Throughout the debutante season, Empress Yertina had found Dianel’s behavior peculiar. 


No matter how bad her mood was, Dianel would never laugh or show any signs of displeasure.
But on that particular day, he sat unusually upright in his seat.

Yertina had deliberately prompted Dianel to speak, but instead of Dianel responding, it was Dalton who raised his head. 

He looked at her with strange eyes then turned to Dianel and mouthed a command.

Even though the emperor and empress were present, he didn’t pay them any attention.
Only then did Yertina realize that Dianel was disguised as Dalton, pretending to be someone else.

However, she couldn’t scold Dianel openly, nor could the emperor.
They simply pretended not to notice.

Thus, Yertina couldn’t devote her attention to Siara either.
She saw her as nothing more than a sacrificial lamb for Dianel’s purposes.

‘But to think he was genuinely interested and stayed by her side.’

Yertina bit her tongue in disbelief.
She never thought that Dianel, who seemed impervious even to being stabbed, would have feelings for someone.

However, it wasn’t a bad situation. 

Initially, Yertina had intended to use the easy-to-handle Crown Prince as her puppet.
But now that Dianel likes Siara, it would be even easier to manipulate.

‘Since he’s not accustomed to noble society, he’ll easily fall for her charms.’

After reaching her conclusion, Yertina smirked.

“…Siara, you say.
I’m intrigued.”

“Shall I bring her to you?”

“Please do.”

Lady Iska, gently bending her waist, greeted Yertina.
The empress watched her as she gracefully walked out of the room, fanning herself lightly.

The setting sun had gradually shortened.

* * *

Hierian and I were conducting dessert research.
It wasn’t anything significant, just laying out various desserts and ingredients and experimenting with different combinations.
Today’s research subject was pancakes.

Ten plates were placed in front of us, each with an identical pancake on top.
We tasted them one by one and earnestly discussed them.

“It tastes good with whipped cream on pancakes! Shall we sprinkle some chocolate cookie crumbs too?”


“I prefer maple syrup.
Classic flavors are always the best.”

“But eating it like this makes it more like a souffle cake.”

“Then why don’t we just eat souffle cake?”

“Siara doesn’t know anything.
This is a pancake with whipped cream on top.
You can sprinkle chocolate cookie crumbs on it too.”

“That’s true.
But isn’t it too sweet? It would be better to add more fruits…”

While engaged in serious discussion, a maid delivered unexpected news.

“Siara, Her Majesty the Empress wishes to see you.”

“…She wants to see me?”

“Yes, she said to come to the Empress’ Palace tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? That’s too short notice… But more importantly, why is she calling for me?”

The maid shook her head as if she didn’t know.
She didn’t provide any further explanation.

‘Nevertheless, since I was summoned, I had to go.’

There was a lot to prepare in such a short time.
I needed an expert in this field, someone well-versed in social circles.

“Where could Madame Lulu be? If she’s in the outskirts and the sun is setting, what should I do?”

She was not only skilled in decorating but also well-informed about social events.
If it were her, she might even know why the empress was calling for me. 

The only problem was that I hadn’t made a separate appointment with Madame Lulu.
I would have to go to her salon, which was quite far away.

‘Well, let’s see.’

Lost in thought, Hierian suddenly spoke up.

“Do you want me to bring her?”

His eager voice was comforting.
If it were Hierian, he could easily find Madame Lulu and bring her to me.
I nodded without hesitation.

“That would be great.
Please explain the situation to Madame Lulu and bring her here.”

“Sure! Just wait a moment.”

In an instant, a purple mist enveloped Hierian’s body.
Thanks to that, one of my worries disappeared. 


I waited for him with joy in my heart.

It didn’t take long for Hierian to return with Madame Lulu.
She immediately asked about the situation like an expert.

“I heard the explanation.
Her Majesty the Empress has summoned you for a meeting tomorrow?”

“Yes, she suddenly called for me, so I apologize for the short notice.”

“Oh no, if it’s about Lady Siara, then I should hurry.”

For some reason, Madame Lulu seemed excited.

“I never thought it would turn out like this.
Lady Siara, even if you become the Crown Princess later, you’ll still call me, right?”

“…What are you suddenly talking about?”

“Huh? I heard that you and His Highness the Crown Prince are secretly dating…”

“Who said that?”

Even Hierian, who was eagerly waiting for praise beside me, shouted in disbelief.

“Don’t you dare involve Lady Siara with that guy!”

“W-What? I mean, really?”

