With a swipe of his hand, he suddenly removed the mantle Lord Ray draped on me.
“Why would you think that?”
“Just because. You’ve never gone against my opinions before.”
When I turned my head, I noticed his hair fluttering gently.
“What do you know?”
Just then, after a gust of wind passed, another gust of wind, that was so strong that all the surrounding trees shook, blew.
“You don’t have to explain yourself. Unless it’s something I need to know. I don’t really care if I don’t know.”
From what I remember, since we were very young, Dane had always made choices for the sake of others. He would let me have anything that was delicious on the table. He gave me everything he thought was good. He did not hold the greed that was characteristic of a young child.
Fleon, who cared about me as much as Dane, always took my share but Dane was strangely not greedy. He did not even look like a child at times.
No matter how kind a person is, they would have gotten angry at least once in their life but I don’t think Dane has ever gotten angry before.
“I don’t know how to react whenever you draw a line between us like that.”
A faint sigh erupted from Dane.
“3 days ago, a letter was sent to the Imperial Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
“A letter that stated that the desert delegation had safely arrived at Ashran, the central trading port. And I also heard something unforthcoming. I heard that the desert princess took a few attendants with her and disappeared.”
Dane glanced over at me before speaking quietly.
“Even if their horses run at full speed, it’ll take them 20 days to get to the Empire from the desert kingdom. In this case, since the delegation is travelling leisurely, they should take one and a half months.”
With about a month and a half to the start of the Founding Festival, given that they had already arrived in the trading port, it can be said that they would soon enter the Empire. But the princess disappeared?
“Then the person I saw…”
“She might be real.”
He already suspected that the girl was really Ahacia?
When I shifted my gaze, Dane curled his eyes prettily as if he already knew everything I was thinking.
“Isn’t it strange? Why did the Princess come all the way here in secret, away from the protection of her delegation?”
“So, you already know the reason.”
Dane shook his head slightly.
“I still don’t but I should be able to soon?”
He spoke softly.
“Ashley. I don’t think you’ll need to bother with dangerous matters this early.”
His glossy brown hair fell over his eyes. Dane let go of my hair and smiled quietly. He looked neither disappointed nor sad but he did look bitter.
He dropped his head languidly like a drenched flower.
“Don’t want you to die.”
The princess who disappeared instead of following her delegation. We met her in the middle of one of the kidnappers’ dens.
The woman with a childlike appearance, who tried to remain calm despite looking as if she wanted to cry, was just a sheltered girl.
“… I don’t want to die either.”
I was the Imperial Princess and she was our Empire’s guest. Not only did she not have any reason to kill me, but there is also no potential reason for her to resent me.
“Dane, I’ve never wished for another person’s death.”
Nevertheless, she will kill me. As with Castor, things stated in the predictions will come true. I had to stop it.
Open your closed eyes. I needed information. Find out why she wanted to kill me. I knew Castor was behind it but I didn’t know what happened between them.
I need to ignore the author and find the reason within the story of the original novel that I barely remember.
His eyes glittered like rubies in the darkness. I smiled at Dane who reminded me of a drenched flower.
Now that I think about it, life was so bitter.
I heard that all that remained in Pandora’s Box was hope. But it seemed like all that was in my box was misfortune. If I flipped it upside down and started shaking things out, would I be able to find happiness hidden beneath my trust?
I shook my head to get rid of the fragments of gloomy thoughts. Depression was evil’s poison.
“You know, Dane. Do you have a long lost brother, an older brother you were separated from during your birth or a hidden brother?”
“They all sound the same to me?”
When depressed, it is best to stop thinking about it by engaging in small talk.
“Anyways, do you have one?’
Whenever I had to die again, I would visit Amor and chat with him like this. Of course, Amor did not welcome me or liked it very much.
“I’m not sure.”
“I thought another handsome man like you might exist.”
“Pfft. Your joke has gone too far, Ashley.”
At my sudden outburst, Dane widened his eyes and blurted out his response.
“I don’t know what you want me to say. Uhm… Fleon is the only brother I have.”
Come to think of it, something similar happened. Just talking about it made things serious. The man I met in the capital. The man who resembled Dane and had an unusual relationship with Saintess Marissa.
“Like Fleon, I’m not really close to the rest of the princes.”
Dane doesn’t think of Castor as his older brother. The powerful Crown Prince who was set to be the next Emperor. It was natural for them to have never interacted before.
Castor is one thing but doesn’t Dane work in the 2nd Administration?
