His Noble and Righteous Route to the Harem

Chapter 4. The Ideal Husband and Wife and the Prophecy of the Forest
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Chapter 4. The Ideal Husband and Wife and the Prophecy of the Forest

(Like I could live a life without wheat beer!)

As night took over and the bright moon of autumn surfaced in the sky, Ludwik snuck out from the rear gate of the castle while wearing the clothes of a townsman.

The grass that littered the fields rustled noisily as he ran down the hill the castle rested on with firm steps.

He wasn’t planning to abandon his duties as the king.

Like his stepfather said when Adelheid came to receive Ludwik, that’s something that God decided so it can’t be helped, he has no choice but to accept it.

However, Ludwik has had enough. Whether it’s his sour relationship with Queen Katerina, the high class dishes that he would bite his tongue trying to pronounce, or the lack of freedom that prevents him from interacting with his family much, the work that consists only of reading documents and stamping them, Ludwik was sick of it all. The resentment that accumulated and accumulated within Ludwik since he became king finally exploded from the incident where he was scratched by Queen Katerina’s pet monkey.

(There shouldn’t be a problem in letting loose once in awhile.)

And so, he executed his plan to “sneak into town”, a classic feature in fairy tales.

As Ludwik breathed in the fragrance of trees wet from the evening dew and frolicked with the cool air blowing against him, he ran with all he had for the first time in awhile, sucking in lungfuls of fresh air until he merrily arrived at the town.

“I’m back—! My town!”

He spread his two hands and yelled out.

After which, he entered the first tavern he caught sight of and toasted fellow customers he met for the first time with a mug filled with wheat beer to the point that the head foam spilled over and fell.

“My wife is intense like you wouldn’t believe. She set a monkey loose on me, spurring it to scratch me.”

Ludwik grumbled jovially.

“Hoooh. So that’s where your scratches come from. It’s spoiling your handsome face, lad.”

“So the punchline is what you did to deserve that right?”

He was teased like so.

“No way! I haven’t even held hands with a girl outside my family since I married her. Yet, as I was enjoying some private time with my little sister whom I hadn’t seen in awhile, she showed up and called me a pervert while throwing a monkey at me. A monkey, you know? A monkey. Is that sane? And after all that, she said that it was my fault for doing things that would be misunderstood and turned her head to the side sharply with a cold face, refusing to apologize. Partway through, she shot a glance my way, so I flinched thinking she might apologize, but then she just turned away again.”

“That wife of yours sounds a lot like Her Majesty.”

Everyone burst out laughing.

The queen’s high pride and the discord between her and the king was well known even beyond the castle walls.

If Adelheid heard this, she’d probably say, “This is a problem” and frown. If Ludwik was sober he’d probably have shut up, but since he was drunk,

“Is her face as divine as Her Majesty’s as well?”

Upon being asked,

“She’s a beauty like the fairy queen who rules the spirit world in the forest. But she only ever glares at me, never showing me a smile.”

Ludwik loudly replied.

“Wow, she really is just like Her Majesty!”

“Her Majesty really isn’t a girl one should take as one’s bride, huh–”

“Yeah, I agree. I’d rather have a wife who’s just a little cute but cheerful and hard working.”

Ludwik nodded firmly at everyone’s words which resonated with him.

“You’re exactly right. One should never marry a princess, especially like one from the grand northern empire that reads the Holy Book aloud in Endrish every night.”

He hoisted up his mug and swallowed the contents in one gulp.

Applause arose from the other patrons whom Ludwik had bonded with from this heartfelt talk.

“Yeah, that’s right! Just drink and forget such a high and wry wife.”

“You’d be a looker if not for those scratches, so search for a better girl. Just divorce that wife akin to an icicle.”

Someone proposed.

For just a moment, Ludwik felt guilty towards Queen Katerina.

(Well, she’s having a hard time too, coming from a faraway country to marry a man she can’t stomach. Her attendants that escorted her here have all returned home, and she’s all alone in a country where everything’s different, whether it be the language or the culture.)

He opened his mouth and was about defend her, but realized that even if he did, it wouldn’t do anything but kill the atmosphere.

That’s right, today I’m here to take a breather, so forget reality.

“Alrigh—t! I’m gonna divorce her—!”

