Chapter Three: The Idea Behind a Race
My husband returned to the royal capital to work as an adviser and instructor. My powerful husband, who seemed to have no rival, still had to serve at the royal palace. His days off were only two days of every ten days. On those two days, he didn’t have to serve as a swordsmanship instructor for the knights.
I found it hard to believe that he was sixty years old. His chest was muscular and hard. I always felt safe whenever he hugged me. Yes, hugs had become part of our daily routine. Although I had been with him for half a year now, I still lit up with joy every time he embraced me.
The neighing sound of a horse slightly reached my ears, forcing me to look up. In truth, I looked up on purpose. I wanted to see if he had returned from the palace.
The surface of the tea I was holding vibrated as a chill ran down my spine. I was in the middle of an etiquette class, which was actually a tea party. For this class, in particular, the source of the cold air running through my body was not Miss Rottenmever. Its source was Maria, the stern, rigorous maid. Each time I failed or made a mistake, Maria was always eager to scold me with her whip of love. As I lifted my eyes in silence to meet her gaze, I knew I was going to get in trouble for looking up and losing my composure during a tea party.
Maria pushed up her little round glasses with her fingers and let out a sigh.
“Nako-sama,” she called my name sternly.
“I know. I’m sorry,” I uttered as I bowed profoundly in courteous apology. Maria loosened her expression and lifted the edge of her lips slightly.
“Your husband is coming home. That’s it for today,” Maria told me with a hint of sarcasm. She knew that with my husband’s arrival, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate anymore. The fact that she had seen through me made my heart pucker. However, nothing could be done about that.
I gently put the cup on the table, embarrassed.
“Thank you very much,” I replied. “Excuse me.” I left my seat with a neat gesture before proceeding to head out of the room.
As soon as I shut the heavy door behind myself, I lifted the hem of my skirt and ran down the stairs without getting my feet caught on the carpet. Luckily for me, the carpet was spread thickly across the floor, so Maria couldn’t hear my footsteps and notice that I was running. If she did, she would have decided to double the duration of our next etiquette class.
My husband, who had just returned, handed his jacket to the butler, Mr. Arnold.
“Welcome home, my husband,” I greeted him as I walked down the rest of the stairs. I held back the desire to hug him as I drew closer to him until we were only a few steps apart. I was too close for a lady. However, I didn’t care. This was my husband, and we were newlywed. Well, technically, we were fiancées.
I suspected that I looked like a dog waiting for her master. However, I couldn’t help it. I loved him so much. He was so attractive and compelling. His sweet scent, intelligence, luster, and above all, immeasurable compassion for everyone and everything made him the best husband I could ever hope for.
We had been together for six months. And at that time, I have concluded that other men and women were nothing compared to my husband. Nothing could stand in the way of our love. Neither the age difference nor other obstacles could tear us apart. Whatever came our way, I was ready to go through it all with both my heart and soul.
“Miss Nako, I’m home,” my husband said in his calm, creamy voice that I had come to love. He wasn’t annoyed by my lack of etiquette. Instead, he smiled and caressed my head. His hands were cold from being exposed to the air outside. However, they still made me feel safe and at peace.
I liked the way he treated me like a cute little child. Still, it was sometimes annoying. I understood that he was conservative, but we were about to get married. Hugs, touches, and kisses weren’t enough. I wanted more of him. I wanted something a little sexier.
“I have some souvenirs for you today,” he said as he turned around to face the driver who walked into the mansion with three boxes in his arms. “I was informed that the dresses they measured for you were ready, so I went to get them for you. Would you like to try it on and show it to me?”
“Of course,” I replied happily. His request meant I would be able to enjoy his company until dinner. He was very busy. Even when he was at home and not working at the palace, he sometimes got crowded with guests. Therefore, most times, we ended up spending only a few minutes together, and that was right before we went to bed. I was eager to take advantage of the valuable opportunity to narrow the distance between us.
He nodded slightly and took my arm in his. Together, we went upstairs.
I wondered how the seamstress had managed to complete the order within a short period of time. It was only two weeks ago that my husband had invited her to take my measurement for the sewing of new dresses to replace the old clothes that had grown rather tight for me.
