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    On the evening of that day, the final banquet of the three-day-long birthday celebration was held.

    The banquet proceeded in a rather subdued atmosphere. As most of the acquaintances had already exchanged greetings, it was now time for deeper political conversations to take place.

    Seongjin formally introduced Marquis Ravioli, Charles to Amelia.

    “You’ve sent a precious gift, Marquis Ravioli. I was so focused on the flower buds in the greenhouse that I completely missed the splendid spring news that had arrived in the garden.”

    “Not at all. In the presence of Her Highness, the fragrance of any flower would pale in comparison. I have only now realized how inadequate my preparations were.”

    The two seemed to get along quite well, engaging in a lively conversation.

    Usually, when Amelia was with her siblings, she would express her true feelings in a warm and affectionate tone.

    However, in formal settings, she was surprisingly adept at the aristocratic way of speaking, embellished with flowery language.

    Come to think of it, she had once told Seongjin:

    “People like to hide their true intentions behind flowery language and pretty words. But in most cases, they don’t really want to hide it; they expect the other person to naturally understand.”

    Seongjin had heard that Amelia was usually quite shy and didn’t engage much in social activities, but seeing her now, she seemed to have even more social grace than Isabella, the queen of high society. It was truly remarkable.

    By the way…

    ‘That bastard is sneakily appealing to the Prince of Brittany again.’

    Seongjin glared at Charles with a sullen expression. It was obvious that the cunning little brat was trying to push for a royal marriage between Delcross and Brittany, which didn’t sit well with him.

    [Why are you making a fuss after introducing them yourself?]

    ‘Well, if Brittany wants something from noonim, she must also have something to gain from them.’

    Just like Morres’s “engagement in name only.”

    Besides, Seongjin had a feeling that Amelia wanted to build a wide range of connections at this birthday celebration, especially with the nobles of Rohan and Brittany. Since Charles was the only one Seongjin could introduce her to, he could overlook his slight displeasure. Apparently, the Ravioli family held quite a high position in Brittany.

    ‘And no matter who she talks to, isn’t it better than that swallow bastard from Rohan?’

    […You really don’t like him, do you?]

    I guess so. But why?

    Strangely, whenever I see that guy, I get the urge to drag him away somewhere and bury him without anyone knowing.

    Is it because his eyes look like a psychopath’s?

    [Who are you calling a psychopath?]

    ‘…Shut up!’

    Anyway, both Amelia and Charles seemed satisfied with this meeting.

    ‘What a beautiful and elegant princess. She would be a perfect match for Prince Philip! When I return to Brittany, I must persuade my father to proceed with the royal marriage.’

    ‘In the future, Philip of Brittany became a rational monarch. When the holy war broke out, he was the second to join the allied forces and confront Leonard. So it’s beneficial to build a good relationship with him from now on.’

    Watching the two of them, Seongjin thought:

    ‘Should I introduce Chloe to noonim on this occasion…?’

    In Seongjin’s mind, Chloe was already the future head of Delcross’s foreign affairs department.

    Right now, she was just studying foreign languages as a hobby, but if it suited her aptitude, what better ability could there be to aid in diplomatic activities?

    With her quick wit, she wouldn’t come back at a loss from any negotiation table.

    Seongjin didn’t know what Amelia wanted to do in the future, but surely Chloe would one day become her wings.

    ‘There’s not much time left until departure, but I should still try to arrange a meeting!’

    Since Amelia was immersed in her studies, they might even join forces and form a foreign language study group.

    ‘But it’s a bit disappointing when it comes to connections within Delcross…’

    As it was a matter of their own country’s royal marriage, foreign dignitaries were desperate to build even the slightest good relationship with Amelia.

    On the other hand, the people of Delcross were rather indifferent to the princess, thinking she would soon marry and leave for another country anyway.

    They flattered around the Empress and 1st Queen Lizabeth, rarely giving Amelia a chance.

    ‘It will be difficult unless someone well-versed in high society acts as a bridge.’

    Suddenly, Isabella’s face flashed through his mind.

    If only she hadn’t fallen into the clutches of Sigurd Sigurdson, she could have been another wing for Amelia, the queen of high society.

    Lost in thought, someone quietly approached Seongjin’s side and whispered:

    “…Bethella!”

    “…”

    Seongjin glared at Leonard, who was grinning obliviously beside him. Despite the rather unfriendly gaze, the annoying fellow chuckled and downed his drink, as if he was pleased about something.

    “Time flies! We’ve barely become acquainted, and it’s already time to part ways. Isn’t it truly regrettable?”

    Be thankful that the birthday celebration only lasts three days, you bastard.

    If the days you could make advances on Noonim had increased by even one more, I would have buried you myself, diplomatic issues be damned!

    “Ah, right. I’m thinking of arranging a meeting with my friend soon. When would be a good time?”

    What should I do? Seongjin thought sullenly.

    Actually, at first, he had planned to investigate that suspicious ‘Brotherhood’ or whatever, but… He was increasingly irritated by the way that guy hovered around Amelia.

    “It might be difficult for a while. I have plans to go somewhere soon.”

    Orden Siegmund was scheduled to return to his territory immediately after the birthday celebration ended.

    Since Seongjin was ostensibly visiting the territory at the invitation of the duke’s heir, he had to match his schedule. And he planned to subtly include the Monster Special Task Force among his entourage.

    If the Monster Special Task Force formally announced their intention to investigate the territory, they would surely go to great lengths to kick Seongjin’s group out.