As Ludwik yelled and gulped down another mugful of wheat beer, everyone cheered and clapped even louder than before.

“Well said!”

“Now that’s a man!”

“Divorce her–!”

“Give her the divorce she deserves!”

He was cheered on by the patrons one by one and patted roughly on the shoulders. Having wheat beer poured into his mug from all directions, Ludwik drank and drank jovially and enjoyed making a scene.

A few hours later—

“Hahaha, I’ll divorce you–”

Dead drunk, Ludwik walked through the forest alone.

The sky is still dark, and the stars are shining clearly.

He left the tavern intending to return to the castle before dawn, but as he is drunk, his legs were wobbling and he couldn’t figure out the right direction.

“Was the castle this way?”

“Ahh, I’m getting the feeling that it’s this direction too.”

“No, it’s this way after all.”

Eh, whatever. I should arrive somewhere before long. As Ludwik staggered onward with a carefree attitude, he inadvertently wandered deep into the forest.

A third of Rhodesia’s territory is covered by green forestry. Thus, if one kept walking one direction at random, it’s very likely one would encounter a forest.

Ludwik continued staggering through the forest optimistically, figuring that if he gets past the forest then there should be a road somewhere near. In reality, forget getting past the forest, he’s wandering deeper and deeper into it; however, he doesn’t notice.

Giant trees towered over him as far and high as he could see. The leaves stained black from the darkness swayed mysteriously as they were blown by the cold night wind. Perched atop a twisting branch whose shape was like that of a monster’s claw, a large owl reflected golden light from its pupils and eerily cried “Ho—ho—.”

“I’m breaking up with you—! We’re divorcing—!”

Ludwik yells as he staggers onward merrily.

Ludwik forgot the warning that all Rhodesian parents drill into their children: “Do not walk too deeply into the forest. A spirit world exists in the forest where mysterious beings live. If they catch you, you won’t be able to return home.”

The air suddenly chilled as a strong wind blew past the trees, bending the branches backwards, after which a majestic voice sounded from an uncertain direction.

“Human king, you are not to trespass beyond this point.”

Resounding gently in the darkness was a mystical voice.

“Hwhat? Did someone say something?”

Ludwik surveyed the scenery to both his left and right restlessly, but no one was there. Next, he turns backward. There were only thick and overgrown trees basking in the moonlight without a trace of anyone.

“Haha, my ears must be playing tricks on me.”

He laughed and proceeded forward, upon which a thin girl suddenly appeared right before him seemingly out of nowhere. His heart almost froze.

“!”

Even though he didn’t see anyone when he checked just now nor did he sense any movement since—

Furthermore, the young girl was clearly abnormal.

She looks as old as Lottie and was wearing a dress made of a thin and transparent material over her delicate arms and legs that are as thin as a stick. The cloth of her dress absorbed the moonlight and shined fluorescently.

(Is that… silk? No, silk isn’t that transparent. This dress is lustrous and even finer than silk, almost as if it was knit with threads of light.)

The cloth was unknown even to Ludwik who used to be the young master of a dressmaker.

Moreover, given the season is autumn right now, the forest is very cold at night. Yet, she’s wearing a dress thin enough to make out her body lines. For such a young girl to be out here alone at this time of night would normally be unthinkable.

Her almond shaped eyes like that of a cat were golden and she carried a gravity that didn’t match her apparent age. It’s as if it’s this young girl that’s older than Ludwik and by far.

And more than anything else, what caught Ludwik’s eyes was the color of her hair.

It is a vivid blue like a bead of sapphire.

Ludwik has never met someone with hair like hers before.

Her lustrous blue hair is long enough to cover the entirety of her thin body. To Ludwik, it looked as if the girl wearing clothes made of light has azure wings spreading out from behind her.

The girl spoke again with a mysterious voice.

“If you set foot past this point, you won’t be able to return home anymore.”

Ludwik finally recalled the admonition to not walk too deeply into the forest that all Rhodesian citizens know.

And also that in the spirit world that exists somewhere in the forest live beings with mysterious powers.

Is this blue-haired girl someone from the spirit world referenced in fairy tales and legends? Or am I simply hallucinating from being too drunk?

Ludwik didn’t feel scared at all; instead, he felt a stinging sadness well up and fill his heart.

