“What’s this? Are you reading web novels again?”
I looked up from my phone, where I was reading a web novel, in response to my colleague’s comment.
“What are you reading? ‘Flower of the Empire’? Isn’t that a romance novel?”
I nodded, and my colleague gave me a curious look.
“My younger sister used to read that.”
“It’s a famous work.”
“Flower of the Empire” was a well-known romance fantasy web novel that almost every reader of the genre had heard of at least once.
I, too, was one of the common readers of this novel.
“Yeah, it does seem popular. Isn’t there a webtoon adaptation?”
“Do you read webtoons too?”
Let me correct myself.
The term “common reader” might not be appropriate.
Among the countless readers of “Flower of the Empire,” I was undoubtedly a noticeable figure.
It couldn’t be helped.
“It’s interesting. I read web novels too, but I stick to fantasy, contemporary, or martial arts genres.”
“Romance novels can be enjoyable too.”
“I don’t really like love stories; they make me feel awkward.”
“Well, that’s understandable.”
The proportion of male readers who enjoyed romance fantasy novels was relatively small.
Moreover, I wasn’t just a simple reader; I was a fan who indulged in “fandom.”
I drew fan art for the “Flower of the Empire” fan cafe and shared it on social media. I even created and sold some merchandise from time to time.
‘Of course, people on SNS or other fans might not know my gender….’
Since I haven’t mentioned it separately, it’s possible that my gender is unknown.
But even without considering that, I was quite a noticeable reader.
After all, I was a fan of the villainess ‘Lucia’ among many characters in ‘Flower of the Empire.’
Most readers and fans liked the female lead ‘Bella,’ and if not her, they liked the male lead or sub-male leads.
In that crowd, being the sole fan of the antagonist was quite peculiar.
Naturally, I stood out.
People were amazed at my passionate activities for Lucia.
They wondered how I could like Lucia, who tormented the female lead and disrupted the relationship between the female and male leads so much.
However, from my perspective, understanding fans of the female lead Bella was rather difficult.
Certainly, Bella was a character typical of romance novels—kind, beautiful, and virtuous.
In reality, it would be fitting to be by the side of such a person.
It would be natural to like such a person.
However, I was someone who couldn’t feel much attraction to overly typical, kind, and righteous characters.
It might sound a bit blunt, but to me, such characters just felt ordinary.
So, I almost dropped out in the middle of reading the novel….
Then, I met Lucia.
Lucia was a character with a glamorous and cunning personality, the complete opposite of the female lead Bella.
That’s why she appealed to me.
She was the kind of person who would achieve whatever she wanted.
Lucia accomplished everything she set out to do and obtained whatever she desired.
[I told you.]
A scene from a webtoon uploaded last week suddenly came to mind.
With a seductive smile on her red lips, elegantly striding in high heels, she had said those words.
[I can have anything I want.]
It must have been a scene where she warned Bella.
No matter how hard you try, I will definitely take what I want.
Her attitude seemed so dignified and composed.
I had captured the scene, forgetting even to breathe.
Of course, the comments on last week’s episode were full of curses for Lucia.
It was natural, expected.
That scene was where Lucia warned Bella that she would take the male lead Owen away from her.
Dozens of curses were aimed at her: Who are you to think of having Owen?
“Hey, stop watching and let’s go. Don’t you know the professor for the next class is strict about attendance?”
Lost in thoughts about the webtoon, I sighed deeply at my colleague’s call and pocketed my phone.
Remembering it, I planned to go home and draw that scene in my own art style.
* * *
After finishing all the lectures and returning to the dormitory, I turned on my laptop and pondered. Looking at the captured image of Lucia from the webtoon, I started sketching and outlining.
I added color and shading, but it felt like something was missing.
‘…Maybe I should draw Owen next to her.’
To me, Lucia was a perfect character.
From the elegant manners of nobility to her haughty and dignified attitude, and the relaxed demeanor with high self-esteem—she lacked nothing.
Except for one thing, excluding her position as a villainess.
In the novel, she was in the role of the antagonist, tormenting the female lead and trying to possess the male lead.
As a result, she eventually met her demise at the hands of the male lead’s anger.
Everything about Lucia was perfect, but it was hard to understand why she would be infatuated with the male lead.
‘I might receive some criticism, but…’
I didn’t mind getting criticized by Bella’s fans on social media, asking me not to mess with the original work.
After drawing Lucia and Owen together a few times and creating merchandise, I was accustomed to receiving a few curses.
Having made my decision, I drew Owen next to Lucia.
After completing Owen in a pose of looking at Lucia with affectionate eyes, which would never happen in the original work, I immediately uploaded the drawing to social media and fan cafes.
‘If Lucia doesn’t want Owen, maybe Lucia doesn’t have to die.’
Looking at the drawing I uploaded on social media, I entertained such futile thoughts.
The webtoon was still being serialized, but the web novel had long been completed.
Lucia was pushed to the brink of death by the author, inserting her into Bella’s life until the moment of death. Strictly speaking, it was an execution, but anyway, it was an event orchestrated by the male lead.
I wished Lucia wouldn’t die, but it was in vain.
For a very long time, Lucia desired Owen, and she was a character who would do anything for what I wanted.
Similarly, the male lead Owen was merciless to those who harmed his people.
