“How the prince has fallen, tsk tsk. I used to think you were clever until you turned ten.”
The emperor turned to Jeremy and gave him a stern glare. It was enough to make me angry.
‘The attitude of not caring even though the nobles next to you were listening. That’s why the nobles ignore the prince!’
The emperor treated Jeremy with utter disrespect. Even though he was his own son, he didn’t hesitate to call him an idiot and treated him with contempt.
This could have been a ploy by Jeremy to avoid the emperor’s favor, but it didn’t feel good for me to have to watch.
’I’m sure. Why are you laughing at us? Why don’t you go away?’
I turned my head to glare at one of the nobles who was openly mocking us. With a murderous intensity that could kill with just a glance.
Several of the nobles shuddered.
As I continued to stare, the little princess tugged at the hem of my dress.
“Unni, Unni.” T/n: Eonnie/Unni – used for younger girls to adress girls that are older as themselves.Often translated as big sister and that always give me the creeps since I associate it with blood relatives (￢з￢)
“Your eyes are like this! They’re raised. Very scary. Scarier than a tiger.”
Yikes, I adjusted my angle so that the Emperor and Empress couldn’t get a look at me. The Empress, whose gaze was down, must have seen my expression.
“‘Sister, do you want to take my side?
“What do you mean, Princess?”
“Karen has an enemy that needs to be defeated. I thought it would be good to have you on my side.”
An enemy to defeat? Which enemy is that? I wanted to hear more, but the Empress interrupted Karen.
“Princess Karen. Are you a sister to the princess? Please refrain from talking.”
Karen dropped her shoulders, sulking. But then she gasped, as if she’d spotted something, and ducked her little body behind the Empress.
What was it? What did she see that made her so scared? I turned around to see a familiar face…….
‘It’s the crown prince…….’
His golden hair shone with an air of nobility, and his golden eyes glowed as if he had brought a piece of the sun with him. His eyes turned to me with a faint smile.
I unconsciously bowed my head to him, and his lips curved into a charming smile, like a crescent moon.
Wow…… can a person look so different in the daytime than they do at night?
Last night, his smile had reminded me of the devil. Bewitching and mesmerizing, but one wrong step and you could fall a thousand miles down the road.
But today, he looked like a completely different man than he did yesterday. Everywhere you look……, he looks like a perfect fairytale prince, doesn’t he?
But Karen looked at the crown prince as if he were a monster. Because of her short stature, others didn’t notice, but I could tell she was clearly scared.
As I stood staring at her and wondering, a low, beautiful ringing voice penetrated my ears.
“Everyone is here. Glory to Elkisies.”
Ain curled the corners of his lips softly. There was a graceful elegance to his natural manner that flowed like water.
The Emperor and Jeremy were the only ones who greeted Ain here. Of course, in Jeremy’s case, he didn’t mean it.
“Thank you, Your Highness, for taking time out of your busy schedule to attend the banquet.”
“You begged me to attend the banquet to save face for my brother. If you’re so affectionate, will you be able to lead the country in the future?”
A man in the emperor’s position should be able to see through people.
But the emperor’s ability to do so was close to zero. It’s the crown prince who’s only looking for opportunities to kill the emperor. That’s all I have to say about him.
“I think the crown prince has other ideas.”
But then, the Empress interrupted, her piercing gaze colliding with Ain’s smirk.
“What do you mean by that, Your Majesty?”
Ain laughed, his eyes twinkling softly. It was a bright smile that could have fooled anyone, but the Empress didn’t seem to be fooled. As if she could see through the mask.
“The marriage took place a month after the crown prince’s request. Is it simply my delusion to think that the crown prince has other ideas?”
“You are mistaken. I was merely recommending a suitable young lady for the prince.”
“A recommendation. The crown prince calls coercion a recommendation.”
The Empress blurted out her words. She didn’t hide her animosity towards the crown prince in the slightest.
