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Chapter 47

“Father, this world… Even when you heard that it’s a ‘novel’, did you not care?”

“When you’re in pain, of course I’m also sad.”

“No. I’m not talking about that. Father, it’s not that.”

His daughter. His wife. It’s not about that. Not about other people. Not any minor, insignificant thing. What they’re talking about here was closer and more relevant to him.

What opinion do you have of yourself? Carynne was curious about that. She agonized over it. There was a world she could go back to. It was a faint memory now, but she could remember a family other than this one, a kinder world, more fascinating food, a comparatively exotic culture, distinct animals, different dreams. That world.

Carynne fumbled through the dim images.

A true life. A true world.

If she really could go back, if all this was a momentary dream—

She opened her lips, then closed them once more.

In the end, she was still stuck with the same anguish that she was trapped in when she was a ten-year-old child. If nothing has changed, then it’s better not to think further.

“True love… you say.”

How bizarre it was for her to say it with her own mouth.

“During my whole life… For all those one hundred years… If I tell you that I lived with only doubts and fear within me that entire time, what would you say?”

About her own existence, about everything in the world, about what she felt as she wandered aimlessly as though drifting in the air. About how there was no one like her anywhere, no evidence that her existence was the way that it was, no conviction that stayed as it faded away. What would he say about all this? What would he say about the days of torture she experienced, those days where only pain existed?

Then, the fief lord answered with pity.

“My dear daughter. You have lived your life in futility.”

At that moment, Carynne made up her mind.

“You seem to believe Mother.”

“Of course. I believe you just as I believed her.”

And yet he left her all alone for one entire century. Carynne wanted to tear that portrait to pieces and vent her anger. Love? A vehement sense of jealousy surged from within her. She was jealous of her dead mother.

I’m glad you’re dead, Mother. Did you go back to your original world? Did you leave this place to return to your real family? Ah, I wish I could die soon, too.

Carynne was so eaten up by jealousy that her fingers started trembling. She didn’t know what to do with them, so she clasped her hands together.

“…I’m a lot older than you. But right now… it seems I have, to find my own love in earnest.”

Her voice trembled awkwardly. But the fief lord paid no mind to this.

“Who is it? Your male lead.”

Carynne hesitated for a moment before she answered.

“…It’s Sir Raymond.”

“Mm, I knew it. That’s plausible. Hm… Then Verdic must have been quite upset. That’s good.”

He was so upset that he even hacked away at Carynne’s neck with an axe. She didn’t even have the energy to snap back at the fief lord who seemed to be finding amusement in this. Why even care about Verdic. What mattered here was her male lead.

“You really do believe Mother.”

“Yes. I believe her with all my heart.”

Just as you should. If you didn’t believe, then all you are right now is an accomplice to a lunatic’s killings. Her father was a devoted zealot. The dead Catherine was his god, and Carynne was a sacred relic. She was merely evidence to his god’s glory and divinity. So this was the kind of person he was—he, who gave her this body she was inhabiting.

“Ah, it’s already dark out.”

“I’m going to skip dinner. I don’t think I can eat… at all.”

It didn’t seem like she’d be able to get any more information from her father. From the very start, he was an outsider. She didn’t even know if what he’s saying was correct. Even if Carynne were to tie his limbs and pull out his nails, he could never divulge what he didn’t know in the first place.

He held no value to her now. There was no need to talk to him. Carynne wished to rest. If she went to dinner, then she’d have to see his face again.

“Come to dinner together. The Countess and her daughter are coming to visit.”

“…Yes.”

Carynne grimaced. She wished for a bit of time to rest. It was so difficult to digest it all because reality and fantasy were both so haphazardly intertwined. She felt plagued by indigestion, but instead of her stomach, it was her mind.

Nevertheless, the question had to be asked.

“Since Mother is someone from outside the novel, what did you think about this, Father?”

The fief lord chuckled after hearing this. At that very moment, he seemed like a young man. He smiled with such innocence, such passion—such conviction. Towards Carynne, who he regarded as a sacred relic, he answered.

“It’s truly romantic.”

* * *

‘Carynne’s not here?’

