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Due to her long-standing distrust of Duke Bartholomew, Cecille remained wary of his intentions.

“Despite any leniency he may show toward children, his core remains that of a villain. He wouldn’t hesitate to employ any means necessary to reclaim stolen items.”

If Duke Bartholomew were to discover that she still possessed Nebula…

He might even go so far as to attempt to cleave Cecille’s ship in half this time.

‘I must not let Duke Bartholomew find out that I have Nebula. Absolutely, under no circumstances.’

With that thought in mind, Cecille nervously bit her lower lip.

Relying on Duke Bartholomew was a tremendously risky endeavor.

And yet, it seemed to be Cecille’s only option.

* * *

Ultimately, Cecille found herself having to adopt two attitudes towards Duke Bartholomew.

To secure her residency here, she had to get close to him, but at the same time, she had to be extremely cautious not to reveal Nebula to him.

‘It’s an incredibly difficult situation. To get close while being careful.’

But there seemed to be no other way.

‘It’s alright. I can do it. Who am I? I am Cecille Winona Lynn Obedienne, feared by the entire continent, making even the mages of Magic Tower and the Roschen Kingdom kneel before me!’

Although Duke Bartholomew may have bested her in their encounter before her regression, this time she found herself twenty years prior to that event.

Duke Bartholomew wasn’t as formidable a villain as he had been in her previous life, and Cecille held the significant advantage of foreknowledge.

‘So it’s alright. There’s a chance of success.’

With that in mind, Cecille took a deep breath.

She stood before the imposing door to Duke Bartholomew’s office, steeling herself for what lay ahead.

How much preparation had she done for this meeting today.

‘The fact that Isaac, whom I introduced, showed exceptional abilities, is also proof of my abilities. So there couldn’t be better timing to appeal to him.’

Since morning, she had instructed the maids to dress her in the most charming attire possible.

Although the maids were delighted to dress her up beautifully, they would never know why Cecille made such a request.

[Stay strong, Cecille! Remember, never trust the Duke.]

Nebula also cheered Cecille on.

Cecille smoothed her attire once again and, with her head held high, knocked on the door.

Without waiting for a response, she opened the door and entered Duke Bartholomew’s office.

Inside the office, bathed in the noon sunlight, Duke Bartholomew was looking in her direction.

Working alone in the office, he was casually dressed in an open vest over his shirt, as leisurely and beautiful as a sculpture carved meticulously by a blessed artist.

Even Cecille, who had weathered many experiences as a dark mage over ten years, found herself momentarily breathless.

‘If I hadn’t killed him back then, I might have been completely captivated by that beauty.’

Cecille thought cynically.

“May I inquire as to the reason for your visit here?”

Duke Bartholomew asked in a calm voice.

“There would be nothing in my office that would interest you, Your Highness.”

Cecille clasped her hands behind her back gracefully and smiled charmingly.

“I wanted to greet the Duke.”


“I realized that although you have provided me with a place to stay and dresses, I haven’t properly thanked you.”

Though they lived under the same roof, it was exceedingly rare for the two to meet.

Duke Bartholomew was always busy with his work, and they never shared meals together.

Since the day she arrived at the house, they hadn’t properly spoken until now.

‘He’s a ruthless man who never gives way to others. I have to approach him cautiously, but also endearingly, so as not to arouse suspicion.’

Cecille approached him cautiously, step by step.

“Thank you always, Your Grace.”

Standing right in front of Duke Bartholomew, Cecille gently lifted the edges of her skirt and greeted him lightly.

Her courtesy was flawless, tailored to match Duke Bartholomew’s composed and stern demeanor. Yet, she didn’t neglect her charming smile.

Under the slenderly arched eyes, her coquettishness swelled, and her rosy cheeks sported dimples.

From gaze to posture, expression, and tone of voice, Cecille had rehearsed countless times for this moment, fully aware of how even the slightest movement could leave an impression.

It was a moment of repentance, honed by the dark mage who had once ensnared countless hearts.