“I don’t need to go back…”

(Huh, what am I saying?)

Why did I suddenly say something like that?

I was planning to return to the castle by morning.

Really, he just wanted to have a little bit of fun as just another regular townsfolk again, eating and drinking and making some noise. He had planned to return to the castle and his days of stamping documents after being refreshed tonight.

Because that’s his duty as the king.

(That’s right, I’ve gotta return to the castle.)

“I— I don’t need to go back. I don’t want to go back… after all, there’s nothing there that I want.”

Words spontaneously spilled out.

Those were probably his true feelings as well— the ones of his other side.

What he dreamed of was having a fulfilling job and a cheerful wife who has it together and loves dancing.

He dreamed of helping the girls who visited the store be pretty and living a modest but blissful life dancing and laughing with the one he loves.

However, to Ludwik, there isn’t any meaning in his work that consists of merely stamping a seal, nor is there a cheerful wife who loves dancing waiting for him in the castle.

There’s only a noble princess who hates dancing and would set a monkey loose on her husband and slam a Holy Book onto his forehead.

Even if Ludwik doesn’t return, she surely wouldn’t be sad. On the contrary, she might be delighted that she could return to her culturally refined homeland.

So, it’s fine even if he’s taken to the spirit world as is and becomes unable to return home. As Ludwik concluded this with his intoxicated mind, the blue-haired girl narrowed her golden eyes as if pitying him.

“What a waste.”

“Eh?”

What’s a waste?

To Ludwik who stared at her puzzledly, the blue-haired girl announced solemnly,

“Even though you are a rare possessor of great fortune.”

“Ehh?”

Is she referring to how I became king? But it’s not like I gained happiness from becoming king; rather, my life was much more carefree as a commoner, and I would have also presumably been able to marry a girl I like.

The young girl spoke further.

“If you so desired, you could surely become the master of the garden of paradise.”

The master… of the garden of paradise?

“All that others envy, you shall obtain: whether it be status, wealth, love, or peace. The First to the Sixth that are necessary for that to happen shall become yours.”

As if she can clearly see Ludwik’s faraway future, the girl’s voice carrying words that sounded like a blessing but also like a curse drifted through the dark forest.

“However, only the Seventh shall not become yours.”

Ludwik didn’t know what the Seventh meant, but the instant the young girl declared this, he felt as if his heart was gorged out.

“The one thing you’ll yearn for to the point of crying and screaming shall surely never become yours.”

Ludwik’s heart throbbed again in pain.

To be unable to have something I’ll wish for to the point of crying and screaming, that’s simply too cruel.

“This is all a dream right? I’m seeing a dream after I fell asleep, no? If this is a dream and not reality— then can’t you say something a bit more hopeful?”

To Ludwik who complained, the young girl answered with a majestic voice.

“Though you and the seventh will part, the First to the Sixth shall remain yours. Well, it’s not such a bad life. Keep pursuing happiness without lamenting. You acting on the things you desire shall surely lead you to the garden of paradise.”

The trees’ branches shook and the leaves rustled noisily.

A cold gust howled sharply as it blew right past Ludwik. Bits of dirt and dry leaves hit Ludwik’s cheeks and nose dispersedly, causing him to reflexively cover his face with both hands and close his eyes.

When he opened his eyes, the young girl with blue hair had disappeared without a trace.

“O—i! What do you mean by the seventh?! What am I going to obtain?! What am I going to part with?!”

Even if he yells this—

“O—i.”

“O—i.”

He only hears his own voice echoing back; he doesn’t hear the mysterious and majestic voice of the young girl.

Before he realized, he was standing on the side of a lake faintly illuminated by moonlight. Even though he was deep in the forests until just now!

As Ludwik was unable to grasp the situation at hand, he heard the sound of water splashing.

A black shadow in the shape of a human projected into his eyes.

Someone’s walking into the lake.

A long-haired— woman.

To bathe in cold water this deep into the night isn’t normal. Is she planning to drown herself?

“Hey you, what are you doing?!”

Ludwik dashes forward as he calls out to her loudly.

Upon which, the woman turns his direction.

