Lucia - Chapter 3
Chapter 3 Shall We Marry? (1)
edited: anonymous(main) + lili
She didn’t intend on eavesdropping, at first. She had busily followed after him in the same direction until he stopped.
‘How in the world do I start this conversation?’
Her mind felt like it was stuck in a black hole as she imagined a dark future. She had neglected to prepare for this moment because she had been so fervently trying to simply meet him in person. However, her feet were already moving in his direction. When she discovered him, Lucia paused her steps and hesitated. Just then, she had lost her chance to another woman.
She was already much too close to leave. She was afraid of being discovered, so she crouched down behind a tall clump of grass. She didn’t want to listen to their conversation, but she couldn’t help hearing them due to such a close proximity.
‘Lady Lawrence…? Is she… Sofia Lawrence…?’
Sofia was famous inside of Lucia’s dream. Lucia didn’t have any friendly ties with her, but Lucia had seen her a handful of times. There were many beauties in high society, but Sofia had reached the pinnacle among them all. If one were to use a comparison to nature’s food chain, she would be among the top predators.
‘Sofia Lawrence… was his ex-lover?’
Lucia was already aware he had numerous lovers. To make it worse, he switched partners frequently without hesitation. Every partner of his had breasts as big as watermelons, waists as thin as ants, wrapped up with a glamorous face. If one had to pick out a common trait among them all, it had to be that they were all beautiful morons. All the females had been nearly identical to one another, so Lucia had assumed this was his own preference when it came to women.
But Sofia Lawrence was different. Sofia was like a bouquet of white lilies. She had a grand beauty that stood out, even when she was among many other beauties. Her father, a baron, took importance in educating his children, so she was known to be a refined and modest young miss.
‘She’s not modest at all. She’s a wolf in disguise.’
A marquis had fallen in love with her beauty and Sofia had already been married by the time Lucia was actively going around attending parties of high society. The marquis was a widower, but as a daughter of a baron, it would be a suitable marriage. In the distant future, Sofia would die giving birth to a stillborn. Lucia felt odd for some reason.
‘She’s clinging to him so desperately.’
Sofia, a glamorous young miss, had thrown away all her pride and begged. Listening to her words, Lucia felt such pity.
He’s not the only man in this world, you know? Lucia wanted to tell her. But if Sofia insisted that there was only one ‘Hugo Taran’ in this world, Lucia would be helpless and could only keep quiet.
Lucia would never have guessed that she would be able to witness his dating style in such plain view. To top it off, at the worst moment possible.
‘Haa… but still. To think he would be a man who would threaten death to an ex-lover…’
If Lucia was in Sofia’s shoes, she would faint on the spot.
‘This really… far surpasses what I imagined…’
Lucia knew many things about this man, but they were all rumors she had picked up here and there. She didn’t personally know Hugo Taran at all. Inside her dream, she had only greeted him a single time. She had always viewed him from afar. She had drawn an image of him while watching many people surround him during the ball, but all that had shattered into many small pieces. He was far crueler than what she predicted, and most of all, he had no sympathy whatsoever.
‘Contracted marriage…? What if he gets mad at me for proposing such a preposterous thing?’
If she made him mad, would he kill her as well?
‘What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?’
When Lucia was worrying herself to death, he graciously put a stop to her actions.
“Come out. It’s time to stop eavesdropping like a thieving cat.”
Lucia was scared witless. She held her breath for a short moment, but he was calling her out for sure. She decided it was too late to back out now and stood up from her crouched position. As expected, he was looking into Lucia’s very direction.
“I’m… sorry, Your Grace. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop…”
“Aren’t you a little far for a discussion?”
Lucia hesitantly walked through the tall grass and stopped a couple steps away from him.
“Again… I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean to eavesdrop on your conversation. It wasn’t my intention to listen and I won’t say a word about this to others. I promise.”
“It’s fine. What is it that you have to say?”
“You’ve been following me around for the past few days because you have something you want to say to me.”
