(Image to be updated)
Kyle tries to convince Tara, while Walter walks in on an awkward situation.
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This edit is primarily based off of Thamalasca's original version of this chapter and includes some of her original editor's notes. So thank you Thamalasca for letting me re-edit this!
Episode 181. About 10 months (58)
"Oh, dear, she wrote that she hopes this occasion will be our second meeting."
"Yes, she invited you and I together, and she wants to resolve her obligations to both of us at the same time. She's a bold thing."
“Then I will not go.”
Helen looked at Theo with considerable surprise.
“On her birthday many other people will also be invited, and it would be a waste to use my second meeting in this situation.”
Helen clasped her hands together.
"Right! Is there any other solution?"
Instead of answering, Theo smiled and nodded. He drew close to Helen as if to tell her a secret and then whispered in her ear.
After listening to Theo's explanation, Helen tilted her head back and laughed.
"Oh, hohohohohohoho, my god. You truly are my grandson. I see! We will do that! Hurry up and write back to refuse the invitation."
Helen was about to leave the study, but instead turned around.
“Theodore. Tara, how did it feel meeting her…”
"… I want to get to know the Lady better."
"What does your heart tell you? Do you feel anything for her?"
“… Do you really feel that is important?"
Helen smiled gently. Theodore thought that her smile was full of bittersweet emotions.
"Because I've lived so long, I now find matters of the heart very important. Back then... I did not."
Helen hastily finished speaking, turned around and got up from her seat as if about to leave again.
“It’s all in the past.”
“Yes, yes. Strangely, when you get older, you must keep reminding yourself of things or you are bound to forget.”
“… To forget. I have forgotten things too.”
“Grandma said something silly. By the way, what gift should I give to Tara? She's like Naviene and doesn't seem to be interested in typical things… You must help me consider this, right?"
"Yes, I'll think about it, Grandmother."
Helen smiled deliberately, held Theodore's hands, patted them, and left the study.
After watching his grandmother's back for a moment, Theo returned to his desk and wrote a cool reply, rejecting the invitation.
Inside the Berquinn Caves.
He asked again, wondering what this nonsense was about.
"What kind of nonsense is this...!"
"Your Highness. What about the remaining bandits and Walter…!”
After overpowering all of the remaining bandits and preparing to move, Walter arrived at the cave entrance.
What was with this atmosphere...
Walter didn’t dare speak or move under its weight.
It was still raining outside the cave, though not as hard as before. Drenched and dripping all over, Walter just stood there trying to figure out what was going on.
There was the Second Aide, who was sitting with her arms clutching her knees, and gazing anxiously at the Second Prince. While his Master was standing over her, staring back, and holding a blanket in his hand.
Then…? Where did all this tension come from?'
He couldn’t quite put it into words.
Nevertheless, because he had to report, Walter spoke very, very, carefully.
“Well, I don’t know what’s going on, but would it be alright if I came in, your Highness?”
His Master did not answer. His mouth felt dry despite the ambient humidity.
"Light a fire. After transporting the bandits back to base, go to the Central Fortress. My Second Aide and I will stay here until the rain stops, then we will join you at the Central Fortress.”
"Yes. Your Highness."
Walter tilted his head.
Maybe it was because of the rain?'
But, so far, his Master had never been the kind of person who would take shelter because of a downpour.
This kind of weather was nothing on the battlefield. Thousands of soldiers were often left to sleep outdoors while on campaigns.
Therefore, only something unusual would make him change his course of action, and the only abnormal thing was the presence of the Second Aide.
Second Aide Tara Elias wasn’t a soldier, but she had learned self-defense techniques, and how to wield a battle axe. Besides, wasn't she a rare woman who could ride a horse as well?
‘What could be so wrong with the Second Aide, who is almost as tough as a Military officer?’
Walter turned his gaze toward the young woman and then saw her intensely watching the Second Prince.
Eh? Why was she staring at him like that?'
Frowning, he slowly approached her. When he was just three steps away, he noticed something odd about her physical condition.
There were no visible injuries, but she was trembling slightly, and her face was a bloodless mask. She seemed almost lifeless.
No way… Because of the rain? Did she suffer from a chronic illness?’
“Second Aide, what’s wrong with you?”
“… Nothing. I’m fine," she answered, avoiding his gaze.
Suddenly, his Master placed the blanket he was holding back on his horse and started to clear the cave’s floor himself.
"I'll do it. Your Highness."
Walter ran straight to his Master.
"It’s okay. I’ll do it. And the Second Aide is suffering from the aftereffects of cold poisoning."
He straightened at his Master’s explanation, immediately understanding the situation.
“Ah… At the Durben Club!”
"It's fine now. I'm sure I'll recover with a little more rest."
She spoke emphatically, but her voice was clearly trembling.
His Master stood after tidying up, looking at the Second Aide with his arms crossed. No–glaring at her would be a more accurate description.
"Are you sure?"
“I asked if you were really sure that you would recover if you rested for a little while longer.”
The Second Aide’s body seemed to wither under the iciness of the Prince's tone.
