Inside the wagon dimly lit by outside lanterns.
Every time the carriage swayed, Natalie jumped up and down as if in competition.
The prince sat across from her and stared at her.
His stare was uncharacteristic.
He was a prince nicknamed as an angel. Natalie felt uneasy and wondered what was going to happen.
“Miss Dowse, I am a merciful man and I will give you a choice.”
Of course. There always seemed to be a way out. Natalie lifted her gaze, looking for a way to survive.
“Yes. Two options.”
When their eyes met again, the prince smiled in a way that seemed almost affectionate. Natalie was momentarily relieved.
“There’s being removed the moment you step out of the carriage, and then there’s marrying me.”
Natalie asked, making a face. Natalie was a country bumpkin, but as a baron’s daughter, she knew it was a very unseemly thing to dare to blush and question a royal. But it was a reflex, and she couldn’t help it.
Luckily, the prince didn’t call her out on her disloyalty.
“What can I do when you’ve overheard everything.”
Instead, he says that since she’s overheard all his secrets, there is nothing she can do about it.
“Personally, I recommend you stay married to me for a year and then become a divorcee. I’m sure you’ve heard me say it before, but my dream is to be a divorced man.”
The prince adds with a smirk.
The words ‘So, are you suggesting that we get divorced now?’ caused Natalie’s throat to tighten up. However, she couldn’t bring herself to ask because she was afraid that the prince might answer with a fresh and cheerful voice, ‘Yes, that’s right.’
Death or marriage. Natalie realized she would never get away with listening in on his secret. Her throat burned with danger.
“…Please don’t kill me.”
Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me, Natalie cried.
Her life was already so twisted that she couldn’t live a normal life like everyone else, but she didn’t want to die at this age. She didn’t immediately say, ‘Yes, then I will choose to marry.’
Although Natalie could understand that the prince’s dream involved a divorce, she had never once dreamed of being a divorced woman in her life. It was no wonder, as divorce was a very rare occurrence.
The prince looked pitifully sorry for her.
“Of course, I want to spare you, too.”
Natalie’s eyes fluttered pleadingly, as if to ask for more mercy.
“You’re not exactly my first choice for a bride.”
Natalie nodded eagerly, knowing he was right.
But the prince smirked, once again defying her expectations.
“But now that you’ve heard everything, can anything be done?”
“But I really…”
“I don’t want to make any unnecessary sacrifices. Your resume alone makes you an excellent bride. It’s also efficient since there’s no need to explain the plan twice.”
Natalie shook her head in disbelief.
“The more I think about it, the more I can’t think of a better woman to be my bride. What do you think?”
The prince whispered to the woman who must have been the worst bride in society.
Let’s get married and get divorced.
“You must not have met any man like me, either.”
Oh my. He must be crazy. The prince is definitely a great bomb wrapped in a pretty shell. Natalie’s eyes darted quickly from side to side, looking for a place to put the bomb.
“You can do a lot in a year as my wife.”
The moment he said that, the moonlight from the clouds leaked through the car window and half-lit his face.
His piercing blue eyes sparkled as if he knew everything about her.
When he trailed off, Natalie caught her breath, screaming inwardly.
“Rebuilding you and your family’s reputation after it was destroyed by your crime of writing pornographic novels.”
Ah. But the prince didn’t stop. He bluntly pointed out Natalie’s flaws.
“Once a reputation is tarnished, it’s difficult to restore it.”
Natalie wanted to hide, anywhere she could. She wanted to open the carriage door and jump out.
“If you become my wife, you could help open up your little sister’s tightly-blocked wedding path, thanks to you.”
Without realizing it, she let out a thin breath. Her mind was filled with her little sister’s face, whose path in life was blocked because of her.
If she could, she would go back in time and live her life again. She’s thought about it hundreds of times, wondering what would have happened if she had acted differently.
But the fairy grandmother didn’t exist, so time just passed by.
The prince was talking about a miracle that only a fairy grandmother could perform.
‘But still, a contract marriage.’
How did it all happen. Natalie slowly groped through the past with a heavy heart. It was a useless thing to do now, but it was instinctual, or something like that.
Three years ago. Spring.
The social season in the capital of the Grand Kingdom of Batten, Duane, has begun.
For unmarried young ladies of marriageable age, it was the beginning of the battle of a lifetime.
From debutantes making their first appearance in society this year to ladies who couldn’t find a husband last year and are attempting to try again, all the ladies who gathered in Duane for the spring were in high spirits.
