Chapter Nineteen: A Scene of Betrayal…?
When the party reached its peak, the guests participating in the evening party were divided into small groups and was engrossed in chatting with each other.
I was exhausted after going through an unaccustomed schedule in the morning, so I sat on the sofa and quickly picked up some food to satisfy my hungry stomach.
Many plates were stacked on top of each other on the table, each of them of the same dimensions and looked to be made of high-quality porcelain—a gorgeous and delicate pattern was drawn not only on the front but also on the backside.
These plates look beautiful. I wish I had them in the mansion back on Dahl Island.
No one will find out if I sneak away five of them, right?
No, I shouldn’t be too greedy.
I think around four would do just fine.
“How do you feel about your first Royal Palace visit?”
Just when I was contemplating whether to get some souvenir or not, someone suddenly called out to me.
Who might be so bored to try and talk to the me who was staring at the plates with wistful eyes?
When I quickly shifted my gaze from the plate and looked up while pretending as if I wasn’t thinking about anything shady, I saw the first prince standing in front of me.
“Your Highness Ethan… It all kind of feels unbelievable, being surrounded by so many high-class people.”
When I said so, the first prince laughed.
I quickly ran my gaze around the venue to look for Nolan. To be honest, I was clueless about what I should discuss with anyone who tried to talk to me. But I couldn’t find Nolan anywhere.
The first prince sat beside me while throwing out a meaningless, old mannish line. With a mysterious look on his face, he said to me as he lowered the tone of his voice slightly, “I couldn’t tell you until now, but I was surprised when I heard Nolan wanted to marry you. In fact, I was opposed to it.”
“I see. I can understand that.”
The first prince’s eyes widened with an incredulous look, and he blinked his eyes rapidly when I quietly said so.
After a look of surprise, he smiled broadly. “You’re an interesting person, you know?”
He suppressed his smile and “Hmph!” that took an adorable turn in contrast to his majestic appearance.
“I couldn’t tell you how surprised I was after seeing Nolan’s blissful expression… As you may have known, he has been in a severe depression ever since that incident. But I guess he didn’t make the wrong choice in choosing you.”
It should be about the case of the fifth prince last year.
“The one Nolan-sama best got along with among all the siblings seems to be… Fifth prince, I assume?”
“Yeah. He had truly changed into an unsympathetic character after that incident for a while… Then the depression… Well, he wasn’t a cheerful guy, to begin with, either. Hahaha!”
Impressed by the first prince, who burst into laughter after explaining to ward away the depressing atmosphere, I also followed suit and smiled. After chatting about some trivial stuff, he jointed his hand above his knees and asked me with an earnest expression, “How is Nolan doing on Dahl Island? I heard that the mansion is quite antique…”
I unwittingly chuckled wryly. However, the first prince’s expression was very serious, so I guessed he must have been perturbed about Nolan staying so far from home. I put down the fork I was still holding in my hand on the plate and began to talk about our life on Dahl Island.
Once the party, which obviously wasn’t a small one, ended, I returned to our room to make arrangements for tomorrow.
After all, many people will participate in tomorrow’s ceremony, even more than today’s evening party. I, at least, wanted to have a good sleep and dress myself well so as not to appear tired.
Nolan had been passionately entwining— I mean, was invited by his friends to drink in the garden.
His friends grabbed the leftover alcohol and the plates with side dishes and put them on the garden spread ahead of the terrace without anyone’s permission when the maids began to tidy up the tables on the patio.
His friends gathered in the garden and sat in a circle.
Even the young women didn’t mind their expensive dresses getting dirty on the lawn as they sat down on the ground and began to eat the side dishes. Each of them had a red face and a cheerful expression. They looked pretty drunk.
I guess even the character of people who usually looked elegant and opulent would break down just the same if they were to get drunk.
“The party isn’t over yet—!!!”
