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1616-chapter-80

Chapter 12 – Greed, Affection, Possessiveness, Love, Desire, Somewhere in Between.

After a few days, the trip to the capital was decided. The maids packed everything, so I didn’t have to lift a finger. All I had to do was prepare myself mentally. It was similar to the last time, except that I would be staying at Duke Hadid’s residence in the capital instead of a hotel.

The day before leaving for the capital, I stopped by the guild for the first time. My office should have been empty, but everything was in its place except for the things Ginger had taken away.

The building and staff were all the same. I was tempted to take over again, but I quickly stopped myself. If I did, it would be difficult to leave cleanly a year later. And so, I boarded the carriage to the capital.

 

* * *

 

Huff, huff, huff.

I took a few deep breaths, unable to control my trembling heart as I awaited my audience with His Majesty the Emperor.

I felt like I was the villain.

Seeing the Crown Prince, Lily, and the other colleagues was one thing, though I also had to attend the banquet later. I had to meet His Majesty the Emperor in the morning and attend the Imperial Palace banquet in the evening.

Of course, I had to attend the biggest banquet.

Even when I was running away, I didn’t feel this much pressure. Even in my previous life, job interviews weren’t this suffocating. As soon as I arrived, I would hear all sorts of accusations of betrayal. I guess I should’ve worn a black dress.

I really had all sorts of strange thoughts.

Originally, I planned to meet the Crown Prince and Lily, and then Dylan, but unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out. Jed and Lily were out of the palace on the Emperor’s orders, and Dylan was busy with external affairs all week. Thanks to that, I couldn’t even say that I was attending the banquet today.

I felt like everything was going wrong once things started going wrong.

“Relax. You can do whatever you want.”

“It makes me even more nervous when you say that.”

Kairos, who didn’t care about my feelings, seemed to be in an unusually good mood since arriving in the capital. It was like he was getting back at me for hitting him on the back of the head.

With interest!

“His Majesty says to come in.”

With the aide’s words, I closed my eyes tightly.

The time of judgment had come.

I walked like a criminal to meet His Majesty the Emperor and the Empress. What the… I felt so confused. Why were they so friendly? It wasn’t the time for laughter, but laughter filled the audience chamber.

Even His Majesty the Emperor was laughing.

“Dame Love, no, I should call you Duchess Hadid now. Forgive my rudeness.”

“Oh, no. Your Majesty.”

“I was already pleased that you helped me so much the other day, but I didn’t know you would think of Elkium so much. I’m ashamed.”

“You captured Duke Hadid’s heart. It seems the Duke’s words that he loved his wife dearly were true.”

Even Her Majesty the Empress said that. While I had met His Majesty the Emperor before, this was my first time meeting Her Majesty the Empress.

“Why would I lie about my wife?”

…Kairos even responded? What the hell was going on?

“Well… no, that’s—”

“I’ve always thought that the Duchess is too humble. I was really worried, but I’m relieved.”

What the hell was this?! I poked him in the side with my hand and demanded an explanation with my eyes, but I couldn’t hear his explanation because His Majesty the Emperor and Her Majesty the Empress kept talking.

It wasn’t until I had been thinking for a long time that I realized why I was being treated so well.

So, it was me who persuaded the imperial family, who had been at odds with Duke Hadid. They said that Duke Hadid couldn’t possibly disobey his beloved wife’s words, so he opened his heart.

And so, Duke Hadid was in charge of northern Sergal this winter, and the Imperial Family was relieved of a great deal of worry. The Emperor laughed heartily, saying that our interests were aligned and that he would continue to rely on me in the future.

I spent an hour listening to nothing but praise in the midst of the whirlwind of conversation that swept over me. Instead of being a criminal, I was treated like a hero.

“I look forward to seeing the two of you being affectionate at the banquet this evening.”

“Thank you for your gift. Duke Hadid, Duchess. I will personally select and send you a wedding gift, though it is late.”

“Th, thank you, Your Majesty the Empress.”

My legs gave way, and I almost collapsed into Kairos’s arms. However, as soon as I came out into the hallway, I suddenly came to my senses.

“What does all that mean?”

“I told you you had nothing to worry about.”

