Eve stared at the man before her in disbelief, her expression one of doubt. No matter how closely she examined his eyes, nose, and lips, it was indeed her husband, Arsen. His unfortunate, yet strikingly handsome face was unforgettable.
But how on earth could he eat so elegantly and gracefully?
Arsen met Eve’s eyes with a playful smile. At that moment, Eve nearly choked on what she had just eaten.
“You too, Eve.”
Arsen chuckled casually at Eve’s confused question. Even after she blinked and looked again, every feature of her despicable husband remained intact. But still…
‘Eve?’ When did he start calling me that?
It seemed that her husband had undergone an incredible transformation after seeing the secret dish.
During their more than five years of marriage, or rather, more than twenty years of knowing each other, Arsen had never called Eve by her nickname. She had always been “Yvonne” to him. But he had just said “Eve.”
Could it be that he was pretending to be close in front of the bishop?
‘This cunning man!’
“You two seem to have a close relationship. Although I’ve felt a certain distance between you before, the Lord must be pleased with your domestic harmony.”
Bishop Benedict praised the couple without reservation. Arsen even smiled nonchalantly at his comment. It seemed that only Eve’s composure was about to burst.
Eve glared at Arsen, but he responded with a raised eyebrow, as if to ask: “What’s wrong?” Even that made Eve angrier, causing her to put down her utensils.
“Have you finished your meal, my lady?”
The Bishop inquired with a hint of dissatisfaction. Until now, she had forced herself to eat, even if her portion was minimal, just to look good in front of the Bishop. But now that the need was gone, Eve replied briefly.
“Yes, I don’t feel well.”
Thanks to whom?
As Eve mumbled to herself, Arsen opened his mouth.
“I apologize. As you know, my wife’s health is quite fragile. I will eat what is left in her place.”
Eve looked at Arsen in surprise. A nobleman eating leftovers was unheard of. Even Bishop Benedict, who abhorred wasting food, seemed very surprised.
“Why is this man behaving like this?”
Eve was truly perplexed. She even wondered if he was trying too hard to impress the Bishop.
But for all the talk about the importance of being a successful duke, Arsen had shown little interest in the responsibilities of his title or in external affairs. Today, however, there seemed to be something fundamentally wrong with him.
“It’s my wife’s meal, so please don’t worry. Bishop, you should not be offended. After all, doesn”t the Lord also value simplicity?”
“Hehehe, indeed. Duke Fontaine is quite different.”
He spoke so smoothly, as if he had oiled his tongue. While Arsen had always been adept at twisting words to his advantage, today there was a sense of intelligence and wit he hadn’t shown before, unlike his usual charlatan self.
Satisfied, the Bishop left in high spirits, and the meal ended perfectly, contrary to Eve’s plans.
Even the servants seemed satisfied as they worked, and Eve, who had been curt all along, suddenly turned to Arsen.
Arsen raised an eyebrow, then suddenly grinned.
“Sure, my lady.”
The unfamiliar address of ‘my lady’ and the unfamiliar sense of deference made Eve unconsciously pull herself together and head for her room.
Once inside the room, and as the door closed behind her, she turned around to find Arsen standing some distance away. Though she wondered why he didn’t come closer or act differently, Eve decided not to dwell on it.
“When did you start eating silver haddock?”
“You can’t eat silver haddock. You couldn’t a few months ago.”
“But now you’re eating what I left behind?”
Eve’s question left Arsen with an embarrassed look on his face. His answer seemed as if to indicate unawareness of this fact.
That couldn’t be. Eve had been watching Arsen and spoke seriously.
“It’s about time you suffered, even if it’s just a little. Whether you vomit or do whatever, it doesn’t matter.”
Already cast out of the bishop’s favor, Arsen’s suffering might at least provide some satisfaction for Eve. But Arsen, in an unexpected twist, stood there nonchalantly and managed to touch a nerve in Eve with just a few words.
“Are you worried?”
“What? Me? Why should I be…”
Eve was about to reply with “Why should I be?” but stopped herself. Revealing her true feelings here would serve no purpose. Until she had completed her revenge, it would be better for the unsuspecting Arsen to know nothing.
Making that judgment, she wore the pitiful and fragile expression she often used in the past.
“Of course. I mean, I was so worried about what might happen.”
“What is it?”
“Is there anything that hurts? Are you okay inside?”
Feigning concern, Eve approached Arsen and ran her hands over his body. But he naturally stepped back from her and then gave her a tender smile.
“I’m fine, Eve. Don’t worry. Though I must say I appreciate your concern. I should have at least pretended to be in pain.”
Oh, divine presence. Eve’s inner thoughts boiled over at Arsen’s remark, but she managed an outward sigh of relief.
“I see. Well, that’s settled then. I should be on my way. I have much to do.”
