Watching Charles’ expression with interest, Duke Bonaparte let out a sigh.
“What’s the matter, Your Majesty? What’s so disappointing?”
“Well, it’s disappointing to have a selfish, unattractive womanizer as a husband.”
“… More disappointing than being fine with Duke Fontaine’s wife touching you? Don’t you find anyone touching you repulsive?”
Charles seemed to have a touch aversion almost resembling a phobia. That’s why he had little interest in the opposite sex.
However, whether it was because their bodies had switched or because Eve was special, he didn’t mind being touched by her. It was somewhat awkward, though.
“You don’t need to worry about it. But why did you grab her?”
Charles asked bluntly, and Duke Bonaparte poured out his frustration as if he couldn’t stand it.
“Why did you come to a place like this? We need to find a way to recover your bodies as soon as possible. You said you were going to enjoy a complete vacation like Tiago suggested, but are you really? Do you know how difficult it is for me at the palace because of that playboy Duke?”
Listening seriously to the complaints of his closest advisor, Charles tilted his head slightly.
“Well, do I need to know that?”
“Oh, come on, Your Majesty! I know very well that you are such a person, but the situation is what it is now!”
Charles had been passively indifferent, then suddenly seemed to remember something and asked.
“By the way, how is Duke Fontaine? I heard you’ve tied him up so he can’t move. How long do you plan to be satisfied playing the scarecrow?”
“Since I’ve instilled fear in several nobles, it should be alright for a while, as long as there are no other variables.”
“Variables, you say…”
Charles muttered with his eyes lowered, then lifted his head. His gaze was more determined than ever.
“If necessary, cut his throat.”
“Don’t think of me as your king; just kill me. Got it?”
Charles smiled in response to Duke Bonaparte’s gentle call and nodded.
“Why that expression? We’ve always done it that way.”
And so, the man finally seated himself as the absolute ruler. Duke Bonaparte stared at the man and sighed.
“Alright, then. You might as well take an interest in Duke Fontaine’s wife.”
“I’m already doing that.”
Duke Bonaparte nodded knowingly, thinking that Tiago would have a tough time.
“Now that we’ve discussed it, I should go. I shouldn’t leave Eve alone for too long.”
Charles waved his hand and moved away. Duke Bonaparte politely raised his hand in response to his retreating figure.
* * *
Eve inhaled deeply. Somehow, her vision seemed blurred. She didn’t want to admit it, but she felt somewhat intoxicated.
Fortunately, the garden was deserted, providing her some relief. She didn’t want to show any weakness to anyone.
“Maybe I should sit on a bench.”
As Eve thought this and began to descend the stairs, her surroundings began to sway, and she lost her balance.
Anticipating her fall, Eve closed her eyes without realizing it. But just as she expected to tumble, a strong arm wrapped around her waist, and a warm fragrance gently enveloped her.
With that thought in mind, Eve opened her eyes and, upon confirming the person in front of her, was surprised.
It was because her arch-nemesis and husband were embracing her, both with a bright smile.
“But the scent is different.”
There was no trace of the intense perfume smell she was used to. Had he simply changed his cologne? If so, why?
Confused, Eve looked at her husband with a bewildered gaze. Perhaps it was the effects of her intoxication, but her husband felt unusually unfamiliar to her. Like a different person. It had been that way all day.
“Eve? Are you alright?”
Eve stared blankly at Charles without saying a word, and finally spoke when she sensed his genuine concern.
“Why are you using formal language with me? You’ve never done that.”
Charles looked at her for a moment, appearing slightly taken aback, before he chuckled.
“Do you want me to stop being polite, then?”
Eve shook her head vigorously.
“No, don’t you dare.”
At her response, Charles burst into laughter again. It was an unexpected side of the usually reserved Duchess.
Charles found the situation quite amusing. He glanced at Eve, whose eyes had softened, and asked.
“Why do you use informal language with me? How dare you.”
“How dare I?” Eve blinked as if she didn’t understand a word. Then, suddenly, she realized her mistake and quickly corrected herself.
“You are Fontaine de Laurent, the granddaughter of Marquiss Bernard, and…”
“I know that. And?”
“And Fontaine is…”
“And Fontaine is?”
Eve blinked again, as if she didn’t understand. As if she didn’t know French. Then suddenly, she seemed to realize what she was about to say.
“Fontaine is my current name, and Laurent is my name before marriage. That’s all.”
No one should know her true intentions for revenge yet, especially not her target, Arsen.
In the end, unable to hear her unspoken thoughts, Charles looked slightly disappointed and then released Eve from his embrace. Finally, in a rather condescending tone, he said:
“Alright, should I stop?”
Eve shook her head again.
“No, you dare not.”
“It would be best to exercise restraint with alcohol, my lady. If I had seen you in another man’s arms, it could have been a disaster.”
Eve silently adjusted her clothes and stepped back. This much risk was acceptable. Taking a deep breath, her somewhat clouded mind began to clear.
