After contemplating for the past few days, Elysia came to a realization. Edward’s illness, the secrets of the Grand Duchy, the deal between the Emperor and Damon—all of these were a string of things she had learned for the first time.
As the novel was her friend’s work, she hadn’t taken reading the book lightly. Though she focused on the antagonist, Damon, it didn’t mean she was completely oblivious.
“Elysia? Are you nervous?”
“No, I’m fine.”
Even though this was a story before the main characters appeared, it was strange that she was hearing a completely new narrative.
And that was when she realized that it wasn’t a story about the leads.
Despite Damon being a popular antagonist, he wasn’t the lead. It was foolish to only realize it now. It was an obvious fact. The reason she didn’t know all of this was simple.
…It wasn’t covered in the book.
“Nothing is going to happen, so don’t worry too much. It’s just going to be ladies having tea and chatting among themselves.”
“I’ll be waiting nearby.”
“Yes. Take care and come back.”
Elysia waved her hand at him, who was reluctant to leave until the end. Soon after, she lowered her hand, and her expression stiffened.
As time passed, it became increasingly clear. This place was the world in the book. She was possessed as the antagonist’s wife, and her fate was to die.
…The time she was experiencing now was a story outside the book.
In other words, a subplot. It was something the author hadn’t bothered with and hadn’t written. So, naturally, she didn’t know. Everything she remembered was for the sake of the leads. And now, she was realizing it all over again. The flow of the story could only continue as originally intended.
Damon could never be redeemed by love. He had to kill the Emperor — that was the only way the leads could shine. In the process, she was one of the characters that would be sacrificed.
“Ah, Lady Armando.”
Before entering the party hall, she encountered an unwelcome figure. She was full of confidence and a lively expression today as well. She was entirely different from Elysia. That was why conversing with Lady Armando was uncomfortable.
“Have you seen the letter I sent? I haven’t received a reply.”
“I saw it.”
She hadn’t bothered to send a response. Originally, there was no friendship to allow Elysia and Sierra to exchange letters.
“I couldn’t send a reply… I’ve been too busy.”
“No, I understand that you’re very busy.”
“Shall we go in then?”
Rather than continuing the conversation with Sierra, Elysia chose to enter. In some sense, Lady Armando was one of the difficult people to talk to.
“Estelle, you arrived first.”
Inside was a vast indoor garden. No, the palace itself was a garden. The walls with openings were filled with flowers and trees, and the air was filled with the fragrance of birds singing. It was an incredibly luxurious sight.
“It’s truly beautiful.”
The scenery was so beautiful that it could only be described as such.
Countess Arianne seemed to have heard her words and snorted from across. They looked like the Empress’s ladies-in-waiting she had seen at the founding party. Since then, the group seemed to have grown, as there were a considerable number of them.
“It’s been a while, Grand Duchess.”
“Ah, Lady Caitlin.”
In the midst of recognizing familiar faces, Rowena appeared. Had she ultimately become the Empress’ lady-in-waiting?
Originally, Rowena shouldn’t have come here.
“Is today your first time attending?”
“I believe Lady is in the same situation.”
“I attended a recent tea party.”
…Another tea party? She thought private parties couldn’t be held during the founding festival period.
“It was a personal meeting with Her Majesty, just a simple gathering of ladies-in-waiting.”
Now, she seemed to be bragging about being the Empress’ lady-in-waiting. It was amusing to brag about just being the Empress’s lady-in-waiting.
“I see. Since you’ve become the Empress’ lady-in-waiting, you should be more careful with your words.”
“You haven’t learned the etiquette that you shouldn’t initiate a conversation with someone higher up first. I didn’t even greet you first.”
This world was strictly a class society. If one didn’t show an attitude that permitted a conversation, it wasn’t polite to keep talking. And typically, with this much class difference, one wouldn’t initiate a conversation.
“Grand Duchess, you seem cold to your younger sister.”
“I greet the Grand Duchess.”
Despite Countess Adrian saying greetings, there seemed to be no intention to hide the attitude of dismissing her. This was the Empress’s home ground. The fact that there was someone to watch her back could instantly change a person’s attitude, and it was fascinating.
“Marchioness Blaire is also here.”
“Countess, Her Grace and I have a separate place to greet, so I would like you to leave now.”
