“Good morning!”

“G-Good morning, Young Lady.”

Amy, the maid, faced Adeline with a confused expression.

It was already the second time that Adeline, who slept in a lot, was awake first.
And she was even starting her day today with a bright smile.
Adeline was not a lady who expressed her feelings easily.
However, Amy’s eyes were bound to widen because she was smiling so openly like that.

Adeline, who came downstairs, greeted Enoch while still smiling.

“Good morning, Brother Enoch.
Where is Brother Leo?”
“He’ll come down right away.
How come you came down first? Do you have any good news?”
“Good news? No.
There is no news.”
“You are in a really good mood early in the morning, so I thought there was.”
“Is that so?”
“Howdy.
Good morning, everyone!”
“Good morning, Brother Leo.”
“What is this? Why is Adeline in such a good mood? That’s not something easy to see early in the morning.”

Starting with Amy, Enoch, and even Leo, everyone looked at Adeline with puzzled faces.

Whether they did or not, Adeline hummed, not caring at all about their reactions.
She was very happy just thinking that Kael would stop paying attention to her after what happened last night at the battlegrounds.

‘Things will go smoothly with Vanessa now, right? Since Vanessa’s face showed that she had fallen in love with the Grand Duke at that time.’

She didn’t know why the original story had changed, but Adeline believed that as long as Kael stopped being interested in her, everything would go back to how it was supposed to be.
Even if there was a variable, it would be enough if the ending was the same.
No matter what happened, if Kael and Vanessa fell in love, and Adeline died at the hands of Kael while trying to harm Vanessa, she could end her long possession.

‘I just need to avoid the Grand Duke.
Well, we don’t have any place to bump into each other now, so we won’t meet.’

Adeline picked up the fork and knife with a refreshed face, like a person whose indigestion had passed.

“By the way, Adeline.
Have you looked into Sophia’s invitation list for her debutante?”
“Oh, I’m sorry.
I’ve been so distracted lately that I’ve forgotten.
I’ll check right after the meal, Brother.”

Adeline replied, startled.
She completely forgot about it because Kael had suddenly gotten involved with her, but Sophia’s debutante, which was going to happen at the mansion in five days, was a very important event.

Sophia was Adeline’s cousin and the daughter of Count Delphine.
Countess Delphine was Adeline’s aunt.

When the four siblings lost their parents early, many members of their family who anticipated their grim future cut off their ties.
Only their aunt, the Countess, helped the four siblings both materially and emotionally.

Thanks to the fierce efforts of the four siblings, led by Enoch, the reputation of the Tien family grew above everyone’s expectations; and the siblings always took action for their aunt, who never let go of them.

Sophia’s debutante was also one of several things that they gave in return for her help.
Holding a debutante in their mansion under the halo of the Tien family was like setting out with wings in the social world.

“Grand Duke Inver must have received an invitation this year too, right?”

Leo, who was listening to the conversation between the two, put down the glass he was holding and spoke.

It was customary to send invitations to all the high-ranking nobles staying in the capital.
Kael did not stay in the capital most of the debutante season, so he was always excluded from the list of invitations; but this year was different.

“But I’m sure he won’t come.”
“I suppose so.
Grand Duke Inver is famous for not attending any social parties.
But I think Sophia would be happy to just be able to send him an invitation.”

Adeline nodded and thought for a moment, as if Leo was right.

‘Will he come? According to the original work, Vanessa’s party was the first party that the Grand Duke attended, and the whole city turned upside down.
He doesn’t attend any parties, so he probably won’t come.’

After clearing up her thoughts, Adeline nodded and focused on her breakfast.

There was no way Kael would come.
And he shouldn’t come.
Never.

 

***

 

“Adeline, you decorated it so beautifully.
You don’t know how grateful I am.”
“Don’t say that, Auntie.
Compared to what you’ve done for us, there is still a long way to go.”

Sophia’s debutante ball came quickly, and the Tien mansion was crowded with guests who responded to the invitation.

Adeline prepared the ball with even more care than her own debutante, and as a result, a very glamorous and beautiful party venue was prepared.

