Chapter 14.2

Serin strode into the room, offering a hand to help Cura rise. “Are you okay?”

Cura nodded. “Yes, I’m fine.”

Elena breathed a sigh of relief at Cura’s response. Gradually, color returned to Cura’s once-pale and lifeless face.

“Why did you come looking for me again?” Kennard inquired, a hint of annoyance in his voice.

“You left in the middle of our conversation, so I had to chase after you,” Serin explained.

Kennard retrieved Elena’s fallen robe from under her shoulders, draping it in front of her to shield her from Serin’s view. As Serin narrowed his eyes in response, Elena couldn’t help but tense, and she tightly shut her eyes.

Elena could only hope for a swift resolution to this uncomfortable situation.

“Cura,” Kennard called suddenly.

Cura turned around in a start, her head lowered, upon hearing Kennard’s voice. She found Elena in Kennard’s arms and quickly followed suit, bowing her head.

Elena, too, yearned to escape the scrutinizing gazes in this mortifying situation.

“What are you waiting for? Arrange a guest bed for Elena, and today, you won’t go to your accommodation. Stay by Elena’s side,” Kennard commanded firmly.

Cura responded with a deep bow. “Yes, understood.”

Elena started to protest, “No, I’m fine, and as for Cura…”

“Your Highness!” Serin, even more taken aback than Elena, exclaimed sharply. Kennard’s furrowed brow turned toward Serin. Seizing the opportunity, Elena withdrew from Kennard’s hold, breathing a sigh of relief as she distanced herself.

“Is there a problem?” Serin approached. “Why are you suddenly bringing in a guest bed at this late hour? Is there a need for such a thing? Look, there’s nothing unusual, right?” He pointed at Elena, attempting to assert his perspective.

“I make the decisions here. I give the orders,” Kennard interrupted Serin without hesitation.

“But…” Serin attempted to argue further.

“Enough,” Kennard’s low, authoritative voice halted Serin in his tracks. Though he may have dared to dispute the duke, in that moment of perceiving impending danger, he opted for silence, his lips sealed.

Elena observed the two men in the brisk air, alternating her gaze between them, and a soft sigh escaped her lips. It was evident that this situation had arisen due to her, and there was no denying it.

“Your Highness, it may not be necessary to bring in a bed,” she ventured, hoping to alleviate the tension.

Kennard slowly turned his head to look at Elena. Though he remained silent, the raised eyebrow and the icy glint in his eyes made it abundantly clear that he was irritated by her suggestion.

Elena hurriedly gestured toward the bed where she had been staying. “It’s spacious enough for five people. What if Cura and I sleep there together?”

Cura, who had been trembling like a small animal before a predator, was taken aback and interjected, “What? But how can I…”

Elena inclined her head toward Cura and then returned her gaze to Kennard. “Wouldn’t it be easier to keep an eye on me even while sleeping if Cura is right next to me?” She watched with bated breath as Kennard turned to examine the bed.

“Alright, do that,” Kennard agreed, turning back to Elena, his gaze now softened.

“Ugh, seriously, what is this…” Serin muttered with a sigh, running a rough hand through his silver-streaked brown hair, clearly perplexed by the unfolding situation. 

***

The snowfall had ceased, but the bone-chilling cold still permeated their very beings. Even in the hush of the night, their breaths billowed white in the frigid air.

In the darkness, Kennard, clad in full hunting gear, stood out mainly by the gleam in his hazel eyes. He was perched on a rock near the marsh, periodically glancing back. The presence he had sensed from behind didn’t appear to bother him much.

Serin, who had silently tagged along for the midnight hunt, leaned against another rock, meticulously sharpening his sword with a piece of cloth. The thick layer of snow beneath them felt like a plush carpet.

Kennard, unable to contain his irritation any longer, muttered, “If you’re just going to stand there, why did you follow me for the hunt?”

Serin shrugged, looking up as he noticed Kennard’s gaze. “I’m hunting today as well. I was getting frustrated,” he replied, echoing their previous conversation in the tower’s attic.

Kennard raised an eyebrow upon hearing Serin mimic him, his irritation evident in his expression. “Annoying,” he muttered, prompting Serin’s lips to twitch as if he wanted to say something but hesitated.

“If you have something to say, say it,” Kennard urged.

“I’m the one who’s truly annoyed,” Serin began to grumble, as though he had been waiting for this moment.

Kennard’s agitation grew as he sensed his precious alone time being disrupted, especially with Serin’s complaints added to the mix. “So, what do you want?”

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