“It’s cleaner to crawl into your bed and f*ck anybody you come across in the main square of Ezon than I to become your lover. You’re as cheap as a courtesan.”
The calmness of the words made the servants squirm. The head servant pursed his lips.
“Duke, please mind your words…”
The ebony cane with the gilded head swung round. Olivier, pressing the servant’s breastplate as if to extinguish a cigarette, muttered coldly.
“Before you point out my words, straighten out your master’s misbehaviour first. Or else.”
The cane clicked against the servant’s command.
“I will have you committed to the asylum at Saint, Lazarus, now.”
The flushed-faced servant dropped his gaze, his shoulders shaking.
* * *
A few steps before the final landing, Olivier’s legs gave out and he wobbled. His hands, gripping the banister tightly, were slick with sweat.
He could feel the valet at the entrance watching him carefully.
“Oh, I tripped.”
He put on a nonchalant face, pretended to straighten his clothes, and resumed his impeccable appearance. His stomach began to churn like he was going to throw up.
This is so crazy…!
Oliver, who had held his breath several times, walked to the square without taking a carriage. It was only when he arrived near the park, which was filled with the murmurs of people, that he was finally able to face the reality in front of him.
I need to get away from Ezon right now!
* * *
Henri had never seen Olivier Dampierre so pale, and he was terribly perplexed.
He looked as if he were bored with the world. He was usually so relaxed. He had never seen him so nervous before…
“Where have you been to come back like this…”
The clothes he was taking off haphazardly fell on the floor. While the maids were busy picking up the clothes, Olivier wiped Henri’s face.
“Henri, you need to find me someone to marry, now.”
What? Right now? Henri’s face flushed with embarrassment.
“What is this, all of a sudden?”
“Think fast. The sooner, the better.”
Sighing heavily, Olivier nervously opened the cigar case and puffed.
The case slipped from his grasp, and it tumbled to the ground. Scrambling to pick up the cigar, Olivier buried his face in his hands and sank onto the couch.
“I need to ruin my life as quickly as possible.”
“Ruin whose what?”
Henri blinked stupidly.
“My life, Olivier Dampierre’s honour. Olivier Dampierre’s reputation!”
“Wait. Take the money out of the equation and it’s just about honor.”
Olivier, who had just put a dry cigar to his mouth, added again.
“You can’t go down forever, but you can go somewhere moderately and come back moderately…”
As he watched his master babbling incoherently, Olivier finally interjects irritably.
“I went to see Mademoiselle R.”
Henri’s eyes widened.
“I thought she wouldn’t be just a crazy woman, but you met her in person, so, maybe…?”
“Shut up. Do you think there could have been such a thing?”
When Olivier expressed his annoyance as if he were starting a match, Henri shrugged his shoulders.
“No, I didn’t think that way. I just figured it was something you wouldn’t let slide with your personality… And I was afraid that you would just explode and rush in without thinking…”
“That’s exactly it. That’s why we have to run away.”
Olivier huffed irritably as he ruffled his hair. Henri, seeing the sweaty nape of his master’s neck, shook his head.
“Who is this Mademoiselle R that you need to clean up after her like this. Much to the embarrassment of Dampierre…”
Suddenly, Olivier’s mouth clamped shut.
The weight of the silence was so terrifying that Henri, who had not yet heard her identity, was now seized with vague terror.
“Why are you doing this…ugh.”
Oliver stood up and approached Henri with large strides. He pulled him as if he were going to eat him alive and whispered something in his ear. Henri’s eyes widened as if they were about to pop out of their sockets.
“Oh, sh*t…! Uh, no, I’m sorry, sir.”
Olivier nodded as a lone scream erupted.
“We have to run away. She was completely crazy. She was wearing only a n*gligee, completely n*ked.”
Phew… Henri took several deep breaths as if his mind had gone blank. Olivier, who had let go of the staggering Henri, sighed heavily as he pressed on his temple.
“I’m not kidding, Henri. We must be very properly stuck in the gutter and leave Ezon, completely out of sight.”
“Um, do you think, young master…”
The thought of having to make amends made Henri’s heart pound with anxiety, so did his. As Henri pondered where to run away, he saw his master and barely managed to gather his courage.
“Surely you didn’t say anything bad about them there, did you?”
Olivier coughed and stammered.
“Yeah. I guess I did.”
“Have you gone mad… I’m sorry, Master. What did you say?”
“A well-dressed beast… cheap…loss of appetite… filthy place.”
