It was only a little later that I realized what Caleb had said.
My heart started pounding as if it were being hammered.
I kept my mouth shut.
Caleb probably had no idea that his comments would evoke such an emotional response from me.
Without a slight bit of self-interest, he just stated it because he was concerned.
It was only me who was the problem.
Despite the fact that I am completely aware of this truth, I am unable to accept it on its own and continue to try to give it meaning.
“Thank you so much for your concerns, but…”
“I think it’s right for me to go back alone from tomorrow. Lord, you’ve already done me a lot of favors.”
I suppressed my tickling chest.
“I apologize for keeping you waiting because of my personal circumstances. So I appreciate your concern.”
“Okay. I won’t force you if that’s what you want.”
The returning voice was the same as usual.
However, I was hesitant to look Caleb in the eyes, so I diverted my attention to the window.
Soon later, I noticed a familiar mansion through the window.
I said goodbye to Caleb and exited the carriage.
I went straight to bed when I came home.
I lied down as if falling, causing the bed to tremble fiercely.
I was looking at the ceiling blankly when I remembered what Caleb had said earlier.
“To be honest…”
“It’s because I’m worried.”
“So I’d like to keep you company if you allow me to.”
My heart, which had hardly stopped racing, began to pound again as soon as I remembered.
I knew precisely what I was experiencing right now.
‘There’s no way I couldn’t have known.’
No, I’ve known about that for quite some time.
That I like Caleb.
My feelings went beyond the ordinary level of favorability a long time ago.
From the bottom of my heart, I like him.
Still, I am well aware that pretending not to know is a feeling that will not be rewarded.
On the issue of the crown prince’s request, I believed it was acceptable to like him.
As a result, I attempted to deny it and turn a blind eye to it.
…and now I can’t even do it.
‘How come Caleb was the first person I fell in love with?’
It’s exciting to fall in love with someone.
It may have felt like a blessing to some, but not to me.
Because the agony outweighed the excitement.
I often forget, but Caleb was the male protagonist, and the person who would be with Caleb was Vivian, the ‘female protagonist’.
So I was resentful.
At my feelings that ended up taking him into my heart.
This is how things would turn out.
“I did a good job refusing him.”
I grasped my hand and recited it for no apparent reason.
It’s hard to kill the feeling since I already admitted that I fell in love with him, but I shouldn’t evolve this feeling anymore.
“I did a good job.”
I gently closed my eyes, reciting as if talking to myself.
* * * *
“Lady, did something happen to you recently with the Commander?”
Unknowingly, my hand trembled in response to Lord Vessel’s question.
I was ashamed, but I tried hard not to show it by opening my mouth.
“No, there isn’t anything like that…why?”
“That is why I asked this question to you. Lady seemed to be avoiding the Commander these days. But I guess it was my misunderstanding.”
I couldn’t instantly answer, saying, ‘That’s true, it’s your misunderstanding.’
Because I was, in fact, avoiding Caleb.
After being acutely aware of my feelings, I avoided being alone with Caleb for as long as possible.
For example, tell the horseman not to go first because I will come out an hour late, or always carry a thick coat and scarf in case I come out in the evening.
As a result, I had less time than usual for many weeks to seek Caleb’s help or be alone with him.
My behaviour, on the other hand, appears to have been quite noticeable to others.
Lord Vessel approached me and asked me that question while Caleb was at the Imperial Conference.
“Well, anyway, that’s not what important, can you come to the central administration instead of me?”
“Yes. The policy has changed since last time, so we have to submit this to the administration on the last Friday of the month. However, as you are aware, the Commander attended the Imperial Conference. And I have to lead the training, so I’m afraid I’ll be late if I go to the administration right now.”
If that’s the case, that’s fine.
“Yes, I will.”
I gladly agreed.
I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get some fresh air outside.
“I’ve already completed everything; all you have to do now is submit it.”
Lord Vessel went on, holding an envelope out to me.
“Because the central administration building is right in the middle of Imperial Castle, it will be easy to find.”
“I know precisely where it is.”
It was a place where the Count taught me and where I went in and out tirelessly before joining the Royal Knights.
I mean, there’s no way I couldn’t find it, right?
I left the office confidently, saying I would come back.
* * * * *
And then, about twenty minutes later, I panicked because I realized I was being too arrogant.
Because I had such a difficult time finding the central administration office that I was embarrassed by my confidence.
I indeed visited the Imperial administration building often at the time.
However, I just entered through the main gate and walked straight to the administration office, and this was the first time I had gone from the Royal Knights quarters to the administration office.
‘It was fortunate that Lord Vessel had informed me that the building is in the centre.’
Otherwise, I would have spent a lot of time wandering around.
I was able to find it depending on previous memories after reaching nearby, but after delivering to the location Lord Vessel instructed me to, I left the administration with a light step.
I would have gone to say hello to Count Van Der, who is nominally my guardian, but she was away on a business trip a few weeks ago due to serious business issues.
She told me she wouldn’t be able to visit me for more than a month before leaving.
Because of that, I’ve been able to enjoy the weekend and spend it at my own leisure throughout the last several weeks.
‘That liberty will come to an end shortly.’
Unfortunately, it was due to the approaching month that Count Van Der had said.
It was then when I was walking with regret.
People passing by were having a conversation, which I overheard.
“Isn’t it time for the Imperial conference to come to an end?”
“That’s true. As a reason, we must return as soon as possible…”
They went past fast, yet my feet came to a halt.
‘It’s time for the conference to end?’
I had no option but to alter my plan quickly because I was planning on returning to the office right away.
If I meet Caleb on my way back, I’ll have to go back to the office with him.