He wanted to figure out this woman’s goal and hurry home. His earlier entertained mood was no more.
‘Oh my god.’
You knew all along? You knew I was stalking you all this time? Lucia was shocked, no, embarrassed. She didn’t know what she was feeling between the two as she felt her eyes roll to the back of her head. She felt cold sweat drip down her back.
Hugo felt his mood brighten as he watched her freeze like a wax figure. She gave off a different feel up close compared to far away. Her calm voice had a soothing tone and her expressions were very animated. It seemed that her earlier limpy figure was due to the fatigue she had built up all this time. She wasn’t a beauty, but how should one put it?
She seemed like a tiny herbivore. Something like a squirrel or a bunny? He had never looked at a squirrel or a bunny and thought it was cute. They didn’t even have the worth of hunting down. However, he was a man that generously welcomed any contradictions of himself.
“Your purpose. Don’t make me repeat myself many times over.”
“So… it’s like this. Contract… I wanted to propose a contract.”
Hugo was a little disappointed. It was something more boring than he had expected.
“Yes. A contract. A contract to change a life.”
My life. Lucia added inside her own thoughts.
“A contract to change a life, you say?”
That sounded interesting. He murmured ‘hmmm’ to himself.
“Aren’t you lagging behind on your self-introduction?”
“Ah, yes. You’re perfectly right. But as I’ve already told you, this is a very important contract…”
Lucia contemplated with all her strength for the correct method to relay this message. I want to escape from my current situation. As for future problems, I’ll deal with them as they come.
“This is an unsuitable place to bring up such a topic. Who I am, the contents of the contract, everything.”
She seemed suspicious, but he decided to acknowledge her request. According to his senses, there was nobody wandering around this place. However, if the information she needed to relay was sensitive information, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be extra safe.
As long as it was a contract that brought him benefits, he was always open to it.
“Where did you want us to go?”
“Will it be alright to talk at your mansion?”
He paused to ponder for a moment.
“That’s fine. When?”
“I will contact you in the future.”
Up until now, he had always been the boss of the contract. Until now, he had always been the one with the upper hand, and it would remain that way in the future as well. He did not bother with contracts that would tie him down. She was the one requesting a contract, so he would have the upper hand in this as well. But she had behaved as if it was the other way around. It was one of the two. Either she didn’t know any better and knew no fear, or she was trying to con him.
“Are you telling me to wait for your message that will be sent at an unknown date?”
A river of cold sweat began dripping down Lucia’s back. However, she put a dignified and brave front.
“You should be able to endure that much. It’s a life-changing contract, after all.”
He fixed his eyes on Lucia amusedly. Since he was born, nobody had behaved so senselessly. It was impossible to judge her character from her appearance but she didn’t look shameless enough to try and con him. However, the way she glared back with wide eyes, trying to feign ignorance to her own fear, had perked his interest.
“I hope your words are as you said. I’m not such a hospitable person.”
Lucia corrected in her thoughts that he probably never had a ‘moment’ when he had been hospitable to anyone. He was a man whose motto in life was to threaten other people. It could be that she had been completely off the mark judging the Duke of Taran as a whole. But she understood one thing. This man was no gentleman.
“…Yes. I will bear that fact in mind.”
Lucia needed someone who could advise her. She wanted to think this out thoroughly with another person. The only person that she could properly trust to advise her was Norman. Norman was older than Lucia; although Lucia had more years of life if one accounted for her dream. Norman had written many novels using the many hardships and experiences of her life. She would be able to help her.
She could not confess every single detail to Norman. Norman thought Lucia was a palace maid.
‘I’m actually a princess. I’m thinking of going through a contract marriage with the Duke of Taran. Do you think I will be able to succeed?’ There was no way she could say such things.
“Norman, I need to make an important choice in my life.” Lucia wanted to phrase it in an abstract way.
