Ugh… I wanted to improve my relationship with Blanche… But to accomplish that, I needed to start by atoning for all of Abigail’s past sins. Almost as proof of that, Blanche didn’t actually accept my apology. She just kept glancing at me periodically with a very confused look on her face.
It’s not like I didn’t understand. And it’s not like I thought she’d just accept my apology right off the bat. However, I apologized for now at least. But it’s like they say, actions speak louder than words, time to focus on that from now on. The right action now would probably be for me to send the girl back at this point. She must be feeling too nervous to stay here any longer. “I must have surprised you. I’m sorry, Blanche. You may go rest now.”
“Oh? Ah, yes, of course….” Looking lost in thought, Blanche finally gained enough composure to stand up. But just as she was giving her farewell and leaving the room, “Kyah!” Blanche bumped into someone entering the room, and ended up falling on the floor as a result.
“B-Blanche!” I found myself shouting her name in surprise. I wanted to help her up, but I had to stop myself when I saw the man who bumped into her. He had black hair just like Blanche, and looked to be in his mid-twenties. The first time I saw him, I was reminded of a single picture from an exhibit I attended at one point in my life; a black leopard. I remember being completely fixated on it, from its fur that looked velvety and regal, to the aura of power and pride emanating from a mere picture. I couldn’t look away from its eyes despite my fear, and ended up staring at it for quite some time; I was completely charmed by the beast.
The man in front of me greatly resembled that leopard; beautiful, charming, and regal in nature. Even the little beauty mark next to his right eye served to make him look even more charming than he already was. Any other woman would blush when faced with a man like this, but I just about hurled several insults upon seeing him before I caught myself. This man is the king, Blanche’s father, and also my husband. Sabelian Friedkin. A man who is my sworn enemy.
All the maids and the servants bowed in his presence. I, too, needed to greet him properly, but there was something more important I had to take care of first. “Are you hurt anywhere, Blanche?” I quickly helped Blanche back to her feet while listening to Sabelian’s voice behind me.
“She lacks awareness of her surroundings.”
Before I could get a word out, his icey voice cut me off. Sabelian viewed his daughter as one might a stranger. His gaze was… indifferent, devoid of any compassion or worry. I didn’t understand how a parent could look at their own child that way. Especially a child as beautiful as Blanche.
But Blanche didn’t even cry. She calmly corrected her posture before properly greeting the king. “My apologies, Father. I’m sorry you had to bear witness to this, Lady Abigail.”
Wait, why are you apologizing? All you did was fall down… And that’s when I noticed something wrong. “Blanche, are you all right?” I carefully held her right arm in my hand, which caused the girl to flinch in pain. Ah, it’s as I feared… No wonder she was babying her right side, she must have injured herself earlier when she fell. “You’ve injured your wrist…”
“Ah, uh. I’m… fine. Really, I’m fine…” Blanche quickly hid her right hand from me, acting as if she got caught doing something wrong. Her gaze immediately went to Sabelian in fear. Seeing Blanche so tormented hurt me inside. She didn’t even cry after she fell…
Sabelian opened his mouth, all the while maintaining his cold voice. “I’ll summon a doctor for you. You may take your leave, Blanche. I have something to discuss with Abigail.”
“….Yes, father.” After giving Sabelian a final bow, Blanche quickly fled, not unlike a small rabbit.
I glared daggers at Sabelian. “Aren’t you being a bit too cruel?”
“In what regard?”
“Your daughter’s hurt… You couldn’t even bring yourself to spare a word of comfort?”
Sabelian slowly tilted his head in mock confusion, his gaze almost piercing me. “How laughable. Since when do you care so much about Blanche?”
“……” I couldn’t refute his words. After all, until recently, no one harassed Blanche more than I did. For me to cover for the girl came off as a bizarre turn of events. “I’ve had a change of heart after my brush with death.”
“Is that so?” His expression indicated he didn’t believe me at all. C’mon, it makes sense for someone to change at least a little bit after a near-death experience, right?
Sabelian slowly made his way to the table, and took up Blache’s vacated seat. The maids scurried over with a new cup of tea. He gestured with a nod of his head for me to sit back down. Don’t treat me like a pet, damn it! That’s not how you ask nicely for someone to do something.
I gritted my teeth as I took my seat. Looking at him from the front like this… He’s a piece of trash, but god be damned if he wasn’t a pretty one.
“Did you also injure yourself? You don’t seem well.”
“The tea is just a little hot.” Using my paltry excuse I forced my gaze away. Ah, I hate this so much. To think drinking tea with a handsome man like this would be so aggravating… Reality really is stranger than fiction.
