Ch. 222 There Was Only One Way (1)
Elena walked toward Derek’s waiting room with a light spring in her step. Several maids tried to follow her, but Elena dismissed them for fear of them disturbing Derek before a major match.
There was only one reason why Elena went to visit Derek now. As she had promised him before, she would give him a handkerchief she embroidered herself just before the final match. It had taken several sleep nights to complete, and she hoped that it would bring him good luck this day.
She knocked on his waiting room door, but there was no reply. She leaned in and called his name.
Elena heard a crash from inside. Startled, she pushed open the door and rushed into the room. Lying half-fallen to the floor was Derek, wearing his metal armor.
She hastened to lift her brother up, and when Derek spoke it was with a hoarse whisper.
“Oh, you’re here, Your Highness?”
“What on earth happened to you?”
“There…there was something in between the armor.”
Derek weakly held up a thin silver needle to her. Normally the armor was placed on right before the match, but he had wanted to be prepared in advance and put it on quickly.
At first Derek felt a small sting, but then a few moments later it disappeared. Fortunately he didn’t feel any pain, but then his movements started to become sluggish, as if he were slowly becoming paralyzed.
“Don’t worry, I don’t think it’s life-threatening. My movements are slower though.”
“Who on earth did this to you?”
Elena gritted her teeth. She could not send Derek to the stadium like this. The competition had to be as fair as possible, and she didn’t want to risk his life.
“Brother, I don’t know who did this treacherous thing to you, but you should forfeit the match.”
Derek was unmoved by Elena’s anguished cry. If he dropped out before he fought against Wickley, he would look like he was running away in fear. Derek could report that someone touched his armor with malicious intent, but there would still be people that would whisper of his cowardice. Derek was far more determined to prove his skills so no one could disrespect Elena anymore.
Elena looked over her brother in uncertainty.
“Don’t be stubborn, brother. This could have been a fatal disaster. It’s a good thing we discovered this before the match started.”
“Don’t worry. The fact that this was in my armor meant that someone wanted me gone more than anything else. I can’t give them what they want.”
Elena tried to protest, but Derek only smiled faintly and took the handkerchief from her hand. As she looked at her brother’s determined expression, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to change his mind. It was a Blaise family characteristic to be headstrong and stubborn.
She watched as Derek struggled to raise his body, and then she made up her mind.
“I’m sorry, brother.”
Elena struck Derek at the back of his neck, and he immediately lost consciousness. Elena quickly caught him before he could hit the ground, and then sat him down and leaned him against the wall.
‘I can’t let my brother fight in a match where he may be killed.’
If Derek wasn’t going to give up, then Elena had no choice but to stop him. However, it would be a problem if Derek did not forfeit himself voluntarily. If anyone noticed his absenteeism, someone who surely come in to investigate, and then Derek would insist on participating just as before. Elena couldn’t let her brother walk out into the trap that someone had laid out for him.
There was only one way. She had to participate in the match in place of her brother. Derek would be kept safe, as well as render the saboteur’s plan worthless.
‘I don’t know who did this, but I’ll teach them a lesson.’
Elena’s red eyes gleamed with a cold light. For a moment she considered asking Carlisle to take her brother’s place, but someone might notice something suspicious. Either way, it was illegal for her or Carlisle to fight in Derek’s place. If the saboteur’s purpose was to prevent Derek from competing, then Elena wanted to proudly take the championship for Derek herself. She could not leave such an important matter to someone else.
Elena’s mouth was set in a determined line. The room was equipped with leather garments of different sizes, and so she was easily able to change out of her ceremonial dress and tuck it away in a hiding spot. Fortunately, all the knights would be in full metal armor at this part of the tournament, and no one would be able to tell the difference between Elena and Derek. It also helped that the arena and the stands were widely separated for safety purposes, and it was impossible for any of the spectators to identify Elena unless they were in very close proximity.
Elena mounted the helmet on her head. Only her red eyes were faintly visible through the visor. Fortunately for her, no one else entered Derek’s waiting room.
She made her final preparations, when there was a sharp rap on the door, and then a voice.
“Lord Derek, it’s your turn to go.”
Elena remained mute as she opened the waiting room door and emerged to the hallway outside.
“Oh, you’re ready. Follow me this way.”
She nodded silently, and followed the man to the stadium outside. She kept her distance from him to make sure that he wouldn’t notice the difference between her and her brother.
When Elena had completely gone, a face quietly emerged in the corridor. It was Batori, the spy who always wore a smile like a mask. His recent investigation into the assassination attempt led Batori to monitor Elena’s movements more than usual. He knew that Elena had come here to give Derek her handkerchief, but a strange detail caught his attention.
‘Hm? Why did only Lord Derek come out? I saw the Crown Princess enter the waiting room…’
There was no reason why Elena had any unfinished business inside.
As he turned over this information in his head, he had a sudden twinge of suspicion. He rushed to the waiting room, only to find—
Derek lying unconscious in the corner. Batori stiffened in shock at the unexpected scene. A moment later, he managed to pull himself together, then looked back in the direction where the armored figure had walked out.
“So she walked out in the armor…’
The suggestion was too ludicrous to believe, but a piece of information that he had looked over suddenly popped out in sharp detail. Allegedly, the Empress had sent assassins to kill Carlisle, yet the Crown Prince was fine while Elena was injured by an arrow.
The piece that had been missing suddenly fell into place.
“Don’t tell me…”
Batori froze with astonishment, unable to carry his words to the end. An unbelievable hypothesis formed in his mind.
Elena was a knight of extraordinary ability. And she was hiding it.