“Accompany me, and I will gift this violin to Your Highness, or the count, I mean~” shouted the man carrying the tiny musical instrument under his armpit in a slurred voice. He circled his arm around Nolan’s shoulder.
“You’re just going to Dahn Island once again when the ceremony is over! Let’s drink tonight! Let’s driiink!”
“That’s right~ I also refuse to acknowledge I have a wife at this moment! Count-sama too, forget about your wife and come with us!”
“You’ve drank too much. Also, it’s Dahl Island, not Dahn!”
Under the enthusiastic invitation of his friends, Nolan eventually gave in and joined them for a drink. He was refraining initially because of me, but after all, it’s a rare opportunity as he may not be able to meet with his friends again any time soon.
So I gladly sent him to the garden, where the special party will be held.
When I returned to the room, Johanna taught me about the events that will happen up until the ceremony. I tried my best to memorize the flow in my head since it seemed like if I were to do so otherwise, then I’d end up having to ask Nolan every single time tomorrow.
Not just that, she even prepared together the clothes and shoes I was to wear tomorrow. She proposed many hairstyles to choose from and demonstrated several styles in front of the mirror.
Looking at my eagerness to know more about them, she chuckled slightly, “You must be tired today, as you look sleepy. Excuse me. I will be taking my leave for today.”
Indeed, I saw my eyes, reflected in the mirror, losing their focus. It’s not only about makeup. I will seriously get dark circles under my eyes if we kept going.
I expressed my gratitude to Johanna as she took her leave and let my body sink into the gorgeous bed. I was sure it would cause serious injury to my head if it collided with the mattress, which had magnificent decorations up to the backside.
I shifted my gaze to the clock with tired eyes and saw it was pretty early for me to sleep. However, my eyelids were already drooping down…
Suddenly, I woke up.
I looked at the spot beside me in startle and found only myself sleeping on the huge bed.
Has Nolan not come back yet? I gazed around the vast, gorgeous, dimly lit room to see any signs of him but it was to no avail.
I pulled the clock on the table to look at the time, which was already later than Nolan’s usual sleeping time.
—Don’t tell me he might be lying drunk in a corner somewhere?
His friends who dragged him to drink together were already somewhat drunk, making me even more worried.
Imagine everyone sleeping in the garden…
Although I eagerly awaited for Nolan to return while fretting about all this on the bed, not even a dead man’s shadow had passed by.
Unable to hold on to my worries any longer, I got up and climbed down from the bed. I draped the coat over my nightwear and left the room. With slow steps, I directly headed towards the evening party’s venue.
The tables were arranged neatly on one side, but no soul was present there.
—Just where are you, Nolan…?
I left the terrace and went to the garden while suppressing the sad feelings in my heart. Only two alcohol bottles that seemed to have failed to be cleaned up were rolling on the lawn.
I didn’t see anyone there either. But I still continued to make my way deeper into the garden, though it was so dark that I couldn’t see clearly.
I just speculated that there may be a chance that he had moved deeper in the garden along with everyone. It didn’t look plausible, but the fact was that Nolan hadn’t returned yet.
That’s why I made my way into the garden just to make sure.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
I could hear the crisp sound of my legs stepping over the well-maintained lawn. Densely grown, the short-trimmed property was like a high-quality carpet. I wondered what the difference between this and the grounds in our garden on Dahl Island was.
A thought popped into my head as I was looking for Nolan… To begin with, I just wanted to stay beside Nolan as much as possible with how unfamiliar I was with the Royal Palace. But despite knowing I was in a foreign place, where did he go at this late hour, leaving me all alone?
—What an inconsiderate person.
I continued my walk nonchalantly, albeit feeling a slight irritation towards Nolan.
I wondered if the lights were only lit up for the party as the brightness gradually dimmed the more I went deeper.
I was suddenly startled by the sound of an insect’s wing flapping near my ear. I waved my hand beside my ear. However, I couldn’t see what kind of insect it was in the dim light. The thought of not knowing what it was kind of disguested me.
