Chapter One: I Died
“I heard that Viscountess Verdi was criticized by her in-laws for being unable to conceive, and that she was told to find a mistress right to her face.”
“My goodness, I heard that too! But I heard the one who is actually impotent is her husband.”
“My goodness, I heard that too! But I heard the one who is actually impotent is her husband.”
“You think that’s bad? My close friend got married recently, and apparently her in-laws
got involved and tried to tell her how to take care of her husband in bed!
The ladies, mouths covered by their fans, were excitedly gossiping about that one topic.
I, who had somehow got caught up in all of this, was doing nothing but sipping champagne.
“It’s been five years since I got married, but they still check my dresses every day.
They declare that I cannot bring down the dignity of the earl and come to inspect them each morning.”
“I have to report how much my husband eats each day.
At this rate, they’ll ask me to check how many grams of sauce was on the meat he ate.”
Underneath the fancy chandelier.
The ladies, dressed beautifully, looked at each other and shared a long sigh.
All were united in their stormy expressions.
Just because a woman and a man marry each other out of love doesn’t mean that love alone can help them.
Although they are technically family, one’s relationship can never be as close as a true family.
The wives who had just sighed looked over at me, who had not said a word this whole time.
“Your Royal Highness Lapileon, you haven’t said anything.”
As if those words were a trigger, everyone’s eyes widened as they watched me.
Their flickering pupils clearly said, ‘you spill some tea, too’.
“Hasn’t it been a year since you got married?”
It had already been a year? I hadn’t even realized.
“The Lapileons still have the early Grand Duchess, Gloria.”
“Wow, she’s still healthy?”
At the mention of Gloria’s name, everyone started trembling as if they had seen a ghost.
“To make things worse, His Excellency is quiet.
At least our husbands are full of affection…”
“To think that she has to deal with His Excellency and Madam Gloria…”
“Oh my, now that I think about it, doesn’t the Lapileon family also have Sercia?”
“Ah! His Excellency’s older sister…!”
I still haven’t said anything yet.
Why are you all looking at me with such pitying eyes already?
I looked slowly at the ladies who were chattering amongst themselves.
After putting down the empty champagne glass, I finally spoke.
“It’s true that Grand Duchess Gloria and Lady Sercia are there, and that His Excellency is quiet.”
Everyone started tutting and offering words of pity.
On their faces were sympathetic smiles that said ‘at least I’m better off than her.’
These people, who only felt superiority when they put someone below themselves.
These people, who felt relief to see the suffering of others.
They were a given at a gathering like this.
As I was about to speak, I felt an arm wrap around my waist.
“I finally found you, wife.”
A familiar scent and black hair tickled my cheek.
“W-we greet His Excellency…!”
At the sight of my husband whom they’d called cold only a moment ago, everyone hurriedly offered their greetings.
However, my husband, Theodore Dane Lapileon, didn’t even spare them a glance, and hugged me in his arms.
“I looked for you for ages.
If I don’t see you for even a minute, I feel so anxious that I can’t breathe.”
At his small complaint, I pushed his cheek away with my palm, as I always did.
“It tickles, and there’s too many people watching, so get off me.”
As I said that, a small child popped up from the right.
“Your Excellency! Mom says it tickles! Hurry and get off of her!”
It was the heir of Grand Duke Lapileon: my legal son, Celphius Sultan Lapileon.
The child pulled at Theodore’s uniform, trying his best to pull him away from me.
“Yes, what kind of shameful act is that? Theo.”
A red-headed woman easily removed Theodore from me, before tutting her tongue at him.
Then, she smiled widely before spreading her arms wide towards me.
“Sasha! I’m here.”
“…Older sister Seci.
You get off me too, it tickles.”
It was Theodore’s older sister, Sercia Jane Lapiileon.
“Where is it itchy? I’ll scratch it for you!”
*TL/N: Itches and tickles is the same word in Korean.