“…I made a spectacle of myself. I’m sorry.”
“There’s no need to apologize between a husband and wife. Let’s just go home. We’ve done everything we need to here today.”
“Can you walk, or would you like me to carry you?”
“…Just hold my arm.”
Eve’s displeased expression made Charles smile wryly as he turned away. Eve glared at his back for a moment as if to say, “When did this happen?” Then, she arrived at a single conclusion.
“Maybe that man isn’t Arsen.”
Such a shocking conclusion.
* * *
Eve had never seriously considered the possibility that Arsen might be someone other than the man she knew, no matter how strangely he behaved. Her thoughts had always been just whimsical jokes, as if thinking of someone else entirely.
But on the day of the reception, too many strange things had happened. Her suspicions reached their peak when Duke Bonaparte captured Arsen.
Why would a man who had no prior acquaintance or interest in politics suddenly become an outstanding statesman in the Empire? It was utterly incomprehensible.
So, on an impulse, she pretended to head for the garden and hid behind a pillar to observe the two men. What she saw was an even stranger scene than she had anticipated, as if they were well-acquainted.
Of course, Arsen could have had friendships she knew nothing about. No, he probably had many such unknown acquaintances.
But for Fontaine de Laurent to be close to the Duke? That was inconceivable. If such a thing had happened, there would have been a major scandal.
And when she saw Arsen smiling and talking to Duke Bonaparte, pretending to be on friendly terms, Eve felt it. That the man before her wasn’t the man she knew.
No matter how much she tried to hide her true intentions, she couldn’t help but feel that her target, Arsen, knew something. So, Eve watched him closely, testing him by pretending to be drunk. He behaved as if he was exploring himself, like a child who had found an interesting toy.
There had been many reasons for suspicion from the beginning. His flirtations with women, calling her by an affectionate nickname he had never used before, and suddenly taking an interest in politics. It all added up. It wasn’t just a hunch; it was a conclusion.
He wasn’t Arsen. Or at least, her heart wasn’t saying so.
Eve’s cold logic wanted proof, something beyond just a change in manner or atmosphere. She wanted something to prove that the man she knew wasn’t Arsen.
As she contemplated this, a certain invitation caught her eye.
“It seems Madame Laurent is still coveting Madam’s treasure this year. It says, ‘It would be an honor to see Madam’s pink diamond ring.’”
Elisabeth de Laurent, the Countess of Laurent. She was known as a collector of rare items and a philanthropist, often hosting private auctions of her collection. This time, an invitation to her auction had also reached the Fontaine de Laurent family.
However, Eve had no interest in extravagance or precious items, and she had no intention of attending this event either. After all, Countess Laurent was targeting the ring she had received as a gift when she married into the Fontaine de Laurent family.
It was baffling how obsessed she was with that ring, and Eve went to great lengths to confirm whether she would be attending any event.
“Arsen always attended these events every year, though.”
He did so because he enjoyed luxury, and it was also an opportunity to buy gifts for his mistress.
Of course, there were times when he only bought gifts worth 50,000 gold coins, as in the case of Marquise Dubois. However, for a woman who sincerely cared about appearances, he did occasionally buy expensive luxury items as gifts. Like he did for Cecille.
Therefore, Arsen had never missed an auction by Countess de Laurent and was an enthusiastic participant.
“…Wait a minute.”
Suddenly, a thought occurred to Eve, and she paused.
“What if the gift ring is put up for auction, and Arsen doesn’t recognize it?”
In any case, the ring wasn’t of much importance. She didn’t feel grateful or sentimental about any gifts from the Fontaine de Laurent family. They were taken from her family’s Laurent lineage, after all.
However, she had continued wearing that ring after receiving it, and Arsen hadn’t seen it since their marriage.
Although it was a unique pink diamond with a distinctive pattern engraved on the ring, even if Arsen didn’t recognize it, he hadn’t asked about it.
‘…If Arsen doesn’t recognize the ring at the auction, it might be evidence that he’s not the real Arsen.’
She worried about what would happen next if Arsen wasn’t the real one. Nevertheless, for now, she needed to confirm the facts. She could decide how to proceed later. After all, she was the one who had seized this information.
…How did she end up worrying about such things instead of revenge?
“My head hurts.”
Eve murmured absently, and Emma, surprised, approached her.
“Is your head hurting, madam? Shall I fetch some medicine for you?”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll be okay if I rest for a bit.”
“Then, may I bring you a sweet treat?”
Eve hesitated for a moment and then nodded.
“Sure, bring me something. Emma, you should take a break, too.”
With that, Eve got up and walked out of the room, leaving Emma behind. She didn’t want to call another servant, and because of her past experiences, she felt a bit uncomfortable giving orders to anyone.
“Ah, it’s here.”
Eve found a cookie box and decided to help herself to a few cookies. It was almost as if she were getting rid of her guilt.
However, just then, she heard voices coming from the dining room, which was connected to the kitchen.