Right then, Radis almost yelled at Huber to get lost.

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But she couldn’t do that.

Huber’s voice was quite loud just now, that’s why they had attracted the attention of many people just now.

Radis’ expression hardened.

It was better for her to be insulted by Huber after this.
Whenever she received some kind of favor from other people just for show, it was something that she couldn’t stand.

Radis took a step back.

“I refuse.”

“Why?”

“I told you that I had something to do.”

“Haven’t you just been standing in one place now? Where are you going? I’ll escort you.”

Radis pointed in a random direction.

“There!”

Coincidentally, she pointed towards the ladies’ room.

Huber seemed to have gotten embarrassed by this.

What could he do if she wanted to go to the bathroom?

While Huber was flustered, Radis quickly stepped away and went in the direction she pointed.

Going by how quickly she rushed, it seemed like she was someone who was in a great hurry to go to the bathroom.

“I’ll be waiting for you here!”

Huber could be heard shouting from behind her, but Radis pretended not to hear this.

“Robert… I think he went over there.”

Radis walked past the ladies’ room and went towards the arched pathway on the way to the beautiful central garden.

Outside the banquet hall, the garden was quiet, but there were also some people there.

Radis looked around the pillars of the arched pathway to find Robert, avoiding the other people’s attention.

But Robert wasn’t here.

“I must have seen it wrong.”

Radis felt her pulse slow down.

There’s no way Robert could be here.

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Considering his family, he really wouldn’t be here.

She probably saw someone who just looked like him.

As the tension in her body eased, her feet began to hurt.

Standing with her back against a pillar, she lifted the skirt of her dress a little to look at her feet.

She had been standing on high heels that her feet weren’t used to for a long time, and just now, she ran in a hurry to avoid Huber.
Her toes were numb.

Apart from that, the shoes’ cheap leather gnawed at her heels, and blood pooled.

“Goodness.”

When she saw how the leather had pushed up on her skin, she couldn’t tell if these were truly just shoes or if they’re a torture device.

Radis gritted her teeth and peeled off the heels from her feet.

When the shoes were removed, blood seeped and trickled down.

She stood barefoot on the cold marble floor, staring silently at the pink torture devices.
The heel was almost completely snapped off in one.

“Huu…”

Her feet hurt a little, but she had to wear the heels again once she went back to the banquet hall.

The Marquisate of Louvell wasn’t such an easy place to enter.

Just for her goal today, she had to go back into that banquet hall even if it meant that she’d have to stand on her hands.

She moved with determination, but she began to falter.

It was harder than she thought to walk on broken heels.
Every time she walked, it felt as though the bent heel would snap off completely.

“Aaah!”

Eventually, Radis fell to the ground with a scream.

‘Goodness.’

Radis felt so ridiculous as she lay helpless on the floor, her body stiff.

She tripped.

She was the commander of the Imperial Subjugation Squad!

She, who had run endlessly, even after getting her ankle caught on vines in the forest, even after going through a black swamp that swallowed her feet!

‘Are these heels cursed?’

With such doubt in her mind, Radis slowly rose to her feet.

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However, it wasn’t so easy because of all the layers of her dress.

Radis, who wore this uncomfortable dress with uncomfortable high heels, tried to get up, cursing at herself as though she was a dull animal.

At that moment.

“Are you alright?”

Radis reflexively raised her head.

“…!”

She was truly, really surprised, but this didn’t show on her face.

The man looking down at her while he was down on one knee… was the most beautiful person she had ever met in her two lives.

His silver hair that reached until his shoulders were like shining silver threads.

Framed by his beautiful hair was a porcelain face that looked as though it was the chef d’œuvre of a master craftsman.

The silver-haired man leaned down to check her condition.

Then, the moonlight glimmered down on his silver hair, making it seem like a halo.

When he looked up again, Radis saw the most beautiful amethyst eyes in the world.

At that moment, a bell seemed to be ringing in her head.

Red lips were quickly seen moving while the bell rang.
Even his voice was as beautiful as his appearance.

“Can you stand up?”

His eyes were… clear.

It was a plain description, but she could find no other words.

There were no emotions in the clear purple eyes resembling amethysts.

He didn’t laugh at her as she fell so disgracefully, nor did he sneer at her ridiculous dress.

He was just trying to help a woman who had fallen on the ground.

“…Ah? Um, yes.”

“Let me help you.
Hold onto my arm.”

