Before I knew it, Cardan was holding King Taraka’s wrist tightly.
“Oh, oh, I’m sorry.”
King Taraka was surprised and pulled away, then he grabbed my hand like it was nothing.
“The Duke seems to be in trouble.”
Cardan lightly swept the back of my hand which was covered with red marks with his thumb.
King Taraka trembled and was at a loss, so I waved my other free hand.
“That’s all right, Your Highness. I didn’t have any trouble at all.”
I tried to pull out my hand while looking at Cardan’s face, but I failed miserably because Cardan, pretending to be looking at my hand, held it firmly.
At that time, the king’s three-year-old daughter spat out her fist and pointed at Cardan with a shiny finger.
“I want to compete for you.”
The queen managed to stop the child from running and trying to cling to Cardan’s leg.
“No, Lillian. You have to stay quiet.”
My heart grew grand.
I can’t believe he bewitched a three-year-old child.
As expected, Cardan’s beauty works everywhere.
“Why? Do you already have a princess?”
At that moment, her small drool-dripping hand turned toward me and grabbed my skirt.
“Princess, are you competing with me?”
The queen was not as frightened as when Lillian tried to approach Cardan.
She seems to think I’m easy to deal with.
Well, it’s kind of true.
I tried to kindly explain to the three-year-old that Cardan is single and I am a duke, not a princess, and we will never get married. While I was choosing simple words, Cardan bent down to match his view with Lillian.
“Not yet. If we get married later, I’ll invite you to the wedding.”
When Lillian nodded, Cardan smiled and rubbed her small head.
I whispered to Cardan, leaving behind the family of King Taraka, who hurriedly stepped down with Lillian, as if they were afraid that Cardan would crush their young daughter’s head.
“You can’t lie. Children will believe it.”
When I twisted my hand again, Cardan slowly released my hand.
“I’m not lying.”
Although Cardan’s tone was light, I turned my gaze away because I was uncomfortable with his words.
Then Cardan shrugged his shoulders lightly.
“Well, won’t I get married someday?”
“I suppose so.”
I tried to nod with a polite smile.
Yeah, I can’t imagine it. In the future, he is destined to pass away without even having a proper wedding with the princess of Esland.
At that time, the door of the banquet hall opened and the attendant shouted loudly.
“The Empress Dowager is entering.”
All eyes on the banquet hall turned toward the door.
It was against etiquette to enter later than the emperor, but the only person allowed to do that was the empress dowager.
The Empress Dowager must have taken advantage of that fact and arrived late on purpose.
And with the most unconventional appearance.
Sure enough, the Empress Dowager appeared in a strong crimson dress. And next to the Empress Dowager stood a light brown-haired woman in a dull gray dress, in contrast to her.
No wonder she wasn’t around the Prince of Esland. She must have been with the Empress Dowager.
The heroine of the original novel
As I expected, she stood in the middle of everyone’s eyes, looking perfectly suited to Cardan’s taste.
I quickly turned my head to look at Cardan’s reaction.
After that, I met his red eyes that had been watching me all along.
As if he had no interest in the appearance of the princess, Cardan did not take his eyes off me.
Cardan responded with a small smile as I stared up at him blankly.
At this point, I could intuit unless I was an idiot.
Even if things turned out wrong at this point, they were already going wrong in the first place.
“I see the Sun of the Empire.”
The Empress approached us to greet us with the Crown Prince and Princess of her home country, Esland.
“I greet the Empress Dowager.”
Cardan only moved his head as I greeted calmly.
“These are my nephews, Prince Momed and Princess Janet of Esland.”
The queen drew the princess close to her.
For today, I naturally cheered for the Empress.
However, contrary to my expectations, Cardan ignored the princess and stared at the crown prince quietly.
“I heard that conflicts often break out on the border between Taraka and Esland. It’s not a matter involving the royal family, is it?”
“You mean Taraka? At the moment–”
When the crown prince opened his mouth and tried to talk, the Empress Dowager immediately pushed him and laughed.
“As expected, Your Majesty. Taking a close look at the problems of distant foreign lands. According to my brother, it’s a minor misunderstanding. It’s been a while since it was resolved.”
While they were talking, and Princess Janet stood blankly like a bag of barley, I felt like it was time for me to step up.
With a nasal voice like those of Ropan*’s villainess, I raised my chin.
(t/n: Ropan means romantic fantasy genre slang in Korean)
“Princess Janet is poorly dressed. Looking at it earlier, I saw that she didn’t even greet properly, so I don’t know where she learned manners, but someone would think she’s a commoner, not a princess.”
When the word “commoner” was emphasized, unlike the princess whose face turned red like a tomato, the Empress Dowager’s face turned bright.
