Kyle and Tara deal with the aftermath of their first kiss.
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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 186: About 10 Months (63)
“It was a little unexpected, so maybe before….”
He stopped and clicked his mouth shut.
I knew what he was trying to say. Even I didn't expect my own behaviour, so what must he be thinking?
I was a 19-year-old noble girl.
I hadn't even made my social debut yet, and until a year ago, I had been living confined in a room for the past 7 years.
He couldn't help but be surprised that such a woman would be so proactive during a kiss.
“A variety of things. Yes, that’s right. I’ve read a lot of very detailed books.”
I literally tried the 'I learned to kiss from a book' excuse, but he only tilted his head, his expression unchanged.
He looked very doubtful.
“Just from a book.…”
“……Is that why you're good at it? Does it not have something to do with ‘It’s been a while’?”
He ruffled his hair again, as if frustrated.
I felt a bit guilty, but it couldn’t be helped. I had no choice but to double-down. I struggled to think of how best to deflect.
“Isn’t it possible that 'It’s been a while,' was just some ill-chosen words? And, as you know, I’m a fast learner. Besides, you said that I’m good at it…. But compared to whom?”
“That’s right. If you are able to say I'm good at it, you must have a means of comparison..."
Seeing my direction of attack, he intercepted my words with his own.
"It's a lie that you haven't either. Even if you are reluctant to admit it...… I understand."
"Ah…… There was. I already told you. I read it.... in a book .”
‘It's because I'm really Ji Yeon-woo'. Those were the words I really wanted to say, but I kept them to myself.
“I wonder what kind of book that was….”
“So, what kind of practical experience do you have? How long have you been with whom?"
"Should I answer you?"
He furrowed his brow.
I was very annoyed at myself for even asking that sort of question.
“You are under no obligation to answer of course."
I clutched the front of the blanket tightly and tried to turn around, but his hand gently grabbed my shoulder to prevent me from leaving.
His expression was solemn and his deep, rich voice was full of gravitas.
“I don’t know, I don’t even remember. I don't even want to remember, I'm just certain...…”
“There hasn't been anyone like you, I swear. So, don't go off and make up some weird fantasy!"
His confident tone, and the willpower behind it, was so firm that it quashed any possible response I could muster and left no room for unnecessary speculation.
He really had a knack for cutting conversations short.... What did he mean by that?
I loosened my lips, only just noticing that I'd had them pinched together.
When he said, “there hasn't been anyone like you,” that implied there had been others. Well…. considering how old he was it would have been strange if he hadn’t.
Besides, he was an Imperial Prince…. Of course, he’d have experience.
Come to think of it, I had rarely responded so actively to a kiss even before I possessed Tara. Even during other first kisses.
If I'd had this realization in my old life, it would have been more than enough. I would have started dating him immediately without complicating it…. But of course, this wasn't Korea.
This was the Empire, he was a Prince with many enemies, he was my direct superior at work, and most crucially, he was the main reason my family would get framed for treason and destroyed.
For all these reasons I could not……. Why did he keep looking at me with such dark, entrancing eyes?
So, what if I enjoyed kissing him? What was I supposed to do now that I had fulfilled our agreement?
It would have been so much easier if we had never kissed in the first place.
I should just pretend that the kiss was just in return for a genuine favour. With no feelings attached.
I could pretend.
He was the first to speak. I licked my lips, masking my true emotions. Internally, I just wanted to scream.
“Go get dressed. The sun will be setting soon, and we need to be on our way.”
Wait. Was he just going to end the conversation just like that?
Kyle turned and left the cave. The rain had stopped.
Stunned, I mechanically checked that my dress was dry and changed back into it.
He stayed outside for quite a while, as if trying to give me some space so I would feel more comfortable.
Kyle finally returned and began tidying up the surroundings.
I kept glancing at him.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
Though the words came with great difficulty I managed to say:
"Nothing. I’m just surprised that you didn't check in with me."
"What did our first kiss feel like?"
Slightly embarrassed, I cleared my throat while pretending to inspect the cave as if this conversation was of little consequence.
"Ah…. Yes. What was that again?”
“I thought I just checked in, didn’t I?”
“Hmm, well…. You didn’t really give me time to organize my thoughts so…”
"Tell me when you have it sorted out. I’m in no hurry…. I know it’ll be fine.”
What’s with that confidence? Was he saying that I was bound to give in to him soon?
Ah……. That sounded so ominous.
With a deep frown, I turned my head towards him protesting:
"Your Highness… …, Really? This kiss was a reward for a favour you granted me…. and….”
I couldn’t finish my sentence. I knew myself too well.
It was a lie.
Suddenly, I felt like someone stabbed me in the heart with a long needle. How did he know me so well?
"People sometimes tell the truth through actions, not words."
“Huh? What nonsense is that?”
I pretended not to understand and looked away, shrugging my shoulders.
