“Shiris. Allow me break our engagement.”
In front of me stood my fiancé, Christiansen val Fay Asfaria.
The First Prince of the Kingdom of Asfaria, and therefore the first candidate for the throne.
Shiny blond hair and green eyes. So handsome that if ten girls were present, all ten alike would blush and stare in fascination.
Long ago, he was praised as a genius by scholars all over the kingdom, and sung for his bravery by the generals.
An authoritative man naturally overflowing with dignity. An excellent individual who personified the Prince Charming.
“I found someone else I truly love.
I am sorry, but I cannot marry you…”
Next to Prince Christiansen stood the Fair Maiden with her fluffy, golden hair.
With her hands joined together in front of her chest, she looked fragile as she stood nestled against him.
“Please forgive me, Lady Shiris.
Even knowing you were his fiancée, and that I would get in your way, I could not hold back my feelings for Prince Chris. I love him with all my heart.”
That’s right. He’s my fiancé.
Until this moment, I had been certain of that.
My eyes teared as I took in the figures of the two staring at each other in a blush, receiving a shock like never before.
(What is the meaning of this?)
After the shock, other emotions surged to the surface as well.
Rage. Sorrow. Resentment. And then, despair.
Withstanding the nauseating wave of emotions, I closed my eyes tight and clutched at my chest.
When I next opened my eyes, from all appearances, I had returned to complete serenity.
“I understand, Your Highness.
I duly acknowledge the aforementioned breaking of our engagement.”
“I wish you both happiness from the bottom of my heart.”
The prince looked at me with blank amazement, as if he was puzzled.
Why do you make that face?
If the engagement is easily broken off, then it fits your plan, doesn’t it?
Now you can truly marry the one you love.
“I do not believe we will ever meet again.
Well then, farewell.”
I left without a glance back.
This event was not what weighed on my mind.
I’ve remembered everything.
This was the so-called world of an otome game. I was reincarnated inside of it.
Everything was scripted.
The figures of the prince and the girl cuddling close together definitely came from the game, and it was one of the scenes from an event.
The me before I was reincarnated loved strategy battle games and farm simulation games, but I liked other genres as well.
Even in the genre of otome games, this one was heavily discussed, so I decided to try it out while wondering what it would be like.
I thought it an extremely well-made game when I finished. The realistic appearance of the world and the scenarios were especially well done.
Even the characters who committed crimes were well-rounded, and reasonable motives were provided for their actions.
As Shiris vin Rhodevaite, I am what you’d call the bad guy, a wicked woman, a villainess–any of those terms would work.
The fiancée of Prince Christiansen, one of the love interests.
However, upon the Heroine’s entrance, the Prince’s heart strayed from Shiris, and their engagement was canceled.
Everything was scripted.
In the game, I’m positive I was supposed to cry, clinging on to him as I denied his request.
I had my servants kidnap the Heroine, and in the process of restraining her, the knights led by Prince Christiansen managed to capture me instead. In the tussle, casualties happened. Even my family’s high social standing could not prevent my imprisonment, which resulted in my death. Not long after, my poor father passed away from grief.
Of course, that was scripted.
However, since I didn’t even cling to him in tears, that scenario was now completely irrelevant.
I returned to my residence at a quick pace, and as soon as went inside I informed my trusted, elderly butler.
“My engagement to Prince Christiansen has been called off.
His Highness is to marry someone else.
Send a letter to the royal palace posthaste, detailing the particulars with a formal acknowledgment of the process, and signed on my behalf.”
“In a few days, I will return home.”
The butler was the first to dissolve into tears, crying How pitiful, this will not stand! and the rest of my servants unanimously followed suit.
“Miss, you must send a formal protest to the royal palace!”
“There is no need to do any such thing.”
“The preparations to be seen to if I am to leave the royal capital will prove a tremendous undertaking. I have truly burdened you all.”
“You must not even mention such a small matter.
If there is anything we can do to be of service to you, it will be our pleasure to do so.”
I was filled with joy.
But this powerful loyalty of my servants must have made increased my recklessness in the game, so my feelings were a little mixed.
But it was completely irrelevant now.
Because I’ve had my wake-up call.
I traced the path home, jolted by the carriage as it traveled over the highway.
