At the New Year’s banquet, the grand duchess had to show off her dignity, so she had to wear something heavy and neat rather than fancy decorations like other aristocrats. But today Kalion had requested the maids to dress Erna most beautifully. The lights in the maids’ eyes brightened the moment they’d heard that. They have waited for this day.
They’d intended to doll Erna up even if she had said she didn’t want to. On top of that, the person she had to meet was rumored to be the beautiful princess of Haband. In the minds of the maids, this was suddenly becoming a battle of nationalism. The maids ran to the jewelry locker and brought back what they’d prepared over time.
It was funny, to say the least. Because Erna was also a princess of Haband. But now no one in there thought Erna was a person of Haband.
Actually, like Kalion, Erna had thought she would be wearing a ceremonial dress as it matched the etiquette. However, her thoughts changed in the middle when she heard Orpé who came to deliver the news about Adelaide’s situation.
“She keeps calling you ‘sister’. Even though I told her in return that you’d like to change the way you want to be called.”
Erna could tell that Adelaide did not want to call her ‘Lady Erna’ or ‘Grand Duchess’.
It wasn’t surprising. Erna recalled Adelaide’s stare when she used to run into her as a child. The overflowing look of contempt sprinkled with a little sympathy thrown by an absolute superior.
Erna hated that she had to bow her head and add honorifics to the existence that used to look at her with such eyes. That’s why Adelaide must have wanted to call her her gracious sister when she glanced at Erna.
This also means she won’t treat me like the grand duchess.
This was Adelaide, not some other aristocrat. A qualified being to become Grand Duchess of Hessenguard according to the peace treaty between Haband and Aether.
Erna sighed at Adelaide’s half-exposed pursuit of the grand duchess title.
That’s how it’s going to come out.
Erna ordered the maids after staring at the ceremonial dress they’d brought in.
“I’ll wear something else instead of a ceremonial dress.”
“If she won’t treat me like a grand duchess, I, too, will greet her not as an envoy but as my younger sister.”
So, Erna appeared in a casual dress rather than a ceremonial dress. If they were sisters and not grand duchess and an envoy… it won’t be a big problem as much as disrespectful. She’d come here in that mindset, but she had been worried even before entering. Even more, after hearing that Kalion had gone in first.
Erna felt like she was somehow going to laugh after looking at Kalion, standing next to her, to the point where it stung.
“Long time no see, Adelaide.”
Erna, unfazed at all, greeted the sister she hadn’t seen in a long time. At that moment it felt like the lump of emotions gathered deep in her heart seemed to be coming loose and falling apart. It wasn’t because she was beautiful, nor was it because Adelaide was staring at her without even managing her expression.
Erna smiled while placing a hand on Kalion’s arm. Even though Adelaide was here, unlike the maid from a long time ago, Kalion was looking only at Erna as if he didn’t even know Adelaide existed.
This would be what she’d actually wanted from long ago. Someone to stare at her. Erna turned to Adelaide with a light heart. Was it because she’d come in possession of what she wanted? Now, Erna didn’t feel any emotion even though she was looking at Adelaide.
* * *
Adelaide was sitting, staring blankly in the center of the room that had been prepared for her in the Grand Castle’s annex.
The reception this morning had ended quickly, and the grand couple had returned immediately, saying they had something to discuss.
This wasn’t it. Adelaide was troubled. Everything was going in the opposite direction of her expectations. She’d thought it would be easy to please the people here. Even worse, wasn’t Erna the target to compare herself to? That ugly girl. That pathetic…
Adelaide recalled Erna’s form entering the reception room. The first moment she’d laid eyes on her she hadn’t thought it was Erna. However, as soon as she noticed the old traces of her same exact eyes and hair color Adelaide had had no choice but to acknowledge that it was Erna.
Adelaide had felt fear at that moment. She couldn’t influence Erna anymore, the one thing she had thought she could wield as a weapon the most.
Adelaide gritted her teeth, as she knew it was against etiquette. After the fear came anger. How dare she? Erna. Adelaide squeezed her fists once again. She had come all the way to Hessenguard to stand here like a damned fool.
Then, with a knock on the door, the maid brought by Adelaide came in and said, “Princess, I’ve brought her.”
* * *
At the same time…
“Cosmetics sure don’t taste good.”
Kalion licked Erna’s red lips. In his arms was a panting Erna with the buttons on her dress still fastened.