Just then, the clouds completely covered the moon, causing the lake in front of him to darken as if dyed with black ink. Ludwik could tell that the woman caught her breath as she looked up at his face, but he couldn’t make out her figure or face clearly.

She seems to be young still.

“I don’t know what happened, you mustn’t kill yourself.”

When Ludwik said this firmly, the woman stirred slightly and groaned faintly in the darkness.

As the air trembled, and Ludwik’s heart pounded thump-thump, she muttered in a voice seeping with sadness,

“Ludy.”

Penetrating deep into his heart, it was an unforgettable voice filled with sorrow.

(Why does she know my name?)

Ludwik was baffled, but at the same time, he was sure he knew the person with this voice for some reason.

Right.

She’s my precious—

This time, things suddenly became bright all around him, as if he was thrown into a world of pure light. When the light died down and his vision became clear again, he was enveloped in a faint white mist of snow.

Both the nighttime lake and the woman with the sorrowful voice had disappeared.

In their place, Ludwik saw a woman with a graceful figure wearing an extravagant dress that features laces, pelt, and embroidery walking in front of him.

Upon her straight and slender back rustles bright, golden hair the color of melted gold back and forth.

Even though I should know this woman as well, I can’t recall who she is.

Together with her golden hair, the hem of her white dress sways slowly from side to side as she walks into the distance.

She’ll be gone if I don’t chase after her.

Anxiety made Ludwik’s head throb in pain as if it’s going to crack.

But, his legs won’t move! Enveloped in the mist of snow, the slender silhouette fades away.

He tries to call out her name, but he can’t recall it.

Even though she’s definitely, unmistakably, someone he knows.

In place of his voice which is stuck in his throat, he reaches out his hands desperately.

“To me, you— you are my—”

◇ ◇ ◇

When he opened his eyes, there were two moist black eyes just above his face peering into his eyes.

She peered at him with the loving gaze of a mother looking at her newborn. Her full, red lips looked soft, and her graceful black hair, meandering like a wave, spilled over her shoulders.

“Are you awake?”

She asked gently with a voice that’s kind and warm just like her gaze.

“Where am I…?”

He can see a wooden roof above her.

It’s a plain roof made by simply setting wooden planks next to each other. The walls also have a plain design, and the hearth is made of uneven stone slabs. There’s a fire burning bright red inside the hearth, and a large pot sullied with soot rested on a grill above. It seems that a stew is being made, as the pleasant aroma of milk and herbs continues to drift towards Ludwik along with a trail of steam.

“You collapsed in the middle of the forest, you know? Yan found you on his way back from work and carried you on his back to our home. Your face is full of scratches, so he was startled, thinking you were attacked by a bear. But after noticing that you reeked of alcohol, he felt relieved, realizing that you simply fell asleep drunk. He thought, ‘Ahh, thank goodness.'”

Embarrassed, Ludwik blushed as he looked up at her glistening eyes and full, soft lips forming a smile.

The reason he blushed is as follows: one, he was embarrassed that he passed out drunk in the forest.

Two, her smile was simply too kind and lovely.

Her smile is soft and airy like the steam vapor that smelled of stew; just seeing it is enough to heal one’s heart.

“Ahh, so you’re awake now mister.”

A small, skinny man bobbled over unsteadily. He’s a kind-looking man with messy red hair and green eyes.

He looks to be quite a bit older than Ludwik in one way, yet also about the same age in another. Due to his short height, his face which still carries an air of innocence, and his unguarded expression, Ludwik couldn’t grasp his age well. But, surely he’s not that young.

“Are you Mr. Yan, the one who helped me?”

Ludwik got up halfway in his bed and inquired, upon which

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“Yeah, that’s right. You were lying on the ground facing upwards and didn’t wake up even when I shook you, so I brought you here.”

Yan answered amiably while smiling. It should have been hard for him to carry Ludwik with those skinny hands and legs.

“I’m sorry for the trouble.”

Ludwik bows his head down deeply, upon which

“It’s fine, it’s fine. E’rryone does foolish things in his youth. Please relax and res’ up until morning.”

Yan says.

His speech had quite a heavy accent, but it wasn’t unpleasant. It seemed to emphasize his simple and honest character, making Ludwik feel warm inside.

“Daddy, is he a guest?”

“Who aah you?”

