“Your Highness, haha stop it. What’s the point of behaving like this if someone sees?”
“I’m telling you, no one dares to interfere.”
“But this is still a garden.”
Tristan said as he untied Mirabella’s corset, exposed her breasts, and pressed his face between them. The wind blew between her two breasts, making a swooshing sound, as he mockingly teased. Suddenly, the sound of footsteps was heard.
“Oh my! Someone is coming!”
Mirabella hurriedly covered her chest and re-fastened her corset. Tristan also stopped moving and stared at the direction of the sound. Rustling in the darkness, the shrubbery seemed to be wriggling as if something would pop out at any moment. It wouldn’t bother others, but if the emperor, the crown prince, or even Eliana were to find out, it would be a slightly troublesome situation that would make him uneasy. Despite such tension, what suddenly appeared in the thicket, rustling and all, was just a rabbit.
Tristan let out a deep sigh and said.
“See? I told you no one comes here.”
Mirabella, whose nerves were frayed unnecessarily, found this situation to be quite exhausting.
“Until when do we have to keep meeting like this, hiding away?”
“When did we meet in hiding? You were my partner today.”
Mirabella stuck out her lips and glanced at Tristan.
“They ignore my existence at the palace. The prince proposed to me, so why is Eliana still living in the palace? It’s frustrating, really.”
“Because His Majesty’s intentions are firm.”
Tristan, seemingly tired of the repeated argument, flopped onto the grass. With a playful smile, Mirabella climbed on top of Tristan’s body.
“It’s been two years already. Can’t you just tell His Majesty that you want to marry me now?”
Wrapping his arms around Mirabella’s waist, Tristan swiftly slipped his hand inside her skirt. Mirabella, as if accustomed to such actions, readily opened a path for his hand.
“I can’t stand women who whine. Will you keep whining?”
“Well… It’s because of my pride… Hm.”
Mirabella murmured tears onto Tristan’s fingers, trying to look pitiable.
“Are you flaunting your ego in front of me now?”
“No…that’s not it…ah.”
“Mirabella, I can break up with you anytime. So just speak. I’ll let you go freely.”
“Hmph…I don’t want to…”
“Then stop talking nonsense and spread your legs.”
With a satisfied smile, Tristan lifted Mirabella’s skirt and entered inside her. In the depths of the palace’s garden, the secretive and sensual moans of the two lovers echoed.
* * *
After the banquet, Eliana returned to the Imperial Palace with her maid, Sienna, who took care of her. The tightly laced corset was impossible to put on or take off without someone’s help. Eliana seemed somewhat tired of this lifestyle.
“Now I have to go to the banquet, right?”
“I don’t know about other things, but you must attend the official palace banquet once a month. You know it well.”
“What would I do without a partner? As the designated prince’s consort, no one would ask me to dance.”
Today, Tristan once again escorted Mirabella. Eliana watched them from a corner of the banquet hall. She observed them happily conversing, dancing, and drinking champagne. Why did Eliana come to the capital? What was she hoping for?
“Sienna, if someday I return to being a commoner and go back home…”
“Eliana, why are you talking like that?”
Eliana looked at the startled Sienna and smiled slightly.
“I just had that thought. Let’s just be friends. You can talk to me comfortably.”
Sierra spoke courageously, hiding her bitter feelings.
“Miss Eliana, you will become the princess consort. Just wait and see. Soon, His Highness will understand the profound intentions of His Majesty. Don’t be too disheartened.”
Upon Sierra’s comforting words, Eliana smiled faintly. Sierra had been by Eliana’s side since she entered the palace. Without Sierra, Eliana would have returned to Yust long ago.
“Thank you, Sierra.”
Layer by layer, the dresses were taken off, revealing Eliana’s fair skin. After shedding the constricting corset, Eliana took a deep breath and exhaled.
“Whew… Now it feels like I can breathe. Nobles are truly amazing. How can they wear this every day?”
“That’s because they are nobles. Among the nobles outside the imperial family, you, Eliana, are the highest. Even if it’s uncomfortable, you have to endure it. You know, right?”
“I know. So for gatherings, I must wear a corset. Even if I forget the dress, I won’t forget the corset.”
While listening to Sierra’s nagging, Eliana entered the prepared bathtub. As Sierra carefully wiped her body next to her, the fatigue from the day dissipated. On days with parties or special events, she would fall ill from the preparations all day long. Hair, dress, and accessories had to be prepared a week in advance, and it took a whole day to get dressed on the day itself.
