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“I must have underestimated you. I didn’t know before that you were so clever.”
Claire stared at me, her gaze unfocused. She called me by a different name than before, perhaps because she thought there was nothing more to hesitate about. But there was something else that bothered me more than her rude words. Earlier, Claire’s face had looked like that of someone who was agitated.
Now, however, she looked very calm. But she couldn’t hide the hatred glowing with an eerie light in her gaze. What Claire had just said was so out of courtesy that I could punish her if I want to take issue with this.
But now that we were alone, who would believe me if I called it into question?
So instead of pointing out Claire’s arrogance, I smiled lightly.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“…..Then, I’ll be on my way. I don’t know how I got over the crisis by accident this time, but I don’t know if such good fortune will befall the Princess next time.”
“I don’t know what kind of play you’ll prepare next time, but since you’re so confident, I’m looking forward to it.”
After the short conversation, we each took a step in opposite directions.
I quickly left the building and went to the garden. I walked a little further through a chest-high wall of grass and saw a large tree. I may have been mistaken, but I seemed to have made eye contact with someone who was standing here earlier.
“Who are you looking for so desperately?”
I turned my head to the sound and saw Elvin standing there. Today, he was wearing a white shirt and a dark blue coat with low saturation. The collar and edges of the coat were elaborately embroidered with gold thread.
The vest he wore inside was also embroidered with gold thread, making him look very gorgeous. It was the first time I had seen his face in such bright light, and I felt a little nervous. The red light from the sun dyed his profile a red color.
He had white skin, straight eyebrows, a high nose, a sharp chin, slightly long and sharp eyes, and red lips.
It was true that Elvin’s appearance was something to marvel at.
And the atmosphere overwhelmed people. Even though it wasn’t the first time I saw him, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
However, his behavior was like that of a stray cat. He was unpredictable. He came to visit me when I hadn’t invited him.
Come to think of it, he and a cat looked a little alike. Of course, with his tall, elevated shoulders, he looked more like a lion or leopard than a small, cute cat. Elvin slowly walked towards me with a smiling face.
“I don’t think the person you’re looking for is the Crown Prince. Could it be that you were looking for me?” (Elvin)
“I just came to check because I think I saw someone suspicious.” (Rox)
“A Princess without a guard? You’re brave. I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”(Elvin)
It was not an action that I had thought about deeply.
I immediately denied Elvin’s words inwardly.
However, I felt a little embarrassed, as if my true intentions had been exposed and I was trying to hide them.
“Why were the Lord in the same place? Were you waiting for me?”
I tried not to play with the tone that seemed to tease me, so I asked back.
But Elvin nodded casually.
I immediately regretted saying those words. I felt even more embarrassed when he admitted it honestly.
I was a little flustered.
But Elvin continued on, unconcerned about my reaction.
“I didn’t know we’d reunite this soon. By the way… Are you here to meet His Highness?” (Elvin)
“I have a few things to take care of.” (Rox)
Elvin stared at me, his eyes narrowed.
When my eyes met his, I naturally flinched, as if I were a mouse in front of a cat.
“I heard that there was a small accident at the Count Evans’ residence yesterday. Is what you have to deal with related to yesterday?” (Elvin)
“It wasn’t something that the Lord would be interested in. It was just a small accident.” (Rox)
“Is that so?” (Elvin)
It was a searching question, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he already knew. Since he was the head of the Hermes of information trading, there was no reason to be surprised that he knew what happened yesterday.
“May I ask what you and Lady Dana talked about?”
“Has the Lord been waiting to interrogate me?”
When I pointed out that Elvin had crossed the line, he fell silent.
“Of course not. If my question was rude, I apologize.”
Unlike his polite demeanor, Elvin’s gaze was still mischievous.
“Is this the fourth time the Lord and I have met like this?”
Today, Elvin’s attitude toward me was that of a friend. However, this was only the fourth time he had appeared in front of me as the Grand Duke of Croix, including the first day I fell into this world.
The number of times I had encountered Elvin was not very many. He and I had exchanged a few words of greeting, but it was nothing special. When I pointed it out, his smile faded a bit.
But he immediately smiled brighter than before and shook my hand.
“I’m sorry I haven’t introduced myself properly. I’m Elvin Croix.”
Elvin kissed the back of my hand briefly.
Something warm and soft fell over the thin gloves after a few moments of touching. We were not even at the banquet hall, what was he doing now?
But when I took my hand back, he looked unconcerned. Looking at his calm face, even my remaining anger disappeared.
“It’s the fifth time, to be exact. But I’m honored. I didn’t know that the Princess had counted every single time she had run into me.”
I wrinkled my brow and glared at Elvin.
“That sounds like something someone would misunderstand if they heard it. It seems that the Lord is not even afraid of being accused of having an illicit relationship with the Crown Prince’s fiancée.”
I pointed out Elvin’s boldness that he didn’t even care about the Imperial family. Nevertheless, he still looked down at me with a calm face.
