Thank you Kat for the kofi (✿◡‿◡)
My tension was relieved at once. If it weren’t for the arms of the Knoxers who firmly support me, I would have collapsed on the spot.
An awkward laugh burst out at once with relief.
“As expected, you came with the search dog.”
The search dog was still licking my leg hard.
Perhaps he was excited to smell the pipora pollen I had been spraying all over my body before I was caught.
“Thank you for finding me.”
I muttered a greeting which I didn’t know if it was for Knoxus or to the dog.
“I’ll protect you now, master.”
With the serious eyes of Knoxus, I rubbed my hot neck and avoided his gaze for no reason.
“Call me Duke.”
At my stiff command, Knoxus replied with a smile, as usual.
That habit never seemed to be cured.
I gave up enlightening Knoxus and hurriedly raised Sally, who had been thrown out by the soldiers.
“Sally, don’t worry now. I’m here to save you as a representative of the imperial family.”
“I, Imperial family?”
Sally looked puzzled and looked around at the knights who quickly took control of the slave base.
“Yes, His Majesty has come to release the illegal slaves.”
My reputation is already ruined, and I won’t be in this country in a few months anyway. I slipped the ball towards Cardan.
“His Majesty the Emperor?”
Sally opened her eyes wide. And after looking at something for a while, she opened his mouth carefully.
“Rina, what about you?”
“……He said a little while ago that you’re a duke. You’re not here to set us free.…?
“Ah… I was just bait.”
Sally shook her head firmly and poured out the words as I treated her comfortably with a small smile as usual.
“It was you who helped me, not the emperor. I’m a hundred and a thousand times more grateful to you for coming and helping us in person.”
I scratched my cheek in embarrassment at the firm politeness.
“Haha, is that so?”
Objectively, I suffered a lot. When I thought about the dog’s hard work, my headache doubled.
“Yes! I will never forget this grace!” There’s no way to repay your kindness right away, but just know that I’m really grateful.”
Sally’s tears filled her eyes and thanked me repeatedly.
“I’ll find a way to get us home safely, so if you really appreciate me, go home and send a letter to me later.”
“Yes! I will definitely do that! My grandfather must be worried a lot, so I should go back quickly.”
Sally stamped her feet and grabbed my arm.
“Will it take a long time to get to Count Gesvan from here?”
“It takes a few weeks…….”
Sally pouted her lips at the words.
“Oh, my grandfather must be upsetting the whole castle.”
I shivered slightly with a strange sense of dizziness.
“Yes, my grandfather is a housekeeper for Count Gesvan. I’m his only family, but he might have gotten sick while worrying.”
I stumbled and lost my balance.
If she’s a relative of the butler of Count Gesban…… The butler, who was on the execution table alongside the Marquis of Sherrington, was the only one.
It was only then that I remembered Count Gesban’s butler shouting previously, that I realized why he held hands with the Empress.
To get Sally back.
Sally and Knoxus were surprised at my staggering figure and tried to help me, but I shook them off.
My conscience did not allow them to help.
I forced up the corners of my mouth.
“I’ll help you arrive safely at Count Gesban’s estate.”
At my glance, Knoxus pointed to the knights guarding the entrance to the outer wall.
The knights were already busy sorting the freed slaves into groups.
“If you go that way, you will be able to meet people heading to the same estate. Of course, we’ll even provide you with expenses.”
Sally was immediately pleased.
“Thank you! Thank you, Rina.”
I slipped away from Sally’s eyes as she grabbed my hand.
I couldn’t look her in the eye unless she knew the truth.
Instead, I mumbled a meaningless goodbye.
“Go ahead. It will take a long time to get to the border. In good health… I hope you get home safely.”
Sally, who had no idea what I had done, only greeted me brightly.
“Yes! I’ll write to you when I get there!”
After saying goodbye, I couldn’t bear to see her leaving, so I turned my head.
As soon as Sally left, the headache I was holding back intensified.
As I stumbled, Knoxus naturally wrapped his arms around my waist.
“Master, are you all right?”
“I’m all right…”
No, I wasn’t all right. But he was a decent human being.
With my unusual appearance, Knoxus looked closely at my face. Towards that gaze, I forcefully raised the corners of my mouth and made a lame joke.
“As Sally said, the emperor or whatever, my achievement was the biggest, right? I just felt dizzy for a while because of all the hardships.”
I tried to hide this complex feeling as much as possible, but I heard a sharp voice behind me.
“Stop procrastinating and focus on the strategy, right?”
