TWB (Novel) Chapter 98

C98

His firm, sun-kissed skin gleamed under the morning sun.

He thought he had grown accustomed to it last night, but apparently not enough to see it openly in the sunlight.

The moment Bianca, unable to bear looking at him, turned her head, Zachary lifted Bianca's body in an instant.

Zachary carefully lowered Bianca into the bathtub. The warmth of the water that touched Bianca's toes spread throughout her body. The bathwater, sprinkled with rose oil, had a subtle scent of roses, and rose petals floated around. The fragrance of roses tickled her nose, and the warm sensation that spread across her skin relaxed Bianca's body.

Zachary sat on the bed and watched as Bianca bathed. Bianca clumsily splashed water onto her body and looked at Zachary. The black eyes that gazed at Bianca were too intense. As if there was something he desired...

Bianca couldn't bear it any longer and asked,

"Would you like to bathe with me?"

It was only after saying that that Bianca was horrified. Bathing together sounded very improper. But instead of lowering her head, Bianca raised the tip of her chin with pride.

"I can make such a suggestion. We are now... truly a couple."

Did he realize Bianca's inner feelings, which seemed restless even though she pretended to be calm on the outside?

Zachary responded with a smile.

"If I do that, I don't think you'll be able to attend the banquet tonight."

Bianca involuntarily trembled at the weighty words.

Zachary picked up the clothes that had been scattered on the floor. Every time he moved to put on his clothes, his muscles flexed.

In that moment, she remembered his rough movements above her. Bianca's face flushed, and she ran her wet hands over her face.

Zachary, fully dressed, approached Bianca and lightly lifted the tip of her chin with his hand.

Her hair was disheveled, and the knots in her loosely tied chest were undone. Instead of the asceticism and modesty she always felt, there was a strangely wild charm about her.

While Bianca stared intently at Zachary, Zachary's face drew closer. And he softly whispered, kissing Bianca's damp cheeks.

"I'll see you later. I'll come to pick you up."

As soon as Zachary left the room, the tension surrounding Bianca's body instantly dissipated. Bianca sighed deeply as she reclined in the bathtub. Her appearance was far from the satisfaction of a new bride.

It didn't take long for Yvonne to enter. Yvonne's face was filled with curiosity. Romantic love stories usually sparked people's curiosity. Yvonne's mouth twisted because she had many questions to ask.

But she couldn't ask in the face of Bianca's expression that seemed filled with thoughts.

It was understandable that Bianca was confused. After all, it was their first night together after nine years of marriage. Yvonne kept her mouth shut and waited for Bianca to bathe without asking anything.

Bianca was not at all unhappy. On the contrary, Bianca was supremely happy now. A sweet and passionate love story with her beloved. Moreover, the person she loves is none other than her husband.

However, she was afraid that the chasm of despair that would fall in the future would be as vast as the size of her current happiness.

Last night, the distance that separated them narrowed in an instant. But her mind continued to spin in the distance.

It would be better if she knew what Zachary was thinking. But Bianca didn't have the courage to ask Zachary about his feelings. She knew she had to be brave here, but she couldn't.

Until now, she had prematurely convinced herself that Zachary liked her and feared being betrayed, but now she feared not being liked by him. It was ironic.

In the blink of an eye, she had realized that what she wanted was not possible.

Bianca's heart beat forcefully.

Now, every word she says and every gesture she makes will bring her joy and sadness... Unsatisfied with the current relationship, she yearns for Zachary's love. When he goes to war, she will grow weary of loneliness, and if his gaze turns elsewhere, she will burn with jealousy.

It was devastating to think about how defenseless she was when possessed by Fernand. Perhaps she will repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Humans don't change easily. And even though you know you'll repeat it, you can't help it. Even if you struggle to change, you'll realize that you are who you are and despair.

Fortunately, Zachary was a responsible man. As he promised, he would only have her. The reassurance from that fact was enormous.

But that relief is simply the result of Bianca closing her eyes and ignoring the future ahead of her.

The decisive reason why she has no choice but to despair. It is nothing more and nothing less than Zachary's death...

Just thinking about it made her heart ache and her breath suffocate.

Yes. It was not the time to worry about Zachary's sincerity or her own jealousy. Bianca shook her head.

She can't let him die. She has to save him. Whether Zachary loves Bianca or not, Bianca loves him.

At that moment, a thought crossed Bianca's mind like a lightning bolt.

"Maybe this is the reason why I came back."

After returning, Bianca never wondered why she had come back. She only thought that God had taken pity on her and given her a chance...

But why Bianca? Perhaps there is a reason why it has to be her?

After her return, the biggest change was with Zachary. Compared to the past, where they never exchanged proper words, the reality had changed so much that it was shocking.

"I came back... to save Zachary..."

It was Bianca's assumption, but it was plausible. There were still many things unclear to her, but one thing was clear... the reason Bianca was the one who came back was because she had to save Zachary.

But Bianca didn't know how to do anything. She could choose a dress, or decorate the castle, but... How does she save Zachary with that?

Bianca, whose mind was complicated, submerged herself in the water until her shoulders were covered. A rose floating in the water brushed against her cheek. Bianca blew a small bubble. She wanted to release her frustration by making air bubbles.

