17.2 The Other Side of the Gate and the Last Road
That was the only thing he said.
However, those words made her so happy, she panicked and instantly covered her mouth.
Since he was right in front of her, there was no way he missed the reason why she suddenly covered her mouth.
“…You undisciplined fellow.”
Kusukusu—behind the shadow, someone was laughing.
After hearing it was Dilvier’s relative, Dia was no longer scared. Instead, she remembered the nostalgic mansion where the laughter of her dear mother and sisters used to echo.
However, as if to crack her gentle flashback, the laughter she heard from nowhere suddenly vanished—replacing it, were some cold whispers.
The outline of the beautiful King of the Night flickered, in its place, was the cape of the knight of Fashitar.
Hearing the approaching footsteps, Dia sighed.
Following Joel’s line of sight, she recognized Ricardo walking down the hall.
“Joel, from here, I will escort that child. Dia, let me escort you tonight.”
His attire was a glamorous lake blue, and the gorgeous Fashitar embroidery was complemented by a pale, sprout-colored cravat. His appearance truly was that of a mesmerizing prince.
As he looked her way, he smiled—his lustrous silver hair shone brightly.
If Dia hadn’t met the King of the Night, surely, she would have fallen for Ricardo without a second thought.
She would then be weeping over her lost, unrewarded love, while miserably being beaten up and killed.
If she hadn’t learned he was involved in the decision of that stormy night, then in her eyes, he would have remained as that gentle cousin who loved to call her name and patted her head.
‘—…Dia, look, I brought you your favorite flower.’
His gentle expression, as he stared and smiled at her—it wasn’t love, but there were indeed days when her heart went aflutter due to him.
No matter how fake it was—Ricardo certainly acted his part as a kind cousin.
Ricardo was the only thing in Dia’s world who had a gentle form.
During a summer day, they took a horse for a walk together in the forest. During the dusk of a late autumn, they picked small chestnuts together.
The transparent wall which defined their boundary—Dia sometimes slammed it with her fist.
…just why can’t she love and think of this person as family!?
—she shall take her revenge.
My revenge to you, for the sake of me.
Thus, the wishes of those distant days were already dead. She never again thought about him. To her, he was merely a person who—for whatever reason—voluntarily ruined others.
Dia bowed gracefully to Ricardo—and for reasons unknown, Ricardo smiled sadly.
Even as a cousin, Dia had no family name.
Her title as the daughter of the duke was barely there—and it would also end with her. The land and assets formerly owned by her family now belonged to the new Gillasfi family—suffice to say, she wasn’t allowed to touch it.
All the relics left in the mansion were disposed of.
The incense rose that her father loved was uprooted to prevent its vine from overgrowing. The daffodils, which hadn’t bloomed, were trampled on that stormy night, and subsequently plucked out to prepare a new garden.
That house was no longer Dia’s, but of a domineering and cunning thief’s—or better known as, the noble family of calm temperament with a reputable governance—
—and now, empty and bare as she was, Dia still had to receive Ricardo with the highest level of appreciation as a vassal.
“Thank you for allowing me to celebrate the night alongside Your Highness tonight.”
“You quickly accepted because it would be a problem if I were to get discouraged due to the long response, didn’t you? Come with me.”
“Your Highness, is Lady Marietta alright with this arrangement?”
“She has already entered the venue as my fiancée and is waiting for you there. Dia, the admission of high-ranking aristocrats has already ended—I was waiting for you.”
“Well, well, because I treaded slowly, you had to trouble yourself to come fetch me. I understand your concern. Because I rarely walk quietly in a place like this, only now did I notice all the paintings and sculptures—I’ve fallen in love with one of them!”
She extended her hand and placed it on Ricardo’s arm.
His gesture was as if they were still engaged—even though the woman Ricardo was currently escorting was someone of lower stature than someone who belonged in his household.
His slender stretched back was beautiful—just like a single white lily which bloomed in the kingdom surrounded by the night.
In that way, he wouldn’t be seen as a man who was about to kill his own cousin. His pure beauty was akin to a sword ruthlessly being pulled out of its sheath.
All the signs were there—he would surely kill Dia.
“…It seems that you get along very amicably with Joel. Along they way here, did the two of you talk much?”
“Ara, nothing but some meaningless jape. We talked about the procession of carriages seen from the window and the stained glass in the corridor. Then, he said he would be very busy tonight.”
“He’s a faithful knight, thus, we must also respond to him and be a good master. …Listen, Dia, he won’t give you the answer you want, so please don’t be a hassle to him.”
He said it in a very quiet and demure voice.
