01. A Humble Princess (2)
No. It’s better this way.
Because she had to be an obscene woman that made others shudder. In order to flawlessly exclude her family and break the engagement.
She’d obviously considered other methods. For example, acts of lunacy or self-harm.
But wounds could be healed, and a deranged lady could be locked and hidden in a room. In fact, there was a precedent of a certain marchioness being locked in her room until she grew old and died, but not before giving birth to eight sons.
On the other hand, chastity was a value that couldn’t be regained once lost.
While it was currently the era of free love, which stirred the hearts of the younger generation, men still sought for modest women as a marriage partner. Especially in the conservative upper society, chastity remained an essential commodity.
“It’s for my enjoyment.”
“It’s unfamiliar to see a lot of men within the castle. Moreover, everyone had outstanding appearances, and so desires naturally arose.”
Although it was a political marriage ordered by the emperor, in reality, the person wielding true power in the empire was the man before her eyes, Demios.
He was a rather notorious man. The reprobate son that killed his father. The former emperor, who’d ascended and abdicated the throne. The wicked puppeteer that made his young brother into a puppet. The sole sibling of the current emperor. The empire’s guardian, who defended the imperial citizens from monsters.
‘Even so, I don’t want a used woman as my wife!’
If he were to raise an objection, the puppet emperor wouldn’t be able to do anything either.
“As everyone is aware, my other half is close to perfection. When I’m ensnared by my instincts, I would occasionally escape from my family’s control and indulge myself.”
As Catherine slowly raised her hand, the rustling of the penistone fabric tickled the two’s ears faintly. She touched the blade lightly with a finger and looked up at him.
“I have to indulge in my desires to the point of madness. Perhaps I’m not suited for the seat by Your Highness’s side.”
“I’m going crazy because I want to do it now, too. What’s vulgar is… It’s a nature that can’t
“Even now, I feel like I’m going crazy with desire. It’s vulgar… but this is my nature, so there’s nothing I can do.”
Catherine’s words might sound absurd at first, but an imperial citizen would naturally accept this reasoning. Just like a dog barks, a cat enters boxes, a bird flies, and Rediots are primitive. It was common sense.
Just as it’s impossible to train a cat not to knock over a glass, it was impossible to reform a Rediot’s to overcome their instincts. It’s an ‘ancestral trait’. All imperial citizens believed that.
Therefore, she, who had the blood of a Rediot, could easily argue that her unbridled sexual appetite was a result of her animalistic instinct that education couldn’t correct.
Become a lewd ducal princess, and have the engagement broken directly by the current emperor.
This was the only way she could break off the engagement without causing harm to the family.
Amidst the heavy silence, Catherine struggled to meet his gaze. Everything about him stifled her senses. The sharp edge of the dagger that pricked her throat. The cold, glinting silver blade. Above all, his cold golden eyes.
A mellow, low-pitched voice penetrated my ears. At the same time, a burning pain penetrated the throat. Catherine couldn’t even scream and swallowed in vain at the sharp pain she experienced for the first time in her life.
A dulcet and deep voice entered her ears. At the same time, a scorching pain radiated from her throat, like she was being burnt. In the face of a sharp agony she had never experienced before, Catherine wasn’t even able to scream, and could only hold her breath.
He had wounded her. With the dagger, he had precisely pierced the junction between her chin and her neck.
As the blade dug into her skin, a warm sensation trickled down. There was the metallic scent of iron. ‘Ah, it’s my blood’.
He looked down at her with an odd smile.
“Dear Catherine. My humble ducal princess.”
“I also recognise you. As famous figures, our life histories aren’t any secrets to each other.”
The great Caliburn. The Caliburn ducal family of the sciences, who’d ushered in a new era of civilization with their discovery of flame stones, possessing a hundredfold efficiency from that of coal. The only meritorious retainer family that survived the lion Archduke’s purge due to their formidable accomplishments.
Catherine was Caliburn’s only flaw. Because she was an illegitimate child that had the blood of a Rediot slave flowing in her.
No, it would have been better to be an illegitimate child.
“You are not my half-sister.”
The current Duke of Caliburn. Her older brother, Lancelot, recited like it was a confession.
“Caliburn’s blood doesn’t flow in you. We are unrelated. Catherine.”
The fact that even a fraction of noble blood flows within her. To the fact that she was entirely a beast. An insurmountable abyss lay between these two facts.
To think that she didn’t share even a single drop of her father’s blood, that she wasn’t just a child of some commoner couple, but a Rediot, the slave amongst slaves, which could push the entire family on the brink of collapse.
A Rediot, a quasi-human that eats the feed in the pigsty like a pig and sleeps beside filth.
If this ‘reprobate’ found out that his fiancée hid her true identity as one of the barbaric species and tried to proceed with the marriage, what would happen? The Caliburn ducal family would be ruthlessly slaughtered by this cruel man. Just like his father, who was ripped apart alive.
A low voice resounded.
“Catherine Caliburn is Prothean Caliburn’s greatest invention.”
“That’s what everyone says. But I guess that isn’t the case, is it?”
Some regarded the addition of Catherine into the family registry by her father, Prothean Caliburn, as him being a scholar to the bone, and thought that she was his new biological experiment.
