Eve called his name as she chased after him, but he didn’t respond. Eve pushed her way through the crowd, desperately trying to follow Arsen.
“Arsen, please wait!”
Finally managing to slip through the people, she caught sight of Arsen turning a corner. Eve abandoned all pretense and grabbed Arsen’s arm with all her strength.
The man finally turned around, removing his mask, and in the next moment…
“Who are you?”
Eve paled. It wasn’t Arsen.
It couldn’t be. They were dressed alike, even their hair color was the same…
“Ah, I’m sorry.”
Only then did Eve snap back to reality at the man’s voice. Had Arsen never been there from the beginning? Or…
“I might not have noticed him. For now, I need to get back home as soon as possible.”
Having made up her mind, Eve hurriedly left and headed for the carriage waiting on one side. Emma, who had spotted Eve, greeted her enthusiastically.
“Miss, did you enjoy the auction?”
“Let’s go back, Emma. Quickly.”
“Oh, um, yes.”
Flustered, Emma hastily followed behind Eve. Eve got into the carriage, and with a sense of urgency, she instructed the coachman to depart.
Upon arriving at the mansion, Eve checked the stables, but there was still no sign of Arsen’s carriage.
“If Arsen comes to find me and asks about the ring, there’s a high chance he’s the real one. If not…”
Eve mentally prepared herself for the possibility that something had happened to Arsen in one way or another. With a nervous heart, she waited for Arsen.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, news reached Eve that Arsen had returned. Then…
At the sound of knocking, Eve unconsciously jumped to her feet.
“It’s me, Eve.”
Eve opened the door before he had even finished speaking. Charles appeared slightly surprised but soon smiled.
“May I come in?”
The door closed, and Eve raised her head. Charles stood by the door as before, not venturing further inside.
Eve stared intently at the man before her. No matter how she looked at him, he was her husband. So, had he recognized the ring?
“Is there something wrong with my face?”
Charles suddenly asked, catching Eve off guard.
“You were just looking at me without saying anything.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m a bit tired today. What’s the matter?”
Eve regained her composure and asked, to which Charles smiled and replied, “I went out and returned, so I wanted to greet you. It’s a husband’s duty.”
“Is that all?”
Charles asked with a quizzical expression, one that clearly indicated it wasn’t a genuine question. Eve spoke with a suspicious tone, “Did you go to Lady Laurent’s auction today?”
“Were there any interesting items?”
At her question, Charles seemed to remember something and took a small box from his pocket.
“I bought a gift for you. We made a promise, didn’t we? To exchange birthday gifts.”
“A gift, you say?”
Strangely, Eve felt a sense of strangeness from the man before her. He was Arsen, but instinctively, she felt guarded. So, Eve said, “You can come in anytime.”
At that, Charles expressed surprise.
“It’s not proper to enter a lady’s room without permission.”
“I give you permission.”
“Is it really okay?”
“You’re my husband, after all.”
At the mention of “husband,” Charles chuckled softly and approached Eve. As he came closer, Eve instinctively tensed.
Eventually, Charles stood before Eve. She couldn’t help but scrutinize him. He looked exactly like Arsen, but she felt a strange sense of unease.
Eve’s body stiffened as Charles opened the box. When she saw its contents, her complexion turned pale. It was the pink diamond ring, the wedding gift between the two of them.
“How did you…”
Certainly, Arsen couldn’t have won this ring. The winning bidder must have been…
Eve was in a state of confusion when Charles asked, “Did you miss me?”
Suddenly, the mask he held in his hand bore an uncanny resemblance to the one worn by the tall, blond man sitting beside her at the auction. It was only then that Eve realized that man had been her husband all along.
In shock, she stammered, “Why the disguise?”
Charles replied with a sly smile, “Because I find your efforts quite entertaining.”
Eve’s arms tingled with unease. Trying not to show her tension, she asked, “Did you know from the beginning?”
“Of course. You need to have at least one eye and one ear open in this mansion. I knew you were testing me with the auction. Offering this ring and secretly participating.”
Eve muttered without realizing it, and Charles’ eyes narrowed into crescent shapes.
“Why would it be a lie? Your foolish husband wouldn’t be that thorough, would he?”
He’s familiar, he’s got the familiar eyes, but he feels so unfamiliar.
Eve reached out her hand unconsciously, and her fingernail lightly touched Charles’ cheek. His eyebrow twitched.
“Hmm, this is something new.”
Eve, standing firm, lifted a candlestick and pointed it at Charles.
“You’re not my husband. But…”
Charles rested his chin on his hand and leaned back in the chair.
“I am Charles-Louis de Friese, the Emperor of the Turan Empire.”
The unexpected name left Eve momentarily stunned. Charles, however, grinned, propped his chin up, and chuckled softly.
