“Is this it?”

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“Yes, Your Highness.”

Albert smiled, holding a small bottle in his hand.
The old man, who was kneeling before him, shook his head.
He was an apothecary working for the royal family, and he was summoned by the crown prince.

“Most wild animals die after consuming a single drop.
Since the antidote has yet to be developed, it is not allowed to be used…”

“I don’t need an antidote.”

The apothecary’s face paled when he understood the hidden meaning behind the prince’s words.

Albert responded with a gentle smile, unbefitting of his typical personality.
“Of course, the emperor shouldn’t know about this.
Or else your head will no longer be attached to your body.”

“Y-Yes, Your Highness.”

“Go.”

“Y-Yes!” The apothecary rushed out of the room.

“What are you going to do with that?” asked the marquis who had been watching.
His gaze was fixed on the bottle of red liquid in Albert’s hand.

“What do you mean? I’m going to get rid of the thorn in my side.” He was referring to the duke and the witch.
Albert gave the bottle to the marquis.

“Why are you giving this to me?”

“Put this in the Carcalos my father will present to the duke.”

“…Excuse me? What if Duke Havel notices?”

“He can’t refuse it before the empire’s subjects.
And even then, he has to drink it.
Refusing to drink the wine is saying you’re not loyal to the emperor.”

If the duke drank the wine, he will die.
If he didn’t, the emperor will be offended.

“If the duke dies from poison, then…”

“Say the witch did it.”

“The emperor cares a lot about Lukas.
No one will think he poisoned the duke.”

The marquis nodded.

“On the other hand, there is not one witch on the side of the empire.
Those idiotic nobles will go into a frenzy over the rumor of a witch killing the duke.
We can use that to break the peace treaty and invade Kartelle.
Haha!” Albert slammed the desk.
“I want to see with my own two eyes how long he’ll last…”

“…”

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“I will ensure his wife suffers a painful death.
A couple is of one body and soul, right?”

***

“You’re so pretty, my lady.”

“Miss Betty, please stop.”

Seeing her cry in front of me made me sigh.
Twenty minutes already passed, and I’m worried she won’t be able to shed tears anymore.
The compliments from the maids didn’t stop.

“Why do I even…” I was going to go insane.

“Preparations for the celebration were completed without a hitch.”

“That’s good to hear.”

It was all thanks to the efforts of the butler and the maids.
All of this was originally supposed to be done by me since I was the duchess, but thanks to Havel’s capable servants, I only had to greet the guests.

“Greeting guests is a very important responsibility of the hostess.
This is your first time, so we have to make sure it’s impeccable!”

“Yes! My lord’s wife must be dressed up perfectly!”

The maids rushed into my room on the first day of the celebration.
From applying makeup to changing clothes, they excitedly helped.

“My lady, here.” Rhonda, who was tightening my corset behind me, set something on the table.
It was a stack of papers similar to the ones I’d see in my husband’s office.

“It’s a list of guests who are to arrive in Havel.
Mr.
Alan prepared it himself.”

“He didn’t have to do that.”

“He said you should read it ahead of time.”

I was just welcoming guests.
Why was there so much to do? Regardless, I decided to cooperate as much as possible during my stay.

“Let’s add accessories.”

“Isn’t a dress enough?”

“Not this time.
We must show the world how beautiful my lady is!” Betty approached me with a large box and opened it.
There were shiny accessories inside.

“Are you going to put all of that on the dress?”

“Of course.”

“That’s too much.”

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“It’s not.
The clothes my lady wears are modest by our standards.
An extravagant dress is expected of all noblewomen!”

“Really?”

I remembered the dresses in my closet on my first day here.
They were very luxurious; however, they all ended up in storage after the undergarment incident.

“My lord said they must be removed and replaced with simpler dresses,” a servant told me.

That was why I was comfortable with the clothes I had now.

“Can’t we do it later?”

“Please persevere for three days, my lady.”

Damn it.
Eventually, I surrendered, and the hands decorating my dress began to move faster.
I began to look through the list while being told to “turn around partially” and “straighten my back”.

“Anthony Phineas… Marquis Phineas?

“He is the chancellor.
He’s also long-time friends with the emperor,” Emily explained as she entered the room.
“In addition, he’s the leader of the pro-witch faction and a famous witch scholar.”

I was pleased to hear this information.

“The other guests you need to be aware of… Perhaps Count Dorison.”

