Chapter 3

Translator: Alice

Editor: SoaringPeaches

***

Given the circumstances, marriage to the Archduke was advantageous for both parties, regardless of how drastic it was. In fact, it benefited Eileen more than it cost her.

 

‘Maybe it would be okay if I just accepted everything.’

 

After all, Cesare was no longer an abandoned prince. He was an archduke, with the Emperor as his older brother and hundreds of thousands of soldiers serving under him. He was also a hero who saved the country and now holds the Arc de Triomphe.

 

Becoming engaged to such a man was something to be celebrated. Eileen, on the other hand, struggled to accept it.

 

She knew he possessed a cruel temperament and was incapable of loving anyone.

 

For Cesare, kisses and engagements held no emotional significance. He proposed out of necessity and kissed her just to assure Eileen that they could consummate the marriage.

 

He would have done the same if his plans had necessitated another woman. That fact was too painful for Eileen to bear.

 

Because Eileen…

 

‘Because I love him.’

 

…She secretly harboured feelings for Cesare for a very long time.

 

She did not want her unrequited love to turn into a shallow one. Rather than becoming an empty shell of a couple, she would have rather observed her love from a distance, hearing of him through newspapers.

 

A sharp pang pierced her heart, casting a shadow over Eileen’s face. Lotan’s voice softened as he spoke.

 

“Even if it displeases you, there’s no other option. Then again, why take the risk? Without His Excellency, you’d have faced the guillotine.”

 

(Ed. note: I have a feeling that others learned about Eileen’s little lab. So then came Cesare, the blackened prince, riding his nightmare steed.)

 

What Lotan said was not an exaggeration. If someone other than Cesare had discovered Eileen first, she would have been executed without hesitation.

 

Eileen, fiddling with the candy and handkerchief on her lap, mumbled gloomily,

 

“All I wanted was to help His Excellency.”

 

Though she couldn’t speak her mind in front of Cesare, she could salvage some excuse for Lotan.

 

“Powerful painkillers are essential in times of war. I was confident it would be innovative…”

 

Eileen’s words melded together when a thought struck her.

 

“But, how did you find out?!”

 

Morpheus was still in the experimental phase. It was a substance that had been meticulously studied because of its dual nature. It had not once left her laboratory.

 

“It surprises me that you thought His Excellency wouldn’t find out.”

 

Lotan seemed perplexed by Eileen’s question.

 

“With how diligently you’ve been purchasing opium, did you really believe you wouldn’t be caught? At first, I suspected you were an opium addict. Perhaps you were duped into buying it for someone else.”

 

“I am not that foolish.”

 

“Don’t you recall being kidnapped once for a piece of candy?”

 

Red in the face from embarrassment, Eileen screeched.

 

“I was twelve when that happened!”

 

That happened over a decade ago, and it was not over a single piece of candy.

 

The kidnapper gave her a bag of lemon-flavoured candy and one of orange-flavoured candy, both of which she had never tried before. He had also shown her a peculiar plant, a specimen so fine that it enticed her even more to follow him.

 

Nonetheless, Cesare’s subordinates would forever remember Eileen as that little girl who was tempted by a piece of sweet. Lotan, in his heavy muttering, tried to recall every detail of the incident. 

 

“Just thinking about the chaos that ensued back then… How disorienting it was.”

 

“Now you’re overreacting.”

 

Eileen drew Lotan out of his reminiscences.

 

She tried so hard to cool her burning cheeks with the back of her hands. 

 

“Anyway, if there is another option, I would prefer to avoid this marriage. It’s all too sudden, and it might cause trouble for His Excellency.”

 

Eileen was not confident in her statement, having committed a crime and all. The man beside her glanced at her, his expression showing understanding of her predicament. Despite his rugged appearance, he was a sympathetic man.

 

“It must be burdensome. However, His Excellency is doing this out of concern for you, Miss Eileen.”

 

“…”

 

“He is also a person who will never back down from his decision.”

