Although I was a bit uneasy because it would be like confirming the rumors, I quietly called Daisy into my bedchambers.
Seeing my simple attire for the first time, Daisy opened her eyes wide and pointed at me scoldingly.
“What are you wearing!”
I was wearing a maid’s uniform.
“What kind of… role play is this?”
I thought there was something wrong my ears.
“After doing that with that person all night….. How!”
Confronted with Daisy’s fussing, I put a hand on my forehead.
“It’s not like that.”
“It’s not? How is it not?”
The excitement in her eyes made me very uncomfortable. Before her misunderstanding got any worse, I hurried to get down to business.
“I’m going outside the palace.”
“I feel bad about this….. But I cannot think of who else I can ask to do this besides you.”
“Please tell me what you want me to do! I can handle anything!”
“You have to make sure no one comes in.”
“Yes! Anyone…. Anyone? Even that person?”
I ignored her question.
“You have to make it seem like I’m in this room. You can probably say that she won’t let anyone else in because she’s not feeling well. And because I’ve been keeping you close, no one should suspect you.”
It seemed she was only now putting the pieces together.
“I told you. That I’m going outside the palace. If I don’t come back even after the sun comes up then….”
“Your Highness! Are you going someplace dangerous? Please take me with you too!”
“It won’t be dangerous, and I should return soon, but just in case I’m say_.”
“Please don’t die, Your Highness!”
Close to tears, Daisy wrapped her arms around my waist. I sighed.
‘Aiden Fran’. In front of me was the sign with scrawled handwriting.
Because it was early morning, all of the shops along the street were closed, including ‘Aiden Fran’. However, I smoothed out the hood pulled low over my face, slowly walked over and pushed on the door.
The door was not locked.
I slowly entered. Soon, in the darkness, a woman with a gaunt face stepped forward and bowed her head low.
“My deepest apologies for employing such discourteous means to invite you. However, we are also in a difficult situation…. It hasn’t been easy obtaining drugs lately.”
I observed the woman closely. She didn’t seem like the person in charge of this business.
“Please follow me.”
I followed the woman through another door. Sitting at a wooden table was a man who smiled sweetly when our eyes met. The man was excessive in his reception as he stood up and spoke.
“Who is this! Have you lost a little weight?”
I didn’t respond.
“Anyhow, I am sure it must have been difficult for you because the drugs were cut off.”
Maybe it was due to the soul swap but I had been just fine. Of course, I wasn’t going to say this out loud. I examined the man calmly. Was he the one in charge? I couldn’t tell.
There were two reasons that I had to take the risk and come out here personally.
It would be most accurate to call this a ‘symbiotic relationship’. I got drugs, and they got insurance for their business.
So, if I happened to stop coming in, they would have kept trying to contact me by other means, and along the way, it could have been exposed to other people as well.
The other reason was to personally verify their true nature. Things like how large their organization was, who their boss was, and if they were at a scope that I could manage if I arrested them. If there was a way to handle everything so they wouldn’t spout any nonsense.
“And the drugs?”
“They should have arrived in the capital by now.”
“Even if you are displeased, there is nothing we can do. This is our policy. Please head back once we get news that they have arrived.”
I understood now. It was because it was in the princess’s power to confiscate the drugs, arrest the mules, and dissolve the organization before anyone could blink an eye.
If they just sent the drugs again and were discovered, the princess could extricate herself and throw them to the wayside. So, until they were safe, until they had on record that the drugs had been delivered intact into the princess’s hands, the princess had to patiently wait in their den.
If she wanted ‘drugs’ that is.
This might be the princess’s ‘weakness’ that the system window wanted. No doubt if I hadn’t come, the princess would have continued to show symptoms of addiction and been found out by Yuriel.
……In other words, I was fulfilling my role as a ‘bug’.
“If you are bored….. Would you like to see the new boys we have brought in?”
As soon as he’d said those words, the sound of iron being dragged came from the door on the far side.
When the door opened, I saw a man with iron chains around his feet. After he came in, right behind him was another man wearing a similar expression, and so on.
They knelt in front of me in a line. All had unfocused eyes and some kind of rags draped over their bodies. Their eyes were empty and their faces were gaunt. I turned my head.
“Why? Is there nothing that catches your eye?”
He was over the top with his disappointment.
“I know that I prepared them according to your tastes…. You said that you found slaves who had done the rounds more than new ones….”
Seeing their wretched state, I could make a payment and buy them. Then, when it came to freeing them or whatever else, I could come up with a good excuse and let them go.
But was there any guarantee they wouldn’t become slaves again? With their identities being uncertain, what could they do to make a living in the capital?
But when I considered bringing them to my palace, I thought of that rumor. Seeing as how a part of me suddenly shivered in fear, I didn’t have a good feeling about it.
Could I take responsibility for them until the end?
“Where did these things come from?”
Thinking that I was showing interest, the man smiled sweetly once again and answered.
I bought them right then and there.
Things had taken longer than I expected. The sun had already risen and outside was noisy with the sound of chatter. I pulled my hood even lower.
“Did you come alone?”
For a moment, I looked with contempt at the man who seemed to be always smiling without good reason.
“I’m sure that’s not the case. It’s just that you seemed more uneasy than usual so….”
He called out behind me when I turned around without replying.
“I will wash them up and send them to you before day’s end.”
I didn’t say anything.
The further I went down the main road, the more people there were. Even though it was the morning, strangely enough, there were people gossiping or standing around together.
Right then, a single loud cry from far away spread through the crowd and set off a big commotion.
I pedaled backward into an alleyway and tried to make out the source of the ear-shattering sound. Then I realized that everyone was looking in one direction.
From far away, along with the neighing of horses, I discovered a group approaching.
Flower petals were scattered from every side fluttered. I found the man with dark blue hair at the end of that group. And I recognized him in an instant.
