The Villainess is the Heroine’s Biggest Fan — Chapter Five

May coughed, abruptly breaking the awkward silence. He had been frozen as though he’d forgotten to breathe.

“I’m sorry?” Aria asked.

My shocking remark had stemmed the flow of her tears. It was cute to see her tilt her head in disbelief while blinking those big eyes of hers, but I couldn’t possibly smile. What had I been thinking to ask such a question?

“That’s enough,” I said. “Why are you wearing such an unfashionable dress? It looks even worse with wine on it.” I only wanted to express my regret for the ruined dress.

Although I was filled with concern for Aria, I was in no position to worry about her. Anyone could see that I was in a far worse state. My green dress was ruined with dark red stains. It was also uncomfortably and visibly wet. So why couldn’t I stop worrying about Aria’s dress, which only had a few drops of wine on it?

“What’s going on here?” At the sound of that voice, the crowd gathered around our spectacle parted to make a path.

The Emperor approached.

Ashley, who seemed to have sobered through sheer terror, sat trembling on the ground with her head almost touching the floor.

“It’s nothing, Your Imperial Majesty,” I said.

“Nothing? Then why is her dress ruined? And why is she on the floor?”

“Your Imperial Majesty.” May stepped in front of the Emperor to explain the situation.

This was my responsibility—and I’d just thought of a good plan, too. I stepped forward, ignoring the gestures from May signaling me to stay put. “It’s nothing. Lady Gardner was holding a glass of wine and bumped into the lady passing behind her, which made her spill wine on my dress. But I’m not offended—so you see, it really is nothing.”

I didn’t know whether it was to maintain my public image or to prevent an early death before the novel’s story could play out, but I seemed to be able to speak in a normal manner in front of the Emperor. I held my ground with purpose, saying everything I wanted to say.

“Lady Gardner and this lady did bump into each other, but I, too, am at fault here for not paying close enough attention to my companion, who was holding a glass. Hence, I was about to offer her a new dress in apology, especially since she is wearing a white dress.” I faced Aria to say, “I’m very sorry, my lady.”

“No, it was my mistake,” Aria said. “I can’t accept a dress from you. If anything, I—”

“Ha-ha-ha!” The Emperor laughed when he saw Aria shake her hands in an attempt to refuse my offer. The resounding sound echoed throughout the hall.

Aria shrank back.

The Emperor gestured at Ashley. “You—Lady Gardner, was it? This may be the imperial palace, but the floor is still cold. You shouldn’t be lying down there.”

“I—I’m sorry, Your Imperial Majesty,” she said.

“Enough.” He turned to Aria. “What is your name?”

She answered with her head bowed. “Aria Peridot, Your Majesty.”

He stared at her, then laughed again. “Ha-ha—Peridot, is it? All right, Lady Peridot. You should accept Lady Bell’s kindness.”

“Your Majesty?” she said. “But this is my fault.”

“You should not turn down such an act of kindness.”

At the Emperor’s words, she finally nodded. “I shall accept, Your Majesty.”

“And Lady Bell?”

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

He looked rather satisfied. Considering his earlier speech about future generations, he must have been writing a novel of growth in his head right now. Young nobles who build a relationship created through mistakes, and the relationship that continues… and such.

“It looks as if you’re going to need a new dress. Lord Chamberlain?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“As I recall, Rosiland’s stature was similar to Lady Bell. Give one of her dresses to the lady. Now.”

The jaws of those gathered dropped in surprise. The bestowing of clothing from the Emperor was a major coup. Clothing represented status, and no matter how rich you were, it was impossible to get your hands on clothing of this quality, made from special fabrics only supplied to the imperial family. Yet the Emperor had announced he would bestow a dress to the daughter of a Marquess—a dress that had once belonged to Princess Rosiland, no less. It meant that the Emperor regarded Mary Bell as nearly equal to his own daughter.

“Thank you, Your Imperial Majesty,” I replied humbly.

The Lord Chamberlain beckoned. “Follow me, my lady.”

Leaving the doubly surprised May behind, along with Aria, who was staring at me with awe, I followed the Lord Chamberlain out of the hall.


“This way,” the Lord Chamberlain said briskly. “Choose whichever dress you want. The maids over here will help you change.”

Two maids had already joined us and were curtsying. The room we entered was filled with dresses. No one would think this was the room of someone who had left the imperial palace.

Scanning the silken gowns, a dress caught my eye. It was a white dress like Aria’s.

“Would you like me to show you that dress?” asked a maid.

“No.” It was beautiful, but people would compare me to Aria if I wore it. Nothing white.

