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My Throat

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 "What are you doing here?" Snarled the man clad in black, his grip on my neck tightening.

"Well, sir, with you blocking my windpipe like this, how do you expect me to answer?" is what I wanted to say, but I quite seriously couldn't even form a reply.

Man, was life a rollercoaster sometimes. How did I even get here?

 

- - - 

 

I had woken up, not in my home, but in a lavish bedroom with silk sheets and gold mirrors. And I was not woken up by the usual "Din Dara dun" of my phone, but by an unfamiliar voice followed by rays of sunlight hitting me in the eyes.

 

In my half asleep state I wondered: Was I in heaven?

 

No. I was not.

 

The voice had not come from God but by a measly looking man in a penguin suit.

 

"Wake up, young master."

 

Yet another ridiculous thought entered my half-asleep mind. Had another delusional homeless guy broken into my house? Ugh, it'll be such a bother to kick him out…

 

"Young master!"

 

The covers were ripped from my skin. "Hey, you…!!!" The words died in my throat as I took in my surroundings. This was not my one bedroom apartment.

 

"Breakfast." He smiled and layed a silver tray on the nightstand.

 

Still very confused, the only words my mouth could form were strange noises while it opened and closed like a fish.

 

The man eventually left the room through the wooden doors that almost reached the unrealistically high ceiling. 

 

I studied my surroundings but no matter how much I stared I couldn't make myself comprehend what in the hell was going on.

 

Had I finally lost it? Was this a dream? Was I high? I haven't done drugs in years, though!

 

My eyes landed on the silver tray. My stomach rumbled. The steak was already cut and ready for me to eat while the yolk in the eggs was the most yellow color I had seen.

 

I was hesitant at first, but my appetite won. 

 

The suited man eventually came back, knocking on the bedroom door.

 

Now that I thought about it, this guy kept referring to me as "young master." Was he a butler of some sort?

 

He had come to help me change from whatever it was that I had woken up wearing. (They were definitely not my clothes).

 

As I looked in the (gold?!) mirror, I studied my complexion. It was my face and my body that were looking back at me, but I seemed more… muscular? I wasn't the usual bag of skin and bones and when my shirt came off I saw a hard chest and stomach. 

 

"I see you're rather infatuated with yourself, young master," the man remarked, tying the laces of the shirt he had helped me on.

 

"Erm, well…" I clear my throat. "S-so what was your and my name… again?" Wow, that was such a natural way to ask.

 

"I'm Elrdo and you're Count Kaitzenix." He said exasperatedly. "Now, I would appreciate it if you quit with your jestering. You're not a child." He added, "Talking about children, you have an appointment with Countess Yuridia Aristel."

 

Oh no. My jaw dropped at the realization. Kaitzenix… Yuridia Aristel… Kaitzenix… where had I heard those names?

 

Saving the Duke, that's where. Had I… had I gotten isakaid into that webnovel??

 

Had a now inhabited Ricardo von Kaitzenix's body?

 

How?

 

It was honestly a little comical. I wasn't unfamiliar with the isakai trope but to think it would happen to me…

 

It was funny.

 

Hilarious, even.

 

Chapter Text

Ricardo von Kaitzenix. That was the name of the man whose body I was now inhabiting.

 

But he wasn't just any man. He was a villain in the romance webnovel Saving the Duke.

 

And Yuridia, the woman I was to meet in 4 hours, was the main character in said novel. She and Ricardo were childhood friends and Ricardo was in love with her. In the end he was killed by the main love interest, Yoo Jonghyuk.

 

I wasn't quick to fully admit that I was now in this different world, however there was no denying it. I was in the world of Saving the Duke and I was in the body of Ricardo von Kaitzenix.

 

Eventually, the time fell and I was on my way to the home of Countess Yuridia Aristel.

 

To be honest, I was a bit nervous during the carriage ride. I knew about the characters, but that didn't mean I knew how to impersonate them.

 

I eventually made it to the yellow mansion.