“Empress, that’s enough.”
“Your Majesty. You can’t say I’ve gone too far. At this rate, even Karen doesn’t know who she’ll end up marrying at some point.”
Ain took a step toward the Empress. It was a gentle step, full of dignity, but somehow it felt forced.
“It is unwarranted.”
A smile slowly tugged at the corners of his mouth. But his eyes were cold.
“Because I consider Karen to be a precious little sister, just as I consider Jeremy.”
Ain rolled his eyes and looked at Karen. Though the words said precious, the coldness in his gaze betrayed the weight of his words.
Karen shivered slightly under Ain’s piercing gaze.
“Aren’t you putting too much pressure on her?
I was tempted to shield the trembling Karen, but I knew that would make Ain suspicious of me. There was no reason for me to help Karen when I was supposed to be Jeremy’s watchdog.
This exact same thing had happened in my previous life, and I hadn’t seen it coming. The frightened young princess had ended up wetting her dress.
If she had been a normal eight-year-old, it would have been an understandable and forgivable mistake. But because of her status as an imperial princess, Karen had to endure the mockery for a long time.
’I’m not going to let that happen this time.’
I stepped in front of Karen. Hoping that my flowing skirt would do the trick. Then I opened my mouth to turn Ain’s attention to me.
“The crown prince thinks very much of his siblings.”
Ain tilted slightly his head at my apparently off-duty behavior. The corners of his mouth lifted slightly, as if to ask what I intended. If I showed nervousness here, it would only arouse more suspicion.
I deliberately made my eyes shine more confidently. To ward off any suspicion that I was deliberately blocking Karen, I acted like a motivated subordinate with a new assignment.
“You always asked me to be a friendly companion for the prince and a friendly older sister for the princess. Is that right, Crown Prince?”
Ain’s expression was strange. If I said something, I’d know what he was thinking, but he just looked deep into my eyes.
Maybe my words sounded strange. I was alone in my discomfort with Ain’s gaze, and salvation came from an unexpected source.
A clear voice like singing. It was Jeremy, grinning from ear to ear, taking a step toward Ain.
“Brother. Told you I was interested.”
Ain looked up and stared at Jeremy. The way his eyes swept over Jeremy sent chills down my spine.
Jeremy, on the other hand, was completely unfazed and smiled. A smile that looked a little sharp, the kind you wouldn’t expect from an idiot.
‘I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.’
No matter how much I thought about it, I couldn’t recall a confrontation between the two of them like today. Normally, Karen’s mistake would have brought the conversation to a hasty end. Had my intervention changed the future?
My lips twitched at the unexpectedness of the situation.
‘What is the prince trying to tell us here?’
Ain won’t leave Jeremy alone if he’s caught like that, I thought, my heart racing at the sight of his breathless performance.
Suddenly, I felt a warm sensation in my hand. The next thing I know, I’m standing right next to Jeremy, pulled by his hand.
“Thank you. For introducing me to my bride.”
With his gaze fixed on the Prince, Jeremy took my hand in his own, squeezed it tightly, and kissed the back of my hand.
I looked at him in bewilderment, and Jeremy’s impish grin tugged at the corners of his mouth.
‘You’re acting like an idiot, aren’t you……. how is the crown prince reacting?’
I sneaked a look at Ain’s expression.
‘He doesn’t seem too suspicious, but…… why does he seem to be in a bad mood?’
It was purely a hunch, but somehow, I had a feeling he was.
The way he’s staring at our hands, maybe he doesn’t like the way we’re holding them? I unconsciously tried to loosen my grip with Jeremy.
“Jeremy really like the bride.”
Jeremy’s grip on my hand tightened. To keep it from slipping away from me.
“The bride is my goddess.”
He smirked at me. For a moment, I was so dazed by his mesmerizing, goofy smile that I forgot what he’d said.
A few moments later, I finally regain my senses, and I’m suddenly aware of a prying gaze here and there.
