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Chapter 15: The Ball

The announcement of Marquise Stahl’s entrance echoed throughout the venue.

Following her cousins, Eva and Raymond entered the grand hall. Lavish paintings adorned the hall’s ceiling, and chandeliers radiated dazzling light. The gazes of those in the hall simultaneously focused on Eva and Raymond.

Raymond, with his striking appearance and unmistakable royal elegance, perhaps attracted even more attention. On the other hand, rumors of Eva, a witch-like girl, had spread widely in aristocratic circles, courtesy of her aunt’s tea gatherings.

“I heard she’s like a witch, but she’s not a beautiful girl.”

“That hair color and eye color – quite unusual in this country.”

“Her mother was from the Dacian Empire. Beautiful on both sides. Who is he?”

“They say he’s a Viscount from the Dacian Empire. The two of them look good together.”

The voices reaching Eva were not negative. The tension transmitted through the hand escorting her must have been noticeable. When Raymond smiled softly at Eva, cheers erupted from the surrounding women.

Eva, who will be a debutante, goes to greet the king while being escorted by Raymond. Rather than being nervous about the greeting, she was more conscious of how the king perceived Raymond, as it could potentially make him an enemy of a powerful nation.

Next to the king sat the queen and the crown prince, with ministers and attendants behind them.

Would anyone in the royal family recognize the viscount’s name? If there was anyone familiar with the aristocratic records of the Dacian Empire… she hoped someone would notice Raymond’s true identity.

It was a prayer in her heart.

Adhering to etiquette, Eva curtsied and introduced herself.

“I am Eva, the eldest daughter of Marquise Stahl.”

“Raise your face.”

At the king’s words, she returned from her curtsy and met the king’s gaze.

“You are Klaus’s daughter. You’ve come from a distant place. Enjoy the night to the fullest.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.”

The king then turned his attention to Raymond, who had bowed beside Eva.

“And you? Are you from the Dacian Empire?”

“Yes, I am Viscount Raymond Coquinos. It is an honor to be received by King Tifris, and I am here in the Tifris Kingdom for business negotiations. During my visit, I had the pleasure of staying in the Border Marquise’s territory, and today, I have the honor of escorting Miss Eva.”

“I see. Viscount Coquinos, do you plan to stay in this country for long?”

“No, I have seen various local products and am considering returning home soon.”

“Has your business negotiation concluded?”

“I have left one significant matter pending, depending on the other party.”

“I see… This country must change. I hope your visit will deepen the ties between our nations. If there is an opportunity before your return, I would like to hear about the Dacian Empire.”

“Whenever you wish.”

Eva and Raymond curtsied and bowed one last time before bidding farewell to the king.

Having moved to the wall, the two of them took a breath while enjoying the drinks brought by the waiter.

As music played, the king and queen’s first dance began.

“How was it, Lord Raymond?” Eva asked softly.

“Surprisingly, that king is wise. He understood who I was. It seems he wants to break free from the closed situation of this country.”

Eva didn’t know where that conversation had come from, but Raymond seemed to have received a passing grade, so she felt relieved for now.

“Eva, would you dance with me if you don’t mind?”

Raymond invited her to dance.

“Come on, take my hand.”

“I’m not good at dancing, you know.”

“But you can dance, right?”

Certainly, she had learned from her mother, but she hadn’t practiced in a while. Since she thought she wouldn’t have an escort at the ball, she hadn’t practiced dancing.

“It’s okay. I’ll lead properly. After all, I’m the crown prince, so trust me.”

Raymond smiled with one eye closed.

Eva took his offered hand and smiled, saying, “Thank you.”

Dancing with Raymond was easy. With his assurance and skillful lead, it seemed unlikely that she would step on his feet.

“Lord Raymond, the young ladies are eyeing their next dance partners.”

“Do you know? There are many men aiming for Eva-chan, too.”

“Eh? No, there aren’t. They’re just watching because it’s unusual, right?”

She felt like she was being treated like a rare beast.

“The main one is the crown prince. He’s captivated by you, too. If that guy Lucas finds out about this situation, he’ll be furious. As your big brother, I have to protect Eva-chan.”

Although Eva didn’t quite understand what Raymond was saying, her concern was elsewhere.