 

I was met by the servants, who led me to the drawing room to wait for the Countess.

 

As I said before, Ricardo von Kaitzenix was in love with Yuridia Aristel. Hopelessly in love with her. Ricardo was something of a second male lead, although there was never any chance he'd end up with Yuridia.

 

In the beginning he was quite jealous when men tried to pursue the main character, but this was nothing compared to the way he would act in the latter half of the novel. His attempts at breaking the couple apart became more gnarly and not only endangered his rival, but also his beloved.

 

As I waited, it struck me that I had no idea what part of the novel we were in. We most definitely weren't towards the end since Yuridia had, well, invited me to her home like a friend and I still had my head over my shoulders.

 

The doo slammed open with a thud followed by the stomping of boots.

Before I could greet the host I was oh, so warmly welcomed by a cold hand on my neck.

 

"What are you doing here?" Snarled the man clad in black. My feet were now no longer touching the floor.

 

"Well, sir, with you blocking my windpipe like this, how do you expect me to answer?" is what I wanted to say, but I quite seriously couldn't even form a reply.

 

The man hoisting me up as if my neck was some sort of strap was no other than Yoo Jonghyuk, the male lead.

 

Yes, the love interest was such a character. He was a cunning man yet still violent and impulsive, angry and cruel.

 

What are you doing here? Well, I was invited.

 

Accumulating all my strength and stupidity (I had to be really stupid to do this), I kicked his stomach.

 

I was dropped to the ground and the look of anger in his eyes told me just how stupid the previous action was.

 

"This isn't your home, so it's not your matter why I'm here." I said, getting up from the cream carpet. "I'm assuming you were called here, too?

 

He didn't reply, but simply licked his lips.

 

I slumped onto the couch, massaging my neck. Seriously, this guy… I understand that the cold Duke had to be at least a little unreasonably violent, but shit.

 

And like ever cold-hearted Duke he had looks to die for. Now that I got a better look at his face, I could definitely confirm that. His jawline was almost as sharp as his sword, his eyebrows seamingly drawn by a single stroke of a famed artist's brush.

His eyes luscious with darkness and his lips plump and pink like a peach. His skin was tan from sparring in the sun and the scars on his hands (like the ones on the rest of his body) prominently showed the stories of past fights.

His looks were truly the ones of the male lead.

 

Clink Clink Clink Clink

 

The door opening was followed by the sound of heels hitting the floor. The main character had finally arrived.

 

Or so I thought.

 

The main character was described as a dirty blond with large, black eyes, freckles, and a fair complexion.

 

The woman standing before me, however, was a brunette with a bob cut. The closest thing to freckles she had was the beauty mark sitting under her eye. This was not Yuridia.

 

I seemed to be the only one holding this truth, though. Yoo Jonghyuk called by that name and–well,– hadn't immediately demanded who the fuck she was and where his darling Yuridia was.

 

"And you, Ricardo, are you not to greet me?" She smiled, her arms extended awaiting a hug.

 

"Sorry, I was just…" I leaned out of the hug, taking the chance to look closer at her face. "You look a little different."

 

She smiled a strange smile, one that I wasn't sure had been described in the book.

 

"Hm, you too, Ricardo."

 

Ah, so that was it.

Of course, how could it be described in the book if it wasn't even in it?

 

***

 

"I'm afraid I have a favor to ask of you," said "Yuridia", sitting down on the sofa. "I thought it would be more prudent to ask you myself…" She looked at Yoo Jonghyuk, giving him a bashful look.

"I've been getting threats recently, of such things and magnitude that a lady noble such as myself should utter not! I need a safeguard, to be protected." She smiled mischievously at me before dramatically laying on the couch with her elbow stretched out, the back of her hand on her forehead. Who was she trying to fool? It's not like Yoo Jonghyuk or I would take that show serious–

My thoughts died in my mind's throat as I eyed Yoo Jonghyuk, who had a very visible worried look on his face. This bastard? It was already this early in the novel and he was acting like this?

