Chapter 4

***

 

“Just bear with me for a moment. I’ll lend you my strength.”

 

“Thank you very much…”

 

My heart was touched by the sight of the boy smiling at me with great joy despite the pain.

 

I helped him and went all the way to the 1st Prince’s Palace.

 

When I actually arrived there, it wasn’t as creepy or demon castle-like as the rumors said.

 

In fact, it was so ordinary that I wondered if this was really the rumored palace.

 

The servants passing by glanced at us, but quickly turned around in a huff and pretended not to see us.

 

‘How can the pretend not to know when the boy is so ill?’

 

 I was so annoyed when they pretended to ignore me when our eyes met.

 

I could see people moving their eyes with a puzzled look on their faces, as if they were feeling guilty for even doing that.

 

However, no one approached us and helped us.

 

“Where is your room?”

 

“Over there………”

 

“Ahhh!”

 

At that moment, a man walking from the other side made a strange noise when he spotted us and opened his eyes wide.

 

The man squeezed both eyes shut and quickly turned his head away.

 

I was angry at the ignorant servants of the first Prince’s palace.

 

However, I just glared at them because I didn’t want to make a scene and draw attention of the first Prince.

 

It was the moment I was about to walk faster to the voice of the boy who grabbed my clothes tightly and whispered, “Let’s go.”

 

“Hey, Yvonne…!”

 

Ernst’s voice called out to me. I turned around and saw Ernst, who had said he was going to study, running towards me breathlessly.

 

“Ernst?”

 

However, Ernst’s expression was strange. He looked pale, as if he had seen something scary.

 

“Please give Yvonne back!”

 

“….?”

 

The prince Ernst spoke formally.

 

It was the first time I’d seen Ernst spoke formally to anyone other than Empress Margaret.

 

My eyes fluttered, and I immediately noticed that Ernst’s gaze was not on me, but on the boy leaning against me.

 

“I, I, I, I’m asking you. Yvonne……”

 

Ernst’s voice trembled. He bowed his head and spoke as if pleading.

 

“Hic, please, brother Theodore.”

 

Hmm? Wait a minute, who?

 

I turned my head and looked at the boy leaning against me.

 

The first prince Theodore? This boy?

 

The boy just stared at Ernst silently.

 

‘But Prince Theodore has black hair……….’

 

I couldn’t believe what Ernst had said.

 

“Are you the first Prince…..”

 

When I asked awkwardly, he looked at me.

 

“It hurts.”

 

He gave me an answer that had nothing to do with the question I asked and leaned his head on my shoulder.

 

“What? Hey!”

 

Ernst saw this and spoke in a tearful voice.

 

“Please save Yvonne.”

 

Ernst could not get closer and cried out loud in fear.

 

“Please answer the question I asked you first. Are you really  the first Prince?”

 

“….”

 

The end of my voice trembled a little as I asked again. I tried my best to pretend to be stern, but I was a little scared. Then the boy  raised his head and stared at me. He seemed to have a lot to say, but his lips were tightly closed.

 

After a few moments of silence, his lips parted.

 

“Does it matter?”

 

“…”

 

I gulped and nodded.

 

Then the boy let out a short sigh as he slowly closed and opened his eyes. 

 

Whoosh.

 

The boy’s hair, which had been a dark brown color, slowly turning black.

 

“…!”

 

 It was really black hair.

 

I backed away, covering my mouth with my hands in surprise.

 

“Yvonne!”

 

At that moment, Ernst grabbed my wrist and started running. I ran with him.

 

Because of this, I couldn’t see the expression on the boy’s face, who I left behind.

 

****

 

“I thought I told you not to make it obvious in front of that child.” (Theo)

 

At the sound of the cold voice, the servants of the first Prince’s palace fell flat on the floor, trembling.

 

“I’m sorry. Your Highness.”

 

“I’m sorry. Your Highness!

 

“I have committed a crime of death…….”

 

“Please spare me………..”

 

Earlier, the servants who had unexpectedly found Theodore and made a noticeably strange noise.

 

Theodore stared at them briefly, then quickly turned away. 

 

From behind him, the servants cried out, pleading. But right now, Theodore’s head was so full of other thoughts that he didn’t have time to pay attention to them.

 

His half-brother Ernst, whom he may or may not meet up with a couple of times a year, ruined everything. He kept thinking of the expression on the girl’s face when she was running and looking back at him.

 

‘That’s why I tried to hide it…’

 

He didn’t plan on hiding his true identity for a long time anyway. But He wasn’t going to tell her until she opened up a little more.

 

‘It’s frustrating.’

 

Theodore was annoyed.

 

***

 

Then a few more days passed.

 

“Hey, he really didn’t do anything, did he? “

 

Ernst asked again.

