“Of course.”

Caden’s blue eyes met Ellen’s, deep, sunken navy blue eyes, reminiscent of the sea on the eve of a storm.

“I do not understand, my lady, why you have asked me…”


He didn’t follow up as easily as he should have, even though he’d brought up the topic out of curiosity.

“So, why did the lady ask me…”

But even after repeating the same words several times, he couldn’t say anything more.

What little laughter there was between them was gone.

Caden took another sip of his drink.

Ellen addressed the man in front of her.

“Your Highness.”

Caden’s eyes turned to her.

“You’ve found something.”


“I suppose what you’re wondering is… why I informed Your Highness of this treachery.”

He fell silent at Ellen’s question.

It was a long time before he spoke, tilting his flask and draining the strong brandy.

“If you had stood still, you might have found yourself at the top of an empire. So why?”

He sounded like a man who’d been dropped off in a city he’d never been to before.

“What made you do that. I just… wondered about that.”

Ellen looked at him in silence, as if he had just suffered a betrayal like no other in his life.

There were many thoughts running through her head at that moment.

So many that it’s hard to put into words.

But it was clear that in the images they left behind, the dead woman and the man before her occupied a great deal of space.

“Your Highness.”

His gaze turned to Ellen.

“I have no doubt that you are a talented soldier.”

“… That’s very unexpected but thank you.”

“To answer Your Highness’s question, I did not want to see the people fall under the tyranny of the hidden army, that is why.”

“Will Gillian be a member of the hidden army?”


The two men looked at each other, remembering the man who had betrayed their faith.

“So, Your Highness. From now on, trust in conditions and in circumstances, not in people.”

“Trust not in men… I take it that means I shouldn’t trust you either.”


“Didn’t you want me to believe in you?”

“I hoped so.”

“But I don’t understand why you would say that.”

“It is of course good for me that you believe in me, but not for you.”


“It’s like staving off immediate collapse with a rotten girder, it will surely bring you down one day when you least expect it.”

Caden’s eyes fluttered.

The black pupils in his piercing blue eyes were unusually sharp.

“Why are you telling me that?”

At his question, Ellen was silent for a moment.

I see. I wonder why.

Why am I telling this man this whole story?

“Maybe… because it is my dream to live with my family under the leadership of a true ruler.”

Or maybe I’m projecting myself onto you.

But Ellen kept the last part to herself.

“… Do you want me to live with such vigilance, even to you?”


“And to your own detriment?”

“It doesn’t matter. I will always be competent under the conditions Your Highness requires.”

“Ha, indeed.”

He laughed so hard he forgot he was asking a serious question.

“Our relationship will not change, Your Highness. I will do my best to help you achieve your goals, and in return, you should not let me go for the sake of a stable foundation.”

“I’m still not sure. Does it really mean anything to occupy such a high position…?”

He was somewhat resigned, like he’s talking to herself.

But Ellen knew.

The words he was spewing now were too painful, like the words of a man who had confirmed betrayal and had a scar carved deep in his heart.

“Wouldn’t that mean enough if we survived?”

He looks confused.

The first thing that came to mind was that things had gone according to plan.

The crown prince had confirmed Gillian’s betrayal.

A good sign, he thought.

But at the same time, something indescribable began to eat away at him.

Ellen looked directly into Caden’s wavering eyes.

You and I may have already been on the same path from the time we hoped for some form of connection with that man.

Maybe that’s how we came to meet.

But the wound will not heal easily, for it will exist as a driving force that will keep us alive.

And so we must live with the paradox of chasing life through the pain of wanting to die.

She could see his face trying to remain calm.

But his eyes were bloodshot from alcohol, and he couldn’t hide his trembling hands.

Ellen grasped his hand, which was much larger than hers, and said firmly.

“Your Highness, I know men who choose honor and faithfulness over life, and I love them because of that.”


“Perhaps Your Highness feels the same way.”

Ellen’s warmth settled on the back of Caden’s hand.

“Make a choice you will not regret.”

This is the solidarity of those who have been betrayed.

To survive, to commit suicide before they are killed.

