I smiled warmly.

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“I can really rely on you.”

And, I did not forget to leave a subtle bait for Cisen.

“Actually, as you said, life in the Empire isn’t easy.
I understand you feel injustice.
However, what can I do? As long as I’m in the Empire…”

As Duchess Nerma was seen bringing the painkillers, I finished my speech quickly.

“… It’s something I’ve to endure.”

So, I have to leave the Empire.
She is smart.
She must understand it, right? It was like coming up with an escape plan together without saying anything.

After I finished speaking, I smiled at Duchess Nerma.
She seemed to notice that I had comforted Cisen well.
Then, I winked to tell her not to worry before drinking the pain reliever from her hand.

“Okay then, let’s get dressed now.”

After emptying the glass, I glanced at the two maids in turn.

I deliberately tried not to observe Cisen’s face in detail since I did not want to give Duchess Nerma the impression that something important only happened between me and her.

Originally, there was a separate dress for me to wear on this day, although because of the state of my body’s condition, the direction suddenly changed.
As Cisen was adamant that she would not yield, Duchess Nerma put aside the matter earlier and got to work.

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For the time being, the pain in my stomach and back was still tolerable.

…For now, anyway.

By 2:30 pm, when the social gathering was to start, menstrual cramps began to creep up through the strong painkillers.
Nevertheless, it was already spilled water*.
If I was going to cancel, I should have just raised Cisen’s hand this morning instead of Duchess Nerma when they were arguing.
[ T/N: An idiom which means ‘You can never revoke something that you have already done.’ ]

A slight cold sweat broke out on my forehead.

When I saw Cisen gazing at me with her worried face, I straightened my back and pretended that nothing was wrong.

A total of ten noble ladies and aristocrats were invited today.

These were the cut edges that Duchess Nerma had picked and chosen after much deliberation.
Her personal acquaintance must have had some influence on the list, but it did not matter.
If the ambitious Duchess of Nerma was friendly, I am also worthy of being close to them.

I showed up with only four maids.
The other four, including Sylvia and the daughter of Viscount Gongfyr, did not qualify for the invitation.

The social gathering was held on a spacious terrace.

When we arrived, all the invited guests had already arrived and were seated.
Even though I felt a little dizzy under the direct sunlight, I smiled with a determination not to show off.
Let’s not forget the words of the Duchess of Nerma.

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…Now, I am in a position where I must not reveal my weakness.

I looked around the nobles and opened my mouth gracefully.

“Thank you for accepting my invitation today.”

Then, everyone bowed to me in unison.

“I want you to take pride in being invited to this event and always think about what you can do for the Empire.”

I slowly and clearly uttered the lines I had prepared in advance.

It was a bit difficult to manage my facial expressions because I thought that I was like the old school principal who would usually say these things.
At the same time, the dull pain in my lower abdomen was also making it difficult to manage my expression.

“…Those who devote themselves to the Empire should also be rewarded by the Empire.”

After getting to that part, I sat down.

As Cisen stood behind me to my right, my other handmaidens, the Countess of Fallon and Madam José, also stood in their seats.
It was Duchess Nerma who led me to greet guests one by one.

However, a problem arose.

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I felt better when I was standing, but my stomach started to hurt so much when I sat down.
The pain then caused another problem.
Because I was so nervous about my stomach, I was confused about who was who as I looked around at the people who were sitting.

Even though they were definitely on the portraits I checked last night.
The painter who painted the portraits painted so beautifully that there were a lot of differences compared to real life.

‘…I am in trouble.’

It was not just that.

Perhaps because of stress, I started to get confused about the names and details of the information.
Did the Marquis Portline say he had a late-born son? No… was that the story of another house? Was the Portline correct? Was it not Kotline…?

Now, when Duchess Nerma guided me to them one by one, I would say, ‘Oh, dear.
What is going on with me these days?’ as I have to pretend that I did not know.
By saying their information wrong here, it might make me seem shallow and ignorant.
In addition, it would also mean that even after studying, I was still talking nonsense like this.

‘What do I do…?’

As I got more anxious, I started to get more confused.

My mouth was dry.

I looked at them with a hardened face.

‘I should not have said that… Should I have just canceled it as Cisen said? Because I am stubborn…’

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Nonetheless, there was no point in regretting it.

Since I came out here, it was all spilled water.

It was when the Duchess of Nerma approached the table and tried to get someone to come up to me, I spoke as if to break the pulse of the movement.

“I’ve no idea who you are or what you do.”

A fog of embarrassment began to appear on the people’s faces.

Of course, it would be like that.
In a small social gathering like this, it was customary to know who was who.
But right now, I am not feeling very well.
If I made a mistake, I could not take anything back.
Therefore, I decided to do what my husband suggested a while ago.

As arrogant as possible, while showing a cold smile similar to Raniero…

“So, ah… Shall we start with your wife? You don’t have to come here.
You can stand up there.”

…I made up the words that an arrogant Empress who does not know the faces or names of the key figures who have been called to the social gathering would be able to say.

“Make it short and clear.”

I kept thinking about what Raniero would say.

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