RotFK Ch. 57 The Last Moment (1)
“Even if the sky falls, I will protect you.”
Carlisle could not find any words as he stood frozen as a statue and stared at her. The fierceness of his eyes, however, could not hide how unhappy he was with the situation. Elena didn’t flinch at his gaze and faced him squarely. This was the ultimate reason for their marriage. To keep him close. To make him emperor.
Carlisle finally replied, speaking slowly.
“…What if I don’t want you to be in danger?”
His tone was serious, with no hint of levity. However, Elena had no intention of retreating. Her intuition told her that if she stepped back now, she might not get the chance to protect him as a knight in the future.
She knew Carlisle had a stubborn disposition, so Elena had to carry her will by other means. She felt rather sorry for exploiting the one weakness she had discovered so far.
“You mean you’re going to break our contract?”
He repeated after her as if he didn’t understand her, and Elena replied in a low voice again.
“Our contract marriage. If you want to violate the contract, then I have no choice but to accept it.”
As Elena had expected, the light in Carlisle’s eyes trembled in uncertainty. Although she hadn’t figured out why he cared so much about her yet, Elena was certainly not alone in wanting the marriage to happen. She was betting on it. Unless she made this clear now, Carlisle would continue to hold Elena back in dangerous situations. She didn’t intend to be sheltered like a plant in a greenhouse. She had been one of the top knights in the continent in her last life, and now she could do even more with foreknowledge of the future.
“Do you mean to cancel our marriage if I don’t agree to your actions now?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
Carlisle tensed at her curt yet determined reply, and his expression turned icy.
“……I never thought I’d feel so bad about you being so intelligent.”
They stared each other down, fighting a silent war of will, neither side refusing to yield an inch. But when Elena heard his last words, she was confident she would be the winner of this fight. She did not seriously intend to break up the contract marriage with him, instead gambling on her intuition about Carlisle’s personality. She was sure it would work. She didn’t know what she would do if it didn’t.
Fortunately, however, it was not necessary. Carlisle glared in silent disapproval for a moment before finally speaking.
“…This is the last time I’ll hear such a threat.”
She nodded slightly instead of answering. She did not intend to break the contract so easily, not with the situation as urgent as it was now. Carlisle didn’t know it, but he might get hurt on the Flower Bridge or in the worst case, his life could be in danger.
“Don’t forget what you just said. Don’t stray far from my side.”
Carlisle glanced at Elena’s weapon with a complicated expression.
“As much as I allowed you this, it won’t be so easy in the future. Be prepared.”
It was one of the things that bothered her since writing down the contract. Granting one thing he desired could be a complication in the future, but for now, it was important she go as Carlisle’s guard. She would worry about what happened later.
Carlisle strode towards where the rest of his men were waiting, speaking to Elena not as a noble’s daughter.
She followed his footsteps, relieved. She was concerned that Carlisle would treat her like her real identity, but fortunately he didn’t.
Elena followed him silently, her feet trailing his shadow. Until now she wasn’t concerned that the attention of all of his men were completely focused on her. As she was wearing armor and carried a sword on her waist, they were nervous about a potential attack on Carlisle. Some of them wore openly hostile expressions towards her.
When Carlisle returned with Elena behind him, one of the leaders of the guard spoke out.
“Your Highness, why do you bring that disease?”
Carlisle’s blue eyes slid towards Elena then turned back again.
“…He’s my personal guard for today.”
The other man’s vehement protest died in his lips, and in shame he had no choice but to put on a more doubtful look.
“We already have the guard, so why all of a sudden–”
Carlisle ignored him and interrupted as if he had no intention of answering his question.
“The talkative one is called Zenard.”
Zenard. He was quite a handsome man with tidy silver hair and turquoise eyes. His shirt was buttoned high on his neck, giving the impression that he was a perfectionist. If Elena wanted to be part Carlisle’s guard from now on, it was not a bad idea to know the faces of his men. Elena spoke, pitching her voice low.
“My name is…”
She gave a rough introduction, and Carlisle, noticing it, cut in.
Her eyes widened. It was a diminutive of Elena. It was what her late mother used to call her.
“Len, be careful not to get hurt.”
She still remembered her mother’s voice calling her name affectionately. Elena did not approve of Carlisle’s introduction. Carlisle might have allowed her to call him “Caril,” but Elena had no intention of letting him call her by a pet name.
The smile on Carlisle’s face simply deepened as he looked at her obvious shock. Only Zenard, not aware of the situation, gaped between Carlisle and Elena and spoke out in utter amazement.
“Is that it? Are you saying he’ll be with us from now on?”
“Didn’t you hear what I said? From now on, Len is my escort.”
“We’re at an important moment here…and you’ll let in an unknown person?”
Zenard gave broad, disapproving look. With so many people already pursuing Carlisle’s life, it was not a good idea bring in an unidentified new recruit with the potential to be a spy.
“Do not question my decisions.”
Carlisle spoke in a commanding tone, swiftly silencing Zenard’s complaints. Zenard knew he could not overturn the prince’s decision, so he protested in a meeker voice.
“I’m just…I’m worried about someone like this joining us besides Kasha.”
Kasha? Not Kuhn Kasha?
Elena stared at Zenard, her eyes shining at the familiar name. She never thought about how Kuhn was treated in Carlisle’s unit. Kuhn didn’t seem well-liked, unexpectedly.
Carlisle replied, his emotion restrained.
“I said stop it.”
Zenard stepped back and bowed lowly, while Carlisle mounted onto his horse again. Carlisle briefly looked down at Elena then to one of his other men.
“Give your horse to Len.”
“Yes, Your Highness!”
He bowed his head respectfully, dismounted his horse and handed over the reins to Elena. Then the man walked away and finished the preparations to be on the move again.
Elena already had a horse, but since it was a waste of time to bring it back to where they were she climbed the horse the other man gave her.
Carlisle made a final remark towards her on horseback.
“Tell me whenever you run out of strength. I would be quite happy if you quit.”
All the other men glanced at Elena, finding the prince’s words completely incomprehensible. Elena did not reply, but moved her horse to follow Carlisle. No matter what happened in the future, she would never giving up guarding him.
It was then.
Once again, gorgeous fireworks burst over the sky, then again and again. Immediately after Zenard saw the display, he pulled out a pocket watch and checked the time.
“Your Highness, it’s time to join the festival.”
Carlisle took the lead and dozens of his men followed him. Surprisingly, it was Elena who ended up directly behind Carlisle despite his blistering pace. Zenard began to urge his horse onward even more, shooting Elena a look of displeasure at her excellent riding skills.