“Then, let’s go.”
The sound of her own voice, feigning kindness, was disgustingly repulsive. There was not a single piece of sincerity in it, like the shadow of a wraith rising from the depths. But her tone seemed genuinely joyful, even bordering on excitement.
Milvia left Deus in his place and placed her hand in the Crown Prince’s.
Despite feeling the warm blood running through him, it felt eerie, as though she were holding a rotten corpse.
Deus observed her with a composed stance, neither grabbing nor stopping her. Somehow, he seemed to understand that she was doing this not because she wanted to but because she deemed it ‘necessary.’
“In truth, I wanted to apologize for the rudeness of that day and asked to be your partner for the first dance.”
Soft music played, and in the center of the stage, only she and the Crown Prince stood.
With each slow turn, the veil fluttered slightly, revealing her lips and chin.
Milvia moved her lips, painted in red, in a peculiar manner to form her response.
“No, I’ve already forgotten. You don’t need to apologize.”
“It seems like you’re refusing my apology.”
“However you interpret it, it’s Your Highness’s freedom. Just, please don’t take it the wrong way.
The pointless and meaningless conversation ceased without further ado. There was still a long way to go in the music, and Milvia pondered what seductive words she could bring up next.
In her mind, Milvia constantly calculated the future impact of taking Reliana’s first dance away from her. She hadn’t paid much attention to the Crown Prince himself; it was only natural.
She never had any interest in him from the beginning.
Not caring about the person you’re trying to seduce meant that one couldn’t be seduced in the first place.
Milvia chuckled and moved with the rhythm, taking deliberate and measured steps.
“You seem more unique than any woman I’ve ever met.”
“Oh? In what way?”
“Firstly, appearing in this gathering with a veil in the presence of His Majesty the Emperor.”
“Including the fact that I so rudely failed to thank His Majesty for his help the other day?”
“You could say that.”
The Crown Prince was a neat man.
If it were Deus, there would undoubtedly be slimy flirtatious jokes or unnecessary physical contact.
Milvia knew well that to manipulate him, she had to appear pitiful and miserable. Mimicking Reliana was not difficult at all.
“In truth, I knew that wearing a veil goes against the proper etiquette.”
She twirled around a couple times, feeling like she was sticking her hand into the belly of a dead crocodile.
Deliberately lifting the veil slightly, Milvia whispered gently.
“But I’m sorry. The truth is, I have poor eyesight.”
“Poor eyesight, you say?”
“Yes. That’s why I shouldn’t be exposed to bright light too much. That’s also why I don’t come out well at home.”
Milvia didn’t say a word about being unable to see.
But people often tend to imagine things as they wish.
She said it loud enough for everyone to hear earlier, and now she’s proclaiming it to the Crown Prince. By tomorrow, she’ll likely become someone he needs to care for due to her supposed discomfort.
There is one sacred duty, especially among the imperial family and the knights.
To protect and care for the weak.
Milvia imprinted her image on the Crown Prince while dancing to the slow beat.
A woman who is unique, a bit different, and says whatever she wants. Though she might be a bit awkward in terms of etiquette compared to the countless noble ladies the Crown Prince has seen so far, she is undoubtedly a different presence.
The music gradually picks up its tempo.
As she held the Crown Prince’s hand, Milvia took the final turn, waiting for him to speak. And finally, the graceful melody resonated to the ceiling of the hall.
Milvia removed her veil.
There was a breath-stealing silence. Then an enormous wave of astonishment rippled from the fading notes of the trembling melody of the violin. The men who saw her face stopped dancing, causing many noble ladies to nearly fall. Those nearby gawked, while even those farther away craned their necks.
All just to see her.
A woman with reddish eyes couldn’t be considered a great beauty, but she strangely drew attention.1T/N: the author really said reddish/auburn eyes I’m also confused
A blush blossomed on her almost white, pale face. She had only danced one song, and she looked as if she might collapse at any moment.
The sense of danger looms over her slender shoulders as if she’s standing at the edge of a cliff looking down into a storm. The desperation, a sense of urgency only those facing the end of life could convey, was embedded in her amethyst eyes.
Her tightly clenched lips revealed determination and conviction, and her dignified yet unyielding posture exuded grace. Despite dancing the first dance with the Crown Prince, her expression showed a refinement not typical of a count’s daughter.
No, rather, the woman seemed like she wanted to disappear from this place immediately.
Like a candle in the wind.
Milvia felt the gaze of the people piercing her like arrows. As she gave a light greeting and turned away, every step she took seemed to be followed by piercing stares. It was so uncomfortable that she was on the verge of running out to the terrace.
“…I understand why Deus is so impatient.”
As she turned away, the Crown Prince spoke behind her.
