Chapter Seventeen: His Highness’ Parents
After the incident, we left the town with our tails tucked between our legs.
We finally heaved a sigh of relief when we arrived at the next town and got off the battered-looking carriage. Because of this ordeal, the need to repair the carriage had become necessary.
However, there were other damaged carriages, obviously suffering from the same fate as ours, scattered in the repair workshop, so it took much longer than expected for our carriage to be repaired.
We had also expected to arrive at the Royal Capital by evening today. Still, unexpectedly, just the carriage alone took until night, and it wasn’t favorable for us to travel at night.
Reluctantly, we decided to pass the night in the town and just leave for the Royal Capital the next morning.
We searched for an inn to pass the night.
Though the town wasn’t that big to begin with, we had very few options. That’s why Nolan finally decided on an inn that one could hardly call a high-class inn. There, we had found vacant rooms.
The room, after passing through a modest lobby, was relatively small. When we entered, a bed was placed very close right in front of us, while another bed was located a bit far away from the first one.
The bed itself was short and compact, which made me doubt if it was actually for a child’s. Either way, I was concerned about Marco and how he will manage to sleep on the small bed. There was also a small window inside the room.
On the other hand, Nolan’s brows were creased as his gaze looked around the room, and when I turned to glance at him, he didn’t seem to be in a good mood.
“This place is too cramped.”
“But on the bright side, there’s everything we need in this situation.” I said in as cheerful a tone as possible and sat down on the bed laid on the back side of the room that I’ve decided to sleep on it.
Taking off my shoes, I climbed on the bed and nervously pulled the hem of my dress up to my knees… There were ugly-looking pale and dark purple-colored bruises on both of my knees. They were just as painful as they looked. As soon as I fearfully stretched out my finger to touch the surface of the bruises, an intense pain ran down my knees.
As I was enduring the pain silently, Nolan sat down next to me.
“I failed to protect you.”
I raised my face in surprise.
“You don’t have to say that. You have already done your best.”
“…I couldn’t even afford a better inn for you to stay. I feel really sorry for making you go through so much.”
Nolan’s crystal clear and beautiful aquamarine eyes unknowingly had a tinge of darkness surrounding them.
He really seemed to be concerned about our economic situation, which was far worse than any other count there ever was. I guess it’s inevitable to feel so, especially given that he was a prince.
The next time he opened his mouth to say something, his tone was feeble and desolate.
“Do you… Regret marrying me?”
The question caught me off guard; it was something I had never thought about, even in my dreams. I was so surprised that for a few seconds, I just blinked my eyes without saying anything. Eventually, I was able to laugh a bit to cover my feelings of embarrassment.
“I… I like our Dahl Island. The life in the mansion is much more pleasant than anything I could ever ask for.”
My reply seemed to have increased my husband’s curiosity as he asked, “Really? Has the thought of returning to the Teddy Viscounty never cross your mind?”
So he was having these thoughts, huh?
“You may not know, but there hasn’t been a day my stepbrother or sister-in-law hadn’t bullied me at the viscounty. They don’t even call me by my name…”
“What does viscount call you?”
“They always call me the freeloader. Oh, and the burden occasionally. Well, basically not by my name.”
Ever since I joined the Teddy Viscounty at the age of 4, I felt like the family and my life was running an intangible parallel as I watched them from a position that’s perpetually behind them. They never ended up in a position that felt like we were more than strangers—no matter how much time passed. And that must have been the same for them, too.
There were time when I felt like even my sister, my own blood, was like a stranger to me. Leticia was the sole existence that kept me and that house connected. She was also the only existence there that protected me. Occasionally, I felt it was due to my sister’s compassion as a noble that I was allowed to stay there.
Leticia was a cute little sister to me, but deep down, I also had complicated feelings about her.
In the pin drop silence room, I resolutely leaned on Nolan. To which he opened his arms, embracing my shoulder.
—It didn’t quite feel like we were a real married couple. Still, I leaned more into Nolan, and Nolan hugging me tighter in turn kind of gave us a happy married couple vibe…
It was strange but somewhat satisfying.
