Chapter Six: A Morning with His Highness
There was a big bed in the spacious room of the mansion on Dahl Island and one more small bed in the back.
I changed into my nightgown and was ready by bedtime. Traveling today took a long time, making me dead tired. However, I couldn’t decide if I should sleep before Nolan did. I walked into the dark, gloomy mansion as the sun had already set to search for him. I was sure others would think of me as a ghost if anyone were to see me now.
When I found him, Nolan was checking out documents with a bundle of papers and books spread out in the mansion’s study room. I didn’t know if it was due to the lamp’s lightning, but Nolan seemed more worn out when he looked up and noticed me. He had also gone through the long journey I did, so he should’ve been just as tired and sleep-deprived.
“Uhm, aren’t you going to rest yet?”
“No, you can sleep first.”
Nolan should also sleep too, or so I wanted to say… I stopped myself, wondering if it would sound overly pushy. However, I was also his wife, so I assured myself that I had to act like one and help him take care of his body. I tightly gripped the handle of the door to bring out my courage.
“Nolan-sama, please take a rest too. Let’s go sleep together.”
Nolan’s eyes gradually opened wide. I finally realized the shameless innuendo in my remark when his beautiful, aquamarine color eyes that were filled with surprise stared straight at me.
“I… I don’t mean it in that sense! I mean, you just looked tired, so…!!!”
I was so ashamed I retreated and closed the door without looking back. When I returned to the room, I felt a sense of emptiness surging out from a tiny gap in my heart. The scenery outside of the window was covered in silence, something that was impossible back in the Royal Capital. Everything reflected in my eyes was shrouded in the dark color of night, with light almost nowhere to be seen. This left a feeling of loneliness within me.
There was no one from my previous family to ostracize me now. I’ve always wanted to get out of the Teddy Viscounty… Even from the young age of 4, and yet, now I’m feeling nostalgic. I have to make a place for myself here soon. I was now married to the count of the island, after all.
For a long time, I had thought I would never get married. Marriage proposals were flooding in for Leticia, while my stepbrother also had the option to choose a wife among the ladies of other noble houses. However, for me, I wasn’t even allowed to participate in his wedding ceremony, and on the morning of that day, he even disgustingly blurted out— Even if marriage proposals were to come for you, they would at most be some low-rank noble geezers with weird hobbies.
Looking back, it was a significant reversal of expectations that I’ve now become the count’s wife. It made me look around my room— But my marriage neither had heart-stirring moments nor passionate romances like in the books I’ve read to escape from reality in my room.
Again, my only safe haven ever since then were the books I’ve read. They would instantly bring me to different worlds, surpassing both space and time. I wanted to experience a soul-stirring love, enough to melt away my heart, like in romance books. I wanted to have an encounter with a man who would be dedicated to me and tell me that I’m the only one special to him… However, my marriage has nothing of that sort.
The one who stood beside me now was a wilting, suspicious prince who claimed to have fallen in love at first sight with me. Spiraling, I suddenly had the urge to return to the Teddy Estate… Despite knowing that my days there were filled with nothing but suffering and the sneers of others. I guess I have deluded myself enough to the point that I could even think of having a fantastic future waiting for me, albeit unconsciously.
Just as I sat down on the small bed in the back of the room, my accumulated fatigue immediately overcame me. Both my body and heart were tired. I’m legally married to Count Dahl, as of today.
However, my marriage didn’t have the grand wedding, the blessing of the crowds, lavish feast, passionate kiss, or anything like the protagonist of the stories I’ve read had received… Yes, nothing. Not a single thing like that happened.
I wondered if what we have could even be called a marriage. I exhaled a shivering sigh and collapsed on the bed. The mansion was tranquil. The quietness I once longed for now was now unbearably painful for me. I buried my face deep in the mattress and fell asleep.
