Please Answer Me - Chapter 23
The Archduchess held up her own hands and stared at them. “I couldn’t even raise my son properly in my arms, for I sent him away to the Lysa Kingdom at an early age.”
After a long wait, she had a precious son, and she would have given anything for the heir she had after a long wait. But as far as she was concerned, things weren’t going so well.
The Archduchy, a small landmass, was inevitably in a situation where it had to be vigilant against the neighboring lands. To the north was the Divine Kingdom of Lysa, to the east were numerous lands of similar power to Hazen, and to the west were the Ardennes, a barbarian but formidable people.
Among them, the Kingdom of Lysa was particularly close to the Archduchy of Hazen. Not surprisingly, the land was founded by a prince of Lysa, who became the first Archduke, but the close relationship had gradually faded over the course of 100 years.
If something were to happen to sever the ties with Lysa, Hazen would not only be threatened by neighboring lands, but would also be invaded by monsters that had not yet appeared thanks to the Kingdom’s protection.
As a result, the Archduke’s family prayed for a means of strengthening the relationship with the Kingdom of Lysa. He sent his young son, who was not yet ten years old, to the royal court of Lysa to study.
There were princes and princesses of his son’s age in the royal family, and he hoped that he would grow up to be like a brother to them.
And if there was one thing he hoped for, it was that he would be able to build on that friendship and marry the first princess, Tanit, who would one day be the ruler of the Kingdom of Lysa.
If that happened, one of the children Iselle and Tanit would have would be the heir to the Kingdom of Lysa, and the other would be the next in line to become the Archduke. Then who would dare to look down on Hazen for being small?
“We sent Iselle to the Kingdom of Lysa because we hoped he would eventually marry the first princess, Tanit, but he had his heart set on the youngest, Rosetta, and I have always regretted that, and so have you, Your Highness.”
The Archduke let out a low sigh. “I understand your feelings, honey, but we cannot control the human heart. Even if Iselle wants Princess Tanit, unless her heart is set on Iselle…”
Then the Archduchess smiled meaningfully. “I forgot the most important thing: Princess Tanit has her heart set on Iselle.”
A few months ago, talks of Iselle’s marriage to Princess Rosetta had begun in earnest. The Archduchess had traveled to the Kingdom of Lysa to discuss the necessary arrangements.
By then, she had more or less gotten over her disappointment with the marriage. She had hoped to marry Princess Tanit, but as it turned out, marrying Princess Rosetta wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
In any case, marrying into Lysa royalty would bring great benefits to the Archduchy of Hazen.
Also, unlike Tanit, who was cold and difficult to approach, Rosetta was a lovely child by nature. It’s no exaggeration to say that everyone in the palace loves Princess Rosetta because she’s sweet and friendly, even after marriage, she will be able to get along well with Iselle. Most of all, Iselle wants to marry Princess Rosetta.
So let’s forget about Princess Tanit and think of the good things, or so she thought. Until the Archduchess saw the scene for herself.
“As I heard, the flavor of black tea is indeed wonderful.”
For the Archduchess’ first visit to the royal palace in a long time, the Queen served her a special tea that she treasured. The tea, named Teacan, was made from the young leaves of a tea tree that grows in the highest elevations of the Lausanne region, which is famous for its black tea.
It’s a luxury that’s hard to come by, even if you’re willing to pay for the first bud of a tea plant. Although she was trying to cheer the Queen up, the Archduchess meant it to a certain extent.
To the Archduchess’ admiration, the Queen let out a gentle laugh.
“I’m glad to hear it’s to the Archduchess’ taste.”
“Not only does it taste good, but its color is very pretty. I was surprised at how golden it is.”
One of the things that makes this tea so precious is its color. The color of the brewed tea is so close to golden that it is nicknamed the gold of black tea.
“I will bring you tea leaves when you return to your homeland. Please accept it as my little sincerity.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty, it’s not enough that you gave me a precious princess, but now you’re giving me these fine tea leaves, how can I ever repay this favor?”
Their laughter echoed through the small space of the tea room. As they sipped their tea, catching up, the Queen’s gaze was suddenly drawn to the window.
