The scene sent shock waves through everyone present.
Of course, it was the performance of the Crown Prince, who was highly favored by the emperor. The fact that the relatively insignificant 13th Prince had managed to completely ruin the Crown Prince’s performance was a disaster of epic proportions.
However, the 13th Prince himself seemed oblivious to the gravity of the situation.
“Help, please! Spare me! Aaaaah!”
He rolled and writhed on the stage, his face smeared with tears and mucus.
The Crown Prince stood beside the wrecked model of the capital, his expression a mixture of shock and despair.
The hapless emperor rose from his seat and shouted, “What’s going on? Get the 13th prince out of here!”
“Stay away! I don’t like it! No, no!”
It wasn’t until several palace guards had forcibly removed the 13th prince that silence finally descended on the salon.
“Has this child thrown a tantrum? This incident will not be easily forgiven!”
The emperor seemed extremely upset, and some nobles rushed to calm him down.
Meanwhile, as for the mastermind behind this chaotic situation, Cecille…
“Maybe I overdid it with a twelve year old? I was trying to go easy on him, considering he’s young.”
Cecille had always dealt with adults and people she considered strong. Perhaps what she considered gentle was still too much for a twelve-year-old.
“I should considerably reduce the intensity of my ‘greeting’ for younger people.”
Lost in thought about adjusting her approach, someone in the room pointed at Cecille and said something.
“It’s Cecille! I saw Cecille do something strange to Henry!”
It was Princess Susanna, the fourth princess. She was 17 years old, and though not as favored as the Crown Prince, she was part of the group that had caught the Emperor’s attention.
Henry was the 13th prince.
“It’s true! Cecille pressed her forehead against Henry’s and muttered something…and ever since then Henry has been acting strange!”
Her voice, trembling with panic, drew everyone’s attention to Cecille.
Even the emperor turned to her.
“Is this your doing?”
His expression was icy. It was impossible to imagine that the face and voice he used with his eight-year-old daughter could be so cold.
“Answer me, Cecille. Did you make Henry this way?”
Cecille’s eyes widened as if she had no idea what he was talking about.
“Huh? I don’t understand what you’re saying. How could I have made Henry like this?”
Her large, innocent eyes filled with tears.
For someone who had lived as a dark sorceress, enchanting countless people, eliciting sympathy with a tearful look was child’s play.
“Oh no, Father. Please believe me. I really didn’t do anything. You see, I’m the ‘irredeemable Cecille.’”
Cecille’s voice quivered with an artful touch of pathos, and her words were carefully calculated, leaving no detail to chance.
While Susanna enjoyed the emperor’s favor, she was only a seventeen-year-old girl.
Susanna’s ability to captivate the masses was unparalleled, even compared to experienced sorcerers. She had no tangible evidence, not even a shred.
“Unsavable, they call the siblings,” some pitied. “A 17-year-old sister pushing her 8-year-old sibling this far…”
Indeed, the reactions around her flowed as Cecille had intended.
Cecille received looks of sympathy and understanding, while Susanna was met with looks of contempt.
Under the circumstances, Cecille had every confidence of escaping the accusations, provided her condition remained as usual.
As she tried to make her point, Cecille suddenly felt a sharp headache. Her stomach churned and her limbs grew weak.
“Ah, maybe I pushed it too far,” she thought.
Even a spell of this magnitude took its toll. An eight-year-old’s body wasn’t the most comfortable vessel.
Susanna took advantage of Cecille’s vulnerability.
“So you’re saying I’m lying about being the 17th princess? You’re brazen!”
“Calm down, Susanna. To truly investigate what Cecille has done, we should bring a palace magician,” the Crown Prince interjected, breaking his passive observation.
“A palace magician could detect even the slightest traces of magic. Personally, I find it impossible to believe that an 8-year-old could do such a thing… but if you’re so eager to confirm it, by all means,” he added with a mischievous smile.
“This is trouble,” Cecille thought.
