“Young Lady, it’s time to wake up… Oh my! Are you up already?”

The maid who had come to wake Adeline was startled and stopped.
It was not common for Adeline, who slept in a lot, to be awake first.
Adeline couldn’t sleep a wink last night.

[… What did you say?]
[I asked if you didn’t want to sign a contract with me.]
[But the contract is a marriage?]

When she closed her eyes, and even when she opened her eyes, the moment when she was talking to Kael in the garden last night floated in front of her.

She tried to push Kael away by saying a lot of unpleasant things, but the words that followed were a proposal.
She tried to avoid the worst-case scenario, but a situation even worse than the worst-case scenario came to her.

[This should be a contract worth considering.
There’s only one thing I want, and the gains the other person will get in return for that are infinite.]

Even though she almost blurted out why she would make such an unfair contract, Adeline thought hard for a moment.

Kael had to marry Vanessa no matter what.
After he fell in love with Vanessa, Adeline would act accordingly to the contents of the original work, and when the angry Kael killed Adeline, everyone would be happy.
Kael and Vanessa could live without the villainess disturbing them, and Adeline could end her long possession.

However, if Adeline and Kael got married, as he suggested, everything would go wrong.
At this rate, her possession might not end, and she may have to continue on.

She felt dizzy.

[If you have no prospective spouse and aren’t engaged…]
[I am.
Engaged.]

With her mind in a hurry, she smoothly uttered a lie.
Adeline cut off Kael’s words before she could even listen to them and spat out that she had a fiancé.

She didn’t even have a prospective spouse, let alone a fiancé.

In fact, technically, she had prospective spouses lined up, but none of them could sit face to face with Adeline and talk to her because her oversolicitous older and younger brothers rejected them.

[So I’ll pretend I didn’t hear Your Grace’s words.
Well, then.]

Adeline moved away from Kael at a pace faster than ever.
The alarm that she would get involved again if she spent even one more second with him had rung out in her mind.

But in reality, when she got out, as if running away, and came home, she got worried.

‘He’s not going to investigate whether I have a fiancé or not, is he? Should I get a fake one just in case?’

With the question marks that followed one after the other, she couldn’t sleep a wink.

As the night passed and dawn broke, when the maid entered the room, she was still trapped in her thoughts.

“Young Lady.
Are you alright?”
“Ah, yes.
I’m fine.
I’ll get ready to go down quickly.”

Adeline gave a faint smile at the maid who looked at her worriedly, then slowly got out of bed.

Nothing was solved, but now that the day had dawned, she had to fight the rumors that would swarm in because of last night.

“Ah…”

It was already an exhausting day.

 

***

 

“Simeon? You’re coming at such an early hour without giving notice? Rather than that, why do you all look so…”

When she finished getting ready and went downstairs, her brothers sat with extremely serious faces and greeted Adeline.
Even her younger brother Simeon, who was supposed to be at the temple, was with them.

“Adeline.”
“Yes, Brother.”
“Did something happen last night when you were alone with Grand Duke Inver in the garden? I was wondering if he did anything rude to you.”
“What do you mean… No, nothing like that happened at all.”

Even if he made Adeline embarrassed, the ‘anything rude’ and the ‘something’ Enoch was saying didn’t happen.
Adeline frowned and looked at her brothers as if asking what they were suddenly talking about.

“Phew, that’s a relief.
It was only this morning that I heard that you were alone with the Grand Duke!”

The brothers let out a sigh of relief after hearing her answer, and Enoch, who had gone to the ball with Adeline, had his eyes wet with tears.

After entering the ball venue yesterday, he had been surrounded by many nobles who wanted to build a friendship with the Tien family, so he knew nothing about Adeline’s dance or what happened in the garden.

He didn’t even know when they came home together, and it wasn’t until he heard the rumors in the morning and heard the story that his rushing younger brothers came to tell him that he realized the situation.

“I won’t stay still if something like that happens again.
I should never have taken my eyes off you…”
“Brother.
If you’re going to do it like that, leave Adeline’s escort to me next time.
I’ll go with her.
Who will dare touch Adeline then? Who will dare to come at her when the Commander of the Fidel Knights is next to her?”
“Whether it’s Brother Enoch or Brother Leo, please pay attention.
At this rate, how can I stay comfortably in the temple?”

While the three brothers each chipped in a word, Adeline sat indifferent with a tired look on her face.

Eight years ago, after Marquis and Marchioness Tien passed away, the four siblings stood together and relied on each other.
The three brothers protected the only female sibling among them, Adeline.

Not only Enoch, the eldest son that raised the reputation of the Tien family, which was already a prestigious family, but also Leo, the second son who made numerous achievements as the Commander of the Fidel Knights, and Simeon, the youngest of the family who was considered to become the next High Priest in the temple.

Seeing how extraordinary each of them was, no one dared to break through their overprotection and approach Adeline.

