18 Chapter 17: Marriage (1)

"You look beautiful, Lady Ner."

Ner looked at her reflection in the mirror.

As the maids said, it was indeed the first time she had dressed up so neatly.

She wore a pristine, pure white dress that complemented her figure, and her hair was delicately pinned up with a hairpin.

A touch of light makeup enhanced her features, and a subtle hint of shimmering oil was applied to her tail, giving it a gentle shine.

Completing the ensemble were a simple necklace and exquisite earrings, adding an elegant touch to her overall appearance.

However, all these decorations couldn't erase the sadness on Ner's face.

Soon, she was scheduled to have a meal with her betrothed, 'Berg', a human mercenary

She had to suppress her unwillingness to go, even if it meant dying.

Ner recalled the terms of the agreement with her father, Gibson.

Someday this would come to an end. She tried to understand that beginnings were always difficult.

She also tried not to forget that this marriage would save the lives of many people in her territory.

Through her own sacrifice, the Blackwood family would escape their extinction.

If one day all of this was over and she returned, wouldn't her brothers accept her?

At the very least, it was clear that they wouldn't ignore her like before.

The honor of protecting the entire territory was not going to disappear.

Just by looking at the subtle changes in Gibson's attitude toward her, she could tell that.

There was no retaliation for her rebellion the previous day.

Even the most stubborn ones, like Gidon, would likely be the same as the rest of her siblings.

At such thoughts, Ner laughed at herself because, despite everything, deep within her heart, she still felt a lingering yearning for her brothers and sisters.

It was her heart that tried to give up, but it continued to be swayed by the possibility of receiving love.

Maybe it was because the only important acquaintances she had were her siblings.

"…"

As Ner maintained her silence, an awkward atmosphere filled the room.

The maids also remained silent, unable to read Ner's expression.

They looked at each other for a while, then gently hugged Ner.

Their comfort gave Ner a faint strength. She nodded her head little by little and regained control of her emotions.

After the hug and consolation ended, one maid tried to lighten the mood and spoke.

"Lady Ner, please smile. You've dressed up so beautifully."

"…"

Ner raised the corners of her mouth following the maid's words.

Her eyes were teary, but her lips were curved. A bizarre smile was formed.

"…"

Ner also knew it in her head as well.

As much as she hated this marriage, there were parts she had to make an effort for.

Apart from her feelings, the marriage must take place.

Now she understood.

If she were to reject the marriage and it reset due to her animosity toward the human mercenaries, not only Blackwood would be on the brink of extinction, but countless lives of the werewolf people would be lost.

And Ner knew she had to shoulder that responsibility.

So, even if she disliked it, she had to somewhat cater to the whims of that human mercenary.

It was fortunate that they were in somewhat similar positions.

The Human mercenaries also had to be cautious in their dealings with the nobility, and Ner had to accept their counterpart for the sake of the people of the territory.

If she had ended up being sold off to a mercenary group that lacked nothing, she wouldn't have been able to avoid a more dreadful situation.

Ner continued to console herself with trivial facts and suppressed her reluctance to move forward.

-Thud...! Thud...! Thud!

At that movement, the sound of someone running could be heard.

"Ner nim! Haa... haa...!"

"...Laila."

Ner thought it was fortunate that Laila appeared before the meal.

Ner was sure she had gathered information about 'Berg'.

The other attendants who had heard orders given to Laila in the morning also rushed towards her as she caught her breath.

The maids were the first to ask.

"Laila! Did you find out about... Mr. Berg?"

"Are you okay, Laila? Shall I bring you some water?"

To the maid who asked the first question, Laila nodded. To the second question, she shook her head.

Laila, with her ash-colored tail swaying, quickly approached Ner.

She folded her hands lightly on Ner's knees and knelt down.

"Ner nim. Haa... haa... I found out a little bit about Mr. Berg."

"There was no need for you to run like this. Today is just a dinner... and there's still time until the wedding ceremony..."

