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“The thieves guild leader said something strange.”
Guild leader? I didn’t hear it from Louis until much later, but he mentioned that the strange patterns on the purple robe that Regina was wearing were a symbol that could only be worn by the guild leader.
There’s no way Regina, who’s only my age, is the leader of the guild. There’s no way there’s such an excessive setting since she’s not the main character.
“What did you say?”
“They promised that the next time they would come to kidnap you.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Despite my shocked question, Alex still had a blunt expression on his face. Could it be that he has discovered Regina’s identity?
“That’s why I ask. What is your relationship with the leader of the thief’s guild?”
Dun dun. When he asked a difficult question, I simply rolled my eyes. Fortunately, Burnett came to visit Alex just in time.
“Your Highness. Please excuse me for a moment.”
Without even telling me what was going on, the two people whispered among themselves. After hearing the whole story, Alex took one look at me and sighed regretfully.
“It can’t be helped.”
“I will prepare.”
Alex had a sad expression on his face, and his lips were hanging down. He has something to say, but for some reason, he just can’t bring himself to say it. I wondered what word was in his mouth, but Alex didn’t tell me what it was.
Alex said a short word after a long pause.
“You’re riding pretty well now.”
So, that’s it?”
“The first snowfalls fell.”
The first snow falls, and I can climb a horse alone. It took more than a month, which was a long time, but it also meant that Alex’s riding class was no longer needed.
Today would have been about 100 days since I entered the palace. A lot has happened in a very short period of time. Neither of us said it out loud, but we could vaguely sense it.
The time for parting ways has finally arrived. I felt like I was looking at a big, sad puppy for some reason, so I quietly lifted my toes and put my hand on Alex’s head.
“Your Highness, you can do well in the future.”
“Can you take on responsibility?”
What does this mean again? Alex grabbed my embarrassed hand, held it tightly in his own, and asked again.
“I asked if you could take responsibility.”
“Uh, that’s it.”
I don’t think it’s been even two hours since I received the letter from my sister. My mother, wearing a pure white sable fur muffler, suddenly ran into the dressing room of my room in the Crown Prince’s Palace.
Alex and I were frozen in place, facing each other and holding hands.
My mother, who had absolutely nothing to worry about in the world, calmly separated the two of us using a booming gait that did not match her pretty dress at all.
“My daughter. You did keep your promise to Daddy, right? You are going to return to the house on the day that the first snow falls.”
Yes, I did say that, but it’s still hard to keep going like this. The moment I stopped resisting, my mother wrapped her arms around me and squeezed me.
“When I go home, His Highness Alex will be alone.”
“I already knew you would say that.”
I tried so hard to be strong-willed, but it didn’t work. Mom held up her fan and made a sign as if she wanted to know what was wrong.
The door opened at my mother’s gesture, and a girl with familiar violet hair walked into the room. She’s a little shorter than me, who’s grown up these days, has big eyes, and even a bright high-toned voice.
Why is Regina here? Unlike the last time we saw each other, Regina greeted Alex and I, dressed like a perfect lady, probably thanks to my mother’s touch.
“It’s been a while since I said greet to you two. This is Regina, the daughter of Count Nethias, who is indebted to the Duke of Valentine.”
“How is this happening?”
Even Alex, who rarely showed panic, appeared to be taken aback.
“Did you think Mom would just let her daughter’s friend suffer alone?”
The proud mom says she found Regina and brought her home first, but Regina says that’s not true.
I could bet all of my snacks for a week that Regina, who clearly knew everything about my mother’s movements, went up to her acting like she was having trouble on purpose.
“Regina will be by Your Highness Alex’s side, so Ciel should go home right now, right?”
After my mother had finished speaking, I noticed that Alex’s eyebrows had separated into two clear lines.
Warning, warning. Isn’t this a bit too dangerous?
I never expected to be dragged home like this when I wasn’t even mentally prepared yet.
I can’t guarantee what will happen if I leave Alex alone like this. What if the corrupted male lead breaks into my house to take me back?
As I leave Alex behind, who follows me like a chick who has lost its mother, I can’t stop walking.
“Your Highness. I don’t want to be separated from Your Highness.”
“Ciel! Why aren’t you listening to Mom?”
This is the first time that has happened to me since I was a child and begged my mother for just one more bite of macaron cake. I screamed and took advantage of my privilege as the youngest for the first time in a long time.
“Your Highness will be next to you!”
If I’m going to be dragged home anyway, I have to look good like this. After struggling with all my might, Regina, who was no better, stepped forward.
“How about this instead? I’m going to stay here until Ciel gets back.”
“If you stay with me, you will be able to go out outside the palace.”
Once I debut in the social world, I can no longer just stay at home. Even though it would be risky to let me out alone, my mother can feel safe with Regina.
Regina showed up just as she had been without a suitable guardian since my older sister started working, my mother was openly delighted, and she looked at Alex.
