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Chapter 81

Why were they like this? This couldn’t be right. Seriously, even if a monkey from the zoo were to perform ballet here, it wouldn’t garner this much attention.

My stomach churned, threatening to erupt at any moment.

The sheer curiosity and surprise in their eyes made it impossible for me to even see their faces properly. I’ve never experienced stage fright like this before.

The gazes that had been fixed on me scattered like grains of sand as soon as Kairos stepped forward, but they quickly returned. It was incredible how the atmosphere could change so drastically with just two people entering.

When the door was closed, it sounded like a lively gathering was happening inside.

“Are you okay?”

As he gently brushed his hand against my lower back, I forced a smile, my lips twitching.

“No, not at all.”

“We just need to show our faces, and then we can leave.”

“…Why are we even here? I don’t even like this kind of thing…”

Even in the original novel, seeing Kairos at a banquet was as difficult as picking a star from the sky! And even then, it was within the Duchy, not in the Imperial Palace.

He didn’t feel the need to show his face to the Emperor. He disliked all women, married or unmarried, who spoke to him. Or perhaps he also disliked men who tried to make him their ally. And besides that, he wouldn’t have been able to come since he kidnapped Lily in the original novel.

Anyway, why now…?

He even stood in the center as if he wanted everyone to see him. As if everyone had to see us. It was enough to drive me crazy.

In the end, unable to relax, I took a deep breath.

He called over a passing attendant. He received two refreshing-looking sparkling drinks and handed one to me.

“…Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Normally, I wouldn’t have accepted it, though I thought it might help calm my nerves, so I reluctantly took it. The sweet, fizzy drink that entered my mouth was a welcome relief.

“Did His Majesty ask you first? To help him? You didn’t say that first… right?”

Although I had heard a rough outline of the story during the audience earlier that morning, I was too absent-minded to confirm it. Besides, it seemed that the two of them had already had several conversations. I had been too busy answering ‘yes’ like a parrot and vaguely nodding my head to have time to process it. Since then, I have been consumed with preparing for the banquet.

“We’ve been in contact for a long time. It’s just that I was too busy to pay attention.”

“Why did you accept it when you’re still busy?”

Kairos stared down at me.

He was going to answer, wasn’t he? Why did he keep looking at me?

“I told you. I said I’d try to change.”

Was that really why? His eyes seemed to hold a hidden agenda… There were more than a few things that were suspicious. He was still pretending not to know anything about the divorce prohibition. The excuse was simple: even he wouldn’t be able to shake off an imperial decree, he said.

And that was true! No matter how much power he had to threaten the Emperor, it was impossible! It was just unsettling.

I gave up, knowing that I would get the same answer if I asked again.

“…I think the other people are very curious. They’re all staring this way.”

They weren’t coming over to talk, though. They were just whispering to each other, barely audible. I wondered if Kairos had ever felt this way when he was alone. In the original novel, there is a description of how women always try to talk to him whenever he appears, even though he is unmarried.

“I think they’re staring because you’re pretty.”


I said nothing and took another sip of my drink. Since he had his arm around my waist, I felt like I was half-embraced, and I was nervous even though no one was looking directly at me.

I used the glass of sparkling wine as a shield and glanced up at him.

Kairos was commanding the atmosphere with an all-too-familiar air. He looked like someone who didn’t care in the slightest that all eyes were on him. Perhaps it was this indifference, or perhaps even boredom, that made his presence even more prominent. That attitude, as if he had been born proclaiming himself the only and supreme being, was it a hereditary trait? Was the previous Duke the same?

If so, I might understand a little better.

Come to think of it, I had never heard a single story about his parents. When I was about to marry him, I had asked about his parents, the former Baron and Baroness of Edith.

“They’re dead. Don’t worry about it.”

Yes, I remembered.

I was surprised by the way he cut me off so abruptly. I thought I saw a flicker of disdain in his usually soft and warm eyes. I didn’t ask about them after that. I couldn’t ask him either. As soon as I tried to think about anything else, everything just spiraled out of control. I needed to stop thinking about this man, but there was another ordeal.