“I thought that it would at least be tomorrow before he came…..!”
At that moment, feeling like he was looking this way, I turned around quickly and began to run.
I had to hurry back. To the palace that would be in an uproar preparing to welcome that group at that.
“His Majesty is waiting for you.”
At the entrance of the outer wall of the palace, a servant was waiting to escort them. The soldiers and knights who were wearing armor dismounted from their horses. The man spoke to the servant and to the saluting troops.
“I will see Her Highness first. Go ahead without me.”
The man did not repeat himself. He dusted off his boots and straightened his collar.
After checking his cuffs and the hem, he turned to one side. It was in the direction of the princess’s palace.
They watched as he strode forward before turning to look at each other. Of course, that only meant verifying that the people next to them were just as shocked.
In any case, the man continued walking. Straight ahead, neither his neck or his eyes straying to either side.
The one who stood in front of him was the head maid of the princess’s palace. It was a face that the man had seen even before leaving for the battlefield.
From the now older head maid’s face, he could his own absence.
“You cannot enter.”
“Did she say she would not see me.”
“She did not say anything….”
The head maid shook her head. Apparently, there was no answer.
“And has she not left a message either.”
“Yes. She has not shown herself since this morning, and there is only a maid girl in the room …..”
“I must see for myself.”
“You cannot! She will punish you again!”
Her face white with shock, the head maid blocked the path of the man who was trying to enter the palace.
“The person who should support and oversee the comfort of the princess is thoroughly incapable, I see.”
At the man’s cold expression, the head maid couldn’t say anything.
The man quickly went into the palace. He pushed past those who swallowed their screams at the sight of him, and without even getting lost once he arrived in front of the princess’s bedchambers.
After seeing him, the servants who were standing in front of the door hurriedly backed up out of his way.
The sound of someone taking a breath could be heard from the other side of the door. As well as urgent footsteps. That was probably the maid the head maid had mentioned. The man raised one eyebrow.
“Your Highness. Are you okay.”
“What are you waiting for? Hurry and open the door.”
At those words, the servants who were standing out of the way dissuaded him with one voice.
“But without Her Highness’s permission….”
“Bring the key. Or would you rather I rip open this door.”
At that moment, the door made a creaking sound and slowly opened.
When he turned his head, there was a sweating maid holding the open door.
“S-She asks you to comein.”
With a quick glance to the side, I checked that the maid’s uniform I had hastily taken off was safely tucked under the bed. And trying my best to not show how breathless I was from running here, I sat while leaning against a bed post.
The tall man suddenly entered the room without even the sound of footsteps. He lifted the curtains and came inside. For a moment, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him.
For a moment, his short hair was black. No, his hair had been navy blue under the sun so that was probably more accurate.
The curtain slipped past his hand and drooped back down. Between us, the sunlight decreased even more.
His eyes, which were deep-set like some mineral, stared at me intently. Those eyes also shined a bluish black. Soon, he knelt down on one knee in front of me, his posture upright.
Having rushed over from the battlefield, the toes of the man’s shoes were worn-out and his uniform was dull, but even without acting exceptional, he appeared disciplined and noble.
The eyes that looked up at me were calm and sure with pure intention, so when he extended his palm toward me, I happily had my hand on his.
Someone like this was communicating with Yuriel?
He lowered his dark eyelashes and closed his eyes. He placed his slightly cold lips on the back of my hand. Then, he looked up at me directly and spoke.
“Your servant Eclot Pacis, reporting that I have carried out all orders and returned.”
Unconsciously, I said.
“You came back alive.”
And then I immediately regretted it. Because it felt like I had said something I shouldn’t. It almost sounded like sarcasm.
But the man looked at me with clear eyes.
For some reason, his response touched me. Maybe because it was the response of a man who had returned from far away. Returning from a journey that was meant to result in his death, he was so upright and unshakeable.
With those words I put my hand on his shoulder, and as soon as I did, I read the deep exhaustion in his eyes.
The anguish and grief that had piled up over the years spread out slowly. Though it was soon put in order.
Even during this, the man was polite and calm.
“Is that so.”
Although the words may have seemed dry to some, they felt genuine to me. He was simple. Although his face showed a bit of age and hardship. I could believe it.
No, in actuality, I couldn’t believe it.
The fact that he didn’t resent me, the ‘princess’, even the slightest bit.
“Have you been well all this time.”
His wordless gaze brushed past my skin. Even this quiet concern was seemed separated from reality.
When I slowly nodded my head, Eclot stood up. Automatically, I lifted my head to follow him.
“There is a rebel in this palace.”
As though he really thought I hadn’t heard him, he repeated himself to a fault.
“There is a rebel in this palace. We must root them out.”
Eclot summoned the maids outside the room. And he spoke.
“Will you leave this to me.”
“……What are you going to do?”
“There is a rebel in the palace. Will you permit me to root them out.”
He must have really thought I was an idiot because he had just repeated the same words for the third time.
I’m asking you to tell me in detail what exactly you’re planning to do….
I had opened my mouth to say something when I met his eyes. Swept away by an indescribable feeling, I ended up murmuring.
“……If you want, fine.”
After that, things proceeded at lightning speed.
As though he had been planning this for a long time, he gathered all of the servants in an inner palace hall – which just happened to be that hall from before. Then he instructed the soldiers to search the servants’ quarters.
Resting my chin in my hand, I was waiting to see what all of this was about while sitting back in a chair at the end of the hall. Eclot was prudent but merciless.
He took something out and clutched it. Suspecting what it was, I lowered the hand away from my chin and straightened my upper body.
One by one, Eclot began comparing the handwritten papers taken from the servants’ quarters to it.
“…..What is that?”
