Chapter 18.2

If this was the same wolf she had seen the night before, it had to be Kennard. However, seeing him up close in his wolf form was a surprising and somewhat frightening experience. It was no surprise because his amber eyes shone eerily in the darkness, and his long, sleek black fur gently danced in the wind. He was so large that he hardly looked like an ordinary wolf.

On all fours, he stood even taller than Elena herself. There couldn’t be any other black wolf like this besides Kennard. “Your Highness?” Elena could barely get the words out. Kennard’s presence in this transformed state overwhelmed her, and his scent left her speechless and immobile.

The black wolf just stared at Elena, not saying a word. Could it be that he can’t speak in this transformed state? Elena wondered. She had never thought of this before. She decided to ask Cura about it once the day broke. But right now, she felt a strong desire to touch the black fur fluttering in the wind.

Perhaps he had sensed her thoughts. The black wolf opened its mouth and said, “Will you come with me?” The deep, low-pitched voice was unmistakably Kennard’s.

Elena’s suspicions had solidified, and now that she was certain it was Kennard, the revelation was even more astounding. After a hesitant swallow, Elena finally inquired, and Kennard, who had been silently observing her, crouched down.

“Your Highness?” 

“Get on,” Kennard instructed. 

“What?” Elena instinctively took a surprised step back. “You want me to ride on your back?” 

“Get on before I change my mind. I’ll take you to the forest,” Kennard urged, nodding and lowering himself to the ground until their eyes met at the same level.

“Even so…” Elena hesitated, caught in a dilemma about how to navigate this situation. She had initiated it, but the idea of riding on the Duke’s back remained almost unbelievable.

“Didn’t I say I don’t like repeating myself?” Kennard grumbled, his unwavering gaze making it clear he wasn’t joking or speaking lightly.

Elena cautiously approached Kennard, swallowing hard. Climbing onto his back wasn’t a simple feat. She had to lift the hem of her robe and her shoes to reach his back. Kennard patiently waited until Elena had securely mounted him, and then he gradually stood up.

As the gusts of wind swayed her back and forth, Elena clung to Kennard’s fur wherever she could to maintain her balance. When Kennard turned his head to check on her, she quickly released her tight grip on his fur, which she had held onto as if it were a prickly cushion in the courtyard.

At that moment, she contemplated changing her mind and asking to be let down. She worried that if she did request to be put down, he might twist his body and drop her, which would be even more concerning. Contrary to her concerns, Kennard’s words were unexpected.

“To avoid falling, hold on tightly,” he instructed.

“Are you sure it won’t hurt?” Elena asked skeptically.

“I’m fine,” Kennard reassured. As soon as he finished speaking, he slowly moved toward the terrace railing. Elena, forced to clutch Kennard’s neck to support her swaying body, had no other choice but to grip his fur.

I wish I had just quietly gone to bed, she lamented. It’s these whims that get us into these situations. Despite Kennard’s assurance, Elena still felt uneasy. Climbing a ladder with iron spikes driven into wooden planks might have seemed like a better idea. He hadn’t paid her any attention during the day, and now he suddenly wanted her to ride on his back.

Elena stifled a yelp, biting her lower lip as a sudden gust of wind lifted her off the ground, and a scream escaped her lips—a strange and uncontrollable sound, almost alien in its nature. Her instinctual response was to squeeze her eyes shut and cling even tighter to Kennard’s fur as the fierce wind stung her face and sent her clothes billowing in every direction.

Then came a thud as her body descended, and the wind’s fury subsided. Cautiously, she opened one eye to assess her surroundings, and her astonishment made her snap both eyes wide open. She found herself standing in front of a fountain at the central entrance of the garden, with the towering castle looming in the dark beyond.

Glancing upward, she realized that the terrace railing of her bedroom was in a high place. “We… we jumped… Oh!” Elena couldn’t complete her sentence as her body tilted backward as though it might snap, and a chilling breeze enveloped her. She clung to Kennard’s back, her grip on his fur becoming even more tenacious, fearing she might tumble to the ground at any moment.

Kennard moved through the castle’s garden with astonishing swiftness, almost as if he were soaring, and then he vaulted beyond the castle’s confines, heading for the forest.



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