That night, Erna sat in her room, unable to do anything. Under normal circumstances, she would finish the work she couldn’t attend to during the day, but tonight she couldn’t even think about focusing on that. She was obsessed with only one thought. Kalion had become his unpleasant past self.
Perhaps it was a good thing and should instead be viewed as a welcome turn of events. Erna had seen first-hand how the strong poison had impacted him, but it was only something she knew. It had made him h*rny towards her. However, she wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
Erna went and threw herself on the bed, hugging one of the cushions on it, and sighed, “If the poison has been purified he should be back to normal for good.”
As she laid down, Erna reminisced about the Kalion of late. She recalled him frowning and turning away the moment he’d faced her as if she was someone he didn’t want to see. And his old attitude flashed into her mind. She remembered that whenever there was even the slightest chance of him being able to criticize and look down on her during a meeting, he would. Kalion’s expression was always so visible that anyone could tell he was annoyed with her. Erna agonized about what she’d done to him and why she needed to hear his compliment so desperately when deep down she’d known he wouldn’t give one.
Erna put her face in the cushion and screamed, “Why did I? Why? Did I do that?” She must’ve also gone insane because she’d spent far too much time with Kalion recently. Perhaps the demon’s poison was contagious. No, it was. It had to be. Or else there was no explanation as to why she went and asked Kalion how she looked with the pretty accessory behind her ear.
After rolling around on the bed, feeling frustrated and embarrassed, Erna turned her head to the clock and saw that it was 10:05 p.m. “I’m late!”
Erna had to force herself to get off the bed, and the moment she held the door handle, she couldn’t help but pause. The humiliation from yesterday held her steps back. She kept thinking of Kalion’s face. The face that showed that she was unbelievably absurd. She was sure that he was thinking that when he was staring at her with that expression.
“You can do this,” she said to herself, trying to build up the courage to leave the sanctuary of her room.
After a moment of hesitation, Erna finally opened the door. She didn’t want to be made fun of, so it would be better if she confronted him about why he’d spoken to her in such a manner. He’d made it seem as if nothing had transpired between them the last couple of weeks.
Mustering all her courage, she walked down the passage with her head held high, but the moment she stepped into the master bedroom, she could sense something was wrong. Kalion was good with timekeeping, and it was as if he had a clock within his body. But this evening, he was nowhere to be seen, even though it was past their promised time. It was a first, and Erna’s mind immediately started obsessing again. She thought about the purified poison and the expression on his face when he’d looked at her briefly.
It then dawned on her that Kalion must also be feeling embarrassed because of the way he’d behaved. And perhaps he even felt a measure of self-disgust because he’d craved someone he didn’t even like and had clung to her body with lust.
Is that why he didn’t come? Erna’s shoulders slumped as she tried to make sense of his absence this evening. Like she had been wriggling on her bed in embarrassment, maybe Kalion was punching the cushions in his room in frustration without making a sound.
Erna looked around the master bedroom, feeling somewhat saddened. Until recently, she had been more comfortable being here alone, but now it felt odd and out of place to be on her own. When Erna turned around to head back to her room, her eyes fell on the table beside the emerald-green sofa. The documents and books she’d previously brought into the room were still stacked on top of the table. “Since when did I start leaving my things here?” In general, she didn’t like leaving her belongings scattered around. But the room contained a lot of her things now. It was as if this was a comfortable space for her to work.
Erna marched over to the small table and gathered up as many documents as she could carry. And without giving it a second thought, she walked back to her room in the hopes of erasing any trace of her presence from the master bedroom. The humiliation of their encounter was overwhelming.
Chapter 8. The First Night
“We’re back!” Cedric shouted the moment he saw the Archduke castle. The way he’d expressed his happiness by his actions had been over-exaggerated. Even the tone of his voice was too much. Kalion sat next to him in silence, unlike Cedric had expected, and he watched the Duke, who stared at the castle with a complex look on his face.
Kalion had changed over the past few weeks, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to Cedric that he acted like this today. But he was concerned about the more dramatic changes in him that had started three days ago. They’d received a message from the Knight’s Order, and this seemed to have upset Kalion. It said that the same type of demons that had appeared in Haldis had suddenly reappeared. But thankfully, this time, there weren’t even ten of them, so the defense in the area had killed them all right away.
As Cedric had sat and compiled the document that evening, feeling relieved, Kalion had intercepted it and had said, “We’re going to review it. Follow me.”
“Please, no. I have so much to do!” Cedric had pleaded, but Kalion wouldn’t listen. And so, Cedric was forced to follow him and the Knight’s Order, leaving behind a large amount of work piled up on his desk. But he’d known that he couldn’t send Kalion alone.
When Kalion and the knights had arrived in the town where the demons had been killed, the townspeople had already cremated their bodies. Cedric wasn’t sure why at the time, but Kalion had looked very disappointed about this.
“Maybe one of them is still alive here somewhere,” Kalion had said.
“I was advised that they are all dead. What do you hope to achieve by capturing a live one anyway?” Cedric had asked him, unsure of his motive for this.
