I thought that I would love her no matter what her face looked like, but now my heart ached in a different way than the self-loathing and anxiety that had plagued me just a moment ago. Even when Ester transformed into Princess Dorothea, I was thrilled when our eyes met.
And on top of that, she looked at me with her beautiful eyes and smiled wryly as I was at a loss for words.
“Unfortunately, now that you’ve seen my true face, I can’t break off our engagement.”
“. . .!”
That’s right, I was so shocked when I saw Ester’s true face that I forgot that it was a rule that only immediate family members could see it. Even the maids who were responsible for her makeup and bathing were not allowed to see it.
Only the Crown Prince, her husband, was allowed to see it. . .I couldn’t help but stare at her face, thinking about it.
“In the end, I’m sorry for leaving you so many times. And for doing something selfish that hurt you, I think I deserve to be hated. But as far as our engagement goes, no matter how much you wish it, I can’t let go anymore. . .”
“W-wait a minute, Ester!”
I couldn’t help but interrupt Ester, who started speaking with an apologetic expression, her cute eyebrows furrowed even further.
“I don’t hate you, and I don’t want you to let go. Why are you talking like that?”
“Because you lied earlier. . .”
“Wasn’t it a lie when you said you loved me?”
Despite feeling a sense of discomfort from her unveiled face, I couldn’t take my eyes off her adorable expression as she tilted her head with a bewildered look. However, what she just said was unacceptable.
“That’s not true. . .Didn’t I even give you a ring? You still didn’t believe me?”
“N-no, that’s not it. I really believed you, but. . .considering what I did, I thought it wouldn’t be strange if you hated me.”
“. . .? Did something happen?”
“D-don’t you know? I was embarrassingly shot in front of Diark after teleporting there. If you really cared about me, you shouldn’t have done anything, but you still acted on your own and caused me trouble and worry like this. It’s only natural for you to want to break off the engagement. . .”
Ester has always tried to solve things on her own. Although she understands that her well-being is important, she has a tendency to think that everything can be solved with healing magic. Of course, as a princess, it’s not something to be praised for being dangerous. . .But still, it was Ester who saved me, so there’s no way I could hate her.
I wanted to protect her, including those aspects of her personality. . .and yet.
“That’s not true. I said I would protect Ester no matter what, but in the end, I couldn’t protect her. . .I lied.”
As i said that, Ester looked at me as if she didn’t understand.
“What are you talking about? You protected me.”
“I ended up hurting you.”
“That’s my own fault for my self-satisfaction. It’s not your fault, Theodore.”
“No. . .I could have prevented that.”
As we continued this back-and-forth about who was at fault, Estelle finally couldn’t take it anymore and raised her voice.
“Enough! Do you want to break off our engagement, Theodore?”
“That’s not what I meant! But. . .but if I can’t protect you, then I’m not suitable to be the next king consort. . .”
I didn’t want to cancel the engagement. On the contrary, I wanted to cling to her and plead for forgiveness. The thought of Estelle marrying someone else was unbearable to me.
But when I recalled the sight of her being shot and suffering, her bloodied and agonized form, there was no way I could selfishly utter such words.
Then she whispered that she understood.
“Then I’ll give up my right to the throne.”
“What!? That’s going too far. . .”
He couldn’t believe his ears. It was impossible. Ester had worked so hard to become the next queen.
But her serious expression didn’t seem like a lie or a joke, which only confused him more.
“Ester. . .Acardi is the most important thing to you, isn’t it?”
“It can’t be helped. If you can’t become the king’s consort, then I won’t become the queen either. Well, it’s all unprecedented, but supporting Angelica as the queen and contributing to Acardi wouldn’t be a bad idea. If I can’t get your forgiveness, I could just flee the country, and everything will work out.”
The unbearable statement from the imperial brother towards Ester made my blood boil just by remembering it, but the fact remains that Ester’s existence is a deterrent – she has such a powerful force. If she were to threaten to flee the country, most things could be achieved. But even so. . .
As I was at a loss for words, she continued to speak.
“Hey, if you don’t like me anymore, just say it. I’ll give up properly. I can’t love anyone other than Theodore, but I’ll accept a new fiancé. . .I’ll make an effort. But if you still have feelings for me, even a little bit. . .”
She gently took my hand and held it tightly, as if praying.
“Please give me a chance to make it up to you.”
It should be me who seeks a chance to make amends. . .how pathetic. I have hurt and caused suffering to Ester, and now I’m even asking for her forgiveness. Ester has already forgiven me without me having to plead. No, she hasn’t even blamed me. If that’s the case, then my inability to forgive myself is just my own self-satisfaction.
Ah, ever since the day we first met, I have only shown Ester my pathetic side. . .even so. . .
“. . .I love you. From the bottom of my heart, only you, Ester.”
Rather than wasting her time on becoming a good queen, I should accept being a wretched and pathetic man who couldn’t protect her even though he promised to. I can’t bear to give up the place by her side that I failed to protect.
“So. . .please marry me.”
Ester smiled happily and said, “Of course,” in response to my true wish that spilled out.