Ch. 206 A Storm Will Come Soon (1)
As soon as Elena finished dressing, she moved straight to the parlor room where Harry was waiting. It was his visit that Elena had long looked forward to. No matter how agonizing the pain, she would do whatever it took to make Carlisle emperor. Nothing would be better than to bring the Krauss family to her side.
When she arrived in front of the parlor room, a maid waiting outside pulled open the door for her.
Harry’s head turned at the sound, and when he noticed Elena he bowed deeply.
“Hail to the Crown Princess. Eternal glory to the Ruford Empire.”
“It’s good to see you again. It’s the first time since the wedding reception, yes?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Harry gave a composed smile. He was still a young man, and had an air of precociousness about him that he didn’t have before at the reception. He casually brushed a speck of dust from his shirt.
“Please have a seat.”
Harry sat quietly at the chair Elena offered him. His demeanor was more relaxed compared to Count Krauss’ strict self-control, but on closer inspection, Harry’s movements were not ungraceful. He appeared a sound, well-educated successor to the family.
Elena studied Harry for a moment before beginning the conversation.
“How are you? You’ve matured more since I last saw you.”
“I’ve often heard such praise lately, although I’m an ugly squid next to the Crown Prince, I’m sure.”
Elena gave a small laugh at his cheeky joke. Harry was indeed a handsome young man with an impressive pedigree, and he had a charming personality that likely made him popular among his peers.
A smile spread across Harry’s face as he spoke.
“Thank you for welcoming me despite the suddenness of the visit. I will have to depart for another kingdom soon to learn about business, and any other time is difficult for me.”
“Not at all. I had given you permission to come anytime. It’s impressive that you’re learning about business already.”
“It couldn’t be helped. My grandfather strongly insisted.”
Despite his grumbling voice, he had an air about him as if he knew not to take his intensive education for granted.
“So will you be gone from the Ruford Empire for long?”
“No, it’s not as if I’ll be away for years studying abroad. It will only be several months.”
“Are you leaving with Count Krauss by any chance?”
“Yes, I’ll be going with my grandfather.”
A few months was no short period of time. From Elena’s perspective, she suspected that Paveluc would begin his rebellion soon. Now that Carlisle was alive today, however, it was unclear how events would change, and there was the potential that Krauss may side with Paveluc and the Empress in the future.
Krauss’ absence now was a vital piece of information, and perhaps a stroke of luck. If the Krauss family wasn’t on their side, they had to be on no one’s side.
‘While I’ve been trying to get to Count Krauss, it turns out he’s going to be leaving the Ruford Empire soon.’
She felt relieved that a situation where they would be enemies was averted.
As Elena mulled over this information, Harry carefully studied her pale complexion, then spoke.
“I heard a story that you were attacked on an outing. I’m glad to see that you don’t look severely hurt.”
Elena’s red eyes flashed. It wasn’t unexpected that the Krauss family had vast intelligence networks, but to say this out loud was another thing. Elena smiled innocently, wondering what Harry’s ulterior motive was.
“So you know. I was lucky not to get hurt badly.”
“Is that so? I’ve heard that the arrow caused quite a serious injury to your back…”
Elena was caught by surprise, but she remained outwardly calm.
‘…How did he know?’
She had heard that Carlisle kept details about the assassination attempt strictly secret, from the number of enemy troops to how they died. Harry did know that Elena was wounded by an arrow, however. Her head began to cool.
‘The Krausses don’t know everything. But how did information about my injury leak outside the palace?’
It hardly surprised Elena that there were spies in the Imperial Palace, and while a few nobles knew that she was injured in the first place, they did not have any detailed information about the type or severity.
The Krauss’ information network was truly impressive, and more impressive still was that Harry casually came to Elena knowing all this. He had already calculated this meeting knowing she had a serious injury.
‘…That’s not a normal bet, either.’
She shouldn’t underestimate Harry, as young as he was.
Sensing Elena’s wary gaze, Harry hurriedly clasped his hands and spoke in an apologetic voice.
“Please don’t misunderstand. The rumors are not so bad.”
“It’s fine. I tried to cover up my injury because I didn’t want to cause worry, but you already knew.”
“That’s as much as I know. If you don’t mind, however, would you allow me to make some guesses?”
Harry was starting to come around to the point. Elena had wondered why he brought up the topic of the ambush.
“Judging by the location of the wound, did you take the arrow for the Crown Prince?”
Typically, when one was shot by an archer, one was hit at the front or side. An arrow could strike the back when one was running away, of course, but considering the circumstances that Elena was injured and Carlisle unscathed, another assumption could be made.
It was pure conjecture, as Harry said, and the truth was only known to the involved parties.
‘Why is he curious about this?’
From her position, it was a completely unexpected question. She stared for a moment at the young man in front of her. She had no idea the intention of his question, and whether to tell the truth or lie…or perhaps yell at him for his impudence.
Of course, she wanted to keep as close relations with the Krauss family as possible, so she was reluctant to choose the third option.
‘Just because he knows about my arrow injury, doesn’t mean he knows about my sword fighting abilities.’
Even if she had no knowledge of fighting, almost anyone could run fast enough to save their husband.
After a brief internal debate, Elena made her decision. After all, she had been trying to display her close relationship with Carlisle, and she didn’t have to lie and hide about it. It didn’t matter if someone knew.
“Can you promise to keep it to yourself?”
Harry replied with no hesitation.
“Very well. The truth is…yes, I took the arrow meant for His Highness.”
Harry’s eyes glittered in satisfaction that he guessed right. Funnily enough, it made the youthful Harry look more his own age. Elena smiled.
“Why are you curious about this?”
“You have spoken to me honestly, and so I will answer you honestly. I have never seen such loyalty in the Imperial Family.”
“Which Imperial couple would throw themselves into danger for their spouse?”
Harry did have a point. Despite Sullivan’s and Ophelia’s outward appearance of harmony, in truth their relationship was fractured.
Harry looked closely at Elena and then spoke in a low voice.
“Personally, I like you, Your Highness.”
Elena cast him an incredulous look, and he hurriedly corrected his words.
“Oh, not as a woman, but as a leader of the Ruford Empire. You inspire someone to believe in you.”
There was no reason for Harry to say this to Elena, so it was probably truthful.
“Then if you like me, why not support the Crown Prince for the throne?”
She decided to be direct. If Harry’s statement was true, the Krauss family didn’t have to remain neutral. At those words, however, Harry waved his hands hurriedly.
“If I was the head of Krauss family, I can make that decision, but you know I have no power yet.”
Elena gave a faint smile. Harry already knew how to use his youthfulness to extract himself from awkward conversations. His ability to redirect the flow was incomparably outstanding for his age.
‘I don’t know what else, but Krauss has groomed a capable successor.’