“Ah. That sounds like something I’d be upset to hear, so why don’t you tell me about it?”

“No, not that, but…”

Caught off guard by the subtle jab, Caden’s step twisted slightly.

Ellen casually dodged his foot.

They continued dancing as if nothing had happened.

Caden blushed a little.

“It might be a little over the fifty percent we talked about the other day.”

“Over… How much do you need?”

“We talked about as much as seventy percent, but I’m going to try to cut it down as much as possible.”

He studied Ellen’s face carefully. But her expression was hard to read.

He swallowed dryly.

‘Speaking of going over budget…’

He resisted the urge to wring his hands.

He’d been in such a hurry to get her to accept his agenda that he hadn’t bumped into her properly.

It was his own fault, and he could only bow his head further.

“I’ll try to help you as much as I can, and while I’m certainly being helped unilaterally at the moment… I don’t want to be the one to pick and choose which areas are okay to flood and which aren’t just because we’re short on funds, so.”

He chose to take the high road.

“If support is difficult, even a loan is fine. Even if it takes several years, I will repay it with my share of the money from the imperial family.”

“How much should I offer? 100 million gold? No, actually just 50 million gold would be enough…”

At the time, he was having such thoughts.

“It’s the people’s work, and it’s much more expensive to repair if you miss the timing, I know.”

Ellen smirked.

“Then how about 500 million gold?”

“Uh, that… half a billion?”

Caden asked, momentarily stunned, and Ellen smirked.

“Yep. Five hundred million.”

The song they’d been tapping their feet to ended.

Ellen let go of Caden’s hand and waved goodbye with a graceful gesture.

Caden stood dumbfounded, watching the scene unfold.

He stood there for a few more seconds, forgetting to return her greeting, before he regained his composure and spat out the words.

“My lady, come here.”

He took her hand and walked out of the ballroom onto the central floor.

Terriod leaning against the wall, waiting for the song to end, came toward them.

“Ah, Ellen–”

But Caden walked right past him, still holding Ellen’s hand.

Ouch. Ellen let out a small exclamation.

But Caden didn’t hear it either, as he opened the door to the terrace and walked out.


He closed the door behind him, took a deep breath, and said.

“My lady. So, where does the 500 million gold… come in?”

Caden was very distracted by the fact that his heart was now pounding like crazy.

He couldn’t possibly mean that it was all a loan. No, but she’s giving him some money.

Conflict swirled inside him.

No, he shouldn’t borrow money he couldn’t pay back.

If the entire 500 million gold was a loan, he had no ability to repay it.

Maybe, just maybe, if he lived to be a hundred years old, he’d have to spend every cent of the imperial dignity allowance and palace budget to make it happen.

Of course, as far as he knew, no old man had yet lived to be a hundred.

“Hmm, that’s vague.”


The thumping pulse was loud.

“I’m giving you this money, but I’m going to ask for something in return, so I guess you could call it a debt.”

“A quid pro quo?”

“For you to do me a favor in the future. Of course, I’ll only ask you to do what you think is possible.”

“And by possible, do you mean, like, end my life and give me…?”

“Of course not, and that would put me in a difficult position.”

Ellen burst out laughing, as if she’d heard nothing else.

Strangely enough, the laughter struck a chord in Caden’s chest.

Maybe it was the release of extreme tension.

The loud pounding in his ears seemed to subside.

Her laughter sounded so refreshing.

The way she laughed, with her face slightly embarrassed, her lips breathing out for the first time in front of him, her eyes drawing rounded arcs.

It all came flooding back to him.

He thought to himself.

This woman is truly not someone you can let your guard down around.

Half a billion gold, she could scare people this way.

‘No, this is only possible because she is this woman.’

Maybe that’s why the scene was so vivid and dominated his senses.

Thinking about it, he felt the same way.

Ellen wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes.

The prickle that had gone through his chest had found its way to his palms.

It tickled, and Caden clenched his fists until his palms were full of heat.

* * *

As they exited the terrace, Terriod was waiting in the doorway where they’d entered and called out to her in delight.


Ellen turned around by the door at the sound of him calling her.

“Oh, Ted. I’m sorry, I saw you chasing me down the hall earlier, and I thought things were…”

“It’s okay, I think His Highness wanted to say something.”

With that, he glanced at Caden, who was just now stumbling out of the door.

The man who usually ran everywhere, even when he was begged not to, somehow had no strength in his legs now.

“Your Highness?”

What’s wrong with you?

Terriod asked with a questioning look on his face.

“… Ah, Lord Cheshire.”

“Your Majesty, is there something wrong with you, shall I escort you to the palace?”

