Chapter 25: The Shadow that Fades Into the Parade
After escorting me to my bedroom, Theodore returned to his workplace.
He told me that the reported hideout of the perpetrator who poisoned me had turned out to be empty.
He left the estate, suspecting it to have been a false report.
As I draped myself over the sofa while grumbling, Rebecca quickly approached me and lightly massaged my shoulders.
“Is this okay? Were you very surprised?”
Super surprised, even.”
It must have been because I’d met Dahlia, but I’d lost all strength in my body.
Staring at the books displayed on the table, I waved a hand at them.
“Please return these to the library.
I don’t even have the energy to read.”
“Yes, I’ll return them.”
“And when you come back, please bring me a hot chocolate.
I think I’ll need to drink something sweet to recover my strength.”
“Then should I also bring the apple pie you couldn’t eat earlier?”
I shook my head as soon as I heard Rebecca’s question.
Even just the mention of apple pie made me think about Dahlia.
“I don’t even want to look at apple pie.”
I shook off the goosebumps spreading across my arms and tutted my tongue.
Rebecca smiled at that before leaving the bedroom with an armful of books.
‘Reina became Dahlia’s lady-in-waiting, I see.’
Thinking about it made my head throb.
‘She’s going to become more big-headed.’
Seeing as Dahlia had now become the closest ally of the Emperor’s beloved Princess, who received his unconditional love, she must be walking around with her nose in the stratosphere.
Tl/n: An expression meaning she’s really full of it.
‘I was thinking how strange it was that she’d been so quiet as of late… Turns out, she was secretly planning this.’
I tapped my thigh with my index finger.
It was widely known that Princess Dahlia was obsessed with Theodore, who was married.
Reina would do anything in her power to get them together, because then I’d be cast aside by Theodore and she could stick Siph to my side again.
‘I won’t fall for it twice.’
Even just thinking about it made me fume with rage.
I clenched my hands into fists and managed to calm my anger down.
Soon after, Rebecca came in carrying a tray with a cup of hot chocolate and an egg tart.
“When you’re tired, it’s best to replenish your sugar levels.”
As expected, she truly knew how things worked.
After flashing her a pleased smile, I lifted a fork.
When I tasted the egg tart—which seemed to melt in my mouth—all of my rage, worry, and anxiety melted like butter along with it.
“Yes, Your Highness! Is the egg tart tasty? Should I bring another?”
“Apparently my sister became Princess Dahlia’s lady-in-waiting.”
Rebecca whipped her head up.
As she blinked, I could see the horror, fear, and astonishment written on her face.
“Whaaaat?!” Rebecca shouted uncharacteristically loudly.
She must’ve been surprised at her own volume, for she clapped both hands onto her mouth, but her rage was still not easily calmed.
What did you just say?”
I had the same reaction when I first heard it, too.”
“H-How did those two meet?”
That’s what I’m saying.
It was already annoying and a headache to think of them separately, so how much more rage would they induce as a pair?
“You didn’t know either, right?”
“I truly didn’t! This is my first time hearing about it! No such rumors were spreading throughout high society… If I knew, I obviously would have reported it to Your Highness as soon as I could!”
“I’m being honest! Please believe me!”
She must have thought I was interrogating her, seeing as she kept proclaiming her innocence with a wronged expression.
“Rebecca, calm down.”
It seemed her eyes were wet—she must have been really surprised.
I lifted my hand and comforted her by touching the back of her hand.
“I’m not scolding you.
Apparently she was selected a few days ago, so the rumors probably haven’t spread yet.
I understand why you didn’t know.”
“Are there no particular rumors about my mother?”
“Well, she’s been borrowing from here and there, so she must be lacking in money… It seems she’s having difficulty with funding.”
How carelessly had she been spending money to justify her already needing to borrow more? As I tutted my tongue, Rebeca wiped her eyes before carefully opening her mouth.
“Your Highness, can I offer something?”
“My friend we met that one time.”
Friend? While I tilted my head in confusion, Rebecca sat on the sofa next to me and continued speaking.
“Adeus Fotchen, I mean.”
Ah, that strange man.
I narrowed my eyes and nodded.
“Adeus knows a lot about high society.
He also has a heavy mouth and doesn’t spread secrets, so I thought it’d be good if he became Your Highness’ eyes and ears.”
He had a heavy mouth? It had seemed lighter than a feather.
“Wasn’t he someone who couldn’t go out in public? How does he gather information about high society…?”
