Ch. 196 Time To Finish Playing House (1)
Batori had been living in the Imperial Palace and serving Elena for some time when he was secretly issued an order.
[Find out what happened the night Carlisle was attacked.]
After reading over the contents of the note, he placed it in his mouth and swallowed it. He then swept his chin with one hand in thought and murmured to himself.
“…Hmm. This is unusual.”
Even before he read the note, he had already been monitoring Elena’s movements and knew of the ambush planned for her and the Crown Prince. Empress Ophelia and Paveluc were close allies, and so Batori already figured out how many troops were to be dispatched on the mission.
‘How did the prince get back alive?’
While Elena may have survived, he was certain that Carlisle should have fallen. In the end, Elena was injured, and Carlisle returned to the palace without nary a scratch on him. What did this mean?
“Something is bothering me.”
Batori had an unerring instinct, and his gut told him that he was missing something important this time. Something simple that was easily overlooked.
His pondering brought him no results, so he stood up scratching his head. First, he had to find a witness from the reinforcement unit that was sent to support Carlisle.
‘I saw a person move to the Empress’ side, and I can’t be too late to report it to the Duke.’
Empress Ophelia and Paveluc maintained friendly relations both publicly and privately, but that was not necessarily the truth. Information was another form of power, and Batori did not intend to lose to anyone.
A knight making his way to his quarters caught Batori’s eye, and the spy quickly plastered on his usual smile.
“Hello? May I ask where you’re headed?”
Mirabelle got up from bed and decided to make a long-anticipated visit to the palace. She knew her sickness worried her father and brother, but she couldn’t tolerate staying cooped up inside any longer. Besides, she hadn’t seen her sister Elena’s face in a long time.
“Huh? I can’t meet my sister now?”
Mirabelle had come to the palace with cheerful expectations, but her heart sank as the nanny looked down at her with a regretful expression.
“I’m sorry, but she’s not feeling well.”
“What’s wrong? Is she hurt?”
“Well…no, but she has a cold, and she asked if you could visit later when she is feeling better.”
The nanny had no choice to but deceive Mirabelle. Those with deep intelligence networks in the Imperial Palace knew that Elena was injured from a surprise attack, but otherwise, the story was not widely known.
Even the Blaise family was completely unaware of the news. Elena did not want to cause unnecessary anxiety to her family about her condition, and asked the nanny to delay the meeting for another time.
Mirabelle looked on in puzzlement.
“You mean she has a cold in this warm weather?”
“Yes. It’s not impossible to catch one in the summer.”
Mirabelle turned crestfallen. There was so much she wanted to say.
Her gaze fell on Kuhn, who was standing just a short distance away. She had wanted to talk to Elena about her newly realized feelings for him, however, she had no choice but to come again at a later date.
“Alright. Tell her to take care of herself, and I’ll come visit her again.”
“Yes, Young Lady. Her Highness has missed you greatly. I’ll send someone to fetch you as soon as she gets better.”
“Take care of yourself.”
Mirabelle plodded back towards Kuhn, and he looked at her in curiosity.
“I thought you were going to meet Her Highness?”
“Oh, my sister has a cold, so I can’t see her today.”
Suspicion stirred inside Kuhn. It wasn’t impossible to catch a cold at this time of the year, but Elena wouldn’t so easily turn away her sister from the Imperial Palace.
After a moment’s consideration, Kuhn’s gray eyes darkened.
‘Did something happen?’
Kuhn was officially on vacation, and had not heard any news from the Imperial Palace. The original plan was for him to return after Mirabelle went back to the southern region, but it was delayed due to her illness. Mirabelle didn’t seem at all eager to go south anyway.
‘Is it because of me?’
Recently, she had given him an earnest confession of love. She was still young and naive about the world, and was even willing to give up her noble position to be with him.
Since then, Kuhn avoided Mirabelle in the mansion when he could. He only accompanied her today for the simple fact that she was coming to the palace.
There was no path open for them. Kuhn couldn’t accept Mirabelle’s heart. Carlisle was his master, and Mirabelle was only the sister of the woman he had to protect. There was a high wall between them that could never be crossed, and no one would ever bless their relationship. It was best to dissuade fantasies of a relationship before Mirabelle was hurt or Kuhn was abandoned…
Mirabelle looked up at Kuhn walking silently beside her.
“What are you thinking about, Kuhn?”
He pushed away thoughts of Mirabelle in his mind and turned them back to Elena. No matter how much he considered the information, something didn’t add up.
“Young Lady, would you return to the mansion first?”
“What? Me first?”
Unlike the day when they went on a picnic alone, this time Mirabelle had a carriage driver and several servants waiting outside for her. It wouldn’t matter if Kuhn was gone for a while.
“Since I’ve been away for a while, I’d like to meet up with previous acquaintances to check up on something.”
Mirabelle couldn’t hide her curiosity.
“What’s going on all of a sudden?”
“It’s hard to explain in detail to a young girl. It’s personal.”
At Kuhn’s sharp reply, Mirabelle didn’t press any further.
After a pause, she looked up at him with eyes like an abandoned puppy.
“Will…you come back to the mansion?”
For some reason, Kuhn hesitated. Mirabelle seemed to know that he could leave anytime he wanted. Perhaps it was a woman’s intuition.
“…Yes. I’ll come back.”
“Can you promise me?”
Mirabelle asked him with the intensity of a heartfelt swear.
He nodded and smiled clearly.
“Alright. Come back safely when you’re done.”
Kuhn’s heart was troubled by how she so easily trusted him with just a few words. Although he didn’t intend to break his promise to return to the mansion, he could lie at any time.
He never had qualms about it before, which served him well as a spy, but for the first time…the word “guilt” entered into his mind.
Mirabelle felt Kuhn’s intense gaze on her, and she tilted her head at him.
He did not respond. He gave Mirabelle a formal bow as usual.
Mirabelle stood and watched Kuhn as he turned and began to walk away. It was far from the first time that she had seen him do so, and the sight of it was familiar to Mirabelle’s eyes.
“I shouldn’t get used to this.”
It looked a lot like a parting, and her heart became depressed.
For some reason, an anxious mood gripped her.