The silence didn’t last for long.
But it felt like quite the contrary.
Everyone was being suffocated by the heaviness of the serious atmosphere.
“All right. If we can treat this as part of the reparations.”
In this atmosphere, he finally sighed and said the above.
I quietly stifled my reactions of relief.
Immediately Tanya handed us the two documents, and we signed on them.
“Done. But…there’s also items on this list that have imposed tariffs to limit their export?”
“We’ve also had several items on our side with lowered tariffs. Don’t you think this is a situation beneficial to us both in the long run?”
“Yes…but you’ve beat me to it. There were several items I wanted to open up when marrying you. So shall I treat this as your response?”
“Yes. Although I appreciate your good intentions, I must refuse.”
“Can you tell me the reason why?”
“First, it’s far too large of a burden to become a queen. As for the reason, you should understand that better than me.”
Although he had obtained the throne, his position was still unstable.
Unlike our nation’s first prince’s decisive tactics, he still had factions he’d yet to deal with.
As for other countries…although plucking a bride from the Tasmeria Kingdom was a generally effective way of helping his nation develop, what he needed more right now was domestic peace.
This was the conclusion I came to through Tanya’s reports.
But since I didn’t want to discuss the matter of interfering in national politics, I remained silent on that point.
…Although to be quite frank, it was a little late for that.
“Yes, I understand. Even though I understand, I still want you. If I can have you, I’m willing to shoulder that burden.”
His gaze pierced through me.
It made me feel as though he genuinely wanted me.
I didn’t know if it was out of love or convenience, but he was telling the truth.
When he had proposed to me in the beginning, he already had designs to win the throne for himself.
Perhaps he’d already foreseen this situation.
Even so, he still formally asked for my hand, meaning he had genuine interest in me.
Considering this, I was quite honestly scared to meet him here.
“Even though you say that…the second reason is that even if we use this opportunity to marry, what we gain will be negligible. I can’t give any other benefits than the ones listed in this contract. Of course, if a marriage could bring further benefits to my territory, then that would be a different matter.”
His only response was an exasperated smile.
“You’re just raising the roof here,” he must be thinking.
Of course, I wasn’t one to deny that.
“Well then, let’s forget it. At this point, I think we’ve concluded the peace negotiations between the Acacia Kingdom and the Tasmeria Kingdom.”
“Yes, we’ll hand Sir Jalal back to you, please take care of him. Shall I take you to him?”
“No, just lead the people waiting for me outside to his location.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Lady Iris, now we’re just having a friendly personal discussion. How do you feel about that?”
“I feel quite good. Having a good relationship with your nation is not just good for me, but also my country.”
“Under the assumption that we’re having a private discussion, may I ask you a question?”
“If it’s something I can answer.”
“What is the truth behind your rejection of my proposal?”
The question he asked with a smile, left me dumbfounded in an instant.
Honestly I hadn’t expected him to just ask the question outright.
Looking at me as I bit my lip, debating how to respond, his smile only deepened.
Even if he knew the truth already, he was quite the villain for tormenting me for the sake of it.
“We’ve already confirmed this is a private discussion, right? No matter what you say to me, I won’t be angry. Just treat it as the final desperate plea from a difficult man who’s had a proposal to his dream lady denied.”
“What an irritating question.”
I exhaled. My mother, sitting by me, was still smiling.
“Isn’t marriage your duty? This is something that your country…no, any country treats as the duty of the nobility? Right now you can’t have better prospects than me, correct?” Prince Majid said.
“Yes. I won’t deny that. Right now there aren’t any other noble parties near my age. If after rejecting your proposal I don’t manage to find a suitable candidate, I think I’ll eventually depart from Duke Armenia’s family and live on my own, running the merchants’ guild for a living. Helping out at the orphanage would be quite fulfilling too.”
My mother said this worriedly. I looked at her with a smile.
I had already made my decisions. After ending my engagement with Edward and returning home, I had realized I wouldn’t be able to marry anyone.
Although the situation had changed…if I didn’t want to get married my only choice was to leave home.
I couldn’t inherit the territory. If Bern ended up getting married and inheriting our land, I would just be an irritating presence.
“But even so I wouldn’t have married you. Because Prince Majid…you struck out against us, didn’t you? Attacking our territory.”
“Oh…so you did realize.”
I only smiled in reaction to his words.
This was the intel we’d gathered from interrogating the first prince, plus what I’d learned from Tanya.
Because we didn’t have direct proof, there was a high risk of mentioning this information during the actual negotiations. But it seemed like we were right after all.
The person who ordered the eastern invasions was indeed Prince Majid.
“Someone who hurt my beloved people…how could I marry someone like that? Even if I have to leave this home, I’ll still be me. Even if I turn into just Iris, all alone, I’ll still work for the development of this land.”
I glared at him.
He responded in kind.
And so we stayed like that, neither of us speaking.
It was as if we were trying to read each other’s hearts.
“Well, it’s my loss then. Let’s remain good neighbors, then.”
Finally he stood up, saying this with a sigh.
“Thank you. The feeling is mutual.”
To escort him away, I stood up as well.
“Although I’m departing this time, this doesn’t mean I’ve given up. The moment you show a hint of weakness, I’ll be here to take you away.”
He grabbed my hands when he said this.
“Ah, how scary. But this is encouragement for me. I’ll try my best to become independent in my own territory.”
He smiled bitterly and left the room.