Lennaeus was filled with anger.
How could the nobles of the empire so belittle Princess Charlotte, to the point of badmouthing her in front of me, her fiancé?
It felt like my blood was running cold.
“Miss Whittaker. I asked if that was true.”
Rene shuddered at Lennaeus’ flat, cold voice.
“O-Of course. The dress Princess Charlotte wore today was indeed taken from me.”
At Rene’s answer, Lennaeus let out a mocking sigh.
“Ha. I am the one who bought that dress.”
“I personally bought that dress from the boutique, brazenly so.”
Lennaeus looked at the nobles gossiping about Charlotte with eyes full of contempt.
At this unexpected revelation, the nobles who were eagerly criticizing Charlotte were suddenly silenced.
“If my memory serves me right, Miss Whittaker was not present at that time.”
The flustered Rene Whittaker hurriedly changed her story.
“Ah… I mean, did I say it was… something I experienced? I misspoke. The boutique owner told me Princess Charlotte demanded the dress unreasonably…”
“The boutique owner didn’t know who would be wearing that dress. I bought it and gifted it to the princess.”
The nobles gathered around Lennaeus looked at Rene Whittaker with surprised eyes.
“Miss Whittaker has the talent to create quite a story from the mere facts of the dress reservation being canceled and the princess wearing that dress today.”
Rene Whittaker trembled at Lennaeus’ sharp criticism.
“Anyway, it’s true that I lost the dress because of Princess Charlotte. I suffered a loss.”
Lennaeus smirked cynically at Rene Whittaker’s seemingly aggrieved attitude.
“I understand that the boutique owner offered you a penalty fee equal to the dress’ price, along with a new dress.”
Lennaeus had already taken care of the dress issue to prevent any backlash. He had confirmed all the compensation details between Miss Whittaker and the dress shop through Alfred.
It was said that Rene Whittaker was more than happy to have received money and a dress in return. Yet, Rene was telling a blatant lie.
“If you’re going to lie, at least do it properly. I will not tolerate lies about my fiancée being exposed.”
At Lennaeus’ words, the nobles only cautiously looked around.
In the cold atmosphere, Viscount Breguet spoke carelessly without grasping the situation.
“Haha, it seems Miss Whittaker was momentarily mistaken! Princess Charlotte is quite infamous for her bad reputation and known for lying every time she opens her mouth.”
“Someone who commits all sorts of dirty deeds in Cortina has no right to speak.”
Lennaeus growled through clenched teeth. Breguet frowned in displeasure.
“Dirty deeds? As a commander, it’s only right to do what must be done.”
It was Lady Mosston who broke the ice-like atmosphere.
“Everyone, Grand Duke Killian has just arrived!”
“Oh my! Is that so?”
“Shall we go and greet him as well?”
The ladies, seizing the excuse to leave, dispersed quickly with exaggerated reactions.
Hearing that, Lennaeus suddenly looked towards where Charlotte had been standing. The spot was empty, though Charlotte had just been there.
‘Could it be… that the princess also went to Grand Duke Killian?’
A feeling of discomfort began to smolder in Lennaeus’ heart.
“As expected, Grand Duke Killian is quite popular. Now, with all the ladies gone, let’s men have a drink together.”
The younger son of a Viscount’s family, as if to ease the mood, passed champagne glasses to the gentlemen who remained.
However, Lennaeus still received his glass with a stern face.
Breguet, seemingly displeased with the earlier conversation, squinted his eyes and smirked as if he had thought of something lowly.
He then lowered his voice as if to share a secret and whispered to the men.
“You all must know about Princess Charlotte fervently courting Grand Duke Killian.”
The other young nobles glanced around, eyeing Lennaeus, Charlotte’s fiancé.
Lennaeus bit the inside of his cheek.
He felt his entire body tense up, his nerves sharply focusing on Breguet.
Breguet licked his lips with a sinister face, then raised one corner of his mouth in a mocking smile.
“Grand Duke Killian is really naive. One would expect him to amuse himself with a woman clinging to him, but he keeps rebuffing her without a touch. Ah, maybe he’s already had his fun without us knowing?”
Crash! The crystal glass in Lennaeus’s grip shattered into pieces.
At the sharp sound, the young nobles looked back and forth between Lennaeus and Breguet with stiff faces.
“Viscount. It seems you dare to cross a line in my presence.”
Lennaeus spoke in a low and intimidating voice.
At his cold gaze, Breguet flinched and stepped back, feeling a faint menace from the depths of those blue eyes.
However, Breguet made an effort to appear calm.
Based on what he had observed of Duke Adler, it was unlikely he had sincere feelings for Princess Charlotte.