We looked at the window in front of us. The scenery overlooking the third-floor window wasn’t praiseworthy; it was just a group of slightly dirty buildings and their entrances.
A middle-aged woman wearing a white apron came out from one of the entrances and tossed a bag she was holding to a bucket. As it fell, a gray dove suddenly intruded our view. It perched itself onto the overhanging window outside. The dove took several steps while twisting its neck here and there, looking extremely surprised. The dove then turned its neck towards us, as if just noticing us. The dove’s cute round eyes were quite funny looking.
“Haha! Did you see how that dove made a startled expression?”
Apparently infected with my mood, Nolan also laughed out.
The following morning, we boarded the now beautiful carriage whose glass window had been repaired.
We will now be going straight to the Royal Capital.
Nolan usually carried a sword in the carriage, but this time, he had specially placed it on the seat within his reach, so that he could pick it up anytime in an emergency. Although I would very much like to be spared from running into another riot, it was a necessary measure.
Yesterday’s event was still vivid in my mind as we boarded the carriage and I couldn’t calm myself down. I looked at the scenery passing by from the carriage window cautiously, but maybe it was due to the stress that I eventually fell asleep.
The carriage stopped sometime after. It was because we were about to have lunch.
I got off from the carriage, spread the sheet into a spacious spot, and ate the bread and fruits we had purchased in the town before our departure. I was also very thankful for Olivia, who had baked cookies for me.
The sweetness soothed my tired body from the inside out. I groaned and stretched my arms and back. It’s pretty necessary to stop from time to time and stretch out in a journey when riding a carriage. Especially because sitting for a long time in the seat hurt my backbone and waist, much more than I had thought.
We finally arrived at the Royal Capital when the sunset and the contour of the scenery began to blur.
I’ve finally returned to the Royal Capital—a place with lots of tall buildings and people. The combination it created was a peculiarly oppressive atmosphere.
It was only two months ago that I had left the capital, but still, I’m feeling a strange wave of nostalgia.
The Royal Capital was where I was born and raised. However, I still felt myself tensing up at its grandiose after not seeing it for a while. With all that being said, the visit to the capital this time can’t be classified as a simple one. We will be going to the Royal Palace of the Tigaro Kingdom.
Ricardo, as the coachman of our carriage, unhesitatingly drove us to the palace’s entrance directly.
The Royal Palace, located at the center of the capital, was a pure white and elegant building stretched out horizontally in a wide range. At the top of it were many small towers, all uniformly gray.
When the carriage passed through the Royal Palace’s gate, rows of plants in various shapes greeted us. Deep in the well-maintained garden was a knightly figure riding a horse, around which was a large fountain spewing out water in a radical pattern.
“Your High—! Nolan-sama!”
I heard voices around us as soon as we got off the carriage. Many people had come around us in the blink of an eye, to whom Nolan greeted with a smile.
Although Nolan was married to me and had left the Royal Capital for a while, I was still pretty happy to see him surrounded and welcomed by familiar faces.
“The countess of Dahl…”
I had reduced my presence as much as possible and stayed on the sidelines since my origin was quite questionable to others. However, I suddenly realized some of them looked at me with equally curious eyes.
I tilted my head in wonder why that was so and then remembered immediately. I had temporarily forgotten because of our quiet life at Dahl Island, but I was the woman with the reputation of the woman for whom the prince had discarded his title in the Royal Capital.
“Nolan-sama, is that person your wife?”
I felt the gazes that seemed to be boring a drill fall on me. I knew the onlookers that stared at me must be desperately trying not to let out any weird expression graze their faces after having a look at the freeloader daughter of the Teddy Viscount. After all, they must have imagined a woman with otherworldly beauty.
As I was getting more and more nervous, a woman seemingly in her mid-20s called out to me. She had a dignified look wearing a gorgeous dress with her hair tied together tightly.
“Please call me Johanna. I will take care of you during your visit to the Royal Palace.”
When she called out to me, Nolan, who was nearby, looked at us with a smiling face.
