Chapter 1. The beginning of everything
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Terban mumbled to himself, unaware of his thoughts .
“It’s all really surprising.” (Terban)
“What’s so surprising about it? I helped them.”(El)
Ellea said, thinking it was an extension of the conversation they had just had, and Terban didn’t particularly deny it either.
“If it was an ordinary nobleman, he would have killed them right then and there. Especially if it was an imperial princess.” (Terban)
“This encounter might not be just a coincidence. I just thought so.” (El)
At times like this, Terban was a little confused, as Ellea looked like a pure young lady who knew nothing. What kind of a person was the woman in front of him?
His gaze lingered on Ellea for a moment before something popped out of the bushes.
“What is it?”
Ellea noticed it first and thought she should slow down. In the process, she unconsciously placed her hand on top of his hand that was holding the reins as Terban stood still.
She didn’t realize that she had grabbed Terban’s hand at all, because the only thought she had at this moment was that she had to stop. Then she pulled hard on the reins and the horse came to an abrupt halt.
Ellea’s body leaned forward as she came to a sudden halt, Terban’s hand suddenly raised in panic.
And he put his arm around Ellea’s waist and pulled her towards him. The reflex was to protect her.
When the horse came to a complete stop, Ellea raised her head and hurried to check the front, fortunately it was only a small deer that stood in front of them.
The deer, too, was startled and walked past them and disappeared into the woods on the other side.
“I was surprised.”
Ellea was relieved that it wasn’t a big deal. Then she turned around quickly, surprised by the arm holding her waist and the firm body she could feel from behind her.
She was even more surprised by Terban’s face, which was even closer in front of her than before.
It was too close, their lips almost touched and their eyes suddenly collided with each other. They just stayed that way for a while, and no one avoided their eyes.
“It’s too close.”
Terban couldn’t take his eyes off her, oddly enough, as Ellea’s eyes were so fierce on her opponents now were bewildered.
It was Ellea who came to his senses first in the silence.
“It’s …… okay now.”
Terban finally came to his senses as Ellea tried to get out of his arms. Ellea leaned forward completely and spoke.
Terban was going to, of course, but he couldn’t this time either. It was Ellea’s fault.
“But first…your hand.”
As she lowered her head to follow his gaze, Ellea saw her hand on top of Terban’s hand that held the reins. As soon as she saw it, she was startled and pulled her hand away.
“I was in a hurry earlier…”
“Now let’s leave.”
Terban looked at Ellea, who nodded lightly at his words, and he started the horse slowly.
‘Nothing is going as I thought.’
Ellea looked down at her hands and averted her gaze to the front.
After a while, the horse stopped in front of the knights in line, and Terban dismounted, and Bandel, who had been waiting for him, hurried up to him.
As he did so, he found a woman sitting on the horse and Terban tried to help her, but Ellea was quicker and dismounted the horse herself.
Ellea followed Terban and once again faced the fate of the past. It was her colleague, Bandel.
‘You’ve come with His Majesty, too.’
Bandel hadn’t changed much, but he somehow looked thinner than before. It was as if he had been through a lot of hardship.
She wanted to rush right over and ask him if he was okay, if he was in any pain, but she was desperately trying to hold back. Because she was Ellea, not El.
So Ellea had to greet him as if they were meeting for the first time.
“I’m Ellea Zevenica. Something happened on my way here, but fortunately I ran into His Majesty and we came together.”
Bandel was surprised that the woman was an Imperial Princess, and he quickly bowed to Ellea with great courtesy.
“My name is Bandel, a member of the Knights directly under the Emperor. I will do my best to welcome the Princess to the Imperial Palace.”
Although she wasn’t as nervous as meeting Terban, Ellea still couldn’t take her eyes off of Bandel with worry.
Terban saw her reaction and asked curiously.
“You look like you know Bandel.”
“Yes? No, I don’t. It’s just that he looks a lot like someone I know.”
Ellea quickly brushed it off. She moved on to another topic before his suspicions could deepen.
“We will be leaving soon?”
“Yes, the Princess will use this carriage. Welcome to Rubain.”
“Thank you very much. I look forward to it.”
Ellea smiled at Bandel as he helped her into the carriage, and Terban followed.
The knights who had finished their preparations also took their positions to escort the carriage as it departed.
In the silence of the running carriage, she couldn’t look at Terban who was sitting across from her, ans she fixed her gaze outside the window.
