Prologue: Tragic First Love
His eyes resembled the night sky.
While others may describe them as perfectly black, she knew better.
Her husband’s irises, to be precise, were a dark shade of brown. Just as the darkest night sky is not truly black, if one were to peer into Rufellion’s eyes, they would see a hidden mystique within.
The reason she said “they would see” was that she lacked the courage to lift her face and look into his eyes. On the day of their wedding, she had accidentally failed to confirm this secret, a truth hidden from her for three years.
A thoroughly ignored wife. That was her current status.
A maid approached cautiously.
“Madam, shall I prepare the tea?”
In the end, you still haven’t come today.
Ellie sighed, suppressing a bitter smile, and quietly drank the tea served by the maid, Gerde.
The unique tea, brewed with Planar leaves, found only on this island across the entire continent, would quickly lull one to sleep. It had been a comfort since it started growing six months ago.
Why would she need a sleep-inducing tea if her husband came to the bedroom every night?
So, this tea served as an effective remedy for women who were sleepless or faced mistreatment every day. It alleviated the suffering of insomnia, swallowed with a bitter taste.
“Ah… the effect is really good. I’m already feeling sleepy.”
Before the maid even left, Ellie’s vision blurred, and she lay down on the bed. The lingering sweetness in her mouth seemed to say, “Sleep now.”
A feeble sound as her body sank into the soft sheets.
The billowing gown draped over her body and the enveloping bed were perfect for her to sleep comfortably. With this bed alone, even in the middle of a desert, it would have been fit for draping a canopy and sleeping in peace.
For her, who had become the wife of Duke Rufellion Cran, there was no material want.
What was lacking was her husband’s attention and love.
At night, lying on this spacious bed, the misery when she woke up alone in the morning was beyond words.
At first, when she married him, she was excited.
“My first love…”
Ellie was the daughter of the fallen Marquis Milton.
With no place to go and wandering with her family, they had finally settled on the island of Planar. It was here that she fell in love with the duke when she happened to see him.
As soon as they arrived on the island, rumors about him were abundant.
There was nothing he couldn’t do, and even the nobles of the capital wanted to marry their daughters to him. The rumor that he was a young and handsome man was not false!
His achievements were well known throughout the island, and wherever she went, she could hear praise.
She too acknowledged the duke from afar the moment she saw him.
It wasn’t just his appearance. He had an aura that was beyond reach, and everyone, regardless of whether they found him difficult, respected him. Even the foreigners like the Miltons on this island were the same.
Because of the difference in social status, she didn’t dare to think that she could be with him. A poor marquis’s daughter with no land or wealth—how could she ever dare to aspire to him?
In reality, he hastily got engaged and left for the battlefield when the war broke out.
His fiancée was the first love of the Duke and the highly esteemed daughter of a renowned Marquis, Catherine Seyra. She was a noble lady from the aristocratic class known as the “Inner Nobility” on the continent. On that day, Ellie threw herself on the bed and cried her heart out.
Just like today.
Even as she sobbed during the pouring sleep, she was still weeping bitterly.
“I’m so lonely…”
No one answered her in this vast, desolate room.
Her husband had not spent a single day in this room after their second wedding. He had never even come in briefly to inquire about her well-being.
All her knowledge of him came through the servants, and the number of times they dined together was no more than once or twice a week.
Even then, the Duke remained silent.
‘Are you well? What have you been doing these days?’ If he were to ask, the hundreds of prepared responses were utterly useless.
You don’t love me, do you? You seem to think I’m just a “living wife” to be left at the Duke’s estate. Is that right or wrong?
She felt a desire to ask like that. It would be difficult to say if she really went through with it, as it might lead to their separation.
Her clouded thoughts in sleep inevitably turned toward her husband’s first wife.
Catherine Seyra. A perpetual rival that Ellie couldn’t beat.
She was beautiful and eternally pure, the first wife of the Duke, also known as his first love… wasn’t that what they said?
‘No need to worry. I wanted to share everything with him for the first time, but I couldn’t do anything. I have one question. Why did you have to die?’
If that woman had been alive and well, I probably wouldn’t be here, would I? Maybe that would have been better. If I had known it would be so painful after being with him like this!
The Duke’s first wife passed away, leaving behind only a single daughter.
The whole island was in turmoil. Not everyone expressed genuine sympathy. Some thought the Duke, who was deeply saddened, was too young, and they saw an opportunity to vie for the position of second wife.
Nevertheless, he won’t come to me. It’s time to give up on this foolish desire to be close to him even a little bit, isn’t it? It’s not me…
She had almost resigned herself to this state.
Years passed after Catherine’s funeral, and Ellie gradually let go of her lingering first love.
Unexpectedly, his proposal reached her.
It came with some challenging conditions.
She could only enter the permitted areas of the Duke’s estate, and guest invitations were severely restricted. It seemed that the Duke disliked the idea of the Miltons wandering around his estate. The proposal carried hints of a pre-emptive rejection of any interference from her family.
But what did it matter?
Ellie’s heart, which was trying to let go of a hopeless first love, was swept up by a spring breeze. Her parents, who had suffered through terrible poverty, were equally delighted. They thought, “If she becomes the Duke’s daughter-in-law, he might help us with something!”
On the day she set off to the Duke’s estate for the wedding, the weather was exceptionally pleasant.
The sound of flowing water was like a xylophone, and even the mysterious fragrance of flowers could be sensed through the trees. Despite the carriage’s windows being tightly shut, the smell couldn’t be kept out.
Up until that day, she was filled with the excitement of spring.
The Duke’s second wedding might not have been extravagant, but the moment she faced the wedding dress was unforgettable.
A beautiful dress adorned with dazzling beads.
And… that dress, now quietly decaying in a corner of the dressing room. Buried for three years, it was in the same state as Ellie’s sorrow.
She sobbingly called the nickname she had chosen for the Duke.
Instead of sweetly whispering in his ear, she wanted to claw at her own heart and tear it apart. She wished this love would painfully wither and be cast into the river of death. Then she wouldn’t suffer any longer.
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