After another day of rest, I still woke up in that foreign body.
This time, I was much calmer than last time. To my surprise, fainting two times in a row must have scared the Rubin household witlessly, because an angelic woman was attending to me personally with worried eyes. Thought it felt like we met for the first time, I knew well who she was.
“Mother…?” I asked in a small, trembling voice.
“How do you feel, my dear?” A delicate hand had reached out to me and caressed my head with tender care. Her voice was as melodious as a songbird’s.
“I’m fine, mother.” I gave her a reassuring smile.
Strange, I thought it would be much harder to call her mother, but after our memories have merged, Duchess Rubin’s touch didn’t feel uncomfortable. I even felt the longing to press my head against her hand to receive more of that familiar warmth.
Where I came from, she could have been my older sister or a friend.
Duchess Martha Rubin was still young, despite having two children at marriageable age already. We were about the same age – and I didn’t even have a boyfriend before coming here!
She carried her first child with only 15 and the second one with 17. Since Dahlias older brother Eric was 17 this year, she was only 32 as of now.
Since she was a member of the royal family, she had those beautiful platinum blond hair and blue eyes that were carried down their bloodline for ages.
She was the current king’s cousin and had lived the life of a proper princess, never to be mistreated before.
After marriage, she became the proud madam of the House of Rubin, the most prestigious household after the royal family. It allowed her to keep a social standing that was almost equal to royal princes and princesses. Even the Crown Prince had to show her utmost respects.
Carrying two children for her husband should have been her most significant achievement already. One could say she had done everything she was supposed to do, but Martha Rubin was more than that.
Besides keeping the household intact, she had taken great care of the surrounding lands belonging to the family. Apart from the military and bureaucracy, which was her husband’s territory, Duchess Martha Rubin shines with superior intellect and generosity towards social welfare.
Many orphanages were under her care, a great many schools opened under her name, and many health care facilities received her support. For a royal who was supposed to bear children and play housewife, she was quite ahead of her time.
Not only was she deeply admired by other noble ladies ever since her debut. It was reported that the young lords of her generation cried rivers of salty tears on the day her engagement to Marquess Rubin was announced.
But ‘that man’ was also outstanding and had excellent conduct. Similarly, he was from a peerless lineage as well.
Young Marquess Henry Rubin had shown exceptional prowess in military subjects from a young age. Not only as a strategist but also in combat, none of his peers were able to step out of his shadows.
People were bitter in their hearts, but no one dared to say that these two were not a match made in heaven.
And it was precisely ‘that man’ who has now stepped foot into the room.
The door opened with a knock. A man in a silver-blue uniform walked in with precise steps, neither hurried nor nervous. But the fact that he arrived the moment his daughter awoke was proof that he either waited outside or had people call him immediately.
I couldn’t help inhaling deeply the moment he came in sight. Also, my body sat up straight involuntarily. First of all, he had an imposing manner. If not confronted with his company regularly, one might start to tremble or felt the urge to bow down. The other reason… I’m a little embarrassed to say it since he was now my father and all, but he was just too handsome, okay!?
While most of Dahlias features resembled her mother’s, her silver-white hair that flowed like mercury was taken straight of this man’s gene pool. His eyes also contained that purple hue, although they were of a darker shade.
Such a handsome man… if not for his frosty aura and the fact that every superfluous word of his was as rare as a four-leaf clover, he would’ve been more popular.
I guess his no-nonsense manner was why his soldiers worshipped him to a great deal. He was strict but fair, he never used flowery language to accommodate his criticism, but that would make his praise even more so real. Most important, he was uxorious towards the throne — a true paragon even between noblemen.
Since he took over the title of Duke from his father at the age of 30, that was five years ago, his imposing manner was even more frightening.
Who would have known that such a man was a doting husband and father behind closed doors? The outside world might not and probably will never know, but this man was utterly devoted to his wife. The moment he arrived next to Martha, he took her hands and placed a kiss on them. With just a slight smile of hers, his icy face melted like spring water. He didn’t say anything, but his eyes and his behaviour showed enough evidence of love and devotion. No one else in this world besides his family might have ever seen this soft smile.