In many ways, Sabelian was perfect. He was a handsome king, praised for both his wisdom and martial prowess. Big friggen deal, though. His heart was as empty as the desert, and the blood that ran through his veins was as cold as ice.
The first thing I saw when I awoke in my coffin was Sabelian’s face just as he was giving me his final farewells. “Let us never have the misfortune of meeting again in the next life, Abigail.” The moment I heard those words, several memories came flooding into me, which caused me to burst out of the coffin.
Normally, a husband and wife will kiss to seal their vows of eternal loyalty when wed. But Abigail and Sabelian did not kiss. Even worse, they didn’t even share a first dance at the wedding reception. Sabelian left after making some excuse about being tired. And on their first night, Sabelian didn’t even lay a finger on Abigail. He simply said, “Abigail, know this, I won’t ever lay a hand on you.”
Without so much as a reason, he simply turned over and went to sleep, leaving Abigail unable to catch even a wink. They never even held hands. Thanks to all this, Abigail’s pride was absolutely shredded. Devastated by this, she at first answered his cold treatment with her own. But as time went on, it only served to increase her desire for attention. It finally came to a point where she begged him, so badly did she crave his love. “Your Majesty, why do you always keep me at arm’s length? What must I do to earn your love?”
“Do not approach me. Even better, pretend as if you did not exist. No, if you truly desire to please me, act as if you are dead. Only then will you have perfected your role.”
Her thoughts went round in circles wondering why Sabelian rejected her to this extent. She came up with only one conclusion after all that contemplation: she wasn’t beautiful enough for him. Her personality was bad to begin with, but reaching that verdict nearly drove her to insanity. From then on, anyone remotely pretty in the palace would be thrown out. Even Blanche’s suffering originated from this moment.
There’s no denying Abigail was an awful person. I could not, and would not, defend her actions. But I could at least understand her feelings as a fellow woman. A political marriage between two countries, arranged for its benefits, not for love. Even among arranged marriages, hers was especially bad.
Sabelian, that bastard. How could he treats girls like this? Why even marry in the first place? Just thinking about it sent me into a tizzy. I took a swig of some cold water to cool myself off. It didn’t need to be said, but I wasn’t too happy with Sabelin paying me a visit today. And for what reason could he possibly have come? Certainly nothing good. “Your Majesty, may I inquire as to the purpose of this visit?”
“I wished to speak with you regarding your death.”
Death. I flinched a bit upon hearing that word. I set my teacup down and looked at him. “My death?”
“Yes. You were lucky enough to survive, but you were certainly dead at the time. So I looked into the cause.”
My ears perked up at this. The ending of this fairy tale concerned me, but so did Abigail’s death. I heard Abigail death’s appeared as if she was simply asleep. She was only 23, not an age you would expect someone to suddenly pass away. Neither was she sick. That left the most likely conclusion: Murder.
Ugh, I got the chills just thinking about it. I may have died once already, but dying from overworking is completely different from being straight up murdered…
Sabelian continued with his monotone monologue, as if he was reading a passage from a book. “Poison seems most likely. Had we the chance to dissect you, we would have known for sure, however…”
Hey now, could not give me that look when talking about dissecting me?
“I investigated all the servants close to you, but no evidence of attempted murder could be found.”
“…What a pity.” So the person who tried to kill was still walking around somewhere in the palace. Just great. I felt a chill run down my spine.
Unlike me, Sabelian remained as indifferent as ever, and slowly took a sip from his tea before continuing. “Do you remember anything about your death? The investigation would end more swiftly with such information.”
As nice as that would have been… I could only shake my head. “Unfortunately, I do not.” Abigail’s memories came in bits and pieces. Some were crystal clear, others completely absent.
Sabelian lifted his head at my response and quietly stared at me before saying, “Do you remember that event by chance?”
“Six months ago, when you consumed poison.”
Six months ago? I trawled through what few memories I had. Aha… Oh, I do remember. I did consume poison, but…
“… You mean the time I poisoned myself.” Right. Abigail willfully poisoned herself. This was the brilliant plan she came up with to gain Sabelian’s much desired attention. While bedridden, Sabelian did actually visit her. Although initially elated, Abigail soon despaired after Sabelian found out the truth and treated her even worse than before.
He nodded and looked at me again, his piercing gaze trying to dissect me with his eyes. “You wanted my attention again, didn’t you, Abigail?”
TL: Soju Jimmy
Editor/QC: Solistia Cosmopolitan