Author: alyalia

As the couple slowly appeared through the open banquet hall door, the bustling hall became quiet as if cold water had been poured. The nobles who had come to look at them for the first time are holding their breath.

 

Dressed in a red dress that matched her intense red hair, her beauty was out of this world. Her skin was white like milk, and her crimson eyes were alluring. From her plump lips and sharp features resembling a rose to the shoulders revealed through the thin neckline and deep clavicle. Everything about her appearance was unforgettable.  

 

The same was true of the man who escorted next to her. The man’s dark hair was shining under the light of the banquet hall. His eyes, bent only toward his partner, were friendly, and his nose bridge was pointed and high like an arrowhead. The subtle smile on his mouth was attractive. He was wearing a dark red suit with his broad shoulders and tall stature as if it were matched with his partner’s dress.

 

The nobles can’t believe their couple look.  But more than anything else, the expression of the Grand Duke was shocking to them. The Grand Duke, who was always cold and indifferent, had a lovely smile toward the woman next to him. People couldn’t believe it even though they had witnessed it with their own eyes.

 

“Oh my god…”

 

It was the first word of the nobles who saw the two. The appearance of the two that day was a perfect couple, and it continued to be talked about afterward.

 

Cersinia climbed down the marble stairs under Ben’s escort. Her elegant and upright posture was intact. Thanks to her raised head, she could see the eyes of the people in the hall pouring down on her and Ben at once.

 

‘It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.’

 

She tried to calm down her mind over and over. She usually didn’t like to be noticed, so dozens of eyes looking at her made her nervous. Moreover, after the time when she almost got burned at the stake, it made her feel nauseous and uncomfortable enough to make it difficult to breathe.

 

“Cersinia, let me know whenever you want to go back.”

 

Ben was concerned, noticing that her hand was getting sweet.

 

“Yes, I will.”

 

Cersinia nodded with an awkward smile that made her lips tremble. Of course, she didn’t intend to stay long. She had already made plans to leave after Verne changed into the dress she had brought herself and danced with the Crown Prince.

 

The two came down the stairs and entered the hall. The nobles faltered at their appearance and made away as if the Red Sea was splitting. Cersinia and Ben leisurely passed through the crowd. With each step, curiosity and envy followed her.

 

“I think the woman the Grand Duke had been carrying for a few days was that woman.”

 

“He hid her in his mansion like a family treasure, and she finally showed up.”

 

Each of them was busy whispering with their mouths covered with a fan. It may have been a conversation between themselves, but they purposely made it louder that Cersinia’s ears could hear it.

 

“Who is this?”

 

At that time, a middle-aged man popped out in front of them.

 

“It’s been a while, Grand Duke.”

 

The man, who was smiling unpleasantly, pretended to know Ben.

 

“Yes.”

 

However, Ben closed his mouth after answering short enough to make him feel embarrassed because Ben didn’t want to get along with him. At that moment, the man’s smile cracked. His neck was burning red with a sense of insult at the thought of being ignored.

 

“Is this the woman rumored to have been driven away as a witch in the Rafleche Village?”

 

The man scoffed loudly enough to make it resonate inside the hall as if he didn’t want to just pass by.

 

“Oh, my…”

 

“She’s a witch? Is that real?”

 

There was a murmur among the people about the word ‘witch’ and whether his purpose was successful. Cersinia’s eyebrows twitched as she stood still. She was annoyed by that man who was talking about the past.

 

“Are you defending Dexter, Duke Kailos?” Ben’s voice subsided coldly headed to the Duke.

 

What happened in the village already made Cersinia being hurt. So it wasn’t so light to put in your mouth so easily. However, Kailos’s words and actions were going too far. Ben was staring at him with a cold look.

 

“What does that mean now!”

 

When Kailos was involved with Dexter, a criminal whose title was deprived, he was furious.

 

“Are you still doing this even though you know that the Lord of Rafleche is Dexter, who has recently been deprived of his title?”

 

Ben responded while trying to suppress his anger because he remembered that Cersinia wanted to stay quietly at the banquet.

 

“It’s not that…!”

 

“Did you still believe in what happened due to the self-made play of the incompetent lord and his stupid son?”

 

Ben cut off his words and glanced at him as cold as before.

