The Grand Kingdom of Threnvale.
I was born as a daughter to the highest ranking noble, a duke, in that country.
Since my birth, I wanted for nothing.
I received education befitting my position, and never rested in my endeavors to be a person who did not bring shame on the family name. Such was the role those with plenty played according to my tutor’s teachings.
Thanks to them, I must have grown to be someone who could generally fulfill my parents’ expectations.
I learned etiquette and manners. My feet were covered in blisters from the harsh dance lessons. I studied geography, history, multiple languages, how to be a good emperor, and even learned sewing and piano, hobbies befitting a lady.
I held nothing back and reached for everything. All for the sake of becoming a daughter my parents would be proud of.
As was common in noble families, I grew up with a wet nurse. My parents were busy with socializing and managing our land, so they rarely had time to look after me.
I lived at the manor house on family grounds until ten, and had my social debut at fourteen after harsh bridal education.
All for the sake of obtaining the position as the crown prince’s fiancée.
The duke, my father’s dearest wish was to see his grandson ascend to the throne. Although his prime reason may have been to hold power over our relatives, I didn’t care about that.
If I fulfilled his wish, he would turn to look at me. He would take pride in me as his daughter. I was happy to do so for that reason.
High society was an intense, unforgiving battlefield.
Ladies smiled primly like flowers while stabbing and tripping over each other behind their backs to win over better husbands.
Among the men, the crown prince who had yet to decide on a fiancée was particularly handsome with his calm demeanor. The women swarmed around him, fighting to come out on top.
I was at a slight advantage because of my pedigree compared to the other ladies, but everything was pointless if the crown prince did not take a liking to me.
Even though I said “take a liking,” it was not in terms of romance and love. This was simply a selection on the most suitable queen-to-be.
Love would come after marriage. That was how nobles were raised.
As long as one found someone of a suitable status and created an heir, one was free to chase whatever romance with whoever they liked. That was the thought process of all the nobles.
I did not really understand what it meant to like someone, but I believed that I would understand one day after becoming an adult.
At last, I became the fiancée of the crown prince, just as my father wished. I had no words for how happy I was when it was decided. Finally, my father would look at me. All of my efforts would be rewarded.
So I believed.
When the crown prince visited our home, my little sister of all people exclaimed that she fell in love with him at first sight.
Unlike me, she was born coddled by my parents in a townhouse. Because of that, she had a streak of believing all of her wishes would come true.
My sister said,
“That gentleman is the man of my destiny. I knew as soon as I saw him up close. I had never known because I could only admire him from afar!”
“What are you saying?”
She paid no attention to the surprise around her.
“I’m saying that I want to become his wife!”
Honestly, I thought she was a fool.
I mean, was there such things like love and hate in a marriage between nobles?
It was true that the prince was handsome and had high morals. You could not find a more flawless man.
However, I hadn’t aimed to be his fiancée for love, and I’m sure he had self-interests in mind when choosing me.
In actuality, I could count with my fingers how many times I had exchanged words with him in person. His friendliness seemed to be a mask. I had no idea what he was thinking, nor what personality he truly had.
Despite all this, my little sister proclaimed love at first sight upon seeing that mask up close.
Was that really possible? What in the world did she understand with her eyes?
Not only that, was she seriously planning on refuting all of my efforts due to such personal circumstances as “destined love at first sight?”
In the beginning, I did not treat my little sister’s words seriously. In fact, I believed that there was no way her wish would come true.
This was an arranged marriage agreed upon by my father the duke and the royal family.
Setting aside extreme situations, the arranged marriage was at an irreversible stage. The only things left to do were to find a suitable time to announce the marriage to the public and prepare for the marriage next year. There was no way. There should not be an acceptable way for her wish to come true.
So I thought.
However, spoiled by my parents, my little sister refused to give up.
Even though she usually gave up as soon as she hit a bump. Even though she just barely managed to learn dancing but hated piano and studies with every fiber of her being.