The various formalities to leave the capital and my letter acknowledging the engagement’s dissolving were accepted with little protest; in return, I received a messenger bearing a formal letter of apology, and even a large sum of compensation money.
“Welcome home, Lady Shiris!”
My people, from the common citizens to the guards, had come as far as the borders of my father’s territory to welcome me.
Filled with longing and happiness, I took the knight commander’s hand and climbed down from the carriage in an unladylike rush.
“Miss, it is good to see you return.”
“I am home now.”
Tears leaked from the corner of the knight commander’s eyes.
I notified everyone about the truth of the matter beforehand.
He should’ve already known about it.
“My limited view from the carriage shows me the fief seems to be even more abundant than ever before.
I am eager for a look.
Will you be able show me around tomorrow?”
“If you’re so decided, I can do it.”
I stopped breathing as his figure appeared from the other side of the crowd.
———Time itself seemed to halt.
“Hello there, Shiris.”
A smile of old, unchanged.
I forced back the tears, which eagerly threatened to overflow, and put a hand to my chest.
My childhood friend.
My father, the marquis, had an old sworn friend.
Krauverg, the margrave who governed the adjacent territory. His son was Darius.
Father’s territory was a narrow and not very fertile strip of land located along the national border.
Together with the margrave’s lands, these territories form the kingdom’s most important line of defense.
As the top brass, they jointly commanded the garrison, and my father and the margrave frequently traveled to and from the other’s homes.
They were close to each other’s families, and since we were close in age, it was natural that Darius and I were always together.
It’s not good if you don’t study properly!”
“I’ve had enough~ Let’s ride far away, Shiris~”
“It’s a really good book!
Geez! Let’s read it together!”
“It’s full of words, annoyin’!”
“Then just to here! If you actually read the first chapter, I’ll go horseback riding with you!”
“Fiiine. I give in.”
“Darius, you idioooooot.”
“Whaa?! It takes one to know one!
“Even though I showed you, you got it wrong. Darius, you idiot!”
“B-but, I don’t get it.
A flower that’s different at noon and night, isn’t that confusing?”
“I showed you my favorite gem, too! This is wrong!”
“Like I can even buy gems! Stupid!”
“Even though I told you to give them to me on my birthday, you brought the wrong ones. Darius, youuuu idiiooooot!!”
“Aghhhhh, don’t cry! You’re annnnoyin’!!”
“Darius, you’ve become so strong.
You truly have a talent for the sword.”
“Hah, I’m not that great.”
“It’s hopeless for me.
I won’t grow any taller. A shame, too.”
“You’re trying, aren’t you? Medicine? The healing arts?
Sure surprised me the other day. When did you pick that up?”
“Ah? You saw? I was determined and asked a doctor from the palace to teach me.”
“Hmm, so if I get hurt from now on, my medical fee will be waived? I’ve got it good.”
“No way! It won’t be free, how shameless! You’ll have to give me something!”
Darius, a constant presence in my life.
Brother of my heart. My precious friend. The one I——
“You seem well.”
Darius held out a hand and guided me.
He cracked that unchanged smile at me.
“They started calling you the wisest woman in the kingdom, so I imagined someone wearing glasses with her hair pulled tightly into a bun.”
“Why, there are indeed such described beauties in the palace.”
No, I lied. He has changed.
He was even taller now. His shoulders have broadened.
His skin, tanned from the sun; and his big hands, rough and bony. Beneath his black mantle he wore a suit of silver armor.
Underneath it all, he must have a countless number of small wounds. That was proof of his dedication to training without missing a day.
Dark-haired and blue-eyed, his face in profile was even more masculine than before.
“Now that I’d like to see, a beauty in spectacles and a bun.”
“Your love for beautiful women never changes.”
“You just don’t understand.”
Darius let out a lively laugh.
Ahh, when was the last time I heard such a cheerful sound?
It was always pities or sympathies. That was all.
“All men naturally love beautiful women.
But of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
“I wonder where your standard for beauty lies?”
“I won’t tell for free.”
“You still hold a grudge against me for pillaging your sweets in payment?”
It was his favorite phrase, coming out from time to time after that story about the medical bill I collected.
I automatically snickered, and his hand dropped to hold my shoulder with a strength so light I wasn’t sure if he touched me or not.
“Keep that expression as you go in.”
The door opened and I was met with the smell of medicinal herbs.
