Chapter 1. The beginning of everything
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Terban and Ellea felt that time had passed and stood up. It was time to return to the palace.
“I should leave now, before the maids worry.”
As she organized her clothes, something came to mind and she called out to Terban.
“Ah, Your Majesty.”
With that, she held out something she had taken from her pocket.
“It’s the handkerchief I use. Your Majesty had to use your handkerchief last time.”
Terban carefully received it and looked at the white handkerchief handed over by Ellea.
When he didn’t say anything, she made a bunch of words that sounded like excuses for no reason.
“It’s still almost new and clean. Is it a bit too much for Your Majesty to use?”
If she had known that she would see Terban this way, she would have prepared a new one, but the flower-embroidered handkerchief did not look right in her opinion.
Ellea decided to prepare a proper one next time and tried to get it back again, but Terban spoke first.
“Don’t worry. I’ll use it well.”
And all she could do was nod when Terban put the handkerchief in his pocket.
Meanwhile, Chaylen had just left Raymir and was heading back to the duke’s mansion when he happened to spot someone.
Feeling happy, he hurriedly tried to call out, but stopped when he saw the other person.
It was Terban, who was with Ellea.
Chaylen was some distance away, so he couldn’t hear their conversation, but they seemed to be much closer than he thought.
Especially the expression on Terban’s face when he looked at Ellea.
‘Did they originally have such a close relationship?’
As he thought about this, Ellea greeted Terban and moved away. Seeing her, Chaylen quickly approached her.
His steps seemed quite urgent.
“Why are you with His Majesty?”
“You scared me. You should make your presence known first.”
Ellea was surprised to see Chaylen’s sudden appearance, but there was something else on his mind.
“Why were you with him? It is His Majesty.”
“We ran into each other coincidentally. By the way, why are you so worked up? What’s so surprising about that? This is the Imperial Palace.”
“More importantly, you two looked a lot closer than I thought.”
To Chaylen’s reaction, Elea said, not really making a big deal out of it.
“We just ran into each other. By the way, what are you doing at the Imperial Palace?”
“I had some business to attend to.”
Ellea heard Chaylen’s reply and naturally asked what happened at the Duke’s residence. She was curious about what happened afterwards.
“Did you handle that matter well?”
“Oh, yes. If you had known, you should have told me or Arun right away. There could have been several intruders there, how could you go there alone so recklessly?It could have been really dangerous.”
Chaylen began to question Ellea about what he had been putting off. But looking at her face, all he had was worry about her.
As soon as Arun told him about it, he was most worried about Ellea getting hurt. It was an emotion that could not be explained in words, a combination of gratitude and sorry.
“You know exactly what I’m capable of, so why are you so worried?” (Ellea)
“That’s not what I’m talking about.” (Chaylen)
“I didn’t even have time to tell you, because it was so urgent. When I get there, I already know that if I’m late, it’ll be all over, but I have to move right then and there.” (Ellea)
“No, wait a minute.” (Ellea)
Ellea didn’t think she had any reason to make this excuse at all….strictly speaking, shouldn’t he be in a position to be thankful?
“Is that all you have to say to me? Shouldn’t you say thank you first?” (Ellea)
Chaylen was speechless for a moment, but he gave a belated thank you. After all, it was thanks to her that he was able to get past this incident.
“If it hadn’t been for you, I would have been in real trouble. Thanks to you, I received great help. As the Duke of Kaicher, I would like to express my formal gratitude.” (Chaylen)
When Chaylen spoke seriously, Ellea was rather embarrassed. She thought he’d just laugh it off.
“Forget it, you’re making it more awkward when you say that.” (Ellea)
“Did you get hurt?” (Chaylen)
“Of course not. You’ve seen it. I tied him up nicely. He couldn’t get his hands on me. I used the gift you gave me very well.” (Ellea)
“But next time something like that happens, let me know first. You shouldn’t…..” (Chaylen)
‘I don’t want to see you get hurt.’
Chaylen swallowed the last words in his mind that Ellea couldn’t hear.
“Why did you stop talking?” (Ellea)
“It’s nothing. Anyway, thank you for helping me.” (Chaylen)
“You’re not just going to thank me with words, are you?” (Ellea)
When Ellea showed her unwillingness to let go, Chaylen realized that there was something she wanted.
“Don’t think of me as such a person. If you have helped me, I will repay you. So what is it that you want? Looking at you, it seemed to have already been decided.” (Chaylen)
“As expected, you know how I feel. I’ll ask you first. The Duke of Kaicher is rich, right?” (Ellea)
It was an unexpected question, but Chaylen nodded confidently.
“Of course. I’d say I’m fully loaded.”
“Good, that should be enough.”
Ellea gave him a look of satisfaction as she heard the answer she wanted from him.
“Why do you ask that?” (Chaylen)
“You’ll find out all about it later. I’ll send a letter to the Duke’s residence later, so don’t pretend you don’t know then.” (Ellea)
Chaylen had no idea what Ellea was talking about, but he was willing to listen to whatever she had to say, so he decided to do as she wished.
