Even the person with the strongest self-control in the world would undoubtedly falter in the face of her charm… and Irovel herself wouldn’t be able to resist the charm of those lunatics either.
“I have to go.”
Hence, Reinhardt hurriedly went to the salon favored by Camilla in the capital and immediately came face to face with that lunatic.
“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.”
There he was, Gerard, the lunatic.
Despite having a spouse, the lunatic who was blatantly interested in another man’s wife was right here. Influenced by Camilla, Reinhardt had an extreme aversion to infidelity. Legal as it was, Gerard, who had relationships with twenty-one women, was a repugnant existence.
‘If I hadn’t married her, Irovel might have been ensnared in that disgusting harem as well.’
Just thinking about such a scenario filled Reinhardt with intense anger. It was enough to make his face heat up.
“I don’t want to. My place is by my husband’s side.”
Even when Irovel suddenly linked her arm with his, the fervor didn’t lessen.
“I thought I was going to die wanting to see you, darling!”
When she looked up at him with a bright smile, the sense of anger disappeared, but the fervor remained unchanged.
At that moment, somehow, the sounds of her breathing that had disturbed his ears all night and her scent passed through his mind. At the same time, an unidentifiable emotion filled him. His whole body tensed as it did last night.
‘…She told me to cooperate without making her fall for me.’
Her attitude seemed to say that it didn’t matter if she made him fall for her. Well, to begin with, the contract only stated that ‘Reinhardt’ would prevent her from falling in love, so it wasn’t a problem.
Nevertheless, he felt it was too much.
If he continued to be unintentionally tempted by Irovel’s allure, what if he ended up falling in love? Then, he might not even be able to confess his feelings to Irovel.
After all, the act of confessing could potentially make the other person fall in love.
‘…So there’s only one answer.’
Never fall in love with Irovel…
Reinhardt desperately controlled his breathing and tried to maintain his composure. Still, the more he did, the more the areas where his body touched her bothered him. His face twisted with frustration.
‘I’m in trouble.’
* * *
“But why did you come?”
“Because lunatics exist in this world.”
Reinhardt answered with a strangely stiff expression.
Lunatics? What on earth was he talking about?
“Irovel, come here.”
The Emperor stared intently at the area where Reinhardt and my arms touched as if he were glaring at it.
“Ask the people. Do they want to live in fear of being invaded by the Tartars in the cold North, or do they want to become empress and live a comfortable life with people at their feet? You are blinded by love and can’t see the future!”
I was going to live in the South, not the North, and even if I became empress with many people under my command, it wouldn’t be an easy life. Moreover, even without being blinded by love, I knew that marrying a womanizer like Gerard with twenty-two women would lead to a bleak future.
Before I could voice all these counterarguments, Reinhardt turned his body. With my arm still linked with his, I naturally followed him.
“Let’s go, Mother.”
He addressed the stiffened Camilla after facing the Emperor, then opened the door of the salon. It seemed he chose to ignore rather than confront the Emperor, who was spouting nonsense.
And then it happened.
“Your Highness’ wooing can be heard even outside the salon.”
A young noblewoman with chestnut hair spread out entered through the open door that Reinhardt had just stepped into as she stared at the Emperor with coldness in her gaze.
Her name was Ella Candia, a concubine of the Emperor who had mocked me when she sent an invitation to the Hoover Duchy.
The Emperor, who had been spouting about how he, as an Emperor, could have many women wanting him, slightly stiffened. It seemed even he felt cautious when his wife found him in a compromising situation.
“You said you were picking a dress design that I would like and asked me to wait in the carriage! Was that just a pretext to pursue her?!”
“That’s not true. I just happened to meet Irovel.”
“Lies! You’re lying!”
“Lies? Is it a lie to love someone other than you? Do I need a reason to lie?”
…He had even shown that he was a psychopath by blatantly admitting his personality flaws.
Tears seemed to form in Ella’s eyes, scattering like frost. What comfortable life as an empress? Whether I became empress or a concubine, if I had married Gerard, I might have had the same face as Ella now.
‘Does she really have to live like this?’
Her face looked like she wanted to say that, expressing her doubt with all her heart.
