I’ve always wanted to leave the palace, but I didn’t expect to leave this way, Erna thought bitterly. She had always thought that she would be sold to be a local aristocrat’s wife at best. But she had never imagined that she would take the position of the Grand Duke. A position for which she could be killed anytime in a foreign land. She couldn’t accept the situation she was forced in until the day she finally arrived in Hessenguard.
“You can get off now,” said the coachman as he opened the door of the carriage.
Through the open door, Erna could see the Great Hessenguard Castle, which she had only seen in pictures. It was a place befitting the status of the residence of the Grand Duke of Hessenguard. It stood tall as if telling its spectators the glorious history of a neutral nation that stood firm without getting swallowed by its neighboring kingdoms. The Hessenguard Castle did not look much like a place of residence, but more like a fortress ready for combat.
Everything was strange. The peculiar style of the castle, the people of Hessenguard surrounding her, the grass under her feet, the trees next to her, and the wind passing through her hair. Everything was quite novel to her.
Erna looked up at the castle, which still retained the history of the old Hessenguard. There was only one thought in her head: can I survive here?
The next day, Erna rose from her seat, staring at the unfamiliar ceiling. When she turned her head, she saw a group of women who were busily wandering around her. When they saw Erna getting up, they ordered the maids standing next to her.
“Quickly get the Princess ready. We don’t have much time left until the wedding, so hurry up.”
Listening to their cold emotionless voices, Erna quietly followed the maids.
After leaving Haband, they stayed at a Lord’s mansion on the first night. To avoid another assassination attempt, a large room was partitioned and all the maids and knights stayed with Erna. As the night deepened and time went by, the maids started talking about her without knowing that Erna had not fallen asleep.
A maid murmured, “To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed. Unlike other princesses, she neither has a confident demeanor nor a beautiful appearance… Princess Erna is not suitable to represent Haband.”
“It can’t be helped. Two of the royal family members, who were sent here first, were killed, so who would want to go? They had no other choice but to go with this princess.”
“But I think they could have chosen someone better.”
“It’s kind of like that. We can’t do anything about it. What I’m worried about now is whether the wedding dress would fit her or not. She’s so fat… Even if it does, it wouldn’t look good. Oh, what a shame!”
A ripple of low laughter filled the room; everyone agreed with the maid’s opinion. Erna, who was pretending to be asleep, turned her body around. The maids instantly hushed and stole glances from one another, fearing that the princess would wake up. However, Erna remained still, so they carried on with their malicious whispers.
That night, Erna learned what the maids of the palace thought of her: dowdy, disgraceful, the king’s abandonment urchin and a wretch who even death didn’t want. All those words were put before her name to explain what she was.
When Erna returned after bathing, her dress was prepared in her room. It was the traditional wedding gown of the Duchess of Hessenguard. It was a very beautiful dress. The pure white dress had beautiful layers of delicate lace, and at the end of the lace, there were fine glossy pearls attached to it, swaying mesmerizingly.
“Princess, come this way.” The ladies-in-waiting held Erna up and together with the maids dressed her in her wedding clothes. A few moments later, a woman sighed and murmured, “It looks too small.”
Another woman chuckled and shook her head. Erna could see what she wanted to say, even though she didn’t say it out loud. It wasn’t that the clothes were small, it was Erna who was too big. Ashamed and embarrassed, Erna couldn’t raise her head.
After a while, the maids announced that the preparations were over and told Erna to look in the mirror. Erna, who carefully lifted her head, had no choice but to bow down again. It’s terrible, she condemned herself. Her reflection in the mirror could be likened to a clown.
She looked like a chunk of ham wrapped in beautiful clothes and jewelries. If she at least had a good complexion, she might have looked a little cute. However, since it was her first long carriage trip across the border, Erna could not even drink a drop of water properly. As a result, dark circles appeared under her eyes and her skin became textured. To make matters worse, her skin was marred with swollen red spots. Erna wanted to burst into tears.