“Well, I’d better get going then. I’m sure my maids are already anxious.” (Ellea)
“Already? We only just met.” (Chaylen)
“Why are you so disappointed?” (Ellea)
“Well, I’m not disappointed but…”
Chaylen cringed at Ellea’s words and for no reason avoided her eyes. Ellea, who couldn’t possibly know how he felt, asked what Terban had told her earlier.
“Chaylen, are you going to participate in the riding competition?” (Ellea)
“A riding competition?” (Chaylen)
“Don’t you know? It’s opening soon. It’s a gathering of nobles, but you’re not coming? I’m going to attend.” (Ellea)
Chaylen made an immediate decision at the news that Ellea would be attending, though of course he had no idea, since this was the first time he had heard the news today.
“Then I will attend as well. It will be the first time in a long time that I can test my skills. Let’s see which of us is better.” (Chaylen)
“Yes, I want to do that too. I’ll see you then.” (Ellea)
Ellea promised to meet him next time and took a step. Couldn’t stop her, he stared at her back as she walked away.
However, with a smile, his eyes were softened to the fullest.
After parting ways with Chaylen, Raymir visited Shanil. His expression clearly showed that he was angry to the top of his head.
“There’s no doubt about it now. I know Duke Chaylen knows about the day.”
“Wasn’t that, to some extent, to be expected?”
“He sent back the person I sent to his mansion in a corpse, claiming it was a gift.”
Shanil raised an eyebrow, as if she had imagined the scene.
“I didn’t trust him who was bragging. I let my guard down, of course I thought it was empty.”
As Shanil listened to him, she wondered about one thing.
“But, how did he know that we sent someone?”
“That’s what I don’t understand. Obviously, Duke Chaylen was in the banquet hall the whole time. So was his close aide. How did the information leak out?”
It was prepared secretly, and Chaylen didn’t seem to have noticed at all, so how did he know and stop the intruder?
“I don’t know, but there must have been someone who could have helped him.”
If Shanil’s assumption was right, it was more of a headache. Who was the helper of Duke Chaylen?
“Do you have any idea who it might be, father?”
“No, there are too many possibilities. It could be one of the nobles present that day, or it could be some other entity helping him…. We have to be more careful.”
“But we’ve made sure of that this time. We can’t just leave Duke Chaylen as he is. But what will change? How is he going to prove what father did that day? Everything has gone out in flames.”
Shanil was certainly confident. Even if Chaylen comes out that way, it doesn’t change anything.
“But we have to figure out a way to do it quickly. We can’t just leave it at that.”
The two of them decided to move, considering Chaylen to be a complete enemy.
“We need to find his weakness.”
While Shanil was pondering this, Raymir rose from his seat. When she tried to get up, Raymir stopped her.
“No. I’ll get going now.”
“Yes, take care and be careful, father.”
Raymir was about to walk past Shanil when he turned around and asked her in a low voice,
“Have you heard anything from His Majesty yet?”
“What on earth……”
“Your treatment. You know as well as I do that you can’t just sit in the palace and do nothing. To be sure, you have to solidify your position.”
Raymir said bluntly, and Shanil’s eyes sank lower as she came to know what he meant.
‘I’m well aware of that.’
In the current situation where the emperor’s fiancée has not yet been decided, people believed the position belonged to Shanil, but now she needed something to be sure of.
Terban didn’t talk to her about the engagement, though she was secretly hoping for it since the poisoning incident.
Although she sensed that he cared about her, Shanil’s heart was also becoming increasingly impatient.
At that moment, someone knocked on the door.
“What is it?”
“The maid has come. She says it’s urgent.”
“Tell her to come in.”
A few moments later, the door opened and Marie came in. As the maid had informed her, Marie’s face looked very urgent.
“Oh, my God, Lady Shanil.”
“What’s going on?”
“Do you know who the Princess met today?”
Shanil didn’t take great interest at first, but the words that followed made the atmosphere much colder than it had been earlier.
“She was with His Majesty. Just the two of them.”
“Just the two of them?”
Shanil looked at her with a look that demanded an explanation, and Marie began to describe in detail what she had seen.
“I followed the Princess when she went out. She was just resting in a secluded area so I decided to leave, but His Majesty showed up. They then sat side by side and had a long conversation.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yes, I saw it with my own eyes, and I am sure of it.”
At Marie’s certainty, Shanil was not trying to show it, but the hands on her knees were tense.
“What was the atmosphere like?”
“I watched from afar, but it didn’t seem too bad. In fact, it seemed rather friendly.”
‘And that means the atmosphere was good.’ (Shanil)
Marie looked and asked, watching Shanil’s complexion.
“What should I do?”
“You just do what you’re doing. Let me know right away if anything happens.”
After Marie had left the reception room, Shanil sat motionless for a moment, then took the teacup that had been placed in front of her and threw it with all her might toward the door.
The fine teacup shattered in pieces with a breaking sound.
“You dared to ignore my warning. How dare you!”
Shanil’s angry voice echoed in the room, and her eyes held an intense murderous intent, as if she was about to kill someone.