Ester, lying on the bed, still seemed to be struggling with her breathing, and her grip was extremely cold. Nevertheless, her recovery rate was astonishingly fast. At this rate, she would fully recover in less than half a day… but even a second of seeing Ester in pain and suffering was unbearable. I wished I could share my magic power with her right now, but all I could do was feel powerless and frustrated.
When Ester was shot with a gun, of course, I knew she was the one who suffered the most pain and agony. . .but I also felt like my heart had stopped. The sight of her imagining her own death filled me with a freezing fear, and the short time it took for her to cast healing magic on herself felt like an eternity.
No matter what happens, I will protect Ester. . .even if she throws herself into danger. In the first place, when the imperial prince aimed a gun at Ester, I should have cut off his wrist. However, even someone like the prince, who was like a thorn in my eye, had a position, and if I were punished for taking action, I might not be able to remain Ester’s fiancé. Perhaps that underlying thought prevented me from making a snap judgment.
And yet, this result that I invited is the least suitable for a future king consort.
“. . .Est. . .er. . .?”
“Ester. . .!”
Suddenly, Ester seemed to wake up and turned her face slightly towards me, calling my name in a hoarse voice. There were many things I wanted to say, but for now, I didn’t want her to push herself.
“Don’t push yourself. The emperor and the crown prince are taking care of the aftermath, so don’t worry.”
“. . .Wh. . .y. . .are. . .you. . .crying. . .?”
“Huh. . .?”
I… I shouldn’t have the right to shed tears, I realized for the first time when it was pointed out that they had somehow escaped. Hastily wiping away the tears with my sleeve and steadying my breathing.
“. . .I’m sorry, Ester. I. . .lied.”
I didn’t intend to ask for forgiveness, but if I didn’t apologize, my guilt would make my heart burst. I spoke carefully, trying not to let my voice tremble, and Ester’s shoulders jumped.
“A-a lie? Does that mean. . .”
Does Ester also understand? She began to show obvious agitation at my words.
“So. . .the engagement is off?”
“Yes. . .”
I broke my promise to protect Ester at all costs. In a sense, it was because I valued my own life. I could never be a suitable royal consort like this. Moreover, I had put her in danger, so I had to take responsibility. Therefore, I had to step down from the position of her fiancé.
Considering age and ability, Roland would probably become the next royal consort. He was more than capable in both magic and swordsmanship, and his family background was impeccable, which was not usually a criterion for selection. He used to have a difficult personality, but now he was a serious and good young man, with a loyalty that would make him willing to be executed for Ester’s sake. There was nothing to complain about.
But I just couldn’t give her up. I just couldn’t let go. I couldn’t loosen my grip on her cold hand. I wanted to be the one to warm her up like this.
“Hey, Theodore, could you wake me up?”
“I think it’s better if you stay lying down. . .”
“Just for a little bit, okay?”
Perhaps she was thirsty too. Thinking that it was just for a little while, I gently put my hand on her back and slowly lifted her body. As I tried to get up to fetch some water, she tightly held onto my hand, stopping me.
“Ester. . .?”
Since she stopped me, I sat back down, thinking that I shouldn’t be here. Ester tells me “just close your eyes for a moment.”
What is she planning? I don’t want her to escape through that gap. . .I want to believe that won’t happen. I closed my eyes as she instructed.
She gently releases my hand. I hold back the urge to cling to her and wait for her words.
“. . .I’m really sorry, Theodore.”
Her weak apology and its meaning make me feel pathetic and I lower my head, feeling like crying again. But just as I feel her hand touch my cheek, she says, “You can open your eyes now.”
As I opened my eyes, expecting to be told about the worst-case scenario of the engagement being canceled.
“. . .Huh!?”
I shout in surprise, and Ester looks somewhat troubled, but also embarrassed as her cheeks turn red.
Yes. Ester has removed her face veil and revealed her true face.
“Ester. . .?”
“I haven’t looked in the mirror, so I’m worried if I look strange. . .Do I look terrible?”
“N-No. . .It’s not that. . .But, why. . .?”
Her beautiful double eyelids, framed by curled lashes, were the same color as the peridot on the earring cuff I received from him. Her eyes were slightly slanted like the Crown Prince’s, but her droopy eyebrows gave her a gentle impression. Her small, tightly-curved nose was just like her younger sister, Princess Angelica, and her thin lips were well-balanced with the rest of her facial features. In short, she was cute. Very cute. No, extremely cute.