Adeline’s eyes fluttered as she faced the hot breath and low voice that reached her ears.

It wasn’t enough that the potion didn’t work, but he could also figure out what kind of drug it was just from the scent.
It was something unthinkable.

[Adeline, when are you going to get married? Are you going to the North and live there after you get married?]
[What do you… Absolutely not, Sophia.
I don’t want to get married.]
[I can’t believe it! Are you serious? There is already a rumor in the capital that you and His Grace are going to get married! They say His Grace asked you to marry him at my debutante!]
[No.
It’s not like that at all.
We’re not going to get involved anymore.
If I could, I would use a potion to make his interest for me…]

She was talking to the excited Sophia, the day after the debutante, when a sudden thought hit her.

[Why did I only think about this now?]

Adeline’s eyes glistened, and she made a plan immediately.
She wanted to reverse their relationship by using a potion that made people hate someone.

In fact, it was a very reckless and dangerous plan.
It was strictly forbidden to use magical drugs that influenced people’s minds, and it was a great sin that would take her straight to an underground prison if it were found out.

But for Adeline right now, it was most important to stay away from Kael’s attention.
It wasn’t time to distinguish between water and fire.

So as soon as her ankle was healed, she ran to the black market, used a very large amount of money to secretly buy a drug, and poured it over the blue roses.
It was a drug that made people hate the first person they encountered after inhaling its scent.

‘It is said to be a drug that never fails… It can’t be.’

It was a gamble, but she didn’t think it would fail.
But Kael broke Adeline’s expectations.

“It’s troubling.
If you sign the contract with me, it’s an opportunity for me to turn a blind eye to the secret that could lead you to an underground prison.
It’s a pretty cowardly way.”

Kael faced Adeline with a very relaxed and carefree expression.
He looked like a predator who had the perfect upper hand.
Adeline, who was the only one standing on a tilted scale, clenched her fists tightly.

“What are you going to do? I will cover this up if you marry me, and run to the military police right away if you don’t.”
“I will tell you to report it.”

Kael laughed at the response she blurted out without the slightest hesitation.
It seemed like he was expecting it already.

“From the look on your face, it seems you were taken aback that the plan you thought was perfect went wrong.
I think you’re wondering why potions don’t work on me.”
“…”
“It’s a secret why it doesn’t work.
Ah, I can let you know if you tell me you want to sign the contract right now.”

As soon as she heard his mischievous answer, angry emotions appeared on Adeline’s face.
Seeing her subtly crumpled expression, Kael bit his lips slightly and held back the burst of laughter.
Seeing Adeline agitated because the gamble she was sure would succeed had failed, which was not like her, and looking at her unusual expression, Kael kept smiling without even realizing it.

Unlike how he was enjoying the situation, Adeline’s head was about to burst.
From how the potion didn’t work, to what would really happen if Kael rushed to the military police.
It wasn’t just one or two things to think about.

“Your Grace.”

Adeline let out a shallow sigh, then called out to Kael and made eye contact with him.
As she went through the many question marks that were pouring in, there was only one question that remained at the end.

“What kind of contract do you keep insisting on? What kind of contract marriage do you want?”

At this point, she felt so frustrated inside that she had to know the details.

Adeline looked at Kael with a face that showed she didn’t understand it at all.

“Nothing special.
Literally, I just need you to marry me.
It is my hope that you will fill the vacant position of grand duchess.”
“Do you really want only that?”
“That is all, and the contract will guarantee the price of filling that position.”

Although political marriages were commonplace in the union of noble families, they were not intended to be used openly for business.
Nevertheless, Kael continued his explanation with a casual expression.

“You don’t have to follow me to the North.
You can stay in the capital, in this mansion.
As much as you want, the way you want.”
“…”
“I will let you enjoy everything you can as Grand Duchess Inver.
You will have all the wealth, honor, status, and many other benefits you can get.”
“…”
“It doesn’t matter if you never see me after the wedding.
Of course, you will have to stand next to me at official events that require formalities.”
“…”
“Other than that, you don’t have to devote your time to me.
If you want, you can have as many lovers as you want.
Whether you bring one, two, or create a greedy harem here, I won’t care at all.”

Adeline listened to Kael’s words with her mouth slightly open, without even realizing it.
She had no choice but to open her mouth at what he was saying.
She kept doubting her ears and wondering if she was listening correctly.

“That’s not a contract… Isn’t that on the level of a fake marriage?”

It was a contract that would give Kael too much of a loss, to the point she wondered if it could be called a marriage.
It was difficult to even understand why he wanted to make such a contract.

“If you’re only looking for a fake wife to stand next to you at official events, I don’t think it needs to be me.
With Your Grace’s unconventional conditions, countless young ladies will raise their hands and wait in line.”

Moreover, there was no reason why Kael’s ‘fake wife’ should be Adeline in specific.

“You’re right.
I suppose so.”
“So, instead of me, choose a lady who admires Your Grace, and marry her.
It will be a much happier…”
“That’s why I can’t.”
“… What?”

