*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
It was decided that Zelleine would make a public appearance in front of the Roheneim army four days later.
“You must always keep these in mind.”
Zelle spoke clearly.
“First, I’m just a kind of stand-in.”
Valhayle frowned a little.
“What do you mean.”
Zelle twirled her hair as she replied.
“…You told me before that someone saw a brown-haired woman accompanied by the enemy.”
“But that wasn’t me so it must be one of my sisters. I’ll be their stand-in.”
Valhayle thought for a moment and spoke.
“We have no news of the 1st and 2nd princess even though Lopecce poured all their resources into it. So I concluded that it had to be you.”
“They could be in the Central region and not in the West.”
“We didn’t get any information on them either.”
Zelle chewed her lips.
The army must believe Zelle is the only surviving royal heir.
They are not considering that the brown-haired woman could be the 1st or 2nd princess.
But Zelle thought otherwise.
Granoir is losing in the Central region yet they haven’t claimed to have 1st or 2nd princess’s corpse.
That meant that Granoir didn’t have them.
Considering what they have done so far, they would have already faked a corpse to save themselves.
The 1st and 2nd princess’ faces were well-known so it must be difficult to fake their bodies but it was odd that Granoir wouldn’t even mention them.
Zelle had a strong feeling that her sisters were alive. She turned to face Valhayle and asked.
“Were you close with Demiera?”
“Were you close with Demiera?”
It was quite a direct question but Zelle had to know it clearly. Since Valhayle and Demiera were betrothed to each other for years.
Knowing their relationship would give guidance to Zelle’s next actions.
Valhayle was bewildered by the sudden question.
Demiera. The 2nd princess of Roymonde and the one betrothed to Roheneim.
He was aware that their wedding would be held in the next few years but there was nothing between them.
The term ‘marriage of convenience’ even seemed too romantic to describe their relationship.
His feelings for the 2nd princess had nothing to do with how Roheneim did the utmost to find the 2nd princess.
Even if he and Demiera were not betrothed, he still would have put the effort into searching for her since she was one of the royal heirs.
But the reason Valhayle was this bewildered despite him having no relationship whatsoever with Demiera was because the person asking the question was Zelleine.
If it were anyone else he would have simply denied it but for some reason, Valhayle was careful with his words.
He slowly found the words to say.
“If you mean closer than other people, then no. I wasn’t. But compared to other people, I had more chances to meet her.”
Zelle pursed her lips.
She can’t help but feel relieved. If they were intimate, Zelle would be in a very difficult situation.
Zelle looked at Valhayle and spoke.
“Sir, I have a request.”
Valhayle’s body stiffened. The word ‘request’ placed a lot of pressure on him.
The 8th princess, who always escaped from him, never needed him. So this was the first request she ever made to him.
“I want you to consider the contributions I made for Roheneim as a bird when you hear my request.”
The princess must not realize how great her contributions are saying this.
Zelle looked into Valhayle grey eyes. Those were the eyes she trusted and decided to fight together with.
“You said you would protect me.”
Zelle took a deep breath.
“Then keep my secret.”
Valhayle was lost for words. The princess’s eyes he was facing were serious.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you shouldn’t tell anyone about me.”
“All the things I did as a bird and everything else I will say and do from now on. When the war is over, I want it all to be as if none of it happened. You’ll have to say you know nothing of me and the bird.”
“Why… Would you make such a request?”
A glimpse of sadness shone on the princess’s face.
“Because I’m a stand-in.”
Valhayle felt a rush of mixed emotions. He somehow felt angry.
“What you did as a bird is something I can’t reveal to others. No one would believe it even if I do. But your presence and actions as the royal heir from now on are beyond my control.”
“I am aware. What I want to put significance here is you.”
Valhayle’s stern face unraveled shortly. He never thought he would be of any importance to the princess.
“Yes, you Sir Valhayle.”
The princess calmly continued.
“What I am concerned about is how you’ll comment about me. Do not say anything. If anyone asks, tell them the 8th princess was too insignificant to cast your attention on. That’s my request.”
“Allow me to ask again. Why would you make such a request?”
Zelle thought to herself.
‘Because I want to live.’
But instead of saying that out loud, Zelle sighed.
“Because that’s how you can protect me.”
Valhayle looked into the princess’s eyes.
The deep shadows he saw in her tears 2 years ago were evident in her eyes again.
Zelle studied Valhayle’s face.
This was the most she could ask him to do as the only person who knew her contributions as a bird.
‘If Linbessy or Demiera lives to claim the throne…’
The chances of Zelle surviving would be very low.
Since Zelle now had to serve as the center point of the three militaries.
However, even if she does become the center point, if her actual actions and contributions stay private then…
‘There’s a small chance I can live.’
After the war, she will only officially remain as the symbol of the royal heir.
Even that was very life-threatening but Linbessy wasn’t as strongly against her so perhaps…
‘She will spare my life.’
So what Zelle had to worry about was Valhayle.
The hero of this war and the soon-to-be most influential man beside the next crown.
If Valhayle says Zelle is insignificant, perhaps Linbessy or Demiera would be a little more relieved. And everyone else as well.
If Valhayle decided to keep shut about something, everyone below him would keep shut too.
Zelle didn’t know much about Valhayle but she knew what power him and his family had.
In Roheneim, Valhayle’s authorities were absolute.
She traced Valhayle’s face
Sharp eyes, and pursed lips. And his black hair strands hanging above one eyebrow.
His polite attitude and clear, cold appearance were once a popular topic in high society.
‘I didn’t put much attention back then but…’
Looking at his well-defined features that could only be described as handsome, her heart skipped a beat.
Perhaps it was because Valhayle basically can control her survival now.
Zelle waited for Valhayle’s answer and swore to herself.
‘My life is important too but my efforts for my survival should only come after the war ends.’
When the people of Roymonde are no longer threatened by foreign forces.
When the righteous royal heir claims the throne and the fear of the royal bloodline ending stops.
Valhayle finally spoke after a long moment of silence.
“I believe ‘request’ isn’t appropriate. I’ll take it as your order.”
He briefly nodded.
“As you ordered, I will not speak about you to anyone else.”
Zelle softly smiled at Valhayle.
“If you keep this promise, I will faithfully fulfill my duties as the center point of this war.”
Standing in front of everyone and leading them.
She never wanted to do these but she decided to focus only on winning the war.
If she could win this war and retrieve her country she was willing to do more.
Zelle’s lips trembled.
“And there’s a second thing I must insist on.”
A line drew between Valhayle brows, looking at her stiffened smile.
Zelle clenched her fists to find the courage to say what was against her instinct to live.
“Find Linbessy and Demiera.”
Her body trembled as she spoke.
“You must find them.”
She barely whispered to finish her words.
“Since that’s why I am coming forth as the stand-in.”
Zelle pursed her lips and thought.
If the real one comes, the fake stand-in would have to leave but…
‘If Linbessy and Demiera can be found, it suffices.’
Since there is no other royal heir that could rebuild this devastated country as effectively as them.
“If they return I will step away immediately.”
When that time comes, her only focus would be on her survival.
And Zelle was going to do her best to not be a political threat to Linbessy if Linbessy takes the throne.
*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
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