“There are two paths in front of me. If I don’t do anything, I will end up going towards the left path. I know what will happen to me on that road. I will end up suffering a lot and I will live a hard life. However, I can try and attempt going towards the right path. I have no idea whether this attempt will succeed or not. Even if I succeed, I have no idea what kind of road it is. The road to the right can lead to a better life, but at the same time, there is a chance I can end up living in a place worse than hell. Norman, which road would you take?”
“If it were me, I would take my chances with the path to the right.”
“…You didn’t even need to think about it.”
“Didn’t you say that you know what will happen to you if you go toward the left? To make it worse, it will be a life of misery. In such a case, you’ve got to take your chances. Even if the right road leads to a worse case, it will be something I decided for myself and I won’t feel any regrets.”
“And if you knew everything about your future, wouldn’t that be boring? Life is only fun when you don’t know what will happen. Even if one feels lonely today, what about tomorrow? People can only live on with this hope in their hearts.”
“Wow, Norman. You seem like a sage.”
“Puhaha. ‘Sage’, get out of town! I’m someone who lives on without even knowing what the word ‘tomorrow’ means. Life is a gamble. You only have one shot. There is no way you’ll gain anything without risking some dangers.”
As Norman put it, this was a gamble. A gamble with her life on the line. If she were to succeed with this gamble and become the Duke’s wife, her life would change completely. Even if she got married only to end up divorced, she would be guaranteed basic compensation to live on. Her dream to live in a tiny two-storey house was not such a faraway dream any longer. The life she had lived in her dreams had been terrible. She wanted to live a carefree and peaceful life.
‘Yes. Let’s just go for it. There’s only one shot in life.’
Before Lucia’s courage could dissipate, she left Norman’s home and went toward the Duke of Taran’s mansion. She could stop anyone on the street for directions to the Duke’s mansion and they would be able to point out the way. Everything was sailing smoothly up until this point. When she faced against the towering steel gates of the mansion, she couldn’t breathe. All the courage she had worked up shriveled up into a tiny pea.
‘Why isn’t anyone here?’
There wasn’t a single soldier guarding the Duke’s mansion.
‘Were my efforts all for naught?’
If a royal guard had interrogated her ‘who are you?’, she would have had to run away, yet she felt a strange emptiness seeing nobody there. She pushed on the gate to vent her frustration, but the gate swung open quite easily.
‘Oh my god… it opened.’
She peeked inside the gate many times and hesitated before carefully stepping into the estate. She assumed that since it was the Duke’s mansion, someone would spot her as soon as she welcomed herself in. Unfortunately, no matter how long she walked around, she couldn’t spot even a shadow of another person.
‘Why is this place so poorly guarded? Did I arrive correctly at the Duke’s mansion?’
A man suddenly appeared in front of Lucia who had been loitering around the mansion. Lucia gasped in shock, while pressing her hands to her chest to calm herself down. The man didn’t look apologetic for shocking the girl senseless. Instead, he pressed closer and began inspecting the girl up close.
“You don’t look like an employee of this place, what are you doing here?”
He swaggered around with a rude tone. The rude red-haired man was wearing an imposing armour that was engraved with a black lion. Lucia remained standing tall.
“Are you one of the Duke’s knights?”
The man was amused, ‘what is this?’ He mumbled to himself while scanning Lucia up and down.
“I am, so?”
“Is His Grace presently inside his home?”
“I wonder. Why are you looking for His Grace?”
“I apologize for barging in, but would it be alright if you relayed to His Grace that I have a message for him? I request for an audience with the Duke of Taran.”
“So then, who are you?”
“I… I have an important message for His Grace. He will be willing to meet me if you tell him that I’m the person who had proposed a contract at the Victory Ball.”
“I don’t care about that. I’m asking who you are. I can’t invite you into our Lord’s mansion when I don’t even know your name. You don’t seem like a noble. Are you a merchant?”
Lucia felt her ears burn hot. In her current state, it would be difficult to insist that she was a noble, let alone a princess. Even if he responded violently, she wouldn’t have anything to say to him. She regretted that she didn’t pretend to be an errand girl to relay a message. But it was much too late for regrets now.
