Chapter 19. Why didn’t you hold my hand?

 

 

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Until now, only two people had ever entered the annex.

 

It was quite uncomfortable to have both of them suddenly come in like this and invade my space.

 

I freed my hand from Jansi and looked back at Carlot.

 

“What’s going on?” I inquired.

 

“Mother called you.”

 

She seemed to be looking for me with the antidote. Probably because it was much later than expected.

 

By the way, there was something else I didn’t understand.

 

I stared up at Carlot.

 

“But why did you deliver the message yourself, Carl?”

 

“…. since I ran into my mother.”

 

“You don’t have to bother coming all the way here. Next time, just pass it on through a servant.”

 

Carlot wouldn’t really want to see my face, so it would be good for both of us.

 

“You’d better go now, too, my dear brother.”

 

After euphemistically telling Jansi to go, I left the two of them alone and headed straight to the Duchess’s greenhouse.

 

“I heard you called, Duchess.”

 

“Yes, come here, Elodie.”

 

Perhaps she knew I was coming, but my share of the tea was already prepared on the table.

 

‘What the hell is wrong with those two?’

 

As I got thirsty for no reason and drank tea without hesitation, the woman across from me narrowed her eyes.

 

Oops.

 

When others drink tea with the Duchess, they are always careful and never drink the tea first.

 

It’s too late to pretend to be on guard now.

 

“Did you call me about the antidote?”

 

“It’s not that urgent, so you can do it slowly.”

 

If it wasn’t for the antidote, the duchess would have no reason to call me….

 

Then suddenly, I remembered the discomfort I felt a little while ago.

 

“Madam, you entrusted me to bring 11 types of antidotes, right?”

 

“Weren’t there 12 types?

 

I tilted my head and furrowed my brows.

 

 In response, the Duchess asked, “What’s wrong?”

 

“One poison is gone.”

 

“The maid must have accidentally removed it while cleaning.

 

“….is that right?”

 

But I didn’t like it so much when a servant came into my bedroom, so Martha, almost a full-time maid, was in charge. The Martha I knew wasn’t the type to make that kind of mistake.

 

“Who in the world would steal poison from this Perdia?”

 

The Duchess had a point. If you set your mind to it, you could just pick off the poisonous plants planted here and there as if they were plants, so at least poison wasn’t rare in Perdia.

 

“If someone stole it because it looked precious without knowing what it was, they would pay the price themselves. Whether they eat it and die or sell it on the black market only to have it returned after being discovered as stolen goods. Either way it doesn’t matter.”

 

The Duchess made terrifying assumptions in a calm tone.

 

“Haha…….” I just laughed awkwardly.

 

“Tell me through the maid what the missing poison is. I will send it back to you.”

 

“Yes, Madam.”

 

“Sooner or later the sales proceeds will come in. Could you send it through the child named Martha?”

 

“Yes, I’ll send you the antidote as soon as I make it.”

 

As I was talking about work with the Duchess, the teacup was empty before I knew it. It was just when I took off my lips to say that I will go back.

 

The Duchess spoke faster.

 

“Carl and Jansi are bothering you these days, Elodie.”

 

Her piercing eyes made me nervous. I understood what the Duchess meant without difficulty.

 

‘It’s a warning to stay away from them.’

 

The Duchess wouldn’t want me to get close to her sons, me being an unwelcome foreign object in the family.

 

‘The Duchess’s concern, I’ll take it to heart.’

 

I responded with a smile, to reassure her. “Don’t worry, Duchess. I will never bother those two.”

 

“……What?”

 

“I’ll avoid them well. I only see Carlot when I go out, so it should be fine!”

 

“ ……well.”

 

“Then I will go!”

 

I hurried out of the greenhouse just in case I was caught.

 

***

 

“Your Highness, it’s poison.”

 

Adenmir’s expression darkened at the words of the imperial pharmacist.

 

“Poison.”

 

He groaned lowly. 

 

It’s poison.

 

Poison was no stranger to Adenmir either.

 

He had a precarious position where he could be poisoned at any time.

 

Because he was always exposed to danger, he trained for poison tolerance from a very young age.

 

It was a training to gradually develop resistance by ingesting a very small amount of poison.

 

Therefore, Adenmir knew the pain of ingesting poison better than anyone else.

 

But the question was, why was only this vial left on Elodie’s desk with the lid open?

 

There must be something, said his gut.

 

“What type of poison? What are the symptoms after drinking it?”

 

“It appears to be a poison made by Duchess Themis Perdia. It has a toxicity that destroys the respiratory system with just one drop. Drinking all of this would lead to death within seconds.”

 

Indeed, it was an extremely toxic effect created by Themis Perdia, the empire’s greatest poisoner.

