Chapter 6 – He’s Like Her
Seeing the way Ludwig shamelessly addressed Leticia made something hot and terrible bubble in Zed’s stomach.
Zed pushed down the emotion so it wouldn’t rise from him. Thankfully, amongst all the training he received from Leticia, he knew how to talk to a noble.
One must put on a smiling mask, using different muscles from a genuine smile, and speak with a calm tone and perfect smile every time.
“I do not think that is the right tone to use for your own fiancée,” Zed said, his tone bearing a slight note of criticism like a teaspoon of sugar added to tea. However, the reply he received was disinterested, as if the Duke did not see anything wrong in speaking to her like an object.
“Then what should I call this thing that doesn’t have even half a brain?” Duke Cabrian’s blue eyes sparkled like minerals, and they turned away from Zed and back to Leticia. He stretched out a white-gloved hand, grabbed Leticia’s chin and studied her face.
“Her intellect was the only merit she had, and now it is completely gone… So I suppose what’s left is her propensity to drive human relationships to ruins? I can still clearly see the dogs in her mind, their leashes undone and ready to pounce.”
His voice was dry and clinical, as if he were judging the quality of an item.
Leticia’s expression twisted as if to show how painfully he was holding her, but Ludwig showed no signs of letting go. There was a way to treat people like objects, but this was going way beyond that. He didn’t see even a hint of the existence that was his fiancée.
Zed spoke carefully. “Your Grace. If you could…if you could please let go of her.”
He told the Duke to restrain himself. However, the Duke ignored Zed and continued to speak to himself.
“No matter how you look at her, she’s nothing more than a faulty product for sale at a marriage market, isn’t she?”
“Your Grace. Please let go—”
“Unfortunately, I do not need such baggage like this associating with me. I think this is plenty enough reason for breaking the engagement.”
“Your Grace, My Lady is in pain. Let go of your hand—”
“I will formally send a letter breaking off the engagement again. This should be enough for even Marquis Laimia to accept this justification, so this may actually be good news to him.”
Zed’s patience was already wearing thin, and it was at that moment that it finally snapped. He swiftly closed the gap between him and Ludwig, and he captured the Duke’s wrist and squeezed as hard as he could.
Just because his target was the Duke, that didn’t mean that he was willing to let him do whatever he wanted. Zed barely managed to hold on to his false mask as he spoke clearly to Ludwig, emphasizing each word.
“Your. Grace. I. Think. I. Told. You. To. Let. Go. Of. Her.”
There was the sound of friction as skin and bones rubbed against each other. The corner of Ludwig’s eyebrow twitched as if he were experiencing pain.
It was a sudden contest of strength. The opponents were a petty knight born with a peasant background and a man that abused his own fiancée. Zed had ample reason and more to be angered.
“What are you doing?” Ludwig ground out. He could no longer hide his expression of discomfort, and Zed replied with a charming smile still plastered on his face. His words were just a bonus to his aggression.
“All I am doing is protecting my mistress from a potential threat. That is all, Your Grace.”
Ludwig’s strong grip on Leticia’s chin slowly started to loosen.
In the end, he completely pulled away. Zed let go of Ludwig’s hand almost as if he were tossing it away, and protectively stood in front of Leticia. The room was so tense with silence that one could hear a pin drop in the room.
Ludwig looked down at his hand. Zed’s grip was so vice-like that Ludwig could feel a tingle as blood rushed back into his fingers. Zed’s gesture was rough, clearly one born out of wrath.
“How arrogant,” Ludwig said, smirking.
This was the first time the Duke’s expression changed since he arrived. It was as if to say that there was nothing Zed could do to someone of his position.
The feeling ripped away mercilessly at Zed’s mind, and he braced himself like a soldier would brace his weapon. The fake smile deepened on his face further.
Of course, Zed could not do anything against Duke Cabrian.
Even if he was acting on behalf of Leticia, he was still just a bodyguard. He may be able to swing his sword if harm were to come to her, but he would not be able to run away from the consequences of doing so.
“You enjoy people who are arrogant, don’t you?”
He could still use his words to insult someone and spoil their mood. Ludwig didn’t come here on official business, nor was he a guest that went through formal procedures. Zed could mock this uninvited guest as much as he wanted.
Since he had been with the “nation’s most hated villainess” for so long now, he picked up a few techniques in triggering people’s annoyance. Zed kept twisting the knife of insults at Ludwig with full glee.
“For example, someone like Yevnika, Yevnika, or even Yevnika. It’s true that you fought with that arrogant little girl that was your subordinate until you fell in love with her, is it not? Which is why I assume that you prefer arrogant people.”
The moment Zed mentioned the name of Ludwig’s beloved, the fake smile that lingered on Ludwig’s lips dropped immediately. Zed felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as he sensed a strong murderous intent.
However, Zed kept continuing his words without letting go of his calm smile.
“You say My Lady is an unfavorable woman? You sure make up a lot of excuses, don’t you? You’ve already embarrassed yourself trying all sorts of things to break your engagement, so don’t try to argue about justification now of all times. It’s already too late to act like you’re a sane person anymore.”
Ludwig sat inside his carriage and quietly watched the scenery passing by. However, whatever pleasant views that entered his eyes didn’t matter, as his mind was filled with the appearance of the bodyguard knight standing in front of Leticia and defending her.
“….He’s like her.”
That’s right, Zed was like her. Anyone who stayed by a person’s side for a long period of time would slowly start to become similar to them. When Zed placed on that fake smile as if he were putting on a mask, for a moment Ludwig felt as if he were dealing with Leticia instead of Zed. Even the words Zed chose where intelligently honed for their effectiveness, making him even more like Leticia.
Perhaps that was the reason Ludwig felt peculiar. If Ludwig hadn’t met Yevnika, he would have ended up marrying Leticia as well as this man that acted very similar to her. A faint feeling of emptiness, or perhaps bitterness—no, an emotion that was hard to describe with words were left at the corner of his heart.
Although Ludwig never considered Leticia to be the “best” wife to have, he still considered her “better” than many others. She was quick to grasp a situation, could give cold and reasoned judgment, and was scheming enough to be called a shrew. She was quite adequate in terms of being a noble.
However, the only downside he felt was that he would probably never be able to be close with her considering her personality.
The first time Ludwig met Leticia, he instinctively sensed that she was the same type of person he was. Manufactured smiles, bright eyes that didn’t smile with the lips. As soon as he laid eyes on her, a strong feeling of hatred boiled up inside him, as he knew that she was like him.
Well, if they both met halfway with each other, perhaps they would be able to at least live with each other. After comprehending the downsides of her personality, Ludwig concluded the arrangement wouldn’t be so bad if he shaped himself around her sharp personality. That was why he often met up with Leticia to spend time chatting with her and so on.
And…every time he did so, there was always a bodyguard knight standing in her shadow. Zed left an impression as Leticia would often replace her servants, but the knight would always still be there.