Of course, it was a ridiculous story.
A conflict between the crown prince and the duke could easily escalate into a fight between the families.
‘Then what could be good for the Crown Prince Rather, the imperial family wants a marriage alliance.’
I thought so in my head, but Garou’s relaxed smile kept bothering me.
He must have known that he would not be able to form a marriage alliance if he tried to step on Alan’s feet like that.
But why was he being so annoying
“…What’s the secret, Lily”
Alan then asked softly.
It’s getting complicated.’
I couldn’t help it but be embarrassed, and the culprit who put me in this situation laughed slyly as if provoking me.
These thoughts were clearly read in Garou’s eyes, bent like a crescent moon.
—‘You can’t say anything, right’
‘Ugh, I’m so frustrated.’
Strangely, in front of Garou, my anger could not be controlled.
I didn’t want to be swayed by him.
I didn’t want to be looked down on.
I really hated him for taking secrets lightly.
I looked straight at Garou and opened my mouth.
“The secret of wanting to run away from Dad.”
Silence fell in the greenhouse.
The wind of early summer blew softly from the open skylight and brushed the surprised faces of the two men.
Alan’s lower lip trembled slightly.
He seemed confused at first glance.
He reached out to me and stopped just before his fingertips touched me.
As if when he touched me even a little, I would disappear.
“Why, from me… Again…”
The low-pitched voice cracked like a land experiencing drought.
I grabbed his hand in a hurry as he paused.
“It’s not that I hate you.”
Alan’s shoulders trembled.
He nodded several times as if contemplating my words.
His pupils, elongated like a crescent moon, were like sharply forged blades.
Every time I looked into those eyes, I felt numb.
“Just sometimes… Because I’m scared of Dad.”
I suppressed my fear and placed strength into the clasped hands.
It was true that I was annoyed by Garou, but I wasn’t saying this without any countermeasures.
There was one weakness in his sly intimidation.
—There was no clear evidence because he simply figured out my escape plan with his intuition.
Hence, I had to take the initiative to reassure Alan before it was too late.
Alan would trust me more than the crown prince, whom he didn’t know which angle he was coming from.
“It’s only times like this when I think like that.
I want to run away to my room and hide.”
“But as expected, I don’t want to be far away from Dad.”
The words came out smoothly.
As I was sincere about everything.
The moment when I unconsciously took out my inner thoughts.
“Here, I am…”
My words clogged up.
Surprised by myself, I widened my eyes.
There was no sound, as if something was stuck in my throat.
‘Go ahead and tell him.
I have to look like I don’t care about running away.’
Even though I chanted this to myself, my mouth did not move.
It wasn’t that I was enchanted, or that I forgot what to say.
The words I was trying to convey were too heavy.
I couldn’t even spit it out of my mouth.
I had a strong intuition like I was struck by lightning.
The moment I spit out these words that lingered on the tip of my tongue, the heart that I had firmly built for four years would crumble.
I finally swallowed what I was going to say.
Instead of spitting out forbidden words, I smiled and acted cute like always.
“Because I love Dad so much.”
Alan loosened his clenched fist.
I didn’t feel any more threatening aura.
I slipped my eyes toward Garou.
“I said that to myself in my dream… Perhaps the Crown Prince heard it there.”
I turned the arrow of the issue to Garou.
Mixing truth and lies.
As expected, Alan raised his eyebrows and turned to Garou.
“Did you dare break into my daughter’s dream”
Garou replaced the answer by feigning innocence.
Alan’s expression gradually became harsh.
It seemed that he would rush and attack Garou at any moment.
But he soon pressed down on his eyelids with the hand that wasn’t held by me.
After a while, he lowered the hand that was covering his face.
His elongated pupils returned to human ones.
He seemed to be conscious of what I said I was scared about.
I patted Alan’s hand, saying it was okay, then turned my head triumphantly to Garou.
—’Now you don’t have anything to say, do you’
I thought Garou would be flustered, but he responded unexpectedly.
The crown prince’s eyes lit up like a person who found a treasure.
His amber eyes were filled with disgusting greed and curiosity.
“I really like you.”
Garou smashed the cookies left in his hand with a crunching sound.
The broken pieces became small chunks of light like dust and scattered around.
As he touched his white wooden ring, he fixed his posture, which had been sloppy all this while.
“Duke, I’m not proposing lightly.”
His demeanor was as serious as ever.
