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Is my horoscope filled with marriage prospects this year? It seems like every man I meet wants to marry me.
Iva, no longer surprised, subtly pulled away the hand that Bridget’s lips had just touched, wearing an expression that said “How cliché.”
“I believe in remaining unmarried.”
Bridget, seeming to have expected her response, chuckled.
“Haha. I was jesting, but such an immediate rejection is a tad hurtful.”
“You’re laughing though?”
“Your expressions are so transparent, it’s really quite cute.”
“I’d say I lean more towards being beautiful than cute.”
Hearing her responding even more brazenly to the compliment, Bridget let out a hearty laugh.
“Hahaha. Indeed, you truly are beautiful. The kind that anyone would fall for at first sight.”
“Well, I hear that often.”
“If you marry a Fenet citizen, you’ll have the opportunity to choose your nationality, allowing you to come to Fenet.”
Bridget raised his hand and pointed to his left.
Following his gesture, at the end of her gaze stood a lilac carriage adorned with Fenet’s emblem.
“That’s my carriage.”
“Wait, am I being kidnapped right now?”
“That sounds like an interesting idea.”
While Bridget was laughing, Iva was serious.
She had thought it was just a brief stroll, so the presence of the carriage was quite unexpected.
Iva subtly distanced herself from Bridget.
Noticing her movement, Bridget closed the gap between them in a single stride with his long legs.
“I’m not suggesting we leave right this moment. I will be departing the Bergen Empire tomorrow. I will wait here for you until midnight.”
From his clothing, Bridget took out a wooden pocket watch to show her the time directly.
“Take your time to think about it. Consider where you can better showcase your abilities. I’m certain it will be a place more fitting for you than here.”
His tone was quite confident. This instilled a bit of trust in him in Iva’s heart.
It might be an opportunity to flow out of the stifling story she had been trapped in.
Yet, she worried that leaving like this would resolve everything. If only the lives of her parents, Jane, and the mansion’s servants, who had died unjustly due to her in her past life, were assured, she would leave without looking back.
In this unpredictable situation, she feared the story might distort if she left for Fenet, affecting her dear family.
Iva intently stared at Bridget’s lilac carriage in the distance.
* * *
The last task of the envoy party – only the final report to Claude remained, and Iva headed towards the western palace.
She was unsettled by Bridget’s proposal, making her steps lack their usual vigor.
Lost in thought and looking at the ground as she walked, she heard a voice.
“Hey, you’ll break your nose if you’re not careful.”
Lifting her head at the familiar voice, she saw Chase waiting for her in front of the Western palace.
“If you trip and break your nose, will your face swell up again?”
“Want to see your nose break first?”
When she clenched her fist, Chase didn’t add another word. However, he instantly noticed Iva’s distressed expression.
“What’s on your mind? You always look down and walk when you’re troubled.”
“I’ve had a lot on my mind lately.”
“Is it because the party is over? If you’re feeling that way, how about working exclusively for His Highness Claude?”
“Do you think I wouldn’t realize you’re just trying to exploit me?”
“Why not, when you’re so competent? It would strengthen your family’s position too. Besides, His Highness seems to hope you’d take on future assignments.”
“What? Did you forget I agreed only to this task? Just leave me alone!”
Her frustration made her words come out sharper than intended. Realizing this, Iva quickly apologized to the slightly taken-aback Chase.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap like that.”
“No worries. You’ve been overwhelmed, it’s understandable to be on edge.”
Chase reassured her, patting her shoulder gently. Encouraged by his kind touch, Iva ventured a question.
“Chase, what if – just hypothetically – I said I wanted to leave this place and go far away?”
“Far away? Like on a trip?”
“No, not a trip. Like leaving for good.”
“With your parents?”
“No, just me. Not even taking Jane.”
“Were things that hard for you?”
Worried she felt this way due to the task he’d asked of her, Chase hastily cradled Iva’s face, inspecting it. All the while, he playfully pinched her soft cheeks.
“I said it’s a ‘what if,’ just a hypothetical scene!”
As Iva tried to pull away from Chase’s grasp, he held onto the tips of her fingers again.
“I said, don’t leave.”
Chase looked at Iva with eyes that went beyond earnest; they were grave.
“Without you… who would I tease and have fun with?”
“Hey, are you kidding me?! Always thinking of teasing me?!”
In her growing seriousness, Iva forcefully shrugged off Chase’s hand and gave his shoulder a good punch. He laughed playfully, but there was a trace of sadness in his laugh.
“Why the sudden urge to leave?”
“Just wondering if everyone would be happier and unharmed if I left this place. If I was gone… Ouch!”
This time, Chase gave Iva a gentle knock on her head.
“What are you doing?!”
“Why would you say something like that? Imagine how heartbroken Jane and your parents would be if they heard.”
“It’s for the sake of those precious to me that I say such things.”
“Then you should want to stay with them even more. You know that everyone feels happiness when they are with you.”
She couldn’t retort to that statement. The face of Jane, who found fulfillment with Iva, and the smiling faces of her ever-supportive parents floated in her mind.
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