“Of course I’m afraid. But if it’s worth it, I have to take a certain amount of risk.
I thought the Crown Prince was the best when it came to unpredictable behavior, but now I thought differently. When I first saw him, I thought he was good and weak-minded. With Elvin, I thought he was a man of deep compassion and unfathomable depths. But now he seemed like a very light person in terms of rationality, perhaps because he was a cousin to the Crown Prince. Or was it because he has helped me, or because of his outstanding appearance?
Unlike when I met the Crown Prince, I did not feel unpleasant. But he was still suspicious.
When I met him at Hermes, he hid his face with a mask to conceal his identity, but now he came to the Imperial Palace and proudly revealed that he knew me…. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to hide his true identity or if he was just trying to be found.
“Since when have you two been so close?”
It was then. I didn’t know how long he had been here, but the Crown Prince was not too far away, looking at us with a twisted face. His cold, stiff face was filled with discomfort. He was unhappy with the current situation.
“Time’s up, so I’ll be on my way. I hope we can talk longer next time.”
When the Crown Prince approached, Elvin looked at me and said his goodbyes. Then he walked past the Crown Prince. Elvin’s attitude toward the Crown Prince of the country was very rude and arrogant.
For an attitude towards the crown prince of the country he belonged to, Erwin’s attitude was overly rude and arrogant. The Crown Prince’s face twisted as his pride was hurt.
The Crown Prince clenched his teeth so hard that I could hear it. I watched him with amusement. If I had to say, I was closer to the Crown Prince than Elvin. However, I remembered that earlier the Crown Prince had pointed an arrow at me in response to Claire’s complaint. Every time he stood in front of Claire, he trampled on his fiancée’s pride and honor. There was no reason why I couldn’t act like him too.
Sure, it was a little different this time, not because I embarked on it, but because a third party has that perspective. It was rather a good thing that I could see the Crown Prince being indignant even if I didn’t come out directly.
‘Elvin Croix.’ I smiled as I thought of his face.
It was not yet known whose side Elvin would be on. But after what he had just done, I developed a bit of a liking for him. Apart from the Emperor, who else besides Elvin could really be capable of insulting the Crown Prince that much? The Crown Prince was angry, but he calmed his anger faster than before.
He still seemed to be in a bad mood, but with a smiling face he held out his arm to me. His smiled looked certainly unnatural. But I didn’t care and silently placed my hand on his arm. The Crown Prince took me to a garden at the back of the East Palace.
There were several gardens in the Imperial Palace, but this one was a little special, unlike the others. There was a collection of rare varieties of flowers that could not be seen outside. These were all rare and even a single flower was of great value.
Therefore, not only were people not allowed in and out of this place, but if the gardener damaged the flowers, he would surely be severely punished. I have always loved to look at flowers. Under the care of the gardener, the flowers, strictly controlled, formed a harmony. It was the first time in my life that I saw such a beautiful scene.
“You look very happy.”
I was admiring a kind of rare purple flower for the first time when I noticed the Crown Prince’s voice.
‘Did I give off too much good feeling without knowing it?’
I took a step back to manage my expression. But it seemed too late.
“I don’t think it’s because you like the garden. Is it because of Elvin?”
The Crown Prince asked. There was a hint of doubt in his voice.
“I don’t quite understand what Your Highness is talking about.”
When I denied it, the Crown Prince looked even more suspicious.
“What exactly is your relationship with Elvin?”
“I think I’ve heard that question before. The answer I will give you is the same as that time. I am not related to him in any way.”
The Crown Prince wrinkled his brow at my answer. My answer seemed to frustrate him.
“Then why did Elvin say….”
The Crown Prince fell silent, not concluding his words. For some reason, his expression was worse than before.
I didn’t want to argue with him unnecessarily when he was already in a bad mood. He kept his mouth shut and said very little, as if he was unhappy about something.
I also didn’t talk to him first or try to warm up the atmosphere. So naturally, the atmosphere afterwards was cold. We walked silently for a long time. The garden was still beautiful, but it was no longer visible in my eyes.
“My servant can take you home.”
The Crown Prince said to me after our walk was over. After a while, his expression became a little calmer. I couldn’t tell if his anger had subsided or if he was suppressing it.
“No, it’s okay.”
I declined his favor at once and climbed into the carriage.
“It was fun to see the garden. Then, Your Highness, see you next time.”
After my greeting, the carriage started moving. Then I glanced at the Crown Prince through the window. But he was looking down, so I couldn’t see his expression clearly. The carriage drove fast. I looked out the window and saw that the setting sun had turned the golden fields red.
The sky was a mysterious mixture of red and blue, and there was already a crescent moon in the sky. It was early evening. When I returned to the mansion, there was white smoke rising from the chimney as if food was being prepared in the kitchen.
As soon as I returned, I went to see Stephen. I told him about the events of yesterday and today. Then, I had Stephen to bring in the maid at the Count Evans’ residence.