“As you can see, I am your husband.”
Eve was at a loss for words. She couldn’t comprehend what this man before her was saying. She tentatively asked, “Are you insane?”
Charles responded with a smirk, “Well, I hadn’t planned on revealing this, but it seems you’ve caught on. I can already imagine the scolding from Tiago when he finds out. But…”
Eve still couldn’t wrap her head around it and asked, “Hey, are you insane? Pretending to be an emperor. That’s a crime against the royal family.”
“Calling me by my name won’t work. I don’t know what’s going on with you, but if you claim to be an emperor, then I’m the empress.”
Charles looked genuinely surprised. It was a statement that, if heard by Bonaparte or Thiago, could lead to dire consequences.
“It’s fine. I’m not particularly fond of my own mother either. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like you.”
However, Eve still shook the candlestick threateningly and asked, “Have you recently suffered a head injury or… Perhaps your vigor as a man has diminished?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
Charles seemed bewildered for a moment, but then he recalled the eel dish and adopted a thoughtful expression.
“Could it be that’s what you meant?”
“What else could it be? Why would I bother cooking for you?”
Charles seemed genuinely apologetic in his response, which infuriated Eve to no end. She stomped her foot in frustration.
“Then what’s going on? What’s the problem? Why are you spouting nonsense about being an emperor?”
Charles appeared momentarily flustered, but then he realized that Eve was acting this way because she couldn’t trust him. Her husband suddenly claiming to be an emperor was indeed unbelievable. If she had immediately accepted it, that would have been even more suspicious.
He calmly attempted to reassure her, “If I weren’t an emperor, how would I know so much? Why would I have conversations with Duke Bonaparte? And my body is perfectly fine. I may lack interest in women, except for you, of course.”
“Fontaine Duchy has benefited greatly from your management. The Duke has completely lost interest in affairs of state, though. Thanks for your commendation regarding my tax policy; it gave me quite a headache.”
Seeing Charles’ composed demeanor and hearing his explanations, Eve, who had been increasingly frustrated, finally broke her silence and said,
“I told you. I understand that you’re not Arsen. But what you’ve said doesn’t prove you’re an emperor.”
Having failed to convince her, Charles shrugged nonchalantly and mumbled, “Well, you’ll believe it in time.”
“In time? I wouldn’t even consider spending time with someone of unknown identity…”
As Eve protested vehemently, Charles suddenly stood up.
“Don’t come any closer.”
“Are you planning to attack me? That might be considered a noble injury. But more importantly…”
With a swift motion, Charles snatched the candlestick from Eve and tossed it behind him before saying, “Won’t you hold my hand?”
“Let’s join forces to destroy the other me.”
Eve was puzzled by the words she couldn’t understand. In response, Charles burst into laughter.
“You clearly don’t like ‘me.’’ No, you despise and loathe ‘me’ to the point of nausea.”
Eve quickly realized that when Charles spoke of ‘me,’ he meant the real Arsen. She regretted not being more meticulous about her revenge plan.
“I don’t like that man either. He’s ugly, presumptuous, and lucky. So let’s join hands and bring him down.”
“Bring him down? How?”
Eve’s expression turned cold as she heard Charles’ next words.
“By using the power of Laurent’s authority.”
“It seems that my body won’t return to normal, but I must reclaim my rightful place. However, the power of the Fontaine family alone won’t be enough.”
In the next moment, Eve grabbed Charles by the collar.
“Don’t dare mention my family’s name in the context of a rebellion.”
Surprised by Eve’s sudden action, Charles burst into laughter, as if finding it quite amusing.
“What’s so funny?”
“The more you resist, the more I like you. It’s making me quite excited.”
Eve frowned, clearly uncomfortable.
“I dislike both Arsen and you more and more.”
“Feel free to hate me. I’m used to being disliked.”
Eve released the lapel she had been holding, and Charles smoothed his clothes.
“Since I’m ugly, I should at least dress neatly.”
Honestly, Eve thought it was an exaggeration to call Arsen ugly, no matter how much she despised him. No matter how many times she cursed him, Arsen was undeniably handsome. She wondered where this sudden complex about his looks came from.
‘Her Majesty the Empress praised him for being so beautiful…’
Suddenly, Eve had such a thought, but she quickly dismissed it. There was no way that weirdo could be the Emperor.
“Today, I should leave now. It’s not proper to stay this late.”
In response to Charles’ remark, Eve hurriedly asked, “Wait a moment. Who are you?”
Charles raised an eyebrow at her question. “I told you. I’m the Emperor of this country.”
“You don’t have any intention of telling the truth…”
“No, I just told you.”
Ignoring Charles’ indignant protest, Eve waved her hand dismissively.
“Enough. Just go. Whether you’re playing make-believe or not, I have no interest in playing along.”