“I missed you, Lord.”
I closed my eyes. It was better to not think about things I could not handle for a while.
“… If you say it like that, I can’t be angry even if I want to be.”
I tried to see his expression but he continued to look forward.
“So you are angry.”
“Didn’t you think I would be?”
He did not ask why I was there and what happened. He did not even ask why I left the palace alone. He might have already made a decision.
Rather, I was the one who was still anxious.
“Lord, how did you find me?”
However, I could not just remain silent so I tried my luck carefully.
“Is that all you have to ask?”
I wondered why. The knight seemed to be very angry. I mean, it was natural for him to be.
I was already prepared to make excuses and explain as much as I could but Lord Ray lowered his voice and spoke.
“You’re that kind of person anyway.”
He let out a breath.
“Go ahead and ask.”
I twisted the ends of my hair that had already turned blonde without me noticing. I raised my head and stared at him.
“Yes. Ask anything. Miss Ashley.”
I flinched at the name he called me with.
“I’m curious about what you’re thinking about after getting this hurt. Very.”
Ah. He only calls me that 80% of the times when he is very, extremely angry with me.
When was it? After escaping my maids at the front entrance of my palace, I wanted to go on an adventure so I climbed a tree but I could not get down until sunset.
He let out a sigh.
The boy knight who was dripping in sweat spoke incredulously.
“Don’t you think there are many other ways to spend your time, Miss Ashley?”
Whenever he was fed up with my mess, he would address me as such as if it had been sewn onto his lips.
“Miss Ashley, you’re really too much. There’s a lot of things I want to say now but I’ve put up with it. Do you even understand what I’m saying? Whenever you escape my line of sight, you always manage to get yourself hurt or in danger.”
“It’s because of that the emperor appointed me as your knight. Although you always joke about how I cannot always be your knight because of the other princes, I am still the knight sworn to protect you!”
He paused after speaking for a long time.
“… I want you to stay somewhere safe. Am I asking for too much?”
The man who swore to protect me. The man who told me that he was my knight. Another man was overlapping with Lord Ray’s figure.
“Did you sympathise with me? You know I’m amazingly good at smelling things like that.”
The main character of the fairytale had left her glass shoes and returned. She left her shoe so that her prince could find her again. She made a clever decision.
But I did not want to leave anything behind.
Instead of leaving a glass slipper behind, how did I leave my remaining moments with him?
I closed my eyes and let out a long breath.
At the very last minute, did he manage to see me in the middle of the dark alley? I was sure he did. His eyes widened. He was so shocked he made an expression I had never seen before. An expression so complex I did not have the words to describe it.
He used up all his strength to escape the basement so he could not break free from the chains that had held him tight. Instead, he roared at me without sound with a terrifyingly dark and dizzying gaze.
“Forget what I said about you loving that person. Forget it, everything.”
But the ‘Ahn’ who was so honest in front of him would never appear again.
“So what if it’s trivial and fleeting, I still love you.”
What expression would Hernan have the next time we meet? Would we meet outside the palace? Or inside the palace?
I had gambled my choices countless times but it seemed to have failed this time.
I firmly decided that I would not drink the drug Amor gave me anymore.
The white haired man with a mysterious expression disappeared and Lord Ray replaced his figure.
“Damn it! Princess, say something! Where have your usual shameless retorts gone? How can you continue to make me go crazy after you’ve gotten hurt like this?”
When he was usually the more shameless one.
“Lord, look at me.”
His opinion of me had already hit rock bottom and sunk deeper than the bottom of the Marian Trench but I hoped that I could at least talk to him rationally.
His face that revealed itself under the sunlight was that of grimace. I had no choice but to stare back at him.
“Why did you leave without listening to my advice? Why were you there? What did you even do for your body to reach this point?”
“Why… with that man…?”
Lord Ray was about to speak some more but he bit his lips and groaned instead.
“… No, forget about the last part.”
He managed to mute the faint sounds that he let out before speaking with a clear voice.
“… My apologies.”
Lord Ray avoided my gaze and added on as if he was trying to make up an excuse.
“It’s alright. You can continue. … I know I was wrong.”
I smiled weakly. Wait, I could feel his arm tensing up.
“I shouldn’t have mentioned it. It’s not my place to meddle.”
He crumpled his forehead before closing his eyes and opening them again.
“… What you need now is rest.”