“There is someone who leaked Your Highness’s personal information to me. This is the evidence of that.”
It was a letter. And I was pretty sure I knew what it was.
It took literally no time for Eclot to swiftly find the matching handwriting, and for Yuriel to be found from among the servants and dragged out in front of him, where she even fell. Literally.
Yuriel looked up at him with an expression that said she couldn’t begin to understand the situation.
But Eclot only glanced at Yuriel with a cool expression and all the emotion of hearing someone call out your name before turning to face me.
In his hand was the evidence. Yuriel’s letters, which she had probably spent a good deal of time and effort in writing, were being treated like ‘Exhibit A’.
“She continuously approached me, Your Highness’s concubine, attempted to push me in a direction that would harm Your Highness, and leaked Your Highness’s information to me therefore-.”
“You! You asked me for it!”
Yuriel grabbed Eclot’s leg.
“I believe it is right to permanently expel her from the palace.”
But he finished without budging an inch.
I opened my mouth then closed it again. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It was an opportunity to get Yuriel out of my sight, but was that okay?
Was that a wise decision? It could be easier to handle things when they happened if I kept her close by.
Reading my indecision, Eclot shook Yuriel off and walked over to me. He knelt on one knee and looked up at me.
“……I need time.”
“What are you worried about?”
At those words, I reflexively gripped the armrests.
“What are you afraid of?”
He placed a hand on his chest and bowed his head.
“I will do it.”
“……What will you do?”
“Everything that is troubling you, shaking your composure. Whatever it is, even if it goes against the right path, please eliminate everything. I will handle it all.”
“I will do everything.”
I couldn’t believe it. I knew they were words I couldn’t believe.
“What are you afraid of? And what are you worried about?”
The questions he had asked in the beginning changed and came back to me once again.
“I will protect you.”
“Please give the command.”
I extended a hand toward Eclot. Watching his hand lift up mine, I spoke.
“Do as you have said.”
“Your Highness! Isn’t this different from what you said! In this place, I….!”
I saw Yuriel’s hopeless and furious face. Strangely enough, I felt peaceful.
Don’t ever come back here.
And it really felt like it was possible.
“Eclot! How could you do this! To me! Me! Do you know what hell I went through because of you! Eclot!”
“To prevent her from coming back, give the guards her identification documents.”
The soldiers saluted and disappeared. Soon, Yuriel who had been screaming in rage, was also expelled from the hall.
My surroundings became peaceful.
[The Knight of the Border – 9]
A penalty will be imposed.
The ‘Eclot Pacis’ route will be completely destroyed.
‘Notoriety’ is created.
You acquire the title ‘A shameless person who only knows how to steal from others’.
You are expelled from the palace!
State ‘Expulsion’ is maintained.
I had been dumbly looking at the system window when I heard his voice ring out in my ears.
“Please punish me now.”
“No matter if it was a test, I sought out and acquired Your Highness’s information so-.”
At my words, Eclot silently closed his mouth and looked at me.
“Are you trying to run away after saying you’ll protect me?”
“I am not.”
“Then just stay. Next to me.”
He slowly parted his mouth.
It happened 7 years ago when the marquess closed their eyes from a long chronic illness.
As the heir, the marquess’s only son, a young man with a promising future as a knight, came before the emperor for the first time in order to receive the title to the marquessate.
Noble blood, and renowned skill and character.
Among the senate in the interior and even the smaller rural aristocrats, there were none who could look down on him.
Thus, his official debut which occurred just as he had reached his thirties transfused new blood into a political sphere that was like stagnant water.
Then one year later, acknowledged for his distinguished services in stabilizing the border through exceptional diplomatic ability and a timely show of force, he rose to the position of Knight Commander.
It was the first time since the country’s founding that a marquess had seized the position of Knight Commander of the royal family, that which could be called the foundation of the royal family. The rising factions began to gather around him.
Thus, it came to be that there was no one left in the capital who did not know his name. As the key figure who, true to his name, would lead the country into the future, he received everyone’s envy. To the extent that the emperor himself was irked.
Since it was like this, there was no way the matchmakers would leave him, a rare bachelor for his age, alone.
Dozens of noble houses tried to push for marriage with a daughter of their house. And among those, one really seemed like they would accomplish their goal.
This was because he himself had fully recognized the necessity of stabilizing his position and cooperating between houses, given it was the valuable hand in marriage of a marquessate.
However, during the princess’s eighteenth birthday celebration banquet, he lost all of his projected future glory and power and everything else besides.
“Hmm……. A birthday present?”
Asking this, the princess soon pointed to where he was standing indifferently in the middle of the banquet crowd.
Everyone dissuaded him. They whispered that he had the authority to disobey.
But he showed no hesitation at the command to become the princess’s second concubine. He simply bowed his head squarely and deeply.
Everyone said he had gone crazy. The person who had been steadily treading the path that no one and everyone was envious of had, in a single morning, stuck his head in the mud.
At first, shocked by the ridiculousness of it all, the people decided to rectify the situation. But when he suddenly left the marquessate to a distant cousin on his mother’s side and stubbornly crawled into the palace, the people began to whisper one after another as if they had been waiting for this moment.
He wants the position of the emperor’s son-in-law. He’s secretly planning to use the princess. A prostitute who sold his body for power. The disgrace of the aristocracy….
The emperor ignored all of it. Inwardly, he might have thought it was all well and good. Knowing the emperor’s true feelings, the princess was able to have him without any problems.
But the empty spot he left behind was too big. The political sphere once again stagnated and the young factions were disbanded. The now empty position of Knight Commander was given to one of his favored subordinates.
Soon, no one cared about the concubine who had become the princess’s and was staying in the princess’s palace.
On the other hand, the emperor’s power became more entrenched. The princess was a woman who knew how to use artfully use the emperor. She had gotten her man, and so brought the emperor peace of mind, all while looking ahead to the time when she would be on the throne.
