Chapter 1. The beginning of everything
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The news of Shenil’s collapse was immediately conveyed to Terban, who hurried into the room and approached Shenil, who was lying on the bed as if she was dead. The palace physician the maid had summoned was examining her.
As he looked at Shanil, who was pale and had her eyes closed, Terban suddenly thought of that day in the past.
He could see his helpless self missing the young Shanil before he could do anything about it.
“What the hell happened?”
“Well… she was in the parlor and suddenly coughed up blood and collapsed.”
The maid, barely able to keep her surprised voice in check, explained nervously to Terban what had just happened. But her words did not end there.
“Sir El was with her at the time.”
Hearing the maid’s words, Terban finally found El standing in a corner of the room.
“Sir El, you were with Shanil?”
El bowed and turned her gaze to Terban without saying much. But Telvan didn’t pay much attention to the maid’s words and asked the palace doctor.
“How is Shenil?”
“Fortunately, she’s in a stable condition now. The reason why you became like this is…..”
The doctor hesitated and struggled to mention the reason for Shenil’s collapse under Telvan’s pressure.
“She was poisoned.”
“Poison? Who the hell dare?”
“We’ll have to find out more, but I assume that it was in the tea she drank before she collapsed.”
Terban looked shocked at the fact that someone had tried to poison Shanil. And at the word poison, Shenil’s maids all fell to their knees in unison.
“We do not know about this. The tea was already prepared when we were with her so there was no time for anyone to put it in. Please believe us.”
They were desperate to prove their innocence, hoping that perhaps they would be blamed.
“Then who on earth could have done it? If it’s not you who prepared the tea and brought it to her.”
“We really didn’t. When I served the tea, Sir El was already here. That’s really all.”
At the maid’s words, El squeezed the hand hidden behind her back.
‘This is what you wanted in the end.’
Then, belatedly, Terban realized the maid’s last words. His gaze went to El for a moment, but quickly looked away.
He was sure that El had nothing to do with this incident, of course, until Shenil woke up.
Just as the heavy atmosphere continued, Shenil woke up, and Terban hurried to her side.
“Shenil, are you okay?”
“Terban? Is it really Terban?”
“Yes, it’s me.”
“I was really scared… I might not be able to make it again like I did that time.”
Shanil was in pain and tears because of the poison still in her system, and Terban was trying to soothe her.
“Don’t worry, nothing will happen to you again. And whoever did this to you will be punished.”
“I really never imagined that Sir El would do that. It’s even more shocking because Terban believes in him.”
At that moment, the startled Terban and El’s eyes met, and El momentarily avoided his. It was a trap set up by Shenil anyway. It was already pointed at her neck, and she knew well that it was meaningless to say anything here.
While El was lost in his thoughts, Shanil continued.
“He said he didn’t like me being around Terban. The person closest to Terban had to be him, and I had taken that opportunity away from him. Then I immediately felt the pain in my throat.”
The only sounds that could be heard were someone gasping loudly and Shanil’s crying.
As soon as she finished, El closed her eyes as if she’d been sentenced to death. It was all over.
Terban, who had not shown any reaction until then, seemed to have sorted out his confused mind and got up from his seat and approached El.
Feeling Terban approaching, El lifted her head and finally faced him. As El had expected, Terban’s eyes were already shaking.
At that moment, El even dispelled any remaining hope that she might have had. Then Terban’s voice, more somber than before, reached El.
“So everything Shenil said is true?”
Terban asked El in disbelief, but there was no reply that came back. At her appearance, Terban ordered in a stern voice.
“Are you there? Put Sir El in prison for trying to poison Shanil.”
“Yes? Yes, Your Majesty.”
El was led out of the room by the knights and immediately locked in a dark prison. El stood still until the knights closed the door and moved away, then she sat down leaning against the wall. Then, silently, she closed her eyes.
She seemed to accept what had happened to her as if it were fate.
The next day, El’s story tore through the Imperial Palace. El’s action had become too big to be handled by Terban’s line.
An imperial princess was almost poisoned, and Shanil’s father, Duke Raymir, and other members of his entourage had risen to the occasion.
