Ch. 163 I’ll See Soon
The ambassadors who wanted even the slightest connection with the Ruford Imperial Family could not refuse Elena’s invitation. All invitees expressed their intention to attend the party, and as the date loomed the palace became increasingly populated. Because Elena’s ankle made it difficult to move speedily, it fell to the head-lady-waiting to organize the servants and create as perfect as event as possible.
Plans were going smoothly, when there was a knock on Elena’s door.
Asabe entered the room and gave a low bow.
“Your Highness. Lady Mirabelle from the Blaise family is here, as well as the other maids and servants.”
“Really? I’ll go out myself.”
As Elena stood up on her bandaged ankle, Asabe quickly went to her side to assist her. Elena’s injury wasn’t so severe that she was immobile, but Carlisle was so insistent on her recovery that she simply complied. Of course, her ankle was healing quickly thanks to him.
‘Mirabelle will worry if she sees me like this.’
Elena swiftly headed out of the Crown Prince’s palace, her heart lifting in anticipation in seeing Mirabelle after a long time. Elena spotted the familiar figures of the Blaise residents exiting from the carriage. When Mary saw Elena walking with Asabe’s help, the maid’s eyes widened.
Mary hurried to Elena and looked at her anxiously.
“What happened to you? Did you hurt your ankle?”
“Yes, recently. It’s not serious, so don’t worry too much.”
“It looked serious because of the bandages. Well, you don’t have to worry now that we’re here. I’ll work hard to lessen your inconvenience.”
“That is reassuring.”
Elena gave a warm smile. She had thought she had been doing fine so far, but seeing Mary’s familiar face made her feel at home. It seemed that nobles did not usually take maids from their parents’ households.
Elena looked around in search of her sister.
“What about Mirabelle?”
“Oh, she should be here soon. There is a lot of luggage, so it was sent ahead first.”
“I see. Some people should be here soon to tell you about your accommodations and other things. Let me know if you need anything else.”
“Yes, My Lady! Ah no, Your Highness!”
Elena smiled faintly at Mary’s confusion over her title, then turned to Asabe.
“Go to the head lady-in-waiting and inform her that the maids and servants from Blaise family have arrived. Tell her to give them special attention.”
Asabe, who was quietly watching the scene between Elena and Mary, bowed her head.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Asabe left. She was a maid of the Imperial Palace, and was much more well-groomed and polite than the average maid of a noble family. Mary murmured in surprise,
“Maids from the Imperial Palace are different.”
Elena responded with a smile.
“They’re not that different. And you’re far more important to me than the other maids.”
“Oh, My Lady…”
Mary gave Elena a moved look, then hesitated before continuing to speak.
“Um, My Lady—”
She was interrupted by another voice.
A bright voice turned their heads. Mirabelle had disembarked from another carriage, and was smiling brightly and running towards Elena. Then, in a moment, she fell into the arms of her older sister. Mirabelle’s physical touch made Elena’s face split into a smile.
“You’re here, Mirabelle.”
“Yes, sister. I missed you.”
After a brief reunion, Elena turned her head back to the maid.
“Mary, what were you trying to say earlier?”
“Oh, nothing, My Lady. I’ll tell you later.”
“Very well. I’ll see you in a little while.”
“Yes, My Lady.”
Elena and Mirabelle turned and walked towards the palace hand-in-hand. Another figure was watching them with a close eye.
Batori gave a low whistle as he watched the sisters’ disappearing figures. Elena was closer to the family servants from home than from the Imperial Palace. Batori was never under suspicion in Blaise Mansion, and here in the palace he had even more free rein as a servant of the Crown Princess.
‘I planned it this way from the beginning, but this is an excellent position.’
Batori carried the luggage from the carriage, smiling as usual.
Mary stood there for a moment, staring at the backs of Elena and Mirabelle, and then returned to her original position. There was no one there to notice how her expression turned gloomy.
This was the first time Elena and Mirabelle had seen each other since the wedding, and they spoke to each other as if they had been apart for years. Elena gave Mirabelle a tour inside the palace. Although Mirabelle had already visited the place before, Elena was able to show everything in more detail.
They settled in a luxurious parlor room while Elena told her sister about the going-ons of the palace.
“What? Our nanny has become the head lady-in-waiting?”
“Yes. She’s busy preparing for a party I’m hosting, but before you go back, please see her and say hello.”
“Of course. I’ve missed her so much…I never thought I’d see her again like this.”
The nanny had played an important role in their lives, filling the hole after their mother died.
Mirabelle made an expression as if she remembered something, then pulled out a stack of documents.
“Ah, sister. Here is a list of all the maids and servants. It also has personal information about them, so keep it safe.”
