Chapter 2

***

 

“Ah!”

 

I let out a short scream as I felt a strong pain that instantly warped the bones in my wrist.

 

I felt a slight loosening of the grip on my hand. I didn’t miss the opportunity to shake off the hand of the man who caught me with the other hand that wasn’t captured.

 

“Wait a minute!”

 

My body was falling at a rapid rate towards the floor, but strangely everything seemed slow.

 

Then I saw the face of the man who reached out to grab me.

 

His jet-black hair, red eyes, white face and fine features were so beautiful that it made me forget everything for a moment.

 

Somehow his eyes were filled with guilt.

 

The man’s face was distorted as if he was in pain, but he was still as beautiful as ever.

 

It was even more mesmerizing than when I was looking at the moonlight.

 

I couldn’t understand why someone I didn’t even know was making such a face for me, but I would soon wake up from my dream and I would never know why. The moment I slowly closed my eyes, thinking, “I’ll be back to reality soon,” the raw pain choked me and soon clouded my consciousness.

 

A few minutes ago, the Princess tried to torment an innocent woman again today, but was stopped by the Crown Prince, and because of her high status, this was not a light matter, but she fled out of shame. It was always the case.

 

The people didn’t care much about it. Even after that one little commotion, the banquet hall was still lively and festive.

 

People went out into the halls to dance with their partners and drink while exchanging happy looks and conversations.

 

In the middle of the banquet hall, the Crown Prince and Claire were standing. There were many people around them.

 

“Lady Dana, are you hurt anywhere?” (*Dana is her family name)

 

“I was really surprised earlier. I’m glad the Crown Prince came at the right time.” (Someone else is talking.)

 

“I’m fine. Thank you for your concern.”

 

Claire smiled brightly.

 

The people around her gathered to see the Crown Prince, but it seemed that the Crown Prince’s attention was elsewhere.

 

His lips, which had been cheerfully red, were pale, and his eyes were wide open as if he had seen something shocking.

 

Surrounded by people, receiving interest and concern, Claire noticed the unusual condition of the Crown Prince belatedly and called him.

 

“Your Highness?”

 

There was no response from the Crown Prince.

 

He didn’t answer any of Claire’s questions, and a few seconds later, he ran off somewhere in a hurry, leaving her alone.

 

The people present seemed to be more than a little perplexed by the Crown Prince’s sudden action.

 

Claire, with a small frown, turned her gaze in the direction he had been looking earlier.

 

There was a terrace with an open door, the curtains billowing in the breeze, and she could see a man standing in the middle of it.

 

The man’s upper body was leaning towards the railing.

 

His hair, which looked soft in the moonlight, was dancing wild in the wind. After a while, Claire looked at the man’s face and saw a surprised look on his face.

 

‘Why is that man there?’

 

If she wasn’t mistaken, the place where the man was standing was the terrace where the Princess had been earlier.

 

However, there was no Princess on the terrace, just a single person. Claire couldn’t hide her wonder.

 

“Lady Dana, is something wrong?”

 

Someone from the crowd asked as the Crown Prince hurriedly left his seat, and even Claire, who was left behind, had a complicated look on her face.

 

“It’s nothing.”

 

Claire shook her head.

 

However, contrary to her words, her expression hinted there was a problem.

 

The Crown Prince was headed somewhere.

 

He didn’t even seem to have time to pay attention to the suspicious looks of the people watching him.

 

In front of the Crown Prince, who had stopped, a woman with dazzling white hair and a pale face was lying on the cold floor, motionless with her eyes closed like a dead person. 

 

Her long, wavy white blond hair stretched out in all directions, her dress was covered in mud, and her face was clearly marked with tears.

 

The Crown Prince’s face turned pale as he looked at her.

 

“Roxana?”

 

There was no response to his call, and the Crown Prince’s body began to tremble. 

 

“…!”

 

It was then that he felt the presence of someone behind him. The Crown Prince slowly turned his head.

 

There was someone standing in the darkness. When the Crown Prince saw his face, he looked a little surprised.

 

“Elvin, why are you…?”

 

The man didn’t pay any attention to the Crown Prince’s words and approached.

 

Without hesitation, the man sat with one knee on the floor, checked the woman’s condition, and then held her.

 

The Crown Prince, who came to his senses belatedly, frowned and asked,

 

“What are you trying to do?”

 

“She needs a doctor. And what’s so important about who’s helping? Why don’t you go back now, Your Grace? There are many people waiting for you inside.”

 

The man was so arrogant that he didn’t even bother to hide his discontent.

 

“Unless you’re trying to buy time and draw attention, would you please step aside?”

 

The Crown Prince was speechless.

 

While he was thinking what to say, the man disappeared with the princess.

 

The Crown Prince, who was left alone, stood frozen for a while.

 

***

 

When I woke up, the sky was already dark.

 

I didn’t know how long I slept, but it felt like a very long time had passed in my experience. 

 

It was a dream within a dream……… It was a strange experience.

 

Beside the bed, a brown-haired, innocent-looking woman was sitting in a chair, dozing. 

 

The room was luxurious with precious artifacts here and there, tapestries hung on the walls, and the marble floor was covered with a carpet embroidered with freesia in gold thread. 

