Chapter 1 - The Illegitimate Daughter
“I can’t do it. Why don’t you just throw me into a beggar’s den instead? Because I won’t agree to this even if I die.”
Anna’s piercing shrieks echoed inside the castle for days on end. Her hysteria only escalated more and more day in and day out. With her fine hair styled into a neat bun from the latest fashion emitting a golden glow and her soft gray-blue silk dress, Anna stomped her feet and wept. It was an open rejection of the arranged marriage decreed by the newly enthroned king, Cayden. Hot tears streamed down from her shining blue eyes like rain. The bones of her beautiful face, which made the hearts of many men race, were more prominent than ever due to her hunger strike, which lasted for several days.
“How can you sell me to such a poor excuse of a noble with commoner blood? I can never go. I’m not going! Haven’t you heard any of the rumors, father? About how low his status is? No matter how much the world has changed, the mere thought of having to breathe the same air as him is horrifying! Please don’t send me to an ignorant man who slaughters every day like a butcher!”
Anna yelled wildly at her father, Viscount William, who was standing nearby and looking at her embarrassedly. Next to him was her mother, Jocelyn, who had the same face as Anna’s but with older features. She was wiping away her tears with an expensive lace handkerchief.
Anna has always been strong-willed and, while standing next to her, Viscount William looked very small and insignificant. Having harbored hopes of marrying his beautiful daughter to the king, the viscount was equally as vexed by the king’s order as she was. However, since he sided with the late King Ducain in the last civil war, he had no choice but to accept the current king’s orders to survive. Cayden, who had successfully led the civil war to victory and ascended the throne, bestowed the title of Duke to Eli, a brave commoner who saved his life multiple times and simultaneously decreed him to marry Anna, the daughter of Viscount William. He wanted to give Eli legitimacy by marrying him to Anna, a nobleman.
Anna had to go to Eli a week from now for the wedding ceremony and as the time approached, her fierce resistance was reaching its peak.
Anna, with a tear-stained face, coldly declared to Viscount William. “I’d rather die. If you send me like this, then I’d rather hang myself and die!”
“No, you can’t, Anna! How can you say that you’ll kill yourself in front of us when we have gone through so much to raise you? We don’t like him either, but if you don’t marry him, our family will be annihilated! What do you rather we do?” Jocelyn said in a wailing voice. But Anna stood her ground and addressed Viscount William firmly.
“You ought to save me even if you have to surrender all your wealth to the King. It won’t be impossible for you to pull off, Father. What’s so important about this farmland and this old ruin of a castle that you’re sacrificing me to protect them?”
Viscount William zipped his mouth like a mouse, surreptitiously giving away the fact that had no intention of abandoning his land and title. Anna, the eldest of five daughters, had to sacrifice herself for the sake of the family. If the King or Eli were to find out that Anna was this determined, there was no denying that there would be an immediate bloodbath raining on his territory. In a situation where he had to at least protect what he had left, he did not want to bring about such doom upon himself.
“It doesn’t have to be me, you have my other younger siblings. Choose one of them and send her. That would do.”
“But Anna, they’re too young, aren’t they? How can I marry off a kid who’s not even 12 years old yet? If you alone endure it, then everyone would be peaceful and comfortable. It’s high time you changed your mind.”
“No, I can’t have that. Don’t let her go, even if you have to give up everything as Anna said. Please. If you let Anna go, I’ll also shed tears until I eventually wither and die.”
Viscount William nervously pulled at his mustache at Jocelyn’s plea, taking Anna’s side. His barely suppressed anger was being stoked. Raising kids too affectionately was the root of all trouble.