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As they traveled north from the warmer southern region, the weather turned chillier. Elena fussed over Mirabelle, covering her sister up in another layer of blanket as she lay in bed.
“How do you feel? Are you too cold?”
“No, I’m alright now.”
They were about halfway long between the south and the capital. Because of Mirabelle’s weak disposition, their journey was significantly delayed even though they initially left in a hurry. Mirabelle’s health was the top priority, so Elena ordered the entourage to stop at an inn.
“I’ll raise the heat in this room, so you should feel better in a little while. I’ll be going out soon, so stay in bed if you’re tired.”
“Alright. I’m sorry you have to go alone.”
“Don’t worry yourself over it.”
Elena smiled and gently swept Mirabelle’s forehead. The jeweler sent a message shortly after they left Blaise Castle, informing them that the hair ornament was finished sooner than expected and could be delivered at the halfway point. Since there was no need to delay, Elena made the appointment to pick it up today. She original planned for her and Mirabelle to go out together, but Mirabelle was weakened and Elena was only planning on a quick trip.
She pulled Mirabelle’s blanket up to her chin and stood up. The meeting place was not far from the inn, so she wouldn’t be long.
She carefully closed the door to avoid disturbing Mirabelle’s rest, then went to her room beside Mirabelle’s to retrieve the receipt for the butterfly pin.
As soon as she entered her dark, unlit room, she sensed a subtle presence. Elena held her breath and focused on locating the intruder’s hiding place. Her scarlet eyes scanned across the area, alighting upon a tall cabinet sitting next to a large window. Elena took a step towards it. Suddenly a low voice of a man broke through the pitch-black darkness.
“How did you know I was hiding here?”
It wasn’t exactly a question, but an observation that she saw his cover. As soon as Elena heard the voice, she recognized it as Kuhn immediately.
“What are you doing hiding in someone else’s room?”
“I’ve been waiting because you were gone for a while. But how did you detect me?”
Kuhn seemed quite surprised that Elena discovered his position. She hesitated for a moment, not knowing how to answer the question. She didn’t think he’d be fooled by a false excuse.
“…Well, let’s leave it to Sir Kasha’s imagination.”
Neither telling the truth nor a lie, she instead chose to make up a story. Kuhn understood her not wanting to elaborate on one’s methods, and chose a simple response.
He stepped forward from the darkness, the dim light from the window silhouetting his figure. He holding out the documents he brought along.
“This is the information about the Krauses that you requested.”
Although she wanted to look at the report right away, she had a prior engagement. She picked up the jeweler’s receipt from her desk, then placed down the documents Kuhn handed her on the same spot.
“I have to leave for a while to pick something up. You don’t have to follow me as it’s not far from here and I’ll be escorted by my knights. Can you wait here until I come back?”
“Do you have another job for me?”
“Not now, but I may after I check the report.”
Kuhn looked worried for a moment, but then answered quietly.
Kuhn agreed that his escort services were not needed with the Blaise knights around. Most of all, he would save more time waiting here rather than going out and coming back, and he always had to keep a certain distance from Elena as to not arouse suspicion from the other knights. He could do as Elena requested. But…he could not anticipate everything. Kuhn took out a hand-sized object from inside his jacket pocket.
“What is this?”
“It’s a firework flare developed by the General. If anything dangerous happens to you, light it. I already know the directions from here to where you’re going. If the flare goes off, I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
Elena took the flare with a puzzled look, and then looked up at him. He seemed to have implied that he already knew her entire schedule, but she admired his attention to detail.
“I see. I’ll do so if it becomes dangerous.”
Elena carefully tucked away the flare.
“I’ll see you soon.”
At the end of Kuhn’s brief farewell, Elena hurried out of the room. The appointed meeting time with the jeweler was drawing nearer.
The sun completely sank below the horizon, blanketing the streets with a deep darkness and penetrating even Elena’s room where Kuhn stood quietly. He watched Elena through the window as she departed with her knights. Finally, she gradually disappeared down the streets, but Kuhn made no move.
The second hand of the clock echoed loudly in the deathly quiet. This was the usual silence for Kuhn. Until suddenly–
Kuhn’s eyes shifted towards the sound of something breaking. If he remembered correctly, it came from the room where Elena’s sister was staying. It seemed obvious that she had broken something by mistake.
‘…There is no reason for me to check.’
Kuhn’s principle was Elena. Her sister was not involved in it. He looked out again with indifferent gray eyes, when another sound came to his ears.
A dragging sound on the floor. And it was getting closer to Elena’s room. Kuhn hid himself in the dark, just like when Elena first entered in the room. The door swung open slowly, and the first thing that came through was the sound of gasping breaths.
“Hah, hah…Older sister…”
Her voice sounded like it was about to fade out, and he could sense her condition was serious. He heard the sound of feet walking against the floor. Before she barely crossed the threshold, her trembling little body completely collapsed onto the floor.
“Uh, sister…It…it hurts.”
Kuhn looked at Mirabelle lying on the ground. She looked like a small animal. Was it because of her thin arms and legs? Just a small effort seemed to wear her down, and she was so fragile she may die if she was left unattended. A small bit of worry gnawed at Kuhn’s conscience.
‘…Do I ignore her?’’
Kuhn was not responsible if Mirabelle died. He had witness death countless upon countless of times, and many by his own hands. Death was not new to Kuhn, and he had become numb to it.
However, Elena knew that Kuhn was waiting in this room. If Mirabelle died, he might be falsely accused. He didn’t hesitate long.
He strode towards Mirabelle in an incredibly relaxed manner for someone who had a sickly person in front of them. He didn’t understand why. It wasn’t because he was scared of Elena’s resentment that he was moving now. He could add that to a pile of other people’s resentments, and it wouldn’t matter. For some reason he was reminded of a small wounded bird he saw on the streets one day. He knew it was just a whim, but he couldn’t control himself. He couldn’t say it was the right decision keep hiding in this room and ignore the situation.
“Where do you feel pain?”
Mirabelle was startled to see a man suddenly appear in the dark. Earlier she had taken a short nap, and woken up with a stomach ache. She tried to call the maid, but accidentally broke something beside her. It was a noise louder than the sound of a bell, but no one showed up in the room. She was forced to go to Elena’s room with severe pain, and unexpectedly came across this mysterious man.
“Haah, hah…who…are you?”
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