Chapter 12. The morning of the journey

 

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The itinerary was to ride in Zevenica’s carriage to the border of both empires, and when she arrived at the border, she would leave Zevenica’s escorts and go with Rubain escorts, who would come to pick her up.

 

Ellea decided to take only the bare necessities with her, since Rubain would prepare everything she needed anyway.

 

That was why she decided not to take anyone with her except for those who would be escorting the carriage. From Ellea’s point of view, it would be much more comfortable that there was no one to care about.

 

It was much harder to convince her of that than to allow her to go to Rubain. But the three of them couldn’t break the Princess’s will in the end.

 

When Ellea finished all the preparations and headed for the entrance of the imperial palace, the emperor, the empress, and Bellea were already gathered and waiting to see her off.

 

“Everyone was already here?”

 

“Yes. Isn’t today an important day?”

 

“You don’t have to do that.”

 

The three of them looked as if they were about to start crying, and Ellea almost laughed in a strange way.

 

The Empress’s eyes were a little red, as if she had already cried once before she came out.

 

‘They think I’m going to die.’

 

Despite her thoughts, however, Ellea was deliberately unconcerned in order to reassure them.

 

“Don’t worry. We talked about this. I told you I’d be back soon.”

 

“How many times are you saying this, too? We’re well aware of course.”

 

The emperor and his wife approached Ellea and silently held her hand.

 

She could feel their heavy hands were enough to replace everything they wanted to say. Ellea could feel their warmth, but Bellea was still grumpy, as if he was unhappy about something. 

 

“I’ll go with you to the border. And the carriage and the escort are too simple. It’s times like this that we need to be on our toes.”

 

Bellea was very unhappy about the fact that the carriage Ellea was taking was not an imperial carriage but a noble’s carriage and that there were only two guards.

 

He was naturally worried about Ellea’s safety, but he was also very concerned that perhaps Rubain people would underestimate her.

 

 “It’s okay. I just don’t want to attract too much attention. And no matter what anyone says, the fact remains that I am an Imperial Princess.”

 

“You won’t lose a single word, will you?”

 

It took Bellea a few times to realize for sure. When Ellea set her mind on something solid, no one could change it easily.

 

It was really time to leave now.

 

For Ellea, a month with them was a short time, but at the same time, it began to feel too long.

 

It was the first unfamiliar moment she felt, and the time with her family was so good and warm. She wanted so much to stop the flowing time.

 

She hurried to say her last goodbyes to her family, afraid that she might say something she didn’t know about the feeling.

 

“I’m leaving now. Please take care of yourself, Bellea. You know what I’m saying, right?”

 

“Yeah. Don’t worry, you only think about yourself.”

 

“Okay. I’ll get going now.”

 

With her back to them, Ellea walked without hesitation to where the carriage and guards were waiting. But her steps were heavy, probably because of the time she had spent as Ellea.

 

So she didn’t look back any more. She was afraid this determined heart would shake.

 

When she reached the front of the carriage and was about to get in, she heard the loud voice of Bellea from behind her.

 

“El!”

 

At the sound of the voice calling her, Ellea turned around hurriedly, forgetting her commitment.

 

“Send me a letter if anything happens. Your brother will be right there.”

 

‘You really are to the end, aren’t you?’

 

Ellea checked the sad expressions of the three people looking at her and hurried back towards them.

 

“‘If I get scared and feel the urge to run, um, can I come back here?”

 

 “Of course, you’re our daughter, it’s only natural for you to come back to your parents.”

 

“You can trust us and come back. We’ll take care of the rest for you.”

 

“Yes. I think this is……….”

 

Ellea tried hard to deny it, but she had to admit. She loved this warmth. She never wanted to let it go.

 

So for the first time she approached them and hugged them.

 

“Yes, I will definitely come back. Mother, father.”

 

At her words, the two hugged her tightly. After saying goodbye for the last time, Ellea walked back toward the waiting carriage.

But her steps were much lighter than before.

 

‘Yes, I’ll be back. To my family.’

 

With a smile the three of them couldn’t see, Ellea walked away and quickly got into the carriage.

 

Once the knights mounted their horses and everything was ready, the carriage carrying Ellea left the Imperial Palace. The three of them stayed where they were until the carriage disappeared completely.

 

Through the carriage’s window, Ellea looked out at the still somewhat unfamiliar streets of Zevenica, leaned back comfortably in the seat, and contemplated the itinerary ahead. Arriving at the border was really just the beginning.

 

“You probably can’t imagine that I’m El…”

 

It was rather strange to believe it. Not only did her face change a little, but she became a completely different person.

 

In fact, when she woke up in this body, that was the part she was most relieved about. The fact that she was an imperial Princess and would never have to go to Rubain or see Terban again.

