* * *
“His Excellency, the Duke of Phaeraton, Lord Ares, Lord Ixion, and Princess Ruatisha, please come forward!”
The voice of the announcer echoed loudly.
Ruatisha confidently appeared, embraced by her father’s arms.
Having already witnessed her in such a manner during the New Year’s grand event, and with the anticipation building up for several days, the vassals and officials nodded approvingly.
However, Cynthia felt differently.
‘She’s monopolizing Father’s embrace like that!’
And what about Ares and Ixion standing on either side, guarding Ruatisha?
Their presence was enough to make everyone envious.
‘I will soon become Princess Phaeraton as well. Why should I be here, looking up to the Phaeraton family?!’
Amidst everyone’s gaze, Duke Phaeraton spoke up.
“There’s no need for any more awkward speeches at this already awkward celebration.”
He proudly held his daughter in his arms as if showing her off.
“My daughter wanted to celebrate my birthday. Please congratulate her wholeheartedly.”
And that was it.
Descending from the central staircase, Duke Phaeraton took his seat on the dais.
He still held Ruatisha in his arms.
The two lords sat on either side.
People watched them with mixed feelings.
“I canceled my schedules and rushed here upon hearing the sudden news of a birthday banquet.”
“I even gave up my day off for this party and worked overtime to finish everything.”
“So, he threw this party because his daughter wanted to celebrate his birthday?!”
“Yes! I expected that much! It’s been several months since the princess returned, so of course I expected it!”
“But inviting us and having that attitude… Is he showing off? He must be so proud! Ugh, I’m so jealous!”
There were murmurs of discontent throughout.
Of course, fortunately, not everyone was so irrational.
“We expected it, but it seems that he truly celebrated his birthday because of the youngest miss. I can’t believe she could sway His Excellency, who hates parties.”
“But earlier, Lady Aphelia said that His Excellency held this party because of her own suggestion.”
“I thought it was unbelievable as soon as I heard it…”
Lady Aphelia couldn’t raise her face due to embarrassment.
Cynthia bit her nails next to her.
‘It’s Dad’s birthday, but today the spotlight is all on Ruatisha!’
Starting with Duke Phaeraton’s speech, everyone was talking.
Everyone is talking about Ruatisha, Ruatisha, Ruatisha!
‘How greedy can she be? It’s her father’s birthday, but is she trying to get more attention?’
So unreasonable and unthinkable.
“Cynthia, fix your expression.”
“Do you understand? I told you to treat Ruatisha well.”
Meanwhile, the gift presentation ceremony began.
“Ooh, isn’t that a mermaid’s tear! With just one pearl, it’s as if you’ve received a blessing from the sea.”
“Viscount Tanua put in quite a bit of effort! The Frost Flower Cloak. It’s an ancient treasure, how did they get it?”
Each gift was rare and precious.
Lady Aphelia was taken aback by the high-quality gifts but soon relaxed her shoulders.
She deliberately waited until the last moment and confidently walked towards the Duke with Cynthia.
“Oops, Dad, just a moment.”
Ruatisha hopped off the Duke’s lap.
“Where are you going?”
“It’s a secret!”
With her index finger pressed against her lips, the mischievous child ran off.
Cynthia smiled and watched her retreating figure.
‘She must’ve felt hurt to see me giving a gift to His Excellency. Too bad. You should have seen how amazing the gift was with your own eyes.’
She greeted Duke Phaeraton with a bright smile.
“Your Excellency, sincere congratulations on your birthday!”
She had a confident smile, but Duke Phaeraton only raised an eyebrow in annoyance.
‘Today’s dress and everything will probably be much cuter than usual.’
“To celebrate Your Excellency’s birthday, although small, my daughter and I have prepared a gift.”
Lady Aphelia smiled gently and gestured to her servant.
The servant presented a covered object in red velvet, and Lady Aphelia personally unveiled it.
“No way? Is it real?”
In the middle of a transparent glass tube, a blue flower shines alone.
The shape of the flower was truly mysterious.
At times, it appeared to have soft petals like an ordinary flower.
But in the next moment, it seemed to be made of solid shining gemstones.
At other times, it seemed to have dense and short fur like an animal, giving off a sparkling glow.
No one present had ever seen the actual flower.
But even at first sight, its unmistakable form was captivating.
“I thought the rumors were exaggerated, but it really looks like that.”
“How can it be so mystical… What will be born from it?”
The hall was ablaze with excitement and commotion.
Lady Aphelia enjoyed the atmosphere and confidently exclaimed.
“It’s the Egg of Rebirth!”