The voices of the nobles chattering behind their fans pierced my ears. Did the prince call me a goddess…… just now?
“Is unni…… a goddess?”
As if to answer my question, Karen looked up at me. In the silence that followed, Karen’s question echoed.
Are you a goddess? Are you a goddess? Are you a goddess……?
In the midst of all this, it was Jeremy who spoke up.
‘Um, yeah. This makes it clear……. The prince doesn’t like me. Otherwise, how can you spread false rumors about being a ‘goddess’ before the afterglow of ‘most beautiful woman’ has even worn off!? Huh?!’
It was Jeremy who did the deed, but I had to bow my head. The tension from Ain had worn off, but the embarrassment was greater than the joy of being alive.
‘You’re the one playing the idiot, so why is the shame on me……?’
I smiled bitterly, feeling the countless gazes pouring towards me.
* * *
Jeremy stood alone in a sheltered garden. It was the time when he was looking toward the banquet hall, and his pale purple eyes had a cold aura on them.
The man called Letin was Jeremy’s personal bodyguard, a man who hovered at his side as if he were not there. He had light-blue hair and dark blue eyes, and he scanned his surroundings warily.
“Looks like we’re the only ones here.”
“Yeah. I noticed.”
Jeremy cast a soundproofing spell around them. Letin, who had been watching the thin barrier form, opened his mouth slightly.
“Even when I look at it, it’s amazing. The prince’s magic.”
To use magic in such a short time without a magic book. Letin thought that there was no such genius as a genius like him.
Ordinary wizards had to go through several cumbersome procedures when using magic. They had to open a thick grimoire and find the formula they wanted, and they had to interpret the spell according to the situation at the time. Even that had a high failure rate, so it could be said to be very disadvantageous in speed battles.
Jeremy, on the other hand, could use magic without a grimoire, and his speed was overwhelming.
A wizard who is so good at magic that he is unrestrained by the limitations of ‘speed’. The world called them ‘shorthand mages’.
“It’s a pity that such a person is called an idiot prince.”
Letin sighed and crossed his arms in disappointment.
Jeremy, on the other hand, could only offer a weak smile.
“What’s a crown prince for, why don’t you just annihilate him first?”
Letin had no doubt that Jeremy had that kind of power. This was a man who could unleash hell on earth with a snap of his fingers.
“You’ll go down in history as a tyrant, but why don’t you just nip it all in the bud and get on with it?”
But his master was too cautious, leaving the fast lane for fear of hurting those around him. By the time he would be done, Letin thought, he might be a grandfatherly old man.
“Even with that spy. Why are you just watching?”
“You mean the princess?”
“What kind of princess. She’s just a spy the crown prince has placed himself at your side.”
No wonder he doesn’t like anything about her.
“So, what are you going to do, let her keep an eye on you?”
“There’s nothing I can do about it now. Letting her keep an eye on me would be the most ‘idiot prince’ thing to do. If I make a move, he’ll get suspicious.”
If they make a move, they’ll find out that Jeremy isn’t a fool. In the end, he must choose to stay put, which means letting Hailey keep an eye on him.
No matter which side Jeremy chose, there was no disadvantage for Ain.
“Is that why the prince openly attached a spy? After all, he’s got a head for that sort of thing.”
Letin clicked his tongue.
“She’s not playing any tricks on you prince, is she?”
“No, not at all. If anything, she seems a bit clumsy.”
Jeremy had expected Ain to send him the perfect spy.
But Hailey was nothing like he’d expected. She didn’t seem to be spying on him, and on the rare occasions when they made eye contact, she’d give him a look of unlimited affection.
“Is that an act?”
Jeremy leaned forward, looking a little unsure.
“Honestly, I’m…… confused.”
Her eyes met his own without hesitation. Was that really a lie? Normally, he would have come up with a quick answer, but now he felt as confused as if he were walking through a fog.