“Umm… I’m truly fine. I can’t burden you to that extent.”
Lariana didn’t mention Cain’s story to the Beckdel household. Just in case something happened. However, she truly hadn’t anticipated things turning out like this.
But, it seemed that the Countess felt a sense of responsibility and wanted to find a way to ensure Lariana attended the debutante ball.
There was no time to waste any longer. When Count Beckdel tried to lift Lariana, she lost consciousness, slumping down.
───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────
As Lariana regained her senses, she lay on the bed, staring at the empty ceiling with vacant eyes.
It was clear that something had happened to Cain. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have failed to come. The next day, Lariana resolved to visit Duke Delacroix’s mansion.
At that moment, the sound of a carriage could be heard from outside the window. The Beckdel household seemed to be bustling with activity.
“Jena… please help me up.”
“Lady, you should stay lying down.”
“We should congratulate Marina.”
Lariana managed to sit up on the edge of the bed. When she looked out the window, she saw a moon as small as a clipped fingernail.
Then, the bedroom door swung open. Standing in the doorway was Marina, wearing a happy expression. At a glance, Marina seemed overly excited.
“Marina, congratulations on your society debut.”
“It would have been better if you were there with me. Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, I’ve improved a lot.”
“I’m glad. I have so much to tell you.”
As Marina tossed aside her silk gloves, she approached Lariana, who was half-lying on the bed. Marina sat down beside her and chattered incessantly.
Listening to her cheerful stories, Lariana almost felt as if she had attended the debutante ball herself.
“Oh, right. The belle of the debutante ball today was Lady Kaidel. She came with Duke Delacroix as her partner.”
“What… did you say? Who did she come with as her partner?”
The slight improvement in Lariana’s mood plummeted instantly.
In disbelief, Lariana trembled and clutched her shawl. She questioned herself, and gnawed at the tender flesh inside her mouth.
“You don’t know the Duke Delacroix? I mean Cain Delacroix.”
That night, Lariana couldn’t even say anything once. Her mind was filled with nothing but Cain Delacroix.
From dawn, she prepared to go and find Cain. She wore the cream satin dress he had given her and draped an apricot-colored organza around her. With that, Lariana’s heart felt somewhat at ease.
All the dresses, shoes, and jewelry she was wearing were gifts from Cain Delacroix. Hoping that he would recognize her, Lariana set off early in the morning to visit him.
The Duke Delacroix’s mansion was near the palace. While it was common for ordinary nobles to have a single mansion with a small garden in the front and back, the mansions of the Duke Delacroix, one of the few ducal families in Martessen, had a different grandeur.
In front of the majestic and enormous black iron gate, there were guards in armor protecting it, and beyond that, the garden stretched endlessly, obscuring the view of the mansion from the main entrance.
“May I see Duke Delacroix?”
“Do you have an appointment?”
As if it was a common occurrence, the guard in front of the main gate looked at Lariana with disdain. Lariana felt a sense of contempt toward the guard’s attitude, but at this moment, she needed to see him.
“How can I meet the Duke?”
“What will you gain by asking me?”
Frustrated by the guard’s dismissive response, Lariana and Jena turned away without getting any answers. Just then, a dazzling golden carriage, bathed in sunlight, raced down the avenue leading to the mansion, and the seemingly immovable gate slowly opened. The carriage, which had come rushing in, stopped in front of Lariana.
Please, let it be him. Let it be Cain, who would apologize for not coming to see her yesterday. In a fleeting moment, Lariana fervently prayed to the goddess Vuerin.
“Who are you?”
As the carriage window opened, Lariana was faced with a pair of individuals. A beautiful woman with red hair and green eyes, exuding a composed demeanor, asked her. But Lariana’s gaze was fixed on the man sitting opposite her.
“I am Lariana Heliosen.”
Lariana slightly bowed in greeting. However, Cain’s expression remained unchanged. He looked at her as if she was a mere speck, devoid of any sign of joy or surprise.
“Heliosen? Count Heliosen’s daughter?”
“Oh, I see. Did you debut at the debutante ball yesterday? As the heir, you wouldn’t have missed it, right? Nice to meet you. I am Evita Kaidel.”
