Anyway, I was so desperate that I became the candidate for the dragon’s bride.
I could not bear staying at home where my parents would not look at me and my sister would unconsciously hurt me by being over the moon.
There was more than a year’s time before my sister would marry.
It would be too hard for me to survive if I had to see her ecstatic face during that year.
By the way, the dragon’s bride is a woman who offers up her body every decade to the active volcano where the dragon sleeps. In essence, a sacrifice. The higher the position the sacrifice had in society, the better it was, so each time the daughter of a viscount or baron was chosen.
However, it was a public secret that they were mostly poor commoners adopted into the families. The family who gave the sacrifice would receive eternal honor and annual compensation from the country in return for losing their daughter.
The annual compensation was but a trifle compared to the rest of the duke’s assets, but if I became the dragon’s bride, I would bring honor to my family. This time, I thought foolishly, my parents would be happy.
No matter what, I wanted to prove that I was more useful than my sister.
On the other hand, I had my own interests in mind.
If I told them I would become the dragon’s bride, perhaps my parents would see my pain and treat me kindlier.
They might spoil me the same way they spoiled that sister of mine.
I was foolish. I had no other words to describe how incredibly naïve I was.
However, I was serious back then. They would stop me. They would cry and pity me. I allowed myself to set some expectations.
Unfortunately, my parents did not know what to do with me as I shut myself in my room, depressed. They agreed to my suggestion without much reluctancy.
Now that it had come to this, I could no longer back down.
I became the first high-ranking noble in history to become a sacrifice to the dragon.
Once it had been decided, my initial exasperation had evolved into the thought that perhaps this was for the best.
I no longer had to see my sister’s happy face, nor my parents’ sour ones.
I no longer had to listen to the vile rumors and the voices of servants oozing with pity despite trying to block them out.
I gave up everything in the quiet days at the temple. I refused the environment attempting to swallow me up and finally accepted that I was loved by no one.
Then, on the wedding day.
My sister was sobbing in disbelief that her big sister would be married before her.
What a cry baby of a sister who became emotional at the drop of a hat.
She believed that as long as she clung to her father, she could change even the laws of the world.
My parents had few words to say when I bid them farewell. They only cautioned me to keep my head held high as a daughter of a duke and see my duty carried out.
Usually I would have replied, brimming with confidence.
But at this time, I already thought nothing of them.
The crown prince did not appear that day on account of feeling unwell, though it was unclear whether he truly felt unwell or if he simply felt guilty.
A grand parade sent me out of the capital as I rode on a palanquin carried by priests down the road to the volcano.
The people who knew nothing of the circumstances behind my becoming the candidate came to watch the palanquin pass by as was old tradition, throwing red flowers towards me in congratulations.
It was the unique “Greed flower,” said to have been transformed from dragon scales.
The palanquin covered in white was stained in the pink of the flowers by the time we reached the volcano where the dragon lived.
We rested in an old stone temple at the foot of the volcano. This temple was used for this sole purpose from days of eld.
They performed the purification ceremony once more. Now in my bridal gown, I rode the palanquin to the peak.
My long white veil fluttered in the wind. From under it I saw scenery I had never seen before. An endless blue sky and green mountains. Rich country soil, stretching as far as the eye could see.
Up until now, I had lived attached to my work desk, knowing nothing of the real word.
I only knew of the wide world I had read about in books. Mine was a small ignorant existence.
That was what I discovered during this journey.
I wondered what the brides of old thought on this path. I could hear the strained breath of the priests under the palanquin. Even so, I continued up on their shoulders.
Soon, we reached the volcanic crater at the top. There were violent heat waves and hot magma gleaming bright red.
The priests finished blessing me with a singing ritual and quickly went down the volcano.
I was the only one left. They did not even leave a guard.
I entertained the thought that many brides of old had probably run away at this point. When they left, the priests seemed to pity me. Some even told me the whereabouts of the nearest village in secret.
However, I could not muster up the energy to run at all.
What was there waiting for me if I survived? Abandoned by my parents and by my ex-fiancé, I had no one who would value me in this world.
Besides, I was tired. Even standing here, breathing, was painful. I wanted to disappear. I came here to be set free from everything.
My one comfort was that perhaps at the very end, even if it were only a little, my life could be useful to the country.
I threw myself into the bubbling depths of the burning magma…