Chapter 10. An inevitable choice

 

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“It’s done, Princess.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Your Highness. Do you have any special plans for today?”

 

“Yes.”

 

After the preparations, Ellea left the palace and went to where the Emperor and Empress were. It had become one of her daily routines to show up whenever she could find the time.

 

‘It was difficult to call them at first.’

 

As she walked in thoughts, she heard voices that made her stop in her tracks. Where her gaze turned, several nobles had gathered and were engaged in a serious conversation.

 

“Is His Majesty still the same?”

 

“Yes. Don’t you know that he is stubborn when it comes to the Princess?”

 

‘Me?’

 

Ellea quietly eavesdropped on the conversation while hiding behind the surrounding building. Seeing that they were even sighing, it looked like it was an unusual situation.

 

Ellea remained hidden and focused on the conversation the nobles were having, they were unaware of her presence in the vicinity and continued.

 

“Still, it’s a promise between us and the empire for generations, so we can’t break it, can we? If we’re not careful, it could turn into a diplomatic issue.”

 

“That’s why I’m worried. Knowing that the Princess has regained her health, Rubain continues to put pressure on her. We can’t send the Crown Prince there, so His Majesty should make a decision as soon as possible.”

 

‘Rubain?’

 

Ellea was naturally well aware of where Rubain was. It was where she had lived her entire life as El.

 

And just from the short conversation the nobles had had, Ellea knew at a glance what they were talking about.

 

Ellea turned and headed for another palace. And when she arrived in front of her destination, she roughly opened the door and entered someone’s office.

 

“Huh? What’s the matter? I saw you earlier.”

 

Bellea’s reaction didn’t bother her at all, and Ellea walked right up to the desk where Bellea was sitting. 

 

“What is going on?”

 

“Rubain Empire.”

 

With that one word from Ellea, Bellea’s expression instantly hardened. Despite that reaction, Ellea did not give up and asked,

 

“How long are you going to hide it from me?”

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“─ That’s enough. I have to go to Rubain, right? It’s for a promise that’s been passed down from generation to generation between the empires.”

 

The look in Ellea’s eyes was so different from before that Bellea nodded with resignation, as if he thought he couldn’t hide it any longer.

 

‘I knew it, I knew it.’

 

The beginning of the story goes back a long time ago.

 

Rubain and Zevenica, born together with the first continent. The two empires had been constantly at war with each other for dominance.

 

But the endless and long wars exhausted both empires, and the damage only grew worse.

 

Eventually, the emperors of both empires decided to end the war and signed a peace treaty. The war ended with the treaty, and in return, they offered conditions that would prevent another war from starting later.

 

A member of the immediate royal family would be sent to each other’s empire at a certain age and would spend a certain amount of time there.

 

Fortunately, the agreement has been successfully maintained for a long time now.

 

As time went on, the year came when the Crown Prince and Princess of the Zevenica Empire had to go to Rubain as agreed, but there was an unexpected problem.

 

Princess Ellea, who was originally supposed to go to Rubain, grew weaker and weaker and eventually fell into a coma. Terban had used this promise as a pretext to demand and pressure Crown Prince Bellea to succeed the current emperor.

 

‘But it’s a pity that I opened my eyes again like this, but it must have changed direction to me.’

 

“How long are you going to hide it? No. Is this something that can be solved by hiding it? You have to tell me.” (El)

 

“How? You just woke up? And don’t worry, I’ve already made the decision to go.” (Bellea)

 

“You’re making a decision on your own? Why would you go!” (El)

 

Ellea’s voice became increasingly raspy at the outrageous story that Bellea had decided to go on his own, and the opinions of the two strongly clashed.

 

Ellea, of course, couldn’t understand Bellea’s choice. It was an outrageous decision for him, the Crown Prince of the Empire, to go.

 

It was clear that the nobles would oppose it and would not easily allow it. And it was the same for Ellea.

 

“I’ll go.” (El)

 

“No.”

 

“‘I am the Princess of this empire. I have a duty to do so. It was decided a long time ago that I would go anyway.” (El)

 

“But before that, you are my sister.” (Bellea)

 

Ellea was momentarily at a loss for words at the word ‘sister’ that Bellea had spoken. She had never known it to be said that way.

 

Bellea was also very serious, unlike the way he had been. However, even with his appearance, Ellea had no intention of bending her will, as Ellea had already made her decision.

 

“Make your decision carefully, Bellea. You are the one who has to lead this empire.”

 

Saying only that, Ellea left Bellea’s office as if she didn’t want to hear any other reply. After Ellea left, Bellea wrapped his head in a sudden rush.