“Although I am dressed this way and seem insignificant, I am a noble.”
The man froze as he stared at Lucia for a while. Suddenly, he turned around.
BANG BANG, he smacked his fist against the door. Not waiting for a response, he opened the door, ‘I’m coming in.’ The red haired man popped his head into the inner office, where a man with gloomy black hair was sitting behind a wide desk. The Duke glanced over at the man swaggering into the room. The next moment, he was reading over documents while signing his signature.
“Where is Jerome?”
If his righteous butler had witnessed this guy’s brutal mannerism, he wouldn’t have watched on in silence.
“He had to leave to take care of some quick business. He told me the reason, but I’ve forgotten what it was about.”
It must have been quite an urgent task. Otherwise, Jerome wouldn’t have left, leaving just this guy in charge.
He probably didn’t need to leave for a long time, so he had decided not to bother the Duke of this matter.
“I don’t have time to play with you. Play alone.”
“…Sheesh. You always treat me like an immature brat.”
You’re not even that much older than me, the red haired man muttered under his breath.
“If you were an immature brat, I would have taught you a lesson long ago.”
“Wow, after beating me so much during our sparring sessions, how can you be so shameless with those words?”
“I did that because I thought you were cute.”
He puffed in resentment. Hugo was amused;, smiling slightly, he then returned to his usual cold expression. The only person Hugo would show emotions to was this brat.
“You have a guest.”
“I have no such things scheduled for today.”
There was an endless amount of people standing in line to meet him. If Hugo were to agree to meet everyone, he wouldn’t ever be able to go to sleep.
A majority would be respectful and send in letters formally requesting an audience. However, there were a handful of people who barged in to meet him as well. They would ignore the guard’s warning and force their way in. They would shamelessly make themselves comfortable in the living room and claim that they had already gotten permission since they were already in his home.
In the end, it was too much trouble and Hugo got rid of the guards altogether. If they crossed over the gate, he would report them for trespassing and breaking into someone’s house. For those nobles, he would aim swords at their throats. When the sword sliced into the skin, a bit of a massive amount of blood would fall. Following such a show, nobody dared to barge into his mansion ever again. But at the same time, he became infamous as an evil Duke.
“She’s a very amusing guest. Why don’t you have a look?”
“Do I know her?”
“No. Although she seems like a shabby commoner she claims she is a noble.” The red haired man snickered.
“Rather than that, her clothes are crap and she has no servants. Even so, she has this super confident air about her. Isn’t she amusing? I’m dying to know why she has to meet the Duke.”
Roy’s, the red haired man’s eyes shined while Hugo clicked his tongue. A shameless guy who had interrupted his work just to fulfill his own curiosity. If his butler, Jerome, was here, he would be jumping with anger. Roy knew Jerome would lecture and criticise him for at least two hours; even so, his immediate amusement was more important.
Roy had been going on nonstop about how bored he was. If he refused, Roy would annoy him to no end. Just at that moment, Hugo had felt fatigued over the neverending documents that needed to be looked over. It would be a good idea to take a short break.
“Were there any other messages?”
“What…else did she say? First of all, she’s a girl.”
Hugo had thought it would be a man all this time and furrowed his eyebrows in anger. Roy jerked back like he had suffered a burn, and ran away to the furthest corner of the office.
“She blabbered something about a contract at the Victory Ball. She said Your Grace would meet her no matter what.”
Hugo’s eyes shook. After 10 days of no messages, he had suspected the female’s intentions.
“Where is the guest now?”
“In the living room. Oh, I didn’t leave her in the room alone. I ordered a maid to serve her tea. I’m aware of basic manners.” Roy’s boasting figure looked painfully pitiful.
Two men sat directly across from Lucia. Lucia sipped her tea while glancing at the Duke every now and then. She couldn’t believe she was sitting in the same room with the Duke like this. Although it wasn’t the first time she had seen him, it was still very interesting to see the Duke in person.
