When they arrived to the Port of Salerno after such long journey, Igor was already waiting for them. The moment Mai got off the boat, she run straight to Igor’s arms.
Igor hugged Mai as she jumped into his arms. Mai wrapped her tiny arms around his neck while kissing her father’s face repeatedly.
“I missed you, father. I missed you a lot!”
Igor kissed his daughter’s cheek as well, returning the gesture. After all that fuss, he finally let Mai on the ground.
“Where is Kaka?”
Mai began looking for her dog, calling to him. A servant holding Kaka on a leash a bit farther away from Igor suddenly had trouble keeping the dog calm. The huge black dog, big enough to be confused with a bear, thrashed on the leash until he finally broke free and run straight towards Mai. He began licking her face nonstop.
“Kaka! Stop! Stop! You are giving me tickles!”
While Mai was receiving the dog’s enthusiastic greetings, Igor approached Rihannan. Without being able to hide his broad smile, he took Rihannan’s hands. Then, he quickly pulled her hips to him.
That one word held many different meanings. That he’d been worried all this time and that he’d missed her so much.
Rihannan buried her face on his chest. As soon as she heard his heart beating, the mysterious emptiness in her chest finally disappeared.
“I missed you, Igor.”
Then, the hands that were holding her hips suddenly gripped her tighter. Rihannan fell chills running down her spine. Igor held her face in both hands and gave her a small kiss on the lips. While their lips grazed softly, their eyes met. Igor seemed calm, but his deep purple eyes were burning with desire.
“I was worried for a moment about what to do if you decided on not boarding that ship.”
“Why? Where you planning on sending a whole fleet of warships again to threaten them or something like that?”
He caressed Rihannan’s cheeks with his fingers lightly.
“Do you think I’d stay here with my arms crossed?”
“In any case, there would have been no need for you to do that. After all, you did give Mai instructions, didn’t you? You told her that if I wanted to stay in Chrichton longer, you should roll on the floor and cry about going back hom.”
Seeing that his secret plan was out, Igor kept his mouth shut. Luckily for him, Mai and Kaka approached them. The enormous beast held onto Rihannan, happily greeting her. After Kaka deemed that he’d received enough caresses from Rihannan, they finally got onto the carriage towards home.
The journey home took them two hours until they finally reached Count Alessin’s old mansion. The servants were already lined up outside, waiting to offer them their formal greetings. It’s been a long time since they came back.
“Welcome home, Your Majesties and Princess.”
Jeffrey was standing tall at the front of the line. He was wearing a monocle and a bright smile on his lips. He also had more white hair compared to the last time they’ve seen him.
Rihannan approached him first and took his hand. She could feel many more wrinkles on his skin, a sign of a clear passing of time.
“I heard your knee isn’t good lately. How are you feeling?”
“My lady, it’s natural for some parts of the body to ache with old age. Please don’t worry about that.”
His personality remained the same in spite of the many years that had passed since she was a child. Rihannan sighed with relieve. She was crowned Queen seven years ago, but Jeffrey still addressed her as Lady. Perhaps, in this mansion, she’d remain seen as the beloved young daughter of her parents.
“Princess Mai, it is an honor for this butler to officially greet you. You will be our master in the future.”
Mai’s eyes widened with surprise. She turned around, perplexed, and looked at her mother.
“Mother, what does that mean?”
Rihannan didn’t say anything, she only held her daughter’s hand.
The road towards the cemetery behind the mansion was filled with flowers. Igor asked Rihannan to wait for a little bit and started gathering some flowers here and there. Seeing that he knew perfectly well which flowers to pick, Rihannan could easily imagine him doing this exact thing seven years ago. Soon, there was a bundle of flowers in his hand. Igor looked around for something to tie the flowers together. Noticing that, Rihannan took off a ribbon from her hair and passed it to him.
“Tie it with this.”
Igor took the blue silk-ribbon Rihannan gave him and tied the flowers carefully. Then, he picked one white flower from the grass and gave it to his wife.
“This was the prettiest, so I wanted to give it to you directly.”