Lord Ray looked like he was holding something back. As if he really cared for me, he did not say a word after he finished his piece. I wondered if he had been carrying me for a long time. I could see the tip of the palace poke out from the horizon.
There were beautiful acacia flowers that were just beginning to bloom in the gardens as they were shaded by the leaves.
Right after we passed by the garden, I turned my head. Even though I was already so tired.
I had to ask him this.
“Lord. I want to ask you something. You recognised me right away, right?”
“Well… how did you find me?”
“Do you remember the necklace I gave you?”
“Yes. I’m always carrying it.”
Lord Ray nodded.
“I didn’t know how to use it. But the person who gave me the necklace taught me. I can use it to find your location.”
“This is an artifact too?”
“No. I’m not a templar. Actually, I hate divinity. There’s no way I’ll be carrying around artifacts. It’s a stone a mage from another country was carrying. I got it in exchange for taking some bastard’s life during the war.”
“Uh, you told me that it was an intergenerational keepsake the last time.”
“That way the princess would cherish it and always carry it around.”
He was so shameless even when lying.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
“Well, I can forgive you for lying to me. Because I lied to you and went out. How did you know it was me? I didn’t have my face.”
He was exhausted but his face gradually approached mine.
“How did I recognise you? There’s no other question I have a clearer answer for.”
The petals of the acacia flowers scattered like snow behind Lord Ray. His dark hair and his dusk-like eyes began to stand out.
“Whatever face you have, whatever expression you make, I’ll know it’s yours.”
So, he used the necklace to find me. Was he saying that he knew it was me right when he saw the woman in the alley?
“You’re amazing, lord.”
“That’s the least I should do as your knight.”
“Because you always manage to escape me, like sand.”
As he threaded on the bumpy road, his body began to sway. But his firm arms remain stable.
I stretched my arms out to wrap around his neck before burying my head into his shoulders. After letting out a long breath, I could hear him stop breathing.
“Sorry. Also, thank you.”
“Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever said these words properly.”
I hugged his neck tighter before whispering.
“… You’re cowardly.”
I was tired so I thought I should summarise my points.
‘I must have looked like a mess, right?’
How long had it been since I was kidnapped? I think I would not have anything to say even if Dane gets mad at me.
‘But this was not a situation where he would just wait in the palace.’
Dane asked me to work through my deaths together with him but I was the one dying. Who else other than me could make my life’s important decisions? I had to decide for myself.
So, it was my fault for getting hurt.
“Lord. Don’t blame yourself because this wasn’t your fault.”
“I don’t want to. I’ll do everything you don’t want to in the future. For example, chasing after your tail.”
Lord Ray grabbed the necklace that suddenly slipped out of my clothes with one hand.
“It doesn’t matter to me if it bothers you. Anymore.”
After lifting the necklace slowly, he brought it to his lips. I thought his blunt and insincere actions really suited him.
“Because I can’t even get angry at you.”
In just a day, I could see the palace again. I was gone for just a day but I was so happy to see it. I guess, I was home.
- The Lost Memories
My body, especially my arms and legs had been so scratched up by the debris I could not even look at them. I also lost a lot of blood. It did not spill out of me but because I ran with such a messed up body, it dripped all over. When I returned to my palace with that body, everyone, including my brothers, flipped out.
‘No, that may be true but this is a little.’
When I returned during the day, I was worried that I would doze off from anemia.
“Hurry and treat this ugly thing! Hurry!”
But I managed to become comfortable after Fleon made a fuss and brought a cleric.
The cleric he brought over made a face of incredulity as if he wanted to ask, ‘Are you telling me she got that hurt again?’
“Brother. Can I put my hand down?”
It was fine for him to worry earlier during the treatment but how long did I have to stay like that?
I looked at Fleon with a grimace.
“Brother. I don’t think this is right. Please consider my reputation and my age.”
“You’re noisy. This way, you won’t do something like this again because you don’t want to be offended. Got it ugly?”
I could not get through to him. So, I tried imitating the cat I saw before in a movie but for some reason, he quickly avoided my gaze.
“This is very far from brother’s ideal body type.”
“Damn it. It’s your body. Is it mine?”
Anyway, he still looked determined even though he was angry. I could understand where he was coming from. I could not argue against someone as rude as him nor could I avoid his nagging.
“You. Seriously. No matter how many times you’ve died before, you shouldn’t do something like that. You know?”
“Damn it. Don’t just apologise, do something, you moron.”
It was fortunate that Dane was not here.