“I urgently need to discuss something, so I plan to visit tonight. If that’s not possible for you, write back with a time that works for you.”
I read over the short, concise message composed of just two sentences several times.
Just in case, I checked the back, but there was nothing more.
“Where’s my reward? My payment?”
My mood sank with the betrayed expectation, but soon the words ‘urgently need to discuss’ began to gnaw at me.
What could Reynard possibly need to discuss with me? There was no solid basis, but I had this nagging feeling that it wouldn’t be good news.
“No, let’s not worry before we have to.”
After all, I’d only get the full story by meeting Reynard in person.
I considered replying to ask, but I guessed it was something he couldn’t put in a note, likely a sensitive matter.
Considering his direct nature as portrayed in the novel, if it had been something that wasn’t a big deal to share, it would have been written in the note.
‘He must’ve left out the details on purpose, thinking someone might intercept his hawk and steal the note.’
With that thought, my heart felt as heavy as if it were weighted down by a boulder.
‘If it’s something that would cause Reynard trouble if it got out…’
Even for me, who knew little about the Crown Prince, a guess struck me, but I shook it off.
“No, it can’t be. It shouldn’t be. It mustn’t be.”
After sending a reply that he could come tonight, I was left to wallow in my anxiousness.
The hours, which used to fly by when I lazed around carefree, dragged on that day.
In the gloomy night, with the distant hoots of an owl.
“It’s been a while, my lady.”
The empire’s heir apparent, Reynard, appeared before me with the same confident smile as before.
“Why are you outside on such a chilly night?”
He said to me, having easily climbed the tree near my room to reach the terrace.
I had been pacing on the terrace for about an hour already.
“Good evening, Your Highness! How could I possibly rest comfortably knowing you were on your way?”
“Is it because of the note?”
“Ha, that’s partly it…”
His smile deepened at my response.
“I’ve felt this before, but I quite like that part about you, my lady.”
Even in the darkness, his sharp features were distinct enough to set my heart racing.
“W-Which part do you mean?”
“The part that’s just the right amount of honest and just the right amount of humble?”
I don’t know about honest, but humble? That term lacked any hint of romance.
It seems someone high and mighty has a penchant for people who cater to his whims.
‘And to think, he said he was charmed by Aila’s boldness, the way she spoke her mind even in front of a Crown prince!’
But then again, that was permitted because she was the heroine. Had it been anyone else, they would’ve lost their head without a second thought.
“Come on, let’s go inside.”
As if he’d been there more than once, Reynard strode into my room with a familiar ease.
“Make yourself comfortable there.”
It was almost as if the room had changed owners without me noticing.
But the next moment, the man settled on the long sofa and his face turned serious.
“There’s a serious problem. That’s what the ‘urgent matter’ I mentioned in the note means.”
I swallowed hard before asking.
“May I inquire what the problem is?”
“…I can’t sleep again.”
After a pause, the prince’s words that came out were quite shocking.
“The curse of the bed has resumed.”
F*ck! This was the last thing I wanted to happen!
I rushed with my question.
“Don’t tell me you’re hearing voices again?”
“The same as before?”
“Exactly. Everything is just as it was recently.”
Reynard crushed the last of my vague hopes with firm certainty.
“The curse wasn’t broken. It just paused for a while.”
“It’s been 15 days already. After spending one night in your bed, I felt incredibly refreshed. And the next day, and the day after, I slept without any trouble at all.”
The problem arose exactly one week after Reynard’s visit.
“I just couldn’t fall asleep, strangely enough. Normally, I’m the person who sleeps quickly when I hit the bed, but that night, I was tossing and turning.”
At that point, he hadn’t suspected the return of the curse.
“I figured it was just the aftermath of overdoing it with the backlog of work.”
Unfortunately, the following night, Reynard spent even longer counting sheep in his bed.
“And that was just the beginning. The night after that, I was practically up until dawn.”
And, by the way, he started hearing the cursed voices again two days ago.
It’s like we’re back to square one.
“Damn it, why again…”
His fist pounded on the table, sending a dull thud echoing through the room, his hand trembling slightly.
The emotion streaming from his sleep-deprived, bloodshot blue eyes was not despair or sorrow.
Anger. A fierce rage directed at whoever had inflicted this endless ordeal upon him.
As I spoke up, breaking through the suffocating tension, he snapped back to reality.
“Ah, sorry about that.”