As its true identity was revealed, the hall fell silent instead.
Everyone held their breath, taking in the sight of the Egg of Rebirth.
It was not something that could be obtained through wealth or exceptional abilities.
It was pure luck.
Pure luck alone.
And that meant it was beyond the reach of human power.
“If Your Excellency understands my heart, which wishes to congratulate your birthday, I would be delighted.”
Lady Aphelia wore a seductive smile as she took step by step towards Duke Phaeraton.
Indeed, even this arrogant man couldn’t take his eyes off the glass tube.
‘Good, now… Huh?’
As she approached closer and observed carefully, she noticed that the Duke’s gaze was slightly diverted from the glass tube.
‘What is he looking at?’
Even though the Egg of Rebirth was right in front of him, he seemed to be staring elsewhere.
Lady Aphelia turned her head and followed his gaze.
It was a common partition found in banquet halls, nothing particularly special.
Although it looked expensive and beautiful, it couldn’t capture anyone’s attention as much as the Egg of Rebirth.
Then, something popped out from under the partition.
‘…A child’s foot?’
The foot quickly retreated.
And this time, a corner of a dress protruded from the side of the partition.
Lady Aphelia frowned, looking towards the Duke, and people’s gazes followed in that direction one by one.
‘A baby’s bottom?’
What on earth was going on? The baby’s buttocks, fully swollen in her underpants, were twitching and shaking.
Wiggle, squirm, and wiggle again.
Before they knew it, everyone was watching, wondering what on earth was happening.
Suddenly, something popped out from inside the partition.
A black… ghost?
The ghost rushed forward and revealed its true identity in front of the Duke.
“Ruru brings flowers!”
As the black cloak fell off, Ruatisha’s figure was revealed.
♥ Daddy, I love you ♥
★ The gift is from Ruru ★
Wearing a large flower ribbon with those words written on it around her neck.
Her fluffy pink cotton candy hair was slightly disheveled from all the running and from the cloak.
Her pale blue eyes twinkled like stars.
Her cheeks are as soft as cotton candy.
Duke Phaeraton stood up abruptly and shouted,
“Painter! Bring a painter right away!”
“And a sculptor!”
“And a muralist!”
Ares and Ixion also shouted with bloodshot eyes.
Duke Phaeraton glanced at the head of the Magic Department with a sharp gaze.
“Has the holographic stone I mentioned been developed yet?”
“Y-your Excellency, I apologize. Not yet.”
At those words, the gaze of Duke Phaeraton and the young masters turned fierce.
“We…we did create a prototype. But it requires too many mana stones…”
“No matter the cost!”
“Bring it immediately!”
“Where are you trying to walk to fetch it? Use Warp and bring it in an instant!”
“Even if it takes one more second, it must capture Ruru’s appearance!”
The head of the Magic Department, caught up in the urgency of Duke Phaeraton and the young masters, immediately cast Warp.
Being a perceptive individual, he brought not just one, but multiple prototypes.
The maids, servants, butlers, and even Viscount Dier rushed forward like a swarm and retrieved the holographic stones.
The worn-out head of the Magic Department shed tears.
Whether they liked it or not, those who obtained the holographic stones were busy taking pictures, while Duke Phaeraton already held the Ruru flower wreath in his arms.
He didn’t even bother to glance at the expensive egg.
“Do you like it?”
Ruatisha asked with an anxious face, wiggling her finger.
“The best gift I have ever received in my life.”
The Duke leaned and gently kissed the child’s cheek.
“Put these away.”
As he pointed to the gifts he had received so far, Hedwig bowed and replied, “Yes, Your Excellency.”
And so, the egg that Lady Aphelia ambitiously brought were left without receiving a single glance and were taken out of the banquet hall.
* * *
‘This is utterly ridiculous…!’
So what if it’s a phantom beast’s egg?
To think they were so delighted just because a child came with a ribbon!
What was even more astonishing was the reaction of those around them.
“Hehe, our youngest lady is truly a genius in cuteness. How did she come up with such an idea…!”
“If I had a granddaughter like her, I would be happy in my old age.”
“I should have had a daughter after all.”
The vassals looked at Ruatisha with teary eyes.
The employees who should have been serving them were lying on the floor or performing acrobatics on the stairs, holding the holographic stones.
Even though it was their first time using holographic stones, they made gestures to find the perfect angle.
Indeed, it seemed like a world inspired by K-romance fantasy, but to Lady Aphelia, it only seemed like madness.
At that time.
“Oh my goodness! So adorable! The best! I almost missed that sight!”
A voice echoed through the banquet hall.
