“… It’s not that I couldn’t refuse, but rather that I didn’t refuse, correct? To decline a proposal from the Petros Family in such a public setting? It would be impossible for the modest pride of a Count. I knew precisely what had occurred.”
Illyae asked, lost in thought, “How could it not happen?”
Even her father… Whenever there was trouble, he would come to Illyae asking for solutions. Though truthfully, it was exasperating. But Illyae concealed her feelings and smiled charmingly.
“Father, you see, there must be a way. Am I the only daughter in this lineage?” She tilted her head, urging him to think carefully.
“Did the Petros Family send a marriage proposal directly to us?”
The Count prodded his fuzzy memory.
“Come to think of it, it doesn’t seem like it!”
He clapped his hands together.
Lady Petros had certainly not singled out anyone.
The Countess hastily tore open the proposal.
Indeed, it was a proposal from a prestigious family, but it didn’t specify Illyae’s name!
“It says here, ‘Chloe, the most beautifully shining gem in the Empire!’”
As Illyae had suggested, it could be arranged for Chloe to go instead.
“My, clever Illyae!”
The Countess embraced Illyae tightly.
“Handling Chloe was a concern! Thanks to you, Chloe can marry and fulfill her societal role as a member of the Petros Family! It could also benefit our lineage.”
“I feel sad. Chloe going away like this….”
With that, Illyae’s expression turned melancholic.
It seemed as though Chloe’s marriage to Duke Petros was already confirmed. It truly was saddening. Illyae would shine even more with Chloe by her side. In the presence of the pitiful Chloe, Illyae appeared like a sparkling gem. The reason Illyae had been taking Chloe to social gatherings all this time was clear. People thought of Illyae as angelic, kind, and even one who looked after her mischievous sister well.
‘I can’t do that anymore, ugh.’
Still, he was Duke Petros. Of course, it was a remarkable lineage, unless there were rumors of the duke being a monster. Legend has it that the previous duke and duchess were great beauties, but their faces were so gruesome that they wore masks wherever they went, possibly due to a curse. ‘Perhaps that’s why the duke didn’t expose himself much to the outside world.’
“Chloe should be fine there…”
“Don’t worry about that! There’s talk that Duke Petros will be spending this season in the capitol! Kind Illyae, you’ll have plenty of time to bid farewell.”
It was a tale they could enjoy for a while with Chloe by their side.
Then maybe we could obtain what we need through the Petros Family.
Doesn’t Duke Petros have a special relationship with the Crown Prince?
No matter how much the Empress favors Illyae, one cannot completely overlook the opinion of the individual involved.
It might be an opportunity to approach the Crown Prince.
Illyae was confident about winning the Prince’s favor.
At least as much as the interest of a shattered Duke.
Just a bit of kindness, a touch of gentleness, and they would easily fall for it.
Simply being next to Chloe would make Illyae shine.
Behind them, a spectacular display of fireworks illuminated the sky.
An unforeseen opportunity was swiftly approaching Chloe.
Navigating the currents of fate.
* * *
“Marriage, what a useless endeavor, Grandmother.”
Lady Restro shrugged.
A faint smile graced the lips of the weary old lady, her weariness evident around her eyes.
“There is no such thing as a useless endeavor in this world, Dante. Everything is interconnected like threads in a loom. Besides, Young Lady Illyae is renowned for her prowess. Perhaps even your curse…”
Dante let out a cold chuckle.
His twisted lips held an enchanting allure, capable of captivating the gaze of women, yet as icy as his stare and tone.
Dante sharply demanded, “Do you claim to be able to undo this curse?”
With a flick, Dante discarded his mask, revealing half of his previously hidden face. A sinister aura emanated from the gruesome visage, making even the simple act of touching seem daunting.
“Can a fragile maiden break my curse? You dream too boldly.” Lady Restro tightly bit her lower lip and retorted,
“I shall personally decline this proposal. Kellos, make arrangements for the maiden.”
It was only proper to extend such courtesy for a consultation with none other than the Saintess. Furthermore, this matter was initiated by Petros’ elder, Lady Restro. For the honor of the family, it was only right for Dante to step forward.
The advisor Kellos bowed his head, hesitating before speaking further, “But, milord…”
Kellos fell silent, unable to utter another word. The curse looming over Dante was not something that could be easily dismissed.
The curse shook not just Dante’s life but that of the entire Petros Family. Lady Restro let out a deep sigh. Nevertheless, it was fortunate that he would go himself.
Dante glared at Kellos with fiery eyes and muttered, “Keep your promise.”
“…Yes, Your Grace,” Kellos replied in a subdued voice.
* * *
Mother glanced at me disapprovingly.
“Tsk. Why, oh why.”
I didn’t need to hear the rest of her thought to understand what she meant. Even though we were born as twins, why do you look like that when Illy is so pretty and radiant? That must be what she meant.
“How did you manage to attract a suitor… Tsk. Never mind.”
The Countess clicked her tongue once more. She glared at the moldy wall with eyes full of disgust, then sighed.
“You should be grateful to Illy. I heard you’ve admired Duke Petros since you were young? That’s why Illy passed up the consultation for you. Remember, it’s a match you could never attain on your own. Even after marriage, you should think about what you can do for the family.”
The Countess stared at me.
“Answer me or nod your head!”
She’ll scold if I answer and say it’s impolite if I nod. Whatever I do, I’ll get scolded. With a wry smile, I slowly uttered, “Thank you, Mother.”
The Countess gnashed her teeth and suppressed her anger. Our eyes met as she searched for faults.
With annoyance, the Countess snapped, “How can those rotten, fish-like eyes be tolerated?”
I forced a smile. The Countess visibly trembled. Her gaze toward me was filled with disdain, yet she seemed unaware of it.
There was only one thing that mattered.
This is where it all begins. So far, there was nothing I could do here. Initially, I struggled desperately to escape this suffocating fate. I might have attempted to flee dozens of times. But I was always caught. The useless power of Illy held me like a vice. Once brought back home like a stray, I had to endure Mother’s lectures until I begged for forgiveness. After repeating that several times, I realized.
It’s better to wait for marriage with Duke Petros than to live beaten and submissive like an animal.
Finally, the long-awaited opportunity has arrived for me.
In the original story, it was Chloe who married instead of Illyae.
Chloe is accused of ‘stealing Illyae’s suitor’ due to her stubbornness.
This time, Dante will take that place.
Dante, shuttling between Tirannía and Petros, will capture Illyae’s heart instead of Chloe. Yet, with Chloe’s cunning, she ends up marrying him in the original plot.
Therefore, Duke Petros must arrive.
“You must apologize to Illyae. Despite being treated like that, she still cares for you as a sister. Without Illyae, you would have been nothing more than a nobody.”
With apparent disdain, the Countess repeatedly insisted before leaving.
“Ensure you’re presentable before the Duke arrives! Failure to do so will result in your expulsion!!”
“Yes, yes, madam!”
In the original version, upon learning of the Duke’s arrival, Chloe causes a commotion and ends up going in Illyae’s place.
I remember Illyae, bruised from the encounter, was unable to face the Duke.
However, the truth was quite the opposite.
The question of what happened became irrelevant.
Illyae was the most disappointing heroine of my life.
Now, I welcomed her trickery with open arms.
At last, I’m escaping this suffocating prison.
That single moment felt like a gust of fresh air in a stale room.