Kael cut off Adeline’s words.
Before long, the blue-grey eyes subsided, and even the faint smile that had remained throughout their conversation disappeared.

“There are only two more things I want from my contract partner.”
“…”
“One, never expect my love.”
“…”
“Two, never fall in love with me.”

Kael’s firm voice shook Adeline wildly.
She was perplexed and could not hide her shaking eyes.

“That’s why you’re the right person for the job.”
“…”
“Because you are the only woman who tries to run away from me even at the risk of being taken to prison and getting all your family members upset if you do something wrong.”
“…”
“You’re perfect.
A woman who will never love me.”

Adeline finally realized why Kael wanted her.
And how stupid she had been all this time.
The more Adeline struggled with Kael, the more certain he was that he wanted her.

‘A woman who will never love the Grand Duke… That’s ridiculous.
In that case, Vanessa would never get his attention.’

If this went on, the probability that Vanessa and Kael would get together was slim.

Adeline was once again swallowed up by numerous questions as her whole body was hit with a wave of confusion.
From the masquerade ball to now, only things that she couldn’t understand in the slightest were happening, one after the other.

‘The original work wasn’t like this at all.
Without this obstacle, he would just fall in love with Vanessa and the two of them would be together… It’s too different.
It’s not just a bit off.’

Adeline became more and more serious.
She thought things were getting a little different from the moment Kael asked her to dance, but as time went on, the point of agreement with the original work was disappearing.

“Now that I’ve told you why, let’s hear it.”
“Hear what…”
“It’s good that you meet exactly the conditions I want, but I’ve never seen a lady who hated me like this before.
I’m curious as to why.
Why do you want to run away from me like that?”

Kael, who was more relaxed compared to when he discussed the conditions a moment ago, asked a question as if he was genuinely curious.
The cogs in Adeline’s head turned at maximum speed.

‘… This is my last chance.’ This moment right now was the last chance Adeline was given.

The last chance to easily get away from Kael.
Even if she thought about it a few times, the conclusion did not change.

Kael had even gotten hold of Adeline’s weaknesses, and the way to push him away had been taken away from her.
It was clear that if she didn’t give him a big blow here, she would be drawn to the marriage contract without hesitation.

Although she knew that confessing her love for Kael was the only way to stop his interest, she couldn’t use that in this situation.
Anyone could see that she was trying to stay away from him, that it was a trick, and that she didn’t mean it.

‘I have to throw everything I can.’

Adeline, who had been looking for a way, firmly made up her mind.
She looked at Kael with a clearer gaze and opened her mouth.

“Because I know the future.”
“… The future?”
“You’re going to die.
If you end up marrying me.”

It was a lie.
It was Adeline who was facing death at the appointed end.
But the whole truth alone could not turn this crisis into an opportunity.

What every human being is most afraid of.
Even those who pride themselves on not being afraid try to run away when standing in front of it.
This was the only threat that could strike a merciless ruler from the north.

“I can see a fixed future.
Though I can’t see much of it because my ability isn’t great.”
“…”
“If I become the grand duchess, Your Grace will definitely die.
There is no way to avoid it.”

Kael’s eyes shook like crazy.
A huge whirlpool raged in the cold eyes that seemed never to agitate.
The appearance Kael had right now was something Adeline had never seen before.

“… Do you have evidence? Evidence that you can see into the future.”

The voice that had gotten lower demanded convincing evidence.

Adeline took a deep breath.
It was what she expected, so the answer she was going to give Kael was already prepared.

Confirming that the sun, which had been fading little by little, had completely disappeared, and that a red moon was shining through the quickly sinking darkness, Adeline slowly opened her mouth.

“His Imperial Majesty will pass away today.”

Although she wasn’t sure what had already gotten different from the original, Adeline gambled once again.
On the night of the red half-moon, which only appeared once every few hundred years, the Emperor breathed his last breath.
It was something Adeline clearly remembered from the book.

“What do you…”
“My Lord! My Lord!”

As Kael frowned, Zion entered the hall with an urgent voice.

“Forgive me for my discourtesy.
It’s an extremely urgent matter…”
“Go on.”
“His Imperial Majesty has passed away, my Lord.”

Adeline’s second gamble was successful.

“Get ready right away.”
“Yes, my Lord.
I will prepare a carriage for Lady Tien right away.
I will take you.”

Zion guided Adeline to the door with a quick gesture.
Everyone had to move busily now to prepare for the funeral in the imperial palace.

“Adeline.”

But the moment Adeline turned around, Kael’s low, abating voice caught her.

“If there is not the slightest lie in what you said.”
“…”
“I will make you my wife, by all means.”

Adeline’s eyes shook greatly, as she had thought she had found a solution.

“It is my most desired wish, my eternal wish.
Ending this tough life.”

Adeline, who had hardened in surprise, looked at Kael’s eyes, which were cold as if a snowstorm was in full force, for a long time.

Adeline was trapped in a noose.
In a very tough and strong noose, which tightened even more around her body the more she tried to get out of it.

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