Ch. 65 May We Enter? (1)
It was late at night when Kuhn arrived. He was more cautious than usual, as a man seen sneaking into the room of a noblewoman would cause unwanted rumors. It was not polite to visit at such a late hour, but consent was given in advance at the urgency of the two handkerchiefs.
Kuhn quietly landed in the room and turned to close the windows. Elena, who was just about to succumb to slumber, opened her eyes at the slight disturbance. Her hand glided towards the dagger under her pillow. Then she heard a familiar voice.
“It’s Kuhn. What did you call me for?”
Elena loosened her grip on the dagger and got out of bed. It was impolite to receive a guest while lying down. However, Kuhn shifted his gaze politely as to not look at Elena in her nightgown, and when she noticed she hurriedly slipped on a robe next to her bed. She went straight to the point.
“I received the clothes and jewels that you sent me today. You know about it, don’t you?”
“Yes, I know.”
“I will be forced to accept a dress for the ball, but as for the jewels–”
Kuhn cut her off.
“That’s not possible.”
He seemed to have anticipated her answer. When Elena tried to open her mouth to speak, Kuhn interrupted her again.
“The General said that he would stab me in the neck if I took them back.”
Elena was shocked by the unexpected reply. She spoke again, suspicion written on her features.
“Is that a joke?”
She doubted if Carlisle would really kill Kuhn, but Kuhn had answered so seriously. Carlisle seemed to have read her mind. In fact, he also made her promise from the start to accept the items he sent her.
‘…But how can I possibly do so?’
The cost of dresses and jewelry alone were enormous, let alone the astronomical price of the red diamond necklace. She could not accept such things without any reason.
“Then please tell the prince this. It’s too valuable for me to accept. I will return the dress after I use it at the ball, as I made a promise and I must keep it. I hope you can take the jewels back though.”
Elena was insistent, but Kuhn replied with an unperturbed expression.
“I’ll let him know. But the General said, ‘If she makes such a request, tell her this.’”
“…What is it?”
“He said he would like to see you as a lady at the ball wearing the dress and jewelry he sent you.”
Elena didn’t know why Carlisle wanted to give her such precious gifts. Then suddenly she remembered what he told her last time they met.
— “I don’t like other people looking at you, but I don’t intend to let my woman down.”
Was he saying that he wanted her to be crowned the Madonna of the ball?
It was not honor bestowed at all balls, but in the case of the Imperial Court there were ceremonies that selected the most beautiful woman of the night. The chosen woman was rewarded with a tiara, and while the tiara itself was more symbolic than monetarily valuable, it was an honor coveted by many a young noblewoman. There were even rumors in public that a humble woman crowned Madonna could find a good match and ascend in social status. It was why the tailor shops were paralyzed with work during ball season.
‘…There’s no possibility for me to be chosen for such a position.’
She had no expectations for herself from the beginning, and she remembered who was chosen as the Madonna in her last life.
“I hope His Highness doesn’t expect much from me.”
“I cannot guess what he thinks.”
Elena continued with more insistently.
“I still too much for me anyway. Please tell him to take it back.”
“I will give him the message, but the General is away from the capital on urgent business. You may not be able to receive an answer before the ball.”
Elena’s face flitted with anxiety. She worried when Carlisle was far away from her. His life had been at risk at Flower Bridge, and she was worried if something would happen again.
“The General said if you wouldn’t accept it until the end, he told me to tell you one last thing.”
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Keep your word.’ If you don’t, he won’t keep his word either…”
Elena’s mouth opened in surprise even before Kuhn finished.
“That’s all I can tell you.”
Kuhn’s sterile, business-like manner forced Elena to bridle her anger. It was useless to turn against the messenger.
That was the first thought that came to her mind. Carlisle was trying to force her into accepting expensive items, but from Elena’s point of view, she couldn’t let herself become indebted to him. She also was afraid that one day she would become used to his help. In her last life, Elena lived a solitary life with revenge as her only goal. Relying on others may weaken her. At first she liked that Carlisle was treating her well, but now she felt trapped, and if she kept receiving constantly, she would have to pay for it one day.
Elena replied in displeasure.
“I understand for now.”
There was no way to give everything back, even if she wanted to do so. She was troubled by Carlisle’s remarks towards Kuhn, and the fact she couldn’t talk to Carlisle in person before the ball. She resigned herself into accepting the dresses and jewelry. There was no other way to attend the ball and meet him. She didn’t like it very much, but she had no choice.
“If you don’t have any more orders, I will leave now.”
“Thank you for your work this late at night.”
Kuhn deftly bowed his head, then silently departed through the window. She watched his figure disappear from view, then padded to her bed and sat down. It was difficult to fall asleep again.
There was not much time left to prepare until the ball. When the time came, there would be much to do. First, she would officially enter a relationship with Carlisle; then, the wedding would be held as soon as possible so she could become princess. Although this had been planned from the start, many things changed around them more than she thought.
Elena looked out the window towards the blanket of stars in the night sky. Even in the black, their glittering points seemed exceptionally bright tonight.
“…Good luck, Elena Blaise.”
She hoped she wouldn’t regret this life.