Chapter 14

Translator: Gold

The young ladies who were around Artizea were astonished and began to whisper.

Even Lady Atiyah, who had been angry a moment ago, blushed with shame.

[Who did he come to see?]

[I have heard that the Grand Duke Evron does not like women.]

[Is there anyone close to His Grace in this place?]

The young ladies looked around, but none of them thought it was Artizea that Cedric had come to see.

Artizea held her breath.

From the moment she realized Cedric was here, she naturally thought he had come for her.

At the same time, she found it unrealistic to see him approach her directly.

Her gaze was focused on Cedric.

She had never imagined that her field of vision could be so narrow, but she was looking at him so intently that she had not even noticed the astonishment of the people around her, including Lady Atiyah.

And when Cedric reached out for her right hand, she didn’t even hear the murmurs around her.

The young ladies were so astonished that they even looked at her and Cedric with their mouths open, forgetting to care for their facial expressions.

Everyone present, both young and adult, was unconsciously paying maximum attention to this.

“How are you, Lady Artizea?”

“What… brings you here, Your Grace?”

Artizea, unable to hide her embarrassment, hesitated and put her hand on his.

At that moment, several short screams arose around her.

Cedric frowned.

Without caring about the atmosphere in the hall, he extended his left hand and grabbed her chin, with his right hand still holding Artizea’s.

“What happened to your face?”

“Huh?”

“Your cheek is swollen. Also, you have scratches caused by fingernails, and one side of your lips is also torn.”

Cedric scrutinized her face to the point of appearing disrespectful.

It was hard to tell at first glance, because she was well covered with makeup, but she definitely had traces of being slapped.

Probably over time, blue bruises would form on her face.

‘What the hell happened to her? Besides, with her face in this state, how could Miraila let her out?’

The same applied to the employees of the Marquisate Rosan. This was a private meeting, a ball she didn’t need to attend.

Artizea didn’t really want to come. At a meeting like this, you couldn’t get any useful information.

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But she had no choice but to attend because Miraila would be furious if she did not attend the meeting as she had ordered.

“Your Grace.”

Artizea grabbed his wrist with a face of embarrassment.

Cedric stared at her and whispered softly.

“Did Countess Eunice do this to you?”

***

Before he left the Imperial Palace, Countess Eunice stopped him.

Cedric looked at her warily. Although they were cousins, they had never been close.

「Are you going to meet Lady Artizea?」

「Is that any of your business?」

「No, but there is one thing I would ask of you.」

「I can’t guarantee anything, but go ahead, I’m listening.」

「Please tell Lady Artizea that I regret what happened yesterday.」

Said Countess Eunice clutching the skirt of her dress.

「If you have something to apologize for, why don’t you do it personally?」

「Of course I’ll visit her in person and apologize for it at the appropriate time. But right now I think a mediator is needed. Just tell her that, ‘I’m sorry, and I appreciate her advice’.」

Cedric didn’t know why, but he nodded his head and left.

***

He never imagined it was because of this.

“The Countess Eunice…”

“Please, do not say anything more. If you continue, you’ll put me in a difficult situation.”

Artizea pressed his wrist slightly.

Cedric, impotent, released her chin. Then he spoke sternly, containing his anger.

“Let’s go back.”

Artizea felt strange.

Alice was the only person in her past life who had ever cared about her.

After Alice’s death, no one noticed her injuries.

In her youth it was even worse.

When Miraila was in a bad mood, she used to vent her anger on her.

No one in the Marquisate Rosan cared that she was slapped on the cheek.

However, now Cedric was angry about it. Of all people, Cedric.

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Somehow, with tears in her eyes, Artizea lowered her head and said stiffly.

“Alright.”

It wouldn’t be good for her to leave the ballroom under these circumstances.

But Artizea wasn’t here to find a good marriage partner anyway.

Nor was there anyone in this place who wanted to be her friend. Her reputation had already hit rock bottom and so far it didn’t look like it would get any better.

Cedric took a step back and extended his arm to escort her.

