“I’ll take care of Kuhn’s business myself, so you can go back to your room.”
Elena was having a brief argument with Carlisle over disguising herself as Len.
The sound of someone pounding on the door interrupted the two. Elena and Carlisle glanced at each other, then Elena quickly walked behind the drapery of the bed to hide herself. If they were forced to create an alibi that Elena was spending the night here, it would surely spread widely throughout the Crown Prince’s palace by tomorrow.
Carlisle glanced at the bedside where Elena concealed herself, then turned back to the door and responded.
It was Zenard who hurriedly entered the room.
“I apologize, Your Highness. There’s an urgent report and I had no choice but to–”
Knowing that he was with Elena, Zenard’s lengthened his excuses, but Carlisle cut him off coldly.
“Get to the point.”
“The Empress sent a search party to our area. They entered without permission. They said they were after a man that broke into the Empress’ palace, and it seems like they were looking for Kuhn.”
“So he must have escaped from the Empress’ palace. Where’s the search party now?”
“We’ve expelled them, but they are still searching around for him.”
“…Those insolent soldiers.”
Carlisle’s eyes were like ice.
“Tell the spies you planted in the Empress’ palace to keep watch for Kuhn, and bring all the other men at the outskirts of the palace and organize a party. I’ll be there soon.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Zenard bowed and left the room, and Elena stepped from behind the curtain of the bed.
“Are you still going to leave me out of this?”
“…I’d like to, if possible.”
“Well, if you can’t lend me armor, I’ll get it myself. I’ll do it my way.”
Carlisle hesitated at her words, and then continued with great reluctance.
“I see. Then I’ll give you some armor to wear. Just don’t leave my side this time.”
“Don’t forget our contract, Caril. If you object to me being part of your guard, I’ll find another way to do it. And that may not be what you like.”
Carlisle opposed her every time she raised a sword, making her job more difficult each time. They had already agreed on the contract, and she had already explained herself on Flower Bridge. Elena had no more patience to persuade him.
“I know you are capable. That’s what worries me.”
“I am afraid you will end up taking on a job that’s as dangerous as your abilities.”
“I am ready for it.”
“…I know. I understood the last time you said it. But please remember what I say now.”
Carlisle’s blue eyes stared straight into Elena’s red ones. She listened to him in spite of the darkness in the air.
“Don’t get hurt. If you are in danger, don’t look back and make sure you are safe.”
She was about to ask what the purpose of being his guard was, but Carlisle continued in an even softer voice.
“I told you. If you get hurt…I might go crazy.”
He really didn’t know what would happen if she got hurt. It was highly probable it would be like the time he had cut off a nobleman’s head and brought it to a party.
Elena couldn’t do anything else but nod for now, if only to reassure him.
“I understand. I’ll be careful not to get hurt.”
Carlisle gave her a faint smile, and Elena continued.
“Just as long as you’re not in danger. Because as soon as you are, I can’t help myself. Your safety is more important than anything to me.”
Carlisle’s eyes widened slightly, and he turned his head away and covered his mouth with one hand. Somehow his ears felt a little red.
“…You say such sweet things so casually.”
Elena was surprised at his reaction to her remark. When she thought about it, she had said she would make him emperor because she wanted to become an empress, but she never openly said that his life was important to her. Elena debated with herself whether she should explain herself more or not.
Carlisle, however, had no intention of continuing this lengthy conversation, and pointed to the wall opposite of Elena.
“There’s some armor over there, so you can choose something you like.”
There was a strange tension in the atmosphere, but Elena nodded her head.
As she walked in the direction he pointed, she somehow felt hot in the face. She was embarrassed because he was.
‘…With just those little words.’
Elena was unable to adjust to this sudden shift in atmosphere from serious to strange.
She looked at the row of armor. Perhaps because his room was near the training site, Carlisle’s armor was ready to wear. Elena chose the smallest of them and placed a helmet over her head. She was grateful she could hide the blush on her face.
Carlisle and Elena arrived at the outer area of the Crown Prince’s palace, where Kuhn was believed to have last been seen. Zenard, who had been waiting there, quickly approached Carlisle and bowed.
“Who is this by your side?”
“You’ve seen him before.”
“From Flower Bridge…! Since when have you been inside the palace?”
Carlisle glanced at Elena and spoke in a quiet voice.
“He’s been doing some secret business for me for some time. That’s why he has to always cover his face.”
“Oh, I see.”
Zenard answered affirmatively, but his eyes were still wary. It had been a long time, but Len was so different from Elena that Zenard didn’t notice.
‘You must hate me.’
It was when she was thinking about Zenard’s disapproving eyes did she notice dozens of the Crown Prince’s other men were approaching. Among them was Morgan, a tall, powerful man who tried to argue with her at Flower Bridge. He waved at Elena when he noticed her.
‘What? I thought he’d start arguing again…’
The group moved quickly to Carlisle’s side and the leading man reported to him.
“Your Highness, we searched southwest and we found no sign of him.”
“Then let’s go northwest. “
Carlisle took command, and the others followed after his lead. Among them was Elena, who was right behind Carlisle.
Her red eyes gleamed beneath the helmet. It was the beginning of the search.