 

“Did Theodore coax you?”

 

 “It was really nothing, Ernst, I just helped him because he was sick.”

 

Nothing really happened. I was just a little surprised to actually see the black hair that I had heard rumors about.

 

I had learned from a very young age that the color black was bad luck. It made me feel sorry for running away without a proper greeting.

 

However, since then, I hadn’t met him, and a subtle sense of guilt remained like a thorn in my throat. 

 

“I’m glad I was able to bring you back before anything too terrible happens to you.”

 

I felt a little weird about Ernst’s overreaction. Ernst wasn’t the only one. When I returned to the Empress’s palace with Ernst that day, the maidservants, who had run away, grabbed me to see if I was injured in any way. 

 

The people seemed to think of the First Prince as if he were an ogre who preyed on me. For a while, I was confused about the difference between their reaction and what I had seen of the First Prince. 

 

But more and more I forgot about my feelings for the first Prince. It was because I had a new problem. 

 

“Yvonne! Yvonne! Where are you?”

 

I heard Ernst’s voice searching for me. I had just been hiding in a tree, avoiding the troublesome Ernst. 

 

Ernst was a good friend, of course, but it was too much for me to play with him all day long, from morning till night. And so, in those days, I came to know more clearly what the “future” was, as Grandmother had said. 

 

It all started when I happened to overhear a secret conversation among the maids of the Empress Palace. After I had pursued the maids of the truth, I immediately went to visit Ernst and asked him.

 

“You knew it, too. Ernst? You and I are going to get married!”

 

“Um…right…”

 

But Ernst’s face turned bright red and averted his gaze.

 

“It’s really terrible!”

 

Then he asked back, startled by the words I shouted.

 

“Why is that terrible……….?”

 

“Isn’t it obvious? Marriage is supposed to be with someone you love.”

 

“…..”

 

Ernst, who I thought would be as outraged as I was at this ridiculous situation, didn’t say anything, he just moved his fingers.

 

“You, no way…..”

 

My eyes narrowed in a scowl, and Ernst’s face flushed even redder and he shook his head.

 

“Oh, no, Yvonne!”

 

Ernst shouted in a tearful voice at my gaze.

 

“Yvonne, it’s not that I like you, it’s that I’m….”

 

Ernst cried he didn’t like me.

 

Though, unfortunately, he was not a very good liar.

 

Ernst liked me.

 

I felt strangely awkward about that fact.

 

Especially afterwards, when I caught glimpses of his reddened cheeks…and his earlobes.

 

“Isn’t it a little weird that Ernst and I are getting married?”

 

It was with this thought in mind that I sat down on a tree branch, swinging my legs.

 

Crunch.

 

I heard the sound of leaves being stepped on.

 

I looked down and saw Theodore, staring at me.

 

“Your Highness, Prince…..!”

 

“Shhhhh!”

 

The boy’s palm gently covered my mouth as I tried to shout out in surprise.

 

“Ernst will find you.”

 

“….!”

 

I looked down, gulping down a sigh.

 

Fortunately, Ernst couldn’t hear me and was running in the other direction.

 

A little later, when I couldn’t see Ernst anymore.

 

I let my lips quiver as I whispered in a very quiet voice.

 

“Um, um, …….”

 

But when I hesitated because I didn’t know what to say, Theodore suddenly asked me.

 

“You don’t like me anymore?”

 

His face looked so hurt as he asked that.

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you beforehand.”

 

Theodore said in a sorrowful and somber voice.

 

“I was afraid you’d avoid me. Because everyone left if they knew who I was.”

 

“Ummm….”

 

“I’m sorry. I won’t make you feel uncomfortable anymore.”

 

“No, no!”

 

I grabbed Theodore as he tried to turn away, mumbling in a sad voice.

 

“I do not believe in such false rumors!”

 

Then Theodore stared at me.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes, really……”

 

I swallowed my breath and nodded.

 

“I was so surprised at the time that I didn’t think it was the Prince, so I was rude. I’m sorry.”

 

“So you didn’t run away because you hate me?”

 

“No, absolutely not.”

 

The corners of his eyes curled up at my answer.

 

The smile on his face was so beautiful that I gasped without realizing it.

 

“But your hair….”

 

I glanced at him and his dark brown hair turned black.

 

“…!”

 

My eyes widened in surprise and he explained in a quiet voice. 

 

“It’s magic. My father, who hated the color of my hair so much, asked Ferdinand to implant the magic in me.”

 

His calm response made my heart ache for some reason.

 

This was because it reminded me of my own father, who used to get angry whenever he saw me as a child.

 

My father, the heir of Chernicia, missing his dead wife, had spent the night in a drunken stupor, mistaking a Chernicia’s maid for his wife, and they had a child.

 

That child was me.