Chapter 268 – If I Had To Bet (2)
Evans studied Elena with a heavy frown in his eyes. Elena, however, simply continued on.
“Let’s return to business. You would have a great advantage if you were on the Crown Prince’s side.”
“…I don’t know. Will I?”
“Of course. The Empress is struggling to survive, and Second Prince Redfield will never claim the throne.”
“Can you guarantee that for sure?”
Elena remained composed and gave him a calculated stare.
“Then let me ask you. Who do you think has the best chance of winning this fight?”
Evans’ words trailed off. There was a strong chance that Carlisle would take the throne. If he was alive and could command his troops, then Ophelia’s forces would likely be neutralized. Elena continued on.
“As you know, Crown Prince Carlisle is the only successor that the Emperor has acknowledged. My husband has a royal claim, and more importantly, he has extensive military experience. Do you not believe that he can retake the soldiers from the Crown Prince’s palace?”
“No, of course…the Crown Prince will inherit the throne.”
Evans considered Elena’s argument to be well-founded. Of course, even if he had a different notion in his head, he could not openly express it here.
“Then let me ask you one more question. How long do you think you will last if Crown Prince Carlisle turns against you?”
It was a clear threat. If Evans did not help now, then Carlisle would not forget the slight when he took the throne.
“You are quite bold. Then let me ask you my own question. What would you do if I supported the Second Prince instead?”
“Do as you wish. But if Crown Prince Carlisle succeeds the throne as fate intended, you will have to deal with him later.”
Evans pressed his lips tightly at her answer.
Elena had been in deep thought on her carriage ride here—what words should she say to turn Krauss to her side? She had taken a belligerent approach, even though no one else had dared so, afraid to turn one of the most powerful men against them. After long contemplation, however, Elena was able to come to a conclusion.
‘Count Krauss does not want to choose sides in this fight. Even if he doesn’t like what I said, it is unlikely that he’ll turn to another power.’
If Elena’s guess was right, she had nothing to lose. Even if Evans rejected the offer, it did not necessarily mean that he would turn to Ophelia, and would continue to remain neutral as before. In addition, Evans already knew that Harry and Elena would meet at this villa. He could have leaked her location to Ophelia, but it appeared that he had not done so. Elena wasn’t sure if all her assumptions were right, but she would take the risk to win an advantage she thought was reliable.
A frown was creased on Evans’ lips. Elena took note of his conflicted expression and spoke again.
“This is a battle that Crown Prince Carlisle will win either way. So please aid him and strengthen his victory even further. If you do so, the Imperial House will not forget your contribution.”
Elena’s brazen confidence left Evans speechless. Even now, the head of the most powerful business family in the Empire was having a difficult time against Elena.
In the end, Evans did not give Elena a definite answer, simply saying he would give her his reply in the future. Just as Elena left, Harry entered the house to meet with his grandfather. Evans pulled his eyes away from the window and looked at Harry walking in without permission.
“What is it now?”
Evans scowled at him, irritable that his grandson had arranged a meeting without asking him first. Harry, however, was unfazed by his grandfather’s temper.
“What do you mean? Is it not normal to see your grandson?”
Evans had intended to give Harry a good scolding after Elena left, but even now he had no time for that. The Crown Princess’ request weighed heavily on his mind instead.
“…She is quite unusual in many ways.”
“I understand why you don’t want to be involved in this fight for succession. But you’ve seen it for yourself. She is truly in love with the Crown Prince.”
There was one lone reason why Evans continued to distrust the Imperial Family of the Ruford Empire.
Decades ago when he was still young, Sullivan’s father, the former emperor, had taken the woman Evans loved. Had she had lived happily ever after, Evans would not have held a grudge, and resigned himself to giving up his lover. However, the emperor soon abandoned her. For that, she took her own life.
Since then, a deep hatred for the Imperial Family was rooted deep in Evans’ heart. He believed that the cold-blooded men of the family could never learn to love. The relationship between Carlisle and Elena was difficult to believe, that is, until he had seen Elena for himself.
‘Given how truly devoted the Crown Princess is to the Crown Prince, their relationship can hardly be shallow.’
Evans’ long-held grudge seemed to waver in the face of their love. He realized that he had hated the entire Imperial family from the actions of a single man. Evans looked conflicted, and he opened his mouth to speak.
“…Regardless of the couple’s relationship, that is no reason for the Krauss family to be involved in this fight.”
Despite the firmness of Evans’ voice, Harry gave a small laugh.
“As you said, Grandfather, it doesn’t matter to us who becomes Emperor. In that case, wouldn’t it be interesting just to walk on the side of the Crown Princess?”
Evans stared shrewdly at his son. He had never given that perspective much thought before, but as he pondered on it, he found that Harry’s words were quite tempting. Evans recalled the words Elena had left behind.
— I believe in his love as much as he believes in mine.
Clearly, Elena was a breed of woman not often found in the Imperial Family. She boldly threatened Evans, and even waved away the notion of obedience to her husband. Harry looked on at his troubled grandfather’s face.
“Tell me the truth, Grandfather. What do you want to do?”
Evans’ eyes deepened. He had to come to a decision soon, whether to decline support and quietly bury the topic, or come forward and lend his aid in the fight for succession.
Since the beginning, there was still not much difference between Redfield and Carlisle in Evans’ eyes. He did not even fear Carlisle’s potential tyranny. But this time…there was another interesting player in the game.
‘If the Crown Prince and Crown Princess ruled the Empire, would anything change?’
Perhaps the Ruford Empire’s history of blood could be rewritten. So if Evans had to bet on someone…it would neither be Redfield nor Carlisle, but Elena. After a few minutes of thinking, Evans spoke in a low voice.
“…Whoever I choose, I will not tell you.”
“Oh, come on, Grandfather.”
Harry huffed at his grandfather’s manner, but Evans’ secrecy made Harry feel anxious.