Chapter 2

Translator: Alice

Editor: SoaringPeaches

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Huge thanks to Syris for the kofi! (1/1)

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A marriage proposal without a bouquet or ring was truly unrealistic. Eileen hoped she had misheard, or that it was some sort of cruel joke.

 

But Eileen’s hearing was perfectly normal, and Cesare was not the type to joke about things like that.

 

So, why go through with it?

 

Her mind swirled with countless questions, leaving her feeling dizzy and overwhelmed. Eileen paused, taking a deep, slow breath to steady herself. As she exhaled, she struggled to regain her composure before finally responding.

 

“I-I don’t want to m-marry you, Your Highness.”

 

He asked sweetly, his smile unwavering.

 

“Would you rather have your head cut off on the guillotine than marry me?”

 

“I-I didn’t say t-that!”

 

Her throat tightened with fear. Nonetheless, summoning every ounce of courage, she pushed past the paralysing sensation and spoke the words she had been struggling with.

 

“You don’t even like me, Your Grace. You simply regard me as a child.”

 

“That’s correct. You are my child.”

 

Her heart sank upon hearing the words that defined their relationship. He was so frank, as if he were merely stating the undeniable truth.

 

“That’s precisely why it troubles me. Your Excellency will need a successor, and inevitably, such responsibilities would fall upon me.”

 

Eileen bit her lip and spoke in a trembling voice. 

 

“And… You can’t do that with… me.”

 

Cesare grabbed Eileen by the scruff of her neck. He turned her head to the side before giving her a deep kiss. Eileen was so startled when a soft lump of flesh forced its way into her mouth. She desperately tried to push him away.

 

Their lips parted with a wet sound. Eileen’s heart pounded in her chest with such intensity that it felt like it might burst. She looked at Cesare, trembling with apprehension, her emotions swirling in a tumultuous storm of confusion and unease.

 

That smile no longer graced those lips. Only the deep crimson stare remained.

 

“How was it?”

 

He asked in a drawl.

 

“Was it to your satisfaction?”

 

***

 

They met for the first time when Eileen was ten and Cesare was seventeen.

 

Eileen would occasionally visit the Imperial Palace with her mother, who served as the Prince’s nanny.

 

Eileen was curious as a child, so she explored the Imperial Garden every time she got the chance. She was usually led around by her mother with a clenched hand. But one day, while her mother was preoccupied with her duties, Eileen became enchanted by a butterfly. She chased the little thing and eventually lost her way.

 

She wandered alone through the vast garden for a while, and just as she was about to collapse from exhaustion, she ran into Cesare.

 

“Ah-!”

 

She was so overjoyed to finally meet an adult that she burst into tears. Eileen rushed to Cesare and hugged him. Nestled in his broad chest, she sobbed softly before belatedly wiping her nose, looking up at the ‘adult’ who held her.

 

The early summer sunlight shone on the handsome man, and Eileen was dazzled. Those vibrant eyes reminded her of poppy flowers. It shocked Eileen that she had forgotten why she had cried.

 

Peeking behind the man, she half expected to see some white wings. He looked too angelic to be human. She was disappointed to find only other larger adults accompanying this younger ‘adult’.

 

Unlike Eileen, who had no idea who these people were, Cesare recognised the crying girl as his nanny’s young daughter. He smiled with a slight twist of his lips.

 

“You must be Lily.”

 

Only her mother called Eileen by that nickname. Cesare plucked a nearby blooming lily flower and handed it to the wide-eyed girl. He then lifted her into a princess carry and personally returned the girl to her mother.

 

Eileen was scolded harshly that day, but she was not upset by it. In fact, she simply smiled brightly as she gazed at the vase with beautifully sorted lilies.

 

Before going to bed, she meticulously documented her encounter with the angel in the Imperial Palace in her diary.

 

‘I hope to see you again next time I visit the palace.’

 

Cesare would occasionally check in with his nanny to see how Eileen was doing. At those times, Eileen could meet Cesare. It was an absolute joy for young Eileen.

 

The little girl would sit with the young man and share afternoon teas together. Eileen was usually the one to carry out all of their conversations.

 

Unlike other children her age, Eileen was only interested in plants. Cesare listened patiently as the young girl rambled about various flora. Regardless of how boring and uninteresting it was, he never interrupted.

