Raeliana’s been Noah’s fiancée for long enough that his brother the king has taken an interest, and before she knows it, she’s been invited to the palace for an extended stay. Her efforts to leave are consistently thwarted until the night of the masquerade ball, but Noah’s attempt to show her the clocktower he played on as a child has unexpected consequences for the woman who was once Eunha Park when the bell tolls. Meanwhile, Vivian’s brother Justin is increasingly interested in Raeliana and Adam is realizing that the plot to kill her may be more insidious than even Noah imagined…
Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion is translated by David Odell and lettered by Shirley Chen.
It may not be strictly fair to say that the anime adaptation of Whale and Milcha‘s stopped just before the story took off, but there are moments in this first volume that feel that way. Picking up after what Raeliana almost certainly thinks of as The Kiss and her encounter with Justin at the graveyard, the story quickly throws our heroine into the deep end when Noah’s brother the king “invites” her to the palace. Raeli may be a relative novice in the nobility’s machinations, but she does understand that this is less an “invitation” and more of a “summonses,” one that doesn’t care if she’s not entirely comfortable with the situation.
King Siathrich doesn’t seem to care much about anyone’s ease or comfort. He puts on a devil-may-care attitude that may at least partially fool his long-suffering aide Naomi, but that doesn’t quite trick Raeliana. In large part, this is due to her familiarity with the novel, but he also doesn’t appear to be as invested in tricking her. Siathrich’s attitude is at least half due to his desire to tease his little brother, but there’s something more alarmingly deliberate going on beneath the surface. This is symbolized by the fact that his favorite game is go (baduk in Korean), as opposed to Noah’s fondness for chess. According to the British Go Association, chess is primarily about tactics, but go combines that with strategy, a semantic distinction that basically separates the big picture from the steps it takes to get there. Chess is about the little steps; go (by this definition) also takes into account the end design. As someone who plays neither game, I can’t speak to how true this is, but the symbolism between the brothers’ games does appear to pan out: Noah is very much about each specific move, while Siathrich seems to have a goal beyond a generic “win” that he’s thinking about. How Raeliana and her assumed influence over Noah fit into that is unclear right now, but Siathrich believes that she’s important in some way – even if right now he may simply be determining whether that’s a good thing or not.
Given how difficult he makes it for her to leave the royal palace, he may be attempting to gauge how important she is to her fiancé. Siathrich is unmarried and has a bit of a reputation as a womanizer; he has a child but with a mistress. Said mistress is Freese Eriteal’s sister, which contributes to the spiderweb of relationships at court and among the nobility, and the presumptive addition of Vivian as queen to this makes the web even tighter – especially since her brother Justin has an influential position at court as well. If Raeliana isn’t at the center of the web, she’s certainly trying to pick her way across it carefully, and Siathrich may be more aware of that than she gives him credit for. He’s hard to read as a character, which makes him dangerous, something Noah appears fully cognizant of.
It’s also becoming more apparent that Beatrice may be the spider in this metaphor. While Raeliana is stuck at the palace, Noah is off investigating the exploding jewel incident, and when he tracks down the presumed perpetrator, he finds that someone has already taken her out of play. Did Beatrice have a hand in this? She’s been gearing up to make a move for at least two volumes now, so she either is getting sloppy (unlikely) or isn’t counting on Adam’s investigative prowess. If we assume that she’s the actual villain in this story, she’s been playing Vivian like a fiddle all along, and Raeliana is now the major obstacle to getting Noah. The preview indicates that the two will meet in volume five, which should make things clearer as far as her goals go, but right now we should be questioning just how much Raeliana’s survival has altered her plans and what that’s done to her as a person. She may always have been dangerous, but has Raeliana pushed her over the edge?
I use that phrase on purpose because we’re starting to get to the heart of Eunha Park’s death (or migration) as well. When she falls unconscious at the top of a clocktower, no one can revive her, and it’s only when “Grandpa” Heika shows up that answers start to come clear. Despite some of his earlier actions, Heika turns out to be not only good at his job, but a pretty solid grandfather as well, and his expertise in all things spiritual and magical may be Raeliana’s best source of information. None of the answers are coming together yet, but we are starting to see individual pictures forming, like a jigsaw puzzle of a quilt with each square being assembled separately.
In a major triumph for readers tired of oblivious romantic interests, Raeliana does acknowledge that Noah has fallen for her in this volume. That’s another square in the greater picture, although how and where it fits in isn’t yet clear. Should Noah always have ended up with Raeli, and is that why she was killed in the version Eunha was familiar with? Is her death the catalyst in more ways than one? And what is the real end goal of the villain, whether that’s Beatrice or not? Things are heating up in a big way in this volume, and the wait for the next one will feel interminable.
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