Behind Sercia, who had me tightly in her arms, popped up a tiny girl even smaller than Celphius.
Hug me too!”
One of Theodore’s only surviving blood relatives, Violet Lapileon.
“Violet, haven’t I told you that you should address her as Her Royal Highness and not sister?”
Theodore’s uncle, Finneas Gun Lapileon.
“Why are you making such a fuss in the ballroom?”
It was Gloria Em Lapileon, the early Grand Duchess, who was very healthy, in spite of her white hair.
At the sudden appearance of the Lapileon family, the faces of the ladies whitened, and they couldn’t seem to lift their heads.
“It’s difficult to attend balls at this age.”
Gloria made her way to my side and sighed dramatically as she grabbed my arm.
I smiled slightly as I supported her.
“You’re still so healthy.”
“Whenever I show up, everyone’s so busy trembling in fear.
What about this oldie is so scary?” said Gloria, clicking her tongue as if chastising the ladies in front of her.
As she had said, everyone in the ballroom seemed to have turned our way the moment she entered.
“Sasha,” Gloria called me affectionately.
“Hurry and choose if you don’t want us to follow you like this,” she continued, laughing slightly.
“Should I give you a mine, or perhaps Lapileon land? I already told you I would give you whatever you want, since you saved us.”
“I really don’t need anything.”
“If you really don’t choose, I might end up giving you the entire Lapileon duchy.”
Everyone gasped after hearing what Gloria said.
I could feel their admiring gazes on me.
I looked at my in-laws, who were standing around me so staunchly that it seemed they could part the Red Sea, with a ruined expression.
‘…But I need to file a divorce.’
My problem is that my in-laws are too obsessed with me.
* * *
While all other living things came alive in the springtime, I was dying.
My husband, Siph, sat next to me and asked “Does it hurt?” in a worried tone as if he had been waiting for this day.
“If you think you’re going to die, then just die.
Why are you still breathing and clinging to this life?”
My husband who had promised that he would love me.
My love who said he would make me happy.
There wasn’t a trace of the Siph who would smile shyly in front of me.
His lips, which had once given me happiness…
“Just die already.”
“You have to die for the inheritance to be mine.
I have a mountain of debt.
You love me, don’t you? So, you can do me this small favor and die, right?”
Siph moved the hairs that were stuck to my sweaty forehead.
I wanted to get up and slap that thick face.
But strangely, my body would not listen.
“You can’t move, right?”
Siph smiled as if he had seen right into my mind.
“That’s because of the curse.
They said that I could kill you with this.
It’s expensive, but it was the best option to kill you without leaving any evidence.”
Your gray hair and those bright eyes haven’t changed at all.
But inside, you’ve changed.
A teardrop that had been caught on my eyelash rolled down my cheek.
At that moment, the bedroom door opened,
“Is she still alive?”
And I heard a voice dripping with disappointment.
I got goosebumps all over my body.
‘How did I get here?’
When I looked around in dismay, I saw my stepmother and my sister Reina, who was not related to me by blood.
“Like your father, your lifeline is quite long.”
“Don’t look at me with those eyes.
He was the one who looked into your lifeline.”
They were my family that had always smiled so kindly at me.
My one and only family, that cried when I was having a hard time and rejoiced when I was happy.
“If he had written a will promising you the inheritance, this situation wouldn’t be happening… what a shame.”
Her words were thick with greed, and she looked different from usual, her red lips turned up into a snake-like smirk.
“We could have had a good mother and daughter relationship.”
“Mom, does this mean we’re going to be rich?”
Although she was someone that my stepmother had brought in from outside, I had truly considered her to be my sister.
Siph approached Reina and wrapped his arms around her waist.
And as if telling her she was lovely, he kissed Reina’s left cheek.
“Of course, my princess.
You had a hard time, right? That will all end today.”
“It’s okay, Siph.
I believed in you.”
What? Reina was calling my husband’s name in a sickly sweet manner.
My lower lip began to tremble.