It was clear that he was not worried about Princess Charlotte just now, but rather about the reputation of the Duke’s ‘fiancée.’
More than anything, he did not want to show himself cowering or backing down in front of Duke Adler and many others.
“Are you, by any chance, taking sides with your fiancée? This is not becoming of the renowned Duke Adler. No matter how much you defend the princess, she’s probably off chasing after Grand Duke Killian like before.”
At that moment, Lennaeus’ face froze into a chilling expressionless mask.
Lennaeus took a handkerchief from his pocket and slowly wiped his champagne-soaked hand.
“Viscount. You will have to take responsibility for those words.”
Lennaeus then casually dropped the handkerchief he used to wipe his hand onto the floor.
The champagne-soaked, sticky handkerchief fell at Breguet’s feet.
Breguet’s face contorted with humiliation, and his fist clenched hand trembled.
Though the custom of throwing a handkerchief to challenge a duel had long disappeared in the empire, the intention was clear. Duke Adler’s action was an unmistakable warning and an insult to him.
The young nobles watching this scene also let out faint groans.
Lennaeus turned around coldly.
Returning to where Charlotte had been, Lennaeus quickly scanned the banquet hall, but Charlotte was nowhere to be seen.
“Perhaps the princess has gone off chasing after Grand Duke Killian, as before?”
Unfortunately, Breguet’s vulgar words echoed in his ears.
‘No way. That can’t be.’
Gritting his teeth, Lennaeus quickened his pace, his long legs striding anxiously across the banquet hall.
Finally, exiting the banquet hall, something caught his eye: two figures standing in the middle of the dimly lit earl’s corridor.
A creaking, tumultuous sound echoed from Lennaeus‘ heart.
The faint light seeping from the banquet hall to the corridor was enough to reveal who the two were: damned Grand Duke Killian and Charlotte.
It was impossible to tell what conversation they were having.
However, it was clear to see Charlotte smiling at Killian with an incredibly beautiful face.
That smile was the same lovely one she often showed to Lennaeus.
“Everyone must know about Princess Charlotte fervently courting Grand Duke Killian.”
He couldn’t understand why Breguet’s words bothered him at this moment.
Feeling an unfamiliar sensation of his heart constricting, Lennaeus clenched his fists tightly.
Could it be that she refused all dance partners from the start because Grand Duke Killian was attending the ball?
“I completely forgot about such men in the presence of your dazzling beauty, Duke. I fall in love quite easily, you see.”
“I’ve put my past behind me. Now, my thoughts are only of you, Duke.”
Charlotte had certainly claimed to have forgotten Killian. Yet, as soon as Killian appeared at the ball, she immediately sought him out.
And what about that affectionate smile she had?
“Princess Charlotte is famous for lying every time she opens her mouth, isn’t she?”
It seemed as if he could hear Breguet’s contemptuous mockery.
Lennaeus roughly turned and left the dark corridor.
Lennaeus did not feel like returning to the ballroom. He didn’t know why, but that was how he felt.
He escaped to a terrace connected to the corridor, trying to cool down an inexplicable anger.
“Princess Charlotte is really crazy!”
At that moment, a name heard amidst a sharp scream made him tense up.
Lennaeus, leaning against the terrace railing, reflexively stood up. Turning towards the direction of the sound, he saw three young ladies running out of the powder room.
They were often seen with Blaire. However, Blaire was not among those fleeing.
Thud – Crash!
The noisy sound that followed brushed an unrefined, uneasy feeling down his spine.
“Could it be…?”
Lennaeus, stepping heavily, roughly opened the door to the powder room.
The young ladies screaming and running out, the wet eyes of Blaire, the scrunched face of Charlotte, and the scattered fragments of a wine bottle on the floor.
Just a moment ago she was with Grand Duke Killian, and now she’s in a quarrel with his sister.
Something surged inside Lennaeus’ heart, quickly overtaken by the emotion that had been gnawing at him throughout the ball.
In the end, he fiercely confronted Charlotte.
It was quite surprising. Duke Adler was always calm and rational.
So, in that moment, he was ‘Lennaeus.’
Under Lennaeus’ interrogation, Charlotte’s eyes mixed deep resignation with a hint of sadness.
‘Why? It was you who left me for Killian.’
It was an emotion so intense it felt foreign. Lennaeus glared at the door Charlotte had disappeared through for a long time.
Eventually, the storm-like emotions subsided, but a sense of emptiness lingered, like ruins scattered here and there.
After the fiercely swirling time had passed.
“Brother! Are you insane? What on earth are you doing?”
Startled by Blaire’s shrill voice, he suddenly came to his senses.