“That would be great. What do you think, Your Highness?”
“I’m sure you’ll be pleased. She listens to everything you want. Don’t you think so?”
The charming question that Regina asked Alex made him feel even more awkward. He said she was coming to steal me, but who knew that she meant to send me home from Alex’s hands.
“Your voice reminds me of someone.”
You can cover up your appearance with a robe, but you can’t change your voice. Her unique high tone is something that is unique to Regina and no one can imitate it.
“Of course. You’ve seen me once recently.”
With Alex in front of her, Regina openly provoked him. He doesn’t seem to remember her well, but I’m sure they’ve met before. He made it perfectly clear that he did not feel comfortable with those words of affirmation.
“So, I guess that stepping into other people’s flower beds is a hobby of yours?”
“It’s because the owner was foolish for not managing it properly.”
Rather than being discouraged by Alex’s question, Regina smiled brightly and approached me, even crossing her arms openly.
I don’t mind when two people try so hard to get me. Alex is at a disadvantage in this situation. My mom gave Alex an ultimatum in front of her, saying that she needed to find a way to get me back home with her.
“It can’t be helped. If Regina doesn’t want to stay, I have no choice but to take them both back home.”
“Burnett. Please prepare a room for Lady Regina.”
After she had been successful in achieving what she wanted, a wry smile began to form on Regina’s lips. It looks like Regina planned for her to stay here on her own instead of taking me home at first. My mother sneaked up behind me and whispered something while I was completely unaware of her presence.
“Don’t you think those two go well together?”
“Ay. Don’t say it.”
“Lady Regina said so. She wants to get into the palace of the crown prince. It’s clear that he likes him.”
I could see what Regina would have said because my mother looked like she knew everything and was proud of herself.
Mom, that’s not it. Regina said she lied because she just wanted to be by my side. The fight between the two people over me ended in a draw.
Alex wants to monopolise me at all costs, and Regina wants to disrupt that. I couldn’t help but shake my head as I watched the two people who were in the midst of a snowball fight.
* * *
The emperor, who had gone on a trip without anyone knowing, returned to the capital. Thanks to his skills as a sword master, the Emperor completed his tour of Winterbaum safely with only a few escorts.
After Alex took charge of state affairs, the emperor would often leave the palace, appointing a servant who looked like him as his assistant.
“The seal works well. I suppose it can last for a while.”
“I tried sending it to the Duke of Valentine, but it seems that he can’t do anything about it.”
Alex looked at the map on the wall of the emperor’s office after hearing him make fun of himself. The Great Plains, which were in the northeast of the empire and were surrounded by big mountain ranges, were a place no one had ever been.
There are a lot of resources buried in the fertile land, which has water veins and mineral veins everywhere. But the dragon who ran the place didn’t want to live with people.
Just when it seemed like the fall of the empire was just around the corner, a man stepped forward. The red-haired man who suddenly appeared defeated the dragon in the blink of an eye and became a hero.
He is the first Grand Duke of Winterbaum, the husband of Princess Lotte. At the time, he was only twenty-eight years old.
“Who knew the dragon’s curse could be so bad?”
The emperor willingly gave his younger sister in marriage to the newly-born hero. As a reward for saving the country, Lotte’s own wishes were not at all taken into account.
With people cheering, Lotte had to marry a man who was ten years older than she was.
The emperor himself knew that their marriage would not be happy.
“Did Stan’s father die because of a curse?”
“Well, let’s leave it at that for now.”
The previous Duke of Winterbaum made a selfless offering for the good of the empire by giving his life so that peace could be reestablished. Thanks to the unusual cooperation between priests and wizards, a huge seal was installed in Winterbaum.
“It won’t be a problem for me, but you will probably have a hard time.”
“Didn’t you say you wanted to become the crown prince? If you don’t want to do it, you can hand Ciel over to Stan right now.”
Following his sister Lotte, he did not like the emperor’s attitude of treating even Ciel like an object. Alex made a clear frown and changed his topic.
“The case of the stolen jewels has been solved.”
“What exactly did they say?”
Alex calmly conveyed the opinions of the five guild alliances. Instead of getting half of the stolen things back, he decided to keep half of the money from selling the rest in a back alley.
That alone is a huge amount of money. Alex cut off, one by one, the things Princess Lotte liked to do as she pleased as the work went on.
Because of the lost treasure, she beefed up the guards and told them to keep track of everyone who entered and left the Lily Palace.
Princess Lotte was upset and said she felt like she was being watched. In the end, this theft incident was good in many ways because it stopped the princess from moving forward.
“For now, yes.”
“The Duke of Valentine came to visit me a few days ago. I heard that you’re holding on to Ciel and not letting her go.”
The only reason the Emperor went back to the palace was because of the protest made by Duke Valentine. The father, who had been waiting for his cute daughter to come home, received the news from his beloved wife that her daughter would not be able to return.