Rihannan blushed. She smiled shyly and accepted the flower. She placed it under her nose and carefully inhaled its fragrance. It had a wonderful smile.
They’ve been living together for a long time now, but whenever Igor made such gestures, her heart would still beat furiously. Rihannan had the inkling that she’d remain the same even if a hundred years passed by.
“Did you know?”
Rihannan asked him as they resumed walking.
“The moment I began opening my heart to you was when you gave me those flowers. I saw you picking the flowers with your own hands, so I thought that had changed.”
“Oh, God, then I guess I should be grateful to Basil for that advice.”
“Was that Basil’s idea? I knew it… I’m disappointed.”
“No, wait, I didn’t mean to say that it was Basil’s idea, but…”
Rihannan looked at her husband, who still got so flustered with each and every word she said and smiled. She gripped his hand tightly as they walked.
When they reached her mother’s tomb, Igor placed the flowers down and silently stood there with her. After a while, Rihannan spoke.
“Mother really liked you, actually.”
Igor turned around to look at her with a surprised expression. That was news to him, since she’d never said anything in her past life.
“She said you didn’t express yourself much, but you were not the type to lie to other people. If she’d really not approved of you back then, she’d have never wanted me to assume the position of Queen, regardless of what the Queen Mother said. She could also tell that I was already falling in love with you, too.”
Igor lowered his gaze. He’d always thought that his marriage had been decided based on political benefits but now, once more, he had been proven wrong. The more he knew of his past life, the more painful the memories of his past mistakes became.
Seeing his eyes turn darker, Rihannan quickly changed the topic.
“Ah, now that I remember… the King of Chrichton is showing a favorable position regarding you.”
Igor smiled and looked at Rihannan.
“Is that right? That’s good to hear.”
“Yes. Well, it is beneficial for all of us if bilateral relations are good. His rule is still unstable, after all.”
Strictly speaking, the current King of Chrichton was a member of the nobility, but not from Chrichton’s Royal Family, something that had never occurred before. Seeing that his position was still hanging on a loose threat, there was nothing to lose and everything to gain by being friendly to the neighboring country.
“I told him I’d actively support Mai in becoming the heir to the throne.”
Rihannan’s visit to Chrichton was not only to visit her relatives. As soon as she arrived, she headed straight to the Royal Palace to meet up with Helena, who was now married to a Count, and then went to visit the King separately. She did so to arrange all the fine details involved in ensuring Mai’s position as the heir to the throne of Arundel.
These past seven years, Igor and Rihannan did not have any more children. Igor did not want any more heirs other than Mai, and though Rihannan did want to have another baby, she soon gave up the idea for her daughter. If another baby was born, Mai’s position as heir would get complicated.
From the very beginning, the two of them established a plan to ensure that Mai would become a suitable ruling Queen in the future. However, some nobles still opposed the idea of crowning Mai as heir since the King and Queen were still young and fertile. Perhaps, with time, a male child would be born, so they opposed the idea of speeding up the crowning ceremony.
Rihannan was worried about this, but Igor simply went ahead and arrange all that was necessary to proclaim Mai as his heir. He was adamant on not putting any pressure of giving birth to a boy on Rihannan, as had happened in their past life.
They were also planning on giving Mai the status of Countess. Count Alessin’s vacant position would have been passed on to any male baby born by Rihannan; however, since that would not happen, they needed to publicly proclaim their decision of making Mai their sole heir. Thus, Mai not only had the right to inherit her position as Countess, but to the throne as well.
Rihannan spoke with a firm voice, tightening her hand into a fist.
“I’ll make sure that Mai does not experiment the same tragedy the Queen Mother had to go through.”
Their rule was firm, but they knew that many people would not feel comfortable having Mai as their ruling Queen, more so considering that issues like this had originated civil wars and other inner conflicts in the past. From those people’s perspectives, it made no sense to have a ruling Queen. After all, even if no male heir was born, if Mai renounced her right to the throne, her future husband would be crowned King.
Igor hugged Rihannan. He caressed her round shoulders and whispered.
“Don’t worry. I’ll make sure that never happens again.”
