Chapter Seven: The Trail and After That
I wonder if the horse had trailed off the main route and had gone into the forest’s depths? I wasn’t able to find it even after checking ahead, no matter how in-depth. By the time I came out of the forest, I was full-on bathing in sweat.
I’m sure I’d earn multitudes of contempt from others if I were to return to the mansion alone. Not only did I unintentionally break the window, I even went ahead and lost the horse’s trail. I just don’t want to be branded as a harbinger of misfortune.
Just when I wanted to search in the forest again, I heard the sound of a horse’s hoofs from nowhere.
Before I could have the time to rejoice, the sound of horse footsteps sounded like it came from more than one. Seemingly, it seemed like it may not be the same horse I lost. As it seemed to be heading here, I stood out of the way to avoid it. The one who appeared out from the gap of trees was the count riding on a horse. Tied beside him was… It’s the horse I lost!
He stopped the horse and slid down the saddle, and as if only just noticing me; he began moving towards me.
“Nolan-sama! You have also come here to search for the horse…!”
“It’s not that! I came to look for you!”
I shriveled back from his loud, angry yell, “…Sorry. I felt that I had to go to the town to look for a window repairer myself.”
Nolan let out a long sigh. “Although it’s an island, there are also cliffs around. It’s dangerous for you to come out alone.”
“Understood. But the window repair…”
“Olivia’s husband will do that. You don’t need to worry.”
Ahhh. I didn’t know that. It seemed like I had wasted my time on something totally uncalled for. At the very least, as an apology, I offered him the gold coin. “Please use them for the repair.”
Nolan’s eyes went wide for a moment as he looked at the money I was handing out. But he quickly closed them, and when he looked at me again, disappointment was floating in his aquamarine eyes.
“I don’t need you to do anything of that sort.”
Have I injured his self-esteem, maybe? Prince-sama probably didn’t want the Teddy Viscount’s freeloader daughter to aid him… Since he refused to accept, I could only stiffly lower my hand that held the money.
Seeing Nolan begin to walk without riding on the horses, I hesitated for a bit before following after him. After a short distance, he got off the road and split into the animal trail path. I walked behind him, though I was having doubts. After a while, the path cleared away, and a small lake appeared in front of us. My eyes widened at the serene and beautiful color of the water as if someone had cut a piece of sky and put it on the ground. The lake’s water was extremely clear… Clear to the point that the bottom of the shallow lake could be easily seen even at a distance.
Nolan arrived there first and tied the reins of the horses to the tree. He went near the lake and sat down on a tree trunk that seemingly fell and was now rolling on the ground. He just silently gazed at the beautiful surface of the lake.
As I was standing there in boredom, wondering what to do, Nolan lightly tapped at the spot near the tree trunk he was sitting on without breaking his eye contact with the lake. “Would you like to sit here?”
I looked at the thick and long tree trunk. And although I was slightly nervous, I still walked up to sit next to Nolan. Green-colored moss was growing on the surface of the tree trunk. However, I wasn’t wearing any high-class dress, so worrying about getting dirty shouldn’t be one of my concerns.
I sat down next to Nolan, with an appropriate distance between us so that we wouldn’t accidentally come in contact with each other.
“When you went out with the horse earlier… Honestly, I thought you were sick of living here and ran away.”
I was so surprised at his remarks that I almost fell from the tree trunk. “Why would I want to run away!?”
To begin with, I don’t even have any place to run away to now.
“The life here for you must be stringent considering you had been raised in the Royal Capital. Here… It’s just a barren island with only the minimum necessities present.”
“Nolan-sama… It’s nothing as you thought at all. I do admit it’s quite different from the Royal Capital, but the train of thought stops at that.”
I disputed as hard as I could, before suddenly staring at Nolan. “Did Nolan-sama want to run away when he began to live here on the island?”
Nolan picked up a tiny pebble by his feet, spun it around aimlessly, before suddenly throwing it away, “…I was quite cornered when I first came to this island five months ago.”
Although I was a bit surprised at Nolan, who started to talk in an indifferent tone, I continued to listen silently.
“I was at a loss, and I hated everything. It was then I found this place… As if my heart had been purified, my depression calmed down, and I found myself at solace.”
