Imperial palace’s summer ball was held in Lection Hall, one of the most beautiful gardens in the empire.
Lection Garden was a place where only the world’s most beautiful flowers were collected and displayed, with a preservation enchantment to keep them always blooming.
Thus, the summer ball also had more authority than ever before.
It was established under the emperor as a place for high ranking nobles to gather and chat.
Baron’s daughter, Citrina Foluin, took a step into Lection Garden, where lower nobles such as herself were not supposed to set foot.
Her head was full of questions.
‘The emperor himself invited me to the Lection Garden summer ball, right? I was even given this brilliant dress.’
No matter how much she thought about it, she couldn’t figure out why the emperor was treating her this way.
Nevertheless, she could not refuse an invitation from the imperial palace.
‘Rumors can’t have already spread about our jewelry business.’
Citrina’s jewelry shop had not yet had its grand opening.
Although her name would soon be creeping around society along with that of her business.
‘But this isn’t enough for the emperor to take notice.
Something’s wrong with this.’
It was said that the emperor acted like a puppet with Duke Pietro holding his strings, but an emperor was an emperor.
Above all, it meant that a baron’s daughter like her could not refuse.
Citrina quickly came to grips with the situation.
“Let’s eat a lot of delicious food since I’m here already.”
Citrina quietly murmured as she lifted her dress.
The touch at her fingertips was silky and smooth.
The elegant silk dress woven with silver threads fit her figure perfectly.
Citrina tried not to think about the shiny diamonds embroidered around the shoulders and waist of the dress.
It was too much pressure to have on her mind.
Still, Lection Garden was fairly crowded.
For better or worse, Citrina had arrived a bit late.
She made her way over to the food table.
Before her eyes was an array of desserts, causing her to feel hungry out of nowhere.
As she nibbled on the finger food, the taste spread through her mouth.
‘Ah, it’s sweet.’
As she was basking in the healing feeling of delicious food, she heard some whispers behind her.
“Who’s that lady over there?”
“It’s my first time seeing that lady.”
“I don’t know any ladies below the level of marquess.”
The lively conversation between a young noblewoman and nobleman caught her attention.
Citrina seemed to be the subject of their chatter.
‘I’m also curious why I was called here.’
Citrina wondered about her ticket inside.
She decided to try and ignore what she had heard.
The server handed her a low alcohol, fruity cocktail.
“You’re welcome, beautiful lady.”
The server smiled and walked past her.
The cocktail was surprisingly to her taste.
Sipping her sweet drink and savoring the taste, Citrina missed the next few words between the noblewoman and nobleman.
“Wait, wait a moment.”
“The dress that lady is wearing… isn’t it the only one created by the elf?”
The murmurs grew louder.
It was loud enough that she could not ignore it.
With a few sips of cocktail, Citrina turned to them lightheartedly.
It was then.
At the Lection Garden entrance, the knight posted at the door announced with a trembling voice.
“The Duke of Pietro, De, Desian Pietro is entering!”
“Oh my god, Did I hear wrong….”
A young noblewoman screamed.
The men stopped talking as their faces paled.
Some people stepped back slightly.
The sound of something shattering filled the air.
In the chaotic situation, only Citrina remained calm.
She was lost in thought.
‘Desian? That Desian Pietro?’
Citrina knew Desian Pietro well.
It all began when they met four years ago.
He was the ultimate villain in the world where she had reincarnated.
How hard had she tried to rehabilitate him?
In that moment, Citrina felt a flash of emotion.
‘That’ Duke Desian Pietro slowly made his way down the main path.
That man’s perfect appearance chilled the atmosphere of the garden party.
Unaware of the frozen atmosphere, Citrina looked up at him.
Desian was as beautiful as ever.
With long eyelashes, prominent cheekbones, and a perfectly delicate face framed by black hair and eyes..
It was a beauty that felt languid and delicate.
It was a beauty that affected her view of the world.
Looking at his figure, Citrina felt a bit out of place for a moment.
‘He should have a bloodstained magic sword in his hands, but it’s missing?’
Instead of a bloodstained sword, he held a bouquet of roses.
‘There was a phrase in the original work that everyone within a kilometer of Desian would be annihilated.
I’m sure he’s been rehabilitated.
I’m so proud.’
She swelled up with happiness as she thought.
Citrina was so focused on Desian’s condition that she didn’t notice the chilly atmosphere around them.
As Citrina reminisced about the past, Desian was approaching her.
His eyes were clearly focused on her.
Citrina slowly lifted her gaze from his fingertips to meet his eyes.
At that moment, Desian’s blank expression was filled with vivid emotion.
It was unmistakable delight.
He stood in front of her with a big smile on his face.
Citrina returned his gaze and gave a small smile back.
Standing face to face with her, he bent down and whispered affectionately in her ear.
It was the same as when he was with her as a child.