 

“I knew this would happen and tried to hide it until the end… But…”

 

“Is she really Ellea?”

 

Perhaps it was because the Ellea in his memories had always been weak and quiet, but seeing her angry for the first time was a bit disconcerting.

 

“I thought you were just weak. But you’ve grown so strong.”

 

Despite the fact that they were family by blood, Bellea felt more and more distant from Ellea today.

 

***

 

Ellea quickly exited the Crown Prince’s Palace and stopped. What Bellea had said earlier kept ringing in her ears.

 

“I’m a brother before I’m the Crown Prince.”

 

It was something Ella hadn’t thought of at all. If she was a stranger, she would be trying to somehow escape that hard path, but it was her family…

 

“A fool.”

 

When she had found out about this situation earlier, she had immediately tried to visit the emperor and asked to go to Rubain herself, but for some reason, Ellea could not move.

 

‘I don’t understand either…’

 

The awkwardness between Ellea and Bellea lasted until dinner time, while the Emperor and Empress, who knew nothing about the situation, laughed and conversed.

 

Ellea also chimed in, but it was a strange feeling to see the two of them not saying anything to her, even though they were in a difficult situation.

 

She wasn’t sure what that feeling was exactly, but…

 

Ellea also made eye contact with Bellea, but he only avoided her gaze, and Ellea didn’t talk to him either, but that didn’t mean that she would bend her will to go to Rubain.

 

She didn’t want to see Bellea, or the Zevenica Empire, suffer because of her. Even though this wasn’t really her real family.

 

Naturally, she didn’t want to meet Terban either. The truth was, she didn’t want to see him for the rest of her life.

 

It was the desperate wish she made when she died. But for now, she had to solve the problem at hand.

 

After the awkward meal, Ellea, feeling somewhat stuffy, went outside to get some cool air without anyone accompanying her.

 

Then she sat down comfortably, laying nothing down in a place covered with trees and out of sight of others.

 

No matter how well she acted and groomed as an Imperial Princess, when she didn’t care at all, her behavior as El came out unconsciously like this.

 

Ellea looked up at the sky in frustration and sighed. Suddenly, everything surrounding him felt like a shackle.

 

If it’s going to be like this, then let it be. 

 

‘Would it have been better to have died then?’

 

She sighed for a while and said while looking at the sky.

 

“Don’t just stare at me, speak. I feel like my face is going to get pierced.” (Bellea)

 

“Did you know that?” (El)

 

“How can I not know when you’re staring at me like that?” (Bellea)

 

Bellea approached Ellea and sat down next to her. Without even looking at him, Ellea asked.

 

“Did you come out because you were frustrated?” 

 

“I think it’s the same for you, my sister.” (Bellea)

 

“If you have something to say, speak up. I’ve already made up my mind.” (El)

 

“You’ve changed a lot.” (Bellea)

 

At these words, Ellea finally turned her head to look at Bellea. 

 

“What’s changed so much?” (El)

 

“Just….everything. The way you talk, your personality, the way you look at me…you’re like a different person. It feels unfamiliar.” (Bellea)

 

For once, Bellea didn’t hide, but honestly told Ellea everything. Ellea was not surprised at all at the words, but rather calmly responded.

 

“I guess because I came back from death. Perhaps my soul has changed.” (El)

 

“Why do you joke around like that? I’m just saying this just in case, but it’s because I’m unfamiliar with you who are healthy. To be honest, it’s a good thing.” (Bellea)

 

What are you even joking about that? I say this just in case you’re unfamiliar with the idea, but only because you’re healthy. It’s better if you’re honest about it.”

 

Bellea thought Ellea’s words were a joke, but she just laughed.

 

Ellea did not know if it was the first and last truth she brought up, and Bellea briefly brought up a story that he couldn’t finish earlier.

 

“Are you really going to go?”

 

But what returned to Bellea was not an answer to that, but another question from Ellea.

 

“Don’t you blame me?”

 

“What? What are you talking about?”

 

Bellea didn’t seem to understand what she was saying.

 

At his appearance, Ellea asked openly and honestly. She was curious about his sincerity.

 

“When I couldn’t wake up, you had to go to Rubain for me. Didn’t you resent me even a little? If I hadn’t been so weak, you wouldn’t have had to go….Ah!” (El)

 

Ellea’s words did finish because of Bellea’s sudden action.

 

Bellea, who had been listening intently, lightly flicked Ellea’s forehead, and since the force was very weak, she felt no pain at all.

 

Caught off guard, Ellea couldn’t prevent it in a moment and looked at Bellea in bewilderment.