Chapter 4. Bare claws

 


****

 

‘It’s ridiculous.’

 

El could clearly see Peisen’s mockery, but the person in front of her was a duke, he was not someone she could be too rough with. That said, she wasn’t going to just bow and retreat.

 

“Thank you for your concern. But how could I dare to do such a thing to the Duke? As you said, I am nothing more than a simple knight, and I cannot commit such a rude act. I have orders from His Majesty, so I will leave now.”

 

‘Your tricks will not work on me.’

 

El gave a short greeting and moved away .

 

As soon as El was out of sight, Peisen’s expression instantly soured. He showed the disgruntled look that El had expected.

 

“You had got nothing, but when you’re by His Majesty’s side, you became arrogant…”

 

“What are you doing now?”

 

“Ah, there you are. Duke Raymir.”

 

Peisen welcomed someone with an even calmer face, and the figure appeared to be a middle-aged man with golden hair swept back.

 

His gaze lingered for a moment on the back of El’s distant form before he quickly said to Peisen. 

 

“Let’s talk as we walk.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Peisen explained, unable to hide his anger about what had happened with El as he walked with Raymir.

 

“This commoner….!”

 

“Duke Peisen.”

 

“Yes?”

 

When Raymir stopped and called his name, Peisen looked at him with an expression of incomprehension.

 

“All you have to do is follow my words, just as you always have. I’m sure you haven’t forgotten who’s the reason you’re here now.”

 

Peisen’s expression stiffened at his meaningful words, and he quickly replied with a bow.

 

“Of course I know.”

 

Raymir calmly threw a few words at the figure and walked off on his own.

 

“Then you know very well what you must do. Go back to your territory. Do not make any rash moves.”

 

When Raymir was completely out of sight, Peisen raised his bowed head and walked in the opposite direction.

 

His face was already red as he walked.

 

‘You are still treating me like a person beneath you. Just because your daughter is close to His Majesty doesn’t mean you should get carried away. Wait and see, how long will you be able to keep your nose so high?’

 

****

 

As soon as she returned to her office after training at the training grounds, El began sorting through the piles of paperwork on her desk without a moment’s rest, finally able to catch her breath when she saw the end of her work.

 

“Is it finished?”

 

El leaned back in her chair when she suddenly unlocked the bottom drawer of her desk and pulled out a white envelope.

 

The paper inside the envelope was filled with El’s sincere handwriting. It was about quitting the Order.

 

After much deliberation, she eventually decided that this was the only way to leave the Imperial Palace, as she didn’t want to give Terban any kind of burden.

 

She didn’t know how Terban would react, but after all the trouble she had gone through to make her decision, El wasn’t going to give up so easily.

 

‘Ah, yes. I have to go there at least once too, but I can’t for the time being. ‘

 

A smile naturally spread across El’s face as she thought of the people who always smiled and welcomed her whenever she visited.

 

However, due to the fact that she wouldn’t be able to see them from now on, she felt disappointed. Because it was El’s resting place there.

 

‘If I say anything, you’ll probably cry…’

 

Just as El’s worries deepened, someone knocked on the door. El hurriedly put the envelope in a drawer, closed it and said,

 

“Come in.”

 

It was Shanil’s maid who came to her office.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Lady Shanil wants to see you.”

 

“Me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

El couldn’t help but wonder why Shanil would want to see her because they had never really talked to each separately.

 

Quickly dispelling her doubts, El left her seat and followed the maid to Shanil’s palace. 

 

She led her into the parlor, but Shanil was nowhere to be seen.

 

“I will come shortly, so please wait here.”

 

When El  sat down on the sofa and the maid  came in again, placing the tea on the table. After a few moments, Shanil entered the parlor, gave a short greeting, and sat down across from El.

 

“I’m sorry to keep Sir El waiting.”

 

“No, I just got here.”

 

“I was with His Majesty late yesterday. We were having a conversation, and I lost track of time.”

 

Shanil deliberately brought up Terban and took a leisurely look at her reaction.

 

But El appeared unconcerned, as she had done so far. Then she asked Shanil why she had called her.

 

“I heard you wanted to see me.”

 

“Yes, that’s right.”

 

“What’s the matter? Is there something special you want to tell me?”

 

Shanil looked at the glass in front of her, then raised her gaze to face El. The moment she saw the look in her eyes, El intuitively sensed that she was different from the norm. Everything about her.

 

‘What is this feeling?’

 

“Do you know, Sir El? Why has His Majesty taken such good care of me for so long?”

 

“Yes. I’ve heard about the situation. When you were a child, your leg was injured in an accident.”

 

“I’m sure you did. But that’s when I got the scar on my forehead.”

 

Shanil was right, she did have a small scar on her forehead, and somehow she began to describe the circumstances of her injury.

 

“I came to the palace to play, but I fell from a high place and injured my leg. It was very hard for me to start walking again like I do now.”

 

As proof of this, Shanil usually had no problem walking, but she could not run as hard or strain her legs.”

 

“Even though His Majesty was with me at the time, he still felt guilty that it was his fault that I got injured.”

 

I see. But, why are you talking about that to me now?”

 

At that moment, what came out of Shanil’s mouth was not the soft voice she had used earlier. 

 

“So there is no room for you to come between His Majesty and me from the beginning.”

 

“What?”

 

“Did you think I don’t know? How you feel about His Majesty.”

 

El’s heart dropped with a thump at Shanil’s words. Her heart beat faster and faster at the thought of her realizing, and her hands began to ooze sweat. 

 

‘No way.’

 

El couldn’t hide her bewilderment, and Shanil smiled, rather enjoying the situation. 

 

“I’m the one closest to His Majesty, and it’s obvious, there’s no way you don’t know. Sir El is quite foolish. You know better than anyone else how His Majesty will react when he finds out about this.” (Shanil)

 

“Did you hide this side of you so far?” (Shanil)

 

Even in this situation, El focused on Shenil’s completely different appearance. For El, who decided to leave this place anyway, what she said was not a threat. 

 

“Well, it’s just a matter of what His Majesty thinks about it.”

 

“You’re calmer than I thought. I thought you would be on your knees begging me to keep this a secret.”

 

“Didn’t you call me separately because you thought I wouldn’t do that?”

 

El responded calmly, not retreating. It wasn’t too difficult for El to deal with Shanil as she accompanied Terban. And the most important thing still remained to be done.

 

“What was the reason for calling me here? Are you asking me to leave the Imperial Palace voluntarily?”

 

“Well, you’re half right.”

 

After saying that and taking a moment, Shanil took a sip of cold tea, perhaps thirsty.

 

“You’ll leave the palace anyway.” (Shanil) 

 

“Yes. I’ll leave here quietly.” (El)

 

“Yes. You’ll be miserably despised by His Majesty, and by everyone in the imperial palace.” (Shanil)

 

“What do you mean by that?” (El)

 

Before El’s question could be answered, Shanil suddenly coughed. Running down her mouth was bright red blood. El, startled by Shanil’s appearance, stood up.

 

“You will leave in misery.”  (Shanil)

 

With just those words, Shanil immediately collapsed. El, despite her confusion, hurriedly tried to summon the maidservant, and at that moment the parlor door opened.

 

And the maidservant who came in found the fallen Shanil and shouted.

 

“Lady Shanil!”

 

It only took a moment for the parlor to become a scene of chaos as the maidservant screamed. Even in this situation, El, who had lowered her head due to the pain that had come again, could only watch as Shanil was carried away by the servants.

 

At that moment, El saw Shanil smile with blood on her mouth. It was then that El found out the source of the anxiety she had felt earlier.

 

El fell into that woman’s trap from the moment she came here.