Isella was in high spirits. The fact that Carynne Hare wasn’t anywhere in her line of sight made her mind feel at ease and her body feel relaxed. As she monopolized Raymond all day without ever bumping into Carynne, Isella was fully satisfied. It felt as if she was full when she hadn’t even eaten yet. Besides that, Raymond met all of Isella’s various demands throughout the day.

“Lord Raymond, let’s talk about what happens after our engagement ceremony.”

As Isella spoke excitedly about the schedule after their engagement ceremony, Raymond immediately asked.

“Did Mister Verdic mention my situation?”

She wanted him to satiate her craving more. At this, Isella did not hide her slight discomfort.

“Yeees. You won’t have to suffer in the army any longer.”

“…Is that so? It’s been a while since I stepped back from the frontlines.”

“No, it’s only natural for you to step back from there. You’ll be taking on a much more important role in this country compared to being part of the army.”

To be exact, it was a role that would benefit the Evans family more.

Isella’s father was right.

Raymond was sold to her.

Flowers were merely in season, and in the same way, there was no way to stop a man’s eyes from wandering elsewhere for a little while. Even as Verdic occasionally indulged in other women and even as Isella’s mother smiled at another man, in the end, they both would go back to the same bed and discuss their family’s affairs together.

The most important aspect of a marriage was the fact that it’s a contract.

“I’ve spent my whole life in the knight order.”

“My, oh my. Aren’t you still young though? You’ve got a bride to marry, but what are you talking about?”

Isella nervously scoffed and then giggled. She wished that she wouldn’t be swayed by Raymond anymore. It was so miserable to crave for a man’s affection when that man did not care about her at all. This was her ideal: while she was providing for and supporting Raymond completely, she would keep him on a leash so she could watch him flatter and compliment her.

“I’m suddenly leaving the place I’d always been in, so it’s a bit worrying. And it’s also a little awkward for me. I thought it was something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.”

With a grin, Raymond shrugged.

“Father and I will support you in anything, so there’s nothing for you to worry about.”

Isella held Raymond’s hand. He then looked down at Isella’s hand and nodded, then he said, ‘Is that so.’

Just as he did until now, her father would continue to be there to help her. She had no doubt that she could buy Raymond anything that he wanted. Even after he’s already her husband. And, again, Isella wished that there would be no uncertainty with her fiancé any longer.

“Lord Raymond, if Countess Elva will attend, will you still feel the same way about our marriage?”

“…Of course, Miss Isella.”

“Are you happy as well?”

Narrowing her eyes, she stared at the handsome, golden man. He answered back with a picturesque smile on his lips.

“Yes. It is a joyous occasion.”

His positive answer came out with not a hint of hesitation, yet it sounded rather false. Even so, this was not anymore important. What mattered here was that he’s no longer in a position to show any displeasure.

From the bottom of her heart, Isella thought that it was of no consequence to her. As long as he would look at Isella and smile at her, as long as they would enter the hall together, as long as they were in the same bed, side by side.

“Fufu.”

Do smile, my knight. My overpriced groom.

However, Isella wouldn’t let Raymond live freely like her father did. She did not wish to live like her mother. If it was that kind of relationship, then all that was slated for her was to adjust accordingly, have a child together to fulfill the contract, then go in search of lust and affection elsewhere—separately.

No matter how handsome and no matter how high the quality of his bloodline was, he was nothing but a stallion that was eventually sold. And his owner was none other than the Evans family.

Even if he was of noble descent, he was not next in line for his household’s peerage, and it wasn’t like the eldest son would share his inherited fortune with his increasingly famous younger brother.

After the ceremony three days later, in the end, Raymond would have to come back to the Evans household and share laughter together. Even if his smiles did not come from his heart, at the very least, he would not be allowed to do as he pleased.

“Lord Raymond. I hear that you’ve done numerous merits on the battlefield.”

“…Yes.”

“I’m curious about just how many you’ve taken down.”

If Carynne held the reins through her beauty, then Isella would hold the reins through her wealth. At most, the daughter of this small domain’s fief lord would just continue to live here and marry her stuttering fiancé. That’d be all that there was to her insignificant little life.

“…You came back all in one piece, fortunately. And that’s enough.”

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