The Male Lead Is Obsessed With Proposing to Me - Chapter 51
- Only with me
A grand banquet to celebrate Lucalina’s return was abruptly arranged to take place at the Imperial Court.
This sudden decision stemmed from Cliff de Helios’ announcement of an award for her commendable service as a commander over the years, accompanied by a congratulatory feast in her honor.
It was also decided to acknowledge the contributions of other knights who had recently returned from the battlefield.
Lucalina had little choice but to give in to Cliff’s direct command.
While she could host a banquet by virtue of her association with the Marquis of Elihan, not all knights enjoyed such privileges.
Despite the nobility’s oppression of Cliff, he did not discriminate based on social status.
And so, many knights who received orders from the Imperial Family hailed from commoner backgrounds.
The victory celebration banquet would eventually be planned by the Imperial Family, yet without the emperor’s approval, it could be indefinitely postponed.
Cliff de Helios cared little for public opinion, so if Lucalina were to decline this banquet, he might indefinitely delay the banquet due to her reluctance.
Lucalina felt an obligation to acknowledge her colleagues who had toiled alongside her.
Fortunately, Senelia did not need to search for a partner, as both the Emperor and the Grand Duke were unmarried.
Unfortunately, not every Young Lady was in her predicament, thus, the Imperial banquet saw a flurry of unmarried ladies rush to attend, whether they arrived alone or with companions.
Although it was not customary to bring a partner, it was an age-old tradition.
Yet, everyone willingly disregarded this custom for a chance to capture the attention of the Emperor and the Grand Duke.
This ensured that Senelia was not the sole woman who would stand out at the gathering.
“Young Lady, His Highness the Grand Duke has sent you a gift.”
The head maid informed Senelia with a slightly embarrassed expression.
After Senelia had firmly ignored Benelucia, his visits ceased.
However, Benelucia continued to send gifts, evidently signaling his refusal to relinquish hope regarding obtaining Senelia’s heart.
These gifts were all geared toward this very Imperial banquet.
Alas, Senelia would have received countless favors from him had it not been for that fateful encounter with Lucalina.
Senelia responded without so much as a glance at the offerings.
The head maid replied though she appeared to be unease.
“They mentioned that if you return it, it will be discarded with the carriage.”
Senelia furrowed her brow.
Benelucia had dispatched these gifts via the Grand Duke’s carriage, so it was common knowledge that the owner of the gifts and mode of transportation belonged to none other than the Grand Duke himself.
For a noble lady to discard a gift from the Grand Duke was a prospect Senelia found headache-inducing at the mere thought of it spreading through social circles.
“…For now, place it in a corner.”
Without another word, she reluctantly conceded.
Of course, that didn’t imply that Senelia would keep Benelucia’s gift in its entirety.
She had already received a dress, an heirloom passed down through generations from Viscount Daphnen.
“Milady… Are you alright?”
It seemed the head maid harbored deep seated worries about Senelia’s ongoing conflicts with Benelucia, a member of the royal family.
“Are you alright, Milady?”
Senelia remained surprisingly composed.
She had no need to be unwell, or nervous.
In fact, one could argue that the situation was unfolding precisely as she had intended.
This was because Benelucia remained ignorant of Senelia’s true character, which explained his outrageous gift-giving.
In essence, he was cautioning other parties that Senelia was his partner and warning them not to interfere.
Such behavior was uncharacteristic of the typical male lead’s approach, as he had never been one to cling to others.
These actions amounted to a form of disrespect, forcibly binding Senelia in a manner she had never envisioned. He would have never had done so, had she not gone to the extreme.
This detour from his original principles stemmed from the world’s altered narrative, a result largely attributed to Cliff.
In the story, Benelucia had consistently claimed victory using the cause of the vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and women, all while respecting the sanctity of human life.
That was the Benelucia of the original storyline.
Employing one’s power to exert pressure on others was a tactic unique to Cliff de Helios, his brother.
It was a strategy that Benelucia, despite his mistreatment at Cliff’s hands from a young age and his battlefield experiences, detested.
Yet, Benelucia now mirrored these very actions, compromising his own beliefs and violating a personal taboo all for Senelia.
Regrettably for him, Senelia did not experience sorrow or remorse in response to this transformation.
If she was honest with herself, upon careful reflection, she comprehended that this outcome was precisely what she had aimed for.
Apart from the resentment that welled up within her each time Benelucia attempted to manipulate her, she realized that this outcome was precisely what she desired.
If everything plays out according to plan… Well…
Even if Benelucia experienced a sudden awakening and recognized his true love as Lucalina, he would be unable to abandon Senelia.
Ah, I have undergone a horrible transformation.
One that she believed was now irrevocable.
The victory banquet spanned a total of five days.
Regardless of Cliff’s reputation as a tyrant, his rule had been the start of prosperity, and the empire had accumulated considerable wealth as a result.
