Warning: Sexual Violence
The carriage, which had been traveling for quite some time, stopped at a monastery deep in the mountains. With her head bowed low, Edna quietly listed to Anna as she spoke.
“Understand? You really have to be an idiot if you didn’t understand after everything I’ve explained to you. Naturally, there’s no way that you’ll be able to be as graceful as me no matter what you do, but I’ll have you whipped if you don’t learn properly. So learn as if your life depends on it, all right? This is an opportunity for you too, I’m telling you. You won’t ever be a noble like me even if you died and were reborn, so when would you ever have the chance to experience such luxury again?”
A cold smile alighted Anna’s visage as she grew pleased with her own sarcastic comment. Edna displayed her understanding by nodding slowly.
“That’s right, I’m giving you a chance here too, so you have to learn like your life depends on it. And keep in mind that I’ll catch you and sell you to the red-light district if you ever try to run away!”
Anna turned her gaze to the window after making her ghastly threat.
“Now, Edna. It’s time for us to work together.”
Edna, who had finally looked up, gulped before getting off the carriage while waiting on Anna.
Anna raised her cold blue eyes and glared daggers at Edna, who was seated before the table. The girl was useless no matter what Anna tried to teach her. Anna’s already scant patience had run out just two days into their stay at the monastery. Anna passed over teaching Edna how to dress herself and do her hair since she could simply leave that to another maid, but she could not correct Edna’s habit of gobbling up her food like a pig no matter how hard she tried. Anna lost her temper and yelled at Edna while whipping the girl on the back of her hands.
“Can’t you stop that already? What did I tell you? Eat slowly. What’s your fork and knife there for? Ugh, anyone would figure out that you’re just a lowly maid with just a glance…… You’ll be found out immediately if you keep eating like that. What do you think will happen then? You’d be killed on the spot. You’ve heard the rumors about Eli too, haven’t you? He’s infamous for his cruelty. Try again more slowly this time if you don’t want to die as soon as you’re sent to him.”
Anna urged Edna to try again by glaring at the terrified girl. Edna hunched over and carefully used her fork to pick at a piece of meat from her plate and push it into her mouth when she heard Anna’s switch whip audibly through the air. The meat was unseasoned and tough, and it had been a while since Edna had eaten any, but Edna made painstakingly sure to chew the meat thoroughly as she took a quick peek at Anna’s eyes.
“Don’t look around at others like that. A viscount’s daughter would never care about what others might think,”
Anna spat out coldly and bit at her lips while standing next to Edna and letting her gaze rest on the girl’s head. The bright red coloring at the ends of Edna’s hair was truly hideous. She didn’t know what on earth the girl had done to her hair, but it was dreadful just looking at it. She wanted to go ahead and cut it all off, but she couldn’t recklessly run her scissors through Edna’s hair because it would become as short as a man’s if she cut the redness out of it.
Anna grew increasingly annoyed. She had initially thought that this had been a great idea, but now she realized that it wasn’t work that she could take lightly. Anna looked down coldly, with a salve that caused boils slathered on her face, at Edna, who was busy trying to learn how to properly use her fork and knife.
All of this had happened because Viscount William had bet on the wrong side. She had to deal with this thorn in her side all because Viscount William had failed to predict that Ducaine III would be defeated. Anna stroked her beautifully laid out golden hair and began muttering to herself.
‘If Eli ever finds out and tattles to the king, I’ll just have to be honest and say that Father put me up to this. What’s there for me to hide? All I have to do is tell them the truth.’
It was only natural for Anna, who only knew how to serve her own interests, to think this way. Next, while continuing to stroke her beautiful golden hair, she recalled what she knew about Eli.
Eli. He was someone she had seen only once when she had visited the capital. He was 190cm tall and gave off the impression of a sharp blade, as expected of someone who had lived on the battlefield. Anna had quickly turned her eyes elsewhere when she had met his beast-like gaze. This was because his gaze had been so typically ruthless that she never wanted to look him in the eyes again. Still, she had to admit that his face had been quite handsome. The thought that he wouldn’t have had to do all the things he had done if only he had been born a noble had brushed past Anna’s mind. Anna almost sighed, thinking of how fantastic it would be to see his figure in her bed, before abruptly coming back to her senses and internally murmured to herself,
‘Who cares if he’s attractive—he’s still just a commoner. And he’s a battle-crazed brute at that. His lowly origins will be made clear for all to see now that the war’s over. Hmph, the likes of Edna is enough for someone like him.’
Anna continued to be lost in her thoughts.
