Updated: Jun 8
The truth about the Crown Princess Selection comes out and Tara and Kyle make a personal bargain.
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This edit is primarily based off of Thamalasca's original version of this chapter and includes some of her original editor's notes. So thank you Thamalasca for letting me re-edit this!
Episode 183: About 10 Months (60)
Mount Berquinn Cave.
My thoughts kept running in circles while I listened to the sound of the crackling firewood and falling rain in the background.
No, no. I can manage on my own. It's true that I feel better than when I was at the hunting grounds.
Ha…. If only there hadn’t been this sudden downpour….
No…. It's my fault for not paying attention to the weather beforehand, despite knowing about the aftereffects.
I packed all kinds of medications and yet...… ha….
I suppressed my oncoming sigh, wrapped my arms around my knees and rested my head on them. I didn't know how I was going to finish this mission, with my body being such a hindrance.
‘Males and females over 7 years old’…. Really now? I wasn’t born in the 19th century! I’m not even religious! … Why did I say such a stupid thing?... The difference between men and women?... Why was I even worrying about that?
What does it even matter? If there was a treatment, I should just take it without hesitation. But a treatment by sharing Aurore? Like the kind from martial arts novels and movies? Should I not just go for it?
Wait a minute! … Why didn’t he propose this to me in Durban?
As the thought occurred to me, I swallowed and lifted my head to glance at him. He still hadn’t moved.
I hesitantly opened my mouth….
"Your… … … Highness?"
“What?" He answered, eyes still closed.
"Why are you offering me this treatment? You didn’t mention this possibility in Durban. Why now all of a sudden?”
“Because a lot has changed since then.”
The Prince slowly opened his eyes and watched me with a steady gaze.
"Yes? What has.…!”
I clicked my mouth shut.
"As expected, you are quick-witted."
The corners of his mouth crept up, but it didn't reach his eyes.
“A lot has changed…. My position, my job, and….”
“Are you doing this on purpose?”
I wanted to look away, but I couldn't, as if an invisible tether tied me to his stare.
Ah…. I needed to get a grip.
“No…!” But my words were immediately buried beneath his low, deep voice.
“That's why I'm doing this. I would never have thought of giving you my Aurore back then, even if your condition was worse in Durban than it is now. At the time, I didn't think of you as completely one of my people. Even for my own people, I wouldn't hand over my Aurore so recklessly. I will only do this now. Because it's you. You are smart, so you know what I'm trying to tell you. I understand you're trying to avoid it, Tara, but be careful now...."
"There is one thing I've recently discovered."
“What is it?"
"I'm an impatient man.”
Ha…. I really couldn't get used to this guy's fastball.
He slowly closed his eyes again, as if he were falling asleep.
I swallowed very quietly, lest he open them again.
I had a vague idea…. No. I couldn’t deny that I already knew why.
I was just wishful thinking on my part to believe that he didn’t have feelings for me. As he said, it was true that I avoided the topic as much as possible.
I stared at him through the flickering flames.
Long legs and broad shoulders. Wet dishevelled hair brushing his forehead. A sharp and elegant jawline made more visible by the tilt of his head. Eyelashes long enough to shade his high cheekbones. Mr. Perfect…. Ha…. Where in the world could you hope to find someone as exceptional as him?
And this was the man who insisted he has eyes only for me…. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
How could he be so confident in his feelings?
Thump, thump, thump.
I don’t know when it started, but my heart was beating faster and faster.
I felt weird.…. What was I feeling right now?
I tightly pressed my hands over my heart, while I interrogated myself. What was I going to do with this man now? ..... Should I do it?
‘Yes, do it! If you reach out your hand, he’s yours’, whispered the devil inside me.
‘He’s the Second Prince! You don’t know what will happen to your Family. Your House could still be destroyed following the assassination attempt on him!’ The angel inside me replied.
‘Come on! .... Really? The contents of the book have been changing little by little. Whether big or small, you’ve already intervened in so many ways, and the story is bound to change…. Has already changed. If you date the Second Prince, it will just change even further…. For the better….’ the devil whispered again.
‘Are you really going to date the Second Prince? …. Where’s the catch? He’s the one who confessed to you, but he still accepted the marriage decree! What do you make of that?’ The angel won in the end, nodding enthusiastically.
I raised my head sharply.
Wait, there was a way! To confirm this now. For the sake of both the future of my House and my heart.
He slowly opened his eyes at the sound of my small but determined voice and looked at me again.
“What would you have me do?”
He, who had only been observing me until now, slowly opened his mouth and spoke in a deep voice.
“...… Nothing has changed.”