“No, no, I’m fine.”

Caden waved a hand in the air.

Terriod frowned, as if he didn’t like it.

“By the way, Ellen. Are you okay? A moment ago…”

“It’s okay, His Highness barged in before he could do anything.”

Actually, it was Ted’s doing that His Highness came so quickly, wasn’t it?

Ellen said with a smile, and Terriod muttered grimly, averting his gaze slightly.

“It was all I could do… I’m sorry.”

“That was something Ted couldn’t do anything about.”


Terriod glanced away, then turned to Caden.

“Your Highness, I apologize for not following your orders.”

“Forget it, it’s not like you don’t know the situation, and it’s none of your business.”

Caden, now straightening up a bit, glanced at the center of the party.

His gaze drew the other two’s attention to where he was looking.

They saw Gillian exchanging pleasantries with Princess Eclipse.

He seemed to have gone to greet her when she stopped dancing and stepped off the center floor.


Caden clicked his tongue once and said.


As he strode off down the hall, Caden suddenly slammed his fist into his palm and said.

“Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Crescent today.”

At his words, Terriod glanced back in the direction of the party.

“Looks like he’s thinking about getting the Princess married first.”

“Well, I’ve got my eyes wide open, unless he’s got a swollen liver.”

Caden said in an uncharacteristically sarcastic voice.

Ellen looked up at his face as he walked ahead of her, which was quite unfamiliar.

She could only see the underside of his jaw and the corners of his mouth, but it was enough to tell her that his facial muscles were tight and rigid.

‘Yeah, no wonder…’

Ellen recalled the facts about his relationship with his sbilings.

‘There is only one princess in the Istacio Empire.’

Eclipse Istacio, sister of the Second Prince, Crescent Istacio, and progeny of Concubine Bellatess Istacio.

The relationship between Concubine Bellatess and Crown Prince Caden Istacio was a difficult one, to say the least.

Everyone had their suspicions about the Empress’s sudden death in good health.

None more so than Caden, who was going through puberty at the time.

This is likely a death with a black sheep. Then, who is that black sheep?

No one asked, everyone knew.

Caden ran towards Bellatess, screaming that she was a beast who had cloaked herself in guise for the murderer of his mother.

Still in the throes of puberty, his patience was short-lived, and he was eventually dragged away by the guards, his eyes rolling back in his head at the sight of her solemn mourning.

This is where Caden’s all-encompassing reference to seeing through her comes in.

And it was a clear fact that was revealed later, much later.

The evidence that Gillian found, nobody knows how.

It would have been nice to intercept that, too, but Ellen knew it was there, just not where it came from.

Unlike a gambling house or arms smuggling, where you can’t help but see the money flowing out of the place, it really came out of nowhere.

As she walked, she was already outside the palace.

Ellen turned to Terriod, who was looking for the carriage that would be waiting to take them back.



“I know it’s a bit rude of me to ask… but you mind if I stay in Cheshire for a while? It’s been so long since I’ve been able to say hello to the Countess.”

At her words, Terriod grinned.

“Of course. I’m sure my mother would be delighted to have you. As for the room, I hope it’s next to the Spaniel’s, as in the old days?”

“The room can be wherever you want it to be. Besides that, it’s just me today, but I’m sure His Highness will drop by to say hello sooner or later.”

“Ah… His Highness?”

Terriod looked at Caden as if to say, ‘Really?’

Caden gave him a look that said, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’

“… Since when did I have such an appointment?”

“Maybe, just now?”

Ellen laughed, and Caden frowned.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being manipulated.

“My lady. I’m sorry, but I don’t have much freedom of movement outside of the palace right now.”

“Ah, you say that as if you were once free.”

“Not quite, but… No, I mean, look who this pension debacle is about!”

Caden exclaimed in disbelief.

“Well, I guess it’s not my fault, for starters.”

“Your Highness, who’s been making a meal out of escaping and destroying all credibility?”

“My lord!”

Terriod snapped sarcastically, and Caden glared at him.

At the stinging glare, Terrier looked away, and Caden shifted his gaze to Ellen.

He can see the smile in her eyes.

The violet hue behind the delicate half-moon is quite pretty.

‘Come on.’

That’s half a billion gold.

Ten times 50 million gold.

Ten times as much as he had promised.

“Let’s hear it for when and why you’re calling…”

“Once we have the results of our earlier investigation of the loading docks, we’ll need to meet at least once to share them and discuss our plans for the future, so if you can’t make it, come on out, even if it means being carried like a load of luggage.”

There was nothing else to say in response to that refreshing sound.

Finally, Caden sighed.

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