Henry’s face turned white. Although he is his master, it was clear that he was really hot-tempered without any countermeasures.
“I said it’s cleaner to roll around in Ezon’s main square and f*ck anybody she comes across.”
Blinking as if he were going to pass out at any moment, Henri picked up the bottle of wine and downed the entire bottle. Already cursing at the man for the hundredth time.
The corners of his mouth twitched, and he spoke softly.
“Master, this isn’t a dream, is it?”
“I’m afraid not.”
After a moment of shock, the two men regrouped and began to discuss a plan of action.
“Now, listen carefully, Henri.”
“Yes, yes, Master.”
Henri quickly pulled out his notebook.
Closing his eyes tightly and taking a deep breath, Olivier snapped his fingers and began to circle the room.
“Who I will marry in a day from now.”
“If its marrying Olivier Dampierre, we can call a few people right now…”
“Someone who will accept a divorce in half a year, maybe a year at the earliest.”
“Oh, that’s a bit.”
“So it can’t be anyone my grandmother wants. And any woman with whom I’ve had any sort of affair is out.”
“Well, then, there aren’t too many candidates…”
“Should have nothing to do with Ezon politics. If we talk about marriage, it will take too long, my grandmother will intervene, and the imperial family won’t understand.”
“Ezon political circles, excluded…”
“Cut out the economic side, too. Real estate, investment in gold mines, railroads, steel, etc. A family that has nothing to do with business so we can clean up the mess.”
“There’s a property and investment mania in Ezon society, Master, and any family that doesn’t dabble in those things isn’t because they’re greedy for money, it’s because they’re already dead.”
“Stop making up bullshit excuses and find them.”
But I really don’t have one… Henri muttered and wrote it down. ‘Except for families involved in economics and investments.’
“I don’t have to tell you that looks matter to a certain extent, but it has to be a certain amount, doesn’t it?”
“You’re being blatant, Master.”
You ask for so many things in such a hurry… Henri clicked his tongue.
“We have to be realistic, Henri, because we don’t want to get married on a whim. It has to be convincing.”
Olivier’s finger was pointing at his smug face. Convincing… Yes, it is, on that face. Henri nodded reluctantly.
“Then shall we choose between the actors?”
“No theatre, no art world. Too close to the press, rumours travel too fast, and I don’t want to have to explain why we’re getting married in such a hurry.”
“No theatre, no art world…”
Henri let out a long sigh. Excluding even this, who on earth could marry Olivier Dampierre?
But Olivier was pacing around the room in a frenzy of activity.
Even if it’s only for six months, we’ll definitely have to live together, so her lifestyle is important, she must be clean, she mustn’t be overly lazy, she must have an artistic sense, and I don’t want her to have a mouth that’s too short1refers to someone who is picky or has a limited or narrow taste in food…
As Olivier’s fingers folded one after another with this and that condition, Henri’s pen became busier and busier.
When Olivier had written down a list of conditions for a fake spouse for half a year or a year, he stood in the middle of the room, seemingly unable to think of any more.
Then, as if he’d forgotten the most important thing, he looked back at Henri with a newfound ah!
“There is something most important, Henri. She must be someone who never, ever, ever wears perfume, because we might be staying in the same house for a while.”
“I don’t know of any woman who can fulfil all these conditions, sir. Marriage is probably out of the question…”
Henri’s eyes, hollow with exhaustion, stared blankly at Olivier.
“This is more demanding than the previous condition. What young lady in society does not wear perfume…”
“Henri, Henri. My life depends on it.”
“But where exactly are we going to exchange the marriage proposal in just one day from now? Anyone, even just one person tonight, would be better than nothing…”
The expression of discomfort on Olivier’s face came to mind. The obsession with etiquette, he knows it well. Henri’s shoulders sank.
“So if only you had met someone earlier…”
Henri, who was muttering to himself, looked up at his master with a strange feeling.
His master, who had been pacing around the room in a fidgety manner, was now standing tall in front of the balcony, staring fixedly at something.
He craned his head to follow his master’s gaze, but there wasn’t much in the way of scenery, except for a group of pale-faced maids unrolling quilts on the roof of the mansion across the street.
A chill ran down Henri’s spine as he watched Olivier turn around, his face beaming. Was he so stressed that he was going crazy…?
“I’ve got an idea, and it might be easier than you think.”
- 1refers to someone who is picky or has a limited or narrow taste in food