Luka, who grew up in the shadow of his older brothers who had received military commissions, always seemed to carry a sense of military bearing, despite never having undergone military training.
Whenever his full name was called, he would instinctively stand up with his hands on his thighs, ready to face any situation head-on.
As all eyes in the reception room turned to him, a belated sense of regret washed over Luka.
It was at that moment, in the midst of a pressing crisis, that Luka nervously swallowed his dry saliva.
“It seems like you got confused because of the name.”
“Please, take a seat, Teacher.”
She added, tugging at his sleeve, Luka, avoiding the impending danger, quickly resumed his seat.
She glanced at her father and continued the conversation.
“Well, you see, there’s no such thing as being exempt from an engagement ceremony. Unless, of course, you’re someone like our Teacher Tranov.”
Upon hearing this, Pavtisky’s gaze fixed on Luka’s face.
In truth, he had only heard rumors about Luka Oblonsky and had never seen him in person.
He rarely traveled to the northern regions, and on the few occasions he did, he had only seen the eldest son, the heir, by chance.
The Oblonsky sons all resembled their father, with a sturdy and bear-like appearance, except for the youngest son, who took after his mother with a handsome and charming look, which was said to captivate women’s hearts.
The live-in tutor before him now closely matched the mental image he had drawn of Luka Oblonsky.
With such a face, Pavtisky thought he could somewhat understand the parents’ hearts, who would rush to set the wedding date without even needing an engagement ceremony.
However, that was just what others said. Pavtisky was different.
He believed that there would be no groom more suitable for his precious daughters, whom he cherished so much that it wouldn’t hurt to put them in his eyes.
He had planned to marry them off before any rumors could spread, but in truth, he didn’t mind spending his entire life with his daughters, living calmly and contentedly.
Katya might be blinded by loyalty to her lord and have no room to consider anyone else, but Bianca, on the other hand, was considering her potential partner with a keen eye.
However, it was the first time Bianca, who had never shown interest in men before, praised this home tutor.
‘Does my daughter have other feelings?’
Luka, who was bowing his head as his wary eyes shot at him like a ray of light, felt a sting on his forehead.
Bianca’s words gave Nikolai a strange feeling.
Surely Katya had said something like that once.
“He just has a charming impression.”
‘Do sisters see things the same way?’
For the first time in his life, Nikolai, who had never stressed about his appearance, felt a sense of crisis.
Even though she’d said she liked his face, he wondered if Katya actually thought Luka was more handsome.
Nikolai was a terrifyingly capable man, but despite possessing insane good looks, he still found himself caught up in unnecessary worries.
“Mr Tranov’s impression is good. He’s also handsome.”
Katya echoed her sister’s words.
Luka, who received compliments from both Smirnov sisters at the same time, blushed and didn’t know what to do with his body.
It was a comment that came in as naturally as eating a meal, but the feeling of being acknowledged by someone he likes and her family was different.
“Anyway, I don’t think Lord Oblonsky is that great.”
Bianca replied in a grumpy tone.
“Why do you think that way?”
To that comment, Luka blurted out a question without realizing it.
“Seeing how women around him are attracted to him, it seems like he has a lot of dating experience and is quite promiscuous.”
She didn’t state it as a certainty, but her expression was convincing.
A handsome man is considered valuable.
Similarly, it was a fairly universal prejudice that a beautiful and kind-hearted woman doesn’t lie.
This was the moment when the renowned first-rate bachelor became a fickle windbag in Bianca’s certainty.
Watching this with an indifferent attitude, Nikolai finally burst into laughter.
“Sister-in-law, you know a thing or two. You’re supposed to stay away from guys like that. Look at me. I’m clean, with no women around, and I’m going to marry Tia with a pure and chaste body.”
“Your Highness, um, those are just common thoughts.”
“What’s the problem? Chastity? Sobriety?”
“Ehh, come on. You used to talk about chastity before.”
“It’s a valid point, isn’t it? I was pure until you took away my chastity.”
Nikolai trembled his eyebrows, displaying a perplexed expression.
“Did I hear incorrectly?”
Duke Pavtisky sketched a displeased expression.
They had given some absurd excuse before about only sharing a bed, but it seemed there was something between the two.
And to top it all off, the one deprived of their chastity was the Grand Duke.
“Your Highness, I must have raised my daughter incorrectly…”
Katya waved her hands at her father, who was trying to shake his head once again with a guilty face.
“No, Father! I am not an ignorant person like that!”
“There seems to be some misunderstanding…”
“Ah, Mr. Tranov. You have spoken well. There is a misunderstanding, Father!”