Maybe I should just retreat from here?
Maybe I should retreat from here?
But just when I stopped, I heard the faint whispering sounds of someone coming from the depth.
—Was someone there?
I tiptoed towards the source of whispers while unconsciously concealing my footsteps.
There was hardly any light, so much so that I couldn’t see clearly. However, beyond that was a partition with vines twined around it, and the garden seemed to continue. I strained my ears quietly and roughly figured out it was a man and woman having a conversation in low voices.
I wondered if it Nolan and his friends were near too.
However, no matter how much I strained my ears, the best I could hear was only their voices… Not to say, their situation kind of felt strange to me. In such a quiet place, as if to escape from the eyes of others, what were the pair doing here? They had piqued my interest.
was this the so-called clandestine meeting?
I was just curious about what kind of people were flirting around so late, so I quietly made my way forward. But when I arrived by the blockade entwined with vines, I began to doubt my ears. The man’s voice was familiar to me.
You must be kidding.
As I pushed away the big leaves growing from the vines with trembling fingers, the scene beyond the blockade became visible. And… My guess was spot on that Nolan was indeed talking to a woman so close to each other that their bodies were almost touching in the darkness surrounded by shrubs.
What are the two of you doing!?
I was so shocked I felt like my breathing was going to stop, and I looked at them through the blockade in amazement.
A loud and clear voice jumped into my ear. “Nolan! You don’t know how worried I am about you. After all, you’re my first love…”
The woman was Rosie, who clung to my husband while spouting dangerous lines. What is the princess of second prince doing with Nolan in a secluded place?
What in the world are these two doing?
My mind had turned into a pandemonium.
To Rosie’s words, Nolan replied in a low and suppressed voice. “Rosie… I’m happy you’re worried about me, but there’s no need for it.”
The tone of voice Nolan used to reply to Rosie was very kind, something I had never heard nor was used on me.
I was dumbfounded… I never knew he could be so gentle.
His gentle voice continued to echo inside me as if gouging out my heart from inside.
“Rosie… Besides, it’s not appropriate to come with a man other than your husband to such a secluded place in the garden so late at night.”
“I wanted to talk with you, so I brought you here… I just thought you’re being too desperate these days.”
Her beauty was still spectacular to gaze at, even if it was contorted in sadness. Nolan, on the other hand, was gently stroking her slender back. He was doing it very affectionately. My mind went numb from receiving the shock of seeing the two of them huddling together in front of me.
Why are you like this to Rosie?
Don’t be so kind to her…!
The two were staring at each other’s eyes at such a close distance.
A beautiful pair staring at each other as they huddled close was a charming and picturesque scene.
Who am I in this situation?
The one just staring at them.
I don’t want to see it.
But, I want to see.
I must see.
I continued with a silent scream echoing in my heart.
However, like an idiot, I felt weak in my legs as I didn’t move from that spot.
Rosie’s sweet, languid voice resounded, “Nolan. The truth is you don’t like that girl… What was it… Liese, right?”
“I understood immediately after seeing that girl. Love at first sight or what excuse you said was just a lie. I know you very well. You only fall for a beautiful girl’s charm.”
Her words were like applying salt on a fresh wound.
“The way that girl looks at you, it’s like she’s looking at a stranger…”
The way I look at Nolan?
Could she be talking about the time Nolan was playing the violin?
I just felt that Nolan was a bit far away from me.
I never expected that was how people around me inferred that.
Maybe I had too much strength pushing the leaves as they snapped and spilled out of my hand.
“You’re just a married couple in name only, right? Don’t say that you left the Royal Palace for her sake.”
“…I don’t think it suits a princess to talk about such common topics.”
“Don’t misunderstand me.”
“It’s your misunderstanding.”
“Then tell me your true feelings…”
“You’re very important to me. After all, we used to dream of marrying each other”
“That’s just childhood delusion.”