“I can protect the Princess in the safest place in the world.
Doesn’t the Duke want it too”
The eloquent crown prince raised one corner of his mouth obliquely and touched Alan’s wrath again without hesitation.
“A world where no one will ever lose their daughter again.”
The abduction of the princess was a problem that even insiders of the duchy did not recklessly talk about.
Alan’s pupils were torn again after barely returning to their original state earlier.
“It looks like tea time is over.”
Alan stood up and reached out to me.
“Lily, let’s go back to your room.”
I glanced back at Garou and grabbed Alan’s hand.
This much was enough to deal with the bold crown prince.
As I walked to the exit with Alan, Garou called softly from behind.
“I will come again next time! And I’ll bring you an even more beautiful bouquet, Lilietta!”
Alan ignored Garou and wrapped his arm around mine.
Only the unwelcome guest was left in the glass greenhouse.
“As expected, she didn’t fall for it.”
Garou sat down and propped his feet up on the table.
It was an attitude that was too frivolous for a crown prince, but there were no more eyes around to see it anyways.
He recited the princess’ name and took a rose out of the rejected bouquet.
“I mean, the vigilance is strangely strong.
Did she notice anything about me…”
Garou stopped his hand that was spinning the thorny stem like a feather pen.
“…Well, it doesn’t matter.”
His copper-colored hands clenched a handful of fresh flower buds.
The red petals were crumpled in his hand, and a strong rose scent came up.
Garou crushed the petals as if playing with a toy, then soon brushed off the soft pieces left in his hands onto the floor.
In an instant, the remains of shabby flowers colored the smooth marble floor.
Garou watched the scene and gently blinked.
It was nice.
Seeing something he thought as perfect being horribly destroyed always gave him great satisfaction.
“I only thought that the relationship between the Imperial House and the duchy was perfect, but…”
Garou stretched languidly like a cat.
“If we don’t fix it with marriage, we’re in a situation where we can put knives into each other’s throats at any moment.”
He glanced at the empty seat where the princess had been sitting before, then shook his head and laughed.
Garou’s words were not exaggerated.
For thousands of years, Emperor Igdrasil was like a god.
It was thanks to her barrier that kept the people of the empire safe from evil spirits.
However, recently, a newly emerged hero was threatening even the status of the gods.
‘Mad Duke Alan von Bauner.’
When he recaptured the Western Continent using the evil spirit boy, the empire became rather chaotic.
He didn’t know about the princess who was as precious as a flower in a greenhouse, but it had been a long time since factions were established, regardless of the nobility and the common people.
Even on the streets, the followers of each family were fighting constantly.
In the midst of this, the reason the two families did not show their teeth to each other was because of the alliance that had been passed down from generation to generation.
‘But there’s no such thing as an eternal friend in this world’
Garou wiggled his feet that were still on the table.
Now that the balance of power was broken, clashes would be unavoidable unless a new alliance contract was made.
A problem as important as this could never be solved with simple collateral.
There were many princesses in the imperial family, and two princes in the duke family.
But the combination of any of those two meant nothing.
The two families had to sacrifice their most precious blood to each other.
That was the crown prince for the imperial family, and for the ducal family of course…
“Lilietta von Bauner.”
Garou rolled the name of the precious princess in his mouth and grinned.
“My proposal, keep rejecting it.”
Garou was well aware of the reality he faced.
The mad duke, who once searched for his daughter until his family faltered, could not agree to an arranged marriage in hopes of maintaining the alliance.
Even more so, if the marriage partner was a worthless idiot, even if there was a war going on, he wouldn’t give up his daughter.
That was exactly what Garou wanted.
“Because if we don’t form a relationship, the Imperial House and the duchy will no longer be friends.”
This was said not with presumption, but conviction.
“In a place unnoticeable, the alliance will slowly crumble.
Then, when war breaks out and both families lose their strength…”
A cruel smile spread across his lips.
“I’ll take my mother’s place.”
Garou touched the remaining flowers.
His hands gradually turned black.
Then the gorgeous bouquet dried up as if it had been hit by a sandstorm.
After a while, the dried petals shattered.
It was impossible with any existing white magic.
“Then shall I go home There is still work to be done.”
Garou swung his long legs and got up from his seat.
It was humiliating that the proposal was rejected, but it was not enough as a justification to instigate war yet.
A slightly stronger impact was needed to achieve his purpose.