Eutra Felia gasped for breath but didn’t stop and ran towards Ruatisha.
“Our cute and fluffy little princess!”
It had been a while since Eutra revealed her true colors while fitting clothes.
“Why are you here? It’s not time to fit clothes yet. Didn’t you visit not too long ago?”
“Your Excellency! You’re too much. How can you hold such a grand party without even mentioning it when I came last time? If I had known, I would have made a separate dress for today!”
“…We didn’t plan to have a party back then. So don’t cry, Eutra.”
“Our princess is so kind and gentle.”
Eutra wiped her tears and snapped her fingers.
Then, the exhausted dressmakers, with dark circles under their eyes, brought clothing boxes.
“This is my birthday present for His Excellency.”
“I don’t need—.”
“Even though it’s the family’s matching outfit with the princess?”
“Good, bring it.”
At Duke Phaeraton’s gesture, Hedwig quickly grabbed the clothing box.
Then, Ares asked with a soft smile.
“If it’s a matching outfit with my little sister, then naturally, there should be one for me too, right?”
“I’m the little fluffball’s brother, so there’s no way I wouldn’t have one.”
Even Ixion joined in and pressured Eutra.
It was clear that he had the determination to kill if he didn’t get the matching outfit for his younger sister.
“Well, well, today is His Excellency’s birthday and it was done in such a hurry…”
“I will make it soon.”
“As soon as possible.”
Cynthia stared blankly at them.
‘What’s going on? Eutra Felia, they said she wouldn’t make clothes for young girls, why is she acting like this?’
Her gaze shifted to Duke Phaeraton, who was focused on Ruatisha.
Ruatisha’s dress shone brighter than her own dress, which was a gift from the Empress.
And yet, it looked light and comfortable, unlike her own heavy dress adorned with jewels.
‘So, all this time, she’s been making girls’ clothes only for Ruatisha?’
Her fingernails sharply pierced her palm as she clenched her fist.
‘Why, why does that person always have what I want?’
This is so unfair!
At that moment, a cold hand firmly grabbed her shoulder.
“Don’t worry, my daughter.”
Lady Aphelia looked down at her daughter and pressed her lips together.
“The misfortune that befell us today, your mother will repay it a hundredfold, a thousandfold.”
“When I become the Duchess, I will have the authority to manage the court. Of course, it will be difficult to do anything immediately with His Excellency’s attention, but it’s better this way.”
A smile as poisonous as venom bloomed on her lips.
“It will be more fun to slowly see them bleed and dry slowly.”
* * *
Lady Aphelia passed through the dimly lit corridor wearing a robe.
Her steps were resolute, having already mapped out the path to the Duke’s bedroom.
He didn’t like people very much.
And, sure enough, it was no different from having no guards.
Most of today’s party guests were said to be staying at the Duke’s mansion.
It seemed that a large number of security personnel had been deployed there for security reasons.
‘It really feels like it’s all prepared for me.’
Lady Aphelia opened the Duke’s door with a smirk.
Several doors were visible inside the dark room.
It wasn’t difficult to find his bedroom among them.
Aphelia approached the bed slowly with a lazy, seductive voice.
“On a day like today, isn’t it too long a night to sleep alone?”
Swoosh, her robe slipped off, revealing her body in the moonlight.
Her body gave off a sweet scent from the bath, and her skin shone as if it had been polished with pearls.
She smiled and pulled back the canopy of the bed.
Then she gently placed her hand on the bulging comforter.
“I will soothe your night, Your Excellency—.”
A tearing scream rang out as the quilt flew open.
“Thief! Thief! Someone has broken in!”
The five-year-old’s loud voice echoed like an alarm throughout the room.
What, what is this?
Why is this child here?
What is going on?
Aphelia was too stunned to react.
Creak! Creak! Creak!
All the doors connected to the bedroom opened simultaneously.
“You dare to come to the Duke’s mansion!”
“I’ll show the lady my coolness!”
Duke Phaeraton came out of the bathroom door, dressed in a bathrobe.
Maids, servants, and butlers.
Even the knights nearby.
Everyone rushed into the bedroom with a fierce determination to catch the thief.
Silence flowed through them as they looked around the bedroom for a moment.
After the gust of wind passed, employees and knights expressed their confusion.
“Why are you here…dressed like that?”
Even without looking, they knew why she was here.
In the midst of their confusion and astonishment, a naive five-year-old’s voice rang out again.
“Huh? It wasn’t a thief, it was just an old lady!”
Ruatisha blinked her big eyes and asked innocently.
“Why did an old lady come into our daddy’s room wearing only rags?”