The second prince lowered his gaze and gently touched the flower in front of him.
It was a gentle and careful movement, as if he didn’t want to hurt the petals.
It seemed true that admiring flowers and caring for them were his hobby, and it seemed very familiar and natural.
I heard that his mother died when the 2nd Prince was a baby.
I couldn’t say anything as I looked at him squatting alone in front of my eyes, imagining the little child longing for his deceased mother.
I wouldn’t be able to comfort his past with any words.
“I think I shouldn’t have said that. I know that it’s a hobby that doesn’t suit you. I can’t blame you for laughing at me.”
The second prince looked embarrassed, as if he had felt sorry for it belatedly.
“I will not laugh. It’s an elegant hobby.”
“I know you don’t really mean it, but it’s nice to hear it. But will you keep what I just said a secret? Everyone will laugh when it’s known to the troops.”
“I’ll do that if you want. But growing flowers is impossible if you’re impatient and not delicate. So I’ve never tried it, but it suits you.”
I reached out and touched the yellow flower.
All the flowers in the garden were full of life thanks to the good sunlight and good maintenance. I applauded the gardener’s hard work inwardly, and I looked back to the second prince. He was looking at me with complicated eyes.
“You said you had something to say to me. What is it?”
The second prince hesitated as if it was difficult to speak.
When he felt uneasy about the prolonged silence, he opened his mouth.
“Not long ago, there was a case where one prisoner died and the other committed suicide by hanging in the Imperial Palace Prison. The princess must already know that.”
It was clear that he was referring to Viscountess Willis.
It was surprising that even the 2nd prince knew about it, but what was his intention to bring it up now?
It was very suspicious.
“I thought it was suspicious, so I investigated it separately and found that the prisoner was not killed but was murdered, and that the Emperor also found the culprit.”
The second prince did not call the emperor or the Crown Prince as his father or brother.
I could tell how distant he was with his family. But it wasn’t my business to care. I quietly waited for his next words.
“The Crown Prince thought I was the one who reported the matter to His Majesty the Emperor.”
In an instant, I remembered the image of the Crown Prince, who violently hit the second prince with an angry face, and the second prince, who was patiently quiet.
My mouth dropped open and my eyes widened.
‘Then that was…He was misunderstood and being hit because of me?’
The second Prince looked at me with a calm face.
There was no sign of reproach or annoyance.
But it made me feel even more guilty.
Did the Crown Prince become Roxana’s enemy too if he knew?
Upsetting both of the powerful heirs to the throne was not a good thing.
Fortunately, looking at the attitude of the second prince today, he did not seem to blame me or hate me.
I sincerely apologize.
“I’m sorry. You have suffered damage because of me. I have nothing to say even with ten mouths.”
“Did I say the Princess did something wrong? It was because I had bad luck that day. I didn’t mean to make you apologize, so there’s no need to be so sorry.”
As I continued to feel sorry even when he said it was okay, the second prince added,
“It didn’t happen once or twice anyway, and the wound was healed quickly. I just wanted to say that the Empress Dowager and the Crown Prince are not good people, so be careful.”
The last time I saw her, I could tell plenty, but I was surprised to hear it directly from the 2nd prince.
‘Did he grow up being beaten by the Crown Prince like that since childhood?’
I lifted my head and looked up at the 2nd Prince.
Even with the same sea color, his pale blue eyes, which had a different feeling from the emperor’s or the Crown Prince’s, seemed exceptionally warm.
“You don’t have to worry about me. I have the ability to protect myself. If someone touches me, I’ll pay them back.”
“Is that so.”
The second prince smiled a little at my confident reply.
But he wasn’t satisfied.
“Anyway, be careful. Always bring an escort with you, and if there’s anything strange, talk to your father. It may feel cumbersome, but there’s nothing wrong with being careful.”
“I will carefully listen to the advice of the Second Prince.”
Not knowing what to say, I opened my eyes and asked, the second prince added with a smile.
“It’s my name.”
“Yes… Prince Payne.”
At first, I was perplexed because I couldn’t understand his intentions.
But I guess I chose was probably the right answer.
The 2nd Prince, no, Payne, raised the corner of his mouth with a happy face.
I called his name in the moment of catching off guard, but I immediately regretted it.
How dare I call the prince’s name without knowing my position.
If anyone listened, it could be a problem.
“The Princess said she was sorry. Then could you please do me a favor?” Payne asked.
He said it was fine a while ago, but he changed his mind in a few minutes.
To be honest, I felt sad.
I felt sorry that Payne, who had nothing to do with it, was involved, but wasn’t it the Crown Prince’s fault?
But why was he using people’s guilt in this way?
I didn’t see it that way, but it seemed that he also had the blood of the imperial family.
“Let’s hear it once.”
As I made a worried face, Payne reassured me with a look of not to worry.
