45. [Day 6 (2)]
Astel, who noticed Lorona peeking through the window several times, secretly smiled.
As he played with the children of the nursery home, his thoughts were always directed towards Lorona.
Lorona accepted Astel’s story as it was. It was surprisingly straightforward of her. Perhaps, upon calmly thinking it over, Lorona had decided that his story held water.
To what did he owe such a tremendous amount of joy?
For Lorona to be alive and well, Astel couldn’t possibly ask for more. However, she had believed and even recognized him.
Astel swore that he’d never let her go.
Soon, it was time to eat. The children were called. The garden, which was bustling until a moment ago, became quiet.
The window of Lorona’s room was also closed. She must’ve left for the meal.
“Should I accompany Lady Lorona?”
“I think it’d be best if we were to leave her alone. It’ll take some time for her to process the news that the entire kingdom believes her to be dead.”
“…I suppose so.”
“Besides, Lorona is kind. She should understand what I said.”
Towards Astel who laughed with confidence, Kaiser shrugged as if troubled.
Astel didn’t lie to Lorona.
He told her that the people around her had accepted her death and continued with their lives. He also told her that if Lorona were to return, their new routines would be destroyed.
The gentle and wise Lorona believed in his words. Thinking that everyone she knew had taken a new step in their lives, she decided to withdraw.
Astel was convinced that if he didn’t mince his words, Lorona would never be able to move on.
The count and his wife were captured by the House of Lords. Velbutte was sent to the frontier. Her half-sister, Lumina, was seriously injured in a carriage accident.
Nevertheless, Astel decided that Lorona didn’t need to know such trivialities. Thus, he didn’t tell her.
“…It’ll surely reach her ears someday.”
Kaiser had a point.
The crown prince was stripped of his position. Furthermore, an entire aristocratic family had fallen into ruin. Eventually, it’d become news so big that it would even reach the Stella Empire.
He couldn’t hide it from Lorona forever.
“—By the time that news reaches her ears, Lorona will have already become mine. I’ll make her so happy that she won’t even have the time to think about wanting to return.”
He’d love her to the point that she wouldn’t want to return to those times.
The preparations for that were already in place.
“What of those particular merchants?”
“As directed by Your Highness Astel, I reported them to the House of Lords. As a result, they’ve been captured.”
“Of course, what they did was illegal. Even if they were merely planning to look for me by hiring thugs, that’d still be considered tampering with the kingdom’s internal affairs. It’s only natural that they’d be apprehended.”
The man who approached the Miez Corporation under the name of Hendrick had been hired by the Stella Empire.
Rather than a company, he belonged to an assassination and spy-based group. He had tried to bring illegal goods from the empire into that kingdom to induce confusion and turmoil.
The source stemmed from those representing the old regime, the same group which once aimed for Astel’s life.
“Once the fourth prince succeeds the throne, he’ll surely invade this kingdom. What a vile person.”
They sold contraband to influential houses. Also, with one of them pretending to be a successful merchant with special goods, they approached the Miez corporation. Their true motive must had been to grasp a weakness in that corporation and weaken the kingdom from within.
That wasn’t everything. They were also conspiring to start a vicious epidemic by bringing sick animals into the kingdom. The frequent carriage accidents were also being caused by the stray dogs they had brought in.
“It seems that the House of Lords and the church already knew what they were planning. They’ve started collecting the contraband and have already set out to capture the wild dogs. Also, the House of Lords seems to have reported it all to the royal family. They’ll soon be sending some messengers to the empire.”
“If we can provide them with some evidence, everything will work out just fine.”
Astel’s father, the emperor, despite being callous, despised cowardly ploys. Not to mention, he had a long-standing relationship with that kingdom.
As such, Astel didn’t think that his father would forgive those of the old regime who tried to break that relationship—or the fourth prince, who supported them.
“His Majesty is aware that I’m a target for their assassination. Hence, he has continued to allow me to stay in this kingdom.”
At first, Astel thought that he had been abandoned. Soon, it became clear to him that the emperor was protecting him from behind the scenes.
Of course, he didn’t even notice it at the time. Back then, being able to live in a foreign country without any inconvenience didn’t seem odd to him.
He was only able to notice because he met Lorona and grew.
“His Majesty will welcome Your Highness as his successor.”
“I’m not interested in the throne. But if that’s what it takes to protect Lorona, then the throne will do.”
“Are you planning to have Lady Lorona as your princess?”
His first love was now within reach.
No matter what it took, Astel would never give up on Lorona.
“If it’s Your Highness, I’m sure you can do it.”
“You aren’t against it?”
“Not at all. I’ve looked into Lady Lorona. I know of how wonderful she is. She will be the best empress for our empire.”
“You, no way…”
“Don’t stare at me like that. I’m merely stating my objective opinion. I don’t have a hobby of stealing the lovers of others.”
Astel glared at Kaiser who deliberately shrugged his shoulders. But soon, he muttered, “Alright, then.” and turned on his heels.
“We’ll depart as soon as Lorona’s heart has settled. Don’t neglect the preparations.”
***T/N: Y’know I’m kinda unnerved by Aslan at first, but his meticulousness and ruthlessness, coupled with his gentle side, made him a sufficient dude to both protect and love Lorona.
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