“Lady!”

Adeline, surprised, tried to explain the situation to Vanessa, but was a step too late.
She couldn’t chase Vanessa properly with her injured ankle.

“If you make such an effort to walk, your ankle will get even worse…”
“Your Grace, Grand Duke.
You don’t have to do more than this.”

Knowing how Adeline’s ankle was, Kael approached her.
Adeline, however, resolutely stopped Kael with a colder voice than ever before.

“I’ll take care of my body, so I hope you’ll stop this tonight.
Have you forgotten what I said in the garden of the imperial palace?”
“…”
“Sophia is like a little sister to me.
So I wanted to give her the best debutante.
But because of Your Grace, who appeared unexpectedly, everyone in there is talking about you and me and giggling.”
“…”
“I took away the spotlight from the main character.
On the most important day of Sophia’s lifetime.”
“…”
“So don’t turn me into an ugly older sister anymore.
I sincerely ask you.”

Vanessa, who must be with Kael, went away with a big misunderstanding, and Adeline’s patience ran out.

Not only was she anxious that she would lose the opportunity to end her long possession, but she was also sorry for Sophia’s debutante, who had become twisted by Kael’s sudden appearance, so she couldn’t take it anymore.

Adeline stepped out of the terrace and into the hall, feeling stuffy.
It was already spilled milk, but she had to fix it.

***

Going inside, Adeline called a maid who was standing nearby and took her to a hidden space in the corner of the hall.

“Oh my, Young Lady!”
“Shh.
Please secure it well with one of my gloves.”
“Young Lady.
It’s too swollen.
You should go back to your room and call a doctor…”
“That’s off-limits.
I don’t want to ruin Sophia’s debutante any more.”

Adeline sat on a long sofa, stretched out her leg, and took off the long glove she was wearing, wrapping it around her swollen ankle.

Because of Leo, who got covered with wounds whenever he had the chance to handle a sword, she had a lot of knowledge about first aid.
In fact, the condition of Adeline’s ankle was such that she had to rest right away, as the maid said, and she knew that it would be more painful later if she moved while putting pressure on it, but she had no other option.

“Have you seen Lady Felix?”

“I saw her pass from the corridor to the central hall, Young Lady.”

Adeline took a deep breath and got up from the sofa with a resolute expression.
She could still feel the stabbing pain every time she applied pressure to her foot, but she endured it and walked gracefully like she wasn’t hurt.

‘Did she go somewhere else in the meantime?’

Even in the corridor and the hall that connected to it, Vanessa wasn’t anywhere.

“Ah, Lady Letta!”

While looking for Vanessa with eagerness, she found another lady who had witnessed the scene with Kael.
She expected her to spread the word, and sure enough, she was already surrounded by many people and talking about something.

Not only Vanessa, but also Letta’s misunderstanding had to be solved.
Adeline hurriedly drew closer to her.

“Oh my, Lady Adeline.
We were just talking about you.”
“Please, what you saw earlier…”
“Don’t worry.
It wasn’t a proposal, right? Lady Kara and I were completely mistaken.”
“I’m glad the misunderstanding has been solved.
But how did you…?”

She couldn’t help but question it.

‘Don’t tell me, was it the Grand Duke? No.
I don’t think he has that kind of personality.’

Kael didn’t feel the need to actively clarify the misunderstanding, nor was he the type of person to do so.
Adeline was about to open her mouth.

“Ahh.
Lady Vanessa explained everything to us.”
“Lady Felix?”
“Ohoh.
Yes.”

Adeline blinked greatly at the completely unexpected answer.

It was Vanessa.
Vanessa, who ran away with tears in her eyes, was walking around while saying that it wasn’t a proposal.
The more she thought about it, the more perplexed she felt.

‘The atmosphere is strange.’

Moreover, the gaze of Letta and the nobles gathered around her seemed serious.
The way she looked at Adeline was a little different than before.

They weren’t the eyes that were curious as they were intrigued by her relationship with Kael.
There was a surprise mixed with disapproval, as if it was unexpected.
There was not the slightest positive emotion.

“… Do you perhaps know where Lady Felix is now?”
“I’m not sure.
Did she go back to the hall? I don’t know.”

Adeline, who was thinking for a moment, bowed her head and then turned around.
As she moved away, she could see them getting closer to each other.

‘Ouch.’

She turned her body to change directions and the pain in her ankle got worse.
Vanessa had to be found as soon as possible in order to understand the unknown situation before her ankle got even worse.

‘Ah.
There she is.’

Wearing an orange dress, Vanessa was talking with a young baroness and one of her younger daughters.

“Sorry? What did you say?”
“I know, Madam.
It’s really shocking.
I was like that too.
I knew she was cold, but I didn’t know she was a scary person.”
“Really.
And Grand Duke Inver, on top of that.
What kind of weakness is she wickedly holding on to…”

As her distance from Vanessa narrowed, she heard the conversation she was having.
Both Vanessa and the Baroness didn’t know Adeline was coming because she was approaching them from behind their backs, so they continued talking.

