Under the warm rays of the morning sun, Astrid glanced at the ash remains of the holy tree and exhaled in relief. On the other hand, Lilian’s mouth first opened wide in sheer astonishment before a furious blush swiftly dyed her face red.
“P-pregnant? Wife?! W-what in the world are you saying?”
“Hm? Of course I’m talking about you and Roel. There’s no need to be shy; I already know about it.”
“Lilian, you have to understand that we hadn’t come up with this plan yet when he approached you back then. We were in a precarious situation then, and there was a real possibility that the Ascarts’ lineage might just be severed here. However, you can rest assured that his feelings for you are real. I can at least tell that much.”
Astrid had a ‘Don’t worry, I understand’ expression on her face, though out of a guilty conscience, she neglected to mention that she was actually the mastermind behind the plan.
From the details Astrid was giving out, Lilian was able to fit the puzzle pieces together and deduce the truth.
W-wait a moment, this means that when Roel came into my room the other day, he was planning to…
The realization of the truth made Lilian stare at the young man, who was chatting with Antonio not too far away, in disbelief. Her face started to heat up.
Her response brought a smile to Astrid’s face. Astrid grabbed the hand of the flustered young lady and consoled her.
“It was only a matter of time before the two of you came to this point. Things might have sped up a little, but this isn’t anything of concern.”
“No, I-I mean, we’re siblings…”
“Even when the two of you shared a passionate kiss earlier on?”
The question pierced deeply into Lilian’s heart like an arrow. Her lips started quivering as she struggled to argue against it, but no words came to her mind. Astrid, on the other hand, put on the kind smile of an elder.
“Doesn’t it work out fine this way? While the two of you are bloodline kin who share a unique connection granted by fate, this is not a bond that the rest of the world understands or accepts. Only through marriage will the others see the two of you as a family.”
Lilian’s brain was still overheating from embarrassment when she heard Astrid’s words and quickly regained her rationality. She looked at her ancestor and slowly began falling into deep thought.
She’s right. In the eyes of an outsider, being bloodline kin is nothing more than an incomprehensible coincidence. They won’t understand the bond between us. I need to have a conventionally accepted relationship with Roel in order for our bond to be acknowledged by others. B-but marriage is still a little…
“W-what if we don’t get married?”
“Don’t get married? What in the world are you talking about?”
Astrid frowned upon hearing the question from the slightly frustrated Lilian.
“What will happen to your child if you don’t get married?”
“No, I mean, assuming that we don’t have a child…”
“Even without a child in the equation, do you think that your relationship will be able to last long if the two of you don’t get married?”
Lilian’s widened amethyst eyes showed that she hadn’t expected to hear such a thing at all. Astrid smacked her forehead out of sheer exasperation.
“Why is someone as smart as you so dull when it comes to such matters? What are you going to do if that lad gets married to someone else?”
“O-of course I will… Wait…”
Lilian was halfway through her response when it suddenly struck her.
There was a key problem in their relationship that she had overlooked all this while. Even if she viewed Roel as a family member and claimed such to be the case to others, would others really believe her?
Once Roel got married, what would his wife think if they were to maintain a close relationship?
Was there any woman in this world who would allow her spouse to have an intimate relationship with an ‘older sister’ whom he had no blood ties with?
At the very least, that was definitely a resounding no for Lilian.
If so, the two of them were doomed to drift apart. Their communication would slowly lessen over time, and before they knew it, they would be no more than strangers.
This realization sent Lilian into a state of shock, and she found herself swallowed by an unprecedented feeling of anxiety. At the same time, the notion that Roel could have someone far more important to him than her somehow filled her with dread.
This was not a situation she could accept.
Astrid looked at Lilian’s clouded face and pondered for a while before adding solemnly.
“Let’s put aside all those concerns for now. Touch your heart and ask yourself, is that really how you feel?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you sure that your feelings for him are only limited to kinship as an older sister? Is it possible that you’re attributing your feelings for him as kinship because you’re trying to fill a void in your heart or avert your eyes away from something else?”
Astrid sensed incongruence in Lilian’s feelings and went ahead to question it directly.
On the other hand, Lilian’s eyes began to flicker around in shock and confusion. For the first time, she began to doubt her own feelings.
Seeing this, Astrid sighed yet again.
“Calm down, you still have ample time to think it over. You don’t have to rush to a decision here. However, I should remind you that you should think it through fast lest someone gets ahead of you. If someone else manages to snag him before you, it could very well be all over.
“Both of you are descendants of our clan, and what’s even more amazing about it is the fact that you don’t share any blood ties. I earnestly hope that the two of you can become a blissful couple. Admittedly, it’s much less efficient to expand our family tree like this, but who knows? Your child might just be pureblooded.”
The familiar term made Lilian raise her head. Astrid looked at her and nodded earnestly.
“You Austineans must be familiar with the term, ‘pureblooded’. Even as an Ackermann, you probably harbor doubt toward the concept of pureblood since your people use it as a tool for establishing legitimacy and consolidating power.
“However, the concept of pureblood does exist in this world, but it’s not a measure of nobility. Back in the ancient era, it used to refer to one’s bloodline, such as in the case of you and Roel.
“When possessors of the same bloodline who don’t bear blood ties come together, there’s a chance that they may bear a child with stronger bloodline abilities, someone who is even closer to the origin. That’s the true secret of pureblood. The so-called Pureblood Theory that’s running rampant in the Austine Empire is no more than utter nonsense.”
A sliver of anticipation was slowly sprouting in Lilian’s heart as she listened to Astrid’s explanation. She subconsciously stroked her own tummy as her eyes flitted toward Roel.
Somehow, those words brought warmth to Lilian’s heart. Her mind slowly began to heat up as she stared at Roel in a daze.