North x Northwest - Chapter 279
Volume 8 Chapter 279
Side Story 4 – Liloa’s Chapter 2: Mortu’s Castle
Translators – Pru and Formidable
Like gold, flames flashed across Annette’s yellow eyes.
“You are ambitious.”
Liloa’s mouth opened, but she couldn’t bring herself to deny it.
“Well, shall I tell you a secret?”
Anticipating a great deal of wisdom, Liloa leant to Annette. Annette, in turn, whispered close to the girl’s ear as if she truly was about to tell a secret.
“…No matter how great a man is, he has no choice but to give in to the woman he loves. So it is important to find a great man who is desperate to crawl into your skirt. A person may harbour the world. Alternatively, one may harbour poverty. Look at me. I have the world. Since His Majesty is mine, then his world is also mine, is it not?..”
Annette stroked Liloa’s cheek.
“Keep this beauty… for a long time. You were born so perfectly. You have everything, not just beauty. So don’t worry.”
Annette’s intentions were clear. She meant to find a good husband and become a wife who controls her husband. Liloa was barely able to hide her disappointment.
‘This isn’t the first time I’ve heard something like this…’
Liloa didn’t want to give up on her chances, even if such words came from a powerful politician at court. But the next moment, she thought it fortunate that she wasn’t caught, for it was now clear that Annette wouldn’t understand her.
Liloa looked away from Annette’s gaze and lowered her eyes, perceiving the shadows of the fireplace’s smoke flickering on the back of her hand.
“Annette, there is this sentence that everyone wants to write when explaining their lives, right?”
“Yeah, that is right.”
“I was able to put those words together just a while ago. Perhaps it has always been on my mind, yet I only realised it now.”
“Of course. Listening to your heart is the key to happiness.”
“No matter how deep I had buried it, I do not think I can ignore it now that I have found it again…”
Annette squeezed Liloa’s hand as if she knew what Liloa was saying.
The emperor procrastinated his decision regarding Liloa’s husband. Rumours abound that the 3rd prince, Robero, begged for Liloa, but the emperor remained obstinate.
So instead, Liloa strengthened her resolve and requested an audience with the emperor.
“Your Majesty, I have a request.”
“I would like to listen to anything you ask.”
Prostrating herself before Philip II, Liloa had a hunch. The emperor may be fond of her, he also regarded her as a useful pawn. Being with Robero would give Obernyu too much power, but at the same time, he also knew that Obernyu would be too quick to reject any marriage proposal with another noble.
‘No one knows when the Pontenbach War will end, and the resources already poured into that war are enormous. At LeBrun, I can buy at least another two years… This could be the luckiest moment of my life.’
“In LeBrun, I will prove that our alliance is solid and that Obernyu’s loyalty and dedication are unchanging.”
The emperor, who was eating a bright yellow fruit from the south, wiped his hands on a handkerchief. The emperor initially gave off a sloppy look as his cravat was covered in yellow juice, but his small eyes shone brightly as he gauged Liloa’s intentions. After all, silent people were suspicious and cautious in everything they did.
“The young daughter is smarter than her arrogant father.”
“Those are not empty words, Your Majesty. Give me a dagger and I’ll prove it.”
Liloa then cut her hair as she had nothing but her body to give. People usually told her that with everything she possessed, she would make the perfect bride, but in reality, what Liloa had to offer in her bargain wasn’t property, not a peace treaty, but only her hair.
With the emperor’s permission, Liloa eventually left the throne room. Her long, luscious hair was cut messy above her shoulders.
In the gallery in front of the throne room, courtiers and nobles gathered as always to discuss the reign. And in the centre of it all was Annette, who let out a torn scream upon noticing Liloa’s hair.
A sudden silence covered the gallery.
Following Annette’s wide-eyed gazes, people turned their heads one by one.
“Liloa! What is going on!”
Annette, who had thrown her fan somewhere, ran over and covered Liloa’s cheeks in a way to confirm she wasn’t hurt anywhere. Liloa gently took hold of the hands and lowered them.
