I’d been instructed to make sure the guest’s items were as good as mine. Little did I know, though, that it would bring me back to the smell of Marienne’s soft mint soap.
“Is it possible, Lord Byers, that you love your job so much that you’re happy to go to work and sad to leave?”
“Not quite, but…”
“That was a bit extreme, wasn’t it? Actually, I just feel good when I think about going home, even if it’s just to lie in bed and do nothing after work, which a lot of people do.”
“I thought you meant you didn’t want to spend time with me again.”
He admits. This was a bit foxish, even for him.
He wondered why he’d bothered to nurture her, knowing what the answer would be.
But when he thinks back to the moment when he heard what he wanted to hear, his regret fades a little.
Marienne’s mind raced, asking how he could say such a thing.
“What do you mean I don’t like Lord Byers? Can’t you see my mouth torn open from ear to ear? I’d work for you if I were born again!”
She sounded far too sincere to be trying to please her superiors. Of course, it would be foolish to doubt Marienne’s sincerity now.
Regardless, he couldn’t help but smile as he listened to Marienne’s characteristic exaggeration. Even now. Vileon suddenly realised that his expression had softened.
Suddenly, he wondered if it was a gesture.
Deliberately asking a question with an obvious answer to someone who clearly likes you and listening to passionate expressions of affection.
I like you, I like you, I still like you a lot, you’re so amazing and wonderful.
It’s an addictive sweetness.
‘Vileon Byers is being stubborn. I wonder if the sun will rise from the north starting tomorrow.’
I remembered my mother’s words, “You are getting too mature too early, even though no one has asked you to.”
“Ah, Lord Byers. You’re here already?”
The cheerful voice called back into the drawing room. Marienne glanced at her watch.
“It’s a little late…”
“Where have you been?”
Marienne rolled her eyes.
Vileon called for a bodyguard outside the door. Marienne’s eyes narrowed, and she shoved the bodyguard who tried to enter, forcing him out into the corridor.
If that wasn’t enough, she locked the door to keep him out. The click, click, click reached Vileon’s ears.
“I’m not doing anything bad or dangerous. I just… just wanted to keep it a secret from you, Lord Byers.”
Well, more importantly, Marienne has locked the door now.
Vileon tried not to read too much into the situation.
“Okay, then unlock it.”
“No. You have to promise me you won’t pry, not from me, not from your bodyguard.”
“I won’t ask.”
I’ll have to warn her never to lock the door when we’re alone again, and I’ll have to tell her he can’t just take my word for it.
What should I say when Marienne asks why she shouldn’t do that?
‘Because it could be misunderstood?’
This is ridiculous. You’ve already moved Marienne’s residence to Count Byers. She’s not even allowed to walk around alone without a bodyguard.
If anyone was going to misunderstand their relationship, it was long overdue.
“By the way, what did Her Highness say?”
◇ ◆ ◇
Not long after Vileon was summoned by Odette, First Aide Phil knocked on the door to of the office.
Mouthing the polite term of endearment, he stepped into the office and quickly changed his expression when he spotted her bodyguard.
“Uh, hmmm. Aide Didi, do you have a moment?”
“I have a moment, but no private conversations. For my safety, I must have a bodyguard with me everywhere.”
“Safety, important, yes. Besides, Hugo, you have a big mouth.”
Marienne glanced at the bodyguard.
“Your name is Hugo?”
The aide gave her a puzzled look.
“You didn’t even know his name yet?”
“You’ve only been under guard for a few days, haven’t you?”
“I thought it was classified because you didn’t tell me first.”
“Mmm… Mari, no, Aide Didi, you’re so…”
Aide Phil chose the right words.
“Let’s just say you have no interest in anyone but the Duke of Blackwood and the Lord Chancellor.”
“And why is his name mentioned, alongside Lord Byers?”
She rolled her eyes, and the Aide Phil apologised, unable to help himself. He didn’t mean to offend Mari.
Anyway, what he wanted to discuss was Vileon’s surprise birthday party.
There was an internal consensus that it would be a little too simple for the usual little cupcakes and candles.
The only person who knows the answer to that question is Third Aide Marienne Didi.
Marienne is taken aback by her name popping up out of nowhere. Phil, on the other hand, seemed to take it in stride.
“If not you, who else would I ask? You’re the one who spends the most time with Lord Byers among everyone in the Ministry right now.”
“Moreover, Lord Byers is especially lenient towards the work that you do.”
“The work I do?”
The phrasing is strange.
Aide Phil laughed and pulled a handkerchief from his chest. He must be breaking out in a cold sweat.
“So I’m going to ask for your opinion, and then I’m going to put your name forward to be in charge of the party, and if I go a little overboard, Lord Byers will take it.”
“That’s a total blame game.”
“How is this passing the buck1means to pass the responsibility or blame for something onto someone else? If you actually take charge, it becomes a fact.”
