The reason was that he had become impotent. Besides, he hated the late duchess and Scarlett Arman. That was enough for him to bring the two people into the family. What a complete—
It was beyond my understanding. Staring at the duchess, I shook my head to myself. Duchess Millia Arman had endured humiliation for a long time until her son was acknowledged as heir, and she took the duchess’s place. It had been only thanks to her own influential family that she had been able to find a quiet place, away from prying eyes. Due to her proud nature, I thought she might have wished to die instead.
It would have been impossible for her to treat Scarlett nicely when she was living proof of the duke’s betrayal. Plus, if the duke hadn’t left her, Isar would have been the rightful heir from the beginning. Logically, I did understand her feelings.
But that didn’t justify coursing the brunt of her anger toward Scarlett. I watched her impassively. She had treated Scarlett cruelly in the name of “discipline,” punishing her by locking her in a room and giving her nothing but water for three days because she had been “rude.”
“You had better listen to—”
“Isar.” I cut her off quickly as if something had just crossed my mind. “Is it true that you sing whenever you get drunk?” Get your own son in line, ma’am. “I heard you got beaten up a few times. Surely that isn’t that often, is it?”
The duchess pursed her lips as more of Isar’s embarrassing history began to flow from my mouth. If looks could kill, I’d be dead a few times over already.
“Don’t worry, ma’am,” I said and smiled brightly.
“Oh, would you like me to call you… Mother?”
Scarlett had always referred to her as “you.” Nothing else. She scowled at those words. Really, couldn’t they give me a break? This dress might become the talk of the town, yes. But that was exactly what I was aiming for.
“Unless you want me to call you Mother, please don’t worry too much about me.” Ma’am.
The duchess’s glower was almost ghastly. Maybe if word got out that I was undignified as well as crazy, it’d help end the engagement even quicker. Well, she didn’t know that was my true intention. This should be enough for now.
Thankfully, the duchess was quiet. She simply watched me, seeming to be thinking about something. I just smiled at her too. Well. It’d be a bigger blow to high-and-mighty ladies like her if she saw my crazy act with her own eyes.
What’s taking so long, anyway? Was it such a long way from the Arman manor to the royal palace? Just then, the duke’s lips twitched as if he had been waiting for our conversation to end. I shifted in my seat, finding a more comfortable position, then promptly pretended to fall asleep. Should I snore too?
“Hmph.” The duchess snorted, rendered speechless by my apparently atrocious behavior.
The duke was quiet. I thought his blood pressure might have risen. Sitting next to me, Isar stifled something that sounded like a cough. His shoulders shuddered slightly. Did he swallow something the wrong way?
Ah. Never mind. Yeah. I’d leave this messed-up family ASAP.
Silence fell upon the carriage again.
I woke up with a gasp. No one was in the carriage.
“Seriously? I really fell asleep?”
And, of course, no one thought to wake me. Thankfully, it didn’t seem too late to join the party, judging by the light outside the window. The emperor would already have entered, though. I’m definitely going to stand out in this.
I straightened my gown, checked my hair, and stepped down from the carriage. The prospect of seeing a real royal banquet in a fantasy world made me helplessly excited. I wonder how splendid it will be. It was unfortunate that I had to act as crazy as… Well, however much the tyrant’s temper would allow.
I put on an icy face, just like the old Scarlett would have worn, and hurried to the gate. The gatekeeper looked startled to see me. Soon, he opened his mouth with a stiff expression.
“His Majesty has already entered the hall, so I cannot announce you, my lady,” he said carefully.
“I know.” I smiled, nodding.
He opened the gates slowly, an unreadable expression on his face. Those who inevitably arrived after the emperor would generally slip through the door unnoticed and head to the corner quietly.
I’ve been reading for the past few days. That much, I know. But I needed to draw attention to myself.
Light spilled out as the great door opened soundlessly. I gulped, waited for the door to open some more, then stepped in. I didn’t bother trying to quiet my footsteps. The sight inside was one to behold. Wow.
Chandeliers. Lights shining as if they were made of stardust, lords, and ladies glittering like jewels. He’s cute. I stared back at the gazes turning toward me one by one until it caught on a handsome boy.
The emperor? Wait. No. He has silver hair and violet eyes. I quirked up a corner of my lips and swept my gaze off the blond guy. Turning away from the guy whose expression had gone strange, I began to parade around the ballroom through the guests who were obviously trying to inch away from me. Right at that moment—
“Lady Fletta, look there.”
“Oh, dear. I heard she went mad. But it seems that the rumors weren’t unfounded, after all.”
The chatter—so loud that I wondered if it was meant for me to hear—reached my ears.
“She doesn’t even have a shawl on. Perhaps their funds are running low?”
Not very sophisticated, were they? I turned to the bunch, with them still talking loudly and clearly, like they wanted me to hear. They stared.
“Traffic lights?” The words slipped out before I could stop myself.
I couldn’t help it—their hair was each a perfect shade of red, yellow, and green.
“I… Excuse me?”
“Hm. This is how you talk to yourself, my lady.”
Phew. So much to do. I’d do that crazy act right away and go eat. I was already hungry… I didn’t have to starve. Grumbling to myself, I quickly made my way to the green-haired girl.
“Don’t even think about messing with me. I’m busy here,” I whispered in her ear, very, very quietly.
The lack of a smile and the icy tone were enough to make the green-haired Lady Fletta’s eyes quiver. I smiled as if nothing had happened, then made my way through the crowd again.
The hall is huge… Everyone actively avoiding me made me realize that Scarlett’s notoriety, even left untouched for a month, was much more significant than I thought.
This was quite enjoyable, I’d say. Anyways, where could he be? My fiancé, the tyrant. They said that he was breathtakingly handsome even from a distance. Scarlett had come to the banquet to see the one person who had needed her. She claimed that she hadn’t yet been in love then.
She claimed that it was his kindness and courtesy that had made her fall in love. But maybe it was the fact that he’d needed her that made her heart really flutter. And then, she saw him. His kindness had been the final spark that had set her heart alight. It’s dangerous to fall for something like kindness, though.
Anyway, I couldn’t wait to see him as he wasn’t just any tyrant; he was a tyrant who was the male protagonist. He’d be disastrously hot! That was how he was described in the book!
At that moment, at a spot slightly away from the middle of the hall, among a small group of exceptionally young and handsome members of the high class… my eyes met a… “being.”
I stopped in my tracks, then let a breath out that I didn’t even know I was holding. He did not even seem human. There was no way an ordinary human could glow like that. Silver hair shining like the stars themselves. Violet eyes glittering with a cold yet elegant light. Straight posture, shoulders wide apart. Body proportioned like a Greek sculpture. He was a beauty that made others fade into the background.
We stood staring at each other for a while until his perfect eyes curved slightly. Impassive, yet the picture of elegance made me come to my senses. I walked toward him quickly. Watching me come closer, he opened his mouth.
“Ah. You’re here.”
At that moment, I had to doubt the original Scarlett.
“You must be Lady Arman.”
Scarlett, let’s be honest.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
It was never just his courtesy that you fell for, was it?