A boy and a girl around the same age as Martin came out from behind a divider curtain rubbing their eyes.

The boy has red hair and black eyes, while the girl has black hair and green eyes. The boy’s hair was short and messy while the girl’s hair was braided into twintails. Aside from that, they look identical.

It seems they were sleeping behind the curtain but woke up upon hearing their parents’ and Ludwik’s voices. Yan didn’t drive them away; on the contrary, he adoringly picked both of them up, one with each hand.

“Le’ me introduce them, mister. These two are our twins Theo and Shenna. They’ll be turnin’ five soon.”

“Hi, I’m Theo.”

“I’m Shenna.”

The twins greet Ludwik.

“Mister, why is your face all scratched up?”

“That looks cool. Can I feel it?”

“Hey now, Theo, Shenna. That’s not okay.”

Yan hastily pulls back the two twins who bent forward towards Ludwik trying to feel his scratches.

“These scratches were made by a pet monkey that I keep at home. You can feel them if you’d like.”

Ludwik smiled and presented his face to them, upon which the two of them happily smeared their hands all over Ludwik’s cheeks and nose.

“I’m sorry, mister.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s not like they’re hitting my face roughly; they’re feeling my face in a polite and considerate manner. Your children are very cute.”

“Yea. They’re our proud children—. There’s one more, Collin, who was born last ye’r. It seems like he’s sound asleep.”

Yan says as he narrows his eyes and smiles. And then, in a bashful manner,

“And, this here is my wife and the mother of these kids, Suzanka.”

He introduces the woman with black hair.

She too smiled happily and said, “Nice to meet you. I’m Suzanka, the mother of these kids and Yan’s wife.” with a cheery voice.

From just this short exchange and the gentle expression on their faces with loose lips and narrowed eyes, Ludwik can tell that Yan and Suzanka are a happy couple who love each other deeply.

That’s the kind of tone and expression they’re making.

“Errr, my name is Ludy.”

I see, so your name is Ludy. Well Ludy, there’s still some time before mornin’, but since the kids woke up, let’s just eat breakfast now. To begin with, we eat breakfast early in this household. I work in the evenings, so when I come back home I eat an early breakfast then sleep until noon. The rest of ’em kindly eat breakfast at the same time to match my schedule. Feel free to join us if you’d like. Ah… if your hangover isn’t too bad that is.”

To Yan’s warm offer, Ludwik replied with a smile from the heart,

“I’ll gratefully take you up on that. The truth is, since I woke up, something has smelled so good that I thought my stomach would growl.”

The plain meal consisted of rye bread and a stew of bird meat mixed with vegetables. However, soaking pieces of the hard rye bread in the soup and eating them together was astonishingly delicious. It had a sweet and hearty taste with the fragrance of milk and herbs blended together that was accentuated by umami from the stock of the bird bones.

The twins Theo and Shenna thought so as well.

“Tasty, so tasty.”

“I like mommy’s stew.”

The twins eat clumsily with a smile, getting scraps of bread and stew stuck around their mouths. Noticing this, Suzanka uses her slender index finger to gently wipe away the food stuck around the twins’ mouths while Yan watches over the three of them fondly with a gentle smile.

“Suzanka is great at cooking. With just a few modest ingredients, she can conjure up an ample feast like a magician—. Of course, the taste is supreme as well—!”

Suzanka laughed cheerfully at Yan’s lovey-dovey praise.

“Well, Yan always comes home to eat everyday, so I don’t think he knows anyone’s cooking besides mine. He says my cooking is the best, but that’s because he has nothing to compare it to. There are plenty of foods more delicious in the world after all—.”

She addresses Ludwik while wearing a warm expression as if to say just how achingly dear her generous husband is to her.

“No, this stew truly is the best. I haven’t had anything so scrumptious in a long time.”

Ludwik responds from the heart.

Ludwik had forgotten just how warm and fulfilling food eaten with family while smiling at one another was.

In the castle, he and the queen finished their meals in silence sitting on opposite ends of a long table. Because of that, Ludwik couldn’t enjoy his meals at all despite being served food arranged onto expensive plates made from luxurious ingredients by a first-rate chef.

(If only my “household” could be like this…)

A kind and cheery wife and a generous husband. Adorable children who takes after the two of them.

