did she have to see him in her dreams?

“…In the world… the most… incalculable… Duke…”

It seemed like she said that without even realizing it.
After that, consciousness faded, and the sleep came.

* * *

When she woke up the next morning, her whole body was sore.
Why was she so sore? She thought she slept soundly… As she raised her upper body, something fell.
When she checked, it was a bag of melted ice.

She went into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror.
A thick patch of cloth had been pasted over her cheeks and over her lips.
When she gently peeled it off, the green herbal powder came out.
Could she wash it now? After washing her face, she rinsed off the herbal powder with water.
She wiped her face dry with a cloth and looked in the mirror.

“It seems to be working.”

Her cheeks had sunk a lot, and her chapped lips had healed quite a bit.
While looking at the mirror for a while, she heard the sound of the door opening and pushed her face out of the bathroom.

“Elia!”

The child who had been looking around the room ran towards her.

“Are your cheeks okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“But is it still swollen?”

The child twisted his eyes in a somber expression.
She smiled and touched the child’s cheek.

“I’m fine, Liam.
I’m more worried about your swollen eyes?”

“Oh.”

The child shyly covered his eyes with his hand.

“It’s okay.
You don’t have to cover it.” 

“No.
It’s swollen and ugly.”

“You’re not ugly at all.
Aren’t you just cute?”

“…really?”

“Yes.
You’re cute like a baby fish.”

“I’m not a fish…”

The child lowered his hand and pouted his lips.

“Um.
So, baby deer?”

“That’s good.”


Only then did the child’s lips draw an arc.

She thought both were cute creatures, but he didn’t like crucian carp.
She secretly laughed and checked the clock hanging on the wall.
It was time to go for breakfast.
Just then, a belly button rang loudly from the child.
The child bowed his head in shame.

“Let’s go eat soon.”

“…yes.”

She left the room and headed for the dining room, holding the child’s hand.

* * *

She glanced at the Duke sitting across from her and eating.
Why did he look so bad? Was it because of the mood?

She tilted his head and continued eating.
It didn’t seem like he was asking what happened with the viscount.
There’s nothing in a hurry, so she would tell slowly. 

She diligently put food on the plate of the child who was eating well.
Then, she raised her head to the sound of a chair being dragged.

“Are you leaving already? You haven’t eaten much.”

“…”

“Duke?”

He stared at her with his mouth tightly shut, then he left the restaurant in a hurry.

“Liam, why would the Duke be like that? He seems to be in a worse mood than usual.”

“Wouldn’t it be because of the banquet tomorrow?”

“Why is that?”

“My father always gets into a bad mood when it’s time to go to the imperial castle.”

When she listened to what the child said, there was a certain point.
As much as the Emperor kept the Duke in check, the Duke didn’t like the Emperor either.

She nodded and looked at the child drinking the water.

“Do you want to stop eating now?”

“Yes.
My stomach is full.”

“Then let’s go out now.”

She got up from her seat with the child, opened the door, and came out.
On the way to the room, she caught Lubart hurriedly heading somewhere.
Did something happen?

That was about the time she almost reached the room.

The Duke and Lubart were having a serious conversation in the middle of the hallway.
Judging from the fact that the Duke’s eyebrows were slightly furrowed, it didn’t seem like a good story.
It seemed like it would be better to go through the hallway quickly.
It was the moment she tried to quietly pass them by.

“Young lady, wait a minute.”

She looked back at Lubart’s call.

“Yes, Lubart.”

“Have you ever attended banquets before?”

“No.
Almost none.
Why do you ask that?”

“If you don’t mind, may I ask you to attend the banquet as the Duke’s partner?”


“…As his partner? If you’re talking about the banquet tomorrow, you don’t need a partner.”

“I am also very embarrassed, but it is because a message just came from the imperial castle today, the day before the banquet.”

“What was written on it?”

“When attending a banquet, it was written that all unmarried nobles must be accompanied by a partner.
All attendees must wear masks.”

Lubart’s words were full of incomprehensible things.
In the book, there was no talk of masks with partners at the Emperor’s birthday banquet.

“Why isn’t it written down?”

“Yes.
It’s a difficult situation, so I was talking to the Duke.”

“It doesn’t matter much to attend the banquet itself, but…”

She glanced at the Duke.
The problem was that the Duke would obediently send her out of the mansion.
Wasn’t she still in a state where she just listened to the conversation between Lubart and the Duke without saying anything?

“What do you think, Duke? In the current situation, I think it would be better to take Lady Elia.”

The Duke, who looked at Lubart for a while, opened his mouth.

“Then prepare.”

…What?

“All right.”

After that conversation, the Duke turned and walked away.
She was taken aback by the attitude of the Duke, who accepted it surprisingly easily.

“Elia is going to the banquet too?”

“Yeah.
I guess so.”

“Then, will you wear a very pretty dress?”

“I guess so?”

“I’m really looking forward to it.”

A blush bloomed on both of the child’s cheeks.

“What?”

“It’s Elia a pretty dress.”

“Then I’ll finish preparing tomorrow and show you first.”

The child smiled brightly at her words and nodded his head.
She asked towards Lubart standing next to her.

“Then what can I do now?”

“First of all, I want you to take care of it.
I only have one day, so I’d better do it now.”

Lubart summoned the maids who were not far away and gave them some instructions.

“Then follow us.”

“Yes.”

She looked back as she followed the ladies-in-waiting.
The child stood next to Lubart and waved his hand.
She, too, waved at each other and followed the ladies-in-waiting.

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