“. . .However, Emma, you still have to atone for your sins.”
As Delina-chan and I exchanged smiles, the tense atmosphere was broken by my father’s firm voice.
“W-Why?! Emma-sama hasn’t done anything to me, the person involved. . .On the contrary, she’s just been teaching me a lot like this at school!””
I nodded as if it were only natural, but Delina-chan shouted in anguish.
“Calm down, Delina. No one here thinks Miss Emmanuella is at fault. However, since a letter from the temple has been sent, we can’t just let it go without consequences. . .”
The Crown Prince reassured her, but Delina-chan, who seemed dissatisfied, glared at him.
“It can’t be helped. Our Duke family lost in the political battle. If it were just the temple saying things on their own, there might have been a chance to turn the tables. . .But now, the public believes that Emma is the villainess and the beloved child of the goddess was able to triumph over her and marry His Highness.”
To my father’s words, the King unexpectedly lowered his head.
“I truly apologize. It was the royal family who acted insincerely. . .”
I felt awkward and trembled at the behavior of a king of a nation, even in an unofficial setting. My father, who is also the king’s cousin, didn’t seem to mind it that much and simply nodded with an unreadable expression.
“It’s fine. It’s only natural for the loser to face penalties. Besides, if breaking off the engagement can create a debt to the royal family and the beloved child of the goddess, it’s a small price to pay. There shouldn’t be anyone in this country who wants to hinder the two blessed by the goddess. For now, let’s dissolve the engagement between Emmanuella and Prince Fortunato, effective today.”
My father said it casually.
Yes, Delina-chan and the Crown Prince have connected their hearts and manifested the miracle of the goddess. Although Delina-chan is the beloved child who can be called upon by the goddess, perhaps because she is the goddess of love, she needs the Crown Prince by her side and they must pray together. It’s truly like an otome game.
Anyway, because of that, these two must be blessed by the entire country and the temple, and live happily ever after.
That’s why the engagement between me and the Crown Prince, which is getting in their way, should be dissolved. That’s fine. I don’t have any objections.
“. . .The problem is the appropriate punishment for the ‘villainess’ that the temple and the people desire.”
With a bitter expression, the King said those words, and I couldn’t help but feel excited, thinking, ‘That’s right!’.
The King, the Crown Prince, and Delina-chan, who seem to think they have done something wrong, froze with expressions overwhelmed by guilt, while my father’s face seems to say, ‘What should I do?’.
“But in reality, Delina-sama. . .” “Please call me Delina-chan.”
My statement was immediately interrupted by Delina-chan’s insistence.
To move the conversation forward, I decided to obediently follow the words of the beloved child.
“. . .Since Delina-chan had been subjected to bullying similar to what the temple had claimed, even if it was only a fraction, I, as her classmate and a member of the Duke family who should be leading everyone, intend to take responsibility. I believe it’s only natural for me to be considered a villainess and receive an appropriate punishment.”
“. . .I’m sorry.”
His Majesty lowered his head again and, due to my impatience, spoke a bit faster while asserting.
“No, this is also for my own sake. Since I am perceived as a villainess by society, I must receive an appropriate punishment. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee that radical individuals won’t attempt to carry out vigilante justice.”
“That’s true. The popularity of the ‘Beloved Child of the Goddess who saved the country’ is now immense. We can’t predict how that fervor might go out of control. If you were to be acquitted, there wouldn’t be any sympathy gathering for you either.”
As my father acknowledged, the popularity of the beloved child of the Goddess who saved the country, Delina-chan, had reached a cult-like level.
The flow of this story closely resembled the founding myth of the country.
In the region that formed the basis of this country, which was originally like a gathering of small settlements, a maiden who had a connection with the ‘Goddess of Love and Healing’ appeared. She communicated with a young man who later became the first king and the leader of a certain village, and the guardian dragon of this country was sent by the Goddess, saying, “‘May my blessed couple protect everything you love’.
Through the power wielded by the guardian dragon in response to the prayers of the maiden and the young man, this country was protected from the vicious demon beasts that attacked people, and the country rapidly developed and prospered. That is the founding myth of this country.
It is clear how unforgivable the ‘villainess’ who stood in the way of Delina-chan and the Crown Prince, recreating that story, is.
If I don’t experience retribution, I will be in trouble. If I am thoroughly punished here, my Duke family might eventually gain sympathy from society.
“Um, by the way, what are the potential punishments for me at the moment. . .?”
Feeling the need for retribution once again, I asked softly, and my father, who had fallen silent with a difficult expression, raised his face.
“We were considering exile from the country and studying abroad in a neighboring country. . .However, a certain family made a certain proposal, thinking that the engagement between you and the Crown Prince would be annulled, and the temple and the noble council seem to agree, saying ‘That would be just right’.”
From the annulment of the engagement. . .In other words, it means that I will have to enter into a marriage that is so severe, befitting a villainess.
As if confirming my speculation, King His Majesty and my father, who seemed to know about the situation, both had sorrowful expressions.
. . .Is there any way to settle this with studying abroad?
No, but for now, let’s try asking what kind of terrible marriage it is, just to test the waters.
“So, what kind of proposal is it exactly?”
As I cautiously asked, King His Majesty let out a heavy sigh.
While still sighing, His Majesty lowered his head slightly as if enduring a headache, then slowly explained.
“Originally, it was a matter that the royal family had to deal with. It had been a topic of discussion for a while that a daughter with high magical power from the royal family should be married off to a certain family that is crucial for national defense. However. . .”
“Ah, yes, since the unmarried children of the royal family are currently only the Crown Prince. If we consider the closest unmarried person to the royal family. . .Yes, it’s me.”
That can’t be helped, can it? Perhaps the partner is significantly older, but for a noble daughter’s marriage, it’s probably just how things are.
If society thinks I’ve fulfilled my natural obligation and is satisfied with that, then it’s fine. . .
Wait a minute. . .
. . .Crucial for national defense? And if there is no fiancé. . .Could it be. . .
“The family that is crucial for national defense, in other words, the Santorina Border Count family, has made a proposal to welcome Emmanuella as a bride, even a month after graduating from the academy.”
“A marriage with the ugliest person in the country―― That is currently the most likely punishment for Miss Emmanuella.”
At the words of my father and His Majesty, filled with a sense of despair, I felt an immense shock.
A proposal from the Santorina family, the family that is crucial for national defense, to marry the ugliest person in the country.
That means. . .!
Suppressing my rising emotions, I trembled as I asked in a trembling voice.
“Isn’t he the ugliest person in the country. . .? I’m talking about Margrave Rudy Santorina, right. . .?”
Upon hearing my words, my father nodded with a bitter expression.
The people present, seemingly sympathizing with me, all had sorrowful expressions. Some were even teary-eyed.
But it seems to be true.
“So, I’m going to marry Rudy-sama. . .That’s just. . .that’s just. . .”
Ah, my voice trembles.
I can’t control my expression.
Even restraining my impulsive body is a struggle――,
“Just a reward, isn’t it?!”
At my outburst of heartfelt exclamation, everyone present stiffened.