“So it doesn’t matter how we started, does it?”
Lila nodded vigorously at Michael’s words. Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest that she couldn’t answer.
Lucas tugged on her hand. After kissing the back of her hand respectfully, he asked.
“Will you join our family, my lady?”
It felt more precious to Lila than any other proposal. She didn’t need a ring or anything else.
This was the moment she had a real family in this world.
She met a pair of pink eyes, then a pair of minty ones, waiting for her answer, and in a shaky voice, she answered.
“Yes, with pleasure.”
Her answer made Lucas smile and Michael blink back tears. Lila smiled back with reddened eyes.
At Lila’s request to be alone for a moment, they left the room.
Lucas turned to Michael.
“Don’t you have anything for your uncle?”
In response to Lucas’s question, Michael, who was inwardly disappointed that Lucas hadn’t given him one of his own, fished something out of his pocket.
It was a green tool made of high-grade magic stone and shaped like an earring.
“Hmm, the color is unique…”
It was more mint than green.
“Owen got it for me. He said it’s a higher grade, similar to the highest grade.”
“Okay. I don’t think this is video communication.”
“I don’t need to video communicate with my uncle, it’s just communication.”
It was said bluntly, but Lucas smiled at the reddened tips of Michael’s ears.
“By the way, can you make more of these? I’d like one for my wife, just in case.”
“Why would you need a communication device when you’re together every day?”
“Because I think it would be nice if we just wore the same thing?”
His words made Michael jump.
“Just match them with jewelry!”
“Yeah, but what kind of jewelry?”
“Lila’s all pretty. No matter what you do, she’ll be prettier than the jewelry.”
One of Lucas’s eyebrows rose at Michael’s adamant answer.
“You need to stop calling your aunt Lila.”
“Because Lila told me to call her that!”
“Does that mean you’re going to keep calling her Lila?”
“I’m going to call her Lila until she’s old! She’s my friend before she’s my aunt, and she’s a secret friend too!”
“It’s not even a secret anymore…”
“Forget it! I’m going back to my room!”
Michael, who had been standing in front of the stairs talking to her, turned on his heel. He called out to him as he hurried downstairs.
“Pack your things carefully.”
He glanced at Lucas, who was waving at him with his earrings, and then turned away again.
Lucas stood and watched as Michael grumbled and headed downstairs.
Lucas had a strange feeling watching him.
Lila was sitting on the couch. After sending Michael and Lucas away, the room was very quiet.
Except for the occasional bird chirps and insect buzz, the room was silent.
“This feels really weird.”
Fidgeting with her hands, Lila leaned her head against the back of the couch. Staring blankly at the ceiling, she realized it was also emblazoned with the ducal sigil: a gray wolf.
“It’s on the ceiling.”
The stream of consciousness naturally led to mythology.
“But why is the Montefeltra family sigil a gray wolf? I was taught that Lupus had black fur and red eyes…”
Could it be that the Montefeltras were not strictly imperial, but used a different color for their wolf crest?
The fleeting thought flew away. She couldn’t dwell on the fact that Michael was leaving for the Academy in a few days.
Pushing herself up and heading to her bedroom, Lila placed the pouch on her dresser and pulled out an empty bottle.
Lucas had given it to her as a gift, and it was expensive, made of jewelry.
“What kind of jewelry is this? That’s a lot of money to spend.”
His and Michael’s gifts alone were staggering.
“Dresses, jewelry, shoes, bonnets…”
The list goes on, and on, and on.
“I have nothing to offer…”
Wanting to give something back, Lila pulled out her makeup from her purse. She picked out the right products for Michael, starting with his skin.
She scooped out the contents and filled the jar, then put the empty jar back into the pouch and removed it. The contents were then restored on their own. She repeated the process of pouring the contents into the jars.
She got a wooden box and filled it up, putting in separate cosmetics for Henry and Jessie.
Lila thought of Lucas and smiled to herself as she picked out the right cosmetics for him, placing them in a jar made of emeralds that most closely matched his eyes.
Lucas seemed to have a similar personality to Michael. He was soft-spoken but affectionate in his actions and eyes.
And Lila blushed as she remembered the times he’d led her around like a man.
“Make sure I pack plenty of sunscreen.”