‘Ah… Try to be lenient, she is unwell…' Walter thought.
“… I can’t give you a definitive answer, but the aftereffects have subsided, so I think I’ll be fine if I just rest here a little longer, Your Highness.”
“What kind of education did you receive?”
“My Second Aide is making me look like a cruel superior. Part of your job is to monitor your own health. So, if it hurts, say it hurts. If it's hard, say it's hard. Walter, fire!”
"Yes. Your Highness! Right away."
Walter moved quickly. Fortunately, there were dry branches and twigs inside the cave, which made things easier.
“My experience on the battlefield comes in handy here. Though I’m not used to lighting just a single fire, Your Highness…. Ha-ha-ha.”
No one else laughed. Only Walter's laughter echoed through the hollow cave.
Embarrassed, Walter cleaned the ground near the fire with his hands. It was made easier by the fact that the Second Prince had already levelled it and removed any debris.
“Come this way, Second Aide. As His Highness said, if it's too hard, it's too hard. Work is important, but you are important too.”
Tara slowly walked to the fire and sat down. Up close, she certainly looked paler. At that moment, he remembered that Tara Elias was only 19, and felt his heart break a little.
“Thank you, Sir, and I’m sorry.”
“Ah… What are you sorry about? I’m a knight, this is normal. A close friend of mine often suffers from cold poisoning’s aftereffects and tests my patience with it, he is so negligent. Meanwhile, this is the first time I've seen you in pain. You’re so careful and patient at such a young age…!”
"Stop it, Walter!"
When Kyle’s low, deep voice resonated in the cave, Walter jumped up and covered his mouth. He was behaving like Nick again…
‘Damn, I shouldn't talk to Nick for a while.'
“I’m sorry, Your Highness. I will see you in the Central Province then.”
After Captain Walter left on horseback, the only sounds were the crackling of firewood and the soft neighing and stomping of the horses. A hushed stillness pervaded the cave.
Relaxed by the silence, my mind gradually eased as I stared blankly at the fire.
I was slowly warming up, but the chills and tremors didn’t go away. My wet clothes probably being the issue...
I heard the sound of wet boots coming closer, and when I turned around, I saw the Second Prince walking towards me.
He was holding his blanket.
I was startled out of my reverie.
“I’m not taking them off!”
He groaned, crouched, and stretched the blanket out in front of me.
Without knowing where the energy came from, my frustrated scream echoed through the cave, making the horses prick their ears and look in our direction.
The towering pair of boots in my view stood back upright.
I flew into a rage again before he could get any closer.
"I'll be okay if I warm myself up. So, I’m not taking anything off!"
"It's not because males and females over seven years old… No. It's not because men and women should be separated. That’s not it… I’m just… uncomfortable being alone together. I don't like this.”
I spoke as resolutely as I could and turned my head towards the fire, but when I spoke again, I couldn’t stop myself from looking at him.
“Knowing this, are you still going to ask me to do that?”
He shook his head in astonishment.
"Oh! Are you that kind of person? Who? … Who would dare do that!? His Highness’s words are so easy to misunderstand… Right? It’s just the two of us, yet His Highness asked me…!”
“Do you also suffer from hearing problems when you have chills?”
“You heard incorrectly.”
“I said that considering your current state, I could get rid of the aftereffects by giving some of my Aurore.”*
He shrugged at my ridiculous outburst.
“Now that I think about it, maybe I was worried for nothing. You should be able to withstand it on your own. Do what you want. As soon as the rain stops, we leave. So, you’d better focus on regaining your strength."
Kyle tossed the blanket next to me, turned around without any hesitation and went to the other side of the fire where he leaned against the cave wall.
"Ah… I… Well…”
He sat with his eyes closed, legs and arms crossed. His whole posture was declaring that what happened next was in my hands.
I thought he was angry at first…
But this wasn’t him being angry, this was him plainly stating, "I don’t care anymore."
I pursed my lips.
I found the way he sat so comfortably, as if this was his personal quarters, very offensive.
Would it be so bad if I asked him about it again?
It was my mistake. I knew he would cure me if I asked him to, but the words didn’t come easily.
This was my pride speaking.
And my only reason was I didn’t like asking him for help. I hated feeling indebted, especially to him... It irked me. Because of that, the words froze on my tongue.
I exhaled inwardly and turned my head to stare at the cave entrance.
The rain outside slowly dwindled under my quiet gaze.
After a moment, I turned my head to look at Kyle, who was still leaning comfortably against the cave wall, and bit my lip.
I stretched my hands out towards the flames, but the heat did nothing to ease the chills coursing through me.
I thought about it seriously. Could I really spend the rest of my life depending on taking drugs prescribed by Doctor Oliver?
* This Aurore he mentions is like Qi or aura. It's spelled “Auror” but I chose a French spelling considering the number of French names used in this work. Aurore means dawn btw. Apparently, Prince Kyle is able to manipulate his Aurore and can even share it. It is mentioned several times in the novel in earlier chapters but not in the Manwha.