“There’s always alcohol and women near Adeus—in other words, noble wives.
And, at places with alcohol and noble wives, there’s a lot of good information.”
Oh yeah, he was said to be a famous libertine from when he was abroad studying.
‘Of course, wherever alcohol and noble wives are involved, there’s bound to be good information.’
I thought for a bit before shaking my head.
“I don’t trust him.
I don’t think he’s suitable to use as someone who’ll be my eyes and ears.”
Rebecca was the same.
Though I’d assigned her to surveil my family, I still didn’t completely trust her.
“But he’ll be really helpful.”
I’ll think about it later, when I really need help.”
Hearing my firm response, Rebecca tightly closed her mouth and stopped pursuing the topic.
In no time, the finale of the festival—and the day of the parade—had arrived.
“You seem nervous,” Theodore said slowly from his leisurely position on the other side of the carriage.
I sighed loudly, pressing the palms of my hands against my cheeks, which were stiff with nervousness.
“It’s my first time being in front of so many people.”
“There’s no need for you to worry.
Everyone thinks it’s an honor just to see the faces of the family who have the public confidence of the Empire.”
“Your confidence is incredible.”
“Yes, and rightly so.”
The carriage we were to ride at the parade was specially created to have both sides wide open.
It was definitely made with the intent to show off the two of us riding it.
I sneakily stuck my head out.
At the front of the parade was the military band, and behind them were the Emperor, Crown Prince, and Prince, who were riding dashing horses.
After them was Princess Dahlia, who was inside a carriage.
We went after them.
‘Reina came with her, I see.’
Next to Dahlia sat Reina, as if it was obvious that she should be there.
Originally, ladies-in-waiting were not allowed to sit next to a princess, but it was clear that she’d sat there on purpose to make a statement.
To provide evidence for my theory, Reina sneered quite widely when our eyes met, clearly showing off.
‘Why I oughta…!’
While I was considering grabbing her by the hair once the parade ended, Reina turned her head to Dahlia like she was saying something before standing up from her spot.
Then, she approached me.
Reina waved her hand and smiled.
“I thought I should let you know, Sister.
You probably already noticed, but I’ve become Her Highness Princess Dahlia’s lady-in-waiting.”
“It suits you very well.”
It was the gathering of crazy bitches, so it was the most perfect role of all.
“Siph will also become one of the Imperial Knights soon.
Her Highness the Princess said she would make it happen.”
“Siph? Since I’m not there anymore, have you decided to just openly date him now?”
Reina frowned at my jeer as if she was surprised.
“Well, it’s none of my business… but I hope he becomes an Imperial Knight as soon as possible.”
“Pfft, what? Do you suddenly feel ashamed about Siph, or something?”
“Gosh, why would anyone feel ashamed for throwing away unusable trash, Reina?”
I glanced at Theodore with the smile of a winner.
“Since my husband is in charge of the entirety of the Imperial Knights, if Siph gets in, he can undergo some harsh training and be reborn as a human.
I’ll help him start his life anew.”
Reina’s face paled.
When she was about to speak, the loud drumming that indicated the beginning of the parade rang through the air.
“What are you doing? The parade is starting.
Return to your place.”
After I waved her away with my hand, Reina bit her lips, turned her body, and went back.
With the sound of a loud trumpet, the parade began.
The carriage started forward slowly, and I put on the smile I’d practiced and looked around.
As we passed by, the people who’d come out to watch cheered and waved their hands.
“I understand why you said you hated becoming a spectacle.”
“It feels like, at least right now, you can understand the feelings of a bird trapped in a cage and unable to fly, no? I can.”
With his arms crossed, Theodore leaned back comfortably and stared at me with a frown on his face.
His determination to not look at anyone else was evident.
“Wave your hand to the people, too.
They’re saying hi to you.”
“There’s no need.
I didn’t do anything that deserves their thanks.
I didn’t want the war, anyway.”
“But in the end, they’re still thankful.”
Ignoring my words, Theodore crossed his long legs and closed his eyes.
Seeing his slightly raised eyebrows, it was clear that he greatly disliked this situation.
‘I should wave my hand, at least.’
Ignoring my facial muscles, which were slowly hardening, I worked hard to wave both left and right.
Those who received my greeting cheered.
There were even some who shed tears.
Passing by those people, the carriage very slowly moved at a snail’s pace.
The boring parade that made me feel like I was an animal attraction continued.
