Chapter 1. The beginning of everything
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Just by looking at Bandel’s expression, Ellea could clearly see what he was thinking, so she smiled and asked for a favor.
“Please keep these words a secret. It is for the peace of the two empires.”
“Yes, of course.”
While the two were talking, they soon arrived at Terban’s palace. Ellea was about to enter when she was led by the maidservant who was waiting for her, she turned to Bandel and said.
“I still remember the promise you made to me then, so you must keep it.”
Knowing what promise she was referring to, Bandel nodded.
“I remember. You can come to the performance hall anytime.”
“Oh? Then, can I come tomorrow?”
“Yes, if the Princess wants.”
Bandel happily agreed. Ellea was more surprised by his readily reply, but she gladly accepted the opportunity.
“Now that Lord Bandel has said so, I think I can bear this moment.”
Soon Ellea moved away with the maid, and Bandel continued to stand there and watch her until she disappeared.
As he did so, he found it strange that Ellea blatantly expressed her dissatisfaction of her meeting with Terban, even though she knew who he was.
The other nobles were desperate to have such an opportunity.
“She’s not an ordinary person after all.”
Standing in front of the dining room door, Ellea took a deep breath as the maid announced her arrival, and when the door opened, she stepped inside with caution.
The door closed behind her and she looked straight ahead. Where Ellea’s gaze turned, Terban had already arrived and was sitting.
When her eyes met his, Ellea greeted him first.
“I am pleased to meet you, Emperor. Sorry if I kept you waiting.”
“All right. Please have a seat.”
“Thank you for the invitation today.”
Ellea approached carefully and sat down next to Terban. Then, as she had expected, silence came as soon as the greeting was over.
‘I knew this would happen. I’ll get indigestion while eating.’
However, as if he had seen through Ellea’s thoughts, Terban spoke.
“I guess you’re uncomfortable being here.”
“No. Sitting down to dinner with Your Majesty, how could I have such a thought…”
Ellea said with a flat smile, but Terban felt uncomfortable with the smile.
Because he had seen her smiling brightly with the children in the nursery. So he could definitely tell that the smile she was making now was fake.
“There’s no need to feel so burdened. It’s just a seat for us to eat together.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
But even so, she couldn’t feel comfortable.
Because she knew better than anyone that he was a cold and relentless emperor.
Fortunately, the food was brought in and placed in front of them, surrounded by this tranquility. Terban said as he watched the steaming food.
“Let’s have a nice meal, Princess.”
With that, Ellea slowly picked up the silverware and started eating.
As expected, she couldn’t taste the food very well, whether it was in her mouth or in her nose.
She liked food a lot, but this was different.
‘I’d rather eat alone.’
And so the meal began, and Terban asked the first formal question.
“Have you adjusted to life here?”
‘Of course. Everyone at the palace has been good to me so I feel comfortable.”
“That’s good to hear. If that’s what you think, Princess, then Zenvenica won’t be worried about you.”
‘I knew you were worried about that.’
It was obvious Zenvenica was keeping a close eye on Ellea to see how she was doing in Rubain.
So Terban must be wondering about the letters and communications that they exchanged with her. Because Terban couldn’t check it directly.
‘No, he may have already been informed of my every move.’
She didn’t know what kind of person Terban thought she was, but it wasn’t easy for Ellea to inform him when she already knew his intentions. She belonged to Zenvenica now.
She had no intention of giving him any advantageous information, so Ellea broke off a conversation that was somewhat related to that.
“Oh, come to think of it, my brother sent me a letter.”
“Yes. He was very concerned about my safety.”
With those words thrown in, Ellea ate the food leisurely. Terban looked at her, but Ellea pretended not to notice his gaze.
Terban soon realized her intention in bringing it up and retorted in the same manner.
“So you must have sent the word that you were well then. That’s what you told me just now.”
“Well, I guess it can always change what answer I give you.”
“As expected, you are not an easy opponent.”
And this time Ellea smiled and said as if she saw through his thoughts.
“Is there a considerable difference between what you thought about me and what you actually saw, Your Majesty? Since you said I’m not an easy opponent.”
A strange tension formed between the two of them at that moment. It was like a fierce beast that would snatch anyone’s neck the moment they showed a small gap.
“The look in Your Majesty’s eyes that said “unexpected” confirms my words.”
“Yes, it’s just as you say, Princess.”
Terban, too, did not hide his true feelings, but he did not seem to be in a mood to retreat easily.
“You must have thought of me as immature, ignorant, and unattached.” (Ellea)
“I don’t disagree.”