‘He should have seen the 2nd Prince before.’
I tilted my head.
“Come to think of it, I do have a cousin.”
As if it had consumed the darkness, Dane’s chestnut-coloured hair looked black and only his red eyes that sparkled like jewels were reflecting the light of divinity. (1)
“We’re not really close.”
I wondered why. The half of his face that had not been covered in darkness had hardened.
“Didn’t you promise to return without any trouble, mistress?”
Rebecca looked puzzled by my appearance upon my arrival before ultimately sighing. After a moment of silence, she said quietly.
“… You really did deal with it within three days.”
It seemed like she heard the news.
Rebecca was speechless at my craftiness in being able to find my maids within her stipulated deadline. Now, she was looking at me slightly differently. I think I can hear my affection level with Rebecca rising.
“Have you been hiding your capabilities all this time?’
“Pfft, no way. Are you teasing me? I didn’t do anything. When I started my search, I heard that the patrols had already found where the missing maids were.”
“I hope you’ll be able to show this level of capability during the Founding Festival as well.”
She raised her hands proudly before nodding.
“We shall start preparing for it tomorrow. Please rest, mistress.”
Why did her polite attitude make me feel as if she was only teasing me even more? I was about to say something but I decided to let her go with a faint smile.
It’s not that I wasn’t tired but I didn’t think I would be able to fall asleep.
“… What should I do now?”
If I could, I would have liked to call for Haina who arrived before me and ask her some things. However, I couldn’t say anything when I saw her and just sent her to her room. It was not only the kidnapping, but I also wanted to ask about the desert princess.
“Ah. I should have read that part more closely…”
In the original novel, ‘The Engagement between Castor and the Desert Princess’ popped up in a conversation between Rusbella and Castor. No matter how I struggled to finish the book, how could I only remember the quotation marks so clearly? It was a shame that the part I could not remember was associated with the desert princess.
I knew when and where they were going to be engaged but I wanted a little more details. It’s a shame that I didn’t know what kind of person she is.
‘I’m not sure how much of her appeared in the novel when she’s only a supporting character.’
I didn’t know then. I didn’t know that missing just one line would be so devastating.
When I opened the diary, today’s entry had changed slightly.
[The 12th Day of the Month of Helios.
…. In the market I visited on a whim, I met someone who could be considered the prettiest person in the world. But it turns out that she was the desert princess.
What were the chances? Fate? Is this really fate?]
In the diary, I had secretly left the palace by myself and met the desert princess.
“I’ve always thought this but what’s wrong with my speech in here?”
This had always bugged me but the me in the diary felt very foreign. It felt like I was watching a recording of myself. I was sure the person on the screen was me but at the same time it didn’t feel like me.
I wondered if this was what it felt like to watch a screening of a drama you starred in.
I flipped the pages.
[The 14th Day of the Month of Helios.
The desert princess called for me and carefully asked for a favour. She had come because she had a wish she had to fulfil.
—Please. Help me.
When I asked her what her favour was, the princess hesitated before eventually closing her mouth.]
I swept my hair up roughly.
“The 14th Day of the Month of Helios…”
That was two days from now.
“The princess had a reason.”
To say that she only shut her mouth in the end means that she was desperate enough for the words to reach the tip of her throat. Was it related to the future?
‘Guess I’ll only find out two days from now.’
I closed my diary.
“… Urgh, again, my head…”
The headache that came again was making my head throb. I wondered why. It feels like the headaches are occurring more and more frequently…
Enduring the pain akin to a needle creeping through my spine, I closed my eyes to force myself to go to sleep.
—The next day.
Just as the sun crept over my shoulders, Fleon and Dane appeared when it was just past afternoon tea time.
They were both dressed in gray and blue formal suits as if they had just run away from their official duties.
“… What’s going on?”
As I stared at the two, Fleon blurted out.
“What are you looking at with that blank face of yours? Didn’t you hear anything from your lady-in-waiting?”
“… Rebecca? I didn’t hear anything.”
“What? Your lady-in-waiting called us over to help with the stage.”
He knocked on my forehead gently with his knuckle.
“Don’t look at us like uninvited guests.”
I grabbed his index finger before turning my head to look at Rebecca.
“I don’t know what this is about.”
Rebecca who calmly met my eyes then lowered her gaze.
“I invited the princes here. Mistress.”
“Don’t tell me. This is what you meant… by preparations?”
(1): This might be confusing but she’s referring to the lights shining due to divinity around them. Not the fact that Dane has any divinity.