If someone else could see how this invincible pair was flaunting their love right in front of their teenage daughter who just got dumped by her fiancé, their eyes would fall out of their sockets. These two were shining so radiantly they could be the male and female lead of their own story.
Watching with my own eyes, I felt even more sceptical than before. It was a complete mystery as to how such a magnificent family could fall from grace so easily. Well, of course, the biggest reason was my naive past as an inferior author, who didn’t care about Dahlia’s background or her family’s reputation since the girl was the antagonist.
Another reason was probably the dotingly love those parents had towards each other and how they never concealed it in front of their children. Such a pure love led Dahlia to believe from a very young age that love, once bloomed, would last forever. And her first love happened to be Leon, who was destined to fall in love with someone other than Dahlia. Dahlia’s heart had been dead set on that guy, and she was left to sink or swim.
No wonder she exhausted all her means to get rid of that rival until she stepped on the road of no return. But as a sheltered young lady, how many tricks could she have up her sleeve, how deep could her schemes be. If it weren’t for the protective wings of her parents, she wouldn’t have lasted long.
[Original novel of www.millenniumsnow.com ♡]
And here I am, inheriting all of Dahlia’s. Her name, her body, her past, her future, her curse and her love.
I’ve never felt such a deep and profound love before. Her affections were real; they were just not reciprocated. And now that I’ve got time to think about it, it was genuinely an unpleasant sensation — love, what a mysterious force. You can’t force someone to love you, and you can’t just decide to stop loving.
But feelings could fade over time; they could be manipulated and distorted until they become unrecognisable. That was what happened to Dahlia’s love the last time around. She didn’t know what to do with her distorted feelings and became victim to them. As I was mulling over all those things, Henry’s gaze finally turned on me.
“I will leave the two of you alone.” Mother patted my head one last time before she went out. Now it was his turn to sit down next to me.
We stared at each other wordlessly.
If there was a character trait that the two of them had in stock, then it must have been the inability to be outspoken. Also, noble houses weren’t known for expressing their true feelings, much less talking about them, especially if it involves a father and his daughter.
After our eyes met, I shifted my gaze downwards in embarrassment. I couldn’t look at Henry’s face for too long without my heart beating like crazy. Was this Dahlia who felt shame in front of her father after being dumped or just me who had no resistance towards a beauty?
I felt his large hand resting on my head before the silence turned more awkward. A deep baritone with a rich timbre reached my ears.
“It’s not your fault, Dahlia.”
His voice was slightly husky but calm and well accentuated; if he were willing to talk, people would naturally be willing to listen to him. He could make a fortune if he read audiobooks with this voice. My heart calmed down in an instant. It was as if it recognised this man as a father. His face didn’t expose his feelings, but his gestures and the few words he has spoken were full of fatherly love. A little bit awkward but sincere. Somehow he would find a way to tell you that no matter what happened, you would still be the apple of his eye.
My eyes began to burn, what was this sensation? Was it guilt? How could you be so kind to me, when I, no we were the ones who will ruin your family and everything you held dear? This family will be disgraced because of us, and you will pay a heavy price for the sins your child committed. Love is such a burden — no matter what form it has.
Since I didn’t dare to talk, he sighed and continued, “I will talk to His Royal Highness. Renouncing the engagement is not something he alone has the right to decide on.” He was ready to enforce this marriage for the sake of his daughter. But how could anything good result out of such wedlock?
“Father, don’t do that!” I shook my head fiercely, panic in my voice. Henry had successfully broken my silence.
Once, a lifetime ago, Dahlia had accepted his proposal, which was the start of a series of distressing machinations and gruesome events. I knew how it all ended, so how could I let history repeat itself?
“You are willing to break the engagement?” He was somewhat surprised to hear that since practically everyone knew how much Dahlia liked Leon. “Don’t you love him?”