“…Or maybe Owen could start liking Lucia.”
Changing where Owen’s feelings were directed could be a solution.
However, this was a much more nonsensical and futile thought than Lucia giving up on Owen.
The male lead exists to be connected to the female lead.
Moreover, Owen strongly disliked Lucia.
Before Bella appeared, it wasn’t to the extent of hatred, but he was certainly not fond of her.
But how could Owen suddenly come to like Lucia?
Unless the person inside him changed, which wasn’t the case.
If not, it was an impossible task.
‘Why am I even thinking about this?’
Feeling the uselessness of these thoughts, I decided to look at the Lucia drawings I had captured until bedtime.
Examining each one, I flipped through the gallery and fell into a drowsy sleep.
* * *
As always, I fell asleep while indulging in Lucia fandom, but for some reason, when I opened my eyes in the morning, I saw an unfamiliar ceiling.
Thinking it might be my mistake, I got up and surveyed my surroundings.
Luxurious furniture, bedding, and expensive-looking decorations caught my eye.
A very unfamiliar scene unfolded before me.
My studio apartment wouldn’t change like this overnight.
Where on earth am I?
Getting up from the bed with a dazed mind, a strange body came into view.
Well-maintained white skin and even well-defined abs on the abdomen.
It definitely didn’t look like my body.
My body wasn’t this fair, and I didn’t have good skin.
It was just average.
Amidst my confusion, a knock echoed.
“Your Excellency, have you risen?”
Early in the morning, such an awkward title reached my ears, and I couldn’t find words to respond in my bewilderment.
Perhaps sensing my discomfort, a response came from outside the door.
“I apologize for the early hour, but Lady Edelte has sent an invitation to Your Excellency.”
That was nothing other than a term for addressing Lucia.
Hearing her name made me even more bewildered.
The current space I was in was strange enough, and the situation of being addressed as Your Excellency was equally strange.
To even have Lucia’s name mentioned.
I couldn’t understand the situation at all.
The only thing I could think of was the phenomenon of ‘transmigration’ that occurred in fantasy and romance novels I had seen so far.
‘Isn’t that possible in novels because it’s fiction?’
Transmigration novels were widespread, but it was a story confined to the world of creative works.
What I was experiencing was reality, or rather…
‘Is this a dream?’
Wondering if it might still be a dream, I muttered, and a strange voice flowed out.
“What is this?”
It wasn’t my voice.
If I had to pinpoint, it was closer to a somewhat androgynous voice.
Although it was a voice, the low-pitched voice coming from my throat was completely different.
‘…Did I really experience something like transmigration?’
The voice ringing in my ears sounded unfamiliar and awkward.
As I tentatively touched my throat, I felt an even stranger sensation.
All the senses of my body felt unfamiliar and awkward.
A feeling as if they weren’t mine.
With a perplexed feeling, I turned to the full-length mirror in the room.
There, the reflection of a stranger appeared.
White skin, deep black eyes and hair that seemed to absorb all darkness, red lips.
Distinct facial features and a well-defined height.
Reaching out my hand to touch the surface of the mirror with a bewildering heart, the person in the mirror also reached out towards me.
Judging by the matching movements, it seemed like I was the one in the mirror.
No matter how much I looked, it wasn’t the me I knew.
However, there was a vaguely familiar feeling somewhere.
I’ve seen that guy somewhere before.
Upon careful consideration, a familiar illustration came to mind.
The cover of “The Flower of the Empire.”
One of the male characters drawn there.
The male lead, Owen Verdun.
It was clear.
He indeed looked incredibly handsome.
Lucia could go crazy wanting to have him.
Distinct and well-defined facial features, sharp jawline, high nose bridge.
Deep and intense obsidian-like eyes and glossy black hair.
He was truly a human sculpted like a work of art.
No, wait a moment.
A human sculpted like a work of art or whatever.
This person is being reflected in the mirror right now…
‘Does that mean I’ve transmigrated into this person?’
Then, did I enter into <The Flower of the Empire>?
That would explain why Lucia’s name was mentioned earlier.
Wasn’t this something dream-like?
No, am I still in a dream?
It makes no sense. While muttering in disbelief, the bedroom door suddenly creaked open.
“Lord Duke, whatever the matter…”
The person seen through the open door was a man dressed formally according to the occasion.
A man with a formal voice and attitude, dressed in medieval-style clothing, even to the extent that it seemed to prove that this world wasn’t Earth.
“No, nothing special.”
Judging by his appearance and attitude, he seemed to be a butler.
The character who had appeared quite a few times in the original work.
Recalling the description from the original work, I made an effort to speak in the most natural tone possible.
If this was reality, it meant I had to live here as Owen.
And, if that person who just spoke about Lucia’s invitation also existed in this world, it meant that she, too, was real.
As my thoughts reached that point, I suddenly became curious.
If Lucia sent an invitation, did it mean I could go there and meet her?
“Did Lady Edelte send an invitation?”
“Yes. I mentioned that Your Grace might not attend, but Edelte insisted on you receiving it. Shall I arrange transportation?”
At the butler’s question, I nodded urgently.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll go see for myself.”
I don’t know how it happened, but now that I’m in a novel, I should meet my favorite character, right?
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