“My ear is itchy, Del”
Was it because of the close proximity? The hairs on the nape of her neck stood up and her ear itched.
Was it because of her nickname?
Desian’s smile widened.
Meanwhile, Citrina who hadn’t seen his smile, put a hand on Desian’s wide shoulder and pushed him away.
He allowed her to push him back with little force.
She smiled and spoke again.
“How’ve you been? I missed you.”
Citrina gave a light greeting.
Oddly, Desian’s expression stiffened in that moment.
He was clearly embarrassed.
Not that anyone would call him tense.
Citrina smiled blandly and his mind went blank.
“I really missed you too.”
The man handed her the roses ever so slowly.
It was like it was in slow motion.
“Is this a welcome back home gift? Thanks, Del…”
Citrina thought her childhood friend that she had not encountered for a long time had become very friendly.
As Desian listened to her speak, he smiled radiantly, which caused her heart to feel as if it was on fire.
A warm wind blew around them.
It was quite a beautiful reunion scene for the two of them.
However, it was different for everyone else.
Truthfully, all of the high ranking nobles that were gathered there thought they were dreaming.
“Wha, what is this?”
Duke Desian Pietro was obviously human, but he was treated like an outside existence.
He was known by such nicknames as ‘Blood Crazy Duke, Death’s Ambassador, Iron-blooded Duke, The Only Person Who Survived and Conquered in a Mountain of Bodies’ and the like.
No one had ever seen him smile.
His face was always indifferent, and only smiled at the end of a war.
Who could believe ‘that’ Duke Desian Pietro could be so sweet!
He was even holding a flower instead of his infamous magic sword!
“That, is that a flower?”
“I think so…” There was something else to be surprised about.
That lady had called Desian by his childhood nickname.
This alone was enough to surprise everybody.
The situation was beyond what anyone could grasp as no one knew what was going on.
Despite the other’s feelings, the reunion of Desian and Citrina in the beautiful garden was affectionate and fantastic.
Citrina whispered to him quietly.
“You’ve become the duke, haven’t you?”
“Congratulations! Ah, then the previous Duke Pietro…”
“It was a disease, unfortunately.”
Desian didn’t look completely sad, but he looked a bit depressed.
Citrina’s eyes widened in surprise.
He was mistreated by the duke who had died.
But he was depressed rather than relieved.
Desian…had he changed this much?
‘Has he really become this nice?’
Four years had flown by like an arrow.
Let’s find out myself.
I’ll judge with my own eyes.’
She couldn’t make heads nor tails of her precious childhood friend.
Desian reached out to her slowly.
“You wanted to dance at the Summer Ball, Rina.”
Citrina squinted since she couldn’t remember exactly.
“I’d like to dance, but I think talking with you is more important.”
The two of us, I think we need to talk.
Citrina laughed under her breath.
His eyes became more hazy as he looked at her.
He reached out to her slowly.
As he came closer, she smelled a familiar cologne.
Citrina had forgotten the smell of that cologne for a while.
Oh, it was weird.
The scent at the tip of her nose reminded her of the past.
Instead of dancing at the Summer Ball, Desian escorted Citrina into the deepest part of the garden.
There was a quiet and beautiful greenhouse.
A small shadow fell on Desian’s face from the dense tree above them.
It was a hot summer, but the temperature inside was refreshing as if it was controlled by magic.
Desian was looking at her face.
That gaze was both familiar yet unfamiliar, so Citrina broke the silence by whispering.
“I missed you, Del!”
Desian replied bluntly to Citrina.
However, it didn’t feel bad.
Rather, she liked the fact that nothing had changed.
Over the past four years she had sometimes thought about this.
It felt like she was back home.
“…To be honest I wanted to watch your success, but you still have things to achieve, right?”
The words somehow seemed to be an excuse, so Citrina smiled awkwardly.
Desian looked at her face calmly.
He was originally a man who lived in the darkness of the city.
Yet the smile on his decadent face seemed more harmless than anyone else.
“Del, you’re always so kind.”
“Did you enjoy the ball?”
Ah, were you the one who sent me the invitation?”
“… I heard you had come back.”
“How did you know that?”
“The house you bought, it belonged to me.”
“How could there be such an amazing coincidence?”
Citrina’s eyes widened it surprise.
“… it’s truly a strange coincidence.”
Desian said, one beat off tempo.
She didn’t believe Desian would care about such trifles, but she didn’t notice how else he could know she had returned.
“It’s too fascinating.”
She was still a bit curious and had questions left unanswered, but Citrina smiled cheerfully.
Desian’s response was as warm as it used to be.
The last four years had been a tough time for her.
It was fun refining gemstones and dealing with spirits, but it was sometimes difficult like pushing through a strong wind.
Citrina felt relieved, as if the spring snow was melting.
“Ah, I heard that Duke Pietro is doing a lot of sponsoring.
Is it true you’ve been cleaning up some boroughs?”
Silence followed Citrina’s words.
