Chapter 20 – Hidden identities
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We sit in an extravagantly large coach travelling to Duke Roderic’s castle town.  This 3 day journey was shortened to 1 because the Duke’s carriage was pulled by several strong horses. Clearly, we can see Roderic's fear of any danger that may come from Janet sleeping overnight on the journey. He’s a duke, he probably has several enemies constantly searching for his weakness. I’m at least glad to see how protective he is of Janet.

We arrive to the Duke’s castle at noon on the day of the event. As we walk through the castle to reach Janet’s room, I wonder if it was the enormous size of the castle or the amount of staff running it which surprises me more. Maids rush in and out, quickly helping us change. Ruby patiently handles our make-up while Cecile helps the maid decorate Janet’s hair with dark-red carnations.

“It means deep love. I hope you find happiness in your engagement.” Cecile gently kisses Janet’s forehead.

When we’re finally done with the finishing touches, the Duke walks into the room, his presence immediately changing the atmosphere. He freezes upon seeing Janet, his eyes drawn to her carry so much affection. He's probably falling in love with her all over again.

Disregarding everyone, he quickly walks towards her and drapes his cape over her shoulders. He scowls, making several complaints. “Why do you have so much skin exposed? Why wear these tight fitting clothes showing all your curves?”  

Janet laughs. “I want to show I’m pretty enough to stand next to you.”

“You don’t have to do that. If anyone rejects our engagement, I’ll make sure they never see the next day.” He sighs, pecking her lips. “You make me want to dig out all the eyes that look your way.”

That’s a horrifyingly violent thought. Not at all romantic. I’d recommend him to see a therapist. Please get some help.

Silently leaving the couples to themselves, we were led by the maid to the giant ballroom. There were already a few nobles socialising, and as commoners, we’re already feeling really out of place. When I take an overall look from the ballroom entrance, I see a high proportion of colourful heads and handsome faces. More than I’m used to. My mind is already screaming on high alert.

There are some alarming red flags you should never raise at balls and social events.

First rule is to never stand alone in a corner solemnly without socialising. You’ll catch the eye of the male lead thinking “Oh? She’s so pretty standing aloof on her own” You’ll get sniped!

I categorise the attendees into a few groups. I grin when I find a group which fit all my criteria - daughters belonging to nouveau riche, actually commoners but rich enough to attend noble parties. I drag Ruby and Cecile towards their corner. 

“Hello!” I greet the more chatty girl in the group. “This is my first time attending a large event like this. Do you mind if we join you?”

After doing our introductions, we managed to somehow continue the conversation. Because Gloria was quite a gossipy person, other girls joined the tea this girl was generously spilling.

“I heard Duke Cannes is coming to this event.”
“No way! That famous Duke who never attends any social gatherings? I’ve never seen him before.” Another girl chipped in.

Just hearing this gossip, I immediately realise this Duke Cannes is a male lead.

Gloria nodded at the girl’s comment. “Wolfram Duchy and Cannes Duchy are in close partnership, so probably that’s why he came? No one knows what he looks like. He hides his face behind a mask and rarely talks to anyone. Plus he’s a bachelor! Women are chasing him left and right, attending every ball he’s present.”

Ohhh so he’s that type of character. The male leads with a super dark past which made him emo and distrusting. He avoids all unnecessary relationships, including friendship and romance. He voluntarily isolates from everyone while acting cold, and no he won’t tell you why he’s brooding. 

But for some reasons, he finds heroine super healing and with her extraordinary love power he slowly moves on from his dark past, etc etc. 

In conclusion, he’s seeking for affection, but he’s super annoying about it.

While chatters continue spilling tea here and there, the music pauses. Everyone looks towards the spiral staircase where Duke Wolfram and Janet stands. As they slowly descend each step, everyone held their breaths. At this moment, who would argue the fact that both look strikingly beautiful?

A short speech was given by Duke formally announcing Janet as his fiancée. When he finishes, music replays and people immediately start chattering again.

“I thought the lady was the one who approached the Duke, but it seems Duke’s the one completely head over heels for her, huh?” Gloria mutters.

“When I first saw the lady, I was totally taken in by her beauty. No wonder the Duke fell for her.” Another girl agrees, then gasps. “DID YOU SEE HER DRESS?!” 

Conversation about Janet’s dress begins within the female nobles. Thankfully Cecile and Ruby were warned beforehand so they just silently glanced at me when the dress was mentioned. I give them a small smile to thank their silence.

When the doors creak open, the chatters die down for a moment to stare at the person entering the party late. Once he steps in and appears, talks immediately erupts. 

A man with blindingly bright atmosphere, strands of yellow hair glittering more so than the chandelier lights, a black masquerade eye mask hiding part of his face. Plus even looking at him from afar, his facial features and body figure are not bad at all.

Oooh so that’s your emo boy there.

Everyone scooted towards him, especially the greedy noble girls who are after the title of the Duchess. 

I take another glance at the “mask” he was wearing. Lol I don’t know how the hell he’s expecting people to not recognise him just with that eye mask.

Hear me out. The mask’s not covering your eye colour, you can clearly see them through the eyeholes. Your hair is gaudily yellow enough to stand out on its own. It’s not covering your nose completely nor is it hiding the shape of your face. All it does is cover a portion of the skin near your eyes. If you’re lucky enough it’ll cover your brows.

“No one knows what he looks like” my ass. Are they all blind? How is it that you don't recognise a person just because he took off his mask (which was barely covering anything to begin with)? 

I spare no glance at the emo guy any longer, and return to chatting with Gloria. She starts wildly complimenting Duke Cannes and his mysterious personality, so I just squeal and agree with her enthusiastically.

I'm inching nowhere near that dude. Sue me.