Darius gently pushed my shoulder.
I ran up to my father as he rose from bed.
“Shiris, you’re home. I’m sorry I couldn’t meet you out front.”
Are you allowed to rise from bed? You must consider your health.”
“I have recovered significantly with the medicine you sent.”
A few years ago, father was injured in a minor skirmish during a border patrol, and his physical condition has been worsening over time.
My master said it was because his heart was weakening——as it has been ever since mother passed away.
“Shiris, it was a shame this had to happen.”
I was incompetent, forgive me.
Even though you were so delighted for me, and now the support from the forces at the palace—”
“Shiris, it was you my thoughts turned to regarding the engagement. From now on we will not discuss the other matter.”
“I know how hard you worked to gain the support of the military. And of course, the hard-earned gold you made with your knowledge has been of great benefit to our fief.
How unexpected that you think me such a useless father if I can’t even manage without my daughter working herself to the bone to support me. We will manage. Beginning with Sir Darius, there are many reliable young men here, and the margrave comes by often as well.”
“I also know how hard you’ve worked to practice medicine.
But there is no need for you to worry so. Compared to the past, my condition has vastly improved.”
“More important is you.
With your beauty and talent, there will be no lack of potential suitors.
I will find someone perfect for you, do not worry. It will all turn out for the best.”
At the palace, I worked so hard it seemed like I’d spit out blood multiple times for two reasons: support from the palace military, and all of the rare ingredients I needed to make medicine but didn’t have the money for.
Yet, the result of my broken engagement and my tomfoolery was father’s death. And then—
(Nothing is okay.)
Wanting to cry the entire time, I desperately summoned a smile, and pressed a hand to my chest.
“I’ll show you around.”
I had surrounded myself with medicinal plants and herbs when he came up to me the next day.
“Oh, it’s you, Darius.”
“You haven’t changed at all, still covered with plants and herbs.”
“That wasn’t a criticism.”
“I see you’ve changed, however.
The smell isn’t exactly pleasant for a lot of people.”
“Well, because it smells like medicine.”
“I received a lot of complaints while in the capital.
That’s why I could only handle them in the cellar, and I applied fragrances while I was before others.”
“What a pain.”
“It’s not so troublesome once you get used to it.
This is my home, however, so I don’t have to here.”
I tidied the herbs and tools a little bit, untied my apron, and moved to stand next to Darius.
“Come now, I’ve kept you waiting. Shall we?”
“In your work clothes? No charm at all.”
“How else am I supposed to dress with you as my companion?”
Darius gave me a not at all painful poke in the forehead.
The moment we got on our horses and left the castle, the people started cheering and made way when they noticed us.
“Lord Darius! Lady Shiris!”
Sad voices mixed in with the cheerful ones.
“Such a wonderful lady, how did…”
“To have someone so talented buried in the middle of nowhere like this—”
“If she had become queen, she could have inherited the title as a member of the royal family.
And then, even though this fief is rock hard…”
I blinked as I turned to look at Darius grumble.
“It’s your fault I haven’t had my morning meal yet.”
“I highly doubt that.
You should have eaten before you came.”
“I didn’t have time. I was training.
Excuse me, ma’am.”
Give me that, he said as he pointed at a pastry in front of a shop, and the shop lady rushed over to hand it to him.
“You said it was my fault, right?”
“Idioott, it was a joke.”
“Then as thanks.”
“Don’t need that either.”
Darius handed a coin to the shop lady and turned back to me.
I ate my half of the torn pastry, my cheeks stuffed. It was filled with walnuts, and very good.
“Glad to hear it.”
Darius laughed as he said that a lady should just allow herself to be treated.
Our territory really has become more prosperous than when I left.
The town has grown, and the variety of the goods in the shops increased.
The fields are showing the results of many years of effort, all the land that could be cultivated has been cleared and crops were ripening far and wide.
“We’ve come so far…”
“Your father has been giving his all. With his only daughter trying her best in unfamiliar lands, the father couldn’t be slack.”
“I’m such a fool.”
The words suddenly popped out of my mouth.
“I was so stupid.
I didn’t say it was all a waste, but I was truly a fool.”
I want to believe it is no longer so.
I thought the words like a prayer, clutching at my chest.
“Idiioott. What’s foolish about you is the nonsense you just started spewing.”