Just then, Lady Atiyah casually made eye contact with him.

Lady Atiyah who had been staring blankly at the two of them, realized that this was her chance.

She quickly grabbed the skirt of her dress, bowed and smiled as beautifully as possible.

“I apologize for my sudden greeting, Your Grace, Grand Duke Evron. My name is Laila, I am the daughter of Count Atiyah. I did not know that you knew the Lady Artizea.

“Pleased to meet you. Lady, are you a friend of Lady Artizea?”

“Pardon? Ah, yes!”

Lady Laila said that, thinking she could make a good impression on Cedric.

Then, with a smile in her eyes, she continued.

“It’s not like a gentleman to come to a ball and leave without having danced. Even more so when there are young ladies present who have not danced to a single song.”

All the warmth in Cedric’s eyes faded away.

“The true duty of a gentleman is to care for a woman in an uncomfortable situation. Lady Laila, are you really friends with Lady Artizea?”

“What?”

“If you are her friend you should be concerned about her, but you seem to be more focused on me.”

Cedric said coldly.

Lady Laila’s face turned red with embarrassment.

Artizea tugged slightly at his sleeve.

From her point of view, there was no reason for Cedric to be angry with Lady Laila. So, she thought that his displeasure was due to Lady Laila having lied, saying that she was her friend.

However, Cedric was truly indignant.

From their first meeting, he had not stopped thinking of Artizea.

He had decided to accept Artizea’s proposal because she had mentioned a good cause.

But beyond that, he felt the desire to protect this girl.

‘She’s too thin.’

He knew Miraila had a daughter, but he never thought she would be such a thin, pale girl.

Artizea was a beautiful young woman with an elegant physique and snow-white skin, contrary to what he had imagined.

But her face, which had never been cared for, was haggard, her body too thin, and her cheeks sunken.

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Her wrists that protruded from her long-sleeved dress were so skinny that one could only see bones.

On the other hand, she wore the same dark green striped dress she had worn yesterday.

It was a normal dress, suitable for a walk, but it could not be considered a party dress at all.

Even Cedric, who was not familiar with the atmosphere of the ballrooms, could realize that Artizea was being excluded.

Although she was the heir to the Marquess Rosan and the sister of a potential candidate to become the next emperor, the young lady, despised by her family, was not welcome anywhere.

Artizea herself seemed to accept it as normal.

Even that, made Cedric uncomfortable, because it seemed that she was giving up the rights she was supposed to enjoy as a daughter and as a human being.

“Then, Lady Artizea.”

Cedric reached out to Artizea.

“What?”

“May I have this dance?”

Lady Laila’s face was distorted by the humiliation she felt.

It was far from Cedric’s usual personality to do anything that would draw attention in a ballroom like this. But now he wanted to do it.

“I really don’t want to draw too much attention.”

Artizea whispered quietly. Cedric responded.

“I know. It’s all right, Lady Artizea. The Grand Duke Evron makes for an ideal complement.”

“…”

Artizea didn’t respond.

Because Cedric seemed to have noticed that her outfit was unsuitable for this ball and that she was being ignored.

She seemed to be indifferent to such things. This time, however, she was embarrassed.

“Come on.”

Cedric urged.

The fact that a man asked her to dance was strange to Artizea. And even more so because on this occasion, that man was Cedric.

She had to summon up some courage to take his hand.

Artizea didn’t know why she was so nervous.

“I could step on your feet. I’m not very good at dancing.”

“Then even if we step on each other’s feet, let’s be understanding and pretend not to notice. I can’t dance well either.”

Cedric said and tugged on her hand.

When he wrapped his arm around her waist, Artizea became extremely tense.

Although he said he wasn’t good at dancing, Cedric guided the dance to the rhythm of the music, like a duck to water, and headed towards the centre of the ballroom.

Whispers exploded everywhere.

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Some couples stepped aside, and others stopped dancing altogether to watch them.

As she danced, Artizea felt that the hall was empty.

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