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After this, I ruled over my territory as leader.
That being said, honestly my duties weren’t much different from beforehand.
Each day I was pursued by my work, and hunched over a desk making my best effort.
Although…there were a lot fewer people charging into my room with dramatic announcements, so I had a lot more spare time.
I learned from Lady Letticia that she was officially succeeding to the throne.
Seems like after a year of mourning for Dean she was going to hold her coronation.
I would attend the ceremony as well as leader of my territory.
This would be the first ceremony I attended as leader…basically the first time I would appear in public as a territory leader.
A year, huh.
I couldn’t help but sigh.
After he was gone, several weeks felt like a long, long time.
Like Mother said, occasionally I would feel a streak of pain in my chest.
But now I even enjoyed this pain.
“Where are you heading, milady?”
When I walked out the room, I encountered Tanya who was walking over with files in her hands.
“I’m going to take a walk. I need to move around.”
“Then let me come…”
“No, that’s fine. I’ll just walk around in the yard.”
I left her behind and walked out.
The spring air enveloped me with warmth.
When I stretched, my bones made a cracking sound.
Sitting at my desk every day was making my body stiff. Thinking this, I gazed out at my beautiful garden to relax.
“The weather is great…”
Looking up, I saw the clear blue sky.
“Is Dean somewhere in that sky?”
I couldn’t help but say this to myself, clasping my pocket watch.
He was protecting me from above…it was a fairytale belief that I clung to.
No, I forced myself to.
“No. Not in the sky.”
My murmurs were greeted by someone responding behind me.
The familiar voice made me freeze where I stood.
“It can’t be…”
I was already hallucinating voices, huh, I attempted to calm my shaking body.
But as if to mock me, the voice continued to ring out.
“I’m so sorry, milady. I always lie to you.”
My tears began to fall slowly.
It wasn’t a mishearing or a hallucination.
“What kind of lie is it?”
The voice shuddered.
“So many. An identity as the son of a merchant from the merchants’ guild. Pretending to be calm when I heard about your engagement. And my death.”
“None of it matters…!”
Turning around, I rammed into his chest.
It was him.
It was him…Alfred Dean Tasmeria.
His warmth, the heartbeat I heard in his chest, was enough for me to burst into tears.
He was alive…alive!
“As long as you’re still alive, I don’t need anything else…”
His hands wrapped around my back.
The shuddering in his hands couldn’t be a hallucination.
Engulfed in emotions, I hugged him harder.
I wanted the concreteness of him being right here, right now.
We hugged each other, enjoying the warmth of our bodies.
I wanted to see you…wanted to see you!
And yet I was powerless to do so.
Even if I knew I couldn’t see him again, I still hungered for him, chased after him.
Lightly, our bodies separated. I raised my hands to his cheeks.
“I was indeed injured by arrows, and was in fatal danger…but thanks to the doctor’s hard work, I survived. But by that point the news that I had passed away had already made it back to the palace.”
“Ah…so you’re fine? Not in pain anymore?”
“I’m completely recovered, without any after effects.”
He said with a smile. I sighed in relief.
“Is that so…that’s good.”
“Only the doctor who saved me knows I survived. I asked him not to spread the news.”
“Why is that?”
“Letty said I wasn’t suitable for the role of king. She wanted to be king, so I should just back down. I think that in some ways this was the right thing for her to do…since she was already handling everything in the palace anyways. If I went back it would just be more chaotic.”
“My sister told me to do something I wanted to do. What I want to do is work here.”
Dean clasped my hands on his face.
“In the past I thought my only two paths were becoming king or dying. I’d never thought of any other possibility. Everything I did was to become king…and I only connected with the people around me for this purpose.”
I listened quietly to his confession.
“But when I was here, it was different. My imagined future disappeared from my mind. I enjoyed my work here…”
These words sounded like a declaration of love.
My heart kept leaping at his words.
“I couldn’t help but wish. I couldn’t help but wonder. At another future. I wanted to build a future I had never seen and never imagined with you.”
His hands tightened.
“Although in the past you only hired me on a temporary basis, I want to work here forever. I am a ghost now. May I have this privilege?”
Indeed, since he was dead he had no status.
But what did that matter?
After tasting despair once, I was willing to labor at any cost. No, this wasn’t even hard work for me.
Clasping my hand, Dean knelt down on one knee.
It was like a fairytale, a knight to a princess.
His sudden movement made me shout, my eyes wide.
But he just smiled and shook his head.
His determined eyes fixed upon me. They stole my consciousness away.
“I love you.”
And then his words stunned me.
No disguising, simple words.
But the emotion behind them was enough for my tears to start flowing.
“I’ve always been lying to you, this whole time. Now I’m a phantom with no real identity who can never step onto the stage of this world. I’ll create a lot of work for you, I’m sure. But I don’t want to lie to you anymore. I love you, from the bottom of my heart. Even if I know the toll it might take on you, I can’t give up. I want to walk into the future with you. Please, may I accompany you in the journey of your life?”
My face was hot.
Joy, happiness. My chest felt full.
“You care about these things.” I took his hand.
“These things…It’s odd for me to say this, but they really are a lot of trouble. A man without an identity cannot be husband to a territory’s ruler. Plus, this man has royal blood, the rights to the throne…so he can never walk onto the political scene.”
“None of this matters to me. Because this way I can be with you. I thought you were dead. Faced with a miracle like this, these things are nothing important. ”
He was wide-eyed at my response.
I pulled him to his feet, and buried my face in his chest.
Everything I should say and do as a lady, as the daughter of a duke, disappeared in my mind.
“That being said, this also means you’re giving up the crown for me? Even if you come back as king, I’m already the ruler of this territory. I have no intentions of giving up this position, no matter how much I love you.”
“I’m a troublesome woman too, Dean. Even if I love you, I have my own wants and refuse to stray from my path. Because I love this land, and I love the people who live here.”
I couldn’t back down on this point, no matter how much I loved him.
“That’s exactly the Iris that I love.” He laughed.
We were gazing at each other, with only the other person in our universe.
“But you have to promise me this.”
His earnest eyes sought elaboration.
“I’ve had enough suffering. Don’t tell lies that will make me shed tears anymore.”
The pain, the suffering, the tragedy.
Feeling like my chest was about to be rent apart…I couldn’t handle those emotions any longer.
“Of course. I’ve had enough of the lies too.”
His hands caressed my face.
I let his hands take me, looking up to him.
“I want to be with you. Closer than anyone else…I love you too.”
Finally, I could say the words. I love you.
My true feelings, my intense longing.
A deep satisfaction overcame me and I sighed in relief.
His face approached mine gently. I closed my eyes.
And so our lips pressed together.
So touching and loving.
Grateful that he still lived, grateful for everything I had.
At the same time, my heart filled with a rash impulse.
I wanted to erupt, to scream.
I wanted him to be completely mine, to the point where I couldn’t think about anything else.
Hopefully he was satisfied as me. Perhaps we were thinking the same thought.
And then we separated
“Well then, let’s go back first.”
If we continued we’d be far too immersed. My embarrassment didn’t stop me from making this suggestion.
He was blushing too.
It was an adorable sight that made me smile.
“Everyone will welcome you back. We were all so sad to hear you’d passed.”
“How should I say this…I’m sure everyone in the financial offices will be a little more reserved.”
We held hands.
The warmth at our fingertips made us shudder.
Was it possible to keep walking like this from now on?
“All right, let’s go then! Dean.”