Chapter 1. The beginning of everything
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Terban was more surprised when Ellea complained of pain and got up from his seat. He put her back on the bench to check her feet.
Then, not caring that his clothes would get dirty, he knelt on one knee and lowered himself. Ellea’s feet were hidden by her long dress so he couldn’t see the injury.
‘No, wait a minute.’
Ellea moved his feet back, confused by Terban’s actions. When he raised his head, he found Ellea, who was at a loss.
“Is there a problem?”
All Terban could think of was that she was injured, but all Ellea could think of was that she had to get him up.
“Stand up, Your Majesty. I’m really all right.”
“I’ll decide for myself if the Princess is really okay.”
Despite Ellea’s words, Terban’s attitude was firm. Then, seeing the dress covering her feet, he turned to her and said.
“If you’ll excuse me for a moment.”
With that, Terban reached out and grabbed her ankle gently. Her feet, which appeared, were small enough to fit in his hands.
Terban came to his senses and checked Ellea’s feet; he immediately noticed the wounds on the soles of her feet. As painful as she was, there were a few cuts from something sharp. The blood had already clotted and there was dirt everywhere, probably because she had walked barefoot without shoes.
“How did you walk in such a state?”
“It just happened. By the way, I’m really fine. It’s not even that big of a wound.”
“But it must have been quite uncomfortable when you walked. What happened?”
Terban looked at Ellea, asking for a response, but of course she couldn’t tell him the truth. How could she say that she had defeated the suspicious man who had broken into the duke’s mansion and that she had gotten the wound from stepping on the broken vase he had swung at her?
The only thing she could do was to make up some excuse so that the man in front of her would not suspect.
“…… the shoes were uncomfortable, so I took them off and walked around and got scratched by a sharp stone. It was a light cut, so I thought it was okay.”
Ellea wanted to get out of this situation right away, but he couldn’t do anything about it because Terban kept holding her back.
“I can go back to the palace and get treatment. So, stop….”
“How are you going to get to the palace? You don’t look like you can wear those high heels in this condition.”
“It’s okay. It’s only a short walk anyway, and I can just take the carriage.”
The only one who felt uncomfortable was Terban himself, when Ellea insisted that she was fine the whole time.
He immediately let out a small sigh as if he was defeated by her stubbornness, and took something out of his pocket.
“Why do you take out your handkerchief?”
Looking at the handkerchief he took out, Ellea asked, not understanding why. But instead of replying, Terban tore the white handkerchief in half, making Ellea even more curious.
The more surprising action was the next. He wrapped the torn half of the handkerchief around her foot. It was a temporary substitute for a bandage.
Ellea could only watch blankly as the soft touch wrapped around her foot.
‘Now is this really real?’
Quite frankly, she thought Terban would just walk by unconcerned even if he knew she was injured. However, unlike that expectation, he even checked the wound and even treated it.
It was Ellea who was struggling with awkwardness as Terban knelt in front of her.
Finishing with the left foot and immediately grasping the right, Terban began to wrap it with the other half of the handkerchief.
She could definitely feel the soft, careful touch as if he was handling glass. There was also the way he was careful not to touch her wounds.
As she did so, she realized that the person in front of her was the emperor of the empire, but he was comfortable doing it somehow.
“Let me do it.”
“It’s okay. It’s almost done.”
“I should have used my handkerchief from the start. I can’t ruin Your Majesty’s handkerchief.”
At those words, Terban’s hands, which had been moving well, stopped. He seemed to be thinking about something, then spoke slowly.
“There was someone I knew who said something similar to the Princess.”
“It was a knight that said the same thing the Princess said in the banquet hall at the time.”
Ellea realized that the person he was referring to was El, and kept her mouth shut. She couldn’t even move, unlike earlier.
Terban continued to speak, not knowing what expression Ellea had on her face as she kept her head down and focused on her feet.
“Of course, he’s not with me right now.”
At his words, Ellea took a deep breath so her voice wouldn’t shake, and asked with deliberate nonchalance.
“Is the person named El?”
Terban looked up, surprised that Ellea knew that name. When she received the gaze, she calmly explained why she knew.
“How did the Princess know that…….”
“I found out by accident, hearing people talk. It was a big incident.”
The words came out surprisingly easy for Terban, either because he wanted to confide in anyone, or because of the idea that Ellea had nothing to do with it at all.
“I ordered others not to bring up related stories, but I ended up talking about it. It’s a very funny situation.”
