Chapter 9.1

Kennard’s attention shifted from the doorknob to Serin, who stood at the room’s center. He glanced down at the doorknob in his hand. Inside the room, there was nothing but the doorknob itself.

On the outside, two locks guarded the door. While the room resembled a bedroom, it held a darker history, having been used for confinement rather than comfort.

“This is where it all began for me,” Kennard remarked, more a statement than a question. He raised his shoulders, as if preparing to take flight. In an instant, his transformation occurred. He became a wolf, his presence emanating a shadowy, ominous aura.

On all fours, Kennard’s back reached his human height. His ebony fur glistened, and his eyes, a fiery pumpkin hue, radiated an icy, unearthly chill.

“Your Highness,” Serin called out as he approached, but Kennard paid no heed, swiftly departing the chamber. His descent was swift, spiraling down the stone staircase and launching himself out through a tower window, landing gracefully upon the castle’s outer wall.

With brisk determination, he crossed the bridge spanning the castle’s ramparts and descended once more, this time finding his way into the garden through a lower roof. Soft snowflakes fell gently from the sky, a constant presence that the watchmen diligently cleared each day, only to see it accumulate anew. These men often grumbled about the “filth falling from the sky,” understandable given that Montefiano, Kennard’s original territory in the eastern part of Baruchella, seldom witnessed such snow.

Since taking control of Terra Demorte through a protracted war a few years prior, Kennard had predominantly resided here. Terra Demorte was known for its six-month-long snowfall, a stark contrast to the snowless Montefiano. The watchmen from his homeland found adapting to these harsh conditions quite challenging.

With each powerful leap, Kennard’s weight sent a resounding thud through the snow-covered ground, scattering the accumulated snow in all directions. The white flakes clung to his glossy black fur, shimmering like moonlit jewels.

His intention was to traverse the garden and enter the forest, were it not for the unique scent that lingered in his nostrils.

As Kennard’s gaze turned upward, he spotted Elena standing on the terrace. The coat he had given her just a few days ago was wrapped around her. Her room was situated on a relatively high floor, but on this moonless night, their eyes met suspended in the air.

Elena’s ethereal gray eyes widened in sheer surprise upon seeing Kennard. Her mouth hung open in astonishment as if the very sight of him had stolen her voice.

“Elena,” he whispered her name, his voice softened by sharp fangs, but the words were lost in the night.

Startled, Elena staggered away from the terrace railing. Her steps were shaky, as though she might crumble at any moment. After taking just a few paces, her strength abandoned her, and she sank to the ground, bumping her hip against the snow without feeling the pain.

“Elena, my lady!” Cura, who had been in the bedroom, rushed out to the terrace in alarm. “What’s wrong? Are you not feeling well?”

Supported by Cura, Elena slowly regained her footing. However, she could only stare vacantly at the dark edge of the terrace railing, as if her senses had abandoned her, rendering her unable to speak.

The pounding of her heart, accelerated by the shock, resonated in her ears, causing a dizzying sensation as if her heart might leap from her throat.

“Where does it hurt?” Cura brushed the snow from Elena’s clothing with a gentle hand, her concern evident in her eyes as she continued to assess Elena’s complexion.

“No, it’s not that,” Elena replied, shaking her head.

“Please, come inside. You’re not fully recovered, and if you catch a cold like this, the Duke will scold me,” Cura urged, her voice filled with concern.

Elena’s next words tumbled out in a rush, “There was a large black wolf in the garden. Completely black…”

Cura’s eyes widened with surprise. She swiftly moved past Elena, heading to the end of the terrace. Gripping the railing, she peered down into the garden below and then returned to Elena.

“Could it still be there? Shouldn’t we inform the others?” Elena asked, her words pouring forth in a rapid stream, a pace she didn’t know she was capable of.

Observing Elena’s quick speech, with no pauses between words, Cura couldn’t help but grin. “It’s okay.”

Elena’s brow furrowed. “Now is not the time to be smiling.”

Cura chuckled. “What’s the big deal if a wolf appeared in Terra Demorte?”

Elena couldn’t fathom Cura’s nonchalance, even if it was Kennard’s territory. “What are you talking about? Terra Demorte is the territory of the White Fox Tribe. But a wolf appeared, and you ask what the big deal is?”

The laughter faded from Cura’s face for a fleeting moment, and Elena couldn’t help but sense the shift in her expression. It was as if a sudden cloud had obscured the sun.

And then…

Huh? How do I know this? Elena felt perplexed, her thoughts entangled in a web of unfamiliar memories. How did she possess this knowledge?



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