Chapter 1. The beginning of everything
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Ellea was happy to accept Heris’s request. It was better than being alone right now, so it was a nice offer.
“Feel free to talk, Lady Heris.”
“I’ve heard so many rumors about you, I’ve been wondering what you’re really like.”
It was their first meeting, and despite Ellea’s status as an Imperial Princess, Heris approached her rather intimately. Then, as was her personality, she led the conversation without hesitation.
Ellea liked her frankness so she replied with a smile.
“Do you agree with the rumors?”
“No, you are much more beautiful than the rumors.”
“Thank you for saying that. Lady Heris is also very beautiful.”
As they were conversing in a more friendly atmosphere than Ellea had expected, an uninvited guest interrupted them.
It was the person whom Ellea least wanted to meet at this moment.
“May we have the pleasure of speaking with you both?”
‘This voice is certain….’
And like Ellea, Heris seemed to have already realized who it was. Her expression hardened as soon as she saw Shanil.
Ellea also noticed the change in her mood immediately.
‘I knew it.’
This was the reason why Ellea remembered Heris. It was the delicate relationship between Shanil and Heris in the social scene.
While everyone was rushing to get to know Shanil, there was only one person who was keeping her away, and that was Heris. Ellea didn’t know what happened between the two of them, but she had witnessed their sharp battle of nerves many times.
Of course, she wasn’t interested in it before, and didn’t want to know about it, thinking that the social world was none of her business as a knight anyway.
The war of nerves had not changed at all, even after all these years. Soon Ellea’s gaze turned from Heris to Shanil.
Because of the situation, a smile was on Shanil’s face instead of that cruel expression she had shown Ellea.
However, Ellea could see that hidden within it were the claws that had driven her to her death.
When she didn’t know anything about Shanil, she was enthralled by her beauty and temperament like the rest of the people, but not now.
If anything, it was resentment at the fact that Shanil had driven her to the edge of death.
Nevertheless, the reason she was staring at Shanil like this was because she knew very well that people would think it strange if she got angry.
‘If I say I am El, what face would she make?’
Shanil, who had no idea what Ellea was thinking, expressed her welcome when she made eye contact with her.
“It is a pleasure to see you here again, Princess, since we met last time.”
‘Is there really any sincerity in those words?’
In a way, it was amazing to see Shanil say it again with such a smile, even though her expression instantly stiffened when Ellea intentionally ignored her before.
It was not in Ellea’s nature to avoid people after encountering her like this. However, it was Shanil.
Ellea slowly looked at the ladies around Shanil. They were also people who were usually close to her.
In fact, Shanil chose the people who would complement her to be with her.
“Yes, but what is your name again? Strangely, I don’t remember it well.”
Ellea asked again, pretending not to know Shanil’s name. Instantly, Shanil’s face was stained with embarrassment as if she didn’t expect the Princess would forget her name.
‘Did you just say you don’t know me?’ (Shanil)
It was embarrassing indeed that the Princess said she didn’t know who Shanil was.
‘One time is enough to be beaten by you. Don’t you think so?’ (Ellea)
El had disappeared from earth, who was deceived by her and lost everything. Shanil was angry but in this situation she had to come up with an excuse.
She emphasized to the ladies that Ellea’s inability to remember her name was something that could not be helped.
“I think it’s because the Princess had just arrived at the Imperial Palace.” (Shanil)
“Oh, I see.” (The ladies)
“That’s right. Now I remember. It’s Lady Shanil, right? It’s nice to see you again.” (Ellea)
Ellea said, as if she finally remembered, and Heris at her side stifled a laugh at the sight of the embarrassed Shanil.
Ellea was the first person in Rubain who had acted this way, whether she meant to or not. Something that no one else dared to think of.
In the meantime, Shanil skillfully changed the subject with a relaxed smile as if she had not been affected by the words.
“How is your life at the Imperial Palace, Princess?”
“Oh, Lady Shanil knows it better than anyone else.”
“That’s right. She spends a lot of time with His Majesty.”
The question was for Ellea, but before she could answer, the other ladies around added in.
Shanil didn’t ignore those envious glances, either.
“No. The princess who came here for the first time will definitely feel differently…”
Before Ellea knew it, she found herself excluded, watching them converse in their own private world, and she heard Heris’s little voice from next to her.
“I knew this would happen again.”
So that was why they didn’t get along.
Shanil and Heris were opposite in personalities even at a quick glance.
Heris seemed to instinctively feel rejected by Shanil. Maybe it was because she realized that she was hiding something.
Ellea also had no desire to listen to them, so she cut the conversation off once and for all. She was not interested in that kind of bragging, so took it somewhere else.
“I’m sorry, but I have no interest in what the ladies are talking about right now.”
Unlike earlier, the ladies who were conversing with Ellea could not hide their embarrassment at Ellea’s cold language. Then Ellea secretly looked at Shanil’s complexion. Although she had Shanil under her thumb right now, Ellea belatedly remembered her position as the imperial Princess and was concerned she would go too far.