The people began to fear the princess more and more. Even when the princess wasn’t present, no one said bad about her.
But the people did not know. That, in the place closest to the princess, beyond the invisible shade, there was someone who genuinely cared for and advised her.
That there was someone who wasn’t afraid to try fixing the princess’s chaotic palace life, irregular meal schedule, and violent temper.
Before six months had passed, a war against the Borne Kingdom on the border was suddenly declared.
And the commander of the advance forces, Eclot Pacis.
He left on the long road with his troops, not a single magician in tow. The princess didn’t even watch his departure from far away. Even if they couldn’t see it, everyone knew what the princess was doing in the room shrouded by heavy curtains.
The people all predicted his death. With the voices that had in the past predicted his promising future as a leader.
But as if to once again mock everyone’s belief, Eclot Pacis returned. To the princess’s palace.
Two teacups were placed between us. Soon, a light dessert was placed down.
Finally, Daisy winked at me and left the room.
I’m going to lose my mind.
“Will you not take it up.”
Without even looking at his teacup, he looked at me directly and asked. I furtively looked away and grabbed my teacup.
“…..You should also take yours. I heard this tea is good for relieving fatigue.”
I said with difficulty.
He quietly drank the tea while savoring it. I had been drinking however I wanted, but he drank like a painting, as if he were following standard procedure for a tea ceremony. I glanced at his proper hands and wrists, slightly raised chin, and the thick line of his neck.
“……Were you hurt anywhere?”
“I was not.”
At my incredulous tone, he quietly lifted the corners of his mouth. His almost smile jumbled up my insides.
“There were several times I found myself in danger, but I am alright now.”
“…..You were in danger.”
“There was one time that I almost had my throat cut.”
“There was an enemy ambush that day…. The result is that I am unhurt, as you can see.”
When he had finished, he sipped his tea like he had said nothing important.
“……That’s a relief.”
At my words, he raised his eyebrows and examined my face.
“……..Is that so.”
He smiled with an expressionless face. There was no love in his eyes. Like the dark and deep sea, they were filled with only warmth and loyalty.
“You did not resent me while you were there, in that place?”
I finally asked.
“There was something troubling me.”
“Whether what was in Your Highness’s heart was victory, or my death.”
There was no way he didn’t know.
“Or if it was both victory and my death.”
The princess had sent him to die.
“Everyone said it was my death.”
“However, I did not receive Your Highness’s order to die. I only received the order to fight.”
“Thus, I have returned in order to request an answer.”
Eclot rose from his seat and knelt on one knee at my feet.
“Do you wish for me to die.”
It was ridiculous. That he seemed ready to end his life if the princess commanded it.
Although there was no way that was true.
So, I responded in the princess’s stead. His deep blue eyes did not reveal any emotion and looked up at me with a hidden slyness (?)
“Are you angered by the betrayal?”
“Do you feel resentful?”
“Aren’t you filled with hatred?”
Like it was a promised question, I continued.
“Why… did you become my concubine?”
They said that if he had wanted to reject it, he could have. In a conflict with the emperor, the nobles would have taken his side. But without even starting, he had bowed at the emperor’s feet.
“I do not know what you are saying.”
“Living the rest of your life as my concubine, it could not have been your ambition, no?”
“….. Protecting the royal family’s safety. Then and now, I am doing the same work.”
Finally, I asked.
“Do you love me?”
“If you command it.”
He submitted to me without hesitation.
I refused my meals for an entire day. I stayed in bed without moving one inch.
I repeated the cycle of saying it was cold and asking for a stove, then tossing off my clothes and loudly yelling that it was hot. The servants shakily collected clothes as wet as though they had been dripping cold sweat.
I crawled inside my covers and closing my eyes, paused for breath. I couldn’t think of another way.
Where exactly were the drugs that had been moved to the palace?
Because I had no way of separating who was complicit and who was not, I purposefully acted like an animal and let news of my withdrawal symptoms spread.
When someone came into the room, I threw dishes or other objects that were on the table. I also chewed on my fingernails.
The servants quickly adapted to my temperamentality. In fact, as if this were my original self, they didn’t even act surprised. I was the one who felt embarrassed and constantly felt the need to crawl under my covers.
The night was long, and someone came into the room that no one had dared to enter. They knelt and quietly called out to me.
I pulled off my blanket. It was the maid Hess.
Hess took out something wrapped in white cloth and brought it close to my face.
“Hurry and take this…..”
I sat up. I gripped the thing wrapped in white cloth along with the hand holding it.
“And the location?”
“I am asking if you changed the location where this was hidden!”
“Your Highness, if you take more than the daily limit then….”
I grabbed Hess by the collar and pulled her in. Hess’s head snapped up to look at me.
“You have to move it, you have to take it outside of the palace.”
“Find a way, quickly. It is okay even if it’s small amounts at a time.”
Hess’s expression was peculiar.
“You must do it secretly.”
“First, double check that the location is secure.”
Hess had brought it from outside of my room. That meant the hidden location was not my room.
In that case, I wondered what ‘lead’ Yuriel had been looking for. The one that was supposed to be in my room….. Although there was no way to know now that I had thrown Yuriel out.
Hess left my room. I glared at her as she did so, then gave the signal with my eyes. Daisy who had been hiding behind my closet quietly nodded her head once and then silently began to follow Hess.
It would be great if she was entirely on my side, but I needed to prepare for the worst. No one could guarantee that any answer she gave was the truth.
I hoped that nothing would happen to Daisy.
Right then, I heard a knock at the door.
The door slowly opened, and the moonlight revealed a familiar head. It was Nadricka. His eyes widened as they met mine.
“Were you worried?”