“What cruel words. Didn’t you praise me before, saying I was intelligent?”
“That is that, and this is this.
Even though you’re smart, you’re actually an idiot, hey?”
“What was that!”
Thereafter, Darius came to visit every day.
Every day, he came.
“Have you nothing to do?”
“But you come every day.”
“The smithy is over there, and the garrison headquarters beyond, aren’t they?
It should be okay if I stop by for meals.”
“I hope you’re visiting your parents? And Seleos?”
“I saw them that time I brought you their greetings after you returned.”
“You’re not about to tell me you haven’t seen them since then?”
“I won’t tell for free.”
“Come back right now!”
What am I, a dog? he was saying when he suddenly stopped in front of the door and looked over his shoulders.
“Tomorrow, I’ll come at night.”
“Noontime you’ll be busy, right?”
Before I could ask him he meant, his figure had already disappeared out the door.
Once in a while he can be so cryptic.
Well, I’ll probably know come morning.)
I was right.
The following morning, as soon as I woke up my maid changed my clothes and I stared at the dress in surprise.
“Isn’t this a ball gown?
Why are you———”
“Miss, for the day, won’t you please wear this dress with the light purple flower designs?”
“What do you mean?
Anyway, my work clothes———”
“Oh, my stars, it looks wonderful on you, Miss. You’re a peerless beauty.
“Shall we put on cosmetics as well? Good grief, m’lady, you don’t even put on rouge lately. A shame, it is.”
“Um, actually, my work clothes———”
“Kyaaaahhh! You look wonderful, Miss! The very image of a goddess.
“Next shall be perfume!”
“Ah, not that one. It will be a disaster if mixed with the smell of medicine.
Something a little more lavendar will be better.
I meant! Forget that, about my work clothes———”
“Well then, next will be the jewels!”
“Oh, no. Please leave this pendant where it is.
I don’t mind if you put something else on top.
I meant! At any rate, my work clothes———”
“Kyaahhhh! You’re so wonderful, Miss, you’re already beyond expectations!”
“Happy birthday, Shiris.”
“Congratulations, Lady Shiris.”
“Happy birthday to you, Lady Shiris.”
Once again, I was moved to tears, and I desperately put a hand to my heart as I held it in.
“From that look, you forgot, didn’t you?
Well, a lot has happened, it’s understandable.
You should step away from there and have a look in the hall.”
“This way, Miss.”
When I exited into the hall, I found a crowd of people from the populace and our garrison.
“Happy birthday to you, my lady!”
In their warm wishes there was none of the usual heartrending cries or pity.
I was so happy, for the first time in a long while I could smile in front of everyone from the bottom of my heart.
All throughout the day it was a party.
The presents brought by everyone——be it modest candy, be it flowers, the gifting of a ribbon, a song or a dance——was really enjoyable.
During a break, the margrave and his wife even arrived.
After giving me a present and words of congratulation, auntie happily said this:
“I’m so relieved, Shiris.
Even though you just returned it was very brave of you to act as if nothing was wrong, but that made you seem all the more fragile, as if you might disappear somewhere. It was tragic, and I couldn’t bear to watch.”
Was I the reason for those painful, piteous cries?
No, I told myself, I had nothing to do with it. And yet I supposed I had hurt them.
“Dear aunt, I made you worry, but I’m fine now.”
“At any rate, where is that foolish son of mine?
I expected he would be here as well.”
“I have yet to see Darius today.
Um, but, as for Seleos…”
“Ahh, not my younger son.”
The margrave had two sons.
The one named Seleos was Darius’s younger brother.
But due to the gap in our ages, I haven’t spent as much time with him as I have with Darius.
“Seleos is currently doing mandatory participation in the training camp of the knights stationed on my lands,”
said the margrave with a distant look in his eyes.
(That idiot never went to see his parents.)
The only idiot here is that idiot, I thought as I drained my cup.
“Hello there, Shiris.”
Darius finally showed up once night fell.
He wore no armor, unusually so for him. Beneath the black mantle, he was garbed in black, and I didn’t see him at first because he blended in with the shadows.
I was sorting through the cards that had come with the gifts on the balcony facing the hall, and I frowned silently.
“You do realize climbing into people’s balconies is bad manners?
Can you guess what’s going through my mind right now?”
“And that is?”