“Lord Raymond, actually, I was a candidate to be the crown prince’s fiancée, but now my cousins have volunteered. They keep telling me not to get close to the crown prince, so I’d prefer to keep my distance.”

“I see. In that case, let’s move while dancing. Leave it to me.”

Relinquishing herself to Raymond’s smooth lead, they gracefully moved through the crowd.

By the end of the song, they had moved from their initial position to the opposite side.

“Your throat must be dry. Is there something to eat or drink? Do you need anything?”

Eva felt sorry for Raymond, who was diligently taking care of her.

“Lord Raymond, I’m fine alone. Didn’t you have other plans for today?”

“Today, I just came to take care of the bugs for Eva-chan in place of Leonard. Don’t hesitate to ask.”

She doesn’t think bugs would come near, but it’s reassuring to be with Raymond rather than being alone.

“Thank you. Actually, I was feeling a bit uneasy, so I appreciate your consideration.”

“All right, then let’s go get something to eat together.”

They moved to the area where food was laid out.

Even though he should have noticed the intense gazes from the surrounding women, Raymond paid no attention and took care of Eva, making her uncomfortable.

“Lord Raymond, I’ve been scared by the looks from the women since earlier.”

“Heh, this is nothing. In the Dacian Empire, it’s even more blatant. I’ve been avoiding that for almost a hundred years. Well, Lucas has it worse than me.”

Raymond explained it with a wry smile.

“I must inherit the throne, so my fiancée must be chosen from among vampires. Women understand that, so when members of other races approach, it’s purely for fun. But Lucas is different. He has the appearance of royalty and is the strongest knight commander in the country. Without inheritance rights, he can marry anyone of any race. The number of ambitious individuals and women flocking to him for political connections is beyond me. Well, that boy has been avoiding women who have been pursuing him for a long time.”

Despite knowing that Lucas attracts women, Eva couldn’t help but feel uneasy about Raymond’s words.

(I’m already engaged. I have no right to say anything about Lord Lucas’s relationships.)


When she focused on the dishes to pick something, her uncle and aunt called out to her.

“Viscount Coquinos, staying by Eva’s side won’t let you enjoy the ball. Would you please dance with our daughters as well?”

Her aunt, in a sweet voice, approached Raymond.

“Eva, the count wants to talk. Come with me now.”

She couldn’t disobey her uncle’s instructions. The enjoyable time was over.

“Viscount Coquinos, thank you for escorting me tonight. Thanks to you, I had a wonderful time. I’m going with my uncle now, so please enjoy the ball.”

After expressing her gratitude, she performed a perfect curtsy as a matter of pride.

Raymond seemed to have something to say, but he realized he couldn’t stop her.

“Thank you, too. I had a great time dancing with Miss Eva. Let’s dance again sometime. I look forward to seeing you again soon.”

With a smile, he returned the gesture.

“Uncle, where are you headed?”

The two of them, having left the venue, were walking through the long corridors inside the palace, gradually distancing themselves from the ballroom.

“I’ve secured a place where I can talk with Count Burke. Follow me.”

With each step, the earrings that swayed with every movement remained a constant presence, now serving as a support.

(I wanted to see Lord Lucas one more time, at least.)

When Raymond appeared, for a moment, Eva’s heart raced, wondering if Lucas was also inside the palace.

Upon hearing that he wasn’t coming today, she did her best not to show her disappointment on her face.

The night breeze carried the scent of roses to the corridor. Looking outside, there seemed to be a rose garden in the distance.

(The fragrance came from there. Such a lovely scent. I wonder what kind of roses bloom in the palace’s rose garden. I always wanted to see it.)

After passing through the corridor, her uncle finally stopped in front of a room.

Once inside, Count Burke was already sitting on the sofa, sipping a drink, waiting.

“Sorry for the delay.”

“No, it’s fine. I’ve been savoring the luck of being able to be engaged to such a beautiful lady.”

Count Burke stared at Eva, who had taken a seat on the sofa in front of him, as if licking her. Though the gaze was unpleasant, she kept a neutral expression, staring straight ahead.

“Well, let’s sign these documents, shall we?”

