Erin de Briscia was a well known villainess.
She never intentionally killed or tormented anyone.
She hadn’t done anything particularly evil, and she hadn’t harassed her husband’s lover out of jealousy nor was she extravagant and arrogant, like most villainess.
Far from being extravagant, Erin wore plain, unadorned dresses all-year round.
As a duchess, she was now the highest ranking woman in the imperial palace, but she had never been able to act as she pleased nor was she allowed to spend money as she pleased.
She held back all her desires, always striving to be a frugal, gentle, and humble wife.
That way she won’t get criticized too much.
That’s how she lived for the past nine years.
But the only thing left as a result was the stigma of being known as a Villainess.
She dared to take the duchess’ seat and become the greatest lady in the empire, even though she was a daughter of a fallen noble family.
She would torment the poor lady who loves the duke.
She’s a scandalous wench who brazenly commits adultery while wearing the mask of a legal wife.
That was the opinion of the vast majority of Imperial nobles about Erin.
And now her husband, the Duke of Lievensberg, agreed.
“I will divorce you.”
The Duke threw down the papers in contempt.
The dry sheet of paper landed on the table.
It was divorce papers.
Erin looked at Raymond, her husband.
The first thing that caught her eyes were his silver hair, which looked like it had been woven with silver thread.
Beneath the silver hair, the sharp, delicate features unique to the imperial family were well-groomed and beautiful.
His beautiful eyes were a cold blue-gray.
A sculpted nose and well-defined jawline.
Lips that seem to form a sophisticated smile.
He was impeccably handsome.
Sitting in his sumptuous navy blue military uniform, he exuded a natural grace and dignity.
But those blue-gray eyes met Erin’s with a fierce anger and disgust.
Erin read the brief words, summarizing the past nine years of their marriage on a single sheet of paper.
「…Therefore, the marriage of Raymond von Lievensberg and Erin de Briscia is hereby consensually annulled.
Henceforth, the two shall live as.…..」
It was her name that caught her eye among the lengthy letters.
Erin De Briscia.
It was her maiden name, which she hadn’t used ever since she got married.
Erin was the only daughter of the Marquis of Briscia.
The Marquis of Briscia was an old and prestigious family, but now, after two generations of luxury and waste, she had nothing left.
All she had was debt.
The only thing her father had inherited intact was a mansion, and even that was mortgaged and unable to be sold.
Despite her title as a young marchioness, Erin struggled to make ends meet inside a mansion with no servants.
She was a noblewoman, but she was worse off than a wealthy commoner.
Erin became a duchess purely because of her grandfather, whom she never met.
The year Erin came of age, a servant from the palace came to her and said,
“His Majesty wishes to make Lady Briscia the bride of the Duke of Lievensberg.”
It was such an incredible story that she wondered if she had heard it wrong.
The Duke of Lievensberg was the son of the deceased crown prince.
He was the first grandson of the current emperor and the most likely heir to the empire.
The young duke was known to be intelligent and capable.
His swordsmanship was excellent, and his appearance was impeccable.
He was a handsome man, just like the ones in the paintings.
It was an unbelievable stroke of luck.
“Why would His Majesty send our child to……?”
The servant explained the reason for the proposal.
“His Majesty had his eyes set on Lady Erin during the anniversary of his last Victory, and he said she gave him a very favorable impression.”
All the nobles attended the banquet during the Anniversary of the Last Victory.
Erin’s poverty prevented her from socializing as often as the other noble children.
That day was one of those rare occasions when she was able to attend a social gathering of nobles.
It was also the first time Erin met the Emperor as a Young Marchioness.
“When the Emperor heard of the Marquis’ unfortunate circumstances, he was deeply saddened.
He also recalled the loyalty of the previous Old Marquis.”
The “Old marquis” the servant was referring to was Erin’s grandfather.
Erin’s grandfather had been a trusted confidant of the current emperor.
But after his death, her uncle and cousins, who had consecutively succeeded him as marquis, had spent the family fortune and died full of debt.
After that, Erin’s father, who was the second son, took over the family and inherited their debts.
The servant added, as if telling a secret, “And… The fact is, there are no worthy Ladies in the Empire at the moment, who are worthy of the title of Duchess.
There are no Young Ladies of the right age, and all the others have lesser noble titles.”
Her parents were drowning in debt and unable to attend the social gatherings of the nobility.
Naturally, the three of them were ignorant of the current rumors circulating among the high nobility.
So she naturally believed what the Palace servant told her with a grain of salt.
And it came with a sweet proposal at the end.
“If you accept this proposal, His Majesty has offered to support the Marquis financially.”
Her father was conflicted, but Erin was not troubled.
“Yes, I’ll marry him.”
Her parents asked her several times with an uneasy look.
“Are you sure you won’t regret it?”
“Yes, I won’t regret it.”
This marriage will build her family and make her and her parents live comfortable lives.
She thought there was no way she would regret it.
From then on, she entered the imperial palace and studied how to become the future empress, day and night.
When she wasn’t studying, she was training in dance and etiquette to the point where she would have blisters on her feet.
It was brutal, but Erin pushed through the hardships and worked tirelessly.
The effort was not in vain.