 

“Ben.”

 

Cersinia tapped him on the arm, holding him in case this problem got any bigger.

 

“I got carried by emotion. I’m sorry, Cersinia.”

 

He apologized to her with a very sorry look. Ben’s growling and angry look at Duke Kailos vanished when Cersinia stepped in.

 

“I’m fine, so you don’t have to deal with it,” Cersinia whispered softly.

 

The two were looking at each other with consideration. It was like they didn’t care about Duke Kailos still standing in front of them.

 

“Huh… What is this now!”

 

Kailos raised his voice with a face of surprise at their attitude that treated him as invisible.

 

“If it’s Dexter, isn’t he the Count, one of the Duke Kailos’s vassals?”

 

“Is Duke Kailos siding with the criminal now?”

 

The crowd of people around them chatted about Count Dexter. As if they had never heard about the witch, their attention shifted to the more interesting topic. As always, it was a familiar situation. They just caught up in a more provocative story without knowing the truth.

 

“Ahem!”

 

Kailos coughed loudly as public opinion was drawn to Dexter, perhaps upset. Those who had been chattering excitedly were surprised and shut their mouths. In an instant, silence fell in the hall.

 

‘Duke Kailos.’

 

Cersinia was looking at him with squinted eyes. Duke Kailos couldn’t control his anger and acted like an angry bull.

 

‘Even Count Dexter was the vassal of the Duke Kailos. Isn’t it the same as when he declared war with the Grand Duke?’

 

Kailos was the person mentioned during her meeting with the Crown Prince. Limaphes said that Ben declared war with Duke Kailos to solve the matter of Rafleche Village. But, it was clear that Kailos had a bad feeling for Ben just by seeing him appear in front of her and Ben and talk about what happened in the past.  

 

Cersinia no longer wanted Ben to be targeted by others because of herself. She just wanted Ben to be calm and happy without difficulties or bad things.

 

“Grand-!”

 

“Your Majesty the Emperor is entering!” A voice was heard to announce the Emperor’s arrival.

 

The humiliated Kailos opened his mouth to say something to Ben, but his voice was buried.

 

Everyone looked up high. There was no Duke or Grand Duke in their eyes because their interest had already cooled down.

 

“I won’t forget what happened today.”

 

Kailos couldn’t stand the rising anger, and after a while, he hurriedly left the hall. Soon after, the Emperor appeared at the highest place of the banquet hall. Everyone bowed their heads at his high-pressure and charismatic appearance.

 

“Your Majesty the Empress Dowager and Your Highness the Crown Prince are entering!”

 

Then, Empress Dowager, the protagonist of the banquet, appeared, holding the Crown Prince’s hand.

 

“Thank you for being with us on a happy day like today.”

 

The Emperor looked at the numerous nobles who bowed their heads under his feet and spoke.

 

“May everyone celebrate Empress Dowager’s 72nd birthday and enjoy the banquet to the fullest.”

 

Waves of congratulations flowed through the hall as if waiting for the Emperor’s words to finish.

 

“I sincerely congratulate Your Majesty Empress Dowager’s birthday.”

 

“Congratulations, Your Majesty.”

 

The banquet began. As the musicians in the Imperial Palace started to play, gentle classical music flowed through the banquet. The nobles gathered in twos and threes and began to chat.

 

Cersinia was squinting her eyes to see Empress Dowager in the distance. Even though she had already reached her maximum concentration, she still couldn’t recognize Empress Dowager’s face because she was too far away. She wanted to see the face of the person who invited her, but it wasn’t possible.

 

“Cersinia, I need to say greetings for a while.”

 

“Yes, go ahead.”

 

Anyway, externally, Ben was the Emperor’s nephew, so it was only right for him to congratulate Empress Dowager.

 

“…Would you like to go with me?”

 

After hesitating for a long time, he said the words he wanted to say.

 

“Go with you?”

Ben nodded cautiously when Cersinia was puzzled and asked back. Of course, Cersinia didn’t want to go. Getting involved with the male protagonist already made her tired, but to get recognized by the Emperor too? It made her feel uncomfortable and reluctant.

 

“All right.”

 

The decision to be together with Ben also meant that she would step into his world. And she was also curious about who Empress Dowager was. 

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