Chapter 28: A Detour is a Shortcut
We were allowed only 10 minutes.
Soon it would be time to go back to mother.
We naturally started talking about what we were going to do.
“What are your plans for this season? You just made your debut.
You must be very busy.”
“No, I'm going to return to my father's estate and enjoy a relaxed unmarried life.
In fact, I was thinking of moving abroad, but … my parents advised me to reconsider my decision, so I decided against it.”
In anticipation of leaving the capital, I broke off my engagement to Garrett and have since declined all invitations from other families.
I smiled and announced that I was leaving the front lines, and the fingertips of His Highness Ethan, who took my hand, tightened.
He seemed to be quite dissatisfied with my decision to stay in the countryside and keep men at bay.
“Are you running away?”
I lightly dismissed Prince Ethan's provocative lines.
“No, I'm moving on.
In fact, I have a new hobby, and I'm going to try to master it while I'm there.”
His Highness Prince Ethan, who does not know about my hobby, or rather, the business of preserved flowers, could not understand why I wanted to move so far away from the royal capital.
“I thought you'd be here during the social season.
The Queen will be disappointed”
An idea struck a chord with His Highness Ethan, moving past his reluctance.
In the royal capital, people and things come and go.
It is possible to exchange letters and meet secretly.
I have a feeling that the queen will be especially eager to cooperate.
Prince Ethan, having found out that my memory had returned to me, may not have responded outwardly, but behind my back, he probably thought …
Considering my character, I should have expected this to happen, but he seems to be hoping that if he persuades me, I might comply.
For 17 years, Prince Ethan has searched for me.
Since he became aware of my existence, he has probably done everything in his power to break off his engagement.
It must be more difficult than I can imagine overturning a contract between two royal families, but I am sure that he is trying to find a peaceful solution to the best of his ability.
I guess, for now, he wants to enjoy our reunion and progression in a secluded area.
To be honest, I wish I could have been there.
Instead of this frustrating meeting, I wanted to hug him and tell him, “Thank you for searching for me for all this time and that I still love him even after being reborn.”
But that is a dangerous thing.
Secrets are a weakness.
No matter how well I thought I had played my cards right, I could inadvertently be to the detriment of Prince Ethan.
I quickly regained my composure.
I had indeed promised to wait forever.
However, that did not mean that I would cheer for His Highness Ethan while hiding in the shadows until he called off our engagement.
It would be fine if we were in King's Landing and we didn't make contact, but that would be unsettling, and I didn't feel like I could stay away from seeing him in the first place.
That is why I would gracefully retreat to my territory.
That is the conclusion I came to.
In addition, my attempt to leave his side was my way of expressing my firm opposition to the mistress system, and it was also my way of shaking off the condescending nobles who came to me, wrongly believing I would take advantage of being a mistress.
After all, I would not bend my will here.
I cut off Prince Ethan's silent plea to give up everything to him, reassuring him that I was capable of handling these matters.
“The Queen is kind to call my mother her friend.
I am only an added bonus to my mother, and I know I am not enough to disturb the Queen.”
“ … very modest.
Speaking of friends, your schoolmates will be in the Capital during the season.
It isn’t too late for them to head for their territories?”
There was a long pause before he called me modest.
Perhaps what he really wanted to say was, “You’re so stubborn!”
“I once declared in front of a fellow student that I was leaving the Capital.
Besides, I am single-minded about the one I love.
If I can't have all of them, I would rather have nothing at all.
I cannot have peace of mind if I stay here.
Please forgive me.”
Seeing me cast my eyes down, Prince Ethan finally let out a sigh of resignation.
To those who don't know what happened, I may look … like a heartbroken young lady who broke off her engagement to Prince Garrett.
“I'm sorry I forced you to do this.
I'm sure you'll accept at least a flower as an apology, won't you? In the Howard March—no, in the Clay Viscounty, was it? Is there a fancy florist there?”
“Yes, there are several.
They all specialize in different kinds of flowers.”
“Good to know.
Oh, you said earlier that you would rather have nothing if you couldn’t have them all … On the contrary, are you determined to accomplish whatever it takes to get them all?”
The emerald eyes that shot through me, the seriousness of their gaze, I was at a loss for words for a moment.
What is His Highness Ethan going to do?
He cannot expect me to accept a mistress.
If I did … would he make me the Crown princess, or would Prince Ethan abdicate his throne?
Regardless of the means, if he wishes to break off his engagement with Princess Aaliyah and make me the crown princess, I will, of course, spare him the trouble and effort involved.
Alternatively, would Prince Ethan relinquish the title of Crown Prince? Even if he were to hand over the succession to His Highness Garrett, what then?
When he descends to a vassal, will he be given a knighthood?
Do we become adventurers and travel together?
Or, do we leave the country and start a business together?
Any of these would be fun if I could spend them with Prince Ethan.
“I would love to spend time with His Highness Ethan … Yes.
I'm confident we can accomplish anything.”
I answered, replacing “determination” with “confidence,” as we both walked down the hall to mother who was looking towards the entrance to the terrace.
Ethan said he would not let me go.
Then, I will make every possible preparation for that oncoming day.
Having gone through the exam wars, the jobless age, and being a corporate employee in a country where the word “Karoshi”(Death from overwork) was included in the English dictionary, I had no worries about the hardships I would face in order to spend time with the person I loved.
After a leisurely stroll on the terrace under the light of the full moon and some superficially casual conversation, Prince Ethan and I returned to my mother, maintaining a polite distance.
We pretended not to notice, but we could see numerous curious people peering at us from windows here and there.
Those who were camouflaging themselves by pretending to enjoy the full moon were cute, but there were a few who looked suspiciously at us as if we were only half naked.
I could almost laugh at the half-turned faces that looked this way and that way when I checked them just by glancing at them.
“I am glad to see you today.
Take care on your journey to the territory.
Please, have a healthy journey.”
“Thank you very much.
I had a very pleasant time.
Your Highness is an important person, so please take care of yourself.”
With these words, our joined fingers fell apart without a second thought.
His Highness Ethan thanked my mother for her time and handed me over to her.
He then walked straight to his parents, His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen, exchanged a word or two with each other, probably as a greeting and to ask to be excused, and then left the hall, ignoring all the glances from the many ladies in attendance.
It seems that mother had already finished talking with the Queen and was planning to leave as soon as she collected me.
After seeing His Highness Ethan off, we soon left the place too.
While we reached the carriage, mother was a perfect lady with a beautiful smile.
As soon as the carriage started moving, however, Marchioness Howard turned into a mother who was worried about her daughter, and I was bombarded with a torrent of questions from her.
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