‘Oh, no. No way.’
However, every time Ian smiled, making the heart of the person he was looking at flutter, Marcus’s heart fluttered for a different reason.
Before Marcus could open his mouth to argue with his master, Ian flung open the carriage door. The carriage was still stopped in the middle of the road, and the prince slid out with a fluid motion.
Ian hadn’t thought about his future since he was very young, when he began to recognise the duties and roles of royalty. He found it hard to bear the frustration when life didn’t turn out the way he imagined.
It felt better not to dream in the first place.
Fortunately, he is a few times more patient than others. He was better than anyone else in suppressing his nature.
But that didn’t mean he was okay. There were moments when the sudden surge of emotion was too much to bear.
It has already been two months since he was called to Windsorbell Palace and had a private meeting with his mother. The frequency of those moments was increasing.
At this rate, he thought, he might start hating his older brother a little.
So Ian needed some breathing space. It’s not about sitting face-to-face with old people like and eating.
Let’s just say he had a bit of a rebellious streak at this late age.
Suppose he was afraid of the crown and wanted to run away like a coward.
Or that the news of the baroness’s imprisonment disturbed him.
Regardless, it was on impulse that he entered the courtroom for Miss Dowse’s final trial.
David’s trial, which was held three times, followed the lessons left by the previous two trials, and the audience was emptied and spectators were thoroughly excluded.
At the height of the trial, Ian, taking full advantage of his princely status for the day, slipped into the corner of the empty courtroom.
Soon, he couldn’t take his eyes off the defendant’s seat. His eyes, which had lost their light for nearly two months, instantly regained it.
The face was easily recreated, with hair tucked neatly behind her ears for the conservative jury.
Pale face, deeply pigmented eyes and hair.
At first glance, it looks like a pretty boy, but it’s definitely a girl.
Most of all, that haunting look of injustice.
It was the same cross-dresser his entourage has bumped into at Duan Central Railway Station.
The only difference was that she was crying and her eyes were red and bloodshot.
‘Cross-dressing to write a sensual novel.’
Ian felt pure astonishment at the woman’s colourful resume. It was something he hadn’t felt in a very long time.
He didn’t know what it was, but there was a sense of anticipation. Ian listened to the trial, his heart pounding in his chest.
But that was short-lived.
It was a boring cross-examination with an unmotivated defence lawyer and a prosecutor who spouted myths without logic. It was hardly a proper trial.
In disbelief, he looked back at the defendant, and she could only purse her lips. Though she looked like she was dying of injustice.
Ian’s eyes narrowed, wondering if he should leave.
Natalie Dowse raised her hand as the lawyer’s stammering reply came to an end. Her fingertips trembled in the air.
All eyes were on her. The judge spotted her and said.
“The accused. Do you have anything to say?”
The prosecutor raised an eyebrow and glared at Natalie. Natalie’s shoulders slumped, as if she didn’t dare say anything. But her mouth moved as if by instinct.
“Your Honor, inciting actions that undermine the morality of women, it’s such a heinous act that I couldn’t even imagine.”
Natalie Dowse, who had been sobbing throughout the trial, began to speak cautiously.
“I just wanted to do what I wanted to do, what I loved to do.”
It was a muffled voice, but it was the first words from the defendant, who had been silent for three trials, and everyone held their breath.
“I just wanted to make a different choice.”
At the same moment, Ian’s eyes widened as he looked at the baron’s daughter.
A different choice. He’d heard Charlotte say something like that before.
Ian hadn’t understood her then. Nor had he been able to ask Charlotte, who was making a rare appearance.
He had an instinctive feeling, or perhaps a sense of destiny, that he would find the answer right now.
The accused began his closing statement in a plaintive voice.
“I wrote with complacency, as you say. I didn’t think of the impact of my words, I just concentrated on showing off how witty I could write and how imaginative I was. And my greed got me this far.”
Having said that without taking a breath, she blew her nose once. Ian took a reflexive step back and frowned.
“So I’m fully remorseful for that.”
The juror, who looked about the age of her father or grandfather, nodded at Natalie for the first time.
“But Your Honor, I was foolish and I still don’t know if I have broken the law. There is no law that says an unmarried lady cannot write an erotic novel.”
She finished the sentence with determination, but still looked around anxiously.
To interpret the statement, she meant to say, ‘ I’m not the only one writing sensual novels, so why are you singling me out?’
The jury nodded in agreement but were taken aback by her bold statement and did not know how to respond.