The sound of my heart racing spread through my entire body.
It can’t be? This isn’t….
It’s not what I think it is, rightt?
As if Reina had read my thoughts, she whipped her head around and looked at me.
Then she threw her head back and cackled loudly.
“Did you really think that Siph was your husband?”
“Siph married you because I asked him to, my stupid sister.
He pretended to love you!”
As if he were tasting sweet honey, Siph kissed the back of her neck.
He smiled in support of Reina’s words.
Reina tugged hard on Siph’s hair and scoffed.
You didn’t know that we were all waiting for the day you would die.”
There’s no way that’s true.
He definitely loves me…!
However, in the eyes of the man who was hugging Reina as if she were precious, I did not exist.
It was a three-person play from the beginning?
The husband I loved, the stepmother who loved me, and my amiable sister.
All of it?
My heart was bitter.
I felt trapped and frustrated.
I was so angry that I thought it would be better to just bite my tongue and die.
“After you die…”
My stepmother approached me as I laid, immobile, with a small cushion.
“We’ll use your inheritance well, so don’t worry.”
Without a change in her expression, she pressed the cushion to my face.
I couldn’t breathe.
I could see Siph and Reina lounging on the couch as they watched my stepmother who was killing me without an ounce of guilt and me suffocating.
Even after I die, I will never forget this.
Tears of anger spilled.
My vision began to get darker.
And, in pain, the last thing I heard before I died was the echo of Reina’s laughter.
No, I thought I would die.
But I came back to life. On top of that, I came back to the past after I received my inheritance and before I married Siph.
I don’t know the reason why I’m alive again.
But if this is my opportunity, I won’t let it pass.
“I need to protect my life and inheritance.”
I can’t report people for things that haven’t happened yet.
However, I won’t act like they think I will in this life.
“I’ll take what they want.
I’m going to thoroughly trample them and make them bow under my feet.”
In order to do that, I need someone that will protect me and my inheritance.
I need someone that can give me that kind of power.
“I’ve come to make a deal with Your Excellency.”
“… Exactly one year.
Marry me for one year.”
For a conversation discussing marriage, the tone was rather light.
To the person sitting opposite of me, it may have been out of the blue, but to me it was my sole lifeline.
A man with a jaw-droppingly beautiful appearance looked at me from the opposite sofa, his chin propped.
He had hair as dark as the night which swallows everything and eyes as red as blood.
He was so tall that even with heels I had to look up at him and he had such broad and built shoulders that just looking at him felt dangerous.
His uniform fit so tightly that you could see the outline of his muscular arms and thighs through it.
“What do you want?”
He was the rumored Grand Duke Theodore Dane Lapileon.
In the past, the Lapileon family was the first to be granted the title of Grand Duchy in recognition of its contributions to the late Emperor and expansion of the Caster Empire.
After that, they were the house that stood on the front lines when war erupted or when rebellions arose.
I will use this man to get what I want.
When he bent his upper body, it looked like his uniform was in danger of ripping because of his muscles.
“Since it’s the first time we’re meeting, you didn’t come here because you love me.
And you must have heard the rumors about me floating around in the noble circles, so you didn’t come here looking for love either.”
He catches on quickly.
“You must have come here looking for something else, so don’t waste time and say it.”
If looks could kill, then his gaze could kill a million times over.
“The reason I came here?”
When I remembered my death again, my body began to shake, but I clenched my two fists.
“… My stepmother, my younger sister, and my former lover are going to murder me.”
“It looks like you had a nightmare, my lady.”
I could just punch-
No, I need to calm down.
I need that man.
“After they kill me, they’re going to take my inheritance.”
He let out a low chuckle after hearing my words filled with certainty.
“You don’t need to worry about things that haven’t happened yet.
I did hear that you received a large inheritance, but it looks like you have many worries – most likely baseless.”
Yes, how nice would it be if, like he said, my worries were not based on evidence?
But to me, it’s not baseless.