Eva glanced sidelong at the documents her uncle had taken out.

It seemed to be the standard engagement application form used in this country.

After both parties signed, her uncle made a proposal to Eva.

“Eva, since it might be difficult for you to return to the capital from our territory, Count Burke suggested that you join the Burke family as soon as possible.”

“I am not married yet, and I have left some belongings at the estate, so I would like to return to territory first.”

“If it’s about belongings, we can have Annie pack them and send them to the Count’s estate.”

“Yes, Miss Eva, we will take care of daily necessities like dresses here. I would like to teach you about the traditions of the Burke family in advance, so please come to the Count’s estate.”

She understood, but she still couldn’t return to her territory.

“Understood. Could I go back to the Marquise’s manor tonight?”

“Of course. I’ll send someone to pick you up first thing in the morning.”

Count Burke said it with a sly grin.

“Well then, I’ll deliver these documents. Eva, since this is a rare opportunity, it would be good to establish a relationship with Count Burke. I’ll rent this room for a little longer.”

As her uncle, holding the documents, stood up, Eva unintentionally cast a pleading look at him. If things continued like this, she would be left alone in the room with the Count.

“No, I’ll go back to the hall with my uncle. Actually, I haven’t eaten anything, and I’m feeling hungry.”

Feeling fear, she tried to come up with some excuse.

“My apologies. Let’s have some light refreshments brought here. Miss Eva, as the Marquise suggests, wouldn’t you like to stay and chat with me a little longer?”

The count’s smiling face revealed a dark desire, causing a shiver down her spine.

“By the way, Marquise Stahl, do you have enough dowry?”

The count, who had just opened the door and was about to leave the room, stopped her uncle and asked, maintaining eye contact with Eva.

“Oh, yes.”

“I see, that’s good. Oh, sorry, but could you close that door? I wouldn’t want to be disturbed during this precious time with Miss Eva.”


Uncle uttered a single word and closed the door without looking back at Eva.


Eva muttered with a puzzled expression.

“Yes, quite a substantial amount was requested. Hehehe, I don’t know where it went.”

Of course, the money wasn’t spent on Eva.

What could it have been used for? Maybe the management of the territory isn’t going well.

Eva, lost in thought, inadvertently created an opening.

Count Burke, who had sat down beside her, took Eva’s hand, removed her glove, and gently caressed the back of her hand.

Feeling uncomfortable, she frowned without thinking. She felt nothing but disgust for the lecherous smile in his eyes.

Even when she reflexively tried to pull her hand back, Count Burke’s grip was unexpectedly strong, firmly holding her.

“Count Burke, please release my hand.”

The grinning count not only held onto Eva’s other wrist but also restrained her, making her unable to move.

As Eva tried to stand up and escape, Count Burke pushed her onto the long bench, looming over her, pinning her down.

The tightly closed door came into view.

─ I’m done for.

Her uncle must have known this would happen. That’s why he left without looking at Eva’s face.

Eva desperately thought about how to get out of this situation.

She hadn’t crossed paths with anyone when she came to this room. Even if she screamed, no one would notice. Unfortunately, she left the self-defense knife she usually carried behind for tonight’s royal ball.

First, she needed to get out of this room.

Feeling the alcoholic breath near her face, she shivered involuntarily.

“Miss Eva, now, turn this way.”

Eva shook her unrestrained leg.

Count Burke’s eyes gleamed ferociously, like a predatory beast having found its prey, and he struck Eva’s cheek with full force.

For a moment, stars filled her vision. Her cheek burned with heat, and she tasted the metallic flavor of blood in her mouth, probably from a cut.

It couldn’t be done with strength alone. It was frustrating.

She clenched her lips and glared at Count Burke.

It was infuriating to show even involuntary tears to Count Burke.

“We haven’t entered into matrimony yet. Please stop this behavior.”

“Hehehe… I like strong-willed women. Watching those spirited eyes gradually weaken is something I enjoy. How much can you endure?”

With a sadistic smile, Count Burke licked Eva’s cheek, which was marked with tears.

The rough sensation on her cheek sent fear coursing through her body, and an inarticulate scream escaped her mouth.

“The Marquise approved of this. Now, how shall we enjoy ourselves?”






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