“I’m wondering very strongly how you managed to to live as a noble until now.”
“You’re not cute.”
“Lies, the way I’m dressed and dolled up, there’s no way I’m not cute.
Everyone today heaped praise on me.”
“That was flattery.”
“I really don’t know how you managed to survive all this time.”
“So you waited all this time without even a change of attire for me? Cute.”
“Right. Obviously, I was waiting for you.
Darius said the last bit with another painless poke at my forehead.
You’re acting kind of fishy right now. You realize that?”
It’s my second attempt, he was saying.
The suspicion gets worse and worse, I thought, and after a while I followed him.
“I didn’t think we’d go so far.
On horseback, no less.”
Without explanation, Darius dismounted from his horse.
I followed suit and got down as well.
Mm, was all he sound he made as he reached out a hand to guide me.
Under the moonlight and the starlight, only the field was shining.
Pearly white light poured from the white flowers blooming everywhere.
Also known as the one-night blossom.
A short-lived flower that blooms for only one night, and withers by morning.
When the flower withers, it’s wrapped with faint yellow-green leaves, and those leaves give the appearance of another flower, which is why it was also lovingly known as the noon flower far and wide.
They’re said to be quite a sight to behold when they grew gregariously.
“The second attempt, a success.”
I brought a hand to my chest.
Years ago, I unreasonably asked Darius to bring me this very flower and my favorite gem for my birthday.
He brought me different ones, though.
But even though they were wrong, they were very beautiful.
“I never thought I’d be able to see this.”
When I said that, Darius sighed and a subtle smile floated at the corners of his mouth.
It was a smile of rarest kind, considering it came from him.
“Incredible, isn’t it?”
“Then say more.”
A giggle slipped from me.
I let go of his hand, and stepped into the faint light.
“It’s amazing. How beautiful.
I never imagined it could be this breathtaking.
With each step, it seemed like starlight was scattering.
“I’ve always longed to see this.
Say, you’ve probably forgotten by now, but that book when you first started learning your letters?
Moonlight flowers appeared in it.
It was a wonderful book, which is why I insisted we read it together.
But even though I wanted to read it with you, you only wanted to go riding, and in the end, you never did read it.”
“I read it.”
I was trying to scoop the light of the moonlight flowers, and I turned to look at him.
“After we quarreled about you leaving for the capital.”
I’m going to the capital, I said.
I don’t understand why, he replied.
We had a big fight.
It wasn’t the usual childish, almost silly fights where words exchanged from the beginning would turn into a bonding experience and peace easily made.
“The story of your favorite gem appeared as well.”
Popular folklore had it, the crystal of the light of a moonlight flower was said to be a moonlight stone.
It was said there was a mysterious power in a pure one, capable of granting any wish.
Of course, it was just a myth.
A childish fairy tale.
“A moonlight stone is actually just a glass stone, isn’t it?”
“But you liked it anyway.”
“I did. In the pictures, the moonlight stone was clear blue and it glittered prettily.
If I ever got one, I was sure it would make my wish come true.
How lovely life would be then? It was wonderful just to think of.”
“Is that a habit?”
“Putting a hand to your chest.”
I stopped breathing, and my body stiffened.
My hand was clutching at my chest unawares.
I slowly loosened the strength from my hand.
You didn’t have it when you were here.”
“Since I went to the capital.”
“I never knew.”
I looked up at his face.
The man who was always lively, or in a teasing mood, or slightly laughing wasn’t smiling at all right now.
“I never knew about your habit. Neither do I know this you who came back.
For a moment, Darius fell silent, and a while later he quietly spoke.
“What would you have done if I told you not to go back then?”
“You said you didn’t understand why I was going to the capital, right?”
But the truth was, I did.”
“I told you I wanted to learn more and improve my skills there.
What I could study here would never amount to much. That if I wanted to be serious, I had to go.”
“I knew that wasn’t a lie, but the truth is you were doing it for this land, for everyone, and for your father, weren’t you?”
“I’m not such a good person.”
A slight smile appeared in only his eyes.
It was wry.
“How like you. You probably think that saying I want to help, or I want to be useful is the desire to make yourself look good, the ego of someone who craves attention.”
“But it really was for our sake, no matter what you say.
That’s why I couldn’t say it back then. I couldn’t tell you not to go.”