His expression was awkward, a clear sign of embarrassment for having let his raw emotions show.
‘He’s seriously ticked off.’
Understandably so. I mean, even just one sleepless night makes me edgy and irritable.
And Reynard? He hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in over two months, except the last week.
And just when he thought the curse was lifted, he’s faced with this grim truth.
The fact that my bed, which he thought was the key to breaking the curse, only gave temporary relief, and the curse is still ongoing.
‘Just the thought is unbearable.’
If I were Reynard, even chewing out the cause of the culprit wouldn’t be enough to relieve my frustration.
The only issue is… that my own comment is the source of the curse tormenting him…
‘I absolutely cannot let him find out!’
Unaware of my secret, Reynard was concerned about my silence.
“Are you okay? You look a little pale.”
“I’m fine. Even if I weren’t, it’s nothing compared to what Your Highness is enduring with the curse.”
“You’re unusually formal. It’s almost as if you’re hiding something. Now and even before.”
Reynard’s gaze sharpened.
That reminded me, that Reynard had a knack for noticing things—a byproduct of navigating court intrigues and battles for the throne had honed his instincts.
“Um, no, I’m not hiding anything…”
As I fumbled for words, the man who had been scowling just cracked a smile.
“I’m just joking. You seemed a bit tense, so I thought I’d lighten the mood.”
“…Right, of course.”
“Was it not funny?”
“No, it was hilarious. If it hadn’t been a matter of etiquette, I would have nearly died laughing.”
“Quite the flatterer, aren’t you?”
“It’s the truth.”
At least about the nearly-dying part.
Anyway, getting back to the point, Reynard brought up his real request.
“It’ll be a bother, but I need your cooperation until I can find a way to break this damned curse. I’m asking for your help.”
“What kind of cooperation?”
“Naturally, I mean staying in your bed. On a regular basis.”
…I should have known.
“Of course, I’ll ensure you’re properly compensated for your trouble. I swear it on the honor of the royal family and myself.”
“Will you help me?”
I knew there was only one answer I could give.
Reynard hadn’t just lucked into the position of Crown Prince among the many children of the Emperor.
At his core, he was a man of generous nature, but in matters, he deemed non-negotiable, he was relentless in his methods.
‘Sleep is non-negotiable.’
Not just for Reynard, but for all creatures that require rest.
Meaning, if I were to refuse, it’s highly unlikely he’d just walk away.
‘If you can’t avoid it, might as well enjoy it.’
So, while Reynard was still in the ‘asking’ phase, I might as well agree and make sure I get properly compensated.
Besides, as someone who might be the cause of his troubles, it was also a matter of conscience.
And above all…
‘My heart aches to see ‘our dear Reynard’ struggling. I want to help him.’
I inherently had a soft spot for Reynard, along with the other sub-male leads.
Pure feelings from a reader’s perspective, truly!
“Yes, Your Highness, if it’s of help to you, I’m more than willing.”
At my eager response, Reynard’s lips curved into a smile.
“I express my gratitude. These are my sincerest feelings, more than ever before. Now,”
His longing eyes turned to the bed.
“May I lie down first? We can continue our conversation there.”
…His plea seemed more earnest than any he had used in the novel to pursue the heroine, Aila.
“Yes, that’s what it feels like. The warm bed feels so inviting like I could fall asleep at any moment.”
After changing, Reynard lay on my bed, his face and voice tinged with ecstasy.
I said, as his eyelids began to droop in readiness for sleep. He mustered the strength to keep them open.
“Let’s make sure we settle everything before sleep,” he insisted.
“The compensation I’m to give you. How would you prefer it?”
His voice was clear, despite the heaviness of impending sleep.
“I intended to ask you this in a note, but things have turned out this way. This must be an important matter for you.”
“Oh, I didn’t do this expecting a reward. It’s an honor for someone like me, just to be of help to Your Highness.”
“Come on, don’t dodge the question. Tell me.”
“If you insist, I would like one-tenth of the compensation in cash delivered directly to me, three-tenths in bonds issued by the royal treasury, another three-tenths in gold, and the last three-tenths deposited into my bank account.”
I counted off on my fingers, rattling off my terms like a machine gun.
“The bonds should have a maturity of no more than five years left. Oh, and the bank should be the Central Bank of the neighboring kingdom of Kelmir.”
The Crown Prince’s eyes widened, but I still had more to say.