As soon as I rushed out of the study, I ran to my room in one breath and gasped for air, clutching my pounding heart.
‘No, why are you staring at me so intently while I’m sleeping!’
I was freaking out because I’d just had a dream where I’d been stabbed in the back by Diart during a curse-induced seizure, taking desperate measures and clinging to him.
I trembled as I recalled Diart’s fierce gaze in my dream.
‘It might be a premonition. I should be more careful from now on. I must never lay a finger on Diart.’
As I vowed to myself, I remembered seeing Diart before I left the study. He didn’t seem to be in a good mood. But I don’t think he’s holding it against me that I pushed him, and I didn’t think he’s that much of a wimp. It’s not that big of a deal. Even though it was quite embarrassing that he fell onto the table, his face looked handsome, like that of a model, even in that position.
I wiped away my still-pounding heart, worried that I might have triggered a dead flag.
“He’s unnecessarily handsome.”
I thought of the golden eyes that peeked out from beneath silver-thin eyelashes that looked as if they were studded with gold. It was a beautiful pair of eyes. I almost got enchanted. No wonder he’s the male lead.
“By the way, what time is it?”
I remember struggling to read that boring book page by page, but I don’t remember when I fell asleep. When I turned my head, it was already dark outside.
If it’s this dark on a summer night, it’s quite late. I swallowed the scream that was about to come out as I quickly checked the clock.
“This is driving me crazy.”
I had already missed the time I promised to the Crown Prince. Even if I rushed there now, he would have been furious and left a long time ago.
I clutched my throbbing forehead and collapsed onto the bed.
Not only did I change the appointment with the Crown Prince on the day itself, but I also stood him up. This is more than just a misdemeanor; it’s a clear insult to the imperial family. There might already be a reservation for me in the underground prison. Damn it.
“Isn’t it like being dragged away from the banquet?”
I pictured the Crown Prince pointing at me with a frustrated expression, telling me to hold onto him. And my image being dragged out of the ballroom with countless people’s eyes on me. Well, since Diart was there, too, who knows what kind of retaliation he would take.
“Ah, forget it. It’s useless to think about it now. Let’s just sleep.”
I’ll figure something out. Whatever.
My mind was overloaded with thoughts of the curse that started the countdown, the sudden pull of Adelia and Diart’s first meeting, and what had just happened in the office.
Not wanting to think about anything anymore, I threw the covers over my head in despair.
* * *
……I should have prepared for this.
I should have at least thought of an excuse to tell Crown Prince Jarvis.
As the day of the imperial ball approached, I became extremely anxious. How much the Crown Prince is gnashing his teeth.
This is the most important event in the novel, I don’t know what kind of variables will arise.
No, come to think of it, this is also the Crown Prince’s first meeting with Adelia. Although he himself is not aware of it, he would fall in love with Adelia at first sight, and if things go according to that route, I might not have to worry about him paying attention to me.
As I thought about it, my mind became a little lighter.
“Come to think of it, as a fan of the original work, I will be able to witness the fateful first meeting between Diart and Adelia, and Jarvis as well. And my favorite character Edgar will surely attend today.”
Suddenly, I began to look forward to the imperial ball. As for the Crown Prince… let’s not think about it for now.
Milto held out his hand to escort me to the carriage. Perhaps because of what happened at the training ground, he had a flushed face and couldn’t even meet my eyes.
He’s so innocent that he gets shy even though he just barely shows his upper body. I smiled happily and took his hand. A faint energy flowed from our touching hands.
Even though it felt like I had consumed a low-level potion, I was very happy even with my HP running low. I couldn’t bear to let go of his hand.
“Aren’t you getting on?”
A cool voice interrupted us. Diart, who had come behind Milto at some point, was staring at me with a frown. His gaze fell on our hands that were holding each other before coming back to me.
His eyebrows were twitching in disapproval, urging me to hurry up and get on right away.
Suddenly, the face that looked down at me last night came to mind. The deep eyes that would suck me in for a moment… No, why am I thinking about that all of a sudden?