“Yes, I will.”
Elena smiled and placed the papers on the table. When Mirabelle spoke, it was with a more cautious voice than before.
“It’s a slightly different list than the one I received from the butler. I switched out one of the servants with another.”
“A servant? Why?”
Mirabelle answered Elena’s question with an awkward smile.
“I just wanted to keep him a little longer because I’m so attached to him. So I want to ask for your understanding.”
As Mirabelle spoke, there was only one person that came to Elena’s mind—Kuhn Kasha, Carlisle’s subordinate. Elena looked on questioningly.
“What is the name of the servant?”
“Kuhn Kasha. Do you remember him from last time?”
At Mirabelle’s sheepish reaction, Elena had a tight feeling in her stomach. When she had been busy preparing for her wedding, she had a suspicion that Mirabelle was nurturing feelings for Kuhn. More importantly, Kuhn had said something to Elena that had bothered her.
—The Young Lady has been working me hard.
Mirabelle was not the type to always keep a servant close to her. Elena tried to speak as gently as possible.
“You must have become close to the servant Kuhn without me realizing.”
Mirabelle scratched her nose and smiled shyly. She had changed in a short amount of time. Elena had accepted that Mirabelle would mature as she grew older, but now it felt a little different from that.
Presently, Elena did not know the details of Kuhn’s situation, as he had lied about promising to protect Mirabelle. From Elena’s point of view, she considering asking Kuhn to ensure Mirabelle’s safety until she returned to the south.
‘It’s convenient to have Sir Kasha stay in Blaise mansion, but…’
When she heard Kuhn applied to work as a palace servant, she knew that he would leave Blaise mansion. What Elena didn’t expect, however, was Mirabelle complicating matters by blocking him.
‘What is going on?’
She needed to verify Kuhn’s story with him later. Elena gave an understanding nod to Mirabelle.
“Very well. If you want to keep the servant Kuhn, you may.”
“Ah! Thank goodness!”
Mirabelle whooped with glee, but was interrupted by the sound of a knock. The parlor room door opened and the nanny walked in.
Mirabelle leapt up at the sight of the nanny, then ran to hug the aged woman.
Elena watched the joyful reunion. Mirabelle’s smile always magically made her happy, and she wanted to protect that smile the most in the world.
Time passed by and the day of Elena’s party finally arrived. She didn’t want undue attention, so she removed the bandage from her ankle for the day and wore a strikingly lavish dress. The party would be attended by many people, from Empress Ophelia to the ambassadors from various countries. Elena took meticulous care, as this was her first event hosted as crown princess.
Elena spoke in a low voice to her nanny as she walked towards the hall.
“Is there nothing suspicious about Asabe?”
“Very well, then we’ll watch a little longer. She was the maid to bring me the Manera plant after all.”
“Of course. You can rely on me.”
Elena gave a faint smile. The nanny acted as if she were Elena’s hands and feet, and exceeded the expectations of her position. It was hard to imagine how Elena would have gotten through palace life without her nanny by her side.
“You’ve been working hard organizing the party, nanny.”
“Yes, the preparations went smoothly, so you can be at ease. And you should call me ‘lady-in-waiting’, Your Highness.”
“I’ll only call you nanny when we’re alone. I’m still more familiar with that term.”
The nanny wore a tender smile, knowing that there weren’t many people Elena could act as a child around.
Elena didn’t know what would happen once it was revealed to everyone that the Empress had given Elena the Manera plant. It would be a large stain on the Empress’ reputation, unless there were any unaccounted variables. Of course, that did not mean Elena would loosen her grip on a dangerous opponent, like Carlisle warned her so many times.
‘But it won’t be easy to get out.’
Even the Empress could not slip away from this net. How would Ophelia react in this situation? While Elena knew the Empress by word of her reputation, this was Elena’s first direct confrontation with her.
‘I’ll see soon.’
With her jewel-like red eyes shining brightly, Elena approached the hall with her nanny following her footsteps. The people milling by the entrance recognized her and bowed all at once.
“Hail to the Crown Princess. Eternal glory to the Ruford Empire!”
Everyone’s voices came together in a loud chorus. With as much composure as possible, Elena walked into the party.
The door opened before Elena’s footsteps. The brilliantly decorated interior gradually came into view, followed by the ambassadors from various countries, as well as Empress Ophelia seated at the head table.
The servant standing by the door heralded Elena’s arrival.
“The Crown Princess of the Ruford Empire has arrived!”
Everyone at the party turned towards the entrance. Despite the numerous eyes turned on Elena, she entered the party with an undaunted and dignified look.
The secret battle would begin.