Returning to the Royal Villa after parting ways with Else, Rishe used the water she’d fetched and went back to cleaning.
After a while, the knights came back with the bed. The large and fluffy bed is covered with clean sheets, which appears very comfortable to sleep on.
After ragging the place to her satisfaction, Rishe decided to take a break. She climbed to the top floor room where they had brought the bed, and stepped out onto the balcony.
Looking down from there, the imperial capital was beginning to turn golden with the golden rays of dusk.
It rained a little earlier, so the air was crystal clear and you could see far into the distance. The spring breeze blew fresh on her sweaty skin from the cleaning.
She draped her arms over the balcony railing, rested her cheek on them and closed her eyes.
It would be great if she could just go to sleep like this. But she has to take a bath. Nevertheless, it’s hard to get away from the view and the spring breeze on the balcony.
While she was thinking in daze, her mother’s voice suddenly crossed her mind.
“Rishe, there’s no need for your own thoughts in your life..”
She frowned, remembering the words she had once been told.
“Don’t ever forget. A life of service and loyalty to the royal family is the mission of our duke and duchy.
“No matter how excellent you are, being born a woman is all for naught. All you have to do is live up to that and help the Crown Prince, that’s all you have to do.”
“Studying? Having enough knowledge is merely for the sake of mingling in social occasions. Worry more about your bridal training. You’ll learn to smile more amiably.”
She’s amazed at how she could still remember each lesson word by word. Rishe exhaled in one breath.
(That’s to be expected. Since I was fifteen years old, I can’t remember how many times my father and mother said the same thing over and over again….)
She doesn’t know if she can kick the habit. Shortly after the annulment of her engagement, memories from Rishe’s childhood would sometimes pop up.
Since young, Rishe’s parents preached their beliefs repeatedly in front of her.
“Marry a man renowned in society. True happiness for a woman is only marrying such a partner and bearing his child.”
“… But, mom….”
Rishe was forbidden to argue back then.
First off, Rishe’s value to her parents was only in terms of, “the daughter who will eventually become the queen and give birth to the heir to the throne.”
One’s worth is not determined by others, nor it is something granted by one’s title.
Rishe’s fingertips twitched unconsciously, and she slowly opened her eyes.
And in the poise drilled in her, asked.
“…. Are you sure it’s fine? Slipping away from public service midway?”
“You never cease to amaze me, do you?
Hearing the man reveling in the situation, she jerked up and turned around.
There, as one would expect, stood Arnold. He finished his claim with a chuckle and reclined on the entrance to the balcony.
“I thought I could keep my mind off things quietly. How can you be so pretentious with all this distance?”
“What do you mean by that? I was just swimming with the tide little by little and gauging when to let my presence known.”
“Ha, like I would believe in your nonsense.”
Arnold walked forward and stopped beside Rishe. He was a bit cautious, but he scanned the castle grounds curiously.
“What were you looking at?”
“The capital… What’s that building over there?”
“It’s a library. It is state-funded and houses books collected from various countries.”
“Wow! That whole huge building?!”
It must be rich in collections of books. Rishe’s eyes sparkled as if she couldn’t wait to get there soon.
Then she pointed to something else that had been bothering her.
“And that spire? It looks magnificent.”
“It’s a church. It also doubles as a clock tower, ringing bells that tell the time in the morning and at night.”
“Wow, how wonderful..! Come to think of it, there seems to be a big bazaar in that area.”
“It’s the biggest shopping street in the Imperial City. Early in the morning, there are stalls lining the streets selling freshly stocked items for the day.”
“Impressive!Then, Your Highness, those beautiful mountains over there….”
Every time Arnold unraveled each place, Rishe couldn’t help feeling thrilled.
The pictures painted by him swelled in her mind and she thirsts for the chance to see each of them personally. There’s a vast library, a beautiful church at the crack of dawn, and a morning market where you can buy and sell fresh fruit.
Rishe’s excitement did not escape Arnold’s notice.
“Nothing. I was just wondering what was so much fun about it. What interest is there in a country where you have been married in unwilling circumstances?”
