“Adelaide and Ruben are in custody in the area,” continued Kalion. “Honestly, it’s not detention. The two kingdoms put all the blame on the two of them and abandoned them as if they had nothing to do with them. They had done it once, so it wouldn’t hurt the second time,” Kalion said, his voice full of sarcasm.
“Anyway, neither of them can ever leave the area for the rest of their lives. It’s not much different in other kingdoms. Most of the armies you pushed back with your magic still remain in Algias, and no one could enter the border. Only recently have wizards managed to extinguish some of their magic power and come in a little bit, but they signed an agreement and took the wounded comrades to us.”
“What about Vanessa?” Erna asked quietly. When he heard her name, Kalion let out a short sigh.
“She survived. For now, the presidency of the council is being maintained.” He turned his head to the pile of papers in the room. Even though she was pierced in the stomach and shoulders, Vanessa was able to handle that amount of work.
“Vanessa also overcame death. Immediately after she regained consciousness, she called me and said she intended to exercise the immunity given to the head of the Council. From that day on, I just worked like crazy.”
Until now, most of Hessenguard’s foreign affairs have been handled by the Council and Erna. Without Erna to guide him, Kalion was at a loss on how to deal with all of this. However, owing to Vanessa’s efforts to construct the agreement and to her multiple instructions to the councilors, Hessenguard achieved a treaty that would acquire practical benefits from the four kingdoms.
Kalion continued to explain to Erna what happened afterwards.
Those who returned to the capital devoted their energy to the capital’s restoration. The wizards helped restore the capital first rather than the Grand Castle, and went around saying that Erna had driven away all the enemies with her magic. Moreover, they said the reason Erna had been friendly to Aether was to glean information from them before driving them out, and so on. Thanks to this, to the people of Hessengard, Erna earned the reputation of the “great grand duchess who risked her life for Hessenguard.”
“What about you?” Erna asked Kalion.
“Of course, I am included in their praise. I destroyed all the other armies on the way to the Grand Castle,” he smirked. “As a result of our efforts, you and I have earned more praise than anyone else since Hessenguard’s conception.”
Erna laughed at his words. She leaned against his chest and murmured, “Then is it all over?” Hessenguard was guarded, and they had fulfilled their duties as grand dukes. There was nothing left to do.
“Not yet,” said Kalion.
“Is there anything else we have to do?” Erna asked. Kalion hesitated.
“What is it?”
Kalion paused as he ran his fingers over the pendant beneath his shirt and took it out. Erna looked at it closely and wondered how many times he touched it while she was asleep. The initials, which had been crudely engraved by the vendor, had almost faded completely. Someone might assume he had had this necklace for decades already.
“Erna,” he began, “there’s something I really wanted to say when you wake up.” He touched the pendant one more time and grabbed Erna’s hand. Then he kissed the tip of her fingers and confessed, “I like you.”
“We…” he trailed off. “From the beginning, everything was out of order. The day we first met, we got married. We had no time to learn what kind of person we were.”
Exactly. They encountered each other for the first time when they had nothing—even their pride was exhausted. Since then, they’ve done nothing except despise and hate each other, only building up scars. Erna knew it well. They had built their relationship in a completely different order than the lovers of the world.
In order to build a tower, the foundation should be the largest rock, and smaller rocks should be stacked on the top. While they were together, each found themselves doubting, misunderstanding, and hurting. There were blissful moments, but their hearts were frail and easily swayed, because they were built from the smallest stones.
“I hate that. So…” Kalion planted a kiss on the back of Erna’s hand. “I love you, Erna,” he confessed—just like how others would start their relationship. “If you’d like, I want to start over with you.”
Kalion laid out his thoughts and the things he wanted to do with her.
“I’d like to hold your hands as we stroll the grounds outside the castle together,” he said, “I want to kiss you in the bustle of the festivals. I want to spend my days and nights with you, the most beautiful person in the world.”
“And someday,” he paused and stared at her lovingly. “I wish I would have a child between you and me. A child who resembles us while holding our hands in the middle. Not an heir, but a child who is the most brilliant proof that you and I were together and loved each other dearly.”
Erna felt her tears begin to swell. His dreams were the norm for most lovers, a typical romance where two people meet and develop feelings for one another.
Karlion wiped her tears with the other hand and said, “So, Erna…” he smiled even brighter, “will you go out with me?”
Her answer was brief, but it was all he needed. Their lips touched slowly and clumsily, as if it was their first time. A kiss of two lovers to begin their sweet romance.
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