“I couldn’t have misunderstood……but I won't burden you. So, keep your promise Tara….”
“…… You need some time to think. It would be good if you reflected on today’s kiss.”
Oh my God! What is he saying!
“Whatever it is, the next thing we do… we each do it in our own way.”
Each in our own way? I almost felt compelled to ask what methods he would use…. but didn’t.
"Ha-ha. What do you mean...…?"
I shrugged once more then walked over to my horse and grabbed the reins. I wanted to leave this place right away.
"Let's get out of here! We've been delayed too much, and I have a few things to assist with, so I'll take the lead."
I needed to be alone.
I didn't have the confidence to stay here, so I gave my reasons. As he said, I needed time to think.
"As you wish."
His words of acceptance made me feel guilty for some reason, but I didn't look back.
I pulled my horse out of the cave first. After the rain, the whole land sparkled in the sunset.
I took the lead with enthusiasm, but the steep downhill gave me pause, and Kyle immediately grabbed the reins of my horse.
He took both horses, then started easily down the road I had struggled with on the way up.
It was as if he were walking on flat ground.
After admiring him for a moment, I followed.
Having arrived back at the clearing, Kyle checked the condition of the horses as he watched Tara going down the mountain road.
‘Careful it’s slippery’….
Light on her feet, she scampered about like a squirrel, as if energized.
She certainly looked a lot better, not like the half dead animal she was before.
As Kyle checked the saddles, he couldn't help wanting to yell at her to slow down.
“Oh. You don't need to go so fast!”
He couldn't explain why he saw her the way he did.
"What are you- you're going to...… Be careful."
Before the word 'careful' even reached her, she had already figured out how to control her momentum. Her eyes were fixed on the ground, all of her attention focused on the task at hand.
‘Move down a bit. Pay attention! One step at a time…’
“Watch the slope...….!'
‘Place your foot…!'
‘Step down now….'
‘Look that way....'
He sighed in relief.
Then Kyle burst out laughing as he realized that he was seriously concerned for somebody for the first time in…. forever.
His heart was still pounding.
His heart had been acting this way for a while….
Emotions were an unnecessary weakness in his cold life.
To reach his primary goal, he had buried them so deep that he always had lived oddly detached. Everything had been tied up in that goal.
However, some girl had come into his life and woken up those emotions he'd always thought long forgotten.
A potential subordinate who caught his eye with her unique talent.
Then suddenly she became a woman to him, one who endlessly complicated his thought processes.
She had broken down the sturdy walls he had built around his heart with ridiculous ease.
Maybe that's why.
Kyle, someone who was always acutely aware of other peoples’ emotions and could always stay in control of his own, had lost himself in today's kiss and her soft lips.
His pounding heart. Her hot breath, her lips burning under his own. He'd half believed she would disappear in front of him like she did in his dreams.
When she took the lead and kissed him back, ravaging his mouth…. Oh my God… He was half out of his mind.
He was almost afraid he wouldn't be able to control himself.
‘A kiss like that…. just in return for a favour...… '
Nevertheless, he was satisfied. It was only a few days ago that she had avoided the touch of his hand.
This was excellent progress.
He was troubled because she still wouldn't accept his heart so easily, but the more she held back, the more his fighting spirit blazed.
He would wait. And slowly carve a place for himself in her heart. He would take his time, and approach her slowly and silently, until he had permeated every last piece of her heart, like dye gradually taking over a piece of fabric.
He was afraid of what would happen if she learned of his cunning intentions. That she would run away. But if there was one thing he was good at, it was hiding his emotions.
Kyle felt his heart lurch watching her and started strategizing for the oncoming battle.
[It's been a while…]
What could she have been referring to? It was possible she could have learned about it from a book...
But he couldn't help but clench his fists until his nails dug into his palms.
He smirked, thinking that he should find a reason to search the Elias family library in the future.
At last, she made it down the incline and walked briskly to his side, eyes alight, and his heart unknowingly clutched in her hands.
Just like that.
It was amazing to think that we were kissing so passionately just a moment ago and now were completely back to normal. But I couldn't help thinking about it.
I was terrified at the thought that if I just took a few more steps towards him in my current state, I might lose all reason and fall madly in love with him.
"Then let's go."
Fortunately, he didn’t push the issue anymore.
"Yes. Your Highness."
"Should I help you?"
Is he proposing I ride with him?
Kyle smiled and sat on the horse with practised ease.
He watched as I sat on the horse the way Bernard taught me to.
I briefly patted my horse's neck and tensed my thighs experimentally, anticipating having to ride hard again.
What? My ass…. It doesn't hurt at all!
I glanced at him in surprise, shocked by this unexpected bonus.
Perhaps realizing the true nature of my surprise, his annoyingly tempting mouth curved in a teasing smile.
“You must have saved your country several times in your past life to be lucky enough to have met a Prince like me.”
What did he just say……?