“Why must it have to be Big Sister? I would suffice if we simply needed a daughter of the Lumiere family! His Highness is my destined partner. Is Father trying to get in the way of my happiness?”
She clung to father, crying, trying to persuade father that it did not make a difference who married the prince if it were just to raise the family’s position and power.
I watched those chaotic days as if they were events that happened long ago.
While exasperated, I did not think my sister’s wish would be fulfilled.
After all, arranged marriages were centered around the people. Even if Father, who spoiled my little sister rotten, agreed to it, there was no way the royal family would agree. I thought father would not even propose such a suggestion to them, either.
Reality easily crushed all of my predictions.
At first my parents scolded my little sister for saying such selfish things. Then she lay in bed, refused to eat and other such things, proclaiming she would rather die than see the man of her destiny married to her sister. My parents were wrapped around her little finger.
Then one day, they summoned me to say this.
…For the sake of making my little sister the crown prince’s fiancée.
…We will tell them you are deeply ill.
…For the sake of your adorable little sister.
…You are clever, so you will understand.
The first time they talked to me so softly was to give me such a cruel order. In essence, I had turned deeply ill so they implored the royal family to take my sister instead.
I had never heard anything more foolish.
If my sister was a fool, my parents were even greater fools.
After all, I was the embodiment of good health. I had kept myself pure, and I had never come down with any serious sickness. Not only that, but I had continued my studies as the future queen even after my position as the crown prince’s fiancée had been decided.
I refrained from eating whatever I wanted to maintain a trendy slim waist and learned multiple languages to prepare for future meetings with ambassadors. If I had any free time, I stuffed it full of books and lessons from tutors famous for their strict curriculum.
All for the sake of satisfying my parents. All of this was so I could be a daughter that would not bring shame on the duke…and yet.
Soon, the letter approving the change from the royal family arrived.
My sister jumped for joy while I was struck into the abyss of hell.
What defeated me was the fact that it did not matter which daughter was chosen as long as she was a daughter of the duke, and the fact that my parents placed my sister’s happiness before mine.
All of the discipline and hard work I put in towards dance, studies, etiquette, sewing, riding, piano, all for cementing my position, all of it was for naught.
Soon my sister was officially announced to be the fiancée. The glory that I had from being rumored to be the fiancée disappeared, and high society pitied and looked down upon me as the one who had her fiancée snatched away by her little sister.
Not only that, but my little sister flapped her loose lips at a dinner party saying that it was because I was sick. Everyone distanced themselves from me, and I could no longer hope to marry other high-ranking nobles.
During the debut party for the fiancée, I pathetically watched the crown prince escort my sister from a corner in the hall. My parents were beaming with joy.
The person next to him should have been me.
I should have been the one to be dressed in a gorgeous dress, at the side of the crown prince, making my parents happy.
I was alone. Alone by myself.
While everyone took their partner’s hands and danced, I had no such partner.
The magpies of the court gossiped amongst themselves, “She doesn’t seem sick. She must have had some other failing point.”
Flirtatious nobles that usually would not be allowed near me hurled catcalls and verbal abuse at me, believing that I played around under the table.
Wives of counts, trying to pick up threads of gossip, asked after my health with expressions full of pity. Ex-rivals who I had kicked down in the battle laughing triumphantly, sending me their congratulations towards my sister.
It was painful to exchange words with them. I wanted to disappear from this place.
There was no way I could tell them the truth. That would drag the duke family name in the mud.
All the ladies I had thought were my friends left my side to swarm around my sister as the side flowers in a bouquet.
I understood that they had been ordered by their parents to create a connection with the future queen.
That was how I lost everything I built with my hard work.
Everything I thought I had obtained was nothing more than illusions. Bubbles easily popped once they surfaced, once I woke up from my dream. Gilded, fleeting glory that disappeared once my position changed.
Was I immoral? Was I simply unlucky?
Why was I subject to such humiliation just because of my luck?
I asked God countless times. I asked myself countless times.
However, I was given no answer. No matter how I prayed, God could not save me, as I had yet to accept reality in my heart.