There were many attendees, so people had to line up so that they may pay their respects to the dead.
When the members of House Valentine had arrived, people tried to give up their spots on the line, but the duke refused.
Because he wasn’t the kind of person who would cut in lines.
Soon enough, it was House Valentine’s turn.
Duke Valentine and Damian went ahead towards Duke and Duchess Carter.
Originally, only Duke Valentine would have headed towards Duke and Duchess Carter, and Damian should have approached Leo.
Matching each other’s stature was only natural, wasn’t it
The head of the household would match the head of the household, while the successor would match the successor.
However, since Leo had yet to be formally announced as the ducal household’s successor, Damian instead approached Duke and Duchess Carter.
Thanks to this, it was up to Alicia and Rosetta to greet Leo and offer their condolences.
That’s how it was in the original work, and now, that’s how it is in reality.
Rosetta’s steps were heavy as she walked closer to the tall man, until she stood right in front of him.
As if standing in front of an enemy, she felt chills to her core.
All she thought was that she wanted to hide Alicia behind her.
The man’s shoes entered her sight.
For a moment, the shoes from that nightmare of the past came to mind, and at this, she couldn’t help but grimace.
However, Rosetta schooled her features.
And with a light sigh, she then looked up.
It was customary for the bereaved family not to wear any veils on their faces, so when she looked up, she saw the man’s face.
Laughably enough, this was Rosetta’s first impression of Leo.
Red hair, red eyes, red lips.
As though covered in blood, the crimson man was a marvelously handsome man.
His sharp eyes resembled Cassion’s, but other than that, his appearance and overall atmosphere was different.
As Cassion was a handsome man who had a sorrowful and neat air to him, then this other man had the kind of atmosphere that was incredibly dense.
If she were to put it into words, he looked exactly like how the male lead of a trashy angst novel would look like.
As Rosetta came to this conclusion, one of her brows was slightly raised beneath her veil.
Yeah, what’s the point of being handsome, huh.
No matter how you look at him, he’s just a lunatic male lead.
While she felt bitter about this, Leo lightly nodded and greeted her.
“Thank you for coming, Ducal Lady Valentine.”
“It brings me sorrow that we have to meet under these circumstances, Young Duke.”
They briefly exchanged formal greetings like this.
“I heard it was an accident.”
When Rosetta asked, a pained smile graced Leo’s lips, then he nodded once more.
“Yes, that’s what happened.
It was such a terrible accident that we couldn’t even recover his body.”
Following the pained smile, even his voice sounded as if it was laced with despair.
How dare anyone even think that he was the culprit behind all this.
“Goodness, you must be terribly heartbroken.”
“…Losing a family member… It’s more shocking than I ever thought.”
To match that shamelessness, Rosetta didn’t step down either.
Pressing her lips together first, she then let out a small murmur so filled with regret.
“I do hope you regain your peace of mind.”
Saying this, she held out her hand, with the undertone of wanting to end the conversation here.
Leo stared at her outstretched hand for a moment, then he leisurely clasped her hand.
The large fingers of the man’s hands wrapped around the woman’s hand and shook it lightly.
“Thank you again for coming, Ducal Lady.”
“My condolences again, Young Duke.”
After that short handshake, Rosetta stepped aside.
That step was lithe, yet heavy.
As though changing masks in a theater play, her solemn eyes changed in that instance.
At last, the moment had come.
The moment of Alicia and Leo’s first meeting.
The very moment where the novel would begin.
Hidden beneath the veil, Rosetta’s gaze was fastened upon Alicia.
In her mind, all she could think of was the line in the original work that started it all.
〈 Leo’s red eyes were fixed upon the woman who was much too pale.
The male lead, who she wanted so much to erase, and the female lead, who she wanted so much to protect.
They faced each other now, and this sight alone made her blood run cold.
When Rosetta stepped aside, Alicia stood in the place she once was.
No matter who looked at Alicia, it was obvious how very nervous she was.
It was only natural since she hadn’t gone out that much, let alone attended a high society event.
This was because Katie had been afraid of her abuse of the girl being exposed to the world.
The same went for the original Rosetta.
In any case, he was a stranger.
How nervous must she be feeling to stand in front of a man with such striking looks and such a sharp air around him.
“M…My condolences, Young Duke.”
Her stuttering voice sounded pitiable.
Even a handful of words was difficult for her to utter, then she paused for a moment and bowed her head in a hurry.
Rosetta sighed inwardly.
She was adorable even to Rosetta.
Yeah, who wouldn’t fall for her.
While Rosetta thought so, Alicia raised her head.
Unlike her older sister’s reaction to the clumsy greeting, she was embarrassed, and so her porcelain cheeks were dyed red.
Leo’s gaze looked beyond the veil and settled upon the eyes beneath those fluttering lashes.
“Thank you for coming, Princess.
My older brother would have been delighted to know that you’ve come.”