“Your Excellency.
All the guests on the invite list have arrived.”
“Then, let’s close the g…”
“Your Excellency! Your Excellency!”

Just as Enoch heard that everyone had arrived and was about to order the gate to be closed, a servant ran to him.

“What’s with all the commotion?”
“Another g-guest is here.
B-But…”

Even before the servant finished speaking, a guest came inside the mansion.
At that moment, the siblings who had come out to meet the guests, as well as the guests, hardened in surprise.

“… Your Highness!”
“I’m glad I’m not too late.
You don’t know how worried I was that the gate might have been closed.”

A man with blonde hair and orange eyes, which proved that he had inherited royal blood, smiled leisurely and greeted them.

It was the Crown Prince.
He had come to the debutante himself.
He was wearing a red uniform, which symbolized the crown prince.
It was obvious that his clothes were made in a way that highlighted his tall height and wide shoulders.

As it was customary to send invitations to all the high-ranking nobles staying in the capital, it was also customary to send an invitation to the Crown Prince.

However, it was extremely rare for the Crown Prince to attend the ball himself.
He would either send a big or a small gift instead of attending, and depending on the type and size of the gift, the status of the young lady holding her debutante would be revealed.

But attending like this was unbelievable.
It was an enormous event.

“I didn’t expect you to accept our invitation, Your Highness.”
“I hope you didn’t include me without thinking? I’m worried that I might be an unwelcome guest.”

“How could that be? It’s an honor for you to be attending in person.”
“It’s because I have a lot to talk about with the Marquis.
I also have something secret to tell you.”

As the Crown Prince said he wanted to tell something ‘secret’, he stared at Adeline.
It meant that he had Adeline in mind.
At that moment, Enoch’s eyes sharpened as he faced him, and Adeline’s eyes shook.

‘What is wrong with that crazy guy?’

Adeline was appalled and astonished.
It was an explicit expression of intention, enough for the guests who gathered around the entrance to understand the meaning of it.

Although the Crown Prince and Kael had confronted each other over a woman in the original work, the female protagonist was Vanessa, not Adeline.

‘No, am I the female protagonist? The Crown Prince and Adeline never met in the original work, so why is he acting like this?’

She couldn’t even estimate how far things were going to get messed up and twisted.

“… Please come inside, Your Highness.
I will take you.”
“Haha.
I see.
The night will be long.
Let’s talk slowly.”

Enoch, who had a slightly stiff expression, led the Crown Prince inside.

But then, a new guest was heard coming in.

“… That’s impossible.”

The moment she checked the face of the guest who appeared at the end like a protagonist, Adeline muttered in a small voice that only she could hear.

“I’m late.”
“…”
“It’s the first time I’m coming to a party like this.”

It was Kael.
Grand Duke Inver, who, despite the thousands or tens of thousands of invitations, never attended any party unless it was an imperial event, had come to the Tien family’s mansion.

Everyone looked frozen at Kael, but there was only one person at the end of his gaze.
Adeline.
Kael looked only at Adeline.

‘… Ah.
Please.’

Wouldn’t it be better to faint? Adeline really wanted to lose her consciousness.

 

***

 

“I’m going crazy.
Does this make sense?”

Adeline, who came out to the small terrace that connected to a corner of the hall, mumbled nervously while pacing back and forth.

From the moment Kael entered the mansion completely, Adeline had been desperately avoiding him.
Even though she could feel his blue-grey eyes following her the whole time, she ignored them thoroughly.

“Is he still interested in me after seeing me talk back to him like that? What kind of human is he?”

She thought he had lost his feelings for her.
So, she smiled and rejoiced, confident that she would no longer get involved with him.
However, contrary to Adeline’s expectation, Kael was even more interested in her.

“What have you been mumbling about since earlier?”
“Aaah!”

Adeline screamed at the familiar low voice that had been heard without her feeling a single person approaching her.
Surprised, Adeline instinctively stepped back, and at that moment, her feet twisted and she lost her balance.

“Ah!”