They were outraged that a knight who was supposed to protect the emperor had done such a thing and demanded her execution.
Even under imperial law, trying to kill a noble was a serious crime.
El could have been killed on the spot. However, despite the protests of the nobles, Terban thoroughly investigated the charges against El. He just hoped it was all a misunderstanding.
However, all the evidence that Terban’s wish was losing face and appearing one after another was directed at El.
“Your Majesty, the same kind of poison that Lady Shanil consumed has been found in Sir El’s room.”
“Is that true?”
“Yes.The palace doctor confirmed it directly, and it was an exact match.”
Terban struggled with the undeniable evidence and put his hand on his forehead.
“Really El, did you do that?”
It was a great betrayal that Terban felt because he had trusted El, and it made him feel as if everything he had known about her was a lie.
The usual Terban would have executed El without mercy because of such obvious evidence, but somehow, unlike him, he was unsure of his decision.
A few days have passed since she was imprisoned, but El hadn’t eaten, she just leaned against the wall and closed her eyes.
She seemed to be in a daze, and at other times she seemed to be waiting nonchalantly for her fate to approach her.
It was then that she heard someone approaching. The footsteps soon stopped in front of her cell, and El, startled by the familiar face, stood up and approached him.
“Your face has become quite rough since I last saw you.”
“How Wontil here?”
“I’m capable of that much. How many knights have been treated by me?”
Wontil’s playful words still made El laugh even in this situation. On the other hand, as soon as Wontil saw El, he was worried about her health.
“Is your body all right? How are you doing with the medicine?”
“I don’t know anymore, neither does my mind.”
“Fool. I’m sure His Majesty will believe you when you tell your condition.”
At Wontil’s words, El asked something else, deliberately trying to change the subject.
“How is the situation outside?”
“Not very well. All the evidence is pointed at you. The poison in question was found in your room.”
“I knew it.”
Even more heartbroken by El’s nonchalant reaction to the news of her perilous situation, Wontil eventually raised his voice.
“Why didn’t you desperately say no? If you had, His Majesty would have believed you!
“Wontil, would you still believe me in a situation like this?”
“Oh, if I don’t believe a person who is one step away from death, who will I believe?”
Knowing that the situation was unusual, El seemed unwilling to tell the truth, and Wontill was only frustrated.
“Why do you have people in your heart that you shouldn’t have?”
El reacted the most to Wontil’s words so far.
“How do you know that!”
“I’ve lived all these years and you don’t think I know about it?”
“After all, I can’t fool Wontill.”
Neither could she fool Shanil.
For a long time El hid it well, and for the first time she revealed her true feelings, which she had never said out loud.
“Was I really so foolish? Keeping such a noble person in my heart.”
Her eyes seemed to be crying, and Wontil’s wrinkled hand squeezed El’s hand. But El, who had already made up her mind, asked Wontil.
“Then can you keep it a secret? Everything about me. Wontil doesn’t know anything.”
“Until the end, you are…”
“I don’t have much time left, anyway. Please, I beg you. And I don’t want Wontil to be in any danger.”
The look in her eyes was so sincere and desperate that Wontil couldn’t say no. Because if he didn’t promise, El would collapse right now.
“You’re making an old man suffer, aren’t you?”
After asking Wontil’s permission, El handed him the key she had hidden in her pocket.
“I have a small envelope in the bottom drawer of my desk in my office, can you take it and burn it?”
“What are you so afraid of? Where is the spirit that stood by His Majesty.”
El just smiled and thanked Wontil.
“Thank you very much. I’ll never forget your kindness, Wontil.”
Wontil finally felt as if El was leaving a final greeting.
It was really heartbreaking for him, as he had seen the whole process from the time young El had entered the Imperial Palace until she had grown so big.
Nevertheless, he could see that he could not prevent El from jumping into that path that she so desperately wanted to take.
“You should go now before the others see you.”
“El, there is still one last chance left.”
With that sincere plea, Wontil walked out of the prison.
El, left alone again, felt fortunate that Terban would not find out about her illness until the end.
That was good enough for El.