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6 One More Time

 "CAPTAIN, please rise," Tilly said when she finally gathered the courage to speak while looking at Kiho's intense gaze.

Kiho, without breaking their eye contact, stood in front of her with a blank look on his handsome face. She only reached his chest so he had to literally look down just to meet her gaze. "Lady Prescott?"

"Please just call me 'Tilly,'" she said before giving him a curtsy. "Good evening, Sir Kiho."

"You don't have to be so formal with me, Tilly," he said, mentioning her name in a firm voice. She liked how he didn't hesitate to call her by her first name as if he wanted to be close with her so bad. "You can also call me by my name, too."

She couldn't help but smile at their fast progress.

In her past life, they only started to call each other by their first names after she gave birth to Winter. But now, they were obviously comfortable with each other right away.

[I'll definitely change our future.]

"Kiho, first of all, let me apologize to you for keeping my identity from you," she said. "I understand if you're angry. But I hope you let me give you an explanation."

"I'm not angry," he denied in his usual monotonous voice. But despite his stoic look, the glow in his golden eyes showed his interest. "Did I scare you?"

She nodded as confirmation. "You glared at me."

"Ah, I wasn't glaring you," he said with a hint of embarrassment in his voice. "I was just berating myself for being stupid. Had I known you were Lady Prescott from the very beginning, I wouldn't have held back the night you asked me to-"

"Woah, Captain!" she said, then covered his mouth with her hands. Gosh, her cheeks were flushed but the captain remained as stoic as usual. "Are you really about to say that I asked you to s-sleep with me that night?"

He nodded, his golden orbs sparkling in amusement.

"Gosh," she complained, getting more and more embarrassed by the minute. "You're a knight. Aren't you supposed to protect a lady's honor?"

Well, she was perfectly aware that it wouldn't happen if she didn't ask him to sleep with her. She just didn't expect him to bring it up right away.

[Where's the indifferent husband that I know?]

Kiho gently tapped the back of her hand with his finger.

[Oh.]

She removed her hands from his mouth.

"I'm glad that we're having this conversation. Because this proves that we really met that night," Kiho said in a somewhat gentle tone. He was really in the mood to talk tonight, huh? "I searched for you all over the town the next day, Tilly. When I didn't find you, I thought you were just a beautiful dream. If the squires of my troop didn't see you then, I would have probably believed that you were a goddess that I luckily stumbled upon."

Okay, now her whole face felt hot. In her previous life, she was married to Kiho for more than ten years but he never complimented her that way. "G-Goddess?"

"Goddess of crabs."

She glared at him even though she could tell from his playful tone that he was just teasing her, then she playfully hit his chest.

[Wow, it's solid!]

Casually touching a man wasn't a common behavior for a lady in that empire. But since she also remembered her life as a modern woman, she couldn't help but sometimes act like how she did in the modern world. She was trying hard to act like a proper lady to avoid suspicions from the people around her.

But for some reason, she felt so comfortable with the captain that she could drop her guard around him.

[This is definitely different from our civil relationship in the past.]

Well, she could remember a few happy moments with her husband and son in her previous life. But she could confidently say that what she had with Kiho right now was better, even though their relationship has yet to be confirmed.

[He seems to be just as comfortable as I am.]

Kiho's lips didn't turn upward but his eyes definitely smiled. "Tilly, you've heard everything I said about my past a while ago. I know that His Majesty personally talked to your father about the prophecy. But if you're scared to marry a commoner with a cruel past like me, don't hesitate to break off our engagement. I will make sure that the emperor won't force you to marry me. Prophecy be damned."

"Are you insane?" she asked between giggles. "If you disobey the emperor, you'll be branded a traitor."

"I'd rather be a traitor than be the kind of husband that will only make you miserable."

Those words made her heart beat loud and fast.

She couldn't believe that a chance encounter by the sea could entirely change her relationship with Kiho.

It made her wonder if he loved her in the past, even just a little, when they were still married. During that time, Kiho was respectful and always mindful of her boundaries. Plus, he never cheated on her even during the time they started to sleep in separate rooms.

Most of all, Kiho had always been a good father to Winter. Strict when he needed to, but he got his son's back all the time.

[I took them for granted because of my damn hunger for power. I don't even remember why I wanted to be the mother of the next emperor back then. I lost my husband and my son and I died a painful death.]

"You're doing it again," Kiho said with a hint of worry in his voice. "You're looking at me with sad eyes."

Well, that was because during the last moments of her previous life, she never stopped feeling apologetic to Kiho. Before he asked for divorce, she remembered that he really tried his best to keep their family together. And even when she was accused of a severe crime against the royal family, he still stood by his side.

But stupid her pushed him away. She had to because she didn't want him to be associated with her crimes. Winter needed his father after all. For her, that was her final peace offering to her husband and son- and a farewell.

[I hope Lucina Morganna had been good to them until the end.]

