Chapter 8:

The Walls Have Ears

Hated by the Evil Lady

Since he came home, Lucien had been nodding off at the dining table.

He couldn't even take more than two bites of his favorite meal—the roasted beef drizzled in rich wine sauce marinating in the richest broth. As much as he wanted to stay awake, his body was having a different idea.

"Lucien?" his father called out to him, jolting him awake almost immediately.

"Yes?" Lucien said as he straightened up his back. He made a smile to his father, whom he got his icy blue hair from. The Marquess of Renand was looking worried for his son while he was in the middle of eating his dinner himself.

“Are you not pushing yourself?” the Marquess asked.

Lucien shook his head with a smile. He understood what his father was worried about, but he knew his own limits.

“Oh stop it, Dear. He’s a big boy now,” the Marchioness, who was sitting next to her husband, said. Her clear chocolate eyes—the very same color Lucien’s and Cecile’s eyes had—rolled at her husband’s silliness.

It was the first time in a while that the Renand family could have dinner together. Usually, the Marquess and the Marchioness would be staying at their manor back in their territory to govern it. Moreover, since they just found a potentially huge mine in the Renand territory, they got increasingly busier as of late.

“Mother is right, Father. He’s no longer a baby now. Don’t you see how huge he grew?” Cecile cackled. With his two beloved ladies scolding him like that, the Marquess could only pout.

“All right, but tell me if it gets too hard, okay? Father always got your back!” the Marquess said to Lucien while raising a fist in the air.

Lucien chuckled and nodded at his father’s considerate offer.

“Of course, Father. You’ll be the first to know,” Lucien said with a thumb up. The Marquess grinned and began bragging to his wife about the male bond between himself and his son and whatnot.

“Father, how is the exploration of the mine going? Is there really something worthy inside?” Lucien asked once his father calmed down a little.

“We haven’t found much, but we’re optimistic that it’s going to be a huge one. The expert said that judging by the entrance, there are probably coals or even diamonds inside,” the Marquess said with a nod.

Lucien also nodded as he fell into deep thought. Coals would honestly be the best option here, since there were a lot of places in the empire that suffered the cold during winter. For some reason, they hadn’t been receiving adequate support for the last decade.

“Speaking of which, Cecile, have you decided who is going to accompany you as a partner for the ball?” the Marchioness asked. Their parents already knew that Lucien was going to be the Princess’s partner (they were thrilled about it), so they didn’t ask him anymore.

Cecile’s smile widened at her mother’s question, as if she’d been waiting for someone to ask about that.

“Yes, Mother. In fact, I just received a reply from Lord Cheshire Nomal that says he’s more than happy to be my partner!” Cecile beamed.

Seeing their daughter (and sister) being so happy put a smile on all of their faces.

“That’s wonderful. Keep in mind to always maintain your grace, all right?” the Marchioness said while gently patting on the back of Cecile’s hand.

It was another peaceful day at the Renand household.


Lucien was pretty sure that he was supposed to be working alongside Giselle in her office right about now, so what was he doing sitting alone in the Swanlake Boutique’s anteroom once again?

He vividly remembered entering Giselle’s office right on time as always when she suddenly passed by him.

“Follow me,” she said as she left him behind without any chance to question her actions.

He immediately followed after her, and the result was this boutique.

“You look absolutely gorgeous, Your Highness!” Lucien heard the staff squeal from the other room. It seemed like Giselle was trying on the dresses she was going to wear for the ball.

But then what was Lucien even doing here? Lucien scratched his cheek, feeling awkward and out of place in this haven for ladies. He would occasionally give the passing ladies a polite smile when he sensed them giving him a curious look. In a way, this might turn out to be more exhausting than working as the Princess’s gofer.

Lucien sighed and kept his head down

“Her Highness the Princess Giselle is apparently inside right now.”

He suddenly heard someone whisper. Lucien raised his head and saw two ladies standing next to the sofa he was sitting on. They were not doing a very good job at being discreet.

“Ugh, we shouldn’t have come here at this time,” one of the ladies whispered from behind her folding fan.

“I know what you mean. She gives me a bad feeling every time I see her,” the other lady said, her gaze directed at the door of the room where Giselle would be at. The lady in front of her nodded in agreement.

Lucien tried his best to ignore these ladies’ talk, but they were being too loud for him to pretend he wasn’t hearing anything.

“She always has a glare on her face like she was not satisfied with something. Really, I can hardly believe she is the daughter of the Emperor,” one of the ladies scoffed and shook her head.

“I agree. The Emperor is such a friendly and approachable man, yet the Crown Prince and Princess are…” the other lady snickered.

This was no longer something Lucien could tolerate. They were basically insulting the Imperial family right in front of him, the direct subordinate of a member of the Imperial family. For some reason, it made him incredibly upset to hear them say all that. He must admit he didn’t have the best first impression of Princess Giselle, but all this time together had made him realize that she was not as she seemed.

Lucien was about to stand up and say his piece, but someone beat him to it in an instant.

“Fancy seeing you here, ladies,” Giselle said with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.

It seemed like she was already done with her fitting.

The two gossiping ladies flinched when they saw her right next to them. It would appear that they didn’t notice her approaching at all.

Neither did Lucien, actually.

Giselle unfolded her fan and covered her mouth with it as she spoke.

“I wish I could chat with you ladies, but I’m afraid I must go to my next appointment. Lord Renand, shall we?” Giselle said. Lucien sighed and stood up. When they saw him rising from his seat, they all widened their eyes in fear. They probably didn’t know that the company of the Princess was actually so close by.

“Oh, by the way, ladies,” Giselle said as she stopped right in front of the door, Lucien right behind her. She then turned her head to them as she touched the wall. “The walls have ears.”

Lucien could hear the ladies' gasps of horror as he followed Giselle out of the boutique.

The both of them walked in silence for a moment as Lucien held a parasol for Giselle to protect her from the sun. He didn’t know what he should say if Giselle really heard all of that.

“...I apologize for not stepping in sooner, Your Highness,” Lucien said after they got in the carriage. He felt bad that she had to hear such insults thrown at her.

“It’s fine. I am used to it,” Giselle said as she kept staring outside the window without taking a glance at him.

It was somehow saddening Lucien to hear that she was used to being insulted. No one should have to get used to being talked behind their backs like that.

All of a sudden, Giselle dropped the fan from her hand. Lucien picked it up from the ground.

“Your Highness?” he asked as he looked up at her to give the fan back to her. However, he widened his eyes when he saw that Giselle’s eyes were closed and her face had gone pale. A moment later, she opened her eyes wide and looked at Lucien in horror.

“Your sister…” Giselle said before she suddenly lost consciousness and fell forward. Lucien caught her just in time.

“Your Highness!” shouted Lucien in alarm.