Desian’s expression remained the same.
Citrina tilted her head to the side.
He whispered quietly.
“Yeah, I felt bad for the unfortunates living in those conditions.”
Citrina was silent for a bit.
“Oh… you felt bad?”
He looked at her with a harmless expression.
His black irises looked like Concord grapes.
In essence, he looked quite friendly.
But… of course, she had asked because she was curious how well the rehabilitation had went, but this was pretty unexpected.
She couldn’t believe he had become such a person.
‘Has he become too nice? Desian has no reason to lie, so it must be true.’
Citrina was able to see Desian’s history of good deeds with her own eyes.
‘The Desian Pietro in the original work was not one to keep up his public image, so this is too fascinating.
Citrina looked at him with curious eyes.
It was also gratifying to see that Desian had gained a new, normal life rather than a villainous one thanks to her rehabilitation.
You did a great job.
Everyone seemed to be happy.”
“Listening to your words makes me sure, Rina.”
“I’m sure that I’m doing well.”
The smile around Desian’s mouth deepened as he looked at Citrina’s face.
Citrina added one more thing.
“Really, you’re doing well since the four years we last met? And now we are meeting again.”
“There must be a reason why you came back after four years.”
Desian caressed the edge of his teacup.
Looking at his elegant fingertips, Citrina nodded and whispered gravely.
“You’re the only one who knows, actually, I’m here to take over the empire’s jewelry industry.”
As she finished speaking, she met his eyes.
Desian’s face was serious.
In reaction to his serious response, Citrina denied it while laughing.
“It’s a joke, really.
I’m not going to do that actually.”
Desian raised his eyebrows.
It was a habit he didn’t have in his childhood.
She felt the passing of those four years all of a sudden.
Citrina whispered softly.
“I’ve also become an adult.
So have you heard of the gemstone mine found on Count Hailey’s estate? It has the empire in an uproar.”
Citrina lightly touched on the subject.
She thought it was better to drop a small hint to Desian about the state of the empire.
Desian already seemed to know what Citrina had to say.
Citrina spoke calmly.
“I’m curious about Count Hailey’s gemstone mine.”
It was customary for rough gemstones to go to the gemstone market and be auctioned off.
However, jewelry atelier’s with a contract got first pick of the stones.
Therefore, she wanted to sign a contract on the mine.
Gemma wanted superior Silmaril from the empire.
She was a bit conflicted.
With Desian’s answer, Citrina felt a bit suspicious.
When talk of Silmaril came up, Gemma usually flew around and talked excitedly, yet she was now deathly quiet.
Without giving her time to dwell to deeply, Desian answered.
“Rina, I own the Hailey family mine.”
“You? Then Duke Pietro is earnestly entering the jewelry business.”
“I decided to dive in seriously.”
Desian’s answer was succinct.
She had already heard that Duke Pietro had bought all of the gemstones.
Things were going strangely well.
“I, I’d like to take a look around your jewel mine for a bit.
Could you let me do that?”
Neither at the dwarf’s atelier nor in her past life had she seen a jewel mine in person.
She could feel her heart fluttering.
“Well… I still want to go there myself.”
It was essential to inspect the mine personally before signing a contract.
By bringing the spirit Gemma there, she would have a better idea of the mine’s quality.
“Then I’ll accompany you.”
It was an unexpected kindness.
‘If I’m with Desian, I might draw attention.
Is that alright?’
It was still too early let others know she had a contract with the dwarf and that she could work with spirits.
“…Then let’s go together in secret.” “If that’s what you want.”
“When can we go? Any time is fine with me.
The sooner, the better.”
Desian replied to Citrina mischievous words.
“Then how about tomorrow?”
With Desian’s burning gaze, Citrina had a hard time opening her mouth to reply.
“Then… will you contact me tomorrow?”
She asked lightly to put an end to the conversation.
It seemed like the sun was setting and it was about time to make her exit.
‘I’m glad I didn’t hear any bad rumors about Desian.’
The Desian standing next to her was just like what she remembered from childhood.
In the distance, the Summer Ball musicians began to play the final song of the evening.
“I’ll take you there.”
Looking at her pale cheeks, Desian spoke in a calm tone.
“I’ll drop you off at home.”
Desian alluring voice seemed to resonate in her ears.
For a moment, their eyes met.
Citrina opened her mouth and agreed.
The tension between the two disappeared as if nothing had happened.
Desian spoke offhandedly.
“Before we leave, I want to ask you something.”
“The day before you left, the last thing that I said.
Do you remember what it was?”
Citrina thought back to what happened four years ago.
However, it was impossible to recall what had happened after four years in vivid detail.
If it meant something to Desian, she should remember…
Citrina answered after biting her lip briefly.
Desian laughed low when he heard her questioning reply.
She was caught in his eyes, which showed no sign of what he was thinking.
“Not that, Rina.”
Desian looked at her and gave a small grin.
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