“I don’t love him. If he wants to break it off, then so be it,” I said quickly, but he just picked up an eyebrow at me. Henry put his hand on my chin and coerced me to look him into the eyes.
“Then why are you making such a face?” For a man who doesn’t show emotions, he was quite adept in making them out. Probably because his wife always behaved like an open book when they were alone. “You don’t have to push yourself. Leave those matters to me,” Henry smiled encouragingly.
Something in me broke when I heard his words. My tears surged forth without restraint. I was indeed distressed, but not because of the broken engagement. I reached out for his embrace like a little child and sank deeply into his chest.
These tears were not entirely my own, they were mostly Dahlia’s.
Those were the same words he had spoken in the original story after she had cried and made a scene. Afterwards, he had left to force the royal family to uphold their pledge.
Contrary to his usually aloof manner towards scheming and politics, he would use his name and power for his daughter’s sake. Despite his loyalty to the throne, he was willing to threaten them, ruffling their feathers until both families have become enemies.
Such a stupid man! Just why are you so stupid and doting? Have you allocated all your stat-points on looks?
Even though he had stayed far away from those malicious court politics until now, as a duke and military strategist, he must have been well aware of the consequences. Still, he went as if it was a common thing to do. Wost of all, it ended up all for nought.
“Papa… Papa! It hurts…hic…” I sobbed and cried in his arms, clutching onto his uniform, ruining it with large teardrops. My chest was about to break, and I was barely able to breathe, much less speak a coherent sentence. It was true that thinking about Leon would occasionally twist my insides, but it was nothing in comparison to what I had to endure right now. It felt like I was on the verge of exploding.
Her father’s words had started to detangle a big knot in her heart, touching on her biggest regret in life.
Dahlia’s deathbed regret was not to fail at love but to have dragged her whole family across the mud. Not only had she ruined her family with her antics, but she also never managed to say thank you even once for all the sacrifices they made. When she finally came around, it was already too late, and what was once sweet and delightful was henceforth no more. Later on, she lacked the courage to ask for forgiveness.
All that time, until her last breath, Dahlia’s only wish was to rush back into her parents’ arms and say sorry. Given a chance, if she could go back in time and atone for her sins; if turning her back on love could save her family, she would do so in a heartbeat. Even selling her soul to the devil would be considered a low price.
Henry had tensed up a little upon such close contact, but he put his arms protectingly around me and stroked my back in a soothing motion very soon. He was not used to such a situation, and neither was I, but we managed somehow.
“I’m sorry, Papa, hic, I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
Ever since she started her lessons on etiquette, Dahlia hadn’t called him papa anymore, although those became the most cherished memories of her life. Now that he heard me calling him that again, the strength he used to embrace me increased.
He thought I was apologising for breaking out in tears and losing dignity in front of him, but here I was, borrowing Dahlia’s voice and her surging emotions to bring to him all the words she wanted but wasn’t able to say during her lifetime. To soothe her grief and the pain in my chest, I didn’t withhold anything. To free her soul from guilt and detangle all those messy knots in her heart, I needed to convey those unspoken words.
“I loved him so much that it hurts,” I told the truth, “and I thought my heart was going to break when he rejected me, hic, but I love you and Mama even more! So you don’t have to do something you might regret later. Hic, don’t go, Papa, don’t go!”
The more I said, the more the pain subsided, and the knot in my heart seemed to loosen. There was another feeling that started to fill my heart instead.
From the arms that were holding me tightly, a soothing coolness covered me. It was the familiarity of returning home, where I could put down all my worries. I felt reassured and save as if those arms were able to protect me from any harm. And if needed, they would spread out and carry us wherever I wanted to go.
So this was the home Dahlia dreamed of returning to, and this was the family she wished to save from harm. I closed my eyes in comfort and put my face on his chest. I could hear his heart beating loud and clear.
“Papa, thank you for everything you’ve done.”
Now it’s my turn to protect this family.
Thank you for reading!! ♡♡♡
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