Chapter 1 – I’m Not Leaving
‘I’m not leaving.’
A beautiful white castle could be seen through the carriage window. Cecil gritted her teeth as she stared at the building.
The ladies-in-waiting sitting across from her were uncertain of what to do, but Cecil didn’t even spare them a glance. She was angry.
She looked down at her appearance. A lace veil crowned her head, while a white silk dress rested so delicately on her body that it looked like it would slip if she so much as raised her hands. The hem of her dress was decorated with beautiful pearls that looked like shining eggs.
Yes. This was Cecil’s wedding dress.
Today, Cecil was to be married. Unusually, she wasn’t the slightest bit happy on her wedding day. The closer she drew to the castle, the more suffocated she felt.
As soon as Cecil’s carriage arrived at the gates, the waiting band began to play music. It was a beautiful song, but to Cecil’s ears it sounded like a funeral dirge.
‘If I go in there…’
She would die.
The moment she had that thought, her face turned white.
“Save me…” she pleaded beneath her breath.
The ladies-in-waiting sitting across from her didn’t know what shemurmured, but they just nodded their heads gloomily and said, “If you run away, we’ll die.”
No, who was there to even comfort her?
Cecil clenched her jaw once more and stared at her bouquet. There was one simple reason why she wasn’t happy on a joyous occasion like this.
‘Why should I marry the Emperor!’
The biggest problem in the world—was the man who would be her husband.
Emperor Estian. He would be Cecil’s marriage partner today.
Except…he was the worst, craziest tyrant on the continent. No one would be shocked if he killed his bride today.
‘How did this happen…’
Cecil turned her memories to a month ago.
And remembered them all.
* * *
Cecil was an illegitimate child of King Navidan. She was conceived from a drunken encounter between the king and a maid, and inherited the distinct characteristics of House Navitan—beautiful platinum-blonde hair with green eyes. When Cecil was born, the king was forced to admit she was his child.
However, that did not mean Cecil was loved and accepted.
Her mother, who was a maid, died shortly after Cecil was born, and Cecil was sent to a secondary royal palace and grew up there.
Although she received the minimum education required for a royal daughter, she was almost a maid compared to the other princess in the main palace. However, not once did Cecil ever think that her circumstances were unfair.
‘It’s a wonder that I was recognized as a royal princess.’
If she hadn’t been, she would have been thrown out of the palace when she was a baby.
In a way, she had a comfortable life. The king never summoned her, and she lived her days in the secondary palace eating, sleeping, and playing without having to do anything. It was better to experience the same day over and over again rather than suffer, even if it was a bit boring.
Cecil would sometimes present flowers to her mother’s grave in the corner of the palace.
“Mother. I’m going to live like this, and someday I’ll be sold as a concubine to a rich, old, military aristocrat.”
So Cecil could not go out freely, the only worlds she came in contact with were the worlds of the books. Most of the books were brought by the maids of the palace.
“Everything in the books are like that.”
If her mother were alive, she would have slapped her and said, “That’s because those are all romance novels!’
But the dead did not speak, and Cecil continued to mutter to herself.
“But this isn’t in the book, so the person she was forced to marry was a grand duke who only looked at his wife. But she didn’t think the same thing would happen…”
From the books she read from the maids, Cecil knew what would happen to a princess like her. She was not a beloved royal daughter, but she still had the bloodline of one. The king could sell her off without any guilt.
If only she were ugly.
Cecil held onto the mirror and cried.
“You useless beauty!”
Even in Cecil’s eyes, she looked beautiful in the mirror. Her skin was as fair as snow, and lips as red as liquor. Her eyes were reminiscent of a summer forest, and she had long, graceful limbs.
‘I would sell for a high price.’
She was beautiful, but why would it only be the king who would benefit from it?
Cecil felt frustration every time she looked in the mirror, but that didn’t mean she wanted to be ugly.
Time passed. One day, servants suddenly rushed into the palace.
“You want me to go now? W-wait! Let go of me!” Cecil yelled.
The king said he was looking for Cecil, and the servants almost dragged her away.
“Why are you doing this?” Cecil demanded.
“You’ll find out when you get there. It will be good,” a servant replied.
No way. How could they look her in the eye and say it would be good?
No. When she saw her father, King Navidan, for the first time, the words that came out of his mouth were total bullshit.
“Congratulations! Your marriage has been decided!“
“…It’s a pleasure to meet you for the first time, Father.”
Cecil gave a courteous bow to King Navidan, who acted familiarly to her as if he met her yesterday. Although this was their first meeting since twenty-four years after her birth, she felt neither happiness nor affection.
‘How is it that don’t we look alike?’
She bore no resemblance to her father, save for the blonde hair and green eyes. She supposed that her mother, whom she had never seen before, was a great beauty.
“But what do you mean by my marriage?” Cecil asked.
“You’re of marriageable age but you’re not married yet, leaving me heartbroken—”
“As if,” she muttered beneath her breath.
“What did you say?” King Navidan said.
“Nothing, go on.”
“Well, in any case, I was looking for an eligible marriage partner for you, when I received a very good proposal.”
Who in the world sent the king a marriage proposal for him to make such a fuss?
Cecil waited for his words, thinking that she wouldn’t be surprised by the name that would come out of his mouth.
“Surprising, the partner is—”
A scream escaped out of Cecil’s mouth, even though she had tried to prepare her heart.
What? Emperor Estian?
“Hahaha, you must be so happy that you’re screaming!” the King chortled.
“A-ah, no. Come on, come on, wait!”