In truth, it felt as if anyone, regardless of who they were, would be included in this fate just by being his first dance partner at the New Year’s ball.
It was an unpleasant remark.
‘Huh… it’s okay. It’s oka…y.’
Milvia clenched her fist tightly to hide her trembling hand. It felt like insects crawling all over her body. Dancing with the Crown Prince and pretending everything was fine the entire time was torture. Just not vomiting was already an achievement. Fortunately, she didn’t vomit on those shiny shoes.
Milvia approached Deus, who was patiently waiting, trying to shake off the unsettling feeling.
“I was going to ask if you felt good about leaving me behind.”
“No need to give me that look.”
Deus shielded her face from the other’s view. His expression seemed on the verge of breaking down.
Milvia stood in his shadow, taking a moment to breathe. She didn’t have the mental capacity to calculate how this scene might look like to others’ eyes.
A visceral sense of disgust twisted her throat. It felt like an executioner was pouring filthy water into her nostrils and throat.
That’s exactly how she felt right now.
“I thought I was going to die of jealousy back there.”
Noticing her condition, Deus grabbed another glass of champagne from a passing servant and handed it to her.
After a moment, Milvia accepted it and straightened her posture.
She wore a fake smile around her lips, as though she felt nothing. Observing her closely, Deus spoke.
“But seeing you like this makes me feel pathetic.”
He said in a genuinely sympathetic tone.
Milvia stared at her reflection in the glass without drinking the champagne.
“I’ve changed since that day.”
Even if she just said this much, he should be able to understand. Milvia filtered out words she needed to be cautious about and asked,
“Is that because of you?”
There are stories in sinister old tales like becoming beautiful by receiving a man’s energy or rejuvenating by applying a young girl’s blood, things that don’t happen in reality.
But besides that, there was no other way to explain this magical change.
Deus looked straight at her, seeking an answer, then grinned.
“You were originally charming. A beauty, as I recall.”
A suspiciously vague answer. There were too many ears here for her to inquire further.
Milvia remembered this day from the past. But the gazes directed at her now were completely different from before.
Curiosity, jealousy, envy, interest, fascination. And admiration.
There was no disdain or indifference at all.
As she watched the crowds trying to get closer to her, eager to become friends, Milvia’s tense heart burst into laughter.
Ah, so this is how you felt.
She thought she would be full after swallowing up what belonged to Reliana, but she still had a long way to go.
Suppressing the hatred trying to pierce through her skin, Milvia laughed brighter than anything in the world.
Bizarre happiness pierced through the crown of her head, trembling her entire body.
She finally understood the meaning of ecstasy.
A group of people approached her.
At the forefront was the daughter of a duke with her red hair twisted and flowing down. The first to speak among them was the daughter of a marquis.
Milvia calmly held a lock of hair and greeted them.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Princess Noaverite. Lady Shiowell. And to the other young ladies, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“I’ve been watching since earlier. Congratulations on being the Crown Prince’s first dancer. I never expected such a graceful beauty to be hidden under the veil. We were all surprised.”
Among the four noble families in the empire, Noaverite, located in the north, holds the strongest power.
The Noaverites, regardless of gender, have always wielded a sword, and each member is known for their imposing stature.
Milvia responded with a smile towards Princess Noaverite, who possessed a refreshing appearance and tall stature. Although her words were spoken by the Marquis’s lady, her reply was directed towards the princess because it was etiquette.
“I don’t know how to handle such excessive praise. It is a tremendous honor and even intimidating to have the first dance with the Crown Prince. However, I apologize profusely for you and many other noble ladies coming to see me first. I should have greeted you first.”
This was the exact line Reliana had said in the past. Of course, the tone and atmosphere might be different from how Reliana said it, but the meaning remained the same.
Lower oneself and elevate others.
It was a natural thing, but going against Princess Noaverite or adopting an arrogant attitude in front of the crowd was a very unwise choice.
They were already the leaders of the social circle.
Someone like her, who was the talk of the town for one night, could disappear from the social circles with just a flick of their fingers the next day. Milvia knew that well.
“It’s okay. The Princess is very forgiving of such things.”
“Thank you for your generosity.”
Come to think of it, Reliana was not universally loved.
The group that intensely disliked and distrusted Reliana in the past was none other than these people.
Milvia suddenly felt a great liking for them when she recalled that Princess Noaverite was the one who faced Reliana until the very end in the Saintess competition.
They say the enemy of the enemy is a friend.
She, too, thought that making at least one friend before dying wouldn’t be a bad idea this time.
‘Having a lover, making a friend… things I haven’t tried in the past.’
That’s when it happened.
- 1T/N: the author really said reddish/auburn eyes I’m also confused