‘He’s really… the Duke of Taran…’
The contrast of his raven black hair and blood red scarlet eyes would frighten anyone who met his eyes. His presence was so strong that it left an unforgettable impression. This was their first meeting since the Victory Ball, and they were sitting across from each other in a brightly lit room.
“Did you visit knowing I was in the mansion?”
“N-no. If you weren’t home, I would have left a message.”
His voice reflected his physical appearance very much. His voice was a heavy low tone, but had a piercing commanding aura. ‘Even his voice is amazing,’ she had thought to herself while squatting by the tall grassy bush.
‘I… had no idea I would be so easily affected by a person’s appearance and voice.’
Inside her dream, she had been scammed numerous times but could never learn her lesson. She had lost all her life savings to a handsome man she had fallen head over heels for. No matter how bitterly one suffered in life, it was hard for such human feelings to change just because one wished them to.
‘It’s probably because of Count Matin.’
Lucia had never known or seen a man while she lived trapped inside the Royal Palace. The first man Lucia had met had been old, obese, short, ugly and violent. Following such an experience, she couldn’t help but have her heart stolen by a handsome man.
‘Although being handsome does not make him a good man…’
The man in front of her was the proof. This man was a bad guy. He had no problems stepping on a woman’s heart like a plaything. Although Lucia was aware of all this, she had no confidence that she would not turn into someone like Sofia in the future. If he whispered sweet nothings in her ears with that face and voice, she would lose herself.
‘Get a hold of yourself. You must get a hold of yourself.’ Lucia calmed her shaking heart.
“I’ve been rude, requesting an audience without prior notice. Please excuse me for my late introduction. I am the Emperor’s 16th princess, Vivian Hesse. It’s an honor to be able to talk to Your Grace.”
When Lucia introduced herself as the ‘16th princess’, he burst into laughter. He was the red-haired man who had guided Lucia into the mansion. She didn’t think much of his jeering laughter, only mindlessly observing how inconsiderate he was. Just then, she remembered who this man was.
The Duke of Taran’s loyal subordinate. He was known as the red-haired youth, Crazy Dog Kortin. Most of the stories that followed Krotin were exaggerated, but accounting for just half of the tales was enough to be qualified for the title of ‘Crazy Dog’.
“In order to not waste any of Your Grace’s time, I will get straight to the point. I’ve come… to ask for Your Grace’s hand in marriage.”
As soon as Lucia finished her sentence, she held her breath. It felt like her heart would explode from the stillness. After crossing the point of no return, she felt better having said it. Lucia continued to observe his expression. His brows had momentarily twitched, but surprisingly, he maintained his indifferent expression. The heated reaction burst from their side.
Roy laughed like he was dying. The Duke of Taran glared coldly, wondering if he had gone crazy. Even so, Roy’s laughter did not stop. In the end, the Duke threw a punch to the back of his head and was able to make his laughter stop, and instead, Roy was yelping in pain.
“Uggh. Are you trying to kill me?” Roy held the back of his head and yelled in rage, while a lone tear hung at the corner of his eye. Lucia, who was observing the two, received a fright. ‘Is that why he was known as Crazy Dog?’
“You’re noisy. You, get out.”
“Eh? Why? I’ll keep my mouth shut and be quiet. Really~.”
Roy clamped his mouth shut, while Hugo clicked his tongue and returned his attention to the young lady sitting across from him.
Hugo observed the young miss who claimed herself to be a princess. In the past Victory Ball, she seemed like a noble lady. Now, at the moment, she didn’t seem any different than any commoner woman you could find on the street. ‘And she claims to be a princess?’
He had no interest in the royal family. The king himself probably had no idea what all his children looked like. It wasn’t just one or two. He, therefore, assumed she really was a princess. The rank of her status was too low for her to go out of her way to pretend and lie about it, in addition, she was strangely detailed about it.