Her fingertips could feel the temperature of his arms. Due to his twitching eyes, Dia unconsciously tighten her grasp.
…Did he perhaps think I am trying to persuade Joel into something?
“Your Highness, all I asked Joel to do before the evening’s ball is to walk me to the place where I can see the main gate of the royal palace, alright?”
“That may or may not be the case. Marietta has said some harsh words to you, hasn’t she? If you find it offensive, I may have a solution.”
“Lady Marietta was merely offering me a proposal, and it was also the first time we’ve ever spoke. What is there for me to be hurt about? She has her own temper and responsibilities, and I understand that.”
Dia’s delicate ball shoes didn’t make any noise when they touched the stone floor—it was somewhat strange.
…I see. There’s no way this person wouldn’t know about my conversation with her.
That morning, Marietta, who would eventually become the crown princess, remained in Dia’s room.
Even if the Queen and Marietta weren’t wary of Dia. Even if Marietta wasn’t alarmed enough to ask an escort to accompany them during the conversation, the same couldn’t be said for Ricardo. She wondered who he planned to eavesdrop on whatever conversations Dia had.
Since Dilvier was a fairy, it was only obvious he would know about the conversation. But the knights who had been waiting outside the door might not have been so out of touch with them either.
Noin taught her that there was a magic that let someone do that.
Or, could it be, Marietta was the one who did it? Did she perhaps use said magic to observe Dia’s reaction?
A cold sweat ran down her back.
Ricardo perhaps realized it—that she knew.
However, to prevent him from realizing it until now—Dia was capable of it.
Because, if she wasn’t capable of only that much, then she wouldn’t have been able to continue being the fiancée of a person who was actively trying to kill her after having order others murder her family before her very eyes.
“…You didn’t try to take advantage of me.”
However, Ricardo didn’t ask the question she had anticipated.
He spoke it like he was sighing—with a fleeting sadness from somewhere, like a petal fluttering in the wind. He also sounded a little discouraged.
Dia wondered why that person was discouraged and sad.
Rather than worrying about the execution of the tragedy which would befall Dia soon, it was as if he cursed the fact that he had no choice but to do it.
So now he’s regretting it.
That’s right—only now?
But now is too late. No one will be saved.
“Well, what kind of advantage would I get from Your Highness, anyway.”
“I withdrew my protection from you, then your standing, then turned you into a mere subject. Dia, don’t you have anything you would like to ask to me? Because after this night… you will lose the opportunity to hear the answers to your questions. After all the time we’ve spent together, not even once have you’ve ever asked me why it has to be this way.”
…What a selfish person you are.
You just want me to ask those questions to appease yourself—it’s all for your own sake.
So you want me to ask for what sake were those acts of killings done? Do you realize how arrogant and cruel you are?
Therefore, Dia intended to reply with, I have nothing to ask you. But suddenly, she remembered that she never understood one thing.
Why did His Highness Ricardo make me his fiancée?
She was but a small child, he could’ve chosen to be her guardian, for example.
Nevertheless, he made Dia a fiancée. He even left Marietta, whom was merely a fiancée candidate at that time, waiting.
Even if there was a secret agreement between the royal family and the Marquis family, it would have been difficult for Marietta, whom was the same age as Ricardo, to be told to wait—especially as a woman.
Dia closed her eyes, then opened them.
Joel was no longer around—not in any form.
From here to the hall, Dia would be walking alongside Ricardo—only the two of them—for a short distance.
“…Alright, then why, Your Highness?”
“As I thought, you always keep me waiting until the end. What do you want to ask? Do clarify.”
“I am sure you’re aware that there’s nothing more that I can do, and that there’s nothing you could gain from me beyond this point. What should I ask, I too, am unsure. Your Highness, I asked you ‘why’, but I myself am unable to define my own question.”
“But at this point, you’ve probably already know… that it is I, and also this kingdom who killed your family.”
***T/N: DUDE FRICKIN ADMITTED IT. ONE OF THE BIGGEST QUESTIONS IN THIS STORY IS FINALLY ANSWERED–DID THEY REALLY KILL DIA’S FAMILY?
Like no kidding, we get a lot of insight to the non-humans realm but we rarely ever got the Fashitar royal family’s side of the story. Most of the time, we only have Dia’s narration to rely on to get a glimpse on what kind of individuals they are–and because there is this thing called ‘unreliable narrator’, I’m always hesitant to 100% swallow her words because it could be false…
…SO RICARDO’S CONFESSION MADE ME FEEL AS IF I AM HIT BY A MOTORCYLCE AT 356.7 KM/H SPEED.