It was a fact that could not be denied. Not that he had that much information on the Imperial Princess, so it automatically seemed that way.
Because she was the only Imperial Princess in the empire, and also because she was physically weak, he would forgive her for any behavior.
Of course, all of that was overturned the moment he actually met her.
“Your Majesty, do you know what the first thing I did as soon as I woke up from my coma?”
Terban had no idea what Ellea’s intention was to ask such a question. She smiled that didn’t match her somber mood at the sight.
“As a princess, I learned everything again. From etiquette, knowledge, to physical strength. I don’t want to worry my family any more than I already have. That’s the reason why I came to Rubain even though my family didn’t want me to.”
Ellea then earnestly explained how she had come to be here.
“I know Your Majesty secretly wanted Bellea, the Crown Prince, to come here. Because he is the future emperor, and I’m sure that his presence here will be useful to Rubain.”
Terban felt it the moment he saw Ellea’s accurate grasp of his intentions. The Princess in front of him was not the person he thought he could underestimate.
“I didn’t like that idea, so I came here even though my family stopped me. I came here to fulfill my duty as a Princess of Zevenica.”
“And what is your reason for saying that to me now?”
“I am telling you that if you touch my country and my people, I will not stay still. I have no intention of moving according to the intentions of anyone here.”
Ellea finished her words without avoiding Terban’s eyes. It was only for a moment, but a murderous intent flashed through her gaze.
“That’s all I want to say. Shall we stop talking about heavy subjects?”
The seriousness of what she had just said did not disappear from Ellea, and she began eating again as if nothing had happened.
Terban chuckled at the instantaneous change in her appearance, which he didn’t even know was there.
His voice made her gaze turn to Terban again.
“Why are you smiling?”
“I don’t know where to focus on dealing with the Princess now.”
“It’s all me, now and then.”
The only reason Ellea had been willing to indulge the danger and provoke him was for the sake of her own family and the empire.
At the same time, it was a warning not to underestimate her. Fortunately, Terban didn’t show any signs of displeasure.
“I understood what the words of the Princess meant.”
“I’m sorry if I sounded rude, but that’s how much my country and family means to me.”
Partly because of the sincerity in Ellea’s voice, but also because Terban understood how she felt. He was also an emperor of his empire.
“You certainly look different from what I saw in the nursery.”
When Terban brought up the event of that day without warning, Ellea was greatly perplexed, unlike before.
Ellea, who had gotten choked up and hastily drank some water, had no choice but to question Terban when she stopped coughing.
“Why are you suddenly talking about that?”
“It doesn’t matter anyway. There are only two of us.”
“That’s true, but…”
She still didn’t think he would bring that up first. She hoped he would pretend that he didn’t know, but he didn’t seem to intend to do so.
In fact, was it her illusion that he seemed to enjoy to see her embarrassed?
“For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why the Imperial Princess would be interested in such a thing. Besides, this isn’t even Zenvenica.”
Ellea had expected such a reaction from Terban, and was not surprised like before.
“It’s too unexpected.”
“There’s no particular reason. It’s just that ……”
Ellea set down her silverware and brought up her thoughts as she was El. She didn’t want to make up another word for it.
“I just want to protect their daily lives, eat good food, have fun, and teach them what is precious. They have their own pain and difficulty. That’s why I couldn’t stand by and watch.”
She didn’t want those weak lives to suffer the same fate as hers. At least she got to live a second life.
“Do you think it is hypocritical of me, an Imperial Princess, to say this? There is nothing more ridiculous than someone who doesn’t know what’s really going on.”
The unidentified man she had met by chance the other day was probably right. Maybe she was the most hypocritical person in the world.
The strange emotion that oozed from Ellea’s eyes made Terban speak in a way that was unlike him. He was going to comfort her.
“Nonetheless, it doesn’t change the fact that what the Princess does deserve to be praised.”
Considering what he had seen of Ellea from the first time he met her until now, he didn’t think she was a hypocrite. He could tell she really wanted to help someone.
That was why she moved beyond mere thinking and actually took action.
“Thank you for saying that, but can you keep it a secret.”
“Is there a reason people shouldn’t know?”
“Because I don’t want people to talk about me. I don’t want the children to know who I am.”
Her reasons surprised Terban. Because she was so desperate to hide her good deeds when others would go out of their way to let the world now.
‘And at the same time, she just called herself hypocritical?’
Suddenly he had this thought. Perhaps the person who knew the least about her was the Princess herself.