Meanwhile, Nikolai and Pavtisky soon realized that everyone else had left and they were the only ones in the area.

The spontaneous conversations they’d been having, knowing there were others behind them, had long since ceased.

Their pails were piled high with fish they’d caught in silence.

They were both sitting in their chairs, staring at their rods, when Nikolai broke the silence.

“You know, I don’t have both of my parents.”


“So I was wondering if you could tell me how to be a good husband, since you’re a good father and a good husband.”

Pavtisky shook his head in disbelief.

“If I had stopped her when she said she wanted to have children, my wife would have lived longer. If she hadn’t married an only son like me, she wouldn’t have felt such a responsibility.”

“I’ve never met the Duchess Smirnov in person, and I don’t know if she’s a child-bearing woman, but my guess is that your wife didn’t have children just to keep the family lineage.”


“Because anyone who’s in love thinks about making a family with the person they love and having a child who looks like them.”

Nikolai had fantasized about that sometimes.

A future where children who looked like Katya would run around the grounds of the Grand Ducal Palace.

But it was a vain wish, one that he shouldn’t greedily pursue or dream about.

As he listened to Nikolai’s words, a smile played across his lips, as calm as a lake.

He seemed to be doing well, but every now and then a wave of longing for his wife would wash over him.

The Duchess Smirnov had gained two joys in exchange for prolonging the thin thread of life a little longer.

There are different shapes of happiness in the world.

The Duchess realized this when she held her first child in her arms after a long labor.

She realized that her puzzle of happiness was complete with a husband she loved and children who looked like her.

The joy of watching her daughters grow up was priceless.

So, until the moment she closed her eyes, she didn’t regret her choice.

She only regretted that she couldn’t be there for them more.

Just then, something bit the hook, and the Duke’s line pulled taut from beneath the surface.

The force shook Pavtisky’s body, and Nikolai, who was beside him, grabbed the rod he was holding and threw it in.

Together, with all their might, the two men threw themselves backward with all their strength into the grip of the rod.

The creature from the depths of the lake leaped to the surface, cut the line, and disappeared back down.

At the same time, the father-in-law and son-in-law were pulled backwards together.

“Did, did you see that?”

“Yes, I saw it. A creature that only exists in legends. Has the Duke seen it before?”

“No. This is the first time I’ve has seen one too.”

Wide-eyed, the two men exchanged glances and then burst into laughter, not sure who started first.

Nikolai stood up first, pulling his father-in-law to his feet.

“A legendary creature inhabiting a duke’s estate. Today must be the day of the Duke.”


“The Duke won.”

He pointed to his own wooden barrel, which was barely half full.

Pavtisky’s barrel, on the other hand, was full of fish, so without counting, the fishing match was his to win.

Nikolai quickly reeled in his line to clean up.

But the Duke quickly realized that there was no bait on his hook.

He hadn’t intended to beat his father-in-law from the start. He just wanted to spend quality time with Katya’s family.

“They must have taken the bait and run.”

Nikolai muttered apologetically, feeling his father-in-law’s gaze on him.

Still staring at him, Pavtisky slowly raised his hand with determination and patted his monarch’s arm a couple of times.

“I can’t bring myself to say it, but……. I will truly consider you my son from now on.”

There was a slight tremor in his voice, but no fear.

“They say a son-in-law’s love is like that of a mother-in-law1this saying implies that a son-in-law treats his mother-in-law with the same love, care, and respect as he would his own mother. It reflects the idea of familial love and respect, suggesting that a good son-in-law should treat his wife’s mother as well as he treats his own mother, but since there isn’t a mother-in-law, if it’s alright with you, I will try to take on the role of son-in-law’s love.”

Nikolai smiled wryly at her trembling but sincere words.

“I don’t have parents, so I don’t have a family to share my love with either. That’s why I will devote all of my heart to loving and protecting Tia, and I will make sure to make her happy without a doubt.”

Seeing the sincerity in his son-in-law’s eyes, Pavtisky had no choice but to trust his vow.

Was this the look he had given his father-in-law when he first visited his wife’s family to ask permission to marry her?

The worry and anxiety of entrusting your child’s future to someone you don’t even know is endless.

Pavtisky recalled his daughter’s words during the trial.


“A man who loves me for who I am without trying to change me to suit his own tastes, that’s the Grand Duke.”


He realized.

The idea of handing over his daughter’s life to his son-in-law was wrong.

Marriage does not make a couple’s lives dependent on each other. It makes them partners, living their own lives but relying on each other and walking in the same direction.