"And you two are the best candidates! You're both gifted in swordsmanship and I hold a great deal of trust towards you. Ricardo already agreed, so you're the only one left."

 

Then why would she have me come here too if our business was already done?

 

"We will be compensated, I take it?" Asked Yoo Jonghyuk.

 

"Yes, of course!"

 

"For what period of time will it be?"

 

"Well, it could be anywhere from a couple months to six, maybe?" She answered. "When the threats die off and then a couple months after that. And it'll mainly be when I'm out and about! Not to claim that there won't be times in which you'll have to be here…"

 

The offer was really not the best. But you put one lovesick bastard (Ricardo) and an overprotective man, and you get two men agreeing to pretty unreasonable conditions.

 

Unfortunately, Ricardo had already agreed and signed the contract.

 

Yoo Jonghyuk picked up the feather pen and scribbled his name onto the parchment after a minute of reading the paper.

 

"Fantastic!" Yelled Yuridia. "Would you like to stay for more tea?"

 

"I would!"

 

The look I was shot by the swordsman was dirtier than the mud his pigs rolled in. Damn it, I didn't mean to sound so excited. "I would like… to have a private word with Miss Aristel."

 

"Oh, of course! Would you mind waiting outside for a bit?"

 

Yoo Jonghyuk, very reluctantly, exited the room, his murderous expression the last thing I saw as he shoot the doors closed.

 

I sat on the couch, facing her.

 

I looked into her brown eyes. Yuridia's should've been hazel, honey-like.

 

"You're not Yuridia."

 

Chapter Text

"You're not Yuridia."

 

"And you're not Ricardo." Her expression from earlier completely changed. She no longer held the bubbly demeanor but a mocking tone. "Ricardo doesn't look like a toad."

 

Wow, ouch. Ricardo was described as good-looking, beautiful even. I never held myself as particularly stunning, but I wasn't ugly. Maybe even a little handsome.

Pushing this comment aside, I said, "So you're from….you know," I couldn't think of what to call it. Earth? Home? "The 'real' world, right?" Yes, that world was no home. It was simply "reality". My boring, poor reality. "Earth?"

 

"Yeah, the 'real world.'"

 

"Do you have any idea as to why we're here?"

 

"Nope. Not a clue." She took a bite out of one of the cookies placed on the table earlier. "Ohmm, my cooks really are good."

 

"You don't seem to really care."

 

"I see you have eyes." Was it just me, or did she seem a little crazy?

 

"Why? Don't you want to go back?"

 

She scoffed, as if the very idea of it was ridiculous. ""Back? Back to what? I don't have anything to go back to." Now that I thought about it, my situation was similar. What point was there in going back? "The way I see it, this is a blessing." A blessing. I had riches, great food, and a pretty comfortable life here. Much more than I could say about the "real" world. Working unreasonable overtime to be paid only enough to not starve in the streets. A one bedroom apartment and convenience store-bought meals. Right then my illusion of going back crumbled. Why did I even want to go back? There really was no reason to.

 

However, there was still one problem that would not allow me to live a comfortable life.

 

"You know this is the world out of the-"

 

"–the romance novel Saving The Duke. Yes, I'm more than aware."

 

"I'm Ricardo. Won't I die?"

 

"That's your problem." 

 

She was annoying, yet strangely reasonable. She was right now immersed in the role of the main character. If things went the way of the novel's plot then she would end up with an attractive husband and endless amounts of money. She would have a happy ending. I, on the other hand, would be buried six feet under.

 

"What if I refuse to live out my role as Ricardo?"

 

"You'll still die."

 

"How can you be so sure?"

 

"You remember how in the beginning of the novel to set up some of their relationship, Yuridia gets hurt and Yoo Jonghyuk helps bandage her?" She rolled up her sleeve, revealing an ugly burn mark. "I arrived last week and tried avoiding hot things, sharp things– anything that would in any way hurt me. It happened differently than originally, but it still happened." She tsked and mutterd under her breath, "Damn clichés." 

