Chapter 24: I love Diana-sama
Leon and Diana were immediately taken to an inn under Gustav’s instructions and led to the dining hall.
As Gustav sat down on a chair, he glared at the couple with a displeased expression, alternating between them. Ilsa, with an intriguing look on her face, observed her younger sister.
The three of them sat down at his signal.
“. . .What are you going to do? Tell me.”
Gustav, instead of addressing the couple, suddenly directed his question to Ilsa.
“It’s news to me that your little sister has fallen in love with a peasant! Let me tell you beforehand, your father’s Heinz Trading Company is about to go bankrupt as they couldn’t recover funds from the royal family. But to save face for you, I brought a marriage proposal from an art dealer for Diana. And this is the result? Isn’t it all in vain?!”
Diana and Leon looked down.
Ilsa raised her head with determination.
“The family’s downfall, the preparations for the marriage proposal, and the fact that these two are in love have nothing to do with each other.”
Gustav raised an eyebrow.
“Hmm? What are you trying to say?”
“Well, Diana. From your own mouth――.”
Ilsa urged her. Diana straightened her posture and tried to explain everything that had happened until now.
At that moment. . .
“Let me explain.”
Leon suddenly interrupted. Gustav seemed surprised and tensed up.
“I. . .love Diana-sama.”
Upon hearing that, Diana’s mouth hung open, and she blushed. This was the first time she clearly heard a confession of love from Leon.
“I also went to help Diana-sama because I have admired her for a long time. And bringing her home. . .I would be lying if I said I had no expectations. So, please don’t blame Ojou-sama. It’s all my responsibility.”
Ilsa, taken aback by the sudden confession from the usually silent gardener, widened her eyes.
“I thought I couldn’t make her happy and decided to part ways with Ojou-sama when she was supposed to welcome Ilsa-sama. . .But――.”
Diana choked up and wiped her eyes repeatedly.
“When I heard that she was crying, I couldn’t just stand by and had to go and get her. . .If my actions, done with the hope of happiness, are making Diana-sama sad, then it’s the same as making her unhappy.”
Gustav scratched the back of his head, slightly blushing, in response to Leon’s innocent way of speaking.
“. . .I understand your determination. So, what do you want to do now?”
Leon snapped back to reality and finally felt embarrassed about his monologue so far. Blushing, he muttered.
“. . .I want to live with Diana-sama for the rest of my life.”
“What about you, Diana?”
While shedding tears, Diana answered.
“I also want to live with Leon.”
“Well, fine. Live as you please, Diana. I have no right to stop you. Just――.”
The young heir of the trading company glanced briefly at his wife, Ilsa, then turned his gaze back to her little sister.
“If that happens, we will be strangers. Diana, I want you and Ilsa to never come near each other again in the future.”
Everyone present couldn’t believe their ears.
“. . .To Onee-sama?!”
“That’s right. If you end up marrying Leon, you will become their family, right? Peasants have strong connections horizontally. It’s easy to imagine that beggars will come asking for money if you are connected to Ilsa. Moreover, there may be people who try to profit by talking about Diana’s relatives. If such trivial matters tarnish our reputation, it would be unbearable.”
Diana protested angrily.
“We won’t ask for money from anyone!”
“I can’t imagine what kind of people surround you. That’s why I want to take preemptive action.”
“To tear apart me and my little sister, how cruel.”
“Don’t interpret it as something malicious. It’s just risk management.”
“Risk? There are things more important than risk management in this world!”
“It may be for you. But for me, this is nothing but a risk.”
Leon blankly observed the argument between the wealthy.
Ilsa spoke up.
“Um. . .”
Gustav looked at his wife.
“What is it, Ilsa?”
“If cutting ties with my little sister is what it takes, then I will resign as your wife.”
The room fell silent.
“I have endured it all this time. My marriage was built solely on endurance. That endurance was for the sake of Heinz Trading Company, and ultimately, for the sake of my family. However. . .”
The smile that should never leave Ilsa’s face disappeared, and she must have raised her eyebrows.
“If you are going to take my family away from me, then that endurance means nothing. Please sever our relationship here and now. I will leave you and go with Diana!”
Gustav turned pale.
“It has been a short two years, but I am deeply grateful for everything.”
“S-So, you mean. . .you don’t love me?!”
Upon hearing that, both Diana and Ilsa were taken aback.
“Ilsa, what do you think of me?”
Ilsa cut him off with a clinging gaze.
“Just. . .a mere marriage partner.”
“Then, what about the daily smiles? Didn’t you love me passionately at night?!”
“That was my duty as a wife.”
“Yes, that’s what I was taught by my parents. To be respectful to my husband’s family. That’s all.”
“So, you were just fulfilling your duty by being with me. . .”
“That’s how it seems.”
Gustav lost all vitality, becoming like an empty shell as he leaned against the back of the chair.
“. . .What a fool.”
“Diana, can I stay at the mountain lodge for a while too? I have nowhere else to go.”
“Of course. You’ll have to sleep on the floor, though. Is that okay?”
“I’ll be fine.”
Gustav interrupted in a half-crazed state.
“P-Please, don’t go!”
“But there’s no longer any reason for me to stay here.”
“Let’s calm down for a moment, okay?”
“I am calm.”
“Ugh. . .”
Gustav held his head. He trembled for a while, but managed to compose himself and looked up.
“Uh. . .You don’t have to cut ties.”
“Yes. However, if there is any evidence of large sums of money being transferred to Diana or her relatives, then that’s a different story. In other words, I will allow the sisters to maintain contact, but the transfer of money will be prohibited. How does that sound?”
“Hmm, what do you think, Diana?”
“That’s fine. I intended to live without relying on Onee-sama anyway.”
“. . .Diana.”
The sisters stood up and locked eyes, tightly gripping each other’s hands.
Leon was momentarily taken aback.
Gustav remained pale, covering his face with both hands.