“I do not think long hair suits a soldier.”
“What… a so-soldier?”
“I’m very greedy. The wider my skirt, the more cumbersome it becomes. I would rather have what I want instead.”
“Why on earth are you doing this? Why are you taking the difficult path instead of the easy one? Huh?”
Annette clung to Liloa’s arms as if pleading with her wayward daughter.
“Tell His Majesty that you made a mistake right now. Quickly!”
Liloa stared at her fontanelle, which was high in the sky, and her pure white makeup.
Beneath the border of her wig, the inflammation on her scalp that makeup couldn’t hide was red. Her eyes were always bloodshot from the flour dripping from her huge wig, and she was constantly coughing. The real reason Annette carried her fan was mostly because of those frequent coughs.
“Is it really an easier path?”
As Annette’s expression changed, the dot on her cheek twitched.
“It seems too harsh to me.”
Liloa hugged Annette, who was a little smaller than her, with all her strength. Annette was so shocked that her body was shaking.
“I hope it made you happy.”
Liloa headed to Pontenbach to assist Robero in carrying out protocol and raising the morale of the officers. The emperor even bestowed her the title of ‘Grand Lady’, but that was mostly to further his own practical interests. It was normally a title given to the eldest princess, implying that Liloa should be considered the most noble woman in Sesbron. Liloa’s mother, Henrietta, also used that title before her marriage and because Philip II had no daughter, Liloa naturally filled the vacant position.
Despite the officers’ concern about whether a noble lady like her would be able to adapt to the battlefield, Liloa wasn’t at all afraid. Being on the frontlines was nothing compared to her greatest fear of being trapped in Mortu’s castle forever.
‘I have no reason to be afraid of the battlefield. If I could die with honour, then I would prefer death.’
“…What do you mean you don’t mind dying? I don’t think you’re seeing things clearly.”
Robero said with a sigh.
“If you came here to play again, it’s better to head back.”
“Don’t humiliate me anymore.”
“Then don’t make me suffer like this. How can I… how can I put you in danger?”
Robero had been excluding Liloa from the roster for several months now. Even when she complained to her immediate colonel, the only answer she received was that her exclusion was due to Robero’s will. They never told her the exact time of the meetings, so Liloa had to go find them out on her own. Thanks to that, she often missed emergency calls. Still, she couldn’t focus her attention solely on meetings, so whenever she was free, she would roam around the barracks and encourage the officers and soldiers; The exact role Robero wanted her to play.
Liloa held the injured soldier’s hand and said some hopeful words of encouragement. The soldier answered in a barely audible voice.
“…Grand Lady… in person… I’m honoured…”
Certainly, the encouragement given by the most important woman in Sesbron went a long way in boosting the soldiers’ morale. The hopefulness in their eyes suddenly sparkled differently, especially when knowing the title of their encourager. It was rewarding in its own way, but of course, it wasn’t enough for Liloa.
To make things worse, she had to wear a dress even during the war. And amid the negotiations with the White Federation, per protocol, Liloa only served as a flower on Robero’s side, meant to alleviate the negotiation’s atmosphere.
The negotiations were held in temporary barracks set up in the middle of the cold field.
The ground was damp, probably due to frost last night. The nearby village head, who had been brought in to attend to Liloa, grabbed the hem of her dress, while Robero held her as if he were her escort. Liloa, on the other hand, tried her best not to walk comically with her shoes sinking into the ground.
The Federal officers were already seated across the central table of the barracks. When Liloa and Robero entered, all five of them stood up while chatting, with the man in the middle raising his chin arrogantly as he scanned Liloa with narrowed eyes. But Liloa didn’t dodge his gaze and similarly looked straight into his black eyes. Perhaps because of his brown hair and short-trimmed beard, in addition to his black fur-lined cloak, the man carried a wild and intimidating look. Robero, shaking hands with him, looked ridiculously dwarfed in comparison.
Before long, a deep, low voice introduced itself.
“Count Arthur of the White Federation.”
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