I stepped deeper into the room to look at other dresses. What I next spotted was an orange, off-the-shoulder dress, not too fancy—but it still had its charms. I liked it, and was ready to get out of this dress soaked with wine. “This one. I choose this one.”

“I understand, my lady,” the first maid said with a nod.

“This way,” said the other. “We’ll first help you undress.”

I would finally get out of this wet mess. Afraid of saying something rude; I let the maids tend to me without a word. Maybe imperial maids were more skilled than others because they changed me quickly.

“You look beautiful,” said the first.

“Thank you. I’ll head back now.”

I had planned to Emperorreturn home, but the Emperor’s gift ruined that plan. It would be an insult to the Emperor if I left without returning to the party in the dress he had bestowed upon me. I had to go back to the party.


The first person to greet me as I entered the hall was none other than May. Aria followed behind him with short steps.

May grabbed my arm. “What’s with you? Was something wrong with the food? This benevolence isn’t like you at all. Are you ill? Do you have a fever?”

Too many questions at once. “Stop it. I’m fine. Everyone’s staring at us. Who’s the disgrace now?” I shrugged off his hand, and he muttered as though relieved by my brusqueness.

“Right—there’s the Mary Bell I know. Good, good.”

“My lady!” Behind him, Aria thanked me, still teary-eyed. I could sense admiration, gratitude, fondness, and many other positive emotions from how she gazed at me. She was adorable to the point of tears.

It was sad to think that she would come to despise me one day.

“Thank you so much,” she said. “And I’m sorry. It was my mistake, but you covered for me.”

“Stop,” I said. “I think you’re mistaking something.” Unlike my warm feelings for her, my voice remained stern.

She stopped her chattering and met my gaze.

“I didn’t want to raise a fuss,” I said. “I didn’t do it because I like you, so please don’t misunderstand.”

“But…” She gazed up at me with big eyes, clearly eager to befriend me.

Should she even be here now? According to the novel, she was supposed to run into Prince Edville while singing in the garden. I didn’t want to become the villainess described in the novel, but I also didn’t want to sabotage Aria’s role as the heroine.

“Get out of here.”

“But I—”

“No. Let’s get out of here together. Everyone’s staring at us here, and it’s annoying.”

I took Aria’s hand and pulled her out of the hall. I was still inside the imperial palace, so I hadn’t breached etiquette. Yet.

I felt May’s bewildered gaze behind us, but I ignored it and headed out to the garden.

“Could you slow down a little?” Aria called. “I’m still getting used to these heels.”

I stopped at her request. We were far enough away from the hall to be free from the staring.

As she came to a halt behind me, she staggered a little, as though her feet hurt. “Thank you.”

“Not used to heels?” I smiled. “How old are you?”

“Nineteen. I’ve never been to a party like this.” So she was older than Mary. I hadn’t known this. The novel rarely mentioned the ages of the characters.

“This is my first time in a place like this,” she said. “I’m hopeless, bumping into someone and ruining your dress like that. I apologize again for what I did.”

“Enough apologies. I’ve already got a new dress. You should be more worried about your own dress. You have nothing to change into, right? And you can’t go back home.”

“I don’t have anything to change into even if I were to go back. This is the only decent dress I have.”

I already knew that. In the novel, Aria had only three dresses to choose from the night before the party, including an out-of-style dress her mother had worn when she was young and a light-green dress with mold on it from being stored improperly. The only other dress was this white one her friend Abelina had thrown away, which Aria had mended. Only this one had been remotely fit to wear, so she hadn’t had much of a choice.

“If that’s the only clean dress you have, you need not tell me more,” I said. “My companion made a mistake, and I’m serious about compensating you. As you’ve probably heard, my name is Mary Bell. Come find me. Ask for directions to Marquess Bell’s mansion from anyone on the street.”

I’d said all I wanted to say, albeit in a provocative tone. I hadn’t meant for this to happen, but since it had, I wanted to give Aria a dress. I liked Aria, but my actions also worked to my benefit. In the novel, Mary Bell would be shamed by a secondary character for criticizing Aria’s fashion sense because she was wearing her mother’s dress. This could be seen as an investment for the future.

“How could I accept a gift like that?” Aria asked.

“Are you trying to get me to break my word?” I demanded. “The word I gave in front of so many people?”

“No, no! I wouldn’t dream of it!” She waved her hands, blushing even more than before, and twiddled her fingers as she continued to speak. “Thank you so much. I was worried about going to the imperial palace, but I’m glad I met someone like you, my lady. It makes me so happy.”

A phrase from the novel came to mind: I was worried about going to the imperial palace, but I’m glad I met someone like you, my lord. It makes me so happy. Should I be the one hearing this?

But my anxiety didn’t last long.


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