 

"Wait, so, what you're saying is that…"

 

"There is a fate following the plot that will happen and will be completed. It's that stupid thing where it doesn't matter what you do, whatever was supposed to happen will happen."

 

"Oh shit." Well, that put me in quite the pickle. "But I don't want to die."

 

"And I don't want to marry Yoo Jonghyuk." She said, "But fate seems to have other plans."

 

Her resignation to the future was annoying. In this moment I decided that all of her was annoying. She didn't want to.marry him, I didn't want to die. But she had to marry and I had to die. "So you're just going to give up?"

 

"Look. My life back 'there' was a struggle. Every. Freaking. Day." Her carefree air that previously bothered me greatly was now replaced with seriousness as her dark eyes pierced me across the low table. "I have peace in this life. A few more hardships from the plot and in the end I'll get peace. And I'm not about to get up from my goose-feather bed to fight fucking fate or destiny or whatever you call it." 

 

I was the major losing party in this situation. It felt like back in the office when I'd have to follow unreasonable conditions at my workplace because the rent wouldn't pay itself and the food wouldn't magically appear on the fridge.

 

I opened my mouth to counter her. I couldn't really think of anything reasonable to say that would debunk get argument, though. 

 

"I won't follow fate. I don't care if that ends up screwing yours up." 

 

Her eyes narrowed, her beauty mark rising up. "Then I guess that'll make us enemies."

 

"I guess." With that final statement, I stood up, straightened my clothes, and exited the room.

 

Chapter Text


I yawned as the day's first rays of sunlight peeked through the white curtains. 

 

 What a way to spend a Friday morning.

 

Yoo Jonghyuk and I had been called to look after "Yuridia" for the night. Why did it have to be us? I'm sure the place's guards could do their jobs more than well enough.

I had an inkling that "Yuridia" had arranged this just to spite me.

 

"–Ricardo!" Startled, I hastily turned to the person yelling at me.

 

"Stop daydreaming and pay more attention to your surroundings. Seriously, I have no idea why she'd pick you if all people…" he muttered under his breath.

 

It was hard, getting used to being called by a name that wasn't mine. Also, the subtext in his last comment wasn't entirely untrue. Ricardo von Kaitzenix wasn't particularly gifted in the art of the sword nor fighting. He had to train very hard, and even then he was painfully average in his skills. What he couldn't do he made up with charisma. The reason why he was picked as a personal guard was because of Yuridia and her favor towards her best friend.

 

I knew he wasn't talking about me and that his comment was directed at Ricardo (and also completely true). But I still couldn't help retorting to it.

 

"Yes, well, I myself wonder what she was thinking, taking an unhappy jerk like you." Curse my stupid mouth and disfunctional brain. His hand reached towards the hilt of his sword.

 

Watch your mouth , was what his narrowed eyes seemed to be telling me.

 

Yes, sir.

 

We stayed silent once more.

 

During the silence of the night I couldn't help but glance looks at him. I was entranced by his beauty and would stare at his face for a few minutes before snapping out of my haze and returning to my book. It may sound a bit creepy, but he was a male lead in the flesh, and had the sort of allure that would entrance you.

 

He had caught me a few times, but only given me a look of displeasure before placing his eyes in the same spot they had been glued throughout the whole night.

 

His clean posture, his eyebrows knit into a frown as he thought of something…

 

Maybe dying in the hands of someone so beautiful wouldn't be so bad. 

 

Once, however, when he caught me staring for the –nth time, he broke the silence by remarking, "...Your face is red…"

 

I had been rather distraught and simply returned to my book, embarrassed that he has acknowledged my shameless gawking.

 

For the past 10(?) hours I had been looking at the pages of a book. Being rich and owning a home akin to a castle, I naturally now had access to countless books. The existence of the library residing in the giant building was something I had been delighted about when I had learned of it.

 

The books found there wouldn't have usually been to my taste. Most of them were of history or research. But this world's history and objects of research were, well, something straight out of a fantasy novel. I did find some novels that I would have read in the other world and many fun short stories printed in the back of newspapers.