The table next to theirs had a large window, and beyond the glass was a large, flower-filled garden. There were two princesses and a prince sitting freely in the garden, including Iselle, chatting.
“I’m worried that Rosetta may not know anything.”
The Queen turned and looked at the Archduchess and continued, “Unlike my other children, I raised Rosetta without teaching her anything beyond the basics, but as she approaches marriageable age, I fear she will be judged by her lack of knowledge…”
“Why are you so worried? Who dares to judge the princess?”
“One of the things you can’t avoid when you’re a royal is words spoken behind your back. I was relieved when Iselle, who she grew up with like a brother, said he liked Rosetta. He will understand generously since he has known her for so long.”
“Don’t worry about it. The princess grew up free, so I’m sure she’ll be more at home in Hazen than with the more formal noble families of the Kingdom, and it’s not too far from the Kingdom, so she can visit whenever she wants to see her family.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
At the Archduchess’ words, the Queen looked into the golden color of her teacup and smiled.
“I would like Rosetta to continue to live like this, unconcerned with the affairs of the world, just a woman loved by her husband and a mother to her beloved child, just like that.”
The Archduchess was a little puzzled by the Queen’s words. She seemed unusually concerned about Princess Rosette living a normal life.
She wondered if it was because she had been ill as a child, for a mother’s heart is always weaker for her sick child.
As she pondered these questions, the Archduchess looked out the window at the children.
It was a sunny day. A blanket was spread out in the shade from the bright sunlight pouring into the garden, and on it sat Iselle and Rosetta, side by side.
Tanit was reading a book behind them. Arman, on the other hand, stood alone in the center of the sunny garden, practicing with his sword.
It was a picturesque sight, and how she’d hoped for such a relationship with the royalty of Lysa when she’d first sent Iselle here.
Watching the scene with a satisfied smile, the Archduchess suddenly realized that Princess Tanit had been staring at the same place all along. She had a book in her hand, but her gaze was not on the pages.
Surprisingly, Iselle was where Princess Tanit’s eyes were directed. She stared blankly at Iselle, the way he smiled at Rosetta, the way his silver hair swayed in the breeze.
She was a princess who never let her guard down in a place where there was a lot of attention on her. But now it seemed she hadn’t realized that there were eyes watching her from another direction.
From then on, whenever Princess Tanit and Iselle were together, the Archduchess would watch them closely. Once she noticed it, she could see very clearly where Princess Tanit’s gaze was going.
If it happened more than three times, it was no longer a coincidence. And so the Archduchess was certain that Princess Tanit had her heart set on Iselle.
“If that’s true, why haven’t you spoken up until now?”
“I found out when the marriage of Princess Rosetta and Iselle was already being discussed in earnest. Even if the King and Queen had known about it, there is no way they would have chosen Princess Tanit to be Iselle’s mate instead of Princess Rosetta.”
“But if Princess Rosetta were to disappear, that would be a different story.”
It was not common, but not unheard of, for a sibling to take the place of a sister when an arranged marriage was disrupted by an unexpected death. Moreover, if the sibling, Princess Tanit, had her heart set on Iselle, there would be no objection on the part of the Kingdom of Lysa.
The Archduke shook his head. “Are you suggesting that we harm Princess Rosetta ourselves? That is absolutely not possible, and if the royal family finds out about this, what are we going to do about it?”
When it became public knowledge that they had attempted to harm Princess Rosetta, the most beloved princess, the Hazens could not avoid their destruction.
Even if they were nobles, they would be severely punished just for the crime of touching the royal family of Lysa.
The Archduchess looked at her worried husband and smiled brightly.
“There is no need for us to step up. The letter says that no one but Iselle will be informed, so it’s a simple matter.”
The Archduchess walked to the desk. She held up the letter and began to burn it with a candle.
When the letters were all reduced to ash with acrid smoke, she spoke, “We never met the messenger, nor did we receive this letter.”
The corners of the Archduchess’ lips lifted.
“The messenger met bandits on his way here and was robbed of both the money and the letter, and lost his life. Poor thing.”