A soft voice murmured in my ear as I awoke, surrounded by a scene of inferno–walls ablaze, ceilings collapsing, obscured by acrid smoke. The scorching atmosphere made every breath a challenge, and tears welled within my eyes. I found myself lying amidst the rubble, unable to move.
Was I condemned to wait for my death? I longed to see my parents from a past life. With a blurring vision, I eventually surrendered to the darkness by shutting my eyes. Suddenly, Asheradren appeared and lifted me up. The abandoned prince.
“Don’t give up. I will save you. I will make sure you survive.”
“Prince, please go alone. Don’t stay here with me to die.”
“It doesn’t matter. My life is not important anyway. You’re the only one who has treated me as a human. If I don’t save you, my life will have no meaning.”
Tears streamed down the prince’s cheeks as well. His pale cheek stained with dirt, his eyes bloodshot. He held me in his arms, who was unable to walk with both legs broken. And then, leaving behind the burning city, he placed me on a hill.
Under the backdrop of a night sky filled with sparkling white stars, the prince smiled sadly. Whether it stemmed from our escape from the clutches of death or his profound affection for me remained a mystery. I couldn’t understand. I merely gazed at the prince, whose once flawless form bore the scars of his attempt to rescue me.
“We need to treat your injuries. It could be a big problem if we don’t.”
Somewhere along the way, the prince was struggling to breathe. I could instinctively sense it. His life force was fading away. Born a half-demon, cursed to transform into a beast, the prince had long surpassed the age of adulthood. According to the prophecy, the prince was destined to die before reaching the age of twenty.
“Just the fact that I’ve lived until now is thanks to you. Only you didn’t treat me like a repulsive vulture. Only you didn’t look at me as something dreadful.”
“Please, Prince, wait here for a moment. I will call a doctor…”
“How many doctors do you think are left in the castle? I want to spend my last moments by your side.”
We hid behind a giant Adrim tree, avoiding enemy soldiers. The prince rested his head on my shoulder. His warm gaze looking up at me was so full of sadness that I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer.
The abandoned prince, Asheradren, who had been imprisoned all his life, took his last breath by my side. I held him tightly, not letting go, quietly waiting for the moment when even my remaining life would be taken by the gods.
…I had a dream like that.
When I woke up again, it was early morning, with sparrows chirping outside.
⋆ ★ ⋆
“Ah… I’m tired.”
I stretched and got up, tidying my disheveled hair. Whenever I woke up from a dream, it felt like I hadn’t slept well, which was frustrating. I don’t know if it has been several days already, but I keep having the same dream. I could probably recite the exact length of the prince’s eyelashes or the number of fallen leaves under the Adrim tree that sheltered us.
I didn’t need such vivid memories to know. It was not a dream but a reality, something that had actually happened to me, something I had experienced.
“Oh, it’s already seven o’clock?”
I took out my watch from the pocket of my black dress and checked the time. Mornings in the place the abandoned prince was confined was fast-paced. When the prince woke up, he had to eat breakfast, and it was my duty to bring him his meals, including every other meals. The rest of the time was mine. Quiet days flowed endlessly here.
Considering the intensity of my work, my compensation was quite substantial. But since no one else volunteered for the position, it was given to me, an orphan who had been reincarnated.
From my perspective, it was simply overwhelming gratitude, but it seemed that others did not feel the same way. Most people turned their heads even when presented with a pile of gold coins.
Well, I was the lucky one. I quickly tied my shoulder-length brown hair into a ponytail and added a black ribbon on top.
As the sole maid employed at the ‘Nameless Castle’ I wore a black dress with frills and a white apron every day. With black stockings and black shoes, I was ready to go. Waiting outside the castle was Sir Janiche, with his black hair.
After opening the rusty door, I turned my head and smiled at him, who was waiting for me. As a former nobleman from a fallen aristocratic family, he was the only gatekeeper employed at the ‘Nameless Castle.’
“Good morning, Sir Janiche. Did you have a good dream last night?”
“I usually don’t dream much. But the weather is definitely nice this morning.”
Sir Janiche, with his blunt personality, acknowledged my greeting with a nod. In front of him, baskets filled with a day’s worth of food prepared by the bustling chefs were placed.
I could already smell something delicious. I picked up the basket and immediately headed inside the castle towards the dining hall on the first floor. The food in the basket was meant for me, Sir Janiche, and the prince.