 

 Not having coffee at hand, I used these books to keep me awake throughout the night. God knows how much sleep I've neglected over books. For once that was a good thing.



The last book I had read followed a lot of clichés; the dragon-slaying heroic main character, seductive sirens, and a handsome treasure after enduring the hardships of the story. 

 

The one I was currently absorbed into was of a different genre, a romance.

 

Now, romance had never been my particular style of choice, I'd mainly read Action/Adventure. But that didn't mean I'd avoid the genre. Some romances were good, some were bad. And just like I read trashy novels emphasizing the main character's physical strength against another's, I consumed books featuring the adorable batting of eyelashes, soft lips, and flushed faces.

 

And, of course, a hateful villain.

 

My thoughts drifted to my inevitable death. 

 

I didn't want to die.

 

"Say…" I abruptly spoke up. Yoo Jonghyuk stirred from the unexpected [break of silence?].

 

Before I had been called here, I had been sitting in the extravagant bedroom that now belonged to me thinking about it. There is a fate following the plot that will happen and will be completed. There was no avoiding that fate, at least according to her.

 

But she had said that the way she got harmed, which was a part of the plot, was different from originally.

 

So it didn't have to be specifically done, it just had to happen. Instead of her getting cut by a kitchen knife while trying to cook, she got burned by doing who-knows-what. It didn't matter how, but that it happened. Rather than there being a blue bouncy ball, there had to be a ball. This lead me to my next question:

 

How much of the ball could be altered? The ball could be a different color, yes. But, rather than the ball being round, could it be square? Then would it still be a ball? Could the ball be deflated?

 

I still hadn't had the chance to answer my question, but I was almost certain of what it would be.

 

"I'm hosting a tea party."

 

The ball didn't need to be blue. It just had to be a ball. Ricardo von Kaitzenix didn't need to be the villain, there just needed to be an antagonist. And I think I know who would take my place nicely.

 

And what better way to seek them out than a social gathering?

 

The swordsman next to me snorted at my statement. "You're no lady."

 

I hummed at his response. Tea parties were events mainly hosted by ladies with a decent social standing. However, it wasn't necessarily frowned upon for noblemen to host some themselves. And so-ever the socialite, Ricardo was known for sponsoring such events himself.

 

"I just wanted to let you know that you are invited."

 

"I'm not going." He said almost immediately. Of course he wouldn't. He hated sociality and also, me. Good thing I had the usual bait.

 

"Yuridia will be there."

 

This seemed to catch his attention. I could almost see the silhouette of dog ears standing on point on his head.

 

 I hadn't formally invited anyone yet, but I was almost a hundred percent certain that "Yuridia" would accept my invite. After all, this was something that happened in the original novel. And what would this event do but move forward the mechanisms of the plot, specially with her in control?

 

"I think you should leave."

 

"Why?" 

 

"You're off duty." He glanced at the clock hanging in the broad wall.

 

"Oh, alright." I placed my books under my arm and, with some trouble, embarrassingly tried to stand  up from the place I had been sitting the whole night. 

 

"Aren't you coming too?"

 

The only sign of him having heard me was a small grunt that emerged from the bottom of his throat. He stayed in place and crossed his arms over his chest.



Oh, of course. He wanted to stall behind to catch a glimpse of his Yuridia.

 

***

"I'm so very glad you could make it." My pearly white teeth shone at the table crowded with guests. There were people of varying ages and noble positions, but what they all had in common was their social standing. They were either very popular people or (a few amount) were people of what seemed to be of a  genuinely likable character. 

 

Unfortunately for me, the person I was seeking out was anything but the latter group of people.

 

She was a person of high noble standing, family values, and virtues habits. She was also a cutthroat socialite, notorious and great and spreading rumors; not unlike Ricardo. Her looks were close to Yoo Jonghyuk's, but still lost by a long way. Nicknamed the "King of Beauty", Min Jiwon.

