Chapter 90 – The Grand Duke’s Proposal (1)
Sovieshu’s words from yesterday lingered in my mind. The morning chill brought fresh goosebumps onto my skin, but it did not cool the fire inside of me. The sound of birds reminded me of Queen and only served to make me more depressed.
A concubine’s child cannot be a prince or a princess. And yet Sovieshu suggested that if we could not conceive a child together, perhaps I would adopt it…
I didn’t like it.
It was preferable to have any other baby than one born between Sovieshu and Rashta. No matter how much I thought over it, I didn’t think I could love the baby. No, I was quite sure I wouldn’t.
Countess Eliza’s voice broke my reverie, and I wrested my gaze from the window. I was so lost in thought that I didn’t even realize she was nearby.
“What is it?”
I tried to look casual, and she spoke to me in a lowered voice.
“Grand Duke Kapmen is here.”
I walked into the parlor room and found Grand Duke Kapmen standing with his hat in one hand. It was the first time I’d seen him since he struck Sovieshu. I glanced at his hand to see if he was alright, but he didn’t look hurt.
“It’s fine. Thank you for your concern.”
Did he notice my gaze? Grand Duke Kapmen responded bluntly as he briefly waved his hand. It was then I made a sudden realization.
“The potion has worn off.”
I looked back in amazement, but when he responded, his voice was cold.
“You sound like you were just waiting for us to part. Did you want me gone?”
I stared at him in surprise, and he sighed and apologized.
“…I’m sorry. I’m in an unstable emotional state. It’s why I twisted what you said. I hope you will understand.”
“Ah. Then the potion is still…?”
When I observed him more closely, I noticed that his hand holding his hat was trembling. More worries sprung up in my mind twentyfold.
“Does the drug usually last this long?”
“That’s what worries me.”
Grand Duke Kapmen sighed again. At the same time, he adjusted the space between his feet and mine. He seemed to want to keep some distance from me.
“You said you created it, right?”
“I wanted to make something for the black market when I was an academy student…the potion doesn’t usually work like this.”
Grand Duke Kapmen sighed once again and fidgeted with his hand.
“How effective is it usually?”
“It’s just the feeling when you first fall in love. It’s not supposed to last as long as this, and the antidote should have worked.”
“Have you ever used it on a person?”
“Of course I have. That’s why I gave it to you.”
He sighed for a third time.
“The drug had already been around for a few years. If it worked this powerfully in the first place, it would have spread wildly by now.”
That was true. The symptoms Grand Duke Kapmen displayed was not of mere infatuation, but of overwhelming, feverish passion. Such a drug…it would have many uses.
“Perhaps it’s a side effect?”
I looked at him anxiously, but he didn’t answer my question.
“…I’m leaving the empire.”
He was here to say goodbye.
At that moment, my eyes started to go blurry. I was not as close to Grand Duke Kapmen as I was with Prince Heinley or Queen or Duchess Tuania, but my heart was suffering through these repeated partings. I started rambling before I even realized it.
“What about trade? What about diplomatic relations? It’s still in progress. If you go away—”
“The Emperor doesn’t want it.”
“I am in charge of this.”
“But as long as it’s related to state affairs, you cannot make deals without your husband’s final approval.”
My heart pounded, but for a different reason. I was angry. I was angry that my entire effort to establish diplomatic relations with Rwibt had crumbled away like a sandcastle, all because of Sovieshu’s feelings.
I stood there with my lips pressed shut, and Grand Duke Kapmen clenched his hand.
“Don’t be upset.”
“Please. If you’re upset now, my heart hurts so much. Please…”
He pressed down on his bosom, looking distressed. I forced a smile for him, but it didn’t seem to work, and so I changed my words to another direction.
“So the diplomatic relationship is completely over?”
Grand Duke Kapmen gingerly lifted his hand from his chest, as if to check if his attempt to suppress his feelings worked.
“Since I cannot create an alliance with the Eastern Empire, I will look to other countries. It doesn’t matter which ones.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat, and gave him a hollow smile as I bowed.
“Thank you for telling me the circumstances.”
“I will look around other countries to find out how to remove the effects of the drug.”
When he finished speaking, he kept his eyes on me. I gave him my reluctant blessing.
“I…I hope your alliances go well.”
I knew he worked hard, and wished for him to find a better trading partner. On the other hand, I didn’t want that for him either. My stomach seemed to turn.
“…though I’m only being half sincere.”
Grand Duke Kapmen widened his eyes, then burst into laughter. He doubled over so hard that he had to wipe tears from his eyes. Did the love potion increase his response to my words? I didn’t know why he was laughing, but he was doing it so much that I began to feel embarrassed. I felt as if I had betrayed an obvious desire.
‘He might say something behind my back.’
“It’s fine. It was so cute.”
He offered a silent smile, and I didn’t know what to say. Sometimes, the way he spoke…it was as if he were answering the thoughts in my mind. I shifted awkwardly.
Grand Duke Kapmen opened his mouth to speak again, but then paused. Wasn’t he going to say goodbye? Did it hurt him to say it? Would it be better if I said goodbye first?
I would remember him as the person who showed me what it felt like to be loved. He wasn’t as dear to me as Prince Heinley, but I enjoyed knowing him in the time that we had. I tried to give my farewell first, when the grand duke gave an unexpected proposal.
“Let’s go together.”
“I want you to come with me. I’d love you to.”
I stared at him in amazement. What? I was frozen to the spot, and he brought his hat to his chest.
“Your heart will only rot if you stay here. Let’s go to the Hwa continent. You’ll live without any pain, and you’ll be surrounded by all the good things in the world.”
Was it the potion speaking again? But even though I waited, he did not correct his words. As he stared into my eyes, he held out a trembling hand towards me.
“I will do all the preparations if you allow me.”