“So where on earth did the Princess’ food taster go?” asked Rion.
Archer raised his eyebrows wondering if he was jesting. “I wouldn’t know. Maybe she went to meet someone in secret? She could have gotten lost in the forest and then mauled by wild animals.”
“There are many dangerous animals in the forest, aren’t there?” said Rion, nodding. He forced himself to eat more of the porridge. He didn’t know what drug he had taken but he needed to get back his strength. That drug hadn’t been strong enough to kill. After his vomiting had stopped, he had been able to move again.
Indeed, things didn’t quite go as planned. He had only one objective when he had invited the young aristocrats to his estate. He had only wanted to meet Alice and propose marriage to her. He could wait, of course. Fifteen was young and Alice had her whole life ahead of her. But he was scared of losing her again.
He thought he should tread carefully. She might just run away if he pushed too much. She might marry someone else just to spite him. That troubled him immensely. He would kill whoever married Alice. It didn’t matter how innocent or kind he would be. If anyone touched Alice, he didn’t think he could take it.
He smiled to himself when he remembered her embarrassed face when he had taken his clothes off.
“Will you really be okay with her, sir?” asked Archer.
Rion looked up from his porridge at the sudden question. Archer sat across from him. Servants usually stood at standby when their lord ate but Rion felt too uncomfortable when someone stood as he ate. Archer had gotten used to his lord’s habit. So, he served and sat beside as he ate.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean….” Archer frowned. “Is she normal?”
Rion stirred the porridge with his spoon. His stomach twisted. He felt like throwing up again. “Normalcy is overrated.”
“She enjoys murder and at such a young age….”
“She doesn’t,” said Rion. “She doesn’t enjoy murder. She won’t kill without a reason. That is why she has been laying low till now.”
He knew that Alice Warwick had only regained her memories when Wishburn castle had been under attack. When he had heard about Count Thoreau’s death, he had examined him and recognized her handywork. He had been surprised that it was her first kill in this life. He had misunderstood her.
In her previous life, her job was that. She earned money through killing her client’s targets. She didn’t kill for fun. It wasn’t an addiction. Her lack of resistance to doing something like that might have been strange but the brutal world pushes people into doing horrendous things. But in terms of her work ethics, she was perfectly ordinary. She didn’t love her job but did it meticulously anyway.
It was obvious that she loved her family. She had learnt to love because she had received love in return. She killed, not for money, but for love now. She only did it to protect those she cared about.
That was what she had done to the food taster. That food taster had put his life at risk. And Alice had taken care of it. It was as though she didn’t want him to be in danger again.
He really loved her. That naïve girl who showed him she cared while denying it outright and proving otherwise through her actions.
“Even if she hadn’t done it,” said Rion. “You were planning the same, weren’t you? You would have hunted that food taster down. Why point fingers at someone who did what you were planning yourself?”
Archer frowned. “True. I would have hunted the food taster down. But I would have done it to find out who was behind it. I wouldn’t have done it just for the sake of killing someone without reason.”
“If she wanted to kill someone just for the sake of it, she already had many easy targets in this gathering,” said Rion. “It doesn’t matter whether you do it or her, or for whatever reason. Murder is murder, is it not?”
Rion put his spoon down. He had eaten enough. He couldn’t take another spoon of the sickly thing. He didn’t want to do things he didn’t want to. He had lived a life like that once and hadn’t liked it.
At the top of the things, he wanted to do right now was loving Alice Warwick to his heart’s content. And next was getting her to love him.