Eve left her seat, unable to stand it any longer. She felt the need to escape and concentrate on her work in the office, hoping that the tension would dissipate.
But to her surprise, she felt his presence following her. Turning around, she found Arsen following her closely.
As Eve stopped, Arsen also stopped a short distance away, flashing a politely irritating smile. Eve really wanted to slap that half-smug expression right off his face.
‘Why do you keep smiling? It’s annoying.’
“Arsen, what’s wrong?”
Eve inquired with noble composure. On this day of all days, the increasingly exasperating Arsen responded with an uncharacteristically deliberate retort.
“You mentioned you had a lot to do.”
“What about that?”
“Of course, the affairs of the Duchy would be among them, and I also have my own duties to attend to.”
Actually, it’s practically all your chores.
Eve thought to herself, but since he wasn’t the one to do her work, she was surprised again.
There really did seem to be something to this secluded corner. She considered asking Claire what she had put there as she opened her mouth to speak.
“You’re a busy person. ‘External affairs,’ you said. Internal affairs are well within my capabilities as a resident, so please don’t worry.”
Of course, the term ‘external affairs’ was just an excuse.
He argued that while he was busy with external affairs, she, as a resident who was in charge of internal affairs, could easily handle it. She scoffed at that very idea. “I’ll take care of the work as you said, so why don’t you go and enjoy yourself.”
But Arsen was anything but relaxed today.
“Today I feel like taking care of ‘internal affairs,’ my lady.”
“Don’t you dare call me ‘my lady’!”
Eve’s temper had momentarily flared up, and she hesitated. It seemed that her pent-up emotions were becoming increasingly difficult to control. It was no easy task to act like a demure lady again, especially in front of the man she had considered divorcing only yesterday after uncovering all the truth.
After all, she was the woman who had been murdered after learning everything.
As the devastation of losing her faith and the anger toward those who had pushed her to death resurfaced, her emotions intensified. Moreover, Arsen’s strange behavior today added to the complexity of the situation, making it a situation in which she was bound to make a mistake.
Realizing her error, she quickly changed her expression and spoke.
“…The title ‘my lady’ feels a bit distant, you know. We’ve been friends since childhood.”
‘Friends who betrayed me.’
Eve clenched her fists, struggling to control her boiling anger.
Unaware of her internal torment, Arsen nodded in apparent understanding of Eve’s words, then smiled warmly.
“Eve. Let’s go with Eve, then.”
“What a beautiful name.”
One of Eve’s eyebrows arched up, conveying the question, “Have you always been so involved in your work?” Since Arsen couldn’t understand the implied question, Eve grinned, exhaled, and turned away.
“Anyway, I can do the job myself. Don’t worry about unnecessary things, mind your own business.”
With these words, Eve turned abruptly and left. Left alone, Arsen watched her diminishing figure and could only manage an inscrutable smile.
“With that matter settled, let’s move on to the proposed improvements in tax policy…”
As Eve handed over a document in her office, Philip, who had entered, paused when she stopped at an item.
“It seems that the funds allocated by the country have decreased, so there is a feeling that we should make adjustments accordingly. We should also consider the smoother operation of the territories due to the increased distribution of wine this time.”
“Ah, I see. Then we must determine the criteria for these adjustments.”
This reigning emperor was quite a remarkable figure. He had established many systems for the benefit of the empire’s citizens, and he had demonstrated exceptional skills in diplomacy and defense.
The only drawback seemed to be his lack of interest in women, as he hadn’t taken an empress yet, which could be considered a flaw. There were various rumors surrounding the matter, but Eve was hardly intrigued.
After all, her sole purpose in being resurrected was revenge.
‘But the target of this revenge is rather strange. Why today of all days?’
As Eve absentmindedly sank into her thoughts, the people present exchanged glances. At that moment, someone appeared and tapped a finger on the documents.
“Let’s deduct an amount equal to this year’s harvest. If it’s abundant, reduce it; if it’s meager, reduce it even more. This method will be fairer than judging by land size or number of family members.”
Eve looked up in surprise. Arsen was standing there.
“Why are you here?”
“You told me to go do my work, so I came to do mine. Managing the territories granted by the Emperor is my responsibility as a Duke. The Duchy of Fontaine is known for its wine production, isn’t it?”
Eve’s face furrowed at his claim. Since when did he care so much about the affairs of the territories? She felt a little insulted, as if he was belittling her abilities.
‘Could it be that he has already met Cecille? I saw her not much later than now, but maybe I had met her before. However, I don’t know everything behind the reasons or the timing of her meetings with him.’
Eve hadn’t spent much time outside her residence, so she didn’t know when Arsen had met his lover.
If Cecille had asked Arsen to concentrate on territorial matters, there was only one possible motive.
‘She probably wants to push me aside, using my perceived lack of ability as a pretense and excuse.’