Chapter 25.1

“Well, well, well,” Leto murmured as he entered the room. He absentmindedly scratched the crown of his white hair and deftly stowed the vial he had brought with him into his bag.

“What’s the matter?” Elena inquired, her eyes narrowing in concern as she savored the spoonful of soup that Cura was serving her. She propped herself up against a mound of cushions at the bed’s head, the lingering ache in her body gradually subsiding.

Cura glanced at Leto, still holding the spoon and soup bowl. “Is there a problem?” she queried.

“His Majesty has depleted his supply of headache medicine, and he’s not one to endure it quietly,” Leto replied.

“Is he in considerable pain?” Elena asked, a furrow forming on her brow. It was hard for her to fathom Kennard, who typically exuded strength, suffering from a mere headache.

Leto, Kennard’s trusted physician, seemed to share her disbelief. “The painkillers will take some time to kick in, but he’ll manage,” Leto reassured, sinking into a chair positioned at the head of the table. He casually poured himself a cup of tea. “I’ve treated him for hunting and war wounds before. I’ve even tended to him after he drank poison.”

“What?” Elena’s throat tightened as the words, previously heard from Serin, echoed once more through Leto’s lips. The repetition only intensified the burn in her esophagus.

“Is it because of the guests?” Cura inquired, extending a spoonful of soup toward Elena. She forced it down, her gaze narrowing.

“Someone visited the castle?”

“Yes. Word is that the Duke of Blade’s young lady arrived with servants from the capital,” Cura confirmed, her expression troubled.

“The Duke of Blade?”

“Yes. Butler Lassino is currently occupied preparing quarters for her and her entourage.”

“Is there some unexpected event or banquet happening?”

“No. They arrived unannounced, and perhaps that’s why His Highness is agitated and suffering from a headache.”

“Perhaps,” Leto interjected, responding to Cura’s inquiry on behalf of Elena. “His Highness hasn’t taken a proper meal in days, he’s deprived of sleep, and an unwelcome visitor has only exacerbated his condition.”

Elena glanced at the soup being served by Cura and shook her head. It gnawed at her that Kennard hadn’t even eaten, while she enjoyed her meals and slept comfortably.

“You need to eat more if you want to recover,” Cura insisted, extending the bowl of soup once again. However, this time, Elena declined with a shake of her head.

“I have no appetite,” she confessed.

“Even so, eat it. Your delayed recovery could lead to significant trouble for many people,” Leto urged, pouring himself a cup of Ervejo tea and placing it on the bedside table. Standing beside her, he continued, “I’m advising you not to add to the Duke’s burdens.”

Reluctantly, Elena accepted the soup from Cura. The thick and smooth consistency of the soup made each swallow a struggle. Only after Leto was convinced that Elena had finished her bowl did he return to his chair and sit down.

Cura, with a tray of bowls, moved off the bed and arranged them on the tea table. She offered the tea Leto had poured. “Please have some tea.”

Ensuring Elena was well-covered, Cura adjusted the robe around her shoulders. She tucked the sheets and fur quilt up to Elena’s chest, creating a cocoon of warmth.

Seated against the cushions, Elena cradled a teacup in each hand, feeling the warmth seeping into her palms.

“I’m certain you’ve noticed, but the Duke isn’t pleased about your injury, even though he was by your side,” Leto remarked, while Elena maintained a stoic silence.

She had not disclosed to anyone that Kennard had disappeared that fateful night, leaving her alone in the darkness. Attacked by the White Fox Tribe, she had come perilously close to death, but Kennard had ultimately saved her life. Left alone, she initially believed Kennard had abandoned her, yet he managed to find his way back to her in the end.

The mystery of why he had left her alone still eluded Elena. Nevertheless, what remained undeniable was that he had saved her life not once but twice – once before and again when she stood on the brink of death. Despite receiving unwarranted respect and care, Elena felt she had no right to complain about his temporary absence.

Cura, tending to the fireplace, returned and clapped her hands together. “By the way, I heard from others that the Duchess of Blade who visited today is His Highness’s fiancée. Were you aware of that?”

Elena, lost in thought, was brought back to reality by Cura’s words. The mention of “fiancée” caused her heart to sink, her chest to tighten, and her throat to feel constricted, as if a stone had lodged in it.



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