Truly, it was a sight so adorable that anyone, even ordinary people, would be captivated by it.

‘I don’t expect much. This is just a first step. But if I can secure even a slight favor…’

Beneath the picturesque beauty, an urgency akin to a swan’s fluttering heartbeat surged.

Nervously trembling with anticipation, Cecille awaited Duke Bartholomew’s reaction.


“Receiving thanks is not necessary. Protecting the young princess is a given duty.”

Surprisingly, Duke Bartholomew showed no sign of being impressed.

He simply responded with a dry and polite tone.

His indifferent attitude prompted Cecille to let out a hollow laugh.

‘I never expected Duke Bartholomew to remain so unaffected.’

Her pride as a dark mage was wounded.

‘Anyway, since Plan A failed, there’s no choice but to move on to Plan B. I didn’t want to resort to this method, but there’s no other way…’

Cecille sighed, her shoulders slumping as she clasped her hands together in resignation.

“Um, Your Grace…”


“To tell the truth… I… I want to get a little closer to you.”

Cecille raised her eyebrows, looking up at Duke Bartholomew.

Her large purple eyes seemed on the verge of tears.

“I… I really like the way you’ve treated me so well… And since we’re living under the same roof, I thought it would be really nice to become closer. Is there any way we could do that?”

Even though she had been speaking in a more mature and fluent manner until now, she deliberately used a babyish tone.

All of this was part of Cecille’s scheme to evoke his sympathy for the vulnerable child.

“Your Highness.”

Seeing Cecille about to cry, Duke Bartholomew’s cold face showed a fleeting hint of surprise.

He got up from his chair and came down to Cecille’s eye level.

“How can I make Your Highness stop crying?”

‘Stirring his sympathy for a child is indeed the right move.’

Observing his reaction, Cecille smiled inwardly while controlling a triumphant grin threatening to spread across her face.

Naturally, she maintained a pitiful expression on her face.

“Um… If this isn’t too forward of me… I’m really sorry but… Just once… Could you… hug me?”

As Cecille spoke tearfully, Duke Bartholomew momentarily froze in confusion. After a brief hesitation…

“If I hold you, will you stop crying?”

After a moment’s hesitation, he lifted Cecille onto his lap.

Awkwardly, he enveloped her in a hug, his embrace tentative as if it were his first time holding someone.

Yet for Cecille, it sufficed.

His embrace was surprisingly warm.

‘It’s dangerous. I almost forgot that this person nearly killed me.’

But it was truly unbelievable.

It was astonishing to realize that the arms of the man who had pursued her for a decade, accusing her of theft and ultimately murder, could offer such warmth.

Cecille was reminded once again that she had seldom experienced hugs or physical contact with others.

Her foster parents had never embraced her or displayed any affection.

She had always imagined that parents who embraced their children were something like fairy godmothers in storybooks.

‘I… I’m quite thirsty for this kind of thing, aren’t I?’

With her eyes closed in Duke Bartholomew’s embrace, Cecille reflected on her unexpected desire for such intimacy.

‘To find solace in the arms of the man who killed me…’

With Cecille in his arms, Duke Bartholomew sighed.

“Your Highness.”


Cecille looked up at him from his embrace. His gaze seemed softer than ever.

“I heard that Goldman introduced you as the princess of this house. Is it true?”

It appeared that the plan to manipulate Isaac into praising the Duke instead had yielded success.

Modestly and shyly, Cecille smiled, concealing her satisfaction as planned.

“Yes. I got to know Isaac while I was at the Palace. I thought he would get along well with the Duke.”

Even to Cecille, the atmosphere felt remarkably pleasant. It was clear that her counterpart was undeniably favorably disposed toward her.

Although there were some difficulties, everything had ultimately gone according to Cecille’s intentions.

Duke Bartholomew enveloped Cecille’s shoulders with his arms, steadying her.

“That’s right. With your help, I’ve acquired a valuable asset. But, Your Highness, there’s no need to overexert yourself.”

“Push myself… you say?”

“I mean, Attempting to prove your worth.”