Bridget, who was taken aback, held her breath. She couldn’t believe she was in the same room as Dominic Mayer!
Whether he said anything or not, Dominic merely glanced briefly at Bridget without showing any particular reaction. He just crossed his legs and continued reading his book without interruption.
The book, with a red velvet hardcover and elegant gold embossing, seemed somewhat worn from being read repeatedly. It was a book on imperial studies that Bridget had seen him reading under a poplar tree.
‘…Completely ignoring me.’
Although she had calmed down a bit from her initial surprise, Bridget didn’t want to be the first to start a conversation, unwilling to give the impression that she cared from that side.
‘Fine, I’ll ignore you too.’
Bridget leaned back in her chair and, with a puff of white steam, the train started moving. The sound of the wheels gripping the rusty tracks, the shifting of gravel, and the loud chugging of the engine followed.
The scenery outside the window gradually began to move. The train passed the Terrace House Street and the area near the university, gradually picking up speed in silence.
Turning her gaze from the window, Bridget briefly glanced at Dominic.
No matter how much she tried to avoid eye contact, her gaze kept drifting towards him. Whether it was because of his annoyingly handsome appearance or because she wanted to be humble and ask for something, she couldn’t even figure it out herself.
Or perhaps it was because of his more relaxed demeanor than usual that created an unusual atmosphere, causing her gaze to keep wandering.
Bridget frowned reflexively.
‘Come to think of it, where did Chris Reynolds go? He used to stick to Dominic like a shadow every day. Did he go back to his hometown first? Should I make just one more favor when no one’s around? Perhaps this is a chance given by the heavens. …Oh, Bridget! Why do you keep trying to do humiliating things? Do you think Dominic will understand? It’s obvious you’ll be ignored again. Mind your own business, please!’
It felt like her mind was being swept away in a whirlpool. Bridget closed her eyes tightly, trying not to entertain any more futile thoughts.
A deep pit formed above her tightly closed eyes. She tried to choose a different topic to concentrate her mind on and finally thought of her family.
‘I wish I could see Dad today…’
Then, surprisingly, her heart became calm. With her eyes closed, Bridget’s body soon relaxed into slumber.
The touch of the velvet chair was incredibly cozy.
* * *
‘If you become the crown princess, maybe?’
When Bridget opened her eyes from a terrible nightmare, the train was running through the countryside, away from the city center.
She wiped off her cold sweat and looked out the window at the wide expanse of green. After passing through the pitch-black tunnel and the rugged mountain ranges, her gaze lingered on the sunset-dyed plain. There, a familiar sign stood.
[6 miles to Loomwood Garden]
Bridget’s heart finally began to settle at the sight of the nostalgic name. Her hazel eyes that had distanced themselves from the window turned towards Dominic.
He had put a book down on the adjacent seat and was gazing out beyond the window with an expression that Bridget couldn’t fathom. Seeing him without a worry made her suddenly feel irritated.
‘Why are you so calm when I’m having nightmares because of you?’
It is impossible to ignore and disregard someone to this extent. Bridget impulsively called him in anger.
Dominic slowly turned his head.
A subtle emotion appeared on his previously expressionless face. Bridget, who was trying to read that emotion, finally figured out what he was feeling.
Narrowing her eyes, Bridget quietly observed Dominic.
‘Why is he like this?’
Ah, perhaps he couldn’t see my face properly because of the wide brim of my bonnet. That’s why he treated me like a stranger earlier.
Bridget briefly regretted calling Dominic, but her feelings quickly subsided. If it wasn’t intentional disregard, then it would be worth suggesting again.
Well… it’s about the group class. Some might find it persistent, but it meant a lot to her.
Removing her hat hastily, Bridget said,
“I’m Bridget Dashwood.”
Dominic’s eyebrows noticeably narrowed. It was, how should I say, a more bewildered look. Despite the strange emotion, Bridget calmly added.
“I was grateful earlier. So… I mean, you caught me from almost falling.”
Dominic made even more of an impression. It seemed as though he was observing her reaction.
Why on earth are you behaving like that? Bridget clenched her fists tightly, trying to give a composed smile in response to his inexplicable reaction.
“Yes, that was me. Haha, fate is a strange thing, isn’t it?”
Dominic’s frozen expression finally relaxed.
After that, he let out a barely audible sigh and turned his head with an extremely annoyed expression. It was a signal for her not to speak anymore.
Bridget’s cheeks blushed with a perfect sense of being ignored. If she had been an ordinary noblewoman, she might have given up at this point due to her dignity. But Bridget was not a noblewoman, and she had no pride to uphold.
In other words, she had no intention of backing down after summoning her courage. Bridget, with her straightened posture, asked again.
“Are you still not willing to put me in the group?”