‘I hope this ends soon so I can go rest.’
If I had to do a parade like this two or three times, I’d probably go with my eyes closed, just like Theodore was.
We were only halfway done, but I was already sick of it.
Even as I sighed, I continued to smile and wave at the people who had gathered for us.
Around when our carriage had reached the midway point, a man wearing a hooded robe ran onto the middle of the parade path with a throng of people following.
They must’ve taken advantage of the guards being preoccupied with trying to control the crowd.
Why were they suddenly on the parade path? That was dangerous.
I couldn’t understand what the man was trying to do.
“Theodore, there’s some person over there…”
At my voice, Theodore opened his closed eyes.
When I was about to talk about the man, something happened.
“So many people died because of the war.
What kind of bullshit honor are you talking about?!”
After the man shouted that, he instantly unsheathed his sharp sword and quickly charged toward our carriage.
Without any hesitation, he cut the rope connecting the horses to the carriage before forcefully kicking the horses’ butts.
The horses who were no longer attached to their reins ran forward through the crowd.
The procession immediately became a mess, and screams were in the air.
There were many people either getting stomped on by the horses or kicked by their back legs.
Our carriage, which no longer had horses, lost its balance and tilted forward.
Surprised by the sudden situation, my body followed the unbalanced carriage and almost made me fall flat on my face.
However, Theodore quickly grabbed a hold of my waist before I could fall.
Unexpectedly, I ended up being held in his sturdy embrace.
He held my waist with one hand; with the other, he grabbed onto the carriage and raised his head.
Theodore’s eyes were filled with murderous intent.
When I followed Theodore’s gaze, I found the man in the robe stopped in place, watching us.
He slowly took off his robe.
The man’s face was clearly revealed.
The eyes that were shaking with lunacy were familiar.
It was the kitchen assistant who had poisoned me.
He hadn’t shown himself until now, so why had he crawled here with his own two feet? He must not have even seen my shocked expression, since his eyes were fixed on Theodore.
While lifting his sword, causing the blade to sparkle, the man yelled loudly so everyone could hear.
“We, the rebel forces, will dethrone the Emperor and Grand Duke Lapileon, who began the war!”
Rebel what? What did he just say? Rebel forces?
‘That person was a member of the rebel forces?’
Even my surprise was temporary.
Before I could say anything, the sunlight suddenly reflected on the man’s shining sword that he raised prior to charging at us.
Theodore reflexively held me tightly in his arms.
He turned his body as if to protect me.
It seemed that he was so fixed on the idea of keeping me safe that he didn’t even think of taking out his sword.
“Die, Grand Duke Lapileon!”
N-No! Watching the crazy expression of the charging man made me reflexively tug on Theodore’s back. Bam! However, Theodore’s leg was faster.
After hugging me in his arms so that I wouldn’t get hurt, Theodore forcefully kicked the man—who was holding his sword up high in the air—in his abdomen region.
The man’s body unattractively flew backward with a loud noise.
“…Did you think I’d be afraid of a mere sword like that?”
His chilly voice alone could make one’s knees shake.
The man who was on his back ground his teeth before getting up again.
“My family died because of you!”
When the man lifted the sword into the air once more, someone quickly ran into the confused throng of people.
Then, they kneed the man in the back, pushing him down.
The man’s body was being unpleasantly shoved into the ground.
“It’s an assassin! Protect His Majesty the Emperor!”
“Protect His Highness the Crown Prince and Her Highness the Princess!”
The Imperial Knights finally got a grip.
Voices shouting for the protection of the royal members rapidly filled the air.
At the same time, a terrified person’s scream filled the air.
‘What is this…?!’
With the boisterous screams and shouts coming from here and there, I felt dizzy.
But of them all, I could clearly hear the voice of the person who had apprehended the man by kneeing his back.
“You can’t do that here.
It’s a crime.”
It was a familiar voice that was soft, yet firm.
He made sure that the man would be unable to move with his quick and nimble reactions.
Then, he looked at us before laughing charmingly.
“Are you hurt anywhere, Your Excellency the Grand Duke and Your Highness the Grand Duchess?”
As the wind blew, his blonde hair—which was as dazzling as gold—fluttered attractively.
Theodore made a face before hiding me, who he was still holding in his arms, behind his back.
“Young Lord Fotchen.”
The man who was smiling and who had immediately apprehended the rebel…
“It’s a relief you’re both safe.”
“It seems you two owe me your lives.”
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