Nolan was a prince living in the Royal Palace. However, what he’s saying was still kind of hard to believe. What wouldn’t have been strange was for a person like him, who’s used to luxury, to be much more distressed that me when he suddenly had to live on Dahl Island, which had nothing to offer besides nature and the bare necessities.
I still don’t buy his notion that he gave up on his lavish life just to be with me and decided to live in this highly rural area. Nolan didn’t go into the details, but I’m sure there must be some sort of situation and conflict which he can’t tell me… That pushed him to live in this place. It would be nice if he could reveal the truth to me one day.
“I’m feeling pathetic to force you to into this poor lifestyle. A destitute island with an equally impoverished life…”
I looked at Nolan’s face in surprise. “That, I have never thought of something like living in poverty. In fact, I feel blessed to live in such a huge mansion.”
Hearing my words, Nolan suddenly turned to look at me.
—Same aquamarine eyes as the lake.
Nolan’s eyes looked even more fascinating than the beautiful lake in front of me.
I suddenly thought of something and tried to ask, “…Perhaps, Nolan-sama wants to return to the Royal Capital?”
“No way. I have come here by my choice.”
“It’s slightly different from what I imagined, but this is a wonderful island.” When I said this, Nolan, for the first time, showed me his smile. It was a charming and lovely smile.
“You might not believe it, but… I was truly looking forward to the day you came here. I have lost many treasured things over the year, but your existence is the only thing new to me.”
Even if his “love at first sight” story was fake, this might be his true feelings, or so I thought. It was because I could feel his sincerity from the way, he spoke.
However, speaking about myself, I didn’t have any leeway to look forward to my new life. Although I was pretty relieved to be free from the hellhole of Teddy Family— I was even more anxious about not being able to read the intention of the fourth prince for orchestrating this fraudulent love drama.
But as of now, I can’t say anything.
“I just found myself staring at your portrait all the time.”
“Is that why you said I didn’t look like the person in the portrait after the wedding!?”
“Was that rude?” I turned away, grumbling a bit.
“However, the real person was even more lovely.” I was delighted, even if it might be just a form of fake flattery.
“I am aware… That you are perplexed and have lots of feelings bottled up… But, I have chosen you, and you are my possession now.”
“Yes. I’m aware of that.”
I was slightly embarrassed and averted my face as my eyelids fluttered repeatedly. I subconsciously turned to look back when he abruptly took my hands in his. “You have been looking at me suspiciously, but…”
Crap. Had I perhaps unconsciously shown my doubts on my face? I mean, he does look pretty suspicious…
“I will say it clearly. Forget about ever having a divorce.”
“Hahaha… I would be troubled if I were told there was an option to do so.”
“I will also not allow you to leave this island on your own.”
“I… I am not leaving… Probably.”
“I won’t! I swear!” Only after I shouted that the stern expression of Nolan loosened up.
The count stopped holding my hands tightly, flipped my hand, so my palm faced upwards, and then placed a small box on it. He wrapped an adorable silver ribbon around the box. When I looked back at him with a probing gaze, he dropped his eyes to the box. “Our wedding ring… I was waiting for a more exquisite timing, but I guess this is it.”
Now that he mentioned it, we hadn’t exchanged rings.
“Can I open it?”
I unfastened the ribbon and opened the box. Inside, there were two rings of different sizes. Nolan grabbed the most petite ring from it and gently put it on my right hand’s ring finger. After, I did the same thing for him.
My heart was beating like a startled deer. I almost dropped the ring from my hand. “I hope you will always be my side, come hell or high water.”
Suddenly, a tinge of anxiety flashed through my heart.
Come hell or high water?
Was he indirectly informing me to buckle up for an upcoming bumpy ride? Even if we may be going through a serene and commonplace everyday life, I’m sure a storm was brewing somewhere my eyes couldn’t see.
Nolan extended his hand and touched my cheek. Then he slightly pulled my face towards his and planted a kiss on my cheek. His lips parted immediately following the soft touch. His arm circled around my shoulder and pulled me into his embrace.
Amidst the air of tension, my heart was beating so loudly that I felt like it was going to burst out my chest. I also raised my hand and hugged Nolan.
Although awkwardly, we hugged each other like that.
Bit by bit, we may have begun out fumble and clumsy effort to build this relationship somehow.