 

That was how the relationship began, and it has remained unchanged to this day.

 

‘I believed him to be an angel rather than the devil.’’

 

Regardless of her youth, she possessed a sharp mind. By then, Cesare had become a seasoned soldier with extensive experience on the battlefield. He exuded an aura that made ordinary people hesitant to approach him.

 

To bravely rush into the arms of someone as beautiful but cold as a well-forged sword. To abandon all the other adults behind.

 

‘Sir Lotan should have interfered then.’’

 

Had that been so, today would have unfolded differently.

 

Eileen exited the inn in a daze. Outside, an expensive black vehicle awaited her, which appeared out of place on the well-worn road. Lotan supported Eileen, who was unsteady on her feet, and helped her enter the car.

 

“Miss Eileen, I will take you there.”

 

He sat them both down before closing the door. With that, the soldier in the driver’s seat grabbed the steering wheel.

 

Lotan would normally have occupied the passenger seat next to the driver. This time, he was beside Eileen, casually passing her a handkerchief and a lemon-flavoured candy.

 

“…”

 

Was he still treating her so because she cried when they first met? Cesare’s knights did emulate their master’s tendency to treat her like a crybaby and a child.

 

Eileen was now a fully grown adult, and she did not cry easily. Candy, however… She would admit to eating them frequently.

 

Nonetheless, she could not refuse Lotan’s kindness, so she reluctantly accepted and placed them on her lap. Then she relayed what had happened prior.

 

“Sir Lotan… His Excellency proposed to me.”

 

“I see.”

 

His reaction was far too nonchalant. Eileen clutched the handkerchief and candies tightly. Unable to bring up the kiss, she emphasised the proposal itself.

 

“So you knew about the proposal?”

 

Lotan arched a thick brow, as if he had nothing to contribute. He did not even blink an eye at His Excellency’s proposal to the woman he had regarded as a child for the previous ten years.

 

“You don’t seem surprised.”

 

“Isn’t it obvious? Eileen would have been sentenced to death.”

 

Lotan presented his argument in a very rational tone.

 

“We’re in a situation in which we must save Eileen in some way. Since His Excellency requires an archduchess, he simply chose the most efficient method.”

 

“An efficient method…”

 

Despite her dumbfounded muttering, Lotan’s expression remained unchanged. Eileen appeared to be the only one who thought this situation was absurd.

 

Eileen reflected briefly on the ‘marriage proposal’ she had received earlier.

 

She was either to be executed or to get married.

 

It did not seem to be much of a choice. Cesare’s motivations were somewhat understandable.

 

Within the empire, Eileen’s family was regarded as minor nobles. They had nothing—no money, no power, and no honour—but that was their status.

 

The existence of the Elrod family provided no benefit to the Archduke. However, if Eileen were executed for dr*g offences, Cesare would suffer humiliation. The opposing factions would seize any opportunity to tarnish his reputation.

 

He appeared to be intent on diverting people’s attention with the hot topic of the victory ceremony and the Archduke’s marriage, while also completely erasing any evidence of Eileen’s actions.

 

It could not have been calculated purely for political reasons. Cesare considered Eileen a trustworthy ally. Although she did not come from a family that could provide him with power through marriage, she was someone who would not stab him in the back, literally or figuratively.

 

Cesare’s trust in Eileen stemmed entirely from her mother.

 

Eileen was not always the Elrod family’s eldest child. When Eileen’s mother gave birth to her first child, the baby died shortly afterwards.

 

After that, she moved to the Imperial Palace and became his nanny. She knew it was her fate the moment she saw Cesare. Her mother revered Cesare as if he were a child sent to her by God.

 

In fact, it seemed ridiculous to have a mother who lost her child be the new prince’s wet nurse.

 

The reason Eileen’s mother was chosen was obvious. It meant that Cesare was an abandoned prince.

 

The late emperor had had an excessive number of children. Just the number of officially recognised ones surpassed a dozen. Cesare, who was also born out of wedlock, was rejected by everyone.

 

To survive, Cesare had to betray and be betrayed many times.

 

Throughout that never-ending cycle, Eileen’s mother remained steadfastly loyal to Cesare until the day she died.

 

She was one of the few people Cesare trusted completely. 

 

Thanks to her, her daughter Eileen also found sanctuary within his circle of trust.

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Notes

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