“Johanna. I am reassured if you’re to be in charge of Liese.”
Johanna, however, just bowed politely without showing any variable expression. Nolan quietly whispered in my ears, “She’s Ricardo’s little sister.”
Unbelievable! I stared at the woman in front of me in astonishment.
She was a beauty with a calm expression, and her personality seemed quite different from Ricardo’s.
Not long after, we had an audience with the king and the queen.
While in the waiting room, a man, seemingly the chamberlain, explained the manner of the audience room. Such as how many steps I should take when entering and the correct angle my knees should bend.
“You must reply to any question from His Majesty. And be careful not to open your mouth before he finishes speaking. At any point.”
With an amused expression on his face, Nolan looked over me, who was repeatedly told off by chamberlain about the manners.
The audience room was huge.
The pale cream-colored walls were covered with several layers of gold decorations, which, together with the chandelier hanging from the ceiling, shone brightly, producing a gorgeous sight to behold.
The unexpected thing was that the king wasn’t waiting for us, sitting on the throne in the audience room. Instead, he stood in the center and welcomed us with open arms.
A crimson cloak was hanging from his shoulder, indicating his status as the king.
The king’s constitution was much sturdier than Nolan’s, but their facial features were one and the same. Especially their eyes, the king’s crystal clear aquamarine eyes were the same as Nolan’s.
The queen standing beside him was astonishingly lean. Nevertheless, it didn’t make her any less beautiful.
Although she still didn’t escape from the grasp of time as age-appropriate wrinkles were engraved on her face, she was so stunning that one could only imagine how attractive she must have been during her younger years. I was almost convinced, in a sense. It’s not surprising that Nolan was so handsome, with his mother being such a stunning beauty.
“You are finally here, Nolan. How is life treating you?”
“With your blessings, I’m living a tranquil life in a peaceful territory,” replied Nolan unfalteringly when posed with such a question by the king.
The king, this time, turned his aquamarine to me. Though his expression was anything but amicable, he looked as if he had to swallow a bitter bug forcefully.
It wasn’t something to blame him for… Given how the story had unfolded for everyone else.
My body involuntarily tensed up due to the shock and nervousness.
“You’re… The now-countess who made Nolan obsessed with her, right? What’s your name?”
“I go by Liese Teddy.”
My head was so muddled with the tension that I overlooked the blunder my reply had caused. However, I still keenly perceived that the atmosphere had began to take a weird turn. I just didn’t know why, but the king’s eyes seemed to have widened while the queen beside him looked at me in bewilderment.
I… Did I say something weird?
It was Nolan who extended his help to the confused me as he replied in a monotonous tone. “Father, Liese was from the Teddy Viscounty before she had gotten married to me. I apologize for the confusion.”
It was only then that I’d noticed my blunder, and my face quickly went red from the embarrassment. The king let out a big “Ohhh,” as he laughed out.
The queen glanced at the king and said, “Liese… I was very much looking forward to meeting with you. How about having a cup of tea with me tomorrow?”
Tea time with the queen!?
My head went blank temporarily with the hurdle of how to reply to such an invitation was raised to the extreme.
—I want to refuse…
I somehow squeezed out a smile on my face and replied to the queen, “It would be my honor.”
When I replied, the king said, “It has been a long time since our sons have gathered together. I’m throwing a small evening party before tomorrow’s ceremony. Nolan, introduce your adorable new wife to everyone. Everyone is curious about your wife since they weren’t able to attend your wedding.”
An evening party?
While receiving the two-pronged surprises from the evening party announcement and seeing Nolan, who just bowed his head and said a farewell greeting, I hurriedly chased after Nolan and left the audience room behind me.
When the door was closed, I asked Nolan in fluster, “What’s an evening party? And your reunion with your parents was so short. Even though their son had come to meet them after so long…”
“A small family circle party. You don’t need to work yourself out too much.”
A small party between families should only have ten or so participants, right…?
I have a bit of confidence in myself to not mess up.
“…Nolan-sama, you resemble both His and Her Majesty quite a lot, no?”
To this, Nolan said nothing in response.