A heartwarming dining table.

Even though they can’t be very well-off considering that they live in a small cabin out in the woods, everyone’s smiling gaily.

His chest rumbled with yearning.

Yan, the household head, makes a living playing violin on boulevards and in pubs at night. Sometimes he gets gigs for festivals and weddings, which he says helps a lot as they pay the most. As it’s autumn right now, there will be more weddings coming up, so he wants to earn enough money to buy pretty clothes, warm blankets, and sweet confectioneries for his wife and kids, he says.

“Yan’s playing is wonderful like sunshine. No matter when I hear him play, I’m always filled with hopeful and blissful feelings.”

Suzanka moistened her black eyes tenderly, expressing how blessed she feels.

“Haha, well, this is the only thing I’m good at. Still, it’s not like I learned from a famous teacher; plus, my violin is a secondhand worn-out one.”

Yan scratched his head beneath his messy hair as he humbled himself, but Ludwik was sure that to Suzanka, Yan’s playing fills her heart more than any other musician’s, no matter how outstanding, ever can.

“I’d like to thank you somehow for helping me when I passed out in the forest and even treating me to scrumptious stew.”

Ludwik says gratefully, upon which Yan’s face lit up in a flash.

“In that case, could you dance with Suzanka?!”

“Eh?”

Dance?

To Ludwik who was baffled,

“Suzanka loves to dance. But, I can’t dance because I have a bad leg, so please dance for me. In exchange, I’ll play a tune for you two to dance to.”

Yan says more and more fervently.

Now that he mentioned it, he was dragging his leg a bit when walking. But, regardless, is it really okay for me to dance with his wife right in front of him?

As Ludwik was hesitating, he heard a cheery voice.

“I’d love to dance with you.”

Ludwik turns his head to the side, upon which he sees Suzanka beaming at him with her hand extended towards him.

Her black eyes that shined brightly were staring straight at Ludwik. Her full lips formed a merry smile.

Enticed by her irresistible, vivid smile more charming than any noble lady’s reserved smile, Ludwik irresistably took Suzanka’s hand.

Suzanka’s hand has calluses and chaps; it’s the hand of a working woman. Ludwik grabs her hand tightly, upon which he feels a firmly elastic warmness; like so, she returns his grip with her own vigorously.

Yan begins playing with an upstroke.

Suzanka begins dancing nimbly.

Two pairs of toes beat against the floor with a lively rhythm, and their heels spin around and around like a weather vane. Suzanka’s skirt, which was made by patching together many pieces of cloth, spread out widely as it fluttered about like a dress of the finest quality.

Her round, feminine waist twists and turns supply, and her vigorous arms extend in and out flexibly, matching the rhythm of the music, pulling Ludwik and Suzanka close then pushing them apart each time.

Suzanka’s fair feet didn’t stop for a single moment; before Ludwik could ever take the lead, she always skipped somewhere new passionately, inviting him along.

Ludwik was blown away by her adroit footwork.

How vigorously she dances!

And how jolly she looks!

Her black eyes are sparkling spiritedly. Her full lips and cheeks are forming a joyous smile.

“Before I married Yan, I did gigs as a dancer for a long time. That’s why I love dancing!”

Suzanka shouts with a bright voice.

Her voice and words resounded and expanded in Ludwik’s chest alongside sweet throbbing until they burst.

—That’s why I love dancing!

“Ludy, your mother loves dancing!”

“Me like dancing too.”

Ludwik recalled how he danced with his mother in a room of an old apartment when he was a child. When his mother was dancing, she always looked truly happy with a bright smile on her face.

Ludwik had always thought that if he was to marry, he’d like his bride to be someone he could dance with.

That was because his late mother loved to dance.

Since he was a child, his mother would also take his hand, teaching him how to dance.

Especially before his mother married, when they were still living together by themselves, she would always invite Ludwik to dance in both joyous and sorrowful times.

—Let’s dance, Ludy.

She would take Ludwik’s hand tenderly, and the two of them would spin around and around endlessly in the narrow living room.

—Your father was incredibly good at dancing, you know. Even though he was a clumsy person who would often bump into others when in a crowded place, he never bumped into anyone when he was dancing; he danced with amazing grace and ease. That was so unfair—. After being shown his unreliable side through and through, I was shown such wonderful steps and led with such care. How could I not fall in love?