When I woke up from my short sleep the following day, Nolan seemed to have already left the room. Rather, I didn’t even know if he had even slept in the same room. I had a simple breakfast and went out of the mansion to look for Nolan. He seemed to be gathering the fodder in the cow shed around the backside of the estate. He took off his big apron when he noticed my presence, while he held a big silver decanter, he walked up to me casually. I recognized it from a glance, but I needed time to digest the situation at hand again.
“These are the livestock of our estate. Milk is obtained from them every morning.”
“…You seem to be taking care of them by yourself.”
Nolan lightly nodded and handed the decanter to me. Not even the my brother back in the Teddy Viscounty had ever squeezed out cow’s milk by himself. I found it hard to believe that Nolan, with pieces of hay stuck on his clothes, was once a prince. Much less, I hadn’t even come to terms that he was now my husband.
“Hand this to Olivia. I’m going to the woods to pick up berries.”
Does the prince always do such menial work in the morning? I wanted to believe it was his hobby or he was just doing it for amusement, but it was hard to imagine that a handsome 21-year-old man with an esteemed upbringing would bother to do this. He was simply doing this as it was free valuable resources.
I carried the decanter full of precious cow milk, personally squeezed by the former prince-sama with all his effort… Once I’ve handed it to Olivia, I hurriedly turned back and chased after Nolan.
He was dashing along a path in the woods. He didn’t say anything when I ran next to him, gasping for breath. However, I had noticed that he slowed his pace to match mine.
“About the bed you used yesterday…”
“…Why didn’t you sleep on the big one?”
“I should be the one to sleep on the smaller bed,” or so he seemed to be implying… But I felt it unjust to let the count sleep in such a narrow bed.
“But… But I don’t think it would be good for Nolan-sama.”
Nolan stopped asking any further and didn’t bring up the topic again. At the end of the path, wild berries were growing on a plot of land. Nolan got there and began to pick and toss them into the braided basket in his hand. I wondered for a moment what I should do and picked up the purple-colored berries from there.
“Can this be eaten?” When I asked, Nolan nodded.
I stared at the berry I had just picked from the branch for a while, and after contemplating a bit, I tried eating it. It was pretty sour. I grabbed some from the other trees as a test, and they came out to be sweet. I tried one more and confirmed they were indeed sweeter. I guess the difference in the sweetness depended on the trees.
“Nolan-sama, the berries around here are most delicious!”
Nolan cut in between me and the tree when I tossed one more berry in my mouth while reporting to him.
“Then go and try from other trees.”
He pushed me and prevented me from picking the best berries any further. He was picking them with an incredible speed. “Can we even finish so much?”
“Olivia will make jam out of them.”
So Olivia could also make jam. I guess I have to help out. Or else, it might not be suitable for Olivia’s health to work so much.
When Nolan, who finished picking up berries, turned to me, red berry juice was spattered on his fair-skinned forehead. Nolan looked at me with doubt written on his face when he saw that I was about to burst into laughter.
“Nolan-sama, you have juice sticking to your forehead.”
He wiped it off with the back of his hand after I pointed it out. What a letdown. He lightly wiped it with his right hand, leaving some berry juice behind. Noticing my gaze that was still staring at his forehead, Nolan took a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to me.
He wiped his right slightly, which was dirtied from the berry juice. Noticing my grinning gaze was still staring at his forehead, Nolan took a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to me.
“Where is it? Wipe it off.”
I, who was laughing until now, suddenly tensed up and stretched my hands, pretending to be calm somehow… I slightly extended my hand and dabbed the handkerchief on his forehead.
My eyes met with Nolan’s aqua-colored eyes when I lowered my gaze. Startled, my heart began to race. I hurriedly focused on wiping the fruit juice. Once he finished picking everything, Nolan looked at me with an unprecedented, serious expression. “Keep this place a secret from Marco.”
“All the berries here will meet their end if he comes to know this place.”
Was he trying to say he will eat all of them?
Prunes were also growing here and there in the woods. Nolan stretched his hand to grab the prune dangling on the branch of a tall tree and put them into the same braided plate.
