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“Right, how did you know I was the prince?”
Yepnen was still young, and his tongue was clumsy. Moreover, it was all the more so because he was still sniffling. Elisha took the handkerchief from her bosom and handed it to him.
“I could tell from a glance you were a precious person because the prince has the dignity of a member of the royal family. The only one the same age as you in the imperial family is the second child, Prince Yepnen.”
Up close, Yepnen looked quite similar to Illione. However, compared to his sister, he had soft drooping eyes that looked calm among his young peers.
“Do not cry, Prince.”
“Yes, I’m fine. A prince does not cry.”
Elisha felt her heart ache. She wanted to give the child a big hug.
And as she became astonished at her feelings, her mask became even more expressionless and coldly stiff. It was Elisha’s habit and defense mechanism that when she encountered strangers or her own feelings, her face would grow harder.
But, unlike most, Yepnen was not frightened by her icy countenance. Instead, he just swallowed her tears.
“The lady before you is the High General’s wife, Elisha de Lor.”
“I know… … . I saw you from afar yesterday. Although you went in first because you were not feeling well. I am Yepnen.”
Yepnen held onto her handkerchief. Elisha took it back and carefully wiped the boy’s flushed, puffy cheeks.
“I have a request to ask of you.”
“Yes, please speak.”
“Please keep what happened today a secret from everyone.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to know that your Highness is being bullied? It doesn’t seem like it has happened once or twice,”
noted Elisha. Yepnen shook his head.
“Children of the Imperial family are not bullied. It’s because I’m defective—sniff—When I grow up, everything will be fine.”
Elisha was speechless. Indeed, children of the imperial family have their own iron rules for survival. Even a six-year-old knew he couldn’t cry and tell someone he was being bullied, or he would be ridiculed for being a sissy crybaby.
‘Should I praise him for quickly learning the logic of the world?’
Elisha’s eyebrows twitched.
Elisha said, guiding him affectionately.
“The prince is an excellent person. Look, the prince saved me earlier. If Carola, who hates me, and the scary Prince Jewel had found me, I would have been in a lot of trouble.”
“… … .”
“Judging by how his Highness protected the lady, the prince has the qualities of a knight. Just like my husband.”
For children of his age, strong men like Lucerne were idolized. His eyes widened.
“You mean like the High General who catches beasts with his bare hands?”
“… … I don’t know if he catches them with his bare hands, but —yes, that’s right.”
Elisha nodded. Yepnen stopped his sniffling.
“But where were you heading? A prince can’t go around alone.”
“Uh… … . To meet my big sister… … . but, I met Prince Jewel.”
Elisha grasped what had happened by his remark. He must have sneaked out, looking for his sister around the hunting ground without permission, and unexpectedly got caught by Jewel. He referred to Illione in an intimate, affectionate way as his ‘big sister’ but formally addressed Jewel as ‘prince,’ reflecting their poor relationship.
“But the lady shouldn’t be alone either! There are a lot of dangerous people here too… … .”
“Then let’s go to the hunting grounds together. I would feel at ease if the brave Prince Yepnen escorted me. No one will bother us if we go together.”
He nodded his head happily at those words. But when Yepnen started to walk, she felt her heart ache a little.
Yepnen walked with a limp. She didn’t know if it was due to an accident or congenital, but everyone in the Empire knew that Yepnen was lame.
Therefore, this young child used the word ‘defect’ to refer to himself. She held his hand and headed to the area where people gathered.
Lucerne approached them with his wide stride. Standing in front of people, he looked exceptionally dazzling today.
“Are you awake now?”
“Lucerne, don’t say that.”
Fortunately, the emperor and empress were nowhere to be seen. It would have been a great disrespect if Elisha, who slept in late, didn’t come out while they were there. Lucerne noted Yepnen was holding her hand:
“The prince is also here.”
“Yes, greetings, High General.”
Yepnen put one of his hands on his chest and greeted him dignifiedly.
Attaindents approached. Elisha handed over Yepnen to the courtiers.
“See you soon, my lady,”
Yepnen said confidently with elegance. Elisha smiled and nodded at him in response.
“Why did you come out?”
“Why not? I have to come out with you but I overslept today… … .”
“I don’t mind. Anyway, earlier Illione won and the emperor and empress praised her and left,”
Lucerne added bluntly.
“By the way, why are you hanging out with a man outside? What about the courtiers?”
“We took a walk… … . And ‘a man outside’?”
“Even a child is a man, can’t your husband be jealous when you two are holding hands? I even said it was forbidden to wander around alone.”
Lucerne was really unreasonable.
Then a strange knight drew near. He said something to Lucerne. Elisha picked up on the words: score, Illione, and monsters. Judging by those words, it was something related to the hunt.
“By any chance, Lucerne, are you the judge of the hunting festival today?”
“Yeah, I’ll go into the forest for a while to count all the scores. Then, I’ll be right back.”
Elisha meekly affirmed. She went to the spot he pointed to and waited for him with a cup of her tea.
There was a dreadful gaze watching Elisha.
“Yepnen came with that woman. Damn it. Yepnen—did that little boy use his brain?”
It was Jewel. He whispered to Carola when people didn’t notice them.
“Indeed… … . What if she saw us and misunderstood?”
“It was just a conversation, but who would say anything? Anyway, Yepnen, that bastard, should have shut his mouth. But who is that woman with that bastard and Lucerne?”
Carola gritted her teeth.
“She’s a whore, a bitch.”
“… … really? Does Lucerne also bring prostitutes to the imperial palace?”
Jewel donned a subtle look.