“After having come to Hessenguard my sleeping improved, so I thought the matter was over, but, I guess not.”
Erna kept her lips closed as he spoke, thinking, I had wondered why he is especially touchy-feely. Is it because of that experience?
As Erna sat still, Kalion raised his hand, swept her cheek, and rose from his seat. He couldn’t continue like this.
He got up and approached the table. The head-pounding dizziness attacked him again. But before he stumbled, Erna quickly helped him to approach the table and sit without collapsing.
Erna sat not across from him, but next to him. She fed him soup with the spoon she’d hit him with earlier. Kalion closed his eyes, his tongue hesitating, but ultimately allowing him to swallow a spoonful. His protruding Adam’s apple moved as he swallowed once. He then lowered his face and shivered.
That one swallow was successful, thanks to Erna, but it made him sweat.
A while later, Kalion—his head now lifted—scooped the soup with the spoon in front of him.
Erna wondered if he was trying to feed himself, and then the spoon approached her lips.
“You eat some, too,” said Kalion.
Erna took note of large pieces of vegetables floating in the soup and then found herself upset that Kalion had called her skinny.
Kalion held the spoon with a trembling hand, looking defeated. She ate the spoonful.
Just like that, the two fed each other. Even though it took a lot of time and it spilled, they proceeded without complaints.
* * *
Two days after Kalion fully regained consciousness, he recovered quickly, with no major issues.
Adelaide and Ruben were still detained and Vanessa was still prohibited from entering the Grand Castle.
The mood of the Grand Castle was tense. The poisoning of one half of the grand couple put everyone on edge. Everyone’s face reflected a mixture of anger, fear, and humiliation.
They could trust no one.
Erna and Kalion weren’t the only ones who felt like this. The tension was palpable throughout the Grand Castle and quickly sparked conflict.
It started among the kitchen servants.
From the day of the poisoning, they had been placed under very strict surveillance. They accepted the knights’ inevitable surveillance, but not without complaint.
Then, unable to overcome the oppressive atmosphere, after dinner, some servants went upstairs and drank the leftover wine.
Normally, they would have stopped each other from overindulging. However, one drink to relax and ease their tattered minds and bodies led to ten. Ten led to arguments.
“What did you say? Say it again.”
“Honestly isn’t Haband the most suspicious?”
“If so, then Lady Erna is suspicious. What are you on about?”
Normally, they would have realized the imminent danger of this argument and quieted down. But the alcohol simultaneously inhibited their reason and loosened their tongues.
The small quarrel morphed into a brawl of more than ten people. If the knights hadn’t held them back, it would have ended in bloodshed.
From that day forward, the atmosphere of the Grand Castle was even more chaotic. Kalion still wasn’t making an appearance; his state was communicated only through Erna.
Rumors bred and spread throughout the Castle.
Kalion had woken up, but the reason he didn’t make an appearance was that he wasn’t fully recovered. Only Erna came and went, having decided that showing weakness was a poor choice.
Erna listened to Orpé’s account of the brawl among the kitchen servants, closed her eyes, and sighed.
“I fed Kalion poison,” said Opré, wondering how she could say such a thing. It wasn’t just because she hadn’t seen him this whole time. But after hearing the comments from the ones involved in the brawl, Opré realized that there was also a rumor that Erna had been involved.
Well, is that obvious since we have snarled at each other for ten years?
It might have seemed suspicious for the strangers to suddenly see Erna and Kalion change their sleeping arrangements and use the couple’s bedroom.
“No. If I were going to kill Kalion I would do it flawlessly,” Erna said flippantly.
Orpé thought that Erna’s comment was odd, but she stayed quiet.
After that, for three days again, scuffles and fights broke out in the Grand Castle, all stemming from the question, “Who perpetrated the poisoning incident?
Feeling the increasingly harsh atmosphere of the Grand Castle, Erna realized that someone had poisoned not just Kalion, but, in a sense, they had sprinkled it around the entire castle.
* * *
“I must find the culprit.”
Erna, who’d returned to the couple’s bedroom in the evening, explained to Kalion what had taken place earlier.
Five days passed since Kalion had opened his eyes. Outsiders wouldn’t know, but he had been recovering swiftly this whole time. It was still hard to eat, but when it was mealtime, Erna returned to the room, taste-tested the food despite his disapproval, and then ate with him.
“The mood in the Castle is becoming harsher by the day. The Wizard Group, too, is not doing anything but the necessary exchanges with the knights.”
Since they had begun to doubt each other, a cold wind blew through the normally warm Grand Castle.
Here was the problem. How was Erna supposed to find the force that was after Kalion in the Grand Castle?
Erna turned to Kalion, saying, “I actually have some sort of plan—”
“Some sort?” he interjected.
Kalion was uneasy about Erna’s reaction. If this had been a normal situation, she would have said to leave it alone.
“You must do one thing, and do it right,” she continued.
“And what is that?”
Whatever her plan, Kalion had confidence in her carrying it out well.
When Kalion looked at her as if ordering her to get to the point, Erna hesitated before carefully opening her mouth.
“Can you hit me without feeling sympathy?”