She knew how to hide magical traces, but her current state made it impossible. At this rate, everything would be revealed – including that the 13th prince’s antics were due to her magic, and that she herself was a sorcerer.
Knowing this, Cecille squirmed in her seat, then stumbled, but didn’t fall.
She hadn’t hit the ground. Two large hands surrounded her, providing warmth and stability.
Deep black hair, smooth as raven feathers. Pale golden eyes that glinted cruelly. A perfectly chiseled nose and jaw. A physique hidden beneath thick robes, perfectly sculpted and unrevealed.
A man, beautiful yet eerily sinister, held Cecille in his arms.
Cecille knew exactly who he was.
“He has come as expected, the villainous Duke.”
She lifted the corner of her mouth in a subtle smile.
Raven V. Bartholomew.
He was a renowned villain and criminal mastermind.
His notoriety was so great that rumors claimed his influence reached 70% of the city’s crime.
No one dared cross him, not even the Emperor.
Duke Bartholomew stepped back, still holding Cecille in his arms.
“Royalty teaches one to survive without shedding blood or tears, even if it means devouring one’s brothers and sisters,” he remarked, his piercing golden eyes fixed on the assembled nobles, especially the Emperor.
“I thought it was just idle gossip from the commoners, but it seems there’s some truth to it, considering you’re trying to accuse an eight-year-old,” Susanna remarked.
“Idle gossip? What do you know…” Cecille started to retort, but Duke Bartholomew cut her off with his own icy comment.
“Do you really think that an 8-year-old can make the 13th prince behave erratically under false pretenses? To push such a child with such a ridiculous excuse until she collapses in front of all these people. It seems that the royal family lacks proper individuals.
Despite hearing this harsh criticism, Susanna was at a loss for words. She was intimidated by his ominous presence.
“As expected, Duke Bartholomew has no mercy for children,” Cecille thought.
She knew that well.
She also knew that Duke Bartholomew had an inexplicable affinity for children, despite being one of the greatest villains of her time.
And she knew that he wasn’t one to stand by and watch a child being interrogated and breaking down under adults.
‘Since I must rely on someone among the nobles to witness this presentation,’ Cecille searched for her ally and found him.
After careful consideration, she concluded that he was her only choice.
‘Even if I’m just one of dozens of princesses and no one cares about me, I’m still an asset to the royal family. Perfect to be used as a political tool through marriage.’
In fact, she had almost been used for that purpose before her regression.
So the royal family couldn’t just let go of Cecille.
‘Taking me away like this wouldn’t be normal for a noble household. Even the royal family couldn’t easily control such a household. And such a household only exists for Duke Bartholomew.’
So Cecille decided to entrust herself to Duke Bartholomew.
“Well, it seems I’ve observed enough. I’ll retire now. Your Highness, I’ll take care of the princess.”
“Duke Bartholomew, wait!”
Despite the people trying to stop him, Duke Bartholomew carried Cecille and left the salon.
On the way to the Royal Children’s Palace, Cecille spoke to him while still in his arms.
His gaze turned to her at the sound of her voice. The change in his cold eyes was almost striking.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Please, take me with you. I don’t want to stay in the palace. I want to go with you.”
Cecille lifted her sleeve to reveal her bare arm. It was covered in red scars and blue bruises.
“My older brother and sisters… they hate me. They torture me and beat me whenever they want.”
Seeing Cecille’s injuries, a flicker of anger danced in Duke Bartholomew’s eyes.
“Besides, the adults don’t help me. Even when they see my brother and sisters beating me, they just ignore it.”
Cecille pleaded with a weak voice that seemed on the verge of breaking.
“I really hate it here. If you, Duke, could take me with you…”
Even though he was a villain by nature, Cecille didn’t think Duke Bartholomew would help her out of pity alone.
As a formidable sorcerer and one who had experienced a regression, Cecille possessed valuable information, some of which might be useful in her dealings with Duke Bartholomew. She intended to reveal this information.