"I'm just sad because it seems like you don't find me pretty enough," she said just to tease the captain. "I dolled up for you, Captain. But instead of calling me a moon goddess, you called me a goddess of crabs."

In Moonchester Empire, being called as "moon goddess" was the highest form of compliment a lady could receive from a man.

[Well, that's what most people believe.]

"But I like crabs more than the moon," Kiho said in a serious voice. "I'd rather catch crabs than watch the moon. I never had the luxury to do the latter."

Growing up an orphan then being forced to be a mercenary to survive- that was Kiho's past. In her previous life, she used to be embarrassed of her husband's background. If he wasn't favored by the emperor, the captain would have probably been bullied by other nobles.

Not that Kiho would let other people bully him. But still, even though he became a duke in the past, she was fully aware that the other nobles would talk behind his back and make fun of him. She knew that but she didn't stand up for her husband. Because in her previous life, she sucked up to the nobles to support Winter as the next emperor.

[I'll take care of Kiho this time.]

"You can do that now," she said to Kiho. "I may not be as pretty as the moon but you can look at my face anytime you want."

Kiho looked pleased. "That's an offer that I won't turn down."

She just smiled at him. "Ah, let me explain why I kept my identity from you."

"Would you like to sit down first?"

She shook her head before she started to explain. "When we met at the port town, I thought my father sent you there to escort me. I noticed that you didn't recognize me but I still had my doubts. A few days later, when I talked to my father, he mentioned that the emperor was worried that you didn't want to marry me anymore."

He coughed as if he wanted to forget about that.

She just giggled at his reaction before she continued. "My father said according to the emperor, you seemed to have been smitten by another dark-haired woman you met at the port."

His brows visibly twitched. "It seems like His Majesty enjoys talking about my personal life with other people."

She just laughed softly. "Thanks to His Majesty's concern, I had an idea. I wanted to know if I was really the woman you spoke about to the emperor. As the captain of the Black Serpent Knights, I knew you'd be at the banquet so I sneaked out of the party to look for you. Luckily, I found you by accident when I got lost in the maze." She had to lie because she didn't want Kiho to find her suspicious. "I didn't properly introduce myself because I wanted to know what you'd do if you met the lady you met at the port the night you were supposed to meet your fiancée."

"In short, you wanted to test my feelings?" he asked carefully.

She nodded before she gave another explanation. "I know that our marriage is considered as a political one. A prophecy from the High Priest declared your future child as an important existence to the empire. But only a dark-haired woman could give birth to your son. I happen to be the woman with the darkest hair in the empire so I was chosen as your wife. But what will happen if you meet another dark-haired woman? I don't want to be thrown away. And so, I decided to test your feelings."

"Are you saying that you don't want a loveless marriage?"

"Very sharp, Captain," she told him with a smile. "I know that we're both physically attracted to each other. It's too early to call it love, but it's a good start. If we're going to get married and have a child together, why don't we try to fall in love with each other while we're at it? You know, I'm one of the few who believes that you can teach yourself to love a person."

To be honest, even if she had all the memories of her previous life, she was still not sure if she loved the Captain in the past.

But right now, she had no reasons not to love him.

[I want a happy family in this lifetime.]

"Honestly, I could care less about the prophecy," Kiho said later. "Before we met at the port, I was prepared to marry the faceless Lady Prescott because His Majesty wanted me to. The emperor believes that my future son would be a great help to the royal family. Since I vowed my life and loyalty to him, I didn't even think about refusing his "request.""

"But for the first time in your life, you tried to defy His Majesty," she said, then she teased him. She wanted to flirt, okay? "Did you want to sleep with me that bad?"

"I don't do one-night stands," he said with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "That's why I'm glad and relieved when you asked me to marry you."

Her eyes widened at his confession. "Then, why didn't you make a move?"

"Because you were drunk," he said. "I didn't want to take advantage of you so I thought we should talk about sleeping together or marriage only when you're sober. But like I said a while ago, I didn't find you at the port when I looked for you."

Aww... she was touched.

Kiho might think that he lacked proper etiquette because he didn't have the education that nobles received her. But he didn't realize that his honor as a knight was just as admirable. Plus, not all nobles were as honorable as him despite having higher education.

[Kiho has always been a gentleman.]

"I'm sober now, Kiho," she said. "And I'm still very much attracted to you, good sir."

"My lady, you always beat me to it," he said. Then, much to her surprise, he got down on one knee and stretched out his hand to her. "May I have the honor of being your other half, Lady Matilda "Tilly" Prescott?"

Ah, yes. This was how the knights in the empire propose.

"It will be an honor to be yours, Sir Kiho," she said before she gave him his hand.

Kiho gently took her hand and brought it to his lips. Then, he placed a light kiss on her knuckles before he looked at up at with glowing golden eyes. "Thank you for accepting me, Tilly."

Tilly smiled and squeezed his hand. "I have no reason not to accept you, Kiho."