After we had the big argument, Darius and I couldn’t reconcile our differences.
Darius stood in the crowd of well-wishers who came to send me off and glared at me.
I didn’t glare back.
I simply stared at him——and watched as he hung his head in shame.
My last memory of Darius was his shoulders trembling, as if he was heart-stricken.
“I love you.”
“What would you have done had I said that back then?”
“Well, even if I said it, it probably wouldn’t have stopped you from leaving.”
He was right, it wouldn’t have stopped me.
“I thought of you as an important brother, a friend.
Back then, even if you said that to me, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to answer you.”
“But you really were special to me.
That’s why——I left for the capital like I was fleeing.
I studied so that I could escape. I studied and studied, trying to bite more than I could chew.”
Or else there would be no meaning in leaving.
I would have lost any reason for pushing away someone so dear to me.
“To the point that I was called gifted, and people began to say I was fit to be queen.
When I had the honor of meeting the prince, I was most certainly in love.
With myself. I was in love with the future of standing next to a handsome prince, of becoming queen, and of climbing to the top.”
If I reached it, I would wield great power.
Almost everything would be mine. To that extent, I desperately obtained the support of the palace military, ingredients to make rare medicine, and even bigger things to take home. Something even bigger than what I had pushed away.
“But love is nothing more than that.
It’s something you desire. Something you want for your own purpose.
Something you want to make your own, to do with as you like, and you want it to consider only you.
You come first, and your partner follows.”
By the time I realized that, everything had changed.
When I realized that was all there was to love, I couldn’t help noticing.
There was something else that truly loved me.
Something more important than myself.
No matter what happened to me, it was important to me.
At the time it wasn’t clear to me what it was.
My hometown? My family? But there was definitely something else.
For this reason, the game’s version of Shiris clung to what she had. She thought that even if something happened to her, she would try to become queen.
If she lost everything, what happened to the ones who loved her? All she had left behind?
The question that slipped into her mind was, What in the world am I doing this for?
The thought took root.
“I’ve had this habit ever since then.
When it seemed like I might cry, I hold on tight to the pendant nestled against my chest.
I took to wearing it to remind me of my reasons for being there.
What now? You left all you love behind, you can’t go back.
Doing it encouraged me while I was in the capital…”
“You’re still doing it.”
I dropped my hand in surprise and Darius covered it with his own.
“You can’t let go of that habit, even now?
Or do you think that once you let go you can’t return?”
I slowly shook my head.
I didn’t know.
“You were probably thinking you couldn’t return, but…”
“What happens to the ones you left behind? The ones who believed you would return?
What happens to the ones who only wanted to chase after you?”
My eyes opened wide, and he bent down, as if to engulf me, and peered at me closely.
“Back then, even knowing it was useless, I thought of forcibly stopping you many times over.
But, whether I liked it or not, I understood your desires for going to the capital.
When I heard you had become engaged to the prince, I thought it only natural if the woman was someone of your caliber.
That no matter how much it pained me, it was bound to happen. I told myself repeatedly that it was better for you to be smiling like an idiot than for you to be doing what I wanted.”
His eyes were very close.
How long has it been since he last looked at me from such a short range, I wonder?
“I thought I could forget you.”
His blue eyes.
The reason I started liking moonlight stones was because their deep blue color was very similar.
“I entertained the idea of becoming engaged to another woman.
Because of my family name, there was no shortage of such talk.
But I couldn’t… No matter who, in the end, she wasn’t you.
Part of why I’m like this is because I learned the hard way when you stole from me.”
Was that hoarse voice my own?
I couldn’t help saying his name.
He was looking straight at me.
“Shiris, you came back.
To this land, which you thought you would never return.
You returned and I noticed there was an invisible line around you, but there is no actual shape or reason for it. Leave it behind.
——Don’t go anywhere.”
His eyes dropped.
A look of suffering appeared on his face.
When I saw it, it pained me as well.
“I love you,”
Darius whispered hoarsely.
Shivers ran down my back.
“Shiris——I love you with all my heart.”
Darius put his forehead on my shoulder, as if he couldn’t resist.
I noticed the quiver in his breath, and shivers ran through my entire body once more.
“I lost my heart to you.
There was nothing I could do.”
“We can start from here.
As siblings, as friends——look at me,”
he whispered emotionally——as if he was pleading.
