Subjected to punishment and a plummeting reputation in the social circle, Ella had consumed all the bitterness she could bear due to the Emperor’s actions.
Hence, her heart was far from at ease.
* * *
Despite having numerous consorts, the Emperor had treated Ella with great affection.
“I have a duty as an emperor to father many heirs, which is why I have had to take multiple consorts thus far. However, when I stand before you, I forget about my obligations and can only think about love.”
He had once confessed to Ella, making her feel as if she had become the female lead of a romance novel set at the end of the century. Despite marrying the Emperor due to her family’s debts, she had gradually fallen deeply in love with him.
However, it didn’t take long for rumors to reach her ears, revealing that the Emperor had uttered the same passionate words to Irovel Hoover, another woman. It was then that she realized the painful truth.
The Emperor did not truly love her; he was infatuated with the ‘new woman.’
With this realization, a deep and simmering anger began to consume Ella’s heart.
She yearned to unleash this boiling anger upon someone, and Irovel became the unfortunate target of her wrath. Not only was Irovel an easier target compared to the other women who had entered the imperial harem before her, but she was also openly involved with the Emperor.
And now, as Ella endured the humiliation of openly competing with Irovel, her arrows of anger were aimed not at the Emperor but at the vulnerable Irovel.
‘If only that b*stard did not exist, I wouldn’t have to endure such humiliation or face His Majesty’s scolding! I want to kill her…’
Ella seethed in her heart.
On this particular day, despite being the hostess of the grand birthday celebration, Ella found herself unable to withstand the onslaught of gazes and sought solace in a corner of the room, silently cursing Irovel.
“Ella, are you alright?”
Though she believed she was hiding well, Anji somehow found her and approached her with concern.
Once an outcast herself, Anji knew firsthand the cruelty of social isolation.
It was Ella who had extended her hand in friendship during those dark times, becoming her good friend. She felt genuinely bad for the unfortunate events that Ella had experienced, and she yearned to offer her support, just as Ella had done for her.
“You have endured so much because of that d*mned woman.”
Anji sympathetically remarked.
Like they say, friends often resemble each other. Instead of placing blame on Ella, who had initially caused the situation, she directed her anger towards the innocent Irovel.
“This won’t do. I’m so angry that I have to do something about that d*mn woman.”
“What? Do you want to end up like me, causing trouble? Causing trouble won’t solve anything!”
Ella harbored a deep desire for vengeance against Irovel more than anyone else. However, she did not want her beloved friend to experience what she had experienced just moments before.
“Ella, His Majesty has already settled your debts, so you don’t have to worry about getting divorced or your reputation in the social circle. You have nothing to lose!”
Anji spoke with her usual earnest tone and then moved in the direction where Irovel was.
* * *
The musicians started playing a romantic waltz, creating an enchanting atmosphere. The Emperor, who had been tapping his fingers to the rhythm for a moment, kneeled down and extended his hand to me.
“Would you grant me the honor of dancing with you, Irovel?”
Excuse me, but shouldn’t you, as the host of this event, acknowledge the presence of your neglected wife hiding in that corner?
It was disgraceful to even approach someone else’s wife, clinging to me and holding on. It was repulsive. In my heart, even though I wanted to reject him outright, it wasn’t easy to refuse the Emperor’s invitation in such a formal setting.
I immediately think about how to refuse him.
Reinhardt’s voice spoke for me, effortlessly delivering the difficult refusal. With an expression that seemed to say, ‘So what if you’re the Emperor?’ he showed no signs of hesitation, causing the Emperor to chuckle.
“I requested her, not you.”
“Who doesn’t know that? I only spoke on behalf of my wife. Irovel is going to dance with me.”
After saying that, Reinhardt grabbed my hand and led me to the dance hall.
“Sorry for dragging you here.”
Hey, your apology doesn’t come across as sincere when you lightly place your hand on my back like that.
“I couldn’t let you dance with him.”
“You’re… you know.”
After he placed my hand on his strong arm, Reinhardt continued speaking while moving to the rhythm of the music.
“You said it yourself that you care about looks, didn’t you? I hate to say this, but Gerard is somewhat related to me by blood, so his face… It’s dangerous for you. What if you fall in love with him after dancing so closely?”
“And it’s okay for you and me to dance so closely?”
“Just close your eyes.”
It wasn’t a bad idea.
With my eyes closed, I surrender to the music. Thirteen years of dedication—seven as a trainee, three years as an idol, and another three as Irovel—have honed my skills in dancing. This extensive experience effortlessly allows me to dance with my eyes closed.
“It’s not nonsense, but I genuinely feel my heart pounding when I feel your strong arms, Reinhardt.”
I blurted out the words I had kept in my heart, attempting to divert the conversation.
Even though I said it in a hurry, it was a sincere confession. I had suspected it before when I saw his well-fitted clothes, but actually touching Reinhardt’s body made me realize that his physique was no joke.
His arm thickness was just right, not unpleasant to look at, and despite not exerting any force, it was incredibly firm.
“Didn’t you say you would try your best to become ugly? Not only your face but you should also work hard to make your body unattractive. If you don’t do it, what am I going to do?”
Reinhardt didn’t inquire further and obediently closed his mouth. Thanks to his silence, I smoothly danced to the end of the music without any awkward moments.
I slowly lifted my eyelids.
Being trapped in darkness and suddenly having the face of the most handsome person in the world filling my sight was truly enchanting.
Thump, thump, thump.
My heartbeat accelerated, and my face grew warm. Due to my hand still holding onto his strong arm, the stimulation felt stronger than usual.
I fanned my heated face with my hand and called Reinhardt softly, and he responded with a look that said, ‘What kind of nonsense are you going to say now?’.
“If I were to ask how many great-grandchildren you prefer, please slap my cheek right away.”
“Why are you suddenly talking about it?”
“People who fall in love quickly have the ability to fantasize, envisioning their marriage, grandchildren, and old age, even the place where they would gather together for a meal. Thus, the mere thought of bringing up about my great-grandchild is evidence of my deep affection for you.”
“I expected to hear something strange, but you surpassed my imagination.”
“That’s just how I am.”
As I replied cheekily while fanning my flushed face, Reinhardt carefully looked at my flushed face and asked.
“Are you feeling hot?”
“It could be due to the warmth of this place, or perhaps it’s Reinhardt’s presence that’s making me feel excited, but either way, it’s getting hot in here.”
At those words, his face also turned slightly red, either from embarrassment or something else. He grabbed the nearby attendant and spoke with a tired expression.
“It seems my wife is feeling hot, so we might need to open a window.”
“Oh, please wait a moment. I’ll open the window for you right away.”
The attendant politely replied and went to open the window.
However, right at that moment…
Out of nowhere, a bucket of water poured down on me. The heat that was burning my face instantly disappeared, and I thought, ‘Ah, how refreshing!’
When I lifted my head, the 18th concubine, Anji Newcrest, was glaring at me with an angry face. She let out a soft chuckle and opened her mouth.
“You said you were hot, so I added some cold water. Are you feeling cooler now?”
Her face clearly showed anger, and her words didn’t sound particularly mean.
I feel like I’ve heard this ambiguous way of speaking somewhere before…
“If you complain any further, I’ll fatten up that skinny body of yours until it’s plump and round!”
“If you don’t wear this necklace, I’ll roast you until your fat sizzles! I’ll roast the three folds of your belly when you sit!”
Camilla and Reinhardt also acted strangely when they showed me a favor. And now, even Anji?
Curious, I asked her.
“I’m not sure because I’m not familiar with it, but is it trendy these days to get angry while showing kindness?”