“Ah, I apologize in her stead.”
The Empress Dowager sighed softly.
“My niece is a bit like a commoner. She has no sense of choosing her clothes, no aristocratic air. But please forgive her for today.”
“Well, I can’t help it if the Empress Dowager says so.”
I glanced at Cardan again, but he didn’t seem interested in this conversation at all.
Then I have no choice but to try again.
“As from the saying of nobles, it looks like she’s obedient.”
I said this because I thought Cardan preferred common people because he liked obedient women.
But he merely stared at me with his indifferent eyes while I was making noise.
“Or maybe it’s because her behavior is vulgar?”
“No, no! Are you insulting the Eslandic royal family now?!”
I was spouting everything I could think of, but the Prince of Esland strode up to me.
My body trembled without realizing it when he reached out to me threateningly.
The Empress Dowager quickly grabbed the Crown Prince, but it was too late.
At that moment, Cardan wrapped his arms around my shoulder and gently pulled me back. Cardan’s touch was very careful, but his hands were as hot as fire on my skin.
“That’s all for the greeting.”
The Eslandic family had no choice but to step down when Cardan coldly spoke.
That mammoth-like bastard
He leapt onto me like an angry elephant and destroyed my perfect plan?
I followed Princess Janet, who was wandering around, cursing the crown prince bitterly inside.
However, no matter how hard the Empress Dowager looked around us with the princess, Cardan did not give the princess a glance.
Instead, he just clung to me very persistently.
Looking at the opportunity, I crept closer to the princess, but Cardan blocked me.
“Where are you going?”
“Well, as I was the one who organized this banquet, I think it would be polite for me to ask the guests if they had any inconveniences.”
“Never mind that. They’ll take care of it on their own if they’re uncomfortable or not.”
His personality took off.
“Something dangerous like before might occur if you keep wandering around here and there for no reason.”
Cardan stared at the crown prince who was drinking whiskey while hanging out with the imperial courtiers.
“It was true that I was rude at the time.”
“Well, you said the right things.”
Oh, it’s ruined, it’s ruined.
There was no indication on his face that he was happy that he had found a woman who suited his taste. Only a slight expression of contempt could be seen on his face.
I thought I had to take some extreme measures.
“Your Majesty, I’ll just go to the lounge for a moment. I’ll be back shortly.”
Cardan looked reluctant, but eventually nodded.
I pretended to be heading to the lounge and deliberately passed the Empress Dowager.
I winked hard at her just before passing by, and the Empress Dowager immediately followed me from afar.
Then I locked the door of the lounge in the banquet hall, where no one was present, and went straight to the point.
“Empress Dowager. I’d like to push for Princess Janet to be selected as His Majesty’s concubine. What do you think?”
Meanwhile, the crow of Cardan flew leisurely around the banquet hall, keeping an eye out for any lady who might have accidentally dropped jewelry on the terrace.
Soon, however, he found the Empress Dowager staring at him from the window as if she was about to kill him. Therefore, he quickly left the banquet hall.
The crow wept sadly and smacked its lips.
It’s too unfortunate to go back like this.
If he bullies the Duke’s pigeons, this empty feeling will go away.
The lighthearted crow took advantage of the Duke’s absence and stormed into her office window.
The crow, who proudly proclaimed “I’m here!” with both wings stretched out, waited for the angry complaints of the pigeons to be heard.
But no matter how long he waited, there was no answer.
The crow peered outside the cage and looked at the pigeons, but there was still no answer.
The pigeons sat high and didn’t even look at the crow that invaded.
One was even dozing off.
The impatient crow pretended to pounce on their bird feeder, but the pigeons still ignored him.
“Gugu.” (Eat a lot now.)
“Gu, Gu…….” (Poor thing. Won’t you starve without us now?)
The crow, who was not particularly hungry, jumped back.
“What do you mean, without you?”
But the pigeons didn’t answer and laughed.
“Kaa! Kaa! Kaaaaa!”
“Has the Duke finally decided to dispose of you? Would she finally adopt a crow instead of insects like you who only knows to eat?”
The pigeons looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Gu, gu.” (Oh, that stupid crow.)
“Gugu, gu, gugu-gu” (Since you are not cute, you have to work hard. We are so cute so even if we are insects who only know to eat, we eat three meals a day.)
The crow tilted its head.
“Kaaaaaaa” (I’m cute too)
The pigeons just stared at the crow as if they were dumbfounded.
“Gugu…, gu, gugugu.” (Anyway, you won’t see us again tomorrow, so you should know that.)
“Kka?” (What do you mean……?)
“Gugugugu, gugugugugu.” (We’re going to leave for a place you can never follow. With our master.)