Awwww, my little bwaby (5)
“I’ll be blunt, Princess.”
Aristine wiped her lips with a napkin.
“A lot of things have changed since then. Tarkan is now the first-in-line to the throne, both in name and in truth. Furthermore, I now carry a child.”
Paellamien’s gaze lowered slightly. Because of the table, Aristine’s stomach could not be seen.
“Don’t you think it’s too late to get on the same boat?” Aristine asked.
The ship is already sailing smoothly without you.
“There is no need for new passengers on a cruising ship,” she finished.
It was obvious what she meant.
Paellamien met Aristine’s eyes and slowly spoke. “But with a new crew member, you could take a shortcut, make the boat faster, and steer clear of the reef.”
She could provide help to Aristine’s side.
“Just because you’ve been good at avoiding reefs so far doesn’t guarantee that you can keep avoid them,” Aristine replied.
“Besides, what if that member came with different intentions?” Aristine continued with a grin. Despite her gentle expression, her question was sharp. “What if they arrived here intending to turn this ship around?”
Paellamien fell silent for a moment.
Her fingers traced her glass cup. It was a cold drink, unsuitable for the season, yet perfect for the warmth of the greenhouse.
Paellamien clenched her firsts tightly.
“I’m not the type of person who takes risks.”
Her scarlet eyes looked straight at Aristine.
“For a long time, I’ve invested in a safe space. Because it’s safe, I know that I will not get much in return.”
Still, she believed it would be okay.
Her wish was to be freed from the queen’s wariness and for her safety to be guaranteed. Other than that, she didn’t really desire much.
Because the moment she felt greedy, she would become the queen’s target.
“I have been investing almost my entire life. Pulling out now would mean all that time was wasted.”
“Was it an investment?”
Not a surrender?
Aristine refrained from saying it aloud, but those words resonated clearly in Paellamien’s ears.
Paellamien smiled bitterly.
Indeed, it was a surrender.
In return, she couldn’t ask for anything. Even if she ended up in the worst marriage, all she could do was cry.
The safety she thought was guaranteed turned out to be no different from ignoring a dog that had rolled over and showed their belly.
Even so, what about it?
By avoiding pointless political conflicts, she, her mother, and her maternal family remained at peace till now.
Although she absolutely detested the idea of marrying a bald man, eventually, she would have agreed.
As she had always done till now.
“But you make me want to take risks.”
She could see a new possibility.
Aristine confidently stood up to the queen. Paellamien thought she would soon break and shatter, but instead, she soared.
Aristine’s foundation resembled her own, or rather, the advantage had been on Paellamien’s side.
The queen was initially wary of Paellamien because her mother’s family held prominence and power.
In contrast, Aristine had no connections in Irugo, and the future of her relationship with Tarkan remained unclear.
What if she had chosen a different path, would things have been different?
If she wasn’t scared of the bloodshed that would follow, if she wasn’t afraid of the retaliation that would follow upon failure—.
She couldn’t help but have such thoughts.
She had never taken risks her entire life.
She believed such endeavors was either for foolish individuals who could not calculate their losses or idealistic people fixated on dreams and hopes.
But the truth was that she envied them.
That was why, like an animal eyeing an unreachable fruit, she looked down on those who took risks.
But now, Paellamien wanted to take risks with Aristine.
She wanted to stand by her side, experience, and face challenges, and overcome it together.
“You could say it’s too late to call it a risky adventure. As you say, Princess Consort, the ship has entered a steady course.”
Boarding a smoothly sailing ship wasn’t a risk.
“But you never know what will happen until you reach your final destination.”
Paellamien’s voice dropped, almost to a whisper.
Aristine narrowed her eyes, recognizing the hidden meaning in Paellamien’s words. In any case, she already knew that the queen wouldn’t just lie down and accept this.
“There must be something that’s making you switch sides. Oh, then again, I do know of one clear reason.”
Aristine recalled that man who had just one strand of hair left, like the last leaf on a tree.
“Because if you join forces with me, you can marry as handsome of a man as you desire?”
“I don’t know if my ideal man exists in this world…” Paellamien retorted.
“But at least you can freely choose the person. Choose a man that can break the bed.”
Paellamien laughed at that. “Don’t mind if I do.”
But if that were all, she would have readily agreed the moment Aristine first made that offer.
“Princess Consort, you gave me a grace period and during that time, I slowly looked back and thought about myself,” Paellamien traced the plate with her fingers.
“I hadn’t realized it because I’ve been lying flat and doing nothing, but I have a tough personality. There are plenty of things I want to pursue.”
She spoke softly, then she lifted her head and grinned. “Living life as a victim is no fun.”
“Especially if it means marrying an ugly last leaf.”
Aristine had once been the person claiming that a partner’s appearance held no importance in an arranged marriage, but now she understood its significance.
The most essential thing for a happy married life was your husband’s beauty and physical strength.
Paellamien chuckled at the mention of a last leaf and continued.
“And above all…”
Her smile faded, and she turned serious.
“I know that if it’s you, Princess Consort, you will listen to me. You will truly consider what I want…”
Aristine stared at Paellamien, who was looking back at her.
Her sparkling eyes were like burning flames.
《Ever since I was five years old. Ever since, I have laid flat under the queen to survive.》
《So far, I haven’t done anything. Really nothing.》
《I am a royal too. It’s not as if I had great ambitions or aspirations. But I wanted to devote myself to serving this country. But if I did that, it would raise their vigilance.》
Aristine recalled the story Paellamien had shared with her while shedding tears that day.
They were the same person, yet oddly, her eyes then and now seemed different.
Back then, the light in her eyes appeared to be fading, but now, they blazed like a fire, illuminating everything around her.
“Pretty,” Aristine unconsciously uttered.
“Huh?” Paellamien’s eyes widened at the unexpected comment.
Her face grew hot.
She unconsciously cupped her cheek.
Even when they were politically hostile to each other, Paellamien could not deny Aristine’s dazzling beauty.
It was hard to believe that someone like her would stare blankly and then call Paellamien pretty.
“You know,” Aristine leaned forward, resting her arms on the table.
Her attitude was far more intimate than before.
“There’s something I want to do, you know?”
When she repeated it, Paellamien swallowed her saliva.
From stainless steel to scalpels to barriers, Aristine had achieved remarkable results in everything she undertook.
When someone like that said she wanted to do something, who knew what it could be.
‘Could it be related to Silvanus? No, considering she’s saying it to me, it’s more likely an internal matter within Irugo. Is it about developing a trade route using barriers?’
That was a project with potentially tremendous results, causing Paellamien’s heart to pound.
Eventually, Aristine’s lips parted.
“Eating chicken with beer.”
But the words that followed were completely different from what Paellamien expected.
“Eating chicken…with beer?”
“Well, I can’t drink alcohol right now because I’m pregnant,” Aristine explained, nodding seriously.
Her expression was sincere and there was no sign that she was joking.
If anything, her face looked like someone who was truly craving something.
Paellamien didn’t know how to react.
“Doesn’t it sound delicious?”
At that question, Paellamien glanced down at the table.
Apparently, this fried chicken was just “chicken.” The delightful, crispy, and juicy taste of chicken sprang back to life on the tip of her tongue.
Salty chicken and cold beer…
Without realizing it, her mouth began to water. Paellamien enjoyed drinking like every Irugoian.
Aristine grinned after seeing her reaction.
“Would you like to eat with me then?”
It marked the establishment of an alliance.
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