As she was giddy, thinking that she would certainly fall backwards, Kael grabbed her.
Kael’s big hand grabbed Adeline’s arm, and his firm arm wrapped around Adeline’s thin waist.
It looked like Kael had pulled Adeline into his arms.

“…”
“…”

Adeline held her breath without realizing it and looked at Kael.
Being so close to him that she could even feel the temperature and hear the sound of his breath, the blue-grey eyes she faced glistened exceptionally.

It was strange.
Perhaps because of the exceptionally bright moon today, or the sound of music coming from beyond the door of the terrace, she looked at him blankly.
Even though it wasn’t the first time she was facing him.

“L-Let me go.”
“… Ah.
I’m sorry.”

In the end, it was Adeline who broke the strange atmosphere first.
It was difficult to endure the heartbeat and sensations that were different from usual.

Adeline immediately got away from Kael.

“Why are you here?”
“Says the Lady who sent me an invitation.”
“Every high-ranking noble staying in the capital should receive an invitation…”
“Exactly.
“I’m a high-ranking noble.
I just came because I was invited.”

It was a ridiculous excuse.
Kael had never responded to an invitation before.

“You never come to events like this.”
“Because they’re boring.”
“This is no different…”
“No.
The Lady is here, right?”

Adeline’s mouth opened at Kael’s reply.
Adeline barely managed to get her dazed mind together, and then continued.

“Are you going to talk about that contract again?”
“Yes.”
“Even after seeing me like that the other day? A marriage contract with a young lady who goes to the battlegrounds dressed as a man?”
“I was even more convinced by how you looked that day.
Convinced that the Lady is the right person for the contract I want.”
“On what kind of basis!”

The more he spoke, the more Adeline was upset.

“I told you.
I have a fiancé.”

“Is that so?”

Kael asked, grinning.

‘Ah… He knows.’

Although he asked the same way, Adeline noticed that he had confirmed the veracity of her fiancé.
With all the prepared cards gone, the best course of action was running away.

“I’m feeling light-headed with the sudden cold wind… Ah!”

Adeline, who thoughtlessly complained of pain while trying to escape this place, stopped.
Her ankle tingled whenever she tried to move her left foot.
It seemed she sprained it when she twisted her feet a moment ago.

“You seem to be hurt.
Let me see for a moment.”
“What? No.
I’m fine.
There is no prob— ah!”
“You can’t even walk.
It’ll only take a moment.”
“I said I’m fine.”
“I don’t think you want to walk with a limp around your cousin’s debutante ball.”

Adeline, who recklessly tried to avoid him, sighed and pressed her forehead.

She wanted to say no, but Kael was right.
All eyes were drawn to Adeline because of Kael and the Crown Prince, and she didn’t want to hurt Sophia by looking even more unsightly.

“Come this way.”

Kael sat Adeline on a low ledge that connected to the wall, and then knelt on one knee in front of her.

“It’s already swollen.
More than expected…”
“Oh my! Oh, my goodness!”

While looking at her slightly exposed ankle, a loud exclamation squeezed in between Kael and Adeline.

The eyes of the two ladies who had come out to get some air twinkled while looking at Kael and Adeline.

“We apologize.
We were discourteous in this important moment of a marriage proposal!”
“We’ll pretend we didn’t see anything, so go on and finish it.
Ohoh.”

Adeline’s face crumpled at the words ‘marriage proposal’.
Then, she quickly realized her and Kael’s position and opened her mouth in dismay.
No matter who looked at it, it certainly looked like the moment of a marriage proposal.

“Ah…”

Adeline sighed and tried to clear up the misunderstanding, but the two ladies quickly went inside again.
It just so happened that the two of them were famous for speaking a lot.
It was obvious what kind of rumors would go around in there.

“Lady Letta! Wait a minute…”

The moment Adeline got up from her seat to somehow stop her, she found another young lady watching the situation with shaking eyes.

“… Lady Felix.”

Vanessa had witnessed this scene.
The tremendous scene that was just perfect to be misunderstood as a marriage proposal.

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