Alicia was just looking away into the air, but at the eloquently said answer, her gaze turned back to the man before her.
She plucked the courage to speak again.
“It… It truly i…is a pity that…”
However, her words stopped there.
The corners of her eyes started turning as red as her cheeks.
Along with the onset of tears, her voice trembled.
‘What do I do’
Alicia clenched her lips.
If she didn’t, she might cry right then and there.
Because Alicia didn’t know the whole story, to her, Leo was nothing but a man who had lost his beloved older brother.
She also had older siblings, so she sympathized with him, thinking about how shattered her heart would have been if she was in his position.
Being the softhearted girl that she was, it would be strange if Alicia didn’t cry in a situation like this.
Tears soon began to well up in those round eyes.
Every time those eyes grew even more wet, Rosetta could feel her insides burning more.
Of course, the veil over her face wouldn’t let it show clearly, but…
Right there, why was it so obvious that tears were hanging on the very tip of her long eyelashes
The moment she saw the beads of moisture at the end of those lashes, she had just one thought.
That she had to stop Alicia from crying.
At least, as long as she was still in front of Leo.
It was when Alicia had tearfully offered her condolences that Leo’s interest in her began.
He was a man who had never once thought of crying for others.
Seeing Alicia mourning the death of a complete and utter stranger came to him as a fresh shock.
At first glance, this was a terribly cliché first meeting.
However, Rosetta knew the horrifying consequences of that cliché.
The dewy eyelashes slowly blinked.
The beads that formed at the end shook dangerously.
They were about to fall.
But then, just as that small bead was about to trickle down her cheek,
Before Alicia could shed her tears, someone else’s sobs broke through the air.
The wracking sob sounded as if all her frustrations were about to burst through, and it was enough to catch everyone’s attention.
Cassion, Alicia, Leo.
Not only them, but even Duke Valentine and Damian, who were some ways away, conversing with Duke and Duchess Carter.
As though orchestrated, everyone’s eyes turned to one single place.
Towards Rosetta Valentine, the master of crying.
As she covered her lips from beneath the veil, her trembling shoulders would make anyone pity her.
Surprised, Alicia immediately went to her older sister’s side, embracing her trembling shoulders.
The moisture in those eyelashes were long gone.
Rosetta furtively glanced at Alicia with a cloudy gaze, and when she saw that the tears had stopped, she was inwardly relieved.
Of course, her own crying was a ruse.
If the keyword ‘tears’ was what made a strong first impression, wouldn’t it be possible to twist fate if it was someone else who did the ‘crying’
As a result, Alicia’s own tears also stopped.
Rosetta turned her head to the side.
Still, she did not stop sobbing.
“Are you alright, Princess”
Leo held out a handkerchief to Rosetta, whose tears continued to flow.
The bereaved was comforting a guest.
Pale fingertips took the handkerchief, which fluttered in the air as her hand trembled.
As she wiped her tears underneath the veil, Rosetta spoke.
I don’t know what came over me, but I apologize for my discourtesy.”
A regretful voice uttered an apology, then one hand steered Alicia away.
Evidently embarrassed, Rosetta curtsied and hurriedly turned away.
It was a very natural exit.
To the point that no one noticed that Alicia hadn’t finished speaking.
No, well, there was still one person who did.
There was one person who’s been observing the atmosphere.
From the moment he entered the residence, his body was taut with tension as he was hyper-aware of everything around him.
Maxwell, who was also Cassion.
The main character of this funeral.
Even at the very moment Rosetta burst into tears, he noticed that she was just acting.
And so, too, did he notice for what purpose this act was.
Before arriving at the place where the funeral was being held, he heard the warning about ‘Alicia and Leo’s first meeting’, so he had no doubt about it.
However, when he saw her small back trembling, he felt that something was off.
It rolled like waves within him.
These waves rose higher, seemingly creating a murky, bubbling foam that filled his chest.
When Cassion heard Leo mention him with that abominable acting, his heart grew unusually cold, however…
When he heard those sobs, even if they were just a mere trick, his cold heart shook and throbbed.
Burning sorrow and now-meaningless emotions rose up and lodged themselves at his throat, heating him up.
Perhaps it’s because it’s the first time he’s seeing her cry for anyone.
Perhaps, because he knew that those tears had been shed for her younger sister, not for himself.
It was a laughably strange thing.
Suddenly, he was thankful for the veil covering his face.
This way, he could hide his own damp eyes.
This way, he could hide his adam’s apple, which bobbed up and down as he gulped dryly.
This way, nobody would be able to see the unexpected yearning that was hitting him like waves.
He followed Rosetta’s steps and, without any hesitation, looked away from Leo.
This hellish mansion.
This younger brother, who tried to kill him.
Those pretentiously weeping parents.
Everything was behind him as he turned away, but oddly enough, he was more concerned about the pitiful back of the woman in front of him.
What a mystery.