“Make her pleasing from head to toe.”
“Of course. Please entrust her to me, Countess Vrellod.”
The madame, with even a sense of duty in her gaze, replied as she brought out a measuring tape and started to assess my body.
“It usually takes about a fortnight for the clothes to be completed, is that acceptable to you?”
“There’s a party in a week.”
“Then I will ensure it’s ready for the party.”
As I listened to Camilla’s conversation with the madame, my eyes widened unknowingly. Could it be… she was planning to get me dresses? And not just any dresses, but tailored ones?!
“Until the dresses are ready, she can at least wear ready-made ones.”
“Do you have any specific design in mind?”
“I don’t really have anything… I’ll just let her try on a few and see what suits.”
“Understood. The ready-made clothes are over there, so feel free to try them on!”
Camilla nodded briefly, her eyes sweeping over the ready-made clothes with a calculating gaze. She then picked out several clothes that looked like more than ten outfits combined and handed them to me.
“Go change into them.”
“All of these…?”
When I exclaimed in shock, she narrowed her eyes with irritation. Realizing my blunder, I quickly covered my mouth.
“I… I’m sorry! That’s not what I meant at all! I was just wondering if I could really try all of these on. I was so amazed!”
Despite the fact that I belatedly gave an excuse, Camilla’s expression remained unchanged. She still spoke with an annoyed tone.
“You seem to have a lot of complaints even though they’re given to you. Quite the spoiled daughter-in-law you are. Madame!”
“What can I do for you, Countess Vrellod?”
The madame rushed over quickly. Judging by Camilla’s icy expression, I thought she probably planned to cancel the dress order to the madame…
However, I was wrong.
“From here to here… purchase them all.”
It was because she pointed to the entirety of the ready-made clothes. While the madame calmly started packing the clothes, a stark contrast to my shocked reaction, I was quite flustered.
“…All of them? That’s too much!”
“Don’t be so noisy. Put on one of the purchased outfits quickly and come out. If you complain further, I’ll fatten up that dried-up body of yours until it swells like a bloated fish.”
…Even though her tone was harsh, was she actually implying providing me with delicious food?
Still, afraid that Camilla might get angrier, I hurriedly grabbed any piece of clothing and quickly headed towards the dressing room.
“As for shoes, as it’s troublesome to try them on, we’ll purchase all from here to here as well. You can wear the ones you have on now for a separate purchase.”
While I was changing in the dressing room, a faint commotion from outside reached my ears as Camilla appeared to be organizing the shoes. Emerging from the dressing room, it seemed other customers had arrived.
In front of me stood a person who blocked my way with exuberance.
“Oh my, to be this beautiful!”
Applause echoed loudly as the person clapped in a raucous manner. Naturally, the one before me was not Camilla.
I looked up at the person who clapped.
“I didn’t expect to encounter you here. Such a pleasant surprise!”
I replied half-heartedly before shifting my gaze to Camilla. However, the Emperor firmly grasped my wrist.
“You look much better. Continue to carry yourself like this in the future.”
“I would have done so even without Your Majesty’s suggestion. After all, my husband likes it.”
Observing the Emperor’s face distorting grimly, I shook off his grip while suppressing a smile. Standing beside Camilla, the Emperor scrutinized her before addressing her.
“Ah, Consort Camilla. Did you receive the letter I sent?”
‘Consort’ was a title used exclusively for the Emperor’s concubines.
Camilla was now officially the Countess Vrellod, not a concubine yet to address her as ‘Consort’… it was an unmistakable mockery. And this mockery struck Camilla right where it hurt. Her only vulnerability was her past as a concubine, even though her connection to the Emperor’s concubines was now severed.
If it were a different topic, she would have easily parried without embarrassment though due to the Emperor’s jab at her vulnerability, Camilla’s eyes trembled.
“Oh, well. I misspoke since you’re no longer my mother’s subordinate. My apologies.”
The Emperor deliberately pretended to be sorry, as if he wanted to emphasize his intentional slip-up. Besides the lovesick disease that made one fall in love easily, there was another disease I had—the disease of feeling an irresistible urge to strangle lunatics.
Nevertheless, if I gave in to that urge, I’d end up in prison so I had to endure.