“I’d like to talk more with Young Lady Heris, would you mind giving us some space?”
Ellea didn’t avoid Shanil’s gaze, meaning that she meant what she just said.
She didn’t want to hear any more about it, so the ones who interrupted her without permission should go away.
However, despite her cold reaction, Shanil skillfully overcame the situation as she had done so far.
“I’m sorry. We’re talking about something that only we know. I should have been more considerate, but it’s been a long time since the Princess attended a banquet like this because she had been sick for a long time.”
‘You’re treating me like I’m a peasant.’
However, Ellea wasn’t going to retreat so easily either. She didn’t want to lose to her.
”That’s right. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a banquet like this because I was not feeling well as Lady Shanil said. But Lady Shanil probably doesn’t know what a lifetime is, right? That feeling of dying and coming back to life again?”
Ellea deliberately emphasized the fact that she had died and come back to life.
At that moment, Shanil sensed something familiar in the way Ellea looked at her. It was as if she had seen her at least once somewhere before.
‘It couldn’t be. I don’t know the Imperial Princess at all.’
At that time, Heris also stepped in to help Ellea as if she was an ally.
‘’I, too, would like to have a quiet time with the Princess alone.”
Heris did not retreat easily, perhaps because the Imperial Princess was by her side, and a strange atmosphere formed around the three of them.
‘Yes, Heris. You’ve found your ally.’ (Shanil)
Shanil didn’t usually like Heris, and Ellea was also offended.
As if breaking the tense atmosphere at that moment, the sound of gentle music began to flow from the banquet hall, different from earlier. It was time for the participants to dance with their partners.
Terban, the emperor of the empire, would dance first. Originally, he would dance with the Empress or his fiancée, but the seat was still officially vacant.
However, that didn’t mean that everyone would have the opportunity.
That was as long as Shenil was here.
It was a fact that Ellea knew better than anyone else. Every time there was a banquet like this, she always saw the two of them dance first.
It was truly a beautiful pair, and it was a place that she would never be allowed to have in her knight uniform.
‘Naturally, he will dance with Shanil.’
As she was thinking about something else comfortably without seeing Terban get out of his seat and come down, suddenly she felt a hand lightly tapping her on the side.
Turning her head, she saw that the owner of the hand was Heris, with whom she had been having a conversation earlier.
She looked at her as if to ask what was going on, but instead of answering, Heris winked at her, telling her to look at the front.
‘What is it?’
Ellea turned her head skeptically and saw what was going on, Terban was standing in front of her.
It was natural for her to be surprised. She wanted so badly for someone to explain to her why this man was here.
‘Why is His Majesty in front of me…’
At first, she thought the Emperor would come to Shanil. However, contrary to her assumption, Terban just held out his hand in front of her.
Ellea looked around hastily, but the others were just watching, and she was the only one who panicked in this situation.
“Why is Your Majesty here in front of me?”
“To dance, of course.”
“Why do you want to dance with me…….”
Seeing Ellea was flustered, Heris whispered quietly so that only Ellea could hear.
“Since His Majesty the Emperor does not have a fiancée at the moment, he has asked the Princess, the protagonist and noble guest of this banquet, to dance with him.”
“Oh, I see.”
Finally, Ellea understood the situation. Because the banquet was for her so Shanil’s place was taken.
But she had no idea she was going to dance with Terban.
She had planned to just say hello and avoid him as much as possible, but even she couldn’t have predicted this situation.
She’d never danced before, except for the times she’d practiced as Ellea.
‘I can’t say no, can I?’
There was no way she could refuse with all the eyes currently focused on her in this banquet hall.
She was here on behalf of the Zevenica Empire, and she didn’t want to do anything that would cause people to complain for no reason.
Ellea managed to move her frozen hand and placed it on Terban’s hand in a reserved manner.
Immediately the cool body heat and firmness enveloped her hand. And she was led by Terban’s hands and stood facing each other in the center of the banquet hall.
‘Please help me to be as competent as I’ve practiced.’
As she repeated her earnest wish, the fact that her opponent was Terban did not register at all.
If the imperial Princess made a mistake in front of so many people, there would be nothing more shameful than that.
Meanwhile, the distance between them was getting closer, but Ellea didn’t even see the distance because she was so nervous.
Soon Terban began to move his feet in time with the music, and Ellea’s entire attention was now on his feet. People wouldn’t be able to see it, but Terban, who was close to her, certainly could. She looked nervous and not at all relaxed.
‘Is this why you hesitated so much?’ (Terban)
When Terban reached out his hand, he could see that Ellea was embarrassed and hesitated. And when he touched her hand, he could feel her trembling.
What was more certain was that she was more concerned about how to avoid stepping on his feet than her dancing partner.
At the sight that was so contrary to Ellea’s confident appearance in front of people, Terban couldn’t hold back for a moment and burst out laughing.