“I’ll always be here, at least as long as we share a goal…”

The warmth covering the wet hand, which had been cold from the bottle.

Caden held onto that hand tightly, feeling its warmth.

The carriage came to a stop, and she continued to hold onto that hand until it no longer trembled.


* * *

An opulent imperial carriage came to a stop in front of the Cheshire estate.

The door opened, and inside was a drunkard and Ellen, who held him by the shoulders.

“Ted, His Highness is over here.”

“No. I’m fine…”

“Good heavens, Your Highness, what have you been drinking before dinner!”

“No… I’m perfectly fine…”

Caden said, trying to straighten his swaying body.

But neatly ignoring him, Terriod pulled his superior off of Ellen and hoisted him up onto his broad shoulders.


“Your Highness, don’t spit it out!”

“If you’re going to treat a drunkard, at least do it delicately, Lord Cheshire…”

In the upstairs parlor, Spaniel Cheshire and Lord Morris Coenheim were waiting.

Everyone, including Ellen, exchanged brief greetings before settling into the parlor.

Whatever the condition of the guests, all the necessary people were present.

It was time to start the meeting.

Soon, a servant came in with honey water.

Caden took it from the bottle and said.

“…I’m sorry. I must have made a fool of myself.”

“No, it’s alright. If you’re feeling better now, would you mind explaining?”

Ellen’s smile remained friendly.

But with Terriod’s gaze fixed on him with contempt, Caden apologized again, and only then did he get to the point.

“Ah… I mean… loading dock. Yes, you’ll recall that among the items seized at the loading dock was gunpowder, which is a prohibited item for unauthorized trade. We’ve since inspected all of the cargo and found muskets we didn’t even manufacture.”

“Even guns…!”

Terriod muttered in surprise.

“We didn’t find out exactly where they came from, though, as they must have been thoroughly cleaned.”

“I see.”

“Well, once we had the gunpowder analyzed, it turned out that the proportions were different from what Istacio was used to.”

Ellen gave a small nod at Caden’s report.

“Well, at least it’s clear that it’s illegal. So is smuggling from another country. Or are there saltpeter mines in the country that we don’t know about…”

“Exactly. We’re leaning towards there being undeclared mines, and we’ve got some leads, but that’s going to take a little longer.”

“It’s a shame we don’t know where it came from.”

Ellen said with a deep sense of regret.

Apparently Gillian was a much more organized man than she had given him credit for.

She hadn’t expected him to be so thorough in cutting off connections and evading detection.

“But, thankfully, there was a harvest in other ways.”

All eyes focused on Caden.

“We picked up a suspicious tail in the less dangerous general armory and large-scale supply area, and that’s where the name came from.”

Caden tilted his head toward Ellen.


There was pain in the eyes that stared back at her.

“Yes, it really was Krembel.”

“…I see.”

His fingers tightened into light fists.

“Honestly, we don’t know everything yet. I’m not even sure if Gillian’s behavior was truly connected to his backstabbing, but what is clear is that he has deceived the Imperial Family, and… I have no intention of letting that slide.”

With that, the crown prince confirmed Gillian’s treachery and decided to confront him.

“Then what do you propose to do in the future?”

“Well, it’s hard to do anything about it right now. I’m sure there’s going to be some sort of backlash, and losing one vote in the Council of State is a big loss.”

“So you’re saying that it’s still difficult to make a decision. I agree.”

“Thank you for understanding.”

Caden took another gulp of honey water.

“So that’s what I’m saying is… How can I help the lady get a divorce?”

At Caden’s words, Terriod slapped his knee as if realization dawned on him.

“Ah! If the divorce completely cuts ties with Kryant. Krembel will have no choice but to hold back!”

It certainly did.

Of all the reasons Krembel could run amok, Kryant’s support was a pretty big part of it.

But Ellen could only laugh bitterly.

“Well, that’s true, but… I think I need to think about it a little. I was planning to reveal my identity as the person who reported it to the royal court and request a divorce from Krembel, but…”

“So you’re saying that’s out of the question since there’s no evidence.”

Caden said heavily.

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