“You must be thrilled if you’re stuttering like that. That’s a relief. Then prepare to leave the country—”
“Are you crazy? I’d rather you kill me here right now!” Now that she knew what was to follow, she screamed at him. She had been prepared to be sold as the proper lady of the aristocracy. But not this.
Who was Estian, you ask? He was called the craziest madman on the continent and the greatest tyrant of all time.
As soon as he reached his sixteenth birthday and was crowned emperor, he cut off the throats of countless relatives, regardless whether they were family. He claimed they were all traitors. Everyone held their breath as the Emperor displayed the decapitated heads at the entrance to the Imperial Palace.
A vassal bravely criticized the Emperor for the crime of abandoning family duty, but the Emperor didn’t blink an eye, and ordered the vassal and his family to be thrown into prison.
<If you had been poisoned like I had, you would not have said that. That is why I prepared this. I gave your first son the same poison.>
The vassal’s face turned blue with shock at the Emperor’s words.
<Why the expression? It seems like you understand how painful the poison is.>
<Y-Your Majesty. I…>
Then, the eldest son’s body twisted and thrashed in agony, and he died with blood seeping from every hole of his body.
The Emperor then tossed the bottle of poison and a dagger to the second son.
<Choose. Kill your father and live, or drink the poison yourself and die.>
The second son looked at his dead brother, then immediately picked up the sword. Then he stabbed his trembling father.
The man who was stabbed by his son crawled along the floor. At the sight, the Emperor muttered casually,
<It seems like he’s still has breath in him.>
<Your Majesty, I…>
<Shouldn’t you die knowing the power of the poison I ordered?>
Only then did the people know that the vassal was the one who sought the life of the emperor.
After that, any person who had cursed the Emperor disappeared. After the Emperor ascended to the throne, he had gone crazy and embarked upon a mad war, as if every country in the world was his enemy.
Ten years later, there was no one left who would no longer kneel before him. Of course, those subservient also included the Kingdom of Navidan.
Even so, why? Why?
“W-why would Emperor Estian choose a bride from such a small country?” Cecil asked.
It didn’t make sense to Cecil. Aside from Navidan, there were other countries on the continent where he could get a wife. But why this kingdom?
“Small country!” the King sputtered. “Our Navidan is certainly great—”
“Oh, never mind. Why did he send it?”
The King, interrupted by Cecil’s spirited shouting, stammered in reply. “Well, that’s…”
He procured a suitor’s letter stamped with the Emperor’s seal and showed it to Cecil. Then a moment later, she gave a cry.
“He wasn’t thinking about marriage, but because he had no heirs, the people wanted him to get married? And he picked his wife by drawing lots? And what? He needed a successor, so he needed a healthy, high-born princess? Who does he think he is? Some kind of beast?”
“A-aaah! That’s the Emperor’s letter! Be careful!”
“Do I look like I’m going to be careful now?”
Cecil threw the letter onto the floor. King Navidan picked it up in a hurry and carefully handed it back to the grand chamberlain.
“Regardless, you have to go,” the King said sternly. “I’m relieved that your tone of voice is so energetic. What are you doing? Wait, I did not dismiss the princess yet!“
“Since when did you start treating me like a princess?”
At the king’s command, the servants dragged Cecil to her doom. Her brothers and sisters whom she saw for the first time stood by the side and waved at her.
“I love you, Cecil. We will never forget you!”
“I’ll remember, Cecil!”
“It was nice to meet you, but let’s not meet again!”
“Take good care of yourself!”
She couldn’t even remember who was who. Besides, was this what you say to a half-sister you just met? It was better to curse them!
The princes and princesses, who had the same blonde hair and green eyes as herself, gave their farewells to Cecil as she was being dragged away.
Cecil raised her middle finger strongly at them.
‘That was a month ago.’
Immediately, Cecil was brought to the Empire, where she had to study etiquette and history for a month at a mansion near the palace. She had to know what the Emperor liked, what the Emperor disliked—even when it came to the bed.
All the teachers who taught her showed their sympathy.
“Please, endure at all cost.”
And finally, on this wedding day, the teachers saw her carriage off as they dabbed their eyes with their handkerchiefs.
It was less like seeing off a bride, and more like seeing off a funeral coffin.
‘I’m not dead yet!’
But Cecil would be soon.
While she was in the mansion for her studies, she heard much about the Emperor of the Estian, mostly about how often he killed people. She also heard that people were curious about how many days Cecil would last.
While Cecil was lost in thought, the carriage stopped. The imperial servants opened the door, revealing rows of soldiers and flower petals scattered on the red carpet beyond. Cecil swallowed dryly at the sight.
So this was how she would die.
Bitter anger rose up in her throat.
She quietly lived her entire life in a separate palace, and she prepared herself to be sold off for marriage. But now she was sent off to die like this?
Another swell of anger rose up against King Navidan.
‘You’re sending me away like this while you sit in comfort.’
If she was destined to die anyway, then she wouldn’t take it lying down. At the very least, she should take the Emperor down with her so the rest of the world wouldn’t be bored.
“Princess Cecil?” a servant said nervously when she did not get out of the carriage.
“His Majesty is waiting for you. You must get off—”
The corners of Cecil’s lips tilted upwards.
If she was going to die, then she would do something crazy before she went.
“No,” Cecil said determinedly.
“No,” she repeated.
Cecil smiled brightly at the shocked servant.
“If the Emperor won’t pick me up in person, then I won’t move a step.”
It was the beginning of madness.