I looked at the Emperor’s expression once again.
He had a hard time holding in his irritation at the moment as his brow was scrunched.
I smiled satisfied.
That means I must have done well for the Emperor to be offended!
The memorial service was now coming to an end.
The final part of the ceremony included laying wreaths at the memorial monument…
‘I hope nothing bad happens.’
I was relieved after everything.
The truth is when things go wrong, he’s usually around.
Why is life never easy!
Countless people offered up flowers.
White paper flowers began to pile up, one after the other in front of the monument.
Wreaths were laid, beginning from the Emperor, the Empress, and then the Empress dowager.
Damian and I would be last to lay wreaths after everyone else had done so; in the sense of aptly concluding the ceremony as its host.
‘Hmm, it seems like everything’s going along without a hitch.’
I was watching people lay their wreaths with hawk-like vision when-
With a high-pitched scream, a lady stumbled and nearly fell over.
She must have lost her footing.
However, the problem was she caught herself by grabbing on the…
‘No, what has she done?!’
Not wanting to fall onto the floor, she held herself up by yanking on the flag bearing Antes’s coat of arms.
I heard the sound of fabric being torn.
“Dear God, the Antes’s family emblem! It’s ruined?!”
The mourners looked at the flag in distress.
The lady who stumbled quickly bowed with a frightened expression.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
I reflexively looked back at the Emperor.
If something were to go wrong during the memorial service, the person to benefit the most from that would be the Emperor.
I saw it.
Unlike the lady’s lips that recited an apology over and over again, her attention was directed toward the Emperor.
The Emperor with a satisfied expression nodded ever so slightly.
My face turned pale.
‘That must be it, the Emperor had planned this!’
Although there was no evidence of that, it was obvious the flag bearing Antes’s coat of arms was torn on purpose.
‘Still, why have the reindeer’s neck, the symbol of Antes, torn? Unless…’
It’s said that when severe punishments are delivered to death row prisoners charged with a grave crime, the executioner would deliberately use a dull axe.
This way the prisoner would experience as much pain as possible as it required several swings.
Now that the flag was torn, it gave off that same impression.
It was because the lower half of the reindeer’s neck had been ripped.
‘In a way…this was a problem that could quickly be interpreted as an insult to Ante’s household.’
There also happened to be a man from the North among the people.
I looked back at Sienna instinctively.
Sienna’s face had hardened like stone.
“No, this is…”
At the same time, people began to mutter to each other.
“Oh my God, Antes’s emblem….”
“Even if it was a mistake, there’s no way it should have been torn up like that?”
“Don’t you think this seems foreboding?”
“The emblem symbolizes one’s family…”
Whispering, people snuck glances at Sienna.
The Emperor watched the scene unfold with a triumphant expression.
To the Emperor, Countess Antes had always been a thorn in his backside.
Needless to say, her father, Margrave Antes was the only aristocrat to oppose the Emperor when he succeeded to the throne.
‘And for the Emperor…it was second-nature to hold a grudge for a long, long time.’
For him, the current situation was naturally unfavorable.
The Antes household had contributed greatly to purifying the beasts and with that achievement, they returned to the empire with immense honors.
Maybe that’s why he had it play out this way.
So it would seem like an unfortunate incident at the memorial service that I hosted and affront Antes as well.
‘…you’ve racked your brains for this.’
I clenched my fists tightly.
‘But do you think this will go the way you intended?’
I narrowed my eyes and steeled myself.
As I strode forward towards the torn flag, I could feel the people’s gaze follow me.
Taking a deep breath, I removed the brooch I was wearing from my chest.
The brooch was engraved with the royal family’s coat of arms.
“Oh my God, Lady Charlize…”
“What are you doing?”
“It’s pointless; the coat of arms is already torn…”
Seriously, can’t you all stop talking?
If you hadn’t started yammering, Sienna’s thoughts wouldn’t be in a mess.
I furrowed my brow, carefully judging where to place the brooch.
‘I think I can cover up the tear with it.’
Just like that, I placed the brooch in the perfect spot, covering the reindeer’s torn neck.
‘Good,’ I whispered to myself.
The torn area was neatly covered.
Hmm, seeing the brooch hung the way it did….
‘It looked like the reindeer was wearing a medal on its chest.’