“I don’t know what that weakness is either.
Even if I found out, I wouldn’t speak about it.
For the Grand Duke.”
“Oh my, you’re so noble.”
“But what is certain is that His Grace was asking if this was enough with a shaky face, while kneeling down on one knee.
And Lady Tien was smiling creepily as she looked down at him from above.”
“Dear heavens…”
“He was saying that they danced together at the ball as she asked him to and even made it look like they would become lovers, and was asking how much more did he have to do for it to be over.”
“Then does that mean that she forced His Grace to act? No wonder.
Everyone was surprised that he was acting so differently from the Grand Duke Inver we kno… Ahh!”

The Baroness, who had belatedly found Adeline, screamed.
Because of the unrefined scream, everyone in the hall looked at the Baroness, and, next to her, Adeline and Vanessa.

‘But why? Why would Vanessa do this? Gossiping about me? Is it because of the Grand Duke?’

Adeline couldn’t understand at all.
In the original work, Vanessa was a young lady with a reputation of being no different from a saintess.
She had a virtuous heart and was kind to everyone.

She even tried to forgive the Adeline from the original work, who aimed for her life.

But looking at the situation now, Vanessa was a villainess and Adeline was like a heroine.
Someone who had no need to do this at all was doing something wrong.

“You must have heard everything, Lady Tien.
I don’t know how you’re holding His Grace down, but please let him go.
Why is the lady of an excellent family doing such a bad thing! Why are you threatening His Grace?”

Vanessa was very determined and looked at Adeline with a resolute face, perhaps as she was about to leave.
Adeline frowned and tried to grasp the situation.

‘So… She has been going around saying that it wasn’t a proposal, but it was me threatening the Grand Duke? And that the fact he has been paying uncharacteristic attention to me was also because I was threatening him?’

As she put the pieces together one by one, Adeline’s face crumpled.

‘What in the… Vanessa is doing something like this? I am the villainess, not her… Hold on.
That’s right.
I’m the villainess! Exactly! I was a villainess, right?’

Adeline, who had been pondering, suddenly realized it.

“Lady Tien.
The bad things you’re doing…”
“Lady Felix.
That’s it.
Why didn’t I think about that? What you were saying just now, I want you to spread the word as much as you can.
Can you at least tell everyone that is here today?”
“… What?”

Vanessa’s eyes shook wildly this time.
From Vanessa’s point of view, it was natural.
Although she had been spreading malicious rumors, she couldn’t believe that the person in question was asking her to spread them even more.
She was nervous about whether Adeline was thinking hard and trying to attack Vanessa.

However, Adeline was sincere.
She sincerely hoped that this rumor would spread.

‘According to this rumor, it is easily understood that the Grand Duke has feelings for me and that I am a wicked woman who can have the great Grand Duke Inver under my control, so there won’t be any trouble.
The more she talks, the worse my reputation will be, and the Grand Duke won’t be able to talk about the marriage contract or whatever.
Because it would look like he was threatened to marry me.’

The more she thought about it, the more perfect it was.
It was unbelievable why Adeline didn’t think of it first.

“You’re the best.
Lady Felix.
This would be perfect.”
“W-What are you talking about?!”

Adeline even grabbed Vanessa’s hands tightly with an indescribably satisfied face.
Vanessa was taken aback and didn’t know what to do.

“Hahahaha!”

At a moment when the two women’s expressions were the complete opposite of each other, something unbelievable happened.

Surprisingly, Kael was the owner of the sudden, energetic laughter.
Not only Adeline and Vanessa, who were talking without realizing he was approaching them, but everyone in the hall who was watching them opened their mouths and looked at Kael.

The ruler of the North, famous for his cold character and his ruthlessness on the battlefield, laughed so brightly.
It was a scene that no one had ever seen, and no one had ever thought of seeing.
The smile on his impressive face, who had the reputation of being like the son of God, was so wonderful that everyone was out of their minds while looking at it.

“Do you not want to be involved with me that much? To the point that you welcome a rumor that will only bring bad results?”

Adeline stared blankly at Kael, unable to give any answer.
The words were hovering on the tip of her tongue, but her voice didn’t come out.
It was as if she had been trapped in the afterimage of the laughter she saw just a moment ago.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal even though I found a rat listening to our conversation, but if I knew it would go around talking nonsense like this, I should have cut off its tail.”

A voice completely different from when he spoke to Adeline was directed at Vanessa.
Vanessa’s face turned white at the cold voice and eyes that everyone knew.
No, they were even colder than that.

Kael retrieved his gaze at her without a second thought and approached Adeline.

“I was bothered by what the Lady said earlier, but seeing how you were a little while ago, I need to change my strategy.”
“What do you mean, strategy…”
“I need to win some points.
From you.”

Still not understanding what was going on, Adeline looked at Kael.
Seeing the look on her face, Kael grinned and crossed the hall.

“Lady Delphine.
Would you please allow me the honor of your debutante’s first dance?”

As soon as Kael asked Sophia to dance with a wonderful gesture, both big and small exclamations of admiration poured out from all over the hall.
Grand Duke Inver was her partner for her first dance at the debutante.
It was an immense honor, and something that would make her look great.

“Of course, Your Grace.”

Sophia smiled shyly, feeling both joy and surprise, and grabbed Kael’s hand.
Grand Duke Inver, who never attended a social party and only danced when either the Emperor or Crown Prince ordered him themselves, became the partner for the first dance of the lady of an ordinary family.

Only for Adeline.
Just because she said she didn’t want to be the ugly older sister who stole Sophia’s spotlight.

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