Chapter 51: Night Before the Wedding
After completing numerous preparations, tomorrow is finally the day of the wedding.
In a corner of the room, a wedding gown sits atop a mannequin.
Originally, my father, who represents the Faithnum Empire, was supposed to attend and officiate the ceremony.
However, he cannot enter the Baratonia Kingdom at present, and it is unlikely that anyone from the Empire will be invited to the palace.
There is a tinge of sadness.
It’s a wonderful country, filled with good people, and I am happy that my connections with others have deepened.
Each day is fulfilling and enjoyable, and I have so much to be grateful for.
Having dinner with Prince Auglia every night and taking tea together is also delightful.
Although our relationship is pure, we have gradually grown closer in our hearts, even holding hands.
Regardless of how busy we are, we never miss our 7 PM dinner and tea time.
Back at the palace of the Faithnum Empire, I was lonely and belittled.
Now, I can laugh about it, but back then, I was considered a “failure of lady education.” Nevertheless, the knowledge I gained from that experience has proved to be incredibly valuable in the land of Baratonia.
I am content, and I believe it wasn’t all for naught.
When I told young Prince Auglia to “be strong enough to laugh,” I was actually encouraging myself to become strong enough to laugh too.
I feel that I am fighting my own battle in my own way.
Despite my newfound strength and laughter, I still feel a sense of desolation.
Baratonia Kingdom is now my country, and I have accepted it as such.
I entered into a marriage as a sacrifice and a hostage, willingly taking on the role of a sacrificial lamb for my homeland.
But I am not afraid.
It’s not death that frightens me, but the lack of anyone attempting to kill me, even though I am in such a vulnerable position.
In fact, they protect me.
The only one who ever attempted to end my life was… my birth parent.
What is this loneliness that I feel? It’s not a void, but rather a feeling of solitude that washes over me on the eve of my wedding.
I have been repeating the words “this is my country” to myself, but do I truly belong here in Baratonia Kingdom?
No, that’s not it.
I just… longed to hear the words “congratulations.”
Once I realized this, I could not stop myself from crying.
My vision blurred as I sat on the bed and stared blankly at my wedding dress.
Tears flowed freely, melting the delicate fabric.
‘Congratulations on your wedding.’ ‘Be happy.’ These are the words I yearned to hear from my family back in the Faithnum Empire, where I was born and raised.
But it is an unattainable dream.
I stopped a war by threatening my own parents and using myself as a pawn.
Despite my best efforts to forget my past, I am unable to deny the depth of my familial ties.
Even though I have no fond memories to cherish, is blood really this strong?
“Excessive weeping could mar your countenance tomorrow.”
“Shh! If it’s discovered that I’m here in the middle of the night, visiting a woman on the eve of her wedding, His Highness Auglia will have my head.”
In the dimly lit chamber, only the sound of Gauche’s voice could be heard, receding into the darkness outside the slightly ajar window.
“Claire-sama, you must learn to rely on His Highness Auglia during difficult times.”
“Oh…but, I don’t want to burden him…”
“Rest assured, he’ll be honored to turn the frown of a woman he adores into a smile.
It’s a matter of great pride for him.”
Gauche’s voice mingled with my feeble words.
I refrained from approaching the window, yet he seemed to hear my faint voice from where I sat.
“We Nejia excel at espionage, and we’re also involved in “other matters”.
The operative team comprises both males and females.
Children fathered by men are taken away, as their skin color reflects their Nejia heritage.
The state raises these children, who are unaware of their parentage.
Some develop ties within the country, forming bonds with others who are not their kin.”
“Hmm… perhaps Gauche could be the illegitimate offspring of some foreign land?”
People like us are often used as pawns by the royalty and nobility.
As for merchants, hah, they couldn’t even dream of affording us.”
My tears were gone before I knew it as he told me about his life.
Despite the gravity of the situation, my inquisitiveness overpowered my emotions.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about being spoiled by His Highness Auglia.
Since you’re still unwed, you’re stuck with me.”
“Well…I still have so much to learn.”
I often think there was an atmosphere where Gauche smiled bitterly while he looked at me.
“My mother used to serve in the active unit… well, it’s not proper for me to say this to you, Claire-sama, but the emperor is still the emperor, right? He’s only wed to the empress.
But it wouldn’t make sense if he had only one consort, right? That’s where my mother came in, hailing from another vassal nation and assuming the identity of a nobleman’s daughter before returning to Nejia.
That’s how I came to be.”
I was taken aback.
To be more precise, I was astounded.
I didn’t know how to articulate it, but if what he said was true, then Gauche was my…
“My… older brother?”
“Well, most likely.
At least, in terms of blood.”
I thought that Gauche was talking about how the people of Nejia are all family not by blood but by connection.
But the words that came out seemed to make sense, even though they had no proof or credibility.
“Claire-sama, perhaps just for today, I can tell you.”
With a mixture of surprise and understanding, I held my mouth with both hands.
I was listening to Gauche’s words with a feeling that I wanted to scream, or even kill my breath.
“I promise to always be by your side, but please prioritize your new family.
Congratulations on your wedding.
I look forward to seeing you in all your beauty tomorrow.
Now, please rest and sleep well.”
Before I could say thank you, it seemed like he swung the branch like the wind and left the window without a trace.
His voice is no longer heard.
Although he was gone, I still felt connected to him.
To my blood-related family and a new family that I met, whom I can’t publicly acknowledge, but who had promised to protect me.
He encouraged me to put my new family first and take care of them.
The loneliness that had haunted me was gone.
I followed the instructions of my secret ‘older brother’ and used a cool, damp towel to soothe my eyes before drifting off to sleep.
Tomorrow was my wedding day, and everything was new.
It would be the day that I officially became a member of the Baratonia Kingdom.
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