My heart sank from the familiar voice.
Sure enough, when I looked back, there was Cardan looking at us with a disapproving face.
“Oh, Your Majesty, are you here?”
I looked at Cardan’s expression to gauge when he was standing there.
When I made the lame joke?
Or, since I was talking to Sally?
“Thanks to Your Majesty, we were able to successfully wipe out the slave market base.”
I tried to take a step away to greet him with courtesy, but when Knoxus did not let go, I became in an awkward position.
Cardan’s gaze was stuck in the arm of Knoxus supporting my waist.
“I can’t say we wiped it out until we find Faus yet.”
Cardan handed a jacket to Knoxus, pointing at the search dog that was still standing by him and wagging his tail.
“It’s something I found in Faus’ office. Use that dog to find Faus when you’re done playing around, will you?”
I nodded my head in a hurry as Knoxus showed signs of hesitation.
“It’s a priority to find Faus, so don’t worry about me and go.”
Knoxus eventually let me go. I almost stumbled due to the constant headache, but I managed to balance myself.
Fortunately, Knoxus didn’t seem to notice.
“All right, my lord. I will definitely bring Faus.”
Instead, he bowed to me with the utmost seriousness.
Cardan, who was staring at Knoxus, also turned away as if he had lost interest when he left with the search dog.
Instead, that dreadful gaze caught my eye.
At this moment, I avoided his eyes because I was not confident in dealing with Cardan.
There was a long silence after that. I was thinking about what to say to break the silence, but a low voice fell over my head with my head down.
“You are not at fault.”
The breath hung down my throat like a big lump.
“Ah…what do you mean?”
Even though I knew he was talking about Sally, I glossed over it.
“It cannot be your fault that Count Gesban’s butler died.”
I didn’t want anyone to notice this feeling. I barely pretended to be calm and avoided Sally and Knoxus’s eyes. Since when has he been watching? Cardan has dug into my heart so easily.
“Any human being should be responsible for his or her choice. It doesn’t change just because he’s the only blood of a child you felt sorry for.”
“I know, I know…….”
Cardan waited calmly for me to finish my creaking voice.
“I, I… The Duke of Baloa. That’s a lot of people.… I just wanted to.”
A more disastrous voice came out than was intended.
Cardan, who was watching me silently, swept my face lightly.
“When you decided to stand at the peak of your power, didn’t you already prepare?”
It was an obvious derision. But I half wanted to believe. It’s a word that makes me feel sorry for myself.
I laughed quietly.
No. I’ve never been prepared.
When I opened my eyes, I was just standing here. I’ve never faced anyone, and I’ve never been determined to kill anyone in order not to die.
“Don’t struggle with the inevitable for nothing.”
That word took my breath away.
My stomach went numb as if he had hit the nail on the head.
He was right.
This is inevitable, too.
I woke up from Duke Baloa’s body and met again with the butler’s granddaughter who tried to poison me.
The only thing I can do in various inevitabilities is to do my best by holding onto the rare opportunity of choice.
And I really…… I did my best.
I don’t know if it was the right choice or the best one.
It was the best I could do.
Cardan hesitated and put his hand on my head.
And he glanced at my arm, which was drawn with a scratch.
“He often worries about others when he lies. The one who tried to kill you, too.”
(t/n: he’s probably talking about Knoxus here)
“Haha, I wasn’t particularly worried about the butler, but I was worried about Sally.”
Cardan messed up my hair.
“That’s what it is.”
It would hurt to be treated like a puppy, but I felt much lighter than before.
I didn’t know I’d be feeling better with Cardan.
Anyway, it was something to live for a long time.
“It is extraordinary that Your Majesty has shared his precious wisdom with a foolish and lowly person like me.”
My condition has recovered enough to use my tongue again, so I started speaking.
Cardan only sighed with a tired face when he saw me returning as usual.
Then the crow cried ominously.
And at the very next moment, a hissing and ominous wind cut my ears.
Something sharp was heard like something flying through the air.
Cardan wrapped his arms around my shoulder.
In an instant, I adhered to his solid body, and his subtle and heavy scent wrapped around my whole body.
I leaned fully against Cardan as my strength was loosened from my leg, which I had been barely holding out for a while.
Cardan, who was surprised, pushed me away and let go of me.
“Faus is playing a bad joke.”
As Cardan opened his hand with a small smile, red blood dripped from his palm.
A sharp-pointed fountain pen was revealed.
I swallowed my breath.
“……to assassinate the imperial family.”
“He tried to kill you, not me.”