(image to be updated)
Diane and Philip plan for Kyle's visit while Tara wrestles with Kyle's condition.
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Episode 196: About 10 Months (73)
Was it a gift from God or a curse?
The man in question had been blessed with a station so far out of her reach. It felt like God was denying Angela her good fortune.
She had been so frustrated to discover he was the Second Prince of the Empire. Because that was an obstacle she couldn’t overcome.
He was just as beautiful as she had always imagined him to be.
However, during her visit to the Palace, she was astonished to discover that he never smiled, and instead constantly maintained a blank, cold expression.
She found out a long time later, that he was usually a different man entirely from the beautifully smiling person she had seen at the wedding.
That made it even more valuable. That she had witnessed that rare once-in-a-lifetime smile, and could relive it whenever she had a moment to herself.
Of course, he didn't even remember meeting Angela. However, she recognized him immediately after meeting him for the second time.
Nevertheless, she had been unable to keep her eyes off of him that whole visit. In the end, she had left the Palace without speaking a single word to him. And he didn't even know that she existed.
As she was still struggling with her growing feelings for him, to her surprise, a letter had arrived from Diane.
[......] Do you remember the wedding? I had no choice but to lie to you then. I couldn’t recklessly tell you the truth about my younger cousin. Would you like to meet him in advance of the Selection?]*
‘Her cousin? The Selection?'
At first, it had been difficult to process the contents of the letter. However, after staring at it for a long moment, she thought about it, and hope quickly began to bloom in her chest.
Angela had packed her bags right away.
"At the time, you spoke so confidently that I truly thought you didn't know him. Thank you very much, Diane. For telling me." **
"He was a very distant cousin of mine, however we grew up together, and became very close. Besides, after that incident, we were the only ones left… Only Philip and his mother knew about it. She's gone, too, so the only people who know about it now are Philip and you, Angela."
"Why did you tell me?"
“Don’t you remember? Immediately after the wedding I was surprised to hear you asking about the man who had referred to me as his friend. And after you visited the Imperial Palace you talked about Kyle often.”
Angela flushed red with embarrassment.
“Since you aren’t shy about talking about him so often, I thought it might work out. And I've been watching you for a long time. Therefore, I thought that if I could entrust my cousin to anyone, it would be you, Angela."
Angela clasped Diane's hands in excitement.
"Thank you, Diane. I will definitely be a strength for him. However, he’s a truly remarkable man, and I’m worried that I may not be of value.”
"That's absurd. But even if you can’t help him, there is no harm in trying. But are you not afraid? I'm concerned because the Palace is the kind of place that can bleed you dry."
"If that's the case, so be it. I’m prepared. I’ve already convinced my parents of this fact.”
Angela nodded and clenched her fists, as if to emphasize her words.
Diane's heart swelled with gratitude. Angela, who was soft on the outside and hard on the inside, would be a great asset to Kyle. Not to mention the Benson Family’s power.
"Thank you for coming here, Angela."
“Thank you for considering me as a match for him, Diane.”
Angela and Diane hugged each other without even having to exchange words. And then.
"I was wondering where you both were, is this what you've been doing without me?"
"Oh! Philip. You're here?” ***
Angela smiled softly and finished organizing the sheets. Diane grinned as she patted down a pillow.
“I’m leaving soon. Have all the guests gone to bed?"
"Ha… They keep asking for one more drink. Why on earth are they drinking so much when I’m the one having a baby?”
"Be thankful when they congratulate you. Don't be so grumpy."
Angela laughed at Count Philip Reese’s teasing words, and also at Diane who was trying to beat the Lord of Reese Castle at his own game.
"By the way, if you keep moving around like that, Darling, I'll get angry."
Philip put his hands on his hips sternly, but his lips were lifted at the corners.
“I’ve heard that it’s good for our baby if I move around in moderation. By the way, it's a secret that Kyle is going to be here. And if you drink like last time and call a stranger your wife again by mistake, you'll have to deal with the consequences."
"When did I ever say that?"
Philip straightened and blustered as if he had never heard of such a thing. Angela smiled bashfully and raised her hand.
"I think I heard that, too. Your brother-in-law, His Highness... I just learned about it.”
Diane squinted at Philip and continued, following Angela's words.
"Good grief. Why do you become so much braver when you drink, when you can't even talk to me properly when you're sober? Whoo. I suppose that's why it's cute though."
“Hmm. I'm not cute."
Diane glanced sideways at her husband, then smiled and held out her hand. Philip came to her side.
"Well then. Come escort me. It's time to retire to our bedroom."
"Haha. As you wish, Darling. Does the good-natured Miss Angela want to accompany us back?"
"Oh, no. I'll clean up a little more before returning. After you."
"Oh dear. Even though it has already been mostly handled? Alright. We will leave the escort knight behind and go."
"Yes. Good night, you two."
Philip and Diane left. Then Angela, now alone, turned around on the spot, surveying the room.
“If there could be a place for me in Your Highness’s heart… No, I don’t even dare ask for that much. I simply wish you will grant me a place by your side. I hope you visit soon, Your Highness,” she whispered quietly.
