“Changing the objective of the party from Enrique’s trap to where we introduce Hir to everyone…it’s quite good, no?” Lacias mumbled, stroking his chin. He stopped and glanced at Lila. “It’s perfect. My wife is indeed very intelligent.”
“Huh? I think we should talk about this.”
She’d definitely heard quite good. But Lacias quickly changed his words. It seemed like his honest intentions had come out unintentionally.
“It’s because I’m not used to complimenting others,” Lacias quickly added. “Really, I thought it was a great idea.”
She knew, but she just wanted to play around.
It was fun to watch Lacias looking troubled. Just looking at him biting his lips as she gave him a disappointed look was enough to make her giggle like a child inside.
“Really…” Lacias said, looking almost sad.
This time, she laughed aloud. “I know.”
“You’re playing around?”
“Why are you asking something so obvious?”
“I don’t care as long as you find it funny.” Lacias, who’d looked flabbergasted at first, grinned at her. And then the duo burst into so much laughter, anyone who saw them would’ve been unable to keep from joining them.
“I never thought a day like this might come.”
They both reminisced their respective pasts.
Lila closed her eyes, feeling the wind on her face. If the oven hadn’t exploded then…
At the time, Lila had thought that her pathetic life deserved a pathetic death, but that oven changed her life completely.
Now she had a child and a husband that she loved more than her life, and she’d gotten revenge on her father. In a lonely life where she’d had no one to interact with, she’d met so many people and had become someone’s strength.
“This life truly is a precious one to me.”
“It will be forever. I’ll help you by your side.”
Lacias didn’t sound like he was joking. His blue eyes shone with determination.
He’s like a gift.
A gift-like life that compensated for all her misfortune. Lila felt her determination grow. She had to make use of this valuable life.
“Let’s go to the dinner party together.”
“I’ll be honored to be your partner.”
She arched an eyebrow at him. “Who else is going to take that place?”
Lacias grinned. Then he kissed her on the forehead.
Enrique was deep in thought while being dressed. He didn’t notice the servant, even when the man almost poked him with the pin on the broach by accident. The servant blinked at him in surprise, but Enrique was still lost in his thoughts, his chin resting on his hand. With a sigh of relief, the servant began to do his hair, oiling it and brushing it back neatly.
Just as he touched the partition in his hair, Enrique spoke.
“Just why?” he demanded.
The servant swallowed. “P-pardon?”
“They aren’t the type to follow orders so easily…”
“A-are you speaking to me?”
“I just can’t tell what they’re hiding.” The more Enrique spoke, the paler the servant’s face turned. It was easy to see how he treated the servants.
Enrique’s aide stepped out from behind the servant. It was he who Enrique had really been speaking to.
“I observed what they were doing lately,” he said, “but couldn’t find anything. My apologies.”
“Tsk.” Enrique seemed to be unimpressed.
Hence, the servant urged himself to say something, “Maybe they’re attending the party for fun.”
“How stupid are you? You really think that makes sense?”
Enrique clicked his tongue and cast a glance at his mirror reflection. “Perfect.”
The aide said nothing, but merely stared at him.
“It’s the day I’m getting rid of those thorns,” Enrique added. “I just can’t stand them being all arrogant anymore.”
The servants and aide stayed silent, unwilling to anger him. Pretending not to see or hear anything was a specialty and an old habit of theirs.
Enrique donned the cape and pinned the symbol of the emperor to his shoulder, then gave his hand to the aide. “You have all the documents and evidence ready?”
“It has to be perfect. If I can’t have the upper hand, then I’ll be the one in trouble. It’s not easy turning the crowd around. It might be impossible.”
“I’ve reviewed everything,” said the aide, “so there probably won’t be much of a problem.”
As he went on, Enrique’s eyes narrowed with annoyance.
“Pardon? Ugh!” He sank to the ground immediately. Enrique had kicked him in the shin.
“How!” Enrique snapped, his foot connecting with the aide’s body with each word. “Many! Times! How many times did I tell you—everything has to be perfect!”
“But what? There probably won’t be much of a problem?”
This time, Enrique stomped his foot on the ground in frustration. How could the aide sound so unconfident when everything had to be perfect?
The aide flinched, which annoyed him even more.
“At a time when you need to be completely certain! How stupid is this aide of mine?”
The aide lowered his gaze, looking miserable. In past times, he had been called a prodigy, but ever since becoming Enrique’s aide, he had always blamed himself. His low self-esteem left him passive.
“It’s perfect. Th-there isn’t any flaw on the document.”
“You said that there is no flaw. If something goes wrong, you’ll have to take the blame.”
Delivering a swift blow to the aide’s shoulder, Enrique turned and left.
The grand hall was filled with the sound of trumpets and the echoing of drums, the high quality resonated by the round carpet in the hall’s center. Noble ladies stood waving long, thin, feathery fans, and the bottom part of the hall milled the single ones, who revealed only their eyes. The male nobles stood stroking their beards or fixing their ties as they chatted with one another, their gazes flicking toward the hall clock every few seconds. Underneath the large, gleaming chandelier, sitting at the huge table, was Enrique.
He swirled his drink in his glass. Despite being seated in full view of everyone, his thorn-like aura repelled people who might have approached him. He looked, if anything, like he was waiting for someone else.
“Just when will they get here?” he murmured with an annoyed glance toward the main entrance.
The people he was expecting still didn’t show up, even though it was almost time to start the ball. Even though the host of the ball was already there waiting.
Today’s ball was a dinner party held in a garden, which meant it was packed with nobles.
Enrique looked toward the garden and caught sight of a dark blur. Huh? He could have sworn he’d seen something small scurry by.
Probably nothing important, he told himself.
“What about the Wipere couple?” he snapped at his aide.
“They’re not here yet.”
“Damn it. Are they coming or not?”
Maybe it was better if they didn’t show up, Enrique thought. It would be hard to defend something that had happened while they were not there. News spread fast.
But what the aide said wasn’t what he was hoping for.
“No. It seemed like they were definitely coming. The Wipere knight guards are already here.”
“As the captain and the vice-captain are already here, it seemed like the Duke and Duchess Wipere are definitely coming.”
It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t bad.
Enrique mumbled, crossing his arms. This was the moment.
“Duke Wipere is entering!” announced the knight guarding the hall and Enrique’s eyes flashed with sheer excitement.
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