A torch lit up the darkness in a damp and chilly place. A man groaned in front of him, but Isdante’s thoughts were elsewhere.

Thin white fingers. The trembling felt from where those fingers touched.

Isdante closed his eyes. Thearis’s mournful eyes, which had been looking at him, did not leave his mind.


It was only after Nervin called him that Isdante came out of his reverie.

“Marquis Svena’s son showed disrespect to the Duke of Navarant, what do you plan to do about it?”

“Disrespect, you say… I am the former Duke’s… Ugh!”

“It’s better to shut your mouth.”

Isdante’s foot stomped on Dafen’s throat. He put a gag in Dafen’s mouth as he groaned in pain while trying to answer.

“A mage?”


“Then it’s better to start by getting rid of his magic power.”

Isdante’s sword glowed. Unlike before, a red light radiated as he infused his sword with aura. His subordinates noticed the change in his aura and their eyes lit up.

Nervin sent everyone out with a gesture from Isdante. Left alone with Dafen, Isdante swung his sword.


Only a piercing scream filled the Duke’s prison, and the subordinates who rushed out trembled in fear.

“After marrying the Duke, he seems to have become more ruthless.”

“That bastard must be the one who deserves to die. I’ve never seen the Commander’s expression change like that before.”

The knights who were each saying something suddenly shut their mouths.

“It seems like he has reached a higher level.”

“That’s why he went looking for his sword.”

When the aura reached a certain level, the sword could no longer withstand it. So knights who knew how to handle aura had to change swords periodically.

Every knight who knew that Isdante had gone to look for his sword nodded their heads one by one.


The conversations were immediately cut off by Isdante’s voice.

“Contact Marquis Svena and demand compensation and make sure that his life is on our side.”

“I understand.”

Hearing Nervin’s response, Isdante hurriedly moved his feet. He thought he couldn’t show a pathetic appearance. The problem was that he lacked the aura to penetrate Dafen’s magic power, so he had to use divine power.

He endured the pain coming from inside, but couldn’t reveal it in front of his subordinates, so Isdante gripped the window sill in the hallway.

‘At least that’s a relief.’

There was no one wandering around the broken hallway. Someone approached him as he gasped for breath.


It was Thearis. He didn’t feel her presence until she came close. Isdante tried to answer that he was okay, but suddenly felt pain.

He used his sword to neutralize the power of the relic, but the reaction was similar.

‘No, it’s getting better.’

Then it happened. When Thearis put her hand on his shoulder, the pain disappeared as if it had been washed away. A light green light appeared from her hand, but Thearis, who was examining Isdante’s condition, did not notice this fact.


As he took a short breath, the pain disappeared completely. It was all because of Thearis’s power.

‘So that’s why they couldn’t let go of Marquis Tarmenon.’

He seemed to know why such a thing had happened in the imperial family. They must have wanted to monopolize the power of Tarmenon.

‘But the Marquis couldn’t move as he pleased.’

He stared at Thearis. She opened her mouth first, feeling something strange from him who was just staring at her without saying a word.

“Where does it hurt?”

“No, Duke.”

He held her hand that touched his shoulder and pulled it down. As soon as his hand touched Thearis’s hand, Isdante felt a tremble.

‘Not yet.’

He squeezed Thearis’s hand tightly, and the tremble stopped. She seemed not to notice that his hand was shaking. He let go of her hand, looking down at it as she blinked.

“I’m fine now.”

“If you’re okay, how about having a meal together…?”

“I’m busy, so it’ll be difficult.”

“Oh, I see.”

Thearis couldn’t catch Isdante as he walked away.

“He’s really gone.”

If it were before, he wouldn’t have refused her offer even if he had to make time for it.


She decided not to think about it anymore. She tried to act calm, but it wasn’t easy. She had no business in this area, but she came here just because Isdante was here.

If she knew he would turn around so quickly, she wouldn’t have come all the way here.

“Commander is really busy.”

She heard Halbart’s voice, but Thearis didn’t respond. No, there was no comfort in that.