Seeing Arianne quietly withdrawing to Estelle’s words, Elysia felt a lump in her throat. Despite her elevated status, no one here acknowledged her. Not even Arianne, who was once a maid, acknowledged her.
Externally, she was the Grand Duchess, but internally she knew she was being ignored. She wasn’t oblivious to it, and facing it directly made her uncomfortable.
Was it like confronting a dirty truth?
“Thank you all for accepting my invitation.”
Lost in thought, the Empress’ entrance caught her eye. As expected, she entered last.
“Greetings to Her Majesty, the sun of the Empire.”
Everyone gathered, bowing and offering their greetings. It was truly a bad taste. She quickly realized that Cassandra intentionally arrived late to create such a situation, just before lowering her head,
Elysia noticed a satisfied smile on Cassandra’s lips.
* * *
One, two, three, four…
The current number of attendees was about twenty. Although it sounded like everyone could participate, it was clear they had their own league. Moreover, all the gathered individuals were high-ranking nobles.
“Is it the first time the Grand Duchess has come to our gathering?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
It was evident that everyone knew, yet she couldn’t discern the purpose behind such words. Was it to ignore her?
As she observed them, it seemed like they had been interacting for quite some time.
Among the people present, Elysia and Rowena were the only ones who seemed unfamiliar. Like her, Rowena never had the opportunity to join such gatherings. She observed the people around her, all of whom seemed unfamiliar.
Understandably so. In this place, there was no one whom Rowena could easily approach.
“You have a good sister.”
“I’m talking about your sister, Lady Caitlin. Lately, she seems like a very real woman, unlike a young lady.”
She knew better than anyone that Rowena wasn’t obedient. Was she praising Rowena?
Due to being raised as the daughter of a countess who was overly doting, Rowena lacked a certain level of tenacity. Even now, she felt subdued, but her enthusiasm remained.
“Though the sisters don’t seem very much alike.”
Of course, she expected this topic to arise.
There couldn’t be any resemblance between them. Since they had no blood ties, it was natural. If Elysia and Rowena looked alike, that would be strange.
Elysia had wavy blonde hair and blue eyes, but Rowena had light brown hair and grayish eyes. Their colors were completely different. No one could think of them as sisters just by looking at them. Even their facial features were distinct.
“I’ve heard that a lot.”
“It’s as if you’re not family at all.”
She knew the implications of the Empress’ words.
She had discovered that she was an illegitimate child. There was no way she couldn’t know. Clearly, the Empress was someone she didn’t want to be entangled with in many ways. That must be the reason she hadn’t revealed it at the founding party.
Probably to avoid responsibility.
“She’s still an immature sister, so I worry about her being by the Empress’s side.”
“Ah, you heard that your sister became my lady-in-waiting.”
Strictly speaking, she hadn’t heard that it was confirmed, though by this point, it was strange not to know. If the Empress intended to reveal such clear hostility, she wondered why the Empress had invited her in the first place.
“Her loyalty seems to be very high. That’s why I provided her with a position.”
The Empress said that all her ladies-in-waiting were faithful aides. In reality, there were no high-ranking nobles among the Empress’s ladies-in-waiting. Her displeasure was evident with the clear intention behind the composition.
“Seems like the Grand Duchess and her sister don’t get along well?”
“Why would you think that?”
It was evident that the intention was to speak only to her despite inviting everyone. Rowena, who was beaming at hearing her name without knowing anything, was funny.
“She said she wanted to enter the central social circle but couldn’t, so she appealed to me.”
She was truly a tiresome child. Although she hadn’t expected her to go to the Empress and talk like that, it was not surprising at all.
If it were Rowena, she would naturally be such a child.
“I thought the Grand Duchess, as her sister, would naturally help her…”
“I’m still lacking a lot, and I’m receiving help from Marchioness Estelle. I have no experience in helping someone yet.”
“Is that so?”
She hated the nobles’ way of speaking, trying to convey something they wanted to say while circumventing it.
It was absurd to pretend to be indifferent while their eyes revealed their hatred. The others were the same. Pretending to be doing something else, they were all eagerly watching towards the Empress and Elysia.
“By the way… I heard an interesting fact. Lady Caitlin and the Grand Duchess are not biological sisters, is that correct?”