Well, if she thinks I’m a doll, then a doll I am.
Oh my god, you scared me.
Why was everyone suddenly appearing from all directions today? Princess Arien, busy handing out her bouquet of flowers, froze on the spot after hearing that voice and bit her lip. I also became frozen before I could accept her bouquet.
I didn’t expect to see him again today.
Silver-white hair glowed under the moonlight. As he strode through the small path between the statues, Izek looked even more graceful than usual with the added scenery around him.
I could feel Princess Arien’s body shaking as she held on to my skirt.
I understand why I’m like this, but why are you so scared?
Her cousin stopped about two meters away from us, and spat out in a blunt tone without a single hint of chivalry, “Your Highness is looking for you. I told you last time that you shouldn’t wander around alone.”
Before a second passed, the little princess pushed the bouquet into my hands and quickly ran past her cousin towards the palace, like a scared kitten. I felt like this happened often, and Izek didn’t really try to hold her back to escort her either.
My husband stood upright without looking back. There was a strange look in his eyes.
“Were you playing together?”
Ah, is that what he wanted to talk about? I gracefully straightened myself, holding the flowers in my hands. I felt annoyed at being treated like a six-year-old, but I still gave him a shy smile. “Were you looking for the princess?”
“No. I was looking for you. I’m not a nanny.”
What? Looking for me? You were the one who left me behind. Are you trying to kick me out of here too now?
I was a little scared of his overwhelmingly large figure, but I didn’t show it, and pretended to be delightfully surprised. “Me? Really?”
“… Yes, really.”
Just like he’d done earlier, the one who cruelly threw me away came closer to me.
God, is he really going to hit me? Well, fine, as long as he’ll spare me in the future…
“What are you doing?”
“Open your eyes.”
Instinctively having closed my eyes, I slowly opened them again.
I could see his wide chest right in front of me. When I raised my head up, I saw a blank look on his face.
“Did the Princess of Romagna grow up accustomed to being beaten?”
How did you know that? Hey, it’s natural to be scared when a big man like you darts forward. How tall are you? I think probably over two meters…
“I thought you were going to hide and watch me.”
“I-I’m good with just watching.”
“Really? Then why close your eyes? Were you expecting a kiss?” The way he tilted his head and smirked confidently was very unfamiliar.
If he had just stared at me like he always did, I wouldn’t have been this flustered. But the way he looked at me with his fiery scarlet eyes felt even more unnerving than usual. If I said that I was expecting a kiss, he’d know that it was a lie.
Do you think I’ve lived and lied like this for only a day or two?
“That’s because, earlier, you seemed upset because of me…”
“So you thought I’d hit you?”
“Not really, but if you did…”
“So, you’d still like me even when you think I would hit you?”
“No?” I said hesitantly. I could still get out of this situation. “That night… You were the only one to have ever protected me like that. I will try my best to correct my shortcomings, so please don’t hate me…”
He didn’t say anything for a while. As I tightly clasped the bouquet of flowers with both hands and squirmed, he kept his gaze on me. The look on his face was indescribable. Why was he staring at me like that?
Quick footsteps sounded.
It was clear that it was coming this way, but neither of us looked away.
“… Lord Izek!” My husband, still staring at me, finally turned his head.
The boy, gasping for air and approaching us, paused with a slightly puzzled look, and then spoke carefully, “I think you should come see this.”
Was something happening with the Paladins in the palace?
“Wait here for a second,” my husband said and walked away.
Oh? Did he still have some things left to say to me? What now? Should I put the flowers in my hair to look pretty and wait for him?
I followed his mountainous back with my eyes as he disappeared into the distance and eventually turned around and sat on a flat surface nearby.
The blowing wind was refreshing.
The encounter in the hall left me unsettled. I wondered what kind of delusions Freya’s little brother was having. Such hostility simply because of some rumors about me… It was hard to pinpoint exactly what had made him so antagonistic. That much aggressive dislike just because the senior he admired had a wife like me? Did it perhaps have something to do with Freya?
While I was sorting through my thoughts, the flowers of Princess Arien’s bouquet captured my attention. Now that I was really looking at them, I could see that they were rudbeckias.
The flower I was named after. A flower meaning eternal happiness…
Cold water splashed on me from behind.
