Chapter 1. The beginning of everything
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Even though Terban only had to look at it once, he mimicked exactly what Ellea had taught him earlier. It was certainly easier than before.
“It’s better than earlier.”
‘’If anyone were to see you, they’d think you were the one who won the bet.”
Embarrassed at the thought that she spoke too excitedly, Ellea moved hurriedly, pretending to concentrate on the laundry.
“Then again, isn’t it strange that the Imperial Princess is so used to this sort of thing?” (Terban)
He was sure there were servants around who wouldn’t let the Princess get her hands dirty.
“I’ve just gotten used to it after doing it a few times. Just because we can’t do it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”
Ellea said, pretending to be as nonchalant as possible so it wouldn’t sound like she was lying.
“Come to think of it, I don’t think the Emperor can say anything about it because you’re doing the laundry right now.”
Ellea deliberately emphasized the words ‘Emperor’.
“If you say so, I have nothing to say.”
Ellea hurried to finish her work, but he found water on the sleeves of Terban’s shirt.
‘I think he’s going to get all wet.’
Ellea quickly wiped off the water from her hands and reached out for Terban’s sleeve. When she approached without saying a word, Terban reflexively stepped back, but Ellea grabbed his arm.
“Please wait a moment.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m afraid your sleeves are going to get wet. You’ve got water on your hands, so I’ll help you roll it up.”
Ellea said and rolled up the right sleeve to his elbow. While she was concentrating on that task, she naturally leaned towards Terban.
Of course, she was so focused on rolling up the sleeve that Ellea didn’t pay attention to anything else.
Thanks to that, Terban was able to see Ellea’s face from a close distance, but in that short time and how hard she had been working. She had sweat on her forehead.
‘You must really be serious about this place.’
Ellea finished rolling up his right sleeve and reached for his left, but it was too far away for her to reach.
So she raised her head, intending to say.
“Your Majesty, the left sleeve too. ………….”
However, her words didn’t last. Her eyes met Terban’s, closer than she expected.
It was so close that he could see the bewilderment in her face.
“What is it about the left sleeve?”
Finally recognizing Terban’s voice, Ellea stepped back once.
“I couldn’t reach your left sleeve….”
Terban almost laughed at the way she slumped down like someone who had done something wrong. Whenever she showed her seriousness as an imperial princess, Ellea sometimes seemed to be a different person.
Even when Terban held out his left sleeve, Ellea just stared at him blankly.
“Didn’t you say you couldn’t reach my left sleeve?”
Ellea rolled up the sleeve as she had done earlier, but she was suddenly nervous now that she was aware of the close distance.
So she hurried to finish.
“It’s done now. Then let’s finish this quickly.”
Awkwardly stepping away from Terban, Ellea fixed her gaze only on the laundry she was struggling to hold.
‘I didn’t know it was that close.’
They didn’t exchange any more conversation, but still, thanks to Terban, she was able to finish the job faster than she thought.
Even as the morning passed and the sun rose high, Chaylen was still asleep in a dark room with the curtains still drawn.
The room was minimally furnished with only the necessary furniture, as if to show its master’s personality, and it seemed somewhat desolate.
“I don’t like it. I don’t……”
Chaylen’s voice rang in the silence of the room, but he was still asleep with his eyes closed.
It was no wonder he couldn’t wake up. For he had been desperately running away in his dream.
“I must escape.”
Chaylen, in the form of a child and much smaller than he was now, was running through the darkness.
What on earth was he being chased by? The running seemed very tense.
But he was in too much of a hurry to see the stone on the ground and tripped over it.
Pulling himself up again, Chaylen found his hands full of bright red blood. Then he looked back at the path he had passed. It was a dark night, but there was a bright light coming up.
And the light was swallowing up everything.
“Run away quickly. Don’t ever come back here again.”
Thinking of the earnest voice addressed to him, Chaylen pulled himself together and stood up again. Even though his knees were bleeding, he ran forward as fast as before.
He never forgot the face of someone who filled his head and never looked back.
But the young Chaylen’s face was still full of tears that he couldn’t swallow.
Waking up from his dream, the present Chaylen lifted himself out of bed and hurriedly looked around.
When he realized that he was in his own room, he felt a great sense of relief. Then he looked at his hands, but there was no trace of the blood he had seen in his dream.
“Huh? That can’t be. Did I have that dream again?”
These dreams came to him without warning, as if to tell him not to forget the moment. Each time he was a young boy, he ran away desperately.
“I’m definitely not forgetting. No, I will not forget.”
Rubbing his face with his hands, Chaylen turned and headed for the terrace to take in the cool breeze.
The now familiar landscape of the capital was spread out before him.
“I’m better now.”