“You asked me to join Lord Ellington, but…”
Bridget stopped herself from bringing up the topic of Hugo Ellington and what kind of man he was.
Anyway, in this society, even the slightest scandals (let alone a scandal involving a man) can be a significant flaw for a lady, no matter how small it may be. Therefore, in a situation where she didn’t know what kind of person Dominic was, it was impossible to casually bring up personal matters.
Besides, it was unlikely that the arrogant man would believe a commoner woman.
Bridget looked at Dominic with desperate eyes and spoke.
“I can’t lay out all the details, but anyway, there’s no one else I can ask for help. Others would ridicule and mock me just by looking at me… I can’t even bring myself to tell the story. Please, I’m asking you again. I really need to graduate.”
Despite her earnest plea, Bridget became even more anxious as Dominic remained unresponsive.
“If you’re angry and not responding just because I’ve been snooping around, I apologize once again. I truly feel sorry for interrupting your reading. But to reject my request without even considering it, without a hint of sympathy…”
“Rejection, Bridget Dashwood.”
Dominic finally spoke, sounding somewhat tired.
And with a tense posture that caught Bridget’s attention, he added in a somewhat reckless manner.
“I have set conditions. You responded to them, and willingly at that. All you have to do is fulfill the conditions.”
Being a crown princess is an absurd condition! Bridget trailed off the end of her sentence instead of saying it firmly.
“After all that rhetoric, have you suddenly lost your confidence?”
Yes, of course, I feel uncertain. So please, how can this not happen? If only I could kneel instead…
‘Bridget, please stop!’
I thought I had completely abandoned my pride, but apparently not. She couldn’t say a word. Bridget blamed herself for becoming increasingly humble and lowered her head.
“You should have at least begged. If you had done that, I might have pitied you and shown some mercy.”
Unable to bear his rude remarks any longer, Bridget stood up abruptly from her seat. Her fists were clenched, and her arched eyebrows were raised higher than usual.
“That will never happen!”
She shouted, her voice muffled by the loud jolting of the train, but the meaning must have been understood. Bridget held onto the leather handle tightly and glared fiercely at Dominic.
“Is that so?”
Dominic replied with a grumbling tone. Then, seemingly uninterested, he turned his gaze towards the window.
It had reached the point where being mocked seemed preferable. Bridget slumped into her seat, glaring at his indifferent face reflected in the window, her face flushed with anger.
Another uncomfortable silence ensued. She clenched and unclenched her fist, as if pondering, and mustered up the courage to speak. Suppressing some of her intensified emotions, she said,
“But that’s truly an impossible task. There’s not even a slight chance, and I’m sure you know that as well, my lord.”
From any angle, it was undoubtedly a hopeless endeavor, a fact Bridget was well aware of.
However, throughout her university life, she had been constantly dismissed. Consequently, what she had held back finally burst out, leaving her no trace of rationality.
Yet, even after acknowledging that fact, Dominic’s attitude remained unchanged. He merely sneered instead of giving an answer.
“Why on earth are you mocking me? Do you find my efforts to graduate ridiculous?”
At Bridget’s firm question, Dominic finally turned his head.
“I got into university based on my abilities. But the professors are making an effort to prevent a female student from graduating. That’s an unfair situation. And you’re complicit in that unfairness.”
No flicker of doubt could be detected in his eyes, which had darkened and become even deeper. Dominic locked eyes with her for a moment, then slowly opened his mouth.
“I wish this sentimental self-pity would go somewhere else.”
“What did you say…?”
“Think about your reputation at university. I don’t particularly enjoy catching rumors out of thin air, but when you immediately accepted my proposal, those baseless rumors took on a plausible form.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. Accepting someone as careless as you in my group is out of the question.”
Dominic raised an eyebrow and continued.
“Do I have to accept anyone as long as they’re good? Well, if not accepting you as a member means I’m participating in an injustice, then I’ll gladly accept it.”
“I despise people who don’t understand their place the most. That should be the same for the Crown Prince. You’ve already accepted my proposal without understanding your place. And that’s the end of it. Do you understand?”
His posture, while scolding her with crossed legs, was undeniably arrogant. But there was not a single incorrect word.
Bridget Dashwood should have been more cautious.
His words pierced her heart like a wound, but Bridget had no intention of backing down.
She grabbed her skirt and asked with a resolute voice.
“……So how can I get you to acknowledge my position?”
Bridget locked eyes with Dominic and pondered deeply.
Although she is not a crown princess, she needs something equivalent to a crown princess. She has to have enough value to warrant Dominic’s recognition, but it mustn’t be something easily attainable. But it couldn’t be a completely hopeless endeavor either.
What could it be……’
After a prolonged silence, Bridget finally came up with something. It, too, seemed absurd, but if she could somehow make good use of her connections, there might be a slight possibility.
Her firmly closed lips parted.