As I turned my head, I locked eyes with Dylan, who was staring intently at me.


I couldn’t help but gasp. Lux and Josh were beside him.

No, this week… I clearly heard he had external tasks. Surely, the Crown Prince and Lily weren’t coming today, were they? I explicitly postponed the explanation because everyone’s schedules didn’t align, but if we run into each other here, I—!

The expressions on their faces were priceless. Lux looked utterly incredulous, while Josh’s face was etched with astonishment. Dylan seemed to be asking why I was here without a word despite contacting him.

The way all three of them stared at me felt like a demand for an explanation. Oh, this was crazy. Seriously. Then again, I would feel the same way. Until recently, I was just running a small guild with my husband in the remote countryside of Ferrarium, and now I’m suddenly the Duchess of Hadid.

There was no room for excuses. I didn’t have time to explain, so what could I do…?

Still, I tried my best. I even requested an audience separately however they said that the Crown Prince had left the palace!

A large hand landed on my back. Even as it brushed away, seemingly trying to calm my hiccups, I couldn’t tear my gaze away from the three of them. I desperately sent telepathic messages, saying I would explain later, that I wasn’t entirely without fault, though it seemed to be completely ineffective.


If I hadn’t come to the palace a month ago, I would have just ignored them as former colleagues, but that wasn’t the case. I wished the Emperor would appear and at least distract them.

I just wanted this banquet to end quickly.

The sparkling wine, which was half full a while ago, was now gone.


* * *


‘There he is again.’

Kairos followed where Hazel was looking, and there he was again.

The red-haired man who had taken Hazel to the hotel. He was also involved in her scheme. His investigation revealed that he seemed unaware of Hazel’s escape, but he was the one who introduced her to that woman, Annie.

He knew he was suspicious from the start. He wasn’t Hazel’s type, yet something about his meek and earnest appearance bothered him. He should have gotten rid of him when he saw him smiling at Hazel at the hotel.

The only reason he let the three men he had captured go unharmed was because of Hazel.

However, that didn’t erase his unease. What guarantee was there that Hazel wouldn’t run away again? He wasn’t even sure she’d stay for a whole year. Maybe things would be better if he eliminated everything that bothered Hazel.

Maybe then she’d give up and stay.

However, he knew Hazel hated it. It was only natural, considering she disliked noise and crowds. Still, the reason he was putting on this ridiculous show was to announce to everyone that Hazel was his wife. He didn’t want his pathetic desire to be exposed, wanting everyone in the Empire to know her face so he could finally feel at ease.

Until Hazel fully trusted him, he wouldn’t be able to shake this unease.

Now, Hazel held the key. Her gaze was still fixed on Dylan Banker. It was serious, as though she wanted to capture even the slightest glance that went elsewhere.

Kairos wanted to grab her chin and turn it, but instead, he made an excuse. He saw a strand of hair near her collarbone. As he reached out to remove it, Hazel flinched and swatted his hand away. She was so startled that she gasped.


She had pushed him away so forcefully that her eyes widened in surprise as if she hadn’t expected it.

“…There was a hair.”

“Ah, that’s why you…”

Even though she tried to act nonchalant, he could feel her body stiffen for a moment. The look Hazel had just given him was pure terror.

Her trembling hand that stopped in mid-air was shaking.

“I… I’ll do it.”

She gently put his hand in hers and lowered it, brushing her collarbone roughly and avoiding his gaze. His eyes couldn’t tear away from Hazel. She seemed a little burdened by his gaze.


She was afraid of him.

He didn’t understand why she didn’t believe him when he said he wouldn’t kill her the day he brought her back. Wasn’t it so absurd to think that he would kill her? Still, she was genuinely terrified of death from him. He used to think it was just her way of expressing anger, but seeing her raw fear now, his mind was completely blank.