Her Puzzle
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The Court Mage could not understand what Prince Raimond could achieve by turning her into his wife.

That day, she could only stare in confusion. Unable to provide a suitable answer to the Prince’s question.

Lying to any member of the Royal Family might not have fallen into the category of treason. But it was still punishable with life in prison.

Alina was incapable of telling the truth. Her pride as a mage prevented her from saying “I don’t know.”

It was unbecoming for a mage to say such a thing, for them; it was the same as admitting defeat. Alina chose to abandon her emotions on her own accord. For the pursuit of limitless knowledge and eternal truth. She didn’t know if she could get it back.

“I will be waiting for your reply,” was the Prince’s parting words, leaving Alina alone with her thoughts once more.

Thoughts that centred around the Prince’s proposal prevented her from having a good night’s sleep.

What made Alina so desirable in the eyes of the Prince? There was nothing special about her. Could it have been the reason behind Prince Raimond’s sudden interest in her? Alina’s thoughts grew dim in exhaustion, and she stopped thinking, falling into a dreamless sleep.

Mages were not motivated by personal gain. Their deepest desire was to solve every problem in existence. It has always been that way. Having no answer to a question made them unable to sleep properly.

Every puzzle has an answer. The following morning, Alina’s mind supplied her with a solution only she could think of.

Point one: Men were selfish creatures, following their desires wherever they lead. Prince Raimond was a man.

Point two: Becoming a wife was not possible without marriage. Marriage was the beginning of a family. A family was a social group made up of parents and their children.

The conclusion? The Prince wanted her to bear his children. Most nobles married their spouse purely to procreate, after all. For some reason, they have lower birth rates than commoners. Marrying a commoner was a way to ensure the stability of their bloodline.

The Royal family was not different in that aspect. Prince Raimond’s mother used to be a commoner herself. Alina was the only female commoner he personally knew who wasn’t old enough to be his mother.

“… I see. Now everything made sense.”

Yet, it’s too early to make such an assumption. There was not enough evidence to support Alina's claim. Evidence was everything. Only a fool would believe in something without proof.

Her musings were interrupted when she heard someone knocking on the door; her door. The Court Mage’s Quarters of the Imperial Palace only has one entrance.

“Come inside. It’s unlocked.”

The door swung open, and a familiar figure walked in. Not in the usual manner, though. Prince Raimond was hiding his hands in his pocket.

“Can you heal this? My sister said you were a good healer,” he raised his right hand after closing the door with the other, undamaged hand. His finger looked deformed. It was bent in an awkward position.

It seemed like the Prince went sparring with his sister and lost. The outcome was not surprising. Crossing swords with Princess Tatiana was a death sentence. Prince Raimond would win if they used different weapons.

Alina was relieved. This meeting has nothing to do with yesterday’s question.

“Certainly,” a faint green aura surrounded the Prince’s injured hand. When it faded, his fingers were no longer pointing in a different direction.

“Thanks, now I don’t have to go to the Court Physician. She seems to think amputation is the cure to everything.”

The Prince’s hand was so warm, thought Alina. Her healing spells need direct contact with the wounded area. In this case, it’s Prince Raimond’s right hand.

She had forgotten the feeling she got when she held someone’s hand until this moment. It made her feel fuzzy on the inside. And safe.

“Can I get my hand back?”

“I’m sorry, I spaced out.”

“No need to apologise. You’re amazing, you know? Is there any magic you can’t use?”

“Mind magic.”

Alina knew how to use mind magic, but she can’t use them without breaking the law. Human minds were fragile, tinkering with it resulted in more harm than good.

“That’s good to hear. I know someone addicted to it. He used it as a drug. That person is in a mental hospital now.”

Everyone wanted to be happy, but too much happiness was not good for someone’s health. Life has no meaning without pain and sadness. Without them, someone was not a living person. Just a corpse that was pretending to be alive.

“Good heavens, look at the time! I must go. My cute little sister is waiting outside. You know how impatient she is.”

Princess Tatiana was the antithesis of her brothers. She had a short temper as well as tendencies for sudden violent outbursts. Everyone was afraid of her, except for her own family. They thought she was the cutest thing in the world.

“Wait. Before you go, I have a question for you. Why do you want me to become your wife?”

Now that the Prince was on “semi-serious mode” instead of “lovey-dovey mode,” Alina could ask him this question without receiving any flirtatious remarks in response. His answer?

“Isn’t it obvious? Because I love you.”

The answer wasn’t what Alina expected. If anything, it only made her more bewildered. It was so unthinkable and straightforward. What was this thing called “love”? She needs to start studying psychology, becoming a psychopath to understand people better.

Alina hasn’t cracked open a dictionary yet. She can’t remember where she placed it. It could be anywhere.

“Can I go now? I won’t lose this time. I will use 1% of my power,” the Prince’s facial expression morphed into determination. A serious face meant serious business.

Princess Tatiana won’t be able to walk away unscathed now. Her brother was not going down without inflicting a single hit. Not when he was looking as constipated as the Crown Prince who never lost a spar.

The Crown Prince might be untouchable, but he won’t hit a woman. That was why Prince Raimond was the only one sparring with their sister. His way of respecting women was different from his elder brother. He treated women as equals in every aspect of life.

“What if you got injured again?"

"I won't. I'm motivated now. Nothing can injure me."

Alina doubted that. She was well aware of what the Princess was capable of. Her style of sword fighting focused on injuring enemies rather than killing them. 

"I was speaking hypothetically.”

“Then you can hold my hand again. You like it, don’t you?”