My mind went hazy as if a thick mist had shrouded it. I felt my eyelids strangely heavy, and I couldn’t muster any power. Despite all that strangeness, only the scene of Rosie and Nolan was vividly clear to me.
“Tell me, in fact; you really don’t like that town girl, don’t you?”
Since when did I change from a freeloader to a town girl?
“Why do you ask about it…?”
Nolan gently stared at Rosie’s face silently.
“Perhaps, you saw something at the scene of His Highness Aaron that night? Because you’ve been acting strange ever since then. I can’t help but worry about you. You have a special spot in my heart as my brother-in-law.”
Nolan suddenly smiled.
It was a profound and dry way of smiling.
“Rosie… You’re as beautiful as ever. Your appearance is just like that time…” Nolan’s arm circled the slightly confused Rosie’s shoulder and pulled her towards himself while Rosie just let him be.
“Are you not going to resist being pulled into my embrace, despite giving your position as my older brother’s consort?”
The distance between the two shortened even further, maybe due to Nolan tightening his arm around her waist and Rosie’s slender back arching forwards.
“What would you do if something happened after inviting a man to such a dark, secluded place?”
“I’m just worried about you, Nolan…” Rosie called out Nolan’s name with her sweet voice in his embrace and looked at him.
Both were staring at each other’s eyes, and the distance between them was so close that their faces would touch each other with just the slightest movement.
That, of course, didn’t last long, but for me, it was like it was going on for an eternity. I felt my head exploding from the massive shock I received.
I believed him.
I did my best to believe in him.
So why was Nolan embracing his brother, the second prince’s consort?
Why was it that he never showed such an affectionate, gentle face to his wife, but he didn’t hesitate to do so for another woman?
What kind of relationship do both of them have…?
No, to begin with, what kind of existence was I to Nolan?
I reached my limit as my heart was shattered like a fragile mirror, and I felt like I would collapse there at any moment. However, I heard Nolan before it could happen.
“Clinging to me saying I’m important to you while whispering words of love to my brother… Women are truly terrifying.” His tone this time was intense and filled with coldness.
Nolan released Rosie from his arms, and the two separated. In the eyes of Rosie looking at Nolan, a sudden color of terror had taken place.
Nolan, on the other hand, was looking at her with an extremely cold gaze.
“It… I just… It’s not like that…”
“It must be an order from brother Shefan to probe me for information, right? I guess my brother is suspicious of me for various things. He should be wondering what kind of scheme I’m brewing by purposely retreating to a countryside territory, no?”
“That’s a misunderstanding…”
“Or was it by someone else’s order?”
“You’re… You’re wrong!!!”
Nolan approached Rosie with significant strides and grabbed her fair white left hand. He dropped his contemptuous gaze at her ring finger, the finger she had put on the wedding ring of her and the second prince.
“I can’t deny I once swore to have a future with you in the past. But you easily distance yourself from me when you noticed that I didn’t have an interest in the throne—all you wanted was the seat of the crown princess.”
“Nolan. You are someone born as a prince, the thought of taking the supreme authority never crossed your mind? You don’t have any ambition?”
“I don’t have any wish to become someone line my father.”
Nolan released his grasp on Rosie’s hand. Then said so without any emotion, “You married for your ambitions.”
“Then you’re saying you’re satisfied with your life on that obscure tiny island?”
“Heh? A tiny island… Despite that, my wife said we have a big mansion. Even on the island that’s just like a fly in your eyes, not seeing it’s worth… Liese sees many valuable things there.”
He’s talking about me…
Rosie pressed further with a quivering voice, “Are you saying that… You love that girl… Liese?”
“I’m satisfied with her and our tiny house.”
Nolan’s words were incredible to me.
I opened my eyes.
Never did I think that he would say such a thing.
Was that really his true feelings?
Had Nolan approved of me?
Did he really think of me as someone important?
I removed my hand off the vine and put it on my chest as if to suppress my racing heart.