He leaned comfortably on the terrace railing, feeling much better after inhaling cool air several times instead of the stuffy air in the room.
“It is peaceful indeed.”
The capital was quiet, as if the events of the past were an illusion.
“I wish I could destroy it all.”
With that thought, Chaylen’s eyes lowered, and he suddenly burst into laughter.
“Who the hell is she? No matter how hard I searched, I couldn’t find any nobleman who looked like her.”
Chaylen was thinking about Ellea, whom he had met by chance. No matter how much he thought about it, she was an unusual woman.
He searched the capital’s nobility again, just to be sure, but he couldn’t find any noblewomen- or ladies- anywhere who looked like Ellea.
This fact disappointed him greatly, even though he didn’t know it. He had been hoping that maybe he would see her again, but now that path was gone…
“I guess I’ll just have to pray for coincidence now.”
Hoping for a coincidence, Chaylen smiled expectantly as he gazed at the landscape of the capital.
“All that’s left is to dry them off.”
Ellea left the garden with a basket of laundry. Terban followed her, and the yard was still filled with the sounds of children playing.
The children were playing with a ball, dividing it into friend and foe. Ellea was relieved to see them playing so well, then she began to hang her laundry on the clothesline in the corner of the yard.
“It’s sunny, so it will dry quickly.”
She filled the row from one end to the other, and Terban still stood in front of her.
“Isn’t it hard when you have to do all this?”
“I’ve gotten used to it, so I’m fine.”
He could see in her eyes that she wasn’t being forced, she was doing it because she liked it. At that moment, a child’s voice interrupted them.
“Miss El, I’ll help you.”
Ellea turned head to look at the sudden voice, and Karin was about to take the laundry when Ellea realized how close she had come. But Ellea stopped her.
“No. I’ll do it. Go play with your brothers and sisters.”
As the oldest child in the nursery school, Karin had a strong sense of responsibility to take good care of her younger siblings and help Remil as well.
Ellea could see it in her eyes, and naturally she cared about Karin a little more than the other children.
“I’m here today, so Karin go and have fun. Your………………..”
Ellea was about to ask Terban to go play with the children, and she almost called him ‘Your Majesty’. Ellea hastily corrected her words.
“Ask uncle to go play…..”
When Ellea sent Karin to Terban, Karin grabbed Terban’s naturally.
“Uncle Ban, let’s go then.”
As they moved away, Ellea could see it clearly. When Karin took Terban’s hand, Terban freaked out a little.
Not that she had intended to, but now that she was here with him, she could see Terban’s new and unexpected appearance.
‘Surely, you couldn’t let anyone see you relax in public.’
Actually, she knew better than anyone. Terban’s burden as Emperor.
She couldn’t carry that burden with him, but she wanted to be of some small help.
‘Although that wish eventually led me to come here…’
Shaking her head quickly at the sudden reminder of the past, Ellea focused on hanging the laundry again.
After a while, while she was feeling satisfied with having hung all the laundry, the children’s voices seemed louder than before.
“What’s going on?”
Just to be sure, she hurried over and found the children gathered under a large tree in the garden. Naturally, Terban was in the center of it.
“Now it’s my turn.”
“And after that, it’s me.”
The children were talking with their heads up, and as soon as she got close to them, she knew why.
It was because Terban was repeatedly putting the children up and down the branches of the tall tree.
“Hey guys, what are you doing?”
“Miss El, uncle put me up here. He’s much taller than Miss El.”
The children were so innocent and happy that Ellea looked at Terban with eyes that wanted him to explain the situation.
“You were playing with a ball a moment ago.”
“Don’t blame me. I just did what the kids asked me to do.” (Terban)
“What are you going to do if you fall? Everyone, come down quickly.”
Ellea was worried that the children might get hurt, so she spoke firmly, and eventually the game ended at her words.
The kids were stubborn about wanting to continue, but it was outrageous.
“Miss El, just once, please.”
“That’s right. It was fun.”
“Do you think Miss El is difficult too, Uncle?”
Before she knew it, the children were standing beside Terban, waving their arms at him and saying, “Yes, we were having a lot of fun. It’s not fair.”
And unlike what Ellea had expected, Terban, too, took the children’s side as if they became one.
“Yeah. It’s unfair. I was having quite a good time playing with them.”
She didn’t know Terban would be joining them, and Ellea couldn’t hide her embarrassment. She kind of hated the way he looked at her with his arms folded arrogantly.
“It’s a cheap trick that you and them are against me now.”
And there was a clear reason why he was doing this. He wanted to pay back all the unpleasant feelings Ellea had put him through recently somehow.
“It’s okay for now, but later on when the children are alone, they will try to climb up and hurt themselves.”
“What are you all doing there?”
Ellea turned her head and saw Remil coming into the nursery after her outing.