Ch. 50 Now, Shall We Eat? (2)
Elena expected to dine at a comfortable establishment, but the place where she arrived with Carlisle far exceeded her expectations. They were in a three-story building which was completely absent of any other guests. She realized at once that Carlisle rented the entire restaurant.
She could also see a circle of Carlisle’s men through the window, guarding the area against any passerby. No matter how delicious the food would be, she thought she would find it difficult to swallow.
“Choose whatever you like.”
Carlisle casually handed her a menu, and she replied in a slightly weary voice.
“Anything is fine.”
He gave her a look before immediately calling for the waiter.
“We’ll have the chef’s recommendation.”
Elena watched the waiter dip his head and leave, and she wondered if he was another one of Carlisle’s subordinates. Otherwise, she and Carlisle wouldn’t be able to show their faces like this.
He slowly lifted his glass of wine and spoke.
“Don’t you like it here?”
At first glance it seemed an ordinary enough question, but Elena knew not to take it lightly. Carlisle sometimes interpreted their conversations differently from what Elena did.
In this case, she had said she didn’t want them to be seen together before the ball, but that somehow meant he could still meet terms buying a private box at an opera hall or renting an entire restaurant. She simply wanted to have a quiet meeting in an isolated place.
After a taking a moment to compose her thoughts, she addressed him with a serious look on her face.
“I’ll be honest with you.”
“This is all too much.”
She didn’t know exactly what Carlisle was thinking, but his reaction was one of surprise.
Carlisle repeated after her, and Elena gestured to his men outside.
“I don’t think I can eat peacefully with those guards standing there like that. And as I said in the opera hall, I can’t help but wonder how expensive this place is.”
Carlisle simply chuckled at Elena’s seriousness. Not knowing what it meant, Elena turned confused, but before she could ask Carlisle spoke first.
“In other words, you think I’m too extravagant?”
Elena nodded at his conclusion. How did Carlisle pay for the box seats and the restaurant? Was he really a playboy who spent enormous sums of money on women? There were fifty thousands thoughts in her head, and she could not relax and have a comfortable meal.
Carlisle had a smile on his face as he penetrated her thoughts.
“I see that My Lady is curious, so I will explain briefly. Do you know how many battles I won on the field? They are countless.”
“The puzzle is–where do all the spoils of battle go?”
As soon she heard Carlisle’s words, her eyes opened wide. It was an area she never gave thought to before.
The spoils of war, of course, went to the empire. Normally they would be sent to the Emperor, but no one knew how Carlisle handled the transfer of wealth in the middle. She never thought the crown prince would be one to intercept it for himself.
“I’m not that clean and innocent. Being born a prince is not always a noble thing…When you’re born, you are part of the emperor’s lineage. And from then on, the kind of family the prince’s mother comes from is important as well.”
Elena remained silent. Carlisle’s mother was a humble maid. There was a difference between the ladies-in-waiting and the maids who worked at the palace. The ladies-in-waiting were composed of a household’s noble wives or lovers, while the maids who did household chores were humble commoners, like Sophie and Mary who worked for House Blaise. Carlisle’s mother was such a maid, and Carlisle became the crown prince without any outside political support.
She was familiar over the controversy in the Imperial Family over the blasphemy of Carlisle’s maternal lineage. It was known to every person in Ruford Empire, and Elena needn’t have lived a second life to know of it.
“I have no support to lean on, and there’s no way I’ll let them take the spoils of the battlefield to the Imperial Palace. Don’t you agree?”
Carlisle spoke so nonchalantly that Elena felt a pang of sympathy. Thus far she had only considered how she could use Carlisle to protect her family, and had never given a single thought to how he lived.
What kind of man was Carlisle? She wanted to know for the first time.
In any case, Elena now fully understood why he was wealthy, even if he wouldn’t back down on her objections. Since Carlisle had no outside power to support him, he covertly amassed his wealth through war.
“…I see your point.”
Carlisle took a sip from the wine glass he was holding, looking strangely alluring as he did so.
“I heard from Kuhn. Someone destroyed your ball gown.”
She had been planning to ask Carlisle about that.
“The spoils are not always money, but jewelry and clothing. Sometimes you need some surreptitious ways to launder your wealth.”
Now Elena understood why Carlisle was familiar with the subject of clothing, as Kuhn had said.
She finally looked convinced, so Carlisle saw no need to explain any further. He glanced at her plate of barely touched food and gave a furtive frown, then lifted his right hand into the air and snapped his fingers. One of the men from outside came within an instant.
“You’ve summoned me, Your Highness.”
“Move your men so they’re out of sight. You’re disturbing my guest from eating.”
“My apologies, I’ll take care of it right away.”
Elena’s face flushed, and she looked between Carlisle and the guard. That was not what she meant earlier. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see the guards, it was that she didn’t want Carlisle to unnecessarily indulge her.
At Carlisle’s command the guards disappeared from view of the window. Elena was stunned silent, her lips trembling. Carlisle gave a winning smile at the helpless Elena.
“Then let’s have a meal.”
A series of appetizing dishes began to stream out of the kitchen. It occurred to Elena he might be more formidable than she thought.
Outside the restaurant.
The man who was stalking Elena at the request of House Selby could not hide his excitement at the unexpected windfall.
‘This is a scandal between Lady Blaise and a wealthy aristocratic man!’
He didn’t know who the man was, but after observing them the spy knew that the man was incredibly wealthy. This was the information Helen had been waiting for. He had been abused for not having any valuable information the past several days.
The spy made to hurry and report to Helen, smiling at the prospect of being paid in gold.
Suddenly, he fell from the tree.
He could not even scream, and he choked with his eyes wide open. Someone had driven a sharp dagger through his neck. The attacker slowly emerged through the dim moonlight, staring down at the dying man.
It was Kuhn. He spoke in a low voice.
“The General told me not to let you go any further.”
Kuhn quickly pulled his dagger from the spy’s neck.
Blood spurted from his neck and the body of the dead man toppled to the ground.
Kuhn stared at the man’s back before murmuring again.
“This is the way we live our lives, so go without any resentment.”