7. The Returnee Noble Lady (6)
“Huh…? What did you just, what did you just suddenly say, again…?”
“I must’ve caused you to feel apprehension—for that, I must apologize. I see, is my request impossible? Is it too late to retract my words, already?”
“But, didn’t you say that you weren’t serious about the marriage proposal?”
Jill stared at Hadith, who appeared puzzled.
“I’m saying that starting from now, I’m being serious. Piece of cake!”
“P-please stop. Now I’m sure that you’re only misleading me with your words…”
“There’s no underlying meaning behind my words!”
Seeing Jill, who proudly hit her chest, Hadith’s eyes went wide open.
“Please, believe in me. I will rehabilitate—no, I mean, I’ll make you happy, for the rest of our lives!”
“T, that means… you’ll truly become my bride…? R-Rave, did you hear that—!?”
“Oh, I’m listening, alright. You and the Little Lady are both funny in the head, it seems. This entire proceeding is so bad, it’s hilarious. What are you two? A Cracked pot and a mended lid?”
“However, I’m but a child. Let’s focus on the fact that our relationship is only budding, and put on hold other topics such as love, romance, etc… In short, I’m requesting for a marriage in name only—eh—!?”
Suddenly, she was embraced. Not only that, she was also being spun around in the air.
“Marriage in name only is already fine enough! Thank you! I’ll cherish and treasure you properly, my Amethyst!”
Jill’s cheeks heated up considerably. From the bottom of her heart, she was delighted.
However, immediately after, Hadith released Jill.
“I, I’m sorry. I was too overjoyed. Right, our relationship is still at the point where we are having tea together…”
When she was told so with such a serious countenance, Jill couldn’t help but feel weak in the knees…
…no, wait, get a hold of yourself! You’re the one who said this is a marriage in name only…
Suddenly, Hadith took Jill’s hand and spoke in reassurance.
“Being utterly honest, I know nothing about romance or love in general—but, I’ll prove my seriousness to you.”
The moment she lifted her face, his lips had gently landed on the back of her hand—
—her left ring finger began to shine—it was too brilliant, she had to squint her eyes.
Fluttering as softly as his kiss, a small halo made of genuine magic descended onto her hand.
“Rave, please give my wife your blessing.”
Jill could feel Rave rolling on top of her head.
Glittering powder light fell—
—the ring of light fitted itself into her left ring finger, before manifesting into a golden ring.
“The blessing bestowed by the Dragon God, which also proves that you’re the Dragon Emperor’s wife—the ring of the Dragon Empress. It’s also a mark.”
The ring was the same color as Hadith’s eyes.
Jill tried to remove the ring to take a closer look—but, she soon noticed she couldn’t take it off.
“…Um… I can’t remove it, though?”
“If it could be removed that easily, then there’d be no point in calling it a mark. Until our marriage becomes official, you’ll be considered my fiancé—however, as long as you bear that ring, regardless of anything, you’ll become my wife in the end. I’ll protect you for the remainder of your life.”
Jill stared perplexedly at the ring, feeling complex emotions running through her—however, she couldn’t detect any lie from Hadith’s words.
He has marked me. I hope it’s nothing harmful—I can’t say I expected things to develop this serious…
…this time, I won’t let my guard down. I shall be careful.
Quietly, in the bottom of her heart, Jill decided so.
The thin smile gracing his feature overlapped with that brutal smile she had seen in that battle.
Despite appearing pleased at the notion of marriage in name only, the man had admitted just a while ago, how he knew nothing about love. Then, with those same lips, he swore to protect her—
—he might be honest, but not sincere.
In other words, this man wasn’t in love with Jill.
‘Love is blind’—Jill was perfectly familiar with that saying, already.
That was why—until she was certain that he was the right guy, she would protect her heart.
She better not fall in love with him—
—or, at the very least, she better not fall in love first.
That was her one and only strategy—as such, she decided to follow it with her utmost.
Love was the very reason for her blunder, which ended in her death.
This time, she wouldn’t involve love.
She tightly pursed her lips and stared at the gold ring, when she suddenly heard a roar coming from over her head—
Not once or twice, but thrice—
—the ship was swaying from side to side. Dust fell from the ceiling.
“We, we aren’t under attack, right…!?”
Jill wondered if everyone from her homeland had figured that she had been kidnapped, thus, they were giving chase.
However, Rave, who moved from Jill’s head to Hadith’s shoulder, had a different opinion.
“…Just as we’re about to enter the Rave Empire, too. Maybe our ship was detected and is being given some kind of warning?”
“T-then, are we being labelled with some sort of criminal charge? No way, did this ship get detected by Prince Vissel’s fleet?”
It was a famous gossip in Kratos—the Rave Empire had been divided into two factions—one ruled by Emperor Hadith, while the other by his brother, Prince Vissel.
But, Hadith’s response was contrary to Jill’s expectations.
“I don’t think my brother would do that. We’re just wasting our time sitting here and thinking, let’s just go and check.”
Hadith’s tone, which suggested as if he was just taking a leisurely stroll, caught her off guard.
They arrived on the deck—from which she could see a deep blue horizon dividing the sky and the sea.
The sun rising directly above her was dazzling.
It was a peaceful sky, however, Jill sensed magic beyond the horizon.
—one, two, three… it’s not a big number.
She closed her eyes and scanned for a sign. Once the enemy was within her range of magic, she became able to see multiple shadows above the sea.
They had their backs towards the morning sun as they approached and had on masked hoods to hide their faces. They wore light, mossy, colored protective clothing.
They appeared to be mercenaries. Not a legitimate army—
—that was when she spotted men flying in the sky using dragons. The men of the Rave Empire.
They were in a neatly arranged formation.
Some kind of trick must’ve been used. There shouldn’t be any magic that lets one fly on their own.
In a few minutes, they would reach there.
“Um, it seems that we would have no choice but to fight. How many people are on this ship, Your Majesty?”
Hadith, whom was holding Jill, suddenly dropped onto one knee. He rushed to stand in front of Jill. As his complexion changed, he covered her mouth with one hand.
“Damn! What have I done…”
“W, what happened? Are they attacking?”
“Because of my carelessness, I had inadvertently stepped into sunlight!”
Jill became speechless, but Hadith continued seriously—
“—I forgot that I didn’t get enough sleep today…!” “That’s right, you also didn’t drink your medicine on time last night, right?”
“—can both of you please stop joking around?”
In front of Jill who tried to scold him, Hadith suddenly vomited blood.
In front of the stunned Jill, Hadith sank into the pool of his own blood. His fingers were trembling.
“I’m done for. Rave, take this girl to the harbor.” “Sure~”
“It’s okay, don’t worry about me. I just lack sleep, is all. I’m a monster, so I should be okay after taking a nap and regaining some of my strength…”
Hadith then closed his eyes—as if he had died.
The sound of the ship stopped along with its movement.
“Eeeeeeeh—!? Wait a minute—! What is even happening—!?”
She grabbed Hadith’s collar and screamed at him.
 Cracked pot and mended lid (proverb) = It means that a couple is a perfect match for each other.
***T/N: GREAT, OUR EMPEROR IS POTENTIALLY A VAMPIRE TOO!!!