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Claire was wearing a pale apricot colored dress with ruffles and bows on the chest and a wide brimmed hat.
Although she was dressed in a simple outfit, her gorgeous and innocent appearance caught people’s attention. From the moment Claire appeared, I could feel people taking turns looking at her and me.
She smiled beautifully at people and sat down. Claire’s seat was at the far end of the tea table in the most secluded spot.
It was the most miserable seat in the house, but she smiled and sat down meekly without a hint of discomfort. At first the people seemed mostly perplexed by Claire’s appearance, but their gazes were soon tinged with curiosity.
They stared at Claire, then at me with interesting glances as if to see what my reaction would be.
I just kept silent and took a sip of the tea in front of me calmly.
I didn’t need to do what they wanted in front of people who wished me misery. I deliberately put on a nonchalant face to avoid showing my emotions, but inside I was in a slightly surprised state.
Lady Evans was bolder than I thought. I couldn’t believe she invited me and Claire to the same table.
No one had ever invited me and Claire at the same time before to a small gathering that wasn’t a banquet to which many people were invited.
‘Do you think that because we’re in the same faction, you’re untouchable? I don’t think it’s good for you to dare to do this…’
I looked at Lady Evans. She was looking at Claire with a cocky look on her face.
“You’re quite late. If I had known that you were incapable of keeping even the most basic time commitments, I would not have invited you.”
Lady Evans placed the cup she was holding on the table with a clink. The formal smile on her face had already been erased, and her gaze on Claire was cold and arrogant.
“I’m sorry. It was my first time and the horseman was unfamiliar with the roads so we got lost on the way.”
“It seems that the horseman Lady Dana brought is very stupid, to have gotten lost for decades on a road that isn’t that complicated. Or maybe he didn’t get a proper education.”
“They say a servant is like his master, a servant who can’t even do his own job properly and causes trouble. I can see the level of the Dana’s family.”
Lady Flynn said with a sneer and the few people around her started laughing as if they had heard a very interesting story.
It was an obvious mockery.
Of all the people currently seated, Claire did arrive the latest, but looking at the watch, it wasn’t that late. At most, she was only twenty minutes later than the time written on the invitation, less than five minutes behind me.
Even if Claire was later than me, she was still a guest who had attended by strict invitation.
Therefore, Lady Evans’ words were rude enough.
From what I could see, she was deliberately trying to bully Claire by making things difficult.
This kind of ostracism and bickering was common in social circles. It must have been unpleasant and frustrating, but Claire didn’t frown. She didn’t burst into tears as she had when the Crown Prince was in front of her. She did not change her expression as she listened to the words that were even worse than what Roxana had said in the banquet hall.
People didn’t even make the minimal effort to hide their hostility in front of Claire.
They teased and belittled Claire and seemed to enjoy watching her reaction. Claire seemed to be very used to this situation now, and seemed to be unaffected.
At first, I wondered what the hell was going on.
But I soon understood.
When Roxana and Claire confronted each other, people always spoke ill of Roxana and took Claire’s shoulder. That’s why this situation now was very unfamiliar to me.
The only reason they took Claire’s side was because she had the Crown Prince by her side. Of course, there were people who were burning for justice when they saw the foolish evil woman and the good beautiful woman suffering because of her.
But not many people would have helped Claire with such pure intentions. And at least none of the people invited by Lady Evans seemed to be trying to help Claire.
Claire pretended to be the lover of the Crown Crince with a fiancée simply because she was in his favor.
However, there was no way the proud nobles would take it in stride.
If many people hated me out of jealousy after I, a noblewoman, became engaged to the Crown Prince, it was normal for more people to hate Claire, who had a low status and an illicit relationship with the Crown Prince.
Although the relationship between the Crown Prince and Claire was close, Claire would have spent more time alone than the Crown Prince was by her side. It occurred to me that Claire would have had to experience this kind of taunting and neglect for a long time, unseen until now.
Come to think of it, she had been mocked and made fun of since her first day in the society.
It wasn’t Claire’s fault that she was of low status. She was just a little unlucky.
So it was unreasonable and unfortunate that Claire was ignored and mocked by people because of her low status.
Apart from that, I didn’t feel any sympathy for Claire.
It’s not like people you don’t like suddenly seem different when they have unfortunate circumstances.
Just as Claire tried to take things from others and trample on others, both for the sake of greed and to survive in society, I was still only acting on my own behalf.
The aristocratic ladies with their fancy clothes and smiling faces, choosing only words that would hurt others, looked different and cruel in contrast to their cute young faces.
I watched them in silence, and picked up one of the cookies in front of me.
I took a bite of the cookie and the savory nuts and the buttery aroma spread sweetly in my mouth.
“Lady Dana, are you feeling okay?”
Perhaps feeling sorry that Claire was being bullied by others, or perhaps worried about the overly tense atmosphere, a Young Lady, who was sitting next to Claire, asked in a gentle voice.