That’s usually called passing the buck. Besides, Marienne hasn’t even agreed to it yet.
‘In the original story, something happened on this particular birthday.’
Even in the original work, the people of the Chancellor arranged a more elaborate celebration than they do every year.
She remembered them commissioning two cakes from a renowned pastry chef outside the palace.
The cute cupcakes are for those who don’t belong to the Ministry of Finance, and the rectangular hole cakes with the wonderful aroma of black tea are for Vileon.
‘The weather was fine in the morning, so they were able to bring the cakes in safely, but late in the afternoon it started to rain…’
Marienne bit the inside of her lip.
‘He went in search of Odette with an umbrella and picked up a locket necklace that had been thrown into the pond.’
The necklace had belonged to Odette’s mother and was the only thing Odette had brought to the palace.
It was also an object that held memories of Vileon.
During the time Odette was trapped in the mansion, every year on her birthday, there was a portrait that Vileon had personally painted for her.
‘You’ll think Odette threw it away, but Cain grabbed it after an argument with her!’
Cain brings up Vileon’s ‘intimate’ relationship with the Fourth Princess, and Odette’s response is that Vileon cannot be excluded from the plan.
Cain’s anger is inexplicable, and the locket necklace catches his eye.
He realises that the necklace, which is always attached to his fiancée’s body, resembles Vileon.
Eventually, Cain snatches the necklace and throws it away, then scoops up the struggling Odette and carries her into a nearby room.
What follows is a punishing kiss.
It’s exactly what you’d expect from an arrogant, dark-haired northern lord.
‘The bastard is a damn good kisser… Don’t be proud of yourself, asshole. It’s not because you’re really good at it, it’s all the setup.’
“Fine, I’ll take care of the party arrangements…!”
Aide Phil smirked. ‘You’re the only one who can do it anyway, so I didn’t say anything.’
He’s the kind of guy who shamelessly wants to sound like her uncle, calling someone else’s daughter “my Mari” when she’s not his blood, but he’s pretty quick on his feet.
There were quite a few decisions to be made about the cake order. When Marienne was told that she would have to talk to the accounting department as well, she left the office, followed by her bodyguard, of course.
◇ ◆ ◇
Upon returning to the office, Vileon greeted Marienne.
Every time she’d tried to make her answer a no-comment, he’d stopped prying, so she thought she could make it a secret this time.
When I told him I was going to make an egg out of a northerner’s head, he told me how to do it first.
I figured he wouldn’t question why I was gone, but maybe I was too complacent.
I didn’t expect him to call the bodyguard at the door.
Anyway, I’m done with this one. Marienne turned to Vileon, hoping to change the mood.
“By the way, what did Her Highness say?”
The way Vileon looked at her was odd.
“Her Highness says she can’t help you get rid of the Duke of Blackwood’s hair.”
Expecting something romantic, Marienne forgot to breathe for a moment.
“Did you mention that to Her Highness? Oh, no, I mean, between the two of you, you’ve been discussing a lot of sensitive topics so I thought maybe it came up naturally…?”
“I had to tell her, because I had to clear Aide Didi of the blame, and the aide’s goal is the Duke’s hair, not the position of the Duchess.”
Marienne’s head went white.
“Position of the Duchess?”
Oh, my God. I’ve never heard anything so ugly in my life. But there were still more surprises to come.
“The bucket dumping incident. Did you see me reading the final report earlier?”
“As it turns out, there was a real culprit, and she approached Aide Didi even before the bucket incident. The yellow paper bird left in the dressing room was ordered by her.”
Marienne, still recovering from the Duchess’s shock, stammered.
“And who did it?”
Vileon said calmly.
“To the Fourth Princess, when Aide Didi approached the Duke proactively, she saw it as a challenge to herself.”
“What, what, a challenge?”
“More accurately, an interruption.”
A chill ran down my spine. Marienne had unconsciously wrapped her arms around her neck.
While I was distracted by the ugly egg, I had almost escaped with my life.
To have incurred Odette’s wrath! Marienne cursed herself bitterly.
If anyone should be more careful than a northerner, it’s the original female lead Odette. And while the Northman could be beaten into a hard-boiled egg and never be seen again, Odette would not.
“If you touch the Duke in any way, it will be in the ears of the Four Empresses.”
No matter how hard my heart sank, Vileon’s worried voice sounded like a death warning.
A chill ran down her spine. Marienne squared her shoulders.
“I suppose so, but I didn’t think she’d see my strange behaviour as… courting.”
I thought that sort of thing was reserved for black-haired dukes from the North.
“I’m afraid I’ve offended Her Highness.”
“It’s okay, we’ve cleared the air.”
“I almost couldn’t see Lord Byers again…”
What would Odette have done with the annoying interruption? She would have removed Vileon from the way.
She would have summoned her to the Fourth Princess’ Palace.
- 1means to pass the responsibility or blame for something onto someone else