She pressed the cold backs of her hands against her face in an attempt to cool her burning cheeks. But the hot flush did not easily subside.
Du Roi, Central Province's favourite luxury inn.
"Is it my fault?"
“If you hadn't given me your Aurore… How the hell could you be so reckless? I don’t know what else to say.”
But Kyle didn't answer, and continued to lay there peacefully. After staring at him in silent turmoil, the words I truly wanted to say spilled out of me.
“There’s no way you won't wake up from this, right? That would never happen. What kind of person are you, Your Highness? Does it make sense to just lie down like this when you have so much work left to do?"
The crimson light of the sunset bled through the window, dyeing his face and bandaged upper body red.
Old wounds on his shoulders, chest, and sides came into view one by one, freshly visible between the rows of bandages.
It was hard to imagine how serious those old, discoloured wounds must have been at the time. They must have been deep wounds, accompanied by a tremendous amount of pain. I could hardly imagine.
A brief lance of pain pierced my heart.
"Really… You've lived a hard life, Your Highness."
While staring at his wounds, I continued.
“… It must have been very painful. How many bloody battles did you take part in to be left with scars like this, even as a Swordsmaster?”
It felt like a boulder had been placed on top of my chest.
Hadn't Prince Kyle suffered many wounds, and survived many fierce battles?
Prince Kyle was always armed with immense physical and mental strength. How could someone like him just lay there so quietly like this?
“I can’t believe it… You will not lose. You are going to wake up any minute now... Are you listening to me?”
The room remained silent.
The one person who always had an answer for me. The person who enlightened me with just a few questions whenever I hit a wall.
He just lay there quietly without giving a single answer.
His silence made it seem so much less real.
Maybe that was why.
It was difficult for me to accept that he was just lying there in front of me, without even twitching an eyebrow.
What if he never wakes up from this? Could he be brain dead? No. No, it couldn't be. It has to be Aurore misuse.
Nonetheless, countless scenes from dramas I'd watched in my past life started cycling through my brain. Scenes where characters suffered head injuries and were diagnosed as brain-dead, over and over again.
I gripped my head in my hands and closed my eyes tightly.
"Stop it, thinking negatively won't make it any better. So stop it."
When I opened my eyes again, I brought a warm wet towel and methodically wiped down his face and arms.
Prince Kyle's body was neither dirty nor feverish.
I just wanted to do something, so I tried to act with purpose. I raised the volume of my voice slightly, betting on the small glimmer of hope that he might l respond to the noise and wake up.
"Your Highness, the deadline for my homework is tomorrow morning, and I already know everything."
Tomorrow was the last day of the business trip, and I had to leave for the Capital so that the Second Prince could see to his personal schedule.
“I wanted to meet His Highness as soon as possible and tell you what I learned. It's strange. In the past, right after I first met His Highness, I tried to avoid every opportunity where I might be in your company. Now I… Well. I mean… Now I can’t wait to see you."
I stopped talking for a while, and glanced over to see if there were any unexpected changes in his expression, but there was nothing.
Then I continued to speak, undeterred.
"From now on, listen carefully to see if what I've inferred is correct. If it's hard to open your eyes, you can just lift your fingers."
I looked at his long, white fingers neatly arranged on the bed. A long time ago I had looked at those fingers and thought that they would look beautiful playing the piano.
I touched the tip of his unmoving index finger, staring blankly again. Then I took a deep breath and continued.
"After showing me the Baron's documents, Your Highness asked me to guess why you came here. The answer I found is, because of him."
A beat of silence.
"You're supposed to frown and ask me, 'What do you mean by that, Second Aide?'"
I smiled briefly at my impression of Prince Kyle. Then cleared my expression again and spoke.
"Well, I'll keep going. Your Highness knew the man pretending to be the Baron… Hmm. I'll just call him Fred Berg. You already knew who Fred Berg was. You were aware of all of the errors in the documents. But you didn't punish him. I wondered why...."
I paused for a moment, feeling a sense of unfamiliar tension, and choked down a sip of cold water.
Editor’s Notes -
In the Angela part of this chapter Diane absolutely sounds like the cliche of an older sibling trying to set up her shy younger sibling with one of her friends. The irony here is that this is KYLE she is talking about. Also Diane and Philip are freaking adorable together.
* Similarly to how Fred Berg refers to his older cousin Charles as 'older brother', Kyle often refers to Diane as his 'sister' and Diane refers to Kyle as her younger sibling 동생 'dongsaeng'
** Angela originally addresses Diane here as 언니 'Unnie" meaning big sister. Unnie is used as a de facto second-person pronoun by women to address both older sisters and unrelated women of somewhat older age since Korean does not allow you to address a superior too familiarly. I have opted to have Angela call Diane by name because that conveys similar intimacy in English, but also wanted to make it clear that this is a liberty I have taken in the process of editing that would not fly if this was Korea. I am being more liberal because this story has a very European inspired setting.
*** Angela calls Philip 오라버니 'Oppa-nim', roughly 'brother of my sister'. It's a polite form of 'Oppa' used as a de facto second-person pronoun by women to address both older brothers and unrelated men of somewhat older age.
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