“———I’m begging you.”
I couldn’t bear it and squeezed my eyes shut.
Tears traced down my cheeks, overflowing.
I’m sure he noticed it.
Darius sucked in a sharp breath, biting down on his molars.
And then, he slowly separated himself.
“You’re wrong, let me speak.”
“I love you!”
“I love you with all my heart.
More than anything, more than anyone, the one I love is you, Darius.
When I finally realized it, I was filled with despair. What a big fool I was.
Though I caused you such pain and pushed you away, the one I love more than anyone else is none other than you.”
Everything became clear to my in-game self while I was imprisoned.
I finally noticed the truth when it was truly too late for everything.
And then I lost my energy and died in jail.
My reincarnated self realized everything the moment the prince broke our engagement.
The rage, despair, and resentment were all directed at myself.
In fact, I’m still wracked with overwhelming despair for realizing so late. It didn’t happen while sitting in jail, but the truth remained.
I’m sure, somewhere in the corner of my mind, I must have realized the one dear to me was Darius, I thought.
Much too late, that is.
“Once my engagement was broken, I came back immediately because I knew there was no point in continuing to cling to the capital. Although it wouldn’t hurt to have the support or the ingredients to make medicine, I thought it was enough with the money I continued to send home, which I had worked so hard to earn with my healing skills and medicine.
These are not my father’s words, but I’m sure my strength alone did not create success in these lands.
However, if I help with my acquired knowledge, I believe I’ll have slightly different ways of doing things.”
The condition of the fief really had become better than before.
There were things I wanted to try with these lands as well.
“But the simple truth was——yes, the truth was…”
I bowed my head, unable to look up.
Tears dripped onto the moonlight flowers.
“I missed you, Darius.
I wanted to live on the same land as you.”
When I started to believe destiny existed, that was what came to mind.
Nothing else but that.
“We had that quarrel and after all this time I was finally returning. I thought there was nothing I could do if you treated me coldly. Even if you hated me, I deserved it. I wouldn’t find it unusual either if you suddenly had a wife and child.
But then, with your smile of old, as though nothing had changed between us,
you greeted me with a casual hello.
At that moment, do you know how happy I was?”
It really seemed like I would start bawling right then.
This is enough, I’m truly content, I thought.
“When everyone else looked at me with pain and pity in their eyes, you alone acted normally.
Almost like it was the past, and I was so happy.”
The conversations I had with him and that very behavior of his had healed my heart.
He healed the wounds I hadn’t even noticed were there.
“But even during those joyous moments, I suppose I was scared.
It’s too late, yet you still wish for something after causing him such pain? I asked myself.
That’s why I would definitely——the words definitely couldn’t come from me.
I continued the habit I had developed to hold back my tears and suppressed my feelings—”
My face was suddenly lifted.
Right there, so close he was an eyelash away, was Darius.
He looked as if he might be in pain after all.
His lips landed on mine repeatedly.
He embraced me powerfully; and lovingly, tenderly, he caressed the back of my neck, my arms, my hips, and my back.
Darius pressed me down on top of the moonlight flowers, his expression pained——when he looked at me as if he might cry, I no longer knew what to do.
“There is no one as beautiful as you,”
he whispered, as if he was making a plea. Slowly, unhurriedly, he brushed my cheek and forehead, and simply stared at me.
My own arms circled around his body like they were seeking something, too.
“The truth is, I’ve always believed that———”
“A second attempt.”
Darius was kneeling in front of me.
I wondered why he looked so noble.
“I was actually supposed to do it that night after showing you the flowers.”
“I did think you got the order wrong.”
Darius lost his smile and looked at me solemnly.
I lost all words as I stared back at him.
“Shiris vin Rhodevaite, I love you with all my being.
Will you do me, Darius Walt vin Krauverg, the honor of marrying me?”
I let a moment sink in before saying simply,
“Yes, I will.”
As proof of my acceptance, I put my hand on his.
“For some reason, such a gentlemanly way of proposing didn’t make my heart throb at all.”
“Is that right?”
“This is my second one.
Your rough way of speaking is more interesting.
I’ve heard you speak like that since we were young, so I can’t get used to you speaking like this.”
“But it’s fine. All that’s left is you not breaking the engagement.”
“Never. You think I’d do that?
My parents and your father are already making arrangements.