On our way home, he said as he looked into the distance, “I also came to this island just five months ago and am embarrassed to say I have yet to become accustomed to it.”
That’s quite an unexpected revelation, I thought. Nolan looked very majestic to me.
When we returned, I devoted myself to cleaning the mansion. I also helped wash the estate’s window curtains, which was hard for Olivia to handle by herself. After I soaked them in water in the laundry room, I sprinkled some cleansing agent, and stepped on it, putting in the effort that’s equal to that of two people. I surprisingly noticed filthy black water oozing out from the curtains as I did so. Once finished, the stiff texture returned to its original soft feeling, and I felt like it was worth cleaning them as I looked at the curtains that had become more beautiful hanging on the windows.
“It looks so pleasing!” I nodded in satisfaction and talked with Olivia, whose whole face was graced with an uncontrollable grin.
“The house looks more spirited now! It’s all thanks to the madam coming here!” Olivia’s smile was as bright as sunshine, warming my heart.
I hung the washed curtains on the curtain rail once they had dried to a certain extent and opened all the windows to let them dry off completely. After hanging curtains on the first floor, I went to the room on the second floor to do the same. But because the frame had turned too rusty, I couldn’t open the windows by myself. I, who quickly wanted to dry the curtains, put a bit more strength and pushed it open. Thereupon, the window, together with its frame, suddenly came off. I thought it would just slightly lean on one side due to the force, but I didn’t expect it actually to fall in its entirety.
The window glass fell down the lawn in the garden before my eyes. It was followed by a loud shattering sound, breaking into pieces.
Oh my God… What should I do now…!?
I wrecked a window.
I hurriedly went down the stairs in a haste to the scene of the crime, only to see Nolan and Ricardo already standing there. They must have heard the loud crashing sound.
“I’m really sorry! I was just trying to open it when it fell…!”
Ricardo asked in a soft voice, “Madam, you’re not injured anywhere, right?”
As I shook my head, Nolan glanced at me and again turned his gaze to the broken window. Nolan shook his head in annoyance when I was about to apologize again. “It’s not your fault. The mansion itself is quite worn out.”
There, Ricardo smiled wryly and advised Nolan, “That won’t do, Nolan-sama! You have to be more gentle with women!” Ricardo, giving gentlemanly vibes, rebuked Nolan.
He was ignored as Nolan asked me to back off, saying it’s hazardous here. Ricardo, in turn, began to clean up the shattered window pieces. Glass had scattered in all directions, so it didn’t seem that easy to clean off.
Ricardo quietly mumbled as he cleaned the debris with the broom, “I wonder how much the repair will cost… It’s another expense… Hahaha!” At that moment, I moved like a taut string had suddenly been released. I returned to the mansion, grabbed a gold coin I brought with me from the Teddy Viscounty, left a short sentence that I’m going out to the flustered Olivia, and jumped on a horse.
There were two chestnut-haired horses in the stable of the Dahl County. I chose the bigger one and steered the horse to Dahl Island’s downtown. I knew the path as I had watched it through the carriage window on the way here. The route from the mansion to the Island’s center wasn’t that complicated. So I was confident on being able to call a window repairman from the town. In doing so, the money I’d be using would be mine.
The horse I was riding on seemed to be in a bad temper. Most likely, the cause was yesterday’s long trip, which was tiring for everyone. It happened when I was passing through the forest. The road was quickly branched into two directions which I had overlooked yesterday. I somehow stopped the intersection and wondered what to do. Suddenly, the horse raised his forelegs high in the air and neighed. I was caught off guard and fell. I hurriedly stood up and tried to take the reins in my hand, but I found myself only grabbing at air.
“Stop! Calm down!” I chased the running horse, but of course, it was all in vain as in the blink of an eye, its figure was already nowhere to be seen. The horse was naturally not a cheap animal to purchase. Instead, they were pretty expensive.
For a self-acknowledged poor count, it must have been a valuable possession. The loss would be unbearable, unlike my dresses.
With that in mind, I darted through the forest in search of the horse.