In the meanwhile, Reinhardt urged Camilla again, and I followed them out of the salon with a heavy heart. Later, inside the carriage heading back to the Erestein Ducal House, Camilla, who had remained silent for a while, opened her mouth.
“I’m embarrassed. I showed an uncharacteristic side of me.”
As Reinhardt, who had missed the conversation between her and the Emperor, asked, Camilla explained matter-of-factly.
“His Highness mocked me as a Consort, and I couldn’t say anything. Despite becoming the Countess of Vrellod, I’m still tied to the royal family.”
“…Is that so?”
“In place of me, Irovel defended me.”
‘She called me Irovel!’
Camilla, who used to refer to me only as Lady Hoover, actually used my name! Did she finally acknowledge me as someone from Erestein? Or was it just a mistake?
“It’s incredibly embarrassing. Being the mother-in-law who was protected by her daughter-in-law.”
Hiding my slightly excited emotions, I used a gentle voice for Camilla.
“Everyone has moments of weakness. Reinhardt, who can execute the Tartars with monstrous precision, also collapses after drinking. You don’t need to be embarrassed.”
‘Why did my name suddenly come up…’
Reinhardt looked at me with that kind of gaze.
“When do you feel the weakest?”
Camilla suddenly asked, and after contemplating for a moment, I answered,
“When I get eye twitch.”
Both Camilla and Reinhardt’s eyes shook. The atmosphere turned dark rapidly.
“Oh, did I say something that could be misunderstood?”
“Um, not severe eye twitch, just… when eye twitching occurs.”
Both of their tense shoulders seemed to relax at the words, “not the severe kind.”
“Is that common?”
“…Why is the moment you feel the weakest when you get eye twitching?”
When Reinhardt’s shaky gaze asked the question, I replied.
“It makes it hard to wink.”
The atmosphere grew dark again.
“Is it possible that I didn’t catch the joke?”
“No, I was serious.”
‘Why is the moment of getting eye twitch, a situation where it’s difficult to wink, the weakest for you…?’
Camilla’s blue eyes, which were still trembling, were asking me something like that.
People who didn’t understand the profession of being an idol might find it hard to grasp how important winking was for me. I was known as ‘Born with a wink instead of a cry, the idol of winking,’ so winking was my identity in the idol industry.
Then, one day, the terrifying disease called ‘eye twitch’ visited me… and it chose to appear during a live broadcast, exposing countless people to my trembling wink.
The media blew up the symptom that everyone experiences once in a while into a drug addiction symptom. Because of that, I had to endure immense cyberbullying, and due to that experience, I developed an obsession to perform clean winks without any tremors.
Afterward, when it was revealed that the rumors of drug use were false, I filmed a magnesium commercial, but… it didn’t change the fact that it was an event with the pain I had experienced before.
The incident where I couldn’t wink properly still remained a deep scar for me.
“Anyway… since I owe you, I promise I’ll help you when you feel weak, whether it’s due to eye twitching or any other harder moments.”
I smiled bashfully.
Alcohol, the royal family, eye twitching… by sharing our weaknesses, I felt like we became a bit closer to each other.
* * *
“Do you have any plans or not?”
Camilla stormed into her son’s office with a terrifying expression. Reinhardt, who was working on documents, furrowed his brows at the unexpected interruption and the discomfort of being interrupted from his work.
“What on earth are you saying so suddenly?”
It would have been fine if she was like Irovel, who understood without any need for explanation. It seemed something else was bothering Camilla today.
“I-I’ll bring you some tea…”
Even though Jade tried to make him small as if afraid that lightning would strike him, Camilla’s lightning struck even Jade, who was just trying to withdraw.
“Must you always do this? Jade, you’re the same! As an aide of the family, shouldn’t the person responsible for everything related to Erestein be doing their work more responsibly?”
“What are you sorry for?”
“W-Well… if you tell me, I’ll reflect more deeply.”
“Does apologizing help if you don’t even know what you’re apologizing for?”
“Mother, can you tell me why you’re angry in the first place?”
When Reinhardt intervened as he was trying to rescue the pitiful Jade, Camilla explained with a fierce glare.
“Wh-why is that girl in such a state?”