"But it was Ner nim' request… How could I..."

Nar let out a feeble laugh.

"...Thank you, Laila."

At that thank you, Laila gave a small smile and nodded her head, then opened her mouth.

"....Well..."

However, Laila hesitated before speaking.

"…So…"

It felt like she was struggling to figure out how to package her words.

"I... heard that he is very kind. And... good at fighting."

"…"

"And also... um..."

Ner stopped Laila, who was gradually getting darker.

"Laila."

"Yes?"

Laila's shoulders trembled at Ner's call.

Ner calmed her down and spoke sincerely.

"I said it in the morning too… But this is to prepare my heart."

"…"

"I want to hear it honestly. I don't want to be shocked by something I'm not prepared for. So, tell me exactly what you heard."

Laila's eyes began to wander.

"But... the members of the mercenary group says... he has rough and tough personalities... I don't know if they were joking or serious..."

"Tell me exactly what you heard."

Laila hesitated again, took a deep breath, and made up her mind.

"...He is strict."

Although she had chosen to listen to these stories herself, Ner's heart sank at that fact.

"Really... He pushes them so hard during training... and doesn't show mercy... they say he's a merciless person..."

A stern and merciless person. Ner engraved that fact in her mind.

"...What else?"

"...They say he is cold. Because he speaks so little, it's hard to understand what he's thinking."

A cold and blunt person. It was clear that he was the complete opposite of her destined partner.

"...Anything else?"

"He's a mercenary, so he's very brutal and scary on the battlefield... they say even his allies are frightened... honestly, not many members want to join Mr. Berg's unit..."

A person who can be said to be cruel and fearful even to his own race. It pressed down on her heart as if something was weighing on it. And she had to marry such a person in the future.

"…"

"…And…Ner-nim?"

"...What else?"

As if Laila could see that Ner was gradually struggling, she began to hesitate to open her mouth.

"Tell me, Laila."

But Ner pressured Laila, and in the end, Laila had no choice but to tell.

"They say... ...He... hates women... to an extreme extent... They say it's awkward when they see him from the side… That… Ah… No one approached him…"

"…"

"Ner nim…?"

"...That's enough."

Ner suppressed the urge to deafen her in front of her maids.

Her words, especially her last statement, shook Ner greatly.

A person whom even his own race called cruel, and hates women as well.

How did she end up with such a person?

It occurred to her that her own fate was too strange.

She became afraid that she might be treated as a mere toy.

Her father said that the mercenaries wouldn't treat her lightly, but she didn't know how things would turn out in reality. Hearing such stories only increased her suspicions.

Would mercenaries who lived day by day think about the future?

Perhaps she and Berg were not in a situation where they have to be careful with each other.

It might be a situation where only she had to please the other person.

Perhaps this marriage was just a means for a wealthy mercenary to find a noble to play with.

Along with the insults, physical violence as a form of venting might await.

Ner remained silent for a long time.

The maids, too, fell silent without exception.

Once again, an awkward stillness enveloped the room.

Ner somehow managed to suppress her tears.

Her makeup was already finished, so she couldn't shed tears here.

Suddenly, heavy footsteps broke the silence.

Ner could sense that her time was up.

She took a deep breath and stood up from her seat.

Laila's worried expression followed her.

Through the open door, a butler revealed himself.

"Lady Ner."

"…Yes."

"It's about time. Are you ready?"

On the surface, she was ready, but on the inside, she was completely unprepared.

But Ner had no other options.

She just nodded cautiously.

****

Ner, who arrived at the dining table, spotted her father and brother waiting for her.

"…Father. Brother."

"Ner, have you come?"

No one else was visible.

It seemed they didn't plan to invite other siblings or officials for the meal.

Ner already knew that such luxury was out of the question in the current situation.

Although it was simple, the table was filled with delicately prepared dishes to conceal that simplicity.

Gibson stared at Ner intently.