On the surface, she seemed nonchalant, but she still couldn’t believe the fact that she had met him.
With that in mind, she had one question. Why did the emperor came all the way here himself? With Terban’s personality, he was not someone who would just leave the Imperial Palace empty….
“May I ask you a question, Your Majesty?”
At the look of permission, Ellea couldn’t help but ask the question.
“Why did Your Majesty come here? I thought it was the knights’s duty.”
When her eyes met his, she looked outside as naturally as she could. She felt awkward, and Terban didn’t show any action to relax the atmosphere either.
Instead, he gave an answer to what he had just heard.
“There’s no special reason. I just came here because I felt frustrated.”
Terban spoke calmly, but Ellea, who stood by his side for a long time, watching his every move, could tell. That he had come with real difficulty.
But this was the only answer she could give.
After that answer, no other conversation went back and forth between the two. The carriage that had been driving quickly out of the border stopped in the forest to rest for a while.
Ellea dismounted from the carriage, intending to clean the blood she hadn’t yet wiped off after discovering it.
“Is there a river or lake in the vicinity?”
“There is if you go deeper into the forest, but I can guide you.”
Ellea waved hastily as Bandel said he would accompany her. She wanted to be alone, as well as trying to clear her confused head, and most importantly, Terban was here, and she felt that Bandel should be protecting the Emperor, not her.
It was so natural in Ellea’s position that even she didn’t realize that she was thinking of Terban as a priority. As she refused to do so, Bandel was uncomfortable.
“Okay. Don’t worry, the knights are guarding this area.”
“Yes, I’ll be right back.”
Ellea walked deeper to where Bandel told her about, and soon a lake appeared right in front of her.
The water was clear and the surface of the lake glistened in the sunlight.
She washed her face with the cool water, feeling like she needed to wake up, and then she wiped the blood off her hands and arms.
‘Oh, it’s refreshing. I think I’ve finally come to my senses.’
Sitting on a rock, Ellea decided to stay here while she dried the water off her face. As she looked out over the clear lake, which cleared her stuffy chest just by looking at it, she lost herself in thought.
“I thought dying would be the end of it all.”
“But it was more like a new beginning.”
Just then, someone unexpectedly interrupted her monologue.
“What do you mean by that?”
Ellea turned around in surprise to see Terban was in the forest.
Without regard to her reaction, he stood a short distance away, staring at the lake. Ellea calmed her surprise and said it was nothing.
“I didn’t mean much, I just meant that I’m starting my life in Rubain at this very moment.”
“It’s just a place where people live anyway.”
“I think so too. And I’ll be back anyway. To where I belong.”
(*she meant to be back to her country, Zevenica)
Terban felt as if he could glimpse a certain will in her words. It was as if she was a knight praying to return alive from the battlefield.
Instead of continuing the conversation further, he made a hypothesis to Ellea about the situation he had seen earlier.
“What would you do if the men rejected the opportunity given by the Princess? That would cause another victim, wouldn’t it?”
But unlike Terban’s idea, it was a question she was comfortable answering.
“Your Majesty, have you ever experienced that? Someone’s life or fate has changed with the opportunity given by Your Majesty.”
At Ellea’s question, Terban immediately thought of a person. That person held his hand and smiled, but she finally let go and disappeared.
Terban answered in a lower voice than before, holding his hands tightly.
“Is that so? Then it will be difficult for Your Majesty to understand. What a desperate and precious opportunity for them. I just believe in that desperation.”
“You say that as if you know it well, Princess.”
Ellea thought of the past for a moment, then erased it in surprise. How could she have such thoughts in front of Terban? She decided to leave because she was too nervous and might make mistakes.
And all the water had dried up before she knew it.
“Everything about the Princess is mysterious. You’re so different from what I know that I am confused.”
Understanding his reaction to some extent, Ellea stood up and spoke to him without thinking, tidying her clothes.
“Sometimes what appears on the surface may not be the whole truth. Your Majesty has only seen what was shown on the papers.” (Ellea in the present)
“Your Majesty…. sometimes what you see may not be the whole truth.” (El in the past)
When Ellea’s words were overlapping with someone else’s voice for a moment, Terban grabbed her wrist and turned her around without realizing it.
At the same time, the force of the strong pull naturally brought the two of them closer together in an instant.