 

“It’s fine to just leave it.”

 

After dismissing the pharmacist, Adenmir put the poison bottle on his desk and was lost in thought.

 

Why did she leave the lid open for this poison, which paralyzes the respiratory system with just one drop?

 

It didn’t occur to him that Elodie could know about that.

 

‘Was the Duchess trying to get rid of her?’

 

But the method was too sloppy for that.

 

If the Duchess was trying to eliminate her, there would be no evidence left.

 

The Duchess of Perdia he knew would not use such a poor trick.

 

“Then why-”

 

It was just when he was murmuring.

 

Suddenly, a scene passed through Adenmir’s mind.

 

Elodie’s wrist, which was bandaged, and the sharp cut beneath it.

 

‘………No way.’

 

No. It couldn’t have been.

 

There was no way that a woman he knew as selfish before anything else would intentionally drink poison. 

 

However, the thought that had already flowed to one side only flowed in that direction, as if riding a rapid current.

 

Even at that moment Adenmir didn’t realize it.

 

He had thoughts about his fiancée, who from one particular day on didn’t even care about his existence.

 

***

 

Rattle.

 

Carlot and I were sitting alone in an irregularly shaky carriage.

 

Carlot, who followed me as an escort on my outing, seemed quite dissatisfied.

 

He shook his legs nervously, looked out of the window, opened the curtains, and looked back at me. And then he repeated it all as if he was out of his mind.

 

“Because of you, my training time is taken away every time.”

 

“Then next time, I’ll just ask brother Jansi. As long as it’s one of you two, Father will let it go-”

 

“Oh, no, don’t bother him!”

 

Carlot jumped up and cut me off immediately.

 

Who knew you loved Jansi so much? People might think you are very close.

 

As she shrugged and leaned her back against the wall of the carriage, Carlot asked her, “Where are you going today?”

 

“You know what to do.”

 

“I need to know about the movement line of the escort target. You don’t know when you could try and jump out of line.”

 

“I don’t jump out.”

 

‘I have to jump out.’

 

The place I was heading to was the South Magic Tower, Namma Tower, on the outskirts of the capital.

 

Because it was on the outskirts, it was not in the city center and you had to pass through a mountain to reach it, so the distance was quite far.

 

I remembered hearing that it was at such a position because the nature of Namma Tower mages generally prefers to be isolated.

 

It was a magic tower like the West Magic Tower that I went to before, but it was safe to say that it was a different institution because each cardinal direction’s magic tower had its own unique character.

 

This time, I planned to invest the money I received from the Duchess into the South Magic Tower. 

 

The best investment is a diversified investment.

 

When I didn’t tell Carlot the destination until the end, he began to persistently question me perhaps because he was motivated.

 

“Where is it? Where are we going?”

 

“You’ll know when we get there.”

 

“Are you going to a strange place? Where are you going!”

 

“If you’re an escort, just follow me quietly.”

 

“Should I stop the carriage and ask the coachman?”

 

Perhaps he was genuinely curious, but Carlot looked at me threateningly. 

 

Ugh. Such a childish guy.

 

I just told the destination out of annoyance.

 

“South Magic Tower.”

 

“Why are you going to the south magic tower?” Carlot pried further. 

 

“I’m just going to look at magic tools.”

 

I closed my eyes to signal that I didn’t want to have a casual talk.

 

However, Carlot, who I thought would naturally say a word or two, was quiet.

 

When I opened my eyes, Carlot’s face was stiff unlike before.

 

“Wait a minute.”

 

“Why?”

 

Carlot: “…..don’t come out. Stay still inside.”

 

“What?”

 

Before he could answer, Carlot opened the door without hesitation and jumped out of the running carriage.

 

And soon– 

 

Kwaaang!

 

A tremendous roar shook the earth, and the carriage also shook violently with the recoil.

 

The startled horses galloped and leaped up. 

 

I, in the carriage, couldn’t avoid the aftermath.

 

“Ugh…..!”

 

Thud! I hit my shoulder hard against the relentlessly fluctuating wagon wall.

 

I frowned at the dull pain and grabbed my shoulder.

 

Even in the midst of that, I heard a roar and the sound of metal clashing heatedly from outside the carriage.

 

‘Is it an attack?’

 

It was Perdia who had many enemies. I’ve never been attacked since I’ve never been out of the annex most of the time, but the duke and his two sons have occasionally encountered assassins.

 

It was a sudden attack, but I thought Carlot could get rid of them quickly because he has a strong power and force to support it.

 

I waited in the midst of such a tumultuous noise to end.

 

It was not long before it became silent.

 

‘Is it over?’

 

But Carlot did not return to the carriage.

 

I had an ominous feeling at once.

 

“…. Carl?”

