After a few weeks, the two began to change. Having an organized time to herself, where she could sleep plenty and eat healthily, Erna shed her baby fat and became fit. While Kalion, finally eating a bit healthy, gained much needed weight.
Erna also succeeded in finding her magical skill. A fateful day, she felt a surge of something pleasantly strange in her. She pondered a lot on it and finally confided to Vanessa. Vanessa, on her part, scoured the kingdom in search of a wizard who could teach Erna to hone and use her gift to her full potential.
Kalion learnt swordsmanship. It was Vanessa who found him a sword master who could teach him properly. The practice made him so hungry that he ate heartily, which did wonders for his physique as did his training.
People wondered why the two worked so hard to improve their skills. But they had taken a vow that disgraceful night that nobody would ever dare to humiliate them again in the same manner, so they began honing the skill they were most familiar with. To be the best and strongest versions of themselves.
Once their bodies recovered to some extent, the two began to take care of the Grand Duke’s rights. Hessenguard’s parliament was wary and cautious of the two, but that did not stop them. The parliamentary system of the Duchy did not exist to ignore the Grand Dukes but rather existed due to its cooperation.
Vanessa cleared her throat to catch the attention of the two Grand Dukes, who at the moment, were staring daggers at each other.
“I was in a hurry to meet you both because, as you can see, letters arrived this morning from the two kingdoms, Haband and Aether,” said Vanessa.
“Are they up to something?” asked Erna, “The two kingdoms, I mean.”
“I think so, too,” said Kalion.
An outsider would think that it was great fortune for the two Grand Dukes to agree with each other. But this was not so.
Erna clicked her tongue. “Tsk, tsk, think of something original for once, will you?” she said.
“Perhaps you should keep your arrogance in check,” said Kalion, scowling. “Just because I agree doesn’t mean I am copying you.”
Vanessa sighed and shook her head. “First and foremost, I wish for you both to calm down and work together,” she said, “And then read the letters from the respective kingdoms to see what they want.”
Although glaring at each other, they nodded. Vanessa handed the letters to them. Erna opened hers with a frown. What nonsense are they going to babble this time? Erna wondered. In the recent past, the Kingdom of Haband wasn’t able to concoct a plan to exert their influence over Hessenguard. Because they had fled when the plague hit. When the plague was finally over, Haband was attacked by the neighboring kingdom, so their energies were exerted there. Hessenguard had always fulfilled Haband’s demand, so there was no reason to create any kind of dispute.
All in all, it hadn’t been half bad. With the freedom she finally received, she could grow and nurture her power as the Archduke of Hessenguard. Erna recalled a time when she visited the mining area. Local residents had asked for her help because a magical creature had appeared there. She had gone there to help and led a group of wizards to deal with the creature. The people had been thankful to her. The support had made her feel ecstatic until she heard some whispering their wishes to see prince Kalion use his skill as well. That had dampened her mood.
She brooded and opened the letter from Haband. The beginning of the letter was always as pretentious as they had ever been: greetings, asking after Erna’s health, etc. She skipped to the middle of the letter to find out the main reason, the real intention.
They’re obviously going to ask for additional support for the war, she thought. Are they going to ask for more wheat? It has been a poor harvest this year. The Kingdom of Haband always demanded resources and money from Hessenguard. Erna was sure this letter wouldn’t be any different.
Erna, who thought she needed to discuss with the members of Hessenguard’s parliament, suddenly jumped to her feet as she read the last sentence of the paragraph. So did Kalion.
“What?!” exclaimed both, “An heir?!”
* * *
Vanessa, seeing their reactions, left the conference hall to leave the two to discuss together. Only Erna and Kalion were in the room now. After glaring at each other uncertainly, they sat down and read the letters again.
The contents of the letter were pretty straightforward:
The two kingdoms eagerly waited for an heir, as a symbol of a peaceful union, but showed their disappointment as they heard no news for about ten years. As a result, they expressed their worries about Hessenguard’s future and demanded that if they do not hear the news of an heir within the next year, they will send another royal to become the Grand Duke of Hessenguard and both of them would be relieved of their duties.
“How dare they?” thundered Erna in fury, crumpling her letter in her clenched fist.
They had always been used as pawns, forced together when it suited the two kingdoms, abandoned when there was the danger of a plague and now this! Although Erna had been grateful for the abandonment because she had claimed her freedom and learned magic with no one to humiliate her. She and Kalion had been able to break away from their oppressive homelands and do whatever they wished in Hessenguard.
Not only that, Erna and Kalion had prepared and trained themselves so they could look after Hessenguard in their own way. And now the two kingdoms demanded a price for their freedom, or they would have them dragged back to their homelands, stripped off their titles!
How dare they demand anything from us after what they have put us through?! Erne thought furiously. Erna had never thought of returning to that hellhole. That was part of the reason why she had trained so hard to hone her powers so that she could remain the Grand Duke and fulfill her responsibilities well. Erna shuddered imagining Haband dragging her forcefully back. She realized with a pang of helplessness that she couldn’t stop them if they did. She had trained and grown her magic and strength for the past ten years, diligently. But it won’t be enough to fight the whole military of Haband.
It was evident that the two Kingdoms intended to pressure both Erna and Kalion. Erna tried to think of logical ways out of this situation. She came up with loads, but none of them were helpful, except…
If indeed, by the sheer impossibility of circumstance, she brought forth an heir, all problems would be solved. She looked up at Kalion at the other end of the table. He was the problem.
They would have to….
Erna tried not to cringe. They both looked at each other across the long table, unable to say anything. None of them had anything wrong with them physically. Kalion was okay. He had grown up well, his dark hair had become lustrous, his blue eyes had become sharper, no longer dull and despairing like he used to be.
All the royals of Hessenguard, who attended the banquet in the recent past, seemed to look at Kalion with admiration. Many women too. They were married, indeed, for matters of legalities. But Erna had only felt indifference toward him. Their lives had been separate, following their own paths, not having to do anything with each other.
But the physicality of the situation wasn’t the problem. They couldn’t possibly consummate their marriage and bring forth an heir magically. It just seemed so impossible. There had been no news of scandal regarding Kalion and other women. Nor Erna with other men. They had dedicated themselves to their training so wholly that none of them had given two crushed peas about anything else. Naturally, their day’s events and news were relayed to one another because in the face of the law, they were the reigning authority over Hessenguard and married to each other.
Hello, this is Keopi Translations. We are taking over this novel after discussing with the previous translator, Ailee in Foxaholic. Thank you!