    But upon hearing those words, Leonard replied leisurely:

    “No problem. There will be banquets held here and there even after the birthday celebration. I plan to stay in Delcross for a while, attending the places I’m invited to. Just contact me whenever you have time.”

    And he was giving Amelia those subtle glances again!

    A vein popped on Seongjin’s forehead.

    ‘Don’t you have anything better to do, you swallow bastard!’

    This year’s birthday celebration ended that way.

    And that night, news arrived that Isabella Scarcepino had regained consciousness.

    ***

    Unlike Riccardo, the awakened Isabella managed to maintain her composure.

    If she had been abandoned by the main body, she would have panicked with her memories tampered with.

    But now, the main body was also driven into a corner. There were still ways for her to become the main body.

    Although the connection was severed, she knew where the real Sigurd Sigurdson was now. She knew who the last remaining avatar was.

    ‘It was a crisis that would come eventually.’

    Isabella… no, Sigurd thought.

    Years ago, after his body was killed by the hands of the emperor, he barely managed to survive by transferring his soul from one puppet to another.

    And there were side effects to parasitizing other people’s bodies. Although he tried to use the bodies of puppets with weakened egos, he couldn’t avoid being influenced by the puppets and gradually having his own ego blurred.

    But of all things, the last remaining avatar for the main body was the one he least wanted to use.

    The man whose ego was so strong that he couldn’t be fully controlled even after preparing since childhood.

    ‘I don’t know how long she can maintain my ego…’

    So, driven by circumstances, he had no choice but to leave her body, but if he could somehow confront that avatar, the Puppetmaster would surely return to her body.

    ‘Let’s leave Delcross as soon as preparations are made.’

    From the night she woke up to the next morning.

    She stayed up all night, planning her trip. Her mind was solely focused on meeting that final avatar as soon as possible.

    As she steeled her resolve, an unexpected visitor came to see her in the morning. It was Prince Morres, who unusually brought a bouquet of flowers.

    “Hey, Sigurd Sigurdson. You look healthier than I thought.”

    After setting up a simple tea table in the drawing room and dismissing all the servants, the prince sat across from Isabella with a smile.

    But the gray eyes staring at her clearly showed no hint of laughter.

    Feeling a strange chill, Isabella spoke in a trembling voice:

    “He has left me, Your Highness. Now, I am Isabella…”

    “Don’t make me laugh.”

    “Your Highness…”

    “I had some hope that Isabella might remain, but it was in vain. You still reek of his presence. That sticky, filthy feeling unique to parasites.”

    “…”

    Isabella, or rather Sigurd Sigurdson, fell silent.

    Prince Morres was the next Oracle. The only living causality in this frozen Delcross.

    Even after his sudden change in personality, that fact never changed, and his eyes that saw through the essence gleamed with a sharp silver light.

    Clutching the shawl around her shoulders, she was trembling when Prince Morres, who had been quietly observing her, opened his mouth.

    “Lady Isabella.”

    A voice pretending to be gentle, as if to soothe her.

    “Normally, I don’t leave things I deem dangerous as they are. I can’t tolerate something like you still breathing next to Sisle. But it was Father who spared you. So, out of respect for Father’s will, I’ll give you one chance.”

    “A chance…?”

    “Yes.”

    The prince nodded and continued:

    “I’ll give you a chance to become Lady Isabella.”

    Sigurd Sigurdson was taken aback.

    Become Isabella? How?

    “Why, you’re good at that thing, aren’t you? Casting charm or hypnosis while looking in the mirror. How about using those tricks on yourself, just like you controlled the puppets?”

    “Such a preposterous…”

    “I don’t care what methods you use. The deadline is until I return from Siegmund Territory.”

    Then, the prince lifted the teacup in front of him to his mouth. He grimaced after taking a sip, as if it didn’t suit his taste.

    “You need to understand this clearly. Right now, you may think you can’t be anything other than Sigurd Sigurdson. But originally, he was your enemy who made you lose yourself. He took everything that made you who you are, not only your body but also your mind. And yet, you still want to become him?”

    “…”

    “Although there’s hardly any trace of her left in you now, consider it a courtesy for my fiancée, Lady Isabella. If you successfully become Isabella, I will help you take revenge on the one who made you this way.”

    At that, she spoke in a trembling voice:

    “But… but how can that be possible?”

    Beautiful turquoise eyes began to shed tears.

    “I already know of that grand plan! I have seen with my own eyes that beautiful world, those intricate stories! How can I be expected to return to being a mere human?”

    However, a cruelly cold answer was given to that sorrowful question.

    “Obviously, because it’s a matter of your survival. You should desperately cling to it, even if it’s just to stay alive. What use are plans and stories then?”

    Prince Morres looked straight into her wavering eyes and spoke clearly.

    “Listen carefully. When you see me again after returning from the North, you should have become, at least outwardly, the perfect Isabella Scarcepino. Otherwise, I might feel the urge to take revenge on you first. To be honest, I’m quite displeased right now because I haven’t been able to properly avenge our little one yet.”

    Then, the prince curled his lips into a smirk.

    “So, keep this in mind. If you’re still Sigurd Sigurdson when I return…”

    For a moment, his eyes seemed to flash with a silver glow.

    “You will surely die by my hand. Understood?”

    “…!”

    With a bone-chilling shudder, she realized.

    The chance for her to become Sigurd Sigurdson again would never come a second time.

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