“I heard that you struggled for a while with a cold……”
“Thank you for worrying about me. I’m fine now. Actually, my nanny was worried about me because my fever didn’t go down for days, but I got a precious medicine as a gift.”
“I’m glad to hear that…..”
“The medicine worked well, and I feel better than before thanks to it. If Young Lady needs it too, please let me know. I still have a lot left, so I’ll send you as much as you need.”
A cold desolation flowed through the room.
The atmosphere was even heavier than before.
The Young Lady, who talked to Claire, looked at me with a little awkward face. There was probably no one here who didn’t understand what Claire meant now.
The Crown Prince has sent Claire the medicine. Claire wanted to show it off in front of everyone now.
Claire looked at me with an innocent face.
While everyone else was perplexed, she alone was unconcerned as if she didn’t know what the problem was. She looked deceptively adorable, even though I already knew that she was dark inside.
Looking at her, I felt that there was no way the Crown Prince was out of the loop.
I put on a nonchalant face and smiled at her.
Claire was startled, but she didn’t take her eyes off of me. Unlike her innocent face, which seemed as warm as the sun, her eyes were insidious.
That strange harmony caused a strange sense of rejection.
I silently took a sip of the tea that had been placed in front of me.
Despite my pretense of piety, the relationship between the Crown Prince and Claire remained close. The Crown Prince acted like a kind fiancé in front of me, but as expected, a human being was not going to change in an instant.
So there was no reason to be surprised whether the Crown Prince sent someone to deliver the medicine or he sent it in person.
In fact, it wasn’t me who was angry by Claire’s words, but rather Lady Flynn.
“Now that I look at it, it seems that Lady Dana can’t even afford to get her hands on the medicine. Or are you saying that Baron Dana is willing to spend that much for his daughter?”
Lady Flynn said as she put down the cup in his hand. Her hard lips, cold expression, and hideous gaze….She now seemed to be barely able to repress her anger.
“Next time if you need anything, just let me know. I’ll send you one of the things that have flooded my house.”
Lady Flynn said in an arrogant voice, trying to be okay, but she looked uncomfortable and full of hate.
“Thank you, but I’m afraid I must decline.”
Claire declined gently with a smile.
“Are you ignoring my favor?”
Lady Flynn chuckled absurdly.
“Of course not, I just don’t want to bother Lady Flynn.”
Claire looked calm while dealing with Lady Flynn, who was much higher status than herself. I thought Claire was wise.
Lady Flynn said she would send medicine, but honestly, who knows if she would send medicine or poison, and now that I see Lady Flynn’s face, I feel like she would really do that.
“Lady Dana got terribly sick. She’s been sick for weeks. But you look very healthy.”
Lady Evans, who had been watching the fight between Claire and Lady Flynn, jumped in.
“It’s been many weeks now, so I should be healthier.”
“Were you really hurt?”
I cringed at the conversation, as if I had heard it somewhere before.
“What do you mean?”
Claire asked with a look of not knowing.
“It’s exactly what I said. In fact, there was still a lot of talk among the people the other day.”
Lady Evans helped Lady Flynn to attack Claire, and Lady Flynn’s hard complexion relaxed a bit.
Compared to her, Claire’s was . ….
“If it was the other day, what exactly are you talking about?”
Claire asked in a calm voice.
She looked unconcerned, but on closer inspection her face was a little more rigid than at first.
“You really don’t know or are you just pretending not to know?”
The atmosphere was more deadly than ever, even though none of the people spoke out loud. The rest of the ladies who didn’t participate in the conversation looked very interested and drank tea or ate cookies incessantly.
Lady Flynn, Lady Evans, and those who sympathized with them all seemed to have swords in their mouths.
There was no Crown Prince here, and Claire was alone, so there was no need to be wary, but their words and actions went too far.
It was never a good look. However, there was not a single person here who would take Claire’s side.
At this level, I felt I could understand what purpose Lady Evans had dared to invite me and Claire, with whom she had no friendship, to her position.
Tomorrow, rumors might spread that I had maliciously invited and called Claire and bullied her.
Perhaps she invited me with that intention all along. Right now, people looked at this situation and would think I was the one who ordered them to torment Claire.
It would naturally look that way to the Crown Prince, and it would also look that way to Claire’s followers. Those who disliked me and the Duke’s political enemies would also speak ill of me for this.
When it comes down to it, people will turn on me because of my status as the Crown Prince’s fiancée, even though it was Lady Evans who planned all of this.
‘She’s very clever too.’
Claire was not the only clown on this stage that Lady Evans had prepared.
I was also one of the spectators on the stage for the audience.
At the same time, it was also an important tile to use as an immunity. Even if what happened today were to become an issue, the Crown Prince would blame me.
Also, I was going to be the one that people would talk about the most. Since they knew this, they used me as a shield and took their anger out on Claire to the fullest.
They already knew that they wouldn’t be harmed in any way.