‘I cant believe he saw through me right away.
The hands that rested on my shoulders were strong.
He put more strength into the grasp.
I tried to look at him confidently without flinching in pain.
“Is this how the Count conducts business Changing goods like this is unforgivable.”
He was truly insensitive, going as far as calling people mere commodities.
“I didnt mean to deceive you, Duke Blois,” I said, conceding immediately before hed break my shoulder like its a toy.
“As you can see, Im not Renée.
I am her sister Rowaine.”
“Why are you here”
He was a villain described as very capricious, cruel, and cold-hearted.
Knowing that he never hesitated to kill or destroy people as he pleased, I chose my next words carefully
“I thought that it doesnt matter who the bride is.
I hear youre looking for a woman of the right family… isnt this the case”
His head tilted to one side.
Maybe its because what I said wasnt wrong, so the hand over my shoulder relaxed a bit.
It was as though he was a cat playing with prey without any intention of eating it.
Depending on its mood, a cat would either let go of the game when it wasnt hungry, or would keep playing with it until it stopped breathing.
Whereafter, the cat would throw it away without devouring it.
“I heard that abusing shapeshifters like me is a hobby of yours.”
He laughed quietly as if he were having fun.
Unable to grasp the meaning of that laughter, I swallowed to wet my dry throat and spoke a little brazenly.
“When you discussed the matter with my father and my sister, from what I understand, there was no such condition that a woman who mistreats shapeshifters could never be the Dukes marriage partner.
The rest of the conditions are things that I also meet, so there shouldnt be any problem.”
His emerald eyes gleamed dangerously.
Somehow, as I tried to get out of this crisis, I felt as if I walked into another one instead.
I quickly added before he could say anything else.
“If my hobby will pose a problem, then I promise that I will never play with the Duke.”
Laughter erupted from the Duke of Blois.
* * *
The Duke let out a laugh, and I wasnt sure whether it was a ridicule or not.
Without saying anything, he shooed me off to the butler.
The butler then took me to the annex, sternly explaining that the Duke would never allow first-time guests to stay in the main building.
‘If he was going to accept me as a bride, he wouldnt have given me a room in the annex.
In the novel, Renée was guided to a bedroom on the fourth floor, which could only be used by the Dukes family.
This was during the first day she entered the Dukes residence.
On the other hand, I was driven away to the annex building.
Even if I didnt ask what the Duke planned to do with me, I knew what was going on.
Still, I decided not to jump the gun.
‘I did come up with a plan, after all.
He would need me soon because I knew what Renée saw in the Dukes room on the first day.
According to the novel, the same thing would ensue around midnight later.
“If you need anything, you may pull the rope.”
And at the butlers remark, I was left alone in the cold room.
“Is there any good excuse to somehow be in front of the Dukes room later…”
It wasnt long before midnight.
* * *
At the Dukes Office—
After Rowaine left, Dimitri sat down in front of his desk, fingers pressing over his temples.
Someone knocked and opened the door before entering the room.
He was a man with sharp eyes and dark blue hair.
“What are you going to do with her” the man asked and handed him a glass of wine placed on a tray.
Dimitri took a large sip of the wine.
As the pungent liquid flowed down his throat, warmth spread inside his chest.
“If its Rowaine Larscel… Isnt that the woman the Emperor is coveting At the last banquet at the Imperial Palace, she was caught kissing Count Hermann Herth by the Emperor.”
Trying to suppress his throbbing headache, Dimitri recalled the woman who had just looked up at him.
She looked daring, but it didnt seem like she was any special.
As if it wasnt enough to steal the Emperors heart, she even had a rendezvous with another man right under the Emperors nose in the palace.
If he werent a ferocious playboy, that would have been enough to provoke the Emperors jealousy.
‘Either way, she must have that much confidence to keep the Emperors attention like that.
Why would such a woman suddenly abandon the emperor and say that she came to become my bride
“From the looks of it, it doesnt seem like Count Larscel forced her to come.
What the hell is she up to”
Was Count Larscel involved Dimitri didnt know for certain, but it didnt seem like this was the case.
Count Larscel was a businessman—his eyes lit up at the opportunity of selling his daughters to anyone who could pay the highest bid.
‘Although, I must say…
Dimitri leaned back languidly on his chair.
