.

 

Combining fine stitching, good results, and even the prestige of being the designer who had previously made the Empress’s clothes, naturally the wardrobe store she ran was very popular in the empire. However, she made no more than ten dresses a year, and the dresses she made were so expensive and rare that even the aristocrats who were willing to pay for luxury were hesitant to buy them. It was only natural to wonder why Claire, a daughter of a Baron, wore it.

 

Even without asking, it was obvious who the source was. However, in Roxana’s memory, Claire had talked about it as if it were a confirmation from her own mouth. Therefore, it was certain that it was a gift from the Crown Prince.

 

“Not only the dress, but also the pearl necklace and sapphire earrings that were auctioned off this time. Of course, there must have been many more.”

 

The Crown Prince looked at me as if to ask how I knew that. I added that perhaps the Crown Prince misunderstood that I was investigating the two of them.

 

“Claire must have been very happy. She bragged so much in front of me. I was jealous.”

 

“…!”

 

I noticed that the Crown Prince was getting more and more fidgety at my words. Rather than getting angry and swearing at someone when pointing out their mistakes, you have to laugh at them with an unconcerned face and be sarcastic about their mistakes. Both Roxana and the Crown Prince were of high status and grew up without the benefit of the people around them, so they didn’t know any better, but this was exactly the way they used to talk in social situations.

 

“Isn’t Claire so thoughtful? When I showed signs of discomfort, she worried about me who didn’t receive anything. She was going to talk to Your Highness on my behalf.”

 

There was a saying that the tongue of the nobles was sharper than a well-honed sword.

 

I wasn’t an aristocrat, but I lived a pretty cutthroat life in my previous life. School was where the competitive structure was formed more than anywhere else, and there were students with a certain amount of integrity. But when I think of the faces of my family of five, I suddenly realize that Roxana, who had no one.

 

 

There were none.

 

I wondered what would have happened if she had sisters.

 

Perhaps it was because I remembered the family I would never see again, or perhaps it was because I remembered Roxana’s sad past, but the tip of my nose grew hot.

 

But the Crown Prince was right in front of me, and I had no choice but to swallow my tears. When I calmed my emotions and looked at him again, he looked more troubled than before and suddenly took out a handkerchief from his pocket and offered it to me.

 

I hesitated for a moment and then accepted it.

 

“I wondered how she knew so much about my private life that I had never told anyone about, so I guess I didn’t feel very good about her flaunting her friendship with His Highness in front of me, your fiancée. It seemed that I got angry without knowing it.”

 

I added, glancing at the Crown Prince.

 

“Of course, it could be that I’m speculating too much like everyone says.”

 

“…”

 

The Crown Prince was silent for a moment, even after hearing all my words.

 

His expression looked very complicated.

 

I wasn’t the only one there that day, so it shouldn’t be hard to ascertain the truth.

 

In fact, there was no lie in what I had just said, although I had exaggerated some parts. In the meantime, Roxana’s evil has been obscured by the attention of people, but Claire’s words and actions have obviously been problematic.

 

Even though they were of the same nobility, there was a difference in rank between Roxana and Claire.

 

So it wasn’t strange at all that Roxana took it out on Claire because she was offended.

 

However, Roxana couldn’t do anything about it out of spite.

 

She would be punished to varying degrees, but she was to end up making “appropriate” compensation to Claire’s family, the Baron of Dana.

 

No matter what Roxana did to Claire, all that would be left to her when the job was done was a small financial loss and notoriety that would not affect the Duke’s estate in the slightest. However, in front of the Crown Prince’s fiancée, Claire dared to boast about her friendship with the Crown Prince and taunted her by boasting about the gifts she had received from him.

 

This was an incident where Roxana could just slap Claire on the face and go.

 

The Crown Prince’s complexion turned dark, perhaps because he thought I was being sarcastic. But I didn’t say anything more because I had every right to be sarcastic.

 

“…Claire’s family is not wealthy, and Baron Dana spends his time drinking and gambling. Because of that, Claire couldn’t afford a decent dress. I’m sure you know how arrogant the aristocracy of the capital can be.”

 

The Crown Prince looked at me as if asking for my understanding.

 

However, since I didn’t respond and just looked at him coldly, he sighed and continued.

 

“I felt sorry for her when people mocked or harassed her, so I helped her a few times…..I never thought that you would be offended or hurt by it.”

 

The Crown Prince laid out a plausible explanation. I listened to him in silence, keeping his words to myself along the way. As far as I knew, Claire was the only person the Crown Prince had helped, although she wasn’t the only person in the capital’s social scene who wore a shabby dress and was ignored by the people. 

 

But even after hearing the end of it, I still didn’t understand it.

 

Claire was the only one.

 

So he just helped her by giving her expensive dresses and accessories because she was poor ?

 

I wondered if anyone would actually believe those words unless they were fools.

 

“Did His Highness present her with so many luxuries just for that reason?”