Nikolai couldn’t have been a better person to walk alongside his daughter.

“So many fresh catfish were caught today. When I return home, I will personally prepare a delicious stew to serve to His Highness.”

Pavtisky had cooked for his wife often in her lifetime, and was particularly confident when it came to fish soup.

But there was more to it than just being a confident cook.

There was a culture in Hersen where a mother-in-law would treat her son-in-law to a homemade meal before marriage.

It was virtually unheard of for a skilled artisan to cook for his son-in-law by hand.

Pavtisky really meant to fulfill his promise to love his son-in-law.

Nikolai, sensing his sincerity, smiled.

“I can’t wait to see what you’ve cooked.”


At that time, on a hill far away from them.

An assassin hid in the bushes, pointing a gun at two men standing on the shore of a lake.

Yesterday, he had seen a vendor selling fishing rods coming and going from the Duke’s estate, and he had been rewarded with the knowledge that the Duke of Smirnov frequented a favorite fishing spot.

By arriving early and taking up a position, he was able to avoid the fierce stares of the Grand Duke’s knights.

He was about to pull the trigger, and before his brain could register the approaching figure behind him, a shod foot flew into his face.

The assassin, knocked off his feet by the weighted kick, stumbled and reached for his missing gun, but the enemy was faster.

In one swift motion, the assailant, who had fallen to the ground with a gun in hand, aimed the barrel at the assassin’s forehead and pulled the trigger.

Looking up, he was surprised to see the face of his adversary before him, a man he assumed to be a knight because of his breeches.

It was a strawberry-blonde woman, presumably the Grand Duke’s lover.

“Who sent you, you’d better speak up if you want to live.”

Peeling off the assassin’s mask, Katya pressed the butt of her rifle to the man’s forehead, applying pressure.

It had been an empty gun with no gunpowder at the inn, and she’d been caught off guard, but the odds were in her favor now.

The grass was slippery from the dew, but the crunching of footsteps on the dry ground muffled it.

The sounds of Boris and the knights waiting nearby were getting closer and closer.

“Over here!”

The man swallowed the poison he had hidden in his cheek just as Katya turned her head for the briefest of moments to call out.

It had been the condition when he’d been hired to kill in the first place.

To commit suicide upon capture.

It was an unavoidable option for the assassins, as their families and friends would suffer if they were captured and forced to confess their involvement.

“Hey, wake up!”

Katya, realizing the man was in a strange state, holstered her gun and slapped him several times across the cheek.

His eyes opened, but he coughed up black blood and died instantly.

“Your Highness!”

“Are you unharmed?”

The knights swarmed around her, separating her from the body, which had frozen into a pillar of ice.

Katya sank to the floor in shock.

What kind of assassin would take his own life?

Who were these people to make this man choose to take his own life without hesitation upon discovery?

‘How cruel does a person have to be to do such a thing with a human life?’

Katya was beginning to get a glimpse of the kind of world she was about to enter.

A place where evil men like that lurked everywhere, where people’s lives were like flies.

“Are you all right, Your Highness?”

Boris asked cautiously, his tone filled with concern.

While some of the knights went out to search for the assassin’s crew, the rest of the group collected the body.

They moved in unison, as if this were not the first time this had happened.

Katya hadn’t even realized that the assassin she’d seen at the inn that day had taken his own life.

Now that she had seen him die, she was surprised.

“This assassin, who sent him?”

“……I don’t know.”

Boris held his tongue, though he had a hunch who sent them.

It was a crime to accuse the Grand Duchess and the boyanins without proof.

Nikolai had firmly instructed him not to speak out, even if it were revealed that someone had ordered the assassination, for fear of harming his men.


Meanwhile, Bianca was walking with Luka and Laika on the other side of the lake.

Luka was still a little scared of Laika, but he had seen her so often that he had gotten used to her and could be in the same room with her as long as they were separated by a certain distance.

The two young men talked about a lot more than just the lesson.

It was mostly small talk, but Luka was happy to be spending this time with her.

“So, you’ve been traveling around the north as a tutor?”


“Then you must know a lot of nobles.”

“Sort of.”

As Luka wondered where she was going with this, Bianca asked again.

“Did you happen to hear about the boy who saved the drowning girl thirteen years ago?”

  • 1
    this saying implies that a son-in-law treats his mother-in-law with the same love, care, and respect as he would his own mother. It reflects the idea of familial love and respect, suggesting that a good son-in-law should treat his wife’s mother as well as he treats his own mother
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