With his mouth wide open as if he couldn’t believe what I just said, the Count’s aide poked Renée on the side.
Because she was frightened of what had happened at the County when I went away, she pleaded with me.
She wept and covered her face with both hands, and I saw a blue bruise staining her wrists.
I stood up and rolled up her sleeve, blocking the Duke’s line of sight with my body.
As expected, Renée’s arms were full of bruises.
‘The Count must have vented his anger on her.’
I knew from the novel that Renée was usually treated coldly by the Count and the Countess.
However, seeing traces of violence like this with my own eyes was more shocking than reading it in text.
I was going to have to ask for help from the Duke.
“Excuse me, but can we postpone this meeting a little later? I have something to talk about with my sister first.”
The Duke, who had been watching the situation as if he was a third party until then, sneered as though what I said was ridiculous.
“You just got out of confinement, but you still don’t realize what you did last night?”
That sarcasm bothered me.
It was undoubtedly true that he’s the owner of this place, and I knew that he might not like it that I came here uninvited, but I was a bit on edge right now.
And I felt embarrassed because he kept telling me that I smelled.
Clearly, it was against etiquette to enter his room like that, but he also must hide his illness from any prying eyes.
Although I wasn’t certain if it was because of pain or anything, I could understand why he got angry and locked me in my room, even if he did so a hundred times, because he must have been mortified for being out of his mind and acting strangely.
Still though, I couldn’t believe he said that I smell.
I thought that type of teasing was only done by kids.
That’s why I was a bit more blunt now.
“From what I remember, while wandering around the mansion yesterday, I stumbled upon the Duke who seemed to have needed my help.
So, I helped.”
I brazenly raised my chin, acting much like an aristocrat and imagining what Rowaine would have said at this moment.
I even reproached him a little.
“But even after getting help, the Duke imprisoned me and accused me of making a mistake, which is so unlike a gentleman.
To top it all off, you’ve even mocked me by saying that I smell.”
The Duke had long-since suffered from the torment of the magic poison.
While looking for a way to break this curse so he could quell the overwhelming pain, he would eventually be led to this novel’s female lead, the Imperial Princess.
I just figured that he wouldn’t be able to let go of me easily since I showed my healing ability.
Even if that wasn’t the case, what would he actually be able to do to a Count’s daughter?
If I were to be berated, then I could say I was just looking around the mansion.
He might be offended by my lack of courtesy, but the Duke couldn’t do anything to me just because of that.
As expected, he frowned as if offended, but he didn’t get angry or pursue the topic any further.
Instead, he commented on the ridiculousness of the situation.
“Mockery? You’re shamelessly trying to brush it off.
I can still smell you.”
On the side, Count Larscel’s aide waved his hand hurriedly, not wanting to hear about what had transpired last night.
“Don’t we have a lot to talk about regarding this ridiculous switcheroo? Anyway, it looks like your sister’s about to faint any second now.
Take her away and calm her down.
I don’t want to be responsible for a corpse in my house.”
‘Corpse? That’s too much.’
Regardless, it was permission to take Renée with me.
So, I quickly led Renée out.
“Milady! Lady Rowaine!”
The Count’s aide tried to chase after us, but I shut the door right in front of him.
* * *
“Why didn’t you run away?”
When I was alone with Renée, the question I had been wanting to ask came out.
Seeing her crying, I took a deep breath and softened my voice.
I didn’t mean to get angry.”
Renée bit her mouth even more like a clam.
To her, I might be no different from our abusive parents since Rowaine had done nothing to stop their abuse.
With that in mind, I persuaded her gently so that she could trust me a little more.
“Did Father do this? How long has it been since he started hitting you? Where else does it hurt?”
“No, you’re not.”
I inspected Renée’s arms and legs to see if she had any major injuries.
Thankfully, other than the bruises, there didn’t seem to be any complications.
While trying to get a conversation going with Renée, I gently poured my energy into her.
Without her noticing, the wounds gradually faded.
Even though I wanted to heal her completely, I decided not to and withdrew my energy moderately.
It’s because I still couldn’t trust her completely.
‘I still don’t know the limits of this power, so it’s best to keep it a secret.’
Then, I put a hand over Renée’s hunched shoulder.