“Then why are you suddenly bringing up that person?”
“Now that the Princess said it, I found myself remembering El again without even knowing it. El said it before. When I held out my hand to him, he didn’t grab it. Well, I think I know why.”
Ellea asked, barely hiding her trembling heart at Terban’s words. She sincerely hoped he was wrong in his thinking.
“Do you know, then?”
“Yes, for I had always seen him look down at his hands and shake his head. When he did that, there was always dirt on his hands, but I think it was because he didn’t want to make my hands dirty.”
He had never made it obvious so El naturally assumed that Terban didn’t know. How now she knew that he knew, she had mixed feelings about it.
‘You were watching me closely.’
She felt like that, and she wanted to ask Terban at least once. ‘If you know me so well, why didn’t you believe me at the time?’
“Oh, thank you very much.”
Terban got up while Ellea was deep in thought. Seeing him, Ellea stood up.
Certainly, the pain was less thanks to the handkerchief wrapped around her feet.
“I think I can wear shoes now. Thank you very much, Your Majesty.”
Elia said, and carefully put on her shoes. She felt some pain, but not so much that she couldn’t walk.
Terban was also relieved by her appearance.
Thus, the two naturally began to walk together toward the mansion. Since we were on the same path anyway.
Perhaps it was because of what Terban had said earlier, but there was a bit of awkwardness and silence between them.
Terban wondered why he had mentioned El to Ellea, and Ellea thought about what he had said.
She looked up at Terban, who was walking with her by her side with mixed feelings. He could feel her gaze on him and asked, still facing the front.
“Do you have something to say to me?”
When Terban suddenly asked, Ellea startled and thought of what to say, only one thought came to mind.
“I was thinking about what I should do with Your Majesty’s handkerchief. It’s Your Majesty’s item, so of course I should have to return it.”
“I wrapped it around the Princess’ feet. And I tore it in half.”
“I don’t know if I can use it again.”
Aside from the fact that the handkerchief was torn, Ellea realized that Terban couldn’t use it anymore because it covered her feet.
When she blushed with embarrassment, Terban decided to stop joking before Ellea got more flustered.
“You don’t have to be so careful. It’s not that important.”
Belatedly, Terban noticed that Ellea was alone in the garden and wondered why she was out there alone and not in the banquet hall.
“By the way, why was the Princess alone in such a place?”
At his question, Ellea decided to ask him once what had been bothering her for a while now. She was curious to see what kind of answer Terban would give her.
“Then may I ask you something, Your Majesty?”
“If someone were to pick a fight with you, would it be better to pretend not to know because it would be troublesome? Or…….”
Ellea stopped, and Terban followed suit, standing facing her. Ellea made eye contact with him and continued.
“Must we quarrel and make it clear? You are no match for me?”
“If I were you……..”
Sensing the seriousness in her voice, Terban pondered for a moment before giving his answer.
“I think I’ll choose the latter. It’s only when you show them clearly that they won’t underestimate you again.”
At that moment, she could see Terban was indeed the emperor. Still, thanks to him, she also felt like something that had been wobbling had been clearly caught.
“So did my answer help?”
“A little, yes, but I think I can make up my mind.”
Before they knew it, they were approaching the banquet hall as they conversed. Knowing that they would soon have to part ways, Ellea thought of what Terban had said to her earlier and made up her mind.
Then she called out to him as he walked ahead.
Facing him, she spoke without avoiding Terban’s eyes.
“I’m going to try it once, just like you said, Your Majesty.”
“You don’t mean to start a fight, do you?”
Terban joked, and Ellea laughed and shook her head.
“No, It’s about my current life in Rubain. I actually tried to avoid associating with people here as much as possible, thinking I had to leave eventually anyway. But no matter how much I think about it, it wasn’t like me.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to be myself. What I meant is……….”
Ellea held out her hand toward Terban. She said carefully as Terban looked at her hand.
“I know it’s not polite, but I want to greet you again… I look forward to working with you, Your Majesty.”
Terban pondered as Ellea held out her hand. She certainly looked different than before.
But he didn’t hate the change, so he reached out and shook Ellea’s hand.
They both felt the warmth that came from their hands touching each other.
When Ellea smiled at the two hands that were clasped together, Terban also smiled.
“I look forward to working with you too. Although it’s a bit late.”
As they were looking at each other like that, a different voice interrupted them.
Shanil, who had approached, saw the scene of the two holding hands.