She couldn’t even imagine how far the waves of this incident would one day spread. The plan to deceive the king and his most favored duke had already been set in motion. She had to return to the capital before the rumors finished spreading. Anna had confidence that she could successfully captivate Cayden if she did. The only problem was whether Edna could buy her enough time to get to the capital. This was why she was taking such great pains to teach Edna properly. Anna was convinced that Cayden had only ordered for an arranged marriage between herself and Eli when she was touted as the fairest beauty of the land because he had never seen her himself. She thought that it was fate, written in stone, that she must become the king’s woman and hold the whole world in her hands.
Anna smiled a vicious smile, as if she held an invisible blade in her mouth, and whispered to Edna with words as sweet as honey.
“I don’t expect much from you, Edna. But there’s just one thing that you absolutely must remember. It’s what I told you to say if you’re ever found out. If you don’t remember this…….”
Anna drew her face in close against Edna’s ear and continuing whispering as she laughed.
“Eli will flay you and hang your skin on a spearhead. That’s the kind of man he is. So do your best if you want to stay alive. You do want to live? Right?”
Edna demonstrated her understanding of Anna’s bone-chilling words by nodding after she gulped.
“Good, Edna. Then let’s start again from the beginning. I doubt that you’ll be able to pass off as a noble in just one week, but I’ll make it happen no matter what. So listen well and follow after me. I’ll make every effort to prolong your life for as long as possible. So don’t you ever forget that I’m doing you a favor.”
Edna nodded and caught her breath upon hearing Anna’s words—seemingly sweet but as sharp as steel. The memory of how she had braved fire in order to save her life flashed by her like a kaleidoscope. Edna bit down hard on her lips as a mysterious golden glint sparked in her eyes. And, as she listened to Anna teach her, she whispered silently to herself,
‘I want to live. I don’t care how. And if it’s possible, I’ll escape and find my freedom. I’ll do anything it takes to survive until then.’
The time passed quickly. The bruises on Edna’s face faded slowly but steadily, whereas thick, unsightly boils had formed on Anna’s. The salve, which she had purposefully slathered over her face, had proven effective and successfully turned her lovely visage into a sickly complexion.
The rumor that Anna had caught a terrible disease had already spread outside the monastery. Viscount William’s gold coins were proving their might.
Anna smiled faintly as she watched Edna climb into the carriage. She looked Edna, who was wearing a gorgeous wedding dress that was padded because Edna was taller than her, up and down before offishly saying,
“When else would you ever get the chance to wear a dress this gorgeous? You should be grateful that you got to wear something like this before you die.”
Anna lowered the translucent veil over Edna’s head and made sure that it covered the girl’s face. It was time for her to go to Eli.
After departing from the monastery, Edna drew in a deep breath as soon as she learned of her destination. She couldn’t believe it. Her heart had started pounding like crazy when she found out where Eli’s territory was located. The fact that her destination was Westfield, where she had spent a portion of her childhood, excited her. However, he excitement quickly died down when she laid her eyes upon the vast lands that the carriage was traveling through.
The land had been ruined and abandoned after the long war. Over half of the lush green forests had been burnt down and the land looked more and more desolate as she watched. Edna’s face stiffened as she brushed off the veil and looked outside with golden brown eyes. The fact that all of this stemmed from the late king’s maladministration pained her heart. Then, she vigorously shook her head as if to shake off her past.
‘I have to forget. I have to forget everything that happened in the past. But I mustn’t forget that my current life is already hell.’
Edna lowered the veil over her face again as the muttered to herself. Her eyes had reddened immediately, but Edna did not allow herself to cry.
The carriage arrived at Eli’s castle late in the afternoon.
Eli stared at a distant cloud of dust, as faint as a heat haze, with narrowed eyes from atop the ramparts. He quickly realized that it had been stirred up by the carriage carrying his bride.
“So she came after all. And here I told him that a something like a wife will just be a burden.”
The carriage drew ever nearer. Eli shook his head lightly, feeling that all of this was a giant pain in the ass, and looked around at his surroundings like everything was a drag. He was sure that Anna, a noble, would be so appalled by the state of the land that she wouldn’t even get off the carriage.
The land he had received from Cayden was vast but barren. Nothing good had happened to it during the aftermath of the fierce war. The castle looked like it would collapse in on itself at any moment, and the abandoned fields that nobody cultivated were no different from wasteland.
Eli never planned to settle down anywhere to begin with. But Cayden had requested him to settle down. Not ordered, but requested! After agonizing over the issue for a long time, he reluctantly came to the land in the end to help solidify the king’s rule after emerging victorious from the civil war and also for the sake of their men, who had roamed the battlefields and stood against death with them. But he had no intentions of doing anything for the land. This was because there was no place that he belonged to more than the battlefield.
Likewise, the marriage that Cayden had ordered him didn’t sit well with Eli either. It wasn’t as if marrying a noble would make him one, so why did he have to marry a viscount’s daughter? Still, Eli didn’t have a justifiable reason to refuse either.