Madame Lulu seemed surprised by my words.
It was clear from her reaction that it wasn’t just speculation, but rather, rumors were circulating outside.

I sighed deeply.
I even considered the possibility that the person who hired Madame Lulu, Dianel, might have thought that way.

Above all, Madame Lulu said, “I heard,” which meant that baseless rumors were going around.

Calmly looking at her, I asked, 

“Who said such things?”

After hesitating, Madame Lulu finally spoke.

“There was almost a big problem in Young Man Dalton’s family, but His Highness managed to intervene and prevent it.
After that, Dalton immediately returned to his family.
But the timing was right before the debutante season! So, some think that Her Majesty did it out of jealousy and sent him away to his territory…”

“…Dalton?”

“Yes, yes.
Everyone believed that Your Highness Dianel fell in love with him.
They say Dalton doesn’t say a word about it either.”

Dalton.
I had completely forgotten about his existence.
I let out a deep sigh.
Hierian also sighed in the same pose beside me.

Amidst the strange situation, Madame Lulu continued speaking while wiping her sweat.


“The rumors have spread quite a bit… Maybe Her Majesty the Empress is summoning you for the same reason.”

Her words made sense.
There was no other reason for the Empress to suddenly call me out of the blue.

‘Is she going to hand me an envelope and tell me to break up with her son? I hope it doesn’t come to that.’

My worries were not limited to just that.
I took a deep breath and chose the most dignified and neat outfit with Madame Lulu.
Hierian stood behind me and exclaimed,

“Don’t worry, Siara! No matter what happens, I’ll protect you!”

With our determination, the next day dawned.

* * *

“Please come this way.”

An elegant maid came to guide me early in the morning.
Following her, the Empress’ Palace was dazzlingly splendid.

I thought I might have to hold a meeting in an intimidating hall, but unexpectedly, the place the maid led me to was a small and serene garden. 

Utilizing the small spaces between buildings, the garden had the power to soothe one’s heart.

As I sat down, other maids brought flower tea and desserts.

“Her Majesty had some urgent matters and had to leave for a moment.
She will be here shortly if you can wait.”

I nodded my head, and the maids withdrew.
I whispered to Hierian, who was hiding in my shadow under the chair.

“The atmosphere is better than I expected.”

“Well, you still shouldn’t let your guard down.”

“Of course.”

The palace has eyes and ears on the walls.
Before long, the Empress appeared in the garden.
She was dressed not in the extravagant attire from the debutante season but in a simple dress with a flowing cloak, a comfortable outfit.

“Sorry for being late.
Something came up.”

The Empress sat down with a gentle smile.
As I was about to stand up to greet her, she gestured for me to stay seated and added some words before speaking again.

“I heard you’re called Siara.
You’ve been staying in North Palace.
Is it comfortable for you?”

“More than comfortable, everyone is treating me so well.”

“That’s good to hear.
My son is perfect in every way, but he lacks consideration, so I was worried if he might have been impolite.”


As she said that, she leaned forward and gently held my hand.

“When I look closely, you’re surprisingly beautiful, my dear.
I can see why you are loved by the crown prince.”

“…Love?”

“You don’t have to lie in front of me.
I already know that you have a deep relationship with Dianel.”

The Empress smiled warmly and continued, 

“I’ve always been worried because my son has never shown interest in any woman, but thanks to you, this old woman’s worries have lessened.”

The situation was taking an unexpected turn. 

I had prepared myself for receiving an envelope or being slapped, but I hadn’t thought about how to handle the Empress if she came out so kindly. 

It seemed Hieran was in a similar situation, as her gentle voice flowed like a wave with each word.

Perhaps thinking differently, the Empress whispered to me in an even more gentle voice, 

“If you’re okay with it, I would like to hasten the engagement.”

“E-Engagement?”

“Yes.
I know that your marriageable age is approaching soon.
It’s the same for my son as well.
And above all, for Your Majesty to comfortably handle state affairs, it would be best if the position of Crown Princess is filled.”

I didn’t know why the Empress brought up the topic of marriage so abruptly, but I had no intention of marrying Dianel. 

In my haste, I blurted out, 

“I, I think there’s a misunderstanding.”

“….?”

“I am not in a romantic relationship with His Highness, and I have no intention of getting married.”

I thought that by saying this, she would understand.
However, the Empress, contrary to my expectations, suppressed a laugh and smiled at me.

“So, is it only my son who likes you?”

“…What?”

“Oh, how interesting.”

The face that had momentarily shown a mocking smile quickly softened as she looked at me.

“I like you even more now.”

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