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The handshake

As a merchant’s daughter, I had been to many places, along the way passing by many castles—well, not many, perhaps. What I’m trying to say is, I have seen basically all the bluebloods’ castles. Of course, I hadn’t entered any of them; there was never a reason to. Although my father’s business stretched far and wide, partially coercing even the bluebloods to negotiate with him, he understood the meaning of the high castle walls and the gates guarding those walls. Business could be negotiated in a diner, a garden, or anywhere public, but the bluebloods would not want a powerful human in their castle. What if he gained some kind of power by just being there for a minute? How big of a threat would he be to us then?

All these useless questions, the answers to all of which they knew deep down: the bluebloods would be no more.

But now, as I stepped out of the carriage Remington himself had sent, this was all about to change.

You really think keeping me hostage will make my father cooperate?

I didn’t bother hiding my smirk. My role is the villain after all, so a villain I will thoroughly be. The only difference is, this time, I have on my side the power of my voice. This time, the narrative is mine.

“My lord, who is the new librarian?” Ellerie asked.

“Daughter of the human merchant,” Remington answered, the both of them looking down as Larissa arrived at the gate on that first day.

“Mm...she seems...a bit scary,” Ellerie said, taking note of the ominous smirk on the newcomer’s lips.

Remington shrugged.

“Wouldn’t she hate us bluebloods even more now that she is held captive?” Ellerie asked, worried.

“She might, but she has no reason to do us any harm,” Remington reasoned, “Just as we have no reason to do her any harm. Do you understand?”

It was about time to meet the young woman personally. Remington began to walk out of the room to head downstairs. Behind him, Ellerie stayed put, her expression complex.

What a cliched description, the protagonists forcing upon me the crown of villainy before I’d even said a word. But that was then, and this is now. I’ll bet they had the same conversation upstairs this time too—at least, Ellerie would. Remington’s lines might have changed, since this wouldn’t be our first encounter.

Soon, the gates opened, as did the heavy double doors behind them. Out came Remington, alone. My smirk turned to a smile. This was already different: last time, he hadn’t come alone, he had brought one of his bodyguards, who stayed with him almost at all times.

He trusts me. The fool.

I stayed outside until the master of the castle waved me in. My luggage was light, consisting of only one bag. It didn’t make much sense to bring a lot of stuff into a castle anyway—that would be an insult to Remington’s ability to provide for his staff. This, too, was something I had to learn by experiencing last time.

“Welcome,” Remington said. He stopped a couple steps in front of me, expectant.

I reached out with my right hand. “Thank you for having me.”

He smiled, satisfied, and shook my hand. He held my hand in place a moment longer than the usual handshake, but that was a scene I didn’t mind Ellerie seeing. She must still be up there watching, after all.

“I’ll show you the important places,” Remington said, leading the way into his castle by just one step. A good sign.

“The important places?”

“So as to not overload you with the map of the castle. You can explore the rest after you’ve gotten used to whatever your new routine will be.”

Whatever your new routine will be. That only meant I was free to roam as I pleased. “Thank you,” I said simply.

Our eyes met, and I read his—trying to read mine. That’s fine. Whatever he guessed, he wouldn’t guess the truth. Oh, and by now, Ellerie must be fuming and running down the stairs…

“My lord!” came an all-too-familiar voice. Yep, I was right. The cheerful-looking fluffball of a woman bolted out of the castle just as Remington and I were about to walk into it. “Ah! Are you the new librarian? Nice to meet you, I’m Ellerie!”

Fake-ass bitch. Your acting skills are so good even I must humble myself before you.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Lady Ellerie. I am called Larissa,” I said. Nice to meet you? What kind of elementary vocabulary is that?

“Uh…” Intimidated, she was. Ellerie turned back to Remington, who no doubt adjusted his intellect to communicate with her. “Are you going to show her around?”

“I am.”

The three of us entered the castle under Remington’s persistent stride. The castle was just as I remembered it: grim, dark, and populated appropriately by servants and staffers. The class of each person was made apparent by their clothing. What an authoritarian master you are, Remington, and how had I not noticed before? Having one’s class shown so overtly would only cause his subjects to fight amongst themselves, desperate for upward mobility, desperate to maintain all the power one already has, and to gain more of it. They would all work diligently for him, and cruelly against one another. In this state, Remington would be the only one in the whole castle to have any true gains; everyone else was a chess piece on the board of a bloody game of power struggle against the other lords.