He loved women, but he had his own rules. He didn’t go near anyone who would give him more trouble than necessary. He only needed a girl to sleep with, someone who he could toss aside while claiming he was just drunk. A princess ranked first among his no-go zone list. In the first place, he gave no room to keep in contact. If he had known she was a princess, he would not have agreed to this meeting.
“Who was it?”
“Princess, who was the person who sent you here? The discussion cannot continue further until the mastermind is present.”
“Do you believe that I am a princess?”
Lucia had thought he would get mad for trying to deceive him. She had decided to receive any insulting and offensive words without complaint. But his reaction was too peaceful.
“Were you lying?”
“No. I am not lying. I… thought you would get mad.”
“I would have gotten mad if you were lying.”
She remembered his words from the past victory ball. A cold chill ran down her spine. There was nobody who could give more terror to another than this person whose weight of the word ‘mad’ held a different meaning.
“I’m not lying. Although there are things I cannot tell you… I am not someone who lies. There is nobody else trying to pull the strings. I am the person who decides everything.”
“Princess, is there anyone who knows you’re here?”
“Nobody knows. Nobody is aware that Princess Vivian has left the royal palace.”
This was not a lie. She had left the royal palace as a maid who served under Princess Vivian. Currently, it had been recorded that Princess Vivian was quietly minding her own business inside her own detached palace.
“I will figure out how that is possible at a later date. Didn’t you request a contract last time? This is different than what you told me before.”
“This is not anything different. I am proposing a contract to you. A life-changing contract with marriage on the line.”
He was stunned with amazement that he lost the timing to get mad. A boiling heat was starting to rise from his stomach. A waste of time and total nonsense. She was doing everything he hated. He coldly jeered at her.
“Are you playing around with your nonsense words?”
“I know I am saying baseless words to you. I understand that you feel repulsed because of my abrupt words. I am here to present to you all the things that you will be able to obtain by wedding with me. After you listen, it will be fine to reject this offer. I will not take too much of your time. I will not bother you ever again.”
This woman who seemed like a frail rabbit looked nervous to her bones but she had been eloquent with her words. Her honest eyes looked straight ahead at him. These were the desperate eyes he had observed from the Victory ball. Her eyes seemed very desperate, but at the same time, they didn’t have any hint of greed. As a result, he had been interested in her the whole time.
The reason he was listening to these nonsense words up until now was purely because of those eyes. He decided to waste his time a little more.
“Um… before that. Will it be okay if the person beside you leaves the room?”
Roy, who had been watching with sparkling eyes, suddenly raged. He protested against missing out on such an interesting show.
“Princess, you’re able to be here and discuss this only because of me. How can you stab me in the back after all this time?”
“Um, thank you. And I’m sorry. However, the words I will relay are very personal matters. This is information that can fatally harm me in the future. It’s not that I don’t believe you, but I believe you can give me this much understanding.”
“I’m not anyone to blab around town but… by chance, do you know me?”
“Ah? Ah.. um… aren’t you a fa-famous person?”
“I am? Was I ever that famous…?”
Roy rubbed his chin and tilted his head while Lucia watched him, dripping with cold sweat. It was the truth that he would be famous in the far future, but that might not be true at the moment.
‘She controls him well.’
Roy, who had been jumping around with rage, had turned quiet and still, and Hugo laughed under his breath. Roy did not feel very comfortable trying to go against such a noble woman either. He was violent-tempered with a large build, he had no filters for his words and spoke his thoughts plainly -often coming out crude and impolite- and, to top it off, his loud voice seemed to oppress and bully everyone around him. But, if you got to know him, there wasn’t anyone more simple-minded than him. You could see him as a very large, stubborn dog.
One couldn’t put their finger on this young woman, but she was interesting.
“Leave the room.”
Roy quietly grumbled but he left without much of a fight. Now that they were alone, Lucia felt her nerves tense up once more. She retraced the last scenario in her mind once more. This was a gamble. She threw the dice.
“I… am aware that Your Grace has a son that will succeed you.”