“I will investigate further.”
“Sure. It’s really annoying. How do they know to send only women with exactly the taste I dislike?”
‘Why is someone who’s troubled so cheerful?’ thought Santiago, looking at Charles’ full smile.
“As for finding a way to return my body to its original state, Bonaparte is currently researching it diligently. But there hasn’t been any progress yet…”
Finally, Santiago reported on the current situation. Charles asked, sounding uninterested, “Is that so?”
“I’ve been looking for clues in this household, but I haven’t found anything yet.”
“Well, take your time. There’s no rush, right?”
“There is a rush. Please try to feel the urgency.”
Santiago appealed earnestly, but Charles had faced worse situations than this in the past. He had been surrounded by hundreds of soldiers with only one sword, and he had once struggled after eating poison secretly added to his food. So this situation didn’t seem like a major crisis to him.
“She really doesn’t know who I am.”
Santiago raised an eyebrow at Charles’ muttered comment.
“Who are you talking about?”
What difference did it make if she was the Duchess or not? But Charles seemed to have a different perspective.
“We should investigate.”
He said with a wry smile.
Noting the real smile appearing on that inhuman face for the first time in a long while, Santiago narrowed his eyes and asked, “Are you enjoying this?”
Hearing that, Charles thought. Maybe this pleasure had been planned from the moment he couldn’t eat the silver rabbit. Why had she prepared a dish her beloved husband didn’t like? Why was she trying so hard to get women to stay with him?
Charles already knew. There was hostility in the way she looked at him when no one was looking, and her hand, hidden in her sleeve, trembled whenever she looked at him.
Eve had too many insecurities to be considered a loving and submissive wife to her philandering husband, as she was often called.
After thinking it over, Charles smiled and confirmed Santiago’s words with a grin.
“Fortunately, it doesn’t seem boring.”
Santiago’s brow furrowed.
It seemed that the Duchess of Fontaine had piqued the interest of the enigmatic Emperor, and that was rather unfortunate for her.
* * *
Eve clutched her head. Her plan had been perfect, so why…
“Is Arsen feeling unwell?”
She seriously considered calling a doctor to examine her husband.
No, it was the notorious womanizer Arsen de Fontaine who was… having affairs with women! Although Eve had personally selected and groomed the women according to Arsen’s tastes, none of them had managed to exchange a single word with Arsen and all had left.
“I even assigned someone to monitor whether he was meeting with Cecilia, but it doesn’t seem so.”
Originally, Arsen had not been doing well in aristocratic circles. He was diligent with his work, didn’t pick fights, and was completely different. There was definitely something wrong with him. Could a person change so much?
“Emma, please call a doctor. We need to examine my husband.”
Striding confidently down the corridor, Eve instructed Emma in this manner. Emma, following behind, widened her eyes.
“What? His Grace? Why? It’s quite a serious matter, but His Grace has been… different lately…”
“Exactly why. Doesn’t it strike you as strange? Why should he suddenly change like that?”
“Well, yes. It does seem rather sudden.”
But the lady has also changed. It’s like she’s gone back to the way she was before they got married. No, she seems even more angry than before…
Emma stopped herself from saying what she really wanted to say. She just looked at Eve with a worried expression and thought, ‘No matter how much His Grace shows his love for the lady, will she be so worried? How lacking His Grace must have seemed all this time…’
However, by chance, Arsen, the central figure in this conversation, was seen walking toward them from the opposite side. He walked expressionlessly until he spotted Eve and broke into a cheerful smile.
Whether it was her icy demeanor or her words, Arsen, or more specifically Charles, approached Eve with a beaming face.
“Where are you going?”
“Just on my way…”
Eve had originally planned to distance herself from Arsen yet now suddenly changed her mind. She had a good idea.
She took on the demeanor of a modest duchess and said, “Arsen, it’s great that you’re here. I’m on my way to meet some guests and it would be nice if you could join me.”
“Hmm, all right. If that’s what my wife wants.”
Eve wanted to tell him to stop calling her “Eve, Eve,” but she decided it would be better to put up with it and listen instead.
When they arrived in the reception room, they were greeted by a glamorous beauty in a dress that exposed her chest and shoulders. She was waiting for them.
“Serina, it is a pleasure to meet you. This is His Grace, the Duke of Fontaine.”
“Your Grace, I am Serina.”
Charles greeted the woman who introduced herself as Serina with a slight smile before turning to Eve.
