Thump. Thump. Thump.
Irovel Hoover, no, Irovel Erestein… How big of a shock did she give him that even the heart of the one who wasn’t afraid of Tartars in the North would pound like this?
She was such a strange woman.
“Your Excellency! Are you listening to me? The Emperor is truly furious! Hey, Reinhardt Erestein! I’ll shave your head bald!”
Reinhardt’s forehead veins bulged, and he raised his eyebrows. Jade, in an attempt to hide his own mischief, trembled even more.
“The Emperor is furious! He sent a letter to the former Grand Duchess, do you know what he wrote?”
As Reinhardt was flipping through some documents, his hand came to a halt. Although Jade was determined to fix this habit of losing his mind over trivial matters as his aide, the words ‘Former Grand Duchess’ coming out of his mouth also made Reinhardt worried.
The former head of Erestein, Grand Duchess Camilla, was Reinhardt’s birth mother. She was also a concubine of the former Emperor. After she passed on the grand ducal title to Reinhardt, she remarried Count Vrello.
“What did the letter say?”
“Your Excellency, he said that you were involved in an accident with a woman you spent the night with! The whole palace is buzzing with this rumor!”
Although it wasn’t entirely untrue, it seemed to have much room for misunderstanding. Especially as someone who used to be a concubine of the former Emperor, she would probably take this news quite sensitively.
“My son, never let a night of passion decide your future. If you end up creating someone like this mother, both you and the other person will know the bitterness of life.” The words she had said as if injecting them into his mind made Reinhardt know how angry she must have been upon receiving Gerard’s letter.
[ Break up with my son right now—!! ]
Reinhardt recalled a passage from a contract marriage novel he had skimmed through. Like the mother-in-law in the novel who poured alcohol on her daughter-in-law, he wondered if his own mother would act that way.
“For now, let’s postpone the trip to the North, as it would be better if I stayed by her side. Still… would she be more uncomfortable with that…?”
Although the word ‘her’ was ambiguous, the quick-witted Jade knew who Reinhardt was talking about.
“Right, it’s better for her husband to be by her side. However, there’s something else to be worried about.”
“What do I have to worry about?”
“If you keep being cute like that, the Grand Duchess might fall for you, Your Excellency!”
As Reinhardt angrily tossed the stack of documents, they scattered through the air, prompting Jade to hurriedly leave the scene, grumbling with resentment.
“Oh dear, I’ll have to subtly meddle for the sake of our Grand Duke!”
“Don’t do unnecessary things, Jade.”
Although he said that, Reinhardt didn’t chase after Jade. He had the ability to do so, but he felt it was pointless.
“What? Reinhardt’s mother?”
I had to question my own ears.
It couldn’t be right. Camilla Vrello was Reinhardt’s mother… the woman I saw in the novel was someone known to be a terrifying person.
Camilla had tried to poison Lucia because she didn’t like her. Of course, in the original story, Lucia survived thanks to Reinhardt’s intervention though I wasn’t the female lead. I shouldn’t hold any hope that his protective instincts would extend to me.
‘…If she doesn’t like me, she’ll probably try to poison me like she did to Lucia.’
I’m going crazy. How should I plan my life now?
“That means I would be the one to entertain her alone? Reinhardt will be returning to the North.”
As I muttered anxiously, the thought of facing Camilla without Reinhardt worried me. Jade, with a slightly mysterious smile, replied.
“Do you wish for His Excellency not to leave?”
“Well, I suppose so.”
Though I was concerned that being together might lead to developing feelings for him, I was more afraid of falling victim to Camilla’s poison. Having Reinhardt by my side brought much more reassurance.
“Then, he won’t leave.”
“…Reinhardt won’t leave?”
“He said so?”
I furrowed my brows curiously, wondering why Jade said so, but he merely grinned and offered no further explanation. So, in the end, I became frustrated and decided to ask Reinhardt directly.
“Where is Reinhardt right now?”
“He is inspecting the carriages and horses prepared for the North.”
As several carriages and horses, ready for departure, stood in line, Jade pointed to the most majestic and handsome black horse at the front.
“This horse is His Excellency’s. It seems quite excited, knowing it will soon carry His Excellency on its back. Poor thing.”
“It’s very handsome.”
As I said that, someone nearby visibly flinched. It was Reinhardt.
“Wow, it seems like His Excellency reacts reflexively whenever someone says the word ‘handsome’.”
“Jade Mute, be quiet.”
Reinhardt approached Jade from afar and then cleared his throat.
“Your Excellency, the trip to the North is canceled, right? That’s what I heard.”
I was sure Reinhardt was the one who decided to postpone the trip to the North, so why did it sound like Jade was informing him? Well, regardless, maybe they wouldn’t be going to the North after all.
‘Well, whatever. Perhaps they won’t go to the North.’
“Irovel, as you heard, the trip to the North is postponed.”
“Yes, Jade told me.”
“That’s right. I informed her very well!”
At his response, Reinhardt’s expression looked somewhat strange, as if he was annoyed by something. Despite having no reason for it, I felt the awkward atmosphere.
“Jade, we need to unload the items from the carriages. You remember everything that was loaded, right?”
Jade cheerfully replied to him and rushed towards the carriages. In the meanwhile, Reinhardt whispered to me in a discreet voice.
“What should we do about the talk of the contract marriage and the painting to my mother?”
“I won’t say it to her.”
In truth, there was a reason why Camilla couldn’t like Lucia.
[ “Mother, I am actually half-demon, and as part of the contract marriage with Duke Erestein, I agreed to let him draw me. It was a contract, but now you are my family, so I want to be honest and tell you.” ]
Even though Lucia had laid bare all her secrets to her, in Camilla’s eyes, who cherished the Grand Duke Erestein greatly, Lucia seemed not just naive but foolish.
‘…I won’t act that foolish.’
Although Camilla didn’t like it, it was clear that Lucia had a good reason for her actions.
“By the way, since we are talking about the painting, have you found a reliable artist?”
The artist needed to paint my hair color for the painting to have the desired effect on the Tartars. Therefore, the artist who would paint my picture should be loyal to Erestein to the point of not being swayed by money.
“Where is the artist?”
“Here he is.”
As Reinhardt pointed to himself, my eyes widened in surprise.
“You can paint?”
“I’m not very skilled, but when it comes to painting for demons, all it requires is the intention of the subject to be captured in the painting. Skill doesn’t matter.”
Even though he had commissioned a trustworthy artist to paint Lucia’s portrait, it seemed odd that Reinhardt wanted to paint it himself.
‘I’m worried because it would be inconvenient if she were to fall in love with the artist… no, maybe the opposite could happen. Irovel is already the center of attention for men with her dazzling beauty, but if an artist were to see her smiling at the camera with the most beautiful angle… undoubtedly, he would fall for her! It wouldn’t matter if Irovel falls in love with him as a contract husband. However, if such a thing were to happen, it would be quite unpleasant.’
Reinhardt felt a sudden doubt and touched his chin. Was it because she had been around Gerard a lot? While it didn’t seem to be the only reason, he couldn’t pinpoint any other.
‘In any case, I must not let the painting be seen by anyone.’
Showing Irovel’s picture to anyone would inevitably lead to unwanted rumors.
“When will the painting be completed?”
“For now, we should focus on meeting my mother so I think I’ll finish it after that.”
“When it’s completed, will you show it to me first?”
“Sorry, but that would be difficult. While transporting the painting to the North, someone might see it.”
“…Oh, that would be a problem since they might see my hair color and report it.”
Actually, Reinhardt was worried about the painting being leaked in a different sense, but he didn’t voice it aloud.