 

She was to be useful in my plan to not get killed. The benefits to marrying her far exceed those of Yuridia. And with her charms, it may take some effort but having her win his heart against Yuridia won't be a long-lasting hatsle.



Actually, Min Jiwon and Ricardo worked together briefly in the original novel. They were both very alike, albeit having different goals. Her goals must still be the same, and so I'll use that.

 

It sounds like I'm falling right into Ricardo's role, but I have certain measures put in place to prevent that.

 

"Oh, what a pleasure to see you two again!" I exclaimed at the swordsman and his date, sitting adjacent to Min Jiwon. 

 

I would be completely passive towards Yoo Jonghyuk and Yuridia's relationship. Sure, I was plotting to separate them, but that was behind the scenes. In the face of the world, I would be as antagonistic as a butterfly.

 

"Ricardo, dear! It has been far too long!"

 

There she was.

 

I smiled. Luckily for me, these two characters already had a good relationship before the plot of the novel.  

"Far too long, Jiwon. Pray tell, how have you been?"

 

"Could be better, you know how it is with the recent drop of sugar importation." The last part was muffled as she brought the teacup to her lips. The minute she settled it down, a servant quickly filled in to the brim.

 

"I see you're as well as ever." She smiled, pleased at the quick and plentiful service, a testament to my prosperous riches. "I didn't expect you'd be holding many parties– what with that new chore of yours, you'd be too tired."

 

"Chore? I see word travels fast."

 

"Hm, more than the word, really. Staying at a young lady's house until late at night has sparked quite a few 'theories'." She sighed into her teacup, shaking her head as if in disbelief of the rumors.

 

I snorted. "Two men and one woman? What smut has been getting in the nobles' heads lately?"

 

"Two men?" She asked, puzzled.

 

At that moment, pure liquid disbelief [idk man, sum like I can't believe this, what a mist step for my plan and closer step to my fall] took the place of the blood that flooded around my brain. Of course Yoo Jonghyuk wouldn't be noticed. That man's dark carriage and ambience would blend in right into the night, and with the fear everyone has towards him, who would dare spread such rumors? Me, on the other hand, with my flashy carriage, and popularity in social circles–

 

Rumors of Yuridia and I were spreading. Now with this event, Yoo Jonghyuk was bound to go for my head. Was this the will of the plot getting thicker? A similar situation happened in the novel, and with Ricardo's history, many with a few yards of closeness from me would assume I purposefully orcated these.

 

I felt like sinking my head into the tablecloth. I felt so stupid and exhaspirated. My plan now, would it lead me closer to fulfilling my destiny?

 

"Are you alright?" My cheerful expression must have changed to one of the one of utter self-annoyance I felt.

 

"Y-yes, I'm quite fine, thank you." I straightened up. "I'm not the only one in on the guarding thing." I explained. "The oh-so charming Duke Jonghyuk keeps me company."

 

She began giggling uncontrollably, almost suffocating on her pastry. "S-so you're not the one indulging in concupiscence–" She was finally able to spurt out, tears nearly falling. "B-but you've had to wait outside! While they do so! Oh heavenly otter, I can simply picture you there! Waiting outside the room while their noises flood out the door!" 

 

I was not amused by this sudden presumption. I looked around the table, and spotted the protagonist, a smirk on her lips as she eyed me. She must have heard the rumors already. I could almost hear her thoughts; so this idiot will finally understand you can't change anything.

 

She wasn't the only one staring at me. A couple women to her left, probably participants in the conversation that had spilled the gossip, were looking at me with wide eyes. Not only them, but a few eavesdroppers from the same conversation, too. One of the women, the one sitting closest to us, offered me a pitiful smile, as if to say that she felt bad that such rumors were going around. She seemed quite nice– too nice for this gathering of socialites.

 

I couldn't help but have a smile play on my lips when I realized who she was. 

 

One of the most prominent members of the fraction of socialites that moved to high up from their genuine spirit. Yoo Sangah.

 

She'd help me a great deal, if I used her in my plan.