Distributing the food in the basket was another one of my tasks. I carefully transferred freshly baked white bread, bacon, egg dishes, and salad to a clean plate.
From now on, I was scheduled to meet the abandoned prince, even though I wasn’t sure if I would actually be able to meet him today.
“Good morning, Your Highness.”
Asheradren, the prince, lived alone on the top floor of the ‘Nameless Castle’ However, he had never shown himself in front of me before.
The first and only time I saw him was in a dream. When the Verberat Kingdom was conquered by the Sethna Empire, the millennium-old kingdom was destroyed in an instant. Or more precisely, about a year from now.
“Are you in there, Your Highness? Breakfast is ready.”
“…Just leave it outside. I’ll eat it on my own.”
I recognized his voice. I had heard it several times before. I had always been curious about the prince’s face, and sometimes I couldn’t resist talking to him at the door.
Every time, he would reply like that. But today was different. There was no way. I walked down the stairs, making deliberate footsteps, and hid behind the stair railing.
Then, after a while, with a grating sound, the thick wooden door opened.
Swiftly, I slipped my foot into the closing gap of the door. With surprise in his eyes, the prince looked up at me, who had managed to wedge myself in.
He was the same person I saw in my dreams every day, now sitting before me in reality.
Even in the darkness, his silver hair emitted a faint light, his gracefully styled silver hair and his nose straight.
The prince, with his fair and delicate complexion that rarely saw the sun, had a slightly flushed hue, and his plump lips were slightly parted in surprise at my sudden appearance. A small teardrop mark beneath the corner of his left eye and the vivid purple iris above it. The prince’s delicate features still retained a hint of youthfulness, but his large frame, as if forcefully squeezed into his small shirt, already resembled that of an adult man.
Instead of looking down at the prince, I slowly bent my knees and sat in front of him. It felt incredibly heartwarming to meet the prince face-to-face for the first time, as if returning to the past.
However, without a doubt, he did not share the memories with me. The prince hastily got up from his seat and closed the door.
“…Your Highness? I-I’m sorry. I’m Daphne, the newly appointed maid. I thought it was basic courtesy to greet you face-to-face, although I understand it might be impolite. I’ve been waiting for you to come out, Your Highness.”
“But it seems like I made a mistake, no, I was wrong. I apologize. Anyway, I’ll just leave now.”
I bowed my head again towards the prince behind the door. But I couldn’t hear any sound from inside, and I became a strange woman talking to the empty space.
Damn, another failure today. Fortunately, Sir Janiche didn’t witness this. For some reason, I felt my face burning with embarrassment. I got up from my seat and went down the stairs to the lower floor. Then, I ate my share of breakfast prepared in the dining hall.
Even after returning, the food sent to the ‘Nameless Castle’ still tasted delicious. Although it was prepared as an offering to the cursed prince in the palace, I didn’t mind such things.
“But what should I do from now on…?”
Since I had a lot of free time alone, I kept muttering to myself like a crazy person. I drank a sip of orange juice and rested my chin on my hand, staring at the ceiling.
A long time ago, when I was living in South Korea in the 21st century, I died at a young age and was reincarnated into a romance fantasy novel titled “The Princess Doesn’t Yield.”
The princess, Lethis, who appeared in the title and was the female lead, was loved by everyone as the sister of Prince Asheradren, unlike the prince himself.
However, happiness was short-lived when the neighboring Sethna Empire invaded the kingdom. She was forcefully taken as a hostage and met the male lead. Thus began their love story, transcending dimensions, a dark and intense romance…
But in reality, whether it was the female lead or the male lead, the content of the novel didn’t matter much to me. I wasn’t born as someone important, and Prince Asheradren himself was hardly mentioned in the novel.
We died together when the kingdom fell. I knew that for sure because I experienced it firsthand. The prince, Asheradren, who shouted when he saw me and hastily saved me from being crushed by a collapsing pillar, left this world. I regained consciousness and found myself back in the past.
Since then, I have been repeatedly dreaming the same dream.
Perhaps as a reminder that the prince had saved me, or perhaps it meant that now I had to save him. I considered it as a sort of divine calling. That’s why, even after returning to the past, I once again got a job at the ‘Nameless Castle’.
How exactly was I supposed to save the prince when he screamed at the sight of me? And why did the prince say I was his only salvation, even though I hadn’t done anything before my regression?