“I just wanted to check something,” Kalion had replied without elaborating on what he wanted to see.
Then the next day, Kalion had gone into the forest on a demon hunt, saying that he was hoping to find one still alive. But there had been none, and he’d only encountered a hungry wolf. So the Knight’s Order had returned to the castle without accomplishing anything.
“We’ll put it back into the stable, so just go in and rest.” Cedric quickly took the leather reigns and handed them to another knight. And then gently nudged him to leave. He felt that if he didn’t do that, Kalion wouldn’t leave them in peace.
“There are some documents I still have to take care of,” Cedric started to say.
“I’ll review them!” Kalion said louder than he wanted to.
“I should wash up first.”
“All the knights are in the shower house. It should be more refreshing and faster for you to wash in your room!”
Just like Cedric anticipated, Kalion didn’t look like he wanted to go back to his room. But Cedric put up a magnificent defense. It was a tiring three days, and if he got bothered by Kalion tonight as well, he would collapse. “Please go back to the castle and rest!” Thankfully, Cedric got some help from surrounding knights and was able to kick him out of the Knight’s Order’s mansion. Since the knights had also sensed Kalion’s increased sensitivity over the past three days, they were happy to assist.
Listening to the cheering from the knights, who could finally relax if he left, Kalion had no choice but to return to his room in the castle. And so he walked back on his own in the still of the night.
When he entered his room, it looked the same as when he’d left it three days ago. He thought he should wash up first, so he walked to the bathroom. “Hmm.” Kalion saw the scratch around his elbow. He tried to remember how he’d gotten it and thought that it must’ve been when he was trying to catch the wolf in the forest. It didn’t sting, let alone hurt, so he hadn’t realized it was there. But it looked worse than it seemed as the scratch mark was wide.
After Kalion finished washing up, he looked at the clock and saw it was 9:50 p.m. and decided to put his ear against the door to the master bedroom. Although the door to the hallway was well soundproofed, the inside door was just a standard door. So if he listened carefully, he could hear any sounds inside. But no matter how much he concentrated, there were no noises that suggested any movement in the room.
Is she not there yet? Kalion camped out in front of the door and focused on listening for any sounds coming from the other side. His eyes switched between the door and the clock as the time dragged by slowly. And then it was finally 10 p.m., and he sat on the edge of his seat in expectation of the hallway door opening. But the room remained dead-quiet. Why is she not coming?
Other than their first meeting, Erna was always on time. That was most likely because she didn’t want to hear his nagging voice about her being late. Kalion’s eyes focused on the clock: three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, and then ten. He sensed something was wrong. There was no way Erna would be ten minutes late. Then he thought that perhaps she hadn’t received word that he’d returned home. That would explain then why she hadn’t come to the master bedroom. Kalion felt a bit sad, even though that was a logical thing to assume.
Wouldn’t she come even if there was no business to attend? The master bedroom has essentially become their office nowadays. There were all kinds of things in there at this point. From documents to utensils, so there were many times when Erna came early to work. But she still hadn’t arrived tonight.
Unable to contain himself any longer, Kalion jumped up and grabbed the door handle. But then he remembered what he’d said the last time he’d left the room.“Damn it.” He couldn’t understand why he was acting like this. It wasn’t like he wouldn’t see her again. And they still had to continue sleeping together.
Regret came over him when he thought about what he’d said out of embarrassment. Kalion hadn’t meant to be so nasty to her. But when he’d realized that his feelings weren’t because of the poison, he’d reacted in his old way. And now, he was left wondering how Erna would look at him when she saw him again.
In his mind, he replayed the moment she’d walked over to him, asking him if she looked pretty. It was the same smile she’d flashed to her people earlier in the day. As he thought about it, it was the first time Erna had smiled so excitedly while speaking to him.
Kalion broke into a cold sweat. It felt like he’d made a big mistake, and his stomach went into knots. He couldn’t take it anymore, so he opened the door to the master bedroom, and the moment he walked in, the familiar air surrounded him. The room was the same. Warm with a refreshing scent of herbs and a well-made bed.
His eyes widened as he looked around the room. The table, beside the sofa, was made use of by Erna, so any recent documents from Vanessa would be piled up high on it. One time when she’d put more on top of the pile, it had collapsed, hitting the cup beside it, which caused the ink to spread over all the documents. Since then, he’d noticed she was more careful to ensure that the papers were stacked more neatly.
All the documents were gone. It wasn’t just the documents that were gone. Erna’s pens, ink cup, paperweight, and the books she read. All Erna’s belongings that lay about the room were gone. “Why?” As flustered as he was, he looked around again just in case, but he couldn’t find any trace of Erna. Then he looked at the top of his desk. And there was the pen that Erna started to use as if it was her own. It meant that she no longer had use for it and had returned it to him.
The moment he saw that his mind went blank. Kalion’s body moved before his mind, and he stormed out of the room and headed to her bedroom. It all happened so quickly, and without even realizing it, he was knocking on her door and shouting, “Erna!”