On the opening evening of the festivities, Senelia made her entrance into the banquet hall without a partner, as had been foreseen by all.
Those who cast glances in her direction quickly averted their eyes.
Their avoidance was spurred by the presence of a man who appeared to radiate a brilliance that outshone the entire hall.
This man, of course, was none other than Benelucia Afron, Grand Duke and younger brother of the Emperor.
As naturally as the Biblical depiction of the parting of the sea, people seemed to segregate into two distinct factions around him.
Such moments served to remind Senelia of one very important question.
Who truly held the central role in this world?
“Dance with me, Sally.”
Benelucia extended his hand to Senelia as though he had been eagerly awaiting her arrival.
Even the nobility, who often regarded him as a mythical deity of beauty, could not conceal their astonishment.
This was because the emperor had yet to engage in his first dance.
The Emperor, the one who stood above all else, was the one who led the first dance. This was a rule that was engraved in the minds of all nobles.
All eyes darted between the emperor and the Grand Duke.
Yet, the emperor remained silent.
In that instant, everyone grasped onto reality.
The emperor had permitted a union between Benelucia and Senelia.
“…Your Highness the Grand Duke…”
Senelia’s expression involuntarily stiffened.
Despite her unfortunate manipulations with Cliff de Helios and her existence as a mere painting by Benelucia’s side, she remained an ordinary citizen who preferred to evade the spotlight.
Perhaps sensing her discomfort, Benelucia firmly grasped Senelia’s hand and posed a question.
“Are you planning to depart before even a dance?”
With a natural sweep, Benelucia led Senelia to the center of the ballroom.
“…Haa.. It is an honor.”
Senelia responded with a brief curtsy, then followed Benelucia to the center of the ballroom.
The floor seemed to belong exclusively to the two of them, as no one else dared to venture forth for a dance, and although the space was notably vacant, the orchestra commenced their performance.
She had to wonder, was it by chance that at that very moment, Senelia made eye contact with Lucalina, who wore a visibly frozen expression?
The answer, she felt, would remain unanwered for some time to come.
“…Your Highness, may I inquire about the current situation?”
Senelia spoke without thinking, her tone veering toward chilly, almost intentionally so.
She harbored an ominous premonition about what would happen should she choose to expose this to Lucalina.
She silently prepared her to relinquish Benelucia Afron to the female lead, expecting his answer.
But she yearned for his answer with fervor, for her survival hinged upon that his reply.
“I’m holding you back so you can’t go anywhere except me.”
Benelucia murmured softly.
His words, though whispered softly to the woman in his arms, must have reached the ears of sword master Lucalina.
“If possible, I want to get married, Sally.”
Benelucia whispered in Senelia’s ear.
Despite being in the midst of a dance, they were so close that his voice seemed to embed itself in her ears, causing her to involuntarily flinch.
“I want to marry you, so aren’t our goals ultimately aligned?”
“…You seem to have forgotten that I told you earlier I wouldn’t do anything more with His Highness the Grand Duke.”
Senelia taunted Benelucia deliberately, playing the fool.
He acted as if he were the sole presence in the room with her, rendering the Emperor and Lucalina seemingly invisible at this moment.
Maintaining the façade of a dance, Senelia took a step back, creating a deliberate distance between them.
It was then that Benelucia abruptly encircled her waist with his arm.
“If you don’t do anything with me, you can’t do anything with anyone else, Sally.”
It was a hiss gritted out between clenched teeth.
Greed, once it took root, was a relentless monster that would only flourish unless ruthlessly uprooted.
No one understood this better than Benelucia.
Even at the time when Cliff ascended to the throne, survival never prompted him to compromise when he desired something.
How many lives had been sacrificed as a result of my unwavering determination?
Cliff’s policies were often sound, but they were devoid of compassion and ethics.
He did not hesitate to employ humans as tools to attain the optimal outcomes needed for success.
The Cliff de Helios that Benelucia had known as his older brother was no more.
To certain individuals, Cliff could easily be perceived as a monstrous figure.
As such, Benelucia had always been vigilant against his own desires, determined not to become a monster himself.
However, the moment Benelucia held Senelia in his arms, he accepted his true nature.
He realized that he had been a monster from the very beginning, no different from his older brother.
“So, marriage and love… Do it with me, Sally.”
Benelucia declared with a look of contentment in his silver eyes.
He was highly satisfied with what he had said, though he knew that he had nearly made a foolish choice.
He pondered how close he had come to letting her slip through his fingers.
How foolish I would have been! To let this woman go… Ha!
Senelia purposely delayed her response, her words trailing off.
Before she could form a suitable response, their exchange was cut short by the conclusion of the song that had accompanied their conversation.
Senelia, who was unable to complete her reply, would have never gotten the chance again.
The heroine of their world, Lucalina had silently walked up to the couple, called out to the male lead.