Chapter 2

 

***
01. The black haired Prince

***

 

 

I, Yvonne  Chernicia.

 

Albrecht’s youngest knight.

 

I was the youngest daughter of the Chernicia family, which had produced some of the finest knights in the empire for generations.

 

That was the qualifier that marked me when I was young.

 

Ernst, the second prince of the Albrecht empire, was my closest friend and the one who would be with me in the future as the adults of the family had promised each other.

 

At that time, I was too young to know what exactly was the “future” that the adults had promised.

 

However, in order to avoid the nagging of the adults, I often had to go to the Imperial Palace to meet Ernst at their behest.

 

That day, too, I visited the Imperial Palace to see Ernst.

 

[Listen carefully, Yvonne. When you go to the Imperial Palace, you have to be careful not to run into the first Prince Theodore].

 

Today, the brothers said it so many times that I had calluses in my ears.

 

Even if my brothers didn’t tell me about it, I knew the rumors about Prince Theodore.

 

[They say they have to clean up the corpses every day in the Prince’s palace.]

 

[Not a day goes by without the smell of blood and the sound of screams…………] 

 

[He enjoys targeting people and makes them suffer.]

 

[He bathes in the blood of beasts…….]

 

I rubbed my arms in horror at the chill. However, it was the scariest story related to the first Prince.

 

[Especially with that black hair, it’s extremely sinister…………]

 

Black hair. 

 

In the Albrecht Empire, black was considered very ominous.

 

This was because it was a color that symbolized the “ancient darkness” that unleashed demons into the world and threatened people in the distant past.

 

Of course, it was now a story in legends, but in the empire led by the three families that defeated the Ancient Darkness, the color black was still considered terrifying.

 

It was so bad that if a child with black hair or black eyes was born in a high-ranking noble family, he would be thrown out.

 

‘But I can’t believe a child with black hair was born in the royal family.’

 

[In fact, it is said that Prince Theodore was born in this world by borrowing a human body from the ancient darkness.]

 

I shook her head, recalling the story that Brian once told me.

 

[No! That’s a lie made up by Brian!]

 

Whenever my mean youngest brother, Brian, tormented me, he would tell me that he would marry me off to Prince Theodore and tell me horrible rumors about him.

 

Then I ran to Richard in tears and told him of every single one of Brian’s harassments.

 

[Oh, it seems that Brian has bullied Yvonne again]

 

Richard, the kindest and oldest brother, insisted that Brian’s words were a lie.

 

[It’s okay, Yvonne. It’s just a lie that Briand made up to tease you.]

 

[Really? Are you sure?]

 

I asked again, sobbing, and Richard answered in a gentle voice, nodding his head.

 

[Of course. There is no way you’ll marry such a devilish Prince.]

 

[….]

 

So Richard didn’t deny the horrible rumors about the First Prince, after saying that Brian’s cold-heartedness about marrying me off to the First Prince was false.

 

“He’s not someone I’d run into anyway……”

 

As I looked out the window at the beautiful scenery, I tried to clear my mind of any thoughts of the first Prince.

 

‘The First Prince’s palace is far away from the imperial Palace, so it should be fine, right?’

 

Unlike the 1st Prince, who had remote place of the Imperial Palace and lived alone, the 2nd Prince Ernst, whom Yvonne was going to see now, was still very young and lived in the Empress Palace. Ernst’s mother, Empress Margaret, and the former Empress’s son, First Prince Theodore, did not get along very well.

 

So if I went to the Empress’s palace, I would not encounter the first Prince. When I organized my thoughts like that, I felt a little at ease.

 

Before I knew it, the carriage had crossed the main gate of the Imperial Palace.

 

“Hey!

 

Ernst rushed towards me as I got out of the carriage.

 

“Hello, Ernst………!”

 

“I missed you!”

 

Before I could finish my sentence, Ernst hugged me and screamed.

 

I struggled against the strong embrace so I pushed him away and glared at him. 

 

“You’re choking me!”

 

But in spite of my piercing gaze, Ernst just smiled.

 

“Let’s play in my mother’s garden!”

 

“Please wait a moment. I have to greet the Empress……….”

 

“It’s okay! Mother is busy greeting guests right now! Hurry up and follow me!”

 

The servants of the Empress Palace chuckled as they saw me being forcibly led away by Ernst.

 

“Yvonne, let’s play house………….”

 

“Do you want to play hide and seek?”

 

I asked suddenly, cutting off Ernst’s whining words, saying, “Let’s play house.”

 

“Hide and seek?”

 

Ernst showed his interest in the new game.

 

“The rules are simple. You hide while the the seeker closes his eyes and counts to one hundred.”

 

Ernst smiled, his gorgeous white blond hair fluttering in the air.

 

“I’ll be the seeker then!”

 

In the hot weather, I was lazy to move, so I made a shallow move.