She picked out a gel sunscreen for him to apply. It was almost non-sticky and easy to apply.
She also included a beautifully wrapped bath bomb in the box for Michael. She also took out her vitamin pills, which she kept as an vitamin pill beauty product.
She took them every day, but she never gave them to anyone else because she didn’t know if she should show them to anyone else.
“Will Michael be okay?”
He was very careful with what she gave him, so Lila assumed he was fine. She put the vitamins in an empty bottle and put it in the box.
One by one, she took out the items in her makeup box and put them in different bottles, labeling them.
She labeled them so they were ready to go when she gave them to Jessie or Henry.
Lila had set up a system for giving her makeup to people, four people in total, but she gave different types of makeup to Michael and different types to Lucas.
The cosmetics she gave to Jessie and Henry would be expensive in this world, but that wasn’t a problem. She only chose cosmetics that she could make enough of to make them.
Originally, she had thought about leaving the Duchy and opening a cosmetics business in another country.
Of course, her property was guaranteed in the contract, but she wanted to do what she’ve always wanted to do.
Now that plan was off the table, but Lila thought differently.
Wouldn’t a cosmetics business work better in an empire that was all about appearances? Which…
As she rummaged through the pouch, she found a foundation that allowed her to apply makeup with ease.
Something Lucas had said earlier bothered her.
“It’s not a good idea to wear makeup so early…”
But when she started to worry, she got serious.
“Should I tell him as a temporary measure?”
She had seen how harshly people were treated based on whether they had clear skin or not, and Lucas’s despondent words kept coming back to her.
She felt an overwhelming desire to spare Michael the hurt he might receive there.
“Should I ask first?”
Lila pulled out her cleansing products, starting with concealer, and picked out the most harmless ones for him.
Unaware that the sun was setting, Lila couldn’t move from her vanity.
* * *
The day came when Michael left for the academy in the capital. Lila wore her ugly makeup after a long time.
It was not a weird makeup like before, but it was just a freckle makeup.
The three of them sat on Lila’s balcony, eating in silence, until Michael asked.
“Are you wearing makeup today?”
“Yes. I have to see you off later, Michael.”
As she spat out the words, she realized it was true, and Lila’s complexion hardened. She didn’t know why time flies so fast.
When what she thought would be a few days later became the day, she couldn’t hide her disappointment.
“Can’t you go tomorrow?”
Her brow furrowed as she spoke, and Michael thought hard.
How could he say no with a look like that on his face?
And it didn’t look like there would be any problems with the schedule if he left tomorrow. His pink eyes narrowed, and he opened his lips to reply.
Then Lucas spoke up.
“Wife, we have an invitation from the imperial family.”
“What? From the imperial family? Why?”
At her intense reaction, Lucas’s brow furrowed slightly as he recalled the letter that had arrived yesterday evening.
“It’s an invitation to attend a hunting tournament in the fall. I don’t know why it came this time when it never did before.”
The moment it had arrived, stamped with the imperial seal, it had been impossible to refuse.
He struggled with the thought of Lila, a woman who would be disgusted and rejected by the capital’s social circles.
But the news couldn’t be put off, so he broke it to her, hoping to distract her.
What are you being so affectionate about…
Lucas’s expression turned grumpy at the sudden surge of jealousy.
“You’re going to a hunting tournament, again, on an imperial-owned mountain?”
Michael asked then.
“It seemed so.”
“Well, Lila, maybe we can meet up then, since we’re in the same capital city.”
“Huh? Is that so?”
Lila beamed at Michael’s words, but she didn’t like the idea of attending a hunting tournament.
She’d already deviated from the original route, and now she had to go to the palace again.
She couldn’t bring herself to pass the meat in her mouth out of sheer frustration. Lucas watched her, lost in thought, and tapped a finger under her chin.
“You’re not a child, you’re chewing your food too long, it’s hurting your teeth.”
Lila’s cheeks flushed as he offered her water.
It made her heart skip a beat to see how much he cared for her.
“Then, do you have to wear the fluff even then?”
Lila’s brow furrowed at Michael’s question. Even if it was fall, it would still be hot with late summer.
But she quickly faked a smile and answered him. She didn’t want to make him worry.