At my words, he closed his mouth tight before quickly coming to kneel on the floor next to my bed. He reached out his hand and I pulled him up onto the bed.
He practically dove into my embrace. Within moments, my shoulder was wet. His arm around me tightened.
He must have been really worried. I could tell by the way he had disobeyed my order to stay away from my room, although he had only snuck in during the middle of the night.
“Shall we sleep together for once?”
I asked while patting him on the back.
In the peaceful bedchamber, only the sound of breathing could be heard. Silently staring at her profile as she lay sound asleep, Nadricka cycled through stretching out his hand then withdrawing it out of fear of waking her up.
Ultimately turning to face the ceiling, Nadricka laid his arm on his forehead and closed his eyes.
He thought he would go crazy from how bothered he felt. Just existing by her side, it felt like all the hair on his body was standing on end. Being in Her Highness’s room, in Her Highness’s bed, next to Her Highness. Nadricka often stayed up all night in disbelief.
She probably couldn’t even imagine. That he only closed his eyes in the morning when she awoke.
And there wasn’t any moment as thrilling. When those drowsy and clear eyes silently checked out his face as he pretended to be asleep. When he tried to judge the shortened distance between himself and the shadow that traced a line across his face.
Nadricka let out a heated breath and turned on his side. Then his movements which seemed to momentarily stop started.
With a low breath, he put his hand beneath the blanket and curled up his body a little more. Silently, his lowered brows twitched.
There was the sound of fabric slipping, and bit by bit the sound of his breathing became more uneven. As if he were trying to suppress the sound, there was a long, muffled moan.
He stopped his movements as if to take a breath, and then carefully scanned the quiet of the bedchamber. Her Highness’s breathing behind him was peaceful and regular.
Shortly, he furrowed his brows. His cheeks were flushed red as Nadricka bowed his back even more, his expression that of exhausted endurance.
His movements were clearer than before as they steadily gained speed. His shoulder and arm lightly rose and fell and moved the blanket on top. It happened when he had buried his face in his pillow and was letting out a succession of sticky breaths.
An unfamiliar hand suddenly tunneled into his pants and grabbed his bottom part. Feeling someone’s skin on his back, their breath on the back of his neck, Nadricka stopped breathing.
“It got wet.”
Nadricka shivered with terrible pleasure, and let out a breath. He got chills on the back of his neck. However, his heart squeezed with the alarm and fear of being discovered.
The owner of the playful voice still had her chin on his shoulder as she let out a slow laugh and moved her hand.
Nadricka’s face was hot and burned like it was on fire.
“Did you touch yourself beneath the covers without me knowing, in my bed?”
At first, I wondered what in the world the sound was. Lately, I hadn’t been able to sleep deeply, so it only took a moment for my eyes to open at even the faintest sound.
Of course, I wasn’t completely awake so after assessing the situation, I was startled and found my gaze lasering into the trembling back. The round head, bowed neck and curved back really suited my tastes.
After that, well…. I hugged him from behind and my palm became wet.
Nadricka’s cheeks, which were red from excitement, became wet with tears. I stared at him intently.
“What are you apologizing for?”
“I-I, Your Highness, I…… Please forgive me…..”
Nadricka was already kneeling on the bed in front of me.
All of a sudden, I remembered the day we had first met. He had been crying and begging for forgiveness like this then too.
Nadricka straightened his clothes one by one.
“I think I know why you did it, but I want to hear it straight from you. What’s the reason?”
His mouth was shut tight to keep from crying, and his face was filled with sadness. I wanted to throw myself onto him and whisper all sorts of things into his ear but now was not the time.
At this point, I was the one who was having trouble holding back.
In the end, I urged him. Nadricka closed his eyes tight before speaking in a shaky voice.
“I-I wanted to sleep…. Because, I wanted…. Because I wanted to sleep with Your Highness. Every, every night, it was…. It was getting too hard to hold back….”
That was enough. Unable to keep my laughter in check, I pushed his shoulders.
Nadricka fell backward. His tousled golden hair on top of the white sheets delighted me to no end. Along with his round eyes which largened in surprise.
“Then why were you playing with the blanket instead of coming to me?”
His face reddened again. And then his expression gradually faded.
“I…. I’m satisfied with just making Your Highness happy….. You can just, use me like that.”
“What does that mean?”
“My, what I mean is, my own happiness….. I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t dare to ask Your Highness. But I couldn’t control myself. So I apol….”
When his voice began shaking too much, Nadricka shut his mouth without being able to finish what he was saying. With my fingertips, I wiped the tears from his eyes.
“Why are you apologizing for that?”
“I-I-I shouldn’t enjoy-.”
For the first time, he turned his head to the side and avoided my gaze. His face clouded over with resignation and resentment.
“Your Highness knows…..”
“What do I know?”
“That I…. That I was a sex slave.”
I stared at him dumbly, unable to comprehend the meaning of his words.
“Be-Because you would hate it….. And so I was, I was trying to control it.”
“Who says I’ll hate you because you were a sex slave?”
He looked up at me with a dumbfounded expression.
“I like you.”
“I want to sleep with you.”
“But I’m holding back. Because you’re crying like this…..”
Surprised, he stopped crying. And as soon as his tears had visibly dried, I laughed playfully.
“Ah… I-Is it really okay?”
“If you want to do it with me and I want to do it with you, then what’s the problem?”
I slowly lowered my face toward his, which had been looking up at me as if caught in a trance. I stopped just as our noses were about to touch, and saw his Adam’s apple bob. I laughed softly.
“But, how did you find out that I knew?”
“In the garden….. I’d gone out to see Your Highness, and I heard you speaking with a maid.”
Come to think of it, it had started that night. Nadricka not coming to my room.
“Did you, want to hide it from me?”
