The first empress loved flowers and plants.
Thanks to this, the imperial palace became a quiet and elegant place full of beautiful gardens.

Fiona Hall had a side garden as well.
Citrina and Iana walked side-by-side to this garden.
Citrina opened her mouth first.

“The sunshine is nice, maybe because it is late summer, Your Highness.”
“I know!”

There was curiosity and interest laced in the princess’s words.
Citrina was embarrassed by her giddiness.
As her talent was a rarity in the empire, Citrina had expected the princess to be interested in her, but…
her level of interest was strange.

“You are the first person Her Majesty the princess has invited to the garden, Citrina Foluin-nim.”
“Ah, yes…”

The lady-in-waiting’s words made Citrina flush with discomfort.
‘Things are veering off tracks in a weird way.’
Citrina knew.
She was not the hero of this world.
At times like this, she had to be on her guard.
What on earth did Princess Iana need from her?
One more person was added to her list of questions.

“Please know it is an honor.”

While the princess sat in a tall chair prepared for her, a close lady-in-waiting brought a shorter one for Citrina.
The ladies-in-waiting prepared Citrina’s seat in an orderly manner.
On one side of the round white table sat a spiritist-a rarity in the empire-and on the other sat the imperial princess.

“It smells so good, Your Highness.”
“This tea has roses in it.
I love it too.”

Princess Iana’s eyes turned towards Citrina.
The princess held her teacup in one hand and savored a mouthful of tea to calm her beating heart.

“Along with tea, Your Highness is knowledgeable about spirits.
Is that right?”
“I do enjoy it.”
“I’ve never even met a person who knows the names of spirits.”

Citrina smiled as she put down her teacup.

Princess Iana’s ears turned red as she faced Citrina.

“… Um, well, I read a book about spiritists.”
“A book about spiritists?”
“What’s the title?”

Princess Iana’s lips went dry.

“I’ll tell you later.”

She felt a little shy saying it out in the open, so she didn’t speak.

Let me know.
My spirit’s name is Gemma, so I’d love to read it.”
“… What, what?”

Iana tried to speak calmly, but could not hide how she was trembling internally.
It really was Gemma!
A storm was brewing in her mind.

‘Ah, this is so nice.’

Of course, it was also good to receive a diamond blessed with good luck.
She was also happy to meet a spirit.
But there was something else that was even better for Princess Iana.
Princess Iana’s cheeks blushed brilliant red.

‘Citrina is the real-life version of the heroine!’

In , the heroine was a low ranking noble who used a high-ranking spirit.
Furthermore, their personalities were similar.
Later, she would absolutely give her the novel so that Citrina could read it.
The real-life version of the main character… ah, no, Citrina would be interesting to read about as well.
Iana’s eyes flashed.
It was clear.
Terribly clear.
It wasn’t certain if it was a good thing for Citrina or not, but Princess Iana was an extreme fangirl.

“Citrina, are you attending the final ball?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Then, I’ll see you at that time!”

Iana smiled broadly and clapped!

“Of course, Your Highness.”

Citrina responded cutely to the enthusiastic Iana.
Citrina smiled at Iana.

‘Gasp! Now that I think of it, this hadn’t occurred to me!’

An idea flashed in her head.
Such a lightbulb moment never occurred when she was almost failing at the academy.

“So did you find a partner for the last ball?”

Iana imagined Citrina would have no partner.

‘It’s a ball! Shall I help you have a fateful encounter there?’

Iana was destined to have an arranged marriage.
But couldn’t Citrina who resembled the heroine in have the fateful encounter that Iana could not?
Iana’s heart sparked with anticipation.

“Yes, I did.”
“Oh? Who is it?”
“His Excellency Duke Pietro is sponsoring me and agreed to be my partner at the ball.”
“…THAT Duke Desian Pietro?”

Princess Iana’s eyes widened as far as they could go.
Her face was very expressive at that moment.
She couldn’t hide her embarrassed face properly.

“Yes…by any chance, are you acquainted with His Excellency the Duke?”

Citrina asked cautiously.

“…I haven’t spoken with him directly.
We’ve attended the same events before.
I’ve heard he’s quite…the cold person, but it seems like he’s sponsoring you.
That’s amazing.”

“Is he a cold person?”

At Citrina’s sly voice, Iana pursed her lips like a bird’s beak.

“That’s what it seems like and what the gossips say.
Ah, there has been good news spreading about him too.”
For Iana, this was the biggest stretch of the truth.

“Good news?”
“… Uhhh, I heard there were a lot of things done in that family’s name.
I’m not exactly certain.
So he will be a good sponsor.
Don’t you think?”

Princess Iana’s eyes flashed.
Citrina accepted her answer indifferently.

“Yes, he’s a good person.”

Princess Iana was the type to listen as she pleased.
So she looked at the only person to call Duke Desian Pietro a good person.

“That’s right.
I think people should only judge others based on personal experience rather than rumors.
They shouldn’t listen to hearsay.”

It was a really textbook answer.
However, Citrina agreed with it.
No one could please everyone and seem like a good person to all.
Citrina suppressed a slight feeling of discomfort and glanced at the princess.

“I agree with you, Your Highness.”

Citrina knew the conversation would turn out like this.
She was about to casually bring up her atelier to the princess.
But Princess Iana was one step faster.

“Ah, then… I have a question for you.”

No one who had ever seen Desian and Citrina out in public had ever considered that Desian loved Citrina.
The reason was that Desian seemed to be a million light years away from love.
It was more reasonable to assume that Citrina wore a friendly mask in front of him because he was a munchkin that was useful.
Note: Munchkin is Korean slang for an overpowered character.]

‘To be kind only to your sponsor, it’s perfect.
So perfect.’

However, Princess Iana’s common sense here was completely different from a normal person.

During her years at the academy, she had read an enormous amount of romance novels.
In other words, she was the type of person who could extract passion from a speck of dust.

“Then per, perhaps there is someone you like, Lady Citrina?”

Citrina hesitated for a moment.
The princess’s eyes looked too bright.

“Not so far, Your Highness.
But why….”

No, it was not Citrina’s delusion.
The princess’s eyes, just like the gem powder Gemma had sprinkled earlier, were magic.
They flashed dangerously.
And at that moment when Citrina felt worried looking into the princess’s eyes, the princess made up her mind.

“No, it’s just it seems like good things happen between partners.”
“N, nothing at all.
It sounds good.”

Iana chuckled.

‘It’s Desian Pietro and Citrina Foluin.
A capable spiritist lady backed by a cool-headed duke.
It would be even better if the duke fell in love with the spiritist and pretended to be sweet in front of her.’

Iana was amazingly spot-on in her pondering.
But she wasn’t aware of that.

‘Let’s not look the duke in the eye the next time we meet.
It would be problematic if he read my mind.’

… She would have to tuck this secret away in her heart so he didn’t know.
Iana cleared her throat a bit and said.

“If possible, come back often.”
“I will certainly visit you often, Your Highness.”

Citrina spoke bluntly.

“Well, that’s not bad.
Let’s do that.”

Iana, the person who had actually asked her to come, nodded her head solemnly.
She was already thinking of the last ball of the festival.
Citrina’s day was perfect.
Except that the slightly dark-hearted Princess Iana was her companion.

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