Chapter 33.1

“Whose pheromones can you distinguish again?” Kennard probed, his gaze penetrating. 

Elena felt a weight settle in the pit of her stomach. A silent plea to reverse the irreversible danced in her mind, a futile desire to rewind the clock. She hesitated, caught in the undertow of her own thoughts. “Sir Serin, the head butler Lassino, and Professor Leto, and about Cura.”

“Anyone else?”

“I can sense the pheromones, but I can’t distinguish whose they are.”

“I see.” Kennard’s voice was a murmur, a low undertone that seemed to ripple through the room. His hand extended towards Elena, and she instinctively retreated, her eyes locking onto his.

Her throat tightened as she involuntarily swallowed, her pupils dilating. Kennard observed her reaction, his eyelids narrowing ever so briefly.

“Don’t be scared,” he uttered, the words carrying a weight that contradicted their intent.

“I… I’m not scared,” Elena replied, her voice wavering with a mixture of defiance and vulnerability. But deep down, how could she not be scared? The pheromones hung heavy in the air, a palpable force that seemed to swallow even the sound around them. Kennard’s presence, unassuming yet undeniably imposing, wrapped the room in an intangible pressure that bordered on intimidation.

Kennard, as if privy to the intricate dance of Elena’s thoughts, allowed a fleeting bitterness to flicker across his face, only to vanish into an unreadable calm.

“Even though you say that, you’re uncomfortable with me being around, aren’t you?” he remarked, his voice carrying a subtle edge. As Elena instinctively retreated, attempting to create distance, Kennard closed the gap with deliberate steps. His firm grip on her arm, ensnared by the folds of her cloak, thwarted any further retreat.

“Look. Just by approaching like this, you’re already afraid of me,” Kennard observed, his gaze penetrating the layers of her defenses.

“I… I can’t be close to the Lord without daring…” Elena faltered, her words trailing off as Kennard tightened his hold, prompting her to meet his gaze.

“I must have told you before,” Kennard sighed. “You just have to do as I say. If I come close, you just have to stay right there.”

His fingers grazed the tips of Elena’s hair cascading over the cloak. Waves of the once unruly strands now embraced a newfound softness, a testament to the meticulous care administered by Cura. The tactile exploration of her hair, once routine under Cura’s hands, now assumed an unforeseen intimacy. Elena wanted to step back, but doing so was futile under Kennard’s constraints. 

“Shall we go to the forest?” The question hung in the air, disrupting Elena’s thoughts like an unexpected gust of wind.

Startled, she blinked as if waking from a dream, uncertainty clouding her features. Memories of a previous encounter with the White Fox Tribe surfaced, casting a shadow over the prospect of venturing into the forest again.

Elena hesitated, and the air seemed to thicken with unspoken tension. Kennard, observing her inner struggle, bore a bitter expression in his eyes.

“Are you scared?” he asked, his voice carrying an undertone that probed deeper than the surface.

“What?” Elena’s response held a hint of defiance, but Kennard’s gaze remained steady, his jaw stiffening in subtle disapproval.

“Do you find it scary… that I might leave you alone again? Scared that you might be attacked again, like last time?”

“No.” The denial was swift, accompanied by a shake of her head. Yet, Kennard’s reaction betrayed a lingering skepticism.

The conversation, far from its resolution, took an unexpected turn. Kennard seized Elena’s wrist and guided her towards the terrace, catching her by surprise. She instinctively clenched his hand, a silent plea for reassurance.

“I’m not planning to go to the forest,” Kennard stated, his voice a calm assertion that echoed through the chilly night air. He led Elena to a vantage point on the terrace, overlooking the castle’s garden.

“When sleep eludes, I find it better to let the chilly breeze refresh me. Lying down forcibly won’t make it come any sooner,” he explained.

She followed the trajectory of Kennard’s gaze, her eyes tracing the contours of the garden below. Despite the lingering grasp of winter, with skeletal branches reaching for the heavens, the meticulously tended garden exuded a sense of order. Lanterns, strategically placed, cast a warm glow that danced along the pathways, painting the surroundings in an ethereal tapestry.

In the distance, the Terra Demorte Forest stood like a silent sentinel, its stillness bordering on the eerie. The starry night sky above held the promise of a celestial spectacle, ready to unleash a cascade of stars at any given moment. The tableau before her unfolded like a colossal landscape painting, a masterpiece crafted by nature and human hands.

Kennard, breaking the silence, asked, “Can you also detect the pheromones of those guards standing vigil in front of your room now?”

“I don’t know who they are, but I’m aware that there have been three of them since late afternoon,” Elena replied.

Elena, after a pause, cautiously broached a question. “Your Grace, have you, by any chance, met Lady Hazel?” She studied Kennard’s expression, searching for any nuance in his demeanor.



not work with dark mode