As I tried to get up, something wet and slippery wrapped around my torso and pulled me into the water within the blink of an eye. There was not even enough time to scream or struggle.
The water was as cold as ice.
My heart stopped beating for a moment. I should have been thinking about whether I was going to die like this out here and what kind of meaningless ending this was, but strangely enough, I didn’t feel any fear.
I was just caught by some crazy pond monster, yet I felt empty. However, the thing that was holding me tight didn’t seem to have the intent to kill me at all…
When I struggled a little, the monster’s arm relaxed a little.
The thought felt ridiculous, but it was as if the monster would let go if I just tried to swim up.
What kind of joke was this? Did it just want to play with me? Or was I just so terrified that I started hallucinating? Or was I fighting some kind of psychological fight with a demon?
As my lungs were rapidly losing oxygen, I instinctively tried to shake off the monster and swim back up to the surface. I was about to move my hands to fight off the arms twisted around my waist before I fully lost my breath.
A sudden disturbance in the water came from above, and an intense light flashed, leaving me blinded and sending a tingling feeling up my spine. The arms holding my body completely disappeared, and something else breaking through the water’s surface grabbed me and pulled me up and out of the pond.
Finally free from the water, I took big gulps of air to soothe my aching lungs. My head felt dizzy and my surroundings were noisy.
“How could this have happened here…”
What were they talking about? When I eventually managed to open my burning eyes, my husband stood in front of me, looking up at me. But… Why did he suddenly get shorter?
Oh, he was holding me up.
His eyes, holding something I couldn’t decipher, bore into me.
It didn’t take me long to realize why he was looking at me like that. Panicking, because I didn’t know what was going on, I wanted to tell him that the pond monster was just like any other monster. That I had not called it out on purpose. That it was just like last time when the flames went out, that it came to me without my doing. That I was not a witch…
“… Waah!” I cried loudly and clung to Izek’s neck, bursting into tears, fearing that I would get hit.
Regardless, I still choked him to death and kept on crying.
“Oh, I was so scared! You saved me again! You’re the only one!”
As it became silent all over, only the sound of Izek’s sigh rang loud.
A sigh that sounded very tired.
The appearance of a monster in the Angvan Palace’s pond famous for its romantic legend seemed to have become quite the serious disturbance.
Inside the palace, where absolute safety was of utmost importance, a sudden attack from a monster inside the pond that had been free of issues for decades left everyone in shock.
Besides, no matter how bad my reputation was as the Pope’s daughter, it would have been quite problematic for Britannia if something had happened to me.
Looking back on my vague memories of the original novel, I didn’t remember any of these things happening in the story.
The heart of Elendale, where all the nobles’ mansions, the Temple, and the palace were situated, was a relatively safe area. What happened on the first night of me arriving here was also strange in many ways.
Of course, Rudbeckia in the original story did not experience the flames being extinguished or left the banquet and went near the pond. But if this continued happening, the Britannians would think that I was a witch that called forth demons.
My yearly illness had arrived. I hadn’t felt anything last night when I fell into the pond, but I felt a little strange starting from this morning. I thought it was just a cold at first, but it wasn’t.
My body was burning hot, and it felt like someone was poking my whole body with a needle. These symptoms came twice a year after I had possessed Rudbeckia’s body. I thought it would come back at the end of this year, but it had come early. And at a time like this too, damn it.
The first time it happened, my father had called a physician in a hurry, since I had weakly insisted that I felt deathly ill. The physician, however, just shook his head in confusion and said that he had never seen such symptoms before. The same was true for the loads of other physicians that had come to treat me.
The next time the mysterious illness left me unable to leave my bed, everyone had started to think that I was faking being sick because I didn’t want to get engaged. So I decided to just put up with it.
I was used to holding in the pain anyway. It was an illness that would disappear in a few days at any rate. Calling a physician now only to hear the same thing like always and then be branded a lying cheat would be disadvantageous.
Especially with that nasty husband of mine. He might think I’m up to something, haa.
What was he going to tell me at the pond, though?
We couldn’t finish our conversation because of that monster appearing… Whatever the reason was for telling me to wait, it was quite unexpected coming from the man who didn’t bother wasting his time on people he found annoying.
So I had to find out what he had wanted to say to me.