 

While Ernst closed his eyes and counted to 100, I sneaked out of the designated space.

 

I found a large tree that looked like it was easy to hide, so I climbed up to get cool.

 

I hid myself in the shade of the tree.

 

“If I stay here, no one will bother me for a while!”

 

I chuckled, marveling at my own resourcefulness.

 

It was so hot so I leaned against a branch and didn’t take a step outside of the shade.

 

After spending such a long time there, I fell asleep.

 

When I dozed off and woke up again….

 

“…?”

 

A dark shadow cast over me.

 

A boy was staring down at me.

 

“Who are you?”

 

He seemed to be about my age, but he was very tall and beautiful.

 

His hair under the shade of the tree looked like an ordinary dark chestnut color, but his eyes, nose and lips on his white face were extremely gorgeous. 

 

It was when I was blankly looking at him, as if possessed by his doll-like beautiful features.

 

“Hello.”

 

The boy greeted me in a gentle voice.

 

“Oh, hi…!”

 

I couldn’t help but stammer because the spilled voice as beautiful as his face.

 

Then the boy laughed, both eyes narrowed in amusement.

 

“Why are you laughing?”

 

I snapped, and the boy bent his  knees in front of me and our eyes met.

 

“Just because you’re cute.”

 

My face blushed at his calm words.

 

“You’re blushing.”

 

“No, It’s because it’s hot. It’s summer…”

 

I mumbled back in an unsure voice with my eyes widened.

 

Seeing me like that, the boy laughed even more beautifully.

 

“Is it too hot? Should I make it cooler for you?”

 

Without asking permission, the boy sat down next to me.

 

Then, unexpectedly, he fanned me with his elongated hands.

 

“How is it? Is it refreshing?”

 

To be honest, his fanning wasn’t cool at all.

 

But I felt strangely touched by his kindness, so I lied.

 

“Yes, it is.”

 

And the innocent boy believed me and was delighted.

 

“By the way, what were you doing here?”

 

“Playing hide-and-seek with my friend. How about you?”

 

At my question, the boy laughed, his beautiful golden eyes bent. 

 

“Treasure hunting.”

 

“Treasure hunting? Oh, I know what that is! I’ve done it before! But aren’t you hunting for the treasure instead of staying here?”

 

The boy smiled more beautifully instead of replying.

 

I had the feeling that maybe this boy was here to avoid the heat, just like me.

 

As I talked about this and that with him, the day slowly went by.

 

Upon discovering the red sky, I woke up in surprise.

 

“I have to go now!”

 

This is serious.

 

I didn’t plan to hide for so long, Ernst would probably be looking and worrying about me by now.

 

I was a little worried that Ernst might be crying.

 

“I have to go to the Empress palace. What about you?”

 

“The Prince palace.”

 

The boy replied, his eyelashes fluttering. While was looking at him, I suddenly thought I had misheard.

 

“What?”

 

“The Prince palace.”

 

“Are you talking about Prince Theodore’s palace?”

 

Just as I was about to fall down the tree in surprise, the boy grabbed me tightly.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

I felt somewhat embarrassed as I was suddenly hugged by his arms, so I avoided his gaze and answered with a mumble.

 

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just a little surprised………….”

 

Maybe it was the hot midsummer air, my heart was pounding in my chest.

 

How is the Prince palace? Aren’t you afraid of the Prince?”

 

“…?”

 

I asked, and the boy tilted his head and looked at me with an unknown expression.

 

I felt a little frustrated at his innocence.

 

“So …… the First Prince Theodore……….”

 

I asked, lowering my voice stealthily, though I knew no one was around.

 

“They say he cuts his servants’ heads if he’s not happy. And there are dead bodies every day.”

 

“What?”

 

“I heard the Prince uses corpses as toys….”

 

The boy’s eyes wide open and he immediately burst out laughing.

 

“It’s all false rumors. Do you honestly believe such things?”

 

“Outrageous! I don’t believe any of those lies either!”

 

I shouted with a bright red face.

 

The boy looked at me with an even deeper smile.

 

He was so pretty that my heart kept pounding.

 

***

*Third POV*

***

 

The boy stared at the back of Yvonne as she walked busily towards the Empress Palace. When Yvonne was no longer visible, the boy’s dark brown hair slowly turned black. 

 

“Chernicia…”

 

The boy recited a small chant as he followed the trail of the no longer visible Yvonne. He knew her name, even though Yvonne had never revealed it to him.

 

“How could a person look like that?”

 

There was a small desire in the voice that asked the question.

 

 

“Beautiful…”

 

He turned his head slowly. He looked at the place where Yvonne was sitting earlier.

 

Splash!

 

 A drop of red blood from the sky fell on his cheek. Theodore turned his head and looked up.

 

There were two grown men hanging upside down. They looked as ghastly as dead bodies.