Never Saved You - Chapter 53
A little while ago, when they met the sirens in the forest.
—We were just trying to catch a bird that had paper hanging on its leg!
The words that the sirens said to defend themselves rang deeply in Ophelia’s mind.
If it was a bird that had paper attached to its leg, then it could only be one thing.
‘A carrier pigeon.’
The others also could have easily guessed as much. Though she wasn’t sure about the sirens, who didn’t know much about human culture.
However, there was a reason why Ophelia was so aware of the carrier pigeon.
‘In Ladeen, there’s no one else who’d send one.’
A place that was so remote that even the imperial family couldn’t intervene easily. That was the Ladeen fief.
Since it was cumbersome for people to travel to and fro this place, in order to send messages to far-off places, the preferred mode of communication was a carrier pigeon.
However, this was a method that was used only for urgent communication with people in distant places.
In Ladeen Castle, besides Ian, who else would need to send a message to somewhere far away right now?
Even so, there were only two people authorized to use carrier pigeons to communicate with the imperial palace.
The inevitable conclusion was towards one side.
‘Since Lilith hasn’t returned yet, it’s either that she secretly delivered the news to the imperial palace.’
Or it was Ian who sent a message through the pigeon with Lilith’s help.
Either way, it was necessary to get ahold of the current situation.
So as soon as she returned to Ladeen Castle, Ophelia visited Ian to confirm her hypothesis.
Of course, she had intentionally sent off Alei together with the mages from the tower so they could talk about things freely without being wary of her. She had yet to decide how to deal with the mages yet, so she avoided them for now.
And the main purpose was a warning.
‘I was going to figure out what you’re up to.’
Did she fail here?
Ophelia took her eyes off the teacup and shifted her gaze back to the person sitting before her.
As though his expression had never hardened just a moment ago, he was calmly resting his chin on one hand.
“…It’s been more than eight years. I’ve forgotten.”
“Then it was you who sent it?”
She was wondering where Lilith went.
When Lilith heard that Ian had come, she must have been wracking her mind.
At Ophelia’s question, Ian nodded lightly.
“As you know, I’m not used to being under someone’s command.”
“Did you really just forget?”
“Does it seem like I have other intentions?”
“If you tell me about the letter’s contents, then I’ll reconsider it.”
“I just let your father know that I’m here and under your protection. I asked for help so I can return home.”
“Even if you don’t do it, it’s my job to do so. That’s hardly new.”
And hearing Ophelia’s response, Ian lightly burst into laughter.
“Lower your guards, Ophelia. It’s like you’re already expecting that I wrote in that letter that I want to marry you.”
His words made Ophelia wrinkle her forehead. Seeing this, Ian raised his chin.
He was relaxed. Just as though he was thinking that he had the upper hand.
And he was unstable. To the point that the composure he was trying to maintain was being overshadowed.
“…Even if I don’t do that, you’ll choose me.”
For a moment, Ian paused there. As though he was a little sad.
Ophelia might not have noticed, but Ian’s other hand had been clenching open and close several times under the table. Clenching, unfolding.
Whenever Ophelia’s lips looked sweet, whenever she spoke words of rejection. He couldn’t bear the emptiness in his hands.
Ophelia, unmoving, lying on a bed as though she was dead. Ophelia, crying and holding onto him without any rest. These memories went back and forth in his mind.
—Ian, please, can’t you stop frowning whenever you talk to me? Whenever you look at me like that, I feel like I’m going mad…
Another memory came up in his mind, a day when she was crying. Ophelia was the first who said that she wanted to talk, but after taking up Ian’s time, she didn’t say anything much and only mumbled.
After their marriage, Ian was so busy that it wouldn’t be enough if he had ten bodies, and it felt as though she wasn’t valuing his time.
Ian was naturally annoyed, and both him and Ophelia raised their voices at that time. She was crying.
He thought that her attitude was incomprehensible.