Eli straightened his tall frame and sharply narrowed his indigo eyes, seated below his thick brows and hair, which, unlike most knights whose hair grew to the nape of their necks, was cut short, as he watched the carriage approach while stirring up a cloud of dust behind it.
He reluctantly climbed down the ramparts to greet his wife when the carriage halted and its doors refused to budge as if it was waiting for him. A woman in a finely embroidered white dress with a veil over her face stepped out of the carriage only after he had walked out of the castle gates.
Eli crossed his arms and furrowed his brows as the thought that Anna was rather tall for a woman crossed his mind. In truth, the only reason he was welcoming someone as outrageously beautiful as Anna as his bride was because he had once joked to Cayden that he would possibly consider accepting someone as beautiful as Anna as his wife.
Anna stood where she was as if she was waiting for Eli to escort her. And so, Eli reluctantly stuck his hand out toward her and began walking briskly as soon he had wrapped her arm around his own. The girl was forced to take big strides to keep up with him because of this.
Eli’s heart began beating furiously when he smelled a delicate fragrance coming off from her as she elegantly walked behind him without lagging too far behind. His desires, which he had completely forgotten, flared up again when he smelled the scent of a woman for the first time in a long while. He stopped walking when they arrived at the room where Anna was to reside.
“We’ll hold a simple wedding tomorrow. I’ll have a bath prepared for you, since you must be tired from having travelled so far.”
He sent Anna into her room alone before he turned around and returned to his own.
Edna, now left alone, quickly entered the room.
If the wedding was to be tomorrow, then she would at least be able to sleep comfortably for tonight. Still, she wondered who would be preparing her bath, as she had not seen even a shadow of a maid as they walked here. Just then, she heard a knock at the door.
An elderly maid and a servant entered the room dragging a large bathtub with them when Edna’s sonorous voice called out.
Eli, who had stepped out of his own room in irritation at the grating sound of something heavy being dragged across the floor, saw that the door to Edna’s room was open. He watched from the doorway as his servant and maid bustled about to fill the bathtub with hot water. Then, once they were finished, he gestured at them to leave and looked to Edna. Edna, who was standing with her back to the candles, stared at Eli through her veil when he came in and closed the door behind him.
Eli narrowed his eyes and stared holes into Edna’s face. He smiled coldly when he felt, with just one glance, that Edna was forcibly holding down her breath. Did she dislike even the thought of breathing in the same air as him?
“Are you just going stand there like that?”
Eli asked sarcastically, making it clear that he had no intentions of leaving. His once forgotten desires, newly aroused by her scent from earlier, had begun to pulse through him dangerously once again and threw his entire being into a state of tension.
“I could ask you the same—are you just going to stand there like that?”
Edna quipped back reproachfully at the rude man.
“I’m a lowly born commoner who has nothing to do with this etiquette of yours and I have absolutely no intent to obediently leave as you want me to, so it’d be best if you just took off your clothes before the water gets cold.”
Edna’s face paled in an instant. She clenched her hands into tight fists and drew in a deep breath upon hearing that he wanted her to undress in front of him despite that they weren’t married yet. Eli watched her and coldly added,
“It’ll be faster if you just get used to me, since we’ll be getting married anyway. I’m an unlearned man, so I will never be able to be an honorable noble like you.”
“The wedding is tomorrow. Can’t you wait even just one day?”
Edna refused to back down and replied with a trembling voice. Eli entertained the thought that she had quite the pleasing voice as he menacingly took a step forward and muttered,
“What’s the difference between today and tomorrow? You’re my woman now whether you like it or not, aren’t you?”
Tears fell from Edna’s eyes and she bit down on her lip before she knew what she was doing. Eli couldn’t see her face well because the candlelight was dim and she was still wearing the veil. He wanted to see her beautiful face from his memories. She began trembling like a leaf when he took another step closer. Eli reached out with one hand and gently touched her ear as she quivered. Edna abruptly twisted her body to evade him when he finally moved to lift up her veil. Her rejection of him only poured oil on the blaze of his desire.
“You’ve heard the rumors of me, no? Do you really think you can escape me?”
Eli grabbed her roughly by the arm even as he was talking.
“Don’t do this. You’re a duke now, even if you were born a commoner. So please at least maintain the most basic of decorum. I would like to have my wedding first before I spend my first night.”
Edna shouted hastily to buy herself some time before he pulled her away. However, Eli simply sneered at her so coldly that it gave her goosebumps and tore away her veil. Edna turned around and escaped his clutches just as the veil fell away. For a brief moment, Eli smiled as if he was having fun when he found that Edna was unexpectedly agile. He was an incomparably dangerous man who was on a completely different level from the knights whom Edna had escaped previously. Edna clutched her clothes to herself and opened her mouth as the numerous rumors she had heard about Eli circled dizzyingly by her ears.