“It will not be difficult, so there is no need to be so scared already. If you’re not busy, could you stop by my palace soon?”
I looked up in surprise and he added calmly.
“Appreciating flowers is fun, but usually boring. When I watch it on my own, sometimes I feel lonely.”
It was a kind of excuse.
I thought seriously.
It wasn’t difficult, but it was a request that I was hesitant to answer.
I was the Crown Prince’s fiancée, and Payne was his half-brother.
The two brothers didn’t have a good relationship. Like water and oil.
I had no reputation to be damaged any more, but perhaps it would be a good opportunity to clarify my relationship with the Crown Prince.
“You can watch it with someone else. Why me?”
I asked with suspicion.
As if he didn’t expect to ask such a question, Payne didn’t answer right away.
“Does the second Prince also want to be friends with me?”
At my question, the second prince widened his eyes.
And then he smiled softly.
“That’s what I intended to do. But, has anyone, besides me, ever asked the princess like this before?”
Elvin’s face flashed through my mind.
I shook my head when I realized that I had said too much.
Naturally, the second prince did not seem to believe me.
“Anyway, I will tell you frankly what you will find out after today. Perhaps you already know, but I am going to break up with the Crown Prince.”
I finished my speech and looked at Payne’s reaction.
He showed no sign of surprise.
I guessed, but his reaction made it clear that he already knew.
“In such a situation, if the two of us meet, people will think it’s strange and cause a stir. Aren’t you afraid that you will be accused of playing with your brother’s fiancée?”
Payne’s power was on par with the Crown Prince’s, even including Duke Lillian.
Was he trying to recruit me to completely separate the duke and the crown prince?
But considering Payne’s near-perfect reputation and image, there was more to lose than gain.
“What does it have to do with people talking? If I were afraid of that, I wouldn’t have invited the Princess in the first place. I don’t care. Of course, it is something that the princess must allow.”
If I wanted to abandon the Crown Prince, the only option left was Payne.
In such a situation, he reached out his hand first, so I could not refuse.
“I’ll be grateful for the invitation.”
“Good. We need to schedule an exact date, so I will send you a letter through the servant soon.”
As I nodded, a satisfied smile spread across Payne’s lips.
He glanced at the clock on the wall and said.
“Now we need to go back. The auction will start soon. Marquis Flynn boasted that there were many exquisite objects at this auction. It’s a pity, but if we delay any longer, we’ll miss out on a good spectacle.”
On my way back to the banquet hall with Payne, we ran into Elvin walking down the hallway.
I made eye contact with him.
Would he pretend like he didn’t know me this time too?
While I was contemplating whether to say hello or not, Elvin approached us first and spoke.
“I see you, Second Prince.”
He said hello to Payne, but his gaze was fixed on me.
Elvin, who acted as if he had nothing to do with the Crown Prince, spoke to the second Prince in a different way. He seemed more friendly.
“Elvin, I didn’t expect to see you in a place like this, but it’s nice to see you here.”
Payne was speaking with a friendly face without a single hint of displeasure.
“I don’t know what the wind was blowing, but I heard you often attend banquets these days. His Majesty must be pleased too.”
“Is that so?”
“Are you courting a lady or something?” (*because Elvin showed up at banquets often now so Payne thought perhaps he was courting someone.)
At Payne’s question, Elvin frowned as if displeased.
There was a hint of annoyance between his brows.
“Do I have to answer?”
“That’s up to you. But if there’s nothing else, will you please step aside?”
“I’m sorry, but that would be difficult.”
Elvin looked at me again.
“Princess, I have something to tell you. It won’t take long.”
There was little time left for the auction to begin.
But it wouldn’t take long….
I thought for a moment and then nodded.
“I’m sorry, Second Prince, but would you please go back first?”
“Sure. I will go first.”
Payne looked hesitant. But he obediently walked away.
After he left, it was just the two of us in the hallway.
Occasionally people passed by, but they didn’t come towards us.
“Have you made a new friend already? It seems that I’m not enough for the Princess.”
Elvin said in a voice that seemed disappointing.
However, contrary to his words, his face, which had become soft, seemed full of playfulness. His eyes danced with teasing merriment.
“When did the Princess become so close to the Second Prince? I’m jealous.”
“That’s a funny joke. But whoever hears those words now may misunderstand it.”
“I was serious, did that sound like a joke to the Princess?”
When I looked at him, Elvin slyly avoided his gaze.
I had no way of knowing whether his words were sincere or not.
The atmosphere became a little awkward.
I asked with a sullen face.
“What you wanted to tell me….”
A look of embarrassment crossed Elvin’s face.
What was he trying to say? I became nervous at the hesitation that was not like him.
Elvin looked down at me with a subdued gaze.
After a moment of hesitation, he opened his mouth.
“I just wanted to say goodbye to the Princess before I leave.”