Chapter 44 - Father’s Return
At my name, I reflexively turned towards the speaker. My father, who I had hoped would return two days later, was standing in front of me. ‘Why is he here?!’
I tried to keep calm and said, “Welcome back, Father.”
He stared at me as I struggled to gather my words. “Thank you,” he finally said.
“You must be tired from the training. Why don’t you get some rest?” I began to get up from the bench to avoid spending more time with him, but he gently placed his hand on my shoulder.
“No, I have something that I need to say right now.”
I observed him with trembling eyes and became aware of my predicament. ‘I’m ruined…’
“Jubelian,” my father said. As he gazed at me with cold eyes, I braced myself for his next words.
‘He’s taking his time to get to the point. It’s obvious what he wants to talk about.’ When I made up my mind to steer the topic away from the marriage list, my father took his hand off my shoulder.
“From now on… you won’t be left alone,” he said quietly.
I doubted having heard him correctly. ‘What does he mean by that?’ He didn’t even mention the person who wouldn’t leave me alone, but I was soon able to come up with various explanations.
‘Is he going to keep me under surveillance, so I won’t be able to run away from the marriage?’ As I imagined such possibilities, I looked at him with confusion.
He stared at me and asked, “Have you eaten dinner?”
“No,” I replied truthfully to his sudden question.
My father furrowed his eyebrows. “If you keep skipping meals, you will pass out again.”
It seemed like he was worried about me, but I knew better. ‘If I keep passing out, it will be difficult to marry me off to the crown prince… He just wants me to be in prime condition for marriage.’
I was wondering if I should pass out at a social event to ruin his plans when he said, “You must never pass out again.”
He sounded like he was going to punish me if I did, so I discarded this idea. ‘Ah, maybe there’s a limit to what I can do.’ As I lamented to myself for being the villainess in this novel, my father took my hand.
“Let’s go eat.”
I wasn’t hungry because of all the snacks I ate earlier, but I didn’t refuse him out of worry that he might get upset. ‘I must eat dinner with him to avoid trouble.’
I convinced myself to hold my father’s hand. Although he was cruel for trying to marry me off to a tyrant prince, his hand was big and warm.
‘When I was little, I used to follow him around… just because I wanted to hold this hand.’ It was amusing that I couldn’t hold his hand when I desperately wanted to, but I could now that I had let all lingering attachments go. ‘He doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.’
I let him guide me into the dining room. The time it took us to get here felt longer than usual.
‘This is really awkward,’ I thought as I followed his order.
Although this wasn’t the first time I was dining with my father, we usually didn’t talk when we were eating. Our silence became so ingrained that I didn’t find it awkward, but today was different because… ‘I’m anticipating what he’s going to say.’
When I sighed, my father said, “I heard that you are going to a banquet next week.”
It was obvious why he suddenly mentioned Rose’s birthday party. ‘He’s going to criticize my decision to go.’
I collected my thoughts. “Yes,” I replied with a smile. “I was invited to a birthday banquet hosted by Rose Mario Arlo, the esteemed daughter of Count Arlo.”
My dad raised his knife and gracefully sliced his steak. “Who will your partner be?”
In the book that my father had given me, several tactics could be employed in conversations. One method was to disturb the opponent’s emotions. Another, the standard method, was precise in that it cut to the chase and kept the opponent from escaping. Of all methods, my father had used the standard one on me!
He wouldn’t find fault with me if I had a partner, but the problem was… ‘I don’t have one yet.’ It wasn’t like I didn’t try. Although it was more comfortable to be alone, I didn’t want to stick out in the cliquish and conservative aristocratic social scene.
‘Several people even wanted to be my partner. All I had to do was choose one…’ There was a reason why I didn’t, however. After seeing the marriage list, I became so occupied with finding a countermeasure that it had completely slipped my mind.
I smiled awkwardly at my father. ‘Ah, what should I say now?’
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