The woman sitting in front of Cain was none other than Lady Evita Kaidel. Lariana recognized her at a glance, as she looked exactly as Marina had described her. However, Lariana had hoped otherwise.
“So, you are Lady Kaidel… “
“Yes, that’s right. Lady Heliosen, what brings you here?”
“Oh… I am staying at Count Beckdel’s mansion… I went out for a walk and got lost.”
“Oh dear, that’s unfortunate. Beckdel’s mansion must be quite far from here. Sir Delacroix… may Lady Heliosen borrow your carriage?”
Evita, who seemed concerned about Lariana’s visibly pale complexion, looked at Cain while speaking.
He sighed deeply and nodded. His displeasure was evident.
“She’s just another trickster.”
Without even giving Lariana a single glance, he focused his gaze solely on Lady Evita.
“Evita, the Alstri girls are audacious. They’ve bothered me more than once, cluelessly coming to me with their absurd requests. To take a walk all the way here from Count Beckdel’s mansion… It’s not even worth ridiculing. Don’t be foolish enough to fall for such ridiculous lies.”
At Cain’s cold and composed words, Lariana nearly collapsed, her legs losing strength. Jena quickly supported the staggering Lariana.
“Oh my, how audacious, Count Delacroix. Lady Heliosen, I apologize on his behalf.”
Taken aback by the harsh words, Evita glanced at Cain. Lariana’s gaze lingered on the back of Cain, who had already turned his head to the opposite window.
She clenched her fists in betrayal, her hands turning pale and devoid of any color. She couldn’t continue to be humiliated by Cain Delacroix like this. She couldn’t endure it any longer.
“Your Excellency seems to be greatly mistaken. I shall take my leave. I hope you both have a pleasant time…”
Lariana’s words chilled the previously warm spring day. The warmth vanished in an instant.
Trying to melt the frozen atmosphere, Evita forced a smile and bid her farewell.
“Lady Heliosen, I hope to properly greet you next time.”
The carriage carrying the well-suited lovers moved away and receded into the distance.
Lariana and Jena took each step with difficulty on the long, straight avenue lined with trees. Tears streamed down Lariana’s cheeks, unabated by the palm of her hand. Jena continued to console her, but Lariana didn’t seem to hear a single word.
“Lady… Please don’t cry.”
“Jena, what should I do?”
What should she do? Lariana couldn’t remember how she returned to the Count of Beckdel’s mansion after that day. She simply walked, and now in front of her, there was the Count of Beckdel.
“Lariana, where have you been?”
“I went for a walk.”
The Count rushed out to the front porch and warmly inquired about her well-being. He usually didn’t show much interest in his friend’s daughter, who used to look healthy and happy.
“Come to the drawing room quickly.”
“What’s the matter?”
The visibly excited Count Beckdel gently took Lariana’s hand, like a father to his daughter, and said warmly,
“Prince Lejandro has come to visit.”
───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────
Abandoned by Cain and unable to even debut in the ball, Lariana’s fate was apparent. In the capital, there was no suitable match for her to find.
The one who rescued Lariana from her fate was Prince Lejandro. On the day she returned from Duke Delacroix’s mansion, Prince Lejandro appeared, almost as if it was fate.
Since Lariana had genuinely loved Cain, she couldn’t accept Prince Lejandro right away. However, he patiently waited for Lariana to open her heart.
Moreover, Count Beckdel, a noble of the Prince’s faction, provided full support to Lariana.
It was only a matter of time before the two started dating, and eventually, Lariana and Lejandro became lovers.
“Lari, you know that if you become the Empress, you must make me your lady-in-waiting, right?”
“Marina, keep your voice down. What if someone hears such audacious words?”
“So what? Her Highness the Princess may be in high spirits now, having returned victorious from the battle with Davask, but there has never been a female ruler in Martessen. In the end, Prince Lejandro will win, won’t he?”
As the sound announcing the arrival of Princess Sonia and Count Delacroix echoed through the ballroom, all eyes fell on Evita, and the same was true for Lariana.
Lariana pitied Evita. Just a year ago, she had the same look in her eyes as Evita did now.
She couldn’t understand why she had foolishly fallen for Cain Delacroix like that. If she could meet her past self, she wanted to slap her awake.
‘Lari, stop obsessing over Duke Delacroix.’