Chapter 33.2

Kennard’s gaze remained unwavering as he turned to look at her, his silence a canvas upon which Elena sought answers. His eyes, deep pools of mystery, held her captive before he turned his attention back to the garden, exhaling a deep sigh. The exhale manifested as a white breath, dissipating into the crisp night air.

“What are your thoughts, Elena?” Kennard’s voice cut through the stillness.

“Well…” Elena hesitated.

“Do you want to become Hazel’s confidante or learn the nobility’s manners from her?” 

Elena stood at the crossroads of her intentions, a delicate dance of secrecy and sincerity unfolding within her. Hazel’s proposal hinted at the tantalizing prospect of freedom, a chance to break free from the castle’s confining walls. Yet, revealing such aspirations to Kennard was a risk she couldn’t afford.

The dilemma left her caught between the desire for liberty and the reluctance to deceive Kennard. The prospect of disappointing him or provoking his anger loomed over her, a shadow she feared to confront. Even contemplating a clandestine departure filled her with trepidation, anticipating Kennard’s justified fury at a blatant breach of orders.

As she pondered, uncertainty guided her steps, each moment pregnant with the fear of Kennard discovering the truth. The weight of potential disappointment etched lines of concern on her face.

Elena, trapped in the labyrinth of her own thoughts, chose a partial response, a measured divulgence. “I don’t want to. I don’t know much about engaging in conversation, and I have no reason to learn the manners of the nobility.”

“Then just refuse,” Kennard suggested. 

“But…” Elena began, turning to face Kennard. An unexpected move made him tighten his grip on her wrist. Realizing she had merely shifted her posture, Kennard loosened his hold, though he retained a certain restraint.

Elena’s gaze shifted to her captured hand as she continued, “But… I also want to do as Lady Hazel suggests.”

“Why?” Kennard raised his eyebrow.

“Because that’s the way I can leave this room.”  A subtle twitch of Kennard’s eyebrow betrayed a reaction. “Grant me freedom, Your Grace.”


As Kennard forcefully swung the door ajar and stepped into the corridor, the guards stationed outside were caught off guard. Wide-eyed, with mouths and noses hanging open, they found themselves peering curiously into the room through the now-open portal.

With a decisive motion, Kennard closed the door firmly behind him, severing the curious gaze of the guards. Their surprise didn’t escape him, and the discomfort etched on Kennard’s face was palpable. The guards, sensing his unease, coughed awkwardly and shuffled aside, allowing him passage.

“Why are you all surprised? Couldn’t you sense my pheromones?” Kennard’s voice was dry, a hint of annoyance lacing his words. The knights, recovering from their initial shock, responded with a round of applause.

“Of course not. Who wouldn’t recognize Your Grace’s pheromones?”

“But why are you all acting like you’ve seen a ghost or something?”

“Even though we couldn’t see you going inside, we were talking about feeling your pheromones, and now you’re coming out again…” An older knight, pointing towards the bedroom door where Elena stayed, offered an explanation.

“When did you go in?” The oldest knight, a sly glint in his eye, directed the question at Kennard.

“It’s not about when but how you got in that matters,” Serin interjected, leaning against the opposite wall with a clenched fist. A tense moment passed between Kennard and Serin, their silent exchange speaking volumes. As Serin released his fist and stood upright, the knights exchanged glances, breaking into laughter that revealed their teeth.

Without uttering a word, the unspoken thoughts among the guards became evident.

“Unless you want to start sipping soup through your gums by tomorrow, shut your mouth. Before you lose all your teeth,” Kennard’s warning cut through the air, leaving a tense atmosphere as he strode down the corridor. An uncomfortable restlessness clung to him, as if any provocation might trigger an imminent explosion of his pent-up frustration.

“Don’t take it out on those guys for no reason. What happened inside again?” Serin’s muttered question trailed behind Kennard. 

Kennard wasn’t in the mood for conversation. The echo of Elena’s plea reverberated in his mind, disrupting his thoughts. “Grant me freedom, Your Grace.” The words lingered, and Kennard, deep in contemplation, chewed on the soft flesh inside his mouth.

They were planning to go to the village. Elena wouldn’t have made such a request after the near-death experience in the forest. Or did she think the attack in the forest was just a coincidence?

Regret for not asking that crucial question before leaving the room gnawed at Kennard. As he traversed the corridor, the uncertainty of encountering Elena again weighed on him, leaving him unsure of his own reactions.

“How long are you going to keep Miss Elena like that?” Serin’s mention of Elena’s name sharpened Kennard’s gaze involuntarily. He turned around with a harsh expression, causing Serin to momentarily halt in his tracks. He then shrugged his shoulders and effortlessly flashed a natural smile.

“She’s not a prisoner, and keeping guards like that is a bit much, isn’t it? Even the commoners are murmuring about it.”

“Do I need to be concerned about their opinions too?” Kennard’s retort held a tinge of defiance.

“Not necessarily. But unnecessary rumors could put Your Grace in a difficult position, you know.” 

Kennard ran his fingers over his tense jaw, his hand navigating through the bristle of his beard with a rough, impatient movement. With an abrupt motion, he extended his cravat, as though contemplating using it to strike Serin’s chest. Clumsily, he clutched it with both hands, the fabric pulled taut between his fingers.

“Is your head hurting again? Lately, you’ve been having frequent headaches,” Serin caught up with Kennard, quickening his pace to keep up with the lord who continued to stride down the corridor.

Kennard, not breaking his gait, responded with a dismissive tone, “It’s just because I have a lot on my mind. Nothing to worry about.”

“Even during the war, you were fine. I still have some medicine from Leto, so I’ll bring it to your office,” Serin offered.

“That quack Leto…” Kennard muttered the name with a grimace, as though the mere mention left a sour taste in his mouth, like chewing on a tough piece of meat.



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