I’m toast if it ended with a slip of paper and compensation money.”
“What’d you say?”
“I’m toast if it ended with a slip of paper and compensation money.”
“You’re doing that on purpose, aren’t you?”
“When you came back I immediately consulted both parties.
Of course, on the condition that I had to win your heart, so don’t be mad.”
“It was a lie when you implied that you hadn’t gone home to meet you parents, wasn’t it? ‘I won’t tell for free?’ Nonsense!”
“Don’t you think quick preparations for the ceremony is better?
All I started to do was set aside money and select the guests and so on, so don’t be upset.”
“You even made my father an accomplice. He’s found the perfect partner in crime in you, and what do you have to say about that?”
“Must be love.”
“Seleos being away at a mandatory training camp smells fishy as well.”
“Ah, because he tried to get to you before me.
A disagreeable chap who would get in the way of someone’s romance.”
“It’s not romance, it’s true love.”
Darius silently raised a brow and took my left hand.
He smoothly slipped something cold onto my ring finger.
“In the center is a moonlight stone, flanked by blue jewels.”
“The one you mistakenly gave me for my birthday, right?”
“Because it holds a lot of meaning for me. It’s the jewel I used up all of the money I got from selling my sword back then to buy. There, now. Don’t cry.”
A moonlight stone was just a glass stone. But the blue jewel was an authentic gem.
What must he have felt as a child when he made the preparations to buy one for me? The thought made me tear up.
“Hey. Didn’t I say not to cry?”
“I’m not crying,”
I said. After wiping the corners of my eyes with the back of my hand, I looked up at him.
“Say, without any of the mannerisms of a noble, try it once more?
The one from earlier wasn’t interesting enough.”
“Oh? Challenging me again?”
“It’s OK to keep you challenged, isn’t it? If you succeed this time, it won’t be for free.”
“Hmm, not for free, huh?
Then I guess I don’t mind having a try.”
His eyes burned feverishly as he looked at me. Darius bent to send a rain of kisses on my cheeks and forehead.
His proposal was sweetly worded, and so I gave him the reward I promised.
My answer to his proposal.
The secret I had guarded about the tiny blue jewel—on the pendant nestled in my chest.
Ahh, I think I am a wicked woman after all.
In the game, there’s a bad ending after I died in jail.
In that ending, Darius inherited his father’s title, raised an army, and destroyed the kingdom.
He chopped off the limbs of Prince Christiansen and the Heroine, gouged out their eyes, and cut out their tongues.
———Even then, he wouldn’t allow them to die, and tortured them mercilessly in jail.
I thought it was the rage of having his sister, his best friend get killed.
And that he went that far because he mourned my father.
But that wasn’t how Darius actually felt…
If he knew, I wonder what sort of expression he’d make?
But a part of me was sure:
No matter what happened, he would always love me.
And I would do whatever it took to prevent him from losing his smile.
The 7th king of the Kingdom of Asfaria, Christiansen, was known as a lustful king and he had a total of 32 concubines.
As story goes, the one he loved in truth was the fiancée he had at the very beginning—Shiris, the daughter of Marquis Rhodevaite. In future generations of the kingdom, she was known as a very talented woman. The king tested her, and it resulted in disappointment and her leave from the capital.
The woman who became the next candidate for queen was of low status, and she was not equal to the task.
Known only as Anna, she became the king’s first concubine, but she could not bear him a child. As the number of concubines grew, her status in the royal palace quickly dropped. In her final years, she fell to the lowest rank among the concubines.
Throughout his life, the king was never blessed with a child of his own blood, and the Fay Dynasty ended with him.
Marquis Rhodevaite’s daughter Shiris returned to his territory, and she married Margrave Krauverg’s eldest son, Darius Walt vin Krauverg.
The margrave’s second son Seleos inherited his title.
The son-in-law of Rhodevaite made a name for himself as a general that would live on for generations. Darius rose to such great fame, his name was always listed among the top three generals of history.
Marquise Shiris established the first academy of pharmacology and medicine in Alfaria, and its doors were also open to women everywhere.
This academy increased its number of departments later, and what is left now is a university ranked at the top of the world.
It is said that the beginning of prosperity in the territories of Krauverg and Rhodevaite began here.
General Darius and Marquise Shiris had a very happy married life, and their names became synonymous with great love.