She would colorfully recite memories of the past with bright laughter and lively steps.

—So, Ludy; when you dance, do so as if you’re the king and your partner’s the queen.

If you do that, the girl who dances with you will fall in love with you, his mother would say…

Each girl is cute and charming in her own way, but when she dances, she’s ten times lovelier.

That’s Ludwik’s unchanging philosophy. Whenever he dances with a girl, he always feels like he’s in love with her— his head becomes dizzy and his heart springs as he’s filled with happiness.

That’s why, he was sure that if he dances everyday with a wife who likes to dance, he would always be in love with her.

Like so, Ludwik recalled the things he used to dream excitedly about one after another.

Suzanka’s glistening black eyes, lustrous black hair, cheerful and passionate red lips, and ample bosom overlapped in Ludwik’s mind with the image of his mother when he was young.

When dancing, both his mother and Suzanka would smile from the heart and continue to step and spin as if fatigue wasn’t in their vocabularies.

Every time they turned their toes, their skirts would flutter floridly like flower petals whirling in the wind, causing Ludwik’s heart to thump as he was spellbound.

Similarly, Yan too is watching his wife intently with the gaze of a lad who just fell in love for the first time.

He continued to bow his violin ardently as if he couldn’t hold his happiness at seeing his wife dancing gaily within him.

The timbre of the sound was endlessly bright and sunny. Just hearing it lightens one’s heart and moves one’s feet naturally.

(It’s just as Suzanka said! Yan’s performance is splendid!)

—Yan’s playing is wonderful like sunshine. No matter when I hear him play, I’m always filled with hopeful and blissful feelings.

When Yan’s playing accelerates passionately, Suzanka’s steps intensify alongside it; when Yan’s playing slows down tenderly, her movements also become modest alongside it. The brighter the timbre of Yan’s violin becomes, the brighter Suzanka’s lips shine and her eyes sparkle in joy.

It’s as if Suzanka, while dancing with Ludwik, is also dancing with Yan.

Yan’s playing is making Suzanka dance this gracefully and vivaciously.

Upon realizing this, Ludwik’s heart squeezed tight.

(Yan and Suzanka love each other.)

Because they’re bound by an unshakable bond, he’s fine with letting his wife dance with another man. Likewise, even if she dances with another man, she smiles because she’s thinking of her husband.

Yearning for such a beautiful bond himself, powerful emotions, which he had imprisoned inside himself, strangled his throat with stinging sadness.

—Could you teach me how to say, “May I have a dance with you?” in Endrish?

—I hate dancing.

(Ahh, I was really shocked by those words from the queen, wasn’t I—)

Even Queen Katerina has her reasons for being cold to Ludwik. To become the wife of a half-commoner, she was left behind all by herself in a foreign country. She’s a pitiful girl.

Even if Ludwik understands this, he still can’t help but get nervous when she looks at him coldly, and he’s still hurt when she throws sharp words his way.

Here, there is no such tension or coldness.

While Ludwik and Suzanka danced, next to them, the twins Theo and Shenna had also taken each others’ hands and have been spinning round and round. The two are giggling while frolicking. Suzanka and Yan gaze at them tenderly then exchange glances and smiles at each other.

Even if Suzanka’s dancing with Ludwik, she’s thinking of Yan and her children and enjoying this time with her family, who are doing the same, all the while.

All of the happiness that Ludwik hoped for was gathered in this small cabin; yet, it is something that does not belong to and seems faraway from him.

—The one thing you’ll yearn for to the point of crying and screaming shall surely never become yours.

As the words of the young girl with blue hair echoed in his mind like a curse that can’t be overturned, causing a sharp pain to pierce his heart—

The cries of an infant sounded in the back.

“Collin!”

In a flash, Suzanka separates from Ludwik and rushes to the divider curtain, brushing it aside.

In the cradle behind it, there lies an infant wrapped in a blanket. She picks him up and peers into his eyes.

“Hi, Collin. What’s wrong? Are you hungry? Yeah? Okay, I’ll feed you now. Give me a second.”

As she gently talked to and rocked him in one arm, she appeared to slide the cloth around her chest to the side, letting him suckle her breasts. She continued to talk to the infant with an affectionate voice all the while.