“Oh my, mistaking a title for someone who’s been remarried for over a year… Your Majesty must be somewhat lacking. Well, I meant that you’re lacking in the sense that you’re just acting on rumors without knowing the facts, so don’t misunderstand me!”
Instead, I just dove in.
The Emperor’s face twisted again.
“You see, a person can mess up titles, even arbitrarily force someone into marriage and then order a divorce! And you dare say that I’m rude… truly, you are a rude one!”
As I clutched my fist as if I was truly upset as I vented my anger, the Emperor burst into laughter in response.
“Are you saying I’m rude, Irovel?”
“Oh, were those your words? My apologies for imitating Your Majesty’s behavior just now. Perhaps you weren’t really sorry either when you were pretending to apologize to me?”
Appearing at a loss for words, the Emperor’s expression turned gloomy again. He seemed to remember my last retort in front of him. Maybe he thought I was using the magic recording to save our conversations?
Waiting for his reaction with a triumphant smile, he suddenly burst into genuine laughter.
This wasn’t the absurd laughter from earlier.
This time, it was a sincere, hearty laugh. With eyes that conveyed warmth and humor, he looked at me as if I was utterly endearing.
“This is why I like you.”
If he said that to provoke me, he succeeded brilliantly. Just hearing it made me want to retch.
“Irovel, I admit it. It’s true that I was initially captivated by your beauty, just as you thought, though that’s all in the past. The current me knows how bold and charming you are. That’s why I fell in love with you to the point where I don’t want to give up, even when you’ve become someone else’s woman.”
…Was this a confession? As if to mock my previously confident demeanor, I stared blankly at the Emperor.
And then, the line that knocked me out was delivered.
“You are different from other women. I wouldn’t hesitate to give you the position of Empress, not just a concubine. If you wish, I’ll remove the current Empress from her position, so be my Empress.”
Remove the current Empress from her position?
‘…That’s the same tactic the former Emperor used on Camilla.’
As I thought, it seemed that he would say such things and then later claim he never said them.
“Unable to keep promises well, are you?”
“No, I can keep them. If you really can’t trust me, shall we go through the process of deposing the Empress right now? I’ll do it in front of you. Come with me to the palace.”
With a tone filled with confidence, the Emperor attempted to hold my hand, but before he could, I swiftly moved my hand away as though I was avoiding a filthy cockroach.
I screamed and evaded his hand as if a disgusting cockroach had landed on me.
“Where are you touching?”
At that moment, a low and chilly voice resounded through the salon. Instantly, I felt my ears tingle and involuntarily turned my gaze toward the entrance of the salon where the voice came from.
Dark black hair, deep blue eyes emitting an intense chill.
Without a doubt, the possessor of the most exquisite beauty in the world, Reinhardt Erestein… He was there.
“I haven’t even touched her…”
The Emperor, who had retreated his hand due to my scream, murmured as if he was unjustly treated.
When I quickly rushed toward Reinhardt and hid behind his back, the Emperor clenched his teeth in frustration.
“Come here, Irovel.”
“I don’t want to. My place is by my husband’s side.”
As I deliberately pressed myself closer to Reinhardt, almost as if to challenge the Emperor, his countenance contorted into a grave expression.
‘Oh, the effect is quite good?’
In a mischievous attempt to provoke him more, I grinned playfully while looking up at Reinhardt.
“I thought I was going to die wanting to see you, darling!”
…But, why did his face contort like that?
* * *
Several minutes earlier, just after Camilla had taken Irovel away.
“Would you like to follow them?”
Jade asked Reinhardt, and he shook his head.
“Remember when I was young and my mother told a maid that she didn’t like her from head to toe? She later took her out to buy clothes. Irovel seems to have made quite an impression.”
“It seemed like she recognized her charm.”
…She also recognized it? That meant his mother also knew about Irovel’s charm very well.
‘He just said ‘also’ Then does that mean—wait, does that mean… my mother fell for Irovel, too?!’
Unlike when he was drunk, he couldn’t conclude that Camilla and Jade were delusional. There were countless people in the world, and among them were lunatics. There must be people who would dare to fall for a married woman.
Besides, was Irovel really that charming?