 

I pulled back the carriage curtains and saw an unbelievable sight.

 

Carlot, with his sword plunged into the ground, was barely holding on, covered in blood.

 

There were many masked assassins lying around, but they weren’t completely defeated.

 

Two assassins who were still intact surrounded Carlot with a vicious force.

 

“Nonsense.”

 

It was none other than Carlot, a direct descendant of Perdia.

 

He wasn’t the kind to be beaten by stupid assassins.

 

My body moved first before denying the situation. After kicking the carriage door open, I threw the Duchess’s poison at the two remaining assassins.

 

“Aah!”

 

“What!”

 

Among the poisons, there were those that were less poisonous, but could cause poisoning effects only with their scent.

 

The poison I threw was one of those.

 

Although the poisoning effect is not as strong as drinking directly, it was enough to buy time right away.

 

When I helped the staggering Carlot, he grunted and opened his mouth.

 

“Those bastards, magic tools that nullify power-”

 

“Noisy, move!” I shushed him and kept dragging him toward the carriage.

 

As the poisoning effect was not strong, I didn’t know when they would attack.

 

I made my way to the driver’s seat, struggling to support Carlot. The carriage rocked and bumped my injured shoulders, which burned with pain, but it was not the time to pay attention to such things.

 

The coachman was already dead. There was no point in riding the carriage.

 

“You, alone, run away….”

 

“Who is trying to ruin my dream!”

 

After feeding a few finger flicks to Carlot’s forehead as punishment for talking nonsense, I hurriedly separated the carriage from the horse.

 

“Hop on!”

 

Climbing behind Carlot, who barely got on, I rode straight away.

 

“Chase them!”

 

It wasn’t long before two assassins also started chasing us.

 

‘What should we do?’

 

My powers were not from an offensive type, so I couldn’t get rid of the assassins. Carlot was incapacitated. 

 

If so, there was only one answer.

 

‘Let’s get out of here.’

 

However, my horseback riding skills, which I only learned through education, were not excellent.

 

Even now, the distance from the assassins was getting smaller every minute.

 

I purposely ran in the direction of many trees, making it difficult to secure a sight.

 

It was then.

 

Carlot turned around and threw a dagger.

 

With the sound of a shot– 

 

“Cough-!”

 

One assassin fell backwards. It seemed fatal.

 

“Forward, one, bastard….”

 

Carlot chewed on his lip and said as he gripped his sword. But we soon encountered an unexpected difficulty.

 

The horse jumped up, surprised.

 

Because what appeared as soon as we passed through the forest was a distant cliff.

 

There was no escape now.

 

Turning my head, I faced the assassin chasing me.

 

‘There’s still one poison left, so it’ll work out somehow.’

 

I took out the vial from my bosom, but Carlot was faster.

 

Carlot jumped off the horse and attacked the assassin without hesitation.

 

With a bloody appearance, Carlot clashed with the assassin again.

 

There was a magical tool that nullified his power, so Carlot was really out of his breath.

 

“Damn it!”

 

Carlot shouted, and the tip of his sword accurately stabbed the assassin’s vital point.

 

Just when I thought we finally got rid of them, an unexpected attack flew at me.

 

“Avoid it!”

 

As Carlot said that, I twisted my body, but it was in the wrong decision.

 

The horse had a fit and threw me off.

 

My slanted body fell backwards before I had time to balance.

 

“Hey!” Carlot shouted.

 

The image of Carlot hastily extending his hand caught my eye as if it were playing very slowly.

 

It was the moment I reached out to grab it.

 

But why?

 

“Don’t touch me. Because it’s dirty.”

 

Fragments of memories rushed in like lightning strikes. These were the words Carlot once said while shaking off my hand.

 

‘You said it was dirty to touch me.’

 

………I might be thrown away.

 

The thought inadvertently pulled my hand away. It was only a moment’s hesitation, but the result was clear.

 

‘Ah.’

 

I fell straight down the cliff.

 

***

 

“…….Hey!”

 

Carlot staggered forward another step and peered off the edge. 

 

A pile of stones tumbled down the cliffside. 

 

The cliff was so steep that the bottom of it was swallowed in darkness; nothing could be seen.

 

“Elodie Perdia!”

 

He shouted out the name loud enough to have blood in his neck, but it was after his target had already fallen down the cliff.

 

The color drained from Carlot’s face.

 

The shock didn’t go away.

 

Why?

 

‘Why didn’t you hold my hand?’

 

“…..Why?”

 

‘You’d rather die than get my help?’ 

 

‘Do you hate me, to that extent…….?’

 

It was still in front of him.

 

The image of her falling with a face of resignation, without reaching out to grab his outstretched hand.

 

PHOTO

 

***

 

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