 

Eileen was keenly aware of this. If Cesare chose Eileen as the Archduchess, then she would assume the role, just like when he decided to elevate his older brother to the position of Emperor.

 

Despite knowing that her future was set in stone, Eileen attempted a weak but futile protest.

 

“Please give me some time. I need to tell my father as well.”

 

Lotan’s eyes flashed with disgust as soon as Eileen mentioned her father. Lotan smoothed his expression before Eileen noticed. After a brief pause, he introduced a new topic.

 

“Come to think of it, it’s been a long time since we last met.”

 

“Has anything happened thus far?”

 

“There have been some minor concerns. Why didn’t you send a letter to His Excellency?”

 

His question surprised Eileen.

 

“A letter?”

 

After Cesare left for battle three years ago, Eileen wrote him letters every single day. Nearly a year had passed without a single response. She had no expectations, so she was not disappointed. Not to say that she was not melancholic for that reason.

 

“I thought he wasn’t reading them. Since I didn’t receive any replies, I assumed personal letters weren’t being delivered on the battlefield. Even if they were, I thought he wouldn’t have the time to read them with his demanding schedule.”

 

She did not want to be an annoying pest to Cesare. The following year, she stopped writing. She had only heard about Cesare through the newspapers over the last three years. Today, Cesare appeared out of nowhere and proposed to her.

 

“His Excellency was delighted every time he received a letter.”

 

Then why wasn’t there a single response? It seemed like Lotan was saying this to comfort her. After all, since Lotan was a knight under Cesare’s direct command, he would have seen the discarded letters.

 

Eileen concealed her bitterness and smiled, pretending to be cheerful in response to Lotan’s thoughtfulness.

 

“Now that he has officially returned, there is no need for letters. I’ll make up to him.”

 

“Good. All you have to do is just stay by his side.”

 

Lotan chuckled softly as Eileen pretended not to understand his words. The vehicle had also come to a stop just in time.

 

“We’re here.”

 

Before she knew it, she was in front of the house. Eileen inherited a small, two-story brick house with a small garden from her mother.

 

According to imperial law, her father should have inherited it. Instead, it had gone to Eileen, thanks to Cesare’s intervention in her mother’s will.

 

In the garden, orange trees swayed in the wind with their green leaves. They were ripe with fruits, giving some life to the otherwise dull brick house.

 

Such a picturesque scene was not fit for a fallen noble family akin to the Elrods. After all, orange saplings were a symbol of extravagance. It was also a gift from Cesare.

 

Lotan was the first to exit the vehicle and open the door after it came to a halt. He was pleased to see the orange tree after hearing the sound of leaves rustling in the wind.

 

“Has anyone tried to steal oranges?”

 

“Of course there was one.”

 

There had been one attempted theft since receiving the orange tree as a gift. The daring orange thief was shot by the Archduke’s troops. Since then, no one has dared to approach the orange tree or Eileen’s home.

 

Eileen gave Lotan a gentle glance as he continued to accompany her. The rugged-looking man smiled broadly as their gazes met, his scarred face creasing.

 

Eileen regarded the Archduke’s first knights as gods, much like the orange tree, which did not suit the Elrods. They were never the type to smile and talk openly, much less the Archduke.

 

Eileen smiled back at him, attempting to shake off her overwhelming feeling.

 

“Thank you, Sir Lotan. Do you by chance have some time for a cup of tea?”

 

Eileen was reluctant to let him depart so swiftly, especially after not seeing him for so long. She was also curious about what had happened over the years. 

 

To her delight, Lotan readily agreed.

 

The two drank tea in the brick house’s small living room. Lotan informed Eileen of those who wished to see her.

 

“Senon is eager to see you. He insisted several times that I send his greetings after learning of my visit today.”

 

“Sir Senon?”

 

“Yes. Who else but Senon? Michael was also very insistent. And Diego mentions you whenever he gets the chance. He seems to think you are still a little girl. He bought you a rabbit doll for when he returns to the capital. So, I grabbed one as well.”

***

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Notes

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