Except for Natalie Dowse and a few of her closest friends.
Mary, the Heaton family’s young but petulant maid, greeted Natalie’s uninvited visit to the manor.
“I’m afraid you have to get up now. A lady of dignity should already be in the breakfast room.”
“Ah… Mary, I have a terrible hangover. Just for today…”
A voice, as if dying, flowed out from under the roundly wrapped blanket.
Natalie had been partying with her dear friend, the noble Marquise Christina Dothie, at the ball yesterday until it ended. Of course, her cousin Emily Heaton, who was lying in the next room in a similar condition, was also there.
The three women, who got along well in many ways, always stuck together like a single body. This might be one of the reasons why they haven’t married yet, especially the ones with no flaws like them.
“Get a grip, Miss Dowse. No matter how you got home at three in the morning yesterday, our mistress won’t tolerate you missing breakfast.”
Mary had a good voice. Natalie grimaced in pain as the pain of her hangover was instantly multiplied.
‘Mistress’ pertains to Natalie’s aunt, Mrs. Heaton. She was also the mother of Emily Heaton, who had spent the previous night drinking with Natalie until dawn.
Mrs. Heaton is married to the eldest son of the Heatons, a wealthy family of doctors who own a mansion in the most high-valued area of the capital city of Duane. A fortune that would be the envy of anyone who loves the city.
Although her husband has no title, she was living a fairly successful life considering her ambiguous background as the third daughter of a rural aristocratic family.
So she was overflowing with pride in her own accomplishments, and her longing for an aristocratic life was greater than anyone else’s. Being full of vanity and demanding is a bonus.
And it was said that servants resemble their masters. Mary’s voice was sharp once more, urging Natalie on.
Mary had no intention of letting Natalie off the hook. As a last resort, she grabbed the quilt Natalie had wrapped around her like a chrysalis and shook it off, screaming. The result of doing miscellaneous chores was muscles.
“The ten o’clock bell is about to strike! Please be a decent lady and abide by the rules of Heaton Park.”
Unexpectedly slapped by the fluttering duvet, Natalie covered her mouth with her palm in a panic, thinking she might vomit this time.
‘What Heaton Park…. What kind of rules…. It’s ridiculous, really.’
With a groan, she thought to herself.
But what could she do. Just as one must follow the laws of the country they are in, one must follow the rules of the household they reside in.
Natalie was currently in the position of being in debt to Mr. and Mrs. Heaton, living in their mansion called ‘Heaton Park.’ Mrs. Heaton had arbitrarily named the mansion after being impressed by the names of other noble estates, and of course, no one had yet called the mansion Heaton Park. It was just ‘the Heaton residence.’
In any case, the mansion’s mistress and her servants seem to have grown quite fond of the nickname, and they’ve kept it to themselves.
Natalie thought it was just a cute show of pride, and yawned before stretching out.
However, to Mary, the movement of the hungover guest looked like nothing more than a worm wriggling on a white sheet.
However, Natalie was still a legitimate noble baroness. She was the only one among the people in this mansion who was a noble. Even if she were a countryside girl from some remote village like Grand Batten’s south or something called Warfield at the end of the world.
‘That damn, damn thing!’
So Mary could only curse her inwardly. As one of the proud servants of Heaton Park, she found the brazen miss, who was often a burden during the social season when she came to stay with her aunt, with little enthusiasm for finding a husband.
“Rules are rules. Even if you’ve been staying at this house every social season for three years.”
In the end, she vented her frustration by speaking coldly and snappishly, unable to endure it any longer.
“…Okay. I should get up. Yeah, it’s a noble rule of Heaton Park. Getting up now.”
Natalie blinked a few times at the stinging words, then groaned and made a gesture to get up.
Only when Mary was sure that Natalie was really getting up did she start pacing. Without warning, she pulled back the thick curtains covering the window.
With a loud crack, the room was instantly illuminated, revealing Natalie’s jet-black hair and eyes. Against her pale, almost white skin, the lines of her face, though rounded, were sharp and exotic.
Natalie reflexively smirked at the sudden assault of sunlight.
But she didn’t complain. She was not unaware of the strangely cold demeanor of the mansion’s servants, but she shrugged it off each time.
‘Because I don’t want to think about it.’
Natalie made her debut in the social scene two years ago, so technically this is her third year since her debut. This season was already her third.
Which meant it was also her third time living at her aunt’s house.