I had guessed that would be the case. Because while he had tried to teach me many things since I’d lost my memory, he had never spoken about himself unless asked.
So, I hadn’t wanted to tell him that I knew. Not to mention, it wasn’t that important to me. If had known that it would make him so anxious and miserable, I wouldn’t have hidden it.
With my hands on the bed to either side of Nadricka’s head, I bent my arms to kiss his forehead. And his eyelids, which fluttered closed as I came close. And his lips.
We stayed like that for a while before our lips parted and interlocked more deeply. I shifted my weight on his belly. A moan surged from his throat.
He reached a hand to my back and hugged me tightly. Like a child trying not to be separated.
The tight joining of our lips flowed into a light kiss. Making sound, our lips came together several times.
Only when I had moved my hand to beside his head and lifted my head did our eyes meet again. I stuck out my tongue and lightly licked my lips.
The eyes on my tongue were intense, but when I looked down at him, breathing hard with his flushed cheeks, ears, and lips, I felt a shiver run up my spine.
I smiled and lowered my head to his nape. He groaned and gripped the bedsheets.
“If you call me that one more time…. I’ll punish you.”
I playfully nipped at his earlobe, and he shivered, unable to finish his sentence. Seeing him with his eyes shut tight, shivering and unconsciously responding to me, I found my excitement growing as well.
“…..Ria. Call me Ria.”
I couldn’t think of an adequate nickname. I just thought I would like it if he didn’t call me Your Highness.
“How could I, say your name….”
His chest rose and fell. His defined shoulders and thin but hard body were slowly reddening. I stroked his body as if it were a work of art. He shivered.
He let out a heated breath as though it was becoming hard to control himself, as he looked up at me. I didn’t know if I could stand it.
So, I whispered into his ear.
“From now on, when we’re alone, call me that. Okay?”
I raised my head and looked into his yes. His eyes sparkled excitedly in the dark.
“……I don’t like being called Your Highness.”
At my words, he made an indescribable face. Seeing the worry flash in his eyes, I laughed and lowered my hand again.
He responded as though it were the first time he was experiencing everything.
“……Did I not do this for you before?”
Dizzily, Nadricka bit his lip and tried to speak steadily.
“Yess, not once, be-before……”
It wasn’t a bad feeling. I licked his lips and put one hand under his hips. I went a little lower. He shivered uncontrollably.
“You’re not going to answer?”
“Yes! Yess! R-Really!”
This time I touched the front. He let out a strangled moan, and screwing his eyes shut, shook his head.
“Your Highness, please, Your Highness!”
I continued as if I hadn’t heard him. He looked at me with teary eyes and spoke cautiously.
“I’ll have to punish you.”
I moved back and took up a place between his legs. Then I bent his knees and placed a kiss on top of them.
I heard him mumbling softly.
“Don’t think so. I think you need to be punished.”
I lightly kissed his lower belly. As I did so, he tensed his lower belly. I laughed quietly and moved my head down further.
Suddenly, he closed his legs, squeezing me tightly between them. Though he immediately opened them again.
“You did it for me last time, so today’s my turn.”
“No, you can’t, ah!”
He threw his head back.
Nadricka made dying sounds while falteringly reaching out his hand toward me.
“P-Please, y-you can’t….. ah! Hah!”
His hands, which had flinched back after grazing my face, finally came to rest on my face and shoulders, seemingly at a loss for what to do.
Then, as though he weren’t confident he could control his strength, he reached for the sheets in surrender.
Along with his intermittent moans, his hips continued to shake, and his open thighs trembled with the effort to keep them open. It felt like the thought that he shouldn’t touch or hold me in any way was still dominating Nadricka’s mind.
I loved his kindness and respectful affection toward me, but I had no intention of having relations with him while he was unable to accept and pursue his own pleasure.
It could be that it just felt unfamiliar. Seeing how anxious he was despite how much he was enjoying it.
My mouth felt numb. To be honest, it wasn’t a size that I could handle on the first try.
Suddenly, I coughed.
At the sound of my coughing, Nadricka immediately sat up in horror, and his face red, clumsily clasped my face and plead with me.
“Please stop, I’m begging you, Ria, please, ah……”
When our eyes met, he was suddenly at a loss for words. It seemed that the visual stimulation was too much. His pained expression disappeared and his eyes darkened.
As he bit his lips, I could see the immense chaos as well as the sharply raging conflict in his eyes. Along with what decision he would soon make.
Nadricka slowly stroked my cheek with trembling hands. I liked the partial frown on his face, and his shaky breathing.
I obediently lifted my head in the direction his arm guided me, as he swept his thumb over my wet lips then kissed me.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and responded passionately. It was the first time he had kissed me first.
Our lips joined then fell apart. Our tongues entangled, and grazed past teeth and the roofs of our mouths as we tilted our heads and kissed each other again and again. His hands which were trembling from nerves carefully and urgently stroked my back.
We were both breathing raggedly. Despite calling out to me first, Nadricka continued biting and sucking my lips as though speaking were a waste of his time.
Our bodies were line up against each other and I let out a succession of languid moans. Like he was pecking at feed, he traced the line of my neck and shoulders with his lips. It was affectionate but persistent.
“…..I really like you.”
He murmured with his face buried in my shoulder. I thought I could hear him laughing for a moment beyond the sound of my breathing.
At some point, I had stopped moving, simply resting my chin on his shoulder. Whenever his fingers moved I whimpered and hugged his neck tightly.
“Does it hurt?”
“Then, please.. touch me more….”
I laughed even as I let out a moan. As my hand slipped down his spine, he hurriedly grabbed my wrist and put it back on his shoulder.
“You said you didn’t want to before, but now you’re being picky about where?”
Nadricka wordlessly moved his hand. I laughed faintly and leaned my head against his cheek.
He looked at me with downturned eyes.