She came to the imperial court after she first saw Tristan, who was her age, when she was 18, and decided to marry him. It’s been two years now. The wedding will take place in a few days. But Tristan has not given Eliana any room to breathe.
As Eliana became tired from those thoughts, she rested her head against the bathtub and lay down comfortably. Then, she absentmindedly looked at the steam-filled bathroom ceiling and asked Sierra.
“Sienna, did you hear too?”
“Yes? What is it?”
“Rumor has it that the Prince proposed to Mirabella.”
“Yes? Ah… yes, I heard. But it’s not true. It’s just a baseless rumor, so don’t worry about it.”
“Yeah… It must be a baseless rumor, right?”
Before leaving Yust, she made a promise to her father. To be happy, no matter what. But is Eliana truly happy now?
She learned, practiced, taken exams, and even mastered court etiquette through boring liberal arts classes and the aristocratic lifestyle for a solid two years. It wasn’t an easy task for Eliana, who had lived freely.
Although she worried about leaving her father alone if she entered the palace right away, the thought of becoming a princess consort eased her concerns. It would bring a comfortable life and relieve her father’s hardships, so she no longer needed to hesitate and delay.
Furthermore, during those days of struggling with her feelings for Tristan, her affection for him continued to grow. While Tristan might remember Eliana as a commoner who threw dung at him, Eliana was different.
Even after the humiliating incident in the stable, Tristan still shone brightly in Eliana’s eyes. It was astonishing to learn that the man she encountered that day was the prince. But more than that, she was delighted that he was the man she would marry.
He stared at me with contempt, as if he despised me. I thought of the fairy tale about the prince and princess who lived happily ever after without any obstacles, and I thought that I would also become like that. My father smiled sadly as he looked at his daughter. Now that I think about it, my father must have guessed everything. Eliana wasn’t a princess from a fairy tale, after all.
“Sigh. It’s all my fault. It wasn’t an easy decision back then…”
While self-blaming in the bathtub, someone rudely burst open the door.
Eliana and Sienna shouted in surprise simultaneously. Tristan strode in and audaciously pushed Sienna, who dared to block his path, out the door.
Before Sienna could get up from falling to the floor, Tristan swiftly approached and slapped her.
“If you dare to mention this incident to Father, I’ll pluck out your tongue before you even reach him.”
Tristan, who slammed the bathroom door shut, sat on the chair next to the bathtub with a cold expression on his face.
“Don’t you have any shame? Aren’t commoners capable of feeling embarrassed?”
“You came in uninvited. What are you saying out of the blue?”
“Attending a banquet without an escort? What audacity. Have you properly learned imperial etiquette? Or is your comprehension lacking?”
Eliana listened with one ear as if she had heard it one or two times before.
“I didn’t want to go either, but I have to go. It was a banquet I have to attend.”
Tristan snorted in disbelief.
“Ha! Who do you think you are?”
“The future prince consort. I will become the Duchess eventually.”
With a laugh that seemed to be in awe, they looked at Eliana and said,
“You really have all sorts of tricks.”
“The ‘all sorts’ you’re talking about, that’s the authority His Majesty the Emperor has given me. I hope you wouldn’t speak like that.”
Looking down at the audacious Eliana, Tristan saw her defiant expression and a smirk formed on one corner of his mouth.
“Sure. It’s excessive for the price of losing an arm. I like your spirit.”
Without hesitation, Eliana retaliated with a splash of water on Tristan, who was proudly showing off his heavily scarred body.
“Ouch! What are you doing?”
Eliana’s hands tightened in frustration as she watched Tristan take a solid dose of water to the face. If she had been right in front of him, she would have slapped him.
“Don’t insult my father!”
“How dare you?”
Instead of replying, Eliana gathered water in her hands once again and sprayed Tristan with it, as if firing a cannon.
“Ah! Are you insane? I won’t leave you alone!”
Part of her wanted to grab a bucket of water and dump it on his head, but this was the best she could do with nothing on. Tristan stepped forward and grabbed her arm roughly, and Eliana slapped and clawed at his arm.
“Come out right now! Let me make sure you understand your place properly!”
“No! Let go!”
Tristan repeatedly grabbed and let go of Eliana’s hand and arm, and eventually slipped on the wet floor, falling into the bathtub with a thud.
Taking advantage of Tristan’s upper body being submerged in the water, Eliana quickly got out of the bathtub and put on her robe. When she turned around, she saw Tristan’s buttocks shaking from side to side. She couldn’t help but burst into laughter.
Tristan, with his head popping out of the water, giving Eliana, who grabbed her stomach and chuckled, a menacing look as if he wanted to kill her.