Still, there must be a way.

Her relationship with Zachary had changed, and the misunderstanding with her father had also been resolved. So, Zachary's death could be prevented.

Holding back the tears, Bianca's eyes gleamed with the determination to change the future.

---

After washing her body, Bianca carefully dressed under Yvonne's touch. There was still a lot of time before the banquet, but there was much work to be done.

Yvonne stared at the red marks of Zachary's lips on Bianca's white body.

They were in places that couldn't be covered by the dress. It seemed that simply rubbing the herbal medicine, said to be good for congestion in the skin, wouldn't solve the problem. After much effort, there was no choice but to cover them up by applying powdered makeup.

Bianca's dress for today was a green satin dress. In the fabric, which was closely embroidered with vines, the patterns revealed or hid depending on the direction in which it received light. The dress was adorned with pearls, more than enough to make five necklaces.

"Madam, the Count will come in about an hour."

"Oh, Sir Gaspard."

Gaspard came and spoke Zachary's words. Now that she thought about it, this was the first time she faced Gaspard since he won the quarterfinals. Still, as his knight escort, she couldn't utter a single word of congratulations for his victory. Bianca added apologetically.

"Congratulations on reaching the semifinals. I think it was a good match."

"...Thank you."

Although he lost, it was a match that left him without regrets as the opponent's skills were genuine. Gaspard accepted Bianca's congratulations and nodded silently.

Yvonne brought the jewelry box. The accessories for today were unified with a black opal. The fragments of light filling the jewel gleamed with all sorts of dazzling colors. A shiny golden belt was tied around the waist, and a pure white lace-woven shawl was worn on top.

Meanwhile, Gaspard stood in a corner of Bianca's room. It seemed he would wait until Bianca finished her preparations today. Bianca tilted her head, looking at Gaspard's usual attire.

"You must attend the banquet today. Don't you need to prepare?"

"It's fine."

That was it. Faced with Gaspard's straightforward response, Bianca sighed.

"He really doesn't talk much. Yvonne, you must be going through a lot."

"Do not mock me, Madam."

Yvonne's face turned red as she put the shawl on Bianca. But seeing that she didn't deny it, it seemed that the relationship between the two had progressed quite positively. Bianca finished the story with a smile, instead of continuing to joke.

Thanks to Yvonne's hard work, Bianca was able to finish the preparations on time. And as Gaspard notified, Zachary came to pick up Bianca just in time.

"I am here to escort you, Bianca."

Today's banquet was merely to honor the tournament winner, Zachary. However, if she left him alone, he would dress randomly, so Bianca prepared his clothes in advance.

A dark green doublet that revealed the solid silhouette of his body. Vines embroidered with silver to match Bianca's dress, and silver buttons that tightly closed his collar. His thigh-high leather boots were also adorned with silver buttons. With a black cape draped over his left shoulder and a silver arrangement on his right forearm, his appearance was exactly what Bianca had expected.

"You look good. It was worth choosing your clothes."

Bianca touched Zachary's garments with the tips of her fingers. Zachary's eyes, looking at Bianca, were deep, and the line from his forehead to the bridge of his nose was like a sculpture, softening over his loose bangs.

"You look beautiful too. How is your body?"

"It's fine."

Bianca smiled softly. When she first faced him, her heart beat with uncomfortable tension, but now, just talking face-to-face with him makes her heart race.

Zachary extended his hand. Bianca placed her hand on top, as if about to touch him. It felt like she was rubbing the palm of her hand. At that moment, Zachary's fingers gripped Bianca's hand as if it were a trap biting its prey.

The warmth of his palm. The solid body holding hers. Standing next to Zachary, who walked with steady steps, Bianca clarified her thoughts one by one.

First of all, let's not worry about complicated things like changing the future today.

After all, it was a banquet where all the nobles gathered.

Moreover, Bianca shouldn't have done anything to be criticized, as the winner was Zachary. Surely, the attention would be focused on him. She had to be mentally strong. Her cheeks hardened as she smiled softly.

Suddenly, they arrived at the entrance of the banquet hall. Perhaps because they were waiting for Zachary, Sauveur and Robert greeted them at the entrance of the banquet hall.

"They're here, Count, Madam."

Sauveur, who welcomed Bianca, had a smile on his face. The vassals couldn't not know that Zachary and Bianca had their first night together.

He didn't know what kind of change of heart the Count had, but he couldn't help but rejoice that the troubles he had been suffering from until now were resolved at once.

Although Robert was uncomfortable, he didn't express his hostility as explicitly as before.

It was so shocking that Bianca accepted the rose calmly, and her face with her head lowered still looked puzzled.

Just as he was about to pass without thinking twice, after receiving their greetings, Zachary felt a subtle peculiarity from Sauveur.

Zachary frowned and looked Sauveur up and down. And it didn't take long for him to discern the true nature of the déjà vu sensation.

"I think I've seen that garment somewhere."

"Haha. It's the Count's clothes, so it's not surprising."

"My clothes?"

Zachary asked as if he didn't understand. Knowing what had happened, Bianca involuntarily burst into laughter. That laughter only made Zachary even more bewildered.