‘There’s nothing pressing today, so let’s take a walk around and come back.’
Lord Vessel would have been at the training ground by now, so even if I arrived late, he wouldn’t have known.
I turned around after making my decision, in the opposite direction to the Royal Knights office.
* * * * *
I sat in a chair with high tension, stroking the teacup in front of me, and looked across at the prince, who was drinking tea peacefully across from me.
‘How could this have happened…?’
I remembered meeting the crown prince out of the blue.
So, after deciding to avoid Caleb, I strolled around the Imperial Castle as far as my feet could take me.
Then I noticed a really luxurious and lovely garden over the arch-shaped entryway and entered admiringly.
I would have avoided it if there had been guards, but there was none at the garden’s entrance.
Entering the garden like that, I was admired and walked around the garden in admiration.
That was my blunder.
Because I happened to run across the crown prince who was taking a walk by chance.
I attempted to turn around quickly, but it took the crown prince faster to notice me than it did for me to move.
Until then, I had just said hello and attempted to flee.
“What are you doing in my private garden?”
Until I hear anything like that.
The private garden was literally a garden for individuals, and entry was not permitted without the owner’s consent.
I lowered my head and apologized right away.
“Please accept my apologies. I had no idea that was your private garden.”
“Even if you didn’t know, it doesn’t affect the fact that this is my personal garden. And the fact that you entered without permission.”
With that, the Crown Prince bent his head and gazed down at me.
“I can also use this as a reason to cut your throat.”
His voice sounded haughty, yet it was a frightening term for others around him to hear.
In fact, there was a precedent of being executed for illegal entry into an Imperial Family private garden.
But I was confident that the crown prince would not assassinate me.
It has nothing to do with the royal oath.
Because the royal oath is solely concerned with the success or failure of my mission, it cannot be held responsible for my safety along the route.
Nonetheless, I am certain because I could hear his laughing disguised under his haughty speech.
“So, are you going to kill me?”
“Not at all. This is my private garden, but I’m not going to kill you for it.”
The anticipated response eased me significantly. And I was going to respond and declare that I would never return.
The crown prince clapped his hands in my direction.
“Let’s have a cup of tea for a bit. Come with me.”
Then he told his servants to set up a table for him because he was going to have tea time.
It has progressed to the current situation since then.
The current scenario was embarrassing for me since I had no idea I would meet the crown prince and had no intention of sitting face to face and lifting the teacup.
Of course, there was no way the tea would pass. When I just touched the teacup, the crown prince inquired.
“Why are you not drinking it? Do you dislike drinking black tea?”
“I like having one. But I was worried about what your highness was going to say to me. ”
“You’re telling me to get to the point.”
I don’t think I’ve ever expressed myself so openly.
But knowing the prince’s personality, I couldn’t bring myself to say such things.
Instead, I merely give an uncomfortable smile.
“Well, as you mentioned, there’s no need to take any time. I asked you to sit down here because I wanted to confirm something about you.”
With confused eyes, I stared at the Crown Prince, and he set down his teacup.
“Turn your head to the left.”
It was a weird and odd instruction.
To the point that I don’t even consider disputing it.
“Turn right this time.”
I turned my head to the opposite side in response to the crown prince’s comments.
I had a query as I listened to him quietly.
Why am I doing this in front of the crown prince?
Tilt your head slightly. Okay, Alright. This time, tilt your head the opposite way.”
“… Ugh, Your Highness? Why are you making me do this?”
“I have something to confirm.”
So, what exactly is it?
After that, the crown prince kept urging me to tilt my head.
After several repetitions, the crown prince spat out.
“Your eyes really turn golden when exposed to light.”
“Was that what you tried to confirm?”
“Then should there be something else?”
“It’s not like that……”
It’s because it’s stupid. It’s also a little absurd.
“If you’re only going to look at the colour of my eyes, you could have done so when I first entered the garden, right? Otherwise, you may ask me.”
“I couldn’t see it well because it was shaded there. That’s why I asked you to come along with me. ”
Then he may just ask me to come out to the sun and check it…
“I heard it from Selvine, but the colour of your eyes really changes. Were your eyes like that since you were born?”
“No. It was just a few months ago that my eyes were like this.”
“Around a few months ago?”
I agreed with a nod of my head.
“Was there a major contributor to it?”
“Well, I’m not sure.”
That’s what I stated, but there was something to be pointed out to some extent.
My eyes became like this at the same time I became Lena.
“Have you visited the temple?”
“No, even if I get there, I don’t think I’ll be able to see the priest.”
“Why? Is it difficult to see the priest?”
…Is he seriously asking that?
Looking at the crown prince without realizing it, I lamented when I realized his identity.
He was, after all, the crown prince.
“I’ve heard that the priests try not to meet with those who have money or status issues very much.” And the only thing that changes is the colour of my eyes; everything else is perfect. “It’s not like my health is in any danger.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Do you have any other questions?”
“I guess you want to go back.”
“I apologize if I offended you. I have a lot of work to do when I get back.”
“You’ve got a lot of work to do, yet you’ve come all the way here for a walk? You certainly have a lot on your plate.”
I sighed when I heard the prince’s sarcastic words. My acts and words were certainly contradictory.
“I’ll confirm one more thing and send you back. Reach out your hand.”
Why? What am I confirming with my hand? It was strange, but I reached out my hand to the crown prince.
Soon, I was holding a familiar necklace in my palm.
Isn’t this Izaka? Wasn’t this a holy relic?
Why is he doing this…
The crown prince made me hold the holy Izaka in my hand and took it back. He nodded, his gaze fixed on the relic.
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