Chapter One: His Highness’ Love at First Sight
It was last year…
The country’s fifth prince, on his way back from the opera that he had snuck into, suddenly got killed by someone on the night road. He was just a young prince at fifteen years old. After a worthless investigation, there was no suspect found. He was a cheerful and friendly prince, loved by the people, and was the Queen’s favorite.
—It was so unfortunate.
The world’s tears flowed.
Around that time, I, Liese Teddy, spent all day cleaning the estate. I wouldn’t have dreamed then about all the problems I would fall into in the future.
It’s said that every life has its ups and downs. However, I, who had been living for a long time, have only experienced a life with only downs, sinking deeper and deeper each day.
My mother, who was a failed noble, but was famed for her incredible beauty, got into a second marriage with the wealthy Viscount Teddy when I was four years old. The hilly part of my life began then. Of course, it had been a steep downhill from there.
My stepbrother from Viscount Teddy’s Family hated me and showed it at every chance. His favorite hobby was chasing me with a toy sword and beating my head with it when he found me. Thankfully, he was obese. He had slow legs, and it was easy to run from him. My stepbrother’s hatred towards me was refreshingly blatant and straightforward, just like the family motto: consistent and unwavering.
When my mother gave birth to a child from Viscount Teddy, my sister, our mother started spending all her time on her journeys as if she was tired of raising children. My poor sister had to grow up barely knowing our mother’s face. However, I was just as pitiful. My sister, being the child to inherit my mother’s beauty, looked like an angel. When compared to her, I would always be the loser. Mother spent most of the year on her journeys, and everyone in our family gradually started to forget that she even existed.
She suddenly returned one day, hands full of presents and a face full of smiles. She overwhelmed father and us with kisses, before leaving for another trip the next day. That’s the kind of woman my mother was.
After that, my life’s hilly roads became even steeper, and I kept tumbling down and down.
My stepfather was a good, virtuous man. He tried to make my stepbrother and I get along, but all of his efforts were in vain. He was always home, waiting for my mother’s return. He believed that one day, my mother would realize the importance of love and family, and return home to us. He really loved my mother from the bottom of his heart.
When I was around ten years old. My mother, as always, suddenly came back, before leaving us behind again the very next day. On that morning, at a time when everyone was still sleeping, I heard the sound of my mother stepping onto a horse wagon. I dashed outside in my sleepwear, panting, pleading, and trying to stop mother from leaving. As I tried to stop her from closing the horse wagon’s door, I begged and persuaded her to stay. I screamed, cried, and raged like a two-year-old child. I let all of my feelings out as much as I could. However, with a slight hint of worry on her beautiful face, my mother simply ordered the coachman to pull me away. I chased after the horse wagon for as long as I could, but, in the end, it left me behind.
I was a miserable sight, stuck dumbfounded in the foggy streets of the Royal Capital. In desperation, I stood and listened to the sounds of the horse wagon becoming fainter and fainter.
We then found out that my mother’s horse wagon had an accident on its way to wherever she was going, and she became a person that would never again come back to us again.
The pain I felt that day became the supporting pillar for the life I would live in the future.
I believed that the worst was now behind me.
However, seeing my mother’s death as an opportunity, my stepfather’s illness got worse, and he left us, too, when I was fifteen years old.
After my stepfather died, the Teddy Viscounty suddenly became the property of my stepbrother, Charles Teddy. He started treating me like a servant, and my life became about cleaning the estate. The estate’s cleaning was a grave task, but I thought it was better than being kicked out. As I watched my stepbrother and sister enjoying their lives, I donned my plain servant’s outfit and did nothing but clean.
My only joy was reading my books at night.
My stepbrother Charles took in a bride when he was nineteen years old. The new member of the Teddy Family was a young countess named Daphne. From the very beginning, she treated me with arrogance. Her attitude towards me was evident, just like my stepbrother’s. My sister-in-law’s motto must have also been consistent and unwavering.
I could sometimes hear my stepbrother and his bride sitting in the living room joyfully discussing ways to get rid of me. When they had their own child, Daphne started immediately implementing her plans.
“Hey, freeloader. The kid is a year old now and moves around quite well. I want to give your room to the kid.”
There were many rooms in the estate, but for some reason, they wanted mine. I can’t even think of a reply to such blatant hatred.
“Lady Daphne, that is too much! Liese’s room is a tiny place down in the basement! Besides, isn’t she only there because you chased out of her own room two years ago..?”
My stepbrother was very fond of Leticia, so my sister-in-law had to step back. I was still miserable, but for now, I was saved by my biological sister, whom our mother left behind, and I’ve kept living my days quietly on the estate since.
The turning point came when I was 19 years old.
One evening, my stepbrother and sister-in-law went to me while I was cleaning the basement and started talking to me with cheerful grins covering their faces. I knew that their satisfied smiles were the warning of some sort of cataclysm to come.
“Liese! I was looking for you! So you were down here, huh?”