Proudly, Sauveur said with his chest puffed up.

"Yes. You see, Madam discarded some clothes when she came to the capital. At that time, I quickly took the clothes and asked for permission from Madam. Do you know how much I struggled not to let Robert take them away?"

"I won't. Do you think I'm you?"

Robert complained. Even as he said that, his eyes were filled with envy as he looked at Sauveur's clothes.

But he wasn't envious because he got good clothes for free, but as a knight who adored Zachary, he felt like something sacred had been taken away from him. As if igniting a fire in Robert's heart, Sauveur proudly boasted about his clothes.

"I've been saving it until now, but shouldn't I wear it on a day like today?"

"Yes."

Zachary also laughed.

In the past, he might have been jealous of the fact that Bianca had given her clothes to Sauveur, but Zachary now has a more open mind that doesn't worry about such things.

Her clothes were chosen by Bianca, doesn't that mean the clothes she discarded weren't to her liking?

He could give Sauveur any amount of clothes that Bianca didn't like. Zachary, who had enough time to think, kindly let this matter pass.

Zachary and Bianca took the lead, and thus the Arno family entered the banquet hall. Zachary's steps were firm, and everyone's attention was focused on his majestic appearance.

The members of the Sevran royal family sat next to each other in the center of the banquet hall, with the Sevran nobles on the right and the envoys from Castile on the left.

The tapestry with the Arno family crest was placed in the position closest to the royal table. It was a seat that only the highest-ranking nobility could sit in, and it was a natural arrangement for a count, a war hero, and the winner of this tournament.

Zachary's half-brother, Viscount Huegh, sat at the end near the entrance. Somehow, he was invited to the banquet, but he was not strong enough to join the general society. Viscount Huegh's eyes lit up when he saw Zachary heading towards the center.

People arrived one after another, and in the end, the King of Sevran entered the banquet hall, closing the door. When the king entered, everyone in the banquet hall stood up and greeted the king.

The elderly king sat on his splendid throne and looked at the crowd. It was an aged but unwavering and dignified gaze. Everyone held their breath silently and waited for his next words.

"The banquet today is to honor the winner of the tournament and to celebrate the alliance between our two countries through the engagement of my grandson Albert and Princess Navarra, the daughter of García, from the Kingdom of Castile. I invite you all to raise a glass and share in this joy."

As soon as the king's words were finished, the wine stewards went back and forth among the tables, filling people's empty glasses with wine. When everyone's glasses were filled with wine, the old king raised his glass and exclaimed.

"For the eternal friendship of Sevran and Castile!"

"Cheers!!"

Everyone cheered and moistened their throat with wine. As soon as the toast ended, the musicians began to play, and the servants entered the banquet hall with trays of food one after another.

On a table covered with a white tablecloth, there was a cutting board for slicing meat and cheese, and behind it was a pear-shaped table containing tableware.

The banquet food was incredible. Pumpkin soup, minced meat-stuffed pheasant, red wine-marinated wild boar. Generously buttered roe deer thighs, goat meat pie, rabbit stew, fig cake, jelly, apple mousse with almond oil, honey-roasted prunes, nougat cookies...

Among the many dishes, it could be said that the most outstanding one was the swan meat decorated with feathers.

It was adorned with white feathers and seemed as if it were alive, but the splendor was enormous, with gold dust on the beak and legs.

The table was dazzling. Even trivial things like water jugs with handles and artisanal bowls were coated in gold.

Castile, a maritime kingdom, may have many precious specialties, but gold was the specialty of Sevran.

The Castilian delegation was left in awe at seeing so many gold decorations for the first time in their lives.

The food stewards went back and forth between the tables, carving the meat on the cutting boards in front of the nobles. People cheered each time the chaplain, who supervised the king's table, presented the next dishes.

As time passed, the musicians' performance also reached its peak.

In the middle of the banquet hall, the jesters lifted the spirits with their tricks and magic. Fernand was also in the banquet hall, not as a musician but as a magician.

It wasn't really surprising. Fernand loved using magic to seduce a woman, just as he did with Bianca. He performed magic tricks, like hiding coins up his sleeves and pulling them out of ears.

When Fernand pulled out a rose instead of the stone he had swallowed, everyone cheered in amazement. Bianca simply clapped to join the atmosphere.

When Zachary saw this and thought Bianca was genuinely amazed by the magic, he whispered in her ear.

"If you're interested in magic, I can have a magician come to our estate often when you're bored."

"No, I'm not interested."

Bianca said firmly. If it were the past Bianca, she would have been greatly fascinated by the magic unfolding before her eyes, but now she doesn't like magic. Bianca made a grimace and turned her head.

Fernand handed the rose he had magically produced to Bianca. Everyone envied Bianca, but Bianca was disgusted.

Fernand made a subtle flirtatious gesture to Bianca, who was forced to accept the rose. Bianca's face contracted.

Belatedly, she tried to erase the hatred lurking on her face due to her image, but it was already too late. Angry, Bianca threw the rose into the corner of the table.

Regardless of what others might think, Zachary observed Bianca with a satisfied expression on his face.

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