“Don’t make me a laughingstock in front of the maids. I must maintain my dignity if I am to live here as the lady of the castle.”
“But it’s just the two of us here?”
“I don’t think that their eyes and ears are too far away even if they aren’t physically here with us right now.”
However, Eli simply shrugged and replied as if he couldn’t have cared less.
“I already told you earlier. I’m a lowly born commoner who will never be able to be someone as high and lofty as you. I don’t pay any heed to such things. And, well, aren’t men the lords of their castle too?”
Eli’s decisive response was so cold in tone that Edna’s pride, which had laid secretly dormant for a long time now, wriggled awake and reared its head.
“Even still, that’s no reason to bring me down to the same level as you, is it? I’ll be your wife whether I like it or not after we get married tomorrow. I will not shy away from my duties as a wife. So please give me time to catch my bearings until then. Surely, you have at least that much self-restraint?”
Edna stared holes at Eli with her back flat against the wall behind her as she tactfully replied with words that brushed upon Eli’s emotions. For a moment, it looked like waves of gold were surging across her eyes. Eli menacingly stepped closer at her obvious challenge.
“You should’ve said that to your father before you arrived here. Don’t think that you can persuade me by refuting everything I say. I’ll say this nicely because you’ll be my wife soon, but I abhor women who talk too much.”
Edna bit down hard at her lip as she faced off against Eli, who betrayed no hint of backing off. There was a dark shadow cast across her face, as she had her back to the candles, but, strangely enough, the golden light in her eyes appeared to shine even brighter. Eli stepped in right in front of her like he was bewitched and abruptly grabbed the front of her dress. The expensive dress tore audibly. Edna covered her subsequently exposed breasts with her arms and shook her head. Completely unaware of the fact that her rejection only excited Eli’s desires further, Edna frantically said,
“I’m the person who is to be your wife. Don’t treat me like a maid.”
“A maid? It looks like you nobles don’t even see maids as people. Does marrying a commoner like me really displease you so?”
“No. I came all the way here just to marry you, did I not? So please, at least……mph.”
Just then, Eli grabbed Edna by arms, which were still covering her breasts, and kissed her roughly. The inside of Edna’s head whited out when Eli forced apart her soft lips with his tongue and pushed his own into her mouth. She hadn’t thought even in her wildest dreams that he would be so uncouth.
Edna inadvertently began to rebel violently. She had nearly been violated at Viscount William’s castle too many times to count. She had escaped their clutches every time by resisting with everything she had, but the situation was different this time. She had come here to be Eli’s wife. It was clear to her that he wouldn’t leave her be if she resisted like this again. However, her memories of when she was almost raped —her memories of the dizzying and terrifying violence she had endured— stiffened her body.
Eli pulled her frozen body closer to himself and angled his head to better enjoy her lips. Her lips made his entire being grow hotter the longer he felt them and made him feel like he’d be reduced to a pile of ashes sooner rather than later.
As she had stopped rebelling, he took Edna’s torn dress and pulled it down to her waist in one go. He moaned before he knew it at the sight of her smooth skin. Her skin was on a completely different level than any of the other women he had done before. Edna turned her head and bit his lips hard when he carefully reached out to touch her. The bitter taste of blood spread throughout his mouth.
A short shout poured out from Eli’s mouth as he enjoyed her texture with it. She let out a small shriek when he grabbed at her breasts as hard as he could with both hands. He then swooped down and began to feel her with his mouth after binding her arms with the tattered dress. Edna tried to reject him by twisting her body as far as it would go. Eli, however, simply crushed her body against his. Edna’s eyes grew hot with tears.
“I thought that you were really beautiful when I saw you at the capital. I want to see for myself if your body is as beautiful as your face.”
Edna promptly came back to her senses the moment his quiet voice reached her ears. He had seen Anna before in the capital! If so, he’d quickly figure out that she wasn’t Anna. Then, he’d never leave her be. Edna forced herself to calm down and took a few deep breaths. She remembered what Anna had told her a little while later.
<Say this if that lowly Eli ever finds out that you came in my stead. Tell him that you, my Father’s bastard, came to him because I was sick with a terrible illness and my other sisters were too young to wed. I’ve already begun leaking the rumor that I’m bedridden at the monastery, so even Eli can’t do much about it even if he tells the king. The most he could possibly do is to take his anger out on you. Well, if you truly must, you could say that I’ll be coming after I recover from my illness. I’d die before going to Eli, though, naturally. That’s not where I’m meant to be.>
Edna gathered up all the strength she had to push away Eli’s shoulder. Then, before he could reach out to touch her again, she quickly shouted,
“I’m not Anna.”