It is something I genuinely experienced in the past.
“Although it was a funny offer, let’s pretend it didn’t happen.”
Grand Duke Lapileon, obsessed with blood and war.
This Grand Duke, calling it treatment, sent his heir, Selphius Sultan Lapileon, to the countryside and didn’t even look after him.
Thus, the rumor that he was a barbarian spread.
He was forced to marry a lady that had persistently followed him but divorced after barely a month.
After receiving a huge alimony, his former wife disappeared, and in came the rumors that Grand Duke Lapileon was a horrible man.
It was rumored that he did not visit his wife once.
“Just as you don’t need my inheritance, I don’t have interest in property nor a man so uninterested in women that he doesn’t spend the first night with her.”
“It would be good for you to return to your estate and drink a warm glass of milk.”
He’s the man that I need.
Although his personality being horrible is a downside.
While mocking me, Theodore stood up from the sofa to pull the bell rope.
Yes, I already knew you were this kind of jerk.
I ignored his patronizing gaze and held onto his hand.
“Your Excellency needs a second wife by now.”
The reason he had left the land of the Grand Duchy and was staying at his residence in the capital was simple.
To remarry for appearances.
‘He was definitely having a hard time right around now because the Emperor was trying to make him marry a young Princess.’
Theodore looked down at his hand in mine, frowned, and pulled away.
Because of how quickly he moved, his finger got scratched on my ring and started bleeding slightly.
But it seemed that Theodore didn’t even notice.
Perhaps it’s not women that he doesn’t like but physical affection?
Looking at Theodore’s slightly pale face, I apologized.
“I’m sorry for grabbing you like that.”
“…Any more conversation is a waste of time.
Go back, young lady.”
Although Theodore had a fierce expression like a predator, I was strangely unafraid.
Even if I give way here, I’ll face death.
While subconsciously fiddling with the ring that had hurt Theodore, I smiled slightly.
“Will the emperor think the same?”
“Isn’t the emperor trying to push for a wedding with the young seventh princess? If not me, you’ll have to marry a young princess who is still attending the academy.
Are you okay with that?
Theodore narrowed his eyes.
“How do you know that?”
How do I know that?
Because I’ve already heard and experienced all of that in the past.
“Do you still want me to go back, drink warm milk, and fall asleep?”
I intentionally smiled sweetly before gesturing towards the sofa on the other side.
Theodore’s face hardened into stone.
After glaring at me for a long time, he finally sat down once more.
Yes, I knew he would agree to my suggestion if I brought up the princess.
In the past, he abhorred the marriage to the royal family.
I smiled slightly as I saw Theodore acting exactly as I had guessed he would.
“What cursed bastard let that rumor spread? I need to sew his lips together.”
Theodore angrily undid the buttons that were tightened around his neck.
Hearing how ferocious his voice was, my shoulders shrank slightly.
“Let me correct you.
To be exact, it isn’t the young seventh princess, but the fourth princess.”
“The person the emperor is trying to force me to marry is the fourth princess, Princess Dahlia.”
Huh? In the past, it was definitely the young seventh princess, wasn’t it?
It’s Princess Dahlia?
Isn’t Princess Dahlia the one who was born so weak that she couldn’t even leave the sickbed? To make things worse, in the past she was an unlucky princess who couldn’t defeat the illness and died in the end.
Seeing my dumbfounded expression, Theodore nodded as if in understanding.
“I heard that she got better and out of bed.”
It was definitely the young seventh princess.
I even remember how the young seventh princess said ‘I don’t want to marry a scary mister like that’ and cried her eyes out at a social function.
After reviewing my memories, I brushed them aside, since it didn’t matter which princess Theodore was supposed to marry anyway.
“Then you’ll need me even more.”
As his long eyelashes fluttered, a shadow fell across Theodore’s red pupils.
Seeing his face full of contemplation, I changed my attitude from earlier and pointed at him.
“After that, let’s have a divorce.”
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