The judge was equally embarrassed.
“The accused, in his capacity as a baroness, produced obscene material, causing a social disturbance.”
“Well, what kind of disruption are you referring to, exactly….”
“Disturbing the morals of our society.”
“That’s true… As far as I know, the morals of society are to be defended by all citizens of the great Grand Batten. Ladies and gentlemen should set an example.”
“But why is that morality so strict only for ladies, hhk. Judge, I’m stupid, I really don’t know. The morality that ladies and gentlemen learn must be very different…? Or is it that the law discriminates between people… .”
Natalie Dowse managed to sound sarcastic even as she sobbed.
The gentlemen in the courtroom slowly opened their mouths.
The judge let out a sigh. It was the way he looked at his granddaughter, who was on the rise of defiance.
“I mean, if I were to disgrace the ladies, all the gentlemen would be walking pornography….”
When it comes to being dishonest, you guys add up. So why are you fucking with me, you hypocrites.
Natalie Dowse looked around at the gentlemen surrounding her and hid her words, but the spiteful prosecutor read her inner thoughts from the watery eyes of the young woman, who was younger than him.
“Sophistry! Your honour, the accused is now blurring the point!”
The exasperated prosecutor shouted furiously.
But the lady’s mouth, once opened, was not easily shut.
“Lord Gorton, as you are a nobleman and a prestigious lawyer. You must have attended university and are a member of a prestigious club, so you must have gambled and visited brothels in the company of other gentlemen…. Heh…. Promiscuous…. I’m a disqualified lady myself for writing erotic novels, but if I had to guess, I’d say you’re even more debauched and lewd…. That’s what I’m thinking.”
I had no idea how I managed to keep my mouth shut all this time.
“Your honour, the defendant dared to mock the prosecutor in the court of His Majesty the King….”
“Mockery? How could I? I only wonder if the daily lives of the gentlemen here do not themselves transgress against morality and noble dignity… As a citizen who loves Grand Batten, I can’t help but think such thoughts…”
“There is a difference between a lady and a gentleman! What is a lady…!”
“So, who decided on that in the first place? I don’t understand it well because I’m stupid. Either everyone should follow it, or why only to the ladies…”
Natalie muttered to herself, for all to hear, at the dead topic. Her shoulders trembled as Lord Gorton, who had been so irritated, slammed down the table.
Then she muttered again.
“I, I just can’t understand why it’s a sin for me to write sensual novels, but it’s fine for a distinguished gentleman to write them…”
“Writing is not a lady’s job! Especially if it’s obscene!”
“If someone hears that, they will think that the things they have to do are written on their foreheads since they were born….”
“That mouth…! Can’t you keep it shut–!”
Lord Gorton shouted. His eyeballs threatened to burst.
“Lord Gorton, be quiet!”
“The lecherous witch has shown her true colours!”
Although the judge pointed out Lord Gorton’s demeanor, in a fit of rage, he leaped up as if to punch Natalie.
“You have no remorse for writing obscene fancies that will not be understood!”
“I don’t particularly need Lord Gorton’s understanding….”
Natalie spoke clearly, although she was small. Her mouth, which had been holding back, was resolute and unyielding.
Ian found himself involuntarily gaping. He was impressed that even in such a situation, she was able to maintain her composure.
“Defendant! Cease your statement! The same goes for the witness! We will take a brief recess. The jury will deliberate the verdict.”
The judge shouted urgently.
As soon as Natalie Dawes spoke, the trial was a mess. The jurors began humming their way out of the courtroom to discuss their verdict.
“… There’s certainly no such law. There’s nothing written on my forehead about what I should do since birth…”
Ian muttered, looking down at the mess.
What was that. The answer that seemed impossible to find forever, now seemed like something he could find.
Ian called the aide who had been quietly waiting behind him.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
“Let’s get back to Malik House. What is Charlotte’s schedule today?”
“I understand she is not scheduled to go out.”
“Very well. I’ll be right back. And.”
Ian didn’t take his eyes off the accused the entire time he spoke.
Marcus, noticing, followed Ian’s gaze. There was a woman with her head bowed deeply and tears running down her face.
“Can we buy off the jury right now?”
It was probably Ian’s first audacity in his 24 years of life.
Marcus turned his gaze back to Ian’s face and looked at him. He was smiling. Not a polite, formal smile, but a genuinely happy one.
It was a real smile that he hadn’t seen in a while.