“Fufu, drink lots and grow big, okay? Then when you grow up, let’s dance together.”

From where Ludwik is standing, the figure of Suzanka’s back appears effeminately supple and incredibly gentle. She’s holding her infant in her arms preciously, who has now completely calmed down, and is mindlessly sucking away on his mother’s breasts.

Watching over them, Yan’s gaze also became tenderer and tenderer, and the twins, seeming to love their younger brother very much too, grin widely as the room is filled with the sweet scent of milk.

Ludwik’s heart tightens, and his vision becomes hazier and hazier.

“Ludy! What’s wrong?!”

Yan raised his voice bewilderedly.

Suzanka, who was breastfeeding, also turned around looking startled. Upon seeing Ludwik crying, her eyes opened widely.

“Are you feelin’ ill? Does it hurt somewhere?”

“Mister, why are you crying?”

“Did something sad happen, mister?”

The twins also walked up to Ludwik briskly and looked up at him with worried faces.

(E, eh? Why am I crying? Even though I haven’t cried a single time since I became an adult. To cry in tatters like this, in front of people I just met for the first time too—)

“S-sorry.”

Ludwik apologized with a hoarse voice.

However, the sadness that spilled out would not stop once it started. At last, he couldn’t even stand anymore, falling to his knees on top of a mat. He covered his face, and shook his shoulders.

“Just what happened, Ludy?”

Yan asked flusteredly.

It seems like Suzanka also walked over to Ludwik, since the scent of milk became stronger to him.

(Ugh, damn it. I’m so pathetic.)

After getting the words stuck in his throat several times, Ludwik finally managed to squeeze out,

“Because, you’re all so enviable… Everyone in the family getting along… thinking of each other… Because, I… I have nothing.”

To say that he has nothing when he’s the king is insolence.

But, he truly has nothing.

Whether it be a cozy room where everyone is close enough to see each other, a sweet, homemade stew, or a bright wife who would gladly dance with him.

(This must be the one thing I’ll yearn for to the point of crying and screaming that the mysterious girl meant. They are all things that I, who am now the king, can never hope to have.)

Yan inquires worriedly,

“Do you not ‘ave any fam’ly, Ludy?”

“…I used to, but now I’m alone.”

Back in the town, Lottie, Martin, and his stepfather are all there, but he can’t visit them freely. Even though Lottie caringly comes to play now and then, chatting while drinking tea from delicate teacups in an extravagant room still feels different from before. Rather than Lottie though, it’s surely Ludwik who has changed.

“I’ll surely be alone from now on too.”

No matter how much he cries, he will never obtain that one thing.

The young girl with blue hair said that Ludwik will obtain everything besides the Seventh.

But, he doesn’t want everything.

Just one is enough.

Even though the Seventh, which he will never obtain, could be the most important key to reach the garden of paradise—

“You’re not alone, Ludy. You danced with Suzanka for me, so we’re friends already. If you’re okay with this worn-out hut, you’re welcome to come play anytime. And when you do, please dance with Suzanka again.”

“That’s right. Besides, until I met Yan, I was also all alone by myself without any family. But now, I have Yan and our children too. That’s why, I’m sure you’ll be able to build a loving family someday too.

“Mister, don’t cry.”

“Here, wipe your face with this.”

The twins brought a hand towel that smells of grass to Ludwik.

“T-thanks.”

As he rubbed the towel against his face, Ludwik wondered if he could really build such a loving family in the future. Even though he already has a wife who hates dancing back at the castle—.

Yan and Suzanka tried to encourage Ludwik, who remained unable to believe in his future, with all they had.

“Wit’ your blond hair and green eyes, you’re jus’ like our new king, Ludwik the First. Once your scratches heal, you’ll be just as handsome, and plus, you’re good at dancin’ too, so any girl will fall in love wit’ you if you simply smile at her.”

“Speaking of which, there’s a big festival to celebrate the fall harvest tomorrow night. Maybe you’ll be able to find a cute girl who’s perfect for you there.”

The warm words from Yan’s entire family relieved Ludwik so much that he began to cry again, but this time out of joy. While sobbing convulsively,

“Thank you.”

He repeated over and over again.

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