“Now that it’s come to this…. I’m not going to say I can’t do it.”
“As you should. I would have been mad otherwise.”
“I…… Am I really alright?”
“What are you so uneasy about.”
I touched my forehead to his and asked silkily. I could see the last shadow of hesitation in his eyes.
“What if…. I’m the only one who likes you?”
It was a shy and foolish question, asked like had forgotten everything that had just transpired.
“I like you.”
“You’re precious to me. Really. I can’t say how deep those feelings go…. But they’re real.”
He seemed surprised before he laughed, the smile reaching his eyes.
He supported my back then pushed me backward. He put his hands on the bed next to my head and climbed on top of me.
During all this, Nadricka didn’t forget to put a pillow underneath my head.
I could smell his heady scent from his neck. His tensed shoulders caged me in. His breath reached my ears.
“But I love you.”
It happened at the same time that he said those words.
I screwed my eyes shut. His voice whispering in my ear was arousing.
“Those are my true feelings…..”
He placed a soft kiss on the shell of my ear. I gasped and looked up at him.
As he lifted his head from my ear, his laugh was shyer and lovelier than anything in the world.
Nadricka stared at me for a moment, then bowed as if to embrace me. Our lips connected again.
His movements weren’t too expressive or hurried and there was nothing unnecessary to them. It felt like he knew where to do what so that I would feel it.
As our rhythm became steady, the pleasure began piling up like a wave.
We couldn’t stop laughing. Even though we were breathing heavily, whenever our eyes met, we ended up laughing.
It felt like it would never end. In the end, maybe because the bed was being pushed back little by little, I could hear the sound of the floor being scratched.
My mind was becoming mush.
“Ria, is it good? Do you feel good?”
Once in a while, Nadricka would ask me worriedly. As though he were desperate to hear my answer despite knowing everything. Then I would respond over and over that it felt good.
“I’ve, always, always been, thinking, I’ve, always wanted to, wanted to be together, like this…..”
We held each other.
Before I knew it, my vision went white, flickering before going back to normal. Nadricka exhaled softly from above me.
“Ria. How was it?”
Nadricka whispered while placing kisses all over my face.
I didn’t have the energy to respond. I was tired and drowsiness was overtaking me. It wouldn’t do to make a habit of falling asleep right after.
“Are…. you not going to give me an answer?”
Nadricka looked up at me while affectionately licking my ears and neck. I smiled with my eyes closed.
“…….It was good.”
Nadricka gave me a smooch. Then kissed me deeply. Dawn was breaking.
What woke me up was small kisses on my forehead, brows, and the top of my head. Without opening my eyes, I tunneled into his embrace even further. I could feel Nadricka laughing without sound. His hands softly stroking my head felt nice.
“Are you awake?”
At my answer, Nadricka pulled the covers over me. Then he hugged me and gently patted my back.
It was the first blindingly peaceful morning in a long, long time.
Right then, I heard a maid call me from beyond the curtains. As I refused to move, Nadricka sat up a little instead.
“What is the matter?”
“Sir Knight has come to offer greetings to Her Highness.”
“Sir Eclot Pacis is requesting to see you.”
“Ah…. Wait a moment. I haven’t washed yet. No, at least my clothes….”
Greetings. In any case, he wasn’t a normal person. I forced a laugh, and throwing back the covers, sat myself up. Immediately, Nadricka hugged me from behind and buried his face in my neck.
“Are you going?”
He said while softly rubbing his face on my neck, and I laughed.
After standing up to put on a simple gown, I gave Nadricka, who had been following me with his eyes, a light kiss and sat back on the bed.
“Tell him to come in.”
In the brief moment between the door opening and Eclot coming into view, Nadricka quickly hugged me from behind and began to enthusiastically place small kisses on my neck. His head snuggled underneath my armpit and then his lips were teasing the inside of my arms and my hips.
I was laughing because it was ticklish when my eyes met Eclot’s. I became a bit embarrassed and quickly pushed away Nadricka’s face with my hand.
“Ah….. good morning?”
“……I apologize. I thought you had awoken and have committed a grave error.”
“Nah. I was already awake. And if it was such a bother, I wouldn’t have let you in.”
“Is that so.”
As we were talking, Nadricka languidly rested his chin on my shoulder and fiddled with my hair.
Feeling Eclot’s gaze slip over to Nadricka, I laughed bitterly. This was quite the awkward situation.
Receiving a concubine’s greetings while lying in bed with another, naked concubine shouldn’t be a common occurrence, but I might have gotten used to this world because I found it cute how Nadricka was stealthily showing his displeasure while sticking to me.
“Did you have a good night.”
“Well, as you can see.”
“Do you have anything left to say?”
“……I have a request.”
“Is it an urgent matter?”
“Then, um, it’ll be fine if we talk after I wash up, right?”
He was quiet for a moment before he bowed his head and responded.
“I will wait for you.”
“Now, what was it you wanted to tell me?”
Wearing a bath robe, I sat across from him and crossed my legs. He was waiting for me in the exact same position as when he had first arrived.
“May I inquire the reason for sparing Yuriel Rose?”
So he wanted to get right into it, I see. I laughed bitterly and responded.
“What reason was there to kill her?”
“She is guilty of the crime of contempt against the royal family.”
“And is that not the reason I sent her out of the palace?”
Eclot leaned a little in my direction and lowered his voice.
“Is it possible that the woman has discovered your weakness.”
“If you tell me then I-.”
He shut his mouth. However, his eyes were still full of firm faith.
“Was it so strange that I did not kill Yuriel?”
“According to the law, it is not appropriate to-.”
“Why, because it doesn’t make sense to you how I could so easily drive a loyal subject like you to your death while being unable to do anything about a mere child? Is that why you thought she might hold my weakness?”