‘She smelled good, that girl.
The scent was so good that he could forget this terrible headache for a moment.
It was one that he had never smelled before.
It was like a fresh incense from dried bark or ground grass, but Dimitri had to be careful not to get drunk by it and bury his nose into Rowaines nape.
‘Is it a magical incense that has a seductive effect Ive never heard of anything so powerful.
Dimitris eyes narrowed.
He licked his dry lips as if to taste it again.
But instead, he winced at the coming headache.
“Are you not feeling well”
The blue-haired assistant, Hyle worriedly asked as he saw Dmitri pressing his fingers into his forehead with great force.
“It must have gotten worse.”
“But its not time yet, is it”
Hyles eyes tensed up.
He hurriedly approached the Duke and placed a hand on his forehead.
He was burning up.
“I shall take you to your bedroom.”
* * *
I left the room quietly.
To return to the main building, I had to traverse the wide back garden.
On the way, I met two guards and one servant, but they all passed me without any doubt as I pretended to be walking slowly as if I was taking a stroll.
When I reached the main building, I took off a glove and threw it away somewhere in the grass before entering through the back door.
The butler, who was about to go up the stairs with a towel on a tray, found me there and descended the steps.
“Is something the matter”
“Ah, I must have left my glove in the Dukes office a while ago.”
The butler glanced at the towel with a slightly impatient expression and said, “Instead of coming all the way here, a maid could have fetched it for you.”
“I wanted to go on a stroll anyway because the garden I passed by earlier was so beautiful.
I might be kicked out tomorrow, so I wanted to see it since I had the chance.”
As expected, the butler did not deny that I could be kicked out tomorrow.
“I shall have a maid take your glove to the annex.”
“But its something I cherish, so I dont want to let anyone else touch it.”
The butler frowned, clearly miffed.
However, like any skilled employee, he changed his expression in an instant.
“Please follow me.
No one can enter the office without the Dukes permission, so if you wait at the door, I will find it for you.”
I followed the butler up the stairs.
The Dukes office was on the third floor, and his bedroom was on the fourth floor.
‘It seems like the Duke had already moved to his bedroom, seeing that the butler was about to bring that towel upstairs.
Following the butler silently until the third floor, the moment he entered the office, I quickly ran up the stairs.
‘Where is it
I was walking along the hallway when I saw a blue-haired man coming out of a room with a gloomy expression.
By the color of his hair, I realized at once that he was the Viscount Hyle Bilph, the Dukes aide.
“Why is it taking so long to get just one towel” he grunted as he went to the stairs.
I swiftly hid behind a statue by the steps and held my breath, waiting for him to pass.
After the Viscount went down the stairs in search of the butler, I went to the door that he came out from.
Feeling a little nervous, I placed my hand on the doorknob and carefully turned it.
The door swung open.
The air in the room was cool because all the windows were open.
As soon as I opened the door, I passed the tables and sofas and went deeper into the room.
There, the Duke could be seen lying on a large bed.
In the novel, Renée saw the Duke being transported by Viscount Bilph, after which the Duke threatened her to forget what she saw and say nothing about it to anyone, all without explaining what had just happened.
The Dukes disease was actually a magical curse with symptoms of poisoning.
It was a curse that would not take his life, but it made him live with terrible pain for the rest of his life.
The reason I dared to sneak into the dukes room was because the fact that the Duke was under a curse was top secret.
No one would have allowed me to meet the Duke in his present condition.
Still, I had to meet him now.
I cautiously approached him as he lay on the bed.
Perhaps feeling my presence, the sleeping duke opened his eyes and murmured briefly.
At that moment, a black, meandering mist came out from under his feet and wrapped around me.
Looking as if it were a boa constrictor as large as a house that immobilized its prey, the black mist coiled around me with great force.
The Duke sat up on the bed, frowning.
His emerald eyes glared at me sharply.
“Do I even have to ask why you snuck into my room like a rat”
Perhaps because of the pain, his eyes were full of anger.
Fearing that he would kill me because he thought I was troublesome, I hurriedly spoke.
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“Please take me as your bride.”
You came here just for that”
Though he laughed at the ridiculous statement, cold sweat formed on his forehead.
Calmly, even though I felt pain as the black mist tightened around me, I continued.
Ill get rid of it for you.”