It might have been hard to memorize everyone on the list, but Emily pointed out a few names and advised me not to forget them.

“Count Dorison is part of His Highness’s faction.
Be careful.”

Nodding, I looked at the corresponding picture on the list.
Aside from his purple eyes, his portrait alone showed he was an unpleasant person.

“Marquis Phineas was supposed to arrive alone.
It’s suspicious to send a group as large as this.”

“Carcalos, right? Do I also have to drink it?”

“No, only one of you needs to drink it.
In the first place, newlyweds shouldn’t consume alcohol after their wedding unless Carcalos is involved.”

“Why?”

“The couple is supposed to share a room after getting married, and if you’re both intoxicated…”

“Oh, I shouldn’t have asked.” I shook my head as if to say she didn’t have to say anymore.

Emily smiled.
“Why don’t you just live here from now on? Please have many beautiful children with my lord so laughter fills the halls of this desolate castle.”

Oh, dream on.
“Lady Duncan, I think you often forget I’m a witch.”

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“Am I the only one guilty of this?”

I followed her gaze to see the smiling maids.
Right, they also did that.
“I wonder if I should bring a bad harvest to the duchy as a reminder.”

“Please bring a good harvest if possible.
We’ll support you.”

Then, they all laughed.
Four against one.
That was unfair; I sighed.

“Are you not done yet?”

I heard a knock and a familiar face peeked into the room.

“My apologies, but I am tired of waiting.”

“My lord, we are almost finished.”

Looking at the mirror, I saw my well-dressed husband standing at the door.
He wore a black uniform, which reminded me that he was known as the Black Reaper… It was a fitting title.

“The guests will arrive any minute now.”

“No wonder it was noisy outside.”

“Must they be so loud when people bring gifts? …How frustrating.
Do you think I can loosen this cravat?” He seemed uncomfortable with the uniform he hadn’t worn in a long time.

The Pumpkin Knight noticed his lord’s bad mood.
“They’re here to pick a fight, and they will not hesitate to say something if you’re late.”

“Understood.” The maids hurried and finished putting on all the accessories.

Meanwhile, my husband stared at my outfit.
Unable to ignore his gaze, I turned my head and sighed.
He approached me with a mischievous smile.
I wondered what kind of prank he planned to pull this time.
His eyes suddenly widened.

“Does it look weird?” I asked.

“No.” He quickly shook his head.
“It suits you just as I thought it would.”

“…”

“You’re very beautiful.”

“…Don’t make fun of me.”

“I did not mean to tease you.”

With that smile still on his face, I had my doubts.

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“It looks better than what you normally wear, Ella.”

“I agree.”

Then, he leaned in close and whispered into my ear, “The undergarment you wore that day is still my favorite.”

“…”

He quickly pulled away, knowing damn well I was going to smack him.
My shaking hand wouldn’t have missed if he hadn’t moved.
One of these days I will give him a piece of my mind.

“It seems we’ve encountered our first real challenge since getting married.
Will you be all right?”

“Isn’t it better to ignore them?” I replied.

“Hmm, ignoring them is ideal.”

The problem was that the celebration lasted for three days.
There was a welcome party on the first day, a normal party on the second day, and a farewell ball on the last day.

“I can’t believe I have to suffer for three days…”

Dressing up was the most annoying part.
Today alone, I tried on eight different dresses.
This was because the maids fought over which dress I should wear, and I smoothed things over by saying I’d wear all of them.
Now that I think about it, it was probably all part of their plan.
They were able to dress me up in clothes I wouldn’t usually wear.

Recalling their excitement, I sighed again.

“Are the maids bothering you?”

“Yes.”

“I suppose I’ll have a word with them,” Lukas murmured.

It sounded like he was going to punish the maids, so I shook my head.
“It’s fine.”

“Are you certain?”

“They’re doing it for me.”

The maids genuinely seemed to enjoy dressing me up, so I didn’t think they were doing it to annoy me.
That was what I believed.
“The servants of Havel are good people.”

Except for the ones in House 2 where some still run away from me.
Still, I was able to get close to the servants of House 1 and House 3.
More people held back their fears and approached me.

“When their lord is a good man, it’s to be expected.”

“Don’t you have any shame?”

“It’s true.”

He was so shameless that I didn’t feel it was worth giving a response.
In any case, he continued to smile.

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