‘Because of me…’

She was thinking about how to explain it to the Marquis of Svena, and it gave her a headache. Fortunately, he has yet to find out that his son came to the Navarant Duchy.

‘If he knew, Marquis Svena wouldn’t be able to stay still.’

Thearis raised her head, remembering the greed of the Marquis’s son to step into the Navarant Duchy before welcoming Isdante as her husband.

She tried not to think about it, but problems between families were not easily resolved.

‘I can’t help but get involved.’

Dafen didn’t come into the duchy to sneak into the Duke’s bedroom recklessly. She went to where Dafen was herself, which was a problem.

Thearis clenched her fist, feeling fear of Jeremian’s scheme.

She thought too lightly of the enemy within. She and Isdante were in danger.

If she hadn’t resisted with all her might, if Isdante hadn’t appeared at that moment, she would have become a laughingstock of the servants.

She was momentarily grateful for Isdante’s quick judgment, but when she thought of him again, she became depressed.


Thearis did not try to hide the sigh that escaped her lips.

How do you get through situations where one problem is solved but another arises? She had already brought dishonor to the duchy by being a member of Tarmenon, a family of traitors.

‘He doesn’t care.’

Isdante didn’t seem to care, but Thearis was worried. As she continued to think about this and that, Sichen appeared in front of her.


“What’s going on?”

“We have received an invitation from the palace.”


As she tried to go into her office, Sichen handed him an envelope. The envelope, with the emperor’s golden seal stamped on it, was firmly sealed.

‘At this time?’

Thearis entered the study and used the knife Sichen handed her to open the envelope.

{ You are invited to the palace banquet. }

The invitation, which had the date and time on it, stated that she must attend with a partner.

‘Do you intend to mock me.’

If she went alone, the emperor would surely investigate the reason. If she couldn’t answer properly, the Duke of Navarant Duchy would look ridiculous.

‘Of all times.’

She hadn’t even dealt with Svena’s eldest son yet, and she hadn’t had a proper conversation with Isdante either. She was annoyed at the emperor’s judgment to send an invitation at such an inconvenient time.

She squeezed the invitation tightly, but her anger did not dissipate. She cautiously smoothed out the creased part, feeling like she had taken her anger out on something innocent.

“The banquet is in a week, so we need to prepare.”

“I understand.”

“Prepare Isdante’s attire as well.”


She was excited even though Isdante had not agreed to go with her yet. Thearis had even forgotten that he had rejected her hand earlier.

She became happy when she thought about what clothes would suit her best.

She didn’t enjoy spending money, but she welcomed it for this occasion.

‘It’s a palace banquet, so Isdante won’t refuse.’

She was glad that she had a chance to talk to him. It wasn’t easy to find him if he didn’t have work, so Thearis promised herself not to miss this opportunity.

Perhaps this could be an opportunity for the two of them to become closer.

In her imagination, there was no way Isdante would refuse. So Thearis prepared for the banquet with an excited heart.

For a few days, Thearis bought dresses and prepared appropriate jewelry. The jewels, which had been trapped in the Navarant duchy’s storeroom, were revealed and decorated Isdante’s banquet attire.

The brilliant red jewels were embroidered, but the dress and banquet attire looked as if they had been made that way from the beginning. If the two of them were wearing these clothes, they would probably look like a good match.

Thearis hadn’t yet told Isdante that she would attend the banquet with him, but she only thought that he wouldn’t refuse if she was this well-prepared.

‘Surely he won’t refuse.’

Thinking that way, Thearis finished all her preparations and asked Halbart to bring Isdante. Halbart left to bring him.

With an anxious heart, Thearis sat in her study and tapped her fingers on the desk. The anxiety that had been hidden deep inside her mind slowly surfaced.

‘What if he doesn’t come?’

She had all sorts of thoughts, but she tried to remain calm. Sichen watched her from beside.

How long had she been waiting? Halbart returned.

“Where’s Isdante?”

Thearis couldn’t hold back and asked when she didn’t see him.

“He’s not here right now.”

“He’s not here?”


“Did he say where he was going?”

“No, he didn’t.”