The day she entered the palace gardens, dressed in a sumptuous gown provided by the palace, she walked carefully, fearful of damaging the expensive garment in the slightest.
The silver-haired duke took Erin’s hand and kissed the back of it politely.
“I am honored to have such a beautiful and graceful young lady as my wife.”
Erin was greatly delighted.
The Duke was even more sweet and kind than she had imagined.
He gently inquired about her family’s well-being and struck up a conversation.
After a few meetings, Erin naturally fell in love with her fiancé, the Duke.
“I think I could live happily ever after with someone like him.”
People clamored that it was a fairy tale.
A story with a happy ending where a girl from a broken family works hard to overcome poverty and marries a prince.
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Erin herself felt that way.
‘But reality wasn’t a fairy tale.’
The dreamlike happiness ended on the wedding day.
The day she walked down the aisle with high hopes and dreams.
The kind and affectionate Duke, changed his personality as soon as he entered the newlyweds’ bedroom.
“As you may have known, this marriage is only a formality.
I have no intention of spending any time with you as husband and wife.”
On the first night of their honeymoon, The Duke, her new husband, said that in a voice so cold it could have frozen a lake, and walked out.
Leaving Erin lying absent-mindedly on the bed.
It wasn’t until after her marriage that Erin learned the truth.
Her husband, the Duke, had a lover from the lower nobility that he had kept hidden ever since he was a teenager.
Rumors had spread among the high nobility that the Duke had sworn to make her his empress.
The Emperor, who was worried about this rumor, had taken Erin from a prestigious Marquis family that was on the verge of bankruptcy, and forced the Duke to marry her.
But by the time she realized all of that, she was already a duchess and was left alone in her empty honeymoon bedroom.
Erin after recalling old memories put down the papers and looked up.
In front of her was Raymond, who hadn’t changed much from that night.
He was still staring at her with his cold, impassive gaze.
Raymond sighed in disbelief.
I thought you were a quiet and sensible woman when we first got married.”
Erin blinked without answering.
‘Can he even in his wildest dreams imagine the lengths I’ve gone through in order to become a decent, sensible wife?’
Nine years of being a duchess by the side of a cold and indifferent husband, and all she got in return was scorn and indifference.
And she was accused of having an affair with a childhood friend.
The man who hadn’t listened to any of her innocent pleas over the past few months, ran a hand through his hair in annoyance.
“I can only put up with this marriage for so long.
No matter how much you cry to the Emperor, I can’t put up with it anymore.”
Do I sign here?”
“So even if you pretend to be pitiful like last time, this time I’ll never… What?”
The Duke paused at the unexpected words.
Regardless of his reaction, Erin nonchalantly took the pen and scribbled her name on the paper. Erin von Lievensberg.
This is the last day she’ll ever sign this name.
The thought flashed through her mind as she gripped the pen.
She used to think the world would fall apart if she lost this name.
‘Because it was all I had.’
She thought that this position was the only thing left in her life, and so she wanted to grab it, no matter what.
But when she scribbled the last letter and released the pen, the only emotion she felt was a cool sense of release.
Erin waved the divorce papers with a nonchalant expression.
“I’ve signed it, can I go now?”
“By the way, if you’re going to marry your lover right away, you’ll have to renovate the palace, you told me it was mine to do with as I pleased anyways, and I sold off everything I could find.”
“You sold everything…?”
The Duke asked incredulously.
I figured that when she moved in, she’d throw out the furniture and everything, so I sold it in advance this morning.”
It was a grave sin to sell imperial property without permission, but this was a different story.
On the day of the wedding.
To be precise, On the first night, the duke in front of her had clearly stated that,
“I don’t care about what happens here, do whatever you want.”
And he really didn’t care.
He didn’t even come to Erin’s room after that.
Erin managed the palace and ran the household on her own.
She scrimped to save every penny.
She was afraid that others would accuse her of being too extravagant.
She’d worked so hard and hadn’t been paid for it, so she decided to sell everything she used, and keep the money.
It’s all hers anyway.
The Duke looked shocked, but Erin was proud.
“Why should you be surprised? You told me to do as I pleased, and I did as I was told.”
Erin said to the Duke, who stood up and looked at her in surprise.
Since it’s a two-way affair, we don’t have to talk about alimony, but you’re still giving me back my dowry, right?”
“… What are you going to do with that small amount of money?”
It was the first time her husband, who hadn’t cared what she did for the past nine years, had asked her a question.
‘A small amount of money.’
It was all Erin had, and it was the last of House Briscia’s wealth.
On the table were small cream cheese muffins and blueberry tarts, which was served as a formality.
They smelled sweetly of sweet cream and glistening fruit.
Erin didn’t discover the tiny desserts until later.
Snow-white whipped cream that seemed to melt on the first bite.
Crumbly tarts filled with fragrant nectar and cream cheese.
She wondered how she hadn’t seen them before.
She couldn’t take her eyes off the dessert plate.
This was Erin’s long-cherished dream.
The old dream that she had buried deep inside her heart after spending her nine years of futility here.
She had just lost everything, but she still had one last thing left.
Erin smiled confidently for the first time in nine years.
“I’m going to open a dessert cafe.”
Now it’s time to make that dream come true.
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