Until one day, he found out that there was no one in Ronen Castle who had ever smiled at Ophelia.
Until one day, in that place where no one was on her side, he learned that he was Ophelia’s only lifeline…
As the memories came to the forefront of his mind, his expression nearly distorted once more, but he tried hard to suppress this.
Unlike his complicated feelings, his voice fortunately did not tremble.
“Everything will be as it was. Even if you don’t love me, you will choose me, and we will go back to Ronen together.”
“Are you not of the right mind? Did you not hear what I just said? I said that I’ll never—”
The table that was between the two of them fell sideways, and the porcelain above it crashed to the ground with a loud noise.
After Ian pushed the table forcefully to the side, the table fell and wasn’t heavy enough to overcome his power.
But Ian didn’t care at all.
Rather, he was relentless. He went forward and stood where the table once was.
No—he was on his knees.
A foreign nation’s sovereign did not hesitate to kneel in front of Ophelia here.
“You don’t have to love me. All you have to do is be with me.”
Ian held Ophelia’s hands. For the first time, Ophelia saw Ian closely under bright lights.
Those moonlit eyes.
Those eyes that were reminiscent of the moon contained both grief and madness.
Only then did Ophelia reflect on the odd words that were mentioned earlier.
What he replied to her when she was interrogating him.
—It’s been more than eight years. I’ve forgotten.
Ophelia lived as the Grand Duchess of Ronen for only five years.
The time period mentioned did not match this.
‘But he said eight years?’
Anxious, as soon as goosebumps ran down Ophelia’s spine, Ian’s lips narrowly opened once more.
“I… I don’t think I can endure it again, that time when you weren’t there.”
He was no longer looking at Ophelia.
He rested his forehead over his own hands that were holding Ophelia’s hands.
This was why. After seeing Ophelia, he couldn’t keep himself stable.
“It still feels like a dream that you’re here in front of me…”
Even if this is a nightmare, I don’t wish to wake up.
* * *
After Ophelia swallowed the mermaid scale—
To be more precise, Ophelia had not died.
It was just that she would not awaken from slumber.
“It’s not like it’s just the loss of consciousness, but this condition is not dissimilar to sleeping. Nevertheless, not being able to wake up might be due to a magical cause, sire.”
In a painstaking manner, the court doctor said that this was not under his jurisdiction.
It was because the doctor was wary of Ian. He seemed to be unable to look at Ophelia, who was asleep, who looked as though she were dead.
However, on the other hand, there seemed to be a strange expression on his face.
Obviously, it was an open secret within the castle that the Grand Duke did not get along with the Grand Duchess.
Why did he look so sad about the misfortune that befell the Grand Duchess.
No, rather than ‘sad’, it looked more like he was in pain.
And it seemed like he was in a terrible state of denial because he simply could not believe this situation.
Apparently, it was also said that the notice about the Grand Duchess’ misfortune came two days late because the Grand Duke left for a territorial inspection.
Was that where his grief started?
There were many things to be asked, but could not be asked.
However, at this time, Ian had no time to pay full attention to such things. It might be more right to say that he couldn’t afford it.
Ever since Ophelia was unable to wake up, it was like Ian had become half mad.
Clearly, he wasn’t like this at first.
Ian had been optimistic.
She would wake up soon. And they would get along well again.
She had deceived him before. This time must be a similar occurrence.
“It’s probably because you wanted my attention. You’ll wake up in a few days.”
Ian really thought so at that time.
However, one day, two days passed. Ophelia did not wake up.
She was just there, laying on the bed in the same position, only breathing all that time.
She was also close to the lord of the magic tower, so he thought that it was plausible that she asked the mage to cast a spell over her, one that would make it seem as though she was dead so that his attention would be on her.
So from then on, Ian began to give Ophelia time.
While she was alive, Ophelia wanted only some of Ian’s time. She never had that until her death.
And it was only then that Ian realized.
How hopeless it was to call out to a person who would not answer back.