"If you still feel burdened, I won't do anything. I won’t try to force you to do anything either! Just… accept the fact that my heart is yours.”
Wow...…. I should have been blushing, but my body felt cold and my head heavy. On the other hand, my heart was now beating more wildly than ever.
"Your Highness. I honestly still don't understand. Why did Your Highness have to ...? Is it out of simple curiosity? As time goes by….”
“You still don’t know me?” he interjected.
“I thought endlessly about this phenomenon for a long time before I stated my feelings for you. This is the conclusion I came to. I find it ridiculous that you would dismiss it as mere intellectual curiosity.”
“Well… Then, why did you accept the decree?”
Surprised at my unexpected words, his eyes widened slightly.
"Why did you accept getting married when you think of me like that? Are you doing this to get married? To date someone secretly? Or do you just want a mistress?”
At first, I only wanted to ask about the marriage decree as calmly as possible, but then all of my anxieties just came tumbling out.
He frowned and looked at me like I was crazy.
"What? A mistress?"
I nodded emphatically.
"Ah…… Oh, my God…. That's not it. My dear, you’ve misunderstood something.”
Kyle grinned and ruffled his hair wildly.
"What kind of misunderstanding?"
"You're wrong. I'll explain myself before we go any further."
He got up and sat across from me. I flinched at his sudden movement, but without letting my expression show, I turned my head and looked at him.
"... Please explain.”
“There are several reasons why I accepted the decree. Firstly, the talent training system.”
“It was a smooth method of resolving that. The second reason was to quickly halt the political forces who wanted to rob me of my position…."
"…. However, at the end of this bustling selection, there will be no Crown Princess.”
“I have it on good authority that this Crown Princess selection will end up as just a pretentious exercise.”
It was a completely unexpected answer. Naturally, I thought that a Crown Princess and her House would stand next to him as a result of this selection.
But this was the Second Prince we were talking about….
He would make it happen. The possible ways to achieve this started scrolling through my mind, making me dizzy, but I couldn’t figure it out…
"Well…. If you are curious about it, why don't we discuss this now?"
Just tell me! .... Why is nothing ever easy with this man….
"OK. So, you have accepted the decree.”
“Are there more reasons that made you accept it?” I asked pouting.
"Ah… there is. The main reason I accepted the decree was…. The Golden Spirit."
"Oh my God!"
I yelled as I immediately figured it out.
“No, you didn’t make such an important decision just for….”
Thanks to the Golden Spirit, my arranged marriage with the Stuart Family had been postponed.
In short, the Second Prince just admitted he accepted the decree in order to prevent my arranged marriage….
“It was a very careful and meticulous decision, crafted to blind my opponents.” He said clearly and very seriously.
"Well, why are you...….”
My throat felt parched. Upon hearing it, I avoided his gaze, I could hardly stand to look him in the eye.
“If it's going to be a burden, let’s just end this discussion. The rain has almost stopped. We’ll be leaving in 30 minutes. You'd better take a break in the meantime."
The Prince added dry branches to the waning fire.
How could he, once again, say something so enormous in such a casual tone….
I was dumbfounded. My heart was pounding a mile a minute, and the persistent crackling sounds of the fire resonated in my head like the persistent ticking of a clock.
‘How can you take such risks……. Do I really mean that much to you?’
Suddenly, I felt an intense need to ascertain what my feelings really were. The ones that kept persistently invading my chest.
"Please, do it."
His gaze immediately found mine through the dancing flames. He chuckled, a mischievous glint igniting in his eyes.
“…… Had you just asked me before, I would’ve done it free of charge, but now I want a reward…. Are you still interested?"
"If I had just asked you….?”
“Considering that highly calculating nature of yours, isn’t it normal to be wary of any free favours you propose?”
“But….…. since you like me, I don’t have to worry?”
I growled in frustration.
One of Kyle's eyebrows slowly crept upwards.
“If you just ask me to….…. I’ll do it right away."
His deep eyes, gleaming in the firelight, kept scrutinizing me. Such a confident gaze….
Looking away, I said:
“Ah… How can you say these kinds of things so easily…? Hmmm, well. It’s up to me then… I may be a noblewoman, but disliking unpaid favours is a part of my nature."
"Okay. What do you want?"
“Can’t you guess?”
"I dare not assume too much. After all, I am a dignified young noble lady.”
With the world's most serious expression, he slowly enunciated each word:
“Only one kiss.”
Her big eyes fluttered wildly then closed tightly. Kyle had to stop himself from digging his nails in his palm, after catching a glimpse of the determination in those eyes.
“I agree, My Lord.”