My stepbrother and sister-in-law always called me a freeloader, so hearing them say my name surprised me. It seems that they actually do know my name.
“You’re such a witty girl!”
What are they talking about? I was always down here. Were they going to start complaining about it now? I couldn’t help but tremble. However, with a fierce smile, my sister-in-law continued, “I had no idea! I thought you were out a lot, but to think that you had a lover all this time!”
…I had no clue about what she was saying. Whenever I do go out, it was only to buy books from the secondhand book shop. After that, I directly come back here. What was this about? This must be my sister-in-law’s new way of bullying me. I can’t tell what’s going to come out of this. It’s scary. My stepbrother started to smile too and began speaking. There was no hint of joy in his voice. Instead, it felt very ominous.
“The Royal Palace is burning up with talks of this topic! It seems that His Highness Nolan has fallen for you!”
“The Royal Palace has been like a disturbed beehive since morning! They’re saying it’s like a fairy tale! They’re saying that His Highness Nolan wants to marry you!”
“Uhm, what are you talking about..?”
“We’re all so proud of you!”
As she said so with moist, eager eyes while hiding strange anguish behind them, all I could do was blankly stare. I don’t understand what the two were saying. Did they really come here together just to make a lame joke like this?
“Uhhh… What is this about? I’m…”
“As I said, you’ve received a marriage proposal!”
For a moment, I lost myself in confusion.
“Huh? Is this a joke..?”
Coming at me with this suddenly, I can’t think of this as anything but a joke. In reply, my stepbrother opened his mouth, “When I heard about this, I was trembling!”
My sister-in-law was shaking as if she really was excited and continued with an intense smile: “I’ll say it once again. His Highness Nolan has proposed to marry you.”
“You really are dumb, huh!? He’s the fourth prince of our country, the Kingdom of Tigaro!”
This was all too sudden to follow along with. I wonder how long they will keep this joke up? I don’t get what’s funny about this at all.
“That’s right. Further, he’s a good-looking and famed man… He’s a prince on top of it all! He must have had many better choices than a so-called viscount’s daughter with a poor bloodline like yours, but…”
My head was dizzy with the intense smell of makeup coming from my stepbrother’s face as he approached closer and asked me if I was happy to hear about all this. There’s no way that some prince would wish to marry someone like me who was in the Viscount’s Family by name only. I had no blood connection whatsoever to any real nobility. My stepbrother continued his explanation with a wicked smile. The fourth prince said he saw me in town and instantly fell in love. My stepbrother was very serious as he explained all this.
“I understand why you’re surprised. We didn’t expect this either. Honestly, I don’t understand what His Highness would find attractive about you, but there are all kinds of men with all sorts of tastes in this world.”
“Oh, come on! Don’t be rude to poor Liese!”
“However, apparently, His Highness Nolan, having his mind occupied by you, cannot even sleep recently!”
“His Highness Nolan has told His Majesty the King that if he cannot marry you, he might even kill himself!”
That’s way too heavy.
According to my stepbrother’s explanation, the King was furious at first and firmly refused to allow the marriage. However, after seeing how earnest the fourth prince was, he ignored his duties as King and withdrew to the countryside. So even the King himself was broken by this.
“I was amazed this morning when they called for me to go to the Royal Palace.”
“It seems that His Majesty has approved His Highness Nolan’s proposal of marrying you! On the condition that His Highness Nolan abandons his title, of course.”
The fourth prince was throwing away his title just to marry someone of undesirable bloodline like me? There’s definitely some kind of mistake here. However, my stepbrother and sister-in-law’s excitement was unrelenting, and it seemed that they really were as surprised as I was with all of this.
—I’ve never even seen this fourth prince or whoever he was. I’m sure I’ve never met him..!
By the way, the fourth prince and the fifth prince, who got killed last year, apparently got along so well that they were called twins. After the fifth prince’s passing, the fourth prince caught pneumonia as he stood, crying over the fifth prince’s grave. Everyone thought he would die.
Why was such a strange prince trying to marry someone like me?
Being a prince’s bride was an unimaginable luxury for someone like me, who’s poorer than roadside merchants and the daughter of some low-class fallen nobility.
—There’s no way this is real. There has to be something behind this.
“Ah, Liese! How did you get so lucky? Making someone like that fall in love with you… It really is like you’re the main character of some fairy tale!”
While ridiculing me at the same time, my sister-in-law turned her eyes toward me, telling me how jealous she was. Maybe she’s right. Perhaps I should think of this differently… As a chance to live a better life.
Still… Where could he have even seen me..?
It must have been love at first sight…
I tried to imagine that it was all true. However, looking at my reflection on the window… I was the very picture of everything ordinary. It made me return to reality. It’s impossible, after all.
Falling in love at first sight… It’s something that happens because of someone’s appearance.
I may be a freeloader of the Viscount’s Family, but it would still be a big problem if I were courted by mistake.