Radis managed to stand up with his support.
It was awkward.

It was the first time she was supported by someone in such a long time.
The last time this happened was during her childhood when she still couldn’t walk well.

Holding someone’s arm was also a first.

His warmth spilled over to her, and it was so vivid that Radis had to let go of his arm as soon as she managed to stand on her own two feet.

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“T-Thank you.”

Radis suddenly realized just how close they were.

When she was about to step back, the man grabbed Radis’ arm.

“…!”

There was a small smile on his red lips when he saw how flustered Radis was.

“I didn’t mean to surprise you.
There’s some dust over here.”

He took out a silk handkerchief from his coat pocket and dusted off Radis’ arm himself.

The handkerchief felt more like a feather as her arm was touched, and every time the handkerchief fluttered, a sweet scent wafted around it.

Radis felt like she was dreaming.

As he gently dusted her off with the handkerchief, he spoke in a low, beautiful voice as though he was singing.

“It must be a tough day for you.”

Radis couldn’t figure out if he was saying that about her shoes, her dress, or about something else entirely.

However, he continued speaking as though he didn’t want her to question that.

“Even so, if you have the courage for it, you’ll get through it all no matter how hard it is.”

He smiled softly, staring at her with those clear purple eyes.

How beautiful that smile was.
Radis didn’t even realize that he gave her the handkerchief.

He nodded slightly towards Radis in goodbye, then returned to the garden, towards the crowd—to the world where he belonged.

 

* * *

 

All the people who moved from the balcony on the second floor and towards the garden all flocked around one person, praising him just to get to his good side.

“The garden is so beautiful.”

“I can’t believe I can spend a dream-like time in a beautiful mansion with centuries of history! Thank you for inviting me today, Marquis Russell!”

Surrounded by those people was Yves Russell, the lord of the Russell Marquisate and the host of this spectacular banquet.

“To be more exact, this is a separate building.”

Amidst the clamor of the people around him, his voice was dry and dull.

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He definitely stood out among the nobles who were dressed in colorful clothes.

Even his clothes expressed his demeanor.

Except for his slightly visible shirt collar, everything else was black, including the vest covering his sculpted chest, the coat over his wide shoulders, and the pants tight over his thighs.

On top of that, most men had their hair styled with pomade, neatly swept back or at least pulled up to reveal their faces, but the Marquis had almost half of his face covered with his black fringe that reached to the bridge of his nose.

With his entire countenance dressed in black, even his eyes, Marquis Russell, who was a hard man to read, looked quite intimidating.

The terrifying rumors surrounding him also helped add to this atmosphere.

There were rumors that demonic monsters had either cursed him or deprived him of his soul.
Worse yet, people would say that he was a demonic monster himself.

His gaze, which held no enthusiasm for conversation, stopped in one place.

The corners of Yves Russell’s lips rose.
With a posture of seeming deference, he greeted the real protagonist of tonight’s banquet.

“We celebrate tonight the birthday of the Third Prince of the Cardia Empire.
Does the banquet suit Your Highness’ expectations, Prince Olivier Arpend?”

As he returned to his place in the spotlight, there was no trace of the beautiful smile that Olivier Arpend had shown to Radis.

He looked like a glass sculpture with shining purple jewels embedded in the place where eyes should be.

“I’m very happy.
I’m even happier now than when I spent my coming-of-age ceremony quietly last year.”

With that cold, yet dignified voice, the crowd’s attention shifted from Yves Russell to Olivier instantly.

“I greet you happy birthday once again, Your Highness!”

“Next year, how about spending your 20th birthday once more at Marquis Russell’s estate?”

Contrary to the sweet voices of the people congratulating him, there was no feeling of joy or pleasure being reflected in Olivier’s clear eyes.

He was like a doll who would only speak when the string on his back would be pulled.

“Now, it’s time for the party to start in earnest tonight.
Shall we all return to the banquet hall?”

At someone’s suggestion, the crowd began to move back towards the second-floor balcony once more.

Then Yves Russell, who had been observing Olivier with a curious gaze thus far, spoke to him.

“So, ‘that’ is Your Highness’ preference?”

Olivier shifted his empty eyes and looked at Yves.

His gaze was the same as when he was being congratulated by all those people earlier.

“I don’t understand what you mean, Marquis Russell.”

Surrounded by his followers, Olivier returned to the banquet hall.

As he looked at the prince’s retreating figure, there was a strange smile on Yves Russell’s lips.

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