“Sit up straight.
It’s not like you killed someone.”
“But now… What are we going to do?”
“What do you mean? Do you want to follow Father’s order and marry the Duke of Blois? I told you already, I don’t want to be the Emperor’s mistress.”
“But you wanted to be His Majesty’s mistress, didn’t you?”
“Sister may not have known, but during that time, I was also being forced by Father.
I don’t love the Emperor.”
‘Since it’s from my point of view and not Rowaine’s, then it’s technically not a lie.’
I wasn’t sure if she believed me or not, but somehow, it seemed like Renée decided to accept that she was now in the same boat with me.
“Actually… I couldn’t tell Nigel to run away.”
Nigel, her lover, was a knight of the Larscel family.
I’d seen him before.
He was a knight who swore allegiance to the family, but held no such thing as loyalty to the Larscel patriarch.
It was impossible to know how exactly he felt about the other family members.
‘I don’t know for sure, but maybe he merely wanted to climb the ranks.’
The first head of the Larscel family was a great swordsman.
I asked Renée carefully.
“Don’t you trust him?”
“It’s not that I don’t, but… He never asked me to marry him.”
I was at a loss for words.
Naturally, as a knight, he would not have been able to propose to Renée first.
How could he have proposed to his master’s daughter in the first place?
“Propose to him first, Renée.
The notion that men should propose first is an archaic practice to make it possible for only men to win the woman they want.
Go and get what you want.”
Renée’s eyes fluttered slightly.
I persuaded her with a little more force.
For yourself, sister.
And for me.”
“But will you be okay? No matter how much you try to go against Father, it doesn’t seem like he’ll let you go.
We’re talking about a diamond mine here.”
I couldn’t believe she continued to worry for me at times like this.
I felt sorry for Renée.
This was because in the novel, Renée was intrinsically ‘a depressingly kind and gullible character.’
That’s why I had to send her to Nigel, without letting her run away on her own.
‘I thought the plan would succeed if she was with her lover.’
It was all my fault for underestimating Renée’s personality.
“Don’t worry about me.”
Since the past couldn’t be changed, what we needed to worry about at this moment was how to escape from Count Larscel without sacrificing either one of our goals.
‘I don’t know about Renée, but the Emperor and Count Larscel won’t give up easily.
I need Duke Blois.’
He had the power to face the Emperor.
* * *
While Rowaine and Renée were talking, Dimitri left the foyer to get some fresh air.
It was because the thick grassy scent of Rowaine permeated the air inside.
Whenever he smelled it, it persistently softened his mood.
But if his mind was calm, then his vigilance towards her would disappear as well.
Dimitri struggled to sharpen his senses.
He called in the maids who had served Rowaine, annoyed that they didn’t follow his orders.
“I told you to monitor her properly.”
The maids bowed their heads, their necks straining.
“I washed her twice as instructed, and I put on the dress you sent, Your Grace.”
“I looked through her luggage, but I couldn’t find any perfume…”
“It’s the truth, Your Grace.
I watched the whole time, but she didn’t spray or put anything on her body.”
“I also checked several times, but I couldn’t smell anything.”
Judging by their expressions, it didn’t seem like they were lying.
They had no motive to lie, anyway.
Dmitri looked at the nervous maids with confusion behind his eyes.
‘Am I the only one who smells that scent?’
The sense of smell of humans wasn’t very good.
She may have used incense that could only be discerned by Shapeshifters.
At that, he lowered his gaze.
‘I heard that she abuses Shapeshifters.
Does she use a seductive kind of incense to incapacitate them?’
Just then, Hyle found him out on the porch and ran to him.
“Did you find out?”
“Yes, but I haven’t been able to find a perfume that has the same effect as you mentioned.
I even looked into the collectors, but nothing came up.”
Dimitri crossed his arms and tapped his elbow with a finger, before asking Hyle again.
“You can’t smell that scent either, can you?”
“Yes, I really can’t.
How effective is it that you care so much about it?”
At his words, Dimitri let out a pained groan.
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It’s crazy good.
It can really drive a person to madness—to the point where I can’t get my shit together.”
Hyle stared in bewilderment at Dmitri’s vehement reaction.
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