 

But God was not on her side until the end. For he did not even listen to El’s small wish.

 

“This future may come to me again. It’s so stupid.”

 

‘I was and still am a fool.’ From the moment she had him in her heart, or perhaps from the moment she had held his hand in the name of hope.

 

For once, Ellea made up her mind firmly. She would not repeat the mistakes of the past this time, even if she had to turn a blind eye to him.

 

True to her determination, the carriage moved fast towards the border without any resistance. But Ellea couldn’t predict who would be waiting for her at the border, or what would happen.

 

***

 

The journey to the border was nothing but peaceful, despite Ellea’s mind, and she almost reached her destination safely.

 

As they neared the border, not even a small village could be seen, only forest.

 

However, for some reason, the carriage that was driving along the dirt road suddenly stopped. Ellea’s body tilted forward.

 

While she was regaining her composure, the knight who had been guarding the carriage came up to her.

 

“Are you all right, Princess?”

 

“I’m fine. But what happened all of a sudden?”

 

“Well, someone suddenly popped out of the forest.”

 

“A person?”

 

At the words of the knight, Ellea was surprised and came out of the carriage. Before she knew it, another knight was approaching the person.

 

His face was obscured by his hair, but he looked like a man, and she could see that his clothes, as well as his entire appearance, were old.

 

The man was sitting on the ground with his head bowed, probably surprised about the carriage.

 

However, she suddenly thought it was strange. The village closest to the border had already passed a few hours ago, so why were there people here?

 

While Ellea was wondering, the knight approached the man and called out,

 

“Are you okay?”

 

He did not hear any reply from the man. The moment the knight was about to reach out his hand cautiously, worried that he might have been injured somewhere, Ellea, who was watching the situation from a little distance, could see it.

 

She saw something in the man’s sleeve that shone sharply.

 

When she realized what it was, she hurriedly called for the knight beside the man.

 

“Stay away from him!”

 

“What?”

 

The knight flinched at Ellea’s cry, but it was no use. Because the man stabbed the careless knight in the abdomen with his hidden blade.

 

“….!”

 

The unexpected attack caused the knight to collapse, covering the wound with his hand.

 

As if the attack was a signal shot, more people rushed out from the forest. All looked the same in appearance as the man.

 

“It’s a trap.”

 

But she was step too late in realizing the truth. It was only after the herd had completely surrounded Ellea’s group.

 

The other knight rushed to stand in front of Ellea, but the people began to threaten them with their weapons.

 

“Hurry up and put down your sword!”

 

As the knight continued to hold his sword, the first man who appeared took the injured knight hostage and pointed his sword at his neck.

 

“If you don’t want to see this man die, put it down quickly!”

 

Ellea hurriedly ordered, fearing that the impatient man, as if being chased by something, would really kill the injured knight.

 

“Put down your sword for now.”

 

“But…”

 

“He could get really badly hurt if you continued. We’re at a disadvantage in terms of numbers anyway.”

 

“I understand.”

 

At her command, the knight threw his sword forward and raised his hands in surrender.

 

Thinking they were in complete control, the people started to move busily.

 

Some of them even overpowered the horsemen and ransacked the carriage, while others kept a wary eye on Ellea and the knight.

 

Ellea lurked behind the knight and began to examine the men closely.

 

The herd was roughly around ten people, all men, and their faces were covered with masks. They were also not well dressed.

 

Fortunately, they didn’t know that Ellea was a princess, and seemed to think that she was just a wealthy noblewoman.

 

In the meantime, her luggage from the carriage fell into their hands.

They then began to quickly search through the items in her bag.

 

“What is it? Is this all you have?”

 

“I thought the carriage looked expensive and there would be something more.”

 

Contrary to their expectations, however, there was very little of value in Ellea’s luggage. Just all the clothes and goods that her personality required.

 

However, despite its looks, the items had tremendous value.

 

“Hey, come over here, lady. If you want to live, you’d better give us everything you have.”

 

The men seemed to be after the jewels that Ellea was wearing, and this was not a knight to sit back and watch.

 

“Now do you know who this is…………”

 

As the knight was about to tell the men about Ellea’s identity, Ellea pulled his collar and stopped him.Then she whispered in a voice that only he could hear.

 

“Never let them know my identity.”

 

“But…”

 

“Don’t worry. Do what I tell you to do right now.”

 

At her command, the knight nodded slightly, and Ellea told him what to do.

 

Meanwhile, the men became angry when Ellea stayed put, then she came forward as they wished.

 

“Be a good girl and we’ll save your life, don’t be afraid.”

 

Ellea, who was walking, stopped tall at the sound of a voice that seemed to have seized victory.  And despite the seriousness of the situation, there was a faint smile on her lips.