Rihannan nodded her head and snuggled into his arms. Ironically, their main ally in supporting Mai’s role as future ruling Queen had been the Queen Mother herself. She’d raised Igor with a cold attitude, but was nothing other than a loving grandmother to Mai.
The Queen Mother really wished with all her might for Mai walk a different path from hers. That’s why she was set on doing anything in her power to help Mai. It was the Queen Mother who’d recommended to Rihannan to speak with Chrichton’s Royal Family first, before publicly announcing their decision to all of Arundel. She said that things would go smoother if people saw that they had the support of the neighboring countries.
And, as the saying goes, time heals all wounds. Seeing the Queen Mother dote on Mai that much made Rihannan’s hatred towards her lessen little by little with each passing year. All the villains from her past life were either dead or punished, but perhaps the Queen Mother would manage to live the rest of her days peacefully since she didn’t let her second chance at life go to waste.
“Let’s go now, Mai could be looking for us.”
Rihannan said to Igor when the sun set and the wind started to blow. They didn’t know when they’d be back again, so Rihannan bid her last farewell to her mother’s grave.
“Mother, I’m living a happy life now.”
“I don’t regret it.”
They had almost finished descending the hill back home when Rihannan uttered those words. Igor stopped on his tracks and looked at her.
“I said it before, didn’t I? My mother loved my father for everyday of her life so, regardless if she hated him or loved him, she was always the happiest when she was by his side. I’m the same.”
Rihannan knew that Igor still felt guilty for what happened in their past life, and wished for him to stop feeling that way.
“Many things happened after I married you but I don’t regret in the slightest being by your side. I’ve always wanted to tell you that.”
Igor held Rihannan’s gaze, his eyes still trembling with guilt and remorse.
“Even if you died because of me?”
“The person who brought me back to life after my death was also you. Besides, it wasn’t your fault. You also had to pay a high price for what you’ve done.”
Igor had confessed to her at some point that the three years following her poisoning were hell to him, so much so that he’d fervently wished to die at the battlefield.
That’s why, Rihannan made up her mind of living longer than him in this life. If it wasn’t possible to die together, she really wished to survive him for a little longer so that he’d never have to experience the same torment and pain as in their last time.
“If you hadn’t met me, you’d have probably led a peaceful life.”
“But I would also not be as happy as I am right now. I prefer living my life with the people I love.”
Igor finally smiled. His expression was filled with happiness. He whispered to her, placing his big palms on Rihannan’s cheeks.
“I love you. Every moment you were away from me, I desperately wanted to say those words to you.”
Rihannan’s eyes curved as she smiled. He’d become so sweet to her. “I love you too, Igor.”
Their lips met into a deep kiss. As their kiss deepened, Igor’s mind became hazy. His desire for Rihannan, which had accumulated over the days she was away from him, was about to burst out. There was no way he’d be satisfied with just a kiss. His mind filled with lustful thoughts of how blissful it was whenever his manhood reached the deepest, warmest place of her body.
“…I want to do it. Now.”
Igor whispered in a low tone to her among heavy breaths. His purple eyes were burning with desire as he gazed at Rihannan, making her blush.
Rihannan desperately wanted him, too. She thought of the many times he’d made her reach climax over and over again. She wanted him so much she was even willing to let him lay her down on the very grass they were standing on just so they could do it immediately.
“Please, make love to me, Igor…”
With those words, something broke inside Igor’s mind. He immediately raised her up in his arms as he hurriedly carried her inside the mansion. Rihannan tightly held onto the flower he’d gifted her with one hand while her other arm was coiled around Igor’s neck. They didn’t stop kissing as they moved.
“I’ll make sure you don’t sleep tonight. We’ll worry about your resting from your travel when we get back to the Palace.”
Rihannan burst into laughter with his threat.
“Are you saying you’ll let me sleep without bothering me once we are back in the Palace?”
“Well… I’ll have to think about it…”
Farther away, they faintly heard the barks of a dog and the voice of a little girl calling for her parents. In any other circumstance they would have rushed to their daughter’s side, but just for this one time, they moved stealthily so that they wouldn’t be spotted.
Right now, they were longing to be in each other’s arms.