She was caught tongue tied. Her mind couldn’t quickly come up with a plausible answer for him.
(What should I say? Has my curiosity been too abnormal?)
Well her interest was genuine, so maybe she should just go along with his assumption.
That being said, it was quite odd to talk to Arnold, who had been an antagonist in her former life. And that sense of discomfort led to some sort of shyness.
As a result, Rishe blushed and stammered while cooking up an answer.
“… It’s because of longing.”
From his expression, Arnold was clearly surprised.
“Yes. I’ve always wanted to visit this country for a long time.”
In her first life as a merchant, Rishe had only one dream: To become a trader.
And then travel across all countries in the world. But that dream ended where it left off with one last country.
The last one was here, the Garkhain Empire.
It wasn’t just her life as a merchant that prevented her from treading the soil of the Imperial Kingdom of Garkhain.
In every lifetime, Rishe had to first acquire the means to make a living for herself. Yet, by the time this prospect was within reach, the situation had changed and the possibility of freely going in and out of Garkhain became impossible.
For Rishe, this marriage allows her the chance to first visit Garkhain.
“Perhaps the final push of why I decided to marry Your Highness was because of that longing.”
Arnold raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth looking down at the castle.
“There’s nothing in this country that’s worth your yearning.”
“No, that’s not true! There are so many fascinating places to visit, even if you only briefly told me about them earlier. The glittering faces of the townspeople, the knights are also suave. Besides…”
It’s fun to envision wonderful things, no matter what the subject matter is.
Rishe knitted her brows as she jovially counted down her fingers, and Arnold unconsciously fell on the animation evident on her face.
His eyes were strangely gentle, but there’s also an inexplicable bafflement in between his brows.
“Am I saying anything weird?”
“If you’re unaware of it, that’s a big problem.”
(Hmph, how rude…”)
“I’ve never seen a woman like you. The content of your arguments, the depth of your knowledge, the skills you’re hiding; basically, they are all unnecessary for a mere lady.”
Rishe cringed at every word Arnold uttered.
“Rishe, there’s no need for your own thoughts in your life.”
She was again reminded of her mother’s teachings and she opened her mouth in retort headfirst.
“…. Everything I have is my treasure, whether it is worthless in the eyes of others or not. It’s an asset that I will never lose, and is an important part of my life. Even if someone decides it’s pointless.”
She turned squarely to face Arnold and looked straight up at him, who is taller.
“It’s up to me to decide what’s worthwhile for my life.”
Rishe will never accept the curses that were once poured on her by her own parents.
A woman can do anything she wants, and she will never again live just to be a queen and give up what she aspires to learn.
She held Arnold’s stare with the fiery flames still blazing within her. Oddly enough, he returned her stare with a gentle one.
“… I understand.”
Then he stroked Rishe’s cheek with his big hand.
His thumb gently wiped the surface of her skin. Rishe blinked and then it struck her that her face must have been dusty from the cleaning.
“You’re free to do whatever you want in this country from now on. I promise to be a force to be reckoned with and support every wish you may have.”
Rishe was stumped at his unexpected tolerance.
Having said that, Arnold has every right to ask Rishe to act “Princess-like.” Since this is a political marriage where the powers between the two countries are different, Rishe’s essence is merely a hostage.
And yet, instead of limiting Rishe’s freedom, Arnold goes so far as to say that he will support her?
“Why would you do that?”
“I told you, I fell in love with you.”
Arnold reprised the same lie as ever.
“On top of that, you may be indifferent to others’ opinions —- But I find your bottomless abilities genuinely pleasing, rather than meaningless.”
“I think that’s much I can get across.”
Saying that, he withdrew his hand away from Rishe, turned his back to her and started walking.
His feet braked at the entrance, he looked back at the dumbfounded Rishe and added.
“Consider whatever compensation you want. I’ve just breached your “Don’t touch a finger.”
After Arnold was gone, Rishe lost her strength for some reason and sat down on the balcony.
“… I can’t read him at all! What exactly is that man, Arnold Hein, planning?)
A peaceful night soon approached the Imperial Capital of Garkhain.