 

This was certainly not my room, but I knew this room. 

 

I even knew the name of the woman sitting in front of me.

 

‘It’s Annie.’

 

I had a very long dream until I woke up.

 

In the dream, I was a noblewoman named Roxana, and everything in front of me now…. was hers.

 

I blinked slowly.

 

But when I closed my eyes and opened them, everything in front of me did not disappear.

 

It was still there in front of me.

 

If this wasn’t really a dream, it would probably be a terrible nightmare.

 

What would I do if I don’t wake up forever?

 

I stood in front of the frame containing the portrait of Roxana’s family and pondered, then made up my mind.

 

‘Let’s try this one last time.’

 

I looked around and spotted a vase of flowers on the table.

 

I pushed it slightly to the side with my hand and it fell down, and the vase, carved with a mango tree, made a loud breaking sound.

 

The sound startled Annie, who had been sitting on the side of the bed dozing off, woke up.

 

Annie stood up and looked at me with a surprised look on her face.

 

I averted my gaze, picked up a shard with a trembling hand, and cut my palm.

 

A red line was drawn across my palm and immediately red blood leaked out and stained the carpet on the floor. 

 

I groaned in pain at the raw agony and clenched my fists.

 

“Lady!”

 

Annie rushed towards me and held my hand with a handkerchief.

 

“Lady, are you all right?”

 

She looked at me and stamped her feet as if she were going to cry.

 

However, I didn’t hear her words very well. 

 

I felt a twinge of pain in my freshly made wound. 

 

Red blood trickled from the white skin that was not mine. 

 

That’s when I saw the mirror on the other side of the dressing table. 

 

In the mirror, I had long blond hair and was wearing a thin indoor dress. 

 

Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that I was not dreaming. 

 

I stood there in a daze, not knowing what to do.

 

“Please wait a moment. I’ll go get someone right away.”

 

Annie said in a trembling voice as she hurriedly walked out with an anxious expression.

 

“Young Lady, please stay where you are!”

 

After a while, a few people came into the room.

 

Along with Annie who had just slipped out, there was a doctor, a butler, a nanny, and even a servant boy.

 

They looked at me in surprise and carefully observed my condition.

 

The doctor disinfected and bandaged my hand, and the attendants tidied up the room.

 

I spent each day in a daze without any concept of time, doing nothing and falling asleep when I felt sleepy. I cried secretly and had a fever and struggled through the night.

 

I despaired that even after so many days, the ceiling I saw when I woke up was still the same.

 

As time went by, I began to give up on it. The more time I spent locked in my room all day, trying not to see anyone or do anything, the more worried I became about my surroundings.

 

“I don’t think you’ve hurt your head.…I think it’s a mental problem.”

 

After several visits by the doctor, there were rumors in the mansion that I was abandoned by the Crown Prince, that I had gone mad.

 

As time went on, the rumors became wilder and wilder.

 

At some point, they even started circulating the nonsense that I had an accident while having an inappropriate relationship with another man.

 

Why hasn’t she woken up yet? There really is something wrong with her , isn’t there?”

 

“Don’t waste your breath and keep your seat.”

 

All I did was lie in bed in a daze all day, locked in my room without saying a word.

 

People began to talk among themselves right in front of me.

 

As time went on, the servants’ attitude toward me changed. At first, the maids seemed to be cautious, but gradually they left their seats, ignoring me brazenly. 

 

The only one who silently stayed by my side was Annie, a young-looking servant girl.

 

It had been two weeks since the day I jumped off the Imperial Palace’s terrace, and a week and two days since I came to my senses.

 

I wanted to stay in my room and turned a blind eye to everything, but I couldn’t.

 

While I was locked in the room, the memory of Roxana came to mind.

 

***

 

When Roxana was a young girl, her biological mother, Duchess Lillian, died.

 

The Duchess was wise and gentle, kind to those beneath her, and well-liked by all.

 

When she was alive, the family was close and the household was at peace. However, after the death of the Duchess, the Duke could not accept the death of his beloved wife and suffered intensely, eventually volunteering to go to war.

 

People all feared that he would go off to die with a broken heart, but the army led by the Duke unexpectedly won a series of victories, and his fame grew ever stronger. 

 

The news of the Duke’s subsequent victories was an honor for the family, but Roxana, who was left alone in the mansion from an early age, was raised by nannies and servants.

 

 As the only daughter of a high-ranking noble family, she was treated very well while growing up, but she never felt loved.

 

However, no matter how well the others treated her, they could not fill the void left by her parents. The Duke only occasionally gave gifts on days like her birthday, but otherwise showed no interest in her.

 

He was so busy that he would only stay less than a month each year at the mansion. That was the only time Roxana could see his face.

 

Even at times, he was as cold-hearted as a stranger.

 

The Duke was a fine commander and a good lord, but he wasn’t a good father.

 

He was indifferent to his only daughter, and Roxanna thought he had abandoned her. To her, the Duke was difficult and uncomfortable.

 

Far from talking, they rarely bump into each other even when they were in the same house, so the father and daughter were as estranged as strangers.

 

Roxana fell in love with the Crown Prince and for the first time since she was a child, she asked the Duke for a favor.