Two months before she was sent to her death in place of her sister, Wisteria Irene Lafferty’s life had generally been good.

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Although her parents had died in an accident when she was seven years old, Wisteria was taken in by Count Vatue Lafferty’s family, who had the almost rare high society reputation of being a “good” count.
As rumored, she was raised by the good Count and Countess, who treated her as though she was their own child.

It was a very fortunate situation, and the good fortune didn’t end there.

“Ugh, I can’t believe it! Princess Joan is so nasty!”

That was said by Wisteria’s sister, the Laffertys’ own daughter, Rosalie Bettina Lafferty, at a peaceful dinner on a cool autumn evening.

Even though it was a private affair between the Laffertys and their two daughters, Rosalie’s words and actions weren’t praiseworthy for a lady of her age.
However, the Laffertys responded with gentle, wry smiles.

“Now now, Rosalie, you mustn’t speak that way.”

“But, Mother, I hate that sort of underhandedness!”

“I understand.
But still, you must exercise self-control by not saying such things aloud.
Learn from Wisteria.”

Not betraying her gentle and round face, Countess Lafferty’s admonishment was also gentle.

Rosalie looked petulant.
It was a face that said, I do that all the time. Even so, the fact that that expression was also charming seemed to have come from the straightforward personality of someone who had been loved and natured.

Wisteria, who was sitting across from Rosalie, felt embarrassed.
She was glad to be recognized for her efforts, but she didn’t want to make her adoptive sister feel bad.
Rosalie’s anger was understandable.

“”

“The royal court seems difficult.”

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“It’s so treacherous, absolutely treacherous! I’d suffocate if I had to live in a place like that! Even the followers are all people with nasty personalities!”

This time, it was the head of the family himself who gently rebuked Rosalie, who was indignant once again.
He was as gentle a father as his mild-mannered wife.

Rosalie had been invited to a tea party hosted by the queen, but the conversation that took place there had grated on her.

Wisteria also spoke as calmly as her parents.

“Whatever they say, just ignore them.
I don’t care.”

“Big Sister Wis, you’re too nice! I can’t stand this any longer! I couldn’t even buy a cake from ‘Gloire Marie’ today because I was so mad!”

Although angry, Rosalie still managed to drink tea dexterously.

It was such a girlish thing to do that Wisteria let out a small chuckle.

Rosalie would be seventeen this year, but her bright red hair, which bore no resemblance to Wisteria’s, was straight and reached the middle of her back, and her large, expressive brown eyes, cheeks as red as apples, and plump lips were not without a feeling of loveliness.
Her small stature might have reinforced that feeling even more.

She was a girl like a brilliantly blooming sunflower, who had received honest love and affection from kind parents.
That was Wisteria’s adoptive sister, Rosalie.

(…I’m sure I’m not much to look at.)

The rumors that offended Rosalie probably had something to do with her poor appearance.
Wisteria secretly thought so, but never said so in front of Rosalie.

Wisteria bore no resemblance at all to the kindhearted Count and Countess Lafferty, or their earnest daughter.
She was three years older than Rosalie, and even without the fact that they weren’t related by blood, their appearances were too different from each other.

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Wisteria had her hair in black, loose waves, and her eyes were a pale purple.
Even the color of her skin and cheeks were different from Rosalie’s, making her look pale and bloodless.
Her black eyelashes made her eyes stand out even more and gave an intense impression.
Her nose was straight and high, and her lips were thin.

To top it off, she was tall in spite of her thinness, making her look like a witch.

Friendly people, or those who were polite, praised Wisteria’s appearance, describing her as a wisteria fairy or a moon goddess.
On the other hand, she was also the cause of rumors that she looked like a doll, was a witch, was cold-blooded–that she was taking advantage of her kindhearted adoptive parents, or that she was at odds with her adoptive sister.

Even so, she wouldn’t have had such a bad reputation if it was just because of her looks.

She was a cold-looking woman who was late to get married–that was all there was to it.

(…I must be careful not to cause trouble for the Count and Countess, or Rosalie.)

While congenially watching over the determined and straightforward Rosalie’s words and actions, Wisteria quietly focused her mind.

After dinner, they returned to their respective rooms.
Wisteria and Rosalie’s rooms were on the second floor, adjacent to each other, so the two naturally walked side by side.

When they arrived at Rosalie’s room, she suddenly looked at Wisteria nervously.

“Wis…um, isn’t it better to stop?”

Rosalie said as if she was asking her.
There was nothing but honest concern in her voice.

Wisteria immediately understood what she was talking about.
―It was the cause of the rumors that she had been upset about at dinner. 

She hesitated a little over what to say.

“…I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to trouble you.”

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“N-No! I don’t care about it at all…I-I mean, when you get down to it, it’s research on magic, isn’t it? I think it’s wonderful.
It’ll be useful…”

Rosalie was hesitating over her words, fretting.

Wisteria understood her feelings that couldn’t be expressed in words.

It was true that magical research was being looked upon favorably.
In the Kingdom of Marcialle, only a handful of people could use magic, but even that was skewed towards the nobility.

The ability to use magic was considered a mark of nobility, and the research on magic was supported by not only the country but also many people on a personal basis.
New discoveries were considered a great honor and achievement.

However, even in the study of magic, the research on the “Land of Grey Dawn,” which went even further than that, was avoided.

And Wisteria was working on something related to that “Land of Grey Dawn.”

Rosalie was uneasy about that.
In actuality, she might be right.

The Black Witch, the Wisteria Villainess–Wisteria was called those names behind her back because she was concerned with the research of the “Land of Grey Dawn.”

She was taken in by a respectable count’s family and raised as a lady, but she was a woman who did improper things.
Wisteria knew that not a few people thought so.

She quietly closed her eyes, and then opened them.

“I’ll do my best to produce results and be useful.
I just need you to watch over me for a little longer.”

“I-I know.
I wasn’t trying to rush you or anything…”

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Rosalie said, flustered. I know, Wisteria said back to her with a smile.

(…If I can make discoveries in my research of the “Land of Grey Dawn,” it will help the Lafferty family better than all the disgrace it had to go through until now.)

That was what she told herself.

——But just then, a voice in the corner of her head mocked her. What a nice-sounding excuse.

In her mind’s eye, she saw a man with brilliant silver hair and beautiful golden eyes.
Spectacularly good looks and a clear voice.
A bright smile, and sparkling, yet kind eyes.

From the first time Wisteria met him, she was stunned.

“You’re Wisteria? What unusual eyes, let me take a closer look…ah.”

——What a beautiful color.

When she heard that voice, when she heard those words, her world changed.

They burned into Wisteria, sprouted, took root, spread its branches–and never left.

The “living jewel” of Duke Reuning’s family.

No matter how virtuous the Lafferty family was, he was an existence that couldn’t easily be touched.
And for Wisteria, who was an adopted child of the Laffertys, it was too great a desire.

——That was why, in order to obtain that jewel, one must have an achievement that was recognized by all.

Ended up changing the title because I think this one flows better.
Also the author really did that whole “Ugh I’m so thin and tall, I’m hideous” thing lmao

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