To scholars, Catherine’s existence was revolutionary. A miraculous half-human, half-beast that was capable of comprehending language, art, and science, and in sufficient control of her nature, growing into a graceful and dignified noble. Every scholar who visited Catherine at Caliburn Castle said the same.
Even the emperor had convinced the archduke with that. Since scholars from the Academy had thoroughly verified her socialisation, it shouldn’t be a problem to have her as the prospective partner in a political marriage.
“Yes, they were wrong.”
“I’m Father’s failure.”
Hick. Suddenly, something boiling surged up from her heart to the back of her throat. Her lips trembled, and she hurriedly gritted her teeth.
The words she’d uttered herself embedded into her heart like a bullet shot from the front. Even if she knew it was coming and braced herself, the agonising pain that seized her chest didn’t lessen.
‘I can’t show any signs of wavering…’
“I, I am Father’s failure… born to be vulgar and licentious….”
Catherine’s lips fell shut. Beauti… What?
“Whether you’re a failure or what not. You are beautiful. Excessively so.”
Her thoughts froze, as though ice was poured over her head. It was such an unfamiliar complement that it almost felt like an insult. How could the phrase ‘beautiful’ apply to a woman with uncouth red hair?
The blade, which seemed like it would pierce through her neck at any moment, gradually retreated from her body. The only contact that remained was the tip of the dagger touching her skin fleetingly.
“Putting other things aside, I do have a unique eye for aesthetics.”
There was a tiny gap, just a paper’s breadth, between the dagger’s tip and her skin. Even taking a deep breath would be enough to let the blade graze her face and potentially leave a scar, but he used the tip of the dagger to raise her chin. It was a ghost of a touch. Precariously.
“Especially this colour….”
Tuk. The tip of his dagger touched her cheek. He swept aside a few strands of red hair that covered her cheek leisurely, and tucked them behind her ear. Her heart raced.
The distance to her ear felt infinitely long. The moment lasted forever, as though his hand would caress her skin endlessly. The surfaces that he’d glided over in a curve trembled. Her toes tensed without her realisation.
“It’s just like a bloodstain.”
Tuk, with that sound, he cut Catherine’s hair off. The beautifully curled red strands fell and landed on the back of her white feet.
He clasped Catherine’s chin with his other hand. Her shoulders jolted upwards.
“My fiancée seems to be in such agony. It wouldn’t be right of me to turn a blind eye.”
He tossed the blood-stained dagger onto the floor casually. Clang! The sound of the blade striking the floor and sliding away scratched at her ears like a rake.
At the same time, he used his long, firm fingers to trace her lips. It was the first time Catherine experienced such an act, and froze and held her breath in surprise.
“W, wait a moment… Ugh!”
She grabbed him by the wrist hurriedly.
“E, excuse me, i—if you want to punish me…”
“Punish? Does it appear that way to you?”
His gaze flicked downwards briefly in indication. As though she was bewitched, Catherine followed his gaze down his body, jolted.
It was because her gaze landed on his sturdy right thigh. Even through his clothes, their distance made things rather… clear.
‘Don’t tell me, the thing that’s swollen there is…’
“Do you like it?”
Catherine raised her head in surprise. A rather excited smile greeted her.
“Don’t overdo it. I’m much more shy than I appear.”
Charlotte had clearly witnessed it when she’d gone to the imperial capital for her debutante ball. How the archduke had treated the women that threw him ardent gazes.
It was the first time she realised that a person’s gaze could be that cold. Just observing from the side made her terrified of the disdain in his eyes, and so she naturally ended up avoiding him like everyone else.
But… that, its meaning was… so that means…
Perhaps he had a preference… for exotic women?
Perhaps that’s why he remained unmoved by the women of the empire. Could this be the reason he does not remain in the empire and instead wanders around the empire’s borders? Because he preferred women of different races… because of his unique preferences…
“Since you mentioned that you’d rush out when caught up in desire, it’s probably nothing new, is it?”
It was a late-winter night and there wasn’t anything warm around, but her entire body felt hot and flushed. He bent down and made eye contact with Catherine.
“That is, if you haven’t had the audacity to lie to me, my lovely mixed-blood fiancee.”
Her breath caught.
It’s too late.
If she admitted that she had lied now, she would have to somehow justify why she did this crazy thing in the first place.
What if she told him the truth? ‘It’s because I’m not even a half-blood, but a complete Rediot, and so I’m scared to marry you?’
If her true identity was revealed, she would be deprived of the Caliburn name and status. The only reason that she was reluctantly accepted as an imperial citizen was because the blood of the noble Caliburns, even if it was just half, was flowing within her.
Right. All the privileges she’d enjoyed were due to the protection from the Caliburn name.
She appeared just like a slave when she wore a slave’s clothing instead of a silk dress. If that happened, Catherine was a slave that didn’t know how to live like a slave.
Could she really start to sit next to animal dung, consume feed and move rocks around from tomorrow onwards?
Therefore, she would rather become an obscene woman and protect the Caliburn name.
“Yes. So… No matter how you do it, please take me, Your Highness.”
The smile vanished from his lips. His golden gaze, on the boundary between languor and ice, calmly swept over her face. The air felt heavy, and it was difficult to breathe. Like rain was about to fall.
“Close your eyes.”
His low voice fettered her reason.
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