No wonder it was he who got to confine me, and not anyone else.

An all-rational person, I noted, was who I was dealing with. This made things easier.

“Why though? Shouldn’t the servants be doing it? Showing a guest around and all that…” Ellerie’s squeaky voice snapped my thoughts back to the present. A pity that voice would always catch my attention—in all the worst ways.

I looked from Ellerie to Remington, who glanced at me as if awaiting me to speak against Ellerie’s suggestion.

Pft. You want me against the potential mistress of the castle this early on? I underestimated you.

I really didn’t, but that is the appropriate line, is it not?

“Lady Ellerie is right,” I said, immediately amused by the slight arch of Remington’s brows. “It isn’t quite appropriate for you to be burdened with this task. Besides, my work doesn’t start until tomorrow, right? You could just relay work-related matters to me afterwards. You must be a busy man, my lord.”

This time, it was Ellerie who smiled in satisfaction. I know my place, that must be what she thought.

“...very well. Maayan, show Larissa her quarters,” Remington said to a maid who was already waiting nearby. That must have been her task from the start.

Later on that day, as I sat by the window of my chambers, looking out at the courtyard, there came a soft knock on the door.

“Who is it?” I asked, turning my attention to the door.

“May I come in?” came the voice of Remington.

“Of course.” I stood, and began walking toward the door—deliberately slower than I should have been—and opened the door. I was not in a hurry, and I was not desperate for his attention or affection; this I had to make clear, if only for once. “Please come in.”

And come in he did. “If you find that anything is inadequate, let me know,” he said. “I can’t be too certain if any of this—” here he gestured around the room, “—is too different from how it is back home for you.”

I let out a brief chuckle. “My lord, you don’t need to offer a sound reason every time you come see me,” I said, cutting straight to the point. “I’m quite certain that some of the staff here used to be human before they came. How could you not be informed of how humans live? Not to mention, you’ve been at my place too; someone as observant as you would have gathered every piece of necessary information there is from that one visit. Am I wrong?”

He froze for just a brief second before smiling. “No, you are quite right. I came merely because I am intrigued.”

“Please, have a seat,” I invited, walking toward the couch myself as I did. Remington followed, and we both sat. “What intrigues you?”

“As I’ve said before, your honesty.”

“Mm. Honesty must indeed be a rare trait among nobles.”

“It is. Anyway, say, Larissa, why did you agree to having a maid show you to your place rather than me?”

Being rejected doesn’t feel good, does it?

“It’s just as I said; it’s not quite appropriate. More importantly, I don’t want to be a victim in a harem fight that I’m not taking part in.”

“Harem fight?”

I arched an eyebrow at him. “Yes, a harem fight. Have you not noticed the way all the ladies looked at you down in the hall? And some of the gentlemen too. I’d be dead by tomorrow morning if they thought you were giving me differential treatment.”

“Some of the men too, huh…” A wry smile appeared on Remington’s face.

Romance, I had learned, would be a primary war throughout his life. His capabilities that led him to being one of the youngest blueblood lords, together with his handsomeness and politeness, were traits that drew many to him. Remington was not someone who offered his heart easily; in fact, he rarely let anyone know his true feelings—not even Ellerie sometimes. His emotions were buried beneath his title and his calm face, known only—and sometimes not even—to himself. This was rewarded with hoards of fanatics, but the price was a bottomless pit of loneliness that most of his peers did not experience.

And loneliness, my friends, opens the first door to one’s demise. It lets you fall easily where others will not. This is where I come in—to show him I am the same, to win his trust and, ultimately, his heart, to take the remainder of what he truly owns from him.

I assure you, also, that it is no difficult task for a villain.

“Mm-hm, some of the men too. Do you put potions in their meals or something?”

“Of course not,” he retorted, but chuckled afterwards. “You do have a point though. Regardless of how they feel toward me, a newcomer getting more attention than normal would be suspicious.”


“I’ll be back tomorrow to tell you specifics regarding the library,” Remington continued, standing up now. “As agreed, you are exempt from any social activity you don’t want to be a part of. See you tomorrow.”

“Have a good day.”

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