Ner sensed a faint sense of apology hidden in his stern expression.

After yesterday's conversation, it became even easier for her to read his hidden emotions.

Gidon looked at Ner with a cold expression and spoke.

"…Do not be rude."

"…"

"Now that we're together today, he seems like quite a decent person."

Ner quietly let out a mocking laugh.

She brushed off Gidon's sarcasm as if it was water off a duck's back.

"...If you say so."

"…"

This time, Gidon didn't say anything about Ner's rebellion.

Ner felt a subtle sense of satisfaction in Gidon's wordlessness.

Truly, it was a feeling that even she could not understand.

She wanted to be acknowledged by Gidon, but at the same time hates him.

She wanted to vent her anger like this, even if just a little.

The weight of the future she had to bear was too heavy, and she might not have known how to release her frustration.

Gibson loosened his collar gently.

At that signal, Ner and Gidon ceased their silent struggle.

With natural movements, everyone found their place on the square table and took their seats.

Gibson took the main seat, Ner to his left, and Gidon to his side.

The remaining two seats on the right were left entirely empty.

"The captain of the Red Flames and the vice-captain, the person who will become your husband, are the only ones invited."

"…"

"This is important... Even if it's difficult, let's make a little effort, shall we?"

Gibson looked at Ner as he spoke.

Ner also nodded her head, indicating that she would follow her father's words.

Through the large door that led to the dining hall, the butler entered.

"Lord Gibson, the captain of Red Flames, Adam nim, and the vice-captain, Berg nim, have arrived."

Gibson nodded and stood up from his seat.

Gidon also stood up, and Ner, calming her trembling heart, stood up as well.

Meanwhile, the door swung open wide.

Two men from the human race walked in.

The person standing a little further in front was tall and smiling. He walked confidently with smile.

"Lord Blackwood, thank you for inviting me."

And following him, a taller man walked in.

Black hair and dark eyes.

A strong body...

...And handsome face.

Numerous scars on his arms...

...And rough hands.

With firm expression...

...And cold atmosphere.

Ner could tell immediately who was 'Berg'.

Whether it was because she was already scared when she entered or not, her heart thumped painfully, and her legs trembled.

She was scared. She couldn't believe that she had to marry someone like that.

Her tail curled up on its own.

The two men approached and shook hands with Gibson first.

It was a human way of greeting, a handshake.

"Adam, Berg, thank you for coming."

The man called Berg didn't look at her. Their eyes could have met, but he didn't even glance at her.

'...He... hates women... to an extreme extent...'

Laila's words echoed in her head.

Ner just clenched her teeth and concealed her fear.

Next, they shook hands with Gidon.

"Adam nim, Berg nim, you must keep your promise."

"About mission? Of course."

Finally, it was Ner's turn as the protagonist.

Adam stepped back, creating space.

Berg, whose gaze had never been directed towards her before, turned his head to face Ner.

Ner gathered her courage and lifted her face.

The two eyes meet.

Ner looked at the person who would become her husband in the future.

"…"

"…"

Breaking the silence, Berg reached out his hand first.

But unlike the previous handshakes, Berg's hand was held up, facing the sky.

For a moment, Ner hesitated, then slightly twisted her hand and placed it in Berg's hand.

While she pondered how to shake hands in this situation, Berg lightly grasped Ner's hand, his gaze fixed on the sky.

'Ah…!'

Ner let out a groan, inwardly.

Soon, Berg, with a natural movement, pulled her hand, bringing it to his lips.

Startled by the soft sensation of his lips, Ner quickly pulled her hand back.

-Snap!

And then, flustered, she started making excuses.

"Ah...! I...I..."

However, even before that, Berg spoke first.

"I apologize. I should have told you about the culture of the human race first."

"…"

Ner was taken aback by Berg's much more polite tone than expected and couldn't say anything.

In the meantime, the other person introduced himself.

"I am Berg."

– – – End of Chapter – – –

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