“No, it’s not about that, Your Highness.”
Luka, sharpening the blades of revenge against the Grand Duke’s betrayal, spoke with a smile.
“In the capital, he’s splitting his popularity with Luka Oblonsky. Actually, Mr. Oblonsky is in a position where he manages his image diligently and manages to maintain his followers, but His Highness doesn’t do anything to keep the demand fixed, so isn’t Her Highness the true leader in the social world?”
The revenge of a friend was bitter.
Nikolai sent a subtle signal for Luka to shut his mouth, but Luka merely shrugged mockingly.
“Ah, there seems to be a fixed demand among the upper class.”
“Don’t misunderstand, Tia. That was never the case. If they’re a woman who knows fear, they would never follow me.”
“You don’t have to lie to me. It’s not a sin to be popular.”
While Nikolai nervously tried to explain to Katya, a designer who had been waiting in the reception room, arrived.
The sisters were completely absorbed in the fabrics laid out by the wardrobe staff.
Finally sighing in relief, Nikolai gestured to Luka, making it clear he wouldn’t let it go, and Luka pretended not to notice, turning his head away.
Unaware of the commotion among the men behind them, Katya listened intently to the tailor’s explanation.
The designer’s voice was as excited as his mind as he showed her swatches of the design before choosing the trim and fabric.
And for good reason. After all, this was a famous wardrobe in Padovangrad, and Katya had never dreamed that she would be fitting the Grand Duke’s wedding attire in her lifetime.
“How about this? The first Empress of the Charmante Empire wore it to her wedding. And ivory dresses are very fashionable, so I thought I’d give it a try.”
“I don’t prefer revealing outfits.”
“What are your thoughts, Your Highness?”
Even after selecting each decoration, the designer constantly glanced at Nikolai.
When the question came back to him for the fifth time, Nikolai couldn’t bear it any longer and said to him,
“You should consider the opinion of the person wearing the clothes. There’s no need to seek my permission for every detail. Follow the Grand Duchess’ wishes.”
“I apologize for the impertinence, Your Highness.”
Pavtisky couldn’t help but marvel at this.
Many nobles viewed their wives as possessions.
They took beautiful women as spouses to show off in front of others, and they spared no expense in dressing them up as the face of the family.
In reality, Pavtisky had always had an understanding of the upper class, not only in the south but also among noble circles.
There were other men who loved their wives as much as he did, but they were not as free as he was in the public eye.
Even if women chose their own clothes, the shopkeeper’s questions were naturally directed towards the husband, who paid the money, when they were together.
When a couple is together in front of others, it was rare for the husband to give decision-making power to his wife, as he considered himself to have lost in the battle of wills.
As a father, Pavtisky couldn’t help but be pleased with his son-in-law’s attitude towards his daughter.
When fathers with daughters see the person who will become their son-in-law for the first time, it is common for them to view him as a thief.
Since Nikolai is a monarch, he couldn’t dare to call him a thief, so he elevated him to the title of ‘sir.’
Anyway, his son-in-law was a rare and precious thief in the aristocratic society.
“It’s a dress I’ll only wear once, and I think it would be stuffy if it covered too much. Usually, when you’re married, you cover your neck to your wrists to look modest, right?”
“It’s up to you to decide.”
“Isn’t it customary for the previous grand duchess to choose?”
“I told you. I am a tyrant, I don’t care about laws or customs.”
“Can I really choose as I please?”
“What does the design matter? Anything you wear will blind my eyes.”
Upon hearing those words, Luka involuntarily spat out the tea he was drinking into the cup, his jaw going slack.
He was astonished to the point where he wanted to grab the impostor wearing the Duke’s disguise by the collar and ask if he was really the Grand Duke or just a fake.
From that mouth that used to only talk arrogantly, lines filled with such unfamiliar love poured out one after another.
Whether the closest aide said anything or not, the groom who had fallen in love just stared at Katya’s back with an enamored gaze as she went out to change clothes with the staff.
On a tree not far from the reception room.
The assassins hidden inside Duke Smirnov’s estate were peering through binoculars, observing the situation inside the reception room through the window.
The target was, of course, Nikolai.
The Grand Duke, deeply enamored with the woman, had a face that was noticeably less guarded than usual.
It was a prime opportunity for them.
The bounty on the Grand Duke’s head was an enormous amount that they wouldn’t be able to touch even if they died and came back to life.
If caught, it meant death, but the power of money was tremendous enough for many to risk their lives and take on the challenge.
As the guards rushed over, the masked assassins swiftly leaped from the tree and crossed the fence.
However, they planned to return soon.