An engagement with the emperor was sealed with a magically binding contract. That meant there were only two ways to end it—death or mutual agreement. Which is why I really need his consent.
Since I couldn’t just ask him to break the engagement, I decided to repulse him by acting crazy. And not just once! He had to see his fiancée regularly, however debauched he might be. It’s clearly stated in the contract.
There should be more than enough opportunities to get him to be fed up with me. But to get to those opportunities, I had to go through this essential event first.
“Their first meeting at the ball. It was in the extra chapters, the ones written from Scarlett’s perspective.”
The tyrant’s birthday ball. It was a scene in the original novel, subtitled something along the lines of The Villainess’s Story. Scarlett had been bitter because of the unwanted engagement, but it was love at first sight at the ball. And that moment was approaching rapidly.
“First impressions do matter…”
I had to give the impression that I was completely insane at the ball. I grinned to myself, looking at the crumpled invitation in my hand. Sleep came easily that night.
I’d mentioned that according to the original novel, the tyrant tended to become more courteous toward women, much unlike his usual self. That meant that he’d rather kill them than insult them.
Scarlett used to describe that as his benevolence. Benevolence, my foot. I gritted my teeth just thinking about it.
“My lady?” Lucy said, seemingly confused by my gesture.
“Nothing,” I answered sullenly, then changed the subject. “The banquet will be held in the evening. Do we really have to start getting ready for it now?” I mean, Scarlett is beautiful even without trying.
“Of course, my lady. There is still so much to do. We may even be running late, so please keep still.”
Lucy was my maid-in-waiting. Maybe that was why she respected me more than the others.
I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else for the past few days.
Ever since I set up my plan to escape, I’d been making my way around the house for the past week, which meant I hadn’t been keeping my temper in check. I’ll have to get out of the house as soon as that engagement is called off.
Since I would leave anyway, I thought it would be even better to be disowned. Did I mention that this family was a total mess? The family problems that would arise in time were a mess in and of themselves. Still, the worst part was the head of the family, Duke Arman—Scarlett’s father—who could only be described as…
Raising his hand whenever he got angry was mad, to begin with. Abusive language was his norm, as was locking Scarlett up and starving her when he got tired of beating her. Scarlett’s memories that I have of him were quite wholly intact.
I remember her being abused most of her life. It came to me as if I were a bystander watching it happen. That was basically why I couldn’t treat him nicely.
“Right, I’ll keep still…”
The point was, my personality had definitely changed compared to when Scarlett was… well, Scarlett. Though she had every right to be quite confused, Lucy wasn’t showing it at all.
“My lady, please!”
She became a little scary. I was just saying it was convenient. I kept still. Closing my eyes and leaving my face to her hands, I went over the to-do list in my mind.
A banquet for the high and mighty—that should be a sight. I’ll look around as much as I like! Since it was indeed a once-in-a-year special occasion.
In the Empire of Kalior, the royal birthday ball was an important event. On that day, envoys from surrounding lands brought gifts and offerings. To the locals, it was a day they could enjoy social gatherings on a larger scale. There would be all sorts of festivals everywhere.
There used to be at least five birthday balls for the royalty, but the emperor cut the number down to just one. Which was why it had become much fancier than before. This year’s ball to celebrate his twenty-fourth birthday was described in the original story to be even grander than the previous year.
Officially, there had been no particular reason announced… But I know the real reason why. It was just the tyrant provoking the Temple after he cut away their funds. Stopping my train of thought, I pointed to a peach-colored dress.
“No, I want that dress.”
“This one, my lady?” Lucy asked, reluctantly picking up the dress I’d pointed at. “Won’t it be too plain for this ball?”
Lucy was right. It was certainly plainer than the others. To be honest, it bordered on shabby. It was just a simple dress for a stroll, without much to call decoration.
“It’s fine. I’ll be wearing jewelry, right?”
The frown on Lucy’s face persisted. I realized that dressing in such a dress for a ball wasn’t like Scarlett at all. Besides, the duke and duchess—who were all about decency—wouldn’t take it well. They might start cursing her before the carriage even started moving.
“B-but—” Lucy tried to dissuade me again, hesitation clear in her tone. “You are engaged to His Majesty. This… Your ankles will show; it isn’t proper…”
“Lucy, if you’re worried about the house’s dignity, I think I’ve already lost face enough times.”
I was talking about the old Scarlett. Abused in her house, she used to take it out on others really roughly. She used to be so harsh, even more than I thought before she fell in love with the tyrant.
Naturally, the rumors surrounding her weren’t kind. Though she really didn’t deserve the villainess title. Well, judging by how she slapped Cheryl, I admit that she had shown she was capable of hitting people. The point was that this family had already lost all its prestige.
Huh. I didn’t think she’d be so quick to agree. Maybe I should take it as a compliment that I’d said something similar to what the original Scarlett would’ve said.
“Then there shouldn’t be any problem.”
That was me, not Scarlett, though. Hmph. Grumbling inside, I quickly snatched the plain dress out of her hands.
“I like it.”
To be honest, the peach-colored dress looked gorgeous in my eyes. Besides, it didn’t require me to wear a tight corset like the other gowns did. The waistline was also a little high up, so I wouldn’t have to be worrying about my tummy slightly bulging.
“It won’t be too suffocating.”
Hehe. I fought to put on a haughty face like Scarlett would and held the dress to my frame. It’s beautiful. I had to stop the corners of my lips from quivering up into a smile.
You can never get tired of trying on beautiful gowns! Not to mention that Scarlett was an absolute vision. I could rock any dress I wore now. It was a shame that the dress would get soaked in wine in a few hours. Anyway, pretty gowns rule!
“Yes, my lady.”
Did I just hear Lucy click her tongue?
Wearing a resigned expression, Lucy accompanied me to the first floor. Every servant I met on the way looked a little startled. Just the reaction I wanted.
All the jewelry in the house wouldn’t be able to banish this blandness completely. I’d even chosen shoes with a low heel. Still looking pretty, though.
Bright blonde hair and scarlet eyes glittering like rubies. Catlike features, captivating in their aloofness. Average height, but a body with nice curves. I could put a potato sack on and still look good. I thought maybe the peach color wouldn’t suit me, but nope, I must’ve been stunning to pull this off.
“Can’t get their eyes off me, can they?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Don’t you feel proud, Lucy? It must be fun dressing me up,” I jokingly said in a low voice.
Lucy sighed, causing me to huff out a laugh. I walked lightly to my carriage, whistling all the while.
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