“Rather, Simeon.
Did you come here at dawn because you heard the rumor that I was alone with Grand Duke Inver?”
“Sister.
Hearing that story, how could I stand still in the temple…”
“So, are you saying that word spread so quickly that you heard about it even in a secluded place like the temple?”

If the rumor had reached the temple in the early hours, it meant that the entire capital was already aware of what happened with Kael and Adeline.

Adeline pressed her temples tightly at the incoming headache.

‘Things could get bigger than I thought.
I knew that word would go around, but I didn’t expect it to spread so fast… The Grand Duke must know too, right? What if he really tries to get married using this?’

The rumors spread faster than she expected.
The impact seemed to be stronger than Adeline thought.

“Why did Grand Duke Inver ask Adeline to dance? I’ve never seen nor heard of him dancing with a lady at a ball.”
“Exactly.
I was surprised, too.
What if he fell in love with her because she’s so beautiful?”
“It’s possible enough.
Adeline is the most beautiful in the empire.
But even if he’s Grand Duke Inver, I can’t just let him approach her.”

Leo, Simeon, and Enoch were busy adding a word one after the other, but Adeline was deep in trouble, not listening at all.

‘No matter how much I think about it, I think he’ll find out if I really have a fiancé.’

She didn’t think that Kael would stay still and let it go.
She thought that she should prepare a fiancé just in case, even if he didn’t look into it.

“By any chance.”

As Adeline, who had been quiet all this time, let out a few words, the three pairs of eyes focused on her at once.

“Can I get a fiancé? Someone who is quick-witted and a good listener.
Even if we break up the engagement in a few weeks or months, it would be better if he could step back immediately without making a fuss.”

The speaker was infinitely serious, but for the listeners, what she was saying was perplexing.
Enoch dropped his fork and knife, Leo opened his mouth wide, and Simeon’s hand, holding a cup, trembled sharply.

It didn’t matter.
Because Adeline was determined.

***

[No way! You can’t get married yet! Not even if I die!]

“Why are they all so fastidious? It’s not that I’m going to get married, but I just need a fiancé.”

Adeline shook her head as she remembered Enoch, talking about marriage with veins popping out in his neck.
Just how much worse was the situation going to get? Even her brothers weren’t helping.

“Ah…”

Adeline let out a deep sigh and pressed her big hat down.

“No.
Let’s not think about it here too.
I came here to clear my head, take a breather.”

Dressing as a man, the place where she came to was the night battlegrounds.
Visiting this place was one of Adeline’s few hobbies.

Since the old days, the modest and noble things called the virtues of young ladies did not match with Adeline.
It had been like that since she woke up to the possession, eight years ago.

Adeline, who thought that at this rate she would die of frustration and boredom before dying at the hands of Kael, happened to know the night battlegrounds, and often came to see the mercenaries duel if she wanted to clear her head or take a breather.

“It’s been a long time since you came here.
Welcome.”

Adeline bowed slightly to the owner, who welcomed her as a regular guest, gave him the entrance fee, and took a seat.

The first match had already begun, and the mercenaries, eager to raise their values, were fiercely showing off their combat capabilities.

‘Hm.
The long-haired mercenary will win easily.
Nevertheless, they are both too sluggish.’

Adeline had watched Leo’s training from an early age, and she had keen eyes.
Not only did she know who would win, but she also realized at once which mercenaries had great potential.

So she watched the matches, and if there was a great mercenary, she would approach him quietly and hand him a recommendation card to take the Fidel Knights’ entrance exam.

The Fidel Knights, which were under the Tien family, were famous for easily recruiting outstanding soldiers, to which Adeline contributed greatly.
Of course, if her brothers knew, the whole household would be turned upside down, so she hid it thoroughly.

It’s been five years since she had been doing something that she shouldn’t be caught doing, and luckily, until now, no one has discovered it.

“Today’s winner is Dafo, from the silver tower!”

Time passed in an instant, and tonight’s final winner was determined.

There was a tremendous roar and shouts, and people quickly stuck to the winning mercenary to take him and started bidding.
Adeline, however, turned to another mercenary whom she had spotted in advance, without even giving the winner a glance.
He was wiping the blood off his lips, with no one around him.

Adeline approached the mercenary with a satisfied expression, and soon made eye contact.
As had been the case so far, winning him over was going to be a piece of cake.

“Excuse me.”
“No matter how much you give him, I’ll give five times more.”

The moment Adeline had spoken to him, a sudden voice stopped her conversation with the mercenary.

‘… No way.’

A relaxed, languid, low-pitched voice.
It was a voice she could never forget once she heard it.
Adeline slowly turned her head, her eyes shaking more than the mercenary’s eyes, who had become the protagonist of a sudden competition.

‘That’s impossible.’

Adeline stiffened and stared at the owner of the voice.

“Unfortunately, I had already set my eyes on…”

The man, who was trying to quickly deal with his competitor, was speechless the moment he faced the pale green eyes.

“… Why are you here?”

The man was Kael.
The person she had to avoid the most right now.
Adeline ran into him in a place she had never imagined she would.
Adeline, who was wearing men’s clothes.

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