“When did I ever persuade you?”

“Your very existence is persuasion. What more do you need to say?”

“….”

I was speechless, my mouth agape. After a long time, I came to my senses and started walking out, snapping at him quietly.

“Why are you doing this?”

“I thought I had to change if I wanted to be by your side.”

“….”

“It’s true that I want to look good. It’s also true that I’m trying to fix things because you hate me.”

At his words, I just stared at his face and shut my mouth.

I really couldn’t understand him.

 

* * *

 

Dinner wasn’t any different.

The moment I got in the carriage after dinner, my heart started to pound, and I felt anxious because I had put aside my worries. My mouth felt dry, and I diligently practiced the simulation for the affectionate couple’s acting that the Emperor and Empress had mentioned earlier.

We finally arrived back at the Imperial Palace.

I was thirty minutes later than I had originally expected because I was preparing myself mentally. Kairos said it was okay to go slower, but I couldn’t. I got out of the carriage, escorted by him, and walked up the stairs and down the hallway to the banquet hall.

“Kairos, about later…”

“Yeah.”

I turned my head and stopped short.

“Wait a minute.”

I hurriedly grabbed him as he tried to leave nonchalantly.

“Hmm? Tell me.”

Kairos wasn’t wearing his cravat properly, but it was just hanging loosely. No, I was sure it was fine until we got out of the carriage. What on earth did he do while we were walking up the stairs and down the hallway?

I was so nervous that I didn’t even notice him next to me the whole time we were walking. In the end, I stopped in the middle of the hallway. I’m already late, so I’m worried.

“Ha, why is your cravat like that?”

“I loosened it for a moment because it was stuffy, but I can’t suddenly remember how to do it.”

“Don’t lie.”

“Really.”

“Do you expect me to believe that?”

He was really going to go in like that, saying he couldn’t remember. Where was there someone who went around the Imperial Palace banquet with their cravat like this?

I took a deep breath and held out my hand.

“Give it to me.”

“It’s okay.”

“I said give it to me.”

Then, Kairos handed me the cravat and leaned over, bowing his waist. His face came down close to mine, and our eyes met. I quickly avoided his gaze and focused on tying the cravat. It was a good thing that everyone had gone into the banquet hall first, and the hallway was quiet.

“It seems like it’s the first time you’ve tied it.”

“Well, I don’t remember if it’s the first time or not.”

“I should have asked my wife to help me get dressed in the morning.”

Whether I did or not, was I supposed to put this inside? I hesitated for a moment, and he pulled his body back, causing the cravat that I had just tied to stretch out again. His face contorted, and suddenly, his lips touched the back of my hand.

I frowned in shock.

“What are you doing?”

“Your hands are just pretty.”

“I have to do it again because you ruined what I worked hard on.”

“That’s right.”

“…Ah, I’m not doing it. Do it yourself.”

Just as I was about to let go of his hand, he wrapped my hand around his to prevent me from letting go of the cravat.

“I’ll be good this time, so tie it again.”

“….”

“Really. Do it.”

“…You’re just doing weird things again.”

“….”

I tied the cravat even faster than before. I pulled it tight as if to show him, choking his neck before letting go.

“…There you go!”

Kairos’ lips were even wider than a smile as if he liked it. He straightened up, grinning contentedly like a predatory beast.

“Let’s go.”

It wasn’t funny at all, the way he was subtly holding my waist. We had to go in as the Duke and Duchess of Hadid, who seemed to get along well. I deliberately stepped on Kairos’ foot with my heel before taking a single step.

‘He’s so annoying.’

“Oh, it was a mistake.”

He didn’t even look hurt but instead burst into a small laugh.

“I’ll take it as my wife’s affection.”

“You must be crazy, really.”

“Do more.”

“I’m not doing it, it’s annoying.”

I snorted as he deliberately provoked me. By the time I stood in front of the banquet hall door, my mind was completely blank.

“His Excellency the Duke of Hadid and his wife are entering!”

At the same time, all eyes were on me.

“….”

It wasn’t just because of my mood that the musicians who had been playing their instruments stopped. Everyone stopped talking as if they had made a promise, except for me. No, why was everyone so interested in the Duchess of Hadid?