Back then, he sat calmly as Maria and I discussed and bargained with the seamstress. We chose the fabric and the designs of the dresses. For one of the gowns, I chose a cobalt-blue fabric that looked like the color of my husband’s eyes. Then I described a beautiful design for the seamstress to execute. He had smiled when he saw the fabric and said he suited me well.
After we finished with the negotiations, the seamstress, Hariko, said something about the waiting period being three months. It was a trendy shop, and they had a huge backlog of orders. However, a popular evening party was suddenly canceled, forcing a lot of customers to cancel their orders. This freed up the seamstress’s timetable so she could get my dress done earlier than initially anticipated.
After I made tea for my husband, I went into the wardrobe-like closet where the maid was waiting to help me dress up. The blue dress had already been taken out of its box and hung. The other two dresses were left in their boxes for now.
I ran my fingers through the beautiful waves of the dress and smiled. It was elegant and charming, and I couldn’t wait to try it on. With a grin on my face, I threw off the clothes I was wearing. And with Maria’s help, I changed into the flawless new gown.
The outfit looked rather mature, with a lace line that ran from neck to hem, covering the short of my back. The lower part of the gown was stitched at the waist and comprised of organdy-like fabric layers with white flowers embroidered here and there. Above all, the gown was light and easy to move in.
When I was asked what would be good for me after choosing the fabric, I had described the cocktail dress my cousin had worn during her wedding. The seamstress was very interested in the idea I had. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t really know much about clothes, so I had a hard time explaining what I wanted them to do. I wanted to kick myself for spending so much time chasing ball day after day rather than learning girly things.
“It looks so good,” the maid said as soon as I was fully dressed in the gown. She followed this first complement with a barrage of praises until I was blushing helplessly. Over the months, due to the efforts of the maid, my skin was wholly restored to its original gold-like beauty, and my hair had taken on a glossy look.
The gown was more beautiful and comfortable than what I was forced to wear on the day I was summoned. It wasn’t too long, and it was beautifully decorated with voluminous flowers and accessories. I made a mental note to thank the lady who made the dress. Of course, the dress was bought by my husband. Still, she had to put in a lot of effort into learning the design and executing it.
When I first arrived at the Earl’s mansion, I felt really bad because I couldn’t do anything. Thankfully, Martha was quick to make me understand that I am the wife of the Earl. All I needed to do was dress appropriately and not shame him. However, I was determined to be of value. It didn’t have to be a unique ability. I wanted knowledge. I wanted to study seriously so I could apply my intelligence to science or something of the sort.
While I was lost in thought, my husband kept his hand on the armrest and stared blankly at me. A few seconds passed in silence before Martha cleared her throat to call my husband’s attention.
“Oh,” he said with surprise, suddenly returning to himself. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I think I was too fascinated, especially for my age.”
My husband was so sweet, and it made me happy. Japanese boys had nothing on him. I held my hot cheeks with both hands, and my husband let out a cherry chuckle.
“Why don’t we go to the palace together?” he asked as I took a seat next to him, and the maid served me a cup of tea. I tried to hide my shock and prevent my displeasure from slipping into my voice. I was basically kicked out of there, and I didn’t want to ever step foot in that place again. However, I missed Lynn. I thought it wouldn’t have been weird to write a letter, so I just broke off communication with her after she left the Earl’s mansion. That was about half a year ago, and I really wanted to see her.
“The palace? Why?” I asked.
“I want you to see how I work,” he replied.
My heart throbbed, and my face broke into a smile. “I’d love to.”
In truth, for him, I was willing to go to heaven and hell. The more I thought about going to the palace, the more excited I became. I couldn’t go out of the mansion very often, and the palace promised to afford me more freedom. I was also going to be free of the boring classes on manners and ethics. Above all, going to the palace meant I would be able to spend more time with my husband. The only bad thing that could happen was running into the King. However, the training grounds and living quarters of the knights were far away from the Royal living space. Therefore, the chances of me running into any mean maid or the King of sexual harassment were pretty low.