“What do you want?”
“What do I want?”
When Eve looked at him as if she didn’t understand the language, Charles chuckled.
“All right, I get it. Then look at me with those eyes.”
Finally, Charles turned to Serina.
“You are late with your greetings. This is Arsen de Fontaine, the Duke.”
As Serina hesitated, charmed by Charles’ courteous manner and handsome face, Charles approached her and raised his chin.
“As expected, you’re not fazed at all.”
“No matter what tricks Eve used to lure you here, I have no feelings for you. That’s not your problem, it’s mine. It would be the same with any other woman, as long as it wasn’t Eve.”
Eve’s face drained of color at Charles’ bombshell declaration. Observing her pale complexion, Charles continued.
“Go outside and talk. No one should fall for Eve’s deception again. She’s testing our love.”
“Shall I prove it?”
Eve was about to lose her temper at her husband’s absurd statement, but Charles approached Eve and grabbed her wrist. Instantly, Eve’s face was inches from Charles’, and it seemed their lips were about to meet.
Then, with a loud bang!
They both looked up to see that Serina had already closed the door and fled as if on the run. Belatedly, Eve pushed Charles away.
“What are you doing?!”
Eve’s heart raced. Courting every woman who crossed his path, regardless of the circumstances, had made Arsen the most despicable of men.
“I’m sorry, Eve. I sincerely apologize.”
In response to Eve’s sharp reaction, Charles offered a genuine apology.
“It was to get Serina to leave. As long as she received and heard something, she wouldn’t just walk away.”
Eve winced inwardly as he spoke. Her husband seemed to know that she had used money to secure the favor of the nobles, which was why he had asked for Serina’s return. Though he couldn’t possibly be that smart.
“But regardless, I won’t respond to anyone who comes here. Please stop these antics. Don’t you know you’re the only one for me?”
Eve wanted to slap his smirking face. Of course she couldn’t, but she wasn’t going to take this lying down either.
With a stern expression, she blinked back tears.
“But we must continue the family line. Since I can’t bear children, I have no choice but to use others to secure an heir… Haven’t you always said how important an heir is?”
“I cannot bear children?”
Eve was taken aback by her husband’s blank expression. Could it be that she was still capable of bearing children? Had she miscalculated the timing?
No, that can’t be…
It must have been the right time. There was no way she could forget this matter. But the Arsen in front of her looked genuinely shocked, as if he had forgotten this crucial matter.
Well, there’s nothing I can do.
While cursing Arsen’s indifference, Eve shed fake tears as if to say, “When did you get so upset?”
“Well, I tried to do something… Surely the elders in the household and the guests…”
“Is that so?”
Eve dabbed at her tears with a handkerchief and looked up at Charles’ calm voice. He shrugged off the recent shock with complete composure.
“But that doesn’t justify me, your husband, seeing other women while you’re around.”
“Especially if there’s no child between you and me.”
“What are you saying?”
Eve was overwhelmed by the succession of shocking statements. But her husband, who seemed to have lost his mind, went further and said, “I will also tell the elders in the house the same thing. I’m not going to have any heirs other than a child with you.”
“Oh, no, why?”
“Why? Because you are my wife.”
Eve, who had tried to persuade her husband in every way possible, bit her lower lip for a moment at his protest.
How wonderful it would have been if he had said that in the past. How much comfort it would have been to me, who trusted you.
But it was already irreversible. She no longer trusted Arsen. It was clear that he was only trying to deceive her with sweet words and flattery.
“Who would be moved by that? I’m not the naive person I used to be.”
But she did a good job of pretending to be moved, just as much as she needed to. And soon tears were falling from her eyes.
“Thank you, Arsen… I didn’t know you’d say that.”
Eve didn’t notice that her husband’s face lost color from her tears.
Eventually, she felt embarrassed and thought that she should hug him in this atmosphere. Unexpectedly, the moment she hesitated whether to embrace her husband or not, Charles was the first to embrace Eve. He hugged her as if he was about to, but not quite, and then gently patted her back with an overly cautious touch.
Eve was perplexed. Not only was she surprised that her husband had hugged her first, but also that his behavior seemed so awkward.
He was adept at comforting her with sweet words and gentle touches whenever she needed it. He was quite adept at it. But now, every gesture and movement seemed as stiff as a wooden log.
It was as if he had never been in contact with a woman before.