Well, I did place the brooch there on purpose.
I glanced sideways at Sienna.
Only after covering the torn area with a brooch, did Sienna’s expression ease a little.
I called Sienna.
Sienna turned to me.
I spoke in the politest voice possible.
“The empire will never forget what the Antes household has given in defending the empire.”
“Even though something unpleasant happened just a while ago, I hope we can move past this unfortunate incident.”
When she heard me say that, Sienna’s eyes lit up in a flash.
“I commend Countess Antes for her bravery, In addition…”
I bowed and thanked her once more.
“I express my deepest gratitude to the Antes’s household for their sublime deeds.”
For a moment, the Emperor looked back at me.
He stared at me with a fierce look in his eyes as he made a ‘tsk’ sound with his tongue.
The satisfied expression he had when he watched Antes’s plight had vanished, in its place was now a ghastly look.
Oh God, the Emperor.
I feel like his gaze is attacking me!
Meanwhile, Sienna had regained her composure before I knew it, snatching my attention away from the Emperor’s gaze.
“Thank you, Lady Charlize for your consideration.”
I saw Sienna in a new light.
It’s amazing how she can skillfully control her emotions.
‘Well, now that that’s done…’
I raised my gaze.
The lady, who had torn the flag earlier, flinched when her eyes met mine.
‘I’ll have to deal with her.’
I called the lady in a cold voice.
In an instant, her face lost its color.
“You are aware that ruining a family emblem is incredibly insulting to the family, right?’
“Ah, I’m sorry. It honestly was a mistake, please forgive me…”
“I have no intention of starting a fuss in this solemn place, so I’ll let it go for now.”
Relief appeared over the lady’s face.
I shook my head sternly.
“However, that is not to say there will be no punishment.”
The lady was wide-eyed.
I glanced back to Sienna.
“On this matter, I will entrust your punishment to Countess Antes after the ceremony.”
As soon as she heard my declaration, Sienna’s eyes widened.
Sienna immediately answered in a frigid voice.
“Thank you for your trust, Lady Charlize.”
“You’re welcome. You’re the one who has suffered the most from this incident, Countess Antes.”
I stared closely at the lady who had no clue of what to do.
“For this matter, don’t even think about evading responsibility.”
“You’re so brazen.”
I put on a slanted smile, sneering at her a bit.
“If I were you, I would not have dared protest in the presence of Countess Antes.”
The lady bit her lip for there was nothing she could say.
Now, we couldn’t just leave out the Emperor.
I intentionally put on a disgruntled face as I looked back at His Majesty.
“If there is any punishment in mind that His Majesty, the Emperor has for this lady…”
“None whatsoever. Do as you please.”
The Emperor struggled to contain his displeasure and waved his hands dismissively.
Having thought the Emperor would come to her rescue, the lady called out to his Majesty in a sorrowful voice.
“Your Majesty, the Emperor!”
“So noisy. If you’ve done something wrong, you deserve to be punished. What kind of grace do you dare call on, burden?!”
The Emperor raised his voice.
The lady lowered her gaze as she tucked in her body.
You shouldn’t expect the Emperor to be merciful to a ‘hound that failed in its hunt.’
Even if you did succeed in hunting, I’m not sure you would have been given your share.
My smile grew a little wider.
The memorial was over.
‘I think now’s the perfect time to head back to the Crown Prince’s palace, draw a nice hot bath and fall asleep.’
I gazed at the reporters in front of me with a tired mien.
Of course, I wasn’t that I didn’t foresee the onrush of reporters.
‘There’s a lot more than I expected.’
I guess from the reporter’s point of view, I must look like some sort of tantalizing news scoop?
There were rumors that the memorial service’s budget was spent arbitrarily, and how I came from a commoner background…
Ugh, I’ve dealt with so much gossip as the Crown Prince’s fiancee.
Just then, a reporter shot a question out of the blue.
“Word has it that you, Lady Charlize, wasted the memorial service’s budget. Is this true?!”
Oh, isn’t this an outdated accusation?
I’ll give it a three out of ten.
If you’re going to try and slander me, come up with some more novel questions.
“I didn’t. I…”
I tried to keep my smile while answering the reporter’s question.
But right then.
A sharp cry rang out.