Thearis’s expression disappeared at Halbart’s answer, and his face darkened. Halbart bowed his head, and Thearis gestured to him.

As Halbart went outside, Thearis was left alone and tapped her fingers on the desk. The banquet was tomorrow night, but Isdante wasn’t there.

“They said to attend with a partner.”

She can’t say what’s best to do. Even if she goes with someone other than Isdante, they’ll gossip, and even if she goes alone, they’ll gossip.

Whatever she chooses, it can only be seen as a party to disgrace her.

The fingers tapping on the table were restless. He didn’t like that there was no solution other than Isdante’s return.

She had lived a life dragged around by Jeremian, but now she was being swayed by Isdante.

‘How long do I have to live like this?’

She thought she had escaped from Jeremian by entering the Navarant duchy’s house as Isdante, but a different reality awaited her.

She had two choices. It was a thought that had been going on for a while, but now she was sure.

Can I give up my life as a noble?

Thearis couldn’t bear the thought of living as a fugitive who had a shed of traitor’s blood rather than as a noble. No, she had never thought of a life other than that of a Duke.

That day, Thearis stayed up all night in her office.

The servants were worried about Thearis, who didn’t come out of her office.

“The Duke has not come out of the office.”

“If she’s going to the party, she should prepare now.”

“It’s an imperial banquet… The lady’s nanny would have said something if she were here.”

The servants didn’t know where the lady’s nanny had gone. That’s how secretly Isdante had handled things and erased her traces, so they couldn’t even guess.

All they knew was that the maid Haelian had embezzled the duchy’s funds and fled.

“I heard from someone in another noble house that this banquet requires an escort.”

“Oh? Is Commander Isdante in the manor?”

“I saw him leave not long ago, but I’m not sure if he came back.”

The servants still called him ‘Commander’ instead of ‘Lord.’ No one corrected their titles, and Isdante didn’t particularly care either.

“What should we do then?”

There was no one to lead the troubled servants. When Haelian, who had taken over the position of head mead, became vacant, someone had to take her place, but the butler didn’t have the time to worry about that. There was an old maid, but she had quit due to illness.

Nervin, who stopped by, listened to all the noise the servants were making.

“I’ll go!”

One of the servants shouted bravely. With her at the forefront, the other servants moved towards the office with clothes they had prepared in advance.

The remaining servants tried to go to the annex with Isdante’s clothes. If they hadn’t met Nervin, they might have stormed into the annex.

Nervin stopped them and took the clothes. The servants who had their clothes taken away by him followed him without giving up.

And when the servants who had come into Thearis’s office with confidence saw her, they were filled with loyalty that believed in serving the Duke. It was a tearful loyalty that tried to make Thearis stand out in any way possible.

Thearis was taken aback as she was surrounded by the servants. The situation where the servants, who didn’t show their emotions well, were flattering her was something she had never experienced before.

“The dress came out really pretty, Your Grace.”

“That’s right! You’ll like it when you wear it!”

Without a chance to reply, she was led into the bathroom by the servants and then came out. Thearis looked good in the black dress that had been made for her.

Her wheat-colored hair contrasted with the color of the dress, making it shine even more brightly. One of the servants elegantly twisted her hair, and another finished her makeup.

“You’ll be the brightest person at the imperial banquet today, Duke!”

Thearis couldn’t say anything in response to the servant’s assertion. She didn’t want to say that all this effort might be in vain.

‘I can’t go to the banquet alone.’

Emperor Severhan wouldn’t just leave her alone. He almost took advantage of her absence by saying that Navarant duchy’s family raised a rebellion or something and almost took her place.

But she couldn’t afford to make the duchy a laughing stock.

If she didn’t attend the party, there would be all sorts of talk. If she went alone, she could make excuses even if she was tired.

She got up from her seat, determined.

The black dress adorned with beautiful red jewels flowed elegantly. Thearis looked in the mirror for a moment and took a deep breath.

There was no more time to hesitate.

‘If I go in later than the emperor, I’ll hear another complaint.’

She received the escorts of the servants and got into the carriage, looking at the empty seat next to her. But the seat was not filled and the carriage departed.

* * *

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