I quickly erased him from my mind and turned away from him to get into the carriage. As soon as my hand separated from Milto’s, the energy that had been flowing stopped abruptly.
‘It’s so low, I wonder if I can hold on.’
If we were playing a game, this moment would be like game over after getting one hit by a monster and I don’t have any potions in my inventory.
All I can do is interact with men in the ballroom. Fortunately, a few knights will be there too so if things don’t go well, I can dance with them.
If that’s not enough… I sneaked a glance at Diart. As soon as I sat down, Diart, who had climbed into the carriage in one leap, fixed his gaze outside the window.
‘No, no. What am I thinking? Did I forget the resolution I made before? Unless I want to die, I shouldn’t mess with him.’
It’ll be fine. I thought optimistically and turned my gaze to the window opposite Diart. The carriage was already leaving the mansion.
Perhaps because the summer festival was about to begin, the atmosphere in the streets was quite lively. While watching the bustling market outside the window, I focused my gaze on a particularly gloomy alley.
I remembered that it was the place where Remida’s house, which I had personally brought there a few days ago, was located. I opened my mouth, thinking about the child in shabby clothes who used to peek at me from behind the wooden pillar.
“Duke, do you know about mutroi grass?”
I didn’t turn my head, but his gaze reached me.
“It’s a common grass that can be easily seen in the territory, but it’s quite expensive in the capital. It seems to play a role in making fabric stronger, so it’s an essential material for weaving.”
“What are you trying to say?”
Diart turned his forehead in a way that seemed like he didn’t understand and faced me.
Even if mutroi grass could be bought in the capital, it is mainly used by commoners or lower-ranking nobles who are not well-off. There would be more people who don’t know about mutroi grass, especially among extravagant aristocrats who routinely wear dresses made of eye-popping expensive cloth or silk and then throw them away after one wear.
Since Roeni was also a noble who lived that daily life of wearing and discarding such dresses, I understood why Diart looked at me like that.
“So it seems that there are quite a few people from the territories who bring mutroi grass to the capital to sell. But the capital is quite far away, isn’t it? We use portals, though.”
The carriage was now leaving the city and entering the forest.
“Not only is the distance long, but the road is also treacherous, so many unfortunate things happen along the way. So I thought about it a bit.”
For once, Diart was focused on my words. I paused for a moment to create a dramatic effect.
“I think it would be a good idea to introduce trains.”
Diart narrowed his forehead.
I smiled cheerfully.
This world was unfair in many ways to commoners. The nobles enjoyed the privilege of reaching the capital within a day by using portals even if their territories were far away, and if that wasn’t possible, they could simply ride in expensive carriages.
But for commoners who couldn’t even dream of expensive carriages, they had to rent cheap cargo carriages and travel together with several others, or if that wasn’t possible, they had no choice but to walk.
Those who lived in or near the capital could at least use trains. However, most territories, including Bartley, were not connected by trains.
What I wanted to do now was connect those trains.
Diart turned his head towards me and spoke as if he had been lost in thought for a moment.
“To lay down the tracks, we need the Emperor’s approval.”
“You can just get it.”
“You say it so easily.”
“You can do it, Duke.”
There’s nothing he can’t do in the Empire. He’s the Duke of Wheaton, whom even the Emperor can’t treat lightly.
It was obvious why they had given the privilege of only connecting the train to the capital’s vicinity. As much as the people of the territories desired to go to the capital, the people of the capital also hoped to take pride in it and be on the side of the imperial family.
So I don’t think they’ll be willing to give up that privilege easily, but you can do it, you can do it.
‘And this country will soon be yours, anyway.’
Whether or not he uses this as an excuse to rebel against the Emperor or not, the novel ends with the male lead, Diart, rebelling and ascending to the throne.
Since his first meeting with Adelia had been brought forward, the ending would also be brought forward.
‘So do something good for the people of the territories before you go up to the capital and become the Emperor.’