“If I have displeased you-.”
“And I’m obligated to give you an explanation.”
“……That is not so.”
Eclot immediately rose from his chair and got on his knees before me.
“In my fear that I would not fully be able to protect Your Highness should you be hiding something from me, I was too forward. Please forgive me.”
I didn’t have to lay on the sarcasm so thick. More than that, he shouldn’t be kneeling over it. However….
Yuriel wasn’t just another servant to me. Because she was the only person who was close to my secret. In the moment, I had ended up putting up my guard.
I wasn’t sure how to treat him. It was awkward to be on the receiving end of loyalty so strong that not even death was off the table, and it made me uneasy to know that I wasn’t its true object.
It felt like at any moment he would yell ‘you’re a fake’, draw his sword, and kill me.
“If you only give the command, I will handle it quietly.”
You’re saying you’ll kill her, Yuriel.
He was saying that he would get rid of ‘the source of my troubles’ just like they did in the books and movies. I didn’t feel as guilty since she wouldn’t be dying in front of me. It could be solved with a nod of my head.
“……Are you willing to do whatever I order you?”
“I could order you to die right here, right now.”
He didn’t even seem surprised. The composed look in his eyes was that of someone who had already considered such a situation.
I wonder if you would really die if I told you to. Why are you willing to go so far? Why?
“I said that I had desired to kill you out of hatred for you. But do you have no will of your own? Do you really want to do all of this in front of someone like that?”
“I am simply doing my duty.”
“If I suppose your words to be true, do you believe that is normal? The idea that I could easily do away with your life if I felt like it? That you would wholeheartedly surrender to that?”
I wanted to know his true feelings. And so, I proceeded to drive him into a corner.
“There is no space to doubt that the duty of a subject is to be loyal to the royal family. How could you say loyalty is wrong.”
At one time, I had tried to imitate the princess. But even if I did, nothing changed. Neither the princess’s destined death, nor the lives of those innocents that would continue to be lost up until that very moment.
If what he was showing me were his true feelings, then I could guess that he would have ended up dying while standing by that damn princess, like a fool. That’s why I felt even more frustrated.
“……You asked me the reason. Fine, I will answer you.”
“Essen Velrod. That man said he loved that woman.”
“The man who wholeheartedly offered up his body to me for the sake of his land and people, threw all of that away and was caught trying to escape with that woman.”
“Tell me, who among these was wrong?”
I saw my face reflected in his eyes. The princess’s, and now my, face.
“It was I.”
“That is not so.”
“Why do you say so?”
“The crime of the one who dared desire Your Highness’s possessions and forgot Your Highness’s grace is truly great, moreover it is illogical to suggest that Your Highness has done any wrong in forgiving her and-.”
“That is enough.”
I felt that we weren’t on the same page and put a hand on my forehead.
“So, what was this request you wanted to make?”
“…..I heard that previously, dozens of servants dared to assault Your Highness’s concubine. As you have not meted out any punishments, I ask that you allow me to kill them all and put their heads on display.”
“I deny your request.”
“You have only been back for a few days, but you know the ins and outs of my palace well.”
“But Your Highness, you must kill and make an example of those who have dared show contempt against the royal family. Laying hands on one who is in servitude to Your Highness is an unspeakably serious crime.”
“That is enough. I have decided to take responsibility, so cease this. Have I not also laid hands on another’s spouse? Will you also cut me down?”
The princess’s personal order of knights, full of beauty to entertain the eyes, existing for the sole purpose of fun. Among their ranks were men who had a wife and children.
“Receiving Your Highness’s favor is life’s great joy.”
“Who said that? That it is such great joy. Since when did ‘receiving favor’ involve the other person’s intent?”
“Your Highness. This is necessary. By establishing the authority and solidifying the position of the royal family, it is necessary to thoroughly crack down on those responsible so there are no repeats of this incident. Only by doing so will you be able to rule over the people in peace.”
“You are saying that it is ‘necessary’ to kill them, not for the suffering my concubine has endured, but solely to maintain the structure known as the royal family. That isn’t right.”
“This is not a matter of right and wrong. What is important is determining whether it is necessary for Your Highness, who will rise to the highest authority. You must give swift and clear punishments for rebellious elements, and definite rewards for loyalty.”
Suddenly, I thought of how I had come to be debating him. There wasn’t any reason I shouldn’t accept his way of thinking.
When it came to him…. I think I want to apologize in the princess’s stead. To tell him that the order he received was unfair. No matter the reason. But he kept saying that it wasn’t something to apologize for.
“…..In that case, you are not right for me. Just necessary.”
His eyes, which had been sparkling without a hint of suspicion, lost their light in that moment.
“In that case, who will give me their heart.”
When I opened my eyes here, when I realized that I was the only one on my side, what ate away at me was terrible loneliness.
I was on the receiving end of everyone’s hatred, and I was facing a predestined death. The feeling of standing alone in that fog, not knowing who to trust and who I needed, was still fresh.
I had needed help then. I had needed not someone who would show me the way, but someone who would stand in that fog with me. Someone who would, when I reached out my hand, take hold of it.
“I have not approved it. You should head back now.”
Though his head was bowed, I felt like he was trying to hold onto me.
But soon, that feeling faded, and Eclot dusted off his seat and stood up.
“Are you alright?”
“……You don’t seem happy.”
I let my head drop onto Nadricka’s shoulder and closed my eyes.
“Did that person cause you pain?”
I was able to laugh a little due to those words.
“It’s nothing like that. I was thinking about Essen.”
“He stayed back in the palace to be with her….. But you know, Yuriel ended up being expelled….. I was thinking that he’d feel miserable seeing the worst side of the woman he loves.”
“Maybe you should go see him once….”
“I don’t know. Would that really help?”
I let out long sigh.